Saturday, December 29, 2012

Advice For a New Year - Part 1

I needed to start filling out my advice section located here, so I decided to focus on what I am focusing on going into the new year. I am taking a years worth of knowledge and putting it to the test. Here is what I have scrolled so far (this is on the advice page for future reference):

12/28/12 - Advice For A New Year

I am nearing the 1 year point in my training, and I feel, with the approaching new year, that I should offer my first advice. Additionally, this page had said "under construction" for way too long, and for that I apologize. Here we go, my advice heading into the new year:

1. Love and protect your knees, feet and ankles - I am currently 1 week into a 2 week rest period from running. I should have done this much sooner, but I was stubborn and thought the injury would go away if I lessened road running and stuck to the elliptical; I was wrong. So, now I am icing and using compression everyday. Additionally, I am having to make concerted efforts to stay off it and just let the healing happen. Let this be a lesson folks - take care of your vital areas. Going into the new year I have the follow plan to help:

A.) continue to take glucosamine, fish oil and maintain a healthy diet that includes natural antiinflamatories (broccoli, blueberries, etc)

B.) continue to work on my running form. I am switching from a minimal shoe to a barefoot style pair of Vibram Fivefingers. I was too much of a heel striker, now I am mid foot - my aching calves will tell you that after every run.

C.) I will continue to do strength training in order to maximize my running form for longer periods. Additionally, the stronger my body, the less my joints will have to compensate! I will even make time for this during marathon training by incorporating two-a-days a few times a week.

D.) Ice Ice Baby! I am going to religiously ice after runs, especially of the long 10+ variety. I have ice packs for a targeted approach, but I have also been advised to soak in an ice bath for 10-20 minutes.

E.) I am going to be more intelligent with my stretching. Stretching is one of those aspects of training that splits the running population in half. Some say to stretch and some say you shouldn't. Some say you should but only before running, while other say during or after. I am having a hard time keeping up, so I am just going to experiment and see what works. I will report back later. The one thing I am going to stretch for sure is my calves, which is in direct correlation to research I have done in regards to barefoot running.

F.) I will use massages. I have heard from various runners that I need to invest in a foam roller and use it after every run. This is said to aid in recovery and help prevent injury.

G.) I will use various forms of compression before, during and after running. I have compression shorts, pants, socks and sleeves for my calves. This aides in the recovery of muscles by helping blood move to the areas it is needed most. Compression can also help get you back from an injury, or help you stay away from the sidelines.

Beyond Advice

As my rest/healing period comes to its half-way point, I had to find things to keep my mind occupied (besides food - ohhhhh the food!). It was decided that a touristy tour of Cleveland was the answer. First came food (of course) of the polish variety (you are welcome grams). Sokolowky's University Inn is some serious business, so I wasn't hungry the rest of the day. The view from the restaurant is pretty great (for Cleveland):

This excursion was followed up by a trip to The Christmas Story house. I loved the movie, and I had been meaning to go for awhile. Fortunately, Groupon answered the call, and it happened at last. It wasn't the most thrilling of experiences, but it made for good pictures (don't worry, I did not shoot my eye out):

Finally, the day was completed at the west side market where I got some highly inexpensive blueberries, which are meant to help in the healing of my knee.

Speaking of my knee, I really think it is making true progress finally. This is the first day where I feel that way. I can't wait to get back out there, even in the cold. I am going to appreciate it so much more!

What advice do you have going into the new year?

What have you learned this last year?

What do you still want to learn?

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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Holiday Happenings and Vibrams

Hello everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful, fantastic, engaging and otherwise entertaining holiday! I for one enjoyed myself, but I have been dealing with a cold for the whole week. Sometimes colds come and go quickly, but this one I classify as a slow burner. Christmas evening was especially bad because I had used up so much energy the past few days and in the morning, so by the time family and dinner came around, I was about to pass out into my Waldorf salad. Yesterday I began to feel much better, especially once I got a salted caramel mocha I my system from Starbucks (thank you gift cards). Today is even better, and I am starting to think I will be good to go for the New Year celebrations to come.

