Wise Running

Train smart, eat well, and enjoy the run.

Tag Archives: health

Experimental Training: Staying the Course

Back in January, I reported that I was engaging in “experimental training” focused on building speed.  I summarized by saying:

  • I will run less frequently, but with greater intensity.
  • The speed-work I run on the track is going to be much faster and more intense than I would ever recommend to a client.
  • I will work harder on power through intense speed-work and additional weightlifting.
  • My long runs will still gradually increase as I prepare to run the Boston Marathon.  This remains the same.  There is no substitute.  The experimental side of the long runs for now is that my tempo runs will be embedded within those long runs each week.
  • I will replace my easy running days with cross-training on the bike and in the pool.

Has the experiment paid off yet?

No.  At least not in terms of scoring personal records.

In fact, I have had some relatively slow races lately.  Am I getting slower?  No, I am not.  I am training as fast as ever. ImplementationDip

What I am going through right now is called an implementation dip.  I am challenging my body in new ways.  Hence, my body is changing in subtle but important ways.  In the graph at the right, I am somewhere in the red zone.  My performance had plateaued, so I implemented alternative training and my performance dipped down.  As I continue with the new training, the performance will begin to rise again.  When the change is complete, I can expect my performance to not only match my prior level but to begin exceeding it.  By staying the course on this plan, I should begin setting personal records again before fall rolls around.

On a related note, this is messing with my head a little.  In races this year, I have not felt exactly the same as before.  As a result, I have not been able to make good pacing decisions.  When I get past the implementation dip, the feel of races will be more consistent.  This will help me better adjust my pacing during races and maximize my race performances.

Have I seen any benefits so far?

Yes.  I am healthier, with fewer aches and pains.  At 46 years old, that is a big deal.

I am running fewer miles and doing more cross-training that causes less wear and tear.  I am still doing a lot of cardiovascular work to enhance endurance.  It is just in different formats.  Fewer aches and pains means I am more comfortable doing strength training.  This in turn allows me to get faster.

It also breaks up the daily grind by offering alternative training sites and experiences.  Having fewer runs per week makes my runs feel even more special than before. Even though I have added biking, swimming, and some triathlons, I am still a runner.  That is where my goals are.  That is where my heart soars.

“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”

    — P. Mark Taylor

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Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:

The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & Future Runners  Wise Running Book COVER mockup

&

Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life

 

 

The Toughest Days on the Schedule [a rest day]

Is it just me?  Am I the only one that feels this way?  I think rest days are the toughest ones on the schedule.  I mean… well… think about it.  If you think God made us to run, then our bodies should be clamoring to run.  And today, mine is.  It is screaming out with every fiber of its being.  The message is loud and clear:  “Go, Run, Play!”

Maybe the first and last words of that command would be okay, but my schedule says no running today.  My mind says no running today.  I have qualified for Boston three times now with schedules that included at least 1 rest day per week, so I know it works!  We need this day to recuperate before the big Saturday pace run and the long Sunday run.  With no rest, these runs could go flat, or much worse things like injuries and overtraining could sideline me for a while.  So, I faithfully take the day off.

Still, my body cries out: “Go, Run, Play!”

Is it just me?

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Happy Running!

How Running Makes Us Happy

“If you aren’t enjoying running, then you are doing it wrong.”  — P. Mark Taylor

My friend Von asked this question the other day:

“Why am I not as happy on the days I don’t run?
Even if I don’t run, I’m still working out.
So, why does it have to be running?”

I know that Von works out hard on his non-running days.  This just makes it crystal clear to him that something about running is unique.  It makes his whole day better.  Even though that other exercise is important and good for him, he doesn’t get that same full-day benefit from his non-running exercise.  Well, Von, here are some of the many ways that running makes us feel better.

A Simple, Soothing Break

Despite the beliefs of many, running actually relaxes you in some important ways.  One of the most important is simply getting your muscles AND the mind to relax.  The gentle rhythm of running in proper form provides a soothing beat.  With each step, gravity pulls on your muscles and loosens them up a little.  Much of the tension built up through the challenges that you face day-to-day seem to slip away gradually.  It is almost as if gravity is giving you a massage while you are working to get healthy.

Running is not just physically soothing, but also mentally soothing.  On a run, one can get lost in the sights and sounds around them.  Some people hear the rhythm of their feet.  Some tune in to the birds and the breeze.  Other choose to run through scenic landscape.  In this way, the sights, sounds, and smell of a run provide an escape from the world, a mini vacation.

