Sunday, May 13, 2012

We love you Moms

I've talked about my mom in previous posts and about how she told me running was like flying to her. She used to go out into our ghetto Chicago neighborhood and run all winter long while Chicanos hollered at her out of their hooptie windows. The only women on the street at 5am were selling something or other, and it made her jogs a bit of a toll to be grouped in with them. Despite this she always came home talking about flying. She always got back from those outings better off than when she left. One of the last things I said to her before she died was that when I came back from working out or running, the smell on me reminded me of those days.

Today when I went out to barefoot it, the first thought I had was that I was out to fly with the memory of mom, to do a little service to the memory of a person who spent much of her life fighting for rare moments of relief which should have been moments of pleasure. She was a tough broad my mom. She was sick most of my life but in the words of one of her friends: "She always had time to make others feel like they were the most important part of her day". Everyone felt like the most important part of her day.

While I was out running with another barefooter today (thanks for being out there Tom), we were witness to a pretty bad bike accident. A 12 or 13 year old kid went over the handle bars and got a face full of chip and seal, broke a wrist, went into shock and got carted off to the hospital after 20min of us sitting and talking him and his family through it while he screamed and bled. I've seen my fare share of such accidents but today it really made me feel grateful for my time with my family, my friends, and the soundness of my body and mind.

As we end this Mother's Day 2012, let's not forget that the flowers you're supposed to buy and the dinners you think you should cook are not the point. Mothers, you are the water and the soil on which we all grow and thrive. Thank you for your love, your patience, your inspiration, and your mighty examples.

Love you Moms!
Thank you for everything.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Right where I left off, or not

I jacked up my back in March. I bought a new handy kettle bell and started swinging it around like a 34yr old, instead of the ancient 35yr old that I am. You know a year ago the work out I did would have been a breeze...back when I was working out regularly with a kettle bell and doing Crossfit workouts routinely. To take it further back, when I was 25 I could have picked that thing up on a nasty hangover after 2yrs of not working out and been fine.

Instead I threw my back out, my workouts off, and my running schedule in the rubble heap for the week, with just a 15min workout. The best part was not knowing I had hurt my back until I picked up the 2lb box and felt the twinge.

What I want to note about that is not that I am an expert whiner, but that I took it for granted that I could just pick the thing up and start right where I left off...a year ago. That just doesn't work. Even the seasoned runner who takes a couple of months off has to start, not at the 35 mile run, but at the 10-12. Bodies adapt very quickly to stress from exercise, they build muscle and bone density, they infiltrate muscle fibers with networks of nutrient carrying capillaries, muscles either grow for picking up heavy things or shrink to maximize weight/efficiency for long slow work, heart muscles deliver larger volumes of blood per pump so they don't have to pump so many times, and other great adaptations. They do the same when you sit on your butt for 3 months. They reduce all of the above and conserve energy like they're supposed to, and they do it fast. Did you know that when you start working out the most important changes in the first 6 weeks are all neurological, not physical? Cool!

The more often you cycle through fit to lazy (i.e. yearly seasonal training cycle rather than 2 years off), the faster your body will up-manage your return transition from laziness recovery period, but you have to manage it or you end up in bed writing about what an ass you are for forgetting that. The transition into training is not so different for the yearly training folk as it is for the two to three years off at a time folks. It's always a little harder than you remembered, a little more difficult to get yourself going than you thought it would be, and much easier to make excuses than you thought it would be when you decided to start up again.

So here's to the beginning of the season, the first time you notice that it's light on your way home from work, and the first spring-like days that get you jazzed to be outside again after grumbling about all the cloudy days in February. Here's to fast recovery so you can try that again with a measured unstupid aproach.


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Runner in a 19th century factory

I've been thinking a lot about the training season, injuries and the conversations I have with my running buddies about training. My thoughts on the subject are as follows and this is essentially the lecture I would give my clients when I was a personal trainer. 

