Footprints Weekly Recap

Well, last week was the big week…the Marine Corps Marathon.

Here’s the day-by-day breakdown of my week leading up to yesterday’s race…

Monday: Physical Therapy. 45-minute pool run with about 35 minutes at tempo effort.

Tuesday: 30-minute pool run with 25 at tempo effort. Core workout.

Aqua Jog Belt

Aqua Jog Belt

Wednesday: Physical Therapy.

Thursday: Rest. I also visited the Expo Thursday night to get my packet.

Friday: Last physical therapy appointment – very light massage and dynamic stretching.

Saturday: One mile shake out run followed by a dynamic stretch routine. I felt awesome and was feeling so positive about Sunday.

Sunday: The wheels fell off a bit and everything (but my calves which I spent the last two weeks working on in PT) felt awful. I missed my time goal by a whole heck of a lot, but was really proud I was able to pull myself together and keep going through the pain to cross the line in 4:12:41. Full recap and pictures coming soon.


Aqua Jogging: Taking my Run to the Pool

If you’ve seen my recent posts, you know that I’ve been embracing a no-impact, running only at physical therapy as part of form drills approach for the last two weeks of marathon training.

After a couple days on the elliptical I needed something more. Don’t get me wrong, I think the elliptical is great for general fitness or people trying to lose weight with a nice low-impact exercise, but it just doesn’t give me the same cardio workout as running does. Enter water running.

Aqua Jog Belt

                        Aqua Jog Belt

My coach suggested getting to a pool for some water running so I could still get that same cardio workout without the impact of running outside or on the treadmill. The past few days I’ve gotten in my runs in in the water at Washington & Lee pool nearby my apartment.

The W&L pool actually has a “jogging well” (it’s the area by the stairs that can’t really be used as a full lap lane) and a whole bunch of aqua jog belts so I didn’t even have to bring my own from home. Yes, I own an aqua jog belt. I just can’t help myself from finding ways to look ridiculous in workout situations!

I absolutely love water running as a workout and am feeling a little bit better about not getting my regularly scheduled outdoor runs in the past few days. I might even add this in more regularly after the marathon too as a way to get extra mileage in without beating up my legs. I will definitely have to invest in a waterproof music player if I do that though!

Have you ever tried water running? How do you like it?

Footprints: Weekly Recap

OK, so I’m very late with my usual Monday morning recap again thanks to a busy, fun-filled weekend that I’ll fill you in on more in a later post. Getting right to it though, last week was mostly filled with PT appointments and non-impact training so I’ll be good to go Sunday for the Marine Corps Marathon. You can read more about my proactive PT plan here if you missed it.

Here’s the day-by-day breakdown…

Monday: Physical therapy session which included some treadmill running, dynamic stretches and soft-tissue work.

Tuesday: 6-mile easy run along the Custis and W&OD Trails to my PT appointment so they could get a look when my calves were more flared up, which usually starts right around mile 5 or so. PT included a run analysis, drills, stretching and soft-tissue work.

Wednesday: Today was a rest day, but included lots of stretches and exercises I got at PT.

Thursday: I was back up to PT after work Thursday night for some more run drills, dynamic stretches and even more soft-tissue work. I WILL get those knots out before MCM!

Friday: I spent 35 minutes on the elliptical at the same intensity I would have done my run today so I can try to keep the same level of fitness without the impact. This way I won’t undo all the soft-tissue work I’m getting done at PT. I finished up with core work, PT exercises and stretching.

Saturday: Today was a repeat of Friday except with 45 minutes on the elliptical before getting into core, PT exercises and stretching.

Sunday: In a reversal of my usual role, I spent this morning biking and walking all over town to cheer on friends in the Army 10 Miler. I started in-between the 1 and 2 mile markers near Arlington Cemetery and could not get over how many people run this race!

Army 10 Miler

            Army 10 Miler

Proactive PT

If you’ve been to my blog over the last couple months, you may have noticed a theme of on and off calf tightness and pain. Despite plenty of stretching, icing and rolling I couldn’t seem to make it really go away. It would start feeling better, but then strike again forcing me to take extra rest days, cut a long run short or just be a small annoyance along the run.

