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Andrea Finds Her Shoes

Posted by on Thursday, September 13, 2012 @ 9:11 am | 1 Reply

Continuing our series highlighting two people with inspiring stories during 60 Days of Better, we check in with Andrea to take a look at how she found Newton Running.

Shoes. I would argue from experience that this is one of the most vitally important factors for successful running. Yet strangely enough, it’s a factor I never really put much thought into, until quite recently. This is an oversight that played a large part in derailing my season and had me convinced that I might have to give up the thing I love the most.

After a fairly lengthy winter hiatus, I returned to running in February, treated myself to a pair of new runners, and eased back into my routine. After a couple of weeks, I began experiencing shin splints, which is not something I’ve ever been afflicted by. The weeks were rolling by, and I was not seeing any improvement in my running. I couldn’t seen to break through the 10 km barrier no matter how often I ran. My shin splints became progressively worse, accompanied by intense pain in my calves and over the tops of my feet. I would try to run through it, and end up limping home. I started a regime of stretching, massage and strength exercises, none of which made a dent in the pain. Foam rollers, compression sleeves and braces did nothing. I started going to physiotherapy, and did my assigned exercises religiously. My therapist tried fascia scraping, electro therapy, acupuncture, ultrasound, exercises and joint mobilization. Nothing worked, and he was unable to pinpoint the cause of my injury.

This was a period of extreme frustration and discouragement. Over and over I would head out, hoping that this might be the run that would turn things around. Over and over I would have to cut my run short and limp home with tears in my eyes. I felt bitter and angry, and betrayed by my own body. I was convinced that I had done some sort of irreparable damage to my legs, and that I would have to give up running, a thought that terrified me to the bone. Running had been my rock and anchor, and I was terrified that without it I would slide back into depression.

But then came that fateful day when I experienced what I like to refer to as my running “enlightenment”. I was at the track, doing my best to make it through as speed workout. I was experiencing so much pain in my feet that, in a fit of frustration, I kicked off my shoes and ran a lap barefoot. And it didn’t hurt! It didn’t hurt, so I ran another lap, and another. That day I ran 16 laps without anything on my feet, and it was the first time in 6 months that I wasn’t plagued by debilitating pain. It was also the first time in 6 months that i felt a ray of hope. Yes, my feet were red and blistered, and felt like they’d been whacked with a spatula, but it wasn’t the pain of an injury that would send me home limping.

Since I started running, I was always told that I was a flat footed pronator, and stuck into built up, structured stability shoes. I now suspected that perhaps I didn’t pronate that much after all, and didn’t really need all that support and stability. I booked an in depth biomechanical assessment with a pedorthist, who confirmed all of my suspicions. I did NOT need stability shoes, and in fact, the shoes I had been running in had been the cause of all my difficulties. These shoes had impeded my natural gait, which caused my foot to attempt to adapt, putting extreme pressure on my calves and the tendons along the top of my foot.

The very next day, I was at Forerunners, my gear Mecca, looking for a more minimal neutral shoe without all the padding and structure. I probably tried on about 30 different models, looking for just the right pair- minimal but with enough cushion to run long distances, a low heel to toe drop, a nice roomy toe box, and unobtrusive arch support. I was pretty close to giving up when I picked up the shoes with the funny looking bottoms, called Newtons. I slipped them on, and it felt like a home coming for my feet! I bought them without a second thought, and never looked back! My runs improved drastically, and the pain began to subside. My runs are not always pain free, and not always easy, but the good runs far out number the bad, and the miles are starting to add up.

It’s going to take months of physio to undo the damage I inflicted on my feet and legs with improper footwear, which is why I can’t stress enough how important it is to find the right pair of shoes! Do your research. Read forums. Talk to successful runners. See a pedorthist or podiatrist if you experience foot pain. If you want to have a long and satisfying running career, then finding the right shoe is the most important thing you can spend time and money on. Only a month after finding my perfect shoe, I’m back on their road three times a week, my mileage is back up where it should be, and my training is right on track for my October half marathon!

