Author Archives: Rebecca

How to Alleviate Knee Pain from Running

You finally have some momentum behind your running program. Each day you run more and more. Each day it gets a little easier to find your rhythm. You feel invincible, unstoppable, and motivated. Then, seemingly out of nowhere BAM—knee pain. This can be devastating for serious athletes. If you can treat the symptoms and identify the causes of knee pain, you can get back into your running schedule with very little interruption.

As you increase your speed and distance, you may start to have knee pain from running. This could come in the form of pain in the actual kneecap and around the knee area. Your knees are sore and stiff, and sometimes pop when bending. You struggle to run downhill or even go down stairs. Sound familiar?
For some reason, your knee has moved out of its track, causing this pain. With each step, your cartilage breaks down. When you think of how many steps runners take each day, you can see how painful this can become. Runner’s knee could also be caused by foot instability. Without proper support, your feet could either be pronating (rotating your foot) or supinating (turning out). This can cause severe knee pain from running.

Knee pain from running can be quite frustrating, and some runners may even give up on their program entirely if they don’t find knee pain relief. You have worked so hard to meet your goals; there is no reason to give up now just because you are experiencing pain. Many more advanced runners suffer from a condition commonly called “runner’s knee”. The good news is this condition is easily treated.

If you are looking for knee pain relief, the solution for runner’s knee is fairly straightforward. First you will need to treat the pain. Use ice or cold packs to numb the pain of your running injury. You can also take some over-the-counter pain relief such as ibuprofen or aspirin.

Now that you have treated the symptoms, it’s time to address the actual cause. Make sure your running form is correct. Good posture during your run can go a long way. If you notice you have poor running for, correcting this could help bring you some knee pain relief. The right shoes are also crucial to relieving pain from running. You must have shoes that offer you support to stabilize your feet. You may even need to buy special support or orthotics for your feet.

Don’t let knee pain ruin all your hard work. Your effort does not have to be wasted. As soon as you start to feel knee pain, stop running. Take the time to identify the causes of your knee pain, and don’t push your body too hard. Pain is a message your body is trying to tell you. Listen to what your body is telling you. If you keep running on a sore knee, you may risk further injury. Knee pain relief can be very straightforward if you simply take the time to understand what’s going on with your body. Follow these guidelines and you’ll be running again in no time.

Barefoot Running Guide: What You Should Know to Start Barefoot Running

Recently, barefoot running has become a huge trend in the running world. Running barefoot is actually a natural solution to some major problems runners commonly experience. Whether you choose to run with no shoes at all or very thin-soled barefoot running shoes, barefoot running reduces foot pain and other injuries associated with running.

Many people are skeptical about barefoot running. Although you may have been conditioned to think you need specialized running shoes, people have been barefoot running for thousands of years. As more people started wearing shoes, the practice declined, but in the past few years, runners have once again popularized barefoot running. These days, everyone from housewives to Olympic athletes advocate barefoot running training.

Healthier feet

One reason to choose barefoot running is that it is actually better for your feet. Even when you buy shoes that are meant for running you could end up with a wide variety of negative effects. In fact, some “specialty” running footwear actually impedes natural movement. When you repeatedly run with unnatural movement, injury is inevitable. Running barefoot can also help you avoid “heel striking” which is not the ideal way to run.

Special Footwear

The barefoot movement has inspired a new type of footwear with very thin soles that mimic barefoot running. You may have seen this strange-looking shoe which looks a bit like wearing a pair of gloves on your feet. Wearing this type of shoe can help protect your feet while still giving you the benefits of barefoot running training.

Starting Out: Barefoot Running Guide

It will take your feet some time to develop a tough sole on the bottom of your feet. Even if you are an experienced runner, you should ease yourself into barefoot running so you can give your feet time to develop a thicker skin.

Before you go run five miles with no protection at all, consider purchasing barefoot running shoes. If you run without any footwear at all, you could risk cutting your foot or stepping in something unpleasant. Most large sports stores now carry barefoot running shoes; check with the store to see which shoe will work best for you.

Just because barefoot running training is trendy, doesn’t mean it’s the right exercise for you. Especially if you have experienced foot injuries in the past, barefoot running is probably not a good fit for you. Barefoot running is also not ideal for older runners.

