30.10.11

Feline or Canine?

Everyone has a different running style - and by style I don't mean shorts, singlets, and gloves year round. I mean are you a solo cat or a pack person? Maybe you're somewhere in the middle. We encounter many types of other runners when we head out on the paths or trails and lately I have to wonder, aren't we all part of the same pack of slightly delusional, nerdy, type a personalities? There's a reason non-runners don't get runners, there is something peculiar about the hours we run, our obsession with nutritional products, the near constant desire to go further or faster. Most of us run for recreation, fitness.  Ok fair. Some people play slo-pitch and you don't see them keeping stats on their RBI's or field errors. But we're not here to talk about statistics - we're here to decide if you're a feline or canine runner. I have design a quiz to help you identify your running style.

1. At work do you...
a) keep your door closed at all times
b) work with your door open
c) do your work from your smartphone at the coffee maker

2. You would describe your grooming habits as...
a) impeccable
b) shave when you need to attend a social function
c) don't mind if anyone catches you picking your wedgie

3. You prefer to eat...
a) slowly, savouring each bite
b) responsibly with the occasional indulgence
c) anything and everything

Ok, now for the truth. If you answered...

Mostly A's - You are a feline runner. Not to be confused with the other cougar variety seen on the running paths, you are most likely very motivated and believe you can achieve great success. Some people would describe you as having an extreme A type personality. From time to time, two cats can be seen running together and can be likened to the Siamese duo from Lady and the Tramp. Feline runners don't always acknowledge other runners but that's ok because they know you're more than welcome to join them anytime you want. Take heed, others might believe you to be aloof or arrogant though you may simply be shy and introverted or need an hours peace from your eight children.


Mostly B's or one of each - You are exhibit traits of both feline and canine runners. You might be a bit moody and so sometimes you prefer to run solo and other times you like to team up. Perhaps your a bit insecure and feel like you'll be holding a group back - shake that attitude away! If you're out running solo you don't hesitate to give a wave, nod, smile, or hello to another runner and you're taken aback if the greeting isn't return - you get your hackles up so so speak. Take caution as others might perceive you as either a cat or dog; You should firmly establish that you are both and neither at the same time. You are a  little like Garfield, you love the solo time but truly appreciate the love you receive from your Odie like pals.


Mostly C's - You are a dog through and through. You probably have a couple handfuls of numbers for running buddies you can call up on a moments notice. You thrive in group runs and likely either lead a group or dream of it. You tend to be helpful and encouraging toward other runners. Careful though, you can become Alpha like in the pack and believe in too strongly in your own superiority. You might blog about running because what's better than writing about running when you can't be with someone talking about it? Like Goofy, you are cheerful and always wanting to help but can sometimes overstay your welcome.



So where do I fall on this list, probably a B.5 - not all the way C because I enjoy my solo head clearing time on my long runs but love meeting up with others for speed work, tempos, or trail runs. You need to know the fact though. Fact: I pretty much made all this up on my long run yesterday. Fact: I have have no psychology background. Fact: I intend no slight towards any other runner (except seriously, nod ok - see link) regardless of their animal orientation. So, who do I think I'm like? Snoopy. A sense of adventure, a few close friends, mostly happy though slightly moody, occasionally bossy. 


Happy Halloween!

21.10.11

Feet: Should you Bare your Sole?

You've heard it, maybe considered it, the barefoot running hype. Introduced years back when Nike launched the Free it seems now that every shoe company on the planet has their own version of a barefoot style shoe - most popular perhaps is the Vibram Five Finger. Articles are plentiful about if you should/shouldn't/maybe consider barefoot running for yourself. Disclaimer: I hold no degree in kinesiology, biomechanics, medicine, or podiatry - I have however seen a lot of feet having worked for a major running store and have also been lectured (in the friendly way) by some very intelligent people like Reed Ferber. I also run with numerous different people who all have unique foot makeups, and run at various speeds and distances. Disclaimer: I have a lot to say about this subject so be prepared to read.

