Monthly Archives: January 2016

In the Beginning

tired_runner1

The beginning of the year always jolts people into action to improve their lives or to set goals they would like to achieve by years end. Many of these goals are health related such as eating better, losing weight, and exercising on a regular basis.

We are three weeks into the year, or twenty-one days. How many people have been able to continue on their journey to a healthier life style? I’m not sure, but I know the gym is starting to dwindle down to the regulars. It takes twenty-one days to form a habit, so if you have made it this far you are well on your way to achieving your goal. The hardest part is getting started.

A nice way to get your self-motivated is to pick a 5k (3.1 miles) run in your city a few months out and then work yourself up to the three miles over twelve weeks. Even in the winter, there are 5k’s here and there, especially if there are any holidays coming up. If you can’t find one, don’t let that stop you from starting.

What do you need to get started?

Don’t go out and spend a lot of money when you first start running. The one purchase I always recommend is shoes. Get some good running shoes from a local running store. They can help you decide which shoes are best for you. Before you go, know that good running shoes are kinda expensive ($ 120 on average).

The other important piece of equipment is clothing. They don’t need to be from the running store. Look around at your local clothing stores for their exercise clothing. Target has a great line of clothing for exercising and it’s not expensive. Having appropriate clothing is important for a few reasons, you want to be able to run comfortably regardless of the weather outside and you don’t want chafing.

That’s it. All you need to start is clothing and shoes.

How do you get started?

There are many beginner programs out there. You want to pick one based upon your fitness level. Of course, you should always check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program. If you are overweight and have been inactive for over six months, beginning with walking twenty minutes a day is a perfect starting line for you. Each week try to increase your pace by a few minutes. Once you are comfortable with walking at a quick pace you can move on to a run walk program, which I’ll talk about next.

Start here if you are brand new to running, have not done any exercising in the last six months, and are in reasonable shape, you need to start with a run walk program. Start with walking five minutes and running two minutes. If that’s hard, run one minute and walk four minutes. Continue alternating between walking and running for twenty minutes. As you make progress, you will increase the amount of time you are running and decrease the amount of time you are walking until you are running for the entire twenty minutes. You should start here if you haven’t been running for eight weeks or more due to injury. Once you can do this, move on to the next step.

Okay now you can run twenty minutes without stopping. Finding twenty minutes a day to squeeze in a run is doable for most people. But, what if you don’t want to stop with just twenty minutes? Perhaps running has become your new best friend and you want to spend even more time together.

That’s fantastic! There are a few rules to keep in mind as you increase your miles until you reach your goal. First is never increase your miles by more than ten percent each week. Second is, reduce your miles by twenty to twenty-five percent every fourth week. Following these two simple rules will help you stay injury free as you increase your miles.

Why?

running is my passion

There are as many reasons to run as there are runners. People begin running to lose weight, to increase their cardio capacity, and to get out of the house. The people who continue to run are those whose reasons for running change as they achieve the initial goal they set out to reach.

Then there are the “addicts.” The crazy people who run because it’s fun. Countless people have told me how much they hate to run and how hard it is for them to do one mile. Here is a little secret, that first mile is the hardest mile. It’s hard to go from zero to moving. It takes time for your heartrate to increase to the point where you are comfortable. This is true for just about everyone. Once you get past the first mile and your body adjusts to the forward motion, it’s easier. It’s almost fun.

Even after running for eight years, it takes my body anywhere from one to three miles to find it’s groove, especially if I worked hard the day before.

Running makes your immune system, cardiovascular, and respiratory systems stronger and increases their efficiency. In addition to the well-known benefits to running and exercise in general, there are some “hidden” benefits to running, such as stress relief, increase in creativity, and making friends. The bottom line is running will make you a happier person. Twenty minutes a day is all it takes to establish a good routine and reap the benefits increasing your quality of life.

So, why do I keep at it? There isn’t just one reason that keeps me shuffling down the trail day after day and mile after mile. I run for all of the reasons above, but I also run to feel connected to the world around me especially nature. I love being out there. I love challenging myself and pushing through those challenges. Running makes me happy, and it makes me a better person.

The Elliptical Alternative

elliptical

Many injured and healthy runners use an elliptical machine to reduce the impact on joints, muscles and tendons while maintaining the running motion as closely as possible. An elliptical is a practical alternative and available to most people. It’s purpose is to do just what these runners are looking for. Long term use of an elliptical can have a negative impact on your running, however.

If you’ve ever used an elliptical for over an hour, you’ll notice it starts to make your toes feel numb. The position of your body is different on the elliptical compared to when running.

What are the body position differences?

First, on the elliptical both feet are always making contact with the “ground.” When running one foot is in the air while the other is stabilizing you.

The second difference is your hip extension. When you are running your back leg straightens out more than on an elliptical and it is farther back pulling your hips back as well. On the elliptical, your knee stays bent because your foot continues to be in contact with the ground. This is problematic because a lack of hip extension leads to injuries and inefficient running. Thus, the elliptical does not develop the neuromuscular connection required for a strong efficient form when running.

Another issue is it doesn’t require you to use the stabilizing tendons and muscles of your ankles causing them to become weaker and damaging the neuromuscular connection here as well. Then there is the hamstrings, because the elliptical limits hip extension it doesn’t engage your hamstrings very well. Weak hamstrings impact your ability to climb and cause an imbalance of muscles. The hamstring works to balance your quadriceps. They slow down the forward movement of your leg.

Wow with so many disadvantages, why use an elliptical when injured? Because it lowers the impact. There are other advantages as well. It burns close to the same number of calories as running. It maintains your cardiovascular fitness, and gives more of a total body workout if you use your arms. There is the options of both forward motion and backward motion with your legs, giving you some cross training due to the different muscles used.

