Posts tagged ‘Recovery’

January 9, 2015

Recalibrating

This was a big year in running for me—I set new PR’s at every distance I raced, finally ran a marathon, and then ran another one.  The thing that I am most proud of, though, was learning how to really work hard at my training.  I’ve never been one to skip workouts, but this year I tried to bring focus and purpose to every run.  The hard days were really hard, and easy runs became opportunities to work on form and efficiency, rather than just zone-out sessions.  More than anything else, though, I learned that the voice in my head telling me I was too tired and I couldn’t do it was usually just that—my head being tired.  I’m still working on it, but I got much, much better at ignoring that voice, pulling up my big girl tights, and pushing through.

I’m now dealing with the other side of that coin, however, which was misreading the signs that I was overdoing it on the bike.  Although I felt some discomfort, the pain never felt remotely like what I recognized as an injury—I just thought I was putting in some tough workouts.  As runners, we rely on our ability to listen to our bodies and differentiate between the discomfort of a hard workout and the pain that indicates an impending injury.  My mistake was assuming that my ability to discern that line extended to a new sport in which I had little experience.  The fact that cycling (and swimming, too) is not weight-bearing means that the threshold for and severity of discomfort are entirely different, and I failed to calibrate for that.

For the past two weeks I’ve been slowly returning to something that resembles an actual training schedule, albeit without the running.  In contrast to my usual approach, I’m going mostly by feel and making it up a week at a time.  I’m realizing that switching from running to tackling the other triathlon disciplines is a bit like driving in the snow.  I know exactly how the car handles under normal conditions, and while that’s useful information, I still need to go easy on the gas pedal and leave lots of extra braking distance.  My general zeal for new athletic endeavors combined with marathon-level endurance have proved to be a dangerous combination, so I’m trying to recalibrate a bit.  To that end, I’m mixing up my workouts so that I’m not doing the same activity on consecutive days, and still incorporating lots of strength training.  For biking since the injury, my approach so far has been to stop before I feel like I’ve really had enough.   I seem to be finding my groove with the swim workouts—I actually got (temporarily) thrown out of the slow lane by the lifeguard and upgraded to the medium lane last weekend.  My classes start next week, so I’m expecting that will lend a bit more structure to my pool workouts as well.  This is how week 1 of Operation: Recovery has looked:

Tuesday

30 Minute Swim:

Warmup
4 x 25m
Drill:
4 x 25m Catchup
4 x 25m Kick
4 x 25m Fist
Cooldown
Easy 25m resting as needed for remainder of 30 minutes

 

Wednesday

AM: Strength training – Jillian Michaels’ No More Trouble Zones

PM: 30 min moderate biking

 

Thursday

35 Minute Swim:

Warmup

4 x 25m

Ladder 
25m, 2 X 50m, 2 X 75m, 2 X 50m, 25m
Cooldown
Easy 25m resting as needed for remainder of 35 minutes

 

Friday

AM: 45 min moderate biking

PM: 15 min strength training – Nike’s Strength for Runners

 

Saturday

45 min swim:

Warmup 
4 x 25m
Drill 
2 x 25m Right Arm
2 x 25m Left Arm
2 x 25m Kick
2 x 25m Scull
Endurance
2 x 50m
Cooldown 
Easy 25m resting as needed for remainder of 45 minutes.

 

Sunday

AM: Strength training – Jillian Michaels’ No More Trouble Spots

PM:1 hour moderate biking

Advertisements
December 31, 2014

Getting Stronger

I’m not really one for year-in-review appraisals or New Year’s resolutions.  In general, I associate New Year’s with two weeks of noobs crowding the gym.  (Newbies please note: if you are walking on a treadmill, the automatic cool-down period at the end is not for you.  Do not walk in slow motion for five minutes while others are waiting, only to hop off and resume a brisk pace to the locker room. Seriously.)

In light of my recent injury, though, I can’t help being a bit more reflective than usual this year.  I had easily the best training year of my life.  I learned how to set challenging goals and not to let myself off the hook for them.  I learned to train hard and successfully.  Injury aside, I think also I learned how hard I can push myself, and it’s harder than I thought.  As a friend said recently, “You have to cross the line now and then to figure out where it actually is.”  The stress fracture, too, has been instructive.  I’ve been reminded that I’m not Superwoman and no matter how good of shape I’m in, I still need to be gentle with myself.  I enjoyed running this year more fully than I ever have, and I’m now even more acutely aware how precious every step is.  I have realized these past few weeks how much running has become part of my identity, and how it’s become a measuring stick for how may day, or week, or life is going.

