Monday, December 17, 2007

Avoid Ankle Sprains

If you tend to roll your ankles a lot, try this exercise to make them stronger
By Jim and Phil Wharton

Sure, uneven sidewalks and untied shoelaces cause their share of twisted ankles. But people who supinate, or tend to strike the ground with the outside edges of their feet, are prone to ankle sprains. A natural amount of supination occurs during the push-off phase of the running cycle as the heel lifts off the ground and the forefoot and toes assist in propelling the body forward. Excessive supination, however, strains the muscles and the tendons that stabilize the ankle, which can result in a partial or complete tear of the ankle ligaments on the outside of the foot. Often runners roll their ankles and recover instantly, continuing on their run without a problem. But if this happens repeatedly, the ankle becomes progressively more unstable, increasing the risk of sprains over time. If you tend to roll your ankles when you run or you have high arches, you could benefit from the following exercise. It strengthens the tendons and muscles in the feet and ankles, which can reduce your tendency to roll outward.


1. Sit in a chair and put a towel down on the floor in front of you.
2. Put your bare foot on the towel, and keep your heel on the ground.
3. Starting with your little toe, contract your toes to bunch up the towel tightly and sweep it toward the midline of your body. Imagine that you are bringing your little toe under your foot to meet your big toe.
4. Without moving your heel, continue to gather and sweep the towel until you have done 10 repetitions or you run out of towel. Switch feet and repeat.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Half Marathon Makeover: Runner's World Wants You!

Apply for your chance to get a half-marathon makeover in 2008

Runner's World is looking for two runners to participate in a 2008 half-marathon makeover. Our team of experts-a coach, physical therapist, and nutritionist-will examine your training and eating habits and create a 10-week plan to help you reach your half marathon goal. We're looking for a runner who will be doing his or her first half marathon, as well as someone aiming for 1:30 time goal. You will need to be available to train mid-January to race day, March 29, 2008. If that's you, send us your name, address, age and a brief paragraph on why you would like to participate by November 16 to Please put "first-timer" or "1:30 goal" in the subject line. This is not a contest; they're simply looking for interested runners.

Published on Runner's World.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Excessive Knee Lift

When runners tire, they often overstride, which exaggerates their knee lift. But lifting your knees just tires out the quadriceps even more quickly, leading to sore thighs the next day. Your knees should primarily swing forward and back not pump up and down. If your knees are lifting up instead of swinging forward:

1. Reduce the length of your stride.
2. Keep your feet low to the ground.
3. Maintain a quick stride rate, just lightly touching the ground with each footfall.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Achilles Tendinitis

Tendons lose their elasticity with age, making them vulnerable to irritation and inflammation.

Who Gets It:
Runners, especially older ones. Ramping up the volume or intensity - especially by running up and down hills - can lead to Achilles problems.

Ways to Prevent It:
Stretch your calves. Ask a trainer to teach you how to stretch the soleus, the smaller muscle that runs down the back of your calf.

How to Fix It:
Rest. Use ice and possibly anti-inflammatories.

The Latest Treatment:
Research suggests that "eccentric training" using heavy loads - in this case, certain calf exercises that lengthen the muscles as they are trying to contract - can improve the pain and disability of Achilles tendinitis.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Lower Back Pain

Back muscles get strained, disks degenerate, and nerves are pinched.

Who Gets It:
Who doesn't? A full 80 percent of the population can expect to experience significant back pain at some point.

Ways to Prevent It:
Your mother was right: Watch your posture! That ca fend off strain and pain.

How to Fix it:
Treatment runs the gamut from light exercise and a heating pad to major surgery, depending on the severity and type of pain.

The Latest Treatment:
Studies suggest that surgery helps people with degenerative spondylolisthesis with spinal stenosis (a condition in which a vertebra slips out of alignment, eventually causing the spinal column to narrow and pinching nerves). People with sciatica - pain caused by a disk pressing against a nerve - are apt to get better over time, with or without surgery.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Partner Workouts

Workouts to keep you and your partner on pace
By Jeff Galloway, Runner's World

Running with a partner is one of the best ways to ensure that you get out the door for every workout. But your workout may unravel if you (A) talk so much that your pace slows to a crawl or (B) race each other until someone bonks. Here are two workouts: one to help maintain a good effort and one to keep the run from becoming a race. Warm up and cool down with five to 10 easy minutes before and after each run.

