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Warrior Pose


Last Monday when I met with my new running coach, we discussed a range of topics including mileage, a running log, strength training, and yoga. One of the things he told me was that when he was doing his heaviest running, he incorporated 1 1/2 hours of yoga into his training a couple of times a week. And instead of going to an actual studio, he order a video off Amazon and would do that after a run. His wife mentioned that in particular, they focused on warrior poses. Warrior pose – I remember that from yoga class but I do not remember all of the different ones. There is Warrior I, Warrior II, and Warrior III. Here is the difference:

Warrior I:  Opens the chest and lungs, allowing for better breathing. Creates more flexibility in the shoulders, back, and hips. Strengthens the legs. This is a good pose to prepare for back-bending poses.  To do Warrior I: The front knee is bent, back leg straight, arms extended overhead, and the chest is turned in the same direction as the bent knee.

Warrior II: Develops strength and elasticity in the legs and flexibility of the hips. Tones the abdominal organs, stretches the shoulders and back. Increases stamina. To do Warrior II: The front knee is bent, back leg straight, arms extended out to the sides in line with the legs.

Warrior IIIStretches and tones the legs, trains us to strengthen the abdominal muscles, improves our posture. Brings better balance and greater stamina with practice. To do Warrior III: Balance on one straight leg, with the trunk and arms extending horizontally forward and the lifted leg extending back.

Here is my attempt at the three poses. Let me add that I do not practice yoga that often so clearly I am not that good at it. My poses are also not what they should be, but I’m trying 🙂 Just don’t make fun…

Happy Trails and Happy Running,

Tracie

Dean Ornish: The World’s Killer Diet

Today I went to visit my family in the lovely small town of Roxboro, NC. I was able to visit with my grandparents and while chatting with them, I realized it is in my genes to live a really long time. All of my grandparents are over 90 and are still very able to take care of themselves. My grandfather is 94 and for 30+ years has gone walking around the neighborhood with his friends every morning. My almost 91 year old grandmother still goes to the beach, plays cards with her lady friends, and loves to entertain. And her brother, who at 80+ years old, was still running, has finally retired at the age of 87. My other grandmother, who is also 90, still writes letters, plays BINGO, and walks daily. Tragic accidents aside, I’m hoping to see triple digits and still be in good health.

Anyway, it got me thinking about the importance of health, diet and exercise so when I got home tonight, I decided to watch a few TED videos on health. I watched several good ones but the one I liked the most was a presentation by Dean Ornish. It was a 3:22 video that was to the point, informative, and makes a very valid, simple, and often overlooked point – we control our health. Not pills. Not a quick diet. But our own actions. If you have a few minutes, you can watch the video here, but here are the key points:

1) Cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and diabetes are 95% preventable and reversible just by changing diet and lifestyle.

2) Asia, which once had the lowest rates of heart disease and diabetes, in just one generation, has gone to having one of the highest. (They are starting to live like we do.)

3) Cardiovascular deaths equals HIV and AIDS deaths in most African countries.

4) Children may now have a shorter life span than their parents due to obesity and heart disease

Change is hard and I get that. But how can we let something that is 95% preventable AND reversible, put his six feet under well before our time? Life is short enough as it is and I want to see triple digits. I’ll gladly drink spinach smoothies and wake up at 5am to workout if that means I still get to run when I’m 80, travel to the beach when I’m 90, and play cards with my grandkids when I’m 95 🙂

Photo Credit: The Center for Optimal Health (photo also used in Dean Ornish’s presentation)

 

Happy Trails and Happy Running,

Tracie

Race Walking

Did anyone else get to watch the race walking this morning?  It is intense! Yes they are walking, but they are walking far and they are walking fast.  The winner of the 50K averaged 6:56 per mile and the winner of the women’s 20K averaged 6:50 per mile. I really didn’t know it was possible to walk that fast.