My ugly feet.
So, if shoe companies these days aren't promoting 'toning' shoes (yes, walking = nicer legs, duh) then they are hyping up barefoot or minimalist styles, aiming to lessen heel strike and get you running through your mid to fore-foot. So should you make the switch? My answer: don't unless...

1. You are willing to commit the time and effort needed to adapt. When Nike Free's first came out there was actually a training program that came in the shoe box. But I can only assume most people ignored this as injury rates started soaring when people wore them for 20km the day after purchase. Remember when exercise balls first came out? Remember trying to do 10 sit-ups on the ball and thinking those were the hardest 10 sit-ups of your life. But now you do all your core exercises on the ball because you practiced and went slowly? Minimalist and barefoot shoes - think of them like a fit ball for your foot.

2. You are willing to commit training the rest of your stabilizing muscles from your neck to your feet. You know those guys at the gym who only work their biceps and chest? If the only thing you do to strengthen your body for running is minimalist/barefoot shoes - you are that same person, but instead of being a gym rat you're an endurance junkie, both of which, in my opinion, are dumb. Training the rest of your stabilizing muscles means moving in a fashion other than running. So you have to move laterally in a dynamic fashion like bounding off a bosu or strengthen your upper body & core by doing chin-ups. Better yet, find a qualified instructor and get some expert ass kicking like I do once a week.

Ladder drills, Excellent for agility, Excellent for running


3. You aren't training for a race. I would say leave adaptation to 'off' season. This gives you the ability to scale back and work on changes to form and technique over manageable distances. When you are constantly increasing your mileage you are putting enough stress on your body never mind trying to rewire and reprogram your body to run in a fashion it doesn't naturally resort to.


I need you to know I am not against the barefoot/minimalist movement. I intend to keep my child barefoot as long as possible so her feet learn to strengthen naturally. I too see the benefits of running in minimal shoes provided your plan to get there is calculated and realistic. Take these two runners for example:

Case Study #1: My husband. For four years now Stu has been trying to 'correct' his stride by running like the pros. For four years now, Stu has been battling nagging injuries like calf spasms and other such tweaks and pains. He has gone from a stability shoe, to a neutral shoe, to racing flats - and wants to continue down to running barefoot. Previous to this he ran... injury free. Stu doesn't really have an 'off' season and doesn't really have a plan always - he'll just jump out the door and do 14km without having ran for over two weeks. Sure he can do it but... after 10 days of all out effort he needs rest week. Pacing is not his specialty. I'm not trying to hack on him - he is slowly learning from his mistakes - I'm telling his tale as a cautionary one.

Case Study #2: Me. For four years now (for equal comparison) I have had one running related injury. My piriformis acted up when I attempted to train for a half marathon over a one month period. Overuse yes, too much too soon, yes. Change in running form, no. Actually, I'm convinced I got a pair of defective shoes because I still can't run in that pair even though there's less than 300km on them and they always make some part of me hurt - new shoes, same style, no problems. Over the past four years I have gone from a mid-weigh, mid-cushioning neutral shoe to a light-weigh, light-cushioning neutral shoe. I did train in a race flat for one off season and did a couple 5km races in them but otherwise feel quite happy in my current kicks. I'm not trying to say I'm perfect because I've made mistakes too - I'm telling my tale to say hey, proceed with caution into this barefoot/minimalist world, and definitely don't try to train for your first ever half marathon in four weeks.

Transitioning to barefoot/minimalist shoes does not guarantee to solve existing injuries or guarantee to prevent further running injuries. The idea that we all have the same 'natural' running form or the ability to run that way isn't as simple as shoe manufacturers make it out to be. Injuries are often complicated and sometimes have more to do with other aspects of our bodies than our feet alone. Many injuries start in the hip area - should we all be wearing minimalist underwear or better yet, going commando? See, the problem/solution is not what we wear but how we innately move. Posture, movement, and function are often years of repetitious movements ingrained into our muscle memory and re-training isn't as simple as new shoes.

