vibrams

Running, Climbing and Transitioning to Vibram Fivefingers

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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).

ImageIt 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):

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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

  1. If you feel pain make modifications to your exercise.
  2. Transition slowly into new exercise routines.
  3. Properly warm up the body before engaging in physical activity.
  4. ALWAYS stretch and cool down after physical activity.
  5. 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!

 

Day 90!!! 8100 Burpees, 64 Miles and Noticing a Change!

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Holy shit, you guys, as of about 10 minutes ago, when I completed my last 10 burpees of the day, I officially completed my 90 day challenge!!!  90 burpees a day for 90 days?  DONE!!!!!

This challenge ended up being a great kick-start into more regular exercise, and really pushing what my body could do.  I started running daily again, have been committed to doing Zuzka workouts 6 days a week, completed a 5-mile obstacle course and have been eating extremely healthy along with finally having my food allergies diagnosed.  My body has changed a lot over the past 90 days and while I still have a ways to go I wanted to finally share a pic of my progress.  I’m taking a deep breath as I share this, but here goes (note, I didn’t start taking pics until late Feb, a month into the challenge)…

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Woot to noticeable change!!  My plan going forward is to do Zuzka workouts, or other HIIT in the morning.  I’ve switched my running to mid-day now that the weather has gotten better, any my pup is very appreciative of the exercise.  I’m also learning to do pull-ups and will be heading back out to the obstacle course in mid-May.  Any other ideas for a good challenge?  Let me know!

 

Day 48, 4320 Burpees, 25 Miles, Healthy Meatloaf!

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I’m past the halfway point on my 90 day challenge and the burpees are starting to get easier, but they’re still pretty terrible.  My running is getting better and yesterday I was really reminded how much I prefer running outside to running on a treadmill.

ImageI hadn’t been running outside due to my extreme distaste of the cold.  Ok, maybe not “extreme”, I mean I do live in Vermont, but running in minimalist shoes outside hasn’t been a fun experience for me in the past.  However, after a very trying week I woke up yesterday craving something new.  It was beautiful out!  Fresh powder on the ground and the sun was pouring down.  I decided to buck up and head out trail running.  I popped on my Injinji socks and my Vibrams and downloaded ZombiesRun! to my iphone.  I was waiting for Spring to try that game out but this seemed like the perfect time, plus they were having a 50% off sale on it this weekend!

I won’t lie, my feet got cold, but not too cold to stop me.  Plus once I got about half a mile in they seemed ok, though when I got home and popped my shoes off my toes were pretty icy.  The Zombies game kept me motivated and I ended up running farther than my goal and, what’s more exciting, I ran continuously instead of taking speed-walking breaks like I do on the treadmill.  While the game may have helped motivate me, the soft snow and fresh air is really what kept me running and engaged.  It was just beautiful out and I was finally able to bring my pup running with me again; we both had a great time!  I’m excited for real Spring to hit VT so I can get out there more often.

Lastly, let’s talk meatloaf!

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I’ve had many people ask me what I can eat on my elimination diet.  Really, I’ve been eating very similar to how I was eating before: smoothies and then a protein and veggies for dinner. The thing I have to be strict about is not adding gluten or dairy to my meal, along with the slew of other allergens that I mentioned in my previous post.  I’m also still watching my full nutrition intake and keeping things low-carb since I was doing that before I found out I had a bunch of food allergies.

Meatloaf is definitely a comfort food, but with the millions of meatloaf recipes out there it’s important to remember you CAN make a healthy version of it.  I spliced together a few recipes and made this omgyouwillwanttoeatthewholepan meatloaf that’s less than 300 calories per slice and packed with veggies and protein!

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2lb Lean Ground Beef (I used local grass-fed beef and highly recommend you try to do the same)
  • 2 large carrots shredded 
  • 1 zucchini shredded
  • 1/2 sweet onion, diced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp fresh basil, minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh oregano, minced
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 jar pasta sauce (try to choose a low-carb version with no or low sugar, or make your own!)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
  2. Sautée carrots, zucchini, onions, and garlic in olive oil until soft (~10 mins).  Set aside to cool, or put in the fridge for a few minutes.
  3. Beat eggs/egg whites in large bowl.  Add veggie mix, all herbs/spices, ground beef and 3/4 of pasta sauce jar.  Mix well.
  4. Form mixture into a loaf (it will be wet and won’t hold shape very well, that’s ok!) and put in large loaf pan.  Top with remaining pasta sauce.
  5. Cook for ~1.5 hours or until thermometer reads at least 165ºF.  Let sit for 10 minutes. Enjoy!

Now I’ve made a lot of meatloaf in my day and I have to say in full honesty that this was the most delicious meatloaf I’ve ever made!!  It trumped my cheese-filled bacon-wrapped meatloaf…seriously.  Granted, my boyfriend (who is not on my diet) fried the leftovers in bacon fat, so obviously the recipe could be improved on if you’re not counting your calories.

 

 

Day 40, 3600 Burpees, 19 Miles, Food Allergy RESULTS!

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I completed my third Hot Yoga/Bikram class at Geezum Crow Yoga last night and it was AWESOME!!  I really feel much more supported there than at Bikram Stowe and I’m going to try to make a point to go there more often.  In the meantime, to make things a bit more affordable I’m looking for a good iOS app for Hot Yoga.  After scouring reviews it looks like Hot Yoga Doctor is the most robust app with actual full spoken classes, despite their website being abhorrent.  I wish I could find an actual video.  I was surprised that My Yoga Online doesn’t have one (I highly recommend that site, btw).

Yesterday I received back the results of my food allergy testing.  I had IgA, IgE and IgG testing done against 96 foods.  It was done by Green Mountain Natural Health (processed at US BioTek) and I’m extremely grateful that my insurance covered the test in full.

