Monday, January 18, 2016

Running Injury Prevention

About 2 years ago when I started seriously running and training for the Army Ten Miler, I was cautious about not doing too much too soon, exceeding my limits, injuring myself and subsequently derailing my training program.

Some browsing around the internet found TONS of articles on injury prevention.  Many of the articles provide very similar advice, and two short articles I will share with you below summarize the two key take-aways that have influenced my training routine:  dynamic stretching before the run and GSM (general strength and mobility) exercises after the run

This first article explains that static stretching (for example, standing still touching your toes for 30 seconds) does not help you, but dynamic stretching techniques such as the lunge matrix will help you.  I spend 5 minutes before each run doing the lunge matrix or some form of dynamic stretching.  There are videos in this article that show you how to do the lunge matrix.

This second article drives home that if you have an hour to exercise each day, you are better off doing 5 minutes dynamic stretching, 45 minutes running, and 15 minutes of general strength and mobility (GSM) exercises than you are to just do 60 minutes of running which is more likely to result in injury, after which you'll be spending 0 minutes per day running because of your injury.  If you click on the "GSM" link in the article, it will take you to Coach Jay Johnson's website where he has videos showing how to do an 8-week progression of GSM exercises after your run.

That routine carried me through many miles over many months, and I've added one more element to my routine since then.  The Pentagon Athletic Club gives out a t-shirt for those who log running 1,000 miles.  I began running 20-25 miles per week, and I set a goal of running 1,000 miles in 1 year.

Last March, I was just 11 miles from my goal when I went on a trip to San Diego, and I was so excited to complete my goal with a gorgeous run around Mission Bay.  After parking out on Crown Point, doing my warmup, getting my headphones in and my playlist started, I started off on my run.  About 30 seconds out, I suddenly had a sharp pain in my left knee and came to a screeching halt.  I hobbled along for a little bit trying to see if it would work itself out, but no such luck.  I limped back to the car in disappointment.

I happened to be at a conference with a bunch of Navy doctors and runners at the time and told them what happened.  When I described my symptoms, they told me about "runners knee" and about the IT band that attaches at your hip, goes down the outside of your thigh, and wraps around under your knee cap.  A personal trainer at the base gym taught me how to use a foam roller before my runs on the outside of my thighs to "roll out my IT bands," and she recommended getting one with a hard-plastic core or even just a piece of PVC pipe.

I bought the Foam Rollerpictured above for use at home, and it's been perfect.  When I started traveling for work, I noted that most hotel fitness centers don't have foam rollers, so I bought a compact foam rollerthat fit nicely in my carry-on bag to take with me on travel.

It took me a week or so of rest for the pain in my knee to subside and get back into my running routine, but I was able to complete my goal of 1,000 miles in 1 year toward the end of March.  I also completed my goal of running 1,000 miles in 2015 around the middle of December.

In summary, as it stands now my injury prevention routine consists of doing the dynamic stretching and rolling out my IT bands on the foam roller before going for my run, and doing some general strength and mobility exercises after my run.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Venting - Pentagon Pet Peeves

Two things for my readers at the Pentagon.

First, I don't understand the people who go into the restroom to rinse out their leftover lunch dishes and leave scraps of food in the sink.


None of the rest of us want to look at your scraps of food laying in the sink, or watch the water level rising in the sink because it can't drain with your pieces of peas and bacon and pasta clogging the drain.


Second, the turnstiles at the 2nd Corridor entrance and at the Pentagon Athletic Center (PAC) are designed for TWO-WAY FLOW of people into and out of the building.  You DON'T have to stop and wait for the people going the other direction to stop and let you through.  I have had many experiences where either (a) I had to wait for someone in front of me who was stopped because they thought they couldn't go out while someone was coming in, or (b) I get dirty looks from someone who was going to come in, but then stops to wait because I swipe my badge and start walking out.  They give me a look that calls me a cheater and line-cutter and asks why I didn't wait for my turn to go through the turnstile.