You will not get this kind of soothing break from all kinds of workouts.  A high-intensity workout will not produce the same results.   While it may be highly productive for health, an intense workout lacks the soothing, rhythmic effect of a run.

Endorphins

Endorphins can be released through many different forms of strenuous exercise.  Technically, endorphins are “a morphine-like substance originating from within the body.”  Your body releases the endorphins to counter the stress created by the pain of  the exercise.  Beyond the time of the exercise, the endorphins hang around long enough for you to be a bit more relaxed.  This “endorphin rush” can set a positive tone for the rest of the day.  Running has the edge over most other exercises in that more endorphins tend to be produced, especially in people that run nearly every day.

Runner’s High

As wonderful as endorphins may be, they do not cause runner’s high.  This is a common misunderstanding.  Runner’s high is due to a completely different system with a very different effect.  Runner’s high is actually caused by anandamide.  Anandamide is another substance that is created by the body to guard against pain.  Both endorphins and anandamide serve the same purpose of allowing us to continue our efforts in the presence of pain.  The difference is in the timing.  A second line of defense, anandamide tends to be released after longer periods of ongoing exercise.

A second difference is the particular effect.  While endorphins impact your system in ways similar to morphine, anandamide acts more like HTC.  HTC is the chemical present in marajuana.  In this way, runner’s high really is high in exactly the same way as smoking marajuana.  While endorphins do not cross into the brain, this is where anandamide does its work.  Runner’s high is stronger and longer lasting than an endorphin rush.

Here again, it is possible to get runner’s high from other sports, but you are much more likely to find the “sweet-spot” for anadamide while you are running.  If you want to increase your likelihood of getting runner’s high, you should run at tempo pace, just a little faster than your 10K race pace.  This pace adds just enough stress to cause the body to produce anandamide but not so much stress as to overwhelm your body.  It is the “just right” pace for a great workout and a trip to La-La-Land.

Conclusion

Like many other sports, running can make you happy through setting & meeting goals, by helping us get healthy, and by being happy & proud of our consistent efforts.  Like other sports, there are things about running that help us relax.  As far as setting the tone for a happy day, however, running edges out the competition.

“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”  — P. Mark Taylor

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Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:

 

The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & Future Runners  Wise Running Book COVER mockup

&

Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life

Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life (2nd book)

Wise Running Book 2 is now available via in paperback and e-book. 

Wise Running Book COVER mockup

Wise Running is the follow-up to P. Mark Taylor’s first book on running: The Gift of Running.  While the first book focused more on getting started as a runner, this second book is more about how to move to the next level. P. Mark Taylor tells us how to think about running in ways that will help you be more consistent and improve.

Running is a great metaphor for life. It takes effort. It takes motivation. You have to stay healthy. If you stick with it long
enough and smart enough, you live a more rewarding life. So it is with running.

In Wise Running, P. Mark Taylor shows runners how to train smart, eat well, and enjoy the run.

The ebook includes:

  • goals, fitness, & health
  • how to think about training
  • designing a race and training schedule
  • aligning your efforts with reality
  • eating for health and fitness
  • a runner’s view on special diets
  • running-specific nutrition, including marathon nutrition
  • the effects of heat and humidity
  • the social aspect of running
  • motivation and encouragement

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The Gift of Running, the first book in the Wise Running series by P. Mark Taylor, is available in both paperback & e-book

 

Slaying the Specter of a Bad Run

I had a horrible run yesterday and it was killing me.  Not during the run, mind you, but after the run.  During the run I was merely overtired and dehydrated.  That was bad enough, but this bad run was hanging over my head… calling me names…taunting…telling me that I was not good enough.  The hills were huge.  As I remembered the contours of each hill, they seemed to come alive, grimacing and laughing at me.

cross country shoesHow can one run haunt me so much so quickly?  Probably because I have chosen some lofty goals and a short timeline.  With all of that pressure, I had no time for a bad run.  Bad runs, however, are inevitable.  We can’t control all of the things that life throws at us and we are certainly prone to making mistakes.   Logically, this was not the end of the world, but it felt like it.

How did I slay the specter of the bad run?  I rested up for a day, I was well-fueled and hydrated, I set a realistic goal for today’s run, AND… most importantly, I set the course for today’s run in the toughest part of yesterday’s run.

I looked those grimacing hills straight in the eyes and shouted, “NO!  You will not win. I may not be as fast as I want to be, but I am on my way.  You will not win. “

I did not set any new records today, but I did run a reasonably good time for course and conditions.  I faced the specter of doubt cast upon me by yesterday’s fiasco.

Tomorrow looks pretty darn good.

