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Archive for August, 2010

Stretch

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Those that have been following this blog know that I have been struggling as of late with some “on again, off again” knee pain (located on the inner part of my right knee).  A while back I went to a doctor who advised me to take up rowing instead.  Yeah, right. How does that help me qualify for Boston? After months of trying to ignore the pain, I finally went to see a PT and was told that I had some chronic hamstring inflammation. He gave me a simple stretch to do three times a day and recommended that I ride a stationary bike on shorter recovery days instead of run.

Lo and behold, the pain went away. After two weeks of this (and probably cycling just a little too hard) however, a new knee pain presented itself on the outside of my knee. I did a little research, found a stretch for ITBS, and within a couple of days everything was back to normal.

After certain types of runs, the knee becomes more aggravated than others. Striders tend to not agree with me, and VO2Max runs can cause a little tenderness, however, these two stretches have changed my running life. No longer am I running in fear of hurting my knee.  No longer am I worried that my knee won’t hold up under the pressure of training for Smuttynose. These two simple stretches, have changed the ballgame for me.  Just earlier this week, I went out for a 20 miler.  I ended up running nearly a minute faster per mile than I had planned (and a mere 26 seconds per mile slower than my planned marathon pace), a sure recipe for knee pain.  Guess what? Nothing.  No pain.  No tenderness.  Nothing.

This is what I posted on dailymile just a few days ago explaining the stretches:

So the two stretches are a hamstring stretch and an ITB stretch. The hamstring stretch is done in a chair where your feet can touch the ground. To stretch your right hammy, bend left leg to 90°, foot flat, and extend right leg out, heel on the ground, toes pointed at 45° angle away. Bend at the hips (NOT the waist or back) and hold for 30 – 45 seconds. For the ITB, take the right leg and rest ankle on left knee. Place your left hand under the right ankle, right hand under the right knee. Now lift up and to the left. You should feel a stretch in the ITB up to your butt. Hold for 30 – 45 second. Now you may be asking, what the heck do my hammy and my itb have to do with my knee pain. Well, for me the chronic hamstring inflammation and the mild ITBS were/are causing inflammation at the ends of the tendons which attach themselves, you guessed it, at and below the knee…my pain was in the back left of the right knee and on the right side of my right knee.

So that’s it.  Two stretches that have changed my running life, at least for now.  Short term, they have been nothing short of a miracle.  The verdict is still out on the long term, only because I really only started these stretches a few weeks ago.  Still, if the way my knee felt after a pretty fast-paced (for me) 20 miler is any indication, I’m keeping these stretches in the arsenal.

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Honey Water

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Lately I’ve been hydrating and recovering with Nuun Water and mix1.  Both are great at what they do.  I love that the Nuun tablets make them completely portable.  I also find that after a tough workout, mix1 definitely feeds me the nutrients I need to be refreshed sooner.  Both are great for on-the-go athletes that need to throw something in the bag for a trip to the gym.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depends on how you see it), the other day I was out of both Nuun tablets and mix1.  I was setting out for an easy paced 12 miler so I knew I needed something more than just plain water.  As I scoured the kitchen, hoping to find a stray tablet, I recalled what I had read in Born To Run about the Tarahumara drinking chia frescas, a combination of chia seeds, lime juice, honey and water.  It was said that this simple concoction kept these runners going for hours and hours.  Last summer I tried making chia frescas on my own, but had found that the chia seeds tended to clog the spout in my water bottles.  Nothing more frustrating that being 30 – 40 minutes into a run, squeezing your water bottle and getting nothing out of it.  My solution?  I took out the chia seeds and ended up with a citrus honey drink.  By the time Fall came around, I had simplified it even further by taking out the lime.  This simple honey water solution powered me to my 7 minute half marathon PR in November (1:33:14).

I’m not sure why I eventually moved away from the honey water.  Maybe it was because I ran out of honey one day or because my buddy Mike was recommending Nuun.  I don’t remember.  Regardless, but late winter I had switched to Nuun almost exclusively.

So the other day I was setting out for a 12 miler, and with no Nuun available, I went back to my old reliable.  What a pleasant “re-discovery”.   A nice side effect of drinking the honey water instead of the Nuun was that I didn’t need to pack any Gu’s either.  Taking a few sips of honey water every 10 – 20 minutes provided me the steady stream of simple carbohydrates I needed to maintain a consistent pace.  I also found that I was needing fewer gulps per mile .  I’m sure I’ll still mix in the Nuun regularly (you really can’t beat the convenience factor), but I have really enjoyed the honey water over the last four or five workouts.  This past Sunday I felt refreshed and able to continue after at 15 mile marathon paced run.  I’m still tinkering with the ratios, but a 5 – 10% solution seems to be working best for me.

