Happy January 2022! Yes, we’re running.

New Year wishes and prayers and hopes and dreams my friends! We made it! 2021 was another year for the books and I prefer not to rehash too much but to thank God for the positives and move on. On to my one official running intention this year, which is the Chicago marathon. In 2020 we saw that plan go belly up as with everything else back then. Thank God for another year and another running chance.

After taking December off, I entered the new year in a full on sprint only to taper off to a jog as the days, already short, seem only to be getting shorter and my plate heavier.  Wisdom speaks and I had better listen, so from next month I’ve decided on officially scaling back my posts to bi- weekly to better manage my time. The latter part of last year saw me so pressed for time that I was in danger of running off the rails for a while there. But God. Therefore I needed to establish some parameters for this year to ensure that I finish the year in good stead..not burnt out and having accomplished little. That said, it’s been a pretty decent January in these parts. New York has not seen any snow to speak of – not like what we’re accustomed to. But this last weekend of January, a nor’easter of sorts passed by and dumped a few inches to remind us it’s winter – as if we needed reminding. It’s been cold! No complaints though because we’re about to run into February and, well, everything happens in February.

I now live within running distance to Prospect Park in Brooklyn, another one of the more popular parks in the city next to Central Park, though not as famous of course. I expect to be spending equal time in both later on in the year as it warms up. These days, I try to steal away for early morning and weekend runs as much as I can but this January will probably record the least milage I’ve ever run. I guess I have to be ok with that. I’m content to uncover new running routes in these parts as the weather improves. Staying real local, last weekend I went out on a 10 mile run to downtown Brooklyn in which my hands were the only casualties. I had to seek refuge a couple of times to thaw them out; crazily they’re the only part of me that is always cold in the winter even when I’m wearing gloves. The run turned out to be a decent and interesting diversion from any winter blues that day and was marred only by the cold temperature as I wasn’t able to enjoy the sights and sounds that was Brooklyn. When I wasn’t thawing out, I kept a decent pace and felt pretty strong sans pain. I hope this bodes well for successive runs. I don’t treat with pain very well and tend to ignore it as much as possible so I run the risk of literally running into an injury. Hopefully this streak keeps up as I’m hoping for a good year of running and getting back to the gym and some lifting. God be in the details.

Everyone knows that moving is crazy work, I hadn’t anticipated its effects stretching out this much. Now I know! I moved across the city, from one borough to the next on Jan 1. It was a whirlwind operation and life’s been pretty constant in its whirlwind state since. Aside from fighting with boxes, I’ve been fighting to get some running in, and fighting to stay on top of my PT exercises for lower back pain/sciatica which I’ve been experiencing for the past few months. The struggle is real. What is really exciting, but not that enjoyable yet, is that I have some new backyard digs to run/discover. While not much has happened yet, I have hopes for post February and the advent of Spring and possibly a new run club. I’m looking into it as my former run group is not yet back officially and well, a girl’s gotta train! For now, my runs may remain somewhat sporadic but with intent. Lol.

Since I only have one major run planned this year and it’s all the way in October, I’m open to running a 2023 Boston qualifier if possible when the weather improves. There are a lot of shifting pieces right now, in the world as well as in my life and likely yours. This requires flexibility, adaptation and grace – grace for others and for ourselves. We can only control what we can, the rest is in God’s hands. Ironically, it’s all in His hands ultimately. And it would behoove us to get comfortable with them there. A happy and blessed New Year friends. 🎊

August Long Run Shenanigans; Be encouraged.

Battery Park – along the Hudson River

This month has come and almost gone and it’s been crazy! Crazy weather. Crazy busy. Crazy training runs. It’s crazy that it all happened so fast! Rewind to a few weeks ago when I started marathon training and it was seventeen weeks to race day. Now, we’re down to six. Wait. What? How in the world did it all happen so fast? Meanwhile, I’m here trying to stop time for like one week so I could at least rerun one of my last two long runs. I’ll stop short of saying they were disasters, only they were not at all where I want to be at this point. And I’m sure to be disappointed because apparently time waits on no one. So with September on the horizon here’s a quick sum of August runs.

Summer Streets on Park Ave.

Shout out to my New York City and Summer Streets. Every summer we are treated to 3 consecutive Saturdays of 5 miles of running/exercise bliss aka a shutdown of  Park Avenue in Manhattan from the upper east side all the way down to the Brooklyn bridge. On a typical day iconic Park Avenue is a traffic thoroughfare, so to have it closed to vehicular traffic is a sight for sore eyes. There were strollers, joggers, cyclists, roller blades, skate boards, scooters, anything with momentum, and runners of course. The heat, the people, the activities, the music, and the energy on those streets – it was crazy fun! You might have heard of the term “sweating bullets” yup, that was us out there. I ran with the Nike run club on one of their runs on a summer street Saturday and it was a treat to run alongside other runners, most in training for a fall marathon, with many getting ready for the nyc marathon. It was a large group with many pacers and paces so it was easy to fit in. It was a great 12 miles! The only downside is the late, by which I mean 8:15 a.m start. Summer sun don’t play and neither do I when it comes to getting my long runs done early (by 8:30am) so I don’t have to suffer under its brilliant rays.

End of the Broadwalk @ Coney Island Beach

Another long run I did was out to Coney Island and the beach, which was really an epic fail and my bad. I was exhausted from shenanigans the night before and got up so much later than I had hoped. And so started 15.5 miles of unpreparedness. It sucked but I was determined to run to the beach and back and I did. Just barely. I encountered, what is termed “the wall” in running speak. It’s the feeling you get of not being able to run any further, like a wall is blocking your way forward – hence the term. It happened on the way back, around mile 11, with the sun high in the sky and me without any shade or water. Gosh, I wanted to quit. Call an Uber, I had my phone, no one else would know. But there’s no motivation like self motivation. Somehow, through my inate grit and a merciful God I’m sure, I dug deep and deeper still a few times after stopping for some breaths, and was able to climb over that wall to make it back home just about 2 hours later. You can be sure it was my first and last wall encounter.

