working through a nagging injury

This sucks. 12 days ago I pulled my groin while playing soccer. (What someone my age was doing playing full speed competitive soccer with a bunch of 30-year olds is an entirely different question - one that still needs to be asked, by the way.) I even warmed up and stretched out really well before playing. But this groin thing - this is becoming a sobering experience.

image credit: microsoft clipart

My Story

I've had my fair share of sports-related injuries. Let's see - I blew out my left knee senior year in high school soccer (torn mcl), then I rehabbed it just enough to blow it out again my freshman year of college (torn acl). I broke my wrist skateboarding on a rain-dampened sidewalk, and I tore ligaments in my thumb catching a football at the beach. (Don't ask how that one happened, because I'm still trying to figure it out myself.)

All of those were painful to various degrees, but none of them lingered - I sustained an injury, the injury healed or was repaired, and then I was better. It makes for a boring story, actually. But this one feels different, and I'm getting nervous about where it's headed.

2 nights ago it felt great - no lingering pain, no soreness - so I allowed myself to goof around a little bit at Jason's soccer practice. Not running, or playing, or anything close to full speed - just moving a little more freely. Oops, turns out that wasn't very smart. Yesterday it felt sore again, and today it hurts as much as it did in the days right after I injured it.

Looks like it's time to crawl into a bubble for the next few weeks - no activity for me through the holidays, then I can re-evaluate.

Learn from my story

So let's talk about pain and injuries - when should you "play through" the pain and when should you stop working out?

This is a good time to remind you that I am not a doctor, and I am especially not your doctor. What follows is my own personal opinion after many years of exercising, playing sports, and reading hundreds of articles on various injury topics. Do not take my opinion as licensed medical advice.

Soreness, Pain, and Injury.

When you feel pain, take a minute to listen closely to what your body is telling you. Are you sore from yesterday's lunges? Or did you pull something more seriously?

Does your body "warm up" and feel better as the workout goes on? Or do you find yourself gutting it out through every step?

The sharpness of the pain can also be an indicator. If you get a sharp pain when you move your body a certain way, that's probably more than muscle soreness.

If you take a couple-few days off, does the pain go away?

Some things in your body (muscles, inflamed tendons) will heal themselves given time and rest. Other things (torn ligaments or tendons) may require medical intervention. You might also find a physical therapist &/or a chiropractor who can provide relief and further education about stretches and exercises you might need to be doing to avoid further or repeat injuries.

Bottom Line

We all want to stay fit and healthy, and to get our workouts in. Make sure to warm up before your heavy exertion, and listen to your body regarding pain. Seek out professional advice (doctor, physio therapist) if something doesn't seem right and/or isn't healing on its own.

It's better to take a little bit of time off now and return to full speed, than to be stuck at half speed (or worse) for an extended period of time.

Personally, I'll keep you posted from inside my frustratingly boring bubble. Wish me patience.

- Chris Butterworth


is mental pain harder than physical pain?

I had an interesting run this morning. I haven't been running much the last couple of months (due to injury, vacations, or whatever other excuse is available), so I knew today would be challenging. I also ran "empty", meaning no food or water in my system* - just wake up and run! But I wasn't prepared for the mental roller coaster that lied ahead.

Here's what I went through:

  • Start - 10 minutes: felt good, better than expected
  • 10 - 20 minutes: felt really good, pushed to a faster pace
  • 20 - 30 minutes: still felt good, but my gps app showed I had slowed down
  • 30 - 40 minutes: felt tired, and started thinking about maybe walking for a bit
  • 40 - 50 minutes: my legs got heavy, and my body kept telling my brain that I should take a break and walk. Why aren't we walking? Walk!
  • 50 - 60 minutes: heavy legs and now cramps in my hips. probably a physical ailment? - maybe I had been running anaerobically earlier, and now I was paying the price for having lactic acid in my muscles. By this point my brain was screaming to stop with every step, telling me I simply wouldn't be able to run anymore.
  • 60 minutes - End: with the end of the run in sight, I was able to tell my brain-body to shut up and finish, and I picked up my pace.

Here's what I learned:

There may have been some physical pain, but the fact that I never stopped running shows that my mind was telling me things that simply weren't true. The pain story in my brain was an embellishment, telling me things were worse than they really were.

Identify the pain:

There's a big difference between pushing through phantom muscle pain and doing actual damage to your body. Internal knee pain (could be a sprain or a tear), shin splints, dehydration - there are some pains that are worth stopping for. It's best if you can know the difference.

* Running Empty

I've learned over the years that I can go 60-90 minutes first thing in the morning without a pre-run fill-up - no water or breakfast. My pace is usually slower, but it gives my body practice at using its own reserves for fuel, which makes it more efficient at doing so. It also gives me a chance to know what my body feels like in these situations, so that when I'm out on a longer training exercise (or hike, or whatever), I have a reference point for what it feels like to be burning your own fuel, or to be on the dry side (flirting with dehydration). I also know how much water it takes to fully re-hydrate during the rest of the morning. (a little more than 1/2 gallon.)

