Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Barefoot Run in the Rain

I opened the door to go out for my run, Daffodil on her leash, all excited.

It was raining.

Shoot, why hadn't I known it was raining?  I had seen how grey it was outside my window, but had been so busy all morning that I didn't know it was raining.

Daffodil wouldn't step out.

It's supposed to be bad to run barefoot in the rain -- Blisters.  I usually avoid it, and I can, because since my running schedule is simple, with breaks in between, and since I don't train for marathons or anything like that, I can just skip it if it's raining.

Today, though I was all ready and I wanted to run.  And I am in training.  Training for my black sash progress stripe and this is part of it.  So, I decided to just go ahead and run barefoot in the rain.  After all, I was only going a mile.  And maybe I could be really really careful and pick my feet up so they don't rub on the ground and make blisters ...

Okay, Daffodil, you don't have to come.

It wasn't really very cold, so that was good.  We've been having an extraordinarily mild winter. I haven't had to wear shoes out there at all, in both January and February.

Oh, I know!  It's probably because I bought those Merrell pace gloves to use in the cold. Now we will not have cold weather any more.

I usually don't care what people think about my being barefoot out there -- or what I think they think, because I never know what they think.  But today I felt a little self-conscious.  It seemed a bit odd to be out there in the rain.  I really thought that people would think I was a little crazy.

Why didn't I think people would think I was crazy when I was walking through the snow drifts last winter?  Well, snow drifts kind of hide your feet.  No one driving by really sees you behind all those mounds of snow.  And I was only doing small sections of snow at that time.  And, well, I don't know why I didn't feel self-conscious about it.  I guess because it was too over-the-top.  It was so over-the-top that it just seemed like some kind of experiment and nothing weird. Being out there looking almost normal, except for shoes, seemed to be more weird.  I imagined someone thinking, "Okay, I've heard about barefoot running, but in the rain?"

Needless to say, you all know I had a wonderful time.  The bottoms of my feet got a little numb, and my shins and calves felt a little stiff.

I think they may have been stiff because I didn't do my 1/4 mile walk warm-up first.  I felt even more self-conscious walking barefoot so I started running as if to say, "See, I'm out here for a barefoot run."  Walking around seemed odder than running, for some reason.

So, I ran along, being extra careful with my form.  The outer left side of my foot did not feel painful.  I tried to be aware of what I was doing.

However, at one point, I put my camera on the ground, set the timer, and started running towards it and captured this photo:
 Now, it's not really fair to evaluate my form based on this photo because as I was running towards the camera, which I had set for 10 seconds, it was not firing and I was worried that I would run past it before the picture was taken, so I started running slower and taking baby steps so I would get the photo.  In other words, I altered my gait a bit.

Yet I find it interesting that it looks like that left foot, the one in front, is about to land on the outside.  Remember I told you in my other post that peroneal tendonitis can be caused by landing on the side of the foot?  Hmmmm!

I don't think I was doing that all along, but with running it's hard to tell what one is doing.  It goes by so fast (even a slow runner like me).

Now that the run was over, it was time to check out the bottoms of the feet.  Back to the self-timer on the camera:

Hmmm, can't really see that well.  Better take one closer up:

A bit wrinkly, but things look okay. Looks like I didn't do any damage.  Lots of stuff sticks to the feet in the rain.  I have noticed, however, that my feet do not get as dirty as they used to when I run barefoot outside.  The leathery, thickened skin seems to almost slough off dirt, and things like splinters and little stones don't seem to manage to work their way in any more.  That's very cool.  Another reason I don't want to put shoes on.  It took quite a while to make those great soles and I would hate to lose them and have to start all over again.

Once I got them cleaned up at home I made another inspection of the bottoms:

I saw that a blister-like area of skin had been roughed up a bit on the sole of my right foot and another similar small spot on the big toe of my left foot.

I think these were leftover blisters or callouses from a long long time ago that have just been there but not obvious, kind of flattened up against the skin.  The wet rain and pavement acted like a kind of pumice-stone action to kind of work on those little spots.  It's just old dead skin that needs to come off, but I have not wanted to pumice the bottoms of my feet for fear of reducing the protective layers.  Guess nature decided to take care of it.  Maybe we are supposed to run in the rain.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Peroneal Tendinitis Part II -- The Cause

This is a long post.  There are some photos and illustrations below, so if you bear with me, it  will become more visually interesting as we go along.

In the last post, I talked about a painful condition I have on the outside of my left foot that first showed up after I ran the Disney Family Fiesta 5K back in January.  Before we could decide that it was a peroneal tendon strain, we had to rule out Jones Fracture, so I got an X-ray and was really happy that it wasn't a Jones Fracture.

The best way to heal a peroneal tendon strain, I gather, is to just stop running for a couple of weeks, ice it, ibuprofen it, do some stretching exercises, rehabilitate it, then re-enter the activity -- kind of standard.  I'm going to add some osteopathic manipulation and some percutaneous electronic nerve stimulation to the mix.

But the point with someone engaged in an athletic activity is that when they are injured they often don't want to give up the activity.  I don't want to give up running.  Why should the rest of my body have to be deprived of the enjoyment of running and working out just because a tiny part of my body -- those teeny tendons -- are complaining?  Well, of course there are other  things I can do to cross-train.  It doesn't have to be all or nothing. However, one reason I chose running is that I like it way better than those other activities.  They say to find something you like and then you'll do it.  They say that if you are doing an activity you find boring it will be harder to stick with it.  So, I passed by all those other activities for running and Kung Fu and I want to keep doing what I enjoy.

