Category Archives: running

Adjusting expectations

Sometimes, life throws us a curveball. Months ago, I would have thought that today I would be just about two weeks away from my third half marathon.

But, it’s not meant to be. After successfully completing physical therapy in November, my injury flared back up just 2 days later. I was in mile 4 of what was supposed to be a 9-miler that weekend. Logically, all I can attribute it to is walking around a bunch the day before at the UH Homecoming game … I had been warned before about not using the muscle too much back-to-back.

Spiritually, I think it was a sign to slow back down again. 2014 was a year of my life where I stepped back and started making changes in my life. I hired a personal trainer and began to get more serious about making healthy nutrition and fitness choices. I ended or cut back some volunteer commitments to make room for new adventures. I went through ups and downs with my vehicle.

And perhaps the biggest change came while I spent the past 6 weeks resting my leg: I adopted a dog! I’ve missed having a sidekick since my Lab, Buddy, passed away right before my divorce. I knew when the time was right, another pooch would come into my life.

And, Ava has been helpful in getting me active again. I think we’ve had maybe 1 day since I brought her home nearly 2 weeks ago that I haven’t gotten my 10,000 steps (and that’s because we spent yesterday watching parades and football!). 

I’m starting to see progress. I had a pain-free personal training session this week while doing some leg work. I ran for a full minute earlier this week. As you can see from the below, I haven’t been doing much of that lately (November 9 was the re-injury, and the rest are walks with the exception of 2 intervals of 30 seconds on Thanksgiving which led to some pain later in the day.):

I’m sad not to be running the half marathon with my Ambassador buddies. I’ll be honest, I was down about it for the past few weeks. But I realized what was more important was to listen to my body, and to help it heal so that I can run and do all the other activities I enjoy again. 

I just have to remember what I was told, and what I was experiencing, in physical therapy: an injury is a chance to step back and learn about how our body works, so we can build it up even stronger than before. 

I guess like other things in my life, God stepped in to say I wasn’t done learning my lesson yet. It’s not yet my time to be racing again. But my time will come. I’ve been known to work years to accomplish other goals in my life. Why is this different?

So friends, if you experience road blocks and detours, in running or elsewhere in life, know they are there for a reason, learn from them, and don’t give up!

And P.S.: I will still be there marathon weekend cheering everyone on!

Important training tip: listen to your body!

I’m a bad Houston Fit member … I’ve missed three Saturday morning runs this month! But while I may not have run with my group, I haven’t totally abandoned ship, either. 

So why didn’t I make my training appointments? Because I chose to listen to my body and feed its needs versus pushing myself and possible injury (or making the one I’m already recovering from worse!).

The first time I didn’t make a run, it was a game time decision. I still set my alarm to wake up in time, but two things felt off: 1) my leg was a little sore and achy from a training session earlier in the week and 2) I just felt tired. So I decided I would get at least another hour or two of sleep, and would run the 8 miles closer to home. What I actually did was sleep 3 more hours and only run about 4 miles, but I felt more prepared for it. Plus, I had a work event that day which had me on my feet for about 3 hours, so it worked out for the best.

The following weekend, I made the group, and my 7 miles went great! A little slower than the last time I did 7, but not too far off.

Then there was last weekend. I had been dealing with car troubles all week, on top of a packed work schedule, which all exhausted me. Plus, I needed to free up my Saturday morning to do some car shopping … having a working vehicle is such a priority in Houston! So I decided to do my 8 miles on Sunday. This didn’t work out as swimmingly as the first time, as I slept later on Sunday, and it was a bit warm … plus Terry Hershey Park is a bit hillier than the routes our group runs near Memorial. So I did 7 miles, of which I walked most of it. But still a win for getting activity and maintaining most of the distance.

And now we are up to this week. Again, I’m exhausted from week 2 of the car drama, which means the weekend will again be devoted to visiting dealerships (this time hoping for some good offers on my current ride). After the week I’ve had, I just couldn’t stomach a 5 a.m. start time … start time meaning the moment we set foot to ground to start our route! I lucked out in that my trainer is off this Sunday, so that opened up time in my schedule to move my 9 mile route to then. I’m hopeful that I’ll get up earlier so I can enjoy some cool weather.

I’m glad that while I’m adjusting my schedule to allow for care of my physical and emotional health, that I’m not giving up on my fitness goals entirely. It’s a good reminder that life happens to us all, and it’s up to us to maintain our priorities, even if they have to shift slightly for a period of time.

Fortunately, we have a good 12 weeks until the half marathon for me to recover from these dips!

New gear!!

