Friday Favorite: Lacrosse Balls

Lacrosse balls? Yes, and I don’t even know anything about the sport!

White lacrosse ball

A coworker had mentioned a while back that she used them for kinks in her back. I’ve been having a hard time getting into the knots in my glutes with the foam roller or medicine ball and my tennis ball is too soft. After I came across this video from Movement Theory, I knew I should check out this inexpensive option.

I love how the lacrosse ball can really get into the knots in my glutes. Definitely one of those “hurts so good” situations going on, you know?

Guess what else they’re great for?!

Lacrosse ball massage for plantar fasciitis

Oh yeah, you know it! I’ve now started using this before using my Foot Rubz, but you could easily use it on its own.

Foot Rubz, tennis ball, lacrosse ball for plantar fasciitis

Just be careful with how much pressure you apply because you can definitely go overboard and aggravate it as I did.

Lacrosse ball on plantar fascia

Speaking of aggravation, check out these hot bruises I’m sporting:

Forearm bruises from Graston for tennis elbow

Yessiree, Graston and ART strike again. I actually didn’t even realize I had bruised until I caught sight of it in the mirror. It’s not nearly as painful as it was on my ITB, hamstring, hip, and glute and I’m already noticing improved range of motion with less pain after only three visits. The chiropractor thinks it will take another three to five sessions to take care of the tennis elbow. In the meantime, I continue to ice and stretch.

Thankfully, my plantar fasciitis is also sloooooowly but surely getting better. I repeated stage 7 of return to running this week as I aggravated my arch when I walked around Boston without my inserts or KT Tape last Friday (the PT had to take off the tape to cast my orthotics). Unfortunately, the running took place inside again because this is what outside looked like:

January 2014 -8 degrees

Check out the “real feel” temperature. Yeah. It’s been a chilly week here in Massachusetts. And in case I couldn’t decide for myself whether or not I wanted to run outside, the app was nice enough to tell me it was a poor day for outdoor fitness. 😉 It’s finally supposed to warm up a bit this weekend so I can venture outside for stage 8!

In personal news, the first week of my online A&P class has come and gone. Because it’s online, I had to purchase a kit to do the required labs at home. I reviewed the lab manual the professor uploaded online after purchasing the kit and my eyes quickly came upon a mention of a cat specimen. When the box arrived earlier this week I was a bit apprehensive about opening it. Was there really a dead cat inside? My husband and I just stared at it questioningly before I decided to break into it while he was out.

Lab Paq A&P I kit

Suffice it to say that yes, unfortunately, there is a dead cat inside. And a sheep’s brain. Don’t worry, I will not post any pictures. Feel free to do a Google image search for yourself if you’re interested.

So I have a dead cat and a sheep brain in my house right now and they will probably remain here through the summer in various stages of dissection as I will need to keep the specimens for A&P II as well. Awesome. I tell myself that I’d have to dissect them even if I were in a regular class, so it is what it is. Though I’m a bit conflicted about it, and don’t love having them in my house, I just need to put my big girl pants on and get ‘er done (with utmost respect to the specimens, of course). I’m sure it will be interesting.

Some other cool items  came in the kit, such as this guy I’m sure I’ll have fun playing with:

Mini skeleton

I think I need to give him a name. Is “Bones” too expected?

My other favorite item is a stash of slides that makes me feel like Dexter Morgan:

Case of specimen slides

Who do you suppose the human blood came from? Do you think people volunteer or do they get paid? Quite an interesting gig if it’s paid.

Do you mind if I share some fun facts I learned this week in A&P? I promise this won’t become a wicked sciencey blog, but I thought it would be nice to share some interesting facts about the human body, which I find endlessly fascinating!

Goosebumps

Goosebumps!

  • The piloerector muscles that are attached to our hair follicles are what give us goosebumps. They’re “leftover” from our ancestors, kind of like a vestigal organ (organs that remain in us even though we no longer “need” them, such as the appendix). In other mammals that have a lot more hair, the muscles fluff the hair and conserve heat.
  • Another vestigal muscle, if you will, is the auricularis in our ears. For other mammals, the muscle moves the ears to receive sound, repel bugs, etc. Most people cannot contract these muscles.
  • Hippocrates noted that the body usually returns to a state of equilibrium (homeostasis) on its own and that people recover from most illnesses without the help of a physician. (Note: I am not suggesting that you do not seek medical attention, but rather marvel at the self-restoration capabilities of the body on many occasions).

Thanks for indulging me and letting me nerd-out for a moment. Now it’s your turn! Have you come across any particularly helpful products lately? Is it freezing where you are or is it nice and warm (and for the record, 30 degrees F would be warm to me right now!)? Do you like random facts about the human body? What are some of your favorites?

