Running Mistakes

imagesThis weekend I completed two half marathons and for the first time, I felt tremendous arm pain from running. It was only my right arm but the pain was so intense, I almost bought a sling to keep me from moving it. Even the slightest move caused total agony. I couldn’t figure out what it was until I started doing a little research.

Turns out, I was holding my car key in my right hand (as I am right handed) and clutching my fist for 13.1 miles made my entire arm sore. I sometimes do carry a water bottle or a key in my hand, but perhaps I’ve hit an age where little things like this won’t work anymore. Carrying anything is a mistake.

I’ve rounded up some running mistakes people make:

Running in asymmetrical fashion
If you come down harder on a certain side, you are setting yourself up for hip pain. Try looking at the bottom of your shoes first. Does one side look more worn out? This is an indication you push down more on one side. You may not even be aware of it, but it’s something you should check for to save yourself pain down the line.

How to fix: It is best to visit a running store to have them videotape you and see your running style. They can fit you with proper shoes as well based on your gait.

Not aligning your legs
Your knees should obviously stay in line with your hips, but this isn’t how most people run. If your hip muscles are weak, they won’t support the knees, which will cause your knees to bow inward–setting you up for knee problems.

How to fix: It is a good idea to go to the track and have someone videotape you to watch your body alignment. You should also start hitting the gym and doing exercises to build up the gluteus maximus. Try adding squats and lunges to your routine.

Not swinging your arms
In a study published in the Journal of Experimental Biology, researchers found that swinging the arms during running reduced energy by 3 percent compared with holding the hands behind the back, 9 percent compared with holding the arms across the chest, and 13 percent compared with holding the hands on top of the head. Some runners try to hold their arm swinging to conserve energy or swing to much to burn more calories–this does not work researchers found.

How to fix: Do not start any run feeling tense. Relax your body so you will run in a natural fashion. Do not carry anything in your hands to disrupt your natural swing.



When Races Go Wrong

heat_0This weekend I participated in a half marathon race. Of all the half marathons I completed, this was the hardest. The weather turned from a nice cloud cover to a heat advisory all weekend. Race directors even offered vans to escort runners to the finish line because of the anticipated number of dropouts. Ambulances raced to the course for those suffering from heat exhaustion and finish times increased exponentially.

I finished in my worst time ever. I almost stopped to take a break–something I’ve never done in a race, ever. I could barely walk at mile 12, when the course turned into a hill that kept going for the last mile. The heat really got to me. Here are a few other moments when races did not go as intended:

In 2008, I ran a half marathon in the desert of Arizona. Police officers directed runners to keep running on a road, rather than turn to a trail, which was the actual course. We all ran an additional two miles off course. Once we figured out what happened, runners were running over hills, jumping over a wire fence, anything to get back on the proper course.

In 2006, I did a half marathon in which the buses didn’t show. We had to wait for an hour and a half for a bus to pick us up. This meant I started the race super late after the official start. I had to run in between the walkers and try to jump around people.

In 2010, in a holiday 12K, the police officers were all new to directing traffic for races. They thought they were supposed to stop the runners and let cars pass. Therefore, they held up large groups of runners to let cars go. The race directors were not happy and apologized at least.

In 2011, I was doing my first ultramarathon through trails. I got lost and couldn’t figure out which way to turn when I came to a fork in the trail. I made the wrong choice and ran an extra mile.

What are some of your race fails?

New Findings in Exercise

race-day-720x288Every time I log in to social media, I find links to relevant new studies on exercise. Here are a few you may glean some content from that you can use in your training or daily life in general:

Drink Beet Juice
Downing beet juice before you go out for a run may help you improve performance and blood flow. In a study published in the American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, male subjects drank beet juice for 15 days had lower blood pressure and more dilated blood vessels at rest and during exercise. “Blood vessels also dilated more easily and the heart consumed less oxygen during exercise with beet juice consumption,” the researchers said.

Sports Helps You in School
A new study out of the University of Montreal shows participating in extracurricular activities makes you a better student, even as young as kindergarten age. Sports teaches you the discipline needed to become a good student. “By time they reached the fourth grade, kids who played structured sports were identifiably better at following instructions and remaining focused in the classroom,” said study leader Linda Pagani. So if someone says sports takes away from school, tell them no, it doesn’t.

Drink When Thirsty
In a study published in the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine, researchers discovered drinking too much water is dangerous. For those who’ve never heard of hyponatermia, it’s when your body has low blood sodium. This occurs when you have more fluid than sodium in your body, which often occurs when running outside in the heat.  We always hear “stay hydated” from every running coach, runner and even non-runners, but researchers discovered you could drink when you become thirsty and don’t run the risk of hyponatremia. It is possible to drink TOO much.


Safety Tips for Runners

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I watched a Netflix documentary this weekend that I found captivating. It’s called Desert Runners and I highly recommend it. It follows four “regular” runners (non-athletes) as they attempt to run through the four deserts of the world in various ultramarathons. I want to watch it again because it really captured what that world is like and the production was unparalleled–not to mention highly motivating at getting me off my couch.

One disturbing element to the documentary was a young girl who was grabbed and nearly assaulted as she ran alone through the Sahara Desert. It made me think of my own safety precautions to take while running, especially as the days start to get shorter.

For those running enthusiasts, however, it doesn’t matter if the sun sets at 10 p.m. or at 5 p.m., they run no matter whether its light or dark. If you are one of these runners, here are a few safety precautions to take in the dark:

1. Bring your cell phone. While we all hate to carry extra weight, the GPS tracking device can assist if you get lost and need to phone for help. One way to combat the weight is to download a playlist program such as Pandora and listen to it while you run. You can skip bringing your iPod and bring the cell instead.

2. While listening to Pandora (or an iPod or radio), try running with one earbud out of your ear. You can then listen for cars and any suspicious noises.

3. Wear reflective gear. Gone are the days of wearing large, heavy construction jackets. Now you can find lightweight reflective material that you’ll not even notice. Wearing blinkers is also a good idea.

4. Stay on the sidewalk. If you can’t find a high school track or somewhere completely devoid of traffic, be sure to stay on the sidewalk instead of running in the street. Depth perception is off at night and you may be closer than you appear to drivers.

5. Change up your route. You never know who is watching. Changing up your route will make you less vulnerable to stalkers.