9 Dec 2014. RUN FREE!

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Following my- so far successful- efforts to rewire my brain to a new daily routine, I have also been trying to rewire- or more accurately (and to continue the computer analogy)- ‘reboot’ my love of running.
In truth, I never fell out of love, but this summer my love evolved : by way of a desire to speed up and to improve my strength and endurance I went from a simple joy of being outdoors- exploring my environment and being just myself, my feet and the sheer exhilarating slog of it, to an all encompassing burning passion to improve with every step. It was still love, but this one burned…

…out.

I improved, that much is true: I pushed my pace further than I ever expected and I could actually see my goal of a 1.5 hour half marathon shimmering on the horizon of my potential.

That this vision began to fade was a combination of factors:

A) I got a job, and finding enough time and energy for a 12 miler, plus stretch-out, then making it through a shift without falling asleep under the counter….well, when competing for my attention with the ease and simplicity of a 40 minute YouTube work-out, my running sessions became few and far between.

B) My knees were up to their old tricks and beginning once again to plague my runs with painful twinges. On top of this my hips were becoming stiff and causing me daily pain, despite my best stretching efforts.

C) My phone broke down. It sounds so sadly trivial, but it turns out that 12 miles with no music and only the sound of your own laboured breathing is rather demoralizing. Maybe it would be beneficial to deal with it and learn to connect fully with the efforts of my body but…it just really put me off the long runs I had begun to enjoy.

And lastly, and most critically, D) I psyched myself out so had that I became overwhelmingly anxious even thinking about going for a run- with my enthusiasm already waning I began worrying about how devastated I would be if I didn’t beat my previous performance. My regular pattern of running had lost it’s ability to keep my mind calm and my self-evaluations positive, and what was worse- it had actually become the source of increasing anxiety.

In September I tried to recover the dream with an easy, no-pressure jog. 3 minutes down the road my competitive instinct took over and I shattered my pace PB. By the evening of that day it felt like my hip had taken the beating of it’s life right along with it. I felt like all my efforts to prevent injuries had been wasted in 25 short and over-confident minutes. That was my last run before this week.

So, once again, I’m taking it slow…and short…and its weird. It goes against everything my brain is telling me: that I’m not going at a respectable pace, that I’ll come in at over an 8 minute mile and feel bad about myself, that if I don’t feel like I’m about to keel over, then I’m not pushing hard enough to be getting any benefit or make an improvement. But right now, its not about the performance, its about love, for running and for my body. So I’m fighting the urge to push, letting my hips and knees build back up slowly.  In the meantime, I might even rediscover the mind-soothing power of running that I first fell in love with.

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23 Sep 2014. OH NUTS!

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My world just imploded.

Today, curious and blithely unaware, I followed a link from a recipe that mentioned how walnuts do not provide an ideal ratio of omega- to omega-6 fatty acids.

Having gone totally sugar-free at last I have been relying heavily on nuts to provide the calories I need to support my workouts. Previous research had led me to believe that a high quantity of walnuts and flax in my diet would also provide the essential fatty acids I need to soothe my poor clanky joints. As I’m sure you can imagine, this NEW information caused quite a commotion in my brain and so began a good hour of highly scientific Google-based research.

Here are the things I have learned, my totally unqualified opinion on the matter, and MOST IMPORTANTLY- how am I going to use this information going forward?

Firstly, it turns out that a typical Western diet is too high in omega-6, which can prevent omega-3s being converted into the ‘useful’ joint calming, anti-inflammatory compounds that I eat them for in the first place. An ideal ratio is 1:1 or 2:1 of omega-6 to omega-3.

Walnuts have a great RATIO but these types of fats make up such a high percentage of the OVERALL fat content that they may actually be causing inflammation. I had hitherto been focussing on walnuts as I had heard they were the best source of nut omega-3. Technically I think this is still true, but doesn’t take into account the balance of different fat types or the high level of omega-6 that comes alongside it.

