[heading]Is Your Running Form Causing Injuries?[/heading]
I recently found an interesting article entitled “Does Foot Form Explain Running Injuries?”
Heel Striking or Forefoot Striking?
The author quotes a study carried out at Harvard University comparing injury rates between different types of runners. As you probably know, there has been a great deal of attention given recently to whether forefoot-striking is healthier for you than heel-striking. This question was the subject of the Harvard study.
In fact, as the author of the article mentions, most of us tend to vary in how our foot strikes the ground, depending on pace, terrain, shoes, how tired we are and probably other factors, too. We do, however, tend to have a predominant pattern, as did the 52 Harvard runners studied. About two-thirds of them were heel-strikers.
About two-thirds also were injured “seriously enough to each year to miss two or more training days.” The heel-strikers had about twice as many injuries as the forefoot-strikers.
Should You Change Your Foot Strike?
So, if you’re a heel-striker should you change your style and work on forefoot-striking? Should you switch to barefoot running? It’s hard to heel-strike when you’re running barefoot or with a minimalist shoe.
According to the author it might be a good idea, but not if you switch too fast. Like any other change you make, do it gradually, and listen to your body. The author tells that Mr. Daoud, one of the people conducting the study, broke a metatarsal while running his first marathon after transitioning too quickly from heel-striking to forefoot-striking.
How To Transition
Sudden changes in running form are a bad idea, but how do you transition slowly? Mr Daoud suggests that you try landing on the ball of your foot for five minutes at first at the end of your run. Work up to longer periods as your body adjusts, and only if you don’t find any continuing soreness.
Let me know – I’d be interested to see how our statistics compare with Harvard’s.
[box title="Author" color="#0080FF"] Alan Jenkin has posted to several blogs for a number of years. His subjects include health and fitness, running, personal development and internet marketing. He lives in Texas and has a vacation home in the Caribbean, where his hobbies include boating and scuba diving. He is married to best-selling author Billie Willmon Jenkin.
[heading]Is it Better to Run a Fall or a Spring Half Marathon?[/heading]
[dropcap]M[/dropcap]ost full and half marathons take place either in the spring or in the fall. One of the exceptions, of course, is the Antarctic Marathon, which next year includes a half marathon. Many runners dream of this run, but relatively few get to compete: it books up early.
If you run in the fall, you will need to train during the summer months. If you’re running this fall, you know that already! The problem with summer training, of course is the heat.
The past two summers have been exceptionally hot here. Last year, we had a drought, a heatwave and wildfires to contend with. For much of the summer, the smoke in the air made it unhealthy to run.
This year was not quite as hot, but the humidity was high enough to make up for it. I noticed today, too, how brown the grass is, and one of our trees appears to be dying. We have another drought: not as bad as last year, but still dry enough to kill off some of the vegetation and cause the lake levels to drop.
The general rule for running in heat is to take it easy and stay well hydrated. Early morning or late evening running is cooler than daytime running, but here in Texas it can be the time of maximum humidity. Taking it easy by running slower or running shorter distances is a sensible rule, but it interferes with training.
Keeping cool during summer running means wearing light synthetic running gear. Cotton does not work well in the heat: it gets wet and uncomfortable and is inclined to chafe. The modern “tech” tee shirts work well, and I like cool synthetic shorts and socks.
Top it off with a hat and sunglasses. A mesh synthetic cap with a big peak works best for me – it keeps my head cooler, provides shade and acts as a sweatband. Sunglasses will protect your eyes against UV damage and wind, dust and debris.
Winter training presents a different set of problems, the first being when to train.
If you are fortunate enough to be able to train during the day, say during a lunch break, then most of your problem is solved. Dress appropriately, run around noon, and save your long runs for the weekends.
Many of us, however, don’t have the luxury of running during the day, so we need to train in the early morning or late evening hours. Either way, this means running in the dark, which brings its own set of hazards. Reflective clothing is essential: you need to be clearly seen by drivers of oncoming vehicles.
If you’re running on a road, run against the traffic and try to keep an escape route open for the occasional driver who still won’t see you. (I make a point of waving to drivers when I’m running on roads: even if they didn’t see me before, the sudden movement can catch their eye and allow them to swerve in time to avoid me.)
