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Form and Cadence – Guest Post

I know this is blasphemous to say, but I’m sad that it is Friday. This means my vacation is coming to a close and I’ll have to return to reality soon. Hope you are all having a marvelous week and I’ll be back with you on Sunday. Until then, meet my awesome Ohio-an friend Sarah. I’m sad I was only able to brunch with her once, but I’m sure she’ll find an excuse to visit me in California.

Hi The Running Jewess readers! I was super flattered (and kind of confused) when Michelle asked me to do this. I blog over at Running onWords where I blather on about training and way too much information about my personal life.

So when decided what to write about, I had so many options.  I’m a PhD student, so I considered graduate school, but I didn’t want to scare Michelle now that she’s already committed.  I thought about just putting together my favorite Jewish mother stories, but really, if you’ve met one Jewish mother, you’ve got the general idea.  Then I realized we are both running bloggers, so I figured she probably meant for me to write something about that.  I know, you are all incredibly impressed with my brilliance.

Anyways, getting back on track here, Michelle asked me to talk to you all about what I’ve learned recently about good running form.

I went to a clinic a few weeks ago with Ian Adamson from Newton Running. Newton Running makes running shoes that encourage a “natural running stride.”  Ok, that’s nice, but I thought running was natural?  Apparently not, because according to a lot of the new books (Chi Running, Born to Run, etc), most of us are doing it wrong.

Well then, oops.

So, what should we do?

Well, according to Ian, natural running is NOT heel striking.  The amount of padding in modern running shoes has allowed us to become heel strikers. If you take your shoes off and try running on something hard, you’ll notice that you start landing on the mid-foot. If you tried this at home and still landed on your heel, you probably hurt yourself.  Sorry about that.

It's really hard to stop mid-foot striking

Ian suggested that we spend as much time barefoot as possible.  If you can’t be barefoot (or if you are germphobe like me), he actually recommended flat shoes like flip flops and no shoes with a raised heel (your running shoes most likely have a raised heel, I’m not just talking about those g-dforsaken dress shoes we try to force our feet in to).  This will, according to Ian, condition your Achilles and plantar fascia to be stronger and support you better.

Another step Ian recommends is focusing on keeping your feet aligned forward even when you are just relaxing. When you run with your feet turned out, you torque your hips and knees, which equals pain.  Training our muscles to align correctly will hopefully carry over to running and prevent injury.  He also taught us balancing drills and other strengthening techniques.

Right, well if I haven’t bored you off, let’s talk about how this actually applies. I’ve been focusing on mid-foot striking and keeping my feet straight forward. I also have started working on cadence (how quickly I pick up my feet). The recommended cadence for a runner is 180 footstrikes per minute.  This quicker cadence forces me to take smaller steps but move my feet a lot faster and takes a lot of the pressure off of my legs (they feel much more relaxed).

I shaved a full minute and a half off of my fastest mile doing this.  My 5K PR is almost 2 minutes faster than a month earlier despite the increased heat and humidity. And that’s assuming I only managed to maintain good form about half the time because it is REALLY difficult to teach muscles new tricks.

Thinking about cadence is a pain and I sometimes fail on the mid-foot striking, but I know with practice, I’m totally going to be the next Kara Goucher.

Or at least get under a 35 minutes 5K PR and a new half marathon PR. Even when I’m fast I’m be a little slow. Hey, I may be slow, but I’m still lapping everyone on the couch!

Sarah after an awesome race

Questions?  I’ll try to check back and answer any you leave below!
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Do I qualify?

A few weeks ago I was out at a festival when I ran into a friend and her mother. I was clad in a tank top and jean skirt (it was hot out) and working on getting a nice burn (sunscreen, I should learn to wear it). Somehow it was brought up that I ran my first marathon and am planning to run another. At this point I noticed my friend’s mother. She was looking me up and down with an odd look on her face. She was judging me. Hard core.

No, I’m not the smallest individual out there. I run next to plenty of women who are 30+ pounds lighter than me and this is something I’ve always struggled with. I’m not particularly quick and I don’t have the physique of a runner. So, should I be allowed to identify as a “runner”?

Now this is something that I struggle with frequently. I will never have that skinny runners body. Non-existent thighs and flat chested?  Yeah right. When I watch others running around me, this is something I always look at.

That and their form. I constantly check people out as I drive by to see their body positioning. Are they over striding? Heel striking? Arms flailing? Does proper body movement make someone a runner? If so, then I don’t qualify on that account either. Although I will admit mine is getting better, I’m more aware of my high arms and make an effort to relax my shoulders.

And then there is the speed debacle. In college, when I was training for 5ks (on a dreadmill), I was able to keep up a much faster pace. I set a 5k PR senior year of college and haven’t come close since. I’ll never qualify for the Boston Marathon (thank goodness I finagled my way in this year), but I’d like to see myself improve.

So what am I? Who knows. For the time being I plan to keep getting out there and doing my thing. People are bound to judge me for it, but such is life.

What about you, are you a runner? What do you think characterizes a runner?

