Not To Be Trusted With Knives

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Reflections from a Running Study Guinea Pig

Dday 189

After a run on a particularly rainy day. This was the shirt I was wearing *under* my rain jacket!

Today marked the last of the Sunday group runs for the running study (which is looking at if there are differences between males and females in overtraining injuries while training for a 10 km race) that I’ve been taking part in over the past 11 weeks. There are just three more training runs left until our 10 km “race”1. In this study, we’ve had 4 running sessions per week2 – one group run on Sundays, one track workout (which I’ve mostly done on a treadmill3, and two “easy” runs. Despite having been a runner for the past seven years, I don’t think I’ve ever consistently maintained a four day per week running schedule. I’ve also ended up doing *a lot* of my running on a treadmill, due to the fact that this has taken place in the winter, when it’s too dark to go running outside by myself before I leave for work and too dark by the time I get home from work. Luckily, I have a free gym at work so I’ve been going there three times per week before work to get my run in.

Since “reflection” is one of my themes for the year, I figured I’d take some time for few reflections on my experience as a guinea pig in a running study.

  • I really like getting in a workout before work. I feel so much more alert and ready to tackle the day after sweating it out at the gym. In the past, I’ve typically been a go-for-a-run-when-I-get-home-from-work kind of gal, but I’m starting to wonder if this before work thing isn’t what I should really be aiming for.
  • Another benefit of doing my workouts in the morning is that it forces me to be more organized.  I know that for me to have any chance to get to the gym early enough, I have to be able to roll out of bed and head out the door with minimal tasks in between, so I pack my bag – including everything I need for the gym4, my work clothes for the day, and my lunch – and layout my gym clothes before bed, so that I can just get up in the morning, throw on my gym clothes, grab my bag, and head out the door. I just don’t seem to be motivated to do that kind of prep if I’m not going to the gym in the morning, and then I end up either scrambling to get it all done or skipping things like making my lunch.
    Day 187

    After a run on the treadmill at the gym at work. I look happy because I was done running on the damn treadmill.

  • I hate treadmills. I hate them with the fire of a thousand suns. I like running when you can forget that you are running, because you are looking at the beautiful sights around you or chatting with your running partner. Staring at the clock counting down on the treadmill makes it seem to take an eternity and sucks the life out of me. I bring a towel and use it to cover up the time, but I *know* the time is counting down underneath the towel and I’m always tempted to look. Because there’s nothing else to look at! The gym I go to does have TVs, but they are quite far away so it’s difficult to read the closed captioning and there are only two TVs for the whole gym, so you don’t get a choice of what to watch. One week the TVs were broken such that the only channel they would play was showing Jerry Springer and it made me die a little inside every time I saw one woman punching another woman over some loser guy… which is about 97% of that show. I have been listening to audiobooks as I run on the treadmill and that’s helped make it doable, but just barely. This past week I actually went to the gym with a friend and she did the elliptical next to my treadmill and we chatted throughout the whole workout and it was over in no time at all.
  • I hate treadmills less when I’m doing intervals. As I mentioned, I did most of our track workouts on the treadmill and I actually found that when we had to do short intervals, like 2 minutes fast/2 minutes jogging or 400 m fast/400 m jogging, it was actually kind of fun, because it gave you something to do (turn the speed up and down) at fairly regular intervals, so you wear a bit distracted and watching the clock was useful as you frequently had to do something about the time, rather than just staring at it slowly ticking down. But nearer to the end of the training program the intervals got long (like 1600m or 2400m) and so it was back to feeling like just a regular long run (albeit at a faster pace) and I got bored again.
  • Day 178

    Heading out for a run on New Year’s Day in the new running jacket that my Uncle Harry and Aunt Arlene got me for Christmas!

  • I enjoy running with a running group. I’ve been wanting to join a running group for a while and, in fact, it was one of the things that drew me to participate in this study. I’ve never found a group that fit with my schedule before, so I’ve never done it until now. I really liked meeting up with other people who are into running, sharing tips about stretches and what races we are doing and other such fun things. As an added bonus, you get to meet new and interesting people and, as I mentioned, chatting with other people really makes the time go by that much quicker. Sadly, I didn’t meet any eligible bachelors (I was also hoping when I joined the study that there might be some), but perhaps there will be some in the next running group I join?
  • You often here that intrinsic motivators are better than extrinsic motivators, but I have to say that when it comes to running, I need my extrinsic motivators! I’ve long known that if I don’t have a race that I’m training for, I don’t run. It’s just too easy to not throw on my running gear and hit the pavement. I’ll think “I don’t know how long/far I should run today” and that will be enough of a barrier to stop me from going out at all. When I’m training for a race, I follow a training plan so that I don’t have to make any decisions about how long/far I need to run on a given day and I’m motivated by the fact that I have to be able to do a certain distance by a certain date! This study has taken it one step further in that not only do I have a training plan to follow, but I also have the extrinsic motivator that the scientists are depending on me to do all the training runs because science depends on it!
  • I really need to do more cross training. Since I’ve been going to the gym at work, I’ve been running into colleagues who go to the gym for the weights. And it’s gotten me thinking that once this running study is over, I should probably find a good weight training program to follow, because I’m doing all cardio, all the time. I’ve also been wanting to get back to yoga, as my muscles are pretty tight right now!
  • Being an athlete means doing laundry all the time. Running four times a week and playing hockey twice a week makes for a heck of a lot of laundry. I have lots of technical shirts from the various races I’ve done, but I only have a limited number of sports bras and running shorts, plus I only have one pair of shorts with a jill built in for playing hockey, so I’m really, really thankful that I have in-suite laundry.

So, in conclusion, being in this study has been great in that it’s really kickstarted my 2014 running at a much higher frequency than I’m used to, gotten me motivated to workout before work, and I’ve met some great people. A++, would science again.

  1. I put “race” in quotation marks because it’s a race that was created just for this study. []
  2. Except over the Christmas holidays, when it was just 2 runs per week. []
  3. Because the track group gets together out at UBC, which is way too far for me to want to go to on a weekday evening. []
  4. Water bottle, headphones, towel/soap/shampoo/conditioner, makeup/brush, etc. []


Hollywood Half Marathon, Here We Come!

Hollywood Half Marathon 2013     1 bThe flights and hotel are booked. The registration fees are paid. And in just 71 days, Alicia and I will be racing 21.1 km through the streets of Hollywood, California!

Neither of us have been to Hollywood before, so we are making a bit of a long weekend for ourselves. The race is on the Saturday of the first weekend of April at the unholy hour of 6 am (!)1, but then that does give us more time to do sightseeing that day!

The running study that I’m in is approaching its completion – there’s just over a week left until our training ends with a 10 km race, and I’ll be able to transition nicely from that training to my half marathon training. I’m hoping to keep up the momentum of the four runs per week that I’ve been doing. And I’m *really* hoping that the days will soon be long enough that there’s some daylight either before I go to work or after I get home from work so I can do more of my running outside and less on the treadmill. If there’s one thing that the running study participation has reminded me, it’s that I hate, with the fire of a thousand suns, running on a treadmill.

The Hollywood Half Marathon will be my 10th half marathon and my very first one outside of BC. Do you think it’s too much to ask for it also to be one where I set a personal best? Only time – and how dedicated I can stay to my training – will tell!

Image Credit: Posted by Dave Klukken on Flickr with a Creative Commons license.

  1. I guess they don’t want to have Hollywood Boulevard shut down for too long during the day. []



As you know, I love me some running. And as you also know, I love me some science. So I’m sure it will come as no surprise to you that I’ve joined a running study.

