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Winter Wonderland???

Ahh, the joys of being back on the East Coast. Just when I thought I had escaped a midwest winter, Jonas hits. Could be worse, I guess– I could be in Washington DC.

And in typical fashion, I spent the better half of the morning dreading getting everything on and heading out for the meager 3 miles I had planned for today. The snow was slowly building up, coating the windows and blocking the doors, and still I waited.

I finally decided to get going around 11am, by which the snow had been falling for most of the night and all morning.

It wasn’t a good run, but I trudged through. Luckily, there were no cars on the kind-of snowplowed roads (the trucks were coming around about once an hour, plenty of time for snow buildup), and I also ran with my headphones on, blasting the Ke$ha pandora station (hey, she pumps me up, deal with it).

Before I started, I sent a couple “ugh can’t believe I’m doing this” snapchats to other runners, who had already gotten their butts out the door. So all through my little 25 minute slip-n-slide around the neighbourhood, I was getting motivational “proud of you gurlllll” texts and snapchats. I cannot recommend it enough; knowing that there were now 5-6-7 people counting on me, thinking I was out putting in the work, I couldn’t not actually put in the work. 

At the end of the day, you can use as many tricks as you want to get out the door. Promise yourself a treat, meet up with a friend who’s expecting you, post on social media so that everyone you know will know! Do whatever it takes to get yourself going and do what you need to do.

So I finished my yog in one piece, just a little bit stronger, and 3 miles closer to hitting my weekly mileage target. I’m not ready to start thinking about my long run tomorrow morning– do you think there will be any treadmills open at the YMCA?

 

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What to do…

Just when I thought ‘hmm I don’t know what to blog about…’ I came across this article that fit perfectly with how I have been feeling. I haven’t been working out as much as I normally do and it’s had me feeling pretty guilty and sad. Now that’s it’s winter my inner bear has kicked in and all I want to do his curl up on the couch and hibernate. The first three paragraphs of the article really nailed it on my exact thoughts. I LOVE running but lately I just haven’t had the motivation to run on the treadmill. This article talks about what to do when you don’t want to run. It made me feel better that there will be times when I need to rest, or when I just need to switch up my routine.

image I did run a 5k race this past weekend. (Which the picture is from, Elizabeth and I always get a pre-race selfie in) It amazes me that even though my work outs have been few and far between my body doesn’t forget how to compete. I worry that cutting back on mileage will Hinder my progress but that wasn’t the case. While running I was trying to focus on negative splits. This is something I haven’t really been good at. I always start out way too fast and burn out half way through. Well, I think I was focusing a little too hard because I had too much energy at the end saved up. My time was still my best this year but I was mad that I probably could have gotten an even better time. But I guess that just means focusing on starting out slow and continually go faster is working. Again, proving to me that even though I may be feeling discouraged, I need to stay positive and be proud of my accomplishments.

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In the Midst of Winter

Welcome to the cold arctic tundra. How I survived training in Michigan winters before is beyond my comprehension.  Don’t get me wrong, I am as giddy as a school kid with the first flurry in December. However, when the winter months drag on and the sun only pops out a few times a month your mind wonders why exactly you chose to train for a spring race. This is definitely a change from my life this same time last year…

In February of 2011 I had settled myself into the little community of Hout Bay in Cape Town, South Africa.  I had also stumbled upon a wonderful running community and was in the process of training for my first ultra marathon I was talked into 3 weeks before race day (yes, I realize how crazy that sounds).  Instead of battling single digit wind chills and tiptoeing black ice I was worrying about the frequent sandstorms that popped up around the bay, hoping baboons or puff adders wouldn’t pop out during training runs, and trying not to get sun burnt even after it seemed like the sun had gone down.

Right now I am dutifully pounding the pavement/ice with intent of being in race form for the Riverbank Run 25k in May. As I ponder the hilarity that “Waka Waka” keeps popping up on my play list as I’m trudging through snowbanks, I am also reminded of all the other years I endured the bitter cold and how sweet the reward was. Every mile put in now is money in the bank, tough miles for the reserve at the end of the race when I am hurting and needing just a bit more strength.  Plus, winter gives you lots of chances to put ingenuity to work. You learn, for instance how hot chocolate can replace Gatorade as post workout beverage of choice and you discover how incredibly ski goggles work as eye and face protection from the windchill (even if this causes some raise eyebrows from the snowmobilers that you share the trails with).  And in the midst of your struggle, you are rewarded with a spectacularly beautiful midwinter day. As the sun sets the snow glittering, you can’t help but feel the extra spring in your step as your body gratefully absorbs the warmth.

Looking back, I wouldn’t mind some more of that African sun now, or perhaps a run minus the threat of an icy slide disaster. But as Michigan runners know, if you can make it through winter, the rest of your training will be cake. Besides, once you get past all the obstacles keeping you from the great outdoors, the reaction you get as you sprint by commuters bundled with puffy coats in your spandex and compression gear is incredibly entertaining.

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Sunny De-ficient By Tiffany

Most of us know that vitamin D comes from the sun and it’s good for your bones but research is showing that this fat soluble vitamin may play a crucial role in overall health, like preventing cancer and heart disease.  For athletes, vitamin D has been shown to reduce stress fracture occurrence and prevent overuse injuries while decreasing muscle soreness after training. Interestingly, adequate vitamin D can also decrease your chance of coming down with a winter cold by supporting your immune system.