However, the argument could be made that 2 or 3 weeks is really nothing at all and it passes by quickly.  And besides that, I didn't run for 6 weeks because I fell out of the habit -- which is part of why I am in this boat to begin with -- so if I went 6 weeks without running back then, why oh why would 2-3 weeks be a problem now?

And yet, stubbornly, I don't want to take that time off.  Stubborn and dumb.  I don't want to have to "begin again" again.  As much as I enjoy all stages of running, and could find much to enjoy in the early stages of just getting back out there, I don't want to have to start from scratch again.

So, I am going to do what so many other runners do and see if I can "beat the injury clock."  I am going to try to run enough so that I don't make the injury worse, and take enough recovery time between runs to allow the injury to heal.  It's a kind of compromise. It might take longer for it to heal this way,, but as long as the healing sessions are outpacing the re-aggravation/re-activation sessions, it should work.  At least in theory.

So, now I know what the injury is, and I have a plan to heal and repair it.

The other component is finding out what caused it so I can prevent it from happening again, and also so I can prevent myself from undoing the healing.  For example, if there is something wrong with my form and I just keep re-injuring it over and over again, then the healing is pointless.  One can get into an injure/heal kind of cycle that doesn't make sense.  I get the feeling that once one gets into that kind of cycle, the injury eventually wins out.  So, I need to know the cause -- the mechanism of injury, as my DH calls it -- so I can prevent it from happening again.

I have several "mechanism of injury" theories:
  1. Too Much Too Soon (TMTS)
  2. Poor Form While Running Barefoot -- Inversion of the Foot
  3. Poor Form While Running in Merrell Pace Gloves
  4. UGG Boots Injury
It could be one of these things, more than one of these things, or all of these things acting in concert that set up the conditions for the injury.

Too Much Too Soon (TMTS) Theory

It could just be as simple as I didn't train for 6 weeks, gained weight, and went out and tried to run a 5K distance.  That is "Too Much Too Soon."  To pin the problem solely on the weight gain wouldn't be exactly right because that weight gain could have been accommodated with the right kind of training, very gradually strengthening the feet, muscles, tendons, etc... to accommodate the extra weight.  Seems to me that all TMTS injuries involve a problem with the body bearing it's own weight, whether the person weighs 150 or 250.  It's the "too soon" part that can vary depending on how much weight is being borne.  So, although the extra pounds were a contributing factor, it was TMTS that played the most significant part in this injury, but is that enough to know to prevent further injury, or could there be more involved?  If it was merely extra weight and TMTS, why was only one body part affected and not many others? There has to be a reason that particular foot and those particular tendons bore the brunt of things.

Poor Form While Running Barefoot -- Inversion of the Foot Theory

I read on a couple of sites that peroneal tendinitis can become a problem when a person lands on an inverted foot. Little video explaining foot inversion and eversion:

While I don't think that I usually invert my foot when I barefoot run, it is possible that I did that day.  Here are some of the possible causes of my inverting the foot (if I did).
  1. Perhaps my ankles were weaker after six weeks of not running and they did not support enough and the foot rolled to the side because of that?
  2. I may default to the side of my foot to avoid digging in at the second metatarsal, which is a "Morton's toe" kind of situation.  I have written about this longer second metatarsal bone in my left foot in the past -- (See blog post "Aha!  I found it! Why the second metatarsal is bothering me") -- and about how I experience discomfort at the point where that joint makes contact with the ground.  Since the time I wrote about it, I have found that there is a group in the forums at the Barefoot Runner's Society where they discuss this particular issue (will add a link later because doesn't seem to be loading right now).
It is possible that in order to avoid the little spot that is uncomfortable, I am compensating by inverting the foot and putting more weight on the outside of the foot.
This brings me to a side note:  When a person has a lot of extra weight to carry along, there is less margin of error for imperfect running form.  That is, you're not going to get away with poor form for very long.  Landing on the side of an inverted foot is going to hurt with all that extra weight.  A lighter weight person is going to get hurt eventually too, especially if they are racking up the miles, but it might take way more repetitive landings to bring about that awareness.  In this way, being overweight can be an advantage because the overweight person is made aware almost right off the bat when something is wrong.

I have checked my barefoot form, and everything seems to be pretty good with that.  I have noticed that towards the end of the run, when I am getting a little tired, there may be a tendency to put more weight on that left side of the foot.

Poor Form While Running in Merrell Pace Gloves Theory

As much as I would love to run barefoot all the time, this year I decided to invest in a pair of minimalist shoes, thinking that there will be some times that I need to put on shoes.  (I had hoped that the Vibram 5-finger KSOs that I owned would suffice for this purpose, but I found out last year that I did not like them for bitter cold weather running, which is one of the major times I would consider putting on shoes.) After reading a lot of reviews and reflecting a long time, I had finally decided on the Merrell Pace Gloves.  One of the main reasons is because the Merrell company was at the 2nd Annual NYC Barefoot Run and I had a chance to try on a pair and was very impressed.

