couch to 5k
Aside Posted on
The past month has been particularly busy, as Spring is finally here in full force and I’m happily spending as much time outdoors as possible while squeezing a ton of activity into each day. The sun stretching across so many more hours of the day means my energy is renewed and I’ve successfully sloughed off the winter urge to hibernate. I even got talked into competing in my first rock climbing comp, The Ring of Fire held by Central Rock Gym (my favorite Boston-area indoor rock gym).
It was a bit of a last-minute decision as I went in to climb the Monday before the comp and the woman working the front desk really encouraged me to sign up. I didn’t realize most comps have a Women’s Beginner’s division. I had already been planning on coming to watch the pros climb, so I figured why not give it a go. All-in-all I didn’t do terribly well (flashed the first wall, fell on the other two) but I had a lot of fun and learned a ton. I’d definitely do it again! I’m really not a competitive sports person so it was quite a surprise that I both did it and enjoyed it. Also, watching the pro finals that night was outstanding. Ashima Shirashi and Delaney Miller blew my mind, and I was seriously impressed by everyone who climbed.
The real reason I was drawn to blog today though is to address some information that’s making the rounds about Vibram Fivefingers. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, then you may know I started blogging when I first did the Couch-2-5k program back in the Spring of 2010. I had always hated running and used the excuse of “bad knees” to get me out of even thinking about it. I was encouraged to try running with C25K and Fivefingers as I read there were benefits of running barefoot. The biggest benefits for me were that it encouraged using a more natural stride (mid-sole/fore-foot strike instead of heel strike, working on pushing up/being springier) and increased awareness of the environment (eyes learn to scan the terrain to avoid stepping on sharp objects). I personally experienced both of those pros and also found it was the first time in my life I could run without knee pain and shin splints. I also enjoyed running for the first time as it felt like playing when my feet could really feel the textures of mud, sand, gravel, etc. It was such a positive experience for me that I’ve bough three pair of Fivefingers in the past four years and I use them for running, hiking, paddling and swimming. I even just ran my first 5K in them last weekend (note, I just started walking at this point so that heel coming down is not my normal running stride):
While I’m obviously a fan of VFF, I also realize they’re not for everyone. Depending on your foot shape and bone structure they may not be for you. I’ve also seen quite a few people injure themselves due to switching to VFFs and not weaning into them properly. VFF shoes use muscles in the feet, ankles and calves that you may not be used to using on a regular basis. This isn’t true of just VFF shoes, it’s true of beginning any new physical activity or picking up an activity after months without it. For example, how many of us know people who have become injured after heading to the gym and doing the same weight routine they did four years ago when they haven’t touched a weight in months?
So to me, it was no surprise when this research study came out citing the potential for increased foot bone marrow edema in those transitioning to VFF shoes. The thing is, some people are seriously misinterpreting this study to mean VFFs are terrible and horrible and, as one post mentioned, “will fuck up your feet”. Whereas in reality the study clearly states: “CONCLUSION: Runners interested in transitioning to minimalist running shoes, such as Vibram FiveFingers, should transition very slowly and gradually to avoid potential stress injury in the foot.” Well, that makes sense.
But let’s take a moment to break down the study. It involved 36 experienced runners, 17 in the control group ran in their normal shoes, while 19 transitioned to Vibrams. The transition plan sounded reasonable. Runners continue their normal running routines (which are 16+ miles) and use Vibrams for 1-2 miles to start and gradually increase. The thing is, the study gets a little wishy-washy from there. “It should be noted that some subjects stopped logging their runs prior to the 10th week of training and 4 of the 19 Vibram subjects did not document their training at all, though they did participate in both pre- and post- testing and therefore, were included in the statistical analysis in this study. This lack of documentation presents a limitation to this study.” That’s kind of a big strike here. The people running the study also don’t note how runs were tracked. It’s alluded to that the runners all self-document, which leaves quite a bit of room for error. I was surprised they didn’t have them at least track their run with a smartphone app. Not that those are perfect, but it would be a bit more scientific than giving them a logbook and sending them on their way.
