Saturday, May 23, 2015

3 Steps to Treat Achilles Tendonitis

For the last six (yikes!) years, I've struggled with Achilles Tendonitis off and on. I should on and almost off. Despite taking off months from running, every time I returned, I could immediately feel the hot strained feeling of lurking tendonitis. Now, after about eight months without pain, I'm happy to share the three things I did to return to running.
  1. Rest. The most dreaded of treatments - not doing anything. Whilst resting, ice. Rest some more. When you think you've rested long enough, rest for another month. During my last "Rest" phase, I took up rock climbing. It saved my sanity and my fitness.
  2. Strengthen. Before returning to running, strengthen the muscles around your ankle and calf. Heel lifts turned out to be my healer. Start standing on one foot on a flat surface. Press up, from a flat foot to tip toe, and back down. I started with 10/side and was shocked at how tiring that was. After a week or two, up the number to 15. Then move to a stair and let your heel sink a little. Feel the burn.
  3. Lift. Ask your doctor if one leg is longer than the other. If slightly yes, try a mini insert under the heel of the shorter leg. I believe my feet were made to run without a full-foot support but I also have a 1/4-inch difference in my leg lengths. This means that one tendon has to reach further to touch the ground. While covering mile after mile, that poor tendon gets a bit weary. Boosting it just a bit seems to alleviated some of that strain. 
Running shoe inserts

These inserts are available on Amazon. They are stackable so you lift just a little or a lot. The grey ones are more invasive - longer and higher. I didn't like them but a single clear one under the liner of my left running shoe has been a game changer.
Keeping in mind I'm not a medical pro, I'm just related to one, give these steps a shot. As my orthoped told me, there's no harm in trying because, if you can't heal yourself, the next step is a surgery that takes almost a year for recovery. So, may as well, rest, strengthen and make minor adjustments first.

Happy running!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

What to Wear Running in San Francisco in May

Temp: 50F/10C
Humidity/Precip: Moderate/None (we're still in a drought)
Wind: 10-15mph
Distance: 6 miles
Terrain: Hills

What I Wore: Capri tights, long-sleeves with thumb holes (see previous post), visor

Did It Work: Not really. Once again I was freezing. Karl the Fog is here, along with his friend Oceanic Winds. Even though I ran almost the whole time, it took 1.5 miles to stop shivering.

What I Would Change: Warm the head, heart and hands: Tank bra under the top to keep my core warm. Running hat that covers my crown. Wrist warmers - I've been told that wrists are the key to heat - vs. mittens which just seems embarrassingly extreme even if my teeth were literally chattering at one point. Plus, wrist warmers are easier to take off and tuck away.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

What to Wear Walking in 55 degrees

Weather: 55F (17C), setting sun
Wind: 10mph
Humidity/Precip.: Moderately high/None
Terrain: Hills
Distance: 3 miles

What I Wore: Capri tights, low socks, 3/4 sleeve T-shirt, ear warmer

Did It Work: No. I'm just getting back into walking with a dash of running and I seriously overestimated how quickly walking would warm me up. Freezing! When my hands stopped feeling functional around the 3/4 mile mark, I started jogging just to warm up.

What I Would Change: Swap the T for long sleeves with thumb holes and this outfit works. But only if you really do plan to run or you're hiking uphill. Between the breeze and the humidity (around 80%), it was too hard to warm up without significant exertion. Especially because there weren't any warm, sunny patches along the route. Add a light jacket if you want to power walk, only.

Note on hills: Walking up hill can be harder than a mini jog. When we walk, we try to plant the whole foot. This is tough on the achilles and bottoms of your feet. Rise up onto your toes and take tiny steps, almost like you're jogging in place. This will ease the strain, get your heart rate up and eventually take you up that monster hill. Bernal Height Park in San Francisco, I'm looking at you! (see photo)

In the end, climbing hills is totally worth it, usually. Great views, real feeling of accomplishment and a great workout.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Quick-dry Gear for Travel

Little home experiment helped me decide what gear to pack on a two-week international trip.
Criteria: functional in my destination's temps and quick dry so I could rinse and repeat.

Test gear: silk long underwear, Lululemon yoga pants, REI long underwear top, Puma tank, Under Armour multipurpose top, Arc'teryx dress and Atom jacket.

Experiment: washed all of the above items in cold water and then hung them to dry to see what would be 100% dry after 12 hours. This seems like a reasonable turn around time when traveling, plus it's how much time I had!

