Flexibility of a Brick

Over the past two years, I have had a never ending series of little injuries.

The injuries stated with a torn plantar fascia.  That was followed by a wicked bout of peroneal tendinitis.  Then the top of my foot started hurting.  Finally it was a sore hamstring & glute.

I was beginning to think that I couldn’t win for losing.  Seemingly, as soon as I started to recover from one injury, another would pop up.

I’ve been a pretty good patient.  Physical therapy, rolling, trigger point treatment, icing, reducing the length and effort associated with workouts.  You name it, and I’ve tried it.

While there may well be some other underlying issues around my running style and gait, shoe selection, weight (yes, that’s a biggie), and more, I’m becoming more and more convinced that the root cause of many of these injuries lies in the fact that my tendons and muscles basically have the flexibility of a piece of stone.

Some history:  I just turned 46, and have been running or cycling since I was 15.  I ran track and cross country in high school and picked up cycling in college.  In high school, we had a regimented stretching cadence that we followed both prior to and following every workout.  We’d do a warm up run, some core work, and then a bunch of basic (mostly) static stretches.  Fast forward a few years, and I essentially stopped stretching pre or post workout.  To make matters potentially worse, I sit all day long at a computer or conference room table.

Don’t get me wrong – I so some stretching, but whatever I do tends to be centralized on something that is nagging me at the moment.  For example, if my calves are sore, I’ll stretch them.  If my shoulders are sore during a swim, I’ll do some stretching.

Well, a couple of weeks ago, I was remembered a comment my teammate Ryan Heisler made earlier this year.  His statement was along the lines that everything is connected in your body, and that if you are having foot issues, the root issue may be someplace other than in your foot.

And if you think about it (and remember that Schoolhouse Rock video about the human body), it’s true.  The leg bone is connected to the hip bone, and so forth.  It only makes sense that foot pain could be the result of something jacked up in your hamstrings or hip flexors.

So, I decided to test this theory.  My going-in hypothesis was that I had at least a modicum of flexibility still.  I was going to test my flexibility through a few simple tests:  (1) crossed-foot toe touch (2) calf-stretch and (3) forward lunge.  The highly scientific benchmark was the range of motion that I remembered having back in my high school running days.  (Let’s just ignore the fact that ~30 years difference might have some impact on my level of flexibility for now).

I decided to do each of these stretches twice each leg, for :30 each leg.  The true test would be the amount of pain I had to endure and at what point I started to feel the “stretch”.

And as you might suspect, I failed miserably.  Essentially, I can’t touch my toes without feeling like my hamstrings are going to rip in half.  The forward lunge (apart from killing my quads) made my groin and hip flexors scream as if someone had forced me into a split.  I literally thought that some giant gorilla was shaking me around like an old Barbie doll or something.

So, how am I going to fix this?

For starters, I’m going to start stretching again.  I’ve read that the static stretching that is near and dear to me is no longer in vogue.  Dynamic stretching is the way to go.  And so, I”ll incorporate some of that into my routine.  I’ll stand more.  I’ll give yoga a try (begrudgingly).

I will become more flexible.

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Run! Run! Run!

This sticker has been a great description of the amount of run training I’ve been doing this year:

runsticker

I’ve had a fairly nasty bout of plantar fasciitis since January.  In fact, I not only had just inflammation and pain, I actually TORE the dang thing.  A while back I had a cortisone shot in my heel – which felt awesome, by the way – that seemed to help with some of the pain and discomfort.  The cortisone didn’t heal my foot, though, and so I’ve been dealing with ongoing pain, tightness, discomfort.  About six weeks ago, I got clearance from my podiatrist to start running very low mileage and at a very slow pace.

I’ve been a good patient.  I’ve run some – never more than a couple of miles, an never faster than about a ten-minute mile pace.  Low and slow…that’s been my motto.  I’ve also been super diligent about rolling and stretching.  I’ve iced.  I’ve used electrical stimulation (via my Compex unit….an amazing tool).  I’ve used my NormaTec boots hoping that they’d help flush out any residual swelling in my foot.  Slowly and surely, my foot has become less angry. 

