Saturday, October 31, 2009

Knees, Knees, Woe the Knees

In two recent posts, I shared two main causes of knee pain for runners—Iliotibial Band Syndrome and muscle imbalance. There are a few other culprits that may be worth checking out if you've addressed the other two causes and you're still having problems—overpronation and leg-length discrepancy.

Almost every runner pronates to some degree. This is normal, but when a runner overpronates sometimes it can cause problems. There's a really simple test you can do to determine if you over-pronate. All you need is a brown paper grocery bag, a cotton ball, and some cooking oil. Lay the bag flat on the floor. Using a cotton ball, spread a thin layer of cooking oil on the bottom of both feet (bare). Next, carefully step onto the bag to make a set of footprints. Now examine your prints and compare them to the illustration. If you have a solid print, you're what is known as an overpronator. Ever heard of the term "flat-foot?" That's you. If you have slight curve in the middle of your print, you're neutral. If you have a very significant curve in the middle of your prints, you're a underpronator or supinator.

Now having said all of that, not everyone fits perfectly into a category. For example, I have running friends who have flat feet but have a neutral gate and I have running buddies who have high arches that overpronate. Having a gate analysis done where someone observes your actual running gate is the best method for determining your specific gate. Many local running stores as well as sports medicine doctors can examine your gate and help you determine the best running shoe for you.

If you determine that you do overpronate, make sure you use shoes that offer more anti-pronation features. The key word to look for in the shoe description is "stability." If you've tried stability shoes and still have problems, you may want to consult your sports doc and see if orthodics are in order. The sports doc can also help rule out other knee problems that might be causing the pain.

Another possibility for your knee pain could be leg-length discrepancy (one leg shorter than the other). My good friend Gary has been a runner for many years. But a year or so ago, he started having problems with his knees, especially when he upped his mileage. It got so bad that he had to stop running for a while. He went to his sports doc and discovered he actually had one leg longer than the other.

I did a little research and come-to-find-out leg-length difference is often a factor in knee pain. The reason it's a problem is because your body will try to compensate for the discrepancy. For example, your body may try to flatten the foot, drop the hip, or bend the knee to try and make up for the difference in length—all of which adds pressure on the knee.

Putting an orthodic such as a heel raise in the shoe of the shorter leg may be the answer, but you need to have a sports doc determine the cause of the discrepancy first. The difference in length could be something the person was born with and never really noticed until (like my friend) the mileage was upped and the pressure on the knee got to be too much, resulting in pain. Or, the pain could be due to inflexible hips or pelvic rotation, which is often the reason for leg length differences. If inflexible hips or pelvic rotation is the culprit, the doc may prescribe a series of stretches and/or exercises that may completely correct or dramatically reduce the leg-length difference. When this is done, the over compensation should end and your knee pain should go away.
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Now, a good friend of mine—Josh-the Barefoot Runner—will tell you that shoes in general are the culprit. Shoes do tend to make heel-strikers out of many runners. Heel-striking can jar the body causing lots of problems. You can learn to run with a mid-foot or fore-foot strike to alleviate this problem, but it is a little harder to do in shoes. I'm not a heel-striker and I wear shoes. But, if you're interested, check out my post on Josh and his barefoot running. Many barefoot runners will tell you that a whole host of ailments disappeared when they began barefoot running. Josh had several bouts with ITBS and it completely disappeared once he began barefoot running. So, it's definitely worth checking out and you may find that it's just the answer you've been looking for.

Bottom line. Having knee pain doesn't have to mean the end to your running. Take some time and find the root of your problem. Chances are you may be able to correct it and be back on the road in no time!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Don't Run Due to Knee Pain? Read on!

More than not, the reason a non-runner tells me he doesn't run is due to knee pain. "Oh I'd run, but I have bad knees." "My knees just can't take the pounding." It's not just non-runners, though. Former runners will often say the reason they no longer run is due to "bad knees."

Knee problems are often blamed on the constant pounding that a runner does when running. Each time your foot hits the ground the force exerted is about 6 times your body weight. So, if you weight 175lbs, one foot landing in running is taking on about 1000lbs! That's a lot of force! But you know, Mother Nature is a pretty smart cookie. Weren't we designed to walk and run? Okay, maybe she didn't intend for us to run grueling ultramarathons, but shouldn't we be able to handle running 5-10 miles several times a week? The answer is, "Yes!"

So, why do so many of us have knee problems? Well, the problem usually isn't the knee. Knee pain is usually the end result. Earlier this month, I wrote a post on how a tight ITB (iliotibial band) that runs along the outside of each leg can cause knee pain. Muscle imbalance is another culprit for knee pain.

There are several groups of muscles that support the knee. The two main groups are the quadriceps and the hamstrings. The quads are actually made up of four different muscles—Rectus Femoris, Vastus Lateralis, Vastis Intermedius, and Vastis Medialis. The hamstrings consist of three different muscles—Biceps Femoris, Semitendinosus, and Semimembranosus. Other muscles that help stabilize the knee (but to a lesser degree) include your calf muscles, the hip abductors (outer thigh), the hip adductors (inner thigh), and as mentioned earlier, the iliotibial band.

Okay, that's a lot of muscles with big names and you're wondering how all of that's related to your knee. Well, remember that song you sang in elementary school—"Dem Bones"? You remember
Toe bone connected to the foot bone
Foot bone connected to the leg bone
Leg bone connected to the knee bone...
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Well, your body actually works like that. Nothing in your body really works in isolation, it all works together. But, sometimes there can be an imbalance which will cause other areas to work harder. When this happens, sometimes pain can occur.
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Often knee pain is the result of such an imbalance. Sometimes a runner can have strong hamstrings that overpower his/her weaker quadriceps. When this happens it can cause the patella (knee cap) to be imbalanced resulting in pain. Because the quads are weaker, they're not able to support the knee which can cause the knee cap to twist and pull.
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The opposite can also be true. A runner can have dominant quads which overpower the hamstrings. Your quads are typically stronger than your hamstrings, but they should only be about 25% stronger. Quads that are stronger than this can also cause an imbalance in the support of the knee cap.
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To even further confuse you...you can have an imbalance within your quads. Remember there are 4 different quad muscles. If the inner quad (Vastis Medialis) is stronger, it can pull on the knee cap. If the outer quad (Vastis Lateralis) is stronger, it can pull on the knee cap. Just tight quads in general can also pull the knee towards one side.

So, now that I've fully confused you, what can be done to prevent knee pain. This part isn't as confusing. Just be sure to do a balanced set of quad and hamstring exercises. Runner's don't often go to the gym and when they do, they may hop on the leg extension machine and pop-out a few sets and think that's good. First of all, I don't recommend getting on the leg extension machine. Research has shone that it puts an awful amount or tension and pressure on your knee cap. Your knee's weren't designed to hold that much weight. Think about it. How many times during the course of the day do you naturally extend your knee with 100+ pounds on your feet? Never. The leg extension machine will be adding to your knee pain instead of strengthening your quads.

