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Posts from the ‘recovery’ Category

Sleep

This morning I woke up and pretty much felt like death. My body was aching, my head hurt, my chest hurt, and I was so tired. Yesterday I actually slept until 9:00am which is something I never do. And today after getting back home from leaving my sub plans at work, I again slept until 9:00am then woke up, moved to the couch, and slept until 12:45pm! I can’t even recall the last time I have slept so much. I’m a typical 6 to 6 1/2 hours of sleep type of person. I think it is finally catching up with me.

Sleep is obviously important, but in particular, it is super important when you are sick. Being that this is my last week of rest before race day, I’m going to welcome the extra hours of R&R. It’ll help my body get better, (at least I hope so)! Read more

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Recovery Boots

This morning I was reading an article about Meb Keflezighi and his preparation for the Olympic marathon on Sunday.  He gave a brief  look into his training and how he addresses recovery.  One of the things he mentioned was recovery boots.  Recovery boots? That’s a new one for me so it immediately peaked my interest. What I imagined (some cool boots to go with my compression socks), was far from reality.  Recovery boots are intense and when I make millions, I might just buy a pair for $1200.

I found two brands that seem to be pretty popular: Recovery Pump and NormaTec.

Recovery Pump:

The Pump is an FDA approved, medical grade SIPC-Sequential, Intermittent, Pneumatic, Compression device with 4-chambered sleeves that inflation sequential from the toes to the base of the buttock. Device used for recovery in maximal, endurance sports. The Boots massage the muscles to improve circulation during use and help reduce swelling, soreness and fatigue, all while you rest and relax.

The brand used my Meb Keflezighi and Ryan Hall is NormaTec.  They are quite a bit more expensive – $1650 for us normal athletes and you have to call if you want info on ordering the elite system. Their website has a detailed science section and testimonial section.  Some other athletes using the NormaTec boots are Chrissie Wellington, Kevin Garnett, Shaq, Levi Leipheimer, Craig Alexander, and Steve Nash. Heck, even Mark Wahlberg has a pair of the NormaTec boots.

Why are these boots good for the athlete?  The boots increase circulation and venous blood flow, reduces swelling, and massages all of the muscles in your lower extremities (thighs, calves, ankles, feet).  In addition, before a workout, the boots can be used to energize your muscles.

Right now I’m sticking to my compression socks (mainly because I clearly can not afford $1200+ for a pair of recovery boots).  BUT I am keeping them in mind so one day in the very distant future, I might just buy a pair.

Doesn’t this look fun? I wonder if they will have a booth at the expo of my next race…

Happy Trails and Happy Running,

Tracie

Cherry Juice

I’ve been reading about the benefits of beet juice on athletic performance for a long time.  In fact, I bought three bottles to drink the week before my last 5K.  Yes, I got a PR but the taste was just a little too much for me.  This morning I read an article about the benefits of tart cherry juice.  For some reason that just seems a little more appetizing than beet juice.

Gretchen Reynolds:

“In studies by Dr. McHugh and colleagues, tart cherry juice reduced muscle pain and weakness after bouts of intense strength training as well as after a marathon. In a similar experiment by other researchers, racers in the annual Hood to Coast 196-mile relay race in Oregon reported significantly less pain after the race if they drank tart cherry juice in the week beforehand.

The juice has notable anti-inflammatory and antioxidant capabilities, Dr. McHugh says, although the particular components of the juice that are most active in that context are still being teased out. When he asked food scientist colleagues to analyze tart cherry juice, he said, “I was given a list of 30-plus compounds” that were likely to contribute to the drink’s benefits.”

Interesting.  I think in addition to my compression socks, tart cherry juice just might be incorporated into my post workout routine.

Happy Trails and Happy Running,

Tracie

 

Photo Source: Cary Bass, Wikimedia Commons

2XU Compression Socks

It is tax free weekend here in North Carolina.  I really dislike shopping so I will be staying far away from the stores.  However, I did stop by my favorite running store yesterday morning just after they opened.  I have been wanting compression socks for a looooong time, it’s tax free weekend, I had a coupon, and my cousin was visiting.  One store wouldn’t be too bad.

There are so many different types of compression socks from so many different companies.  I was seriously considering these calf sleeves until I was convinced otherwise.  Bobby Mack, who was the 9th place finisher at the Olympic Trials in the 10,000 meters and who also happens to work at my favorite running store, suggested the 2XU Women’s Elite Compression Sock.  With a $60 price tag, I needed a litte more convincing.

