This is one of the best exercises runners can do. Make sure you’re doing it right.
Running is a unilateral movement, meaning you use just one limb at a time to continuously propel yourself forward. That’s why it’s so important for us to incorporate unilateral exercises into our regular strength-training workouts. Doing so builds strength, balance, stability, coordination, and lowers the risk for injury.
Lunges are one of the best unilateral exercises anyone can do, says Takia McClendon NASM-certified personal trainer and co-founder of City Fit Girls. Not only do they build strengthen in your legs, but they can also help you identify weaknesses that may lead to injuries down the road.
Still, many people perform them incorrectly, so knowing how to do a lunge properly is important before banging out some quick reps during your next workout.
While lunging, improper form can cause unnecessary stress on the knee, make you feel unstable, or make the move ineffective. Common lunge mistakes McClendon sees include:
- leaning your torso too far forward or allowing your chest to drop
- not bending low enough with the front or back legs
- allowing hips to dip
To avoid these mistakes, here’s everything you need to know to do a lunge with with perfect form, plus variations you can try.
How to Do a Proper Lunge
Stand with feet hip-width apart. As you perform the exercise, be sure to engage your core and keep chest lifted, especially if you hold a weight at chest as shown. Step forward with right foot while keeping left foot in place. Bend both knees, creating a 90-degree angle with legs. Keep your right knee behind the top of right toes and tracking with the first two toes. From the side, the angle of your shin and your back should form parallel lines. Once both knees are bent to 90 degrees, and left knee hovers above floor, push off through right heel and return to standing. Repeat on the left leg.
First, mimic this movement using just body weight. Over time, you can incorporate a kettlebell (as shown) or dumbbells racked on shoulders into your routine.
The lunge requires coordination and stability, so it may take some practice to get comfortable with the pattern using body weight before adding resistance. Focus on keeping your torso upright (excessive forward lean could be a sign of tight hip flexors) and if possible, don’t let the knee past the toes of the front foot or drop too far inward, says McClendon. If your knee passes the toes but your technique is solid and you don’t feel any pain, that’s okay. “Our bodies are all different, and you will know what feels best for you,” she says
If you’re brand new to lunges, McClendon recommend starting with body weight and focusing on technique before adding dumbbells. Then, only add weights once you’re comfortable with form and ready to make the move more difficult.
How Do You Make It Easier?
“Starting with a reverse lunge is easier to learn and execute, but still offers the same benefits of the forward lunge,” McClendon says.
Start by standing tall with both feet facing forward. Take a big step back onto the ball of your right foot—keep the heel off the ground. Bend both knees until the left thigh is parallel to the ground and the right knee is hovering just above the ground, legs forming 90-degree angles. Push through the left heel to return to standing.
When you’re ready, add resistance by holding a dumbbell in each hand at your sides. If you’re working out at home, you use a towel as shown to make the move more challenging.
What are the benefits of lunges?
Lunges help runners control the hips and strengthen the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and core—all muscle groups we rely on to run). They also help identify weaknesses that can lead to running injuries, says McClendon.
McClendon recommends runners incorporate unilateral movements into their training one to two times per week. (Other unilateral exercises runners can do include step-ups, split squats and single-leg Romanian deadlifts).
How often should you do lunges?
This will vary depending on the focus of the training program but ideally, runners should add in lunges at least once per week. McClendon recommends starting with 2 to 3 sets of 5 to 8 reps on each leg. If you are using heavier dumbbells, 5 reps per set on each leg is plenty.
What lunge variations can you do?
Once you master proper lunge form, there are tons of variations you can do, McClendon says. You can add these variations in to your workout or sub one in to your circuit in place of a regular lunge. For all variations, use body weight as you master form. Once you’re comfortable with the move, add dumbbells or kettlebells to make the move more challenging.
Stand with hands on your hips or holding dumbbells at your sides. Take a giant step forward with left leg, and bend both knees to drop right knee toward floor. Legs should form 90-degree angles. Press into left heel to rise back up to standing, then repeat with right leg. Continue to alternate walking forward, then reverse to walk back.
With both feet forward, take a wide step to the left with left foot. Bend your left knee as you send hips back and shift your weight over your left foot to drop into a side lunge. Keep chest lifted and right leg straight. Return to standing. Complete reps then repeat with other leg or alternate between legs throughout.
