It’s in the Manifesto

Stress is related to 99% of all illness.

It’s a line from the Lululemon Manifesto and it couldn’t be more true for me right now. If you’ve been following, I said yes and became a Lululemon Ambassador. I had been planning to blog about the many bits of wisdom in the Lululemon Manifesto, but sickness intervened. Then the idea came to me – I could write about being sick because Lululemon has that one covered. Stress is related to 99% of all illness.

The last few weeks have been stressful – work drama, challenges in my professional life, running injury, and a to do list a mile long. On top of that, I had work travel scheduled. Any time I so much as step foot on a plane, I get sick. There’s something about the whole process that triggers an immune system meltdown. Maybe it’s the stress of packing, or the rush at work just before the trip, or the thousands of people with exotic germs at the airport, or the canned air germ festival on the plane, but the whole thing just makes me instantly ill. Overall, the stress of travel is too much for my feeble immune system. Add in asthma, with lungs that attract every germ within a mile radius, and I’m sick. Again. Time for rest, recovery, and lots of water.

Airport

Fingers are crossed that this illness makes its way out of my life as quickly as it came.

Stretching and Yoga and Rolling, Oh My!

This week, I began coaching a half marathon training group. I was not too surprised to see that the pre- and post-run routines of many of my runners included a bit of awkward shuffling, and a half hearted calf stretch. Most runners underestimate the value of a good stretching, warm up, and cool down routine in injury prevention. And, for many newer runners, or runners transitioning to a distance at which recovery becomes super important, just don’t know what to do. Enter the awkward shuffling. This post is dedicated to pre-rehab, in hopes that it will inspire just one of you to begin cultivating a stretching. rolling, and strengthening routine that promotes injury prevention.

Pre-Run
Before beginning a long run, it’s a good idea to warm up. Most runners know this, but few heed this sound advice, myself included. My desire to warm up properly when it’s 10 degrees outside is limited, but ample research supports the value of a dynamic warmup in injury prevention. Maybe you’ve heard the stretching cold muscles causes injury advice. That’s true, but a warmup that includes dynamic (read: not static) stretching can activate stabilizing muscles and warm up large muscle groups – both good things. A good dynamic warm up includes key movements that activate muscles in the legs and core. Start with a few walking lunges. Do some old school butt kicks. Try a few leg swings to activate the glutes. Finish up with a few tippy toe walks or toy soldier walks. Simple. Spending 5 minutes on this easy series will not only help with warm up and neuromuscular activation, but will likely prevent simple strains and other nagging injuries from taking hold. Here’s a video of another version of a dynamic warm up that focuses on neuromuscular activation (especially good if you’re training on uneven surfaces. like trails).

Post-Run
After your run, cool down properly. I can’t emphasize this point enough. It isn’t good for the body to come to an immediate and complete stop. The muscles and circulatory system do not see stopping the Garmin and lying on the grass as a cool down. Cool down with a few minutes of gentle jogging or walking, then, return to the pre-run dynamic movements. Stretch the body with dynamic moves before static moves. After the run, stretch the key running tight spots – glutes, hamstrings, quads, IT band attachments, and calves. Like yoga? Try a few poses. The best post-run poses for runners include triangle, pyramid, pigeon (or reclining pigeon), happy baby, and spinal twists.

Maintenance
Keep loose in between runs with a strengthening and stretching routine that highlights key muscle groups used in running. I may be biased since I am a yoga teacher, but yoga is a great way to improve muscle activation and build stamina while increasing flexibility. Yoga classes which feature vinyasa, or movements linked with breath, can be particularly useful for runners, as they emphasize dynamic motions and more complicated muscular movements in a series. Look for a yoga teacher who is an athlete, or ask other athletes which yoga classes they prefer. With so many styles to choose from, there’s a yoga class for everyone.

For muscle maintenance, nothing beats a regular session with a foam roller. A foam roller is just what it sounds like – a cylinder, or roller, made of foam. By positioning the roller on the body and then rolling the body across the roller, the runner loosens up muscles and breaks up adhesions that can cause painful injuries. Foam rollers are inexpensive and easy to use. If you’re new to foam rolling, check out this helpful article and video series about self-massage with the foam roller. Aim to foam roll between once a day and twice a week. Many runners also like The Stick for self-massage. The Stick is a thin pole with a number of rolling beads set into it. The Stick is great for precision massage in tight spots that might be inaccessible to the larger foam roller. The Stick is also much smaller than a foam roller and easily transported. I carry a Stick in my running bag so that I have it for every run.

The bottom line – a good system of pre-rehab that includes massage, stretching, and strengthening, can be an important step toward staying healthy and injury free. Thinking about injury prevention before and after every run can not only help in preventing nagging running injuries, but can improve performance through muscular activation. So, instead of shuffling awkwardly before your next run, try a dynamic warm up to give your body, and your mind, a boost.

