Category Archives: Sports

Stuck in the Injury Cylce

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

15 burpees

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

Ways for Those with Disabilities to Live Fun, Active Lives and Why It’s So Important

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

Aid Stations

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.

Running for Weight Loss?

Many people start running because they want to manage their weight. Losing weight can be very difficult for a multitude of reasons. It’s hard to be hungry and say no to things you love to eat. It’s also difficult to force yourself to go to the gym or exercise when your energy is lagging because you’re eating less.

Exercise, such as running, is only one piece of the equation of losing weight. Losing weight may seem simple, eat less than you burn each day. But…it’s not. People are horrible at estimating calories going in and calories going out. Keep your plan reasonable for your lifestyle, simple to implement and bring your awareness along.

People start and stop weight loss plans all the time. Part of the problem is they are not seeing results or they get stressed and give up. Implementing a diet or exercise is a step forward and doing both is even better. But it all comes down to practicality.  The research out there shows that the most effective diet is the one you can stick to regardless of its approach (low carb/high fat, paleo, gluten free, whatever).

It’s the same with exercise. Do what works for you. If you can only fit in three twenty minute sessions a week, do that. Don’t succumb to the pressure of five to seven days a week for an hour if it doesn’t fit your life. You can always work up to it, if you want.

You don’t need to starve yourself to lose weight. You need to be aware of what you are eating and make healthy choices. Eating aware means not only knowing the quality of what you are eating, but when you are eating, and how much you are eating. Many of us put food in our mouths unconsciously; we pass by the candy bowl on the secretary’s desk; we grab a quick snack and a big gulp when we put gas in our cars. Eating more slowly allows your body to recognize when it is full. Using smaller plates or leaving space on larger ones will help prevent over eating. Remember you don’t have to clear the food off your plate. And if you have children, you don’t need to finish their food.

Foods low in sugar and high in protein and fiber will make you feel full longer. Eat as much unprocessed fruits and veggies as you can get your hands on. If you are having a sugar craving, eat berries or mangos. Consuming less processed sugars will also reduce your cravings for them. Eat a breakfast with high protein, which will reduce snacking before lunch. It will also reduce calorie intake throughout the day.

Make sure you are drinking enough water throughout the day. Your body can send hunger signals when it is actually thirsty. Reduce your intake of drinks filled with sugar. We consume 400 calories a day on average through our choices of drinks. It’s very easy to drink up to 800 or more calories a day with our soda and sweet coffee drink consumption.

So what are the keys to weight loss: reasonable for your lifestyle, simple to implement, and awareness.

Eager Beaver

Not everyone is an eager beaver. Pulling yourself out of the winter hibernation can be quiet the process. “But it’s running!” the beavers say. I know I totally get it beav. I’m right there with you rearing to go, chomping at the bit, barely containing the animal within.

But for some, it takes time for the snow to melt, the limbs to thaw, and the warm blood to reach the toes. It can be especially challenging if you have dropped your miles very low over the winter months or if you had a disappointing race season before the cold hit your neck of the woods.

When your miles drop to the point that you are having to work up to the fitness level where you were at the close of the race season, overcoming that mental hurdle of knowing how hard it can be to come back is your most formidable enemy, but you’ve slain this foe before. Write yourself a good gradual training program, set some goals along the way, sign up for races with increasing distances, and help your running partners thaw themselves out as well. Remember how great it feels when you’re at peak fitness. And at the end of next season, rethink the idea of maintaining a higher milage base.

A disappointing race season can leave you depressed and questioning why you work so hard only to miss the goal you set for yourself. If you find yourself in this space, you really need to get out into the sunshine, even if it is just to sit on a park bench. Soak in some of the suns rays. Feel the warmth of the sun on your skin. Wiggle your toes in the grass and earth. Brush your fingers gently on the blossoms covering the trees. Breathe the mountain air. There is nothing like getting outside away from the business of the city to reignite the fire that fuels your engine.

Once your brain is in a better place, it’s time to rethink your race season. Failures are only failures if you learn nothing from them and continue to repeat them. There’s a Chinese proverb that says, “Failure is not falling down; it’s not getting up.” Find the places where you think you were less than your best and pull them apart until you know why. That “Why” is your starting place.

Turn your why around and look at it from every angle. Get intimate with it. Pull it apart and turn it inside out. Now, come up with a plan to kill the why. This will likely be trial and error during your training.

Trial and error can be fun. It makes you think outside the box. It makes you dig deep and find something new about yourself. You may make new friends through collaboration as you work through this little issue of yours.

We’re runners, we stare into the face of challenge and smile.

 

 

Hamstrings-How I Love to Hate Them

hamstring

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve pulled/strained my hamstring. I’ve done it doing speed work and I’ve done it by stubbing my toe, which caused me to flip my opposite leg back, throw my arms out into a one legged air plane. But, for what it’s worth, I didn’t fall. That was the last time I pulled it. And I’ve been trying to balance continued training with healing since early May of 2016. Yep. I’ve run a marathon, a 50 miler, 64 miles of an ultra-relay, and three 100 milers.