Keep up the pace:
Break a 30- to 40-minute run into five-minute segments, with one- to three-minute walk breaks in between. During each segment, one person leads without speaking and with the sole focus of setting a strong, even pace. The other person runs behind and serves as coach, offering advice to help sustain the good effort: take shorter and lighter steps, keep feet low to the ground, maintain an upright body posture. After each walk break, runners should switch roles.

Rein in the pace:
To ensure you're not speeding up as you go along, you have to be able to accurately account for distance covered throughout the run. That means either one runner wears a distance-monitoring system like a GPS unit or shoe pod, or you do the run on well-marked trails or on a track. After the warmup, one person keeps tabs on the distance, announcing the passing of each quarter mile or so. The other runner is responsible for taking this information and adjusting the pace up or down according to the agreed-upon pace for the day. You can take walk breaks as needed to talk over pace adjustments. Once the pace is established, the person monitoring distance can keep tabs by announcing every half-mile completed.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Body Mass Index

BMI is a simple, universal measure of body fat that can be used to determine whether or not your weight is healthy. BMI is derived by comparing your height to your weight. It can be used by men and women of all ages, and has been supported by dozens of major studies. Click here to calculate your BMI

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Tips for the Weekend Warriors

By Katherine Hobson
Posted 6/17/07 - US News and World Report

Baby boomers may be getting older, but many are still avid, if not obsessive, exercisers. And they want to stay that way. "We're not about to be sedentary," says Marjorie Albohm, a 57-year-old athletic trainer and director of sports medicine at OrthoIndy in Indianapolis. "As we approach the aging years, we're saying, 'Hey, I want to be as fit today as I was in my 20s, and I want to be sure I'm still physically active in my 80s.'" That's an admirable goal, but it's important to do it smartly. Here's how:

Be realistic. Face it: You can't do exactly what you did when you were 25. Says Havertown, Pa.-based orthopedic surgeon Nicholas DiNubile: "I don't mind people exploring and extending their limits, but when there are indeed limits, you need to respect them."

Still, push yourself. With the right precautions, your performance can even improve well into middle age. "If you want to run a few miles at eight or nine minutes a mile, most of the population has the potential to do that into their 60s," says Edward Coyle, director of the Human Performance Laboratory at the University of Texas-Austin. And in sports that require technique, like swimming and rowing, it can take years for amateur athletes to develop moves that work best for them. So someone who starts in her 30s may not hit her stride until she's 50.

Cross-train. "You can't do weight-bearing activities the whole time," says Albohm. Mix things up. If you've always been a runner but your knees can no longer stand your old five-day-a-week routine, ride a bike or hop in the pool every other day instead.

If you're not lifting weights, start. "Around 40 or 45, we can see a decrease of as much as a pound of muscle per year," says Joseph Scott, an athletic trainer with the Sports Performance and Orthopedic Rehab Team at the Southcoast Hospitals Group in North Dartmouth, Mass. Moreover, bone density drops. Weights can help.

Rest. Recovery is key, says Kathy Zawadzki, who coaches cyclists and triathletes for Carmichael Training Systems, an online coaching company. She may give her older athletes 15 or 20 minutes in between hard sets, compared with 10 minutes for younger folks. And she builds in an extra rest day during the week to allow athletes more time to bounce back between big workouts. Rest is even more important if you've got a nagging injury. "When you're 20, you can rest and ice, take anti-inflammatories, and it will go away. When you're 50 or 60 or 70, those same problems can be debilitating," says Scott.

Watch your diet. Your metabolism slows as you get older. Zawadzki, who's a sports nutritionist as well as a coach, advises her athletes to be vigilant about what they eat when they're not training but fuel up properly immediately before, during, and after a tough workout.

Get good advice. It may be worth finding an athletic trainer or another fitness pro with experience dealing with older athletes to help tinker with your program. That's especially true if you've had a chronic injury. "You've got to be cautious about what you do to a body part that's already been compromised," says Albohm.

Expand your definition of athletic success. Some of the middle-aged cyclists and triathletes coached by Zawadzki are no longer achieving personal best times, she says, but "at 50, there aren't as many competitors." Besides having a better chance at picking up a medal, her athletes enjoy the community of other athletes or the novelty of competing at different distances.

This story appears in the June 25, 2007 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Setting Goals, Track Your Progress

It's difficult to reach your goals if you don't set a plan and track against it. There are three ways to track your fitness level.

1. The way you feel - understand your body and how you feel compared to less active times in your life. As your fitness level increases so will your energy and mental alertness.

