Should You Try to Improve or Change Your Running Form?

Jannine Myers

My oldest daughter came to visit a couple of weeks ago, and during one of our many conversations we talked a little about running. She works part-time at a fitness center on her university campus, and one day while running on one of the treadmills at her work, a fellow co-worker (and running coach/instructor) corrected her running form. My daughter said she was a little surprised – since she had been feeling great while running – but she took his advice anyway and attempted to apply his recommendations.

I’ve often wondered about running form, and how important it is in the big scheme of things. A couple of years ago when I was training for the 2014 Boston Marathon, I followed a training program prescribed by New Zealand running coach, Barry Magee. Barry’s training plan and tips were great, but I remember feeling a little skeptical when he assured me that my natural tendency to heel-strike was perfectly okay. I had been told on two previous occasions by different running gait analysts that I should try to improve my form by becoming a mid or forefoot striker; so confusing!!!

With so many “experts” and specialists all giving widely different views on which type of foot strike equates to best running form, as well as postural advice, correct arm swing, as well as stride length and frequency, it’s all a bit overwhelming. And yet it comes up in conversations and debate over and over again.

I’ve switched shoe types several times; I’ve tried correcting my exaggerated left arm swing by running with a stick in my hand and thrusting it straight forward instead of across my chest; I’ve tried counting my foot strike; and I’ve tried perfecting my stride length to where it’s neither too short nor too long. Guess what? Nothing has changed. I always end up going back to what feels natural to me, not because I mean to but because anything that doesn’t feel natural is too difficult to stick with.

My left arm always swings across my chest instead of straight forward

My left arm always swings across my chest instead of straight forward

So, do I have any great advice for those of you who are also throughly confused about correct or proper running form? Sadly no. However, I did come across one runner’s thoughts on a social media group page, and his advice made sense to me; he basically said that there are only two scenarios that would warrant an attempt to change running form:

  • 1/ if you are a competitive runner who is not seeing gains in performance, or 2/ you’re a runner who repeatedly suffers from the same injuries. Otherwise, he said, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”.

But that still doesn’t tell us what we need to do If it is broke, i.e. if you feel that your running form is hurting either your performance or your body. So here’s my two cents worth (I never said I had no advice; I said I didn’t have any great advice):

  • Find another sport
  • Reduce either one, or all of the following: training intensity, workout frequency, and overall volume of running
  • Act like you don’t feel any pain and just keep running like you usually do
  • Pull up a bunch of articles on “proper” running form and foot strike, then play Eenie Meenie Miney Mo; whichever article wins is the one you should follow
  • Find someone who legitimately changed their running form and as a result saw improvements in performance or a decrease in injuries; ask them to show you what they did
  • Make room in your budget for regular massage visits and deal with your regular aches and pains that way
  • OR, ignore all of these and chime in to tell us what has worked for you

 

Don’t Take Diet Short Cuts and Expect Long-Term Results

Jannine Myers

In the New York Times best seller, Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell presents the 10,000-Hour rule, explaining that the ability to be great at anything hinges upon the need to devote at least 10,000 hours of practice time (about 90 minutes a day for 20 years) to whatever it is you’re wanting to be great at. Honestly, that’s a little discouraging for most people; the good news is that there are other reports out there that dispute the 10,000-Hour rule and give the average person hope of obtaining at least some degree of proficiency in new areas of learning.

That brings me to the subject of diet and nutrition, and the aspiration of so many women to learn how to lose weight and keep it off. One UK study, conducted by Kevin Dorren, Founder and Head Chef of Diet Chef, suggests that “the average woman diets twice a year, losing 11lbs each time.” If women are dieting twice a year on average, and each time losing 11lbs, the inference is that they keep dieting because they always regain the weight that they lose. Why can’t they keep it off?

In my experience and observations of women trying – and failing – to permanently lose weight, it seems to be largely due to a desire to lose weight quickly and at any cost. In many cases women seek to lose weight for a specific occasion, for example a wedding, a milestone birthday, a summer vacation etc., and so the motivation is there and hence also the likelihood of success. The problem however, is that the kind of diet strategies they employ usually involve either drastic calorie reduction or significant deprivation of some sort; these types of overly restrictive diets are simply not sustainable and eventually fail.

Getting back to the 10,000-Hour rule……… getting good at losing weight and keeping it off won’t cost you a “20-year” learning sacrifice, but at the same time you can’t expect to enjoy long-term weight loss by using extreme and unsustainable methods. Permanent and healthy weight loss is only achieved through improved and non-restrictive lifestyle habits; habits that are practiced over and over until the brain and body is conditioned to do them automatically.

