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?

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.

7 Week Recovery Report

Whew. Today was rough. We all have those days where things just don’t go our way. For us it started with a late wake up, and an early baseball game in the rain and wind. The kids were at each other all day, in and out of trouble, not listening. I decided they were tired so sent them to bed early. Oleg fell asleep in minutes, Max is right behind.

Ahhhhh. Sweet silence.

Small children’s efforts to derail my inner zen notwithstanding, I got in a good workout today. Did about a half hour on the elliptical – going as hard as I could. I dripped all over the machine, so that means I was working hard right? I guess when you go 180 rpm on there with reasonable resistance, “sweat happens.”

Normally, I am not a big fan of the elliptical. So boring. You can get your heart rate up on it though and that is all I needed. I had to skip running – my ankle has been bothering me more this week so I decided to get off it. It seems that the 9 or so miles of run/walking I did this week, combined with the Physical Therapy I’ve been doing for my ankle, was a lot.

Since the ankle is kind of sore, I’m going to try to stay off it until Wednesday and see if it calms down. If it does I will try to do the Inspiring Hope run next weekend. It may end up being an Inspiring Hope walk. I will run on Wednesday just to see how it is doing, then if it seems okay, I’ll sign up.

After elliptical I did my PT exercises. While I was doing the Arm and Leg swings in the Sagittal Plane (the hardest one I have to do) some wiseacre next to me goes, “I guess that exercise must be harder than it looks.”

I thought to myself, “What was your first clue, genius? The fact that I keep practically falling over, or that my face is beet red and I look like someone is poking me in the leg with a red hot poker?”

I was nice, though. I just said “yup,” and kept at it.

I sure will be glad to have running not cause me pain anymore, because I miss being able to do long runs on the weekend. As a friend of mine said to me this week, running is my sanity. It (and this blog) are my “me” things that I do. I like getting in a good workout at the gym, but it is not the same as running outside for an hour for my general outlook. I like getting sweaty out in nature I guess.

I said this was a 7 week recovery report. Guess I better report.

As far as the surgery aspect, things are good. No abdominal pain at all, everything feels pretty normal now. In fact, I’m not sure how much longer I will keep doing these reports because I am not sure how much longer the surgery itself will be a factor with regards to the things I am interested in talking about on this blog. I feel pretty good, can do pretty much everything I want to, and I still feel like long term there shouldn’t be much in the way of negative impact.

The only thing I am still struggling with is the ankle. I had really hoped the bed rest in March and time I’ve spent not running over the last 3 months (pretty much since the Rain Run) would have fixed me up. I certainly didn’t expect to still be having pain 3 months later. I think the PT is helping, and will help more and more as I get stronger, I just feel frustrated that this is the thing holding me back.

On the other hand, maybe it’s good this ankle thing is happening. Since the surgery recovery seems so easy, I’d probably have hurt myself already if there wasn’t something slowing me down, so maybe it’s a blessing in disguise.

I’m a Naughty Little Cheater

I did a potentially bad thing that turned out okay today – I actually ran a little. Just a little. And it didn’t hurt one bit. Well, the ankles got a bit sore but nothing in the abdomen gave me any trouble.

I feel like a bit of a cheater though, because technically I really shouldn’t start running at all until the 6th week is complete, and today is just the beginning of the 6th week so one might say it’s a bit soon. However, I think I am basically healed up. I haven’t even seen so much as a drop of blood in almost 3 weeks, and never anything more than transient pain (gas, I think) for about as long, so I can only think I’m probably close enough to where it’s probably okay.

I started my treadmill workout with 5 minutes of brisk walking, then ran 1 minute, very slowly. No abdominal pain and no ankle pain either. So I walked 4 minutes then ran 2. Still no problems. Then I ran a bit faster for 3 minutes and walked 3. No problems with the abdominal area but the ankle started feeling sore, so I just did it one more time, for a total of just over 12 minutes. I think the running averaged about a 12 minute pace, so if I had to guess, I’d say I probably ran about a mile. Then I walked for the remainder of my workout for a total of about 3 miles.

Depending on how I feel, I may or may not try this same workout again later this week. I have a PT appointment for my ankle on Wednesday – I might try it again that day and Friday. I just have to take it day by day and see how I feel.

Oh, and by the way this is not even the dumbest thing I did in the last few days. I went with my husband and kids to the baseball diamond where he was going to work with them on some batting skills, and we all basically forgot that I had even had the surgery. I swung at a couple of balls and had no problems. It was on the 4th swing that I realized what I was doing was probably not all that smart, and on the 5th swing I realized it was in fact downright stupid. My body, in particular my belly button, gave me a heads up that I was being an idiot. So I went and laid down on the bench while the boys finished up. No problems since then – woke up feeling great today. Thus my decision to give running a go. If I was gonna tear a hole in myself, seems like it would have happened yesterday. This is what they call justification.

So yeah – I’m a cheating cheater who cheats. In my defense I do feel that recovery from this surgery is highly individual and I think I must be on the faster end of the spectrum. Probably because I was in good shape going into it – I really feel like I have bounced back pretty well. It didn’t feel like it for the first couple of weeks, but once things started to turn for the better, they really turned around quickly.

