Even Cooler Top Ten Winter Running Tips

I’ve just finished an interview with a very fine Washington Post reporter on cold weather running and been inspired to make sure my tips are up to date.

Winter running is something that long time runners will do because they like being outside. It is not a time to begin an outdoor running program. And you need to be in good health and be aware that if you are over 40 or have heart problems you should have your physician’s ok. Cold weather winds blasting the face can slow up your heart and adversely affect your cardiovascular system. Every winter an enthused oldster, and sometimes not so oldster shovels their driveway and has a serious heart attack. So, as they say, “be careful out there”.

But if you are healthy and used to running in the cold, you will find it refreshing. In my area we do not have any bad air days during the winter months. You’ll find the same mental and emotional effects from running as you are accustomed to getting.

So with that in mind here are some winter running suggestions:

1. Cover your head, hands, and feet with care. Dress in layers. Use lightweight wicking fibers as the layer closest to your body. Wind blocking materials are great for an outer layer.
2. Keep your feet dry. Wear socks made of synthetic fibers that wick moisture away from your skin to help prevent blisters, athlete’s foot, and cold injuries to your foot (immersion foot, frostbite, etc.).
3. Protect your skin and eyes from UV solar damage which can cause premature aging of the skin and eye damage. Use sun block and moisturizers as appropriate. UV exposure is not good in the winter as well as summer. Sunglasses during mid-day runs can be helpful.
4. Don’t forget to replace your fluids on long runs.
5. Make sure you have the energy to finish your run. Fuel up lightly 30 minutes before your run.
6. Warm up slowly and gently before your runs and especially before doing speed work.
7. Wear sport specific running shoes. Fit your running shoes or other sports shoes with the type of sock you intend to wear them with. Do replace your running shoes often. Replace them at least every 350 – 450 miles run. Be sure to transition very slowly and carefully to new running shoes, particularly when switching to a dramatically different style of shoe.
8. Don’t run on ice. Beware of Black Ice on the pavement.
9. Be careful running in low light conditions. Beware traffic and uneven pavement. If you have any balance problems run in good lighting conditions.
10. Don’t do speedwork in bone chilling cold. You are risking injury. Most wise runners use this season for maintenance runs.

For more information see my article on Running In The Cold

Exercise is good for the mind and the soul

Another study has demonstrated that those who exercise regularly have a decreased incidence of depression.

The new study titled “Depressive Symptoms and Physical Activity During 3 Decades in Adult Life” appeared in JAMA Psychiatry in the issue published Oct 15, 2014.

At each age group, those who exercised had a lower incidence of depression than those who did not. Those who took up exercise were doing better 5 years later than those who continued to not exercise.

This is one more reason to exercise regularly. Exercise is good for ails you or for what might ail you in a few years!

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Moving is Exercise (Competing Tunes below)

Evolution, Tolerance, Humaness and Humaneness

As our brain expanded in evolution, we became more and more adaptable. Social structure became more complex, cultural and symbolic phenomena began and refined communication became possible.

Contemplation We developed many types of adaptability: physical, spiritual, cultural and emotional adaptability are among the hallmarks of human evolution. To say that we have evolved to run in one way, and that way must be that we should always land on our forefoot in shoes dictated by any authority is absurd. But the discussion that has taken place in the past few years demonstrates the impact of culture and society on thought and how memes are generated and circulate in traditional and new media.

To say that evolution has mandated that we are designed to wear no shoes or minimal shoes would have precluded our explorations of much of our own planet, let alone our exploration of the moon’s surface. And the movie Gravity just wouldn’t look right with Sandra Bullock wearing a white suit with no shoes while floating around in space.

Have our minds evolved faster than our bodies? Does peer pressure play a major role in our social development? Are we justified in wearing shoes in hostile environments or during particular sports activity? Or should we all take feet as a special evolutionary case in that they are meant to be set free from the encumbrance of all shoes?

Do some intelligent people cherry pick literature for one reason or another and are they knowingly intellectually dishonest? It is possible that some may not even be totally aware of what and why they are taking a particular approach on this topic. A recent study reported in Nature demonstrated that social ideas on climate change are influenced at the subconscious level by those around you. The media can have a tremendous impact. The trend in which the new needs to be continuously highlighted (and yes the new is often good, but not everything new is going to work well or last long – or we wouldn’t need to see so many new shoes every year. ) to the point where what has recently been new and highly touted is suddenly set upon and put down.

