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Posts from the ‘running gear’ Category

Waterproof iPod Shuffle

First, I want to say thanks to my fellow commenters and readers. Your kind words from yesterday made my Wednesday fabulous. ¡Gracias!

Now something instructive for your evening…

I’m officially on my 5th iPod shuffle. That’s right – 5th! The humid summers here in NC and the massive amount of sweat during a 20 miler, I have determined, are not helpful for the life of the shuffle. But I will also add that, if you wash your iPod in the washer and realize it before you put it in the dryer, it will still work.  I did that about 3 months ago and only recently, after a super sweaty workout, did it die.

Anyway, my Twitter friend PCinSTL suggested to me the Underwater iPod Shuffle. You can swim with it, run with it, and take it 200 feet deep in the ocean if you want. It is guaranteed to still work. It comes with special headphones for the water (or you can use regular headphones for running) and it functions just like a 2GB iPod. Yes, it’s a little pricer but 5 shuffles are still more expensive than one Waterproof iPod. You can read more about it here. Altogether, if you buy the shuffle and the headphones from the website, you are looking at $175. Or you can buy just the shuffle from Amazon and spend $165 (but you will still need the waterproof headphones for swimming.) And just so you know, out of 103 reviews from Amazon 89 are 5 star review and 9 are four star reviews. I think people really  like it.

I’m hoping the cooler months will prolong the life of my newest shuffle 🙂

Happy Trails and Happy Running,

Tracie

On a side note, Monday evening I am meeting with a running coach who happens to be the husband of a friend of mine. He is a 2:25 marathoner and I think I’ve finally come to realize that I can’t do this training thing all on my own. If it’s just me and my training schedule, I’m going to push myself too hard every single time. It’s a given. I’m seeking help…

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Why I think Minimalist Running is Right for Me

Before I say anything, I want to preface this with the following… my body is my body and what works for me, is not the same as what works for you. Every thing about every individual is different in some way, and my feet are not the same as yours.  That’s why there are so many different types of running shoes – because there are so many different types of running feet.

Now onward…

I have finally come to a very well researched conclusion – minimalist running shoes are right for me. Ever since I tried them for the first time last May, I thought they might be the best shoe for me. However for some reason, I still went between my Minimus and my Newtons.  I never could make up my mind. And even more recently, I was loving my Brooks PureConnects so much, that I put my Minimus aside for 2 weeks, running only in the Brooks. After much trial and error, injuries, and a thorough analysis of my body (weak areas, strong areas, out of whack areas), I have made the decision minimalist running shoes allow me to run my best.

I first tried my New Balance Minimus back in May 2011. I remember the run so clearly… It was a Saturday morning and I only had time for 6 miles because I was translating at 8am.  I decided to head out in my Minimus and put my other shoes by the door so I could come back to change after 1/2 mile or so.  As I waited for my Garmin to connect to the satellite, I was so nervous. It was like I was going on a job interview .  I didn’t know what to expect after those first few steps but I just knew it was going to be painful.  To my surprise, the run was anything but painful. From the moment I started, I couldn’t believe how easy it felt.  I no longer felt off balance and my feet didn’t hurt one bit.  I actually ran over 6 miles in those shoes and my feet, calves, and body never suffered once. The crazy thing is when I got in my car to drive, I literally felt (and heard) my hip and back pop into place. My first thought was Oh my gosh, that feels amazing!  I was on a runner’s cloud nine all day.

And then I got indecisive….

I’m not sure why I can’t accept a good running thing when I have it. Perhaps I was feeling the need to make use of my $150 Newtons. Whatever the reason may have been, I started doing my long runs in the bulkier shoes and before long, I was out of commission for a month.  For some reason, whenever I run in shoes with cushion, it’s like my right foot rolls out and puts a tremendous amount of strain on my peroneal tendon.  It’s sloppy form and because my right side is quite a bit weaker, the effects are amplified. Put me in a pair of Minimus and my form adjusts itself right away.  It’s like I need to feel the ground beneath me.  It gives me a better idea of what the rest of my body is doing, which allows me to make adjustments as necessary.

Last week I hardly ran at all.  My sloppy form had put a little too much stress on my leg and I knew I needed to take it easy.  However, I have been practically dying to get back to my training schedule. Today I decided I was going to attempt my speed workout but call it quits if I was hurting.  I had 8 miles planned with 4 mile repeats. Up until I started stretching, I was still debating what shoes to wear. (I really don’t know why I make this so hard on myself.) I went with the Minimus and the leg that had been bothering me for over a week, felt great. I was so happy and thankful that I was easily able to complete my workout. The pace felt easy, the form felt great, and my leg didn’t bother me one bit. Mentally, those were the fastest 8 miles I had ever run.

