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If you're just beginning an exercise program, you'll need a check up from your doctor if:

  • You've been diagnosed with heart problems, high blood pressure or other medical conditions

  • You've been sedentary for over a year

  • If you're over 65 & don't currently exercise

  • You're pregnant

  • You have Diabetes

  • You have chest pain, or experience dizziness or fainting spells

  • You're recovering from an injury or illness

Obviously, if you have a diagnosed condition or illness, you always want to talk to your doctor before beginning an exercise program.

Choosing the right fitness clothing & equipment is important for your exercise pleasure. Here are some general guidelines about deciding what to wear:

  • Think comfort.  Shorts, tee shirts, whatever strikes your fancy.  You want clothes that don't chafe your delicate skin & that will protect you from the sun when you're outside.

  • Wear light-colored clothes, plenty of sunscreen & sunglasses if you're exercising outdoors. You may also want to invest in clothes made of special wicking material such as CoolMax. This stuff keeps you cool & dry in the hot summer months.

  • Wear the right shoes for your activity.  For weight training & low impact activities consider a cross-training shoe or a walking shoe. 

If you're going to be running, you'll want a running shoe so your feet will have plenty of support. Similarly, if you're participating in a sport such as basketball, football, etc. you'll want a sport-specific shoe so you don't hurt yourself.

  • Make sure your clothes & shoes have reflective material on them if you're out & about at night.

  • Be picky about your workout socks. If they're too thick or thin you could get blisters which can ruin a good workout.

There's no right & wrong when it comes to exercise clothes. It's whatever makes you feel good & keeps the sweat away!

If you're trying to:

  • lose weight
  • build muscle 
  • excel at a sport

you'll need specific goals. When you don't have a specific goal, it's difficult to keep exercising & to track your progress to see how far you've come.  Before you get busy, take a moment & ask yourself these questions:

1.  What do I want to accomplish with this exercise program?
2.  Is my goal realistic & attainable?
3.  How do I reach my goal?
4.  When do I want to reach my goal?
5.  How will I reward myself when I reach my goal?

For example, is it reasonable to want to lose 50 pounds in 6 months?  Experts recommend that you lose no more than 1-2 pounds per week, but it isn't likely that you'll lose 2 pounds every single week.  Keep in mind that:

  • The more weight you lose, the harder it'll be to lose weight because the less weight your body has to move around, the less calories it'll burn doing so

  • The closer you get to your goal, the harder it'll be to reach it - in fact, you may NEVER reach it (ever talk to someone who's still trying to lose that last 5 pounds?)

  • Everyone has a weight their body is comfortable at & once you reach that weight, you'll find it very difficult to lose anymore. Just because YOU think you should be at 125 doesn't mean your body agrees

  • Make sure your goal weight is reasonable for your height & frame  

After you set your goal, find out how to reach it.  If you want to lose weight or become better at a sport, you need to figure out how that is accomplished by hiring a trainer or fitness expert, or hit the Internet or a library for some research.  Know what you have to do before you get started.  Many people are surprised at the daily effort it takes to reach their goals.

Once you know what you're doing & how you're doing it, the hardest part is sticking to it.  Here are some strategies to help make it easier to get up & get going:

  • Schedule your exercise sessions each week - in INK!

  • Set weekly goals & reward yourself each time you succeed (i.e., new shoes or a massage works nicely)

  • Work out with friends or family for added motivation

  • Recommit to your exercise goals each & every day

  • Be prepared by always having your workout bag with you, bringing your lunch to work, etc.

  • Keep a workout journal & look thru it regularly to see your progress

  • Take your measurements in the beginning & then retake them every 6 weeks to see if you're making progress

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Stretching
 
Running relaxed is the secret to running faster. In order to improve your flexibility, you need to do some stretching.
By Hal Higdon
 
Flexibility is important to runners. Running relaxed is the secret to running faster. In order to improve (& maintain) your flexibility, you need to do some stretching.

When to Stretch

The best time to stretch is after your muscles have had a chance to warm up. That's why most track athletes jog a mile or 2, then do some stretching before the hard part of their workouts. You can do the same. Here are the different times you might consider stretching:

BEFORE RUNNING: Your muscles will not be warm, so don't overstretch. Just before running, do 1 or 2 easy stretches just to signal to your body that you're ready to go. Don't stretch anywhere near your limit. You shouldn't feel pain.

WHILE RUNNING: Run 5 or 10 minutes, then stop to stretch. Your muscles will be warmer, thus stretching will be easier. You still don't want to stretch to the point where it's painful. Stretching should be gentle.

AFTER RUNNING: Finish each workout with some easy stretching. If you have access to a whirlpool, the warm water will make stretching even easier. Stretching at different times of the day is another option.
 
How to Stretch
There are dozens, even hundreds, of stretches that you can do to loosen your muscles. Entire books have been written on the subject. One of the best is Stretching by Bob Anderson. Go to any road race & you'll see runners doing stretching exercises before running.
 
Here are a few:

HANG TEN: Stand arms at your side. Keeping your legs straight, bend forward & reach for your toes.
 
Hold & repeat.
 
Don't feel that you need to touch your toes.
 
Whether or not you can do so may depend as much on the length of your legs vs. your torso than your flexibility. This is a good stretch to loosen your torso & stretch your hamstrings.

WALL LEANER: Stand facing a wall, your feet a few feet away from the wall.
 
With hands on the wall & keeping your heels on the ground, lean forward with your hips, stretching the calf muscles.
 
You can vary this exercise by stretching first one leg, then the other, or by moving your hand positions from side to side.

HEEL HOLD: Stand sideways to the wall, one hand against it for support.
 
Reach down with the other hand & grasp your ankle, pulling the heel of one leg up against your butt.
 
This is a good stretch for the quadriceps.

BUTTERFLY: Sit on the floor with your back straight.
 
Pull your legs together so the soles of your feet are touching. Your knees will be pointing to each side.
 
Wrap your hands around your feet & press outward with your arms against the inside of your thighs, extending the stretch.
 
This will stretch the muscles around the groin.

Whether or not stretching prevents injuries is difficult to prove. If you stretch too much, or too hard, you actually can increase your risk of injury.
 
Various experts will tell you to hold each stretch 15 to 30 to 60 seconds & repeat a certain number of times.
 
Don't spend so much time stretching that you never get out to run.
 
A well-balanced workout routine, however, includes flexibility exercises. For certain injuries, stretching may speed recovery. Every runner should develop a regular stretching routine.

above article found on runner's world website, click here to go there now!

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Breathing
Breathing is a very natural activity - & so is getting out of breath when you run.
By Hal Higdon
 
When you run, you get out of breath. This is normal. This is natural. Your body runs on oxygen, just as your automobile runs on gasoline. When you start to exercise - whether running, walking or any other physical activity - your muscles need more oxygen.
 
The body meets this need by supplying oxygen-rich blood to the muscles. The lungs work harder to absorb this oxygen out of the air.

You get out of breath.

Without giving it much conscious thought, most runners breathe in a 2/2 rhythmic ratio. They take 2 steps as they inhale; they take 2 more steps as they exhale. While running very slowly, they often breathe in a 3/3 ratio. While running very fast, they might breathe 2/1, or 1/1, but 2/2 is much more common.

If you count breaths in & out & discover you're breathing with a different rhythm, don't worry about it. Adjusting your breathing pattern will not make you a better runner.

The same with whether you breathe thru your nose or your mouth. Most runners naturally breathe thru both. Famed New Zealand coach Arthur Lydiard, when asked how runners should breathe, once replied: "Breathe thru your mouth. Breathe thru your nose. Suck the air in thru your ears, if you can."

Your jaw should be relaxed, your mouth slightly open. The oxygen will come thru your nose & mouth to your lungs, to your blood & to your muscles without you needing to give it a lot of thought. Breathing is a very natural activity - & so is getting out of breath when you run.
 
click here to access this article at runner's world website!

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Physical Examination
It's not a bad idea to see your doctor for a physical before you begin.
By Hal Higdon
 
Before you begin, it's a good idea to see your doctor & get a physical examination - particularly if you haven't had one in several years.
 
Most high school runners must show evidence of having a medical check-up before being allowed to join an organized school team.
 
Many older runners schedule regular physical exams to assure they remain in good health.
 
Preventive medicine has become very popular in the last several decades, because of the influence of Kenneth H. Cooper, MD, author of the best-selling book, Aerobics.

Regardless of your age, get a check-up from a licensed physician before you begin to run. This exam should include an exercise stress test (usually done on a treadmill) to insure that you have no cardiovascular problems that might surface if you exercise too hard.

Running is a benign form of exercise. Despite the stress we place on our bodies (perhaps because of that stress), runners don't have more heart attacks than people who don't run 5-K races & marathons.
 
In fact, statistics show that we have fewer cardiovascular problems because of our healthy lifestyles. Nevertheless, getting a physical exam is as important as choosing a comfortable pair of shoes. More important, in fact.

Getting medical clearance is especially important if:
  • you're a current or former smoker
  • you're overweight
  • there's a history of heart disease in your family

Be safe: schedule a physical examination today!

you can access all three of the above articles by clicking here as well as much more information at runner's world website! it's an awesome running information resource!

