Tuesday Training Tip: Skin Protection

Image courtesy of www.influenster.com

Image courtesy of http://www.influenster.com

Running can be your skin’s worst enemy: sunburn, chafing, calluses, blisters, acne. Yuck. With some diligence, we can protect our skin from these runner’s ailments.

SUNBURN: WEAR SUNSCREEN
I’m a sunscreen nut, but I know many runners that don’t use it. When you’re running for a few hours in the sun without protection, you risk getting sunburned or developing skin cancer. This isn’t a secret, so why do so many skip this step before lacing up?

When choosing a sunscreen, make sure it is broad-spectrum, which means that it protects from UVA and UVB rays. I like the oil-free sunscreens because they don’t clog my pores as much. A sunscreen stick is good for the face, lips, and ears — and it’s easy to carry. My favorite sunscreens for the body are Coppertone Sport Ultra Sweatproof (the spray version is like Teflon) and Neutrogena Beach Defense. For the face, I prefer the Coppertone Sport Stick or the Neutrogena Sport Oil-Free Face lotion. You can find all of these at major retailers.

Also, wear a brimmed hat and sunglasses, and be smart about when you leave for a run. Early morning or later evening is best since the sun’s rays are weaker.

CHAFING: USE ANTI-CHAFING STICKS
Chafing sucks, and if you’re an endurance runner, you’ve likely experienced chafing at one point or another. I’ve tried many brands, but I find that Body Glide works best for me. I make sure to get my feet and all around and under my sports bra. Let me tell you, chafing on or around the breasts is hell. For the guys, I know many on my team run with nipple guards. I don’t have issues with bleeding nipples (how horrifying!), but I’ve been told they really work.

BLISTERS: WEAR PROPER SOCKS, USE PETROLEUM JELLY 
For the love of god, stop wearing cotton socks. Wear wool or polypropylene socks. I prefer Feetures! brand socks, and also like ones by SmartWool and 2XU.

I tend to get blisters in the same areas. To help prevent them, I use Body Glide all over my foot and apply petroleum jelly to hot spots. This doesn’t always stop the blisters, but it keeps them from growing to the size of a Rainer cherry!

ACNE: SHOWER WITHIN AN HOUR OF RUNNING
How many times have you returned from a run and just sat around without showering? We’ve got to foam roll, ice, stretch, etc. But sitting around for several hours before showering? That can cause already-existing bacteria to get clogged in pores because of sweat and junk we’ve picked up along the way during our run. Showering within an hour can help prevent acne, but if you have chronic acne, see a dermatologist. They will know the best ways to treat your skin.

Health Warrior Joins Us in the Fight Against Blood Cancer

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Health Warrior, a Richmond-based business, donated a variety of its Chia Bar Super Snacks for an LLS fundraiser yoga class being held in October in Washington, D.C. When asked why they decided to support Team Do It For David and the fight against blood cancer, this is what they had to say:

“Health Warrior is on a mission is to make radically convenient, real food and positively influence the diet and exercise habits of western civilization. They are proud to support Chrissy Skudera and Team Do It For David as they embody what it means to be a Health Warrior, leading the race to beat blood cancer one mile at a time.”

The donation-based yoga class will be taught by Dr. Ariele Foster of Sacred Source Yoga on October 11 from 1-2:30 p.m. EPIC YOGA donated studio space for the event, and neighboring business JRINK will offer free samples of their cold-pressed juices, as well as a 10% discount off their products. Stay tuned for registration information!

Make That Money, Money, Money

Here’s Michael warming up those biceps before thirsty guests arrive!

I am jittery with excitement as I write this post! Last night, my mom and brother held Team Do It For David’s first fundraising event. Their Martini and Jewelry Party featured summer-inspired, hand-crafted cocktails, and showcased jewelry from local New Jersey business Jersey Shore Sea Glass Carvings. Between jewelry sales and donations, $541 was raised for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS)!

