We all have unexpected things happen in our lives. It’s just the way the world works. Unexpected things are not always negative. They can be full of joy and excitement too. We just don’t hear about the positive ones as often as the negative.
It’s easy to take the things in our lives, that are going well, for granted and that position begins an easy slid down the mountain. One that’s so fast, we can’t slow down to cherish the unexpected positive things that happen in our lives, let alone the day to day “mundane” gifts.
When things are going really well for us and everything is falling into place, an unexpected bump can seem an insurmountable mountain. Even when we’ve overcome more difficult things in the past. We forget our successes and our strengths so easily.
We stop and take a good long look at the negative, many times we pick them up and permanently attach them to ourselves. But we speed past the positive? If we think about it from the point of evolution, since it seems to be woven so deep within us to be instinctual, I can see some value in slowing for the negative. You want to notice dangers in your environment, if you intend to survive. The slowing isn’t the core of the problem. It’s the counter effect that we should all be concerned about because like imbalances in opposing muscles and tendons, this imbalance also leads to a self imposed injury cycle.
As an ultra runner I’m very aware of the impact my mental state can have on a race. It can mean failure. I know when things get tough, and they will, I have to hold onto the memories of me being strong. I have to conjure the images of the sun rising from behind the peaks sending its rays through the rustling leaves to warm my skin. I have to believe things will get better and the key to that belief is slowing down enough to notice the positive things in our lives.
Don’t leave the positive things behind; not even the little ones. Positive memories, images and experiences are not only weightless, they can carry you into the finish line.
Think about how our perspective would change if we could reverse the notice the negative-forget the positive response.
Ankle sprains are a common occurrence among runners. Especially, trail runners. I recently sprained my ankle for the second time in ten years, not a bad record considering how much I run. I have lose tendons in my ankles anyway, so I can turn an ankle and not cause any damage 90% of the time. Two weeks ago, I was running down a mountain and another runner was coming up. I stepped up onto the slope of the mountain to avoid the runner and when I came down on my left foot it rolled over.
Pain shot up my leg and I heard it tear and said some choice words. I limped along for a bit, but was able to slowly run down the last little bit. I stopped at the first gas station, picked up ice and iburprophen. The swelling isn’t totally gone, but I think I’ll be back out on the mountain in another week.
True to form, I researched how to rehabilitate a sprained ankle and how long it takes to heal. During the acute phase injury to 3-4 days taking iburprophen, icing 4-5 times a day for 15 minutes each time, compression and bracing when you are walking on it.
There are three grades of ankle sprains. Grade one isn’t too bad maybe a minor tear and over stretching. It can cause some pain when walking and some swelling. This takes a week or two to get back to your activities. Grade two is a minor-moderate tear and over stretching. It causes swelling, bruising, pain, and imbalance. It takes 3-4 weeks before you’re back to your activities. Grade three is severe or complete tear of the tendons, which may make surgery necessary. You’ll definitely need crutches to get around. Recovery time on this one is going to be six to eight weeks at a minimum.
Rehabilitating any injury requires strengthening the muscles and tendons that were injured and then the surrounding and supporting ones, balance and proprioception and maintaining mobility. Physical therapy/rehab exercises should begin as soon as you can do them without zero to minimum pain (2 or lower on a 1-10 scale). Exercises should continue for three to four months.
Start mobility exercises about 4-10 days after. Move the foot forward and back, start ankle rolls and writing the ABC’s with your big toe, heel on the floor. You also want to stretch your Achilles and calf muscles. For strengthening, use an exercise band. Wrap it around your forefoot and pull it to the outside, inside and away from you. You can also do this against a wall. Calf raises are also good.
For the balance piece, start slow and work your way up: standing on one leg on the floor, then with your arms out and bent over, and finally using a balance board. To reestablish the brain body communication (proprioception) write the ABC’s with your whole foot while balancing on one leg.
