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Posts tagged ‘injury prevention’


Back in May, I turned the ripe running age of 30. For my birthday, Mario gave me a beautiful necklace. That necklace has since done more to tell me about my posture than any doctor or yoga class ever has.

Maybe a few of these pictures will explain:

Birthday Festivities

Birthday Festivities


Celebrating my grandmother's 91st birthday

Celebrating my grandmother’s 91st birthday


With two of my fabulous students

With two of my fabulous students


My necklace is always to my right side. Mario was the first person to point it out to me and I told him it was gravity. He reminded me gravity pulled straight down. I added “and slightly to the right.”

Why does this even matter? Well what this little necklace tells me is that something is going on with the right side of my body. And as luck would have it, my right ankle has started to bother me. From my past medical experience, I say it’s tendonitis. At first I was pretty distraught and ran through the pain. Then I decided that was a bad idea.

After spending some time thinking about my body mechanics and my necklace always pulling to the right, I decided something was “wrong” with the right side of my body. My ankle was bothering me because my  hip was off, not because it was off. Therefore, I have been doing more painful hip opening exercises than I care to think about. In particular, staying in pigeon pose for a really, really long time. The end result: a straight necklace, a hip that feels like it’s moving correctly, and an ankle that is almost pain free. Two more days off and I think I’ll be ready for my 17 miler on Saturday.

My point is this… runners get injured. In my case, they get injured a lot. However, from my experience, I would say that the pain  in one area of the body is because another area in the body is off. Our bodies are incredibly amazing and if we listen closely enough, we might just understand what’s going on. I’m pretty sure Mario didn’t realize his gift was going to be so functional.

Happy Trails and Happy Running,



Running Update: Running has been going okay this past week and a half. I took one day off last week and still got in my 15 miler on Saturday. But thanks to the heat, humidity, and lack on fluids, I was pretty sure I might pass out on the side of the trail. This week is my low mileage week, thankfully. I ran 8 on Monday but have been cross-training  the other days. I’ve decided to take today and tomorrow off, to give my ankle enough time to fully heal. Thankfully I still have a little over two months to go before Chicago and I feel that I have a very solid base and fitness level.

Lesson #4 – Running is a Complete Body Sport

Perhaps one of the most valuable lessons I have learned over this year long journey is that running is a complete body sport. It’s as much about every other muscle group in your body as it is about the power of your legs.

From my personal experience, I can tell you that your back and hips play an important role in efficient running. In particular, if your back muscles are tight or weak, some other part of your body will start compensating. At first, this isn’t such a big deal, but over time it adds up. Back muscles might not be such a big area of concern for other runners, but for me, it is. I take 10 minutes before every run and do stretches specifically for my back. So far, so good. And I’m thankful I came to realize this.

With regards to hips, I’ve always thought I had pretty flexible hips. Many of the hip opening yoga poses are fairly easy for me. What has needed work is my hip strength. Back in February when I really injured myself, I think it was a combination of weak hip flexors and tight back muscles. I spent a month working on my hip flexors and the difference has been amazing. I can now feel my hip flexors engage and facilitate smooth running. I feel more upright when I run and overall, my hips feel stronger. Hip exercises have become a routine part of my workout schedule.

Runners get injured. It happens. But I think it’s incredibly important to analyze why we get injured. What part of our body is weak or tight? How has our mileage increased? Have we been too hard on our bodies without enough rest? We have to reflect and we must get in tune with our bodies. Many injuries don’t have to happen.

