Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Avoiding injuries

The last thing we want to happen to us as runners is get injured. It doesn't matter if we are veterans or new ones. An injury forces us to cut back if not totally stop. It transforms running from a fun activity to a stressful one. That is something we definitely do not look forward to.

Experts agree that injuries are part of the sport, and are common. Owen Anderson in an article on running injuries posted at Sports Injury Bulletin cites scientific studies showing that "about 60-65% of all runners are injured during an average year..."

Anderson lists five anatomical 'hotspots' for running injuries:

1. The knee (25-30% of all injuries to endurance runners occur there);
2. The calf and shin (20% of all injuries);
3. The iliotibial band - a long sheath of connective tissue which runs from the outside of the hip down to the lateral edge of the knee (10%);
4. The Achilles tendon (8-10%), and
5. The foot - the focal point for hobbling injuries like plantar fasciitis (10%).

Jonathan Cluett, M.D., in his article on the same topic at About.com also classifies common running injuries into hip and thigh injuries, knee injuries, leg injuries, ankle injuries and foot injuries.

Like the other experts, Cluett points out that understanding a running injury is the key to effective treatment. They could be avoided and prevented by wearing proper footwear, stretching out properly, and crosstraining.

In the About.com article "How to Prevent Running Injuries," Christine Luff lists six steps to keep yourself on the road.

1. Avoid the "terrible too's" - too much intensity, too many miles, too soon.
2. Treat your feet right - Be sure that your shoes aren't worn out and that you have the right model for your feet and running style.
3. Find the right surface - Once you have the right shoes, you want to make sure you're using them on the best surface. You'll also want to avoid tight turns, so look for slow curves and straight paths.
4. Stay loose - with a regular stretching program.
5. Keep your balance - Injuries sometimes pop up when you're paying too much attention to your running muscles and forgetting about the others.
6. Make sure you're ready to return - To prevent re-injury, ease back into training

Another list of things to do to avoid running injuries is provided by Rick Morris at the Running Planet website.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Motivation 101 reposted

Going over my posts in my other running blog, I chanced upon this piece which I wrote in August last year.

Enthusiasm runs out of everyone after a time, be they newbies or veterans. And more often than not, we are most vulnerable after the holidays.

If you are among those who feel the fire slowly burning out, maybe reading this would help.


It is not always that we are in the mood to run. We all get tired and eventually begin to feel too lazy to even dare a run around the block.

What to do?

Runner's World's Calvin Hennick has a list of what he calls "Kicks in the Butt." All 101 of them -  tips, inspiring quotes, and more to keep you motivated.

Hennick has a number of Good-To-Go Playlists for those who get a kick from pacing to music. Selections include classic rock ("Don't Stop Me Now" by Queen, "Break on Through" by The Doors, and "Come Together" the Beatles), country, hip-hop, and alternative rock. He even has a playlist of "guilty pleasures," which is honestly alien to me.

His list also includes movies to watch -  the 1981 Oscar winner for Best Picture Chariots of Fire (undoubetdly a classic film on running that can truly inspire), Saint Ralph (a 2005 Canadian film where a teenager sets out to win the 1954 Boston Marathon, thinking this is the "miracle" required to wake his mother from a coma), even Endurance, the 1999 docudrama on how Ethiopian Haile Gebrselassie became one of the best distance runners of all time.

And there are the books to read for inspiration. Leading Hennick's list are two favorites among runners - The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner, a short story by Alan Sillitoe tells the tale of a rebellious youth in a reformatory who runs in solitude and makes a stand against a system he doesn't believe in, and the cult classic Once a Runner, by talented runner John L. Parker JR., which captures the hard work and dedication required of fictional collegiate miler Quenton Cassidy.

After going through Hennick's list, I tried to come up with a short list of 10 "interesting" ones which I suppose would most likely be duldrum busters for many.

1. MAMA, GET A NEW PAIR OF SHOES. Two-time Olympian Shayne Culpepper puts new gear she receives as an elite athlete to good use. "It's fun to break in a new pair of shoes," she says. "Sometimes that's enough to get me excited."

2. EVERY MILE YOU RUN burns roughly 100 calories. Think of that next six-miler as two slices of pizza.

3. MAKE A MASSAGE APPOINTMENT for the day after your long run.

4. GET YOURSELF A HEARTY DOG who needs lots of exercise. You'll always have a reason for a daily jog.

5. FOR EMERGENCY USE ONLY: Consider taking a short break from running if you think you've got the beginning of an overuse injury or you're truly fatigued. A couple days of rest may be the thing to reinvigorate you. Call this one instant running motivation for three days from now.

