WOOP – Women on Okinawa Pavement

Post by Anna Boom

By now, most of you, or all of you, have heard that we have a new running group for women called WOOP.

One of our lovely WOOT members, Sarah Pevehouse, sent me a message asking if she could start a new group to help her continue her solid marathon training, while enlisting the help of other women runners. She thought there would be others of you out there, looking for partners to run during the week, on road, with or without strollers, maybe running sprints, or an easy 6-10+ miler or hitting the hills. What a fabulous idea! Many of us are training for the next race: Naha Marathon, Honolulu Marathon, Okinawa Marathon, and having a running peer there to meet you at 0500 is the motivation she was looking for. Heck, it is the motivation many of us need, including myself.

Sarah started posting WOOP events early last month and had a good first turn out. Since then she and some other wonderful ladies who joined WOOP, have been posting more frequent events in various locations.
If you are nervous about not being able to keep up or not being able to handle hills or not being able to go the distance, do not fret! Seriously, our new running group, just like WOOT, is not about belittling or embarrassing any woman. Part of our group running style is support. We will push and encourage you to go farther and faster, in a gentle way (except for Ivette; she is a killer ;)), and you will surprise yourself with how well you will do.

I hear it every single week and feel it myself. Just recently, for example, I had an easy 6 miler on my training schedule, and decided to join WOOP to run with them. My tummy was acting up a bit (might have something to do with the NZ apple and half pound of cherries I ate for lunch yesterday…and the Acai Berry cleanse probably didn’t help either, come to think of it :)). I was thinking, oh man, what if I am too slow, what if I can’t hang on…I set my alarm and did it anyway.
And I am so glad I did. Not only did the run fly by, I got the chance to catch up with some of the women I love to chat with and see some faces I haven’t for awhile. My tummy is still grumbling but I got my run done so it can gurgle all it wants! (Note to remember, avoid Acai Berry cleanse before any longer runs you have planned.)

You’ve heard of and hopefully tried, Trails, but Pavement opens the door up to weekday runs too. WOOP-on my lovely friends!!

See you out running soon 🙂

Post Race Blues

So you’ve all successfully trained for and completed the infamous Kinser Half marathon, and for some of you it was your first ever half marathon – well done! Having a goal and working towards it is often challenging but also equally exciting, and the greatest reward of course, is when you reach that goal and realize that all of your hard effort paid off! But what now? Where do you go from here, and what do you do with all of that built-up energy?

No doubt many of you are on a high right now, still reeling from the excitement and charged-up atmosphere of yesterday’s event.

Just love Anna’s enthusiasm and infectious smile

But some you may already be coming down off that high and thinking that you’ll be quite content to go back to whatever it was you were doing before you started training. And the rest of you may find that you’re spiralling further downwards into some type of mirky quandary that leaves you feeling sad and maybe even slightly depressed.

If that’s you, don’t worry! This is quite normal after a race, and can be easily remedied if you look at it from a positive perspective. Race day is over, and with it, all of those training runs you loved to complain about yet were quietly proud of. The empty feeling some of you might soon start to feel can best be filled with new goals; goals that are realistic and achiveable. They don’t even have to be running goals; they can be academic, career-focused, hobby-related, or if you want to put your running shoes back on, then athletic. Or, they can be a combination of any of these.

If you’re like me, I like to set goals that push me further in all areas of my life, and that’s one of the things I most appreciate about running and racing. Every time I finish a race I feel compelled to start planning my next racing and training goal, but at the same time it forces me to consider other areas of my life that could benefit from change and progress.

Consistently setting new goals for yourself keeps you focused on moving forward rather than stagnating; it’s hard to stay depressed when you are motivated by what you believe you can achieve. And if you doubt that you are capable of achieving goals, then just remind yourself of what you accomplished yesterday and you’ll quickly realize how truly capable you are!

Looking forward to seeing even greater things from you ladies.

Kinser Half – it’s almost here ladies…..

Post contributed by Anna Boom

Last thoughts before the big day…

Are you all ready for your race? Think of the days, weeks, months you’ve spent training for this day and it is almost here!

If you are like me and most folks, you feel a combination of excitement, anxiety, anticipation and fear of failure. Here are some suggestions for calming your nerves and help you prep the details that do matter:

1) Trust your training. If you’ve followed a solid training plan, even with a hiccup or two (like a cold or minor injury) along the way, you will be in physical shape to tackle your goal.

2) Don’t stop running. At the last cycle of training is taper but this is not the time to quit training. Just like it is properly named, your big, hard, long weeks are tapering down to the finale, Your Race!!

