Monthly Archives: December 2016

Dangers of Yoga?

yoga-dangers

As many of you know, I recently took up Bikram Yoga. I have absolutely loved the practice and plan to continue even after the HURT 100 in January. One of the things I do when I begin any new training regimen is research.

I’ve been researching yoga including the spiritual side of it, the different types of it, and it’s long and taboo and controversial history. I am certainly not an expert or even close to knowledgeable person when it comes to the different types of yoga. I know there are a bunch including, but not limited to Hatha, Iyengar, Vinyasa (flow yoga), Bikram, Ashtanga, Jivamukti, Tantra, power yoga, and others.

The different schools of yoga use the same asanas (postures) for the most part. The duration they hold them, what they call them, and the alignment can be a little different. The other difference is the ethical values and how secular they are.  I’m not going to get into the spiritual side of things or the taboo issues either, but I feel obligated to get into the possible dangers of yoga. The reason I feel obligated to do this is because, I’ve encouraged others to get into the practice and the dangers are not obvious and are really kinda hidden by the yoga community for the most part.

There are approximately 300,000 people in the US who practice yoga, probably more. Yoga started to Explode in the 60’s and 70’s and it took the medical community a while to catch up and start looking at the benefits and the dangers. Currently, Yoga is self-regulated, which means yoga teachers are not required to undergo any type of official training or certification. Some disciplines do require their teachers to complete 4-8 weeks of training.

The biggest concern with some postures is your neck. Many yoga postures require practitioners to bend their neck further than it would normally do. Yes, you say, but that’s what yoga does makes you more flexible. I know, but there are some joints that do this better and carry less risk of injury. Because of the intricate weaving of nerves, arteries, and veins going through your neck/spinal column the potential for injury increases and the damage can be severe.

The postures that place you most at risk are the shoulder stand, head stand, plow, knee to ear pose, half wheel, and cobra. Some of these postures can be modified, so they are safer to practitioners, but if you haven’t had instruction on how to make them safe, you could be setting yourself up for life long injuries. The most serious risk in these postures is a stroke. Yep, you can cut off the blood supply to your brain long enough to cause a stroke. You can cause serious injury anywhere along your spinal column such as herniated disks.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t practice and I still love yoga and will continue to practice, but the information I’ve learned will definitely change how I practice and which postures I use. Injury risks come with all sports and recreational hobbies, it’s about knowing what you’re up against and being able to take action to prevent it.

What’s the take away?

  1. Do your own research
  2. Research and ask your teacher questions
  3. Listen to your body; yoga shouldn’t hurt, it stretches but doesn’t hurt. Make sure you know the difference.
  4. Know your limits, which can change from day to day
  5. Go slow and don’t show off.

How Young is too Young?

kids-racing

Is there a minimum age limit for running marathons? Many races require runners to be eighteen years or older. If they don’t, they require their parents to sign a liability waiver. I have to admit, I’ve had some reservations about having kids out on the course for that distance because their bones are still growing.

There is a bit of a debate about this issue. In 2001, the International Marathon Medical Directors Association said, “It is in the overall best interests of children to make participation in a full marathon an adult activity, reserved only for those 18 years old and older.”

Their position is based on concerns for overuse injuries, psychological burn out, increased eating disorders in young athletes, and their lower tolerance for heat stress.  Here is the thing with that endurance running, like what you find in a marathon, is no more damaging to a child than the intense training adolescent athletes go through for basketball, baseball, American football, football (aka Soccer), and every other high school sport.

Some things to keep in mind when deciding if you child should run a marathon or even participate in intense athletics at a young age:

  1. Kid’s bodies don’t do as well in hot or cold weather as adults do. They also don’t notice when they are not doing so great because of the temperature.
  2. Their bones are growing faster than their muscles and tendons, which means they can get soft tissue injuries easier than an adult.
  3. Due to their shorter stride, kids hit the ground more often when they run, which can increase the risk of stress fractures.

You don’t want them to get injured when they are young and have that injury follow them through the rest of their lives. This happens with many people who played competitive sports in high school and even in college.

Don’t get me wrong, I think sports programs are wonderful for children, adolescents and young adults. There are so many benefits to the child such as social skills, healthy life style, following rules, being a leader, adapting to a changing environment, quickly assessing situations, and here is the big one working hard for what you want.

For children and young adults it’s very important to make sure you and their coaches follow the golden rules of run training: first, never increase miles by more than 10% a week; and second, every fourth week decrease miles by 20% to allow time to rebuild. It’s critical that they learn to listen to their own body and rest it when it needs rest. If they learn this skill early in their running or sports, it will benefit them throughout their active lives.

If you are going to allow your child to participate in marathons make sure it is their choice and that they can stop when they are no longer interested in running that distance. This one is always a balance because you don’t want them to walk away from a commitment just because it’s not fun anymore. Make sure they have all the information and know what training will look like and what the race will look like.

Puddles?

sweaty-runner

I think I sweat more than any person I know when I exercise. It runs rivers down my body. During yoga, there is a puddle underneath me, my fingers are wrinkled, and I can literally wring my clothes out afterward (I’m not kidding even a little). It’s not just yoga, it happens when I run too, but the wind and outside air keep things a little more try. If I’m on the treadmill, you don’t want to run next to me or you could get splashed.

Your body produces sweat when your core body temperature rises, which triggers your body into releasing fluid to the surface of the skin where it is supposed to evaporate and cool the skin.

There are a few factors that go into how much you sweat. People are born with 2-4 million sweat glands. Women have more than men, but men’s are more active (on average) than women’s. The temperature and humidity play a role, as does your activity level and genetics.

If you are exercising intensely, you’re going to sweat more, and if you exercise frequently you are going to sweat more. That’s right, your body becomes a very efficient sweat machine the more you exercise on a regular basis and at higher intensities.  Every time you train you are teaching your body how to cool itself. Your body learns to start cooling itself earlier before your heart rate is high and you’re really working hard.

There are some other things that can contribute to an increase in the amount you sweat as well: caffeine, alcohol, smoking, your clothing, and your weight.

Sweat and salt lines can be a little embarrassing particularly for those new to the gym or those who are overweight. Try not to worry about it too much, most people are too concerned with what they are doing or what they look like to be looking at your sweat. You should wear your sweaty clothing with pride (but please wash it after one use). It means you have worked hard and earned every droplet of fluid.

The more important thing you want to think about when you are sweating a lot is getting the fluid and lost electrolytes back into your body when you are finished and even during your workout. If you start to feel nauseous, light headed, dizzy, confused or have a sloshing stomach, you need to get some electrolytes as soon as you can and definitely reduce your intensity until your body can absorb some of those electrolytes.

How Does Age Affect Running?

old-runner

Most runners assume they will get slower the older they get and that’s true to some extent, but not as much as most believe. A study conducted of 200,000 runners for a 15k distance (about nine miles) showed that for every year over forty, you slow down by about one second per mile, and the gap between women’s and men’s times shrinks by five percent. Sorry guys your speed drops off faster than the gals.

The longer the distance the more drastic the decline appears to be. Researchers looked at the New York Marathon, which showed a 4-6 percent decrease in times. However, there are a few issues with this race. It’s not the same participants year to year and it didn’t account for untrained runners. If there were more untrained runners running the second race considered in the study, it would obviously skew the numbers.

Alright, so what if you’re a highly trained runner? It appears that highly trained runners do not have the same decrease in their running, slightly less than the one second per mile seen in the large study of 200,000 runners.

Here are a few positive things about running and aging: Maximum heart rate, muscular strength, and oxygen update decrease at a much slower rate in trained runners. Plus, running economy remains the same as you age at least until age sixty. My guess there is if you’re able to maintain muscular strength leading to maintaining your form while running, you are not likely to see a decline in your economy past age sixty. Sixty is the new forty, right?

Don’t lose hope! There are a few things you can do to stop the slow descent. The decreases runners experience as they age are mostly explained by a drop in oxygen update, upper and lower body strength, flexibility, and muscular (explosive) power.

