Marathon Musings

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This month marks ten years since my last marathon.  When my firstborn was eight months and eight days old, I toed the line at the London Marathon.  I was thrilled to have gained a “Good for Age” qualification entry (based on a pre-pregnancy Boston Marathon finish) so I could participate in this great event.

Like someone with a lot to prove, I went out too fast.  I’d trained well, but I hadn’t been able to juggle an infant who was exclusively breastfed and life in London with no family, friends, or hired help with anything more than the most basic of marathon preparation.  While it was, indeed, a thrill to run through my favorite city in the world, I was hurting well before Mile 20 and its proverbial “wall”.  It didn’t help that the day was rainy and crowds were a bit thin.  I just kept telling myself to enjoy the experience and think about how grateful I was to even be able to participate in the London Marathon.

As I was running towards Buckingham Palace and the finish line, I was passed by a man wearing a horse costume, complete with plastic horse head.  Ever the competitor, I dug deep, refusing to be beaten by a man-horse.  I wound up running the last quarter mile with some kind of speed only ego can produce, and I finished in 3:44:45– 15 seconds under the “Good for Age” standard I’d used for qualification.  I felt legitimate.

Now a mom, but still a runner.

My enjoyment of distance running hasn’t really gone away (though it did take an extended vacation after The Stowaway was born) in the last ten years.  I ran two ultramarathons four years ago, but it’s really been a decade devoted to my kids and their needs.  Now that my kids are getting older and less mom-dependent for their everyday needs, I’m ready to go again.

One of my goals for this year was to run the New York City Marathon.  Unless you’re an elite runner (which I am not and never was), entry into NYC for non-locals is a pure lottery with about a 1:25 chance of race entry.  I put my name into the lottery last fall, and I found out a few weeks ago I got in.

I now look forward to the training, the rigor of weekly miles rolling by very early in the morning.  I’ve never run a fall marathon while living in Texas, and training to peak on November 2nd means long runs in August, September, and early October.  For those of you who have never been to Austin during these months, it’s hot.  Yes, even into October.

But I know that the training is where the growth is.  I eagerly anticipate the race experience itself– from riding the Staten Island Ferry to the start to running through all five boroughs and their diversity to finishing in surprisingly hilly Central Park.

This time, I won’t be a new mom trying to keep in touch with myself and my interests.  Instead, I’ll be a newly-40 gal showing herself and her kids just how much better life can get with each passing year.

Good health and great happiness to you.

Barefoot Running

This post has been several years in the writing.

It all started with this New York Times article about barefoot running that was published in 2011.  I’d heard about barefoot running from some friends and seen the funky looking “toe shoes” around my local running trail.  You know the ones:

As a life-long runner, I was curious.  Even though I had never sustained an injury from my running, could learning to run ‘barefoot style’ help me?  I started reading more and more about the subject, and I learned one main thing: people definitely had opinions about whether this barefoot running was a fad or backed up by scientific fact.

I continued to do more research, and in the Spring of 2012 I bought a pair of Vibram Five Fingers in the model pictured above.  I took the advice of nearly every reviewer of the ‘shoe’ and broke them in slowly for about a month.  I started by wearing them only about five minutes a day around the house, then I worked up to wearing them outside while walking to pick up my boys from school, and then I wore them on a 15 minute walk in my rather hilly neighborhood.  Everything felt okay, so I decided I was ready to take them for a run.

One mile.  I wanted to start out slowly (again, what The Collective Voice recommended), so I chose to run just one mile.  And I felt great while doing it.

The next day, however, my calves felt like they were both in giant knots.  I did some myofascial massage with my foam roller, and I headed out for one more mile.  I felt like my legs loosened up a bit, but I was working so hard to adjust my gait to land on my forefront (rather than being the heavy heel striker I’ve always been) that my hips got really tight.

I repeated this test a few more times, but I never got comfortable with barefoot running.

But I’m no quitter!  Another six months went by, the popularity of ‘toe shoes’ continued to rise, and I decided I’d give them another try.  I repeated the break-in process, this time taking six weeks of daily walking in the shoes to try and focus on gait adjustment.

Finally, I took my shoes on a weekend trip giddy that they took up so little room in my suitcase.  I ran 3 miles the first day, took a day off, and ran 4 miles the following day.

I could barely walk for a week.

At that point, I realized that I either needed some form coaching (like the video feedback mentioned in the article that started it all) or I should go back to my old shoes.  Not one to admit defeat easily, it took my logical and reasonable husband to point out that I had never missed so many days of running due to injury in the 13 years we’d been together as I had since trying to become a barefoot runner.