In the beginning, barefoot running can be quite painful. Is the pain worth it? There are many runners who swear by barefoot running, so if you experience some pain, perhaps you should make an effort to “play through the pain”. The satisfaction you feel from barefoot running could be worth a little initial pain.

This barefoot running guide can give you an overview of this topic, but only you and your doctor can decide whether barefoot running training is the right choice. This type of running is well-suited for individuals who are adventurous, patient, and athletic. Does this sound like you? If so, you might want to try barefoot running and get started on this adventure today.

Do you have questions or comments about barefoot running? Please post a comment below, your input helps me fine-tune the content of this site to your needs, as well as give other readers extra input before they make important running decisions.

Tips for How to Buy Running Shoes

While I currently have a pair of running shoes that my mom doesn’t have use for anymore, they aren’t quite right for my feet. When finances allow, I will be buying a pair of running shoes fitted particularly for my foot type, weight, the type of use and terrain I will be putting them to, and other such personal preferences and needs. What I didn’t realize is just how much goes into selecting a good pair of running shoes.

At the outset of my research, I really didn’t know what to look for other than whether or not a shoe is comfortable when you try it on, but — what if you’re shopping for shoes online? While my small town does have a couple of good shoe retailers that have a nice selection of running shoes, among other things, their selection is needfully somewhat limited. If I don’t find what I need there, I will have to turn to online retailers to find the right footgear.

I have found a few good ways to determine foot type, shoe needs, and other determining factors to find what type of shoe will really work well for you. I have a written a guide to buying running shoes, which includes some tips for buying traditional running shoes. There are no provisions for the barefoot running sandals and similar types of footgear, that will have to wait for another article. I hope you can get some use out of this brief guide, and if nothing else gain a little better understanding of your feet and the way you step on them.

Personal Fitness Update: Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Today marks the commencement of my post-pregnancy organized exercising! Just in time to warm up for the 500-mile challenge, which begins in two days, I finally heard back on the financial aid application from the YMCA and got my membership card. In celebration, my mom and I took a nice one-mile jaunt around the indoor walking path…

…where it quickly became apparent just how out-of-shape I am. It is a good thing that we didn’t have time for much more walking. On the best day, I am a mediocre power-walker at best – it has always been easier for me to simply break out into a run when I want to go faster. If this is your habit, it may be worth considering putting some effort into learning how to power-walk effectively. Power-walking is an excellent cardio workout, but it also does wonders for the hamstrings. Like those sleek, muscular legs that actresses and models unfailingly possess? This is one of those ways to get there and stay there.

On a more positive note, this short jaunt met with none of the soreness and abdominal pain that exercise has caused since the six-week post-baby mark, and I think it’s safe to say that I’m definitely ready to jump into the rigors of the 500-mile challenge, as well as training for the upcoming fun run season.

If all goes well I will be attempting one half-marathon this year, but shorter 5K fun runs for charity abound in this area. These are a great way for casual runners to get in a little bit of friendly competition, a nice workout in the fresh air, and help support a worthy cause while they’re at it.

The Importance of Tracking Weight and Measurement Changes

It’s really easy to get discouraged when you’re first setting out on new fitness or weight loss goals, or when you’re getting really close to your goal and it takes longer to see results. I think it’s safe to say that discouragement is the top reason that people don’t make a lasting lifestyle change when they’ve decided that they really don’t like their current condition.

Possibly the best way to fight discouragement is to track your progress regularly from the time you start on a new fitness path. The more ways you have to check your progress, the better chance there is that there will be some good news for you whenever you start feeling discouraged.

Like everything else, the body and its functions are cyclical – and, as women, we DEFINITELY know all about that! It can be so easy to watch an average weight loss of one or two pounds a week, and then feel the creeping feelings of despair when that drops off or you even increase in weight for a couple of weeks.

By logging your weight and measurements every week throughout the course of reaching for your weight loss or fitness goals, you can get a lot better acquainted with the normal cycles of your body and realize when it’s a normal increase. You can also look at measurement changes and determine whether stalling in weight loss, or gaining weight, could simply be the result of gaining more muscle.