After running through pain for way too long and landing myself in some pretty serious physical therapy last year forcing me to defer my entry for the Marine Corps Marathon, I decided to be proactive this time and not let it turn into a serious injury. I believe they call this learning!

I got myself an appointment to see my doctor and a referral to Fast Track Physical Therapy out at the Endurance Athlete Center in Falls Church. I love this place – they work wonders and understand athletes. I met with Kerri on Monday for my first session, explained to her my issues and after an assessment she talked me through what we could do to get me in the best possible shape for a successful marathon in two weeks. (Just about one week now…eek!)

She immediately noticed my limited ankle mobility after having me attempt a squat, which was later confirmed when she measured my dorsiflexion for each foot (ability to pull the foot upward) at five degrees. Normal is about 20 degrees. She also found some serious knots while doing soft tissue work. Ouch! I did my best not to yelp while lying on the table for this.

For Tuesday’s appointment we planned that I would run there – 6 miles – so she could rule out something more serious like compartment syndrome and confirm it was just calf strains. This would be my last run before race day. I’d come back for another session Thursday and three next week where I would do some running drills to work on my form and more soft tissue work. Aside from that, the rest of the my workouts will be on the elliptical or water running along with a set of exercises and stretches to loosen me up. (Only having slight panic attacks about this!)

Old picture…but this is one I’ll be doing a lot more of until race day.

Calf Stretch - Knee Straight

Calf Stretch – Knee Straight

On Tuesday we did a video run analysis and I could immediately pinpoint some of my issues before Kerri even started to break things down. I’m getting airtime mid stride – full on both feet off the ground at the same time…talk about inefficient. I’m landing way out in front of my body and practically on my toes. I’ve always been a mid-foot striker, but now I’m up on my forefoot and barely touching my heel to the ground making my calves push me through my runs rather than pulling my legs through with my glutes. We even noticed that hip drop that gave me so many problems last year creeping back in. Thankfully it was nowhere near what it was last year, but still disappointing given how hard I worked to get rid of that.

Retooling my entire running form in the final two weeks before my goal marathon would be difficult and would likely turn me into a headcase during the race. Instead we’re focusing on a few small things and practicing them at each session. I’m working on shortening my stride, staying off my toes so I land on my midfoot instead and RELAXING. As I try to change things I keep tightening up my feet and calves causing even more stress. She suggested checking in with myself each time I pass a mile marker as a good way to make sure I’m on the right track.

Once race day is over we can work on addressing some of the other issues and I might have to give up my beloved Newtons, but until then I’m going to keep it simple and avoid impact so I’m ready to go on race day. Here I come Marine Corps Marathon! (By the way, super relieved it’s still on!)

From MCM’s Facebook Page today making my day…



The taper is always tough, but without being able to run it’s definitely a test of my mental strength to stay confident.

I’d love to hear from you if you’ve ever had to substitute other exercises for running during your taper. How’d it go? 

Hope everyone is having a great fall marathon season!

Strength Training

Like stretching and cross training, I’ve always known how important strength training is to a successful run training program, but I haven’t always been great about fitting it in. Running was always my top priority and in the past I haven’t been great about keeping up with strength training when I’m getting ready for a race.

Things are different this time around though as I’m determined to stay healthy and train right. Also all the benefits of strength training and ways it can make me a better runner are just too hard to ignore anymore. Core strength and how it could help my running form was a big thing I focused on during physical therapy, and I made it a resolution for this year to focus on building up my core strength. This has really stuck so far and I’ve completed my version of the P90X Ab Ripper workout everyday in 2013.

In addition to working on core strength I’ve dedicated two days a week in my Nike DC Half Marathon training plan to strength training. Here are some of the exercises I’ve been working on…

Upper Body: push-ups, bicep curls, tricep extensions, lat raises and front raises

Lower Body: single leg squats, pistol squats (sitting all the way down into a chair on leg and raising back up), side plank with leg lifts and runner wall squats

What are your favorite strength workouts to do?

Resolution Check-In

Wow, how is the first month of 2013 already done? I still haven’t gotten used to writing 2013 instead of 2012 yet…I have a feeling this year is going to fly. With the start of a new month, I figured it’d be a good time to check back in and see how I’m doing with my New Year’s resolutions.

