Thursday, March 27, 2008

Mental Therapy?

Finally, some concrete scientific evidence to how I feel after my runs....I guess I might not be crazy after all....well...

Interesting NY Times article:

THE runner’s high: Every athlete has heard of it, most seem to believe in it and many say they have experienced it. But for years scientists have reserved judgment because no rigorous test confirmed its existence.

Yes, some people reported that they felt so good when they exercised that it was as if they had taken mood-altering drugs. But was that feeling real or just a delusion? And even if it was real, what was the feeling supposed to be, and what caused it?

Some who said they had experienced a runner’s high said it was uncommon. They might feel relaxed or at peace after exercising, but only occasionally did they feel euphoric. Was the calmness itself a runner’s high?

Often, those who said they experienced an intense euphoria reported that it came after an endurance event.

My friend Marian Westley said her runner’s high came at the end of a marathon, and it was paired with such volatile emotions that the sight of a puppy had the power to make her weep.

Others said they experienced a high when pushing themselves almost to the point of collapse in a short, intense effort, such as running a five-kilometer race.

But then there are those like my friend Annie Hiniker, who says that when she finishes a 5-k race, the last thing she feels is euphoric. “I feel like I want to throw up,” she said.

The runner’s-high hypothesis proposed that there were real biochemical effects of exercise on the brain. Chemicals were released that could change an athlete’s mood, and those chemicals were endorphins, the brain’s naturally occurring opiates. Running was not the only way to get the feeling; it could also occur with most intense or endurance exercise.

The problem with the hypothesis was that it was not feasible to do a spinal tap before and after someone exercised to look for a flood of endorphins in the brain. Researchers could detect endorphins in people’s blood after a run, but those endorphins were part of the body’s stress response and could not travel from the blood to the brain. They were not responsible for elevating one’s mood. So for more than 30 years, the runner’s high remained an unproved hypothesis.

But now medical technology has caught up with exercise lore. Researchers in Germany, using advances in neuroscience, report in the current issue of the journal Cerebral Cortex that the folk belief is true: Running does elicit a flood of endorphins in the brain. The endorphins are associated with mood changes, and the more endorphins a runner’s body pumps out, the greater the effect.

Leading endorphin researchers not associated with the study said they accepted its findings.

“Impressive,” said Dr. Solomon Snyder, a neuroscience professor at Johns Hopkins and a discoverer of endorphins in the 1970’s.

“I like it,” said Huda Akil, a professor of neurosciences at the University of Michigan. “This is the first time someone took this head on. It wasn’t that the idea was not the right idea. It was that the evidence was not there.”

For athletes, the study offers a sort of vindication that runner’s high is not just a New Agey excuse for their claims of feeling good after a hard workout.

For athletes and nonathletes alike, the results are opening a new chapter in exercise science. They show that it is possible to define and measure the runner’s high and that it should be possible to figure out what brings it on. They even offer hope for those who do not enjoy exercise but do it anyway. These exercisers might learn techniques to elicit a feeling that makes working out positively addictive.

The lead researcher for the new study, Dr. Henning Boecker of the University of Bonn, said he got the idea of testing the endorphin hypothesis when he realized that methods he and others were using to study pain were directly applicable.

The idea was to use PET scans combined with recently available chemicals that reveal endorphins in the brain, to compare runners’ brains before and after a long run. If the scans showed that endorphins were being produced and were attaching themselves to areas of the brain involved with mood, that would be direct evidence for the endorphin hypothesis. And if the runners, who were not told what the study was looking for, also reported mood changes whose intensity correlated with the amount of endorphins produced, that would be another clincher for the argument.

Dr. Boecker and colleagues recruited 10 distance runners and told them they were studying opioid receptors in the brain. But the runners did not realize that the investigators were studying the release of endorphins and the runner’s high. The athletes had a PET scan before and after a two-hour run. They also took a standard psychological test that indicated their mood before and after running.

The data showed that, indeed, endorphins were produced during running and were attaching themselves to areas of the brain associated with emotions, in particular the limbic and prefrontal areas.

