healthy running

There has been a lot of buzz recently about whether jogging is or is not actually good for you.  I look at this research with a grain of salt. There always seems to be some research saying that this or that is not good for us…then the next month, it is good for us. Do milk or eggs ring a bell?

This was a long-term research project, and there are some interesting facts found in it.  The researchers, from the Frederiksberg Hospital in Copenhagen, found that running can be good for you, but not at speeds of 7 miles per hour and over. Running each week a few times at a moderate pace will improve your health and help you live longer. But overdoing it with high speeds won’t offer those same benefits.

It is important to emphasize that the pace of jogging corresponds to very vigorous exercise,” researcher Dr. Peter Schnohr said. “When performed for decades, this activity level could pose health risks, especially to the cardiovascular system:  if your goal is to decrease risk of death and improve life expectancy, jogging a few times a week at a moderate pace is a good strategy. Anything more is not just unnecessary, it may be harmful.”* 

Dr. Schnohr said there seems to to be an “upper limit for exercise dosing that is optimal for health benefits.”* So what does that mean to us? Well, for me personally, this is clearly not an issue yet. And unlikely to be. I may, at the outer limits of my goals, want to pursue a half-marathon. If I get over 30 miles a week, I would be very surprised. But some ultra-marathoners may be concerned. Both the speed and amount of jogging may be an issue for them. On the other hand, I know some older runners that have been running for years that are very healthy. I wonder if genetics of the people studied affected the results. It can be amazing that what is good for one person can be incredibly damaging to another.
The study has pointed out that light and moderate joggers do have lower death rates as compared to people who don’t jog at all. Dr. Schnohr,  who is the lead author of Dose of Jogging and Long-Term Mortality, said that excessive exercise for long period of time can be linked with diastolic dysfunction and coronary artery calcification. It can also stiffen the walls of large arteries. The study came to a conclusion that one to 1.4 hours jogging each week is best to reduce mortality but with no more than three days a week. Further, the study figured out that the people who jog between one hour and 2.4 hours in a week had 71% lower risk of dying as compared to the couch potatoes, who don’t exercise at all.Running for mere five to ten minutes provides several health benefits, revealed a new study. People usually believe that it is important to run long distances to stay fit. However, the study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, has shown that running for even five to ten minutes significantly reduces the chances of heart attacks and strokes. Dr. Duck-chul Lee, of Iowa State University, the lead author of the study, said people who ran for less than an hour a week were found to have benefits similar to those of running for more than three hours a week. “Running may be a better exercise option than more moderate intensity exercises”, added Lee.**

So what I am hearing is those of you who are just starting out and running short distances are more likely to live longer! Oh, wait, there’s more:

About 25% of participants said that they ran each week to stay fit. Of them, greatest health benefits of running were sought by those who ran for more than six years, helping them to have 50% less chances of dying from cardiovascular disease.**

Ok, running isn’t bad in moderation? But there are limits to the benefits if you go overboard. But what is overboard?There are too many overlapping numbers in this report.

The US Department of Health and Human Services Physical Activity Guidelines  had recommended exercising moderately for 150 minutes or briskly for 75 minutes a week. But the new research has debunked that belief, showing that same benefits of running for longer time and intensity can be gained by running only 30 minutes a week as well.**

So, running is good. But not in excess. That pretty much describes everything, doesn’t it? Milk is good, but not two gallons a day. Pizza is ok, but not every day. Aspirin is good for your heart, but can thin your blood too much in excess. Common sense seems to be key here.

My mile speed doesn’t put me in the danger zone either. The report suggested that jogging should be done at a slow or average pace. This average pace was described as five miles per hour.**  That is actually about where I am right now. I am trying to improve my speed, but  I will going to be lucky to do 9 minute miles sometime in the near future.