I still really like my Brooks PureConnect, and I think they are perfect for a short recovery run. Super light weight with just the right amount of cushion. However, I finally think I understand my body can not run in this type of shoe all the time. I run better in a very minimal shoe. Period. It must run in the family because my super speedy runner cousin is the same way… a former Newton runner turned minimalist.

My last race I ran in the Minimus and won for the females. Like I said, minimalist shoes allow me to run my best:)

 

Happy Trails and Happy Running,

Tracie

Brooks PureConnect

In addition to my compression socks I bought this weekend, I also bought a new pair of shoes.  Originally when I went into the store, I was planning on buying another pair of New Balance Minimus.  However, I had been considering a minimalist shoe with just a little more cushion.  I decided to buy the Brooks PureConnect on a whim (again, it was tax free weekend and I had a coupon), and so far so good.

I’m not going to go into a detailed shoe review.  Sometimes I find that to be a little too technical and overwhemling.  Instead, I just want to give a little background on the Brooks PureProject and give my overall thoughts of the shoe.

Brooks:

The PureProject collection is a tribute to runners with a sense of adventure and a craving to grab their run by the horns. Radically lightweight, flexible materials merge with smart design to naturally align your stride and empower every push-off. Unleash your feet; experience the PureProject by Brooks with four unique shoes in vibrant colors.

There are four shoes that make up the PureProject.  They are the PureConnect, the PureFlow, the PureCadence, and the PureGrit.  PureConnect is the lightest, and most flexible shoe.  PureFlow has a little more cushion but still with the lightweight, free feel.  PureCadence has more stability and a “reinforced heel that cradles the foot.”  Finally, the PureGrit is more suited for the trails and it was created with the help of Scott Jurek himself.

I went for a recovery run Sunday after my long run on Saturday.  Saturday’s run was tough – hilly and super humid.  (So humid I actually weighed my clothes once I got home and wasn’t too surprised when the scale said 2.4 pounds. ) For my recovery run, I wanted to go easy and I didn’t have high expectations.  I put on my PureConnects and headed out the door.  I went out focusing on effort – go easy and do NOT injure yourself. My initial thoughts – oh my this shoe is amazing! It is super light which is what I’m use to, but it has just the right amount of cushion.  Exactly what I was looking for.  Sometimes my feet need a break from pounding the pavement in the Minimus and this shoe was perfect.  It is extremely breathable and it fits my foot like a glove.  I don’t like for shoes to be too loose.  I prefer the snug feeling and this shoe has it.  This morning I went out for an 8 miler and wore the PureConnects again.  My initial thoughts were reaffirmed – minimal, breathable, and just a little cushion.  If you want to read all the specs of the shoe, go here.

Right now I have 11 miles on the shoes.  Therefore I can’t comment on the durability and my mind might change about the awesomeness of the shoes in a few weeks.  Only time and mileage will tell.  But I appreciate what Brooks is doing with the PureProject, and I look forward to running in the PureConnects while here in Miami.  The nice flat roads will certainly be a change from Raleigh.

My super bright PureConnects

Happy Trails and Happy Running,

Tracie

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

Heat Blankets

I’m a big fan of Nissan – Innovation for Endurance.  They work with some pretty amazing athletes, including Ryan Hall, Shalane Flanagan, Kara Goucher, Ryan Lochte, and Chris Horner.  They also make some pretty awesome videos and commercials.  Today, Kara Goucher tweeted this video of her and Shalane Flanagan trying to break the women’s marathon record.  I love these ladies…


The very end of the video gave me the idea for my question today.  What exactly is the point of those silver blankets you are given at the end of the race?

The silver blankets actually come from space, well NASA technology at least. The material used for these blankets has been used on all manned and unmanned missions since the 1960s, and in the 1970s, race organizers started giving them to race finishers.  The point of the blanket is to help regulate body temperature.  Once you have finished running, you are still sweating and it stops being evaporated (because you are no longer running).  Not to mention your clothes are still nice and sweaty. All of this has the potential for a runner to become cold and develop the shivers.  The blanket helps to prevent hypothermia by the airtight foil reducing convection as well as reducing heat loss caused by evaporation of perspiration, moisture or blood.