The limbic and prefrontal areas, Dr. Boecker said, are activated when people are involved in romantic love affairs or, he said, “when you hear music that gives you a chill of euphoria, like Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3.” The greater the euphoria the runners reported, the more endorphins in their brain.

“Some people have these really extreme experiences with very long or intensive training,” said Dr. Boecker, a casual runner and cyclist, who said he feels completely relaxed and his head is clearer after a run.

That was also what happened to the study subjects, he said: “You could really see the difference after two hours of running. You could see it in their faces.”

In a follow-up study, Dr. Boecker is investigating if running affects pain perception. “There are studies that showed enhanced pain tolerance in runners,” he said. “You have to give higher pain stimuli before they say, ‘O.K., this hurts.’ ”

And, he said, there are stories of runners who had stress fractures, even heart attacks, and kept on running.

Dr. Boecker and his colleagues have recruited 20 marathon runners and a similar number of nonathletes and are studying the perception of pain after a run, and whether there are related changes in brain scans. He is also having the subjects walk to see whether the effects, if any, are because of the intensity of the exercise.

The nonathletes can help investigators assess whether untrained people experience the same effects. Maybe one reason some people love intense exercise and others do not is that some respond with a runner’s high or changed pain perception.

Annie might question that. She loves to run, but wonders why. But her husband tells her that the look on her face when she is running is just blissful. So maybe even she gets a runner’s high.

Tempo Time!!!

Over the 6 weeks, I have not done a "quality" run of any sorts. By quality, I mean a run in which I push myself pretty hard to improve my speed and endurance. After the Ft. Lauderdale Marathon, I think my body was kinda beat up, so I wasn't planning on running hard anyway for at least 4 weeks. The knee discomfort turned that into a 6week hiatus from hard running... but now I am back!!! The two types of runs that allow for this to happen are tempo runs and intervals. Next week I will explain intervals, because I plan to do an interval workout next Tuesday... but for now we will go over what a tempo run is.
The whole idea of a tempo run is to improve your lactate threshold. What the heck is that? Well, at all times of the day our bodies produce lactic acid and remove lactic acid at a fairly even rate. When you push your body really hard, like running, doing aerobics... anything for a fairly long period of time (over an hour) your body usually produces so much lactic acid, but it can't get rid of it fast enough, so you start to slow down, because your body has had enough...this happens to most people in marathons, and this is the single most important aspect of successful marathon running.... run at a pace that doesn't build up to much lactic acid in your system that it builds up and your body can't get rid of it quick enough... good news??? That can be improved upon with proper training, and the tempo run is the best way to do it.
So basically what I did today was warm up for 2 miles, run at a tempo pace (which is a pretty hard effort) for 4 miles, and then cool down for 2 miles. I'm not going to lie... it's challenging, but when you finish, you are tired enough where you are glad its over, but in the back of your head you think "I probably could have done another mile or so...."
So all in all... it was an 8 mile run today. The weather was very nice this morning... in the high 50's, and I felt really strong. I was concerned with not having done one of these runs in almost 8 weeks, and I thought I might not be able to hold a strong pace for long, but it went quite well. Here is the run... if you click on the map below, you can see my splits throughout the run. At some point this weekend, I plan on running around 11-12 miles at a fairly easy pace. Just not sure if I want to do this on Saturday or Sunday... it just usually depends on how I feel after a long day at work tomorrow.

Map of Ivy Lake Tempo Run

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Shame on Me...

My bad... haven't blogged in a while, so sorry to those of you who follow the blog on a frequent basis. It's not that I haven't had plenty to blog about, but I was out of town for a good portion of last week, and I didn't have access to the internet for a few days. So anyways, I have some pretty good news.... I am back to pain free running!!! Last Wednesday, I was able to run without any pain after changing my form a little bit. I actually changed my form to what I was doing a few months back, which was from a book called ChiRunning. I hold this book responsible for me being able to run fairly pain-free since last summer. After I read it though, I think I started to slowly creep back into my old habits, which might have led to my knee pain that I was dealing with. Anyways, the morning before I left for my trip, I was able to run 7 miles, symptom-free!!! Yes!!! And it felt so good!!! The only bad thing is that it was pouring rain... but at that point, I didn't care... I just felt great running!!!! The bike is ok, but nothin' close to running. So anyways, while I was away on my trip to South Florida, I was able to run once. I was able to run by my parent's house, which was the neighborhood that I grew up in since I was in 1st grade. Lots of memories for me there, and as I was running around the different areas I grew up, I just remember thinking how blessed I was to have been able to grow up in the same area for pretty much all of my childhood, teenage years, and even collegiate years... I actually was even able to show my wife where I lived in North Miami before I moved to my parent's current house. So let's just say it was a "Blast from the past weekend". So, I was able to run a 5 mile trek through Pembroke Pines and here are some pictures of very special places to me in my old neighborhood.

