Friday, January 31, 2014

Deep Freeze Running

I was talking to someone recently about the cold weather we are experiencing and how it makes me want to be a hermit. Originally from Utah he gently reminded me that cold is relative and that you NEVER have to shovel sunshine!  Having a new perspective on winter in South Carolina, it doesn’t change the fact that it is cold in January and February and that can impact your desire to exercise.

Researchers at Ohio State University found, not surprisingly, that we tend to lose some of our fitness during the winter as we tend to forgo exercise because of the cold temperatures.  While indoor cardio workouts have their place, I am an exercise purest and believe if you are going to put forth the effort to exercise, you might as well go all the way and head out doors , enjoying the brisk, fresh air.

Great! You made the decision to beat the cold and head outdoors. Here are some tips for surviving and enjoying a run in the deep freeze from Jeff Gaudette, the head coach for
To prepare for the cold, complete some dynamic stretching inside to warm up your muscles and to raise your core body temperature. Gaudette recommends five lunge variations – forward, forward with a torso twist, side, diagonal and reverse. I recommend throwing in some hamstring and hip flexor stretchs. Lastly, one of the best ways to raise your core temp before heading out for a workout is to do 50 pushups.  This will elevate the heart rate and engage your core, legs and arms that will increase body heat.

Be sure to dress for the elements. This will take some trial and error as you don’t want to be too cold or too warm. Keep in mind you want to dress for 10-15 degrees warmer than the temperature as you will build body hear. The first half mile to mile may be chilly until you warm up so dress for the remainder of the run. Dressing in layers is a good idea and tighter fitting clothing will retain more heat. I also recommend a hat and gloves as you can lose a lot of heat through your head and cold fingers are just no fun.

On windy days, start your run in the same direction as the wind.  When running into the wind you will generate more perspiration and heat working against this resistance. By saving this for the run home, you won’t get as chilled had you started out into the wind.

Enjoy the scenery.  Your landscape looks different in the winter so take advantage of enjoying Mother Nature. Although a bit tougher to do, I like running very early in the morning during the winter.  Not only is there usually less wind but the stars in the sky are extra bright and there is a peacefulness that comes with the cold, not to mention the sense of accomplishment that you conquered the outdoors and the cold while others sat on the couch!
Chris is a Certified Personal Trainer and exercise and endurance enthusiast.  He competes yearly in numerous running races, marathons, ultra marathons, triathlons and other endurance events. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Band On The Run

You are out for a run, enjoying nature and experiencing the runners high just like you have done countless times before.  As the miles continue you start to feel a slight pain on the outside of your knee and or hip.  Being a runner we are prone to various aches and pains but this pain intensifies to the point that you have to slow down and eventually walk.
Unsure of what the pain is, you go home, ice the sore spot, take a couple of days off and the mystery pain is gone. You laces up your running shoes and ten minutes into the run the excruciating pain returns reducing you to a slow walk home.  Confused and irritated, you turn to Google for answers to outside knee pain.
What you likely are experiencing is Iliotibal Band Syndrome. Iliotibial band syndrome is one of the leading causes of lateral knee pain in runners. The Iliotibial band is a thick band of fascia on the lateral aspect of the knee, extending from the outside of the pelvis, over the hip and knee, and inserting just below the knee. The continual rubbing of the band over the lateral femoral epicondyle, combined with the repeated movement of the knee during running may cause the area to become inflamed.

ITBS symptoms range from a stinging sensation just above the knee joint, to swelling or thickening of the tissue in the area where the band moves over the femur. The stinging sensation just above the knee joint is felt on the outside of the knee or along the entire length of the Iliotibial band. Pain may not occur immediately during activity, but may intensify over time. Pain is most commonly felt when the foot strikes the ground, and pain might persist after activity. Pain may also be present above and below the knee, where the ITB attaches to the tibia.

ITBS can be caused by many things, most commonly prolonged exercise in a linear fashion.  Distances runners and triathletes are susceptible to ITBS as all their motion is linear. This constant linear exercise will strengthen the quads and hamstrings but will do little to strengthen the IT band and thus the muscle imbalances can trigger the pain.  Other causes of ITBS include running on a banked surface, excessive up and down hill running and positioning the feet “toed-in” to an excessive angle when cycling among others.