Yesterday's caramel mocha came with a series of shopping excursions, so I think I needed it. We had decided that it was a good plan to get out in the morning before the "blizzard" hit northeast Ohio. We ended up being out in it for the vast majority of the snowfall. The storm never developed into the end-all of storms, and I wasn't shocked. We did get some good snow, but it wasn't something that was going to keep me from getting things done. I have to say, I was disappointed because I love snows, and I love storms, so I was hoping for something epic.

When we got out, part of me was expecting the sore scenario, as I dutifully recorded on Christmas Eve Eve. Instead, most people chose to remain home to wait out the storm. This left us free to get things done without throngs of desperate and sad shoppers getting in the way. I hate shopping, and I hate crowds, so I was very pleased.

While we were out, I made my way to a local running store and purchased my first pair of Vibram Fivefingers. I have been talking about this idea for a long time, and I had received some gift cards to the store. I wanted to talk about the concept to the store owner first (same guy I purchased my Brooks Purecadance from). He seemed very positive about the barefoot movement, so I was excited to try some things on. I told him I wanted to see a variety of barefoot style shoes so that I could see which felt right (this is why running stores are the best). I tried on a pair of Fivefingers first, and my initial reaction was very positive. I loved how snug they fit on my foot, and it was like my feet came alive right away. The sensation was pretty hard to explain, but I really liked it. I got on the treadmill for a bit (even with my knee), and I loved how easily my legs and feet kept in a good, natural stride.

Next I tried on a pair of New Balance Minimus shoes, and these were by far my least favorite. There was just something about the feel of them that was uncomfortable. I didn't even try them on the treadmill because I knew they wouldn't work with my feet. Then I tried some Newtons and Merrells, which were better, but I still liked the feel of the true barefoot shoe better. In the end, I chose a pair of Vibrams with a bit more protection on the feet, and a more substantial back. I felt like they would hold up a bit better overall. Plus, the owner said Fivefingers tend to hold up better than traditional running shoes because they don't have so many parts and pieces.

When I got home I decided to just wear my new shoes around the house and see how they felt. My early reaction continues to be nothing but positive. The glove-like feel of the shoes were great over time, and I love how warm they felt, despite being so light. Now, I don't think I would wear these out in the snow, but they are machine-washable, so some mud, rain or mild-moisture aren't going to hurt them. Additionally, basic cold shouldn't be a major factor in the same way compression pants keep our legs warm. I will be sure to take these for a spin once my rest/healing period is over! I think I will wait for dry weather at least, at least to start out with. Expect a while series of reviews as I journey down the barefoot movement's road. I am excited to see how they hold up, how my form improves, and if I will be able to run a marathon in them.

Beyond my new shoes, I also received this beauty of a gift. I have wanted a Camelbak ever since I started doing long runs because I hated carrying a water bottle, and the idea of a belt sounded uncomfortable. After trying it on, and realizing how much cargo space I would have, I am already sold. Not only can I have easily accessible water, but I can carry my keys, cell phone, a credit card, gels/gu/food and an extra bottle or two of Gatorade. Once again, this will be something I report back on in the future, but I am very happy so far.

I rounded out my running Christmas with some compression sleeves for my calves, and I still need to get some toe socks. I am also looking to get some new running gloves and a running hat from Target. My collection of gear is finally getting to the point where I have everything I need. I still need to invest in a Garmin of some sort, but that may have to wait a little while. I also need to seriously start saving for a bike. I am just excited to come off my injury strong and hit the ground running.

How was your holiday?

Did you get any gear that you are very excited about?

Did you go out and do any hectic shopping?

Did you experience any of nature's wrath?

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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Coming To You From The Couch

There was an extended time in my life where I wanted to be on the couch more than anywhere else; that time seems so far away now. As I write this post, I am into my second day of no training, and the first day of taking my knee recovery seriously. I went to Target (said the a French sounding ending) and picked up a new reusable ice pack that has a strap. I also have on my compression brace. I will alternate between the two for the next few days and spend as much time on the couch as possible.

