Monthly Archives: May 2013
With seemingly more episodes than the Star Wars saga you might be getting sick of my Plantar Fasciitis posts, however I hope this post is able to be of some use to you in your recovery as well.
Before we get ahead of ourselves – I am not fully recovered – it is a long process. I am not yet at the ability level I was before my injury, but I am getting closer! For instance, I am back to training with my Australian Rules Football team (about 5km of Fartlek style training per session) and have even played two competitive matches. However, I still get pain if I stand for too long in unsupportive work shoes and I still have noticeable tightness in my plantar fascia after I wake. The shooting pain through the heel in the first steps of the morning is gone though. Thank heavens!
I am also happy to report that I was able to spend the long weekend in sunny Istanbul (lucky me!) walking around all day and night, without too much in the way of whingeing from my plantar fascia. Sure, it got tight and a little tender, but static stretches on my calves and Achilles and a couple of Ibuprofen were able to sort it out enough that I could be on my feet for most of the day, for 3 days in a row.
Moving swiftly on to the subject at hand, I credit my recovery so far to:
- no running during the acute phase, following my diagnosis
- use of massage, ice therapy and ibuprofen (no more than recommended dosage) to reduce inflammation
- a strong focus on static stretches to elongate calf muscles, Achilles heel and the plantar fascia itself
- in the sub-acute phase the use of cross-training to maintain cardio fitness, a gradual build-up to running, and the continuation of my static stretching routine
- Time. Most injuries react positively to time, and I haven’t pushed the boundaries in trying to get back to running and it think this has helped
Now that I am getting much less pain and am returning to running, I am trying to strengthen my feet with exercises to make sure my foot musculature is up to the rigours of running. I am now 22 weeks out from a marathon and it’s about time to get running! While looking for exercises to help strengthen my foot and lower limbs I stumbled upon some great exercises on the Vibram Five Fingers website. The exercises are actually for assisting in transitioning from ‘regular’ running to ‘barefoot’ running; however I think that foot and lower limb strength are just as important for regular runners and the exercises are certainly suitable for runners who still wear shoes. Certainly they seem to be helping me with my foot strength.
Here are the Vibram foot exercises I have been doing:
Back in 2007 I moved from Australia to England, with about 5 months of backpacking through central and Eastern Europe in between. I went for one, maybe two, jogs in that holiday. Total. Running just wasn’t on the agenda for the trip. And then I landed in England, needing to find a job, a place to live and some new friends. Another couple of months went by before I got out the trainers and went running.
7 months off running is a long, long time and I struggled to do the distances I was used too, and it took a long time to build back up to a level of fitness where I could run 5km without walking. Luckily for me however this was just before my birthday and my housemates, watching me get back into running, bought me a book which they thought would help me, called Everyone’s Guide to Distance Running by Norrie Williamson.
Up to this point I’d done very little reading on running. I mean, how hard is it? Just put one foot in front of the other and repeat, right? “Wrong!” is what this book taught me. Up until this time I was just trotting out similar miles month in month out, maybe doing a race once a year like the City-to-Surf race in my hometown Perth, content knowing that a long run for me was 10km and that I would never be able to complete a half-marathon or even contemplate the training for a marathon.
Reading this book taught me many valuable lessons, and the one I am discussing today was the biggest lesson that I learned – that to improve my running I had to vary my pace. Up until this point I had run all my runs at basically the same pace, expecting some form of improvement just down to miles run. Sure, I improved to a point as my base fitness improved, but after a while my performance would always plateau. Norrie Williamson explains in his book that:
- I wasn’t alone – most people never vary their pace – and;
- The plateau in my performance was caused by not increasing my aerobic capacity or threshold level.
The answer to both these was to include fast runs in my training.
Surely running faster means shorter distance, right? Well, yes, that’s right in the sense that the faster you run the less distance you can cover before you tire and have to slow down or stop. However, what I didn’t know was that by running faster over shorter distances, you will improve your speed over longer distances, which will allow you to go even greater distances at slower paces.