3) Take those strong beautiful legs out for a spin. Following my previous comment, you’ve created this awesome, amazing animal; don’t keep her caged up. Either two days before or the day before, do a little smooth speed work. A good example would be if you are running a half marathon, go out and run 2 X 800s on the track. Keep it at about 10Km race pace or slower. And keep in mind, this is not your race so don’t run like it is, just yet.

4) Organize your race outfit a day or two early, including running shoes. You will be unhappy on race day morning if you spend all your energy looking for your favorite running skirt, only to find it in the dirty clothes pile.

5) Maintain perspective. We are all out there running together experiencing the same weather, feelings, and course. Not a single one of your family, friends, or WOOT sistas will care if your time is 11 minutes slower than what you wanted. Every single one of us has had a bad day and will continue to support and run with you!

6) Start and stay positive. The cheerleader in me gets annoying, I know, but running happy shows on your face, posture and demeanor. Be cheerful to those around you and they will return the good vibes. If you begin to feel any negative bugs crawl in your thoughts, do as Ivette says and squash it! Do not pay attention to that stinky stuff; you can do it. How do you know that you can? Go back to point #1.

Have a great day out there 🙂

The Real Scoop on Compression Socks

For weeks now many of you have been asking what the deal is with regard to compressions socks – you’ve all been wondering if they really do serve a purpose, or if in fact, they’re just another hyped-up accessory item that does little more than enhance our running get-up. I decided to do some digging and see what I could find, and I came across an article written by running coach and exercise science expert, Steve Magness. Steve posted an excellent article on his website, http://scienceofrunning.com/, about guess what? Compression Socks! With his permission, I have copied his article below. If you are really interested in the science behind all of the compression sock hype, you’ll find this article extremely informative and helpful.

Post Contributed By Steve Magness

If youve been at a road race recently or watched Pros like Chris Solinksy or Paula Radcliffe race, you might have noticed the extremely long compression socks that are seemingly popping up everywhere. While Radcliffe was probably the earliest adopter to the compression socks while racing trend, it seems like in the last year the idea of wearing compression socks when running or after running has taken off.

As Ive mentioned before, new trends/ideas seem to go through a cycle of heavy emphasis or de-emphasis before settling into around their likely place. So, where do compression socks fall and more importantly do they work?

Ive been wanting to do a post on compression socks for a while, because they seem like the new fad. Sigvaris(http://www.sigvarisusa.com/) sent me a nice pair of compression socks to test out, so that solved my problem of critiquing something I havent used. As I told Sigvaris, Im going to give a critical review of the science behind it and then my practical experience. As youll see shortly, there is a lot of mixed research on compression socks that is likely due to the wide variety of types used and the types of people used in the studies. Its likely that there is a large individual component to it.

To examine that lets use what one of my physiology professors, Dr. Winchester, called the 3 stool test. Well look at the theory, the research, and the practical experience to see if compression socks actually work:

First, lets look at the possible theories behind why compression socks might improve performance. We need to separate this out into improving performance during the race/run itself and improving recovery post run/race.

Blood Flow
The Blood flow hypothesis basically says that the compression of the lower leg increases the blood flow. Partially due to gravity, blood can tend to pool in the lower legs. This can occur both during exercise or when at rest. As Im sure youre aware, compression socks became popular in clinical use to prevent such things as deep vein thrombosis. They were initially used for people who were bed ridden or had forced inactivity, and then latter branched out to being prescribed for people who had to sit for long periods of time, such as on airplane or long car rides.

In terms of improving performance during a race, the idea is that if increased venous blood flow can occur, more by-products that are transported by the blood can be flushed out and cleared better. If these products that can cause fatigue are gotten rid of quicker, then performance improves. In terms of recovery after a race, the idea is similar. If we can increase venous blood return, youre going to get back to homeostasis much quicker.

Muscle Vibration
The second main theory is somewhat less known among athletes. When we run, and strike the ground, those impact forces cause the muscle/tendon/lower leg to vibrate. Its thought that this vibration could be one cause of the delayed muscle soreness that weve all experienced. If you look back at the article I wrote entitled Why running shoes dont work youll recall the concept of muscle tuning, which is a similar principle. If this theory is correct, an improvement in efficiency could occur while wearing compression socks.

Taking this idea a little further, long and triple jumpers can often be seen wearing compression socks. Obviously they are not doing this for blood flow reasons. Instead, some research as shown that compression socks may improve leg power (Kraemer et al., 1996, 1998). The theory put forth on why this might occur is the decreased in muscle vibration and an increase in proprioception.