Start in a staggered stance with right leg forward and left leg behind. Bend both knees to lower left knee to the floor and drop into a lunge position. Quickly press through right heel to jump straight up explosively and scissor legs in the air, landing with the left leg forward. Bend both knees to drop back down into a lunge and continue to repeat. You can pump your arms as you go, mimicking a running arm swing.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, hands clasped at chest in front of you. Take a big step diagonally backward with left foot. Keeping your back straight, bend knees and lower hips toward floor until left knee is bent to about 90 degrees. Push back up to starting position. Repeat then switch legs.
The post Here’s Exactly How to Do a Lunge (Plus Variations to Try) appeared first on Runner's World Australia and New Zealand.
It’s a shoe that falls somewhere in between the two stools of everyday neutral shoe and sleek performance model.
- Weight: 250g (M) 210g (W)
- Heel-To-Toe-Drop: 8mm
- Type: Road
- Price: $180
‘A hybrid cushioned/performance shoe which serves as a gentle introduction into the word of speedier footwear.’
- Firm, responsive forefoot and toe-off
- A nice mix of sturdy reassurance and lower to the ground feel
- Too firm for longer weekend runs
The Wave Shadow is a shoe that falls somewhere in between the two stools of everyday neutral shoe and sleek performance model. Here’s what Mizuno says about it: ‘Comfort and performance for a soft yet zippy running experience. Cushioned and responsive with a snappy toe-off.’ Judging by the feedback from our testers, these claims are actually spot on. They found it useful for everything from 3K time trials to tempo runs of half marathon distance, which is an impressive range indeed.
X10 rubber outsole
The longitudinal and latitudinal flex grooves are so deep that the outsole is effectively partitioned off into seven different landing pods. Mizuno has used its firm X10 rubber for the ground contact and as ever it provided above average grip. Where is came into its own though was on durability; after 150 miles the upper of these was looking a tad baggy as you might expect but the outsole was barely worn.
Pebax ‘wave plate’
Before the carbon fibre plate craze, Mizuno had been a little ahead of the curve in a related manner, plugging away producing Pebax ‘wave plates’ in their shoes, the plastic devices inserted into the midsole that give that distinctive wave look from the side, and which were designed to attenuate shock and provide a platform for the foot to rebound from. The plate in the Shadow 3 extends through the heel well into the midfoot, which is great if you’re a midfoot runner looking for some extra oomph in transition. That said, the cushioning is on the firm side and a few people found it too stiff to be truly comfortable on longer runs – but on the upside this is precisely what makes it such an exciting ride when you’re clipping along at lactate threshold pace.
Constructed of a single piece of lightweight, seamless material called AirMesh, testers found it light, weather-resistant and breathable – but not especially giving in the forefoot. Fortunately the front section offers decent width so most runners who have neither slim nor wide feet should find the fit suitable, but if you have particularly wide feet or they tend to swell a lot when they get hot be warned, the Shadow 3 is likely to pinch a little up front after a few miles. The heel counter is perfect, locking the rearfoot down without pinching or rubbing, which gave us confidence when speeding up on interval runs.
An excellent option for non-marathon runners looking for one shoe to cover most bases, and for those looking to invest in their first ever pair of ‘faster’ shoes.
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You’re not alone in feeling alone—or in questioning your identity. Here’s how to go about reclaiming it.
Any runner who’s ever been injured—and statistics suggest that at some point, that’s many of us—knows strains, sprains, and stress fractures don’t just affect your body. They also mess with your mind.
For our new book Rebound: Train Your Mind to Bounce Back Stronger from Sports Injuries, certified mental performance coach Carrie Jackson Cheadle and I talked with dozens of athletes—including elite, Olympic, and recreational runners—about their injury experience. Nearly all of them had dark moments, times when they coped with self-doubt, depression, frustration, anxiety, or fear.
You can’t always stop these negative thoughts and feelings from surfacing. But what our interviews and research for the book demonstrated—and the sport psychology literature reinforces—is that you don’t have to allow them to consume you. You can respond with active steps that may even influence your physical recovery.
For instance, one study, which was published in the Journal of Sport Rehabilitation, found athletes who deliberately practice mental skills like imagery, goal-setting, and self-talk believe doing so speeds their rehab. Working on your mental game when you’re injured may even allow you to come back a better and more well-rounded athlete. “Whether you’re ready to see or not, you actually have an opportunity here,” Jackson Cheadle says. “How do you want to use that?”
