Running quote of the week

"You can't rush the miles. No matter how fast I run, the five miles isn't going to be done in the first five minutes." - Robert Herjavec

Friday, March 20, 2015

The doctor will see you...soon

Today's workout (elliptical): 40 minutes

I'm old enough to remember the days when the doctor would come to your house when someone got the sniffles. Besides the fact that physicians actually did house calls, it was remarkable that the doctor could be summoned on a moment's notice. These days, I plan my doctor visits strategically, taking the first appointment of the day in hopes of "only" waiting an hour to be let in to the exam room.

It's much harder to get in to see a doctor these days, especially if that doctor is a specialist. I was surprised that I was able to schedule an appointment with an orthopedist as early as next week. I've been careful not to aggravate my self-diagnosed piriformis syndrome, substituting the elliptical for the treadmill for the past three weeks.

I thought I'd try an easy run this morning to see whether things had improved. My pain has reduced, but it hasn't gone away. I still have sciatic pain when sitting for long periods (i.e., my morning commute) and I was curious to know how my glute/hamstring area would respond to some easy running.

I started out slowly "running", first at 3 MPH and then increasing  to 4 MPH. I felt okay, but noticed a little discomfort. Once I brought it up past 5 MPH, I knew I was borrowing trouble. I shut the treadmill down, walked over to the elliptical and did my workout there.

That experience made me realize that this problem will not resolve itself through patience. I looked online and found a sports orthopedist whose office is located five minutes from my house. I called them up, verified that they take my health plan and made an appointment for next Friday. I was shocked that I was able to do that. The last time I tried to meet with an orthopedist, the appointment had to be scheduled so far in the future that my injury went away before I was due to meet with him.

I'm encouraged to know that I'll have a qualified person diagnose this problem and (hopefully) put me on a path to quick recovery. I've been dealing with running discomfort since last November and have concluded that enough is enough. I fear that the doctor may say that my injury is more serious than I thought, either requiring surgery and/or extended physical therapy.

But it's better to know the cause than to continue this cycle of running, recovery, and re-aggravation. I just want to get back to running the trails.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Good news, selfish reaction

Work sweet work
Today's workout (elliptical): 55 minutes

My professional life has shifted a bit this week, with a mixture of good news and selfish disappointment. After leaving my old company in 2013 after 20 years, I'd hoped to enjoy a long relaxing semi-retirement. My plan was to take on consulting engagements that interested me and enjoy a far more flexible schedule. That worked fine until last April, when I was offered an extended project that would put me back into a regular working and commuting routine.

I accepted that project role and have enjoyed every minute of it. Work stress has been near zero, because I haven't had to worry about politics or long term issues. I was supposed to finish up by June and looked forward to returning to my open consulting schedule that would give me time to run every day.

That will not be the case because I've just agreed to become a permanent employee. It's good news because I like what I do, and I'm fortunate that fitness and health are a big part of the organization's mission. I'm a little disappointed that I won't be returning to the easy life in June, but I work from home on Fridays and have a lot more time in the evening compared to my old job at Time Inc.

I'll be spending a lot of time working out at the office over the next six weeks and I'm hoping that will help prepare me for springtime running. I didn't even attempt to use the treadmill this morning because I've learned my lesson about pushing too hard during recovery. I may go on it for a few minutes of easy running tomorrow to see if things have improved. This morning's elliptical workout was pain-free and the soreness has reduced overall.

I still plan to see a doctor to get the problem diagnosed. In the meantime, the recovery is going very well and I don't plan to make the same mistake as last time.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The race to recover

Ready to return
Today's workout (elliptical): 50 minutes

Racing used to be big part of my running life, but I've definitely decreased the number of events I do. It's not that I don't want to race. Races are fun and few moments in life are better than the feeling you get after you've crossed the line. I only participated in few races last year, the last one being the Jingle All The Way 5K in December that I ran with my run buddies. They're the other reason that races are fun.

The one race I've run every year without fail is the Marcie Mazzola 5K in Huntington. It was the first race I did after returning to running in 2008 (at that time it was a 4 miler) and I have a sentimental attachment to both the event and its cause. Two factors that will cause me to miss it this year include my current soreness issue and the fact that the date coincides with a visit with weekend guests.

A year ago, I was preparing for the Brooklyn Half Marathon and used the Marcie M as a speed workout as I got closer to the date. I had every intention of following Brooklyn with my usual set  of races: New Hyde Park, Dirty Sock, Cow Harbor, TOB Supervisor's, Run for the Warriors, etc. I ended up skipping them all. I'd lost interest in racing after a grueling experience in Brooklyn and I needed to recapture the thrill of the race.

