Saturday, July 30, 2011

Does Running Cause Arthritis?

"You are going to wear out your knees running."  Every runner has heard this, usually from non-runners.  However, this statement is based on very little scientific evidence.

Theoretically, one might expect that repetitive loading of joints over years of running might lead to arthritis.  In fact, there is laboratory data that shows that acute and repetitive joint loading may cause changes in articular cartilage (joint cartilage) that are associated with arthritis.  Many investigators have tried to look at this clinically.  While there are a very few number of small, poorly conducted studies that suggest a link between running and arthritis,  the overwhelming majority of studies find no link between running and arthritis in otherwise healthy people.

Human joints have the intrinsic ability to adapt to stress and strengthen in the process.  Moderate running provides this stress, and may lead to improved joint health and longevity.  That being said, running isn't for everybody.  There are certain independent risk factors for the development of arthritis.  These include age, obesity, mal-alignment, and history of trauma or injury.  Running may potentially exacerbate the risks in the presence of these other factors. Before beginning a running program, it's a good idea to consult with your doctor.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Boot Camp, Wk 1

This is the first week of my boot camp.  It's being led by Steve at Good Life Fitness.  I have always resisted  doing these things.  After all, I'm a marathon runner.  I'm supposed to be in great shape.  The problem is it's easy to get stuck in a rut, and that's where I found myself.  After a positive referral from a fellow runner at the office, I decided to give it a shot.

All I have to say is.....OMG!!!  The first day I couldn't really even lift my arms above my head to wash my hair and I'm embarrassed to say, but I needed help getting my dress shirt on!  The focus on cardio, plyometrics, and core strengthening has been outstanding.

I've been doing some speed work, too, so I decided to compare a speed work out with an hour at boot camp.  I did a hard interval workout in the middle of the day, 90 degrees plus.  My maximum heart rate was less during this workout than it was during a boot camp workout at 5AM.

As runners we are sometimes guilty of focusing too much on running and neglecting other activities.  Cross training can make you a better runner, if done properly.  I expect boot camp to make me a leaner, stronger, faster runner.  I'm not there yet, but I am happy to say that after one week I am now washing my own hair and dressing myself again.

Thanks, Steve!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

#4--Twin Cities Marathon

October 8, 2000. 3:09:52

When I finished the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon, I set my sights squarely on qualifying for Boston.  I had basically spent the last year training.  I was in great shape, and I thought a BQ was within reach.  I read everything I could get my hands on about running.  I was in marathon shape, I just had to get a little bit faster.  I took a week or two off after San Diego, and then began a fairly intense program to try to qualify for Boston.  I incorporated one of Hal Higdon's intermediate programs.  Each week I would do a track workout, an easy recovery run, a tempo run, a long pace run, and a long run.  Every run had a purpose.  The program was challenging but doable.  My peak weekly mileage didn't ever exceed 45 miles.  This was important, because I had just started my third year of medical school (the first clinical year and probably the busiest and most time consuming.  During my surgery rotation I would start rounds at 3:30 in the morning!)

After 18 weeks, I was ready.  I can't remember why I chose the Twin Cities.  Probably because it was within driving distance, and I had a friend that I could stay with.  Race day was clear and cool.  Probably high 30's at the start.  I was a little late getting to the start area, so I had to start towards the back.  There weren't any corrals that I remember.  Anyway, I knew I had to stick to a 7:15 pace at least.  After the first mile, I was already a minute or two behind.  I went to the side of the road and even on the sidewalk at one point in order to pass the slower runners.  I felt great and quickly got back on track.  I remember that I had at least one sub 6 minute mile during the race.  By ~ mile 19 or so I had a comfortable cushion.  At this point, however, the Twin Cities course becomes very tough.  Right after mile 20 there is a steep hill that doesn't end until about mile 23.  I had run plenty of hills, but none like this.  I did my best, but at the top of that climb, I had lost my cushion.  I was now well off pace.  I was crest-fallen, but I had come too far to give up.  The only thing I knew to do was keep running, which is what I did.  I remember looking down at my watch at mile 25.  Although I can't remember the exact time, I do remember thinking that if I had a strong kick, I might still be able to make it.  At that point I went into what was basically an all out sprint for the last 1.2 miles.  I crossed the finish line and looked at my watch.  It said 3:09:52.  I had just qualified for the Boston Marathon.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Speed Work, Vol. IV: Hills

