On Giving Yourself Permission to Slow Down

Slowing-down

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. – Ferris Bueller

After a blur of races in 2014, better judgement prevailed for 2015 and as you’ve heard me say a few times now, my mantra has been “train smarter, not harder” with five forward-looking goals for the year.

But, as they say, the best-laid plans of mice and men oft go astray…

Because somewhere along the way I talked myself into thinking that a century ride and an ultramarathon within a two-week span this summer was also part of this program.

someecards-runner

For the record, I give full credit to my body for finally knocking some sense into me; my SI joint, which previously only felt sore after long marathon-training runs last fall, decided enough was enough and put the kibosh on pretty much all speed and distance work this spring.

Try as I stubbornly might to power through, I’ve gotten to a point where all the strength training, chiropractor appointments, cross-training, and core work in the world aren’t helping.

So I’ve decided to do something different for a change: Nothing.

Novel concept, huh?

duh

Well, long story short — and two cancelled races later — I’ve realized that taking a break isn’t just about giving your body time to recover. It’s also about keeping the passion for your sport alive…and sustainable for the long run.

I run because I want to, not because I have to. And that desire is something I want to protect; not just for now, but for a long time to come.

That’s not to say I’m completely clearing my race calendar; it’s just that I’m wiping the slate clean and being more mindful about which events I choose and why. Put simply, I’m making a conscious decision to get off the further/faster/harder bandwagon that’s so easy to jump on when you’re working in the fitness industry and constantly meeting people who are all doing incredible things.

So instead of literally and figuratively racing my way through my first Oregon summer, I’m slowing down. Training will continue, but at a more leisurely pace.

And you know what? Those 2016 goals will be right there where I left them if/when the time comes to pick ’em back up.

Or — who knows?! Maybe taking a step back will inspire me or give me the perspective to define entirely new ones, such as tackling my old high school PR in the (highly-underrated; I completely agree with Lauren Fleshman) 5K distance.

But, either way, having a choice in the matter and being mindful about my running is what makes — and has always made — the endeavor such a delight. And I’d like to keep it that way.

To slow down or not to slow down: Is that a question you’ve asked yourself?

Advertisements

Recipe: Baobab Recovery Smoothie

IMG_5722

After spending too many hours passed out on the couch after long runs, I finally perfected a formula for being able to salvage afternoons after intense training sessions:

Hot shower + Smoothie (*consumed in shower) = Ticket to feeling like a million bucks

And the more nutrient-dense the smoothie the better, so my body can start repairing itself as I go about my day.

Which is where Baobab comes in: I just heard of this most “super” of the superfruits recently and decided to give it a whirl after learning about its almost-too-good-to-believe benefits…

  • More antioxidants than any other superfruit, even acai, blueberries and pomegranate
  • High soluble fiber content (50% by weight)
  • A raw, whole, organic food
  • Ethically and sustainably harvested, even helping impoverished African communities
  • The planet’s highest plant source of calcium
  • More iron, potassium and magnesium than most other superfoods
  • Six times the Vitamin C of oranges
  • Rich in electrolytes and has a very high bioavailability
  • Contains no fillers or added sugar, sodium or preservatives

With a sweet, tangy and pear-like flavor profile, it’s an ideal addition to recovery smoothies to help boost your immune system, minimize inflammation and enhance digestion after tough workouts.

I think it’d work best for enhancing the flavor of berry-based smoothies, but I put it to the test in my standard peanut-butter-and-banana protein shake and was pleasantly surprised by the light taste and slight tang.

It did the trick post-run, but it’s also an excellent option for a quick grab-and-go breakfast!

Baobab Recovery Smoothie

Ingredients: 

Directions:

  1. Add first six ingredients to blender, and blend until desired consistency.
  2. Top with sprinkle of granola. Relax, sit back, and enjoy!

Fun fact: Since Baobab has a high pectin content (around 25%), it offers the benefit of being a natural thickening and binding agent for a nice, rich texture in recovery shakes.

IMG_5719

Harvesting baobab provides a cash crop for women in southern Africa and encourages protection of ancient Baobab trees, so it’s an ingredient you can actually feel good about using.