The study goes on to explain that they used a MRI before and after the study with each included participant to check for bone and soft tissue damage. There was a noticeable increase in edema and a small incidence of stress fractures with those using VFF shoes. Incidences were higher in women than in men. This is certainly concerning and not something to brush off. I do personally feel this warrants more study, since the control group was small and there were issues with the data collected, but their conclusion draws upon common sense.
“Although most runners will not know about the presence or degree of bone marrow edema, our results suggest that if a runner transitioning to VFF feels pain, they should modify their running regimen.” Yes, this. They also concluded that if you are a long-distance runner, it’s advisable to transition over a period of time greater than 10 weeks. I’m totally down with those conclusions. Not only do these rules apply to running with VFFs, but they’re common sense rules for exercise in general.
Rebecca’s Simple Rules to Avoiding Injury
- If you feel pain make modifications to your exercise.
- Transition slowly into new exercise routines.
- Properly warm up the body before engaging in physical activity.
- ALWAYS stretch and cool down after physical activity.
- Support your body with proper nutrition to fuel your workouts and support your recovery.
And lastly, since our society is so friggin’ litigious, Vibram Fivefingers was sued for making unsubstantiated claims about their footwear (basically saying it was a healthier way to run). So if you purchased VFFs after March 2009 you may be eligible to collect from this class action suit. So if that applies to you and you’d like to be a part of it, keep an eye on this page for updates on how to register. For the record, VFF still claim they did nothing wrong, so this is a settlement, not an official ruling.
As for me, I’m going to continue rocking my Vibram Fivefingers. And I’m especially excited to use them for paddling season!
I started week two of C25K this week. So far it’s noticeably easier this time around and I feel that’s a testament to how my level of fitness has increased over the years. It’s also a huge help that I’ve kept up with a daily yoga practice. My legs were sore last week but daily stretching with yoga, plus a longer class on Thursday night, has really helped make the soreness barely noticeable. This week I also upped my speed in half of the segments that I’m running. The program this week has me alternating running for 1.5 mins and walking for 2 mins for a total of about 29 minutes. I was excited to break the two mile mark yesterday and will try to up my speed when I run again tomorrow. I will say I’m missing my HiiT workouts. I had to shift things around to make room for running so I’m taking a break from HiiT and Kettlebell 2-3 days/wk to running 3 days/wk. While running is great to build my cardio, it’s also a bit boring (especially when compared to HiiT), and it’s not dynamic so it’s uber-focused on legs and core so the rest of my body is just happy I’m continuing to climb and do yoga to keep it active.
I reached a new height in climbing today by killing a 5.9+ route. Regular climbers may not find this impressive, but for me it was a big deal. I specifically chose the route because it had very few jugs and was mostly slopers, pinchers and globes. I hate all of those, though slopers and I have become friendly lately. I’ll also admit the two globes thrown into that route proved to be really nice resting points. But pinchers? We’re still not cool, pinchers. For the non-climbers that read my blog I will eventually explain more about those different holds so sorry if you feel left in the dark for now.
I realized it’s been a long time since I’ve posted a new smoothie recipe, so here’s my current favorite:
Pineapple Mango Smoothie:
- 1/2 cup vanilla coconut milk (recipe here)
- 1/2 cup pomegranate juice
- 1 tbsp flax seed (if your blender won’t pulverize this buy it ground)
- handful fresh baby spinach
- 1/2 cup frozen mangos
- 1/2 cup frozen pineapple
Blend it up in the mixer of your choice! I still love my Vitamix and make smoothies for myself and my partner every morning. If you’d like to indulge in the rest of the meal pictured above, make yourself some Scrambled Eggs with Spinach!
Scrambled Eggs with Spinach (yes, this may sound simple but I’m posting the recipe because I believe my scrambled eggs are recipe-worthy)
- two eggs (preferably free-range organic, even better if they’re local)
- 1 tbsp unsweetened coconut milk (recipe here, omit vanilla and sweetener)
- handful baby spinach
- 1 tbsp coconut oil (or fat of your choosing)
- salt and pepper to taste
- Melt oil in pan over medium-low
- Beat eggs with milk, salt and pepper until slightly frothy.