I am wearing an Ace Brand sleeve, but I am curious if there is something better out there? Is compression pretty much the same across the board? Additionally, does anyone have any icing techniques or tricks?

Beyond ice and compression, I am continuing my intake of fish oil and glucosamine. I have had both of these supplements recommended to me, so I take them once a day with food. I just want to do whatever I can to get this thing healed up, and be able to go beyond 8 miles without pain.

Behind my little rehab, I don't have much going on. I am mostly just providing my dogs with a consistent lap to sleep on. I am also going to catch up on worthless TV, which is somewhat exciting. I am sure I will be going stir-crazy in about an hour. Wish me luck.

What are you watching this weekend/week?

Any other tips or tricks you know for recovery/rehab?

Anyone else taking some much needed time off?

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Ten For Thursday

Today's workout: 10.5 miles in 60 minutes on the elliptical. 30 minutes on the weights doing biceps, triceps and shoulders. I ran out of time for core work, but I think I have done some good work on that area overall this week. I feel like my elliptical workout was crazy intense, even if it wasn't the most mileage I have put in in that time. This is later in the week, obviously, so I am not at my peak, but I still managed to achieve my goal. I definitely had to push myself to get through it. Weights felt great, too. I am definitely going in a great direction in terms of my overall strength, which I think is key heading into a week or so long break.
As it goes, I am not looking forward to shutting things down. Since I got into running and fitness almost a year ago, I have not missed more than 3 days without some kind of a workout. I get antsy after a day's rest, so I can't imagine how I am going to feel. I think this impending break is pushing me towards some great training this week, so at least something is coming out of it. I just hope I don't come home with too big of a food baby to get rid of.
I appreciate all the suggestions I have received regarding my knee. I am looking forward to reporting back about it, and I am definitely going in with a very positive attitude. Overall, my knee feels pretty good. I have done an 8 mile road run on it without major pain. I just want it to have time to get as close to 100% as possible. Unfortunately, this will leave me with very little to talk about for next week. I guess, in the end, everyone will be busy anyways.
In terms of everything else going on with me, my class has been really impressing me as the week has gone on. I was really worried that my students were losing their minds after Monday, but they have really come around and made vast improvements in their behaviors (overall). I don't want to get carried away because I still think my little crazies would drive most people nuts after a day, but I am happy with the progress. The week before Christmas break is one of the most challenging for any teacher in any grade.
I am also looking forward to "showing off" the new me to members of my family that haven't seen me since last Christmas. I think the change is pretty drastic, so I am expecting some astonished faces. I am very proud of where I have come and where I am going. I deserve to be a little vain ;)
What did your family do when you first got into running?
If you have been a runner most of your life, how do you keep at it?
If you have kids, is the holidays crazy or great for you?
How is your week going in life and training?
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Monday, December 17, 2012

Maximum Monday

Okay, my title might be a bit of hyperbole. On a scale from 1-10, I would give my day of training a 7. I was too lazy to get out of bed for a morning workout, so that dropped me a few points. Additionally, I was late leaving work, son didn't get as much time at the gym as I would like. Regardless, what I did do was pretty solid. I was on the stair climber for 50 total minutes, with 10 of those minutes sideways, and another 10 backwards. I followed this up with a 2:30 minute plank, so assorted core work, chest and back lifts. I did get an two lifts in, so I feel good about that, and my upper body feels great.

Beyond my week of training, I am looking towards the disaster that will be next week. Christmas is quickly approaching, I will be out of town, and I am not road running - what does that mean? Well, the answer isn't good. I think I am going to shut it down completely for at least a week and really let my knee heal. I will spend the week focusing on staying off of it (not something I can do normally, as teachers never sit). Additionally, I will apply compression and ice whenever I remember. Finally, I will try to get some blueberries and continue my daily supplement cocktail. I figure, if this doesn't get my knee back to form, I may have to suck it up and go to the doctor. I just don't think doctors have my running future in mind. Needless to say, I am a little apprehensive about this whole thing. Plus, I hate taking a single day off, so a whole week will drive me nuts. I just hope that all the Christmas craziness will keep me busy.

