Mid-Week TMI: Sports Bras, A Necessary Evil

Anyone who wears sports bras will empathize with me on this. And if you don’t, then you are lucky…and you may want to come back tomorrow. Unless you wear a sports bra and suffer its wrath, you probably don’t want to read about it.

As a runner and hiker, the sports bra is a necessary evil. I have spent many hours out on the road or trails cursing my sports bra while simultaneously appreciating how much better it is for activity than a regular bra (as anyone who’s forgotten to pack a sports bra for a workout can attest).  Still, the sports bra has a list of sins a mile long, figuratively speaking of course.  I could probably rattle off twice as many as I’ve included below, but I’ll spare you and focus on the five worst things about sports bras:

  1. Straps that cut in: This is probably my bad for buying the occasional sports bra that has unadjustable and tight fitting straps. But what do you do once you’ve dropped $40 on it? You wear it, that’s what. And then you return home from an incredibly long hike with welts on your shoulders and complain about it.
  2. Padded bra inserts: These little bastards are notorious escapists and contortionists.  I do not know how they manage to escape my sports bras every time I wash them but they do. It’s never both, though. It’s usually just one that escapes. The other stays trapped in its prison, but bunches itself into a ball as if to say “you can keep me here, but I don’t have to like it.” I am not sure if it’s worse having to search for missing inserts among a full load of laundry, or having to extract a balled up pad and reinsert it properly. If you don’t need padded inserts, I hate you because you aren’t cursed with a non-existent chest.
  3. They hold onto smell like it’s their job:  Let me start by saying, I do laundry a lot. Like, I do laundry daily. Still, nothing, and I mean NOTHING, gets the stank out of sports bras. Once it’s in there, I swear it’s in there for life. You can put on a freshly washed sports bra and as soon as your body temperature starts to rise, you can smell the sweat of workouts past wafting up your shirt. It is not pretty. I have read all sorts of “fixes” for this issue but the only fix that I have found 100% successful is throwing the damn thing out and replacing it.
  4. They stretch: I know I’m not supposed to put my sports bras in the dryer, but seriously, I barely have room to hang up all the other clothing items that aren’t dryer friendly. The end result is the bras are going in the dryer. And then they stretch.  On the plus side, the stretching fabric makes me feel as though I’m losing weight when I’m clearly not.  On the downside, stretched fabric pretty much prevents the bra from serving it’s one purpose: keeping everything in place.
  5. “Bra Rash”: It’s a thing and it is not the same thing as chaffing.  Since I’ve been injured, I’ve been miraculously free from ‘bra rash’, but last year when I was hiking 8 to 9 hours at a time in extreme heat, let me tell you, it was not pretty.  A sweat-soaked bra rubbing against flesh in the heat for hours on end, particularly with a backpack guaranteeing that the sweat never dries, is going to have the exact same impact as a wet diaper. Enough said.

If you’re still reading and aghast at mention of excessive sweat, bra rash, and bra stench, need I remind you that the title of this post contains the term TMI? What were you expecting? If you have suffered these and other symptoms of evil sports bras, just know that you are not alone.

Training Tuesdays: Grouse Grind vs. Abby Grind

I am always on the lookout for the next best “maintenance hike” (i.e. quick go-to hikes meant purely for workouts and not for scenery). For years in Banff I used Sulphur Mountain and, here in Vancouver, I’ve tended to rely on the BCMC or Grouse Grind.  I’ve heard all sorts of things about the “Abby Grind” (i.e. Abbotsford Grind) but, given that I live in the city, it’s never been top of my list…until this weekend, when I was out in the ‘burbs and encountered ongoing SI discomfort. It seemed the natural solution to my search for a short, steep, quick hike with minimal driving.

Having experienced both trails, I now present to you my definitive comparison of the Grouse Grind/BCMC vs. the Abby Grind based on ten (!!!!) criteria:

comparison

There you have it.  I inadvertently presented you with a complete stalemate, which just goes to show you it’s probably dependent on your own personal preferences! Personally, though, although each won five votes, I’d still say go with the BCMC. It makes me hate my life more, and that’s the sign of a tough workout.