As a bonus, my racing times are always faster, since I'm fully awake and properly fueled up. :)

Thanks for reading; keep moving.

-Chris Butterworth

#Running #MentalPain #RunningEmpty


gluten-free is now gluten-free per new FDA standards

My oldest son has been on a gluten-free diet for almost a decade now, and we've seen the food landscape change greatly during that time. When we started out, my wife would go to specialty stores (or order online) to get ingredients, and then would have to bake any type of bread-like food from scratch (breads, pancakes, etc.) Today we can walk into the local grocery store and choose from several different brands, and several different varieties, of gluten-free foods.

Kind Bars are one of my son's favorites.

However, we're still pretty careful about reading labels, and we've come across a few products labeled as gluten-free but which contained oats. And there have been other times where the ingredients listed looked ok, but the food still bothered my son. We've just assumed there was some cross-contamination going on, or maybe some trace elements in there somehow. But now it makes sense...

Per the Associated Press, via Fox News:

Starting this week, "gluten-free" labels on packaged foods have real meaning. Until now, the term "gluten-free" had not been regulated, and manufacturers made their own decisions about what it means.
Under a rule announced a year ago, food manufacturers had until Tuesday to ensure that anything labeled gluten-free contains less than 20 parts per million of gluten - ensuring that those products are technically free of wheat, rye and barley. That amount is generally recognized by the medical community to be low enough so that most people who have celiac disease won't get sick if they eat it.
Currently, wheat must be labeled on food packages but barley and rye are often hidden ingredients.
The standard will ensure that companies can't label products "gluten-free" if they are cross-contaminated from other products made in the same manufacturing facility. The rules don't apply to restaurants, but the Food and Drug Administration is encouraging them to comply.
Gluten-free foods have become big business in the last several years. Millions of people are buying the foods because they say they make them feel better, even if they don't have celiac disease.
Steve Hughes, CEO of Boulder Brands, which owns leading gluten-free food companies Glutino and Udi's, says his company's products all have 10 parts per million of gluten, less than the new standard. He praises the FDA regulations for being a "stake in the ground" that can increase the integrity of the gluten-free market.

So gluten-free now means gluten-free - Thanks, FDA! (and what took you so long?!)

On a side note: the article (and the FDA) puts a big focus on celiac disease, but there is also a large percentage of the autism population whose bodies don't do well with gluten, and I've met many people without any diagnoses at all who have gone gluten-free and say they feel better because of it.

Anyway, today is a win for those counting on the manufacturers' labels being accurate - and for truth in advertising in general..!

-Chris Butterworth


the details make the difference

Last week we spent some vacation time at the beach in San Diego; it's a trip my family takes most summers. Normally we stay within walking distance to the beach. This year, however, we planned a little late and ended up in a hotel about a mile away from the ocean. No problem, I thought - we'll just load the car up with all our gear in the morning, get a good parking spot, and set up camp on the beach for the day. Plus we're saving about $50-$75 per night (I rationalized.)

Except, in the process of loading a bunch of gear (and tired people) at the end of the day, I left 2 wetsuits laying on the rocks next to the car. $60 in rental wetsuits later, and with $400 in replacements waiting for me on Christmas lists, my failure to attend to details looks expensive.

Some things only need to be "good enough", like when I'm mowing/cleaning the yard on a summer day, knowing full well we'll have another monsoon in the next day or two to mess everything up again. At that point, I'm not looking for perfection - I just want the yard to look well-maintained... Good enough.

However, when success is really important, or when the task requires great effort, the details make the difference.

When you're trying to lose weight, it doesn't help to pay attention to your main meals if you spend the afternoon snacking on handfuls of this and that. The few hundred extra calories you're eating could easily be the difference between gaining weight and losing weight, even though you've put so much effort into shopping and preparing good meals.

When you're trying to save money or live within a tight budget, the few dollars spent here and there without being tracked - a coffee here or a beer there - could be the difference between ending the month in the red or in the black.

Of course the big picture matters too. But once you get the big picture right, you're not going to be successful without paying attention to the little things - the details make the difference.

