Flexibility Series for Runners: Part 2

Dynamic Stretching: The Warmup

So in part 1, we talked about the ways that dynamic stretching, foam rolling, and static stretching work together to help improve and maintain your flexibility and prevent injury and when it’s best to do these activities. In part 2, let’s delve further into dynamic stretching. 

Dynamic stretches are designed to get your body ready to move. For running, it’s super helpful to spend a few minutes before a long run doing a few different movements to lengthen muscles and prepare for the work ahead. Of course you will focus mostly on leg muscles, but don’t ignore your core or arms, especially on those double digit runs. 

My basic pre-run routine is as follows: 

  • Leg pendulum swings
    • Front to back
    • Side to side
      • Try to do about 10 of these on each leg.
      • These hit all of your major hip muscles. 
      • You may find it easier to do these if you are holding on to something for balance. I often touch my car or my porch rail, or the arm supports of the treadmill, depending on where I’m running!
Leg pendulum swings front to back
  • Butt kicks
    • These are a great warm-up for your distal quads.
    • Try to do about 10 on each leg.
Butt kicks

If I’m running about 10k or less, I stop here. But for double digit runs, I also add these:

  • Trunk rotations
    • With arms out to your side, simply rotate side to side to warm up your core. Do 10-20 of these. It’s really amazing how much you use these muscles while running!
Trunk rotations
  • Arm swings
    • Simply swing your arms front to back, letting them choose a natural path. Do 10-20 of these. I think I get just as fatigued in my arms and shoulders as I do in my legs during double digit runs, so I definitely do these before!
Arm swings
  • This is also the time to do some short static stretches, 30 seconds or less, to focus on some areas that may typically cause discomfort on a run. 
    • Have you had calf or ankle pain? Do a few calf stretches. 
    • Have a grumpy set of hamstrings? Do a standing hamstring stretch. 
    • IT band acting up? Do a standing stretch to focus on this area. 
    • I’ll have more about these in my final article in the series. 

Corral dynamic stretches

If you are stuck in a corral and have limited space before a race, you can do these: 

  • low squat, gently wiggling side to side for about 30 seconds at a time. 
  • Butt kicks are also doable in a small space.
  • Lunges, maybe modified for space, may also be possible, both forward and lateral. 

Keep in mind that there are additional recommended dynamic stretches for speed/track work, which is a more specific workout. 

In addition to these simple stretches, it’s important on the long run especially to not start out too fast, using the first couple of miles to ease into the work ahead. 

On your next run, try some dynamic stretches first, and see if your run is more comfortable!

More in my Flexibility Series for Runners:

Part 1

Part 3

Part 4

Do you take the time to do dynamic stretches before your runs? What are some of your favorites? I’d love to hear about it! As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.

*I offer this advice as a courtesy, and bear no responsibility for injuries incurred if you take my advice. Please consult your doctor if injured.*

The Hop Craft Pizza and Beer: Vegan Restaurant Review

When I went vegan in 2017, one of the things I missed most was pizza. I simply couldn’t find a vegan one that really stacked up to their non-vegan counterparts. It was easier just to not eat pizza. (I know. Sad, right?) That is, until I discovered Hop Craft RVA, which has quickly become a family favorite. They are vegan friendly, but have options for everyone. This is very necessary in my multi diet household. 

The My Vegan Girlfriend pizza

My first trip there was with my daughter a couple of years ago. I can’t remember how I heard about the restaurant, but we had been museum hopping, and a Google search for vegan friendly restaurants reminded me that I’d wanted to try it. I was so excited to have not just one choice, but multiple menu options! 

We loved our meals so much, we brought home pizza to go for the rest of the family. The next time my husband was up for a dining adventure, he was like, “Hey, what’s that pizza and beer place you got that pizza from last time? Let’s go there!” Clearly, I created another fan. 

Speaking of beer, in addition to great pizza, they have a variety of adult beverages on tap. Selection rotates, but they typically have at least one cider in the mix, which is my personal favorite. Don’t see anything you like? You can purchase a cold 6 pack from their fridge or a bottle of wine. Lots of variety. 