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Seven Continents. Seven Massages
Every runner needs an achievable goal

by Hal Higdon

Sailing the Southern Ocean, lying lazily on a massage table, rocking in rhythm to the pounding waves common to the Drake Passage, a therapist's soothing hands massaging my muscles sore from two strenuous weeks exploring Antarctica, I considered my next challenge as an athlete.

No, I wasn't returning from running a marathon on that continent. Many runners choose as their challenge completing a marathon in all 50 states, or on all 7 continents.

Thom Gilligan, who takes runners to Antarctica thru his organization Marathon Tours, estimates that 112 men & 35 women have completed their 7 continent quest & another 40 runners will achieve that goal in the next 2 years.

Although I have run marathons in 23 states & on 5 continents, I have no immediate plans to add to those numbers.

My next challenge seems more doable - & certainly more pleasurable. I want to have a massage on all 7 continents.

My recent trip to Antarctica allowed me to bag 2 of those continents, all on the same sea voyage. Rather than going to Antarctica to run a marathon, I traveled as part of a Carleton College Alumni Adventure.

Although our group did some strenuous hiking over rocks, snow, ice & penguin poop, neither I nor anyone else attempted anywhere near a 26-mile run. But I did get massages while crossing the Drake Passage between South America & Antarctica, both coming & going.

One cruise, two massages

That's the trick. It's where I got those massages that counted. The geophysical border between those 2 continents is at the Antarctic Convergence, where the chilly waters circulating counter-clockwise around Antarctica brush against warmer sub-Antarctic currents to the North flowing in an opposite direction.

Within a few miles, the temperatures of both air & water can drop by 10 or more degrees.

Since my massage en route to Antarctica occurred above the Convergence & my massage returning occurred below, I collected massages on 2 continents on 1 voyage.

I might add that unless you have had a massage on board a ship rising & falling in rhythm to 20-foot waves, you haven't achieved the ultimate spa experience. I'm not sure how Sheila, my massage therapist, maintained her balance, but her hands never missed a stroke.

With massages on 2 continents now part of my resume, seemingly that leaves 5 continents to go. Well, not quite. As part of my fitness regimen, I regularly get massages in Indiana & Florida, my 2 residences. North America is continent number 3.

On 2 trips to Australia, I've gotten massages to combat jet lag in Melbourne & Sydney respectively. That's continent number 4.

How many continents more?

Europe should be continent number 5, except my memory fails me. Given the fact that I've raced frequently in Europe, including several marathons, I must have gotten at least one massage.

Unfortunately, I can't remember when or where. I probably need to check old training diaries to see where & how I can claim credit.

If I can confirm Europe, that still leaves Africa & Asia as continents for future massages. Despite running marathons on both continents, I may have skipped the massage table, a definite oversight on my part.

That's the bad news, the good news being that it gives me excuses to return to both continents to complete my quest. And maybe if my training diaries fail to reveal a European massage, I'll be forced to return to that continent too.

Paris might be a good destination for my 7th massage on 7 continents. Does anybody have the name of a good masseuse on the Champs d'Elysees?

We all need goals, especially broken-down runners.

Hal Higdon, a Contributing Editor for Runner's World, has run 111 marathons, but missed a few states and continents along the way

Copyright 2006 by Hal Higdon.

access this article by clicking here, visit his website while you're there for more interesting and inspirational articles!

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Running With Kids

I love seeing parents out running with their kids, don't you? Adult children, like me, running & talking with their parents is a great way to keep in touch & keep healthy.
 
But, parents running with their teens or younger children give me a great hope for the future.
 
In an effort to keep this tradition alive & inspire more parents to get active with their children (or get their children active with them, as the case may be), here are 2 articles to help parents of very young children bond with them & be healthy examples.

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Before You Start Running
by Jesslyn Cummings
 
A lot of times new runners start out their running "career" blindly. With all the information available, it can be difficult to know what's most important in running for beginners.
 
Running is a fun, natural, healthy activity but it does take some knowledge & forethought to run without getting injured. Here's what you need to have in check before you get too far into your running career:

Check With Your Doctor.

Anytime you begin a new exercise program you should see your family physician. Tell your doctor the details of your plan & have him/her assess your plan & any health concerns that might arise.
 
If you're also trying to lose weight, speak to your doctor about that as well.
 
Ask how you should expect your plan to effect any existing conditions you have. Ask him/her about any health issues that are common & how to avoid them. Your doctor should be more than happy to answer all your questions.

Know About safety.

Be sure that you know the area you plan to run in & how safe it is. Either run with someone, carry a cell phone or mace, or run with a well-trained dog.
 
These safety measures are especially important for women. It's also a good idea to learn some basic personal safety & understand what makes a victim.

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How To Run Safely
 
The 2 key areas of Safety that runners & joggers need to be aware of are injury & victimization. Injuries can stem from tripping on a crack in the sidewalk while jogging to being hit by a car.
 
Very serious injuries can come from very small things, like misstepping.
 
The 2nd, victimization, is much less likely, but extremely dangerous. Let's see how a few easy steps can keep us clear of both of these.
 
Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: Not Long at All

Here's How:

  1. Think first. Before you go jogging consider these questions: Are your shoes tied? Are you running against traffic or off the street? Are you paying attention to your surroundings? Paying attention to your surroundings may be the most important of all of these tips. It can save you from becoming a victim & from missing that step off the curb. These are all very important things that are just common sense. Keep them in mind while jogging & you'll be well on your way to safety.

  2. Think twice about jogging alone at night. Are you in a safe neighborhood? Are you using a flashlight or headlamp? Are you wearing reflective clothes? Again, these simple concepts can keep you from becoming roadkill or from having your face on a milk carton. It may feel funny running with a flashlight or a headlamp for awhile, but you get used to it & it'll cut down on a lot of injuries, as will wearing some reflective clothing & no, the strips on your shoes aren't enough.

  3. Don't look like a victim. There are a lot of things you can do to keep from looking good to predators. Changing your route frequently with no discernable pattern, staying out of sketchy neighborhoods, running in groups, paying attention to the news are good tips. Other things like not wearing headphones, looking around you so it's obvious you're paying attention to your surroundings & standing up straight (looking strong) are also good ways to minimize your chances of meeting harm.

  4. Think like a driver. Remember not all drivers are paying attention; they could be eating, drunk, changing their cd, reading a newspaper (you think I'm kidding?), or talking on a cell. Others may just be sadists & think it's funny to swerve at you. Stay out of the streets if possible. If not, make yourself visible to drivers. Make eye contact with drivers at street crossings before you cross even if you have right-of-way.

Tips:

  1. Shoes tied. Properly dressed. No headphones, if at all possible.
  2. Never assume you won't get hit while jogging just because you have right-of-way.
  3. Never assume a driver can see you until you've made eye contact. (If they look at you very defiantly, think twice about going into the intersection.)
  4. Let everyone know you're paying attention to your surroundings.
  5. Look where you're going.

What You Need:

  • A brain
  • A little knowledge (mostly provided by this article)
  • Common sense
  • Running shoes (tied)

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Be prepared with this baker's dozen of running safety tips

By Pam Holecheck

Sweat Magazine

January 30, 2001

Craig Davidson, with 23 years of running experience, says the unexpected is the rule. Even with the "road" experience of more than 100 marathons, unexpected safety issues can come up & roll right over you. Davidson said it happened to him.

"I was in a state of shock. I couldn't believe it happened to me," the Phoenix resident & Runner's Den employee remembered. "I got hit by a bicycle while running down Bell Road. I kept saying to myself, 'He's going to look up, he's going to see me.' I had stopped & tried to get out of his way, but he hit me dead-center. His bike came to a complete stop, he flew over the handlebars & I fell into Bell Road."

Two days & three runs later, simple breathing became excruciatingly painful when his body called attention to the two cracked ribs he had sustained. Davidson paid painfully for not being more defensive on the run.

Serina Acker, who ran while in high school, said she returned to the sport two years ago. She recently completed her first marathon at Walt Disney World but not without falling into one of the dangers of training - she literally fell, twice.

"We had water with us on the trail run, so we washed off my cuts and scrapes," says the founder of West Side Runners group in Avondale. "The other time I happened to have my cell phone, and I called my husband for help."

A friend of Davidson's, however, fell prey to one of running's more dramatic safety issues - being attacked.

"She had a Walkman on & never heard the guy jump from behind the bushes," Davidson said. "Fortunately, she screamed & he ran off."

Experts say wearing headsets while running greatly increases the chance of being attacked or being hit by a vehicle or cycle. Davidson?s friend still wears headphones, but only over one ear.

Detective Bob Ragsdale of the Phoenix Police Department & a former runner, says statistics aren't kept specifically on runners' incidents, but from personal experience, he's seen situations when even man's best friend can turn dangerous.

"Never trust a dog to be friendly," he cautioned. "If you come upon one, stop & forcefully yell 'No.' Most dogs will respond to that command."

Expecting the unexpected falls short, if preparedness isn't part of the equation. Here are some safety tips from Davidson, Acker & Ragsdale based on thousands of miles of practice & a collective concern for their running comrades safety.