- Add eggs to pan and move continuously. This is the biggest trick to making light, fluffy eggs; keep them moving constantly. I like to use a heat-safe silicon spatula to keep folding them in on each other.
- When eggs are barely firm (maybe 20-30 seconds in the pan) add the spinach.
- Continue moving constantly until they reach desired firmness and spinach has wilted.
Now have your smoothie and scramble and go take over the world! 😉
While the week got away from me blogging-wise, I stayed right on top of the running schedule and completed Couch-2-5K!! Woo-hooo!!! The last two runs were awesome and my last run took me farther than any previous run which means not only am doing well with the 30-minute duration, but I’m running faster and farther!
Wednesday’s run was not as phenomenal as Fridays due to extremely high humidity which slowed me down a bit, but I couldn’t have asked for better weather for the run yesterday. I decided to go after work when the sun was a little lower in the sky and the humidity had settled a bit. It was around 73º with 40% humidity and a nice breeze. I was totally pumped to complete the last day and I added a new gadget into the mix; a Nike+ Sensor for my iPhone 3GS. I snagged one for only $2 at Small Dog Electronics online Garage Sale (sorry to say it was the only one, but there’s other cool stuff on there). The result of great weather plus a great attitude meant I ended up farther than I’d ever been before by an entire field! I felt great after the run, despite some ongoing foot issues that I’ll discuss later. Toby and I took the best refreshing celebratory swim before heading back to the office.
Speaking of Toby, not only have I been developing muscle (I’m up six pounds since I started the program and it’s all muscle, baby!), but Toby is a little beefcake now. People in the office and friends of mine apparently find it very noticeable. Even his collar is starting to get a little tight around his muscular neck. Apparently, C25K is not just good for humans, it’s divine for dogs, too! So, if you have trouble motivating yourself to get in shape, do it for your pooch! 😉
My new goal is to start working on speed. I’m slow, and I’m ok with that, but I’d like to start slowly working towards averaging a faster mile. That’s why I decided to check out the Nike+ sensor. The good news is that I was able to securely slip it in the top of the Vibram FiveFinger KSOs. I wore it on my right foot tucked on top of my ankle/top of my foot on the right side and I secured it with the velcro strap on top of the shoe; I’ll try to take a picture for a subsequent entry so you can see what I mean. I didn’t feel the sensor, so it didn’t effect my stride, and it stayed perfectly in place the whole time. Luckily, I remembered to remove it before running through the river.
I was pleased that the Nike+ program ran just fine along with the Get Running program that I’ve been using for the C25K program. Though I’m a little sad that I’ve now “graduated” from the Get Running app; no more polite British woman coaxing me on! The Nike+ program was fairly easy to use. I chose a “Basic Workout”, which is completely open-ended, while I followed along with the C25K program. What I neglected to do was calibrate the sensor. Supposedly, before using it seriously one is supposed to calibrate it, which means either running or walking for over a mile and then confirming with the device how far you went so it can get your pace right.
I was pretty darn disappointed when I finished my 5K-ish run only to be told by the sensor that I had only travelled 1.74 miles. This morning, I opened Google Earth and mapped the path that I ran and, sure enough, I had actually run well over 3 miles (close to 4, actually); the Nike+ tracked me at just about half the distance I actually ran. My initial hope was to use the Nike+ in my last C25K run so I could figure out about how quickly I run each mile and then set some speed goals, but since the device was so inaccurate I’ll have to calibrate it and try again. It also seems that for me to get an accurate reading, I have to wait until my five-minute walking warm-up is complete before I turn the Nike+ program on.
