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Archive for the ‘running’ Category

It has been well documented on this blog that I have a bit of an addiction to Running. See Here & Here. I am ultimately searching for the right way to do it so I can do it forever. My wife thinks I am crazy and I all I can say is “At least it isn’t Meth.” Well that addiction has begun to effect me when I am not mobile. I recently finished one of the most read running books of all-time and possibly the catalyst for the Barefoot/Minimalist running push that is occurring these days. The book: Born To Run by Chris McDougall.

Pretty isn't it?

Here’s a brief synopsis. It starts out with the Author asking the simple question of “Why do I keep getting injured?” That question turns into an epic adventure in unincorporated Mexico where they dodge drug dealers and injury to find a segregated tribe deep in the Copper Canyon. This tribe is said to have the secret to running and none of them wear shoes. Just some leather sandals. The story goes on from there to an epic race between the members of the Mexican Tribe and some of the greatest runners in the United States. In the 300 or so pages in between that, there are anecdotal stories of various Ultra Marathon races in the US, but perhaps more importantly is the scientific backing for the barefoot/minimal running that has gained so much popularity. That is it in a nutshell. I may not have done the book much justice (mostly because I am writing this at 11pm on a school night) and may not have persuaded you to read it, but trust me it really is a great book that will make you think.

This book has really made me re-consider my opinion on running and start to change my approach. Had the author been a skinny dude that had run all his life I probably would have just passed it off as just a book written by someone who has never dealt with weight loss issues, but Chris McDougall is/was a normal guy like me. Over 6 foot and over 200 lbs.  Just 6 months ago, you couldn’t have pried my shoes off of me, but now I am slowing taking them away by reducing the amount of drop in them (height from the back to the front). Lets face it I’m not going to go run barefoot any time soon, but the theory is definitely worth experimenting with.

So go read this book and maybe it will inspire you to rethink your running or motivate you to start.

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A while back I wrote a somewhat controversial post regarding my thought to the whole minimalist/barefoot phenomenon that was occurring in the world of running these days.  I didn’t do any research on the subject to keep my opinions my own and as outspoken as possible. To save you some time (and since my job blocks wordpress I can’t do much editing & adding a pingback), my summary went like this: Barefoot running doesn’t make sense to me and that regardless of foot strike you are placing the same amount of stress on your body just in a different place. To further the point I also commented that shoes are awesome and they help considerably. It is similar to my wife’s thought on epidurals “If the technology is there, use it.”

My opinion on this matter started when I first got into running. It was in 2006 I weighed 272 lbs. I wanted to do this running thing the right way so I got fitted for shoes at a specialty running store which will remain nameless but I won’t go back there. Also, I’ve learned the art of internet scouring to find the the best deal. They did the whole gait analysis and charged me $130 for a pair of Brooks Beasts since I was a fat over-pronator. The shoes were a step up from what I was wearing and I liked them at first. I did notice that whenever I would up the miles (at this time anything over 4 miles was a long run) the medial (inside) part of my knees would hurt. I figured this was normal since the shoes were now providing support where I didn’t have it before. After running with those shoes for a year the pain didn’t go away, but it didn’t get worse either. I went out on a limb and for my next pair bought some New Balance 991’s which were a bit more neutral. There was no knee pain with these shoes. Hmmm.

​Fast forward to 2010 & 2011 and I am running in Brooks Adrenaline GTS 9’s which are a shoe that provide moderate support for over-pronators. I really like these shoes. I’ve had no real issues with them and as my experience with the other pair of Brooks, they hold up very well.

Well, when I wrote that previous article I promised that I would keep an open mind about the minimal thing since there was so much feedback telling me I was wrong. I kept my promise. By a stroke of luck and a need from some trail shoes, I found a pair of New Balance 101’s on sale to get into this minimal thing. I don’t think that there are any arguments that the NB101s are pretty minimal especially when compared to my previous shoes. I’ve started out slow with them and have noticed that my calves are getting a better workout when running and there is a “difference” in the way my knees feel. It’s a good difference. They feel a bit looser after I run with the NB101s. I’ve also taken the NB101s out to the track and did some speed work with them, they were awesome for that environment too.

