Running Reader Q: I Cross-Trained And Still Got Injured—What Gives?

Regularly rolling out your legs after running helps ease tightness by breaking up the fascia around your muscles and can prevent injuries down the road.
Regularly rolling out your legs after running helps ease tightness by breaking up the fascia around your muscles and can prevent injuries down the road.

Emily P., a regular Some Kind Of Runderful reader, is dealing with her first running-related injury. She’s fairly new to pavement pounding, and she was smart with the build up. She ran an easy pace three days a week for the past five months, “Plus, I did two days of exercises with weights in the gym,” Emily says. Despite her careful routine, she still managed to pull a hammy. “It was during my very first 5K two weekends ago. I was a few feet from the finish when something in the back of my leg popped. I practically had to limp to across the line,” she says. A quick trip to the doctor confirmed a strain and, luckily, no major muscle tearing.

Now, Emily is nursing a sore hamstring and a bruised ego. “I just don’t get it,” she says. “I’ve been cross-training and I thought I was doing everything right. Where did I go wrong?” To help me find the best answer for her, I reached out to Dan Trink, a fitness trainer and director of training operations at Peak Performance in New York, NY.

Dan, what do you think brought on Emily’s injury? Most running injuries are not acute, meaning someone doesn’t run out from behind a tree and hit your leg with a stick when you’re in the middle of a 5K. The injuries incurred from running are caused by overuse or muscle imbalances.

But Emily’s been hitting the weight room to build muscle. She may have been focusing on the wrong types exercises, or ones that use the same muscles and motions as running. Too many people mimic the energy system that they utilize in running in their strength training, which means that they try to build strength-endurance by only doing high-rep sets or metabolic circuits. Most runners are better served by increasing their strength with high-weight, low-rep sets in the weight room. Logging miles gives you plenty of endurance for running, but you’ve got to rely on your strength training to help you get stronger and keep injuries at bay.

What’s the best way for Emily to work through this injury? Very often overuse issues and muscle imbalances can be resolved with a smart strength-training program that not only builds foundational strength, but also incorporates foam rolling and soft-tissue work, dynamic warm-up and activation drills, and pre-hab or rehab movements as well as strength movements that will give you more stability and reduce your chance of the injury recurring when you return to running.

What should Emily do when she’s done with rehab and ready to run again? The key is not to get carried away, thinking she can drop everything else now that she’s running again. She should maintain a strength-training program that still includes all of the factors I mentioned before.

Thanks, Dan. This is great advice. Any time! By the way, how are your arms? Are you still working on your upper body strength?

…Um, no comment.

I’ve been through my fair share of injuries and I know how frustrating the recovery period can be. Your body will tell you when it’s ready to run again—but you have to be gentle with yourself and listen. Wishing you many more happy miles, Emily P.!

What’s the worst running injury you’ve ever been through? Got any rehab tips to share?

The Dailey Method Is Making Me Weak In The Knees

I picked up an unlimited month of The Dailey Method on Groupon, so my runner’s thighs should be mistaken for dancer’s legs any day now.
I picked up an unlimited month of The Dailey Method on Groupon, so my runner’s thighs should be mistaken for dancer’s legs any day now.

I don’t really care for classes that don’t get my heart rate up, so I wasn’t expecting to like The Daily Method. To be honest, the first time I hit up the Pilates-ballet-yoga fusion class I was bored out of my mind, and I left wondering, “What’s the point?” Hours later, when the delayed onset muscle soreness emerged, I smiled—that’s more like it!

The Dailey Method is a series of movements that focus on core conditioning, muscle strengthening, and muscle lengthening. The aim is to sculpt your body while maintaining balance and alignment to protect the spine. The movements are tiny and restricted, and often feel repetitive (hence my boredom), but they’re also quite tough. During the pelvic-tilt-squat-combo move at the ballet bar, my calves and quads shake uncontrollably and my knees give out—it’s pretty intense.

Behind this unassuming store front in Los Gatos, CA, lycra-clad ladies are strengthening their muscles without breaking a sweat.
Behind this unassuming store front in Los Gatos, CA, lycra-clad ladies are strengthening their muscles without breaking a sweat.

Still, I’m not completely satisfied with a workout unless I break a sweat, so to get my cardio fix before class I run to the studio. I’d like to tell you I’m such a badass that I run the three miles home again, but I usually hitch a ride back with my cousin Christy. (She loves The Dailey Method and hates running. Go figure.)