First, I want to state that the idea behind compression socks and compression clothes in general, is to help with recovery.  Compression clothes are suppose to relieve muscle soreness, stabilize the muscles, and help deliver nutrients to the muscles in order to facilitate recovery.  There really isn’t that much scientific evidence supporting these claims, but there are a lot of athletes who swear by the compression craze.  (I bet Shalane Flanagan will be wearing her compression socks for tomorrow’s race.)

The 2XU brand is actually a really popular brand of compression gear and workout clothes.  They have socks, tights, tri-suits, arm sleeves, hats, sports bras, bags, gloves… you name it, they have it.  I checked out the reviews of their many different types of compression socks and they get a lot of positive feedback.  One of the “cons” that I continued to read of their recovery socks (not the pair I bought) is the top band rolls down.  I’ve been wearing my socks for a few hours and they haven’t moved one bit.

In looking at the 2XU website, this is what these socks have to offer:

  • PWX Power Fabric- a collection ofpremium compression fabrics to deliver power, weight, and flexibility
  • Linked Toe Cage (I’m not sure what that is but I do know the socks are foot specific because of how they wrap your arch.)
  • Antibacterial
  • Moisture Wicking
  • Circular Knitting (no seams)
  • Graduated Compression, which means compression decreases from bottom to top
  • DVT Protection, which means the socks protect against deep vein thrombosis

I’m not going to say that they have improved my recovery or that they are essential to my workout.  I’ve only been wearing them since lunch.  However, I will say this about the socks… they have a great amount of compression.  They are much tighter than the socks I was borrowing from Mario, but they aren’t too tight.  They feel great on my legs and they have some fun colors.  And I don’t mind taking advice from someone who ran at the Olympic Trials.  If Bobby uses them for recovery, I bet they’re pretty good.   Yes $60 is quite a bit of money for a pair of socks, but here is the perspective I was given yesterday – it’s the difference between lululemon workout clothes and Target workout clothes.  I consider this a good investment.

Yes, I went out to lunch like this 🙂

 

And check out my cool “I RUN” necklace from my friend Amber

Happy Trails and Happy Running,

Tracie

Knottted Muscle

When I  first got to Seattle, the first thing I did (after eating of course), was to schedule a sports massage.  This isn’t something I normally do while on vacation, but our hotel has a nice spa, so I thought my legs could use a little R&R.  I have had quite a few sports massages throughout my running life and every time I think to myself, it sure would be nice if I could afford to get one of these every two weeks.

Wednesday, and back in May when I had a few sports massages, I was told that I had some seriously knotted muscles.  I understand that this is what is referred to as “trigger points” and that they are not a good thing.  The way the guy put it to me during my massage was muscle fibers are suppose to lay flat, beside one another.  When they experience a lot of force and trauma, it is like they become braided.  Since recovering from my last running injury, I have been quite diligent in using my foam roller to try and work out these trigger points.  I thought I was doing a good job, but the pain from Wednesday has led me to think otherwise.

This brought about several questions.  First, what else can I do for these trigger points?  Second, how can I prevent them from reoccurring?  And third, do all athletes experience this?

As far as getting rid of muscle knots and trigger points, the main recommendations are massage and foam rolling.  Some articles I read suggested the use of NSAIDs to help with TP, but I avoid these at all costs so I’m going to skip over this recommendation.  I also learned that you can get trigger point injections to relieve the knotted muscle.  With TPI, a doctor injects an anesthetic into the trigger point, the TP becomes inactive and pain is alleviated. Acupuncture is also used to treat TP.  Another way to help with the relief of TP is the use of electrotherapy. (I wrote an article about this a few months ago, and you can read it here.)  Here is a list with a few other suggestions.

I’m really interested in learning how to prevent these trigger points.  It would be kind of crappy to think this is something I’m always going to have to live with as long as I’m running.  Some recommendations to prevent TP include: stay hydrated, be sure to consume enough potassium and calcium, foam roll, use a golf ball under your feet, pay attention to body alignment, eat anti-inflammatory foods, allow enough recovery time after hard workouts, and correct any muscle imbalances.  I try to do all of these recommendations but I really think I could try a little harder.  A soft pretzel from Flying Saucer probably isn’t that anti-inflammatory.

It seems trigger points are pretty common among athletes from all different sports.  Here are a few professional athletes who use trigger point therapy to help their performance and prevent injuries.

