Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Getting Started on the Right Foot

You may know that the last few months of 2017 were not great running months for me. In fact, I wasn’t running at all. First, another shin/calf “injury” popped up that made running uncomfortable, then a random and very painful back injury took me out completely. While frequent visits to my chiropractor and acupuncturist, and rest, got me back to running, I knew that for sustained health, I needed to fix the underlying problem: my running form.

Recently, I’ve been lucky enough to partner with Therapydia Denver to do just that. Never heard of them? Therapydia is a national network of physical therapy clinics, but they actually do a lot more than just physical therapy.

Over the next few months I’ll be posting about my experience working with Therapydia Denver to fix my running form and (hopefully) stave off more injuries. Since the goal is to keeping running as long as I can.

We'll start with my first session, the Run Assessment:

I met with Casey McNitt, the clinic director, for my run assessment. It's an hour long session that starts off like most first sessions with a PT or other medical practitioner - I shared my medical history, experience with running, goals, and the issues I'd recently been dealing with. If you know me, you know that'll take a while. Thankfully, he wasn't deterred. 

His goal is to help me be the best runner I can be, by identifying issues with my running form and determining a plan to get me on the right path. 

After talking through my history, we went to the treadmill. I warmed up for a few minutes walking at a brisk pace before I was instructed to bump up the pace a bit to a comfortable run. While running, he took videos of my form, from the back and side, then focused on my feet.

We then looked at the videos together and he walked me through what he saw. And what we saw, wasn't pretty.

From the Back
  • The video showed - and you can see in the screenshots below - that I need to strengthen my glutes. Rather than staying even, my hips drop with each foot fall. As Casey explained, the right hip drop shows weakness in my left side gluteus medius. To compensate, I lean left with my upper body. While it takes the load off my weak glute, it can create other problems with my hips, low back, neck and more. 
  • My arms swing front to back in a straight line, rather than crossing over my body. Did you know they were supposed to? I guess I didn't. By crossing in front, your core has to do more work, taking the pressure off your lower body a little. 

From the Side
  • I run straight up, almost leaning backward. I think this is a holdover from my years in dance and marching band. Good for marching band, not good for running. Alternatively, by leaning forward, I can naturally propel myself forward and it'll help address how my feet land, because...
  • I am a heel striker. A quiet one, but a heel striker nonetheless. The way my heel hits, all the force is going straight up the chain, which is also likely playing a big role in my injuries. 

After looking at these videos and breaking it all down, Casey put me to work. Back on the treadmill, he had me shuffle with a fast walk to get the feeling of my full foot hitting the ground. Then, leaning forward (so far that it felt like I was going to go head over heels), pick up the pace.

Immediately, we saw a little improvement. See how I'm leaning a bit forward in the image below and a bit more of my left foot is hitting the treadmill? It's not a huge difference, but it was a good start. (And isn't it so cool to be able to see the improvements in video?!)

Before wrapping up, we headed out to the gym where he showed me a few exercises to strengthen my glutes (hint: keep up those monster walks) and a drill to help me get the feeling of leaning forward and striking the floor with a flatter foot.

Since this first session, I've been incorporating the exercises into my workouts a few times a week and using the tips and drills. One thing Casey mentioned while watching a video of another runner with a similar issue, is that she kept her feet relaxed. That idea really stuck with me and has become a sort of mantra for me.

I'm excited to see how my running improves over the next sessions with Therapydia. If you found this post interesting, I hope you'll come back to hear how it goes!

This post is sponsored by Therapydia. All opinions are my own.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

2017 in the Rear View Mirror

The holiday letter. A great tradition that runs strong in my family. As everyone grew up and started spreading out, we don't see each other as often and I love reading what everyone has been up to over the previous 365 some-odd days. While we don't write our own holiday letter, it seems like this is a good time to reflect on the year that was, especially since I wrote less here in the past year than I have any other year since I started this.

Even if it only serves to spark my own memory a few years from now (or next month) when I can't remember what happened in 2017, it'll be worth the effort. This is going to be a long one, so grab your coffee and a cozy blanket and let's go... (or turn back now, your choice!)

This year was a struggle - crazy and frustrating at times, and every day seemed to bring something new that was nearly impossible to believe. But the year also brought new adventures, opportunities, learnings and laughs.

As I was enjoying my 115 day run streak, feeling strong and getting a lot of fresh air, I was also spending hours each day searching for a new job. I don't think anyone really enjoys spending their days submitting resume after resume, answering the same questions over and over, and hoping that something might come of it. I certainly didn't. 

