Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Gimmicks for Fun and to Help You Run

What Next?

Oh, so you thought running was a simple matter of creating forward movement by putting one foot in front of the other, creating an airborne moment before a second foot rises up and reaches the ground?

Technically, that’s true. But it turns out that repeating this process over any length of time can be harder than it appears.

Not to worry, there’s a wide world of creative entrepreneurs waiting to enhance every aspect of your fitness level with their innovative wares.  A word of warning: your wallet is likely to suffer and there’s a good chance you’ll need to add some dedicated hard work in the form of straight-out unaided forward moving to realize promised results.  The World Wide Web can provide detailed descriptions and images of these items.

The Velform Sauna Belt wraps around your waist like a very wide belt and uses a vibrating electric current to strengthen your abs.

The Red XL Abdominal Exerciser, a little red stool with a handle on either side allows you to grasp and swivel from side to side to tone your obliques.

The Ab Lounger, a canvas chair with a moveable footrest, claims to give you killer abs with minimal effort.

I’m not sure how you use the Thigh Master  which looks like two hefty meat hooks attached to a small circle in the center, but you might want to give it a try out of insatiable curiosity.

Shake Weight looks a whole lot like an enormous dog bone and promises six minutes a day to firm arms and shoulders.

The Air Climber will make you feel as if you are walking on air. It’s probably a fine sensation, but it may not make you a stronger runner.

For some pain-soothing wrist wear, don a magnetic bracelet, guaranteed to make you feel better, especially if you believe it.

Settle your weary body into the Hawaii Chair, a motorized affair that simulates hula movement--or riding a mechanical bull.  Eight hours at the office riding the Hawaii Chair could have a dramatic result.

Toning Shoes are designed to work your legs and butt. Will this be worth the leg and foot pain that may result?

For $89 you can try a Sensoria Sports Bra or T-shirt that monitors calories burned, heart rate and respiration and beams the info. to your smartphone.

The Body by Jake Burn Suit, silvery-shiny and outer spacey-looking, promises to raise body temperature and shed pounds as you run.  Sadly, as soon as you rehydrate, the pounds return.

The Tony Little Gazelle, a cardio-glider named after a personal trainer, makes possible a mellow workout with equally mellow results.

Check out the Elliptigo, billed as the ultimate cross-trainer for runners, a stand-up bike that is supposed to give you a great workout. I’ve heard that this one really does work!

Also on the market—Vapur Element, a 23 ounce anti-bottle that is foldable, reusable and kind to the environment, a phone case that allows you to carry the small rectangle you can’t be parted from IN your hand instead of strapped somewhere on your body, and a “Halo” sweatband with a patented “sweat block” inside it.

Head spinning? Tie on your shoes and go for a gimmick-free run!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Running and Thinking

Running and Thinking

I still own a textbook I used in college titled Writing and Thinking: A Handbook of Composition and Revision. The preface says the book is designed to help the college student, “ improve his ability to communicate.”  The authors say most freshmen need extensive training in “thinking soundly,” implying that learning to think soundly will help you write better. It may even be impossible to write well unless you can “think soundly.”

It’s been a long time since I looked at that textbook that addresses grammar, punctuation, mechanics, spelling, diction, unity, clearness and emphasis.  I know I’d never read the preface until today. I’ve done my share of writing, requiring thinking, hopefully sometimes sound. Over time I’ve decided that running may well be a better road to sound thinking--even coming up with bright ideas-- than a textbook.

Often when I’m running, an idea pops up and I wish I had a note pad and pencil dangling around my neck or tucked into a pocket where I could grab it and record my brilliant thought before it disappears. In an attempt to hang on to my ideas—which are sometimes as simple as remembering the list of things I need to do in the next couple of days, I’ve developed a mental filing system. I alphabetize the thoughts in my head, then ask my brain to remember, not each idea, but the letter with which each idea starts. So I arrive at my doorstep mumbling C, D, R, P. Then all I have to do is remember what each of those letters stands for!  She’s nuts, you’re thinking. Probably.

There is something about the rhythm that develops over the course of a run that allows you to unhook from whatever’s churning around in your head. Often, I go out thinking, “I can only be gone for a certain number of minutes because….” And then after I’ve been running for a while, that project I thought I had to tackle by 10:30 can suddenly wait until 11 or so. How could it possibly matter?

I know running isn’t the only way to disconnect from the everyday, to allow the free flow of ideas, to encourage thinking—whether it be “sound,” kooky or just plain crazy off-the-wall stuff, but it is a way that works for me.

Now, I’m going for a run, and I’ll reserve the last few words here to let you know what great idea emerged—hopefully before too many miles have gone by.

It happened at mile three as I passed a ditch that a couple of weeks ago had been a raging torrent. Today the water was so still it was tinged with the green of stagnation. A little farther on, in open space west of town, the silence was deafening. No helicopters overhead, no heavy machinery rumbling by. Mother Nature was into Colorado blue sky and sunshine; calm for the moment. The current chaos, I realized, is man-made, far away in our national capitol, and there seems to be no blue sky in sight. Today I figured out that sometimes I write to earn myself a run and sometimes I run to help me “think soundly” as I write. Maybe Congress needs to go for a group run.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

It's About the T-shirt

To run, all you really need is a pair of shoes. And these days, some runners even skip the shoes.