Andrea’s other posts:

Goodbye Limits: Meet Andrea

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How Did Robbie Lose 100 Lbs.? (Part 1)

Posted by on Monday, September 10, 2012 @ 10:18 am | Leave a reply

When you lose 100lbs it’s pretty easy to guess the number one question you get asked. It’s always, “So how’d you do it?” Here’s how (Part 1).

#1 Start Small

As I said, I failed at every diet known to man, from Atkins and Weight Watchers to the all fruit and veggies diet, so I was determined to make this time different. Instead of jumping into a plan cold turkey I would break it up into more manageable parts. I decided to just focus on fitness and not worry about food just yet. My goal was to make fitness a part of my life, something that was second nature to me. Once I was able to stay active on a regular basis, then I would focus on eating properly. I also did not try to do too much when I initially got on the treadmill. My running buddy Bryce gave me a parameter of spending a minimum of 60 minutes on the treadmill. So I made that my goal, no matter how slow I had to walk to make it happen. I think I started out walking about 2mph the first few times we went and I was exhausted when I was done.

This photo was taken at Planet Fitness in Newport News, VA. It’s blurry because I was on a treadmill at the time. I think it is the only photo taken of me actually working out while I was losing the 100lbs.

 

#2 Challenge Yourself

Even though I couldn’t do much in the beginning, I still wanted to be challenged. Bryce would encourage me to up the speed of the treadmill by .2 or .3mph for the last minute or two of my workout. Most of the time, I followed his suggestion, although I can’t say I didn’t complain about it a time or two! ☺ A lot of times I would work out alone but I would always make sure that I pushed myself just a little. I knew Bryce was going to ask how it went and I didn’t want him to think I was slacking off (accountability is a great motivator!). I kept track of the time, distance, and calories burned for each of my workouts and I would aim to do just a little better each time, assuming my body felt up to it. If I was overly tired or sore I would not push it because I did not want to risk an injury. Injuries are the worst and they should be avoided like the plague (more on that in a few weeks)!

#3 Follow Through

The biggest failure I made in every diet I tried was that I did not give it enough time to work. I would give it a few weeks and if I didn’t see the results I thought I should see I gave up. I decided this time that I was going to continue this no matter what. It was actually pretty easy to do since my goal here was not to lose weight but to make fitness a part of my life. I kept going to the gym; I kept working out. I am a normal person. I work 40+ hours a week and I have a wife and two kids. I’m not wealthy, so I can’t afford a chef or maid. I make time several days a week for me to get my work out in. Yes, that means that sometimes I have to get up at 4am in the morning to get my run in (that’s rare, but I’ve done it). It’s about doing what you know is important. This is important to me, and to my wife and kids, so I made sure that I followed through and stuck with it long enough to actually see results.

One early spring day, the weather seemed to be pretty nice. The longest I had run without stopping was 3 miles, but those were mostly run on a treadmill (which is easier). That day I ran a PR (personal best) 4 miles. It wasn’t pretty and it certainly wasn’t very fast (10:50 pace), but that day I fell in love with running (and haven’t stepped on a treadmill since). Running became a part of who I am. From this point on I would have a new identity…I was a runner. I felt like a superhero. I felt like I could take on the world.

Today, I run all the time, several times a week. When I don’t run for several days, for whatever reason, I miss it and I feel like my Newtons are giving me the evil eye every time I walk by. In fact, I am currently training for my first half marathon on November 3rd and my first full marathon next year on March 17th! Since I began, I’ve logged 583 miles over 200 workouts. I never thought I would call myself a runner. I never thought I would say that I loved running, but I do. I know there are people out there right now who are saying the same thing, that there is no way they would ever be able to run. And yet here I am. I was that guy and now I am a runner. Believe it when I say, if I (a food addict who weighed over 300lbs) can do it…you can do it!

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Goodbye Limits: Meet Andrea

Posted by on Thursday, September 6, 2012 @ 10:00 am | Leave a reply

Over the course of 60 Days of Better, we’ll be following two people who decided to seek Better in their own lives. Their journeys are very different and very inspiring and along the way, Newton became a part of helping them find Better. 

There is a lot of research out there claiming that exercise can be effective as an anti-depressant. And you know what? It’s true! It’s a fact I discovered myself a year and a half ago when I started running.