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Review: Empower’s 3-in-1 Adjustable Kettlebell with DVD

Hi everyone!

I’m so excited to be able to tell you about a product I was able to try recently thanks to Empower! Empower Fitness is a local (Massachusetts-based) company that makes fitness products for women. I love that they are for women, by women!

The product I was most excited to try? The 3-in-1 Kettlebell! I’ve been wanting to try a Kettlebell workout for a while and in keeping with one of my New Year’s goals to expand my fitness horizons, I couldn’t wait to (literally) get my hands on this! What makes it 3-in-1? It has adjustable weights, so that you can use it at 5, 8, or 12 pounds.

Inside the box was the kettlebell, a kettlebell workout DVD, and a workout/how to use guide.

The DVD features Gin Miller in “Swing Yourself Fit Total Body Workout DVD.” The DVD includes a warm-up,  Swing Yourself Slender  (11 minute cardio session), Swing Yourself Strong (12 minute upper-body focused workout), Swing Yourself Sexy (14 minute lower-body focused workout), and a cool-down.

The kettlebell was very easy to use. As you can see from the side,  there is a click & twist design to changing the weight. 

To change the weight, you simply push down on the knob, twist, and the bottom one is off!

First weight off:

Taking off the next one:

All weights off:

To put the weights back on, you simply place the handled one on to of another and twist in the opposite direction. It takes a few tries to get the hang of it.

Now, on to the DVD! The intro features Donna Savage, the founder and president of Empower, who points out that she’s a wife, business owner, daughter, sister, and mother of two young children, so she knows how hard it can be to lead an active life!

Donna Savage Empower

You can do the workouts individually or do all of them together. The menu is set up so that you have a variety of options.

Swing Yourself Fit menu

Gin gives cues throughout the workout as to how hard you should be working on a scale of 1-10.

Gin Miller RPE

She made sure to explain how to do the different kettlebell grips. I love that each section also included a timer at the bottom to let you know how much time was left.

Kettlebell grip

I did all three workouts and it was quite challenging! Moves would go from upper body to lower body and sometimes both at the same time, all while utilizing your core! That’s what I found most interesting (and also tiring) during this workout: in order to stabilize your body to swing the weight, you are aware of the fact that you are using your core the entire time!

Gin had me chugging water not far into the workout. At one point I even had to pause it to get some water because there were no breaks during each segment. She is no joke! I do a lot of glute work and this workout had my booty burning by the end! And even though this is for women/by women, guess who wanted to try it out and loved it? Yes, Whole Health Husband!

Gin was a good instructor, giving reminders about form as well as checking the space around you before doing certain moves. I would highly recommend not only this set, but kettlebells in general! I’m very grateful to Empower for giving me this opportunity to try a new workout and share it with all of you!

Disclosure: Empower sent me the 3-in-1 Kettlebell to review. All opinions are my own.

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On Mom Pants and Mental Health

I have this pair of work pants that I hate. I have a short waist and the pants have a long-ish rise, so they sit too high on my waist. They are, for lack of a better description, stereotypical mom pants (no offense to the moms out there, but you know the kind of pants I’m talking about). And the fact that I still have to wear sneakers to work due to my plantar fasciitis doesn’t help me feel especially fashionable right now.

Mom pants front

No bueno

So why do I keep wearing them week after week? Because I only have TWO other pairs of work pants and they’re both black.

Mom pants side

Meh

And why do I only have two other pairs of work pants? It’s a combination of issues that mostly revolve around the fact that I hate shopping, I’m frugal, I’m incredibly picky, and most of my wardrobe has become too big for me in the past year thanks to losing weight. I’ve already lost so much clothes the past year due to my decrease in weight that I can’t stand to get rid of a pair that fits perfectly well.

My reaction to shopping and spending money I don't have to.

My reaction to shopping and spending money I don’t have to.

So why am I telling you this? Because it’s something that definitely affects my mental health on days I wear the pants. Yes, I completely understand that this is a “First World Problem.” I should be grateful that I have more than one pair of pants to wear. I also understand how silly it is that a pair of pants can mess with my head, but when you add the bad pants to dry skin patches on my face (thank you, Polar Vortex!), staticy hair, and sneakers, I don’t exactly feel like I have my bleep together and that in turn makes me feel like a hot mess. I hate feeling like a hot mess.

Official Hot Mess (OHM)

Not this kind of Hot Mess

But you know what I decided this weekend? In this situation, the money saving isn’t worth it. Feeling like I look like crap isn’t worth it. Life is too short to feel bad about yourself. When I feel good about how I present myself, I feel like I can conquer anything. So, now that the pants are freshly washed, they are going in the donation pile. I’ll survive on my two pair of pants, a few pairs of skirts, and some dresses for the next week or so until I find myself a few good pairs of pants.