The Pickleback pizza

I’ve had a few of their pizzas now, but my default is the vegan Pickleback. There’s something hilarious about eating a pizza whose name is inspired by the band everyone loves to hate. But with Unmoo vegan cheese, soy chorizo, pickles, a kick ass red sauce, and the best crust ever, there’s nothing to hate about this pizza. Even my omnivorous younger daughter thinks this one is delicious. The rest of my family is equally happy with the non-vegan options. 

Closeup of the Pickleback! Look at all that melty Unmoo cheese!

What’s even better is that they have Unmoo Vegan Slice night every Thursday with a rotating variety of vegan options. One day, I will make it to one of these! If you’ve never had Unmoo cheese, you should. It’s a cashew based vegan cheese that melts like dairy mozzarella, and it’s made locally in the RVA. It really makes the pizza. A Thursday visit supports two locally owned businesses at once! 

An example of their selections for Unmoo Slice night! Graphic courtesy of The Hop.

The Hop also participates in Vegan Food Week every year in Richmond. Last time, they did a vegan lasagna special, which I missed. I really hope they bring this back!

Logistics notes: even though The Hop is on Cary Street in the heart of the fan/VCU area, they do have parking. They also have a few indoor tables and a large outdoor dining area. 

I’m ecstatic that we found a restaurant that makes everyone in my family super happy! If it’s been a while since you’ve had pizza as a vegan, go get one of their vegan pies with unmoo cheese. I swear, it will make you cry, it’s so good. 

Want to learn more? Visit their website and/or follow The Hop on Instagram @hopcraftrva to see what’s new! If you live in the Richmond area, have you ever dined here? I’d love to hear about your experience! If you haven’t, you should go! As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy. 

Flexibility Series for Runners: Part 1

Static vs. Dynamic Stretching vs. Foam Rolling: The Great Debate of Sports

As many of us prepare for fall running race season, I wanted to visit this topic to educate my team! This is part one: the why. I love to geek out on the science of things! If you understand it better, you can make better choices. 

The debate over which is best has been researched fairly extensively, and the answer to this question is still highly variable. Personally, I think all fill their purpose, and which you choose and when is largely dependent upon your sport or activity.

Recent research has shown that static stretching before activities can actually decrease your power. Does this make dynamic stretching the answer? Still other scientists swear off stretching altogether, which is advice that hurts my very soul as a physical therapist! 

There are some sports that require extreme flexibility, like gymnastics, that require tremendous flexibility to perform as expected. In this sport, a dynamic warmup like running laps around the mat precedes a prolonged static stretching session to prepare your body for the workout ahead. This formula has remained relatively unchanged since I was a gymnast in the 80’s. 

Speaking of the 80’s, do you remember all of the fitness videos with bouncing stretches? That’s as out of fashion as the leos and tights worn in the videos! We have these mechanoreceptors in our muscles called Golgi tendon organs (GTO’s) that sense stretch. They are not as quick at detecting extreme stretch as you might achieve with a bounce, so it makes it easy to go too far into a stretch when we do so, potentially leading to injury. Just don’t do it! However, GTO’s are also hypothesized to send signals to our central nervous system to encourage our muscles to relax when foam rolling, potentially helping to improve our flexibility as we are breaking up adhesions. 

So, what is best for running? 

Personally, I like to do a few dynamic stretches prior to setting out for a run. This gets my muscles warm and ready to move. I save the majority of my static stretching for after my run. Stretching is important for improving and maintaining your flexibility. This works well in conjunction with foam rolling, which is meant to help break adhesions between the fascia and your muscles, allowing further improvements in your flexibility. Some PT’s recommend foam rolling before your static stretching for this reason.

But what does the science say? 