Now if I could only get to hand out honey water at Smuttynose and New York, I’ll be all set!

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I often talk about the importance of running.  How it is a wonder drug, a stress reliever, a life saver.  Running is, aside from my family, a prime focus of my life.  But sometimes, things happen that make you realize just how trivial something like a quest to qualify for Boston can be.

Recently a friend of my wife’s went through (is going through) the nightmare that every parent fears.  Her 9-year-old, pre-verbal, autistic daughter was repeatedly abused physically by her bus driver.  This 24 year-old woman would smile at my wife’s friend while driving away saying, “Bye Mom”, simultaneously twisting her daughter’s fingers to the point of spraining them.

The wife does a much better job articulating what we can do here:

http://adiaryofamom.wordpress.com/2010/08/23/stories-for-another-day/

and her friend’s story is on Huff Po here:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kim-stagliano/post_701_b_685954.html

We all don’t agree on the causes of autism, but I do think that we can all agree that there is no excuse for abusing children.  Please take the time to read the wife’s post, but more importantly, take a moment to read Kim’s post and leave a comment.  The more comments her post receives, the more likely it will reach the front page of the Huffington Post.

As the wife said:

If enough of us read it (and comment on it!), we’ll get that damned thing to the front page. In so doing, we’ll shine a light on the desperate need to safeguard these vulnerable kids. We’ll make a public statement that we WILL NOT ABIDE by the abuse of our precious babies – whether our babies are two or forty-two. We will declare this atrocity quite simply INTOLERABLE.

Whether it’s my post, the wife’s post, or Kim’s post, please pass this along.  Please help speak for those who can’t.

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Why do you run?

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Hey Folks,

This is not a typical Run Luau Run blog post where I espouse the wonders of running and try to convince you why you should run. No, today and for the next several weeks (months?) I am asking for your help.

I need YOUR contributions to a project that I’m working on. Interested?

All you need to do is send me a paragraph or two telling me why you run and/ or why you think others should run. E-mail it to me at “runluaurun at gmail dot com” (written out so the bots don’t start sending me spam).

If you can, please include a picture of your favorite running shoes and tell me what kind of shoes they are. Also, please let me know how you would like to be referenced (real name, nickname, pseudonym, etc) just in case this project actually ever sees the light of day.

The more responses I get, the sooner I can put it all together, so please don’t be shy about forwarding this to your running friends and spreading the word.

Thanks!

Luau

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Confidence.

Confidence is sexy, isn’t it? The thing is, none of us necessarily feel confident all of the time. However, there is a simple way to exude confidence, turn up your appeal and do something that is good for your long term health. It’s the simplest thing really. It takes just a moment to do.  It’s something you already know how to do, but it may take you some time to get used to doing again.

So what is this one thing that can improve how people (including yourself) see you?

Let me start with a trip to the pool.

Every summer, my family and I have joined a local pool. It’s been great for the kids and is a nice way to end the day after camp. It is also a fun place to people watch. You get to see all kinds. What struck me the other day was what a difference one thing could make in how I perceive a person. Two sisters walked by. They were around my age, maybe a little younger, a had a very similar look. Empirically, I think that they were equally pretty, but one definitely stood out from the other in terms of appeal. I’m not talking solely sex appeal either. It was that one was simply more appealing than the other.

The one difference between the sisters?

Posture.

That’s it. One was slouched over, arms crossed, back bent, hips pushed forward. There was no attempt being made to straighten herself out. The other had her shoulders open and down, her head held high. You could see the confidence beaming from her face.

I was instantly brought back to my childhood when my dad used to harangue me about good posture. He would threaten to send me to military school or tie a stick to my back (jokingly, of course…right, dad? Right?). It wasn’t until he passed along the wisdom of his former kung-fu teacher, Sifu Steve Williams, that I really got it though. My father hadn’t taken kung-fu in 10 years at that point, but this particular nugget had stuck with him. His Sifu (the kung-fu equivalent of Sensei) had told him to think of a very thin, taut, golden thread coming out of the top of his head and extending up to the sky, in the process slightly pulling him up. If he slouched the thread would break. The point was to try to keep the thread in tact throughout the day.