In weekend news, WHH and I had a little adventure on Friday afternoon. We went to Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) to get custom orthotics made for our wonky feet. Our physical therapist highly recommended the Sports Medicine Physical Therapy department at MGH. We had a chuckle when we walked into the exam room and saw this:

Disco ball at MGH

And the disco ball is for…?

It must have been left over from a Stanley Cup celebration because the person who consulted with us and made the molds, the clinical director of the program, also just happens to be, oh, I don’t know, the Boston Bruins’ Physical Therapist!

Boston Bruins Stanley Cup 2013

C/o Michael Miller/Wikimedia Commons

He was incredibly knowledgeable about what was going on with our feet and also very personable. When he started examining WHH after making my molds, he laughed out loud when he realized that we have the SAME EXACT problem: we both pronate on our left foot only. The couple that have the same left foot stay together? For me, the problem showed up as glute issues and plantar fasciitis. For my husband, it’s been more of a tibial tendonitis/stress fracture.

Once we were done, we headed over to the Museum of Science to catch an Imax movie at the Mugar Omni Theater. I loved going there as a kid and still love visiting. My most memorable time was when I got to sleep over the museum with my Girl Scout troop. It  was so cool to be there after hours and to have the run of the place!

We got there a little early for our show, so we had a quick snack in the cafe, which had a lovely view of the sunset over the Charles.

Museum of Science Boston January 2013

Then we headed over to the theater entrance. The film room in encased in glass so you can watch the film reels in process.

Mugar Omni Theater film room January 2013

Our seat-choosing tactic: get the ones in front of a speaker booth (at least, I think that’s what it was), so we don’t have any kids kicking our seats.

Omni theater January 2013

Same feet, similar glasses.

After the movie, we wandered over to P.F. Chang’s for dinner. I had heard they had an extensive gluten-free menu, so I jumped at the chance to have Asian food that was more interesting than plain steamed vegetables and chicken. Though the egg drop soup was good and service was spectacular, we were both a bit underwhelmed with the quality. I think we’ve gotten to the point that we’d rather visit a local, non-chain restaurant that has great food less frequently than visit chain restaurants more frequently.

Questions: Does what you’re wearing affect how you feel about yourself? Have you gotten rid of something perfectly fine because it just wasn’t working for you? Are you a nerd for science museums? Do you prefer chain restaurants or non-chains?

Woman in blue image courtesy of stockimages/FreeDigitalPhotos.net, Official Hot Mess image © Glenn Francis, http://www.PacificProDigital.com

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Friday Favorite: KT Tape

I can’t believe it’s Friday already! Don’t get me wrong–I’m not complaining! Did the week go by quickly for you, too?

Friday love

Today’s Friday Favorite shouldn’t come as any surprise to you since it’s been featured many times already. That’s right, I’m talking about KT Tape!

What is KT Tape? It’s an elastic sports/fitness tape designed for muscle, ligament and tendon pain relief and support. Though I had heard of it a few years ago, I hadn’t tried it until I went to physical therapy last year. It entered the mainstream thanks to lots of coverage during the Olympics. Who can forget seeing it on the beach volleyball players?

KT tape beach volleyball Olympics

Source

(As a side note, can I just say how incredible beach volleyball players are?! Talk about athletic! I always love watching this sport during the Olympics.)

Anyway, back on topic. I have found KT Tape to be extremely helpful in my recovery from plantar fasciitis. You can see all of my references to it here. There is some debate as to what KT Tape actually does and if it really does help. Even I was skeptical of using it at first. I say, try it out, and if it works, great. If not, you didn’t do any harm.

I use the regular KT Tape. They also offer KT Tape Pro, which lasts longer, and is synthetic instead of cotton, but is a bit more expensive. I have found the regular one to work just fine. I can wear it in the shower and it lasts for about three days. Plus, I have extremely sensitive skin and it has never bothered me.

KT tape roll

My first purchase was the pre-cut strips. I may buy the roll next time now that I’m more comfortable using the product. When you buy the pre-cut roll package (I bought mine at CVS, but will probably purchase on Amazon next time), it comes with the roll and a small instruction booklet. Luckily, plantar fasciitis is one of the taping methods they show. If your injury isn’t in the booklet, they have an extensive library of videos and pictures on their website.

KT tape packaging

The way I use it is a little differently than shown. I copy the way my physical therapist used it on me. First, take a strip from the roll (or cut 10″ from an un-cut roll and round the edges).

KT tape pre-cut strip

Take off a few inches of the backing on one end of the tape and place it on the arch of you foot, with the rest of the tape coming along the inside of your leg.

KT tape bottom of foot

Pull off a bit more of the backing and start to pull it tight once you come around the arch.

