Warning: Man in Skirt!

A few weeks ago my wondering mind started to consider the practicality of running skirts and how lucky women were to have so many options for running clothes. Then I turned to google and discovered I wasn’t the first man to think about this. So, what were the practical benefits of running skirts that I was considering?

Mainly it seemed like comfort was a big selling point. How many times have you been annoyed by the material of your shorts riding up your leg? So why bother with that extra fabric that goes in between your legs – just use a skirt, right?

A running friend (female) runs in skirts from runningskirts.com all the time so during a run that weekend I took the chance to talk to her about why she loves them. There are two different types – one with internal briefs and one with shorts. This list of reasons come from that conversation and from other things I picked up from my online search:

  1. The main reason appears to be comfort.
  2. The skirts have two decent sized pockets in the sides which are very practical.
  3. Freedom of movement
  4. Cooler (I assume this is referring to the “briefs” version rather than the shorts).
  5. They are a good alternative to tight shorts if you don’t feel comfortable just wearing that type of short, or if you want to add the practicality of pockets. Good quote from this blog which says it way more eloquently than me: “Hides the parts you don’t want to show. Forgiving and flattering at the same time.”

I was tempted, but couldn’t justify spending the $49 (or more) + shipping just to see what it was like, but just the next day I spotted that http://gearup.active.com had one cheap… (as I was going to have to pay for shipping, I thought I might as well get some more shoes too, but that’s another story – I have a shoe-buying problem).

I would rather have had a plain black one, but at least they had one that wasn’t pink in the size I thought I would need. The ones I ordered were the ones with the briefs – I thought this would probably be the better option because of the fit – I can’t imagine that the shorts designed to fit a woman would be a particularly good fit for a man, but maybe they would have been. At least with these, I could supplement with my Under Armour Boxerjock Boxer Briefs.

They arrived this week and I tried them on that evening (but not for a run yet). The briefs seemed to fit just about right, but the waist band was a little loose. It would certainly stay up though. I probably shouldn’t have looked in the mirror because that’s when I started to feel a little self conscious about it. There was a slight psychological barrier to get over before I could go out to run in it.

That first run happened this morning. I knew I could go out early enough so not too many people would be around (not that it really mattered at this point anyway – I did mention the psychological barrier didn’t I?). The skirt was really comfortable but as I started running I got a little worried that the back of the skirt was bouncing up too much and parts of me might be more visible than they should – I don’t think that was the case (I put my hand so the bottom of the skirt was touching it to gauge how far up it really was – did I mention those psychological barriers?).

As I ran I did notice that my inner thighs were rubbing slightly and I started to worry that was going to hurt by the end of the run, but I decided to stick to my plan of 6 miles anyway. It was actually fine, but it has me worried enough that I think I will add those boxer briefs for longer runs (next question would be – over or under the internal briefs? I will have to research that for myself).

The pockets are the biggest plus for me on this skirt. When I wear shorts and want to carry Shot Bloks, if I put them in my pocket they bang against my leg constantly. The pockets sit high on the side so anything in them is tight against your leg so no more movement. Honestly this is probably the biggest reason to keep using the skirt for me.

There are a couple of things for me that make this skirt a better option than something like triathlon shorts – the triathlon shorts show a bit more of me than I’m comfortable with (yes, I could wear a longer, looser t-shirt, but I’m a big fan of compression shirts as without that the nipples are prone to suffering) – the skirt also shows a slight bulge but I think it’s less of an issue because the fabric is not so close to the skin; they lack pockets; and I still have to wear underwear underneath them (I tried without and they chafed my backside). As for regular shorts, the fact there is less material waving around, and the pockets (I think I mentioned this before – love the pockets).

There’s a good chance I’ll wear this skirt (with the boxers) for my long run with the club tomorrow – what sort of comments am I going to get?

If this morning is anything to go by, I’m not sure. Usually when you run that early most people will say good morning, or at least wave as you pass each other, but out of the 6 people I came across in the park, only one acknowledged me in any way. He was out for a walk, and I came across him twice, and both times it was a very cheery good morning (so much so I was a bit worried that this may have been because of the skirt).

I guess I should give you a picture of this; it’s not the best as it was so early that everyone in the house was still in bed, but here you go.

photo (8)

(Did I mention the pockets?).

I have now had a chance to wear a running skirt designed specifically for men, read about it by clicking here.


Races for kids

This little guy turned 4 yesterday:

photo (6)

This photo was taken on Tuesday night at the RVRR Summer Series. The summer series consists of kids events and a 5k over 4 race nights with 2 weeks between each one. The kids events are great and I’m so glad we finally got the kids out to one of them.