A dozen & one safety tips

1. Be aware of your surroundings. When approaching another person up ahead, move to avoid close physical contact but do make eye contact. Then, looking away, keep the person in view peripherally.

2. Don't wear headphones. Headphones mask sounds & encourage more of an inward focus, which tends to block one's awareness of surroundings.

3. Carry identification, always. On a piece of paper, write your name, address, contact(s) in case of an emergency & telephone number(s) & any medical conditions. Some runners put their ID in their hats, fanny packs, pockets, shoes ... anywhere it's comfortable, can be found quickly but is safe from accidental loss.

4. Carry a cellular phone, if possible, especially if running alone, in an unpopulated area, when it's dark outside or whenever personal injury could be greater. Some runners carry a bell or police whistle to alert passersby of injury or attack.

5. Carry pepper spray. Disabling a human or an animal attacker with a potent spray may give runners just enough time to escape & reach a safe environment. In an attack, it's important to create noise & to yell, drawing attention to the situation, trying to discourage the attacker from staying at the scene.

6. Carry money. Carry at least a dollar in coins to make an emergency call or to buy a drink to replenish lost fluids.

7. Wear reflective materials. Running shoes & attire often have reflective areas. If not, apply self-sticking, reflective tape. Also wear light-colored clothing.

8. Don't "run" a red light. Obey the rules of the road & avoid crossing against a red light. Face oncoming traffic while running & keep a safe distance from the roadway flow. And, if eye contact can't be made between runner & driver, or if the driver's attention isn't alerted by yelling, never proceed into an auto's path.

9. Keep to the right. Allow room for other runners & bicyclists to pass on the left.

10. Be unpredictable. Vary the route, day & time of a running schedule to guard against attack.

11. Walk or drive a new route first. Check out the safety of a new route before actually running it. Scope out the people, cars, dogs, homes, businesses, surface conditions & lighting.

12. Don't run in stormy weather, even when the storm is off in the distance. Lightning can hit from many, many miles away.

13. Use common sense. Run with a partner or group to build confidence. Be prepared for various situations, instead of regretting an action later. If you feel hesitant about any aspect of a run, don't go.

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Know About Your New Hydration & Nutrition Needs.

Understand your body's needs for water & fuel. Don't be fooled into believing what diets are telling you.
 
Don't allow your desire for a certain goal to skew your understanding of what your body truly needs. If you're trying to lose weight, do so safely.
 
Remember that your body has special needs, since you run. Also, don't forget the importance of hydration. Water protects our joints, regulates our temperature & gets waste out of our muscles. Drink plenty, perhaps in lieu of soda or coffee.

Sports Nutrition Guidelines
 

Nutrition is an important, but often misunderstood, part of the running equation. Food is fuel, and as athletes, we need more fuel, and better fuel, as we increase distance or intensity. By making small dietary changes, staying away from fad diets, and understanding what our bodies need, we can successfully build our own eating styles that provide each of us personally with what we need to reach our goals.

By first examining the proper eating habits, then examining what we eat (or what we should eat), and finally examining our hydration needs, we can establish a set of guidelines to form the base of our individual sports nutrition plans.

Our eating habits can be broken down into sections of when we eat, how often we eat, how much we eat, and what to eat and what not to eat.

When?

If you think of your energy needs on an hourly basis instead of a daily basis, you may realize that you are eating your biggest meal and then doing nothing, whereas you hardly eat at all before you run.

This isn’t a practical way to eat. You should eat a bigger breakfast and lunch and a smaller dinner, as well as snacks at the right times. For instance, if you plan to go to work, run, then come home and relax. You would want to eat a nice hardy breakfast to get you started, have a medium sized lunch and then have an energy-packed snack about hour before your run. Then you can have a smaller dinner to help your after-run recovery. So, think about when you need the energy and plan your meals and snacks accordingly.

How Often?

If you run daily, you can expect to need to eat about every 3-5 hours. Even if you don’t run daily, 5 hours is an acceptable amount of time between meals/snacks. It’s important that you avoid long periods without eating to avoid wide swings in your blood sugar levels, which aren’t good for your body or your running. If you commit to eating every 3-4 hours and plan ahead to have healthy foods when you need them, it is much easier to make the commitment to eat healthier and stay away from the vending machine. Remember, skipping meals or skimping on calories does not support the goal of training with adequately fueled muscles.

How Much?

As a runner, our bodies need more fuel, thus more food, than the average sedentary person. It is a good assumption that if you are running 15 or more miles per week, you should not be consuming less than 2000 calories per day, even if you are trying to lose weight. (Remember, when you eat them during the day is important too.) If you running 25 miles per week you should average closer to 2500 calories a day.

What and What Not to Eat?

Now for the meat of the subject, what to eat and what not to eat. Think of what you consume as a list. Fruits and vegetables should be on the top of the list (meaning you eat the most of those per day), then grains and legumes, followed by lean meat or soy products, then lowfat milk products (if you choose to consume dairy), and, the very least, sweets and fat. Occasionally, but not always, listen to your cravings. They could be a result of too low a fat intake or low blood sugar, both common problems among runners who don’t eat enough. So, if you have nutritious cravings, give into them. A steak and potatoes or veggie pizza night isn’t going to throw you off your diet. Perhaps add a green salad or have fruit for dessert and you’re set; craving eliminated. But if you are constantly craving candy or donuts, it’s not likely your body needs them. Have a piece or two of candy a day, but try to cut out other sugars. As far as donuts, well, don’t give in often, never if possible.

Let's break this down further to specifically what it is we need to eat for good sports nutrition.

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Fitness Nutrition Guidelines

What we need to know now for good fitness nutrition is what we need to obtain from our food. Our food is made up of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats (as well as vitamins, minerals, and the like). Much debate has been heard on what the right amount of each of these components we need, but most of those diets are making the assumption that you are sedentary. For runners, a good healthy diet is made of approximately 50-55 percent carbs, 15-20 protein, and 30 fat. Unfortunately as with calories, you can’t just eat the right amount, but you also have to eat the right kind.

Let's look at each individual component.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates convert in our body to glucose. Glucose is used by the body for energy or stored in the muscles and liver as glycogen, which is used later for energy.

So carbs provide energy. However, our ability to store carbs as glycogen is limited, so we need to replenish often instead of gorge ourselves once or twice a day. When glycogen stores are depleted, you will feel fatigue and have difficulty keeping up with the original pace of your run. Carb-heavy foods also provide nutrients that are essential for our good health. Fruits and vegetables contain over 500 kinds of phytochemicals, which protect against cancer, heart disease, arthritis, and wrinkles. Variety is the key to getting the nutrients you need most.

Carbs should make up about 50 of your diet. This should primarily be from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Simple carbs, like sugar, honey, and GU should make up no more than 10 of your daily diet. A good way to know you are getting the right amount is to eat about 10 servings of grains, 7 servings of fruit, 4 of vegetables per day. (Remember, a serving of grains is 1 piece of bread, a serving of fruit is 6 oz of orange juice, etc. The amount of mashed potatoes you’d get at many restaurants would be enough for your 4 vegetables a day.)

Proteins

Protein builds muscles and tendons, repairs broken down muscles, and regulates hormones. Every part of our bodies are made of protein. The muscles, bones, blood, immune cells, tendons, ligaments, skin, and hair all are made of protein. Runners need more protein than sedentary people because we have more need for muscle repair and recovery, which is protein's biggest job. Because of this, a deficiency of protein causes fatigue and slow recovery. To get an adequate amount of protein each day, we should consume approximately 5-6 ounces of lean meat (notice: ounces not servings, and lean meat, not greasy hamburgers) or 2-3 servings of soy per day. Having 3 servings of lowfat dairy products should help with your protein as well; if you don't consume dairy, you should replace it with a calcium-dense fruit or vegetable or more soy servings.

Fats

Eating a very lowfat diet is just as bad as eating a very high fat diet. Lowfat diets contribute to moodiness and depression. As runners, our bodies need fat. Fat helps us feel full. A deficiency of omega-3 fats (found in fatty fish and flaxseed oil) leads to higher risk of heart disease and arthritis. While a diet rich in monounsaturated fats cuts cholesterol and heart disease risks.

Trans Fat and Saturated Fat

Trans fat, the worst of the fats, raises LDL, bad cholesterol, and lowers HDL, good cholesterol. Saturated fat, still a net bad fat, raises both HDL and LDL. But our bodies do need saturated fat in small amounts. You don’t have to try to get saturated fat though, it will find you. Saturated fat is found in whole milk, butter, cheese, ice cream, red meat, chocolate, and coconut products. Trans fat is found in most margarines, fast foods, and vegetable shortening. It is also found in many many prepackaged, processed foods. You should try to avoid processed foods such as chips and crackers, fried foods especially those that have been deep-fried, and baked goods listing “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil”. Saturated fat should not be more than 10 of your diet. Trans fat should be kept to the smallest amount possible.

Polyunsaturated Fat

Polyunsaturated fat lowers LDL, which is bad cholesterol, and raises HDL, which is good cholesterol. Polyunsaturated fat is found in corn, soybean, safflower, and cottonseed oil, as well as in fish. Omega-3 fats are polyunsaturated fats.

