Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Injury Favorites: In The Meantime

I have been keeping busy ever since I got my stress fracture diagnosis.  I try to maintain this schedule:  Bikram yoga 3x a week, strength 4x a week, pool running 2x a week, spin 2x a week, and a sprinkling of additional core workouts here and there.  I am doing all of this with the hope of coming back a smarter and stronger runner.

I talked a little bit about my trainer and my bike trainer before, but thought I'd elaborate a little on the other new things that this stress fracture has introduced into my life:

1)  TRX

My trainer incorporates TRX a lot when she is working with me.  It is a suspension device which utilizes your own body weight to do exercises.  I think the fact that this piece of equipment is respected so much in the fitness community and not relegated to a "one piece of equipment does it all!" infomercial-type offering is nothing short of marketing genius.  Because really, it could have gone either way.


You can get a full body workout with these straps.  Legs, core, upper body, and stretching.  I decided to get my own TRX so I could train at home when I wasn't seeing my trainer.  I bought the Force Kit which came with a booklet and an app that has a 12 week program complete with videos demonstrating all of the moves and how to progress them as you get better.  The app is amazing and I highly recommend it.  We have a chin-up bar I hang the system from, but you can also use an attachment to make any door an anchor point.

I'm in the 7th week of the program and am really enjoying it.

2)  Pool Running

Pool running goes by a lot of names (deep water running, aquajogging) and involves running in deep water.  I have read differing opinions on whether or not you should use a flotation belt but for now I am using one.  I have also read differing opinions on what sort of leg motion is the best to do. I have personally settled on mimicking the normal running stride as much as possible and I try to spend time concentrating on the kick back which is something that is lacking in my running form.

Pool running was one of the first things my sports medicine doctor suggested I try when I was first diagnosed with my stress fracture.  Unfortunately, I did not have access to a pool and I did not intend to just go buy a belt and show up at a pool and give it a go with no idea of what I was doing.  I kept hearing such awesome things about how pool running is a great option for runners that my fears and the lack of convenience were overcome by my desire to elevate my heart rate.

I first ventured into the pool running scene by attending a 6:30 am Deep Water Running class at UCSF.  For the record, I am not a morning person.  To be in a pool by 6:30 am was nothing short of a Christmas miracle.  The fact that one of my classmates and the instructor helped me pick a belt and told me how I wanted it to fit was worth the $15 admission price.  This is great because the class was not quite what I was expecting.  I was the youngest person there by at least 25 years.  It felt more like a water aerobics class than a water running class.  Not to knock it, but I was there to get my heart rate up, not to pretend I was stepping over barrels or to do jumping jacks in the deep water.  Class fail.

I decided after a second class that I needed to do pool running on my own.  I had read a lot about how interval work was the way to go in the water and there didn't seem to be any sort of class geared towards people who wanted to do that sort of a thing.  I decided to check out my local YMCA.  It was serendipitous as I actually went to try out their Water Running class but I ended up looking at the wrong schedule and stumbled in on open recreational swim.  I was told I could strap on a belt and do whatever I liked in the deep end.  I was talking to another pool runner in the locker room after.  She said she taught water running classes at other locations and confirmed my suspicion that they were mainly geared towards the geriatric or overweight crowd.  She told me if cardio fitness was my goal I had to just do hard interval work on my own.

The next time I went back I did a few things differently:  1) I remembered that Garfield the Garmin was the waterproof triathlon model. I programmed in workouts like I do when I run and he will vibrate to let me know when an interval is starting or ending.  The first time I did my own workout I watched the clock on the wall which was hard because eventually I'd have to turn around and find the clock on the opposite wall and figure out how much time I had left.  2)  I loaded an ipod with my favorite running music and podcasts.  I bought my husband a waterproof ipod case a while back and it is finally getting some use.  3)  I put on a running hat.  I need it to have something to attach the ipod case to but psychologically it makes me feel like I am actually out for a run. I know, I'm strange. But I miss wearing my running hats!  And I secretly like how it screams, "poor injured runner" when you wear your running hat in the pool.  It also doubles as a splash protector when the guy swimming laps slaps his arm down heavily right by your face as he passes you.