IMG_5720

Plus, the flavor’s also light enough where it’ll blend in seamlessly with pretty much anything — from smoothies and other drinks to oatmeal, baked goods, yogurt and sauces. Cheers to that!

IMG_5724

Got any other good tricks for post-workout recovery?

Fave Fix: BioSkin Calf Skin Sleeves (+ giveaway!)

IMG_4183

During a particularly mucky morning workout recently (#BecausePortland), I bit it while running up some slick stone stairs and slammed my right shin directly into the corner of a step. It was one of those moments where your heart stops, your stomach drops, and a split second before the pain hits you try to do a full-body scan to assess the situation.

Fortunately, it was nothing too serious (aside from ego damage). It’s taken a few weeks, but the nasty bruise has finally subsided.

Unfortunately, though, this incident coincided with me needing wanting to ramp up my mileage base to get ready for the upcoming race season. And although a goose-egg lump and lingering tenderness certainly didn’t pose a huge threat, I figured it’d be the perfect opportunity to test a new pair of Calf Skin Sleeves that BioSkin sent me to check out.

IMG_4185

BioSkin designs and manufactures compression supports, orthopedic braces, and human performance gear for the orthopedic, sports medicine, and recreational sports markets worldwide. They’re an Oregon-based (Ashland) company, and I love their mentality — i.e. they chose the location not because it’s the easiest place to run a manufacturing business, but because it’s such a great place to live.

It’s this kind of attitude — quality over quantity — that usually carries over into great products. Especially because they also believe in focusing on the little details, which can make a big difference when you’re talking about products that people wear on a daily basis.

So, why compression? Well, it not only cuts down on muscle vibration, but also helps ensure that your muscles are in the proper position to maximize force production without wasted energy. Decreased muscle fatigue and improved proprioception also protect you from injury by giving you more precise control of your body.

IMG_4182

My first thought, out of the box, was that these aren’t your average compression sleeves. I wear a good amount of compression gear, but I’ve never run across anything quite like this; BioSkin uses a special material (non-neoprene and non-latex) that not only allows your legs to breathe, but also keeps it from sliding down your leg during vigorous activity.

They feel less like a sock and more like a super-thin wet suit. Getting them on can be a workout in and of itself — these suckers are tight! — but throwing on a thin sock makes it easier to shimmy them on over your heel and onto your leg.

The feel does take some getting used to at first; like I said, they’re designed to fit snugly. But I’ve been actively seeking a higher level of compression for my legs since my tibia injury last fall, especially because I envision it being a free mini-massage with every step.

And as much as I like them for workouts, I l-o-v-e them for recovery days. Whether it’s an easy session of running or biking, or just an off day, I’ll throw them on and feel noticeably less discomfort and soreness. BioSkin for the win!

Speaking of winning (I know; horrible segue) BioSkin’s been kind enough to provide me with a $20 gift card for one lucky reader. Enter here via a Rafflecopter giveaway!

Are you a fan of compression wear? When do you wear compression sleeves/socks? 

Portland fit fix: Rejuvenate, refresh and replenish at YogaPod

10426720_606337686130915_23644610651507573_n

Contrary to the 21-day myth, there’s now scientific evidence that it takes about two months — or 66 days, to be exact — to form a new habit. But thanks to YogaPod, a vibrant and transformational yoga studio in Portland, I’d argue it only takes about a week to fall back into a much-neglected, yet healthy, routine.

Bear with me for a moment: Like those green, cruciferous veggies, we all know how good yoga is for us, but I find (in my experience, at least) that it takes some time to develop my palate enough to be able to thoroughly enjoy and appreciate it, especially during training when the goal is to keep your head above water with workouts. Anyone else?

Well, this is precisely why Carolyn (one of my LUNA teammates) and I decided to get back on track with a recent seven-day #YogaBinge at YogaPod.

