Does Running Ruin Your Knees?

runner-knee-beginnerThis is one of the oldest fitness myths around and it has been proven to be just that…..A MYTH!  A recent study was done on thousands of patients to see the development of knee osteoarthritis as they aged.  The results showed that non-runners were more likely to develop arthritis over runners.

 

The journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise published another study on the topic of knees, running and arthritis.  It dealt with the knee joint and osteoarthritis.  Not only did running not cause osteoarthritis in the knee joint but runners had less incident of it as compared to walkers.

 

The high impact of running, that some believed was harmful, can actually make the knee joint stronger by thickening the cartilage. The impact also stimulates bone growth, making the joint stronger, and strengthens the muscles around the knee, the hamstrings, quadriceps, and calf muscle, which support the knee joint. All of this can take some of the pressure or weight off the joint itself, thereby reducing wear and tear.

 

Now, all that said, research indicates that genetics is the greatest predictor of knee osteoarthritis, so you should know your family history. Also, pre-existing knee issues, like old injuries or prior surgeries, could aggravate certain conditions. But, given a clean bill of health from your physician, running will not in and of itself wear out your knees.

 

In my opinion, stable moderation is the key.  If we overdo anything it could be harmful.  Especially in American society, we overindulge and go on crash-course diets all the time.  A healthy diet of fruits, vegetables and lean meats is best.  When exercise is concerned, a little goes a long way and in time your body will be able to do more than what you anticipated.

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10 Bad Running Habits…and How to Break Them

bad-habitsNow that you’re on the path to being a runner, it’s important to note a few things.  Like any sport out there, it’s easy to fall into bad habits.  It is key to identify these early so you can make the most out of your running program.  Here are 10 bad habits and how to break them:

1.      Running too much too soon.  You may be feeling great and want to conquer the world but only increase your mileage by about 10% each week.

2.      Refueling badly.  After a run you might be ravenous.  Take it easy and grab a high carb snack and some water.  Wait about an hour or so and grab a meal with carbs and protein to build muscle.

3.      Skipping SPF.  About 20 minutes of sun a day is healthy but you need sunscreen on long runs.

4.      Ignoring your core.  Core workouts help in all levels of sport.  You can’t lift more, or more importantly, run faster, if you don’t work out your core.  Try these core workouts four times a week.

5.      Starting a race too fast.  Studies show that holding off in the start of a race gives you more energy and fuel to finish stronger.

6.      Being your own doctor.  Runners tend to be hyper-aware of their bodies.  However, if a pain has lingered for more than 3-4 days, you may want to see a doctor.  Ice, rest and Tylenol will not fix everything.

7.      Skipping stretching.  It’s definitely not okay to skip stretching.  You need to loosen and warm up your muscles before you take off.

8.      Not getting enough sleep.  There are thousands of sleep studies out there but use common sense.  If you are going to a race or a long run, you need to rest your body and your mind first.

9.      Never resting.  This can lead to over-training, injury and loss of motivation.  You should have a few easy days each week, some cross-training and 1 solid day of rest.

10.   Trying to fix it all.  There’s a lot of advice out there on being a runner.  Focus on what’s manageable and try not to stress yourself out.

A Personal Note About My Running…

LT100Many people ask me why I run, how I stay so dedicated and why I run so much.  Well, I started running a lot in the US Army but never really liked it.  It was always very structured, the same routes and typically, the slowest people set the pace.  As I began to train in other Army schools like Officer Candidate School (OCS), I was able to run different places, different paces and with much faster people.  The competitive drive in me kicked in and I did as the fast people do-run more, eat right and never quit.

 

As an Officer, I tried out for the Fort Hood Army 10-Miler Team.  I made the team and went to Washington DC to compete in the National 10-Miler.  The first time I ran it in 60:03.  I remained on the team for a number of years and my best 10-miler time was 52:35.  It was then that I had the desire to run even farther.

 

My best friend in the US Army was Matt.  He was a Captain like me and ran with me on the weekends.  Our farthest run was 29 miles.  We heard about this very elite race in Colorado called The Leadville Trail 100.  That’s right…100 miles of running!  The race starts at 4 in the morning and you have 30 hours to complete it.  Matt and I started training for it and set our sights to run that race.  In order to register for it, you must first complete a qualifying race.  The Austin Rattler meets those requirements.  It is 41.01 miles long.