I’m excited about setting speed goals once I get an accurate read on my current pace. Before I get there, though, I’m taking a proactive approach to figuring out what’s up with my left foot. I’m still getting some dull pain around my adductor hallucus muscle, and adjoining muscles around the right side of the ball of my left foot. It’s following the same pattern since it started last Friday; dull pain in the morning, dull pain when I start running but it feels good to run on it, pain goes away during running and post run, pain comes back a few hours after running and it’s worse late at night and in the morning.
From a Muscular Therapist’s point of view, it sounds like a fascial issue; since fascia warms up with movement and is closest to a solid state when cold. Plantar Fasciitis is a major concern here, but it’s odd because that’s one of the ailments that barefoot running is supposed to help avoid. Regardless, something’s up, it’s been a week now, and I’m heading to an acupuncturist today for the first time in years.
I personally tend to trust a well-trained acupuncturist or Traditional Chinese Medicine doctor over orthopedists for new muscular-skeletal issues because they are more inclined to look at the big picture and see the body as a whole, while any time I’ve been to an orthopedist in the past I’m always given pain killers and muscle relaxers as a “first step”. Also, a good acupuncturist will always refer to an orthopedist if necessary. I do need to mention my own internal conflict here as I’m a Muscular Therapist who was trained in a style of massage that was created by an orthopedist, so I obviously have quite a bit of respect for that field despite it not being my first choice for a new minor issue.
I’ll keep you all posted on the foot news. As long as I get cleared to run I’ll be back out there on Monday getting the Nike+ calibrated! I can’t believe I’ve made it this far and still want to do more. It’s true what they say, running is addictive!!
I RAN 5K, YOU GUYS!! Honestly, I think I ran more than 5K because that’s based on a 10-minute mile and I think I’m going faster than that; more on that later. That aside, Memorial Day was the big day for my first 30-minute run and it went so well I celebrated with a two mile walk down a river and then some unexpected climbing.
Memorial Day was gorgeous, albeit a bit smokey from the Quebec Wildfires. My allergies had started bothering me the night before, so I ran with a couple tissues tucked into my shorts. Surprisingly, as I ran the allergy issues went away; hooray increased circulation and air-intake! Toby and I chose to run on The Stowe Quiet Path, since we were off from work that day and it seemed like the most straightforward path around here to jog down. The town was filled with tourists and the path was the busiest I’d ever seen it. Luckily, Toby behaved himself.
I had some challenges. I mentioned in my previous entry that my left foot (specifically around the Adductor Hallucus muscle) was bothering me after wearing heels for a day last week and then running barefoot the next day. It continued to annoy me over the weekend so I put aside plans to go hiking and stuck to self-care. By Sunday, the pain was very dull so I did some yoga on the deck and by the end of the session my foot, and my whole body, felt much better. When I set out to run on Monday, I felt some dull pain but…it was interesting. As I ran, it made the pain feel good, like getting a massage right in the right spot. About five minutes into the run my foot didn’t bother me at all and it remained that way through the rest of the day. I’m pretty on the fence about this; foot pain is not good, but running seems to make it feel better? Hmm, I’m going to mull on this and try to find an acupuncturist or TCM Doctor around since I really don’t feel like going to an Orthopedist only to be given pain medications and pat on the head.
Aside from the foot pain, I also struggled a little in the heat. It was only in the mid-seventies, but it was humid and there was barely a breeze. For most of the run it didn’t bother me, but the middle mile was completely in full sun and I was regretting not having water on me. Luckily, after the polite British woman in my iPhone told me my run was complete (woo-hoo!) I made a b-line for the river and Toby and I happily jumped right in. I have to say, the large rocks on the riverbed felt sooooo good on my feet! Yummy foot massage.
I don’t run on the Stowe Quiet Path often enough to be familiar with the river there. In fact, this is the first time I actually went into the river. It appeared to follow the path back to the parking lot, so I thought it would be fun for Toby and I to trek down the river instead of back on the path. I bravely put a lot of trust into the Marware armband I use with my iPhone and we started heading for home.
