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!