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One of the best parts about being a runner is getting new equipment! I treated myself to a Camelbak hydration system and Spibelt, as seen above (thanks Sun and Ski for the birthday coupon! Note: reflective light not included, but look how nicely it clips on!) I was beginning to notice on my long runs that the 16 oz. of water my Fuel Belt holds just wasn’t enough for some hot, humid mornings. So in search of another water holder, I went. 

After trying several on, I settled on the Hydrobak model, pictured above. it is technically a biking model, but I just didn’t like the feel of some of the running models, plus I also didn’t need one to hold 100 oz. of water! This holds 50 when full (1.5 liters). There’s a “bladder” which lives inside the backpack, and a straw system which makes drinking on the go a breeze, way easier than fishing the bottle from my previous belt. Here’s a look at what’s inside the pack:

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I estimate I filled it 2/3 full for this morning, and had enough water after my nearly 6 mile run to drink on the way home. One note though: if the sloshing sound of the water will bother you, this isn’t for you. I found that and the slight sound the straps made rubbing against my shirt kind of soothing, but it may not be for you. Also have had friends recommend using Body Glide around the straps if you are in a sleeveless shirt.

The small zipper pouch at the bottom holds one of my humongous AdvoCare Rehydrate Gels. Very easy to get to without removing the pack. (By the way, I totally recommend these gels. They don’t have the nasty taste of Gu, are lower in calories and are cost-competitive. Only downside is they are only available in lemon. Happy to send anyone a sample to try!)

Now as for the Spibelt there are definitely some pros, but I’m not as in love as I am the Camelbak. Pros: easy to tuck phone etc. into it, bright color is another reflective piece of wardrobe, very easy to whip around to get to the pouch (I rest mine on the small of my back), not as heavy as the Fuel Belt.

Cons: it soaks up every bit of sweat…my photocopy of my license & insurance card (which Houston Fit requires us to carry) was wet, as was the emergency $5 I carry. Also, it pretty much held those two things and my phone, though I could probably leave my phone in its case where I couldn’t in the Fuel Belt attachments (which would help with the sweat issue). And, I could easily take my pouches from the other belt and slide them on here for extra gel and other storage. One other bummer is a problem I have with the other belt of it sliding up a little. I just need to fit it to my waist and not lower.

Overall, I was happy with the new gear. I was nervous about the Camelbak and how my form would be with a backpack, but I actually think it made it easier for me to remember to lean forward and strike midfoot with the weight up there. I also felt a little faster without so much weight on my waist/hips.

Have you tried either of these? What’s been your experience?

Slow but steady…

(This little guy reminds me of how I feel some days with my recovery!)

It’s been 6 weeks since I started physical therapy for my hamstring strain. If you’ve been following along, you might recall that my injury will take closer to 3 months to heal versus a usual 6 weeks because my strain is in the tendon area of my muscle, not the “belly” (main part). Overachiever that I am, if I was going to injure myself, I was going to do it hardcore 😦

So today we did a follow-up evaluation. One of the tests was to try to get each of my legs to a 90 degree angle while lying down, without feeling any pull. Last time I was in, I scored a 50 degree angle on the injured right leg. Today: 62% on the injured leg, 70% on the “good” left leg. Big improvement in my range of motion, but still not there yet (they like a 5% or less difference). And this also says I really need to work on flexibility, overall (boy I miss the drill team days!).

In general, my muscles (both legs) are testing stronger, and going farther before I feel a stretch or pain. It’s a lot less tender when I’m poked, and in an increasingly more localized part of my muscle.

My therapist says I could benefit from another 4-6 weeks of work with them, with the possible addition of soft tissue work to increase blood flow and speed healing in the injured area (it’s much harder to get blood flow to this part of the muscle).

We’ve also agreed that I should lay off the yoga for now, so I don’t risk stretching the wrong way. But I ran a few lengths of the turf today with no problems, so I’m cleared to try some 1-minute intervals again this weekend…it will have been 3 weeks since my last attempt, so the backing off was a good idea.

So my recovery is happening, even if at the turtle’s pace. And since I’m a slow runner to begin with, I’m used to not getting to the finish line quickly!

In the meantime, I have begun my Houston Half Marathon training with Houston Fit. I have opted to join the Purple (walkers) group for now, and have been walking the routes the past few weeks…focusing on achieving distance for now, as well as improving my walk pace for those breaks I know I’ll need when I’m back to running more.

It’s great to have a group to train with, and the post-run core workouts and seminars are definitely a plus! (And a happy note, the planks and bridges I’ve been assigned from PT really help in that core session!)

So for now, I’ll practice patience with being a turtle, so I can be a speedy turtle come January and run across the finish line.

Summer time training

Officially reshared by the Houston Marathon 🙂

Summer time training

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!