Happy Trails & Happy Running,


Running Update: I have to admit, I didn’t want to run today. I was incredibly tired and it was almost 90 degrees outside. But I spent some time reflecting on my running goals and made it out the door. It was hot. Really hot. And I had 8 miles on my schedule. Much to my surprise, in spite of the heat, I had an awesome run. The goal was to focus on easy and not push to a point where I felt like I was really trying. My last two miles were 7:40 and 7:35 and that actually felt easy. Perhaps all the hill running is starting to pay off. Stats are here

The Top 5 Things I’ve Learned in a Year- #5, Running Form

In five days my one year blogging journey will come to an end. In 360 days, I have learned A LOT of things but there are 5 that I think will carry my running a new level. I would like to share my list of the most important things I’ve learned this past year…

#5 – Running Form

Running form is particularly important to me right now because I’m coming back from an injury that I know was caused by bad running form. I could feel it when my form started to deteriorate, and because I chose to ignore it for so long, I realize how incredibly important it is.

Back in June, after seeing a few race photos, I realized my form needed a little work. In comparison to the super fast runners out there, my form was a mess. In July, I took a Chi Running class and was amazed at the things I learned. For a while, I focused on my chi running techniques and it worked quite well. However, over time, as I got more interested in speed in distance, I let the form go.

My lesson from this is the following: bad running form exacerbates a running injury. Everything in the body plays an important role – your legs, your hips, your core, your back, your shoulder position, your head position… everything. Two Saturdays ago a guy went flying past me. His running form was beautiful. Efficient. Effortless. And clean. I immediately tried to imitate it and found my pace quickly increase.

I have learned that when you feel your form start to go, slow down. Rest. Take a break. Stretch. Speed and distance are never worth the numbers, at the price of bad form. It will catch up with you.

Happy Trails & Happy Running,;


Running Update: I had a pyramid fartlek run today. 1-2-3-3-2-1 minute intervals with :30,1:00:1:30 minute breaks in between. I was not excited about it. I found myself really taking it easy on the warm up mile because I didn’t have the energy to do anything else. I did my intervals and at the end I realized I only did 1-2-3-2-1 and missed my second 3 minute interval, or so I thought. I made up my second 3 minutes at the end. Turns out I was wrong… I did do all of my intervals plus an extra one because I can’t count. Or at least speed and hills make me forget how to count. I did a 2.5 mile cool down and was incredibly happy with how strong I felt up that one beast of a hill. For 7 miles with some intense speedwork, I was very happy with the end result. Warm up mile is here, fartlek run is here, and cool down miles are here.


Seeing my bad form for the first time...

Seeing my bad form for the first time…


An improvement after my chi running class...

An improvement after my chi running class…


City of oaks

I think I have good for in this too…



Posture and Running

One might not think how we sit in a chair has anything to do with how we run. I actually think they are very much related. Slouch in a chair all day and you might find yourself slouching during your 6 mile run. I’ve noticed that when I grade papers, my right shoulder creeps up to my ear. And I’ve also noticed that when I run, my right shoulder creeps up to my hear. One carries over to the other.

I recently read this interesting article in the NY Times: The Posture Guru of Silicon Vally. I had no idea you could you could make a living out of teaching people how to sit properly, but it totally makes sense.

Amy Schoenfield:

Ms. Gokhale (pronounced go-CLAY) is not helping aching office workers with high-tech gadgets and medical therapies. Rather, she says she is reintroducing her clients to what she calls “primal posture” — a way of holding themselves that is shared by older babies and toddlers, and that she says was common among our ancestors before slouching became a way of life. It is also a posture that Ms. Gokhale observed during research she conducted in a dozen other countries, as well as in India, where she was raised.

Posture matters when running. A good posture while running leads to better running form. And because our muscles have memory, having good posture while sitting will help our posture while running. Check out the posture guru here.

Happy Trails & Happy Running,


Spinal Erectors and Running

I don’t remember where I first heard about the spinal erector muscle group, but I do remember thinking I have weak spinal erectors. I had no knowledge about these muscles but they sounded pretty important. Fast forward a few months and the more I in tune with my body I become, the more I realize my left back muscles are not as strong as my right back muscles. Perhaps weak spinal erectors??

Leslie Truex:

The erector spinae is comprised of a group of muscles and tendons that run the length of and support the spine. They work with abdominal muscles to help support the torso, and they should be strengthened in conjunction with ab exercises. In fact, according to, trying to develop strong abs but ignoring the back can increase your risk of back injury.

