Sunday, February 19, 2012

Minimal Running and Injury Prevention

So, can anyone tell what I spend my Sunday nights at home doing when I don't have to work the next day?  Hehe.  Anyways, I'm about to talk about some reasons why I'm glad I've transitioned into more minimal shoes/more natural running style.

Today was the longest distance I have done in quite awhile (over a year), and while the last time I did the same distance (18 miles)  I was wearing "conventional" shoes and orthotics, and based on my running history, I think it was probably only a matter of time before I ended up hurt again.  I remember one of my friends at West Point running with me once and telling me I was probably getting injured all the time because I slammed my feet onto the ground - she was remarking on how loud I was when I ran.  I remember saying it probably had something to do with the insoles I was wearing... and that they made me run different  (I think I was suffering from plantar fasciitis at the time).  And I thought they were HELPING, ha.  Funny to look back on the fact that I said that and look at what I know now about running and injuries.  Also interesting when I look back on the fact I used to run 50-60 miles per week without injury, but when people I ran with noticed I was running "on my toes" and were telling me that I needed to run heel to toe that is when I got and stayed injured...

I will say that transitioning did cause me some injuries - though nothing that stopped me from running for a long time.  I got that tendinitis in my right foot right when I switched to my first pair of more minimal shoes, the Saucony Kinvaras... My feet weren't used to doing so much, I guess.  I went and ran 7 miles in them the day I bought them - 3.5 uphill, and 3.5 downhill, lol.   Once I worked more on having a lighter landing and got used to the shoes, that injury went away, and I haven't had any more issues with it.  The next injury was my hip thing... I'm not really sure what that one came from, but I think I'm probably doing something wrong when it comes to form (and too much speed/hill work... even with proper form, too much too soon can cause problems!)   I think it also has something to do with the fact I supinate a lot (run on the outside of my foot)... All the wear on my shoes is on the outer forefoot area... When I notice myself doing it, I try to roll my ankle in a bit more when I'm running

 The good news is that unlike the injuries I was getting when I was running in conventional shoes/heel-to-toe/etc., I can STILL run!  I might take a couple of days off if something doesn't seem right, but I don't have to take MONTHS off.   And, I have found that once I focus on form while running if I notice something hurting, it hurts less.  Today, for example, my left knee was starting to hurt after about 14-15 miles.  I think beyond just the general stress of running on slanted pavement for 15 miles that I was starting to hurt because I was heel striking/over-striding a bit.  I started focusing on running with smoother/lighter steps, and keeping my stride short, and the pain was less-pronounced, and after the run my knees weren't hurting at all (but my legs sure are!  Haha).  I still need to figure out why the heck the left side of my shoe is the side most worn out, and why my left side just keeps being the one getting beat up, but I think it might have something to do with running on slanted roads... I try to run in the middle when possible, but unfortunately, even in the country, there are cars :)

ANYWAYS, my point is that most of my issues now are fairly easy for me to fix once I focus on form.  Like my calve tightness, which from what I've been reading, can also cause top of the foot pain (no, I don't have a stress fracture - there is no pain at all to the touch, it just comes and goes as it please)... I have learned that that is because I tend to push off with my toes when I am speeding up instead of letting my core/upper legs do most of the work... My lower legs should be "along for the ride" instead of doing the work.  Sprinting form just doesn't work for 2 hour runs.   Once I allow my lower body to relax, I don't have the same issues.  I wish I could run fully barefoot, as I have heard that it gives you the BEST feedback (apparently my toes would be getting blisters if I was pushing off with them barefoot), but I'm too chicken to do it when it's 20 degrees outside (frost bite, anyone?), and I need to build up to it... and I kinda lack patience, hehe... I did do it at the track a couple of weeks ago though :)

So what I am saying in this blog is that if you find yourself struggling with injuries, you should try some more minimal shoes.  But you still need to focus on form... Minimal running is not a cure all, but it sure helps fix form problems, which will in turn fix injury problems.  I would say it's also really important to be in tune with your body and learn what causes certain types of twinges/pain.  I know if I over stride that my knees start to hurt, so I try to focus more on shorter, faster strides.  OH, and if you do transition, do so slowly!  You can still fix form problems in regular shoes, but it's a LOT easier to do it in more minimal shoes.  I have a friend who knows a bit about form, and I commented that he was heel striking like crazy during a run... He said he knew, but that it was hard NOT to heel strike in his conventional shoes that he was wearing.