-Chris Butterworth


South Kaibab Trail at the Grand Canyon

I have been wanting to hike the Grand Canyon for a long time, but when we took a family sight-seeing trip there this spring break it became less "I want to" and more "I'm going to". Well, last weekend I did it - my brother and I hiked down, and then back up, the South Kaibab Trail, in the same day. It was an awesome experience. Some thoughts below, in no particular order:
  • The vastness and the beauty of the Grand Canyon is un-explainable. Pictures don't do it justice - it's one of those things that you need to see with your own eyes.
  • It was 38 degrees at the south rim at 4:45 am, and over 100 degrees at the bottom (the high at Phantom Ranch was 106 that afternoon). That's a huge temperature swing - if I do this hike again next year it'll be in May or even April.
  • The hike has 4 different sections - Rim to Cedar Ridge; Cedar Ridge to Skeleton Point; Skeleton Point to Junction / Tip-Off; and Tip-Off to Bridge / Canyon Floor. Each section is similar to hiking Camelback Mountain or Squaw Peak in Phoenix.
  • The trail is well-maintained, so the hike isn't technically difficult, but it is a long, long, steep, staircase-type of climb. Did I mention it was long? Going down, on the other hand, was surprisingly easy; we got to the bottom without exerting too much energy.
  • The approach to the canyon is unlike any other climb you'll do. There isn't any anticipation factor from seeing the mountain in the distance, which keeps getting bigger as you get closer. With the Grand Canyon, you're driving across a desert plateau, and then suddenly the earth simply ends - and you're there.
  • The sense of accomplishment is more pronounced then most other hikes as well, because you can see the trail below you (and where you just were not too long ago) very clearly. It's amazing how fast you ascend, yet also how long it takes.
  • As for training, I did a lot of trail running, for 60-90 minutes at a time, on and around the local mountains and preserves. Next year I will incorporate the revolving staircase in the gym into my training as well.


South Kaibab Trailhead, 5:10am

South Rim at dawn. (the smoke in the canyon is from a wildfire burning on the North Rim.)

An eagle soars over the canyon at sunrise

Early in the hike. (I can tell because we still look fresh and clean!)

After crossing the black suspension bridge

Cooling off in the Colorado River. (the water was very cold!)

Finished! The ice-cold Coke and turkey sandwich waiting for me at the car never tasted so good.

If you've never been to the Grand Canyon, go. It's a must see. And even if you're not up for hiking down to the bottom (and back up), it's worth the effort to hike down 30 minutes or so - the views are spectacular.

-Chris Butterworth


youth soccer tryouts and placements

It's that time of year again...

For the families of kids who play competitive soccer, this is one of the most stressful weeks of the year (at least here in AZ). Our little Peles or Mia Hamms have gone through tryouts, and now we're waiting the results, with far more questions than answers:
  • What team will my son play on? Did he make the "A" team, or will he get relegated to the "B" team?
  • How about his friends from last year's team - where will they end up?
  • Who will be coaching this year?

Then, as word starts getting out and parents start talking to each other, the gossip really flies:
  • Did you hear about that family we all really like - they won't be on our team next year.
  • I heard that family nobody likes might be on our team this year.
  • So and so told me about what's his name who is moving to a different club this year - good for them. I hope they find a better situation.
  • Gabby Gossip told me we're getting a player from that other club, and he was asked to leave that club because his parents yelled at the coach.
  • There's another family moving clubs - bunch of idiots think the grass is going to be greener over there?!

On one hand, this is completely ridiculous. The kids care about who's on their team and who their coach is, sure. But really they just want to go out and play soccer. The parents, on the other hand, sometimes care a little (or a lot) too much. We can get so over the top about the whole thing that the season becomes un-fun.

I do understand it to a certain extent - you're spending a lot of money for your child to play competitive sports, so it makes sense that you want your child to be on the most competitive team possible. Your family also has at least a little competitive streak, or you wouldn't be here in the first place. So year, I get it - you're competitive and you want what's best for your child. But even so, let's try to keep things in perspective, shall we?

Overall I'm happy with Jason's club and team, and I love watching him play. We're looking forward to a great season come fall...

photo credit: 4DsCreativeSolutions

-Chris Butterworth


facing monsters on the trail

This post could alternatively be titled, "more reasons exercising outside is better."

So this weekend, Easter Sunday morning, I'm running along, minding my own business, when this "little" guy scampered over a couple rocks before eyeing me suspiciously.

chuckwalla lizard in thunderbird conservation park - glendale az

Wow! A Gila Monster?! (The only poisonous reptile in the United States!) Seeing him move that fast was enough to make me jump to the side of the trail (and out of my skin a little bit!) But I've never heard of a gila monster with solid markings, so I had to look him up later..

Turns out he's a Chuckwalla - a big lizard none-the-less, but completely harmless to humans.

Oh well, that was still pretty cool. Here's a picture zoomed out, so you can see the scale/size more clearly:

chuckwalla lizard in thunderbird conservation park - glendale az

Then it was back to the trail.