Finally, I have purchased “Born to Run” which I have been told is the greatest running book ever. I haven’t started on it yet because I am knee deep in the “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” series and I don’t want to break up those books. So, I have a feeling my research will be picking up once I crack that sucker open.

So, after a couple months I have gone from Minimal Skeptic to Casual Minimal Tester-Outer and I like this progression I am seeing. Its too early to say that I am hooked and that minimal running is the thing for me but my mind is a bit more open.

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When I was in high school, I was an avid soccer player. In this context, by “avid” I mean that I played a lot, not that I was good. I was blessed to go to a school small enough they couldn’t cut people, and by the time I was a senior I was a starter, a captain, and All-Ohio (Academic, anyway).

Anyway, since then, I’ve largely stopped running (and moving when possible) so I’m a little out of shape. About 2 years ago I answered an online ad for an indoor soccer team needing a goalie. I didn’t play goalie (or “keeper” as some “football” snobs call the position) for my high school team but had played a few games in the net for a club team I was on, so I thought it would be a great way to get back into it slowly (as goalies obviously move less than other players).

I bought some shinguards, some cleats, and some gloves, and played for about a year. My team was great, in all fairness, considering some of them were really, REALLY good at soccer. It would have been very easy to get frustrated with me (as I’m barely, BARELY adequate). I had a great time, but didn’t get into great shape. After about 6 months I told them to look for another goalie, as I just couldn’t commit to the hour every week (I am, after all, a bid-ness man first and foremost). Shortly thereafter they found one, and I enjoyed some much needed time off.

A few weeks ago the team reached back out to me. Apparently after I left they hopped up a division (not surprising since they had a real goalie) and then their new goalie got hurt so they dropped back down a division. As all of them are in average shape, they’re perfectly content running all over the field and NOT having people kick things at their heads as hard as possible. Suckers. Anyway, I missed the game (which is a huge contributor to success) so I jumped at the opportunity generated by the injury of my replacement.

Since coming back we’ve had three games, and we’ve won all three. It took me a little while to remember the rules, and to get my sea legs back, but this week I was pretty awesome for a thirty-something fat guy playing out of position with a bunch of youngsters who started out better than I am. So I’m having fun.

I’m also painfully, painfully sore. Both wrists are messed up and the first three steps after any period of sitting are sort of half-leaning forward. But I made some great saves, some great drop kicks, and nobody has cussed me out since I came back.

If this is what winning feels like, call me Charlie Sheen.

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The fact that I am writing about running again only confirms that I have something wrong in my head. My wife agrees.

We have all grown up wearing shoes. We wear them for everything. They help us look good, protect our feet, and make us comfortable. From the time we start walking we are introduced to shoes. We adapt accordingly throughout life to be one with our shoes. Shoes are more of an extension of our body than any other piece of clothing. So, why try to take away a part of your make up?

It’s no secret that there is a big “minimalist” running trend going on. In the races I’ve been a part of over the last 4 years I’d usually see some dude running barefoot and think to myself “How can that be good for you?” There was usually only 1 person doing it so I didn’t pay much attention. However, in the last year, this minimalist mentality has gained increased popularity thanks mostly to the folks at Vibram and their FiveFingers “shoes”. I am loosely categorizing them as shoes because they go on your feet, but to me they look more like Foot Work Gloves.

I fear these "shoes" would destroy me

Other manufacturers have gotten into the concept also. My two favorite brands New Balance and Brooks have their lines called the Minimus & Green Silence. These are your more traditional shoe-looking foot covers, but are supposed to promote a barefoot feel when running. I will say both these shoes actually look like they could be comfortable, but still not sure on the hype around this whole thing and that the shoes can live up to the daily demand you place on your running shoes.

I fear I would destroy this shoe.

I am biodegradable.