Static stretching and power:

For power sports such as sprinting, jumping, etc, static stretching prior to the activity can significantly impair your performance. However, further studies have noted that there is no significant decrease in power with shorter static stretches of less than 45 seconds. I interpret this study as it pertains to recreational runners, especially marathon training, that short static stretches integrated into a dynamic warmup prior to a run are likely just fine and can improve your comfort during a run, especially if you have areas that tend to complain consistently. 

Dynamic stretching and running:

A recent study suggests that a short, dynamic stretching routine focusing on all the major lower extremity muscles prior to a run can actually boost performance for endurance runners. Of course, this study was conducted with all male subjects, but does seem to support the notion that dynamic stretching is beneficial. 

Foam rolling:

Although we know foam rolling feels good, does it actually improve performance and flexibility? A meta analysis study seems to prove so. How it works is still largely hypothesized, but foam rolling is believed to help break up adhesions between the fascia and muscle while also encouraging trigger point release. It’s generally advised to roll prior to stretching, as breaking up any adhesions will help the muscles mobilize and stretch more effectively. 

A variety of rollers in my arsenal of tools. I have foam, stick, and foot rollers, and this is only part of my collection!

In summary, the research says:

  • Dynamic stretching before your run is best, with some short static stretches (about 30 seconds) on targeted areas that tend to bother you while running as needed.
  • After your run, foam rolling first will help break up any adhesions prior to stretching.
  • After foam rolling, static stretching will help improve your overall flexibility. 

Obviously, after big group runs, you may not always have your foam roller available to recover in the “right” sequence, but maybe try to incorporate this into your recovery after cross training workouts or later in the day. You may also find a stick roller more portable for these instances when it may not be convenient to get on the ground and foam roll!

Now we know the science behind the why. I will follow up this post with the “hows” of dynamic stretching, foam rolling, and my favorite static stretches!

More in my Flexibility Series for Runners:

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Do you stretch when you exercise? I always say it’s my favorite part of my workout, although I’m admittedly not always the best at practicing what I preach! I vow to get better at this. As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy. 

*I offer this advice as a courtesy, and bear no responsibility for injuries incurred if you take my advice. Please consult your doctor if injured.*

Ukrop’s Monument 10k 2021: Race Recap!

Once again, Sports Backers has managed to pivot a traditional race due to the pandemic and turn it into something awesome. Normally held in downtown Richmond, starting and ending in Monroe Park adjacent to the VCU campus in late March/early April, this year’s race was delayed a bit. That’s OK, though, because it coincided nicely with the start of marathon training!

Our team, the Pink Nation, met on one of the two courses at Dorey Park on Sunday, and many of us ran the 10k race together. Sports Backers also had another official race course in Byrd Park, and since the courses were open for 4 days, you could take on the challenge of running both, earning you both an extra, special medal, and your own container of Ukrop’s famous rainbow cookies. (Unfortunately, not vegan.) I’m regretting not taking part in the challenge! 

Ukrop’s Rainbow Cookies!

Speaking of rainbow cookies, Sports Backers commissioned RVA Coffee Stain artist Doug Orleski to design the medal and shirt this year, inspired by the famous cookie itself. My kids, now teenagers, still remember getting a free rainbow cookie whenever we shopped at Ukrop’s

Really love both the shirt and the RVA cookie sticker!
The medal. Photo courtesy of Sports Backers.

The Ukrop’s Monument 10k is as much a Richmond tradition as the rainbow cookie, usually with over 25,000 participants. It’s one of the most popular 10k races in the nation. There are training teams in conjunction with the metro Richmond YMCA locations, which is how many area runners first experience the benefits of organized group runs in the RVA. I’ve had the pleasure of both participating in and coaching with the 10k training team! This race is known as a gateway experience to tackling more significant distances, and I am certainly a product of this phenomenon!

With teammate Maria after the race.

Sunday’s run was hot, but not impossible. I got to run with my fellow teammate, Maria, and catch up with her about her year off from serious running for a number of reasons, including, like many of us, the pandemic. My second official “race” on the Virginia Capital Trail, it certainly helped to be familiar with the terrain. The trail is definitely not flat, but it was beautiful, as usual, with lots of great company from friends on the course!