2. The way you look - if you have high expectations, this method may not be the best choice. You may reach a high level of fitness, but still not have the body image you were hoping to see. Understand that this takes time. Be patient and enjoy the other physical changes like increased energy and sense of well being.

3. Logging your fitness routine - a tried and true method that's only getting easier with technological innovations. Track your goals and progress using a training monitor and training log.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Snack Well - Every calorie counts.

By Sally Wadyka from Runner's World

Snacking is part of everyday life, especially for runners who need to keep themselves well fueled. But when you're trying to lose weight, every calorie counts. "You need to find calorie bargains and decide what you don't mind substituting," says Charles Stuart Platkin, author of The Diet Detective's Count Down (Fireside, 2007). For example, both tortilla chips and pretzels would satisfy a salty-snack craving, and on a one-to-one basis they are close in calories (one tortilla chip is 13.5 calories, compared with 12 calories for one pretzel). But the extra 1.5 calories per chip add up fast when you eat a couple of handfuls. Here are some more snack comparisons to consider:

One McDonald's french fry: 5 calories VS. One Pringles potato chip: 10 calories
A handful of chips over a handful of the fries equals 100 extra calories.

One M&M: 4.3 calories VS. One bite of a Hershey's bar with almonds: 37 calories
Okay, so you won't eat one, but each M&M candy is relatively low in calories and easier to portion control.

One tablespoon of cream cheese: 50 calories VS. One tablespoon of peanut butter: 90 calories
The peanut butter has nearly double the calories of the cream cheese, but it also has more protein and healthy fats.

One grape tomato: 1 calorie VS. One green seedless grape: 4 calories
Both are healthy choices, but if you're trying to lose weight, grape tomatoes have fewer calories and more fiber.

One peppermint Altoid: 3.5 calories VS. One jelly bean: 4 calories
Even the mints you use to freshen your breath must be factored into your daily calories. When you pop one, it's equivalent to eating a jelly bean.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

The Next Best Thing

Boost your weekly mileage with intense cross-training.
By Ed Eyestone

A coaching colleague of mine has a basic formula for cross-training: 60 minutes at or above 70 percent of your maximum heart rate equals a five-mile run. He uses this formula with his athletes in the summer to allow them to augment their base miles. He also uses it during the cross-country and track season when a runner becomes injured, and during the winter when inclement conditions make it difficult to keep actual running mileage high.

Is a cross-training mile exactly the same physiologically as a running mile? Nope. But intense cross-training for an hour can elicit the same aerobic benefits as a five-mile training run. And because of the low-impact nature of most cross-training activities, injury-prone runners can beef up their "mileage" using this formula without increasing their risk of injury. In the following two case studies, both Lisa and Dave used cross-training miles to become better runners.

Cross-training through injury. Lisa, a good college cross-country runner, had been injured in a car accident. When her injury had mostly healed, she was able to run but could maintain only about half of her preaccident mileage. Working out on either an elliptical trainer or a stationary bike for an hour a day, Lisa increased her cross-training mileage quickly. More importantly, the supplemental workouts enhanced her aerobic fitness, which allowed her to increase her actual running mileage. And even though her total mileage skyrocketed to 115 per week (50 cross-training miles plus 65 running miles), Lisa's morning resting heart rate remained the same, which indicated she was not overtraining. By the end of the summer, Lisa had the strength and energy to lead her college to a top 10 NCAA performance in cross-country and garnered all-American honors.

Cross-training to lose weight and boost fitness. After four years of competing for his college cross-country team, Dave took a two-year break from running to live and work in Spain. When he returned from Europe 30 pounds heavier, he tried to run again and found that the extra weight made his knees and hips hurt. That joint pain, coupled with his lack of aerobic fitness, made it difficult for Dave to run long enough to lose the weight. Over a three-week period, Dave gradually added up to an hour of cross-training per day (elliptical, stationary bike, and pool running) to his 30- to 45-minute daily runs. As his weight dropped and his fitness increased, Dave could run farther and faster with no pain. After several 50-mile weeks (25 cross-training miles plus 25 running miles), Dave dropped the extra weight, then continued to cross-train twice a week for enjoyment and additional weight maintenance.

From the Runner's World web site.

