What’s in a Shoe?

Overwhelmed by the shoe choices at your local running store? Well, you’re not alone and if you shop online there are even more options. A common occurrence in the running community is that whenever we have a new ache or pain we blame our shoes. And yes, shoes can contribute to aches and pains, but we like to blame shoes because it’s an easy fix and it means it’s not us.

We don’t like to think it’s our training load, lack of strength, a muscle imbalance or some other thing that will take months to change. We want it to be something easy, so we can get back to running as much as we want as soon as we want.

This desire for shoes to fix our problems and make us the best runner possible has lead me to my next series of posts.  There will be a post on the following shoe features stability, heel to toe drop, and cushion. In each post I’ll cover things like will it reduce the risk of injury? Is it best for a certain type of foot arch, pronation, wide feet, foot strike? Is it best for a specific surface? Is it best for a beginning runner/experienced runner? And will they make me faster?

First, I want to cover some general shoe information. You should replace your shoes every 300-500 miles. The range can change depending on the durability of the shoe itself and on you as a runner, such has how hard you land with each stride. Running on the road will wear your shoes out faster than running on a trail, but the way you run has more of an impact than where you run. As you become a more experienced runner, you’ll know when your shoes are worn out. If you’re new to running, write down when you bought your shoes on the tongue of the shoe or on your training calendar and then after 200 miles go to the running store and run on their treadmill in a new pair of the same shoe you’re running in.

Owning more than one pair of running shoes and alternating between them is a good idea, but the upfront costs sucks. You can buy two pairs of the same shoe and get benefits because it takes about 24 hours for a shoe to fully recover from a run. So, if you run two a days, or you run with less than 24 hours between workouts you’ll have fresh shoes. It’s even better if they are different brands with different features.

If you are a runner you also have to think about what you have on your feet when you’re not running. You may be increasing your risk of injury by wearing unsupportive casual or dress shoes all day long. Replacing your everyday shoes regularly is important too. You can’t be walking/standing around all day in crappy shoes and then expect to stress your feet during a long run and be just fine.

Lacing your shoe up properly also ensures that the shoe is able to function like the manufacture intends. If they are too loose or too tight, they are not doing what you need them to do and they’re not going to work for your feet. If you can slip your foot in and out easily, it’s too loose. If you can pry your shoe off easily with the other foot, it’s too loose. If you feel tingling in your foot, it’s too tight. If the top of your foot gets sore, it could also be too tight.

Buying the right size of running shoe is obviously important for comfort and for functionality. Running shoes should be ½ to one size too big because your feet tend to swell during long runs. Many people have one foot that is longer than the other or a toe on one foot that stretches out further than on the other foot. Make sure you’re getting shoes that fit your longest foot, including its toes. They also need to be wide enough for your toes to splay (spread out) when you land and push off the ground.

If you wear orthotics in your shoes, make sure and take them with you to the running store because it will change they type of shoe you will likely buy. Orthotics or over-the-counter insoles provide support to your arch, a running store may recommend a shoe with more support if they don’t know you put in an orthotic or how much support the orthotic provides.

Happy running. Next up is Stability.

Running Preggers: When you have to go, go!

Running can have some interesting challenges relating to using the bathroom. If you’re a trail runner, this isn’t so much of a problem, although you should be burying or packing out solid waste. In the woods, you can just duck behind a tree. Looking up and down trail before, of course. As a road runner, depending on the time of day when you run, bathroom access is also pretty simple.

When you’re running for two, it’s not that simple. Why would it be? Every bodily system you can think of is altered when you’re pregnant (although I haven’t heard anything about your perception of sound…). It’s very important that you don’t wait to go to the bathroom, number one or number two.

Holding your urine is not just uncomfortable when you’re running, but it can cause infections, even in non-pregnant people. The real problem is the frequency of needing to go pee. Even in early pregnancy, when the baby is smaller than a pea, women will need to go more often. This is because your body increases the amount of blood it pumps and your blood volume, so you’re drinking more water and your kidneys and bladder are working overtime.