Should someone not agreeing with our particular choice engender hate, disrespect and a virtual piling on? That seems to perhaps be a hallmark of humanness but not humaneness. Historically and culturally we often seek the similar and the like and avoid or abhor the different. When cultures merge and converge though, some of the differences no longer matter. Often, those outside of the mainstream or lagging behind the trend line are disparaged. Sometimes quite strongly disparaged. It is clear in politics and global affairs that unfortunately this often guides our approach to life and society.

For the runners among us, I’ve emphasized that we are all runners. That is our commonality and what should bond us together. Politics, shoes, feet, none of that really matters and there is room for all kinds of runners among the running community. There are sprinters, milers, marathoners and ultra-marathoners. There are barefoot runners, minimalist shoe runners, runners in structured cushioned shoes, runners in neutral shoes, and runners who run comfortably in motion control shoes ( a few anyway, but not a good choice for most people). We all run or if we are injured or otherwise unable to run, we all think about running. My belief about shoes is that you should run in what is comfortable and works for you. A recent book on evolution and running insists, in spite of an absence of evidence that comfort is a bad indicator of success. However Benno Nigg and others have done research that indicated that comfort was a relatively good predictor of fewer injuries among military recruits. With all of the research that has been done we still have essentially no studies that tell us how to avoid running injuries. One budding guru said on a national television program “throw away your high tech running shoes and you will never have another running injury”. Unfortunately, that was patently false and misleading. There are a number of new studies showing injury trends with different shoes – the first study which comes to mind is one that concluded a recommendation to wear a motion control shoe just based on a low arch foot type does not work well and seems to lead to more injuries than the choice of another shoe type.

George Sheehan said that “we are all an experiment of one.” We do have to discover what works well for us as individuals and follow that path. There is much to read on the Internet that can be helpful, but the correct answer for one individual may be hard to find. Sometimes guidance and the advice of a professional is helpful when one of us becomes injured, or has repeated injuries.

One thing is certain: everything goes better with exercise. We all are built to move. In fact evolution has led us to be in dire need of movement and evolution.

So now that we have arrived at another end of year holiday season, it is a good time for both reflection and movement. Plan your approach to the next year of exercise. Work on tolerance – improve your tolerance to endurance exercise, strength training and speed workouts. Improve your tolerance to your fellow runners and human beings. Work on being humane in addition to being human.That you’ll find is the hardest type of tolerance to develop.

But that animal in us does need exercise even during the holidays. How else will you work off those large meals and party foods and drinks?

Avoid Mental Mistakes and Run Longer, Faster, Healthier

The Mental Mistakes of Running

The Wisdom of Self Knowledge

The cause and prevention of many running injuries is still a mystery. The treatment of most of them is not a total mystery. To lessen the possibility of the injury returning you will need to alter your training, improve core strength, flexibility, evaluate your recovery, obtain adequate sleep, nutrition, check your stride, muscle strength and symmetry, evaluate your biomechanics, your training shoes, and check on a variety of other factors.

With all the studies that have been done on running injuries they still are reported  to occur in somewhere between 24% and 65% of runners. Those numbers themselves speak to the lack of precision even in studies that measure running injuries. Studies which attempt to measure whether a slower progression in ramping up mileage have failed to demonstrate that also. Design errors and interpretation errors contribute to this lack of precision and clear information. To fill the knowledge gap on running injuries, some would find one thing to explain most injuries. Shoes can contribute to injury.  So some have looked back a few million years to say we should not wear shoes. Others have gone back a few million years to say that we need a paleodiet. Or perhaps we need a paleo-footstrike.

Does it all come down to shoes, minimal shoes, no shoes or midfoot, forefoot, or “gentle” rearfoot strike? Is it a matter of the terrible too’s: too much, too soon, too fast and too often with too little rest? That seems to be a large contributor. Overuse and overtraining contributes to many injuries. Is the knowledge of all things 15 million or 500,000 years ago all we need to run outside today? That is debatable but I’ll avoid that debate at this time and look for something more practical.