Along the Pier on the west side highway
Brooklyn Bridge

The long-run saga continues with a run through a big chunk of The Big Apple. Two weeks before the last run I mentioned above, I did a 2-hour run around the lower perimeter of Manhattan one weekend after a nice 1-hour long active stretch. Crazy me, I decided to go for a sunset run along the East River and the Hudson River starting on the lower east side with some late sunshine and really phenomenal views. I always say NYC has the best skyline in the world. Forgive my bias, as well as my ignorance, I don’t have much basis for comparison. But I imagine it is pretty special as visitors from all over the world come to get in on the action. The downside to that run was the crowds..there were so many people out and about as I ran along the Seaport, Battery Park, and along the piers and the Hudson River on the west side highway. A bit of a zoo. Eeek. But it was also Saturday evening in New York City, go figure. In addition to which, I was also very distracted with the view and felt the urge to take a dozen photos. Just poor planning on my part, or a lack thereof really, and I was left chasing this 2-hour clock all the way up to West 96th Street and back down to midtown to wrap up at Bryant Park sometime after 9pm. Can I just say I hardly noticed that I was running through Times Square at night because it looked like midday – the noise, yes noise, the crowds, and the bright lights everywhere was disconcerting to say the least. I was thorough annoyed with myself to have run into that. Shouldn’t I have known better? Surely never again! Then I had a sense of dejavu. Might I have done that before? Now, that’s just crazy! I don’t dwell on it.

Jersey City skyline from Battery City
Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan’s Financial District

This month, I’ve had early morning runs and evening runs – those are the times that work best with my schecule. I much prefer early mornings even though it takes me a couple of miles before I’m really awake. Once I get going and the sun is a non-issue then it’s going to be a good one. I ran local the last weekend of August and kept within a few miles of home but in a different area from which I’m accustomed. I don’t know how I feel about running around Brooklyn yet. I’ve had some encounters with unmentionable creatures that I’m hoping won’t become a thing so I’ll wait for a bit before that influences my views. LoL. But what I do know is it’s much busier and noisier than where I lived before. I don’t like running around nor into people. I prefer serenity and stupendous views. Sadly, the two don’t come together in this city so one has to be willing to gain some and lose some. I’m ok with that because the upside is that with each run I get stronger mentally, build endurance, discover new depths to myself, and push those limits.

Sunset over the Hudson River

Are you ready to push those limits? This may look different for you. Whether it’s your first 5K, marathon #10, your first ironman or ultra, or you’re thinking grander or smaller – even starting an exercise program, or getting a coach or trainer; you are on to something. Be encouraged and like the good book says, do not despise these small beginnings. One step is always better than none and step two is easier and sets you up to keep stepping and keep moving. Know that every step outside of comfortable and routine is a step forward. September, Fall, Chicago marathon, and new beginnings are all just around the corner and like me, you too can stumble along until you get those feet steady and sure. Running, as is the case with all journeys, is about progression and not perfection.

Nike Group Run

Hydration or Hype? How, Why, When, What’s the fuss anyway?

Photo credz @ Pinterest

Hot is more than how the stepper in front of you looks my friend, it’s a current state of being these summer days. I’m not quite sure about in other parts of the world, save for the Caribbean and here in these United States, but I’d wager that the temps are a bit on the upside just about everywhere this side of heaven. No climate debating tho, it’s just too damn hot for all that. Lol. Personally, I feel I’m the only one concerned about self-combustion, everyone else is just skulking around in less and less clothes. On the run tho is an entirely different affair. We’re out here sweating something crazy! Which reminds me of how we can overestimate our capacity sometimes and get tripped up by the smallest of things – in this case, staying hydrated.

See, we only watch these superhero movies and some of us pretend but spoiler alert, it’s not real! We’re still humans, and outside of our  capacity for love and compassion – still sort of superheroish I think – we still have to do the needful and drink not so dumb stuff like water. And in greater amounts too! So superhero size that if you want, but don’t leave it out no matter what you do. According to Harvard School of Public Health, drinking enough water daily is important for many reasons including: regulating body temperature, delivering nutrients to the cells, keeping organs functioning properly, preventing infections, improving sleep quality, cognition, and mood. The truth is they had me at the “keeping organs functioning properly” – that part. I would not want to know me without properly functioning organs – all 79 of them – because I probably wouldn’t be able to walk much less run. Sounds painful. Also, we’re out here conversating, drumming up ideas, and firing up our imaginations. We need to be alert, have clarity, and the right energy etc., Who doesn’t need a good night’s sleep! In fact, many nights. I promise you wouldn’t want to know me sleep deprived either. And thank God you don’t have to! We are blessed to be living in a part of the world with access to drinking water.

Modern day conveniences have brought about not only access to drinking water, but a host of other much-touted H2O alternatives in the form of juices, energy drinks, sports drinks, flavored water, vitamin water, sparkling water, and even bottled coconut water. Choices. Choices. What to do with all these choices? The literature out there still gives preference to water as the #1 hydrating beverage for the average Joe who engages in any exercise activity up to thirty minutes. For endurance athletes and others engaging in exercise activity for longer durations some type of sports drinks may be necessary to maintain energy levels needed for exercise but there are also protein and carb options like dried fruit and nuts and healthier protien bars that can fuel energy. Most health experts agree that it’s best to stay away from sugar-sweetened beverages when trying to stay hydrated. They’re just not worth the use, says Professor Walter Willet of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Luckily, I am an advocate for flavored water where I can add my choice of veggie or fruit like lemons, cucumbers, and a host of others. You’re entitled to go a little crazy with these options and find what excites your taste buds. And if you’re feeling like a dose of comfort with added energy, it’s safe to have milk, tea, and coffee to bring up those hydration levels too! Oh and have lots and lots of watermelon. It’s something crazy like 91% water and naturally sweetened. You can’t go wrong with that!

