Thanks for visiting and have a great day!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Beats That Keep My Feet Beating The Ground (Or Treadmill)

So it has been over a week since I last updated this, but not to fear I have definitely gotten my running in!  Have you?  If not, get to it!

Now that I finally feel like I am in decent running shape, I have been seeing the goal of running a half marathon in 2011 seem closer than ever before.  I ran 4 miles yesterday and I must admit I kind of copped out (granted I had 2 new and absolutely adorable puppies to take care of, so that was part of the reason), but I stopped running at mile 4 when I felt completely fine and not tired at all (where as a month ago, 4 miles and I felt about done.  That 10K on Thanksgiving was rough, I won't lie).  But even though I felt guilty for a second because I cut my run so short, it also made me realize hey, at mile 4 I felt awesome, I could probably at least crank out 6 miles maybe even 7 if I feel super motivated and in the groove!  But what keeps us in the groove while running?  Is it listening to the pounding of our feet on the pavement/treadmill/track/some tangible surface?  Is it that feeling of sweat coming over your face and dripping on the back of your neck and realizing hey, I am totally burning off that cookie from last night?  Is it the rhythm of your heart beat in sync with your breathing patterns?  Or is it just a really awesome song/inspirational and up beat mix of music that somehow causes you to run 5 times better than if you were just running in silence?  For me, it is definitely all of the above; however, I must admit that if I am listening to an amazingly up beat and fast paced song, it keeps me going every time.  The pounding of my feet in tune with the beat of the song while simultaneously in sync with my breathing pattern and knowing that hey, I AM burning off that chocolate I ate yesterday, or today (or both), it is an incredible feeling.  When you get all of those elements just right, its as if nothing can stop you.  You are so relaxed and in the moment, it is almost as if you are meditating (which I swear I am sometimes).

But alas, concentration like this does take some time and focus.  It rarely comes right at the start of your run, or even when you first start out running.  Getting there takes some work but when you find that moment of Zen (does that mean being at peace with your mind and body?  Thats what I am trying to convey) while running, it is beautiful.  So I am going to attempt to help you reach that goal with a few tutorials on Stride, Breathing, and then a list of some of my favorite tracks to listen to while running (which for those of you who know me, will be surprised by my music choices!)

1.  Stride:  Ahh yes, its all in the stride (or all in the hips as they say in Happy Gilmore).  It seems like something pretty basic and easy, everyone knows how to run, right?  Just go for it!  It's not that simple if you are trying to put the least amount of stress on your body as possible.  Posture, foot position, leg extension, arm placement, hand placement, it all plays a role in the stride!
     First Posture: You should definitely NOT be slouched while running, this will cause your run to be so much harder than it needs to be.  And you may not even realize you are a sloucher (the first 2 or 3 years I ran, I didn't know I was a sloucher until my mom-who isn't a runner-had to tell me how silly I looked while running).  Keep your back and torso as straightly aligned as you can, try to keep your shoulders back as far as you can while still being relaxed; this will automatically help you stand up straighter.  Get lazy with your shoulders and you will soon start to slouch which can not only make you look silly, but can hurt your back, and not give you the same lung capacity while breathing or the same abdominal workout while running!  So stand tall and straight people!
    Second, Foot Position:  I know you think you are supposed to hit heel than toe, just like when you walk, right?  Wrong my friend.  I used to do this but turns out, this can put much stress on your Achilles Tendon (that realllllly long Tendon that runs straight up the back of your calf).  Injure this, and you will be a hurting (this is one of my greatest fears, I feel it would be so incredibly painful...)  Run just on your toes though, and you are now a sprinter!  Sprinters run on their toes mostly, but they also run short fast distances.  You, are not a sprinter you are a long distance or medium distance runner, we do not rely on our toes alone!  Instead, try to land on the middle of your foot.  Almost around the balls of your feet, and spring forward.  This will definitely be more comfortable and reduce injury.
    Third, Leg Extension: I always see pictures of runners on so many websites and their legs seem to be so far outstretched it is ridiculous!  I have extremely long legs but surprisingly I don't feel I have an extremely long extension.  I extend my foot in front of me almost to where it is close to straightening out, but I do not kick it high and back behind me, it usually kicks more up than out.  Really wide strides like this, where you kick back really high behind you (almost like you are doing a back kick) is more for sprinting as well but not for a long distance, this will tire you fairly quickly.  So keep those extensions as relaxed as possible, it's going to be a long ride.  Usually I base my stride on my breathing, 1-2 1-2 (I sometimes count them in my head to make sure I am consistent in my timing of hits on the ground).  I don't count as much any more but I used to before, give it a try I bet it will help!
    Fourth, Arm and Hand placement:  This is pretty basic, but if you are running a long distance, and you are pumping your arms like you are Usain Bolt (if you don't know him, pleeeaase google this man he is awesome) you are doing it all wrong.  There is no arm pumping in long distance running, unless you are finishing the last 1/4-1/8 mile of the race!  If you pump your arms, you are wasting precious energy, energy that your legs would be glad to use up.  Trust me, they would be very glad.  Instead, keep your arms bent at a 90 degree angle so that your forearms are hanging out around your hips.  Keep your arms as loose as possible, tighten them up and you are wasting energy and stressing yourself out for no reason.  Same goes for your hands, do not ball them into fists, this will put stress on your mind, body, and waste more energy (I tell ya, every ounce of energy counts!)  Keep your hands loose, try to loosely touch your thumb to your middle finger if you need to stop yourself from making fists.  You are not about to go attack anyone, so take a chill pill, don't look so aggressive dude!