Never run an unfamiliar route in the dark, and watch out for hazards on familiar routes. You should always carry a flashlight when running in the dark: you can use it to attract the attention of unwary drivers, but it’s also valuable for your own vision. (I sprained my ankle one dark morning when I hit a new pothole that had washed out overnight on a familiar stretch of road: limping home was no fun, and I couldn’t run for three weeks afterward.)
One difficulty I find about winter running is knowing what to wear. Most experts will tell you not to overdress, but I have found that wearing too little warm clothing can be even worse. When you get really chilled on a run there is no way to recover until you make it back home: if you wear too much, you can always remove a layer.
[heading]Which is Better?[/heading]
It’s all a matter of preference, really. Both fall races and spring races present their own challenges. Depending on where you live, either can bring better or worse weather for training. If you generally run fall half marathons, why not try a spring one for a change, and vice versa?
[note]Let me know in a comment which you prefer and why. At the end of this month I’ll review the comments and award a free copy of my eBook “Your Half Training Schedule” (a $17.95 value) to the three best submissions. (Judge’s decision is final!)[/note]
[heading] Barefoot Running – Is it for You?[/heading]
[dropcap]I[/dropcap] just read an interesting article about barefoot running. The title is “Born to run barefoot? Some end up getting injured”, and it was written by Alicia Chang and syndicated by AP. Here is the link to the original article: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/47518383/ns/health-fitness/#.UCP_SqNmWFu.
It seems that, while some people can switch to barefoot running with no problem, for others it can cause serious running injuries. The trick, as you will probably know, is to switch over gradually. The catch is that running injuries may suddenly appear without warning and may stop you from running for an extended period.
The author describes ultramarathoner Ryan Carter’s attempt at running barefoot:
[quote style="1"] The first time he tried it two years ago, he ran a third of a mile on grass. Within three weeks of switching over, he was clocking six miles on the road.
During a training run with a friend along a picturesque bike path near downtown Minneapolis, Carter suddenly stopped, unable to take another step. His right foot seared in pain.
“It was as though someone had taken a hammer and hit me with it,” he recalled.
Carter convinced his friend to run on without him. He hobbled home and rested his foot. When the throbbing became unbearable days later, he went to the doctor. The diagnosis: a stress fracture.[/quote]
If you are thinking about switching to barefoot running, here are a few facts you should consider:
[heading] Barefoot running uses different muscles[/heading]
Most shoed runners are heel strikers. Barefoot running encourages you to land more on the midfoot or forefoot, with a shorter stride than you use when wearing shoes. If you don’t manage this transition well, you will continue to land on your heel or else put too much pressure on your calf and foot muscles: either way leads to running injuries.
As the author says:
[quote]Podiatrist Paul Langer used to see one or two barefoot running injuries a month at his Twin Cities Orthopedics practice in Minneapolis. Now he treats between three and four a week.
“Most just jumped in a little too enthusiastically,” said Langer, an experienced runner and triathlete who trains in his barefoot running shoes part of the week.
Bob Baravarian, chief of podiatry at the UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica, Calif., said he’s seen “a fair number” of heel injuries and stress fractures among first-timers who are not used to the different forces of a forefoot strike.
“All of a sudden, the strain going through your foot is multiplied manifold” and problems occur when people don’t ease into it, he said.[/quote]
[heading] Transition slowly[/heading]
If you’re going to try barefoot running, make the change a gradual one. Try one short walk a week to start with, then start jogging and increase your pace or distance slowly each week. Give your muscles at least one full week of recovery time in the initial stages: they need that time to repair the fibers and build strength. (This, by the way, is the same principle we use in the 7 minute workout to build strength without getting injured.)
You may want to try barefoot running shoes (oxymoron?), otherwise known as minimalist shoes. They help to avoid cuts and bruises from stones and other nasty objects on the running surface. Even better, transition through a pair of the new lower profile running shoes that come somewhere between a normal running shoe and a true minimalist shoe.
[note color="#FFCC00"]I order my shoes through this link and can return them after running in them for a while if they don’t work for me – you can do the same if you like.[/note]
If you watched the Olympic track and field events, you will have noticed how many of the competitors were recovering from running injuries, sometimes necessitating surgery. As weekend warriors, we amateur runners are also prone to injuries, but ours usually come from trying to do too much too soon. Transitioning to barefoot running is like any of the other running tasks we accomplish: impatience is our biggest enemy!
