Saturday, December 17, 2011
One month ago I had a running analysis from the kind folks at the Providence Sports Care Center at Jeld-Wen Stadium in Portland. They gave me some tips, and I tried a few other things on my own.
In specific, I began by running 10-20 minutes on an indoor track while following the recommendations of my physical therapist. I was doing this 3-4 times/week for the first few weeks. Initially, I was very surprised by how much work it was to keep my hips forward and my back straight for this period. The PT warned me that I would feel the difference in soreness on my backside, which I assume means my glutes and my hamstrings. I timed the footstrikes on my watch, and found I could keep this pace reliably for about 15 minutes without tiring. It felt more like a drill than a run. One day my wife was at the gym, and I showed her the difference between my “old” loping stride and my “new” upright stride. Linden reported that there was indeed a HUGE difference, and encouraged me to keep up the drills and form.
During this period I found an interesting article about this exercise known as the 100-up. I focused on the first part of the drill, known as the “minor” and started doing them around the house.
I felt like I was making some progress building strength in my hip and lifting my knees a bit higher. On top of this drill I was loosely following what my PT called my “home program.” Most of these drills seemed to focus on building core stability and getting at the smaller muscles in my abdomen and hips. Some of the drills also focus on treating each leg separately. I can see that part of my problem has been a kind of compensation that allows some muscles to be lazy while others do all the work. In a future post I will describe my current “home program” and share some new drills.
After a few weeks on the indoor track I started feeling good about my progress and ventured outside for some running on the trails. I had good success with this for 20-30 minutes of running, but noted that my cadence slowed on the downhills and increased on the ups. I ran in old running shoes for this period, and had little problem with my motion control Mizuno Alchemy shoes that I’ve been running in for years. At the gym I had been using a pair of Brooks Avalanch shoes that I bought in the fall. They were similar to the Mizunos in that they seem to keep my heel in place, although I am more focused on the midfoot strike. Sadly, I left the Brooks shoes at the gym one day and never found them again.
I started running in a cheap pair of minimalist Saucony Stratos that I bought last winter at Big 5 for about 30 bucks. This gave me all sorts of soreness in my IT band and quads, but I didn’t immediately connect it with the shoes. Next, this week I went for a run with a close friend, (Ben Chaffin) and we did what I would call an “easy four” down to the waterfront. This run was harder than usual, and I think my pace was faster than I’ve been running. The result was about 10 days of significant soreness in my left IT band and nighttime swelling in that same knee. Life was busy, and kept me from doing much running, so I eased off for a few days.
Week 4 - 5
I was starting to get discouraged by the cranky knee, but one day I stepped out for a short run and noticed something good about my new stride – I could no longer relax my straight back or stick out my butt like I used to do. The “upright” position seems to have planted itself in my muscle memory and I can keep the position for much longer periods, maybe even indefinitely! This is a great sign for my ambitions to adopt a new form. Big news!
I bought another new pair of shoes this week and saw immediate improvement in my knee pain and IT band troubles. I also increased my use of the foam roller, a tool that has helped in the past to fight inflexibility and soreness. I resumed my running frequency and even stepped out for a longer group run one evening. We ran for about an hour and although I felt some soreness there was no lasting swelling or trouble. I think I’m back on track.
To recap, I see that my running program needs some of each of the following: consistency, flexibility, strengthening, and work. By the last thing here I mean that “getting into shape” means taxing my mechanical system and giving it short periods to recover. Always in the past I have focused on taxing my cardiovascular system, but it is clear that the mechanical one is more important for long term fitness.
I’m currently running every other day and hoping to build a base this winter for more fast running in the spring! I’ll continue to focus on the 5k and 1 mile distances for the next six months, but most important is maintaining a level of fitness in which I avoid injury and keep training!
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
“I’m so hip, I have difficulty seeing over my pelvis.”