On a practical level, the theories are at least sound, with some ideas seeming more plausible then others. The bottom line though is that in theory, it could make sense.

Now that we know the theories, lets look at what the research says.

First, the idea that compression socks improve venous blood flow at rest has been substantiated (Byrne et al., 2001). Similarly, the idea that graduated compression is better than constant compression at rest has been demonstrated. In theory, this should mean better clearance of by products and enhanced recovery. How much so is up for debate.

The question that has not been answered is whether compression during a run improves blood flow. Additionally, the question remains if either at rest or during running, the blood flow increase is enough to improve performance or recovery. Lets look at the research:

During exercise, the research is mixed. Ali et al. (2007) found that no performance or changes in physiological parameters occurred during or after a 10k run. However, they did find a reduction in muscle soreness, pointing to the muscle vibration and recovery aspects of socks. Contrasting these results, Kremmier et al. (2009) found improved performance and an improved lactate threshold when wearing compression socks while running. Similarly, two separate studies found improved 5k performance and improved running economy (Chatard et al., 1998 & Bringard et al., 2006). The study by Bringard et al. (2006) is particularly interesting. They found improved economy at 3 different speeds, but it was most substantial at the middle speed (12km/hr).

Lastly, lets look and see if compression socks can improve lactate clearance. In a study by Berry et al. (1987) they found that blood lactate clearance was improved after a maximal treadmill test. This effect has been further substantiated by other studies (Creasy, 2008). The problem according to Creasy, is in understanding why the lactate changes occur. Remember that we are measuring blood lactate, not muscle lactate. Early authors proposed that the decrease in blood lactate might be due to the compression decreasing the flow of lactate from the muscle out to the blood stream. The other option is that an increase in blood flow caused by the compression socks increases the flow of the lactate to other muscles that can take up and use the lactate. In essence, it would enhance the lactate shuttle. What exactly happens is hard to determine at this point.

On the damage and recovery side of things, a study using full lower body graduated compression tights only after the exercise showed improvements in muscle soreness and recovery following plyometrics (Byrne & Easton, 2010). As mentioned above, Ali (2007) found enhanced recovery which they speculated was due to the compression alleviating swelling and inflammation. The exact mechanisms for why compression garments may decrease muscle soreness is unknown. But that is partially due to the fact that the exact cause of delayed onset muscle soreness is also unknown. There are a couple different theories based on mechanical or metabolic damage, some more accepted than others, but if we dont know exactly what causes soreness, its pretty hard to figure out why compression socks decrease it.

So what does this all mean?
The problem with the contrasting running performance studies is there wide range of different socks used and the wide range of experience of runners, from recreational to well trained. At rest in certain populations, compression socks definitely increase venous blood flow. The question is does this happen during exercise and if so does it improve performance? Im afraid that testing that idea during intense running is a bit too hard to do at the present moment.
There seems to be a bit more consistent effect demonstrated on decreasing muscle soreness and thus enhancing recovery in a wide variety of groups. The results for performance enhancement while running due to blood flow increases and/or product removal is mixed. Although neither is well studied at this point in time.

Why the differences?
One concept that Ive briefly mentioned that may explain the mixture of results is the idea of the degree of compression needed. In testing compression socks in a clinical setting, Byrne et al. found that there seemed to be an optimal amount of compression. First, they found that a graduated compression was better, meaning more compression at the bottom near the ankle and less as it goes up towards the knee. Secondly, the amount of compression mattered. In their study, they found 20mmHg at the ankle improved blood flow, while 30mmHg restricted blood flow at rest (Byrne et al. 2001). What this and other studies demonstrate is that there seems to be a sweet spot in compression. At rest, this sweet spot has at least been researched and found to be in that 20 +/- 5mmHg level, but during exercise the exact compression level needed is unknown. Additionally, there is likely an individual component to the level of compression needed.

Its likely that the mixture of socks and graduated vs. non-graduated compression explains why the results are mixed. So, while we don’t quiet know what optimal compression is, from sedentary studies it looks like graduated socks are a must.

Although elite athletes do a lot of stuff that is useless or doesnt work, looking at what they are doing provides some clues for what might work. In general, if one or two athletes are using it, they are either far ahead of the curve or its not worthwhile. Its when you get a significant amount of athletes having success with a product or training method that you start to take notice. As mentioned in the beginning with the success of Paula Radcliffe, numerous elites have taken to wearing compression socks like Chris Solinsky, Jo Pavey, and Benitta Johnson. Are they on to something?