Is there an ideal running form? Yes - I wrote about it a while back here. Do I try to remember those principles and apply them to my running, yes. I do know though, that at 30 years old I am pretty efficient, enjoy running, and while I want to gain speed and strength, I understand I'd rather be a lifer than get injured or burn out. Last night at our Personal Best clinic at Strides an enthusiastic bouncing chap named Travis coached our workout. Travis typically coaches pimply-faced teenagers who are still young enough to be molded like play dough into scholarship achieving track stars. Lined up in front of him last night were 97% women between 30 and 40 who were most likely in the clinic to be accountable to doing their speed work for eight weeks straight. I'm not saying that we shouldn't aim to focus our form on high knees, quick leg turn-over, arm-pump, and getting up onto our mid and fore-foot. I am saying that if it ain't broke, don't fix it, or change it.

What I'm really trying to say is, don't get sucked into the hype and risk messing with the good thing you have going. If you are comfortable in your shoes, running injury free, and loving it, stick with what you're doing. That being said, I fully intend to make a calculated plan for an entry into minimalist training this winter, after Vegas. Like any changes we try to make in running, if you want to run barefoot or change your stride, do so slowly and with a plan. There are plenty of good articles, coaches, trainers, and other resources. I suggest focusing on one aspect at a time - maybe leg turnover rate or how you move your arms. Tomorrow, I am heading out for a 17km run and I am going to focus on the last bit of beautiful fall weather we're having and dream of the delicious dinner we are going to be having with our friends tomorrow night.


Further Reading (though this is very very limited)
Wikipedia description
Runner's World
Shoe Reviews by Brand

16.10.11

Friends

On Saturday, ten of us we headed to beautiful as always Banff for the Ekiden Relay. Ekiden is one of those great relays because you all start and finish from the same point. This gives ample time to change, eat, take pictures, or oops, not hear your team number called and have to dash out to start your leg. The two teams finished within minutes of each other and I think we can all say we enjoyed the race. The only thing for want was coffee. We've decided to take full advantage of the outlets next year and bring a perk. Think they'll mind?

Group Shot
I love relays. Relaxed, fun, good food - thanks again Chris for your amazing cookies. It's great to catch up with people, have ridiculous car conversations, and plan for bigger days to come, like the Sinister 7 next July. I have decided I'm only about going longer than 21.1 if it involves mountains. While not a realy, I read in a back issue of impact (here) about the Tor des Geants in Italy. Antipasti, wine, yes please; 25 mountain passes and 330 or so odd kilometers, bring it. This is a race I dream of going on with a few close friends - crazy like me friends. Italy however is a few years away so I should get back to the present and tell you more about Ekiden.

This year I did leg two, 13.8 scenic kilometers down Tunnel Mountain and through Banff Springs golf course. It was another one of those fantastic runs for me. My mantra as of late: 'this is your run'. Not getting caught up in those around me allowed me to focus on running consistent and at a pace leaving me sure of a sub-2 finish in Vegas. Running at 300m (985 feet) higher than what we run in Calgary, I was happy to clock a 5:40 km average pace without a side stitch, without walk breaks, but not without a quick trip to the ditch. Thank goodness for mountain conifers for protection. I think the general consensus was that everyone had a great run. There's scenery to distract you and the fresh mountain air gives you a lift.

Passing off to Rebecca
Ekiden is good and bad for one same reason, the final hill. All five legs finish up a fairly long, steep hill. I recently listened to an "Another Mother Runner" podcast about hill running. In it Dim talked about transferring 80% of your energy to your upper body. As the course had a few ups and downs, I practiced on the smaller inclines first knowing I'd have to try something, anything, to get me up the monster at the end. My conclusion: I killed the hill! Never before have I enjoyed hills and here I was, running, up a friggin' beast. Yes by the end I still wanted to keel over but... I was upright, breathing (barely), and elated. From what I consider to be the bottom it is about 65m gain over .85km, from the corner where they radio your number up, it's a 55m gain in .6km. So about a 9% grade. Mean nothing to you? Ya, me neither. Rather, I think Tricia's face sums it up much better.

 

Friends, with out them relays wouldn't be fun. Without them we'd be bored out of our mind running on our own. Without them we'd have no one to hoot and holler for us or make fun of us. Without them we'd have no one to push harder with or pull energy from. Friday nights will soon be a mainstay for a few of us as we head indoors to train and do speed work together. I think Saturday was a great lead up to that to get us hyped about training together consistently and knowing a glass of chocolate milk and goodies will await us post-workout.

