How to Set Your New Year’s Running Resolution (and stick to it!)

It’s easy to say “I’m going to run more in 2017”… but sticking to New Year’s resolutions is a lot harder than just saying them out loud.  Whether you’re looking to run your first half marathon, your first 5K, or just hit the treadmill at the gym more often, we’ve got some great tips to give your stick-to-it-iveness a kick in the rump, runners’ style!

Bribery Will Get You Everywhere

And don’t be stingy. Two bribes are better than one!

We suggest a pre-resolution shopping trip—snag some good gear to go running in. Stuff that makes you feel stylish, speedy, and psyched up: a good pair of shoes, some quality running socks, a supportive sports bra, and a great running outfit.  When you look good, you feel good—plus you’ll have looking sleek to look forward to when you hit the track. One rule: no lounging in your exercise gear!

But you want a goal to work toward as well.  Is there a blu-ray box set you just haven’t been able to justify buying yourself? A spa trip? Set mini-goals, and as you achieve them, put some in your Treat Yo’self Fund.

Put Your Reputation on the Line

Okay, maybe that’s putting it a little dramatically, but committing to a charity run or a race is a great way to make your resolution a little more resolute. It’ll also give your training a bit more focus, which can help motivate you.  If you’ve got friends and colleagues sponsoring you for a February Sweetheart run for breast cancer, you’ll have even more of a reason to get out there and get moving!

Two’s Company

Letting ourselves down is easy—that’s why resolutions are so hard to keep. But knowing your buddy is sweating away on the treadmill at the gym by herself because you decided to sleep in is a little harder on the psyche, in a good way. Plus, having an exercise partner is just straight up good for you (and them!).  Misery loves company (and so does triumph!).  Pick a partner you’ll love to commiserate with, and one you’ll love celebrating with, too.

Take a Secret Selfie

You might be feeling down on yourself after the holiday binge-stravaganza that the season’s social scene foists upon us, but trust us on this one. Having a before picture is a great motivator, because it’s tough sometimes to see progress day to day—it’s just so gradual! But when you’ve been jogging off the pounds and tightening up those glutes for a few weeks, you’ll treasure the ability to make the comparison.

Put Some Sizzle in Your Social Media

Otherwise known as fake it till you make it: Be enthusiastic about your resolution. Whether you’re sharing progress and workouts through an app that posts to Facebook, or Snapchatting your post-running smoothie with a sweaty smile, be loud and proud about your resolution! When you accept being a runner as part of your identity, you’ll realize it’s something you’re doing, not just something you’re “trying out.”

 

Suffering from Chronic Inflammation? These 3 exercises just might help

When the body sustains an injury, it reacts by initiating an inflammatory process to increase nutrients to the injured area and promote healing. This process is marked by redness, warmth, and swelling in the area. This is an important part of recovering the health of the body’s tissue. But sometimes a problem occurs when this inflammatory cascade is not “turned off,” leaving the body in a state of chronic inflammation.

Chronic inflammation can be inconvenient and can cause health issues. In addition to the heavy, uncomfortable feeling, chronic inflammation has been shown to cause long-term damage to the brain, heart, and several other organs. It has also been linked to several diseases like Alzheimer’s and chronic heart failure (Reina-couto et al.; Schwartz).

So chronic inflammation is certainly not something we can ignore. But what should we do about it? While the use of pharmaceuticals and nutrition adjustments can have an effect, there is one area of treatment that is often ignored: exercise!

Running Form, Performance and Injury: An Interview with Dr. Bryan Heiderscheit

When you modify how somebody moves, you can have a really substantial and nearly immediate overall change in their pain. Why weren’t more people doing this clinically?

This was one of the main reasons why Bryan Heiderscheit, P.T., Ph.D. of Biomechanics, decided to dedicate his research and career to runners to reduce risk of injury and improve performance through focusing on form.

