Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Navigating a Hike

  Seriously, if you don't know how to read a topographic trail map and use a compass, then don't go hiking. Seriously. Having someone in your group that knows how to use them is not good enough. You'll get separated from him and then you'll be in big trouble.

Stay On Course

On many frontcountry hiking routes, such as state parks and nature centers, all you need is a simple trail map of the area. It's only a few miles on a well-traveled route so your chances of getting lost or injured are pretty slim. But, even there, a thunder storm, accident, or recent trail damage may force you to take a detour and lose the trail. On backcountry treks, understanding a topo map will help you plan where the more difficult steep ascents are and where you will have nice views from high ridgelines or be stuck in a gully with no view but the trail ahead. By reading a topo map at home, you can visualize what the terrain looks like even before you ever see it. You'll know the name of a high mountain in the distance and more importantly know it is East from where you are hiking in case you become disoriented.
Your compass is the other half of the navigating toolset that you need to bring. In some areas with enough visual landmarks, you can do just fine with a map alone. A compass alone can keep you heading in a certain direction, but you don't know what you are heading towards. For all areas, a map and compass together can get you home along the safest of routes. Using your compass to orient yourself and your map and then identifying objects on the map in your real world will keep you going the right direction.
Global Positioning Systems are very common now. Unfortunately, some people think they are magical devices that keep people from getting lost - Nope! They are useful tools, but you still need to know how to use your specific model and you need a trail map. And, if they run out of batteries, get wet, or break, then it would be a good idea to have a compass as a back-up.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Water for Hiking


Don't even think of starting on a hike that takes you more than a mile from home without a bottle of water along. You should have at least two quarts of water with you and drink 1/2 to 1 cup every 30 to 45 minutes. Keep the water coming into your body even if you don't really feel very thirsty. If you are hiking, you are losing moisture and you need to replenish it.
By the end of a 4-hour hike, you should have drunk both quarts of water and you should be able to use the toilet. If you don't need to, then all that water came out as perspiration and you still need to drink more water to stay hydrated. After a hike, you should drink additional water until you need to use the toilet. I don't mean chug it down, I mean drink a 1/2 cup or so every 5 minutes or so.
Water is THE most critical survival item - whether in the wild or at home.

Rule of 3:
  • You can live 3 minutes without air.
  • You can live 3 days without water.
  • You can live 3 weeks without food.
You'll have air to breathe unless you're under water or in a cave-in.  If you run out of food, you can struggle on for 150 miles if needed.  But, if you run out of water, you have only a day or so to figure out a solution.

Water Needs
How much water do you really need? Does it matter where you are, the time of year, or the elevation?
Water Treatment
Once you locate water, you're not home free. There're lots of critters living in that water and they'll make life miserable for you. It's a good idea to treat all water you find and here's how to do that.
Carrying Water
Now that you have all the water you need, your stomach will only hold so much. You need to carry the rest down the trail until you find more water. Secure, comfortable, inexpensive transportation of water is the key.

Monday, May 15, 2017

7 Injuries That Could Be Causing Your Hip Pain

Of the joints in the leg that are commonly injured in runners, hip pain often poses the most difficult diagnosis. There are a couple of reasons for this: First, there are simply too many possible causes of hip pain, and a second, less obvious reason, relates to the frequency of these injuries.
The bony anatomy of the hip is actually quite straightforward. The head of the femur ends in a ball that articulates with a pocket in the pelvic bone, the acetabulum. This forms the classic ball-in-socket joint. Yet, because of the extreme forces that this joint is subjected to, especially when running, and because of the very complicated supporting structures that help make it among one of the strongest and most stable joints in the body, many potential sources of hip pain are possible. Because the hip plays such an important role in weight bearing and locomotion, it is of the utmost importance to identify these injuries as early as possible, and treat them before they result in joint damage.
We’ll review the more commonly encountered causes of hip pain in runners: muscular strains and pulls in the groin, hamstring or piriformis, hip flexor tightness, bursitis, stress fractures and labral tears. Iliotibial band friction syndrome (ITBFS) may also cause hip pain, but has been widely covered, and therefore will not be discussed in this article.