This shiny blanket is called many different things – mylar blanket, first aid blanket, emergency blanket, thermal blanket or weather blanket.  Many races will print their logo so it can be a pretty cool souvenir to add to your collection.  Need to buy some?  I found this website that will print custom blankets or send you unprinted blankets for $200 per 150.

After my first half marathon I did back in 2004, I kept my blanket because I thought it was pretty cool to have.  Since then, I’m pretty sure all of the others have safely made it in the trash.  They have always served me well though.

Here I am after a marathon in 2009 where it was 40 degrees and pouring down rain the entire time. I was soooooo cold and the blanket was much needed…

Some sisterly love and Mario trying to help me along

Being that it’s 100+ degree in North Carolina right now, I hope I don’t come anywhere near one of those heat blankets.  But I know they will be quite useful during the fall racing season and I’ll be thankful to have one.

Happy Trails and Happy Running,

Tracie

Heart Rate Training

With summer quickly approaching, it’s time I get use to the weather having an impact on my performance.  I am the worst for using the watch as a deciding factor in my runs.  Forget what my body says, it’s what the watch tells me that matters.  Perhaps that is why I end up injured a little more than I would like.  Fortunately, I have a heart rate monitor that I can use with my Garmin.  I just never seem to want to use it.  I think that is because the few times I did actually use it, it said my heart rate was much higher than I would have thought for the pace I was running.  In other words, the HRM was telling me I was working much harder than I thought.  And since I am so addicted to the numbers, I quit using the monitor.  But I’ve decided it’s time to pull back out the HRM and actually put it to use.  Therefore, I need to know…

What is my RHR? My max HR? And what are my training zones?

To determine RHR, it is best to do it first thing in the morning before getting out of bed.  Ideally, I would strap the HRM across my chest and take the lowest pulse as my RHR.  However, I didn’t do that first thing this morning, so I’m doing it right now.  I relaxed for a while before beginning to write this with my HRM and Garmin.  The lowest recorded pulse was 53 beats / minute.  It might read a little lower in the morning, but I think this is a good guesstimate.

To determine MHR, I found a couple of formulas.  The most common and simple one is to subtract your age from 220, but of course this is very general.  To really find out your MHR, it is recommended finding a hill of about 200 – 300 meters and sprinting the hill, then jogging back down.  Repeat this a few times and your highest recorded pulse is your MHR.  All of the different formulas I found, put my MHR at around 190 beats / minute.

During training, whether it be for a marathon, 5K, or a triathlon, each workout has its purpose.  Perhaps it is for speed, recovery, or endurance.  To achieve this, your heart is obviously working in different zones.  If you are doing an easy run, there is no need for you to be training close to your MHR.  There are five different heart rate zones (1-5).  Zone one is 50-60% of your MHR and you should feel comfortable and be able to have a conversation in this zone.  Zone two is 60-70% of your MHR and you will be breathing a little heavier, but still carry on a conversation.   Zone three is 70-80% of your MHR and you will be breathing harder while actually increasing the number and size of your blood vessels.  Zone 4 is 80-90% of your MHR and this is where you go hard.  And at the same time, you get faster and fitter.  Finally, Zone 5 is 90-100% MHR and this is when you go all out.  This zone is mainly used for interval sessions and it is the zone that is probably the most uncomfortable / painful.  (But it makes you faster!).

To determine your zones, use the following formula:

[(Maximum Heart Rate – Resting Heart Rate) × %Intensity] + Resting Heart Rate

My target heart rate is the following for each zone (and this is using 55%, 65,% etc. of intensity):
Zone 1: 128
Zone 2: 142
Zone 3: 155
Zone 4: 169
Zone 5: 183

This website has a great chart describing how long a workout should be for each zone and even breaks down interval and recovery sessions.

I think using a heart rate monitor can be a very valuable tool.  It can tell you if you are working too hard, too easy, and if you are over training.  Raleigh, NC is quickly warming up and I know my times will slow down.  Instead of focusing on the pace per mile, I plan to start using heart rate zones as a way to monitor my efforts.  Maybe it will help to keep me off the injured list a little longer too.

Happy Trails and Happy Running,

Tracie

 

 

Electro Muscle Stimulation

Yesterday, one of my Google+ friends shared a video of ultrarunner Kilian Jornet.  Other than being completely amazed by his approach to running and how eloquently he spoke about the sport, I was very curious to know more about one of the recovery methods he was using.  Here is the video so you can see what I’m referring to.  It’s right around minute 5:35 but I highly recommend watching the entire video.