KT tape ankle

Keep pulling it tight all the way up the rest of your leg as you remove the remainder of the backing.

KT tape inside leg

Sorry it’s blurry–had a hard time holding tight while taking picture one-handed.

Once all of the tape is on your leg, check the placement and tightness. It’s fine to slowly peel it off and readjust if you need to. Once you like the placemt, start rubbing the tape onto your leg and foot to active the adhesive.

KT tape rubbing in

And there you have it:

KT tape on inside of leg

In an effort to conserve what I have left and to wean myself off of using it (I don’t want to have to rely on it forever!), I’ve been cutting the sheets in half. So far it’s worked well.

KT tape inside leg half

I was able to move on to stage 7 of Return to Running yesterday! A whole 2 minutes of running with 3 minutes of walking x4. Unfortunately, I had to be inside on the track because it was a bit too chilly outside for me.

Chilly outside 1/23

I actually get a kind of cold exercise-induced asthma when it gets below 20 degree F or so. Anyone else run into this problem?

Speaking of cold…look what I have to stick my elbow in for 20 minutes every day:

Bowl of ice

I’ve had a recurrence of tennis elbow and after three weeks of pain, I decided to seek out the help of a local chiropractor (my usual chiropractor’s chiropractor) who employs a variety of techniques, such as Graston and Active Release. He noted that my long-standing shoulder issue may have increased my vulnerability to injury in my elbow due to the way my body was compensating.

Frozen goosebump arm

Just a little red and chilly post-ice bath

The ice bath is killer for the first two minutes. As in, what you’re doing just feels wrong! Once you get to five minutes, it’s all just numb and it could stay in there indefinitely.

The chiropractor also mentioned that given I have a sub-clinical underactive thyroid that is being treated with medication and have had a variety of soft tissue injuries this past year, I may want to explore that avenue (hypothyroidism can cause a variety of muscle-related issues such as  general muscular weakness and pain; joint pain, achiness, and stiffness; tendonitis; and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome). Finally, someone who took my ENTIRE body into account, not just the specific injury!

Hypothyroidism body

Source

First I’ll see how treatment goes with the elbow/shoulder before exploring that further. Don’t want to change too many things at once!

I was privileged to be included in a meeting yesterday that included representatives from two local colleges and a local bank. We will be working on combining our employee running groups. A colleague and I started one last September (yes, at the beginning of my PF), but with the shorter, busier days, members quickly dwindled. We were planning to try it again in the spring when this opportunity arose. Even though I’m generally a solo runner, I’m looking forward to seeing how this develops. It’s always so great to meet other runners!

Questions: Any weekend plans? Have you used KT Tape? Are you in polar vortex part II? Anyone have an injury you just can’t shake? Do you have hypothyroidism symptoms even though you’ve been treated for it? Have you run with a group before? What did you like/dislike? Any suggestions for us?

Friday image courtesy of jesadaphorn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Easy Enchiladas

Enchiladas have become one of our go-to weeknight meals. The best thing about this recipe? You can mix it up depending on what’s in the fridge and it’s relatively healthy. All you really need are:

  • A protein
  • Veggies
  • Cheese
  • Tortillas
  • Enchilada sauce or items to make it (see below)
  • Optional: sour cream or plain Greek yogurt, taco seasoning

We like to get the enchilada sauce going first. We use Emeril’s Easy Enchilada Sauce recipe. It makes about twice as much as you need, so we’ll usually freeze the remaining half for another night. We tend to use a little less chicken stock than is called for and replace it with water.

Enchilada sauce

One of us gets to vegetable chopping while the other mans the stove. This time, Whole Health Husband had found some kale and scallions in the fridge, which he quickly cut up and put a mixing bowl.

Kale and scallions for enchiladas

He then cut up some green and yellow peppers with onion, which I then sautéed. Once those were cooked, they went in with the other veggies.

Vegetable base for enchiladas

Veggies are still steaming

Meanwhile, I cooked the ground turkey. We threw in a little chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt, and pepper for seasoning. I also pre-heated the oven to 350 degrees F.

Ground turkey for enchiladas

WHH then rounded up the rest of the items we needed: a mix of cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese, some sour cream (you can sub plain Greek yogurt if you don’t have any), and his tortillas.

Dairy for enchiladas

These are my tortillas (GF):

Gluten free tortillas

Once everything is cooked, we mix the turkey with the veggies and put in enough sour cream to coat everything. We also put in about 1/2 cup of shredded cheese.

Enchilada stuffing

The final step before cooking is to stuff the tortillas. I plop some of the mix in the middle of the tortilla, then wrap one side over the other (no fancy burrito wrapping skills here).

Enchiladas being stuffed

Yes, the plates from our wedding less than five years ago have already cracked! (Crate and Barrel)

Assemble the enchiladas in a baking dish, pour the enchilada sauce on top, and top with grated cheese (Monterey Jack or, my personal favorite, cheddar).

Enchiladas ready for the oven

Once the oven is pre-heated, cook for 15-20 minutes, or until the cheese has melted.

Cooked enchiladas

All that’s left to do is enjoy!

Easy enchiladas ready to eat

And if there are only two or three of you in your household, there is plenty for leftovers the next day!

Enchilada leftovers

Side note: Perhaps you caught this on Twitter, but I wanted to let you know that as part of my journey to become an RN, I will be taking Anatomy and Physiology I starting today! Class will need to be my primary focus outside of work (in addition to working out and eating well). Posts may be a bit shorter and a little less frequent, but I am still very much committed to this venture! In fact, I plan on sharing some dorky fun facts with you as I learn more about the amazing human body!

Anatomy and Physiology I textbook

Questions: What is one of your go-to weeknight meals? Anything you’ve recently started that you’re excited about? Any steps you’ve taken toward a long- or short-term goal?

Quick Tip: Get the Short

Hi everyone! How was your weekend? It seemed too short (<– see what I did there?), as usual, but I definitely relaxed!

Since it’s Monday, I’m going to try to keep it short (can’t help myself!) and sweet with a Quick Tip. My brew of choice when I go to Starbucks is usually a tall bold coffee, black. Every once in a while, though, I like to indulge with a non-fat cappuccino, chai, or, once a year (usually on my birthday), a salted caramel hot chocolate. However, when I get a drink that’s not black coffee I order the short.

Note: I have a small hand so I’m making it look larger than it is (my FIL calls me “Doll Hands”)

Now, you may be wondering, “What the heck is the short?” It’s a size smaller than the tall and even thought it’s not advertised on their menu, they do offer it. It’s 8 oz., as opposed to the tall’s 12 oz. Not only will you save on calories, but you’ll save yourself a little money, too! I also like my cappuccinos strong as they were in Italy, so when I get the short, they naturally have to add less milk than they do with the tall, making it automatically stronger!

That’s all I have for today’s tip. In terms of my weekend and running…

Note: There are some graphic images below of the Body Worlds exhibit. Viewer discretion advised. 🙂

Friday night I went to see the Body Worlds exhibit at Quincy Market in Boston. I previously saw it about seven years ago when it was at the Museum of Science and loved it then. Body Worlds has traveling exhibits throughout the world showcasing preserved human bodies and body parts uniquely displayed to show a variety of systems and diseases.

It was a warm night for January in Boston (mid 30s), so it was nice to walk around a bit outside before meeting up with my friend.

Once inside Quincy Market, the second floor was jammed because it was the last day to use a Living Social deal. The line moved quickly given the size and we were soon inside. They let too many people in at once and it was hot, so we moved along quickly.

My friend is also a research coordinator, so we had a fun time comparing what we found interesting and discussing the specimens (nerd alert?). Like me, my friend is enthusiastic about eating well and working out, so we found some of the most fascinating pieces to be the comparison of a normal weight person to an overweight person.

I had a hard time getting good pictures due to the lighting, but here is a slice of the body, as seen from the side:

Body slice

Slice of the leg, as seen from top to bottom:

Leg slice

Look at all of the pressure being put on the body systems by the additional fat! This exhibit is a great visual for how important it is to keep your body healthy.

We had an unexpected storm here on Saturday. That is, we were only supposed to get a dusting and instead we got nearly six inches. I love how peaceful it looks when it snows.

Another winter wonderland

The roads were decent enough on Sunday for me to venture out for another stab at stage 6.

Layered and ready to go, dork style.

The time went by really quickly even though it was pretty cold. I tried to focus on my form (legs falling directly under my body, slight forward lean, relaxed shoulders). I went to a Chi Running clinic last February at a Greater Boston Running Company location and a lot of what they said stuck with me, particularly the forward lean helping you run.

I had a slightly slower pace than last week and my arch and heel felt tight, though no pain.

1-19 run

We’ll see how it does over the next couple of days. Perhaps even though it was tight, I can move on to stage 7? Here’s where I’m at with my mileage:

Mileage increase 1-19

I’m looking forward to seeing a physical therapist at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH, or, as it’s known to the medical community, “Man’s Greatest Hospital”) this week for an orthotics consult . My husband has an appointment as well the same day. Hot date, huh?

Questions: Do you like Starbucks? What’s your favorite drink? Have you ever gotten a short? Have you seen Body Worlds? Anyone else try Chi Running?

As always, I welcome all comments, questions, and suggestions!

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Friday Favorite: Gaiam BalanceBall Desk Chair

Happy Friday, everyone!

I am so glad it’s Friday! It’s just been one of those weeks. I’ve been really tired the past two days for no reason and just a bit, well, blah. Just a case of the Januarys?

