whining about hamstring problems

All right. I sort of feel like an ass posting my problem here `cause I think I’m older than almost everyone else and FEMALE, no less, but of all the training forums I’ve seen on the web, this one seems to have the most knowledgeable crowd. And I’m really frustrated and don’t have anyone else to ask for help.

Here’s the deal: I’m 39. I started training for masters track and field four years ago. I had coached gymnastics and done weight training for years before that, so I had a lot of strength and static flexibility when I started. But the only running I’d done was recreational jogging, which I hate (when I was kid, I was always the fastest one in my class, so I knew I had some sprint in me).

A track coach saw that I had a lot of upper body strength and suggested I give the heptathlon a try. (Don’t laugh - at the masters level, the participants range is from highly competitive ex-collegians to recreational nobodies like me, so it’s not as weird as it sounds.) I threw myself into training and learning the events because I really liked it and it was a great challenge. I watched other master track athletes compete and was amazed at what some of them could do, so I was hopeful.

But as you might have guessed, I’ve been injured almost non-stop. For the past couple of years, it’s been a series of pulled hamstrings, one after another, that seem to happen when I start increasing my sprint work. Even without the pulled muscles, my hams are constantly tight and I have difficulty sitting for long periods of time. I’m just sick of it. I could blame the earlier injuries on a lack of preparation for the intensity of the training, but after four years of this stuff, shouldn’t I be prepared?

And yes, I’m making training adjustments for my age, and yes, I’ve learned a lot from stupid training mistakes I made at first, when I didn’t know what I was doing (not that I’m an expert now). But why did I pull a hamstring again just last night?

Is the volume of work? Well, here’s what a typical training week might look like for me in the spring, if I have the time to work out six days a week:

M/W – tempo runs (some mix of 100s, 200s, and 300s totaling 1600M at about 60 % with interval recovery)

T/Th – strength training (lots of medicine ball work and bodyweight exercises like pull-ups and dips, with some bench press, deadlifts, and light plyometric work when I’m feeling strong)

Friday – hurdle mobility work (i.e. 5 reps over 5 hurdles) and jumps (i.e. 10 or more long jump pop-ups with a 4-8 step approach)

Saturday - rest

Sunday – sprint workout (low volume, high intensity; for example, 4-5 200s at 90% with full recovery)

I substitute in some javelin or shot put work on T/Th, and some triple jump/high jump work on F, when I can.

I know I’m old, but that volume of training doesn’t look so high, does it?

I’ve also tried ART when I’ve had the money and standard massage when I haven’t. I now use ice on my hams and an EMT unit. And I stretch (micro-stretching and a more gymnastics-type stretching) a lot more often than I used to, always when I’m warm, post-workout.

Admittedly, I didn’t train like that and didn’t do all that recovery stuff when I first started out. But since I’ve learned my lesson (the hard way), why am I still pulling hamstrings all the time? A coach told me that because I came into the track training with a lot of strength from weight training, my static strength is outgunning my joint/tendon strength, which may be the root of my persistent injuries, particularly with the hamstrings.

Does that sound plausible? And if so, what the heck am I supposed to do to keep training without having hamstring pain all the time or pulling muscles? Anyone out there have experience with old athlete wannabes? Anyone out there just plain old but still training (relatively) injury-free?

Don’t tell me to take up swimming. I suck at swimming.

I too am a masters track athlete, male - 43yrs - 100m and 200m. What is the nature of your pull? Is it the muscle belly itself or is it higher up (at the point where it attaches at the hip bone). I have had problems higher up and the sitting problem sounds like what I have had. It’s sort of a tedonistis. It’s a tough one to get over. Cross-friction message on the tendon can help breakdown scar tissue and bring blood in to aid recovery.
Remember you’re not “old”, you are getting older, everyone is… Look at all the “older” athletes for inspiration - Jerry Rice - Randy Johnson, Karch Kiraly - just won a pro beach volleyball tourney this year at 43 yrs young. On the female side - Gail Devers - Merle Otley(sp?) over 40 was in a meet this spring.
Maybe a visit to a sports doc and soem PT could help. Good Luck and God Speed.

Susan, I’m not a lot of help w/ the hamstring but I am 39 as well (40 in Oct) And female & still competing internationally in my sport.
If you have some questions regarding adjusting train./nutrition for your age maybe I can help. I have had almost all the injuries (hams too but so long ago, it was just after the earth cooled, can’t remember much).
What I can say is nutrition becomes SOOOO important the older you get as recovery is slower… fact of life.
I have a high volume of training but I also listen to my bod when it needs rest. Ice will be you best friend as I use it ever day for all of the aches & pains & I have started using a massager (not a word out of you sick guys!) on my legs/low back as a pro massage breaks the buget. It seems to help keep everything loose so the bigger injuries don’t happen. At least that works for me.
Keep at it… we are not old as long as we get wiser along the way.

