Monday, February 18, 2008

Knowing When to Listen to Your Body

A key part of running is knowing how to listen to your body. When it's time to slow down, speed up, continue to run through pain and when to stop. You may not know at first what's small aches and pains you can run through and what you should stop yourself before it gets too serious. Every person is a bit different. For me I experience a pain in my knee it's not an overwhelming pain but I can definitely feel it as I run. But I've gotten used to having this small twitch in my knee (usually it's my left knee). Where as when I started to run early on with a wrong pair of shoes I had a pain on my Achilles. Turns out after resting it for two weeks it was totally fine again however if I had kept running on it, I could have done some long term harm. There are some knee injuries that are there but aren't long term and are more about conditioning your body to getting used to running. Today I will focus on some common knee pains you may incur early on. According to some typical knee pains will include:
Runners knee: This occurs when your body get around 40 miles a week if it's never run before you will experience these pains around your knee cap area sometimes behind your knee cap. Even after taking a few days off, the pain seems to come right back, sometimes even intensifying, after the first few miles of the next run. The pain often feels worst when running downhill or walking down stairs. The test for runner's knee: sit down and put your leg out on a chair so that it's stretched out straight. Have a friend squeeze your leg just above the knee while pushing on the kneecap. Have your friend push from the outside of the leg toward the center. At the same time, tighten your thigh muscle. If this is painful, you've got runner's knee.
Iliotibial Band Syndrome: Pain on the outside of your knee (not usually accompanied by swelling or locking). The pain may be sporadic and disappear with rest, only to reoccur suddenly, often at the same point in a run. Depending on the individual, this could happen at four miles, two miles or just 200 yards. The pain often goes away almost immediately after you stop running. The cause is that this is an overuse injury. The iliotibial band is a band of tissue that begins at the outside of the pelvis and extends to the outside part of the knee. The band helps stabilize the knee. If it becomes too short, the band rubs too tightly on the bone of your leg and becomes irritated. The tightness is usually the result of too much strain from over training. So what you can do to prevent or reduce this? Patience. This one takes a while. Give yourself plenty of rest, reduce your miles and ice frequently. You can keep running, but cut your run short as soon as you begin to feel any pain. Cut way back on hill work, and be sure to run on even surfaces. Look into some deep friction massage with a physical therapist. Patience. This one takes a while. Give yourself plenty of rest, reduce your miles and ice frequently. You can keep running, but cut your run short as soon as you begin to feel any pain. Cut way back on hill work, and be sure to run on even surfaces. Look into some deep friction massage with a physical therapist.

You will typically have an instinct on when you need to slow down your running and what's acceptable pain. If you are at all like me, who's never really run before (regardless of body type) start with smaller mileage, go at your own pace and don't worry about mile times. You should enjoy your running. It's meant to be fun, and a way for you to do something for you. Next week I'll focus on other types of injuries you can face, but for now this is a good spot to begin. Remember run and have fun but go at a good pace for you, not what your friends can do, and listen to your body!


Monday, February 11, 2008

These aren't gimmicks

I used to always doubt products that claimed they rejuvenated or added something to your body during workouts. I always thought they were claims (and yes being in advertising I know there's always certain hype behind products). Two products that I've found to be of great help during my first half marathon this weekend were the following 1) Gatorade and 2) Under Armor.

I'll start with Gatorade. Along the way of running any race from 4-5 miles up to a full marathon there are water stations along the way. There are also Gatorade (at least during my event) as well. When I got to the first water station I grabbed two cups of water (new runners practice grabbing two cups between your index and middle finger and your pinky and ring finger, then take one cup and squeeze the top so it makes a funnel and then you can control your water intake). Anyway I grabbed the water and only water and downed it and kept running. Early in the race you should have enough energy where it won't matter as much what you drink, just as long as you keep yourself hydrated. By the second water station I saw the Gatorade and grabbed one Gatorade cup and one water. Drank them both pretty quickly. Third water station I grabbed only Gatorade drank both of them. I did start to feel energy returning. Gatorade returns electrolytes and carbohydrates. See what happens during a longer run is towards the back half of your run, your body runs out of carbs and electrolytes to burn. So what does it burn? Muscle. That's not good. So it's why they created those gels and blocks (as I mentioned in my last post) definitely have at least one if not two of those ready for your half. You'll need it. Another thing about Gatorade or sports drinks in general is a study that was released from Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise that concluded, "athletes can stave off fatigue 37% longer if they drink sports drinks -- the kind with electrolytes and carbohydrates in them. They also run faster, have better motor skills, and are mentally sharper"

