Love/Hate Relationship: the Indoor Cycling Bike

It’s officially been 3 months since my knee surgery and I’ve just complete my physical therapy. Thankfully, my knee didn’t need huge repairs. I had a plica removed that was causing cartilage to tear on my patella – so it’s a good thing I had it done because that damage would have only progressed! I still can’t bend my knee completely and certainly can’t do squats or run yet.

So, since PT ended and I needed to continue strengthening, I indulged myself and bought an indoor cycling bike on Amazon. The bike is great! For $199 I got a solid, very adjustable, handsome bike! 

The only problem is I hate it as much as I love it. Does that even make sense?

I hate it when I first get on because:

A) I’m still weak-ish, so my knee can be achey (what did I expect?)

B) I slacked off a lot after surgery so I’m out of shape-ish, so it’s hard (lol duh)

C) I would just rather be running.


But then once I’m about 15-20 minutes in, I love it! I’m sweating, I’m breathing heavier, my leg muscles are working hard and I remember how much I just love the feeling of exerting my body. So by the time I get off, I love the bike again.

A weird phenomenon, but one I’ll have to get used to as it will be a while until I can really run for a workout again.

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Knee Surgery

I’m waiting to be taken into the OR as I write this. It might sound weird but I’m actually excited to have this procedure done because that means my knee will actually be able to heal and I’ll actually be able to run again.

I’ve tried PT, stretches and strengthening exercises, knee braces, and more but any time I jog at all my knee swells up like a balloon. At just 24, I don’t want to abstain from running altogether. I’d rather have this minor, minimally invasive surgery done to fix it 100%!

The MRI I had done showed a few potential issues causing my problems, but the doctor said he’ll have a better idea once he’s inside my knee. There is a symptomatic plica and some scar tissue around my meniscus for sure, but there’s a chance I need my meniscus repaired or who knows what it’ll look like in there.

All I know is I’ll feel great in 6 weeks when I’m done PT and can start jogging! YAY!

  So ready! 

Running on the Beach

Let’s be honest, the only place we really want to be in the summer is on a beach. For you fitness freaks out there, that doesn’t mean you have to just lounge lazily in the sun and snack all day long. You can get a great workout by running in the sand, and it can be as relaxing or challenging as you want!

Running on the beach provides a couple of options for your workout. Running closer to the water’s edge, especially during low tide, offers wetter and more compact sand to run on. This makes it easier to navigate along your run and offers an enjoyable, smooth ride for you to enjoy on the ocean’s edge.

If you’re looking for more of a challenge, running in the softer, looser sand provides more resistance. In fact, it takes more energy and work to navigate through looser sand as your tendons and muscles adjust to the unnevennes of the terrain. Running in looser sand is a bit like running hills, requiring you to generate more force and work harder overall.

Running in sneakers versus running barefoot also allows you to control the intensity of your run. Running in shoes on the beach is perfectly fine, especially if you’ve had injuries like plantar fasciitis or achilles tendonitis. The sneakers will continue to provide your feet the support they need on the unpredictable terrain sand offers.

While running barefoot allows your feet to follow through their full range of motion, it can irritate the chronic conditions mentioned above, since the muscles are stretched more and are not being supported by the proper shoes. If you choose to go the no shoes route, beware of doing too much mileage, too soon. The harder surface could result in injury if you aren’t used to it. Additionally, beaches are typically littered with sharp shells and often times, glass or other litter. Beware of this risk if you decide to run barefoot.

Harder sand or softer sand, in sneakers or not – either way, if you’ve never run on a beach before, start slow. Begin with a short 15 minute jog and slowly increase your time as the weeks progress. Your legs and feet will need to adjust to the work they’ll be doing in the sand, and your body as a whole will have to adjust to the higher energy demands running on sand requires.

For me, running on the beach is the most relaxing workout there is. Waking up early before the crowd arrives while it’s still silent but for the sound of wind and waves is one of the most peaceful times to appreciate what your body can do. So give it a try! Go for a quick little jog on the coast and see how renewed you feel after running behind such a glorious canvas!

Dear Coach: What Are Your Favorites?

Dear Coach,
What are your favorite fitness things?

Sincerely,
Curious Reader


Hey Curious Reader!