Exercises good for strengthening your quads and hamstrings include:
Body-weight, barbell, and/or dumbbell squats—a squat is great for strengthening your glutes, hams, and quads. The deeper the squat, the more the hamstring/glutes are targeted. A quarter squat will target more quad.
Body-weight, barbell, and/or dumbbell lunges—lunges are great for strengthening your quads. Lunges can be stationary or you can do walking lunges.
Body-weight, barbell, and/or dumbbell side lunges—side lunges will help strengthen your quads, adductors, glutes, and hamstrings.
Deadlifts—Deadlifts are one of the best exercises for strengthening your quads, adductors, glutes, and hamstrings. Be sure to use proper technique. Stand in front of the barbell. Squat down and grab the bar using an overhand-grip with one hand and an underhanded-grip with the other hand (this provides a nice secure grip). Your hands should be positioned just outside your legs when you squat down. Keeping your back flat and your head up, stand up with the barbell while pulling your shoulders back. Slowly return the barbell back to the floor, still keeping a straight back and head up. You don't have to do a ton of weight to get benefits from a deadlift.
Jumpsquats—this simple exercise can be done with just your body weight or you can hold a medicine ball to raise the difficulty level. To do a jumpsquat, simply descend until your thighs are parallel with the floor, then immediately fire upward using your thighs and calf muscles to jump off the floor. Upon landing, immediately go into your next jump. Try doing 3 sets of 15.
Stability ball leg curls—this looks really simple, but beware! They are killer for your hamstrings! Simply lie on your back (on a mat) with legs extended and your heels resting on top of a stability ball. Your hands should be beside you resting on the floor. Use your heels to pull the ball toward your buttocks. The ball will roll from your heels to the bottom of your feet. Then slowly extend your legs and return the ball to starting position. Try doing 3 sets of 12 reps.

These are just a few of the many exercises that target your hamstrings and quads. The key is balance. If you do an exercise that targets the quads, follow it up with a hamstring exercise. It's also a good idea to have a personal trainer or your running/workout buddy check to make sure that you're using proper technique when doing these exercises, especially the squats and lunges. A key thing to look for when doing a squat or lunge is that your knee does not go past your toe during the squat/lunge. Also, stand in front of your buddy while he/she does a body-weight squat. Check to make sure his/her knee (one or both) is not turning inward during the squat (this is called Valgus Knee). The knee should remain neutral. Also check and make sure that his arch isn't collapsing inward. This inward motion of the arch or knee needs to be addressed before continuing with your squats. A personal trainer can help you correct this. Proper technique is very important with these exercises.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

New Contest! Enter Drawing for a Free Pair of New Balance 905!

RunnerDude's Blog is excited to announce that the wonderful people at New Balance are providing the prize for the next RunnerDude contest! And what a prize it is—a pair of the brand new, soon-to-be-released New Balance 905!

This fall, Boston-based New Balance debuted a premium lightweight stability trainer, the New Balance 905, which can be used for both training and racing. The 905 will launch this January 2010 and retail for $109.95.

The New Balance 905 offers premium support technology including a LockDown Liner™ and an NLOCK® lacing system, which have all been integrated into the upper to provide a custom fit. A TS2 Post provides pronation control and a Stability Web provides lightweight midfoot support. A full ABZORB strobel board provides enhanced cushioning and comfort and ACTEVA® LITE ensures a lightweight and responsive ride. A LIGHTNING DRY PHANTOM LINER™ provides moisture management and blister-free comfort, Ndurance rubber provides long wearing durability and the New Balance SURE LACE™ keeps the shoes tied on race day or during long training runs. The 905 also features 360 degree reflectivity to ensure runner visibility in low-light conditions.

How to Enter:
To enter, simply email RunnerDude at runnerdudeblog@yahoo.com by 11:59PM (EST) Wednesday, November 25th. Be sure to put "New Balance Contest" in the email's subject line and put your name in the body of the email. That's it! Each email will be assigned a different number based on the order that the emails are received. The winning number will be selected by The True Random Number Generator at Random.org . The winner will be announced on Thanksgiving Day, November 26, 2009 "Whatcha" waiting for? Email RunnerDude today!
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New Balance, headquartered in Boston, MA has the following mission: Demonstrating responsible leadership, we build global brands that athletes are proud to wear, associates are proud to create and communities are proud to host. New Balance employs more than 4000 people around the globe, and in 2008 reported worldwide sales of $1.64 billion. For more information about New Balance, please [click here].

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Cure for Cramping in the Hamstrings

Do your hamstrings ever cramp up, lock up, and even feel like you're going to strain them when you speed up on a run? Do they feel fine when you walk, but as soon as you lengthen your stride, you feel pain? Read below to find out what the acclaimed 2008 National Strength and Conditioning Association Personal Trainer of the Year—Ben Greenfield—recommends!

Although there could be many causes, a hamstring problem like this can be an area of hypoxia (low oxygen delivery), calcium leakage, or scar tissue from a past injury.

Initial management for 48-72 hours after feeling this injury come on should involve:
Gentle stretching
10-15 minutes ice massage (i.e. Frozen dixie cup), 2-3x/day
Topical anti-inflammatory (Traumeel is one of my favorites)
Topical magnesium (10-15 sprays rubbed in over area)
Substitution of elliptical trainer for runs

After two to three days, you’d shouldn’t be gritting your teeth when you break out into a jog! Move on to:
Deeper stretching and preferably yoga
Return to running, but with a bicycling or brisk walk warm-up to heat the muscle (you can even try a topical heating ointment, like Greyhound)
Dynamic leg swings front-to-back and side-to-side both before and after workout
Warming up VERY well before your runs

If it continues to give you trouble, you may need more aggressive therapy, like Active Release Therapy, Primal Reflex Release Technique, Chiropractic, Acupuncture or Deep Tissue Massage. (Reposted with permission from my friends at TrainingPeaks blog.)

Ben hosts the highly popular fitness, nutrition and wellness website at http://www.bengreenfieldfitness.com/, which features blogs, podcasts, and product reviews from Ben. In addition to coaching and training for weight loss and sports performance at http://www.pacificfit.net,/, Ben serves as a business and marketing consultant to fitness professionals, and is the host of a weekly syndicated fitness business blog and podcast at http://www.trainfortopdollar.com/.

Monday, October 26, 2009

How Running Changed My Life: Ann's Story

This week's "How Running Changed My Life" posting dovetails perfectly with Saturday's post, "Older Doesn't Mean Slower!" Ann Singer is one amazing lady. In her own words, here's Ann's story.

Although I am called Grannie Annie by many, especially my beautiful granddaughter, Emma, I do have another life.

At age 50, overweight, under exercised, and wondering what I was going to do with the second half of my life until age 100, I decided to start walking. Oh I walked anywhere—to town, to the stores—give me a road and some time and off I would go. Running came later.

