Thursday, February 22, 2007

Will Running Cause Arthritis? The Results May be a Little Surprising

A topic of current debate is the controversy of whether or not running will eventually cause joints to become arthritic. The answer patients get when they ask their doctor varies from a definite yes to a definite no. Many runners also get unsolicited advice from many of their neighborhood pals ranging from complimentary to downright derogatory comments. My favorite comment came from a young male sporting a "Molson's Tumor" and smoking a Mexican pharmaceutical cigarette who told me that I was going to kill myself if I kept on exercising so much!

Many health professionals say that continued pounding will damage joints while others state that it is the stress running that will keep joint tissue healthy. Until recently, there was very little research to support either opinion. However, with the aid of my very elementary computer skills, I was able to navigate the internet and found a very interesting paper written by Dr. Lyle Michelli at the department of Orthopedics at Harvard medical school in Boston. Dr. Michelli compared the frequency of degenerative arthritis in 504 former collegiate long distance runners with that of 287 former collegiate swimmers. Swimmers were chosen as the comparison group, because doctors who try to discourage people from running often suggest swimming as an alternative.

Surprisingly, the frequency of degenerative arthritis was lower in former long-distance runners than in former swimmers ( 2.4% in swimmers versus only 2.0 % in runners). As an indication of the severity of the arthritis, Dr. Michelli also recorded the number in each group who had arthritis severely enough to have required surgery. The need for related surgery was 3 times greater in swimmers.

These findings lead Dr. Michelli to state, "There is no association to moderate long distance running and the future development of osteoarthritis." These findings do not indicate that running is for everyone. In certain individuals, running may be intolerable and just not fun for a myriad of health and other social or family related factors. The important fact is that some form of exercise such as running, swimming, low impact aerobics, brisk walking, bicycling, dancing, etc. is essential to good health. Each individual should choose the form of aerobic exercise which they enjoy and then participate regularly.

If you prefer a form of exercise other than running, that's perfectly acceptable. However, if you want to run don't be fooled the opinion that it leads to arthritis (especially if the advice comes from a person sporting a healthy Molson's tumor).

by Larry Smith, D.C., B.P.E.

Sunday, February 18, 2007


The track. While most elite runners get their start there, the great majority of runners came to the sport by way of local roads, sidewalks and forest paths. For the average runner, the track seems all too intimidating, almost scary. Fact is, though, the track is not simply the domain of the elites. Any runner at any level can improve her performance with a little help from the 400-meter oval. This is what intervals are about.

Interval sessions are the most formal of speed workouts in that the distances and target paces are precisely fixed before you run. The idea is to run a series of relatively short repetitions over distances from 220 yards to one mile, with rest periods of slower running in between. Because of their very nature, intervals involve a shorter period of effort than your usual run of, say, 45 minutes at a steady pace. This allows you to run much faster than you usually do, adapting your body to higher demands and your leg muscles to faster turnover. Over time, you become more physiologically efficient.

Because of the clearly measured distances, the track is an ideal place to do intervals, but some may find the never-changing scenery to be, well, maybe just a little dull. In that case, you should feel free to do your intervals on the road, using permanent landmarks to measure distance.

The various distances, as you might guess, are each best suited to runners with specific goals. The 220-yard run (1/2 lap, or 200 meters) is best for short-distance training (5K and under) to improve speed. The 440 (one lap, or 400 meters) helps improve overall conditioning at slower paces, and at faster paces is good final race preparation. The 880 (two laps, or 800 meters) is used to develop speed when training for races 10K and under and to condition form and pace when training for longer races. Finally, the mile is used most often to train for longer races, from 10K to marathon, to help improve pace judgment and overall conditioning. from

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Feeling tired all the time?

Long training runs or too frequent training can weaken your immune system, making you more susceptible to catching colds and contributing to a general fatigue. If you see this happening you know you are trying to do too much. The remedy is to simply cut back, and even skip your long run that week.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Training Tips from Runner's World

Are there other runners among your family and friends? Run together to stretch and strengthen the boundaries of your relationships!

Before beginning training for a race, work on developing a plan tailored to meet your unique goals and needs.

Bodies come in all shapes and sizes--instead of pining away for a different body type, accept your genetics and adjust your training to maximize the most you can get out of your own unique body.

Wear running clothes that make you feel attractive; thinking you look good will allow you to run with more confidence.

Incorporating speed training into your workouts will help improve your efficiency while burning calories.

Add hills to your workout (whether outside or on the treadmill): They help build strength and burn calories.

Running on a treadmill is the ideal way to avoid the hassle of nasty weather while still remaining fit.

