Wise Running

Train smart, eat well, and enjoy the run.

Tag Archives: RICE

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!

wise running logo 7_25_12

 

 

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

_________________________

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
 
_____________________________________

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.”

_______________

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

Wise Resting: Playing It Safe

wise running logo 7_25_12

“You will be faster in the long run by playing it smart and safe today.”

I really want to run today, but I will not.

I have lots of pent up energy to expend.
I need to unwind from my busy day.
I feel the need to get outside and feel the breeze.

I feel the need to run, but I will not.

Yesterday I felt some pain in my heel area.  I have felt it on and off for a few weeks.  On most days, it has gotten better once I warmed up.  It has gotten better over time with a more careful stretching regimen and more careful running form.  It got a little better each day, until yesterday.  In my 7 of my tempo run yesterday, it started getting worse.  I was supposed to run 9 miles yesterday, but I remembered the warning given by Hal Higdon:

“If you have pain at the beginning of a run and it gradually gets better, then keep running.  If the pain gets worse as you go, then stop.  Walk.  Take a cab if you can.”

I was on the greenway and I didn’t have any cash on me anyway, so I did not take a cab.  I did walk 3/4 of a mile to my car.  I do not believe that I have a major injury, but that pain was a signal that major injury could be coming if I was not careful.  That is why my planned 9 mile tempo run became a 7 miler with an extra slow walk at the end.

After I returned home, my foot got an ice bath and some time elevated.  I took some ibuprofen and I looked at my running schedule.  I decided that today and tomorrow would be short and easy run days.  I have a half marathon on Saturday morning and I want to give this heel a rest.

This morning my heel was still feeling twinges of that pain.  Hence, I made the tough decision to let go of the idea of running today.  Full rest today, even though I had a rest day just two days ago.  I looked at my mileage for the week and thought about how I could make up the miles later.  No.  Bad idea.  I know better than that.  It is better to let go of those lost miles.  Full rest and consider those miles to be totally out of reach.

Yes, I will miss out on some of the adaptations that those miles could bring, some growth, some speed.  I have to choose to let that go.  That is speed that I will not gain for the marathon in March.  I have to let that go.

Remember This!

It is better to spend a day or two healing now rather than a month or two later because I made it worse by running through the wrong kind of pain.

When it is muscle pain because I am shredding it in a workout, then run on.  That will heal.  You can tell the difference between healthy workout pain and unhealthy injury pain.  Rest. Live to run another day.  You will be faster in the long run by playing it smart and safe today.

___________

Train hard. Race easy. Enjoy the run!
[when you can safely]

_____________

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

Table of Contents – Gift of Running

Here is the final version of the table of contents of my new book “The Gift of Running

The book is is now available in both paperback & ebook

- Paperback Version – Amazon.com

- Ebook Version – Kindle Store

Table of Contents

How to Read This Book 

Running Is a Gift for All

… A Precious Gift

…E Pluribus Run-em

……Where I Fall In the Spectrum of Runners

……Why am I writing a book on running?

…Receiving the Gift:  A Word to the Newbie Runner

Enhancing the Gift: Running Longer &/or Faster 

…Running Faster

…Running Longer

…Threshold Pace

……Threshold Pace and the Perfect Race

…Running a Marathon

…My Marathon Story:   From 5:35 to 3:27 in 18 months

Renewing the Gift: Motivation  

…Recapturing the Joy of Running

…Motivation: Getting Out of the Door

…Slaying the Specter of a Bad Run

…Potential, Risk, & Failure

…Racing as Motivation

…Aging Gracefully

……The Fountain of Youth

……Setting Age-Appropriate Goals

Renewing the Gift: Health

…Rest Days

…New Thoughts about Old Stretching

…Where to run: Surfaces, Sites, & Treadmills

…Philosophy of Pain

…RICE for Pain

…Weather Affects Running

…Staying Healthy in the Heat

…Running and Weight Loss

Giving Back: Community & Coaching 

…The Running Community

…Running Buddies

…You Will Never Run Alone

…Encouraging, Exhorting & Coaching

…Charity Fundraising

Training Schedules & Other Resources 

…What is a Training Plan?

…Following My Training Plans.

…From Walking to Running a 5K..

