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Archive for September, 2009

Side Stitch from Running

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

http://www.ehow.com/video_4989057_rid-side-stitch-running.html

Everyone has encountered it before while running, the dreaded side stitch.  I remember my first side stitch.  It was the first pain I ever felt when running.  I was running around a track at the age of 5 and remember thinking, ‘Why was my body feeling this way?’  Well, apparently my 5 year old mind wasn’t the only brain that couldn’t figure out what this side stitch was and why it occurred.  Scientist and doctors still debate the exact cause of the side stitch, but there are some agreed upon possible causes.  We at SeriousRunning.com and the community of runners will figure it out.

Side stitch, or often referred to as ETAP (exercise related transient abdominal pain), are an intense stabbing pain under the lower edge of the ribcage.  It may be caused by internal organs, like the liver and stomach, pulling down on the diaphragm as you bounce up and down while running.  This makes sense because runners are constantly bouncing up and down.  However, a more agreed upon theory, is that side stitches may be caused by the contraction of the liver or spleen, which squeezes extra oxygen-carrying red blood cells, leaving this area of the body without the proper amount of oxygen.  This is why many runners get side stitches when they are having more than usual difficulty breathing.

When you feel the side stitch, keep running.  Slow down a bit to a jog and concentrate on your breathing.  Take deep breathes in the belly (medical term) first to get the oxygen pumping in your blood again.  Then start taking shallow breathes, pushing as much oxygen into your blood as quickly as possible to get it moving in your side again.  Then start running again.

Runners typically get the side stitch on their right side because that is the side of the body that their large liver is on.  Your liver enlarges, squeezing the extra oxygen-carrying red blood cells, causing you to get a stitch.  One way to try to avoid this is to concentrate on breathing when you strike your right foot on the ground instead of your left foot.  This will allow more oxygen go to the ailing side of your body.

In order to avoid side stitches before you even start running, strengthen your core muscles like you abdonimals, lower back, and obliques.  Stretching before your run helps too.  Raise your hand above your head and lean to one side stretching out your side muscles like you are on an 80s aerobics video.  Add a head band and ankle scrunchies to get a full stretch.  Also it is important to eat properly; try to avoid eating 2 hours prior to working out.  Eating just before running can give you cramps that may put more strain on your oxygen flow.  An old wife’s tale that has worked for me is to avoid carbonated beverages.  I used to not drink any carbonated beverages while in track and cross-country season; but that is tough now that beer and I have become acquainted.  This theory makes sense because carbonated beverages make it more difficult for oxygen to move in your blood stream which is the cause of side stitches.  It worked for me, I never got side stitches during the season.  Plus I had a cool red mustache from drinking so much Hawaiin Punch!

So don’t let a side stitch slow you down.  Do these things to avoid getting them in the first place and keep on a runnin’.

Muscle Cramps from Running

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

Every runner has encountered cramps at one time or another.  There are two type of cramps, muscle cramps and “stitches” which usually occur in your side while running.  Both can be debilitating during a run, but I want to focus on in this post on muscle cramps.  Muscle cramps occur when you muscles tighten from overexertion or dehydration.

women-stretching-after-running-race

To avoid developing muscle cramps during your run or race you should make sure you stretch properly beforehand.  Stretching helps loosen your contracted muscles in their rest state.  You should stretch 10-15 minutes before any run or race, focusing on your lower body muscles.  Calves and thighs are the most prone to getting cramps so make sure you stretch both of those areas well.

Stretching also helps loosen you muscles.  Often if you start a race or run too fast your muscles can cramp up.  You need to warm your muscles before putting them in an intense work out.  It’s like getting out of a hot shower on a cold morning without a towel.  Not cool.  Run or walk for 10-15 minutes before a race to warm your body.  If you are going on a training run, start off slow and then build your way up to a faster pace.  The colder the weather, the more you need to warm your muscles.  There’s a direct relationship there.

