Gait Analysis

Today was one of those days when I woke up totally confused.  I couldn’t remember what day it was or why my alarm was going off at the crack of dawn.  It even took me a few minutes to remember how to shut off the annoying alarm clock.  Then, my head cleared and I remembered that I was on planet Earth and today was my appointment for a gait analysis.

But first I had to give my fur baby Sunny some love and attention.  He loves playing with emery boards.  He’s really such a strange cat, but I love him!

007Then it was off to see the exercise physiologist.  The sports chiropractor who’s been treating this frustrating psoas pain referred me for a gait analysis, thinking there may be something in my running form that is contributing to the pain.  I had no idea what to expect, but I was told to wear shorts and running shoes to the appointment.  I wished myself luck before heading into the clinic.

011The gait analysis was a highly technical event.  The physiologist attached this accelerometer (I think that’s what he called it) around my chest to collect different data during the test.  Then, in bare feet, I walked on the treadmill for a couple of minutes to get warmed up while he was putting all my information into a computer with the most massive screen I’ve ever seen.

When the computer was ready, he sped up the pace and began recording my walking gait and counting my cadence.  Then, he increased the speed again so that I was running at a comfortable pace, about 9:30/mile, and again recorded me running and counted my cadence.  Then, we repeated the whole thing with shoes on.  First, I walked.  Then, I ran at the 9:30 pace, but this time, he also took me up to 7:30/mile pace for just a bit.

So then the analysis started.  He pulled up the different videos and did things like measure the angle of pronation (how much my feet turn out) of my legs, the angle of my feet hitting the deck, the angle of my forward lean.  Fascinating stuff.  He showed me how my feet hit the ground, and interestingly enough, how my feet hit the ground differed between bare feet and feet in shoes.  He also noticed that my right hip dropped lower than my left and that my right foot hit the ground harder than the right.  He could measure the G-force of each foot as it came down.  Seriously, so fascinating!

He showed me that I also have a bit of cross-over.  So, ideally, when you run, each leg should land in line with your hip.  If you picture a mark down the center of the road, each leg should land outside the mark, but when I run, sometimes my feet cross that center line.

The good news was that essentially my form was good.  I had just about the right amount of forward lean.  My back leg was at a good height, and my arm motion was good.  Yay!

What it all boiled down to was I have weak glutes and a weak core.  Yep, my butt muscles still aren’t strong enough.  CrossFit has helped, but apparently, not enough.  So…more exercises.  I’ll be doing lots of bridges, planks, bird dogs (where you’re on your hands and knees and opposite arms and legs extend at the same time) and bent knee raises (basically running in the air).  The way he taught me to do the bridges and bent knee raises is to relax my belly and then pull my bellybutton to my spine as I squeeze my glutes and then go into a bridge or bent knee raise.  Yep, that’ll work your core and glutes!  Who knew that running was so involved?

So I’ve got my work cut out for me.  He wants to do an evaluation of my gait again in 12 weeks, so I can’t not do these exercises!  But seriously, even though this seems like such a big pain in the neck, it’s an easy thing to do to be able to run without pain and injury.  And I’ve got a 20 mile run coming up this weekend which will give me all kinds of time to practice landing on my feet in the right place!

What did you do today?

It’s One Bad Choice

I made the mistake of swinging by the grocery store on my way home from my run Saturday.  I didn’t need much, just some bananas and a few other things.  But long runs, even 10 mile runs like Saturday, make me super hungry.  I just want to eat everything I get my hands on.  It’s hard not to when you burn almost 1,000 calories!

Big mistake going to the grocery store hungry after a long run.  I came 003home with some chocolate…and of course, ate some of it.  Easter candy is hard to resist, right?  Then, I immediately went into this rant of “What am I doing?  I just ran 10 miles.  Well, so much for being healthy today!”  My immediate reaction was just to throw in the towel, forget about making wise and healthy choices for the rest of the day because I just blew it.  With ONE not so good choice.

 

Do you hear me?  It was ONE bad decision!

Before I began losing weight, I would decide I’m not going to eat this or that, whatever the evil food of the day was, but of course, eventually, I would eat it.  And then, I would spiral down this slope of thinking what’s the point in making any other healthy decisions today since I’ve already fallen off the wagon.  So my bad eating habits continued.

