Swimming Pools – Not Just For Relaxing Poolside

I have always been a person who enjoys running. I haven’t always chosen to do it, but I never had anything against it. I have not, however, always been a person who enjoys swimming. For most of my life, I have actually hated it. Okay, maybe hate is a strong word, but as far as exercise oriented activities are concerned, swimming would have ranked pretty low.

I have always liked swimming pools for sitting next to while sipping a refreshing cocktail, but as a place to exercise? Forget it.

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The main reason I have generally despised swimming for exercise is that swimming for any sort of long distance is very difficult if you’re not doing it right. And it is hard to do it right if you are not fit enough, or don’t know what you’re doing. You find yourself struggling for breath and running out of strength to continue pretty darn quickly.

Running, in some ways, seems to be lot more forgiving of your cardio fitness than swimming is.

The last time I did any serious swimming I was training for a sprint triathlon, probably 10 or more years ago, and while the bike and run were fine, the swimming just about killed me every time I had to do it.

I am not even talking about the open water swimming (a blog post unto itself – because I freak out knowing THERE ARE THINGS, LIVING THINGS, IN THE WATER), I am talking about pool workouts.

30 minutes of running was not a problem. 30 minutes on the bike was a breeze. Put me in the pool to swim laps for 30 minutes, and I came apart like an ice cream cone in July.

I think the reason for this is, if you’re running or biking, you can breathe when you want, you can coast, or you can slow down. You can even cheat and turn off your GPS and gasp for air for a couple of minutes.

With swimming, even if you slow down, you’re still dealing with the fact that you’re underwater and can’t breathe when you want to. It will expose your weakness if you are not fit enough to have good breath control.

My husband is a former competitive swimmer, and he says it’s also because water is very unforgiving of bad form and wasted movement. If you push on it, it pushes back. You have to pull with just the right amount of power to move through the water. Pull too hard or not hard enough, and you might as well have a big bag of rocks tied around your neck.

You also need to be patient and calm – neither of which is my forte. You can’t flail and thrash around in an effort to go faster or you will be fighting the water the whole time. In running, moving legs faster means you go faster, even if your form sucks. You might not go as fast as your potential with bad form, but you will probably be moving somewhat faster than you did previously.

In swimming, you need to move arms and legs the right way, with the right amount of force, or you may in fact end up going slower than you would with a more relaxed stroke.

You also have to inhabit your own head more. There is nothing to look at in the pool other than the lane line at the bottom and the X at the end of the lane. No music, no grass, flowers or trees, and no running partner to talk to. No distractions. Just you, your strokes and your breathing.

So these are all the things I have generally held against swimming and why it’s always been pretty low on my list of things to do. I am happy that since I am now stuck in the pool for a while, that these things don’t seem to bother me so much.

I’m actually kind of enjoying it.

Maybe all that running made me a better swimmer?

Swimming pools – who knew they were not just for relaxing with a cocktail?

How about you? Do you like swimming or do you prefer a refreshing cocktail?
Do you incorporate swimming as cross training?
Has running made YOU a better swimmer, or vice versa?

Pool Running

On Monday, I still thought I had a plan in place whereby I would be getting back to running and doing PT and all would be well, but I also knew I was having ankle pain and that when that is the case, running on it was not a great idea. So, since Monday was supposed to be a running day, I decided to try something new: pool running.

However, what I did not do was actually investigate ahead of time how you are supposed to do pool running. I mean, it sounds like the name tells you what you need to know: get in the pool and start running. Right?

But no. There is a right way and a wrong way, and there is a bit more to it than just dunk and go. Although, that was my approach. I just went to the pool and found an open lane. It happened to be about 3.5 feet deep. My legs would be underwater, I figured that was probably enough, so I jumped in and started to run.

It didn’t feel so great. There was still quite a bit of impact on the ankle, it was very hard to stabilize the foot underwater for the landings, and the tile tears up the bottom of the feet. So, my little experiment was sort of a failure.

Being the sort of person I am (shoot first, ask questions later) I decided to go home and figure out why what I was doing didn’t work.

For starters, you are supposed to be completely submerged. Most sources recommend you do pool running in 5′ or more of water. Your feet should not be touching bottom. As you are running completely submerged (well, except for your head of course), there will be no impact on the foot structures. This is the part that is important for injured runners such as yours truly to prevent reinjury.

You are also supposed to try to maintain proper running form – standing tall, high cadence, etc. You basically are just running in place, or with slight forward motion, under the water. This is the part that provides running specific training. Evidently your body will try to turn this into a dog paddle or half baked swimming, so you are supposed to be wearing some sort of flotation device so that your legs are working on running, and not trying to keep you afloat.

There is also another type of pool running that involves a tether and not being completely submerged, but that isn’t what you want to be doing with an injury.

This following video gives a good overview of how to do a pool running workout.

Some other resources I found helpful include:
Pool Running and Why You Are Doing it Wrong from StrengthRunning
Head for the Pool from Runners World
Best Pool Running Workouts by Eat Run Read

Now that I know what I was doing wrong, I will probably try this again the right way and maybe incorporate pool running in place of regular running in my workout plan.

So I guess I can keep being the Eat and Run Mom – I might just be doing the running in the pool for a while.

Your turn:

Pool running: have you tried it?
What other exercise is good for injured runners?

Eat and Swim Mom

I’m sitting here with sore shoulders right now, from doing one of the few forms of exercise that I can still do on my sore ankle. Non-weight bearing is pretty much where it’s at for me until further notice, so it looks like I will be doing quite a bit of swimming until this ankle situation gets sorted out. And spin classes (mostly sitting down). And whatever else I can come up with that does not involve standing or moving around upright.

Maybe I will have to change the name of the blog?

Here are some possibilities:
Eat and Swim Mom
Eat and Run in the Pool Mom
Eat and Stationary Bike Mom
Eat and Do A Lot of Knee Push-ups Mom
Eat and Pet the Cat Mom…

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That’s one vote for petting the cat.

And yes, in the absence of running posts, the Eat and Run Mom has been reduced to posting gratuitous cat pictures. That’s how far the mighty have fallen…

So okay, enough whining. Since I can’t run, today was a swim day. And you know what? Swimming is some hard damn work! I suspect that is why I have never particularly cared for it in the past. It’s probably more work than it should be since my stroke is not so great. Something to work on while swimming endless laps for the next few weeks I guess.

Running is so easy – at least, the way I do it, it is. Or was. Can’t say the same for swimming.

Another issue I have with swimming is that unlike running, it’s not just strap on shoes and go. There are two clothing changes involved – before and after.

Plus, the whole showering up afterwards thing is a pain. I can run around town all day long in my sweaty workout clothes if I want to, and nobody looks at me funny. They might not want to stand too close to me, but otherwise it’s not a problem. Can’t walk around town in a wet swimsuit though, or you get refused service in public places.

Also, if I swim, I have to wash my hair more often than twice a week. Those are precious minutes I am never getting back. Actually come to think of it, that part is kind of nice – for me and everyone else.

Showering in peace. Just one more thing I’ve missed since I had kids!

So anyway, I swam laps for about 30 minutes while my youngest monkey was in a swim lesson. I definitely felt it a lot in my butt, lower abdominals, lats and shoulders. Felt like a good workout, and it hurt less than I remember.

If I could work up to an hour at a time a few days a week, I’d definitely feel like I accomplished something.

Okay – now it’s your turn.

If you couldn’t run, what kind of exercise would you do?

How do you feel about swimming? Love it, hate it, or neutral about it?

Another Frustrating Turn

Well, just when I thought I would be back to running again, I’ve hit another snag. Can you say FRUSTRATING??

Last week I ran a couple of times, which didn’t feel great but wasn’t overly painful. But then, I went and did something really dumb. I took my kid to the batting cage. And since I can’t pass up the chance to hit a few balls off the machine (it really is fun and therapeutic), I decided to take few swings myself.

