I’m back at running (for some time)

I completely neglected my little online running journal so I just wanted to give some updates for that lonely user who happen to end up on my blog (most likely by a Google algorithm mistake).

First, I do quite good now, the injury went away but I still have some pain when I run on my left leg. I guess it will never go away completely but who know, I’m not a doctor. Hopefully it won’t bother me at all one day.

I started running longer and quite a good mileage per week, a couple of days ago I even top up 77 km. That might not be huge in your world but it definitely is a personal record.

My commuting stays in between me and my happiness with those 4-5 hours daily but hey I found a couple of ways to run even so. One is running right after 5 on Dufferin, north of the office, then on Davenport and south back on Christie. It’s 10k and one even I even went north to Eglinton, running 17k. But running after work is hard. Anything after 10k and I feel the burn and the exhaustion.

Two nights ago I ran 24k but the plan was 27-28 and man, wasn’t that a drag to do even 24k! Again, it’s hard to run long distances after my 9 to 5 work. I’m considering sticking to 10k, 3-4 days a week for the after hours run and longer distances Saturdays and Sundays. Fits me better.

And one more thing, the nutrition and hydration are crucial for long runs. I used to make fun of people running with bottles around their waist, looking like Christmas trees but not anymore. I started taking with me a bottle of Gatorade or Powerade plus a Protein Builder bar and man, that makes a difference! But more on hydration and snaking while running in a future blog post.

See you on the run!
Vic

How do I fix my IT Band?

Where is the IT band?

The Iliotibial Band is a rigid tissue that inserts up at the glutes and continues down on the leg, on the exterior side, towards the knee. It ends bellow the knee.

What Causes Iliotibial band syndrome?

iliotibial band syndrome
The lack of elasticity is the problem so stretching it during the pre-run warm up is a must. You need that because when you run there is a chance you will stretch it more than is used to and that will cause tears. Warming up will help your body be more prepared for your running.

If you get tears in the IT Band, there will be inflammation and ultimately sharp pain. That is how you know you suffer from the Iliotibial Band Syndrome. But don’t worry, your body will try patching those tears. The problem with that is that these patches, depending how many and how big they are, will rub against your knee joint so during rehab you need to be consistent with the exercises your physiotherapist recommends you.

How long does IT band take to heal?

If you do a full break with no running at all for a couple of weeks (I rested for 2 weeks), the pain will go away but when you are back at it, the pain will eventually surface depending on the distance you run, how fast you run and more importantly how big is your stride. It did flared back for me after my 2 weeks break so just resting won’t work with this injury.

I’m no doctor but for me is crystal clear that my strides are the key along with the distance. Of course is much more than just strides. Think of vibrations, torsion, running form and so on and so forth. But the strides are the key.

Big strides = big IT Band stretches = big risk of tears. Low strides = low IT Band stretches = low risk of tears.

It may take weeks or months to heal. Without proper care it might never get healed 100%. It depends on age, level of fitness, rehab workouts, how the injury occurred (if it was due to a mistake or if it came gradually in time), etc.

How do I fix my IT band?

Working the glutes so they are more active in running and stretching the superior leg, especially the IT Band side. The whole idea is to keep the IT Band as flexible as possible and get stronger glutes. IT Band is a tendon so it doesn’t have any elasticity but keeping it in good shape is crucial. When you jump of a rock or when you overtake another runners, you increase your stride. Train properly so you don’t run into issues.

This is what I do (requires an elastic band):
1. Standing sideways, leg swings with the elastic band. 12 x 3 sets.
2. On hands and knees with the elastic band around my knees: one fire hydrant, one back bent knee, one back up straight. 5 x 3 sets

You can do 3 things:
1. google IT Band stretches and follow a set of exercises
2. develop your exercises following a simple plan – whatever stretches your exterior side of the legs and gives a good workout to the glutes, that is a great warm up and will help tremendously your IT Band
3. do what I do

Aging affects it. Like any other tissue in body, the IT Band is affected by the age. I’m over 40 and while I wasn’t sold on this idea years ago, I am convinced now, runners over 40 need a proper warm up before running and races. If you run with a group and you don’t want stretching with them, arrive ahead of time and do your warm up before they show up. That’s my plan.