Up until the time I went down to the Disney race, I had not run or trained in the Merrell's at all.  As I was packing to go down to the race, I remembered the really sharp, pointy parking lot from last year's race, so I threw the Merrell's into my carry-on bag.  As I pondered, on the eve of the Disney Family Fiesta 5K, whether I should be attempting to run the 5K, there was no question about whether I should be doing that first mile barefoot or not.  Perhaps if I had kept up my training, and specifically had trained to run on the sharp pointy stuff, I could have made the decision to run it barefoot again.  However, I knew for sure that coming from six weeks of not running would NOT be the time to run on the sharp pointy stuff.  So, I put on my Merrell's for the first mile of the race.

It didn't seem dumb at the time.  It seemed smart to cover my feet for that painful parking lot.  However, there was a dumb element in that I had not used the shoes, had not acquired any running experience with them, and had no idea how they would work for me.

During the race everything seemed fine, and it got me past the pointy part and to the place where I could take off my shoes and finish the race.

However, now that I know about this foot inversion thing, I thought I'd take a look at the way the shoes were designed.  Come to think of it, I did remember the sensation of my foot rolling to the outside a little bit during the part of the race that I had run with the shoes on.

I put the shoes on and ran in the backyard a little bit with them.  They felt pretty great, as great as I remember them feeling, but I did notice a feeling like I was balanced on a thin base that did not feel 100% solid beneath my feet..  I took a look at the sole.

See  how thin the base of the shoe is?  I feel slightly unstable on that thin a platform.  The foot feels like it could rock a little bit.  It's kind of subtle, but it's there.

The way the lines of the design of the tread curve, it almost looks like the foot is going to roll that way (although it is not these lines that would actually cause that.)

There is also a little bit of arch support in this shoe.  It's not so much as a blatant arch, but that the shoe is designed to the shape of the arch of the foot.  I guess that is why the shoe feels like a fitted glove.

This fitted feeling is something that caused me to favor these shoes and I really love it, actually.  But it is possible -- I thought, as I ran in the shoes -- that the presence of this arch is obstructing my arch's natural motion enough to push my foot to the outer edge. There might not be quite enough give in the shoe's arch, so that my own arch's springiness coming up against it is causing the foot to rebound back to the outside of the foot.

Or,  it could be because the toes are pointed up.  Most shoe companies have this feature, I've noticed.  Most of the minimalist shoes have the toes pointing up.  I feel that this makes a difference.  I can't quite explain how or why, but seems like there could be some kind of top-of-foot strain with the toes up like that and unable to make contact with the ground.  And in the photo, it even looks like my foot is tilting to the outside.

As long as we're taking a look at the shoes, we might as well make it complete and see the heels too:

As much as I love the Merrell Pace Glove and appreciate what they have attempted to achieve here, it is clear that my heel is not achieving the same position on the ground that it can and does when it is barefoot.

I don't want to blame the shoes for my injury.  There is no way of proving that they caused me to invert my foot during the race.  However, the possibility is definitely there.  It could have been happening due to the design of the shoe, and my not having practiced with them, and my running in a race without training for it.

Ugg Boot Injury Theory
Oddly enough, as I was visiting all the runner message forums seeking out information on peroneal tendinitis, I found a few curious comments in some of the forums about peroneal tendinitis being sometimes called "The UGGs Injury."

Could it be a coincidence that this is the year I decided to purchase my first pair of UGG boots?  In fact, I purchased them on the same day that I acquired my Merrell Pace Gloves.  It was kind of an impulse purchase, but I needed something to slip my bare feet into when I ran outside in the cold to put the garbage out, or to drive to the store.  I had been thinking that this UGGs concept might work for that, and had been reading up on it.  The fact that podiatrists did not like the UGG boots because of the lack of arch support actually inclined me towards them.

I have actually been loving the UGG boots.  All these years I have resisted them, also thinking that they were not very attractive, but finally I knew why women loved them.  They seemed so plush, so warm, so comfortable.  And now I had the added benefit of being able to just slip bare feet into them.  They almost seemed perfect for a person who preferred to go barefoot most of the time.

But ...

Apparently there can be problems.

On a blog post I found, Joshua Tucker,"The Tendonitis Expert" explains (in the comments section below his post about experimenting with Vibram shoes) how the platform of a shoe causes our foot to act differently than it does on the ground when we are barefoot.  His explanation made sense to me based on my experience of walking on the platform of the UGG boot.  While barefoot, the foot "folds/ bends/grips around objects."  The toes work independently of each other, the muscles of the leg get fired up by this.  All of the things going on while we're barefoot help support the arch.  However, while walking on a stiff platform inside a shoe, your foot rests on this hard platform and the platform does not bend around objects on the ground.

Even though Mr. Tucker says later in the comments that he likes his own pair of UGG boots, my experience of the UGG boots are that they have that hard stiff platform, and my feet are not acting naturally, like they would when I am barefoot, while they are in the UGG boots.

And it just so happens that I had my UGG boots on the night before the race.  I had worn them to the airport and had to really hustle and walk distances in them.  I was a bit upset to find out that I had chosen the wrong shoes to use for traveling.  I had thought it would be a good thing to use them, but had never really walked so much in them before and was discovering that they are not the ideal choice for this kind of walking.

