Sunday, January 30, 2011

CSN Stores - Online Shopping Mecca

There's online shopping, and then there's online shopping on steroids .... aka CSN Stores. You've probably read about CSN Stores on other blogs, and a few months back I did a giveaway on this blog for a CSN Stores gift certificate. Apparently I didn't scare them away the first time, so we're teaming up again. This time, however, I'll be ordering something for myself (or more likely for Mrs. Evolving), and posting a review of the product and the whole shopping experience. Hopefully I can manage to not get injured in the process of ordering or using the mystery product, but the betting odds point to me headed back to physical therapy.
So what is this CSN Stores? CSN Stores is an online conglomeration of over 200 stores/sites offering an incredibly broad range of products. The stores represented include,,, and You can find everything from power tools, to Herman Miller chairs, to great cookware, all from the comfort of your own couch, which you can then replace with a new couch from CSN Stores. The online-shopping circle-of-life if you will.
Like this ... but with credit cards
Speaking of Herman Miller chairs, many years ago a coworker of mine, due to a chronic back condition, was issued a Herman Miller chair. He worked from home on Fridays, so I asked if I could borrow his chair on Fridays. Holy comfy. It was like work was giving my butt a hug. If one could fashion a chair out of clouds and sunshine it would have a Herman Miller label on it. Sadly, the other four days of the week I had to return to my chair made from thorn-bushes and broken dreams, only to count the hours until sweet Friday came around again.

Using the ‘Search’ feature on CSN Stores is a sight to behold. Search on ‘cooking’ and you’ll be met with 6,391 items. Perhaps you’ll be interested in a cookware set, or a new set of knives, or something both functional and sensible. Not me. I’m picturing this guy hooked up to the back of my truck with enough burgers and brats to fill Lambeau

I’d be dreaming up reasons to tailgate. Jury duty …. Fire up the tailgate grill. Parent-teacher conference …. Bubba Burgers for everyone. Sunday morning mass … never good to pray on an empty stomach. The possibilities are endless.

Perhaps you find yourself dealing with an injury or two. A search on ‘physical therapy’ returns 3,262 results. Most of my therapy sessions consist of painful stretching, followed by painful strength exercises, followed by some part of my body being subjected to electrical current. However, per my CSN search, apparently this falls into the category of Physical Therapy as well.
At least now I have a goal behind my assorted breakdowns. One day they’ll take me to the room where this thing lives, and it will be glorious.

What item will I choose for my review? Not entirely sure. Maybe something running related, or maybe something cooking related. There are almost too many possibilities. Maybe I’ll get something to help with my impending return to the world of Yoga. A search of ‘Yoga’ returns a bountiful 365 items. I’m a bit intrigued by these:
I haven’t read the description or the reviews, but clearly they allow you to do yoga on the wall, or suspended from the ceiling. Imma be getting my Namaste on Spiderman-style.

Check out CSN Stores the next time you find yourself doing some cyber-shopping. You’ll be amazed at what you can find.

Disclosure: I was asked by CSN Stores to include the hyperlink to the “Herman Miller” keyword as part of their promotion, in return for a CSN credit that I will use to order and then review a product. My lust for Herman Miller chairs is genuine, as is the fact that they are way out of my price range. Butt comfort is cruel that way. Anybody that subjects themselves to my blog on a regular basis knows that customer service is a BIG DEAL to me, so I’ll pass along my ongoing experience with CSN Stores without bias based not only on the product, but the overall shopping experience.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Chai Tea and Tai Chi

Serenity now.

2011 has gotten off to a stressful start for a variety of reasons, and my hip issues have left me largely without my main personal recalibration tool, running.  Actually, injuries continue to add to the overall fog of stress that permeates my personal landscape these days.  I was hopeful that some time off during the holidays would cause the stresses to pack their bags and head for warmer climates, but instead they seem to have quietly rehearsed and choreographed their efforts, and met me with a Youtube-caliber stress flash-mob to start the new year.  Time to fight back.  Get busy living, or get busy dying.

Chai Tea is something I’ve discovered in the past couple years, and it seems to have a stress-relieving effect on me.  Not in a cheesy ‘International Coffee Moment’ kind of way, but more in a ‘forcing me to hit pause on my day for a couple minutes’ way.  Even just a couple minutes of processing can make a world of difference in my personal and professional effectiveness.  BIG fan of the Big Train brand Chai Tea, which I order from Amazon in the ‘Rodeo Clown Drum’ size container and keep in my office at work.  I’ve never been a fan of hot drinks, so I was thoroughly surprised to find I like this stuff.  Worth a try if you’re not a coffee drinker, which I am not.  Juan Valdez and I have just never really hit it off.

