Random Friday

Just a few random thoughts for a Friday, none of which deserve their own blog post.

Public Service Announcement

Before you put on your shoes, tie them tight, and head out for your run, a word of advice: ALWAYS CHECK THE INSIDE OF YOUR SHOES FOR DEBRIS!

Especially if you have cats who like to push things off the dresser where they land inside your shoe or you have dogs who are messy eaters and when they bite into a hard treat pieces go flying everywhere, including into your shoe.

Said foreign object becomes very painful after a mile or so and it starts to work it’s way underfoot.

Now maybe unlike me, you’ll stop running, take your shoe off, and shake it out. But if you are like me, you’ll keep running, wincing in pain each time the object that feels like a huge rock (but turned out to be just a small eighths inch piece of dog treat) slips under your big toe.

That Extra Shoelace Hole

I just found out what that extra lace hole in my running shoes is for. Yes, for lacing. Smartass. What I mean is, how to correcrly use that extra hole. Everyone else probably already knew what it’s for and I’m just late to the party, but in case you’re one of those who missed the memo as well, then read on.

My heels tend to slip in my shoes. I don’t know why, maybe because I buy one whole size larger shoe than my foot size so my toes don’t get mashed against the toe box like they do if I only get a half size larger.

Onward. Here is what that extra lace hole is for: to make your shoe fit around your ankle (and in the process, your heel) more snuggly and with minimal slippage. The technique is called the “Heel Lock” amd you start by threading the lace back through that last hole (so the lace is now inside the shoe) forming a loop between the last two hokes, then pass the right lace through the left loop and the left lace through the right loop, cinch it tight by pulling donward, and tie it like normal. Now you’re on your merry way with no heel slippage. (The only drawback is, now your shoes are harder to get off. A fair tradeoff if it prevents heel blisters or premature wearing out of your socks or the material inside the shoe’s heel itself.)

Here’s a video that demonstrates it better than I probably explained it.

That extra Shoelace Hole in action

The Fly

No, not the movie, although if I were to discuss it, I’d have to expound upon how superior the original with David Heddison was in every way: story, acting, dramatic suspense, compared  to the dreadful Jeff Goldbloom remake, which was just gross.

Warning: The following may be TMI for the more delicate flowers among you.

No, I’m talking flies in men’s underwear, or the lack of them in some men’s underwear. A month or so ago, needing new underwear, I stopped at TJ Max. I was looking for something thinner, lighter, and more breathable than cotton. Active wear, I guess it’s called, because I do a lot of mall walking during the day. Something along the lines of compression-like shorts, except as everyday underwear.

I found an inexpensive pair by RBX Active that seemed to fit the bill. Except when I took them out of the package, I realized they didn’t have a fly, which I found odd because I thought all men’s underwear had a fly.

Not having one makes them nearly useless for everyday wear. I mean, men urinate standing up. We don’t undo our belts, open our pants and pull them down. We’re not kids any more learning how to use the urinal. We only unzip our pants, reach in, and fish out our yahoo through the underwear hole. Without one, there’s all this extra yanking and tugging and painful maneuverings going on as you try to pull down these flyless wonders through the zipper opening. No one wants that, it just attracts unwanted attention. Men are all about going in, doing their bizness, and.getting out without any conversation or eye contact.

On the one hand, sure the RBX, made of lycra or other synthetics, are very comfortable, they dont bunch up, they breathe and I guess wick away sweat. They’re very good for exercising in. But not to pee in. Or through, rather. So I use them for running.

Still needing everyday underwear, I went back and picked up a pair of their flied underwear. Seemingly the same material, the same size, but when I got home and tried them on, they were too tight. They had a different cut and the wasitband didnt ride at the same height as the other pair by RBX did yet they were the same size. Yup, I double-checked the package. Same company. Same stated size. Totally different fit. For some reason these were like bikini briefs compared to the other ones.

Which begs the question: if there is such a size disparity even within a manufacturer’s own line, why can’t we try them on before we buy?

Belay that. The very thought that someone else’s nutsack was getting all jiggy with the underwear I just bought makes me squeemish.