Here’s a little background info on the supposed benefits of Barefoot running. Also to qualify my perspective a bit I will say that I have a degree in Exercise Science and a minor in Biology. I’m not a doctor and I don’t work in a health related setting. I now work in IT and my only connection to health & fitness is that I run, workout, & read a lot. So take my opinion it for what its worth (which is nothing short of awesome).

  • Comfort & Efficiency – They are kind of one in the same with running. The theory with Barefoot running is that it will promote runners to run/land on the balls of their feet as opposed to leading with the heel and then rolling through the toes. Its believed that this is the more “natural” way of doing things and that landing on the mid & forefoot lessen the blow to the joints as opposed to landing on the heel. Got it?
  • Increased lower leg strength. Remember that Seinfeld episode with Jimmy? Well Jimmy uses special jumping shoes that help his vert. This is similar but instead of adding to the front of a shoe, you take away from the back and emphasize landing towards the front. This will cause the calves & other lower leg muscles to build up and promote more stability in your lower leg. Also, George likes his Kung Pao spicy.

Here’s why I think its goofy:

  • Over-compensating for a lack of shoe could promote just as many or more injuries than just running with shoes. We are familiar with shoes. Unless going barefoot to work becomes socially acceptable, only then will we all get natural or minimal.
  • As a larger person (200-ish lbs) are you to tell me that I would benefit from having less cushioning to absorb shock between the ground and my foot? It wouldn’t matter where I landed on my foot, I’d be applying more direct stress to my body for sure. Its simple math really.

If someone would like to prove me wrong on this, I am all for it. I will gladly take on a challenge to try it, I am a size 14 2E. However, know that my opinions and body type are stacked against liking this and ultimately succeeding at it.

Also, I know I use a lot of bullet formatting in my writing. I am not a poet & this is the way my brain processes info.

-S

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Nike and I are sort of in an unhealthy relationship right now. I keep buying their shoes. They keep disappointing me. I keep buying more of their shoes anyway.

I can’t totally blame Nike here. I’m clearly the codependent one since I’m responsible for 2 of the 3 steps in our vicious cycle, but I am still pretty unhappy about the whole bit.

My whole rant of the moment with them has to do with these shoes, the Nike Men’s Air Max Total 365.

These shoes are sold as a cross between soccer shoes and training shoes. So they’d be ideal for someone like me who likes to kick the ball around with the aspiring Pele’s in my house and then pretend like I’m going to go and run after that. Sounds like a great idea, combining the best parts of two types of shoes to build an uber-shoe that you would never have to change out, because it is perfect for EVERYTHING! Unfortunately, these shoes turned out more like when Daimler (a company renowned for quality craftsmanship with little innovation) bought Chrysler (a company who developed fantastic ideas and then built them poorly) and they started building boring cars crappily.

This shoe set out to do two things and failed miserably at both:

  • Soccer shoes – These shoes have an awful touch. They are all slick, so the ball slides off of them. They have a really pointy toe, and really tall soles so you can’t get off a clean kick. They are even rounded all the way around, which is sort of a no-no for soccer shoes.
  • Training shoes – These shoes are really, really uncomfortable. The air cushions are too stiff. The toebox would be too small for a four year old. They just aren’t comfortable.

This was actually the second pair of Nike soccer shoes I got. The first pair (Nike Air Tiempo IC’s)literally fell apart. When I sent them in to be looked at, because I had only worn them about 15 times and I didn’t think the sole should spontaneously fall off, I was told they were made too long ago and they couldn’t help me. When I wrote in to say that they really missed the mark on these soccer trainers, I was told I should have bought EITHER soccer shoes OR trainers. Grrrr.

In any event, these were obviously a bad buy on my part (fortunately, due to my charitable leanings I was able to find them a good home). Now what I need to do is find a comfortable pair of trainers that will give me a decent touch on the ball and isn’t really narrow. If anyone has any ideas, I’m all ears. In the meantime I need to give them puppies an MLT.

And I’d love to find them in a non-Nike pair if possible. It’s time to get out of this relationship. 