So logic won.  I’ve been back in my Asics for 18 months and have had zero problems.

But what about you?  Have you tried barefoot running?  If so, I’d love to hear your experiences as you transitioned your body and your gait into this ‘new’ style of running.

Good health and great happiness to you.

 

Why do we Warm Up?

 

As you know, soccer is a big deal in our house.  A few seasons ago, my husband stepped up to be the assistant coach of The Monkey’s U8 team.  As a left-brained fellow, he has read books about soccer techniques, watched You Tube videos of drills, and done some investigation into coaching strategies.  He and the head coach do a great job running a fun but focused practice.  Their hard work has paid off in an undefeated season so far.

A few weeks ago, a fellow U8 soccer coach and friend posted a New York Times article to Facebook about the importance of incorporating a warm up routine into team practice in an effort to reduce injury– specifically injury to the ACL.  I read the article and then shared it with both the head coach and my husband.  (And, because I’m a “safety first” kind of gal, I sent it on to The Bear’s soccer coach, too.)  In discussions with all these soccer coaches, we all came to the same conclusion: it’s easy to overlook a warm up routine with kids because they seem so flexible and indestructible.

Although the study noted in the article focuses on older kids, I think there is still value in incorporating a thorough warm up routine for younger kids, too.  First of all, exercises like grapevines or side shuffles engage muscles while in lateral movement, and that helps not only the muscles but the neuro-muscular connection as well.  For kids still working on gross motor development, this  type of movement may be challenging.  All the more reason to work on it in a low-pressure, warm up scenario!

I also think there is value in getting kids used to warming up before exercise.  While they may not need to go through a specific routine, it can be a good way to help kids focus and come together as a team, especially before a game.  Also, a warm up routine gets kids in the habit of doing these exercises so that when it does become important– especially in fast-growing bodies of adolescents– they already expect to do them.

While I’m excited to see quality research focused on kids and exercise, it’s a shame that it has to be about such a serious injury as ACL rupture.  Hopefully, if we can encourage our kids’ coaches to incorporate a warm up routine into the team culture, we can work together to reduce these incidents.

Good health and great happiness to you!

Sports, Schedules & Siblings

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If you’ve ever found yourself on the sidelines on a day like the one pictured above just so you could watch your kid play a sport, this post is for you.

Last fall I wrote about the lessons I’ve learned since becoming a soccer mom.  I’m pleased to report that it’s still more fun than I imagined, especially because both of my boys’ teams underwent some kind of crazy growth and transformation in the off-season, and they’re playing really well this Spring.  It’s as if they’ve started to really understand the game and trust their teammates.

There’s a problem in this progress, though.  I find myself in the totally surprising (to me) position of not wanting to miss a game.  And that means our family schedule has been more intense than I really prefer.  I found myself getting upset with The Stowaway at The Bear’s game yesterday– his second of the weekend, and The Monkey had one Saturday, too– because she was bored and eating Goldfish and was thirsty.  While she was acting perfectly appropriately for a three-year-old whose mother had forgotten to pack snacks and a drink and who had sat through too many games already and was closing in on nap time, I was wrapped up in the intensity of the game and not tending to her needs.

So here’s my question: how do those of you with multiple kids playing multiple sports do it all?  Do you go to all the games?  Do you and your spouse divide and conquer?  Do the siblings come along, too?  Do you have a snack/drink/entertainment regime that I can copy?

The thing is, as a family we’ve chosen to not do too many activities.  Other than soccer (one practice a week and usually only one game a weekend per kid), the boys each take piano lessons for an hour a week.  That’s it.

So what am I missing?  Tell me all your secrets.

Good health and great happiness to you!

Planting Seeds for Growth

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For those of you who are still experiencing winter weather, just stop reading now.  I don’t want to torture you.

It’s already growing season in Austin.  About a month ago, my kids and I cleaned up our raised bed and got it ready for the Spring planting.  Then we organized our seeds and starters, laying them out in the garden bed to make sure we had room for everything.  (We’ve learned from past years when we’ve been cramming things in to not ideal spaces in the bed.)  Finally, I let them go to work making small rows and hills and planting the seeds.

It’s been more than three weeks since we planted the seeds, and already we have pea vines crawling up a frame, squash vines starting to wind toward the edge of the bed, and flower buds on the tomato plants.  Unfortunately, we also have way more weeds this year than we’ve had in years past.  The kids have been a great help with daily weeding so long as I reward them with a spray from the hose when we’re finished.