But, with the possible exception of the Bay to Breakers race in California where nudity and/or body paint sometimes suffice, it is traditional to cover certain essential body parts, with well, something.

Runners are on their own to purchase pants, but the T-shirts they wear are another story. Since the early days of the running boom, T-shirts have been the souvenir almost always included in the price of a race entry fee. And runners love them.

In a recent scientific survey conducted among a group of seasoned runners, I learned: Runners favor “tech” or synthetic lightweight fabric T-shirts over cotton, the fabric of choice for so many years. Runners say they fit better, don’t get smelly, “breathe,” have a nicer texture and stretch enough to “cover a car” according to one respondent. The few who favor cotton complain that tech shirts smell funny and don’t fit well.

Runner-people own anywhere from a couple dozen to 200 shirts, and admit that T-shirts have a habit of accumulating in dresser drawers making them collectors by default. Some rotate through their shirts as they train and race, others have old favorites they prefer to wear over and over. Favorites become loved because of color, logo, fit, fabric, and “how I look in it.” Favorites recall an especially difficult race, a memorable travel experience, or provide the owner with a subtle way to brag about having completed a status race such as the Boston Marathon.

Fit is an on-going issue. “Unisex sizing means men’s sizes,” one runner says. “Even a small men’s shirt becomes a nightgown for me. If race organizers want me to wear their shirt to advertise their race, then I need to have one that fits.” Women runners appreciate women’s sizing and tapered shirts that fit them better. Several runners mentioned liking a “no shirt” option and paying a lower entry fee.

T-shirts can create a bond between strangers who strike up a conversation based on a shirt. It’s fun to learn when and where a race took place, and whether or not the experience was good. “When I race in my ‘Alaska, Land of the Midnight Run’ shirt I often hear ‘go Alaska,’” one runner shared.

What happens when T-shirt storage capacity is maxed out? Shirts get thrown away, given away, cut up for rags, transformed into quilts, or find new life halfway around the world.  They arrive in huge bundles and get sold on the street for pennies in third world countries. I once saw a young man in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, proudly displaying a shirt that read, “Detroit Dance Marathon, 1995.” Who would have thought?

Occasionally races offer hats, socks, a bag, jacket or sweatshirt instead of a T-shirt as a race souvenir. And sometimes runners appreciate a change. But in the end, it’s the T-shirt most race participants covet and that can even become a factor in deciding whether or not to participate in a race.

A blessing or a curse, T-shirts are here to stay.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Coming Back

Dave Klibbe’s shooting for a sub-24-minute 5k. He’s very close. In fact, he may have accomplished his goal by the time you read this.

A little less than a year ago, Klibbe, 66, a manager at Woodward Governor in Fort Collins, was in Boulder having his right hip replaced. After continuing to run but suffering for years with an arthritic situation that eventually resulted in a hairline hip fracture from the impact of bone-on-bone, Klibbe agreed to surgery only because he was told that he would be able to run again one day.  He did a 24:15 5k two days before surgery and ran six miles the day before he was operated on. Six months and a whole lot of hard work later, Klibbe stepped out his front door for his first post-surgery run. “It felt weird,” he admits. “I couldn’t get any sort of rhythm going.”

Elated that he was accomplishing any forward motion on his own two feet without the pain he’d become so accustomed to, Klibbe kept running, a little farther and a little faster each time he went out. On Memorial Day, eight months after surgery, he completed the Houska Houska 5k in 24:39. In July he ran the Double Road Race (a 10k followed by a 5k) in Denver with times of 55:29 and 28:38 and the Human Race 5k in Fort Collins in 24:20.

Klibbe was able to return to running because he wanted it so badly and because of help from two skilled professionals.  Through his local orthopedist, Dr. Steven Yemm, Klibbe learned about Dr. James Rector, the only doctor in the state who performs a special procedure called Birmingham Hip Resurfacing. After the surgery, Klibbe dedicated himself 100 percent to working with Brad Ott at Rebound Physical Therapy in Fort Collins. “When I was exhausted, Brad would say, ‘Give me five more.’ and I would,” Klibbe said. 

Two days after surgery, Klibbe went home on a single crutch with manageable pain. After two weeks he was off pain medication and had begun physical therapy. “I had no idea how much my leg had suffered from running on a bad hip,” he says. “I began learning how to activate the proper muscles, develop balance, muscle control and strength. After four weeks I biked 20 miles and hiked five easy miles. By three months, my limp had disappeared, I was sleeping all night and could drive without pain.  I could trim my toenails and put on my shoes pain-free.

When Dr. Rector told Klibbe he could begin running six months after surgery, he began harder workouts and Ott checked him for symmetry and any favoring of the reconstructed hip.  At month five Ott could not distinguish the difference between the repaired hip and the healthy one.  Klibbe learned a great deal about his body, knowledge that made him a more aware and better runner.

Is this guy a superman? Is he a little crazy? He’d say “no” to question one and a “maybe” to question two. Klibbe is incredibly grateful to be back on the road, continuing a running career that began when he was 35, and has become an important part of his life.

Epilogue: Dave Klibbe ran a 23.05 5k at the National Masters 5k Championships in Syracuse, NY in October 2014