Thursday, July 31, 2014

Great news: I'm an Enell Ambassador!

Enell Ambassador

I have my first athletic sponsorship, at 43 years old! I just found out today that I was selected to be an Enell Ambassador.  Among other benefits, this means I will get FREE ENELL BRAS (no small benefit, IMO) and will get to represent Enell at races.  

Why was I selected? I am guessing that the fact that I was willing to model their product in public didn't hurt!

, thanks !

I am honored to represent a brand I already love, and I look forward to doing my first race as an ambassador. My next triathlon, a sprint race in Sylvania, is happening a little quickly for me to wear their t-shirt, but I will definitely be wearing an Enell anyway.  

Save our lakes, oceans, and rivers: Ditch microbeads

Lake Huron as seen from Mackinac Island
I had heard of microbeads a long time ago, tiny pieces of plastic used in facial scrubs that can harm fish and other wildlife. I had been avoiding facial scrubs for that reason, and also because I didn't think scratching at my sensitive skin with pieces of plastic was a great idea.  I was feeling safe, then, when I saw a PBS article about how microbeads are hurting my beloved Great Lakes.  

But just to be safe, I did a search for "products containing microbeads." I checked the product lists on and found that I had a traitor in my midst.  My husband has been using Crest Complete Multi-Benefit for years because he loves the cinnamon flavor, and that product was listed as containing microbeads.  These plastic bits in Crest products are bad for the Great Lakes (and oceans, and rivers), and a dental hygienist says that the tiny beads are also bad for consumers. She has found plastic lodged in her patients' gums. And maddeningly, the microbeads are included in the toothpaste not because they help clean teeth, or add any real benefit to consumers, but because they look pretty:

So far the only mention of polyethylene on the Official Crest website at this link is that it is added to your paste for color, not as an aid in helping to clean your teeth or to disperse important anti-plaque or anti-cavity ingredients.
In other words, according to Crest:
Polyethylene plastic is in your toothpaste for decorative purposes only.
Proctor & Gamble, the parent company of Crest, says that it will stop including plastic in its toothpaste by 2017.  I plan to stop buying the product immediately. By the way, Proctor & Gamble is not alone -- other companies, including supposedly-environmentalist cosmetics giant The Body Shop, have microbeads in their products, though are planning to phase them out sooner, by 2015.

I don't want plastic in my personal-care products.  I believe that a lot of other consumers would stop using these products if they realized that they contained bits of polyethylene, and could harm water and wildlife.  Water-treatment plants aren't equipped to screen out these tiny particles, so they go right into lakes, rivers and oceans.  And these products don't supply any real benefit to consumers that they can't get from safe and natural sources.

If you agree with me that you would like companies to stop including microbeads in their products, let them know.  You can contact the companies whose products you use and ask them to remove microbeads from their products now.  You can encourage your legislators to follow the lead of Illinois  and ban microplastics in personal-care products. You can tweet your support of plastic-free products in the hopes that they will speed up their phase-out of these ingredients:

In the meantime, while you wait for your favorite products to stop using microbeads, you can use the lists or the Plastic Soup app to make sure that the new products you're buying don't contain them either. Protect your favorite waterways.

Mission Bay in San Diego

The Maumee River
Looking at these pictures makes me wish I had a huge blog audience like Food Babe, who was able to get Subway to stop using azodicarbonamide.  If you can help by adding your voice in support of our lakes, oceans, and rivers, please do.  

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Wednesday weigh-in: Down 1.4

This week was a mixed bag -- I had a lot of activity, but also a few splurges. My promise to my leader that I would give her my tracker (even though it turns out she is not here to take it) kept me from giving up on tracking after a couple of indulgent days. The fact that I could still lose this week is a good reminder that it's better to succeed 60% than to give up 100%.

Monday, July 28, 2014

New running shoes: Brooks Ghost

Is there anything that speaks to hope and the power of forgetting past failures than a new pair of running shoes? I'm hoping my latest, a pair of Brooks Ghost in 10D, will be my sole-mates.  

