Another day, another workout. This was a bit condensed from yesterday since I had to squeeze it into an hour:
- Light warmup.
- 20 mins on the bike set to “random” with an average level at 10.
- Circuit x 2:
- Kneeling weighted pushups + rows x 10 (10 lbs each arm, totally bummed I needed to keep my knees down, but the one-leg plank didn’t work for the rows)
- Leg lift series (per PT):
Straight-leg-lift-crunches x 10
Side leg-lifts x 10 each side
Lying on stomach, lift one leg back, foot pointed x 10 each side
- KB press R x 10 (26.5 lbs)
- KB press L x 10 (26.5 lbs)
- TRX bicep curl
- 10 mins stretching, including leg stretches with resistance band.
- Swam 500 meters
It was a good workout. Definitely got my sweat going and I felt like it was a good incorporation of full-body. Reflecting, I feel I should have just done pilates this morning though, since I did a circuit yesterday so I’ve lifted two days in a row, and tomorrow I take an intermediate yoga class at night so it would have been more balanced to do pilates today and then the hard workout tomorrow morning followed by yoga at night. I’ll get a routine going eventually. 🙂
Oh, and I rocked my Vibrams today! First day with them in the gym and it felt great! I usually exercise barefoot or in Vibrams at home so it made me feel much more comfortable.
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! 😉
For those of us up here in the Green Mountains, we’re finally just starting to find Spring popping up all around. While today’s blustery winds brought a mix of snow and rain and there are still small heaps of ice and snow coating the wetlands behind my house, the flocks of birds at the bird feeder and blooming crocuses in my front yard let me know the end is near.
We had a long winter this year and some unusual thaw and freeze patterns. That mixed with the recent floods and thunderstorms has done some real damage to my most trekked trail along the Mad River. While I was sad to see the downed limbs, broken branches and layers of debris spread along the almost-washed-out path, I couldn’t fight back the urge to come out of my cocoon and get my butt back outside! It’s not surprising that it was just about a year ago when I started barefoot running. Today, I received my second pair of Vibram’s in the mail. It’s true, I’m hooked. This time I picked up a shiny pair of the new Vibram Fivefingers Treksports.
My KSO’s are holding up beautifully, despite all the running, swimming and hiking I put them through last year. However, there were several reasons why the Treksports lured me in. I recently started working with a personal trainer. Naturally, I brought my KSO’s with me. The first day, I took her spinning class prior to my personal training intake and I immediately regretted my decision. The pedal of the bike I was on rode right on my arches, the softest most vulnerable part of the foot (aside from, perhaps, in between the toes). I was visibly in pain, My trainer moved me to another bike with a wider pedal, which helped, but overall I found the KSOs were just not the right choice.
My main reason for seeking personal training right now is that I have some big plans in mind for my summer. Now that the weather is warming up I’m just itching to be outdoors as much as possible and I really want to push myself this year. Running was fun, but I’m not necessarily looking to run as much this year. I’m thinking of trying climbing and taking on more adventurous hikes. I also need a shoe that can continue to play with me while I kayak, canoe, and splash around in Vermont’s rivers and lakes.
While the KSO’s did a fine job of keeping up with my water-bound activities last year, the Treksport’s plated midsoles and lightly cleated outsole really appealed to me. I never fully felt comfortable using my KSO’s on adventurous hikes because of those few moments of stabbing pain on my arches when I hit a rock at the wrong angle, and the fact that I slipped quite a bit in mud. For running, they were perfect. For hiking, they just weren’t beefy enough. However, the kangaroo leather upper on the KSO Treks didn’t jive well with my love for water or my being slightly put-off by wearing kangaroo hide on my feet.
So, on to the part you’re probably most interested in: a picture comparison. Disclaimer: keep in mind my KSOs are a bit worn.
The first time I slipped the Treksports on I definitely felt they had more continuity, but I still felt a firm connection with the ground and easy articulation. My first test was to wrap my arches around a pointy piece of wood and the plated arch definitely works! More on that later.
