Thursday, December 18, 2014

List of gift ideas for runners for real people (you know, those on a budget)

This is a gift-giving guide for the rest of us. Yeah, those of us who can't spend $450 for an awesome GPS watch that also makes coffee in the morning and folds laundry on Saturdays.

Lovely idea, but just not realistic for most of us. What's a chica or chico to do for the runner in her or his life? Here are some ideas:

1. One of the easiest is a gift certificate from the local running store, of course. But it doesn't have to be a significant investment if you can't afford it. Your runner will love any denomination and the excuse to browse the whole store and touch every new shoe, running jacket and sock in the place. Most stores have smaller items like the prerequisite 5K, 13.1 mile and 26.2 mile stickers for the car in addition to the high-tech gizmos of the season.

2. Did your runner have a recent race? Check the race's homepage for information on race photos, which can be bought online and shipped directly to your runner. Many race photographers tag your runner's photos by his or her bib number. If you don't know their number, try the race website again; most will list race results by name and bib number. Yes, us runners are a little self absorbed and would love a picture of ourselves crossing the finish line in a tutu or Superman costume. A nice frame would be frosting on the gift cake.

3. Show interest in your runner's sport. You don't have to run to show support. Join your runner on a long walk on a rest day or show up at a race to cheer him or her on. I know you're already spending an inordinate amount of time listening to him or her go on and on (and on and on) about their training. Go see them in their habitat and make them feel special in the process.

4. Build a song list for their next race. Doing so takes tons of time and he or she will appreciate getting a head start. You can buy the songs for them, give them a gift card toward music purchases or even create a Pandora station for him or her and hand over the log-in information. 

5. Contribute toward a race fee or lodging at the next away race. If your runner likes to race, many a race will allow you to pay for all or part of the race fee. Some have gift certificates. A gift card to a hotel at their next destination would also be appropriate and welcome. 

6. Runners also love gear and clean, non-stinky technical shirts, so those are always good ideas if you know your runner's size. Places like Marshall's, T.J. Maxx and Target have great deals on good gear. I got a tech T-shirt with my running group's logo for my birthday and I can't wait to wear it when we travel to Florida over Christmas (did I mention it's in the 20s in Michigan at night?).

7. Give a subscription to a running magazine. Your runner will think warm thoughts about you every time an issue shoes up. I'm partial to Runner's World, which I relish.

8. Create a goody bag. It could be multiple samples of hydration tablets so they can try different flavors, or different types of protein bars or fuel (like Gu or SportBeans). Or create a pedicure set for your runner. We have notoriously gnarly feet. 

9. Put together a recipe book with healthy, runner friendly snacks and meals. Most running magazine websites have tons of resources. Better yet, cook a runner friendly meal for your runner. We're always "rungry", so this will be a huge hit.

10. Love and understanding, of course.

Mostly, just don't fret. Runners are a great bunch who'll appreciate that you thought of us. Especially if you continue to pretend to listen to us when we're talking about what ails us.

Happy holidays to you and yours!

What's the best running-related gift you've ever gotten? Given?  

Sunday, December 14, 2014

10 easy-peasy tips worth repeating

You know those tips you heard or read about ages ago that you take for granted? Like how you should put your clothes and shoes next to the bed if you plan to run in the morning so you just have to get dressed and out the door.

Yeah, those. I suspect there are new runners who'd welcome a few new tips or more-experienced runners who haven't heard them all.

So, let's hear them.

I've shared some tips for newbies before. And about my favorite gear. Well, sort of.

Here are a few more tips:

1. You know that flap built into your sleeve you can use if you forgot your gloves? It's the perfect place to stash a tissue or two.
2. Can't keep your ear buds from tangling every time you store them? Try a business card or cut a small rectangle or square out of cardboard (cereal box, perhaps).

3. If you're a newbie, read Marc Parent's Newbie Chronicles on Runner's World magazine. All of his columns are available free at I highly recommend reading them chronologically from the beginning. You'll laugh, you'll cry. It was better than Cats. I'm going to see it again and again.

4. Better yet, get a subscription to the magazine. I did and am going on my third year. Worth. Every. Penny.

5. If you have any electronics, learn how to use them before you head out for a run. At night. With no light. And no glasses. I'm just sayin' that if you have a new, say, Garmin, and don't know how to use it, you may want to be able to see the thing when you're pushing buttons and making it do something. But it's just a suggestion.

6. Check your calendar just one more time before you book a race four months early. Because sometimes you have to take your oldest to college orientation, for example.

7. If you surround yourself with other runner chicos and chicas, one of them may want you to transfer the race to them if you were to double book yourself. Check the race rules; some don't allow transfers but may allow you to run the following year.

8. Don't skimp on gear, but don't think you have to have five (or more!) of each. Do spend money on things that will make you more likely to enjoy your run and/or to keep you safe and comfortable. But consider buying just one very good quality item, or two of each if you can afford to do so; one to wear and one to wash. For example, I have one pair of Nike Hyperwarm running tights and two very good quality running bras. But I buy the Champion C9 T-shirts at Target. Inexpensive, but they work well and last more than you'd think if you wash and hang-to-dry them.

9. Spend the extra money on the Tide Sport laundry detergent or whatever detergent they sell at your running store. Just trust me on that one. Otherwise, you'll spend lots more on the gear I mentioned in #8.

10. Yes, we look kind of dorky dressed in highlighter yellow, but wearing high-visibility gear is imperative. Black clothes may be more slimming, but they make runners nearly invisible to cars. I recently saw my favorite 15-year-old out running after dark. Yes, I saw her because she lit up like a Christmas tree when I drove by. Good girl!

So, what are your favorite tips that are worth repeating? What's the worst advice you've ever gotten? What's the best high-visibility item you own?

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Shout-out to the humble hat

What do you see here?
Three hats.

You see them, too?

Yeah. I left all three at home before heading out on my run. It's 29 degrees out there tonight with a 19-degree (F) windchill. Not terribly cold by Michigan standards, but the wind was really blowing and I thought my ears were going to fall off. They may have. I still can't feel them.

Between the other runner in the house (my favorite 15-year-old) and I, we have five running hats. Most of them are conveniently located in a clear plastic shoe organizer hanging in the coat closet next to the front door.