So I’m still looking for new underwear. And I’m finding that a lot of them don’t have a fly. I don’t get it. In my experience, the only underwear that was flyless were those embarrassing jockstraps we had to wear in high school gym. Maybe it’s because I’m looking at the type more for athletic use instead of your traditional tighty-whiteys or your grandfather’s boxers? I don’t know.

But here’s the interesting thing. I was looking at Puma brand underwear and making sure they had a fly, when I noticed the flied ones were labeled “with keyhole.”

Keyhole? That’s great! I’m going to refer to the fly as a keyhole from now on.

/End TMI Warning

Friday Weigh-in

I weighed myself today. Friday has always been my normal weigh-in until I became enamoured with all the cool features of our new smart scale.

Well, if you remember Tuesday’s blog post, I was whining I had gained 2.6 pounds over the weekend.

Well, today? I’m back on track. I lost that 2.6 pounds I had gained.

And the.moral of that story is: Only weigh yourself once a week. Pick a day of the week, Friday in my case, and weigh yourself that day only!

You’ll save yourself a lot of grief and time spent writing angry blog posts.

Lace up. Go run.

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Review Puma Mobium Elite V2

Ok, I know I promised a review of my Puma Mobium Elite V2 running shoes months ago. If you’ve actually been waiting for it, I apologize. But here it is. I hope the wait was worth it.

First, we’ll get the disclaimer out of the way. I have not been compensated for this review (but if you would like to send me a check, feel free). Nor am I affiliated with Puma or any running shoe company or store. I do admit, however, that I have always had a thing for Puma, although the last pair I actually used for running was in 1984.

There. That was relatively painless. 

I’ve had my pair of Puma Mobium Elite V2 running shoes for several months now. My first impressions of them were that they were lighter and more flexible than either my Brooks Adrenaline or my Saucony Grid Cohesion  (now retired to walking shoes), but they also had less cushioning.

Now, months later, I run almost exclusively in the Puma Mobiums. The pair I have aren’t for heel strikers, at least not extreme heel strikers, yet they’ve become more and more comfortable with each run. Maybe I adjusted my stride a little to become more of a midfoot striker, but that’s been an ongoing process and not something forced upon me by the shoe.

Also, considering I have flat feet and overpronate, I haven’t had any foot or joint pain despite the fact that these are more minimal than anything I’m used to. 

The soles have a rubber band (Mobium band) that Puma claims stretches as the foot flexes then releases all that kinetic energy when you push off. In effect, its supposed to be like snapping a rubberband. I don’t know if it does or not but I will admit that it felt like my step was springier on my outdoor runs, as if I was a little lighter.

The soles also have an arch in them where the Mobium band crosses in its figure 8 shape (see second picture below). I’m going to assume this absorbs some of the shock of your foot strike whereas other companies use thicker cushioning material to insulate your foot.

Additionally, Puma says the sole is designed like a cat’s paw. Sure. Ok. You can see the sole pictured below. I don’t know if they provide more grip as claimed, but they do seem very flexible.

The toe box is roomy, both width-wise and in front and my toes don’t feel crammed in there, nor do they rub against the front like they do with some shoes. Puma claims the shoe fabric conforms to your foot somehow. Adaptive running they call it. I don’t know if it does but I didn’t get that pinched feel across the top of my foot I get with other shoes.

To be honest, when I bought these my expectations were very low. All my other so-called running shoes from Puma were anything but made for running. They were more fashion than function. I was worried the Puma Mobiums would also turn out to be just another pair of good looking walkers. But I was pleasantly surprised to find these are an actual honest-to-goodness pair of running shoe and, despite the cool colors, aren’t just a fashion statement.

The Puma Mobium Elite V2 are now my go-to running shoes and I use them for the majority of my runs, preferring them to my Brooks Adrenaline, which had been my previous go-to shoes.

I’m happy Puma is finally concentrating on R&D in their running shoe development instead of relying on their marketing department.

If you’re looking for a comfortable, light weight trainer, then consider looking at a pair of these.

Run. Buy new shoes.Run some more.

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Heart rate schmart rate

When I first started this running program earlier this year, I just ran. I wasn’t concerned with pace or things like that. I just ran, starting at about a mile, trying to get my time down.