Well. I love so many different things….IMG_4494

-RUNNING! is my favorite form of cardio. I’ve learned to love running and feel amazing both during and after a run. Just
knowing that my body is capable of carrying me miles and miles, or my muscles are strong enough to push me at a great speed gives me all sorts of good feels.

SNEAKERS! I have so many pairs of sneakers and I love them all. The more outrageous the colors, the more I love it.

asics sneaksATHLETIC CLOTHES! in general, especially shorts and pants. Yeah. Clothes. All of it. My style is definitely athleisure, if that’s even a thing. I wear gym clothes anywhere, anytime.

Dislikes:

-ARMS are not particularly my favorite. My upper body has always been “weak”, but it’s getting better! Playing sports in college forced me to balance out the muscles in my shoulders and arms so I got very used to push-ups, burpees, plank up-downs, bicep curls, and anterior/lateral side raises. While I don’t love these exercises I love bikehow good they make my arms look!

-STATIONARY BIKE. I have a serious grudge against the stationary bikes at the gym. I was injured and unable to run for months at one point, and the bike was my only option. I got so bored! But put me on a bike OUTSIDE and we have a totally different story!

What do you think? Anything you relate to here? Let me know 🙂 That’s all for now!

Coach A

So You Want to Run a 5k

Races are a lot of fun. They are a great way to gauge the improvements you’ve made to your fitness level, stay in shape, and get excited about working out. However, before signing up for a race, there are a couple things you should know and prepare for.

First and foremost, when you sign up for a race, you should have a clear idea of what your goal is. What are you trying to accomplish? Is your goal simply to finish the race without stopping? Are you in it to win it? Do you want to attain a personal best? Or are you just trying to have fun with your friends?

Having a clear goal in mind will direct your path as you prepare and train for the upcoming race.

Now that you have a goal in mind, pick a date for your race. There are all sorts of races going on all the time, you just have to search for them! It’s important to set yourself up for success. You can’t just sign up for a race and go race the next weekend. You need time to prepare your body. If you aren’t used to running 3 miles at once, you have no business shocking your body with that out of nowhere! That’s how you get injured, sore, and discouraged. So, sign up for your race in advance to give yourself adequate preparation time.

We have a race date, now we train. How you train will depend squarely on the goal you set for yourself. If you just want to finish the race without stopping, slowly start adding some running into your workout routine. Pace yourself on a trail run and see how long just one mile takes you to complete. Be prepared to run that time 3 times on race day. Begin training by running a few minutes every other day and slowly work up to continuous bouts of 15, 20, and 30 minutes of running without stopping. Similarly, if your goal is to attain a personal best, you should be upping the intensity of your runs and incorporating speed work into your running routine. For all racers, make sure to incorporate stretching and proper nutrition into your daily life to avoid injury and stay fueled. If you need help or have questions on what you specifically should do, comment here!

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Right before the race, we rest and we fuel. A few days before your race, don’t try to run your hardest or over-do it. Take a break. Go easy on yourself in the days leading up to your race. Make sure to fuel your muscles the day and night before race day to ensure you’ll have enough energy to do your best. Eating sources of carbohydrates the night before or the morning of your race is probably a good idea! Make sure to get a good night of rest as well so you’re ready to go in the morning.

On race day, eat a good breakfast and arrive early to the site so you can check in. Make sure you warm up your muscles and stretch them out so you can literally hit the ground running at the starting line. Keep your goal in mind as you run and don’t give up on it! The only competitor that matters when you run is yourself, so don’t compare yourself or get discouraged. Just focus on you and your goals. Have fun and be proud of what you were able to accomplish!

Sneakers Sneakers Sneakers

As a runner, I cannot stress enough the importance of a good pair of sneakers…Especially if you’ve had a substantial injury pertaining to running! A good pair of running shoes can cost upwards of $100, but trust me, if you enjoy running and want to continue to do so injury free, you don’t want to skimp out on this.

When I ran in high school, my long distance coach told me how important it was to buy new sneakers every six months. Now, we were running for an hour or more each day, so we racked up a lot of miles very quickly. If you don’t run long distances very often, or only run for short periods of time, your sneakers will probably last longer.

But the point remains: Don’t continue to run in a worn out pair of sneakers.

