Sunday, February 7, 2016

Chillin' Out: My First Month of Cryotherapy and Normatec Recovery

Training lately has been anything but chill-I'm gradually building up mileage, getting faster, and most importantly-feeling stronger with every week that passes.

A typical training week this cycle consists of at least 40 miles per week with a timed interval session on Tuesday (some call them fartleks), a tempo-type run on Friday, and Long Run on Saturday. The rest of the week consists of easy running plus usually one rest day. I start my Spring racing season next Saturday, 2/13 at the LinksRun 5k at Cypresswood Golf Course.

I approach this season genuinely excited and fitter than in years past. Why? Well, I've managed to stay healthier for the most part and can string weeks of training in consistently. My mental state is also different; looking forward to my challenging runs and races this season instead of worrying about when the $#^! would hit the fan again.

This past January, I have seen some of the biggest improvements in my training and have largely felt amazing doing it-of course, the workouts Doug prescribes are plenty hard, but I am responding to them and seem to be showing improvement from week to week. I'm sleeping well, getting massages, eating plenty of good carbohydrates, but my recovery regime recently got a significant boost.

Enter Whole Body Cryotherapy (WBC) and Normatec Compression technology. Nina and Matt at Cryo Wellness Lab in The Woodlands offered me a sponsorship and of course I was willing to give the cryo thing a try. WBC first came onto the scene being utilized for recovery by (ahem) the Nike Oregon Project and over the past few years has become more accessible to amateur athletes as well. For those who still don't know, it's a sauna-type device that is cooled to an extreme low temp (-100 or colder) and the athlete is placed in a hollow enclosure with liquid nitrogen flowing in from the neck-shoulder area down. It's intense, but lasts just 2-3 minutes and you immediately feel good stepping out of the 'cryo tube'.

 I had heard and seen other very accomplished athletes using WBC and Normatec boots (including Oiselle Olympic Trials Marathoner Andrea Duke and triathlete Craig Alexander for starters) and kept thinking how much I wanted to try both out. A typical session for me is 30 minutes within a few hours after my last workout if scheduling allows and I hit the Normatecs first then get in the tube. Different athletes may prefer a different sequence, but I like being squeezed before frozen.

So now I'm a month in of using both modalities at least twice a week (usually after a harder workout) and do notice a significant benefit. Fortunately I had a good month or so with some base under my belt so I could tell a difference between training with an extra recovery stimulus and training without. Before I get into science and stuff, I'll give my observations from month 1 at Cryo:

1. Generally speaking, I feel less 'beat up' on a day-day basis. I feel good at a range of paces and soreness is minimal. This is probably due to less junk in my legs and inflammation.

2. A reduced 'warming up' period on my runs, especially those after workout day. However, I still maintain the paces I am told to for that workout. Gotta train smart, even when you feel good!

3. This one's kinda weird.... I seem more optimistic and my mood is calmer. There are several possible factors at play there. One being an endorphin release from being placed in a chamber with nitrogen pouring in at -250 degrees! So I get endorphins from the challenge of running and the challenging of voluntarily freezing myself!

4. Performance improvement and seeming ability to handle an increasing load. As many readers already know, I've struggled with stringing things together over the past few years. A good example of training benefit is how I ran one workout at 6:29 pace one week and then repeated that workout at 6:15 7 days later.  I found this pretty dang encouraging.
Myself and fellow runner Misty B. getting some compression in.

So what about science? 

Given that use of both apparatus for athletic recovery vs. post-surgery or other medical reasons, research is still in progress. Some debate that there is little to no benefit from the recovery protocols, while others, including articles by Banfi and colleagues (2010) and Lubkowska (2011) show some interesting findings in the reduction of pro-inflammatory cytokines (inflammation markers) after 20 treatments. Normatecs are believed to help circulate lymph and give a massage-like effect; think of them as deep-cleaning systems for your muscles.

Re. the inflammation factor-my understanding is less inflammation equals less muscle soreness and damage and can mean more quality training. Less inflammation also has an effect on mood and a general sense of well-being along with vulnerability to injury. Something to think about.

For me, voluntarily turning into a popsicle has been worth my time and will continue to be a part of my training regime for some time.

Those local to the Woodlands/Houston area, I will be doing a presentation on recovery as a mindset on February 15th at Cryo Wellness is anyone wants to come learn more and check out the Lab.

Thank you Nina, Matt, and the rest of the awesome staff for taking me on!
Making fresh legs. 

Stay the course.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

2015 Recap

This post has the potential to be a LONG one.... But I will not do that to you, or at least try not to... ;)

2015 is a year in my running life that I acrually want to write about-a welcome change from recent years. Every time I think about what transpired this year I just keep coming back to the theme that I was one of the luckiest girls I know. I by all means don't intend to be arrogant in that statement, because seriously I didn't deserve a lot of the cool things I got to experience and do this past year; some of these experiences were more small personal athletic victories, and others were practically ripped from my bucket list. 

