These training articles are a great resource for all runners who are running the Blue Cross Broad Street Run.
- Stay motivated.
- Train smart and safe.
- Avoid injury.
- Maintain proper nutrition.
Click on the sections below to see the articles, and then click on an article's title to open it.
Avoid these top mistakes in the gym
Making time to exercise is an important step toward improving your health. Learning how to avoid common workout mistakes is also important.
"Workouts can be challenging, and mistakes in the gym are common," says Cedric Bryant, chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise. "These mistakes can cause mild strains or significant injuries, but by improving your routine, you'll work out safer and have better results from your efforts."
Not progressing wisely — exercising too much, too hard, or too often instead of gradually working out longer and harder — is a common mistake made by many fitness enthusiasts. But it's not the only one.
Here are common exercise mistakes and suggestions for how to avoid them:
The all-or-nothing approach
It's a mistake to skip your workout just because you don't have your usual 45 minutes to an hour to exercise.
"The fact is, any amount of exercise is better than nothing," says Bryant. "Research shows even 10 minutes of brisk walking, for example, can provide important health benefits."
So even if you only have time to walk around the block, or to and from your car in the parking lot, take the time to exercise.
Unbalanced strength-training programs
Most people tend to focus on certain muscles, such as the abdominals or biceps, because they have a greater impact on appearance or it's where they feel strongest. But to achieve a strong, balanced body, you have to train all the major muscle groups.
Your workouts should include exercise to boost not only cardiovascular fitness or muscle strength, but also flexibility.
The surest way to injure yourself in a gym is to use bad form. Allowing the knee to extend beyond the toes during a lunge or squat, for example, can put too much stress on the knee. Choose shoes wisely. Buy shoes that are designed for your particular workout and your foot.
Not enough variety
Too many people find a routine or physical activity they like and then never change. But not changing workouts can lead to boredom and plateaus or, worse, injury or burnout.
Try not to do exactly the same workout two days in a row. Change-up your activities by walking one day and swimming the next, for instance. Varying your workouts exercises different sets of muscles.
"Repetitive stress injuries are common in people who do the same weight or running routine day after day because they're using the same tendons and muscles," Bryant says. "But people who cross-train or have several workouts to choose from on a given day achieve more well-rounded levels of fitness with fewer injuries."
Not adjusting machines
Most exercise equipment is designed to accommodate a wide range of body types and sizes. But it's up to you to adjust each machine to your body's unique needs. Using improperly adjusted machines will lead to less-than-optimal results and increase your risk for injury. Also, check the equipment to make sure it is properly maintained.
Dividing your focus
"Reading or watching TV can adversely affect the quality of your workout because the distraction can literally slow you down or cause a misstep," Bryant says. "However, listening to up-tempo music is an exception because it tends to keep your intensity higher than it would be if you weren't listening to it."
Not warming up or cooling down
Warm up for about 15 minutes before beginning your workout. If you run, for example, start out with a slow, gentle jog to gradually increase your heart rate and warm your muscles. Warming up helps prevent injuries and muscle soreness.
After your workout, take a few minutes to do lower-intensity exercise to lower your heart rate. Follow that up with stretching to improve flexibility.
Not setting realistic goals
Unrealistic and vaguely stated goals are among the leading causes of exercise dropout, but this can be avoided.
"Establish a training goal that's specific and appropriate for your fitness and skill levels — something a bit challenging but not overly difficult," Bryant says. "Checking in every so often with a trainer or an exercise physiologist can help you set attainable goals regarding weight loss or strength training that you can work toward and achieve safely." Follow the 10 percent rule. When you are ready to boost your workout to the next level, do so by no more than 10 percent a week. If you walk a mile, for instance, add no more than a tenth of a mile a week. If you are lifting weights, add a maximum of 10 percent per week.
Avoid these common training pitfalls
How you run is just as important as how far you run. Many new runners fall into one of the following traps:
- You run too hard, too far, or both. It's easy to believe that the harder you run, the better you'll do. Unfortunately, this is a recipe for burnout. Remember, your goal is not to "outdo" your last workout but rather to workout at an effective level (e.g., target heart rate, distance, tempo run).
- You never, ever vary your runs. Even a beginner's body will become accustomed to a daily routine and will put forth less effort for each workout. Try not to run the same run two days in a row. Tip: Vary something about your run every day, for example distance, speed, or hills.
- You're too faithful when it comes to running. Without some cross training, you're body will have a difficult time withstanding the demands of a long run. Take some time to work other parts of your body. Tip: Add 15 minutes to your workouts twice a week to train the weakest part of your body.
Components of a balanced exercise program
A good exercise program has three components: aerobic activity, strength training, and flexibility exercises. Each of these benefits your body in a different way.
- Aerobic activity improves your cardio-respiratory endurance, that is, the ability of your heart, lungs, blood vessels, and associated tissue to use oxygen to produce energy for activity. Activities include running, jogging, bicycling, swimming, power-walking, racquet sports, and rowing.