Hydrating is important to avoid muscle cramps.  When running your leg muscles need more blood and oxygen, which is difficult for your body to do if it is dehydrated.  Make sure you drink plenty of water and sports drinks so you can get the  electrolytes your body needs.

If you do incur muscles cramps, the first thing you should do is slow down.  You don’t have to stop, but you do need to give your cramping muscles a break so they can catch up to the rest of your body.  Know you limits and slow down.  When you stop running make sure you stretch out the cramping muscles considerably.  A post run stretch will do wonders for how your muscles feel the next day.  Drink plenty of sports drinks to give your cramping muscles the electrolytes they need.  When you get home, apply heat to the area to loosen the muscles.  Lastly, massage the muscles to loosen them up.  The best part of being a runner is that you can massage your own legs!

Don’t let cramps cramp your style.  You’re style is too good for cramps.

Walking while Trail Running: What I learned at XTERRA Georgia Trail Race Bull Mountain

Monday, September 28th, 2009

runners-of-trail-race-at-bull-mountain-georgia

I ran the Georgia XTERRA Georgia Trail Run Series at Bull Mountain yesterday and I’m hurtbox today.  What is a hurtbox?  I’m not sure, but I do know I feel worse today than I ever have post run.  I finished 13th out of about 200 runners.  I’m fine with that given all things considered.  I held on to 7th place until about mile 10 when I just didn’t have any more juice.  I learned a lot from running this half marathon through the mountains of North Georgia.  I learned that I was right, I can run a half marathon any day, at any time, without training.  I wasn’t running this race to test my hypothesis, but injury had sidelined me from training for about 6 months and no running at all for the past two weeks, but I really wanted to do this race.  I learned that I can get cramps while racing.  I learned that I should probably look at the elevation of a Trail Race before running it.  I learned that if you haven’t been training, you probably shouldn’t start a race at your normal race pace.  I learned it’s OK to be beaten by a girl, even if you have to ride 2 hours back home with her.  I learned that moving up to the 30-34 year old age group may not be easier competition, especially when your biggest competitors move up in age groups too.  I learned that I probably shouldn’t push an injury (again), and learned ice baths feel great.  I also learned you can’t push it up hills when they are longer than two miles.  I’ll save all of these lessons for later blogs, what I want to focus on today is that I learned it is OK to walk during a race.

There is something mental about walking that I haven’t been able to get over.  I’ve always had too much foolish pride to walk during a run.  I haven’t walked during a run since 7th grade track practice in Middle School.  At that time I was one of the two fastest runners on the team and during practice we would go out hard and walk at points when needed.  We were so far ahead of everyone else, no one ever caught up and we still finished every practice well ahead of the rest of the team.  However, my best friend during the Middle School days, who was a girl, would complain, “You may have beaten me but at least I ran the whole way!”  Why are females always trying to compete with me?  It’s not me, it’s just science.  At any rate, yesterday was the first time I have walked during a run in 16 years and I liked it.

It began with a muddy, slippery, 75% grade incline at about mile 5, after I had been running uphill for almost all 5 miles prior.  I found that with an incline this steep a fast walk can often be faster than a run.  I leaned forward and put a brisk walk up the steep hill.  While I was walking I was breathing very heavy and becoming more fatigued, but walking was working different muscles in my legs.  I was saving my running muscles which I needed for the downhills.  By walking up some of the steepest hills I was able to conserve enough energy to be able to move my legs at the maximum pace the downhills pushed me.  Without walking up the steep hills I would not have been able to finish the race in the place that I did.

