Saturday, February 27, 2016

Running and exercising with back and neck issues

Runners and other exercise enthusiasts are notorious for pushing through discomfort.  Determining when the discomfort is pain telling us to rest is not always clear cut.

Running through pain is inevitable for me since I have chronic neck and back pain.  This week, I broke down and went to my chiro/sports PT and he said it was an irritated nerve and that my prior issues were probably connected to it flaring up.

Rocktape on my neck-- the new fashion trend

I have not determined what caused this issue -- sleeping the wrong way or upper body exercise are the only things that seem possible.  It is driving me crazy but I'm thankful I've been able to continue working out since that gets my mind off the pins and needles feeling and pain.

More Rocktape--I don't know if it helps but it can't hurt

I'm not new to back issues..

I suffered major neck and back injuries starting when I was in junior high school and was involved in car wrecks that further damaged it.  After a back injury in jr high, an orthopedist told me I would never be able to run.

I exercised after that but I listened to him about running until 2007.  I was asked to participate in Team in Training and signed up to fundraise for and run the Nike Women's Marathon.  My best friend's mother passed away from multiple myeloma and thinking of her passing and my friend's loss got me through the tough training runs.

Crossing the finish line of that marathon, I hooked on running and decided to do another marathon.  Throughout all this, I deal with being in constant pain in my neck and entire back; I often wonder if the back injuries created muscular imbalances that are why I am injured so frequently...multiple doctors and physical therapists have said that is probably true.

I do not allow pain that is bearable to be an excuse for being a couch potato. Instead, I view exercise as a way to strengthen my body to prevent other issues.  Exercising often makes me feel better and loosens up the stiff muscles.  Days when the pain escalates, I do more stretching (ex: yoga or pilates or barre).  I know many with back and neck issues cannot run or do any form of exercise but I encourage those who can to workout and to modify exercises as needed.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

The power of a compliment

The words of a complete stranger can make a person's morning!

I felt blah this morning when waking up and forced myself out of the door for a 5 mile easy paced run.

Whole Foods is an easy stop on my way home and I love their iced coffee; I treat myself to it on Saturdays and last Saturday, a random guy commented on my calves while I was waiting for my drink.  I was unsure if he was using that as an excuse to talk to me since he continued the conversation when he saw me at my car.  I don't wear my wedding ring when running so I am leery of guys talking to me when I'm not wearing it.

Today I still felt blah getting my coffee and I noticed a young lady looking at me; I assumed it was because I had a lovely, post-run odor.  Then she said, "You have impressive calves."  Not what I expecting!  I recovered quickly, laughed and said, "Thanks. I love to run a little bit." She laughed and commented back just a little.  That quick exchange and her compliment totally made my morning.

I admit I posted on IG about it since it will serve as a reminder to give other strangers compliments (when appropriate); you never know if it will be the thing that turns around that person's day.

Here's what happens when you run on your toes when wanting to run midfoot

I carried that positive mood with me to my Pilates reformer private session and really enjoyed the session.  I've been struggling with dealing with stressful things in my life and I was able to let it go and focus on the mind-body connection that makes Pilates so effective.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Groupon makes trying Pilates affordable!

Groupon and LivingSocial are addictive and make trying new activities super easy!  Thanks to them, my hubby and I went kayaking and attended BatFest in the fall.  I saw a few deals for magazines and could not resist, especially since I am obsessed with HGTV.  HGTV contributed to our choosing Austin as our new residence; I fully believe that God works in mysterious ways and Austin was featured on tons of shows we watched immediately after our Costa Rica trip where we met a family from the Austin area.  But I digress...

I saw a deal for 4 private Pilates reformer lessons at AustinGirl Pilates and could not resist.  I am still using my Groupon pack for GreenBird Fitness (Pilates mat, barre or yoga options) but have wanted to try out the reformer machine.  When I was in PT for my hip, I did some exercises on it.  Lessons are not cheap and I'm a bargain shopper so I held out until I found this deal.  It was a bit of drive but too no time on Saturday morning....during the week, I avoid the 360 since it's like a slow conga line.

The studio is in really nice residential part of Austin and I immediately felt at ease with the instructor Susan.  She analyzed my posture and gait and I told her about my running hobby addiction and my glutes not firing.  The 45 minute lesson was tough since I had to focus on getting my muscles to fire in a pattern.  It was totally different than the Pilates mat classes and videos I've been doing.  I felt an inch taller (I wish!!!) when I left.  3 more lessons left in my package and I'm trying to figure out a way to make incorporate the reformer long-term.

Not the studio but what a Reformer looks like. Pic by Body Design Pilates

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Sunday Funday instead of Sunday long run day

How do you handle  your training plan when you feel "off?"  This weekend I failed in the "sticking to my plan" mentality.

Saturday I felt strong and did a Pilates reformer class (1st time ever!) and had a strong 5 mile run.

We celebrated Valentine's Day with a dinner at The Grove and soaked in the hill country views on the patio.