Be patient in your recovery. Once you roll an ankle it is easier to do it again in the future, which is why continuing the exercises for three to four months is so important. When you do return to running, tape your ankle (youtube) each time you run for a week or two. You’ll have to reduce your miles and build them up to reduce the risk of overloading the healing tissues.
You can cross train doing things that don’t cause any pain. Getting out there as soon as possible is important, but keep in mind, going out too soon poses a high risk for re-injury and starting from square one or causing more damage.
Getting stuck in a cycle of injuries is one of the most frustrating things for any athlete, but it happens to many of us. Why does it happen and how do you get out of it?
The why of it is often overtraining/lack of rest and recovery time. We love our sport and we want to do it as much as we can and we want to get better. The thing we forget is rest is part of the getting better process. It’s also essential in preventing injuries.
When an injury occurs and we don’t give ourselves enough time to recover and slowly/gently come back to our regular training routine, we increase the chances of getting another/different injury along the kinetic chain or on the opposite side of the body.
Allowing the body time to heal and regain its strength to be able to tolerate the load we are going to put on it takes time and it takes a gradual increase in training. Even when we are resting enough and are strong, our body goes through a cycle of training stimulus to fatigue/minor damage to recovery/building. If we push hard during the fatigue/minor damage phase, we risk injury. This is why we alternate intense days with easy days in our training programs. It’s why we take a rest week every fourth week.
The bottom line here, is realize your body is not a machine. It has to recover before you can build. Patience is a virtue in these matters.
One of the best things you can do to prevent injuries and stop the cycle is to add strength training to your training schedule. This will help get injured muscles back to pre-injury status and it helps improve the strength of supportive muscles.
I cannot stress enough how important strengthening your core, including your hips, is for runners. These are your stabilizing muscles. Strength in this area will prevent injuries both up and down the kinetic chain. Add a routine three days a week to work on this area and if things get easy, increase the repetitions or change your program. You don’t need a gym membership to do many of these workouts. Your own body weight is enough. My routine requires some home equipment. You can also add in a short arm routine if you’d like.
Here is my routine:
I do them in super sets and repeat each superset three times. It takes me about one hour.
Super set one:
Inner thigh lift one minute
Front plank one minute
Side planks one minute
Leg lowers with or without weight 15 times
Fifteen clams with a band
Single leg bridge on a swiss ball, lift and lower 15 times hold at the top for five seconds
Super set two:
Kettle bell swings 15 times
Kettle bell gobble squats 15 times
15 jump squats
15 piston squats each leg
Super set three:
15 wall ball toss with squats
15 Ball toss sit ups
15 Box jumps
15 Jane fondas
15 fire hydrants
What does it mean to be a runner? Do you have to run a certain number of days a week? Do I have to run a certain number of miles or time? Do I have to have been running for a certain amount of time? Do I have to race? What if I take a break from running of a month, two months, three months? What if I’m injured and have to take six months or more off of running?
These are all questions I’ve contemplated while out on the trails, especially over the last four months. These questions and other similar ones, have jogged around my head because my ability to maintain a consistent running schedule over the last six months has been seriously compromised by a hamstring injury.
I began to ask myself what it really means to be a runner. I’ve written blogs about being a jogger or a runner. The defining feature addressed in that blog was speed, but I’m talking about something different here.
I’ve been running for awhile and I’ve run in races from the 5k to the 100 mile. Being a runner is a big part of who I am, it’s more than what I do. It’s not I run, it’s I am a runner. Losing running is like losing a part of myself. Some may think I’m being overly dramatic, but many of you will understand.
Running has made me a better person; more patient, understanding, compassionate, and mindful. It’s given me appreciation and gratitude for what I have; opportunity, health, material objects, freedom, and dreams.
You do not have to run for a specific number of days each week or a specific number of miles, or a specific amount of time. You do have to run on a regular basis though. You’re not a runner if you jog across the street to get lunch every day. I’m comfortable saying you are a runner if you run two days a week for twenty minutes, even if you run walk those twenty minutes. As to distance, it’s whatever you cover in those twenty minutes. Many runners don’t measure by miles. They measure by time.
