Just Run

First and foremost….look what my good friend, Carmen, surpised me with yesterday!

Ignore my old-looking hands!
Ignore my old-looking hands!

Seriously…..made my day!  She is such a treasured friend of mine – I love her dearly!!

Training Updates

Since Cowtown, my training has seemed to be hit and miss, but I know it hasn’t been hit and miss. In hindsight, I am somewhat regretting scheduling all these races this Spring.

On one hand, racing breaks up the training cycle and keeps things fresh.  On the other hand, racing creates a lot of tapering and recovery.  Between Cowtown Half at the end of February and Skyline Half, I have something scheduled every 3 weeks.  I am looking forward to  just training after Skyline for several reasons, but first and foremost – summer will be near!  I love training in the summer heat because of the rewards when the temps cool down in the Fall!

All this tapering and recovering along with volleyballing has cramped my style.  I haven’t been consistently doing my stability work (or yoga….or foam rolling), and boy, could I tell during Tuesday’s run.  Luckily, my schedule is evening out (for my life, anyway), and I have already squeezed in yoga and stability work twice this week….and I should be able to get more in before week’s end!

Even though I am struggling to get in my stability and yoga and even though I sometimes feel disjointed in my training, training has been going REALLY WELL.  I am lucky and blessed to have a great coach that balances my workouts so that I am continually improving but not over-training.

Those improvements have been showing up in my speed work.  Mile repeats were on the schedule for Monday and I was DREADING them.  I ate terribly and drank a lot of beer during our Chicago trip, so I was convinced that the track session would be disastrous.  However, I had a goal for mile repeats that I had settled upon after finishing them last time.  I figured I might as well try to hit the goal on the first one and if I fell apart, then I fell apart.

The thing is….I didn’t fall apart.  My strategy going forward is to try to hit my fastest time from the previous workout on my first repeat, then go for negative splits.  I figure that I’ll never know if I don’t try, and I always struggle with where to pace the first one, so why not kill two birds with one stone??

Luckily, it worked!!!! My repeats were 7:44, 7:40, 7:38 – fastest EVER!!  In comparison, 3 weeks ago my mile repeats were 7:48, 7:46, 7:47.  I was VERY proud of my accomplishment – and I’m still in a bit of disbelief!

Wednesday, I was back at it again while Alli was at practice, testing my luck as I ran between waves of storms moving through.  Apparently the first wave of storms produced quite a bit of rain, because the trails at Oak Point were covered with water.  At first, I tried running on the grass around the puddles but then I came upon places where running in the grass didn’t really help.  At that point, I decided it was time to play in the puddles – I figured it would be a nice, slow transition into getting me ready for running through streams for the 50 miler! LOL

I LOVE my Clouds!!  On running shoes are THE BEST, wet or dry!
I LOVE my Clouds!! On running shoes are THE BEST, wet or dry!

Happy April Fool’s Day!

Jen

 

How yoga helped my running

A little over a year ago, I added yoga to my running maintenance routine.  I was desperate to do anything and everything I could to get myself healthy and keep myself healthy so I could stay out on the roads.  I quickly found that I LOVED yoga and it has been a consistent part of my cross-training routine ever since!

Stiff beginnings

I still remember the first time I did yoga.  I have said so many times that everything in our bodies are connected, and that idea hit home even harder that day.  I was stiff EVERYWHERE, and I knew those restrictions in my tissues weren’t a result of not doing yoga – they were all a direct result of my ITB injury.  I remember specifically one sequence that started in Warrior 2 which worked into big arm circles before ending up in a half bind.  I noticed that my entire left back side was tight and restricted when doing the arm circles (is it any surprise that my left ITB was the worst?).  That pose and lizard lunge were the two poses that really opened my eyes that day.

Keep Moving Forward (In the wee hours)

As difficult as yoga was that first time, I was determined to stick with it, work through my issues and get myself healthy (and stay healthy) again.  It was then that I decided to find a way to work yoga and strength into my schedule, consistently.  Getting in all the strength and cross training had been easy when I was out of running because of the injury.  Getting everything done when I added running back into the schedule was….challenging.  My solution was to get up earlier than usual in order to do my stability/strength and yoga before work with my runs after work.  I tried getting up at 5:00 am, at first, but quickly realized that it took me a few minutes to gain coherency <read: drink coffee/get caffeine infusion>.  I then started getting up at 4:45 in order to start the caffeination process and hopefully be ready to work by 5 AM.

At first, this transition was tough.  As time went on, however, getting up earlier got easier and I was able to settle into a routine.  My eyes even began popping open before my alarm went off!

Yoga really helps (along with NOT over-training)

Ok….probably the best thing I’ve done is to hire a coach who keeps me healthy by not letting me over-train, BUT…. yoga has really helped, too.  Doing yoga regularly has helped me dial into my body and it has helped me find those tight spots that I haven’t yet found with the foam roller.  And yoga is soooooo relaxing.  I love that loosey-goosey feeling when I am done.  Ahhhhhh.

