Thursday, July 31, 2014

Shin Splints and You: What You can do about these Pests

When I run, I tend to get the dreaded, god-awful lower-leg pain that plagues many runners, newbies and experienced alike. You know what I mean: Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome, or as normal non-medical people call it, shin splints.

Though I do have all kinds of running goals as part of being healthy (races, etc.), you will likely never hear me say I like/love running. I love the power I gain from it (getting faster, gaining endurance, etc.) and the physical benefit of helping me lose weight, but the running itself-meh. I'm sure there are many people who feel the same. This feeling only gets compacted when the elation of your hard-won victory (time or distance) is short-lived because it is followed by pain. Would I like running better if I didn't get shin splints? Maybe, maybe not.

But since it is ultimately part of my long-term goals (to run a marathon someday), and I want to do well at it even if I don't love it, I decided to do some research on ways to help shin splints. It turns out, my instincts were correct, and there a few basic moves you can do to help them (which I already do, so I will need to remember to include them more often). I will get to these in a minute, but first let's talk about shin splints themselves.

What are Shin Splints?
Most simply, shin splints are pain in the front lower leg during or after activities such as running, dancing, etc. It can be towards the sides or straight down below the knee cap. In my experience, it also sometimes includes my ankles becoming tight. Different people experience different things.

What Causes Shin Splints?
Mayo Clinic's very brief description states: "Shin splints are caused by repetitive stress on the shinbone and the connective tissues that attach your muscles to the bone." A more complete description can be found on this site, but the basic gist is that stress and pressure on your bones can cause them.

How can you help Shin Splits?
And finally, what you may have come here for: How can you take care of these irritating things? There are several ways you can help treat/prevent further shin splints. A quick internet search will show you dozens and dozens of different exercises and tricks you can use, but here are some of the most common ones:

-Stretch: It is common knowledge that stretching promotes flexibility and can help alleviate pain in muscles because it expands muscles that have been contracted by exercise. It is hotly debated and highly studied if you should stretch before or after exercise, so I'll leave that to your trainer or doctor to make recommendations for you, but the consensus is that stretching is good for you. You should be doing this even if you don't have shin splints. 

-Toe-Taps are a good way to exercise your shins to strengthen them. (I call them toe-taps, you may call them shin raises.) I find it easier to do them when seated on the edge of a chair, but you can also do them standing.  With feet flat on floor, lift toes toward legs until you feel it in your shin area, and return to flat. Think about the inverse of a calf raise. Instead of raising heels, you will raise toes.  Here is a visual--this is not my image so I don't control if it will always be there. How many times you do this depends on you and your abilities.

-Ankle Circles can help loosen and strengthen your ankles. Make sure to rotate in both directions to get the full benefit. Again, how many times you do this depends on you and your abilities. If you need extra challenge, you could always add in ankle weights. 

-Strengthen Your Calves: There is a lot of information about strengthening calves and shin splints to be found. Here is a great article that covers it better than I can condense it or explain it. 

-Rest: When experiencing symptoms, make sure to rest up. Use ice, elevation, and heat in a combination that helps you. 

-Make sure you have proper gear. What proper gear is, is relative to the individual, and it may take some experimenting to find it. At the very least, you should have well-fitting shoes that give you support where you need it most-which also varies by individual. Some people also use things like braces or wraps to help
-Change your stride/gait or form. This is a last resort option, if all else fails to work. That being said,  it is CRUCIALLY IMPORTANT that you do not attempt this on your own, and instead consult with a medical professional such as a Physical Therapist. That point cannot be emphasized enough. If you have tried everything else and still have problems, there may be something entirely different than shin splints going on. Consult with your Medical Professional to rule anything else out and/or to work on changing gait or "strike pattern" (the position your foot is in when it hits the ground).

Above all else, Listen to your Body. While a lot of pain while working out can be psychological (mind over body), only you know how much pain you can tolerate and if something doesn't feel right. Listen to those clues that your body gives you--pain included--to know what's going on and if you should do something about it.

I hope these tips help. If you have one that isn't listed, please feel free to share it in the comments!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Starting/Current Numbers

As promised in my first post, here are all the numbers that I am starting from, or are at currently. I will periodically update as things change, but for certain things, I don't expect them to change very rapidly. So maybe the updates will be infrequent for things like growing 401K, etc., but I will always be as complete as possible.   As of today, 07/29/2014, this is where I am at:

Predictable Income: ~21,000/year (Income from day job which doesn't include OT or anything from side/personal projects that I may do), or ~42,000/year if you include husband's income. (We work at the same place, and make the same.)

Checking: ~600ish-- I don't actually expect this to change that drastically because of the way savings accounts are set up and the cyclical nature of getting paid and money going to bills. But you never know...

Savings: ~1800--I actually have 3 accounts for savings, or rather, one account and 2 sub accounts. Though, this number reflects the total of all of them because since they are tied, if a big emergency happens, I could easily transfer funds to use. But let's just hope that doesn't happen.  I have one for "Life's Hassles" or the emergency fund, one for "Down Payment" and one for "Fun/Vacation Money".

Why so many? I believe, and I think many would agree,  that it's important to have REASONS that you are saving to help keep on track. It's easier to say "I am saving for Ireland" or "This will buy my house someday" than to just vaguely say "I need to save." So, if you find yourself struggling to save money, that's my first suggestion: Besides saving for a rainy day, sit down and decide/define WHY you want to save, or what you're saving for. You may just find that this step naturally makes you more conscious of your spending and saving habits, and helps you add to your savings.

