Friday, August 28, 2009

Ankles Away!

Since I worked out with Kip many weeks ago, I was acutely aware that something in my right ankle did not feel right. I found that when I did ankle circles with my back on the floor and legs tucked up, a tendon felt like it was popping on something. I did not investigate exactly what was happening until one recent gym visit.

I have a tendon that is popping onto and off of my fibula "ankle bone" (the outer bony protrusion) when I rotate/twist my ankle in a handful of specific motions. It feels like the tendon naturally rests behind the bone, but when put under tension it pops onto the bone, and back off once enough tension is released. There is no pain and this did not start occurring after an injury or misstep. It just is what it is, and when I think about it a little more, I think it has been like this for as long as I can remember being active. I talked to Kristin about it (she is, after all, quite the orthopedic specialist when it comes to ankles) and she suggested a doc to go see. I even puzzled her so she is curious what is going on with my crazy ankle (I am curious too, don't get me wrong). So, at the end of next month I am going to go see an ankle specialist and hopefully we'll figure out what is going on. Hopefully there is no surgery required; I will take weeks of PT over that any day. I just don't want to ruin my ankle in the short term because I am making good strides with running and I certainly don't want to screw things up for the long term because I only get one body to play with in this life.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Week Five - Seventeen of Eighteen

I repeated Week Four last week and got three out of four runs in. Combined with the two out of four from the previous week, I'm giving myself a four out of four for Week Four. I am half way through Week Five and feeling more like a runner each and every run.

I have discovered that visual things can distract my brain more than audio things, which follows along with the fact that I am a visual learner. This now explains why, when I am on the bike, I look at signs and mailboxes and can distract myself for at least several minutes until I see the next sign or mailbox. I discovered this while watching closed captioning on one of the televisions at the gym. I found it much more distracting than the music in my ears, although if I visualized the words of the music I found it more distracting than just listening to the music. Yes, a little wild and wacky, but if I am going to be running miles at a time at some point, I need to be able to get out of my head and distract myself like I can in the pool and on the bike.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Five Toes, Five Fingers

Kristin sent me a link the other day that reminded of a pair of shoes I saw a while back - the Vibram Five Fingers. With every "new" and "improved" technique and approach for this, that, and the other thing, there's always some swag that they want you to purchase, be it a video, books, clothing, or equipment. But this shoe is not that. Vibram is marketing a way to get back to being barefoot; to being more in touch with nature. They don't promote a particular running technique (although they do mention Chi Running on their website), but are instead marketing to those people who love outdoor sports and are looking for something different in their footwear. I can't get enough of being barefoot, so I'm considering a purchase myself (now if only I can decide on the color...).

There are four different styles ranging from the minimalist Classic to the cold weather more-like-a-regular-shoe Flow, with the Sprint and KSO in between. They have recommendations for the type of activies each shoe is good for, and have a modest price tag of $75 to $90. The 4.4 oz weight of the Classic (in almost my size so the weight is close) is quite appealing, although I'm curious to see what a light racing running shoe weighs and if it's a good idea to run in a lightly padded shoe for most of my training miles. Even if I don't end up using these for running, they look like a fun pair of shoes to wear especially when I don't feel like wearing shoes.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Fore-Foot, Mid-Foot, Or Heel Landing

Since late last season I've been championing a mid-foot landing to those that are willing to hear me chat about my training. I first learned about it during one of my Tri Club meetings, then took some time to read about it on my own and decided that it sounded like the right thing for me. During the restart of run training a few weeks back, I kept up with the mid-foot landing that I had started at the end of last season.

The difference between a heel strike and mid-foot landing has made quite the difference in my running. I find running to be a lot less draining on my body and I don't have the joint pain like I had before. I don't suffer from as many chest cramps (but given that the cause of cramps is undetermined, something else may be in play) and I don't breath nearly as regimented (I'm much more relaxed) as I previously did. But there's another factor to consider - with my "new" landing style I've also shortened my running stride. Shortening a heel strike stride may as well have made a difference as I mentioned above, but that's one "style" I haven't tried and I'm not sure that I will because of the success I've had with a mid-foot landing.