Experts recommend 11 cups of water for the average Jane and 16 cups for Joe – milk, coffee, and tea included. So now that we’ve established what to drink, the rest is pretty easy right? In the words of Nike, just do it. Typical daily hydration involves me usually greeting the day with a big hearty slug of water, because gosh, it feels like I’ve been running in my sleep, I’m always so thirsty. Then, I fill up my water bottle (1 litre): water and fruit and I usually drink it out in 4-5 hours and have a refill, which usually lasts through the night. Running hydration is separate and different. Most running days before a run, I would do rink 8 ozs of an electrolyte supplement and replenish with water and a shake when I get back. Usually, for a short workout run, I don’t run with fluid but hydrate when I get back from be running with water and sometimes a protien shake. If it’s a longer run, I would usually get water from targeted water fountains in the areas I’m running. I’m considering getting a hydration vest, which will allow me to run with my own fluid. I have friends who have it and they swear it’s a game changer. This summer heat has me convinced I won’t regret the investment. LoL that’s right, it’s expensive but worth it.

So there you have it – my humble attempt at staying hydrated this summer. Don’t hesitate to share any ideas you have on your hydration method. We can swap sap tips LoL. I’ll be glad you did and we’ll be better hydrated together.😃

@ Pinterest

Summer Smiles and Vacation Miles

Gulfport Beach, FL

Summer Vacations can be a lot. A lot of fun, sun, family time, adventure, excitement and very low on exercise and healthy eating. But we try. It’s the heat and humidity that defines exercise on vacation for me. As it is right now, it’s melt-me hot in some parts. Now, you would think this Caribbean gal is accustomed to and even enjoys the sun and you would be right. As long as it doesn’t involve direct exposure like sunbathing and running, I can do sunshine. In fact, I love sunshine since I’m no fan of cold weather. But I’m also no fan of tanning or bearing my flesh to the toll of direct sunshine, so imagine that my family decided on a week’s vacay in Southern Florida to celebrate my birthday. I can recall going to Disney something like 10 years ago so forgive my poor memory in agreeing to that crazy plan. I don’t know if it gets any hotter anywhere else on God’s earth, maybe the desert, and if so rest assured I won’t be going. Ever.

The heat and humidity was wild y’all!  I mean we were on the Gulf so I knew the water would be warmer than what I was used to but no one told me it was going to be soup out there! Y’all, I’ve never felt anything like it and I practically grew up on the beach. But then that was the Caribbean Sea and not the Gulf of Mexico. Like wow! I’m still regrouping but I will say that I was able to brave the heat and get a couple of runs in – early a.m runs of course, which more than likely kept me alive. I’ll be honest, first I had to talk myself into getting up and then talk myself into lacing up my running shoes and stepping out the door. It didn’t matter what time it was, there was a blanket of heat awaiting me out that door. I seriously considered running in my bathing suit but figured I would only be able to stay on the beach so opted for clothes. Running on sand is no easy feat for any long distance.

The weather itself was quite startling with major mood swings. We would go from bright and sunny skies to thunderous clouds in a heartbeat with the prevailing threat of thunderstorms a daily thing and rain quite common. What remained quite consistent was the very warm ocean water. Whether we went swimming at night, out on a boat ride, or stayed in the ocean for sunset and through the threat of thunderstorms and drizzles, the water didn’t get any cooler. Even when we went jet skiing far out in deeper waters with dolphins about it stayed warm. Despite this we had a great deal of fun and I remain super pleased with myself for braving the heat, the late nights into early mornings with insufficient sleep, and the prevailing vacation mood to find the determination to run anyway. This is the same determination I embrace for every marathon – the surety that, as long as God wills it, I will finish what I start and no obstacle will stop me.

This perspective has served me well over the years both in everyday life and in running. I determine a course of action and follow though to the very end. No flaking for me. And that’s just the kind of attitude I need to take back to the city and back to my training plan. Because it’s still on friends. I’ve determined to run my best Chicago marathon this year and it’s going down by God’s grace. Ready, set, let’s run this summer!

Training for Chi Marathon

Night run are still my fave summer runs

Mid-year already! That’s right we’re running through June at the speed of a twister. And no surprise, with the weather we’ve been having, that we’ve already had a few tornado warnings this month. We’ve only not had hurricanes; but hail, heatwave, humidity, rain, we’ve had it all and we’re  still here! Speaking of here, and just like that it’s marathon training time. I think I mentioned before that I’m running the Chicago marathon this Fall so here goes training. I’m getting a leg up this year by starting training early to give myself time to ease in with no rush or fanfare; I’m usually a last-minute sorta person and don’t mind the fuss. LoL.  I’m hoping this  strategy of mine will pay off with big gains in the areas of pace and endurance.

So this year, I decided to try something new: engage in a full 17-week marathon training program. In the past, I’ve mostly done my own thing with a of couple weeks here and there with the B.A.A training program when I ran the Boston marathon, but I’ve never committed to an entire training program that’s seventeen weeks long! This is new ground for me. One thing that I’ve discovered with training though is that at the beginning you always feel like you have forever to prepare but the reality is that weeks are just days that seems like a lot until it’s not. All too soon it’ll be down to tapering time and I’ll be wondering wherever did the time go; but by then race day will be days away and I’ll either be ready or not. I’m putting it out there that I will be ready because of the training I’m about to embark upon to master my speedwork, tempo runs, long runs, and recovery runs. The result will be worth the sacrifice to bring me, quite literally, up to speed and prepared to run my best race.