ITBS can be painful and can take time to heal.  I recently suffered from ITBS and after a few weeks rest, aggressive icing therapy and the following exercises, I was back on the road in no time.  Here are some treatments you can use for ITBS:

Utilize a foam roller to roll on your IT band from hip to knee several times a day

Lying Glute Stretch - Lie face-up on the floor with your knees and hips bent. Cross your right leg over your left so that your right ankle sits across your left thigh. Grab your right knee with both hands and pull it toward the middle of your chest until you feel a comfortable stretch in your glutes. Hold for 30 seconds, and then repeat on the opposite side.
Lateral Band Walks - Place both legs between a mini-band and position the band just above your knees. Take small steps to your right for 20 feet. Then sidestep back to your left for 20 feet. That’s one set.

Soccer Drills – Place five cones several feet apart and practice kicking a soccer ball between the cones, this will help you strengthen your IT band by forcing some lateral movement and having some fun in the process.

Chris is a Certified Personal Trainer and exercise and endurance enthusiast.  He competes yearly in numerous running races, marathons, ultra marathons, triathlons and other endurance events. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Back In The Saddle

It’s been a week since a magical time at Disney with my family. As always we had a blast in the parks and at Downtown Disney and Run Disney put on another fantastic weekend of events.  Mother Nature cooperated more as the week went on as we had perfect conditions for the Marathon.
I am excited that both May and I had good races and I am thrilled with a 3:44 marathon after a week of racing and not starting training until the week after Thanksgiving.  I guess all my triathlon training paid off for me this summer.
We both are excited that we recovered well and quickly. While walking down stairs was a bit of a challenge on Monday and Tuesday, we are in good shape and ready to roll.  The biggest issue with recovery was trying to catch up on our sleep.  A busy week at the parks and getting up in the middle of the night to get to a race can be more tiresome than one thinks.
While I never like to take time off, I listened to my body and took the week off and slept in until 6:00 am every morning, and for me this is definitely sleeping in. I was also surprised to notice I had the “rungries” all week and ate accordingly.  While eating a lot at Disney too, it was good to get back on our standard diet. 

Tomorrow is Saturday and it’s time to lace up the shoes, get on the swim cap and clip into my pedals and turn my attention towards a busy spring and summer.  REV2TRI Knoxville (half Iron Distance) on May 18, IRONMAN Raleigh 70.3 June 1st and IRONMAN Coeur ‘d Alene on June 29th. 

The Dopey Challenge was a HUGE confidence builder and an event I was really looking forward to. Many times an athlete can experience depression once a big event is over and the best way to avoid that is to have another planned for later in the year.  It keeps you motivated and gives you something to look forward to.

I am excited about the triathlon season and finishing the Dopey Challenge strong, healthy and happy have given me a LOT of confidence moving to the IRONDISTANCE races. The rest and recovery have been great and I am anxious to get back to sweat, elevated heart rate, grunting, groaning and pain. It’s not a good week if at least once I am not asking myself why I do this to myself! 
The challenge will be fitting in two workouts three-four days a week. I am going to try and maximize my lunch hours for 5-7 mile runs or strength training sessions. We are fortunate to have a weight room and showers on sight.  Also need to make sure I get enough sleep.  Oh yes, my soccer drills to work on lateral movement so I can strengthen my IT bands.
This weekend we will catch up on Premier League Ruby and enjoy some Barclay's Premier League Soccer....and oh yes, two NFL Conference Championship games.
I wish everyone a great weekend of training and racing.
Now about that Dopey tattoo......