Just my opinion, but for most distance runners Id think the most likely benefit would be the decrease in soreness or muscle damage, more so than the blood flow improvements. For the marathon and longer events on the track, muscle damage could interfere with muscle contraction or the amount of recruitable fibers, thus limiting performance. Additionally, with the calves in particular, muscle damage could limit the use of elastic energy and the stretch shortening cycle. Weve all felt the effects of running a 10k in spikes and what that does to our calves. If this damage could be limited during the run or even post workout, performance or at least our rebounding from a race or workout could be improved.

In the compression socks that I got to test out, I tried them during a long run, post workout, and while traveling. The idea was to use them during my most damaging workout, the long run. When youre running for close to 2 hours a ton of damage happens and my next day run is always slow because of the residual pain/fatigue. In particular, my calves are extremely tight almost all the time, so long runs or long workouts in flats/spikes always leave me with some residual soreness in that area.

While its impossible to tell, following a long run and a longer threshold workout in flats, my calves definitely felt better the next day then they normally do. I cant say that anything else felt noticeably different, but the calf/Achilles complex on both sides seemed to see benefits. I cant say whether it was wearing the socks during or after the runs that made the difference. For the post workout recovery test, I tested blood lactate clearance with and without the socks. On separate days, with workouts that produced similar levels of max lactate, I then lied on the ground for 15min either with socks on or without, then took another lactate sample. For what its worth, the time I wore socks cleared 1.1mmol/L more lactate during the timed segment.

For what it’s worth, I found the socks to be pretty comfortable both during and after the run. I’m used to wearing high socks when running, so to me it didn’t feel weird. I’m not sure how they’d work on long runs in the heat and humidity of a Texas long run. I haven’t tried that out yet. I was told by Sigvaris’ reps that they have an athletic performance sock coming out that is made for combatting such a situation, though I haven’t tried it out.
Lastly, I wore compression socks on and off during my travel day to the Peachtree road race. For those who dont know, when you run at a relatively high level, a lot of racing encompasses long travel days and then lots of sitting around at a hotel. I must say out of all of the uses for compression socks this is where I saw the most benefit. My legs felt better during the long travel and then also during the whole sitting around watching too many movies period of the day. I think this is the area for the most benefit of recovery compression socks. Similar to the athlete who takes an ice bath a day or two before the big race, I can see compression socks being useful in the days leading up to a big race.

Concluding take:
There is a place for compression socks I think. Are they the cure all, guaranteed to improve performance? Doubtful. But there is no magic cure all, so you shouldnt be looking for one. But they might be able to help increase recovery/decrease soreness. Id look at them as a tool to use that is similar to ice baths. They dont need to be used every day, but pull them out when you need them after that killer workout, or before that important race. Remember that while reducing muscle damage is generally a good thing, sometimes we need that damage to be the trigger for adaptation. Its only when we break down stuff that it gets built up.

As mentioned earlier, with my chronically tight calves, they seem to at least do something for me. I can see myself using them on occasional long tempos in flats and then during travel and as a recovery aid in the days preceding big races.

As a review, overall I’d recommend the socks I used for the purposes mentioned above.

So the takeaway message is this: Compression socks are a tool, like an ice bath or a recovery shake that can be used. Is it a magic pill? Nope, but could it help? Possibly.

Endurance of a Different Kind

Story by Jannine Myers

Those of you who know me know that I like to write stories about women who do great things in life and who encourage others to do the same. Lately I’ve been following the movements of a woman I know, a woman whom I have known for many years because she happens to be the aunt of my seventeen year old daughter. I’ve been quietly observing her because I’ve always been fascinated by people who demonstrate some type of character strength that I admire. Her story is not so remarkable that it hasn’t been heard before, but I believe it’s still worth sharing, especially amongst a group of women such as yourselves who appreciate a fellow athlete’s tenacious determination to overcome pain and suffering.

Ruth Teina-
Duncan is a name known by almost anyone who has had any type of involvement in the New Zealand or Australian fitness industry during the past ten or more years. Ruth’s career as a group fitness instructor took off in the early 90s when she became recognized as a national and international aerobic champion. It wasn’t long before she was a household name among fitness enthusiasts across New Zealand.

Always smiling
Ruth on stage, doing what she does best – motivating others!

