Pool Function

I really should’ve taken a picture of myself after the pool function this morning.  It would fully illustrate the killer workout through which I suffered.

A pool function is an event at which trained Marines put Marine Corps applicants and candidates through their paces.  They yell at us (I sometimes yell back, which you’re not supposed to do), harry us, generally abuse us, and ultimately enjoy our struggle.  Pool functions vary in nature.  This morning, it was a two and a half hour workout down at 31st Street Beach in 22* weather.  Don’t worry – none of us were cold.

I learned a lot about where my strengths and weaknesses are.  For example, I’m still not running as fast as I should (although, in fairness, I was running on wet, churned up sand this morning, rather than a nice flat surface.  Seriously, they keep moving the bar on me.)  But I killed all the ab exercises.  Now that I’m feeling a deep muscle burn everywhere and my legs complain loudly at stairs, I’m going to recommend a few of my favorite exercises from this morning.  (Running on sand is not one of them – I  immediately rolled my right ankle badly since I was running in running shoes rather than boots, which means I had to sit out a few of the exercises, like the fireman’s carry, because I couldn’t do them.  I’m only kind of sorry.)

1.) Push-ups 2.0:  Rather than starting with your arms straight and lowering yourself to the floor, you start on the floor with your hands off the ground.  You raise yourself up until your arms are straight, and then back down so you’re laying your belly.  Then you lift your hands off the ground, so you’re really laying flat, and that’s one.  We did the following: one minute on, ten seconds off for six minutes.  (No, I can’t feel my arms)

2.) Backward lunges: Start with your feet shoulders’ width apart, hands on your hips.  Then step back with one foot and bend until your knee touches the ground.  Lift yourself back up, and step your feet together again.  Then alternate feet.

3.) Flutter kicks: lay on your back, hands under your butt, straighten your legs, and raise your feet six inches into the air (always keeping your legs straight).  Then raise one foot higher than the other, quickly, for 30 seconds.

4.) Sideways planks: It’s what you think it is.  Lay on your side on one elbow.  Then raise yourself up off the ground until your elbow and your feet are supporting your entire body.

5.) Squats: put your arms straight out in front of you and place your feet shoulders’ width apart.  Then squat down until your knees reach a 90* angle.  Actually, when we did our first set of these, I was squatting all the way down like we did in dance, but apparently a Marine Corps squat is only partway down.  Trust me, either one is a good workout if you do enough.

We also did a number of crawling exercises through the sand, which is how I got so dirty.  I was covered head to toe in sandy grit, and I got lots of funny looks on the bus from all the nicely groomed folks going to Saturday brunch.  I dumped approximately 2 cups of sand out of my shoes when I got home. The reasons I like all of these exercises so much are that (1) you don’t need a gym, and (2) they’re all designed to use your own body weight to make you stronger.  I’m pretty convinced that doing lat pull-downs on a machine is not as hard as doing pull-ups, so I like these bodyweight workouts.

What are your favorite exercises?

 

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Lent

I have given some thought to what I should give up for Lent.  But everybody seems to be giving up food, and I feel like I’ve already given up plenty of food.  After all, I’m a vegan.  You want me to give up tortilla chips, too, my last bastion of snackery?**  Nope.

But then I remembered my religion classes from elementary school: I could DO something every day rather than SACRIFICE something.  After all, this will instill discipline, too.

So here’s my Lenten promise: I will run every day.  Not just exercise, not just stretch or do an ab work-out, but run.  I’ll keep you updated on my observation of this stricture.

This corresponds well with an article I read this morning about your brain and exercise.  The research is still in very early stages, but it states that the brain runs on glycogen and suggests that exercise definitively makes your brain sharper and more alert.

**(Actually, I considered giving up chips, but I already ate some for breakfast.)

Valentine’s Day Gifts

Need a cool Valentine’s Day gift for a cool runner in your life this chilly February?  Consider Yak Trax.  They’re these interesting things that strap onto your shoes and allow you to run on ice and packed down snow.  The traction is key to successful winter runs.

{Image from http://www.yaktrax.com}

If you’re like me and you hate running on treadmills in gyms with comfortable temperatures, but you love running outside in brutal wind and icy roads, then Yak Trax are for you.  My chapped skin thanks them.

Fun Facts

Just some nutrition information for your Sunday reading enjoyment: the amount of sugar in food expressed in sugar cubes.

{Image from http://imgur.com/gallery/rKwc6}

PS-I’m in the midst of perfecting a vegan chocolate chip cookie recipe.  I made a batch this week that were passable, but not good enough to share with you, dear readers.  And I’m ignoring any recipes that have weird ingredients because you know how I hate to buy weird ingredients because I resent it.  I promise I’ll share soon!