On each side of the turnstile, there is a badge-swiper and a light.  Pay attention to the light on YOUR side.  Swipe your badge, and if the light on YOUR side turns GREEN, WALK THROUGH THE TURNSTILE!  I see a lot of people who don't understand there are TWO signal lights - one for each direction.  Many people focus on the other light across the turnstile and think because it is green, they can go through, then the turnstile jams to a stop and that robotic voice says, "Unauthorized Entry, please exit the turnstile."  Focus on YOUR light on YOUR side.  If it's green, go.  If it's not, swipe your badge again!

Okay, I'm done ranting now.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Happy New Year, It Must Be Time to go to the Gym

Happy New Year everyone!

I'm going to try to write more this year.  I have a handful of topics on mind to write about as we kick off the new year.

First, what seems to be the common topic in a significant majority of my Facebook feed and a good portion of the news website these days are all devoted to fitness.

One of the reasons I haven't been writing as much is that I've spent a lot of my spare time over the past few years putting more time and effort into exercise.  For the first 19 1/2 years of my career in the Navy, I was in the same cycle of running and fitness.  I've never been a fast runner, and I've always had to work at it to get ready for the semiannual Physical Readiness Test (PRT) or Physical Fitness Assessment (PFA).  Some people are on the 3-miles-per-year running plan.  They show up for the fall PRT and run 1.5 miles, and they show up for the spring PRT and run 1.5 miles, and that's it for them.

I wish.

I've always had to work at it.

I got into this cycle of oh-crud-the-PRT-is-2-months-away run, run, run, run, run, run, PRT, whew!  I would always claim to have the intention of running year-round and breaking the cycle, but inevitably I would finish the PRT run, go get my celebratory carne asada burrito, and say to myself, "Self, you can take a break this week.  Start running again next week."  Four months later, I would come to the realization I was 2 months away from the PRT and start running again.

About two years ago now (wow, time flies!), I decided I needed a longer-term goal to shoot for in order to break the cycle, but I didn't think I could ever run anything like a marathon or even a half marathon.  In the fall of 2013 shortly after I returned to the Pentagon, I heard about and saw Facebook posts of people running the Army Ten Miler.  I thought, hey, 10 miles is farther than I've ever run (I once did a 10K), but that's an achievable goal to shoot for. 

So I decided to register for the 2014 Army Ten Miler.

I'm thankful for the inspiration and example my dad has provided me.  He had taken up running relatively recently and had been running insane numbers of miles and lost an incredible amount of weight.  Just before spring break in 2014, he challenged me to try running 5 miles per day.  I wasn't sure I could do it, but I figured I'd at least give it a try.  If he can do it at his age, why shouldn't I be able to do it at my age?  Much to my surprise, I WAS able to do it. 

Eventually, I settled into a weekly running routine.  When the spring PFA came around last April, it was a breeze.  I was actually a little annoyed that the PFA interrupted my regular running schedule getting ready for the Army Ten Miler.

In October 2014, my dad flew out from Oregon and we ran the Army Ten Miler together.  It gave me a great sense of accomplishment, and I was glad I got to do it with my dad and with four of my friends from church, too.

Since having a long-term goal like that worked out so well for me to keep me running through the year, I signed up for the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler in April 2015.  That was a BEAUTIFUL run in PERFECT weather.  It was just a little hazardous with all the runners stopping spontaneously along the course to take selfies with their cell phones with the cherry blossoms in the background.

Before I ran the Army Ten Miler, I would never have thought a half-marathon was achievable for me.  However, while training for the Army Ten Miler, one of my training runs ended up being 11.5 miles, and I said to myself, "Self, you could easily run another mile and a half and finish a half marathon."  So I signed up for the Marine Corps Historic Half down in Fredericksburg, Virginia in May 2015.

My dad and I continue to run a lot and encourage each other through the MapMyFitness website.  He said he wants to do some sort of major run together every year, so this year we ran the Navy Air Force Half Marathon together in September 2015.