Even though I've decided that mid-foot running is working for me and that's how I'm going to run, I'm still continuing to read about running because I'm a novice and I know I have plenty more to learn. I recently read a series of posts from The Science of Sport that discusses running technique. A couple of points that I took away from their "running technique" discussions:

- Science lags behind the claims that one running style is more efficient/better/less injury-prone than another (Running technique: The Footstrike)
- Findings of a study can be taken out of context and used to prove the point of the group who initiated the study (Running technique: The Footstrike)
- You can gradually change your foot strike, but what is the point (see point one above) (Running technique: The Footstrike)
- Higher volume and slower distance training improves running economy (the ol' "just do it" mantra) (Running Economy Part III)
- Strength training, particularly plyometric training, is good for economy (Running Economy Part III)
- Being inflexible in the core through legs improves economy because less energy is required to stabilize the body (Running Economy Part III)
- Loading changes with a different landing, and in Pose running there was an increased occurrence of calf and Achilles complaints, and loading on the ankle (Pose running reduces economy...the missing study)

So, while my eagerness to change my landing may have been ill-placed and without scientific proof, I have noticed a positive response in my run training and that has increased my desire and drive to run, and thus improved my mental game. There's something to be said for that. And given that there is no proof to support that one landing is more injury-prone than another, instead of knee injuries I'll need to watch out for ankle and calf injuries.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Fell off the Wagon

Last week I got in two out of four runs. As I mentioned before, Monday's run was on Tuesday, Wednesday's run was on Thursday, and then it all went downhill from there. Friday I was exhausted from the work week, Saturday was hot and steamy and I was enjoying just sitting around doing little for a change, and Sunday was another work day (and a day spent getting ready for the next long week of work). So, that was that - my poorest performance so far.

I decided to stick with last week's workout again this week. I have a couple of spare weeks before I get to my goal race for the year, so I think I could use another week without increasing my run time. I'm very successful now with my running and I want to keep it that way. As long as I get in three runs this week, I'll erase last week's poor week and count this week's runs. I started off with a run today so I began this week with a good start, and it looks like I'll put in another run tomorrow which is a bonus. I may have fallen off the wagon last week, but I'm chasing after it this week.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Week Four - Thirteen of Fourteen

I'm struggling this week to fit in all my runs. My Monday run was on Tuesday and my Wednesday run on Friday, so I have left to squeeze in a Friday and Saturday run on Saturday and Sunday. Eek. My work days consist of twelve to thirteen hours during the week and eight or nine hours on Sunday, and that's where the problem lies. Thank goodness for good friends (yay Kristin!) who live close, otherwise I wouldn't be running at all during the week right now and I'd be even more unhappy than I am right now. So here's to surviving a tough work schedule and (hopefully) not missing too many workouts.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Week Three - Eight of Nine

I'm in week three of a ten week "Get your butt off the couch and running 5k" training plan. Instead of using the plan I "tried" before, I dusted off a running book, reread some sections, realized that it has a lot of great information, and found a training plan to follow. Without the distraction of other activities (read: swimming, cycling, and lifting) I've been able to commit better to the plan this time around. I'm running four times a week (I missed one running session, but eight out of nine is pretty good considering my track record) right now. I do a short core session after running followed by some stretching, then I'm into the shower and off to work.

I decided when I started that I would make time for the running, then add back in the other stuff (lifting first, then either swimming or cycling). Starting too much at once always seems to end up in a disaster of doing nothing, and I didn't want to repeat that. I found that I need to run in the morning because then I get it over with first thing and can't use "I'm too tired" as an excuse for not running after work. Plus, work is unpredictable so sometimes I end up staying late when I didn't intend to. This consistently puts me running at least three days a week, then one session on the road at home on the weekends.

I've been working on my mental training while working on my running. Using a gradually increasing mileage/time program is great for mental training because I can slowly incorporate positive talk into my workouts to see what works and what doesn't. I'm spending time working on getting out of my head as well; before all I would focus on when running was running (e.g. breathing pattern, each foot strike, my HR, etc.). Now I'm working on finding my zone. I can get into my zone very easily on the bike, and somewhat easily in the pool; it's time to be able to do the same when running.

I registered myself and Jeff for the Market Street Mile in October. While it's just a mile, it's a mile that I could probably suffer through right now, but would rather be able to run comfortably. So now I have at least one race on the books for this season. Here comes my comeback...

Fitness Evaluation

I went to see Kip Jawish a few weeks back for a fitness evaluation. I was looking for an idea of how well my muscle groups were in balance to make sure my lifting wasn't causing any type of imbalance. Overall things are okay, but I'm lacking in several key areas: (1) my hamstrings are flexible but not strong, (2) my core needs work, and (3) I need to work out-of-plane with my legs to gain stability. I was a sad sight trying to do lunges and single leg squats and wiggling all over the place.

A minor adjustment that I need to make is that I'm slightly tipped forward (like a ski jumper) when I stand. Four years of marching band ingrained a very straight posture; now I just need to think about putting a little more weight on my heels instead of on the balls of my feet.

Kip gave me some ideas of core workouts to do and lunge exercises so I'm working with those now (well, at least the core stuff). He said that strengthening my legs will come a long with my endurance, and that's definitely what I'm lacking.