That was it. It’s that easy.

Go ahead. Try it.

You naturally fall into good posture.

Now take a deep breath. Do you feel it? With good posture, your lungs open up and allows your body to take in more oxygen. That extra oxygen can wake you up, sharpen your senses and give you an overall sense of confidence. And with that, we’re back to the beginning. Confidence. Confidence is sexy.

I could go on about the myriad benefits of good posture, from the increased oxygen intake, to the maintenance of good spine health, to better running form, but I’ll leave it at confidence.

If you’re feeling down, or think that maybe you’re not getting the attention you’re due, step outside your skin and take a good, hard look at yourself. Odds are you’re slouching and unwittingly shutting out the world. Think of that golden thread and see if you can go through the day without breaking it. Obviously you have to duck under things or nod your head in certain situations, but try to stick to the spirit of the golden thread. My bet is that you’ll end the day a lot happier than you ended the previous one.

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Where do you prefer to run?

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I’ve taken some time off to rest my knee.  In fact, when I resume my marathon training schedule on Wednesday with a medium long run (12 miles at a nice and easy pace), it will be my first run in exactly 2 weeks.  My original plan was to take 10 days off, but that meant starting yesterday with a 17 miler.  Felt a little much, so I decided to give myself one more day before resuming my schedule.  Fortunately (or unfortunately as the case may be) the schedule said that today and tomorrow were off days.  With 8 weeks to go I have the luck of coming back on a recovery week.  Nothing like a well-timed injury.

That said, I’m still a little nervous.  The knee feels pretty good, but I know that can change with one misstep, one tweak.  Maybe I need to face the fact that I’m not 20 anymore and that I can’t push myself as hard as, well, as hard as I wish I had pushed myself when I was younger. 

Isn’t it a shame that youth is wasted on the young?

Had I had the determination I have at 40 at the age of 20, who knows what kind of runner I might have become?  World-class?  Definitely not.  But could I have run a marathon with a 2:–:– handle?  Maybe…just maybe.

I am in better shape now than I have ever been in my life, save maybe when I was 16 or 17, when I was practicing kung-fu 2-4 hours a day, 6 days a week.  But being in the best shape of my life doesn’t change the fact that I’m 40 years old and I don’t bounce back as quickly as my mind and will would like.

Looking ahead at my schedule (I’m following the Pfitz 12/55 program from Advanced Marathoning), there are some interesting weeks coming up.  Some lactate threshold runs, some marathon pace runs and some VO2 Max runs – all sessions that produce a little extra pounding on the knee.  Running in VFF’s help reduce that pounding, but the fact that I’m still a heel-striker doesn’t help.  I’m actually toying with the idea of buying some shoes that may play to my heel-striking tendency – not to convert back to regular shoes, but just to mix it up.  My buddy Pete is pretty convinced that he has remained injury free in part because he mixes up what he puts on his feet from run to run.  There’s actually some science to that – maybe a topic for another post.

Where am I going with this?  I don’t know.  The heart and mind are determined, but the body is not as enthusiastic or resilient.  Is that enough?  Can it be enough?  I’ve only been running for 20 months.  Do more experienced runners go through this?  Or are they simply physically more gifted? How do they adjust?

The next couple of weeks will be telling.  I want to be able to complete the plan, knowing that if I do, and am healthy, I’ve got a pretty good shot at 3:20:59 at Smuttynose.  I have two friends, Brendan and the aforementioned Pete, who will be running it as well.  Brendan is shooting for 3:20 like me.  Pete, if all systems are go, may be shooting for a 3:15.  Running with those guys will be a big help to all three of us.  Like any daunting task, it’s much easier to tackle 26.2 miles with a group as opposed to alone.   The thing is, I can’t push myself to complete the plan and go into the Smuttynose hobbling – defeats the whole purpose of training, doesn’t it?  I do think I have to finally face the fact that I’m older now, so maybe it’s a little more important to stretch, do the warm up runs, do the cool down jogs and stretch afterward.

So I take my first steps back on Wednesday with a mix of anticipation and trepidation.  I’ll have to resist the urge to go all out, but also have to be careful not to run too conservatively.

When did I get old?

What’s your approach to training when coming back from an injury?  And for the older runners like me, has your approach changed with time?

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