Expectations: I was absolutely sure the silk long underwear and the Under Armour top would be dry as bones. I doubted that the Atom jacket, which has a hood and thick stretchy fabric panels would be dry. Same with the soft and thick REI top and the Lululemon pants. Puma tank was up in the air.
Outcome: What the heck?! The silks were still damp, bordering on wet. The Atom jacket was ready to wear. Same with the tank, shirt and the dress. Second shocker, the REI top was dry and back to its usual softness. Lulu performed as expected: damp.

Result: Packing (and need to buy more of) the Arc'teryx. They rock. Also will be packing the UA top and Puma tank. Sorry Lululemon but the yoga pants are staying home with the silk long underwear.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

What to Wear to Acupuncture

Achilles tendonitis has knocked me off my feet for the last few months. I miss running so, yesterday, I went to an acupuncturist who was recommended by a friend who is a professional athlete (in other words, she needs a lot of body work).

What to Wear to Acupuncture
Depending on what they're going to work on, the acupuncturist might give you hospital-esque gown. This gives them easy access to your back or sternum. In those cases, it doesn't matter what you wear because you'll be taking it off. The hard part, is you don't always know what they'll want to work on.

Acupuncture may treat your issues by focusing on up to three areas:

  • Your pain point
  • An area near the pain
  • Some other, random-seeming part of your body that has a relationship to your problem area that you might never have guessed 
For example, yesterday, to work on my left Achilles, acupuncturist Christopher put tiny needles in my left Achilles, right knee and both hips, plus a few other areas.

So what to wear if you don't know what's going to happen?

  • Wear clothes that are loose fitting or stretchy
  • Be prepared to take off your shoes (i.e. slap some lotion on those puppies and dig out the toe jam)
  • Be clean - your therapist uses all the senses, including smell, to treat; you don't want them to be overwhelmed with your favorite cologne or last night's sexcapades
  • Wear separates (no coveralls, jumpsuits or dresses) for easy access to hips and lower back
And, if you're in the Bay Area and looking for an acupuncturist who's completely grounded in Eastern medicine but totally present in today's world (in other words - he knows his stuff and is easy to talk to), I recommend Christopher Pearson at Be Well Integral Healing in Oakland.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Sports Bras for Big Breasts

Sports Bras for Big Breasts

The right bra is key to every woman runner’s gear choices. It doesn’t matter what’s on top if what’s underneath isn’t doing its job. Despite the running bra’s importance, there is something about talking about breasts that makes us giggle. Based on the market, not too many designers are taking it seriously either. So, let’s get it out of our system…

Boobs, the girls, ta-tas, the jiggly wigglies, milky mammas, Tits McGee.

Ok, now that we got a little silly out of our system, let’s get serious about what sports bras are good for women with big breasts. Because I can’t speak from experience, my friend and fellow long-distance runner Ronda agreed to share her experiences and her faves. Here’s her take:

“As woman with large ‘ta-tas' who runs, a super supportive bra is an absolute must.  I have tried a number of brands that carry larger sizes like Enell & Anita. However, Moving Comfort's Jubralee® is far and away my favorite because it:
  • Compresses really well but also... 
  • Separates, reducing the look of a uni-boob
  • Prevents bouncing or shifting while running
  • Doesn't have an underwire - this is not mandatory and I do have the "coathanger" in my regular bras, I just prefer not when I'm running
  • Has padded straps that can be adjusted with Velcro®

Moving Comfort bra w/ adjustable Velcro straps
At about $55, it's a terrific value for the quality, construction, feel and look. 

I especially appreciate that Moving Comfort recognizes that there are plenty of women with large breasts who enjoy running in a well-made quality bra. They also have several comparable styles with underwire. If you can’t fit into a pull-over sports bra, work with a professional to get fitted and then test out some bras to determine your preference.

Lastly, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention my companion accessory – Tri Slide. This aerosol spray has been a lifesaver. With large breasts, chafing is a painful reality. The Jubralee coupled with Tri Slide is a match made in big-boobed, long-distance running heaven!”

As a side note for nursing new moms, a friend of mine says Moving Comfort's straps make easy access for your little one. Another good reason to give these a shot if you're looking.

Many thanks to Ronda for sharing her concerns as a bodacious runner, and her solutions.

Happy running!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

What to Wear Running in the Rain

Never bring a wind breaker to a rain storm. Here's what I wore and why it didn't work.

