An Experiment of One (or "Oh, My Aching Butt")

My running buddies are always ragging on me for trying new things: clean eating, paleo diet, primal diet, crossfit, and the list goes on......

I do read and research a lot and when something makes sense, I try it on myself before passing it on to the athletes I coach. (I am a RRCA running coach currently coaching 6 individuals for their first half marathon through my local YMCA.)

But lately, nothing seems to be working all that well for me. About February or March, I started Tosca Reno's Clean Eating plan. The biggest rules are no white sugar, no white flour, and foods as close as possible to their natural form. If you read the ingredient list and cannot pronounce it, don't eat it. That actually went fine for me. I maintained a steady weight. I still allowed myself "cheats"---it was more of a lifestyle change where I ate healthy about 70% of the time. I did have a great marathon in February, but that was before I embraced clean eating.

The next several months were tainted by a calf injury and a couple of physical therapists telling me various lower body parts were weak, despite my running 30 miles per week. So, I added some body-weight strength training to my workouts (lunges, squats, etc.) My next experiment was to do Crossfit for a month to continue to get stronger. I was sooooo sore that it disrupted my quality of life at times, but I had my fastest race time in a while in week 3. I ran 5 miles at a 9:02 pace fairly comfortably, which I'd never done before. So, maybe it works.

However, in a crossfit activity done by myself about two weeks ago involving 80 thrusters with 40lbs of weights, I think I injured myself. My piriformis/hamstring/sciatic nerve have not been the same since. Running now hurts and I'm scared to do much in the way of lower body strength training. Basically, my butt muscle cramps up terribly when I run long distances or sit in a chair and the pain runs down the back of my left leg through my hamstring. Awesome.

Before Christmas, I committed to eating even cleaner--- in paleo/primal way. I did well with it. The hardest thing is eliminating grains of all kinds---including whole grains. That means no bread, no wraps, no brown rice. Since I've been low carbing it for about 5 weeks, my runs have gone even further downhill. Now I have the combination of no energy and heavy legs to go with my aching butt.

My last two long runs have just plain sucked. The butt cramping started around mile five. Then, after about mile 6, I just felt like I hit a wall. My legs felt like they 200 lbs. Each. I felt worse yesterday in miles 7-9 than I did in miles 20-26 last February.

I think with the right stretching, rest, and maybe a few sports massages or physical therapy visits, I can get the pain under control.

But this lack of energy on long runs? It HAS to be my body telling me I need more carbohydrates. I've eaten so much fruit, tons of veggies, and I just can't figure out how to get that energy in my muscles back. I've read there is a "breaking in" period for low carb and that it gets better in about a month, but it's been about a month and I have a half-marathon in 3 weeks. Do I continue with this EXPERIMENT OF ONE eating Primal/Paleo with no bread or rice or oatmeal (ok, I admit I cheat with oatmeal sometimes) or go back to a regular "clean" diet that includes those foods in moderation????


Primal_Joe said…
Hi RunningMom,

You left a comment on my blog about how I trained for a half marathon. I made a comment to your post but figured I'd leave you one here also.

Here is a link to a blog post I made detailing this same subject.

You can also search for a post by jonas cotling and brad kearns that discuss Primal and running.

For carb sources I used sweet potatoes, apples and honey before runs. Most of my runs were done almost in a fasting state. If you keep your heart rate low during a run you will burn mostly fat as an energy source. When that happens you should be able to able to run forever. Also some bodyweight exercises seem to help as well. See for Primal Blueprint Fitness tips.

Hope that helps.
judy said…
I had a similar butt problem and the only thing that worked was foam rolling AND doing no other exercise besides running on flats for 4 weeks. I hope this helps and thanks for your kind words on my blog.
judy said…
I was going to respond that you should def re-introduce carbs, but I will hold off until I read the posts mentioned above on primal and running.
I really appreciate your comments on my blog yesterday. Thanks for the encouragement!
MCM Mama said…
I've never had good success with combining running and lower carb diets. I can't get past the lead legs. Are you allowed to eat potatoes? Also, are you eating enough calories in general?

Good luck figuring it out. I try to eat cleanish, but I won't be giving up my bread or grains anytime soon...
These days, whenever I hear "low energy on a run" I think low blood iron ... because that's what happened to me last summer. If you continue to feel low energy, you might want to get your iron checked.

Take care and keep trying new stuff!!
RunnerMom said…
You all give EXCELLENT advice! Thanks so much for the comments!