2.  Breathing:  This can make or break a run.  I know I say that about so many aspects of running (it is more complicated than people realize) but this is probably #1.  Healthy lungs and good breathing pattern play probably THE MOST important role in your running adventure (followed secondly of course by your legs).  But in turn, other factors affect your breathing such as lung health, endurance, the amount of shape you are in, weight, etc.  But just for the heck of it, lets say you are already a healthy individual who DOES NOT smoke (and hopefully never will, it is a nasty habit) so you have very healthy lungs, you are of a weight that is not considered obese, and you are in decent physical shape.  How should you breathe for your runs?  First trick is, breathe with both your mouth and nose.  What?  Yes, mouth AND nose.  It is weird at first, it took me some time to get used to it, but it not only can reduce the tendency of getting cramps, but also helped you get the most amount of oxygen possible to those wonderful lungs of yours.  So when you breathe in, just try to take in air through the nose and mouth, but when exhaling, just through the mouth is fine (you need to release the air as quick as possible so you can take your next oxygen rich breath ASAP).  Next, try to find a pattern. I have been told it is somewhat similar to how women practice breathing through child birth (I wouldn't know anything about that but I have read this on several blogs and journals).  When you feel your heart rate elevating, take two quick breaths in, and one nice long exhale.  Keep that up, and you will acclimate your body quickly to your elevated heart rate.  And also, every once in awhile (especially on longer runs) take a really nice deep inhale and long exhale.  I wouldn't do this too often (maybe once every 7 to 10 minutes) but my Dad actually taught me to do this and it feels nice and helps relax you a little more.  Before I close this section of the post I would just like to say you cannot be a smoker and a runner.  The two just don't mix.  So if you do not smoke, please stay that way and take care of your wonderful lungs.  And if you do smoke, then try to find support to quit, I know people who have done it (like my Mom!) so it is possible!  And if you have smoked and quit, good for you never go back to those icky things.

Finally (sorry this is a much longer post than I had anticipated!) a sweeet running playlist!  Be prepared people who know me, you won't find any Beatles or Radiohead on my mix (those are my 2 favorite bands!)
You need songs that are upbeat and motivating.  Some people like rap music, I personally do not really enjoy rap music but I do enjoy some good techno-esque sounds while I run, such as Daft Punk!  And yes, I do put some other pop music on there haha.  Here it goes!