TGIF

Thankfully, today’s Friday Favorite has helped with some of the fatigue. I’m talking about the gift I got for Christmas from Whole Health Husband, the Gaiam BalanceBall Desk Chair!

Gaiam BalanceBall Chair green

I’ve actually been wanting one for a while, but didn’t get one because I didn’t know what the reaction would be at work (i.e., safety-wise). WHH decided to take it upon himself to get it for me and I’m so glad he did! I think he was even a little sad when I brought it to work after I got the okay from my manager.

It feels so much better on my glutes and my hips don’t hurt at all. Another added benefit? I feel like I have more energy during the day. You know how you can sometimes turn into a work zombie when you’re stuck at the computer all day? Not with this chair! I’m thinking it has something to do with being more aware of your body in order to stay upright.

It was so popular that my co-worker promptly bought one in purple!

Gaiam BalanceBall Chair Purple

She also loves hers. They take up less room than a regular chair and you can easily adjust the firmness with the included pump. We usually sit upright without our backs on the support, but we’ll occasionally lean back to take a little break.

In return to running news (this seems to be a regular topic in my FFs now!), I seem to be stuck at stage six. Remember how I didn’t want to jinx myself last week by putting in the date I completed that stage? Well, it didn’t matter because I definitely haven’t passed it yet.

RTR stage 6

Like a good girl, I decided to do that stage again since my arch was feeling a bit iffy after last week’s run. I also resorted to using the KT tape again. The good news is that the weather has been so mild in Massachusetts this week that I was able to get outside for the workout.

Giddy to go on my first outdoor run since August.

Giddy to go on my first outdoor run since August.

I know that mixing up the surface may not have been the best idea, but I actually felt pretty good. It was refreshing to be outside instead of dodging people on a small track.

Feels like the spring

Better than a track any day.

Another plus to being outside? I was able to figure out my mileage instead of guessing because the GPS was finally working on my app. Assuming I’m going about the same speed outside as I am inside, or perhaps even a little slower given the inclines and wind factor, I’m actually closer to doing two miles in my workout. Not bad for doing a combination of walking and jogging for about 23 minutes!

Running Mileage Increase Week 8

I would have tried running again yesterday except I twerked tweaked my knee and didn’t think it would be a good idea to run on it. I actually messed up my knee on Saturday, but didn’t start feeling it until a few days later. Nothing major; it only hurts going up and down stairs. Since it didn’t go away in a few days, I decided rest and ice was in order. I’ve been resting since Wednesday, so I hope to be able to do something low impact tomorrow and perhaps try stage six (for the last time?!) on Sunday before the Patriots game.

Will you be watching the big game on Sunday? Who are you rooting for (please tell me the Patriots!)? Have you tried a balance ball as a chair? Would you?

Thanks for reading and feel free to leave any other comments or questions!

Quick Tip: Avoid Triclosan

I love receiving gifts that are a nicer versions of things I already buy on a regular basis, such as gourmet foods, fancy bath and body products, or even fun cocktail napkins. So naturally I was very excited when I received a Bath and Body Works hand soap for a stocking stuffer at Christmas. The one from last Christmas had just run out!

B&B Works Hand Soap

As I was washing my hands with my new soap, I turned it around to check out the description of the product and then I saw it: triclosan. 

B&BW back

(I want to note that in no way do I blame the gift-giver and am grateful for the gift; it was a very thoughtful gift!)

What is triclosan?  It’s an antimicrobial agent found in consumer products that I’ve been trying to avoid. It’s been around for a while, but perhaps you’ve heard of it more recently thanks to an official FDA Consumer Update.

FDA triclosan

Why is the FDA potentially worried about it? Use of triclosan may lead to antimicrobial resistance, much as our overuse of antibiotics is leading to antibiotic resistance.

Doxycycline, a broad spectrum antibiotic

Why is this a problem? Because the stronger bacteria become, the less responsive they are to the antibiotics we have available. These super bacteria, such as MRSA , spread through the community, introducing a new strain of infectious disease that is more difficult to cure and more expensive to treat. Though new antibiotics are being tested, we only have so many different antibiotics we can use at the present time. Once we run out of new ones to give someone, that’s it.

At the hospital I work at, we use these hand sanitizers.

Avagard front

As you can see on the back, this hand sanitizer uses alcohol to disinfect. While there hasn’t been any strong evidence yet to link alcohol sanitizers with superbugs, they are incredibly drying, so I usually only use it about once a day, before I eat lunch. Otherwise, I use good ol’ soap and water since it’s just as good as antibacterial soap at getting rid of germs.

Avagard back

Additionally, there are some questions about whether triclosan is a hormone disrupter. Two strikes against this chemical is enough to make me want to avoid it.

