Monday, August 30, 2010

Muscle Cramps During a Marathon.

I always get cramping in my calves when I run over 15 miles. Cramping can certainly be a symptom of "hitting the wall." I decided to search the web for some information; my findings below.

Possible Muscle Cramp Causes
• Dehydration
• Electrolyte depletion (sodium, potassium, magnesium & calcium)
• Low blood sugar
• Poor conditioning
• Muscle fatigue
• Doing a new activity
• Exercising in extreme heat

Possible Ways to Relieve Muscle Cramps
• Stretch the muscle until the cramp stops
• Apply deep pressure to the affected muscle for 10-15 seconds at a time

Possible Ways to Prevent Muscle Cramps
• Stretch regularly after exercise
• Warm up before exercise
• Improve fitness
• Start a sports massage regime
• Make sure you are getting adequate amounts of Sodium, Potassium, Magnesium, Phosphorus & Calcium in your diet; consider taking a supplement
• Consume an electrolyte drink during extended periods of exercise

Additional Findings
• It takes 2 to 2.5 hours of exercise to deplete fully stored muscles takes.

• Sports drinks should be diluted to a ratio of two parts to one part water to prevent high concentrations of ingredients in the system. Large meals and fatty or high protein foods should be avoided before an event or training, favoring instead smaller, more frequent snacks.

• It's widely believed that potassium, magnesium and calcium can assist in the prevention of running cramps. Supplements can be taken.

• Luke Hoffman, author of the HowStuffWorks article How Aspirin Works, offers the following thoughts on muscle cramping:

"There is a reflex arc – made up of the muscle, the nerves carrying signals to the central nervous system (CNS) and the nerves carrying signals from the CNS back to the muscle -- that keeps carrying contraction signals from and to the muscle. This appears to lead to a sustained contraction in the muscle, also known as a cramp."

• Poor posture or inefficient biomechanics can be a cause of muscle cramping. Poor movement patterns may cause a disturbance in the activity of the Golgi tendon organs. These are "strain gauges" built into the tendon to prevent muscle tears. When activated, these organs cause the threatened muscle to relax while stimulating the antagonistic muscle-the one that moves the joint in the opposite way-to fire. There may be some quirk of body mechanics that upsets a Golgi device and sets off the cramping pattern.

If this is the cause, prevention may involve improving biomechanics, and regular stretching and strengthening of muscles that seem to cramp along with their antagonistic muscles.

• Another theory is that cramping is a result of burning protein for fuel in the absence of readily available carbohydrate. In this research, muscle cramps occurred in subjects who reached the highest levels of ammonia release during exercise. High ammonia levels indicate that protein is being used to fuel the muscles during exercise. This may indicate a need for greater carbohydrate stores before, and replacement of those stores during intense and long-lasting exercise.

• Some say pinching your upper lip can release a cramp.  Who knows!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Is Running Contagious?

To continue on the topic of my last post, it's only two days until the Crim 10 mile race in Flint, Michigan. This will be my fourth or fifth time running it. It's one of those races that you automatically add to your personal Summer race calendar. It has it all; the perfect distance, the neighborhood crowd support (including beer at "Cashew Point" and a dozen plus entertainers), the charming course through several neighborhoods, the rolling hills (notably The Bradley Hills) and the wide range of runners - from celebrated professional athletes to first timers.

So, why do I again bring up the Crim as an area of conversation? It's because, while this race is where running really started for me, it was also the point at which I realized that running was contagious.

Let me explain. I saw a postcard for the Crim training group, my co-worker Kristin and I decided to sign-up. We mentioned it to another co-worker, and she signed up. I told my Dad I could help him w/ the training from a "run this far this weekend, and run this far the next," and then he signed up. Because my Dad and I signed up, my Mom signed up for the 5k run. After the Crim 10 mile race was over, my Dad and I decided to run our first half marathon, the Detroit Freepress Half Marathon, and my Mom and husband signed up for the 5k run. After succeeding with 13.1 miles my Dad and I decided to vow to do the Chicago marathon the next year. The year we ran our first marathon, my Mom ran her first half marathon. Then a year later my Mom decided to try her first marathon. Along the way several friends, family and co-workers all became inspired to run races for their first time, or distances that they never thought they could cover.

That brings us to today; two days away from the Crim; I am excited (and proud) to say that my husband Mark is ready for his first Crim 10 mile race! His previous running history consisted of doing a couple 2 mile runs with me in the Summer and possibly a 5k in the Fall. After a full Spring & Summer of training for the 10 miler (body glide, cliff shot gels and lakefront training runs in all) I can only hope his journey ends (or should I say starts) like mine. Perhaps, at the finish line on the bricks of Saginaw Street, he will realize that he has truly become a runner. I'm excited to share this moment with my Mom and Dad who are (of course) running the Crim and the thousands of others also running. Alright! Time to eat some pasta!

Monday, August 23, 2010

How I Became a Runner.

I was athletic growing up.  Basketball in the fall, volleyball in the winter and softball in the spring.  The physicality, comradeship, discipline and the quest to be greater drove my passion for athletics.

What I hated most about athletics was running.  Drills.  Being the last person to finish.  Feeling like I was going to puke.  The pressure.  Everything about running made me cringe.  I tried out for the track team to try to get over my hate for running, but after not being able to barely make it a mile without walking they directed me to the shot put group.  My best buddy Sara and I quit after the first day.  Clearly – though running was a staple part of athletics – it was not for me.

Why did I hate running so much, and why was I so bad at it?  Was it because of the horrible way it made me feel; was it because I was a bit of a fat kid?  I learned the answer to these questions while training for my first long distance race – The Crim 10 mile race in Flint, Michigan – in 2005.  A co-worker (Kristin) and I signed-up for the Jeff Galloway training program on a whim after seeing a postcard for the race. The decision was made over a cup of chili and half of a grilled cheese sandwich at the Lunch Studio; we vowed to complete the 10 miles. I even suckered my Dad into training as well. 

So why did I hate running so much? I learned, that summer, that I hated running in the past because it was never on my own terms.  It was always being shoved down my throat by a coach.  It was always part of a drill that I knew was going to hurt and that I knew would not end successfully. 

And why was I so bad at it? I learned, that summer, that I struggled with running because I never put the time in that running deserved.  I just suffered on the first day of practice and thought "this is what running is."

It was during the last weekend in August of 2005, with my first shiny Crim 10 mile race medal around my neck, on the bricks in Flint, Michigan, that I became a runner.  I realized that running – when it was on my own terms and with proper training – provided me with all the things I loved about athletics; the physicality, comradeship, discipline and the quest to be greater.  Running was no longer the part of athletics that I hated, running became the part of athletics that I needed.  This is how I became a runner.