This week, as I had already raced twice in the previous 8 days I thought I would take it relatively easy in the 5k so signed up to volunteer for the kids races. My role was to run ahead of the kids so they could chase me down.

The quarter mile was first, and was the one my little boy was running. The photo above was taken after the leaders had finished and I ran back to join him for the last stretch (I love that we both seem to be off the ground at this point).

The half mile was next and this was where I was supposed to get a break but my eldest wouldn’t run without me (I said I would start with her, but when I stopped she stopped too) so I ended up running that too. Half a mile in about 4:24 I think.

r_ss

The 1 mile was next and I had volunteered for that one too. There was one girl who was way ahead of the others and that mile ended up being around 7:20 pace.

All the kids then take part in the “Lollipop dash” – a short run where they grab a lollipop at the end. Then it’s pizza time.

After all of this I ran the 5k. It had rained briefly (but heavily) a couple of hours before the race so there were some wet sections again, but it wasn’t as bad as last time (I wrote about that here). Most people were faster than the first race, but as I had deliberately made a point not to go out fast I was slower, but perhaps not as slow as I should have been, and finished in 21:30.

After races the previous Monday night, Sunday evening, and this on Tuesday evening, my legs were definitely in need of a break and the little one’s birthday was a perfect excuse to take it easy.

Running on vacation

I really started running lots of races last year (not so much before that) and it seems that with that came a new desire to look for races whenever I’m on a trip. Last year I happened to be in the UK for work and pleasure for 4 weeks and managed to do a 5k ParkRun and a 10k while I was there.

This year we already had one very quick road trip and I did look but could not find a race close enough to where we were (there was a half marathon, but it was over an hour and a half away from where we were staying for a wedding, and it was on the wedding day).

Now I’m planning on another road trip and the only race I could find close to where I will be at any time during the trip is a 3k in Pittsburgh.

sweetsprint

I’ve never done a 3k before so that should be fun.

What is even better is, before I signed up I tried to do more research on it and came across their facebook page where there was a very temporary offer for $13 off for the next 2 men who signed up, and the code still worked so I got a real bargain. https://www.facebook.com/TheSweetSprint

I also have a plan, possibly for next year, to take a trip to do this marathon: http://www.marathon.is/reykjavik-marathon, and of course, to see the sights.

Who else plans to run when away on vacation? (Or is it just me?)

Still getting faster? Apparently so.

It’s now almost exactly 3 years since I started running. Since getting a 5k PR last May of 19:29 and then hovering below that ever since (with the exception of a 19:28 PR in that same race this year) I figured I had reached a natural limit.

This year my focus has been on increasing my distances. I haven’t really done much in the way of speed work, and I really haven’t been running particularly fast in my regular runs, but somehow I’ve still been just as fast as last year and even managed a 10k PR by 16 seconds in addition to my 1 second 5k PR last month.

6 days ago I ran the President’s Cup Night race and ran a 19:44 5k on a humid night. Last night it was hot, and this happened:

lager

 

A PR by 13 seconds (on the chip time)!

Now, I did run this race last year but I can’t really compare to then because at the time I had been sick and still didn’t feel great (last year my time was 20:04). This year I felt good, and even said to a friend at the start line that I may even get a PR.

What can I attribute this gain in speed to?

Could it be one of these or a combination of them?

  • Perhaps it’s the increase in my weekly mileage;
  • Perhaps it’s the core strengthening work I have been doing with BodyPump and Bodyflow classes;
  • Perhaps it’s the focus on form – during the race last night I tried to pay attention to how I was running and forced myself to lean forward more and make sure I was picking up my feet even when I was tiring;
  • Perhaps it’s my more relaxed approach to races – i.e. I’ve been worrying less about how fast I can do it even to the point where I try not to look at my watch during a race;
  • Could it be that I’m faster in the New Balance Minimus Road Zero (I raced in these a lot last year, but haven’t until now this year)?

Alternatively it could just have been the increased aerodynamics from taking the clippers to my hair on Saturday:

haircut

 

Here’s a great photo of me in full flight on my way to my PR:

lager_running

Barefoot running and opinion pieces

It seems that there have recently been a few “news” articles (or rather opinion pieces) that seek to dismiss the claims of those who say barefoot or minimalist running is a good thing. Sometimes they attempt this using a study to back up their ideas, but it seems like one writer, who has been particularly high profile in this, doesn’t necessarily understand the studies too well, or is just way too keen to try to make them fit her own preconceived opinion.