But really, what does that look like? Well, this is the second week of training so it’s early yet to give any stats but what I can say is that I’m using the Nike run club app. Nike is  the main sponsor for the marathon and those running folks have a plan all prepped and ready to run. I mean I think those guys know what they’re talking about, they’re the pros after all, and it’s time I learnt something new anyway. This is the ideal stage of the game to get uncomfortable with routines and try something new to mayhap get a “new” result. I’m here for it. And, can I tell you? I’m off to a great start with the audio-guided runs! Who knew that was a thing? Likely, a lot of runners while I was all about my “own thing.” How it works is a virtual coach explains, encourages, and leads you through the specific run for that day with a focus on helping you to maintain pace. This is great for me, for though I have years off running experience, I oftentimes struggle w pacing on longer runs. So, here I am, reimagining running this training period and so far so great. A lesson I’ve already learnt is that all runs should start off slow and easy. In all honesty, I didn’t not know this, buried somewhere under the need for speed I’ve always known that building up one’s pace is far better for progression and far more sustainable over the long or longer run but like many people, I haven’t been good at the application process.  No excuses, but for all practical purposes I’m not particularly patient and well I’m just not very good at slow and easy. LoL. Let me correct that, in the past I haven’t been good at practicing patience but I’m doing much better now at exercising that particular spiritual fruit. Thank God; It’s never too late to learn.

The plan is pretty straight forward,  for now at least, 5 days of running with 2 days off: 2 consecutive recovery run days, a speed run day, followed by a recovery run day, and capped with a long run day. Strength training is recommended for day 6 followed by a rest day. I have to say that the most challenging aspect of this training is staying consistent and getting those runs in during the coolest part of the day. My ability (we’re talking tenaciousness here) to do those two things will determine the success of this plan. Yes, I can. And so too, can you!

The Brooklyn Half Marathon in pictures

Last Saturday, I had the opportunity to stand and bike along on the sidelines of the RBC Brooklyn Half Marathon. And surprisingly, I had a great time not running! Lol. I’ll admit, very often when I’m on the sidelines of a race, I impatiently wish I had opted to run instead. Not this time! No Siree. I was quite happy with my lot and was very loud and, if I may so myself, hard on the runners out there trying to get them down to the beach before the sun came out. Starting out to a foggy morning did a little to keep the heat down for a short while before the humidity came to stay along with waves of runners.

Lucky for me, I now live in Brooklyn  and pretty close to Prospect Park so I was able to ride out to a predetermined point on the course, on Ocean Parkway, and cheer on one of my friends before the tidal wave of runners hit. From that point on, everyone was everyone as I couldn’t identify anyone and they just kept on coming. It’s been a minute with the races aside from the fifth avenue mile last year, which I ran and the nyc marathon, where I volunteered at the finish line, I hadn’t been out on a course cheering much. It’s another part of the running world that I love and now cherish. But I’ll be honest, that Brooklyn run is a beast all of the time. In all  my years running in New York, I’ve not heard or seen different. First off, the weather is almost always a miss. It’s either freezing rain, windy, humid, or hot. It never disappoints and it didn’t.

Costumed Runner on the course

I have run the Brooklyn Half four times and each time it was quite the beastly experience. LoL. So much so, I’m convinced I won’t ever do it again. And that has nothing to do with the organization and execution of this race as it’s among the best by local organizers, New York Road Runners (nyrr). My experience is mine and largely based on my dislike for the latter 6 miles of the race, which is a pet peeve of mine as it relates to a lack of variation on any course. The last six miles of this race is run on Ocean Parkway, a usually busy and main traffic thourafare that’s a straight, dead run to the popular Coney Island beach with its attractions. Dead because there’s nothing to see and no shade, just an endless roadway without any seeming variation or end. My past experience has been everything from humid to montonous and anything in between. I was out there biking and cheering and I didn’t feel any less angst. And so my yells to “come on, stay with it, yes you can, you’re halfway to the beach” were from a real place. I was once in those shoes feeling like, what the heck did I get myself into, and I really didn’t think anyone on the sideline could relate though I appreciated their encouragement.

Closer to the Island aka Coney Island

The truth is there was a lot more happening out on the course this time around with spectators and volunteer participation. As a result, there were a lot more presence to be seen and even interactions to be had should one choose to. This adds a bit of variation and decreases monotony in the instance of live music and dancing or even music boxes and funny cheer cards to read at various points as well as sprinkler stations and spectators giving out random things like candy or wet towels. It all adds up to the “race experience” and is always greatly appreciated by runners. That said, biking was much easier and I am grateful for that perspective and the opportunity I had to bike down to the finish and back up while cheering runners along. The beach looked pretty inviting and I’m sure it was a welcome sight and feel for many runners that day as they entered Coney Island. It was always the best part for me!

May Flowers and all that jazz about running

The Heather Garden @ Ft. Tryon

I’m not even gonna bother with the fact that we’re in May except to say it’s been interesting around here with April showers showing no sign of stopping. With a weather that’s been all over the map this year, one kinda just has to go with the flow and so running just sorta happens these days. In addition, my back issue continues to mess with me, which makes it harder to get into a steady running flow. But yours truly is always up for a challenge and I’m confident, by God’s grace, that I’ll get there. In the past, patience hasn’t been a strength of mine but I promise I’m getting better and so there remains hope for other areas as well. I have a marathon to train for y’all! And these sneaky months are almost too much. The summer’ll be over before it even gets here and then it’ll be marathon time! I can’t process that right now, so I won’t. One day at a time sweet Jesus, as my mom would say when I was little. If there is a lesson to be learnt, and there is, it’s to be present HERE (wherever that is for you) and to live each day fully. Nothing less required, nothing more expected.

Pink and Red Azeleas

Living each day fully simply means focusing on the present and what one can do right here. It means smelling the flowers, cherishing its beauty, appreciating its purpose, and allowing oneself to be wowed by it all. So how about those flowers then? The literal ones: those cherry blossoms, lavenders, irises, tulips, daffodils, azeleas, pansies, peonies, dogwood and magnolias. And then there are the figurative ones: health, opportunity, family, relationships, gifts, talents, faith, etc. I’ll be honest, literal flowers are by far prettier and so much less complicated and messy. That’s not to say I’ll choose them over what I’ve got, well not always anyway. LOL. Don’t worry, this is as deep as I’ll get. Spring blossoms and so does the garden in my mind. I’m suddenly all about rooting out the weeds and making room for new seeds and giving the flowers an atmosphere to blossom fiercely. After two years that felt like a drought of sorts, I imagine we can all benefit from some mental spring cleaning and taking the time to tend the garden of our minds. Till the soil, uproot some things, plant some seeds and water/love the plants and watch them bloom. Sounds like work. Sounds like it’ll take some time. Sounds like an investment. But oh, the returns!