“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”  — P. Mark Taylor

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Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:

 

The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & Future Runners  Wise Running Book COVER mockup

&

Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life

Wise Running: The Truth About Cramps

I will tell you two truths about cramping up front and then explain them:

  1. Nobody fully understands all of the reasons for exercise induced cramps.
  2. Since we don’t fully understand the causes, we also don’t know of an ultimate solution.

Electrolytes and Cramping

Most people think of electrolytes as the key to avoid cramping.  If you avoid running low on sodium, potassium, and other electrolytes, then you can avoid cramping, right?  Maybe not.

Research trying to establish a correlation between muscle cramps and low levels of electrolytes in the blood of athletes have shown no significant relationship between these two variables.  This makes it highly unlikely that electrolytes are the culprit for the average runner.  Does this mean that I do not believe in the electrolyte tablets that I am taking?  No.  First, these studies are correlational.  The big limitation of correlational research is that it can’t prove that one variable is the cause, or not the cause, of the changes in another variable.  Hence, we need other kinds of more carefully crafted research before we can negate the possibility that my electrolyte tablets are helping me.stretching

On the other hand, I do believe that it is possible that only some of us need the electrolyte supplements.  I have two things that make my electrolytes lower than they should be:  genetics and eating habits.  Genetically, I have ADHD.  As an ADHD person I am aware that I use up electrolytes faster than the non-ADHD population.  Making matters worse, I have never eaten as many vegetables as I was supposed to consume.  I believe these are the best sources of electrolytes.  I think there is a good chance that if I ate more veggies, my need for the supplements would fade.

Beyond Electrolytes

While electrolyte supplements may or may not help, there are are several other theories about why muscle cramping might occur.  Insufficient fuel on a long run (>13 miles) can mean that your muscles simply cannot work properly.  In addition to proper fueling, cramps can be caused by overdoing it.  If your effort in a race is significantly more than you have done in training, your muscles may not be able to handle it.  Finally, short muscles may contribute to your cramping.  Working one side of your legs much harder than the other side for a long time may cause your muscles to become shorter and tighter.  The imbalance between the sides can cause cramping.

My Recommendations

The fact that there may be many causes for muscle cramping means that you should use a balanced approach.

  • Electrolyte Supplements  – I have not given up on my supplements, but the research definitely calls into question whether the average runner needs them.  When I do use them, I use them primarily as a preventative measure.  In doing that, however, I try to use as little as possible.  Experience is the best teacher.  I started with none and then gradually added some when I had issues during or after the workout.  Over time, I began to understand how much I need.  Electrolyte supplements are not cheap; don’t use them if they don’t help you!
  • Salt Tablets or Packets –  Studies have found that if your are experiencing cramps, one way to halt them is consume table salt.  They found that it the effect it has is to stimulate the brain to stop the leg cramping.  It does not stop because of the sodium, just the salty taste is enough.  Salt, therefore is not a preventative measure.  It is used after the cramps occur.
  • Stay within Your Limitations – Operate at the level of intensity for which you have trained.  Going beyond that can push your muscles too far.  They will rebel!
  • Stretch regularly AFTER exercise – Static stretches before exercise can hurt your performance.  Stick with dynamic stretching and warming up before exercise.  Static and dynamic stretches throughout the day after the workout, however, can lengthen and relax the muscles.  That can reduce or eliminate cramping altogether.
  • Hydration - The current recommendation of experts tend to be to drink to thirst.  This literally means let your body tell you how much to drink and when.  Others still recommend 4- to 6 ounces every 20 minutes.  Just as with the electrolyte supplements, you will have to figure out what is best for you.  Pay attention to how your body responds and learn what it needs for optimal performance.

Electrolyte supplement may or may not be helpful, so make sure you try the other recommendations too!  If you do stretch, stop and relax.  I don’t care if you are in a race.  Until you relax, your cramping is unlikely to subside.  When the muscles calm down, gently stretch and move them.  If you must continue after that, do so gently and paying great attention.  It is better to have a slow race time than to have an injury that will slow you down for months.

Train smart, eat well, and enjoy the run!

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The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners and Future Runners

My first book, The Gift of Running, is available in both paperback & ebook

- Paperback Version – Amazon.com   $9.00

- Ebook Version – Kindle Store $2.99

I wrote this book for several reasons.  Many of the books on running are tough to read, a lot like technical manuals.  I wanted to offer something more personal, runner to runner.  Moreover, I wanted it to be easy to read for the inexperienced runner.  I think I have accomplished this with The Gift of Running .