Here is what I am looking forward to though: running gifts! I should be getting a camelbak, which is great for long runs, as I hate to carry a bottle, and I don't want to wear a belt. I should also be getting some compression socks, so my continuing running form changes with be a little less painful on my calves. Hopefully I will also get a heart rate monitor, so I can really start to focus on this during long training runs in the spring. I am also getting a gift card to a local running store for some new kicks - I am guessing vibrams, but we will see. I may be shutting it down, but at least I will have some great new gear to try out later. I am just glad the people around me have accepted my insanity.

Did you go maximum today?

Have you ever shut it down completely? What did you do to heal a joint?

What did you do to keep your mind focused elsewhere?

What do you know you are getting for Christmas?

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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Sorry For Cardio Rocking

More like sorry for the delay in posts. I have been super inspired to train hard this week, but that ended up in translating into less time to actually sit down and write about it. Lucky, I do not work this weekend, so I am able to catch up a little bit.

I don't really have a good summary for you, but I can say that I got in a ton of cardio. I spent a few hours of the week on the stair climber, a few hours on the elliptical and a ton of time working the weights. The biggest increase of the week was on my core training. I was inspired by some fellow bloggers to get back on the plank bank wagon. On my core days I definitely hit the planks hard. I also did various other core exercises to compliment whichever part of that area I was hitting that day. The increase in cardio and core training is already paying dividends, as my elliptical times continue to get faster. I also increased some weight this week, and was still able to do 3x 10 reps. I have never been close to this kind of weight before.

Beyond training in the gym, I have decided to shut down my road running for awhile. I want to see if my knee will get to 100% without the need to shut down my training completely. I just can't imagine going more than a day or two without training in some capacity. Unfortunately, I don't have any access t a pool right now, so my cross training capacity is somewhat limited. We will see how I feel in the next few weeks. Additionally, I will probably have some extended days of rest around Christmas, as I will be away from my gym.

Beyond that, I am starting to get more and more excited for race season this spring. I cannot wait to get out and prove to myself that I am capable of being a distance runner. Additionally, I cannot wait to get some new PRs in shorter races earlier in the spring. I am very curious as to what my 5k pace is now, and I have a sneaking suspicion that I am under 20 minutes now. I am itching to get out and find out, but there will be plenty of time for that in a few months. In the mean time, I have a lot more training and mental preparations.

What kind of core exercises do you get the most out of?

What do you feel gives you the best all around gym workout?

P.S. I will try and stay more on top of things this coming week, but the holidays are crazy!

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Monday, December 10, 2012

The Elf On The Weight Shelf

Teaching Kindergarten is often about patience and understanding. Teaching kindergarten is also about trickery and bribery - just not as much. Today was a clear example of trickery, and I think you will all enjoy the concept. Bear with me because I will make a training connection here eventually. Today I introduced my classroom's Elf On The Shelf, which has been given, by my kiddoes, the name Milo. Ladies and gentlemen, Milo the Elf:

If you don't know anything about Elf on the Shelf, essentially, it is just a little stuffed animal that you tell kids is a magic a elf who watches them and reports back to Santa. This was originally intended for parents, but many teachers have now adopted it in the classroom. The key is that the kids immediately become very aware of their behaviors, so they begin to consistently act appropriately. I love it!

Now for my connection: what if we all had an adult version of the elf? Obviously, this elf is not a pervert, so he just watches you for one purpose: are you exercising and training hard enough? If you aren't, the elf on the weight shelf will report back to Santa, and you won't be getting those Vibrams or Procompressions you asked for. I am going to make sure I maintain my 100% philosophy this holiday season because seriously need a heart rate monitor. Make sure you are all getting after it!

I always attempted to stay on the good boy list by working my weekend away. Fortunately, I love my second job, but it was still tough to essentially move from one week right into the next without a break. This made my training over the weekend nearly nonexistent, but it was for a good cause. I work for my county's board of developmental disabilities, and we throw a Christmas Fair and Christmas party every year. I had a good time both days, and I could tell we were really making a difference in many kid's and adult's lives.