Groin Pulls or Tears

A pulled groin is caused by a strain in the hip adductors, muscles that pull the legs together. These muscles attach to the thighbones at the level of the hip and run down the inside of the thigh, stabilizing the joint. When overstretched or overused, small tears can develop resulting in hip pain, swelling, and a dull ache in the groin area. Severe tears occur more suddenly and are associated with very sharp pain and bruising down the leg.
Unfortunately, many hip injuries can cause groin pain as well, so distinguishing a true groin pull from other possibilities may not always be that straightforward. Usually a focused history and physical exam suffice to confirm the diagnosis.
The treatment of a groin pull is similar for other pulled muscles. Rest, ice, compression and elevation can all help to alleviate symptoms. Anti-inflammatory medications or acetaminophen can be used to treat pain and once the injury has healed sufficiently, a gradual return to activity can then follow.

Hamstring Injuries

The hamstrings are made up of three distinct muscles that run down the back of the thigh, which then operate together as powerful knee flexors. Like all muscular injuries, hamstring injuries occur when fibers within the muscles tear. The severity of the injury is determined by the amount of damage and how completely the fibers are torn—the least severe form being a strain, while the most severe consists of a complete tear.
Hamstring injuries are almost always associated with pain in the back of the leg that gets worse with flexing the knee. However, if the injury is higher up in the muscle body, then the symptoms can be experienced in the hip itself.

Piriformis Syndrome

The piriformis is a small muscle that runs from the sacrum to the outside of the hip. For a small muscle it can cause big problems when inflamed or overused. Because it runs over the sciatic nerve, the piriformis has a nasty habit of putting pressure on this nerve and causing exquisite pain in the glute and posterior hip area when it swells or spasms.
Aside from addressing any mechanical issues that might be exacerbating the problem the main way to treat piriformis syndrome is by stretching the muscle out as much as possible. To stretch the piriformis: lay on your back, bend your knees and cross your right leg over your left so your right ankle rests on your left knee in a figure four position. Bring your left leg toward your chest by bending at the hip. Reach through and grab your left thigh to help pull everything toward your chest.

Iliopsoas Syndrome

The iliopsoas muscle is a powerful hip flexor that runs across the top of the hip joint and works to pull the knee up and off the ground when it contracts. Movement of the tendon is facilitated by the iliopsoas bursa. If the tendon or the bursa becomes inflamed, flexion may become very painful and the pain is felt in front of the hip with an associated snapping or clicking sensation during movement. Iliopsoas syndrome often arises as a result of increasing volume or intensity too quickly, and hence this problem may be easily avoided. Once it has set in though, the only effective treatment is rest with liberal use of anti-inflammatory medications.

Hip Bursitis

Bursae are fluid-filled sacs that assist in lubricating the movement of structures around joints. The hip bursa allows for the smooth movements of various tendons over each other as the hip ranges in different directions. In some instances this sac can become inflamed after repetitive micro-trauma common in long-distance running. The inflammation can be very painful with symptoms predominantly over the outer aspect of the hip radiating down into the thigh.
Once inflamed, the treatment for hip bursitis is similar to many of the other injuries described here: rest, the application of ice and the use of anti-inflammatory medications. Although it is rare, in some cases the bursitis may become severe or chronic and require surgery.

Stress Fracture

Although much more common in the foot and lower leg, stress fractures of the hip may also occur. Stress fractures result from a combination of overuse in the setting of muscle fatigue, and in some cases, predisposed anatomical issues. Under normal circumstances the muscles and tendons absorb the vast majority of the forces transmitted during repeated ground striking in running. However, with progressive fatigue, more and more of the force is transmitted to the underlying bone, and with time the bone may fracture.
Unlike a traumatic injury, in which there is a sudden tremendous force applied that results in an obvious disruption of the bone, stress fractures are insidious and take time to manifest symptoms. Stress fractures of the hip will cause a dull ache either felt in the groin or lower back, and this can delay the diagnosis allowing more time for the fracture to worsen. Once suspected, confirming the diagnosis can also be difficult as the bone may appear normal on plain X-rays. Only more advanced imaging will show the problem definitively.
Once diagnosed, a complete cessation of weight bearing exercise is mandated. This is critical in order to prevent the stress fracture from progressing to a much more serious and complete fracture. The duration of recovery will depend on the severity of the injury and, in rare cases, surgical intervention may be required.