I have tried dozens, maybe even hundreds of different kinds of running shoes, and so far, my perfect running shoe has been elusive.  Dozens of times, I have gone to the running store to get fitted and get recommendations, as every expert and article suggests, and to be honest, it has been a crapshoot.

There was the time that I got put in men's shoes, which were huge and sloppy and never comfortable. There were the times that I tried to go the minimalist shoe route and bought the trendy Vibram Five Fingers, or just super-flat and unsupportive shoes that only made my feet hurt more.  There were just lots of times that I got put in $120 shoes that I knew I hated after two runs but couldn't take back because of the store's return policy.

Then I tried the cheap route -- went to a big-box store like Shoe Carnival, tried on every pair of shoes in my size under $80, and picked the pair I liked best. To be honest, this didn't work any better than the above route, it just cost slightly less.

I had two experiences that made me sure I had to do something about my running shoes. There was the Quarry Ridge Triathlon, where my feet hurt so bad that I ripped my shoes off in disgust as soon as I crossed the finish line. A friend of my husband's, a running coach too, said, "You should love your running shoes." And I thought, yes, I really should, but I hate these.

Yesterday, I wore another pair running shoes (bought for $65 on a remainder table) all day to volunteer for a triathlon.  They hurt terribly after about an hour.  I was on my feet for three hours. I was talking to someone who is coming back from a very serious injury to run his first triathlon in early August, and I thought, why am I being held back by something as dumb as shoes?

So I thought back on all my good experiences with shoes. There were my beloved Rykas, which used to be great running shoes for me -- they had a wide toebox and a narrow heel. There were the New Balance 585s I loved and had about 5 pairs of, which I always bought in a wide width. Of course, all these shoes were discontinued long ago.  Once you find a great pair of shoes, it will probably be discontinued or "improved" to the point that you no longer love it.

Why had I stopped buying wide-width running shoes? I really can't remember. So I went out yesterday, back to the running stores. The first store was a strikeout. They had one pair in my size, Gigantor shoes. They checked their other stores and only carried wide-width shoes in similar huge, bricklike models, apparently pigeonholing wide-width wearers as big, lumbering types. Maybe this is why I stopped buying wide-width shoes?

I tried another running store, feeling less optimistic. I started with "What do you have in a 10D?" Thinking of my interview with Robert Gillanders, I said I wanted a basic, middle-of-the-road shoe, nothing minimalist or too huge and motion-controlling.  

The Brooks Ghost was the only pair like this they had in my size. They had a couple other pairs in 10.5, but those were much too big for my feet. These fit perfectly. The color scheme was great, not too pink and purple, not too masculine.  They felt great on my feet, which appreciated the wider width. 

I've only done a couple of short runs in them, once on the treadmill in the store and once on a gravel trail. This store has a 30-day return policy as long as I don't get them too muddy.  Fingers (and toes) crossed that these will work for me.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Bras for well-endowed women athletes

I get asked about this pretty often, so I thought I would share my recommendations and experiences with sports bras. I have pinned links to the bras in the Pinterest board above.  I wear different sizes in different brands -- in the Enell I wear a 1, in the VS Sport and the Moving Comfort, I wear a 34DDD. None of these links are affiliate links, I just wanted to help other women find their perfect fit.  Here are my favorites:

#1: Enell Sport

Until my experience modeling this bra at Fitbloggin', I had never tried it.  The whole look of it was a little intimidating.  However, now that I have run wearing this, I wouldn't want to run wearing any other bra.  It holds everything in place and there is no bounce at all. I would like to proselytize about this bra to the unsupported women I see running, but that would be weird, so I don't. If you wear a D cup or larger, you should definitely try one of these.  It may just change your life. It works for my triathlons too -- I wear it under my trisuit.

There is also an Enell Lite, but I haven't tried it yet. I like that the fabric is moisture-wicking.  That is one problem sometimes with the Enell Sport -- it can get hot.

#2: Moving Comfort Maia

This was the bra I was wearing to run before I tried the Enell. It is fairly supportive and it has molded cups under the smooth outer layer, so it doesn't create the dreaded uniboob effect. If it peeks out under a V-neck, it just looks like a tank top. I have three of these -- two in black and one in blue. I hang-dry all my bras, so they last a long time.

