Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Training Week (almost)

I am getting hopeful that I can get back to training and running a bit more consistently. This week had its up and downs, but I still got in more day and miles of running this week then I have since November when I got a cortisone shot in my hip.

Sunday I ran on the treadmill, where I have been doing all my running, so I can stop if necessary. Things were going good. I hit three miles and I started hoping I could make 5 miles. At 4 miles, I felt a pinching feeling in the front of my hip and immediately stopped. Two days later I tried again and did 5 miles with no problems. Friday I tried for another 5 miler, but had to stop at 3 miles.

I have also been working on kettlebell swings. I have been playing around with kettlebells for a few years, but the swing used to hurt my left hip and that was only when doing about 25 swings. With the physical therapy on my hip, I found out I could swing more and had got up to 500 swings with my 35 pound kettlebell. I was doing intervals of about 75-100 swings at a time. A couple of weeks ago I got a 50 pound kettlebell, but the most I had done with it was 100 swings. I had a goal to do 1000 some day, but never made the time.

Friday I got a DVD by Tracy Reifkind called Programming the Kettlebell Swing. In it she tells how to break down the kettlebell swing into shorter on-off intervals. I only watched a bit of it before I decided to follow a similar plan. I cut the swings down to 10 in an interval, but later bumped it up to 25 with a 15 second break and a longer break after each 100 swings. I started swinging away to see how many I could do, when I hit 200 I decided that it was time to go for the 1000 swings using the 50 pound bell. I also felt that this would tire me out sufficiently so that I wouldn't attempt the snowshoe race the next day. They felt good, and despite the start of some blisters on my hands, I kept good form; actually I think I was developing better form as I went. Let me tell you, the heart rate really races and the breathing gets heavier when performing the swing. It was the closest I have come in months in getting that heart rate up for an extended time. I was very pleased when I finally hit 1000 swings! It was like doing a long run for the first time, when you aren't sure if you can pull it off: gratifying.

The next day, I felt real good. My hips felt nice! By afternoon time, I decided it was time to try running outside again. The last time I did an 8 miler was back in November. The cortisone shot I had earlier in that week had worn off, and I ended up stopping at the halfway point and had to slowly walk home in the cold as I could barely lift and move my left leg forward.

This time I decided to bring my wife's phone in case my hip hurt so she could pick me up. At first I felt good. By 2 miles, the front of the hip wasn't right, but I kept playing around with my form. At the halfway point, I stopped and took out the phone to make a call for help. Unfortunately the phone was not charged and so I had another long cold 4 mile walk home. At least I could walk faster this time than in November. However, last night I noticed, I could barely lift my left knee up when lying on my back, and in the morning, I couldn't lift the leg up without my hand assisting and walking is a bit difficult. That hip flexor is really sore.

By the way Tracy Reifkind is and her kettlebell swing is featured in Tim Ferris' book The 4-Hour Body with her story of weight loss and the kettlebell swing. I have been doing the slow-carb diet as highlighted in the book for about 6 weeks now. I eat eggs and frozen veggies in the morning, grilled chicken, lentils, and more veggies at noon, and steak, beans, and veggies at night 6 days a week. The 7th day is a cheat day and I eat as I want. I feel healthy and energetic on the diet. Everything is going well, except I just can't get the running going.

Friday, February 11, 2011

How Runners Communicate (through the years)

When I started running in the 1970s everything I knew about running came from my coaches and teammates, books on running, televised track meets, and Runner's World magazine. I was fortunate to grow up in Falmouth on Cape Cod, the home of the Falmouth Road Race and I started running for the Falmouth High School Cross Country team just a couple of weeks after the first Falmouth Road Race. I also learned a lot about the athletes and the sport from participating in the Falmouth Road Race and seeing and reading about all the stars of the sport in the local papers. Being in close proximity to the best in the sport probably helped instill a passion in me for the sport of running.

 High School Communication:
Falmouth High School 1973-1974

 There was no internet. Runners did not even have timers on their watches to accurately record training times.  Results were either written down or mimeographed and distributed later. Results from my first year of running cross-country. I was no running star! The only race that is missing is the final race, a handicap race for the Falmouth XC team. I was one of the first starters, based on my slow best time, and held on for the win in 19:53.

I think this is the first time I was mentioned in the newspaper. It was just for being on the track  team. I was pretty slow.

