Monthly Archives: March 2017

Exercises to become a better runner

There are a variety of exercises that can be performed in order to strengthen the appropriate muscles to improve your running economy and decrease your risk for running induced injuries.  Runners need to focus on strengthening that will keep their body well balanced.

Planks can be performed in order to improve core strength, lower back strength and shoulder strength.  In order to perform a plank exercise you will prop yourself up on your elbows with your feet slightly apart.  You need to make sure your body is aligned and you keep your abdominal muscles tight and your shoulders are directly above the elbows. You will hold this position for 45 seconds to 1 minute (holding as long as possible, taking quick breaks when necessary) and then add time as you get stronger. You can perform 3 to 5 reps. You can modify this exercise to include side planks that target the obliques, single leg planks, mountain climber planks and supine planks.

 Another helpful core exercise for ruce athletenners is windshield wipers.  In order to perform this exercise lie on your back with your upper legs perpendicular to the floor with your knees bent to 90-degrees.  Keep the bend in your hips and knees and lower your legs to the left and then bring them back to the starting position and repeat to the right side of your body.  Make sure to keep your shoulders in contact with the floor.  Perform 10 to 12 repetitions. You can make it harder by keeping your legs straight. Build up to 1-4 sets.

Back extensions can be performed in order to strengthen the lower back, glutes, middle back and shoulders. In order to perform this exercise lie face down on a stability ball with your feet spread wide for balance.  Your elbows should be bent with your hands lightly touching the ground for initial support.  Then squeeze your glutes and lift your torso up until your body forms a straight line.  As you lift up your torso, allow your hands to come off the ground and keep your elbows bent.  Extend your arms overhead and then hold for one to two seconds.  Relax your arms and then your torso back down to the start position. Perform 10-12 repetitions.  You can also perform this exercise on a mat by raising your thighs and arms off the ground while your torso stays in contact with the ground. To make it harder your can hold light dumbbells. Build up to 1-4 sets.

Squats with overhead prescan be performed to strengthen glutes, quads, hamstrings, lower back, upper back and shoulders.  You can hold weight- either dumbbells or kettebells – in both hands in front of your chest.  Stand with your feet hip-width apart and push your hips back like you are going to sit in a chair. Lower your body into a squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor (use less depth if form starts to suffer). Press the weight overhead and as you stand back up return the weight to the original position.  You can also do the squat without the overhead raise by just keeping the weight in the center chest position.  Perform 10-12 repetitions. Build up to 1-4 sets.

Overhead lunges are performed to strengthen quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, shoulders and core.  Hold a pair of dumbbells straight above your shoulders with your arms straight and elbows locked.  You will step forward with one leg and then lower your body until your front knee is bent to 90 degrees. Then return to the starting position and repeat with the other leg. Perform 6-8 repetitions on each leg. If you need to make it easier hold the dumbbells at shoulder level. Build up to 1-4 sets.

Stability Ball Hip Extension with leg curls can be done to increase hamstring, glute and core strength.  Lie on your back on the floor with your calves on a stability ball. You can extend your arms to your sides to help support and balance yourself.  Push your hips up so that your body is in a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Without allowing your hips to sag, roll the ball as close as you can to your hips by bending your knees and pulling your heels towards you. You can make it easier by only doing the bridge on the ball and to make it harder your can do a single leg curl while holding your other leg in the air above your hips. Perform 6 to 8 repetitions per side. Build up to 1-4 sets.


Interval training

HIIT is defined as short, intense, unsustainable bursts of physical activity, paired with intervals of quick rests.  This type of intense training causes a sort of metabolic disturbance which can result in the body burning calories at a higher rate up to 48-72 hours later. HIIT can also increase metabolism, reduce insulin resistance, improve cardiac function, produce faster gains in endurance levels than steady state cardio training and can be an effective way to recruit/build type 2 fast twitch muscle.

This type of training can be done anywhere and usually doesn’t require equipment and may be more efficient in terms of time commitment. This type of training also burns more fat effectively than typical endurance cardio.   The body has to heal after this type of training so it is not recommended that you perform HIIT every day – usually it is recommended to perform this type of training a maximum of 2-3 days per week (it’s important to note that more is not better).

