New Year’s Resolutions: Reality Check for Would-Be Runners

Newswise — ST.LOUIS – You’ve likely noticed friends, family and coworkers joining running groups, using Facebook apps to share their training times, participating in 5Ks for charity and training for marathons. If you feel motivated to lace up your sneakers in 2012, take some advice from assistant professor of physical therapy at Saint Louis University, Chris Sebelski, to hit the ground running and have realistic expectations about the work ahead.

Sebelski encourages those who want to join the sport’s growing numbers, saying “Running is very accepting of beginners. It’s a great way to stay active at all ages, and it’s a healthy choice for those who have set a New Year’s resolution to get in shape.

“Running really has become the everyman and everywoman sport. It’s also something that more and more people do in their later years. We used to believe it would ruin your joints. There have been several studies in recent years about running, aging and arthritis that have disproved this idea.”

However, while getting in shape is a terrific aim, there can be rocky terrain between your good intentions and the finish line without thorough preparation and a realistic plan.

If you’re ready to join the race, consider these words of wisdom from Sebelski, an avid runner herself:

Overall Body Checkup
Before you begin, visit your primary care doctor for a complete overall body check-up, Sebelski says, and talk about your exercise plans. Depending on your goals and current state of fitness, you may also consult a physical therapist or nutritionist so that they can help you create a holistic plan.

“Remember, it’s so much better to prevent injuries than to try to recover from them,” Sebelski says.

Realistic Goals
It’s easy to go overboard during the enthusiasm of planning, but be sure you accurately acknowledge your current level of fitness. If you haven’t been exercising at all, you’ll want to start with a walking/jogging mix, Sebelski says. Some people feel very tired for the first few weeks after they begin to exercise, so set a reasonable goal that you’ll be able to stick with as your body gets used to the new activity. You might consider journaling to keep track of your progress and how you feel.

“Make your goals personal,” Sebelski says. “On an everyday level, the key is to think about small steps and celebrate the little victories.”

When it comes to setbacks, it’s not if, but when, Sebelski says. “Running doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Everyday things are going on. You’re fighting off a cold. Your children needed extra help with their homework. You may have an injury. Expect that there will be off days when you can’t fit in a workout or your time isn’t your best.”

By anticipating the obstacles to your training, you’ll be able to adjust your workout rather than throw it out the window entirely. And, when it comes to exercising, your efforts are cumulative.

“On a day when you realize you’re not going to be able to complete your normal routine, evaluate the situation and set a good goal for that day,” Sebelski says. “Always do something. Eight minutes is better than nothing.

“It’s never all or nothing. Go for a walk, take the stairs, do squats or do something else that elevates your heart rate. You’ll keep yourself from losing ground and you won’t have the emotional setback of feeling like you gave up.”

Hear more from Chris Sebelski about dealing with setbacks:

Food and Water
When you start burning more calories, you may find yourself very hungry. But, proceed with caution. You can’t simply consume unlimited calories, even if you are burning more during your workouts. Look at what you’re eating and be smarter about what types of calories by including plenty of lean proteins and whole grains. And, don’t forget about hydration, Sebelski says. “Remember: Water. Water.Water.”

Including other forms of exercise in your training regimen will help you reach your running goals. Yoga, for example, offers stretches that will help to change and improve posture and the alignment of the body. Exercises like Pilates can build core strength, which in turn, will help you breathe as you run.

“There’s a big link between core strength and breathing,” Sebelski says. “Core strength assists with posture which in turn will make breathing easier.

“Running itself is an all-over body sport. People think it’s concentrated in the legs, but that’s not true. It affects your arms, back, trunk, and almost every muscle in your body. Cross-training is helpful because you’ll strengthen these other muscles and avoid the injury risk posed by the repetitive motion of running every day.

Staying on Track
Running is hard work, and after the first month or two of diligent training, you may find your enthusiasm waning if you don’t plan for ways to stay engaged. Consider joining friends in the park or a running group to train for a 5K. The social aspect can help keep you on track.

Technology offers helpful ways to stay engaged, as well. Share your training time with friends on Facebook, and you’ll be amazed by the support you receive. There are apps that make it easy to report back to your support group regularly. Or, tell your social circle about your training sessions on your blog so that they can follow your story and cheer you on.

Finally, a reality check shouldn’t dampen your enthusiasm. Though training can be tough, the obstacles are no reason to be daunted. The rewards from running are well worth the effort, and knowing what the terrain looks like makes it more likely you’ll reach your goal.