So, what can you get instead when you need hand soap? I’d suggest the Method brand. We’ve bought the regular dispenser and then get the  Method Gel Hand Wash Refill in whatever scent is available. The product is affordable (the refill was only $5!), biodegradable, and naturally derived.

Method hand soap

Though I’m only talking about triclosan in hand soap, it may also be found in body soap, toothpaste, deodorant, cosmetics, kitchenware (such as antimicrobial cutting boards), clothes (such as industrial shoes), children’s toys, and other household and consumer products.

Have you heard of triclosan before? Have you been avoiding it or using in moderation? Are you afraid of superbugs?

Please note I am not affiliated with any of these companies and was not paid to discuss the products. This is purely my opinion.

*Doxycycline picture c/o Shorelander

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My Stretching Routine

Hi everyone! How is your Monday going so far? Already over it or happy to tackle a new week?

As you know, I’ve had a variety of injuries over the past year. Many of the stretches that my physical therapist gave me to do work for both my glute injury and my plantar fasciitis. These are lower body stretches that focus on the hips (very tight on me), glutes, hamstrings, calves, and IT band.

I do these stretches after Every. Single. Workout. and whenever I’m feeling tight. These have helped in my recovery and keeping my injuries at bay. I mix up the order of the stretches, but generally try to not do two hip openers or bent over stretches in a row. I hold each stretch for around 20 seconds. On days I’m feeling extra tight, I’ll add in a second set of the stretch. I only illustrated one side, but you’ll want to do both to keep it even. 🙂

Quadriceps and hip stretch: I love to start with this one when I’ve done a bicycle workout because my quads are often the most sore and it opens up the front of my hip after sitting for so long. You should feel the stretch through the front of your left leg and in your psoas (front of the hip).

Here’s a trick I learned a long time ago from a nice man at the gym who saw me yanking back my leg: try to keep your stretching leg equal with your standing leg and instead of pulling back really hard, pull back, but then tense your quad and glute to push back against the pull. That will protect your knees. Also, be sure to keep your stretching leg directly under you and not out to the side, as that can also hurt the knee.

Quad stretch

My “I don’t have my glasses on so I don’t know what I’m looking at” look.

Hamstring stretch: There are many ways to stretch your hamstring, but this is the way my physical therapist taught me to do it. Put your foot up to whatever height you can comfortably. My hamstrings are actually quite loose (while my quads are tight–see the problem?), so I’m able to get my leg up pretty high. Then, gradually lean forward to where you can feel it, but don’t force it. If you’re flexible enough, you can also pull back on the top of your foot to get a calf stretch. Be sure not to hunch over as I am in the picture.

Hamstring

Speaking of calves…

Calf stretch: AKA “pushing through the wall.” (My husband jokes it looks like I’m trying to move around the walls of our house when I do this stretch.)

With both hands on the wall and your body positioned square with the wall (not looking to the side like me), put one foot a few feet in front of the other. Lean into the front foot by bending your knee, but not past 90 degrees. Keep your back heel on the ground and the leg straight. Remember, this is for your calf, not your hip, so put the focus of the stretch there. This is a must for anyone with plantar fasciitis!

Heel

Hip stretch: Another great one for tight hips! Find something elevated, usually at least two feet high, and place one of your feet on it. Then, keeping the stabilizing leg straight, lean forward into the stretch so that you feel it through the front of your hip while keeping the heel on the ground.

Hip front

A great tip for this stretch is to also squeeze the glute of the stabilizing leg as you’re doing the stretch. You won’t believe the added stretch you’ll get through the hip. Sounds funny, but you’ll just have to trust me.

Glute squeeze

IT band stretch: The IT (iliotibial) band is a band of thick fascia that starts at your hip and goes all the way down the side of your leg where it is anchored to the outside of your knee. That is why people with IT band syndrome have pain on the outside of their knees: the tissue is so tight that it’s pulling the knee up. I never had IT band pain, but mine is extremely tight (remember how my physical therapist called it “grainy” and gave me aggressive Graston on it?). The IT band is notoriously hard to stretch, but this is the way I’ve found works best for me.

ITB

You start by placing one foot over the other. Let’s say you put your left foot over your right as I have in the mirror image above. You then want to lean your weight into your right hip while reaching both hands over to the left. You should feel a slight stretch down outside of your right leg. It’s a tough one and may take a few tries to get. If you’re not flexible enough to go to the ground, you can also stretch up and to the left side.

Glute and hip stretch: Aka the “figure four” stretch. Lie down on your back with your feet on the floor. As shown below, put the outside of your left ankle on your right leg, just above the knee, so that it would look like a the number four if your legs were straight. This may already be a stretch for some of you, so if it is, you can stay here. To get more of a stretch, put your hands behind your right leg and pull it off the ground toward you chest. You should feel the stretch through your entire left glute and side of your hip.