One of the many hilarious signs along the trail designed by one of our Pink Nation head coaches, Lisa!

Thanks again, Sports Backers, for yet another great event! Here’s hoping that next year, we can race downtown again!

Have you run an event with Sports Backers? Have you participated in any Sports Backers training teams? I’d love to hear about your experiences! As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Smoothie

This has quickly become a staple recovery smoothie for me, combining the sweetness of chocolate and banana, the protein of a vegan protein powder and plant based milk, and the goodness that is peanut butter. I simply don’t tire of the combination.

Ingredients for the smoothie. Note that you use very ripe frozen banana instead of one of these fresh, green ones!

Here’s my recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Silk 10g protein milk (plain, vanilla, or chocolate)
  • 1 frozen banana 
  • 2 T peanut butter
  • 1 scoop Orgain protein powder (vanilla)
  • 1 T cocoa

Mix all ingredients in a high powered blender until smooth, and enjoy!

Notes: you can use chocolate protein powder instead of vanilla, and if you do this and/or use chocolate protein milk, you can omit the cocoa. I tend to keep vanilla protein powder on hand because it’s more versatile! You can use your favorite vegan protein powder; it doesn’t have to be Orgain. I just like this one because it tastes great and is readily available. 

Unfortunately, the secret is out about my favorite plant based milk, the Silk 10g Protein variety. I’ve been having a difficult time finding it in the grocery store! I’ve been making special trips to Food Lion to buy a few at a time, since it’s been weeks since my local Kroger has had it in stock! It’s not typically available at Walmart or Publix. It’s also available at Whole Foods and Wegmans, which are special trip stores for me, since they are not close to home. 

If you are looking for a tasty way to supplement your protein intake, this smoothie fits the bill, providing 27g of protein!

Feel free to share this graphic!

Do you like making smoothies? I’d love to hear about your favorites! As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.

WPA Bakery Review!

My husband and I took a trip to Richmond for pizza, and then he had a craving for something sweet. Looking up places that were vegan friendly for dessert, WPA bakery popped up! Pretty famous on the local Vegan scene as a great place for vegan wedding cakes, I was certain they would have something we would both enjoy, since WPA Bakery is omni and vegan friendly.

We took the short trip from the fringes of Carytown to the Manchester area of Richmond, and we were not disappointed! Walking in, you are greeted by a display case with cakes and pies sold whole and by the slice, clearly labeled vegan, gluten free, or regular. Some items were even vegan AND gluten free!

Cookie and cupcake display at WPA Bakery

My husband chose a blueberry buttermilk pie and a mixed berry muffin. For my vegan treats? I chose a slice of German chocolate cake and a key lime cookie. There were so many options, I was overwhelmed! I actually had a choice of a few different cakes and cookies. I ended up asking for a recommendation on a cookie.

The vegan German chocolate cake

I thoroughly enjoyed my choices! The cake was amazing. Great crumb. Not dry. Just enough coconut to balance the rich, sweet chocolate. That slice may or may not have been my dinner that night. The cookie was delicious as well. Not too sweet with a great, sweet tart icing. It was a great treat after lunch at work the next day!

The vegan Key Lime cookie

In addition to their sweet bakery treats, WPA also serves lunch items and coffee, including vegan options. 

Next time your sweet tooth calls, go visit WPA! It was worth the drive for us!

Have you visited WPA bakery? I’d love to hear about it! As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.

Survival Guide for Marathon Training

I’ve written a variety of posts about training for a race of this magnitude, and I figured it was time to put them all in one place so you can easily find the relevant information on my blog! I’ll be updating throughout the season as I add new information.

  1. Find your Why

First, you must find your why. Do you want to challenge yourself? Are you looking for a giant goal to provide some focus in your life? Did your best friend twist your arm? Do you want to ring in your 40’s in a monumental way? Whatever your purpose is, reading The Power of the Marathon might inspire you to tackle this distance. 

