Runners: Are You Overtraining?

imagesWe all have tried a little too hard in our training, given 100 percent for far longer than our bodies can properly handle. Mentally, we feel the need to push harder with each workout to get faster and stronger, but that is far from the truth. In actuality, overtraining leads to burnout–and you will end up without the ability to run and too tired to finish even your daily responsibilities. Below are some symptoms of overtraining. If you feel any of these, it’s best to back off and take at least two days of rest or perform some light cardio.

No appetite. When you are running hard and fast each day, you’d think that your appetite would increase. In overtraining, your body is too restless to properly digest food and thus, it doesn’t want nutrition. You really need to be careful if this happens because your weight can drop too low and you’ll be too weak to continue your sport.

Feeling sore often. If you wake up in the morning and your arms and/or legs are sore and tired, even after a good night’s sleep, what’s happening is your body isn’t recovering properly after your workouts. It’s best to keep your feet up for a couple of days and let your body heal.

Tired all the time. In addition to feeling sore, you’re tired all day long. Whether you sleep seven or 10 hours a night, it’s not enough to shake you out of the funk. This again is your body not properly recovering. Try eating more protein for muscle repair and not running for a couple of days. If that’s too hard, try light cardio with an elliptical machine or rowing machine and don’t push yourself.

Your heart won’t stop beating quickly. A racing heart means it’s stressed. Stop stressing your body and lighten up on your workouts. You’re doing more harm than good.

Happy (proper) training!


Foot Problems of Runners

thTwo weeks ago, I traveled out of state and ended up with severe pain I couldn’t walk. I tried to run for the first time this past weekend and no surprise, I spent the rest of the day in bed in tremendous discomfort. Runners suffer from loads of health issues, from IT band problems to bad knees, but feet are often overlooked. This makes no sense as it is the feet that strike the ground and always do the brunt of the work.

Here are three of some of the most common problems runners face with their feet:

Plantar fasciitis

The fascia, a band of tissue connecting the heel bone to the toes, can become inflammed. This makes your foot feel like its on fire.

How to help:
-Ice it with a frozen water bottle. Put the water bottle on the floor and roll the middle of your foot over it. Do this constantly throughout the day.
-Stay off of it.
-Be careful with how you buy your shoes. It is recommended you purchase them from a store with an ability to videotape your running. This allows the staff to analyze your gait and form and find the proper shoe to lessen injuries.

Heel spurs

Abnormal growth of bone on the bottom of the heel bone can come from inappropriate shoes and from running.

How to help:
-See a foot specialist for a heel pad or orthotics.
-Look for shoes with shock absorbing soles to lessen the impact on your heel.

Ball of Foot Pain

This is, quite simply, inflammation in the ball of the foot. Usually running or ill-fitting shoes is the cause of the problem.

How to help:
-Look for shoe inserts. See a specialist for this or a running store with experts. Do not look for over-the-counter options that you’d find at a drugstore.
-Ice it.
-Take anti-inflammatories.

Be sure to stay off your feet when issues occur or you can make the problem worse.


Try Adding Kettlebells to Your Running Workout

What are kettlebells? You may see these iron cannonball-shaped weights at your local gym. While they appear revolutionary—something more glamorous than your standard dumbbell—they are far from it. Since the 1700s, kettlebells were used by Russians to demonstrate strength by lifting and swinging them. Times evolved and now kettlebells are used by daily gym enthusiasts and endurance athletes to build necessary muscle.

Feeling a bit skeptical on this new lifting technique? This study may help sway you. The American Council of Exercise conducted a study with researchers at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse’s Department of Exercise and Sport Science. Thirty healthy, fit male and female volunteers were used to conduct the study—all were aged from 19 to 25 and all had previous strength training backgrounds. These 30 volunteers were divided into two groups: 18 were in the experimental group and 12 were in the control group.

First, researchers measured assessments in strength, cardio and balance. Then, twice a week for eight weeks, the experimental group took an hour-long kettlebell class with certified trainers. Results were measured at the end of eight weeks.

Results proved significant improvements in aerobic capacity, leg press strength, core strength, among other fitness gains. Aerobic function improved an average of a 13.8 percent increase. The greatest increase was in abdominal core strength—this increased 70 percent.

Runners need that strong core to keep their balance. Many runners just focus on their ability to run long distances or sprint at high speeds. In actuality, you must add strength training to your workout to maximize your body’s potential.

With kettlebell training, you receive greater results with the same amount of work as traditional strength training. Because you want to focus more of your energy running, this could be the perfect addition to your workouts.


Hydrating While Running

Marathon Hamburg 2006During hot summer months, runners will tend to drink too much water. Although you think you need to stay hydrated, overhydration can easily occur. When this happens, you are at risk of developing hyponatremia–low blood sodium resulting from too much hydration. A new study suggests endurance athletes should drink when thirsty.

Appearing in the June issue of the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers convened at the third International Exercise-Associated Hyponatremia Consensus Development Conference, and published their recommendations. They revised their previous advice due to the two deaths of high school football players from dilutional exercise-associated hyponatremia in Summer 2014.