Ever since I started doing the above, I LOVE me my pool running.  I'm using Garfield, I have my running hat -- it is the next best thing to real running.  It is tough when you up the intensity and it gets my heart rate going.  My head even breaks a sweat.  I try to really concentrate on engaging my core and moving my legs and arms independently of my torso.  I'm hoping some of that muscle memory will translate onto the road later.  I am planning on using the pool running in my training even after I am back to regular running again.  I may swap out an easy day for a day in the pool or use it as cross training or double days.  I've been doing a lot of reading about the pool running online and it seems to work for a lot of people.

3) Gym membership

Related to the above -- I joined a gym so I could have pool access.  I've started attending a core strength class once a week and tried out a pilates class as well.  I haven't spent any time in the actual weight/cardio gym since I have my TRX at home and have been working with a trainer thus far.  But I think it is something I will get into more, especially when my fracture is healed up.  After a pool run I'll take a medicine ball outside and do some additional core work.

I am excited about all of the above for a couple of reasons.  First, as I mentioned, I think it is important to have strength in order to be the best runner you can be.  The "Anatomy for Runners" book talks about how you need to have a strong chassis in order to tap into the power your legs generate.  His analogy was firing a cannon from a row boat -- obviously this is disastrous.  But if you had a cannon on firm ground you'd get a lot more power.  Second, I got into this whole mess because all I wanted to do was run.  I am extremely Type A when it comes to training plans.  If it is written down I will do everything in my power to get that run workout completed.  This leads me to run through aches and pains and niggles.  I think down the road if I am experiencing an issue I will be much more likely to skip a run or three if I had another outlet -- get in the pool or on an elliptical or on the bike.

I used to really worry about what would become of me if the day came when I could no longer run.  I still worry about it a little -- I don't consider myself an exerciser -- even all this stuff I am doing is for the end game of running. But I feel a little more assured there are other things out there to help fill the void.  This year has been a good rehearsal for a show I hope never takes place.  And quite possibly all this extra stuff will prolong or prevent that from ever happening.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Monday Mario

Mario is at the tail end of a huge shed.  Usually it is his fluffy soft under coat which comes out, but about two or three a year he'll shed out the longer overcoat hairs.  They come out by the handful and he'll have varying lengths of fur here and there.  He's shedding out in a male pattern baldness ring this time around.  Not nearly as cute of a look as the time he sported a heart.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Monday Mario

I'm sorry, I know we've beaten the hay rack to death but I just love watching Mario eat from it. You can see his brain working it out.  I love that it gives him some enrichment activity and it tickles me to death I actually got something for him he uses.

Twitchy lips

Monday, August 12, 2013

Monday Mario

Lest you think the hay rack has been 100% sunshine and roses, there is a dark underbelly to the device. Mario is apparently a prima donna with his hay choice and is quite picky about what gets eaten and what gets left behind.  The above represents 2.5 days of hay selection carnage.  I've started scooping the above into a fresh litter box as the bottom layer so nothing gets wasted in the end.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Injury Favorites: Maintenance & Damage Control

Continuing on the "Injury Favorites" series, I'd like to highlight new gadgets I found to help keep myself from combusting.

1) R8 from Roll Recovery

I own pretty much every major trigger point/roller device known to runnerkind.  When I first saw this one, I was really intrigued.  The device applies its own pressure so you don't have to press down with a lot of force like The Stick or use your own body weight like you do with a foam roller.  I'm not saying having to support your own body weight is a bad aspect of foam rolling, but it is often a limiting factor (especially in my pre-injury weenie upper body strength days).  Also, there is no way to travel with a Stick or foam roller easily.  I have heard mixed stories about whether TSA will confiscate Sticks (for the record, I have gotten my Kid Stick through security once with no issues) and there is no way a standard foam roller is going to fit in my carry-on.  This thing was fairly pricey, but I figured it was comparable to a sports massage that keeps giving.

