Friday, December 30, 2016

7 Reasons Why I Haven't Been Injured in Over 3 Years

As I sit here writing this post, I am knocking on wood in every direction. The superstitious part of me thinks that if I write a post on not being injured for so long, then I will have a running injury tomorrow. Guaranteed. Damn superstition. Oh, well. Here goes.

I actually don't know when my last running related injury was, but I think it was back in 2013. That means I'm coming up on 4 years of being clean.

I've thought a lot about this. Why did I have so many consecutive injuries over the years and then none at all? I've got some inklings about why this might be the case, although I think it is hard to truly know.  Maybe none of these are true. Maybe I just turned into an injury-free zone with no explanation at all. And - a disclaimer - this mixture of things has worked for me. Take away from it what works (or doesn't) for you.

1. My Body Finally Caught Up. When I first started running in 2008, I didn't do things like a normal person. Instead of trying moderation, my first race was a marathon. After that, I got the running bug and wanted to sign up for all the races. What a shocker that not too much later I got my first stress fracture, in my foot. After recovering from that, I thought I was being smart, but was plagued with other injuries such as a hip stress fracture, high hamstring tendinopathy (chronic) and a tear in my hamstring.

These days, I actually run more than I did then, but am injury free. I honestly think that in the beginning my body was like, "What the f&ck are you doing?" It took several years for me to build the stamina, muscles and endurance to truly train my body to withstand all the miles. Running can be hard on the body and there has to be sufficient time for the body to adjust.

2. I Quit Yoga. I've done yoga for many years - Ashtanga, Bikram, Restorative, Vinyasa.  I always thought it was a wonderful supplement to my running because it slowed me down, stretched my muscles and instilled strength and balance. But...I found that the moves stretched way too much on my hamstrings and irritated them so much when I ran. I guess we all have to make choices and I sacrificed yoga to keep running. I know many people would disagree and would tell me there are yoga moves I could do that would work for me, but for now I'm content with my choice.

3. I Changed My Form/Foot Strike. When I started running I was a major heel striker and wore pretty substantial shoes. No doubt there are many successful and accomplished runners with a heel strike. But for me, this led to injury. A simple change in my running form to strike on my mid foot and finding shoes that helped support this was a life saver for me. I've been running in the Brooks Pure Cadence for years now. They are a light weight shoe with a low heel to toe drop, which helps me land mid foot. Not for everyone, but works for me.

4. I Increased My Cadence. Somewhere along the line I had sports medicine doctors and coaches tell me to count my cadence. Research has shown that 180 strides per minute is optimal to help reduce injury and to help increase performance. A quicker and lighter cadence can help to adjust your form and prevents over-striding. Also, the load on the skeletal system is reduced per stride. These days, my watch tells me my cadence and I am usually around 170-175 strides per minute. I have to really focus to get to 180.

5. I Did Ironman Races. Like I said, I'm not much for moderation so I did two IMs only 9 months apart (Florida - Nov. 2013 and Boulder - August 2014) This forced me into consistent cross training (like MAJOR cross training) and also helped me to develop strength in areas that were previously weak. Overall, I think my body is happiest when I give it the variety and balance that swim/bike/run provides.

My bike makes me just a little happy.
6. I Hit the Trails. Hard. I think trail running has brought the greatest shift to my body and to staying healthy. I run on trails at least twice, if not more per week. This past year I did two trail marathons and one 6-day 120 mile race over the Colorado Rockies. All of the trails I run on are technical and involve steep climbing and descents. This is vastly different than road running and challenges your body to find balance, coordination and to use different muscles than you do when running on roads. Sure, my legs are bulkier than they used to be, but they are stronger and can carry me over mountains in a way they could not before.

A cougar in her habitat

7. I Practice What I Preached. These days, I take my recovery days very seriously. I always take two days off per week. I eat whole foods and am careful about getting enough carbs for fuel and enough protein for recovery. I hydrate well and eat very little sugar. I also try to sleep 8-9 hours per night. My Achilles heel is my wine intake - so I could work on that, but what is life without at least one vice, right?

Overlooking a shitty view in Vegas. But, I have wine.

Believe me, I'm not saying I'll never be injured again. But I do think I now have some strategies to decrease my chances.

I write all this simply for what it's worth. Everyone is different and the key really is to finding what works for you. But in order to do that, you have to try new things. And, it takes time. One thing I have definitely realized is that running takes patience. It takes time to build up your mileage and endurance. It takes time to recover from injury. It takes time to train for hard things. But, one thing is guaranteed - if you put in the time and you respect and listen to your body, great things can happen.