Hip Pain Due to Labral Tear

The labrum of the hip is a cartilage ring that forms a kind of lubricating O-ring around the ball of the femur holding it in place in the acetabulum. In some people, bony abnormalities either of the neck of the femur or of the lip of the acetabulum can cause the labrum to become repetitively impinged with normal ranging of the hip joint. Over time, this impingement causes the labrum to fray and eventually tear.
Until recently, the long-term importance of labral tears wasn’t completely appreciated. Now, these tears are seen as a potential contributor to the early development of arthritis of the hip.
Because the labrum is made of cartilage and therefore completely insensate, the symptoms of a labral tear arise only long after the damage has been done. Patients with this problem frequently complain of pain in the groin that gets worse when crossing the affected leg over the other. Hence, the diagnosis is difficult to confirm and requires an MRI with contrast injected into the joint. Once confirmed, the only treatment options for symptomatic patients are the complete cessation of weight bearing activities or surgery. It is important to note that not all patients with labral tears require surgical repair. This should be discussed with an orthopedic surgeon familiar with the diagnosis and the procedure to address it.
The hip joint is less prone to injury than the lower leg but can still be afflicted by a number of issues both big and small. Quickly arriving at the correct diagnosis is an important part of getting effective treatment and returning to activity. Knowing the common causes of hip and groin pain is also an important part of that equation. See your physician whenever you have vague, non-specific pains that are difficult to ascribe to a specific area. This can often end up being something more important than you might initially think and catching it early is key.

Perform Your Own Bike Tune-Up

Summer is the time to train for centuries and races, take off on a week-long bike tour or spend the afternoon exploring new single-tracks. To get the most out of your bike, and lower your chances of a mechanical, begin your adventure by performing a basic bike tune-up.
Clean and lubricate the Chain
Your chain is essentially a magnet for dirt and grime. Since the chain and sprockets play a key role in how well power is transferred, it’s important to keep them in tip-top shape.
Save yourself some time by picking up a chain cleaning tool like Finish Line’s Shop Quality Chain Cleaner. Simply fill it with a cleaner and degreaser and watch as the tool’s brushes magically sweep away grime lodged in each link. After the chain is clean, run it through an old rag several times until it’s dry. Next, apply a bike-specific chain lubricant. Follow the instructions specific to the product, but be sure to thoroughly wipe off any excess lube, as it will quickly collect dirt. To keep dirt from building up, wipe the chain with a rag after every ride.
Inspect the brakes
Check that the brake pads are tracking properly on the rim and not rubbing against the tire or only hitting part of the rim.
Brake pads are also prone to picking up debris. This, in turn, can damage rims, shorten the life of your brake pads or decrease the brake’s stopping power.  For brakes with pads, clean them with rubbing alcohol or bike cleaner. If you do find pieces of glass, sand or stones lodged in the pad, use a sharp object like a pick or knife to carefully remove the object.  Disc brakes can be cleaned with either rubbing alcohol or a cleaner specifically designed for disc brakes.
Check the Tire Pressure
Most flat tires are avoidable if you check the tire pressure before every ride and also regularly inspect the tire for sharp objects. If you spot something in the wheel, remove it with the tip of a sharp knife and stop using any tires that have holes or cuts in them. The tire’s recommended pressure is listed on the sidewall and you should always pump the tire to at least the minimum number. Not only will properly inflated tires help protect you from a puncture, they will also protect your rims and make pedaling easier and more efficient.
Fix Skipping Gears
If your bike skips gears, loose cable tensioning is probably to blame. This is a common problem, especially right after the cable is replaced. To make your job easier, place the bike in a work stand. Shift to the smallest cog and turn the barrel adjuster for the rear derailleur clockwise for a half a turn. Pedal forward, shifting once.  If the chain doesn’t move to the next cog, give it another half turn. If you shift and it jumps two cogs, then you must turn the barrel adjuster a half turn counter clockwise.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Outsmart the Cycling Wind | Cycling Tips