When we began, the river banks were easily navigable; there were paths from time to time cut into the bank to get up to the path. As we ventured farther and farther down the banks became steeper and the paths cut through them were fewer and fewer between until they became nonexistent. This was also about the time that the river began getting deeper. We had walked well over a mile (I’m figuring around two miles by the time we got out) and we ended up getting to the bridge that leads to the parking lot. Toby, who was adorably swimming beside me by that point, as he could no longer reach the river floor, began to sense my concern as I swung my head from left to right looking for the hint of a path that we could use to get out of the river. There was nothing.
The most difficult part of trying to climb out of the river was that the banks weren’t made of trees and rocks, like they are along the Mad River. The banks were grass, dirt and bamboo; none of which are good for leverage or could hold my weight. After surveying several options, and debating back-tracking, I found and area where the bamboo was thick enough that I felt I could jam my feet into the roots and have it hold my weight for a few short seconds. Luckily, all went well, my phone stayed dry, Toby and I got out of the river and the only injury I have to complain about is a small slit on my wrist that I didn’t even notice until we were in the car.
Today is the second 30-minute run. The bad news? Well, my foot still isn’t happy. It’s about in the same state it was in on Monday, so we’ll see if this run makes it feel good again or if it makes it worse. I just love being an experiment.
The better news is that as long as my foot thing isn’t really a big issue, I think I’ve figured out where I want to go from here. Most people suggested I aim for 10k now that I’ve completed 5k. However, I’m already stretching the limits of my lunch break and I’d like to keep my workouts within 30-45 minutes. I’m thinking of purchasing a Nike+ Sensor for my iPhone (if I can get it to stay in the top of my Vibrams) and first figuring out how far I’m really running in 30 minutes and then I’m going to aim to slowly increase my speed. I still feel like a slow runner and while that’s totally OK with where I’m at, I’m more interested in picking up my pace than increasing my distance (for now). First goal, 8-minute mile! Once I figure out how slow my current mile is I’ll actually set a due date for that one.
It’s a twofer! The VT Biz Expo ate the middle of my week so while the running was still right on target, I didn’t quite find time for the blogging.
I had two very different runs for my last days of week 8. Both were 28 minutes but they took place in very different weather conditions. Day two was full of fail. It was Wednesday and the temperatures were predicted to be in the 90’s; this is Vermont, right?! I decided to be smart and run before work so I’d avoid the mid-day heat. Well, it was already in the mid-80’s by the time I headed out on the Mad River Path a little before 8am. The humidity was incredible. I had issues breathing deeply just during my pre-wamup-stretching. The sun on the East side of the path was also full and HOT. I expected the trees to shade me more, but there was no getting away from the unrelenting sun. I was hot, I was covered in beads of humidity, and I hadn’t even started running yet!
I tried. I swear I tried my hardest. I kept telling myself I could do it, but around 20 minutes I started getting terrible side-stitches on top of the not being able to breath and being beaten down by the sun. I continued to run in-between trying to relieve the cramp and at 25 minutes I made a b-line for the river and collapsed. I guess I’m glad I made it to 25 minutes, but it’s the first run that I didn’t complete and I felt a little defeated. I know I was only three minutes away from the goal, and some reading this might wonder why I didn’t just push myself a little harder, but I seriously pushed myself hard the whole time and that last three minutes would have been an eternity. Ok…maybe I’m being a little dramatic there, but let’s just say I was DONE. The river felt swell though. 😉
Day three was much more successful. While it was still warm, the temps were in the mid to high 70’s with much less humidity so it was totally do-able. I did the entire run on the West side of the Mad River Path and ended up on a part of the path I had never been to before. I find it’s much easier to run if I’m running somewhere new. I get distracted by looking around and exploring new places. Once I’m back to part of the path that I’m familiar with it’s easier for me to find landmarks of “time” so I think to myself, “Ok, don’t get excited yet, you’re only to that bench and that means you have a loooong way to go.” or “This is the last bend in the path, only about three more minutes!” Finding ways to take the focus off of the clock makes the runs more interesting for me and it seems less like exercise and more like brisk exploration. I need to work on this since it’s much easier to fall into the routine of taking the same route every time.