This training program involves intense work periods that are performed at 80% to 95% of a person’s estimated maximal heart rate which is the maximum number of times your heart will beat in a minute without overexerting yourself.  The recovery periods may last as long as the work periods and are usually performed at a rate of 40% to 50% of a person’s estimated maximal heart rate.  The workout involves alternating between the work and recovery periods.

HIIT can be modified for people of all fitness levels and people with various medical conditions including being overweight and people with diabetes.  HIIT workouts can be performed using various methods of exercise including bodyweight exercises, strength exercises, cycling, walking, swimming, or running or group fitness classes. HIIT workouts tend to burn more calories than traditional workouts and you can burn more calories during the post-exercise workout period.  During the excess post exercise, oxygen consumption or EPOC which is generally about a 2-hour period after an exercise bout where the body is restoring itself to pre-exercise levels and using more energy.  HIIT workouts tend to generate about 6-15% more calories burned during the EPOC period which adds to the overall workout energy expenditure.

HIIT workouts are more exhaustive than traditional steady state endurance workouts.  A longer recovery period is often needed.  If you are going to start HIIT type training workouts it may be beneficial to start with one HIIT training workout per week and then as you feel ready for a greater challenge add a second HIIT workout during the week while still making sure you spread out the workouts and never do them on back to back days.

When developing your own HIIT program you need to consider the duration, intensity and frequency of the work intervals and the recovery intervals.

What should my rest and active HIIT intervals feel like? How do I know if I’m working hard enough?
Intervals during the high intensity work period should be performed at > 80% of your estimated maximal heart rate.  The work period should feel like you would describe your workout as being hard to very hard. If you use the talk test as your guide it would be very difficult to carry on a conversation.  The recovery period should be performed at 40-50% of your estimated maximal heart rate.  This type of exercise would be described as comfortable, to help you prepare for your next high intensity work interval.

One example would be to do a ratio of 1:1 which may be a 3-minute hard work or high intensity period followed by a 3-minute recovery period. 20 on and 10 off is very popular. Another training protocol is where the exerciser does about 30 seconds of sprint or near full-out effort which is followed by 4 to 4.5 minutes of recovery.  This type of combination can be repeated 3-5 times.  These exercises are typically performed in shorter bouts.

If you are considering giving HIIT a try make sure you are cleared by your physician or take a physical activity readiness questionnaire in order to determine if it is appropriate for you to begin this type of training.

Exercise to diabetes

Risk factors
Obesity and inactivity are two of the main risk factors of acquiring diabetes.   Environmental factors may be mostly modifiable which means that many people that acquire diabetes may have been able to avoid this condition and may also be able to reverse this condition with lifestyle changes.  Diet is a crucial aspect of the overall management of diabetes as well as exercise and physical activity.

Type 1 versus Type 2
Type 2-diabetes can be difficult to treat and can be expensive to manage and that is why avoiding this diagnosis is imperative.  Diabetes occurs because the body does not produce or does not properly use insulin.  Insulin is a hormone that is produced by the pancreases that allows glucose or sugar to enter the cells.  If the pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin or when muscle, fat, and liver cells do not properly respond to the insulin that is there then glucose builds up in the blood which can become toxic.  Hyperglycemia is a condition that occurs when there is too much glucose in the blood.  Type 1-diabetes is not related to diet and inactivity but is the type of diabetes that occurs in children and young adults and is the result of the immune system destroying the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas.  This article will focus now on how to reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes and how to reverse or reduce the effects with the use of exercise.

How can exercise help?
Exercise can help the cells of the body take up glucose and lower blood glucose levels.  Physical activity can help with weight loss and can decrease the overall effect that diabetes has on the body.  Regular exercise can decrease the need for insulin, the risk of obesity and the risk of heart disease.   The exercise recommendations from the American Diabetes Association include participating in physical activities of high or moderate intensity exercise lasting for more than 150 minutes a week in order for the activity to counteract the effects of diabetes. Walking is an easy exercise to get activity and if someone is at a lower level in regards to cardiovascular ability or aerobic capacity this may be a good place to start. It is important that this activity is supervised or monitored to decrease the risk of insulin imbalance.