The same organizer that also holds my ChapStick, headphones, gloves and reusable hand warmers. All of which I grabbed on the way out.

I could tell right away that I'd made a tactical mistake. And, yet, I ran away from the house instead of running back in to grab a hat.

It won't be so bad, I told myself. I'll warm up when I start running.

While my neighbors' Christmas-light-show-programmed-to-blaring-music-that-sounds-like-the-ice-cream-truck did distract me for a few moments, the rest of my 30-minute run/walk tonight was pretty miserable.

My core was warm and my hands were toasty (even without using the hand-warmers). But my head and ears were suffering.

There's a saying in Puerto Rico that comes to mind: "El vago trabaja doble." Loosely translated, it means the lazy man works twice as hard.

Whoever came up with that was probably a runner.

Mental note: Grab a hat! Or at least, turn around and grab a hat if you forgot it.

In the meantime, if you see my ears, can you please ship them to Lansing, Mich.?

Do you ever forget a key piece of gear? Do you ever go back for it? Seriously, have you seen my ears?

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Today's run was brought to you by the letter T and the number 3

Well, hello, tired muscles. And hello, feeling of achievement. I've missed you both.

Thoroughly enjoyed getting out today, despite temperatures in the 20s F. Brrr...

In addition to the usual iPhone, YurBuds headphones and Nike Hyperwarm gear, today's run was brought to you by so many tools, it should be sponsored by both Home Depot and Lowe's. Let me be more specific:

1. This chica got to run/walk 3 miles today using the Galloway Method.I'm keeping the April 19 Gazelle Girl Half Marathon on my schedule for now.

2. And in order to switch from walking to running, I used my new toy, err, tool: my birthday gift from el husbando, the Garmin Forerunner 10.
The watch can be set up to beep at whatever intervals you choose. I did 30:30 run/walk. I do need to research whether the volume can be adjusted up because I turned down my Pandora three different times and I almost missed the prompts.

3. My new Brooks Ghost 6s. Men's size to accommodate my orthodics and to avoid pink shoes. If you haven't figured it out yet, la chica is a tomboy. (Ignore the pink stripe on my SmartWool socks.)
4. Cheap-o reusable hand warmers. Got some RuffHewn brand warmers the day after Thanksgiving for about $3. They're not at all what I expected, but I'm keeping them for now. They only last for less than 30 minutes each and you have to boil them for about 15 minutes afterward to reactivate. Ugh. I've been using one at a time and switching them from hand to hand, especially when I walk my favorite dog. Pulled them out for today's run because it was ccccold. Brrrr.

5. This article, which I found incredibly helpful as I learn how to adjust with a brand-new arthritis diagnosis. Coach Jenny Hadfield has some great tips which I'm trying to incorporate. The only one I'm struggling with is eating a low inflammatory diet. What, no donuts? Coach Jenny is helpful, but no fun.

6. Naproxen. Better living through chemistry and all that jazz.

7. An extra layer over my favorite Nike jacket. My also-brand-new-gift-from-someone-who-loves me: a Woolrich zip-up fleece jacket. I needed it today. Bad. And yesterday. Um. Actually, I've worn it every day since I received the gift.

Since I've talked about my other must-have gear before, I'm leaving it at that. The one thing I should have also taken advantage of was a nap. Maybe since I don't have a Walking Dead or Talking Dead episode to watch tonight, I might actually go to bed at a reasonable hour. Unlikely, but a chica can dream.

What are your favorite running tools? Did you get any running gear or tools for your birthday?

Friday, December 5, 2014

Boys and their toys. Oh, wait.

This chica got to play with a new toy today and got to go for a run.You'd think it was Christmas around here.
Source: Mashable

El husbando was very generous for my birthday/Christmas gift this year and even encouraged me to try out my new, shinny Garmin Forerunner 10 ahead of schedule. I got the larger model so that I can, ahem, read the numbers without my glasses. Did I mention I'm having a birthday next week? Be nice.

After another round of tests, my doc cleared me to run as long as I feel OK, so after spending my days off from running reading about the different half-marathon training plans online, I settled on Jeff Galloway's.

If you're not familiar, Galloway recommends run/walk intervals. He sells a $20 timer on his site that beeps at designated times to let you know when you can walk or run. For example, run 30 seconds, walk 30 seconds. Rinse. Repeat.

Enter the new Garmin, which allows you to set up the intervals and keeps track of pace, time and distance. The watch is very easy to use (there are several well-made YouTube videos explaining different features) and felt comfortable as an everyday watch.

Like Galloway's timer, the Garmin beeps as the interval is coming, then beeps again when you're supposed to switch between running and walking. It was like running with this guy:

Source: Looney Tunes
I really liked getting the prompt to switch between running and walking. And despite adding a walking component, my 30-minute run went by ridiculously fast. I'll reserve judgement both on the training plan and the watch until I can spend some more time on both.

For now, I'm just happy to have the opportunity to talk about something other than my butt. Let's call that my gift to you.

Do you use a GPS running watch? What kind and what do you like about it? Have you used a run/walk training program?

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

'bout that bass and five things I wish I would have done to address what ails me

And we're back to talking about my bass, I mean, butt. Or at least the pain in my butt.

Visited my regular doc today. She believes I do have piriformis syndrome and that I'm still in pain (since APRIL) because it's hard to get rid of. For now, Aleve and -- wait for it -- running.

Then again, all I really heard her say was "go ahead and run. Start slow and stop if you feel worse." That I can do.
Of course, I have work and life functions today and tomorrow, so the running may have to wait a little bit. Unless I can clone myself. Or fake illness to get out of tonight's big-deal-whoopie event. No? Darn.

I may have to get treated for whiplash with all the different medical professionals' opinions about what ails me. That said, this doc, I trust, so I had some X-rays done and she's calling me back with results and any additional instructions depending on what they find.

Since I'm apparently now in the chronic pain realm, here are five lessons I learned in the past seven months for dealing with it:

1. Don't ignore it. Get someone to take a look at it right away because if you wait until it's too bad, then it's going to take longer to recoup. Dum-dum over here waited until she could barely walk before making an appointment.