Saturday night I went to bed later than normal and expected to sleep well...4am I woke up and could not go back to sleep.  At 5am, I gave up and decided to have a productive early morning.  I debated running before church and talked myself out of it.  I read, did a PiYo core workout, grocery shopped and cooked breakfast-- way too much before 9am!

Normally I have no problem running immediately after church but today I felt off and we went house hunting instead.  I still could not get motivated so we went to Whole Foods and did our assignment for our church's life group.  I convinced myself that I could run 5-6 miles and that the 8 miler during the week could be my longer run; many times when I start running, I feel better and can stick to my planned run.  Today I had zero desire to run 13 miles after getting started and "slogged" through 7 miles.  Sitting on my balcony having a glass of wine and snacking sounded so much better than continuing running.

So happy to be done with my run and ready to be lazy!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Cross training variety

One of my downfalls as a runner has been not cross training.  Finding time to run is not always easy and adding anything to my work out time did not appeal to me.

Last year I pulled my hamstring doing PiYo -- go figure.  That and the ensuing muscular imbalances kicked me out of running for months.  For my mental sanity, I started finding videos on youtube for various types of workouts; I am never bored or have an excuse not to do something active.  10 minute kettlebell, pilates, or HIT works out are awesome ways to kick start your day when you are short on time!

What do I do?  It depends on my mood, energy level and whether or not it is also a run day.

  • Yoga - Many days I do a 10 minute power yoga routine.  If I am limited for time, that will be my workout for the day.
  • Pilates - I take mat classes, do Popilates or other videos I find on youtube or create my own workout.
  • Kettlebell- I tried several I found on youtube but I typically do ones of these - Fitness blender 10 minute workout, from BodyFit by Amy, or by Tone ItUp
  • FitSugar- I just discovered this!  Today, I did this bodyweight workout and, though it seemed easy and filled with too many breaks, I felt it afterwards and worked muscles in my back I apparently have not worked in ages!  I followed it up with two of Cassie Ho's videos  (6 minute butt blaster to work on activating my glutes and 3 min turbo lower abs) and the fitness blender kettlebell workout.  I decided to do a double threw in this 20 minute HIT workout from FitSugar as a quick late dinner break from work.
I made sure I foam rolled my back since I know I got in a killer workout today!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

"Traxporlation" continues

What is the best way to spend a Saturday afternoon?  Trail running and exploring the area (ie. "traxporlation").  The trails at the Hamilton Greenbelt are shaded which is a huge plus for an afternoon run and I wanted to venture beyond where I ran last year to see where they connect to Hurst Creek trails.

I needed a 10 mile run this weekend and knew it would mean running some of the same trails more than once, which I did not mind since the trails are so pretty.  The trails take you through a community and it is odd to run in people's backyards at time but the trails are very pretty.

The roots, leaves and rocks make it more challenging than it appears!

There is a wide path that runs through the greenbelt but I choose the path less traveled.  There is a windy, rocky, single track running parallel to the main path and it provides the best scenery and challenges.  If you take the single track, you end at the creek bed.

It has not rained much this year and the creek area is drying up.

Last time I ran here, I did not run up to the Hurst Creek trail and today I made that part of my exploration.  It did not disappoint!  The trails are very well marked and continue to wind through the trees.

In Hurst Hollow,you can venture to the look out post and the views are incredible.  Being able to see the water below was a treat.

It was a great run, though I turned my ankles a couple of times and feel that tonight.  Lakeway is one of the areas where we have been house hunting.  I fully admit that having a trail in my backyard is enticing!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Nirvana Ultra Big Bear Race Report

It has been a long two years since my last ultra and I wanted that ultra drought to end with a challenging race that would give me a chance to visit the local mountains.  Thanks to the ultrarunning calendar, I saw a race that fit the bill, Nirvana Ultra Big Bear; I eyed since since finishing the Austin marathon and finally signed up a couple of weeks ago.  My training after the marathon was less than desired after pulling my hamstring doing yoga but I could not miss one of my last opportunities to race in Southern CA.

One of my major concerns about the race was the altitude; the race site indicated the course varied between 6500 and 8000 feet and I have not run at altitude in years and it kicked my butt and lungs when I did!  The course was billed as 10 mile loops and there were various distance options (10 mi, 50K, 50mi, 100K, 100mi).  I opted for the 50K and hoped that I could survive that distance without having asthma issues.  Since the race started at 6am, my husband and I drove up to the Lake Arrowhead area the day before; we drove to the race start so that we would be able to find it early race morning and then drove to Lake Arrowhead to check into our hotel and hangout in the village.  I opted for "carb loading" by doing some wine tasting in the hopes it would help me go to sleep early; I managed to fall asleep around midnight and got minimal sleep before the 4am wake up call.  When we arrived at the start/finish area, I picked up my bib and tried to figure out how many were running the same distance; it was a small race (65ish people across all distances) and I loved the low-key start (complete with pictures).  It was very cold but I thought that it would warm up quickly, so I did not wear my gloves.  I regretted that for the first half of the race!