My big January focus was core and I had a goal of completing my P90X Ab Ripper workout five times per week. I beat my own expectations on this one, getting through the Ab Ripper workout every day last month. Going back to December I’m up to 34 straight days beating my previous longest streak of 31. It’s becoming a normal part of my daily routine now, so most days I just get up and do it without thinking or stressing too much about it. I’m hoping to keep this up as I know a stronger core will only make everything else I do easier.

Getting healthy was another resolution for the year and I’m off to a great start. I’m officially done with physical therapy, and am on my way to getting stronger. I’m sticking with my strength and stretching routines so I give myself the best possible chance to not end up injured again.

Drinking less soda was also on the list and I’ve had good weeks and bad weeks on this one. I started out the year strong telling myself I wouldn’t drink any soda Monday through Thursday. I made it through the first week and all the way through Wednesday of the following week. It probably hasn’t helped that I’ve been getting up much earlier than normal and exercising in the morning a lot more than I used to, leaving me a bit sleepy when my midday craving for a caffeine boost hits. After several early mornings that second week, I was up even earlier for a 4:30 wake up call to make a group run that Thursday morning, and I caved at lunch giving into my soda craving and falling back into my soda-a-day routine for the most part after that. I’ve tried drinking diet soda since I hate the taste so much thinking that I’d stop drinking it if I didn’t like it, but I just started to get used to the taste…yuck! Oh well, I’ll try again this month!

I obviously can’t realize my big goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon until my October marathon, but getting back my speed is going to be my big February focus. I’ve built a great base of fitness over the last five weeks or so completing mostly easy paced runs and a lot of cross training. Now it’s time to crank it up a notch. My goal for this month is to complete two speed sessions a week whether it’s at the track, running hill intervals or tempo runs.

Smiling after getting home from last week's track workout - need to remember that post workout feeling so I keep getting out there for speed sessions!

Smiling after getting home from last week’s track workout – need to remember that post workout feeling so I keep getting out there for speed sessions!

How are you doing on your resolutions? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Officially Done with Physical Therapy!!

Last night I headed out to Fast Track Physical Therapy in Falls Church for what I was hoping would be my last PT session. Liz, my physical therapist there, gave me the great news that I have in fact officially “graduated” and am done with PT.

It’s not easy for me to admit injury (main reason things got so bad in the first place!), and it’s even harder for me to stop running, so starting PT and being told I needed to give my body a break was a bit hard to swallow at first. Turns out this whole injury thing might have been one of the best things for me. I’ve become so much more aware of my running form and what muscles need to be working when. Thanks to run analysis my form is getting better and more efficient. I learned the hard way just how important strength training and flexibility are for runners. This seems obvious, but I love to run so much I wasn’t always making time for the other stuff. That’s changed.

Liz did a final video run analysis last night and my form has improved a ton from the first time we did this. I’m still dropping my hip a little bit, but it’s getting better and I’ll keep working on it. My feet are landing in a very neutral position and I’m doing a better job of pulling my legs underneath me. We did a quick run through of my home exercises and stretches that have helped me get so much better over the last few months, and she gave me a few more to add to the arsenal to make sure I don’t end up hurting myself again.

I’m amazed at how much more flexible I’ve become. There’s still work to do, but I always just assumed I wasn’t very flexible and didn’t realize I just needed to put the time and effort in to work on it. It has been so amazing to run pain free these last couple weeks. Seriously, I think it’s been a couple years since running felt like this. Liz and Fast Track are the best! If you live in the NoVa/DC area and need to see a physical therapist – I highly, highly recommend them.

I’ve never been so excited for a race season, and can’t wait to go after some new PRs and a Boston Qualifier!

So excited, I can't stop smiling!

So excited, I can’t stop smiling!


Last week I shared my favorite core workout. One other thing I’ve been really focusing on since starting physical therapy in October is my flexibility. I was unbelievably tight at my first session, which really limited my mobility and was causing a lot of the pain I was feeling. I was given a series of stretches to do 2 to 3 times per day at first, and was told that it can take 10 to 12 weeks to really see the benefits.

I’ve been diligent about keeping with my stretching routine and am really starting to notice a difference. I’m down to going through the routine once a day and usually do an abbreviated version of the stretches again later or after working out, especially if I’m feeling tight muscles. I know it’s really important for me to keep this up if I want to keep running healthy. Check out my stretching routine below. I hold all stretches for 3 minutes each with the exception of the last two, which I do 3 sets of 10.

Running Analysis

After two months without running, I worked my way up to 100 percent of my body weight on the anti-gravity treadmill, which meant I finally got to hit the real treadmill for a run analysis at physical therapy last week. It’s eye-opening when you can actually see how you run from different angles in slow motion. It’s also amazing what your body will start doing to compensate for pain and injuries.

We first looked at the angle of my knee bend on impact, which should be around 30 percent but was 16 percent on my right side and 13 on my left. I was almost running straight-legged on the left side forcing all of the impact on my hip with each foot fall. This also means I land pretty hard on my feet instead of softly adding to the impact my hip flexors are forced to absorb. I have a tendency to bound up with each stride as well wasting energy that could be put into moving forward.

My feet land slightly in front of my body rather than underneath, but I’m pretty close on this and should see improvement as I continue to work on strengthening and using my glutes and hamstrings rather than relying on just my hip flexors as I go through my stride.

I’ve always been a neutral runner meaning my feet land flat rather than on the inside or the outside of the shoe. This is still the case on my right side. One of the few positives I have going for me right now is that I do a good job of landing neutral on my midfoot on my right foot. I’m babying my left leg however though since I spent so much time trying to avoid feeling pain on that side, so I’m hitting a bit on my toes on the outside of my foot. My big toe almost never touches the treadmill (even when they had me try it out barefoot), so I’m not getting much of a push off at the end of my stride and I’m stressing muscles I don’t need to be.

I’ve been continuing with my flexibility and strength stretches and exercises, and have now been able to add 20 minutes of run/walk intervals each day to work on my form. I went back to PT yesterday for another video analysis and still have a bit of work to do, but am excited about getting to run again – even if just for short intervals – and look forward to getting stronger and fixing my form.

If you’re a runner and have never had a run analysis done I’d highly recommend it – even if you’re not injured. Getting that visual feedback is really important and  you might see yourself doing things differently than you thought you were. I know they say if it’s not broke, don’t fix it – but if you could find ways to make yourself a more efficient runner, it certainly seems worth it.

Physical Therapy Update

This week marks my seventh week of physical therapy and it’s now been two months since I’ve really ran – not including my 10-minute jaunts on the anti-gravity treadmill at less than full body weight. I’m going a bit insane as this is my longest running hiatus since about the eighth grade.

I started playing three sports per year as a first grader so I was always running around, but it wasn’t until going out for the JV soccer team my eighth grade year that I really started running just to run. During our morning sessions for preseason double sessions we had to run – gasp! – two miles every day. I thought that was so far back then, but I also loved the feeling of being in great shape and how much easier it made playing sports. I ran my first 5k with my brother (the Swamp Rat Run in Cicero) as a sophomore in high school and my first marathon as a junior in college. I’ve been hooked ever since.

While I would have preferred to be back up and running right away after a couple PT sessions, I am making progress. I do two sessions a week plus one deep tissue massage a week before one of the sessions. I’ve also been spending countless hours doing daily stretches, exercises, foam rolling and icing.

It seems like it is all starting to pay off. My flexibility and range of motion has improved dramatically. I still have a long ways to go on that and will continue to work on the flexibility as I get back to running and training, but am really excited about the gains I’ve made so far. While some areas are still pretty tender, I can now use my foam roller without wanting to scream out in pain! Whoever created those torture devices is both brilliant and sinister. I’m activating muscles I need to run my best that had seemingly shut down. I can stand on a single leg without wobbling all over the place (or without wobbling as much anyways!), and my posture is improving so that I’m not standing and walking in a position that places constant tension on my hip flexors.

The best pay off: I finally reached 100 percent of my weight on the anti-gravity treadmill yesterday. It was only for two minutes and was at a reduced speed, but I’m still very excited about it. At my next session this week I get to run for real and they will conduct a run analysis, so I can make sure my running form won’t land me with another injury as soon as I get going again. Little by little it keeps getting better, and I can’t wait to get back out there on the roads.