If you truly want to get off the “yo-yo dieting” train, you need to stop buying into quick-fix diets and short cuts and start making baby steps towards permanent lifestyle changes. Yes, the changes may be difficult at first and the weight loss might be much slower, but just remember – when you were a baby learning to walk, you didn’t quit the first time you fell over! You kept getting back up and falling back down, and eventually you walked! So, go educate yourself on what habits you need to change and then with the determination of a stumbling baby, endeavor to take daily steps towards those changes.

With time and practice you’ll hopefully achieve your weight loss goals, as well as the type of lifestyle that supports a long-term approach to maintaining a lean and healthy body!

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Spirulina Breakfast Bowl

Jannine Myers

Are you familiar with the health benefits of Spirulina? Spirulina is a natural algae powder that’s impressively rich in protein, antioxidants, B-vitamins, and other nutrients. It’s often recommended to vegetarians because of it’s high protein and natural iron content, and that also makes it a fantastic food source for pregnant women, or for anyone recovering from illness or surgery, and most certainly for female athletes. 

Here’s a super nutritious “Spirulina” breakfast recipe for you to try:

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Ingredients

1 cup fresh blueberries

1 ripe nectarine, pit and skin removed

1/2 cup plain yogurt

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves

Handful almonds

2 tablespoons ground flaxseeds

1 tsp organic spirulina powder

1 tsp vanilla extract

Pinch of sea salt

3 ice cubes (or 1/2 frozen banana if you prefer a slightly sweeter taste)

 

Directions

Throw everything into a blender and pulse to the consistency of a smooth puree. Pour into two serving bowls, add some home-made granola, and top with a little shredded coconut.

[Recipe adapted from PoppiesandPapayas]

Don’t Be A Victim Of Facebook Envy

Jannine Myers

I spoke with a fellow WOOT member last week, and we both talked about our current training routines and how they don’t really reflect any impressive goals or achievements. That got me to thinking about “Facebook envy,” and how easy it is to look at other peoples’ training updates and consequently feel less adequate because you’re not out there doing what they are. If you’re someone who suffers from Facebook envy, I want to encourage you to stop; stop comparing your training – or lack thereof – with your fellow peers.

For me personally, my training is very “casual” at present; no fixed week-to-week workouts planned but more of a “play-it-by-ear” type approach. I’m getting ready to move soon and my focus is less on training and more on spending quality time with close friends and preparing for the move. I’m also not much of a summer-time runner – so running less through the summer months suits me just fine – however the main reason I’m able to feel fairly relaxed about not keeping up with my motivated running friends is because a) I accept that their goals are not my goals, and b) I make sure that despite my reduced mileage, I still maintain a certain degree of fitness.

Don’t allow yourself to be a victim of Facebook envy; remind yourself that you’re on your own training journey. Even if you admire what others are currently doing and wish you were doing the same, get your focus back on you! Ask yourself what you can do to maximize your time and potential given the circumstances that you’re currently in, and then commit to doing exactly that!

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Enjoying trail runs whenever I can and looking forward to my next season of training…..and, choosing not to feel bad because others are enjoying that season right now.

Heartbreaker Race Report by Lauren Thompson

Contributed by Lauren Thompson

On June 4, 2016, WOOT hosted the Heartbreaker race with the option to do a 10, 20, 30, 40, and 50K, up north near Okuma at Yui Yui kingdom. We were warned in the advertisement that it would be a suffer fest. I wasn’t sure what a suffer fest was, but I was drawn towards doing the 30k, getting a heart charm, and running the furthest I have ever ran.

On race day, the weather had just lightened up from three days of hard rain; it was humid but cooler than usual. Registration began at 5:15am; check in was well organized, and WOOT gear was there to purchase. Caroline, Jesse, Anna and others did a wonderful job making people feel welcomed; answering questions and making the event fun. The race brief was at 5:55 and the race began at 6:15.

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The start and finish loop began in front of Family Mart and then there was “The Hill.” Sweet Mother of Science the Hill was steep. It had inclines that were at 12 and 14 percent, 3 miles high and gorgeously green. It took a lot longer than expected to get up the hill, giving plenty of time to soak up the foliage and admire the sweat dripping off my hat. Most of the course I was alone, and surprisingly I enjoyed it. The race was a loop, making it possible to see all the other racers go by.  Racers are the most encouraging people, even when suffering; one of the wonderful reasons why I love the running cult.

This image from Tamara Webb shows the elevation - yikes!

This image from Tamara Webb shows the elevation – yikes!

Lauren running solo uphill

Lauren running solo uphill

Half way up the hill, there was a little fog and a nice breeze. At mile 2 and 4.2 was a popsicle stand. Anna and her girls were passing out the cold sweetness, taking pictures and cheering the runners on. It was a tough incline, but their positivity helped me keep going and feel safe, and the chill of the popsicle in my hand really helped my body cool down. At the very top of the hill was a guy with water and he passed out rubber bands to indicate each time we made it to the top. Never in my life have I worked so hard to earn a rubber band.

Running down the hill was more like flying. The closest race with an intense incline I’ve done was the Shouhashi Half Marathon, but that was not even close. There were a couple of times I had to stop; it was humbling, and I smiled at the challenge and just kept going. My abs and arms certainly were worked going down, and it was obvious that I had not done enough hill training but it felt great. As I was going down hill, I saw my running coach. She road her bike up the hill, cheered, and took pictures of me and the other racers. Very thankful for her support, especially as my family could not come; it calmed my nerves seeing her. As I mentioned before, the race is a loop, bringing me back to the start. Perfect for making a pit stop, filling the Camel Pack with water, ice, or getting more nutrition. Thank you Family Mart.

Towards the end of the race, I was sore, and stupid hot, but another WOOTer drove back in a truck to hand out cold fuel and motivation. It was the iced melon balls that are sold at Family Mart; they tasted amazeballs, perking me up for the rest of the race. After the amazeballs, the sense of gratefulness and accomplishment kicked in. I worked really hard and soon I would reach my goal of running a 30k.

At the finish line there were cheers, a finishing ribbon to run through, my running coach with the glass medal Tamara Webb had made to put on me, and the heartbreaker charm. I knew when I signed up for the Heartbreaker it was going to be an amazing race, and it was, it really was. Not sure what distance I’ll do next year, but I’ll certainly work my calves more to climb and fly down that incredible hill again!

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Massage Track Review

Jannine Myers

I was recently asked to review a product by MassageTrack.com; they sell a full-body self-massage kit that includes what physical therapists might refer to as “self-myofascial release tools.” My initial images of the product, without seeing any pictures or reading a full description, were of rolling pins or sticks – much like the foam rollers and running sticks already out there on the market. But the Massage Track kit is quite unlike anything I have seen, and after viewing a couple of videos and reading other reviews, I was keen to try it.

The package arrived with the following components:

– Neck Track, Body Track, 8 Balls, Netted bags for storage, and a Demonstration Video

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I’ll go ahead and say right off the bat that what I have to say about it is mostly positive, with the exception of one negative, but let me first list all of the pros:

  • The Massage Track is cost-efficient and will save you money in the long-run. It will set you back around $125, but when you consider how much it costs to visit your local massage therapist, you’ll clearly make your money back in no time. It’s nicer of course to have a massage therapist work out all the knots for you, but its also nice to know that in between appointments you can relieve any muscle pain yourself.
  • As a constant sufferer of tight and achy muscles, this product could potentially be the best thing that’s happened to me. I never liked the foam roller I used to own; I was never able to master control over it and figure out how to use it in a way that felt like I was getting results. But with the Massage Track, I can easily position any achy part of my body directly over the massage balls – held securely in place by the body track – and apply exactly the amount of pressure that’s needed; it allows for a preciseness that’s lacking in foam rollers and running sticks.
  • The kit comes with four sets of two balls each, and each set differs in weight allowing for a graduated progression of therapy. In other words, as a beginner, you start with the lightest balls and the least amount of pressure, and slowly work your way up to the heavier balls that provide a deeper and more intense treatment. A greater amount of relief is experienced, since you are required to hold and apply pressure for a certain length of time, as opposed to “rolling” over the area.
  • It’s portable!!! You can take it anywhere; it packs up easily into the netted bags and takes up little room.

With all that said, I have been using the Massage Track all week to reduce pain in my right upper back and shoulder area and also in my right hip and lower back area. I have been doing the recommended 12 second “beginner” holds, and will eventually extend the length of hold time to 60 seconds. For now, 12 seconds is about all I can tolerate, yet it’s all I need to get some temporary but immediate relief. I feel confident that if I can get myself into the habit of using the Massage Track daily, and if I can train myself to become proficient in using it, that it really will make a difference in my overall performance, recovery, and general well-being.