Monounsaturated Fat

Monounsaturated fat also lowers LDL levels and raises HDL levels. Monounsaturated fats may also reduce risk for several kinds of cancer. It is found in olives, olive and canola oil, avocados, and nuts.

Now that we understand more about what we should eat, let's not forget the much-overlooked topic of what we should drink.

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Hydration and Nutrition
 
Hydration is usually left out of nutrition, but it shouldn’t be. Being well-hydrated is a must for runners. 60-70 percent of our bodies are made of water. And, during exercise, our body produces more heat, thus causing sweat to cool us down. When we sweat out our water supply, we must consume more water to keep our core temperature down.

Water has also been proven to aid in weight loss. It helps you feel full while eating less, quenches thirst without adding calories, and allows your body to function at its top capability. 70 percent of our muscles are made of water. Being hydrated helps give muscles that toned, muscular look that so many people desire. Metabolism is a chemical process that requires water, which means if you are dehydrated you will not be burning calories as efficiently, whether you are sleeping or running.

Water is equally important for your skin. Being hydrated will help your skin look (and be) healthy.

If you run for 60 min or less, water alone should be fine for your hydration. If you run for more than an hour at a time, you’ll need to replenish electrolyte as well. (Sports drinks and energy gels have enough electrolytes to keep you covered.) Doing this will improve your performance by delaying dehydration and maintaining a high blood-sugar level during exercise. It also lowers the risk of catching a cold by boosting your immune system.

So when choosing beverages, remember these things:

  • Water is almost always your best option.
  • Tea (noncaffienated and unsweetened) and juice (100% juice not cocktail drinks) are good alternatives, though, when you just need something else. Sports drinks are also good for your body during and after long runs.
  • Coffee and alcohol don’t need to be nixed completely but should be taken in very small amounts. 2 cups of coffee a day isn’t going to help your body at all. Neither will two beers.
  • As far as bad options that you really should stay away from, soda is at the top of the list. While you probably aren’t going to drop dead from drinking a Pepsi, it is doing nothing for you and, under normal circumstances, is more harmful for your body than any of the other drinks listed here.

So let’s sum it all up.

  • 2000 or more calories spread over the day in accordance with when we need energy
  • Give in to nutritious cravings, but tough out the need for a donut.
  • Try to have a 50 percent carb, 20 protein, 30 fat ratio.
  • 10 servings of grains per day
  • 7 of fruit
  • 4 of vegetables
  • 5-6 oz of lean meat or 2-3 servings of soy
  • 3 servings of lowfat milk products or calcium-rich fruits/veg
  • 2-3 servings per week of a fatty fish (or uncooked flaxseed oil) to get your omega-3 fats
  • Low fat is just as bad as high fat
  • Water, water, water and more water
  • No soda.

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Nutrition Guidelines for Weight Loss

A Guide for Runners: The Calorie Game

Slimness & beauty are so closely related these days that it has caused a rash of fad diets & eating disorders to plague even the most "normal" & adjusted citizens. It's becoming nearly impossible to go to the grocery store & buy "regular" or "real" foods.

Everything has something added to it, like supplements, or something taken from it, like carbs. Is that really the best way to lose weight? Why is it so much work to be healthy?

The good news is it really shouldn't be that much work. Amazingly, nature is perfectly suited to keeping us healthy. Our problem is working a variety of natural foods into our daily life & eating the right amount, not too much or too little. Lifestyle change is the hard part. Most people don't want to change the way they eat or the way they live.

Because of that, the diets that work best are the ones that make the least amount of change & that work with the individual. The other hard part of lifestyle change is learning to be active.

Thankfully, runners have a headstart towards being healthy since we're already active. However, if you're a runner who is trying to lose some weight, you may soon realize that most diets on the market aren't made for active people.

Most diets are aimed toward sedentary people, as that is the biggest market for diet products. This means that, as a runner or athlete, most diets aren't going to meet the nutritional needs your body has.

This article strives to help runners understand their bodies' needs & provide guidelines to allow individuals to make the best decisions about their personal needs in a diet.

Let's start with calories. There are a lot of misconceptions about calories. No adult (or teen for that matter), except those under a doctor's supervision, should consume less than 1200 calories a day. That doesn't mean that Mr. "240 lb, 10 miles/week" should eat 1200 calories a day. The correct procedure is to use calorie calculators to find a range of calories for your average day.

Example 1: If Ms. "25 y/o, 5'5, 135 lbs, runs occasionally" looks at 3 calculators, her results might be 1829, 2166 & 2054. So, she should eat between 1830 & 2150 calories per day to maintain her weight. Since she wants to lose weight, she should eat 250 - 750 less calories per day, making her daily target calorie range 1200 - 1900.

Example 2: Mr. "35 y/o, 6'0, 200 lbs, runs daily" looks for his calorie range. His results might be 2982, 3242 & 3976. His range, then, is 3000 - 3900. This makes his daily target calorie range (for weight loss) 2250 - 3550. Remember, you should subtract no more than 750 calories from your daily calorie range.

Obviously having a target range gives more flexibility to a diet plan. Where there's more flexibility, there is usually less stress & less stress means the plan is easier to stick with. An important thing to know when considering calorie expenditures is to underestimate your activity level.

For whatever psychological reason, humans tend to overestimate their activity level even when they feel they're being conservative. Light activity would includes people who run for 30 minutes to 1 hour 2 to 4 times a week. Moderate activity includes people who run 1 hour daily.

Also, when considering calories you need to realize that eating a large portion of your daily calories at a pizza buffet for lunch & then having a diet milkshake for dinner isn't going to help you lose weight. When you eat & what you eat matters as well as how many calories you consume, as we'll see when considering the 3 W's.

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A Guide for Runners: The 3 Ws

Three important questions for runners to ask themselves are why (do you eat), when (should you eat), and what (should you eat).

Why

Considering why you eat is a big part of controlling your intake. The reason we should eat is to live. If you eat just because there is food, you may eat twice, or more, what you actually need to consume. Eat to run, don't run in order to eat. Food is fuel. You've probably heard it before, but it is the way we were built. We were built to take in food in order to provide our bodies energy and we need to realize this and allow it to take part in how we look at food. No, you don't have to stop enjoying food or eating, but you do need to see food for what it is: fuel for your body. (If emotional eating or other eating disorders are a problem for you, please seek help.

Millions of Americans have untreated eating disorders that harm them more and more everyday. Even if you feel your problem is not serious, you may find that researching eating disorders will give you a new perspective on your own problems.) Without proper fuel your body does not function at its best. The better your body is fuelled, the better it feels and works. But just controlling how much you eat is not enough, you also need to think about when your body needs refuelling.

When

Once you get a handle on some of your bad eating habits, like emotional eating, and you see that food is fuel for your body, you can start to see how important it is to eat when you need it most. It is unlikely that you would get very far in a car that had no gas and the same goes for your body. Of course, we have a second tank on us, our fat stores, so it is unlikely that you would not be able to run at all if you haven't eaten. However, your performance will not be the same because your body is having to work overtime to find fuel and is, thus, not running or burning fat efficiently.

Our food also provides other needed nutrients (like oil and coolant to a car) so even if you are still able to fuel yourself you may be missing important nutrients that help your body work well. The moral here is that if you are very active during the morning and afternoon and not very active in the evening, you need to eat more in the morning and afternoon (to keep you fueled and healthy while you are active) and then eat less at night (when you are less active). Of course, what you eat is equally important.

What

The keys to what to eat are moderation, balance, and variety.

Skip any diet that is no-fat, super-low-carb, and/or high-whatever. The idea of these diets is correcting your eating habits. If you eat 85% carbs and feel it is normal, then telling you to go on a low-carb diet would make sense. You might see low-carb as eating 8 servings of carbs a day (which is a healthy amount). However, for people who generally have a good idea what healthy eating is like, low-whatever or high-whatever diets are a bad idea because you already have the knowledge you need to have a good diet. Moderation is the key. If you crave sugar, fine, but just have a little. One small piece of chocolate every day or two is not likely to be a problem.

Balance is very closely related to moderation. The same idea applies that you should eat a healthy amount of protein, fat, carbs, even sweets. A healthy balance of dairy, meat, veggies, fruits, grains, and treats is much easier to continue eating than a diet that is keeping you away from certain types of food. Any diet that suggest you eat a tiny amount (or none at all) of a food group is unlikely to be healthy for your body (or your mind). Going cold turkey on sodas (if you are a soda addict) is not going to be very good for your mental health even though it may be very good for your body. So, if you do have a bad habit, cut down slowly. Know, also, that not all bad habits need to be completely annihilated. Sometimes the bad part of the habit is how often you do it. (Remember, moderation.)

Variety is also a key because the more types of foods (especially fruits and vegetables) you eat the more likely you are to get all the nutrients you need. Variety will also help you stick to eating healthy because you are less likely to get bored with your choices. Even if you just try one new recipe (that includes something you don't eat much) every week or two, at least you are getting a few extra nutrients and keeping yourself from burning out on your diet.