Hip piriformis

Piriformis stretch: The piriformis is a muscle in your glutes that can be hard to isolate when stretching. Many runners get piriformis syndrome, which is when the piriformis compresses or otherwise irritates the sciatic nerve, resulting in pain down the back of the leg.

This stretch looks similar to the one above, with some slight differences. While on your back, cross your left leg again as above. Then, instead of pulling your right leg toward you to bring up both legs in a figure four, grab only your left leg and pull it toward your opposite (right) shoulder. See the difference? Instead of the left knee going toward the left shoulder, you’re now bringing it to the right shoulder. You should feel the stretch through the middle of your glute.

Piriformis

My entire left leg is in the air even though it looks like it’s resting on the right leg.

I’ll often foam roll my IT band and glutes before doing the last three exercises, just to aid in my stretching. I was feeling pretty loose this day, so I skipped the rolling. I’ll also sometimes my arch and stretch my left foot if it’s feeling tight.

IMAGE_1723

IMAGE_1721

Do you have a stretch routine? Do you do any of the stretches above? What are some of your favorite stretches? Do you like stretching or do you just see it as an ends to a mean?

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Friday Favorite: Shea Moisture Lotion (+ Quick Update)

Happy Friday!

Here we are at the end of the first full week of the new year! One of the things that is always synonymous with the new year for me is DRY SKIN! Granted, it probably did start back in November when the heat had to be on constantly, but it’s now had a couple of months to fester.

The worst part is my legs. I can remember winters where they would get incredibly itchy, enough to make you go crazy, and I’d cave and start scratching them (isn’t that initial feel just heaven?) and then be left with even drier and more sensitive skin. When I was young, my mom would put the lotion in the microwave for a few seconds to warm it up and then put it on my legs for me. Aren’t moms the best?

Needless to say, I’m always on the lookout for a good body cream. I had been going back and forth between Burt’s Bees Milk & Honey Body Lotion and Shea Butter & Vitamin E Fragrance Free Body Lotion because I like to use natural products. I realized I had run out, so while I was at CVS, I went to purchase more, but the price seemed much higher than I remember. I looked around for a while before I came upon this:

Shea Moisture front

It’s SheaMoisture Olive & Green Tea Body Lotion. The price was right (less than Burt’s Bees), as was the product itself. In keeping in line with my New Year goal to reduce my exposure to pesticides, hormones, chemicals, and other toxins, the product doesn’t contain parabens, sulfates, phthalates, mineral oil, petrolatum, DEA, PABA, synthetic fragrance or artificial color. They also do not participate in animal testing.

Shea Moisture back 1

The story of the company goes, “Sofi Tucker began selling shea nuts at the village market in Bonthe, Sierra Leone in 1912. By age 19, the widowed mother of four was selling her shea butter and African black soap all over the countryside. Sofi Tucker was our grandmother, and SheaMoisture is her legacy. We proudly create culturally-authentic, time-tested skin and hair care remedies from family recipes using all-natural and fair trade ingredients.”

This particular lotion is incredibly thick and moisturizing, yet absorbs pretty quickly. I haven’t had any itchy episodes since I started using this cream and I am very thankful for that. My only problem with the product is that it’s so thick that I have a hard time squeezing it out the bottle (hence why it looks all beat up in the pictures). I have resorted to storing it upside down and taking off the cap and sticking in my fingers to pull out the lotion when I put it on after my shower. I think it would work better if it came in a tub.

Now, a quick update on my plantar fasciitis and return to running.

I was able to complete stage 6 yesterday! I’m a little superstitious about marking it as complete on my handy chart since I’m having a little discomfort today, but pretend there’s a 1/9 in that row below. Maybe because it was the first time I ran without having KT tape on?

RTR stage 6

I figured out that I’m not getting a good GPS signal on the track, which is why the mileage was so off on my RunKeeper app. I’ve guesstimated my mileage based on my approximate speed while walking and running. I’ve had to adjust my mileage a few times since November, but I think I’m up to a total of approximately 1.65 mi.

Mileage increase 1-9

I think I may try to venture outside for my next run since the roads are finally cleared of snow. I had been hesitant because roads can be harder on your feet, but after trying to dodge the gym’s youth switm team and other people not aware of track etiquette (talking on cell phones, walking two or three abreast, etc.), I think a trial outside would be good for my sanity! Plus, my gym hasn’t changed the direction of the track, so I don’t want to get another overuse injury!

Some questions: Do you need to switch up your winter routine because of dry skin? What are some of your favorite products? How do you feel about running on a track vs. outside vs. a treadmill, especially in the winter?

Have a great weekend!