Let’s start by talking about the posterior difference:
As you can see, the Treksport have some padding around the Achilles. This triangle-shaped pillow rises from the heel and makes the heel look wider than the KSOs in this picture, but when worn it hugs the heel nicely and provides additional stability. Both feature the same strap design and both have a loop on the rear.
While I haven’t experienced this with my KSOs, several folks online have complained that their non-reinforced toe Fivefinger shoes show signs of wear and ripping on the tops of the toes. In the champagne color Treksports, the reinforced toes are clear and shiny. I’ve read other reviews that the dark colored models have black reinforcing. Regardless of the color, this is an important feature for those of us who really want to put our Vibrams through its paces.
Laterally, there isn’t a huge difference between the KSO and the Treksport with the exception that the Treksport sits a bit higher on its cleated sole. It also appears that the outside rubber comes up just a hair higher on the Treksport.
Medially, there’s a noticeable difference between the two. The KSOs actually have greater coverage on the medial part of the sole which causes the Treksport to appear to curve more at the arch. While I haven’t played around with these enough to know yet, it does appear that the Treksports have more arch support whereas the KSOs are fairly flat with just a mild curve for the arch.
Now here’s the real money shot:
Oh, let’s see that up close!
The biggest visible difference between the KSO and the Treksport is the sole. While my KSOs are a bit worn, the texture on the bottom of the KSOs are minimal. The Treksport has noticeable grooves and mild cleats to provide better traction and grip in various terrain. I’ll be honest, I wouldn’t want the Treksport if I was new to barefoot running. “Real” barefoot runners already poo-poo us Fivefinger folks, and the Treksports push that line further. Yes, it’s still much less padding than a sneaker and one can certainly run in them, but it wouldn’t be my choice.
However, with the additional grip and the reinforced arch I will definitely feel more comfortable trying the Treksports out in environments I shied away from with my KSOs. One other thing to note is that the midsole is much thinner on the Treksport. I have narrow feet and after walking around in these for a while I felt no discomfort or insecurities. If you have wide feet you might want to really try them out in a store before making the investment. I’ve only read positive reviews on the midsole width so far, but it’s something to take note of.
I’m super-stoked to take my new Fivefingers out for a ride! Now that I’ve come out of winter hibernation, expect to hear more of my Treksport adventures! Let’s hope they can keep up with me. 😉
Oh, and for those of you who are only here for the dog stories, here’s Toby and his new buddy, Charlie, enjoying some VT April showers. Seriously, this white death falling from the sky has got to stop!
Fall is definitely shifting it’s way into the Green Mountains. Most of this week was cool and drizzly, though the sun fought off the fog to give us some glorious sunsets. Unfortunately, when I ran on Thursday the sun didn’t even poke its head out; it was damp, foggy and cool. I think I’m really going to enjoy running in the Fall. While I’ll miss the warm sun that drove me to jump in the river right after a run, the cool temperatures are much more enjoyable to run in and the grey haze caused me to turn off my iPod and wrap myself in the introspective sounds of the change of season.
I ran along the Stowe Quiet Path and found Fartleks are especially fun there because there are so many twist, turns and hills that sprinting feels like being on a roller coaster. Toby had even more fun than I did thanks to us being there at an unusually dog-populated time of day. There was a new doggie friend around every curve. Despite having some issues getting motivated to go out in the blah weather, once I got moving I felt a million times better. My tight shoulders loosened up, the stress knots in my stomach released and my body felt springy and playful. It’s easy to come up with excuses to not run, but once I get going I always remember how much I enjoy it and why I want to keep it up.
Speaking of the introspective quality of Fall, I’m going to once again usurp my space here to talk about something unrelated to running, but greatly important to me. For those in the US, today is the anniversary of the September 11th attack on the World Trade Center. For the past few years, when this date rolls around I really don’t give it a ton of thought leading up to 9/11. I’m much less emotional when listening to newscasts and I usually feel that the day can come and go without effecting me. I’m wrong; it always finds a way to get me. This morning, when I logged into Facebook for my morning internet voyeurism, I watched a remembrance video that a friend had posted and I totally teared up. Between losing people I knew and losing hundreds of people I didn’t personally know along with losing a skyline that had marked my childhood, I can’t be unaffected by this day.