Love a Runner? Here are 5 thoughtful ways to show the runner in your life you care

Not many exercises call to mind the pure simplicity of fitness better than a run. It’s a fantastic way to get your exercise, with a laundry list of benefits for both your body and your mood. Good for everything from joint stiffness to depression, with the obvious inclusion of fitness, it’s like the universal remote control of feeling good about yourself.

It’s trendy but, with the freedom to do it wherever you want, without the need for specific outfits or equipment, also extremely accessible. Seriously – it never goes out of style. If you aren’t already doing it, chances are you know someone who is.

Maybe it’s the special someone in your life. Maybe they really love it. And maybe you’ve been looking for that special way to tell them you care.

Hey; don’t even worry about it – we’ve got you covered:

How to prevent and correct forward head posture

The human race has made some amazing technological strides in recent years. Think about it: how many intricate electronic devices do you use in the run of a day? Chances are you wake up to an alarm each morning on your smartphone, listen to music on a tiny mp3 player at the gym, and maybe check your email from a tablet during a coffee break. You might work in a cubicle in front of a computer, or at least a decent percentage of your work day probably involves looking at a computer screen. After work, perhaps you take a bus or subway home and spend the transit time looking down at your phone; sending texts, checking social media accounts, and online window shopping. Thanks to some very talented software engineers, we are able to document every minute of our lives and have the answers to all of our questions at our fingertips.

Unfortunately, with the rise of smartphones and desk jobs in our midst, we have also seen a recent surge in the prevalence of “forward head posture”, a postural condition where the cervical spine adopts a forward-leaning misalignment and can cause mild to severe neck and upper back pain 1. It can also progress into other postural conditions such as the similar upper crossed syndrome and lower back pain. Also known as “texting neck”, forward head posture is commonly found in those with seated desk jobs, poorly designed working conditions, and excessive smartphone use 2. Luckily, forward head posture can be prevented or even corrected with therapeutic exercises and stretches that target the supportive musculature of the neck. Let’s take a closer look at what forward head posture is and get into some of the preventative and corrective measures you can take to fix it. Of course, if you are unsure or feel any pain while performing any exercise, stop and seek the advice of a healthcare professional.

Your human head weighs around 10 pounds, and when standing upright with perfect posture, it is stacked evenly over your cervical vertebrae, down your thoracic and lumbar spine, over your pelvis and finally down through your legs into the center of your feet (3). That 10 pounds of skull won’t feel all that heavy when your joints are stacked. The musculature of your neck acts like guy wires in all directions with no particular muscle group doing more work than the others at any given time (4). Now picture yourself looking down at your phone with your head tilted down and sagging forward. Your skull and vertebrae are no longer stacked, and the musculature in your neck and upper back now has to work isometric overtime to hold your head in that position (5). Over time, this will develop into a constant forward head posture. Your neck vertebrae will start to creep out on an angle so that your ears are always in front of your shoulders. The muscles in the back of your neck will lengthen and weaken and their fascia will thicken, leading to soreness and knots. The muscles in the chest and front of the neck will shorten. You may start to develop neck pain, headaches, or tingling in your hands 5. You won’t even stand as tall as you did before.

The first key to preventing forward head posture is to take inventory of your postural habits. Have someone take a picture of you sitting and standing normally. Are your ears over your shoulders or in front of them? Are your shoulders rounded forward or pulled back and down to open the chest? Having these pictures can give you clues as to where to start with your prevention or correction program and also show your progress over time. It is recommended to use the series of exercises described below at least once every day. You may find it easiest and most effective to do the exercises immediately upon waking each morning and again when you are going to bed. These exercises stretch the muscles most commonly shortened in forward head posture and strengthen the muscles that have weakened to bring your head and neck back into alignment 6.