So here I am with it still hurting nine months later. I went to see my orthopedic doctor. I’m pretty sure it’s healed in a deficient way with lots of scar tissue and thus decreased flexibility and catching on the scar tissue as tendons and muscles slide against one another. Hamstrings take forever to heal because they don’t get a ton of blood.

She was impressed that I’ve been able to maintain my running gait/form enough to not cause secondary injuries. She also confirmed my self-diagnosis. The prescription— eccentric strength training. She says it’s pretty painful but thinks I can tolerate it (yeah I have a pretty high pain tolerance). She’s actually surprised I haven’t done online research and started it on my own (she knows me too well). I admit I’ve been negligent on that aspect of training.

She’s sent me to see a physical therapist twice. Once to learn the exercises and once to follow up. The first appointment is three weeks away, so of course I went back home and did the research I should have done eight months ago. I want to share it with you because I know how prevalent hamstring tears and strains are, how chronic they become, and how easy it is to re-injure them after you’ve done it once.

I do quite a bit of hamstring strengthening as it is because of all the climbing I do. It allows me to take some of the pressure off of my quads which I need to descend. I like to think they are well conditioned since I pass a lot of people climbing even late in a race (and with a painful hamstring).

After reading some research and looking over about ten rehab programs, this is what I’ve put together.I’m not a doctor or a physical therapist, listen to them before me. I can’t diagnose or prescribe anything. It’s up to you to decide if this could help you.

  1. Standing hamstring curl 3 x10 up to 4 x 20.
    1. Use an ankle weight if it’s too easy.
  2. Hamstring catches 3 x15
  3. Bridges 3 x 10
  4. Seated hamstring curl with a band 3 x 15
    1. Knee pulled up as close to chest as possible
  5. Single leg hip extensions on a step 3 x10
    1. Elbows on the step, belly up
    2. Knees bent,
    3. Raise one leg while other heel is on the floor,
    4. Foot is dorsiflexed.
  6. Stiff leg dead lifts 3 x 8-12
  7. Single leg ball pick up10 times
    1. Legs staggered like a lunge only your legs are straight.
    2. The ball is by your forward toe
  8. Lunge with a ball 3 x10
  9. Good mornings with bar 3 x10
    1. Use a pushup bar over your shoulders
    2. Feel a little more than shoulder width apart
    3. Knees slightly bent
    4. Bend at the waist until your torso is parallel to the ground
  10. Norwegian leg curls to failure.
    1. Kneel on the floor (you may want cushion under your knees depending on the surface.
    2. Tuck your feet under something that is low to the ground and can support your weight.
    3. Cross your arms over your chest
    4. Slowly lower yourself toward the floor.
  11. Stretching 2-3 times a day.

Remember to do both legs!

Burnout

burnout

I’m just sick of doing this over and over again. What do you do when this is what comes out of your mouth or echoes in your head before every run? Burnout is caused by repeating the same thing over and over, overworking your body at every training session, and stress.

Variety is important in every area of life you want to maintain a certain level of excitement about whatever it is you’re doing. If you run the same route, the same pace, the same time, the same distance, the same… you get the idea, eventually you just want to quite. It’s not fun anymore. Even if you do different workouts during the week, if you keep the same pattern it can lead to burnout. You have to mix it up more than that. Having a secondary sport is a great way to break things up. Try to pick something that is different from running. Running is a solitary sport for the most part, so picking something that is more social is going to keep you engaged in your training more. You can add an aerobics class or a team sport.

Overworking yourself every time you go out for a run kills motivation to run. You should absolutely work hard on your hard days, but you should have easy days too, where you leave the Garmin at home and connect with the reasons you started running in the first place. We all hear about how overtraining can cause injuries because your body is constantly taxed and doesn’t have the time to recover. But there is a mental side of it too, burnout. You become resentful of your running. It’s like any hobby, if you make it more of a job than something you do to relax and have fun, you’re going to hate it. It loses its value.

Stress in other areas of your life suck the life and desire out of other things you enjoy. If stress at work, with family, or with friends is becoming overwhelming taking a break from running for a few days or a week is not a bad thing. This may seem counter intuitive, but you’ll be glad you did and come back to it with new vigor. Just don’t take some much time off that you start losing the benefits you have gained through running. Make sure you have a good support system that can take on some of the things that are weighing you down. Maintaining your love of running includes taking care of other areas of your life.

Depression isn’t the same thing as burnout, but it’s something to look for if you are losing the love of things you enjoy. Check in with yourself and make sure you haven’t lost enjoyment in all the things you enjoy and that you’re not withdrawing from those that you love.

Keep your fire for running burning and don’t let it burn out.