Life is complex. While there is wisdom and embedded knowledge in the past, the philosophy that the past is prologue, carried to the extreme of the past is still with us, may not may not invariably tell us where we are headed with the unpredictable future of life and scientific knowledge. Let’s look at something that we often skip.

We often ignore the mental mistakes that lead to running injuries. “Too much, too soon” is a mental mistake. Overestimating your readiness for harder, faster, and more training is a mental error. Ignoring warning pain is a mental error. Failing to distinguish between discomfort and pain from healthy training versus that from bone, muscle and tendon injury is a mental error. It is often hard to tell how signficicant pain is and to interpret what it means.

There is value in some of what has been said before. George Sheehan declaring “we are all an experiment of one” is signficant and the Delphic Oracle saying “Know Thyself” is another significant statement. (Although Aristophanes in the play “Clouds” used “know yourself” in a harsher sense which I’ll skip here.). The Delphic Oracle of ancient Greece had another aphorism that is not widely quoted among runners: “Nothing in excess”. These are wise statements. In fact an entire Philosophy course is available on Coursera called “Know Thyself” with Professor Mitchell Green of the University of Virginia. The bulk of my MOOC experiences at EDx.org and Coursera.org  do run a bit more to harder sciences, but being well rounded is something that most of us would benefit from.

As Barney says “everyone is special” which is another way of saying we are all alike in being a “case of one”. Luckily, sports medicine physicians and practitioners usually have a knowledge base and more than one case to draw on while evaluating a new patient’s symptoms. It is still vital that each runner take the responsibility to carefully monitor themselves. Examine on each run on you feel after you have warmed up gently, how you feel during your run, how you are progressing, how you are recovering, and what happens during and after the run.

The only way you can learn from your errors is to pay careful attention and catch them early before they result in a disaster. Improvement is something we are all looking for. Avoiding injury is another. Evaluate the changes you are making. Give yourself time to adapt. And most important pay attention to what your body is telling you. If you avoid most careless mental errors, you’ll run longer, faster and healthier.

 

In The Long Run: Eagles 

“I used to hurry a lot,
I used to worry a lot,
I used to stay out till the break of day.

Oh, that didn’t get it.
It was high time I quit it.
I just couldn’t carry on that way!

 

DC Declared Fittest of 50 Largest U.S. Cities (2009 repost)

The District of Columbia (Washington, D.C.) has been declared the fittest of the 50 largest cities in the  United States. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) using their American Fitness Index (TM)  AFI  has found that the overall health and fitness of Washington, D.C. ranks first nationally. The index is a composite which includes personal health information such as eating 5 fruits or vegetables daily, exercise regularly, non-smokers, and a variety of community level rankings. Available parkland, primary care providers, number of those insured all went into the community ranking. If the mayors of the U.S. were ranked for fitness it would be noted that Mayor Fenty would be among the fittest mayors in the country and D.C. would deserve bonus points for his efforts. He regularly participates in triathlons and marathons demonstrating to those in the city the significance and value of regular exercise. By swimming, running, and biking, Mayor Fenty shows that there is more than one way to get your workout in.

DC is previously held the number one position for the American Podiatric Medical Association and Prevention Magazine’s “Best Walking Cities”.

With the current epidemic of obesity and the resulting increase in chronic diseases, disability, and mortality, it is important for everyone who can to get the recommended amount of exercise and have healthy lifestyle habits. It is likely that one day many primary care providers will have multiple health consultants within their offices including perhaps a fitness consultant such as a certified trainer, nutritionist, and a motivator perhaps a psychologist to help with dietary and fitness lifestyle changes.

For more information on the ranking of cities and the programs supporting this undertaking visit: http://www.americanfitnessindex.org/

The ACSM is undertaking a push to have fitness and encouragement for lifestyle changes that dramatically lower the risk of chronic disease. The message is being delivered to the U.S. Congress, the President, and Health and Human Services. In addition to organizational messages, it is important that individuals contact their representatives to indicate how important they feel this is to decreasing healthcare costs and improving overall health.

In the upcoming days and weeks I will try to detail some of these issues and should have brief discussions of “sitting disease”, place a 5K beginners schedule online, a guide for beginning runner’s long run schedule for marathon training, and rationale for a program I call “Think, Stop, Think”. Think, Stop, Think is what we all should do. It is important to take a break from our daily work, particularly those with sitting down jobs and do something else. That something else is ideally exercise and movement. 30-50 minutes of moderate exercise 5 days per week will meet your requirements for aerobic exercise and is great for a mental break which refreshes in many ways. My fellow running friends and many exercise walkers already understand this.