- Resistance exercises strengthen your muscles and bones and improve your body's ratio of lean muscle mass to fat. The stronger your muscles, the longer you will be able to keep going during aerobic activity and the less the chance you will have of getting injured. Activities include Pilates, elastic band, weight machine, and free-weight workouts.
- Flexibility training keeps your muscles stretched and your joints limber. Flexibility training has been shown to increase range of motion and decrease muscle soreness associated with exercise; it may also decrease exercise-related injury. Activities include traditional static stretching, yoga, and Pilates.
Putting it all together
Following the recommendations outlined by the surgeon general, you can build your program and determine which activities you will do each day and for how long.
- Aerobic activity: at least 30 minutes of moderately vigorous exercise
- Flexibility training: at least 5-10 minutes. Stretching can be incorporated into your warm-up before both aerobic and strength-training workouts. Keep in mind, however, that stretching "cold" before a workout will help you limber up, but it won't permanently lengthen your muscles or connective tissues. To achieve lasting effects, you need to stretch several times a week after your muscles are fully warmed up.
Twice a week
- Strength training: at least two sessions a week of strength exercises that include: 8-10 different exercises using the major muscle groups of the legs, trunk, chest, and shoulders. One or two sets of 8-12 repetitions each.
Together, these activities are the foundation for your exercise program. As your body adapts to this routine and it becomes fairly easy to accomplish, gradually make your workout more difficult. You can do this by adding repetitions, weight, or sets, or increasing intensity.
1996 Surgeon General's Report on Physical Activity and Health
The President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports: Exercise and Weight Control
Keeping your training interesting and fun
You've been training for a few weeks now, so the novelty of running might be starting to wear off. Waking up extra early may be getting a little harder, and the thought of bundling up to run outside after work is not as exciting. Well, you can put your worry and self-doubt away! This is perfectly normal. All it means is that the novelty of running is over and you are getting into the routine of your training program. Occasionally, not every runner feels like running. Like everything thing else, running has its lulls. But it's up to you to get yourself back in the game. Try these suggestions:
- Find a partner. A running partner will keep you honest. If you know that someone is relying on you to show up, you will be far less likely to skip your scheduled run. Running with a partner also can make longer runs go a lot faster.
- Run a race. Check out some of the upcoming races listed in the Lifestyle section below. Sometimes planning to run a shorter distance race before you run the Blue Cross Broad Street Run will help reinvigorate your training.
- Play games. Maybe getting out there is not the problem. Maybe you're just bored while you're running. Try tricking your brain: run as fast as you can to the tree or stop light, count three new things you have never seen before on that particular route, or catch up to a person running ahead of you. Your run will be over faster than you think.
- Play with the buttons. If you are on a treadmill (which is notorious for being boring), start playing with the buttons: increase your speed, give yourself an incline, or race your fellow treadmill runner (if you're at a gym). Not only will you finish a lot faster, but you will increase the efficiency of your workout. (Read about Interval Training by Coach Ken Turner in the Expert Advice section below.)
Leg cramps: what they are, what to do
Nothing puts a damper on exercise faster than a muscle cramp early in the going. Cramps in a calf are among the most common problems associated with exercise, especially in heat or humidity. But even though it's common, the cause remains uncertain.
Some experts believe muscle fatigue is the problem and point out that muscle cramping during exercise is most common among untrained athletes or early in an athletic season, before peak physical conditioning has been reached. Others suggest that dehydration and "electrolyte imbalance" are the most important triggers, although blood tests for common electrolytes (such as sodium and potassium) are typically normal.
In fact, in most cases there is no clear explanation for the problem. A notable exception is that for elite athletes or during prolonged, high-intensity exercise, dehydration and electrolyte imbalance do play a role.
So what's a well-intentioned exerciser to do? Warm up for five to ten minutes in the first part of your exercise routine, and gently stretch during and after exercise. Drink plenty of fluids, and start your exercise program slowly, building up endurance and strength gradually. It may be hard to predict when you'll get a cramp exercising, but they typically do go away and rarely cause any long-term impediment to exercise.
Nighttime leg cramps
The situation is remarkably common. You're sound asleep and suddenly you awaken with a stabbing, searing pain in the calf. Relief comes only by jumping out of bed and standing up.
If you have leg cramps at night (also called "nocturnal leg cramps"), getting out of the bed and walking around may help. Some persons find relief with heat (hot shower, hot bath, or heating pad) and massage, while others prefer cold packs (crushed or cubed ice in a plastic bag, wrapped in a towel). Try both and use the method that feels best for 20 minutes several times a day.
Stretching out a cramp
When you get a leg cramp, try the following stretches:
- When the spasm is in your foot, your toes may curl up or down. To stretch the muscle in spasm, bend your toes in the opposite direction.