 

During my third and last deployment to Iraq, Matt was KIA by a rocket attack on the camp.  I met his parents at the memorial and keep in touch with his dad to this very day.  That was 5 years ago but I will never forget Matt.  I have decided to honor him by pursuing our goal of running The Leadville Trail 100.  I developed a running training plan, consult running experts and stay away from soft drinks, sugar and fast food of any kind.  Presently, I am up to running over 40 miles per week and I feel great.  My wife thinks I’m crazy but she knows I am serious.

 

My message to you is this:  no matter what your motivation, get out and do something. Enjoy the journey!

What’s the Most Popular Race Distance to Run?

NYCHALF16_COURSE_01Over the past decade, the half marathon has been growing in popularity as the most popular race to run. The number of runners who sign up and complete the half marathon has grown 10% each year since 2005. No other road race even comes close to the numbers put out by the popular 13.1 mile distance. This is true for both men and women although the women now outnumber the men. According to the Official Race Report, there were 1,543 US half marathons last year with over 2.1 million finishers.

You may look at the half marathon as being far outside your physical grasp, but don’t be easily discouraged. Most all of the half marathon finishers start their running journey with a training plan that usually lasts about 12 weeks. Hal Higdon has a tried and true training plan that can’t be beat. Also it is important to note that all of these finishers start off with a few 5k and 10k runs as part of the training plan.

Most of all half marathons have some sort of theme and are seasonal-based. The courses chosen are usually picturesque and exciting. Once you sign up, register and finish your first half marathon, you’ll get a commemorative t-shirt, swag bag and maybe even a medal. These will create memories that will last you a lifetime and fuel your desire for the next race.

What Cross-Training Should I Be Doing As a Runner?

There are many opinions on this matter out there in the physical fitness community. But there is one aspect that is crucial in running or physical fitness as a whole. And that is the “core”. Its very definition is synonymous with “essential” and “foundation”. It has been scientifically proven that if you want to run more efficiently, gain better mobility or lift more then you need to work out and develop the core.

Not only am I a long-distance runner, but I am also certified (Tier 1) in Crossfit. I utilize the pull-up bars, boxes and kettle-bells quite a bit. I will present 2 options for a core workout: with the use of a gym and equipment and without. That’s the versatility of these workouts. You do not have to possess a gym membership to work out your core.

First, let’s explore a core workout using a gym and equipment. Find the pull-up bar in your gym (usually above the cable-crossovers). Hang from the pull-up bar and perform the KTE (knees to elbows). Simply bring your knees up until they touch your elbows. If that’s too easy for you, then do the TTB (toes to bar). Just like it sounds. Keeping your legs straight, raise your toes up skyward until they touch the bar. Do 5-10 reps. Next, find a medicine ball and sit on the ground. Bend your knees to a 45 degree angle. Grab the medicine ball and start on your left side. Rotate your hips until you swing around to the right side and touch the medicine ball to the ground next to you. Then to the opposite direction, twisting until you touch the ball on the left side next to you. Each touch counts as 1 rep. Do 40-50 reps. Next, find a kettle-bell. Stand with it hanging between your legs and slightly bend your knees. Swing the kettle-bell forward until it reaches eye level. This is done by forcing your hips to lock out and by straightening your legs. Do 30 reps. Lastly, find an ab wheel. Kneel on the ground and place the ab wheel in front of you. Roll out the wheel to a full body extension and then roll it back to the starting position. Do 10 reps. This full exercise is composed of 6 sets.

Second, let’s talk about the core workout you can do anywhere. I call it “Abs of Fire”. Lay on the floor, flat on your back. Place your hands on your chest. Raise your feet off of the ground about 6 inches. Alternate raising each leg up about 6 inches more and then back down. Each leg raise counts as 1 rep. Do 100 reps. It’s called the flutter-kick. Next, sit on the floor and bend your knees at a 45 degree angle. Twist to your left and touch the ground then twist to your right and touch the ground. Each twist counts as 1 rep. Do 50 reps. Next, get into the plank position. You should look like you’re getting ready to do a push-up but your forearms are supporting your body. Alternate between left and right hands and touch your left, then right hip. Each touch is 1 rep. Do 20 reps. This exercise is composed of 6 sets.