 

 

Monday Musings: Understanding the Many Shades of Injury Pain

I am in the midst of trying to understand and be one with my SI pain, because it seems to be lingering for longer than I’d like. What I am learning is that pain is not singularly defined.  No, it is complex, like a fine wine…but not really, because wine is delicious and this injury is a pain in the ass (at times, quite literally).

pain

My SI pain exists on a spectrum that runs from I-can’t-put-my-own-pants-on to non-existent. On any given day, my task is to figure out where on that spectrum my pain lies, and to pick a suitable form of exercise to minimize additional damage.  The extreme ends are the easiest to figure out. In the ‘i-can’t-put-my-own-pants-on’ range, I do nothing but feel sorry for myself. In the ‘non-existent’ range, I do whatever the hell I want.  The problem is, most of my pain doesn’t sit neatly on either extreme end of the spectrum. No, that would just be too easy.

Instead, I am forced to differentiate between a broad range of pain cues, trying to figure out if I am appropriately pushing through pain or wreaking havoc on an already aggravated SI.  In other words, it often feels like a guessing game.  To date, this the body of knowledge that I’ve acquired about my SI pain and exercise:

  • Sharp stabbing spasms around the tailbone on impact while running: stop immediately. This seems obvious, but trust me when I say it took me a while to stop trying to run through it.
  • Slight “pulling” sensation on the right or left of my SI: proceed with caution, slow down and pay close attention. This is the trickster of my SI pain. Half the time it goes away within 5 more minutes of running. The other half of the time it gets progressively worse.
  • Odd grinding sensation, as if the bones of my ilium are grinding directly against the sacrum (yes, that is the best possible description I can think of): keep going if running, but slow the pace and pay attention to un-hunching my shoulders and leaning forward slightly.  If hiking uphill, shorten stride and make sure hips are hinged.  Push through. It will stop hurting.
  • Tightness around the tailbone: no running, no strength training unless highly controlled and with very light weight. Stick to the spin bike, and maybe uphill hiking (but never downhill).

Everything else is a complete and utter mystery to me.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the human body is a wondrous thing but she is highly perplexing. So if anyone out there has mastered interpreting the pain spectrum and can offer sage wisdom, I am all ears.

TWIR #24: Plodding Along

Another week, another TWIR, and I’m plodding along making what feels like minimal progress. This week, morning SI stiffness has returned with a vengeance, along with periodic pain with weird, sharp movements (which, for some reason, are quite common in my life). It’s annoying, but hasn’t kept me from consistent workouts so I suppose I shouldn’t complain.

Saturday
Activity: Hike
Relevant Stats: 3 km, 850 m elevation gain
Observations: In order to fit in a badly needed dim sum feast, I sacrificed a real hike for the BCMC…on a weekend. Let me just say, even if you arrive before 8 am, which I did, this proved a poor idea. I have no idea why people want to drag their asses out of bed on a weekend to hike this trail, but they do. Maybe they were all trying to fit in a quick workout before dim sum? Given how full the parking lot was at the restaurant, this could actually be the case…

Sunday
Activity: Hike
Relevant Stats: 16 km, 1000 m elevation
Observations: Sweet holy hell, this hike almost killed me.  Last year, I hiked this trail several times almost all the way to the summit and, while it had tiring sections, I was like a little mountain goat racing up the mountain. This year…man, it almost killed me. We only made it to the lower lake before I threw in the towel and called it a day, except that still meant 8 km of slow, careful descending of incredibly steep trail. Also, I was bit and then stung by a wasp, which hurts a lot more than I ever thought it would.  I was not a fan of nature on Sunday.

Monday
Activity: Spin + Strength
Relevant Stats: 15 min. spin, 45 min. strength
Observations: I wanted to do nothing on Monday. My legs were surprisingly sore after Sunday’s hike and my SI was not feeling great on the spin bike. However, fearing that my recent SI issues are actually the result of not doing enough of my strength work between training sessions, I decided I should make myself work through the program. All in all, it was a pretty sad excuse for a workout.