- When the spasm is in your calf, bend the ankle upward to stretch the calf muscle.
- When the spasm is in your thigh, bend or straighten the knee and hip until you feel relief.
Hold the stretch for 5-30 seconds, rest for one minute, and repeat until the spasm is relieved and does not feel like it will return — it may take several minutes or more.
Foot care: Put your best foot forward
As a distance runner, your feet take a beating daily and, if not cared for properly, can become uncomfortable and unsightly. Give them a little TLC, and they'll repay you with miles of comfortable runs.
- Wash your feet everyday and after every run. Be sure to dry between your toes. Use talcum powder, cornstarch, or foot powder to keep the skin between your toes dry.
- Rub a thin coat of skin lotion on the tops and bottoms of your feet. Do not put lotion or cream between your toes, because this might cause an infection.
- Trim your toenails regularly with clippers after you wash and dry your feet. Trim toenails straight across and smooth them with an emery board or nail file. Do not cut into the corners of the toenail.
- Use a pumice stone to smooth calluses after washing your feet. Pumice is a type of rock used to smooth the skin. Rub gently, only in one direction, to avoid tearing the skin.
NOTE: Do not cut off calluses. Your calluses are your protection against blisters!
The moist and warm conditions inside a running shoe are perfect for blisters. If you find you are developing a blister, your goal is to keep it from getting bigger and avoid infection.
- If the blister is small, unbroken, and doesn't hurt, you can leave it alone. The best protection against infection is the blister's own skin. Simply protect the skin with a Band-Aid® or an over-the-counter blister pad.
- If the blister is large and painful, it should be drained without removing the skin. You can drain your own blister or ask your doctor to do it for you.
To drain a blister:
- Clean both the blister and a needle with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
- Use the needle to puncture the edge of the blister gently. Press the fluid in the blister toward the hole you made. Do not remove the flap of skin covering the blister. Gently smooth it flat over the tender skin underneath.
- Wash the blister after you have drained it, and pat it dry. Apply an antibiotic ointment and a Band-Aid or over-the-counter blister cover. The ointment will prevent the bandage from sticking to the blister and may help prevent infection.
- If the blister has already broken, wash and dry it well. Do not remove the flap of skin covering the blister. Apply an antibiotic ointment and a Band-Aid or over-the-counter blister cover.
Wear socks made from polypropylene or other new synthetics. They wick moisture away from the skin more effectively than wool or cotton.
Keep your feet dry during runs. Try to avoid puddles and running through a "spray station" on race day.
Toenail care (a.k.a. separation anxiety)
It's not uncommon for a runner to find a toenail (or two) has separated from the nail bed. And while often this is just an unpleasant side effect of running, there are some things you can do to prevent your nails from separating or lifting.
- Make sure your shoes fit well. Shoes that are too large or small can cause repetitive "toe stubbing."
- Keep toenails well trimmed. Overgrown toenails can catch on the inside of the shoe.
If your nail has turned black but has not separated from the nail bed, the best thing to do is keep it clean and let the dead nail grow out.
If your nail has separated from the nail bed, the usual treatment involves removing the nail, keeping the area dry to prevent infection, and waiting for a new nail to grow. If there is an infection, that will also need to be treated. Do not attempt to remove your own toenail — best to let your physician handle it.
Once a nail separates from the nail bed, it will not reattach. A new nail will have to grow back in its place. Nails grow back slowly. It can take 12-18 months for a toenail to grow back.
Note: If at any time your nail becomes painful, swollen, or infected, consult your health care provider.
Relaxing after the race
Congratulations! You made it past race day, but that doesn't mean the excitement is over. The next few days are all about recovering from the race and basking in the glory of your accomplishment. It is also a great time to review how you did on race day and start setting goals for your next race or event.
Learn from your run
If you kept a training log, now is a good time to record your race-day performance. Make a note of your pre-race goals and if you met them or not. Think about what led to your success or stood in your way. What would you do differently if you raced this course again?
Other information you might want to include in your race-day log entry include:
- your overall time and place;
- your pace and how and when it varied;
- thoughts on how you could improve your performance;
- the sneakers and clothes you wore;
- your pre-race meal and anything you consumed during the race;
- the weather and temperature;
- what you did for a cool down;
- whether or not you would run this race again next year.
Calculate your pace
If you haven't figured it out yet, go ahead and calculate your average speed per mile. Simply divide your finish time (in minutes) by 10. For example, a finish time of 83 minutes equals an average pace of 8.3 minutes per mile. You can find your official finish time on the Blue Cross Broad Street Run's website, under the Results tab in the navigation.
Look at the big picture
If a picture speaks a thousand words, how many miles is a finish-line picture worth? Take a peak at your finish-line photo. Order a few copies — or a few million — to wow your mom, amaze your friends, and remind yourself that you did it!
Tune up your warm-up
A proper warm-up should mimic the activity you're about to do.