2. Do listen to your own body. You know what's normal for you and what isn't. If your medical  professional isn't listening, call them out on it. If they still don't listen, consider another one. Or ask them to explain why they disagree with you. Schedule another appointment to finish the conversation if you have to.

3. Use your general practitioner/internal medicine doc/primary care nurse. I should have started there. But, no, I just  knew better. So, I've been managing my own care. Yeah, don't do that.

4. It's OK to get a second opinion. If your doc is decent, he or she won't mind and may even have a suggestion of another good professional who could take a look and suggest a different approach.

5. Be a good patient. Do what the doc tells you to do, even if that includes -- gasp! -- not running for a while. Or taking meds (shudder). Or going through -- God forbid -- physical therapy. I hate it when they're right, but they have the fancy diploma for a reason.

I hope you're not injured, but if you are, that you get a fast resolution and get back on the road quickly.

What type of medical professional do you see when you're hurt? Do you follow doctor's orders? No, really, do you?

Monday, December 1, 2014

La chica dreams of being gazelle-like

Today, I took the first step toward becoming a Gazelle Girl: I signed up for the April 19 half-marathon in Grand Rapids, Mich.
So tonight, we set out at a comfortable walking pace, my favorite dog and I. Our pace picked up fairly quickly, given the 15-degree temps (with windchill).

I with my Nike running jacket and my down Lands' End parka. Plus a Champion running cap, Saucony running gloves, Nike Hyperwarm running tights topped with some sort of fleece-lined ski pants I found at Marshall's a couple of years ago. She with her, ahem, fur coat.

I settled on Hal Higdon's half-marathon training program for walkers. I used his half-marathon plan for novice runners last year and it worked great. I especially like his simple approach and his free online chart I can use to plan my walks and other exercise.

Tonight called for a 30-minute walk. I circled two of my neighborhood blocks, just to be sure we were both up to the task. At about 20 minutes, we passed our house and she pulled hard on her leash, wanting to come inside. Can't say I blame her.

I remembered to pause my Nike-plus app and dropped said dog home, then set out for another 10 minutes. In all, I covered 2 miles in my allotted time.

Leonbergers aren't known as very active dogs (we call ours a lazyberger), so this is what greeted me when I got home.
As much as I'm bemoaning having to walk instead of run, someone else will be getting a lot out of this loophole I found while still following my doctor's orders to walk and not run.

In other news, I've been remiss in sharing that Hoke One One just launched a new stability shoe, the Constant. I haven't tried it, but I can tell you that I really like my Cliftons. My only complaint is that I wish it had one more hole at the top so I can tighten the laces closer to my ankles.

A rep for Boulder Running Company reached out* to ask if I would let you know about the new offering. You can get more info -- or order the shoe -- on their site.

Here are some pictures of the men's and women's models for the curious:

Have you used a training plan for a goal race? How did that work out for you? What's your favorite running shoe?

* I was not compensated for sharing information about the Hoka One One Constant or about the Boulder Running Company. All views are my own

Sunday, November 30, 2014

La chica walks

The process is the same: get dressed for the cold. Find my gloves. Head outdoors with my Yurbuds playing my favorite Pandora station in my ears.

It's just not quite satisfying. The walking, that is.

The running? It's great. But I just can't do it right now. Doctor's orders. And so I walk.

Not much, you see. Because it's just not the same, so I've been avoiding it for the most part.

Walking is to running what sugar-free Jell-O is to triple chocolate cake.

I've been going through the motions for the most part. I even walked the Lansing Turkey Trot with my favorite 15-year-old; a tradition we started three years ago when we both trained for our first 5k.

We had a great time, saw some good friends, met up with my running group. We even got the T-shirts.

But there's just something missing beyond the runner's high. There's no goal. There's no training. There's no scratching off a workout when I get home.

Until, that is, I Google'd "can you walk a half marathon?" today. Hal Higdon even has a 12-week walking plan. He says it will take me about four hours to finish. Four hours of walking. Hmph.

I should note that I used Hal's plan to train for my first half in September. It worked for me.

The Biggest Loser website has its own plan that weaves in more cross training and takes about 15 weeks.

Either will take me to a spring half marathon.

So what's a running chica to do? She walks. For now.

But I am NOT getting new gear.
Have you ever had to walk a race? How long did it take? Did you feel accomplished?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

To quote the great philosopher Mick Jagger, “you can’t always get what you want.”

But if you try sometimes, well, you might find you get what you need.

Apparently, what I needed today was a reboot.

Went to see a new doc for a second (or third or fourth, I’ve lost count) opinion on the ongoing saga of my butt pain, which a previous health care professional had diagnosed as piriformis syndrome.

Well, chicos and chicas, this manipulative medicine doc tells me my problem isn’t piriformis. No. My problem is a stuck sacrum, or basically the bottom of my spine.

Started treatment today to get it unstuck so that I move more like a regular human and not one that hikes her hips up when she takes a step. As attractive as that sounds, it’s apparently not conducive to good health nor – more importantly – to running.

The upside is that the treatment should work and that my end of the bargain entails doing the yoga I’m already doing plus walking. Yes, I’m benched from running again, but there’s a chance this might actually work.

Can’t be worse than all the stuff I’ve been doing since April when all of this started.

For those of you wondering why I keep talking about my painful butt, I'm sharing my saga just in case someone else is dealing with similar issues. In my dreams, my blog sparks a conversation with your own doc that leads to a solution for your own leg/butt/foot pain.

Or at least gives you new plausible symptoms you can fake to get a back rub:

Have you had to go to multiple docs before getting the right diagnosis? How many did it take? Was your problem eventually resolved? Have you ever gotten your significant other to give you a back rub?

Saturday, November 15, 2014

I've got a fever and the only prescription is ...

... more cowbell!

OK, so maybe not cowbell, baby, but certainly more company. The runner kind.

Good thing I got to meet up with my running group, Black Girls Run Lansing, at Zoobies Old Town Tavern in Lansing tonight.

And what a meet up it was. There were balloons, cupcakes, hors d'oeuvres and lots of laughs. 