Tuesday
Activity: Run
Relevant Stats: 7.5 (ish) km and pace unknown
Observations: I was supposed to have a training session but mixed up my times and missed it, which was unfortunate as I had zero motivation to work out in the first place. I was too lazy to walk to Steve Nash so I decided I’d hit my office building’s gym, except it was full of coworkers…conundrum: to work out or not to work out? I opted to try running, which I wasn’t sure I could do given my SI this week, but it turned out to be a good idea. I ran slowly, though I’m not sure how slowly because I chose not to track my run. It was liberating not to worry about time or distance, and I survived with my SI no worse for the wear.

Wednesday
Activity: Hike
Relevant Stats: 3 km, 850 m elevation
Observations: BCMC round two. Following in the footsteps of Tuesday’s run, I decided not to track nor time my hike.  Again, I found it delightful not to have my app lady’s voice chirping in my ear and making me feel like the slowest human on the planet. The result? I completed the trail exactly one minute faster than usual. Not a big improvement, but an improvement nonetheless.

Thursday
Activity: personal training session
Relevant Stats: 60 min., intensity: HARD
Observations: I thought my trainer was going to take it easy on me because my SI’s been iffy this week.  Instead, I made the mistake of telling her that I ran on Tuesday, at which point her eyes lit up like it was Christmas morning and she dove into the usual routine…with increased weight.  Ugh. My legs were killing me by the end of the session. I know that’s what I’m paying her for, but man sometimes I am just not in the mood to push myself.

Friday
Activity: planned rest day
Relevant Stats: sitting for hours and BBQs in the works
Observations: I didn’t actually plan for Friday to be a rest day. I was going to run, and run hills, but I realized I haven’t taken a day off since last Thursday and that, perhaps, this is one of the reasons my SI hates me. I know I’m not hard core training or anything, but I’m also not giving my SI as much downtime as it probably wants/needs.

After last week’s SI issues, this week turned out better than I anticipated, but I’m still wanting to see more progress than I am. It feels altogether too slow and steady, which frustrates me as I have a high need for EVERYTHING TO MOVE QUICKLY.  In short, I give this week a:

faster

Throwback Thursdays: My History with Hiking

I have been reminiscing about my ‘old hiking days’ as if this is the first year of my life when hiking hasn’t been the be all and end all.   Although I like to think that I’ve always been an avid trail wanderer, the reality is that most of my life I’ve been indifferent or loosely interested in mountain adventures. There’ve really been only a handful of years in the last decade in which I could classify myself as super-hard-core-obsessed with hitting the trail any time I had a moment to spare.

This accurately reflects my hiking enthusiasm by age group:

Screen Shot 2016-08-25 at 7.49.55 PM

Yup. It’s pretty clear that most of my life has been well below the “mild tolerance” line.  I’ve fooled myself into thinking I’m way outside my version of normal when, really, spending a moderate amount of time on trails is a far more prevalent theme in my life. In fact, I’m actually above my normal. The graph shows it, and graphs never lie. It just goes to show you, nostalgia and memory, they can’t always be trusted.

 

Mid Week Apology: To My Abused Trail Runners

My trail runners have suffered a great deal this season. Right out of the box they were subjected to the worst of West Coast rain and mud.  Then the weather got warmer and drier and they suffered several severe dust coatings.

I suppose you could just call them well-loved, but I feel for them. They were once brightly coloured and flashy, but they have no more flair to offer. They are broken and battered and mere shells of their former selves. Indeed, after just two months, they are badly wounded.

Let us review the visual proof of the damage I’ve done to one of my two pairs:

shoe 2

Exhibit 1: Mud on the INSIDE of shoes. The culprit: hiking in pouring rain and mud and giving up on any and all hope of avoiding the mud.

Exhibit 2: Those dark patches? That’s dried mud. The thick kind. The kind that adheres and never, ever, ever comes off. The culprit: I don’t remember when that occurred, but it was quick and permanent.