Released: 12/20/2011

Source: Saint Louis University Medical Center

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Sports Medicine Experts Offer Tips to Help Post-Marathon Recovery

Newswise — More than 40,000 runners have spent the past several months training for the ING New York City Marathon. Once they have completed the race and achieved their goals, there are measures they can take to facilitate recovery, decrease post-race discomfort and return to running without injury.

Eating immediately after the marathon, icing sore muscles, and having a gentle massage are only a few of the tips that Michael Silverman, PT, MSPT, physical therapist from the Rehabilitation Department at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, offers runners who cross the finish line.

“In recovery, marathon runners need to listen carefully to their bodies so they don’t injure themselves,” says Silverman. “Extensive training should have provided runners with a good idea of how their body works. Runners should take everything they’ve learned while training and apply it to taking proper care of their body after the marathon—they will feel better, faster.”

The following are marathon recovery tips from Silverman on ways to bounce back from a marathon:

• Eating the day after is just as important. Try to stay away from enormous meals. Eat small amounts of nutrient-rich foods every two hours. Good meals could be steak, sweet potatoes and broccoli. Berries, chocolate or yogurt parfaits are good desserts. Chicken stir fry with loads of vegetables is an excellent lunch;

• Ice your muscles often. If you are having severe muscle pain during the race, immediately go to the medical tent to ice your muscles. After returning home from the race, ice your muscles with ice packs or (preferably) an ice bath. Ice baths soothe microscopic muscle damage and inflammation. Sit in a 54 to 60-degree (Fahrenheit) ice bath for 6 to 12 minutes. Thirty to 60 minutes afterward, take a warm shower;

• Stretch correctly after the race. After finishing the race, walk for 10 to15 minutes and perform very light stretching. During the next day, perform light stretching and a light warm-up (biking or a warm shower).

• Get a massage a few days after the race. Use caution during the first 48 hours after the race, as your muscles are very sensitive. If you get a massage, schedule it for a few days after the race. Make sure it is a flushing (light) massage and be sure the therapist knows that you just ran a marathon.

• Perform low-impact, low-intensity exercise after the race. Only start exercising when you are feeling ready. This can take up to a month. Cycling, the elliptical, and exercises in the pool (swimming, underwater running) are ideal;

• Wait five to seven days after the race before running again. Begin with decreased intensity on soft surfaces and don’t run more than 25 percent of your peak weekly mileage. A good rule of thumb is: perform one week of reduced intensity training for every hour run.
“Feeling sore after a marathon is normal; but pain and swelling are the body’s ways of indicating that something is wrong,” says Brian Halpern, M.D., a primary care sports medicine physician at Hospital for Special Surgery and author of Men’s Health Best Sports Medicine Handbook. “The best way to handle almost every sports injury is the RICE method, which stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.”

Experts from Hospital for Special Surgery will also lead the ING New York City Marathon Monday Recovery event at Tavern on the Green. They will discuss different post-race recovery approaches, stretching and provide consultations. For more information on this event, log on to

Hospital for Special Surgery is an Orthopedic Consultant to the New York Road Runners for the ING NYC Marathon.

Released: 11/1/2011

Source: Hospital for Special Surgery

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Nearly Half of Runners May be Drinking Too Much During Races

Newswise — MAYWOOD, Il. — Nearly half of recreational runners may be drinking too much fluid during races, according to a survey of runners by Loyola University Health System researchers.

Expert guidelines recommend runners drink only when thirsty. But the Loyola survey found that 36.5 percent of runners drink according to a preset schedule or to maintain a certain body weight and 8.9 percent drink as much as possible.

Nearly a third of runners (29.6 percent) incorrectly believe they need to ingest extra salt while running. And more than half (57.6 percent) say they drink sports drinks because the drinks have electrolytes that prevent low blood sodium. In fact, the main cause of low sodium in runners is drinking too much water or sports drinks.
“Many athletes hold unscientific views regarding the benefits of different hydration practices,” researchers concluded. The study was published in the June, 2011, issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Drinking too much fluid while running can cause a potentially fatal condition called exercise-associated hyponatremia. It occurs when runners drink even when they are not thirsty. Drinking too much during exercise can dilute the sodium content of blood to abnormally low levels.

Drinking only when thirsty will prevent overconsumption of fluids. “It’s the safest known way to hydrate during endurance exercise,” said Loyola sports medicine physician Dr. James Winger, first author of the study.
Symptoms of hyponatremia can include nausea, vomiting, headache, confusion, loss of energy, muscle weakness, spasms or cramps. In extreme cases, the condition can lead to seizures, unconsciousness and coma.