I think, in the end, that this report doesn’t mean much to me.  If I want to run an ultra or a marathon, then I would take it into consideration. But there are benefits to running that this report doesn’t address. The mental benefits, for one thing. Running is my stress release–and I can’t be the only one who feels that. Running also makes me feel strong as I conquer new hills and distances. It improves my self-image. And it does help me lose weight, which is good for me. If I can run 5 times a week at a half hour or more, I will consider my time well spent 🙂



Back to Basics, part B

Last week I did a post about form. But of course there is so much more to form. Today I am going to tackle another basic: breathing. It is very hard to get anywhere without being able to breathe evenly. So, how do we get there?

We can all pant. That is never an issue. But when you pant, you are breathing shallowly, which means not as much air gets into your lungs; and quickly, which means what air does hit your lungs doesn’t stay there long enough.

Before running, try this exercise: “lie down on the floor, placing a hand on your belly and breathing deeply. If you feel your hand rise and fall slightly with your breathing, you are belly breathing. If your chest moves up and down rather than your belly, you are not breathing deep enough. Focus on your hand and try making it rise and fall.”**

A good way to see if you are breathing appropriately is the CDC suggestion “that if you can comfortably talk during your running workouts, but not sing, you’re performing at a moderate intensity, which is often appropriate for longer endurance runs. If you can’t say more than a few words without pausing to breathe, your running intensity is vigorous, the CDC notes, which is appropriate if you’re running at a rapid pace for shorter periods of time”*

While this is a great way to see if you are breathing too quickly, what do you do if you are? Everyone needs to find their own way, but I can make suggestions you can try to find your own way. I use my yoga breathing. Being a bit of a geek, I love that Sara Ivanhoe compared the proper way to breathe for yoga to breathing like Darth Vader, deep in the back of your throat so it echoes a bit. Now, I don’t practice my Darth Vader impression as I run down the road. But I do try to inhale deeply, pause, and then let it back out. That does not work all the time, and I can tell when I have not been doing it. I try to take that deep breath for every two to three shallow breathes I take.

Another way to try a ratio is matching your breath to your strides. Many successful runners “prefer a 2:1 stride/breath ratio, according to a review published in 2013 in PLOS One. More specifically, authors of this review note that many runners prefer to take two running steps for each breath they take during workouts.“* This ratio doesn’t work for everyone, so play with it to see if you prefer a 2:2, or a 2:3 ratio more. Focusing on your breath will help you keep it even.

Breathing properly can also help prevent side stictches.Many side pains come from your incomplete breathing. When you expand your lungs, you also engage your diaphram. Your diaphram is a muscle that moves with your lungs during breathing. When you increase your breathing dramatically, your diaphram may spasm, resulting in a side stitch. If you breathe evenly, and keep your posture upright so your lungs  can fully expand, these spasms are less likely.

If nothing seems to help, especially if breathing becomes difficult, it is always a good idea to check with your doctor.  “Asthma or exercise-induced asthma and allergies are very common, so when you feel you can’t catch your breath, if you cannot inhale or exhale productively, if you experience any wheezing, or other symptoms that are uncomfortable or concern you, please check with your doctor.”**

Whatever method you choose, remember it won’t happen over-night. Just stick with it!





Reasons to Yoga

As  a friend commented yesterday, some people lose weight doing “power yoga”. It is one of many reasons to practice yoga; I have decided to list a few others. 

–builds muscles by using our own body weight as resistance in the poses

–builds endurance as you learn to  hold the poses for longer and longer amounts of time

–feeling of well-being after a good stretch

–learn to control breathing

–stretches out muscles tight from other activities

–better understanding of how your body works and the muscles you use

–faster metabolism due to building muscles

–possibility of happiness and serenity

 There are more, of course.  Why do you practice Yoga? I would love to hear more reasons. And would any of the above reasons convince you to start practicing?

Basketball is an endurance sport, and you have to learn to control your breath; that’s the essence of yoga, too. So, I consciously began using yoga techniques in my practice and playing. I think yoga helped reduce the number and severity of injuries I suffered. As preventative medicine, it’s unequaled.     —Kareem Abdul Jabbar

One of the best reasons for cross training I can think of