After taking four members of my church with me on last year's Army Ten Miler run, interest grew and more people wanted to run it with us this year.  I was excited to organize two full teams - one men's team and one women's team for a total of 16 people running the Army Ten Miler.  It was a great time running it with so many friends.

As my team was preparing for the Army Ten Miler, I sent out regular emails with information and encouragement, and I think a few of those emails could easily have been blog posts.  This post is long enough as it is, so I'll save more to write later, but I plan to write some blog posts coming up about injury prevention, running fuel, gear, and my favorite running routes around DC.

In the meantime, I wish you all a Happy New Year!

Saturday, November 28, 2015


We're trailblazing into new territory here.

I've reached a stage in my career where I can just stay in one place and probably never have to move again (knock on wood).  There are many desk-jobs around the DC area for post-command guys, and not enough inventory of post-command guys to fill the jobs, so the detailer is happy to keep me in the DC area and just rotate me from one desk job to another for as long as I'm willing to stay in the Navy.  I'm thankful that we can let our boys finish middle school and high school in the same school district and not have to move again, and it's a good school district, too.

Staying here this long has resulted in some new experiences for us.

For one, we've finally lived in one place long enough that we ran out of a Costco-sized bottle of ketchup.  Seriously.  All our previous duty stations, we've had to PCS (move) before we finished off the Costco bottle of ketchup, so we end up throwing it away and buying a new bottle when we do our initial Costco food run at our new duty station.  We just thought that was so bizarre that we emptied a bottle and had to go buy another one.

It's also come to our attention that our previous PCS moves every couple of years have helped us to clean out our closets and take a truckload or two of stuff to Goodwill.

I've written a couple of times before about achieving "regular" status (part I and part II).  Usually about the time a barber or a waiter or a sales clerk begins to recognize us and remember us and our "usual" order, it's time for us to move again.  Well, we've now been here long enough to go one step beyond "regular" status at our local favorite businesses.  I'm now beginning to feel like more of a long-term member of our community.

This is our third time being stationed in the DC area and living out in Loudoun County.  We feel a sense of belonging and are well connected in our church and other extra-curricular activities.  When I go out running, there are several spots around my regular running routes that I think to myself, "Hey, that's the Smith's street," as we've come to know more and more families in our community - our sons' friends from school, friends from cub scouts, friends from church, Navy friends.  I see a couple of guys I know out mowing their lawn during my Saturday long runs.  When I started training for my first half-marathon, I liked that I was able to make an unannounced stop at a friend's house several miles out to refill my water bottles along the way. 

It gives me some comfort when a friend tells me, "Hey I saw [your son] out riding his bike on [street name] on Friday."  I like that we've been here long enough and we know enough people that chances are we're going to see someone we know, and they see and recognize our kids out and about, too.  I like when I run into families at the grocery store and remember their kids from cub scout camp or from being a chaperon for the school orchestra field trip.

Last week I was honored to be the guest speaker at a local high school National Honor Society induction ceremony.  As I was shaking the hands and congratulating each of the students walking across the stage, it surprised me that I knew multiple students.  At the reception in the cafeteria after the ceremony, I enjoyed talking with several parents that I knew and thinking about how at least one of the students I've known for 10 years.

It's nice to be a part of our community.  This is a new experience that I suspect is uncommon in most military families.

Friday, November 6, 2015

What happened to Dell?

We've owned a few Dell laptops over the years.  My first laptop was a Dell, and I've always held a high regard for Dell customer service from that first experience with them over a decade ago.

So what happened?

I suspect Dell just got too big and outsourced their customer service.

It was time for me to upgrade and get a new laptop, and I was pleased with the Consumer Reports ratings and with the specs and prices on the Dell website.  My wife placed an order for a new laptop for my birthday two weeks before my birthday.  It wasn't anything fancy or customized.  It was a standard configuration laptop listed for sale on the Dell website.  The delivery date was estimated to be September 25th. 

Two weeks later, we're a little surprised we haven't seen any email or notification from Dell.  No shipping notification.  No order status update. 