Temperature: 45 degrees F (5 C)
Water marks

Humidity: 100%, raining hard
Wind: ~10mph
Terrain: Rolling hills
Distance: 4 miles

What I wore: Light-weight tights short-sleeve, wicking top; and a wind breaker.

Why: It was too warm for any of my "real" rain jackets but too cold to just wear a technical top. I thought the wind breaker would be the perfect balance.

I also needed a place to put my iPhone so I could track my miles.

Did it work? No. As the t-shirt photo shows, my upper half was soaked. So were my tights, but that's ok. In the rain and/or cold, what I really worry about is head, core and hands. Keeping these dry and/or warm are key to staying healthy and keeping muscles functioning.

Instead, my hat was water logged, the wind breaker broke the wind but not the water and my hands were freezing. Happily, my phone stayed dry thanks to being in my tight's pocket, under the jacket.

On the trail
What to Wear: Being too warm can be as bad as being too cold, so I don't recommend a rain jacket that doesn't breath or have vents. The best are pit-zips - zippered vents that run along your under arms to your torso.

Between 40 and 55 degrees, you'll want a light layer that keeps you dry for as long as possible. It may not be perfect, but it should give you time to warm up before letting the rain seep in.

Note: One of the things I like about this Puma jacket is the high, fitted collar. At least I didn't have rivulets of water running down my neck!

Enjoy your spring running. It's a beautiful time of year to be outside.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Under Armour Running Shoes by Shauna Harrison

Shauna's shoes (most of them)

Hi, my name is Shauna and I’m an Under Armour® trainer and yoga instructor. Thanks to childhood memories of not even being able to run a whole mile in PE, I often grapple with identifying myself as a “runner.” But I do run! I run hills, stairs, sand dunes, trails and streets (sometimes all in one training session). According to MapMyFitness, I run a total of 20 miles/week. And I love it. So, ok…I’m a runner, too.
I just happen to be a runner with not-your-average-shoe needs. Thanks to Under Armour, I’m also a runner with a not-your-average-shoe closet.

Wait UA makes running shoes? YES! And great ones! Below are a few of my favorites.
First, my feet – that way, you can see if my needs might be similar to yours. I have low arches and hypermobile feet (surprise, surprise, yogi). I’ve been wearing medical orthotics since I was about 8 years old. I need stability, structure and cushion. The minimalist trend is not for me. Here are some of my UA favorites:
UA Speedform Apollo, Micro G Spine Evo & Monza
·      Design/Technology: UA’s latest running shoe with sweet technology. The Speedform was actually manufactured in a clothing factory, which gives them a performance apparel type fit!
·      Fit and Feel: These bad boys are super light, flexible and comfortable. Generally for my needs, “flexible” isn’t all that appealing. However, I had no problems with the Speedform right out of the box (I don’t usually recommend that, but couldn’t help myself!)
·      Wear: I’ve worn the Speedform for conditioning runs (hills, stairs, some trail, minimal flats) and one flat, short (4-ish miles), speed run. I was happy with them for both types of runs, but I could really feel the benefit of the lightness in the shorter, faster run. They earn their Speedform name.
·      Design/Technology:  Very durable. Good traction. The “spine” provides a ton of stability. The Micro G foam midsole supplies cushioning. Sometimes rocks get stuck in the spaces on the soles.
·      Fit and Feel: The UA Spines have been my favorite UA running shoes since the first version emerged. For my needs, these shoes are perfection. I love their stability and support.
·      Wear: I use the Spines for almost any kind of run. Bonus: I use them for other training as well. They work well for jump rope, circuit training and even some minimal lateral training. This is essentially unheard of for running shoes, which makes me love them even more.
·      Design/Technology: Lighter than the Spines, not quite as light at the Speedform. The suede mid-foot overlay gives these shoes some extra support. The outsole is made to stay in contact with the road.
·      Fit and Feel: These do give a smooth run. The stability is a close second to the Spines. The Micro G® makes them feel cushiony.
·      Wear: The Monzas work well for most of my running workouts. I mix these in with my Spines for a go-to shoe. I will use them for other workouts as well, but they are not quite as stable, laterally.
The rest of the guys in my shoe collection have also done their time on the streets, trails and sand. Many of them are great but hopefully focusing on these three gives you a starting point and helps you find what works for you. Remember, take your time, work with someone with can dissect your stride and identify your needs, and get out there and sweat every day!
Shauna drops a forearm stand in the UA Micro G Spine Evo

