Archive for August, 2009

Goals and measurements, a topic that once again blends in some management concepts (TAPUniversity is a learning portal that supports management and technology so it’s fitting).  The brain thrives in goal setting situations.  Often it’s the mental part of the game that keeps exercise programs on target, or causes them to slip.  So put on your SWOT caps, step up the dry-erase board and chart your life!

For the last several years I’ve seen them boldly rush in to the local YMCA we belong to in the first week of January.  Brave and very well intentioned people making a change.  Hit the gym, push the pedals, ramp up the treadmill and check out a class!  Somewhere in early February it becomes apparent those that can make it stick and those that won’t.  What was made as a resolution soon fades under the pressures of life or unrealistic expectations.

Now rather than lament what happens to those that fade, I’ve been thinking about what’s consistent with those who stick.  What seems apparent are a few simple yet powerful things:

  • Relationships develop– we are meant to do things together.  Even if it’s a bunch of introverts who just meet at the same thing and do their stuff quietly.  When done in pack we stick.  We’re pack animals. Even Rocky had Mick, then Apollo, Duke and finally Paulie (ok 1 of those is not like the other).  Some activities can be done alone, but doing stuff together makes it motivational.
  • Doing something that you can enjoy once you’re over the learning curve.  If you’ve never swam before it’s a stretch to think you can jump out of adult swim lessons and into lap swimming in 4-5 weeks.   I know several triathletes have greatly improved their swimming over the course of a year and found enjoyment.   There is a learning curve to each new exercise, technique so patience helps.  It can be fun.  Kicking myself from a recreational bike rider to one that has clip shoes, cares about carbon forks/frames and has the foggiest notion about rhythmic stroke motion has been a blast.  It’s also been good for the brain – you see I’m learning something new and triggering that learning in the limbic or “doing” part of the brain.
  • Goals and measurements – I should add “reasonable” goals and measurements.  Unreasonable goals flow through two channels (one) if exercise is viewed as a one shot, 90 day miracle deal or  (two) if the expectation is to shed 50lbs, increase strength, speed, stamina potentially in 90 days.   Neither works.    Reasonable goals with measurement should help propel you – not defeat you.  Goal setting start with an accurate assessment of what your current level is.  Here’s mine for 2009 I typed into a simple spreadsheet I keep on 12.28.08 and a measure of where I’m at as of August 6,  7 months into it.  I try to just keep an honest flowing conversation going with myself – no bull.
    • Goals:1,500 running (29 per week).. 100 swimming or 3,200 laps.. 200 bike.  Lincoln Marathon – 4:15; Pikes Peak Double!  4:55 and 7:55.  HyVee Long Course Triathlon – Finish.  Des Moines Marathon 4:10
    • Measurement as of 08.08.09 —
      Running on target – 27.9 average, highest number of 40+ mileage weeks since 1997.  High points – Cornhusker State Games & Thunder Run 5k’s, winter and Pikes Peak build up; Low Points – after my father passed away in April – a bit listless.
      Swimming below target but planned up tick in August  following Pikes Peak – 17 miles.  High points  – most mileage since high school and tried new events (1k open water swim) and HyVee 1,500 meter swim at 38 minutes.  Low points – CSG sprint tri was 4 minutes slower?
      Cycling – over or ahead by 65 miles – cranked in more for HyVee  and hope to finish with 500 total (leads into 2010 goal of 1/2 iron man).  High point – learning to ride a ‘real’ road bike for CSG in June and somehow not totally embarrassing myself on HyVee bike portion.  Low point – taking too long to ask to borrow a decent road bike.
      Pike’s Peak Double is next week – in as good as shape as I’ve been since 1998,
      Lincoln Marathon – blew up and overheated at mile 21 – missed goal by 17 minutes was able to help a friend from high school finish her first marathon – was over’joy’ed with that,
      Des Moines 4:10 updated to sub 4 hours, why that when I blew up in Lincoln? Figuring out the root cause (thyroid / hydration / base mile / April stress) and am getting in much better shape.  I also have 4 to 5 “litmus test” races from 1/2 marathons to 10k/5k to validate.
    • My longer term, 2 to 4 year horizon, goals include 1) Boston Qualifying marathon of 3:30, 2) 1/2 Iron Man and once #1 goal is met, Iron Man Triathlon, 3) 10k swim without search and rescue and 4) matching PR’s in running (5k, 5 mile, 10k, 10 mile and 1/2 marathon).  Could I knock these goals off based on where I was at in December of 2008?  No.  But I can build each year.  Could someone new to any of these activities blaze by me with 6 months of training – absolutely!  And after tripping them I would applaud  – goals and measurements are personal.  The miracle is making it out the door.

Please  let me know some of your exercise goals and ways you use to measure.  Another method I’ve found fun to  measure is a through a couple of ad-in’s in Facebook: VOMaxer and RunLogger.  It’s been encouraging to see how virtual and ‘real’ friends are doing and to chart my own progress.