In 2005, a job offer from a friend lured Ruth across the Tasman Sea to Sydney, Australia. Ruth felt that she was ready to move on from both a recently ended marriage, as well as her job at Auckland-based Health Club, Les Mills World of Fitness. She began working for a company called Radical Fitness, which at the time was in its infancy stage and under the ownership of one of Ruth’s friends. It was also through this friend that Ruth met Ron James Duncan (aka Ronnie, or Sailor), the company’s newly hired business manager.

Ruth was intrigued and attracted by Ronnie’s quiet demeanor and his strong sense of loyalty and compassion towards others. It wasn’t long before her attraction to him was reciprocated, and in 2006 they moved to Queensland to start a new life together.

Ronnie Duncan

One of the things both Ruth and Ronnie had in common was a love of the outdoors, and a commitment to leading physically active and healthy lives. Hence it was no surprise to those who knew them when in 2008, Ruth and Ronnie announced that they were going to do the 100k Brisbane to Gold Coast cycle challenge. The two of them had decided that they wanted to give back to the community by raising funds for a charitable organization and both agreed on the Heart Foundation as their choice of charity. They managed to raise $5000 and in an earnest effort to continue raising more funds, they made a pact to make the cycle challenge a yearly tradition, not knowing then that only Ruth would continue to do so.

Brisbane to Gold Coast Cycle Challenge 2008
In May 2009, Ruth traveled home to New Zealand to meet her second grand-daughter who had just been born to her eldest child. Excited to be visiting her family, Ruth was also sad that work obligations had prevented Ronnie from accompanying her on the trip. During their time apart, Ruth and Ronnie kept up daily conversations via phone calls, but both missed each other terribly.

On the morning of June 9th 2009, Ruth anxiously awaited her morning phone call from Ronnie, but was surprised to see an unrecognized caller ID when her phone rang. She was quickly alarmed when she answered her phone and heard the voice of Ronnie’s daughter screaming for her to go home. Seconds later, a man whose voice she did not recognize identified himself as a paramedic and then regretfully informed her that Ronnie had passed away at approximately 5:30am that morning, due to suspected heart failure.

In an ironic twist of fate, the disease which Ruth and Ronnie had vowed to fight against also ended up being the disease that took Ronnie’s life. An autopsy revealed that Ronnie, a supposedly 47 year old fit and healthy male, had an undetected form of heart disease known as atherosclerosis. Fatty deposits had collected along the walls of his arteries, blocking the flow of blood to his heart and ultimately resulting in premature death. Nothing could have prepared Ruth for the news she received that day, nor for the days that lay ahead and the challenge which would far exceed any other she had ever faced before.

Ruth describes the eighteen months following Ronnie’s death as long and harrowing, with some days worse than others. Getting up and facing each day, says Ruth, was only possible by engaging in lots of motivational self-talk. The depression lingered for months, and when she had almost given up hope of life ever returning to some level of normalcy, Ruth says she woke up one morning and smiled, just like she used to when Ronnie was alive. It was in that moment, she says, that she knew she was going to be fine.

I said earlier that I have been following the movements of Ruth recently, and that’s because she has been traveling around parts of Europe and the United Kingdom, seeing all that she can possibly see and doing all that she can possibly do. She is embracing her life without Ronnie with a new outlook, one that won’t allow her to waste time living from day to day without a plan and a purpose.

Ruth enjoying her vacation with good friends
On the way to the Isle of Skyes

Now back in Australia, Ruth is getting ready to tackle once again, the same cycling challenge that she and Ronnie participated in the year before he died. This Sunday, 9th October, Ruth will ride with friends and family members in honor of Ronnie and all those who have lost their lives to heart disease. Together, under the name Team Sailor, they hope to raise awareness of heart disease, as well as funds to go towards continued research.

Team Sailor – 2010

As I think about the 100k distance they will have to endure, I realize that the physical pain they might encounter pales in comparison to the emotional pain that one must deal with when a loved one is lost. Ruth is an example though, of someone who endured months of despair and heartache, and yet true to her character, she fought back with sheer spirit and determination. She not only overcame the emotional trauma that almost had her believing she would never be happy again, but she overcame it with a desire to live life more generously, with more thought given to how she can help others.

Her actions show us that sometimes the rewards in life are greater when we remove ourselves from the spotlight and step back behind the scenes to quietly nudge someone else forward. Ruth is the kind of role model that female athletes look up to, not because of her prestige as a leading fitness instructor, but because of her genuine desire to give back and help others succeed.

If you wish to “give back” and contribute, or get involved with Team Sailor’s fundraising efforts, please visit http://www.everydayhero.com.au/team_sailor_2011