Monthly Archives: August 2013

Motivate Monday! #1

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A Thought for Long-Run Sunday

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Running Gear : 2XU Calf Guards review

No, this isn’t a post about some new form of protecting livestock, I’m talking about the calf socks for running.

calf-guards-2XU

Well, they are a bit more technical than that, but that’s basically what they look like. Having seen more and more runners using calf guards, I figured I would give them a try to see if they really helped.

Why? Because I’ve always suffered from tight calf muscles and if you’ve been reading this blog for a while you’ll know my tight calf muscles have been responsible for both my bouts of plantar fasciitis, as well as my current issue with shin soreness.

I have amended my gait to a mid-foot landing, under my centre of gravity, with greater rearward extension to engage my hamstrings and glutes for propulsion, thereby putting less strain on my calf muscles for the same speed. I have also continue with my static stretching and foam rolling at night, along with regular physio sessions; however my calf muscles remain very tight. Having seen a lot of people using calf guards, especially distance runners, I decided to bite the bullet and try them out. I did a bit of online research and stumped for the 2XU Calf Guards.

calf-guards-2XU-rear

2XU say that their calf guards are a great muscle containment device that can be worn during training or competition. They are engineered for active use with powerful fabrics offering unparalleled breathability, moisture management and flexibility to keep the wearer comfortable and focussed”  along with these additional benefits:

–      High power denier offers extra calf + shin support
–      Reduced muscle fatigue + damage
–      Flatlock seam construction
–      UPF50+ Sun Protection
–      Antibacterial 
–      Moisture wicking
First impression out of the box was “Are these really going to help me?” They look so simple and insubstantial that it’s hard to see how they could do anything – they look like a slip of fabric with some logos on them. Closer inspection reveals that they are shaped specifically to the profile of your calf, as well as having a cuff at the base and top to snugly fit and hold them in place. Oh, and those logos, they’re reflective so at night your legs will look like some demented video game to drivers.Putting them on was simple, just pull them up like socks until they are in place, making sure the logos are to the rear. The fit was good, and the compression seemed snug but not restrictive. The cuff at top and bottom were perfectly sized on my pair to hug onto the tapering part of the calf to keep them in place.

Out the door for my warm up and the first thing I noticed on the walk up the stairs was how my calf muscles felt ‘contained’ – I could feel the compression tightening as the muscle flexed. It wasn’t unpleasant, but it was a different sensation to both bare legs or compression tights. After my warm-up I trotted off and for the first 50 yards I did notice that my calf muscles felt different. There seemed to be less shock and a certain ‘squeeze’ during the contact and push-off phases, however after that I got used to them and really stopped noticing them.

In fact, I stopped noticing them to the point that my calf muscles became conspicuous by their absence in my regular body scans. Hip flexors tightening, yep. Hmm, twinge in left ITB, change side of road. Hamstring tightening on right side, need to watch that. Calf muscles. Calf muscles? Nothing.

Just a sensation of warm, snug, squeeze.

As I pushed on to the end of my seven miles (at race pace) I became acutely aware that as my quad and hamstring pain increased, my calf muscles continued to be conspicuously absent on my pain scale. This was really interesting for me, because it’s normally the other way around for me. Sure, as I neared the end of my seven miles, I started to feel my calf muscles, but they weren’t getting as sore as my other muscles, nor at the same rate of pain increase. I kept them on for an hour after the run as well, and noticed the next day that my calf muscles showed less muscle soreness than my hamstrings and quads.

Overall, I was very impressed with how such a simple looking piece of kit could make such a dramatic difference to how I felt during my run and to my recovery. I will certainly be continuing my use of them, particularly on my long runs and races!

Do you use calf guards or other compression gear? What have been your results with them?

 

Happy running everyone!

Bernie

Get Going, Get Running!

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M minus 10 : Palma de Mallorca approaches

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It’s been a while since my last post about running – work, friends, a niggling injury and an unfortunate death in the family have made me take time out from blogging – but that’s life!

Fortunately, it seems as if I have been able to manage my niggling shin issue enough that I’ve been able to complete my last two long runs at the planned distance, and not too much slower than forecast. Sure, some of the shorter runs have had to fall by the wayside in return for enforced rest to manage my injury, but being able to get through the long runs without too much hassle is encouraging.

