Thursday, May 24, 2012

Get to know SOAS Ambassador Katie Ingram!

I’m a triathlete, of course.  You probably won’t be surprised to hear that I became a triathlete because life as a runner was leaving me injured far too often, and I turned to the welcoming arms of swimming, and much later cycling, for comfort.  But in that, I likely just described about 50% of triathletes.   That’s where we come from.  Change forces us to grow, complaining and shifting uncomfortably the entire time, in another direction.

I’m not a fast triathlete.  I finish pretty squarely in the middle of the pack. I get out of the water somewhat early, I get off the bike sorta quickly - the bike! the bike! I’m so happy on the bike! - and then I cheer other women as they fly past me on the run - the sad irony that has left my first love, running, as my weakest leg.  I have a lot of fast friends, friends who regularly podium all over the country, friends who can out-swim, out-bike, and out-run me.  I love and support them all and I will cheer my lungs out trying to get them to the finish line just one second faster, but I don’t secretly envy them.  Because I might never be the fast, I might never stand on the top of a podium, but what I have, what they don’t have, is heart.  My personal mantra is: your heart is a weapon the size of your fist.  And it is not only a mantra, it itself is a weapon, against being in the darkness and finding your way out into the light.

I’ve had many angry, tough, heart-breaking moments in this sport, and the only thing I’ve got going for me is my sometimes-ridiculous ability to never stop fighting, to never give up, and that’s the thing I wish I could plant in the ground and nurture and hand off to other people.  Because as a runner, I was broken and alone, but triathlon has given me a whole new shot at this life.  I’ve made friends I would never have crossed paths with otherwise, created bonds that are now so strong and tough that a hurricane could not shake them down, and met some of the most incredible women I’ve ever known. 

Being on the east coast, SOAS hasn’t really trickled out here yet (although I did spent most of the day at my last 70.3 answering questions about my “sick tri kit!”), and there’s a huge base of athletes that don’t know what this awesome company is doing.  That’s why I want to be involved, that’s why I wanted to be an ambassador, to help spread the word.  But on a larger scale, not only for SOAS, but for this sport - the one that has given me the chance to jump up and down and be oh-so-happy-that-I-am-alive at the top of my lungs.  I want to drag more women into this sport, I want to drag them in kicking and screaming and help them change their lives, show them how powerful they really are.

That’s what I do.  That’s what I’m all about and that’s what I have to give, but more importantly, that’s what this sport should be all about.  Our glory days are happening - they are now.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Making a Comeback: Andrea's Story

At one time or another, if you've rode a bike long enough, you've experienced a crash, or known somebody who has been in one.  SOAS ambassador, Andrea Astudillo was in tip top shape last October, in the midst of training for Ironman Arizona when she experienced something that would change her life forever...a severe bike accident.  It was more than physical strength that got her back on her bike this year.  It was the love of her husband and family and friends, and most importantly her mental strength that pulled her through.
We are so lucky to have such an amazing and inspiring athlete on our team this year such as Andrea this, who has shared her experience of what it took for her to make a comeback.

Here's Andrea's Story:

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in getting up every time we do.”
 – Confucius

On October 2nd, of last year, I did the Tour de Poway with two friends. About 85 miles into the ride we were riding downhill and I hit an abrupt raised part of the road in the bike lane, and was catapulted through the air. My friend, Tom, hit the same thing and went down right behind me (several others went down in the same spot that day). The next thing I remember is sitting on the side of the road with waves of pain rolling through my entire body. Everything hurt. I tried to sit as still as I could thinking it would minimize the pain. I didn’t want to talk, move or even breathe so I could be as still as possible. Fortunately for Tom and me, one of the people who stopped to help was a doctor. I remember him checking me over and then telling me he could see the bone through the laceration in my left arm. From that point on I decided to stop listening.

Tom and I were taken to one of the trauma centers. I was there for a while, but I only remember bits and pieces of it. I had an MRI pretty soon after I got there.  I had to have all of my clothing cut off of me so I could be fully examined and, eventually, I got stitched up. During this time, my husband showed up and called my Mom to come down. I had no idea that I was hurt as badly as I was. I think it took me a couple of weeks to truly grasp the severity of it all. A couple of months later, my husband told me that I was covered in so much blood that you couldn’t tell where it was coming from.