You can call yourself a runner after you’ve run consistently for a month. It’ takes 21 days to form a habit, and if running has become a part of your weekly routine, you’re a runner.
Now the big question for this post—taking time off. Runners have to rest for a lot of different reasons and runners get injured and have to heal. Sometimes this takes a long time. If you’re still a runner in your heart and mind, if your intent is to get out there as soon as you can, if the reasons for your time off is to make you a better stronger runner, You’re a runner.
As long as being a runner is woven into who you are, you are a runner.
So this Sunday is Mother’s Day. If you haven’t bought or created your mom a gift, you should do that now and I hope you have two day shipping on Amazon.
Being a mom is hard. I’ve always thought that birthdays should really be a celebration of not just the child but the mother who fought to bring their screaming naked ass into the world.
Mom’s who are also runners are amazing women. Juggling the responsibilities of being a mom and finding time to run is hard. It takes sacrifice, determination, and creativity. I’ve learned a few tricks of the trade over the last few years.
Include your kids in your running. Strollers, bikes, scooters, the younger you can start including them the easier it will be for you in the future to continue to include them. Make it something you do together. They don’t need to go all the time, because mom needs time for herself too. It’s important for them to know you are taking care of yourself so you can be there for them. We put our children before ourselves all the time, but as our kids get older they need to learn that mom has needs just like they do. Taking time, even if it’s only thirty minutes a few times a week, for yourself will make you a better mom.
Run early or late. When my kids were younger, they are teens now, I would run early enough that I would be home to make breakfast when they got up. Sometimes this meant that I got up at 3 am, but being there for breakfast was important to me. You can also run after they go to bed or at lunch if you are also a working mom.
Because I am also a single mom, my kids have always known the route I was running and what time I would be back. They had a phone to call me if they woke up before I returned. I always stayed close enough to the house that I could get back within ten to fifteen minutes. They knew which neighbors they could go to in case of an emergency. They knew when to call for emergency services. If you have children too young to be left alone, find another mom who is willing to trade running days and child care days.
You’re running is important not just for you, but for your kids. You are modeling healthy habits. Too many children, especially in the United States, haven’t grown up being active. It makes me sad when I walk my dogs each evening and see very few children in the streets playing. They are not even out in their yards. When I was a child, we were always running around outside:exploring our neighborhoods and creating adventures.
The hardest decision comes when you have a conflict in schedule with your child’s such as when there is a race you really want to do, but your child also has an event that day and time. This may be an easy decision for some, but for others, me included, it’s hard. I typically went with being there for my kids. The race will be there when they are older. They will never participate in the event in the same way.
Happy Mother’s Day and Happy Running.
Guest Post by Travis White
Many with disabilities fear exercise because they feel they can’t do it, or that it will make their disability worse, or that every physical activity open to them is boring or limited. In reality, those with disabilities can help battle the symptoms and complications of their disability and improve their overall mental and physical wellness by staying active. On top of that, it doesn’t have to be boring. There are plenty of fun, exciting ways to fill your daily exercise quota. Here are some tips.
Get involved in adaptive sports
You don’t have to get your exercise by sitting on a stationary bike or walking on a treadmill for hours. There are dozens upon dozens of adaptive sports (sports modified, through rules and equipment, to accommodate those with disabilities) that you can participate in – no matter if your disability is moderate, severe, physical, mental, or visual.
Wheelchair sports are becoming increasingly popular – so much so that there’s a good chance that there is at least one recreational league available in your city (maybe more!). Basketball, handball, polo, tennis, and volleyball are all sports that have been adapted to suit those in wheelchairs.
For a more extreme sporting experience, skiing, surfing, and rock climbing have all been made highly accessible to those with disabilities through modern equipment and other technology.