#3: The Victoria Secret Knockout Bra

This is my newest find. It uses the same strategy as the Maia -- molded cups under a smooth outer layer, but with a zipper and snap close instead of hooks in the back. This is the prettiest of all my sports bras by far, but I wouldn't wear it to run or do any impact activity like aerobics. It is great for Pilates, yoga, weight lifting, or just standing around looking good. My trainer saw me in this yesterday and said that I should go buy a bunch of them and wear them every day.  I thought that was a pretty strong recommendation.  This is one of the few VS bras available in sizes up to DDD.

Honorable Mention: The Coobie Bra

I wouldn't wear this bra to do anything, but I do like it for those times when I am at home and want very light support and not to feel restricted. I even wear it to bed sometimes and it is comfortable enough for that -- no seams, breathable material. I only have one but I would like a few more.

Do you wear any of these? Do you have recommendations to share? 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Healthy as a horse

Are horses really healthy? They do work hard.
In light of Jillian's dismissal of my health, I wanted to provide the latest data that I actually am quite healthy, if my Walgreens Wellness exam results aren't enough proof. These are from actual doctors.

Results from my stress test earlier this month just arrived (given because of my family history):
The patient exercised for 12 minutes and 54 seconds of a Bruce protocol achieving 14.8 METS. The peak heart rate achieved was 179 bpm which is 101% of the patient's maximum predicted heart rate.... The blood pressure response was normal. The heart rate response was normal. During the test, the patient reported no chest pain or pressure. The test was terminated due to heart rate achieved. Functional capacity is above average.
I didn't really understand all of the information so I did some searching around the Internets.  From this test, I found was able to estimate my VO2 max: 52.60. It would appear from norm tables that it's not my oxygen uptake that is keeping me from being a high-level athlete.

Selected scores from my blood chemistry panel, also earlier this month:
  • Fasting glucose: 79 
  • Cholesterol: 154
  • Triglycerides: 108
  • AHDL: 74 
  • LDL: 58
  • VLDL: 22
  • Cholesterol/HDL ratio: 2.1
In my family, fasting glucose usually isn't the problem, it's glucose tolerance, so last year I had an A1C result of 4.5, and a calculated average glucose of 82. The endocrinologist didn't see a need to repeat the test again this year given the excellent result last year. 

I am not saying my health is perfect. I have Hashimoto's hypothyroid (which is well-managed with meds). I have seasonal allergies. I have some mechanical issues that I am working on.  I'm also working on losing weight with Weight Watchers, and making progress, albeit slowly. I have talked to my endocrinologist about the weight, and he said that as long as I continue to stay active and eat a healthy diet, the weight itself is not a problem. He said to look around at family parties and compare myself to the people there. Weight is heavily (no pun intended) influenced by genetics.

So I'm doing what I can.  And I was about to say "maybe I'll never be a model," but I actually have a photo shoot coming up. More on that later...

Photo from Fitbloggin' with Heather, in which both of us are looking pretty healthy and cute, IMHO. 

Injury update: Still a runner

With running guru Jeff Galloway at Fitbloggin'
As much as I know Vickie will cringe to hear it, I'm still running, but I'm not being stupid about it (a matter of opinion, I know). I had been planning to do an all-women's triathlon this weekend, but considering that I have not had time to really improve my run over the last one, I decided to sit this one out and volunteer instead. 

Though I had the blessing of the sports medicine doctors to go back to running, I'm varying my training a lot more, with maybe one or two runs a week. I have been doing a lot more swimming this summer, in the pool and in open water. I signed up for an unlimited yoga package, and have been trying to attend 2-3 classes per week.  I have gotten out more on my bike, which does not hurt my hamstring at all. 