Finally wanted to share a cartoon the extols the benefits of beginning your program.

So what do I need to do for good health?

So what do I need to do for good health?

Least I seem like a simple pied piper for exercise, oblivious to any potential harm or risk, this blog should help lessen that perception.  Exercise has wonderful therapeutic qualities to help manage pain and increase your brain functioning.  It’s not without a price.  That price comes in the form of pain – some of it is soreness as shared previously.  There is pain that can not be ignored,  It varies by type of exercise.  I’ll share a bit of the “soreness” versus “pain to get checked”.

Running – the #1 culprit in aerobic exercise pain. So simple to do.  So simple to get injured from.  The amount of force that hits the ground with each little pitter patter is profound.  Each foot strike can be a bit like a right jab from Mike Tyson in his prime x 20.  Not pretty.  There are some technique flaws that contribute to potential running injury – the top is, ironically, the way modern running shoes force the foot into a heel to toe strike.   While good for walking it’s biomechanically inefficient and awkward for running.  Related to this is the more spent on a running shoe the lesser the benefit – if the human foot is coddled it becomes miserable and aggressively shares its misery with the knee and lower back.  See the article below from Wired for more.

Pain not to ignore in running – chronic pain indicator:

  • Plantar Fasciitis – more than just a mild sore arch, plantar fasciitis is a slight to major tear or fracture of the tendon and connecting tissue in your foot.  It’s truly a runner’s plague.  Rehab can take months.  Best prevention is to ensure a strong arch (alas where most running shoes coddle too much and weaken) and cold soaks of the foot before the pain starts. I had a nasty bout of this in 1996 and went from a semi-curved last shoe to a straight shoe (new balance, mizuno and saucony are good brands for the straight last).  It did linger for five months.
  • Knee – all sorts of knee pain can be aggravated by running.  Some is transitional soreness.  Others in terms of ligament or knee cap stress should not be ignored.  Efficient running can help avoid this.  Another preventive measure is avoiding 100% of running on concrete surfaces (mix in trails, asphalt and cinder).  You can run on weak knees and see improvement in those knees.  A good friend of mine, after reconstructive knee surgery in one knee and a cocktail of treatments in another, has been able to regroup and resume his cycling / running combination as well as his pursuit of a marathon in every state.

Pain that is typically transitional soreness

  • Shin splints.  When I first began running, post high school running in 1992, one of my pain companions was a good old shin splint.  Shin splints occur as muscle and joints are stressed and strengthen along the calf / shin.  These typically grow and heal as consistent running occurs.  A simple way to strengthen your shin is to take can old paint bucket (empty), place a small brick in it (about 2-3 lbs max) and then place over your foot.  Lift your foot up and ease down slowly 12 to 15 times.
  • Sprained ankles, oh my.  Sprains travel in pairs.  Sprain one ankle and another one follows.  There are some good stretching exercises – a primary one is to simply flex your ankle in every possible direction.  Strength training for ankles (and other aliments) is important as well.  Check this article out for some good tips
  • Sore shoulders, quads, buns, etc.  Soreness in those areas is just that – soreness.  Typically chronic pain will not ensue.  It’s just your body’s way of saying “hey, was pretty comfy all of these years, why are you changing now?”

To Run Better, Start by Ditching Your Nikes | Wired Science |

Strong evidence shows that thickly cushioned running shoes have done nothing to prevent injury in the 30-odd years since Nike founder Bill Bowerman invented them, researchers say. Some smaller, earlier studies suggest that running in shoes may increase the risk of ankle sprains, plantar fasciitis and other injuries. Runners who wear cheap running shoes have fewer injuries than those wearing expensive trainers. Meanwhile, injuries plague 20 to 80 percent of regular runners every year.But the jury’s still out on whether going barefoot is actually an improvement.

“The running shoe right now is doing nothing for preventing injuries,” said Reed Ferber, director of the Running Injury Clinic at the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Kinesiology. But, he adds, going barefoot has downsides too, and the research so far is still inconclusive. “It’s a total tradeoff.”

Chris McDougall, author of the recent book Born to Run, goes further. “If this were a drug, it would be yanked off the market,” he said of running shoes. McDougall says his own persistent problems with plantar fasciitis cleared up after he started running in Vibram FiveFingers.

On a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being the highest I’m probably a 5 on institutional running pain knowledge.  For two other aerobic exercises, swimming and cycling, my pain savvy is lower (4 for swimming and 2 for cycling).  I do want to share some about each in terms of chronic pain and touch on strength training.  Avid cyclists please add your insights as well.

First and foremost cycling and swimming are considering healing aerobic exercises – they do not impose nearly the force on the body that running does.  There are some longer term, chronic pain issues.

Cycling – there should be minimal chronic pain, if done with proper technique (not grinding the pedal with your legs but smooth stroke cadence) and proper equipment (clip shoes, right bike for right road, right size and seat placement).  The potential for a crash at high speeds does ratchet up the pain potential (remember your helmet).  Beyond that, knees can be stressed by cycling – though as shared this is due more to improper technique or gear.  Buns also take awhile to adapt.