With that information, we can shape our training to compensate for the age decline. Strength training is easy to implement into your training program. You don’t even need a gym member ship. You can use your own body weight and get some light weights to use at home. Explosive power can be increased by doing plyometrics 2-3 days a week. You have to start out slow with plyometrics because there is a higher risk of injury with them. Plyometric training includes a lot of jumping exercises.

Increasing lung capacity can help off-set the decline in oxygen update. Oxygen uptake is the amount and rate of oxygen that is taken in and used by your muscles. Lung capacity is how deeply and quickly you can breathe. You can increase your lung capacity in a few different ways. First, train on a regular basis. Training increases the number of capillaries in your lungs and allows more oxygen to be absorbed with each breath.  Second, breathing exercises such as those used in yoga. Yoga is also going to help with your flexibility.

You don’t have to do yoga to increase your lung capacity and flexibility. You can do both on your one at home through stretching and foam rolling and for lung capacity inhale as much air as you can and then a little more (straighten your back, expand your lungs until you can see them in a mirror and your stomach sucks in), hold the breath for a second, and then exhale until it’s all out, and then exhale a little more.

Another benefit of aging is you begin to appreciate what your body is able to do. You also understand the value of your health.

That Can’t be Good for You

jogger - vascular system

Have you heard this one from your family and friends? I have, but the research doesn’t support their concerns.

Many of my friends/family worry that ultrarunning is bad for my heart because it has to work for extended periods of time, like 36 hours, at an elevated rate. The research shows that there is short term stress (duh) but there are no long term negative effects on the heart. Overall, ultrarunner’s hearts are normal and often more healthy than the general population.

The most chronic ailments ultrarunners suffer from are allergies and exercise-induced asthma. On average, ultrarunners miss 2.2 days of work a year for illness. It’s 3.7 for the national average.  All those people concerned about your knees, tell them to rest easy the research doesn’t support that or damage to other joints or cartilage.  Yes, runners get injured. They pull muscles and tendons and sometimes they get a stress fracture. What athlete doesn’t get hurt at some point, even recreational athletes (aka not extreme)?

So ultrarunning is not bad for you. Perfect, that’s exactly what all ultrarunners wanted to hear, so we can look at our friends and family and roll our eyes. Then we walk into another room to sit down with our crew for the next 100 mile race. “Alright guys, you know how this goes. There is no quitting. I don’t care if I’m puking, peeing blood, have diarrhea, twisted an ankle, bloody from falling down. It doesn’t matter. I go until I cross the finish line.”

Sounds like optimal health status to me.

I’ve heard ultrarunners say they want to be healthy and they may have started running to be more healthy. Many of them eat well and take care of their bodies, but I believe it’s more of a taking care of the body to run 100 miles and not running 100 miles to take care of the body.

If it can get so tough out there, why do we do it over and over again? Because crossing the finish line of a 50 or 100 mile run is remarkable. The more difficult the race the more we love it. We earn ever belt buckle we have. We run into hell with a smile knowing it’s going to get hot, we’re going to get burned, and we’re going to want to die.

We do it because we refuse to believe we won’t come out on the other side. We stare down our demons, pull on the boxing gloves and go round after round after round. We’re fighters. When we get knocked down we get back up and keep going toward our goal.

The true benefits of running Ultras: mental fortitude and the belief that you can.

Never Surrender, Never Retreat.

Do you run in the winter?

what-to-wear

I get this question a lot, from runners and non-runners. It’s a valid question considering I live where it snows and temperatures can be below zero. Not only is the weather a challenge, but we also have an inversion— pollution stuck in our valleys because of the cold air above the warm air.

The quick answer is yes, I run in the winter. There are a lot of things to consider when you decide to head out into the cold and if you don’t head out in the cold there are options to maintain your fitness for the winter months. Also there are many runners who use winter as their “rest” season.

