Sunday, March 26, 2017

Marathon Training Tips

As the saying goes “those who fail to plan – plan to fail.”   This is true in business and it is also true in preparing for rigorous athletic events like running a marathon.     Successful completion of a marathon is all about creating a plan based upon the goal of completing a marathon on a specific date in a specific location.

Determining Starting Point

The length of your plan will depend on your current fitness level relative to running.  So the first step is determining your current fitness level which can be done in several different ways:

If you are currently running you can get an idea of your current fitness level based on how often you run, how far you run, and your average pace when running.

If you are not currently running, then do a 12 minute run test – see here for a how to guide to perform this simple test:

Once you know your starting point you can determine how long it will take you to prepare adequately to complete a marathon. The key is slow and steady progression of average distance per run and total weekly training miles – go too fast and you WILL get hurt!    The body needs time to adapt to the stresses of running.    A good rule of thumb is to increase your weekly mileage (and mileage per run) by no more than 10% per week.

So if you are currently running 15 miles per week you would only increase total mileage to 16.5 miles per week and if your long run was 5 miles you would increase it by half a mile.

In order to successfully complete a marathon, you need to be running somewhere between 30 and 50 miles per week with individual runs of 16 – 23 miles.  The advantage of gradually building up to a 20 – 23-mile run is that you have mental experience with running over 20 which can be very challenging the first time you do it.   That being said, placing too much emphasis on distance can result in over-training if not done carefully.

Training Mix

Assuming you have a base of running 15 or more miles per week on a consistent basis you should begin to mix up your training by including shorter, harder runs with longer slow runs and at least one interval training session per week.      

It is critical that you have a training base of steady mileage prior to increasing training intensity and beginning interval training where you will perform higher intensity intervals of quarter mile to half mile mixed with recovery periods.   

There is an entire science behind interval training and the best athletes train with a heart rate monitor all the time to precisely determine the intensity of their work intervals and how long they recover during rest intervals of slow running/jogging or walking.     This is one of the many reasons that, in an ideal world, you work with a running coach/trainer who has experience designing and working with runners to prepare for marathons and other runs.   A good coach will help plan and adjust your training based on how you progress from week to week which is essential for the best results!

Strength and Mobility Training

Running requires a lot more than just cardiovascular and muscular endurance – it requires specific strength and mobility to avoid injury and allow for optimum running technique.  Integrating a run specific strength and mobility program into your training can be a game changer and the program should include:

            A specific dynamic warm-up and foam rolling for areas of tightness and pain

Strength Training Exercises for Running

It is essential to have great core and glute strength to properly stabilize the body during the impact of running to prevent injury.

It is also critical to strengthen all the muscles of the lower body including the hamstrings, calves, and intrinsic muscles of the feet.

Putting it all together

If preparing for a marathon seems like a lot of work and complicated that is because IT IS!    Like running successful business assessing your starting point and setting a realistic goal with a specific plan of action is key.     Also having a coach is HIGHLY recommended to not only help you create a realistic plan and schedule but to monitor your progress and adjust your workouts and plan accordingly.  

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Incredible Avocado

Avocado are actually a large berry that grows on a tree that can reach 6 feet tall. Just like a banana, the avocado ripens 1-2 weeks after being picked.
Avocados are often referred to as the healthiest food due to their impressive nutritional content.
An avocado contains these vitamins and minerals:
Vitamin B1
Vitamin B2
Vitamin B3
Vitamin B5
Vitamin B6
Vitamin B9
Vitamin C
Vitamin E
Vitamin K
•An avocado contains more potassium than a banana. Avocados have 14% and a banana contains 10% potassium.
•Avocados have high levels of folic acid which lowers incidences of heart disease. Folate is also essential in the prevention of birth defects such as spina bifida and neural tube defect.
*They also contain high levels Vitamin E and glutathione which are potent antioxidants.
•Eating avocados greatly increase absorption of carotenoids (lycopene and beta carotene) which are anti-oxidants that promote healthy eyes and heart.
•Avocados contain significant amounts of the carotenoid lutein which is strongly protective against macular degeneration and cataracts.
•Avocados can lower (LDL) bad cholesterol by up to 22% while increasing (HDL) good cholesterol by 11% and also can lower triglycerides by up to 20%.
•Avocados contain high oleic acid which helps prevent breast cancer, inhibits tumor growth in prostate cancer and seeks out precancerous and oral cancer cells and destroys them.
•Avocados are high in fiber.  Fiber helps improve digestive health, improves glycemic control, and increase satiety (feeling full!).
•Avocado extract paired with a carrier oil can reduce the symptoms of arthritis.
•Avocados can help clean the intestines, and thereby helps eliminate bad breath.

Avocado Baked Egg Recipe

Prep time:   25 minutes 355 calories

                1 Avocado, halved and pitted
                2 Eggs
                ¼ cup crumbled bacon


Preheat oven to 425 degrees

Place each avocado half in small oven safe container like this or similar

Crack 1 egg into each avocado half, season with salt and black pepper and place containers on baking sheet.