Late on the evening of September 25th, my wife called Dell and asked for a status update.  The representative on the phone was a little incredulous and said, "The estimated delivery date is September 25th, that's today."  Yes.  That's the point.  It's way past sunset and there aren't any delivery trucks on the street.  Did it even ship yet?  The customer service rep on the phone was totally useless.  She couldn't even tell us if the laptop had shipped or how soon it was estimated to ship.  She just kept insisting that the estimated delivery date was September 25th so we should just be patient and wait and see if it shows up.

Two WEEKS later, the Dell website STILL said the estimated delivery date was September 25th.  My wife called Dell customer service again, and my jaw hit the floor when the rep did the same as the previous rep and just read the status off the screen, "the estimated delivery date is September 25th."  NO SH&T SHERLOCK!  WE CAN READ THAT ON THE WEBSITE!  THAT WAS TWO WEEKS AGO! 

Am I being unreasonable to think that if the estimated delivery date has come and gone by more than a week that the company should update the orders status and revise the estimated delivery date???

ANOTHER TWO WEEKS go by.  On October 25th, the Dell website STILL said the estimated delivery date was September 25th.  My wife called Dell customer service again, and the rep proceeded to tell her that one of the components on the computer that I ordered (the Solid State drive) was backordered with no estimated delivery date, and she told us that Dell would have to cancel our order and order something different for us.  My wife handed the phone to me.  The rep tried to sell me on a couple of other laptop models that were not as capable as the one that I ordered.  So I just cancelled the order all together.

After consulting the Consumer Reports ratings again and looking at the customer reviews and prices on a few websites, I placed an order on the Best Buy website for a Toshiba laptop that was very similar to the laptop I had ordered from Dell.  It shipped the next day.  I had it 3 days later.  It works great.

Well done Best Buy.  Sadly, Dell has lost my business.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Overheard in the Shower

I've been going to the Pentagon Athletic Center (PAC) gym almost every weekday for the past year and a half.  It would be interesting if I had the data to plot a histogram of topics I've overheard in the men's locker room showers.  If I were playing Family Feud and had to guess what the top topics were, then my guesses would be:

1.  How far did you run today?
2.  Where did you run today?
3.  How hot or cold was it outside today?
4.  What muscle group did you work on today?
5.  Military career milestones - are you screened for command / when are you going to command?
6.  Orders - as in, when are you going to Permanent Change of Station (PCS)?  Where are you PCSing to?

I suspect that would cover about 80 to 90% of the conversations I hear in the gym and in the locker room.  Once in a while, you'll hear two friends talking about their kids or families. 

This week I heard an outlier for the histogram...

Two guys in the shower were talking about the musical Annie.

Then one of them spontaneously burst out singing one of the songs from Annie.

In the shower.

In the men's locker room.

In the Pentagon.

Surrounded by a bunch of other naked men.


Felt like I had stepped into another dimension.  Is the TARDIS around the corner?

What's the craziest thing you've overheard in the locker room?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Blog Celebrity and Defunct Blog Rolls

It doesn't happen often, but I am occasionally surprised to meet a stranger who says, "Hey, I read your blog!"  I recently had a fellow Navy officer come to my office for a meeting, and he recognized one of the framed pictures over my desk that was also posted on my blog.  He told me when he received orders to PCS to the Pentagon, one of the Navy officers in his new office sent him an email with a link to my "Pentagon Gouge."  Wow!  I'm honored to be included in the unofficial Pentagon welcome aboard packet, and glad to know some have found the information I've shared here to be useful. 

That gave me a nudge that I should get back in the habit of sharing things on my blog that may be of use to folks working in the Pentagon or the National Capital Region in general.

To that end, please tell me (comment or email), how do you keep up on your blog reading?  For me, I used to have a long list of blogs I read on Google Reader.  I was out at sea when Google Reader went away, and I just never recovered or reconstituted any means of keeping up to date on all the blogs I used to read.  How do you do it?  I know I keep up to date on a lot of things via Facebook.  Maybe I should change this into a Facebook page.  What do you think?