I had been blaming most of my problems with my knees and joints on my extra weight.  At Fitbloggin' I was able to get a running gait analysis from a physical therapist.  Some of the problems he noted were an anterior pelvic tilt, insufficient hip extension, lateral pelvic drop on both sides, and some knee buckling. All of these point to mechanical issues and imbalances that, if corrected, could help me a lot, both with my joint health and with running performance. I have tight hip flexors and I need to strengthen my core, my glutes, and my hips. As Heather pointed out, if I had only focused on weight loss and not addressed these issues, I could have just ended up a smaller person with the same problems. 

After my interview with Robert Gillanders, I looked at all the physical therapy resources for runners on the APTA website and found information on "sleeping glutes." I happened to have a massage therapy appointment the next day, and I talked with the therapist about it. She did some tests and was able to find that, no, my glutes were not firing properly.  She prescribed some different things for me, including toe and foot exercises, some correctives to wake up the glutes, and, oddly, "scrubbing" my neck (rubbing out the muscles).  I have a tendency to tighten up my neck when I'm working out, and it seems to be a substitute for tightening the muscles that are actually needed to run.  Interestingly, my husband also has been having hamstring tightness and pain, so I recruited him to nudge me to do these exercises with him.  

I had briefly thought about switching from the triathlon to the aquabike as my preferred sport, but I'm not willing to give up being a runner and a triathlete, even though I'd probably place better if I eliminated my weakest link.  I know this identity thing is hard for other people to understand, but it's important to me. I'd (reluctantly, sadly) give up running if I really believed I needed to, but I really don't.  These interventions seem to be helping.  I did a 20-minute run yesterday with no pain.  I always do a 5 minute warmup walk and cool down, and I stretch afterward.  

Over the winter I plan to figure out a real strength-training program to build up in the off-season for next year's races.  I'm ready to end this injury-recovery cycle and start making some real progress. Too bad it took me this long to figure it out. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Wednesday weigh-in: Let's roll

I think it's time to stop gaining and losing and start working on a downward trend. I committed to giving my leader my tracker at next week's meeting to keep me from blowing off tracking like I did last week. Maybe I will even see a new number.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Jillian Michaels says I'm not healthy

"Does this dress make my cholesterol look high?"

I wasn't going to write about this, but it has been rattling around in my head for a while and I think it's better to write about it so I can stop thinking about it.

In a recent episode of her podcast called "Fat Shaming," The Jillian spoke about the self-acceptance movement on social media.  She seemed to go back and forth on the idea of whether she supported it or didn't.  On the one hand, she agreed that we all need to be proud of ourselves and love our bodies in order to affect positive changes in our lives, but she seemed to get stuck on numbers.

She talked about Meghan Tonjes's fight with Instagram, supporting Meghan and saying "she has a great butt." She said she thought Meghan was a size 14 -- I would guess from her photos that she might be a bigger size than that, but I think that Jillian was right, she does have a great butt.

At the same time, Jillian said she'd like to post an inspirational story from this movement, but she hasn't found one to post yet that is "healthy."
"I just want to say, the message is, yes, love yourself no matter where you are at. You are a valuable human being. You are a powerful human being. You are a lovable human being. I don't care what size you are, I don't care how old you are. But, what I can't cosign is people saying it's okay to be unhealthy. . . I can never, and I will never put a stamp of approval on people damaging their health. And I've seen many healthy girls in size 8s! Size 10s! I don't generally see it in 12s, 14s, I have yet to see it."
"How's my blood pressure, J?"
What is unhealthy? She at first talked about things you would learn at the doctor's office: Cholesterol, blood pressure, hormones.  But she also talked about clothing sizes, and looking at pictures on the Internet. I'm not sure how you can diagnose hormonal problems, blood pressure, blood sugar, etc., from looking at a photo.  But if that's possible, instead of going to the doctor's office next time, I'll just send a selfie to Jillian.

I'm being a little facetious here. I'm a Jillian Michaels fan and I always will be -- she's real, she tells it like she sees it, and she isn't afraid to admit when she's made a mistake.  I think she has made one here, but I don't know if she will understand that she has.