Here, five common thoughts that plague sidelined runners, and specific ways you can address them to not only come back, but rebound stronger.
1. I’ll never be able to run again—it’s over.
Injury can swiftly take our minds on time-traveling journeys. In some moments, we go back to the past, wishing we’d listened to a niggle or steered clear of a stumbled-over pothole. Or, we zoom ahead to the future—usually a dire one, where we’re running poorly or not at all.
Begin countering this thought by challenging words like “never” in your internal vocabulary. “It’s so strong and permanent and finite, and not something we need to include in our self-talk,” saysAngie Fifer, Ph.D., a Pittsburgh-based ultrarunner, triathlete, certified mental performance coach and executive board member of the Association for Applied Sport Psychology.
Instead, ground yourself by focusing on the present. Each time this thought arises, pause, take a deep breath, and tell yourself, “You don’t know the answer to that in this moment,” Jackson Cheadle says.
To visualize this shift, picture your energy as a tangible presence, she says. Perhaps it looks like string or a glowing force field. Imagine it reaching out to all the times and places you’re worrying about, from back to the rock you tripped over to forward to the race you’re missing.
Then envision yourself pulling it back toward you and using it to take action right now. For instance, book a doctor’s appointment, do your physical therapy exercises, or use meditation or another relaxation technique to reduce stress and focus on healing.
Even one small positive action can drown out fears with an infusion of self-confidence and accomplishment, moving you forward. “If you feel like, ‘Hey, I’m making progress,’ those emotions can then drive behaviours in powerful ways,” says Les Podlog, Ph.D., an educational sports psychologist and researcher at the University of Utah.
2. I’m all alone; no one understands what I’m going through.
Many injured runners report feeling isolation—and it’s not hard to see why. When you’re sidelined, you’re missing out on bonding time with your training partners. Meanwhile, your other friends and family may have a hard time grasping why you’re so upset.
But all injured athletes need emotional support, people who can listen with compassion. To find it, connect to others with similar struggles. “There are people who understand you. They just might not be the people right in front of you at this moment,” Jackson Cheadle says. One place to find them? The Injured Athletes Club—a Facebook group we created where you can connect, commiserate, and celebrate progress with other people who get it.
You can also take this opportunity to deepen non-running relationships. “We all have things we maybe said no to because we had that morning run coming up,” Fifer says. “During injury is a time when we can maybe say yes a little bit more and reconnect with other friends.”
Finally, don’t write off your running buddies, even if it feels like they’re avoiding or excluding you. Often, they just don’t know how to react. Reach out and ask to join postrun coffee or beers, or to catch a movie. The sweat bonds formed over long K’s usually translate into other situations. You just might have to make the first move, Jackson Cheadle says.
3. I’m losing fitness while everyone else is gaining it.
Sure, if you measured only your Vo2 max or your Km time, you may indeed slip a notch or two. Running, like all sports, involves comparison. So it’s tough to shake the notion that sitting out means falling behind, Podlog says.
But focusing only on what you’re missing obscures the opportunity injury provides. Consider this: Time off of pounding allows all your joints, muscles, and bones a rest, healing chronic aches or warding off other impending issues, Fifer says.
Your fitness will come back with time. But right now, recovery is your sport, Jackson Cheadle says. While you might not be up for track workouts or long runs, you can focus on other ways to boost your performance when you return.
For instance, if your medical team has cleared you for core work, tackle it. Later, you’ll better maintain your form when you fatigue at the end of a long race. Never used imagery? Try closing your eyes and picturing yourself running smoothly and pain-free. “We don’t store those images in an image folder in our brain, we store them as reality,” Fifer says. “They gives us some mental reps toward racing and training and running well.”
Finally, instead of scrolling social media and succumbing to FOMO, draw inspiration from athletes who’ve succeeded after overcoming obstacles, says Cindra Kamphoff, Ph.D., a marathoner, certified mental performance consultant, and author of Beyond Grit: Ten Powerful Practices to Gain the High-Performance Edge.
Take Shalane Flanagan, who won the 2017 New York City Marathon after taking weeks off the prior winter for a sacral stress fracture. Later, she said the injury experience was critical to her success. She and others like her, including those in Rebound, stand as proof positive injury can represent an opportunity to come back stronger.
4. Other people have it so much worse; I don’t even deserve to be upset about this.
Many injured athletes, especially non-professionals, come to Jackson Cheadle feeling bummed out, then ashamed or guilty on top of it. “People will say, ‘It’s not like this is how I make my living. I shouldn’t be this upset,’” she says.