Walking also took the pressure off of my injured knee.  My knee began hurting badly at about mile 8.  Every time I started running up a small incline it would twinge at each step, but when walking it wasn’t putting this pressure on them.  Walking takes the constant pounding off of your knees.  Jeff Galloway has built marathon training plans from the run-walk-run method which has been very effective for thousands of runners.  He’s still running strong at age 65 and claims you can keep running until your 100 years old by using this method.  That’s great news for me since my knees feel like they are 100 years old from all the jumping out of airplanes I’ve done.  Maybe it is OK to walk.  Without a doubt, it helped me perform the best to my ability in this race.

runners-cooling-off-in-cold-creek

Overall, I had a great time at the XTERRA Georgia Trail Race.  The race was very well put on and run smoothly like all of the XTERRA Georgia Trail Races, everyone really enjoyed themselves from new trail runners to experienced trail runners.  And as you can see from the picture above, every runner needed a good ice bath to soothe their muscles after running this challenging, mountainous race.  Beautiful day, beautiful terrain, beautiful race.  This is what trail running is all about….and trail walking.

Running Community

Friday, September 25th, 2009

runners-talking-at-start-line

SeriousRunning.com is not just for serious runners, it’s for all runners.  SeriousRunning.com is a platform for runners to share information and reviews with each other to help them become better athletes and have fun running.  All runners go through the same amount of pain and the same amount enjoyment when they accomplish their goals, that’s why runners love to share about running.  I think I need a “I break for runners” bumper sticker on my car.  I even drive in the opposite lane if I can.  I look at every runner I see and think about how they are feeling.  I find that I think to myself, ‘You can do it.  Way to be out there pushing it.’  Giving the unknown runner motivation.  Trying to help them be the best runner they can.  It’s about the running community.

We runners have this community feeling because we share a lot of common characteristics.  The feeling of accomplishing goals, losing weight, or relieving stress is universal.  It’s the best feeling in the world.  Some may even say we are addicted to it.  So as a good addict, we should share our addiction to run with each other.  This sense of community lends us to sharing everything we have learned about running such as the best trail running trails, injury remedies, or favorite races, giving other runners the best possible experience.

That’s what SeriousRunning.com is here for, sharing in the community of runners.  If you are going to give back to the community, why not give back to the running community?

Safety Tips for Trail Running

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

The reason Trail Running is extreme is because you are taking a risk running far away from civilization and help if you needed, while also exhausting your body.  Veteran Ultrarunner Maria “Gina” Natera-Armenta found this out the hard way.  Luckily, after being lost for 4 days and ready to die she was found.  Read her amazing story in the Orange County Register.  Now, that’s what I call “The Real OC.”

river-running-over-rocks

As you can see, trail running can be dangerous even for Veteran Trail Runners.  I talk a lot about running with confidence and swag but you also need to know your running limits.  As runners, it is tough to think that we can’t do something, especially when it comes to running, but sometimes we have to realize when we are in above our heads.  Your body says stop but your mind says keep running.  If you’re mind usually wins, then you should mitigate the risk to your body in these ways:

First, you should carry plenty of water.  Maria had plenty of water for her trail run, but not enough to survive on for 4 days.  Understandable.  However, it is good to air on the side of caution.  Always bring more water than you think you will need.  The worst that can happen is that you end up carrying more water than you should on your trail run.  It’s cool though, more weight equals better training.  It’s math.

Also make sure you have a good running partner.  Maria went out with a running partner but she passed him after he was throwing up.  When trail running try to find a running partner that is at about your same ability level as you to try to avoid being separated.  To be extra safe, find a running partner that is either a doctor or a wilderness survival expert.  Runners dig other runners with skills.

Lastly, if you still have the energy and the terrain allows you, try to find your way out.  Read these tips on how to find your way out back to civilization when lost on a trail run.  Believe it or not, there are some simple ways to find your way back to safety.

Overall, just be careful when trail running.  We at SeriousRunning.com are thankful that Mrs. Natera-Armenta is doing well now and should make a full recovery.  Please take the necessary percautions and stay stafe out on your next trail run.  Happy Trail Running!

Build Your Running Base

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

runner-running-by-himself

I was speaking with a friend last night who is getting back into running who asked me if I thought he could get back into good running shape.  He used to run 17 minute 5Ks in High School, which is pretty SeriousRunning, so I knew he had the knowledge of running and the ability to run well.  I told him that all he has to do is build his base back up.  Building your base is the most important thing to do when you start running, again, or for the first time.  Also I told him, male runners typically peak at about 28-30 years old so it was time for him, being 28, to get after it.  After your long distance running peak the next age mark in your life is 35 when you can become President.  After that, it’s all downhill.