Monday, March 12, 2007

High-Speed Trail

A beautiful downhill marathon in California entices road racers onto the soft stuff

By Bob Cooper
Photograph by Keith Facchino

The Race:Bizz Johnson Trail Marathon
Where: Lassen National Forest, California
When: October 8

Sign up for a trail race and you expect steep grades and slow times. But the Bizz Johnson Trail Marathon, which cuts through a national forest at the southern tip of the Cascade range in Northern California, delivers something altogether different. Its fast, downhill course combines the smooth, wide surface of a road race with the cushioned dirt path and scenic wilderness characteristic of a trail run. This unique blend of speed and beauty is why, despite a lack of prize money and a remote venue-85 miles from Reno-runners, including those who usually avoid trails, are increasingly making the trek.

The buzz over Bizz all started when race director Eric Gould set out to locate the perfect trail, one that could generate some of the fast times of a road marathon. When he came upon a description of the gradually descending, 27-mile-long Bizz Johnson Trail in a rails-to-trails book, he knew he'd found his course. The challenge then became attracting people to the event. "It was tough to convince runners to come this far," says Gould, who lives in the Bay Area, a five-hour drive from the race site. But he succeeded. In 2004, the race's inaugural year, Bizz drew 486 participants for the marathon, half-marathon, 10-K, and 5-K, including top ultramarathoner Scott Jurek. The following year, endurance dynamo Dean Karnazes ran. "Once people run it, they tell their friends about it," says Gould.

The message they're sending? If you're a die-hard trail runner who wants to push for a PR without hitting pavement, or if you're a road runner who'd race trails if it weren't for those pesky steep grades, rocks, and roots, Bizz is your event.

Indeed, this year Gould estimated that nearly half of the 606 finishers were first-time trail racers, including the top two in the men's marathon-Kenny Brown (2:49) and John Leuthold (2:51)-and half-marathon winner Mike McCarthy (1:28). And a surprising 50 runners, 14 percent of the field, qualified for the Boston Marathon (12 percent qualified at the 2006 Chicago Marathon). Among them was the women's winner, former Olympic Nordic skier Nancy Fiddler, 50 (3:10).

Bizz gets its speed from a course that drops 1,300 feet, from 5,500 to 4,200, as it travels along the old Fernley and Lassen Branch of the Southern Pacific Railroad. The line had connected the two former logging towns of Westwood and Susanville, the race's starting and finishing points. In the early and middle miles, the route weaves through pine forests and grassy meadows with views of the surrounding mountains. The last six miles-precisely where gravity assistance and inspiration are needed most-are noticeably downhill and the prettiest. Here the trail crosses nine wooden bridges and penetrates lantern-lit tunnels. There is one significant challenge: The altitude can pose problems if you're not acclimated to it.

As Bizz becomes more popular, participants may find that getting a hotel room is more difficult than running in thin air. This year, every motel in Susanville displayed a "No Vacancy" sign during race weekend.

This article is from the Runner's World web site.

Racing the Gremlin

Runners should listen to--and then ignore--the voice inside their head.
By John Bingham

Ever hear a little voice in your head? Be honest. It doesn't mean you're crazy. Well, it might mean you're crazy depending on what the little voice is telling you.

I'm talking about that little voice that whispers what it thinks you should be doing. Sometimes the voice is called your conscience, when it thinks what you're doing isn't right. But there's another voice that many of us hear. I know I do, or at least I used to. This is the voice of the Gremlin. This is the voice that tells you whatever you're doing isn't good enough, that you should be able to run faster or farther, and that simply enjoying yourself is no reason to keep running. The Gremlin tells you that no matter how much you've improved your life or your running, you still have a long way to go.

It's gotten to the point where I can almost see the Gremlin sitting on someone's shoulder when I talk to him or her. When a first-time marathoner tells me that he'll be disappointed if he doesn't finish in a certain time, I swear I can see the Gremlin's teeth as it grins from ear to ear.

I recently spoke to a woman who had only been running for about a year but was coming back from a pelvic fracture. When I asked her what happened, she explained that she'd been running two half-marathons a week and since that was going well, she decided to add a third. You read that right. She was surprised when she ended up with a stress fracture in her pelvis. After all, she said, 39 miles a week didn't seem like a lot of miles. The Gremlin was doing cartwheels across her shoulders. I had no luck trying to convince her that she might consider a more reasonable training approach. Her Gremlin had her and wouldn't let her go.

Where I see the Gremlin most often, though, is at the finish line of races. It's like some kind of weird Gremlin convention in the chutes as runners come across the line. Instead of celebrating their accomplishments, runners are tormented by the voice of their Gremlins. Runners whose Gremlins just won't allow them to experience the joy of living a healthy, active life. That nasty little voice just keeps reminding them of what they are not.

Gremlins are everywhere, at every pace. They tell a novice runner that pain is weakness leaving the body. They tell runners that an injury is no reason to walk off a racecourse.