One day I asked my very athletic husband if someone so unathletic like myself could ever complete a marathon. He said "Yes!" And so for the next 15 years from age 50 to 65 I started my marathon quest. Thanks to the 50 states marathon club and many running organizations I traveled the country doing a marathon in each state. At age 65 in Maui, HI, I completed the 50 states quest. This November I will attempt my 70th marathon doing the town I love and live in—New York.

Each and every morning as soon as the sun comes up I go out and train. I run 5k's 10k's and Half Marathons to keep in shape. We have a "Swifty Sixties" club of men and women who compete with the New York Road Runner's Team in Central Park once a month. I also do weight training exercise as well as the Bosu and Stability Ball Core training.

My one big fault in life was I started many things, but never completed them. Well I can't say that for my marathons, because unless you cross the finish line you are not counted in the game.

At age 66, I can enjoy my three year old granddaughter to the fullest. Grannie Annie can push a stroller with the best of them—longer and stronger.

May all who read this know that by your diligent training you will ensure a life when you get older that is active, enjoyable and healthy. —Ann Singer, Suffern, New York

Thanks for sharing your story Ann! You Rock! We'll be rooting for you in November!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Thinking of Buying a Treadmill?

Winter is quickly approaching and many of you may be contemplating buying a treadmill. Before you open that wallet, there are a few things to consider—What kind of treadmill do you need? Who will use it? How often will it be used? Do you have enough space in your house to store it?

A runner who is looking for a treadmill for inside running is looking at making quite an investment, so take your time and educate yourself on the various models. You definitely don't want pay $3000 on a treadmill when in fact a $1000 machine is just what you need? Or think you've found a bargain, only for it to break on you after a few uses.

There are various factors you have to consider when selecting a treadmill. For example, the size of the runner. A lighter runner may find that a machine with a less powerful motor will work just fine as well be a little cheaper. A heavier runner (or a family with various-sized runners) may need to look at models with more powerful motors and strong frames.

Belt length, cushion, elevation, speed—these are just a few things that may start to enter a prospective treadmill-buyer's mind. To help you answer these questions and become a more informed buyer, check out RunReviews.com. This site is dedicated to testing and reviewing treadmills. Not only does the site provide you with tips on how to select and buy the best treadmill to suite your needs, it also provides a host of treadmill workouts and exercises.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Older Doesn't Mean Slower!

The big 45 is looming around the corner (about 3 months to be exact). I've always been the youngest in many of the landmark events of my life. I was really young when I got married. Were were young when we had our first child. When I got my first teaching job, I was the youngest on the staff. When I moved into educational publishing, I was one of youngest editor/writers on staff. When I joined my running group, I was one of the youngest.

Guess what?! In a blink of an eye, I'm no longer the youngest. Quite a twist of fate. I'm one of the oldest students in my personal trainer/nutrition consultant certification class. My young whipper-snapper of a workout partner the other day, asked me when I started running. I had to tell him, "Before you were born." That hurt.

It's funny hearing the 18-, 19-, and 20-something-year-olds in the class talk as if when you reach your 40s you're basically washed up. I and the students older than me in the class (in their 50s) quickly correct this thinking. But, it is funny how so many young folk and even some seniors think you're doomed after 40, 50, or 60. These doomsdayers need to meet a group of senior ladies from my church that are some serious walkers. These ladies can book! I dare say they could teach those youngsters a few things.

Well, one thing I've noticed as a runner, is that the competition doesn't get easier as you age. Matter of fact it intensifies! In my 30s, I often placed in my age group. Now that I'm in my 40s it's getting harder and harder to place. And, not because I'm getting slower. Oh contraire...my competition is getting faster! 50+ year-olds running sub 20-minute 5Ks! I'm having to find more and more small-town races with fewer people in order to place. Ha!

My original thinking was that, if you're still running in your 40s and 50s, the fair-weather runners have been weeded out and the ones left are hard-core. That may be a factor, but I ran across some interesting research that says older runners actually pick up speed quicker than younger runners. So, instead of getting slower, in many cases, they're getting faster!

Peter Jokl, M.D., professor of orthopedics, and his co-authors, Paul Sethi, M.D., and Andrew Cooper, all of Yale School of Medicine did a study that showed marathon runners 50 and older, and female athletes in particular, are showing greater improvement in running times than younger runners.

Jokl and his colleagues looked at the running time, age, and gender of all of the runners in the New York City Marathon (415,000 runners total) from 1983 through 1999. In addition they evaluated the performances of the top 50 male and top 50 female finishers by age categories. They classified Master Athletes as those 50 and older.

The study showed that women marathon runners ages 50-59 improved their average race time by 2.08 minutes per year. This was a lot greater than male runners of the same age whose running time improved on average about eight seconds per year. However, older male runners increased their running time at a much greater rate than younger male runners (ages 20-30). The younger runners (male and female) did not significantly improve their running times.

Who had the most significant trends in improved running times? Surprisingly enough, the study showed that the most significant time improvement occurred in the male category age 60-69 and 70-79, and for women ages 50-59 and 60-69. Grandma and Grandpa, you rock!
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[Click here] to check out a post from my blogger friend, Thomas, about how masters ultra runners are getting better with age too!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Another Feet on Head Sighting!?

Ever go for a run to and all you can think about is your hurtin feet? Then maybe you can relate to this cool new video clip!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Move Over Performance Synthetics!

If you've been running as long as I have, you'll remember a time when all there was to run in was 100% cotton—shorts, T-shirts, oh and lets not forget the tube socks! The term "moisture-wicking" had not yet been created. Oh the lovely memories of shirts that felt like they weighed 5lbs heavier and stretched down to your knees from all the water the shirt retained after a run on a hot summer day. Not to mention the chafed nipples! OUCH!!! Oh and don't forget that your shoes felt a few pounds heavier (each foot) from all the sweat your cotton socks had collected.

The dawn of synthetic performance apparel was a godsend. But, nothing's perfect. Ever had a running shirt that after a season of running could stand on it's own from the reeking odor? PEE-YEW! No matter how many times you wash it, that odor just doesn't go away. There are new detergents that help kill the sports-related odor, but that's just an additional purchase and not a cheap one at that.

I've always read never to buy sports/performance clothing that's not made of synthetic materials such as polyester. So, I was a little skeptical when I came upon thriv—a new line of non-synthetic performance clothing.

Driven by the negative experiences of wearing traditional polyester-based athletic apparel (skin irritation, odor), the Andrews family decided it was time for a new fabric. Al Andrews, former Tulane student–athlete (All SEC '65 & '66) and apparel industry veteran charged his son Todd with finding a solution. He wanted the fabric to include the following properties: moisture wicking, anti–microbial, thermal regulation, UV protection, and comfort—a pretty tall order.
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Ultimately, after two years of R&D and many trials, Todd learned that the only fiber that fit his dad's criteria for success was bamboo. Use of bamboo in apparel is not an entirely new concept; however its true potential had never been fully realized. With the help of textile engineers, a lot of passion, and a little luck they developed their own yarn process and fabric finishing on a unique blend of bamboo, organic cotton, and elastane.

