Compression for Increased Running Performance

October 12, 2010

There never seems to be an end to the “latest and greatest”.

Recently compression clothing have been getting some attention in endurance events. Certainly compression stockings have been used to help circulation in medical environments for a long time. In fact graduated compression stockings were initially designed in a clinical environment to increase blood flow. So wouldn’t it make sense that athletes could also use this technology to their advantage?

Sports apparel companies market a variety of compression clothing towards athletes touting a number of performance and recovery benefits.

Could this assist athletes in performance and recovery? Is this real or just a matter of perception? Participants involved in compression studies expressed feelings of support when running.


So what does the research say?

In an article written in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine. The researchers concluded that data suggests that wearing compression garments in the recovery from exercise may alter the inflammatory response to damage and accelerate the process inside of the muscle.

And what about different grades of compression?

Until recently no studies were done on whether a heavier grade of compression was more beneficial than a lighter grade. In an article published by the Journal of Sports Sciences this past year researchers applied 3 different grades of compression on 15 endurance athletes. Rates of perceived exertion, muscle soreness and time to exhaustion were unaffected by the various grades. Overall there was NO difference in performance.

I’m not sure about you, but when I run I don’t like clothing that feels tight up against my skin. If I were to try these garments out I would try a lower grade one first and if I didn’t get the desired response I would try them again increasing the grade of compression.

So what about you? Have you tried these garments? What did you think? Have you tried any other of the “latest and greatest” products that are on the market? What has been your experience?

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Chocolate – Good vs Evil

August 17, 2010

In the last few years there has been a lot of talk about the health benefits of chocolate.

Coincidentally the International Cocoa Organization states that production has risen from 1.2 million tons per year in 1960 (I know a long time ago) to 3.2 million tons per year in 2004. Along with the rise in the production of chocolate so has the global rate of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Hmmmm?

So which is it? Is chocolate good for you or is it killing you? Oh, and don’t get me started on expanding waistlines.

Studies have surfaced that show that it is the plant sterols and cocoa flavonoids in chocolate that when used as part of a low fat diet support cardiovascular health by lowering cholesterol and improve blood pressure.

A review of studies conducted by members of the departments of Epidemiology, Nutrition and Medicine at Harvard University also agree that the flavonoids are likely protective against coronary heart disease.

Now we must remember that all chocolate is NOT created equal. Most candy bars that you find in the grocery store are high in refined (white) sugar and other fats that replace the healthy nutrients found in cocoa.

So, when shopping for chocolate there are a few things to consider. Does the chocolate product

  • Consist of at least 70 percent pure cocoa.
  • Contain cocoa butter instead of milk fats or hydrogenated oils.
  • Contains natural, low-glycemic sweeteners – such as raw cane – rather than refined sugar

What about you? Do you eat chocolate? Is it a guilty pleasure? Or do you like Nancy Clark, (Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics) who wrote in Sweat Magazine (July/August 2010) use it during a cardiovascular workout like a long hike or bike ride?

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Exercise and Arthritis

July 26, 2010

Nearly 27 million Americans are affected by arthritis. So what is arthritis and where does exercise come into the picture?

When the cartilage, which is the cushion at the ends of your bones breaks down. It causes the bones to rub up against each other. This can cause stiffness, pain and loss of movement in the joint. This is known as osteoarthritis.

Although arthritis is seen as something that happens in the normal course of aging, there are ways to manage this disease. One way this is done, yes you guessed it, is through exercise.

The John Hopkins Arthritis Center states that “Regular physical activity can keep the muscles around affected joints strong, decrease bone loss and may help control joint swelling and pain. Regular activity replenishes lubrication to the cartilage of the joint and reduces stiffness and pain. Exercise can enhance weight loss in those with arthritis who are overweight.”

The Arthritis Foundation says that –

  • For every one pound of weight loss, there is a four pound reduction in the load exerted on the knee for each step taken
  • Losing as few as 11 pounds can cut the risk of developing knee osteoarthritis by 50 percent for some women
  • Physical activity keeps joints flexible and maintains or improves muscle strength.

That information was directed towards the knee. But the same can be said for your ankles, hips, shoulders and elbows. If you keep the muscles that support your joints strong then they can support these joints while they are going through their range of motion.