Place your treadmill in front of a window, full-length mirror, or television to provide air, motivation, and relief from monotony.

Try running with a faster runner or group once a week, then twice a week. Your body will adapt to the faster pace and you'll see results at your next race.

Find more tips at

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Making Progress in Training

If you are finding yourself easily able to complete and enjoy training runs as you increase mileage, then that is a pretty good sign you are making positive progress toward achieving your running goals. Great job! However, what if runs feel like a struggle or you seem to be making little progress?

It is normal for there to be days when runs just are not as easy as others. Those days here and there should not be confused with lack of progress, rather should be expected at times. Your positive mental attitude will allow you to rise to the challenge on those days. If training for a marathon, it is not uncommon to experience a week somewhere late in training where you seem to hit a block. Again, just be aware of that and allow your mental stamina to push you through.
Areas of concern should be when you seem to be making little progress during the first quarter of a training program. Fortunately, often one little fix can make a big difference.

First, consider your pace. Are you trying to run too fast at the beginning of your training runs? If so, that could not only lead to a more difficult run, but over time can lead to overtraining. Be sure to ease into each run and ensure that you can breathe easily while running. You should be able to talk comfortably with a running partner (or imaginary friend if running alone) during the run. Run a comfortable pace that allows you to complete the run without gasping for air.

Second, take a look at your diet and recovery time. The diet can have a major impact on the performance of your training runs. Just like anything else in life, you get out of it what you put into it. Carbohydrates provide fuel, but protein is needed to repair muscle fibers. Be sure to have a carbohydrate and protein rich snack within thirty minutes following each run to help your body recover and prepare itself for the next run. Take into consideration the amount of time you are allowing between each run for recovery. Perhaps a slight change in your schedule may allow more recovery time and lead to better results.

Third, dedicate more time to developing the proper mindset and building mental stamina. One easy method is to take just 5-10 minutes to lay quietly with your eyes closed and visualize yourself completing an enjoyable run. If you expect the run or some part of it to be a challenge, then picture yourself in your mind approaching the obstacle and pushing through the finish. This simple practice will get your subconscious mind working for you, acting as a heat seeking missile to bring your vision into reality. I cannot stress enough the benefits of this simple exercise or in building mental stamina for distance running.

Again, it is often the little things that make a big difference. Whether you are already making positive progress or just trying to get started, always look at the little things and do the little things right.

By Brad Boughman

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Set aside a few minutes each day, or at least a few times each week, to relax and picture in your mind the runner you want to be. Picture yourself making a great training run or running the actual race. As you are creating that image, try to get other senses involved by trying to feel what it will feel like to achieve your goal or push through any obstacles you envision.

Flood your mind with positive thoughts by talking to yourself every day. Tell yourself that you are a marathon runner, a sub-four hour marathoner, or whatever it is your goal might be. Our minds operate in the present so the more we tell ourselves something, even if it is not yet true, the faster our mind believes it and begins working now to make that affirmation a reality. Also, put an affirmation, race brochure, or inspiring quote somewhere you will see it every day like on your desk or bathroom mirror. from

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Staying Motivated and Combating Burnout

It's not uncommon for runners to suffer post-event depression after finishing a marathon. This is due in part to achieving a goal that took much time and energy to accomplish. Days after the event, runners oftentimes feel a void in their lives. Until you are ready both mentally and physically to set new goals, consider the following strategies to deal with reduced motivation and/or burnout: Run simply for fun, not worrying about following a training schedule; Supplement your running by participating in cross-training activities; Take a break altogether from running; Spend more time with family and friends and enjoy some social activities or non-athletic hobbies.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Make Stretching After the Run Part of the Run

A workout isn't over until you stretch thoroughly (part of your cool down period) immediately following the run. Your legs will be most receptive to the benefits of stretching immediately after you run. Waiting 30 to 40 minutes later after your fatigued and tight muscles have cooled down (especially after long or fast-paced workouts) increases your chances of causing injury. In short, stretch gently and slowly while your muscles are still warm. Make the after running stretch part of the cool down process. from

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Winning Hydration Plan

The best way to prevent both dehydration and hyponatremia is to learn the right way to hydrate. Use the following tips to create your own hydration game plan:

Drink to Stay Hydrated, Don’t Overdrink — Your fluid-replacement plan should be designed to minimize loss of body weight so that you avoid dehydration during exercise but prevent weight gain from excess hydration during training or races. A good way to gauge your hourly sweat rate is to figure out the difference in body weight plus your drink volume. For example, if you lost 11/2 pounds (24 oz) during the run, and drank 12 ounces, you should try to drink 36 oz (24 + 12) each hour during similar-intensity training and racing. In this example, drinking 9 ounces every 15 minutes would do it. Overdrinking dramatically increases the risk of hyponatremia. It is vital not to overdrink before a race, because doing so can lower blood sodium even before the race begins. Also, don’t overdrink during or after the race!

