Category Archives: fitness

And so it begins…

So today started my physical therapy adventure. The good news? No nerve issues. The bad? I’ve strained the part of my hamstring where the muscle connects, which is harder to heal than the “belly” of the muscle because it’s near the joint.

This means a longer recovery time for me, but my therapy team seems confident that we are going to build stronger hammies, so I’m putting my faith in that.

This also means early to bed tonight for me because just that little bit of poking and prodding wore me out, and I have a full session scheduled for Monday afternoon. I’ve been promised I’ll break a sweat. While I’m not looking forward to potential aches, I am looking forward to a decent workout 🙂

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Dealing with Detours

I’ve strained my hamstring. It started about a month ago during a training session in the gym. I was doing back extensions, and my abs and back weren’t strong enough for the last few, so of course my hamstrings tried to jump in and help. I could feel the ache as soon as I finished, but hoped it wasn’t anything serious.

It was. Zumba the next day did NOT feel right. So I spent 2 weeks doing mostly upper body workouts and resting. And I felt fine. So I ran. And kept training.

Mistake. I wasn’t ready yet. I started aching again…at least this time it was not the full right hamstring, but just the base of the muscle. I did a little more running for our National Running Day event that week and called uncle. Massage helped, but I skipped a 5k I was hoping to do that weekend. So I sent myself to the stationary bike. I could do just 7 minutes at first, then 15, then 20. I was feeling good.

Then I went to my training session last week, and my trainer felt strongly that I should see a doctor (I also think I pushed a few too many things in the session and ended up a little more achy, but that’s another story). 

So Thursday, I saw my first sports medicine doctor ever. Seemed like the right choice for my newfound athletic life. A few X-rays and an exam confirmed it was a strain (at least it’s not a tear!). Here’s what he prescribed me:

  • Cardio: stationary bike level 3 or less, elliptical (ski style not climber style), treadmill 2% incline or less, swimming (but watch the leg)
  • Weight training: upper body only
  • Meds: I can keep using Advil but he gave me a stronger NSAID for nights or weekends if I’m hurting badly
  • Physical therapy: A few sessions to learn stretches and exercises I can do on my own. My first session is Friday.
  • Other treatments: heat and ice are both OK, gentle stretching is fine and keep wearing a compression sleeve on and off for my leg, especially when active. KT tape is OK too.

The good news is he thinks I’m on the right track, and can likely start my Houston Fit training program next month (my follow up with him is the day before to be safe). I’ve put massage and personal training on hold for now. 

The hardest part is how much you miss something (the running and lower body weights) when you can’t do it. But boy I am grateful he at least cleared me for some activity or I would go nuts!

I know this is the right thing to do. I don’t want to mess myself further and not be able to run the half marathon in January (not to mention, try to achieve a new record!)

I’m hopeful that I come back even stronger from this 🙂

Review: Garmin Forerunner 620

It’s been almost 6 years since I’ve upgraded my running technology. I know, bad for someone who used to work for a college of technology! But I like to use products until they are broken or no longer useful, and it was just in the past few months that the band on my Garmin Forerunner 405 finally began to rust. 

So after getting my budget back on track after my move last winter, I decided to splurge and see what was on the market now. If you want to read up on all the features, check out Garmin’s site. What I’m planning to do here is tell you about some of the nifty features I discovered on my first run with it, and show the improvement over the last model I had.

You can see from the photo above that it reports a lot of data post-run. It even tells me if I hit any records (2 since it was my first, longest run and best pace, haha!), as well as my VO2 Max, which I have never known before:

It’s a wee blurry as the screens go by fast (and my phone clearly focused on my shoe!), but I’m at 34, which is towards the top of the good range for my age. This was just an easy run though, my first since straining my hamstring training last weekend, so I was just happy to have a baseline for my future runs.

Speaking of data, the amount of data available in the Garmin Connect app (yes, they finally have an app for that) is also pretty amazing:

It’s nice to get a read on the fastest pace during my efforts, as I want to improve there this year. In fact, it has that data from the runs uploaded from my previous device too! (My run a few weeks ago I had an 8:40 in there!) But the Running Dynamics section is new. I look forward to reading up on that. I suspect my cadence is decent but I could use to get the stride closer to 1.

For the device itself, here are some comparison photos. The heart rate monitor chest strap is up first. Old one on top, new on bottom. New one has a smaller contact and the strap is easier to throw in the laundry:

Next is the actual unit. New one is nestled inside the old. It’s MUCH lighter, and the design of the band allows for a tighter fit. No more jiggling on the run!

Even the chargers are an improvement. Old is on the left, new on the right. Old one you had to plug into the wall, new one is by USB so can plug into computer or my iPhone/iPad chargers and plug into wall. They sell an adaptor for that too if you don’t have such an option.

Other neat features I noticed: easy start (just hit the run button and go, hit again when done to stop), the watch notifies you your pace of each mile as you go, and it also tells you if you’re recovering well on your interval breaks. I still need to program in different training programs, possibly the only negative of this versus the old one which had some built in. I may also just keep the old one if I get a bike, as it had bike tracking where this one seems to just be runs.

All in all, I’m happy I upgraded and am really looking forward to training!

New goals?

I’ve gotten off track from #10kaday. I was doing great the first three months of this year, averaging 10,000 steps a day for the month. If I had some days that I was short, I made up other days. My one and only “New Year Promise (I don’t like resolutions)” was going great. 