Thanks to our guest blogger, Shauna Harrison. Get more Shauna in your life on Instagram (@shauna_harrison), where she is well known as the inventor of and inspiration behind #SweatADay. She also is the creator of Hip Hop Cycle® and Muscle & Flow fitness classes. This blog was not reimbursed in anyway in exchange for this post. Just giving a different perspective from a recognized athlete. Happy running!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Runner's Tan: Why I Wear Sunblock

I've been running and cycling for 25 years. Before that, I was a kid in Minnesota and Colorado, so I was running the streets and swimming in the summer and building snow forts and skiing in the winter. I've gotten a lot of tans during my many trips around the sun.

My mom has freckles so she was okay about making us wear sunblock when we were kids. Back then, that meant she made us put it on if she was with us and remembered before leaving the house and she knew we were going to be out all. It does not mean it happened every day, repeat applications or +15 SPF.

After taking up marathoning in my 20s, I was a little better but not much. Higher SPF, but often forgetting to apply. A hat when running. That's about it. I took pride in my runner's tan. I thought it said a lot of good things about me - active, healthy, radiant, hardcore runner. Sadly, it also said, "I don't really get how aging and skin cancer work."

Today, I don't have any tan lines. I'm just as active (slower but still out there), I'm just a lot more covered up. The other day, I went out with SPF 60 sunblock on my hands, legs and face. But I hadn't done my arms because I was wearing a light jacket. Unfortunately, it was warmer than I thought. I was sweating like crazy but I kept on that jacket because there is NO WAY, at this point in my life, that I'm getting burnt.

Friends tease me. I don't care. I've never been that big on peer pressure. Plus, I know the damage I've done already. It's subtle on my body - small freckles fill in my old runner's tan while the parts that have always been covered remain clear and smooth. On my face, the miles show more. Melasma - freckle patches on my forehead, cheeks and upper lip - makes it a lot easier to guess my age, despite very few wrinkles.

My mom still has freckles, too, of course. But since some of them started turning into little blobs of skin cancer, she is has become a skin care booster. When she gardens, she wears a long-sleeve shirt with built in SPF. She wears floppy, wide-brimmed hats. When running (yes, my 65-year-old mom does about 4 miles every day!), she slathers on the sunblock. She's pale, and that's beautiful because it's healthy.

I'm lucky to have her as a skin role model - for the bad and the good. Hopefully, what I've learned from her as an adult will help balance what we did to our skin 30 years ago. I'm taking it so seriously that, this April, the shirt I'll wear for the Nashville Half Marathon is long sleeved.

Apply and reapply sunblock. Cover up. Be healthy. Look great.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Change & Refreshing Your Workout

This year, to refresh my fitness routine, I decide to return to something old and add something new. My goal, as always, was to have fun, stay healthy and stay motivated.

Staying motivated to "work out" isn't usually my problem but even my body at rest stays at rest unless I do something to get myself out the door.

Adding an old workout, refreshed: training for another half marathon. I'm keeping this year's training fresh by doing it with my brother, who lives two time zones away. We're linked on an app that lets us train/compete together. It's been great to literally see him putting in the miles and to urge him on by nipping at his heels.

First climb. Photo by Dana Underwood
Trying a new workout: In January, a friend posted a note on Facebook, asking if anyone wanted to go rock climbing. I never had but suddenly wanted to very badly. Rock climbing is completely out of my fitness sweet spot - a lot of upper body, vertical movement, partner-based activity. But, I love it so much, I quit my old gym and joined a much smaller gym that is mostly based on climbing. My hands hurt all of the time, but it's satisfying and has secretly added strength training to my cardio-centric routine.

I'm sharing this today, deliberately. By now, many of us have given up our new year's resolutions. Motivation met its match in habit and inertia. But there was a reason you made that resolution. Maybe you know you're not as healthy as you should be for your age. Maybe you feel older than are. Maybe some pounds have snuck up on you and now you can't shake them. Whatever it was, it's still there.

So, if you're hating the fitness routine you tried to start in January, shake it up! Try something so completely different, you almost can't think of it yourself (whoa, my head just threatened to explode!). Rock climbing, mall walking, Lemon Twist®, something! It might not be easy and you SHOULD ache tomorrow, but it will get better and could even