When we finally got to the Disney hotel, I was glad to sit back, kick off the UGGs and just wait for our suitcases to arrive from Disney's Magical Express.  The suitcases usually arrive a couple of hours after we do, and my other shoes were packed in those bags, except the Merrell's that I was going to need for the race the next day.

However, an unforeseen food emergency necessitated that I hustle over to the dining hall -- which was a considerable distance from our room -- and back before it closed.  I thought for a second about putting on the Merrell's for this purpose, but decided it was easier to just throw on the UGGs.

That was a mistake.  I was uncomfortable using them for this task the whole way and back, and by the time I got back I was even a little worried because the soles of my feet felt sore and raw.  "Oh no," I thought, "Is this going to affect my race tomorrow?"

Well considering what I have been reading about UGG boots, and also considering what "The Tendonitis Expert" said about walking on stiff platforms inside of shoes, and also considering how at present, I feel my injury now and its pain much more while I'm wearing UGGs than when I'm walking around barefoot, I would seriously consider the possibility that the injury was either caused by the way I walk in UGGs, or that my use of the UGGs predisposed my foot to get the injury when I ran the next day.

(BTW, I don't know "The Tendonitis Expert" and am not specifically recommending him.  I only read that one post of his, have not explored his site deeply.  I thought he said some smart things in that particular post. Just wanted to let you know that his site looks like an interesting one to explore, but that's about it for now.)

I can't believe anyone is still reading, but if you are, thanks for helping me go through all my possibilities.

(Disclaimer -- I'm not trying to sell anything and don't have any affiliation with any companies mentioned.  Just sharing my experience, as a non-professional, non-expert, simple and lowly barefoot running person.  People who need help with this kind of  injury should seek professional help, not an amateur know-nothing lay person with no science, exercise, bio-mechanical, medical or sports training or background etc ... )

Friday, February 10, 2012

Peroneal tendonitis or Jones fracture?

What you see to my left is an X-ray of my foot.  In the image, it is pretty clear, even to a layperson, that there are no fractures in this foot.

But up until I had this X-ray there was a question of whether there might be a fracture and I was REALLY worried that all my training plans were going to go down the drain.

Because of the X-ray, we have ruled out the possibility that I have a "Jones Fracture".  (Paper clip is pointing to the spot where a Jones Fracture would appear.)  But I do have something, and in the course of this "having something" I have been driving myself crazy, and of course overloading on all kinds of information on Google instead of doing my housework.

But so that my adventure into this area of the foot near the fifth metatarsal does not go so much to waste, I shall relay my thoughts and findings here, complicated though they are.

Here was my Facebook status update  yesterday:
"How to hurt your foot in 3 easy steps: Step 1: Sign up for a race ... Step 2: Stop running 6 weeks before the race ... Step 3: Run the race anyway because you are not mature enough (at 50 years of age) to do the right thing and wait until next time."
So, in order to tell the story right we must go back in time.  Back in time to when I first injured my foot a month ago at Disney's Family Fiesta 5K Race (some nice photos of the race that I did not take on that link)

(My silly attempt to represent time-travel waves)
 Getting Injured
It was the eve of the Disney Family Fiesta 5K Race.  I was having qualms about participating in the race in the morning.  Back in November, 6 weeks before, I had stopped training.  Can't really explain why.  We had a death in the family and the day of the funeral was a scheduled run day, and I didn't go out.  After that, for reasons I can't really explain, I just didn't go out running again. Had killed me not to train because the weather was simply gorgeous. Every day could have been barefoot at a time of year when it might be getting too cold.

So, my Heart and my Head were having a major argument the night before the race, Heart wanting so much to be in the event, and Head having serious reservations.  At least it started out that way ...

"You haven't run a step, almost, for six weeks.  In the interim you have gained a bit of weight.  It is not wise to go out there and undergo that stress under these conditions," warned my Head.

"But I had been running up until that point and was doing pretty well.  Perhaps some of that training is still residing within," argued my Heart.

"Maybe, if you hadn't gained those pounds, it would be all right," said Head, "but you know that overweight people cannot afford missteps.  You would have needed to gradually increase your strength to accommodate the greater load and you didn't.  It would be a bit risky."

Deep down inside, Heart knew that Head was right.  And now Heart was beginning to take up the argument against in a kind of heartish way:

"Well," considered Heart, hoping that Head could not hear her, "I could just do what I want, ignore Head,  and go out there anyway and run the race.  But, ... but, ... what if Head is right?  What if something terrible happens!  What if I get out there and I get a (*shudder*) stress fracture or something?  Then I wouldn't be able to run for quite a while!!  Or, even worse, what if I have a heart attack!!!  I'd better listen to Head and not run in this thing tomorrow."  Heart started feeling very afraid.  (This can start to happen when Heart actually listens to Head, but can also backfire because Heart can take Head's reservations too much to, -- shall we say -- "heart.")

Head, who saw what was happening and also was concerned at Heart being so sad at not being allowed to run the race, stepped in and said,  "Hold on now,  there might be some compromise that could be made.  Perhaps you could just go out there and walk it.  You ought to be able to walk it."

Heart brightened up as she considered this.  "Yeah, and I could even try running a little. Surely I would feel it if it was 'wrong' and I could just stop.  If things didn't feel good I could even just drop out of the race."  Heart actually cheered a little at the thought of how dramatic and fun it would be as she imagined herself being carried away by the Disney medics on a stretcher ...