Yoga for Runners: Volume 1

For those of you not in the know, in addition to my super fun work as a running coach, I am also a Yoga Alliance registered yoga teacher. I love vinyasa-style yoga and enjoy teaching yoga for runners. Yoga is amazing for runners. It links mind and body, which can result in great performance gains. The increase in flexibility provided by a regular yoga practice can reduce injury risk. Sold on yoga? Ready to get started? I’ll share with you a few of my favorite poses for runners and athletes of all levels.

Half Kneeling Lunge – Psoas Stretch

Psoas stretch.

Psoas stretch.

This pose doesn’t have a nice Sanskrit name, but it’s highly effective. Most runners have tight hip flexors (the illiopsoas group). Tight hip flexors are made even more tight by frequent sitting, a problem for most of us who work desk jobs.

To perform this stretch, begin in virasana (hero pose). Raise up using the quadriceps muscles. Extend the right leg to place the sole of the foot on the mat, knee at 90 degrees. Hips are square and abdominal muscles are engaged and mulabandha is engaged. Gently tilt the pelvis up toward the belly button by drawing in the abdominal muscles. Shift the hips forward until a stretch is felt in the front of the hip and the psoas group is lengthened. Extend the left arm over the head. To stretch the TFL and its attachment site, shift the hits three to five inches to the left, maintaining the hips and abdominals.

IMG_1374

Spend 20 seconds to one minute in each pose. Return to kneeling and then to hero pose to rest. Enjoy!

The Best. Day. Ever.

It’s been three weeks and it’s finally sinking in. I’m a Lululemon Ambassador! It’s a dream come true.

My love of all things Lululemon is well documented and if you’ve been reading for a while, you know that pretty much all of my running and yoga outfits are Lulu-centric. I love, love, love Lululemon. In addition to making (seriously) the best yoga and running apparel ever, they’re an amazing company. Focused on total wellness, the Lululemon Manifesto speaks to the Lululemon lifestyle and spreads a healthy, happy message. Lululemon is excited about community-building and all Lululemon stores offer fun events and fitness classes for community members. To learn more about the Lululemon lifestyle, check out their community page.

For a long time I’ve dreamed about becoming an Ambassador. Ambassadors are people in the community who live the Lululemon lifestyle and are passionate about fitness in the community. That sounds like me, right?! Just before Valentine’s Day, my dream came true.

Photo credit: Lululemon Farmington Avenue

Photo credit: Lululemon Farmington Avenue

I innocently signed up to go to a metabolic bootcamp class with some of the Lulu girls. I got up at the crack of dawn (5:30am) and threw on the clothes that were at the top of my drawer. I stuffed my feet into the ugliest possible boots and headed to class. I walked in the door and my amazing friends had flowers, a great balloon, and signs that proposed to me. I couldn’t believe it. I think I said “are you serious?” before jumping up and down with joy. I was totally shocked – the hideous boots alone are proof. I was in shock the rest of the day. It was the BEST. DAY. EVER.

And now reality has sunk in. It really happened. I’m a Lululemon Ambassador. I couldn’t be happier.

Race Recap: Gasparilla Day 2

Last week, mom and I participated in the super fun, two-day Gasparilla Distance Classic. Missed my recap of Day 1? Check it out here. After having tons of fun on Day 1, mom and I ate at our favorite downtown Tampa eatery, Taco Bus, and then headed to the hotel for an early night – me tucked in tight with my compression socks on. In the morning, the fog was heavy, humidity high, and temperatures warm. The dawn of the half marathon felt like inferno temperatures to this New Englander (real temperature at race start: 76 with 98% humidity).

Gasparilla half marathon start

The course for the Gasparilla Half Marathon is lovely. The first 5 miles are run on Davis Island, an exclusive enclave of modest homes with beautiful views of a harbor. Too bad the entire 5 miles on David Island are run in the dark… but there are cheering residents and plenty of on course entertainment. The entrance to and exit from Davis Island present the only real “hills” on the course. The sole hill is the bridge that transports runners to and from David Island. After Davis Island, the course heads straight down Bayshore Boulevard, with its stately homes and waterfront views. On half marathon morning, I couldn’t see much of anything. The haze from the humidity was so thick, it was difficult to see the scenery. Six or seven miles into the race I was sweating buckets and feeling quite overheated. In fact, in the professional pictures I could see rivers of sweat running down all my limbs. Not a cute look.

Thankfully, at around mile eight, the runners reach the turnaround and head back on Bayshore toward the finish line. I was delighted. The humidity was easing and the sun was coming out. Though the weather was warming up (to the high of 86, 85% humidity), the break in the humidity was a great help for me. I intentionally slowed my pace so that I could be prepared for the 5+3k that I would do with my mom immediately after finishing the half marathon. At the finish line I was handed an icy cold washcloth (immense joy!), a banana, a super cool pirate medal (!), and a bottle of water. I skipped the real food and looped around to get in line with mom for the 5+3k.

Gasparilla half finish

It was hot, hot, hot, but we were ready for 5 miles of fun. If I’m being honest, by the time the 5+3k started, I was sick of Bayshore Boulevard. Running along the same route 8 times in two days was a little tedious, but, of all the routes that I might run 8 times in a row, this is one that I would pick. It really is very pretty.

My legs were shot, but I had 5 more miles to go, so I clutched my little washcloth and set off for the staging corrals with mom. She walks really, really fast. I had to jog to keep up, and she set a blistering pace. In no time at all we were rounding the corner and heading back. I couldn’t believe our race weekend was coming to a close. Before I knew it, we were in the finish chute and handed medals, food, and drinks. It was over. I had so much fun that it seemed to be over in a flash. The finish chute was efficient and organized and I was shuffled along in my slightly delirious state. The finish line highlight was the rice and black beans from my favorite Spanish restaurant, Columbia. Yum!

Gasparilla and Columbia

Beans! (and check out my super cool pirate medal)

All in all, mom and I had a wonderful time. The Gasparilla courses are beautiful, and the races are well organized and supported. The Gasparilla Distance Classic team really knows how to put on a great event. I recommend any, or all, of the races wholeheartedly.

Race Recap: Gasparilla Day 1

Last week, mom and I had a wonderful time at the Gasparilla Distance Classic. Our path to Gasparilla fun started last year. Last year, mom and I did the 5k and immediately after the 5k, mom said she had a great time and wanted to participate in 2013. Soon enough, registration day rolled around. I called mom to confirm that she wanted to run in the 5+3k (the Gasparilla version of a 5 miler) and she surprised me by suggesting that we both sign up for challenges. Gasparilla offers three challenges – events in which one runs multiple races during the two-day festival. Mom signed up for the Mini Challenge and I signed up for the Ultra Challenge. Mom would do the 15k and 5+3k and I would do all four races – the 15k, 5k, half marathon, and 5+3k. Yay!

After quickly and easily getting our gear at the race expo, we explored the shops. Everything at the expo was well organized and helpful volunteers were everywhere. We got some super cute loot.

Gasparilla shirts

Race day dawned bright, sunny, and humid. It was a hazy start to the day with high humidity and warm temperatures expected. We had stayed in a nearby hotel and were ready to go bright at early. We did have a few challenges with the water situation – the city of Tampa was in a boil water advisory thanks to a mischievous squirrel gnawing through a power line. Undeterred, we used our bottled water and headed to the starting line. As usual, everything at Gasparilla was exceptionally well organized. We easily made our way to the start line. There were rows of port-potties, helpful volunteers, and clear signage.

The 15k was really fun. The course was lovely. It was an easy down and back on Bayshore Boulevard – gorgeous homes on one side, the river on the other side, and the city of Tampa in clear view. The course was well supported, with aid stations every mile and a half. There were cheering fans, friendly volunteers, and clear course markings. I loved the course.

Bayshore scenery

Mom had this to say about her first 15k:

The first race on Saturday morning was a 15 K, Rachel and I were doing it together dressed in matching Lululemon shirts.  Usually I’m a person who likes to check out the route and the maps so I know where to go but this isn’t necessary at Gasparilla .  We followed the crowd, stood around people who were weren’t wearing a Garmin, looking as if they might’ve dressed without looking in the mirror that morning (the back of the pack). A roar and we were off shuffling slowly to the front and then finally the pack opened up and Bayshore was before us.  The Boulevard is lined with huge homes that overlook Tampa Bay making it a beautiful route.  There was music and people cheering, encouraging those of us at the back of the pack. It seemed a long time to get to the turn around and then suddenly we were on our way back towards the finish line.  Rachel kept me on my goal pace as my legs got tired and I began to wonder where the finish line went. People were cheering louder as we neared the finish. Rachel and I made the short dash and it was fantastic!  I did a 15K! A finishers medal was mine and I wore it proudly.

Here’s what I learned:

1. Don’t sweat, there’s always someone to direct people.
2. You can pretty much tell just by looking, where you should be in the starting lineup.
3. Make use of the bathroom before the race and the water stops during the race.
4. Take time to look at the view, the race is over before you know it.
5. Have someone take your picture after you cross the finish line.  There’s  a certain smile that comes from people who successfully cross that line.

I had such a good time I’m already signed up for my next race. It’s in  October, a half marathon. Let the training begin! (Go Mom!!)

Mom in Gasparilla

Mom and I finished the 15k with smiles on our faces and I immediately lined up for the 5k. The 5k course was the same as the 15k course, just shorter. So, I headed back out, passing the same homes and scenery as the first race. I hadn’t made it back for the start of the wave of the 5 I was supposed to be in, so I trotted along in a much slower wave. I enjoyed the chance to take it slow and enjoy the view.

Both races were wave start, with very well organized starting lines and plenty of volunteers to ensure things went smoothly. The courses were well marked, properly supported, and extremely scenic. Overall, I loved Gasparilla Day 1. Stay tuned for my recap of Day 2!