Still skeptical, thriv sent me a shirt to submit to some RunnerDude testing. I wasn't sure what to expect and I had a lot of questions. Bamboo? Was it going to be stiff? Breathable? What would happened when RunnerDude (the Super-Sweater) wore it? Would it retain water?
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Well, I'm happy to announce that it passed RunnerDude's testing. I wore the shirt during an intense workout at the gym one day and (then after a washing) I tested it out on a few rather sweaty runs. In all cases, the shirt worked amazingly well. During my gym workout, the shirt stretched with me and was not binding. It also was breathable and wore great. On the runs, I had similar results. The shirt did become damp (as expected), but it was not saturated. The material was breathable and did allow most of my perspiration to evaporate. The fabric is surprisingly soft. To avoid chafing, I usually either run shirtless or wear a fitted shirt so that the fabric doesn't rub my chest. This shirt was a looser fit so I was a little worried, but I didn't experience any chafing. YEAH!

To test the anti-microbial factors, I let the shirt sit out for 2 days after my last run. YIKES! Um...well, the word "RANK" comes to mind. I washed the shirt using regular laundry detergent and, voilĂ ! The shirt came out smelling like a rose. Okay, it smelled like Tide, but you get the point.

Independent performance testing shows that thriv's unique fabric does equally well if not better in all testing categories—wicking, drying rate, UV-A, and UV-B radiation protection.
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Thriv performance apparel gets 5 Dudes on RunnerDude's Rating scale. This is a great product and a wonderful, environment-friendly alternative to synthetic petroleum-base performance fabrics. Currently thriv apparel can be purchased at select Sports Authority stores as well as online at SportsAuthoritycom. Give it a try. You'll be pleasantly surprised!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Update: Noah Raises Money for Wounded Marines!

A few weeks back you may recall a "How Running Has Changed My Life" post that featured Noah Moore who had lost 90lbs and had become an avid runner. Well, he's taken his running to a whole new level! He's in the last stages of training for the Marine Corps Marathon as well as raising money for the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund.

The Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund provides financial assistance and quality of life solutions for Marines, Sailors and other military personnel assigned to Marine Forces, injured in post 9-11 combat, training, or with life threatening illnesses, and their families. The fund provides relief for immediate financial needs that arise during hospitalization and recovery as well as perpetuating needs such as home modifications, customized transportation and specialized equipment.

As a part of his weight-loss program, Noah joined the MUSC boot camp, which was run by the Marines. Raising money for the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund is a way for Noah to give back to the Marines who helped get him in shape. Now, if that's not the epitome of the runner's spirit, then I don't know what is!

To check out a WCSC Channel 5 News clip (Charleston, SC) about Noah and his marathon quest [click here]. To donate to Noah's fundraising for the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund [click here].

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Need ITB Relief? STRETCH!

ITB (Iliotibial Band Syndrome) is one of the most common aliments of runners. ITB often presents itself as pain on the outside of the knee. Overpronation or underpronation can often be the cause of ITB, but more than not, it's due to inflexibility.

Runners often think ITB is a knee problem. That's because the pain along the outside of the knee is the end result. Actually, the Iliotibial Band is a part of a longer tract which includes the Tensor Fasciae Latae (TFL) that originates at the iliac crest continuing down to the Iliotibial tract and attaching to the tibia in the lower leg just below the knee. This muscle braces the knee when walking. Without the iliotibial band your leg would collapse. Handy muscle, huh?

The real culprit often causing Iliotibial Band Syndrome is the 9-to-5 job desk job. Think about it, if you sit at a desk for 8, 9, 10 hours, your hip flexors aren't living up to their name. They're not flexing. They're stuck in the same bent position, getting tighter and tighter. Then you hop up and go for a run most times without any stretching before or after. A combination that spells Iliotibial Band Syndrome over time for some.

Stretching is one of the best ways to help recover from Iliotibial Band Syndrome as well prevent it from happening in the first place. [Click here] for some great stretching and strengthening exercises for Iliotibial Band Syndrome from Running Times.

Stretching of course isn't the ITB "cure-all" for everyone, but it is worth talking to your sports doc about. Also, if you haven't experienced ITB problems, starting a regular stretching routine consisting of dynamic stretches before your run (i.e., stretches that are comprised of active movement specific to running such as butt kicks, knee lifts, jump squats, side shuffles, etc.) and static stretches after the run (more traditional stretch-and-hold type movements) will hopefully keep you ITB-problem-free. For more information on dynamic and static stretches [click here.]

Monday, October 19, 2009

How Running Changed My Life: Sara's Story

Running is a big part of Sara Cox Landolt's life. Just this summer she earned USA Triathlon’s Level 1 Coaching certificate. Read on to find out how it all started back in 3rd grade.

I made my track debut in the third grade at an all-city co-ed track meet. It was the type of meet where anyone could sign up and kids got a free Orange Crush t-shirt for participating. My sister Sue and I tried a few events; we were already there, so why not enter multiple events, even if we had no idea how to long jump.

My dad suggested I run the 400, one-time around the High School track. Before the race he gave me some coaching advice.

“Now, the other runners are going to start out fast and get tired—they could burn out. I want you to run a steady pace, saving energy for the whole lap,” he suggested. I watched his face, listened seriously and agreed, determined to run the race correctly.

The gun fired and right away the kids around me sprinted, leaving me head down, heart pounding, jogging around the first arc of the oval-shaped track. Within seconds, my dad, who was filming the race, could no longer keep all the racers in his viewfinder. Instead, he panned down the track to the other runners getting farther and farther ahead. Then back to me, my eyes searching, feet plodding along, alone. Watching the film now, you can tell he’s trying not to laugh audibly. And watching it now, I laugh, loudly.

That simple race in my terrycloth shorts and wornout sneakers lasted minutes, but felt longer. I remember rounding the other end of the oval, almost done, and thinking I should keep running out of the stadium and get out of there? But, I stuck it out. I kept going and somehow passed a girl, maybe she had asthma, finishing in time to take third place of the girls. I made the choice to keep running and was handed a white ribbon.

Persistence and old-fashioned stubbornness got me once around a 400-meter track. With twenty-some years of character-forming life experiences I hoped my feet would later carry me across my first Ironman finish line tape. What would it take to get there?

Learn more about Sara's adventures with running, triathlon and life at www.ironmakeover.blogspot.com. Sara also volunteers as a moderator in active.com’s triathlon community, stop by and say hello. http://community.active.com/community/sports/triathlon Thanks Sara!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

And the Winner Is...

Congratulations to Erin Cook of Cincinnati, Ohio. Her email entry was drawn as the lucky winner of "The Stick!"