Head thought about this for a minute, "It's good to be conservative and safe, but there are times when one has to go out and test the waters in order to learn. Sometimes things cannot be figured out ahead of time.  Heads can need to collect practical experiential data in order to make better assessments in the future."

Heart argued, "Yeah ... sometime you have to just go out there and give something a try to find out what happens."

And so it went on, with Heart and Head eventually coming to an agreement.  The strategy would be to begin the race and run as far as I could, and after that point to walk/run the rest of the race or even just walk.

The race was a pleasure, very satisfying to Heart, and I will be writing up a race report at some point.  All seemed to have gone well.

"See, Head," said Heart, "nothing bad happened!"

But about an hour later, there was a horrible pain on the side of my left foot.  It seemed like it was in the bone.  After going back to our rooms after the race, having a good breakfast, showering, we were all ready to meet up in the themepark and walk around.

I was a cripple walking around the themepark.

"Oh no, this is REALLY bad," I thought. "Am I in big trouble?"  What could it be?  Some variant of TOFP (Top of Foot Pain)?  It was pretty painful.  Something worse?  Did I break something?

Took ibuprofin at night, and had a light day the next day, pretty much staying off the feet as much as possible.  Things improved, pain lessened.  It continued on and by the fourth day it had reduced to a mere annoyance that popped up later in the afternoon, after I had been on my feet for a while.

So, I concluded that whatever the problem was, it couldn't be a fracture or anything really serious because it was getting progressively better.  I was sure I would be fine.

In the past few weeks, since coming home from the Disney race, I have been running and training in Kung Fu. But after last Saturday's black sash cycle training class, I experienced the pain on the left side of the foot again.  It seemed to have been reactivated by the class.  Perhaps it was the hopping on one foot, something else which Head had had reservations about but Heart had decided to go ahead with.

Rested a day and it was better.

Then on Monday went out running, and then put myself through a Kung Fu workout.

Monday evening at choir practice I could barely walk.  Almost like the first day when I originally injured it.

Now began the detective work.  It started when I wrote my last blog post and found out the names of the body parts that could have been affected.  A few Google hours later I was convinced I had the answer.  Based on my research I decided it was a case of peroneal tendonitis.

I remembered last year when I had injured my shoulder by practicing too many overhead blocks in a row, my doctor-hubby had given me a special electronic nerve stimulation treatment that -- to me, miraculously -- healed my shoulder in a mere few days.  I had thought the shoulder injury was going to knock me out of my black sash training, and had been so elated when the treatment worked and I was back in commission in no time.

The treatment he had used was P.E.N.S. (Percutaneous Electronic Nerve Stimulation, not to be confused with another type called T.E.N.S)  In the treatment, acupuncture needles are inserted into the shoulder and neck area which are hooked up to wires and a little machine that controls an electric current.  The electric current is delivered to the tissues/nerves and not only produces an analgesic affect, but also promotes healing on the cellular level.  Overall, it's not completely understood how the healing mechanism is achieved. (There is some talk of this opening up and getting "chi" channels to flow, but I'm not sure about that and how it works.)  I can assure you that it worked, and I felt it working as it was working.

So, I thought that maybe that treatment could use to heal the peroneal strain.  Wasn't it a kind of similar injury to my having hurt my shoulder?

After presenting my request to my hubby, he did a little research and came back and told me that before he could treat me for peroneal tendonitis, he would have to rule out Jones Fracture.

"Jones Fracture!!!  What is that?"

"Google it," he said as he walked out the door.
To make a long story short, it was not Jones Fracture.  I didn't go out running yesterday just in case.  But now we are safe to assume that this is tendonitis and can be treated as such.  We are going to begin P.E.N.S treatment, along with some osteopathic manipulation therapy and I shall do some work on a balance board to strenghten my ankle and foot muscles.

Oh, and I'm going to try to shed those extra pounds I gained.

I am VERY happy that I will not have to cease bearing weight on my foot for 8 weeks, as I would have had to if it had been a Jones Fracture.
There is more to tell of this story, and I had ambitiously thought I would be able to put all the information in this single blog post.. However, this is pretty long, so I shall have to continue the rest of the story in subsequent blog posts.

Here are some of the questions I've been pondering and researching and which I hope to address in the next blog post:

Are six weeks off and gaining weight the only factors contributing to the injury? Did I get injured because of running barefoot?  Did I get injured because there is something wrong with my form? Did I get injured because I am overweight?  Did I get injured because I am overweight and barefoot? Did I get injured because I wore shoes for the first mile?  Is there something not right for me in the design of the minimalist shoes I chose to use for the first mile of the race? Did I get injured because of wearing my UGG boots and rapidly walking a distance in them the night before the race?  Do other barefoot runners get this injury?

Stay tuned for part II ...