Why? Because short, fast, runs push you to the top of your cardio zone and into your threshold zone. Your threshold zone is where you have reached your maximum oxygen uptake and are utilising your anaerobic energy pathway to sustain your output. By pushing into this zone it is possible to raise your threshold level, thereby extending your aerobic range. Put simply, with a higher threshold level you will be able to run faster, for longer.
I now make sure to always do short, fast, runs in my training. They certainly help with the longer distances and I’ve come to love them. Even to relish them. Sure, your muscles hurt more, your breathing rate is through the roof and your heart is pounding away, but when you run fast you are running free. You can’t think about work, life, what’s for dinner or what’s on TV. There is just you and your run. It’s a time to just be with your body and your mind as you push yourself to the maximum.
I also think anyone can do it and everyone can get benefit from it. Sure, as a beginner you might only get 5 or 10 minutes of threshold running before you pack it in and have to slow down, but those minutes will still be just you and your run, and the more you do it, the more minutes you will be able to do. If you are an established runner you will be able to run at threshold for longer, ideally around 25 minutes, and get greater benefits in your longer distance running to boot.
“How do I know what my threshold is?” you might ask. The scientific answer is that threshold level running is running at a pace where your blood lactate level increases due to the muscles inability to re-metabolise lactic acid at the same rate of production. Now, no one runs with a blood analyser on their back, so a more useful explanation is that threshold level is between 80% and 90% of your maximum working heart rate.
The easiest way to measure your performance during a threshold run is with a heart rate monitor. I won’t go through the formula here, but if you use a heart rate monitor then the BrianMac heart rate calculator will give you a reasonable heart rate to aim for. This will be generic as it based on the ‘average’ person and is therefore not necessarily correct for your body. Your personal health and fitness will have an impact in your heart rate and on your training zones. If you are new to running or have health issues, then speak to your doctor or sports professional before adding threshold training into your routine.
If you are fit and an established runner and want to refine your heart rate training zones, and are willing to do a maximal effort run cycle, then you should consider completing a maximal heart rate test. I used this very instructive Runners World maximum heart rate test to determine my maximum heart rate, and then used the RunnersWeb.com heart rate zone calculator to determine my personal training zones.
If you run without gadgets (nothing wrong with that!) then a rule of thumb is that your threshold rate is the fastest pace you can run for a sustained period of time, as in multiple minutes. A good guide is 10km race pace, however if you don’t yet have a ‘race pace’ at this distance, an easier guide is if the pace you are running at means you can only keep it up for a few minutes then you are running too fast, or, if you feel like you could keep going forever you are running too slow.
You can also try the talk test. Threshold running requires a high breathing rate and consequently you shouldn’t be able to speak more than 2-3 words at a time. If you can get a sentence out then you are running too slow, if all you can do is gasp “this hurts!” then you are running too fast.
Here is a video from Vo2maxProductions which I think is useful for those wanting some more information.
So next time you go out for a short run, try some threshold running as part of your run (after a proper warm up of course) and see how you feel. After your period of threshold running make sure to slow down and recuperate, and don’t forget your cool-down routine. Hopefully you will enjoy the challenge of pushing yourself, the freedom a threshold run gives your mind, as well as the follow on benefits to your longer runs. And even if you don’t enjoy it, you will have the knowledge that you ran fast and pushed yourself hard. That alone is enough to be proud of!
Get Going, Get Running!
Who doesn’t love a new pair of running shoes? The shine, that new-shoe smell, bright white foam…
Ok, ok, I’m getting carried away…
As I said in my previous post I have been looking into natural running. Not barefoot running – that is definitely a step too far for me – but natural running. Natural running shoes have a low heel drop, only about 5mm from heel to toe, which encourages mid-foot and forefoot running. This is a lot less than regular trainers which have around 10mm or more drop. They are also ‘stripped’ back and feature less motion control features, thereby not impeding the body’s natural biomechanics.
