Are Treadmills Good for Your Health?

imagesA number of years ago, I was running on a treadmill and tripped. My neck fell right into the handle bar causing me to jerk my head and hit it against the interface. This made my entire body fall onto the tread and because the machine was moving, my body moved backward and then plopped onto the floor. Not only was this embarrassing, but painful. I could barely move from the neck injury.

I am hardly alone. Recently, the treadmill-caused death of David Goldberg made national news as he was someone of high profile. This has brought treadmill safety back into the spotlight. According to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, only 30 reported deaths from the use of treadmills occurred between the years of 2003 to 2012. However, injuries are quite common.

In 2014, injuries associated with treadmills numbered 24,400 and caused the largest amount of injuries than any other piece of exercise equipment. A New York Times article states, “the vast majority of injuries from sports equipment were related to overuse — for example, an injured tendon from a long run on a treadmill.”

How can you prevent an accident?

Most injuries stem from errors of the user. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Pay attention. If you are the type of person who zones out while running, perhaps treadmill running isn’t for you. Losing your balance is one of the most major types of treadmill injuries and comes from people who step off to the side or get back on a treadmill without slowing it down first.

2. Don’t run barefoot. This can cause a stress fracture in the leg. Wearing running shoes will give you better traction for the tread.

3. Stop making funny YouTube videos. I see it all the time at the gym–people videotaping their friends dancing on treadmills or creating pranks to get people to fall.


4. Be aware of the red stop button for emergencies.

It’s common sense, but practice safety always!


Heat Stroke Symptoms

IMG-20130716-00010I finished a race yesterday out in the desert. Sweat beaded up on my forehead and I felt thankful I applied at least some sunblock before crossing the start line. Although temperatures aren’t blasting yet all over the country, it will happen sooner than later.

I found a recent study offering a new way for athletes to combat high body temperatures. In Wilderness & Environmental Medicine, heat stroke kills thousands of people and is the leading cause of death among young athletes. Be forewarned: heat stroke kills.

You can prevent heat stroke with proper hydration and limited outside workouts during the hottest parts of the day. Before heat stroke occurs, you can watch for the warning signs for heat exhaustion–its precursor–which include heavy sweating, clammy skin and nausea. If your body temperature reaches 103 degrees Fahrenheit, however, you will be susceptible to heat stroke.

The authors of the study found a way you can ease heat stroke should it occur: apply cold packs to the hands, cheeks and feet. These are three areas of the body in which blood vessels don’t contract when cold packs are applied.

In the study, the researchers had 10 visibly healthy men wear military clothes specially designed to trap heat and then had them walk on a treadmill for 30 to 40 minutes in a room heated to 104 degrees Fahrenheit.

All 10 completed a treadmill test three times, resting at least one day between each trial for recovery purposes. On the first test, they received no treatment for lowering body temperature. The second time researchers gave them cold packs and applied them to the armpits, neck and groin. On the third test, they received cold packs on their hands, cheeks and feet.

After each test, their body temperature was 102.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Here were the results:

  • Body temperature after first test with no cold treatment: 101.8 degrees Fahrenheit after 10 minutes.
  • Body temperature after second test with traditional cold treatment: 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit after 10 minutes.
  • Body temperature after third test with new cold treatment: 100.9 degrees Fahrenheit after 10 minutes.

Although not a perfect test because the researchers only used healthy, young males, these are significant results. You should be aware of how to help yourself or other runners when faced with symptoms of too much heat.


Races to Run in 2015

With spring in full swing as we make our way out of winter hibernation, it feels like a new day with running. I no longer wake up to darkness and leave work with the moon shining. Thank goodness! I am not a fan of winter. Although I must endure spring allergies, I prefer this season with all the flowers blooming along my long runs. You might start thinking of filling up your racing calendar now with some fresh races for 2015. Here are a few ideas for you:

Vegas Shenanigans

In freezing cold with mittens wrapped around my fingers and a headband clung tightly to my ears, I headed out for a  13.1-mile run/walk that  raced down to the Stratosphere and turned to head into downtown Las Vegas along the old Fremont Street. I then ran back down the strip to the finish line at Mandalay Bay. Unfortunately, this race was a little too crowded for my taste–it took a good 5-10 minutes just to cross my timing chip over the finish line due to the crowds. But…if the thought of running down the strip with no cars allowed suits your running fancy and finish times don’t matter, the Las Vegas Strip at Night Half Marathon and Marathon should come near the end of your racing schedule.

