Should You Crosstrain?

By Peter Pfitzinger |

As I rode the exercise bike in the lab this morning, it occurred to me that there are 3 good reasons to cross train: 1) you are injured and can’t run, so you need to do something to keep your sanity; 2) you want to improve your cardiovascular fitness without getting injured; or 3) you want to improve your running by doing other activities (such as weight lifting or yoga) that do not target your cardiovascular system.

The first 2 reasons to cross train involve maintaining or improving your cardiovascular fitness. Cycling, rowing, in-line skating, swimming, stair climbing, and deep water running fall in this category. The third reason covers all of the other activities you can do to enhance your running performance. Weight lifting, yoga, and stability ball sessions fall into this category. In this month’s column we will focus on cross-training to improve aerobic fitness, and next month we will look at other forms of cross training.

Studies have shown that predictable training errors such as increasing mileage or adding speedwork too quickly lead to the majority of running injuries. Just as the risk of coronary artery disease can be reduced through regular exercise, so can the risk of running injuries be reduced through modifying risk factors. One way to do this is to reduce pounding on the legs and back by substituting other forms of exercise for a portion of your running.

But, won’t your racing performances suffer if you replace some of your running with cross training? The Principle of Specificity of Training says that your body adapts very specifically to the type of training that you do. That is why you wouldn’t have much success as a runner by doing all your training on the bike or in the pool. But, what if the majority of your training is running, can you enhance your cardiovascular fitness by doing other types of aerobic workouts? Let’s see what the research says.

In a 1995 study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, Carl Foster, Ph.D. and colleagues investigated the effects of increasing training volume via additional running versus as equal increment of cross training. Thirty reasonably well-trained runners were divided into 2 groups. One group (run + run) increased their running mileage by 10% while the other group (run + swim) added an equivalent amount of swimming to their training. After 8 weeks of increased training, the run + swim group improved their 2 mile race performance by 13 seconds whereas the run + run group improved their 2 mile time by 26 seconds. In addition, the 4 mmol lactate threshold improved in the run + run group but not in the run + swim group. The results of this study suggest that even reasonably well-trained runners can improve their running performance through cross-training, but that the improvement is likely to be less than through increased running.

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Plantar Fasciitis Treatment

By Kevin Jermyn and Chris Graff |

Plantar Fasciitis (pronounced PLAN-tar fashee-EYE-tiss) is an inflammation of the plantar fascia. The plantar fascia is tissue that lies between the muscles in the mid-foot and the skin on the bottom of the foot. The function of the plantar fascia is to maintain the arch of the foot by attaching the ball of the foot to the heel and creating a bow like shape. During each step of running, the plantar endures stresses three times the individual’s body weight when the heel is first raised off the ground in the forward motion, making it obvious why many runners incur this common problem.

A sign of plantar fasciitis is pain in the middle to front region of the heel, especially in the first few steps of running or walking when you have been inactive for a long period of time. The pain can also commonly be found directly in the arch of the foot, where the tissue is located. At times a small ridge can be seen connecting the heel to the ball of the foot: this is an extremely inflamed plantar. The pain (which is caused by the enlarged plantar trapping or irritating nerves in the foot) can last anywhere from a few days to a few months, depending on the severity of the case and the steps taken to cure it.

The most common causes of plantar fasciitis are a lack of arch support in the shoes, increase in activity, lack of flexibility in the calf muscles, being overweight, using unstable shoes on hard ground, or spending too much time on your feet. There are several cures to the problem although no one is guaranteed to be the absolute solution. The treatments are:

  • Applying ice to the arch of the foot after all activities (freezing water in a Dixie cup, rubbing the inflamed area, and peeling the cup away as the ice melts, works well)
  • Rolling your foot gently on a rubber ball or tennis ball so that you massage the plantar and loosen it up (a good activity while you are sitting at your desk)
  • Stretching the calf muscles gently after periods of inactivity (when you wake up in the morning, after sitting for a long time, etc.)
  • Arch support, especially if you have flat feet or high arches
  • Losing weight
  • Anti-inflammatories such as aspirin, Alieve, or ibuprofen.
  • Better shoes and/or running on grass or trails instead of sidewalks or roads.
  • Decreasing athletic activity or time spent on your feet

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How Many Calories Do I Need?