I'm excited to say that the participation gets bigger and bigger with each contest! I'd like to thank all the contest participants as well as the blog readers that spread the word about the drawing. And a big thanks to the great people at The Stick who provided the prize and made the contest possible!

Be on the lookout for details on RunnerDude's next contest!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Looking for a Pasta Alternative?

A few weeks ago a running buddy of mine was complaining about being tired of eating so much pasta for fueling her marathon training. She was getting plenty of carbs from other sources like fruits and veggies, but it seemed like every meal involved pasta. Bow tie, penne, macaroni, vermicelli, rotini—doesn't matter the shape, it pretty much all tastes the same. Swapping up sauces can help, but after a certain point, you get PASTA OVERLOAD!!

So, I went on a quest to find a good pasta substitute. The fruits of my labor? Quinoa. Never heard of it? I hadn't either. Actually, Quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) is technically not a true grain. It's the seed of the Chenopodium or Goosefoot plant. It's commonly referred to and used as a grain because of it's similar cooking characteristics. Quinoa grains come in a varitey of colors—ivory, pink, brown, red, black—depending on the variety. (I used an ivory variety for the recipe below.) I had never heard of Quinoa before, but evidently it's been around for thousands of years. The grain can be tracked back to the ancient Inca civilization of South America. They called it the "Mother grain."
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The National Academy of Sciences says that Quinoa is "one of the best sources of protein in the vegetable kingdom." Why? Well, for starters, its a complete protein grain. It provides all the essential amino acids. Perfect for vegetarians! It also contains no gluten. Perfect for individuals following a wheat-free/gluten-free diet!
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Sounds really good, but like many really "good-for-you-things" I was braced for something really bland. Wrong! It actually tastes pretty good! It has a nutty texture and flavor. It's filling, but it doesn't give you that stuffed feeling that pasta can leave you with. You can eat Quinoa as a breakfast cereal, add it to soups and/or salads, use it as a side dish, or combine it with other ingredients as a main course! What I like most about Quinoa is that unlike other whole grains, it doesn't take long to cook—only 10-15 minutes on the stovetop. You can even cook it in the microwave! Having a busy family of 5, that's wonderful!

So, I found this cool "new" grain. Now what. Well, I knew what my kids like to eat, so keeping that in mind and keeping time and ease-of-preparation in mind, I created the following recipe. End result? My family wiped it out!

Quinoa Chicken with Vegetables

Ingredients:
  • 4 cups uncooked Quinoa
  • 4 cups of low sodium vegetable broth (I used Pacific Natural Foods Organic Vegetable Broth)
  • 5 chicken breasts (I used the ready-to-cook boneless/skinless Perdue Perfect Portions brand marinated Garlic Roasted With White Wine)
  • 2 12oz packages of Birds Eye Steamfresh Frozen Vegetables (I used the Asparagus, Gold & White Corn, Baby Carrots variety)
  • 1Tbsp canola oil
Directions:
  • Coat a large skillet with the canola oil. Heat the pan over medium-high heat. Add the chicken breasts and cook for one minute. Flip and cook for another minute. Then cover, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 6-9 minutes (flipping frequently). When done, remove the cooked breasts, place on a plastic cutting board and cut into chunks.
  • While the chicken is cooking, prepare the Quinoa. Combine the uncooked Quinoa and the vegetable broth in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 10-15 minutes.
  • While the Quinoa is cooking, prepare the frozen veggies. Pop each pack (one at a time ) in the microwave and cook on High 4-5 minutes. Combine the veggies, chicken, and Quinoa in a large bowl. Salt to taste, if desired.
Nutrition Informaiton:
Serving Size: 5 main-dish servings; Fat-9g per serving; Sodium-658mg per serving; Carbs-68g per serving; Protein-41g per serving; Calories-499 per serving

Variations:
  • Want less sodium? Use water instead of the vegetable broth. Use fresh vegetables instead of the frozen. Use non-marinated chicken instead.
  • Don't eat meat? Skip the chicken. Use tofu instead?
  • Make half the recipe and use it as a side dish (with or without the meat).
  • Just you or you and your significant other? Cut the recipe in half or store the leftovers in smaller containers to take to work for lunch or pop one in the microwave for a nutritious pre- or post-workout snack.
  • Don't like the variety of vegetables I selected? Use something different that better suites your taste. Use fresh or frozen!
  • Be creative! Try adding almonds, chickpeas, or pine nuts. Top with some Parmesan cheese!

Friday, October 16, 2009

CHANGE—It's a Good Thing!

Many of you know that I'm about halfway through a pretty intense 6-month personal trainer and nutrition consultant certification program. It's all a part of my life-career change. Although, I've never really liked change, I've always handled it usually with a laid-back attitude. Change is going to happen, so you might as well get on board. I guess it comes from growing up as a PK (preacher's kid). My dad is a retired Methodist minister. When I was growing up, we moved about every 4-5 years. New church, new home, new school, new friends—Change. As a little kid I looked at it as an adventure, but as I got older, the change became harder to deal with. Stronger friendships ended or changed. Starting at a new high school is very different from starting a new elementary school. As the peer-pressures of the teenage years set in, the change was harder to deal with. But as with each move, I acclimated and ended up with experiences and life-long friendships that would never have occurred staying in one place.

My career change from the world of publishing into the world of fitness brings back memories of that change I experienced as a child. But, oh how exhilarating this change has been. While I loved my work in the field of educational publishing, I really haven't looked back or longed for that previous life. Oh yes, the security of that 9-5 job and the security of that bi-weekly paycheck is greatly missed, but now I'm focused on this new journey.

My fellow students in the certification program I'm currently immersed in are such an inspiration. They're living proof that change at any age can be a wonderful thing. Sharon (about 50), a mom of a teenage son and taking care of her elderly mom, is one of the fittest and most inspirational people I've met. What a role model she's going to be for us older wannabe fitness buffs. Bill is 52 and the survivor of a multitude of health problems including a liver transplant. He worked me over in a killer core routine the other day. Go Bill! Then there's Steve, 56 (like me) was laid off from a long career. Knowing Steve has proven to me that aging doesn't mean you have to be a stagnant couch potato. He's one of the most active people I know regardless of his age. Then there's Jen who is 40. Jen's a mom of two young children, but man can she give a killer workout! Johnathan who is 18 was my third assigned workout partner. This cool youngun taught me a lot about technique and really proved to me how focused, dedicated, and genuine the younger end of the population can be.

