Sunday, July 24, 2011

Running for Two

Anytime the phrase "for two" gets thrown around someone assumes you're pregnant, so let me be the first to clarify that is NOT the case. Today I took my nearly 5 month old son E on his first run. We went about 3.5 miles around the neighborhood and he either slept or chewed on this mesh thing that holds and ice cube. Before anyone calls child protective services on me for having a baby out in this heat let me add that the sun was not up and there was a breeze. I did receive several disparaging looks from other runners, walkers, and drivers.

My mom bought me the Cadillac of jogging strollers: a BOB. The thing is amazing. It seems like a huge heavy thing, but its very lightweight and smooth. Mine looks like this, except it's tan and not purple:
I wore my Brooks shoes today because I've noticed a little metatarsal pain and I don't want to push it with the Pace Glove shoes. I was worried the stroller would undo everything I've been working on with my form, but it didn't really at all. In fact, I think the stroller made me keep good posture because if you're not conscious of it then there's a tendency to lean forward. One thing I noticed was it was more comfortable to push it by resting my hands on the side of the handle rather than grasping it. I do the same thing on my road bike to prevent my hand from going numb. Interestingly, the stroller didn't seem to slow me down. I did walk up one of the steeper hills, but only because I felt myself leaning into the stroller. Otherwise we just cruised! Going downhill had me nervous because I've been working on picking up my cadence and letting gravity pull me downhill, but obviously that is ill-advised with a baby in a stroller. I was able to not try and slow myself by heel-striking and just go a little faster. Word of caution: ALWAYS USE THE SAFETY STRAP! Just in case you should lose control of the stroller, the strap will prevent it from getting away from you.

E will be accompanying me on my runs for the next three weeks because my husband is in the buggy, marshy, scratchy backwoods of Virginia blowing things up with the National Guard. 

On another note, I'm debating signing up for a running clinic to work on my form. It's difficult to apply what I read or am told about natural running without getting feedback. All of the clinics cost money so I'll need to decide if it's worth it.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

It's that hot

I believe the technical meteorological term for today's weather is hot-as-balls. Need to get this run over with.
about an hour ago · Privacy: ·  · 
    • Brianne Coons Carter So when the blazing red fireball of a sun periodically emerged from behind trees or rooftops I felt like Frodo putting on the One Ring. Sauron turned his furious wrath upon me and Nazgul screeched overhead as I fled from the Ringwraiths. True story.
      7 minutes ago · 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Oh HEEL no!

Here's what sold me on the whole barefoot-is-best notion. Try it at home:

1) Run in your running shoes, either on the road or on a treadmill. 

Odds are if you're like most runners you have a heel strike and land heel-toe-heel-toe. It looks nice, it feels nice, and it's what we've been told is the correct way to run.

2) Now take your shoes (and maybe socks) off and repeat. 

Yeah, how's that heel strike feel now? It probably hurts like crap. So after a few strides of shooting pain you've probably switched to a mid-foot or fore-foot strike to save your poor heels. 

3) Put your shoes back on and repeat. Try to maintain the mid/fore-foot strike from step 2.

Difficult, no? Running shoes, with their soft, cushiony, and elevated heel, encourage a heel strike. But take the shoes away and that's not how our bodies are inclined to run. So why wear shoes that guide your feet to do something otherwise unnatural?

Here's an interresting visual that shows the force endured by the foot in a heel strike and a fore-foot strike. Note the high initial force of the heel strike as compared to the low initial force of the fore-foot strike. Imagine that force either shooting up the back of your leg or your body weight falling over the foot strike as the force is absorbed by your bent leg. 

Part of the problem is shoe manufacturers make shoes that basically require a heel strike. Trying to fore-foot strike is traditional running shoes is about as comfortable as barefoot running with a heel strike. Either that or you feel like you're prancing. Take the ad below for example. 

A heel strike with a big stride looks sexier, or so Nike wants you to think. But land on the fore-foot or the more comfortable mid-foot and all of that force is directly underneath your body instead of thrust out in front. If the purpose of running is to move forward with as little foot-ground contact as possible, then the fore-foot or mid-foot strike is the most efficient and natural way to land.

One of the first things I cover in my World History classes is human migration. We discuss the origin of Homo sapiens in East Africa and the eventual migration out of Africa, across Eurasia, south to Oceania, and finally across the Bering Land Bridge and south and eastward through the length of the Americas. They weren't walking thousands of miles in gel-cushioned stability shoes and I'm pretty sure they weren't heel-striking.  Human evolution is a pretty incredible and we could help ourselves by not messing with it!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

10 extra minutes = a world of difference

 I skip stretching. Guilty as charged. When I get back from a run the last thing I want to do is spend any more time in sweaty stinky clothes than I have to. Plus, there's usually a baby that needs changing or feeding and dogs that need letting out. In short, I have shit to do and can't be bothered.

Those are some pretty lame excuses considering a more religious stretching regimen could have saved me a lot of pain and frustration as I do battle with my natural bio-mechanics.

One of my former students sent me this video for a 10-minute yoga-based post-run stretching routine. I feel great after taking the time to do this and experience much less residual soreness later in the day. Take an extra 10 minutes to stretch, it's completely worth it.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Shoes? F#@% shoes!

 This was originally going to be my blog title, but I declined for several reasons:

  • Dane Cook was only really funny in college.
  • I curse enough in person, no need to title my blog with that.
  • I actually do run in shoes.