First of all, I have seen Jillian in person, and she is teeny-tiny. She probably would be very overweight for her frame if she were wearing a size 12 or 14.  If she is thinking about herself and how she would feel if she were that much larger, I can see where she would project bad health. But a typical plus size model is much taller and built on a larger scale than Jillian.  It is possible to carry extra weight and have great blood pressure and blood sugar levels. I should know.

Jillian, presumably, can't diagnose these things from a photograph, so she is talking about looking healthy, not actual physical health. I wish that she would just admit that, but confusing weight and health is so common that it's hard to blame her. I do it too. I remember running into an old college friend and congratulating him on how healthy he looked (because he was visibly at least 50 pounds thinner than he was in college) and he had just gotten over a very serious illness.

Health is not an on/off variable anyway, and it isn't completely under our control. There are so many parts to it. It's not easy to measure.  You can have great numbers and still have a heart attack a few weeks later (I know people this has happened to).  You can be physically fit and still get cancer.

I'm a little sensitive about this because I grew up in an extended family that put a lot of emphasis on looks and weight, and never really talked about health. I had several relatives who were put on "diet drugs" by doctors in the 70s, which turned out to just be amphetamines.  Another relative got a lot of praise for how good she looked while she had an eating disorder.  Putting the emphasis in the wrong place can be very destructive. It can put a lot of pressure on someone who is otherwise healthy and carrying extra weight, and worse, it can give a false sense of security to the thin and unhealthy.

I get what Jillian is saying -- love yourself as you are but continue to work to improve. She has taken this to heart herself with her "," so I think it's fair for her to ask the same of the rest of us.

I would love to be a size 8/10 and qualify for "healthy" status. Until then, I'm doing what I can.  In this "unhealthy" size 12/14 body, I ran and biked yesterday and did yoga. I'm planning to swim around this lake tonight.

I can't instantly make myself thinner, but I can keep taking care of the body I have. I think Jillian would probably approve.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Note to self: Just track!

Dear Me,

It doesn't help not to track. Even if you are going over your points, being honest with yourself is better than hiding from the truth. You are paying for access to these tools, so use them.

Track by phone, on paper, or snap and track -- just do it!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Photo tour of Mackinac Island

My bike makeover was in preparation for our trip to Mackinac Island earlier this week, and I have to say that a cruiser bike with fenders and a basket is the perfect vehicle for visiting the island.

Fenders are just a cute accessory here on the mainland, but my husband rode a bike with no fenders on a wet day on an island that uses horse-drawn carriages for everything from passenger transport to trash pickup. He ended up with the famous Mackinac Island Fudge Stripe on his back.

Because the first day was so wet, we did as many indoor activities as we could. The $10 Grand Hotel tour was our big activity for the day:

We needed a rest so we stopped in the Cupola Bar and each had a drink -- I chose coffee because I was chilled, and my husband had a Big Porch Ale. Neither of us opted for the $127 anniversary cocktail.

The Grand was not in our budget, so we opted to stay at the Inn at Stonecliffe, which was a pretty strenuous bike ride from downtown.  My bike basket and my tote from Bicyclette were very useful in transporting the things we needed for each day after we left the hotel. 

The first night, we chose to have a less-expensive dinner at a downtown restaurant, which didn't save us much money when we figured in cab rides there and back. Still, it gave us a chance to see the downtown area at night.  Tip:  It's a good idea to give the inexperienced (and often drunk) cyclists plenty of room when crossing the street. 

Luckily, we had better weather on our second day on the island, so we spent most of our day touring. Fort Mackinac, besides all the history and re-enactments, offers stunning views of the island and the water.

Our $12 tickets also included entry to a bunch of smaller museums, including a blacksmith shop.

We also toured The Grand Hotel Stables, which had historical carriages on display. 

And we took a long stair climb up to Arch Rock, which was well worth the walk, although we found at the top that we could have just accessed it from the road at the top of the cliff.

For dinner on our second night, we walked to The Woods, a restaurant operated by The Grand Hotel, which was right next door to where we were staying.

After dinner, we watched the sun go down from the back patio of our hotel. I wanted to wait to see the stars when it got dark, but by 11:00, we were both too tired from our long day to stay up any later.