[heading] Ryan Carter’s story[/heading]
The article finishes Ryan Carter’s story as follows:
[quote]Carter, the ultramarathoner, blames himself for his injury. Before he shed his shoes, he never had a problem that kept him off his feet for two months.
In April, he ran his fourth 100-mile race — with shoes. Meanwhile, his pair of barefoot running shoes is collecting dust in the closet.[/quote]
[note color="#FFCC00"] If you enjoyed this article you might also choose to read the following articles in this blog:
[heading]What Causes Running Injuries?[/heading]
I was stretching after my run today and suddenly realized that I have had far fewer injuries recently than I used to. I found myself pondering why that should be, and decided to share my conclusions in this article. I believe there are three main causes of injury.
“Youth is a wonderful thing” said Bernard Shaw. “What a crime to waste it on children.”
Yes, youth is the most common cause of injuries. Young runners tend to be
What a lethal combination!
The inexperience means they have no idea of their limits: this can be a good thing, but it is also a leading cause of injuries.
Impatience causes them to ignore the usual precautions that we older runners take.
Aggressiveness leads to pushing too hard too soon.
As we grow older, we learn more about our bodies in three ways.
- Good experiences
- Bad experiences
Reading articles about running gives me new ideas and keeps me informed about the latest research. I also read articles on fitness, health and nutrition generally. The more we can learn about our bodies and how to take care of them, the better.
Good running experiences help us to test our limits safely. Running fast downhill without injury, using hill sprints to strengthen our lungs and legs, and finding that perfect long-run pace work together to teach us what our bodies are capable of without excessive strain. Good experiences help push our limits safely.
There are really no “bad” experiences – just learning experiences. Pushing past our limits to the point of injury helps teach us the value of patience during recovery, as well as how to cross-train. Through these learning experiences we discover how hard we can push ourselves without injury.
The single most common cause of injuries is overtraining. I have found over the years that three important rules will help keep me injury-free:
- The 10% rule
- Easy days
The 10% rule is just a guide: don’t increase any activity by more than 10% per week. Don’t increase your long run distance or time by more than 10%; don’t increase your weekly mileage by more than 10%; don’t increase your speedwork by more than 10%. It’s a good rough guide to avoiding injury.
When you do a hard workout, whether it’s a long run, intervals or hill sprints, your muscles need some recovery time. The idea behind easy days is to give the muscles a chance to recover and build strength before the next hard workout. Alternate hard days with easy days and hard weeks with easy weeks for injury prevention.
Running the same course every time in the same shoes at the same pace is a recipe for injury. Vary your course, if you can, use at least two different pairs of running shoes and alternate them, and vary your running pace. Mix up long runs, easy runs, speedwork and cross-training to avoid injury.
In this article, I mentioned cross-training. For many of us, cross-training is something we do when we’re injured and can’t run, but it has value in injury prevention. Running alone stresses the same muscles in every workout: cross-training helps to strengthen the other muscles we need to avoid injuries.
Most runners prefer to spend their exercise time running, rather than cross-training, so we tend to neglect this important aspect of remaining injury-free. My own experience has taught me that this is a mistake. Cross-training is an essential part of injury prevention.
If your time is limited, the single best form of cross-training for avoiding injuries is strength training. I have found this has given me more benefits than any of the recommendations I gave you so far. Ignore it at your peril.
Run strong, run happy!
[note color="#FFCC00"] To see how you can incorporate strength training in your regimen, spending only about 20 minutes per week of your time, take a look at this website.[/note]
Just an easy run today, but it felt great to be back running. You see, last week I had a colonoscopy, so it had been a week since I had felt like running. After a while, I started to wonder if I would ever feel like it again.
Then, today, I woke up feeling sore and cranky and knew it was time to run. By the time I dragged myself out of the door it was already close to 80 and very humid, but the sun was shining, the birds were chirping and the breeze was blowing. It just felt great to get back to it.
I posted on Facebook some pictures taken after the 5K I ran with my daughter last month. You can see them at https://www.facebook.com/HalfTrainingSchedule – as you will see we enjoyed ourselves. While you’re there, please click on the “Like” button!
Why no Posts?
You may have noticed that I haven’t posted in a while. Well, sometimes life just gets in the way of having fun, and that’s really what happened. Somehow, my site at halftrainingschedule.com got destroyed, so I finally abandoned my efforts to recover it and switched back to my alternative site at halftraining.com, with a redirect from the other url so that it’s almost transparent to you.