The Stony Brook School 1974-977

Mimeographed sheets again. Communication with Coach Goldberg in the summer was by mail or phone. The only way I could get to the top of the list was if the top guys did not run, but it was fun to get there.

 Results always seemed to be in purple. These are from the New York State Suffolk County Cross-Country Championships in 1976. We had an outstanding team, and finished third in our NY State division race. I wonder how many race results are lost to history, except for those saved by racers stored  in boxes in garages and attics.


 Our outstanding coach, Marvin W. Goldberg, would post workouts everyday on a bulletin board in the gym and send postcards and notes throughout the summer. After a season, he would meet with his athletes individually and go over goals. I think I am the only high school runner, despite loads of effort, who could never break 5 minutes in the mile (all slow twitch fibers and a funky hip and stride).

Wheaton College 1977-1981

In college we had this postcard-newsletter system to keep up with our teammates throughout the summer. How else would you know that a teammate just won an NCAA title or that another teammate spent his summer elongating the necks of Coca-Cola bottles for carnivals (in another newsletter). There was a lot of ribbing and strange humor in these newsletters (maybe the Coke bottle puller was just someone pulling our legs-I still don't know). It was a fun way to keep in contact and stay motivated through a long summer.

Through college and after, if I wanted to stay in-touch with the running world, I had to read magazines and books, run and talk with running friends, go to races, and watch the occasional event of television. It  might take weeks or months to view the results in running magazines of races from around the world and in the US, unless they were printed in a newspaper like the Boston Globe. The computer changed all that.

In the 1990s the Gate City Striders had a computer bulletin board in addition to a mailed out newsletter. You would phone in using your modem (I think one person at a time could gain access) and you could read and send messages to teammates and read messages on a newsgroup called rec.running to hear what people around the world were writing about running. The message board was a lot of fun and a place of inspiration: just when you thought you were training well, you could read the messages of your teammates and find out that they were running farther and more often. It was motivating hearing about their training runs and races, as well as being able to plan workouts and long runs.

As the internet exploded and more people became computer savvy, the bulletin board was eventually laid to rest. The Gate City Striders, like other running clubs, migrated their presence to a web page. Runners could now communicate easier and messages and results flowed more freely and with greater speed. Running forums like Runners World and Letsrun allowed even greater communication and then results started showing up online with sites like Coolrunning. Now, you didn't have to copy results from a printout after a race to keep track of your times and placing, but you could go online and see what your friend's times were in races you didn't attend soon after they were completed. Now you can even see a record of your online results at Athlinks.

Technology soon expanded more, so that you could listen to races online. I recall getting up early one Sunday morning to hear the BBC broadcast of the 2002 London Marathon where Khalid Khannouchi defeated Paul Tergat and Haile Gebrselassie in a world record time before getting in the car to go run the Fred's Marathon. Pretty soon races from around the world could be viewed online, many live. Sometimes you had to pay and sometime they are free for the watching. I have a few VHS tapes sitting around from before that time marathons like London and Chicago, where I had to buy a tape of the race on eBay to see the full action in a race.

Communication is pretty instant with runners and races nowadays. Runners on Letsrun often get a bit angry if results are not posted within minutes of a race's completion. Another type of communication also followed for some runners. I started this blog a few years ago to write about my experiences with running, racing, health, and injuries. I have made many friends in the running community from places all over the world through this blog or reading websites and blogs that other runners, coaches, and therapists provide. I have been able to read and talk with others about common injuries and share my own struggles in hopes that others can find some helpful nuggets of information or provide from their own experiences and knowledge to help me. I also like reading my teammates and friends blogs to be inspired by their races and workouts and encourage each other to become better runners.

Eventually I broke down and got a Facebook account (how else do you communicate with you kids when he is in college). This has provided a new set of friends in the running community. I have met some fellow runners in the oddest circumstances through Facebook. One runner found himself in the background of a photo of my  finish in the 1976 Falmouth Road Race. I have connected again with former teammates from high school and college (every result and article above has one or more of my Facebook refound friends listed) and I made new friends who share their love of running and racing (some are runners I knew about and others are runners I have still to meet). It is always fun to read other runner's  accounts of races and training (as well as the bragging and dissing that goes on). I think that if I was left alone in a bubble, I would probably just give up on the running thing, but I am always inspired by the success and wisdom of others as they relate their own experiences. Who would want to stop running? The running community is full of so many fun and positive people. Technology and computers has certainly changed the world of running and we are all better for it.If you are a runner and like to communicate on Facebook, you can find me here.

Another aspect for having this blog is to practice my writing skills due to the fact that I am a teacher. I try some of the things I have my students do with their writing. So that leaves me with a new avenue, I am tentatively going to try on "Recover Your Stride". I would like to write about other runners and discover their successes and secrets, as well as their history with running. I don't know how it will go, but I would hope to find some willing subjects that might be more interesting to write about them myself, as I am not really that interesting as a runner, I am just persistent runner who loves the sport, I already have my first subject, someone who loves running as much as I do, someone who loves the Falmouth Road Race as much as I do, and someone who has an incredible string of Falmouth runs- even more races than I have done. I have seen him and his brother at plenty of Falmouths in recent years, but have never really met him except online due to this blog, so it will be fun to find out his history and how he has stayed so successful.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

"Building Your Body Maintenance Routine" ebook

Leigh Boyle over at Athletes Treating Athletes has produced a free e-book called "Building Your Body Maintenance Routine" that you can sign up for on her website. This e-book can teach you how to remain injury free:
My big motivation in writing this guide was to show you how to use the resources on the A-T-A site when you are not hurt as a way to monitor common problem areas and prevent the bigger injuries from sneaking up on you. In doing so, I also wanted to dispel some of the common myths about how often and when you should be using this stuff. I think you’ll be surprised by how little it takes and how repeatable the whole process is. That is the guide’s ultimate goal- to help you build a plan that is specific to your injury history, your sport, your job, and your training schedule. Inside you’ll find a blank planning page so that you play along as your read. You’ll also find a filled in chart full off all the A-T-A links you’ll need.
It links to the videos that Leigh has produced to explain the different techniques. If you are injured and in the area, you might want to visit Leigh at Pinnacle Physical Therapy in Plaistow, NH.If not check out the Athletes treating Athletes website or Facebook page.

That is where I have been going for therapy the past two months. So how is it going? I am only running once or twice a week, but hope to build slowly. I wasn't too smart and did a very hard 4+ mile snowshoe run two weeks ago. I got the pinching back in my inner adductors after that. It went away after one day. I did a good 3 miler on the treadmill last week. My legs feel much more balanced, straight, and dare I say strong. I can push off with the left foot and my right shoulder and ribs are moving forward to be equal with my left side. I am out of shape, but my legs want to go faster than my conditioning allows! If I don't run at all, my hips and back feel real good and I don't even think about them during the day. I am able to do kettlebell swings much better than I ever could without the former hip problems and I have jumped from a 35 pound kettlebell to a 50 pound bell. Because of all the work, I have feel great, even when shoveling snow. That is an activity that used to kill my back. Now, I like attacking all the snow that this winter has brought. I think I got a little too vigorous after the last storm trying to throw the snow over my cars and snowbanks. I didn't feel it until, I ran on the treadmill after the shoveling and I got the pinch back in my adductor (probably from twisting movements). I have a new policy for myself. I will not run when feeling hurt or any discomfort, so I no longer push through pains. I am just being patient and careful.

I think I am getting all the gunk out of my muscles and stuff surrounding my left hip and inner hamstring. My knee is straightening out and my foot falls better. Sometimes my "bad" left side feels better than my normal right side! I have been going twice a week to PT but dropping it down to once a week now. 

My one concern is learning how to run correctly again and not returning to similar patterns in my running. I believe it is true what Carson Boddicker says  in a recent post called The Brain Maps Movement, not Muscle.
You’ve heard it before. The brain doesn’t think about turning “on” individual muscles, but rather works in terms of movements. The brain... likewise does not speak in terms of “movement quality,” but rather cares only about movement success. The brain does not care how it gets from A to B only that it gets from A to B."
(note: I used to describe my running that way: just build up momentum and then try to maintain it any way possible! Form? what form?)

Regardless of whether or not you can move in a particular way or via a specific joint movement during a particular exercise does not necessarily mean that it’s good. It simply means that the brain will access plan B by stimulating a slightly different motor area to achieve the same or similar final posture.
With repeated activation, plan B simply becomes plan A due to impediment, and becomes “normal” and functionally dominant. Changes in the brain’s maps are implicated across a range of function and dysfunction. As is the case, remember, our number one target organ for all intervention is the brain
 I know I have faulty "brain maps"and my body follows these faulty movement patterns. The question is how to change my movement patterns so that I can run and move with greater efficiency and allow my muscles to move my bones and joints correctly. I have always run through therapies: maybe that is why rolfing and other things I have tried have never worked. I would start feeling good and immediately push things as hard as I could. I even did that this summer with new orthotics and ART therapy. I would just run with faulty patterns and never allowed my body to recover and learn new patterns and would just reinstall the old patterns on top of whatever therapy I tried.

How do you retrain your brain? I am not sure. I really liked the Feldenkrais movement work I did a couple of years ago. I was happy to see a new book published called The Art of Slowing Downby Edward Yu this month that brings Feldenkrais, Taichi, and something called Bagua together to relearn better movement patterns specifically to improve running. I only got the book yesterday, but I like a lot of the movement wisdom in the book and the Feldenkrais lessons. If you are not familiar with Feldenkrais, it uses non-stressful slow movements that help you feel and relearn how you move. The one problem that I have with the book is that it is only a book. I have followed through many Feldenkrais lessons and the best way to do them is when the are mp3 sound file. There are lessons in the book, but most runners will not do them properly. This is spelled out in the book, but still runners like to get places quickly and it is hard to understand slow. The book should  have come with the lessons on a cd or there should be a website where you can buy or download them. Other than that I will be delving into it daily. I like how the beginning movements tie the 1st MPT joint to hip movements. Well I have a left hip problem and a left toe problem (functional hallux limitis). It is amazing how everything is tied together. I also have a right shoulder problem and that too is tied to the left hip. If you have never participated in Feldenkrais, I have a lot of blog posts on it with links to free Feldenkrais ATMs. These are sound file lessons, some made specifically for runners. Here is one post with some links. Jae Gruenke of The Balanced Runner has a cd called "Loosening up to Run" that I have used an awful lot (directions for similar movements are in Edward Yu's book) but it is easier to listen to a cd (nice review on her site too!). I now notice she has a new mp3 called "A Leg to Stand on". I will have to try that one some day. She sent me another cd a while back called "Well-Armed" but I guess she has never released that one.

So hopefully it will all work out soon for me. I am getting my muscles and hip joint fixed and then I can relearn proper movement patterns. I just hope that is all that is wrong as that pinching feeling in the front of my leg makes me nervous. And if you don't want to be a messed up runner like me, then download Leigh's e-book and learn how to take care of yourself before you turn into a mess.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Does the size of your head predict your speed or strength?

Can the size of your head predict your speed or strength? This is something I have never really thought about, but someone else did, at least as to how it pertains to the animal kingdom. In an article I found at Discovery News, Dog Head Size Predicts Strength, Speed by Janet Viegas, the author relates what was reported in the latest issue of the journal "Behavioral Processes".
Just looking at the size, width and basic shape of a dog's head can  inform the viewer about the dog's ability to fight, pull and run.
Brachycephalic, or broad-headed, dogs that participated included American Pit-Bull Terriers, American Bulldogs and Bernese Mountain Dogs. Dolichocephalic, or more narrow-headed, breeds consisted of Samoyeds, Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes.

... all of the more broad-headed dogs in the study were able to pull substantially higher weights than their narrow-headed competitors. Other studies indicate dolichocelphalic breeds are faster and more efficient runners than the brachycelphalic dogs.

Just looking at the size, width and basic shape of a dog's head can then inform the viewer about the dog's ability to fight, pull and run.

American Pit Bull Terrier- wide head- strong doggie! Teach him to shot put!

greyhound- narrow head- fast doggie! Keep him on the track!

Other observations from the article:
Conditioning, nutrition, personality and other factors can also affect the health and physical capabilities of an individual.
Phew, there is more to this running stuff than just having a narrow head!
"The narrower (or wider) head is simply a skeletal trait that is an indicator of other skeletal traits,"

Lisa Peterson, a spokesperson for the American Kennel Club, agrees with the study's conclusions."They make total sense, especially as breeders over the years have looked to enhance certain traits, such as speed and endurance," she said. "The same holds true for horses. Race horses do have more narrow-shaped heads versus those of draft horses."

It is sort of an interesting study, I don't know what it means for runners. We do tend to be thin, but I guess it is a warning for us to not to let our heads get too big, as well as to not be so narrow-minded that we start checking out the noggin sizes of our running buddies!