Foam Roller

When I say the words, “foam roller,” what comes to mind? QUICK! (please leave a comment! :))

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I have a prediction. If you are not a runner and/or you’ve had no experience with this tool before, you might think one of the following:

  • A pleasant massage
  • An expensive pool toy
  • Something soft and stretchy
  • Packing material

If you have had experience with this, you may think the following:

  • Useful for massaging the I.T. Band
  • Unpleasant/painful but helpful
  • Medieval torture device
  • Necessary evil

(yes, I used the word “evil” twice)

Last year, I had the pleasure of being introduced to the foam roller. My friend, M, was working on her pilates certification and I was one of her guinea pigs clients. She demanded suggested that I start every pilates session with a “warm up” on the foam roller (ideally, I’d start every day with it, but let’s not get too excited). The idea was to keep the I.T. band stretched out (though it works for other things too, including, but not limited to, spinal stimulation, shoulder massage, quad stretching, etc.).

The technique is pretty straight forward: you start by basically laying on your side, you place the roller at the top of your hip, and then you “roll” across it. M’s suggestion was always to keep your core zipped up, and use your arms to help move your leg across the roller. An advanced move is to extend both legs, but I usually only extend one (the other is just there on the floor for balance). The process is usually pretty painful, but in the end, it pays off (no pain, no gain, right?).

Yesterday, after my 3 mile run, I thought I was feeling the need for some foam roller action. It was a particularly hilly run, and I hadn’t really run hills in a couple of weeks. Unfortunately, I had also forgotten that, when I went climbing the previous night, I bruised a spot near my I.T. band. I accidentally foam-rolled a bruise! Sigh…sometimes the best efforts are just that.

Buns of Steel

*Powered by Pixton. Images copyright 2012 Pixton.

When I was in middle and early high school, I was obsessed with reducing the size of my posterior. Everything I did for exercise involved bun reduction. If it was a squat, a lunge or a leg lift, it was for the singular purpose: to reduce the size of my rear end. My main method for bun reduction? Fitness tapes.

I had an old “Buns of Steel” VHS tape that still exists somewhere deep in the recesses of my parents’ basement. On that tape, the women have donned hot pink leotards and turquoise tights. Their bangs are sprayed vertically. The teacher in the tape is the male instructor who giggles frequently and tells his students that, by doing 100 leg lifts, they will undergo a bun transformation. I remember feeling motivated by this. I too wanted a bun transformation.

Now that I’m older, I’ve moved on from this childish obsession. I have a pear shape. It’s ok. It’s not really going to change unless I undergo an extreme diet and 100 leg lifts a day, and that’s just not something I want or need to do to be happy. That said, I still do squats. I actually thought about fitting in leg lifts into my weekly routine. But now I have a higher purpose: to protect myself from injury and to run better. It’s actually a pretty powerful motivator. I do feel stronger. And that’s a pretty amazing feeling.

Easy Week

WEEK 14: 14 Mi

Tue Jun 26 Easy Run Dist: 4 Mi @14:12

Thu Jun 28 Easy Run Dist: 3 Mi @14:12

Fri Jun 29 Easy Run Dist: 3 Mi @14:12

Sun Jul 1 Easy Run Dist: 4 Mi @14:12

I’d hardly call several 3-4 mile runs “easy,” but today’s 4 miles was actually pretty easy (minus the heat, anyway–which is all relative, because “heat” for SF is 60 humidity-free degrees). I pretty much kept it at 13:15-13:55 ish mins per mile, too, which is something new for me. Surprisingly, I’m faster than I was when I started. And that is, I guess, why you follow a training plan.