During the run, and for a while after I’d finished, I’d be gasping for breath. I believe the term is sucking wind. Then afterwards, I’d be completely drained.

After a while, I learned pacing: that I shouldn’t be trying to run at fast as I can, but to run at a pace where I’m not struggling to breathe. One suggestion is to run at a pace where you can comfortably hold a conversation. (Since I run solo, that isn’t possible, unless I talk to myself.)

So, over a few months, I worked on pace while gradually increasing distance and trying to decrease time.

Generally, my heart rate has been between 145 beats per minute up to 160 or more when I attempt to sprint.

I have never paid attention to target heart rate, max heart rate, or heart rate range. At least not recently. I think I calculated that when I was a much younger man, but taking heart rate measurements back in the Stone Age wasn’t as instantaneous as with today’s portable wrist monitors. It was difficult at best to take your heart rate on the run and stopping to do it seems inconvenient. So I never bothered.

So I just looked the heart rate formula up. [For those who aren’t familiar with the formula to find your max heart rate, you take the number 220 and subtract your age. Where they came up with 220, I don’t know. Is that the number at which your heart will burst from your chest like a baby alien? Then to find your target heart rate, you take the max heart rate and calculate what 55% and 85%. That’s it. That’s your range.]

Without revealing my age (if you do math, you should figure it out), my heart range while exercising should be between 88 beats per minute and 136!

Seriously? I’m at 78 just sitting here typing this. I reach 88 just walking down the hall! That’s my goal for exercising? Am I supposed to be a couch potato?
My mall walk pace puts my heart rate around 112 to 118 bpm. So 136, I blow right past that even when I’m doing a slow run. Who created this calculation? It doesn’t seem reasonable. Maybe when you’re younger, because your max heart rate is so much closer to the 220. But as you get older? It makes no sense.

As I said, my heart rate on my runs is generally in the 150s (although I do try to keep it in the 140s). That’s almost my max heart rate.

And when I first started running, I was exhausted afterwards. My legs would be so tired I could barely climb the stairs to bed.

Now, however, after a good six months of running (give or take the last month with the injury), when I finish my run, I notice that I’m not as tired. Certainly not drained of all life force. In fact, after my last few runs I’ve felt invigorated afterwards. Not tired. Refreshed. It’s an odd feeling. And the stairs are no trouble at all afterwards. My legs don’t feel like noodles.

So this whole max heart rate thing? I think it needs to be taken with a grain of salt. One size does not fit all.

Listen to your body, not some formula.

If you’re gasping for breathe as you run, slow down. If your heart is pounding in your chest, slow down. If you’re exhausted afterwards and don’t seem to recover right away, slow down.

If you’re running at a pace that seems comfortable yet is still beyond the target heart range of that formula, use your own judgement.

Me, I’d keep going.

Nevertheless, if you’re just starting out, and you’re completely out of shape, never having really been active before, the heart rate range might be a good starting point. As they say, before starting any exercise program, consult your doctor.

Run. Rest. Throw away the heart monitor.

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Ice is the new black

I’m beginning to think that maybe, just maybe, I’m not quite as young as I used to be.

I also think that icing and stretching my post-run muscles is the new norm.

Back when I was in my twenties, I rarely stretched and never iced. Heck, I didn’t even warm up.

I’d step outside and I’d immediately launch myself into full stride. When I finished my usual 12 mile run, I’d relax in a chair. No fuss, no muss. PBR me ASAP.

Then after several years flaunting my invincibility — shin splints.

Then and only then did I stretch and ice, but stubbornly only my calves. The damage however was already done. At that point only rest would help. Years of rest.

Fast forward to now. My last run was Saturday and the pain in my IT band area that started August 16th didn’t seem to be improving any. So every evening since Monday I’ve been icing my left gluteus, hip, and upper thigh.

And I’ve been doing standing squats quad extensions, calf curls, and other leg exercises. I ordered those stretchy bands so I can add those to my leg repertoire. They should arrive today.

None of those aggravate my hip/glute/thigh pain.