Depending on how you view it, wind can either build you into a stronger cyclist or break you down if you’re unprepared to face it. Next time the wind blows, keep your cool by following a few simple guidelines.
Change your attitude. If you instantly feel defeated by a slap of wind to the face, chances are your riding will reflect this same glum attitude.  Accept that your average speed will be lower than usual. Try to view each gust as a challenge, rather than a setback. Take control and visualize yourself cutting through the wind with the bullet-like speed of a time trialist.
Mix it up.  Have you ever ridden your favorite bike route backwards? Check which way the wind is blowing and change course in order to transform a headwind into a tailwind. If possible, ride into the wind early on and when you’re tired, let a tailwind push you home. Choose a route that’s insulated by buildings and trees.
Enlist in the draft. If you’re riding with a group, try to situate yourself in the middle of the pack, so you’re as protected from the wind as possible. Drafting another rider can save up to 30 percent of your energy. Pay attention to which way the wind is blowing and shift so that the rider in front of you is blocking most of it. Unless you’re feeling up for a challenge, let the stronger riders do the work on the front.
How low can you go? Reduce wind resistance by riding in a tucked position. Use the drops if you have them to time trial your way through the wind. Keep your back as straight as possible and your head low. But don’t blow yourself up trying to maintain a certain speed. You may have to gear down to preserve energy. Think twice before wearing a baggy rain jacket and opt for a tight fitting jersey and spandex shorts instead. As the pros have proven in wind tunnels, even the smallest changes can have an impact.
Get stronger. Hills and wind have one thing in common: They push cyclists to their limits. Whether you’re grinding uphill or grunting through a headwind, you’re forcing your body to adapt to a hard interval. All this work boosts fitness and forces the body to grow stronger. Read our blog Bicycle Hill Climbing Tips to ease your pain when climbing heavy hills.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Riding in the Rain | Bicycle Safety

It’s a common scene: You’re gearing up to bike to work, but Mother Nature has other plans. Don’t cancel your ride just yet. Instead, be prepared when drops fall from the sky. These simple bicycle safety tips for riding in the rain will insure that you arrive safe and dry.
Guard your bike. Fenders are a bicycle commuter ’s best friend. Mount them over the front and rear tires and then enjoy watching them catch all the grit, grime and water that would otherwise reside on your frame and components. If you’re going to be commuting by bike in wet weather, consider applying a chain lube that’s made specifically for wet or all-weather conditions.
Wick water away. Invest in a good cycling specific rain jacket or cape. Be sure the jacket has some breathability, which is not always the case with waterproof jackets, and wear either light wool or another type of technical fabric that wicks sweat away from your body. A cycling cap under your helmet will keep your head dry. Because many cycling shoes are heavily vented, consider waterproof shoe covers. In a pinch, cover your shoes with two plastic shopping bags. Punch the bottom out to expose your cleats and use a rubber band to secure the top of the bag around your ankles.
Slippery when wet.  Stay alert, as tires are more likely to slide out in wet turns, and be aware that your braking distance is shortened considerably. Try to avoid touching any metal objects like manhole covers and railroad tracks. Beware of painted lines—some of the slickest parts of the road—and watch for oil residue. To give your bike greater contact with the road, let five to seven PSI out of each tire.
Light up the road. Because motorists have decreased visibility in wet conditions, it’s a good idea to wear bright colors and also attach an LED light to your seatpost and handlebars.  To increase your own visibility, wear lighter colored lenses, such as clear or yellow. If fogging is an issue, apply a product like anti-fog zooke-wax.
Give your bike a bath. Bike frames are made to handle the elements, but you should still give them some TLC after a rainy ride. Re-lube and dry the chain. Also give the bike a good rinsing to remove any grit lodged in the components, which will reduce their lifespan. Be sure to clean the brake pads as well to keep grit from wearing down your rims. Thoroughly dry the bike after cleaning.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of heel pain in runners, affecting approximately 10 percent of recreational runners in the U.S. every year. While the foot is in motion during running, the plantar fascia, a thick elastic tissue that stretches from the heel to the base of the toes, works with the Achilles tendon to store and return energy. Because of this powerful attachment, the plantar fascia stabilizes the inner forefoot as forces peak during push-off at the end of a stride. Unlike bone spurs and stress fractures of the heel, plantar fasciitis tends to produce pain during the push-off phase while running, not during initial contact when the foot lands on the ground.

