Posts Tagged ‘recovery’

Small Changes Keep You Healthy

A detailed training log for the week is here.

Running seems so simple, and I guess it can be. Just lace up your shoes, or not, if you’re the barefoot type, and head out the door.

One danger we face, however, is running the same mileage and pace over the same surfaces while wearing the same shoes. Just so we can cross the workout off of the ‘must-do’ list.

Pretty. But not what I want to face everyday.

I live in suburban San Jose, Costa Rica and there isn’t a single road in my immediate neighborhood that stretches more than about three quarters of a mile before turning into a giant hill or series of hills, that don’t necessarily lend themselves to fulfilling every day’s training plan.

While I appreciate the benefits of running rolling hills, it’s not something I want to do on every run. So I run only the (relatively) flat sections of my local neighborhood, basically making a turn anytime I come to the foot of a hill that’s large enough to represent a significant change in the training stimulus.

The risk I run (no pun intended) with this technique is traveling over the exact same portion of road and running surface on every run, every week.  The body needs different stimulus in order to adapt, recover and grow stronger. Running over different surfaces and in different shoes causes slight changes in which muscles, tendons and ligaments are stressed and by how much. All of these tiny variables contribute to fitness.  Never change the input variables and your body will likely respond via fatigue at one end of the spectrum and overuse injuries at the other end.

To keep my legs fresh and confused I like to mix things up ever so slightly.  I rotate among three to four different pairs of shoes, ranging from a fairly neutral trainer to an extreme minimalist flat. Each day that I run I alternate the direction from which I leave my home, allowing me to cover the same local loop but covering the crests, ridges, potholes and crowns from a different angle. During any single run I will also move to the center of the road, whenever safe to do so, so I have a flatter surface beneath my feet, and I also move off into the grass for about 1/8 of a mile each time I pass a local park.

As far as pace and strength are concerned, once a week I run a series of hill sprints after an easy paced run, and on other days I add fartleks into the mix. Each fartlek I run is on a different section of the road or grass: some on flat stretches, and others may be either ascending or descending ever so slightly.

While seemingly insignificant during the actual run, over time these small variables can make a big difference in our fitness, performance and injury prevention.  Not to mention, if you’re limited by your local geography in regards to running terrain these small changes can keep you feeling mentally fresh as well.


photo credit

Don’t Stress Over Changes – Just Adapt

Since finishing my rehab and recovery I’ve completed three full weeks of running in preparation for the ING Miami Half Marathon in January 2013.  I made a decision to run only on the treadmill until I was covering distances of 10k or more, in order to give my body time to strengthen after the six weeks of mostly non and low-impact recovery.  My plan was to swap out a single weekly run to the road, and every other week I would swap out an additional treadmill run for the pavement.

Today my wife returned early from our association’s gym to inform me that the treadmill was dead.  Out of order.  No mas.

Lacking choices, I laced up the Inov-8s and headed out the door, eager to finish before the sun had a chance to rise too high in the sky.  I am already sunburned from attending my daughter’s first track and field event on Saturday. Honestly, I wasn’t excited about running on the road.  I’m paranoid about all of the different variables that could have contributed to my original injury: too many hills, running  too fast, shoes that are too minimalist, overpronation, muscle imbalances.  The list goes on and on.

But sometimes a lack of choices is just what you need.  The ING Miami Half Marathon is run on the road after all, not on a treadmill.

First road run in over 2 months

The challenges were immediate and pronounced as I took my first steps.  I use a metronome to help me lock in an efficient cadence of 180 strides per minute.  This is also a great tool to prevent over striding and makes mid or forefoot landing more natural and not something you have to waste a lot of energy focusing on during a run.

It literally took me the entire first mile to find the proper rhythm, stride and cadence.  By that time it was too late, I had already burned my powder.  I ran three progressively slower splits. No clearer evidence exists of a runner who leaves the gate too fast, finds the pace unsustainable and eventually labors through the finish of the run.  And I still had 3 hill sprints waiting for me at the finish, courtesy of Jason Fitzgerald.

So how does the death of my previously preferred training device impact my race preparation?  Simple, there are a few key areas I need to adjust and monitor:

stride cadence

stride length

pace management and awareness

recovery ability

The simple truth is that I eventually had to face this transition at some point in my training anyway.  So I choose to embrace it now, earlier than planned or expected, but inevitable nonetheless.

The only constant in life is change.




I had an ultrasound performed on my ankles and feet this week.  The results were normal in all aspects and I was given the clear to run, as long as I used any discomfort as an immediate warning sign to stop and take at least the next day off.

I really took some time during my rehab to examine my training plan and realized that as far as running was concerned it didn’t consist of anything more than following a popular half marathon program by a respected coach.  The cookie cutter approach just wasn’t going to cut it and I looked high and low for a few additional resources that resonated with my outlook, personality and fitness level.

Paleo diet satire

The simplest things can sometimes make a world of difference.  One of the resources I discovered was Jason Fitzgerald of Strength Running, and he has a few links to a variety of pre and post run routines that emphasize dynamic mobility and core strength.  Two routines that are helping me tremendously are the Standard Warm Up and the Cannonball.  Performing these routines has significantly decreased post run soreness and stiffness, and also prepare me much better for a workout than my previous grab bag of leg swings and knee bends.