You may notice that diet foods are not on any of these lists. Many diet foods are not as good for you as they seem. If you want to reduce your carbs, low-carb bread is not what you should eat. You should eat regular bread, but just eat less of it. Many diet foods have added saturated fat or other chemicals that are bad for your body. Keep it real, ok?

For more information on why, when, and what, check out these nutritional guidelines. By using these guidelines, and your new calorie range, weight loss should be very attainable.

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A Guide for Runners: What You Think You Know

There are a lot of myths and misconceptions when it comes to a healthy diet. For instance, it is not true that the more water you drink, the better. 64 oz - 100 oz (8 cups - 13 cups) per day is enough for most people. (When you workout for 45 minutes or more add another 8 oz or so.) Liz Applegate, Ph.D., wrote an article, Setting the Record Straight, debunking several common diet myths.

Myths are not the only problem with understanding healthy diets. These days it seems like there is always another breaking news story about a new miracle pill or the perfect eating plan. It can be hard to tell what is right and what is wrong without better understanding of nutritional science.

Well, never fear, Suzanne Girard Eberle, MS, RD, has written a brilliant article, Beyond the Headlines, to help us sort it out for ourselves.

Now that you are armed with the basics of what you need to know to lose weight and keep your body healthy for your active lifestyle,

Let's Sum It Up

  • No less than 1200 calories a day, unless under doctor's supervision.
  • Find your calorie range, then subtract up to 750 calories a day.
  • Try to keep your carb/protein/fat ratio between 50-55% carbs, 20-25% protein, and 20-30% fat.
  • 8-10 servings of grains per day.
  • 7 servings of vegetables per day.
  • 2-4 of fruits per day.
  • 4-6 oz lean meat or 2-3 servings of soy per day.
  • 2-3 servings of lowfat dairy products per day.
  • Try to drink 64-100 oz of water daily.
  • Eating disorders are common and serious.
  • Moderation, variety and balance are key.

A Sample Day

(Stats: 25y/o, Female, 5'8, 160, lightly active)

(Calorie Range 1950-2200, Weight Loss Range 1200-1950)

  • Wakes Up
  • Eats Breakfast: 2 pieces of toast w/ peanut butter and jelly (100% fruit), orange juice, coffee (black), water = 400 calories, 2 grains, 2 fruit, 1 protein
  • Goes to Work (desk job): more water
  • Lunch: 10" sub sandwich (w/ meat, cheese, and veggies), chips, tea (unsweetened) = 800 calories, 4 grains, 2 protein, 1 dairy, 2 veggies
  • More Work: more water
  • Snack: carrots with ranch dip = 150 calories, 2 veggies, 1 dairy
  • Goes Home
  • Runs 30 min: more water
  • Dinner: salad with turkey bacon and olive oil/raspberry vinegarette, garlic toast = 350 calories, 3 veggies, 2 grains, 1 protein
  • Does Light Housework
  • Relax and Snack: Hot Cocoa = 150 calories, 1 dairy
  • Sleep

Total: 1850 calories, 8 grains, 7 veggies, 2 fruit, 4 protein, 3 dairy

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Hydration 101
 

What Every Runner Should Know About Hydration

Surely we all know that hydration is important to our health and performance. Most of us have been drilled to believe that 8 glasses of water a day is the way. Many of us even know that the human body is made up of about 66% water. That's 2/3 of our mass that depends on us being properly hydrated!

Some other facts about our body's need for water include:

  • Our bones are 22% water.
  • Our muscles are 75% water.
  • Our blood is 83% water.
  • Our lungs are 93% water.
  • Our brains are 95% water.

No wonder we get dizzy, listless, and unfocused as we get dehydrated. Our brain is almost entirely made of water! So, when it starts getting low on water, it can't function at full potential. Other signs of dehydration include:

  • dry, itchy skin
  • headaches
  • thirst
  • fatigue
  • crankiness
  • becoming stressed easily
  • unclear thinking
  • flushed face
  • cramping
  • weakness
  • sleepinees
  • dry mouth
  • bloating
  • constipation

Obviously, it's worth the effort to maintain hydration by drinking more water.

Aside from the problems dehydration alone can cause your body, being dehydrated and exercising (or being out in the heat) can exasperate things immensely.

Water is also the force behind temperature control for our bodies. We sweat to help regulate our body temperature. If we can't sweat (for lack of water), our body temperature spirals up and we quickly find ourselves at risk for heat injuries, like heat creamps, heat stroke, and exhaustion. (Heat stroke is, by the way, deadly. These are not just run-of-the-mill, I'll-feel-better-in-a-day-or-two type problems. These injuries are serious, and should not be taken lightly.)

And if you are trying to lose weight, hydration is even more important. Even if you eat healthy and moderately and exercise, you will not lose weight without drinking enough water. Water is a big part of the metabolic system. It helps convert food into energy instead of fat. Without the enough water, your body will convert more food to fat than to energy. (Of course, there are dangers of overdoing water intake, called hyponetremia. But it is much more rare than dehydration is.)

So... how much is the right amount? Once you know that you can avoid all these problems, lose that extra few pounds, and live happily ever after, so what's the magic number?

Well, the least amount of water that most healthy adults should consume (to maintain hydration) everyday is 8 to 10 cups (8 oz). For people undertaking fitness routines, 12 to 16 cups a day (on days you workout) is best. These amounts of water won't hurt healthy adults. It is easy enough, however, to find the amount of water an individual should consume.

  1. Divide your weight by half. So, if you weigh 160, you should try to drink 80 oz of water per day. Divide the ounces by 8 to get cups. 80/8 = 10 cups. This is the amount to drink just to make up for our normal daily losses through sweat, urine, exhaled air and bowel movements. This doesn't take into account running.
  2. Add another cup for each half hour of exercise that day. If you workout for one hour or more, replace every other half hour's cup of water with a sports drink.

For example, let's say you weigh 140. Everyday you should drink 70 oz of water, or about 9 cups. Now let's say on Monday you workout for 2 hours. So on Monday you need your normal 9 cups + 2 hours worth of working out (4 cups). So 13 cups altogether, but make 2 cups Gatorade since you worked out for 2 hours straight. Working out that long, you need to start replacing salt and electrolytes. On Tuesday, let's say you workout for 30 min. So, on Tuesday, you would just drink your normal 9 cups + 1 cup from working out. 10 cups total.

Hydration is that simple. The hard part is doing it!

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Water vs. Sports Drinks

What should you choose for improved performance

Proper hydration is extremely important during exercise. Adequate fluid intake for athletes, even the recreational kind, is essential to comfort, performance & safety.

The longer & more intensely you exercise, the more important it is to drink plenty of fluids. Inadequate water consumption can be physically harmful. Consider that a loss of as little as 2% of one's body weight due to sweating, can lead to a drop in blood volume.

When this occurs, the heart works harder in order to move blood thru the bloodstream. Prehydration & rehydration are vital to maintaining cardiovascular health, proper body temperature & muscle function.

Dehydration is a major cause of fatigue, poor performance, decreased coordination & muscle cramping. To avoid the above, the American College Of Sports Medicine suggests the following:

  1. Eat a high carbohydrate, low fat diet & drink plenty of fluids between exercise sessions.
  2. (Plain water or fluids WITHOUT sugar, caffeine or alcohol are the best).
  3. Drink 17 oz (2+ Cups) of fluid 2 hours before exercise.
  4. Drink every 15 minutes during exercise.
  5. Keep drinks cooler than air temperature & close at hand (a water bottle is ideal).
  6. If you exercise for more than 60 minutes, you may benefit from a sports drink containing carbohydrate (not greater than 8% concentration, though).
  7. Take 30-60 grams of carbohydrate per hour to delay fatigue & fuel muscle contractions.
  8. Inclusion of sodium (0.5-0.7 g.1(-1) of water)ingested during exercise lasting longer than an hour may enhance palatability, & therefore encourage athletes to drink enough.

Although athletes are more prone to suffer symptoms of dehydration, all exercisers can increase performance & delay fatigue or muscle pain by staying properly hydrated.

Consider 'pre-hydrating' by drinking 12-16 ozs. of water 1-2 hours before exercising.

How much is enough?
To get an idea
of just how much you need to drink, you should weigh yourself before & after your workouts.

Any weight decrease is probably due to water loss (sorry, but you didn't just lose 2 pounds of body fat). If you have lost 2 or more pounds during your workout you should drink 24 ozs. of water for each pound lost.

Another way to determine your state of hydration is by monitoring your morning and pre-exercise heart rate. Over the course of a few weeks, you will see a pattern. This information can be extremely helpful in determining your state of recovery. Days when your heart rate is elevated above your norm may indicate a lack of complete recovery, possibly due to dehydration.

What about Sports Drinks?
Sports drinks can be helpful to athletes who are exercising at a high intensity for 90 minutes or more. Fluids supplying 60 to 100 calories per 8 ounces helps to supply the needed calories required for continuous performance. It's really not necessary to replace losses of sodium, potassium and other electrolytes during exercise since you're unlikely to deplete your body's stores of these minerals during normal training. If, however, you find yourself exercising in extreme conditions over 5 or 6 hours (an Ironman or ultramarathon, for example) you will need to add a complex sports drink with electrolytes. Athletes who don't consume electrolytes under these conditions risk overhydration (or hyponatremia). The most likely occurence is found in the longer events (five hours or more) when athletes drink excessive amounts of electrolyte free water, and develop hyponatremia (low blood sodium concentration).