The plantar fascia is a thick elastic tissue that stretches from the heel to the base of the toes. Illustration: Oliver Baker

Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis

  • A sharp stabbing pain or deep ache in the arch of your foot or in the middle of the bottom of your heel.
  • Stiffness or pain first thing in the morning (especially when you first get out of bed) that tends to lessen a bit with a few steps, but also tends to worsen as the day progresses and your body fatigues.
  • Pain that worsens when climbing the stairs or standing on one’s toes.
  • At the beginning of a run, pain may go away or lessen, but it can return towards the end of a run—especially on longer runs.

Causes of Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis may result from a variety of factors, such as overtraining, doing vigorous repeat hill workouts or speed work, neglecting to stretch tight calf muscles, wearing unsupportive shoes, starting a running program too aggressively or a general lack of foot strength.
It can also be attributed to biomechanical factors such as fallen arches. The excessive lowering of the arch in flat-footed runners increases tension in the plantar fascia and overloads the attachment of the plantar fascia to the heel bone, leading to eventual inflammation. Other biomechanical factors include an inward twisting or rolling of the foot (pronation) and tight tendons at the back of the heel (Achilles tendon).

Plantar Fasciitis Treatment

There are several do-it-yourself remedies when it comes to treating plantar fasciitis. The first is to massage the arch of your foot with a golf ball, rolling it back-and-forth along the foot’s bottom, and then rolling a frozen water bottle under the foot for about 10 minutes.
Lightly stretching the fascia and the Achilles tendon three times a day and first thing in the morning also helps. One way to stretch the fascia involves sitting down and placing the affected foot across your knee. Then pulling your toes back toward the shin. You should feel a stretch in the arch and some tension when running your thumb along the foot. Hold for a count of 10.
More importantly, wear supportive footwear with enough shock-absorbing cushion and the right arch support for your foot, or invest in insoles that will push on the plantar and keep it from flexing. If you need help determining what is best for you, visit a sport podiatrist or physical therapist or stop by your local running specialty shop and ask for advice.
If pain still persists for more than three weeks, see a sports podiatrist or physical therapist who can prescribe custom-made orthotics, cortisone injections, anti-inflammatories, night splints (including the acclaimed Strassburg Sock), which holds the foot with the toes pointed up and the ankle at a 90-degree angle, or a walking cast if very serious. These methods can decrease symptoms in about 95 percent of sufferers within six weeks.
For severe cases—no improvement after 6 to 12 months of treatment—then your doctor may recommend plantar fascia release surgery, which involves cutting part of the plantar fascia ligament in order to release tension and relieve inflammation. However, only 5 percent of people who suffer from plantar fasciitis need this surgery, and 95 percent usually recover by implementing the nonsurgical treatments outlined above.

Preventing Plantar Fasciitis

To prevent plantar fasciitis, run on a variety of surfaces, especially softer surfaces such as dirt paths or trails, rather than concrete or asphalt. Make sure your running shoes are the right fit and support for your gait by going to a specialty running store and getting properly fitted. Lastly, foot-strengthening exercises can go a long way in reducing future injuries.