For a number of years, I’ve suffered from a relatively mild, but chronic form of depression, known as atypical depression. It’s always been mild enough that I could function. In fact, for years I didn’t realize I was suffering from depression. I just assumed I was lazy, moody, and somehow defective. Things came to a bit of a head when I slid into a major depressive episode, precipitated by a period of upheaval and change; finishing grad school, moving to a new city, and starting a new job. What should have been an exciting time in my life turned into just the opposite. I felt sad and angry more often then not. I lived in a state of constant fatigue and lethargy. I had difficulty concentrating, and often felt like I was in a fog.I put on weight at an almost frightening rate, and my hair turned to straw. I developed a debilitating social anxiety, and began isolating myself. The worst part, however, was the apathy. I completely lost my will to do anything, and would sometimes spend hours at a time just sitting and staring, because I couldn’t think of anything that felt worth doing. I didn’t care that I was putting on weight, that I never went out, or that I had isolated myself from my friends.

When the depression started to impact my job performance, I knew it was time to get some help. I went to a doctor and was put on anti-depressants. They helped alleviate some of the more acute symptoms, took the edge off, and gave me enough energy to function. They also made me numb and emotionless, and didn’t help with my apathy, social anxiety, or negative self-talk. I knew that I needed more than medication to get out of the hole that I was in. Unfortunately, I couldn’t afford therapy, and I just didn’t have the energy or power of concentration for self-help books. One night, out of sheer desperation, I tied on a pair of running shoes and went for my first run in years. It wasn’t pretty. I probably only ran a mile, and I was puffing and wheezing and creaking the whole way. But it sure felt good! For the first time in months, I felt like I had actually accomplished something. So I kept doing it. I found a friend to run with, and we were doggedly out there pounding the pavement at least three times a week. I loved the fact that I could see my progress in terms of weight loss, miles, and most importantly, mood!

The wet blanket of apathy and fatigue began to lift, and I actually began to feel optimistic, and to enjoy my life again. Every time I ran, I felt a sense of peace and well-being. My fatigue was now a healthy, normal fatigue, and I had new found energy to go out and DO things again. The biggest impact of my running was the effect it had on my confidence and self-worth. I was a runner, and I could pound out miles that not everyone was capable of. I felt strong, and confident, and this confidence transferred over to all aspects of my life. I got a bike and began cycling to work. I took French cooking lessons. I started dating again. Most importantly, I felt normal, not defective, broken and incapable.

Six months after desperation drove me to tie on those running shoes, I completed my first half-marathon. It was hard, but the emotions I felt when I crossed that finish line were incredible. Joy, accomplishment, pride, and disbelief that I had just run 13.1 miles! I was one of those people who could run a really really long way, and it endowed me with a belief in myself I’d never thought to possess. So now you can see why I believe in running as an anti-depressant. It’s not just about the energy boost it gives you, or the endorphins, or the weight loss. It also gives you a sense of accomplishment, strength, self confidence and joy. Running can take you places you never dreamed you’d go, like the finish line of a half marathon. Whether you suffer from depression or not, running has the power to make life better, and make you a better person. When I started running, I had nowhere to go but up. A year and a half later, the only question is, where to next?

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Goodbye Limits: Meet Robbie

Posted by on Monday, September 3, 2012 @ 7:13 am | Leave a reply

Over the course of 60 Days of Better, we’ll be following two people who decided to seek Better in their own lives. Their journeys are very different and very inspiring and along the way, Newton became a part of helping them find Better. 

My name is Robbie Leffel. I am a 35 year old husband and father of 2. In a nutshell, I’m a food addict that lost 100 pounds. Here’s my story.

When I was a kid, I was the skinny one. When I hit my teens I fell in love with the snack machine (Honey Buns!) and gained a little weight. Once I arrived at college and realized that I could eat whatever I wanted I really started to get big. It was also around that time that I began to suffer from severe migraine headaches. By the time I was 21, my headaches had increased in severity and frequency, so much so I began missing a lot of school and work. I was also becoming less and less active spending a lot of time in bed trying to get over the headaches. This led me to gain even more weight and over the next decade I ballooned to a seriously unhealthy 336lbs.