Speaking of shoes, I love them. So it's odd that I'd want to barefoot run. I'm not *exactly* a barefoot runner though. Barefoot purists don't like people like me. They say we need to feel the earth under our feet. Like that Carole King song. This is all well and good if everyone ran on soft pine needle trails, but I run mostly on roads and in neighborhoods where I encounter: sharp rocks, glass, nails, and since this is Pennsyltuckey the charred husks of spent fireworks at all times of the year. I'll go barefoot around my house and on the beach, but not while I run, thanks.

Here is a brief history of my experience with footwear...

1) The first pair of shoes I can remember were Zips. Pink velcro kids shoes. As a new mom I can appreciate the on-and-off ease of velcro. Maybe Zips have gone the way of L.A. Gear (which I also had) because I can't find a picture of them, but they looked like this only pink.

2) I also recall a pair of red patent t-straps which I fondly referred to as my "ruby slippers":

3) In my awkward years I got really into Converse. The high-tops. These are all over the place now, just look at my students, but in 1994 I was not cool. Later I had the fish heads, which I drew all over.

4) I also had the ubiquitous pair of Dr. Martens. I went to high school right in the middle of the Columbine shootings so there was a lot of hysteria regarding certain styles of clothing. After reading the book Columbine by David Cullen I learned everything they news reported or presumed about the massacre was wrong.  We had a marginal skinhead population so I erred on the side of not looking like a racist pig. So my poor Docs got little public use until I wore them as riding boots because I cared way too much about what others think. This angry chick pretty much sums up my feelings about shoes in high school.

OK seriously now: Running shoes. Here are some highlights:

4) Brooks Addiction 5 - I know, right? HUGE. Like boats on your feet. The well-meaning folks at the running store convinced me that my feet need guidance. 
5) Brooks Adrenaline GTS 5 - I liked this shoe. Then they came out with the 6's and I didn't like them anymore.
6) Brooks Cascadia - Always received nice comments about these. They're pretty badass. Probably the most badass shoes I've had since the aforementioned Dr. Martens. 
7) Adidas Supernova Classic - Finally figured out I need a shoe with a narrow heel and a wide toe. Too bad they discontinued these.
Nike Structure Triax 12 - Ran my first marathon in these!
Nike+ Lunarglide - Lots of cushion in these shoes. More cushion than I typically go to, but the upper was very flexible and great for my wide feet. I walked in these today and it was like walking 2" above the ground after running in my minimalist shoes.
Inov8 Terroc - These are my current trail shoes. Not much cushion at all, but great tread for trails. You can "feel the earth beneath you". Whatever that means.

Brooks Ravenna - Back to Brooks. These are firm, with way less cushion than the Lunarglides. I like them. I still do most of my runs in these until I fully acclimate to the minimalist shoes. Although trying to adjust my form to run on my forefoot and midfoot is difficult in these, but I guess that would be the case with most regular running shoes.

Merrell Pace Glove - My first minimalist shoes!!! Bonus points for making my duck feet look small. Being minimalist shoes they have no support whatsoever. The footbed is molded to really mimic the natural shape of your foot. The Vibram outsoles are supposed to last forever so these shouldn't need replacing as frequently as traditional running shoes. I've heard some people mention that stretchy back part rubs, but this has not been a problem for me. When I first got them I just wore them around and out to run errands and to walk the dogs. This week I've worked up to 3 miles in them. Oddly, I don't really feel the lack of cushion when I run. The nature of the shoes encourages forefoot/midfoot landing which is a lighter step than heel striking. Later that day and today my calves are definitely sore, but my feet feel fine. I'm pretty psyched about these!

The Experiment

Running does not come naturally to me. It should, considering my parents are both longtime runners, but it's not something I was ever inclined to do. The pool was my arena until injuries and general fed-upness took hold after college. Once I powered through my aversion to running I loved it. Speed is not my goal (good thing because I'm not fast!), but the feeling of covering ground and going somewhere is a huge appeal. 

Once I take something on, I go balls-to-the-walls which is not the best approach for physical activity. In the 10 years since I've started running I've experienced numerous setbacks and injuries: loose patella, iliotibial band syndrome, and most recently sacroiliac joint and piriformis pain. I've sought all kinds of treatments from physical therapy, electrical stimulation, cortisone injections, chiropractic, orthodic insoles, motion control shoes and athletic massage. All have provided temporary (and expensive) relief, but no solution. 

I first heard about barefoot running in Runners World magazine. At the time it seemed an impossible option. My feet are flat, my pelvis is misaligned, I overpronate. This is only for runners with perfectly a put-together musculoskeletal situation, not for me. The idea continued to fascinate me. Were all of the orthodics and guiding cushion shoes that I've believed are necessary just giving me a false sense of security? I remembered tearing across the grass or sand in bare feet as a kid and nothing bad ever happened beyond the occasional stubbed toe. The community of barefoot runners is more of a subculture. Naturally there are varying extremes, ranging from purists who run marathons completely unshod to casual dabblers who wear minimalist shoes with little support. Some are very philosophical/spiritual about their barefoot "journey" while others have either written or memorized orthopedic articles about the benefits of barefoot running. 

I consider myself a voyeur in this community. I find the seasoned experts equal parts intimidating and pretentious. So here I am. Not pretending to know anything more than what I'm experiencing for myself. The likelihood of this experiment leading to spiritual enlightenment or a panacea for my bodily ailments is slim. I would simply like to run pain free for as long as I can. And perhaps develop some awesome looking calves!

Plus, I already bought some shoes and if I don't use them my husband will ban me from forever!