Think of how great your sneakers felt when you first bought them. Like clouds on your feet? Like you never wanted to take them off? Like these pillows gently holding your feet securely in place? That’s how a good pair of sneakers should feel – comfortable and supportive.

asics sneaksWhen you realize your sneakers are tired and worn, fraying at the seams, with a wrinkled outer base from the constant pounding you put them through, I suggest going to a running specific sport store. At a store like this, compared to a large shoe franchise, the employees actually know what they’re talking about. Usually, if the store is good, they’ll have a footmapping machine you stand on to read the pressure distribution of your body weight in your feet. They’ll also analyze your gait and arches to see if you over-pronate, under-pronate, or have any other special concerns that you might need support for from your shoe. This machine will also measure your foot size, to ensure you’re in the right size shoe. Then the employees will know exactly what brand and style of sneaker will provide you and your feet the best possible support and cushion for your run. They’ll help you try on pairs until you find your perfect match.

A lot of people get sucked into cool looking sneakers that are currently hot in the market. For example, my senior year in college, a lot of my lacrosse teammates wore Nike free runs. Our practices were intense: three hours a day, six days a week. We did sprints and endurance conditioning mixed in with dynamic strength exercises. We were constantly sprinting, jumping, changing direction on a hardwood gym floor – putting a lot of pressure on our feet and ligaments. Those who wore Nike free runs had shin splints – or worse – in less than a couple of weeks. Why? Well, I believe it has a lot to do with Nike’s minimal feel.

These shoes my teammates were wearing had little to no cushion, minimal arch support and little to no ankle support. They just weren’t made for the workouts we were doing. Now, I’m not saying Nike shoes are terrible for all runners. I’m simply stressing the importance of wearing the RIGHT sneakers for YOUR preferred type of running and YOUR feet.

Personally, I enjoy long runs. I also enjoy running fast when I can. I tend to over-pronate. My ankles collapse inward when I run and my arches aren’t all that stable either. I told my old coach, who works at one of these fabulous running stores I’m talking about, about my stress fracture injury and how I was starting to run again after six months. She recommended a brooks2sneaker with good cushion and lots of support. So, I’m thinking ASICS. I’ve worn ASICS my whole running career and love them. I only wore Nike’s for one pre-season of lacrosse and after developing numerous issues in these shoes, switched back to ASICS. The ASICS I typically wore had adequate cushion, so I thought they were the best for rehabbing a stress fracture. However, this coach put me in a pair of Brooks, which offer the same cushion, plus a whole lot of stability and support.

These people KNOW what they’re talking about.

You’ll be amazed at how the quality of your runs will improve when your feet are being protected and supported the way they should be. Additionally, you likely won’t feel as sore and worn after a run when your shoes are the right fit. Sneakers not only support and cushion the impact to your feet, but also everything connected to your feet! The forces that come from the impact of your feet hitting the ground while running disperse and travel up your legs. In the right pair of shoes, your knees and your shins will be spared. In the wrong pair of shoes, you could develop plantar fasciitis, shin splints, tendonitis, stress fractures or worse.

I know sneakers can be expensive. Especially a good pair. But it’s worth the money to take care of yourself and ensure you can continue to exercise and enjoy your runs. Don’t skimp out and get injured! I swear, you really can feel a difference in the right pair of sneakers.

Dear Coach Special Edition: My Journey

Hi! Now that you’ve read a few of my articles and hopefully continue to check back in here, I wanted to give you a more meaningful and personal introduction of who I am and where my fitness journey really began, as well as where it is now.

The Beginning

I played sports in high school, but was just average. It wasn’t until college that I really found a passion for exercise and health. After that freshman 15 (ouch), I turned myself around. I declared my major as Kinesiology and got to learn all about sports, nutrition, anatomy and physiology, muscles, the effects of exercise and disease on the body, and so much more.

The Turn Around

All of this new knowledge is what led me to begin viewing my body as an agile, efficient, smooth-running machine. Whenever I went for a run, I would revel in how capable my muscles were. Striding out, contracting, pushing me faster. I started incorporating more strength into my exercise routine and finally got stronger. No more wimpy girl push ups!