What about Caffeine?
While caffeine may have some ergogenic properties, remember that it acts as a diuretic causing your body to excrete fluid instead of retaining it, so it is not the wisest choice when trying to hydrate. You're better off with plain water or fruit juice until your weight reaches that of your pre-exercise state. For additional information on hydration and exercise, check out the following links.

it's in the news....
 
A Run on the Beach Can Bring Misery: Soft sand is no friend to joints, experts warn

Know About Stretching.

Stretching routines are a great thing to talk to your doctor about when you visit him/her. Your doctor can help you set up a stretching routine that is best for your needs.
 
There's a debate among runners as to the proper time to stretch, or, in fact, whether it's important to stretch at all. Because there isn't a fixed suggestion for stretching, new runners would do best to listen to the advice of their doctors or try a number of different routines to see what works best for them personally.

To Stretch or Not To Stretch - That's the Question!
 

Should I do Stretching Exercises?

It seems these days that even stretching is a controversial subject among runners. Can't we agree on anything, folks?

Well, this time, as usual, there's good reason for disagreement. Like most running questions, whether or not to do stretching exercises (& when to stretch if you decide to) are debated heatedly because there's no one-size-fits-all answer.

Stretching is a personal decision in running; your neighbor just might not realize it yet when he tries to convince you that his routine is the best by far (since it's the one that works best for him).

So let's break this issue down. The first thing that has to be decided is whether or not you're going to do stretching exercises.

Then, if you decide stretching is for you, you need to think about when to stretch.

And, finally, it'll be important for you to know a few key instructions to keep you stretching safely.

To stretch or Not to stretch

According to Dr. David Musnick & Mark Pierce, A.T.C. (in their book "Conditioning for Outdoor Fitness"),
 
"The goal of stretching is to lengthen a muscle & move the corresponding joints thru the full range of motion, thereby allowing both the contractile (muscle & tendon) & the noncontractile (ligament & joint capsule) structures to lengthen."
 
The effect has many advantages for runners. Stretching exercises:
  • relieve muscle tension

  • keep muscles flexible, which can help your posture & balance

  • lengthen muscles & increase range of motion, which helps lengthen your stride

  • help prevent muscle & joint injuries by elongating & relaxing muscles

  • flush lactic acid out of your muscles.

However, stretching cold, tight muscles can result in strains & possibly tears. Stretching with bad form or tight muscles is the 3rd leading cause of injury in runners.

In most arguments between stretchers & non-stretchers, it inevitably comes down to "stretching helps prevent injuries" & "stretching is a leading cause of injuries in runners."

How can this conundrum be & what can we do to prevent injury?

When stretching exercises cause injury, it's usually because the muscles are tight or cold, though occasionally it's because the stretcher is doing too much too fast.

So, if, in the end, you decide to be a stretcher, be a safe one. Warm up first. Do a walk or slow jog for 5-10 minutes, then stretch & then run. (Also check out page 2 of this article for some Do's/Don'ts to stay safe when stretching.)

Or, if in the end you choose to be a non-stretcher, you should also warm up with a 5-10 minute walk or slow jog to prepare your muscles for the workout to come. This will take care of most injuries that would have been prevented by stretching.

Another helpful option (though not a substitute for warming up) is participating in an activity that stretches your running muscles, like swimming or yoga.

The best way to decide whether or not to stretch is to try out a few different routines (including not stretching) & see what works best for you. When you find one that works for you, stick to what works for you no matter what your neighbor says.

You don't need to fix what isn't broken, right? Most importantly, if it does break, if your routine stops working for you, start back at step 1 & try out some other routines until you find one that works.

When to Stretch?

Nearly as controversial as whether or not to stretch at all, the best time to stretch is often debated. Should you stretch before you run or after you finish?

If you've warmed up your muscles properly, stretching before you run can be safe & effective.

Some people say it has saved them from injury; others say it helps them run smoother or transition from the office to the road. Then again, some runners would rather just jump straight from the warm up into the workout, saying they lose momentum if they stop to stretch.

With the proper warm up, stretching before a run can be beneficial & is fully acceptable.

You may think that stretching after you run seems like an obvious good choice. Think again. You're already warmed up, but now your muscles are pumping & it takes them awhile to adjust to the fact that you've stopped running.

To force them into an opposite action, like stretching, immediately after you stop running can cause them to actually constrict more in an effort to "save themselves."

If you do choose to stretch after you run, you should wait 30-45 minutes after you stop running to do so. Cool down, eat, shower & then do a few stretches.

Or even stretch (very, very carefully) in the shower. If you've had plenty of time for your muscles to adjust, a warm shower can enhance stretching tenfold. (Of course, it can also be dangerous, so stretch in the shower at your own risk.)

Another option is to stretch throughout the day whenever you have a few minutes (if you run in the morning) or stretch before bed (if you're a pm runner).

As usual, when you stretch will depend on what works for you personally. However, there are a few points that hold true for (nearly) everyone who stretches...

Stretching Do's & Do Nots

Do...

  • warm up thoroughly first
  • ease into a stretching routine
  • only static stretches (slow, rhythmic movement)
  • pay attention to your breathing (take deep belly breaths)
  • make stretching a habit
  • relax
  • listen to your body

Do Not...

  • hold your breath
  • bounce
  • force a stretch
  • hold painful stretches
  • stretch injured muscles
  • hurry thru your routine
  • compete ()

Don't forget the Warm Up & Cool Down!

The warm up & cool down shouldn't be optional in your running routine. As has been mentioned, cold muscles are at the highest risk for injury.

By increasing the temperature of your muscles, they;ll be more flexible & have an increased speed of motion. Warming up can loosen your muscles & soft tissue as much as 20%.

The cool down allows blood to continue flowing thru your muscles (& into your brain), working its way more slowly from a high level of exertion to its normal resting condition. These 2 simple additions to your work out can help lessen (maybe even prevent) soreness & irritability after a run.

Stretching for runners - Brief Article

Running & FitNews,  Feb, 2000  by Barbara Baldwin

A recent study showed that a group of runners who stretched 3 times a day & became more flexible, reduced their risk of lower leg injuries by 12% over runners who did minimal stretching.

This is one of the few studies confirming the benefits of stretching. Does it mean you should stretch? Does stretching reduce your risk of injury? Does it aid performance? it's too early for science to tell us...but if you listen to successful runners & coaches, they value flexibility.

Most runners understand that stretching is an important part of a good fitness & training plan, but stretching may often get shortchanged.

If your time is at a premium (& whose time isn't) you may resent trading miles for stretching. If you've got 45 minutes to work out, it may seem like a waste to devote any of it to stretching.

Although it may be best to warm up prior to exercise, stretch before & then stretch again after exercise, many runners simply want to lace up their shoes & head out the door. You can probably have your cake & eat it too.

That is, have your run & perform stretches to decrease your risk of injury & enhance your performance. Effective stretching can take as little as 5 minutes.

Starting out with an easy jog for about 5 to 10 minutes before you run at your full speed is a natural warm up. Pausing to stretch the major muscle groups you're using (such as the quadriceps, hamstrings & calves) may help to reduce your risk of injury & can loosen your stride for better performance.

After your run, devote more time to stretching & focus on those areas that are tighter than others. And even with all this, it still doesn't have to take long to be effective.

The recommendation to warm up prior to stretching is based on the fact that you should never stretch a cold muscle. Imagine trying to stretch a cold piece of taffy. You can't & if you continue to try, it may break.

But if you warm up the taffy, it becomes pliable & easier to stretch. Muscles behave much the same way. When warm, they become more flexible & less susceptible to injury from either stretching or exertion.

Does that mean you have to work up a sweat before you stretch?

As long as your muscle isn't cold, stretching can be done any time & your body benefits even from casual stretching. The intensity of the stretch should be adjusted depending on how warm the muscle is.

After a run, when the blood is pumping & the body is generating heat, the muscles will be more flexible & easier to lengthen. Now stretching can be slightly more aggressive.

Remember that stretching isn't a competitive sport. It's not meant to make you as flexible as the kid down the street, or as limber as the gymnast next door.

The goal for stretching should be to achieve flexibility within the range a sport requires & to counteract any inflexibility caused by sitting all day at a desk, driving long hours, or standing in one place all day.

And, when getting ready to work out, stretching prepares the body for movement & helps make the transition from inactivity to vigorous activity without strain. It's in your best interest to stretch in order to maintain flexibility.

Losses in flexibility show up for the runner as a shortened, less fluid running stride & higher risk for pulling or tearing muscles when running. A strong, stretched muscle resists stress better than a strong, unstretched muscle.

There are several effective methods for stretching but some require partners or are best learned thru one-on-one instruction.

In many cases, the more complicated something is, the less you use it. Therefore, static stretching is often recommended. It's easy to understand & perform. With static stretching, you lengthen the muscle to where there's a mild pull & hold without bouncing.