This is what I do to fix my IT Band so I can get back at running ASAP:

  • I run mostly alone for a while; piers pressure is not good for me as I am competitive and will try overtake anyone I run with. It’s a no-no.
  • Stretching before run and after run; 10-15 min should do it
  • running slower, currently close to 6 min per km
  • running a smaller distance, currently 3-4 km
  • lowering my strides, basically more steps per distance
  • exercising my glutes and my legs with emphasis on the IT Band whenever is possible; I found myself doing it when I watch TV, works perfect!

Whatever you do, don’t over do it. I rough warm up will cause more issues with your IT Band. Increase the warm up time and the daily exercises complexity over time. Don’t force it.

Thank god it’s fall. I would have hated myself should this have happened in the spring before the running season. But it’s time to relax and take it easy. Long cold weather ahead so for me and probably for you (except if you leave in Australia) is a great time to do some cross-fit workouts and go for slow and shorter runs. I will be back by spring at the level of running I was before my IT Band start giving me trouble. So, do you.

Good luck! See you on the trail!

I’m slowly back at running

Just finished a 7-8k run (I don’t know the exact distance as I didn’t use my Fitbit Surge and I didn’t use Strava either) and my IT band didn’t bothered me that much. It was a slow but consistent run with some walking and stops but it feels great to be back. I didn’t break any PB record but I’m happy to run again even if at much slower pace than my normal.

The weather is amazing, cold but sunny and beautiful.

The secret is running slow, staying bellow the pain threshold and avoid running uphill or downhill. I also started doing pre-run and after-run warm up and stretching. Plus, I have a set of exercises my physiotherapist recommended me which are apparently helping with my IT band issues as well.

And one more thing, I noticed I have a bad posture (well I kind of know about for a long time) and I also keep my legs at my desk all day long in a position that makes them hurt. So, I’m improving on those as well, one day at a time.

I hope is all well with you and you take fully advantage of these beautiful fall sunny days!

I hiked over 100k this week

Grange Park Toronto

If you think running 20+ km for 5 days in a row is hard, try walking the same distance. It’s exhorting. Long distance is tiring no matter what you do.

It’s also the time spent on a task that ads up. I spent close to 4 hours walking per day and this was only the commuting. I topped 24k steps per day. If I put the lunch walk and everything else in between it’s a lot.

Cedarvale Park Toronto

Fitbit workweek challengeTop of everything it was hot in Toronto, dump even at 7 am in the morning. About a third of the way I walked through the Cedarvale ravine and while usually is nice and cool in the mornings, this week was a mess. I was dripping sweat midway already.

I tried to do two things. First I set a workweek steps challenge on Fitbit with two friends (I lost short of 5k steps) and secondary I plan to walk both ways for a long time so I did. I usually walk to work in the morning which is about 9k. Hiking is time spent with myself so the more the better. I love it.

Pre-race checklist – 17 things to always check before your running race

There are a lot of things happening in the weeks before a running race, be it a marathon or a 5k only. Training, proper nutrition, tapering, preparing the clothes and shoes, preparing for the trip if the race is not in your city, etc. All of these might make everything seem overwhelming.

Pre-race checklist - 17 things to always check before your running race

Today I will share with you what I do to make sure every race is a success. I don’t know about you, but having everything in order helps me stay focus on the race and ultimately finish with a great time.

This is my checklist:

I make sure the BIB is attached to my running shirt.

I put on the racing clothes and I make sure I have an extra pair of shorts, t-shirt, socks and underwear in the bag for the way back from the race.

I make sure I use the same running shoes and gear I usually use.

I put in the bag a towel and a box of napkins.

I put in the bag a deodorant

I check the racing location on Google Maps one more time making sure I have the address right on my GPS.

I check on Google Maps for a parking close to the racing start and an additional one a bit further in case the closest one will be full.

I parked once by mistake on a disabled parking spot and I’ve got a $450 fine. Don’t rush when you park, take your time and make sure you pay if required and you don’t break any law. It’s easy to make mistakes when you are in a hurry and excited to get to the race start line. Believe me, you don’t want to see a yellow ticket on your windshield when you come back to your car with a big smile on your face.

I check the estimated time Google Maps is giving me to make sure I leave in time to be at the race location.

I prepare a sandwich and a couple of fruits for after the race if needed.

I make sure I put in a bottle of water in the bag.

Will check on the weather. The races are not postponing if it’s very hot, when it rains, snows or it’s very windy. However I always want to be mentally prepared if the weather worsens. I might take some extra clothing (tights under shorts) or use less clothing (tank top instead of a t-shirt) depending on the temperatures.