If you did get to see the race walking this morning you probably noticed quite a few people get carded and disqualified.  Race walking has some tricky rules.  For example:

  • Walkers must have the front foot on the ground when the rear foot is raised
  • The front leg must be straight when it is in contact with the ground
  • A judge can issue a yellow card to caution a walker if they are pushing the envelope (but only once)
  • A clear violation of the rules results in a red card (but again, a judge can only issue a red card once to a walker)
  • Three red cards equals disqualification
  • The chief judge can disqualify a walker with 100 meters to go in the race if he/she clearly violates the rules

In the Olympics there are three race walking events – a 20K for both men and women and a 50K for men. I wonder why there is no 50K event for women? Apparently race walking is dominated by the Russians.  This morning Russian Elena Lashmanova set a world record in the 20K with a time of 1:25:02.  Her teammate Olga Kaniskina was only .07 seconds behind her.  For the men’s 50K, Russian Sergey Kirdyapkin set an Olympic record with a time of 3:35:59.  Chen Ding from China won the men’s 20K with a time of 1:18:46. You can watch the highlights here.  American John Nunn came in 43rd for the 50K with a time of 4:03:28.  Still an impressive time for 31.1 miles if you ask me.

As far as world records go, Russians have them all – the men’s 20K, the men’s 50K, and out of the 13 fastest women for the women’s 20K, 10 are from Russia.  The other three are from China.  I think Russians are to race walking what Jamaicans are to sprinting.

And finally, there are some who think race walking has no place in the Olympics, mainly because of how difficult it is to judge.  Here is a great article from the New York Times detailing just how complex the sport can be.

I know there are some who would say walking isn’t really a sport, but anybody who can walk a mile in less than 7 minutes is pretty amazing in my opinion. Watch this 2 minute video if you have a chance.  It pretty much sums up race walking at the Olympics.

Race Walking
Photo Source: Evdcoldeportes, Wikimedia Commons

Don’t forget the men’s marathon is tomorrow morning 6:00 am EST. GO USA!

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

Peak Performance in Women Runners

My cousin is in town for a wedding and we have been having a lot of good running conversations today.  One that I found particularly interesting was about a recent article she had read discussing peak performance in women marathoners.  She had read that women runners peak later in life because over the years, they build more confidence.  After quite a few Google searches, I was unable to find the article, but I did find some other interesting facts.

The average age of the 2008 elite women’s field for the New York City Marathon was 33.

The winner of the 2008 Women’s Olympic Marathon was 38 years old. Sammy Wanjiru was 21 when he won the 2008 Men’s Olympic marathon.

Kara Goucher is 34 and Shalane Flanagan is 31.  Desiree Davila is 29.

Paula Radcliffe who was planning to run the London Olympic Marathon until she had to drop out, is 38 years old.

“The physical peak for most humans, in most sports, is between 25 and 35 years of age; during this peak period, the well-conditioned athlete can create a confluence of muscular strength, peak cardiovascular and oxygen transport, speed and reaction time, and mental capabilities (including the ability to deal with competitive pressures), all bound together by a desire to succeed.”

“For sports  in which strength (both muscular strength and bone density), oxygen uptake, and cardiovascular efficiency are vital to success, the aging process may be slowed, though never halted or reversed. Since 1950, the average age of world champion distance runners in the 3-mi (5,000 m) races through to the 26-mi marathons (42.2 km) ranges between 28 and 32 years of age. From this peak of ability, runners will continue to perform at levels close to their personal best into their late 30s and early 40s; performance then declines at a rate of approximately 2% per year through age 80.”

There is a lot of information out there regarding when runners peak, and in particular when women runners peak.  I am 29 years old and after 11 years of attempting this running thing, I finally feel like I am becoming a smarter and better runner.  Although I will never be where Kara Goucher is at the age of 34, I am hoping that I will continue to get better and faster. Whether it be because of more confidence or better physical abilities, I hope my best running years are yet to come.

Happy Trails and Happy Running,

Tracie

Smoothies and Powder

Man am I glad to finally be home.  After waking up at 3:30 am to catch a plane by 6:00 am and traveling all day, I am ready to call it a night.  But not before blogging of course…

During the more than one hour we were sitting on the runway waiting for a mechanic to fix the plane (I know, a different plane would have been preferred), I had a lot of time to think about my blog topic.  Last week I downloaded Ben Greenfield’s most recent podcast about the benefits of the slimey green plant, algae.  I haven’t had a chance to listen to it yet but it reminded me of how much I love my green smoothies.  They really do make teaching high schoolers at 7:10 am a little more fun.