On the upside, my schedule was my own to set. I could meet a friend for a run and coffee at 8:00am on a Thursday morning, on a regular basis. I was able to continue my run streak as long as I felt it was doing me good. I could go to the gym in the middle of the morning.

Early in the year, I spent an incredible morning surrounded by thousands of other Coloradans who felt strongly that their voices needed to be heard (and they still need to be heard today). It was nothing short of inspiring and something I'm proud to have been a part of.

Early Morning Run - Women's March in Denver

I flew away to warm and sunny Phoenix for a weekend of running and exploring with friends new and old. The weekend was a great reminder of why, after six years, Oiselle team is a big part of my life. With flexibility in our schedules, we drove to Estes Park on a Sunday evening to go snowshoeing Monday morning and have a national park (practically) all to ourselves.

Early Morning Run - Oiselle in Phoenix

Early Morning Run - Rocky Mountain National Park

We headed to Florida for a family wedding. A nice reprieve from the stress of job hunting and the cold Colorado winter. Spending time with family, running along the St. Johns River and getting a locals view of Jacksonville, we headed back to Denver with a new appreciation for the city and our time there.

Early Morning Run - Running along the St. Johns River

Early Morning Run

On a spring Sunday morning we found ourselves on the way to Buena Vista for a couple days to relax in the hot springs, drink some beer and do some hiking. We also found ourselves on a climbing wall inside our Airbnb and enjoying a local coffee shop right across the alley. 

Early Morning Run - Mt Princeton Hot Springs

Still with nothing holding me back, I was able to spend a weekend in Minneapolis to celebrate my sister's birthday with her and hang out with my awesome niece and nephew. Then on to New York to join Matt for a few days. I ran every day, explored museums, laughed over drinks, good food and memories with the most amazing friends, caught a friend's show at Rockwood, walked for hours through my favorite city, and soaked in all the sights and sounds. All without worry of how many PTO days I was burning. 

Early Morning Run - Celebrating with my sister

Early Morning Run - Central Park New York

Early Morning Run - City Museum of New York City

When Michigan State's alumni board here in Denver decided early in the year that it would take on the challenge of planning its first full-scale fundraising event, complete with a VIP reception, silent and live auctions, live music, buffet dinner, and special guests (hello MSU offensive line coach, former football players and current Broncos), I signed up to lead the marketing efforts. Let's just say that as the days counted down, it was a good thing I had a lot of "free" time on my hands. With a lot of hard work and dedication by a determined group of Spartans, it was a great success and I'm proud to have been a part of it.

Having "free" time also meant I could grab lunch with friends, sleep till 7:00am any day of the week, schedule chiropractor appointments at any time of the day, and rate local coffee shops by their almond milk lattes and WiFi signals.

I also did some running and ran a few races during 2017. Mostly ones I've done before and love doing with my teammates (Colfax Marathon Relay & BolderBoulder), but also a new one for me (Evergreen Town Race) which I hope to do again because of it's small-town, well-organized feel and great views. Hopefully the elusive 10 miler will be checked off during the year ahead.

Early Morning Run - Colfax Marathon Oiselle

Early Morning Run - BolderBoulder Oiselle

Early Morning Run - Evergreen Town Race
While our tenth anniversary trip didn't work out as we had been dreaming of, we did enjoy a long, beautiful and delicious weekend in California, exploring a part of the country we'd not yet been to. Local wine and beer, a beautiful bike ride through the vineyards and walks along the Pacific Ocean made for a truly unforgettable weekend. Thankfully, the little oasis in Santa Rosa where we stayed during our trip made it through the Sonoma County wild fires earlier this year. (Happy to recommend it to anyone planning a trip!)

Early Morning Run - Bodega Bay California

It was over that weekend away that I decided to accept a job offer with a small (but mighty) agency, just a few miles from home that does important work. I didn't yet know the intensity and long hours that were ahead of me, but I was thankful to find meaningful work. The theme of the rest of the year truly was "learn something new every day."

Writing this, it sounds like I didn't spend much time actually looking for a new job, but that couldn't be farther from the truth. Job hunting can be a full time job in itself, but there's only so much you can do in a day. To keep your sanity, you need to fill your time with much more than simply reading job listings and submitting your resume. As much as I loved setting my own schedule and having flexibility to my life (and miss it now), it was hard. Really hard. I'm thankful for my family, friends, and running, for helping me through it.