Running is a repetitive motion. Think about your image of a 19th century factory, or a modern cell phone factory for that matter, lots of people doing the same thing over and over until they get over-use injuries, carpal tunnel, broken down joints, or just get injured because they become so robotized that they stop paying attention and forget not to put their hand in the steel press.

The idea behind cross-training in a running program is to add stress to the muscles, tendons, ligaments, skeletal system etc. that you aren’t getting by just running. Your body is amazingly efficient at streamlining activity, reducing the amount of energy expended to complete a repetitive motion and building infrastructure to support it that basically restricts any motions your aren’t using. That is to say, if all you do is run in a straight line your body will tighten up to support that and become brittle to any other movements. Like a factory worker, your body will become very prone to injury the second you move in an unexpected direction.

The solutions to this are simple: cross-train, trail run. Trail running is less repetitive because you have to adapt to an unstable environment. When I’ve been road running (meep meep) for a while and I get out on a trail, I get pops and cracks in my knees for a bit but I start to loosen up quickly. Step on a root and almost sprain your ankle once or twice and you’ll quickly develop laser focus. More than that the terrain builds supporting and core musculature because you have to be more nimble in an unpredictable environment, your tendons and ligaments have to be loose enough to keep strains from happening when they must unexpectedly stretch, but tight enough to prevent over extension injuries. All of this is really good news for you.

The example I like to give is this: professional/competitive road cyclists are well known for having very low bone density and high risk for osteoporosis. How can this be, they’re athletes? The answer is Wolffe’s Law. “Bonein a healthy person or animal will adapt to the loads it is placed under. If loading on a particular bone increases, the bone willremodel itself over time to become stronger to resist that sort of loading.” I add to this that the same is true of muscle, ligament and tendon (it’s why weight lifting makes muscles bigger). The same is true in reverse as your body will reduce infrastructure on any structure that isn’t under load. Cycling is a very low impact sport, unlike running where there is always impact with the ground. Their bodies demineralize bones just like astronauts'.

Workers at the Maker’s Mark distillery are required to switch jobs every 30min to keep them alert and injury free. If all you do is run in a straight line you’re setting yourself up for an overuse failure. Cross training adds additional stresses and helps your body stay supple and trail running does the same.

Meep meep!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

I’m like Scott Jurek only fat and lazy so maybe the opposite of Scott Jurek

I never run in December and January. This is only my second training season but I can say because I’ve been an exerciser for a long time that these two months are not the time for me to try and get myself moving. I write them off and get back to it some time in February or March. 

Scott Jurek is an amazing athlete who does ultras and all sorts of long distance endurance running adventures, and he always takes a couple of months off in winter. He says it’s a good time to put on some fat, recover from the training season and to reflect on why you train in the first place. The reason I say I might be his opposite is that I always imagine athletes like him leaping out of their beds in the morning with their astounding discipline and getting to work, unlike myself...
The thing that usually gets me exercising again is the point where I start to experience the negative effects of not exercising. I start to feel mentally and physically sluggish, my motivation level goes down, I get less creative and I start needing more sleep than normal. These things eventually build together and crescendo at a cathartic moment where I realize I need to change something and get my stuff together. 

It’s at that point that I usually bang my hand on my forehead and recognize that I do the same thing every year and that I need some exercise. It’s time to get moving. It’s time to pick some goals and make a commitment. I’m there right now. My little brother is about to buy season tickets to the Tough Mudder series. I love those races but will probably just pick one or two as I won’t have time for more than that. I’m shooting for a 30+ mile ultra by mid-summer and maybe longer after that, I haven’t decided yet. I’m about to choose and start putting my training program together. 
Jump into the comment section below or email JDistiller(at)gmail(dot) com, if you’re thinking about starting training but aren’t sure what to do, how long a race to sign up for, if you’re capable, how to train, how any of this works or whatever, I want to help. 

It took me a long time to figure out how to love running and that it was possible to love it, but having done so it has really made some great differences in my life. Most people who hate it are making some very simple mistakes that are easily fixed. Let's get them fixed!

Rarr, time to get fierce!