Have you ever tried The Dailey Method? What do you think of no-sweat workouts?

Sometimes I’m Crabby in the Morning


I’m not sure why it looks like I’m having fun here. This was a tough workout!

Remember when I mentioned my bird-like arms? (How could you forget? I talk about how weak they are all the time.) In a recent effort to give them a little more girth, I hit up Stacy’s Bootcamp in Central Park. But while getting a dose of much needed upper body work, I discovered that I have no control over my hips.

Imagine, crab-crawling your way across a gorgeously bricked section of Central Park. The sun is shining. Birds are chirping. Sounds nice, right? Now, add to that scene one seriously buff, totally tough woman who won’t stop yelling, “Get your hips up, Kim!” And suddenly you’re no longer an extra in a Disney film.

I don’t know why, but my hips just don’t want to tilt up towards the sky when I’m back on all fours. They have no problem heading in that direction when I’m in a downward dog, and I’ve never had trouble convincing them to shake on the dance floor. You might guess that they simply don’t care for shellfish, but they went their own way during the bear crawls, too. I heard Stacy shout, “Get your hips down, Kim!” several times. (Geez, lady, make up your mind.)

Luckily, there were lots of other moves that morning that didn’t cause Stacy to comment on my hips. Namely, walking lunges, sprints up a set of stairs, walking lunges, jumping jacks, walking lunges, mountains climbers… Did I mention the walking lunges? All in all, it was a phenomenal workout and a lovely way to spend my cross-training day.

Have you ever been to a boot camp? Are you more motivated when there’s a trainer standing over you?

Sister Tested: Capoeira at Stroga in Washington, D.C.

It takes a lot of concentration to be a good dance fighter. Here I am perfecting my Ginga.

Baby Sister is a bit of a yoga buff, so I wasn’t surprised when she asked me to join her for a class at Stroga on a recent DC visit. Stroga is one of the top yoga studios in our Nation’s Capital, and it’s so popular that mats are spaced precisely 3-inches apart in the gorgeous ballroom during peak times. But Baby Sister didn’t sign us up for simple flow session. Nope, she threw me a cultural curve ball and took me to Capoeira, a Brazilian martial art that looks a lot like dancing. Dreaming of becoming a world class dance fighter? It’s tougher than it seems to get the hang of, but even if you lack rhythm Capoeira is still a good workout.

Warm-up The class started with a series of walking lunges, side lunges, handstands, and cartwheels across the huge hardwood floor. We moved in three lines and every few turns the instructor changed things up by adding in an extra step, twist, or movement, eventually connecting everything together. Most of the positions kept us low to the ground, which required concentration, balance, and core strength. Still, all those cartwheels reminded me that… Hey, I can still do a cartwheel! And they’re just as fun now as they were when I was 7.

Learn the basics We spent a lot (and I mean a lot!) of time working on three simple moves—Ginga, Queixada, and Esquiva. Ginga is ready-in-motion foundation of Capoeira. To do it: Start with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent and torso low. Sweep your right foot back towards a center point, while your left arm swings up and over to cover your face. Return to start, then sweep your left foot back and swing your right arm across. Queixada is a side-swiping kick used to attack your opponent that easily flows from Ginga. And finally Esquiva, which literally means “escape” in Portuguese, is a move where you crouch down and throw your arm up to protect your face. Esquiva when someone attempts to Queixada you in the head.

Practice makes perfect Our instructor wanted those three moves to become second nature, so we worked on them for nearly an hour. (Did I mention this was a two hour class?!) I got really bored and caught myself thinking, “I’d rather be running right now.” But Baby Sister’s enthusiasm snapped me back, and I continued to Ginga, Queixada, and Esquiva until my thighs almost gave out.

Esquiva! I like to crouch down while my opponent wears himself out with all that attacking.

When all else fails, Esquiva Towards the end we circled up and the dance fighting began. Two players faced off in the center, while the rest of us clapped to the beat of a traditional Capoeira drum. I felt ridiculous during my turn in the middle, I only knew three moves and I wanted to fall to the floor in a puddle of giggles. But everyone else was taking it so seriously that all I could do was smile, Ginga, and Esquiva. (I had already forgotten how to Queixada. Oops.)