The newly-published statement now emphasizes a balanced approach to drinking water, especially during the hot months when hyponatremia is often more pronounced. Researchers suggest only drinking water when you are thirsty, rather than keep drinking throughout a tough workout. 

“The release of these recommendations is particularly timely, just before sports training camps and marathon training begins within the United States — where the majority of EAH deaths have occurred,” said Dr. Tamara Hew-Buter, PhD of Oakland University.

Why is it important to be aware of your hydration levels? If you cannot sweat or urinate excess H20, you are at risk of your sodium level interfering with normal regulatory processes. This spells bad news for your body. Symptoms of hyponatremia include vomiting and headaches, and even seizures.

Those EAH deaths were preventable and not forcing hydration can do more good than harm. Drinking when you need it and not when you think you do, can help runners at risk of hyponatremia.


Love to Snack? This Computer Game May Help

 Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap/

Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap/

As runners, our appetite levels rise when we are in the middle of our training. However, we often snack a little too much when we aren’t on a hardcore schedule. It’s easy to keep eating the same amount of calories during the off-training season. If this describes you, an online computer game may help control your snacking impulse.

In a study published in the journal Appetite, researchers from the University of Exeter and Cardiff University used 41 adults and had them complete four 10-minute sessions of playing a game involving snack control.

How the game works: Users avoid pressing on pictures of certain images, such as photos of heavy foods, while they respond to other images, such as images of fruits. The goal is to trick your brain into associating heavy, calorie-laden foods with stopping.

Participants were weighed and given food-rating tasks and diaries to complete one week before and one week after the training.

The results showed that participants lost an average of one and a half pounds and consumed around 220 fewer calories a day with a simple computer game. In addition, the reduction in weight and unhealthy snacking was maintained six months after the study.

“These findings are among the first to suggest that a brief, simple computerized tool can change people’s everyday eating behavior,” said lead researcher Natalia Lawrence of the University of Exeter. “This opens up exciting possibilities for new behavior change interventions based on underlying psychological processes,” said Lawrence.

Ten minutes isn’t too long to spend changing the way your brain looks at food.

You can watch this YouTube video to find out more information abut the game.


Books to Add to Your Summer Reading List

girl runningIt is now officially summer and many of you may have upcoming vacations. If your schedule allows for any downtime, such as taking a long flights or lounging at the beach or by the pool, these books may provide some entertainment during your free time.

Here are a few recommendations:

My Best Race
I am excited for the recent release of “My Best Race” by Chris Cooper. As a “Chicken Soup for the Soul”-type book, I am inspired by the stories of elite runners who’ve reached the pinnacle of sport. I admire their tenacity and appreciate their words of support. You don’t often get to read their stories or discover the personalities behind the athlete. I will be firing up the Kindle before races to feel motivated to cross the finish line.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
A friend of mine handed me this book, “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running,” by Haruki Murakami. Murakami was already an established, bestselling author who just happened to also be a runner. This fast read caused me to pause and remember why I love to run. He also touches on triathlons, my other endurance love.

Born to Run
As one of the recent bestsellers on endurance sports, author Christopher McDougall discusses the growing world of ultra racing, focusing on a particular Indian tribe. This book also helped set the barefoot craze in motion. “Born to Runalmost makes me contemplate a 100-mile race, but then I run a marathon and decide “nope” pretty quickly. I met McDougall back on his original book tour and he doesn’t look like a typical runner, which makes me like him even more.

Happy reading!

You Should Run Like a Kid

imagesWe are used to running for extended periods of time, especially that one long run each week. But if you are pressed for time, you actually should change your workout from a moderate pace to short bouts of high-intensity training instead.

A recent study published in the journal Metabolism: Clinical and Experimental suggests what we’ve all been hearing about HIIT (high-intensity interval training): It may have a better effect on your overall health than long, moderate workouts.

Mirroring the way children exercise, workout hard for a short time and then rest, is actually better for you.

In this study, adolescents had their blood sugar, blood pressure, and fat metabolism measured at intervals over eight hours and consumed a fatty meal for both breakfast and lunch. Participants were told to exercise at a moderate and high-level of intensity for four different periods. Both moderate and high intensity exercisers performed the same amount of work. Researchers found high-intensity was more effective in improving blood sugar levels, fat metabolism and blood pressure in adolescents after consuming a fatty meal.

Dr Alan Barker, of the Children’s Health and Exercise Research Centre, Sport and Health Sciences at the University of Exeter, said: “Children and adolescents tend to perform brief bouts of exercise. This study shows that the intensity of this pattern of exercise is important, with high-intensity providing superior health benefits than moderate-intensity exercise.”

What does this mean for running? Running four miles at a moderate pace may not be as effective as running four one-miles hard broken up throughout the course of a day. You will reap greater rewards in shorter bursts than something longer. Breaking it up like this may also keep you motivated. Knowing you only have run one mile is something much more reasonable.