I learned to eat the best foods and actually enjoy them. Chickpea and bean salad with beets. Yum. Granola and yogurt. Double yum. The more I ate good, healthy foods, the less appealing potato chips and ice cream became. All cravings for unhealthy foods stopped. iphone2014-2015 008

I started playing college sports. Even though I wasn’t the most skillful lacrosse player, my speed allowed me to keep up and help my teammates improve as well. Being on a team was an amazing experience! It was worth all the hard work and pre-season training I tortured myself with.

The Setback

Then, all the good feels came to an end. Senior year of college, I got injured. A stress fracture in my tibia put a halt to all things exercise, running, and sports. I was devastated. Running was my thing. It was my stress reliever, made me happy, helped me think about the issues in my life, kept me sane. Running was my therapy and my training! To be honest, I relied on running a little too much… it would definitely be fair to say I idolized it.

So, The Good Lord opened my eyes to this idol in my life and forced me to turn my eyes back toward Him. I had to spend 8 weeks on crutches resting, watching my teammates practice and play. What a humbling experience. When I was finally cleared to run again, I discovered that the fracture still wasn’t fully healed like the doctors thought. So, I had to start the healing process all over.

This cycle continued three times. Each time I would start back at it, the bone just wasn’t healed fully. Each time I would start back, I got too excited and started my running frequency or intensity at too high a level. I would immediately get selfish with my running, and have to run faster than anyone near me at the gym. How ugly, how proud! When would I learn? I would give other people advice on only focusing on bettering yourself, on being patient with injuries, on the important of rest. Yet I couldn’t swallow my own advice. 

The Present

Now, its been a full 6 months of NO running at all, and I get to (God willing) start running again – slowly this time. I designed a 12-week cardio program to help me not only strengthen the muscles in my legs to help avoid re-fracture, but also to hold me accountable to minimal frequency, mileage and intensity. The program begins with mostly walking, and slowly and gradually builds up to my desired mileage and intensity over a three month period.

IMG_4495In addition to the cardio, I re-evaluated my nutrition. Was I getting enough protein? Was my diet lacking in essential vitamins and minerals? Was I unknowingly negatively affecting the health of my bones?

So I researched vitamins, cut out foods that were actually leaching the calcium stores from my bones (Coffee is one culprit! How awful!), and started incorporating more leafy greens filled with calcium and other nutrients into my diet (Kale, broccoli…), as well as really made sure I was getting adequate amounts of protein in each meal.

Since I began personal training during this process, I was able to incorporate more meaningful and effective strength training exercises into my regimen, which has made a huge difference in how my legs feel! I’m confident this will translate into helping me with my running comeback by taking some of the impact and load off my bones.

Results

This journey back will likely feel slow and laborious. Torturous even! The first two weeks I literally can only run for a grand total of 6 minutes (3 minutes one day, rest two days, 3 minutes the next day…Humble pie, anyone?) Plus, it’s always a conscious journey to keep my nutrition in check. (Limiting my coffee intake is probably the biggest struggle!) But if I have learned anything from this chronic, long term injury, it’s that rehab and rest are critical to one’s health. It’s smarter to take the time your body needs to heal rather than rush it. You’ll just be hurting yourself and prolonging your journey back to health. Take it from me, I was diagnosed with this fracture a year ago!

Additionally, my eyes have been opened to the dangers of over training. I idolized running to the point of idiocy. Going for two to three runs a day. Running sub-7 minute mile repeats for 5 miles straight, then going back to the gym later in the day to do it again. No wonder I fractured my tibia. Thank God for forcing me to find new ways to do cardio that I actually enjoyed so I’m able to change it up. Aqua jogging, long bike rides outside, swimming…I never would have opted for these methods of training if I hadn’t been desperate for exercise, but they’re really awesome!

As a result of this injury, I’ve also learned so much more about strength training and cross training, as well as how nutrition influences our biology. Really ensuring you maintain a proper diet, eat the right nutrients and calories, and make up for any vitamin deficits is truly just as important as when and how you exercise. IMG_4500

If any of you readers can relate, feel free to comment any questions about stress fractures, strength training and cross training, or nutrition below. I would love to chat!

I’m excited to be back, running around in the gorgeous New England spring and summer weather. I will definitely be writing future posts on my comeback journey! So stay tuned 🙂

-Coach A