Swimming – even more than cycling, swimming is considered a healing exercise.  Your body endures no impact in terms of gravity.  You’re buoyant in water.  You learn to move well.  There are some chronic pain problems associated with adapting to water (swimmers eye or ear). The butterfly is the number stroke culprit in terms of strained shoulders.  Then again butterfly is not a staple for endurance swimming. Its a great change up stroke for simulating anaerobic debt for workouts.  I have yet to see someone crank out a 1,500 meter fly in the open water and doubt I will.  Also if piling up swim laps is on your agenda, give your body some rest (24 hours) between swimming and strength training – some strength training during a swim is a great idea!

Strength Training – truly no pain, no gain is NOT the right mindset.  The benefit of strength training is for longer term muscle and joint strength.  Keep weights light and reps high as your body adapts.  There’s no benefit from trying to slam down 8, 45lb plates on your squats or 4 plates on your bench to compete in the weight room.  Most serious weight lifters are very helpful in terms of explaining proper technique and weight.  I’m a bit beyond caring whether someone uses my bench press weight for their curls – the person that does can be a great resource.  Absent a physical trainer (recommend you do find a good physical trainer) you can pick up some solid advice.

An overall pain prevention technique is to blend and weave in multiple exercises – tie in the ones listed here with Aerobics, Spinning, Indoor machines (elliptical, stair step), Martial Arts, etc.  Ongoing repetition limits improvement and reinforces the “pain side” of the exercise force.

Next up on the Exercise – Brain Connection is Goal Setting.  Whether at our TAPU blog or via Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn – please do share your experience and opinion with exercise and chronic pain.

Exercise and pain – two blogs have been devoted to it and a third one is presented here.  Maybe there’s a connection?  Even back to our brains. This blog addresses chronic pain from three prevalent health issues and the benefit of exercise to each.  The next blog will address managing long term pain from exercise – pain not to be ignored whether associated with knees, plantar fasciitis or achilles tendons.  Call this a sort of ying and yang of exercise.  This blog addresses the ying once again.

Benefits of Exercise – Take 2 – Multiple Sclerosis, Fibromyalgia and Chronic Back Pain.

I’ve shared that exercise provides benefit to a person of any age.  Can it help with significant pain diseases / issues?  The research indicates yes!  As with any exercise consult your physician first.  Also, as with the entire series on the Exercise – Brain connection, exercise is not offered a singular, exclusive solution that’s accomplished in four simple steps – it’s meant for a life long commitment that weaves and supports other treatments and activities. This ain’t an  informercial.

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) – I’ve seen the debilitating effects of progressive MS on my oldest brother.  Formal confirmation and diagnosis was provided in 2004/05.  His is not a relapse form of MS – it’s a downhill slope.  He is still active, aided by an iron will,  tremendous family support, treatment and moderate exercise.  While a marathon is not in the cards, he can be there at then end laughing at me trying to hold off the winner of the 80 and older age group.  That’s what brotherly love is all about.  Swimming and moderate strength training are his two primary forms of exercise.   The following video from WebMD provides some insights on how exercise can help manage the symptoms from MS


A disease which has exercise intolerance as a root symptom might seem an unlikely candidate to benefit from exercise.  Research does indicate that, in moderate and careful doses, exercise can provide invaluable support.  The following is from the Arthritis Foundation, Research Update, March / April 2008.

Exercise and Education for Fibromyalgia

The authors conclude in their article published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, “The present study suggests that progressive walking, simple strength training movements, and stretching activities are effective at improving physical, emotional and social function, key symptoms, and self-efficacy in women with fibromyalgia who are being actively treated with medication. Furthermore, the benefits of exercise are enhanced when combined with targeted self-management education.”

Back Pain

Back Pain is a common discomfort for most everyone at some point in their life.   For a some though chronic back pain is a life long issues.  President Kennedy’s struggle with back pain following his WW2 service is widely documented.  What is not as widely known is that the best relief was not provided by six daily pain treatment shots, rather it was after that approach was abandoned for moderate, back strengthening exercises.  The National Pain Foundation chronicles the work of Dr. Kraus in the following article:

Muscles, Back Pain and Exercise

Dr. Kraus, who originally was an orthopedic surgeon, actually established the first multidisciplinary pain center in the world in the late 1950s and early 1960s, which very few people know. It was at the Columbia University School of Medicine in the department of orthopedic surgery. There were psychiatrists, social workers, psychologists, physical therapists, physiatrists, and orthopedic surgeons researching at back pain and trying to understand it.
They found that about 80% of patients presented with nothing that could be demonstrated on an x-ray or physical exam that suggested there was something significant pathologically, so they tried to understand it from the perspective of conditioning since that was Dr. Kraus background. They studied about 3,700 patients for 4.5 years and created a test – called the Kraus-Weber test – and an exercise program to go along with the test to deal with what they thought were the types of functional muscle pain that exist