Given my ASICS Gel Kinsei were well beyond their use-by date I took the opportunity to get myself some new running shoes. Well, that and I just wanted a new shiny pair of trainers! So why after years of running in ‘normal’ trainers have I opted for a completely different type of shoe? 4 reasons:
- I have a neutral gait – Meaning I don’t over-pronate or supinate, so shoes with masses of cushioning in the heel don’t provide me with extra protection, just extra weight.
- Natural running shoes have a low heel drop – A flatter shoe encourages mid-foot and forefoot running, which is my natural gait. Warning – If you over-pronate then you should approach natural or minimal shoes with extreme caution. They are not designed with motion control or other systems to control over-pronation, so your risk of lower limb injury would be much higher in this sort of shoe.
- I am in the recovery phase of plantar fasciitis – This sounds counter-intuitive, however my theory is that my current mileage is very low, making this a perfect time to get into a new ‘genre’ of trainers because of the need to always transition slowly when moving from ‘regular’ trainers to ‘natural’ trainers. Please note that if you are like me and have tight calf muscles then natural shoes will put more strain on them due to the flatness of the shoe. Pay special attention to this and to your static stretching routine so you don’t strain your calves or encourage a spell of plantar fasciitis
- Additional foot strength – Plantar fasciitis is often caused or exacerbated by weak musculature of the foot and lower limbs. Shoes designed for natural running encourage your feet and lower limbs to get stronger because of the minimal approach to motion control. My theory is that in the long run if I have stronger feet and lower limbs I will be better able to keep myself free from plantar fasciitis. But it is a long road…
Anyone reading this and thinking along similar lines, I stress again the importance of transitioning slowly. Natural or minimal running shoes are very different from regular running shoes and you will take time to adjust. From my research I have found that all manufacturers of natural or minimal running shoes have noted to add these shoes into a rotation, and keep your regular runners for long distances. This will assist with the transition without needing to drastically cut your mileage and let you get used to the new shoe. I suggest you read this great article from Competitor.com – Safely Transitioning To A Minimalist Running Shoe – Competitor.com.
So why did I go for the ASICS Gel Excel 33?
Simple really, I tried on quite a number of shoes in the ‘natural running’ style – Newton, Mizuno, Adidas, Nike – but I guess I found the ASICS fit and feel to be what I am most used to and the most comfortable for me. I got my shoes from Sweatshop because they tend to have staff who are runners themselves, as well as the massive benefit of being able to try the shoes out by running on a treadmill in store while the assistant watches you for gait or pronation issues. In the UK another good store Runners Need also have treadmills so you can try-before-you-buy.
A little advice/rant here – apologies in advance – while you will pay more for shoes from the store instead of the internet, go to a dedicated running store where the staff are knowledgeable and you can try the shoes out on a treadmill. Walking around a shop floor for a few minutes is not going to give you an idea of what the shoes feel like when running! And be a nice person, if your assistance has given you good service, useful advice and the benefit of running on a treadmill, buy the shoes from them. Don’t go home and buy the same shoes on the internet. If everyone does that, the additional service which is so important to us all will just disappear. I only ever buy shoes from the internet when replacing shoes I already have and trust, because nothing compares being able to try them on and crucially, try them out, while in the shop.
For me, it’s time to start running again as my plantar fasciitis recedes. I will update you here after I have put some miles in my new ASICS Gel Excel 33 and provide a review. In the meantime, safe running everyone!
Get Going, Get Running
As part of rectifying issues which contributed to my plantar fasciitis I have been researching new running shoes. Well, that’s my excuse I’m sticking to it!