Bake in the preheated oven until entire egg is cooked through – about 15 minutes.  Spring each acocade with Bacon and Chives.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Benefits of Resistance Band Training

Almost every gym goer has seen a rubber resistance training band and done at least one exercise using a band, but few people realize the many benefits of resistance band training done on its own or combined with other forms of resistance training such as weight lifting.

There are many unique benefits to Resistance Band Training (RBT) including:

RBT strengthens the neuromuscular system where its weakest, which is at the end of the range of motion.

Allows exercise in true horizontal vectors (parallel to the ground/floor) where free weights can only create a vertical gravity resistance vector.    We move in three planes of motion and many different vectors, and bands allow us to train in all planes and vectors with load.

Provides ascending resistance (gets harder the further a band is stretched) which teaches users how to accelerate concentrically (when projecting force) and decelerate eccentrically (when absorbing force).

Deceleration (aka eccentric loading) always precedes acceleration (concentric unloading) in movement.  Bands elastic properties speed up the loading (eccentric) phase of every exercise, which, in turn, creates a greater need for eccentric control.    Eccentric strength is the key to an explosive acceleration or concentric contraction.

Muscles are reactive by nature and obtain feedback from sensors that constantly measure muscle lengthening or tension development.   Free weight can definitely create vertical loading and feedback, but muscles need to be strong and reactive in all vectors not just up and down.

Bands can be used to safely load movements such as running, jumping, swinging, hopping and kicking WITHOUT altering the mechanics of those movements.    It is difficult and sometimes dangerous to run, jump or hop correctly with any type of free weight on the body.

Unlike free weight training, RBT requires you to train through the full range of motion which, in turn, requires a great workout load.   Free weights take significant effort to accelerate but momentum will be created unless moving the weight very slowly.    With properly done RBT exercise there is no momentum even with high speed movement!

To learn more about bands and how to use them go to

Sunday, March 5, 2017

New Treatment Guidelines for Low Back Pain

Back pain is one of the most common health complaints, and it is also the most common source of physical disability.    Sadly many people find themselves on opioid pain-killers for low back pain which are highly addictive and kill over 16,000 Americans each year from over-doses.
The great news is in the majority of cases there are better ways to manage and prevent low back pain.     One of the most important facts to understand about low back pain is that 75 – 80% of low-back pain will resolve themselves within 2 – 4 weeks without any treatment – particularly if the low back pain was caused by strain, overlifting, twisting, car collision, etc!
Another common cause is too much sitting which is why standing more is part of the solution to many people’s low back pain.    While seated, we tend to allow the low back to go into flexion (round) which places stress on the discs between the vertebra for prolonged periods of time.    In addition, the hip flexor muscles which extend from the low back to the femur (upper leg bone) get chronically shortened and pull on the low back!
Moving is a key part of the solution
The new guidelines stress that movement is very important for almost all forms of low pain along with controlling inflammation, and improving muscle strength, endurance, and mobility.
It is very important to move when you are experiencing low back pain as well – this is not intuitive because initially movement may increase pain.   However using gentle, controlled movements like yoga are very important to resolving low back pain.  
Exercise is also very important for the prevention of low back pain.    For people who have a history of low back pain, exercise is the most effective way to prevent a recurrence according to a recent research review of 21 studies.
Strength training, cardiovascular exercise along with stability and mobility training are all effective in lowing the risk of low back pain.
New Treatment Guidelines Stress Non-Drug Interventions for Back Pain
Early this year, the American College of Physicians issued updated treatment guidelines for low back pain eliminating medication as the first-line treatment and recommending non-drug therapies first.

The new guidelines include three primary recommendations all of which focus on alternative treatments and physical activity.  This includes discouraging the use of Steroid injections and acetaminophen (Tylenol) because research shows that neither is beneficial.
Treatments such as massage, acupuncture, heat, spinal manipulation, tai chi, lower level laser treatments are all first line recommended options.   Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are also recommended such as Ibuprofen.
Scans and Surgery Are Useless for Most Cases of Back Pain
According to the American College of Physicians, scans like MRIs are also to be avoided, as they're "worse than useless" for diagnosing back pain. Exceptions include cases where pain is from trauma or there are warning signs of another condition.
In the vast majority, disc degeneration does not cause back pain. In many cases, this can lead to a diagnosis of disc degeneration and result in an unnecessary surgery, which fails to resolve pain in many cases and creates its own set of issues.
Spinal fusions for back pain have a success rate of about 20 to 25 percent. For 75 to 80 percent of these patients, the surgery simply results in lifelong pain and suffering.
Exercise and Non-Exercise Activity is Key in Treating and Preventing Low Back Pain
This includes avoiding sitting and being aware of posture when you are seated.   Take frequent standing breaks from sitting.     Stretches for the hip flexors and hamstrings along with core strengthening exercise like Pilates and Yoga can work wonders in preventing and treating low back pain.