The way I understand it is spinal erectors keep your spine straight. With regards to my running, as I pick up the mileage and subsequently become more tired, my weak left side stops engaging as it should and my right side takes over. In my non-expert opinion, this has contributed to my many injuries. In fact, because I’ve been running consistently for about a month now, I can feel my left side starting to disengage and my right side take over. As much as I wanted to do an easy run today, I decided not to and worked solely on stretching and strengthening my back. There are a few good exercises here and here.

I think because my long run yesterday was a little on the fast side and I’ve been running almost everyday for a month, I’m going to go easy this week. My body is starting to tell me that it needs a little break (and variety).

Happy Trails & Happy Running,


And completely unrelated, here are some pictures from the birthday festivities last night. Check out the cake!

Thanks Emily for the cake!!

Thanks Emily for the cake!!


With my fabulous sister, who along with my parents, made an amazing video using pictures of me from when I was a baby until now.

With my fabulous sister, who along with my parents, made an amazing video using pictures of me from when I was a baby until now.


Best friends since kindergarten

Best friends since kindergarten

With Mari, Baby Ravi, and Emily

With Mari, Baby Ravi, and Emily




Backward Running

I don’t remember where I read it, but somewhere recently I read that running backwards was beneficial for the hip flexors. Then yesterday I saw in my new marathon book that one of the recommended drills is running backwards. So what did I do yesterday at the gym? Lots of running backwards. 🙂 I probably looked silly but I didn’t care. However, I’m curious… what are the benefits?

According to this article from Run Addicts, running backwards:

1) allows you to still run if you are injured

2) increases muscular balance

3) burns more calories

4) improves leg speed and performance

5) improves posture

6) heightens your senses

I don’t know how much backward running I’ll be doing, but I do plan to incorporate a few reverse jogs into my week. And how is this for interesting – the fastest 5K time running in the opposite direction is 19:31! I’d be happy with that time running in the right direction. Forget trying to run fast AND watch where I’m going!

Happy Trails and Happy Running


Back Opening Stretches

My return to running has been going much better than I could have expected 1 month ago. In addition to my strength training, there is one thing that I think is really helping me… back stretches. Going into my race in February, my left side felt congested and like it wouldn’t move right. It amazes me how much more freely it moves now. These are the three stretches I do morning, afternoon, and night – every single day.

1) Downward Dog

2) Bow Pose

3) Upward Bow Pose (although I do not look nearly as flexible as this guy)

Sometimes I think to myself I don’t have time to these poses. I should just go run. Then I remember my suffering at the beginning of the year. I make time. And that includes waking up at 4:45 am, doing yoga before lunch, and always stretching before bed. For my body and for my weaknesses, I know these three stretches are greatly helping my running form. And my running couldn’t be happier. 🙂

Happy Trails & Happy Running,


Running Update: Ran to the gym, followed by leg weights & abs, and then ran home. I was super impressed at how easy this run felt. Run stats here and here.

Tight Glutes

Any time I’ve ever had a sports massage, I have always been told I had extremely tight glutes. In my mind I took that to mean you have really strong glutes but it seems this isn’t the case. This morning, as I started out my run, I could tell I was holding a lot of tension in my glutes and it was affecting my running form. Once I focused on letting the tension go, my stride really opened up and my running felt so incredibly efficient. It was awesome.

When I got home, I decided to look into tight glutes. Well it turns out, I think this may have been a big contributing factor to my injury in February. Glutes are important.

Your glutes are the largest, most powerful muscle in the body. When they are inhibited, they can affect everything from your hip flexors to your lower back muscles. (Wait, isn’t that what was wrong with me for 5 weeks?) If your glutes are inhibited, this means they can be either too tight or too weak. Want to know if you have inhibited glutes? Try the hip extension test. Right now it seems mine are pretty normal. (The goal will be to keep them this way as I slowly pick my running back  up.) Your glutes are the muscles that help keep your pelvis, femur, ankle, and knee in alignment. If that gets out of whack, you could potentially have issues with your lower back, your IT Band, or even your knees. Um, not good.