Monday, February 6, 2012

In Training

Training for Today (Commentary below):

  • 1 Barefoot Mile with dog

Conditioning Exercises:
(Jumping Jacks JJ, Push-Ups PU,
and 3kinds of crunches -- regular CR, side-side-middles SSM, and Bicycles BI):
  • Set 1 -- 30-JJ, 10-PU, 25-CR
  • Set 2 -- 30-JJ, 10-PU, 15-SSM
  • Set 3 -- 30-JJ, 10PU, 20-BI
Run-Thru Kung Fu Basics:
  • 10 alternating warm-up single punches
  • 20 punch, palms & hooks PPHs (if you want to know what they are, see photographs below)
  • 20 palm-hooks
  • While in horse stance: 10 single punches, 10 double punches, 10 triple punches at increased intensity from last week but not at full intensity (so as not to pull my arms out of my sockets before they strengthen up)
  • Drill through all basic stances on each side, holding for 10 seconds each: horse stance, forward stance, crane stance, empty stance, drop stance, forward stance back to horse
  • Go straight from stance drill into 3-minute horse stance.
Review and practice weak spots from last class: 
  • both kinds of spinning kicks -- back and whatever the other one is called
  • battle line kicks (hopping on one leg while kicking with the other across a distance -- living room much shorter distance than at the school)
  • Long Fist II -- which I blanked out on when we went to do it in class, even though I had passed with flying colors knowing this last June

Reading someone else's workout can be pretty boring.  It might be as boring as reading what someone ate all day, or when they slept or when they vacuumed.  However I have put it here anyway.

Here are further notes, which may or may not be a tad more interesting, depending on one's frame of reference.

That stuff The Dog Whisperer says about dogs needing exercise to be calm nice human beings is really true.  When I stopped running for six weeks, Daffodil wasn't getting her runs in and she turned into hyper-dog.  We'd all be sitting around trying to watch the news and she was all revved up in the evening barking and barking and asking us to come throw her pet squeaky skunk 500 times.  She was driving us crazy.

Just one week of me getting back to our old routine was like MAGIC.  She is the calm, mature, peaceful pup we have all come to love.  I almost have a moral obligation not to stop taking her out there.

We do have her go out with "the pack" in town a couple of times a week.  But she needs me to take her the other days.  I'm really the only one who's going to do it.

 Issue with my left foot:  I'm too tired to find out exactly what's wrong with my foot, so I'll just try to describe it.

Oh, shucks, okay, I will go out there on and Google foot anatomy so I can try to be accurate.  Just wait a sec ...
Okay, I'm back.  It's hard to know what part of my foot is giving trouble, whether it is a muscle, tendon, or even a bone.  I strained something during the Disney race (haven't written about that yet) and was very concerned about it, although the face that it got better and better made me hope that it wasn't something serious.

The area affected is somewhere around the extensor digitorum brevis muscle, OR, if it's a tendon, it might be one of the peroneus tendons, brevis or tetius, OR it could be something going on with the 5th metatarsal bone. (based on a brief examination of this illustration:  The more I study the illustration, the more I think it's something to do with the 5th metatarsal bone.

It hurts on that side part of the foot, and there is a corresponding burning feeling on the top of that outer part of the foot.  My doctor-husband says that the fact there is a burning feeling on top means there might be some kind of nerve encroachment.  The only way to find out what's going on would be to X-Ray it.  Since it's getting better and better with each passing day, I figured I would just wait and see.

So, it was getting better and better and better.  Running last week did not bother it.  But after cycle training class on Saturday, I felt it acting up and was a tad worried.  A couple of hours after cycle class, it was much better, so I chalked it up to one of those temporary kind of strains.  I was glad that I would have my rest day Sunday, figuring the rest would take care of it.

But this morning when I stepped out and began to run, it started to complain to me after about a 1/4 mile.  I felt the burning sensation.  I had to ask myself if that meant I should stop.  I did not want to stop.  After all, I'm in training and I was on a mission.  But I believe in being humble and wise, so if  I needed to stop I should do that.  On the other hand, I was only running a mile.  Surely a mile would not cause too much trouble.  I decided to continue on.

I concentrated on relaxing my feet as I ran along.  It turns out that the little warning pain went away.  The first part of the run was on an incline.  I'm wondering if the incline was stressing it more, and once it leveled out everything was okay?  Or was it because I was focusing on relaxing the muscles in the feet and lower leg?  Hard to say, but it seems to be okay that I ran the mile.  Me very happy! Don't want a set-back right now.

Conditioning Exercises
Since the beginning of my Kung Fu training over four years ago, the conditioning exercises we do at the outset of each training session have been my nemesis.  Although I saw progress over the years, and increased my number of reps and learned to engage the muscles involved more fully and deeply, they have always been the hardest part of my Kung Fu training.  I've had to stop and rest and do my own little mini sets-within-sets of them.  I have had a really hard time doing the bicycles.  At my best over the years, I was hitting three classes a week and doing the conditioning workout three times a week, and doing them at home on my own if I missed a class.  At my worst, I was doing them once a week in class.

This year, I am tired of feeling defeated by these conditioning exercises.  I have had the thought that twice a week is no good for them.  In the past I've been hesitant to do them every day because it seems like the muscles need to rest in between.  But my progress at 2 or 3 times a week has been very slow, so maybe I need to do them more often?

I've been trying to find out info on the internet about how often one should do push-ups and crunches.  There seems to be a lot of different advice out there.  Some emphasizing quality over quantity.  Some advocating every day, some advocating anywhere from once a week to a few times a week. Some say it depends on your body.  Some say abs recover quickly, others say, no, they are just like biceps and need rest to regrow.

I'm going to go with 4x a week.  Twice in class and 2x on my own.  The ones I do on my own are going to be less in quantity than in class, but I'm going to focus on quality.  We'll see if I make progress that way.