What are the benefits of long, slow runs?

If you are training for a race or trying to reach a personal record for a certain distance, it seems counter-intuitive to run long distance and slow, right? Well, that is incorrect! The long, slow run has many benefits. First, it helps your muscles and joints adapt. Second, it improves your cardiovascular system, strengthens the heart and increases the blood supply in the muscles. It then enhances the body’s capacity to deliver oxygen to your muscles. Third, it enhances your body’s ability to burn fat as a source of energy. Finally, it teaches your body to run efficiently. It minimizes the expenditure of energy needed to move throughout. The long, slow run should be the cornerstone of your running program.

Most seasoned runners dedicate a Saturday morning to the long, slow run. Throughout the week, it is good to vary the types of running you do. A healthy running program involves track training, hill workouts, fartlek runs, cross-training, easy runs, long, slow runs and rest. Since most runners never run at their exact race pace, it is important to work up the cardiovascular endurance to its peak potential. That is only done one way—by doing long, slow runs. If you normally run between a 7:00-7:30 minute mile pace, you should run at about an 8:30-9:00 minute mile pace for your long, slow run.

Try this out the next time you run and you might be surprised at how far your body can actually take you. Of course, don’t forget to hydrate before your run, stretch and warm up and ENJOY THE JOURNEY!

Things Runners Hate

Obviously, I love running. I love it as a sport and as a lifestyle. I enjoy the camaraderie and the health benefits. I love the thrill of a race and the friendships formed during training sessions. But, there are things that I hate about running too. Having been a serious runner for years, I hear complaints from fellow runners all the time. Here are just a few of them:
1. Injuries and limping. If I’m not running, I’m probably suffering some inflammation, soreness or a limp. Motrin, Aleve and Tylenol have been in my medicine cabinet for years and will probably continue to stay there.
2. Dogs off-leash. I personally have 2 dogs and love them to death but I don’t let them roam free in the front yard and on the street. Dogs chasing runners can cause injuries and debilitate one’s pace.
3. Bad weather. If it’s too cold or raining, I am inside with the sensible adults. I hate missing a run so I am forced to go to the gym and subject myself to the dreaded treadmill.

4. Dieting and hunger. Training burns a lot of calories and I try to add it back in with healthy options. I eat a light breakfast, very light lunch and end up starving for dinner.
5. Having to go to the bathroom during a run. This pretty much speaks for itself. I try to stick to routes where I know there are public restrooms or indiscreet locations to relieve myself.
6. Colds. This is similar to the category of injuries and limping but it’s a little different. Runners hate to catch colds because it hinders our training but people with colds are equally evil to training plans.
7. Foot traffic going the wrong way. I am not one for walking/running trails or tracks but people should use them correctly. Don’t be that person going the wrong way on a track or trail.

Am I Shopping With Nutrition in Mind?

Now you’re on the path for running fitness, it’s time to get your nutrition plan. This starts before you even go to the store. For the purposes of this blog, I will provide you a quick guide to the paleo diet. This diet consists of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, seafood and healthy oils/fats. The paleo diet does not allow any rice, potatoes, pasta, bread, sodas, chips, crackers or desserts.

Before going to the store, I recommend scheduling out your meals for a week’s time. Here is a sample paleo meal plan. Next, clean out your pantry and refrigerator. You can’t eat healthy if you still have a supply of the bad stuff in your house. Once you’ve completed that, eat before you go to the grocery store. If you are hungry when you go, the chances are high that you will impulse shop for the bad, quick and easy stuff.

Grocery stores are a successful business because they engineer the store for you to buy certain things. But now that you’re a committed runner and nutrition aficionado, you won’t fall into their trap. Shopping paleo is quite simple, just stick to the perimeter of the grocery store. Most stores start out with the produce section, and that’s where you will spend the bulk of your time. Next, move on to the meat and seafood counter. Finally, finish up with the dairy section. Notice how I skipped all the aisles in the middle of the store? It’s full of processed, boxed foods. None of those foods exist within nature. You don’t need any of them to sufficiently fuel your body. There are some exceptions: almond butter, coconut oil, avocado oil, chicken/beef broth, dried herbs/spices and raw honey.