And that leads me to the one negative I mentioned earlier; the only fault I could find with the Massage Track (and it’s not really a product fault, but more of a human fault), is that it may not appeal to athletes like myself who dislike spending additional time on preventative training and therapies. I have a real aversion to stretching, foam rolling, yoga, dynamic warm-ups and cool-downs, and basically anything that forces me to slow down and restore my body; I can’t explain why except that I just don’t enjoy those things the way I enjoy actual training and working out.

However, I do believe that this product will absolutely benefit anyone who, as the website states, wishes to “get great relief from generic aches and pains, treat repetitive strain injury, and accelerate workout recovery.”

For more information on the Massage Track, and where to purchase from, visit their website here. And for a quick video demo, check out this one below that shows how to relieve pain in the upper and lower back:

 

 

 

Re-Creating Cafe Favorites

Jannine Myers

Something I love to do in my free time is to get in my kitchen and re-create some of my favorite cafe meals. It’s always nice going out to eat but it’s also nice to cook my own food and I can usually save a little money at the same time, since one cooking session will typically result in two or three meals.

My latest meal re-creation was taken from the menu at Green Leaf’s Yomitan Cafe; I love their Molokhia Noodle Salad (original Green Leaf version on the top and my re-created version below):

13149973_10156778911470562_1786881234_n   13336199_10156864711120562_1284422151_nThe ingredients were not exactly identical, but the taste was very similar and I’ve since made this cold noodle salad for myself several times. Here’s how I made it – so fast, simple, and delicious:

Ingredients

1 100g package Molokhia noodles (I bought mine from Green Leaf)

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Salad greens – your choice

Carrots and Japanese Daikon, shredded

Alfalfa sprouts

Mixed seeds and dried berries

Sesame Dressing Ingredients:

2 tbsps Vegan Mayonnaise (or your choice of mayonnaise)

1/2 tbsp Tamari Sauce

1/2 tbsps Sesame Oil

1/2 tbsp Rice Vinegar

1/2 tbsp sesame seeds

Dash of organic sugar (optional)

Water (if the consistency is too thick)

 

Directions:

Bring a medium size saucepan of water to the boil, then immerse the noodles and cook for just a few minutes. Drain the noodles and set aside.

Layer your bowl with the salad leaves, noodles, raw shredded vegetables, and top with the seeds and dried berries.

Make your dressing by simply whisking all the ingredients together; add desired amount to your salad. Enjoy :)

 

[Green Leaf also makes a delicious soy taco rice; I didn’t try to duplicate their recipe but I used their idea to make a similar meatless taco rice. Instead of using soy textured protein to make the “ground beef,” I used pulsed and blended cauliflower, walnuts, and hemp seeds. For the full recipe visit my trail running page here]

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Green Leaf soy taco rice on left and my meatless taco rice on the right

Ultimate Direction Women’s Ultra Jacket Review

Jannine Myers

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My latest piece of trail running apparel is the new Ultimate Direction Women’s Ultra Jacket, and I love it! Designed to withstand harsh wet and cold weather conditions, it’s perfect for any mountain ultra race or for day-to-day use during the winter and rainy months. Check out my review below:

For further information, go to Ultimate Directions website and search their Wearable Gear.

With regards to the military discount, here is the reply I received from one of the members of the Customer Support Team: “If any members of your group work in outdoor retail or an emergency/military/firefighter profession we do offer pro-deals. The application for those can be found at the bottom of our website.”

As mentioned in the video above, don’t delay in buying this jacket if you think it’s a piece of trail gear you’d like to own. Ultimate Direction currently has a low volume of inventory and I’m not sure if they will be replacing the jackets once they’re all sold.

Help your Children By Feeding Them Nourishing – Not Harmful – Food

Jannine Myers

In a recent report from the Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity, the authors listed several reasons for the alarming global increase in childhood obesity; these included:

  • biological factors
  • inadequate access to healthy foods
  • a decline in physical activity in schools
  • and the unregulated marketing of fattening foods and non-alcoholic beverages.

Our kids are living in an age where childhood obesity is not going to go away without governments enforcing some major policy changes, but as parents we can help by ensuring that our kids eat reasonably healthy and get enough exercise. In today’s post, I want to share how a nourishing diet can enhance a child’s health, mind, and body. This is the story of a friend’s son, and his recent accomplishments after a forced change in diet.

