Give It a Rest (Blog Post #100!)

It’s no secret that as we age it takes longer to recover from races and intense workouts.  While the science clearly tells us that, the proof is in the pudding — we feel it! There is a fine line, sometimes a very fine line, between pushing it and giving ourselves a breather, to take the foot off the pedal for a few days or longer.  Doesn’t mean we’re comatose.  In fact, it’s good to do something aerobic everyday. It’s a good habit to have.  And something to look forward to and plan the day around.   Two weeks ago I ran a half marathon.  I was somewhat undertrained – averaging only 25 miles a week with just one 12-mile run and a couple of 10s in the prior three months.  But I thought I could maintain a pretty steady pace and maybe pick it up at the end.  I made some dumb mistakes: overdressed, didn’t take nutrition on the course, and wore new shoes.  Anyhow, at 11 miles I bonked – a strange feeling I hadn’t had in years.  Simply no energy or drive.  Flat out dead in my tracks!  I might have stopped, but the only way back was to the finish area. So, I walked, then jogged, walked some more, etc., only picking it up … Continue reading

Attrition

Over the years, we get used to going to key races, such as the regional USATF Grand Prix Series, and seeing our friends and rivals there.  That’s a big reason why we travel to these races.  Many of us keep track of our times and places at these events and maybe note who we beat or beat us.  Yes, this can be obsessive, but it’s also part of the fun! Yet, as we age, we see fewer of our cohort showing up.  We invariably hear directly or through the pipeline about the reasons why: an acute or chronic injury; a serious debilitating illness; an unwillingness to train as workouts feel harder and less fulfilling; less motivation due to slowing times; and even death.  The data bears this out.  Results from the 2019 BAA Distance Medley Races (5K, 10K, Half Marathon) with over 23,000 finishers, showed that 80% of the field was under age 50; 14% were 50-59 and just 6% over 60.  Last Saturday’s New Hampshire 10 Miler, a tough, hilly Grand Prix race that weeded out some younger casual runners, drew 1,088 finishers.  Of those 33% were over 50 and 11% over 60, with just 23 runners 70 and older.  It would be an interesting longitudinal study to … Continue reading

Covid Part 2

As noted in my May 23 post, I lost all hearing suddenly in one ear after a track workout two weeks after contracting Covid.  It’s now two months further down the road and maybe 5% of the hearing has returned in that ear.  The good news is the right ear is holding its own, and I’m doing my best to navigate life in monotone.   After taking steroids for two weeks, I did four weeks of hyperbaric oxygen treatments (HBOT).  These are two-hour sessions in a chamber at 2.4 times normal atmosphere (simulates ~45 feet underwater) with 100% oxygen (normally we breathe 21% oxygen.)  The idea is that oxygen forced into the tissues encourages healing.  While this is proven to help many conditions, including those with open wounds or undergoing cancer treatments, and has been used by athletes to supercharge their recovery for some time, it only succeeds about 40% of the time for hearing loss.  And that’s when started within two weeks.  For various reasons, it was 26 days before I started HBOT. At this point, it’s likely I will never recover much of my hearing, though of course I’ll keep hoping. The ENT specialists I’m working with indicate viruses have been shown to cause permanent hearing loss. The … Continue reading

And Then…..

How many times have we planned things out, maybe in great detail, only to have change thrust upon us without notice?  Often, I suspect.  This is the way life goes!  I believe the saying is “life happens when we are busy making plans.” My latest wrecking-ball-to-plans happened last weekend at the Clearwater Marathon Weekend 5K.  Six weeks prior we decided to visit Florida to escape the frigid Vermont cold in late January, historically the coldest time of year.  So, we made plans to visit St. Petersburg and Siesta Key, where temps then are usually in the 70s with lows in the 50s.  I saw a 5K on January 29th, organized by none other than Millennium Running, the Bedford NH operation run by John and Jenn Mortimor, who regularly host USATF-NE Grand Prix events.  I knew the race would be well organized.  So game on! It turned out Florida had a cold spell this year.  Iguanas were falling out of trees and race morning was just 40 degrees.  The wind was horrendous to boot, between 25 and 30 mph, gusting at 40+ — putting wind chill in the mid 20s.  Just pinning on numbers in the dark for the 7 a.m. start was challenging, as well as deciding how much clothing to … Continue reading

Goals for Senior Runners

In my Sports Psychology class at UVM this fall, we were able to choose a topic for a research project on goal setting.  Of course, I jumped at the chance to do this for senior runners!  And for this post, I’m drawing from my project write-up.  Goal setting theory (GST) is used to improve performance in many endeavors.  In sport, GST has been applied to both teams and individuals, with clear links to building skills and task achievement.  Goals have been broadly grouped as subjective or objective.  Subjective goals could include “I want to keep running” while an objective goal might be “I want to run competitively until age 80 and maintain a 70% age-grade standard”.  Objective goals can be subdivided into process, performance, and outcome goals. In sport, objective goals should be: (1) moderately difficult to achieve; (2) both short and long term; (3) specific; (4) feedback looped.  An oft-used acronym to critique goals is SMART, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Timebound.  It’s no secret we senior runners encounter constraints not faced by younger runners. These include various physiological changes that begin to appear in our 30s but accelerate with aging.  These include changes in: (1) … Continue reading