When we started, I was slow going out and made sure I walked anything uphill but still found myself near the front of the pack.  The course was two small loops before we headed out for a longer loop.  I felt the altitude as the course undulated and I focused on running slowly and breathing and not falling on rocks.  I love the ultra vibe and enjoyed some chit chat with others around me for the first loop.  There were no long climbs but constant up and down and I knew that would take a toll on my legs and lungs.  I completed the first loop in about 1:52, faster than I intended.  After a couple of minutes of going the wrong way when heading out for the 2nd set of the loops, I found myself running in a groove and powered up the uphills.  I realized I had not eaten anything, drank more than a couple of small sips of water or taken any salt and worked to get myself on track nutrition-wise.   I tried to avoid passing people on the climbs since I was being careful on the technical downhill sections.  Around mile 15, I noticed I had been out there 3 hours and was on pace for a solid race time, faster than the 7 hours I projected.  As I finished the 2nd loop and hit mile 20 about 3:54 in the race, I sat down to clean out my shoes and told my husband I knew I was feeling the altitude and would probably take another 3 hours to finish the race.

The final loop was very challenging mentally.  I was alone for most of it, except when I would pass a person one lap behind.  I focused on breaking it into sections and trying to get calories in my body, which was increasingly tough; my fingers were swollen so I monitored my salt intake.   My headache and nausea, combined with challenges breathing and tired legs, left me with little in the tank.  I walked more than I did any other loop and entered the aid station around mile 17 feeling beat up.  I found out I was neck and neck with a guy for 1st place in the 50K and we were at the aid station at the same time; I listened to my body and  pushed my competitive nature aside and told the guy to go ahead of me. I expected having to tack on the small initial loop to make it 31 miles and wanted to save energy for that.  As I went back by the aid station before heading down to the finish, I stopped to grab more water since I was drinking it in large gulps.

I hit the finish line for the loop in 5:59 (2nd place overall) and asked the RD if I was to go back out for the extra mile; he said he decided not to have us tack on the mileage.  I was a little bummed since I was gunning for a 50K.  After sitting for a few minutes and getting more water, I asked my husband if he wanted to go hike that mile and half with me.  He agreed so I went back out for the additional mileage and  took in the beautiful scenery one final time.  I felt very nauseous post-race and opted to leave asap instead of hanging out or trying to eat anything.  I definitely felt the classic altitude sickness symptoms and was thankful I only did the 30 miler!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Hurts so good!

What seemed like an easy workout kicked my butt!

Yesterday was a cross training day and I decided to try a new workout video.  Earlier in the week, I found a POPSUGAR one and it was a nice change my recent workouts.  I wanted to mix it up and try another one and I found a 30 minute bootcamp video.  I broke a sweat during it but was unsure if I really got in a good workout, so I followed it up by a 6 minute Popilates video and then a 10 minute kettlebell workout.

I woke up this morning feeling like I had aged 50 years overnight!  My upper back was so sore that moving was hard and I was exhausted.  I did my normal wake-up routine (child's pose, alternating cat/cow stretches) and that did nothing to ease my soreness.  I opted for running on the treadmill since I dreaded shivering in the cold for a run; the run eased the soreness thankfully.  I definitely learned my lesson --- full body workout videos can be tougher than they seem!  It is time to incorporate more workouts like that into my cross training; feeling that post-workout soreness is a sign that I need to work my upper back muscles out more.  I highly recommend trying out this workout video and getting your sweat on!

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Exploring Barton Creek's trail

The week of new years, I took advantage of being off work to explore some of Austin's infamous trails.  Though they were very flat, the scenery was incredible and the rocks and roots made for different challenges.  

Barton Creek is one of the trails everyone told me to explore and I totally understand why. Finding the main trailhead left me frustrated but I decided to try to locate another one.  I ventured into a neighborhood and found the one at "Trail's End."  I descended the rocky, stair step like Hill of Life carefully.  I ran out about 2.5 miles after descending the hill and it was time to turn around.  I could not figure out where the trail went if I was doing a longer run; I saw a fenced off area but not the actual trail.  Next time, I am determined to figure out where it goes!  

Running back it was obvious that I had focused on staying upright and soaking in the scenery on the run out because the trail seemed too close to the water's edge.  I thought I was off the trail and I looked up and wondered if there was an upper trail; I ran up the hill and realized there was no trail; the mud made going down challenging and I did very ungraceful small slide.  It's not a trail run for me without at least one trip or fall!

About one mile south of the "Hill of Life," the trail skirts the edge of the creek.  The views were stunning since the recent rains made the creek very full.

This is must be why everyone raves about Barton Creek trails!

After tripping a few times and my sliding incident, I played it safe by hiking up the "Hill of Life" and then ran back to my car.  6 miles in the bag and a strong desire to explore more of Austin's trails left me beaming ear to ear.