Before you can get to the downhill you need to lay your groundwork.  You have to build your base by running distance.  The pace doesn’t even matter, building a base is all about logging on the miles.  Your mixture should be long easy runs with a bit shorter, easy runs for recovery, gradually increasing your overall mileage as you go.  This increase in mileage not only will give you the endurance to perform well during long races, but it will also give you the endurance to run fast at shorter distances without getting fatigued.  In running, endurance is everything.  From the distances of 400m and above, you must have endurance.  Build your base, increase your endurance, and go longer.  You’re such a stud.

Building your base is also a great way to build confidence in your running abilities.  You’ve got to run with confidence to run with swag.  Then let your swag do your running for you.  Once you run 3 miles you know you can do that at any time.  It’s the same for any distance.  I’ve built my base for 17 years and it gives me the confidence to run a 13.1 mile trail race this weekend even though I haven’t run more than 9 miles in the past 6 months due to injury.  Build your base and have the confidence to run any race, at any distance, at any time.  Be versatile.

When you first start running again, put on the distance, work your way up, and build your base before doing any speed work.  Everyone has to start from the bottom, build a proper base while you are there.

Note:  Listening to ‘Ace of Base’ while building your running base will not help you, in fact, studies have shown that it will decrease your work out benefits.

1st Annual XTERRA Fall Fitness 5K Trail Race

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

xtr_fall_fitness_logo_sm

If you’ve never tried trail running, this is your chance, the 1st Annual XTERRA Fall Fitness 5K Trail Race at the Gwinnett Environmental and Heritage Center.  Don’t be embarrassed, it’s the race’s first time too.  So why is this particular race a great one to start trail running?  Well first off, it is put on by Dirty Spokes Productions, LLC who hosts plenty of mountain bike and trail running events all over Georgia and Alabama.  Every one of their events are professionally planned with the customer in mind.  That is why they have planned this trail race event, to offer a fun trail run for those who live close to the city of Atlanta and want to try trail running.  Dirty Spokes Productions, LLC, giving the running community what they want.

The race will be held on the trails of the Gwinnett Enviromental and Heritage Center Trails in Buford, Georgia just outside of Atlanta.  The race will start on the street which is required for spacing.  Get a great position by racing to the tree line quickly and begin to run on moderate to easy single and double track; with about 1/2 mile of the course on paved roads if you’re into that sort of thing.  The trail has rolling hills and climbs perfect for any runner looking for a challenge at this fun and manageable distance of 3.1 miles.  Walkers are encouraged to participate too; however, they must be able to finish the course in a 16 minute per mile pace in order to get an official time.

Run faster than that and get an official time that nets you an award.  You deserve it for waking up at 6 in the morning to make it to the startline by 8:30 AM.  Awards will be handed out to the top three male and female runners as well as the top three in each male and female age category.

So hurry up and sign up for this trail running race!  Price is $25 from now until September 25th.  All runners registered before the late registration deadline are guaranteed a dri fit race T-shirt, a $25 dollar value in itself.  So sign up now and run this race for free!  Price increases to $30 after Sept 25th and is $35 on race day.  So register now to run your first trail race!  You’ll be hooked!  Be careful though, trail running can ruin you for roads.

Weight Training for Running

Monday, September 21st, 2009

Weight Training is important for all types of runners, even distance runners.  I’m taking some time off distance running due to an injury, but I’m not taking time off of getting my running body in the best possible shape.  Look out dumbbells!

weight-lifting-for-runners

In order to begin weight training for distance running you first need to decide on what parts of your body you want to focus on.  Upper back, shoulders, triceps, biceps, chest, hamstrings, calves; whatever, they all can help improve your distance running.  Once you decide which areas of your body you want to work on, you need to make a plan, just like your training plan for running.  This can be as detailed as how many reps you do at a certain weight on every exercise or as simple as keeping track mentally of what muscle groups you work out during each session.