I will also make pace adjustments if the weather is announced to be very hot.

I check again the starting time for my race. Usually there are multiple distance races in the same event so I make sure I know exactly when mine starts.

I make sure the running watch and the phone are charged so I can track the time properly with both. It’s nothing worst than tracking with only a watch or a phone and notice at the end you either forgot to turn it on or it just failed. I rather track with 2 devices than having such surprises.

I make sure I have a pair of sunglasses with me and sunscream if the race is late in the day, when the race is mostly in the sun with no shades and more importantly when the race will go on for hours (marathons or ultra-marathons).

I don’t use Vaseline for nipples though my left nipple hurts sometimes and it even bled at a half marathon so if that’s your thing than don’t forget to put one in your bag, just in case you need it.

I make sure I have these documents with me: driver licence, the health card and a credit card. I never been asked to identify myself in any race but you never know. As a rule of thumb is great to have these always with you.

I never participated in a race in a different city but if this is the case, I would make sure I will leave in time, stay overnight if necessarily and make sure I have the flight and the hotel booked way ahead of time.

I won’t be concerned about protein bars, gels or vitamin water. The race organizers usually offer these for everyone participating in the race so you can grab a drink or something to eat at those stops. Also there are plenty of these at the end so feel free to reward yourself after or during the race.

It’s also recommended and a lot of athletes are doing it, eating plenty of carbs after the race like a burger with fries. Be generous with yourself, you’ve been though a lot of hard work to be here.

Congratulations for preparing for your race properly and for finishing! Good job!

How to prepare for a running race in 10 simple steps

No matter if you have a marathon coming up or perhaps a 5k running race, the following steps will help you get ready to kick some butt on the race day.

The week before the race:

1. The week before any race is considered tapering, meaning you take it easy, you don’t do, don’t eat and don’t drink anything unusual.
2. Low to moderate physical efforts. Keep your mind at ease and focused.
3. Try to get good sleep during the week. The sleep from 2 nights before the race counts a lot. E.g. if the race is Sat, the sleep from Thursday night will help you at the race day.

How to prepare for a running race in 10 steps

The day before the race:

4. In the morning of the day before the racing day eat some peanut butter. I like it with a toast but whatever works for you is OK. Carbing up before the race will increase the level of glycogen in your muscles so you will have more energy when on the race day.

5. The night before the race eat another peanut butter sandwich or toast around 7-8 PM and try to get in bed around 9, sleep by 10:30. If you are a morning person you should be asleep already by 11 and have no issues waking up early in the morning. We are all getting a bad sleep the day before of a race so don’t stress out if you do. The sleep from 2 nights before will help.

The day before the race try to eat and drink liquids as per usual. No alcohol because it will dehydrate you.

6. Attach the BIB on the front of the shirt.

The morning of the race:

7. If the race is at 8:30, try to wake up at 6 if not earlier and eat a peanut butter toast 2 hours before the race. 2-3 glasses of water and a banana should be enough.
8. Try to get at the race 1 hour in advance – this will give you enough time to find a parking spot, familiarize with the place, get into the mood, find the starting line, change, go to washroom and get ready to run.

9. Use the same shoes and the same clothes you usually use for running. If you’ve got a shirt from the race organizers, use it. Make sure you attached the BIB attached on the front – if you’ve been given with one. Without a BIB there will be no official time.

Before the race starts, do not eat or drink excesively or anything that you don’t usually eat or drink.

During the race:

10. Start at your normal pace as you would normally run and stay at that speed for 2-3 km. Then slowly increase towards the end. DO NOT start fast, you will burn out quick and might not have enough energy to finish the race. You want to enjoy it not feeling exhausted, not from the beginning anyway.

Good luck and moreover don’t forget to enjoy it! Being competitive can be fun but look out for injuries, don’t go nuts except if you are nuts. Alright, I guess we all are, so go nuts!

A change of pace

Two weeks ago I took a hard left turn without slowing down and my left knee didn’t feel right. I almost completely forgot about it until I went for a run two days later and I didn’t need to run more than 10k to come home limping.

I took 2 full weeks off from running and this Saturday I went to run again with the club. I was alright for the first 3-4k, then the pain started kicking in and I was all a mess after 6-7k. I still managed to get back to the starting point, running 13k but I was in a pretty bad shape at the end.