With a raucous group of about 15, we celebrated our group's third year. All started because one of our fearless leaders, Brandess, wanted to see more women of color when she went to races.
Brandess, the fierce.
Now an ultramarathoner, Brandess also happens to have been one of my biggest supporters for running my first half marathon this fall. She and several other BGRs encouraged me to sign up and -- after pacing me through the whole thing -- celebrated with me at the finish line.

I even got a certificate tonight as we all took time to acknowledge successes, bit and small, and planned out the next year to make sure we had even more to look forward to. Each woman present also took the time to write her name under a series of goals, from starting to walk to running a 5K,a half marathon or full, to riding her bike or swimming, or to volunteer for a race.
It was so satisfying to see so many women come together from all over town to support each other on this journey, no matter the distance. No matter the pace.

I've said it before, bit it's worth repeating: these are the type of women I hope my daughter will seek out as she becomes a woman herself. These women exhibit the traits I already see in my favorite almost-15-year-old: kindness, selflessness, humor, tenaciousness,spirit and, yes, fearlessness.

It's not more cowbell, but it's still music to my ears and certainly makes my heart sing. Quietly. I like you too much to sing outloud. No one wants to hear that.

Do you run with a group? How has that impacted your running? 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

My 8 favorite non-running things that make running better

Sometimes, it's the little things. As I've re-started Couch to 5K yet again and am heading out three times a week, I'm noticing a few non-running-related items I reach for that make my running life that much better.
And because you know I just gotta share, here's my list below.

1. Febreze Sport spray. Just a squirt -- OK, or three -- and I can get one more use out of my favorite windbreaker. Since I wear it over my long-sleeve winter running shirt and a hoodie, it doesn't get very stinky. But we all know that running stink defies reality, so I spray the jacket with the Febreze and hang it to air out.

2. Tide detergent also sells a Febreze Sport product that has saved more than one of my technical T-shirts. Regular detergent just can't touch the aforementioned post-run stink.

3. Good old ChapStick. Always a good idea before a short run with a second application at some point during a longer run. A little tube of the stuff saved me during my half marathon race when my trusty tech T-shirt started to chafe under my arms. ChapStick was a surprisingly good substitute for BodyGlide.

4. A see-through plastic over-the-door shoe organizer. I stick a lot of my running gear in its pockets so that I can grab gloves, a hat, my ChapStick, headphones, etc., without having to tear the house apart.

5. Goody ouchless elastic hair ties. Those suckers work, don't hurt when I'm pulling them off and they last forever.

6. Euceryn Aquaphor. I've talked about my love of this product before, but it doesn't make it any less handy. I use it on my lips if I don't have my ChapStick handy, on my legs and arms to avoid ashy skin and on my feet. (I don't want to talk about it.)

7. A skirt hanger with clips. Use them to hang my running leggings as well as unmentionables without leaving that weird mark from the regular plastic hangers.

8. Chocolate milk. Because it's yummy. Oh, and it's apparently a pretty good after-run recovery drink.

What are some of your favorite things that make running easier or better? 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Running, oh how I miss thee. Let me count the ways

Yes, I've been running a little. A couple of times a week for about a couple of miles each.

And, yes, I still consider myself a runner. I read Runner's World religiously. I chat with my Black Girls Run Lansing team mates on a regular basis. And I have a race on the calendar: the Turkeyman Trot in Lansing on Thanksgiving morning.

And yet...

There's so much I miss about the kind of training I was doing for the Capital City River Run Half Marathon.

The kind of running that leaves you spent. That makes you take a nap on a Saturday afternoon because you...just...can't...not...sleep.

The kind of running that leaves your laundry room full of dripping technical clothes, your drawers full of running gear you can't quite keep track of and your wallet empty because of purchasing all the aforementioned gear.

There's more, of course. The adrenaline. The runner's high. The having-something-to-write-about-on-my-blog.

Sure, there are things I don't miss. The hours away from my family because I just had to get in that five (or 10)  miler to stay on track. The empty wallet. The hard work.

Scratch that. I even miss the hard work, the pain, the struggle. It strengthened me. It made me feel alive.

There might just be a word for all of these feelings, but I just can't think of it. Closest I can come to it is, it's almost like winter's here.
While I've been in the Michigan tundra for 25 years, my blood still calls for the comfort of 80-plus degree days. Winter sports? Not for this chica.

Having to let go of my running -- hopefully only for a short while -- feels like winter has taken over even this part of my life.

But like every winter for the past 25 years, there's still a glimmer of hope just around the corner. April will be here before I know it with its blooming crocuses, sunny skies and even slightly warmer temps.

For now, I'll cling to that even as I have more free time to fret about what comes in between.

What do you miss about running when you can't run? Is there anything you don't miss at all? 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

What goes well with humble pie?

Just eight weeks ago, I felt like I could run forever...or at least 13.1 miles. 

My "short" runs were 3.5 and 4 miles each, several times a week. My long run? An "easy" 10 miles. I was tired, yes, but I rallied and (after taking a nap) felt great.

I developed pain in the piriformis muscule (think smack in the middle of your butt cheek), but that was manageable when the prospect of my first half marathon loomed. I would have walked on glass barefoot those last few weeks just to get through the race.

Doc said to rest for a couple of weeks until my body healed. You'll be back, he said.

And yet...

The pain lessened enough that I'm no longer taking over-the-counter pain meds. I have been following all of the doctor's orders (stretching, heat, exercises, yoga, massage and almost no running). But I've plateaued and am no longer making progress.

What's a runner chica to do? Reassess, of course.

I got new shoes in the hope they'd help with the healing. Hoka One One Cliftons, which feel like I'm walking on a cloud. Squishy. Comfy. Um, ugly.

Runners tend to be fanatical about their shoes. Some of us have a dozen or more pair in our closets, showing the trial and error phase until -- like Cinderella -- we find just the right shoe.

My closet "just" has two pair of running shoes. My trusty, beat up Brooks Ghost 6s and the new Hokas.

So back to the Brooks it was with me just as I restarted my running yesterday with another trusty tool: My Couch to 5K app. I still have my eye on a Thanksgiving morning 5K, so this may just work out.

That is, until I rediscovered shin splint pain. Boo. Hiss.

It wasn't so bad that I could say no to my favorite 8-year-old's request to go for a short run this morning. He did great for the first half, then petered out and stayed home for the second half. I finished, lungs burning just a little.