401K Plan: My plan account says ~400, but it takes a while to register contributions, and my paystub says ~500, so we'll go with that./ Husband's is ~230. (We both just opened them this year, and he started after me.) We both contribute 10% each check, and receive 4% match from our employer.

Debt: Aside from my car payments (of which I should be rid of in about 7 months), and perhaps a less than $200 cell phone bill that I forgot to pay when I cancelled my previous service (which will be taken care of in the next month or so), neither I nor my husband carry any substantial debt-a fact that I am proud of, especially since at one point after having some hard times after our move between states, we were paying off a maxed out credit card of $1500. Thankfully, that hasn't been the case in about a year or more. So, for the purposes of this blog,  I say I am debt free. Hooray!

Total "Net Worth":  About $3130 between all combined accounts. So, I am a long way from a millionaire. But that's OK--Even Warren Buffett had to start somewhere! 

Current Weight: ~195-196 Pounds. Despite being consistent in working out and eating better, this number has not changed in several weeks. While I have been experimenting with various factors that could be causing it, I do realize that my body is changing and that I am getting stronger and healthier, so I TRY to not focus on the number on the scale too much. I think I will also go back to not weighing in more than once a week-that seems to be a good number as opposed to the 3-4 times a week I do now.

Pictures are always a good way to track, and husband and I had been doing about every 2 weeks for a while, but haven't been consistent in months-So that's one goal I'll be working on, to be more consistent about pictures-especially since the scale can be a trickster, and a good motivator to keep going is to SEE in a side-by-side comparison how things change.

These ones below are about a month old. I will take some more current ones this week.

So now that we know where I am currently at, let's march forward and make some progress!

Is there something you're working on? Where are you starting from/currently at? Leave a comment below and share in the journey. I'd love to hear from you.

Friday, July 25, 2014

About Buff Millionaire

Hi! Welcome to my blog. This is the first entry, so I thought I'd lay my goals out and answer questions that may (or may not) come up soon:

The Buff Millionaire? What? What is that?
Well, that's me. Or, at least... it will be. Two of my goals are to be in exceptional athletic shape, and to be financially independent-or, even better, a millionaire.

Recently, it has become sort of a positive mantra in my life. "I'm going to be a buff millionaire." I say it randomly, in good moods and bad. In good moods, it's a reminder to what my future holds. In bad moods, it sometimes helps me remember the bigger picture or gives me a positive thought to try and replace other negative ones. It doesn't ALWAYS work, but then no one is perfect. More importantly, I have made  it a mantra in my life because I believe that the first step to achieving any goal, is to first declare it and believe that you can.

What do I hope to accomplish with this blog?
Currently, this blog will track my progress as I work toward these goals. I don’t know how often I’ll update, or what the updates will consist of-maybe weigh-ins, things I learn about finance, etc.  It may evolve into something entirely different, but for the time being, it will be a way for me to hold myself accountable, remind me to work on things (hopefully), and will allow me to share progress with anyone who may read.  If you're currently working on your own fitness or finance goals-or anything else for that matter-I'd love to hear from you. It's always great to build community, and share journeys 

Do I have specific goals?
Well, yes and no.

As far as my weight/body goes, my first goal is to get back down to 165-170 pounds, as that is what I weighed roughly 5 years ago before moving in with my now-husband and gained a lot of weight. At my highest, I was 215 pounds, and while it has (thankfully!) been a long time since I've seen that weight, I have been gaining and losing the same several pounds and have been hovering in the same area for a while now. So I decided it's time to break the cycle and get where I need to be. Actually, I decided that a long time ago, and have already been working out regularly lately,  but now I have this blog to track where I am.

So, after I hit the 165-170 goal, this is where the non-specific comes in, I will continue to exercise, but will allow my body to get as small as it's meant to, without a number in mind.  So if I get to be a tiny 110, or 140, or 170, it doesn't matter to me, as long as I am HEALTHY. I feel like I'll know when I've reached my body's natural frame, and then from there can work on perfecting my muscle tone.

For the financial side, Well... it recently entered my mind to be a millionaire by the time I am 40. So that's actually a reasonable goal. That gives me 12 years and a few weeks to accomplish this. A lofty goal, perhaps. But I think it can be done and I will work, work, work to make it happen.

How will I meet these goals?
The most basic answer is the best one, in this case: Continuing to work out on a regular basis, and learning how to invest to grow wealth.

Where am I starting from, or where am I currently?
As far as numbers for weight and finances, I will actually make a whole post dedicated to just that. So be on the look out for that soon.

For education and development to meet the goals, well, I am starting from basically ground level and will learn as I go. Especially about investing.

While I have a background in fitness, and was actually very close to being a trainer (just needed to take the certification test), this was many years ago. I still know a lot, and the most important things, but everyone can use some polishing here and there, including me.

About Money... well, I know a lot of tricks I have employed to save money, and they do help here and there. And one thing I will be doing as soon as possible is to FULLY automate my finances (as opposed to what is now just direct deposit to savings and checking and having bills on auto pay) so that I can have that big win of not worrying about if XYZ will come out before I get paid, or if I have to lose some savings to pay off something else, etc. So this will help clear up funds for investing.

And investing itself? Well, I know basically nothing. After reading a well written book-Ramit Sethi's I Will Teach You To Be Rich, Which I highly recommend as a starting point for anyone who may be confused about all the finance mumbo-jumbo that's out there- I finally understood enough to know how to get mine and my husband's 401Ks set up this year-so that's a great start! I'm learning the rest as I go along through lots of reading and searching. I fully expect I'll stumble and make mistakes here and there along the way-it's all part of the process- but the most important thing is to START, and get better as I go.


So there you go! That's what this blog is all about. Would you like to join me on my adventure? Let's Go!