Best Finish Line Treat

Hot Chocolate 15K. Partnering with a popular chocolate company, these races populate the United States and offer runners something better than a medal that sits in box–finishers receive liquid chocolate. With cardboard plates shaped for fondue, runners enjoy warm chocolate with treats such as pretzels, marshmallows and fruit to dip. If that’s not enough, hot chocolate is also offered to keep your insides warm after running. In the words of Rachel Ray, Yum-O!

Not for the Faint of Heart

Tough Mudder. I have to admit, I’ve not done a Tough Mudder. I’ve done a mud run and highly suggest completing one. Prepare your body for hours of torture! From an obstacle course called the Arctic Enema to electric wires, I don’t know if this race is for everyone. Even those names alone have me shaking in my running shoes, but crossing the finish line might make one feel pretty tough, so to speak. I’m interested to hear about anyone who has completed one…would you recommend?

Best Clothing and People Watching

Awesome 80s Run. With spandex, neon colors, bangles and leg warmers, how can you not love a race where you don fantastically ugly outfits? For those without acid wash jeans still in the back of the closet, this race may cost you a registration fee and a trip to Goodwill. But the bright colors of participants will have passersby scratching their heads.


New Study on High Intensity Workouts

Dublin Marathon 2012We’ve all heard about the newest fitness phenomenon. No, I’m not talking about CrossFit, but HIIT–the acronym for high-intensity interval training. In HIIT, rather than endure long workouts to receive fitness gains, you workout in short bursts that take your body to the maximum. Although runner’s still leave in that weekly long run, HIIT can benefit runners on a time crunch and even make you in better shape in less time.

New evidence suggests high intensity workouts are even more powerful than previously thought. In a new article being published in Annals of Internal Medicine, high-intensity workouts show a clear benefit in those wishing to reduce glucose levels.

Researchers studied 300 abdominally obese adults to determine separate effects of the amount of exercise and the intensity on abdominal obesity. All participants were asked to either perform short, high intensity workouts or long, lower intensity workouts five times a week for 24 weeks. As for diet, all participants were asked to eat a healthy diet, but keep their caloric intake the same as usual.

At the end of the study, all lost the same in inches in the waist, but the high intensity exercise group reduced their two-hour glucose levels.

Dr. Ross, PhD of the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies at Queen’s University in Ontario, said results show high intensity can reduce glucose levels and higher intensity isn’t for those in shape.

How to create your own HIIT workout:

1. Increase incline on a treadmill and speed up the pace.
2. Run 1 mile at full speed and then stop to do push ups, crunches, etc. Then run 1 mile at full speed and stop to do push ups, crunches, etc. This allows you to run faster miles and tires you out faster because of the break in between.
3. Incorporate FARTLEK into your running workouts.


Feel Good Running Stories

copy-cropped-cross-country_1.jpgAre you suffering from a bout of seasonal affective disorder? Is winter sticking around a little extra long even though spring began last week? If so, you can fill a few minutes with these happy stories I rounded up on running. I seen these make the rounds of social media and love any feel good story, especially those on running.


Women Gets Extra Help with 10K

Check out this story on a woman who finished a 10K with the help of America’s finest. Asia Ford lost more than 200 pounds and decided to enter a 10K as a new finest challenge. She struggled after mile 4, but a cop noticed and grabbed her hand. Together, they finished the race. Added bonus: a nice, altruistic gesture from a cop. Cops deserve some good press.



10 Year Old Breaks World Record

A 10 year old broke the half marathon world record for his age. Reinhardt Harrison began running not long after learning to walk, giving him a few years of practice before accomplishing this feat. He finished the Alexandria Running Festival Half Marathon in Virginia with a whopping time of 1:35:02, an incredible two minutes faster than the previous record. He said he wasn’t even running at top speed because his dad told him to treat it as a training run. Is this a future Olympic marathoner? We would have to assume so.