The pain is at the exterior of my left knee. I read on the internet and it seemed to be the IT Band which was actually confirmed today by the sports doctor. Next, physio and chiropractor for a couple of weeks and no running at all. I will also walk to work weather permits. Hopefully I will be back on my feet soon and do some good running afterwards.

Since I now have at hand 5-6 extra hours per week, because I’m not running, I’m looking into finding some great running shoes and I will be doing some online search and research which I will share with you soon. So, keep this web browser tab open.

Till then, lace up and run! Cheers, Vic

Knee pain when running

I hear people complaining about lower back pain when running, chest or hip pain. Some have calf or ankle pain but none of these are my thing. My problem are my knees, they hurt especially during and after my long distance runs. And man, they hurt like a bitch.

You might have heard of runner’s knee (patellofemoral syndrome). Studies say, at least half of the runners go through runner’s knee issues being also the first sports injury for runners. I think is safe to say that knee pain is the most common issue runners can experience. And believe me is not a good experience.

Talking about myself, pretty much every time I run over 15-20 kilometers my knees become painful and they will stay painful for a day or two. Since only half of the runners experiencing knee pain would have runner’s knee, it’s a 50/50 chance for me to have it too though I don’t think it’s my issue. It’s too temporary to treat it seriously so I’m not really concerned about it to consult a sports medic, not for now.

Anyway, because it’s the only thing that affects my running, I focused my attention to it over the last months and I found a couple of things that might help you as well. In my case there are four factors that appear to contribute to knee pain:

  1. Running uphill and downhill
  2. Running at a much faster than the regular pace
  3. Running consecutive days with no breaks
  4. Running over 20 kilometers or a combination of these factors

Running is hard on knees, no surprise there but you might wonder, like I do, why your knees still hurt even after hundreds of even thousands of kilometers of running? Shouldn’t be enough for your body to adapt to it? Well, apparently not.

Knee pain when running: a medical explanation

I’m not going to go into too much medical stuff since I’m not a doctor but in short the knee is a modified hinge joint also known as tibiofemoral joint. It joints together three bones, femur, tibia and patella. Simply said, the muscles from the front of your thigh called quadriceps extend your leg and control the kneecap while the muscles from the back of your thigh called hamstrings flex your leg.

Because running is a repetitive sport, bending and flexing the knee can irritate the nerves around your patella and strain your tendons causing knee pain. But the explanation I found more accurate and more specific to runners is that the leg muscles become more stronger with training than the knee articulation (basically the tendons and cartilages in your knee capsule fall behind becoming weaker than your leg muscles). This results in the kneecap being stretched more than usual being pulled by the strong muscles over the femur end which ultimately brings inflammation in the area. Add repetition to this and it’s the recipe to pretty much any sports injury.

A couple of possible fixes would be icing the area before and after long runs, doing some proper warm ups before and some stretching after running or/and using a knee sleeve.

What seems to work for me and I will continue doing it, is strengthening my knees with exercises like straight legs rises, hamstring curls and wall squats. If you go this path just be aware that the wall squats can do more harm than good if you don’t do it properly. I wouldn’t recommend any form of training if your knees are very painful for more than a day or two. Rather go see a doctor, get some checkup done and make sure you don’t aggravate your situation instead of improving it.

Does running burn fat?

If you think to lose some weight through running probably the first question coming to your mind is, does running burn fat? Unfortunately there is no easy answer. Is the same like asking does running build muscle or does running burn muscle. Let’s dig a bit deeper into this and see what running does to your body and if it can be used as a fitness exercise to lose weight.

First of all, running tones your legs and builds leg muscle. Running can also help lose belly fat and guess what, can also make you poop. Wait, what? This might sound funny but working out your legs do help ultimately with digestion too. It’s one of the reasons I don’t eat much before my runs. That’s why gels and vitamin drinks work very well with people on the run. Literally.

What muscles does running work?

Running strengthens the cardiovascular and respiratory system and because it’s a repetitive sport it builds endurance and legs muscles. The main groups of muscles engaged in running (the painful ones after your first runs) are the quads, the hamstrings, the calves and the shin.