4.79 miles in 1 hour

Tonight’s run was supposed to be a test to see how my legs would respond to running on consecutive days instead of after the normal one day of rest between runs.  I expected things to be over fairly quickly because I was very flat at the start, a combination of yesterday’s run and recovering from the Mother’s Day party we hosted last night that included entirely way too much red wine.

Instead, after about the first mile I discovered that my intervals were getting longer and I was not tiring, not muscularly nor aerobically.  What a pleasant surprise!  I continued to run until I had no water left to quench my thirst and called it a night.

While I am very happy with this week’s progress I know better than to push my luck too far or too fast.  Tomorrow will be an active recovery day with maybe a 30 minute stationary bike ride and the same amount of time for some free play in the pool.  Saturday is a strength training day: dead lifts and military press.  I’ll wrap up the week on Sunday with a fairly easy 30 to 40 minute run.

Nice to report good news for a change.


Photo Credit

Patience, Day 1

Let me start by saying that I realize many people are suffering and enduring circumstances far worse than I can probably imagine.  Even within my extended family there are crises in progress that far outweigh in importance the petty and self-indulgent complaining in which I am about the begin. Having said that, this is my blog and it’s officially time to schedule a little self pity.

Yesterday, while out on a 5k run my right Achilles tendon began to tighten and become stiff and painful. I debated the wisdom of continuing as the pain became progressively worse and ultimately decided to walk the final half mile home. By the time I reached my front door there was no debating the fact that I was injured, and climbing the stairs to shower proved quite difficult.

 Let’s backtrack twenty or so years ago to explain why this seemingly tedious injury is bothering me so much.

 I served briefly in the U.S. military and was exposed to running on a routine basis for the first time. I played baseball and a little soccer in my youth but never had I run six days a week, every week.  During this training my 2 mile run times were sub 12:30 and I even managed to once rocket through a 1 mile session in less than 5:30. These aren’t impressive times by any real runner’s standards, I know. But they were my pinnacle, and was, and am, proud of them.

 After exiting military service I was sporadic with my fitness attempts. A few months of weight training here and there. Several months of martial arts training. And attempts to run that would inevitably lead to knee pain and swelling so severe that within a few weeks I was hobbled. This cycle of nonsense carried on for more years than I care to admit or contemplate.

 For just over a decade, every attempt I made to include running as part of my fitness regimen ended with injury or pain that I was unable to endure, compensate for, or eliminate.

 Approximately four months ago I began researching online information regarding common running injuries, their causes, remedies and of course, how to avoid them in the first place. This lead me to Christopher McDougall’s national bestseller, Born to Run, which in turn enticed me to read several articles by Dr. Lieberman of Harvard University regarding studies that compared traditional heel strikers to those runners who made contact with their mid foot or the balls of their feet. Once this trickle of information began to seep in, the floodgates opened and I was researching everything I could about natural running, barefoot running, minimalist running, Danny Dreyer’s Chi running and Dr. Romanov’s POSE Method.

 I began very conservatively by walking barefoot on a treadmill for 30 minutes, three times per week. After two weeks, I transitioned to a barefoot, walk-jog session on the treadmill for 30 minutes in duration, three times per week. After two weeks I began running barefoot on the treadmill three times per week, building my aerobic capacity, as well as my foot, ankle and tendon strength to a level in which I could sustain 30 minutes of continuous running.

 Feeling confident, I began a commonly referred to Couch to 5k training regimen on the treadmill. It wasn’t as easy as pie, but my preparation made it manageable and I felt no pain or discomfort while running. Only the normal post work out soreness of muscles and lactic acid.

 Inspired by my progress I moved on to a 10k training plan designed by the same company and also moved one of my weekly runs to the roads. I was aware that the impact and forces of road running would be significantly different than the treadmill, and had no intention of pushing the envelope in regards to injury.

 Yesterday was Day 1 of the fourth week of 10k training.  I had completed an 8k run on Monday and yesterday was to be a slow, comfortable 5k recovery run. I was also going to begin running two sessions per week on the road.  My Achilles disagreed.

 So now I am sidelined. In no man’s land. Waiting. Brooding. Sulking. Thinking. Analyzing. Asking questions. Did this happen because:

  • Every route I run outdoors has numerous hills, over taxing my Achilles?
  • Am I over pronating and causing excessive torque on my Achilles?
  • Are my calves severely tight and stretching my Achilles unnecessarily?
  • Am I landing properly or too much on the balls of my feet, adding undue stress?
  • Am I running too fast? (highly unlikely)
  • Are my joints and tendons simply responding to an accumulated work load to which they are unaccustomed?

So many variables. So many possibilities. And with only my limited abilities at self perception available to offer feedback during training sessions my fear is that I will begin a new cycle of injuries and ailments. Maybe no longer my knees, but simply a migration to a neighboring joint, tendon or socket of anatomical and bio-mechanical failures.

 Today is Day 1 of recovery.

 RICE. Rest. Ice. Compression. Elevation.

 Tick-tock. Tick-tock.