They say everyone remembers where they were on 9/11. I remember it with vivid clarity. I heard about it early in the morning as I was driving to class. By the time I got to the art building I found the classrooms were empty and people were surrounding televisions set up in common areas and crying. I was in school down in Dallas and I couldn’t reach my parents or brother back in NY; I couldn’t reach anyone in NY. Then I realized that I had left a house of about a dozen sleeping friends and our mutual friend was in NYC visiting his girlfriend. I drove back and woke everyone up and we just watched the news, horrified.
I remember two other big details from that day. I remember the lines at the gas station as we all tried to fill up our cars after the news warned us that some stations were gauging prices and sure enough we saw prices like $5/gal so we waited patiently at the station that hadn’t changed their signs yet. Then, we all drove out to the lake to sit and watch the Dallas skyline without any planes flying overhead. It was eerie and peaceful.
Now, almost a decade later, here we are still at war and while I do believe this war has more facets than just a fight about oil, that black gold continues to hold us hostage. I’ve watched several documentaries on the oil and gas industries in the past few months and while I overall feel powerless to free myself from Big Oil, I made a move to greatly reduce my consumption by trading in my 2007 Subaru Outback (which I loved) for a 2010 Jetta Sportwagen TDI that will run B5 Biodiesel. In many ways that’s a small step, but it’s a step I could afford.
Just about any diesel made in the past 10 years or so can run biodiesel without any modifications (as long as it has nylon gaskets instead of rubber, which all modern diesels do). You can use the same tank and switch between biodiesel and regular diesel without issue (though if you live in a cool climate you’ll probably want to stick with B5-B20 as B100 will gel at a higher temp than regular diesel). Now that biodiesel can be made from very fast-growing algae, that when farmed next to oil refineries actually helps clean up the C02 emissions, it’s very sustainable and practical. It’s also completely street legal, though it’s recommended to only buy from commercial pumps that are ASTM-rated. Keep in mind that biodiesel is not pure vegetable oil; it’s a mixture of plant-based oil, Methanol and Sodium Hydroxide which creates a substance that looks and feels like petrol-based diesel.
I first went on Craigslist and checked local places for used diesels, but the pickings were slim to none. I ended up going with the Sportwagen based on its great reviews, but after quite a bit of research it’s clear that the 2009-2011 VW TDIs can’t take 100% biodiesel due to the new DPF filter. The new filter does a phenomenal job of keeping emissions incredibly low on the new “clean diesels” and it also adds to the great fuel economy (I’m getting 44-51mpg!). However, biodiesel has a higher flash point and it’s also a solvent so it can initially cause the filter to become saturated faster (this is not an issue once biodiesel is used regularly) and it could cause the filter to not burn off the buildup efficiently. In the long-run this can theoretically decrease engine performance and lead to needing oil changes more often.
However, hope it not lost! The 2009-2011 TDIs are still warranty approved for B5. B5 is only a 5% biodiesel blend, but it turns out I can easily get B5 locally (thanks to Bourne’s Energy being awesome) and it’s still a positive start. Between that and the vast improvements with the fuel efficiency of the diesel engine and incredibly low emissions, as someone who drives close to 30k miles/year, I’ve lowered my carbon footprint markedly. While I’m not about to throw a big, “Eff You Big Oil!” party, it’s a start.
These small changes are things that we all have to individually do if we hope that big changes will arise. I did something small that I could afford, what can you do? Did you know that if your home is heated with oil you can probably switch to biofuel without modifications (barring potentially swapping rubber for nylon)? My small local fuel provider in the middle of Vermont offers biofuel. If you stick your head out to see what alternatives are out there you might be surprised.
Gasland (not about oil, but about natural gas)
A Crude Awakening (watch online free)
Oil, Smoke and Mirrors (watch online free)
Tedx OilSpill (I watched the event live but you can watch it online free at that link; it was an all-day conference so it’s 8+ hours of video regarding the Gulf Oil Spill)
Fuel, which sealed the deal on the car issue for me.