My foot continues to improve, albeit slower than I would like.  Interestingly, it seems to plateau for several days at a time, and then overnight will suddenly feel markedly better.  The injury first became apparent just after Thanksgiving, but I’m pretty sure that walking four miles on it at the Jingle Bell Jog and the pain that ensued after probably set things back a bit.  That would put me at somewhere around week three of the healing process, which means the bone callus should be forming now.   There is a distinct bump at the site of the injury now and the area is definitely less tender now, so that’s all to go the good.

Swimming really has been the silver lining to all of this, as I may have actually set myself up to drown in the Hudson next summer had I not been absolutely forced to focus on the swim.  I’m far worse at it than I expected, and I never would have dedicated this much time to it if running or biking were at all possible.  I don’t enjoy swimming yet, but I’ve been working hard, and after watching several YouTube videos to study up on technique I’ve definitely been able to make some headway.  Last week I realized that I was “swimming flat,” meaning that my hips were staying parallel to the bottom of the pool while my upper body rotated.  I finally got the reach-and-roll rhythm going and suddenly instead of flapping around, I felt like I was actually gliding through the water.  Make no mistake, I’m still terrible, but I can now reliably overtake some of the oldest women in the slow lane.  At any rate, my swim classes start in two weeks, and I am perhaps unreasonably optimistic that they will help tremendously.

Part of my current frustration with swimming is that I am not good enough to get a really hard, satisfying workout in.  I’ve also been strength training, though, and I am finding an appreciation for pushing through a really hard set that I’ve never had before.  I tend to rush through lifting, so I do best with a trainer or video to guide me on form and pace.  It’s been difficult to find really challenging workout videos that don’t require a lot of high impact cardio intervals, but so far I’m most impressed with Jillian Michaels’ No More Trouble Zones.  I can do most of the workout without modifications and the sets move fast enough to provide a good cardio component as well.  I really do feel like I will come through this injury stronger physically, and maybe mentally as well.

Cheers,

ModC

December 8, 2014

EDL Tendinitis Update

escalated

It’s now been a week since I first started feeling some mild discomfort from the (self-diagnosed) EDL tendinitis.  As I wrote in this previous post, it escalated quickly.  Walking is hit or miss; sometimes I feel almost no pain, and other times it’s quite sharp.  Running, jumping, or any sort of impact is still out of the realm of possibility. Unfortunately, this weekend I was signed up for the NYRR Jingle Bell Jog, a 4-miler in Prospect Park.  I haven’t run any races that short since the Israel 4-miler this spring, and I hadn’t raced it, so I was really looking forward to letting loose on this one.  It’s rare NYRR races are on my home turf in Prospect and I was hoping to run 7:30ish splits and move up a corral or two.

By Friday it was clear that there would not be any running happening this weekend, but I still needed to finish the race for my 9+1 entry for next year’s NYC marathon.  The Caveboy graciously offered to keep me company while I walked, which was sweet and rather brave given how grumpy I was about the whole thing.  I really was trying to stay positive and upbeat outwardly, but I was in a fair bit of pain by the end and probably not very good company.

My biggest concern was whether all of the walking was going to set me back even further, but on Sunday my foot actually felt a little better.  I was starting to get some taper madness and did an upper body kettle bell workout just so I didn’t feel like such a slug, but I knew it wouldn’t get me the much-needed hit of endorphins.  For the rest of the day I took the opportunity to rest and ice it while watching football and catching up on my holiday knitting, and by evening it seemed like the visible swelling was gone.  I was cautiously optimistic that it was on the mend, but then this morning the puffy spot was back and it seemed to hurt as much as ever.  Exit Optimism.  In an effort to find some kind of cardio outlet, though, I did scope out a pool to join yesterday, and a swim cap and goggles are on my errand list today.

I keep telling myself that I can turn this into a positive.  I can focus on getting stronger and start swimming in preparation for the summer tri.  For the first time in years, though I’m having a hard time finding the motivation to work out when I can’t do any of the activities I enjoy.  I have no idea if this will take days or weeks or months to heal.  (Though if it’s not showing signs of improvement by the end of the week, I’m going to get some x-rays.)  Running is my prozac, and the combination of the frustration of the injury and losing my stress outlet really has me down.  I think what makes this one particularly difficult is that it came on so suddenly.  When I’ve had runner’s knee, plantar fasciitis, or IT band problems I could make (sometimes badly) calculated decisions about whether to run through the pain or not.  I knew that it might ultimately result in having to take some time off, but I at least had a chance to mentally prepare for that eventuality.  There’s nothing to do right now but to keep moving forward in whatever way I can and not let the frustration get in the way.