A lesson here: if you have your own website, it’s a good idea to have a second domain that you can use to recover to or from. What happened to me is that I stopped using the host I had been using on the halftrainingschedule domain and rebuilt on halftraining in preparation for the move. After I moved the first domain, I attempted to restore it from the new halftraining site, but had all sorts of problems. In the end, I abandoned the effort as it was just taking up too much of my time.
A Bonus for You!
Too much information? Well, I thought I owed you an explanation of why things have been so quiet for so long! I am working now on adding some more free material to the member’s area, so you might want to check it out from time to time over the next few weeks.
Enjoy your running.
Weights for Women
I just posted on my other blog at 7 Minutes 2 Fitness about weights for women.
My friend and colleague Claire Poulton has just completed an e Book on weights for women who don’t want to bulk up. Along with me, Claire has been using a personal fitness program since last March, and we have both seen major gains in strength. But a number of women are concerned that strength training will cause them to bulk up.
“Cardio” is not Enough
The problem with running is that it only exercises a part of the body. Unless we do strength training as well (and that means weight lifting) we find ourselves getting more and more frequent injuries, until we’re always recovering from one injury and preparing for the next. Somehow, that seems to take the fun out of running.
For Men, Too!
Although Claire’s e Book is written by a woman for women, there is a lot of information that is useful for men, too. For example, she links visceral fat to serious health problems, and explains how weight training will reduce visceral fat. And I didn’t know before that “cardio” exercise has little or no effect on visceral fat.
Claire works out in the gym, but I prefer to work out at home – it’s a choice we both made. If you want to get fit fast, feel better and become stronger, then try the 7 Minute Workout now for less than $10/month. And, if you’re a woman, read Claire’s e Book to see why you won’t bulk up.
You can download your free copy of this excellent eBook from the Member’s Area Resources page. If you’re not already a member, register now.
Three Secrets to Recovering from Injury or Illness
Recovering from Injury or Illness is a slow, frustrating process. The best way is to avoid injury or illness in the first place, but that, of course, is a counsel of perfection. As runners, we are always testing our limits, guaranteeing that at some time we will become injured or get sick.
From September 2 until October 10, 2011, Bastrop, Texas suffered from catastrophic wildfires. I live about 100 miles from Bastrop, but the smoke reached me and soon I found that I was suffering from upper respiratory problems and had to stop running. One thing led to another, and I ended up with pneumonia, finally being cleared for running again in January, 2012.
When recovering from injury or illness, the temptation is to start back doing too much too soon. Fortunately (or unfortunately) after pneumonia I found my lungs in such terrible shape that even walking was strenuous. After such a long layoff I would get out of breath tying up my shoes.
So what is the best way to get back to running after a layoff?
During my years of running, I have been injured or forced to lay off for other reasons enough times that getting back to running has become a common experience. There are three secrets to recovering from an injury or illness that I have learned – ignore these at your peril. Remember that reinjury takes about three times as long in recovery as the original injury (which helps to explain why I was out for such a long time last year.)
First build strength. After a layoff, you will have lost muscle tone, not just in your legs, but in your upper body and core muscles. Before you can start any serious running you need to recover some of that strength.
Be careful, though, not to overwork the strength training – 3 times a week is sufficient. You need a program that will work all the major muscle groups but leave plenty of time for recovery between each workout – it’s during the recovery that your strength builds. Be extra careful not to overstress any muscles that are recovering from injury.
If you have been able to continue strength training during your layoff, or even cross-train, you will have reduced the atrophy that would otherwise have occurred. Even so, your return to injury-free running will be more rapid if you focus some of your energy on building strength. In my case, I found that I was able to resume my 7 minute workout before I could even start walking again.
Now, more than ever, it is important to stretch: returning to running when recovering from an injury or illness requires even more attention to stretching than normal. Stretch carefully and fully after every run. If you fail to do this, the question is not whether you will injure yourself, but when.
There is still some controversy about whether stretching before a run is a good idea. Personally, I find it helps me, especially after a layoff, when muscles and joints are unnaturally stiff. If you have been used to stretching before your runs you should continue to do so: changing your regimen at this time is not a good idea.
You can use my eBook Five Essential Stretches for Runners as a guide. There are many other sources if you want to stretch more than just the minimum. Just remember to stretch easy and don’t strain at it: stretching should be pleasurable, not painful.