Although I can not get a massage every two weeks as I would like, I can still be more proactive in addressing this issue.  Foam rolling needs to become more of a habit.  I’m pretty sure the reason I do not do it as often as I should is because it does hurt.  But in the spirit of being a lifelong runner, I’ll embrace the the foam roller. 🙂

And on a side note, I’ve been practicing my visualization a LOT and working on my mantra.  The mantra that I have been using not only during my workouts, but also in my day to day activities is “You always have a choice.”  It’s crazy, but it has really worked wonders for me.  When I’m doing a hard workout and I want to quit, I just tell myself you always have a choice and I keep going.  When I wanted to take a nap yesterday instead of working, I reminded myself that I had a choice, so I got up and kept working.  The mind is a pretty amazing thing.

Happy Trails and Happy Running,

Tracie

Check out my delicious sea bass from last night. It was amazing!

Shins and Running

Fitsugar.com –

“Shin splints are small tears in the area where the lower leg muscle attaches to the tibia, aka the shin bone… Shin splints often occur because the calf muscle becomes stronger than the tibialis anterior, the muscle on the outside of the shin.”

I’ve never suffered from shin pain [knocking on wood], but I have many runner friends who have.  Fitsugar.com has a great article on addressing the causes of shin pain, instead of just how to treat your aching limbs.  And Newton has a great video on how to adjust your stride so you are not putting so much stress on your tibia.  While RICE is important, you can not neglect the reasons why your shin is hurting.

Gina Shaw treating shin splints after a race.

Photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Hips Don’t Lie

Ok, maybe you were expecting this video, but I wanted to talk about something different. Running and hips.  When I first started running long distances back in 2004, I would easily put in 50+ mile weeks and not think twice about it.  Well that was until I let a pain in my hip gradually grow into a sharp, debilitating pain that kept me from running for an entire summer.  The doctor wanted me to get an MRI but when I wasn’t biking, I was working, and I didn’t have/make time for a MRI.  Therefore, I self diagnosed myself with a stress fracture.  Since then, about twice a year, I get some sort of leg pain that sidelines me for a month or so.  My massage therapist even asked me if I had scoliosis.  That was a wake up call for me.  I finally realized how much stronger my left side was than my right side, that my hips were tight, and that I needed to work on my posture if I wanted to stay a healthy runner.  Over time, I developed the opinion that healthy running revolves around healthy hips.  When I focus on a strong core, strong hips, and good posture, running just feels so easy. (This is the idea behind Chi Running.)  Hips are an important part of running, so I wanted to dedicate a blog to these very important bones in our bodies…

Why are hips important and how can one have stronger, less tight hips?

Danny Dryer, the author of Chi Running, has an excellent article that explains the importance of hips in running.  Some people’s hips are too tight, while others are too loose.  However, according to him, correct hip and spine rotation is the key to good running form.  How does one achieve proper rotation? Learn to engage your core muscles while running, while letting everything else relax.  To do this, align your posture (you need a straight axis to rotate your hips around) and level your pelvis.  Here is Mr. Dryer’s explanation of how to do level your pelvis:

Use your lower abdominals and gently pull up on your pubic bone. The lowest of the abdominal muscles is called the pyramidalis, which attaches to the public bone. If you cough, you will feel this muscle. It may be hard to find and feel at first, much less isolate the use of it, but it is worth it to practice finding it and using it. This is where you will practice being a yogi. When you use the pyramidalis and just your lower, deepest abdominal muscles to level your pelvis, while relaxing your gluteus and lower back muscles, you will change the structure of your body and improve all kinds of movement, not just running. It is especially good for men and women who suffer from lower back pain.

Stretching your hips is also just as important.  After our running group every Thursday, Sara leads us through some exercises to stretch out the hips.  We are all pretty amazed at just how tight our hips actually are.  The two poses we do the most are double pigeon pose and pigeon pose.  I have been doing these every day for about a month and can tell a huge difference.  And of course, strengthening the hips is important to any runner as well.  Here are some exercises from Runner’s World.  The hip abductor is my favorite.  When I first started doing it, I was amazed at just how weak my hips were.  Some other exercises can be found here on Livestrong.com.

Over the years, I have learned that running is so much more than just running,  It is stretching, lifting weights, eating clean foods, getting enough sleep, and really becoming in tune with the body.  I am finally starting to understand that for me, healthy hips equal healthy running.  And maybe if I practice some of Shakira’s moves, that will help too.