There was a time when I was asked to wrap presents in the Secret Santa Shop. I don't know what my boss was thinking, but I am not a great wrapper. I am pretty sure some kids went home and cried because their gift was wrapped so poorly. Okay, this is hyperbole, but I was less than confident in my abilities, and I know I used too much tape. At least I rock at doodling:

Since I didn't have much time over the weekend, I only managed a 4.5 mile run on Saturday. This was less than I was hoping, but I simply ran out of time before having to head to a friend's Christmas party. Sunday was a mandatory rest day after an otherwise productive week of training. I needed it for sure. I felt nice and rested for a new week!

Today was all about the stair climber. I tried something new on it, too. I switched between going forward, climbing sideways, and climbing backwards. There were a few times where this felt somewhat precarious. If you have seen or been on a stairclimber, you know how high off the ground you are, so being backwards on it is pretty scary. I survived 50 minutes on t though, and I am happy about that. I then added a half hour of weights on the chest and back. Overall, not the toughest workout ever, but a good start to the week. I will have more time tomorrow, so the elf won't have anything negative to say. You are welcome, Santa.

Have you heard about or used an elf on the shelf?

What kinds of weird Christmas traditions do you have?

Do you have anything special you have to do to stay motivated over the Holidays?

How was you Monday of training? How was your weekend?

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Friday, December 7, 2012

Flippin' Friday

There is something about knowing you are working all weekend that makes Fridays much less exciting. Regardless, I have maintained the intensity of last week's training. Wednesday was a great workout, but I felt great today and Thursday as well. Before I get to the details of my training, I want to share some hilarity with the masses - here you go:

I know it is Christmas season, but I think this gentleman chose the wrong vehicle to haul his oversized tree. Additionally, I don't think he roped the thing on very well, as it was practically falling off. The best part is that he is driving a cloth top; the worst part is that he was driving 20 miles per hour... In a 45. Come on man. Come on.

Next, I want to discuss some things that are good for you, and some things that are bad for you.

Sleeping is very good for you. Obviously it is if I teach my students about it. Still, the quest to get enough sleep is often a failure. Personally, I make a concerted effort to get at least 6 hours, but if I am going to the gym, and waking up at 4:30am, it can be difficult. I do recommend this though. I hear never sleeping is a bad thing, especially for us runners. Weird, right?

Food is a good thing; we need it to live. Bananas are very good for you. Banana bread is very good. The banana bread above was excellent, but I can't say it helps my athleticism in any way. Also, sandwiches are good, but shaping them into footballs like the one above does not increase the nutritional content, nor does it make you good at football. Moral of this story: eat nutritional food; the less processed the better. I have had a tough time with this the last two days. Thursday was a staff meeting with donuts - I had two. I also had banana bread and a football sandwich. Today was a little better, but I don't think the eggplant Parmesan was a good choice. I really gotta work on the whole willpower thing.

Other bad things: a lack of snow (what happened to winter?) - I am not a an of the stuff in February, but I am good with it around the Holidays. I am also having issues with people who don't understand what it means to be a runner. I try to talk about the subject and I get looked at like I am trying to be high-than-though. I don't have enough people in real life to talk to. I am not a fan.

My workouts:

Thursday morning - cross ramp 52 minutes, 6 miles - weights 30 minutes (chest, back, obliques, core)

Thursday evening - elliptical 45 minutes, 7.2 miles - weights (core)

Friday - elliptical 50 minutes, 8.2 miles - weights (arms, shoulders)

I put in a few solid machine miles this week, and I am very happy with it. I really need to start keeping track of all this. I rely on mapmyrun for my outdoor runs. I don't have any such thing for the gym.

I wanted to get another round on the stair climber, but it was always in use. Beyond that, I was able to stick with my plans. I think it has been a very successful two weeks, and I am starting to get more and more excited for breaking out races in the spring.

Tomorrow will be an outdoor run I think. It might rain, but it shouldn't be too cold. I need to reenergize my soul a little bit; the gym takes a lot out of my motivational stores.

What makes for a great week of training for you?

Have you seen any crazy drivers this week? Are you a crazy driver?

