Sunday, July 26, 2009

I Love Open Water Swimming, I Really Do

51 DEGREES, that'll do nicely!
John Shrum, MD

So started one of our early spring lake workouts before Dr. Shrum and I went to England to swim the Channel in 1998. You intentionally find the coldest water around. We stayed about an hour that day and would have gone longer but were rousted out by the park ranger.

When the swim portion of a triathlon starts with wind and waves, or cold water, or some type of challenge, I'm ready. So many in our sport would be nervous or afraid, I know this, and can't wait for the starters gun. Why? For the same reason you look forward to the run. Because you've practiced and trained for all types of weather and conditions as you've been doing it for many years. Like the NY Postal Service saying,"Neither snow nor rain not heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds," you've been there before. So why not make it the same with open water swimming?

If you're going to use a wetsuit, why not practice in it at the local swimming hole at least every other week. If the water temp is warm, be aware of over heating and keep the swim to a reasonable length. Many consider wetsuit swimming mandatory. They think they'll fail with out it.

I propose that it's simply a state of mind and unless you're vying for a podium spot, try the race without it. Our local swim water temp was 74 degrees, and after 100 yards in no wetsuit, it was delightful. Many folks make the should I/shouldn't I decision on wetsuit use weeks before their event when the water is still 60! Why not postpone that one?

In a previous blog, I recommended that if your race begins with an open water/ocean swim you try to get there the day before and go play in the water. In your wetsuit if you plan on using one. Practice your swim starts. And if they still make you nervous, when your wave starts on race day, wait 10-15 seconds for the mayhem to clear and then go. Practice, practice, practice. Then you'll be the confident one on race day looking forward to conditions that might slow others and give you an advantage.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Simple Solutions For ITBS (Iliotibial Band Syndrome)

"If God invented marathons to keep people from doing anything more stupid, then triathlon must have taken him completely by surprise." P.Z. Pearce, MD

The IT Band: The band itself runs from it's insertion behind the hip down the outside of the femur and knee cap to an attachment outside the patella tendon. It is usually a tight, one inch wide tendon that can be seen on the knee when your leg is locked.
Symptoms: A sharp pain that radiates from above and outside the knee into the quadriceps and/or in the hip. It can be aggravated when running up or down hills or when going up/down stairs after a run. Frequently it hurts after the first 15 minutes or so and doesn't go away.
Causes: This can be seen in those who's bike seat is too high or there's some type of instability in the gait cycle and leg is no longer in neutral. You'll see it in those who use old or improper shoes. If the shoe is not supportive, it can lead to overpronation stretching the IT band causing a painful rubbing across the femur. Some get these symptoms from bowed legs, the crown in the road, etc.
Solutions: For runners, it is essential to match the shoe to the runner to allow proper leg alignment. Check your saddle height. Many will ask for a cessation from running/biking until the pain dissipates. Stretching the IT band, especially after runs is key. Don't forget the quads, hams and calves. Massage using a foam roller can be of benefit - but be brief and don't spend too much time on the actual point of pain. Morning runners may want to apply "Warm FX" to the IT band. It acts like Icy Hot and allows more oxygen to flow to the muscles and in turn they loosen up faster. I've also had some patients experience success with ice massage after their run.
If unsuccessful, then maybe a visit to your local runners doc may be in order. Good luck.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Runner's Trots

I'm taking my youngest kids to Sequoia National Park in California for 9 days of hiking including climbing Mt. Whitney so it'll be till 7/18 till I get a new blog up. Feel free to look at previous posts on various tri related topics.

What are runner's trots? The sometimes sudden urge to have a bowel movement while running. Some complain of this being a near explosive feeling, it spoils runs, and comes out of nowhere to runners of all levels of experience. It can be a quite frustrating problem to solve.

This problem affects 20-25% of all long distance runners at some point in their career, including the author. If you have it, you are not alone! It seems to occur with the longer or harder runs when blood may be shunted from the GI tract to the working muscles. In most of us this isn't a big deal but in others it can lead to diarrhea. As noted above, this feel can be almost explosive in nature and that if something isn't done about it quickly, well, there's going to be a problem! I've read that it's sometimes considered more common in the lactose intolerant.

Many will discuss this with their family physician, and frequently, even a colonoscopy can be recommended. Unless you are having bloody diarrhea, I think you can pass on the colonoscopy. (Had you nervous there for a minute didn't I. Actually, a colonoscopy is less of issue than you might think as I can say from personal experience as a > 50 year old male.)

So, if you happen to be suffering from this condition, here are some suggestions:

Maintain adequate hydration
Avoid caffeine as it's a colonic enhancer
Try to eat several hours before you run
Plan your route to include a rest room (I run near a golf course with lots of them)
Avoid warm fluids before a run
Limit high fiber foods in the days before a race
Consider a trial of limiting dairy foods for a couple weeks
Increase exercise intensity gradually letting you body adapt to the up/motion

And, the one you won't want to hear, a reduction in exercise. Some have the best results when they can reduce the intensity of exercise SIGNIFICANTLY for a few weeks with a gradual return to the previous high intensity workouts. On good time to do this is after your "A" race when you'd normally back off a little any way.

I can remember folding up toilet paper and putting it in my running shorts "just in case" as the Beatles might say, I had to Do It In The Road. It will go away but it may take some changes on your part, and, sorry to say, some trial and error.