What you will want to avoid, on the flip side, are caffeine drinks. Soft drinks don't really replenished anything the body needs so if it's not going to help, why add it? it won't help and during a race/half marathon/full marathon it's all about efficiency in your body SO add things that will add that and not take away or have no effects.

Under Armor. Ok we've all seen the ads, buff athletes yelling and screaming wearing what appears to be spandexish clothes. Now I bought two under armor shirts for $40 each. Yeah they are expensive but I have not even once regretted buying them. One thing it does is keep your body heat in. This is key as a runner. A runner will heat up about 10 degrees during a run, and if you start training in the winter it's important to keep that heat in, in addition it does a good job of keeping the sweat in as well. I sweat a lot when I run but under armor does a superior job of keeping me drier and my body heat in. Even during hotter runs you want to pay attention to your body, the beauty of Under Armor is that in heat it keeps you regulated better than a T-shirt or a sweatshirt. It's definitely worth the investment in a pair or two. I'll break down Under Armor for you as they have different types of things for different types of weather:

ColdGear is Under Armour's most technical line featuring a double sided fabric that wicks moisture from the skin and circulates body heat. ColdGear provides warmth without weight for long days in the field.

HeatGear is engineered with a microfiber blend fabric featuring the signature Moisture Transport System and reliable compression. It's designed to fit tight to your skin, under your outerwear.

LooseGear gives moisture management and core temperature regulation in a generous cut for comfort. The ultimate solution: LooseGear, features the signature Moisture Transport System in lightweight microfiber blend.

If you are going to train in the winter do so the right way. It's all about efficiency so invest in the things that will make you more efficient.

Catch you next week!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Fuel & Hydration for the longer run

It's been interesting what I've learned over the course of running shorter distances to going longer distances. I'll break this blog into two, the first section is about eating properly before, during and after.

When you run 4,5,6,7,8 miles you can typically go without having to eat a breakfast before you run (at least an hour and a half before you run). As you stretch out and go longer 9,10,11,15,20 it's important to bring things to "snack" on during your run. Before you go to run, you should eat something, I typically chose a bagel toasted and I put peanut butter on it and I'll eat that. I'll head down an hour later and go to the park and start my run (takes me around 30 minutes to get to the spot in the park where I run).

From there you should remember to bring some kind of gels or power blocks with you. You will probably only need a couple but make sure to bring water. These gels like Cliff Shot Energy Gel or PowerBar Gels are good for you to run, and will make you feel energized as you hit your wall. You need to take these gels with water. My coaches recommend you try a few during your practice runs so you know which ones you like prior to your race day. Some are kind of gross and can make you gag a little, but remember this isn't to be in place of a meal rather it's meant to give you a boost in energy and keep you moving ok.

After you are done you have what they call an optimum time to eat. 30 minutes after your workout your body burns calories at the highest rate so that's the time to eat. Even if it's another bagel or something it will recharge you and you'll burn it off pretty fast (pretty cool huh?).

So I'm a bit of an odd duck when it comes to water. I hate drinking LOTS of water. I don't like the fact it's kind of tasteless. It's my hang up! Ha! In any case if you know you are doing a half marathon I recommend you start hydrating at least two to three days before your race. The reason is you are going to run 13 miles so you will need to have that water moving your body to keep you going. Guess what. You will sweat a lot. SO HYDRATE. If you are going to run longer runs, it's recommended you invest in a water belt. You can find these at most running stores for around $45.00. Some come with a pouch to hold your wallet or identification or your power gels/power blocks as well.

I hope these tips help! Keep moving, hydrate and fuel the body that keeps you moving. Remember every step of step, mile over mile takes energy so give your body the most energy it can and it will carry you!

Happy running!