Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Sermana no tan Santa

It wasn't the best Easter break ever, I have to say, with my back problems and a bout of gastroenteritis (first the eldest, then the youngest, then me), but it was nice to be able to visit my brother and his family in London, my sister-in-law in then my parents in Málaga and, finally, my parents-in-law in Ciudad Real. My brother-in-law, Vicente - a trained osteopath - was able to give me an excellent massage which went a long way to making me feel better, but it wasn't until yesterday that I was able to run again, for the first time in three weeks. That's the longest break I have had from running in about 7 years (and certainly since I started this blog). In that time, my VO2 Max has dropped to 63, my % fat risen to 8.5% and my average resting heart rate gone up to 44, which is about where I was when I started my training back in January. So three weeks of de-training = seven weeks of training. Sounds about right.

I'm still not 100%, but of my three recurring complaints which seemed to collide in a general back seizure - stiff neck (from bad posture at work), sore shoulder (from prior injury) and lower back fatigue (from running with weak hips) - I am just left with slight shoulder pain. I'm going to start seeing a physio regularly to work out what I can do to help prevent these problems. In the meantime, what better therapy than that of the retail kind?

So, I bought myself another gadget, the Lumo Lift, which is a little device that "bugs" you if you slouch while sitting or standing. It's a very simple little thing with a tilt sensor that you calibrate once when you are sitting with what you deem to be good posture and it alerts you by vibrating if you break this posture for more than a configurable amount of time. There is an accompanying app which is not actually necessary, but helps by tracking how many hours you have managed to keep a good posture each day, as well as the number of steps you have taken. It's not really aimed so much at the fitness crowd as it wouldn't work as an activity tracker while running (it is affixed with a small magnet to your clothes) but instead at people with a sedentary job, like myself.

For once it is a product that works slightly better for women than men, as they can attach it more discreetly to their bra strap; men have to place a small magnet on the outside of their shirt, just below the collar bone. You get two of these magnets in the box - silver and black - but you can buy extra colours if you care that much about discretion; I don't. So far it is too much of a novelty for me to have forgotten about sitting with good posture long enough for it to have buzzed me. Although, at first, sitting with good posture is bound to be more tiring (in the short term) than slouching, I'm finding I am able to sit for quite a while without problems and, the good thing is, that you end up finding more comfortable ways to sit while still sitting with good posture, as well as becoming aware of those situations (like answering the phone) that lead you to break that posture. It may be coincidence, but I have noticed that I am a bit more sweaty than usual - perhaps I am making more of an effort by sitting up straight, akin to standing up. I think the trick is neither to slouch nor to sit bolt upright, but getting the right balance is a bit tricky at first. When I get tired, instead of slumping in my seat as I would normally do, I now get up and go for a little walkabout.

The Android app is supposedly still in beta and is not even officially compatible with my phone (Samsung Grand 2) but here I think they are just being conservative. I have installed it anyway and it works fine (so far). The same company also makes a product called "Lumo Run", which is basically a pair of fancy pants which tell you if your pelvis is correctly aligned while running. It sounds like these would be just the thing to address one of my other regular complaints - that of my lower back problems due to my lumbar region overcompensating for my lack of strength in the hip flexors. i can't really see myself buying these as I am quite particular about running shorts, but I can imagine them being a great tool for running coaches (with a good washing machine). (I've noticed that they are now offering just the sensor, which you can attach to any pair of running shorts. I'm a little skeptical of how well this works because, it's clearly preferable to the integrated version so, unless it is much less accurate, why offer both products?)

In other news, I got accepted to run the Chicago Marathon!! The other good news is that I managed to convince my wife that the family holidays would be somewhere cool again this year, so we are going to Norway and Sweden, where training during the summer should be relatively easy, provided I get up early.

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