So what about you? Has arthritis showed up in one or more of your joints? How has it affected your daily life? For me I can feel it in my hands, so I do exercises that help me with my grip. If you want ideas as far as what exercises will help with certain joints please feel free to ask me here or email me.

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When Should I Get My Next Physical Exam?

July 12, 2010

Many years ago a very good female friend of mine informed me that she hadn’t been to her gynecologist in years for a check up because she was afraid to be weighed. I almost fell off of my chair. This woman is someone who is very lean and works out quite a bit. In fact her appearance is of someone who could use to gain a few pounds.

When I turned 40 I began to have annual physical exams. It was because of a routine blood test that it was found that I had an elevated enzyme count that then led to the finding of a “pre-existing” condition that now has to be monitored every 6 months. I’m fine and if anything I’m in better shape now than I was 20 yrs ago.

What is bothersome is that I know that there are a lot of people out there like my friend who are not being checked for frivolous reasons.

The Penn State Hershey Medical Center states that the purpose of regular physical exams include

  • Screen for diseases
  • Assess risk of future medical problems
  • Encourage a healthy lifestyle
  • Update vaccinations

It is recommended that everyone has two physical exams in their 20’s. For women a complete breast exam should be done every 3 years between the ages of 20-40. And pelvic exams and pap smears should be done every 1-2 years.

In our 40’s it is recommended that we have physicals every 1 to 5 years depending on what your doctor recommends and what the previous findings were. For women breast exams should be done annually.

And after the age of 65 even more extensive testing should take place.

There are many “silent killers” out there, diagnosis that you might have but don’t realize until they rear their ugly heads and then it may be too late.

So, how about you? When was the last time you were in your doctor’s office for a check up? if you haven’t been to your doctor in too many years, pick up the phone. If not for you, how about for those that are depending on you to live a healthy and fulfilled life.

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Affects of Alcohol on Exercise

July 1, 2010

With alcohol being the most common drug of choice one has to wonder what effects it has on your athletic performance.

Sorry folks but this blog has to be written.

For the most part the people that I run into in the gym seem to have their acts together as far as their alcohol consumption is involved. But every once in a while during an early morning workout I’ll catch a whiff of someone’s partying the night before.

Now far be it for me to judge anyone on how they use their down time to kick back and relax. But if your goals include chasing your PR’s and pushing your body as far as it can go then realize that your nutritional intake includes EVERYTHING you digest including what you drink.

In a position statement issued by the American College of Sports Medicine, the ACSM states that “alcohol appears to have little or no beneficial effect on the metabolic and physiological responses to exercise. Further, in those studies reporting significant effects, the change appears to be detrimental to performance.”

Research at the University of Georgia states that-

Alcohol will not improve muscular work capacity and results in:

  • Decrease in overall performance levels
  • Slowed running and cycling times
  • Faster fatigue during high-intensity exercise

Adequate hydration is crucial to optimal performance. The diuretic property of alcohol can result in:

  • Dehydration and significantly reduced aerobic performance
  • Impaired 800 and 1500 meter run times
  • Increased health risks during prolonged exercise in hot environments

Ok so you don’t drink before you go to the gym or before your run. What about the day after. The same research as above showed that “drinking on the day or night before athletic activity hinders physical conditioning progress, and exercising with a hangover has been shown to significantly decrease performance capacity by as much as 11%”

So, ok I hear it now. “Hey I drink and I’m doing just great”. Well think about how much better you would be doing if you didn’t.

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Red Wine vs White Wine

June 1, 2010

Red wine or white wine? Every now and then I am asked this question by those who imbibe. In fact one time I was asked in a very unscientific manner, “I’m going out tonight drinking, which would be better for me to drink, red or white wine?” My answer was “if you’re going out “drinking” does it really matter?” I don’t think the person got the answer they were looking for.

Further examination does show however a possible benefit to drinking red wine. Doctors do agree that “something” in red wine appears to help the heart. Researchers feel that a substance called resveratrol has promising heart-healthy benefits.

Resveratrol in red wine comes from the skin of grapes used to make wine. Because red wine is fermented with grapes longer than is white wine, red wine contains more resveratrol.

Some research has shown that resveratrol could be linked to a reduced risk of inflammation and blood clotting……But KNOW THIS, research has been done on mice only NOT in people. AND the amount used on mice would equal that of 100 to 1000 bottles of red wine a day!!!