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Achilles International

Some of the best things about a Run Disney event is the fellowship, friendship and inspiration you receive from your fellow runners and their families. This past weekend May and I were blessed with the opportunity to participate in the 2014 Walt Disney World Marathon weekend. May completed her first marathon and I completed the inaugural Dopey Challenge.  We had a great time and more on those races and a recap of our week in a later post.
During this year’s events I noticed several people in yellow shirts representing Achilles International. At first glance I figured there were simply one more team that had come to Disney for some fun, exercise and racing. I could not have been more wrong.  These people representing Achilles International were volunteers that dedicated their time and their races to assisting runners with disabilities participate in the various events of the weekend.
While waiting in our corral for the 10K I had the absolute pleasure of talking to one volunteer and his athlete who was blind.  We had a great conversation, shared some laughs and the nervous energy that everyone feels before a race.  It was an incredibly inspiring experience for me to see the trust both individuals had in each other and the partnership and friendship that ensued. It’s tough enough to run a 10K, even harder to run a 10K with 10,000 participants and I can’t begin to imagine running one with my eyes shut and trusting another individual to guide me safely through the event.
Achilles International is special organization that focuses on assisting disabled athletes compete in competitions worldwide. Here is a description from their website.
In 1976, Dick Traum, an above the knee amputee, found himself approaching middle age and out of shape. After joining a local YMCA, Dick began running – small distances at first and then, eventually several miles. Within a year, Dick became the first amputee to run the New York City Marathon. The experience was life changing, bringing a powerful sense of achievement and self-esteem. In 1983, seeking to provide that same opportunity to other people with disabilities, Dick created the Achilles Track Club, now called Achilles International.
Today, this non-profit organization has chapters and members in over 65 locations within the United States and abroad. Every day, in parks, gyms, and tracks all over the world, Achilles provides athletes with disabilities with a community of support. Able-bodied volunteers and disabled runners come together to train in an environment of support and community. Within this community, runners gain measurable physical strength and build confidence through their sense of accomplishment, which often transfers to other parts of their life.
Over the years, Achilles has also developed specialized programs for children and war veterans. Achilles Kids provides training, racing opportunities, and an in-school program for children with disabilities, while our Freedom Team of Wounded Veterans program brings running programs and marathon opportunities to disabled veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
While our programs focus on athletics, the truth is, sports are simply the tool for accomplishing our main objective: to bring hope, inspiration and the joys of achievement to people with disabilities. Nothing illustrates this more than our signature event, the Hope and Possibility Five-Miler. In this race, able-bodied and disabled athletes participate side-by-side and, with several disabled award categories, it puts a first place win within the grasp of all runners.
During the half marathon on Saturday I encountered another tandem of runners with Achilles International and was inspired to tears by their dedication, fun, friendship and success.  This left me feeling called to participate in this fine organization.  Running and triathlon has given so much to me, I feel it’s time to give back and I have registered to be a volunteer with Achilles International and look forward to participating. While there is not currently a chapter in South Carolina, I am also giving consideration to seeing if there is an interest in starting a chapter in Columbia.
Take a few minutes and check out Achilles International. Your participation can make a huge difference in someone’s life and quite possibly your own as well.

Chris is a Certified Personal Trainer and exercise and endurance enthusiast.  He competes yearly in numerous running races, marathons, ultra marathons, triathlons and other endurance events. 

How Sweet It Is

With the holidays having us all in a festive mood, let’s take a look at something else that can enhance our moods and our health year round!  If you’ve always wanted a good excuse to indulge in mouthwatering, taste bud tantalizing chocolate today is your lucky day.
Much maligned as simply candy, chocolate actually has several health benefits if consumed properly. Feeling guilty about the secret romance you are having with this sweet diva?  It’s time to open up and share with the world the benefits of this not so guilty pleasure.
Before you reach for that Snickers, remember this: While chocolate can do the body good, keep in mind that all chocolate was not created equal: Dark chocolate packs more of a health punch overall, but even the bittersweet varieties can be high in calories, fat and sugar.

 According to the Huffington Post here are some of the benefits of consuming chocolate:
A 2011 Swedish study found that women who ate more than 45 grams of chocolate a week had a 20 percent lower risk of stroke than women who treated themselves to fewer than 9 grams of the sweet stuff.
Regular chocolate eaters welcome a host of benefits for their hearts, including lower blood pressure, lower "bad" LDL cholesterol and a lower risk of heart disease.
Regular chocolate eaters welcome a host of benefits for their hearts, including lower blood pressure, lower "bad" LDL cholesterol and a lower risk of heart disease. One of the reasons dark chocolate is especially heart-healthy is its inflammation-fighting properties, which reduce cardiovascular risk
Because it's rich in fiber, dark chocolate can actually help keep you full, so you'll eat less
Forget what you've heard about chocolate causing breakouts: Dark chocolate is actually good for your skin. The type of antioxidants called flavonoids found in dark chocolate offer some protection from UV damage from the sun.
Cocoa has anti-clotting, blood-thinning properties that work in a similar way to aspirin which can improve blood flow and circulation.
While the western palate prefers milk chocolate, dark chocolate provides many more healthy properties while being much lower in sugar which is linked to diabetes, weight gain and obesity and heart disease.  When looking for dark chocolate the high Cocoa percentage the more health benefits it packs.  I prefer 86% as it contains less sugar, little to no dairy and has an incredible cocoa flavor.
Dark chocolate also helps control blood sugar, is full of cancer and heart disease fighting antioxidants and is good for your brain, mood and heart.
With all the benefits to chocolate, dark chocolate in particular what’s not to love?  I LOVE dark chocolate and my favorite way to eat it is to dip a couple squares into May’s homemade Cajun (sugar free) peanut butter! 

Chris is a Certified Personal Trainer and exercise and endurance enthusiast.  He competes yearly in numerous running races, marathons, ultra marathons, triathlons and other endurance events.