Friday, October 18, 2013

Healing My Heel


It has been a few weeks since I've written a Fitness Friday post. Unfortunately, there hasn't been a lot to tell. Over the month of September, I had rededicated myself to my running goals, and put little things aside to get my running game back on track.

I was doing SO well!!

I ran extra hill repeats and speed intervals in my RunKNOX practices. I was determined to give it my all and hopefully get faster. It seemed to be working for awhile.

And then my heel derailed everything.

You see, for months I've had pain in my left heel after running, likely due to plantar fasciitis. The mornings after running, it was painful to put weight on my heel. Overall, it was fairly minor. I could stretch and it would be fine.

I guarantee somewhere in this post I'll mix up "heal" and "heel". My apologies.

Then I got the bright idea that switching running shoes could eliminate the pain. My Asics were worn out, so I thought I'd try a different type of shoe this time. I was recommended a Brooks pair that had the same stability as the Asics, but with more padding. 

This was one of the factors that led to the pain spiraling out of control. I thought the shoes were helping at first, even though they hurt from not being broken in yet.

Of course, Brandon and my coach who recommended breaking them in before running in them, but I didn't listen.

The pain kept getting worse, despite the stretching and even ice I used to try to keep it at bay. It finally became unbearable one week. About three weeks ago, I spent an entire Sunday on my feet helping my sister move into her new home. Then I went to my boot camp workout Monday, did an intense hill workout with RunKNOX on Tuesday, and ran 3 miles on my own Wednesday. 

I may have overdone it.

That week, the heel pain got worse and worse. I'd catch myself walking on my tip-toes at home to avoid putting weight on my heel. By Thursday, the heel pain increased to a point where I could barely walk. What's worse - the pain spread to my arch, which was swollen and bluish.

Then I did something really smart.

Because I'm SOOO dedicated to my running schedule, I joined RunKNOX for a 5 mile run that Saturday (now almost two weeks ago). 

Real genius.

To avoid the pain, I changed my stride while running. This caused my ENTIRE shins and calves to hurt! I suffered through 3 miles with a friend (who was doing AWESOME!), then I let her go on and I had to resort to running/walking the other 2 miles.

I felt like a real winner, let me tell ya.

The next day, Sunday, I tried to buy groceries and go to Target, but I couldn't even walk.

When my Target experience is ruined, this has gone too far!!!

On that Sunday, almost two weeks ago, I knew I needed to really take my coaches', Brandon's, and my friends' advice to heart and deal with this issue. I couldn't continue down the path I was headed or I might REALLY injure myself. To the point I might not be running for MONTHS. Nobody wants that!

I know it's very common, and very frustrating, for runners to experience injuries. It's also VERY frustrating for runners to have their training put on hold for injuries. Here we are, working hard, excited about reaching our next goal, and BAM! Now some kind of pesky pain is holding us back. Who has time for that when there are goal races at stake?? 

I've been lucky so far to have not had a running related injury until now. In the grand scheme of things, my issue is VERY minor. I know other runners who have had ankle, knee, etc issues WAY worse than mine, so I can't complain.
The good news is, about two weeks later, I'm 98% pain free!! I've experimented with a lot of tactics over the last two weeks, and I've finally figured out something that works for me. Hopefully this will continue!

Before I share that information, please remember that I can only speak to what seems to be working for me. Every injury is different, so I can't speak for anyone else. I'm not a doctor or medical professional of any kind, so this can't be taken as medical advice. If you experience any pain, talk to someone qualified to help you.