Well, let me tell you, that was a dumb idea. Who knew that rapidly twisting the ankle would be a bad idea? I didn’t. Because yes, I am exactly that bright. Whatever I did, really did not feel good. And my ankle has been jacked up ever since (going on 5 days now).

I kind of thought it would pass and be okay, so I was planning on being back to running this week, but it’s not happening. There has been more swelling and a lot more discomfort than there had been, even though I skipped my run over the weekend and have been taking it pretty easy since Thursday.

Part of the problem is that my Post-tib tendon is still doing quite a bit of subluxation – which means that it pops out of the groove in the ankle bone where it is supposed to sit. It’s a sensation that varies from merely alarming to actually excruciating for those split seconds when it is doing it. It happens because it is swollen/inflamed – so doesn’t fit where it is supposed to go.

The ankle is also just super wobbly – there isn’t much stability in the joint. So it may be that I need to be in an orthotic. Or a boot. Or maybe I need surgery. That will be up to a doctor to let me know, since conservative management doesn’t seem to be doing the trick. Possibly because I’m dumb and make bad decisions, like going to the batting cage.

So anyway, when I went to PT today, I wasn’t exactly kicked out, but my therapist recommended I go back to the doctor for more imaging and to determine next steps.

This is my second setback in the 6 weeks I’ve been going so this is probably a wise step but I’m still pretty bummed. However, I do know that problems with the Post-tib tendon can be degenerative, with a risk of turning into what is called a fixed flat foot, which would pretty much put a permanent stop to my running. So it really is best to fix the problem before it gets worse, rather than literally run the ankle into the ground.

But still, I’m frustrated. Partly at the situation, partly at myself. How ironic that the big thing I was worried about (not being able to run after my hysterectomy) was what motivated me to continue training for the Rain Run even though my ankle was already hurting, probably aggravating the condition, which is now the thing keeping me from running. The hysterectomy, meanwhile, was a total non-event.

I guess that proves the old adage true – that a man often meets his fate on the road he takes to avoid it.

Restaurant Review: Susumu Restaurant

Normally, Friday night is pizza night. But I guess we were all feeling like we needed a change of pace (and maybe some cheering up after a tough week), so we decided to do something new with the kids. Something new involving setting fire to food before their very eyes.

We decided to go to Susumu, a venerable teppan-yaki place in Lynnwood off 196th. Before we had kids, this and BeniHana in Seattle were favorites of mine. There is just something so fun about having the food prepared at your table, especially if they set fire to it. Also, you can order drinks in a ceramic geisha. Or sumo wrestler. Who doesn’t want a ceramic geisha? Or sumo wrestler?

Okay. I know, it’s cheesy. But I like a good show, what can I say?

We hadn’t been to Susumu in years, but it was just as we remembered. Same Japanese samurai dolls behind glass, same slightly sketchy entrance, same smell of cooking oil lingering in the air, same waitresses in shortie kimonos. Same vinyl club chairs on rollers gathered in groups of 8 around the cooking grills.

As you walk in, you begin to wonder, have I made a mistake in coming here?

But as soon as the grill is turned on, and the chef comes out to your table, something magical happens. All Susumu’s faults begin to fade into the background as your senses are overtaken by fire and smoke and the metallic clanging of sharp knives as they transform simple vegetables, eggs, rice and meat into dinner with a show.

Susumu isn’t the best food you’ll ever eat, although it is quite tasty – especially the shrimp appetizers. It’s definitely not healthy, as Susumu’s take on cooking meat seems to be that butter makes everything better. And given the flavor of the end product, I would argue that they are not wrong.

Susumu is also not cheap, nor is it overly expensive. Dinner for 4, including 2 kids meals, a couple of adult beverages, splitting an entree of lobster and filet with a side of chicken, came out to around $100.

That’s pretty expensive for Lynnwood, but not outrageous. In any case, despite its flaws we had a great experience at Susumu.