Purple Pansies (above) and Candy Tuft

Can I tell you that running in the Springtime is a renewing, refreshing, and affirming exercise. It is simply exhilarating to literally inhale the fresh sweet smell of the flowering trees, to take in the bees greedily guzzling up the nectar from their favorite flowers and the butterflies pollinating from flower to flower, while the birds try out their new spring songs and squirrels dash about crazily in the hopes of a treat. You might even be treated to some jazzy notes from a random performer (not-so-random I think) or even get to strike up a note w a quartet at various points. This is the scene in our city parks this Spring my friends. If you’re able to, you want to take advantage and get out there to witness this pleasing assault on your senses while upping your heart rate and trading off any anxiety and stress. You’ll find that the benefits far outweigh the sacrifices of the couch, getting up earlier, pushing through exhaustion, and/or lacing up those shoes and going for a run. Also, while you’re out, it is worth your while to quite literally stop and smell whatever version of roses or flowers you meet. That’s one way to tend to “the garden” and sow some seeds.

White Azeleas

You can probably tell I’m a bit of a messy soul. Yes, plants and nature and gardening are my jam. Along with running, and biking, and hiking and a hundred other things. I’m literally a LOL kinda gal so forgive me for wanting to drop that all over my writing, and let’s just say I get around with my interests and activities. I recently went out trotting in our city with the sole intent of checking out spring happenings in “the garden” around me and it was such a treat – a party for my senses really. The result was a barrage of photos of which I chose a select few for your pleasure. Flowers are pretty amazing in their tenacity (I’m taking creative licence here) to push their way out, amidst great odds at times, to assert their presence and demand our admiration. In a world with so much else vying for our attention, I think we could do a lot worse than give in a few times this Spring. Blink twice and it’ll all be gone to make way for another. Don’t mind then if I just be present here for a minute, or a day, or two. Take the time and let the flowers wow you my friends. You won’t regret it!

Virginia bluebells, Azeleas, and the GW bridge
Walking/Running Path

Running down Memory Lane: deja vu in Central Park

Jackie Onassis Reservoir, Central Park
Along the Bridal Path & Jackie O.

I can’t believe it’s been eight weeks! In fact, I’m sure it hasn’t. But I’ve done all I can with not running so there goes nothing in my report on the benefit of rest to my sciatic nerve. Nothing yet that is. I have hope to getting to the bottom of this but it will take some time and apparently I’m overdue a bout of patience so I’m practicing. As you can see the struggle is real as I couldn’t wait to get back in the running game – restrictions welcomed.

Along the East Drive
Center Drive

Blame it on Spring and the warmer (for the most part) weather. I mean I wasn’t really expected to go cold turkey like that for more than a few weeks right? Yes, that’s what I thought too. Lol. Whenever you’ve arrived at the point where you’re having conversations with yourself about running it’s time to go. And so I did.

Cherry Blossoms opp. the Met museum
Cleopatra’s Needle

Newbie brooklynite goes running in her comfort zone – that was me last Friday evening doing a loop of this slice of heaven right here in New York City. Listen, I rave about Central Park all the time. But the park in Spring, in full bloom, is something special. And while it wasn’t quite “full bloom” time, maybe a week or so to go, it was special enough that I had to stop every 800 feet to snap a pic. It was busy, beautiful, and best weather special. That means runners, strollers, cyclists, picnics, ball games, you name it..it was all happening under the blooming and flowering trees. That’s the New York I love my friends; city grit and grime and  crowded subways and smell of pot notwithstanding. If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere, so sang Alicia Keys. Local legend that she is, she may be on to something.

Picnic on the Great Lawn
West Drive

An oasis in the desert (tho more of a concrete jungle, again, Alicia called it) is Central Park in New York City. Six miles all the way around on the outer loop, I started at the south side of the park and touched on all the major points that had been common to me only two years ago only to realize it hadn’t gotten any flatter with time. It still rolled and will give you a good workout any day of the week. Those hills tho, they hit different this time around and it was with a sense of deja vu that I found myself going through my paces on both Cat hill and Harlem hill. Phew, no shame in my game, I’m getting older. No matter, I didn’t quit and stopped only to grab some photos. Running can be therapeutic in a lot of ways and I’m guessing many others were benefitting out there that evening.

City Skyline from the reservoir
Reservoir Loop

Additionally, it was nice to see past the crowd and connect with fellow runners just out for a run in a gorgeous part of the city on a beautiful spring evening. These days running can’t get much better than that so I’ll take the wins where I can get them and remain thankful for health, Central Park, and these legs o’mine. After all, we still have a lot of ground left to cover.

Central Park South/W 59th St. Entrance
Columbus Circle, Park side

Beyond the Knee; knowledge is power (2)

@healthline.com

The human body is amazing in structure and capability; strong, resilient, and adaptable. Even so, it can be unsuspectingly fragile when put under rigorous pressure and repeated strenuous activity. In other words, superhumans we are not. But we try and though the results can sometimes be painful, it doesn’t faze us. And that’s ok because where’s the fun in living within the confines of the fear of getting hurt. Surely, it is better to move in knowledge and confidence taking proactive measures to guard against injury as much as it is within one’s power to do so. For this reason, I’ve opted to empower myself with the knowledge to help me move in a healthy and safe manner and inspire you to do the same.

Continuing from where I left off last post, today we’ll look at other common injuries that affect runners beyond the knee. Some are Shin splints, Plantar fasciitis, Stress fractures, Ankle Sprains, Tendonitis, Pull muscle/ muscle strain, and Back Pain.

