Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Ice Ice Baby

I have been dealing with shin splints off and on for well over a year.  I have also had some Achilles tendonitis.  One of the best things you can do for both of these injuries is to ice them several times a day.  

Do you still use a bag of peas or ice?  There are more effective ways to ice those pesky injuries.  Two popular options are the cup method and the CryoCup.  By applying the ice using the cup method, you are essentially combining the benefits of using an ice pack with massage, which will reduce the time it takes for the cold to penetrate to the injured muscle or joint.  You greatly reduce the amount of time you will need to ice.  I typically will use the cup method for about 5-7 minutes per session. With a bag of ice you would ice for 15 minutes and still would not get the same benefits as the cup method.

The CryoCup is a plastic cup with a ring that holds the ice when removed from the cup.  This allows you to keep your hands from getting too cold when holding the ice.  You can find the CryoCup on Amazon starting at about $7.50.
There is a cheaper option though.  I bought a package of solo cups at the store.  I fill up a cup or two and keep them in the freezer.  Make sure to leave a little room at the top of the cup because the water will expand when it freezes.  Once frozen you can just pop the ice out or cut the cup open.  To keep my hand from getting too cold, I just hold the ice with a folded wash cloth.  This is an inexpensive solution to icing that works well.  A 50 count package of Solo cups is about $3.50 at your local grocery store. Some people also use Styrofoam or paper cups. Make sure to put a towel under you so the water does not go everywhere.

Let me know what other methods of icing you have used and how it worked. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

When You Encounter A Bump In the Road…

I have been training diligently over the past year.  When I was in between my half marathon trainings, I had been doing body weight High Intensity Interval Trainings (HIIT) to strengthen my core.  I have been getting faster and stronger.  This morning, I hit my weight goal of 165 lbs.  I have lost a total of 21 pounds since I ran my first half marathon on April. 

There are a lot of things that I have done right.  I have been following a training plan and have been trying to give myself enough downtime to allow my muscles to recover.  I have also been pushing myself on my speed and pace runs.  It has lead to PR’s in my 5k and 10k trainings. 

There are also many things I have done wrong.  I am still lazy when it comes to taking enough time to warm up and cool down.  I foam roll on a regular basis, but should be a little more consistent.  I know my training will never be perfect, but I am proud of where I am at.  So what do you do when you are 9 weeks into a 12 week training plan and you get sick?  I kept thinking that my race is in three weeks.

Last week I went on a business trip into the mountains.  I came back with several issues.  I had severe back pain and light headedness.  After a day or two I started to get migraines.  I felt like I was falling apart and the only thing I could think about was how all of my hard work was going to be wasted.  I went to the doctor and he said I had fluid in my right ear which was causing the light headedness.  He gave me a shot and meds for the migraine and I am going to go to the chiropractor for my back.  I wanted to run the second my head stopped hurting, but my wife (the only one with common sense in our relationship) told me that I really should just rest a little more.  Reluctantly, I listened.  See honey, I do listen on occasion.

From my research over the past year and a half, I know that I will not lose any gains that I have made if I take a little time off (research shows that you can take about 2 weeks off before you lose any progress).  I ran yesterday and was right where I needed to be.  My endurance isn’t quite where it should be, but that can be attributed to not feeling 100%.  I just need to remember that if I do not allow my body to heal, then I will probably injure myself more.  I am going to just follow the rest of my running plan and see what happens.  You can never stop random things from getting in the way of your training plans, but you can decide how to move forward.  Think positive and there are no limits to what you can do. 

Feel free to share things you have overcome in your running careers.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Topo Athletic MT Trail Shoe Review

So it has only been about 2 weeks since I wrote a product review on the Altra Instinct 2’s.  I wrote about the benefits of a zero drop/low drop shoe and the wider toe box.  I also stated that I might have found the perfect shoe for me.  While I love my Altra’s, I may have found its replacement already, at least for some of my runs.

Topo Athletic recently sent me a pair of the MT trail shoe to review.  They are great looking shoes, have a low 2.0mm. heel drop, which is low enough to make running in an ideal running form easier.  The MT also has the wider tow box just like the Altras.  It can be used on the road or trail with ease.

A little bit of history on Topo Athletic.  Tony Post was the President of a large shoe company and has over 30 years in the shoe industry.  A year and a half ago, Tony started Topo Athletic with the desire to create a shoe company that would help you train smarter.  He didn’t like how most shoes squished your toes, which is where the wide toe box comes into play.  He wanted to make a shoe that was nimble and allowed you to stay connected with the ground (i.e. feel the ground as you run).  Topo Athletic strives to make the best shoe available and welcomes customer feedback on how they can improve.  So now let’s get back to the MT’s.

My initial reaction is that the shoe looks great and felt great right out of the box.  My only initial concern was that there was not as much cushion as I was used to.  That concern was quickly squashed though.  I have been on three runs so far with the MT.  I went on two road (one fast and one easy) runs and a trail run.  The shoes felt amazing.  They were very quick on the road and had the perfect amount of cushioning.  The MT is also very light at around 8 ounces.  When I went on my trail run, I was running up granite outcroppings and felt like I was completely connected to the ground.  I never felt like I was going to slip and the material was extremely durable.  On multiple occasions I caught my toe on the granite and was worried that I would tear through the shoes outsole.  They didn’t even have a scratch on them.  They are a snap to clean as well.