I’ve never tried Tai Chi, but I thought it fit today’s motto and made for a catchy title.  I have, however, tried Yoga, and I’m planning to give it another shot.  I had added yoga to my routine as part of training for my last marathon, since I am brutally lacking in flexibility and thought it might help ward off injuries.  Ironically, just when I was getting going with it, I had to stop because of the Plantar Fasciitis in both of my feet that was badly agitated by the calf stretching inherent in yoga.  The PF hasn’t really gone away, but I think it’s minimized enough now to give yoga another shot.  I’m going to ease into this slowly, to see how my hip responds, and hopefully make this a significant part of my routine while I’m not training for a specific race, and figure out how to make this a x-training activity when I do start actively training again.

I'm confident that one day I too will be able to bend over and touch my waist.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Running - Present Tense

Saturday.  Stretched like it was my job, threw on some serious layers, brushed the cobwebs off the Garmin, and went for a run.  No big deal to some, but this was my first run since the Outer Banks Marathon on 11/14.  Big deal for me.

Started off stepping gingerly and cautiously, but by the end it was all coming back to me.  The start of the long road to race-ready.

This was a test-drive run for numerous reasons.  First try running on my right knee since the knee-brace/tourniquet episode at the marathon.  First try running on my right hip since it started complaining all the time.  First try for the new iPod.  First try after some minor surgery over the holidays.  Generally speaking I was encouraged by the run.  My knee felt a little off, but I know I need to do a lot of strength work on my knee and plan to step up the lower-body weights until the end of February.  My hip was definitely tight and sore, but no sharp pain, and it felt like it was loosening up around the time I finished.  I only went 2.5 miles, which was probably a little longer than I should have gone, but it really felt good to be back outside running again.

Sticking to my plan to focus on weight-training and cross-training until the end of February, and then start running more regularly.  I'll probably shoot for 3 short runs a week until March, but won't push the timetable until I feel like I've done my time in the gym getting the strength up in my hip and knee.  Not training for a race right now, so no need to ramp up the running and risk a setback.

Nice to actually write about running again.  Healing and dealing.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Didn't See That Coming

Third PT session this morning for my wonky hip, and since I've still got some soreness and tightness I figured it would be the usual routine, add some more stretches and strength moves to the routine, and go back again in about a week.  Wrong.

Measured my progress in flexibility and strength (both were pretty good), did 10 min on the elliptical, ran through some lateral testing on a slide board (a sorry display of lack of coordination, but no pain), did some electrical stim on my hip, and then was asked the fairly innocuous question ... "What would you think of trying some running this weekend?"

My reaction was initially stunned silence, followed by a reaction that I would assume closely resembles asking Charlie Sheen "What would you think of inviting some porn stars to this party?".  Giddyup.

I made sure we were on the same page with the definition of a short run (2-3 miles in this case), and what was acceptable in terms of sore versus pain.  Net result ... tomorrow I will be attempting my first run since this:
Yep - I haven't done any running of any sort since my marathon in November, 2+ months ago.  I had assumed I wouldn't be running again until mid-February at best.  I don't want to get my hopes up, since this might just make my hip mad.  The idea is to step up the activity since I have no sharp pain, and see if the activity resolves some of the lingering soreness/tightness.  Only one way to find out.

Cautiously optimistic.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Under Pressure

Great, great song.  David Bowie and Queen working together to create a masterpiece, only to be sampled and forever soiled by the no talent ass-clown known as Vanilla Ice.  In the interest of full disclosure I do recall dancing to “Ice, Ice Baby” during my college days, perhaps under the influence of an adult beverage or two.  Oh the humanity.

However, the title above is not intended to pay homage to early-80s music.  Rather, it is in reference to the wonders of sports compression, and CEP Compression Socks in particular.  Most everyone, at some point in their life, has suffered an injury calling for the tried-and-true treatment regimen of RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation).  My history of sports injuries is unfortunately very lengthy, so I’ve spent a lot of time perfecting the art of RICE.  However, until 2-3 years ago, I hadn’t yet been fully introduced to compression wear.  That would change with my ill-advised unretiring from soccer in early 2009.