But as my perspective on weight loss and food began to change, I realized that one decision is ONE decision.  It does NOT have to determine the course of action for the rest of my day.  It means I made a bad choice, but I still have the entire rest of the day to make good, healthy choices.

Why is it that we give ourselves grace in so many other areas of life but not to weight loss and making healthy choices?  I mean, I’ve taken wrong turns on road trips but instead of just forgetting about the entire trip, I ask for directions, look at my map, do something to figure out how to get back to where I need to be.  Yet, I make one bad food choice, and that’s it.  My healthy lifestyle’s over?

I’m still learning to work through those bad choices.  I’m hoping that the day will come when the self-condemnation will end, but until then, this is how I deal with it:

  1. Accept it for what it is.  It’s one bad decision.  You can’t undo it, but you can control the choices you make for here on out.  What’s the old saying?  Don’t cry over spilled milk?  What’s done is done.  Get over it.  Pick yourself up.  Make the next choice a good one.
  2. Learn from your fall from the wagon.  So what made you fall off the wagon?  Learn to identify your triggers.  Did something stressful happen?  Were you tired?  Overly hungry?  I’m learning that when I get too hungry, I don’t really care what I eat.  I just need food, and I need it now!  That was my chocolate trigger today since burning 1,000 calories pretty much depleted my energy resources.  Note to self:  Next time remember to take a post-run snack.
  3. Remember your goals.  Don’t lose sight of your goals.  It’s frustrating and disappointing to have those falls, but again, IT’S NOT THE END OF THE ROAD!  Your goals are still within reach.  Remember where you’re headed and find your determination again to get there.
  4. Don’t forget that weight loss is a process.  It’s a process, with ups and downs, and a huge learning curve.  We have to learn how to make healthy choices and learning anything new involves falling and making mistakes, right?  So give yourself grace.  Let your stumble be a reminder that you’re not where you want to be, but by George, you’re not where you used to be!

Then:                                                                                          Now:

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Am I alone in this self-condemnation or does anyone else get caught up in that too?

The Open is in the Books!

WOD 16.5.  21-18-15-12-9-6-3 thrusters and bar facing burpees for time

“What are you talking about?!” You say.  CrossFit speak.  When I first started CrossFit, I felt so stupid.  CrossFit has it’s own lingo, and I didn’t have a fat clue what any of it meant.  I’d hear people talking about a wad, and I’m thinking “a wad of what?”  Then I realized they’re talking about a WOD, the Workout Of the Day.  Thank goodness!  That’s better than wads of nameless stuff!

But then, they start throwing terms around like cleans, and snatches, and thrusters, and doing AMRAPs and EMOMs.  My head was spinning.  And what the heck is a double under?  Or a HSPU?  Good grief.  Starting CrossFit was overwhelming to say the least.

So why do you do CrossFit?  My sister asked me that recently, and I want to devote more time to that later.  I have such a love/hate relationship with CrossFit.  I usually hate the workouts while I’m doing them, but when they’re over, there’s this sense of accomplishment and “Holy cow, I just did that!” moment that makes me eager for the next workout.  But I do CrossFit because I like what it’s doing for me physically–and mentally.

If you’re unfamiliar with CrossFit, it’s essentially the sport of fitness.  Many people, I think, equate CrossFit with weightlifting, and we do lift weights, heavy weights, but it’s more than that.  It’s overall body conditioning.  I’ve seen my strength increase significantly in the 7 months since I’ve been doing CrossFit.  I’ve become a better runner because of a stronger core and increased glute strength. (That’s just a nice way to say my butt muscles have gotten stronger!).  And I’ve dropped 2 pant sizes just from toning.  That’s a great feeling!

Plus, the mental component has been an unexpected bonus of CrossFit.  I’m learning in long-distance running how much the mind plays a role in a successful race.  There comes a time when you have to forget about how tired you are and just push through.  Keep putting one foot in front of the other.  There’s a lot of that in CrossFit.  Workouts are set up to do as much of the workout as you can in a certain amount of time, or like today, to complete the entire workout for time–do it as fast as you can.  To do any of those workouts, your body reaches the point of just wanting to collapse sometimes, but you have to just push past that and do the work.  That’s been good for me.  I’m one who, for most of my life, just threw in the towel when the going got tough.

