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marathon training

Old-School Icing Techniques for my Running Injury

I’m using this summer to get my legs ready to train for the 2015 Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon – Arizona in January. Training will start in mid-September and I want to be comfortably running 18 miles a week by then.

A few weeks ago I did an easy 4-mile run. I felt good, until about 8 hours later when I felt a searing pain in my left post-tibialis (inner calf). It was the strangest thing. I figured I pushed a little too hard (even though it didn’t feel like I did) and I rested it for a few days – but the pain didn’t go away. I emailed my physical therapist who suggested ice and stretching. It was kind of hard to get my gel pack to mold to this part of my leg so I decided to go old school for this.

(My gymnastics family knows I much prefer the suck-it-up-ibuprofen-and-tape approach to injuries and if I’m icing something, it must really hurt. And in this case, I’m thinking about the long game. I’ll take care of myself now to be able to have the race I want in January.)

Ripped Cup

Ripped Cup

I opted to go back to using ice cups instead of gel packs. I learned about ice cups when I was a gymnast. It’s what my club used for the communal ice needs – mostly by the team kids who were there the most and got the most injuries. Ice cups are fairly simple to make – fill a disposable cup (styrofoam or high-quality paper) with water and freeze. My drug store only had styrofoam cups so I went with those. Their smallest package had 51 cups.

Double Cup

Double Cup

I ran into a small a problem right off the bat – the ice ripped through the bottom. I think what happened was the top (not being insulated by the cup) froze first and when the ice at bottom froze and expanded, had nowhere to go but down and out. Paper cups are less insulated by nature and may not have this problem as much – and probably freeze faster.

The solution: add a second cup before using.

Using an ice cup is simple: tear off the top edge of the cup and apply to the injured area is a smooth motion. It’s essentially a big ice cube and the cup protects your hand from getting cold and wet. It’s best to do this outside or with a thick towel folded several times beneath the area you’re icing because it drips a lot. As the ice melts, tear off more of the cup as needed.

Icing my Leg

Icing my Leg

My physical therapist friend reminded me to only do this for 5-7 minutes at a time to prevent frostbite. I’ve frostbitten myself several times over the years (I usually call it an ice burn) and those things hurt like hell.

I can usually get 2-3 ice jobs out of each ice cup so I’m going through about one a day. This makes me wonder how often my club had to make these when people were icing every day.  I’m on the road to recover and hope to be back pounding pavement in the next week.

Going old school with my injury treatment has supplied a nice trip down memory lane. In gymnastics, somebody is always hurt so it was a regular sight to see a team kid sitting the sidelines, moving an ice cup against their skin, with a paper towel soaking up the drips and little pile of styrofoam pieces next to them. Ah . . . fun times.

Sleeping in Running Gear – Yeah It Works

Now that The Night Run 10K is behind me, I’ve turned my running energy to building my strength, speed, and stamina as I head into starting marathon training in the fall. But here’s the downside of training in Phoenix in the summer – it’s freaking hot. And when I have to run and walk the dog before it gets too hot, my day begins early. It’s usually still dark outside when I start pounding pavement. By the way, running at first light is awesome. The sky is absolutely gorgeous as it shifts from black, to royal blue, to pink.

Uphill - Explored by Don McCollough from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Uphill – Explored by Don McCollough from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Something got me thinking – Wouldn’t it be more efficient to sleep in running clothes? I sleep in shorts and t-shirt every night so changing it up for running gear is just adding a sports bra to the mix. I kicked the question out on Reddit, and I was surprised by the number of responses I got that were negative. I understand why someone who wears the same running gear multiple times might not want to sleep in in smelly clothes with dried sweat all over them, but I didn’t understand how it could be uncomfortable to sleep in a sports bra if it fits well. Maybe that’s an issue that only affects people with big boobs.

I started sleeping in my workout gear when I’m going running the next morning about a week ago. I sleep in my shorts, sports bra, and shirt and near the bed are my socks, reflective belt, iPod, and shoes. It is a little weird to lie down in bed with the extra layer on top and shorts that have a liner, but I’m usually so tired that I fall asleep within minutes. And it’s comfortable enough to sleep through the night.

Sleeping in my running clothes has definitely made a difference. When I wake up to my alarm clock at 0-dark-thirty, not only can I get dressed faster, I’m more motivated to get up and going. When I sleep in regular pajamas, there could be the thought of “five more minutes” or “I’m so tired.” When I sleep in my running gear, I wake up thinking, “Time to get up.” Not running is not an option. I’m keenly aware of this shift in my perspective and it’s very cool.

The comments on Reddit evened out after the first set of responders were all negative, and several of them agreed that sleeping in running gear is more about motivation than saving time. Conversely, I had an overwhelming positive response when I posted this to my Facebook wall: “Yes, I sleep in my workout clothes when I’m planning to go jogging first thing in the morning. I know it’s weird, but it works.” These were some of the responses:

  • I have been doing the same thing for years now. One less step in the morning and motivation that I am technically ready to exercise and have no excuse.
  • One person’s weird is another person’s fucking brilliant.
  • That is just plain sexy.

Yeah, my friends are awesome.