For a novice weight lifter there are a couple of important things you should know before starting to weight train.  First is to maintain the proper mechanics to maximize your work out and not injury yourself.  If you aren’t sure how to do an exercise and an example is not posted in the gym, don’t attempt it.  While resting, watch other weight lifters to see how to properly do each exercise.  Just don’t stare too long or they might get offended.

Also while resting, rest.  Resting and recovery are very important for weight lifting.  Unlike running, when weight lifting you are able to rest some body parts while working others.  For instance, you can work out your upper body one day, then your lower body the next day to give your muscles some rest.  When lifting weights you make small micro tears in your muscles which increase strength but need time to heal.  The variety is also good for your muscles.  You need to make sure you change the exercises and weight in order  make micro tears in different muscles and keep your body guessing.  It’s tough to trick muscles, they have ‘muscle memory.’

For long distance runners it is best to lift lower weight with a lot of reps.  That doesn’t mean play around with a bunch of five pounders in front of everyone at the gym.  If you’re going to do that then just stay home.  Exercises such as 4 sets of 10 reps are usually perfect to give you endurance and the strength base you need.  You should be out of breath and not able to lift anymore by your last rep.  As a runner, you want to have muscle balance by working out every part of your body.  When lifting weights I like to put my main focus on the upper body because my lower body gets a good work out from running (when not injured).  I’ll write about specific exercises later…now that I got your all excited about lifting weights.

Lifting weights can really help you get into maximum running endurance and improve your overall body shape.  You may be a long distance runner, but you don’t have to look like one!

The Best Training Could Be Not Running

Friday, September 18th, 2009

Sometimes the best training is no training.  I’m going cold turkey.  I’m off running.  It’s the best thing for my training.  I began to realize this when my parents recently asked me, “How is the running going?” and my quick response was, “I think I’m going to become a professional walking.”  I have been frustrated with my running.  I developed Jumper’s Knee, or Patellar Tendonitis, about 4 months ago.  When that happened I took 3 weeks off of running.  It was a tough 3 weeks.  Then after an orthopedist told me I could start running a little bit again I started to run about 20 miles a week.  Well, it’s 4 months later and I haven’t been able to put 4 back to back days of running without taking a break.  I haven’t been able to run double digit mileage without severely hurting my knees.  So now I’m at Physical Therapist #2 and was told I should take 3 months off of running.  While I may not follow that advice explicitly it has motivated me to stop running.  I’m at my running peak and have goals I still want to accomplish.  I want to “take it easy” but stay fit so I can capitalize on my age and body when my knees recover.  I’m always capitalizing on something.

runner-with-medal-and-chest-out

Lift Weights: I’m going to start lifting weights more at the gym so I can do heavier weights.  Not only am I going to focus on muscles that help running, but I am also going to try to add mass to my overall upper body.  I have found that if you add mass, then back off heavy lifting and begin running a lot of miles it really cuts your body down to what muscles your body needs for running.  The rest of the mass is pure muscle and good for flexing or lifting heavy objects.

Stationary Bike: My physical therapist said the stationary bike would be good for me and even recommended taking a spin class.  I’m going to take a spin class at the local University.  There should be some ladies to keep me interested in spin class.  I think this is going to be the best cardiovascular work out for me while I’m not running…the spin class that is.

Swimming: I’ve tried this before and I didn’t really like it.  I like the feeling after a swim, that you’ve used all of your muscles.  I also like that it makes you really hunger, but swimming is boring.  Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.  There’s a reason why races are usually in a loop.  Water is so boring.  It’s main characteristic is “wet” and you can’t even quantify that.  All water is the same wetness!  Booor-ing.