  1. Stay safe

It’s important to keep some general guidelines in mind when you are running. I wrote the Rules of the Road: Running Edition during the height of the pandemic as more people were taking to the streets for exercise, but the rules still apply! I also offer some gear advice, which leads me to…

  1. Choose and care for your gear

I’ve written articles on how to select the best running shorts and pants, how to get rid of that disgusting slime that builds up in your hydration belt bottles, and the reason why I currently run in Hokas! I also think it’s important to build a relationship with your local running store, since your shoes are the most important part of your gear! 

  1. Get Electrolit

If you want to feel better on your long runs, you need to stay properly hydrated, but still replace electrolytes. I share some information about that here

  1. Avoid rookie mistakes

Your fellow marathoners have made numerous terrible choices in their training. Don’t repeat their mistakes! Take these tips for newbies and run with them! (Pun intended.)

  1. The Long Run is painful

As the miles ramp up, your body adapts, but it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hurt! Here are some tips on enduring the pain of the long run. 

  1. Take care of your feet

They are your most important body part in running! I give you some ways to give your feet some TLC so they will thank you later. 

  1. Cross training is important!

Mixing up your workouts is key to helping to prevent injuries. I love adding single leg exercises, squats, and cycling into my routine. I also have some guidance on managing IT band issues.

  1. Don’t forget to stretch!

Part one of my flexibility series talks about the why of stretching and foam rolling, and when it’s best to do which. Part two discusses dynamic stretching to prepare for your run. I will update this topic further as my stretching series continues!

  1. Taper Madness

Yup. This is real. As your miles cycle down so you can build your glycogen stores, you may begin to feel restless with all that extra time on your hands!

  1. After the Race

The phenomenon of post marathon blues is really a thing. I’m comforted by the fact that I’m not the only one who has documented this occurrence. If you are feeling a bit off emotionally after finishing a marathon, you are in good company. 

I hope you find this helpful! I will be adding more information on my blog in the coming months about running, so please subscribe to my blog so you don’t miss anything! Happy running! 

If you are tackling a marathon, or even half marathon distance this year, I’d love to hear about it! It looks like we will actually get to run some in person fall races in 2021! Crossing my fingers… As always, I hope you are safe and healthy. 

*I offer this advice as a courtesy, and bear no responsibility for injuries incurred if you take my advice. Please consult your doctor if injured.*

Quantum Energy Squares Review!

After publishing my recent blog post about vegan protein bars, Quantum Energy Squares reached out to me about their products, asking if I wanted to try them! I’m so grateful that they sent me a sample pack!

The sample pack!
Open sample box

Here’s the rundown on the nutrition of these bars:

  • 10g plant based protein from peas and pumpkin seeds
  • 100mg caffeine from green coffee to enhance performance and focus
  • Simple and complex carbs to fuel your workout
  • Healthy fats to balance the macros
  • Gluten-free, soy-free, and vegan
  • Made with real food
  • Four chocolatey flavors!

For me, these are really more practical as a pre-workout bar, with the caffeine equivalent to one cup of coffee. Quantum promises that their squares will sustain your workout without making you crash. So, I took one for a test run! 

If you read my protein bar review, you may have guessed that I tried the peanut butter dark chocolate flavor first! It reminds me a lot of a regular Larabar texture wise, but I like the flavor better. Comparing ingredients and nutrition to the Larabar protein version, they are similar, with the Quantum bar lower in sugar at 11g vs. 18g for the Larabar, but similar protein content. I’ll have to try the protein Larabar for a true comparison. The biggest difference seems to be the boost of caffeine. 

Showing the texture of the bar.

If you read my post last summer about caffeine and supplements, you might remember that I’m definitely the kind of person who requires their morning cup of coffee to jump start my day, but I also can’t have any coffee after noon, or else I won’t sleep at night! So I was expecting a significant kick from this bar. I did feel it, but I wasn’t overwhelmed by it. I simply felt nourished and energized for my run. The zip was big enough that I wouldn’t stack this bar with another caffeinated product during a long run, like caffeinated Nuun or gels. But, hey, if you’re a “drink a pot of coffee a day” kind of person, this amount of caffeine probably won’t affect you as much!

