Thursday, June 26, 2014

Do You Know How to Stretch?

What are your first memories of being taught how to stretch.  Most of us were taught to bend down and touch your toes, holding that pose for 30 seconds.  This is considered a static stretch, when you are stretching your body to lengthen your muscles.  Static stretching typically involves holding a position for an extended amount of time. Static stretching is not recommended before a run because your muscles are cold and tight.  You could actually injure yourself by doing static stretching at this point. 

What is dynamic stretching and what are the benefits? 

Dynamic stretching challenges every part of your body that you use when you run.  They are active movements of muscle that stretch your muscles but are not held in the end position.   Most dynamic stretching progresses through each movement so you jump or skip higher or bend further with each repetition.

What are the goals of dynamic stretching before your run?

1) To increase your heart rate and to get the blood pumping through your body to warm up your muscles.
2) To open your joints, especially the ones that you will be using the most, including your hips, spine, feet, and ankles.
3) Actively stretch your muscles to prepare them for your run.  You will be at a lower risk of injury with looser muscles.
4) You are mentally preparing for you run while you stretch.  Think of it as practicing before the big game.

Here are a few links to recommended dynamic stretches to do before your runs.

As I stated in my last blog post, you should do your dynamic stretching before your run or run at a warm-up pace (2 minutes/mile slower than your normal pace) for 5-10 minutes to loosen up your muscles and prepare them for you run. A little stretching and warming-up will really help reduce the chance of injury during your run.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Stretching Now is Better Than Being Injured Later

When Should I Stretch?

There has been a lot of controversy about when you should stretch and how you should stretch to get the most out of you running without doing more harm than good. 

Before you run, it is important for you to prepare for your run by warming up.  But why should you warm up before a run?  The purpose is to raise your body temperature, elevate heart rate, increase breathing rate, lubricate joints, warm up connective tissue, and to wake up your central nervous system. The best way to do this is to do dynamic stretching (which I will cover in my next blog post about static versus dynamic stretching).

It is important to do some dynamic stretching before running and to start your run slowly.  Some studies have even shown that stretching before a run isn’t necessary as long as you start your run with 5-10 minutes at a warm-up pace (about 2 minutes/mile slower than your normal pace).

The most important time to stretch is after your run.  Often times, we are running short on time after a run and skip stretching.  After your run, your muscles are warm and you should include both dynamic and static stretching into your cool down.  It is recommended that you walk for 5 minutes at the end of your run and then do 5 minutes of stretching.  While it is not always practical to take this time to cool down, it is a better option than injuring yourself. 

Here is a great article about when to stretch and the reasoning behind it. 

Please look for my next blog post to learn all about static versus dynamic stretching.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Best Exercises for New Runners

When I first started to run, I had to stop frequently and catch my breath.  All of my muscles were trained for cycling, but that didn’t help at all for running.  The single most important exercise to become a stronger runner is to run.  What a crazy concept!  There are exercises that can help you strengthen the muscles that you use most frequently in running.  Here are five articles that cover great stretching and exercises for running.  They will help to improve your posture and reduce the risk of injuring yourself.

Some of the articles cover the same exercises, but each article has its benefits.  Some describe the movements better than others and some include videos.  Take a few minutes each day to incorporate a few of these exercises and stretches into your training and you will feel the difference in no time.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Running and Blisters Go Hand-In-Hand. Or, is that Foot-In-Foot? It Doesn't Have To Be That Way.

Why do you get blisters?  Blisters are not only painful, but very annoying because there really isn’t much of an option once you have a blister other than to let it heal before you start running again.  Blisters are caused by friction and in most cases are caused by your shoes or socks rubbing against your skin. 

Runners can get blisters during a race when they don’t have a history of blisters because of the increased pace or the increase in heat and moisture of a longer run, which intensifies friction making your feet swell.  Your body naturally responds to friction by producing fluid which builds up under the skin as a form of protection. 

Blister Prevention:

  1. Keeping your feet moisturized and soft by applying a moisturizer on your feet daily can help prevent friction, ultimately reducing the chance of getting a blister.
  2. There are several types of blister free socks available.  My favorite socks are Feetures and the Injinji (toe) socks.  The Feetures are more padded but the Injinji socks provide protection between my toes.  
  3. You can also double up your socks.   Wearing two pairs of socks causes the friction to occur between the socks, not between your socks and skin.  You might need to get a shoe that is a ½ size bigger to accommodate this method.   
  4. Another popular method of blister prevention is to apply a lubricant like Vaseline before you run.  Rungoo is a long lasting lubricant that has had good reviews for blister prevention as well.  You can get Rungoo on Amazon for around $10 plus tax and shipping. 
  5. Wearing shoes and socks that fit are key in the prevention of blisters.  Shoes that are too small will cause blisters under your toes and on the end of your toe nails.  You should have a thumbs width of space between your toes and the end of your toebox (inside end of your shoe).  Your socks should fit smoothly with no extra fabric at the toes or heals. 
Blister Treatment:

  1. If you have a large blister, it is okay to drain it.  If you do not drain the blister, it will hurt and will most likely puncture on its own.
  2. To drain the blister, wash your hands.  Get a needle and wipe it off with an alcohol swab to sterilize it.  Once you have punctured the blister, carefully drain the liquid by pushing near the hole.  Then cover the blister with a tight bandage to keep bacteria from getting in the wound.  Periodically take off the bandage and soak your foot in Epsom salt to draw out the fluid.  After soaking your foot, apply a fresh bandage.  You should keep a bandage on your blister until the skit tightens up again.
  3. If you have a small blister, keep it intact and do not drain the fluid.  The fluid is acting as a protective coating.  Get a pack of Dr. Scholl’s Moleskin and cut out a hole the size of the blister.  Place it over the blister and cover it with gauze.  The blister should dry out and heal on its own.
  4. If you have a blister under your nail, see a doctor.  Whatever you do, do not remove your nail as it could cause infection.

Note: Contrary to what you might have seen, holding a needle in a flame to sterilize it is not suggested.  You will get carbon particles under your skin, which could further irritate the blister.