Luckily for me I am a ‘neutral’ runner – I don’t over-pronate (roll in) or supinate (roll out) – and after running coaching several years back to rehabilitate from a nasty case of ITB Syndrome I now have a ‘natural’ mid-foot to fore-foot strike. As I said in my previous post, I have been running the last few years in ASICS Gel Kinsei, and have been through 3 pairs. They were a great pair of trainers for me; however they are a ‘premium’ shoe with lots of everything for everyone. Great cushioning, huge shock absorption in the heel, a design good for neutral runners, and all sorts of fancy technological improvements meant to make them better shoes.
In 2011 I stepped up my running and did a couple of marathons, both run wearing ASICS Gel Kinsei 3, without any real problems. However, looking at my last pair (over 1100km) I’ve noticed that there is virtually no wear on the heel. Why? Because of my mid-foot to fore-foot strike.
Which got me thinking: “Why do I have all this cushioning on my shoes which I don’t use, and is it slowing me down?”
Since then I have talked to a few assistants at specialist running shops as well as some internet research and have been looking into ‘natural’ or ‘minimalist’ running. I don’t mean barefoot running, I just mean running in shoes which are designed to promote or allow a ‘natural’, and more efficient, running style.
In my travels I found this great article at Competitor.com and thought I would share some of it here for those of you who are investigating natural running as well.
I’ll keep looking into this and let you know how I go, but I’ve already got a pair of natural shoes in my sights so will report back soon!
Here is the article, if it takes your fancy; the rest of the article is available through the link.
Get Going, Get Running
Minimalist running has been all the rage for a while now as research continues to emerge about its potential benefits. Furthermore, proponents of the “less is more” footwear philosophy have become more vocal about their success stories.
So what exactly constitutes minimalist running? In short, it involves wearing a running shoe that doesn’t impede upon the body’s natural biomechanics. Traditional running shoes, on the other hand, are well-cushioned, may have denser midsole materials and built-in support devices to prevent excess motion at the ankle, and usually have a high heel to toe ratio — meaning the heel is elevated (10-12 mm is common) above the toe. Recent literature indicates that these safeguards and inherent support can actually weaken the foot over time — nor have they been shown to reduce instances of injury.
Minimalist running on the other hand, promotes the natural motion of the foot. Over time, the foot gets stronger so that it can essentially support itself and act as a natural shock absorber by striking on the midfoot or forefoot. Theoretically, stronger foot muscles and lower impact rates will reduce the chance of injury.
It is not the goal of this article to persuade you one way or the other to try minimalist running. After 10 years of coaching and more than 15 years of running at an elite level, I’ve encountered scores of runners who’ve have been helped tremendously by traditional running shoes. I’ve also met numerous runners whose injury problems were seemingly cured by moving into minimalist running shoes. The decision on which shoes to wear is a personal one based on your own injury history as well as your goals.
This article will explain how to safely transition to running in minimalist shoes. In order to stay healthy, which is the number one goal, it is imperative that you properly prepare the muscles in your feet, improve your proprioception, and develop a solid foundation of strength and flexibility before transitioning to a minimalist shoe.
Read the rest of the article here: Competitor.com – Safely Transitioning To A Minimalist Running Shoe
Good news! My plantar fasciitis is improving and I am past the acute phase and into the recovery phase.
During the early part of the acute phase the main focus was to control inflammation and decrease pain. I rested my foot and was off running for 7 days. I also kept walking to short distances. I used Ibuprofen to reduce swelling and help with the pain, as well as cold massage, using a frozen water bottle or a cold can of soft-drink and rolling my foot on top of the bottle over the painful area. Just take a frozen water bottle and massage your foot, here’s an instructional video:
My physiotherapist worked on my calf muscles to release tension and reduce stress on my plantar fascia, and prescribed stretches to relax the plantar fascia and elongate my calf and Achilles. In the latter part of the acute phase, I focussed on my stretches and massage to ease up my calves and stretch my Achilles, continuing foot stretches and using tennis and golf-ball massage to really get into the plantar fascia. Here’s a video showing the technique I used for my tennis ball and golf ball massage:
You can also ‘double up’ with cold and massage to help alleviate symptoms. To do this I put a couple of golf balls in the freezer and then used them to massage my foot as shown in the tennis ball video.