Because of the caffeine, I personally would not use this for post-run recovery fuel, even though the type of caffeine used in this product can help speed recovery per the information on the website. But it’s enough of the stimulant that I may not be able to take a well earned nap after a super long run! 

How will I use these? I will definitely take one with me on a double digit run once marathon training is in full swing to see how bites of this will help keep me fueled during these efforts, because sometimes I get tired of essentially eating candy on a run. My body starts to ask for real food!  It will replace the one caffeinated item I typically take with me on these super long runs. And it will also work as a pre-run snack if I’m running a major race and have a bit of rest time between arriving at the start and beginning the race. I would also pair these with a banana as a general pre-run breakfast, especially if I don’t have access to coffee! 

What do I like about this bar? It’s vegan! It tastes good! Like, really good. It has real, clean ingredients. There is a mix of simple and more complex carbs. Low in fiber, so it makes it practical for long run fuel. The company is small and independent. And they are the official energy bar of Ironman in the US as well as the Rock’n’ Roll running series!

Nutrition label

These are definitely worth trying, especially if you have allergies to gluten and soy, and if you are the type who really benefits from a caffeine kick! They do offer several buying options directly from their website, including the sample pack like the one I received, and they are offering free shipping right now. Or you can simply pick some up at your nearest Whole Foods or a variety pack on Amazon!

Have you tried Quantum Energy Squares? I’d love to hear about your experience if you have! As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy. 

Marathon Running: A Simulation

Marathon training season for fall races is nearly upon us. The first weekend in June is always met with a mix of excitement and fear. I get to see my team, the Pink Nation! My running will have a definite purpose. I get to usher in a new generation of marathoners as a coach (that’s one of the best parts!) I will settle into a routine that comforts me, despite the fact that each new mileage jump, especially as we transition into double digits, brings a special type of anxiety. Yes, even though I’ve run 8 marathons. And I get another chance to chase a PR. I think that’s the part that is the most intimidating. 

As gyms reopen and more people feel better about interacting with the real world armed with an immune system that has been taught to fight Covid, I am gradually getting back into weightlifting. The other day, I chose to do a few back squats. Pre-pandemic, I had reached a meager 140lb 1 rep max, so I felt relatively comfortable trying for 3 sets of 5 reps at 95lbs to work on building my base again. The next day, I headed out for a miserable run on tired, heavy legs, and started laughing, thinking to myself this is how it feels to finish a marathon. And I felt like I needed to share…

If you’ve never run a marathon, and you never thought you could, but you want to know what it might be like, do I have an idea for you.

First of all, just about any reasonably healthy person can run a marathon. Second, you don’t have to be fast, just disciplined and persistent. And third, there’s a unique satisfaction from finishing a race of this magnitude and being able to call yourself a marathoner.

But do you really want to know what it feels like to finish running a marathon? Here’s an experiment for you:

  • Step 1: Go to the gym. Do a serious weightlifting leg day, whatever this looks like for you. Ideas for this grueling torture include doing Karen (an appropriately named girl WOD in the Crossfit world that is 150 wall balls for time with a weighted ball), a heavy base day of back squats (try 3 to 5 sets of 5 at 70% of your one rep max), or heavy walking lunges (think 50 or so on each leg while holding the heaviest dumbbels you can handle).
  • Step 2: Wake up the next day and skip breakfast and coffee. Revel in the misery of your sore muscles, your empty belly, your uncaffeinated soul, the stiffness begging you to return to bed. Think about your poor life choices as you wince while navigating the stairs.
  • Step 3: Go for a 10k run. Pretend that you have already run 20 miles, your energy stores mainly depleted, your lungs burning. Really sense how heavy and painful every step feels from all that weightlifting you did yesterday. Bonus points if you run in the rain or the sweltering heat and humidity of summer. Wish for the completion of your run ASAP.
  • Step 4: As you climb the stairs back into your house, repeat this mantra: Stairs are stupid. 