Maintain a Salty Diet to make certain you replace all of the salt lost during training. During a
long race (e.g. more than four hours), consider eating salty snacks such as pretzels, especially if you are a salty sweater.

Favor Sports Drinks like Gatorade thirst quencher over water during long distance or intense
training and competition, to help keep your body hydrated, fueled and salted. The flavor of a sports drink will encourage you to drink enough to stay hydrated, the carbohydrate energy will fuel your active muscles, and the electrolytes will help replace some of what is lost in sweat. But remember don’t overdrink any fluid!

Recognize Warning Signs of both heat illness and hyponatremia and learn to distinguish
between the two. When in doubt, stop exercise, stop drinking and seek medical help fast.

Dehydration: Too Little of a Good Thing

Keeping the body properly hydrated with the right fluids is essential to safety and performance in a marathon. The fiercest competitor an endurance athlete faces is dehydration. The first obvious sign of dehydration is thirst, but things can quickly get worse. Dehydration not only hampers performance but also increases the risk of heat illnesses, such as heat exhaustion or potentially deadly heat stroke. The good news is that dehydration and heat illness can be prevented and performance improved simply by following the right fluid-replacement plan.

Signs of dehydration and heat illness can include:

• Headache
• Fatigue
• Dizziness
• Nausea
• Muscle cramps
• Weakness
• Irritability
• Vomiting
• Heat flush
• Abnormal chills

Hyponatremia: Too Much of a Good Thing

While it’s important to drink enough to remain hydrated, overhydrating by drinking too much can lead to a condition called hyponatremia, which is serious and sometimes deadly.

What is Hyponatremia?
Hyponatremia is a condition that occurs when the level of sodium in the blood drops below 135
mEq/L (138-142 is normal).* Symptoms of hyponatremia usually begin at blood sodium values
below 130, with values less than 120 resulting in a serious medical emergency. Exercise-related
hyponatremia is thought to be caused by overdrinking. Although rare, hyponatremia can result in seizure, coma, and death, so it is vital that athletes learn about the condition and how to prevent it.

Who’s at Risk for Hyponatremia?
Anyone who drinks too much and does not adequately replace the sodium that is lost in sweat
risks hyponatremia, but certain people should be especially careful:

• Endurance athletes – those exercising more than four hours

• Athletes on lowsodium diets

• Beginning marathoners who tend to run slowly and are hyper-vigilant about hydration

• Athletes who overhydrate before, during, and after exercise

• Salty sweaters – those athletes whose skin and clothes are caked with white residue after exercise

Symptoms of Hyponatremia Watch for a combination of these symptoms, especially if you or somebody you know is at a high risk for the condition.

• Rapid weight gain
• Swollen hands
• Confusion and feet
• Dizziness
• Throbbing headache
• Nausea
• Apathy
• Severe fatigue
• Cramping
• Lack of coordination
• Bloated stomach
• Wheezy breathing
• Seizure

Seek emergency care for hyponatremia victims. In most cases, they will be treated with:

• An intravenous solution of a concentrated sodium solution,
• A diuretic medication to speed water loss, and
• An anti-convulsive medication in the case of seizure.

The Runners’ Resource for Sports Medicine Montain SJ, MN Sawka, and CB Wenger. Hyponatremia associated with exercise: Risk factors and prognosis. Exerc Sports Sci Rev 29:113-117, 2001.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Play While You Run - Five workouts that will keep you coming back for more

A nonrunner once told me, "Yeah, I'll start running as soon as I see someone running and smiling at the same time." She had a point. If we don't have fun during our workouts, we'll never stay motivated for a lifetime of running.

To keep running interesting, I propose balancing your workouts with playouts. Here are five playouts for you to try.

With Company

If you're running with a group of friends, try the following:

Chase: Start runners from slowest to fastest on a track or a designated course. The faster runners chase and try to pass the slower runners (who refuse to let them) before the finish. Ideally everyone finishes the race at the same time. Stagger the start as fairly as possible by handicapping runners based on their current 5K PRs. For instance, someone with a 25-minute 5K time would start seven minutes ahead of someone with an 18-minute best.

Scavenger Hunt: If you have a running group of four or more, play in teams. Each team first jogs along a running route and hides various items. The teams then meet at the designated start and exchange lists that offer clues about the location of each of the items. Everyone sprints off. The first team to find all the items and return to the starting point wins.