October 29, 2014

Catching My Breath

After my first full week off running in I don’t know how long, I very happily hit the road again on Saturday.  I had to fill my time somehow (other than catching up on laundry and  putting some effort into cooking again), so during my down time I started reading Budd Coates’ Running on Air.  The Amazon’s description promises that the book will “help runners at all experience levels improve their performance, prevent injury, and experience the joy of running” through rhythmic breathing.  Breath control has long been one of those facets of distance running that I relegated to the “Only Useful for Fast People” category and have thus ignored.  In general my M.O. has just been to belly-breathe as deeply and slowly as possible for any given pace. I’ve struggled with pretty major side stitches several times this season though, and I’ve been starting to think that maybe I’m doing something wrong.

There is also little science available on the causes or treatment of side stitches.  I’ve tried all of the usual recommendations–exhaling like I’m blowing up a balloon, running bent over, running with my arm stretched over my head, applying pressure to the spot–all to no avail.    Given that they don’t constitute an injury and seem to come and go mysteriously, it’s understandable that there is not much solid research, but you’d think some triathlete PhD candidate in need of a thesis topic would like a good mystery…   In any case, the severity and recurrence of mine lately has compelled me to learn as much as I could on the subject and figure something out.

The general theory of side stitches seems to be that they are caused by a spasm in the diaphragm muscle.  At their worst, I have experienced a few that felt like a full-on cramp, which would be consistent with that model.  They most often occur on the right side of the body, and there are several conjectures as to why that is.  One is that since the larger portion of the liver sits to the right of the midline, the weight of the organ pulls more on that side and causes a strain in the muscle.  Another theory is that right-handed runners are more likely to exhale on their right foot consistently, again creating a greater strain on that side.

Running on Air takes a more comprehensive view of the breath and running and, while it is not expressly concerned with side stitches, I found Coates’ description of the mechanics of breathing quite helpful in (perhaps) identifying my problem.  When we breath, the diaphragm essentially operates the bellows of our lungs.  On the inhale, the diaphragm goes into its “working” mode, contracting downward to fill the lungs with air.  On the exhale, it relaxes and rises to the neutral position (or past it) to force the air back out.  According to Coates, significant core stability is lost on the exhale as a result of the muscle relaxation, and the footstrikes that occur during this phase produce the greatest impact and potential for injury.

I have always used a very long exhale when I run, thinking that this would help keep my heart rate down.  When I get side stitches, I tend to try to draw it out even longer.  If Running on Air is correct, however, my approach is probably exacerbating the problem by subjecting a cramping muscle to even more tension and stress.  This was certainly borne out in Baltimore, when running downhill with the side stitch became nearly excruciating at times.  Coates’ method favors a longer inhale and short, strong exhale synchronized with footfalls.  This rhythm reduces the amount of time that the core is unstable and also ensures that the exhale begins on alternating feet.

I’ve been using Coates’ method for all of my runs this week, and the results have been interesting.  This pattern is comfortable, but MUCH faster than the breath I’m used to, and I’m curious to see how that translates on harder efforts.  I’m on my second week of marathon recovery and only starting to return to real workouts, so I only have one tempo run and some fairly brisk Central Park hills for data at the moment.  Still, the only time I’ve felt the side stitch start to pull has been when I’ve lost my breath rhythm.  In every case, as soon as I’ve gotten back in sync it has quickly subsided.  I find the 5-count somewhat difficult to internalize (maybe it’s all those years of marching band), so I have to consciously count to myself to maintain the rhythm.  (You can forget listening to music, too.)  I do find that tying my breath directly to my footfalls has made me much more aware of my pace and level of effort, and also makes me feel more fluid as I run.  I’m curious to see if that awareness continues once the breathing patterns becomes more automatic and ingrained (assuming that happens).  I also suspect that with time the faster breathing rhythm may actually strengthen my diaphragm and intercostal muscles.  Overall, I’m very encouraged.

June 30, 2014

Week 3 Recap

A few months ago I decided that I really wanted to get serious about incorporating some lifting into my training.  I’ve never done any formal strength training and I wanted to make sure I did it right and learned the proper form, so I signed up for monthly personal training sessions at my gym.  I’ve dubbed my trainer Kali the Destroyer for her brutally intense workouts, but she’s really helped me to pinpoint my weaknesses and target the muscle imbalances that can lead to injuries. I usually schedule my sessions with her with as much recovery time before my long run as possible, but thanks to my travel and work schedule, I ended up meeting her at 7AM Friday morning.  I am generally intensely sore for a couple days after a strength session, so I knew going in that I would not be fully recovered before my long run on Sunday.  I asked KtD that we go easy on the legs, and she took me through a few inclined squats for some hip-strengthening and then cooked up an unholy combination of upper body and core work for the rest of the hour.