Starting from the age of around 7 in sunny California, I spent far too many hours on soccer fields.  I was no Pele, but I was big and very fast, and was a physical defender that quickly learned how to use that big/fast combination to my advantage.  Finesse was definitely not a big part of my game, which unfortunately meant that injuries (to myself and others … but mostly to myself) played a fairly major role.  I appeared destined to play in college, until a traumatic full-speed tumble resulted in a grizzly shoulder dislocation that effectively ended my career in my senior year of High School.  Live by the sword, die by the sword.

Fast forward approximately 20 years, and I agreed to help a neighbor’s indoor men’s team fill a roster spot in a local league for one night.  I hadn’t participated in an organized sport since that fateful day in High School, but like Sugar Ray Leonard, Michal Jordan, and Brett Favre (minus the sexual harassment and questionable photography/emailing habits) I would rise from the ashes of retirement to reclaim my onfield glory.  Cutting to the chase, midway through the second half I pull my hamstring and go gently back into that good night of retirement.  Within a couple days, however, I’m itching to get back to my regular running routine.  The answer?  Compression shorts.  They worked wonders keeping my muscles warm and keeping the soreness to a minimum, and within about a week I was back running mostly pain-free again, and was hooked as a firm believer in the wonders of sports compression wear.

I’ve worn compression shorts on pretty much every run since the hamstring pull, and I feel a bit naked running without them.  About a month into training for my first marathon, I strained my left calf.  In addition to The Stick, Biofreeze, Foam Rollers, etc., I once again turned to the world of compression wear to get me back running again.  This time it was calf compression sleeves by 2XU, which I wore every day during the rest of the marathon training, and wore during the race:
Training for my second marathon was all about being open-minded and trying new things to train better and hopefully stay injury-free.  This also was the time I started this blog, and started following an abundance of running blogs.  After reading dozens of positive reviews of compression socks, and seeing more and more people wearing them while out on my training runs, I thought I’d better jump on the train and see what all the fuss was about.  Thanks to the good people at, I was able to test drive a pair of CEP Run & Recover Compression Socks during the later stages of my training.  I was left wishing I had gotten my hands on these much, much sooner.  Two BIG thumbs up.
Rather than attempt to create the illusion that I have some personal scientific insight into the benefits of sports compression, I give you the following cut-and-paste from

Compression can and will
  • reduce muscle vibration and micro trauma to muscle tissues
  • hold any ligaments and joint in line for improved efficiency
  • bring more oxygen and nutrients to any injured area
  • flush out lactic acid and waste in the blood stream
  • keep out swelling in any joint
  • help increase joint stability
  • reduce over-pronation when running
  • Dramatically reduce your risk of blood clots from traveling
Injuries compression is key in helping with:
  1. Achilles injury
  2. Shin Splints
  3. Calf Cramps
  4. Plantar Fasciitis
  5. Ankle swelling
  6. Torn muscles
  7. Varicose Veins
  8. Blood Clots
  9. Ankle injuries
  10. Fatigue
I only had one opportunity to wear the socks during a run, which was a short 5-mile outing, but they performed well and felt good during the run.  The main use I got from these was after my last half-dozen or so long runs, after a ‘refreshing’ ice-bath, I’d put these on my legs and head for the couch for some well-earned recovery time.  I’d wear them for a couple hours until my legs regained feeling from the ice-bath (yes, I’m resisting the urge for a lame “Ice, Ice baby” pun), take a quick shower, then put these back on for another 2-4 hours while going through my usual weekend routine.  These feel great on your calves and ankles, but the biggest added bonus for me was serious compression on my feet, which provided huge relief for the Plantar Fasciitis I had (and still have to some extent) in both of my feet.  Compression from toe to knee really feels great after a long run, and really cut down on soreness the following day.  I had none of the calf issues/strains from my first marathon training during my second training plan, and I think the socks helped make this happen.

Finally, after I finished the second marathon I put these guys on for the ~4-hour ride home, and was pleasantly surprised that I had little discomfort on the ride, and had no issues with cramping in my lower legs.  My quads were an entirely different story, but the socks couldn’t do anything about them.  Damn quads.

These CEP socks are very well made, and don’t seem to have lost any of their compression strength since the first time I wore them.  They are made by medi, which is the leading manufacturer of medical compression items, so they come with a wealth of knowledge and research behind their products.  Added bonus … they’re based right here in my home state of North Carolina.  That really has no bearing on how well they work, but I like to see Tarheels making quality products and helping us runners make it to the starting line and the finish line.