Prehab

We all know the word rehab.  Whether it’s a house or our running body, it’s working with something that has fallen apart, or at least not functioning properly, and making it whole or materially better – restoration!  Prehab is something of a contraction of preventative rehab.  Meaning, if we do things to ward off injury, we may avoid the need for rehab.  Makes sense, of course, and we could agree nobody wants to deal with an injury.  We just want to run!  So, what to do? First, there are some pretty basic exercises that can/should be done on a near-daily basis.  They include eccentric heel dips — (see November 10, 2015 blog post), against-the-wall calf stretches, standing quad stretches — pulling your bent leg back from the ankle and feeling the stretch in the hip flexors, rope pulls – lying on your back and pulling your leg up with three progressive 15-20 second pulls, weighted knee extensions – most easily done on the leg extension machine, and goblet or wall squats.  See the Runner Resources – Resistance Exercises section on my website for descriptions of several of these. Nothing really fancy with this battery, but they strengthen and stretch multiple … Continue reading

Hamstrings and Balance

Most runners have frequent and recurring hamstring problems.  It seems endemic to the sport.  And it’s debilitating – if your hamstring is talking to you, then in Bob Dylan’s words, “You Ain’t Going Nowhere.” The anatomy and biomechanics of the lower extremity is complicated.  A chart noting interrelated muscular actions in Joseph Hamill’s Biomechanical Basis of Human Movement  provides a clear picture of how each muscle, joint, and tendon plays a role in proper movement in running gait.  The three hamstring muscles (semimembranosus, biceps femoris, and semitendinosus) form the “meat” of the posterior (backside) thigh.  And attached to these three, either directly or indirectly, are about a dozen muscles attaching to the hip and knee.  If that isn’t involved enough there are the anterior (frontside) muscles that serve as antagonists to the posterior muscles.  For example, the four quadriceps flex the hip while the hamstrings extend it.  It’s a beautiful system when it works as designed! But few of us have perfect biomechanics and things happen, the most noteworthy being imbalances. These may be minor, for which we tend to compensate without notice.  But over time these imbalances build up and result in some muscles having to work harder than … Continue reading

The Precious Moment

Last week I saw an email from Ralph, a long-time running friend, briefly describing a bike accident.  He was on a less traveled road approaching the Charlotte Town Beach.  The scenery approaching Lake Champlain on this downhill stretch is beautiful.  In its infinite wisdom, the Town of Charlotte decided this was a good place for a pronounced speed bump, just on the downhill side, with the aim of slowing traffic approaching the beach parking lot.  Good idea?  Maybe.  But for Ralph it proved otherwise. Ralph’s front tire hit the bump at a slight angle, twisting the tire and sending him flying over the handlebars.  He spread eagled on the pavement, landing hard on his arm and side.  As he slid along, gathering road rash, he had a rush of thoughts and questions, foremost being “what just happened.”  In any event, the result was a fractured pelvic bone, determined later at the ER, and an arm that looked like Popeye’s.  Fortunately, four people on a bike tour happened to be there (in fact it was noticing the parked bikes as well as the vista that distracted his attention from the road) and came to the rescue.  The tour leader bandaged his … Continue reading

It’s the Hips! – Part 2

My friend Linda, to whom I have offered coaching advice, told me the other day she was having hip pain, keeping her from running. She said her physical therapist evaluated it as weak glutes, which they are working to strengthen. This led to me rereading my August 11, 2015 blog post, It’s the Hips!, which offered no substantive advice on strengthening. So this post intends to do that. First point is to define the hips. And while this may be simplistic, from a runner’s perspective let’s consider the broad definition of hips as our core. John Davis in RunnerConnect defines “core” as all of the muscles of the lower trunk and pelvis: not just the abs and back, but also hip flexors, glutes, abductors, and adductors. He states further that these hip muscle groups are particularly important because they’re involved in a range of running injuries. When you look at the descriptions on the side of machines at the gym of what muscles are targeted, there’s often a range, with some primary, some secondary. That can be useful information but the real question is whether our overall strength training routine gets at the full range of core muscles. If we … Continue reading

Surprise #6 – Habits

Shoot from the glutes; lead with the hips; run tall! This post builds on posts on August 11, 2015 – It’s the Hips! and July 29, 2015 – Running Fast! This is the 6th post related to my February fall resulting in rib surgery to plate four of eight broken ribs. The last post on this was May 7 and a lot of water over the dam since then. By now, I had hoped to report a full recovery. The reset is now for mid-August. To recap, I took 12 weeks off from running.   I was hardly inactive during this time. After several weeks of walking, I worked back into StairMaster, deep-water running, and light weights.   I’ve now been running for 10 weeks, building up slowly in speed and distance beginning with weeks of 11, 14, 19, and 18 miles in May. In June the weeks were 24, 18, 24, and 26 miles.   The first two weeks in July have been 25 and 33 miles. Wise or not, I ran three races in June: two 10Ks and a 5 Miler. Not pretty, but these were target races and a test of my fitness. Previously I had bounced back rather quickly … Continue reading