Jersey Shore Sea Glass Carvings owner Ellie Nicholas shared, “I got to be a part of a fundraiser last night to help battle blood cancer and support LLS, Team Do It For David, and the ever lovely Skudera family. What an honor and a privilege to share in a night of love, support, and brave determination. To all who attended and purchased Jersey Shore Sea Glass Carvings…from the bottom of my heart…I thank you!”

Thanks to everyone’s generosity last night, we are inching closer to our $6,000 fundraising goal. Did you know that 78% of every dollar goes toward blood cancer research and LLS patient education? That speaks volume about LLS as an organization, and I’m thrilled that so many friends and family members support this mission.

GO TEAM!!!!!

Tuesday Training Tip: Let’s Talk Feet

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After seeing a particularly gnarly Runner’s World slideshow of ugly runner’s feet, I thought it would be a good idea to talk about runner’s feet and how to a) not get them and b) treat them if you have them.

I’m no expert in foot health, so if you have a serious foot problem, definitely see a podiatrist. The following tips are meant to help remedy or prevent common runner’s feet problems — from blisters to black toenails. Oh, and if you’re eating right now, I suggest you stop unless the word “puss” or “toe jam” doesn’t make you nauseous.

WEAR PROPER SHOES
To prevent a lot of common foot problems, make sure you’re wearing the proper shoes. I know you’ve probably heard this before, but it’s the real deal. Wearing ill-fitting shoes can cause blisters, black toe nails, and foot and knee pain. Also, if you’re an overpronator, you’ll need different shoes than someone who is a neutral runner. The best place to start looking for and getting shoes is a specialty running store. You’re running style and foot type will be evaluated, and from there you can find the shoes most appropriate for you.

PRACTICE SELF-MYOFASCIAL RELEASE (FOAM ROLLING)
It’s hard to foam roll feet, so instead you can use a tennis ball or a Yoga Tune Up ball. All you really need is 10-15 minutes, and you can do this before and after a run. Learn how to release tension in your feet in this 5-minute video.

TREATING BLISTERS
“Should I pop this blister?”

That’s something all runners deal with eventually. Blisters hurt and they can stick around for awhile. So, is it better to drain them or let them be? I typically drain them, and I know this may make some cringe in horror. For me, draining a blister gives me immediate relief and allows me to continue my active lifestyle.

Many will tell you to leave blisters alone because of the risk of infection. I have yet to have an infection from popping a blister, but that’s a risk I take. If you’re going to pop one, make sure you sterilize your needle, and the blister and surrounding area. You want to puncture the blister’s dead, hard skin. The fluid inside may drain quickly on its own, or you may need to help it along by squeezing the blister. Do not puncture the healthy skin — that is how infections start. Do a little research and see what you’re comfortable with.

BLACK TOENAILS
Ah, the attractive black toenail. Every runner will get at least one in his or her life. I actually got my first one last year! There are a few things that can cause black toenails: too small of a shoe, too small of a sock, and the repetition of your foot sliding forward hundreds of times while you run. For this runner’s injury, it’s really best to do nothing. However, if you do want to release the pressure from under the nail, you should check out Jeff Galloway’s steps for doing so.

DRY, CRUSTY FEET
Yuck. Dry, crusty feet. It’s a thing. How to deal? Invest in a pumice stone and foot cream. You can get both for $10 or less. The best foot cream I have found is Gold Bond Ultimate Softening Foot Cream. Use the pumice stone in the shower and scrub away all that dead skin. Spend some extra time on your heels and on the outside of your big toes. Once you’ve sloughed away all that gnarly-ness, moisturize. If you’re going to bed, you can slip some socks on, but I like to go sock-less and let my feet air out.

NOTE: If your feet are dry, red, and itchy, this could be athlete’s foot (a fungal infection). Dry skin and athlete’s foot have similar symptoms, so if a pumice stone and cream aren’t working, see a podiatrist.

