Editor’s Note: This is part one of a two-part series that will conclude next week.
“Training Blunders: How to Avoid Injury,” which ran in this space in October, outlined the most common mistakes made by runners, how to avoid them and how to get you to the start line injury free. The top five included inconsistent training, building mileage too rapidly, ignoring the hard-easy concept, doing the “same ole, same ole,” and avoiding what your body is telling you.
Other prevention strategies include incorporating stretching, weight training and other cross training activities into your program. Staying well hydrated and having new and proper running shoes are also among the most proven techniques at preventing injury.
Next to air, water is the most essential nutrient for any individual. Well hydrated muscles are about 70 to 75 percent water. A 2 percent drop in body water can cause a small but critical shrinkage of the brain, which can impair neuromuscular coordination, decrease concentration and slow thinking. As little as a 1 percent fluid loss can hinder athletic performance, reduce endurance, decrease strength, cause cramping and slow muscular response. In order to prevent any adverse performance effects, you need to stay on top of your fluid intake and begin and end all workouts well hydrated.
Did you know? At rest, we normally lose about 10 cups (2.4 liters) of fluid a day in sweat, urine, exhaled air and bowel movements. What is lost must be replaced to maintain a fluid balance.
How much fluid do you need? The rule that you need eight, eight-ounce glasses of water or fluid daily is a good rule of thumb for some. However, fluid needs depend on many factors, including body size, fitness level, training schedule and dietary factors such as caffeine and alcohol consumption, both of which can increase fluid loss from the body. So how much fluid you need can be an individual matter.
Your best bet is to monitor urine color and frequency of urination. Pale yellow urine is a good sign of proper hydration. Keep in mind that some vitamins can darken or turn urine a bright yellow. Frequent urination (voiding pale urine at least four to six times a day) is another good sign that you’re getting enough fluid.
Spread out your fluid intake during the day and aim for about eight ounces every hour to keep body water levels steady and to ward off the threat of mild dehydration. And remember to drink past the feeling of thirst, since that sensation shuts off quickly once you begin drinking. In fact, it actually turns off before replenishment of lost fluids. So don’t rely on thirst alone; as we get older our thirst mechanism becomes a less-effective sensor of our body’s fluid needs.
During the two to three hours before a run, it is a good idea to consume one ounce of fluid for every 10 pounds of body weight and top off fluid stores with eight ounces an hour or 30 minutes before hitting the road. Carry water with you and drink frequently during the run. If your run is going to last more than 60 to 90 minutes, it is recommended to replace the sodium, potassium and other electrolytes lost with a sports drink about every 20 to 30 minutes in addition to water. After exercise, replace the lost fluids by consuming 16 to 20 ounces of fluid for every pound you lost during your run.
The proper running shoe
The balance, support and driving force of a runner’s body all depend on the feet. Our feet are made up of 26 bones, 33 joints, 112 ligaments and a network of tendons, nerves and blood vessels that all work together to create the synergy involved in running.
For runners, the most critical piece of apparel is shoes. If your feet aren’t happy, the rest of your body won’t be either. It’s important to understand that if you plan to run, you need to buy a shoe specific to running. Not a sneaker, tennis shoe, cross-trainer, aerobic, basketball or walking shoe – but a running shoe made for running and only running. Once you arrive at a running specialty store, don’t just buy the shoes that are the most appealing, funky or colorful, cutest or most manly. Buy the ones that fit your foot the best. During a run our feet strike at a force of three to four times the body’s weight, so having a running shoe is important, but you also want to make sure you have the proper running shoe for your foot type. My motto: function before fashion.
There are three basic foot types, each based on the height of your arches: normal arch, flat/low arch or high arch. Foot types may also be classified by your pronation type: normal pronator, overpronator or underpronator. Pronation is the rolling inward of the foot and is critical to the proper shock absorption and distribution of the forces during impact. Although other variables (such as your weight, biomechanics, weekly mileage and fit preferences) come into play, knowing your foot type is the first step toward finding the right shoe.
First, visit a running specialty store. They carry a wide selection of brands and models and have running experts who can put you in the best shoe. Secondly, have both feet measured for width and length – even if you think you know your size. Your feet tend to spread and lengthen (from running and aging) so don’t be surprised that your running shoes may be a half or full size larger than what you are accustomed to wearing. Thirdly, try on a wide variety of styles and brands. One brand isn’t necessarily better than any other. Take your time. Put your running socks on (and if you wear orthotics, place them in the shoes) and walk around the store in the shoes. Jog around outside. If it doesn’t feel or fit right in the store, it won’t feel better when you get home or go out for a run. Ask about the store’s return policy. Most good running stores have a liberal policy, which allows you to return and/or exchange shoes that are clean and have not been worn a great deal. But check and always keep the sales receipt.
It is important that runners replace their shoes approximately every 350 to 400 miles. The shoe may look like new on the outside, but the midsole, which is the most important part of the shoe will be worn out by then. In addition, the runner’s weight, type of running surface and the types of weather conditions you are running in and the age of the shoe are also considerations. Shoes should be replaced approximately every six months, especially in warm climates, because the shoes will begin to deteriorate.
Stay tuned for the second part of this series on other prevention strategies: how to incorporate stretching, weight training and other cross training activities into your program.
Author’s Note: The above is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other health care professional. You should not use the information in this article for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease or prescribing any medication or other treatment.
Ahwatukee Foothills resident Ronda Jameel is a certified running coach and owner of Run2Dend. Check out training programs for upcoming races at www.run2dend.com. Questions about running can be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.