But this improvement hasn’t come all that easy.  You see, there have been days where my foot really didn’t like me.  I’d go for a run, ice it down, etc…and still I’d be hobbled.  I would be in such pain that it’d be difficult to walk without a limp and I’d be popping Motrin like it was SweetTarts.  Other days, I’d have literally no pain at all in my foot.

This yucky cycle prompted me to tweet this comment:

tweet

Well, finally, I have what seems to be some good news to report.  I ran PAIN FREE last night!  It wasn’t a really long mile (just 2 miles) and it certainly wasn’t fast (9:38/mi pace)…but I had NO PAIN!

And to make things even better….

My foot isn’t hurting at all today!

Of course, all this makes me happy and optimistic that I’m close to getting over this crazy injury.  We shall see.

Have you ever had an injury that seemed to take forever to heal?  How did you deal with it?

A Shockingly Cool Experience!

One of the really cool benefits of being on Team Rev3 is that we get access to some very amazing products.  For example, we’re lucky enough to be able to use Normatek’s awesome MVP pneumatic compression system, we get superior products from Powerbar and SBR Sports (Tri-Slide, Foggle, and Tri-Swim products), and have other great sponsors.  We were really excited to add Biotta Naturals to our sponsor list this year (maker of great tasting and healthy juice products).

Well, this week the folks on the team and I are getting our hands on a new product – and I’ve got to tell you, it’s electrifying!

No really.  It’s shocking how cool this product is!  It will really amp you up!

OK….ok.  I’ll stop with the puns.

The newest tool in our triathlon stable is Compex’s Sport Elite Muscle Stimulator.

Compex

For those of you who may not know what a muscle stimulator is, basically this is an electrostimulation unit that has been widely used in the health care industry.  Compex is a tool to assist with building muscle size and strength, increasing power, active recovery and more.  Basically, electrical muscle stimulation mimics the way your body works to cause muscles to contract and fire.  For all intents and purposes, your muscles act as if you’re working out, lifting weights, or whatever – except that instead of voluntarily firing off (because you, say, lift something), the muscles fire when given a very particular electrical impulse.  There’s a whole ton of science behind the use of electrical muscle stimulation (I’ll get more into that in a future post).

I have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of this tool – and mine finally arrived earlier this week.  Having scoured the materials that came with the Sport Elite unit – as well as other information online – I was super excited to give this thing a try!

And so, last night I used my Compex for the first time.

And I think I really liked it!

I did a 30 minute trial run on my foot to see how this might help with my plantar fasciitis recovery.  I did a 30 minute “active recovery”.  This felt really cool.  I’d describe the sensation almost as tingling – sort of like your foot or leg feels when it falls asleep…but not painful.  It is odd, though, to watch the muscles in your foot move and jump without me trying to do anything.

You can literally use the Compex Sport Elite to help you strengthen any muscle group you’ve got.  Back?  Check.  Shoulder?  Check.  Gastroc?  Check.  Abs?  Check.  Wait…..ABS????  Seriously?

Absolutely! 

On the off-chance that this can help me build a six-pack of abs, I decided to (don’t judge me) try this on my abs!  I hooked the leads up to my lower abs (or as my wife calls it…my frontal muffin top) and turned this thing loose for an hour on “Endurance” setting.  I jacked the setting up as far as I could tolerate, and went to town while watching a couple of episodes of Duck Dynasty on the DVR.  Here’s where it got cool….it felt like I was doing a ton of crunches – but I wasn’t actually doing anything.  Muscle contraction.  Rest.  Muscle contraction.  Rest.  It was AWESOME!

Guess what?  Today I feel like I did about 1000 crunches.  My core is really tired feeling.  I feel like I had one hell of an ab workout yesterday.  How cool!

I’ll be experimenting with this on other muscle groups over the next few weeks, and will ultimately do a full-blown product review.  More to come!