The next morning we packed up, sent our luggage to the ferry, and did a little shopping and sightseeing. It's interesting to see the consequences of the "no cars" decision.  Almost everyone on the island bikes to work.

Horses transport most things, but we also saw a bike trailer loaded up with furniture and quite a few people pulling hand carts for smaller items (and to clean the streets of the consequences of all the horses). A lot of people have to work very hard to make it possible for vacationers like us and people with summer homes to enjoy a car-free retreat.

We rested for a while near this pretty house, then bought a little fudge, some souvenirs, and got on the ferry for home, a little worse for wear.  

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Aging and beauty: On praise of 42-year-old-women

It's interesting, this debate about middle-aged women and desirability, because an article that didn't seem all that offensive to me inspired not one, but two angry responses that I also agreed with, though I thought they missed the boat in dealing with the real way we forty-something women feel about our bodies and our looks, whether or not we "should" feel that way.

Sure, the Esquire article focused on women's value as sex objects, but hello, what did you expect in Esquire? A sincere examination of changing gender roles and a call for a new definition of masculinity that wasn't all about conquest?  I suppose that you might also expect that Hustler would put clothes on the women in their magazine, arrange them in non-gynological-exam positions, and ask them about their deep-seated hopes and dreams.  In the context of Esquire, a sincere appreciation that women in their forties are now commonly-accepted sex symbols is exceeding expectations, at least mine.

The truth is that some forty-something women (and beyond) do, in fact, want to still maintain some sense of desirability, even if they are in committed relationships and have no intention or interest in going out with anyone else.  Especially because we still feel so young on the inside, we might not want to be resigned to being past all of that.

At the same time, I don't arrange my life around being pretty like I did at 19.  I'm not expecting to be the center of attention when I walk in the room -- and if I were, I'd figure I had spinach on my teeth or had my dress tucked into my pantyhose.  I do some things to maintain my health and fitness.  These would also, happily enough, would allow me to address many of Lisa Solod's other 8 things.  I feel the truth of Coco Chanel's quote:
“Nature gives you the face you have at twenty. Life shapes the face you have at thirty. But at fifty you get the face you deserve.”
And to be honest, I also look with surprise at some of the forty-something men and women I know and wonder how we all came to be middle-aged so fast. It's easy to get used to my own aging face because I see it in the mirror every day, but when I see someone I haven't seen in years, I see the passage of time more clearly.  I never understood my parents and aunts and uncles and their talk about how time flies when I was a teenager who thought that high school's tortures would never end.

Is it anti-feminist to admit that I hoped that I could somehow manage stay young and beautiful forever? All I can do now is try to expand my own definition of beauty, and I'm not surprised that it's hard for Esquire writers, because it isn't easy for me either.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Injury prevention for triathletes: An interview with physical therapist Robert Gillanders (PT, DPT, OCS)

During to a conversation with Erin Wendel from the American Physical Therapy Association (a Fitbloggin' sponsor), I was offered an opportunity to do an interview with Robert Gillanders, who works with runners and triathletes in his physical therapy practice and is also a speaker, writer, and does other media work. This interview was a great opportunity, and I received no other compensation for the post. 

Preventing Injury

Robert GillandersRobert works in the DC area where people "tend to work very hard and train very hard," so he works with a lot of triathletes and runners.

He says that the causes of triathlon-related injuries are not that much different than the causes of injuries in other sports.  "Oftentimes their bodies are ill-prepared to take the training stress that they throw at it."

"The textbook, most common cause would be more related to training errors than anything. They have a long, hard winter, people are not consistently exercising, we start getting some warmer days, and people get a little overzealous with ramping up their training. The body has difficulty with adapting to that new stress."

Triathletes can reduce the chances for injury by training correctly. He wants athletes to build a solid endurance base before they start adding intensity.  "People start feeling good after a couple weeks of training and then they start pushing it with hills or sprints."

Unless they are "doing something absurd," training errors can take some time to manifest as injury, so when an athlete presents with a new injury, he asks them to go back several weeks and months and look at what has changed, "More frequency, more intensity, outside vs. inside, using different equipment, all these variables are things that weigh in."