I was running with my armband, so it was not as easy to pull out my phone to take photos, but I really wanted to! The thing about Crissy Field is that there’s not much more than people watching to keep you entertained. Here is what I would have taken a photo of, had my phone been more accessible:

  • Woman running with baby in stroller while throwing ball to her lab (impressive multitasking! I’d be not surprised, but even more impressed if she was holding a conference call)
  • An older couple staring at the birds with awe (I wondered–why don’t I ever stop to stare at the birds? Oh right…I’m trying to get in the mileage before work)
  • Two runners pondering how to use a fancy new adult jungle gym-like contraption near an old school adult jungle gym at Marina Blvd between Webster and Fillmore (it even advertises that you can listen to free music, somehow…). One of these days when I’m not running, I’m going to try this.

Harbor Drive

This morning, I set my alarm for 5am and hit the road, determined to fit in my 8 mile run before conference activities commenced. My plan was to run along Harbor Drive. For the most part, this worked…until I ran straight to the San Diego triathlon.

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Lucky for me, it was still VERY early and I managed to turn around with plenty of time to avoid getting run over.

Here are a few highlights:

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The Protein Police

Lately, I’ve been starving, especially in the mornings. Usually, before a run, I’ll eat cereal. Then, after a run, I’ll be starving for a second breakfast. I’ll try to hold myself over with a banana, but it’s usually not enough, so then I’ll hit up the almonds, and if there’s anything unhealthy in my line of sight, I’ll track it down (i.e., cupcakes). My main theory is that I’m not getting enough of the stuff that makes you feel full… protein.

I’ve decided to police myself. I’m eating more protein, whether I like it or not. Because, let’s face it, I get really darn hungry when I try to be a vegetarian runner (vegetarianism is my default), and I succumb to unhealthy food. This all comes back to haunt me in the form of weight gain, and less energy –both of which are not good for running.

So, on Friday last week, I made this roast chicken, similar to Gabi’s version, but slightly different (note to self: do not try to roast chicken in a half an hour; it usually takes 2).

…And I proceeded to eat the leftovers, over and over again all week, mostly in the form of a southwestern-style salad (mixed greens + cucumber + black beans + corn + avacado + chicken + dressing + chips/salsa). I have not been SOOO hungry as a result, so I may be onto something here with my theory.

With the carcass (ew, did I really say that word?), I made broth. And then, I made a mushroom-barley-kale soup, adapted from a recipe I found in the White Grass Cafe Cross Country Cooking Cookbook.

So, while I feel a little guilty for having eaten chicken of questionable origins*, I made that thing last! And I have soup to prove it.

*I normally try to be conscious about where my meat comes from, but it was far too convenient to go to the Russian produce store. I don’t know where they get their meat, but it was delicious.

The sunny side and the tile ribbon

For today’s 2 mile run, I decided to go *slightly* of the neighborhood to Golden Gate Park, the sunny side. With 2 miles to cover, I was only able to catch a snippet of it before I had to go back. I was finally able to run through the Rose Garden, a small section in the park dedicated to roses.

On the way back, I passed Argonne Elementary School.

I’ve always noticed these tiles, but never knew the story behind them. When I got back, found this sweet little video about the project. Enjoy!

Argonne Tile Day from Nirmal Sherchan on Vimeo.

Podiatry, the dentistry for feet.

There is nothing sexy about going to the podiatrist. When you arrive, they don’t sit you down in a massage chair and let your feet soak in rose petals and cucumber water. Instead, the harsh fluorescent lights glare down on you as your feet caress the plastic covered lining in the epsom soak. You hear trashy pop music playing in the office next door and you smell smoke from someone nearby, most likely in that office next door or on the street. There’s, in fact, no massage at all. You feel a little like your feet are being violated, much like you feel your teeth are being violated at the dentist’s –but that it’s all OK because someone has been trained in a medical fashion to handle them. And actually, I prefer this experience over a pedicure any day.