The Topo MT retails for around $100 on the Topo website.  Give them a try and you will not be disappointed.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Are You Putting Safety First?

The long days of summer are starting to get shorter and before you know it, daylight savings will be here.  I thought it was only fitting to talk about being safe on your runs. 

When running in low light or when it is really dark out, there are some important things to keep in mind.  I am very fortunate to live in an area that has great sidewalks that are well lit.  We also have designated bike lanes.  When running on the road, you should always run facing traffic.  This will allow you to keep an eye on the cars that are coming and get out of the way of people who are texting and driving.  It seems like that is becoming a bigger issue. 

When it is darker out, you should be more aware of your surroundings.  This includes not listening to music or at least having the volume low enough so you can hear what is going on around you.  Also, you should look for animals and other people who are out.  If you make your presence know, most predators will leave you alone.  Police suggest that if you can identify an aggressor, they will most likely leave you alone and look for someone who is not paying attention.  Try to run in areas that are lit by street lighting or have other runners around. 

I strongly suggest wearing some sort of running light.  There are plenty of good options out there.  The Nathan Strobe Light is one cheap and effective option.  They are small and you can replace the batteries, which last about 100 hours.  You can find the Nathan Strobe Light on Amazon for about $10.  There is also the Nathan Light Bender, which is an arm band that lights up.  It sells for about $16 on Amazon.  There are several running vests out there as well.  I recently came across a running vest called the Tracer 360.   It looks like a great product and I hope to review it on my blog in the next few months.  The Tracer 360 has fiber optic cables that light up and can change colors.  It is waterproof and will make you stand out to traffic.  The Tracer 360 can be purchased on Amazon for $57. 

When it comes to protecting yourself, pepper spray is a good option.  I would strongly recommend that you look at the pepper spray canister to make sure you understand how it works.  If you need to use it quickly, the last thing you want if for you to have difficulties spraying your attacker.  You could always buy some silly string at the dollar store and practice with at home (if you have kids, I am sure they would love to try and sneak up on you).  Make sure to not spray the pepper spray into the wind because you will most likely spray yourself too and could leave you immobilized. 

I know this is a scary subject for many runners, but if you think about these situations before hand, you will be better prepared in case the situation ever presents itself.  Stay safe out there and enjoy your cooler fall runs.  If you have any tips for being safe in lower light situations, please add your comment below.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Altra Instinct 2 Review

I have to start by saying that it is overwhelming how many different types of shoes there are and if you are newer runner, I would strongly suggest going to a local running shop and having them fit you.  They will help you determine what type of shoe would be best for you.  There are neutral and stability shoes, shoes for over and under pronation, and shoes with maximal or minimal cushioning.  Go into it with an open mind.  Just because you rocked the Nike Air’s back in the day doesn’t mean that a pair of Nike shoes will be your best fit for running.    The last time I was in my local Fleet Feet store, I heard a lady say that she couldn’t wear any of the shoes that were picked out to her because they wouldn’t go with any of her outfits.   Are you kidding me???  I totally understand wanting shoes that look good, but come on.

I ran across a shoe company on Facebook a while back called Altra.  They started because the founder felt like too many shoes have gone with a higher heel drop (where the heel is higher than the front of the foot).  The problem with this is that most shoes, especially with a higher heel drop tend to make you heel strike, which is a major contributor to running injuries.  Golden Harper, the founder of Altra proposed the idea of a zero drop shoe, which would promote more of a natural stride. 

One of the best things about Altra as a company is the literature that they provide with their shoes.  They not only provide a great pair of shoes, but they educate their customers on the proper fit, running form, and benefits of using the Altra shoes.  Their shoes are gender specific as well since women’s feet are different then men’s feet.  Altra shoes use their zero drop and wide foot shaped toe box to alleviate pain associated with Bunions, forefoot pain, excessive pronation, IT Band issues, runner’s knee and shin splints.  I will now review the Altra Instinct 2.

I have to say that I might have found the perfect shoe (for me). It is cushioned, but there isn’t too much cushion like some Hoka shoes.  I really like the Zero Drop design and the wide toe box.  I do have to warn you though that they do look somewhat funky.  My wife calls them clown shoes.  The wide toe box lets your toes spread out naturally, unlike most shoes that pull your big toe in.  I have found that in using my Instinct 2’s, my IT Band, hip issues, and shin splints have gone away.  I can run longer with less energy expended and I love the way they feel.  By letting my toes spread out in the big toe box, I am more stable and comfortable when I run.  I did have some minor calf tightness the first day I ran in them because I was not used to the zero drop design.    Overall, these shoes are amazing.  They are durable and should last quite a while. 

I love Altra as a brand.  They make an incredible shoe and they educate their customers on becoming a better runner by improving their form, which I wish more companies would do.  Give a pair of Altra’s a try and let me know what you think.