Monday, October 25, 2010

Rest Before Race

If you are a runner, you have probably read or heard about tapering your activity in the week before a race. However, you may be wondering exactly how much to taper and when to start. It is not a perfect science and probably varies from person to person and with the length of the race. Here is my two cents based on research that I have read and personal experience.

First of all, when it comes to strength training, if I do lower body at all the week of the race, it would be Sunday or Monday at the latest (given that the race is Saturday morning). In addition to making it early in the week, I take it easy and just lift for maintenance. You won't find me trying to squat my all-time best that week! Taking a rest that week with strength training isn't a bad idea either. You don't want to risk injuries or sore muscles.

As far as cardiovascular exercise, I have tried several different methods and it really does depend on the length of the race. For a marathon, I would start tapering two weeks in advance. However, for the purposes of this particular post, let's say you're running a half-marathon or less. It is probably best to complete your last long training run two weeks before the half-marathon. After that, you can still run, but keep it to 5-6 miles at the most. In the week leading up to your race, consider shorter runs with the same intensity you plan to run your race. (As an aside, I think you'll always run faster in a race, thanks to adrenaline, but my point is that you should be running at a speed that you would be happy with during your race.) Some research suggests that people who run shorter distances, but with "race speed" do better on race day than those who run higher mileage at a more relaxed pace in the week leading up to the race. This may mean that during this week, you're only running 2 miles at a time, but with gusto. For the rest of your workout, cross-train or walk. Consider doing an easy workout on the elliptical or stationary bike.

Don't forget about rest! Rest is an integral part to any exercise or training regimen. I would suggest taking one to two days off before a race to allow your muscles rest. This doesn't mean you have to sit on the couch for two days straight, but keep your exercise to easy walking or the activities that are part of your normal day.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Halloween Temptations

Halloween is coming, kicking off the beginning of all the over-eating that takes place at the end of the year. How will you keep from eating your bucket of candy before all of the trick-or-treaters swing by your house? How will you ignore all of those left-overs? Here are some ideas to consider...

Don't even open the bag of candy until Halloween night so that you're not snacking on the treats before the date arrives.

Buy treats that don't really appeal to you so that you don't have to worry about self-control.

Consider buying treats that are a little less sugary and full of fat, such as mini-bags of pretzels. This isn't a bad idea for the sake of the kids either!

Don't go overboard when you buy your candy. Try to have enough, but don't worry if you run out early. Running out early wouldn't be the end of the world, and that way you won't end up with tons of left-overs to tempt you.

Allow yourself a small treat at the end of the trick-or-treating so that you have that to look forward to and you aren't snacking all night.

Stay away from the break-room the next day at work! I've noticed that a lot of people bring in their left-over candy to work the next day just so they won't be tempted. Make plans to eat at your desk or somewhere else the next day.

Happy Halloween!

Motivational Monday:

I'm not going to overeat candy on Halloween because it just isn't worth undoing all of the calorie-burn from my exercise today!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Could you be undoing your hard work at the gym?

It is certainly not uncommon for athletes to pop a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) after a hard workout, such as ibuprofen or aspirin. However, recent research tells us that this may be hindering the healing process in the muscle; therefore, degating your hard workout.

Basically, when you perform the eccentric phase (lengthening of a muscle) of any weight lifting activity, you are inducing damage to your muscles. When the muscle fibers heal, they essentially become stronger. So, it is in the healing process that actually makes your muscles stronger. NSAIDs suppress prostaglandin synthesis, which is necessary for protein synthesis. Without protein synthesis, your muscles cannot become stronger.

In summary, think twice before popping a pill to mask some muscle soreness. Instead, take it easy, give your muscles time to heal, and consider the soreness a workout well done!

There are some cases in which you may need an NSAID; and this should be discussed with your doctor.

Just a few research articles...

Effect of ibuprofen and acetaminophen on postexercise muscle protein synthesis.

Skeletal muscle PGF(2)(alpha) and PGE(2) in response to eccentric resistance exercise: influence of ibuprofen acetaminophen.

Motivational Monday:

I strength train to keep my bones from becoming brittle and prevent osteoporosis.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Sorry No Post!

Hello everyone!
I'm sorry that there was no post yesterday! I am recovering from a very yucky bug and was unable to sit down at the computer. Check back next Monday!