Do you have a fake or real Christmas tree?

What is your favorite machine at the gym?

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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Wicked Wednesday

So far this week has been solid. I feel like I have made more progress in the last 2 weeks than I have in a long time. Today was one of those days where I felt good from the start of the workout to the end. Even after two days of intense workouts, my legs felt fresh, my mind was focused, and I was ready to conquer the world. I started off the day with this "warm-up."

If you can't read it, the mileage reads 3.1 and the time is 16:10. I have never been that quick to finish a 5k on an elliptical, and when I was approaching that time, I has to get a picture. The best part is, I feel like I could have done better. I followed this up with another 7.1 miles, coming in at, for you math majors, 10.2 miles. I always try to put in solid mileage on Wednesdays, so I was happy. I feel like Wednesday is a good day for this, as you have two days to "recover" before the long run/workout on Saturday.

Speaking of recovering, I got a new thing of protein powder from Sam's Club. I've been trying all kinds because I am not entirely convinced that they are all that different from each other. I just think the key is the protein content and the taste. Maybe I am wrong about this. Have any of you had different feelings? Anyways, here is a picture of the massive bag I purchased (so far it is pretty good. Good protein content too):

I do believe, however, that protein has definitely helped me improve and recover after each workout. Partially this might be mental, but everything I have read supports the idea. Do you all agree?

The rest of the week has been solid. I've done my usual lifting routine in the time that I have. I have done some extra core work, too. Yesterday, despite working 13 hours, was a success; I got up in the morning, did 7 miles on the cross ramp, and hit my arms and shoulders. I think this set me up to have the energy to get through the rest of the day. Still, the morning thing can be rough, especially when the gym is as dead as it was:

I like having people around now that I am confident in my appearance. I think having people around, especially people who are good looking and in shape, motivate me to the max.

Would like am empty gym or a medium crowd (no one likes it crowded)?

Do you feel confident at the gym? Have you always?

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Monday, December 3, 2012

Get It Started

Today marks the start of another week. I took yesterday off, so I was feeling fresh. I was not fresh enough, however, to make it to the gym in the morning. I "accidentally" turned my alarm off, so I must have needed a bit more sleep. I HAVE to go tomorrow morning though because I work my second job immediately after the first. Unfortunately, that also means I will not get in one workout, while still having to wake up at 4:30.

Before I talk about my workout, I wanted to mention the greatest thing I have ever seen. Here it is:

That's right folk; that's the wienermobile. This beautiful piece of machinery even had its own vanity plates. Clearly, I was a little excited, but I didn't get to go inside. They had it open, but I didn't want to wait in line, and the ony ones going in were little kids... I didn't want to be THAT guy. Gotta say though, the WM was pretty plush from what I could tell. Be jealous.

Aside from wienermobiles, I did get myself some solid exercise since my last post. Something about showing such a vulnerable side to myself is refreshing and motivating. There is no way I will ever go back to that person; I don't even know who that person is anymore. Saturday I went for one of my best runs since Tough Mudder. I went 7 miles with very little pain in my knee during or after. I am getting more and more hopefully that this wont be a long term or lifetime thing.

Today was a mixed bag. The gym was pretty busy, so my favorite machines were taken. I ended up watching Man On A Ledge in the cardio theatre while doing an hour on the stairclimber. Let me tell you, if you haven't had the pleasure, but the stair climber will tear you up. I was literally soaked in sweat when I was done, and I loved every second of it. In miles I did about 7, but in sweat I did about 13. I followed that insanity with some core and weight work. I didn't have a whole lot of time, as I have been putting my emphasis on cardio, but it felt good.

On another side note, I looked into becoming a Crossfit instructor. I would love to be able to teach some kind of class on evenings and weekends. I just don't know if I can stomach or afford the $1000 upfront. I will have to look around at other certifications. I may also need to get into some classes at my gym and see what is what. I am so used to doing my own thing, it might be good to change things up.

How are you all starting off your weeks?

Who has seen the wienermobile in all its glory?

Anyone know anything about getting certified for crossfit? Do you know of any other good certifications?

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