What sets Susumu apart is the show. There really isn’t anything else like it in Lynnwood, or anywhere else in Snohomish county (though there are plenty of teppan-yaki places elsewhere in the world, to be sure). The chefs are fun and personable, and very skilled at what they do.

But the best part was watching our kids faces as they marveled at what the chefs were doing on our grill. From the “egg roll” trick to the fiery onion volcano, they were transfixed the entire time. Considering that their favorite restaurants are Chuck E. Cheese and McDonalds, the fact that this technology- and Playplace-free zone was able to hold their interest through our entire meal is saying something.

Susumu did what it does best – which is setting fire to your dinner in the most entertaining way possible.

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Susumu Japanese Steakhouse
http://susumusteakhouse.com
5621 196th Street SW, Lynnwood WA 98036
(425) 670-0176

My New Plan

I blogged on Saturday about the fact that for now I am going to be working on speed with my running, rather than going for distance. That means, I won’t be running a lot of miles, but when I do run, I am going to make it count. Most of my cardio work is going to be in other forms that keep the wear and tear off my legs, such as spin classes, elliptical or the adaptive motion trainer.

So here is my new and improved running exercise plan.

Monday – 2.5 mile run (400m warm up, 4×800 at 8:30 – 9 m/m pace, 400m cool down), PT exercises, upper body
Tuesday – 60 minute spin class and core, plus PT stretches
Wednesday – 60 minute spin class, PT
Thursday – 2.5 mile run (800m warm up, 6×400 at 7:45 – 8:45 pace, 800m cool down) , PT exercises
Friday – 30 minutes elliptical/AMT, PT exercises, core/upper body or TRX class
Saturday – 30 minute easy run optional if no pain, PT exercises
Sunday – rest or race

Eventually I should be able to run more but for now, I need to heal more than I need to run.

I am in sort of a dangerous place with my recovery in fact, because things are starting to hurt less and then I get overconfident, overdo something, and then I am hurting again. I just found out the hard way that little things I think won’t hurt can be very painful if I twist or strain the ankle, such as taking my kid to the batting cage after a treadmill run in the morning. Did that on Thursday, and I’m still kinda feeling it.

So anyway, I just need to let things heal before I get all crazy with miles.

Fabletics is Here!

My Fabletics order arrived this week and I had a chance to inspect the items, wear them and wash them. I also took a picture to show you nice people. #nofilter

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I have to say, my initial impressions are positive. I like the colors, cut and material, and I think they look cute on. I would take a picture wearing the items but that would mean washing my hair and fixing myself up – doesn’t seem like that is going to happen today. Maybe another time.

Somebody (Kels from Blonder Side of Life) was wondering about sizing when I posted about this before. I ordered everything in a size Medium (8) and everything seems to fit really well so I would say the sizing is a bit more generous than some running apparel (I’m 5’8, usually wear a Medium or a size 8/10 in street clothes, but in running clothes sometimes have to go with a Large). Whatever size you normally wear in street clothes will probably work when ordering Fabletics.

I bought a bright pink top with a purple camo bra and purple tights – the purple is a bit on the blueberry side. The colors are very bright and fun in person. I wasn’t sure if the purple pants would be a good idea given the sweat issues we’ve discussed here before, but I’m glad to say that even after I sweated a lot, the pants didn’t show it at all.

After I got all sweaty in them, I washed them. The material seems to have softened up some but doesn’t look as if it will pill. The material is matte and kind of soft, looks like it should take a while to wear out.

I think the clothes are a great value for the price (I believe I paid about $35 for these three items) and I look forward to wearing them!

As always, this review is my personal opinion, I have not been compensated in any way to review or promote this brand.

How To Get Faster

One of the things that is coming out of my PT sessions is that the old adage about having to choose speed or distance and that it’s really hard to work on both is really true. I tried doing both and screwed up my ankle.

For right now, it is looking like I am going to have to choose speed, since my ankle can’t handle the stress of doing a lot of long runs right now. So my plan is to focus on speed at the shorter distances.