I have been able to discern that my shin issue is aggravated by speed work, not necessarily mileage. It started with the British 10k London Run, and seemed to keep recurring after shorter runs. I then did a track session hoping that reduced mileage (albeit faster speed) on a softer surface would be ok for the shin. Nope. Worse. Much worse in fact.
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Inspire Me Wednesday #1

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Run with an Idea #3 : Juice cleanse – healthy or hype?

Fresh vegetable juices on wooden table, on green background

Me: I’m on the “seafood” diet.
Friend: really, what’s that?
Me: I see food and I eat it.

Ha ha. Hardy-ha-ha…

It’s a perennial joke but it pretty much sums me up. So when Carrie and Christine from Run with an Idea decided to tackle the recent diet phenomenon of juice cleanses I didn’t really feel qualified to discuss it from the point of view of someone who had tried a juice cleanse, or even the point of view of someone who was even likely to try it. The reason? I’m a sceptic.

So why am I a sceptic?

I was brought up by parents who never went on a diet, they just managed their weight (and that of my siblings and I) through sensible eating and exercise, and this has obviously rubbed off on me. I also think that despite all our recent advances; the human body is not very different from those of our ancestors. And I’m not talking grandma or grandpa, I’m talking about thousands of years ago where food was restricted to what you caught, picked or could grow.

Now, that doesn’t mean that I’m a ‘paleo eater’ or ‘raw food’ eater or anything, I just tend to stay away from foods, and especially diets, which could not have existed way back when. Don’t worry; I’m no saint either. I eat McDonald’s. I generally have pizza once a week. I snack on potato chips once in a while. I’ll gobble a Mars bar during a round of golf or after a long run. And shock horror, I drink alcohol, and worse, Coke.  But in between I eat sensibly, and make sure I eat sensible portions, balanced with a good level of exercise.

The way I look at it is that if you choose a diet where you need to radically alter your eating habits from what you normally do, and from what humans have been doing for thousands of years, then it is unlikely to have much benefit, certainly over the long term. My litmus test is this : Could you live only on that diet for a year? If not, then you’re doing something wrong. A juice diet is going to consist of mainly fruit and veg, so would be lacking in protein and essential fats. We aren’t hummingbirds with a need for a high-carb low-protein diet, and I reckon if we were meant to eat everything in liquid form we would have evolved with a proboscis.

Enough scepticism. Are there benefits to a juice cleanse?

One common thread that seems to appear when reading about juice cleanses is weight loss, and sometimes lots of weight loss. I don’t doubt this would happen. Generally speaking a diet of juice is going to have a lower daily energy intake than one which includes grains or starchy foods, or junk food, and it would be virtually free from saturated fat. However, if you are running a daily calorie deficit through lower energy intake, then you are ‘fasting’, and the natural outcome will be to lose weight. This would be the same for any diet where daily calorie intake is lower than expenditure, although I concede that juicing will give you all your vitamins and minerals you need which many other ‘calorie deficit’ diets do not. For me, as someone who (luckily) doesn’t need to lose weight, this means I am already in carbohydrate-balance. Therefore, a juice cleanse/fast could leave me significantly under my required calorie intake, impacting on my ability to work and exercise as I like to.

People also talk of ‘detox’ a lot when talking about juice diets. I’m sure a juice diet would help cleanse you, and so long as you have a varied intake of different fruits and veg, most of your vitamin and fibre requirements would be met. However, my inner sceptic tells me that so would drinking enough water and not putting the toxins into your body in the first place. Everything in moderation, and all that…

So, I’m still a sceptic. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t work, it just means I don’t think it would work for me, or for most people. However, for the other side of the coin check out Neil’s post on the subject. Juicing changed his life and he continues to juice daily including regular juice fasts. It certainly works for him.

Would I try a juice cleanse? Not for me, thanks. I’ll stick to a balanced diet with more good stuff than bad, all balanced to my level of exercise.

Are any of you ‘juicers’? Who has tried a juice cleanse and what did you think of it? How did it affect you?

Happy running everyone!

Bernie

Get Going, Get Running!