Saturday morning dawned painfully, but thankfully I had already booked a 9AM massage. As painful as it was, I think it really did accelerate the recovery process a bit.  My core and arms were completely shot, though, and I was glad I had planned to take Saturday as a rest day.  We did a lot of walking around the city, but otherwise I just tried to hydrate well and stretch periodically.  Sunday morning I was up at 5:30 and out the door at 6:40.  It was already 70 degrees and sunny, but thankfully the humidity was pretty low.  I had 17 miles at 9:32 pace on the schedule, and I decided to start with a flat out-and-back in Brooklyn Bridge Park.  It would have been nice to finish on the flat instead, but the shade there is minimal and I knew that by running it early I would also avoid most of the crowds.  As I got warmed up it became apparent that I was, as expected, still pretty sore from Friday.  My arms were less of a concern, but I was definitely feeling my core on every grade change.

From Brooklyn Bridge Park I headed up Union to Prospect Park.  I texted the Caveboy my progress at that point, which turned out to be a useful benchmark since my Garmin filled up with data a few miles later and started autopausing intermittantly for the remainder of the run.  I guessed it was about 6.5 miles to the top of Prospect, and each lap of the park is about 3 1/3 miles.  I planned to do 3 full laps (which I promised myself would include 3 solid climbs of the Mt. Prospect hill at the end), and then would have about half a mile of downhill to finish, with another mile or so walk home to cool down.  The park laps actually went by fairly quickly, and, although I was definitely working harder in the heat, my cardio effort felt good throughout.  I was stopping for water breaks at the start of each lap, and it seemed that every time I started running again my core would tighten up and then gradually relax as I ran.  My watch was missing what I guessed to be almost two miles by the time I finished the last lap of the park, and I tried to do some conservative mental math about where I should finish.  I thought I had about .75 miles left, and after a quick walk for water I started down Union toward home, feeling pretty good and still holding my form together.  I don’t know if it was the downhill or just fatigue setting in, but after about a third of a mile my lower abs went into some kind of tired spasm.  Every inhale and every step hurt.  I slowed to a walk for 30 seconds and then started up again, determined to finish out the last half mile.  It seemed bearable for a minute or so, but then the spasm returned.  I continued to run-walk, grinding out the last bit slowly and painfully.

As it turned out when I checked MapMyRun later, I had actually finished the 17 miles near the top of the park, and ended up running about 17.6 all told, so technically the complete ab fail happened after the scheduled run was over.  I’ve never experienced anything quite like that level of muscle fatigue on a run before, and it was a good reminder of what could potentially happen in 26.2 miles.  That said, I’m pretty sure this was due to the complete shredding of my core on Friday, so I’m not overly concerned about a repeat performance right now.  Today I feel shockingly better than I did even before the run yesterday, so it does seem that I’m bouncing back quickly.  I have intervals tomorrow, but if I don’t feel 100%, I may cross train instead and push the runs out a day.  This week I have my first 20-miler of the training cycle, so the name of the game is recover, recover, recover.

ModC

October 22, 2012

Harvest Smoothie (Or What to do with Leftover Pumpkin Puree)

It’s been overcast for the past few days here in LA, which means that I get to pretend that it’s fall.  In that spirit, I made these wonderful pumpkin bars from Elana’s Pantry yesterday, and as is usual with pumpkin-based baking projects, I now find myself with leftover pumpkin puree in the fridge.  Luckily, I have the perfect solution for the problem—pumpkin smoothies. 

Pumpkin is fairly low in calories and carbs and packs a healthy dose of iron and vitamins A and C, which makes this a great post-workout snack.

 Image

Ingredients:

½ cup pumpkin puree

1 scoop vanilla whey protein powder

6 oz. coconut milk

3 drops liquid vanilla stevia

¼ cup yogurt

1 tsp. cinnamon

½ tsp. nutmeg

Pinch of cloves

¼ tsp. fresh ginger

Add all items to blender and pulse until combined.

 

Substitutions and variations: I’ve made this with a teaspoon or two of honey instead of stevia if I need to replenish more carbs.  I’ve also used a couple of frozen peach slices to sweeten it up a bit without affecting the pumpkin flavor much.  The fresh ginger really gives it a great warmth if you have it on hand.  If not, powdered ginger will do the trick.