The body's complaining, but my spirit was soaring.

What does a running chica serve with humble pie? Just a little patience and hope.

What's your favorite running shoe? How many pair do you have littering your closet?

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Overcoming challenges leads to pie eating

When I started this running journey two years ago, I told myself that I'd give it a try just for my daughter's sake. She really wanted to start running and I wanted to support her.

We loaded the Couch to 5K app and got running shoes. It was a struggle. I specifically remember being out of breath, looking at my phone over and over in the hope that the minute mark was close and I could stop running.

I've had other struggles. There were shin splints. There was the time I hurt my back. Oh, and the time I had the flu.

But I always came back. Slowly, yes. But with certainty that I could regain my strength and get back to running.

And then came my nemesis: piriformis syndrome, aka, the pain in my butt. A worthy adversary for sure.

There's been Aleve, heating pads, stretches, physical therapy, a chiropractor, a sports medicine doc. More recently, there's been a massage therapist, yoga, strength-building exercises with a yoga ball, Dr. Jordan Metzel's Iron Strength videos and a tennis ball.

Despite all that, what's probably been the best thing for my running has been not running. I've only run a handful of times since my Sept. 21 half marathon. And I've only covered a mile or two during those runs.

Almost four weeks later, I finally feel like I've turned the corner. Today's run was almost magical.

I geared up with trepidation and headed out the door to temperatures in the 40s, a slight drizzle and a good head wind. Ugh.

But after a short walk to warm up a bit, I ran. With zero pain.

With my boy Pitbull singing Shake Senora in my ear, I put one foot in front of the other, concentrating on my form. Posture? Check. Mid-foot striking? Check. Cadence? Need to pick that up a bit. Lean? Um. Yeah. Not so much. Maybe next time.

And then I realized I was thinking about everything but running. Not about hurting. Not about when the run would end. And most definitely not about stopping.

Dare I say that I'm back? The next week will tell. But I'm signing my daughter and I for our yearly Turkeyman Trot 5K tonight. Because there are things even pain won't keep me from.

Plus, it's followed by no-guilt pie eating.

Have you come back from an injury? How long did it take? What did you do to make yourself better? 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The key to a happy life (if you're a runner)

"A strong butt is the key to a happy life." -- Dr. Jordan Metzl.

Metzl is a sports medicine doc affiliated with Runner's World Magazine and has a number of incredibly helpful videos, including a series of full-body exercises to help runners avoid injury.

I'm giving the series -- he calls it IronStrength -- a twirl to see if I can build the kind of gluteal muscle strength he recommends in his piriformis syndrome video.

And by giving the videos a twirl mean I tried most of the exercises a couple of sets each today with accommodations for my bum shoulder.

At this rate, I may be able to walk again by next April.

What I like about the videos is that Metzl has an athlete show exactly how to do each exercise, then tells you how many times to repeat them and for how long. He suggests several sets of 15, for about 5-6 minutes total for each series of two or three exercises.

Yeah, if I were already in shape. Maybe.

Instead, I did two sets of 10 each, skipping a few of the exercises that call for lots of shoulder work (translation: push-ups). Instead, I did wall "push-ups" with my yoga ball. Not quite the same, but still worked the same body part.

Planks is another exercise I just can't do with my shoulder (three labrum-tear surgeries will do that to you). I just went ahead and skipped those.

Since it was my first time out, I also ignored the time suggestion, but hope to build up enough strength to get up to five or six minutes eventually. Someday. Maybe.

For now, I'm focusing on what I can do and will build on that.

All of this exercise is not nearly as fun as  running, but after watching Spirit of the Marathon yesterday, I've got to say that I am inspired by Deena Kastor who is just a year younger than me and still kicking butt, even if we're now in the senior citizen, I mean, masters level.

So when I was struggling with my squats, lunges or mountain climbers, I channeled my inner Deena.

Or I looked over at my favorite 100-pound dog.

Now, how can that face not inspire one to keep going?

Who do you look to for inspiration? What kind of exercise do you do in addition to running? What's the biggest dog you've ever had?

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Smack talking and passing the torch

New Balance running shoes? Check.

Jacket with a hood for this morning's cool temps? Check.

Attitude? Check.

My favorite 8-year-old was indeed ready to go out with me this morning for what was supposed to be a half-mile warm-up before I ran a mile by myself.

I'm ramping up slowly after being sidelined by an injury, so I welcomed the company.

We walked to the end of the street, then he took off. It was humbling -- and satisfying -- to eat his dust.

We ran/walked a .6 mile route twice. I heard all about the girls who chase him at recess and the bus driver who can't seem to get them home any earlier even though we live a mile and a half from school, and planned out his Halloween costume.

"Is this really as fast as you can run?" he asked innocently during one of our walking segments. "Yeah," I answered, truthfully.

"Slowpoke!" he yelled and ran ahead again.

Few things are as rewarding as seeing my kids pick running over video games. Even when there's smack-talking involved.

I did go back out and ran the same route by myself, then came back for my favorite 100-pound dog for another walk around the block.  While she didn't insult me, she wasn't nearly as entertaining.

I'll take the 8-year-old out any day. We've got our eye on you, Thanksgiving morning 5K race. And we'll be ready.

Maybe by then I'll even have a good comeback.

Do you run with your kids? Do they taunt you, too? Do you have any running-related family traditions?

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A day so good, it made Stephen want to dance

I should have known it would be a good day when I got to the sports med doc.

A new-to-me nurse was trying to get my blood pressure with the automated machine, but the thing just wasn't working.

"You looked like a runner. I should have grabbed my stethoscope. I always have to do runners' blood pressure myself."


Even better news: I've made significant progress. The stretching, yoga, rolling, sports massage, to-my-dismay-little-running approach is working. My dumb butt seems to be getting smarter.

I know, right?!

Oh, it gets better. You jest, you say. Oh, but I do not.

Sports med doc also suggested I give tae kwon do another try. Say what?  I about fell out of my chair.

My first love. Reunited. But will it feel so good?

One thing I've learned after getting sidelined from running is to have patience.

I'm starting out very slow. I dug out a DVD of my former master to practice some of the basics at home. It was amazing how quickly it came back to me. I even worked up a sweat.