This website has some great stretches and exercises for getting the glutes firing properly. In addition, it has some stretches for the piriformis. I know I’ve said this before but it continues to amaze me how running is a complete, whole body, activity. In order to be an efficient runner, all the parts have to be in sync with one another. Kind of like a nice, fancy car… 🙂

Happy Trails and Happy Running,


Running Update: This morning was a glorious run. The weather was perfect, my body felt great, and everything went by effortlessly. I ran 9 miles and that is my longest runs since my injury. I keep reminding myself that some of the best female runners are in their 30s. I turn 30 in two weeks so maybe my time is approaching. 😉 Stats are here.

My Runner’s Body

“Your body is the only thing you are born with and that you die with. Be kind to it.”

Over the years, my runner’s body has been through a lot of ups and downs. Currently, it’s on the upswing after a long and depressing low. Yesterday I came up with a vision of how I want my runner’s body to be and I’d like to share it with you…

Right now, I’d say my runner’s body is comparable to a five year old car that has been in a few crashes. It still works and gets me from point A to point B, but there is some lingering damage. A few bad parts aren’t too problematic in the short term. But over time, those bad parts lead to a breakdown. I think it’s time to upgrade 🙂 …

I’ve decided I’m working towards having a runner’s body more like a Porsche 911. I want to be a fine tuned running machine, where everything works effortlessly and smoothly. I will treat my runner’s body as I would treat this car… with kindness and care.  I would not drive a Porsche with a flat tire. Therefore, I will not run with an injured hip. I would not put cheap fuel in a Porsche. Therefore I will not feed my body junk. I would not drive 100mph all the time (or maybe ever), which means I will not run fast all the time. Just as I would do preventive maintenance on my car, I will do preventive maintenance on my legs. I want my runner’s body to be as awesome as this car.

Mario use to have a Porsche and whenever I drove it (which wasn’t very often), I remember the feeling of that car being so completely different than my trusty Yaris. It just felt effortless and perfect. And that is how I want my running to be.

Happy Trails & Happy Running,


One day I will be like this car :)

One day I will be like this car 🙂


Standing on Two Feet

I have presented myself with a challenge for the next week. It’s actually quite difficult but I can already tell a difference. My challenge is… stand evenly on both feet. Crazy right?

I’d venture to say the majority of people do not stand evenly on both feet. Unless of course, you’re talking about Tara Stiles or Danny Dreyer. Think about how you stand most of the time. Or even better, just look at the people around you. People tend to stand to one side or another. Once or twice and that’s not a bad thing. However, over the years, you create that muscle memory. One leg gets stretched out, one IT band gets tighter, one foot gets stronger, and one leg gets weaker.

For the normal person, that’s not such a big deal. However, for the athlete (runner) who is trying to reach certain goals, this can become a problem. Everything is connected in your body. Your spine affects your hips, which affect your quads, which affect your knees, which affect your ankles, and so on and so on. I’ve decided in order to achieve these very far fetched running goals I have, I have got to get in tune with my body and master it.

Since I’ve started really paying attention to distributing my weight evenly on both feet, I’ve noticed two very big things. First, I feel so much more grounded. Second, I feel taller. Granted, I’m only 5’2, but I feel a towering 5’4. The world looks different from  up here 😉 .

Care to join me in the challenge? It’s a little harder than one might think.

Happy Trails and Happy Running,


Recover/Running Update: I stuck to my word and did NOT run today. Instead I did an intense tabata session followed by lots of burpees, pushups, one legged squats, yoga poses, and back bends. it was a great workout and I loved the intensity. 🙂

On another note, it’s National Sibling Day and I have the best sister ever. I love you Toni!!

Toni & Tracie

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