Last night, I tried a treadmill run. It seems the icing and stretching and weight training are helping. I was able to walk/run for about 28 minutes. 

Despite my impatience, I took the advice I’ve read in other blogs and took it slow. The first quarter mile at a brisk 4 mph walk. The next three-quarter miles at a 5 mph jog. Then a short run for a quarter mile at 6 mph, then back down to 4 mph, then 3.5 mph, finishing with a relaxing g 2 mph walk.

Then stretching with an ice pack on my ass.

And today, the leg feels better than it has in a long time. As I said, icing and stretching nightly are the new norms for me.

I just hope running with pain isn’t. 

This is what I feel like when I don’t run:

Run. Stretch. Ice. Repeat.
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Run like the wind

In my case, a slow, limping, overweight wind.

It’s been a week since I ran last. I was starting to feel like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.

The pain in my hip and thigh has been lessening, however, and I’ve been on a regimen of various stretches that I’ve found designed for your legs and hips and also for IT Band issues. They seem to have helped a little.

But just as importantly,  I rested for a week. No running since last Thursday, although I still did my daily walking at work which adds up to about four miles, albeit much more slowly and with a limp. And I still took the stairs at work.

I also did other leg exercises, as I mentioned in “Hostage Crisis Day 5.”

And yesterday, I rested. I mean, really rested. I didn’t do any exercises. Well, except for walking and stairs and stretching. But no weight training or other type exercises. That’s resting, right?

So today, I’d say the pain was somewhat reduced and I was walking without the limp. So at lunch, I walked much faster. Enough to raise my heart rate and break into a mild sweat. Without pain. So I took that as a good sign.

I was going to run.

Before the run, I warmed up doing some rows on my Weider Crossbow. I don’t usually warm up before a run. (On the other hand, I do do cool downs.) I would imagine not warming up is just asking for an injury, right?

Then I got on the treadmill and set it for 5k at a pace of about 5.2 mph. Slow, but not too slow.

And yes. There was pain. I think I was limping as I was running. Is that a bad thing? I’m sure it is. It probably throws everything out of balance.

But I made it. I ran the full 5k. And when I finished, the pain was diminished from what I had experienced when I had started the run. How much of that was endorphin-related, I don’t know.

So I immediately did a bunch of stretches, which is something I don’t usually do either. After a run, I just sort of plop into a chair all slouching and tired.

But this time, I did the stretches. Have I mentioned I hate stretching? I know I have. It hurts. Like Hell. It burns. It makes me grit my teeth and I breath in gasps of pain.

And that’s just getting down on the floor; the stretches themselves cause me to emit screams that make the neighbors think someone is being tortured.

I am.

It’s all over now though. My body, my legs, feel good. I needed that run. And I needed to stretch.

Tomorrow, I’ll see how everything feels, then decide on Saturday if I’ll rest or attempt another run.

I hope I can run.

I wonder if I should ice?

Ice?

Baby.

-30-

 

Hostage crisis day 5

Yes, I’m entering day five of a hostage crisis. I’m being held hostage by my very own leg. 

The pain came on early last Tuesday (which was odd because my last run was Saturday, so I have no idea where it came from), but I attempted two 3.5 mile runs despite that. One on Tuesday and one on Thursday. Neither was enjoyable.

So I thought I’d rest the leg and not run by skipping my Saturday run. I kept thinking it would get better and I could run on Sunday. Or Monday. Or today, my normally scheduled run day.

But it isn’t looking like it. I mentioned I thought it was my vastus lateralis, like I’m some kind of doctor. I’m not. On the muscle chart, that looked like a good candidate.

Although I keep hearing about this IT Band, which isn’t a band at all, at least they don’t play music, unless you consider the occasional groan of pain musical.

I wondered why, as a runner who read nearly every running and Fitness magazine back in the ’80s, I’d never heard of the IT Band before, and I think it’s because they’ve only recently changed their thinking about it. 

It used to be thought as merely a stabilizer for the hip when walking, but now they believe it acts like a spring to aid locomotion.

Whatever.

Something in my left thigh from my hip down to my knee hurts and feels weak when I step on it. Running only makes the weakness and pain worse, so I can’t use the old adage, “run through the pain.”