Basically, these socks really feel great, and I truly think they help me, which can be just as important as any medical/technical research into their measurable impact.  My new friends at, who were kind enough to provide me these socks for evaluation, have also been kind enough to pass along a code for a 15% discount to anybody placing an order on  Just use the code BLOG15 when placing an order to receive the discount.  There’s a link to the site on my blog sidebar as well.  Check out the all the compression products they offer and get yourself some pressure today.  Your legs will thank you.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Bad-Ass, and Not in the Good Way

Interesting feedback from my last post about my posterior pain from Piriformis Syndrome.  Apparently I’m one of the few runners who haven’t either dealt with this in the past, or aren’t currently dealing with some form of this issue.  It’s the Voldemort of the running world.  The injury-that-shall-not-be-named.  I’m now part of the secret society.  I even learned the secret ass-shake.
Had my first PT session yesterday to try to get the buns working again.  The therapist said it doesn’t present itself as decidedly as some cases of Piriformis he’s seen, but I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing.  God forbid I ever came up with an easy to diagnose and easy to correct ailment.  Hip strength on my right side was decidedly less than my left side, which is not surprising based on my issues.  Did a little electrical stim, and went through a series of stretches I’ll be doing 2x daily for a week, at which time I’ll do another PT session and hopefully add some strengthening to the stretching.  I got his blessing to do some low-impact work at the gym (bike, elliptical, etc.) as long as it’s not hurting, so I’m going to drag my sedentary self to the gym this weekend and test out the leg.  Hopefully the gym is still there. It’s been a long time.

Assuming I get my assorted ailments sorted out, I’m debating what to do over the next few months when I’m not marathon training.  I’ll pick back up with heavier weightlifting, which I tend to greatly reduce during a training cycle, especially in the last 2 months of the cycle.  Having lifted pretty regularly for about 25 years, with some periods of pseudo-bodybuilding, I can put on muscle pretty quickly, which adds to the general unhappiness of my legs when I’m training and they have to haul around the extra weight.  At the very least I’ll focus on more core and lower-body weight training, to try and get some balance back between the major leg muscles.  Glutes and quads are way behind the hamstrings these days is terms of strength.  I’m giving P90X some pretty serious thought, but I’ve heard from several people how brutal it is, so I’ll need to get my legs fairly healed before I dive into that.  Maybe I’ll just find a monastery in the side of a hill and train to be a superhero.  Maybe just become a Ninja.  So many possibilities.

Run swiftly my friends.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New Year - New Pain in the Arse

Literally.  New pain in the ass.
Why no new posts about running in so long?  Can’t post about it if you’re not doing it.  My two main goals in my second marathon were to go under 4 hours, and not end up back in physical therapy.  One out of two aint bad.

As I progressed in my self-directed therapy to get my knee back in working shape, I was noticing increasing soreness on a daily basis in my right hip.  More accurately, I was having issues with my right butt cheek.  Most accurately, now I not only am a pain in the ass, I have a pain in the ass.

Spent some quality time with my favorite orthopedist today, and it appears I’ve added piriformis syndrome to my collection of running ailments.  A true pain in the ass in more ways than one, and it means I get to spend more quality time with my therapist buddy Jeff trying to get humpty dumpty back together again.  I had considered another Spring marathon this year, but instead I’m going to focus on properly rehabbing my assorted leg issues, cross-training and weight training my legs throughout January and February, easing back gradually into running, and hopefully be back building a mileage base again by March as the weather warms up.  Not going to let it get me down.  I shall return.

Thanks to my ailments I got my lazy on in a big way to close out the year.  One major upside to being out of a training cycle while on holiday vacation is lots and lots of sleep.  It’s a whole different world when you’re well-rested.  I haven’t gotten up before 5AM in nearly 2 months, and I’m not complaining.

In a strange twist of fate I managed to win the fantasy football title in my rookie season.  I don’t think the rest of the folks in the league are very amused by this, since this is their 11th year as a league.  Apparently I earned some cosmic karma points by dragging my liquor-logged self out for my running workout the morning after the draft/drink/drunk day back in September.  I owe a fair share of the glory to Jeri at JerBear Shares, whose undying confidence in Greg Jennings and the Green Bay Packers convinced me not to trade him after a rough start to the season, and he was a stud down the stretch.  Another plus for the running blog world – fantasy football mojo.

I’ve been badly out of the loop in the blog world, not just in terms of posting but in terms of following.  Non-cyber life got a little too hectic as the year came to a close, but I’m looking forward to catching up on my virtual friends.  Planning to live vicariously through the Spring marathoners, and try to get out and spectate/volunteer at a couple of the Spring races.

Run swiftly my friends.