By Matt Fitzgerald | For

Counting calories is a simple concept. Throughout the day you rely on food labels and online resources to determine the number of calories contained in each food and beverage you consume. At the end of the day you add it all up and, voila, you know exactly how many total calories you took in.

But what is simple in principle is almost impossible in practice. A few factors combine to make it almost unobtainable to accurately measure your daily calorie intake. One component has to do with the difference between how calorie counts are determined in the laboratory and how calories are extracted from food in your body. To determine the calorie content of foods, scientists incinerate them inside a device called, appropriately enough, a calorimeter. This device incinerates all types of foods equally well.

Your body is different. It extracts calories more easily from cooked foods, soft foods and low-fiber foods than it does from raw foods, harder foods and high-fiber foods. So, for example, if you eat 100 calories of steamed white rice, your body will absorb more calories than it would from 100 calories of raw lettuce.

Apart from this issue of calorie extraction, the calorie information you see on food packaging and on restaurant menus is seldom 100 percent accurate in the first place. A 2011 study by researchers at Tufts University found that only 7 percent out of 269 items on restaurant menus contained calorie counts that were within 10 calories of advertised totals.

Things get even more dicey when you try to count calories in home-prepared meals and snacks. Even experts admit that their estimates are little more than wild guesses. “I have a Ph.D. in nutrition, and I can’t tell if my dinner is 500 or 800 calories just by looking at the plate,” said Jean Mayer, lead author of the study mentioned above, in an interview for U.S. News & World Report.

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When Should You Drop Out of a Marathon?

By Jason Fitzgerald | For

Running a marathon, especially if you’re racing it, is a significant challenge. Twenty-six point two miles presents challenges that you’ll never experience in shorter races.

Because of the distance, how you fuel before and during the race is critical. You can’t store enough carbohydrates in your muscles, blood and liver beforehand for the whole distance.

The muscle damage you will inevitably experience in the final 10K of a marathon is an entirely new sensation. With tens of thousands of steps, likely on asphalt, you’ll feel the damage for days after the race.

Finally, properly pacing during your marathon is much more important than it is during a shorter race. You can recover and still have a good race if you go out too fast in a 5K, but not in a marathon.

Even with all of these challenges that are unique to the marathon, the vast majority of runners will be able to finish the race. Despite low fuel, muscle damage and poor pacing, it’s still possible to finish all 26.2 miles.

But when should you drop out of a marathon? What are the signs that point to a DNF (“Did Not Finish”) as a good thing?

There are two important reasons that should compel you to drop out of a marathon.

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Fat-loss Workout: Hybrid Exercise #4- Squat + Lateral Raise

Fat-Loss Workout: Exercise #3- Lunge+Bicep Curl+Shoulder Press

Fat-loss Workout: Hybrid Exercise #2: Chest Press+ Crunch

Fat-Loss Workout: Hybrid Exercise #1 Squat+Row

Going Out Too Fast

There are many lessons learned on the track or pavement during a race. Many of us have experienced going out to fast. Here is an entry from a running log that will give you insight how to prevent this from occurring and how to optimally pace yourself according to your current level of fitness.

Journal Entry
After a disappointing race last season I wrote this journal entry. I was so keyed up before the race to make a big break through that I ditched my race plan because I “felt good” running 2:10 for the first 800m and then I payed for it by going too deep anaerobically too quickly. I was never able to get it the race under control and a poor performance was the result.

The lesson learned was that regardless of what everyone else does there is a limit to how fast I am willing to run the first laps of a race. I think that everyone should employ some type of limit to how fast they are willing to go out in for the first couple of laps. I based mine on previous PR’s.

Race Distance Current PR Current PR Pace 400m Race Distance First Lap Range Second Lap Range
 800m 1:55.0 400m (57.5) 800m (55-56.5)  
1500m 3:54.4 400m (62.4) 1500m (60-61)  
3000m 8:27.1 400m (67.6) 3000m (65-67)  
3000m SC 8:55.7 400m (71.4) 3000m SC (67-70)  
5000m 14:21 400m (68.9) 5000m (67-69) 67-68
10000m 30:44 400m (73.76) 10000m (72-74) 72-73

Now going into a race I assess my current level of fitness and determine how fast I want to go, rather than letting the adrenaline of the race dictate my pace. I hope this lesson helps someone in their race preparation.  Check out our pacing chart to learn more about your pacing.

Have you ever gone out too fast? What was your experience?

Warm-up & Cool-Down for Fat-Loss Workout