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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Above the belt.

We runners tend to think below the belt. And it makes sense, I mean, common issues of concern to runners are piriformis, hips, hamstrings, calves, ankles, and feet. When something goes wrong below the belt, rehab, and worse, time off looms ahead more often than not. Thus, as runners we also pay more attention to these problem areas. We strength train to prevent imbalances. We stretch and do yoga to keep things loose and nimble. We ice bath to reduce inflammation. We roll on the foam roller to work out the kinks.

But what about above the belt? Last Saturday I was at my brother-in-laws 40th birthday celebration/hooraw out in Hammett, Idaho. There was zip-lining, shooting, dancing, and mini-motorcycle racing. While shooting at clay pigeons (notice I say AT), my shoulder dislocated. Now, this has happened before but I can normally put it back into place. Not this time. And so, for the rest of the night and into Monday I had a lame wing. On Monday afternoon, my physical therapist got things back in line and relieved the pain. Turns out, my shoulder joint is pretty damn loose - thus the continual dislocation issue.

Which brings me to my point, we spend so much time treating below the belt that we often neglect above the belt. Aside from core work, what do we do to care for our whole body? Namely, our arms, shoulders, neck, upper back, etc. Sure, we may lift weights and do yoga but do we care for the upper half with the same tenacity as the lower half? Not often. The concept of following a concentric action with an eccentric one comes to mind. As well as working all muscle groups evenly to stay balanced above the belt. For example, I do loads of push ups and consequently have tight pectoral muscles but I don't stretch that area. This tightness has been one of the causes of my shoulder being easily pulled out of alignment.

For the next couple weeks, I am going to take things down to the basics. Strip my strength routines down to the core and put my concentration into correct alignment and balancing the muscle groups. Another thing we runners are is lazy. Yes, I said lazy. We put so much emphasis on the running aspect of training and sometimes half-ass the rest. I am as guilty as anyone.

So, take OFF the belt and treat your body as a whole unit. You might be amazed at what it gives you in return.

Monday, May 9, 2011

For the love of MUSIC!

The role of music in running is one of those topics that runners are passionate about. It is a common assumption that “real” runners don’t run with music. It is a natural thing, a rhythm thing, a ‘one with nature’ thing. Whatever it is, I want to know if YOU run with music and why? No judgment here; I am simply interested in your thoughts on the matter. 

Personally, it is a rare occasion to see me running with music – unless for some odd reason I am on the treadmill - I have to be pretty unmotivated and lethargic to put in the ‘phones. But this being said, I need music when I am lifting, practicing yoga, or confined to an elliptical. I LOVE music; it is an important and vital part of my life. Without music I would be one cold bee-otch. It engages my ‘feelers’.  

Perhaps, one of the reasons that I do not run with music is because I hear music everywhere – especially when running outside. My feet and my breathe keep the rhythm while the sounds around me make up the melody. The sound of dogs barking, cars roving, the river roaring, cows grunting, and even the silence make up the meat of my running songs. Then there are the days that I actually sing in my head or have that one, lame, annoying, yet motivating song stuck in my head – unfortunately, it is normally one or two lines of the song on repeat. Running is also my only real down-time where I am actually forced to get inside my own head and see what’s there; sometimes confusion but often unexpected clarity.

On the flip side of the no-music-runners, there are runners I know that won’t leave the house without their music device of choice. It is their motivation, their trusted running partner, even their timing device (run for 8 songs). They choose their races based on whether they are ‘music friendly’ or not – this shows the genius of the Rock n’ Roll race series blending race + music = insane popularity. 

Okay, your turn. Confess. Are you plugged or unplugged and why? If so, top 5. Rock on!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

When the obvious eludes you.

My last post was about an ever present issue that most runners can identify with - pooping. As you may recall, I was stressed about what was going to happen in the Eugene half, worried if I would get through it without a pit stop or two or three. I am happy to report, I did indeed get through it with NO stops. Happy on that front.

However, it is not as simple as it sounds and now it is time for a confession. . . I am not as smart as I think I am. Yes, that is right - shocking I know (perhaps a bit of sarcasm here). Let me explain. This realization came from a number of sources. First, last week I went to coffee with my good friend and registered dietitian, Chris Chandler - also a stellar designer, follow him at - I confided in him that I was truly stressed about this stomach issue and asked for advice. He suggested keeping the fiber down for several days before the marathon and of course, not eating anything different from the usual. In passing, he made a comment about the stomach and how it will begin to shrink when deprived of food for a period of time then kicks back into gear when fed. Thus, erratic eating could easily cause stomach issues. Later that day my amazing massage therapist, Laura, made mention of the same thing. It all got me thinking about my eating habits.

This is where my confession comes into play. While I would say my eating habits are quite good - all the right things go into my body and very few 'bad' - I am erratic in the timing of my eating. For example, it is not uncommon for me to eat breakfast after a run and then not eat for up to 7 or 8 hours. I am in no way attempting to starve or lose weight or anything of the sort, I just don't feel hungry or am just too busy (lame excuse) to take the time to eat. Once I began examining how often this is the case I realized it is the rule rather than the exception. And so, for the three days before my Sunday race I began an experiment, I ate something every two hours. Lo and worked! From day one, everything was solid and more regular. When I got through three runs without stopping more than for me initial "clean out" I knew I was on to something. Something so obvious that it made me feel stupid.

It has not escaped me that often the rules we apply to others we tend to ignore. Somehow we think we already do it right, when in reality we could all use regular reality checks. So, real quick like, how is your training going? How are your fueling habits? Are you hydrating adequately? Are you getting adequate rest? Are you running recovery pace on the right days? Are you crushing your workouts just because you can?

In short, are you actually listening to your body? Are you applying all your 'rules' to you? If not, why not?