Tuesday Training Tip: Strengthen Those Hips!

I’ve got uneven and weak hips (yes, it’s okay to insert jokes here). This is likely the cause of my running-related injuries. I see a chiropractor, Dr. Moses of Arlington Pain and Rehab, and anyone who knows me knows how I call him my miracle worker. A bit extreme perhaps, but he fixes me up and teaches me how to avoid getting the same injuries over and over again. One area of particular focus has been strengthening my hips, and foam rolling my legs and glutes everyday.

Three days a week I do my hip strengthening exercises, foam roll afterward, and then ice. (I should note that I foam roll almost every day, not just when I perform these exercises.) Below are my exercises, and you can find step-by-step directions for them on Active.com. I do each exercise once and do about 15-20 reps for each. I want to stress something about reps though. If you are struggling or losing form, stop. It does you no good to continue doing reps with tired form.

EXERCISES
Side Leg Raises
Tip: Do not lean back when you lift your leg. Remain in a straight line while you lie on your side. Leaning back allows you to “cheat.”

Bird Dog
Tip: If you practice yoga, this exercise will be familiar to you. Keep your core engaged.

Hip Hikes
Tip: When you drop your hip, keep the one that isn’t dropping in a neutral position.

Single-Leg Bridge
Tip: While on your back, place your arms on the ground with hands facing up. Open your arms into a V-shape and try to keep your shoulders on the ground when you lift up into bridge.

Donkey Kicks
Tip: This move works your glutes too! Remember to keep your core engaged.

Clam Shells (step-by-step not on Active.com)
This move is absolutely killer at targeting your side glutes. Here’s how to properly perform this exercise:

  • Lie on your left side on the floor with your hips and knees bent at a 45-degree angle. Your right leg should be on top of your left, and heels should be together. You can rest your head on an outstretched arm during this exercise.
  • Keep your feet together and raise your right knee to be parallel with your hip. Do not allow your lower leg to come off the floor. Pause for 2 seconds before lowering.
  • Do 15-20 reps and then repeat for other leg.

To learn about different variations of the Clam Shell or the benefits of this exercise, visit Jillian Michael’s website here.

Here’s to happy (and strong) hips!

Image courtesy of www.yogina.cz

Image courtesy of http://www.yogina.cz

Will Run for PB&Js!

I never regret going for a run, and this morning I had to remind myself that when the alarm went off at 4:50 a.m.

It was dark. My bed was comfy. The dog was still asleep.

But today was my first run with the team, and I really wanted to meet my coaches and teammates. After hitting the snooze button a few times, I dragged myself out of bed and got dressed in the dark. It was raining and that definitely put a damper on my enthusiasm. I haphazardly threw items into what I call my “S Pack” — a neon green Patagonia backpack that I bring to Saturday trainings. Inside are survival items: BioFreeze, Gu gels, a Glide stick, flip-flops, my travel-sized Stick, a water bottle with a nuun tab inside, sunscreen, deodorant, an extra t-shirt, and millions of other things that get lost in the many pockets of the S Pack.

I arrived at practice around 6:30 a.m. and talked to Mother Nature for awhile. I told her that if she had to make it rain, she could at least make it rain dollar bills instead. I kindly asked that she keep the rain to a minimum and she listened. The rain tapered shortly after I started my run and it remained overcast — perfect running conditions in my opinion.

Today was an 8-miler through downtown D.C., and Coach Chris kept me company. He is the man who will make me faster this year, and I reminded him of that several times during and after our run. Here we are basking in a runner’s high!