My Top Running Songs (I can add more as I think of them in later posts)
Daft Punk - One More Time
Daft Punk - Around The World
Daft Punk - Musique
Daft Punk - Face to Face (Cosmo Vitelli Remix)
Daft Punk - High Life
Kesha - We Are Who We Are
Black Eyed Peas - The Time
Lady Gaga - Bad Romance
Lady Gaga - Poker Face
Fedde Le Grand - Put Your Hands Up For Detroit (and all remixes that go with it)
The Chemical Brothers - The Boxer (this is a pretty awesome motivating one!)
The Knocks - Dancing With The DJ

These are just a few examples, I don't have my iPod on me right now so this is all just from memory!  I can extend this list in my next post when I have my iPod with me!

And Finally, a running food for you to all enjoy!!  This time, I was inspired by one of my best friends, Michelle.  She told me about these awesome Waffles last week and I am totally hooked on them.  So my food for you is, Whole Grain Waffles!  I bought the Kashi kind, but I know Costco has Kirkland ones and I am sure there are several other brands out there!  Full of whole grain, Omega-3s, protein, and healthy carbs, two of these waffles only set you back around 150 calories!  I would personally not put syrup on them, but instead try peanut butter, almond butter, or even some greek yogurt mixed with preserves of your liking (tastes like flavored cream cheese without the fat and the guilt....absolutely delicious!)  On a side note, that last recipe is also courtesy of my friend Michelle, she told me about it, I tried it, I fell in love.  Yum!!!!  These keep you full for hours before your run, or a great after run meal, full of all the goodies your body needs.

So get out there and run people!  It is almost February, get those legs a movin!  Hope all my advice has helped you all so far, let me know if you have any comments or questions!

Peace out!


Monday, January 3, 2011

New Year, New Shoes, New You!

Bonjour!  First off I hope everyone enjoyed their holiday celebrations to the fullest, and rang in the new year in the best way possible.  But enough about celebrating, lets get back to running!

First, I just wanted to say that my leg pains and possible injuries are a thing of the past.  I have ran everyday since Christmas Eve (minus 2 days off for a break) and have yet to be in pain!  The minimum amount I ran was 3 miles and the only thing I feel besides a healthy body is the usual slight muscle soreness.  I am not sure if I stated in here before about my leg pains, but it was pretty bad.  I have been running on and off for about 8 or 9 years now and have ran far distances (well, as far as 8 miles) before but this past 5 to 6 months, I have had horrible leg pains on my inner calf.  Not shin splints, just horrible muscle soreness, after only running 2 or 3 miles, which for me isn't too far.  Even after the Turkey Trot I was in a lot more pain than expected, it hurt to walk and even stretching for more time before and after runs, I could not shake this leg pain.  It was driving me absolutely crazy, I thought my legs were doomed.  I tried to think of reasons why this was happening, I made sure I was more hydrated before runs, ate enough protein in my diet, and gave myself 1 day in between runs, (when usually I could run 4 to 5 days in a row without problem).  Still, the leg pain would come back every single time.

I then started to observe my feet while running.  I would look down at my feet while outside and (when the weather forced me inside) on the treadmill.  I watched my stride, studied what my feet were doing, how my ankles moved, how my legs reacted as my feet pounded down again and again.  Now I know I have high arches in my feet, I always have, and therefore have always purchased running shoes with more pronounced arch support.  But what I noticed now was that each time I stepped, my ankles were slightly pointed out while my foot was going much more inward.  When I focused just on my stride, I could feel it; I was not landing properly on my feet, my feet kept rolling inward and my shoes were not supporting this movement at all, if anything they made it worse!  And each time I stepped down, I could feel more strain on the inside of my legs.  I had found my problem.  I was an over-pronator, and my Nike running shoes were not suited for my needs.  After some research, I found some wonderful Asics shoes that are specifically for people with a stride like mine.

The purpose of this story I just shared is to help all you current and future runners realize just how important the proper running shoe is!  It can make or break your run, the wrong shoe can destroy your stride and put you at risk for a lot of injuries, while the right running shoe can make you feel like you are running on air, or clouds, and that you can keep going forever.  So I am here to help you realize what kind of foot you have, how to identify the type of stride you have, and what types of shoes to look for to suit your specific stride.