In no particular order, here are the highlights of my year in running in blurbs and pictures..Since racing is just part of my athletic endeavours at this stage, I've included a lot more than just results and training numbers; this year I think I fully embraced my "body of work" or contribution to the sport (at least I tried to leave a contribution). Hope your year was epic in it's own way too!

Epic Trips with some epic training.

Me and Jill of 'Run With Jill'! We had a great run at 7500 ft!
#oiselleteam pre-5k in Leavenworth, WA
  • 2 x Colorado: I got the chance to run at altitude not once, but twice. First round was during downtime before hitting the ski slopes in Keystone, CO. The first run was definitely an experience at 8500+ feet up! Over the summer I got to do something I've been wanting to do since I knew anything about training-I went to Boulder. Running around Boulder's well-known routes was a really cool experience and not quite as weird or scary as the ski trip in February. I crossed running storied Magnolia Rd off the list. At least the task of running it for the first time. 
    Well, hello there Mags....
  • Washington: Two words: Bird Camp. Oiselle pulled out all the stops for a fortunate 100 of us on the team and for four days we toured headquarters in Seattle, climbed mountains to an Alpine lake in Leavenworth, ran together, and bonded with athletes of literally all levels. I still haven't quite gotten over the awesomeness of that trip and miss all the women. 
    Me and LF herself!

Sport Psychology Stuff
Bill Rodgers, Coach Doug Storey, and Me at the Marathon Expo in Houston
  • This one went down while at Bird Camp but deserves its own bullet-Day 2 of camp I was slated to do a talk on goal-setting and the mindsets required with one of my personal heroes, Lauren Fleshman. She was very gracious and we seemed to work well together presenting and I didn't even fangirl too much while I was "working"! Surreal career moment for sure. 
  • Speaking at the Houston Marathon Expo was a cool experience. Meeting Bill Rodgers and Meb  there perhaps was even cooler. 

  • Working (& running) with a NCAA Cross Country team. Back in October, I spent a day with the hardworking and incredibly resilient Dallas Baptist crew. It was really nice of them to let an old lady do a long run with them. Projects like this makes what I do rewarding and enjoyable beyond words. 
  • Joining in with the impressive things going down at Team Green Running. Wanna see some class acts tear up the track? Check them out. 

    Talking Mental Game with some future distance stars.  
  • Personally, I noticed a shift in my own mindset this last year. I gave myself permission to take some risks and try new things and by doing so I started to genuinely believe in myself as an athlete again. This I enter 2016 with a stronger  
General Training
  • Yay mileage! I got to build up and more importantly sustain 50 some odd miles per week. Longest run was 15 miles and I regularly did track and tempo-type work each week. 
  • I probably spent the most time training this year than in the past two combined due to better health this year. 
  • Recovery and the 'little things' was front and center this year, and I think it paid off in being able to handle a fairly heavier load this season. 
  • I also trained my mind and did the things I tell my athletes to do. Journaling and visualization seemed to be difference makers, especially visualizing responding differently to mentally weak areas in races. 
  • This past year I also traded my tri bike for a simple roadie with no regrets. I have respect for triathlon and enjoyed racing them, but running's my true sport love and I promised myself if I was healthy enough I'd give it a go exclusively again. 
All spiked up. After I got over the fear of stabbing myself with them! 
  • Cross Country! I was a total late bloomer running my first XC race at age 32, but was so glad I did. I won my first two open events and am not hooked. Who knew jumping hay bales and running through low water crossings would wake up my racing? 
  • 5k goal time. Getting so much closer but didn't pull it off this year. That's okay beacuse I go into '16 in better shape than going into '15. 
  • Winning 3 small races in a row. Winning isnt everything, and I don't have to win to think I ran well, but after not getting a 1st F 'W' in a long time, it was great for the confidence.
  • Races weren't all unicorns and cotton candy last year but that's running. I had a couple literal "meltdowns" out on courses. Literal because I learned that I can be as mentally tough as I want to be, but I am a heat-vulernable athlete. Blame my mesomorphic frame.
  • I put in a total of 9 races this year-not a ton, but more than in the past. Some were treated more as workouts, some all out-you know, just like a good running season should be! 
Sponsorship Stuff
  • Renewed with Honey Stinger yet again and will run for them again in 2016. If you haven't tried their stuff. You need to. Really do. 
  • Oiselle- The Nest has gotten a lot larger over the past year with the Volee expansion and I signed on in Late Summer 2015 to serve as a Team Leader for Texas. Thank goodness there are two more here in the Lone Star State, otherwise my job would be quite stressful! I started a monthly group run in Houston in November and watch for the Bird prescence at the Houston Marathon-it's gonna be a fun one! 
  • Cryo Wellness Lab-a late addition but an important one. Can't y'all tell I'm a freak for recovery?! ;)  
  • First and foremost, have more fun! I notice a direct and strong correlation when I am genuinely enjoying running with how I perform and recover. The studies on positivity don't lie, people!
  • In a phone conversation with my coach before a cross country race back in August, he called me out for selling my ability short. Luckily I listened and ended up winning the race and re-learned how to be hungry and aggressive. 
  • I can have a good season again and can still handle some miles. 
  • A little spontanaeity and even impractical decisions (i.e. galavanting around Colorado in July) is a good thing.
  • Did I already say I was the luckiest average girl in the world?? 

