Training and Diet: Diet, Injury prevention, calf strain recovery, training methods

Diet:  I started eating better in August 2012 when I first decided to start training for the 2013 AC100, as I found that a high wheat diet made me feel crappy and tired;  I was inspired by Rich Roll's book "Finding Ultra" and transitioned to a mostly organic, slow carb natural food diet.  It leaned me up as I started building my base.  Here's what I typically eat:

  • Shakes in the morning with walnuts, a scoop (~ 1/5 cup) of  flax  or hemp seeds, scoop of chia seeds;  scoop of nutritional yeast;  1 teaspoon of turmeric powder; organic spinach or kale & carrots; an orange (or lemon), including the zest (I peel the zest with a carrot peeler-  get pesticide free citrus!, discard the rest of the rind and take the fruit sections), frozen blue berries; european yogurt (high protein type, plain, no sugar) and soy milk;.
  • 2 gm fish oil both am & pm;
  • sometimes I take glucasamine
  • Lately have been taking Vitamin D 2000iu/day
  • Lunch-  black beans w/ salsa; sometimes with rice or quinoa; I avoid wheat bread/sandwiches since they make me feel unwell.
  • Snacks:  Almonds/cashews
  • Dinner:  Lots of veggies. Meat is either grass-fed beef, or fish or chicken in moderate portions;  generally my dinners are low carbohydrate and a small portion of lean meat.
Injury prevention- The diet above works for me and I feel pretty good on this feed, but it by itself didn't keep me free of injuries in fall 2012 (wouldn't it be great if spinach or some vitamin would fix running injuries?  it would be great...but it doesn't work that way).  I was still plagued by knee problems and calf strains (the so-called "calf heart attack") even on this regimen.  The decisive solution to knee problems for me has been the zero-drop minimalist shoes I transitioned to in January. For calf strains, I've found the following things help:
Lifting my butt up, I roll forward so the foam roller
moves towards my heart
  •  Foam Rollers for me are key!  I use these now on my calves, often twice a day, and it has made a  big difference.   These rollers are cylinders made of styrofoam, about 6 inches in diameter.  Sitting on the floor with legs straight, I place one leg on the roller, the other leg on top of the leg in contact with the roller, and lift my weight up off the floor with my hands, then roll forward so that the roller travels towards the heart (or rather, the heart travels towards the roller).  If there is a sore spot, I stop and hold there for 20-30 seconds, then repeat.  It works wonders at working out knots.  If this is painful, I put both legs on the roller to reduce the pressure on each leg by half.  I have found the foam roller also useful to work on the hamstrings, quads (I have to roll over facing the floor , supporting my quads on the roller), IT band, etc.   I have read that its a bad idea to use the foam roller over bone, for example, in on the shin,  and this seems obvious as its painful when I do this, so I don't do it.  All of the above  works for me, use your own judgement and talk to your doctor to decide if it is appropriate for you.
  • Allow time between workouts:  I used to be able to run hard every day;  now I find that after a really hard workout or set of workouts there is a period of 1-3 days of delayed-onset muscle soreness, and when I've injured my calf muscles its typically been inside this DOMS period.  So, I take the advice to periodize my training, and, 
  • Active recovery is important:  I believe that after a hard workout or race, when the muscles are sore, it is necessary to rest, but not good to be completely idle and allow the muscles to sit statically - I have the idea that they can knit up/(and knot up) incorrectly unless the muscles are used and moved.  So I walk as a form of active recovery to keep the muscles sliding the way they are supposed to. Also,
  • Walks count as work outs-  I started using walks as recovery workouts instead of runs-  particularly after a really hard workout which causes delayed onset muscle soreness.  In my younger days it never would have occurred to me to intentionally set out to walk as a workout...but on reflection realized that walking is certainly race-specific training for long hot mountain ultras like Angeles Crest 100 which I am training for.  I think a problem when I did AC100 in 1991 was that I was untrained as a walker-  Like most everyone I walked the many uphill grades to conserve energy, but untrained for this it took a toll and I had IT band and foot tendon trouble and was reduced to a bit of death march for the last third of the race.  Now I fold in long uphill walks weekly as a true workout (not just for recovery)
  • Walks are great rehab for the calves:  Twice as I got started into this regimen in 2013  I have cleared up persistent injuries in my calf muscles with long (10mile) uphill power walks.  (The first time was at the end of March 2013 and the second in June 2013-  See my June 22 '13 blog entry and my 2013 Leona Divide race report if you are interested).   It is amazing how effective this has been for me --  starting the walks on both occasions, the calf knot was painful and unmistakable, but after 2 1/2 hours of walking it worked out to the point where I was able to run (back downhill!) and that was the end of the problem.  In both cases these runs were about 1-2 weeks after the original injury so perhaps some time is needed for knitting of the muscle before the walk-  I am not sure-  but also in both cases, the injury didn't seem to be improving until I did the power walk. It also bears mentioning:  The March 2013 injury occurred before I had learned about foam rollers; I had bought my foam roller after the injury and started using it  2 days before the power walk -- its use was undoubtedly helpful.   The June 2013 injury happened immediately after a ~15 hour flight to Asia, which I believe was a major contributing factor. This, incidentally, was a week-long trip where I did not bring the foam roller.  I rehabilitated the injury on that occasion over a 1-2 week period using the foam roller and finally the power walk mentioned above, thereafter ramping to the 100 mile per week phase of my AC100 training.
  • Periodization:  I train 2  small cycles (hard/easy/hard/easy) per week;  and I take a down week roughly every 4th week
  • Warm -up:  I always walk 1 mile before I start running now; I never used to warm up, ever;  but I have found that when calf strains do occur, it is more often than not (but not always!)  at the beginning of a run (within 1-2 miles) before I am warmed up.
  • Compression socks/compression sleeves:  I am not certain whether these help; but when I have been injured or coming off of an injury to the calf I have worn compression sleeves (same as compression socks but just cover the calf- not the foot)  and at least they have done me no harm.  I wore compression sleeves at Leona Divide in 2013 and on a few of my long walks/runs when coming off a calf strain.
  • Core strength exersizes:  The "barefoot running style" requires a lot of core strength particularly on aggressive downhill single track.  I was recently reflecting to a friend that the muscle system that is most sore after the 2013 AC100 was my abs...NOT my legs!  I do not do weights but I regularly do sit-ups, push-ups and pull-ups to strength my abs and back-  this I have found to be very important.
Cramps:  I have found that when I have muscles starting  to cramp on long runs, its typically because I am undertrained for the distance.    I haven't found taking salt to be particularly helpful..when I get cramps I've been taking salt.  Typically when I get cramps its in my quads and it occurs when I am pushing a bit too far beyond previous training limits.

Electrolytes during runs:  Mostly I drink plain water.  I often do drink a home made mix:  1 part fruit juice: 4 parts water, add 1/4 teaspoon salt per 21 ounce bottle.  I have a hard time w/ many commercial sport drinks as they tend to be too acidic.  I prefer red juices- pomegranate, cherry, cranberry.  The fruit juices also have a lot of potassium and antioxidants.  I seem to do well on "GuBrew" drink mix especially the pomegranate/blueberry "extra sodium" formulation.

Training log for 2013 AC100:

Training plan for 2013 AC100:

Dealing with Achilles problems:
Achilles tendonitis recovery

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