 

 

Happy Trails and Happy Running,

Tracie

The Ice Bath

I don’t take ice baths.  Primarily because we have two stand up showers and it isn’t feasible.  However, I want to take ice baths, especially during the summer months.  Instead I have to resort to taking cold showers or maybe a dip in the pool (which I did today).

A lot, if not all, of elite athletes use some sort of cold therapy after hard workouts.  Just check out Josh Cox and Meb Keflezighi using a cold creek in the mountains to help with their post workout recovery.

 

Why in the world should runners be taking ice cold baths?

When we run, we use many parts of our bodies – muscles, tendons, nerves, bones, and various tissues.  After a hard workout, all of these parts of the body need repairing.  This is done by oxygen being delivered by the blood vessels to the muscles, which then takes away the waste products of exercise (lactic acid, for example). To help facilitate this process, enter one cold ice bath.  When you get into an ice bath (or cold creek, cold shower, etc.), your blood vessels tighten and all of the blood drains from your legs. After 10 minutes or so, your legs become numb.  This stops metabolic activity, prevents tissue breakdown, and decreases inflammation.  When you get out of the ice bath, your legs fill up with new blood, which delivers more oxygen to your muscles to help improve cell function and facilitate recovery.  And hopefully, those 10-20 minutes of uncomfortable coldness will get you out the door running a little faster and a little less sore.

Here is a great video that breaks down exactly how you should do an ice bath.

For now, I will stick to the cold shower.  However, it was recommended to me that I buy two really large buckets, fill them with ice and water, and then put each leg in for about 15 minutes. I haven’t yet done this, mainly because I’m not sure where I would put the buckets when not in use – we live in a small space.  It does seem though that ice baths are quite beneficial. I just might be making a trip to Target soon.

 

Happy Trails and Happy Running,

Tracie

Chocolate Milk and Exercise

This morning while helping some fellow teachers in the testing office (it’s that time of year again – end of course tests), a colleague suggested a blog topic – what to drink after a workout.  Well that can include soooo many things so we narrowed it down to chocolate milk.  She had heard that chocolate milk is good after a workout.  I had read the same thing and I actually drink chocolate milk after a Saturday long run.  It’s so delicious!  But I’m not exactly sure why I’m drinking it…

So why is it recommended to drink chocolate milk after a long workout?

There is A LOT of information out there about chocolate milk and exercise.  Much more than I would have thought.  As many people know, nutrition post exercise is super important.  It is what gives your muscles what they need in order to repair themselves and to replace glycogen stores.  Apparently chocolate milk seems to be just the perfect beverage to do all the right things.  Chocolate milk has an ideal protein to carb ratio for an endurance athlete.  That ideal range can vary from 3:1 to 4:1 (depending on the person).  When comparing chocolate milk to regular milk or a sports drink, it has double the proteins and carbohydrates.  In addition, chocolate milk has calcium, sodium, and sugar.  These are all benefits for the long distance runner.

I found a great article citing a study from the University of Texas, where Dr. John Ivy compared the performance of athletes who drank chocolate milk to those who drank a typical sports drink.  He concluded that those who drank chocolate milk had a better body composition (more muscle, less fat), and a better maximal oxygen uptake, which is an indicator of endurance performance, than those who drank a sports drink. In the comments section of Dr. Ivy’s article, a lot of people had questions about the study and Dr. Ivy responded to some of their concerns.  First, he clarified that the amount of CM consumed was dependant upon the weight of the individual.  Also he stated that dairy protein has been found to be best for exercise recovery and promoting training adaptation, although soy protein is also beneficial.  And finally, he mentioned that his study was sponsored by the National Dairy Council.

A recent article in Time magazine supports Dr. Ivy’s findings.  “A study from three universities, published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, found that those who drank fat-free chocolate milk after a hard run were able to run 23% longer than those who drank sports drink.”  Physiologist Joel Stager also had similar findings to Dr. Ivy in comparing chocolate milk with water and sports drinks. He found chocolate milk to be an “incredibly effective recovery drink.”

One piece of advice that I continued to see in my reading was that chocolate milk isn’t the best after a nice stroll through the park.  It is best after long, intense exercise.   Fat free milk was always recommended over full fat milk.   For me personally, I never drink it during the week.  I wait until after I have “earned” it with a long Saturday run.  And then it goes perfectly with a bagel and is oh so delicious!

I definitely need to remember to buy some chocolate milk next time I’m at Trader Joe’s…

Happy Trails and Happy Running,

Tracie