Blood volume increases until the third trimester and making sure you’re hydrated throughout the day will continue this pattern of needing to go all the time. And then there’s the baby. As baby grows he/she puts pressure on your bladder making you feel like you have to go even when you don’t have that much in there.

You can be running along enjoying the beautiful day and then bam, you have to go right now. You think, “but I went 15 minutes ago!” doesn’t matter, you have two choices: stop to pee again, or pee your pants. This can make running frustrating at times because jumping into the bushes to pee in a neighborhood is frowned upon. Getting off the treadmill all the time is also frustrating. So, for the potty problems, trails are your best option, in my opinion.

As for number twos, unfortunately, pregnant women don’t have to worry too much about those while they’re running. In fact, most pregnant women wish they had to worry about that when running. Constipation is another lovely side effect of being pregnant. The hormones in our body slows digestion down to a crawl, so the baby can suck as much nutrients out of the food we eat as possible. And then there’s the baby. As baby grows he/she compresses your intestines and shoves most of your organs up into your ribcage further complicating your ability to digest food and move it through your body. All in the name of love.

A maternity belt can help alleviate some of the pressure on your bladder and hopefully you won’t have to go pee, so much. Don’t restrict your water intake to prevent the frequent bathroom stops as tempting as that may be. You could wear very absorbent panties, but they would likely chafe something awful.

Weekly miles: 30 miles this week!

Realistic Goal Setting

Alright, you’ve picked your goal race for 2018 now the training begins. There are a million training programs on the internet for every distance you want to run. There are also many different books you can buy that will help you construct your very own training plan.

One thing you have to keep in mind when you’re developing your training schedule is what is your goal finish time? Deciding what a reasonable goal is for you to finish a particular distance in can be challenging. Your goal finish time needs to be realistic based upon your prior finish times, your experience running the distance, and your training (consistency and workouts).

If you want to improve your finish time for a specific distance, you need to first ask yourself are you willing and able to put in the training to achieve it. You may have to train for longer and you will have to train harder. Training harder means getting the extra rest you’ll need and extra attention to your nutrition (before, during, and after race day). Your training will have to jump up a priority for you to remain consistent in completing each session but also completing them at the effort you need to be putting in.

Pull up your prior race times and think about the amount and type of training you put in to hit those times. If you’ve kept good documentation of your race times, you should be able to see where you struggled in a race. Think about the struggles you faced during the races that set you back and ways you can improve in those situations. Did you struggle climbing hills or descending them? Did the heat or the cold suck up all your energy? Is nighttime slowing you down?

All of these things can be addressed in your training along with many others like hydration and nutrition. Once you’ve identified areas where you know you can improve, pick one or two. If you have more than two or three, trying to address them all isn’t reasonable and could lead to over training or just plain burn out.

Here’s the hard part. How much time can you realistically cut off your prior finish times? Figure out what your average finish time has been. So, my last few 100s have been 32:44, 21:33, 28:42, 23:54, and 35:12. That’s quiet the range! But they are very different races and my training was different too. The two sub- 24’s are at flat races. A goal of 20 hours is realistic for a flat 100 for me. It would me taking 55 seconds off per mile. The 32:44 and 28:54 are at the same race a year between them. I trained much harder for that 28:54 and I got lost during the race. The race was very mountainous. A goal time of 26-27 hours at a mountain race would be realistic, but I would have to train hard and stay focused throughout training.

As you come up with a realistic goal, break it down into minutes per mile and then think about the terrain you’ll be traversing, is it still realistic? If you’ve made significant gains in your performance dropping 1-2 minutes per mile may be doable in a 100-mile event. It’s not in a shorter event. The shorter the event the less time you’ll be able to cut off each mile.

Don’t forget about the rest, the harder you train the more important rest becomes. Rest is when you build.  Schedule your rest days and your rest weeks. No rest means no improvements and high risk of injury.

Training Framework

Training has many different aspects to it, but I think we all have a tendency to focus on the physical running part more than anything else. Running is definitely one of the defining aspects of our training, but our training should include much more than just running.

When anyone asks us what our training looks like, we immediately go to how many miles we’re running and how many days a week. They might as what we’re training for and we’ll throw out the name of our goal race or possibly just the next one on the schedule.

Even if you’ve never really thought of it, our training encompasses more than just running. Training can be broken down into physical, psychological, and nutritional. Making sure you take the time to consider each of these separate from the other, guarantees you’ll be thinking about them and adding them to your training plan in some form.  You can set goals related to each of these different aspects of your training.

Physical training includes your running, strength training and rest days. Running is at the core of our training and it is our goal. We want to run for life not just for the next race and because of that goal all of these other aspects of training get pulled in. Being the best runners, we can be means we need to address speed, endurance, and strength in our training schedule. If you want your training to mean anything, you have to rest. Without rest our body cannot adapt and get stronger.

Psychological training includes strategies for dealing with down times during a race, lack of motivation in training, boredom, going out too fast, and rest. Ultrarunners know finishing a race hinges on pushing past the low points, and there will be low points. Getting through months of training and any injuries takes mental fortitude like you wouldn’t believe. Being prepared for these challenges is critical to getting to the starting line let alone the finish line. Psychological rest is being able to find other things you enjoy that reduce your stress level because if you get injured and have to take time off, you need to have other things you can focus on to get you through and back to running.

Nutritional training includes day to day nutrition and hydration, race day nutrition and hydration, and recovery nutrition and hydration. All runners think about race day nutrition, but not all of them think about their day to day nutrition or their recovery nutrition. The same goes for hydration. Yeah, we all laugh and say we run so we can eat whatever we want, but for most runners eating ice cream, fatty burgers, pizza, and French fries is not going to help you reach your running goals. There may be an argument for recovery though, at least for your postrace meal. Our body gives what it gets. Try different ways of fueling and hydrating your body during training, and you’ll be able to dial it in making your race a success.

Limiting our definition of training to just our weekly running schedule or our next goal race is short sighted and won’t get us what most of us want, which is to run healthy and strong for the rest of our lives.

Running Preggers: Healthy Mama; Healthy Baby

The default recommendation for pregnant women is to exercise while pregnant, at least three days a week for 30 minutes. Basically, the same recommendation for everyone. There are many benefits to mom if she begins exercising and if she continues exercising while pregnant. Yes, the experts agree it if you haven’t been exercising starting during pregnancy is just fine. You do need to listen to your body and if you have a high-risk pregnancy make sure and check in with your doctor before you start anything.
Many of the benefits are what you would expect because they are the same benefits for everyone: better sleep, better mood, cardiovascular health, decreased levels of stress, weight control, respiratory health, and on.
Mom’s to be also improve their circulation, which helps to prevent constipation (big win). Preventing constipation, of course, reduces your chances of getting hemorrhoids. It also helps with swelling in ankles, varicose veins and leg cramps (ah the joys of pregnancy). Doing some core strengthening can reduce and prevent back pain as well.
But another big benefit for mom’s who exercise throughout their pregnancy is a shorter labor and less likely to have a perineum tear, if you do tear it’s not as bad. Unfortunately, it’s not going to reduce the pain you may experience.
Alright so exercise is good for mama, but that’s not enough to get you off the couch when you are tired, don’t feel good, and moody. Well we can through in a healthy dose of parental guilt then.
An exercise physiologist and anatomist at Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences, Linda May, conducted a study with 66 moms to be and their fetuses. She measured fetal heart rates at 28, 32, and 36 weeks of pregnancy after splitting the women into two groups: those who exercised at least 3 days a week for 30 minutes and those who didn’t.
Linda May was measuring the babies’ heartrate and the heart rate variability. Variability is the span between beats. Increased heart rate variability means a healthier heart and better overall health because the heart functions more efficiently.
In babies whose moms were exercising, Linda May found by 32 weeks there were differences between the two groups and by 36 weeks there was a “big, significant change”—lower heart rate and increased heart rate variability. The moms who exercised more had babies with lower fetal heart rate and increased heart rate variability.
Those benefits to baby didn’t stop after the baby was born either. The benefits continued to be seen when the babies were brought back in at one month of age. So if you can’t do it for yourself, do it for your growing baby.

Weekly Miles: I’m back running from the knee issue this week and started with 18 miles. I’ve found consistent rolling of  my shins is dong the trick, which I don’t normally roll. I plan on running outside more next week. I also picked up a maternity support belt to take some of the pressure of the baby off my bladder.

Training Races

Now is the time to begin planning your race calendar for 2018. Many races fill up early, especially, trail races which have more restrictions on enrollment numbers. Plus, it’s fun. Once you have a list of races you’d like to do for next year, pick one as your goal race. This will be the race all of your training will be focused on. It does’t mean you can’t do other races; it just means the other races are training races.

What’s a training race? It’s a organized event that you run in which is not your goal race. Training races are very useful because they keep you engaged and motivated, but they do a lot more than that too. Let’s start with the motivation piece. Motivation waxes and wans through training, especially, if your goal race is months away or if you have a lot of rebuilding and thus a longer training plan. Having shorter races(compared to the goal race) along the way gives you small goals and accomplishments along the way.

The most important function of a training race is it tells you where you’re at in your training and where you need to go. But, for it to be able to do this, your training races have to have at least some of the same race conditions as your goal race. The distance of your training races will depend on the length of your training plan and the distance of your goal race. So, if your goal race is a marathon you’ll want to pick a 10k and half marathon. The half marathon should be about 4-5 weeks from your goal race. The 10k would be earlier. For a 50k you’d choose a marathon about 4 weeks before and maybe a half a month before that. For a 50 miler, you’ll choose a marathon and a 50k. The 50k being about 4 weeks from your goal race and the marathon 3-4 weeks before that. For a 100, You’ll want a 50 miler about 4-5 weeks before your goal race and a marathon 4-5 weeks before that. We’ll talk about adding more in a second, for now lets focus on these two training races.

For these two training races, you’ll want to decide how much effort you want to put into it. I’ll tell you right now, you shouldn’t be putting full race effort into them. About 75-80% is all you’ll want to do because you don’t want to risk injury, but you want to get a good idea of where you are and how your training is working for you. The other reason you don’t want to put in full effort is because it take a while for your body to recover from full race effort and you’ll need to get back to training after the race. This also makes timing of the training race important which is why the longer one should be about 4-5 week before your goal race.

For a training race to fulfill it’s purpose, the conditions need to be as close to your goal race as you can make them. This includes course and difficulty if you can. If it’s off a little don’t worry about it. The timing of the race is more important than matching your terrain exactly. The other part of “conditions” you’ll want to mimic are your prep. You need to prep like it’s your goal race. Practice your nutrition plan just like you’ll do in your goal race, pack drop bags (even if you won’t use them), use the gear you’ll be using in the goal race (even if you don’t need it all), eat your pre-race meal, do breakfast the same, and go to bed at the same time.

Can you do all this as just a regular training run and not do a training race? you can, but the race atmosphere changes things. It changes your mindset, your adrenaline levels, your competitive nature, and race day anxiety. those are hard to produce in a training run. It goes back to creating the same conditions as you’ll face at your goal race.

Tapering before a training race is different because you don’t want to kill your training four weeks before your goal race. However, you do want to do a mini taper and a mini recovery. Cut back your training the three days before the training race and take the day before as a rest day. After the race, take a two days rest and then do an easy run.

What about adding more races into your schedule? you certainly can, but they should be treated like a training run not a training race and certainly not a race. You can practice a lot of the things you’ll be doing at your goal race, but you shouldn’t run it any harder than you’d run a training run. This goes back to risking an injury and depleting your body to the point of it needing recovery days.

