Post-Run Achey Feet? Try This

(This article was originally posted at www.alamo180.com, where I am the Assistant Run Coach and love helping runners make it to the finish line safely while having fun and learning.) 

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Aching Feet? One of our runners had been experiencing foot soreness following our long run last Saturday. Many of us have been there and it is not fun.

Our feet are complicated – a human foot is made up of 26 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments, 19 muscles and tendons. The 52 bones in your feet make up about 25 percent of all the bones in your body! So, there’s a lot going on in our feet, and since we can’t run or walk without them, we definitely need to take care of them.

Here are three things you can do to help your feet recover. And it’s not just from a long run, it can be from a long run, an 8 hour day of working on your feet or walking the kids through the amusement park or dancing at the club till the crack of dawn.

1. STRETCH your feet. But don’t stop the evening after the long run, keep doing it. Stretch your feet several times a week. I love using golf balls to roll under my feet, but there are lots of other effective stretches. Here’s a link to 5 great ones:http://beta.active.com/fitness/Articles/5-Foot-Stretches-to-Prevent-Injuries

2. ICE your feet. Just get a tub of ice water and dunk them in for about 10 minutes. You can do this as often as you can tolerate. This will minimize any swelling that can sometimes occur after a long run and also provide temporary pain relief.

3. ELEVATE. While you know I’m a huge proponent of moving around after a long run, sometimes you just need to kick back and take a load off. So, ideally the evening after your long run, you would stretch your feet again (you stretched them immediately after your run, right , then ice them and then elevate them. The combination of these things will help you recover more quickly.

Got questions? Leave a comment below.  Interested in run or health coaching?  Contact me! I provide online coaching as well as in person group and individual coaching through Alamo 180 Multisport + Training if you’re in the San Antonio area.  

Run On! Coach Jen

Putting Pain on the Back Burner

if you change the way you look at things the things you look at change

I’m a member of the Ultra Listserv, an email community of ultra runners and those interested in ultra running who come from all over the world, all levels, stripes, weights, speeds, etc.  Since joining the list back in 2007, I’ve learned a lot from the posts and plan to continue learning as time goes on.  The conversations on the UltraList run the gamut (pun intended 🙂 covering everything from nutrition, to particular race courses, studies on endurance sports, training plans, and more.  Recently, there was a conversation on pain tolerance which I found very interesting.  One UltraLister, Gary Cantrell (AKA Lazarus Lake), who happens to be the race director of the infamous Barkley Marathons, had the following to say:

nobody really “tolerates” pain.

“pain” is nothing more than brain data,
and you have to learn to treat it as such.

think of discomfort as something like your car’s “check engine soon” light.
is it thirst? drink.
if it is hunger; eat.
if it is blisters, consider the situation.
if you are near the end, just run on them to shut them up.
if there is a lot of time left, do some foot repair and get the situation under control.
if it is foot pain; maybe try a change of shoes,
or for joint and muscle issues; try to correct your form and reduce the stress.

whatever the discomfort; do what you can,
then put it away in a compartment and don’t think about it.

you wouldn’t stare at your “check engine soon” light for 8 or 10 hours straight.
well, you don’t need to focus on discomfort continuously either.

relegate it to background noise, and go on.

no one is a bigger sissy about pain than me,
but even i was able to learn how to deal with discomfort during ultras.
don’t listen to someone’s overblown depictions of agony,
they amount to little more than adolescent boasting.
i have had the good fortune (bad fortune at the time)
to experience genuine pain a time or two.
trust me, no one would “tolerate” that.


and the key is not to tolerate it,
but to put it on the back burner.
if you can’t remedy it, ignore it.

This really made sense to me.  In all endurance sports there is a level of pain that comes along with it.  All runners know the feeling of burning quads or glutes during and after a long or intense workout.  People handle all the aches and pains that come along with running ultras in different ways, but from personal experience, and reading, I agree with Laz that in most instances, you have to ignore it.

Of course there are exceptions to this “if you can’t remedy it, ignore it” rule.  You have to know your body and know if the pain you’re experiencing is from injury or internal issues that require medical attention.  While those instances of needing medical attention or approaching serious injury do happen, it is most often the case that the body hurts because we’re pushing our limits.   So, if you know you are going to experience pain, how do you prep for it? Can you?

I believe you can.

