Aug 09

Supplements for supple tissue

Is there such a thing as supplements or food items that help your tissue(s) become and remain more supple? I know there is a lot of hype out there and everybody wants to market their own and the newest snake oil on the market in hopes of making a small (or quite large in some cases) fortune.

Lately I have been trying anti-oxidant pills which are loaded with C, E, A and some other not so usual things. Grape skin and seed extract and NAC are some of the newer more controversial items found in my brand. I use Country Life’s Super 10 right now. They are reasonably priced in terms of these supplements, which can get pricey. But do they work? I can’t say. I really can’t say because I haven’t been using them long enough to tell a difference. It’s also not so easy to run an experiment on yourself because there are so many variables changing on a daily and hourly basis.

I have to confess that I do also take Bromelain supplements. I don’t take these daily, but when I am having ligament and muscle and tendon pain, these help tremendously. The don’t work as a pain killer, but rather a way to reduce the pain from inflammation induced by damaged tissues. I find that when I take these as soon as I start to feel the tug of an injury, I am able to continue training without backing off and I don’t get injured. I’ve been using Bromelain for about 6 years off and on as needed.

Jul 09

Orthotic Thoughts

I used to run in orthotics. It got so bad, I had to do everything with orthotics in my shoes. I had to buy shoes, even dress shoes, that would accomodate these devices. At last count, I had 13 pairs of orthotics made for me over the 20+ years of running. I had hard plastic ones, leather ones, soft foam ones, hard molded foam ones. I saw chiropractors, podiatrists, pedorthists. Some were out to make a buck. Some really cared and were puzzled as to my continued problems. Two years ago, I stopped wearing any orthotics in my shoes. Cold turkey. I started wearing more flexible, softer shoes. I went with cut away soles and neutral midsoles, bypassing the rigid stability and motion-control shoes that had become to restricting and confining to me. In the past two years, I have not been injured. Not once.

Since I began running, I have had every injury imaginable from knee and back problems to plantar fasciitis and many stress fractures. During this quest, I was continually told that I needed more control, more rigid shoes and orthotics to control my footstrike. As I obliged, my feet and lower body got weaker and weaker. My foot tendons and ligaments were reliant on the support of hard devices to prop them up in the shoes. I was miserable.

I started walking barefoot in the house and wore Nike Free shoes around as much as I could to strengthen my feet. I did functional exercises for feet, ankles and lower legs. I used manipulative therapy to break up the scar tissue and open the fascia. I relied on yoga, massage and my own will. I survived and am now running some of my best times.

In cases of deformity, orthotics may be the only answer, but in my opinion, the devices are over-prescribed and over-used. Instead of support, our feet need freedom, flexibility and strengthening. Walk barefoot. Get flimsy shoes. Wear flip flops. Feel the ground. Be free.

Jun 09

Is age just a number?

Dara Torres think so. I think a lot of the fiction around growing older is built from our own unawareness of our bodies; how it functions and how to maintain it. Much of what we are capable of, we are told at an early age is impossible. Mentally this colors our attitudes on what we ‘think’ we can achieve.

Yesterday at the track, I was helping some runners. Before they took off, I said a time as a suggestion of what should be possible for that bout. After they finished, they told me that they hit the exact time I had yelled out. Coincidence? Maybe.

For me, my mental aspect is everything. Sure I train hard physically, but on any given day, if I am mentally exhausted, angry or depressed, I’ll have a crappy workout. So, I’m learning new tricks on how to change my focus and mental aspect. It’s not easy and it’s not something that any teaches. But, I feel, it is important and one of the keys to my success.

Jun 09

Humidity and Running in it

Ugh! It’s not just hot, but humid too. Humidity hurts because it hinders your body’s natural ability to cool itself. The air has more moisture in it so the moisture from your body (sweat) really has no where to go except into your shorts, socks and shoes. In the Midwest, it can get particularly nasty for extended periods of time during the summer months.

While you can still run in hot humid conditions, you are wise, at least when the muggies first start, to slow your pace down. Your heart will have to work harder to keep your body cool which means that you are actually getting a decent workout even though your paces have slowed. Revise your training and racing expectations and have fun with it. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids and get electrolytes. I prefer taking Elete tablets than dosing with Gatorade or other “sports drinks”. Mostly that’s because of my food allergies. I take at least one tablet a day in the summer and when I’m doing long runs in the summer, I may take 2-3 during the run itself and carrying water with me. Sure I sweat a ton and it gets uncomfortable and I’m constantly doing laundry, but I figure I’ll be in awesome shape come fall!

Jun 09

Summer is here!

Just this week, a friend of mine was thankful for air conditioning. Year after year, I tend to forget how brutal the humidity can be around here in the Midwest. Sometimes I’m not sure if I am running or swimming! Hydration is oh so important when it gets hot and drinking fluids even when you are not thirsty will help to top off the tank. It’s especially important for older runners to continue to drink beyond their thirst because I’ve read that as we age, our thirst mechanism goes a bit daft and isn’t always a good indicator of what we need. So drink up and try to keep the alcoholic and caffeinated beverages to a minimum.