Monday, February 6, 2012

Aw Snap (VO2Max News)

"Whoa snap yo." That's what my friend Stephen said when I showed him this piece about a new-fangled way of measuring VO2Max that is making some scientists scratch their heads. Thank you to Sweat Science for leading me to this article. Very interesting stuff.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

IT Band-ter

Sorry for the title - I'm trying too hard to be clever. This post is about the IT Band and, more to the point, IT Band Syndrome which is my latest injury. My training for the New York Half Marathon had been going great up until last Tuesday when I started to notice some very slight pain on the outside of my left knee. I didn't think much of it -- I'm pretty clumsy sometimes and end up hitting my knee on things like the living room table, so I figured it might just be a bruise from such an incident. On Wednesday the pain got worse, but it still didn't rise to a level where I was all that concerned about it. On Thursday I had a speed workout planned and the farther I ran, the more it hurt...but then at a certain point the pain disappeared and I thought, "hey, maybe it's gone." Then I got off the treadmill...and I could barely walk - it was a very sharp pain that hurt even when I was gingerly walking along. It killed to walk down steps, it killed whenever I would get up out of a chair, it was tender to the touch. It was then that I thought I should probably do some investigation so I went to the trusty interwebs and learned more than I cared to know about IT Band Syndrome.

If you've been a runner for any longer period of time, IT Band Syndrome is not a new term in your vocabulary. It is one of the most common running injuries and is caused by a wide variety of factors. The IT Band (iliotibial band) is actually a very long tendon that runs from your hip to your knee and IT Band Syndrome is essentially a "tendonitis" of sorts -- an inflammation of that tendon. It can be caused by an IT Band that is too wide or too narrow (genetic), it can be caused by overuse (most common) and it can be caused by faulty running mechanics (excessive over-pronation, etc). The most common cause, as I said, is overuse and by that I mean an increase in miles or intensity of training that is done too quickly. In my case I thought I was being somewhat conservative in my training, but as I look back at it - along with a marked increase in miles was an ambitious increase in intensity which I think it what did me in.

The number one treatment for IT Band Syndrome is a runner's least favorite word -- and that's rest. I hate that word. Rest is a euphemism for "don't run" and I feel like with every passing day that I don't run, I'm losing valuable training time. I have just over 6 weeks until the New York Half and I really want to be in tip-top shape. That being said, it is nearly impossible to run with this pain and I would really like to be rid of it before I continue with my training schedule. Fortunately for me, there are a number of things I can do to help speed my recovery.

#1) Ice. A runner's best friend. Almost every article I've read on IT Band issues suggests making icing a priority. 15-20 minutes, 3 times a day (at least).

#2) Use a foam-roller. I didn't have one prior to Friday, but my wife and I bought one and I've been using it ever since. There's a good video on how to use it specifically for the IT Band here on YouTube.

#3) Stretch it out. There are a couple of good stretches in that video as well, but if you do a quick Google search on IT Band stretches, there are many and stretching is key to loosening up your IT Band. IT Band Syndrome is a result of that Band being extremely tight.

#4) Strength Training. As I've read, it's probably not a good idea to start strength training if you're still having pain - but once the pain goes away, the key to preventing future IT Band issues is to strengthen a few key muscle groups. Many of us runners, myself included, can be tempted to completely neglect strength training. This can lead to a whole host of issues and one of them is IT Band Syndrome. Runners tend to be weak in predictable areas and one of those areas is the hips. For more information on specific strength training that can be done to prevent IT Band issues, read this article.

My pain has slowly decreased over the past few days to the point where I may try a get short run tomorrow. I've been icing when I can, foam-rolling a few times a day and stretching. I also was looking around online and found this handy little tool, called the Patt Strap, that I'm hoping will also help. I just bought it today so I'll let you know if it works (or even helps). I'm hopeful that this injury won't sideline me for long, though I am prepared to take the necessary time off in the event that the self-therapy I've been using proves ineffective. I know that this is the type of injury that can linger for a long time if not addressed and in my mind, that would be the worst-case scenario. I would love to hear from any of you out there who've also had experience with this injury to know what helped (or didn't help) you overcome it. Cheers.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Quiz -- Yay.

I have to credit my wife for finding quiz - and for finding the Run GingerFoxxx, Run blog and the super-cool Chicago Running Blogs page. Anyway - I have a post coming about IT Band Syndrome (damn running injuries), but for now:

1.      Why do you run?
The first thing that popped into my mind was, "because I'm good at it". I guess if I wasn't good at running, I probably wouldn't have stuck with it...that's become a secondary reason though. I would say that now I run because a) it helps me relieve stress, b) it helps me focus my energy and c) I love racing.

2.      What other athletic things do you enjoy?
I enjoy watching almost all sports (except NBA basketball). I love to play golf and I love to be outside in general (hiking, camping).

3.      Where did you grow up?
Brooklyn Park, MN - northwest suburb of Minneapolis, MN 

4.      Why do you currently live where you do?
Interesting question - I met my wife Leslie when we were in college and she was a couple of years behind me in school. I knew when I graduated that I wanted to marry her so I stuck around, got a job here and have been here ever since. We bought our first house last April so now we're stuck here in a way.

5.      Where is your favorite place in the world?
I love being wherever the people I love in this world are. I love being at home with my wife, I love spending time with her and my families and I love spending time with our friends.

6.      Do you know how to do something that not everyone can do?
I can play the cello? Does that count?

7.      What foods do you hate?
Papayas, they taste like garbage.

8.      What kind of car do you drive, and why did you buy it?
I drive a black 2009 Kia Optima. I bought it because it got good gas mileage, it looks decent and it was in our price range.

9.      Have you ever quit anything? Why?
I've quit things yes - the reason was that I wanted to make myself a better, more productive person.

10.  What was your major? If you could go back in time, would you pick something else? (If you didn't go to college, what would you major in if you did?)
My major was Psychology - I started out as a Cello Performance major but switched. If I could go back, I would go for Business, Finance or some other pursuit where your degree can actually be used for something. I loved studying psychology - but my degree is pretty worthless otherwise.

11.  Where did you go to college? Why? (And if you didn't go, why?)
Went to Wheaton College. At the time I was applying I thought I wanted to get into Music, and I liked the cello professor at Wheaton the best, he ended up leaving after my freshman year and I ended up leaving the Conservatory.