Back in May, I got a little lazy and didn’t want to use the VitaMix to blend spinach, kale, etc. anymore.  Instead, I turned to Living Fuel Super Greens, recommended by Ben Greenfield on his website.  The best way I can describe it is to say it has every great, green, superfood possible.  However, recently I’ve been reading a lot from people who use Vega and who also love it.  I’ve seen it at Whole Foods but have tended to stick with the LFSG.  Well in the spirit of getting back into my green smoothies, I decided to do a little comparison between the two.

Living Fuel Super Greens is “an all-natural whole meal superfood in a nutrient-dense, calorie-restricted format, Super Greens is a whole, raw, complete, foundational superfood—a blend of organic, wildcrafted, and all natural foods that have been optimized with the most bio-available and usable nutrients in existence.” It has a 2:1 protein to carb ratio, 2:1 carb to fiber ratio, and practically every, vitamin, nutrient, and superfood you can think of.  Here is their nutrition label:

Living Fuel Super Greens

Vega has several different products, but the one most similar to the LFSG is the Vega One Nutritional Shake.  Vega One “is the clean, plant-based choice to fuel your healthy, active lifestyle—without compromise. Made from natural, whole food ingredients, Vega One is a convenient, all-in-one supplement, packed with 50% daily intake of vitamins and minerals, 15 g protein, 6 g fibre, 1.5 g omega-3, antioxidants, probiotics, and greens”.  Whole Foods has some sample packs for $3.99.  I bought one to try in my smoothie tonight.  (I really needed the energy to get through the rest of the evening.)  Here is their nutrition label:

Vega One Nutritional Shake

A container of the LFSG costs $74.95 and includes 14-56 servings, depending if you use it for a meal replacement or a snack.  A container of Vega One Nutritional Shake costs $69.99 and has 22 servings.  LFSG is a little more calorie dense and if using an entire serving, it is best as a meal replacement.  Vega has a lot of great products, including a sports performance line, but I think for my smoothies, I’ll stick to the Living Fuel Super Greens.  Yes, it is expensive but it would cost me a small fortune to buy all of those ingredients and make it myself.  And where else can I get all of those awesome nutrients?  Seriously, if someone knows an even better nutritional powder, please share.  I’m always looking to learn about something new.

Ok, now I’m off to bed.  A nice long tempo run awaits me in the morning.

Happy Trails and Happy Running,

Tracie

Hydration

A few days ago, my Google+ friend Jenny posted an excellent article on sports drinks and athletics.  You can read the entire article here.   It brought about an interesting discussion among some of my fellow running friends and it challenges the conventional wisdom that many people follow with regards to hydration.  Back in January I posted an article about hydration and endurance sports, and I wanted to share it again.  I would also like to add that since incorporating the idea of “drink to thirst” into my approach to running, there have been no bad side effects and it is has been nice to worry with less.

This is what I wrote back in January

This marathon training season, I am experimenting with some new training techniques, including different nutrition guidelines and training regiments. When I came across Dr. Tim Noakes (author o fThe Lore Of Running) and his belief that endurance athletes drink too much, I was a little skeptical and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to incorporate his ideas into my training.  According to Dr. Noakes, athletes should drink according to their thirst and if they do this, then performance will be optimized.  As someone who often suffers from blue lips after a marathon and who believes it is due to the lack of liquids and sodium in my body, consuming less liquid is not on the list of things I want to change.  However, in looking at the research and listening to Dr. Noakes, maybe it’s not the lack of sodium giving me blue lips.  Perhaps it’s just really cold. =)

With regards to hydration, the recommendation that athletes are most familiar with is, if you wait until you are thirsty, then you’ve waited too long.  You are already in a state of dehydration.  Also, if you lose more than 2% of body weight, you are losing too much fluid and hence decreasing performance.  However, when Haile Gebrselassie set the world record for the marathon, he had lost 10% of his body weight, and it is common for those who finish first in long distance events, finish in a dehydrated state.  The people who tend to over-hydrate (hyponatremia) are those middle and back of the pack runners.   Dr. Noakes argues that the common advice to drink before you get thirsty and drink to prevent dehydration may sometimes result in over-drinking, with hyponatremia (when fluid intake exceeds your rate of fluid loss from sweating, resulting in low blood-sodium levels) as the consequence.