Active Rest: Don’t recover on your couch!
‘Active rest’ is key during the latter part of the acute phase so you don’t lose fitness and strength, so it’s important to find alternative forms of training that keep your fitness levels up but do not stress the fascia. For my active rest I got back on the bike so my cardio fitness was maintained, though I have read that a lot of people choose swimming as it has no impact. Whatever you choose, make sure it is a low or nil impact exercise that will get blood and oxygen flowing, which assists to speed up your body’s repair.
As it has now been a few weeks and the condition is improving I have also started football training again as I find the ‘fartlek’ type training on grass good for my cardio fitness, without the impact of running on pavement or the long repetitive straining that comes with long running on the pavement. I have found taping for support and compression to be useful too. Here is a video which shows you how to replicate the taping that my physio did for me. I do the first part of the taping with the anchor strap and cross straps, the optional ‘top of foot’ taping restricts my movement too much and I don’t find it necessary.
There are other taping techniques which provide even more support, however I wouldn’t recommend it on the basis that if you need that much taping on your foot just to complete ‘active rest’ activities, then your active rest activity is far too stressful, or you are still too early in the acute phase to be doing active rest.
Onwards and upwards: the recovery phase
Looking ahead to the recovery phase I have been doing some research and also speaking to my physiotherapist as to how best to recover and ensure an ongoing reduction in the stress on my plantar fascia. This mainly revolves around stretches and exercises to elongate my calves while keeping them strong, and to keep my plantar fascia elongated. However, while doing some research on the condition the other night I found out two keys things which can exacerbate the problem which were outside of the physical recovery processes I am undertaking:
As I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, I first started this blog because instead of going running I found myself injured and talking about running instead. As you’ve guessed from the title of this post, an attack of Plantar Fasciitis has laid me up for the last four weeks or so. (GFs eyes roll due to excessive melodrama…). Ok, not laid up. Just not running and generally being mopey and looking for sympathy from aforementioned GF. I’ll explain later why sympathy is currently hard to come by…
So how can this post help you? Well, I made two basic mistakes which you should learn from:
I guess some people are probably wondering why I started this site about running?
I’m not a writer – though my GF constantly says I’m never short for words!
I’m not an elite athlete – you can take away the ‘elite‘ and even ‘athlete‘ is still stretching the truth!
I’m not an expert – I’m not a physio, a coach or a sports scientist. I’m just a guy who has loved running for some 25 years now, and is still a novice racer. What I am though is someone who has learnt a lot along the way, often through trial and error, and I am hoping that I can help people new to the sport or other novice racers like myself learn to love running, and keep it that way.
And before you ask;
I’m not doing it to make money – you may in the future find links around the site which are paid, but the aim of this site is to share my experiences of running, what gets me going and gets me running, and the tips and tricks I use to keep me running.. Any links which I provide in the site will be to relevant items that I am happy to endorse myself, most of them unpaid. I will always try to make any paid links as explicit as possible because, at the end of the day, if I break your trust by swamping you with useless links or dodgy adverts then you will stop reading. And a blog without an audience is a pretty useless endeavour indeed.
So, if I’m not a writer, an athlete or an expert, how did the idea get into my head to write about running?
This site is for people who want to become a runner for any reason, those who are already runners and for those novice racers amongst us.
One thing this site certainly isn’t about is a diary of my running. Who would want to read about that?!? Suffice to say my running is generally long, and slow. Kind of like a Lord of the Rings movie, but without the fight scenes and certainly no magic…
Instead, this site is about the things I love about running, and the things which get me going and get me running, even though my running is never going to result in me standing on a podium.
I hope you enjoy the information and posts that I put up, and if I’m really lucky you’ll think the information is good enough to subscribe or share my content to your friends.
Thanks for reading!
Get Going, Get Running!