YogaPod1

Not only would a week-long yoga immersion aid in off-season recovery, I figured, but it’d also be a great way to see how one of the newer workout facilities in the city stacked up. YogaPod founders, husband and wife team Gerry and Nicole Wienholt, expanded the Boulder-based brand to Portland this past summer after seeing a need for a luxury yoga studio in Portland’s Pearl District, and true to form it’s got a high-end look with a welcoming feel.

If there’s one word that comes to mind upon entering YogaPod, it’s community. From the friendly management and front-desk staff (shout out to Anthony, a fellow ultra runner!) to the inspirational chalk board in the hallway, and from the relaxed vibe in the space to the teachers who take a genuine interest in their students, it’s clear that this place is rooted in creating an experience full of positivity, clarity and compassion for all who enter.

YogaPod2

And as far as the classes go, we took advantage of the convenience of morning, afternoon and evening slots to get a good sampling of what YogaPod has to offer. Throughout the course of the week we toggled back and forth between the two rooms — both clean, light and spacious — for Restorative, PodHot and PodFlow.

Classes are well-balanced (i.e. not all Chaturanga Dandasana-heavy) and the music is right up my alley — a thoughtful blend of traditional instrumentals with some newer songs that gently flow with movements. When Carolyn and I compared notes, we both agreed that our time at YogaPod was the perfect antidote to a hectic week — so much so, in fact, that we both found ourselves feeling like the time passed quickly in each session.

If you’re local and want to jump-start your own yoga journey, YogaPod offers a free week of classes for first-timers. Or if you just want to dip your toe in the yoga waters before jumping in, come check out their free community class on Saturdays at 5 p.m. with Ati, one of my favorite yogis in the city.

She brings such lightness and enjoyment to her practice that you can’t help but want to come back for more. And that habit — for rejuvenating your body, refreshing your mind and replenishing your spirit — is one you won’t want to break!

1969164_281733985370743_5385859983663660987_n

Interested in learning more? Check out YogaPod’s website at Portland.YogaPodCommunity.com.

Detroit Marathon: Week 13 training recap

photo 3

One upside to being banned (for the time being) from running? Getting to mix things up for a change with my favorite forms of cross training!

For consistency’s sake, here’s what the schedule would have been this week. Yes, I realize I’m missing out on some peak mileage here (argh), but I keep telling myself that even though backing off may slow me down in the short-term, it’ll allow me to be stronger and healthier in the long run.

DTWweek13

So here’s a snapshot of my actual workouts for the week:

  • Monday: Elliptical (45 min) & physical therapy
  • Tuesday: 6-mile walk & PT exercises
  • Wednesday: Spin class (45 min) & PT exercises
  • Thursday: OFF (migraine) & physical therapy
  • Friday: Spin class (45 min) & PT exercises
  • Saturday: Elliptical (45 min) & PT exercises
  • Sunday: Long bike ride (aiming for 40 miles!)

Nope, it’s nowhere near the numbers or the intensity I should be doing, but I can assure you I’m still breaking a good sweat each day and challenging myself. In fact, it actually feels really good, mentally, to be doing some non-running activities and, physically, to be working some non-running muscles for a change.

photo 1

Another tip for staying positive amid a setback is to continue setting goals (within reason, of course) and striving for them. No, I may not be able to hit my weekly running mileage, but I can keep pushing myself on the bike and do some longer weekend rides to maintain that strength and endurance in the interim.

Plus, I’m loving all the quality time with Winnie, and it’s fun to try to keep up with Hubby, who is currently training for a triathlon.

photo 2

And in the meantime, I’m being religious with my physical therapy routine. From stretches to rolling, legs lifts to lunges, the exercises are something I can check off my to-do list each day to feel some kind of accomplishment — plus my PT says my mobility, range of motion, strength and stability are getting better, which is just the encouragement I need to keep it up.

photo 4

As for when I can get back to running, there’s no clear answer. Most of the aching has subsided in my shin, but there’s still a good amount of tenderness, so we’re taking a wait-and-see approach.

My PT is pretty confident that I’ll be back on my feet in time for my race in Detroit in October, although I won’t be resuming my training schedule anytime soon. All I can say in the meantime is…onward to week 14!