Are you injured now? With what?

Have you ever had a major running injury?

What keeps you injury free?


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

6 Lies Runners Will Tell You

Just like all parents lie to their kids ("Every time you flick the light switch on and off it costs 10 cents!", "If you swallow your gum it stays in your stomach for 95 years!", "This big fat guy in a red suit comes down the chimney and leaves you things!" <creepy), there are also lies that runners tell other runners. Hell, I've told some of them myself.

1. Lie: You will experience a runner's high.

Truth: I still don't even know what that is. The only high I get is when I am done running and laying down. I have had moments of actually liking running when I run, but to call it a "high," as in euphoric or orgasmic - well that's going too far. Now, a runner's LOW? I can get down with that.

2. Lie: If you run, you will lose weight!

Truth: While its true that running probably is the most bang for your buck in terms of burning calories, it doesn't always mean you'll lose weight. In fact, many people gain weight while training for a marathon (WTF???). And this isn't just because you are, as they say, increasing muscle mass. It is because you are eating your face off because you think if you run you can eat all the foods and drink all the beers, but newsflash: NO, you can't. More info on why you might gain weight while training found HERE.

3. Lie: Just fart while you run. Everyone does it.

Truth: While it is correct that everyone does it, it is in fact a great risk to fart while you run. Passing gas whilst running is is just plain dangerous, mostly because often farts have a chaser (if you know what I mean) causing you to experience the dreaded shart. Yes, go ahead and fart if you must, but be prepared to deal with the consequences.

4. Lie: The more you run, the easier it gets.

Truth: Wrong. It's always hard. Because you can always try to go faster or try to run up a bigger hill. It is endless. And, sometimes very, very cold.

5. Lie:  Running is simple and cheap.

Truth: Running can be fucking complicated and expensive. Sure, there are those people who slap on a pair of shoes and shorts and just go, but it seems the majority of us have insane amounts of running gear, keep track of our paces and distances, worry about what we eat or don't eat and think a lot about why we are injured or can't run faster or something like that. Complicated!

6. Lie: Running is a great activity to do with your spouse or significant other!

Truth: Running IS a great activity to do with your spouse and significant other until it's not. What if they run faster than you? That will make you frustrated and mad. What if they breathe really loud or pass gas or talk to much? That will make you frustrated and mad. What if you like running to get away from your spouse or significant partner? Disaster.

The truth about this post is that it makes running seem miserable. Not at all. It is, in fact, the love of our lives in many ways. But, the key to happy running is to know what you're in for. Then you can embrace the suck or the good and roll with it.

Any other lies runners tell?

What lie did your parents tell you when you were growing up? That my dog, Duncan, was better off going to live on a farm. But, you guessed it, they really put him to sleep.


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

My Favorite Running Watch Ever - TomTom Spark 3

When I started my very average running career seven years ago I didn't even own a watch. I did my first marathon completely naked of a timing mechanism (I did wear pants). I was free and very zen-like.

But, then running got the best of me and I quickly jumped on the GPS bandwagon with this guy (Garmin Forerunner 205):

Image result for garmin forerunner 205

This was actually a decent and dependable watch, but the problem was it weighed 95 pounds and covered most of left arm.

Eventually, I graduated to this (Garmin 210):

Image result for garmin 210
Another great watch, but still kind of large and masculine (kind of like me before the sex change operation). The one thing missing from this watch was the ability to track elevation gain and loss. I really wanted this when I started doing a lot of trail running and races.

So...enter this watch, which was sent to me by Epson (yes, the guys who make printers). The SF-810.
Image result for epson gps
This watch and I developed a very close relationship this summer as I ran myself ragged over the Colorado mountains. I loved the fact it kept track of my elevation and it has a really nice display. I could also print documents directly from the watch (jk). However, eventually I realized that the tracking was not always so precise. And, again, it is a bigger and bulkier watch.

It was in September when TomTom sent me a GPS watch to review. I was still pretty happy with my Epson, but thought I'd try it out. I have no vested interest in going on and on about how much I love this watch. I'm going to gush about it simply because I love this watch THAT MUCH. Let me tell you why.

But, first - here he is. His real name might be TomTom, but I call him Tom for short because it is very clever.

I present to you the TomTom Spark 3 (cardio + music):

Related image

First, let's talk about the look/design/size. This watch is sleek and reasonably sized. Not bulky at all. In fact, I wear it now as my everyday watch as well as my running watch. It can hold a charge for up to 11 days depending on how much you use the GPS features, so no need to charge it much.