Now the spirit is willing but the glute is weak. I'm anxious to return to the road and start training for something. Spring is almost here and I'm going to get out there as soon as the roads are safe. I'm encouraged by the fact that I can already do long, pain-free elliptical sessions that will allow me to maintain a level of fitness while my body repairs whatever damage I've done to it. I plan to visit to a sports doctor if I don't see fast improvement. I have a good record for recovery, but I'm not so good at staying recovered.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The end of running, for now

Patience is a virtue
Today's workout (elliptical): 50 minutes

For now and for the foreseeable future, I am no longer a runner, emerging or otherwise. Like the old adage that insanity is repeating the same action but expecting a different result, I've concluded that running right now will only result in pain. I'm not as upset about this as you'd think. I don't plan to change the name of this site to "The Former Runner." I'm just hitting the pause button until nature fixes the problem.

Thursday's treadmill run was (literally) an exercise in determination. I was sure that getting through my three mile workout would somehow prove that I could always run through this problem. The bigger issue was that it hurt. First a little and then a lot. I knew that this was no way to handle things. I ended up skipping my workout on Friday because I needed to meet an insane work deadline that used up every minute of the day. An opportunity to recover somewhat offset the guilt.

I was still sore this morning and I knew that I couldn't repeat Thursday's experience. My strategy was to first do an elliptical session and then test the waters on the treadmill. The elliptical session went great. No pain during the 35 minute workout and no pain after I'd finished. I hopped up on the treadmill and set the speed to 4.1 MPH, hopefully fast enough to "run" without aggravating the source of my problem.

It only took a few seconds to realize that running at any speed right now will result in pain. I further backed down the speed and switched to walking for ten minutes, playing with inclines and declines between +/- 3%. Once done, I returned to the elliptical for 15 more minutes of pain free exercise. Stepping up my effort on the elliptical did not produce any pain. Better still, the soreness from my brief treadmill "run" was completely gone.

So today's lesson is that running hurts and ellipticals heal. I'm going to use the elliptical exclusively while my body works on whatever it is that's causing my running pain. I've decided to give it three weeks before I try another easy treadmill run. This is exactly what happened between the time when the old treadmill failed and the new one was installed. I did fine in that transition, but made the mistake of pushing my speed (and my luck) and that brought me back to square one.

If this plan doesn't work, I'll visit a orthopedist to get an MRI or meet with a physical therapist. They say time heals all wounds. Let's see if that's true.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Hard times on the short track

Sounds about right
Today's run (treadmill): 3.2 miles

My current level of fitness is probably at its lowest since early 2010. Back then I was recovering from a bout of pneumonia that had me in the hospital for a week. My time away from running (after our treadmill failed) had an effect on my conditioning. More concerning is an injury that surfaced in early December. Things improved a lot in January but I made the mistake of pushing hard on a run one day and that re-aggravated the problem. Three weeks working out exclusively on the elliptical got me back in the game.

Things started going downhill after we got our new treadmill. I had three decent runs and concluded that I was back on track. I was having a great run last Friday and decided to step up my speed. That was a big mistake. I suddenly felt searing pain in the area between my glute and hamstring, Even though I stopped right away, the damage was done. The closest thing that I've found online that describes it is something called hamstring tendinopathy.

I was back to the treadmill on Saturday but I struggled to the point where I had to stop. I completed my workout on the elliptical and didn't even attempt to run on Sunday (elliptical again). I hoped that a three day layoff since Sunday would allow sufficient time to recover. I felt okay at the start, even though the modest speed I'd set felt as fast as race pace.

Despite the challenge, I was determined to see this run all the way through. The pain started increasing after ten minutes and I decided I'd deal with it for as long as I could stand it. I hoped I wasn't doing any damage and felt okay when I finally finished, but I've been very sore all day. I'll give it another try tomorrow but I won't be a hero. Reducing speed seems to keep the pain in check so I'll see how it goes.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Shallow bins and recovery progress

Usability testing anyone?
Today's workout (elliptical): 40 minutes

I realize that there are many larger problems than this, but can someone please explain to me why the stuff holders on our elliptical and new treadmill are so shallow? I don't get it. Do the designers ever think about the fact that an 8" remote will probably fall out of a 4" deep console bin? This are the sort of things that go through my mind these days as I do my workouts without outdoor distractions.

Yesterday's treadmill run ended with an alarming jolt of pain as I pushed my pace beyond a moderate speed. Rather than signaling a new or deeper problem, I think this experience was a warning. Despite giving the injury plenty of rest, the root cause issue remains. If three weeks of no-impact workouts haven't resolved it, it may be time to see an orthopedist.

Today's workout was all about protecting the problem. Instead of running, I spent 40 minutes on the elliptical and followed that with ten minutes of (very) slow running on the treadmill with a 2.5% incline. It wasn't a particularly challenging workout, but that was the point.