So today marked the last workout of the 2016 CrossFit Open.  And I completed it.  My first Open is behind me!  The CrossFit Open happens every year.  A workout is released by the head honcho of the  CrossFit Games, and CrossFit athletes from around the world complete that same workout to the same standards, one workout a week for 5 weeks.  Scores are entered into a database so every athlete is ranked according to other athletes from around the world.

I wasn’t going to participate in the Open.  I had all kinds of excuses.  I’m training for a marathon; I don’t have time to get to the gym at the times judges are available to watch my workout.  At least, that was the excuse I told people.  Inside, though, my excuse was more like “I’m not ready.  I’m not good enough.  What if I can’t do the workout?”  Basically, I was scared.  Fear.  It threatens to derail me Every. Single. Time.

But thankfully, one of the coaches kept encouraging me to participate.  I finally relented and signed up…and I’m so glad I did.  Competing in the Open was…encouraging, motivating, and a great-learning experience.

I learned where my weaknesses are, for sure.  But I also learned that I can do more than I thought I could. Here I am setting a squat clean PR during the second week of the Open.  (I’m totally stealing my friend’s photo.  Hope she doesn’t mind!)  003And finding that I ranked somewhere towards the bottom of the middle of the pack in my age division was encouraging.  Hey, at least I wasn’t dead last!  But that was also good motivation.  Other women my age are doing way more than me; I’m going to get to their level some day.  Not because I need to be number one, but just because I want to be the best me possible.

The workout for the last week of the 2016 Open was the same workout for the last week of the 2014 Open (which is why the video is from 2014).  This is what we did:

And yeah, it totally sucked.  It was so hard.  By the time I reached my first set of burpees, my legs were already shaking (could have had something to do with those 5 miles of hills I ran the night before!), and I wasn’t sure I could even get enough spring in my legs to clear the bar.  By the time I reached the halfway point in my set of 18 thrusters, I was crying inside.  I honestly didn’t think I’d be able to finish.  But I heard the coach’s voice from another day in my head.  “It’s just like running a race.  Push through.  The sooner you get it done, the sooner you can rest.”  So I kept going.  Squat.  Press that bar overhead.  Down to the set of 9 thrusters and burpees.  I was so ready to be done.  Coach is yelling, “Beat the 20 minute mark!” And I went into race mode.  Gotta get my time.  And I did.  18:07.  I beat the 20 minute mark!

So my first CrossFit Open is in the books!  I’m glad I kicked my fear in the butt and went for it.  Now if I could just get my legs to quick shaking…

So what’s your challenge for the week? Or maybe the month or the year? 

I leave you with the words I hear all the time in our CrossFit box:

Come on!  You’ve got this!

Eating Out

I love going out for Italian food, or Mexican food, or even just some good ol’ American food.  It’s fun to be with a group of friends, have a nice meal, and not have to think about cleaning up the mess, right?  But since I’ve lost weight, eating out has become not something I dread, but something I do not take lightly.

I mean, you can’t really take eating out lightly when portions are probably more than double what an actual serving size should be.  And then add in all the fat and salt and not-good-for-me stuff that makes it taste so yummy… When I became more conscious about what I was eating and starting learning how to eat again, I became super aware of the amount of calories a restaurant meal was adding to my body.  Yikes!  One meal could almost give me all the calories I need for the day!

So for a long time, I made excuses to not eat out.  Or I would go but just not order anything.  I was petrified of gaining weight, and I didn’t know how to eat when I got away from the usual foods I ate at home.  But sitting there watching your friends eat is just no fun.  I didn’t want to be a slave to my weight and to be so weight conscious that I couldn’t have fun with my friends, especially if that fun involved eating out.

My approach to eating out goes back to being determined.  I decide ahead of time what I will eat, and that’s what I have.  So how do I do that?

Most restaurants have an online menu that provides nutrition information for their entrees.  I usually just google the name of the restaurant and then add “nutrition information”.  I can usually find a table that breaks down each entree into the amount of calories, fat, sodium, etc.  Those are the main things I look for.