If you think a few toe touches can prepare your body for exercise and ward off injury, you're just stretching the truth.
A 2004 report in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that stretching before a workout has no effect on the frequency of injury. That conclusion was based on a review of 350 studies done throughout the United States and Europe. "The good news is that there may be better things for you to do to avoid injury," says lead researcher Stephen B. Thacker, M.D., director of the epidemiology program office at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The key to preparing for exercise is warming up.
We often think stretching and warming up are one and the same. They're actually quite different. Warming up involves low-intensity movements that prepare the muscles for stress and kick-start the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Static stretching, the type most of us do when we "warm up," simply increases or maintains the limbs' range of motion.
Mimic the activity
So what kinds of movements should you do? Patrick Hagerman, Ph.D., assistant professor of exercise and sports science at the University of Tulsa, says you should try to mimic the activity you're about to do.
For jogging or running, that means walking briskly. To bike or swim, start out easy and build slowly to full intensity. For team sports like basketball, run through all the movements you'll perform: shooting, dribbling, passing, and running. Before doing strength training, lift a practice set at half the weight.
"Warming up doesn't have to take long," says Dr. Hagerman. "It can be anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes. The important thing is to get blood flowing to the muscles you are going to work out. Warm muscles are more pliant and less likely to suffer sprains and strains."
While stretching alone may not prevent injury, it can help you maintain your body's range of motion. The key is not to begin your pre-workout routine with stretches that may damage muscles that aren't ready.
"You definitely need to get the body warmed up before you stretch," says Jim Turk, assistant athletic trainer at the University of Illinois. That's why most athletes stretch either midway through their warm-up or after their workout. "I stretch after I run," Dr. Thacker says. "Mainly I do it because it feels good."
Ed McFarland, an associate professor of sports medicine at Johns Hopkins University, says stretching offers the most benefit in your warm-up if you've suffered a past injury. You don't have the same functioning of the muscle once it's been torn or strained," he says. "It's just tighter, and you almost have to warm up and stretch the part of the body that's been affected in order for it to perform."
Cold weather can make it harder to warm up. Before you head out, warm up indoors. Try jogging in place, for instance.
"Nothing can totally prevent injuries, but warming up is a safeguard," Dr. Hagerman says. "Think of it as a little bit of insurance."
A cool warm up
Strength and conditioning coach Tom Kelso devised this warm-up routine for athletes at the University of Illinois at Chicago. It combines dynamic movements — 20 yards out from a starting point and then back — with stretches that work major muscle groups. Walk as if lunging, taking slow, exaggerated steps.
- Bend at the hips, back straight, touching shins or toes. Hold for 10-15 seconds. Do two repetitions. This stretches the hamstrings.
- Walk backward, striding as far as possible.
- Squat to right and left, keeping the opposite leg straight, to stretch the groin muscles. Hold for 10-15 seconds, two repetitions on each side.
- Simulate walking over high hurdles. Lift one leg, then the other. Rotate the hip.
- Hold on to a partner or a wall. Reach behind you and grab your ankle, gently pulling up to stretch the quadriceps muscles. Stretch each leg twice.
- Walk slowly sideways, extending the lead leg as far as comfortable. Lead with the right leg going out and the left leg coming back.
- Sit down and stretch the legs wide. Stretch to the right, center, and left.
- Do powerful skips. Swing one leg out as if taking off for the long jump. Lead with one leg, then the other.
- Loosen your upper body by swinging your arms and rotating your trunk.
- Sprint 30 yards.
The routine should take about 15 minutes. Mr. Kelso says the varied activities help hold athletes' interest.
"The problem with just stretching is that it's a bit boring," he says. "This way we keep them moving the whole time. And you know what? We had a pretty good year injury-wise."
Beginning your training: what to expect
Let your body adjust to running; start slowly and stretch at the end of each run.
Welcome to the club! You will learn fast that being a runner means being a part of a larger running community. As you start training, you will find that you meet many fellow runners. No doubt they will want to share their running experiences, hear about yours, offer training advice, and wish you good luck. Well, we're no different from those fellow runners...and we want to help you, too. Here are some tips to help you get started with your running program:
- Be sure to warm up. Tight muscles are prone to injury (especially in colder conditions).
- Start slowly. This warms up your muscles and gets you used to the running movement. Moreover, easing your way into a pace is also encouraging -- people tend to run longer if they start out slower.
- Wear a watch. Start to learn your pace (how long it takes you to run a mile). Some miles will be faster than others. Figuring out your speed is valuable; you can learn which are your faster miles, you can allot the right amount of time for a run on a busy day, and you can seek running partners whose pace is the same as yours.
- Eat and drink for your run. Learn more about what and when to eat and drink in the Nutrition section below.
- Stretch after you run. If this is new for you, it is extremely important to let your muscles lean out after a run.
Tap into the performance-enhancing benefits of breakfast.