This little simulation will shed some light on the painful, bad parts of running this race. But it will never prepare you for the good stuff: crossing the finish line with a crowd waiting, the happy tears, the satisfaction, the culmination of hard work. You might even form the ultimate running partner bond in sharing the experience with a friend. Of course, I can’t forget to mention the proof of your accomplishment: the medal and the swag. It’s kind of awesome. 

Finishing the 2015 Richmond Marathon with friends. Photo courtesy of Tammy Harrison.

I apologize in advance for the deluge of running topics that are about to start taking over more of my blog posts in the next several months! As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.

To Mask or Not to Mask?

The question continues. As the CDC has updated its guidelines, how do you feel about their new recommendations? Essentially, if you are fully vaccinated, your life can return to normal, with exceptions for following rules for businesses and your localities. Our governor in Virginia has lifted the mask mandate except for businesses and healthcare settings that require them. I’m not so confident in these recommendations, especially considering that only 36% of the US is fully vaccinated. I’m still recovering from the days of double masking and wearing N95’s all day to prevent the spread of Covid in healthcare settings, which seems like yesterday. 

In the Metro Richmond area, I have already seen people entering stores without masks in higher numbers, even though the stores still require them. For me, I’m not yet ready to ditch them entirely. 

First, I’ve already worked with patients in the hospital who were fully vaccinated and got Covid anyway! The conclusion? They picked up a variant that the vaccine wasn’t fully effective against. That’s concerning. But we also aren’t doing a great job of genotyping the variants, either. I feel like this should be a given if someone tests positive who was vaccinated, and especially if they become ill enough to require hospitalization. How else will we know how the virus is evolving otherwise? 

From the days of double masking: a fit tested N95 with a level one surgical mask on top, as well as goggles to protect me from contracting Covid-19. This was during the height of the winter wave.

Second, are we really going to rely on the honor system for this? Not a chance this will go well. Part of me feels like the new guidelines were intended create incentive for more people to choose to vaccinate. I’m not sure this will work. And the Biden administration has already stated that it will not require any type of vaccination passport. But this just leaves the opportunity for taking advantage of a lenient system. 

In my county, there was a group who protested at last week’s school board meeting. They were mad about a study conducted about equality in our schools, and they were also protesting the continued use of masks in school and getting vaccinated. So, essentially your typical science deniers/all lives matter misinformed. These are the folks who never wore masks at our local Walmart, anyway. I imagine these people will claim they are vaccinated to get by with not wearing masks. Sigh.

I’m very grateful that our school system will continue to require masks and is holding vaccination clinics for kids 12 and older in the next two weeks. My younger daughter will be participating!

Third, vaccination rates are still low in developing and third world countries. As long as this is the case, the virus has the opportunity to rapidly replicate and mutate. That’s just science. And with that fact, the potential to produce a mutation(s) that will render current vaccines ineffective is entirely possible. Consider that the variant wreaking havoc in India right now has not one, but two significant mutations. This article explains very well the phenomenon of mutation and how the US lags behind other nations in performing genome sequencing of Covid samples.

I fear that we are in a honeymoon phase in the US at this point. I sincerely hope I’m wrong. But as long as we have citizens who could safely get the vaccine refuse to do so, and as long as people are able to travel to and from our country, we are not isolated from receiving future variants in the US. Not only that, we don’t even know how long our immunity will last from these current vaccines. I’m approaching the 6 month mark of being fully vaccinated myself, the originally predicted immunity range from the current vaccines.

Playing with my neighbor’s puppies earlier this year.

The pandemic is not over, unfortunately, which means that in many situations, particularly indoors, I will continue to choose to mask for now. I was one of the first in my community to mask, and I may be one of the last to stop! Stay well, friends. 

How do you feel about the new guidelines from the CDC for the fully vaccinated? Would you trust that a fellow shopper who is maskless has been vaccinated? Do you fear being judged by others, whether you choose  to mask or not? As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.