Monthly Archives: March 2017

Let’s Stretch!

Stretching, as defined by the National Strength and Conditioning Association, is “the application of force to musculotendinous structures in order to achieve a change in their length, usually for the purposes of improving joint range of motion, reducing stiffness or soreness, or preparing for activity.”

From what I’ve gathered, there is mixed advice on whether stretching post-exercise is helpful for reducing muscle soreness and enhancing recovery.  Although, it is clear that “losses in flexibility can result in a reduction of movement.”  I feel that if stretching works for you, then stick with it.  I do a few stretches after my runs and I think it helps keep my muscles flexible.  Of course, there are other reasons to stretch, such as increasing range of motion or for rehabilitation.

First, I’d like to go over contraindications to stretching.  A contraindication is “any condition that renders some particular movement, activity, or treatment improper or undesirable.” 

  • fracture site that is healing
  • acute soft-tissue injury
  • post-surgical conditions
  • joint hypermobility (easily moves beyond normal range)
  • area of infection
  • hematoma or other trauma
  • pain in affected area
  • restrictions from doctor
  • prolonged immobilization of muscle or connective tissue
  • presence of osteoporosis or rheumatoid arthritis
  • joint swelling
  • history of prolonged corticosteroid use

If you have any of these conditions, it’s important to get clearance from your medical provider before stretching in order to prevent injury.

There are several different types of stretches and each technique is helpful at different phases of your workout.  The stretch you use is dependent upon your goals and the benefits you are trying to gain.

Self-Myofascial Release:  Using a foam roller or similar device, this technique applies pressure to tight areas of fascia (fibrous tissue) trying to relieve tension and improve flexibility.  Initial evidence suggests that foam rolling helps decrease tightness and improve range of motion.  It is suggested to foam roll pre or post-exercise.

Static Stretching:  This is probably the most common.  You hold a stretch to the point of tension for 15-60 seconds.  Static stretching can be performed actively or passively.  An active stretch is when you apply added force to increase the intensity.  Passive is when a partner or device is used for added force for the stretch.  Static stretching is best done after a workout when your muscles are warm and elastic.

Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF):  This is when you stretch and contract the muscle being targeted.  There are three basic types:  hold-relax, contract-relax, and hold-relax with contraction.  PNF is a more advanced technique and is commonly used in rehabilitation or clinical settings.

Dynamic Stretching:  This stretch takes joints through their ranges of motion while continually moving.  These are great to do before running, or any sport, because you can imitate the movement pattern that is specific to your activity.  Some dynamic stretches to do before running are leg swings, high knees, hip circles, and walking lunges.

Ballistic Stretching:  This is a dynamic stretch that includes a bouncing motion.  This type of stretching can be good for some athletes, but it can lead to injury.  The bouncing can push beyond your normal range of motion, therefore ballistic stretching is not widely favored.

Active Isolated Stretching:  These stretches are never held for more than 2 seconds, then you release the stretch, return to starting position and repeat for several repetitions.  You increase the stretch a few degrees at a time, which lets the muscle gradually adjust.  This zeros in on the muscle and lengthens it.  These stretches are usually done in sets of a specified number of repetitions.  (An example is in the picture above)

Flexibility and improving range of motion is especially important for athletes.  Regular stretching may improve performance and lower the risk of musculoskeletal injuries.  I find that the older I get, the more important it is for me to incorporate stretching into my running routine.

Keep in mind that stretching should never be painful.  Also, remember to breathe!

Do you incorporate stretching into your routine?

What is your favorite stretch?

Have a great weekend!

*References:  ACE Personal Trainer Manuel; ACE’s Essentials of Exercise Science*



What about Micronutrients?

With all the talk about macronutrients, I thought that micronutrients deserved some attention.  As you probably know, macronutrients (carbs, protein, fats) are the body’s source of energy (calories) to fuel life processes.  Many health conscious people count their macros to either lose weight or to stay on track with healthy eating.  Micronutrients, as defined by the World Health Organization, are the “magic wands” needed in small amounts that enable the body to produce enzymes, hormones, and other substances essential for proper growth and development.

Micronutrients consist of vitamins, minerals, and water.  When we get the right amounts, it leads to optimal health and function.

VITAMINS

Vitamins are substances that your body needs in order to develop and grow normally.  There are 13 different vitamins that are essential.  We can get all of these through food with the exception of vitamin D, which we can self-produce with sun exposure and vitamin K and biotin, which can be made by normal intestinal flora (bacteria that live in the intestines).

The best way to get all the necessary vitamins is to eat a well balanced diet with a variety of foods.  In some cases, you might need to take a supplement, but it’s best to ask your medical provider.  High doses of some vitamins can be harmful and cause problems!

Vitamins are divided into 2 categories:  water- soluble and fat-soluble.   Water-soluble vitamins (with the exception of B6 & B12) cannot be stored in the body, so it’s necessary to maintain a consistent daily intake.  Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the liver or fat tissue and can be stored in the body for a long amount of time.

