Apr 2, 2014

Running Injuries: Shin Splints

When you’re on a role hitting the running goals hard it feels like nothing can stand in your way. I was into my third week of half marathon training and I felt fantastic; I wasn’t going to let anything slow me down - until something did.

Shin splints are common injuries for runners who have increased their mileage relatively fast or for those who run on uneven, sloping or hard surfaces. Unlike some other running injuries, shin splints can’t be pushed through. You need to allow yourself the time to properly recover before starting up again.
Enter my two-week running vacation.

What are Shin Splints?

A shin splint is a pain along the inner part of the lower leg. It can have varying levels of intensity and can be noticed all the time, only during activity or after using the muscles. Some runners note numbness in their lower leg or some swelling. Tenderness or soreness along the inner part of the shin is often experienced. They can also be caused by runners who have feet that over pronate, or flat feet. That and running shoes with too many miles in them are likely what caused my injury.

In my case it was all just very painful. It hurt to use my leg even a little bit. Any stress I put on my leg sent a searing pain through my shin. Before I properly researched what was causing the discomfort I tried to push through it. I’m fairly certain that’s why it has taken me so long to heal; I definitely made it worse.

How to Treat Shin Splints

The best treatment option to cure a shin splint is rest. That means boycotting any running activities for about two weeks. It can feel like a lifetime when you’re in the middle of a heavy training schedule, trust me, but it’s necessary for proper healing. Like I said, pushing through a shin splint isn’t an option.

Icing the shin and keeping it elevated are helpful as well. Since I’ve started my training again I have been putting a damp cloth in the freezer when I head out and wrapping my shin when I come back. It definitely alleviates any lingering pain.

Avoiding Future Injuries

Chances are if you have suffered from shin splints you’re going to do whatever it takes to avoid having them bench you again. When you start back into the activity that injured you in the first place, in my instance long-distance running, you’ll need to gradually build up your stamina. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you can start out at the same distance or pace as before the injury.

Be sure you have running shoes in good condition. I hadn’t realized how important that fact was. You’ll likely need to replace your shoes a lot sooner than you may have thought. Make sure to get properly fitted for a running shoe as well. I went to a local Running Room store and they had me run around the store and analyzed my feet to find an appropriate shoe for my over-pronation issue. I can honestly say my feet have never felt so good in a pair of running shoes. 

It feels like a total pain but it’s very important to take care of yourself to continue meeting those running goals. I wish I hadn’t been in denial about the seriousness of shin splints from the first signs.

Rookie mistake.

Mar 31, 2014

C25k - An App to Get You Started

Most of us want to be active. We make our resolutions, sign up for gym memberships and hit the workout goals hard. I’ve done it several times over. Sooner or later the overwhelming drive to not go takes over. It doesn’t for everyone. There’s an entire group of people who love going to the gym and that love keeps them motivated. The rest of us need to find something we actually enjoy, motivation can only be forced for so long. For me it was running; for the man, mountain biking. There’s Zumba or hiking, playing soccer or other sports. Find something fun that drives you to keep at it.

I’ve always had an interest in running. It was the difficulty getting started that held me back. The c25K app by Zen Labs was my saving grace. This app eases you into running 5km over 8 weeks. I can honestly enthusiastically recommend this program to anyone trying to break into running.

The program starts couch potatoes off easy by alternating 60 seconds of running with 90 seconds of walking over a 20 minute period. Requiring just 3 days a week, it gradually builds endurance and stamina. By the eighth week users are running 5km continuously. I love the voice-over reminder telling you when to run, when to walk and when you’re halfway there. It lowers your music so you don’t miss those reminders. And believe me, when you’re first starting out, running for even a few seconds more can kill you.

Once you reach the 5km mark, you might want to push yourself farther. Zen Labs has more apps to help you continue your road to fitness. There are 10km, 13.1 and 26.2 versions available, along with numerous other exercise programs. The best part is their connection to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Five per cent of all purchases are donated directly to the cause.
I’m not going to lie and say it’s easy. The first couple weeks were harder than I anticipated. I actually repeated the first week because I wasn’t sure I was ready to move on. At some point you have to break out of your comfort zone to accomplish the real goals. It was worth it. I’ve since run two 5km races and couldn’t be prouder of myself. There’s something about the feeling you get pushing past your own perceived limits; no one can touch that.

Disclaimer- The views expressed about Zen Labs and the C25k app are solely my own. I have not been endorsed or sponsored for writing this post. 