Could it get even better? Oh, but it does. My favorite 8-year-old suggested we go for a run. He changed his mind when we got outside, but we still spent some quality time walking around the neighborhood. Just us. And the 100-pound dog.

Yeah, it was a very good day indeed.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Injured-runner math

When you mix this:

 Plus this:

Add a dash of this:

You inevitably get a whole lot of this:

Oh. Wait. Never mind.

So if there's such a thing, I continue to do what henceforth will be referred to as aggressive recovery: stretching, yoga, sports massage, chiropractic manipulation and the "other R word" at my house, rest.

Yoga was up at my house last night. When I told my favorite 8-year-old that I wanted company, I was joined by a robot and a bunch of Lego people. I plan to be more specific tonight. 

Here's hoping that our newest runner also develops a liking for becoming a pretzel.

How do you handle rest when you're injured? What do you use as cross training when you can't run? Am I the only one who'd rather run hurt than not run? (Shhhh.... don't tell my doctor!)

Monday, September 29, 2014

14 answers to how do you have time to run?

I hear that question -- and its cousins "don't you ever sleep?" and "are you crazy?" -- a lot.

As any working parent can attest, doing it all and fitting in time for yourself takes a lot of work and, frankly, creativity. One thing that I do have is a very supportive family that knows that running is my release valve.

Just how creative can a chica get? Here are some things that I've tried (I've mentioned some of these before, but it's always worth brainstorming and sharing.):

* I set aside and change into my running clothes either when I wake up if I'm going for a morning run or right after dinner if I'm going in the evening. I've been known to wear my gear grocery shopping (tonight, for example), to go put gas in the car and to drive kids around town.

If this means I'm a candidate for "What Not to Wear," then please submit my name. I'm begging you.

* I put my long runs on my calendar along with doctor's appointments, work meetings, work travel and any other important commitment. Do I always go out for a run at exactly the time I put on the calendar? Hardly. But I typically do and that's good enough most weeks.

* I run when my family sleeps. I'm up and out the door most Saturday mornings by oh-dark-thirty. They're waking up around the time I get back, so it's like I was never gone. Only the dog knows and cares and that's only because I let her out and feed her before I leave the house.

* I run at night. I'm fortunate to live in a safe neighborhood, although there's enough traffic that I wear a dorky, I mean, high-tech belt with a flashing red light. Cheap find at Target last year. Every time I head out with that thing, my family members roll their eyes. I'd rather be dorky that dead.

I think at least the dog agrees.

* I schedule runs with other people. A very dear friend lives half a mile away. Sometimes, we arrange running dates to catch up and to get our butts out the door.

I also run with the Black Girls Run! Lansing team and there have been plenty of Saturdays when I would have rather gone back to bed but didn't because I knew they were waiting for me.

* I am brainwashing, err, encouraging my two younger kids (did I mention we have two teens and an 8-year-old?) to love running. This has helped them understand and appreciate when I head out.

* I bribe myself with food. Yes, I know that's not healthy physically or emotionally, but sometimes it's that treat that gets me out the door.

* I bribe myself with new gear. I don't do this very often, but you may have more expendable income than I do. (Did I mention I am sending my oldest to college in less than a year?!)

* Not only do I bribe myself, but I also lie to myself. It's just one little mile. You can go out for one measly mile. Oh, you're warmed up? How about just one more mile? Or five?

* I am a Facebook "like" fanatic. I use the Nike+ app and listen the whole time for the cheers that come through when someone "likes" my post saying that I'm out for a run. Sad? Yes. But effective.

* I set and write down long-term goals and scratch them off when I get back from my run. I love the feeling of checking off that I just did a long run. I'm a nerd.

* I blog. You all keep me motivated to get my butt out there.

* One word (sorta): DVR. I catch up on my favorite shows while folding laundry.

* Not infrequently, I remind myself of all the people in my life who just can't run. A little guilt works on the kids, so why not the adults, too?

Sometimes, nothing I do gets me out there. It doesn't happen often, but it has happened. What do I do then? Nothing. Nada. Zip. I count it as a rest day and spend time with my family or go to bed early.

In the end, I'm doing all this so I can be healthy and able to be around for a long, long time. Now that's worth making time for, no?

How do you get yourself out the door when you really don't have time for it? Is there anything you won't give up to go for a run (a favorite show or family tradition)? 

Saturday, September 27, 2014

La chica plus two

Today's post is a bit of a bragging session. Indulge me here.

My favorite 14-year-old has been training all season. She's cross training. She's eating better. And she's speed training.

And today she got her third PR (personal record) in a row. She was even faster than another girl on her team that their coach has been secretly encouraging her to beat.

Nerves almost got the best of her, but she rallied and put her heart into her run.

This is the same girl who last year finished last in just about every race -- both in cross country and in track. She's putting in the work and seeing significant results. Some of us could learn a thing or two from her about perseverance and persistence.

And I'm not done. I took my favorite 8-year-old to the local running store, Playmakers, for running shoes earlier today. We ended up with a pair of colorful New Balance shoes. He's been looking for any excuse to run all day.

There's been very little walking today, actually. He's convinced that he shoes are making him speedier.

He tested his theory when we took the dog for a walk. He certainly ran way ahead of us.

For now, I plan to take him out about three times a week and just have him run a bit more each week. In the meantime, I'll do some research and talk to some coaches to see if there's something more structured we should follow.

As with all things running, there are lots of resources online that I'll be perusing. Including this Runner's World page and this particular article.

The little that I've read so far suggests putting a goal on the calendar. I'm thinking Lansing's Turkeyman Trot 5K on Thanksgiving morning might be just the race for my little turkey.

Do you have something to brag about? Hit a new goal or just got out for a run when you'd rather have stayed in bed? Do your kids run with you? How did that happen?

Friday, September 26, 2014

5 (basic) things you can do this week to help make you feel better

Well, what do you know? Amy from Divine Essentials must have the magic touch. After seeing her last night for the first time, I went through my whole day today without taking any Aleve and still was relatively comfortable. I certainly felt better than I have in weeks.

Needless to say, I signed up for another 30-minute sports massage for next week. Did I mention you can book it online? And, no, I'm not getting any kickbacks from mentioning her here.