Look for exercise in non-traditional places
There are tons of ways to stay active that you may not think of as exercise. Swimming is a great way to have fun and get exercise as a disabled person. Water’s natural buoyancy allows for those with certain types of disabilities to perform motions that they can’t perform on land. Being in the water really opens up a whole world of exercise for those living with a disability.
“Swimming strengthens muscles that enhance the postural stability necessary for locomotor and object-control skills. Water supports the body, enabling a person to possibly walk for the first time, thus increasing strength for ambulation on land. Adapted aquatics also enhances breath control and cardiorespiratory fitness,” says HumanKinetics.com.
Getting out in nature and going for a walk, taking a hike, and even gardening are all ways to have fun while working out. Power chairs, service dogs, and trail companions are all options if you suffer from extremely limited mobility.
Why staying active is good for your whole body (and mind)
The benefits of regular exercise cannot be overstated. Not only does it help prevent a myriad of health problems and obesity, but it can help manage chronic pain – something that oftentimes goes hand-in-hand with disability. The most important benefit of staying active, however, may take place in your head.
“There’s good epidemiological data to suggest that active people are less depressed than inactive people. And people who were active and stopped tend to be more depressed than those who maintain or initiate an exercise program,” James Blumenthal, a clinical psychologist at Duke University, tells the American Psychological Association.
Exercise may even be a top line defense strategy against the effects of PTSD in veterans with disabilities. Not only does the physical act of exercise release brain-boosting chemicals, but exercise serves as an alternative coping mechanism to less-healthy habits like drinking, which can lead to addiction and worsen the mental problems associated with physical disabilities.
Lack of exercise may not just be a symptom of physical disability, but it can be a major exacerbating factor. By staying active, you’ll not only feel better physically but you’ll be better equipped to cope with the mental aspects of dealing with your disability.
Photo Credit: Pixabay.com
I’ve talked about aid stations a few times and I don’t mean to beat a dead horse, but the volunteers at aid stations do a lot of work. For the past three years, my friends and I have put together aid station 13 at the Salt Flats 100, which is at mile 89.7. It’s kind of an unpleasant place as far as the course goes.
It’s about a half mile below a mountain saddle. It’s really the last climb in the race and they stop you before you hit the top! Although I’m glad my aid station is not right in the saddle. This race can be very winding, rainy and snowy all in the same race. This year was no exception, although, we had the best weather this year compared to the last two.
As a runner and an aid station captain, I think it’s important to have something special about your aid station. Our is pizza. We love pizza. We have a propane stone pizza oven and bake pizza right there for the runners. They can have it cold or hot. It only takes a minute to warm it up after we’ve baked it. We buy a bunch of pizza’s from Papa Murphy’s Pizza and it’s been a beautiful thing for three years. The pizza is always a hit, cheese is the favorite. By the time runners reach mile 90 your stomach is either screwed or starving.
This year we also had birthday cake out there because it was one of our volunteer’s birthday. The cake did not get as much love as the pizza, which surprised me. I would have eaten it at mile 90 (I will eat birthday cake here or there, I will eat birthday cake anywhere). Maybe there was too much frosting.
One of the things I find the most difficult, particularly in a smaller race like Salt Flats, is keeping broth and romen noodles warm. I wish we had a microwave. Keeping the romen simmering or warming on the stove turns everything to mush and keeping it going causes it to turn to steam and disappear. Having warm choices in the dead of night when the wind is howling and the rain is coming down is critical.
Vegan and vegetarian options are necessary to have as well. Many ultra runners are health conscious and environmentally conscious. We spend so much time in nature and among the wild things of the earth, how can we not become apart of it. There are many products which are “accidentally” vegan and easy to have at aid stations: oreo cookies, sweedish fish, hummus, tortillas (no lard or sugar), fruits, and veggies of course.
The strength of the human body and mind is amazing. It’s inspiring and rewarding to be able to give back to the sport I love so much.