Many people work harder on an elliptical than they do when running because the perceived exertion is less on an elliptical. Finally, it’s easy and safe to use.

The take-away? An elliptical is a good alternative to running when injuries or to be used as cross training in addition to running. However, exclusive use of one to train for running, especially long term will compromise your form and lead to injuries.

Anti-Gravity Treadmill

Alter-G

Stress fractures can put full out stop on running, which is a problem if you like to run a lot. It also makes training for a one hundred mile race very challenging. The anti-gravity treadmill is the solution to this dilemma.

An anti-gravity treadmill lifts a portion of your body weight off your feet. How does it do this? You wear a pair of skintight neoprene shorts, which zip into an inner tube. It’s a little like being in a swimming pool. The “inner tube” fills with air and calibrates your weight. Once it’s done you choose how much of your body weight to take off your feet in percentages. The technology was developed for the use on space shuttles.

The anti-gravity treadmill allows you to continue to actually run, unlike the elliptical or other machines you find at the gym. It also maintains better running form than you can in a swimming pool and continues to condition your body to the impact of running although at a lesser degree. The anti-gravity treadmill allows you to maintain your aerobic fitness.

Not only has the anti-gravity treadmill made it possible for injured runners to maintain fitness, but many elite athletes are using the anti-gravity treadmills in their weekly training. It allows them to increase their miles while reducing the impact on their muscles, joints, and tendons. The treadmill is also being used to encourage overweight individuals to start running. It reduces the impact on their bodies as they begin a training program. It also gives them an idea of what it feels like to run without all the extra weight.

Anti-gravity treadmills range in cost from $75,000 to 25,000 depending on the model you choose. This, of course, limits those who have access to them, let alone own one.  It’s much like a typical car loan with payment of about $550 a month for five years.

The downside, other than the cost, is it’s a treadmill. If you run outdoors all the time or in the mountains, running on a treadmill is a huge challenge. It’s boring, although slightly less boring than running in the swimming pool.

Audiobooks, story apps, and/or music are essential (at least for me), on any treadmill and this one is no different.  I do have to say, after not being able to run at all for four weeks, the anti-gravity treadmill is a little piece of heaven.

And it Begins Again

crowded-gym

Every year at this time gyms across the United States fill up close to maximum capacity (well not really, but it feels like it). It’s so crowded you can’t get the machine or weights you want to use. To people who have being going to the gym every day, it can be frustrating because many of those new members are not going to maintain their attendance. In fact, most will dwindle off over the next two weeks. The rest will stop coming in six to eight weeks.

I love to motivate others to begin taking care of themselves through physical activity. It would be a huge win for everyone if all of these people would continue with their New Year’s resolutions/goals of maintaining an exercise program. I think this is why it is so frustrating to the gym regulars.

What can you do to maintain the program you have chosen for yourself this year?

First, pick something that is do able; a program that takes into account your current level of fitness, even if that means you start with only fifteen to twenty minutes of activity three days a week. It doesn’t matter where you start, only that you keep going and find a way to objectively measure your progress. Watching yourself improve will help you continue to be motivated. Small improvements are still improvements, just as one mile is one mile regardless of how fast you run it.

Second, find someone to go to the gym with or at least a partner who will hold you accountable. If you can’t find someone who can go at the same time, it is helpful to have someone else who is just beginning and you can check in with one another each day about what you did and how you are feeling.

Third, don’t change too many things all at the same time. If you are beginning a new exercise program don’t make any other major changes to your life style for three or four weeks. Let your body adjust and get into a groove. If you change too many things, you will become overwhelmed or rebel against all the “restrictions” you have placed on yourself.

Finally, don’t penalize yourself for a missed workout. Go the next day and don’t try to make up for the missed workout. You need to let the missed workout go and forgive yourself for it. Making yourself feel bad about it is not going to help you continue with the program.

Remember it takes twenty-one days to form a habit. Keep going and don’t give up.

Discouraged

discouraged

I have to apologize for not posting any blogs last week. I couldn’t find the motivation to write about running when I can’t run due to the stress fracture in my right foot. It’s been five weeks since I have been for an actual run. Over the last nine years of running, I’ve never taken more than one week off to rest after a race or to rest a minor injury. I am running in the swimming pool and on the anti-gravity treadmill, which lifts a portion of your body weight off your feet.

Last week my mind was empty of possible topics for blog posts. In fact, I have been trying not to focus on running or the lack thereof in my life currently. I continue to spend the same amount of time doing aerobic exercise as I was running, but now I’m doing it all at the gym… on machines.

So how do you cope with being injured and unable to participate in your sport for an extended amount of time? First off, you remember what your goals are long term not just the next week or month or even the next year.

My long-term goal is to run until I can’t draw breath. I remind myself of this when I’m at the gym for four hours on Saturday and another three on Sunday. If this doesn’t get me past my pitty party, I try to remember how it feels to cross the finish line of a one hundred mile race.

Another way to stay motivated is to focus on your short-term goals. My short-term goal is Buffalo 100, which is in eleven weeks. I’m determined to run the race, even if it means I’m coming right out of the gym to do it. Because I am going to run Buffalo, I want my fracture to be as healed as possible, so I don’t refracture it by going out to run too soon.

Having a secondary sport you use as cross training or just another sport you enjoy in addition to your running is an excellent way to keep active and stay off the discouragement train.

A supportive family and friends who can keep you laughing and active will also help.

Keep your heads up, the sun always rises, you just have to hold on long enough.