Yoga: I don’t know about this one, the Physical Therapist suggested it.  Yoga does intrigue me and I do need to concentrate on my stretching.  I think I’m going to try it once at the local University too.  Yoga will be a challenge for me.  I am great at everything I do except balance.  I’m horrible at balancing.  And spending money.  I’m horrible at that too.  I was once the very first person called down to be a contestant on the Price is Right and never bid correctly on stage.  I never buy anything!

Trail Run: If I do any running it will only be on trails.  I love’em.  I’m thinking about doing it once a week.  It will be a little treat for not running all week.

Race: I’m going to still do some races and see how well I can perform.  I need to compete ito keep me motivated to work out in ways that are not in my comfort zone.  Who knows, maybe I’ll be faster than I was before….if that’s even possible.

Sometimes you’ve got to know when to hold them, know when to fold em.  Know when to walk away.

What Runners are the Fittest Athletes?

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

I came across this event, the Windstopper TrailRun WorldMasters, in which mountain runners, trail runners, marathon runners, and ultra runners will come together for a 3 day competition with each day’s event being a race of varying distances and difficulty.  The 3 day race will cover a total of 57 Kilometers (it’s being held in Dortmund, Germany hence kilometers).  This event brought up a question, ‘What type of runners are the fittest athletes?’  Sure we are all serious runners, but most runners prefer one type of running over the others.  For me, I prefer Trail Running.  Why?  Because I’m so extreme.

racing-trail-runners-at-start

So how can you judge these types of runners against each other?  What is the one standard race that is an equal playing field.  I’m not sure, but The Windstopper TrailRun WorldMasters is attempting to do it with a 4.5 kilometer (2.79617 miles) sprint race on Friday.  Then a long distance run of 34 kilometers (21.1266 miles) with a vertical distance of 710 meters on Saturday.  Ending with a final stage on Sunday of 19.9 kilometers (12.3652 miles) with a vertical distance of 315 meters.  These varying distances make the playing field somewhat even.  Let’s analyze how each type of runner may react to find out who the most fit runners are!

Mountain Runners: This group may be very well suited for this competition because of the vertical climbs in the last two stages of the race.  Also, Germany may attract a lot more Mountain Runners because of the sports popularity in Europe so the event may get some very elite Mountain Runners.  However, the sprint on Friday is going to very tough for these runners.  They are used to grinding it out up a mountain, walking when necessary; however, mountain runners do have the leg strength needed to run fast in shorter distances.  Look for Mountain Runners to do very well overall in this competition.

Trail Runners: Trail Running is such a broad and diverse sport that it will do well in this competition of varying distances and terrain.  Trail Runners must have the ability to run any distance for competition from 5Ks to Marathon distances.  With the distances of this competition mirroring those of what a typical Trail Runner may see in a season gives them a great chance in the finishing very high overall.  Likewise, all of the races in this competition will be on trails which will obviously be in Trail Runners’ favor.  One concern for Trail Runners is that over three days their bodies may get tired.  Often trail runners are not able to run on trails everyday so they must mix in some road running.  The wear and tear from running over rugged terrain for three days straight as well as two back to back longer races could prove exhausting for trail runners; however, the half marathon distance on the last day is definitely something that most Trail Runners would be able to push through if exhausted.

Marathon Runners: While these runners tend to be in overall great shape they run predominantly on the road.  Running on trails and over large amounts of elevation is not what they are trained for.  Also, the competitive aspect of trail running and road racing are quite different which will hurt Marathon runners in this competition.  With only one race being close to the marathon distance, I don’t expect Marathon Runners to fair very well against the rest of the competition overall.

Ultra Runners: Ultra Runners will do great over the three day period because of their endurance; however, but they will not have the speed to compete with the leaders of any of the events.  They will not do well in the first day sprint as their body has not been trained for this distance.  The second day marathon distance will obviously favor marathon runners and is still too short of a run for these endurance athletes.  Lastly, on the third day they will not have a fast enough pace for the half marathon.  Sorry Ultra Runners, but you just aren’t fast enough.

If I were a betting man, which I am, I would bet on an elite Trail Runner to win this competition.  Trail Running are so utility.  They can do everything well.