It won’t be my first choice for cross-training going forward, but Capoeira did end up being a fantastic sweat-session. All those low-squatting stances really worked my butt, hamstrings, and quads. (Hello, DOMS—delayed-onset muscle soreness, my rear end was sore for two days!) And trying something new was a pretty cool way to bond with Baby Sister on a hot, humid DC afternoon.

What’s your favorite non-running workout? Have you ever been to Stroga in DC? Think you might try Capoeira now?

Fresh from the Pool: Workout Tips and Beauty Secrets from USA Synchro

Posing with members of USA Synchro. Where’s my sparkly swimsuit, ladies?

In my 9-to-5 life I often write about beauty tricks and makeup tips. I try not to bring that to my, ahem, running blog. But this is one situation where the line between looking good and training hard gets a bit blurry. I had the opportunity to get in the pool with members of the United States Synchronized Swimming (USA Synchro) National Team—mere weeks before a couple of them fly across the pond to represent the US at the 2012 Olympic Games, and I dove right in!

I’m not much of a water bug—I sink more than I swim. I mean, I could save myself by dog paddling if I had to, but I didn’t actually finish swimming lessons as a kid. (My family moved halfway through the class and no one thought to sign me up again.) Still, I struggled into a really tight one-piece and threw myself into the pool. There in the shallow end, these incredibly talented women shared their best training tips and beauty secrets. Here’s how to get what they’ve got:

Rock-solid musclesTreading water eight hours a day, six days a week is bound to keep you slim and trim. But these ladies also engage in “land training.” They’re in the gym for at least an hour three days a week working with free weights and machines to strengthen their arms, legs, and core. Weight bearing exercises and swimming are terrific cross-training activities for runners—you’re using similar muscles to keep your body moving, and you’re giving your joints a break from all that pavement pounding.

I’m ready to learn a few tricks in the shallow end—nose plug and all!

Incredible breath control One full-team presentation lasts about three minutes, and about half of that time is spent under water, which means at any given moment these girls are holding their breath—often for up to 45 seconds. Woah!  The trick is to increase your lung capacity with deep breathing exercises. A good one: Fully inhale, hold your breath for 2 to 3 seconds, and then completely exhale slowly. Practice this (outside of the water) a few times a day. Runners can totally benefit from better lung capacity and mindful breathing. You never want to outrun your breath—it should always be consistent, even during hard efforts.

Not a hair out of place The women practice in swim caps, but for competition their hair needs to be on display. To keep their adorable chignons and top knots secure they rely on Knox Gelatine. Mix it up and slather it on for super stiff, super shiny locks. (Believe me, those buns don’t budge!) Gelatin is surprisingly good for your hair—it’s strengthens the hair shaft and protects if from drying pool chemicals. But it’s tough to get it out: “You need hot water, a fine tooth comb, and lots of patience,” one team member jokes.

Getting a leg up (that’s me!) on the competition with Jane Katz of the 1964 US Synchronized Swim Team.

Run-proof eye makeup I spent about 20 minutes in the water with these lovelies and came out looking like a raccoon—my “waterproof” mascara clearly wasn’t. Meanwhile, their makeup was flawless. The secret to its staying power: ChapStick. “We load on the color and then slick ChapStick over top to seal it against our lids,” reveals one team member. This is ultra-important during competition, because 50% of the score is based on artistic impression and presentation—points off for runny mascara! As for lash boosters, they’re big fans of CoverGirl LashBlast Volume Blasting Waterproof Mascara and Dior Diorshow Waterproof Mascara (though they admit even those formulas wear off after hours of chlorine contact).

Lots of support Pricey pool memberships and sparkly swim suits aside, it costs a lot to train and compete in synchro on the national and Olympic levels. These ladies wouldn’t be able to do it without sponsorships from companies like Infusium 23—which kicked off a partnership with USA Synchro in March. Everyday athletes and runners need a lot of support, too—and we get it! Just think about all those volunteers passing out cups of water at races, and partners and spouses who put up with our whininess when we taper.

Olympic-medal hopefuls Mary Killman and Mariya Koroleva show off their routine.

All that time in front of the mirror and in the pool has paid off for two members of the team, USA Synchro’s duet, Mary Killman and Mariya Koroleva, are headed to the 2012 Olympic Games next month. They’ll be in London for the opening ceremonies on 27 July, but won’t compete until 5 August. Will they have tea with Prince Harry and play in Piccadily Circus until then? “Nope, we’ll be training at a pool in Dublin until it’s time to compete,” says Mary Killman. “There isn’t enough free time in the pool at the Olympic Village for us to practice our routine.” All that sightseeing will have to wait until after the medals are given out, I guess. Good luck, ladies!