Physical activity can help body cells take up glucose and lower blood glucose levels.  Regular physical activity also helps with weight loss as well as controlling blood cholesterol and blood pressure.  Physical activity needs to be balanced with medication and diabetic meal planning and the doctor and the dietician should be made aware of the amount of physical activity the patient is getting.

The benefits of regular aerobic exercise in diabetes management include decreased need for insulin, decreased risk of obesity and decreased risk of heart disease.  Exercise can help to decrease total cholesterol and can improve the ration of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) to high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL) and reduce blood triglycerides.  Physical activity may also decrease blood pressure and lower stress levels.

How much exercise and what kind?
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends exercising at least three times a week for 20 minutes a day at a high intensity or exercising at least 5 times a week for 30 minutes at a moderate intensity.

Walking is one of the easiest ways to get exercise.  Walking can be done throughout a person’s lifetime without any special equipment and with little risk of injury.  Supervised activity may be best due to the risk of insulin imbalance.

Other aerobic activities may also be performed in order to get in the amount of exercise necessary to reduce the effects of diabetes on the body including bodyweight cardio, swimming, biking, running and any other aerobic activity that someone may enjoy to get in the exercise time required.

Resistance training is also beneficial for those with diabetes.  Resistance training can help to improve the biological effects of diabetes.  The guidelines suggest that in addition to the aerobic exercise a person should perform resistance training should be performed between 2-3 times per week at a duration of at least 60 minutes each.  A combination of aerobic activity and resistance training has additive benefits on glucose control and can help to achieve a greater reduction in Type-2 diabetes than performing one or the other.

Lifestyle interventions such as changes in a persons’ diet, increasing physical activity throughout the day and participating in regular exercise can make an impact on the diagnosis and treatment of diabetes.

It is important to realize that you can decrease your risk of diabetes with lifestyle changes and that even if you have an increased risk of diabetes due to genetics you can influence your environmental risk factors to decrease the overall risk of acquiring this condition.  It is also important to realize that if you do get diagnosed with diabetes you can still make lifestyle changes to decrease the impact of this disease on your body.

Prevent knee problems in the future

One way to prevent knee pain is to manage your weight. Increased weight can increase stress on the knee joints and lead to pain and other conditions. Increased weight also increases the risk of getting osteoarthritis in the knees which can lead to pain, limited mobility and a possible knee replacement surgery down the line. Taking extra weight off your body can improve your ability to function and can also decrease your risk for knee conditions in the future. Evidence shows that losing weight helps treat knee osteoarthritis so if you never gain the weight you can decrease your risk of acquiring osteoarthritis in the first place.

Proper shoe wear/footwear can be important in preventing knee injuries, particularly in workouts of long duration, outside workouts or those that are on uneven/hard surfaces. Poor alignment of the foot and ankle can increase dysfunction up the chain and can affect the knee and hip joints. If you have poor alignment of the foot and ankle this can lead to muscle imbalance and ultimately knee dysfunction and pain. Proper footwear is especially important for runners due to the high impact that running causes on the knee joints itself and without the proper footwear you may set yourself up for risk of knee conditions and injury.

Participation in low impact exercises can also help to decrease risk of knee injuries and pain in the future. Functional bodyweight workouts, walking, swimming and biking – in moderation – are low impact activities that you can perform to increase cardiovascular endurance while not putting increased stress on your knees. Properly implemented weight training and strength training (with great form and adequate rest in between sessions) can also better support your knee joints and decreased risk of injury.

Other quick tips to prevent knee pain:

If you are having mild pain, try not to discontinue activity all together because this can cause weakness and make the pain worse

Don’t change the intensity of your workout suddenly, instead, gradually increase intensity as tolerated. It may be tempting to jump into brutal workouts straight away but the truth is that not scaling in difficulty gradually may significantly improve the likelihood of injury.

Consider going to see a physical therapist to address any pain and limitations you may be having before things get worse, and always talk to a professional with your specific health history before making any changes or starting into a new workout program.

Beware of overtraining; when it comes to almost literally any training style, more is not necessarily better.Allow for proper healing in between workouts.

Protecting your knee joints now can minimize pain and injury in the future.  Even if you are not having issues now you need to take preventative measures to maintain the health of your knees or you may be setting yourself up for injury and pain in the future.