Change—It's going to come. Sometimes it comes when you least expect it like my job layoff. Other times you have to initiate the change—deciding to run a marathon, begin a fitness program, lose 50lbs. In either case you have a choice. You can embrace it and welcome it or you can resist it. Embracing change may be hard at first, but it's a lot better in the long-run than rebuking it. If it's a health- or fitness-related change, embracing it can make your goal so much easier to achieve.
Negativity can be very draining. It's amazing how just a simple attitude change can lighten the load. The first few weeks after being laid off, I was depressed both physically and mentally. Once I decided to embark on this new life-change and embraced it wholeheartedly, that depression lifted. I became energized.
Am I scared? Hell yeah! But, you know there's nothing wrong with being scared. I know I'm going to make mistakes, but being proactive about my own future is very empowering. I'm not sure where life is going to take me with my new career, but I have a hunch it's going to be an exciting life-long adventure.
Are you ready for change? Are you ready to start that fitness or running program you've been thinking about for years? Are you ready to drop those 25, 50, 100lbs? Are you ready to try that yoga class? Are you ready for a healthier lifestyle? Make the decision, embrace it, tell your family and friends about your goals and that you'll need their support. Then jump in with both feet. No looking back!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Good Running Read!

Over the past few months, I've recommended several great running-themed books such as Once a Runner, Running Within, and Running With the Buffaloes. I'd like to add another book to the list—Strides: Running Through History With An Unlikely Athlete. When I first ran across Strides, the topic of running through history interested me, but I wondered whether it would be the typical dry boring text-book read or not. I'm so glad I took the plunge and gave it a try.

With Strides, Benjamin Cheever has written a wonderful piece of narrative nonfiction. The book does a great job of covering not only the importance of running throughout history, it also chronicles the author's move from back-of-the-pack high school athlete to a solid athlete nearing his thirties all the time exploring how running has changed his life.

The topics covered in the book include how our ancestors evolved the ability to run long distances in order to hunt, to Pheidippides' first marathon in 490 BC, to running in Renaissance Italy and early America, and beyond.

This book is very well researched and he pulls from a diverse selection of material. I particularly like the Appendix which includes a list of Cheever's favorite marathon running books. Runners and non-runners will enjoy this book!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

One Runner's Perspective on Running and Racing

I'd like to introduce you to James. James is a great runner and has a great mind-set about his racing. Even though I don't think I could keep a racing schedule like James, his approach and thinking about racing has helped me keep things about my own running in perspective. In his own words, here's James' thinking on racing.

I am no elite runner, however I do like to run. During the first five months of 2006 I ran seven marathons and three half marathons. January was easily my most busy month as I ran in the Inaugural Goofy Challenge (Half Marathon Saturday/Full Marathon Sunday) and ran the Houston Marathon a week later. February was also a two marathon month (Surfside/Tampa), but I at least had two weeks between them. March was my easy month with only one half marathon (and two 10Ks). April opened and closed with a marathon (Dallas Big-D/Oklahoma City) and in May I ran my last marathon (Green Bay) in that five month time period. I finished off with a half marathon in Madison a week later.

There are many different ways, other than speed, that we can challenge ourselves when we run.. The key to my accomplishment is that I balanced challenging myself with a goal of finishing each race as healthy as possible so I would be ready for the next one. I was still able to set 10K, half marathon and marathon PRs during that time frame, including lowering my marathon PR by eight minutes at Green Bay, the seventh and final marathon over that five month period.

A PR is a wonderful thing, especially because of the additional joy it gives us – although it is a bit fleeting. But what I took away from the experience is that a marathon is a great way to see a new city and that no matter where you run, there are wonderful people to run with.

Thanks James! Be sure to check out James' blog—Das Mixture.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Say Goodbye to the GI Distress Blues!

Nausea, bloating, diarrhea, Oh my! I need a port-o-potty or I'm gonna die! Ever been on a long run only to have your stomach tell you you should have turned about about 5 miles back? There's probably not a runner alive that hasn't experienced some type of GI distress while pounding the pavement. Actually, GI distress is one of the most reported reasons why runners drop out of or don't do as well as expected in an endurance race.

GI distress can be blamed on an array of different things from something as simple as just the normal jostling of stomach contents during running, to eating something that disagreed with you, to eating too soon before running, to having a virus or stomach bug. I read an article once that said the way to avoid GI distress was to avoid eating before, during, and after running. Brilliant, don't you think?! I wonder how many studies it took to come up with and prove the theory that if you don't eat anything you won't have stomach-related problems during a run. Well, however correct that research might be, the problem is that avoiding food (solids and liquids) can spell disaster for a runner in a host of other areas—dehydration, bonking or hitting the wall from lack of sufficient glycogen stores, just to name a few.

Now, I'm no scientist, but I don't think avoidance of food is the answer. There is no one sure-fire way to avoid GI distress, because we're all so different. What works for one runner may spell disaster for another. So, it will involve a little trial-and-error to determine what works best for you. But don't fret, there are several things you can do to keep GI distress at bay and calling the Roto-Rooter Man isn't one of them! Listed below are a few tips to try.

During your training, be "body aware." Don't wait until race day to decide to work on your GI distress issues. Make note of days during your training when you experience GI problems. Right down the symptoms and what you ate and/or drank. Do this each time a problem occurs, soon you may see a pattern occur which will help you decide how to change what you're eating, the amount of what your eating, or when your eating it.

Make sure you're well hydrated. Good hydration is key to the digestive system working well. Good hydration doesn't mean downing 32oz of water 30 minutes before you run, however. Make sure you're hydrating throughout the day.

Drink the proper types of fluids for the race you're running. If you're running less than 60 minutes, water will do just fine. Taking in too much simple carbohydrates (found in many sports drinks) can cause GI distress. If you've carbed-up prior to the race, you should have a sufficient amount of glycogen. Drinking a lot of sports drink for shorter races can be overkill, sometimes causing nausea or diarrhea. There are many different types of sports drinks on the market. Sports drinks best suited for longer runs have electrolytes and 6-8% carbs. These sports drinks usually contain about 120-170 calories per 500 ml of fluid. (Examples: Accelerade, Gatorade [original], Gatorade Endurance Formula, Powerade [original], PowerBar Endurance Sport [powder]) Some sports drinks are actually designed to be used after a race to help you quickly replace the carbs you've burned. These drinks usually contain about 10-15% carbs and usually about 240-320 calories per 500 ml of fluid. These higher carb/higher calorie drinks are designed to replenish carb levels after exercise. (Examples: Endurox R-4, Gatorade Performance Series, PowerBar Performance Recovery, Isopure Endurance) I've discovered that 100% coconut water works well as my sports drink. It naturally has all the carbs and electrolytes you need. Actually it has 15 times more potassium as most sports drinks, which helps keep my calf cramps at bay. You'd think coconut water would be sweet, but it's not. It actually does very well with my stomach. I've been using coconut water as my sports drink for the past few months and have not experienced any GI problems or calf cramps. If you decide to give it a try, be sure to get 100% coconut water, not milk.

Sports gels are a great source of carbs during an endurance race, but if you're drinking a sports drink and ingesting sports gels you could overload your body on simple carbs causing GI distress. Experiment with the right combination of sports drink and sports gels during your training runs. When I take a gel on a run, I make sure to wash it down with water not a sports drink.

