Back Pain After Hill Sprints and Mountain Running

  • Creator
  • #51357

    Hi Pete et al.,

    I’m a 42-year-old runner, currently training for a east coast 50K with big elevation. It’s my second ultra. My first was a 50K with about 6K feet of climbing, and I finished in about 7:38, which was a 66% on Ultrasignup. I’m a mid-pack guy, apparently.

    I’m currently in week 9 of Mike Foote’s big vert training plan. All has been going smoothly until yesterday, when I finished my run with some back discomfort that progressed to a more debilitating pain and lack of mobility throughout the day. It feels like I used to feel if I had a really hard day in the squat rack and I had a hard time standing up straight the next morning.

    Friday morning I ran hill sprints, which included a small bit of uphill skipping/bounding. I didn’t notice any significant problems after. In fact, soreness was on the light side.

    Saturday, I got out to the mountain early (about 3am) and started a three-hour session “running” (read:power hiking) up the mountain and jogging back down. It was slow going b/c it was (1) dark, and (2) the top half of the mountain was in a dense cloud. I stumbled in a couple of places so it’s possible I could have tweaked my back stabilizing to avoid a fall. I dropped off my waist pack after my first loop (5mi / 1,500 feet of gain) b/c I was noticing some lower back discomfort and I thought the pack might be the culprit. I decided I didn’t need to carry water and I could loop back to the car every 5 miles. Second and third loops went relatively smoothly. No real issues other than the lack of visibility.

    When I got in the car to head home, I just felt tired and sore. No big deal. I got home at about 7:00 am and fell into bed for an hour or so. At 9am I got up and was having trouble moving around b/c of the back soreness. At one point, I thought I was stuck on the couch, but I eventually made it up.

    That evening, I put on a lower back support (just a weight lifting belt) and made it to my kid’s little league game. I was able to throw BP with no discomfort, so I thought I was back on the right track.

    Today I’m in pain again and having trouble moving around. Not as bad as yesterday, but still fairly significant.

    I don’t think I have ever done back to back hard days before, such as Friday hill sprints and Saturday long run.

    I guess my questions are: (1) what the heck have I done to myself, and how likely is it that the culprit is long mountain running the day after a hill sprint session; (2) is the answer to the instant problem going to involve rest and massage or do I need to think about seeing a medical professional; and (3) would adding some modest compound lifting moves to my weekly plan build core strength and help prevent something like this from happening again?

Posted In: Injury & Rehab

  • Participant
    LindsayTroy on #51439

    Hi Beau,

    I don’t think its possible to diagnose what happened to your back off the internet, so it may be wise to see a GP and or a PT to get it looked at and to give you some exercises to help strengthen things.

    I will say general core strength is good for your back, once you’re able to tolerate it. But you should make sure you’re fully healed before you do anything or else you risk making it worse.

    I will also add that at 25 in peak physical health I threw out my back lifting an empty laundry basket off the floor and the doctor said that it was incredibly common for healthy, fit people to injure their backs doing something mild because when you’re doing more intensive things, you properly brace.

    maass on #51600

    I have also experianced pretty severe back pain after doing an uphill run at a local ski hill (7mi RT, 2,600ft vert). I experianced lack of mobility, spasms and general discomfort for over 2 weeks after this paticular run. I had done that run before and since this back pain episode.

    My diagnosis of my problem was that I experianced a severe cramp/spasm of the hip flexors. I think the problem was exaserbated by fatigue in the lower back leading to poor form and higher impact through poor form.

    Things that contributed to this problem were poor running form, weak core strength, poor hydration, previous back injury(L5 S1 hernia treated with surgery) and over exersion. I found my self arching my lower back(poor core/running form/weakness from injury) at the steepest parts of the climbing to elicite more power from my quads, this put my back in a compromised position and allowed the hip flexors to continue working past their capacity. This run was performed after a long work day with less then ideal hydration over the day and the run was done at a high intensity with minimal post work electrolyte consumption (pretty certain I had a leg cramp after). Because the after effects were so severe I am under the assumption that I over exerted my self, pushing way past reason and fatigue in order to complete the run clean without breaks(ego).
    My back injury was caused my a pulling movement after a heavy leg workout that fatigued my hip flexors previously. I think I had movement patterns and weaknesses that contributed to the injury that were the same as what lead to this injury event.

    Things that have helped me over come this are hip flexor training, pre and post session hydration, core training and Stopping the workout and making adjustments when my form breaks down. Obviously doing the weighted step ups is good, I alos train L-sits and straight leg raises for the flexors. I try to ackknowlege when I am under hydrated going into a work out and increase hydration during and after a work out including sugar and salt(I often make this bulk mango tea with added sugar, salt and chia). Core traning is done at home and done during the run focusing on keeping my joints in line and actively considering pelvis position. When I know I am pushing to hard and my form is poor I stop and stretch or flex certain ligaments and allow my self to rest to maintain a higher quality.

    I felt good moving during this pain period but getting down to and out of bed or even bending to pick something up was almost impossible. I hope my experiance can help back pain is a really crushing “injury” that interupts life. I hope you can resolve it quickly.

    beau.howard on #51613

    I appreciate the thought, guys. Sitting here almost a week later, I’m feeling probably 90% and I honestly think I tweaked a muscle while I was not properly recovered from the week. I’ve been stretching, massaging, and resting, and I think I’m ready to start some light running. We’ll see how this goes, but I plan to add in more core strengthening and routine stretching to make sure I keep everything working well. I’ll report back periodically with some additional thoughts.

    beau.howard on #51798

    Well, the good news is that after a week of heat, stretching, massage, and rest, the pain is gone. I’m mobile and ready to run. I’ve missed a week of training, which is rough. Ready to get running though!

    beau.howard on #52279

    An update: I’m more convinced the issue was overuse as a result of back-to-back hard days. I’ve been back running for a couple of weeks. Last week was a recovery week, and I got in about 40 miles and 4,000 feet of elevation without issue. I was pretty spent on my Sunday recovery run, but that’s to be expected. My back is feeling well, and I’m planning on ensuring I don’t somehow end up with back-to-back workouts on my calendar again.

    With 8 weeks to race day, I’m looking forward to getting 4 or 5 more weeks to progress and then taking what I learned from this cycle and applying it to the next, which will definitely include more core and hamstring strength training in the base building period.

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