But regardless of your sponsorship status, running clearly holds meaning to you. When it’s taken from you, even temporarily, give yourself permission to feel upset without judgment, Kamphoff says.
Besides, emotions like anger, frustration, and disappointment don’t disappear when you deny them. They often linger longer when suppressed. Instead, let them out by talking to someone—a friend, family member, or a sport psychology or mental skills consultant (you can find one through the Association for Applied Sport Psychology), she suggests. Journaling or getting your thoughts out into a recorder or your phone’s voice memo app may help too, according to a recent study in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology.
At some point, putting your situation in perspective may serve you well in moving on from your disappointment. “One strategy is to think, ‘Well, life could be a lot worse,’” Kamphoff says. “But I would pay attention to, how does that make you feel?” If the sentiment adds to your distress rather than relieves it, it’s okay to take a different tack until you’re ready to consider the bigger picture.
5. I don’t know who I am if I can’t run.
No matter your level, if you’re committed to running, injury “can challenge one’s sense of self in pretty profound ways,” Podlog says. You may wrestle with big questions: “What does the sport represent—is it something you do, or is the sum total of who you are? It’s hard.”
If you feel overwhelmed—or have sadness that won’t lift or thoughts of hurting yourself—don’t hesitate to seek support from a mental health professional, preferably one who works with athletes. Turning to the pros for the mental side of injury is akin to enlisting doctors and physical therapists to treat muscles, joints, and bones. “Asking for help is not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of strength,” Kamphoff says.
On your own, reframe injury part of your athletic journey. “Just because you’re not running doesn’t mean you’re not an athlete,” Jackson Cheadle says. “It just means all the energy and time and resources you are putting into running now needs to go into recovery and bouncing back.”
You also aren’t any less of a runner if you dedicate some of your time to exploring or reconnecting with other interests while you’re sidelined. Fifer advises athletes to draw the parts of their lives like a pie. Running might occupy a larger slice when they’re healthy and training hard and a smaller one when they’re coping with an injury. If so, they can then expand other areas to make up the difference.
“What we don’t want to do is just let it feel like the plate’s empty,” she says—then, negative emotions may progress to depression, anxiety, and other more serious issues.
Jackson Cheadle agrees: “When somebody has high athletic identity and they get injured, it can feel like their whole world crumbles.”
However, if you also relish roles as a spouse, parent, musician, or artist, you have multiple ways to feel accomplished and successful. Your sense of self-worth doesn’t take such a hit each time you hit a setback in one domain—leaving you with a level of confidence that strengthens you as an athlete and person.
The post 5 Thoughts Every Injured Runner Has—and How to Cope With Them appeared first on Runner's World Australia and New Zealand.
Say hello to your new go-to breakfast.
For runners, getting enough protein in your diet is important. Protein can help with recovery and you’ll want to make sure your intake is enough to fuel your runs. Studies on protein requirements for athletes recommend intake around to 12-16 grams of protien powder per Kg of body weight. One way to ensure you’re meeting these requirements is by adding protein powder to your smoothie, which can also make your smoothie more filling and keep you full longer.
Plus milk—in this case the almond milk—is an excellent source of calcium and vitamins D and E—which are good for your overall health. The addition, nut butter will add to the flavour as well as ensure you’re getting some healthy fats. Whip this smoothie up the next morning you’re short on time for a filling breakfast on the go.
Total Time: 5 mins
- 1/2 c. coconut water
- 1/2 c. plain greek yogurt
- 3 tbsp. almond butter
- 1 scoop whey protein powder
- 1 tbsp. hulled hemp seeds
- 1 frozen banana
- 1 c. ice
Blend until smooth. Divide between 2 glasses.
NUTRITION (per serving) 329 calories, 21 g protein, 26 g carbs (5 g fiber), 15 g sugars, 17 g fat, 159 mg sodium
A bit lighter, a bit faster, but not drastically different.
- Weight: 307g (M) 247g (W)
- Heel-To-Toe-Drop: 10mm
- Type: Road
- Price: $260
‘Ultraboost, but lighter and faster.’
- New mesh upper
- Sleeker, trimmer shape
- 20% more Boost foam in midsole although this is not very noticeable
- A bit of a luxury launch – if you have the Ultraboost 19 or 20 you won’t really need these.
This year Adidas has expanded its range of mass market trainers to cater for runners who want a shoe that’s kind of an Ultraboost but just a little bit different. Our review of the SL20 showcases a shoe that’s like the Ultraboost but stripped down and faster. If you think of the Ultraboost as being at one end of a spectrum and the SL 20 at the other, the Ultraboost PB is in the middle. A bit lighter, a bit faster, but not drastically different.
A durable outsole
Nothing different to report here. It’s exactly the same as previous Ultraboost iterations: a grid-style configuration of outsole Continental rubber which feels bouncy, is plenty durable and gets the job done with minimal fuss.
The PB has 20% more of the super-bouncy Boost midsole foam injected into its midsole. For first time wearers of a Boost shoe, it was almost a religious experience; they absolutely loved the feeling of their foot being pushed back off the floor with every step. For more experienced Ultraboost wearers, in truth you’re unlikely to notice a significant difference or uptick in energy return, but pounding the streets in these remains a thoroughly pleasurable experience.
Adidas has ditched the Primeknit knitted upper in favour of Celermesh – a much more lightweight, almost plasticy yarn, which is exceptionally breathable, durable and offers that perfect combination of cradling and pliability. This new upper makes them excellent for clement weather but less likely to be top of your list come the travails of a British winter.
One of our testers summed this one up well: ‘stable, fast, a real sense of forward propulsion, impressive cushioning and they also look cool. They certainly live up to their billing of looking and feeling fast.’
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Here’s everything you need to know about ‘runners boob’.
Sorry, but there’s no workout “zone” that will magically melt your fat stores.
As gyms slowly reopen, three experts answer common questions on how to return to a regular routine safely.
With gyms closed during the coronavirus outbreak, we’ve all shifted to living room workouts, sweat sessions at the local park, or an extended rest period for the last few months. But as things begin to slowly reopen, that means your local gym will soon be open again if it is not already.
Though if you choose to go back to the gym, your workouts will probably look a little different and may include wearing a mask, reserving gym time, training outdoors, or wiping down equipment before and after use. You might also be worried about how this extended time away from access to gym equipment has affected your fitness, and what exactly you should do to resume strength training for the first time to avoid injury.
The key here is to keep working out safely. It’s important to exercise, even during a pandemic as it can help boost your immune system, but it’s also vital that you don’t overdo it, as too much exercise may actually compromise your immunities.
So, we tapped Tony Gentilcore, C.S.C.S., founder of Core in Brookline, Massachussetts, Kara Miklaus, NASM-certified trainer and co-owner of WORK Training Studio in Irvine, California, and Guillem Gonzalez-Lomas, M.D., Sports Orthopedic Surgeon at NYU Langone Health to find out exactly how you can safely ramp up your workouts as you get back into the gym or take your home training to the next level.
How many days a week should I go to the gym to start out?
As you head back to the gym, your new routine should be based on how much you worked out during quarantine. If you worked out five days a week, congratulations you are among the few! But if you didn’t exercise at all or performed one to two workouts per week, add in one extra workout per week for as many weeks as it takes to hit your goal.
For example, if you didn’t work out at all over the past few months, do just one workout your first week back. The next week try two, the third week try three, and so on until you meet your training frequency goal, suggests Miklaus.
If I was working out at home with body weight, how should I approach a return to strength training?
As a general rule of thumb, you should keep it easy. Gyms have been shut down for around three months, and it’s going to take you that long to get back to where you were before—it’s not going to take a week, says Gentilcore.
Doing too much too soon can easily lead to injury, Lomas says, even if you feel fresh and capable. A frenetic increase in activity can leave you with delayed onset muscle soreness, which may then incapacitate you for a few days, putting you right back to where you started.
“Instead of trying to stubbornly will yourself into fitness in record time, use the re-initiation as an opportunity. Start light and short. Focus on proper technique and gradually increase the intensity,” Lomas says.
For additional resistance, starting at about half the volume you were at when you were in the gym before is a good place to start, Gentilcore says. For example, if you were bench pressing 60 Kgs, start back with 30 Kgs and build from there.
He suggests selecting a weight which you can lift with 2 or 3 reps in reserve. That way, it’s heavy enough that you’re building strength but not so heavy that you lose your technique or compromise form. The weight should not be so light that you could perform 20 reps when the workout calls for 10 reps.
How do I properly scale up in weight to avoid injury?
You’ll know how to properly scale up in weight when you can go beyond your “failure point.” This means, for whatever rep count you’re doing (5, 10, 20, etc.), it should feel like you can’t do one more rep after that.
“For example, if you’re doing 15 bicep curls with 15 pounds and you get to rep 15 and feel like ‘I could do this forever!’ then it’s time to pick up those 20-pound dumbbells,” says Miklaus.
As a general rule of thumb, you can add 5 percent to the previous week’s load. For example, if you can barbell squat 100 kgs comfortably and with good form for a week, increase the weight to 105 the following week.
That’s a conservative, but safe progression, says Gentilcore. If you haven’t been doing much, your tendons and ligaments may be cranky and weak. Ramping up gradually will help you avoid run-sabotaging injuries such as torn ACLs, hamstrings, and ruptured Achilles tendons, Gentilcore says.
What else should I do to avoid injury?
A proper warmup is essential, says Lomas. Functional warmups involving light jogging, cycling, light plyometrics (such as skipping and dynamic stretching) are most beneficial before a workout. It will also prep your mind as well as your body.
“The idea is not just that your joints and muscles should get a healthy increase in blood flow before getting stressed. You also want your brain to be lasered in on your musculoskeletal system. Proprioception—the brain’s ability to locate its limbs in space—gets enhanced after warmups that stress coordination and flexibility. It’s that unconscious focus that will minimise your chance of planting your foot the wrong way, or doing that last awkward clean,” Lomas explains.
And, you should take time for recovery, too.
“I think going for a walk is the most underrated form of recovery. A lot of people think they have to do ice baths, break out the massage guns, etc., for great recovery,” Gentilcore says. “But in reality, just going for a walk will really aid muscle recovery and alleviate soreness.”
Is there anything beneficial about taking extended time off?
A massive hidden benefit of enforced rest is that it wipes the slate clean, Lomas suggests using this time to break your old patterns. If you didn’t do bodyweight exercises, try them. If you’ve never done yoga, do a class. Adding cross-training can help reduce injury risk and make you an overall better runner.
How long should you wait until you are strength training like you were precoronavirus?
If you haven’t trained at all in months, you should expect it to take the same amount of time to get back into your “precoronavirus” shape as it took to get out of that shape—meaning, if you didn’t workout for three months, you might have a three-month road ahead, says Miklaus.
In reality, most of us have been doing something at home. Within four weeks of regular and systematic training starting light and gradually increasing, you can expect to be close to your previous standards, Lomas says.
And, taking time for recovery is essential, says Gentilcore. He suggests setting up a simple mobility circuit using bands or body weight on your off days to give yourself a day of recovery while still working toward your goal. Even going for a brisk walk will be really beneficial.
Should you treat a return to strength training as if you’ve never strength trained before?
Here’s where you have to have an honest conversation with yourself, Gentilcore says. Have you done nothing? Have you been doing the best you can? If you’ve been doing anything, you shouldn’t need to treat your return to the gym like a total newbie. You’ll still want to be cautious and not go full-out right out of the gate.
But your return really depends on how intense your bodyweight workouts have been, Miklaus says. Your muscles won’t have completely atrophied during quarantine even if you didn’t work out. You just might have to go lighter in weight or lower your reps or sets, Miklaus says.
And, don’t be too hard on yourself. “Most people have taken some time away from the gym unless they have a really sweet home setup, and are probably in the same boat as you,” Miklaus says. “Don’t let perfection be the enemy of progress. Moving at all is better than moving not at all.”
The post How to Get Back in the Gym Without Getting Injured appeared first on Runner's World Australia and New Zealand.
Just because your running clothes pass the sniff test, should you keep wearing them?
It’s okay to admit it—you’re showering less than you used to. And while in the past you may have selected freshly washed clothes to meet up with your running group, these days, you might be grabbing clothes from the dirty pile for your solo runs to reduce laundry days. No one will get close enough to smell you anyway.
Then, you come inside and get distracted by emails or another task you need to tend to, and before you know it, you’ve been sitting in your sweaty clothes for hours.
But what kind of toll is this really taking on your skin? We asked Heather Goff, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor of dermatology at UT Southwestern Medical Center and Whitney High, M.D., who specializes in dermatopathology at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital.
Heading out the door for a morning or lunch run and then sitting in your sweaty clothes all day can be trouble for your skin. Depending on your skin type, problems could range from simply an unpleasant odor to fungal infections, according to High.
That’s why changing out of sweaty clothes as soon as possible is crucial.
“The problem is the moisture,” High said. “Sweat and bacteria can get trapped in the fabrics and, in turn, irritate skin.”
The sweat and bacteria can disrupt the natural microbiome of the skin, Goff says, leading to infection, acne, or dermatitis (skin irritation). Sweat can also get trapped in the areas where the skin folds, called intertrigo, High adds.
And while warmer temps sometimes bring relief to your skin from the dry, cold winters, heat and humidity can come with a whole new set of problems. Prickly heat, or heat rash, happens when sweat ducts get clogged and sweat comes up to surface, but can’t evaporate outside the skin like it normally does.
If you know you have sensitive skin—or just to be safe—it’s best to shower and change into clean clothes as soon as you can after a run or workout. And, Goff suggests, wash with an antibacterial soap or shampoo, especially as temps rise and you become more sweaty during exercise.
“Shampoos with the active ingredient pyrithione zinc are very effective at controlling growth of vectors and yeast on the skin, and can be used as a body wash,” Goff says.
If you do want to rewear your clothes to stretch laundry days, High suggests hanging sweaty clothes to dry before grabbing them again, rather than letting them sit in a ball on the floor or in a hamper, where they stay damp and can harbour moisture and bacteria.
It’s absolutely okay to wear non-sweaty, clean athleisure or workout clothes when working from home, but Goff suggests that you should seek out clothing that wicks moisture. And High adds that it really depends on your skin type and what might irritate your skin. Some people may reach for soft cottons, while others are not bothered by more harsh fabrics.
Another thing to keep in mind when it comes to skin health—sun exposure. As weather gets warmer, people get outside for longer and see more of the sun. And sun exposure can cause a myriad of problems, from aging the skin more quickly to increasing the risk of skin cancer. High suggests avoiding running between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun’s rays are the strongest.
And, be sure to wear sunscreen and a hat when you do go out. Though it is tough to do when running in warm weather, High also recommends wearing long pants and long sleeves to shield your skin from the sun whenever possible.
When applying sunscreen, be sure that you’re using enough. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), most people only apply 25 to 50 percent of the recommended amount of sunscreen. Most adults need one ounce of SPF 30 or higher—enough to fill a shot glass—to fully cover their body.
What this means is that if you aren’t applying it properly and you’re applying SPF 50, you’re really getting protection closer to SPF 25 to 35, cautions High.
After returning from a run when you wear sunscreen, High suggests showering off right away. Especially as more concerns arise that some chemicals can absorbing into the skin, which shouldn’t stop you from wearing it, it can be helpful to wash it off when you come inside.
Bottom line: It can vary from person to person depending on the sensitivity of your skin. But in general, getting out of wet, sweaty clothes ASAP can help avoid any skin irritations from occurring. Rewearing your dirty workout clothes is okay, but make sure they dry out between uses. And, be sure that you’re protecting your skin from sun exposure any time you go out in the sun.
Whether you’re a recreational runner or regularly training, there’s value in taking at least one day off each week.
Taking time off from running, even if it’s just one day, can be a lot tougher than it sounds. We tend to focus on the positive aspects of the sport, and rightfully so: Running allows us to get outside, bust stress, strengthen our muscles, fuel creativity, and be competitive—and all those endorphins help improve our moods and reign in our crankiness. But as much as those miles benefit us, they can also hurt us if we aren’t mindful about resting.
The fact is, not running is just as important as fitting in that long run. Rest days help strengthen your body, sharpen your focus, and reinvigorate your spirit so that you actually want to keep training.
“Rest is not a four-letter word to be ignored,” says Kevin Vincent, M.D., Ph.D., director of the University of Florida Running Medicine Clinic. “The big reason you need it is recovery and recuperation. Every time you run, your body has to adapt to get stronger.”
That’s because when you run, you aren’t just building stamina and strength, you’re also breaking your body down, causing a tiny amount of tissue damage. Allowing yourself time to recover afterward is what makes it possible for you to come back better next week, next month, next race.
“As much as athletes focus on their volume of training and the speed at which they do workouts, what they do outside of running is equally important to becoming stronger and more resilient in the future,” says Adam Tenforde, M.D., assistant professor of physical medicine and rehab at Harvard University and former All-American distance runner at Stanford.
Bonnie Marks, Psy.D., staff psychologist at the NYU Sports Performance Center, agrees. “If you don’t have time to recharge, it can lead to staleness and general apathy about training.”
In other words, rest right, and you’ll run faster and be healthier. Skip it, and you might be forced to take time off due to an injury. Here’s exactly why you need to take a break sometimes to build a stronger—more rested—you.
1. Your muscles can bounce back.
When you run (or do any exercise), you create microscopic tears in your muscle fibres, and your body likes those about as much as you like trying to open a sweaty GU packet. So it responds by rebuilding your muscles stronger, in preparation for the next session. The catch: That response only happens with time off. Vincent says that, depending on the length and intensity of your workout, the body needs a minimum of 36 to 48 hours to reboot. Without it, the body has no opportunity to rebuild and strengthen muscles; they just continue to break down. That negates all the hard work you put in.
2. You avoid stress fractures.
If you’re trying to sidestep an injury (really, who isn’t?), rest is crucial. Running is great for your bones—the impact stresses the bone tissue, and just like a muscle, that increases cell turnover and forces the bone to remodel with stronger structures, says Vincent. “But if you run today, tomorrow, and the next day, it never has time to fully repair.” Eventually, you could be looking at a stress fracture—and a season on the sidelines.
Even if you do give yourself a rest day off from running each week, you should still be conscious of varying your speed and intensity throughout the week. For example, if you do hard track intervals on Monday, you should run at an easy pace on Tuesday. While your bones are still undergoing stress on Tuesday’s run, the impact is much less than the powerful force they absorbed on the track, so repairs can still happen. But the key to a recovery run is to do it at a recoverypace—the more you push the speed, the more shock your bones absorb, and the weaker they’ll be when you try to go fast again.
3. Tight tendons are protected.
Tendons are connective tissues that hold the muscle to bone, so they work constantly as the body moves. But blood doesn’t get to them easily, so they take longer to repair than tissues that have higher vascularity (like muscles), explains Vincent. If they don’t get that time, the constant pounding can cause chronic damage, like tendinitis—which is inflammation from overuse. (To help rehabilitate weak tendons, try adding these strengthening exercises to your weekly routine.)
4. Your brain has time to chill.
Yes, running is a form of stress relief. But every time you lace up, it increases the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in your body. Why? “The body doesn’t know if you’re running away from danger or if you’re running for fun,” says Vincent.
That cortisol bump can cause mood issues, irritability, sleep problems, and other health issues if stress levels are chronically high, says Marks. Think of it like a scale: Overtrain, and you’ve tipped too far in one direction; schedule regular rest days, and you’re back in balance.
5. You can spend more time with family and friends.
While taking a rest day has many physical benefits, it also has several mental ones. Chiefly among them: Rest days grant you valuable time to spend with the family and friends you sometimes ditch to get your mileage in. While these folks are often our biggest fans—and sometimes even our running partners—they’ll probably appreciate a weekend morning that doesn’t involve you lacing up and sneaking out the door for a run.
Plus, if you often run alone, socializing with others can give you a valuable mental boost, especially when you’re nervous for a big race or bumming about a recent performance. Rather than ruminating on negative thoughts during a solo run, you might go on an easy hike with friends or make dinner with your family, making sure to turn your full attention to the people and task at hand. That way, the next time you run, your mind will be fresh, your loved ones will know you care, and you’ll have happier memories to outweigh any bad race results.
6. You can try a new activity.
There’s some debate about how much rest is required on a rest day. While some runners are healthiest when they take rest days completely off from exercise—cross-training included—others prefer to do non-running activities on their rest days.
If you fall into the latter group, you should be mindful of taking it easy in your exercise of choice. For instance, a leisurely, low-impact bike ride is a great way to flush out sore legs and tired feet, but if it turns into an intense, hilly session, your quads and glutes might be shot before your running week even begins. Gentler exercises like swimming and yoga are great choices for a rest day, as they stretch you out, force you to control your breathing, and strengthen your bones and muscles without stressing them too much.
For those who recover best by completely refraining from exercise, use the day to explore a new hobby or catch up on a project you’ve been neglecting. Running tends to take up a lot of our free time—especially when we’re training for a marathon—and unfortunately, when we’re also juggling work and family duties, other activities take a backseat. So on your rest day, read that book. Write that essay. Plant that garden. Taking some time out of your trainers will do your body and mind good.
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