Will you be watching Olympic coverage of the USA Synchro team? Do you ever cross-train in the pool?

You Heard It Here First: I’ve Got Weak Arms!

Big thanks to Carly Abel of TLCommunications for snapping this photo!

Earlier this month I spent a morning at Peak Performance pushing sleds, tossing medicine balls, and hanging from TRX straps. And I learned something really interesting about my body: I have weak arms.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, since most (ahem, all) of my fitness endeavors focus on my lower half—running, the once-a-week spin session.  Even the SurfSET class I tossed into the mix for fun a week ago was predominately squats and lunges (on a wiggly surf board, so my abs were engaged, too—but, still).

I like running. And I want to be a better runner. Should I even bother beefing up my bird-like biceps and triceps? The not-so-shocking answer is: “Yes!” says Dan Trink—he’s the hunky personal trainer, strength coach, and nutritional consultant for Peak Performance pictured here. “It’s fantastic for you to be passionate about your sport,” he’s quick to add, “but logging all those miles can lead to muscle imbalances and injury.”

I finished off my last two runs with push-ups and tricep dips on a park bench. Not bad, but I can do better. Dan wants me to supplement my running routine with an upper body weight-training program that will ultimately make me faster when I sprint towards a finish line. “It will help create a better running posture and give you forward propulsion,” he says.

Adding arm moves into my already hectic work-run-date schedule is going to be tough. But it will be worth it come race day. (Which, by the way, is May 6 for The North Face Endurance Challenge Half Marathon at Bear Mountain. Can I get a whoop-whoop?)

What’s your weakest body part? And what are you doing to whip it into shape?

All The Runners In The House Say, Om!

I haven’t been running much, so it’s been a while since I’ve posted. (Have you missed me? I’ve missed you!) I took some time off to finally clear up that lung infection, and now I’m slooowly getting back into my old routine.

I’ve been relying heavily on cross training during my comeback tour, focusing on getting my cardio fitness level back up with spin classes and strengthening weak areas of my body.

Yesterday, I took a yoga class with Lisa Priestly at AS ONE. And today I feel like a new runner. (Albeit a little sore in the back and shoulders—all those downward dogs add up!)

AS ONE, a fitness center run by George Vafiades (Ironman athlete and USA Triathlon Level 1 certified coach) and Mark Merchant (founder of ALTA Physical Therapy and a 2011 Death Race participant), offers up a program of high-intensity training that builds strength, stamina, and flexibility over an 8-week period. It’s perfect for runners, triathletes, and others looking to get stronger and faster, and to circumvent injury and muscle imbalance.

Lisa guided the class through a series of hamstring stretches and hip opening poses that left me feeling limber. And she explained that yoga is the perfect companion to cardio and strength training, because it lengthens muscles, opens up joints, and works the kinks out of other tight spots. I’m sold—again.

I’ve talked about yoga before, but I’m certainly guilty of skimping on the stretching—I mean, who hasn’t heard me whine about my hip flexor? So it’s time to do something about it. I’m heading out now to tackle a few miles in the park (running again feels so good!), and before I go I’m rolling out my yoga mat. This way it’s ready for a quick toe-touching session when I get back!

Do you stretch regularly? How often do you incorporate yoga into your routine? 

Beyond Base Camp: My Mt. Everest And Annapurna Circuit Adventure

Trying to sum up 34 days of trekking in the Himalaya is pretty tough, which is why it’s taken me almost two weeks to write this post. The actual hiking wasn’t too difficult—if you can run, you can walk up (and down!) a few thousand meters. It was dealing with everything else along the journey—cold sleeping accommodations, cold showers, cold travel companions—that often proved challenging. Still, I managed to smile more often than not and I will always remember this trip as one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life. Here are a few note-worthy memories:

Bonding at 17,598 feet

Picnicking at Everest Base Camp You wouldn’t believe how great a peanut butter sandwich tastes when eaten after tip toeing through a rockslide zone and crossing a glacier. Dining with my FFEs (Friends For Everest’s) made the moment even more filling.

Om mani padme hum


Meeting a Buddhist monk Lama Tashi is 96 years old and lives at an altitude of about 4000 meters (13,120 feet) in a monastery carved into the side of a mountain. (Ahem, hill. In Nepal, it’s not a mountain if it’s less than 6000 meters.) He charged me Rs 100 to pray for my trek, and then I gave him another Rs 500 to bless the rest of my life. Best $7.68 I’ve ever spent!

I’ve got my hands full

Counting to five Experts say chatting with locals is the fastest way to pick up a foreign language. So when a couple of little girls decided they needed my help to walk home from school, I took advantage of the opportunity and got them to teach me a few words. I will always think of their smiles when I recite: Ek, Dui, Tin, Cahr, Panc.

Flushed with fever

Catching pneumonia Getting sick overseas might seem like a bad thing, but it really wasn’t that terrible. I learned that even when I have a fever, can’t stop coughing, and might have fractured a rib (the pain was insane!), I could still hike to the next guesthouse… and the next one… and the one three days later. I feel nearly invincible! (Nearly. My body was so wrecked that I slept for four days straight when I finally got home.)

Biking to Bhaktapur File this under: “What was I thinking?” Even though I had been diagnosed with a lung infection and was on medication that warned against operating heavy machinery, I still felt the need to spend my last day in Nepal doing something exciting. After pedaling through rush hour traffic (terrifying!), avoiding potholes the size of elephants on back roads (impossible!), and huffing and puffing my way up some killer hills (spin class doesn’t prepare you for this!), I made it to the medieval town of Bhaktapur. There, I took in views of ancient temples and enjoyed a calm cup of tea. The thought of traveling the treacherous 22 kilometers back to Kathmandu was almost too much, but I channeled my inner NYC bike messenger and completed the round trip.

Now that I’m home, I’m looking forward to lacing up my running shoes and getting back to my normal routine. Stay tuned for more adventures!

My Hamstrings Love The Himalayas

I’m spending a day in Namche Bazaar at 3440 meters to acclimatise to the altitude–and I need it. It’s hard to take a full breath here, but in a matter of hours it will be easier. It’s amazing how adaptable the human body is. Soon I’ll be able to process oxygen more efficiently, allowing me to climb even higher.

I can’t wait to see how this affects my running when I’m back in NYC. Like pro distance runners who sleep in hyperbaric chambers, I’ll be able to go faster for longer. And thanks to all these intense ascents I’m getting constant strength training–my hamstrings, quads, and glutes are firing like mad.

Running here is hilarious. My Nepali guide Subarna didn’t want us over exerting ourselves today, but I raced the assistant guide Pimba 100 meters along the Namche airstrip (7-seater planes can land here) anyway. I beat him in my hiking boots and all! I was laughing so hard though because it’s difficult to get any speed and I had to concentrate to keep my breathing steady. My travel mates thought we were nuts, but cheered us on regardless.

I’m lucky to have such a fantastic group of trekking companions. We’re a motley crew of Australians, Irish, Brits, Japanese, and Americans with lots of stories and laughs to share. They make the 6+ hour hikes feel like a walk in the park. We’re polite, happy, and get along now, but there is the potential for us to go “Real World” on each other as the pressures of the climb increase.

Five more days (and 1924 meters up) to Everest Base Camp!


In The Home, Stretch

Last night I was planning to do a few mile repeats at my marathon goal pace, but my legs felt like going faster so I went with it. I crushed those miles, running over a minute faster than planned! It felt incredible to push my body hard and realize I didn’t lose any speed over the past few flu-induced easy weeks. But my legs were a little stiff this morning, so I spent some time stretching on my living room floor.

Experts still can’t agree on whether or not stretching reduces a runner’s risk of injury, and no one can give me a straight answer on when to do it—before a run or after? But it feels good and I like to incorporate it into my routine on mornings when I’m not doing cardio. I prefer active stretching, using a yoga flow technique that keeps my muscles moving—as opposed to just reaching and holding, which can lead to cramps. A couple of sun salutations and a pigeon pose or two really works out the tightness in my quads, hamstrings, calves, and hip flexors.

For those of you who read yesterday’s postand are now wondering if I wear underwear when I stretch at home: Yes, I do. But that’s all I have on. Yoga is about moving freely, and clothes just get in the way. ;)

Countdown to the Boston Marathon: 10 days!

What are your favorite stretches? Have you ever tried yoga?

Originally posted in Running With It on