In the past, it'as been recommended to hold a static stretch anywhere from 20 seconds. However, recent research indicates that it's more effective to hold a stretch for approximately 10 seconds, release & then repeat the same stretch 2 to 3 times.

As the stretch is repeated, the muscle relaxes & you avoid over-stretching, which can lead to injury. If you experience extreme discomfort or the muscle quivers uncontrollably during the stretch, back off a degree or two.

Never start an aggressive stretching program when you're acutely injured. This could lead to additional damage of the injured area. Allow time for healing. When there's minimal or no pain, start a light & easy stretching regime.

Stretching is sometimes part of an injury-recovery program, in which case you should follow the instructions of your sports medicine professional. (Barbara Baldwin, M.P.H., is The American Running Association's resident Information Specialist. To receive The American Running Association's newest brochure on "Stretching for Runners, "send a business-sized, self-addressed stamped envelope to Stretching, do The American Running Association, 4405 East West Highway, Suite 405, Bethesda, MD 20814.)

COPYRIGHT 2000 American Running & Fitness Association
COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group

Understand Injury Prevention Concepts.

Talk to your doctor, a specialist, a sports massage therapist, or the folks at your local running store for information on your body mechanics & which injuries you may be heading for, due to natural tendencies & your running style. Analyze what type of feet you have & be sure to run in the right shoes.

How To Buy the Right Running Shoes
Consider how often you run & for how long.

It's important to consider how often you run, as in times per week & how long each run is, as in minutes per run. Don't make the mistake of only considering what you're doing now, but also consider how often & long your runs will be in 4 months.

In other words, if you're planning on adding more mileage in the next few months, you need to take that into consideration when buying your running shoes.

Most runners will fall into 1 of 2 categories:

You run no more than 30 minutes per day, no more than 3 days per week. If that's the case, a regular pair of sneakers should be fine for you, especially if you're just starting out.

You probably don't need to buy new shoes unless you want to. In fact, what you have now is probably fine, so go run!

However, if you've been running for a year (or more) or find yourself having trouble with injuries (shin splints, IT band, knee pain), you may want to go ahead & buy a good pair of running shoes.

You run no less than 30 minutes per day, 3 or more times per week. If you're running this often & this long, it's imperative that you have the right shoes for your foot type.

Now that you know if you need to buy running shoes, continue on to find out what type of foot you have.

Consider how often you run & for how long.
 

Are your feet flat?

There are two ways to tell what kind of feet you have; you can either just look at your foot (this is less accurate) or you can look at your footprint (make a footprint by running on paper with wet feet).

If you have a flat foot, your footprint will look like a foot shaped blob. There will be almost no inward curve from your big toe to your heel; there may even be an outward curve. If you are just examining your foot, you'll notice that as you press your hand down on the bottom of your foot that your foot flattens out to conform to this new surface.

If you have a flat foot you are probably an overpronator. This is the most common of the three types of feet. All this means is that when you run your feet roll inwards. You will probably need a shoe that will maintain stability for you.

Look for the keywords "motion control" and "stability" when shopping for running shoes.

Are your feet high-arched?

By either examining your foot or using the footprint test, determine if you have a high arch. If you know you have a flat foot, then you can skip this step.

If you have a high arch, your footprint will curve decidedly inward, making the middle of your foot look very skinny. If you are just examining your foot instead of your footprint, you will notice a high and definite arch on your foot. If you push your hand against the bottom of your foot, your foot will not succumb to the pressure easily; the arch will probably remain rigid and may never touch your hand at all.

If this is the case, you may supinate. Supination, or underpronating, is when your feet roll outwards as you run. This is the least common of the three types. You need to look for flexible shoes with a soft midsole to act as shock absorbers for your body.

Look for the keywords "flexible" or "cushioned" when shopping for running shoes.

Do you have normal feet?

If you've examined your foot or used the footprint test and were unable to determine if you have a high arch or a flat foot, you may have a normal foot. (Really, it should be called neutral, because it's not actually the most common type.)

If your foot is normal, when you look at it, you won't notice a particularly high or low arch. If you use the footprint test, probably the best way to tell for this particular type of foot, you'll see the classic "footprint in the sand" footprint. There will be a noticeable curve inward, but not by more than 3/4 of an inch at it's greatest part.

If you have normal feet, you can choose from a wide variety of shoes including shoes made for normal feet, shoes made for slightly flatfooted feet, or shoes made for slightly high-arched feet.

You don't want to get anything that mentions it has a lot of stability/motion control. You are also less likely to get injured, unless you pick a shoe that is counteracting your normal foot.

Now that you know your type of foot and what type of shoe that equates to, the only other thing you need to consider is what kind of running you plan to do.

Consider What Kind Of Running You Do.

If you are running primarily on grass, trails, or any surface that is slippery, you may want to consider getting trail shoes. These shoes usually have added traction, durability, and stability; these shoes will help you get through the mud and leaves and, somewhat, the water with less slipping and sliding. If you run trails a large portion of the time, you may want to consider trail running shoes. However, it's always a good idea to keep a regular pair of running shoes around for when you want to hit the roads.

If you are a a hardcore competitive racer, you're crazy! But that aside, you may want to invest in a good pair of racing flats. These shoes are made to be fast and flexible, but do increase the risk of injury. These shoes should only be used DURING races, except to break them in, of course.

If you are a casual runner who usually runs on roads, sidewalks, or tracks, you don't need to worry about this question at all.

Go To Your Local Running Store.

Now, you should have an idea of what you need in a running shoe. The next step is to find a local running store who has a knowledgeable shoe department. You may want to have them watch you run a little and determine (as a second opinion) what type of shoe you will need. Obviously if they tell you the same thing you had figured out yourself, then you are right on track. If they give you different information, you may want to consider reexamining your foot or what type of running you plan to do.

Feel free to ask your running store representatives lots of questions. They can become valuable founts of knowledge to guide you through years of running. If you feel that they aren't knowledgeable or are not helping you the way you need them to, you may want to find a new running store or at least a new salesperson.

Of course, you could also buy your shoes online.

You will probably find much cheaper prices for the same shoe. Remember, at local running stores, you are paying for the service. A good rule to getting the right shoe online is to go get your first pair at a running store so you get the right fit and type. Then when you need new shoes, you can just reorder the same shoe online for the better price. Please do not go to a running store for a fitting and then buy online instead of from the store. That's not fair to the store. You've used their time and knowledge and then not paid for it.

Now lace up those shoes and run!

Marathon Training Tips

The Hospital for Special Surgery

What kind of running experience / mileage should I have before training for a marathon?

You should be able to run at least 15-25 miles per week. If you have a consistent history of fitness training, even though it may be with another activity like cycling or aerobics, this will augment a lower running mileage. You should also have participated in a couple 10-k or 5-k races & enjoyed the experience of racing.

What are the most common mistakes runners make when training for the marathon?

Mistake #1: Increase mileage or intensity too quickly.

Increase your training mileage / time by no more than 10 - 20 % weekly.

i.e., if you're currently running 20 miles per week, increase your total weekly mileage by no more than 2 - 4 miles the next week. A periodic long run is part of race preparation, but you should reduce other training components or introduce a rest day.

Gradually introduce speed or hill work. Change only one training component at a time.

i.e., if you've decided to begin some hill work (intensity), don't increase your running mileage the same week.

Mistake # 2: Ignore the warning signs of an injury & continue to train with pain. This is a sure way to end up watching other people run the marathon!

Mistake # 3: No rest! You should have at least one rest day each week. You should also have periodic light training weeks (every 4 - 6 weeks), particularly after a race or heavy week.

Mistake # 4: Neglect a proper stretching & strengthening program. "I don't need to strengthen my legs because running does that". Wrong!

Due to the repetitive nature of running, muscle imbalances which cause injuries are very common. Tight or weak muscles should be addressed with a specific conditioning program to avoid "breakdown" from the chronic stress of marathon training.

Mistake # 5: Worn-out or improperly fitting running shoes. Train in a supportive, well-fitting pair of running shoes, with ample room in the toebox. Depending on your weight & running surface, you should replace your running shoes every 250-500 miles.

The sole of your shoe is made with extremely durable rubber which may still look good even if the midsole is no longer providing cushioning or support. Remember that shoes wear out before they look worn out!

If you set your shoes on a level surface & they tilt in or out, they've begun to break down & will no longer support you. Nagging foot, knee, back or hip pain may be another signal that you need new footwear.

Mistake # 6: Try to make up for a lost week of running (due to illness or travel) by doubling your mileage the next week (very bad move).

Mistake # 7: Forget that cross-training with other aerobic workout activities can contribute to overall fitness & race preparation. You can do up to 20% of your mileage in activities like cycling, deep water running, swimming, stair climbing etc. to reduce wear & tear on your body.

Mistake # 8: Listen to too many people. Don't beat yourself into the ground by training with friends who have a different fitness level, longer history of running, longer stride or much faster pace!

What are the warning signs of overtraining?

  • Pain which doesn't disappear within 2 days after your training run
  • Pain which begins to come on earlier in your workout instead of later
  • Pain which limits your workout

Go see a doctor if any of the first 3 items describe YOU!