One thing that I noticed just this week, which spurred the idea to write this post, is that I relax my shoulders much more now (while running) than I ever did before yoga.  I’ve learned through yoga that you don’t want to acquire tension in one part of your body while relieving it in another.  For me, the tension almost always accumulates in my shoulders – in yoga and in running.  Yoga has helped me become more aware of that accumulating shoulder tension (and tensions elsewhere) and my brain/body is now connecting that during my workouts.  I feel that this might be the best benefit to date.  I had been aware of my shoulders tensing up during runs and I always tried to keep that from happening.  Since yoga, it is becoming more automatic and less of a conscious action.  And that, folks, is a biggie for me!!

Favorite poses

One of my favorite poses is rag doll.  You can do it anywhere, anytime, to relieve tension and stress and just breathe for a few minutes.

I love ANY and EVERY kind of twist.  Oh, the twists feel so good!!

One pose that I don’t quite *love*, but don’t feel I could live without is the Lizard Lunge.  It is a hip opener and usually a tad bit uncomfortable because this girl’s hips are usually a little tight!

Another one is an IT band stretch.  And, well, there really isn’t any reason to elaborate on that.  LOL

What is your favorite yoga pose??

Happy Running!

Jen

Rolling on the Diagonal

If this doesn't make your stomach do flips, then you clearly aren't Texan.
If this doesn’t make your stomach do flips, then you clearly aren’t Texan.

I’m always thinking (stop snickering….the Apocalypse hasn’t happened…yet).  Driving Alli back and forth to volleyball practice on Tuesdays and Thursdays gives me even more time to think!  What I was thinking about Thursday night was how I tend to put a positive spin on everything.  Now, that doesn’t mean that I don’t see the challenges in situations – it’s just my personality to try to find the #silverlining (or #goldlining, if it is especially amazing!).  And I’ve been doing that with running.

Running has been going REALLY, REALLY well.  But it hasn’t been all roses.  I don’t like sharing the less than great stuff because I don’t want to seem like a complainer.  And I guess part of the reason I don’t like to talk about the thorns is because every runner is ALWAYS dealing with one issue or another.  It’s just the nature of our sport.  Hamstrings tight?  You focus on the hamstrings with extra foam rolling and stretching maintenance and are so proud of yourself for working through the issue.  You consider throwing a party to celebrate your happy hammies, but realize that sometime during the hammy episode your calves became as tight as guitar strings.

It’s no secret that my ITBs are tight.  ALWAYS tight.  I wonder sometimes if that is my cross to bear as a runner.  I’m doing all the right things: strength exercises, self-massage, stretching, and workouts that aren’t too advanced for this stage in my base building.  (OK….now that I have a partner who isn’t afraid to tell Crazy Jen ‘NO’, my workouts are appropriate.)  So I’ve been focusing A LOT on my ITBs.  I haven’t been satisfied with the results of the foam rolling and have known that something had to change.  I have known that I was making ZERO progress.  All this focus on my ITBs caused a slip in my attention to the rest of my legs, mainly my quads.  I began to realize about 10 days ago that my quads were stuck.  (And when your quads are stuck, your ITB will be as well.)  Like fused together.  Not good.  And foam rolling hurt.  I don’t remember foam rolling my quads ever hurting before.  So I’ve been rolling on the meat grinder until I get over the urge to scream.

Trust me.  It HURTS.
Trust me. It HURTS.

Luckily, Wednesday I had to take off to be home while we had a new AC unit installed.  And even luckier (#goldlining), my myofascia guy had an appointment open late in the afternoon and I was able to go see him as well.  He worked my tight left glutes (did I mention my glutes are always tight as well?  It isn’t always a good thing to have a tight ass.).  He released my ITBs.  Then he got to my quads.  He didn’t say a word.  NOT ONE WORD.  And since I’m uncomfortable with awkward silences,  I said, “Ummm, my quads are stuck, aren’t they? ”  And his reply? He just nodded his head.  They were THAT bad!!  But he was able to tear all those fibers loose in no time flat and within the hour, I felt like a new runner!

Something interesting that we discussed was the proper technique for foam rolling your ITB.  I have been rolling the “seam” of my ITB where it meets the quads in the front and hamstrings on the back.  However, I had the foam roller perpendicular to my leg.  Steve said that the only way to break the fibers loose, like he does during a release, is to have the foam roller on a diagonal to the leg.  It sounds easy in theory, but practice is an entirely different matter.  If you aren’t careful and apply plenty of counter resistance, your leg won’t stay straight and will go with the foam roller.  I used the foot on my free leg to leverage and pull my body so that the leg being foam rolled would stay in the proper position.  I could feel the difference right away!  It takes a lot more energy and focus than I generally expend during foam rolling, but I am hoping to keep those cross fibers from forming with this new maneuver.  He also mentioned that if your adductors are tight, it can cause a chain reaction that ends up in your ITB being angry.  So stretch those adductors, people!

I genuinely believe that there will NEVER be a time that I am not giving some TLC to one body part or another.  I would go as far to say that it is a mathematical impossibility.  Too many factors are at play and the top two are: over 40 and distance running.  And I am OK with that.  Because since my injury some amazing things have happened.  I have learned somewhere along the way that I don’t need to panic over every ache and pain.  I simply need to manage it wisely: scale back training when necessary and proper maintenance.  Any of my runner friends that know me realize what a huge accomplishment this really is.