6. YOU'LL BE WEARING A BATHING SUIT in another month or so, won't you?

7. PAY YOURSELF. Set a price for attaining a certain weekly mileage goal. When you hit it, pay up. Keep your mileage money in a jar, and once it accumulates, buy yourself that new running jacket you've been ogling.

8. BUY A FULL-LENGTH MIRROR and make sure you look in it every day.

9. A HEALTHY RUNNER IS A HAPPY RUNNER. As soon as you feel like you might be coming down with something, pamper yourself: Eat more healthfully (think lots of fruits and veggies) and get extra rest. A little prevention today means you won't be debating next week whether you're too sick to run.

10. EXERCISE IMPROVES SEXUAL PERFORMANCE, according to research. Nuff said.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Getting through the running jargon

A new runner can easily get lost in the maze of running terminology in the numerous running blogs and articles that flood the worldwide web.

Runbritain.com perhaps best describes the predicament a new runner faces in encountering all those training terms from intervals to fartlek to splits, not to mention the various abbreviations like AT (anaerobic threshold), PB (personal best) and PR (personal record), and LSD (long slow distance).

"The terminology used to describe this fit and healthy form of exercise may at first come across as if it's a foreign language," the running site says. "Whether it's a term used to refer to an injury or a description of a type of running training, the language used to describe running can be difficult to understand."

Runbritain.com has a glossary of frequently used running terms which would definitely help a new runner with the jargon.

Hillrunner.com also has a compilation of running terms. The list mainly includes training terminology.

The list I enjoyed going through the most, though, is that of the Tahoe Mountain Milers Running Club. Taken from the 1997 Royal Renegade Runners Revised Reference Guide compiled by Laura Kulsik, Past RRCA Western Regional Director, as acknowledged at the TMMRC website, the list gives a tongue-in-cheek definition of running terms including some race jargon.

Here are some that made me giggle.

Achilles Tendinitis: the Greek God of running injuries.
Bandit: cheapskate, "Can you believe he ran that race without paying the registration fee?!!"
Blade Runner: a runner who is as skinny as a blade of grass.
Carbo load: a garbage truck full of bread and 6" pasta.
Fartlek, (1): speed work after a meal of refried beans.
Fartlek, (2): When a runner increases his or her pace sufficiently enough to put adequate distance between themselves and the rest of the group so they can take a quick pottie break before the group catches up. "There goes Jim on another Fartlek!" (TMMRC) 
Gel: something in your running shoe or your hair; both of which are supposed to make you run faster.
Glycogen stores: stores where you can get a limited supply of fuel before you have to visit the fat stores.
Plantar Fasciitis: a Latin derivative for doing a face plant on a trail run.
Pronate: 1. Podiatrists say 90% of the running population overpronates; the other 10% stagnate. 2. What the shoe guy says you have and then you have to pay an extra 5 bucks for your running shoes. 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Jogging vs Running: What's the difference? Does it even matter?

A friend who was starting off on a walk-to-run program asked me once, "What's the difference between jogging and running?"

Both running and jogging are considered as forms of aerobic exercise. Diffen.com notes that both help the body to loose weight and make over-all improvements in one’s health. At the same time it distinguishes the two activities from each other based on intensity and effort required. "Running requires more effort than jogging. It is more intense than jogging" it states. "Running is defined as the fastest means to move on foot. It is an intense form of jogging and requires the runner to be athletic."

Jogging101.com makes a similar distinction. It states:

Jogging is considered a form of trotting or running at a slow or leisurely pace. Its main intention is to increase fitness with less stress on the body than from faster running.
There is a distinct difference between jogging and running. One is performed at a more comfortable, relaxed pace and primarily for cardiovascular fitness and weight loss. While, running, on the other hand, is generally done at a considerably faster pace where a mile is typically completed in 8 minutes or less.
Running is considered a competitive sport with finishers receiving medals and purses with the best times.

This distinction vividly reminds one of this quote from Dr. George Sheehan: "The difference between a jogger and a runner is an entry blank."

In The Complete Idiot's Guide to Jogging and Running, Bill Rodgers notes that "The debates about who's a jogger and who's a runner are endless and fierce" and adds, "Usually, the distinction is made in a condescending way, with running taken to be superior to jogging."

Indeed, while it may not be a big question for some, there are those who put a lot of importance on being called one or the other. Some runners detest being called a jogger and calling what they are doing jogging instead of running has the same effect. For them, it indicates inferiority.

But is there really a difference? If we say that a runner is faster than a jogger, then most of us would be joggers compared to the elite. "We're all slower than someone else," says Rodgers. "So let's scratch pace as what makes one person a jogger and another person a runner."

How about distance? How often one runs? Or one's reason for running?