There are different types of omega-3, animal fat sourced EPAs (so for me, that’s lacking but I can get it from fish) and plant sourced ALAs, which have to then be converted into the EPAs for the body to usend so have limited value(that’s the nuts and seeds).

Flax (or linseed) has 4 times as much omega-3 to omega-6 so helps to tip the balance back in my favour. Chia have nearly 3 times as much Omega-3 to 6.

As a pretty clean eater, I can probably disclude myself from ‘ltypical Western diet’ issues arising from overuse of vegetable oils, but I think I have definately been overdoing it on the nuts- I must eat at least 100-200g a day! However, I DO eat fish, so may have been avoiding an actual EPA dificiency that such ‘overenthusiasm’ could cause for a true vegetarian.

Here is my action plan:

Continue to include plenty of flax and chia in my breakfast and smoothies.

Limit my nut intake to 50g (one of my small snack tubs) per day, with less emphasis on the walnuts. I will also try and remember to do this the evening before so I can soak them- thereby increasing the enzyme potential for better digestion and nutrient absorption.

Up my fish intake to AT LEAST 2 servings per week.

Well. My mind is now a little more at rest. It’s funny how the more you start to learn about your diet the more you realise you don’t know, and the more you start to get it right, the more you discover you’re doing wrong. My general philosophy is not to dwell TOO hard on the EXACT science, but to always do a good read around of different opinions and e what I find to make beneficial changes to my diet. this one was quite a shock, but hopefully my digestion and sad old knees and shoulders will thank me for the changes!

Acknowledgements:

http://foodsforlonglife.blogspot.co.uk/2011/01/omega-3-power-seeds-chia-hemp-and-flax.html

http://www.paleoflip.com/nuts-which-ones-to-eat-and-which-ones-to-avoid/

Thank you for your wisdom!

BUILDING A FOUNDATION

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I used to not bother with lower body training- I figured as a runner I didn’t need to do any more work on my legs and butt, BUT (haha) it was probably one of my biggest ever training mistakes and left me wide, wide open to injury. With my pronate ankles and rolling-in knees, the extra work on my glutes and outer thighs has helped no end in protecting me from further damage.For my lower body strength sessions I’m currently using Jillian Michaels’ Killer Buns and Thighs. It sounds a bit dumb, I’m not a fan of the title, but I am a fan of the routine (and Jillian Michaels in generally, love love love, but we’ll go into that another time).  I read a lot of commentary that her workouts can be pretty tough on the knees, and it’s definitely true if you’re not super careful. I’ve actually found that Jillian incorporates a lot of different exercises that I encountered during my post ACL reconstruction physio. Obviously, these exercises are a long way from those designed for immediate post-op patients, but the movements certainly fit on the progression of movements and exercises I was using about 9 months post-op. So I’m finding a lot of value in the work out for more than just getting myself a set of ‘killer buns and thighs’.As a person who DOES suffer from dodgy knees (and just as a savvy exerciser in general) I’m always an advocate for impeccable form. I’ve found the key with all of my training is to take it small and take it slow- focus hard on getting the movements right from head to tippy-toe, engaging the core and maintaining good posture (a post on my ugly rounded shoulders coming soon…). It can feel a bit tedious sometimes and is always much harder work but the results are well worth it. I’m never afraid or ashamed to modify each exercise, if it feels like it might be doing me harm, I take a step back. There’s always a way to modify for knees or ankles that aren’t quite ready, whether it’s taking smaller hops, using both legs instead of one, or even just stepping through it.

For the vast majority of athletes as well as us active mere-mortals, building strength and stability to withstand impact is vital. From pounding the pavement to skiing park, impact happens, it’s ALWAYS going to be hard on your body, so it’s important to protect it by putting in the groundwork. I’m a fully converted strength training snob- I don’t enjoy it much, but it’s now kept me in a RECORD BREAKING (fingers-crossed, knock on wood) 6 weeks of injury-free running, and I can’t stop thinking about how much MORE fun skiing powder’s gonna be when I don’t feel like my thighs are about to rip open…