Mar 26, 2014

Runner Nutrition - Best Quick Snacks for Runners

To date, my biggest issue on this road to fitness has been nutrition.
Photo By Frank Febbraro

I’ve been keeping up with the motivation and finding my drive to get out there and hit the snow-covered pavement every day. Eating enough calories has been the tough part. It’s not even eating enough that’s the problem; it’s eating the right calories I’m struggling with.

Anyone who knows me well knows I can’t pass up a good meal. Eating is one of the many joys of my life – I’ve always been a fat kid at heart. So dieting is something I’ve never been comfortable with. Since starting this new fitness thing, I’ve discovered you need to learn as you go. While my first week of half-marathon training was amazing I can honestly say, aside from the whole pregnancy thing, I have never been so tired in my entire life. It was a physically exhausted, super drained kind of tired. I think the mental drive was the only thing pushing me along. Clearly something in my diet needed adjustment. Eating less calories than you require may be the fastest way to lose weight but it certainly wouldn’t be the smartest way to tone up and remain healthy.

In my search for better meal choices these are some of my favourite healthy quick-fix snack options:

Ancient Grains Toast with Peanut Butter. Bread made from ancient grains, such as quinoa, flax and millet, pack a little extra punch for a healthier alternative to a bagel or basic wheat toast. They are loaded with protein, carbohydrates, fiber and amino-acids – giving runners the fuel needed to take on that morning run. Peanut butter is loaded with protein and fiber and helps you remain full longer, making it an ideal spread for your super nutritious ancient grain toast.

Bananas I’ve often heard about the benefits of grabbing something easy like a banana as a pre-workout snack, but I’ve never been that into bananas to give them the shot they deserved. Out of necessity, I started eating them as a pre-run snack. By the time I’d get the chance to head out I’d be bordering on starving again and somehow a heavy meal like bacon and eggs didn’t jive with the thought of running. The potassium alone makes bananas an ideal snack for athletes. Combine that with vitamin b-6, which improves metabolism and strengthens immune systems, and magnesium which helps maintain healthy bones; bananas are a super food for runners.

Granola Cereal with Berries and Yogurt This is probably my favourite healthy snack. I buy the Blue Menu Granola Boost. Any mix of protein, fiber or Omega-3 infused is good, but I opt for protein the most. It seems to be one of the things I’m missing most in my diet. I mix it with any variety of the berries I have on hand and some yogurt. Berries are excellent for runners because of the potassium and vitamin C, making them ideal for repairing muscles runners use often.

While I haven’t yet altered my entire diet to coincide with my new active lifestyle I have definitely taken strides in preparing quick, easy and healthy options so I won’t reach that level of exhaustion again. Keeping motivation up for ½ marathon training is hard enough without the extra burden of falling asleep before you hit the pavement.

Mar 24, 2014

Running Toward a Healthy Lifestyle

I created a bucket list for myself. That list of 30 things I want to accomplish before I hit 30 catapulted me on the road to fitness. Healthy living and an active lifestyle were always things I wanted; I just wasn’t willing to get off the couch to get started.

The pregnancies obviously took a toll on my body. I’ve been lucky to never have seriously struggled with weight, but I was not happy with the way my clothes fit. I was definitely unhappy with the effect it had on my self-esteem. More than the size, I was angry at myself for my lack of ambition.
When walking up the stairs is exhausting, and you’re not even a smoker, then something needs to change. As I’m nearing the 30 mark I’m making those changes. Thankfully, the man is right on the same track. We’ll be dragging the kids along for the ride.

He got me into mountain biking. A couple months ago his childhood love for flatland riding was reborn in the form of mountain biking. And since then he’s fostered a new obsession.
His passion was so contagious that the next thing I knew, I was buying a bike. Now it’s something we can do together, and hopefully as the girls get older, as a family.

Hand in hand with being active is eating healthy. Wherever my drive to be active went, my ambition to cook and eat proper, healthy meals went along with it. That also needed to change.
I’ve stumbled across the 100 Days of Real Food blog and was instantly inspired. Though I’m not sure if I’m going to follow it 100 per cent, I am going to take the basic ideas (and meal plans) and fine tune them to our family.

While those are all things I’m doing for me and my family, running is just for me. Pushing and competing against myself keeps me going. It’s my time. With a house full of kids and chores and responsibility, running gives me time to lose myself in something that has nothing to do with any of that. It’s therapeutic.

So I'm running toward my health and fitness goals in an effort to make life a little better for me and my family.