Exercise #1: Seated Chest Stretch

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Sit on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat. Place your hands about a foot behind you and as far apart as your hips. Ideally, your fingers will face forward, but to the side is fine if you don’t have that range of motion yet. Take a soft bend in the elbows. Draw the shoulder blades back and lift the upper chest. Keep your hips on the floor. Draw your chin back so your ears are in line with your shoulders. You should feel this stretch just below your collarbones. The exercise stretches the pectoralis and brachialis muscles. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat for three repetitions.

For a deeper stretch as you progress with this exercise, you can start to slowly lift the hips straight up and away from the floor. Keep your weight in your heels and maintain your neck alignment. Eventually, your torso and upper legs will come to parallel with the floor.

Exercise #2: Upper Back Pulls On the Wall

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Stand facing a wall and place the palms of both hands at least shoulder height high on the wall in front of you. Lean forward into your hands and bend at your hips so you are shaped like an “L”. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and down your back. Pull your chin back so your ears are in line with your shoulders. This exercise trains the middle and lower trapezius muscle fibres to pull your cervical spine back into alignment. Hold the contraction for 30 seconds and repeat for three repetitions.

Exercise #3: Stretching Trapezius and Suboccipital Muscles

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While sitting or standing tall, tuck your chin into your chest and look down. Place the palms of your hands on the back of your head and gently press downward. Hold for 30 seconds. Then, rotate your right ear down slightly, maintaining the downward pressure with your hands, to stretch the left side. Hold for 30 seconds. Rotate your left ear down, maintaining downward pressure, to stretch the right side. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat the sequence three times.

 

Exercise #4: Chin Retractions

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Begin by sitting or standing tall with your chin parallel to the ground. Keeping your chin level, use your index and middle finger on one hand (your “peace” fingers) to gently press your head back, giving yourself a double chin. Relax any tension in your jaw. Take your fingers away and try to keep your head in that position for 20 seconds. Repeat for a total of three repetitions. This exercise will train your neck musculature to retain the “ears-over-shoulders” position for optimal posture.
Prevention and early correction of forward head posture is key to eliminating neck and upper back pain. If you work a desk job, you may find it helpful to adjust your workstation to accommodate your new postural habits 7. Try to raise your computer screen to eye level and keep it about two feet away from your face to encourage proper spinal alignment. Paying close attention to your posture at work and at home, along with performing the above exercises, can help you commit to your health and wellness in just a few minutes a day.
Citations:

1. Morningstar, M. W. (2003, March 31). Cervical hyperlordosis, forward head posture, and lumbar kyphosis correction: A novel treatment for mid-thoracic pain. Journal of Chiropractic Medicine, 2(3), 111-115. doi:10.1016/s0899-3467(07)60055-x

2. Kang, J., Park, R., Lee, S., Kim, J., Yoon, S., & Jung, K. (2012). The Effect of The Forward Head Posture on Postural Balance in Long Time Computer Based Worker. Ann Rehabil Med Annals of Rehabilitation Medicine, 36(1), 98. doi:10.5535/arm.2012.36.1.98

3. Troyanovich, S. (2000). Structural rehabilitation of the spine and posture: Rationale for treatment beyond the resolution of symptoms. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 23(6), 0437-0437. doi:10.1067/mmt.2000.108138d

4. Kebaetse, M., Mcclure, P., & Pratt, N. A. (1999). Thoracic position effect on shoulder range of motion, strength, and three-dimensional scapular kinematics. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 80(8), 945-950. doi:10.1016/s0003-9993(99)90088-6

5. Borg-Stein, J. (2002). Cervical myofascial pain and headache. Current Pain and Headache Reports, 6(4), 324-330. doi:10.1007/s11916-002-0055-0

6. Bae, W., Lee, H., Shin, J., & Lee, K. (2016). The effect of middle and lower trapezius strength exercises and levator scapulae and upper trapezius stretching exercises in upper crossed syndrome. J Phys Ther Sci Journal of Physical Therapy Science, 28(5), 1636-1639. doi:10.1589/jpts.28.1636