Obese Man Commits to Run 5K Every Month

derek500_0Derek Mitchell weighs 570 pounds, but that doesn’t stop him from pushing the fitness limits. He has decided he will run a 5K every month for all of 2015. He recently completed 3.1 miles at the Big 12 Run in Kansas City, Missouri. He doesn’t care what place he comes in, as long as he crosses that finish line.




Should You Hire a Running Coach

imagesCA32IXH9We often come to a plateau in our fitness levels–a time when progress isn’t a word we can use. Many times you feel like speed stays the same and burn out occurs. When this happens, you may think of hiring a professional to help you reach the next level or simply take a little step off that flat road you’ve been metaphorically running.

Here are things to consider when deciding on spending your money on a running coach:

1. Does he or she ask about your goals?
A coach will want to know much more than how fast you want to go or your current 5K PR. Professionals will want to discover the time you can devout to running, what you do for a living, your family, etc. They will try to understand your lifestyle to create training plans that allow for a work/life balance and one you will stick to based upon the time you have allotted for running.

2. How often are they available?
Do you want someone who emails and/or texts with a quick response? No one is available 24/7, but it is acceptable to expect a reasonable response time. Also, what can they help with? Do they simply email running workouts? Do they meet with you at the track and can help you with form?

3. What is their track record? Excuse the pun.
Running coaches with experience will cost more, but might be worth it if they’ve helped others successfully reach their goals. You might be able to save money with newer coaches who could be as good and have more time for you. Check out their credentials and if they’ve received accreditation from any organizations in the industry. I highly suggest using professionals with a few letters behind their name.

4. Do they run?
What is their background in the sport? Some running coaches really are not runners, but fitness professionals. I do not suggest this. You really want a runner, even if they do not actively run now.

Good luck!



Run in the Spring

267037_10151041768466017_1085636360_oMore than 2,000 miles of the U.S. remains under freeze watch and it may feel too bitter to even hit the gym, let alone go run outdoors. However, let’s look at the good news: the official start of Spring 2015 begins in less than one month. Although this may not make those temperatures rise today, soon Mother Nature will melt the ice and you’ll see the trails underneath the current blankets of pure whiteness. Here are a few spring options to add to your running calendar:

1. The Color Run–One of the spring traditions throughout the world is Holi, a celebration of love and color that involves the famous throwing of color dust. The Color Run honors that festival with 5K events all over the U.S and the world. Their website shows loads of upcoming events. Participants wear white shirts and then run through a sea of color dust to end the race looking like they were painted. It’s easy to find a similar event located near you with so many upcoming on their racing calendar.

2. Although typical city marathons/half marathons offer crowds, bands and cheerleaders along the route, I suggest trying out a trail race to the mix. You’ll experience nature, quiet solitude, and a much harder challenge than your standard running on asphalt. Plus, you can leave your watch at home. Usually you run at a slower pace with the constant change in elevation. But you’ll also have stronger quads to appreciate.

3. Test out relay races. Companies such as Ragnar offer relays of 6-12 people who run various legs of a course measuring 200-300 miles in distance. You start in the morning and run for one to two days over night, sleeping whenever possible. You do have long breaks in between legs, so you can spend the time making friends with your fellow runners and relax. It’s great for running and camaraderie.

Happy not-quite-yet spring!

Staying Mentally Tough

I want to love running again

Yesterday millions of Americans watched the unbelievable ending to the Super Bowl game. I was raised in Seattle and remain a die-hard Seahawks fan, making the outcome quite disappointing (if that’s not an understatement). This inspired me to think of the next blog post. How do you bounce back from a disappointment? When you are running and have a bad race (as we all have at one point or another), how do you turn around and do it again? I researched what mentally strong people do that keeps them successful and coming back for more even when dealt with failure.

If you have a bad run/race here are a few tips on how to become a person with mental toughness and bounce back:

1. Control what you can. I know I’m guilty of blaming bad weather, a challenging course, etc. But every race will have it’s own unique set of difficulties that I cannot control. All a runner can do is train to the best of your ability and arrive on race day as prepared as possible.

