Injury Prevention and Recovery: IT Band Syndrome

As a result of just moving into a new place and having to wait a week and a half for wi-fi (first world problems i know), I’m finally back to blogging!

We’ve all been there- you’re training hard and expecting a big PR in your next race when excruciating pain suddenly plagues you mid-run. Luckily these injuries can usually be prevented or you can make a quick recovery!

If you are a runner and have yet to experience IT band syndrome, you likely will. Whether it is simply some tightness in the band itself or a throbbing knee, taking care of your IT band is important!

Thanks to Google, I can tell you that the Iliotibial Band is a ligament that runs down the outside of the thigh from the hip to the shin. When ITBS occurs, the IT band becomes tight and inflamed from overuse. The biggest symptom is pain on the outside of the knee.

Luckily numerous visits to the physiotherapist and many hours of research have made me a self-proclaimed IT band prevention and treatment expert!

If you’re having severe pain on the outside of your knee that is keeping you from running, go to your physiotherapist. But, if you’ve never had IT band problems or have in the past, it’s time to start some stretching and strengthening to make sure it never keeps you from training! Here’s what to do:

1. Stretch. Stretching out your glutes will be your saviour. Do this stretch everyday for 1 minute (or more!) on each side.
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2. Foam Roll. If you think foam rolling is evil now, wait until you foam roll your IT band! It’s beyond painful, but so worth it! Try to roll each side for a minute everyday.

3. Strengthen your booty. Surprisingly, this is the most important. While there are many glute exercises that will benefit IT band syndrome, the classic “clam shells” work magically! Start with 30 on each side everyday and increase to 40 after a week or two.

How do you stretch and strengthen your IT band?

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Healthy Grain-Free Pancakes

Finding the perfect healthy pancake recipe has been a long-time struggle, especially since I’ve cut back on eating grains and dairy. So, over the past week I’ve been experimenting with different recipes and ingredients and have finally made the perfect pancake, YAY!
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I have been using both almond flour and coconut flour in my recipes, and have found that the batter was always extremely watery and the pancakes were thin and hard to flip, no matter how much extra flour I added. I figured it was just because of the almond and coconut flour, until i made these ones. These one’s are very simple to make and turned out fluffy and delicious.

Healthy Grain-Free Pancakes:
Ingredients:
-4 eggs
-1 cup milk: I used organic cows milk because that’s all I had but I assume almond or coconut milk will also work
-2 teaspoons vanilla extract
-1/2 cup coconut flour
-1 teaspoon baking soda
-pinch sea salt
Directions:
Combine all ingredients in a bowl. When the coconut flour is put in, it may be chunky, so just continue stirring until smooth. Pre-heat to medium heat and grease pan with coconut oil. Cook until lightly brown and top with your favourite fruit or some melted dark chocolate! Enjoy!
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Yoga Challenge

With the blog name “run towards zen”, you’d expect me to be a super calm and zen-like person. But, I’m still working on that, starting with yoga. I love yoga and know it is so important for my health and for my running. But, after I finish my run or bike, strength training and work a full day at Starbucks, it’s hard to find the motivation to hit the mat.
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That means it’s time for a 21-day yoga challenge! They say it takes 21 days to form a habit. Not sure if that’s completely accurate, but regardless I’m just going to go with it. I’m hoping posting it for the world to see will keep be accountable and motivated, so some words of encouragement are welcomed!!

This does not mean I’ll be doing hour-long sessions of intense power yoga every day. Some days may just have to end up being 10 minutes of some easy poses and a good meditation.

How yoga benefits running:

Running is an extremely repetitive form of exercise, and therefore creates tightness in your muscles making you susceptible to injuries. To avoid injury, it is important for runner’s to be flexible and strong! As we know, yoga poses aid our flexibility and are a form of stretching. It will loosen and lengthen your muscles to make us not only flexible but also stable!

When I first started practicing yoga, I honestly expected it to be pretty easy. I was wrong. It is not just sitting on a mat stretching. Yoga is a full body workout and works muscles you probably won’t know existed until you attempt to hoist your body of the ground using only your arms.

Lastly, the best part of yoga (in the opinion) is its ability to restore and calm your body and mind. It is definitely the best way to relax after hard workouts.

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Do you struggle to motivate yourself to get on the mat? Join my yoga challenge! As my favourite yogi/instagrammer Rachel Brathen says #yogaeverydamnday!

Become a Runner

I always laugh when non-runners think I’m so crazy for “just an easy 8k today”, because to them that is crazy! For me, that would be a 40-minute run and in our world, that’s an easy run day. Since I’ve been running non-stop since my first cross-country meet in grade 3, I struggle to wrap my head around seeing people in the gym dying after 20 minutes jogging on the treadmill. I realize running isn’t easy and you can’t just go out for the “easy 8k” on your first day on the roads, so this post is dedicated to beginner’s who want to call themselves “runners”!

The biggest mistake with beginners is that they expect to be able to run for an extended period of time on the first day. This will not happen. While it seems tedious and boring, you’re going to have to start out with a run-walk. This simply means running for a period of time, then walking for a period of time and repeating this.