Nonetheless, here are the various things I tried, which seemed to help in overcoming the heel pain I was experiencing from what I believe to be plantar fasciitis:

  1. Taking some recovery time. To heal from my particularly escalated situation, I took my workouts lightly last week. I skipped boot camp, jogged/walked my scheduled runs, did the elliptical instead of running one day, and did a yoga class. It was a little frustrating, but I think this was instrumental in jump-starting the healing process.
  2. Being consistent in my practices to prevent injuries. When I first started RunKNOX, I expected our coaches to recommend post-running stretches. While they do recommend stretching after running, their first and foremost priority was that we do "foot drills" immediately after running. What was that?? Our coach had us walking in our sock feet various ways - pigeon toed, tip-toed, on our heels, etc. It seemed bizarre at first, but I've noticed I have less problems the next day when I do this immediately after running. You can find them here.
  3. Ice, Ice, Baby! Sigh...I don't like the discomfort of ice. I'm not one of those hard core runners who soak in ice baths. What are you people, polar bears??? Nonetheless, I tried rolling a frozen water bottle under my heel and arch, and it did help in a couple of ways. First, the ice took down that crazy swelling in my arch. Second, it seemed to work out the tendon and help me get past some of the pain.
  4. Stretching and other techniques. In my desperation, I tried a lot of things. I noticed the three practices above seemed effective in reducing the pain, but I tried some other things that helped on a smaller level. I tried sleeping in one of those braces for plantar fasciitis. Since I tried so many things, it's hard to tell if that helped. It also interrupted my sleep. I dreamed that there were leeches on my foot. True story. I noticed immediate benefits from the other practices, but couldn't tell from this. I also tried these stretches before I got out of bed, which seemed to lessen the intense pain in the morning. While I couldn't tell if these techniques helped me overall, I know others who have benefited greatly from them.
While doing these, I started seeing progress over my down week. However....I didn't turn the corner until I...

Went back to my old shoes!!!

Seriously. About halfway into my down week, my coach recommended that I try going back to my old shoes. I thought that was odd, but he was SOOO right!!! Within a couple of days the pain was almost gone. I ran this Tuesday night and woke up Wednesday with no pain! If you're reading this, Darren, enjoy the fact that you were right, once again.

I guess I'll be going back and re-buying the Asics. Go figure. Anyone want to buy a gently used size 8 pair of Brooks shoes? :)

It may be too early to tell, but I seem to be overcoming it! I've lost a little of my speed from the break. However, as long as I'm pain-free, I'm happy to work to regain it!

Have you ever had to work through a running injury? How did you recover and get back on track?


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I was not compensated by any of the above organizations for this post, nor are they affiliated with this blog. I am simply sharing my honest opinions and experiences. The views expressed in this article are solely my own. Also, I'm not a health or fitness professional of any kind. See my  Terms and Conditions page. 

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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

My Pumpkin-Palooza + Pumpkin Spice Smoothie Recipe

In case you haven't visited Starbuck's, Pier 1, Hobby Lobby, or Michael's, it's fall. I'm going to be honest. I'm that stereotypical American that enjoys pumpkin EVERYTHING! And other fall foods.

I'm not kidding. I may just put on yoga pants and Instagram them, too. You just watch.

Also, for the first time in 8 years of being married, I decided to decorate my home for fall.

I even made this centerpiece.

Check out B's (who's "not creative") Pac-Man jack-o-lantern. Mine was candy.

Last week, I enjoyed a pumpkin smoothie, pumpkin in my oatmeal, multiple (healthy) pumpkin muffins, sweet potato fries, roasted butternut squash, a pumpkin ale, and roasted pork tenderloin with apples (Try that recipe. It's a-maz-ing.).

I'm going to turn into an Oompa Loompa if I eat any more orange foods. I'm okay with that.

But seriously, that pumpkin smoothie. It was like drinking pumpkin pie, but healthier. As you know, I love smoothies as a quick, no-fuss, healthy breakfast option. Here are my steps to concocting a smoothie.

I've gotten off-track a little in my training and diet lately. The training issues are due to some pretty bad heel pain I've been having. It's likely due to plantar fasciitis. The good news is that thanks to stretching and ice as recommended by my coaches, I appear to be on the mend. More on that hopefully on Fitness Friday. The diet - that's all my bad.