The time of year has come again for the Daddy Life to lay off the booze for a few short weeks in celebration of my favorite season. We’ve had an action-packed month here at the Life and it’s only half over. We nearly bought a house, the weather turned to shit, and I threw out my hip. Not an auspicious beginning to my favorite month of the year, but I see better things on the foggy horizon.
First, Sober October. I began this tradition one year in an attempt to clear my head and enjoy the crisp fall air, the outdoor exercise, and the general romance that I have with this season. I always seem to find my stride in October. It’s a great time of year to be alive, to suck the marrow out of life. This year has presented few difficulties, other than a few stressful events worth noting below.
We’ve been thinking of moving. And then we started looking at houses. And then we found a house we love. This began a long week of negotiations with the seller about what exactly the house might be worth. This also prompted us to spend a few weeks looking at every conceivable house on the market. This makes for busy times and difficult decisions about our immediate future. Do we sell first, then buy? Can we scrape together enough for the down payment otherwise? Do we really want to move in November and carry two morgages through the holidays? Heady stuff. But then walking into a house that we love, my wife and I look at each other and we think: yeah, this one will work. We can raise the family here. It’s like peering into your own future and liking what you see.
During the first week of the month I managed to raise my running mileage a tiny bit. What I mean by this is that I actually ran three days in a row. None of these days were out of the ordinary, and I was feeling no ill effects apart from a little tightness in the legs. And then BANG. Twenty four hours after my last run I began to develop a heavy limp. And then it got worse. By evening I could barely sit down, and that night I took a shower and went straight to bed.
What ensued was 10 days of decreased mobility, excruciating pain, and several trips to the physical therapist. Getting into the car sometimes took fifteen minutes. Taking care of the kids was not even a question. Linden stayed home from work a few days to manage the household. And then suddenly, over the second weekend, the problem just went away.
I don’t know what happened, but here is my best guess. Two weeks ago today I ran the Fairmount Loop with Jude in the baby jogger. He weighs 42 pounds. We were in a hurry, so I didn’t bother to stretch. In addition, I ran as fast as possible, while steering with just one hand. After the run, we went home and I ran the pressure washer for 2 hours. I think this process exhausted my hip flexor muscle, which decided to quit working. When the hip flexor quits, there are several other muscles that all start making up for the loss. The peraformis, the psoas, the IT band, and other areas in the general ass/hamstring location all start screaming. What I experienced was nothing short of a full mutiny from my lower (some might say better) half. I have received this message loud and clear. They may have given me back the ship, but now I know what happens if I don’t feed the crew. I’m getting older, and I need to remember that!
Having this experience with pain has given me some cause to reflect. There are people who live with this kind of pain every day of their lives. I feel lucky to have my health, my family, and my own safe world to live in. I know it could come crashing down every day, and I shake my head to think of the times I’ve tried to crash it down myself.
Here’s to October! Raise a glass of orange juice to falling leaves, sweet decay, and a little perspective.
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Monday, June 13, 2011
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Friday, June 3, 2011
Monday, May 30, 2011
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Some might argue that my boy didn’t need to go to school. He had just turned one year old! We started Jeep in school because I needed more structure to the crests and troughs of the daddy life. He loved being around other children, and my daddy resources were running a little thin. It turned out to be good for both of us. Despite my far-ranging adventures, I needed more kid activities. I needed colleagues. I needed mom friends. I needed good parent modeling. I got all of this and more.
We chose a cooperative pre-school, so I worked a shift each week and attended meetings, work parties, and socials throughout the year. This was great for me. It kept me connected to other parents and gave me experience with other children, many of whom were a stage or two older than the Jeep. It gave me a place to go two mornings a week, and (more importantly) it gave me a day off. One morning a week, Jeep was on his own at the pre-school. He was well cared for, and I never worried about him. He never once cried when I left. Jeep is tough like that. He has a lot of him mom in him.
I often dropped off Jeep and went straight to a nearby golf course. All winter long I played 9 holes at a time, doggedly working on self-improvement and trying to build a handicap. I almost always played alone, walking fast and keeping meticulous scoring. I think I was trying to “get serious” about golf, even as the serious work of my former life was slipping away. I started hitting my driver with force and precision. But the rest of my game went to hell.
There was another piece of news that shook up the Daddy Life that fall. There was indeed a new beginning, and it had started in Linden’s belly late that summer. Perhaps a bit ahead of schedule, but our Ada has turned out to be an overachiever. We were both elated and a little shocked.
Monday, May 23, 2011
If there was a moment of truth for my new career in daddyhood, it happened the winter when Linden returned to work. Suddenly I was faced with long hours of baby time, and I alone set the schedule. Of course I pursued my own ends doggedly, relentlessly. In the winter it was lunch with friends, storytimes, long hikes, and shared naps. This, with the housework and cooking, left me a little bored. That spring when Jude was weaned, we launched into a new level of adventure.
Jeep was both portable and flexible, a perfect companion for my restlessness. I was lucky to have a few friends around with open schedules, and away we went. By May and June, I was taking the boy on far-ranging road trips like Steens Mountain, Wallowa Lake, and points in between. I bought a big tent and we put the crib right inside. Jeep could sleep anywhere, and I was happy to be in motion. These trips, punctuated by family vacations to New York and Florida, made staying at home feel like a lark. It was like I quit my teaching job, and summer vacation never ended.
Looking back, I can’t believe the audacity of these travels. Before Jeep was one year old, we had crossed the country four times by airplane and the state three times by car. As a 6 month old, I pulled him out of the bike trailer to see a baby alligator. At two months old, we hiked him along Crater Lake in the fading dusk. At thirteen months we spent a night in a sleeping bag together when the temperature dropped below 40 degrees. That whole year we spent talking to him, singing to him, dragging him from place to place.
I could see that there was a point on the horizon when Jeep would need more than my company to keep him engaged and challenged by the world. The smartest thing I did that year happened almost by accident. One morning I ran across a notice for a cooperative pre-school with a classroom for one and two year olds. We visited the open house and registered Jeep for the fall.
Next up, Back to School . . .
Thursday, May 19, 2011
I won’t pretend that I haven’t been absent for the past several months. Somewhere in between Christmas and Springtime I stopped writing, and never seemed to get it started again. This is actually one of my patterns. I become recalcitrant in winter, chatty in warmer weather. I am positively INSPIRED by autumn. Do dying leaves equate with rebirth for me? It’s just one of my things.
I looked at the Jeep today, standing next to his mother, and he seemed taller. Granted, she was sitting, but he seemed even taller than she. He’s two-and-a-half for gawdssakes. Where did the time go? For a long while I explained the stay-at-home dad “experiment” as something we were trying out. As if maybe things wouldn’t work, so we would go back to “normal”. That is obviously not happening. I think it is time to recognize – this is pretty much as normal as we’ll ever see again. Nonetheless, next month marks three years since I left my job and never looked back.
This blog is an attempt to come to terms with some of the stages of daddyhood. The Daddy Life has taken on many forms over the past three years, and I need to honor them. I am always working to become the man I want to be, and that means being honest with myself about my successes and failures along the way. If I had any readers, then I would love for them to learn something from my experience.
STAGE ONE: DENIAL
The summer of 2008 was a great summer. I played a lot of golf. I remodeled the nursery. Then we had a baby. Up until Jeep came along, I laughed and played and chased my tail. I was a passable birthing partner and a poor husband. Then the world changed forever that evening when the sun went down on our hospital room.
STAGE TWO: EARLY DADDYHOOD
Jeep came into the world with only minimal help from Dad, but I stepped it up right away. I remember the first little cries that came from my boy late in the night of his birth. We had slept a few hours and Linden was in no shape to respond, so I rose to the call and changed my first diaper. The first of thousands.
Linden had a long maternity leave while we built our partnership and figured out our family. We also had a number of guests, family, and friends who provided a lot of help. This gave me a freedom from responsibility that I generally enjoyed. We both built confidence in our parenting skills. My wife dealt with some intense post-partum depression that fall, and I generally hung in there and tried not to complain about the changes in my life. Of course I loved my boy more than anything, so I focused my energies on him. I give myself high marks for fatherhood during this period, but there were two of us raising one child, so we still had him outnumbered. I began playing guitar during this time, and we took several trips together as a family. I also took over all the cooking in the household. These were minor, but necessary changes to my lifestyle and identity.
I was certainly a useful part of the parenting team, but of course I wasn't nursing the baby. At times I felt like I lacked purpose. We were all ready for some change when Linden returned to work after the holidays. Jeep was around 4 months old.
To be continued . . .
Friday, April 29, 2011
Ada, I write this letter to you for your one year birthday.
I feel no sadness over the passing of your year of infancy. I feel no longing for our quiet midnights, alone together with a bottle of milk. I feel no loss over the all-too-quick growth of my baby daughter from infant to person. In place of loss I feel TRIUMPH! As if you could hear a band of angels singing for your birthday. This is what happens when you raise a child. You came leaping out of your mother’s belly and into your father’s arms. Actually the doctor caught you, and just in time. But I cut your umbilical cord and we wrapped you up and took care of you and gave you all the right milk and foods and love and look what you’ve become! You are dazzling. Nini calls you Sparkles. You are a wonder.
We have a special relationship. I can catch your eye in a crowded room and make you smile, every time. We sometimes play this silly game that involves blinking both eyes for slightly longer than normal, back and forth. You make a kissing sound on command and love to bite your blankets or stuffed animals in kind of an affectionate chomp. You sometimes talk in clicks, sing songs, swing your arms in pantomime, and you love to dance. You took your first steps at your own birthday party, and now we go for “daddy walks” and I hold your little hand in mine.
You stand and sit, crawl, and grab. You push buttons and say words. We have long conversations that mostly consist of words like OUT (Let me out), HUTCH (I think this means hello), UNTZ (I wants it!), BYE BYE (also means hello and is accompanied by cute waving), OUCH (pretty obvious), and AY-DO (this seems to be some kind of happy singing).
You can climb up the stairs, but not down. You love to pull down all the kitchen towels. You are fascinated by the rolling racks on the dishwasher. You are also fond of the remote control, books with flaps, and dirt. I am really enjoying the one-year-old Ada. It is a great pleasure to be your DAT! (Daddy).
Birds sing! It is spring. Perhaps for you this will be a time of year for reflection, regrouping, and reconnoitering the path of your life as you begin another circle around the sun. You are blooming, my dear, like a little flower in front of us. This is the kind of wonder that makes us catch our breath, hold it in, and marvel.
Jude was a wonder, but not that kind of wonder. Now he is more of a weather system. Hurricane Judey. His one year celebration was more about OUR celebration. We reveled in the fact that we had become actual parents, competent parents that could love and care for a child. We were so confident that now there are two of you, both healthy and happy. Your mother and I made that decision to bring you into our family long before we knew that you would be you. And we’ve never looked back.
And now your birthday has come and gone, and the party was lovely. And suddenly you are one.
You were a charming baby, the whole year long. In the wake of Jude’s weather systems you are patient and kind. You are curious and forgiving. You love to be held, but are happy to be on your own. We work hard to keep you safe from the toddler antics, but it isn’t always easy. Jude swings swords and hangers. He throws things, chases you, tackles you, tickles you. This is the strangest part – you seem to love each other and are happiest in the same room together.
It is only in watching the two of you, even at this young age, that I understand the secret purpose of having two children. You will have each other now, for your whole lives. Your mother and I will do our best to give you everything you need to grow up wholesome and healthy and supported and challenged. But you and your brother will always share something that we can’t provide. You will need each other, you will always know each other best, and you will be bound together with the secret language of siblings.
Happy Birthday! I can tell you truly that is a joy to have you as part of our family. You receive a 1/4th share in all of Cornett stock are you are henceforth expected to be present for all board meetings.