Let’s Talk About Recovery

As I slowly return to the world of the normal, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to maintenance. I try to do a lot for maintenance. Take away my knee, and I’m trying to do even more.

Why do we do recovery? 1) It feels good. 2) It (might) help. I say might because some of these aren’t necessarily proven to work so much as make you feel better, which then might help. The science of recovery is weird.

This episode of The Runner’s World Show actually delves into a business in Chicago (The Edge Athlete Lounge) that focuses on recovery. It’s like a regular gym, but they add in a heavy emphasis on recovery at $125 a month lowest cost (we won’t go into how this inherently caters to the wealthy who already have more access to recovery sources than middle-to-low-income folks).

But me? I can’t afford that. Ok, I might be able to afford that, but I’m not paying and I don’t live in Chicago.

I have to make other arrangements.

So I foam roll – This takes an astonishingly short amount of time, it’s the only thing that lets me function the day after a hard workout, and I just don’t do it often enough. But when I do? Oof. It’s magic.

I stretch – This may be the most consistent thing I keep getting recommended. In a bygone age, I could stand on 45-pound bumper plates and touch the ground. Now, I can barely touch my toes, and that’s an improvement. Between my back, knee, and chest, I’m supposed to stretch out pretty everything from head to toe. I need to start getting compulsive about stretching. As it is, my muscles, especially my legs, are loaded springs.

I yoga (uncomfortable stretching plus some strength) – This doesn’t have the same magic for recovery as a foam roller, but it’s the most important thing I do to remain functional long-term. You can only imagine the betrayal I felt when not only was my knee keeping me away from yoga but there’s a chance that yoga did me in. I couldn’t stay away. For my day-to-day life, this is the best thing I can do, so even if I’m limited, I’m going to find a way.

And I sleep – This one’s my favorite. I like my 8 hours at night. I’d like 9 even better. I like my naps. I like to eat breakfast, and then go right back to sleep for another hour or so. I like to curl up in my blankets in the winter in a quilted cocoon. I like to throw an exercise mat on the ground and get my afternoon nap. And why do I like sleep? Because my body craves it. That’s when I recover. No stress, no activity. Just sleep. Just rest. And you know what? I think I’ll sleep again tonight. I’ll probably sleep again tomorrow. Something to look forward to.

What do you do for recovery?

Injury Update & Return to Yoga

When we last left our hero, he had found indications of bipartite patella or kneecap fracture and was anxiously awaiting the results of his MRI.

Setting: Mississippi in the late teens. Our protagonist is sitting on his couch in a knee brace and typing on a computer. The air conditioner is running because of course it is. Light indie music plays in the background.

Scene:

The MRI came back with no real bad issues. There was some fluid, but nothing was out of place beyond what the X-Rays’ already showed. The recommendation was surgery (both options didn’t sound pleasant, even for surgery). I of course chickened out and asked to try physical therapy first. Low risk but low probability of success. But no knife. Doc OK’d it, so I got sent to their PT staff to get a knee brace and then set up my PT appointment in my own town.

Here’s the thing about the knee brace: He didn’t tell me why I needed it when I was pretty much ok moving around. I ended up asking the PT and didn’t get that clear of an answer. Basically it sounds like if I’m walking around on uneven ground (i.e., hiking) I should wear it. I’m not hiking.

But I have the knee brace, and I had my first PT appointment today. It was fun. Got some normal stretches and then a couple of weird exercises, and then they zapped my leg for 15 minutes. I got to do some light reading. All good.

Then I got to the realness: Could I start doing yoga again? The doc was hesitant. He wanted me to ease into it. I wanted no such thing. I did a round of the warm-up for Ashtanga and survived. That was the hard part, so I thought asking couldn’t hurt.

And the PT gave me the ok.

As long as I didn’t do anything stupid, I was allowed to do it. Benefit outweighed the risk to him. Awesome dude. Also awesome that he was OK with me not wearing the knee brace as a default since I was already on the mend.

And how long did I wait to go to yoga? Almost 10 hours.

I’ve been going half insane the past few weeks. I couldn’t even do planks in the early stage because me knee was hurting that much.

I went to my Ashtanga class prepared to behave and make accommodations. It wasn’t easy, and because I couldn’t really do anything while my knee was hurting, even my upper body was not really in the game. There were some minor twinges, and my yoga teacher watched me like a hawk to make sure I was OK, but everything was all good. I had to sit out a couple of things, but I was able to do something most of the time.

