Science Backs Me Up

A few links for your Friday reading enjoyment. Some old, some new. All worth taking a look:

Weight training improves performance.

Running does not destroy your knees. So there.

Running in races helps to make you a faster runner.

Even Paula Radcliffe has bad days and wants to quit. Phew! I thought it was just me.

-If you are not inspired by Team Hoyt, you are dead in your soul.

*Bonus for you New Yorkers out there*

Join me and Aleah Stander of Flywheel Sports for an awesome BRICK workout (bike and run), compliments of lululemon athletica. Click here for details. Work out with me. Come on, you can do it!

Happy Friday, everyone.

Now go out and run!

Q & A: Speedy Recovery Tricks

Q. I’m pooped after my long run! Should I take the next day off from working out and lounge around all day?

A. I’d advise against that. It’s counterintuitive, but you’ll actually recover faster from a brutal workout if you do a short, easy workout the next day. Remember the Shake Out Recovery Run? This is the time to do it. You might be a little sore when you start, but by gently moving your body and increasing the blood flow to your muscles, you are providing your muscles with the nutrients they need to rebuild and recover. Take the day after that off to rest and recoup. Maybe you use that easy run to catch up with a friend who’s a little slower or enjoy the scenery. Whatever you do, take it easy but get up and move!

Q. All I want after a hard workout is get into a hot shower and stay there. For hours. That’s cool, right?

A. You know what’s better? Suffering for juuuuuust a few more minutes (10-15, to be exact) in an ice bath and then sit in your hot, steamy shower for as long as your little heart desires. The thing about the ice bath is that it gets your body to chill out and not swell up. When you’re out there running for a while or killing it during a really tough run, your blood is a-pumpin’ and your body’s fluids are moving at a faster rate than normal. When you stop, your body takes a while to slow back down and you can build up fluid (edema) in your extremities (legs!!) which is seriously uncomfortable and hinders your recovery. Ice bath first, hot shower second.

Q. I don’t really need to stretch after a long run, right?

A. Wrong. Right after a run is when your muscles are the most warm and your joints are the most lubricated. Prime stretch time. As you get older (ahem, I am not old, just old-er), these problems become more apparent. You youngsters probably don’t feel creaky just yet, but wait a few years. You will. In order to promote muscular recovery and prevent injury YOU MUST STRETCH AFTER YOU RUN. Seriously, I just watched Spirit of the Marathon, a documentary film that follows various athletes through their marathon training leading up to the 2005 Chicago Marathon. Deena Kastor won that marathon and in the film she talks about the importance of stretching after a run. So much so that, despite her confessed “laziness”, she has her husband stretch her because she knows how crucial that component of training really is. Treat it like your workout: make the time for stretching.

Now go out and run!

Better Than The Alternative Tuesdays: Failure

I didn’t used to try things if I knew there was a chance I might fail. The few times I did were usually auditioning for a musical role and not getting it, but that happened to everyone in college so it wasn’t nearly as devastating. No, I played it safe and did what I knew I could do. Bor-ing! And pathetic.

These days, I do my best to try things where I may very well fail and fail spectacularly. And it’s kind of awesome, actually. And worth doing, which is why it’s our BTTA theme today. Failure is totally an option and should always be an option.

If you’re not failing, you’re not really trying.

This is true in my academic/professional life and my fitness life. I’ve done yoga since college, but I have tried more classes, poses, teachers in the past two years than all thirteen years of practicing added up. I have fallen out of poses, spent a good portion of class in child’s pose and invited friends (who became juuuuust a little closer friends after being seen with me in public during and after a class) to witness my often ungraceful yoga practice in public. Oh, God bless your souls, dear friends.

I have also undertaken the challenge of my career: going back to school for my DPT. My, oh my, this is something I could very well fail over and over at. But I will keep on trying because, as my husband says, “It’s not that you can’t learn it, you maybe just need to learn it in a different way than the professor is teaching. You’re smart!” I, by the way, do not really consider myself smart, rather, I am a hard worker and willing to learn. Maybe that’s better? I have absolutely no ego about school at all. Anyway, I gotta tell you, that B that I earned in Chemistry was sweeter than any other accomplishment in my entire life. As my aunt, the boss of all of us, about my reaction: tears, shock and then jumping up and down on the cell phone with JB and the Obi-wans. Seriously, it was HUGE. And hard-fought and I almost failed. Really, I did.

Same with Calculus. I was saved by my work ethic and my willingness to ask for help from a very kind professor. The opportunity to fail is everywhere for me.

Even here on my blog. It’s been almost three months and I wasn’t sure anyone (besides the Obi-wans and all 50 of my close family members) would bother to read this. I would publicly fail and it would live forever on the Internet. Having all you fine people read is an honor and I do a little dance every time I read a comment or someone clicks on my page.

Putting yourself out there to fail is terrifying. But when you try your absolute hardest and the chance that you might fail is so real, when you succeed, it’s incredibly rewarding. I can’t even describe the feeling. It’s like a runner’s high. And it’s definitely a reason why it’s better to be here than there.

Try. Try hard and be willing to fail. Explore your edges and be vulnerable to failure. Run harder. Tackle some crazy obstacle. Do something that scares you.

As a final thought, I’d like to leave you with one of my all-time favorite athletes in one of my all-time favorite ads:

Preach.