I'll probably go back to a full treadmill workout tomorrow. The elliptical session seemed to reset whatever caused yesterday's pain and I'm feeling better. Just the same, I'll need to keep my speed in check tomorrow to prevent another cycle of pain.

Friday, February 27, 2015

97% of a good run

Unhappy ending
Today's run (treadmill): 3.3 miles

When does a tenth of a mile make all the difference in a run? Today it was in the final 10th of my treadmill workout. It's been a lot of time since my last run because my business schedule is sucking up all my bandwidth. Today I worked from home and managed to get back to running, although I had limited time this morning.

It was my fourth run on our new treadmill and I continue to appreciate it compared to the old one. The Freemotion running experience is far better than the Sole's. Besides the much quieter motor and stable tread that doesn't jerk underfoot, the Freemotion unit feels more substantial and the running less tedious. The time - and mileage - seem to go by a lot faster.

So I had 97% of a great run and 3% of a really bad one. It was my own fault. The three weeks I spent exclusively on the elliptical helped heal my chronic sciatica. My return to the treadmill last week re-aggravated that injury. I hoped resting from Monday through Thursday would reverse the damage and, to a degree, it did. But I pushed too hard today and that set back my progress.

I only aimed to cover three miles and felt good running at a moderate pace. With half a mile left to go, I began increasing my speed. Everything felt fine and I decided to cover 3.25 miles. By the time I was on the last quarter, the speed felt challenging. At the 3.2 mile point I felt a searing pain in my upper hamstring/glute region and I knew I'd pushed too hard. Y'ouch!

I thought I'd seriously hurt myself. I immediately reduced my speed and stopped the treadmill. Walking felt painful and I hoped it was a temporary situation. I took Ibuprofen and hit the shower. I certainly did myself no favors today. After living with the result all day, it doesn't seem as bad. I'll see how it feels tomorrow morning. I may substitute a run for an elliptical session rather than further aggravate the problem..

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Treadmill running is almost like real running

Same same
Today's run (treadmill): 3.6 miles

I downloaded my Garmin for the first time since January and saw that my last run before Friday happened on January 31 (not January 25th as I'd thought). Still, it was three full weeks between those runs. Over four weeks since I ran outside. So far the transition from elliptical to treadmill has been seamless, but it will likely be a few weeks before I can run outdoors again.

I was wondering about the difference between treadmill and road running when I came upon an article on the ABC News website called Myth or Reality: Treadmill Just as Good as Road Running. The point of the story was that most of the differences between indoor and outdoor running are small:

- Treadmill running requires less force from the knees and hips but not to a significant degree.

- Calorie burn is about the same until you get down to a 7 minute pace.

The article goes on to say that transitioning from the treadmill to the road puts you at risk for calf strains, plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis. I'll need to keep that in mind when I return to outdoor workouts. I'm sure that, once I'm back to the street, I'll want to stay outside for my runs.

Today's run was a little longer and a little faster than yesterday's. I am trying to limit the time I spend on the treadmill while I transition back from the zero-impact elliptical. Again, the time went by quickly and I was pleased with the airflow from the two large fans that sit below the console. I suspect that the challenge will increase as I add more time and speed to my running.

Unlike warm weather days, I don't need to think through my venue options for a Sunday run. Like yesterday and today, tomorrow will once again be a treadmill day. And that's just fine.

Friday, February 20, 2015

First run: Freemotion 850 & Saucony Triumph ISOs

The new new things
Today's run (treadmill): 3.3 miles? I forgot to check!

I listened to the weather on my way home from the office last night and was disheartened to hear that we'll be facing below-zero temperatures and more snow this weekend. But then I remembered that we have a new treadmill and suddenly all was right in the world. I was very happy after that, and even happier when my wife reminded be to swing by Panda to pick up our Chinese New Year dinner.

With all the snow and ice we've had this year, options for running have been limited. This was made worse with the failure of our treadmill. The only choice I've had this month has been the elliptical machine. While I've come to really appreciate the workout, I've missed running a lot. I work from home on Fridays and that gave me my first opportunity since January 25th to actually run. Not only would I be using this treadmill for the first time (the minute I spent on it the day it was delivered doesn't count), but I'd also have my first run in the Saucony Triumph ISOs.

I was curious to see how I'd do after three-plus weeks away from running. Did the elliptical sessions preserve my fitness, or would I find myself overtaxed? I plugged my phone into the sound jack and started up a podcast. The very large built-in speaker amplified the voices well enough to clearly hear over the motor. This is so much better than earbuds, which I despise. I stepped up on the new machine and immediately appreciated the quiet, shriek-free experience.

The Sauconys felt good underfoot. They are well cushioned but don't feel heavy. The Freemotion's deck suspension feels more responsive than the Sole's. I took it fairly easy to avoid aggravating muscles that are not used to running. Running felt surprisingly good and the first mile went by quickly. I thought the Triumphs felt more comfortable and ran a lot better than the Kayanos.

