Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Running Injuries Seminar

I've already mentioned that my employer is happily very focused on health and fitness. Not to give too much away, we have a scenic environment and a young community, and we're lucky that the culture supports and even encourages us to head out to a fitness class, swim, or walk at lunchtime, rather than staying chained to our desks.

New offerings from our health program for 2010 include some track sessions and seminars aimed at runners. By happy coincidence, a lunchtime talk on Running Injuries was offered this week. I, of course, toddled along and felt I had 'found my tribe' when I entered the roomful of 20-40-something women all wearing business casual with running shoes.

This was the first time a seminar like this had been offered and it was not without a few teething troubles. The subject area is clearly huge and almost everyone in the room had their own injury or concern to talk about ;)
Another problem with current science is that things like stretching, and even whether or not we should even wear running shoes, have become controversial.

However, I did pick up a few interesting nuggets from the physiotherapist, including the distinction between a stretch when the muscle is lengthened versus shortened. (Sorry, too complex to repeat here with any confidence that I won't be feeding you garbage!). He also had an engaging way of referring to the following mistakes as things that give him job security:
  • Not investing in the right shoes (as he said, either spend your cash on your shoes, or the co-payments to seek treatment from him)
  • Running every day (but do cross-train, instead)
  • Tackling hills too soon
These sound so simple, but to be honest my shoes are probably past their prime and since my knee trouble could well be due to over/under pronation, I really should get my feet assessed. And I was certainly guilty of trying to run more than 3-4 times per week: it's interesting that most marathon training plans have us out there 5-6 times, whereas my hubby ran a perfectly successful and pretty pain-free first marathon on just 3 (quality) sessions.

So, no rocket science here, but some useful reminders nonetheless. After all, with several times your bodyweight landing a couple of thousand times per mile, running is no picnic and our bodies deserve a bit of respect.

Photo thanks: Milen Yakimov

Monday, January 25, 2010

Good News from Napa

Today I owe a big thank you to the kind folks at the Napa Valley Marathon who have deferred the race registrations for both my husband and me until 2011. Hopefully now, with 13 months to get ready, I'll be able to sweet-talk my knee into playing nicely and joining in the party spirit. I did feel pretty guilty as hubby was out for a 24 mile run (in the rain) when the email came through to confirm our deferrals. Happily he doesn't seem to be holding a grudge but I suspect his distances will ease off a bit now that we know he doesn't have to run.

I'm now about half way through my self-imposed running break and am eagerly awaiting the day when I can start trotting gently again. It feels like a good moment to reflect on what this episode has taught me:
  • Don't sign up for an event until you're fairly sure you have the necessary fitness level.
  • Especially don't sign your husband up without asking him :)
  • Keep a running diary (whether old-tech or hi-tech) and pay attention to any niggling pains.
  • There's a good reason they tell you not to increase your distance more than about 10% per week.
  • It's probably better to slightly under-train than slightly over-train. Or, as Asha wisely commented here, sometimes getting to the start line is the hardest part.
  • There's always someone out there with a more severe injury than you.
  • Sometimes, all the work in the world just isn't destined to give results.
The good news about this running break is that I've noticed I have heaps of energy on Saturdays and have been packing a lot more into the weekend compared to my previous run-eat-nap routine. I'm pleased that a few household projects have finally seen some progress - but that's a whole other blog!

Photo thanks: Samuel Ducroquet

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Birthday Lunges

OK, you know it's time to seek medical pschyological help when you decide a good use of your birthday lunch-hour is to show up to a Body Sculpt class. Not only was it my birthday, but the weather was foul and my quads were still in agony from Tuesday's session, so I had three perfectly adequate excuses to give it a miss.

Any sane person would have gone for a big lunch with friends, or for a spot of light shopping, or even just to claim their free drink at Starbucks. Not me - I dutifully joined in with more of the same lunges which almost defeated me earlier in the week, with a liberal sprinkling of push-ups and upper body torture thrown in for good measure.

And you know what? I actually feel a bit younger than I did when I woke up this morning. Which is a good thing, as I plan on doing some serious dietary damage this evening. :)

Photo thanks: Michael Lorenzo

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Health Screening Surprises

I'm lucky enough to work for an employer which appears to take staff health and well-being very seriously. So much so, they have just launched a program whereby if we show up for a free screening and jump through some other healthy hoops, they will give us a very small bonus in our pay checks.

Well, there's nothing I like better than free money, even if I'll be lucky to take home an extra $25 after Uncle Sam grabs his share. So I dutifully presented myself this morning, sans breakfast, to be assessed for BMI, cholesterol, blood pressure and some other bits and pieces.