Now DON’T even think about it! Drinking too much can increase your risk of high blood pressure, high triglycerides, liver damage, and obesity. And the list goes on and on.

So if you’re looking for an excuse to drink or justify it, then this isn’t the answer. Go do what you’re going to do and at least take responsibility for your actions.

If you already drink red wine then do so in moderation. Moderation is defined as an average of two drinks per day for men and one for women. A drink is defined as 12 ounces of beer or 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80 proof spirits.

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Book Review – A Million Miles In A Thousand Years

May 25, 2010

Are you tired of being told  “change your mind, change your life” or that you just don’t know the real secret to life?

Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller tells the story of an author who is in the process of adapting his memoirs into a movie. Along the way although the book he wrote tells his tale, he finds out that he really hasn’t “lived” his life.

This book points you in the right direction to do the same with your life. It is a quick read with a high impact.

Now that we have gotten past the “just do it” stage and have found that we need true emotion behind our convictions. A book like a Million Miles will give you the shove you need to passionately live your life. Enjoy!

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Do Women Bulk Up When They Train With Weights?

March 30, 2010

One of the most common statements I hear from women who have not done resistance training before is, “And I don’t want to bulk up”.

It is a myth that women will naturally attain the bodies that female bodybuilders flaunt simply by doing resistance training.


The benefits of weight training for women go on and on, from battling osteoporosis to an increased metabolism.

So instead of embracing strength training some women will either stay out of the weight room altogether or use weights that are too light and then not get any results at all.

In an article published in the New York Times, Dr William J. Kraemer a professor of Kinesiology at the University of Connecticut states, “Acquiring muscle mass requires testosterone levels that women don’t have. Instead, the toning that many women say they want comes from lifting heavy weights.”

Both men and women have to implement certain things in their lifestyle such as nutrition, supplementation and a very specific type of weight training in order to put on the muscle that you see bodybuilders wearing.

Yes, there are those that have the genetic makeup to build muscle quicker than others. And for those that do then they must adapt a training regime that includes low weights and higher repetition.

So girls, unless you really do want to “bulk up” then you won’t.

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Protein & Carbs – How Much Should I Be Eating?

March 16, 2010

There is a lot of confusion about how much protein and carbohydrates to eat.

According to the Harvard School of Public Health adults should get a minimum of .8 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight per day. That’s about 64 grams for a 160 pound adult.

In the U.S. adults get an average of 15 percent of their calories from protein. Replacing the sugar in our diets that we get from refined carbohydrates such as white bread or drinks filled with sugar by increasing our protein intake to 20 to 25 percent could actually reduce the risk of heart disease.

And if your taking that amount of sugar out of your diet. Can you imagine what it will do for your waistline?

Good sources of protein include chicken, fish, eggs and lean meat.

Carbohydrates. Wow! What a bad rap this food group has gotten.

Man cannot not live a healthy lifestyle without carbs! So how much?

The AMDR (Acceptable Micronutrient Distribution Range- amount that the FDA considers healthful) is 45 to 65 percent of total calories.

Before you get all excited about this know that we are not talking about foods that have added sugars.

The carbohydrates you should be eating are fiber-rich fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

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HDLs – LDLs What Does It All Mean?

February 23, 2010

If you are at all conscious about your health you realize that it is very important to have regular physical exams. During this procedure your blood is drawn and then after a day or two you are given information about things like HDL’s and LDL’s.

But what do these numbers represent? What do they mean?

HDL = High Density Lipid

LDL = Low Density Lipid

Know this. HDL is the good lipid and LDL is the bad one.

HDLs actually help sweep away plaque that forms on your arteries. LDLs can’t do this because they are not dense enough to have this effect.

So in other words you want to have a high HDL count and a low LDL count in order to be proactively working against heart disease.

The American Heart Association states that it is desirable for your total cholesterol level to be 200mg/dL or less.

When you break it down you want your HDL level to be in the 40 – 50 mg/dL level for men and 50 – 60 mg/dL level for women. An HDL cholesterol of 60mg/dL or higher gives some protection against heart disease.

LDL cholesterol levels are considered optimal when they are less than 100 mg/dL.

So when should you be checked? The AHA recommends that when you turn 20 you should begin having your blood checked regularly.

As always exercise and diet are your best weapons against a high cholesterol count.

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