The glutes are also involved too so if you wonder if running makes your butt bigger, there you go, you know the answer. Or do you? If you look at the female Olympics short distance sprint athletes you might have noticed, they have pretty prominent glutes, very strong legs and a well built physique. Now compare a sprinter (on the left) with a marathoner (on the right):

sprinter vs marathoner

Longer distances might not be the way to go if your running plan is to build great glutes.

From the time I started running at the beginning of this year, my Achilles tendons started making some cracking noises when I walk. Nothing to worry about but this make me think beside those muscles, running has an impact on the Achilles tendons as well.

How running helps you burn fat?

Running can be a great way to burn some fat but only when you run longer than 90 minutes. Body fat oxidizes (burns) over long runs. After your body depletes the calories it starts using the body fat as a fuel. You don’t need necessarily to run fast, a long run at a steady pace would do it. I don’t know about you but I don’t really like slacking even on long runs but if you can run slower and longer that should help you burn some fat.

Morning runs on an empty stomach can be also good because muscles are forced to rely on fat when glucose in unavailable. However running on low blood sugar will make you feel fatigue easily which will result in less exercise intensity, a shorter running distance and therefore less calories burned. Personally I don’t like morning runs, I’m definitely not a morning runner but for a different reason, I am quite stiff in the morning and it takes me a longer time to adjust to a decent running clip.

Lace on now and go get some of that fat burned 😉

How to start running

I started running seriously this spring but I had a couple of short runs, 3-4 km with my colleagues from work in the fall of 2016. I don’t wanna brag about the first ones (actually not the first because I had some failed attempts a couple of years ago when I was overweight) but I was decently fast even at that time. So while I don’t necessarily consider myself at the beginnings with running since is past already more than half a year, I still remember my humble beginnings. I can relate to your thoughts. I can still remember asking myself, how do I start running?

There are two major things that will hold you back from starting on running. One is your habits or your daily routine. The other is your lack of fitness. Or at least that was what kept me from starting running earlier. Let’s see how these two factors influence you and what can you do to start running.

It’s all about routine

For me, the worst enemy is the mind because a lot of what we do is routine. Everything else looks like additional effort and who wants work? I’m pretty sure you interrupted at least one thing in your life to which you tried to get back after some time without success. Isn’t it hard to start all over again? Or maybe you keep thinking to start something for some time but you just can start on it. Like learning a new language or learning a new software for work. The same happens with running, it’s hard to start. It’s the power of routine that makes us keep doing the things we do and resist the change. Friends come over, we come tired from work, we have groceries to do, dog needs walking, cat wants to be petted, we feel like watching a movie, etc, etc. Life happens. You’ve got to make running a habit. Running a couple of times each week, get you into a running routine and gets your body prepared for more and more miles.

Learn to walk before you run

The second factor that might keep you from running is your fitness level. I have colleagues at work that never ran but, when they came with me, they did just great. I tried running a couple of years ago and it was a complete failure. I tried for a number of times but my pace won’t go anywhere close to 6 minutes per kilometer. I was running and walking and trying to run again and so on. I was miserable. And obviously I stopped after a couple of tries. I just couldn’t do it because of the weight and the lack of exercise. If you are overweight and start running you won’t get far. It’s the reality. Happened to me, it will happen to you. Except if you are some sort of a super duper urban Batman. Believe me, you are not.

This is why I think, if you want to lose weight, start with food by eating healthier, watching the carbs and the sugar, then move gradually into running. And you will start running, eventually, not because someone will tell you to run but because you just get so much more energy when you are at your ideal weight. You just feel like running.

Lose some weight, then start running a little bit here and there. Run with friends or register for a club to feel more responsible and to keep at it. Say out loud to everyone you know that you started running. This will held you accountable, will motivate you and will also support you when you have your bad days.

Pain first, passion later

When I started running I just didn’t have the passion, just some energy excess that pushed me on my feet. It was lace up and go. It still is. Passion started later when I demonstrated to myself that I can do it.

My passion for running started when I first ran 10k. Until then was just exercise, fitness, breaking the routine, blowing off the steam. Once I realized I can run 10k, is not only that I started looking into pace and other running metrics but aiming for long distances too. One thing I struggle at this moment is putting in more weekly miles. Currently I run 1-2 times, one of these usually no longer than 13k. But sometimes like yesterday, I run longer. Yesterday I ran 22k. Sometimes, like yesterday, I feel like running myself to exhaustion.

Running is not easy but once you start it becomes a snowball, the more you roll it in the snow, the bigger it gets!