It's really great to be able to run again after almost a month and I was pleased that I got through today's workout without feeling like I've lost fitness. I may find it a bit tougher when I finally return to the road. Overall, I should do fine. I know I'll eventually disparage the idea of treadmill running, but for now, it's great to have that option again.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Sole's last laugh

Kicked to the curb
We all know that what goes up must come down. That goes for our old treadmill and it didn't go without a fight. The good news is that our new treadmill was delivered tonight. That was the easy part. The hard part was getting the old Sole down the stairs and out the door.

The two guys who came to assemble our new Freemotion 850 agreed to remove the Sole and carry it to the curb. We were happy about that, because there was no way we could have done it ourselves. I was excited to be just minutes away from having a working treadmill and getting rid of a bad memory. The guys got the old machine out of the guestroom fairly quickly. Then the trouble began.

It was pretty tough to watch. Our hand-built wooden stair rail took a lot of abuse, but it held up well. The other side didn't fare as well. The rollers on the tread bed punched through the drywall leaving a couple of rectangular holes that will need to be patched and painted. It could have been worse, but it wasn't good.

New and improved
The guys set up the new treadmill and called us upstairs. At first I was taken aback by the size of the machine. The Freemotion's console stands half a foot taller than the Sole's and the frame is at least three inches longer. It's a substantial machine that (when you're standing on it) feels a little like a fitness center treadmill.

I ran on the new treadmill for a minute to make sure it worked. I'll wait until I do a real run before sharing my impression, but I will say, so far, so good.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Joining a gym is short term thinking

Save me a spot
Today's workout (elliptical): 60 minutes

This is has been a snowy winter, just like last year when I did over 70% of my running indoors. What's missing for me this year is a working treadmill, I decided to explore a short term gym membership to tide me over and started looking online at my options. 

You can learn a lot about joining a health club from their websites. For example, few sites will tell you the actual cost to join their gym. Instead of providing a price list, many say "call or click to request pricing." Why is this? Do they want to figure out how much money I'm willing to spend before committing to a cost? This is why people dislike shopping for a car.

For those health clubs that actually put their pricing on their website, I discovered a pretty wide variance in cost. Generally speaking, gyms with stark black and white designs with super athletic, good looking people seem to be very expensive (i.e., Equinox). They also tend to charge initiation or enrollment fees. Gyms with friendly designs and bright colors are much more reasonably priced and don't seem to add on extra costs (i.e., Planet Fitness).

10.5X more expensive than Planet Fitness
Most of these places offer either a day or full week free pass. I considered doing that, but I would need to go from gym to gym until our new treadmill is installed. I also envision a situation when, each time I go, the gym manager corners me and gives me a pitch like he's selling me a Florida timeshare. 

I happen to work in a place that has a well appointed fitness center and I can use it for free. I was hoping to do an occasional treadmill run there, but I concluded that I don't want to do a workout before my business day. Especially since it would require me to share a common shower and tiny locker room with my workmates. I really don't want to see that. Besides, when I get to the office, I like to get right to business.

We still don't have a date for our treadmill delivery so I may end up going for a couple of 7 day trials or joining Planet Fitness for a month for $10 if that's truly their deal. If I can drive to Bethpage State Park to run on the bike path, I can drive to a gym in the same town. Maybe someone should come up with a service model like Airbnb, where people let you come in and use their home fitness equipment. That would make it really easy.

I spent an hour on the elliptical machine this morning and actually liked the workout. But after looking at gyms online with expansive fitness rooms filled with high end treadmills, I'm ready for a change. Still, getting back on the road without worrying about slipping, or no sidewalk escape routes would make me the happiest of all.

Friday, February 13, 2015

In between runs

The thing I do now
Today's workout (elliptical): 45 minutes

Remember when I used to run? I barely do. In retrospect, it might have been a good idea to get a new treadmill before our old one finally conked out. The snowy, freezing weather has made outdoor running impractical, if not impossible, and it's been almost two weeks since I've actually ran. I am glad to have the elliptical machine. It provides a decent workout and it's helping me maintain my fitness until I can return to the road (or run on our yet-be-be-delivered new treadmill).

Not counting my 2010 bout with pneumonia that took me away from running for three weeks, this is the longest I've gone since 2008. The best part of this hiatus is that my sciatica has greatly lessened. People were telling me to take a break and recover once and for all. Nature and mechanical failure have taken care of that for me.

I'm curious to see how I do the next time I run and whether I've lost a lot of my base. My plan is to get to Bethpage once the path is clear to see how many miles I can handle. Temperatures are supposed to stay in the mid-teens this weekend and snow is expected on both days. Until then, it's going to mean a lot more time on the elliptical.
 

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