I look for calories, obviously, because weight loss is all about burning more calories than you consume.  I don’t want to choose an entree that will give me more calories that, combined with my other meals for the day, will give me more calories than I can burn in a day.

I also look at fat content.  Our bodies need fat.  Vitamins A, D, E, and K are stored in fat, so without some fat, we would be deficient in those vitamins.  Plus, fat is an energy source.  But too much fat is not good for us either.

The other main component I look at is sodium content.  Sodium doesn’t affect weight per se.  Too much sodium can cause water r003etention so weight may increase just because the body’s holding onto water, but in terms of actual weight, fat or muscle gain, sodium is not a big factor.  I look at sodium, though, for overall health.  High levels of sodium long term can lead to high blood pressure, and high blood pressure down the road can lead to heart problems, stroke, and even kidney damage.  I don’t know about you, but I kind of want to keep my heart and kidneys in working order.  So I pay attention to how much sodium is in an entree.  FYI, we probably only need about 1 teaspoon (2 grams) of sodium a day!

So when I know I will be going out to eat, here’s out it goes:

  1. Be even more diligent to eat lower calorie foods the rest of the day.  I don’t want to eat all of my calories before I go out, so I try to be extra cautious about what I’m eating before I go out.
  2. Look at the online menu and choose an option.  I usually pick 2 or 3 possible options in case the restaurant is not serving the option I chose.
  3. Do not browse the menu at the restaurant.  Stick with the choice you chose ahead of time.  Browsing only increases the temptation to choose something less healthy.  The one time I will browse the menu is if I could not find it available online.  For those times, I choose meats that are typically leaner like chicken and options that are baked, broiled, or grilled.  I avoid options with lots of cheese and things that are fried or creamed.  For sides, I typically choose fruit cups or steamed vegetables.  I stay away from things like mashed potatoes, coleslaw, etc. because all the additives (butter, mayonnaise) can really pack on the calories.
  4. Ask for the salad dressing on the side.  When I started reading labels and nutrition information, I was really surprised to find that some of the worst meals, in terms of calories and sodium, were salads!  When I choose a salad, I choose one that is mostly greens and veggies, and ask for dressing on the side.  That way I can control how much dressing I actually eat.
  5. Leave half your meal for the take home box.  Most restaurants provide huge portions of food, so when I know the best option for me is still more calories than I need to consume, I eat part of it and take the rest of it with me for another day.
  6. Drink water.  Drinking water makes me feel fuller so I’m tempted to eat less.  And water is calorie-free!
  7. Enjoy yourself!  At the end of the day, going over your calorie limit for one day is not going to cause significant weight gain.  Weight gain is a process of continually eating more than you need.  So while I am careful to choose the most healthy option and to control portion size and calorie intake as much as possible, I’m learning not to stress if I go over for one meal.  Hey, I like chips and salsa as much as the next guy!

And I leave you with this, just because.  I like to laugh!  Here’s to hoping your experience at eating out will be infinitely more enjoyable than Mr. Bean’s!

37 Days

It’s marathon training update day.  Running a marathon is probably not a big thing (as in important) to most people; to me, though, it’s huge.  Running a marathon is more than just running 26.2 miles.  For me, it’s a celebration of life, of remembering where I was 2.5 years ago, fat and struggling to run for even a minute.  It’s validation of all the work that’s gone into getting me to the point of even being remotely fit enough to attempt a marathon.  And it’s a reminder of the spiritual victory that’s set me free to run this race called life.  Yep, this marathon is about much more than running to me!  So thanks for indulging me in these marathon updates!

We’re 37 days away!  Holy cow.  That’s like a month and 7 days.  I hope I’m ready.  My psoas pain is much better.  A couple of weeks ago the chiropractor I’ve been seeing did some dry needling on the area.  I’ll have to write more about that later, but it’s a bit like acupuncture in that he stuck a bunch of teeny tiny needles in my groin where the pain is.  It wasn’t too bad until some of the needles got poked into the areas of the muscle that were super sensitive.  I seriously thought I was going to lose it and just start bawling because it hurt so bad.  I hate being a wimp.

