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Chronic Hamstring Pain? You Might Suffer from Sleeping Glutes

by Kat » on Jun 24, 2014 1

Mff_vibrams800Today is the one year anniversary of the pain in my butt. Literally.

I’m no marathoner, but I love running and tend to rack up about 20 miles per week (3-5 miles per day). About a year ago, I felt like I pulled something in my upper hamstring/lower glute area while playing tennis with a friend. My lower back was a little achey too and at the end of the afternoon, there was a pretty unavoidable pain in my right leg. I decided to take it easy for a few days and didn’t play tennis, run, or take spin classes. I did go to a mid-week yoga class.

That was a mistake. The injury immediately worsened.

Keeping Tabs on the Pain

As the days and then weeks passed since the initial twinge I felt, I started to take note of where exactly the pain was and when it hurt the most.

I noticed that my right glute never seemed to hurt while sitting or standing, but a cyclical movement or any jarring motion felt uncomfortable. Running downhill felt fine, easy – like I wasn’t even injured. Running uphill felt like I was doing serious damage. Stretching my glutes and hip flexors felt nice. Driving felt hellish. Any type of backwards sweeping motion I made with my right foot translated into significant discomfort in the upper part of the right hamstring.

I took 2 weeks off running and when I tried again, it felt just as painful as before.

I removed spinning from my workout routine. Still felt pain.

I bought two new pairs of shoes. One pair with serious soles (Asics GT-2000) another with minimalist soles (Nike Free 3.0) and alternated between them. I wore my Vibrams while running from time to time but felt like everything I did, no matter the shoe, was uncomfortable.


I stretched and tried foam rollers. I saw a physical therapist. I stopped running completely. Then started running again daily. Nothing seemed to make it worse exactly, but nothing seemed to help.

The Healing Process

Then I read something that changed everything.

I was googling my symptoms (“upper hamstring, lower glute pain while running”) and stumbled uponĀ this article in Runner’s World that hit home. I didn’t have the same resources available to me as the writer, but I did have the same false sense of confidence in my level of fitness. Once I re-evaluated my strength and fitness, I was able to swallow my pride and slowly begin to work towards healing.

Using these strengthening exercises, I diligently added basic lower back, glute, and core strengtheners to my daily routine.

The moves below target common weak and inactive areas (like the gluteus maximus and medius) that, if left neglected, can lead to injury. And that’s exactly what I’d experienced. I was weak, though I didn’t know it.



Prone hip extension

Hip extension

Bird dog

Bird dog

First step: strength training. Beyond the easy exercises recommended for healing, I began taking (and eventually teaching) a total body conditioning class. Twice a week I’d do squats, lunges, curtseys – whatever it took – to strengthen the muscles I neglected while running. Yes, my quads were strong, but as a result I overcompensated and that’s likely what led to my injury to begin with. The quads did all the work so the hamstrings and glutes could just take a little snooze.

Next, I avoided my car for several weeks. When I needed to get somewhere I took public transportation or asked a friend to drive. For whatever reason, pressing on the accelerator and brake stiffened everything up and made me feel like I’d reversed any progress.

When I finally felt strong enough to run again, I made it a point to chant in my head “recruit the glutes, recruit the glutes” so my butt and hamstrings were as involved in the exercise as my quads.

Today, I’m 95% better. The pain is almost completely gone and I feel healthy enough to run, bike, walk, and play tennis whenever I feel the urge. I’m also much more willing to get behind the wheel of my car again. I still have a few weeks to go before I’m 100% “healed”, but I already feel like a success story.

I’m Not a Doctor

I’m not a medical professional and cannot offer advice to other runners with injuries. I can however advise that everyone read the Runner’s World article that changed my view of what it means to be a fit and healthy runner. Incorporate regular strength training into your exercise routine so you stay injury-free and strong, no matter how fit you think you are.

1 Comment

  1. Cam says:

    Thx for this. As I lie here with an icepak under my right butt cheek. The NSaid only lasts about 10 hrs. Doctor only says one a day. This happened ladt year too. Ladt yr I took prednisone but neither are good for my liver I need to make this go away for good. Now I understand why this happened in the first place So now I can heal and build my laxy muscles and hopefully this wont happen again or at least when it does I wont have to end up taking pills I could feel it starting to happen over weeks and I was lazy about doing the stretches. Now I know I have to strengthen too

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