Actually, in only one week I've made progress.  Body is springing back and remembering.  Seems like this is going to come back faster than I expected.

Long Fist II
I knew this!  I really did.  I worked so hard on it last year.  But when the time came for us to do it all together in class last Saturday, I could not keep up with the class.  I had not reviewed it and fumbled.

If you want to see Long Fist II, check out the video on this link:
I do it much slower than that, but that's what I'm aiming for.

Last year I went through this black sash training and passed the test, but if I were to grade myself, I would give myself about a C+.  I could have started training seriously earlier, but kept putting it off until I had only about 5 weeks left.  Therefore the whole thing was harder than it needed to be for me until the last 5 weeks.  But that was really cutting it close, and I always knew that if I had been training all along it would have gone much better.  This year I'm aiming to pass the test and get my progress stripe with a better grade.  I'm actually aiming for an A+.  I feel that an A+ reflects the black sash ideal better.

Looks like I'm off to a good start.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Better Kung Fu Cycle Training Class

Wow!  What a difference from the last class!

The first black sash class felt like a disaster; a catastrophe.  It wasn't really a disaster or catastrophe.  It could be viewed as such from one point of view.  If the definition of disaster/catastrophe was almost passing out and not making class, then from that angle, one could say it was a disaster.  However, if it is looked at under a realistic and objective lens, it just simply was.  A person who allowed themselves to become de-conditioned and accumulate extra pounds was only going to have the results I did.  In fact, an argument could be made that I did better than could have been expected.

So .... no disaster.  Just a situation.

Anyway, I set down to make a plan to determine how I was going to deal with it all.

I figured there was no way I could work out on my own at the level of intensity that we had in class.  Doing that might even injure me.

Decided to use the week to play catch-up.  I would scale everything way way back and start from there.

So, I planned my "getting back into it" workouts for the week.  They were very light.  I just wanted to get the muscles moving and inform them that they were going to be needed again and these were the types of things I was going to be doing.  I modified everything.  My idea is to just survive the very intense Saturday morning cycle classes the best I can, and in the meantime, play catch-up during the week.

So, the way it turns out is that during the cycle class on the weekend, I'm working on an advanced black sash level, but during the week, I'm working on a basic beginner level.  It's kind of like having to be an adult on the weekend and do all the kid growing up during the week.

I'm tempted to say that I shouldn't be in the black sash class at all, but my Sifu disagrees with that so I'll have to proceed with my plan.

Here was the week:

My baby workouts during the week were effective!  I made it through the entire class on Saturday, and even felt a bit of my old strength popping through.  Still had a tough time during the conditioning sets at the beginning of the class.

Also, we had to do "battle line" kicks.  That's hopping across the floor on one leg while continuously kicking with the other -- oh, and if someone puts the other leg, the kicking one, down, we all have to begin again until we all get across the floor successfully.  I had a hard time last year doing these battle-line kicks.  It seemed impossible to me to hop across the floor like that.  I was a person who caused us all to have to go back to the beginning again quite a few times.  But my classmates -- er, my Kung Fu family, that is -- cheered me on and in the end I mastered it.

Well, this year, I was hesitant to try the battle-line kicks with all this extra weight I'd put on.  It was a double-whammy in that I was out of condition and had the extra weight.  Had I been doing the drill all along, while gaining the weight, my strength would have come along with it, but having stopped and put on the weight while stopped, I was afraid to try it.  That's a lot of weight to hop around on.

So, before class, I got permission to sit out that drill.

However, when the time came, I assessed how things were going and I was feeling so good that I just knew I could attempt it.  It was tough, but I was fine.

Body is definitely remembering that it knows how to do this stuff.   This is good!

I can't wait to experience what this next week brings!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Kung Fu Black Sash Year II

Last year you all followed along as I worked in "cycle training" from January to June and tested for my black sash in Kung Fu.  It was the most intense physical activity I had ever pursued and I learned so much going through the "cycle."

This year the cycle has started again.  From January to June we will meet once a week for a 2-hour intense session that will test our endurance, strength, and stamina.  This year I will be working to earn a progress stripe toward an eventual 1st degree black sash.

Because of a snow day, and a day I had to miss, I have only attended one cycle class thus far.  And that one class was somewhat of a disaster.

I had let my Kung Fu slide and had only attended class a couple of times in December.  In the past, when I had taken a couple of weeks off, it wasn't too hard to get back up to snuff again.  But this time I had been out a couple of months.  Don't know how that happened.  I guess "I'll go back next week" just kept turning into another and another week, and before I knew it I had put on a LOT of extra pounds and had lost a good deal of conditioning.

So, I was pretty much dreading the first cycle class.  I already knew I was going to modify everything, and kind of hope that I could kind of "hide" or something (although that really is not too possible in cycle class).  It turned out that half-way through the class I began to see stars and started feeling really queasy.  I had to drop out of the class.  My Sifu took me in the back and gave me freezing cold water shock therapy on the back of my neck.

The thing that struck me, however, is that I had always discounted anything I had accomplished over the years in Kung Fu.  I always felt like the weakest and least in the class.  But as I experienced how much more difficult everything was that had once seemed easier, I realized that everything I had accomplished up until then really had been something.  Maybe I needed to have it taken away from me before I realized what I possessed.  I made a decision to from now on never minimize any physical accomplishment, no matter how seemingly small.  I also made a decision to not compare myself to the others.  (I actually thought I had not been comparing myself to the others, but just the fact that I had minimized what I could do meant that I had been comparing myself all along without being conscious of it.)