7. Tornqvist, E. W., Hagberg, M., Hagman, M., Risberg, E. H., & Toomingas, A. (2009). The influence of working conditions and individual factors on the incidence of neck and upper limb symptoms among professional computer users. International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health, 82(6), 689-702. doi:10.1007/s00420-009-0396-7

HERE’S WHY YOUR ARM SWING MATTERS

In the context of running, much of our attention is put on the lower half of our bodies with respect to what we’re doing with our feet, legs, and hips. But, there are actually some important things happening on our upper bodies that — with a little attention and help — could improve our running economy and enhance performance. In our last post, we discussed running and posture; here, we’ll talk about the importance of arm swings and how it affects our balance and stability. (hint: it actually still has a lot to do with your posture).

Five Tips For Staying in Shape This Winter

Five Tips For Staying in Shape This Winter

Your training season is over. You ran your last race a month ago, and winter is here. We all know the temptations of the Christmas season: food, parties, and alcohol. On top of that, you have snow. It is so much easier to look out at the cold and pull your blanket up over your head. Here are five tips to help you avoid the slump & stay in shape this winter:

It’s Not The Off Season

If you want to improve as an endurance athlete, you need to stop calling it the “off season.” In off season, we sit on the couch a lot. We binge-watch whatever we can find on Netflix while eating mounds of chocolate.

Instead, divide the winter into post-season and pre-season. Post-season is all about recovery, especially if you raced long distances like a marathon or Ironman. Recovery doesn’t mean sitting on the couch, though. Keep running, but run fewer miles and a little less frequently. To maintain your fitness, most coaches recommend doing a minimum of three runs per week. In pre-season, you work on base training. You slowly increase your mileage so you are ready to go when training season comes again.

Do Form Drills

It’s always a good idea to improve your running form, but Winter is an ideal time to fully evaluate your form, to make major improvements, and to start doing those form drills you know you should be doing. The better your running form is, the faster you will go with less effort. Incorporating running form drills will help you get faster in race season without interfering with your races.

Add Strength Training

We all know we should be doing strength training. It’s on every training plan you read on the internet. Remember when you started lifting two weeks before your big race? Your muscles hurt so much that your time suffered. Winter is the perfect time to add in some strength training with enough room to let your muscles get used to it before training season.

You can also use strength training to address any imbalances in your body. If your left leg isn’t as strong as your right, you can work on balancing things out without worrying about it affecting your racing form. Try out these strength evaluations to see what you need to work on. Stronger runners get fewer injuries.

Try Cross Training

During the training season, we spend so much time running that we can’t do other things. Instead of going to your gym to do the same old workout, try signing up for a class that piques your interest. Play some basketball or squash with your friends. Try out yoga or spin. It will help your training, too. Our bodies get used to the same old workouts, so new motions and activities will shock them into better fitness gains. Plus, you might find something you really love.

Just Keep Running

A lot of people stop running completely once the temperature gets below 40 degrees. It might seem obvious, but running through the winter is a great way to stay in shape, and you miss out on some of the best running of the year. Many runners prefer winter running to summer running. You can always add more clothes, but there’s a limit to how much you can take off. When you learn how to dress for the weather, you can stay comfortable no matter the temperature. Plus, there is nothing like a crisp day after a snowfall with a running path all to yourself.

It can be hard to motivate yourself to stay in shape over the winter, but the winter season is an important part of an athlete’s preparation for next year. Take advantage of these tips, and you may not only stay in shape all winter long, you might get performance improvements next year.

Invigorating Stretches to get you through your Midday Slump

By Lindsay Nova

Who doesn’t feel tired after lunch at work? Brain fog and lethargy in the afternoon are common problems many people face in the workplace or even at home. While an afternoon cup of coffee may pick you right up, there are natural alternatives that can be just as invigorating- and they don’t have any side effects! Next time you feel sluggish midday, try stretching your body instead and notice how it makes you feel. Here are some you can try today:

Open Your Heart

Stand up where ever you are with your feet in a parallel position. Place your hands on your hips and draw your elbows closer toward one another. Begin to lean back and lift your gaze upward, expanding your chest. Breathe deeply here as you extend the spine and open the chest. This stretch in the front of the neck stimulates your thyroid gland, which through the secretion of hormones, can help regulate our energy levels.