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Should you be running? A handy flowchart for runners

In case you weren’t sure if you should run today, I present for you a handy flowchart for runners:

get-running-flowchart

I largely jest with this image, but it does neatly some up the decision process of most of us runners…

Happy Tuesday running!

Bernie

Get Going, Get Running!

On Facebook? ‘Like’ my Facebook page and keep up with my day-to-day happenings, hints, tips and shares
Want to see what/where/how I’m training? View or ‘connect’ with me on my Garmin profile to see what’s been going on

Marathon training wk 5 : not much running…

It’s not been a good 2 weeks for my running. Following the British 10k London Run I’ve been simply unable to keep up the training.

training-calendar-july '13

I’ve been suffering from a bruised shin, which I picked up in an Aussie Rules game the week before the British 10k London run. I still ran the B10kLR, and managed a good time, but the following day my shin was sore again. Riding the bike was fine, and I managed football training without issue, but when I tried to run a normal 5 mile run after work and had to abandon my run after 3.5 miles I knew I was in trouble. I did the right thing and rested it, iced it, and kept stretching, and figured 3 days of rest and icing/stretching would ensure I was fine to play football.

Which it was until, of course, I managed to get another whack to the shin (in exactly the same place) with more inflammation and more bruising. Cue week two of virtually no running.

And because bad luck/stupidity comes in threes I played football last Saturday (last game of the season) and, you guessed it, another whack, this time with studs, another chunk out of my shin, more inflammation and more bruising.

I iced it straight away after the game, which helped a lot with the inflammation, but the bruising stayed, which started to get me worried. Plus, my calf muscles which had been getting progressively tighter had turned into immobile lumps.

Off to the physio on Thursday and lets just say it wasn’t all good news…

The problem seems to stem from my tight calves (the cause of my plantar fasciitis and conversely the starting point for this blog). Particularly the soleus. My physio really got stuck into my calves (some times I think maybe Victoria just doesn’t like me…), and still couldn’t get the knot out of my soleus. If it doesn’t settle down in the next few days it will be on to dry needling treatment.

My physio explained there are a few factors which are adding up to make this problem. Apparently, with the shin impact I would most likely have been fine. With my calf muscles like rocks I would most likely have been fine.  But with both together they are causing havoc. The issue is that the soleus is pulling on the bone in my shin, but not really enough to cause a major issue. However, with the shin bruised, and the constant tension from the calf muslces, it’s developing a bony stress response. The calf tension won’t let the bone rest, the football with all the fast sprinting won’t let the calf rest, and the extra impacts have exacerbated the situation. On top of this, it seems that due to my hamstring injury (or perhaps the cause of it…), I’m being lazy with my glutes and hamstrings and therefore trying to get too much of my propulsion from my calves. Which in turn strains them and makes them tighter. It’s a vicious circle!

I’ve dropped at least one run a week for the last 3 weeks, and had to run my long run today at a very slow pace – although I was able to cover the distance. I also made sure to focus on getting a better knee lift and hamstring/glute extension so I wasn’t overloading my calf muscles. However, I noticed that my legs fatigued pretty quickly – signs that I have been letting my form slide. So, it’s time to start paying attention to my gait and make sure I’m not being lazy. While ‘cheating’ and using your calf muscles for propulsion is fine for 10km, maybe up to half marathon, try it over marathon distance and see what walking feels like the day after!

As well as having to re-assess my gait, I am going to have to make sure that I focus on hamstring and glutes during my strength and stability training. And calf stretching. Loads of calf stretching, rolling, massaging and icing. And more calf stretching.

On a more positive, and quite geeky note – I’ve found out that some tube stations in London are deep enough underground to need escalators so long as to allow a 30 second calf drop stretch while riding the escalator to the surface.

Angel station has the third-longest escalator in Europe at 67 m (220 ft)

Angel station has the third-longest escalator in Europe at 67 m (220 ft)

Image credit

Angel tube is deep enough that it’s massive escalator is long enough to do calves!

Happy running everyone!

Bernie

Get Going, Get Running!

p.s. I’ve started a facebook page to complement my blog. You can check it out at https://www.facebook.com/getgoing.getrunning, and hopefully you will ‘like’ my page!