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I am going to continue the trend of reviewing health related products. Recently I officially claimed the self imposed title of “avid runner”. It has been about 4.5 years in the making but I have finally crossed over into almost cult-like behavior when it comes down to my running. Recently my normal runs have been lasting 4-5 miles and I am stretching my long runs out to 9 or more. I wasn’t always this into running, in fact not too long ago I despised it with every fiber of my overweight being. However I, much like Jamie, decided that being a fat dad was an overall bad thing. So about 5 years ago I took to running. I won’t bore you with my lifestyle change &  running history now, I will save that for a different post. However I want to make sure you know that I am into running more than a sane person should be.

So this Christmas, my wife bought me a new iPod Nano because up until very recently I needed music to run, and my old iPod Nano is a disaster. So after fooling around with the new Nano, I decided that I didn’t like it very much, my old iPod was still better, and I really don’t need music for running anymore. So with that realization I decided to purchase a Garmin Forerunner 305 with heart rate monitor. This was great for me since I was satisfying my inner techy-nerd and my clinical addiction to running at the same time. I now possessed the ability to track my runs, watch my heart rate, and look really cool all at the same time. I became a triple treat. Kind of like the end of the 7th Harry Potter book.

I also went with a Garmin because its Garmin Connect site syncs with a site I belong to called Earndit. Quickly, I will let you know that Earndit is a fantastic site and a great way to be rewarded for your hard work. While they are relatively new, and they are picking up reward sponsors quickly. So jump on the bandwagon. Oh its free to join also.

Unfortunately not every product can be perfect, except bacon. There are 3 issues I have identified with the Garmin Forerunner 305 that I think you should be aware of if you are considering purchasing one.

1) It takes forever to find & lock on to a damn satellite. I would say that on the average it takes 5 minutes to lock on. I find this to be a big problem especially in the cold because you have to wait and wait on the Satellites. I am pleading with you Garmin to release a firmware upgrade or something, so you can fix this. Brutal.

2) The buttons on the watch aren’t the easiest to use and it is very hard to tell if you have pushed one or not. I am glad I am not a biker because it would be dangerous to have to fiddle extra time with the watch while riding. Eyes on path.

3) The software that comes with the watch I believe was updated last in 2004. My 5 year old could produce better graphics and functionality with a marker and a blindfold. Again, Garmin please release some new software that doesn’t look so terrible.

These may seem very trite complaints because honestly I am wearing a GPS receiver on my wrist that can communicate with outer space. Its pretty incredible.

Now that that’s out of the way, I really do like this watch. I am racking up reward points like crazy, it has helped me run longer, and not be confined to any specific route that I had already mapped out. I am getting instant feedback on everything you can imagine, my pace, distance, heart rate, etc. I can actually race myself with the watch which is really cool if you are looking to set PRs without forking over serious scratch for organized races. I think overall this device has made me a better, happier, more attractive runner.

Here are some key Pros that I want to let you know about.

  1. Once a Satellite locks on, it stays on. I have not experienced any drops and that is with running through some thick woods. Also it is very accurate in terms of measuring distance.
  2. Garmin’s online workout tracking site is really good.
  3. Garmin syncs up with a lot of other sites. Earndit as mentioned above and RunKeeper are the two I use. You can also convert your run data and plot it on Google Maps.
  4. The heart monitor is awesome and you can also purchase a Foot Pod for indoor running & Pedal sensor for your bike.
  5. The Garmin support staff was extremely quick  and helpful when my watch wouldn’t power up. We solved the issue right over the phone at no cost.
  6. What else… Oh it cost less than that new iPod if you look online for it.

On our Sandwich Scale I would rate the Garmin Forerunner 305 a Muffaleta. Which if you look at their product lineup in this category is fairly accurate. And as any good review goes, if Garmin is willing to have me try out other devices or products I am more than happy to do this for them.

The iPod Nano however didn’t fair so well on the scale. I am giving it an MLT (Mutton Lettuce & Tomato). If I were to use this in a workout or running setting it would last no more than 6 months. There is no real way to protect it or sheath it from my over-active sweat glands. Also it would be nearly impossible to easily skip songs while working out. Smaller isn’t always better Apple.

-S

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