And tomorrow’s going to be rough. Ashtanga is Sanskrit for “this is gonna hurt” (it’s a stupid joke I’ve been making for over a year, but I still love it; related, I made the joke originally in this post from the first time I did the class. It usually shows up on the first page of the Google search when you look for thank you note for yoga teacher. It’s kept a steady flow of traffic to the blog from people sincerely looking to write their yoga teacher a thank you note while I was being snarkily sincere about appreciating an all-over soreness from the workout. I should add a postscript apologizing to the people looking for real advice).

I also have to contend with the weird leg exercises that got muscles I objectively knew were there but rarely feel activated. That’s going to cause some odd soreness, but it’s finally looking up for our hero.

Injury update

This will be a short post. I’m still not running or doing much of anything. I’m now 4 X-rays and an MRI into the process. X-Rays indicated bipartite patella or old kneecap fracture. Fun.

Either way, should know in a few days what the next step is. In the meantime, I’m slowly going insane and my right quad is visibly smaller than my left after 5 weeks of one leg doing all the work. On the bright side, my back is feeling better than normal, so you win somw, you lose some.

I’ll keep you party people posted.

Q and His Treacherous Knee

Or Q and His Knee Jerk Reaction

Or Q and Why Does My Knee Hurt?

This was my weekend a week ago:

Nothing like unexplained knee pain to liven up the weekend #thuglife #thisis30

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And this was me less than a week ago:

My new significant other doesn't cook me dinner but it does keep my knee from hurting (at least for a few minutes). Happy V Day

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There’s a theme here. I’m a week and half into unexplained knee pain. I know what’s happening (tendonitis), but I don’t know why (unless we accept that my knee is an a-hole argument).

I spent a week on steroids and that seemed to help, but then I tweaked it on day 5 of steroids, and three days later, I’m back in the kind of pain I was in before starting the steroids.

With a couple of other things, I’m now two and half weeks removed from my last run, which was just a light jaunt to shake out the post-10K creaks.

My goal was a 10K every other month, and it’s already in jeopardy, and not the cool Ken Jennings kind.

If I go after the race I’m targeting, I’m looking at basically 5 weeks to go from 0 to 10K.

That’s probably not going to happen.

This is going to be an interesting year.

-Q

#ihaterunning

First 10K of the year is in the books

1:13:30. I lapped everyone on the couch. I also got lapped by the winner of the half-marathon.

Twice.

Other than that, things went pretty well. I knew I wasn’t going to have a blistering time. The plan was to do a 1:1 run/walk ratio on minute intervals.

Pre-Race

I am vengeance. I am the night. I am, well, you get the idea. #ihaterunning #batman

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Prep for this race was actually more obnoxious than usual because of the temperature. It was supposed to be high 30s to start and mid-40s when I would finish.

This is generally jacket weather for me. My lungs don’t appreciate cold air, and it gets worse if my torso is cold. Because it was in the 30s to start, I figured I would get one of my thicker long-sleeve shirts. And then I couldn’t find it.

I have three thicker shirts. The one I wanted wasn’t in the office, so I knew it was at home. And then I couldn’t find it at home. I really have no idea where that thing is. Luckily, I have a thinner cold-weather shirt that’s ok. With the jacket, I would be fine.

The next worry for me was parking. It was downtown in a relatively small town. If the race was packed, parking could become a problem pretty quickly. There ended up being about 400 people across the three distances running today. I had to leave a bit early to park where I wanted.

Of course, I then got to find out people have no sense of politeness when it comes to parallel parking spots. Two big SUVs decided to park as far forward in their spots as they could and for some unholy reason didn’t pull into the spots the farthest forward, so I got to do an awkward backing in to get my spot. It was fine, but it was obnoxious parking. Of course, they were Ole Miss and Bama fans, so I guess I shouldn’t have expected anything better from them.

Now for a pet peeve of mine. Pretty much every race I go to says to bring ID to pick up your packet. I think the only time I’ve actually shown ID to get my packet was Disney (and I’m not even sure if I actually showed ID). They say it and never ask for ID when you actually show up. Luckily, I’ve stopped bringing my ID along to the booths. I figure if it ever gets asked for, I’ll tell them to Google my name. Perks of having a weird name. The only person who shows up in the results is me.

Other than that, not much was atypical about the setup. You have the usual lacking number of port-a-potties. You have loud music. You’ve got people who didn’t know there was a race going on trying to go about their usual Saturday routine as runners are crawling all over the place with nervous energy.

I just basked in the sun waiting for the race to start. And then I got hot. Uh oh.

