Asides

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!

 

720 Burpees in 8 Days and Smoothies to Spare!

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While my urge to run has ebbs and flows, my love of fitness and nutrition lives on and I’d like to start sharing my latest obsessions with you.  2013 has brought me two things so far: burpees and….

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I FINALLY BOUGHT A VITAMIX!!!  More on that in a minute.  First…

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Oh, burpees, you’re the exercise everyone loves to hate!  Eight days ago we started a new challenge at work.  Well, two challenges to be exact.  You could pick either a 90 or 100 day burpee challenge.  The 90 day challenge is 90 burpees a day for 90 days.  The 100 day challenge is one burpee on day one, two on day two, three on day three and so on and so forth until you’ve reached 100 on day 100.  Naturally, I chose the 90 day challenge and have been in sweet pain ever since.

One might ask, “What is a burpee?”  Well, if you’re lucky I’ll post a video sometime soon but today is not that day.  There are literally dozens of burpee variations.  Two of the most basic are:

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Squat, jump out to plank, jump back to squat, jump up.

And…

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Squat, jump out to plank, do a pushup, jump back to squat and jump up.

The latter is called a “Competition Burpee” and that’s the one I’m doing.  So, I’m basically doing 90 squat thrusts, 90 pushups and 90 jumps a day…on top of my normal workouts.  Yes,  it’s a bit much, but I have to say that after only 8 days I’m noticing much more definition in my arms and legs so, hey, I’m going to keep it up.  Speaking of “normal workouts”, ZuzkaLight is the latest woman kicking my ass.  If you haven’t seen her YouTube channel before check it out!  I try to do one of her workouts 3-4x/wk.  I’m on #40 as of today.

Ok, enough about burpees, let’s talk about my new beloved Vitamix.  I’ve wanted a high-powered blender for a very long time and after doing my taxes this past weekend (oh the luxurious life I lead) I decided to use some refund money and invest in my health.  After watching far too many videos and reading reviews comparing the Blendtec to the Vitamix to the Kitchenaid to the Ninja to the etc. etc. etc., I decided to go with the Vitamix which honestly was my first choice to begin with.  So far I’m not disappointed.

To honor my new toy and give me something to think about aside from burpees I thought it’d be fun to share some of my creations with you.  Here are some of the first smoothies I’ve made.  I should note I also made brazil nut butter (brazil nuts, raw honey, sea salt, flaxseed oil) before learning how high in saturated fat brazil nuts are (damn shame since it tastes just like cookie dough) and a caper-parsley sauce but since I didn’t photograph either I’m not putting them in here.  I should also note that while I have some strong beliefs about nutrition, I am not a nutritionist, nor do I purport to be.

Smoothie #1

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Ingredients:

  • Frozen strawberries
  • Frozen peaches
  • Whole banana
  • Flaxseed
  • Flaxseed oil
  • Coconut Milk
  • Protein Powder*

This was fruity and amazing and I can’t say enough good things about it.

Green Smoothie

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Ingredients:

  • Pomegranate-Cranberry Juice
  • Spinach
  • Frozen strawberries
  • Frozen mangos
  • Chia seeds
  • Spirulina

Again, another winner.  VERY fruity. VERY green (thank you spirulina). VERY nutritious.  It was my after-workout smoothie and not only did I get to enjoy it, but my boyfriend kept gulping it down saying, “This can’t be healthy!”.

*Why is there an asterisk next to protein powder?  Well, I’m in the “testing” phase of powders right now and I’d love to open up some discussion on that.

Protein Powders

Generally I’m a big fan of whole foods and I try to use whole foods over processed foods as much as possible in my diet.  I ALSO have a strong desire to have ton of protein in my diet so I do want to use a protein powder in my morning smoothie.  I have some ground rules for protein powder:

  1. It must not contain soy, whey or animal proteins. There’s a lot of controversy over soy but aside from the concern that it could increase my chances of breast cancer if I ingest it regularly, I can say from my personal experience that it’s very slow for my system to digest and, frankly, it makes me gassy; so no thanks, soy! 
  2. It must not contain a bunch of chemicals, stabilizers and preservatives because it just doesn’t have to.
  3. It must be at the very least 17-20g/serving of protein and no more than 100 calories per serving.
  4. No GMOs. Period.
  5. It must be sugar free.
  6. It shouldn’t taste like crap.

I have four contenders so far (pictured above): Fat Flush Body Protein, Peaceful Planet Supreme Meal, Warrior Food, and plain Rice Protein, and can review two so far.

Fat Flush: A friend of mine who is a nutritionist highly recommended this and gave me a scoop to try.  Normally I’d stay away from things that say “Fat Flush” because it sounds too infomercially and I’m looking to be healthy, not emaciated.  That said, the ingredient list is pretty good: Pea protein concentrate, Rice protein concentrate, French vanilla extract, guar gum, inulin, and stevia.  So, not a ton of crap.  I will say stevia isn’t my favorite but I couldn’t taste it much in this, and I’m really picky about the stevia aftertaste so I was impressed that I only noticed it a tad.  It was a little grittier than I’d like, even in the vitamin (which turns flaxseeds and chia seeds into dust).  I give it an “I’ll think about it”.  Which probably equates to a B+

The Supreme Meal: I found this at my local coop.  You might be surprised I bought it considering how many ingredients it has: Protein blend (non-GMO pea protein isolate, organic Hawaiian spirulina, rice protein concentrate), freeze-dried sprouts blend (quinoa, millet, amaranth, broccoli), organic flax meal, lecithin, natural vegan flavors, horsetail herb, proprietary FOS fiber blend (fructooligosaccaharides, sprouted mung bean extract), bioflavanoids concentrate, vitamin D2, vitamin B12.  Ok, so a lot of ingredients but a lot of GOOD ingredients.  So far this one is my favorite.  It has poor reviews if you just mix it into liquid with a spoon (it clumps).  I had no problem in my Vitamix.  It was smooth and tasty.  The spirulina makes it dark green, which doesn’t bother me one bit but bothers some people.  I also love that there’s nothing in there pretending to be sweet.  It was just yummy.  Unfortunately, it’s 140 cal/serving but I may overlook that due to how much I liked it and how many nutrients it has. A-

I picked up the Warrior Food from Vermont Fiddle Heads, who I tend to trust as Linda is our local raw foods extraordinaire.  I haven’t tried it yet and I’ll be fully honest that the bottle is filled with so much homeopathic new-age propaganda that I almost didn’t buy it.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a pretty crunchy chick, but this was over the top.  That said, I trust Linda and it’s the only protein powder that she sells and I was impressed by the ingredients: Sprouted, Raw, Non-GMO, Organic Brown Rice Protein, Organic Hemp Protein, Organic Actual Vanilla Bean, Wildcrafted Nopal Cactus, Organic Whole Leaf Stevia.  I love that it’s 100% organic and doesn’t have much in it.  I’m wary of the stevia but I’ll let you all know what I think.

What protein powder do you love and why?