After about an hour of running, it's a good idea to switch from water to drinking a sports drink for two main reasons—resupplying your glycogen stores with the carbs provided in sports drinks and resupplying lost electrolytes (sodium, potassium, etc.). Sodium is lost through sweating and sodium is a key element in hydration. It's needed to help your body absorb the fluids you're ingesting. Ever had that sloshing feeling in your stomach? It's most likely due to lack of sodium. The fluids just sit in your stomach because there's not enough sodium to help your body absorb the fluids. This lack of sodium and dehydration can slow the emptying of your stomach which can cause GI distress. Be careful, though, if you're properly hydrated and your sodium levels are fine, then taking in too much sodium can lead to nausea and vomiting.

Over-the-counter medications can also be helpful. If you're pone to diarrhea while running, taking something like Imodium before the run, may offer some relief. Some runners even carry it with them and take it while on the run to prevent the "runs." Best to check out this course of action with your doctor, especially if you're taking other medications.

Carb-loading usually begins three days prior to the big race. Best course of action is to eat your high-fiber more complex carbs on the first day, weaning off to more simple carbs on days 2 and 3. This will provide time for the high-fiber foods to pass through your system. The simple carbs on days 2 and 3 will help keep your glycogen stores topped off until race time. Be careful that the simple carb foods aren't high-fat foods, that might come back to bite you in the race too!

For many runners, caffeine provides a great boost before a run. For other runners, it may provide the wrong kind of "boost." Caffeine is a stimulant which can cause peristalsis (automatic muscle contractions that occur through the digestive track to get food moving through your system). If caffeine easily sets peristalsis into play for you, then avoid caffeine before and during running.

Anxiety can cause GI distress. A big race can be very stressful, especially if you've traveled to an unfamiliar city. If at all possible, arrive 2 days before the race so that you can better acclimate to your new surroundings. This will also allow you to pick up your race packet early—one less thing to worry about. Try bringing your own foods so you won't have to make any variances in eating from what you've done in your training. Also, try using various breathing techniques and/or yoga to help you de-stress prior to race time.

The simplest rule for avoiding GI distress (but probably the most ignored) is to never try anything new (food or drink) on race day that you haven't used during your training. No matter how many enticing gels, sports drinks, cookies, pretzels, and candy you're offered on the course, if you didn't train with them, DON'T USE THEM!

How Running Changed My Life: Molly's Story

Molly is a wife and stay-at-home-mom of two who left the wilds of NYC for the wilds of Central NY. She loves to cook, read, and be outside. She says her day is not complete without some chocolate, or better yet, some white wine. Sounds like Molly and RunnerDude could be good friends! Better yet she's a runner. Here's Molly's story in her own words.

I've always been active, but like most people I caught the running bug during an effort to lose weight. I was out of college, living on my own, homesick, worried about being in the real world. I was really not taking care of myself, I ate too much of the wrong things, and spent the weekends at happy hours and parties.

Finally one New Years Eve I decided to make a change, bought some diet and exercise books, and joined a gym. I started slowly on the treadmill, I wouldn't look at myself in the mirror or talk to others. But I went back every day, and did a bit more each day. I would bargain with myself and challenge myself, by running farther each day, or faster. All through the winter I did it, and by early summer, I lost 12 pounds. It was time for a new challenge, running outside. I did the loop around the neighborhood that I used to walk.
I still remember the day I ran a whole six miles, to the Reservoir and back. I couldn't believe it! I started running six miles a day. I still couldn't believe it! I decided to test myself some more and do a 5k. Then a 10k. This past July I did the Utica Boilermaker 15k run, for the third year in a row! Just last month, I did the unbelievable, I ran my first half marathon Half Marathon!

I love to run. I run because I can. I run for other people who cannot run. I run for the challenge. I run for me. I've got "the marathon" in my sights. I'll get there, someday. —Molly

Thanks Molly for sharing your story!! Be sure to check out Molly's blog—I'm A Sleeper Baker.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Barefoot Josh—A Man on a Mission

A few months ago, an interesting young fella joined me and my running buddy Dena for an 18-miler. What made this fella—Josh Sutcliffe—so interesting was his bare feet. I've heard and read about barefoot runners, but I've never really known one, unless you count the guy in front of me at the start of the 2006 Honolulu Marathon. He was barefoot and had flip-flops stuck in the back waistband of his running shorts. When I asked him what the flip-flops were for, he replied, "After the race." Made me chuckle. He was getting ready to run 26.2 miles barefoot, but needed flip-flops for after the race.

Back to Josh. I was really curious to see how this barefoot guy was going to manage on our 18-miler that would take us across blacktop, cement, gravel, and dirt trails. This run would be the longest distance (at the time) for Josh to run barefoot. He did have a pair of modified Vibram 5-Fingers that he slipped on during a stretch or two of gravel/trail areas (maybe a total of a mile in distance), but otherwise he ran completely barefoot. He had the lightest and smoothest gate I've ever seen for a runner. I was eager to see what his feet looked like after the run. I couldn't believe it. They looked great. In fact (besides some surface dirt) they looked better than my socked-and-shoed tootsies. I spent a good portion of that run talking to Josh, picking his brain, and learning more about this unconventional approach to running.

Now that I've gotten to know Josh, I bet, he would laugh at me calling barefoot running "unconventional." As he explains it, we humans were designed to run barefoot. What other animal on the planet has to wear $100+, blown-rubber, graphite-treaded, semi-curved-lasted, gel-cushioned shoes?

I wanted to learn more about barefoot running, so I met Josh one day for coffee and he filled me in on how he got into running shoeless.