Fighting the good fight against plantar fasciitis

photo

During my Detroit Marathon week seven training recap, I mentioned that I’ve been dealing with a case of plantar fasciitisPlantar-huh, you say?

Here’s what it is

Unless you’ve been plagued by it (and in that case you know all too well), plantar fasciitis (or fasciosis, as some say) reveals itself as heel pain. Technically, it’s been described as an inflammation (hence “itis”) of the plantar fascia, which is the flat band of tissue (ligament) that connects your heel bone to your toes.

Non-technically speaking? It sucks.

The most common symptom is a very painful first few steps out of bed in the morning. Once the foot warms up, the pain subsides, only to rear its ugly head again after long periods of standing or after getting up from a seated position.

plantar_fasciitis_clip_image001

How’d it happen? I can’t pinpoint a specific incident, just that it appeared toward the end of training for my marathon last fall. Certain types of exercise (i.e. running), faulty foot mechanics, age, obesity and long periods of time in your feet are the usual suspects in terms of contributing factors, though.

What I can say for certain is that it’s frustrating — not only because it threatens to derail training, but also because there is no real consensus on treatment. So in the meantime, I’ve been taking matters into my own hands to manage the heel pain, which morphed into a related calf/shin injury after Hood to Coast.

Here’s what I’m doing about it

1. Sensible Shoes. 

Because I spent a few weeks this summer traipsing around Italy in flats and sandals (whoops), I’m paying the price. So now I opt for shoes with a low to moderate heel, good arch support and shock absorbency. And while I haven’t completely given up flip flops, I also try not to go barefoot for long stretches of time, especially on hard surfaces.

2. Enough Rest.

Although not running is one way to try to stop PF, it’s no guarantee. And even though I’m mid-training, I do try to give my feet a rest when I can. This means not only cutting back on activities like walking or running on hard surfaces without proper support, but also taking advantage of rest days and putting my feet up whenever I can.

3. Ample Ice. 

I’m not always great about it, but when possible I try to reduce pain and inflammation with ice. The protocol is to hold an ice pack over the area of pain for 15-20 minutes three or four times a day or after activity. But my favorite is an ice massage: I freeze a water bottle full of water and roll my foot back and forth over it for 10 minutes.

4. Anti-inflammatory Meds.

To kill the dull ache (and try to keep things from getting too inflamed after a workout, I’ll take an over-the-counter pain reliever like ibuprofen (such as Advil or Motrin), naproxen (such as Aleve) or aspirin. All of these are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) which help relieve minor aches and pains.

5. Rolling and Stretching.

Immediately after activity, I try to stretch out my plantar fascia, Achilles tendon and calf muscles. But the best tip I got was from when I was at a fitness studio in Seattle: They had us step on a lacrosse ball to roll out our arch, so I went right home and bought one. Now it’s my favorite thing to do in front of the TV or on a  conference call.

acupuncture-for-plantar-fasciitis_full

6. Night Splints.

I ordered a Strassburg Sock, which stretches my calf and the arch of my foot while I sleep. The idea is to hold the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon in a lengthened position for an extended period of time, although it’s not super comfortable sleeping with a flexed foot, so I haven’t been consistent enough with this to say whether or not it works.

7. Insoles and Orthotics. 

My running shoes are outfitted with Superfeet’s Berry insoles for added support and impact reduction, but I also wear these arch sleeves — thanks to a recommendation from Twitter friends! Not only do they keep my foot from rolling in, but the gentle massage feels great when I know I’m going to be standing for long periods of time.

8. Replacing Shoes. 

Did you know that running shoes lose their support and cushioning after around 300-500 miles of use? Here’s my trick: I buy two pairs at once and alternate them every other run to allow each pair an “off day” to bounce back, plus I’m tracking their mileage carefully to make sure I’m not wearing anything past the point of no return.

9. Ah, Massage.

There are countless health benefits to a good massage, plus it’s one of my favorite rewards for training and recovery. ‘Nuff said.