In recent years, there have been 12 documented and 8 suspected runners’ deaths from hyponatremia, said Loyola exercise physiologist Lara Dugas, PhD, a co-author of the study.

The International Marathon Medical Directors Association recommends that runners drink only when thirsty.
The Loyola researchers surveyed 197 runners who competed in the 2009 Westchester, Il. Veterans Day 10K and 5K runs and two other runs on Chicago’s lakefront.

The 91 male runners, on average, had been running for 13 years and had run an average of 1.9 10K races and 0.9 marathons. The 106 women, on average, had been running 8.3 years and had run an average of 1.3 10K races and 0.7 marathons.

In the survey, the runners generally said advertising by sports drink manufacturers had little or no influence on their beliefs. But the behaviors of many of the runners indicate otherwise.

During the 1980s and 1990s, sports drinks ads warned about the supposed dangers of dehydration, and recommend that runners drink as much as 1.2 liters (five cups) per hour. Sports drink manufacturers generally have stopped promoting overdrinking. But the unscientific beliefs persist that runners should drink as much as they can or according to a preset schedule.

“We have been trained to believe that dehydration is a complication of endurance exercise,” Dugas said. “But in fact, the normal physiological response to exercise is to lose a small amount of fluid. Runners should expect to lose several pounds during runs, and not be alarmed.”
Winger is an assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Dugas is a research assistant professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine and Epidemiology at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. The third co-author is Jonathan Dugas, PhD, director of clinical development at The Vitality Group.

Released: 9/2/2011
Source: Loyola University Health System
Via Newswise
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Fitness Update; Here Are SomeTips for Serious Swimmers to Help Get the Most Out of the Sport

Newswise — Swimming is one of the best forms of exercise. It’s easy on the joints and provides a terrific workout in terms of aerobic exercise and improving muscle strength.

With summer on the way, many people are gearing up to get back in the swim. Competitive swimmers may be training for triathlons that often take place during warm weather months. At a recent conference focusing on the endurance athlete at Hospital for Special Surgery, Dr. Scott A. Rodeo discussed the most common swimming injuries, why they happen, and how to treat and prevent them.

Dr. Rodeo, co-chief of the Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service at Hospital for Special Surgery and chairman of the USA Swimming Sports Medicine Committee, said the most common injury is referred to as “swimmer’s shoulder” and can affect up to 70 percent of competitive swimmers.

“Most often, shoulder pain is caused by an overuse injury,” he said. “If you think about a competitive swimmer’s number of stroke revolutions per day, per week, per month, per year, it’s phenomenal. We’re talking about half a million stroke revolutions per year.”

According to Dr. Rodeo, the main causes of shoulder pain in swimmers are:
• Muscle fatigue from overdoing it.
• Degenerative changes in the rotator cuff tendon, a condition called tendonosis.
• Impingement of the rotator cuff during the swimming stroke. The rotator cuff is a group of four tendons that hook up to muscles that stabilize the shoulder joint. Impingement results from pressure on the rotator cuff from part of the shoulder blade (scapula) as the arm is lifted.
• Shoulder laxity – various muscles and ligaments play a role in shoulder stability. Looseness in the shoulder may lead to injury.

Dr. Rodeo noted that the shoulder is an inherently unstable joint. “Shoulder stability is controlled by a synchronous pattern of muscle firing. Changes in the way the muscles work due to overload or fatigue can alter shoulder mechanics and cause problems.”

Basically, by doing too much of the activity, the shoulder muscle becomes overloaded. When a muscle is fatigued, other muscles try to compensate, leading to an imbalance. The shoulder is no longer functioning normally, and this leads to pain.

Good practices can minimize the risk of a shoulder injury, according to John Cavanaugh, PT, a physical therapist at Hospital for Special Surgery. He has the following tips:
• Do not attempt to swim if you are too tired, too cold or overheated.
• Make sure to warm up properly.
• Focus on swimming technique. Poor technique can leave you more prone to injury.
• Engage in a general exercise program on land to develop muscle strength, endurance, balance and flexibility. This includes strengthening the core abdominal muscles.
• Do not swim vigorously if you have a fever, upper respiratory infection or ear infection.
• Keep in mind that a triathlon swim is completely different from pool swimming. Generally, in open water, you can’t see where you’re going and there are people all around you. Be prepared.

