Sunday, September 3, 2017

Dogs on the Trail

When I see someone with their dog more than once, it's the dog I recognise more than the person.  There is a guy with a Dalmation that I see on Rose Hills Road.  At least in this case, I know the guys name but not the dog's.  I also see a couple on Workman Hill with a Bichon Frise.  I'm impressed with the dog because it is so light on its feet.  I used to see a middle aged Asian guy on the Skyline trail with a dog of indeterminate breed that always had its right ear sticking up and the left ear flopping over.  And now there is a guy in the neighborhood who has a couple of friendly pitbulls.

I've felt for a long time that dogs (and people) are better behaved off leash.  There was a young lady at the park the other day with a black shepherd off leash.  I made the usual clicking sounds with my tongue so that neither one would be too surprised.  That dog was actually a little timid.  I have a fond memory of meeting a couple with 3 dogs off leash on the Rincon-Shortcut fire road.  I could see how happy those dogs were because 1) they were with their favorite people, 2) they were out in the wilds where things smell so great and 3) they got to go off leash.  And finally, I remember a black lab running kind of sideways up a dirt road in anticipation of getting petted (by me).

Friday, September 1, 2017

It's A Girl!

Serena Williams and fiance' Alexis Ohanian welcome a baby girl into the world!  Congratulations!
It always brings a smile to my face when I think of this couple.  Both are very interesting people but in much different ways.  Serena is such an incredible athlete and such a dominating competitor.  And of course, with that comes a very strong mind.  Alexis is an internet entrepreneur who started Reddit.  He is also a social activist for selected causes.  It always pleases me to see successful people give back - and not in self serving causes, not necessarily through charity but through activism and participation.  And in a lot of cases, their profession and activism form a continuum, not a distinct set of interests.

Congratulations to both of you and may the three of you continue to prosper!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Resilience

I'm job hunting and got wrapped up in that last week and missed running 3 days in row.  So since then, I've gotten out every day to the park and have run a few miles there.  Running at the park means picking up trash.  The park looks pretty good now.  There were two broken Blue Moon bottles yesterday, one in the grass right next to my path and one on the basketball court.  There was a dishrag by the one in the grass so I just put the pieces on the cloth and threw the collection in the trash.  I wanted a broom and dustpan to clean up the basketball court and luckily, the city workers showed up before I was done and I borrowed a pair from them.

My daughter is the trainer for the San Francisco Flamethrowers Ultimate Frisbee team that just won the AUDL championship in Montreal.  Did you know that there was a professional ultimate frisbee league?  At the end of the game which was streamed live, they interviewed the 3 co-captains, including the well known Beau Kittredge.  Besides his athletic ability, Beau is known for his durability.  He'll jump high for a catch, come down in a pile of bodies and come away unscathed.  In the post game interview, he indirectly attributed his durability to track work, lifting and plyometrics.  How does this relate to me? 
  • I've been injured quite a bit recently.
  • I've recovered primarily due to specific (non-running) exercises.
  • I've done track work recently.
  • I've lifted in the past.  I actually competed at powerlifting at one time.
But,
  • I've never done plyos, at least not with any regularity, and
  • I haven't been lifting recently.
So, I did a second workout last night.  I did jumping jacks (lightweight plyo), some little jumps that I saw my other daughter (the one with the big vertical) doing. And then I went out and pulled the tire.  I didn't go overboard on any of these. 
So the goal is now, get that first workout in and then use the evening workout to fill in the non-running gaps... or track work.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Keys

I'm finally getting back to a level where I got through 2 workouts which could be construed as full workouts, even though I still have a long way to go before I feel that I'm in decent shape.  The first was 2 hours of hill repeats on Thursday and the second was 5x1 mile repeats today.  In both cases, I got through the workouts due to some keys I hit on during the workouts.

The key I hit on in the first workout came from the Mary Poppins movie in the scene where she is helping Jane and Michael pick up the play room. Well begun is half done which according to Brainy Quote is from Aristotle.  I felt like quitting at the beginning of the third rep but noticed that after I got started up the hill, things went pretty smoothly.  So I recalled that quote just before I started each subsequent rep and that got me through the workout.