Goodness, how very revealing. At 129 pounds and 5 foot 3 inches, my Body Mass Index is clearly fine and I could probably gain at least 10 pounds before anyone would raise their eyebrows. However, the dastardly fat calipers disagreed and were audacious enough to pronounce me "borderline overweight". The cheek of it! Either taking thigh measurements through my clothes introduces a significant margin of error, or I need to get my flabby stomach under control. Either way, it's no wonder many women suffer from poor body image if they spend 5 hours a week exercising yet still get this kind of pronouncement from their health care provider.

At this point I should mention my other scores were pretty good, so last Fall's 391 miles of running have clearly benefited me somewhat. The only exception to the happy data was my reading for HDL ("good") cholesterol which was woefully low. I was somewhat naughty and let the nurse get part way through her lecture on the importance of exercise before I informed her that I had been in training for a marathon until 12 days ago. At that point she decided genetic factors might be playing a part. I told her that when I've run 26 miles, if my HDL level is still low, then we can talk. Until then, just give me a healthy knee and I'll exercise until the cows come home.

I guess what bothers me about screenings like this are, they tend to catch the 'low hanging fruit' of people who are fairly active anyway. Folks who are really overweight or totally out of shape, are unlikely to submit willingly to the caliper test, especially in their own workplace. And the old rhetoric about the need for regular exercise tends to fall on deaf ears amongst those of us who honestly feel we're going above and beyond.

But there's always room for improvement, right? Next time I cross a finish line, I'd like to be carrying just a little less flab around my middle. As an added incentive, I'm posting the shameful evidence here as a public reminder that Runner's Tum is not yet a recognized sports injury.

Photo thanks: Sanja Gjenero, Mark Nelson.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Waiting and Resting

I realize this blog has gone rather quiet, but I'm basically lurking and waiting for my self-imposed knee-resting period to pass. I picked a rather arbitrary 6 weeks, so around Valentine's Day I plan to start trotting gently again and hope my knee shows renewed enthusiasm.

This weekend was the first in ages where I did nothing more active than go for a walk. It seemed very strange not to be stumbling out of bed to put some kind of fitness gear on. I guess I should make the most of it as I'm sure the day will come when I'm doing 20 miles in the rain and longing for the sofa :)

Photo thanks: Benjamin Earwicker

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Humility Ball

Today was a little bit tough as Beloved Husband went out for a long run in the California sunshine, without me. Fair enough, really - even if I manage to negotiate a deferral of my March marathon entry, he may still be on the hook to jog 26 miles through wine country.

I consoled myself by playing with one of my Christmas gifts, a GoFit Stability Ball. At least, I think that's what they call it; in reality, humility ball would be more accurate as there's nothing like rolling around on the floor with a bouncy purple thing for half an hour to remind you what terrible shape your abs are in.

My twice-weekly Body Sculpt class restarts on Tuesday and I'm hoping that by making a token effort today, I'll be in slightly less agony on Wednesday morning. But if not, never mind - what else is January for?

Photo thanks: GoFit

Friday, January 1, 2010

391 Miles Later

Today I made the sad but not totally unexpected decision that I won't be able to do the Napa Valley Marathon in March.

At least, not March 2010 :)

We were aiming for a Long Slow Distance run of about 15 miles. However, by mile 4, my knee started whispering to me gently. For the next few miles it was a co-operative but grumpy ally and by about mile 9 I had to admit that today's distance was not feasible, at least, not without severe pain and possibly lasting damage. Working backwards from race day, this means there's no way I can expect to build enough stamina to take a reasonable shot at the full marathon.

I'm extremely disappointed, but since these knee problems started several weeks ago, I've had time to get used to the possibility that the race in March might not happen.

Since deciding to enter the marathon at the end of last July, I have covered 391 miles of training. That's about the length of Arizona, or the distance from London to Edinburgh. I'm trying to be proud of that accomplishment and not think too much about the shoulda-woulda-coulda's.

As a child, schoolwork came easily to me and I honestly can't remember a time in my life when I have worked hard for something and not been rewarded with results, so this is a whole new lesson for me. I'm also facing up to the concept that, at the ripe old age of 37, I may not always be able to rely on my body doing what I ask it to. And finally, as Beloved Husband notes, I like to be in control and in this instance, I really have no say in the matter.

But I'm thinking of this as down but not out. My goal now is to rest my knee until it's fully better, and then pick up running again. I want to do a half marathon in under 2 hours and I will gradually add longer and longer runs to weekend outings. Once I can crack my nemesis distance of 18 miles, I'll be looking around for a marathon to enter. Who knows, Napa 2011 may work just fine.

Photo thanks: Colin Cochrane
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