Not even these would make any difference, according to Rodgers, and cites some interesting examples of elite runners covering less distance and running less often than most ordinary runners, yet they break national records, win major races and are at the top of the game. None would call them joggers. He also talks of people who faithfully put in the miles but who for one reason or another choose not to race, of a two-time New York City Marathon champion who "runs 10 miles most days at faster than 7:00 mile pace" but doesn't care to compete anymore. "Does that mean he's now a jogger?"

Simply put, Rodgers believes there isn't any difference between running and jogging. "Jogging, running - call it what you want. You'll know when you're doing more than walking," he writes.

And beginners shouldn't feel that there's some standard they have to measure up to, Rodgers adds. "There isn't; the only one that matters is your own satisfaction."

If you run, you are a runner. It doesn't matter how fast or how far. It doesn't matter if today is your first day or if you've been running for twenty years. There is no test to pass, no license to earn, no membership card to get. You just run.
--John Bingham

Friday, September 10, 2010

Eating to fuel your running

Much like a motor vehicle, your running will not take you down the road to fitness without the necessary fuel. And even if you are running to lose weight, you have to adequately feed yourself if you are to continue successfully towards your goal.

In his book The Complete Idiot's Guide to Running and Jogging, Bill Rodgers notes that most people think that being a runner requires you to live off of "twigs and nuts that you gather out of your backyard."

"When running first achieved mass popularity in the '70s," Rodgers writes, "the sport was seen as a part of a new movement for Americans who had decided that it was time to take charge of their health. So in the public mind running became associated with health food stores, megavitamin doses, and drinking nothing but carrot juice and purified water."

Running doesn't require you to radically change your diet, Rodgers says, who admits to having a sweet tooth, being known for his legendary consumption of junk food, and giving in to occasional indulgences.

But this doesn't mean you can eat whatever you want whenever you want. According to the experts, eating healthier food and establishing better eating habits would help you perform better, build endurance, and recover faster from your workouts.

Scott Gray gives new runners some nutrition tips on Active.com. His quick guide to foods that new runners should be eating lists the following:

  • Complex carbohydrates which provide slow and steady fuel.
  • Glucose drinks consumed in the first 15 minutes after finishing your run will be best absorbed for muscles seeking fuel sources.
  • Protein which is essential for both tendon and muscle repair as well as for regulating hormones. 
  • Fats, the healthy monounsaturated kind like the ones you get from olive oil, canola oil, and avocados.

Gray also advises balanced meals which comprise roughly 20 percent fats, 60 percent complex carbohydrates and 20 percent proteins. He also encourages a healthy consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Just as important as choosing what to eat, writes Gray, is timing your meals. "Not enough fuel and the tank will run out. Too much fuel too soon can be just as disastrous as not enough," he  says.

"Optimized running performances are dependent on consuming quality foods in a larger quantity, as well as careful timing of when you eat."

Friday, August 20, 2010

Minding the gear talk (or what do you really need to run)

Running is cheap. That's one reason why I and countless others love it. But with the rediscovered popularity of running and all the running gear manufacturers that are cashing in on it, it is easy for newbies to be overwhelmed by talk on what product to buy out there. And if you get caught in the whirlpool, you end up spending quite a fortune for things you wouldn't be needing that much to keep your feet moving.

So what do you really need to run?

All the experts agree that beginners should consider two major investments - shoes and garments.

Amby Burfoot on Start Running Now: Our Get-Going Guide published on Runner's World-UK writes:

You don't really need a new pair of running shoes when you begin running. You can run in your regular trainers or walking shoes. But when you're ready, the right pair will make your runs more comfortable, while adding extra injury-prevention features. 

Shoes are the biggest equipment expense for runners, says Joe Henderson on The 15 Beginner Essentials, again at Runner's World-UK, so buying the right one that fits you properly, and suited to where you will be doing most of your running - road, track, or trail - is important.

Both Burfoot and Henderson suggest going to a specialist running shop where  the staff can advise you on shoes that would fit you properly and provide the biomechanical support you need.

In shopping for shoes, it would be good to keep in mind this tip from Josh Clark at CoolRunning.com:

While you don't need to buy the most expensive pair in the store, don't short-change yourself. Good shoes are your best protection against injury. 

Next, what should you wear?

Clark says wear what's comfortable. And speaking of comfort, it would be good to spend some cash on breathable socks, and even shirts and shorts. Burfoot writes:

These garments, made from polyester fabrics, are a world apart from the scratchy material your dad ran cross-country in. The best are lightweight, soft and non-chafing. "You want the clothes to wick moisture away - cotton holds moisture and stays wet, which causes rashes and blistering," says Gilly Wight, branch manager of Up and Running in Leeds (upandrunning.co.uk).

For women, Dimity McDowell of Women's Health suggests wearing a sports bra. In How To Start Running Today published on Active.com, McDowell cites a study which says that running can cause women's boobs to fly up and down as much as eight inches.