A big challenge for triathletes is a simple problem of time management. "They're expending so much time and energy with doing all three sports that they don't have time for anything else. What we see in the clinic, oftentimes its some of the strength imbalances or the flexibility imbalances that make a person vulnerable to injury."

There is also a danger in going right from work to a workout. "A lot of these people are sitting at a desk all day and then they're going out and training, sometimes before work and after work. If they're not putting any time into stretching out their legs or stretching out their back, the repercussions of sitting all day tend to catch up when you ask those muscles that have been in a shortened position all day to perform."

The stabilizing muscles needed for injury-free training are not strengthened enough by triathlon training itself.  Most of the motions in running, biking, and swimming are movements in one plane, but the muscles that support that movement also need to be stable in other planes.

Flexibility is also an issue. Running, for example, requires flexibility in the hip and ankle. "If those areas are not flexible enough, then they start compensating. It's often a low-level stress, but running is such a high-repetition, high-load sport, that some type of micro instability or micro deficit adds up."

Physical therapy exercises can be a hard sell, because triathlon training is already such a juggling act. "You should see the looks I get when I ask somebody, 'besides running, biking, and swimming, what else do you do?' The look I get is one of disbelief."

"The body needs more input from a flexibility standpoint and from a strength standpoint." He has worked with many triathletes so he knows that this is a hard sell.  Most triathletes just manage injuries as they occur rather than working to prevent them.  (Author's note: Guilty as charged). "It doesn't take much to have a focused routine to prevent the injury in the first place. A lot of the outreach we do is just educating the athletes."

He says that experienced triathletes can be the most resistant. "They have had some measure of success in their sport and they want to keep going. Getting them to change behavior is not easy." He said that newer triathletes will "look at you with starry eyes and drink the Kool-Aid. Anything you tell them to do they're willing to do."

Robert suggests that especially in the off-season, over the winter, triathletes should train to develop the strength and mobility needed for their sport. "If you're more flexible and you have more stability and strength, you're going to be able to tolerate more training load, and that's where we see the performance gains."

He points to professional athletes -- golfers, baseball players, and football players, and other athletes don't just do their own sport, they work on strength and endurance. Triathletes need to do the same.

Robert says that when he begins working with an athlete, he performs functional tests that mimic the sport. For example, for runners, he will test them in single-leg standing, squatting, and jumping -- motions that simulate the most challenging part of the movement.  He also looks for "common patterns of deviation" that lead to potential problems.  For example, "if the glutes are not strong, the hamstrings will try to help out... if the hip is not flexible, the whole leg can't get behind the triathlete so they will try to reach with the ankle."

Other common areas of complaint in triathletes are the neck (from poor position on the bike), rotator cuff (from swimming), knees (biking and running), Achilles tendon, hamstring, plantar fascia.  He says that longer-distance triathletes can also sometimes experience lower-back pain from core/glute imbalances.

"The body is always going to go to the path of least resistance. If you are stiff in a certain joint, the body is not going to go to that restriction, it's going to go around it." This creates unnatural movements that the muscles or joints cannot handle. "It's easy to see how there's going to be mechanical stress as a result of that."

Robert says his job is to take an athlete's weaknesses and make them strengths.  He teaches them to change patterns of movement to make them more efficient and safer.  He develops an individual roadmap for the athlete.  People who just use more generalized advice will often not train the areas they really need to train.

I have been trying to use yoga as my strength/flexibility training, so I asked Robert what he thought of yoga.  He likes it as an adjunct to physical therapy, but not as a substitute for it. "Get there ten minutes early and go through a routine of exercises where you're isolating certain muscle groups." He'll also suggest certain yoga poses where they can be mindful of their individual challenges.

It's Gotta Be the Shoes

I couldn't resist asking him to chime in on the whole shoe debate. He says for most runners, a "Goldilocks shoe" is best.  Motion-control shoes tend to be "too much of a good thing." Too-structured shoes interfere with normal motion. "If we stop pronation altogether, people are exposed to a higher risk of injury."