But anyway, all in all I feel like my recovery is going very well, and it continues to appear that the limiting factor in my return to running isn’t the surgery at all, but the ankle injury. Which it’s probably good I have that ankle injury or who knows what stupid thing I would try to do to myself next!

Obeying the Letter if not the Spirit

I have continued my walking workouts and am finding every day feels a little better. I was told that until I was cleared by my doctor I should walk as much as possible, but to start out with no more than 15 minutes of leisurely walking. I was also told not to lift anything more than 10 pounds, and to try not to bend at the waist and do no core work since I still have stitches inside that are healing.

I guess you could say I am going by the letter if not the spirit of what I was told. What I took from all this is that after two weeks I could go to the gym as long as I limited my activities to:

Walking on the treadmill. Started out with “leisurely pace” on Monday (22 minute/mile) and graduated to “business-like pace” today (20 minute/mile). Before surgery my walking pace was about a 16 minute mile. I am keeping it slower so as to keep from feeling any strain in the core. I am starting with 15 minutes this week, and will increase 5 minutes each week or as I am able.

Upper body. Bicep curls, shoulder presses, triceps presses and shoulder openers using 5 lb. weights. These require minimal core engagement so they seem safe. Right now I am doing all upper body exercises while seated on a stability ball, to further protect the pelvic floor. I basically am doing the exercises recommended in this video with a couple of extras added in.

Hip bridges and pelvic tilts. I am being gentle with these, doing them mostly to get some relief for lower back discomfort (from sitting around), and to maintain flexibility in the hip flexors and some strength in the glutes.

Calf raises and foot/ankle stability exercises. These are important since I gave myself tendinitis of the posterior tibial tendon back in January and am rehabbing from that in addition to surgery. It is possible that the tendinitis, rather than the surgery recovery, will be the limiter of when I go back to running. So I will work on this in hopes that everything will be ready at the same time.

One of the things I have noticed is that recovering from this surgery is very individual. Some people heal quickly, others don’t. I think I will be toward the quicker end, as I’ve really had relatively little pain all along, and I was pretty strong to begin with. And it may also help that as a runner I’ve been very tuned in to my body. I notice when things aren’t feeling right and tend to pay attention.

I also notice that there is no set formula for returning to exercise. Some people are running marathons 6 weeks later, and others take months even to run a mile. Not sure what this will look like for me, but I’m hoping to be running again by summer.

Great Run For An Old Lady

I decided to mix it up today and run outdoors instead of doing the treadmill, which is what I usually do on weekdays. I had a short block of time right after I dropped Oleg off at preschool and before I had to pick Max up at the bus stop and decided to take advantage of it.

Although the weather really never warmed up for my run, it was still a good run, mostly because I decided to go pretty hard and prove to myself that my goal race pace really is possible. My goal, if I can make it happen, is to complete the 10k in under an hour. I would be pretty happy with that kind of performance at this point.

Distance : 4.42mi, time: 42:56, pace: 9:43min/mi, speed: 6.18mi/h.
http://mapmyrun.com/workout/410592793

Basically if I could hold that pace for the whole 6.2 miles I would finish in 59 minutes. The problem is that there is always a pileup at the start so that slows things down. On the other hand the course is flat so I may be able to make up time elsewhere. We’ll see.

Anyway, overall the run was good – my shoulder/back/ribs still hurt though. They stopped hurting about a half mile into the run, but started up again after I stopped. Wonder what I did? Stuff like this happens to me all the time – I end up with random bruises all over and no idea how I got them, and weird aches and pains crop up for no good reason.

Part of it is that I am clumsy – for instance on Monday I tripped over the vacuum cleaner because I was not looking where I was going and ended up with a huge purple bruise on my knee. But the other part is that I am getting older, and as you get older, stuff seems to hurt more and it takes longer to recover.

Not gonna complain though, because getting older beats the alternative.

My Workout

Moments of joy from today’s run:
Running through crunchy leaves
Negative splits
A good post run stretch
Hot turkey chili after a long chilly run

I think summer will always be my favorite time to run because the weather here in the Seattle is near perfect, and the the views are spectacular, but fall definitely has its appeal too. There is something about those crunchy leaves and the smell of firewood burning that just can’t help but bring a smile to my face.

Today’s run was a milestone due to being my longest run since my injury, and the longest run I will do before the Snohomish River Run in two weeks. I wasn’t sure how it would go, so my plan was to hold back for the first 2 – 3 miles, then pick up the pace with each mile, which is pretty much what happened, except for the last mile. I started having a little twinge in my hip on an uphill push and had to back off until it went away.

What this tells me is that I can probably handle about a 10:15 pace on race week, maybe a little faster given that its basically a completely flat course (except for one b-word of a hill right before the finish line – damn race organizers, I’m sure that hill will be slowing me down quite a bit). That means a 1 hour finish is within reach, so we will see…

As for today, the rest of the day is going to be about a hot bath, hot chocolate, Market Spice Tea, and finishing up my recipe for Peach Cranberry Pie. Which is awesome, by the way.