Sunday Vol looks high for speed- prob 2 or 3 would be better. Sounds for the most part like you need therapy on the legs to break up scar tissue from prev problems. At least you know that manual therapy should help and can’t hurt.

why am I still pulling hamstrings all the time? A coach told me that because I came into the track training with a lot of strength from weight training, my static strength is outgunning my joint/tendon strength, which may be the root of my persistent injuries, particularly with the hamstrings.


Tight hipflexors keeping you from not fully contracting the glutes causing the hams to pick up the slack for the glutes during hip extension.

weak glutes or as Charlie said, an old injury that needs attention.

You could try doing a hipflexor stretch and contracting the glutes while you stretch. Kind of reminding the glutes to contract when the hips are relaxed.

my 2 cents

Thanks so much, everyone. I don’t feel like such an ass anymore.

Charlie: I’ll take your advice and cut down on the speed volume when I get back to sprinting, plus work on breaking up the adhesions. Ever thought about publishing a “Training for Speed Over 35 (years, that is)?” I swear I think there’s a market.

sprinter*mt: my hamstring pulls tend to be up high, where the ham joins the glutes – I think nycjay01 is correct regarding tight hip flexors. I’ve gotta try more massage and more hip flexor stretches. I’d be really interested in seeing what a typical training schedule looks like for you on any given week as you prepare for your season (not that I’d try to match it, let alone anything Devers or Ottey does!).

Susan, I think you are on the right track and the group has given some good pointers. The additional things I would suggest fall outside the “traditional” rhelm. I would suggest spending some time with a dynamic warmup every day, I like your mobility work. I would also add some foam roller work (self myofacial release) and some dynamic balance and stability work using an unstable surface as a dyna disc. www.Performbetter.com can be a good resource here. Good luck and keep the faith!

I had the same pull you are describing. I was in misery (couldnt sit for any length of time) I pulled it running a 100m. (Left leg up high near the insertion point by the glute)

I did a LOT Of weights and had good strength but my dynamic strength was down. I went to massage therapy for quite some time and it helped a bit. Eventually I gave up squatting and heavy weights and just concentrated on flexiblity etc. It still bothers me but it is SLOWLY getting better. Its been over a year now for me.

Good luck,

That’s egg-zactly the spot. Same leg, too. And it’s weird how my strength in the weight room is still pretty good, but I’ve got nothing as far as dynamic strength is concerned - certainly can’t accelerate. But it’s been over a year for you? Sheesh. So you’re giving up heavy lifting until it gets better, right - you’re not giving it up for good?

Even after the injury I was olyimpic style squatting 340 without a belt or wraps buried and deadlifting 425 RAW. Strength wasn’t really affected.

Problem was the hamstring moving at high speed (sprinting) It felt like it was going to tear right off the bone…

Right now I can’t lift heavy and sprint in the same micro. Running was higher on my list so I dropped the weights for now :slight_smile:

It is a LOT better now but I have been forced to completely change my program. (I now play soccer once a week, try to do speed once a week and cycling/bodyweight circuits in between)

Here is my current schedule till the end of soccer season. (I am 30 years old and about 195 pounds)

Workout schedule:

M - Soccer Game
T- Cycling/Upper body circuit
W - Speed/Plyos on the track in spikes
Th - cycling/core

Soccer GAME
Full 90 minute soccer game - mix of sprints/jogging

Cycling/upperbody circuit workout
30 minutes of cycling, mix of fast/slow pace
3 x (pushups, chins, situps, floppy fish)

warmup, stretching, drills, strides, accels
1 x 150 rest 7-10 minutes
1 x 120 rest 6-8 minutes
1 x 80 rest 5-7 minutes
1 x 60 rest 5-7 minutes
3 sets alt leg bounds on grass
3 sets x 6 reps squat jumps for height
3 sets x 8 reps burpees or lunges

30 minutes of cycling (fartlek)
5 x (situps, floppy fish)
stretching, cooldown

susanblue, Like Chris-Same spot at ham-glute, both legs, have had to give up sprinting in those weeks where I go heavy on squats. Only way it works. I’m your age too and do not overtrain, I get therapy, but once you get that insertion irritated, it stays that way for a long time. Weights should be merely a support for the sprinter, people like us have to REALLY consider this. We just can’t always do both in a given week. PS-Despite infrequent lower body weights my PB continues to drop, I imagine yours will too if you make the sprinting your first priority.