RunnerDude: How long have you been running?
Barefoot Josh: Well, out of college ('95-'96), I was mostly biking. In 2000, I was looking for something different to help me keep in shape. At the time, I was living in an apartment in New York City and each year I'd watch the NYC Marathon runners go by and I decided, "I can do that." I really didn't know anything about running. I was what you'd call a "spring-and-summer-runner." I'd start, but when the weather got bad or other things got in the way, I'd stop. Then I'd start back up a few months later.
RD: So the marathon is what motivated you to get into running?
BFJ: Yes, I decided to run enough races in the NYRRC (New York Road Runners Club) series to qualify for the NYC Marathon. I actually did that and got a marathon entry. I even bought "real" running shoes! I ran all the required races but ended up with ITB (Iliotibial band syndrome ).
RD: So, did you try again?
BFJ: Yes, I was frustrated and depressed, but I did the race series again in 2001. And again, I had ITB. Tried again in 2002 and had the same problem, plus I was bitten by a dog!!
RD: Why didn't you just hang up the old running shoes and get back into cycling or some other type of activity?
BFJ: Well, I'm a very headstrong and determined person and I was bound and determined to get a marathon under my belt.
RD: So what did you do?
BFJ: Well in 2003, I finally realized I was just running too much and too hard and my body was paying the price. So, I looked for another activity to supplement. Most would take-up swimming or cycling. I joined a boxing gym. Never been in a fight nor even took a punched in my entire life. The diversion of a different sport and the great conditioning boxing provided actually helped me finally run the NYC Marathon in 2003. During that time in the gym I researched barefoot running and found Ken Bob Saxton of RunningBarefoot.org. During my time at the gym, I did some running in my boxing shoes as well as a lot of jumping rope. With both, I noticed I was landing more on the front part of my feet.
RD: Wow, those are some pretty unconventional marathon training techniques, but they seemed to have helped you master the marathon.
BFJ: Well, "mastered" is a strong term. "I lived through it" is more like it. It was not a pretty sight. After the race I thought, "This is stupid! I'd rather be punched in the face!"
RD: Well, it's six years later and you're still running, so what I call "marathon amnesia" must have kicked in.
BFJ: Yep, but it took a while to get back into running. In 2004, I didn't run. I focused on boxing and the gym. However, this time I wasn't in the ring. I was training the kids. Really enjoyed working with the kids. Probably around 2005, I began doing some running, but nothing more than a 10K distance. It was during this time that I experimented some more with barefoot running.
RD: In Brooklyn?
BFJ: Yep. Had to hide my shoes so my wife wouldn't know I was running barefoot through Brooklyn. I had a pair of the Nike Free shoes and wore them some, but also ran barefoot for some runs and I discovered it actually helped with stress relief.
RD: That's so funny! I can picture you running out the door all properly shoed...."By honey! Going for my run!" And then dashing behind the bushes, pulling off your shoes and reappearing as Super Josh! The Barefoot Runner!
BFJ: Yep, that' pretty much how it happened. Actually, I did kind of feel like a superhero when running barefoot.
RD: So in 2005, you were secretly running barefoot in Brooklyn, but here we are in Greensboro, NC, sipping on Starbucks coffee. Greensboro's a "fer piece" from Brooklyn. When did you make the move to the South?
BFJ: We moved to Greensboro in 2006. Not only did we gain a new home in 2006, but from 2006 to 2008 I also gained quite a bit of weight. I really didn't care what I looked like in the mirror, but my clothes were starting to feel not so comfortable anymore. During this time, I also lost my job. Jobless and with tight pants, I decided I needed to get out of the house. So, I started running again. My shoes were old and a wreck. They hadn't been used in quite a while. I went to the local running store and bought the lighest trainers I could find.
RD: So the running helped put some needed room back in the ole britches and helped you get back into shape as well. Didn't I hear you ran the Grandfather Mountain Marathon back in July?
BFJ: Yes. In March of 2009, I stumbled across some info about the marathon which piqued my curiosity. I knew I only had 4 months and my mileage base was basically nonexistent, but I told myself I could do this. I knew I wouldn't set any records. All I wanted to do was finish. I started slow with 11-12:00-minute miles. Was doing fine until I got up to 16 miles when those familiar feelings in my knees resurfaced.
RD: By now, you quickly read the pre-warning signs of injury, right? What did you do?
BFJ: I remember how great I felt barefoot running in Brooklyn, so I went back to RunningBarefoot.org and thought...."Hmmm, maybe this guy's on to something."
RD: You began running barefoot in prep for the marathon?
BFJ: Well, I wasn't sure about running that far barefoot, so I bought a $6 pair of aqua socks from Walmart. You know the type of shoes you wear to the pool or the beach. My next long run was 18 miles and I ran it wearing the cheap aqua socks. I almost cried with joy because it was so liberating—the ground beneath my feet. I felt such exuberance.
RD: So, you completed the Grandfather Marathon last July. How did it go? Did you run barefoot or did you wear the aqua socks?
BFJ: Well, I did wear the aqua socks and I was feeling so good that I PR'd at the half-marathon mark. This great feeling came back to bite me later though. I started out too fast and payed a little for it in the second half. I did quite a bit of walking in the second half of the race, but overall I felt good after the marathon where as I was miserable after the NYC Marathon.
RD: Well, your running completely barefoot now, so when did that happen?
BFJ: After Grandfather, I wanted to see if I could run more "truly barefoot." My wife still wasn't thrilled with the idea. She preferred I wear the aqua socks or the Vibram 5-Fingers. So, I continued to run barefoot secretly like I had done in Brooklyn. I didn't want to hear the "I told you so." I got up to about 6 miles barefoot with no problems or blisters. Eventually she caught me and I "fessed up." She was less than thrilled—"Guess you know what you're doing. Just remember we have no health insurance and you need your feet." Funny how she was fine with me boxing but not running barefoot. But, she finally came around when she saw how much I enjoyed it and how I was running injury-free.
RD: Would you recommend that someone wanting to run barefoot, transition into it by first wearing a minimalist shoe like your cheap aqua socks?
BFJ: For some it may help them feel better if they ease into it by wearing a minimalist shoe. But, honestly? You don't need them. Just get out there and run barefoot. You need to start slow. That's really the "easing into it." Your feet have lots of nerve endings and that's really what you have to get used to—the different sensations that your feet have never before been allowed to experience because they've been encased in a shoe. I discussed this with Bob Saxton, and he said to forget the transition, just run barefoot.
RD: So how many miles have you logged barefoot?
BFJ: Since July I've logged 250+ barefoot miles.
RD: No turning back, huh?
BFJ: No, I've found my niche. Barefoot running keeps my ego in check. It keeps me more in tune with my body. I'm not fast. The speed will eventually come, but it's not my main goal. Running now is so much more satisfying for me. It's kind of like a dance—an expression of myself. It feels beautiful. I want to be running forever.
RD: Injury free now?
BFJ: Yes. No more ITB problems. It's funny. Books focus a lot on the shoe for improved running and decreased injury. I could find very few books that focused on running form. Whole industries teach form in other sports, but not in running. It wasn't until I found the "barefoot running community" that I realized there was a correct or better way to run. They shared a few tips, but the most important piece of information they shared is that my feet would tell me how to do it, and they were right. Odd how much money is poured into large ad campaigns, endorsements, and cool-looking running shoes, yet runners who wear them continue to be plagued with injuries. Barefoot runners have no shoes on their feet and they tend to have very few running-related injuries.
RD: So where do you go now? What's your goal as a barefoot runner?
BFJ: To run, run, run, and continue running long into life. I know I may sound like a fanatic, but I really want to spread the word about how great barefoot running can be for you physically and mentally. I want runners to see that it's not a passing fad or something "unconventional." I also want runners to understand that you don't need any specially designed shoes to run barefoot either.

Josh is a cool guy and he's taught me a lot. Be sure to check out his blog—Art and Sole. Earlier this week, Josh was gracious enough to make his video debut by letting me video-tape him explaining the basic principles of running barefoot as well as the foot-landing technique of barefoot running. Check out both clips below! Thanks Josh!