The problem going into the track workout today was that my flat runs have not been going well at all. In addition, running with shoes (except my New Balance on trails) has not been going well. Today's warm-up consisted of riding my bike to the high school, then jumping jacks in the grass, a couple of carioca passes and then 4x40m in the grass, but not that fast.

But the important thing is to start that first rep. As I write this, I recall yet another quote, attributed to Goethe by W.H. Murray: Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. So I started the first rep at a pace that was a bit too fast since I had no idea what my pace would be. The pace settled down but my problem wasn't a pace question; it was a form question. I started the third rep but then quit about 10 seconds in. I walked back to the start and I think at that point told myself a familiar key, which is to "lift my heels".  With that, I restarted the rep. After that, a smaller problem was that I was going from sticking my butt out to tucking it under, neither of which was correct.  So that eventually clicked to the other key, stay long through the hips.

Any runner ought to have some familiar keys to which they refer either in workouts or races. My key with the hill repeats was more on the inspirational side, basically telling myself to start each rep well. My keys with the track workout were more form cues on how to use my body. I've used both type of keys in races.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Eureka

I think I may have found my (running) problem.  Let me narrate the thought process:

I hooked up with my old training group and ran stadiums that night.  I was taking short steps on the stairs, not bench to bench as I used to.  I think running those steps and working on turnover may have clicked something in my head about how to relax.

So the next time I ran hill repeats at Workman Hill in Whittier, I started working on relaxation while going up the last climb.  This translated quite quickly into a feeling of "tossing" with my foot by relaxing before I've even left the ground.  The next hill workout, mostly on just the other side of Turnbull Canyon was an exercise in tossing the foot in the same way.

This worked with no soreness or tightness as a result.  I'm super-optimistic.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Soleus

I've been having problems for a while with my solei, and recently the left soleus for a change.  I do the Alfredson Protocol on a minimum of a daily basis to help with this.  Playing soccer seemed to get them stronger.

I came up with the following workout.

Starting on a concrete levee, basically a 30 degree slope that's about 20 feet high:

  • Run straight up, emphasizing turnover, not stride length.
  • Run Carioca sideways (traveling both to the left and right).
  • Run straight up again.
The last time I did this, I did 8 reps, 4(L) + 4(R) reps, 8 reps.

Then, I ride my bike back to the local park and do the following.

  • Some running straight to warm up.
  • Some Cariocas
  • 1 step Zigzag, so push off left to go right, then on the next step push off right to go left - for 32 steps.
  • 1 step reversed Zigzag, push off left to go left, then push off right to go right.
  • 2 step Zigzag, so push off left, first traveling right, then 2 steps later traveling left.
  • 2 step Zigzag, push off right.
This seems to help.

Also, inspired by Serena Williams, today I squeezed out as many 24 step sprints as I felt I could without further injuring myself.  I iced and used the EMS machine afterwards.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Assistance Exercises

I start out my day, pretty much every day with a set of exercises. There is always the temptation to add to the set, but I like to keep the set as short as it is. The point is to do these daily and if I had too many exercises, I wouldn't always do them.
The other adaptation of these exercises is the lack of equipment required. I now have it down to requiring a floor and a chair (for the Bulgarian Split Squats). I want to be able to do these if I am traveling.
Finally, I do 16 reps of most of the exercises. 16 is 2x2x2x2 which is a nice number from two points of view: rhythm and computers. Computers are irrelevant (but my profession) but rhythm makes sense for physical exercises (and also is related to my other major in college: music). Also, I hold my stretches for 64 seconds which is 2x2x2x2x2x2.

