By Steve Sharpton, Parsons Training, Tucson, Arizona
December 10, 2015
Well, here I am, getting up in years and wondering what the heck I am doing with my life. We all get into this contemplative stage when we start getting closer to the big 4-0, and the anxiety is really getting to me as I near my 38th birthday. While I am healthier and stronger than I ever been, I am still just a soft man filled with water and soft tissue. No matter what we think or what we believe, we all have some injuries and problems that will eventually make us cry for uncle and wish for death. Yeah, I am a little frustrated and wondering what the heck I need to do due to some injuries I have been struggling with. The funny thing though, is these injuries have nothing to do with my fitness. Over the last few weeks, my feet have been a never-ending list of issues for me, and it has caused me to stop running almost completely. I have become pretty glum about life in general, for I heavily rely on running to get my endorphin fix. Feeling bad about my dating life? Run eight miles and I suddenly feel better. Frustrated with work? Do some runs to get that nonsense out of my head. How about stress from bills and whatnot? Yup, you know what I might do in the interim. When you really look at the issue, our feet are pretty darn important when it comes to our everyday life. I have a friend who’s father can’t even feel his feet. If he walks up slopes or on uneven ground, he could actually fall down and cause some real damage. I’m hoping to get back into my running regimen some time next week, not just for the sake of my fitness but for the sake of my sanity. Anyway, how important is it to maintain good foot health? Here’s some reasons why, and least in my case.
4. WORK A JOB THAT DOESN’T WRECK YOUR FEET.
I know, I bag on my job a lot, but this is legitimate problem that is starting to become something of a problem for me. When I took my supervisor role, I kind of figured I would be able to survive the rigors. But right away, my body seemed to hate the idea of working longer and walking more. The flooring at my job is some kind of granite that literally has no give to it. My first weekend at work resulted in the nastiest injury I had ever received….a blood blister. The first issue I ran into is the fact you just can’t pop this sucker, for the pain was deep underneath the skin. It was bulging. It was painful. I couldn’t walk around unless I had some kind of shoe or sandal or something. It was causing searing pain ever time I took a step, and all the while, this created issues for my entire body. My back was thrown off. My hips were thrown off. It seemed like my entire body just took one big dump in the health department….all for one huge blood blister.
Now I thought the worst of it had been played out and the blister was starting to heel, but then I suffered through some new injuries for my small toes. Turns out the residual issue of running up and down stairs all day can lead to some interesting problems. My toes were in such pain after two days, that I welcomed the idea of losing a day of work due to government incompetence (a little issue with the Department of Safety…you don’t want to know but it was at least easy to fix). So yes, my job is wrecking my feet so much that I was thankful for losing a day of work, even though it is affecting some of my hopeful travel plans of 2016. But then again, if I cannot run or move and severely injured, what would be the point of traveling anyway? Right now, I have to be patient and just let my body acclimate and heal, which is just as important as making my running speed better.
3. DO STEADY MAINTENANCE ON YOUR FEET!!!
Truthfully, this was something I used to be pretty stubborn about. Before I started putting money toward real shoes, I used to get the bargain basement variety of shoes that were maybe seventy or eighty bucks. I’m not saying these shoes are not good for something, but they were not doing the job a man of my girth and size could handle. I used to love Skechers and their athletic line, but then I started destroying their shoes after a month or so and realized “Maybe there is a reason they were 60 bucks.” Maintenance is not just getting your feet massaged or cracked and what not, but it is about figuring out how your body reacts to your equipment as well. For those that have read this blog, some might remember the ill fated attempt at me to buy these heavy trail running shoes that had absolutely no give in their heels and were not built for long runs. Well, I pretty much injured my achilles in the process, meaning I had to invest in a brand of shoe that really didn’t intrigue me all that much due to the size and the bulk (not to put Hoka shoes down, but they just did not do the trick for me). I was really faithful to ASICS Nimbus, but then found an even better brand for my feet in Saucony’s Triumph line. Not only has my time and ability gotten better, my confidence has been risen to higher levels than ever.
Now your equipment shouldn’t be your only trump card. I regularly work on my feet, giving myself some foot massages (something I am getting really good at…ladies, take note. haha!!). I also do simple things like roll my foot with a tennis ball, doing this while I play around on the internet or even write a blog (I’m getting a little better as I write and do this). Of course, every time I go to the chiropractor, I ask him to give my ankles a little bit of an adjustment. Now I haven’t done other things lately, like soaking my feet in Epson Salt or taking anti-inflammatory medication or something. Part of this is because I don’t believe in medications too much, for I really don’t want to become like a lot of my pill popping co-workers. But doing these things, much like stretching and rolling your body, is essential to keeping you moving.
