Saturday, April 30, 2011

The score on running

It's the final day of April, which means it's time to disclose the score on running.

Before I you get to the scorecard, I should disclose that I don't feel I gave my all to my month of running. Having my wisdom teeth out meant I lost momentum mid-month. I was running 10 kilometers and getting stronger. My hip flexers and toe joints were starting to get accustomed to the extra work they were doing on the trail. And then, bed rest for 4 days took the wind out of my sails. Or I should say, the hop out of my step.

This week my friends met me downtown for a short run around the beautiful harbour in downtown Victoria, BC. We didn't even run 5 kilometers and I was struggling. On May 1st I will be running the Victoria Times Colonist 10KM run. According to an article in the Times Colonist, more than 13,000 participants are expected. I've run the race before, but this year they changed the route - a change that many local runners have been preparing themselves for. My goal was to run the race in 1.5 hours, but after my run on Thursday night, my goal is to simply run the whole thing without having to walk more than twice. We'll see how it goes.

If you're thinking about running, here are some things to consider:
  • Social or solitary? Running can be a sport you do on your own or something you do with friends. There are running groups in every city around North America. Find a local running store and they will be able to tell you about groups you can join. Running stores often offer running clinics for newbies too.
  • Knee trouble... beware. I will never be a distance runner. Running is hard on your joints - your toes, your knees, and your hips. But, the rewards are pretty hard to argue with. After running you'll feel energized and, if you stay with it, you're bound to slim down. 10KM is probably the longest I should ever run. 5KM is a much better distance for me. My best to those of you out there who have ambitions of running a half or full marathon!
  • Technology and music options are awesome! While I have no plans of becoming a serious runner, there are endless gadgets for those of you who want to be. For example, Nike partnered with Apple to offer the Nike iPod Sport Kit; it will tell you your time, distance, pace, and calories burned. A fellow tweeter told me about iTunes special running play lists. Her favourite is Nike's CassiusPlay.
And now, here is the score on running:

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Special Report: Horseshoes

You might be surprised to find that this week's post isn't about running. Last week I had all four wisdom teeth pulled, and I've been recovering ever since. Because I've looked like "Chippy" the Chipmunk, I have shyed away from running or any other physical activity. I knew I'd be immobile, and thought now would be a perfect time for a special report on horseshoes!

A few weeks ago I was invited to stop by the Victoria Horseshoe Club Open House. What can I say, other than I had the greatest time?!

It's a game you've probably heard of many times. Heck, you might even have played it at the occasional family reunion. But, here are a few facts you may not have known about the game:
  • Horseshoes as a game dates back to the second century in Western Asia and Europe
  • There are competitive leagues in the United States and Canada: The National Horseshoe Pitchers Association of America (NHPAA) and Horseshoe Canada Association
  • Victoria, BC has the second largest club in Canada (a club in Ontario is the biggest)
  • You don't "throw" the horseshoe, you "pitch" it
  • When the shoe encircles the stake, it's called a ringer (worth 3 points)
  • Shoes that land within 6 inches of the stake, but do not encircle it, are worth 1 point
  • A shoe that lands against the stake, but does not encircle it, is called a "leaner"
My friends and I had so much fun learning how to pitch the shoes properly. My friend Liz and I practiced standing at the women's line, while our friend Timal stood at the men's line. I try not to brag, but I did get multiple ringers. ;) Although, as the afternoon went on I think I lost my accuracy a bit. We had amazing coaches in the Club members though. They reminded us to stay loose, focus on the direction of our arm, the height at which we released the shoe, and having fun all around.

Special thanks to Tom for reaching out through the comments section of Injured Player and inviting me to the Victoria Horseshoe Club Open House. And thanks to - Gordon, Pat, and Sharon for being excellent teachers! And to all the members of the club; my friends and I felt so welcome and had a great time.

Are you the next great horseshoe player?
The Club is always looking for new members. Men, women, and youth! Visit their website for more information:

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Step to it

What makes running great is that you can do it anywhere. Nice weather? Hit the streets. Ugly weather? Find a gym and get on the treadmill.

Unlike the sports I've tried previously for Injured Player - boxing and rock climbing - running presents an opportunity to change the scenery. You can literally run anywhere.

And so, my preparation for the upcoming 10K run took me out to beautiful Elk Lake. As you can see from the pictures, there's a great running trail that is scenic - it follows a lake and is sheltered by trees and the west coast's "wilderness". It's a very popular spot for runners because it's approximately 10K, so people can easily track their distance.

I went with my friend Liz and a few of her friends. She's in a regular running group and has been kind enough to give me some pointers.

Secret number one: Talking while running is good! If you can't talk because you're out of breath, you're probably running too fast. (This may be the sport for me after all!)

Secret number two: Smaller, short steps are good for keeping your energy up. Plus, she said that when you step your focus should be on lifting your knees up. Most of us focus more on pounding the ground, getting that next step in. Instead, if you focus on lifting your knees you'll find a longer run less daunting.

Secret number three: Try not to hunch your body or lean too far forward. As Liz recalled, at the end of a long race you often see people barely standing, their bodies are so exhausted they just want to fall forward. When running, you should try and keep a nice up and down line through your body.