    The exercises are broken into 4 groups which I call "AFES".
  1. A - Alfredson Protocol - Briefly, calf negatives.  Alternating left and right feet, with a relaxed foot, I first touch my toes on one side followed by flexing my ankle until I can lift my toes off the floor with my weight on the ball of my foot.  As I do this, I gradually take my weight off my other foot.  I do one set with bent knees (for my soleus) and then a set with extended knees.  I do a total of 3 sets of 16 (bent knees) + 16 (extended knees).  And when I say 16, that's alternating between left and right, finishing with 16 on each side.  I take my time to do these, feeling the effect in my muscles.  Often when I do these, I can have tightness or soreness at the beginning which is gone by the end.  This is the way I do Alfredson's Protocol.  It is effective for me.  There are other ways of doing it.  Also, the only equipment I need is the floor and something to lean against.  Alfredson's Protocol is promoted as a remedy for Achilles Tendonitis (or Tendinosis).  It also may help Plantar's Fasciitis.  I do it every day no matter what.  I sometimes do it at other times of the day if my lower calves feel particularly tight or if I'm going running.  These are named after Hakan Alfredson who is a Swedish sports scientist who devised these and is one of the foremost authorities on tendons.
  2. F- Flow - I picked up the idea of flow from Cori who does the Redefining Strength" channel on youtube.  I view it as movement to get my muscles warmed up.  Remember that this motion should be fluid and fairly relaxed.  This could be a sequence of movements that someone improvises but I have a set group of movements.
    • Knee circles - With my feet very close together and my knees bent (and together) and with my hands on my legs just above my knees, I move my knees in 16 circles clockwise, the 16 circles counter clockwise.  These days, I tend to feel tightness in my left hip flexor and sometimes some connection from my thigh to my hip.
    • Hip circles - I separate my feet by maybe an inch, keep my knees fairly straight with my hands on my hips and otherwise mimic the previous flow by moving my hips in 16 circles clockwise, followed by 16 counter clockwise.  Again currently, I feel these in my left hip flexor.
    • Twist - Without swinging and with a wide stance, I twist my torso and neck (in a controlled fashion) first to the left to view a point on the floor, maybe 5 feet behind me, then to the right the same amount.  The point is to work on back mobility, not to twist knees much.  I do only 8 in each direction because I start feeling loose after about 6.
    • Not sure what to call this, Open Hip Mobility? - With a wider still stance and with my feet turned out (left and right big toes farther apart than heels), I hang forward with my hands hanging down, moving my hands first toward my left foot, then my right, eventually touching the ground.  I keep alternating until my range of motion seems to improve.  I have no set number of repetitions and in fact my motion changes as this flow proceeds.  Remember that you are not in a competition if doing this, not even with yourself.
    • Still in a wide stance but with feet parallel (big toes the same distance apart as heels), I start in a "star" position with arms extended straight out to my sides, stretching my chest a little as I do this.  Then I pivot down to touch my left shin with my right hand with my left arm pointing upwards.  Then alternate and touch my right shin with my left hand.  Then repeat.  I always do this 16 times per side.  For me, I manage to work my way down to touching my foot by the 3rd rep.  Your results may vary.  Again, don't make this a competition.  Tightness in my right hip shows up in this flow but I have not made this into a stretch (touching the foot is good enough) and my hip has improved over time.
  3. E is for Exercise.
    • Pushups -I place my hands fairly wide because when I place them the "normal" distance apart, I get some crunching noises from my right shoulder.  Also, I only do 16.  However, I start out laying on the floor.  Between pushups, I am laying on the floor and lift the heel of my hands in between each rep.  As a result, I try to pushup more "explosively", of course holding the torso rigid.
    • Reverse lunge - 16 placing the left foot back, then 16 placing the right foot back.  I look forward (chest forward) instead of leaning forward so that it feels a little more like a squat.
    • Lateral Leg Raise - I just changed to this exercise today.  The idea is to exercise the side of my hip.  I do 16 reps of 4 - let me explain.  I'm on my (right) side with my right hand under my head (pillow-like) and my left hand on the floor in front of my chest to provide stability.  Both legs are bent a little.  For the set of 4, my left thigh starts out on top of my right thigh at the bottom of the first raise, then behind at the bottom of the second raise, then again on top, then in front of my right thigh on the bottom of the fourth raise.  I raise my leg as high as I can within reason.  Then of course, flip over and do the same on my left side.  About 2 seconds or a little less for each raise.