I ran Thunderbird Conservation Park, in what turned out to be my longest mountain-trail run ever. (not long by most runners' standards, but it was my PR.) I parked by the amphitheater and started east along the Coach Whip trail (which runs along 59th Ave), then I crossed the bridge and jogged up H2 (Arrowhead Point). After descending H2, I crossed back over the bridge and ran the H3 Summit (Cholla Loop), which took me around the mountain and brought me back to my car.

The views from both peaks are outstanding - panoramic views of the Valley. Either trail makes for a worthwhile hike (or run), but doing them on the same trek felt great.

Thunderbird Park - H2 Peak taken from H3 Peak
a view of Arrowhead Point and the H2 trail, taken from the top of the H3 Summit.

Arrowhead, Glendale, and Phoenix, all the way to the Estrella Mountains, from the top of H3 Summit.

When it was all said and done, I spent an hour and change enjoying the blue skies and warm sun. I saw a chuckwalla up close, soaked in some terrific views, met a few other hikers and runners (and a mountain biker), and felt good about what I had done.

My RunKeeper app says I climbed 1,159 vertical feet over the course of 4.79 miles, at an average pace of 13:55 per mile. (that includes stopping to take pictures and chat a little bit.) Overall, that was a great trail run - one I expect I'll come back to many more times.

What's the coolest &/or scariest thing you've ever encountered while out in nature?

-Chris Butterworth


how to be a friend to somebody with autism

April is Autism Awareness Month, so let's talk a little autism.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) now estimates that as many as 1 in 50 children being born in the United States today will be diagnosed on the autism spectrum. 1 out of every 50. That means you probably know somebody with autism. It means your kids most likely have a classmate with autism. It means autism is becoming more routine.

Unfortunately, it doesn't mean those with autism are being treated well. Or even that it's easy to make friends with them. But we, as a whole, need to do better; we need to try harder. And part of that comes from knowledge, understanding, and awareness.

Angela Haupt wrote an article for US News & World Report titled "How to be a Friend to Someone with Autism". It's a good article - definitely worth reading. Her take-aways are highlighted below (with my comments after each bulletpoint):

  • Don't assume he or she doesn't value friendship. He probably does, but making new friends can be a daunting task for someone with autism.
  • Be patient. It might take awhile to develop a relationship - that's ok.
  • Communicate clearly. Slang, nuances, and body language can be hard to understand.
  • Make plans (together). Everybody likes being included and feeling part of a group, autistic or not.
  • Respect sensory differences. Bright lights, loud noises, itchy long sleeve shirts - if they bother them, they bother them. Don't try to downplay it or figure out why - it won't make sense to you, but it's real to them.
  • Don't treat people with autism like a project. Don't pity them, and don't try to change them; just get to know them.
  • Stand up for your autistic friend. Bullying is common for those with autism; having a friend can make a huge difference.

That's a pretty good list. Maybe not all-encompassing, but it's a good place to start.

On a Personal Note

My oldest son has autism, and while he doesn't have a lot of friends, he very much enjoys the friends he has. Here are some pictures from this spring:

Ran into a long-time friend (also with autism) at a play presented for children with special needs.

At the Renaissance Fair with cousins

Sometimes it's just a boy and his dog.

This series is one of my favorites - doing a workout routine with his brother at the park over spring break. "Anything you can do I can do, too."


Thanks for reading.

- Chris Butterworth


finding the right path

There are so many different types of exercise available, how do you know which is the right one?

Weight lifting? Aerobic exercise? Cross training?

Long workouts, where you have to pace yourself? Or shorter, more intense workouts? And what about frequency - is everyday too much? Is once a week enough?

I've always been a jack of all workouts, master of none. I played every sport growing up, and I've cycled through various workouts as an adult. I never found the one that I loved, and I always felt like I was missing out on something when I focused on something else. I was a good short-distance runner when I was younger (I once ran a 5:04 mile when I was 14), but I always hated running.

Earlier this spring I ran a charity 5k race, where I bumped into an old friend. We ended up running together, at a fairly slow pace, and had a great time. I don't remember ever having enjoyed a run quite that much. The whole experience left me wanting more - I wanted to run more, and to enjoy running more - and I think a slower pace was the key.

Once I decided running was a path I wanted to follow, I began building up my mileage. At first I could only run a couple miles at a time, but over the course of the spring I increased it, a little bit each week, until I was able to run 6 miles without too much difficulty. (still at a slow pace, but also still enjoyable.)

The next question was, "Where?" Literally, what path should I run? And then I found it. Imagine waking up to this desert scenery:

Running through the desert preserve north of Loop 101 and east of Cave Creek Rd in Phoenix, at dawn.

The desert ends at a large soccer complex (Reach 11), with beautiful green fields.

My lone footprints across fresh dew on the fields.

Running back through the desert I'm treated to an awesome sunrise.

Yeah, choosing the right path of fitness can be the difference between success and failure. And choosing the right path for your fitness can lead to even more enjoyment.