I apologize for falling off the face of the Earth for the past month. Work got intense there for a bit and then I took a much needed vacation. Luckily, despite my fingers not getting their blogging workout, my feet have been rocking the Vibrams in all sorts of fun adventures. While I’ve continued to run I have cut down to only one day a week for now. Much to my acupuncturists delight, but my chagrin, I’m no longer having any issues with my left foot so the new schedule appears to be helping that, but I plan to start alternating running twice a week every other week. Luckily, I’ve had plenty of physical things to do and with the addition of a FREE bowflex to my basement I’ve been working on strength training once again. This came in very handy on my vacation!
There’s Toby, working on his favorite summer activities; swimming and stick retrieval. I’ve been on several quests this summer and a big one has been checking out local swimming holes. The above picture shows Toby at Swain Pond in Maine, which unfortunately wasn’t fit for human swimming, but Toby had a blast and I enjoyed canoeing around with him in tow. Quick funny fact: while Toby enjoys kayaking, he is adamantly against getting into a canoe. Even after I bribed him with cookies and sat with him in the canoe on land (all the “get your dog to boat with you” techniques), he still freaked out as soon as I tried to start paddling. Instead, he chose to follow me on land or by swimming next to the canoe. On some of the lakes this meant he got quite the workout. Luckily, he had his lifejacket on at all times so if he got tuckered out mid-lake he wouldn’t drown and I was prepared to hold him while paddling if necessary.
Last year, I bought a pair of Keene Venice H20’s, which I really love. I went swimming with them here in Vermont and in Aruba where I swam in rocky waters. They were good, but after doing some side-by-side comparisons with the Vibram KSO’s there’s really no competition; the Vibrams win. I find walking on moss-covered rocks in the Keenes can be quite the challenge, as their hard solid sole is inflexible so the surface area that I could grip the rocks with is slim. This meant quite a bit of slipping and sliding and at one point I slipped off a rock and ended up with my foot wedged between a couple rocks underwater. Luckily, I didn’t twist when I fell because I could have easily broken or sprained my ankle.
The Vibrams, on the other hand, still offer enough protection so when I’m walking on rocks or sharp objects it doesn’t feel painful (though I do feel it more than with the Keenes), but since I can contort my foot to the rocks I’m climbing on I find it’s much easier to get a good grip, keep my balance and have more accurate proprioception. Granted, both the Vibram and the Keene sole are a little slippery, but I feel much more confident in my Vibrams.
The other detail with the Vibram KSOs is the mesh top. With the Keenes, the toe is covered but anything that gets into the shoes from the top strappy-area just falls into the toes so when I wear the Keenes I find myself regularly slipping them off to shake out the debris that’s collected in them. With the Vibrams, the only thing that slips through the mesh top is sand and small pieces of dirt which I usually don’t notice while I have the shoes on and once the shoes are dry it’s pretty easy to shake them out. Overall, I feel more protected in the Vibrams and have been happily swimming with them all summer.
My vacation was all about fishing! I canoed and fished in Maine and both canoed and shore-fished in Vermont. I have to say that once again the Vibrams were super-awesome for boating and wading in the water. I wore my Keenes one day and noticed when going from the water into the canoe they drag a good amount of water with them. The Vibrams are easier to shake off before stepping into the canoe and since they’re so form-fitting there was no real way for them to add much water to the boat. There’s also just a huge fun-factor to standing in water with a fishing pole and feeling barefoot, but knowing there’s protection if I were to step on any hazards under the water.
In the past week alone I’ve climbed over piles of rocks, balanced on logs, tip-toed around beaver nests and beat my labrador in a couple water-bound stick chases. My feet are happy and playful and my body is reaping the benefits of all this outdoor fun! Just thinking about it makes me want to hop in the car and head back out to Eligo Lake with my fishing pole. Well, it is Labor Day, I think I’ll just do that!