Me and Coach Chris downtown at the National Mall

Me and Coach Chris downtown at the National Mall

So, how did the run go? GREAT! Sub-nines the whole time, and that was at my comfortable pace. I was actually very nervous beforehand because I thought that I may re-aggravate the patella tendinitis I have in my right knee, but I didn’t have any problems. I think it’s due to a combination of 8 days of rest and seeing my chiropractor, Dr. Moses, who (in my opinion) literally works miracles on me. I saw him on Thursday, and he taped up my knee and adjusted my hips. He also taught me a new foam rolling technique for the inside of my knee, which I’ve been doing every day since then. A bit painful, but worth it. I’m learning to “love” foam rolling…

Today’s run sort of kickstarted my Saturday routine again. I forgot how much I loved coming home from practice and realizing that it wasn’t even 9:30 a.m. yet! I felt accomplished. Proud. Like a bad ass.

One of my favorite “rituals” of Saturday trainings (aside from the ice baths!) is the PB&J sandwich I eat when I get home. It’s such a treat for me, and I think about it all the way home.

Nom nom! A PB&J sandwich is basically the best reward ever after a morning run!

Nom nom! A PB&J sandwich is basically the best reward ever after a morning run!

In addition to the sandwich, I also have a fruit smoothie with Vega protein and unsweetened almond milk. Those few moments that I take for myself to just be still and refuel are my favorite of the day. Who knew refueling could be such a luscious experience?

What’s next on today’s agenda? Nothing except enjoying this absolutely beautiful day! I deserve it.

Tuesday Training Tip: Taking Breaks Is Okay

When I run, I hate taking breaks. Sometimes I take one because I go out too fast. Other times I take one because my mind gets distracted. No matter the reason, I always feel as if I’ve failed. Thanks to chatting with my friends within the running community, I’ve learned that I’m not alone. Many of them take breaks, and some embrace them as a good thing rather than a negative.

I have a runner/writer friend named Nick who lives in Wisconsin. She’s ran the Chicago Marathon and written about many of her training experiences on her blog, The N Weekly. When I recently approached her about my Tuesday Training Tip segments, she offered up one of her blog posts about taking breaks, mentioning that she used to tie her success to how many times she didn’t stop and base her happiness of a run based on how quickly she could finish. How many of us have done that? How many of us still do?

So, for this week’s training tip, I’d like to remind all of my readers that taking breaks during a run is okay. The only one judging you is you. I hope you’ll read Nick’s blog entry below and realize that as runners, we experience a lot of the same things. What’s important is that we keep moving forward. The finish line is always in front of us, not behind us.


 

A few weeks ago on a mid-week training run I saw a hummingbird. I was at the university where I teach, having run the four miles there and doing some stretching before running the four miles home. Hummingbird came right up to my face and left in an instant, fluttering about the landscaping. The sky shown a soft blue about twenty minutes after sunrise, and there weren’t a lot of cars in the parking lot or people walking past as I practiced some yoga poses that would be rather embarrassing in another time of day.

The hummingbird seemed like a miracle. The morning was the first day this season it was down around 50 degrees for a morning run. A real treat after the humid and sunny runs that I’d suffered through during what seemed like a never-ending JulyAugustSeptember. The bird was moving too fast for me to see what colors it was, but every once in a while I’d catch the sun bouncing off of it in a flash, like a magician vanishing a coin. I immediately thought of Brian Doyle and his piece “Joyas Voladoras” I read ten times a year, which starts with a sinewy contemplation of humming birds–the machine marvel that they are. But the moment was not for sitting and thinking again about the loss of animal and plant diversity, about the limits of a hummingbird heart or the whale’s or our own. It was for a calm before continued forward momentum, it was for the path home to a steamy shower and a long day’s work.

***

I’ve come to really love the breaks that marathon training has necessitated into my runs. When I first got back into running, in graduate school, it was merely a cheap form of exercise. But I took pride in jogging down Connecticut Avenue to the Van Ness Metro stop and then back up the long hill toward home. At about a three-mile round trip path, it got me out and working on hills and speed four to five times a week. I realized that even when I started not to need the two to three breaks at different stoplights I’d inevitably hit, I always felt really strong afterward. But I started feeling like I was cheating. Like it mattered more that I didn’t stop at all. Once I progressed to a certain level of tolerance and boredom for the course, I moved on. And I moved, literally, away from Conn Ave a few miles away on the other side of the red line. My new apartment was near Rock Creek Park where stoplights are very few and far between. I spent a good two years perfecting my hill work and my no-stop running routine. Before I moved to New York, my weekend long runs consisted of forty-five minute outs and forty-minute backs, always pressing myself to keep increasing my speed. I never carried hydration and my skin was a salt-lick every Saturday morning. I didn’t let myself stop for anything once I left until I returned. And then I started running races.