Happy planning!

Running Preggers: Trail, road, or treadmill?

Sometimes we don’t have much of a choice about where to run, but some of us are lucky and have many options. Over the last few years, close to 100% of my running has been on trails. It has been amazing, but now I have to adjust back to being more flexible about where I run. I hate having to run anywhere other than in the mountains. I really do. But in reality, I know that there are actually few runners who are able to run exclusively on the trails.

Running while pregnant makes you take a lot more into consideration when you are choosing your running routes. Safety and listening to your body become even more important when you’re pregnant. I’m not saying we runners throw caution to the wind when we’re not pregnant, but when it’s just you, you’re more willing to deal with uncomfortable conditions and slightly higher risks.

During the first trimester, and longer for some women, you must contend with being tired and not feeling well (morning sickness). Both of these can put a huge damper on running, especially, if you have the option of sleeping in later and just running on the treadmill or road instead of driving to the mountains.

Throwing up while running is not something unusual in the ultrarunning world, but it’s also not something we want to deal with during every run either. Choosing a short loop route closer to home or a treadmill when morning sickness is lurking around every corner is more appealing. Then if something goes wrong, you have the option of stopping right away and getting home or at least somewhere more comfortable quickly.

The trails are ideal for the increased urination problem, at least for those who have no qualms about peeing in the woods. Roads make it difficult because you have to plan routes with bathrooms at regular intervals. However, that may not solve the problem. In my experience, there is no predictability to when you will need to go. Sometimes it’s every thirty minutes; sometimes it’s every ten. I can’t seem to make it longer than 45 minutes when running. What’s worse is you may not realize you need to go until you bounce just right and then you have to go RIGHT NOW.

Falling is something you want to think about too. When I wasn’t pregnant, I didn’t like falling, but the chance of falling never stopped me from bombing down the side of a mountain. Now, I think a lot more about the risk of falling a route poses. Early in pregnancy falling is really unlikely to harm the baby. Even into the second trimester, baby has a lot of room to move and is protected by muscles and amniotic fluid. As baby gets bigger, they don’t have anywhere to go to get out of the way of an impact making the risk of falling increase throughout pregnancy. The shift in your center of gravity adds to the likelihood of falling too. As does the instability of your joints because of the hormone relaxin (more on this in another post).

Weather is another thing that plays a bigger roll in deciding on a running route when you’re pregnant. I’ve always said there’s no bad weather, only bad gear, but when you’re pregnant, that’s different. Extreme high and low temperatures have a bigger impact on you when you’re pregnant and ice. Rain shouldn’t be too problematic as long as you stay warm. Ice and snow are another problem entirely (see previous paragraph).

As far as calories go, they get used up quicker the further along you are in your pregnancy. In the first trimester you shouldn’t need to adjust calorie intake. Starting with the second and then throughout the third (and if breastfeeding) you’re going to need more calories, 300-500 extra per day. This could mean taking something small on shorter runs. A two-hour run was no problem without calories for me, now that I’m just past twenty weeks pregnant I’m starting to feel the drag in the last 30 minutes.

Air quality is the one thing runners, along with everyone else, pregnant or not, should take into consideration when deciding where to run. You need your lungs and heart. Running when pollution is thick in the air will increase your risks for health problems in the present and in the future. One thing that the ULTRA research study has uncovered is a higher rate of allergies and exercise induced asthma in endurance runners and one of the hypothesizes is because we’re out in the pollution more than the average person, we develop these types of problems more than others.  When you’re breathing for two, it’s even more important for you bite the bullet and run indoors on a track or treadmill.

I hope you all had a Merry Christmas and will have a Happy New Years!

My running update: I’ve developed a bit of pain in my left knee, which I think is begin caused by all the treadmill running and lack of foam rolling. I’ve backed off my miles this week, but plan to bump them back to the 36 miles as soon as my knee is feeling better.