But, how does one get faster, anyway? Obviously, running lots of miles doesn’t make you fast, so what does?

Run Eat Repeat just posted a vlog about this topic, 5 Tips to Run FASTER.

In a nutshell, her advice is to:

1) Do speedwork. Duh. A lot of people try to get faster by just running more miles. This was basically my plan in 2013. It works a little bit just through an increase in fitness, but you will reach a point of diminishing returns pretty quickly. And then you injure yourself…

There are a lot of different kinds of speedwork. Some people do 800s, 400s, tempo runs, sprints, strides. I couldn’t tell you pros and cons of any of them, but the point is you need to do some kind of speedwork in order to actually get faster. (I.e., go faster to get faster).

Since I am going to focus on shorter distances, and I lost a lot of fitness with surgery and injury, I am starting out with 400 repeats. When my endurance improves I’ll probably go to 800s. But for now 400s is good. On Thursday, I did 5×400 repeats for a total workout of about 2.5 miles. It was actually supposed to be 6×400, but I was so tired after 4 that I backed way off on the 5th repeat and gave up entirely on the 6th. Gotta start somewhere though.

The repeats were run at 9:15, 8:45, 8:15, 7:45, and 8:45. Next time I probably won’t make that jump to 7:45 until the last repeat, but I just wanted to see if I could do it. Since the answer is just barely, I will have to save it for the end next time.

2) Speed up your cadence – Again, go faster to get faster. This is actually a form issue that I’ve been working on for a while. The ideal running cadence is supposed to be somewhere around 180 steps per minute. Mine tends to be slower, so I downloaded an app for my phone called Metronome Beats to use when I run. There is a little ball that bounces back and forth and I try to match up my footfalls.

3) Run with someone faster – this is one I probably won’t be doing very often since most of the runners I know who are faster are running the longer distances.

4) Maintain an optimal running weight – better known to most people as losing some weight. I suspect this is an item I need to consider. I am not overweight in a general sense, but what is optimal for running faster is not necessarily the same as your weight that would otherwise be considered normal or ideal. Gravity sucks for runners, even more than for the average person. I know this because I ran on an “antigravity treadmill” this week and noticed that with 25% of my weight removed I was suddenly considerably faster and had a lot less ankle pain than I normally do. So I think it is something I need to look at.

On the other hand, I don’t want to be ridiculous about this. It’s important to maintain perspective, after all. Also, running is not an excuse to be anorexic – So how do you figure out what is a healthy, optimal running weight? I’m not sure, so I’ll have to look into it and write a post just on this topic. I think 10% of my body weight would probably be a doable number, though, and a healthy one that at one point I have weighed and maintained during my adult life.

5) Form – this is one I’ve been working on for a long time. Unfortunately, there are a lot of things going on, so I just pick one thing at a time to focus on. A big one has been pushing off vs. reaching forward, not crossing the midline and staying quiet in the upper body. I’ve been able to improve some areas of my form but it is an area I really need to work on. Again, probably worthy of a separate post just on this topic.

In addition to these areas, there are a couple of other things I can do to get faster.

1) Strength train – I have a home exercise program from my PT sessions that I am doing, which is working on some of the weak areas in my “drive train.” My ankle injury occurred due to weakness in the hips and possibly lack of mobility in the big toe, which the exercises are supposed to address. An added benefit of improving strength and mobility in those areas should be an increase in speed.

2) Cross training – running is the best exercise for runners, but it is very hard to improve quickly when you’re coming back from an injury or a surgery by just running more miles. The body can’t take it. To improve cardio fitness without injuring myself, I need to do some other type of low impact cardio activity. So for now, I’m going to be running 2 – 3 times a week as long as my ankle doesn’t hurt, doing spin class a couple of times a week and using the elliptical and the Adaptive Motion Trainer the rest of the time. Plus strength training / rehab exercises pretty much every day.

That’s how I plan to get faster. Is getting faster something you’re working on? Tell me your plan in the comments!