I tried that with my shin splints back in the late ’80s. They’d burn like hell for the first few miles, but by the fifth or sixth mile, the pain went away and I could run relatively pain-free for the rest of my daily 12 mile run.

Except it got to the point where I could barely walk up stairs because of the shin splints hurt so bad. So I stopped running.

And I enjoy running. Not running makes me crabby. Not exercising makes me flabby. Getting flabby makes me more crabby. It’s a vicious circle.

Last night I decided to use this machine we have from the ’90s, like a rowing/biking kind of machine where you push with your legs and pull with your arms, but instead of your butt sliding back and forth on the seat like a typical rowing machine, the seat rises up and the whole thing works like a scissors.

They were all the rage.

I did 12 minutes on it, which doesn’t seem like a lot, but it’s a resistance machine with a variable resistance piston, and takes a lot of effort. 

A lot more effort than the ones they had advertised on TV back in the day. Those seemed more like kid’s playground toys, whereas this one, bought through Sears (after our stair stepper died), is more anaerobic than aerobic. 

The best part of using this machine: No pain. The action must work the muscles other than the area that is strained.

It occurs to me that if I’m suffering from a muscle imbalance versus a muscle strain from overuse, then working the muscles other than those used in running is probably very helpful.

Tonight, if my thigh is still bothering me, I’ll do some leg exercises on my old Weider Crossbow (similar to the Bowflex). Extensions to strengthen my quads and curls to do my hammies. And maybe some rowing motions as well. 

And I guess I could do some upper body stuff as well.

Exercises I should have been doing all along to keep the imbalance from happening in the first place (except that the Weider Crossbow was being used as a place to keep our folded laundry. Yeah. I know. Shame on me.).

And yes, I’ve been doing various leg stretches several times a day. Stretches that focus on the thigh, the gluteus, the hammies, as well as the calves. I’m hoping I can do a short, easy run by Thursday.

It’s very disappointing to have fallen back in love with running only to have an injury sideline me.

Run. Rest. Stretch. Weight train.

-30-

Push it real good

Running is a journey to discovery. I’m discovering that a lot of what I thought I knew was wro-o… was wro-on… was not exactly right.

Many of us think running is a natural activity; as children we fall into our stride, or so we think.

The fact is, children weigh a fraction of what adults do, so they don’t need proper mechanics to race around the playground all day without getting tired.

For instance, I was a long-legged, skinny toe head. I could run faster than most of the kids in the neighborhood. Basically, I never thought about mechanics, I just ran, letting gravity pull me forward as I threw my legs out just to keep from falling.

Less than stylish.

Since I never took track in high school, I was never shown proper running technique. Therefore, as an adult, I continued to run using gravity as the impetus for my forward movement.

But now I’m watching YouTube videos and reading articles on running mechanics to see what an overweight aging runner should do different from the skinny long-legged child.

So treadmilling has been helping me with stride and cadence. I’ve altered my strike from pure heel strike to Midwood strike.

But my most significant epiphany came while walking. In reading about stride, they talk about pushing with your rear foot. Yeah, OK. So? Doesn’t everyone?

No! 

While walking I became conscious of my stride. It happened when i was walking up a hill. I seemed to have more power going up than on a flat surface. Why? I realized on the incline I was pushing off my back leg, but on a flat surface I was not pushing off. So how then was I moving forward?

I mentioned it earlier. I was falling forward. Then I’d pull myself forward on the extended leg. Essentially, I was running backwards.

Instead of using my calves and thighs to push myself forward, I was using gravity and my hip flexor to throw my leg forward and then like you’d use your bicep to pull yourself up doing a chin up,  I’d use my hamstrings to pull myself forward!

This certainly explains why I kept pulling my hammies running the bases in my softball league.

Now when I go.for my walks, I’m concentrating on pushing off my.back foot. I can already tell I get more power and speed this way than I did just throwing my leg forward and pulling.

I just have to be conscious of it because if I don’t I notice I fall back into my old habit.

Always keep an open mind.

(Progress: Treadmilling 5k in 32:13. A PB.)

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