Running 10K off the bat is a lot, which is why I've been doing several smaller runs before going straight to the long distance. I've run Elk Lake twice now. At this point I'm still walking and running. I noticed that last time my body felt much better - my hip flexer and toe were a bit achy at the end again, but not nearly as bad as they were after my first trip around the lake.

I think the key is to listen to your body. Don't push yourself at the expense of your health.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

On the treadmill

We were born to run. It's nature's transportation system for us humans! And then humankind came along and "innovated". We gave ourselves the treadmill.

This week I ran in two different gyms on the treadmill. I was in Vancouver, BC and had hoped to explore the city; but my running friend got sick, so I played it safe and hunted out the hotel gym. That's one of the pros for choosing a treadmill over outdoor running - if you're alone or it's dark and you're not comfortable outside, the gym offers a safe alternative.

There are pros and cons for treadmill running though, as I've discovered.

One con: running on a treadmill can be boring or uninspiring. (Especially if you are in a gym like the one my hotel had. Ick, look at that wall colour!) Another is that the treadmill isn't entirely natural - the machine sets the pace for you and the conditions are ideal (not like outdoor running if you're preparing for a race). In my experience, the upside to treadmill running is you can set a pace and stick to it; I have a routine so I know when I'm going to speed up and slow down. Running Planet has a explanation of the various pros and cons of treadmill running.

Been running shoe shopping lately? 

The question that always puzzled me is whether I need a neutral shoe or one for a pronator. I'd move awkwardly around the store as the salesman asked me to walk in my socked feet to "observe my movement". Then he'd say something like, "ah, you need this type of shoe." I didn't get it... until this week.

Thanks to my focus on running on a treadmill this week I discovered I'm an underpronator!

As I was on the treadmill trying to distract myself (my earphones weren't working and I was left without music to entertain me), I started paying attention to how my foot was hitting the tread. I run on the outside of my foot. Eureka! I finally know I should be buying a shoe with more padding on the outside edge.

Not sure if you have a neutral, overpronator or underpronator running style? Check out Runner's World's great article (with video!) "Pronation, Explained".

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Prepare to Run

Well, it's a new month and time to try a new sport again. Without further adieu, I am announcing that April will be a month spent running!

Are you groaning? "She's running?!"

In deciding what I'd tackle next, I kept bumping up against the idea of running. My decision was made easy based on a few factors. First, we're finally experiencing spring-like weather: Yay for being outside! Next, with the time change it's possible to get out in the evening to run. And finally, my wallet could use the break; I've got a pair of ratty old runners, so my equipment costs will be low.

In my research for the Injured Player I've started reading blogs and articles about sport to get ideas. Almost every blog about sports I've encountered is predominately focused on running. It leads me to believe you or someone you know might be considering taking up running.

Here are some of my favourite running blogs:
Run to the Finish
Woman on the Run
Geek Turned Athlete

Running could be the worst thing I try as far as my knee injury goes. But, as one of the most popular adult sports, I couldn't really not try it. At the start of May I'll be participating in a local 10km run. I have no illusions of running a marathon. My knee couldn't handle it.

The top running injuries don't appear ACL related, which is good news for me. However,  according to the experts I can look forward to everything from blisters to shin splints. But - being the optimist I am, I will make sure that I warm up thoroughly to avoid anything more severe than a blister. has a good overview of top stretches for runners, including:
  • Standing calf
  • Standing IT band
  • Standing quad
  • Seated hamstring
  • Hip flexers
  • Simple shoulder
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • (and my favourite!) Pigeon
So start stretching and get out there. Maybe we'll see each other on the run!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The score on rock climbing

The best stretch after a hard climb!
I hung from the rock wall for the last official time on Monday night. After only a few weeks, I almost feel like I could be a stunt double in the next Spider Man movie. (Ha ha!)

I made sure I challenged myself on the last night, but I didn't leave on a climb I couldn't finish. There are still routes that haunt my dreams... I hope to get back and beat them when my schedule frees up a bit!

Before we get to the score on rock climbing, here are some considerations for those of you thinking about rock climbing for the first time:
  • Do you have a fear of heights? This is probably the quintessential question you need to ask yourself before climbing. You could be a serial belayer standing on the ground, but where's the fun in that? To be a climber you need to have confidence with your body in the air - far above the ground.
  • Get strong. If you, like me, spend most of your day sitting at a computer, rock climbing could be the perfect activity to counter-balance your daily routine. You remove the pressure on the spine you sit on all day and you get blood pumping into your wrists. Climbing works your forearms, shoulders, back muscles, and fingers.
  • Small groups make climbing magic. You can't really climb alone (unless you like to boulder, but you're unharnessed... and that's scary!). Find someone you trust and make it your bonding activity. I saw quite a few couples; maybe climbing could be your next date night activity!
  • Climbing is not for the hyper need-to-move every minute person. It's not like boxing or other high intensity cardio workouts. However, I was so glad I'd completed the boxer training before hitting the walls; my arms were much stronger from the punching bags. If you like a steady challenge, climbing might be for you. But don't count on climbing being the end-all of your workout routine.
Want to try it for yourself? There are two climbing facilities around Victoria, BC: Crag X; Boulder's Climbing Gym. Anywhere else in the world, check out this site:

Stay tuned. April's sport will be announced in the next week!