The good news is that you have the power to silence your Gremlin. At the very least you have the power to turn down the volume of its voice. The first step in vanquishing your Gremlin is admitting that it exists. The next time you find yourself questioning your performance, ask yourself whose voice it is that you're hearing in your head. Are you hearing a supportive voice? If not, it's the voice of your Gremlin.

The next time you hear yourself thinking that a run isn't good enough, far enough, or fast enough, listen carefully to that voice. Ignoring it won't make it go away. Listen to it, thank it for its opinion, and then forget it.

Your running may be one of the only areas of your life where you're fully free to decide how you want to feel about what you're doing. Your running may be your one chance to feel really good about something you've decided to do.

And even the slowest among us can outrun our Gremlins if we try.

Waddle on, friends.
Posted on the Runner's World web site.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

No Gym Required

Four exercises do the job just fine, thanks.

You can easily strength train without gym equipment. I recommend four key exercises. The first two target major muscle groups in your upper body, and the second two target your midsection.

The first exercise, and the most challenging, is the chinup, which works your upper back, rear shoulders, and biceps. It's best to perform chinups using an "underhand" grip, with your palms facing toward you on the bar. Do one to three sets of 5 to 10 repetitions every other day.

The second exercise is the pushup, which targets your chest, front shoulders, and triceps. Do one to three sets of 15 to 30 reps every other day. Just be sensitive to signs of lower-back discomfort, as pushups place stress on your lumbar spine.

The third exercise is the twisting trunk curl, which works the abdominal and oblique muscles of your midsection. Lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, lift your head and shoulders off the ground just like a regular abdominal crunch, but twist your body to the side -- alternating left and right -- on the way up. Do one to three sets of 15 to 30 slow and controlled reps every other day.

The final exercise is the trunk extension for the lower back muscles, a particularly vulnerable area for runners. Lying face down with your elbows out and hands under your chin, lift your chest a few inches off the floor, then lower it. Do one to three sets of 5 to 15 reps, slow and controlled, on the same days as the twisting trunk curls.

For each exercise, gradually increase the number of repetitions until you reach the top of the suggested rep range, then increase the number of sets.

See article on Runner's

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Cold Weather Running: Don't be Held Hostage By the Weather!

Generally, cold weather makes running easier. Since there is less heat buildup, there is less body fluid lost, and the cool temperature makes running more invigorating. When the mercury drops below 50 degrees F, however, you’ll have to start thinking of protective measures.

1. Wear a series of thin layers. Close to your skin, you’ll want something warm. Polypro is one of a series of winter fibers that keep the warmth close to the skin but allow extra heat and perspiration to escape.

2. Continue to add external layers, adjusting to the temperature and wind conditions.

3. Cover up all extremities with extra layering: hands, ears, toes.

4. Men, wear an extra layer or two as underwear, as you need.

5. In extreme cold (when temperature or wind chill is below 10 degrees F), do not expose any skin if possible. Even when there is minimal exposure, put Vaseline or other cold weather insulation/protection on any area which may incidentally be hit by the wind (eyelids, etc.).

6. Be sure to coat your shoes or use socks that insulate your feet. Most running shoes are designed to let heat out and cold into your feet, which can cause frostbite on days colder than 32 degrees F. Remember that you generate a significant wind chill effect on your feet as you move them through the running motion.

7. As you warm up through running, peel off each layer before you start sweating. Too much sweat accumulation will freeze and cause problems.

Warm-ups That Take the Sting Out of Winter

1. On very cold days, bundle up and exercise for a very few minutes indoors. You may walk, jog in place, use an indoor track, or exercise on the machines (cycle, rowing, stair, etc.). Before you start sweating, go outdoors and you’ll have a reservoir of warmth to get you down the road.

2. Start your run/walk going into the wind. This allows you to come back with the wind.

3. If you start to get very warm, remove an outside layer of clothing or unzip your outer layer, if applicable. A garment with long sleeves allows you to tie it around your waist or put it in your fanny pack – because you may need it later.

4. On cold days, pick environments where you could seek refuge for at least a few minutes if you need to.

5. On very cold or windy days, alternate between inside and out. If you have an indoors facility, it helps to come inside when you start to get cold. Exercise indoors only long enough to take the sting away – but head outdoors before you start sweating.

6. Don’t let yourself sweat because it is likely to freeze and leave you very cold. Remove a layer or go outside before the sweat starts flowing.

From Jeff Galloway's site.