Ragdoll Forward Fold

Learn to let go of stress in this stretch. With your feet in parallel, fold forward at the hips. Bend your knees as much as you want to. Grab opposite elbows and let your head hang heavy toward the floor. Release any tension. This is also good for stimulating your thyroid to regulate your adrenals during those afternoon slumps, because it stretches the neck in the opposite direction of the first stretch.

Side Stretch

Re-invigorate your body by stretching your lungs- literally. Stand tall on both feet. Reach your arms up to the sky. Clasp your right hand over the left wrist. Pull your left arm over to the right side and feel the stretch in the left side of your body. Think of creating more space between your hips and your rib cage. Breathe deeply into your lungs, filling your body and muscles with fresh stimulating oxygen. Change your grip to stretch to the other side.

High Lunge

If you have been sitting all day, chances are your hip flexors are feeling tight. Start with your right foot forward, knee bent, and step your left foot as far back as you can, keeping the heel lifted. Hips are completely square and the front knee is bent right over the ankle so the leg is at a 90 degree angle. Reach your arms up to the sky to stretch your chest and arms, too. Make sure you do both sides!

Hamstrings + Shoulders

Step your feet wide with your toes pointed forward. Interlace your hands behind your hips, or grab a strap if your shoulders are tight. Fold forward and reach your arms overhead, keeping your hands together with the head pointed downward. Feel the stretch in the back of your legs and shoulders.
Next time you feel fatigued in the afternoon, get up and move around! Use your own body to create the energy you need to stay productive and alert throughout your day.

How to use Running for Stress Relief this Holiday Season

It’s no secret that the holiday season often brings on a downward spiral of stress and fatigue.  You might notice that you feel exhausted or frazzled as you pass by hundreds of Christmas cards and plastic-wrapped gift sets at the mall, or maybe you find yourself a little more easily angered now that the season of pumpkin spice lattes and beautiful fall colors have passed their prime.  To make matters worse, it’s getting harder and harder to fit in your daily run or workout amidst all the hustle and bustle as the new year approaches.  Regardless of how stress rears its ugly head in your own life, this holiday season is a great time to get back on track with your running program.  It’s not just for weight loss and heart health: running has been shown to be a potent stress-buster and mood-lifter and might be just what you need to keep a level head over the winter and beyond.   Here are a few ways to use running as therapy to decrease stress and keep your mental health in check during the tense holiday season.

Little By Little

You’re probably familiar with “runner’s high”, a term used to describe a euphoric feeling that exercisers often experience during periods of moderate- to high-intensity exercise.  While there are several theories as to which neurotransmitters are actually responsible for creating a “runner’s high”, there’s no question that you’ll feel more powerful, optimistic, and full of energy on the days you choose to go for a run.  Stress can wreak havoc on your energy levels and cognitive function, but research has shown that hitting the pavement for as little as ten minutes can kick stress and moodiness to the curb and boost your energy levels for the rest of the day (Hansen, Stevens, & Coast, 2001).  Even if you think you’d rather stay inside wrapped in a blanket than lace up your sneakers for a quick three-miler, remember how you good always feel once your cool-down starts and it’s time to head home: it’s always worth it.    

Find A Rhythm

Creating a new positive habit or reinforcing an old one can work wonders on your mental health by helping you mark each day as a success.  Making a point of sticking to regularly scheduled runs during your week, even if they’re short, will help you feel a sense of accomplishment as you go to bed each night.  That sense of accomplishment will encourage and motivate you each day and soon you’ll have a healthy habit to keep you on the move and feeling optimistic even through stressful moments this holiday season.  Plus, it’s a few minutes that you can take for yourself, with no phone calls and no emails, during a time usually crammed full of caring for family, friends, and co-workers. Write your scheduled runs in your daybook or calendar so you have a solid reminder to take care of yourself and your needs, and let friends and family know how important it is that you stick to your plan.