Your mother was right; it is important to start your day with a good breakfast. But the hearty feast of bacon and eggs that you may remember from your youth is hardly a good start by today's standards, and the doughnut and coffee of today's fast-paced world are no better.
A good breakfast can lend a hand with a successful workout. Without proper fuel, glycogen and blood-glucose levels can fall to dangerously low levels, which will affect your energy levels when you're running.
Cereal: the heart of the matter
Cereal is a great choice for breakfast but, only if you choose the right one. Unfortunately, most cereals are made from refined grains, and many are laced with extra sugar. Don't be misled by bold print that boasts about vitamins, minerals, or even whole grains. You should focus on two criteria: fiber content and personal preference. Look for a cereal that provides at least 6 grams of fiber per portion — 10-12 grams would be even better. You'll still need lots of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds later in the day to meet your target of 25-30 grams.
Bread and toast are American breakfast traditions. If you like them, choose whole wheat or pumpernickel bread, which have a low glycemic index. Bran muffins are tricky; some are high in fat, and most provide only a few grams of fiber. Bagels are low in fat (unless you cover them with cream cheese) but very low in fiber. Overall, there's nothing wrong with any of these baked goods — unless they displace your breakfast cereal.
Breakfast spreads present opportunities as well as perils. Avoid the regular use of butter (saturated fat) and stick margarine (trans fat). Honey and jam have no fat but are too sugary for daily use in large amounts. Soft margarine from a tub is acceptable, but plant stanol margarines such as Benecol® and Promise® are even better since regular use will help lower LDL cholesterol levels.
The best diets include at least two to four portions of fruit a day. Breakfast presents a great opportunity to take the first step toward that goal. Pick the fruits you like best; there are no bad choices.
Conflicting messages have scrambled the traditional wisdom about eggs, and modern nutritional science has not yet cracked the problem. An average egg contains 213 mg of cholesterol and 5 grams of fat, virtually all in the yolk. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends a daily consumption of just 300 mg or less of cholesterol, or 200 mg for people with high blood cholesterols. It's a sound recommendation, and it's taken eggs off the heart-healthy breakfast table. Fortunately, egg substitutes can be used to make fine baked goods and even omelets and scrambled "eggs."
Watch the sugar and fat content of what you drink with your breakfast. Choose low- or non-fat milk for your cereal, coffee, and tea. If you drink juice, look for those that are not made from concentrate and have no added sugars or high fructose corn syrup. Caffeinated beverages are also okay unless you experience unpleasant side effects such as heartburn, palpitations, or headaches.
There is little debate about the healthfulness of some of the other breakfast choices. Doughnuts, croissants, waffles, and fried potatoes have too much fat. Processed meats, including bacon, ham, and sausage, have too much fat and salt. And the fast food breakfasts have too much of everything (except, of course, fiber).
Breakfast and your belly
Many people assume that skipping meals will help them lose weight. It's not true, particularly if the missed meal is breakfast. For example, a study of 16,452 American adults found that breakfast eaters were leaner than breakfast skippers — and people who ate cereal for breakfast were leaner than those who ate meat or eggs. A study of 2,831 young adults agreed, finding that people who ate breakfast regularly were only half as likely to be obese as those who usually skipped it. And a smaller Massachusetts study reported that skipping breakfast was associated with a fourfold increase in the risk of obesity. Not surprisingly, eating breakfast at home was more beneficial than eating out.
A good breakfast is an ideal way to start changing to a healthful diet. The food choices are simple, and you can measure your progress quite easily. Experiment until you find a healthful breakfast you can really enjoy. And if you eat right and stay healthy, you can afford to "cheat" from time to time.
Pay attention to your thirst before, during, and after your workout.
Fluid replacement and exercise
Sport and athletic associations have stopped promoting the old mantra of "drink as much as possible." Instead, they have stressed the importance of proper fluid intake before, during, and after exercise.
How your body maintains fluid balance
The amount of water and salt in our bodies is balanced by an intricate system of hormones regulated by the kidneys and nervous system. During exercise, we increase our heart rate and the volume of blood pumped out of the heart with each beat. This is called cardiac output. With strenuous exercise, cardiac output can increase from 5-25 quarts per minute. Our bodies need a full tank of salt and water within our bloodstream to make this happen.
Meanwhile, as body temperature rises during exercise, we sweat to release the heat. Also, we breathe faster and harder, which causes more water loss. The body's response to the fluid loss is to tell our kidneys to hold on to all of the fluid they can. One of the key hormones that makes this happen is called ADH, or anti-diuretic hormone. ADH levels rise in response to fluid loss by telling the kidneys not to excrete water. So the amount of water relative to salt content in the blood rises, lowering the concentration of sodium.
How much water should you drink?
Attention to proper hydration starts before you exercise. Drink 16 ounces of fluid over 15-30 minutes, ending two hours prior to your planned exercise start time. If you have been eating normally with at least a little salt, then plain water is fine. If not, consider a sports drink or adding a pinch of salt and sugar to the water.