SO ...

I made a little plan.  A little plan to use the time during the week between cycle classes to get myself back into condition.

Yesterday, I went out for my mile-and-a-half run, and then I put myself through the conditioning exercises and some basic Kung Fu drills: punches, stance-work, etc...  Just the very basic stuff, to get my body moving again and my joints and muscles headed in the right direction.  Although we do 60 jumping jacks during cycle class, I only did 10 at a time on my own.  The same thing for the pushups, crunches, etc... I did a few.  I'll just gradually increase the ones I'm doing at home, and somehow grit my teeth on Saturday mornings to get through the more intense version.

Tonight's plan was to get myself back into some Kung Fu classes.  I chose to go to the Intermediate/Advanced Forms class.  My plan for this first night back was to take it easy.  The real goal for me was to just make sure I showed up.  That would be enough.  I didn't need to kill myself or anything.  Just show up. I would stand way in the back in the back row, and I wouldn't go all out.  I would modify, and do less of the conditioning, slower jumping jacks, etc... (Just for the first couple of weeks). I would shrink and try to make myself as inconspicuous as possible, even make myself totally invisible if I could.  Maybe I could do it this way for a few weeks and by the time anyone noticed I was there I'd be all back in shape!

Well, sometimes the fates have another plan!

When I got to class, my instructor called me and some other black sashes to stand up in front to be "role models."  I winced and protested a little,  indicating that I was in no condition to be standing up there in front of everyone.  But he insisted.  He gave the class a little speech and said that we were a family and you don't feel embarrassed in front of your family ever.  Ever!  If you are just getting back into shape, he said, that's okay.  We have to leave our egos out of it.  Period.

So, that was the lesson for the night.  I did not get to hide in the back.  I had to be who and what I was at that given moment in time and I had to be where I was at right up in front of everyone:  all the purple sashes; all the red sashes; the brown and the green.

And after that ...

It was testing night!  Oh my gosh, no!  I had returned on testing night!!

Each small group had to get up and do Long Fist I.  I had not done Long Fist I for at least 6 weeks.  Did not even know if I would remember it.  "This is going to be just great," I thought.

It did not go badly.  I guess all the hard work I had done on Long Fist I over the years had solidified my knowledge of it so that I was able to go 6 weeks without doing it and still had it in me.

All in all, everything that happened tonight happened exactly the way it should have.  The contrast of the actual first night back to my plan of making myself invisible was just too great for it to not be some kind of message to me. By absorbing how things went, I hear the message, and I'm ready to plunge back in.

My plan is to use my blog as a little running journal of my time through black sash.  I will be most happy if you follow along my little journey with me. Stay tuned for more.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Beginning Again -- Part II

About an hour ago I posted that I was going to head out for my first run in quite a while and that I was planning to wear my new Merrel Pace Gloves. because it was too cold.

I stepped out the door but looking down at the shoes I did not feel very good about it.  I had a frown.  "It's okay," I told myself, "you can run barefoot a little later when it gets warmer."

Still not happy.

"You only need to do this because you let it slide.  Before you know it you'll be back in barefoot shape and you can run barefoot all summer."

Still not happy.

"You need to run in these things some time because you can't run barefoot all the time and you're going to have to use these for certain things."

Still not happy.

Finally I just couldn't do it.  I couldn't even take a step.  I had to take the shoes off.

Immediately I felt happy.  In fact, happiness flooded into me.  I had no idea what would happen out there, having not run for so long, but I knew I was back where I wanted to be -- barefoot running.

And waiting for me, like a big beautiful blue reward was this:
It was 35 degrees and sunny!  And my feet never felt cold at all!

What had made me unhappy about having the shoes on? What did I love about having taken my shoes off?

It was that I had missed coming in contact with the ground. I really love to feel the ground.

I do believe it's true about getting that feedback from the ground.  The Merrell's are really nice shoes.  Really great shoes..  I used them to run the first mile of the 2012 Disney Family Fiesta 5K just a few weeks ago -- that first mile on that painful nubby parking lot that I described to you from last year's Disney 5K.  I didn't feel happy about wearing the shoes there either, but it was something that was necessary because I was not conditioned to run on that sharp nubby pointy stuff.

But it seem that no matter how well they make these very minimalist, barefoot-style shoes, there always ends up being a layer between the nerve ending and the feet and the ground.  Sometimes the soles of these shoes are very good, and you can feel much through them, but it is just not the same as that direct contact with the ground. It's just not the same!

I think I now know my destiny.

I think there are lots of ways to run.  I don't believe my barefoot is some kind of doctrine that must be adhered to.  If someone hated it they should not do it that way.  But for me, there is nothing like it.  I won't cease to get a big kick out of the fact that it can be done this way.  After all those years of believing and thinking and just taking for granted the "truth" that I needed some kind of support in my shoe in order to run, I can't stop thinking it's so wonderful that I can just run without any shoes at all.  It's such a feeling of bursting free!

By the way, I also wrote in that post an hour ago that I would just walk/run out there.  But I didn't.  I ended up running the whole time.  Only ran about a mile and a half but that is enough for the first day back.