After typing in many different search terms into Google and trying to figure out what this was called, I finally figured out to type “Kilian Jornet electrodes” and got exactly what I was looking for.  He was using electro muscle stimulation.  This was far beyond my knowledge of foam rollers and The Stick for injury prevention so tonight I’m asking…

What is electrostimulation and why is it good for athletes?

Electro muscle stimulation is when electrodes are placed close to certain muscles and deliver low electrical currents throughout the body.  It is thought that this muscle stimulation has great benefits for athletes such as relieving pain, helping with recovery, relieving stress, and increasing range of motion.  It is also suggested the ES can help athletes improve their performance after reaching a plateau.  I looked through a few studies on the effectiveness of ES, and  their findings concluded that ES  is actually quite effective in increasing muscle strength, performance, and helping with injury prevention.  Electro muscle stimulation works by using different programs, or patterns of stimulation, to train different muscle fibers.  Different patterns of electrostimulation can help improve fatigue resistance (in other words, more endurance) while others can increase muscle power.

The FDA regulates the distribution of electrostimulators.  You can buy them over the counter or you can get a prescription.  An EMS that you purchase OTC can only legally claim that it helps with muscle toning.  A prescription device, however, can claim to help with muscle spasms, range of motion, and blood circulation.  I looked online to see how much these devices cost, and the price can vary greatly.  Some cost $60 while others cost $850.  I’m pretty sure this is not something I’ll be investing into any time soon, but it was certainly interesting to learn about.  Maybe I’ll find a friend who has one I can try out =)

 

Here is a video that describes how to use an EMS device:

 

 

I hope everyone has a great Friday evening and a safe weekend of running and racing!

Happy Trails and Happy Running,

Tracie

Kinesio Tape

A few years ago when I started to receive active release therapy, my doctor would apply kinesio tape.  Admittedly, I was somewhat skeptical and saw my bright blue tape as a pretty cool fashion statement at the gym.  I had no idea if it was working, and after one hard gym workout, the tape was falling off.  Fast forward to present day, and now my sports massage therapist is taping me up.  However, his methods are a little different, and three days later, it’s still on.  It literally took him about 15 minutes to apply three pieces of tape exactly right, so now I want to know…

What is kinesio tape? What is it suppose to do? And does it work?

I had trouble determining who exactly developed the technology behind kinesio tape: Dr. Kenzo Kase or Komp (couldn’t find his first name).  However, it does seem that this type of taping has been around since the 1970s, and after first being used primarily by medical practitioners, it then began to be used by Japanese olympians.  Kinesio tape is made of a soft cotton and contains no latex.  It is light, stretchy and has the same thickness as the human skin.  The adhesive is heat activated, so it is important that it is rubbed briskly after application for activation.  Because the tape is made from a soft cotton, moisture is able to dissipate through the material and the tape will usually last about three days.  And perhaps the best thing about kinesio tape is it comes in bright fun colors! Just check out my hot pink tape with my pink toenails…

 


The idea behind kinesio tape is that it allows for more range of motion with less pain than if you did not have the tape.  It also claims to relax overused muscles, reduce inflammation, and the wave pattern on the tape supposedly lifts the skin which in turn improves circulation and takes pressure off of your pain receptors.  Wow – that’s a lot of benefits from one neon piece of tape!  From my experience, I can’t say that I have experienced all of these amazing benefits.  However, great athletes such as Lance Armstrong, Kerri Walsh, and Serena Williams can be seen sporting the tape.  In fact, Lance Armstrong dedicates a page in one of his books to his positive experiences with kinesio tape.

As far as whether or not kinesio tape works for athletes, research is still in its early stages.  One study that I found, concluded the tape did improve immediate pain – free shoulder range of motion, but over an extended period of time, the kinesio tape was no more effective than regular sports tape.  Another study reported that the use of kinesio tape did improve the lower back’s range of motion.  However, if you are looking for some anecdotal evidence, I can’t say that it did much for me.  But I am one person, and what may not work for me, may be great for you.

As more people learn about kinesio tape, I see it on more and more athletes.  And over time, the evidence with grow to either support or not support the claims.  It seems to be a popular preventive measure and remedy, and even if it doesn’t do all that it claims to, at least it’s a pretty color.