For moderate exercise lasting up to an hour, you can usually rely on thirst to drive your fluid intake. The exception is exercising outdoors in very hot or cold weather, when you should drink a little extra beyond thirst.
If you exercise regularly for longer than one hour at a time or plan to compete in a long-distance event, you should make a more accurate assessment of your personal fluid needs. A simple estimate can be made by measuring change in body weight. Empty your bladder and get on the scale in dry clothing. Exercise for one hour at your usual or expected pace. Measure the exact amount of water that you drink during the test hour. Empty your bladder again and dry off any excess sweat. Put on the same dry clothes you wore for the initial weight and get back on the scale.
The amount of fluid you need per hour of exercise equals the number of ounces you drank plus the difference in ending vs. starting weight. (One pound equals 16 ounces of fluid.)
After you finish competing or working out, pay attention to thirst and keep drinking until urine color returns to normal — usually a pale yellow.
Regarding the type of fluid to drink, sports drinks or homemade solutions with a little sugar and salt are not necessary unless you plan to exercise for more than a couple of hours. Some people, however, feel more energized using these drinks with even less strenuous workouts.
Race course water stations
There will be plenty of water stations along the Blue Cross Broad Street Run course. Gatorade will also be provided at the 2.2-, 6.1-, 7.8-, and 8.5-mile water stations and at the finish. The Gatorade will be in bright green cups on the left side of the last tables of each station. Bottled water will be available at the finish line.
The water stations are located at the following mile marks:
- 2.2 miles
- 4.2 miles
- 4.9 miles
- 5.2 miles
- 6.1 miles
- 6.8 miles
- 7.8 miles
- 8.5 miles
- 9.1 miles
Eat and run
Make sure your body has the fuel it needs to go the distance.
How well you eat before a race will have a big affect on how well you perform during the race. Here are some tips and suggestions that will help you fuel your body properly.
Two to three days prior to the race
Your diet should emphasize complex carbohydrates more than usual, with low amounts of fat and moderate protein.
Drink plenty of water.
Don't restrict your salt intake. Snacking on salted popcorn and pretzels will help keep your sodium levels up.
Eat a light, easily digestible meal three hours before the race (you may have to set your alarm clock for this one). Try bananas, oatmeal, or yogurt (avoid high fiber foods). If this will be too much for your stomach, try a sports drink instead.
In the three hours before the race, drink only water.
Don't try anything new; stick with food you know. Avoid eating the promotional samples at the start or finish line.
Be sure to drink during the race â¬. but don't try to gulp down water while you run. Stop at the water stations or at least slow down to a walk.
After the race
Continue to drink plenty of water.
Eat a bagel or sports bar about 15-20 minutes after the race.
Graze on complex carbohydrates for the next 24 hours.
In the end, it's best to stick with what you know. If you want to try different food, be sure to give them a "test run" in the two weeks before the race.
Give your body the fuel it needs when it needs it.
Complex carbohydrates are exceptional sources of energy.
One of the best things runners can do for themselves is to properly fuel their bodies. Whether you run to maintain your overall health and fitness or you are looking to lose some weight, here are some tips about food — how much you should be eating and when you should be eating for optimal running performance.
Stay hydrated. Start drinking water at the beginning of and throughout each day so that you are well hydrated when you are ready to run. Remember, it's a good idea to avoid coffee and alcohol when you're training as they can have a diuretic effect.
Choose your carbohydrates carefully. Carbohydrates are a great source of fuel, but stick to complex carbohydrates (think fruits, vegetables, bread, pasta, and legumes) and avoid simple carbohydrates (think foods that are prepared with sugar, honey, or jelly).
Try not to run on empty, or your body and performance will suffer. Aim to eat a high-carbohydrate meal or snack about two to four hours before training and a carbohydrate-rich snack shortly after exercise.
How do you fuel your workout?
Make sure your body has the fuel it needs to go the distance.
Energy bars, fitness drinks, protein powders, sports supplements — are these the best ways to power your workout? Here's the scoop on which foods can help fuel your fitness efforts.
What should I eat before a workout?
Your body needs fuel for exercise, but eating a large meal right before working out can cause discomfort. The exercising of muscles causes blood to be drained away from the stomach, slowing digestion, which could result in an upset stomach. To avoid this, wait one to four hours after a meal before exercising. The larger the meal, the longer you should wait. If you haven't eaten in several hours, however, your fuel tank will be on empty. A small snack (such as yogurt, half a bagel, or a piece of fruit) eaten 30-60 minutes before exercise will boost flagging blood sugar levels without causing you nausea or indigestion.
Carbohydrate is your body's preferred fuel, so include whole grains, starchy vegetables, fruit, or nonfat or low-fat dairy products in meals and snacks eaten before a workout. Liquid meals, such as milk and fruit smoothies, are also an option. Avoid high-fat foods because they slow digestion.