I spent the next four nights in the hospital. I had a concussion and suffered severe cuts all over my face. Two of the three cuts around my eye were to the bone. I had another cut on my cheek that was also to the bone. I scraped off the top part of my lip and bit off part of my bottom lip. I think, in all, I had at least 35 to 40 stitches in my face alone. The laceration on my left elbow was to the bone, as well. I had stitches there and both of my arms had severe road rash from my shoulders to my hands. Three fingernails on my right hand were partially ripped off. A chunk of my hip/abdomen was gone. I had stitches across my left knee and severe road rash over my entire left leg and part of my right leg.

Aside from my Mom and husband, every visitor I had in the hospital was a member from our tri community. Tanya, from Go Tribal, was one of my first visitors. She brought in this great poster she made entitled the “Top Ten Reasons Andrea Will Make a World Record Comeback”. We hung it in my room and that’s when I first started getting the “You’re not getting back on the bike, are you?” questions. That was so odd to me; never riding again wasn’t even a consideration.

Recovery has been long, painful and frustrating. When I crashed, I was stronger than ever. We had recently returned from five days of cycling in the Alps and I had just gotten my first top-three finish at the half-iron distance. I went from being seven weeks out from my second Ironman in slightly over a year to not even being able to get up on my own. My mom had to cut up my food for me, help me shower and wash my hair. At night, my husband would set his alarm for every four hours so he could come down to give me my pain medicine and help me get up (I had to sleep on the couch because I couldn’t climb our stairs). The first week I was back at school, my Mom and husband had to take me and pick me up as I could not drive. The next two weeks, I went to the doctor every other day to have my wounds checked and cleaned. The following two weeks, I would go once or twice a week. I didn’t see my wounds for a while because they were covered in bandages that peeled off as the wounds healed. When I finally did see them, I couldn’t believe I was looking at my own body. I had so much road rash that everything I did—every movement I made—hurt. Those who saw me within that first month will often say that seeing me has changed the way they ride. Those who didn’t see me assumed my crash wasn’t that bad because I didn’t break any bones.

Back At It
I had a LOT of people ask me the “You’re not getting back on the bike, are you?” question, which always annoyed me. I started physical therapy 4 to 6 weeks after the crash and relished in all of the small victories like being able to walk without a limp, using weights, box jumps and just sweating. The first time I ran was only for ten minutes, but it was BLISSFUL.

Even with the progress I was making, I was still frustrated. I missed triathlon. As excited as I was for my friends and training partners, it was heartbreaking to not be able to do Ironman Arizona with them. I missed the social aspects of those long rides, being outside and just being a body in motion.

I became confident enough in my recovery that I signed up for Ironman Florida and several other races, even though I hadn’t been back on my bike. I love this sport so much and knew that if I kept moving forward and making progress, I’d be back out there. Those small victories keep coming and they are so motivating. I am so fortunate to have the support of my husband, family, friends and our tri community. Being selected as a SOAS ambassador has been hugely motivating. SOAS undoubtedly took a leap of faith by choosing me. And, being on a team with these amazing women is an honor! I have to earn my keep!

My first day back on the bike was February 17th. It was a perfect San Diego bike riding day. I wanted my first ride to be with my husband; I would be the most comfortable with him and he deserved this, too. The hardest part was the first pedal stroke. After that, I had a smile on my face for the entire hour we went out. I rode again the next day. This time it was with my friend, Jené, who was the other person with me when I crashed (her boyfriend Tom crashed too). We rode 50 miles. It was exhausting and amazing at the same time. I loved being able to do that ride with Jené, as it felt like we had come full circle since the crash. Actually, a lot of my rides since the crash have been with Jené and Tom. They definitely look out for me. Other than some lost fitness and nervousness on downhills, riding again has been really good.

I have returned to training but I’m not quite 100%. My biggest issue now is the scarring on my face and body. In addition to the scars, there is a lot of asphalt embedded under my skin. A lot. It’s uncomfortable and makes me self-conscious to the point that I’ve become somewhat of a hermit. I also have to make sure that the scars are protected from the sun at all times, which is a challenge now that it’s warming up. I see an amazing doctor, Dr. Mitchel Goldman, at least once a month who performs laser treatments with three different lasers to try to reduce the appearance of my scars and get rid of some of the asphalt. The laser he uses for the asphalt is a tattoo removal laser and is really painful, but they seem to be improving the appearance of the scars.

I’ve learned so much from this whole experience. I’m so much stronger than I ever thought I was. I’ve learned a lot about what is important and what’s not. I’ve learned about the depth of the unwavering love and support from my Mom and husband. And, I’ve been amazed and humbled by the people who have been supportive, tolerant, patient and loving. I firmly believe that you have a choice in how you deal with things like this, and don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my share of melt downs over the past 7 months, but I choose to learn from this and pick up the pieces and move on.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Core Conditioning and TRX

Strength Training & TRX

What’s your favorite discipline in triathlon? Swimming, biking, running?  But have you thought about your core lately?  While focusing on strength in all three disciplines is overly important, neglecting core exercises can result in a weak core and poor flexibility and therefore, increase your chances of injury.
I regularly work with Physical Therapist, Nate Snell at Endurance Rehabilitation in Mesa, AZ.  I sometimes find myself the guinnea pig for core exercises in the facility, but it's creating amazing strength in my glutes, hips, abs... MY CORE!!  Among other training techniques in the facility, we use TRX Suspension Training for some of the exercises.  Nate has planned out 4 TRX exercises for me and explains the importance of strength training for women in endurance sports.
Here are some of this week’s exercises you can try to help you build to become a stronger athlete.  Thank you Nate for sharing your facility and expertise with SOAS!

Prone TRX Obliques (Alternating Hip Abduction)
  One leg stays straight, while the other extends
 out to the side. Try 12-15 on each leg twice.

Using the BOSO Ball for
upper body stabilization.  Step 1.

Why: forces your body to stabilize through one half of the chain while the other is moving. Plus it involves movement in the frontal plane (lateral). All of triathlon is completed in the sagittal plane, so lateral stabilizers get weak. Also very important concept for women triathletes as studies have shown weakness in the frontal plane in female athletes leading to patellofemoral pain and injury. Also incorporates isometric core stabilization of neutral spine. This applies to biking and running as the spine needs to stay neutral and stabilized against the strong pull of the hip muscles. 

TRX Side Planks
Both feet are in the TRX handles.  Hold Side Plank for 30 seconds to 1 minute.  Twice on each side.
Why: all triathletes do not move well or have good recruitment in the frontal plane. If you want to avoid injury you have to increase the strength and stabilization of all three planes of movement. Side planks, again are working neutral spine core stabilization. You also get increased activation of the gluteus medius to stabilize the pelvis and the shoulder girdle due to dynamic nature of the exercise and it being the only contact point with the ground. helps with running and swimming.

TRX "Y" and "T"
"Y" 2: Lean back on extended leg and then
using shoulders pull back up into "Y" position.
"Y" 1: standing straight up extend arms to a "Y",
 drop foot back.

"T" Same instructions as "Y"
Repeat exercises 12-15 sets of 2.

Why: instability of the scapula is the biggest cause of shoulder pain in swimming. As your arm is exiting the water the shoulder is in the prime impingement posture. if you do not have good mid and lower trapezius strength your scapula will not be stabilized to your chest wall. Instead you get a downward tipping and protracted position of the scapula which pinches the rotator cuff tissue in overhead activities. Important as sitting computer posture and the posture on the bike all lead to anterior migration of the shoulder girdle. If you are not balancing these postures with retraction exercises you are setting yourself up for an overuse injury.

TRX Hamstrings Triple Threat
Step 1: Heels are in TRX straps.   Lift hips into a straight line, almost like a plank.
Repeat 12-15 times by dropping hips to the floor and then repeating exercise.

Step 2: Pull knees to chest while hips are lifted.  repeat 12-15 times.

Step 3:  While knees are pulled, lift hips.  Repeat 12-15 times.
 Repeat sets 2 times for each exercise.
Why: imbalances at the knee joint are the leading cause of overuse injuries. ITB syndrome, patellofemoral pain and runner's knee all can occur when the quad is doing all the work and lost days of training are right around the corner. The hamstring exercises activates the hamstring both as a knee flexor and a hip extender to reach the proximal and distal parts of the tissue. It also requires core and glute work to maintain the proper height of the pelvis and to prevent swinging of the trunk. A particular stressor to women is the wearing of high heeled shoes. Whether for work or pleasure, the position of the foot increases the demands on the quad and can lead to greater imbalances than wearing a flat shoe.

By: Karleen Dirmantas