If I was hot standing in the sun, this wasn’t going to bode well for running. I was honestly afraid I was going to be a little on the cold side to start because I had on the thinner long-sleeve shirt underneath. Now I was about to ditch my jacket and was again having to worry about being cold in just two shirts because 6.2 miles of overheating wasn’t about to happen.

Luckily, my Batman shirt was a tight fit, so it helped trap heat in and acted as an extra buffer for the wind.

Unluckily, I hadn’t brought my arm band, and I didn’t trust myself to hold my phone for 6.2 miles. I was going sans music (well, podcast. I was going to listen to a Nerdist episode during my fat kid shuffle).

The rest of my attire was fine. I wear the same cap in the heat and the cold. Of my two viable pairs of running shoes (I have Adidas that are in good shape, but a foot injury rules them out for now), I only race in my Asics, so there was never a debate there. I also had a new pair of Goodr sunglasses to wear for the race.

I was in the red-framed glasses. It’s hard to tell in the picture, but they are the most obnoxious color scheme: blue lenses, red frames, and yellow ear pieces. I thought I’d never wear them (they came bundled with the other two I got in the Kickstarter). And then I realized the obnoxious color scheme went well with the obnoxiously colored shirts I wear to avoid getting hit by cars. Turns out the pair I looked forward to the least are going to be my priority pair for running.

I was dressed for success and ready to gol

The halfers took off, and then the 10K and 5K runners lined up together.

Now all I had to do was run. And then walk. And then run. And then walk. Etc.

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Actual Race

As usual, some walkers made their way to the front. I’m starting to think they can’t help themselves. If this was a track meet, someone would spike them in the back of their legs.

I hung out in back because I knew I wasn’t going to finish in front of many people. I had to let myself run longer in the beginning than I intended just because of the mess of walkers around. I don’t dislike walkers, but when they start in the middle and front, they’re an obstruction. Think of the person hanging out in the left lane in traffic who isn’t passing the car on the right. That’s what they’re doing.

The weather was beautiful, though I wasn’t quite dressed correctly. I really did need a little bit thicker shirt. I was ok, but not 100% comfortable to start. Luckily, the day came to me. Unfortunately, my hands weren’t in great shape. I don’t wear gloves when I run, and my hands stay cold naturally, so they got stiff pretty fast. It’s not like I needed to compose a letter, but it’s never fun to basically have your hands become useless for the better part of an hour.

I don’t have any über-weird stories to tell about the other runners. I had my typical crowd that I would yo-yo with. At least they were also alternating between running and walking. The only mildly interesting stories come past the halfway point. One runner turned to ask if I was dying too. I think they were feeling social. Or maybe they’d never seen the dark knight in person before. Who knows.

The other interesting thing was someone who kept yelling in frustration. I’ve done a fair amount of races now (21 is my best guess), and this is the first time I’ve had that happen. I think they were in that “I’m exhausted and going on fumes” mode. The last time I remember hearing people do that was during football workouts. Usually these were the people who didn’t really want to play football and were there because someone made them be there. I hope that wasn’t the case. It sounded like someone was running with them and encouraging them, but this is kind of a dangerous game to play. I’m not fond of running, but I don’t feel the need to yell. If they do, maybe they’d be better off with a different hobby. Again, I don’t know what was going on. I just know it was weird.

The running and walking went fairly well. I knew I couldn’t put together a blistering pace. I was vaguely optimistic that I’d be feeling good at the end and could extend my running segments.

That did not happen.

It wasn’t a brutal course by any means, but there were a good amount of climbs to make. These were mostly halfway and later, so they gassed me pretty good. But I did survive. My lungs went first because that’s what they do, but my legs were dead by the end too.

And to pour salt on the wounds, there was a steady climb to finish the race. You never notice the grade of a road until you’re actually running it. I always thought of it as a fairly level stretch until today. This is also when the half winner flew past me for the second time.

But I finished and I high-fived a couple of cows. All in all, it could have gone worse.

Post-Race

There’s not much to say post-race. For once I finished in a weird spot where there wasn’t a mess of people at the end. Only one half-marathoner had finished. All of the 5K runners were done. And I was far enough back in the 10K that there weren’t many of them left either.

I snagged a couple of slices of pizza before walking around as my inadequate cool-down. I then went to my car to switch to a dry shirt and get my watered-down bottle of Gatorade. Of course, I had to get two more slices of pizza before I left, so I went back to the finish line for that. A few coworkers were running other races and I vaguely thought of sticking around, but then I realized I wanted to continue making bad decisions more than I wanted to hang out in the wind with sweat salt caking my face.

The bingeing continued with a some Sonic: 5-piece chicken strip meal, with tater tots, toast, an onion ring, and Coke. I left two pieces of chicken behind for later and ate the rest. After all this mess, I had gained 2 pounds compared to my pre-10K weight.