Which brings me to what I really wanted to tell you about today: Five things I'm doing this week to address my injury (in my case, piriformis syndrome) that you may want to try if you're hurt. So here goes...

 1. Listen to your doctor. Well, duh. But I've been known to think I know better, so sometimes I don't really do exactly as I'm told. This time, sports med doc said to take this week off, so I am. There. I did it. For a whole week.

Almost. Is it Saturday yet?

2. Stretch. I've read conflicting stories about whether runners should stretch before and/or after a run. What's not for debate is the benefit of stretching in the first place. You can talk to your doctor (see above) about whether you should do any stretching and when. I've been doing these stretches. Here are some more and even more that you might find helpful.

3. Do yoga.  I have a love/hate relationship with yoga. I know it's good for me and that most people can do it, with some accommodations. I, for example, use a yoga block.

It looks like this:

Got mine at Target for very little money. It works for me because it allows me to do more of the yoga poses without killing myself. I still tip over a lot, but you may do better than me. Because you're good enough, you're smart enough and, doggone it, people like you.

I finally got over my yoga aversion when I started thinking of it more as stretching than as exercising. There are lots of free yoga videos online. I tried a few and settled on these.

4.  Sit less. Recent studies suggest that sitting is a killer. I thought I was OK because I'm relatively active, but no more. I am forcing myself to get up throughout the day. I even find myself getting up to go talk to people at work instead of emailing them. I'm sure they're thrilled.

A good friend swears by her stand-up desk, but I'm really holding out for this option instead:

Source: Mashable
5.  Drink more water. This is one I struggle with, but I'm working on it. I've been drinking enough more water that I'm finding it helps with #4 above because I'm spending half my day traipsing to the bathroom.
My drinking glass, of course.
After reading even more studies that suggest that I perhaps shouldn't use as many artificial sweeteners as I'm accustomed to, I plan to find healthier options for flavoring my water.

And now, I gotta go. But think about implementing one or more of these ideas in the coming week. Basic? Yes. Consider this a friendly reminder to do things you already knew you should be doing but probably don't.

Put together, they certainly have helped make me feel better this week. That and Amy's divine massage.

Do you do any or all of these things already? Do I really need to include a disclaimer or did you figure out already that I'm not a healthcare professional and that you should consult one before doing anything I suggest? 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Time divine

A running friend who's been tackling piriformis, too, shared her plan for recovery: stretches, yoga, chiropractor visits, cutting back on running (boo, hiss), strength training and massage. Better yet, she gave me contact information for her masseuse.

Since I've tried just about everything on her list, I gave massage a try tonight. Apparently, a lot of runners give massage a try after a race because she was just one of about half a dozen runners I know who made appointments this week after Sunday's race. Of course, none of them thought to tell me that this was something I should consider. Ahem.

But I'm not bitter.

Regardless, I made an appointment for today (thank goodness for evening hours) to see Amy W. at Divine Essentials, 119 N. Washington Square, in Lansing. It's in the building right by the downtown YMCA. She even lets you schedule your appointment on her site so you can pick a time that works for you. Perfection.

I picked a half-hour sports massage to give the whole thing a go since I wasn't sure how  I would feel about yet another person working on my, well, body.

Amy immediately made me feel comfortable and I felt confident in her ability. She didn't disappoint.

While I would have preferred a little Pitbull, she had soft music in the background, some candles burning on a shelf and dimmed lights throughout.

I can't say that the sports massage was relaxing, but she did work on some knots, tight spots and my dumb butt. I even felt like I grew a couple of inches.

She also reminded me to use the foam roller at home this week, so that's going to be back in my rotation. Oh, goody. (Not my favorite thing.)

We'll see how everything feels in the morning before I decide whether to book another session, but after seeing my friend's progress, I'm hopeful. And if you're looking for someone to turn you into a pretzel, I've got to say that Amy's your woman.

Have you ever had a massage? How did you feel afterward? Oh, and are you a cat or dog lover?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

El chico runs?

My I-can't-run crankiness reached a fever pitch today, so I laced up my Hoka One One Cliftons, recruited my husband, grabbed the 100 lb. dog and headed out for a nice brisk walk. The weather has been gorgeous this week and tonight was the first time I really got to enjoy it.

We went a few blocks and our doggie decided she was done, so we headed home after about 15 minutes. If you're wondering how a dog can be so lazy, she's a Leonberger. El husbando stayed home, but our 8(thinks he's 17)-year-old grabbed his sneakers and came along.

My favorite 14-year-old has been running for about two years and is currently on her high school cross country team. So far, she's set a couple of PRs (personal records) and is improving consistently. I tell you this because our youngest hears about running all the time.

I've been known to talk about running at the dinner table, to read Runner's World magazine and to hang up my (and our daughter's) wet running gear all over the laundry room.

And until recently, he wanted nothing to do with it. Then he discovered soccer at school and he's been playing at recess every single day. Apparently, he made the connection between running and being good at soccer and is suddenly interested in what big sister and I have to say.

When we headed out, he suggested we run. As much as I wanted to, I pretended to be an adult and told him that I just couldn't run quite yet. 

That didn't stop him. He took off and quickly got to the next block. Then the next one. And the next one.

The same kid who looked at me as if I'd suggested we go buy him some nice broccoli for dessert just two weeks ago was running. Without any prompting. And -- get this -- enjoying it. 

His smile was contagious and I was so happy that I forgot that I wasn't running.

It was one of my favorite runs in a very long time. In fact, I don't think I'll ever get tired of this view.

Do your kids run? Have you inspired them (or anyone else) to start running?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

What's the opposite of the runner's high?

Because that's what I've got now. And it ain't pretty.

You thought pregnancy hormones were bad? Then you haven't been around a cranky post-race runner who can't run at all. For a week.

I was prepared for the taper before the big half marathon, but no one mentioned how hard the week after the race would be. I even had one running friend tell me I'd be on a post-race high all week.

What's wrong with you people? How about a little notice?

Thankfully, I'm here for you. Come closer to the goddess, I mean, chica.