The most recent one was a few weeks ago: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/06/05/is-barefoot-style-running-best-new-studies-cast-doubt/?hp

The key paragraph in this article seemed to be this one: “In the end, this data showed that heel-striking was the more physiologically economical running form, by a considerable margin. Heel strikers used less oxygen to run at the same pace as forefoot strikers, and many of the forefoot strikers used less oxygen — meaning they were more economical — when they switched form to land first with their heels.” but I had a hard time reconciling parts of this statement with the study abstract which is linked from within the article: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23681915

This abstract explains how they took 19 runners with a rearfoot strike and 18 with a forefoot strike and in various scenarios measured their rates of oxygen consumption (VO2) and rates of carbohydrate contribution to total energy expenditure (%CHO).

Let’s start by looking at this part of the statement above: “Heel strikers used less oxygen to run at the same pace as forefoot strikers”, this seems to completely contradict the abstract where it clearly states that “No differences in VO2 or %CHO were detected between groups when running with their habitual footstrike pattern.” so where is the NY Times writer getting her conclusion?

Perhaps it’s from this part of the abstract: “The RF pattern resulted in lower VO2 and %CHO compared to the FF pattern at the slow and medium speeds in the RF group (P<0.05) but not in the FF group (P>0.05).” – this seems to say that those who regularly run with a rear foot strike don’t do as well when running with a forefoot strike. This would not necessarily seem unexpected perhaps if you stop to think about it – if you’ve not run with a forefoot strike before it’s probably not going to be easy (in fact there’s plenty of information out there about how hard making that transition is), therefore there seems to be a reasonable chance you would be less efficient. What it does say is that those who run with a forefoot strike do just as well when using a rear foot strike which makes them more adaptable – surely that’s a positive for forefoot runners.

It could also be a conclusion reached from a brief reading of the last part of the abstract – and the interesting part to me – “At the fast speed, a significant pattern main effect indicated that VO2 was greater with the FF pattern than the RF pattern (P<0.05) but %CHO was not different (P>0.05).”.

As they had already shown, the rear foot strikers had problems at the lower speeds when they tried to run with a forefoot strike, so it would make perfect sense that this carried over to the higher speeds.

However it also seems to indicate that the forefoot strike runners seemed to be even more efficient when they reverted back to the rear foot strike. Don’t forget when they were running their habitual pattern both groups were the same. Now, not having read the full study I have no idea if that’s really what it is trying to say, but from first glance it may logically follow that running with a forefoot strike strengthens your muscles in ways that a rear foot strike do not, and then perhaps forefoot strike runners have stronger legs can then run even more efficiently with a rear foot strike? Of course, it doesn’t necessarily make sense for a forefoot runner to switch to a rear foot strike because if you become an habitual rear foot runner then you may well end up back at the same efficiency.

I’ve really only focused on the article here, but there do seem to be some queries about the study too – they apparently tried to control by giving all the runners the same shoes to wear which, if you’re a runner, probably makes you wonder if that introduces more variables than it controls for (people run in different shoes for a reason). We don’t really know what types of shoes these people regularly run in and that can make a difference – just because they have a forefoot strike (and do they really mean forefoot, or do they include mid-foot in that definition?) it does not mean that they are minimalist or barefoot runners (something that the author of the article takes as an assumption in the title of the post).

Also, there is nothing that I have seen here that indicates that forefoot striking is worse for someone who does it habitually – it seems to show not much of a difference which is backed up by the line in the article “Five separate studies there found no significant benefits, in terms of economy, from switching to minimalist, barefoot-style footwear.”

It’s also worth noting that increased efficiency isn’t usually the top priority for those who make the switch – it would seem that the potential for reduced injury is one of the top reasons, which brings me to another piece by the same writer from a few months ago: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/06/barefoot-running-can-cause-injuries-too/.

She seems to approach her writing from the same anti-barefoot stance with the title is “Barefoot Running Can Cause Injuries, Too” because near the end of the article you see this statement from the doctor who undertook the study, where some runners were given Vibram Fivefingers and told to run in them a mile the first week, 2 miles the second, 3 the third and then whatever they wanted after that:  ““But I would tell anyone who wants to try” kicking off their normal shoes, “to be extremely cautious during the transition period.” In her study, substituting a mere mile per week of normal running at the start with one in minimal shoes “was probably too much,” she says.”.

Perhaps a less biased title would have been “Transitioning Too Quickly To Barefoot Running Can Cause Injuries”.

Ultimately what matters to me is that I am very comfortable running the way I do, and it seems to have served me well, and that’s all that really matters. I can’t say for sure that I wouldn’t have become as fast in regular running shoes, or that I would have been injured, but I did notice that aches and pains were considerably less in my first 5k in Vibram fivefingers than my last 5k in regular shoes (and I was faster).

Just when I was most of the way through putting together this post another blogger referenced it in a very interesting and thoughtful post, so take the time to read it: http://dans-marathon.com/2013/06/19/are-we-running-in-a-bubble/