I would also recommend reading Chi Running if you are interested in learning more about form.  There are books on Pose and Evolution running as well, but I have not read them, though I've gone to a class on Pose, and that is what my physical therapist worked with me on when I was suffering from tendinitis in my right foot.  From what I've learned about Pose and Chi methods, Chi seems to be best for long distance running, and pose seems like would be best for shorter/faster running.  I don't know much about Evolution method... I do know they are all similar though.

Alas, I hope I can provide some information for those people who might be suffering from injuries of different types!  I know I am no expert on injury prevention, as evidenced by my constant stream of them, but I have at least learned through my mistakes different ways to help fix them, and how to avoid being sidelined for months/years like I was back when I was running in conventional shoes and heel striking (it really was about three years of different injuries before I was able to start long distance running again).  

Friday, February 17, 2012

Thoughts from yearling (sophomore) year of college!

So I was randomly going through an old blog of mine (Myspace... HAHAHA... I don't even know how I ended up over there) and I found the following entry. It's funny to look back on how I actually did develop some positive thought processes while at West Point (and the military in general, I suppose)... I think being a distance runner also helps :) Anyways, what's also funny about this entry is I wrote this blog on the same day as another really cynical blog (I might post it if my readers want it!) I also find it interesting how concerned I was with "standards" back then... Not so much standards in the military sense (like, what our uniforms should look like), but more so in regards to societal standards. For example, the time I got in trouble for drinking on a trip, and our officer in charge told me women and men have "a different set of standards" (in regards to my going to a bar... apparently it's more acceptable when a guy does it... even if it's against the rules for both groups as a cadet). I read somewhere around three entries in a row discussing my opinions on the topic. I guess it's still something I care about, but I think being surrounded by a certain opinion for so long as to how people should act/dress caused me to spend an awful lot of my time thinking about (especially when it was drilled into our heads ALL.  THE.  TIME.)  ... Seeing as I tend toward thinking into everything. Anyways, without further adieu....

A few thoughts....

So, just a few things I've thought about lately.

One of which being that as much as I wish that sometimes I could just sit down for awhile, I think I also thrive off of the busyness of this place. I like coming from academics, to going for a run and getting in a light lift, to coming back, showering, and doing school work. Of course, this is when I'm feeling rested and refreshed. It pulls me down at times, but at other times I feel more accomplished... more so than I would if I was at another school, I think. I know I'm not the only cadet who feels this way. I've talked to quite a few that, all though they often wish they were at a regular college, they feel like the discipline helps them excel.

Another, one thing I've learned while being here, and in the military in general, is mental toughness. I've come to learn that everything that sucks will eventually come to an end... at least in training. I tell myself that during every biathlon race when I'm running up the ridiculous hills, and it helps... I told myself that during Buckner when I struggled through ruck marches, and I tell myself that every bad day that I'm here. I've gone through enough bad days to realize that they all end eventually... even bad weeks, bad months, and heck... bad years (last year pretty much sucked the entire time). It's nice to know, that if I learn nothing else while I'm here, I've learned how to persevere through really bad times... Now, if I could keep the good attitude DURING those really bad times :)



Saturday, February 11, 2012

Work and Marathon training

I suppose it has been awhile since my last update... It would seem I don't have too many important/meaningful things to say as of lately (at least not online), so I will just make this an update on life :)

To be honest, life has pretty much consisted of work and running the past few weeks.  We spent a week doing a training exercise (which, by the way, in the world of Finance was NOT outside, but in an office building - can't complain about that!)  I always learn the most about my job during exercises.  I know this was my first time doing one of these in my current job, but when I was enlisted, that was how I became so good at my job: going to constant exercises and learning by doing.  It really is the best way.  Anyway, I have also found that my background in computers is quite useful to learning how to work with the systems we work with in this job.  Granted, I didn't do much on this exercise in regards to systems, but I did more than I get to do on a regular basis!  Anyways, I was home for a week, and I'm leaving AGAIN tomorrow... but THIS time, I'll be staying in a fancy hotel in Boston, and instead of days that are 12 hours, my days will be 8-9 hours :)  Again, I can't complain!  And, being the running nerd that I am, I have started looking up running routes.  Unfortunately, I will be working during most daylight hours, but FORTUNATELY the sun is coming up earlier these days... Oh, and there will be treadmills at the hotel, so I can run at any hour!

Speaking of running, marathon training is going reasonably well!  Oh wait, have I even talked about that on here?  I'm not even sure... I WAS going to do a 50-miler (it's a part of the same event as the marathon) before they added the marathon to the event, but once they added the marathon, I decided it would be wise for me to finish 26.2 before I tackle 50.  So far, I have managed to mostly stave off my usual flood of injuries.  My hip has been giving me some trouble, and the top of my left foot has had a little weirdness (it was uncomfortable for a couple of weeks a couple of months ago and went away, and today it feels a little funny too), BUT, so far, nothing has been bad to where I need to stop, and when I DO feel something that doesn't seem right, I take it easy, which I think is helping.  The hip thing is muscular (piriformis), and it's just annoying, but it is not a bone/tendon related thing, and it goes off and on, whether I run or not... Sitting on a massage ball seems to make it better too, so that has been manageable.  The foot thing... I have no idea.  I read somewhere that it is related to shoes being too tight, so I started lacing my shoes up differently, which I think actually helped it go away last time.  I'm not sure why it's bothering me now, but now that I think about it, I got a new pair of shoes and didn't lace them up differently, and I did 10 miles yesterday in them.  Hmmm... :)   Anyways, I did 16 last week without many issues (knees definitely hurt a bit during the run, but that's normal - as long as there's no pain AFTERward, I'm good!)

Speaking of the long run... I've been doing the Galloway walk-run method for my long runs, and I really like it!  Not only does it help me get through the long runs with less pain, but it aids in a quicker recovery.  After the 16-miler, I wasn't too sore or tired (I used to be really tired/drained after my long runs), and I was able to do eight miles two days later, and a track workout the day after that.  After my 14-miler, I COULD have run the next day.  Keep in mind, I haven't done any of these distances in a really long time... The last time I did 16 was over a year ago, so that quick recovery was definitely related to doing the walk breaks (I do a minute for every mile).  Of course, I can't help but wonder what I'll do ON the marathon.  If I actually follow Galloway's method, I'll be doing the walk/run for the marathon... I think I will walk some, but I don't know how frequently or for how long!  It's very hard for me to walk during a race that isn't a trail race (other than when I go through the water stations... I always walk those), but from what I've been reading, it's a good strategy on the marathon when most people are fine for awhile and then bonk.  The method also states that once you get to mile 18 or so, if you are feeling good, you can cut out the walk breaks and pick up the pace.  Sounds like how I usually run :)   Anyone have experience with this? I'd be interested to know how it turned out for you!  

Anyways, it's needless to say I'm really excited with my progress and I REALLY hope I can actually make it to marathon day this time.  I have a half marathon coming up in a couple of weeks, and I think that will give me somewhat of a gauge as to where I am.  This will be half marathon number 7, by the way!  I don't expect it to be a PR of any type... For one, the weather here in February is not exactly optimal!  Granted, it's far better than the 90 degrees/90 percent humidity down in South Carolina, but 15-20 degrees isn't exactly great race weather either!  I also don't want to kill myself on the half and not recover in time for my other training (i.e., my up and coming 20 miler that is actually supposed to be the week of the half... but I think I'll need to change that if I'm going to be racing a half marathon!)  Fortunately, the race is still two months away and I'm up to a 16-mile long run, so I have plenty of time to get in those twenty-milers.

And, if I want to get in a run before I head out tomorrow, I should get some sleep.  So, good night readers :)