Now go out and run!!

Too Much is TOO MUCH (and how to avoid doing too much)

You ever have that nagging pain that just won’t go away? Do you feel tired on every single run and never get anything resembling a “runner’s high”? Are you getting sick all the time? Do you have trouble completing what would normally be an easy run? Does it take you forever to recover from a workout?

You might be doing too much.

Things like tendonitis, stress fractures, torn labrums, illness, muscle strains and stupid injuries sustained from tripping over curbs and face-planting because you’re too tired to lift your own feet while running…wait, don’t tell me I’m the only person who’s done that. Well, there you go. I trip when I’m tired. It’s very embarrassing and always leaves a mark.

These things happen when you’re doing too much. And where your body is concerned, too much is too much.

As someone who has an auto-immune disease, I have to learn the very hard and painful way what is too much for me. For most of you out there, you can still power on through for days and maybe weeks before your body starts to talk to you. Maybe it comes in the form of tendonitis or a more serious injury. Whatever it is, you will know it because it will stop you dead in your tracks if you don’t take care of it. But there are always warning signs you’ve chosen to ignore. Here’s how to avoid doing too much:

#1. Schedule your days off. At least one day completely off from working out. This doesn’t mean, “Oh, I’ll hop into an easy spin class” or “It’s just a 60 minute yoga class. Stretching is good, right?” Wrong. Yoga is NOT just stretching and breathing. It is hard and it is a workout. Rest is rest. You’ll know it because you’ll feel RESTED after having done it.

#2. Add mileage gradually. Jumping into a marathon training schedule before you can run 8 miles straight without stopping or finishing in torturous pain is a recipe for failure and injury. Stress fractures and muscle strains are common in people who decide that this is the way to go and they are not easy to come back from. Plan ahead at least six months before undertaking such a long race. You’re much more likely to succeed if you take your time with adding miles.

#3. Cross-train year-round. Cross training isn’t just for the off-season. You should be cross-training throughout your race season, but just do it less. You don’t try to set your personal squat record during training season, but you do incorporate lower body strength training into your schedule at least once a week. See the difference? Cross-training will keep you healthy and balanced so that you can best stave off overuse injuries like tendonitis that happen when you do TOO MUCH of one thing.

#4. Listen to your body. It’s talking to you.

#5. If it hurts, don’t do it. If you have a sudden pain that just won’t go away, something is not right and you should stop what you are doing that causes that pain and get it checked out. Good rule of thumb for many things in the fitness world. You know the difference between “it hurts because it’s hard” and “it hurts because it hurts” so don’t go commenting on how all exercise hurts. It’s a different kind of pain and you know it when you feel it.

Really, though, you have to know your body and know your trigger points. When my hips start to ache, I know I’m overdue for new sneakers and I kick myself for not remembering to stop by JackRabbit last time I was down in Union Square. My hips never hurt unless it’s my damn shoes, so if they suddenly start hurting, it’s either the shoes or something serious. Know thy self.

Be kind to your body. It’s the only one you’re going to get.

Now go out and run!

From A Newbie Marathoner

Tonight, I am shamelessly going to direct you to my blog friend Ali’s recap of her very first marathon that she completed on Saturday in the Hamptons. You might think, “oh, the Hamptons sounds like ann exciting place to run…maybe I’ll run right into J. Lo or Alec Baldwin.” Can I tell you, it is no small feat that Ali #1. completed her first marathon and #2. did it out in the Hamptons. The Hamptons is the boonies, people. I mean, farmland and deserted roads with scattered mansions along the beach. The season of everybody going out and partying in the Hamptons ended Labor Day weekend and that place is a ghost town these days. No small feat at all for her to have slogged through late miles with few crowds to cheer her on (though her family gets and A++ for cheerleading). It’s not like the New York Marathon where there are crowds everywhere. So, mad props on both fronts, Ali!

Ali’s journey to the marathon was part of the Run For The Rabbit campaign sponsored by my favorite running shoe store here in the city, JackRabbit Sports. Ali has Chron’s disease and her charity of choice was the Chron’s and Colitis Foundation of America. She finished second in her fundraising efforts (amazing!) and raised over $20,000 for CCFA. This charity is close to my heart, too, because I was diagnosed and am learning to live with Ulcerative Colitis. I’d like to thank Ali *very* publicly for all of her efforts to help researchers discover more about our collective diseases and work towards a cure. *sniff*

Marathons (or any races at all) always mean more to me when I’m running for someone besides myself. Don’t get me wrong, I run for me, too. But when I’m struggling through a tough part of the race, what gets me through is not my vanity or my desire to be a better runner, it’s the idea that I’m out there for people who can’t be out there for themselves. Ali ran for herself, but she ran for me, too. And I will never forget that. *sniff*sniff*

Imagine the impact you could have on someone’s life just by choosing run for a charity…

Consider this next time you sign up for a race. Did you know you can always raise money at any race for any charity? Just contact them and find out how to set up a donation page. Simple as that.

Anyway, her recap is worth reading. It made me cry, which is apparently not too hard to do today. Ali’s hard work and dedication to her training is both admirable and inspiring. She is also to blame for my current addiction to 16 Handles.

Now go out and run, friends!

Maybe share a little about who/what inspires you these days???