I've run many versions of these scavenger hunts, and each one has produced hilarious moments. Best of all, you gain a quality speed session without feeling as if you've worked too hard.

On Your Own

If you're by yourself, try these runs:

Fantasy Race: Watch a world-class track meet or race, or even an inspiring running movie. Then the next time you run, pretend you're one of the elite runners in the race you watched. I don't think I've seen any sporting event more exciting than the come-from-behind victory of Billy Mills in the 1964 Olympic 10,000 meters. When I run, I often recreate the race in my head. I'm Billy Mills getting bumped and tripped by competitors on the last lap, falling behind but then mounting an awesome kick to pass two runners and claim the gold medal.

Prediction Run: Predict how long it will take you to run a particular course. Then leave your watch at home (or at least cover up the face with masking tape) and see how close you can come to your predicted time. Record your results in your training log.

Purposeful Run: Instead of running simply for the sake of exercise, run to accomplish a goal. Slip your bank card in your shorts pocket and run to the ATM to get cash. Run to a friend's house to drop off that CD you borrowed three months ago (make sure to wipe your sweat off the plastic case). Run to the convenience store for those smoke-alarm batteries. Such short stops do more than break up your run. They allow you to accomplish otherwise mundane tasks.
From Runner's World, October 1999, p. 38

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Yoga for Runners – How it Can Improve Your Performance

With yoga's current popularity and visibility in the media, there aren't many people out there who haven't at least considered taking a yoga class. What has kept many of those same people from actually attending a class is their lack of flexibility. Prospective students often come to me and say, "I'd like to come to yoga but I can't even touch my toes" as if this were some sort of prerequisite for the class. My reply to those people is often "Would you like to improve your flexibility?" to which they quickly reply YES! Well folks, you have to start somewhere. Just as you did when you began running, you first just had to get out there and run, the same is true of yoga and flexibility. Flexibility is a progressive process as well as a by-product of your yoga practice and is not a requirement to begin the practice. Just like anything else, to see real results requires your time and consistent effort. A consistent yoga practice can reduce your chances of injury, improve your mental focus, and lengthen those muscles that may remain contracted long after you've finished your run, leaving you feeling tight and stiff.

A lot of people tell me, "I stretch" but just what does that mean? It’s very important to stretch all the muscles of the body, not just those you used during your run so that you can create a sense of balance in the body. You may know a few common stretches for the hamstrings but what about the hips, the knees, the back and the chest? Lengthening and opening these areas simply feels good. The body was created with the capacity to be flexible but at some point, we stopped making the movements that sustained this flexibility. As a result of not making these movements, the body resists them. Consider how long it has been since you actually moved in a certain way that the body is resisting. Until the body becomes accustomed to making those movements again, or even for the first time, there will be resistance. Thus, it may be less than comfortable. But isn't running the same way? As your endurance builds and your lung capacity increases, the body becomes less resistant to running and you feel good. Stretching is best done after your run. To warm up before you run, simply walk briskly. Stretching cold muscles with static stretches is an invitation to injury. Always stretch warm muscles using the breath to help ease the resistance you feel. A supple, flexible body will be more resistant to injuries.

In your yoga practice, you are taught to breath through the nose, keeping the lips together. This allows the nose to do its' job. The nose warms, moisturizes and filters the air as well as affecting the nervous system differently than mouth breathing. I'm not suggesting you stop using the mouth to breath. What’s important is an increased awareness of the breath, a deepening and steadying of it, and taking the breath deep into the pit of the lungs. The richest supply of blood, which is used to transport the breath to the muscles where it becomes energy for you, is in the bottom of the lungs. Because the majority of us are chest breathers, we never really access the entire lungs. As we learn to do this, our lung capacity will increase which will automatically increase our stamina.

Yoga is a practice of paying attention to details. Each pose or sequence of poses asks many things of the body, all of which are important. To carry out all of these details requires focus and concentration. Each time we practice, we're not only practicing the physical postures but we're also working on that mental focus, keeping the mind on what it is doing and not off in the past or future where the mind quite often resides. As the mind becomes used to this time of focused energy, you find that you're able to extend that focus into other areas of your life and become more productive.

"Practice and all else is coming" is a quote attributed to Patthabi Jois, an ashtanga yoga master. Applying this simple suggestion to our lives opens many doors to our endless potential. Yoga will benefit you inside and out. It's up to you to explore these benefits for yourself. I hope to see you on the mat. By Suzanne Goldston RYT certified integral and ashtanga yoga instructor.