7.10.11

Flapjacks

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. I'm not normally, rah rah, charity, and I'm rarely into donating to find cures as I believe a bunch of money goes into the business of charity as opposed to actual research. But that is a rant for another day. I am however, concerned about my Flapjacks, their health, and the health of yours. Flapjacks? Yes, well, after months of breast feeding and weight loss I am flat as a pancake - it just seemed much cooler to title the post Flapjacks.

I do though, love projects that promote prevention or early detection, such as the Feel Your Boobies campaign. It is proudly supported by Moving Comfort - my favorite sports bras ever. I am super fortunate to come from a line of women who is (so far fingers crossed) free from this devastating disease. Call it good luck or good genes, I also call it smart living. From eating real whole healthy foods to making activity part of a daily life, prevention is worth it's weight in gold. Whole grains, veggies, fruit, meat, dairy, all the good yummy real food people who grow up around farms eat.

Have you noticed the generations that is currently most afflicted by cancers? The generation when processed foods became readily available. Sure processed food packaging has come along way, but really, you like the taste of that microwaved meal? Healthy eating isn't rocket science but it does require some thought and planning. My question: would you rather spend some extra time now, planning your meals, or would you rather be planning how to spend the remainder of your short life? Time to schedule yourself healthy.

So ladies, cop a feel of your flapjacks, eat something pink and delicious (mmm, berries), and have a healthy life.

2.10.11

Focus

It's been two weeks since the duathlon and now it's nine weeks away from the Vegas half marathon. I haven't been a total slacker since the duathlon (obviously not as I previewed AVDP) but training hasn't been consistent. Consistent enough though to put in a 24:18 5km on Friday night at the Ambulance Chasers Run here in the city.

Stu, on shift, doing water station duty at the 5km turn-around point.


The race could have possibly been my best race. It wasn't my fastest 5km (not far off though) but it was good. One of those runs that everything just seems to fall in place. My goal was to run sub 25 and I set out to accomplish that with my 4:00/:30 splits. The idea is I push hard for four minutes then back off for 30 seconds. I used this strategy when I PB'd my 5km previously but how it would translate 30 months later post baby was another story. You think you're the same but in honesty you're not - better maybe in fact! What made the race really great is that I didn't get caught up in who was around me even though the temptation was there to catch the two girls ahead of me. Doing this would have resulted in an age group finish but instead I was fourth by a mere 18 seconds. Disheartened, momentarily. I had no thoughts of placing in fact I hadn't even considered it, that wasn't my focus. It also helps to have your hubby and his overly enthusiastic partner at the turn-around cheering you on - how's that for a paid government position?

I came away from Friday feeling confident that the training I've been doing through out the summer and early fall has been productive. I did my first long run today in a long time (September 10!) I put in a consistent effort over 14km averaging 5:41 min/km with walk breaks ever 3km. That's insane! When I was training for Calgary this spring I was lucky to be averaging 6 minute kilometres. It feels really good knowing I'm moving quick again though today's run felt surprisingly easy and slow. As I ran today I got all dreamy about upcoming races - for next year. Is it too early to set my sights on a particular few? And by few I mean lots. 5ks, 10ks, more halfs, like the Harvest Half Marathon.

Yesterday Mallory & I went out and cheered on some amazing running friends, Jenny & Neasa, my mom, and her bf Dave, at the HHM. I want to do a post on all these wonderful people very soon as their individual stories inspire me and I'm tired of writing about myself. I saw some other unexpected faces on the course too and also many strangers, some struggling, some smiling. It felt good to repeat, 'keep it up' 'looking good' 'great running' over and over hoping I was doing some good and not stating the obvious.

Super-mom-runner Jenny. Fourth overall female! But her age graded performance meant she kicked Neasa's butt!

For now, time to really focus on upping the distance for Vegas and sticking to the training schedule so I can have another great race. For now, time to go to bed as 6am strength and conditioning class beckons.