I think I experienced the highest level of pain I ever have during the Ghost Train Rail Trail (GTRT) 100 last October, but I’m not sure.  How can that be?  I put myself in a place where I did not have room for pain. GTRT was my first 100 attempt, and I was hell-bent on finishing and giving it my all.  I really wanted to finish in under 24 hours.  And, in order to do so, there were many things I had to focus on – nutrition – was I eating and drinking enough; pace – was I going too fast or too slow; maintaining a positive attitude;  not losing my footing in the dark and with tired legs; taking care of my feet – did I need to change socks/shoes/apply more bodyglide to feet; did I want to change into long sleeves/shortsleeves; making sure I knew what I needed when I hit the aid stations.  I had a mental checklist.  When I completed the checklist, I started it all over again.

The checklist allowed me to realize discomforts and make a plan for attending to them.  I couldn’t do anything about it at that moment,  I put it on the back burner focusing on what was in my control.  I did my best to keep it there until I could do something to remedy it. 

My awesome Ghost Train Rail Trail crew and pacers!  Love them and wouldn't have been able to do it without them.

My awesome Ghost Train Rail Trail crew and pacers! Love them and wouldn’t have been able to do it without them.

Near the end, of GTRT I knew I was in pain because my breathing was loud.  I was “breathing through the pain”, as they say.  Still, I wasn’t focused on it.  Instead, at this point in the race I always had an amazing pacer with me who would talk and keep my mind focused.  If at anytime I began to really feel the pain despite their efforts, I just recited my simple, yet effective mantra which I have with me and ready to whip out during tough points in any race.

This is my race and I am strong. 

That’s it.  As long as I didn’t keep looking at the proverbial “check engine” light and focused on the important things that would get me to the finish line safely and as quickly as possible, the pain wasn’t a big part of the experience.  I finished in 23:03:00 which was good enough for a 4th overall and 1st place female finish.  So, my method worked for me.

I guess that’s why, as soon as it was over, I was scouting out another hundred.  I don’t know how many hundreds I’ll attempt.  I figure, I’ll keep running long and focusing on the important things during the race as long as it’s fun.  I have a feeling that will be for quite some time to come.

How do you conquer pain in tough workouts, training runs, or endurance events?  Do you “compartmentalize” it? Do you use a mantra?  Please share in the comments below.

till we meet on the trails,

jen

PS – Two books that touch on this subject are  Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running and Matt Fitzgerald’s Run: The Mind-Body Method of Running by Feel. I highly recommend both.

Skiing scares the bejesus out of me…

Skiing scares the bejesus out of me...

And that’s why I did it.

I didn’t grow up skiing. Growing up in Northwestern Kentucky, you may learn to ride four wheeler, deer hunt, and water ski (didn’t learn to do that kind of skiing either) long before even the idea of snow skiing arrives. Not that there weren’t any places to go. I guess folks went to Gatlinburg, and some families flew to Colorado during Christmas break, but we couldn’t afford family vacations like that. So, like most Kentuckians, snow skiing was just something that looked cool, but not really on the radar due to lack of accessibility.

Then, when I was 13 or 14 and given the opportunity to go night skiing with my youth group at a place about 6 hours north. It was a tiny ski mountain (using the word ‘mountain’ loosely here) called Paoli Peaks. I was super excited. I can recall the feelings of fear and fearlessness battling it out as I stared down the slopes, each one a bit bigger than the last. I also remember how fantastic it was to shove the fear aside and zig and zag down one of their “black” slopes (which is totally a green slope) and make it to the bottom still standing. Over the course of about four years, I ended up going there with my youth group one or two more times. And that was the extent of my skiing experience.

Last February, Ken and I went to Loon Mountain in New Hampshire. It was a lot different than Paoli! With the guidance of our friend, Jamie, I was able to get better and better with each run. Jamie is a great skier, teacher, and very patient. He stayed with me, helped me up, and gave me pointers when I needed them. So, all-in-all last year’s skiing trip was a success and a lot of fun (Even busting my butt getting off the ski lift was fun in retrospect :).

With that ski trip in the books, I wasn’t all that scared about hitting the slopes in Stowe, Vermont this past Monday. While I was confident I would remember enough to get down the slopes safely, I didn’t realize exactly what I had gotten myself into until the only way off the mountain was down on my own to skis. As I looked down, at what appeared to be the slope without end, I could feel every muscle in my body tighten up and my heart pounding in chest. This was it – fear and fearlessness battling it out again. I took a deep breath, and began the journey downward, all the while talking to myself.