Below is the official description.  A small excerpt is included at the bottom of this page.

Book Reviews by Runners:

Book Reviews on Amazon.com:

If you would like an autographed copy of the book, please email me at pmark67@gmail.com

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The Gift of Running: a book for runners and future runners

by P Mark Taylor

Running is a gift, but not only for the gifted.  Whether you run just for fun or want to become a more competitive runner, The Gift of Running is for you. In The Gift of Running, P. Mark Taylor shows runners how to get started and stay motivated.

The book includes:  advice on how to get started as a runner, tried & true methods of running faster and longer, how to prepare for a marathon, tips on staying healthy & happy, motivation to keep you running, an insider view of the running community, & training programs for a 5K, 10K, half marathon, & marathon.

P. Mark Taylor is a runner & author of the blog at http://www.WiseRunning.com.

Publication Date:    Jul 20 2012
ISBN/EAN13:    0615668607 / 9780615668604
Page Count:    196
Binding Type:    US Trade Paper
Trim Size:    5.5″ x 8.5″
Language:    English
Color:    Black and White
Related Categories:    Sports & Recreation / Running & Jogging
 
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How to read this book:   (an excerpt from the book)

“This book is not a technical manual.  I have intentionally tried to keep my explanations brief and simple.  I have avoided technical terms and explained what I mean whenever needed.  It does offer important research-based information, but it offers more than that.

The book is about:

  • the human side of running,
  • becoming a runner,
  • working to become a better runner,
  • & staying safe, sane, and happy as a runner. 

It moves back and forth between personal stories, quotes from runners, and advice on running.

Most of the subsections of the book could be read independently, but I encourage you to read it from front to back.  This is especially true for the inexperienced runners.  Read the whole thing first, then go enjoy the run!

This book is the culmination of years of running, studying, and life experiences.  Most of all it is about the love of running and my respect for runners.

This book is dedicated to all of those who share my passion for running & to all those who are trying running for the first time.”

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 Click here to see my second book on running:
Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life
Wise Running Book COVER mockup

Running 101: Blisters and Chafing

cross country shoesRunning is awesome.  We love running fast and running far.  What we don’t love so much is the blisters and chafing that can come with it.  If you are a veteran runner, you have probably mastered the art of avoiding these painful skin ailments.  If not, here is some basic info to help get you started down the road to relief.

What Causes Blisters & Chafing?

Heat, moisture, and friction are the killer combination that cause skin to gradually weaken and become irritated.  Eventually irritation becomes damage.  The bloody nipple is the scourge of distance runner.  Ouch!  There are other areas that chafe, too.  These can be even more painful!  Blisters, of course, are usually on the feet.  We are all familiar with these.

Preventing Chafing

The best cure for blisters and chafing is prevention!  If you know the areas that chafe, then you can proactively use these techniques to avoid that chafing:

  1. Sometimes it is as simple as changing your clothes.  For example, I used to get chafing where my thighs rubbed each other.  When I switched to Under Armour underwear, the thighs no longer touched each other.  Problem solved.
  2. Applying a skin lubricant, such as Body Glide, will often solve your problem before it starts.  This handles the nipple chafing that I used to get when running over a certain distance.
  3. Other people use a combination of home remedies that they have tried.  Ask your running friends what they do!

Preventing blisters on your feet can be a bigger challenge.  You are coming down on your feet with the weight of your body. Any movement that your feet do within your shoes can potentially create friction and lead to blisters.  Here are some common strategies for avoiding blisters:

  1. Change your socks.  Cotton is not good.  Get a specialty wicking running sock.  Also make sure that the socks have a snug fit.  Even when wet, there should be no bunching or gathering.  These cause blisters every time!
  2. Moisturize with lotion regularly.   Even though moisture is a part of the equation, soft, moist skin is less prone to developing a blister.  Lotion.
  3. Put a layer between you and your socks.  Mole skin or a similar product can take the heat instead of your skin.  A layer of petroleum jelly can accomplish the same thing.  Some people even use two pairs of socks.
  4. Change your shoes.  Your shoes should be comfortable.  Not so loose that your feet slide around a lot.  Not so tight that your toes can’t wiggle freely.  Your toes should not be rubbing on the front of the shoes.

Healing from Chaffing & Blisters

For chafing, I personally apply triple antibiotic ointment on the area and simply avoid contact as much as possible.  I will put a band-aid over the affected area while I am running until it goes away.