Training Programs:

- Walking to 5K
– Racing a 5K
– Racing a 10K
– Racing a Half Marathon
– Racing a Marathon

…The Right Stuff: Running Tools & Supplies

Wrapping Up the Gift 

_________________________

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

Ice Bath for Runners: Benefits and Recommendations

Since I have been dealing with some minor injuries lately, one my friends suggested that I take ice baths after my runs.  She specifically mentioned it as being beneficial in terms of my plantar fasciitis.  I have heard of ice baths, but had not followed through up to this point… mostly because I have not had any significant injuries.  With the luck that I have had lately, however, it sounded like a good idea.

ice bathAs I was taking my very first plunge, I began to wonder:  “Is it worth it?”.  I resolved then and there to search for the scientific foundation of this method of treating injuries.  Here is what I found in therms of benefits and recommendations:

Benefits:

Many elite runners and not-so-elite running enthusiasts that consider ice baths to be beneficial based on their own experience.   They claim that it leads to a quicker recovery and less pain.  So how does it accomplish this?  After about 6 minutes in the icy water, your blood rushes to the area to rescue you from the cold.  This rush is what helps to flush out the metabolic debris that might otherwise take days to flush out.  In the meanwhile, the cold is reducing the inflammation in the area.  This combination makes ice cold baths after a big workout a hot idea!

Recommendations:

While the current research does not tell us what protocol is ideal for ice baths, we do know a few things.  The most important thing to remember is that ice baths of over 20 minutes can be detrimental.  You body will actually begin to break down after 20 minutes in ice cold water.  Most experts suggest that runners submerge their legs for 6-10 minutes, just long enough to feel the blood rush in to save the day.

Possible Con:

One study found that ice baths after 90 minutes of exercise actually hindered the refueling process.  This is really only an issue if you plan back-to-back days with long runs, which is not a good idea anyway.

Conclusion:

From my experience, the recommendations of friends, and the scientific evidence, I would conclude that it is a good idea.  I will continue the ice baths as I recover from runs over 90 minutes.

What experiences have you had with ice baths?

____

“Train hard, race easy, & enjoy the run!”  — P. Mark Taylor

_____________

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

.

Pain is Good. So is RICE.

So you are training for a race and you begin to feel some pain.  What do you do?  First, remember that pain is good.  Pain is our body’s way of telling us what is going on and what we might do about it.  Way back in high school my coach told us about good pain and bad pain.  It went something like this:

Good pain is muscle soreness the day after a strong workout.  If you worked your tail off, your muscles have little tears that need to heal.  That is why we alternate sprinting/strength days with recovery days that are relatively short and easy.  Bad pain, however, is stabbing or throbbing pains that does not resemble soreness.  Good pain is something to brag about because you know that you are going to be faster and stronger when it heals.  Bad pain makes you weaker, requires complete rest, and may call for some medical help.

I know how badly you want to meet your next goal, but you must listen to your body.  If you are not sure whether a pain is good or bad, treat it as if it were bad.   In the long run, you will meet your goal more quickly if you heed the advice your body is giving you.  Better to ease up & rest up for a day or two than to make it worse and be forced to completely quit for a much longer time frame.

RICE is a common guideline for when you suspect that the pain that you are feeling might be bad pain.  I know that you have heard it before, but you would be amazed how many runners ignore the most basic of medical procedures until it is too late.  Begin using RICE as soon as you suspect that your pain might be bad pain!

Rest is a key part of repair.  Without rest, continual strain is placed on the area, leading to increased inflammation, pain, and possible further injury as well as increasing the length of time that it takes to heal.  In general, the rest should be until the you are able to run with the pain essentially gone.

Ice is excellent at reducing the inflammation and the pain from heat being generated.  A good method is ice 15-20 minutes of each hour for a 24–48 hour period. You may want to wrap the ice in a towel to prevent your skin from getting frostbite.  Be careful to not ice for too long so that your blood flow will not be too reduced to allow nutrient delivery and waste removal.

Compression aims to reduce the excessive swelling that results from the inflammatory process. Too much swelling results in significant loss of function, excessive pain and eventual slowing of blood flow through vessel restriction. An elastic bandage is ideal because it reduces swelling without cutting off the flow of blood that is need for recovery and normal function.  The fit should be snug so as to not move freely, but still allow expansion for when muscles contract and fill with blood.

Elevation aims to reduce swelling by increasing venous return of blood to the systemic circulation. This will not only result in less edema, but also aid in waste product removal from the area.

A cautionary word about pain-relievers:

The use of anti-inflammatory NSAIDS such as ibuprofen and aspirin can be a healthy part of the process of reducing inflammation so that you can heal more quickly.  NSAIDS and pain-relievers such as acetaminophen should NOT be used to mask the pain.  You need to hear what your body is telling you!

If a few days of the RICE treatment does not help your pain, consult your doctor.

 

 

 

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 49 other followers

%d bloggers like this: