Sunday, June 28, 2015

Floatation Therapy

I have not written for quite some time ... I have not taken a break from running; in fact, I ran the 2015 New Jersey Marathon in April.  I was quite happy with my overall feeling during the run...only stopping to walk at some mile markers and water stops, and keeping even pace throughout all 26.2 miles ... but more on that on a future post perhaps.  I want to write a little about my experience with FLOATATION therapy.

Floatation therapy, float therapy, also known as sensory deprivation or REST (reduced external stimulation therapy) has a multitude of documented beneficial physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual effects... or so they say.  Even athletic and running improvement.

I have not gone into extensive research on the topic, so I do not claim any authority, but I want to document my own experience, even if briefly.

I tried floating last week at Tao Massage in Asbury Park, NJ ( What a wonderful, calm, and inviting place.  Everyone there was friendly and made me feel at ease.  My wife and I went for curiosity, and really for stress relief.

After a brief tour of the spa, and orientation of thr actual float ... i began my session.
 First, a shower, then I entered a tank filled with 10 inches of super saturated water, saturated with about 800 pounds of Epsom salts, enough to make you float easily.  the water was warmed to 98 degrees F, the idea being it would be the same temperature as your skin ... thus the border between you and the water and equally warm air would dissolve.  I closed the tank hatch, floated horizontally, and turned off the internal light.

Darkness.  complete darkness in this lightproof tank.

Silence, especially with wax earplugs, and ears were under the surface of the silky thick saltier than the Dead Sea water.

I wanted to relax, but of course this being my first Float experience, it had some getting used to.

I saw lights in my eyes.... through thr darkness, hallucinations? or just my rods and cones firing...

I felt spinning, I thought i was spinning so  much that my legs would hit the walls of the tank ... but they didn't.

I felt warm.  My face sweat to the point that I got up at least twice to open the hatch door for some cool air.  I even floated for some time with the door open...

I got up again to wipe the sting of the Epsom water out of my eyes ... the stinging of the unseen scratches in my skin went away quicker ...

I found the "beginner's" float neck pillow, helped me get more comfortable.

I slept.

then I relaxed.

I think.

I finished my hour session happy, with the thought that the bumps would just get better with time ...

but then, something extraordinary happened -- the aftermath:

Over the next few days, even the week, I felt my response to stress change.
Oh, the stress was still there, or rather, the Stressors -- work was extremely busy, (as you may know, I am a pulmomary and critical care physician), but for the first time in a long time, I didn't care as much, and it didn't bother me as much.

I was able to better work "in the present" without being too anxious about what was coming that night or even in the next 10 minutes.

This weekend work was extremely overwhelming and stressful -- well, at least on paper.  But I got through it calmly...and I didn't feel it in my chest as much.

And just now, I found a situation that normally would get me stressed and anxious (something about a vacation schedule no less!) ... but I just somehow shifted my focus to put aside for now ...

because I booked another Float session for this week.  And I'm looking forward to either letting it all melt away then... OR perhaps letting my sensory deprived mind deal with it better at that time, work out a solution, be creative, or just accept what experience comes ...

I have spent so much of my time plotting how to escape stress ... that perhaps dealing with the stress or at least not letting it bother me might be a better (and easier) solution.

definitely an aha moment.

I can't wait for my next Float session.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Brrrrrrick Reservoir

(credit to

I can't feel my face.
It was cold this morning, and I will spare you any metaphors, cliched, clever, or otherwise.
Let's just say it was 16 degrees Fahrenheit, windy, and leave it at that.  (yes, know you Chicagoans and others laugh in our face ... but again, I can't feel my face.)

I tried to go tech-less this morning, no headphones, and I really did accidentally leave my phone at home ... but what about my watch?  A recent Runner Academy podcast episode featured Tyler McCandless and the concept of running without a watch, and just running by feel.  Well, I confess I kept my watch on, but didn't look at it until the end of mile one, when I made myself slow to a walk for a few seconds.  I'm trying to apply Matt Fitzgerald's 80/20 principle of running 80% of your miles easy (really easy apparently) and 20% hard, as most runners do "medium," which is not as beneficial physiologically and speed and endurance-wise.
At this point I'm still not 100% sure what my easy pace should be.  Some advice says your easy pace should be "50-75% of your 5k pace.)  Well, my 5k pace was 7-something, but that was in a previous life, (much has happened and I'm not that fast anymore), so I'll go with my half marathon pace of about 10:10, but my marathon pace was about 11:10.  so I targeted about 11:30 pace for my easy run today.  I didn't look at my watch until the end of mile 1, and I saw that it was 10:49.  Too fast?  I don't know, felt easy.  I ended up running 6.14 miles today, walking about 30 seconds every mile, to also get water from my car, and overall pace was 11:19.  Close to my target.  Felt kinda easy-medium, and I think I'm supposed to feel really easy, like I could run forever at that pace.  So I'm not sure if I'm happy that it was 11:19 .... OR MAYBE I'M JUST OVERANALYZING!!


It was cold, but still fun.  I still enjoy running outdoors.  Again, I hate the outdoors in general.  I don't even like walking the short distance from the car to the mall in cold weather.  But for some reason, when it's a run, it really does feel good.

So week one of the Runner Academy marathon training program is in the books.  Goal race is the New Jersey Marathon., on April 6, 2015. What I'm trying different this time is to really focus on the purpose of each run, whether it's a base building easy run, a tempo run, or others.  Also trying to keep up with the cross training and strength exercises.

Anyone else training for a Spring marathon in this cold weather?  The NJ Marathon perhaps?  (Hopefully I'll be able to feel my face by then.) comment below.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Aha!! moment and the start of another Marathon training cycle.

According to Hal Higdon, Olympian Frank Shorter once said,

"You're not ready to run another marathon until you've forgotten the last one."

Well, I certainly have not forgotten about the 2014 Philadelphia Marathon, what with the freezing start, (I really wish I had brought more throwaways than my hoodie), the great course, seeing my family at mile 5), catching up with the 4:45 pace group (those first 13 miles just flew by), deciding to pass the pace group at mile 18 to then try to chase the 4:30 group for my goal, the much-appreciated Yuengling Lager and brownies the locals passed out near the turnaround in Manayunk around Mile 20 ... then feeling it ... slowing down ... feeling the pain ... the hurt ... getting passed by the 4:45 pace group and wondering why I was doing this ... and really saying to myself, "I don't have to run another full marathon again..." then getting a boost from my family again at Mile 26 to push through what seemed like a loooong 0.2 miles to get in at 4:52:33 ... in what became a beautiful 50 degree day.

but I forgot to write a race report about it.

Forward two recovery weeks later, as I was going to register for the 2015 Long Branch Half Marathon (the site of my half PR of 2:13:00), I was convinced by a buddy to just register for the full (New Jersey Marathon).

Sure, why not?

Then something I didn't expect happened -- I struggled internally for weeks with this question: Which training program should I use?  Geez, talk about Type A.

But my thinking and feeling was this.  Although to date I have 5 half marathons and 2 full marathons under my belt, I wanted, in a way, to "start over" with this next training cycle. I want to get it "right" this time.  I want each run to have a purpose, I want to have goals other than just mindlessly following the written mileage for the given day.  I want to cross train.  I want to watch my nutrition.

Now, of course there are many training plans to choose from, and each has it's own goals and methods to get you to the finish line.  And I'm of the belief that if you believe in the plan, and understand its purpose, and follow it without changing plans in the middle of the cycle, you will get to the finish line.  But yet I struggled with the specifics, and yes my thoughts were irrational at times:

-Jeff Galloway's plans for sure worked for me in the past, reduced chance of injury (and boy do I know about that), worked with my limited schedule, but I thought the weekend long runs were a little too long for me, but those long runs were made for a run-walk method, BUT I don't want to walk as much ... it feels good to run straight!

-Hal Higdon's plans are proven, but only one 20 mile run I thought?  and maybe the intermediate plans were too heavy for me?  AND life would get in the way when, according to the plan, the critical 20 miler right before the taper falls on a weekend when I know I won't be able to do it properly based on my own life schedule.  (But Galloway's programs taper earlier).

-Runner Academy Membership has its own programs too, similar to Higdon's, but with some specific cross training exercises, but still had the scheduling problem for me regarding the taper.

again, some irrational thinking I had!

so, I had to outline my goals for the next marathon:

-run injury free
-set a PR of 4:30
-reduce the walk breaks to only every mile or every water stop.
-feel good!
-be able to follow the training program closely so it doesn't interfere with my "other life" and work schedule.

Yes, transitioning from run-walk to more running has some ego component to it, but honestly it just feels good to run.  So, I thought, is is possible to choose a training plan that could address the criteria above?

I messaged Coach Matt Johnson of Runner Academy about tweaking the program / taper, and there was no problem ...(you can listen to my interview on Matt Johnson's Everyday Runners podcast here) and around the same time, I had my Aha! moment: 


Yes, Matt Fitzgerald stressed that in his 80/20 book, detailing the research that shows that running 80% of your runs easy is beneficial in so many different ways, and can help you run faster when it counts!

So for the most recent few runs I've gone on, I tried just that, I ran slower.  And what did that do?  I think it should address much of my concerns -->
-Slower running in training should reduce injury.  
-if all goes well, according the the 80/20 plan of running most runs slow, I'll have a better chance of setting a PR.
-Slower running allows me to run with very minimal, if any, walk breaks.  
-Running slow and straight feels good!
-yes, with Coach Matt Johnson's help I'm able to tweak the program a bit.

It felt great!  I didn't need to walk until I got water every 1.6 miles (length of the Brick reservoir loop) ... but I decided, at least for now, maybe I'll walk 30 seconds after every song on my playlist, just to ease into this.

So I chose one of the Runner Academy Membership plans,


I think I'm as excited as I've ever been to run!

Join me!