The session ended with another luxurious swim in the Mad River. Toby is getting used to my swimming with him now, but he was still surprised (and so was I) when I ran through the river and caught up with him, as he was taunting me with a freshly-caught stick. I can’t believe my thighs are strong enough to actually run through the river current now. It continues to be very exciting to see how my body is changing thanks to running!
I do have one potential injury that I’m a little worried about. Thursday, while I was at the Expo, I wore heels all day; this is something that I’m seriously not used to, especially since I’m about 6′ tall and really do not feel the need for heels often. My feet were very smooshed all day and they (and my lower back) were bothering me that night. When I ran on Friday, my gate was off. I tried to correct it but I could tell I was landing differently on my left foot. Sure enough, last night my left big toe was bothering me. After some palpation, I found the source of the pain is coming from higher up, following the path of the adductor hallucis and bugging some nearby muscles and fascia. I did some self-massage on the area (and whole foot) last night and iced it a bit.
Today, the area is still sore. I’m not thrilled by this. Foot pain can be serious if left alone and as a massage therapist, being off my feet means I can’t see clients. Not to mention, as an active person being off my feet is just NOT OK. My next run is planned for Monday, but I’m going to be RICEing my foot this weekend (so much for hiking today) and I’ll have to assess how it feels before the next run. That said, next week is MY LAST WEEK!!! I can’t believe it’s already been nine weeks. I’m still looking for fun suggestions on how to continue with running without getting bored. Please pass any ideas my way!
Yesterday wins as being my most awesome run ever! It was a hot one, 86˚ and humid, and I wasn’t looking forward to running in the direct mid-day sun. However, Owen, Toby and I braved it and I really took advantage of the Vibram Fivefingers flexibility!
This was a 28 minute run; just three minutes longer than the previous week. We headed out on the West side of the Mad River Path and I was grateful for the shade that the trees and foliage provided. I felt good and strong and once again left the knee braces behind. We curled around the first field and as we headed towards the second field I could see that the farmer was out on his tractor again. I immediately looked at Owen, who was already lagging behind, and I started thinking of a way for us to avoid the tractor without having to double-back.
We ran a bit farther down the path, as the trail heads uphill over the field for a bit before coming back down right beside it. Instead of taking the right turn to follow the trail downhill, I veered left, cut down to the river and ran (well, really quickly waded) across the river. Then I climbed up the rocks on the other side, meeting up with the East side of the trail. The dogs happily followed me on this detour, as they generally head off to run beside me through the river anyway.
I have to admit, I felt like a warrior! At this point my Vibram’s and my shorts were soaked and I couldn’t have been happier. Just a few moments later the polite British woman on my iPhone told me I was halfway through the run and I realized I had inadvertently timed things perfectly for the run back. By the way, running in wet shoes might often be uncomfortable, but running in wet Vibram’s didn’t bother me one bit!
The East side of the path definitely wins for gorgeous mountain views. It tends to be the more traveled leg of the trail, though with the weather being so unseasonably hot we only passed one person. Surprisingly, the soaking wet dogs let her by unscathed. The downside to the East side is that it lacks the shade trees that the West side provides, so the entire second half of the run was done in full sun. It was hot hot hot, but I did it!
The pups and I then stopped at the swimming hole at the end of the trail. They swam and dug up rocks while I completed my walking cool-down in the water and then stretched. The water felt amazing; definitely the perfect way to cool down. I think I might make this my normal “trail” on hot days. Adding running through the river and climbing up rocks is a great way to break up the routine.
This run reminded me that a co-worker of mine recently posted something about Mud Runs to her Facebook. From Googling it, it appears that there are several of these 3-5k runs all over the country that include obstacles and a grand finale of running through mud. While I’m not interested in running marathons, a Mud Run sounds totally up my alley. Now, if I could only find one in Vermont!
Last, but not least, I wanted to pass along this link to a great article (and videos!) from NPR on barefoot running. Fun stuff! Next run is tomorrow and it’s supposed to be over 90˚! Eek!!