Alright, so you’ve decided to run outside during the winter months and you’re going to be doing it in the snow and freezing temperatures. You have to have the right gear, especially, if you are going to run long distance. Layers. Layers. Layers. That’s the secret. You have to wear a wicking thermal base-layer. After that, keep piling things on until you stay warm while you are out. This takes a bit of trial and error because everyone is different. There is a tipping point where I won’t run outside due to the cold— if I have to wear so many layers it is difficult to get a good stride going. Usually, that means I need better running gear.

You may have to break up your run, if you are going out for more than two hours. Try to run during the warmest part of the day, which doesn’t always mean the sun is out. Cloud cover keeps heat trapped close to the earth. I also stay in the neighborhoods because the homes block some of the wind and they keep it warmer. Stay on more narrow streets too.

Ice is always a problem at some point. I have Ice Joggers, which pull over the bottom of my shoes and stop me from slipping. They are like YakTracks. Lights are an essential piece of running gear, along with a reflective vest.

Running indoors on a track or treadmill is not ideal and is really a form of torture. There is a middle road, though, you can also do some inside and some outside. If you are going to run on a track make sure and change direction or you will have aches and pains on one side of your body and cause muscle imbalances. If you’re on the treadmill, variation is key to keeping you “entertained.” Change the grade and the speed to mix things up.

Alright so you HATE the cold and snow and just cannot bring yourself to run outside during the winter, what are you going to do? If you do nothing, you will lose all your hard earned fitness. Maybe you even have an early spring ultra you are training for and you thought you could hack it this year, but it’s way too cold. Where there is a will, there is a way.

You can always run on the treadmill for 20-30 miles. Or you ca use every cardio machine your gym has for your long workouts. If you have a five hour workout, do the stair master for one, the treadmill for one, the elliptical for one, and whatever else they have.

What about resting for the winter? You still want to maintain a base level of fitness if you plan to run anything in the spring or early summer (depending on your distance). Twenty-five miles a week is a good base for a rest season. A rest season also gives you the chance to try new things, such as spinning, a cardio class, crossfit, swimming, or yoga. Rest seasons are a perfect time to bring in strength training too. If you don’t mind the snow, give snowshoeing and cross country skiing a try.

Running in the winter requires creativity and determination, but we’re runners we have that in spades.

What are your intentions?

intention

It occurred to me today while I was running that I’m selling out on the HURT 100 finish. What! Yeah, I know, right? But here’s what I’ve been thinking this whole time.

HURT is really hard, it’s the most difficult race I’ve ever run and it’s hard for really great amazing runners who are genetically blessed. Plus there are two significant things working against me:  first, the total climate change, and second my inability to shape my training to match the environment I’ll be running in.

Because of this line of thought, my goal has been to just finish the HURT. Just cross that finish line in one piece before the 36 hour cut off.  My goal was to finish under 36 hours…finish at 36 hours…squeak across the finish line minutes before 36 hours.

And that’s when it hit me. I said goodbye to just squeaking across the finish line a year and a half ago when I finished Bryce Canyon 100 eight minutes before the cut off. From that day forward I set out to become faster and stronger. Every work out and run I’ve done since then has been with the intention of becoming faster and stronger. The only “goal” I’ve had has been to become better than I was the day before.

That got me thinking about the difference between goals and intentions. A goal is something out in the future. It’s an object or place we want to reach and sure goals are great, but they are a moment in time. I think this is the underlying problem in lack of motivation. We get board of achieving particular goals. We get bored checking the boxes.

Intentions are unstoppable.

Goals are future oriented. They are a single moment in time—setup, achieved and passed on by. Intentions are right now, they are in the moment. Intentions are guided by your values and beliefs about yourself— who you are and want to become. They are continuance and evolving.

Sometimes with goals we don’t really care how we get there, so long as we get there. Sometimes we take short cuts or cheat a little (only a little). You can’t do that with intentions. You’re either in line with them or you’re not. Every day is not going to be easy and there are days that are going to be downright hard without much movement toward the GOAL, but if you’re true to your intention you’re always making progress.

So from now until HURT I’ll be getting stronger and faster, I will do my best in Hawaii, and my best will be better than what I’ve done in the past.