  • Fatigue (just don't feel like you have the energy)
  • Boredom (you can think of any number of other things you'd rather be doing & have to force yourself to get out there)
  • Take your true resting pulse for 1 minute in the morning when you wake up. Get to know your typical pulse rate. One of the adaptations to physical conditioning is a progressively lower resting heart rate.
  • However, if your resting pulse becomes higher after a period of intense conditioning, this expresses too much physical stress on the body.

What are the basic elements of marathon training which should be included in my program?

There are many training programs available that are prepared by the organizers of various marathon races or running coaches. Remember that these are a framework for training & you should listen to your body & follow the directions of your physician / therapist / coach.

Take into account your overall level of fitness & health, years of conditioning / running & skill / competitive level. Your training schedule should include:

Slow Distance: (60 - 70% HRmax) Long easy training runs. This is the foundation of your training, particularly during the early months of preparation when you're building a base of aerobic fitness. Keep your intensity low & comfortable. Many runners train too hard for too many miles.

Tempo: (70 - 90% HRmax depending on fitness level) Tempo training is typically done at a brisk pace which is slightly slower or right at your 10 k race pace. This type of training will help you to increase your lactate threshhold, which improves your ability to tolerate speed over time. During the last 2 months before the marathon, do one 30-50 minute tempo run each week, depending on your level.

Hills: (80 - 100% HRmax) Hill training is an important part of building the strength to finish strong when you're fatigued, especially on a hilly course. Hill work should occur no more than once a week.

Speed: (80 - 100% HRmax) Speed training involves running at a speed that is much faster than your 10k race pace but for a shorter distance (200 m to 1 mile).

Speed work helps you to:

  • develop the ability to sustain speed over distance
  • improves your anaerobic energy systems
  • trains your neuromuscular system to fire efficiently
  • improves your mental ability to train at tough intensities

Speed intervals should never be done more than 1x week & only after you've developed a good base of endurance & strength.

Rest / Recovery: This is one of the most important parts of your training schedule!

Overtraining will deplete your muscles of glycogen, thus limiting your endurance. It takes over 24 hours to replete muscle glycogen.

Allow for at least one complete rest day/week. A light training day or rest day should always follow a hard training day. This will keep you mentally & physically fresh & prevent overuse injuries.

Long Run: No more than one every 2-3 weeks! How long is a long run? Regardless of where you start, this is the one run that you gradually increase to move toward marathon distance.

Increase your long run by 2-3 miles every 2-3 weeks. Initially your long run may be 8 miles and end up at 22 miles (or maximum 3 hours) about a month before the race.

Stretching: Intense training can increase muscle tension & reduce range of motion.

Stretching will:

  • keep your muscles flexible to prevent injury
  • improve your performance 
  • promote a fluid running motion

Stretching should be done every day, particularly after exercise, when high muscle temperature & good blood flow augment your body's response to flexibility training.

Stretching your hamstrings, quads, calves, hip flexors & IT band (& any other muscles which you know are particularly tight) before you run is also a good idea.

Hold each stretch 15-30 seconds & repeat 3-5 times. You should feel muscle tension, but NOT pain. During your long runs, you may want to stop & stretch halfway thru.

Strength Training: Even though you may not want to add a lot of muscle weight to your frame, strength training for running can protect your joints from injury & keep your body in balance.

Basic strength training should be performed during the early months of your marathon preparation using a conditioning prescription of 8-12 repetitions, 1-3 sets of each exercise, 3 days/week.

Avoid heavy lifting. Don't neglect the abdominals & low back which support your spine during running. Reduce strength training to only 2 days/week & substitute some sports-specific strength training drills like hill work & bounding as the marathon approaches (last few months).

Should I do any racing to prepare for the marathon & what distance?

Races are opportunities to go thru the ritual of racing: mentally, physically & logistically. They can be a yardstick with which to measure your progress.

Racing may just be a fun highlight in your training & a chance to get together with running buddies.

  • No more than 3 half-marathons in 6 months. Too many races drain your physical & mental reserves.
  • Always cut out your long run on the weeks that you race.
  • 5 k - 10 k races scattered throughout.
  • Your last race should be 3 weeks before the marathon.

What about nutrition for training & competing?

Remember that carbohydrates include not only bread & pasta, but fruits, vegetables, legumes & a variety of whole grains.

 

Every day should be a high carbohydrate day during training (60 % of your total calories come from carbs). This keeps your muscles fueled with glycogen which has a direct effect on your endurance.

You need at least 4-6 ozs. of high quality protein per day.

 

Maintaining adequate iron intake is important for preventing athletic anemia. Anemia causes inadequate oxygenation of the muscles & fatigue.

A sports nutritionist can assess your food intake & help you meet your unique nutrition needs.

A week before the marathon:

As you gradually reduce training, increase the percentage of carbohydrates up to 70% to maximize muscle glycogen levels.

By 4 days before the event, your diet should be up to 70% carbohydrates.

During this time you'll need to reduce fat content even further to increase your carbohydrate intake. Use jelly instead of butter or margarine, use syrup without butter, drink juices, eat fruits, have an extra serving of starch at each meal in place of some fat.

Before the race:

What you eat the night before & the morning of the race should be familiar, comforting food that's typical of your usual pre-running meals.

Enjoy a high carb meal & drink plenty of fluids the night before the marathon (pasta, thick-crust light-cheese pizza, rice & beans, rice & veggies, lentils).

Your morning meal should be low in fat, include some carbohydrate & protein & be eaten at least an hour before start time. The purpose of the meal is to provide enough blood glucose to keep you alert, as well as fuel your muscles in the beginning of the race.

This isn't the time to try a new unfamiliar food that may give you digestive problems.

Good breakfast choices are:

  • A large glass of orange juice, 3 pieces of toast with a few teaspoons of peanut butter, a banana & a cup of tea with sugar & milk 
  • 1 or 2 poached eggs or lowfat cottage cheese on toast
  • Cereal & low-fat milk with fresh fruit
  • Pancakes with fruit & syrup (no butter) & a large glass of skim milk

During the race:

With any endurance event longer than 90 minutes, an athlete will benefit from some carbohydrate ingested intermittently during the event. You can increase your stamina by consuming 100-300 calories/hour during the marathon. These snacks should obviously be made of easy-to-carry, easy-to-eat carbohydrates.

These foods should have a high glycemic index which means they'll be absorbed quickly to provide energy.

Examples are:

  • sports drinks
  • diluted juice
  • orange segments
  • bananas
  • "Goo"
  • "Powergel"
  • "Gator-gel" or other similar products

Past the 8 mile mark, have friends strategically located to hand you your favorite endurance snacks. Don't rely on the aid stations to provide what works best for you.

After the race or a training run:

Refuel muscle glycogen immediately after each training session, preferably within the first 15 minutes.

There's about a 2-4 hour window of opportunity where muscles will refuel maximally. Drink & eat carbohydrates like juice, yogurt, fruit, bagels, pretzels or high carb meal.

Rehydrate.

What pre-race preparation should I do the last few days (or hours!) before the marathon?

  • An easy 15-20 mins. at a conversational pace.
  • Taper. This means a gradual reduction in training volume (but not intensity) in preparation for the race. It helps you go into the marathon fresh.

Beginnning 3 weeks before the race, reduce your training mileage to 75%, 50% & then 25% with each successive week. It's much better to go into a race well-rested & slightly undertrained than overtrained. You'll feel better & perform better.

  • Get good quality & quantity sleep the whole week before the marathon. If you're anxious & have trouble dozing off the night before the marathon, but are generally well rested, you'll be a step ahead.
  • Know the route. Drive, cycle or look at a race map to familiarize yourself with the course. This will reduce anxiety & help you pace yourself mentally & physically during the race.
  • Know where you'll put your warm-ups, car keys, etc on the morning of the marathon.
  • On the morning of the race, stretch, stride a little & focus on positive thoughts. A warm-up run generally isn't necessary & will probably make you start off too fast.

Prepare for the weather with appropriate clothing. In cold weather, dress in layers that you can shed as you run (garments you don't mind leaving by the side of the road!)

 

Avoid cotton which traps moisture next to the skin & can chill you in a hurry. Inner layer fabrics should wick your body's moisture away, while the outer layer should repel cold, wind or rain. Hats & gloves will also protect you from the cold, but can be easily removed to keep you comfortable.

Vaseline rubbed between your thighs & near your armpits (where a bra or tank top might rub) will help prevent chafing. Do this yourself at home, but many marathons provide Vaseline vats at the starting line & strategically placed intervals.

  • Make sure you are well-hydrated going into the race, particularly in warm weather & take advantage of the aid stations along the way. Don't forget to wear a sweat proof sunscreen (minimum SPF 15).
  • Have a support person(s) along the course, especially at a vulnerable mile point for you, whether to give you a pair of dry socks, carbohydrate source or just verbal encouragement.
  • Don't try anything new on race day. Don't wear new shoes or clothing. The result may be blisters or chafing. Stick with beverages & foods that are familiar. Keep with the tried & true.
  • Relax. Visualize a beautiful, fun run.

from the Women's Sports Foundation Website

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