When recovering from an injury or illness, don’t rush your return to running. The temptation is there, but the more conservatively you approach your rehabilitation the better chance you have of getting back to full fitness rapidly. Err on the side of caution, however frustrating that may seem.
The secret here is to go by how your body feels, not by what your watch says. I find that I look at my times and think about how dismal my progress is: will I ever get back to running again? Then I look back at where I was a month ago, when I couldn’t even walk, and recognize that I am making progress, even if it does seem slow.
My program for recovering from illness started with walking for 30 minutes 3-5 times per week. Then I inserted 1 minute jogging breaks between 5 minute walks after a ten minute walking warmup. When I was ready, I increased the jogging intervals by 1 minute. I always take a five minute minimum cooldown walk at the end before stretching.
So far, I’ve reached 3 minutes in my jogging intervals, and feel like I’ve hit a plateau. Plateaus are normal in recovery: they are frustrating at the time, but indicate that your body is actually adjusting to the new regimen and building strength to improve.
Once I get to 5 minutes jogging intervals, I’ll start reducing the walking breaks one minute at a time until I can jog for the full 20 minutes after my 10 minute warmup. My next step will be to jog for 30 minutes. At that point I’ll repeat the whole process, substituting running for jogging and jogging for walking, until I can run for 30 minutes.
That should put me in shape for my first 5K. Then 10K, then my half marathon in November in San Antonio.
Wish me luck!
You can see more about my strength training program at 7 Minute Workout.
Getting Back to Running After a Break
My doctor finally called yesterday to give the results of my CT scan following my recent brush with pneumonia. The good new is that, apart from some old scarring and my emphysema from years of smoking, my lungs are now OK. So I’m getting back to running after a long break.
The bad news about getting back to running after an illness or injury is that it’s really tempting to go too fast. We tend to ignore the fact that our bodies take a while to recover. Pushing too hard can put us right back into the situation that stopped us running in the first place.
My Program for Getting Back to Running
Yesterday was mostly cloudy with a temperature around 70-75. Just perfect for going outside: we are really blessed to have this weather in January. So I started getting back to running under ideal conditions.
After the doctor called, I pulled on an old pair of running shoes and went for a 30 minute walk. That’s the first test: if you can walk for thirty minutes without getting too tired you are ready to start getting back to running. I was panting a bit on the hills, but otherwise did fine.
Today was warm again, so I decided it was time to start my rehabilitation program, which is really the same program that I recommend for beginning runners. When you’re getting back after an illness or injury it’s even more important to be conservative with this program. Beginners sometimes take short cuts, which is not a good idea, but for after pneumonia, especially, it’s downright dangerous.
First Steps for Getting back to Running
Today I took the first step by walking for ten minutes to warm up, then jogging for one minute, walking five minutes, jogging one minute and repeating this pattern for a total of about 35 minutes. That included about eight minutes walking at the end. What I actually did was to turn around after the first five minutes walk (at about 16 minutes into the exercise). I had three jogging intervals and a little over five minutes cooldown walk.
I always do a light stretch before exercising to loosen up my leg muscles, stretching Achilles tendon, quads and hamstrings. After the workout I perform the five essential stretches. When getting back to running, I believe it’s even more important than usual to stretch fully and carefully.
This proved to be a moderate-intensity program for me today. The temptation, of course, is to start working harder, but I have learned from previous experience to resist that temptation. My next workout will be the same as today’s.
Once that workout becomes easy, I’ll move to the next step: simply increase the jogging breaks to two minutes while still warming up for ten and aiming for 30-35 minutes overall. When getting back to running, I believe it’s important that, before you move to the next step, you wait until you’re finding that at the third jogging interval you want to keep going. In fact, I’ll actually do a two-minute jog for my last interval to check that I’m really ready.
The First Stage of Getting Back to Running
Throughout the rehabilitation program I follow these rules:
- Stretch lightly first
- Warm up by walking ten minutes
- Jog, walk for 2-3 intervals
- Exercise for a total of 30-40 minutes, including a cool-down walk of at least five minutes
- Perform the five essential stretches at the end.
With that in mind, the steps in the first stage are:
- Walk 30
- Jog 1, Walk 5
- Jog 2, Walk 5
- Increase the jogging by 1 minute each step until
- Jog 5, Walk 5
Now you’re ready to start the second stage.
