Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Inspirational story of local teacher recovering from neck-down paralysis

This is an truly inspirational video of local Nashua teacher Kelly Downing, who became paralyzed from the neck down from chronic Lyme Disease. Recovering from running injuries doesn't seem that big a deal when you see what Kelly and her husband Josh, a fellow fifth grade teacher in Nashua, and their family had to suddenly deal with.  It has been an ongoing struggle for Kelley to recover, but her faith, hope, hard work, and supremely positive outlook and spirit is a model to everyone who hopes to achieve small or large victories over difficult circumstances. I give a symbolic "Recover Your Stride" award to Kelley for showing so many people that she has what it takes to achieve her goals.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Three Questions about the ElliptiGO

First off, my weekly mileage. This was a lighter week, due to two missed days, but I continue to thoroughly enjoy every ride I have on the ElliptiGO. I also met a fellow ElliptiGO rider this week. While finishing up a ride on the Nashua River Rail Trail, I couldn't believe what I saw coming at me. Another ElliptiGO. No way! We stopped and talked a bit. He probably lives about 3 miles from me and has seen me riding around. He said he usually rides about 5 miles to Pepperell and then returns to Nashua to give the "GO" to his wife who has been walking and then she rides it. After we talked a bit, I headed home on the rail trail and I told him I would look for his wife to say, "Hello." Then I realized that we had the same green color ElliptiGOs and I was worried that she might think I had jumped her husband and stolen his ElliptiGO. I found her, but she wasn't nervous! They had a 3 speed bike and mine is an 8 speeder with different handlebars. She recognized that, I think. We couldn't talk much as she said she was learning English, but I was thrilled that there are other ElliptiGO riders right here in Nashua!

Weekly ElliptiGO mileage July 22-28:
Monday: 0 miles
Tuesday: 24 miles
Wednesday: 31 miles
Thursday: 31 miles
Friday: 31 miles
Saturday: 30 miles
Sunday: 0 miles
Total miles: 147 miles
Total ElliptiGO miles: 847 miles in 37 days

The Mont Vernon General Store. Time for some Gatorade.
Today I headed for the biggest hill I could think of within riding distance as I have been all over the hills in and around Hollis so I headed out for a destination ride to the town of Mt. Vernon which is on top of a large hill. The ElliptiGO makes you climb like a mountain goat and I felt better during and after the ride than I used to do when I cycled this 43 mile route a few times over 10 years ago. There were storm clouds brewing all around, but somehow I missed the rain and lightning. I did hear some thunder in the distance.

A view on the way down from Mont Vernon. A sign on the way up said
that the elevation was 829 feet. 

Well, I broke two rules right in a row along route 122. I stopped and
the only way you can ride an ElliptiGO is by standing. There is no seat!

Three Quick Questions about the ElliptiGO
Question One:
How fast do you go on the ElliptiGO?
I haven't been able to hook up my old Garmin GPS to my computer. I have to find the cord. This week when riding a 30 mile route through hilly Pepperell, Ma. and Hollis, NH I was able to check my mileage at the right times (from my house to 111A W to 111 to Pepperell, up rt. 122 to the  center of Hollis, do the Hollis 1/2 marathon course big loop back down Depot Rd. and home by 111E and then down Westgate Crossing and home). I hit 15 miles in about 59 minutes and 30 miles in 1:59, so I am traveling about 15 mph on somewhat hilly roads. My speed has been increasing each week as I ride. I have not bought toe cages, which should increase the speed like on a bike as I am doing fine without them and I don't want to stress my still overwhelmed hip flexors (from hip surgery) just yet. When I get a pair, I should be able to increase the speed more. 

I have also done the large hills on route 130 from Brookline and into Hollis about 6 times. Twice on both of my 58 milers. There is one downhill section that curves around to the left where I have looked down a couple of times while descending to see 35 mph on my Garmin. I feel OK at that speed. I used to ride those hills a lot during workouts with the Nashua Velo Club about 20 years ago and I never liked that downhill section as we would travel about 45 mph down and around that curve that could pull you out into traffic if you weren't careful. The ElliptiGO is slower going downhill due to wind resistance. It also feels more secure than a road bike due to its longer wheelbase, wider tires, and lower center of gravity.

Question Two
What hurts while riding an ElliptiGO or when done with a workout?
Actually nothing hurts. It is quite amazing. I think it is because you are working from a position of good posture. My quads do get the best workout and that is where I feel the burn, but it is much gentler on your joints and muscles than running or cycling. I feel better after a ride then when I began it. 

I am still working on my form and watching as all the muscles around my hips sort themselves out from years of imbalances. My hips still don't line up perfectly. The left hip is forward of the right and I am learning to use the outside of the hips better. If I feel a little bit stiff or off, I start feeling better after about 10-15 miles as my muscles find a better position and pattern of movement. I think holding onto the handlebars and the fact that I can alter the angle of the bike and the foot platforms as I ride to accommodate the "off angles" of my leg and feet helps find good positioning too.

If I don't have my shoes tight enough, my feet will move forward in the shoe and my toes may bang into the front of the shoe.  Currently, my shoe of choice on the ElliptiGO is an old pair of Altra Provisions due to the wide toebox and zero drop heel. I get a better sense of the positioning of the bones of my feet with these shoes.

Question Three:
How is the ElliptiGO as a weight-loss tool?
This is my one big disappointment so far. I am working hard and  finally getting fit for a change, but in the 847 miles of riding over the last 37 days, I don't think that I have lost a pound. Really? I have gone from barely being able to run, to doing intense and lengthy workouts just about every day and ... nothing? I guess I have eaten some ice cream as a reward for some of my workouts, but I would have expected the dropping of some pounds. My legs are working up a storm. My quads are getting thick and stronger in places that running didn't help. My lower back is getting stronger and it uses your core and arms so they are getting work.

My guess is that the ElliptiGO doesn't stress your systems like running. There is no bouncing and stomach distress like you can often get from running, particularly when it has been hot and humid like it has been recently. Thus no instant weight loss!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Hey, Ho ElliptiGO: Increasing the miles and alternate Tour de France bikes

I am having a wonderful summer riding my ElliptiGO all over the place. I had my best week of mileage and I am still smiling during all my rides and even after them (nothing hurts)!

ElliptiGO miles for July 15-21
Monday: 20 miles
Tuesday: 7 miles
Wednesday: 20 miles
Thursday: 32 miles
Friday: 34 miles
Saturday: 32 miles
Sunday: 58 miles ( I did what I thought was a 60 mile ride last week (my gps died near the end and I estimated) and it turns out the ride was only a little more than 58 miles so I had to adjust last weeks distances too)
Total weekly miles: 203 miles
Total ElliptiGO miles: 701 miles (30 days)

On one of the super hot days, I finally stopped at the Coke machine one family has put in their back yard along the Nashua River Rail Trail. That also kept me smiling!

I really have found the perfect workout tool, but if I were looking for a new type of bike, I would not choose either of these two models:

This is a joke (I think) called a treadmill bike. It sort of looks like an ElliptiGO, but I guess you would get the pounding of running on a treadmill!

I love this photo of this old time big wheel bike descending with some kickbike/footbikes at this year's Tour de France. I already have a kickbike. Notice how this guy is belly up on the saddle in order to descend. Actually, I am not sure I would like to try this, but I guess he has been riding the Tour de France route on this bike.

This year a bunch of kickbikers have been riding the Tour de France route. Here is a short video of them on stage 14.

Not to be outdone, ElliptiGOs have also been seen at this years Tour de France. Here an Elliptigo makes its way up Alpes d'Huez.

There were no sighting of the treadmill bike at this year's Tour de France!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

I have seen the future...

In 1974 Jon Landau famously wrote of Bruce Springsteen, "I've seen rock 'n' roll's future, and its name is Bruce Springsteen." Well, I have seen the future of endurance sport exercise and it's name is ElliptiGO. I can't tell you how much fun I am having on this machine. In three weeks time, I have gone from just laying around and trying to find a suitable way to get back into shape on my sore hip to thoroughly enjoying each day I get to ride my ElliptiGO. I feel stronger after each ride, suffer no joint pain at all, and get the endorphin rush each time I get out and 'Go. Running wasn't working for me any more post hip surgery. Biking was too uncomfortable (and has always been). And everything else I tried just didn't replace the sport I love (running). I have done 40 years of running (50 marathons) and I have raced triathlons (5 Ironman distance races in the 1980's) as well as  bicycles so I know what those sports are about and I have never had as much pain-free fun getting a good workout in as when I am ElliptiGOing. The best thing is when I am done, I feel great, yes, I am tired, but not sore at all. I can't remember feeling this consistently good after working out in about 30 years (when my body first got very cranky doing triathlons). Literally, instead of constantly feeling torn apart like I have for years whenever I run, I am feeling like I am building up after each workout!

I think that ElliptiGOs have a bright future (particularly if they can bring the price down). My Facebook feed is full of running friends my age who are constantly dealing with injuries and trying to make running work. They are pool running, cycling, working on elliptical machines and other exercise equipment trying to stay in shape. The ElliptiGO is the ideal tool for the injured or overworked runner. It looks like you are cycling, but if feels like you are running. You get a sense of speed, but it is not as fast as a bicycle. You can go farther and longer than you can on your runs and believe me, you are certainly visible to vehicles. This week I found the biggest hills in the area and I was able to ElliptiGO right up them with no problem (even passed a cyclist). Speed is reduced on the downhills due to wind resistance and the ElliptiGO is very stable. I have yet to feel out of control on it. I also get to see more of my world then when cycling (head down) or running (concentrate!). Standing up, in good posture, while riding allows you to view the landscape around you as you ride. I am seeing so many new things riding around on routes I use to run, race, and cycle on.

I haven't tried running since the Fast Downhill 5K one month ago. I told myself not to run until I felt ready. Thursday I finally gave it a go. The first thing I noticed was that my stride has improved a bit in the past month. At first I could feel that deep tightness at the top/back of my femur or hip socket. That went away after 1/2 mile (but I am sure something is still amiss there). I did feel slow and sluggish (this was the day after my 60 mile ride). I really wasn't enjoying the run. It was hot and humid. I felt OK except when going left around a corner, I could feel muscle tightness and weakness then. I only ran one and 1/2 miles. I would hardly consider that a run in year's' past. I didn't really enjoy it at all, but I couldn't wait to get going on my ElliptiGO right after the run. That night, my muscles were fighting a bit to calm down.That short run hurt more than the 58 miles I ElliptiGOed the previous day. It was more of imbalances and not the glute pain I had previously, but I realized that I am not ready to start running again. I have the Falmouth Road Race next month and I am not sure if I will even be ready to attempt it. I am no longer interested in pushing my body when it is not ready to handle being pushed. Fortunately, I have this ElliptiGO to keep me active and excited to exercise. When I got it, it was with the thought that it may take a year to get my body back to running. I would like a miracle, but I will be happy just riding the ElliptiGO to my hearts content and see if consistent riding over time will allow me back into running. If so, I won't ever run as much as I used to. I will intersperse quality running sessions with ElliptiGO riding. It just makes sense. I think that a lot of aging runners will figure out this some day themselves in the next few years. If not, they will be relegated to the couch and that is not a fun place to be. I am so much happier being able to do hard exercise in a healthy manner for the first time in three years.

I think of all the long time runners whose bodies cannot run anymore and I wish they would give the ElliptiGO a shot. It is a heavy duty and fun exercise machine and it gives you back the fresh energy you had when you were young and never worried about your body breaking down someday. You can sprint and push the uphills and soar down the downhills like you are kid riding a bike. It definitely brings back that joyous feeling of exercising your body that we all long for and try to recapture. I never wanted to be that former runner hobbling around the neighborhood and now I don't have to be! I am the fast guy on the cool bike.

Here are my ElliptiGO miles for the past week. I have already gone 500 miles!

7/8 Monday: 20 miles-got dumped on by heavy rain halfway through
7/9 Tuesday: 0 miles-rain
7/10 Wednesday: 0 miles-more rain
7/11Thursday: 32 miles-more rain halfway through
7/12 Friday: 58 miles
7/13 Saturday 1.5 mile run /10 miles
7/14 Sunday: 30 miles

Total weekly miles: 150 miles
Total ElliptiGO miles: 498 miles (23 days)

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Lots of ElliptiGO miles: Adam Goucher, Jorge Torres, and Lauren Fleshman discuss training on an ElliptiGO

 I have had my ElliptiGO for just over 2 weeks now and I can't wait to get outside each day and 'GO. I also can't begin to tell you how much fun I am having. No longer am I lumbering along trying to get my hip and the muscles around it to work or to get some semblance of symmetry and balance to my stride. There is something about the setup that allows me to push real hard without hurting my joints and muscles. Yeah, I have that good tired feeling after a ride ( I am told that 2 miles on the ElliptiGO is the equivalent of 1 mile of running). What I love about using it is that I get the long-lost feeling that I had in college when I could push as hard as I wanted in a workout and be drained that evening, but refreshed and ready to go the next day. Instead of just trying to get my running muscles to work, I can push this thing like I am doing intervals: the quads are tightening, my heart is racing, and my breathing is heavy. I can work hard on the uphills and I can do all this while going faster than the professional runners (on the hot humid days of the past weeks the breeze of riding this really helps keep you cool). Instead of feeling the slowing down process of aging and injuries, I feel like a kid again playing around with speed and hills and sprints!

Adam Goucher
After two weeks of riding, my quads are getting some great strengthening. If you like that full quad pumped feeling you get after cycling long and hard, that is exactly the same feeling I get on the ElliptiGO. The muscles in the front of both hips (hip flexors) are still somewhat tight and funky, but it doesn't impede my riding (they do interfere with running). I can feel the muscles around my hips and the glutes slowly loosening and balancing themselves better. This is where I think it will help me with my running later on. By the fact that my feet stay connected to the platforms, my feet stay positioned better which is allowing me to balance better over each ankle, knee, and hip and align my body better. Not only are my quads feeling strong, but I also notice how strong my lower back is getting as the muscles on either side of my spine work in balance.

July 1-July 7 Weekly ElliptiGO miles
Monday: 0 miles (rain and tornado warnings)
Tuesday: 21 miles (pushed the hills)
Wednesday: 32 miles
Thursday: 20 miles
Friday: 30 miles (a deer ran across the path about 30 feet in front of me, a porcupine was trying to cross the bike path as I was speeding by, and a bunch of Canadian Geese plopped themselves down in the middle of the bike path and looked like they wanted a fight!)
Saturday: 31 miles
Sunday: 0 miles (feeling a bit tired)
Total weekly mileage: 134 miles
Total ElliptiGO miles in just 16 days: 348 miles ( I think I have found something I really like to do)

Here is a video of three former American stand-out runners from high school to the professional and Olympic levels who train on the ElliptiGO. They talk about training on the ElliptiGO and doing intervals on one. The athletes are Adam Goucher, Jorge Torres, and Lauren Fleshman. They were all at the 2012 Footlocker National Championships for this discussion.

Here is a video of Adam Goucher and his ElliptiGO as he talks about training.

Elliptigo Adam Goucher Interview from David Hebble on Vimeo.

How to Improve Core Strength: Foundation Exercises

The Founder is my favorite exercise for when I am feeling tight. I have been using is as my go-to drill in order to loosen up for a couple of years now. I wrote about it here with some videos from Foundation Training's  Dr. Eric Goodman and Peter Park who also wrote the book Foundation: Redefine Your Core, Conquer Back Pain, and Move with Confidence as well as the Foundation Training DVD.  According to their thinking, the core is not just your abs! Think about the core as the muscles around your back, too!  Here is a video of Dr. Matt Rabin of the UK using Foundation Training with cycling's Team Garmin. He goes through four of the Foundation Training exercises (there are more) including the Founder, the Windmill, the Lunge Stretch, and the Woodpecker. These are all explained and demonstrated quite well on the other videos, but it is sometimes good to get a fresh look at how to perform an exercise. I highly recommend the Foundation book to understand about strengthening the core  as well as trying out these exercises. I never feel sore from doing these exercises and I always feel better after doing them. These drills aren't just specific for cyclists, this video is of a cycling team. They work for anyone, even someone who rides an ElliptiGO!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Nashua River Rail Trail on the ElliptiGO

I just wanted to relax and enjoy the 32 miles I rode today, so I stopped a couple of times to get some pictures on the Nashua River Rail Trail. It starts about three miles from my house and travels south through Massachusetts. It is straight and flat. I was hoping to get more variety in the photos on the way home, but then a cyclist went by me and the race was on.

Starts right on Gilson Road in Nashua and goes 12.3 miles to Ayer, Ma.

It is nice to know that there is now a porta-john halfway into my favorite running route and
at the start of the Rail Trail,

That is some type of bike rack artwork in the middle of the route.
It ends in Ayer, Ma. Then you turn around and come home.

Monday, July 1, 2013

First ten days on the ElliptiGO

I am really enjoying my ElliptiGO. In the ten days that I have owned it, I have ridden it for a total of 214 miles.

Saturday's ride
June 21 Friday : 15 miles
June 22 Saturday: 15 miles
June 23 Sunday: 32 miles
June 24 Monday: 8 miles
June 25 Tuesday: 32 miles
June 26 Wednesday: 8 miles
June 27 Thursday: 30 miles
June 28 Friday: 16 miles
June 29 Saturday: 50 miles
June 30 Sunday: 8 miles

It feels so good to be outdoors and working out, feeling the heart pumping and the lungs expanding, and getting a workout very similar to running, but without the pounding. Most importantly, I get no hip joint or any other pain. The muscles around both hips are still knotted up pretty well, but I can feel my strength returning and the ElliptiGO is so fun to ride. I would not want to be riding my road bike for these distances, because of all the discomfort and how my body feels tweaked out of alignment after a ride. On the ElliptiGO, I just keep going. And since I am standing up, I get to see more of my surroundings than I do when hunched over a bicycle or when I am focused in on my running.

Ugh, the Hollis Fast 5K, a race experience I would like to forget.
It is hard to believe that two weeks ago when I ran the Hollis Fast 5K how out of shape I felt due to not being able to run (22:59.6 on a course I used to go 5 minutes faster on). The sad thing was, I had absolutely no enjoyment running even 5k downhill and I was limping for two days after the race.  I thought I would have another summer of sitting on the couch hoping that my hip would improve and getting and feeling more out of shape. Now, I can do up to 50 miles (for now) and just feel energized when I am done while feeling stronger and with better posture and movement patterns. The ElliptiGO climbs up some pretty big hills easily enough and feels more stable than my bike on the long downhills. I look forward to my ride every day. I am just thrilled with the silly looking contraption.

ElliptiGO for Healthy Runners from ElliptiGO on Vimeo.