All the way through my 20’s and the beginning of my 30’s I was committed to getting healthy, but there were a few road blocks to deal with. Obviously, the headaches were killing me, but what was really adding insult to injury was that I had become a food addict. I was and still am an emotional eater. When I eat foods that are high in sugar, fat, or salt I just feel good, at least temporarily. If I was having a bad day I would turn to food. If I had a headache (which was always) I would eat hoping it would help the headache somehow (crazy, I know). If my wife made me mad I would eat. If my team lost I would eat (which wasn’t very often! Go Duke!). I’m an emotional guy, so all I did was eat.

So I would find a new diet to try and I would buy all the food and start going to the gym, doing all the things I knew I was supposed to do. However, every time I would find a way to sabotage the diet. I would lose a few pounds, so I would get cocky and careless and gradually add more food to my diet, or I would slack off going to the gym. The weight loss would stop and I would say, “See, this diet doesn’t really work either.” I would repeat this cycle over and over again. I always wanted to lose weight, but it was just too hard fighting with my addiction and the headaches.

Then one day I was looking for another diet to “try” (I tried them all). I purchased a book by the Biggest Loser trainer, Jillian Michaels. I could not tell you anything the book said other than this one thing…HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP IS POISON AND YOU SHOULD NEVER, EVER EAT IT. That little nugget forever changed my life. I don’t think I even finished the book. I ran to the kitchen to see if I could find any HFCS. To my shock, HFCS was in just about everything I was eating. I looked online at restaurants and it was there too. I was cautiously optimistic that this is what had been causing my headaches. I instantly became a food label Nazi and tracked everything that I ate, making sure that I wasn’t eating any HFCS. To my massive relief (understatement!) the headaches went away. Before, I was having 4-5 migraine headaches every week. Now, I will have one about 3 times a year, and that is probably because I ate something accidently that had HFCS in it. (As a side note, just because the FDA approves it and Coca-Cola and McDonald’s serves it does not mean that it is safe to consume!)

Armed with a new lease on life and one of my major obstacles out of the way, I committed myself to getting healthy for real. I began my own little program, of running and a super simple diet, which I came up with that I thought fit me and who I was and what I needed. After about a year I had lost 100lbs. I had become a new man. I’m happier than I have ever been and I have so much confidence. I am able to keep up with my kids and enjoy life the way you are supposed to.

I’ve certainly come a long way, but I’ve still got a long way to go. My initial goal was to see 299lbs on the scale, then get to that 100lb mark. I realize weight is just a number. My actual goal is to just be healthy and fit, tracking my weight is just a means to an end. My next goal is to get below 200, to see 199lbs on the scale. I have no doubt that I will get there. In fact, I am officially setting a goal for myself and you are my witness. By the end of Newton’s “60 Days of Better” I will reach my goal of 199lbs. I think I can do it. I’ve got on my Newtons and I am motivated to make a better me. Is anybody with me?!

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#HelloBoston Sweepstakes!

Posted by on Monday, April 9, 2012 @ 3:40 pm | Leave a reply

To celebrate our HELLO BETTER campaign at the 2012 Boston Marathon, Newton is going give those who’ll be in Beantown in the coming week a chance to win some shoes!

Here’s how it works:

-We’ll be giving away FOUR pairs of shoes in total, two for the ladies and two for the gents.

-To enter, you must take a picture of yourself in front of one of our HELLO BETTER ads around the city. You can find them on pedicabs in the downtown area, Green Line trolleys and on the billboard by the Foodbank on I-93. Pictures can be however you want but YOU HAVE TO BE IN THE PICTURE!

-You can either email your pictures to: legs@newtonrunning.com OR (we’d prefer this one!) post your pictures to Twitter using the hashtag #HELLOBOSTON.

- There will be two (2) drawings.

-Drawing one will be open to all who enter and MUST be picked up at the Newton Running expo booth on Sunday, April 15.

-Drawing two will be done on Marathon Monday (4/16) and will be open to U.S. and Canadian residents only.

-Pictures must be authentic and no inserting/Photoshopping yourself into an image will be accepted (the above picture is merely for effect).

[official rules]

NOW, GO TAKE SOME PICTURES!

 

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