I realize that this is probably far from the way you used to shop, but it will be so worth it. If this is too much of a shock for you, try eliminating those bad foods one at a time. While you’re doing that, try introducing one new vegetable into your diet each week. Remember, we are in the business of continuous progress!

Is Running a Priority?

We all have priorities in life and keeping them in balance is what makes life easier. Where does running fit into your list of priorities? Is it too high? Is it too low? These are questions we will examine and ensure running is at the right place within your priorities.

First things first…let’s examine your priorities. For some of you, you might have never done this. Take a look at how you spend your time on a weekly basis. Set some time aside to rank or value how important each activity engaged in actually was to you. I challenge you to keep a journal of your activities throughout the week. Even go so far as to write down how often (and for how long) you spend watching television and participating in social media.

As for me, my priorities are quite clear. First comes my faith, then family, school and running. I love my wife more than anything else and enjoy the time spent with each other. I regard school as my full time job so it is also very important to me.

High up on my priorities list is running. I love getting in a good run. Having a running goal, staying in shape and having an area of my life in which I can improve are paramount for me. Running has so many benefits, it is hard to not have running on my priorities list.

Even though it is high on my priorities list, running is right where it should be. If I put running too high, my family and social life would suffer. If I put it too low, I may never get out to run because I would value going out every night more.

At the end of the day, your individual running habits will form from where running falls into your priorities. If you do not know where running fits in, take a look at how you spend your time. Once you’ve done this, it will be clear as to where running fits into your life.

Laying the Foundation

never-give-up

Running is fairly easy to get started, but it is also easy to give up. In order to have a consistent running program, you must have a solid plan and motivation to carry you through. I have compiled 7 effective tips to help you get started:

• The One-Minute Tip- It’s just that! Try running for one minute at a time and then walk a bit. If you feel good, run for another minute. We all have to start from somewhere and this is as good a place as any.
• Running Goals- I will provide you with detailed plans to prepare for your first race, mileage goal or losing weight. If you don’t have a goal, I suggest that you start here.
• Get Motivated- Motivation is the difference between those who give up and those that keep going. I suggest increasing your motivation by posting your goals and accomplishments, running with friends and reading inspirational quotes.
• Don’t Overdo It- You want running to be a healthy lifestyle for the long haul. Listen to your body. Only schedule 20 minute workouts three times a week at first.
• Warm-up and Have Great Running Technique- Before and after every run, it is important to stretch your leg muscles. When you begin a run, walk for a few minutes, have good posture and take appropriate strides.
• Running Shoes- Take the time and money to visit a shoe store that specializes in running apparel. Talk to the salesperson and listen to their recommendations. It will pay off in the end.
Next, we need to discuss the basics of nutrition for runners. Running is a sport and a form of exercise and has specific nutritional requirements. In order to get the best results, endurance and recovery, you will need to focus on what you eat and when you eat. Running extra miles requires fuel from food to keep your muscles going. You will be burning extra calories, so it’s important to keep them fueled with the right mix of food. Here’s a few suggestions to help get you started:

• Complex Carbohydrates- Foods such as whole grains, unrefined pastas, vegetables and potatoes provide your body with steady, reliable fuel to help keep you going.
• Proteins- As you run longer distances, your muscles will need to be repaired. Lean proteins such as eggs, fish and chicken are great. They are also great if you want to lose weight.
• Fats- Mono. fats such as canola oil, flax seed oil and avocado are the healthiest for runners. Stay away from lard and deep-frying anything.
• Balanced Meals- As a runner, your meal should be about 60 percent complex carbohydrates, 20 percent fats and 20 percent proteins. Get as much fresh vegetables as you can. Make your plate colorful!
• Water- Consumption is important for everyone but more so for the runner who is going to sweat a lot. You should consume no less than 64 ounces, evenly through the day. Stay away from alcohol and caffeine!