Throughout the history of hydration guidelines, there have been changes from not drinking anything, to drinking as much as possible, to most recently, drink when you are thirsty.  Certainly, there are times when we need to drink more than others – such as in high heat and humidity.  However, I am often of the mindset that I should drink at aid stations, regardless of the fact of if I’m thirsty or not.  According to the International Marathon Medical Directors Association’s (IMMDA) latest revision, this really isn’t necessary.  In 2006, IMMDA released its long-awaited hydration guidelines, which concluded that runners should, simply, drink when thirsty.

This weekend, along with my beet juice pre-race beverage, I’m leaving the handheld at home.  Instead, I’m leaving the water bottle in the car and running a loop where I can easily get to it when I start to get thirsty.

Here are a few other interesting articles I found on hydration from Runner’s World and Active.com:

The New Rules of Hydration: Revisionist Drinking
The New Rules of Hydration
Revisionist Drinking

Running is a simple sport and I don’t think we should try and over complicate things.  Listen to your body and not the  mass media.  Your body really is incredible at letting you know what it needs.

 

Photo from U.S. Navy, Wikimedia Commons

Sending happy running thoughts your way from Walla Walla.  I’m looking forward to my long run tomorrow morning through the vineyards.

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!

Hamstrings

Last week when I was reading how to best prepare for my upcoming hilly marathon, a couple of articles mentioned the importance of strong  hamstrings.  Over the past month I have been doing more to build strength in my hamstrings but I wanted to learn a little more about their role in running.  Here is what I learned… Read more

Recovery After a Race

This past weekend was a long weekend to say the least.  I drove a lot, raced, drove some more, went to a bridal shower, went out dancing for a friend’s birthday, ran 11 miles, cooked, cleaned, you name, I did it.  All of this with a combined total of 10 hours of sleep over two days.  On Monday, my body started to let me know it needed a little down time.  I went to the gym for some cross training and plyometric exercises and when I got home, I was ready to collapse.  First, I was soooo hungry and second, I didn’t feel like doing anything.  I mean nothing. I did manage to work for a few hours and then decided to close my eyes for a few minutes.  Two hours later I woke up and thought it was the next day.  On top of that, I still went to bed around 9:45 and slept soundly until 5am. (I’m a person who can do great off 6 hours of sleep.) I finally started to feel normal again by Tuesday afternoon (although the incredibly hilly run that I did probably didn’t help), but the lethargic feeling left me with the question – how long does it take to recover from a race?  Now yes, I only raced 5 miles on Saturday but I gave it all I had.  Then on top of that, I ran 11 miles in extremely humid conditions and with very little sleep the next day.  I wasn’t feeling like my energized self, so do I need more time to recover?

I’m sure many of us may have heard the advice that we should rest one day per mile that we raced.  Or perhaps that we should do a reverse taper in the weeks following a marathon.

Gina Kolata:

“As it turns out, there’s not much rigorous research on recovery after strenuous exercise. There have been almost no long-term studies, and there’s little agreement on what to measure or how to measure it. This aspect of competition is rife with unsubstantiated dogma.”

According to this article, there is more than just mileage that goes into determining a recovery period. I did find this table from Active.com that includes serveral different variables in determining your recovery period including, nutrition, distance, effort, course, weather conditions, level of conditioning, age, etc.  Here is the article.   Based on that, my score was a 26 which means I need a little less than a week to fully recover.  I believe it too because not only did that race take a lot out of me physically, but my mind needs a little time to recover too.  I had scheduled hill repeats yesterday, but that wasn’t happening.  My mind and my body just weren’t in it and I wasn’t ready to put forth another hard effort.  Instead I just ran a hilly course and tried not to pay attention to my time.  Even that was hard.

It’s amazing how your body can let you know when it has had enough.  Recovery is important and I’m taking the rest of this week easy.  Heck, maybe I’ll even sleep in to 6:00 am.

 

Now I understand why the elites only race twice a year
Photo Courtesy of Masahiro Hayata, Wikimedai Commons