Do Runners Have Amnesia?

imagesCA32IXH9Completing a marathon can feel exciting, but no doubt, it hurts. Still, most runners choose to sign up for more. A new psychological study offers some explanation of why, by finding that some marathon runners seem to develop selective amnesia and forget what the true experience is like.


The new study was published in the journal Memory. Przemyslaw Babel, a professor of psychology at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, focused on the marathon because the experience combines pain with emotions.

The Research:

At the finish line of the 2012 Cracovia Marathon in Krakow, Babel asked 62 of the finishers to rate the intensity and unpleasantness of the pain they were feeling right after they finished, as well as their general emotional state.

The runners reported a moderate intensity and unpleasantness of pain at the time, averaging about a 5.5 on a scale of zero to 10.

Then either three or six months later, the same runners were asked to remember how much pain they were in after they finished the marathon.

Their memories proved  quite different than how they responded three to six months previously. Most of the runners recalled the race as being much less painful than they said at the time, averaging a three on a 10-point scale.


The runners who had reported less happiness at the race’s end later remembered their pain more accurately than those who felt elated after crossing the finish line, even if their pain at the time had been about the same.


According to the study, “The results of the current study suggest that memory of pain and affect is influenced by the meaning and affective value of the pain experience. This may help us to understand why the previous research on the memory of pain were so diverse.”


Snacks for Runners

FTTF_Background_3-BIGI can’t count how many gels I’ve taken over the years. I find them the best source of fuel for a long run and easy to digest. However, I wouldn’t mind shaking it up a bit. Sometimes I find myself out of gels or I’m traveling and forgot to pack some and wonder, what can I do?

I found a few snacking alternatives you take while running that shouldn’t be hard on the stomach.

We see these at race aid stations–one of the few foods you see distributed. Bananas offer plenty of potassium runners need to excel at this sport. However, they are hard to carry and can get mashed pretty quickly if you keep it in a pocket of your running shorts. Try mashing it up and spreading it over a whole wheat tortilla, like your own fruit quesadilla. Keep it in a Ziplock bag and stick this in your pocket instead.

Elderly people drink this when they have trouble digesting foods. It offers a high number of calories but is easy on the digestive system. If you are doing long runs of 15+ miles, you need the calories and this is a fast way to get them.

Are you someone who loves the sports jelly beans? I eat them sometimes for my workouts and try not to feel guilty that I’m using a dessert to fuel my exercise. However, I should be swapping that out with raisins instead. A study by Louisiana State University found them as effective as those jelly beans.

Green Tea
If you’re tired of Gatorade or looking for a healthier, less sugary choice, green tea has been known to improve endurance and V02 max. You can fill up a water bottle and get a friendly flavor than regular water.


Half Marathons to Add to Your Racing Calendar

race-day-720x288This year I crossed the half century threshold in number of half marathons finished. While I view that as thousands of calories burned, my friends look at it as thousands of dollars lost.   I guess I’m a glass-half-full kind of gal when it comes to races. I feel nothing but positivity when I race–it forces me to rise early, get my workout done at a faster pace than I would run on my own, water and sports drinks are handed to me by nice volunteers, I feel supported by the crowds and other runners, I get a medal to commemorate my finish (that granted, gets stuck in a bag in the back of my closet), and I feel a sense of accomplishment that I reached another goal (despite my horrific finish time).

Out of my first 50 half marathons, here are a few of my favorites:

561761_3980390742837_446598658_nDisneyland Half Marathon. Taking place Labor Day weekend, the Happiest Race on Earth traverses through the Happiest Place on Earth: Disneyland. You’ll run through Disneyland, California Adventure Park, into Angels Stadium where the crowd noise will astound you, and receive your best race photos. If you don’t care about time, you can stop and have your photo taken with Disney characters, the automobiles from “Cars,” and the famous Disneyland castle.

Safari Half Marathon.  
For anyone wishing for a vacation out west, San Diego offers this little gem of a half marathon taking place in May. Though the course is challenging, the rewards are worth the effort. You’ll run past a vineyard where owners serve Gatorade out of wine cups, runners dress up as animals and Tarzan characters, and end up right in the middle of Safari Park–an adventure park/extension of the world-famous San Diego zoo. About 40 minutes north of San Diego airport, the race starts near Escondido, Calif.

Kauai Half Marathon. Naturally, any race in a tropical locale will make anyone’s running list. Also generally held over Labor Day weekend, the Kauai marathon is a tough course with hot temperatures–be prepared to sweat. You’ll race through this garden island’s green scenery, through a road with tree branches forming a tunnel of sorts for runners, and end up right next to the Pacific Ocean. For those more ambitious, a full marathon is offered with approximately eight miles of climbing. My hat is off to those who dare.

Salt Lake City Half Marathon. It is easy to PR at the Salt Lake City Half Marathon held each April. With 11 miles of downhill, your quads will hate you, but your Garmin will love you. I love the cherry blossoms that blow in the wind as I run by, the clean air at a higher elevation, the snow-capped mountains and ending at a shopping center.

Happy running!