Here’s why:

  • Knowledge – my podiatrist not only told me I didn’t have an ingrown toenail (thank goodness!), but she also told me what it was (basically, a fancy callus), and how to deal with it. She didn’t say, “Never ever go climbing or running again!” In fact, she told me how to minimize activity-related calluses. I walked away with a callus softening cream for when they return, and instructions to purchase a ped egg.
  • Shaving – “shaving” is what she did with my calluses. It turns out this is not ticklish at all. With pedicures, there’s “exfoliating.” I do think some pedicurists I’ve had in the past have gotten a simple pleasure out of my pain-inducing giggles, and I therefore dread the “exfoliating” process very much.
  • Simple solutions – so, apparently, my feet have very high arches, which is mostly good in podiatric circles, but it also means that I put more stress on the front of my feet. With increased mileage, it means pain; so, she set me up with a pair of these orthotic supports to redistribute the pressure.

Sure, they’re not fancy orthotics (the kind that are custom for your feet), but they do feel firmer than the insoles in my running shoes. I tried running with these yesterday, and, though it was probably too long of a run to try something different (I felt a little more stress in my calf area than usual), my heels did feel a little more supported than usual, and the stress on the front of my feet felt less. Could be power of suggestion, but it could also be that something is working. Yay podiatry!

Locks of Love…and runner’s high

For my 8 mile run this morning, I planned a run involving serious Presidio coverage and the Golden Gate Bridge…but when I got there, it was freezing (this is, after all, “summer” in San Francisco), so I opted to run the other direction on Crissy Field to warm up, and, after I came back around to the steep hill up to the bridge, decided just to make the run as simple as possible.

A great deal of my time was spent on the bridge. Windy, foggy, car-exhaust-y, touristy, and yet, always beautiful.

I’ve crossed the Golden Gate Bridge several times on a bike and once as a local with tourists, but nothing compares to the way it felt when running. I felt like a warrior, bangs sticking up off my sweaty head, occasionally clipping a tourist (unintentionally, I swear!), head immersed in trashy pop music…

Early on in the run, I noticed a few locks on a certain part of the fence.

These are called “love locks” — and, from what the blogosphere tells me here, here, and here, they are put there by newlyweds for luck in love. Many of them have initials engraved on them. It’s totally sweet.

The rest of my run was blissful. I hit the 6.41 mile mark (my GPS watch is working again, so I know exactly when this happened), and felt a rush of runner’s high — that feeling you get when you can just keep going/when all the pain goes away/ and you feel a tingling sensation (or at least this is how it affects me). Unfortunately, I also decided to try a different trail back that involved stairs, ruining my mojo. On the upside, now I know that feeling is there, and it is definitely going to help me, 8+ miles in the future.

Lactic Acid…the “Why”

Yesterday evening, my friend, Alison, called me with a question, “Should I go on the 2 mile run today?” Alison has been training with me for this half marathon, and we’re on the same plan. Of course, I said “yes,” and here is how that conversation went:

Me: “You need to build up the number of times you run per week. As much as it’s going to hurt today, your run will feel better on Sunday, and your runs in general will improve. I don’t know how, but it works.”

Alison: “But can’t I just do 2 miles on Saturday?”

“No! You need that day for recovery.”

“Ok. Thanks for the pep talk!”

I’m not sure if she was convinced and/or ran last night. When we hung up, my roommate piped in: it was all about getting your body used to building up lactic acid. Found a few good articles on the topic, and now I actually feel better about yesterday’s sluggish 2 miler…and I also feel more convinced about the need for fuel, water, massage and stretching during training (as if I needed a reason!):

Another neighborhood two miler

Back on Tuesday, I was feeling pretty cocky confident about my ability to run 2 miles. That was Tuesday. Yesterday, I fit in a four mile tempo run before work, and today I ran two more miles… the whole time, I felt like I was running through mud and/or concrete. I’m feeling a little tired and cranky now…and looking forward to the time when running four days a week is something to look forward to.

On the upside, I found a way to avoid the Park Presidio light in my neighborhood. However, it also meant I had to deal with hills. Like this one (reality is steeper than image appears):

Hills are good, though! Each hill I run gets me closer to finishing the half marathon hills in good time.