In my efforts to get back on track, I'm having smoothies for breakfast a few times a week. I wanted to switch them up for fall, so I Googled pumpkin smoothie recipes. As usual, I liked some aspects of one recipe, and other aspects of others, so I made my own combination.

And I'm in love!

Lately, I've been obsessed with almonds and almond butter. I promise I don't put almond butter in all of my smoothies! I put it in my peach almond smoothie, and I loved the richness it added to this pumpkin smoothie. Not to mention, it adds a little bit of healthy fat (just watch the amount you add). If you don't like almond butter, or don't have it on hand, just omit it, You could try peanut butter, but it will add a stronger flavor. I drink this as a meal, but you could half the recipe to enjoy as a snack.

Without further ado...

Pumpkin Spice Smoothie Recipe

Serves: 1
Time required: 5 minutes


1 - 6 oz. container plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup pureed pumpkin (I used canned)
1/2 banana (fresh or frozen)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tbsp unsalted almond butter
1/4 cup almond milk
1/4 - 1/2 cup ice (as frosty as you prefer)

Place all ingredients in a blender. Blend on medium high to high for a few minutes until smooth. 

Now, pour your smoothie into a tumbler, take a selfie of yourself holding it up (showing off your manicure), and Instagram the heck out of that bad boy! Don't forget your hashtags! #PSS #ilovefall #smoothie #pumpkineverywheredontcare #Mmmmm #Amytoldmeto 

I kid, I kid! Express yourself on Instagram as you wish!

I hope you enjoy this smoothie as much as I do!


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Bringing Back the Bangs!

Oh hey! It's me! I've been a little absent lately. What have I been doing?

You know, stuff. Work stuff. A lot of work stuff. Exercise stuff. Not running stuff due to major heel pain (another story for another day). Just stuff. Oh yeah, and I got bangs. How did that happen?

So one random Thursday at midnight when I should have been in bed...

I wondered what I'd looked like in bangs. Why? I have no idea. I guess I was looking at celebs like Taylor Swift, Emma Stone, and Lauren Conrad who recently tried bangs and looked great. Not to mention Zooey Deschanel, who has long been known for her bangs (and happens to be my favorite celebrity style inspiration!).

I haven't had bangs since my awkward middle school phase.

We're talking glasses, frizzy, wavy hair I didn't know how to style, high-waisted 90's jeans that didn't fit well, an honest but sad effort to play volleyball, my first experience trying to (unsuccessfully) manage my weight, my nose typically in a book, and endless insecurity as I struggled to feel accepted by my peers. Oh yeah, and bangs that went to my nose, that I poofed out with a giant round brush and curling iron. Yep...

It was a rough time to say the least. The memories from those years are still real, but I've grown and moved on. In fact, I'm trying to find an old picture to submit to The Awkward Years Project. When I was 15, I moved to a new school (where I met my husband), got contacts, became a makeup junkie, and grew my bangs out as part of a clean slate. I was determined to put my nerdy past behind me. It didn't completely work - I'm still an introverted, quirky, nerdy person at heart, which somehow works better as an adult - but at least I felt like I looked better.

Fifteen years later, I've sworn I would never go back. I've moved on. I'm an adult with degrees, a job, friends, a husband, and I'm a runner.Why would I reopen that chapter?

Until that fateful night on little sleep, too much celebrity news, and possibly some dark chocolate, when I opened up a hair simulator site and "tried on bangs". Those simulations always look ridiculous, but the Nicole Richie style I tried didn't look half bad.

That led to my 1 AM venture upstairs to mock-up bangs with hair clips. This was looking promising! I'd be a quirky Zooey Deschanel type! I just needed a fun dress!

Believe it or not, I still thought about bangs the next couple of weeks. Could they really work? Here's how I approached the decision and what I recommend thinking about:

What type of bangs are right for me?

