Monday, March 17, 2014


So like everyone on the planet who is a nerdy runner, I've heard of minimalism and heard that less shoe is good. Yet, every year, one hears in the spring newspapers that we should not wear flip-flops.  And I've thought to myself, but are they not as minimalist as a shoe could get?

The answer is: not really.  I read it in Katy Bowman's foot book.  Here's the deal.  An unstructured upper forces you to use your toes to grip to keep the shoe on your foot.  The result is that you walk around with every so slightly clenched toes.  The muscle pattern becomes ingrained, and soon you have claw and hammer toes.  So flip-flops are bad, basically, because they force your toes to work to keep them on.

My.  This explains so much.

I have unfortunate feet.  I've had bunions since I was a preteen.  I wasn't tottering around in baby heels, but I have a high arches, very flexible feet, and somewhat loose ligaments (I sprain everything else, too.)  As a kid I never went barefoot -- I think it just wasn't culturally something my parents did.  Not too far removed from ancestors whose kids went barefoot because they didn't have shoes, sort of thing.   

Anyhow, as a kid I thought I didn't have much of an arch, because it flattened easily and I was always rolling my ankles.  And I noticed my toes would clench, to, as I saw it, try to make an arch for my foot. I didn't have it quite right -- they were compensating for the lack of an arch, not making an arch.  But somewhere in my little kid brain was a biomechanist, I guess.

Bowman's book ia great, and includes lots of exercises for strengthening your feet.  I'm starting to get more pain in my feet as I run longer distances.  Today I picked up a pair of blue Superfeet for my Torins (so now I have the only 4mm drop stability foot-shaped shoe in existence!) to help with stability on longer runs.  I still plan to use less support on shorter runs to make sure my feet continue to get stronger.  Orthotics fix the symptoms, but not the problem.

So, step one:  I will go barefoot, in my own house.  Don't laugh.  This is a big step for me! 

Sunday, March 16, 2014


Here's a question.  Maybe you know the answer.

As a kid, I'd get a snack after school, but most of the rest of the time, I'd wait for meals.  My mother never carried snack packs or baggies of goldfish crackers, and with four kids, if this was the done thing, she would have done it.

But now it seems that kids snack all the time, and that Mom (or Dad) has to be prepared to give them food at any moment.

Is there a good, health-motivated reason for this?  Or are we simply training our kids to think that the slightest twinge of hunger must be answered immediately?


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

How I got here.

So, ten months post partum.  If you follow my Twitter feed @embytherunner, you can see the pic I tweeted. 

There are abs. 

And Choo Choo, who has an adorable new baby and a great style blog, asked me what I did.  And that was the point of this blog, after all, to document what I did, mostly so I would remember myself, but also so it might help someone else.

First, some caveats:
  1. I don't store a lot of body fat in my midsection.  Never have.  I'm at around 21% body fat now, but there's a reason it's an ab shot and not a thigh shot!  Know your own body and its limitations, and celebrate what it does well! 
  2. I don't diet.  My reason is that I love food, and not in the orthorexic exercise-addicted running blogger way where I say I love food and post skeletal selfies while pretending I love to eat candy.  I mean that I love to cook, and as I try to minimize the use of packaged food, figuring out how many calories I'm eating is honestly too much effort for me.  
    • But, for the curious, here's what I ate today.  This is pretty normal for me right now, although some days you can add a cookie/muffin/more junk to this list, and some days I need a bigger afternoon snack:
      • Breakfast: quinoa and oatmeal porridge topped with sliced bananas, with almond milk and a generous dollop of whole milk yogurt.
      • Lunch:  tofu green curry and white rice, and a clementine.
      • Dinner: chicken fajita wrap, + about another two ounces sauteed chicken, plus raw veggies: broccoli, radishes, and cucumber.
      • Snacks: almonds, raisins, dried cranberries, three tootsie rolls (raided office candy dish.. bad habit), 1 Lindt chocolate, yogurt with berries.
      • Beverages: coffee (2 cups, with half&half), one mug green tea, water, almond milk.
      • Blogging: rum & coke.  Hey, it's Mardi Gras.
  3. I'm still nursing, and for me, it's been hard to keep weight on, especially once I started running.  Every woman is different; some need to wean before their bodies will give up excess body fat.  I expect my weight will shoot back up a few pounds once I wean the baby.  

Alright, so here's what I did, roughly, by month.
  • I kept active during pregnancy.  I gained 25 pounds, and I exercised and ate well.  I think this is why it's been relatively easy to bounce back.
  • April: spend 21 hours laboring to deliver The Kettlebell, who had a 14" circumference head that presented asynclitic, with the help of an OB and some forceps.  
  • May-September:  recover from some serious pelvic floor damage and laxity.  I might talk more about this later, but I did Tasha's DVD religiously, and I'd recommend it highly to any woman with postpartum "down there" issues!  Actually, scratch that.  If you had a baby, do it.  Here's the nice bonus:  to fix your pelvic floor means learning about every little muscle in your core.  If you strengthen those, especially your transverse abdominus, you flatten your lower abs.
  • September:  I start adding yoga to my core routine.  I just had a baby, and I have no cash for classes.  DoYogaWithMe are fabulous, free routines, and you can sort them by time and focus.  
  • October:  I start walking.   I tried to walk two-three miles at least four times a week, pushing the jogging stroller.  I wore minimalist shoes to strengthen my feet and calves because I knew I wanted to start running in November, but otherwise, these were just nice walks around the neighborhood in the fall sunshine, nothing fancy.  I kept up with yoga.
  • November-December:  I start the blog, and what I called Project #1.  I started a couch to 5k program, and cross-trained with Jillian Michaels' 30-Day Shred videos, which you can find on YouTube, and continued with yoga.
  • January: I finish the 5K program, and begin Project #2.  I've stuck to it, especially the time limitations, so what you see is just the result of that effort, nothing fancy, no three-hour workouts. 
  • February:  I discover Cassey and Blogilates, which is basically the perkiest core exercises and instructor in the world.  I'm completely in love with it!
Now I'm working up to being able to run ten miles at a time, trying to cut back on sweets and learn some vegan recipes (a new Project soon!), and trying to manage the transition once The Kettlebell weans, because I've been able to eat like a horse for nearly two years now...

It was a long time before I started exercising seriously.  I want to mention that because it really did take about six months for everything to heal to the point where I felt like my old self might be recoverable. 

So, be patient, eat well, and snuggle your baby.  You got this.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Seven (miles) in one blow!

Longest run EVER last Saturday.  7.77 miles according to my app... I was pretty tired but I wonder how long I could have kept it up..?

It is hard to balance work, running, and family life.  But so far, I'm averaging 60 miles a month, which is not too bad for a beginner.  And a new project is coming soon....

Saturday, February 15, 2014


Mistress Krista gives some advice on how to try to ensure that your children don't develop disordered eating habits.

The Kettlebell is far too little for me to do much beyond give him healthy finger foods and try not to worry about it.  But I do worry.

By comparison with many of my friends, I have a healthy body image.  I focus on being fit, I don't own a scale, I don't diet, I try not to assign moral valances to food choices...

... and yet ... I had a rough time gaining weight while pregnant.  I cried when I gained weight.

I stress over body composition and eating.  I am hungry all the time while nursing, and still get afraid to eat.  I remember my dad's continual comments about my mother's weight, thighs (bags of angry cats, horrible comments), because she gained an average amount of weight after having four kids.

This is about as healthy as it gets, culturally. 

And it's pretty bad.

I am conscious that I need to model good behavior.  And now that my son's new favorite game is imitating Mommy, I think I need to figure it out sooner, rather than later.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Bod Pod

So the first thing you need to know about the Bod Pod is that it is shaped like an egg.  Off-white, five feet high, with a door in the front and a seat about a third of the way up.  The door has a clear window and it latches ominously when the perky assistant shuts you in.

It makes you feel like Mork from Ork, if you're of an age to get the reference.  Or that you should be wearing matte red lipstick and some classic pincurls before the Sky Captain arrives.

The Bod Pod measures your body composition using pressurized air and I'm assuming magic dust or something, and I had a chance to get my bod podded at the local university.  So I donned the only swimsuit I have that fits, a plain navy blue Speedo (conservative and delightfully retro), tucked my hair in the mandatory cap, and prepared to be launched to Mars.

The pressurization made my ears pop.  The whole thing took about three minutes. A week later, I received the results.

I am officially Lean at 21.9% body fat.  I weigh ten pounds less than my pre-pregnancy weight.

That is a little alarming.  I haven't been dieting consciously, and I'm not much smaller than my usual self.  I don't own a scale, because it just seems like a dumb idea, so I was shocked.

There's something unsurprising and yet odd about weight and femininity. I'm at a weight that I suspect is not healthy for me.  I'm at risk for post-partum osteoporosis, according to my sports doc, just because I'm still breastfeeding, and shrinking, and running.   (advice: just don't ignore anything that feels like a stress fracture.)

And yet about half of me is pleased that I've done what I'm supposed to do -- lost the baby weight, dropped a dress size -- even if what is supposed to be done is really unhealthy. 

The podding was  part of a fitness challenge at work, and in another nine weeks I'll get measured again, to see if I've gained muscle or lost fat.

I'm rather hoping I can put on five pounds of lean mass.

L5/S1 = owie

So a visit to the doctor winds up with the doctor explain that he thinks I've torn the L5-S1 disc.  Despite the pain last week, I'm relatively asymptomatic now, minus some extremely tight muscles, so we'll be opting for some PT.   I can keep running but should take it easy when it hurts.

But here's the interesting bit.

When did I do this?  Probably not on the walk, on the ice.


Yes, it turns out you can rip apart your own back pushing.

Artificial wombs can't come fast enough.