Exhibits 3  & 4: Dust. The culprit is dust.  Exhibit 3 is where brightly coloured stripes should be, but are instead obscured by crusted mud and dust so thick that they appear uniform in colour.  Exhibit 4 is generalized dust that has fundamentally changed the overall hue. You cannot even tell these shoes were once blue with pink accents. You don’t believe me do you?  Let me refresh your memory as to what these should look like:

Sigh. They used to be so pretty.
Sigh. They used to be so pretty.

And then there’s my other pair, which are equally sad in appearance with the added misfortune of being functionally damaged.

shoe

Exhibit 1: Multiple and permanent and deeply embedded mud stains. The culprit: one day on St. Mark’s summit before the full snow melt + one day on the BCMC in a torrential downpour.

Exhibit 2: Grip “nubbin” completely worn off. I know that is not the technical term for it, but if you watched Friends you will appreciate that, and if you didn’t then you should know that all ten seasons are on Netflix. The culprit: inexplicably wedging my shoe between two rocks and nearly pitching myself head first into the ground as a result. Yes, I am that graceful.

Exhibit 3: Detached toe bumper (which is the technical term). The culprit: the sum total of the 10,000 times I have caught my toe on rough rocks because I am too tired to lift my feet.

Exhibit 4: Blood stains. The culprit: this is misleading as these shoes are a dream and have never caused me an ounce of pain. However, I did wear them once the day after wearing hiking boots that tore the shit out of my heel and then I proceeded to bleed all over my precious trail runners.

I am sorry, Brooks Cascadias. You have been nothing but supportive and delightful and I have stolen your colorful joy and damaged some of your most functional assets. Please don’t break down on me yet. We still have a couple months’ worth of trails to explore before I retire you for the year.

Training Tuesdays: I Heart Laser Treatments

One thing I’ve learned over the last five months is just how wonderful laser treatment is for acute inflammation. I’ve had laser treatments in the past for my many, many (many) ankle sprains, but never before has it been suggested for my SI. I’ve always relied on active release therapy (ART) in the past, which has always worked. But this latest SI injury incarnation threw a wrench into a previously tried and tested treatment formula.

Since the very start of this latest SI injury, laser treatment has been the only thing to provide noticeable and immediate improvement. ART was actually making it worse.  Personal training was helping, but in a long term sense versus addressing acute pain. No, only the low level laser therapy seemed to do the trick.  I have now decided laser therapy is a ligament injury’s best friend…well, maybe second to a little bit of self-pity and a lot of wine. But in terms of actual injury improvement, it’s definitely your best friend.

I have to admit that at first I thought it was just a little flash and dazzle that allowed health care professionals to charge me more money for essentially swirling a wand over an injury. But when one of my ankle sprains healed in a week instead of a month, I began to appreciate its simplicity and power.  It’s really the perfect treatment:

It works: Clearly this is the most important factor. I’ve always felt immediate improvement after one treatment (remembering that improvement is relative), and exponential improvement after subsequent treatment.

It’s relaxing as hell: It’s like a warm message. I get to lay on my stomach and close my eyes and it’s about as close to utter relaxation as I can get in the middle of the day. I’d do it even if I weren’t injured…if they let me (side note: my physiotherapist tells me for a paltry $30,000, I can own my own machine and make this dream a reality).

Your practitioner has to wear ridiculous looking protective glasses: I am likely the only one to get joy from this but I’m always the one who looks ridiculous hobbling in and out of treatments and he takes great delight in mocking me and my injury.  It’s about the only time the balance of power between us tips slightly in my favor.

It’s quick: Really, it’s 10-15 minutes per treatment, sometimes less depending on the area being treated and the severity of the inflammation. When my appointments actually run on time, which is virtually never, I am in and out in twenty five minutes.

The short version of this post: Got an injury? Get on the laser treatment train.*

*As if you need me to write this…I am by no means a medical professional and nothing I write should ever be taken as legitimate guidance.