2. LEARN THE INTRICACIES OF YOUR FEET
Yup, I am basically saying you need to get your head into a book and learn some things about your feet. You imagine some of the early problems I had with my running regimen. Back in the day, my feet were so messed up from running that I thought I might never become a decent runner. But this was all just the tip of the iceberg. You see, I was running with rather poor form, launching off my toes to gain momentum. There was no surprise that I was suffering from constance toe injuries, especially on my big toe. What was most likely happening was the overuse of not only the tendons, but I was also putting unneeded pressure on my metatarsals. You see, when you use your toes to lift off, you are bending your phalanges (which are comprised of three types; distal, proximal and middle) and putting some extra strain on the metatarsals, exposing them to unnecessary pounding. By changing my running form, I reduced the amount of pressure I was putting on that valuable part of my body, allowing me to run longer distances. Of course, I still have the issue of doing this in regards to running up inclines, but that is something I merely need to practice and get better at. And then there was the issue of my ankles.
Little did I know my ankles were providing another problem with my feet. For a while there, I was actually running with my foot in a side stepping motion. Basically, when I was running, instead of my feet pointing straight, one was sticking out. I never noticed this issue until I started running longer distances. My ankles were dying at the end of longer distance attempts, and it wasn’t until someone pointed out this problem that I started to address it. While it took a lot of time and pain to get my feet pointing forward, it was worth the work. And let's not get started on my flat feet! Yup, I had to start using neutral heel shoes, especially when I was really wearing out the sides of my shoes while putting absolutely no tear on the other side. Doing this not only improved my speed and distance, but it really helped with the issues I was having with my IT band. All things are connected and relative, and when you have a basic understanding of how your body works, it allows you to make better decisions about the equipment you use and need. I think this is the issue so many people run into when they start their New Year’s workout regimen (which many of them ultimately fail). Rather than trying to figure out the source of their pain, the give up. Of course, another issue could be the fact they are trying to run three miles with no real training while being extremely overweight. I mean, I walked heavily for nearly a year before I even made my first attempt at running!
1. ACCEPT THE FACT YOU ARE NOT SUPERMAN (UNLESS YOU ARE)
One of the more interesting stories in the running community this past year was the fact Scott Jurek completed the famed Appalachian Trail in a little over 46 days. http://adventureblog.nationalgeographic.com/2015/07/12/ultrarunning-legend-scott-jurek-sets-new-appalachian-trail-speed-record/ That’s 2,200 miles at a pace of 47 miles a day. No matter how you put it, that is some pretty serious running. Now remember this, Jurek is one of the best Ultramarathoners in the world and ran 165 miles in the space of 24 hours (that’s 8:40 per-minute miles, and I doubt he ran the whole time at that speed). There has been some other stories of people killing 100-mile marathons in 12 or 13 hours. As cool as it sounds, there is no way in hell I could go through with something like this. First of all, my body is not even close to being ready, and second of all, I’m sure I would destroy my feet in the process (since that is the subject of this blog). Now I have some high aspirations myself in regards to challenging myself, but I have to understand the current limits of my body. Jurek looks like he weighs maybe a good 150 pounds. As for me, I’m still hovering in the 240-245 pound area while still working to get into the mythical 215-pound goal. Now if I wanted be nothing but a runner, I could surely get rid of this whole weightlifting thing and maybe quit my job in hopes of doing this….but this isn’t really the goal right now. Right now, I want to finish a half marathon strong as opposed to limping. I want to keep steadily improving my body over a longer period of time rather than try to get everything done all at once. I know my body will not last forever, and I have to treat it like so. Doing stupid things that will ultimately hurt me is not the sorptive thing I am aiming for.
Now don’t get me wrong, I would not mind trying something crazy like a 50K race or something in the future, but like I said, I have to continue to tackle the smaller issues that are a problem for me right now. And this is where you must fight the toughest enemy of all….your crazy competitiveness. I really want to do some races this upcoming year, but if I keep getting hurt at work and lose out on valuable training time, what is the point of goals and doing races when it will most likely be a loss to my bank account? Health is not just a big picture situation, for sometimes you have to compartmentalize certain aspects of your training to make the gains you need. For me, my feet are something I really have to keep working on. Hopefully in 2016 I will get a chance to take care of my dogs a little better.
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Steve, a Parsons Training Client, went from 400 pounds to Running half-marathons, from lifting pizzas to lifting hundreds of pounds through training with us.