Many people don't realize that higher mileage or higher levels of physical activity means you'll eventually have tight muscles in your glutes, hips and thighs. And yes - that does translate to butt pain!
The following has worked wonders in keeping me loose and happy. I hope it works for you as well. Enjoy!
Foam rollers are almost as good as having a sports therapist living in your house. If you don't have one already, time to invest!
Don't know what a foam roller is? Click here to learn the basics about foam rolling and see a few intro moves.
Click here to see the foam roller I have. It's just a basic one from Target, and is fine for beginners. You can buy a similar one at pretty much any sporting goods store.
I also recently learned about a new style of foam roller that's great for people who like deeper tissue massage and higher pressure on muscle knots. I haven't tried it yet myself, but I think it looks pretty decent. Click here.
Another option that is similar to a foam roller is a tennis ball. And the nice thing about a tennis ball is that most people already have one at home. If you're suffering from tightness in the glute, lay down on your back, on the floor, and place a tennis ball (or racquetball) under your glute at the area of tightness. Then, gently transfer your body weight onto the ball and roll in a clockwise or counter clockwise direction over the area of the knot. Fair warning: this is definitely not for the faint of heart, since it is a lot of direct pressure on the muscle knots. However, it does work out any knots you have in a hurry. If you can manage the discomfort of deep tissue work, and remember to breathe through and relax into the pressure, the end result is great!
While foam rolling and massage is great to relieve pain once it's manifested itself, stretching properly after a workout is best... after all, why not prevent the pain before it can even start?
For basic stretches to hit up the glute and hip area, below are a few great options. I personally do these pretty much every night while I'm unwinding and watching TV, or when I'm laying in bed for the night. You can do these after foam rolling or using the tennis ball as well, to help further along the benefits of the massage. Or, just do them on their own. Word of advise, however: always stop when you "feel" the stretch - if it's painful, you're going too deep and you won't benefit.
Stretch one - the figure 4 (laying down or seated)
You do not have to grab under your leg as the first image shows if your flexibility does not allow. Options include holding your outer thighs or even let your legs float in the air alone - as you work on your flexibility, you will eventually be able to reach further with your hands.
Stretch two - simple knee hug to chest
Do this after the figure four stretch above to work out any remaining tightness. You can play with pointing the knee towards the right or left shoulder, or gradually rotating between each, to see what position targets your specific area of tightness.
Stretch three - hip flexor
If you are having tightness in your glutes, your hip flexors are also likely tight - although you may not feel them yelling at you like you do in your glutes. A good partner to the stretches above, this works the front side of your hips instead of the back. The second image, a basic runner's lunge, is not quite as deep a stretch and may be easier to achieve if you are extremely tight.
If all else fails, or if you're in the mood to spend some money, the final option I suggest is to see a sports massage therapist. I prefer my local massage lady, who spends lots of time with you to evaluate your specific areas of pain and walks your through stretches, as well as doing deep tissue massage to work out any lingering pain. Although you will pay around $120 for a 1.5 hour session (which I recommend for your first visit, so you can learn all the stretches you need to know, as well as have time for some massage), it is definitely worth the money. I went in to see her with terrible glute and hip pain this spring, and when I took a run two days later, I felt like a new woman. You can learn more about her here ... and make sure you tell her you are a new referral and I sent you! If you do, I believe you get a first time discount, and I get a little bonus too!
And now - the results! Let me know if you try the above, and what you think!