I only averaged about 8400 steps a day in April, and this month I’m hovering around a 7900 steps a day average. But, I weigh the least I have weighed all year (down 8 lbs. from Jan. 1 and 10 from my heaviest point in February). So, what gives?

I have a few theories:

  • I wasn’t very active at all last fall. The steps goal was a good way to get moving this year. But the more I began weight training, the more muscle I’m building, which means more fat burning, even on days I don’t get as many steps.
  • I really started watching what I eat in April. That’s when I did my 24 Day Challenge (results here). Which I look at as a lifestyle change, not a diet. I try to follow the clean eating rules of the plan even a good 4 weeks after finishing that adventure.
  • I have started (lightly) race training again. This means long runs on the weekend. Which doesn’t make up for all the sins of an inactive week, but it helps some.

I’m still going to do my best to get as many steps in a day as possible, but a new goal is on the horizon for me: I want to be a faster runner. I ran my best 10k ever last month, and I have at least one 5k coming up this summer before I truly start the half marathon training. 

So, I’ll be seeking out a good track and inching my way towards becoming a faster turtle 🙂

Top 10 lessons learned

I got a lot more out of my 24 Day Challenge than just pounds and inches lost. I gained a greater appreciation for how my body works and reacts, lessons that I plan to draw on post-challenge. 

So what did I learn? I’ve developed a Top 10 list!

1. Breakfast is important. For the first 10 days of the challenge, my goal was to eat a protein, a complex carb and a fruit for breakfast. I ate a LOT of eggs during this time! In fact, I wasn’t used to eating so much food…some mornings I had to spread it out over the course of the first few hours of the day. 

For the last 14 days, my breakfast (except on Easter, and Good Friday when I fasted) was a meal replacement shake, and I usually had fruit or a nutrition bar mid-morning. Either way, still more than I usually would eat in the mornings. I’m not a breakfast skipper, but a breakfast skimper. I learned quickly filling up in the morning makes staying satisfied during the day easier.

2. Balanced meals help keep you satisfied. The goal of each meal on the challenge was a protein, complex carb and fruit or veggie. I noticed that I really had to think meals through! Before the challenge, there were a lot of times I would hit two of the three. But again, the more I stuck with this, the more filling I found it to be. 

3. Reading labels is worth the time it takes. On the challenge, one is to avoid added sugars and sodium, and eat minimally or non-processed foods. For me, that meant checking a lot of labels and skipping ones with enriched flour (yes, even enriched wheat flour is not as good!). I’m already mindful of sodium levels in foods and was used to skimming ingredient lists to avoid high fructose corn syrup. More careful review was another step but I think a big one in my success. 

4. Planning ahead is key to success. I thought through each day’s meals in advance. If I knew I had a meal out for work, I would look at the menu online before heading out and narrow down my choices that would fit the challenge. I shopped ahead on weekends to keep the right foods in stock (and became a fan of Sprouts!). And I made sure to pack extra fruit and nutrition bars each day for snacks. It took time, but it was worth it as I had no excuses.

5. It’s hard to eat out, especially on a whim. There were times I found myself without a dinner plan. It is hard to just “run and grab something” when you are trying to find healthy, non-processed, non-fried options (especially non-meat options on Fridays in Lent!). I’ve learned my fallbacks are grocery stores like Whole Foods and Mediterranean restaurants.

6. Try new things. I had quinoa for breakfast. I had tofu as an entree. I rediscovered couscous. When you are limited to whole grains, it cuts some options out. I had to get creative or I was going to eat a lot of oatmeal and brown rice!

7. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. For the most part, I stuck to drinking 80 oz. of water a day (aiming for the half my body weight in ounces). The days I didn’t, I could feel a difference. I felt puffy, and my face was redder. Also, this is just water…I didn’t count the water I was mixing with my Spark.

8. Staying active makes everything easier. I will admit I didn’t work out as much as I would have liked while I was on the challenge…maybe a little more than half of the days. On the days I did, I had plenty of calories to enjoy a bedtime snack while staying on point. The other days, it was hard to keep to the calorie goal on My Fitness Pal. I went over. It happens. 

9. Alcohol adds up. I didn’t have a drop of alcohol on the challenge. I was fortunate to only have a small handful of opportunities where I had to pass up a drink (I picked the date of my challenge start purposely around that). But I know that even wine or champagne (lower calorie options) add up. So I’m aiming for 4-6 glasses total a week, still less than 1 glass a day (which seems to be the healthy consensus for women).

10. Sacrifice makes splurges better. I gave up a lot of my loves for the sake of the challenge. It didn’t say I had to give up coffee, but I did since Spark has caffeine in it. I appreciate my morning coffee now and can keep it to one cup instead of the two I used to have. It’s easier to enjoy one drink at a happy hour now and savor it. And after giving up bread for Lent, boy did I enjoy getting to have whole wheat bread back in my diet!

Absence does really make the heart grow fonder, and on the rare occasions I’ll allow myself something fried or otherwise indulgent, I will enjoy it and then put it back on the back burner.

The main point is that I’ve found a way to deal with the daily temptations of an American diet. I won’t always be perfect. I will slip. I will allow myself treats. But I feel so good eating the clean way that I’ll definitely be a LOT more mindful of sticking to it.

This means queso and ranch dressing have moved to the treat list 😉

PS-Give me a shout if you’d like to give the Challenge a try. Happy to coach you through it!