Achieving substantial weight loss and fitness goals can take a long time, and it is so great to be able to look back at the progress week-by-week since you started. On days you’re discouraged, looking back and realizing that even with that two-pound gain you’re still 37 pounds below where you started can be an excellent pick-me-up.

I’ve used just a simple Excel spreadsheet to track my progress with weight and waist, hip, thigh, arm, and chest measurements since 2008 (with a short break throughout pregnancy…it just didn’t seem fair or useful to add that in). Trust me, I’m still a LONG way from my goals, but when I see measurements still 2”-5” below my start size and a weight still 40lbs less, even seven weeks post-baby, it shows me that the past two years have certainly not been wasted and it’s definitely worth jumping back into the swing of things and working out, running, and just enjoying life.

Participants for the Get Up and Move 2011 500-Mile Challenge

Take a look at the page describing the Get Up and Move 2011 500-Mile Challenge, then come back here to sign up! Just leave a comment expressing your desire to join in and I’ll get you added to the list. Screen names work just fine if you don’t want to have your real name posted. We kick off on January 28, 2011, and will be posting our first distance updates on Friday, February 4. If you can’t post on Friday don’t worry, give me the updates through the last post date whenever you can get to it. Feel free to join at any time, no matter how long the challenge has already been going, and we will continue until the end of December :).

Walking/Running/Swimming Participants:

Rebecca Mikulin, joined January 28 — 0.00 miles
Andi Lynn, joined January 28 — 0.00 miles
Mandy Brown, joined January 28 — 0.00 miles
Gail, joined January 28 — 0.00 miles
Kathy Andrews, joined January 28 — 0.00 miles

Skating/Biking/Horseback Riding/Etc. Participants:

Resources in Sheridan, Wyoming for Meeting New Year’s Weight Loss and Fitness Goals

Happy New Year’s from Sheridan, Wyoming, everyone! With two weeks left to go before the doctor gives the okay for me to cut loose and start exercising again, it’s time to start looking at some of the options. For those who are local to Sheridan, Wyoming, there are some excellent low-cost resources for losing weight in accordance with those New Year’s resolutions, which will allow us all to keep up with those plans of action even in the bitter cold weather.

Depending on which part of Sheridan you’re living in, there is a great option for general fitness training that will help get you conditioned for the warm months. My personal favorite option is the Holiday Inn – and not just because it’s near my own home, not far from Sheridan Community College. The Holiday Inn offers a great monthly price for the use of their pool, hot tub, sauna, and weight room. For just $15 per month for an individual or $35 per month for families, you can have unlimited access to these particular amenities. The pool room (which also includes the hot tub and sauna) closes at 11:00 p.m., but you can go to the weight room at any time of day or night, it’s open 24 hours!

I used to go to the Sheridan, Wyoming Holiday Inn weight room regularly, and have yet to have to share the place with anyone I didn’t bring with me. They have a recumbent exercise bike, a couple of treadmills, a couple of great elliptical machines, and some great weight-lifting machines that allow you to really target different areas of your body for great toning. I used to be quite a night owl, and really loved having this option that would allow me to work out at 1:30 in the morning, and it’s a lot safer than the bike path at night.

The YMCA has some awesome weight rooms and pools, though you do have to abide by their set hours. One of the great benefits of the Sheridan YMCA, though, is that they offer time with fitness experts to help you develop a good weight training regimen for yourself that is custom-tailored around any weaknesses you may have. For instance, when I was going there regularly I had a bad left knee and a weak left wrist from a previous break. They were able to explain what kind of limitations this put on me, and suggest some great exercises to help strengthen my weak points. The YMCA also boasts some great classes and teams to help super-charge your exercise goals – including Tae Kwon Do and indoor soccer.

Finally, Sheridan, Wyoming, does still boast a very discreet Curves that is located just off of main street. It’s very central, and it’s in a basement so no one can even look in the windows at you exercising. An enthusiastic Zumba group meets regularly at Scotty’s Skate Castle, and the Sheridan bike path is a beautiful scenic walk, run, or ride even in the middle of winter.