Haruna’s son Jet is just ten years old, and he recently ran and finished – before the cutoff time – a half marathon. A couple of weeks later he also completed a challenging 10k mud run. While it’s not uncommon to see young kids of Jet’s age participating in running events, it is unusual to see them completing the more difficult adult distances; that made me curious about Jet and his ability to do what many other 10-year olds cannot do.

A couple of years ago, personal circumstances resulted in Haruna taking better control of Jet’s diet, despite his resistance. Haruna says, “Jet always liked meat and less veggies…. and eating pretty much chocolate or anything sweet. He like a lot of sugar.. he’d eat just sugar if he could.”

In an effort to “clean up” Jet’s diet, Haruna stopped buying processed snacks. She used to always have an ample supply in the house but she decided to stop that and only buy snacks on occasion, as a treat. Now, when her son and daughter go shopping with her, she allows them to choose just one snack each, and she no longer takes any home to store in the pantry.

The next step Haruna took in changing Jet’s diet, was to limit his meat intake. In the past she served him meat almost daily, because that’s what he liked and so that’s what she cooked. His meals were typically meat-heavy with just a small side-salad; now he eats more vegetables than meat. That didn’t happen over night, but was instead a gradual process that involved reducing Jet’s meat servings, and introducing him to different kinds of salads and dressings in an effort to make vegetables more appetizing.

Haruna says it was around eight months or so after changing Jet’s diet that she began to observe some noticeable differences in his body. Jet’s exercise routine – since the age of four – had pretty much remained the same, yet Haruna noticed that Jet was leaner and more toned.

In addition to Jet’s physical changes, his stamina and endurance seemed to have improved. Although running is probably in his blood (Haruna runs, and her grandfather has many medals to show for the multiple marathons he has run), Haruna believes that Jet’s weight loss and new diet habits most likely made it easier for him to achieve his half marathon goal. She inferred that his weight loss not only produced a greater level of physical energy, but also an increase in mental energy, as shown by his strong resolve to complete an incredibly tough challenge.

Jet pushing forward at this year's Ayahashi Half Marathon (April 24th 2016)

Jet pushing forward at this year’s Ayahashi Half Marathon (April 24th 2016)

At just 10 years old, Jet completed a half marathon and proudly earned his finisher's certificate!

At just 10 years old, Jet completed a half marathon and proudly earned his finisher’s certificate!

Haruna isn’t sure what Jet’s next race goal will be, but her goal for him is to one day run a full marathon with her! Somehow I can see that happening…..

Jet and his mom Haruna on right - at the Famous Hansen 10k Mud Run April 24th 2017

Jet and his mom Haruna on right – at the Famous Hansen 10k Mud Run April 24th 2017

 The take-away from sharing Haruna and Jet’s story:

  • You can improve your child/ren’s diet – with small but consistent changes. Be patient, and you’ll see that those small changes will eventually produce healthy and strong bodies, and happy and positive minds.

Turning Kid-Favorite Meals into Kid-Healthy Meals

Jannine Myers

Even at the age of 12, my younger daughter is still incredibly picky, but I generally don’t let her eat foods that have no place in our home; i.e. those foods that come in packets and boxes and with ingredient lists a mile long. I do understand however, her frequent cravings for the types of comfort meals that many kids – and even adults – are drawn to. Still, we compromise with such meals and she lets me “re-create” them; in other words, I make them from scratch using the most nutrient-dense ingredients. Last night for example, I made her a healthy version of sloppy joes and received no complaints.

[Note: making these sloppy joes from scratch did cost more because I added fresh vegetables and used organic ground beef, but I’d rather contribute to my child’s health than to a slightly greater spending allowance]

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Ingredients

  • 1 pound organic ground beef
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups no-salt-added tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Shredded cheese
  • Whole-wheat kaiser rolls

Directions

Brown the meat in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat for 5 minutes, breaking up the meat as it cooks. Pour the drippings out of the pan and discard, and set the meat aside. Add the garlic, onion, carrot, and red pepper to the pan (with a little olive oil) and saute for 5 minutes or more, stirring occasionally. Transfer half the vegetables to a blender, and add half the tomato sauce. Pulse into a puree and pour into a jug or small bowl. Do the same with the remaining vegetables and tomato sauce. Return the meat to the pan, along with the pureed vegetable sauce, and all remaining ingredients. Bring back to a boil over medium heat, and then simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Serve over toasted bread rolls, with a little melted cheese and a side of vegetables (I added roasted cauliflower and raw carrots).