How Running Can Help You Psychologically

imagesWe all know running can boost your fitness, help you lose weight and create a stronger heart. But did you know running can assist you in other ways?

In a study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, the official journal of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), a simple 30 minutes on a treadmill can lift the spirits of those suffering from major depression. They took 40 participants and divided them into a control group and a group who walked for 30 minutes on a treadmill. All were recently diagnosed with major depressive disorder. They then took surveys before the test period and at 5-, 30-, and 60-minute intervals after their half-hour periods of rest or exertion.

Only the group who exercised noticed a positive change in feelings.

In a 2012 study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that a daily morning running routine improved sleep and psychological functioning. Researchers used 51 participants assigned to either a running group or a control group. The running group went running every morning for 30 minutes at moderate intensity during weekdays for 3 consecutive weeks. Researchers measured sleeping patterns in both groups.

Results showed the running group had improved sleep and stayed more positive throughout the day.

A 2007 study in Physiological & Behavior showed that running releases the same neurochemicals as taking drugs. And obviously, it’s a whole lot healthier.

So even 30 minutes a day can help improve your move and help you sleep better. It also follows the American Heart Association’s recommended daily activity.


Juicing for Your Summer Diet

 Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap/

Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap/

With the half the country supposed to be under a heat dome this weekend, you may find yourself lacking energy and/or the motivation to run. Although the days remain long, sometimes you can’t muster the desire to workout when the temperatures take their toll. Here are a few ways to keep your energy high throughout the dog days of summer:

Start with green juice. You’ve seen the health enthusiasts drinking their green juices and there’s a reason: They provide loads of vitamins and minerals and many find they can lose weight by adding them to their diet.

Try this recipe, which is the simplest I’ve found:

3 cups water
2 cups spinach or kale
3 cups of fruit–watermelon, mango, pineapple, apple, banana or any combination

Pour three cups of water into a blender, then add the greens one cup at a time so the blender doesn’t get overloaded. Then add in the fruit at the end one cup at a time. Enjoy.

Keep moving. If you work in an office, add in 15-minute walks into your calendar. At most offices I’ve worked, people keep an extra pair of running shoes under their desks and slip them on for regular walks. It can also be a way to stay social if you invite work colleagues to join. In the summer, it’s best to do this in the morning before it gets too hot and you ruin your nice work clothes or try the stairs in your building if they are cool enough. But treating your walks like meetings, you’ll more apt to do it.

Keep peppermint oil nearby. If you stare at a computer all day or like most people, at your Smartphone, peppermint oil helps with headaches triggered by staring at the screen all day.

Eat every three to four hours. If you don’t have the energy to cook, try variations of juices such as the one above or bring nuts and fruit in small packets to make it easy and accessible.


Plyometrics for Runners

cornstockIt’s good practice to add in some plyometric drills to your workouts. This keeps you moving in a multi-planar fashion and gives you a total body workout, keeping you lose and strong (just like the soccer players).

What are plyometrics?
They are movements with high velocity, nicknamed the “stretch-shortening cycle.” You stretch your muscle before an explosive contraction, such as jumping.

Take note:
Research even states good jumpers are better 5Kers.

Dr. Jason Karp, a coach and exercise physiologist recommends these drills to boost your overall running ability:

Box jumps: (These are my personal favorite and popular among CrossFit enthusiasts.) From the ground, jump with two feet onto a 1-foot tall box, and then immediately jump into the air and back down to the ground. As you improve, try jumping with one foot at a time.

Bleacher hops: (Great for an addition to track practice.) Stand at the bottom of the bleacher steps on one leg, hop up the steps. Walk back down and hop up again on the other leg.

Single leg hops: (You might see someone doing these at the local gym.) 1) On one leg, hop up and down; 2) hop forward and back;  and finally, 3) hop side to side.

Squat jumps: With hands on hips in a squat position, jump straight up as high as you can. Upon landing, lower back into a squat position in one smooth motion and immediately jump up again.

Proper Running Form

Goodshoot 1Should you stand up right? Should you lean forward? We’ve all questioned what is the best, most efficient form for running.

In a study published in Gait & Posture, Dr. Stephen Preece and his team decided to find out. They compared the forward lean of 14 elite runners vs. 14 hobby runners. He tested the runners at four different paces—from 8:07 to 4:47 per mile—and found that the elite group maintained a lean of about 3.5 degrees across all speeds, while the recreational runners increased their lean to  eight degrees at the fastest pace.

He determined that a small lean, maybe three or four degrees is the best. Using more increases your usage of glutes and back muscles, which you don’t want.

In addition, an abstract presented by researchers at the American College of Sports Medicine in Boston said that postural lean can make you a more efficient runner. They used 16 runners capable of running a 22 minute 5K and had them run on a treadmill with a lean of 0 degrees,  4.18 degrees or 8.34 degrees. There was little difference between the first two conditions, but the 8.34-degree forward lean caused a four to six percent worsening of running efficiency.

The conclusion? Upright is best.

How to run upright:

Head: Keep your head held up and look at the horizon rather than looking at the ground. You see most runners only looking down. Keep your head up and this will help you stand up straighter.

If you feel yourself slouching, take a deep breath in and straighten your shoulders.

With your head up and looking ahead and your shoulders low and loose, your torso and back naturally straighten.

Keep them loose and close to your body. Keep your hands in an unclenched fist and fingers touching your palms.

Have someone videotape you, even with just a smartphone. You can analyze how far you bend and try to work at straightening. This will not only make you faster, but work your body less harder and give you better endurance.