My own New Year’s resolutions include attending at least three fun runs this year, and I hope to see some of you there, or have others join in a similar goal from distant locations. I also plan on reducing my post-baby dimensions down to a point that I am comfortable with, and I will shortly be posting my current and goal measurements for the year. I do not own a scale, and while weight may be somewhat important, I do believe that the inches are even more telling of progress – and I have measuring tapes. Once the weather warms up a little bit, I plan on including the Sheridan Dog & Cat Shelter into my normal fitness routine as well – do not underestimate the motivational power of a dozen pairs of puppy-dog eyes begging you to take them for a walk, too, before you pack up and go home for the day.

Where are you reading this from? I’d love to hear about fitness opportunities in your particular area that other readers may be able to benefit from. Please post a comment with your location (or, if you’re uncomfortable giving it, just the state) and the types of opportunities you’ve found in your area that might help others keep their fitness goals.
With that, Happy New Year’s to all, and may your resolutions become your reality this year. It takes a lot of work to make most resolutions come true, but deliberate action can achieve even your wildest goals, so hang in there!

The Importance of Proper Breathing During Exercise

I had planned to make my next post about good exercises for toning triceps, but with Christmas upon us and New Year’s weight loss and fitness resolutions just around the corner, touching on the importance of proper breathing during a workout stuck out as an important precursor before getting into the actual exercises. One of the biggest issues people have with sticking to an exercise regimen is that they get too tired or it’s unpleasant because of cramps, muscle burn, and all those other wonderful side-effects. Some people think you just plain have to have those in an effective workout, but that’s not entirely true.

Breathing properly during a workout is extremely important. All of the oxygen in your blood stream has to come from your lungs first, and if you’re having a hard time keeping those lungs full then your heart ends up working overtime. Your body temperature will rise faster, your heart will beat a heck of a lot faster and harder, and you end up with the feeling that you can’t catch your breath. This is not the kind of workout you can sustain, and it’s certainly not fun.

Proper workout breathing techniques have a number of purposes, and of course the first one is to get oxygen into your body during a workout. The lack of sufficient oxygen to keep waste removed from your hard-working muscle tissues causes lactic acid to build up, and those muscles start to burn. Proper breathing can stave off this burn, cause it to last for shorter periods of time, and help you reach that “second wind” a lot faster.

Finally, the proper type of breathing during a workout can help you reach the goals you want and stick to them better and for longer. You won’t tire as easy when you use proper breathing techniques during your workout so you’ll be able to go for longer periods of time without rest, which translates into more time within your target heart rate range for maximum fat-burning and muscle-building.

Where to get started? I’d suggest learning how to do these workout breathing techniques. You could go wandering around the web and see what good information you can find, but I’ve decided to make it a little bit easier – I wrote my own article on the subject. I’ll link my article on how to breathe during workouts for your education and approval. Bear in mind that these breathing techniques should be used during all workouts, no matter how low-impact they may be.

As always, please feel free to post with any questions or comments, any suggestions on what you’d like to see next are greatly appreciated. If you have any comments on the linked article, please feel free to also leave those on this post, since any sent to me through Helium will be sent to my private inbox where the other members of the community here can’t benefit from them.

Losing Weight and Exercising After Pregnancy

Finally, the baby is here! My daughter was born five days ago, and it’s probably not a surprise that my mind has already turned to losing weight after having a baby. While I have been aware that running after having baby would be difficult, it never seemed like it would be TOO tough until now – the post-natal got-run-over-by-a-semi period where just getting across the room can be an arduous task. Does that mean I don’t want to find ways to run even with my new baby? No! It merely means that right now I need to focus on post-natal exercises and slowly ease my way back into the right mode for running.

Let’s face it, ladies, one of the first things most of us want to do for ourselves after the brand new bundle of joy makes its exit is focus on losing weight after pregnancy. Luckily I don’t personally have to worry about post C-section exercises, though I intend to research some options that will work well for both.

Where I am right now in running – I’m stiff, sore, have stitches in uncomfortable places, and an aggravated nerve injury in my left hip that was caused by my son’s birth and renewed by my daughter last week. I’m also under strict orders from my doctor not to do any strenuous exercises for six weeks. This means that I won’t be able to post any results from post-pregnancy exercises for a little while, but that doesn’t mean I can’t plan.