While I’m not a coach or expert, there are many “couch-to-5k” plans that follow this advice. Here’s one that I thought seemed great:
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Don’t try to go too fast or burn yourself out, take it easy and enjoy the experience! Soon you’ll be out there with the elites! If you’re already a runner, send this post along to a non-runner friend and spread the running joy. 🙂

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

You may have noticed I haven’t made a blog post in quite awhile and there’s a very good reason for that-I haven’t been running much! As I mentioned in a previous post, I am having an issue with one of my toes as it is curved and forces running impact to hit the tip of the toe, rather than the bottom. It doesn’t sound like a big deal and it never was a problem, until I increased my mileage and suddenly my little useless toe was in so much pain I could barely walk, much less run.

After trying countless toe separators and sleeves, my doctor has finally referred me to an orthopedic surgeon. While I’m relieved to be resolving the problem, I’ve been overwhelmed with disappointment.

Way back when I started training, I had all of the races I wanted to run all lined up with countdowns going for each one, all in preparation for the Scotiabank Toronto Marathon in October. For once I was actually excited about running and was truly enjoying the training experience. I would wake up early in the morning actually smiling knowing I would soon be out the door running. I even skipped some Saturday nights out in order to rest up for my Sunday long run.

I’m sure you fellow runner’s can relate to this running euphoria, but for me it was new. Throughout high school I struggled against girls who were much faster than me and I struggled to run the short distances of track and cross-country. By grade 12, I was completely unmotivated and barely put any effort into training. When I began university I was barely running at all and struggling to find success in my schoolwork and was desperately seeking something outside of school that would make me feel accomplished. I found this in running.

It didn’t take long for me to decide that I needed to run a marathon and before I knew it I was immersed in training and was working harder than ever. As I said before, I had dreamed up what my entire experience would be like and looked forward to every step. This is why it was so hard for me to accept that my foot couldn’t take it.

Once I decided I couldn’t continue training, I learned that I could handle going for a short run one day then biking the next in order to keep my fitness up. But, while it may sound dramatic, I had trouble even enjoying these short runs knowing it was all for nothing and I would lose the fitness level I had worked so hard for four months to achieve.

As I found myself in a running rut, I finally found inspiration while watching the women’s 10k at the USATF Championships. If you watched it or saw the results, your mind probably immediately went to Shalane Flannigan, however, in my circumstances it was Kara Goucher. Kara led with training partner Shalane early in the race but fell back hard and finished fifth. She recently wrote a blog post about how truly disappointed she was with the race and how she thought she was for sure going to place in the top 3. But, as she says in the post, things don’t always go the way you want, but that’s no reason to give up.

She made me realize that you need to set new goals and be grateful for these learning experiences. I now know I was crazy to be that upset by my changed running plans. I’m only 19 years old and have a long running career ahead of me. This will only be a short time off in the long run and I will come back stronger than ever and ready to conquer my first marathon! Sorry to Kara for stealing your post’s title for mine, but it was just so appropriate!

Here’s a link to Kara’s blog post: http://www.runtheedge.com/2013/06/you-cant-always-get-what-you-want/

Clean Eating

Given my strong passion for running, I also am inevitably passionate for healthy eating, as us runner’s know that an important part of training and becoming a stronger athlete is eating right. Therefore I thought I’d make a post about my eating beliefs and healthy food favs!

My first year of university was a huge struggle for eating. I lived in residence and was therefore eating in an unfortunate cafeteria. As a healthy food snob, every meal was a sad walk through the cafeteria past the burgers, macaroni and cheese, pizza and pasta and to the sad attempt at a salad bar. Since eating protein-less salad for every meal wasn’t an option, I let my views slip away for the year and stopped worrying so much about health.

While the freshman experience was amazing, i have to admit I was kind of relieved when it ended and I was able to start changing my ways.

The new lifestyle is simple: eat clean. Eating has become so complicated, with so called “health experts” making obscure conflicting remarks, but living a healthy lifestyle in reality is extremely simple. While it’s only been just over a month since my school year ended, I am not completely there yet and I do let myself cheat still, but I have still established some simple eating rules:

1. Nothing processed. You may think you’re making the right choice with that so-called protein bar or bran cereal, but if you read the ingredients you will see a whole lot of refined sugar, high-fructose corn syrup and many other un-procouncable unnecessary additions. Therefore, simply stick to real food!
2. Eat your veggies! This may seem like a no brainer, but think of every meal you ate today, how many of them had vegetables in them? I personally find veggies super delicious, but if you find it tough to eat your greens, start out putting them in a smoothie. (I’ll post my smoothie recipe)
3. Stay hydrated and don’t drink your calories. You should be drinking half of your weight in ounces of water each day. (i.e. I am 110 pounds, so should drink 55 ounces per day) Along with tea, especially white and green, water should be the only drink you’re having. Oh and maybe some red wine here or there.
4. Eat a colourful diet. I’m no scientist so have no idea which vegetables or fruits are beneficial for what, but I do know that they are all different. So enjoy variety!

I could go on and on, but these are probably the most important. In summary, just eat clean. Even with my cheats every once and awhile, I’m already feeling so much better. These rules aren’t about losing weight, but simply being healthy, which will in turn be beneficial when running and training!

National Running Day Celebrations

Happy National Running Day fellow runners!

I hope every one was lucky enough to celebrate with a long and tough speed workout like I did! (can you sense my sarcasm?) Today was three sets of two 400m’s and one 1000m, which was in total six 400’s and three 1000’s. I was fine with the 1000’s, but it’s those short and evil 400’s that always kick my butt. I am now desperate for a long stretching and foam rolling session.

Regardless of the pain I’m currently feeling, on National Running Day I feel so blessed to be able to run and to have such a passion for running! If you haven’t run yet today hurry and get out there and celebrate!

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