Klutz

Perhaps a better word would be “injury-prone.”  In the past year or so, I have accumulated enough stupid, niggling injuries to make me wonder how anyone ever makes it through a track season.  They aren’t serious or surgical, but they are painful and irritating.  And the fact is, it’s not like I’m training for a marathon, folks.  I’m starting to believe that I evolved to be a sedentary being.  I’m worried that I’ll never be the runner I want to be.

Today, the NYTimes posted an article saying that more than half of all runners, male or female, competitive or otherwise, become injured every year.  I guess I’m not alone, and I’m taking comfort in other people’s injury.

The focus of today’s post is a study done at Harvard on the foot and its relation to running injuries.  The focus group consisted of 52 of the college’s cross-country runners.  This study found that 59% of the Harvard running teams were consistently heel-strikers and 31% were fore-foot-strikers (a different article from 2004 points out that not everyone is primarily one kind of striker or another because of terrain, speed, fatigue, etc).  Approximately 74% of the runners studied experience a moderate to severe injury each year.  However, of that number, those who were routinely heel-strikers experienced twice the rate of repetitive stress injuries than their forefoot-striking teammates.  I’ll stress that again – those numbers pertain to repetitive stress injuries.  There was no significant difference found in traumatic injury rates between the two groups.

The study concluded that all competitive distance runners incur high injury rates, but runners who primarily heel-strike have significantly higher rates of repetitive stress injury than those who strike with their forefoot.

The study also pointed out the need for further study, specifically the hypothesis that the absence of marked impact in the forefoot strike contributes to lower rates of injuries in habitual forefoot strikers.

The study’s authors highlighted two important things: (1) their study did not examine or promote barefoot running in any way, and (2) if you’re not getting hurt with your current stride, don’t change your form.

Finally, they have a word of advice for those who do want to change to a forefoot strike: start slowly.  Mr. Daoud suggested that one land on the ball of one’s foot for only the last five minutes of the run and gradually work up to longer periods of forefoot landings.  Mr. Daoud used his own injury as proof: he broke a metatarsal while running his first marathon on his forefeet because he transitioned too quickly.

Body-building

I recently embarked on a diet designed by a body-builder.  It’s aimed at maintaining muscle and focused on fat loss only.  More diets should be like this – I can already see greater definition in my abs.  It’s day 5.  Anyway, this particularly diet has sparked my interest in vegan body-building.

The NYTimes just posted an article about this growing niche in the competitive world of body-building.  It just goes to show that you can get enough protein, build muscle mass, and see muscle definition without eating animal proteins.  Some do it out of environmental or animal concerns, and some do it to rebel against the rampant steroid culture that exists among gym rats.  Any of those reasons are groovy, but I tend to relate most to those who want to achieve results naturally.  As I stated the other day, supplements freak me out.  I guess I’m learning to accept vitamins, but some of the stuff you can get at GNC or The Vitamin Shoppe is terrifying.

Don’t believe me?  Try it for yourself.

Fun fact: my brown rice protein powder has only 3 ingredients and dissolves in liquid WAY better than any whey protein I’ve ever tried.

Vits

I’ve always had a hard time accepting that I should consume things besides food.  To me, it seems like a caveman ate food, so I should eat food.  Also, I seem to be in a constant battle with my body, and I really want it to suck up and just perform properly.  However, the last few months have forced me to concede that these are irrational views.  Mind over matter only goes so far, my friends.

Specifically, I’ve been suffering from a lot of muscle cramping.  At first I ignored it, but it worsened to the point that I couldn’t walk down stairs because my calves were so tight.  I stopped running, I stopped wearing heels, I stretched daily, I drank gallons of water, but nothing seemed to work.  One expert suggested I eat more bananas.  So I ate bananas, but apparently potassium wasn’t my problem.  Another expert saw me try to run, and she suggested that I wasn’t consuming enough salt.  I took this opportunity to eat more French fries, but it didn’t seem to solve the problem.  Finally, a sports med doctor opined that I was Vitamin D-deficient.

At first, I was afraid she was going to tell me to give up my veganism; I worried that my deficiencies came from an inbalance in my diet and a lack of nutritional understanding.  However, she explained that 75% of all people who live in Chicago are Vitamin D-deficient because we never see the sun.  I began taking 2000 units a day of Vitamin D, and 1000 units of B12 (which IS actually in response to my veganism), and my problem was solved within 2 weeks!

And so, I am ushering in the age of supplements!

However, it’s a murky, dark area to many.  And I’m no nutrition expert . . . which is likely why I have this problem.  So I wanted to point out that there are few things of which one should be aware: water is good for your body, you can easily eat at least one banana a day in order to get all the potassium you need, salt is not the enemy – those who exercise a lot are sweating much of it out, and Vitamin D is integral for muscle function.

What vitamins do you take?