Monday, January 15, 2018

Monday Musings: Back at it


I know some of you enjoyed reading about my weekly workouts so I'm bringing Monday Musings back for my build up to my two 70.3 races this year.  It's definitely going to be an interesting year given that my two big races are 5 weeks apart.  We'll see how this old bod of mine holds up to that.

This past week was my first really solid week of training since the beginning of the year.  I'm feeling pretty good save for my low back, specifically my right side around my SI joint.   It seems to get stuck and irritated and I'm still trying to figure out why.  Some of it is core control for sure but I also feel that my lack of rotation in my T-spine doesn't help.  So I'm slowly working on fixing that.  Thankfully it's not preventing me from working out but there are days that I feel it and it bothers me.

This was my first week of experimenting with 10 day hard / easy format to see how I feel and how my body reacts.  After 10 days I'll probably take a rest day, just to play it "safe" even if I am feeling ok.  Sometimes I find taking a rest day a mental necessity vs a physical necessity.  I'm being much more "intuitive" with my training right now.  By intuitive, I mean if I feel good physically and mentally on my scheduled rest day, instead of taking the day off completely, I'll do an easy activity, usually a swim or yoga.  Something that isn't overly taxing.   I'm also using HRV4Training which monitors my heart rate variability to let me know whether or not I'm fully recovered and can proceed as planned or if I need to limit my intensity for the day.  It hasn't steered me wrong yet and I've been using it for a year now.

So, on to the fun stuff.  What did I get up to this week?

Monday:  Upper body strength workout

Tuesday:  13km long run

Wednesday:  2300m swim in the am, and a 1 hour endurance ride, short upper body workout in the p.m.

Thursday:  40 minute zone 2 run and a 1 hour mostly lower body workout - I actually did most of the workout I was teaching, which was a blast.

Friday:  1900m swim with sprints, 1 hour sweet spot ride.  My legs were feeling pretty sore from my strength class, ha ha.

Saturday:  2 hour mostly endurance based ride.  I had planned on doing lower body work afterwards but my body decided it needed a nap.  So I slept for about 40 minutes and then wasn't motivated to do anything else afterwards, ha ha.

Sunday:  2650m swim.  I had a 35 minute run on the schedule and put it off until after my Strength clinic.  Big mistake,  because once I got back from that, I had no desire to get my running stuff and go out for a run.  LOL.  So much for the Lululemon 40/80 challenge badge on Strava.

Totals for the week:

Swimming:  6,850m 
Cycling:  4h 13 minutes
Running:  20.6 km 

Total time:  10h 22 minutes 

That's slightly higher than normal volume for me this time of year but I'm building my time up for when I get to Florida.  I know I'll probably be between 12-14 hours / week of training if it's anything like last year.  When you have the opportunity to ride outside for two months in the winter, you take full advantage of it.

How was your week of training?  Who else is chasing some big goals this year?

~ Coach PK

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

What I've Tried: Fascial Stretch Therapy

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know that I am a big proponent of self care, from regular foam rolling, to mobility work to massage, it's all an integral part of being a healthy injury free athlete.

Sometimes, you get to a point where these modalities may not be enough to help you feel or move better.  That was where I was at the end of last year.  I was having nagging SI joint issues, so I started working on engaging my core.  I also noticed that the range of motion in my legs had changed.  I felt like my hips and hamstrings were so tight that I couldn't stride efficiently.  Massage helped a little bit but within a few days I would be right back to where I was before my massage.  Something was up.

I read about fascia a few years ago as more and more research was being done on it's function and role it plays in mobility in the body.  Fascia is essentially a web that runs around our muscles.  It is a band of connective tissue that is found beneath the skin and it attaches, stabilizes, encloses and separates muscles and internal organs.

Fascia will thicken and shorten when any of your tissues are under stress, whether that be from poor posture, injury, surgery or long term exercise.   Shortened fascia can result in limited range of motion.  And limited range of motion can cause a host of other issues in your body.  It's a domino affect.

So how do you stretch fascia?  Doesn't regular passive stretching help with stretching your fascia?  It can help a little bit if done correctly but most of us stretch too deeply, usually to the point where were feel a bit of pain.  Your muscle will respond to that by tightening up, thus defeating the purpose of stretching in the first place.  And since fascia is deep within the muscle, it's very difficult to target it effectively without some assistance.