2. Accept responsibility. If you make a mistake, you go out too fast at the start, didn’t hydrate properly, etc., own it. Learn from it and don’t do it again.

3. Stop the insanity. You’ve probably heard the definition of insanity, right? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result? If you continue to have bad races, something is wrong. You need to reevaluate. Do you need to hire a coach? Do you need to change your nutrition plan? Do you need to run with a pacer so you stay consistent in your racing speed?

4. Never complain. This is one of the hardest to live by, but words are powerful. If you constantly whine about your circumstances, they will not get better. If you speak positively, you create an environment that opens the pathway to success. The same goes for the company you keep. If you surround yourself with negative influences, you will find it harder to dig your way out.

5. Harbor resentment. It’s easy for a losing team to get angry and think “woulda, coulda, shoulda,”, but the ones that shrug it off and move ahead will have a more successful game next time. You have to remove it from your mind. The best way to go about doing this is find a new race and immediately sign up. This puts you thinking forward.


More Fuel is the Key to Racing?

Dublin Marathon 2012I found this study fascinating. I’m always trying to figure out the proper balance of nutrition during a marathon–how much is too much? Sometimes I find myself hungry during a race and have obviously let my tank get too empty, but I worry I will take in to much and cause stomach problems. But that may not be the case…Now it looks like I need to fuel more.

A new study published in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise shows aggressive fueling may be the key to optimal performance. Researchers recruited runners training for the 2013 Copenhagen Marathon and told them to finish a 10K time trial about seven weeks before the race. Runners were grouped into pairs based on speed. From each pair, one runner used the fueling strategy developed by the researchers, while the other was told to fuel however he or she wanted. All runners completed a half marathon five weeks before race day and so everyone could practice their particular fueling strategy.

Next came marathon day and the results were surprising:

In the 2013 Copenhagen Marathon, the 28 runners who were using the fueling plan ran an average of 4.7 percent faster than the 28 who didn’t. No one reported gastrointestinal issues–which to me, is the most curious result of all. You’d think the opposite would be true, but I was pleased to discover that’s not the case.

Each runner on the scientists’ fueling plan took in about 25 ounces of H20 and three High5 EnergyGel Plus gels  per hour. Each of these gels contains 30 milligrams of caffeine, a known performance enhancer.

High5 EnergyGel is not available in the U.S., so to replicate the study, look for a gel that contains caffeine and more than one type of sugar (glucose, fructose, maltodextrin, etc.) If you are not a caffeinated beverage drinker, this much caffeine may have poor results and give you the shakes. Try to ease into it.


How to Help with Back Pain

heat_0Pain in runners’ bodies is usually tied to the leg (knee, hip, IT band), but often runners incur back pain at some point. With spending time in front of computers, slouched over the steering wheel, and lazily sitting on the couch watching television, most of us have developed improper posture over the years. When we run, we take that bad posture into our exercise. Thus comes the back pain. Here are a few remedies I discovered to help combat the inevitable back aches after a long run:

1. With an office job, you sit for hours in one particular position hunched over a computer. Bring in a towel or a small pillow and place it behind you. Also, try to keep your feet flat on the floor to stay in the most upright position possible.

2. Extra core work. One of the best ways to work your core is by incorporating a stability ball into your workout routine. This requires you to engage your core simply for balance alone. I like to do as much weight lifting while on it as possible because it works multiple muscles groups at once–you get more out of a gym session. Also, I like to do my standard crunches on it (much tougher than lying on a floor).

3. Not resting too much with back pain. If you are suffering from simple back aches, the worst thing you can do is nothing. Surprised? I was. Turns out, not moving can make back pain worse. The best thing to do is a non-weight baring exercise, such as swimming.

4. Tailored stretching. I’m used to stretching my legs after a long run, but I’ve tried to incorporate more back stretches. I lie on my stomach and raise my legs and arms straight into the air. This engages my back and core. I hold this position for 30 seconds and repeat five times. It’s a body part I didn’t pay attention to until recently and noticed a difference.