Are You Genetically Lazy?

I have often wondered why some people like exercise and others don’t. When I was a kid I wouldn’t say I was a person who really enjoyed exercise, primarily because I wasn’t good at most sports due to lack of practice, and the fact I wasn’t good at it meant I didn’t want to practice, creating sort of a negative feedback loop.

As I got older I started liking it more, I think primarily because my tolerance for not being good at things got higher as I got older. Not knowing how to do something, or just not being good at it, wasn’t a blow to my self esteem. I knew that there were other things that I was good at, making lack of mastery in the sports arena less threatening. For instance, I enjoy running but I know I’m not and likely never will be a fast runner. And that’s okay. I find the exercise itself is rewarding, and I like how I feel after.

I know this is not the case with everybody. Some people really struggle with motivation to exercise. Which seems odd, because it’s something our bodies really need – you’d think that psychological issues aside, we’d all be equally motivated to do it. But science is showing that’s not really the case.

This video from ASAPscience shows that research is proving that there is a genetic mutation that can be responsible for some people’s couch potato tendencies.

I think there is also a habit and nurture aspect to this as well. For me, I am motivated inherently to exercise IF I’ve been doing it enough. When I’m fit, my body starts to crave exercise if I don’t do it enough. But if I let myself get out of the habit and out of shape, I will have no motivation at all – mostly because I know that exercise = pain if I’m not in shape. And it will take a few weeks of pain to get back to being in shape to the point where I enjoy it again.

So it is a habit – and one that you have to experience some pain to develop. There could also be a nurture aspect, in that if no one models for a child that it is possible to get past the pain to a point of enjoyment, and also that this is a desirable and enjoyable thing to do once you get that far, then that child might not have much motivation to seek out that experience. Which in humans, may play into a “generational couch potato” link as well.

It Starts Young

My kids are involved in Little League, which is an interesting microcosm of society. You get all types of kids and parents, united by a love of baseball. It’s a pretty diverse group as far as childrearing practices, as well. I’m glad we’re doing it.

One of the things I find gratifying about it is that when observed among their peers, it turns out that I have unusually nice children. Nice manners, and they don’t have as many annoying personality quirks as the other kids I see out there. They also do not often say things that are unkind, or hurtful.

Not to say they are perfect but they try to be good, because they know it is expected. There is some occasional inappropriate behavior, because they are kids and that is what kids do, but for the most part, they know how to behave in public.

This is not the case with all the kids we see. One of our kids is on a team with some little boys who, for lack of a better term, are real hellions. People say boys will be boys, and I think that is true to some degree, but I also think that kids will be as big of a jerk as we allow them to be. They will take as much rope as you’ll give them.

They also model what we do. You can have all the rules around behavior that you want, but if what you model isn’t what is expected from them, they are going to do what they see you do. Which is why you always hear your most embarrassing phrases coming out of your kids mouth.

One of the things we are seeing with these kids is a general air of disrespect. They can’t handle any kind of correction without throwing a fit, and the parents just allow it. If it were me, I would pull my kid out of practice or a game in a heartbeat if they were doing some of this stuff.

They are also rude to other kids on the team, as well as adults. The thing that really got my goat, though, was when one boy teased another by saying, “you run like a girl!”

I was like, oh yeah? You wanna see someone run like a girl? I’ll show you how to run like a girl. A girl that can run you into the ground.

Like I said, it starts young. When I see kids acting like this, I try to use it as a teaching moment with my own kids. We talk about different kinds of behavior and they are learning what not to do by watching their peers.

It amazes me too, how early sexism starts. There is no fundamental difference in physical ability at this age, so where do boys get the idea that girls are inherently inferior at sports? And when stuff like this comes up, why are parents (especially moms!) letting kids get by with these statements?

It blows my mind, and makes me feel like I am lucky to have nice kids. Also makes me glad I am very clear about behavior expectations. I mean, my kids can be naughty too, but they aren’t mean and they take correction fairly well, perhaps because they are used to receiving it!