I ran with MapMyRun! Distance: 7.15mi, time: 01:14:41, pace: 10:27min/mi, speed: 5.74mi/h.
http://mapmyrun.com/workout/408091919

Slow and Steady…blah blah blah

According to MapMyRun, last week I ran 14.3 miles, which is the most mileage I’ve managed to run since I got hurt. I also hiked about 5 miles in Lord Hill Park with the hubby and kids so all told I put in quite a few miles last week. And there are a couple of mile runs I didn’t log, done mainly to warm up for strength training.

I’ve been pretty good since July about adding on miles slowly, and not worrying about speed. Taking things slow is actually pretty hard for me because I am a competitive person. Not saying I’m fast – but I am that person who normally runs a 10 minute mile, but if someone goes by me at a 9:30, I hustle it up just to pass, then I go hide behind a bush.

Oh, and I’m also sort of obsessive by nature. So doing the boring work of just building the base and putting in the miles, when I see people training for the distances I’d like to be able to run, running at speeds I wish I could achieve…it’s like torture sometimes. It takes discipline NOT to pile on more miles, not to sneak in the speed work, but just to keep it slow and steady and stick to the plan.

My goal right now is to get consistent 4 runs a week (3 treadmill, 1 road) and bring my mileage up to about 16 – 20 miles a week and stay there through the winter. I am mostly focusing on building my base, getting my body ready to handle the increased mileage I hope to add in the spring.

But now that I have said all that – I actually DID start doing a little speed work again. I think it’s okay – I’m only going to work on it one day a week and I do feel a lot stronger since I’ve been doing more strength training. I think it’s okay but I hope that is not just my pre-race ambition talking. Since I have the Snohomish River Run at the end of the month, I can already feel myself getting antsy about it, hating the feeling that I could run faster had I not gotten injured, and wanting to make a sort of last ditch effort to “pick up the plow” and run at a pace I may or may not be ready for. So I’m doing it a little bit, but being careful to pay attention to how I am feeling and dial back if necessary.

With these things in mind, yesterday was my first official speed workout. I did 4 miles on the treadmill, including 4×800 at a 10, 9:30, 9 and 8:30 pace with 200 meters walking/slow jogging between. I fell apart on the last one so I guess that is the threshold right now – I could run that fast if I was being chased by tigers, but otherwise, it is not a level of effort I can (or want to) sustain. As far as a potential race pace for Snohomish, I’d be happy if I could just get anywhere close to a 10 minute mile pace.

Could I finish 10k in an hour? I guess we’ll find out in 18 days.

The Adventure Zone

My basic running routine is running on the treadmill 2 or 3 days a week at my local YMCA, with one long outdoor run on the weekend. This is basically for child care reasons. The Y has free child care but I have to stay inside the building, therefore, the majority of running has to be done indoors. They have a big indoor jungle gym called the Adventure Zone where my younger son Oleg plays while I work out. Therefore, we call going to workout “going to the Adventure Zone,” which makes it all sound fun and exciting (and less like I am pawning him off on the nice ladies so I can run).

This arrangement works out pretty well, even if it is slightly less thrilling than the title of this post would suggest. Oleg has a good time there, makes friends and gets some energy out. I get a little time alone (albeit around a bunch of other people) and get my run on. I still would prefer being outside most days, but this time of year it takes the sting out of being stuck on the treadmill when I look out the window and see heavy grey clouds, and rain, and wind. Although today was actually pretty nice – windy and cool, but sunny. But for most of the last couple of weeks the weather has been crap, which makes being a hamster on a wheel seem less tedious.

I usually try to do various things to keep my interest level up while I am on the treadmill. Sometimes I try to work on speed a bit, other times I might focus on form, and sometimes I just do a boring run where I hold the same pace the whole time. Zzzzzz…anyway, I usually try to keep my brain engaged somehow.

Today I worked a bit on form, wearing the Merrell barefoot glove shoes that I have, and also ran some tempo pace pick ups. I can’t hold any kind of pace for a very long time in these shoes – my feet get too tired. You are supposed to land more forward on the balls of your feet rather than pounding down on your heels, which is what I typically do. Since I am hoping to work up to the half and then full marathon distance within a year, I am hoping doing some runs in these a couple times a week will help me to get a bit lighter on my feet and improve form so I can stay injury free.

I like the barefoot shoes a lot, I like how they make me feel more engaged with what my body is doing. But I don’t think I would try to run very far in them – it would probably take years to improve my foot strike enough to where that wouldn’t be colossally stupid. But, I figure I can run a few miles a week in them to sort of change things up and maybe get some incremental form improvement out of it. And that would be a good thing.

I also worked a bit on keeping my legs a bit wider apart, so between the two, it was actually quite difficult to do at the pace I was running. I am definitely feeling it now in my feet and ankles, as well as my hips. No pain, just that feeling when your body lets you know you were doing something different.

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Do you run on the treadmill? What do you do to keep it interesting?