The first time I used it, the only thing I could thing was, "Oww!"  My husband claims the pressure is so great, it hurts too much to use.  I disagree.  I think it does a good job of applying needed pressure.  When I thoroughly roll my upper legs I get the "loose and free" sensation I have only ever experienced after first standing up after a sports massage.

My adductors were a big problem area for me and it is pretty much impossible to get in there good with a foam roller.  The R8 is amazing for the inner thigh area.  It also does a great job on hamstrings, quads, and the IT band.  Pretty much the entire upper leg.  With the double-sided action you are also rolling two areas at the same time.

I've found using it this way vs. the above way applies a different type of pressure.

I am petite and I can just get this sucker up onto my glute area.  It is enough of a challenge that I prefer to use the foam roller for my glutes instead (rolling your glutes with a foam roller is really just sitting on a foam roller so that is easy enough).  I believe this is an invaluable part the arsenal, I don't think it is going to totally replace every self-massage device.  But I really believe it gets the job done better and easier than any other self-massage device for all the areas you can use it on.

I have not tried this on my lower legs because you have to find a way to protect your shin bone while you are rolling your calves.  I've heard of people putting towels there to protect the shin, but I have other rolling devices that work well for the calves so I haven't bothered to try that yet.  I have had to tighten the bolts up a few times with a screwdriver but the R8 seems like a solid piece of equipment that will last a long time.

2) Grid Mini

After I purchased my R8, Trigger Point Therapy came out with the Grid Mini.  I have had a regular size Grid for several years and it is far superior to your cheap styrofoam roller.  I rarely check any luggage when I travel and there is no way to take The Grid with me.  I had purchased the R8 with the intent to use it as my traveling tool.  But around the time the Grid Mini was released, we had a trip planned and my problem area was my glutes.  So I snapped one of these guys up to take with me on the trip.  You can attach it to the exterior of your bag so it won't take up any space at all.

Grid Mini Hawaii bound (And this photo also shows the two best pieces of race swag I have ever gotten:  Backpack from the Austin Marathon and a water bottle from the US Half Marathon -- I've used both regularly for years)

The downsides to the Mini vs. the regular Grid are:  1) Because it is not as long, it is also less rigid and I can tell there is more flex than with the regular Grid.  This means the pressure you get from it is not as great.  2)  Because it is skinny you have to have the line of direction you want to roll exactly parallel to the roller or you will fall off (this makes areas like adductors which are on a diagonal roll pattern very difficult).

I consider the cons to be tolerable given to ability to take your roller with you on the go easily.  I would not say it is a substitute to owning a regular size roller, though.

3) Pro-Tec Hot/Cold Therapy Wrap
I have been plagued with chronic shin splints since 2005.  All these years when I wanted to ice them, I would wrap an Ace bandage around and around and around and around my shin to hold a frozen pack there.  The wrap wouldn't always hold secure and when you give yourself 5 minutes after a run pre-work to do what needs 10 minutes, it was a major pain to spend time wrapping it on and then taking it off again.  The Pro-Tec Hot/Cold Therapy Wrap probably comes in many different variations from oodles of companies.  But it is the one I found and I wish I had gotten one sooner.  There is a pocket you can slide your gel pack into (it can be frozen or heated) and then you just velcro the sucker on wherever you need it. Two seconds on, one second off, and very easy to adjust the tightness and compression factor.

So simple.  Don't ask why I didn't get one earlier.

My massage therapist recommended I heat, massage, ice, and then heat my adductor.  I had a few of the gel packs already that can be frozen or microwaved so I have one that stays thawed and a couple that stay frozen all the time.  At one point I was using it so much that I bought a second one so I could ice my adductor and knee at the same time.  I took one with me on my above mentioned Hawaii trip. My dad rolled his ankle on a run while I was home so I let him have my second one since he had lots of ice packs but no way to attach them to his body.  So I'm down to one again and hopefully I'll never have a need to ice two places at the same time again!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Monday Mario

The super soft fur on the top of Mario's head is my favorite place to put my nose and inhale. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

Injury Favorites: Knowledge Is Power

I've been meaning to do this for quite a while and finally got inspired to get it done.  I've been injured for a long time now.  I haven't run in a quarter of a year.  I haven't run injury free in almost ten months. This means I have been spending a lot of time dealing with injury.  That is the downside.  There are actually quite a few upsides to this whole thing and I decided to document those as well.