 

Happy Trails and Happy Running,

Tracie

Compression Socks

A few years ago when I was watching the New York City Marathon on television, I was quite intrigued by Shalane Flanagan’s choice of socks.  What in the world was she doing wearing those compression socks?  Since then, I have seen more and more athletes wearing these socks, and even my husband wears them for his long runs.  Recently my doctor recommended that I start wearing them to help with my lower left leg.  So now I’m curious…

My question, what is so great about compression socks and why should I be using them?

Photo Source: Zimbio

Compression socks were originally developed for people who had circulatory problems or forced inactivity.  Since then, athletes from many different sports have started using them as a way help performance and speed recovery.  The reasoning: during exercise blood can pool in the legs which leads to fatigue and muscle cramps.  With compression socks, the tight elasticity promotes blood flow which sends blood back to the heart.  With increased blood flow, there is less fatigue and muscle cramping.  There is also more oxygen being delivered throughout the body.

Not all compression socks are alike.  They actually come in different sizes (mid-calf, knee, thigh) and in different pressures gradients.  Depending on the pressure you are looking for, you can either buy them over the counter or you will need a prescription from your doctor.  (I had no idea doctors wrote prescriptions for socks!)  The over the counter socks come range in pressure from 10 mmHg – 15 mmHg to 15 mmHg – 20 mmHg.  And if you are looking for a little more pressure, your doctor can prescribe socks up to 50 mmHg.  Compression socks are tighter around the ankle and foot and then loosen up along the upper part of the leg.  In addition to helping promote blood flow through the body, some of the other benefits are increased oxygen delivery to the muscles, accelerated lactic acid removal, stabilization of the lower leg, minimized muscle fatigue and enhanced balance.

At first, I was quite skeptical about these socks.  However, if so many elites are using them, they have to be worth something, right?  In addition, the science supports the theory of increased blood flow and less muscle fatigue, which is definitely pushing me in the direction of getting a pair.  Compression socks are sold basically where you can get anything running related and the prices can range from $30 – $70, depending on the brand.  I have never worn any so I do not have any experience or reviews to share, however, Runner’s World has a nice article about the different types of socks and what they are good for.  Maybe my husband will let me borrow his so I can experiment with this increased blood flow.

Happy Trails, Happy Running, and HAPPY FRIDAY!

Tracie

Running Music (and finding new recommendations)

When it comes to the debate of whether or not to run with music, I am very much pro-music.  Music inspires me, motivates me, and can change my mood from bummed out and lazy to ready to take on the world.  Case in point: during the last mile of my long run this past weekend, I played Fort Minor’s Remember the Name and I finished it in 7:18 – for me, music is powerful.

I’m always on a quest to find new music.  Once I start rapping the words to Eminem, I know it’s time for a new song.  But music is something that is completely a personal preference.  Whereas I may like some rap to get me through long runs in the rain, someone else may like something a little more mellow.  Therefore, stalking out other people’s running playlists may give you a few ideas, but it might not always be the exact music you are looking for. I speak from experience.  This past Saturday I spent quite a bit of time in iTunes listening to the playlists of Shalane Flanagan, Kara Goucher, Sara Hall, Josh Cox, and many other elite athletes.  I got a few ideas but still needed some songs that would get me through those last miles.  I don’t remember exactly how I came across it, but I found a pretty cool website to recommend some new music for the workout playlist.

Jog.fm is a website that recommends workout music based on what you’re doing (running/walking/cycling) and how fast you you’re doing it.  For example, if you want to run a 9:00 min/mile, Jog.fm will suggest songs that are best suited for running at that pace.  If you are training in a particular heart rate zone, it will recommend songs that will keep you in that zone. You can also search songs for what’s new, what’s hot, and which songs are the most added.  The feature I like the most on Jog.fm is the ability to preview the songs directly from the website.  This avoids the time and energy spent going into iTunes and having to search for the songs.  There is also an app you can purchase for $2.99.  However, based on the reviews, your $3 are better spent somewhere else.   Apparently the app doesn’t work like it is suppose to and Pandora is a much better free option.  So if you stay away from the app and use the website as a way to get some new ideas to add to your playlist, you’re certain to find some pretty good music.  I would also like to add that some of the recommendations for target heart rates and paces seem a little off to me, but again, music is completely personal.  Redneck Yacht Club might work for you at 170 bpm, but I prefer a little Panic! At the Disco.  It’s just a pretty cool website to broaden your music library.

Good luck finding some new running music, and I always welcome any of your recommendations!

Happy Trails and Happy Running,
Tracie