He doesn't necessarily recommend minimalist shoes, though. "If I have somebody considering a minimalist shoe, do they have the flexibility and mobility to accommodate that? A lot of times I see people rushing into these things."

For some runners, switching to a lighter-weight shoe may be appropriate when they are trying to improve race times or lighten the load during training, but it should be done with care,  just like when they are making any other change to their training.

He sees the pendulum swinging in the opposite direction again now, with "super-plush shoes."  Runners see a problem and immediately want to swap out their shoes rather than changing how they move. "If can teach them how to run correctly to the point where the equipment isn't really an issue."

Heel-striking or forefoot running isn't really the important point. The foot needs to land closer to the body's center of mass, which minimizes the impact because the leg can absorb some of the shock of running.  He asks runners to "Run softly, run tall, land with your feet underneath you."

  • Train smart. It's easier to prevent injuries than to fix them.
  • Develop good habits when you're just starting a sport, including strength and flexibility work.
  • Training in the three sports is not enough!
  • Be smart about how quickly you ramp up things to let the body get used to training.
  • Recognize the need to think about common injuries, muscle imbalances, and joint flexibility.
  • It can be easy to fix injuries but it's easier to prevent them in the first place.
  • 10-15 minutes of exercises may be all it takes to stay injury-free and improve performance.
  • Warm up and cool down and use that time to do stretching and strengthening drills.
  • Consult a physical therapist who can help you safely and effectively achieve your training goals. Find one in your area.

The following resources are from the APTA's "Move Forward" campaign:

Running resources
Healthy cycling
Avoiding overtraining
Soreness vs. Pain
How to recover from a workout

I know that I am feeling more motivated to work on injury-prevention and strengthening work after doing this interview.  I might even pull out those exercises I was supposed to be doing for my hamstring injury... I'll add any other good articles or resources I find to my .

Robert Gillanders's bio from the APTA website:

Robert Gillanders, PT, DPT, OCS, practices at Sports + Spinal Physical Therapy in Washington, DC. He is a board-certified orthopedic clinical specialist, a certified ergonomic assessment specialist, an active release treatment techniques therapist, and is certified in Intramuscular Manual Therapy (also known as "trigger pointneedling"). Gillanders is also a certified bike-fit specialist and running medicine expert. He integrates clinical skills with personal experience to provide athletes with sports-specific services that help them expedite their recovery and improve their race-day performance. Gillanders received his master’s of physical therapy from the University of Saint Augustine and his doctor of physical therapy degree from Marymount University. He is a frequent guest speaker at medical conferences and athletic events, a contributor to Runner's World magazine, and a consultant for local running and triathlon teams. Gillanders enjoys staying active by running and cycling. He has competed in numerous endurance cycling, running, and triathlon events, including the Boston Marathon 5 times.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Wednesday weigh-in: Succeeding 60%

A small gain (0.6). I wasn't expecting a loss this week, but I'm proud of myself for hanging in there and still tracking 60% rather than giving up 100%. This has been a hard week. My lack of sleep is not helping.  I'm going to commit to going to bed tonight at 10 p.m. rather than futzing around on Facebook until almost 11 like last night. 

Oddly enough, since I've been focused on other people's health lately, I had two doctor's appointments in the last two days: My general practitioner and my endocrinologist. I'm going to fast tonight and do my labs for both appointments in the morning.  

My GP is sending me for a stress test since I have heart disease in my family, just as a precaution. I will be doing a treadmill test. I am expecting them to find nothing but it will make me feel better to be sure.

My endocrinologist was happy that my weight was down a little since my last visit. He said "Stay thin and fit." I said I was halfway there, and he said, "I guess my version of thin is more generous than most people." Later I realized that as an endocrinologist, he probably mostly sees diabetics, so I am probably a relatively easy case for him. Visiting him made me feel better. My thyroid has shrunk to the point where he can no longer feel it when he feels my neck, which is great as it was very enlarged before.

I'll know a little more after I get my labs back later in the week. I need to get that stress test scheduled too. I might wait until after Mackinac -- I would like to feel a little less stressed before I do it!
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"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07