First up on the agenda is how I have spent this time beefing up on my understanding of the way a body should work and how my body is deficient.

1) Mobility WOD and "Becoming a Supple Leopard" by Kelly Starrett

I stumbled onto the Mobility WOD website about half a year ago.  The site has since gone to a pay-to-view format for some of their videos but a ton of great stuff is still up there for free.  Starrett is a physical therapist and a pretty big person in the CrossFit world.  When I first found the website I couldn't bookmark videos for future reference fast enough.

For example, this gem:

The first lesson I learned from my physical therapists and especially personal trainer was, "KNEES OUT!"  I swear I hear my trainer saying "KNEES OUT!" in my head every time I squat, stand up, and  walk up and down stairs.  Hopefully later when I start running again this will all translate.  I used to have to really concentrate on it and I find it is pretty much second nature for me now.  Both my knees are super crunchy because of sheer forces and I want to keep them happy for as long as I can.

After creeping the videos for a bit I learned that there was going to be a book released!  I got my hands on a copy right away.  Angela and I were discussing this a while back.  We both moaned over the odd title and I found myself hugging it tightly to my body as I walked to work so people wouldn't wonder about it.  The book encapsulates what is covered in his videos.  Good form for all types of movements, why it is important, and how to keep your body mobile.

I can't say I have read the whole thing as it is quite the monster, but it is a great reference and I highly recommend it.  Runners will probably delight in the extensive sections which teach you how to roll, stretch, and trigger point out tight areas in all parts of the body (he refers to it as smashing and flossing).

Starrett recently announced he is collaborating on a book focused for running which is coming out early next year.  I'll be keeping an ear to the ground to see if it is as good as I hope it will be.

2) "Anatomy for Runners" by Jay Dicharry

Oiselle pro runner, Lauren Fleshman, blogged about this book and after reading the reviews I got myself a copy.  I devoured it in just a few days.  Whenever a new runner asks how they should start out, the knee-jerk answer is usually, "Get professionally fitted for shoes."  My new answer is going to be to get a copy of this book and read it cover to cover.

If I had read this book over ten years ago when I first started running -- and had I the maturity to take it seriously -- I really believe I would never have had any serious injuries in my running life.  I admit it would take a pretty forward thinking person to read this book and apply what is in it when they are not in any pain.  But there were multiple scenarios in this book that described all types of things I have experienced over the years and I wanted to bang my head into the wall and scream, "If I only knew then what I know now!"

The book is not without flaws -- it sorely needs an index (this applies to the above book, too), they could have utilized photographs better, and I think the what-is-wrong to the how-do-you-fix-it link is not as strong as it could have been.  BUT, if you have a functioning brain you can fill in these gaps and turn this into an amazing reference.

This book pretty much sums up everything I have learned about what I have been doing wrong.  After describing the science behind everything, the book goes through assessments so that you can find your weak links and then provides exercises to fix them.  The information in the book is not new but to have it in a tidy little package is priceless.

If you run and want to run long-term, get this.  I am planning to read it again and put little stickies all over it the second time.

3)  Kinetic Revolution

I can't remember how I found this website.  I followed them on twitter and I literally favorite 4/5 of every tweet they send because the article it links to is that great.  For example, I had a major aha moment with this one about chronically tight hamstrings.  My hamstrings always feel tight but I can get 90 degrees or more of flexion with them.  I have a weak core.  Aha!

These are the top three things I have been utilizing for my understanding of my injuries.  It is so much easier to put the work into fixing issues when I have a full understanding of why those issues are important to my running.  Everyone knows it is important to have a strong core, but why?  I've been doing all sorts of exercises for my gluteus medius, but why?  Planks and clamshells and squats get really old when you aren't sure why you are doing them and can't visualize exactly how they are going to keep you safe down the road.  Knowledge isn't just power, it is the best form of motivation.