How it looks on my almost-50-year-old arm:

Next - this is going to blow your mind. This watch comes with Bluetooth headphones. You can load up to 500 songs directly onto the watch. You then sync the watch with the headphones and GO. No wires, no fussing, no need to carry your phone. It's genius. And, it's super easy to load your playlists onto the watch from iTunes, etc.

The watch has all the traditional and expected measurements - anything you could want. Pace, duration, distance, time, elevation loss/gain, cadence. There is a built in heart rate monitor that measures heart rate on your wrist, so no chest straps and other annoying crap.

Another cool thing? The watch can be in any mode you want - running, swimming, biking, even treadmill! And, for you triathlon folks, it is fully waterproof.

What else? Well if you are into the whole tracking thing, the watch doubles as kind of a fitness tracker in the sense that even when it's not in GPS mode, it is tracking your steps, calories, etc throughout the day. I am not big on counting my steps but it has been fun to see how far you actually walk in a day (especially in airports! And Vegas! Who knew?).

Lastly, after runs, I sync up the watch with the TomTom app on my phone to get all the fun details. the app is extremely user friendly:

So, basically this is the rock star running watch of the century. IMHO. I've worn and run with it non stop now for two months. Once you go Tom you realize it's the bomb. Or, something like that.

If you are looking for a last minute holiday gift for your running friend/partner - this is it. Trust me on this one. There are a few different models, but if you want the one with the headphones and all the bells and whistles, go for the TomTom Spark 3 Cardio + Music. There are two sizes available for the watch band - small and large. The small works well for me (I have about a 6" wrist).

If you want a more professional and detailed review go HERE to DC Rainmaker's site. I don't do that here.

What kind of running watch do you use? Would you recommend it?


This watch was sent to me by TomTom. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Cold Weather Running Motivation - How to Get Out the Damn Door

Yeah, it's cold outside. So what? Stop your bitching and just remember this little rhyme:

I run all year round, rain, snow, wind, sun. I'm not bragging, it's just what I do. I'd be lying if I said that on mornings like today when I woke up and it was 12 degrees, that a run was super appealing. For me, the absolute worst part about running in freezing temperatures is not the run itself - not at all - but the mental fortitude it takes to get out the damn door.

Last week I'm embarrassed to say that I procrastinated for so long going on my run that I could have gone and come back at least three times. I don't want to do that again. It is torture. Then I remembered a wonderful bit of advice that either I made up (not likely) or I read somewhere.

Get going before your brain knows what you are doing.

That is the absolute truth. If you give it too much thought, you will surely talk yourself out of a run or postpone it and agonize over it, thereby driving yourself fucking crazy.

I am not afraid to say fuck, btw. Sometimes it feels good.

Anyway, plain and simple - if you want to run outside in freezing weather, here are my tips:

  • Have the right gear at your fingertips. The longer you have to try to figure out what to wear, the more likely it is you might forfeit the run all together.
  • Bring lots of Fireball in a flask that you stuff in your tights.
  • Trust that you will warm up by the second mile. Just trust, dammit.
  • For God's sake if you don't feel like running, like not one molecule of your being feels like running, simply do it for the aftermath. You'll feel good all day.
  • Sign up for a spring race so you have a shit load of pressure on you to get out there.
  • Go with a friend so you are accountable and have someone to commiserate with.

People always comment on how I run with bare legs in the cold. I do run in tights, like today, but usually only when it's under 20 degrees. Quite simply, I don't like the constriction of tights and avoid them if I can. My legs honestly don't get cold (fun fact: the areas of your body with the most fat get the most cold - like the ass. That's because fat is inactive and doesn't generate heat!! Who knew?). The body parts for me that get the coldest are face, assicle, arms (at the beginning of a run) penis (<hah! just trying to see if you're paying attention) and hands.

Oh, and one more tip. If you don't want your water to freeze when you run, put anti-freeze in it. Just kidding. DO NOT do that. Instead, start with warm water or add a bit of electrolyte mix to it. To keep bars/gels from freezing keep them close to your body (or go all prison-like and hide them in some cavity - gross).

Here is the weather for the next couple of days.

Let's see if I can follow my own advice and go out tomorrow morning when it is snowing and hardly zero degrees. I'll let you know.

Do you run through the winter? Why or why not? Yes, because I hate the treadmill and love being outside. If it's icy, then I might sleep.

What body part gets the coldest when you run?

Best cold weather running gear? These Eddie Bauer tights and these Athleta gloves.