Here's how to cope with your endorphin-less life:

* Buy shoes. OK, that's just a general rule for some of you, but spending an hour at the local running store trying on half a dozen different shoes made my day. I even walked out with a pair of new Hoka One Ones. They're incredibly cushy and my orthotic inserts fit great. But I can't take them for a run quite yet.
Now I'm depressed again.

* Support other runners. Generally a good rule anyway, but incredibly rewarding to focus on someone other than yourself for once. Like me, for example. Read my blog. Share my blog. Comment on my blog. But only so you can feel better.

OK, so maybe it's not about me despite my desperate cry for help. I did spend some time today sharing tips with a friend who's running her first marathon, sending her tips and a Runner's World magazine article or two. That was fun and it reminded me that pretty soon that'll be me again, training for a race. (And we're back to talking about me. Phew!)

* Plan what you'll do when you can run again. In my case, this week is heavy on yoga, stretching and doing the exercises I learned while at physical therapy for the aforementioned injury.

Boring? Yes. But it'll help me build my core and stability, so definitely a good investment.

* Book a sports massage. I get mine on Thursday night. Will let you know how that goes.

* Spend some time thinking about where you've been...and where you want to go. I have been pinning my race bibs on a bulletin board in my office. It helps remind me that there's life outside the office...a life full of fun things. Like running. Or not doing yoga.

I did take a moment to look at the board and think about my first 5K and all the races in between. It reminded me that I've survived other periods of not-running.

* Get out of the house. We're having beautiful weather here in Michigan this week. I haven't been able to enjoy it, but perhaps you can. Bike, walk or go swimming. Cross-training's supposed to be good for your running and it's even said to help avoid injury.

At least, I went out to Home Depot tonight to buy stain for our front porch and deck.

I have to say, the new Hokas look beautiful under the fluorescent lights...

 Enough about me, what do you think about my blog? How do you cross train? Did other runners warn you about the week after your big race?

Monday, September 22, 2014

Stairs are the Devil and other things I've learned post-half marathon

I trained for months for yesterday's half marathon. The training plan I printed off in the spring is all crumpled up with lots of notes in different ink pen colors, each one detailing what I actually accomplished that day. Some of it is so messy, it looks like a deranged person penned it.

Oh. Wait.

I even thought to use my ChapStick on my underarms because they were chaffing so badly at about mile six or seven even though I'd trained with the same tech T-shirt multiple times. I must have read that somewhere along the way and it worked like a charm.

What I didn't give much thought to was what I would do post-race. Yeah, I knew I'd be a bum the afternoon of the race, rest up on Monday and cut back on my mileage, but that's about it. No plan. No tips. Nada.

I went looking for some advice on my favorite site, Runner's World magazine, where I found some general tips about taking it slow the first week and ramping up mileage later on.

What I didn't come across was the kind of tips or commentary so easily found on my Facebook feed from all of the women I know who also ran the half marathon yesterday.

"Stairs are the devil. That's all." read one post this morning. Hmph. I shook my head. Not sure what she's talking about. I really felt just fine. A little sore, sure, but not bad at all.

Until I tried to walk up or down even a step or two. What's that twinge in my muscles? Holy mother of ... what is THAT? And why do my stomach muscles feel like I did enough sit ups to have a washboard stomach instead of blubber?

Apparently, a smart runner would have booked a sports massage for the day after the race. This chica now has to wait until Thursday night to see someone who can start working on the kinks and tightness (#runnerproblems). I'll let y'all know how that goes.

And what's with the run-ger? Can't seem to stop eating. Or at least can't seem to want to stop eating. I didn't give in to every single hunger pang, but there were some moments I don't want to talk about. Ever.

I've also learned that it's a good idea to stretch as much as possible. I did so twice yesterday and again tonight. Can't say I noticed any difference, but I'm not taking any chances.

Another runner friend said tomorrow will probably be worse than today. Giving you all a head's up now so you can buy more stock in Bayer, the maker of Aleve.

What's on deck tomorrow? Depends on which plan you follow. I, for one, hope to at least get out for a walk and do some yoga for runners.

That's only if I can go down the stairs at home in the morning. Gulp.

How did you feel in the days after a race? Did you have a plan on how you would recover? Did you eat your weight in can't-leave-alone-bars after your race? No? Oh, neither did I.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

La chica is officially part of the Mullet Crew

Ran my first half marathon today and loved it. So much so that I definitely want to do it again. 
Someday. (Just don't tell sports med doc. It'll be our little secret.)

My friend Brandess and her BFF Shannon paced my group at 13 minutes per mile. 

Yes, those are mullet wigs, fake tattoo sleeves and plaid shirts. Brandess is even sporting a fake mustache, which kept falling off, but she continued to paste back on her face for reasons I can't pretend to comprehend.

They also are the reason I actually was able to finish the race. They led our group of about eight from the start, telling us stories, yelling encouragement and cracking jokes. I don't think there was a volunteer or police office on the race course who didn't get a heartfelt thank you from our group.

The race started down the street from the state Capitol, down Michigan and Grand River Avenues, up through the beautiful Michigan State University campus, down the River Trail, through part of Potter Park Zoo and back to downtown Lansing. 

The temps were in the high 50s with a steady breeze. It even sprinkled a few times. Not bad, especially when the weather called for severe thunderstorms and the race director gave instructions should they need to cancel the race due to lighting.

My Sport Beans did the job and I gladly drank some Gatorade and water volunteers hoisted on us throughout the course. 

Ricky Martin, Pitbull, Daddy Yankee, Wisin & Yandel, Willie Colon and Eminem kept me company up until about mile eight, when my battery was so low, I had to turn off the music.

No trouble.

Thanks to the mullet crew, we set a great pace of about 12:45 for about 10 miles. Our group kept a nice, steady conversation with random whoops and hollers (we love hills!) or when seeing the mile markers. 

By mile 10, my friend Erin and I figured we "just" had 5K to go, so we pushed ahead a little bit and ran at a very comfortable but faster pace. We knew we were close when we started to see other runners already wearing their bling heading back to their cars. 

Words can't describe how touching it was to see our faster Black Girls Run! Lansing team mates waiting for us at the finish line. Hugs all around, followed by more pictures. 

This chica is very blessed. Life is good.

Have you run a half marathon? Who was waiting for you at the finish? How did you celebrate?