I really am good at turning good decisions into terrible mistakes.

At least I had enough sense to foam roll after I ate. I’m also icing my knee as I type to prevent further problems.

The aftermath. #ihaterunning

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But that’s all I have for you, party people. I’ve got 5 more of these to go for the year, and I have no idea when any of them will be yet. I’m hoping for every other month, but I haven’t locked into a March race yet.

-Q

#ihaterunning

Why I Can’t Keep Cokes in the House

Because I’ll drink them.

Well, that didn’t take long to explain.

Oh, do you want a longer explanation? Ok. I’m not good at saying no to Cokes. They’re tasty and they have addictive caffeine.

There are worse Coke habits have.

One of the things that pops up when you look at in willpower research and decision-making is that you find if the temptation is around, generally people will cave eventually. It’s not reasonable to expect people to continually walk past the cookie jar if they have a sweets problem.

Likewise, no matter my intentions, no matter how long I’ve been behaving, I’ll drink too many Cokes eventually if I have them around long enough. Ideally, I’ll have zero a day. At zero a day, there’s no reason to keep Cokes in the house. Ideally goes out the window when work gets hectic, so I settle for weaning myself down to one a day. And no matter how well I’m doing about sticking to one a day, if there’s a spare Coke in the fridge, eventually I’ll cave and have that second Coke (and eventually it becomes a 4-or 5-a-day habit).

So I can’t keep them at home. And yet I’m still having one a day. If you do the math, this means I’m paying more money in the long run. It’s unfortunate, but I’d rather lose a few bucks over the course of the month instead of having that extra coke every day.

It’s not the best logic in the world, but it’s what works for me. I know every day I’m going to have that one Coke, so I savor it. I drink it slowly. I enjoy it. I treat Cokes like a fine wine (right down to smelling them when I open them to get that extra little bit of enjoyment).

All of this is to say I have a problem. I can’t really quit Cokes because I don’t want to. They’re tasty, and I’m not overweight. Now if/when I deal with something like diabetes or cancer that can pretty easily be linked to my Coke habit, I might change my mind. As it stands, one a day doesn’t sound so bad. Just can’t sit in my fridge.

Final Prep for 1st 10K of the Year

I ran 5 miles today. Ok, I ran the majority of 5 miles and walked a good amount of it. I was on a pretty even run/walk cycle, which means I probably ran about 3 miles and walked 2.

But I covered 5 miles. Last time I covered at least 5 miles? The 10K I did in May. The time before that? The week before said 10K. And the time before that? Never.

This will not end well.

Oh, sure. In high school, I would almost certainly have covered that distance in a track workout, but there’s a big difference between being 145-pound hurdler doing intermittent springs and being a 180-pound academic trying to delay diabetes and other weight-related woes.

Side note, looking back at the run-up to the last 10K, I’m making the exact same points. I almost made the same stupid joke for the title. The more things change…

Much like last time, I hit 4 miles two weeks before the 10K and 5 miles the week before. So let’s compare.

First a caveat. Last year, I was in better shape. Even with an injury causing some issues, I had better mileage leading up to the 10K in part because I was coming off the Super Awesome Year of the 5K. I also had a 5K at Disney to act as my warm-up a few weeks out. I had the mythical base they always talk about. Even if 6.2 miles really was too much to go after, I could at least cover 3.1 without problems. I can’t say that right now.

Let’s look at the 4-miler two weeks out. In 2016, I covered 4.02 in 47:12 (11:45 pace). Heart rate was 150 average, with 172 max. Last week, I covered 4.00 in 57:42 (14:25 pace). Heart rate was 135 average, with 168 max.

For the 5-miler one week out, 2016 was 5.04 in 1:05:12 (12:56 pace). Heart rate was 151 average, with 177 max. Also, 666 calories burned. Not ominous at all. Today, I covered 5.00 in 1:07:40 (13:32 pace). Heart rate was 144 average, with 176 max.

This is an odd thing to look at. The 4-mile run was much worse this round. The 5-mile run, despite having shorter run intervals, was pretty close on pace. This means I was probably running too fast today, but evidently I have a need for speed.

So what can we expect for the 10K?

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Really, I have no idea what’s going to happen. I’m just going to go out there and do my best. And then I’m going to pretend I’m not in pain as I limp to my car.

The remainder of my week will be spent trying not to do something stupid, but considering I bit my tongue in my sleep yesterday, I’m not terribly optimistic.

See you on the other side.

-Q

#ihaterunning