When I ran my first half-marathon, I trained alone, and I ran alone. It was hard. I signed up to be a part of a charity group, but a month or so in, I dropped out. I worked until midnight on Friday nights and could rarely get up early to meet the group for runs on Saturday mornings. But I kept up with the training plan they had sent me, working it into my weird late-early-late-early-LATE work week schedule. And I never once, in all of those first months of running longer distances than I had ever run, I never once thought stopping to walk or stretch was a good thing. I only allowed myself those weaknesses when I felt utterly vanquished. And so, on half-marathon-the-first day, I ran until my pace got as slow as a walk and then kept running. Eventually, around mile 12 I realized that if I started walking, I’d probably be going faster. So I started walking. For two minutes. It felt glorious. My body thanked me with everything it had to give, and then I made it give some more. I started to jog the last mile of the longest race of my life–seriously, up to this point I’ve never been out on a race course for as long as 2:36–and my body hated me. It didn’t understand why I needed to keep going. It complained and continued to complain long after I’d finished the race. While I was glad that I shuffled across that finish line in my body’s closest pantomime of a jog, I wasn’t having very much fun.

I’ve run four more half-marathons since, and haven’t felt nearly as bad or needed to walk as desperately as I did that first time. In fact, I didn’t stop at all for two of them. And I felt great afterward. Not stopping had always been the unstated rule, the goal above only finishing and underneath the goal of personal record. I was training as much to beat myself as I was to ensure that I wouldn’t need to stop or walk or stretch in order to finish.

The marathon has changed all of this though, for now. The goal is to finish, there is no personal record recorded, and stops are a health-conscious must.

These past few years running Ragnar Relays and training with people of different endurances and speeds has made stops more common and natural, even if my personal solo-running was still non-stop. But when I signed up to run the marathon with Jean and Drew, I signed up to run with a group, to train with a group, and to get stronger as a group. It was different. It is different. I am slower than I’ve ever been. And while some days, especially when the training run is not very long at all, I feel like I’ve forgotten how to run fast, I also have to admit to myself that I am happier than I’ve ever been. I’ve never had so much joy running alone as I’ve had training for this marathon. And while my running partners are a huge part of that, I’ve been slowly realizing that my perception has changed. I used to run past people who were walking, only to later have them jaunt quickly past me, and then walk again as I kept my stoic pace. This would happen about eight or ten times in a half marathon. I would think why on earth would you do that if you could get the same results by just powering through?  I used to tie my success to how many times I didn’t stop to walk when I wanted to. I used to measure my happiness about runs only in the time and speed it took me to get to the end. Maybe someday that version of me will come back, but as I prepare these final three days before the Bank of America Chicago Marathon 2013, I am deeply aware that time and speed are minuscule on Sunday. I’ve been training with stops every four miles to two miles. I’ve been completing the routes, crossing off the miles, and taking my sweet time to stretch and hydrate and eat something regularly while out on a long run. I can’t believe I was ever doing this the hard way.

***

As I watched the bird flit from species to species in the plant bed lining the theatre of the school for a few moments longer than I would have stayed otherwise before setting my eyes toward home and hitting “continue” on my watch, I realized that I was not a hummingbird anymore, a pedigree who needs to keep moving to stay alive. With those five minutes of yoga behind me like a big red dot on my GPS map, I didn’t know then I would run my last few miles of the day faster than I’d run all summer, with more joy in my heart.