I still am working on exactly what I want to see in 2016, but I have three now that I can share.
  • 1. Get back under that 20-minute mark in the 5k-this is probably done by making the decision to be tough at mile 2 and finding a good course/weather to do so. 
  • 2. Sustain at least 55 miles per week; 5 up from last cycle for at least 4-6 weeks out of season.
  • 3. Compete in the USA Club Cross Country Championships. My plans fell apart in December to go to San Francisco but I imagine I will be fitter, faster, and more competitive in 2016. Bottom line is I need to #womanup and do what is necessary: continue core work, foam roll in the evenings, and believe in myself-that's where all of this comes from anyhow is belief. 

Thank You's 
It's likely I forgot several of you all, but all of you have been integral to keeping me healthy, getting faster, fueled, and well-dressed! 

Hope everyone else has some memorable moments and lessons from 2015. Now that it's all been written out, on to the next one! 

Stay the course. 

Monday, November 30, 2015

Taking on the Uncontrollables

I originally was going to title this post “Adrienne and the Uncontrollables”, but that would have sounded too much like a failed rock group. Anyway…..

“Focus on what you can control”….I tell my athletes this so.many.times. I tell them this because it is the truth- in both sport and life. It isn’t the entire truth, but enough to get you through the especially challenging periods we all go through.

To be frank, I need to tell myself this a lot. A lot a lot (Too many ‘a lot’s’? At least one gets my point). This past week was pretty rough training-wise. Minus the shoelace incident, I have been able to hit almost anything at any time on the training plan. Except this week. It’s one of those inevitable things sometimes.

After doing a pretty solid but deceptively taxing session on the track Tuesday, I had a tempo Turkey Trot on the schedule last week. Cool right? I love this particular race and was looking forward to just cruising along the course like on most years. Let’s just say I woke up to temps in the 70s with humidity of at least 85%. I won’t get started on the Texas weather too much; but I was layered up on the track just 48 hours prior.

I’ll cut to the chase that I wasn’t able to hold the prescribed pace for more than 3 miles on a 5-mile course. I had one of those experiences where your pace and energy seems to go from great to okay to wanting to find a ditch to fall into within a Garmin beep’s time. Get the picture? Okay, good. After fighting off some fleeting embarrassment of my current situation-I was being paced by a college runner who nicely offered to run with me and I didn’t want to waste her time-I did what I could vs. fighting my own ego and some unseasonable conditions and adjusted the pace down. Luckily I haven’t had to have the ego-conditions-reality battle go on in my head in a while, but I digress.

In being my typical honest self on here, I wanted to throw in the towel on this one. Badly (actually, being smacked in the face repeatedly by a wet towel would have almost been preferred here)
But it made sense to me why I was so zapped. Each of us can carry a unique load of things and stressors-both negative AND positive: training, relationships, work, sleep, and everything else that happens in between. In Health Psychology this phenomenon is called Allostatic Load-for those who are curious. Mine for reasons beyond my power, was higher in the past week.

Just a week prior, the ‘in between’ hit me pretty good-in the form of a beer delivery truck hitting the back end of my car. Shaken and with an instantaneous headache and sore back, I walked away with no major issues but whiplashed as all get out (is ‘whiplashed’ a word??). My car, however, didn’t make it. Recovering from the wreck took several days-feeling normal didn’t happen til the following Tuesday. Then I had to buy a car after work, which means a late night after a workout and another afternoon run. Oh yeah, and seeing clients in between.

In the midst of all the uncertainty and planning also on a move and an upcoming holiday, I was just taking things hour by hour. All the craziness and preparations I had to make while trying to hold down normalcy also took a toll on my sleep. Gross.

So while this post may appear to be me feeling all kinds of sorry for myself, it is not. Or at least not my intention anyway. Long story short: stuff happens. Life happens. Crap runs happen-especially when we don’t want them to. But that’s running folks! And besides, even when I don't run the greatest, I still look good rockin the Oiselle kit! 

One of my fabulous runners I consult with sent me this article in an email earlier today (and no, you don't have to be an aspiring pro to get something out of it!;)). I think it is timely for when things don’t always go our way. It’s worth a read and probably more important than this post-you can be the judge and it won’t hurt my feelingsJ

So next time your runs take a hit and you’re not performing how either you planned to do or are capable of doing, cut yourself a break. I believe the other side of ‘mental toughness’ and resilience is not ever underperforming or having a bad day, but taking inventory of factors associated and admitting we are not all-powerful and moving on. Permission to suffer can be a positive thing sometimes and a good learning experience. Believe me, it will get you a whole lot further than the alternative. 

Stay the course.