  • Shin splints or medial tibial stress syndrome, are the most common cause of lower-leg pain in athletes. They are overuse injuries meaning they occur overtime through repeated use (Robert Wilder MD). Experts suspect shin splints affect anywhere from 5% to 35% of all runners. Shin Splints refer to diffuse pain along the inside of the shin. Pain is typically felt in the bottom 2/3 of the “Medial tibia” aka the inside of the shin. Common symptoms associated with shin splints are: dull pain affecting the lower inside of the shin, pain occuring during activity, tenderness of the area, calf muscles, and decreased ankle flexibility. According to Dr Wilder, Some causes and risk factors include: intensified training, hyperpronation, flat feet, improper footwear, running on hard air uneven surfaces, and bad running form. In addition, many experts believe shin splints are caused by inflammation or other minor damage to the calf muscles, tendon or tibia. While the exact root of pain may not be clear, treatment involves rest, icing, and over the counter NSAIDs.
  • Plantar fasciitis may be expressed in runners as a stabbing heel pain. Experts believe that when the plantar fascia is put under strain it becomes inflamed or develops tiny tears (micro-tears), or both. The plantar fascia is a thick band of fibrous tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot between the toes and heel. If the fascia becomes inflamed, it can cause painful symptoms ranging from mildly annoying to debilitating.  Conservative treatments, such as resting, stretching, and over the counter anti-inflammatory medications (e.g. ibuprofen), are successful in treating 90% of cases (Andrew Cole MD).
  • Stress fractures – A stress fracture is a small crack in a bone that occurs when bone tissue has to absorb more weight and impact than it can handle. This type of injury can occur over time in a well-conditioned bone that is overused, or suddenly in an underconditioned bone that is placed under undue stress in a short period. Stress fractures most frequently occur in the feet, ankles, and lower legs, though they can also occur in other parts of the body, such as the pelvis, hip, ribs, sacrum, clavicle, and upper extremities/ arms (Adam Yanke, MD, PhD). The symptoms of shin splints and tibial stress fractures can be similar. Shin splints differ from stress fractures in two ways: 1. Shin splints tend to cause dull or diffuse pain, in contrast to stress fractures, which tend to cause sharp pain that is concentrated to one area. 2. Shin splints cause pain on the inside of the shin, not the front of the shin. Pain on the front of the shin, or tibia, may represent a stress fracture. In his article, All About Stress Fractures, Yanke states that once the location and severity of the athlete’s stress fracture(s) is diagnosed, treatment can begin. Treatment protocols can range from simply a period of rest to casting, bracing, physical therapy, or even surgery, depending on the type and number of fractures, and/or the specific bone(s) affected.
  • Ankle sprains and strains – the ankle joint is a complex interconnection of ligaments, muscles, and tendons that makes it a relatively stable joint compared to other joints in the body. This stability is essential to its function. The ankle sustains 1.5 times the body’s weight in impact with every walking step, and up to 8 times the body’s weight with each step when running or jumping (Julia Bruene, MD). High-impact activities such as jumping, running etc can increase the risk of injury as well as sudden movements and twists and turns too far out of its normal range. In her article, “All About Ankle Sprain and Strains” on sports-health.com, Bruene highlights the difference  between ankle sprains and strains.      Ankle sprains are caused by direct or indirect trauma to the ankle ligaments. It can occur when the ankle is forced beyond its normal range of motion, such as when people twist their ankle when making a sudden stop on an athletic field or track, walking or running on an uneven surface, or when tripping over an obstacle. If not treated, or with repeated sprains of the same tissues, pain and dysfunction from acute ankle sprains can become chronic.                           An Ankle strain is an injury that occurs when ankle muscles and/or their connecting tendons are either stretched beyond their normal limits or torn outright. Often this occurs where the muscle connects to the tendon. Less common than ankle sprains, ankle strains often occur due to chronic overuse of the ankle as is seen in running long distances, repeated hard landings and articulations of the ankle as performed in ballet and gymnastics. Strains can also occur due to acute injury to the lower body (as can occur in high contact sports), overstretching of the ankle, or excessive contraction of the muscles. Treatment for Sprains and Strains are pretty similar with highly recommended rest for four to six weeks utilizing a combination of the R.I.C.E method and as needed use of NSAIDs for grade 1 and 2 ankle sprains and strains. Grade 3 sprains and strains are usually unstable and require longer healing, says Bruene. The following treatment protocol may be used: casting or bracing and rehab treatment including electrical stimulation, ultrasounds, and physical therapy/strengthening exercises. In severe and chronic cases of sprains and strains one or more types of surgery might be warrented.
  • Tendonitis – The Achilles tendon connects the calf muscles to the back of the heel bone, called the calcaneus. If the tendon becomes irritated and inflamed it is called tendonitis., Symptoms of Achilles tendonitis can include pain, skin redness, and swelling just above the heel. The area may also become stiff, limiting the ankle’s range of motion (Andrew Cole MD). Anyone can be suseptible to this but Achilles tendonitis frequently occurs in runners who ramp up their training too quickly or whose calf muscles are too tight. Symptoms may be worse first thing in the morning or after a workout. For treatment rest and other non-surgical treatments can usually relieve symptoms. However, blood flow is limited in this area of the body, so Achilles tendonitis can be slow to heal.
  • Pull calf (gastrocnemius) muscle/Muscle strain – The gastrocnemius muscle is the largest muscle in the calf, and it is prone to strains and tears in runners.2 These strains and tears may occur from ramping up a running routine without adequate training or from sudden motions such as jumping, pushing off or making a quick turn. Small tears in the muscle fibers may cause mild aching, stiffness and soreness. Light jogging and walking may be done though it may be uncomfortable. A severe muscle tear or a full rupture of the muscle, will be quite painful and cause bruising and swelling. A person with a severe muscle strain may not be able to walk normally and may require months to recover. In rare cases, surgery may be recommended (Andrew Cole MD).
  • Back pain – The repetitive impact of running can cause back pain, most commonly low back pain. Whether this pain is caused by strained muscles or by a problem with the spine’s vertebrae or discs may influence treatment and training (Andrew Cole MD). Cole states that a runner may experience the following symptoms if the soft tissues become fatigued and strained: the back may feel dull and achy, the affected area may be sore to the touch, flexibility may decrease, so that bending over or twisting at the waist is difficult and uncomfortable. Sometimes pulled back muscles will spasm, causing severe pain that prevents daily activities. In these cases, it is possible for the muscle to squeeze a nerve root and cause radiating pain to the arms or legs, known as radiculopathy or sciatica says Cole. While strained back muscles and ligaments are painful and can be temporarily debilitating, they are relatively benign. When provided adequate rest and treatment, pain should be gone within 2 to 4 weeks. According to Cole, further back pain can result from injury to the spine since both the spine’s vertebrae and intervertebral discs experience extra pressure each time a runner’s foot impacts ground. This impact can exacerbate an existing or developing back problem and can result in herniated discs, degenerative disc disease, and vertebral stress fractures. Significant pain can ensue but doesn’t generally require surgery.  Treatment will vary but it is recommended to seek a medical evaluation early on if pain doesn’t subside with rest within 4 to 6 weeks and/or if symptoms increase.