Since natural sources of vitamin D are limited to fatty fish and fortified milk, most of us rely on UV rays from the sun to convert cholesterol compounds in our skin into vitamin D precursors. However, researchers at Harvard claim that at latitudes above Georgia, not enough UV rays penetrate the atmosphere during the winter months for us to produce vitamin D. Fortunately, we can store some from the summer but even so, a lot of us are hiding from the sun in the summer from 10am to 3pm when UV rays are the strongest. Your safest bet is to get a blood test to determine your levels and appropriate supplementation. If that’s not possible, look for a D3 supplement of 1000IU, you may find you don’t get sidelined by that pesky cold or winter training wound this season.

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Old Man Plantar By Tiffany

It’s winter again and for many of us, that means running on the ice. Unfortunately, this is also the time of year when many of us struggle with a varying degree of foot pain, also known as plantar fasciitis. Winter running seems to increase our susceptibility because running on uneven surfaces (snow, ice, slush puddles) challenges foot stability.

So what does all the Latin mean? The plantar fascia is a flat ligament on the bottom of the foot running along your arch from your heel to your toes. Fasciitis is the inflammation that you feel when your plantar fascia is overstretched or overused (i.e. bumping up your mileage too fast). This is caused by straining the ligament and repeated strain can cause tiny tears which in severe cases, can lead to rupture. Some other factors that can contribute are a tight Achilles tendon or high or low arches.

Plantar pain can strike anywhere along the ligament. Usually, it starts as a sharp pain in the heel and as it gets worse, spreads through the arch. Symptoms include pain in the morning or after standing or doing intense physical activity. The pain can feel aching, burning or stabbing and your arch will be tender to the touch.

If ignored, plantar pain can persist for months so it is best to catch it early. Anti-inflammatories, an ice cup massage for 10 minutes twice per day, and reducing your mileage or taking a few days off will help with immediate pain relief.  Rehabilitation exercises can also be helpful. Place a towel on the ground and from a sitting position use your bare foot to scrunch the towel toward you. Calf raises and stretches can also help to relive some of the tightness. Range of motion exercises will help loosen up some of the stiffness and a deep tissue massage can ease out some of the crepitus, that crunching feeling you get along the bottom of your foot.

Check the mileage on your shoes as well, sometimes running in shoes that are not supportive can contribute to the tightness. Also, I have found that if you have high arches, adding some barefoot training can help strengthen your arches and reduce the occurrence of fasciitis. If treated judiciously, plantar pain can usually be alleviated within a matter of weeks.

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The Deep Chill

Downhill skiing. Cross-country skiing. Snowshoeing. Sledding. There are many reasons do a happy dance around your kitchen when you wake up to your first real snowstorm of the year.  The frosty windows obscure the sparkling outdoors from your view so you fling open your back door and…. Well then, if your anything like me, your smile slides down just a smidge as you realize how bone chilling it is out there. Don’t get me wrong; I love living in Michigan and my winter sports especially skiing. Snowman building takes a close second.

In all this winter fun I must confess to you something, something  I am guilty of something very pitiful; sometimes I quit skiing halfway through. It will be an otherwise amazing day, complete with fresh powder and bluebird skies… but I quit simply because I’m so very cold! AAAHH I know, I am a freezing, shivering wimp. While everyone else is frolicking around, looking content as can be, I’m doing my best icicle impression.

I was certain this happened to others at times too, so what are we doing wrong???  We shall not succumb to being ruled by the thermometer! So I started looking for tips.

1. Dress in layers. Check. I regularly look like Randy from the Christmas story.

2. Don’t wear cotton next to the skin, it absorbs moisture too readily and then you get chilled. …OOOOO.  Now that, I never thought of that. My idea of  “base layering” is putting three old race t-shirts on top of each other and calling myself snug.  Apparently though, there are many amazing new fabrics out now that replace even wool on the  “snug” chart. If you’re really looking for heavy-duty warmth, look for fabrics that describe themselves as expedition-weight or even mountaineering –weight. Though at times, these might be too bulky for some activities.

3. Get yourself a online gambling good parka with a tightly woven nylon shell, or even better, a waterproof/breathable layer such as Gore-tex. Turns out, that many winter jackets, snowboarding jackets, dress coats and the like, look really warm but are built with the latest trends in mind rather then with technical performance.  But truly high quality outerwear can be pricey, do research on your outerwear before making the purchase! It’ the one piece of clothing that, I feel at least, you get what you pay for.

4. Make the accessories count. Meaning, socks designed for the activity you are pursuing, choosing hats of earmuffs or headbands (you lose incredible amounts of head off the top of your head), and something I never thought of: using glove liners alone with your regular gloves or mittens. My feet and fingers are always the first parts of me body to freeze, how have I not thought to give them more loving before this!

So basically, note to self: it’s time to retire some of your old high school cross-country shirt, mountaineering socks and glove liners PLEASE!

Aside from these relatively basic tips, does anyone else have clues as too how to keep an enthusiastic yet frozen winter athlete warm? If so, do share!