Enter Fascial Stretch Therapy, or FST for short.

What exactly is fascial stretch therapy?

The simple explanation is that it is assisted stretching, performed on a table, using stabilization straps to hold limbs in place.  Traction is a major component of the therapy.  This is the description from Performance Bodywork:  The therapist will apply gentle traction to the joint being targeted, opening up the joint and creating space for increased range of motion before taking the limb through the movement pattern, paying attention to the fascia restrictions that may need to be addressed.  

I have to say I've never experienced anything quite like it.  It is not meant to be painful and if I felt pain, I had to let my therapist know.  There were points where it was uncomfortable but if I managed my breathing, it helped with the discomfort.  I was twisted into all sorts of positions that I wouldn't have been able to get into myself.  After the treatment, I felt looser and lighter.  When I went for a run the next day, I felt like an entirely new person.  All of the restriction I had been feeling was GONE.  Even my SI joint pain felt better.   This was a game changer for me.

Why is it so effective?

FST targets fascia at the deepest level, which is around your joint capsule.  This forces the muscles around your joint capsules to relax.  If your joints start to get restricted, your mobility becomes compromised.  Compromised mobility leads to a feeling of stiffness and you'll notice decreases in performance.  As we age, we also begin to lose flexibility.  All of this can create a recipe for injury.

Currently, FST isn't covered under most extended benefit plans unless it is performed by an RMT (registered massage therapist).  Many personal / athletic trainers offer it as a service and several pilates studios also have practitioners.  I went to Body Harmonics, which is a pilates studio, for my treatment.  You can find your closest practitioner on the Stretch to Win website.  There are different levels and types of practitioners from level 1 to level 3, fitness specialists, which are usually athletic trainers, or medical specialists, which are usually RMTs, kinesiologists or physiotherapists.  I saw a level 3 fitness specialist.  She was amazing.  The higher the experience generally the more expensive the therapist, at least at Body Harmonics.  A level 3 practitioner is $115 for an hour and a level 2 practitioner is $105 an hour.  It was worth every penny.  That being said in future I may try to find a registered RMT so I can claim it through my extended benefit plan because if you're in rough shape, like I am, it's going to take more than one treatment to sort everything out.

I feel like FST has given my body a re-set.  As someone who has struggled with mobility issues and nagging injuries over the last couple of years, I feel like I am getting close to being back to where I was 5 years ago in terms of my mobility level.  I'm starting to feel like I'm physically ready to rise to the challenges I've set for myself in 2018.

Has anyone else tried FST?  Was it a game changer for you? 

Thursday, January 4, 2018

2018: The Year of Purpose

Happy New Year!

Alright, I'm a bit late to the party but I was seriously enjoying my down time over the last few days.  New Year's Day was spent in my lounge clothes, watching movies and making pretty things for my new side hustle.  G took Tuesday off so we got a ride in, took the Christmas Tree down and then tackled the storage cupboard under the stairs in the basement.  It was filled with SO. MUCH.  CRAP. that we haven't touched since we moved in so we did a huge purge.  Now there's room to actually hang some coats and put away our winter boots.

There's something about a good closet cleaning that just makes you feel lighter.  Less tethered to shit. I am always amazed at how much crap we accumulate.  It feels good to get rid of all the unnecessary stuff.

Which brings me to the reason behind this post.  Over the years I've seen people talk about setting intentions for the New Year vs. resolutions or goals.  One of the ways to set intentions is to choose a word that will guide you throughout the year.  That really resonated with me this year so I thought about it for a while.  I always have goals but they are usually only athletically oriented.  I wanted something that was a bit more all encompassing.  So, I asked myself, how did I want to live in 2018?

My answer:  with purpose

So I chose PURPOSE as my word for the year.  I chose it because of its duality.  It is both a noun and a verb.  You can have purpose and you can be purposeful.

noun:  the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists

verb:  have as one's intention or objective

Last year was an exploratory year - it was about creating a path.  The path has been created, now it's time to move forward with purpose. 

Here's to a happy, healthy and purpose-FULL 2018

Have you ever chosen a word of the year to live by?  If so, what was it?  What is your word this year?

~ Coach PK