My boys have become interested in studying the foliage of each vegetable and are learning plant identification.  I know they’re looking forward to being able to eat what they grow, as even my 7-year-old said, “I don’t like any zucchini but the ones from our garden.”  Using the garden to teach them that a little work every day makes a big project possible is a lesson that applies widely in life.

If you’ve never undertaken the task of growing your own food, I highly encourage it.  You don’t need a big garden bed– just a few simple pots with herbs or tomatoes or peppers will work.  But the rewards you get from your efforts go far beyond the fresh and delicious produce.

Do you garden?  What’s your favorite thing you’ve learned from gardening?

 

Good health and great happiness to you!

 

P.S. Registration for Balance Virtual Bootcamp will stay open through tomorrow.  We started on Monday, but there’s still time to get all the workouts from the beginning.  Check it out! 

 

 

Hellish High Heels

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People always tell me: “You’re so lucky!  You get to wear workout clothes ALL DAY LONG!”  And while I admit that not having to buy office attire, pay for the dry cleaning, and keep up on top of fashion trends is quite appealing, I do sometimes wish I had more occasion to wear “real clothes.”

Then again, I’ve been collecting a few stories from the last few years about the problems wearing high heels causes women.  Now, before you go dismissing this as junk science and a waste of research resources, the New York Times begs to differ.  In this report, they outline the dangers of high heels as documented by Australian scientists, the first group to study the injury risk and biomechanical modifications from wearing high heels.  For those of you interested in the results but don’t want to read through the study, you’re in luck: the results show that women who wear high heels have shortened calf muscles and they put more direct strain on the calf muscles because of the gait they adopt to accommodate wearing the high heels.  This increases the wearer’s injury risk.

If that doesn’t seem significant enough to get you to rethink your footwear, check out this video of a 3-D scan of a foot in a high heel.  What you’ll see there is a deformed foot that orthopedic surgeons agree is at a significant risk for injury.  These potential injuries may be as simple (but painful!) as a bunion or as serious as bones that have slipped into an anatomically disadvantageous position.  The problems that can arise from these injuries will affect your ability to walk, run, jump, and just get through your day.

I’m not here to be the fashion police.  I’m not here to wish you ill will if you choose to wear high heels regularly.  But I do hope you’ll take a look at these studies and scans and be informed.  Your feet– they’re the key to good understanding in life!

Good health and great happiness to you!

 

It’s not too late to register for Balance Virtual Bootcamp!  Eight weeks of 3x/wk workouts, delivered to your in-box with support and access to a personal trainer via a private Facebook page.  All yours for only $50– register now!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Twenty-Minute Time Out

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It’s been a busy March.

My family had a fantastic Spring Break vacation to London, where we visited lots of old friends, played in our favorite parks, explored several museums, and rode all manner of public transportation.  We were spoiled by gorgeous weather– sunny and high 60s– which meant we were able to spend hours each day outside enjoying the city.

Our reentry to reality has been a bit rough.  I’m grateful that all three of my kids were such flexible, happy travellers, but jet-lag hit my three-year-old Stowaway pretty hard.  We’ve had a week of not-so-pleasant behavior, with added Mama-clinginess thrown in for good measure.  I’m not going to lie to you: it’s been exhausting for both of us.

Add in that I opened registrations for my swim lessons on Monday, and I’m in full prep mode for next Monday’s kickoff of Balance Virtual Bootcamp.  I’m back to seeing my full slate of personal training clients.  And there are the other two delightful children who also deserve my attention and interest in their soccer games, piano practice, and choir concerts.  So, yeah, it’s been a busy month.

I’m working hard to keep my sense of balance– I calendar my own workouts and ensure that I get at least 20 minutes of quiet time each day.  That time may come during a run or doing something glamorous like grocery shopping, but I know that I need the alone time to breathe deeply.  On days I’d like some chit-chat, I’ll walk to my neighborhood bakery and enjoy a decaf, non-fat latte (what one local joint calls a “no fun”).  I always run in to someone I know there, and having just a few minutes of “water-cooler talk” helps me feel connected to other people in my community.  It’s never a long experience, but giving myself a few minutes every day where I can drop the mantle of being responsible for everyone else is rejuvenating.

What’s your favorite way to recharge?

Good health and great happiness to you!

 

 

It’s not too late for you bloggers and fitness enthusiasts to help spread the word about Balance Virtual Bootcamp in exchange for a free registration.  Leave a comment or shoot an email to karen at balancepft dot com to see how we can work together.