  • My face shape - My face is pretty round. Often times really short, blunt bangs make faces look rounder, so I looked at examples of other fringed celebs with round faces, like Emma Stone.
  • How thick? My forehead isn't big, so I didn't think couldn't handle super thick, heavy bangs.
  • What shape and texture? Because I didn't want a style too blunt or heavy, I thought wispy, layered bangs that were longer at the sides would be a good fit. Also, my hair has natural wave, which I thought would work with the cut.
I recommend researching bang styles for the shape of your face, and looking at friends or celebrities with similar face shapes as examples.

Ask your hairstylist!

I have a great hair stylist that I've gone to for over 5 years. She knows my hair's texture, has cut everything from chin length to long layers in my hair, and knows what works and doesn't work on me. I walked in and told her to brace herself, and I explained what I wanted. I came armed with all of these examples, expressed no poofy 90's bangs, and asked for her opinion. She agreed with my wispy, layered approach for the texture of my hair and was excited that I wanted to do something new! She was on the same page and brought my vision to life! 

Also - she offers free bang trims in between cuts, and she is located less than 5 minutes from my office. Since bangs typically need to be trimmed every 3-4 weeks, I recommend asking your hairstylist what he/she offers in terms of trims.

The result?

I also found that fun dress at Old Navy!
Find it here.
It was $12 on clearance in my local store!
I'm ALL in on the chambray now!

I'm pleasantly surprised! I love the shape and texture. The longer sides look great when my hair is up. 

Oddly, I do see a little "middle school me" now, and I don't know if that's a good or bad thing...

How I style them

I asked my hair stylist if I should blow dry them with a round brush. She promptly replied, "I thought you didn't want poofy 90's bangs?"

Touche. Here's what I do instead: 

  • After washing, I leave my hair in a towel to apply my moisturizer and foundation. 
  • Then I take my hair out of the towel and I use a paddle brush under the bangs to blow them out straight. I dry and style the rest of my hair. 
  • Finally, since my hair has a natural wave, I flat iron them so they aren't poofy. I run the flat iron straight down and barely turn it under at the ends so the bangs slightly curl under instead of stick out. 
  • To avoid heaviness and clumpiness, I don't use any product - not even hairspray! 
  • Also try to not touch them during the day! That's easier said than done, but it will just make them oilier and clumpier. I actually like when the wind hits them - it just makes them wispier, like I have effortless style (yeah, right!).

What I like about them

I like that they add more shape and dimension to my overall look. When I didn't have bangs, I had long pieces of hair in the front that laid heavy and were hard to style. I don't have to deal with that anymore. They add an extra "something" when my hair is completely up.

How they are (slightly) more difficult

Keep in mind that this is very minor. I don't think you'll ever hear anyone say, "OMG! My life is so overwhelming now that I have to style my bangs!" I mean seriously. Remember those first world problems I talked about?

However, it does change the way I do my hair in the following ways:

  • My morning hair and makeup routine is a little more detailed, as I stated above.
  • I'll have to go in every few weeks in between cuts for bang trims. 
  • Refreshing hair in between washes is a little more difficult. I have oily hair, but I can wash my hair every other day if I use dry shampoo on the off days. Unfortunately, that just doesn't cut it for bangs. They are too oily and clumpy. Instead, on the off days, I do the following:
    • I pull the rest of my hair back into a ponytail and and use shampoo and water at the sink to wash, rinse just my bangs.
    • Then I style my bangs, just like above.
    • Finally, I work dry shampoo in the rest of my hair and style however I want - curled, straightened, up, whatever.
  • I feel a stronger need to wear lipstick. Don't ask me why, I just think my bangs need lipstick to go with them. Maybe because there's a lot going on over the forehead, and I need to balance it out? I don't know. I just think styled bangs plus a good lipstick look sophisticated and great together. It could be just me. My fall and winter go-to lipstick is Buxom (R) in Bombay.
Overall, I like the the bangs. I'm also glad that Brandon likes them (although his opinion is secondary to mine). Remember it's just hair, and it will grow!

Do you have bangs, or are you considering bangs? How do you like them?