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Don’t forget to enter the TriMadness March Madness contest and giveaway to win $200 worth of Powerbar and SBR Sports products!  Entry closes over the weekend – so get on in and enter today!  Click below to do so:

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One Mile At A Time

It’s been a tough year for me so far from a running perspective. 

I’ve literally only run three times all year due to a pretty nasty bout of plantar fasciitis.  About three weeks ago, I visited a local podiatrist for an evaluation, and was diagnosed with a partially torn plantar fascia.  He took x-rays, did an ultrasound of my heel, felt around (causing me a lot of pain) and then gave me a cortisone shot (causing me even more pain).  I was advised to be fairly aggressive with stretching, icing, and some exercises.  I’ve been a good patient, and followed this protocol almost perfectly (shocking, I know).

Yesterday, I went back to the podiatrist for a follow-up appointment and got some really good news.  I am able to start running again!

Of course, I can’t run far.  Or frequently.  But I can run!

“HE CAN RUN!  HE CAN RUN!  HE CAN RUN” (invoking a phrase from Disney’s Peter Pan…”He can fly! He can fly! He can fly!”)

And so, tonight, I’ll run.  One mile.  Slowly.  It’ll be a run, nevertheless.  Hopefully it won’t hurt too much – either during or after.  Frankly, I’m a little nervous about it.  I don’t want to make the injury worse – and I sure as heck don’t want to suffer the pain again.  I’m also really, really excited.  I’ve been WANTING to run.  That is the absolute worst thing – to really want to do something, but not be allowed to do it.

If you haven’t entered the TriMadness March Madness triathlon contest & giveaway yet – DO SO NOW!  The contest is open for a few more days, and you can rack up lots of entries for very little effort.  Click the logo below!

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Friday Fasties….

Here’s a quick, bulletized, update for the day!

  • TGIF!  I’m so glad today is Friday.  I’m off today, and getting ready to do some major “honey do” items.  Not to be mistaken with Honey Boo Boo.  Mulching, shrub trimming, cleaning the pool…ya know, stuff like that.
  • Spring break has started for my kids.  They are off today, all next week, and then Easter Monday – which is great for them, not great for me.  See, I’m not taking time off, so I’m a little jealous.  OK…more than a little jealous.
  • My plantar fasciitis and torn plantar fascia experience continues.  Still no running; I go back to the doctor next week.  Interestingly, the pain in my heel has really felt pretty good for a week or so – still a little tight, but not too bad.  Well, yesterday, all of a sudden, it started really hurting again.  I was hopeful that one cortisone shot would really help and I could start rehabbing (and running) again, but I’m a little pessimistic about that now. But, gosh – I REALLY want to run.  I honestly can’t believe I just wrote that.  Running hasn’t been my favorite part of tri in a long time….
  • March Madness got rolling yesterday, and there were some blowouts…and a few good games.  I’m excited to watch a little bball tonight.
  • If you haven’t voted in the first round of TriMadness’ March Madness tournament, go here and do so!  Your vote is important (and needed)
  • I’m doing something on Sunday that I haven’t done in years.  I’m going to Disney World.  My kids have pretty much aged out of the whole Disney experience, but my brother-in-law are down for their spring break…and he has two kids under 6 (prime-time Disney age).  So we’re going to hang with them.  Now, if I can just keep “It’s a Small World After All” from getting stuck in my head.  Dang it.  I think I just got it stuck!  Ughhh.
  • I spent some time yesterday calling athletes and talking about Rev3 Branson.  That was a really cool experience.  I talked to a couple of guys who were really excited about the race and were also pretty impressed that someone representing Rev3 called them.  One thing that totally blows me away about Rev3 is that the whole company – and all 53 of us on the age group team – really want Rev3 races to be something different than any other race.  It’s certainly about having compelling and fun races – but there’s so much more.  Family activities, great locations, and more.  It gets me totally fired up to share something I really love with others.  Hopefully some of these folks will end up racing in Branson!
  • Pool time tonight; doing a two-hour trainer session tomorrow (going to do two “Trainer Tuesday” workouts from Frayed Laces).

Hope you have a GREAT weekend!