I had the testing done because I’ve always had digestive issues and for the most part I’ve just accepted that and try to ignore it.  I’ve had acid reflux since I was a kid and that’s the only condition I really had diagnosed and treated.  I used to be on daily prescription meds but got off them with the help of a change in diet, and adding in yoga and abdominal massage (speaking of which if you are ever in the NH area I highly recommend seeing Kym Feltovic for Maya Abdominal Massage).  That was probably one of my first forays into the power that a change of lifestyle has.

On top of the acid reflux, I also struggle with bloating, stomach pains after eating and lower GI inflammation.  Those things have become so common that I thought they were part of life.  I’ve been on many types of diets.  Some due to dating partners with diet restrictions, some for fun, and more recently some elimination diets.  I’ve done two elimination diets (cleanses) and both times I found I had sensitivities to dairy and gluten.  Dairy was no surprise, I eat sundaes with the full knowledge that I’m entering a world of pain.  Gluten was annoying to find out but it makes sense.  I also noticed from those diets that I do much better with very little sugar.  This was also no surprise as both my Mom and I struggled with an overpopulation of yeast and my Dad and his Dad struggled with issues with diabetes.  Since those diets I’ve significantly cut back on dairy, gluten and sugar.

Yesterday I was handed a large booklet and finally got the results in full technicolor:

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I only photographed what I was allergic to.  I’m thankfully not allergic to any meat/fowl/eggs or any vegetables.  I am allergic to all dairy, coffee, sugar cane, brewer’s yeast, cranberry, clam, crab, kidney bean, corn, all wheat, oat, rye, sesame seed, spelt, and sunflower seed.

I posted the results to Facebook yesterday and had the most comments I think I’ve gotten to a post ever.  Food issues really rowel people up.  I’ve learned nutrition is a very personal thing with lots of different opinions and if you’re not already used to a restricted diet it can seem like the end of the world.  Let me be clear, this is not the end of the world at all.  I’m actually super-excited that I can now start working on these allergies and see how they will change my body!

The big surprises were cranberries and sesame seeds.  That means no more cranberry juice in my smoothies and I have to find another gluten free cracker that isn’t sesame-based.  I already knew dairy and gluten would be on there.  Brewer’s yeast is unfortunate, especially since that rules out making nut cheeses with nutritional yeast.  Crab and clam is annoying, but I eat them so infrequently that I’m not going to let it bother me (and I’m still going to rock soft-shell crab season).  And thankfully I had already quit coffee, despite my undying love for both roasting and drinking it.

Since I had already intuited a good chunk of these allergies and started being very strict about my diet since March 1st, I’ve actually lost 7lbs and my belly isn’t sticking out like a pregnant woman anymore (still a bit poofier than I’d like but, meh).  So I already know there’s truth to this test and I will feel better if I eat the foods that fuel and nourish my body.  I really didn’t mean to lose weight that quickly, just strictly cutting out dairy, gluten and sugar made an enormous difference.

The next step now is to do an elimination diet with the foods I tested as allergic to.  I let the doctor know that I’m going to cheat on St. Patrick’s Day and on a long weekend I might have coming up in Boston.  But, I don’t intend to cheat excessively.  After that I’ll be doing two solid weeks of elimination.  Then I need to add in one allergen at a time and note my reaction.  What surprised me is that my doctor said once I know how each effects me there are treatment options so it’s possible that I won’t have to cut these foods out of my diet for good. I don’t yet know what the treatment options are (one of my packets mentioned acupressure), but I’m curious to find out.

I was asked by a couple people if I’m actually allergic to these foods or if I just have a sensitivity to them.  I technically have an allergy to them, but not a fatal allergy.  The consequences are bloating, acid reflux, lower GI inflammation, fatigue and insomnia…with possibly more symptoms to discover as I do the elimination diet.  Dairy also gives me some respiratory issues, coughing from phlegm.  As far as food allergies go, I do consider myself very lucky.  My throat doesn’t swell up, I don’t have trouble breathing, etc.  So if you want to call it a sensitivity I suppose that would be accurate, but this test sitting next to me is calling it an allergy.  It’s basically all semantics. 

I’d love to hear from others out there who have been through this or who are curious about it!  I’m also on the hunt for more recipes that fit my diet, have anything good?  The first on the docket is a recipe for hummus without tahini.  Must go Google now!

1620 Burpees Down, Let’s Start Running!

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I think I must be insane.  I mean, I have to be a crazy person.  I’m doing these 90 burpees a day along with a Zuzka workout once a day and now on top of that I’m running a mile a day.  Honestly, when I put it like that it doesn’t sound that crazy; an olympian practicing hours a day definitely has me beat.  But for me, it’s A LOT and I’M SORE, but I’m sticking with it.

I added in the mile run because I’m honestly not at all happy with my lack of weight loss on my current program.  My nutrition is nice and stable at this point with a good mix of fruits, veggies lots of protein and light on carbs/dairy/gluten/sugar.  I’m not looking to lose a lot of weight but I have about 20-30lbs more fat than I think is my ideal healthy-level.  I totally understand muscle weighs more, but it’s clear to me in the past few weeks that I’m focused more on strength training than cardio and I need a better mix.

Running this time of year is depressing to me.  I have a treadmill, whooptidoo.  I could run outside but with my Vibrams + living in Vermont that’s a very cold proposition.  So I’m stuck on the treadmill until the snow melts unless I get crazy enough for barefoot winter running, which I know some people do.

Not much new on the nutrition side so I have no new fun recipes to share today.  Instead, I’m wondering what your favorite healthy recipes are?  And if you have a Vitamix what are some of your favorite things to make?