1.  What kind of foot you have:  Basically, this test just determines if you have a high arch, a neutral arch, or flat feet.  There is a simple test you can use to determine this, all you need is your bare feet, a little bit of water in a bowl, and a paper bag.  Stand up, dip your bare foot (or both feet if you wish) into the shallow bowl of water and while your foot is still wet (but not drenched) step onto the paper bag to leave an imprint of your foot on it.  When you step off of the bag, your foot print should reveal of you have a high arch or not.  The skinnier the section of where your arch should be at on the print, the higher your arch is (which makes sense). And of course, the larger the section, the flatter your foot is.  When I did this, I had a more neutral print.  People with flatter feet tend to over-pronate and sometimes even severely over-pronate.  People with neutral feet to higher arched feet tend to over pronate (this is me) and people with high arches tend to under pronate. What does this mean?

2.  Over Pronation and Under Pronation:  Over pronation means that as you run, your foot tends to roll inwards more; therefore, you need a lot more support on the inner area of your shoe.  A sign of this can be seen on your current running shoes: If you look at the bottom of your shoe, pay attention to the inside edges of the shoe.  If you notice the inside tends to be a lot more worn out than the rest of your shoe, then you definitely over pronate!  A shoe with more support on the inside will help your foot stabilize more and keep it from actually over pronating, as over pronating results on more stress on the foot, which in turn can cause a lot of stress on your legs and hips.  These shoes will usually contain names or descriptions such as "Motion Control" or "Stabilizing" and though they tend to be a bit heavier, the results are well worth the extra ounces.  Under pronation means that as you run, your foot tends to move to the outside or outer edge more.  This results in more shock absorption on the legs and less on the heel (where it should be).  People who under pronate will have the outer edges of their current running shoes more worn out.  Under pronators need more cushioning throughout their entire running shoe in order to compensate for their reduced shock absorption.  These types of shoes will usually be marked as "Neutral" shoes (don't let the name fool you, they are for under pronators!) as these shoes will have ample cushioning throughout the entire shoe.  These shoes wont be as heavy as ones for over pronators, but will definitely feel a little bulky.  Other ways to see if you over or under pronate is to look at your ankles.  If your ankles are pointing more outwards, your foot is actually hitting the ground more on the inner sole (over pronation) and if your ankle is pointing more inwards, your foot is actually hitting more on the outer sole (under pronation).

Most runners are actually over pronators, but if you are curious check just in case!  If you are lucky enough to be a neutral strider, than shoes such as the Nike Free Runs are good for you because you don't need any corrective design in your shoes!

Hmm all this talk of pronation is making me hungry...maybe because I am typing this on my lunch break instead of actually eating my lunch...or maybe because I have a new wonderful pro-running food to share with you all!!!!!!!!!

WILD Salmon (emphasis on the Wild part) is a great food in general.  For me, I eat it raw or cooked (I actually prefer it raw when sushi-grade!)  Why is salmon so awesome?  For one, it tastes great but also it has wonderfully high levels of Omega-3 Fatty Acids!  What do these beautiful Omega-3s do for us?  For one, they act as an anti-inflammatory which means they can help us feel less sore after runs by soothing our achy joints.  For another, WILD Salmon and its yummy fishy oils can increase heart stroke volume (amount of blood the heart pumps in each contraction) and cardiac output (total amount of blood pumped by the heart).  This makes for a happy strong and healthy heart, and we all know how important that is.

Also a side note, I put a large emphasis on Wild Salmon (not Farm Raised!!!!!!!!) because farm raised salmon is typically a dirtier fish, with a lot of contamination not only from being in close quarters, but also from the *feed* they are provided with.  Why get icky farm-raised fish when you can have fresh wild caught salmon?  I won't lecture on my own personal food ethics and rules, but if you are interested go ahead and Google it or read up on some journals about it.  And that is my rant!

I hope this post helps you prevent possible injury and helps you get proper shoes for your run.  In case any of you were wondering, the shoes I had were Nike Air Max (a great shoe, just not for me) and I am now using Asics Gel Foundation (a great shoe that an expert helped me pick out).  And I love my new shoes they are awesome!

Happy Running, work off that Holiday food!