    • Bulgarian Split Squats - I need a chair or something for this one.  I stand 2 1/2 foot lengths in front of the chair.  Then I balance on my right foot and place my left foot on the chair behind me.  I'm not too picky about how the foot is placed; as long as it is touching, I start.  And by starting, I mean I bend my knee (not too fast) until I reach the bottom of my range, then back up.  16 times with the right, then 16 times with the left.  This is my favorite one-legged squat.  I used to do this along with weight lifting and would employ a little weight to add some work.  Not now though.
    • Thumbs touching pushups - Basically a pretty close "grip" pushup.  I started this by placing my hands on a home made medicine ball (cheap soccer ball stuffed with uncooked rice, bands of duct tape on the outside to improve grip).  The ball makes it easier since it transfers weight to your feet.  After I got to 16 pushups (started at about 8), I started placing my hands on the floor (with thumbs touching).  I'm just getting up to 16 reps now with hands on the floor.  Either way, my thumbs touch the bottom of my sternum when I'm on the floor.  And I don't relax my body in the middle.  Today, I took a moment at the top to focus after 12, then 14, then 15.  Don't arch your back on these.
  4. S is for Stretching.  There are just 3 currently.  I count to 64 on each of them.  For all of them, I just hold the position or in the case of the last two, just hang there.
    • Pretzel stretch (at least that's what I call it) -  Seated on the floor, my right leg is folded to the left so that the outside of it is on the floor.  My left leg has the knee up in front of me and the left heel is placed on the floor to the right of the right leg, touching the top of the right thigh.  I have to place my right fist on the floor away from me and back by my right hip so that I don't fall over.  I hold the toes on my left foot with my left hand with my arm on the inside of my left leg.  Hold for 64 seconds, then do it on the other side.
    • Dancer stretch - Standing with feet separated at least an inch, I relax my spine starting from the top and just roll over until my torso is hanging from my hips.  I might twist my torso a little and give my upper body a little shake.  After counting to 64, I roll back up.  I get a pretty cool (enlightened/relaxed) feeling at the end of this stretch.  Named "Dancer" because I used to play piano accompaniment for dance classes and this is something they would do.
    • Crossed-legs toe touch - Similar to the previous stretch, I just take one foot and place on just the other side of the other foot and in front of the other leg.  The leg in front of the other is holding the other leg's knee straight.  The point is NOT to hyperextend the other leg.  I feel this more in my (right) hip than anywhere else.  Anyway, place the leg, and hang from the hips just as with the previous stretch.  I might twist the upper body one way or another in order to feel some part of the stretch.
If it isn't obvious, this list can change.  The various exercises and even the format have evolved over time.  My initial aim was to work on my right hip (has issues).  Way back when I was lifting heavy, my shoulders could have problems so I added shoulder exercises.  Then the problem was doing the exercises consistently. I decided to limit how much I did in order to do it consistently.  I don't know how long it takes me to get through these although I'm sure it goes faster the longer I do it.  And now when I'm finishing the exercises (before the stretches), it can feel as though it isn't that long.  After the stretches though, it doesn't seem short (The stretches were the last element I added).
I also obviously change the actual exercises from time to time.  This week, I changed one exercise which had helped my hips but which I suspected of hurting my soleus (and used a piece of equipment).  That's what I changed to lateral leg raises.  Sometimes I add an exercise and sometimes I remove one.

If you would like to start something similar (first, don't buy anything), I'd suggest starting out with maybe 3 body weight exercises (also known as calisthenics) that work on areas of concern.  Do those for a week or so and think about how you like the routine and the effect of the exercises.  Then start gradually making little changes.  So for instance if you are doing pushups as one of your exercises, you can find dozens of variations on pushups by varying foot and hand placements.  Try making up an exercise of your own.  Try that flow idea.  Have fun and enjoy communicating with your body.