10. Non-Running Work. 

Even though I’m a former personal trainer, training myself for a marathon leaves me with little time (or energy) to focus on the other stuff. That’s why I’m consulting with a local trainer to help me build a base of stability and range of motion to correct any underlying imbalances, manage injury and keep me running safe and strong in the long run.

11. Physical Therapy.

Finally, another medical professional I’ve recently started working with is a PT. She was able to diagnose some underlying issues and imbalances and provide me with a series of exercises to help get my foot more mobile, stretch the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon and strengthen my lower leg muscles, which stabilize the ankle and heel. Plus, she offers a host of other tips and tricks, which will hopefully get me up and running again soon!

Have you successfully dealt with PF? And, if so, what worked?

Detroit Marathon: Week 12 training recap

running-through-pain-funny

I’m not quite sure how to start this one off, except to call it “the week that wasn’t.”

Here’s what was on the schedule:

DTWweek12

How much of it got done? Zip. Zilch. Nada.

What happened?

Well, after last weekend’s long run (a 16-miler), I felt pretty good. Yes, the calf/shin “tweak” was still there, but I seemed to warm up out of it a few miles in and was able to run with minimal discomfort.

Monday morning, though, I awoke with the same lingering pain; only this time it was more of a constant dull ache. At this point, I knew that it wasn’t getting better and I was probably only going to make it worse if I kept hammering away at it, so Hubby and I swam and biked instead.

Early Tuesday morning I set out for the track, determined to try to get back on track with my workouts, but a block away from my apartment I stopped, turned around and walked home. No, the pain wasn’t any different or worse, but I just knew in my gut that something wasn’t right. From years of running — and subsequent injuries! — I was fairly certain that this wasn’t a passing sore muscle.

Yesterday I was finally able to get in to see a professional and get some answers. I found a place that specializes in runners and triathletes (and therefore knows our quirks – i.e. me calling obsessively every day this week to see if someone cancelled and I could get in earlier to see what was up), and the PT there is amazing. She was my favorite kind of medical professional — straightforward, to the point and totally knows her stuff.

So after a series of evaluations, exercises, pokes and prods, she diagnosed me with a locked-up right midfoot (I’m not able to properly pronate through the joints), which most likely has contributed to my lingering case of plantar fasciitis (aha!) and most recently caused the acute “stress response” near my tibia. More culprits? Weak glutes, hips and core muscles — all of which are being “lazy” and throwing everything else off (oops).

Injury-equation-e1303429868404

The good news? It’s not a stress fracture (yet); I caught it just in time. The bad news? No running for likely two weeks (maybe more), which totally throws a wrench into my training plans. Although she said that if I’m conservative with my activity and do my homework exercises to strengthen my glutes, hips and core in the meantime, I should be able to get stronger in month and can likely run my marathon in October — although the PR part may be questionable.

What’s next?

Because running is off the table for the immediate future, I’ll be re-acquainting myself with the pool, the bike…and this fellow, my cross-training nemesis: the elliptical. It used to be one of my main forms of cardio during college (with a magazine, no less!), but since then it’s something that’s been reserved for injuries and off days.

photo (2)

Emotionally, I did give myself a few days to mope around; it’s usually easy to adjust to these things physically — but it’s the mental part that’s the most difficult. Adjusting your course when you’ve been going full-throttle in one direction toward a goal can be tough, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed. But now that I’ve had a chance to process things, I’m picking myself up and getting ready to attack this next phase of training with the same dedication as my previous one.

The lesson here: Being injured isn’t an excuse to throw up your hands and quit. It doesn’t mean you’ll never reach your goal; you’ve just got to figure out an alternate route to get there. It’s an opportunity to work on your weaknesses, get stronger and come back healthier. And it’s about a long-term plan, versus a short-term focus.

The other lesson? Get yourself checked out by a professional sooner rather than later, people! I am kicking myself that I didn’t go to see someone about my plantar fasciitis earlier because we might have been able to recognize the underlying issue and address it earlier. But hindsight is 20-20, and I’m thankful that I found someone who is helping me address it now so I can be a smarter, stronger and more efficient runner in the future.

Onward and upward to week 13 — let’s hope it’s a luckier one!