It’s a bit reassuring and aggravating, all at the same time, to see some of the symptoms I’m experiencing articulated here while still not experiencing the relief I’m working towards. I have to continuously remind myself that healing is a process and that I have to be patient and trust the process. Nothing good has ever been wrought in haste. Maybe, like me, you needed this little reminder and this post will encourage you to be more mindful of the power and responsibility you have. My hope is that the information that I’ve gathered together, from a couple of peer-reviewed articles and doctors in the field, will help us to be mindful in our exercise and running pursuits. Forwarned is forearmed after all.

Why the Knee is Key; knowledge is power

Runners have thankful soles and are thankful souls. We spend a lot of time in motion and consistently use the same muscles over and over again and if not mindful we can overextend ourselves, which can lead to muscle overuse and injury. Notwithstanding minor aches and pains every once in a while, I’ve been running for about 20 years, 15 of those pretty consistently, and have been sidelined with an injury only two or three times, including now. Now that’s some pretty good odds right there.

I’m currently dealing with some sciatic nerve pain. Your guess is as good as mine and my physical therapist, as to the why and exactly where. As to whether it’s running related or not  is also unclear. It certainly isn’t one of the more common runner’s problem so it’s quite possible the cause of my running hiatus has nothing to do with running at all.  It could be a complex mix ranging from issues arising out of my overly active lifestyle, a weak core, or something as basic as utilizing poor form when lifting at the gym and performing other strength exercises. You would think I have a strong core? Me too! Clearly, not strong enough is what I’m learning.

Getting sidelined with an injury is no fun for a runner and certainly no fun for anyone. When I’m caught off guard and something bothers me, right away I’m on top of it and want to know the why and wherefore whether it’s a pesky hamstring or a troublesome ankle. Knowledge is power and while we cannot be in control of, or even responsible for, every injury that befalls us, there are those we can beware of and guard against and even be quick to take care of if and when we encounter them.  Armed with knowledge of the possible injuries we face, we can make more informed decisions and run smart.

Most common running injuries occur in the knees, ankles, shins, and calves. Secondary muscles such as the back and hip muscles can also be affected. For the purposes of this post, I highlight the knee injuries most common to runners. They are: Runner’s knee, IT band syndrome, Patellar tendonitis, Miniscus damage, and Knee osteoarthritis. I’ve fallen victim to a few of these so that qualifies me to talk. Right? Bragging rights and all that. Lol. But seriously, I’m not a doctor just a runner with a personal account of running issues that I’ve either faced myself or known of others who have.  So I speak from a place of familiarity and not authority.

In a peer reviewd article titled, Common Running Injuries, Knee Pain Andrew Cole MD states that both walking and running exerts extra pressure and weight on the knee that far exceeds the body’s weight: 3 times the body’s weight when walking and 5 times the body’s weight when running. No surprise then that the knee is the most susceptible joint to injury in the body.

  • Runner’s Knee – according to Dr Michael Khadavi, Pain in the front, or anterior, part of the knee is often due to an abnormality of the patellofemoral joint and called “runner’s knee.” While runner’s knee has many underlying causes, the hallmark symptom is pain at front of the knee, around or behind the kneecap, particularly during movement such as running or squatting, or with prolonged sitting. It is most common in individuals who repetitively stress the patellofemoral joint through sports that involve running. Some causes and risk factors of runner’s knee are: sudden increase in the volume or intensity of training; overuse and overtraining of the knee; injury to the ankle, hip, or knee; weak or underdeveloped hip or thigh muscles; excessive body weight; tight quadriceps, calf, illitobial band, or hamstrings; and gender. Presumably, women are more prone to runner’s knee due to having wider hips and different knee alignment.

Some symptoms of runner’s knee include: pain in the front of the knee, a grinding or crunching sensation within the knee, pain that worsens with movement (excess friction), knee swelling, and stiffness after a period of rest or while riding in a car or sitting. Treatment is usually the RICE method: rest, ice, compress, and elevate. If symptoms extend beyond 2 weeks then it’s recommended to see a sports doctor.