Specifically, this study is comparing males and females going through a training program for a 10 km race with respect to injuries1. Basically, there is a 12 week training plan that we follow, including a mandatory2 group run on Sunday mornings and 3 other runs per week that we do on our own3,4. And then we answer a bunch of questionnaires about our running and any pain we experience. And then at the end we run in a 10 km race that they invented for this study. I’ve always wanted to join a running group and never found one that quite worked for me5, so this way I get to be part of a running group *and* contribute to science. Plus, I have a tendency to be very unmotivated to run after I do a half marathon – I usually think, “Oh, I just need a little rest time to recovery” and then the habit is broken and 6 months go by and I haven’t gone out for a run. As you know, I’m running the Fall Classic half marathon next weekend, so being in this study will be just the motivation I need to get running in the days and weeks after the race.

The training officially starts tomorrow, but I got my first taste of the study two Sundays ago when I went out to the Allan McGavin Sports Medicine Centre at UBC for my baseline measurements. This included measurements of my legs and feet and tests for balance, flexibility, and strength.

In the balance test, you had to first balance on a metal plate that measured the fluctuations as you balanced on one foot. And then you had do the same thing, but first you had to jump over a barrier and land on one foot and they measured the fluctuations as you tried to re-gain your balance. Have you ever tried jumping on one foot, over a barrier, landing and actually being balanced? It’s as hard as it sounds!

The picture doesn’t really give you a good sense of it, but that yellow barrier is a good 6 inches high. You had to stand on the wooden part, jump over the yellow thing and land on the metal plate:


Here are my test results, though since I’m not a physiotherapist, I have no idea what they mean:


The other thing they did at the baseline assessment was a 3D scan of your foot. This study is sponsored by Nike6 and apparently this 3D scanning technology was “shipped all the way from Nike headquarters”!

To do the 3D scan, they put little stickers on different parts of your foot and then you stood with your foot in a box that shot lasers7 at you:

Day 112

And it looked like this:

But then we had to re-do that one because the computer said no. But in the end we got lovely 3D scans of my feet:

I’m not sure exactly what they are doing with all these measurements, as they specifically told us that they are only taking these measurements at baseline, but not later. The rest of the study is just questionnaires (including the pain scale I mentioned8 ). I presume they are comparing the males to the females at baseline to see where we are all starting from, but I guess they aren’t interested in balance, flexibility, strength or the shape of our 3D feet as outcome measures.

At any rate, I’m looking forward to having a structured training program to follow and meeting some new running friends.

Let the running begin!

  1. At least, that’s what they told us. But I get the impression that what they consider an “injury” is somewhat different from what I would call an “injury” – as the baseline assessment involved rating your level of pain on a pain scale, but I don’t think of just run-of-the-mill pain as an “injury” per se. I’d consider it more just being the result of using my body and/or aging. []
  2. Well, it was called “mandatory” when we signed up for the study, but has since been downgraded to “strongly recommended”, probably at least in part because it spans the holiday season and some of the participants will be traveling over the holidays and thus won’t be able to attend the Sunday runs during that time. []
  3. Tuesday nights are track training and there’s an option to do this run out at UBC, but frankly given my 2 nights a week where I have to drive to Point Grey for classes, the last thing I want to do is drive out there when I don’t have to []
  4. Given that we are in the part of the year where the sun sets so damn early (i.e., it’s pitch black out by the time I get home from work at 5pm), I think I’m going to have to get over my distaste for treadmills and do my running during the week on the treadmill at the gym at work. I figure if I go into work a bit early, do my run and then shower and get ready at the gym. I remember when I did a similar thing for my 26 hot yoga sessions in 30 days and I found that as long as I was organized enough with my bag packed and ready to go, I actually really like the schedule. I feel super energized and much more productive during the day when I exercise first thing in the morning. []
  5. They always seem to be on Wednesdays and I have Wednesday night hockey games. []
  6. Participants are apparently getting a free Nike Tshirt and the volunteers helping out with the study all got Nike shoes. Which, for the female, were, of course, pink. []
  7. I think. I asked the volunteers doing the scan “How does this work?” and they were all “lasers… I think. []
  8. I mentioned it in the footnote. You are reading the footnotes, right? []