Boob Job

It was seven years ago today (well, yesterday) that I took the plunge and went under the knife. When I tell most people that I’ve had a “boob job”, they assume I got implants. The girls are still rather large and I always make sure they look their best. But I didn’t increase them. I was sixteen years old when I underwent breast reduction surgery.

Let’s be serious, any type of plastic surgery is risky and especially for a young girl. I was unhappy, I didn’t know what I wanted I just knew I didn’t want them. I went into the surgery not knowing the outcome or how I’d feel. I’ll be honest, I never knew what the recovery process would be like.

Waking up from the surgery I was loopy and in pain. I couldn’t look at them for quite a while (showering was not a fun process). It took several weeks for me to become remotely comfortable with what I had done.

Seven years later and I can honestly say I’d do it again.  This time I’d be less naive; ask the surgeon for a smaller set and make sure to douse them daily with Vitamin E to diminish the scars. Some days I’m still not overjoyed with how they look, but I know I made this decision for a reason. I can comfortably run with one sports bra, I can wear most tops without buying up a size, and I can find a bra without going to a specialty store.

Cosmetic surgery isn’t for everyone. I suggest researching extensively before making an appointment with a plastic surgeon. And most importantly, make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons (I’m still uncertain if I did).

On a lighter note, I had a lovely day with my family and friends. Yes, we ate a bit much, but these things happen. I leave you with this cuteness:

Mardi & his new toy pterodactyl

Have you ever considered going under the knife? What would make or break your decision?

My beloved Fiona

I don’t know what I would do without you!

Today a few lovely ladies on the twittersphere were discussing product sizing, especially for us that are more endowed. Finding an appropriate sports bra has always been difficult for me, I remember wearing two bras just to get through a workout. It was miserable.

At some point (seven or so years ago) someone introduced me to the “Last Resort” bra. What a name. Personally I like to call it my “dominatrix” bra. With hooks up the entire front I felt kinky every time I put it on. My friends found it quite entertaining, I think they were jealous. And since I had no other options, I wore it constantly until I was able to put on a slightly smaller brassiere.

Even when I decreased in size, I still had some trouble determining which bra would be most effective. I went through some dreadful cotton bras that I found in big box stores, but  I bounced in them and that just isn’t pleasant (you know what I’m talking about). And then one day I was perusing Title 9 when I saw her, my Moving Comfort Fiona.  It had four plus dumbbells, it had to work! I ran out and purchased one to test. I jumped up and down, I ran jogged on the treadmill, I attempted to jiggle as much as possible. In the end it didn’t make me feel like I was about to hit myself in the face. Success! Since then I have purchased nearly a dozen Fiona’s in varying colors. When I found out that Moving Comfort made a racerback in my size I was ecstatic. Do you know how many cute tops I had been missing out on for all these years?! At the moment I only own one Juno, but it is on my wishlist for this summer (did I mention my birthday is coming up?).

So tell me – What sports bra works best for your girls? What athletic brands fit you the best?

Monkeying Around

It was absolutely gorgeous out yesterday afternoon so, after a ridiculously tough P90X workout, I dragged my friend out to dinner. We sat on the patio at a fabulous Indian restaurant in the area, enjoyed the weather, and devoured the food (it is that good). I told  myself at the beginning of the meal that I was going to eat half and take the remainder home for today’s lunch. It took some self control, but I managed to stop myself and now I’ll have a hefty lunch. And ya know what, I was perfectly satiated with that.

After dinner we decided it was too gorgeous to return home. We walked around the area, taking in the sun (at 9pm, how is it out that late?!). There is a new frozen yogurt joint that just opened, we perused inside, tasted a few flavors, and I left happy with the three small samples I tried. I had no desire to consume more, which was odd seeing how I love dessert a bit too much.

As we were nearing my friend’s car, I realized nothing would be better than to play on the jungle gym. We climbed up the random “stairs” and I slid down an enclosed, twisting slide. (I only got stuck a teensy bit.) Of course I wanted to be hard core, so I decided to climb up a slide. Boy was that a nice little workout. There were monkey bars, not the typical straight set, but a circular arrangement. Trying to swing from one rung to the next I realized that my upper body strength isn’t remotely close to what it was in my youth. Wow. I’ll have to get back to my pull up bar and try to remedy that.

And before we left I had the great idea to try the even narrower enclosed and twisting slide. Foolish me. Tucking my knees into my chest, I scooched down to the bottom. It wasn’t pretty. My dismount was not at all graceful, I managed to hit my head a few times on the edge before righting myself. Then I felt it, the twinge of pain running up my back into my neck. Oh crap, what have I done? My simple, childish fun has led me to injury. Turning my neck to the right? I won’t be doing that for a few days. Sleeping was a chore, I couldn’t fall asleep and I woke up several times throughout the night due to the pain. I’m not sure what I’ve done, but I hope it will simply disappear in the next few days (or hours). Did I mention it really ruined my push-ups this morning? What is a girl to do?

How do you do it? Enjoy the gorgeous weather that is. Not injure yourself. Hopefully we can all learn from my foolish adventures and avoid unnecessary injury.