For my next few posts, I’d like to explore some different exercises targeting different areas that tend to gain weight during pregnancy, or where the loss of muscle tone tends to be the most obvious. I’d love to hear from anyone who would like to see specific areas targeted, or who have some ideas for specific problem areas. Result stories are always a wonderful thing!

Once I’ve recovered sufficiently to try out these exercises myself, I intend to post my own starting point, and then revisit all the different exercises discussed and see how well each works, and how quickly.

Is There Such a Thing as Too Old to Run?

One of the top excuses against getting into — or back into – running is age, “I’m too old to do something like that!” and I personally believe there is no such thing as too old. Sure, there’s the all-powerful “and,” such as if you’re 95 years old AND on oxygen AND need a walker to get around…that’s a lot of ands. If this describes you, you may very well want to stick to the cheerleading section. However, just because you’re 95 years old, doesn’t mean you can’t run – though you might want at least one and in there, like “and the doctor says it’s okay without any detrimental effects.”

For most people, the idea of getting into running, or being a runner, or becoming a runner, somehow implies that they intend to alter all their other daily habits and train to be a super-robo-marathon-runner. There’s nothing wrong with running marathons, or even just training for marathons in case you feel like running one – but there is also such a thing as a casual fun run/walk that just about anyone can do on a weekend.

Having said this, I very nearly made a hypocrite of myself when I got back into running last year – and here we get into the subject of old moms. Like most people, I’d made a lot of excuses to myself about running. When I was in high school I ran a lot, but since then I’d let it slide – sure I missed it, but that’s a lot of work to get back into! Then last year my mom told me she had started running, and my knee-jerk response was, “Really? Isn’t she a little old?”

Just to clarify, my mom isn’t old, she’s only in her 40s – but I think there’s some ingrained idea in every kid’s head that their parents are ancient, and encountering anything to the contrary can really throw you for a loop. I figured, “Well, if she can do it at twice my age and somewhat comparable fitness levels, I don’t have any excuses left.” Yep, you guessed it, I just couldn’t let the old lady show me up (love you, Mom!).

Not long afterward we did a 5K walk/run for the Pink Link in Sheridan, Wyoming. It’s a benefit sponsored by the Susan G. Koman foundation for breast cancer research, and was intended to raise money for a new mammography unit at Sheridan Memorial Hospital. Well, I couldn’t deny the merit in the purpose of the run, so I agreed to attend with Mom.

Being the wonderful, thoughtful daughter I am, I let Mom set the pace the entire way – you know, I can’t leave her in the dust, that just wouldn’t be nice. She was just getting over a cold and we had to stop several times in that three miles until she’d finished coughing, and we averaged 16 minutes to the mile.

If you think that was bad, the worst is yet to come – the one thing that I never mentioned is just how grateful I was for those coughing breaks. It truly was a challenge for me to keep up with my mom, even at that pace. I finished the run with a new desire to work on my running and get back into shape – if for no other reason than to prevent a repeat of such a pathetic performance on my part. I didn’t have a cold.

When I was 11 years old, I managed to run a ¾ mile in 5 ½ minutes. After a knee injury I didn’t run for a long time, and when I got back to it in high school I ended up running 12-minute miles, and eventually pared it down to a 9-minute mile. Last year I made my comeback, 5 years after high school graduation, with that 16-minute mile. Pretty scary. Time to strap on the tennis shoes and get my not-so-little rear end in gear!

For now this is going to be a non-running running journal. Why? Put simply, I have my own ands. I am a healthy 24-year-old, AND it’s -30 outside right now, AND I’m just shy of 41 weeks pregnant. What does this mean? It means that the running journal gets to start from the ground up again – as soon as this baby finally makes her appearance, I’ll have to start from the very beginning of fitness again and work back into running. With any luck, by this summer I will be able to report from the various charity fundraisers and other such running-related events in my area.

That said, there is nothing more boring than listening to someone talk about themselves incessantly, and since I’m going to be learning and re-learning all this stuff for myself I will gladly answer questions for anyone else as we go along. Feel free to post a comment introducing yourself, we’d love to know who you are and where you’re coming from, and let me know if you have a running-related topic of interest that you’d like to see addressed here.