The top 15 cities ranked by the AFI are:

1. Washington, DC
2. Minneapolis-St. Paul
3. Denver
4. Boston
5. San Francisco
6. Seattle, WA
7. Portland, OR
8. San Diego, CA
9. Austin, TX
10. Virginia Beach, VA
11. Hartford, CN
12. Sacramento, CA
13. San Jose, CA
14. Cincinnati, OH
15. Atlanta, GA

Back To Basics: The Three Pillars of Fitness (repost)

The concept of fitness is sometimes confusing and we may even revise this relatively simple conceptualization. Many theorists view it through their own prism and take their specific interests or personal conceptualization and raise one component of fitness to the highest rank of importance. They then either neglect or even belittle the other facets of fitness. We prefer a balanced take on fitness and view fitness as having three pillars. (If the pillar thing is too large to get a handle on, you can look at it as a stool with three legs which work best in balance.)

While portions of the system overlap, this system gives a nice, simple overview of the areas of focus for a fitness program. An example of overlap and cross over would include a concept of “bone fitness” as crossing between musculoskeletal and physiological.

My view of the pillars of fitness include:

Cardiovascular
Musculoskeletal
Physiological

Cardiovascular – Heart, lungs, circulation all are parts of the cardiovascular system. Aerobic fitness is most often what we are referring to, but we can include all aspects within this system. The formula for maximum oxygen uptake takes into account the amount of oxygenated blood that can be delivered to the muscle “end organs”, and the ability of the oxygen to be utilized by the muscle. Aerobic exercise is the means by which this system is usually improved. But interval training certainly is helpful. Interval training does not mean going all out. It means spending some time outside of your zone of comfort and going a bit faster or harder than you normally do.

Musculoskeletal Fitness – Musculoskeletal fitness includes your muscular system and your bones. Strength training, also called resistance training is the key which needs to be added into your fitness program. Strength training enhances muscular function, aids body composition, lowers body fat, can gently stress the skeletal system to help prevent or slow most especially spine osteoporosis and other areas of osteopenia or osteoporosis. Having stronger muscles helps prevent, treat, or lessen the impact of sarcopenia, which is muscle loss that occurs as we age. Having stronger muscles, which react well, can help improve balance, and may help prevent falls which cause bone injury, including hip fractures. This should also be a component of a life long fitness plan, and luckily has been becoming increasingly popular. Exercises can be done with machines, free weights, and even a complete body weight workout is possible.

Physiological – Physiological fitness comes about by evaluating your blood chemisty and body makeup and then acting upon it. Blood lipids, HDLs, LDLs, Cholesterol are the most well known parts of the blood chemistry to be evaluated. While there is a very minor controversy about the impact of total cholesterol on heart disease and strokes and the relationship is incompletely understood, there is a general consensus by most physicians that it is not a good thing to have a high total cholesterol. The research on that seems to me to be relatively clear. The research on LDL, triglycerides, etc. is a little less clear. But regarding cholesterol, the consensus is clear that it is not good to have a cholesterol over 200 and clearly 280+ is not good at all. Saying otherwise is an outlier position, it is analogous to saying that cigarettes have no relationship to lung cancer. You can consider first trying diet and exercise, but you may need medication. Be aware of the side-effects of statins and other medications, and if you have concerns, discuss them with your medical doctor. Do not take comfort in an outlier position, no matter how much other good advice the outlier may provide, this part of medicine, as accepted as it is, is about as far as we can go at the current time. In 10-20 more years, the advice will be more specific, and those at risk will be more easily separated from those who are not at risk. But again, this is about as good as we can predict at the moment.

Body composition and body fat is another area that would fall under physiological fitness. Diet evaluation and modifications, exercise, caloric balance, and "Old Stool" Courtesy 427 at Flickrwhere needed medication can help this area of fitness.

These are the areas to think about as you set up your fitness program. Don’t neglect any of them. Say no to being short sighted and blinded to a comprehensive fitness program. Do it all! But start out slowly and carefully, and find a good program and certified trainer to help.