Are energy bars a good choice?
Energy bars are convenient, but they're not magical. Their "energy" comes from about 250 calories worth of carbohydrates, fat, and protein. The small amount of special ingredients such as ginseng and ginkgo in some bars won't provide any additional energy boost. Choose low-fat bars with no more than 20 grams of protein. Or try a bagel, yogurt and fruit, or fig bars — they will give you just as much energy and cost less.
Do I need a sports drink?
Sports drinks replace fluid lost in sweat and provide carbohydrates for energy. Drink them if your workout is strenuous and lasts more than an hour or if you sweat profusely. Sports drinks fall into two main categories:
- High-carbohydrate sports drinks. These usually contain at least 10 percent carbohydrates. These are meant to be used before, not during, exercise.
- Thirst-quenching and hydrating sports drinks. These are meant to be used during and after exercise. These usually contain four to eight percent carbohydrates, making them low-carb drinks. The sodium levels range from 10-25 mmol/L (relatively low but safe). These drinks are available in carbonated and non-carbonated forms and caffeinated and caffeine-free forms.
Factors to consider
When deciding which drink to buy, keep these points in mind:
- Brand for brand, there's not much difference among the sports drinks in terms of their ability to quench your thirst or rehydrate you.
- Sports drinks do improve performance in both intermittent and continuing moderate- to high-intensity sports. The benefits are greatest for trained athletes and less so for recreational exercisers.
- If you are thinking of buying a high-carb drink, you should know that drinks with 10 percent or more carbohydrates might slow down your digestive process. Your stomach may feel increasingly full, but you won't get the benefits of rehydration.
- Drinks containing a high level of fructose may cause gas, bloating, or cramps.
- The caffeine in sports drinks doesn't appear to interfere with their ability to rehydrate.
- The flavor of the drink and how much sodium it contains may affect how much fluid you drink.
Will sports supplements give me an edge?
Sports supplements, such as creatine, abound, but most have not been proven to boost performance. Amino acids do not appear to build muscle any better than the more balanced protein in food. Skip the protein powders, too. Serious athletes need slightly more protein than others do, but most people get plenty of protein from food. Chromium picolinate is touted for muscle building, too, but the research is unclear.
Creatine, found in meat, fish, and poultry, is also made in the body from amino acids. A few studies show that it improves performance in activities like sprinting and jumping that require short bursts of energy. But it won't help recreational exercisers or endurance athletes.
Bottom line: Whether you're a weekend warrior or a seasoned athlete, your best performance comes from eating a balanced diet and drinking plenty of fluids.
How much water?
Calculate how much water your body needs to stay hydrated for your daily workouts.
You know that water is your best source of hydration. But did you know that the human body cannot store water and that it must be replaced and kept in balance daily? Take a few minutes now to calculate your individual hydration needs.
- Divide your weight by half. If you weigh 180 pounds, you should try to drink 90 ounces of water per day. This is the amount of water you need to drink to make up for your normal daily activities. This doesn't take running into account.*
- Add another 8 ounces of water for each half-hour of exercise that day. If you run for 45 minutes, round up to 16 ounces of additional water.
- During continuous workouts of more than 90 minutes, your body may benefit from a sports drink; sports drinks replace electrolytes lost through sweat during workouts lasting several hours.â¬
* The Food and Nutrition Board. February 11, 2004. Dietary Reference Intakes: Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate. Retrieved March 12, 2007, from The Institute of Medicine website.
â¬ Fast Facts About Sports Nutrition: Water, Water Everywhere. Retrieved March 12, 2007, from The President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports website.
Give your body what it needs to recover fully from the race.
After the race, your primary focus should be on rehydrating your body. On the day of the race, sports drinks were helpful to replace the fluids and salts you lost through perspiration, but after that first day, plain water — and lots of it — is all you need.
Also in the days following the race, you should concentrate on filling up your energy stores. A balanced diet of complex carbohydrates to replenish your glycogen stores and protein to rebuild the muscle you broke down during the race will help you refuel effectively, ensure a quick recovery, and get you back out on the road in no time.
For the first few days post race:
- drink before you feel thirsty;
- avoid caffeine and alcohol as they can have a diuretic effect;
- drink water until your urine maintains a pale yellow color;
- make sure you get protein to help your muscles recover — choose lean meats, low fat dairy, or beans and legumes;
- indulge your food cravings moderately — the first few days after the race are not the time to diet.
How quickly you recover from the Blue Cross Broad Street Run depends on many factors — and your nutrition and hydration are key factors that can work together to help you recover better and keep you strong.
Vitamin supplements: Who needs them?
Vitamin supplements promise the world, and it seems logical that with all the added training you're doing, your body would need some additional vitamin supplements, right? So what could be the harm in taking a few?
Before you pop a mega dose of anything, consider the following:
- Even though training certainly puts added stress on your body, it doesn't increase your need for vitamins.