But after the needles came out and I rested for a few days, I felt so much better.  I completed 2 runs with hardly any pain, and after my appointment this past week, I got the okay to go back to training as usual  Yay!

So yesterday was speed interval day.  I have a friend who’s in his 50’s and just ran a 5K in about 21 minutes.  My hat off to him because I struggle to run 800 meters (about 1/2 mile) at a pace of 7 minutes 15-30 seconds/mile.  I can do 400 meters at that pace pretty easily but anything longer than that is a major struggle.  But speed intervals are amazing after the fact.  After one speed workout, my pace just naturally picks up.  I run faster without even thinking about it.  It’s crazy, but that’s why I keep putting myself through those drills.  They totally stink, but the gain is so worth it!

003So 37 days and counting…I need to start adding to my marathon playlist.  I have a “Long Run” playlist but it’s not long enough for 4.5 hours.  I like listening to contemporary Christian music.  Any suggestions for songs I should include in my playlist?

Learning How to Eat

That title sounds so funny.  I mean, what’s to learn?  Open mouth, insert food, chew and swallow, right?  Sure, we’ve all got that part down, but I’m talking about learning what I’m putting in my mouth.  I sometimes thought I was eating healthy, but then I started reading labels…Holy cow!  I had no idea what I was eating.

Did you know that about 75% of weight loss comes down to what we eat?  That kind of stinks (right?) because changing eating habits is NOT easy.  I get that.  I’ve been there.  But I’m also living proof that it can be done.

There were basically two things I needed to figure out.  One, how many calories should I be eating?  Two, how many calories was I actually eating?

To determine how many calories I needed, I went with the general rule of 10 calories per pound of body weight.  So at 180 pounds, I needed 1800 calories a day.  When I got down to 150 pounds, my daily calorie need was 1500 calories, etc.  Easy math, right?

Calculating how many calories I was actually eating took a little more effort.  Google was my friend.  If what I was eating didn’t have a label, I would google the type of food and amount for a calorie estimate and just tally up the total.  Talk about an eye opening experience!  I honestly had no idea I was consuming as many calories as I was.  Take, for 006instance, salad dressing.  I’d make a salad for lunch, feeling good about being healthy, and then douse it with salad dressing.  When I started tracking calories, I realized that a serving of salad dressing is 2 tablespoons, and depending on the dressing, those 2 tablespoons added over 100 calories to my meal.  Now, I would always use more than 2 tablespoons, so my “healthy” salad suddenly became a calorie heavy meal.

Reading labels was vital to learning how to eat.  Not only was I not aware of how many calories I was consuming, I realized I also didn’t have a fat clue what a healthy portion was.  Labels spell it out.  So I started measuring my food.  I had to see what 2 tablespoons looked like, what 1 cup of cereal looked like.  I was amazed to see how much larger my portions generally were.  When I began to calculate the number of calories I was eating based on my portion sizes, I was flabbergasted!  I was disgusted, actually, and that was good motivation to make some changes.

So I began to measure my food to be a serving size.  I still tracked calories but now I counted them to make sure I stayed within my daily limit.  And that helped me make better choices.  I could eat a couple of slices of pizza and blow 600 calories, or I could have a big salad with lots of fresh veggies for 200 calories and have a snack later.  I had to think about spreading out my calories so I could have a snack when I got hungry without going over my calorie limit.  That made choosing a handful of carrots over a brownie easier.  35 calories vs. 120-200 calories?  No brainer.  It’s kind of like budgeting dollars.  If you know you only have $20 for your night on the town, I’ll bet you’d be eating Subway for dinner instead of steak!

002If you’re like me, counting calories is a bit tedious, though.  But I found the Lose It! app which made things so much easier.  It’s free in the app store, and lets you track not only calories but also exercise and weight.  You can connect with other people and earn badges for reaching goals.  I didn’t use it to its fullest potential, but as I began to be aware of calories, I loved the calorie tracking aspect of the app.  It has a feature that will scan barcodes of packaged food, or you can manually enter your food and amount by choosing from a list of common foods.  And seeing the line on the weight graph trend down kept me motivated to keep going!

I’ll be writing more about food choices and how I construct my meals, but before I could make changes I had to know what I was eating.  If you’re serious about wanting to lose weight, I challenge you to keep a food journal–even just for a week.  What did you eat?  How much?  How many calories was it?  It’s a great visual of your eating habits and a great way to see where you can make changes.

More Is Not Always Best

Americans tend to think that more of everything is better, don’t we?  And there are some things I wouldn’t mind having more of.  I’d love to have more time to do all the things I want to do.  More nieces and nephews would always be great!  More people in my006 circle of friends, more cats, and a little more chocolate in my diet would also be nice.

But when it comes to exercise, I’ve discovered that more may not always be better.  Once I graduated from the elliptical exclusively, I added in a variety of group classes–Zumba, Bootcamp, Body Pump, Pilates.  They were all good classes, good workouts, but as my fitness level increased, I began taking multiple classes consecutively, thinking that if I exercised more I could speed my weight loss.  In April of 2014, I found myself spending about 3 hours a day at the gym; yet, my weight stubbornly refused to budge.  I’d heard about plateaus.  Holy cow, it was frustrating!  I was exhausted.  I physically could not add in any more exercise time.  What was I going to do?

Desperate for some help, I signed up to work with a personal trainer at the gym.  During the initial assessment, I told the trainer how much I’d been exercising, but that my weight was staying the same.  He got this look of “Yeah, I’ve heard that a million times before”, and that’s when I learned about the General Adaptation Syndrome.  Basically, the body adapts to the stress (in this case amount and type of exercise) placed on it.  Because my workouts were predictable in both intensity and type of exercise, my body was not being challenged to increase it’s fitness.  It could handle what I was throwing at it.

The trainer’s recommendation?  Weight training.  Throw in something new and different to challenge the body.  I began working with the trainer for one session a week.  He put me through some short, high intensity workouts (enter my curiosity about CrossFit) and mixed in some strength training.  Slowly, I began to see the weight on the scale go down again.  Unfortunately, my trainer moved to Switzerland (I know, right?!), but he put me on a path to reach my weight loss goals.

I’m not a personal trainer (yet…), so I don’t have the expertise to develop a training plan for you (yet…), but for me variety has been the key.  A huge perk of being a part of a coached running group has been having the types of runs spelled out for me; I just have to do them.  Some days I run hills.  Other days I run speed intervals.  Some runs are shorter in distance but faster.  Saturday runs are generally slower in pace but longer in distance.  Lots of variety.  And that’s what I like about CrossFit.  Every workout is different, so I’m always being challenged (more about CrossFit another time).

I’m sure there are lots of online workouts to follow.  The only one I have experience with is IdealShape Up Challenge.  You can check it out here.

I signed up for the challenge as I was recovering from ITBS last year.  I found the workouts challenging, and the equipment needed was minimal and not that expensive.  The challenge is free, and the workouts are fairly short and easy to do in a small space.

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As the saying goes, variety is the spice of life, right?  It keeps exercise interesting, if nothing else!

What is your exercise routine?

What do you find challenging about adding variety to your workouts?

 

When Life Gives You Lemons…

Or maybe I should say what runners do when they get hurt…  Marathon training has ground to a screeching halt, and 17 mile runs have been replaced with kneeling warrior stretches and monster walks.

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I’ve been having some pain in my psoas muscle for a while.  It finally got bad enough that I went to see a chiropractor who specializes in sports injuries, and after a few treatments and basically no improvement, I got benched.  I am NOT happy!

Last year, I had to quit running for most of the summer because of a severe case of iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS).  Then, just 2 weeks after returning to running, I stepped on a rock, rolled my ankle, and wound up with this:

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I don’t know how other runners handle injuries, but this is what I do.

  1. Pout.  Ok, I’ll admit that when I get the news that I can’t run, the first thing I do is feel sorry for myself and spend some time pouting.  I fuss and fume and try to control my urge to kick something.  Basically, I act like a big baby.
  2. Accept the situation.  After I spend a day pouting, I recognize the wisdom in the doctor’s advice and agree that rest is what I need.  Resting is hard.  I fall into this trap sometimes of thinking that more is better.  In reality, though, rest is just as important as exercise.  Resting allows muscles to recover so that when you do exercise, you’re even stronger.  And resting when you’re injured is even more important.  Keeping on running through the pain just increases the likelihood of the injury getting worse and the recovery time longer.
  3. Use the down time to strengthen other areas of my body.  During my 3 month hiatus last summer, waiting for my IT band to heal, I realized that while my legs were out of commission (kind of), my arms were not.  So I focused a lot on upper body strengthening during that time.  Now that I’m back in the position of not being able to do a lot of activity that I’m used to, I’ll be focusing a lot on arms, back, and core again.  CrossFit has been nixed too, but I’ll still be working on getting that pull-up!  No squats required for that.
  4. Cross-train.  Cross-training is just doing any other activity besides running, or whatever your exercise of choice is.  A lot of runners cycle to cross train.  Or walk.  Mixing up activity works different muscle groups to help with overall strengthening and flexibility.  Going back to last summer again and dealing with ITBS, I couldn’t even ride my bike.  So I faced my fear of deep water and took swimming lessons!  I’m still not a great swimmer, but I can swim enough to give myself a pretty good workout.  It looks like I’ll be spending more time in the pool again now.
  5. Learn from the injury.  Looking back to my first injury, I learned a lot.  ITBS is mostly an overtraining injury.  When I reflect on what I was doing, I just want to bang my head against a wall and say, “Stupid!  Stupid!  Stupid!”  I was running too fast, too far too quickly.  And not stretching.  And not resting.  Stupid, stupid, stupid.  But I learned from that, and I’m super careful now about only increasing my mileage by 10% per week, stretching after I run or workout, and while I’m still struggling to take rest days, I do try to take at least one rest day a week And what I’m learning from my current injury is to not ignore pain.  Maybe if I would’ve started treatment, or at least taken some time off, when I first felt that annoying groin pain, I wouldn’t be benched 45 days before my first marathon. Another lesson learned the hard way…

 

My First Ice Bath

The marathon countdown continues.  I’m 47 days away from the big day!  And I hit a distance PR this weekend at 17.25 miles.  It makes running 26.2 miles seem more doable.  I mean, I was only 9 miles away from a full marathon this weekend.  Holy cow!  I might actually be able to do this!

Running long distances wears me out.  A couple of weeks ago, I ran 15 miles and came home looking like this:

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So you can imagine what I felt like after 17 miles!  And besides being tired, my legs felt super tight.  Our running coach has been talking about the benefits of an ice bath, so I decided to try it out.  I look like a hot mess (but in my defense, I’d just run 17.25 miles!), but here’s how it went:

The idea behind ice bathing is similar to putting ice packs on an injury.  Ice decreases swelling and tissue breakdown and helps to flush out lactic acid, the culprit behind muscle soreness.  Sitting in an ice bath is basically just putting an ice pack on all the big muscles in your legs at once.  Then, when the tissues begin to warm, the increase in blood flow helps with the healing process.

So did it help?  Scientists question whether an ice bath is really beneficial or not, but I actually think it did help!  My legs felt tired the afternoon after the run and ice bath, but not as tired as I’d anticipated after 17 miles.  But I could really tell a difference when I woke up the next morning.  My legs felt like I’d had a workout, but I wasn’t one bit sore, and my legs didn’t feel tight or tired like they usually do.  And the only thing I did differently was take an ice bath.

Mmmm.  It looks like ice baths may need to become a part of my running routine.  Oh, brother.  That’s going to be 10 minutes that I’m not going to look forward to!

So what was your adventure for the weekend? 

Has anyone else had experiences with an ice bath?

 

Me? A Runner?

I never thought I would call myself a runner.  I never ran until I got to college, and then, when I ran even short distances, I would have so much pain in my knees I would need a week to recover.  And let’s not even talk about the extreme shortness of breath.  I seriously felt like I was going to keel over when I ran.  I hated running.  Hated it.

So it sounds unbelievable to say that I’m 51 days away from running a marathon and that I love running.  How did that happen?!  Especially since I spent most of the decade leading up to the big 4-0 more than just a little overweight.

If you’ve been following my weight loss story at all, you know that losing weight was a progression that involved a shift in my perspectives on food and eating which led to a change in eating habits and finally the beginning of weight loss.  It was October 2013.  I had lost about 15 pounds, and exercise had become a part of my daily schedule.  I was feeling motivated, but I was a little concerned about losing momentum with the upcoming holidays.  I had been exercising exclusively in a gym and with holiday hours at the gym, I knew that I would not be able to be as consistent with my exercise schedule.

So I decided to try running again.  It was something I could do anytime, anyplace, on Christmas day, morning or night.  But how to get started?  My former experiences with running were not good ones, and I don’t know about you, but I really don’t like pain.   So, you ask, what did I do?

  1.  Get fitted for quality running shoes.  I’ve discovered that the most essential piece of running gear for me is a good pair of shoes.  When my feet are happy, I have a much better run.  And, I discovered, that a big part of the knee pain I was experiencing was corrected with proper shoes.  Tulsa has several good running stores, but Fleet Feet has become my go to store for all things running.  When I went for my first pair of shoes, I jogged barefoot on a treadmill in the store for just a few minutes while my gait was recorded.  From that video the sales person realized that my feet rolled inward every time my foot landed which could contribute to knee pain.  He recommended insoles and a running shoe that was about 1/2 size larger than I usually wear.  Larger shoes give your feet more room to move with the motion of running.  I highly recommend being professionally fitted for running shoes.  They are definitely worth the expense, and since they only need to be changed every 300-500 miles, they will last for a long time.  And I’m running pain free!
  2. Download couch to 5K app.  So I had my shoes.  Now I needed to figure out how to get from not running at all to running, preferably without dying in the process.  The C25K app by Z003en Labs did the trick for me.  The app is free, and takes you through an 8 week walking/running progression to get you from the couch to running a 5K.  The app lets you play your own music which is only interrupted by the voice that says, “Begin running now.”  or “Begin walking now.” 004 It has a timer so you can see how long you’ve been running, and it lets you go back to previous days or skip ahead if you want.  I did repeat a few days early on before going out for runs was habit, but I would not recommend skipping ahead.  When I started the app, I didn’t really believe that I’d be running 3 miles nonstop at the end of 8 weeks, but I worked through the program religiously, and yes, at the end of 8 weeks, I could run 3 miles.  They weren’t a fast 3 miles, but I could do it.
  3. Run with a metronome.  Yep, I ran with a metronome.  It’s used to keep time in music, but it’s also helpful for runners to increase cadence.  Cadence is just how quickly you pick up your feet.  It has nothing to do with how fast you run, but is all about how many steps per minute you’re taking.  I discovered that a slow cadence was also part of my knee pain.  The sales person at Fleet Feet is the one who recommended a metronome, and I’m so glad he did!  The idea is that as you’re running, 005concentrate on taking a step with each beat of the metronome.  It’s harder than it sounds, but it was especially helpful for me.  While my cadence is still not where I want it to be, I only ran with a metronome for a few months until I began to feel the rhythm of running.  There’s probably a metronome app because it seems there’s an app for everything, but I went with this Seiko metronome that I could clip to my shirt and still listen to music on my phone.
  4. Sign up for a 5K race.  When I started running, my goal was weight loss and exercise.  I had no aspirations for running competitively, but signing up for a race gave me a goal to work towards.  And having a goal to meet provides accountability.  I know that if I don’t do my training runs, I’m not going to be able to complete the race.  Plus, races are just fun!  Runners are very encouraging and supportive of one another, and races have very much a party atmosphere.  Truthfully, completing my first 5K in May 2014, at the age of 41, is what really turned me into a runner.  I had such a runner’s high when I crossed the finish line that I could not wait to run again.  Here I am at the end of the race.cinco de mayo finish, 25.  Run!  To be a runner, you have to run!  I’ll be writing more about my progression in the sport, picking up speed, running longer distances, my favorite gear, etc., but these are the basics that turned pudgy 40 year old me into a runner and a marathoner hopeful.  Never say never, right?

Happy running!  And because I no longer need my metronome, I’d like to give it to one of you.  If you’re thinking about starting running or are a runner and think a metronome would be helpful, leave a comment telling me about your running experience.  Winner will be chosen at random.