The rest of the year has been a bit of a blur. Matt suffered a back injury that required a lot of physical therapy. As luck would have it, just as he was getting back into running, I was dealt a shin injury, then a back injury of my own. While not as often as we had hoped, we did manage to get out for a few hikes throughout the year - Table Mesa, Walker Ranch, Rocky Mountain National Park, Ptarmigan Trail, Mt. Falcon Park, to name a few. 

BirdCamp Colorado at Snow Mountain Ranch was a highlight of the year. Working alongside Rebekah, Mary and Ali, we spent nearly a year planning the weekend running camp for our Oiselle teammates. Our scout trip to camp, complete with testing out the tubing hill (just to make sure), will be with me forever. I'm thankful for their leadership, friendship, dedication and the countless text threads about everything from insulated wine glasses to schedules and budget spreadsheets. Stressful: definitely. Crazy fun: absolutely. Having Sally, Steph, Hannah, and Heather join us for the weekend made it even more memorable. To know that fifty women took time away from their families, work, regular training schedules, and to-do lists, and put their trust in us to plan a weekend that was worth all that and more, seems a little bit crazy. But we accomplished what we set out to do and I'm pretty sure we met their expectations.

Early Morning Run - BirdCamp Colorado 2017

Early Morning Run - BirdCamp Colorado 2017 leaders
One last trip for the year took us to Nashville, where we met up with my parents to celebrate my Dad's birthday. Four days of live music, museums, good food, and enjoying our time together, created memories that will last forever. I haven't been able to spend much time with my parents this year, so having them with us for Christmas was a treat. They were troopers for going hiking with us and our house is in a little bit better shape now than before they arrived.

Early Morning Run - Family Weekend in Nashville

While I'm ready to see 2017 come to a close, I'm also acutely aware of how fleeting each year is. Maybe it's a symptom of getting older, but I find myself wishing that I could stop looking forward to the weekend, or the next month, or the next year. I wish there were more good days and that they would last longer. 

Nevertheless, I'm looking forward to 2018 and hoping it brings many great days and great adventures for all of us.

What are your favorite memories from 2017? 

Sunday, October 1, 2017

A New Sunday Morning

Hey there. It's been awhile. I've been missing my little spot on the interwebs but since my last post, life has been going by in a flash and I just haven't found time to find my way here until now. Instead my focus and energy has been elsewhere:
  • Planning a big fundraising event for MSU's alumni club in Colorado
  • Landing an exciting new job, starting said job, and taking on the gigantic learning curve that comes with it and will continue on for some time
  • Planning BirdCamp Colorado with three amazing women, and hosting 50 more women at Snow Mountain Ranch up near Granby for an incredible weekend of running and sisterhood  
All of this has presented unique challenges that have left me a bit exhausted, but it has also been incredibly rewarding and exciting. Unfortunately though, there has been little time for anything else.

As life is starting to settle down a bit (maybe? hopefully?), I'm looking forward to a long weekend with my parents later this month to celebrate a big Birthday (not mine) in Nashville and getting back to some other things I love to do. 

However, there's one other thing I've been dealing with the last few months that has been nagging at me, and as much as I want to put it in the past, it's going to take a bit more time and patience. On this first day of October, a beautiful fall day perfect for running, I'm not running because of a leg injury. It's that kind of injury that hurts but doesn't force you to stop like a stress fracture does (thank goodness). I've been able to push through it in order to continue running, at very low mileage, but this past week my chiropractor put me in my place and I'm shutting it down for a bit. 

It's difficult when your typical Saturday and Sunday mornings start with fresh air, and a good heart-pumping run, then all of a sudden you're faced with figuring out what your mornings are now going to look like. I'm a real creature of habit but I can only handle so many days a week at the gym. 

I'm thankful that this morning, when I had to miss a Oiselle VolĂ©e Colorado meet up, a friend (and teammate) was there to meet me for coffee after her run and distract me with a cute toddler. So instead of running through the park this morning, I took a walk. Not quite the same, but for now, that's what I have to do. 

Take a deep breath. Slow it down. Focus on the moment and be happy that at least I can still get outside on a beautiful fall day. And think about all the running that's ahead once I can finally kick this thing.

Washington Park Garden

Now it's time to figure out why I get these injuries, what I need to do to recover from this, and what needs to change so this doesn't happen again next year. 

Are you also struggling with an injury? Let me know and I'll send some love your way.

If you have recommendations for Nashville - like cool neighborhoods to explore - please share!