For blisters, my first strategy is to let it heal on its own if at all possible.  When I succeed, this becomes a thick callous right where I need it.  It will prevent a future blister.  If it is too big or too painful, then you must drain it.  Clean a needle with alcohol and lance the blister carefully.  Gently press the blister to push the fluid towards the hole to let it escape.  I follow this up with triple antibiotic ointment and a band-aid.  I try to make sure the band-aid is on tight enough to not allow the blister to fill up again.  Then I try to avoid contact as much as possible.

Can you run on a blister?  Yes, unless it is huge and taking a thick layer of skin with it.  I dealt with this once.  I finally had to stop running for a week while my foot healed.

Take care of your skin and your skin will take care of you with less pain and more gain.

“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”  — P. Mark Taylor

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Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:

The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & future runners  Wise Running Book COVER mockup

&

Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life

Hydration for Running

wise running logo 7_25_12

 

 

Your body is mostly water.  It only makes sense that a hydrated body functions better.  If you want health and performance, you will keep your body topped off with liquids as you go.  So, on a hot day, you might drink as much as a cup of water or watered down sports drink every 15 minutes. If you put it in as fast as you sweat it out, your body will thank you by staying healthy and performing as best as it can.  On the water hydration coupleother hand, it is possible to drink too much.  Current recommendations are to drink to thirst. If you are thirsty, drink.  If you are not thirsty, don’t. Any way you handle it, make sure you have access to plenty of water and/or sports drink while you run.

You should still be careful after the run! Most of us continue sweating long after the last step of the run.  Hence, it is important to keep your tank topped off!  There are now quite a few choices for sports drinks to recover after the workout.  The top choice remains the same as it has always been… good old water!

Electrolyte Supplements

Water is not all that leaves as we sweat!  We also lose minerals that play a critical role in our bodies.  They are called electrolytes.  Without these minerals and enough water, the muscles begin to cramp.  Muscle cramps are painful and cause damage.  Even if you do not reach the point of cramping, failing to replace the electrolytes means poor performance and frustration.

For some, simply drinking a sports drink provides enough electrolytes.  Other need more than the amount offered through sports drinks.  Electrolyte supplements come in powders, tablets, pills, & capsules.

Even though I require much more electrolytes than the average runner, I use the strategy of taking as little as possible.  You discover this by starting with the minimum suggested dose on the supplement label.  How do you know if it is enough?  Personally, I know that I have not taken enough Endurolyte Capsules if my leg muscles are twitching as I am relaxing after the run.  If so, I will take another capsule or two until it subsides.  Over time, you begin to learn what is right for you.

Regardless of which drinks and supplements you use, it is your job to make sure you get enough.  Your body is depending on you and so is your running performance.

Train smart, eat well, and enjoy the run!

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Health and Exercise vs. Fitness and Training

There is a significant difference between concepts of health and fitness.  Health refers to the level of functional or metabolic efficiency of a living being.  A healthy person tends to live longer and have a higher quality of life than an unhealthy person.  It is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Exercise and healthy eating are two critical parts of being healthy.  Your sense of humor and your stress management techniques are also critical features of overall health.

sprintingFitness, on the other hand, is not about general health.  Fitness is about the level of fit that your body has in relationship to a specific task or set of tasks.  The measures of fitness for a baseball pitcher are quite different than the measures of fitness for an offensive lineman in football.  There will most certainly be overlap, but there is a big difference between extremely fit players in these contexts.  If you try to place a baseball pitcher on the offensive line, you are likely to end up with an injured pitcher.  He is fit for one task and not fit for the other.

Everyone should have the goal of being healthy.  As a runner, however, you want to make sure that you are fit for the task of meeting your running goals.  This requires all of the aspects of general health, but also includes running-specific measures of fitness:

  • How fast can you run a mile?
  • Are your core  and hip muscles strong enough to stabilize you during a run?
  • If you plan to run a marathon, have you practiced processing your calorie intake quickly and efficiently?
  • Can you maintain a certain pace for a certain distance?

The specifics of your goals will help you determine the measures of fitness that you should be tracking.  Your training should keep you healthy, but it should also move you towards measuring up to the specific fitness to the tasks set forth in your goals.  Accordingly, you can’t just exercise and expect to move towards your fitness goals.  Swimming is good cross-training, but will never replace specific training runs in moving towards your specific running goals.

Stay healthy.
Set goals.
Determine your level of fitness.
Train to improve your health and your fitness.

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Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!

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The Gift of Running,by P. Mark Taylor, is available in both paperback & e-book

- Paperback Version – Amazon.com $9.00

- Ebook Version – Kindle Store $2.99

- Ebook Version for Nook $2.99

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