And now, because I am FOREVER the optimist, I will leave you with a list of positives – things that I have been able to successfully work through in order to get to this stage in training today:

  • Tight hips:  OK, YES, I said my hips/glutes are still tight, but I’m talking left hip wouldn’t move because it was fused to my SI joint.  I did have a little help from my myofascia guy, but I have been able to keep them fairly loose since.
  • Stirrup muscle weakness:  I was beginning to have some major issues with my stirrup muscles (the muscles on the outside of calf that wrap under the foot), and their insertion at the ball of my foot.  A shoe switch is the biggest game changer, but I gave this area A LOT of extra care and attention and all of it paid off.
  • Tight calves: Ugh.  I’ve never had calf issues, but lately my calves have been so tight.  LOTS of stretching and foam rolling seems to have gotten this problem in check (for now).
  • Lats:  My lats on my left side have been sooooo tight! Tight enough that twisting my torso had been almost painful.  The entire muscle was tight from my lower back all the way to my shoulder blades.    That is terrible, people!!  I started yoga about a month ago and almost all that back tension is gone!  To further prove my point, my massage therapist was so surprised last week when she found no knots in my neck or back….she commented on how unusual that was!  I am still fighting some tightness down by my pelvis, but farther up the muscle is finally feeling OK.
  • Glutes:  My glutes are always tight, but they do not feel like bricks.  So I’m #winning

Happy Friday, All!!

Jen

Life is fair and balanced (for now)

Last month, I wrote about choosing balance as my one word of focus for the year.  I had been yearning for a change in my life and knew that I needed to bring balance to all areas of my life, so it seemed the perfect fit.  I figured that since we are almost 2 full months into the year, it was time to give a “Dr. Phil” update on “how it’s working for me”.

Truth be told, it is working fairly well…..better than I EVER expected.  Of course, there are still obligations that are out of my control, such as games and practices (and work! LOL), but I have been pleased with the choices I have made in the areas that are a little more flexible.

For one thing, I haven’t worked as many tournaments.  (I still harbor a bit of guilt over blocking off so many weekends.)  I didn’t work this past weekend and it was WONDERFUL!  I enjoyed the entire weekend with not much at all to do (OK, I had LOTS of housework to do, but I only got around to a little bit of it.)  And as I enjoyed the Spring-like weather, I was reminded that this is what balance feels like and I felt pure contentment in just being present in the moment.  (Well…..some of that could have had something to do with the fact that I had the house all to myself Saturday afternoon!)

My approach to fitness has been more balanced.  Snicker if you must, but I DO realize that, in part, this is due to my current stage in rehab and recovery.  Having said that, I AM developing a more rounded approach to my running.  Notice I even said “fitness” rather than “running”….because running is a means to being fit.  And fit can be achieved through many ways.  I am still strength training regularly and I ride my bike at least once per week.  Nature is helping me out as well.  Since the sun is setting later, I have time to get a run in on Tuesdays while Alli is at practice.  That frees up Monday evening AND I don’t feel like that practice time (for me) has been wasted.  And it’s only a matter of days until I will be able to get a run in on the Thursday practices as well! #doublebonus

I started doing yoga!!!  So my hamstrings, ankles and calves scream inflexibility, but I can bend the front side of my body like a pretzel!  Seriously, though, yoga is proving a nice tool to help me work out the kinks that I just can’t seem to get with the foam roller and therapy ball, and it is soooooo relaxing!

I still have piles of clothes that need folding (hey…at least they are clean!) and my floors aren’t clean enough for us to eat off of.  Even though I’ve never lost sleep over housework to be done, I do sleep better when it is complete!  But at the end of the day (or my life), I would rather be remembered for the way I treated people than whether or not my house was spotless every time someone came to the door.  I suspect that regardless of the amount of free time I have, housework is still going to be an area in which I’m a slacker! LOL

 

It occurred to me the other day that, even though I mention cupcakes in my blog name, I haven’t been blogging about cupcakes very often.  Today that is going to change!

Last week,  I was asked to make cupcakes for the high school staff.  I ended up settling on vanilla and snickerdoodle, although (and this is the truth), right before bed last night I realized that I used buttercream frosting instead of cream cheese for the snickerdoodle!  Oh, the HORROR!!!

My delicious vanilla batter, which I have tweaked and perfected to make my palette happy :)
My delicious vanilla batter, which I have tweaked and perfected to make my palette happy 🙂

The great thing about snickerdoodle is that you just add some cinnamon to vanilla batter.  Makes it sooooo easy to bake 2 flavors of cupcakes!  By the way, Alli noticed immediately when she came home that I had baked without her, because the mixing bowl was missing (in the dishwasher)!  Can’t get anything by that kid!

And, the finished product!

Still a little upset with myself for not making cream cheese snickerdoodle frosting!
Still a little upset with myself for not making cream cheese snickerdoodle frosting!

Happy Tuesday everyone!

Jen