"A bra that holds each breast in a separate cup will reduce bounce and support better than a shelf bra. When trying one on, run in place, do jumping jacks, and swing your arms in circles to test how supportive it will be," writes McDowell.

So what about all those other things that other runners strap on? This is what Amby Burfoot has to to say:

Heart-rate monitors, GPS watches, accelerometers that tell you how fast you're going - none of these glitzy products are really necessary for your first efforts. All you really need is a watch with a stopwatch function... to help you keep track of your walking and running intervals. Don't worry about other fancy gizmos. But if listening to your iPod makes your runs go better, by all means take it with you - as long as you run in a safe place and are aware of traffic.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Walking your way to running

Strange as it may sound, all running experts who have ever written on the subject of starting a running program seem to say the same thing - start out walking. Well, at least none of the materials for beginners that I have read, from books to online sites,  are saying that you have to run outright. Starting easy is among the first rules of thumb, and it can't get any easier than walking.

Runner's World has a simple 30/30 plan by Hal Higdon to get you going, featuring 30 minutes of exercise for the first 30 days. This features a walk-run routine.

Also in Runner's World is Amby Burfoot's 8-Week Beginning Runner's Training Program.  The training is designed to get you to the point where you can run 30 minutes at a slow, relaxed pace. Like the others, this progressive program begins with more walking than running, and gradually evolves into more running than walking.

One of the programs that I have shared time and again with friends who ask for information on how to start a running routine is a beginner's schedule from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Jogging and Running by Bill Rodgers and Scott Douglas.

The program guides a beginner through a series of 30-minute walk-run routines, four times a week, building towards 30 minutes of running in a month. The program requires that you are already able to walk for 30 minutes, four times a week.

Now, before you get too excited and over-zealous, here are a few, not in any way unimportant, points to consider before you begin this program or any other workout program for that matter.  I am borrowing this from Amby Burfoot.
1. If you are over 40, not accustomed to any exercise, or more than 20 pounds overweight, consult with your physician. Unless you have a known health risk, your doctor will probably encourage you to begin a run-walk program, but it's always wise to check.
2. Schedule your workouts. You won't find time for them unless you make time for them. Put them in your PDA, computer, daily appointment planner, on the front of your refrigerator, or wherever else you keep your schedule.
3. Expect bad days. Everyone has them, but they pass quickly, and the next workout is often better than the previous one. So stick with the program.
4. Don't rush. In the fitness world, rushing leads to injuries and discouragement. Be patient, and go slow. The goal is to reach 30 minutes of continuous running, not to set any records getting there.
 Having rest days in between workouts is advised, which means, don't try to do the four workouts for a week on four consecutive days.

Also, before – and especially after – your workout, it’s a good idea to do some gentle stretching.

Workout 1: Walk 10 minutes. Then, for the next 10 minutes, alternate running for 1 minute with walking for 1 minute. Walk 10 minutes.
Workout 2: Walk 10 minutes. Then, for the next 15 minutes, alternate running for 1 minute with walking for 1 minute. Walk 5 minutes.
Workout 3: Walk 10 minutes. Then, for the next 15 minutes, alternate running for 2 minutes with walking for 1 minute. Walk 5 minutes.
Workout 4: Walk 5 minutes. Then, for the next 21 minutes, alternate running for 2 minutes with walking for 1 minute. Walk 4 minutes.

Workout 1: Walk 5 minutes. Then, for the next 20 minutes, alternate running for 3 minutes with walking for 1 minute. Walk 5 minutes.
Workout 2: Walk 5 minutes. Then, for the next 21 minutes, alternate running for 5 minutes with walking for 2 minutes. Walk 4 minutes.
Workout 3: Walk 4 minutes. Then, for the next 24 minutes, alternate running for 5 minutes with walking for 1 minute. Walk 2 minutes.
Workout 4: Walk 5 minutes. Then, for the next 22 minutes, alternate running for 8 minutes with walking for 1 minute. Walk 3 minutes.

Workout 1: Walk 5 minutes. Run 10 minutes. Walk 5 minutes. Run 5 minutes. Walk  5 minutes.
Workout 2: Walk 5 minutes. Run 12 minutes. Walk 3 minutes. Run 5 minutes. Walk 5 minutes.
Workout 3: Walk 10 minutes. Run 15 minutes. Walk 5 minutes.
Workout 4: Walk 6 minutes. Run 18 minutes. Walk 6 minutes.

Workout 1: Walk 5 minutes. Run 20 minutes. Walk 5 minutes.
Workout 2: Walk 5 minutes. Run 22 minutes. Walk 3 minutes.
Workout 3: Walk 3 minutes. Run 25 minutes. Walk 2 minutes.
Workout 4: Run 30 minutes.