The Second Stage of Getting Back to Running
Once you’re comfortable with the Jog 5, Walk 5 step you’ll be ready to reduce the walking breaks. Using the same five rules as in the first stage, the steps are:
- Jog 5, Walk 4
- Jog 5, Walk 3
- Reduce the walk breaks by 1 minute each step until you’re jogging for a full 15 minutes.
The Second Phase of Getting Back to Running
Thought you were there? Think again. You’re not running yet – just jogging!
For the second phase I repeat the pattern of the first phase, but substitute running for jogging and jogging for walking. So, for example, the first step is:
- Jog for 10 minutes to warm up, run for 1 minute, jog for 5 minutes and repeat to a total of 30-40 minutes including a five minute cool-down jog at the end. Don’t forget the stretching!
You can figure out the rest.
What about Skipping Steps?
This program for getting back to running may look tedious, but the good news is that you will see measurable improvement fairly rapidly. Congratulate yourself as you move up from one step to the next. With one exception, never skip a step.
The exception is that if your illness or injury has been relatively mild you may wish to start at some point other than the beginning. Recognize that you need to very conservative when starting getting back to running: a re-injury or relapse will take longer to recover from than the original injury or illness. Nonetheless, your body will tell you if it’s just screaming to move ahead, so what do you do then?
The best idea is to start out by following the first step (walk 5, jog 1) but, instead of jogging for one minute, jog until you start to feel tired. One of three things will happen:
You jog for the full period with relatively little effort
In that case, you can move straight into the second phase of getting back to running (running instead of jogging, jogging instead of walking). I seriously recommend that you start at the beginning in the second phase. If it seems too easy, just increase your pace a little until it feels right.
You jog for 5 minutes or less consistently in each interval
If this is the case, you have found your starting point.
You jog longer in the first interval than you are able to sustain
In that case, take the shortest jogging interval you were able to sustain and start getting back to running from there
There is one other possibility, which is that you jog for more than five minutes but cannot make the full 15 minutes. In that case, I recommend that you start with the second stage (jogging with reducing walking breaks) and see what walking time meets your recovery needs.
Strength Training when Getting Back to Running
Do you enjoy weight training? Or any other strength training? I know most runners don’t, and personally I used to go out of my way to avoid it.
Runners suffer from one of the same problems that non runners do: they grow older. We have one advantage here, in that as we age we move up into another, slower, running group. However, like everyone else we also grow weaker.
Neglecting strength training may be the reason we are getting back to running after a break. We may have become ill or injured ourselves due to a weakness that could have been prevented if we had taken proper care to maintain our strength. With my pneumonia I even had to drop my strength training, but I started again as soon as I could and before I was able to get back to running.
Getting back to running after a layoff, whether due to injury or illness, can be viewed as tedious or exciting: it depends on you. I suggest that if you can view it as exciting you will enjoy your running more. Follow a conservative program, such as outlined here, and you will be back to your normal running sooner than you expect, running stronger than ever.
And, whatever else, don’t neglect the strength training. Three times a week is all it takes, for a total of about 20 minutes per week. You can see more of my program at 7 Minutes to Fitness.
After my interview with Jean Shaw last week, I found myself thinking back to how I was two or three decades ago. I had always been fairly active, but allowed myself to slide into a situation where my only form of exercise was clicking my cigarette lighter and working the TV remote. I was an overweight couch potato, and felt permanently tired: I was in that peak of physical conditioning where I would get out of breath tying up my shoes.
I finally got sick of feeling that way, remembered my running days from high school, pulled on a pair of tennis shoes and went running. At least, that was the idea. In practice, I made about 25 yards before I collapsed into a grovelling heap.
It took me a while to learn how to get fit again. I started with a gym workout, tried aerobics, then race walking and finally running. Once I reached that stage, it wasn’t long before I took up windsurfing and scuba diving.
Oh, yes, somewhere in there I quit smoking, too.
Our bodies are capable of so much more than we give them credit for. No matter how out of shape you are, the good news is that it IS possible to get back into shape. It won’t happen instantly, but it can happen sooner than you think.
After about a year, I ran my first race – a 10K. That was the farthest I had run since cross country in high school. Since then, I have graduated to half marathons.
When I lost my wife to cancer, I think running was the only thing that let me keep my sanity. Nobody who has not lost a spouse can appreciate the deep loneliness it causes and the time it takes for the grieving to end. Running was a way that I could escape into a different world, where the only pain was physical pain.
This year, I decided not to race. I might do a 5K some time, but I felt that after training for half marathons for the past two years it would be good to have a change of pace. I have not windsurfed for years now, and I found that my strength is going back to where it was when I was a couch potato – at least, for the upper body.
This is why I was so excited to discover the 7 Minute Workout. I hated strength training with a vengeance: sweating away on machines in the gym, or even lifting free weights for a home workout was miserable. As for pushups – forget it!
What I found out, though, is that just like the first time I ran, I was doing it all wrong! Three sets of 20 or 30 reps with weights is guaranteed to make anyone feel miserable, especially if you do it every day. With the 7 minute workout, all I do is 7 minutes a day, 3 times per week, and do you know what?
I actually look forward to the workouts. I take the weekend off, and by Sunday I’m wondering whether maybe I could do my Monday workout a day early. This from one who hated strength training!
The exciting thing is that I can tell how much my fitness is improving by the way I feel, as well as the way I look and the weights I’m using. My body is regaining the strength it used to have when I windsurfed, and I’m no longer as addicted to running as I was. I’m only running 3 or 4 times a week now, but running stronger and enjoying it more!
So if running is the only exercise you get, you might do yourself a favor and check out this program. And if you happen to know an overweight couch potato who wants to get healthy, send them in this direction: 7 Minute Workout.
Running in hot weather may not be a problem where you are, but here in Texas the spring has been “a mite warmish.” Highs have hovered in the 100-105 range (38-40 Celsius) for the past few weeks, with no let up in sight. This hot weather can make running uncomfortable, or even downright dangerous.
I had planned on training for a fall half marathon – with summer still another week away I’m glad that other plans caused me to change my mind. But for those half training now, how do you handle the hot weather?
You know all the standard recommendations: stay well-hydrated, don’t push so hard when it’s really hot, take your long runs at the coolest times and so on. Putting these into practice can be more difficult, though. Here are some recommendations I have found worked for me in the past.
Yes, hydration is important, but beware of hyponatration. As far as we can tell from the records, no runner has actually died from dehydration, but there have been several deaths from hyponatration. So how do you avoid it?
It turns out that the runners who have suffered from hyponatration in hot weather have collapsed after consuming really large quantities of liquid to avoid dehydration. Frequently, the problem has been due to taking large quantities of sports drinks. Sports drinks are easier than water to consume in large quantities.
The level of electrolytes in the sports drinks is too low to replace that lost through sweat, the theory goes. Hence, to maintain electrolyte balance it is necessary to run slightly dehydrated rather than over hydrated. This goes against conventional wisdom, but the statistics don’t lie: let thirst be your guide in hot weather, not some arbitrary number of ounces per mile.
Don’t get me wrong here – I’m not advocating against sports drinks. Personally, especially in hot weather, I like to take a glass of one of the sports drinks before and after my run: my warning is against over-consuming liquid. For my long run, I carry water, because I am not likely to consume too much of that.
Even in a race it’s a good idea to ease off if you find yourself getting dizzy or faint. Better to finish running a little slower than being driven in an ambulance. In training, the temptation is always to push a little harder: the trick to running in hot weather is to know your limits and stay within them. At other times we like to know our limits and push beyond them!
Choose your times
When you have a choice, schedule your long runs and your hard runs for cooler times. If that is not possible, respect the conditions and accept that your running times will be slower for the same level of effort in hot weather. On those really hot, still days, try cross training: I found cycling and swimming both worked well.
Running in hot weather has its own set of challenges. Before I retired, I tried various times of the day to find out what worked best for me. Running early in the morning, when the temperature was still around 80 (27 Celsius) worked well, but the higher humidity was still punishing. I also found myself frequently running in the dark, but after two sprained ankles due to unseen hazards gave up that practice.
Evening running after a day’s work was not very successful for me, so that left me with either treadmill running (which I hate) or running at noon. (I’m not a mad dog, but I was born an Englishman, so going out in the midday sun may have been natural for me.) I found that, provided I started early enough in the year, I could keep running at noon during the week all summer long. I still made sure to drink water before and after the run, and I kept my run to 30-45 minutes in length, saving my long runs for the weekend.
In the end, it’s up to you. Our bodies and running styles are all different, and what works for one runner may not work for another. Feel free to experiment and find what works best for you, but do it early in your training cycle so that you won’t mess up your schedule too badly.