- Believe it or not, all people (from elite athletes to couch potatoes) have the same vitamin needs.
- What does differ from person to person are calorie and fluid requirements. That is why, as you train, it is important that you eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and drink enough water to help to ensure that your diet meets these increased needs.
- High doses of some vitamins, such as A and E, can make you ill or may increase your risk of developing other health problems.
- While a good multivitamin is considered to be relatively risk-free, most experts agree that it is best to get your vitamins from eating a variety of foods rather than taking pills.
- Vitamin and mineral supplements are needed only in special situations, for example vegetarian diets or those who avoid an entire group of foods (e.g., never eat dairy products).
- Always consult with your physician before taking more than the recommended dose of any vitamin or mineral.
Who really benefits from sports drinks?
What are sports drinks?
Sports drinks are beverages designed to provide small amounts of various sugars (carbohydrates), which our bodies can use while exercising. They also improve hydration by replacing electrolytes (sodium, potassium, and chloride), which we lose as we sweat during exercise.
Sports drinks were originally developed to aid athletes who were practicing for extended periods of time in the Florida heat. They were not intended for the recreational athlete or spectator. Sports drinks can help athletes stay hydrated, replenish electrolytes, and boost energy levels by replenishing glycogen stores. During exercise, our bodies utilize glucose from recent meals we have eaten or mobilize glycogen stores to fuel the working muscles. During longer exercise (exercise that continues past one hour), it is more likely that blood glucose will be used to help supply energy for the working muscles. Sports drinks can help improve endurance and enhance performance by preventing the depletion of glycogen — the number one cause of fatigue.
Who needs sports drinks?
If you're exercising for less than an hour, water is sufficient. If you're exercising for longer than that at a moderate to high intensity, you may want to consider a sports drink. Sports drinks have no purpose if you are just sitting and watching a game or if you're consuming them with a snack or meal. Ounce for ounce, they contain about half the calories and sugar of fruit juice or regular soda and can quickly add calories to your diet.
How do I choose a sports drink?
Look for one that contains 6 percent to 8 percent carbohydrate. The higher the carbohydrate content, the slower the rate of gastric emptying or speed at which food and fluids leave the stomach. Sports drinks that contain more than 8 percent carbohydrate may cause nausea, cramping, and diarrhea.
Is there a downside to sports drinks?
If you're not training for a marathon or exercising in the heat for an extended period, sports drinks may be doing no more than contributing excess calories to your diet. This can lead to weight gain.
What about water?
Water is still the best sports drink for those recreational athletes who are exercising less than an hour on most days. It's inexpensive, readily available, and doesn't have any calories. If you prefer a little flavor, look for "fitness waters" that provide the necessary fluid for proper hydration along with some flavor but few calories (10 calories per 8 ounces).
Our bodies are very efficient at cooling us down and regulating our body temperature by releasing fluid and electrolytes through sweat. Dehydration can be a major problem that significantly impairs performance. A loss of just one to two percent of body weight in sweat can reduce performance. Don't rely on thirst alone as an indicator of hydration. By the time you are thirsty, fatigue and dehydration have already set in, making it difficult to perform at a peak level.
How to stay well hydrated
These guidelines from the American College of Sports Medicine will help keep you well hydrated during exercise:
- Eat a high-carbohydrate (whole grain breads, pasta, cereal, and fruit), low-fat diet and drink plenty of fluids between exercise sessions. Avoid fluids that contain sugar, caffeine, or alcohol.
- Drink 17 ounces (2+ cups) of fluid two hours before exercise.
- Drink every 15 minutes during exercise.
- Keep drinks cooler than air temperature and close at hand (a water bottle is ideal).
Keep in mind: If you exercise for more than 60 minutes, you should take 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrate per hour to delay fatigue and fuel muscle contractions. Sport drinks, bars, and gels are a good first choice, but simple carbohydrates, such as bananas, pretzels, or fig cookies work as well.
Safety and Prevention
Avoid these common running injuries.
Running is a great way to get in shape. However, it can also lead to injuries. Knowing about common injuries and how to prevent them can keep you on track toward achieving your fitness goals.
Try the following strategies to prevent injuries.
- See your doctor for a physical. Certain health problems may hamper your running performance and increase your risk of injury. Specifically, osteoporosis, arthritis, and other degenerative joint diseases can increase injury risk and should be addressed before you start to run.
- If you warm up before you run and stretch after you run, you can prevent some of the most common injuries. Begin each run at the pace of a brisk walk or gentle jog; cool down at the same pace at the end of your run. It's most important to stretch muscles that move joints. These include the calf muscle, which moves the knee and ankle, and the hamstring, which moves the knee and hip.
- Wear the correct shoes. Buying shoes at an athletic store where a salesclerk can help you choose a shoe that fits your foot type can also help prevent injuries.
The following injuries are common among runners: