Sunday, March 25, 2012

First Experiences: Yoga

It's only March, but I can check one thing off of my 2012 to-do list: Trying yoga. Actually, two things, as I tried a kickboxing class a few weeks ago too. But since that didn't go as well as yoga, I think I'll just write about the yoga experience. (Side note: apparently my natural rhythm is about 10 seconds behind that of every one else's, hence the reluctance to discuss the kickboxing experience! Perhaps another time).

For those of you who don't have the good fortune of living in Kentucky during basketball season, you may not  be aware that there was a rather HUGE game today with the Wildcats playing Baylor University for a place in the Final Four. Now, don't tell of my fellow Kentuckians, but do I say this...I really don't care (much). So when Yoga Class time happened to coincide with the latter half of the Big Game, the choice was easy for me. I figured the Wildcats didn't need my help on their way to another big win, so I packed up my new yoga mat and headed to the gym.

I arrived to find the large, multipurpose room dimly lit and occupied with only a few people. The die-hards, the ones who forfeited beer, wings, and basketball to sweat it out. Or, fellow non-carers like myself. Either way, we were all here to salute the (non-visible) sun together. I rolled out my mat and prepared for some gentle stretching and relaxation.

Everything started according to this plan. We sat cross-legged and stretched our arms above our heads. So far, so good. I can handle this. No need to use the modification blocks I grabbed at the teacher's recommendation for first-timers. Not sure where I'd put them any way--under my butt? If I had one complaint, it was that the floor was being especially floor-like and not so kind on my butt bones (you know the ones I'm talking about). Oh well, what's gain without a little pain?

Then the instructor (yogi?) introduced us...well, probably only the "plank" followed by the "downward dog". The plank is just like it sounds--think the position you are in at the end of a push-up when your arms are extended. Then she had us do things like pick one leg up and hold it there for an uncomfortable period of time. Then the other leg.  Then again! I was surprised at how difficult it was to hold these positions for extended periods of time. I could feel interesting muscles working, ones that I don't typically use in my usual fare of running and biking.

The downward dog is similar to the plank except that you bring your hips up to form more of a triangle with your body. It puts more weight on your arms, and mine were already complaining from all the planking. From there, we did more leg-lifts and some arm lifts as well. Then we jumped (well, more like glided) into some lunges. Now I've done weighted lunges before, but never for more than a few seconds per leg. This was intense--probably more than a minute per side. I had to take a break about halfway through and drop my back leg down.

I found myself doing slight modification of the poses often doing during the hour long class. I was worn out at the end. I think part of me was expecting yoga to be easier than my usual cardio-based workouts but it wasn't. It was completely different than what my body was used to, and so my body struggled to adapt. I'm pleased because it is a new way to challenge my body and build strength as well as improving flexibility and balance. It kicked my butt, and I liked it. And Kentucky advanced just fine to the Final Four without my viewership.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

My New Kicks

This weather is fantastic. I'm taking full advantage of both the extra hour of daylight and the balmy temps, as you can see:

This is how I roll
While you're looking, check out my new shoes. They are rather remarkable for a couple of reasons. First, they are awesome and really comfy.  Second, I just bought a pair of shoes back in November, and I sure as heck haven't put 500 miles on those yet. I'm generally pretty frugal, so it is pretty unusual for me to buy a new pair of shoes unless the old ones are starting to wear out (which they weren't).

My shoe-buying extravaganza was prompted by a trip to Fleet Feet about a month ago, when I learned that I have high arches and underpronation (aka supination). Armed with this new-found knowledge, I declined the $450 inserts the Fleet Feet guy was trying to sell me and turned to the internet for further research.

Well, it was a little embarrassing to see that I'm learning something so fundamental to running (shoes and stride type) after 10+ years of engaging in the sport.  Me so smart. I've noticed that my shoes always wear down first on the outside heel edge, and just thought this was normal. Apparently this is one of the major signs of underpronation.  To make matters worse, I've always gravitated toward trail running shoes even for road running, because I like that they have a little extra grip and that they usually come in darker colors, as I usually quickly irreparably stain my shoes (I am attracted to mud). Well, trail shoes are usually more stabilizing than your typical running shoe. A stability shoe is not what you want if you underpronate like me--you want a neutral shoe to encourage movement of the foot during the stride. And with lots of cushioning to absorb the increased impact high-arched strides put on the heel and forefoot.

The Asics Nimbus kept coming up in my Internet meanderings as one of the best shoes for supinators such as myself. (Asics in general seems to get good marks for people with high arches, it seemed). I decided I'd check them out at Dick's. They felt great, then I checked out the price tag. $125!! I've never spent that much on a pair of shoes. In fact, I usually go to Marshall's and get whatever running shoes they have that fit (usually in some wild colors, but I don't care as long as it isn't too crazy).

But I decided that my poor feet were worth it, and bought them. And a $20 pair of high arch inserts to stick in them, too.

I can't say that the hip pain went away (if it has gone away) because of the shoes, but it could very well prevent the inflammation in my hip from occurring again after the cortisone shot. Also, I know that by helping to compensate for my stride, this will help my running efficiency, which is by itself an excellent reason to get properly fitting footwear. And did I mention, they're awesome?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Bargains and Bursitis

First off, I have to share about these most excellent finds. 99 cents apiece!

On the left, we have a rather large container of brown rice. Tower 1 contains 2 packages of dry roasted almonds, and two  "Athlete's Assortment" trail mix (yellow and regular raisins, chocolate chips, and walnut halves). Tower 2 contains 2 more Athlete's Assortments, almonds, and dried cherries. Tower 3--more cherries, dried papaya, and a "Delight" mix with pumpkin seeds, raisins, sunflower seeds, and cashews. Finally Tower 4 with its 3 additional containers of AA and more almonds. All for just over $18! My husband especially likes the trail mixes for snacks at school. I like to sprinkle a handful of them onto my morning oatmeal sometimes. 

Onto my pesky hip--I "gave in" and went to see an orthopedic sports medicine doctor. Once I decided I was doing it (Thursday morning) I called and was able to get in that afternoon. 

They did two preliminary x-rays of my hip, both with me lying on my back. The first was with my knee bent up, and the second was with my knee bent but opened so that the outside of it almost rested on the table.

When I finally saw the doctor, he said that my x-rays looked normal. No bumpy bone spots anywhere. he then asked me some questions about the onset of the discomfort (7 months ago, after increasing my mileage) and the location. He asked me twice if I felt any discomfort in my groin area, but I told him it was all on the outside of my hip. He pulled on my legs and folded them from side to side a bit. Whenever he folded my right leg out, the hip would ache more. 

His diagnosis...bursitis. Inflammation of the hip bursa caused by repetitive use, perhaps aggravated by me wearing the wrong type of shoes for my foot type. He recommended an injection of a drug similar to cortisone to help reduce the inflammation. I was definitely game for that, and 10 minutes later I had my shot and was out of there.

My hip has hurt more in the past couple of days since then, which makes me think he probably hit the right area since the pain is very similar to what I've been experiencing, just worse. Today it has cleared up a lot. It is supposed to take 48-72 hours to fully kick in, so I should have a good idea by tomorrow if it is working or not.

I really hope this provides relief. Spring is here and I am itching to start training again. But I'll take it slow. With my new shoes and inserts, I feel like I'm learning to run again anyway.