Here are the 13 different vitamins that we need and the best sources:

Water-soluble

  • thiamin (B1): fortified cereals and oatmeal, whole grains, meat, liver
  • riboflavin (B2): whole grains, leafy greens, organ meat, milk, eggs
  • niacin: fish, poultry, meat, peanuts, potatoes, eggs, dairy products
  • pantothentic acid: lean meats, whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits
  • folate: green leafy vegetables, organ meats, dried peas, beans, lentils
  • B6: fish,poultry, lean meats, banana, prunes, dried beans, avocado, whole grains
  • B12: meats, milk products, seafood
  • biotin: cereal/grain products, yeast, legumes, liver
  • vitamin C: citrus fruits, berries, vegetables (especially peppers)

Fat-soluble

  • vitamin A: yellow or orange fruits & vegetables, leafy greens, liver, dairy
  • vitamin D: sunlight, fortified milk, fish, eggs
  • vitamin E: nuts, wheat germ, leafy greens, multigrain cereals
  • vitamin K: green leafy vegetables, fruit, dairy, grains

MINERALS

Minerals are crucial for human life.  Our bodies use minerals to keep our bones, muscles, heart, and brain working accordingly.  Minerals are also important in making hormones and enzymes.  There are two categories of minerals:  macrominerals and microminerals (trace minerals).  We need larger amounts of macrominerals and smaller amounts of trace minerals.

Macrominerals and best sources:

  • calcium: leafy green vegetables, dairy products, fortified tofu
  • phosphorous: fish, meat, poultry, eggs, grains
  • magnesium: nuts, beans, green vegetables, whole grains
  • sodium: table salt
  • potassium: leafy greens, root vegetables, fruits
  • chloride: table salt, sea salt, seaweed, olives
  • sulfur: onions, garlic, eggs, meat, dairy

Trace Minerals

  • iron: liver, legumes, dried fruits, eggs
  • iodine: seafood, iodized salt
  • zinc: beef, pork, nuts, whole grains, legumes
  • selenium: vegetables, brazil nuts, fish, grains

There are various other minerals but they do not have an established dietary reference intake (DRI).

WATER

We might not think much about water, but it is considered a micronutrient!  Water provides no calories but it’s necessary to consume daily.  Water makes up 50-70% of body weight and performs many important jobs such as, regulating body temperature through perspiration, protecting vital organs, provides a driving force for nutrient absorption, and keeps a high blood volume for optimal athletic performance.

If we fail to get enough water throughout the day, we can become dehydrated due to our body fluids being out of balance.  How much water we need is different for everyone.  It is dependent upon age, weight and activity level.  Certain medical conditions can also determine your water needs.

What about Micronutrients? Click To Tweet

As you can see, getting the proper amount of micronutrients is extremely important for a healthy body.  Of course, it’s not as easy to track micros as it is to track your macros.  The best way to insure we are getting all our vitamins and minerals is to consume a balanced diet with a variety of foods.

Most studies have shown no significant connection between vitamin supplementation and improved health.  There are a few exceptions such as folic acid during pregnancy and calcium in the prevention of recurring precancerous colon polyps.  Of course, if you have a deficiency that was confirmed by your doctor, it’s important to get to the appropriate levels to help prevent medical problems.

*References:  ACE’s Essentials of Exercise Science;  MedlinePlus.gov*

 

Do you track Macros?

What do you do to insure you’re getting all of your micronutrients?

 



Feeling Safe on the Run

When I came across this article on the Runner’s World website, I quickly scrolled past it, ignored it and wanted it to go away.  I was heading out for a run and didn’t want to scare myself and feel unsafe.

The next day, after my long run, I read it.  I had to.  This is reality and I can’t ignore it.  It’s so unfair that we, as women runner’s, need to worry about feeling vulnerable and possibly being attacked on the run.  I typically do all my runs through a large subdivision near my house.  I also venture out on a path that is along side a fairly busy road.  All my runs are solo, but I never feel unsafe.  Dogs are more of a concern to me than being attacked by a person.

My mom suggested that I take a self-defense class.  She also read the article and of course is concerned for my safety.  Taking a self-defense class is a great idea which I’m going to look into.  I like to think that if I ever did get attacked, I would fight back with all my strength.  But you never know what you’ll do in a particular situation.

Apparently, this woman was running in a popular park and was attacked in a public restroom. (luckily she was able to defend herself and is ok) These attacks can happen anywhere.  We need to be aware of our surroundings at ALL times.

Years ago I purchased some pepper spray.  Not once did I take it running with me!  It eventually expired and I threw it away.  A lot of good that did.  Here are some tips I found to help keep you safe while running:

  • Run with a buddy or group
  • Always be aware of your surroundings
  • Ditch the headphones
  • Run with pepper spray (know how to use it)
  • Trust your gut
  • Change up your route
  • Be especially careful at night
  • Take a self-defense class

We, as women runner’s, need to be confident and learn how to defend ourselves.  I feel one of the best tips is to always be aware of your surroundings.  If you are zoning out listening to music, you can easily be caught off guard.  Also, altering your route is a good idea.  If someone notices your daily schedule it makes you an easier target.

Overall, I feel that we can run safely and not be intimidated by the stories we read.  After all, runners like to run!  We can’t stay inside and hide.  Don’t be afraid to run alone.  Take a class, be aware, and always trust your gut!

Do you run solo?

Have you ever taken a self-defense class?