I believe it was Frank Shorter who once said, "hills are speed work in disguise."  Hills are not something that most runners will set out to run intentionally.  Most runners, in fact, do almost everything to avoid running them!  Shorter said what he did because running hills offers many of the same benefits as the other speed workouts I've discussed.  The basic physiology is the same.  Hill running, like the other workouts, makes you a fitter and stronger runner.  I recommend finding a route with a couple of hills that are 100m or so in length (a city block, usually) and doing a couple of "hill-repeats," or find a rolling course and attack the hills going up.  So next time, instead of avoiding hills, embrace the challenge.  Most races have some hilly parts.  You'll know your work has paid off when you pass others struggling to make it to the top.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Speed Work, Vol. III: Pace Runs

Pace runs are really important if you are trying to run a particular time.  Let's say you want to break 4 hours, or want to qualify for your age group at Boston.  There is a particular pace that you are going to have to run.

Pace runs teach your body to recognize the pace, and to be comfortable maintaining that pace when you are getting tired.  I think the best way to do a pace run is the day AFTER your long run.  The pace run should be about half the distance of your long run, but done at a faster pace.

For example, let's say you want to break 4 hours.  Your goal pace is ~9:15/mile.  Do your long runs 30-60 seconds per mile slower than this goal pace.  The pace run should be done at 9:15.  The pace run should be moderately long, about half of your long run for the week.  So if your long run is 14 miles on Saturday, follow this with a 7 mile pace run on Sunday.  Your body will learn to maintain this goal pace, even when you are fatigued.  When marathon day rolls around, your goal pace should be second nature and you should be able to maintain it, even in the last few miles of the race.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Thank You

Since my blog has gone live I've had more than 1,000 page views.  I have regular followers locally, across the country, and even have regular viewers in Germany and Malaysia!  To those who visit the site, I'd like to say thanks.  Running has meant a great deal to me and I really enjoy sharing my expertise and experience with others.  I'd like to make this Blog as valuable as possible.  I've created a poll that you will see on the left hand side of the screen.  Please take a moment to vote and tell me what you enjoy reading on the blog, and what you'd like to see more of.  Thanks again.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Speed Work, Vol. II: Tempo Runs

In an earlier post I espoused the virtues of the Yasso 800's.  Today I will discuss one of my other favorite workouts, the Tempo Run.  Like the Yasso repeats, tempo runs are simple and effective.  Basically, a tempo run teaches your body how to run fast when you should be getting tired.  It does so by raising your lactate threshold.  Lactate is a by-product of muscle activity.  It's accumulation causes soreness and fatigue.  By raising your lactate threshold,  you use oxygen more efficiently, and raise the point at which your body produces and accumulates lactate.  By doing so, you prevent or delay the onset of muscle fatigue and soreness.

I recommend doing tempo runs once a week.  Start with an easy mile warm up, then run 20-30 minutes at tempo pace.  Finish with an easy mile run.  There are many ways to determine your tempo pace.  One way is to add ~20 seconds to your 10-K pace.  For instance, when I was training for the Twin Cities Marathon I ran a 10K in 38:15 (6:10/mile pace).  My tempo pace was therefore 6:30/mile.  I usually do these work outs on the treadmill because it is easy to program in the exact pace and stick to it.  The treadmill also offers a nice break from the impact of asphalt and concrete.

Tempo runs will make you a faster and stronger runner, regardless of your distance or goal.  For more information on tempo runs, Runner's World has several good articles in their archives.