If shoulder pain develops, it’s important to pay attention to it so it doesn’t turn into a serious problem, according to Dr. Rodeo. He has this advice:

• Rest the injured shoulder. Take a break from the activity.
• If you continue to swim, avoid strokes and exercises that exacerbate the pain. Change your swimming stroke or do more kicking sets.
• Use ice and anti-inflammatory medication.
• If shoulder pain does not get better with rest, see a physician.
• Enlist the help of an experienced physical therapist.
• Return to swimming gradually after your pain improves.

Released: 7/15/2011
Source: Hospital for Special Surgery

Via Newswise

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Health and Fitness News: Tour Riders Are Top Athletes in the World, Researcher Says

Newswise — LAWRENCE, Kan. — The 2,100-mile Tour de France, which begins July 2, will showcase the most superb cyclists in the world. As the Tour participants scale the Alps and Pyrenees and sprint through European streets, the aggressive struggle between teams and riders will build to a crescendo as the Tour reaches its final stage on the Champs-Élysées in Paris.

But the true soul of the event, one expert said, is a contest of physical stamina and the ability of human beings to tolerate pain.

Phil Gallagher, director of the Applied Physiology Laboratory at the University of Kansas, is excited to watch the upcoming Tour de France as a longtime fan of cycling and a former endurance athlete himself. But the KU researcher also will observe “le Tour” as an authority on the exceptional human physiological processes that allow these select cyclists to ride for 21 days and push their bodies to extremes.

“These guys have been training their entire lives,” Gallagher said. “As a result, elite cyclists have larger hearts than the typical person, so they’re able to push out more blood per beat. They’re able to extract more oxygen from their blood than an untrained individual would.”

Gallagher, who qualified multiple times for the U.S. Olympic trials as a cross-country skier, has led research measuring the output of cyclists with a power meter. Gauging cyclists’ productivity in watts, Gallagher found that average riders generate less than half the power of the elite athletes who compete in the Tour de France.

“For example, I just went out and cycled around 45 miles this weekend, and averaged around 200 to 225 watts,” said Gallagher. “These Tour riders average double that — and they’re riding double that distance each day. They’ll put out 450 watts average power. They’re basically the top athletes in the world.”

To maintain such incredible production of energy, the cyclists in the Tour de France have honed their physiques through extreme training to become specialized for the task, for instance producing more oxygen-transporting red blood cells than the average person.

“One way to do this is called ‘live high, train low,’ where you either sleep in a tent that reduces the oxygen level, or you literally live at altitude but train at sea level,” Gallagher said. “Then, as your blood travels through your lungs, it will grab more oxygen from your lungs and deliver more to your muscles.”

In recent years, it was this need for a high ratio of red blood cells to plasma that led to doping scandals in the sport, where many riders have been charged with using erythropoietin, or EPO. Others reportedly have undergone secret blood transfusions, where their own blood was stored and returned to their bodies during the race.

“Doping is not just in this sport,” said Gallagher. “But the Tour is such a big event, especially in Europe. In the 1990s, doping was just rampant. If you were a Tour rider in the 1990s, chances are that you were doping. There have been a couple of teams since then that have set an anti-doping agenda, and the Tour itself has done a better job of testing these athletes as well.”

Indeed, this year 198 blood samples will be taken from the riders the Thursday before the race and a further 150 urine tests and 50 blood tests will be made during the event.

Besides rigorous testing, Gallagher said the Tour riders also will be faced with the prospect of fueling themselves with enough calories during the event to make an average person blush.

“These cyclist will consume up to 10,000 calories per day, and they will still lose weight,” the KU researcher said. “Even when they’re riding they’ll go through what are called feed zones. They’ll grab a bag with a bunch of food in it. And after they get done riding each day, they’re just gobbling food.”

Ultimately, the stress on the bodies of the cyclists will cause them significant physical pain. To a great extent, their psychological power to withstand this discomfort will help determine their success on the Tour.

“You need to have the mental capacity to handle a lot of pain,” Gallagher said. “Every single day you’re going 100-plus miles, you throw in the mountains, and you throw in the fact that it’s a race. So it’s prolonged pain that’s going to last for minutes to hours at a time, where you’re just going to be miserable. It takes a special person to handle that.”

But for average people looking to achieve a higher level of fitness and endurance, Gallagher says a training regime should be simple, and consist of regularly putting in miles on a bike.

“Just go out and ride,” he said. “You just need a bike and a helmet. Have a good time. Hook up with some friends and go out and ride 20 miles or more.”

Released: 6/30/2011
Source: University of Kansas

Via Newswise

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