Have A Sense Of Purpose

Setting and achieving goals can be therapeutic too.  A good goal doesn’t have to be lofty; its purpose here is to give you a focal point when the season around you seems blurry and unfocused.  Is there an area of town you haven’t explored yet?  Your goal could be to do at least one new running route each week.  Are you skimping out on speed work?  Make a point of scheduling fartlek sessions into your plan.  As you pass these small milestones you’ve made for yourself, your sense of success and accomplishment will soar.    

Sprint To The Finish

If you’re finding it hard to fit your runs into your busy holiday schedule, sprint training might be an option for you.   Adding some high-intensity sprints to your running program allows you to shorten your running time, plus get an added boost in cardiovascular and muscular endurance.  In addition, sprint training has been linked to an increase in memory and cognitive function (Praag, 2008), two qualities that tend to fall by the wayside while juggling the holiday season’s demands.  When you feel pressed for time, try implementing a session of interval, or fartlek, training: periods of light jogging interspersed with short, all-out sprints.  A typical session might consist of two minutes of light jogging with thirty seconds of sprinting and repeating five to ten times.  What used to be a light hour-long run can be easily shortened to 15 or 20 minutes while still keeping your heart and lungs fit and strong and your head clear and focused.  Even adding just one sprint session a week will make you feel like you have more time to accomplish your holiday chores.

Get Some Fresh Air

As the new year approaches, the days get shorter and shorter until it seems like the sun has completely disappeared!  You might find yourself getting a little bummed out from all the darkness, and there’s a reason: no exposure to sunshine means you produce a lot less vitamin D,  a micronutrient that’s been connected to seasonal affective disorder and winter moodiness (Kerr, et al., 2015).  Getting a run in during a sunrise or sunset can boost your vitamin D production and fend off those seasonal mental funks you might find yourself in.  If you’re cooped up in your home or office building all day, getting a blast of fresh air, even if it’s cold, can help you recharge and stay productive through your work day.  If you can fit a run in over your lunch break when the sun is at its highest, you’ll find yourself ready to take on the rest of the day with a whole new outlook.  You might even be able to convince a few co-workers to go for a dash with you for a casual, stress-free social event.

Get A Running Buddy

Ask a friend, family member, or co-worker if they’d like to do a few runs with you.  Our interactions with others during the holiday season tend to be task-oriented and attached to demands or requests.  Getting a running buddy gives you a chance to have some social interaction in a casual, friendly setting while still fitting your run into your day.  Talking together about the things you are looking forward to over the holidays this year can revive your positive mindset, plus the added company gives you some accountability to keep your running habit in high gear when things get stressful.  You might even be able to find a local running club to run with a larger group for the same benefits.

Even though the holidays bring stress and frustration on each year, it’s easy to use your running habit to your advantage as a way to lower your stress levels and elevate your mental health.  Implementing just one of these tips can make drastic changes in your productivity and will add a sense of accomplishment and relief to boost you forward into another successful training season.


References
Hansen, Cheryl J., Larry C. Stevens, and J. Richard Coast. “Exercise Duration and Mood State: How Much Is Enough to Feel Better?” Health Psychology 20.4 (2001): 267-75. Web.
Kerr, David C.r., David T. Zava, Walter T. Piper, Sarina R. Saturn, Balz Frei, and Adrian F. Gombart. “Associations between Vitamin D Levels and Depressive Symptoms in Healthy Young Adult Women.” Psychiatry Research 227.1 (2015): 46-51. Web.

van Praag, H. Neuromol Med (2008) 10: 128. doi:10.1007/s12017-008-8028-z

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