“Nice and easy, Jen. Just relax.”, became my mantra for the day. I progressed from just skiing greens on the first run (which seemed to go on forever), to greens and blues, and then, to all blues. I couldn’t believe I was skiing and not crashing regularly! I was still scared each time I looked down those steep slopes. I could regularly see and feel icy spots where the 30+mph windgusts had blown away the few inches of fresh snow. I often wobbled a bit, which would be followed by my cutting up the slope hard to slow down, or even come to a complete stop to regain my sense of control. My heart still pounded, and I was still scared. But, I took in the beauty, and really tried to experience the mountain. My fear was real, but I kept at it because, I don’t bow to my fears, that’s just not me. I conquer them.

At the end of about 4 hours of skiing, I had fallen an average of once per hour, which I thought was good. I also, conquered my fear that I wouldn’t be able to do it, I’d get hurt, I wouldn’t be able to keep up with Ken. None of that was true. Now, I’m hoping for some more good snow and a free day to hit the slopes again because there are many more slopes and fear for me to slay.
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I am stronger and braver than I think. And you are, too. Each time you conquer a fear, and do something that scares you, you’ll be bit more confident, hold your head higher, and be more ready to take on the next challenge.
Do something today that scares you!

What scares you? What fears have you conquered?

In ~103 Days the Journey Begins

In about 103 days Ken and I will begin our journey to San Antonio, Texas! That’s right, we are departing from the grand Northeast for the big ol’ state of Texas. We are excited about all that awaits us but are definitely going to miss a lot of folks here (I’m especially going to miss all of my Trail Animals Running Club peeps). On our way to TX we are will be making a pit stop in Virginia. We will get to see some good friends who live there (and relax in their hot tub if we’re lucky!) but that’s not the only reason we will be stopping. We will be stopping for a few days so I can run the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 ultra marathon. This will be my second 100 mile race and I’m excited and nervous and I really, really want to kick ass!

Hoping to earn one of these guys in just 103 days at the Massanutten Mountain Trail 100

Hoping to earn one of these guys in just 103 days at the Massanutten Mountain Trail 100

Serious training for the race started last week. In the coming weeks, training is going to be tough: 4-5 days a week of hard training on the bike (long rides and intervals) along with stair workouts, a bit of elliptical, lots of circuit workouts and strength training, Bikram yoga, incline power walking on the treadmill + 1-2 days a week of long, hilly runs + active rest, heat/icing, foam rolling and stretching.  I also have to reign in my nutrition a bit and get my weight down a few pounds because I don’t want to be carrying extra weight for 100+ miles of crazy elevation change.  So, I will probably be using MyFitnessPal again to log all of my food.  I don’t enjoy doing this, but it’s just too easy for me to eat all day since I work from home.  Logging it helps me stay aware of my food intake and reminds me to slow down and consider if I truly am hungry.  Usually I’m not, so I will just sip on some water or hot tea instead.

Here,s the elevation profile. I definitely have my work cut out for me.

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I hope to do better than I have in the past updating my blog with info on my training and also my health coaching practice and my move from working in social media to the health and wellness sector. Exciting times, these are!!!

Small Steps to a Healthier You

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While at the grocery, you should spend 75% of your time in the perimeters of the store and the bulk of that time in the produce aisle. Image Credit: marycrimmins.com

For most people, leading a healthy life doesn’t start at the gym; it starts at the grocery store.  Making the decision to eat more real foods (fruits, vegetables, nuts, eggs quality meats and fish) and fewer processed, chemical-filled items that merely act like food (they lack nutrients and instead fill you up with calories and stuff that leads to inflammation, high-blood pressure, diabetes, etc.) is what changes lives.  When a person begins eating a diet full of veggies, fruits, lean meats, healthy fats, fish, etc, their bodies will begin changing and they’ll have a lot more energy and self-confidence to not only get more exercise, but to try new things and live life to the fullest.  

So, my challenge to you is the next time you visit the grocery store, buy one real food and mark a processed food you normally buy off your list.   

One small step at a time, we can lead healthier lives!  

 

Beach Ready 30 Day Challenge: Day 1

I’m beat.   Two workouts a day is definitely the remedy to insomnia – there is no way I’m not getting an awesome night of sleep!  So, here’s how Day 1 went.

WORKOUT 1

I started the day with Bikram Yoga which is the only yoga I’ve ever really enjoyed.  Bikram is a 90 minute class taught in a room heated up to 105 degrees and consists of 26 poses that are the same each class no matter where you are practicing.  Here is how Bikram Yoga Boston’s website explains the practice:

Bikram’s Therapeutic Hatha/Raja Yoga is a series of 26 yoga postures, and breathing exercises taught in a 90 minute class. Each pose is a challenge based on one’s personal abilities. The postures are done in the safe environment of a heated room so that deep penetration can relieve one’s body resistance without risking injury.

By the end of a class session, each individual will have worked every muscle, tendon, joint, ligament, internal organ, and gland while systematically moving fresh, oxygenated blood to 100% of the body. The result is restoration of health to all systems.

As you increase strength, flexibility and balance in your body, you will be energized, you will revitalize your mind, and you’ll be working on eliminating conditions of stress produced by fast paced lifestyles. These postures work synergistically and cumulatively to put the body back on track and in balance. Regular practice of this series of postures results in the healing and repair of injuries and illnesses, weight loss, and peace of mind.

I left Bikram this morning smiling.  I felt rejuvenated and I rocked my “yoga glow” all the way home.  After class I was starving.  I definitely have a problem with constantly eating, especially after working out, so I make sure I have lots of healthy options from which to choose.  I ate healthily all day, and felt fueled for my evening workout when the time came.

WORKOUT 2

I started out tonight’s workout with a fitness test that can be found in Jillian Michael’s book, “Making the Cut”.  I’ve had the book since ’09, but never got around to taking the test (guess I wasn’t ready to ‘Make the Cut’).  Below is the test and my  results.

Took this fitness test from Jillian Michael’s book, “Making the Cut”. My results will be posted in tonight’s blog. If you have about 7 minutes, give it a try. Share your results if you’d like.  This test will serve as another way for me to measure my success on day 30.

1. STEP TEST – Step on and off a 12-inch step for three minutes. Take your pulse for one minute. Record your pulse.

My pulse was 55 beats per minute!  I couldn’t believe it.   Excellent was <85 and I blew that out of the water.  Guess all that endurance cardio is paying off.

2. PUSH-UPS – Do as many push-ups (No girly push-ups) as you can in one minute. Record how many you did. 

I was striving for 35 which would land me in Jillian’s “Excellent” category again, but alas, I fell short.  32 pushups in 1 minute.
3. SIT-UPS – Do as many sit-ups as you can in 1 minute. (Keep hands on thighs and lift up enough so hands touch knees. Be sure to squeeze your abs while you do it. Make ’em count.) Record how many you did.

This was really hard for me.  I think I was more focused on form than speed because I only did 29 in one minute.  That score landed me in the “Average” category, 14 sit-ups from “Excellent”.
4. WALL SIT – Do a wall sit by placing back against wall and bend knees at 90 degrees. Maintain position as long as possible. Try to hold for at least 30 seconds but you reach awesomeness if you can hold 90 seconds or more. Record your time.

I reached “awesomeness” by staying in a wall sit for 93 seconds.  My thighs were on fire.

After shaking out my legs for bit, I decided to try this workout from Fitness Magazine next.  This “Beach Body Cinch & Sculpt Circuit Workout” was okay, but it didn’t totally win me over.  I used the 5lb dumbbells in my apartment and gave it a go for one round.  I enjoyed that it was something different, but overall, was ready for it to be over.  So, next I headed to the gym in my apartment building.  Here’s what I did:

50 sit-ups on the decline bench

50 Russian twists on decline bench

5 minutes on the bike at moderate effort (Level 10 resistance)

50 squats

50 V-sits

5 minutes on the bike at moderate effort (Level 10 resistance)

1 minute of single leg lifts with crunch

1 minute straight arm to forearm plank

5 minutes on the bike at moderate effort (Level 10 resistance)

1 minute lunges

1 minute side plank with dips (30 seconds each side)

1 minute leg lifts on each side

At the end of this, I was sweating a ton and felt like I got in a great workout.  I will post links to the exercises y’all may not know over the weekend.  Right now, I’ve got to get my beauty sleep.  Tomorrow, ride 50 miles in the a.m.