  • Iliotibial (IT) band friction syndrome. The IT band is made of fibrous tissue that connects the buttocks muscles to the upper portion of the tibia (shin). A root cause of this injury is weak gluteus (buttock) muscles. (Yale Medicine.org) Treatment involves stretching and/or foam rolling the IT band, employing specific stretches and strengthening exercises to lengthen and strengthen the gluteal muscles, the IT band itself, and the hamstring.
  • Patellar tendinitis, commonly referred to as jumper’s knee, can cause pain at the front of the knee, at the lower kneecap or the bony bump at the top of the shin. The pain may be minor and felt only when exercising, or it may be severe enough to affect a person’s daily activities, such as going up stairs. Along with pain, a person may notice swelling, redness and warmth writes Andrew Cole, MD in his article “Common Running Injuries” in SPORTS-health. Jumper’s knee is common in athletes whose sports require rapid jumping or stopping from high speed, and is more common in male athletes than in women. Risk factors include: insufficient training preparation, prior injury, and being overweight. Some symptoms include: pain during athletic motion, swelling, bruising or redness, and discomfort during daily activities. It is advised to stop all athletic activity even though you may feel you can proceed to avoid a worsening of the condition. Immediate treatment include pain medications and the R.I.C.E. method for minor cases but may include prolonged treatment and even surgery depending on the diagnosis (Terry Gemas, M.D)
  • Miniscus Damage. The meniscus is a C-shaped pad of cartilage that separates the tibia and the femur and provides cushion and stability. It can be damaged in a single traumatic injury or degrade over time through mini-traumas. People who are older, who run on uneven surfaces, or who make sudden turns and hard stops (e.g. soccer players) are at the greatest risk for damage to the meniscus. A person with a torn meniscus can experience knee pain, swelling and stiffness. In addition, the knee may give way or lock if a piece of the torn meniscus prevents joint movement. Surgical repair is sometimes, but not always, recommended. (Andrew Cole, MD) The severity and location of the tear will be vital factors in determining a treatment regimen. Common non-surgical treatments include: R.I.C.E., antiinflammatory medication, physical therapy, electrical stimulation, and injections (Terry Gemas, MD).
  • Knee osteoarthritis – achy, stiff, and possibly swollen knees may be signs of osteoarthritis. Scientists have not determined definitively whether regular running or exercise causes knee osteoarthritis. Cole says that some argue against but state that if one already has it and runs, you may accelerate the wear and tear on the knee while others say that running regularly has added health benefits that outweigh arthritic damage to the knees. Some symptoms include: aches in the knee during and post workout, stiffness and pain when squatting, climbing stairs, and prolonged inactivity. Garrett Human, MD, MPH, writes that, In most but not all cases, the symptoms of knee osteoarthritis come and go, becoming worse and more frequent over months or years. It is easy to dismiss early knee arthritis symptoms, but symptoms may worsen if left untreated. The most common symptom is knee pain. Other symptoms include: swelling, stiffness, redness and warmth, reduced range of motion, worsening symptoms w inactivity, popping or crunching, and buckling or locking up.

Garret Human, MD, MPH, writes that the earlier knee arthritis is treated, the more likely knee pain can be relieved and the less likely it will get worse. Knee arthritis treatment may include nonsurgical treatments, injections, and surgery. Typically, nonsurgical treatments are tried first. Surgery is not usually necessary and recommended only when other treatments have been tried and have not adequately relieved symptoms. A combination of physical therapy, gait and posture training, and topical medications are usually used in early treatment.

Elizabeth Gardner, MD, a Yale Medicine orthopedic surgeon who specializes in sports medicine, recommends getting fitted for sneakers at a store that specializes in running shoes, and balancing running with other workouts like swimming or yoga that don’t involve pounding the pavement. “Cross-training and stretching go a long way toward avoiding running injuries.” As a believer in cross-training myself that’s sound and practical advice right there. Additionally, as a runner, I cannot overemphasize the importance of warming up prior to runs and stretching post workout and even rolling wherever and whenever you feel any tightness. It’s the little things my friends that make a big difference.

In a subsequent post, I’ll continue with a look at other common running injuries beyond the knee. Safe running friends!

Not a running break!

Etsy’s poster is good for my wall and Exercise is good for me! win-win 😃

Ever had to make a decision that made you want to run just to let off some steam only you couldn’t run because that was the decision? Yes, gosh dang it, me! Last week, I decided to take a six to eight week hiatus from running to see if a break from the constant pounding of my legs and knees will help alliviate the stress on my sciatic nerve. While I’ve been doing PT for this issue for a couple of months (1x p/week) it doesn’t seem to be getting any better and well I really need to go all in to figure this out. This lingering discomfort that’s restricting my movement is not my idea of a good time nor anything I want to be dealing with in Spring as the weather warms up, so I figure I need to do the unthinkable and not run. How has that been working out? Hmm, sorta.

On the heels of moving and getting myself situated, I’ve been figuring out what will work best for this current season, which I hope to be a short one, and looking at gyms/ boxes/ studios in the area while trying out different things. Amidst all that I’m committed to my PT routine and getting my full range of motion back and have been spending a lot of time stretching and working on core strength. To this end, I started doing Pilates, which took on a whole different meaning when I was introduced to the reformer machine. I ended up doing a little too much on there in the excitement and exacerbated by lower back, which had me take a step back to acknowledge my limitations and consider my options. It really is prudent to listen to your body and tame your/my competitive spirit. I’m sure you’re nothing like me though and know better than to try challenging things that could compromise the very progress you’ve been working on. No excuses. I’m a hard nut sometimes, but I’m getting better I promise!

After going around in circles for a bit, and talking with my PT guy and doing a little research, I’ve decided that the gym – crossfit-type – without the olympic-style lifting, is the safest place to be. Apparently, I store too much energy away from the gym and the safest outlet for me is to get in there and take it in smaller doses. Lol. I’m an exercise nut y’all! So I came up with a guide to help myself stay safely exercised: some minor running to/from workout (one and a half miles away) for the next six weeks and modified workouts of any type of pushing, pulling, pressing, squatting, or any type of exercise that involves my lower back. My goal in this season is to stay in the gym and not get sidelined by injury so I’m working on staying fit and not looking for any 1RPM (one rep max) neither any new lifts nor any type of challenge. Yes, I’m preaching to the choir. I’m also aware I’ll have to remind myself of this each day for the next six weeks. Dang it, I can do this!

See guys, I’m really thankful that I have options. Some people, who are stubborn like me, have not been so blessed and don’t get to work out with an injury. I want to remain mindful of that and be a good steward and I believe this mindset will keep it all in perspective. I didn’t have to be able to move around and be free to exercise but I am. I am grateful. Next post I’ll dwelve a little into the common areas of injury prone to runners and how we can guard against them. Till then, stay thankful. Perspective is everything!

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