Holy Roller

Well, it’s been a pretty quiet week here in Lake Whoa-my-leg. After running my first 10K last weekend and feeling really good about my time and my body afterwards, I progressed into a shitty week of rushing myself and what I was afraid would be my first skipped run or maybe even the “I” word. And as I’ve probably said way too many times already, Injury is not an option.

I really don’t want to have to think about not being able to run. Times, paces, and races are all important to record in order to track progress and work towards new goals. Sometimes I’ll even pretend that they’re fun to talk about, but those things still have very little to do with WHY I run or why I love it. It just makes me feel good. It’s all about the calming release of being out there.

running therapyAs I’m sure you’ve noticed while driving around, everything written on bumper stickers is always true. And they do make that “Running is Cheaper than Therapy” sticker for a reason. Skipping a run would have upset me, but I would’ve done it if I thought forcing it would end up injuring me and leaving me sidelined for an extended amount of time.

I’m often balancing that line between listening to my body and battling my mind. Is this discomfort something that exercise will relieve or will it only aggravate the problem? Do I try to stretch out this tension or is rest the answer? I’m not a doctor, but stretching an overworking/pulled muscle or strained tendon seems like a pretty bad idea. But using a little soreness as an excuse to skip a workout just seems lazy.

I’ve tried lazy. I didn’t care for the results.

On Monday, my right knee was pretty sore for the first time in a long time. I’d increased the length of my bike workouts during the previous week, so I thought maybe I had overdone it at the gym somehow. But it felt fine after Saturday’s 10K so maybe I tweeked it playing disc golf on Sunday. I ran anyway. I’ve had sporadic minor knee issues for most of my life (I grew really tall, really young), but they usually go away when I exercise regularly. It was pretty quick three mile run and I felt fine afterwards, especially after stretching. One day I will realize how truly important it is to take the time to stretch properly. That day might have come two days later.

Wednesday was wrong from the start. My Wednesday routine is way too full, and I can tell that I’m going to have to change something. I’ve been meeting friends for tacos and beers every Wednesday for a few years now and even after cutting out the pre-taco disc golf rounds and pushing my arrival time back an hour, I’m still rushing non-stop on Wednesdays in order to fit in my run and the gym before heading out.

The weather was unseasonably warm on Wednesday (high 60 degree temps in January), and it was really nice to be able to run in just shorts and a t-shirt. I raced home from work, changed clothes, warmed up, did some quick stretching, and hit the road. My pacing was a little sloppy and I’m still gearing myself up for the inevitable day when I’m finally going to have to quit smoking (it’s coming), but overall it was a pretty decent run. My legs were a little sore but nothing crazy and as always I felt good afterwards.

After my run, I did a very quick piss-poor stretching job and raced to the gym. Time was flying and I already knew I was going to be late again.

I was late. I knocked out my workout, stretched again (but equally as half-assed as earlier), showered, dressed, picked up a friend, and headed out. Those tacos aren’t going to eat themselves you know. And by then I was pretty hungry.

As the night went along, my legs became more and more stiff. And by Thursday morning, my left leg was so sore that it was becoming a little worrisome. After lunch on Thursday, my leg had gone from sore to painful and I was getting really worried that I would have to skip my Friday run. Friday is the day of the week that I’ve planned all of my “long” runs as I train for my first half marathon in March. And I really didn’t want to skip it, or push it back a day. And I definitely didn’t want to adjust my whole training plan to compensate for missing one of my step-up distances. I’m a newbie. I have to be careful, but I also can’t afford to miss/skip any steps towards my goal.

So to the wonderful internet I went. I looked into all of the usual suspects of running stresses and injuries and any associated remedies. And after a little research, I decided to try a massage roller. I refuse to take pain medication (or any pills at all for that matter), and I had already tried every stretching trick I could find. My leg was fucked. And I was pissed.

Meet my new roommate Citrus

Meet my new roommate Citrus

That foam cylinder was the best glorified pool toy that I have ever seen. I thought they seemed kind of silly and definitely didn’t look like much. But that thing rolled so much of the kinks out of my upper legs, from simple muscle tightness to the dreaded iliotibial band. Sure it hurt a little bit at first, but after just a few minutes on each leg, I was walking around pain free again. I wanted to buy that damn thing a drink.

I used it again in the morning and again that afternnon before my run. And I was able to have a really great Friday afternoon run. I stepped my longest distance to date up to seven miles. I ran those seven miles just a few seconds per mile slower than I did six miles the week before and I did it much more efficiently using some chi running techniques I read about during the week. And I felt AMAZING after my run.

I always know I’m in the right place when I catch myself smiling as I run. I so wish I had started years ago. But hindsight’s a bitch sometimes. Oh well.

After my run, I did a little cool-down jogging/walking around the neighborhood, and then…I stretched. I stretched slowly. I stretched for as long as I needed to. And I stretched everything. The chi running method that I mentioned engages your core muscles more actively than I was used to, and I could tell. I stretched everything.

Then I rolled my legs again. I love that orange noodle. And I don’t believe that its benefits are limited to runners, so keep it in mind if whatever activity you enjoy (Martial Arts, Cycling, Swimming, Kick Ball, Channel Surfing etc) leaves your muscles tight or sore.

CitrusI’ve decided to name my new foam roommate Citrus. I think we may be friends for a long time. And before you judge me, ask yourself if naming an inanimate foam object is really any sillier than naming a gold fish. I don’t think so.

I guess while I’ve obviously decided that I should be plugging “gear” that I’m using, I might as well share this one too. Last month, some ladies saw me putting on my flipbelt before a race and asked about it. It’s a no-buckle continuous hollow band of high elasticity material that you wear around your waste. It has four access holes around the belt that allow you to put anything from iPods, phones, credit cards, money, keys…whatever inside of it. I wear it every time I run so that I have a static place to hold my iPod and a quiet place to hold my keys. It’s not perfect, but I have enjoyed it way more than I could imagine enjoying having my iPod bouncing around on my upper arm. And I imagine it could be used in place of most fanny pack uses or money belts for travelers. I even gave a couple of these away as Christmas gifts. Check ‘em out here.flip belt

Pros: It’s not an armband. It doesn’t move around while running. You don’t have to, but if you think something might fall out of it, you can flip all or parts of the belt around so that the opening is secure against your body. It’s not an arm band. It can be easily hidden under a coat or shirt tail. It has multiple access holes and can store things all the way around your waist. It will hold most any size phone or mp3 player. It’s not an arm band.

Cons: It’s not totally sweat proof, so while I have not any issues yet, any sensitive electronics may not like it when you sweat through the belt. The access holes are a little hard to find and/or access until you get used to them.

If you think you’d like one, make sure you pay close attention to the sizing chart. I’ve lost a little bit of weight since buying mine and have had to adjust where I wear it to keep it in place, but still no major problems.

That’s all I’ve got. Have a great weekend. And enjoy this clip from one of my favorite bands right now–Calexico. I’ve listened to them for a few years, and I really like their most recent record: Algiers. I could run, drive, or just chill while listening to just about any of their records. They sound like their name; a mix of California and Mexico desert music. Of course they’re from Arizona. I love everything that I’ve heard and the videos that I’ve seen are all really well made and wonderfully shot. Happy Saturday.