This is my house that I grew up in for nearly 18 parent's and younger brother still live here... getting ready to run!!!

This is my old elementary school... I won a 4 mile race called the mini-marathon in 4th grade. That was and currently is the highlight of my running career!!!!

This is the plaza that as high schoolers we would hang out at on a Friday night... nothing like chillin' out by the local Blockbuster Video!!!!

This is the McDonald's that we would go to all the time when we were in elementary school and middle school....especially during the summer. My brothers and I would mow the yard, make $5, and buy as many Big Macs as possible...

This is the 1st place I ever volunteered at to become a physical therapist, just out of high school.... only a few minutes walk from my house. As most of you know, I actually was a manager at a CORA for about 2 years.

This is the house that Greg Morris grew up in (Greg is a good friend and co-worker of mine)

This is the baseball field that Greg Morris and I played baseball at year-round. In this neighborhood, baseball was the sport of choice for most of us. A few of us would play in basketball summer leagues, but most of us tried to excel in baseball. We have had a few major leaguers come from our park. The most notable one was Bobby Estalella (In the Mitchell Report he was accused of doing steroids, ouch!!!)

So anyways... that's about it... great run and it was cool to bring out the camera and stop to take pics.
Yesterday I ran 5 miles with my son in the stroller (that is starting to get really taxing, because he is getting pretty heavy to push)Ivy Lake Easy Run

Today I ran 8 miles after working at our South Tampa clinic. Today was so beautiful!!! Probably about 65 degrees at lunch time... perfect!!! (Not to rub it in to you northerners at the RW boards....)
Map of Bayshore Easy Run

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Tiger Woods

I have to admit, I'm a Tiger fan.. when Tiger Woods is in contention for a tournament or leading for that matter, I tend to want to tune in and watch what incredible feat he comes up with this time. I just don't get too psyched up to watch the likes of Vijay Singh battle it out with Chris DiMarco on the final round of a tournament (even though they are great players) Today was no different, as Tiger headed to the 72nd hole, tied for the lead, but having a 35 foot putt to win the tournament. Most golfers in that situation would play to send the tournament into a playoff and just not screw up the situation... not Tiger... the guy just has nerves of steel... eyes down the putt... and sinks it. Just unbelievable!!!! I have seen him do so many amazing things since I have been watching him play and win all of these tournaments, but today was no exception. Just as amazing as all the others.... so it brings me to this point. People say... Tiger Woods is a freak (with his not so human capabilities as it appears at times). I fully agree with that, but in my opinion, I think sometimes people get natural born talent and the ability to be great at a sport mixed up. I think there has been more than a few people out there that are as gifted as Tiger Woods. The difference with Tiger Woods (Michael Jordan, Roger Federer, Wayne Gretzky, Alex Rodriguez, etc...basically anyone who excels at their sport) is that they take their work ethic to the next level.... beyond all of their competitors and just have so much confidence and such a mental edge, because of their preparation. Martina Navratilova, who was one of the greatest female tennis players of all time was asked the question, "What made you so confident, week in and week out, feeling that you could beat any other females on tour, for so many years?" She said, "My confidence was based on my preparation. Because I feel like I was prepared better than anyone else, I felt extremely confident that I should beat that individual because my preparation is far superior to most of my opponents"
Currently I am assisting a former patient, who is a fairly high level marathoner, with her return back to running after a few months off the road d/t injuries. Every week, information about the program I have set up for her is sent to me through the Garmin watch. I can see everything that she does on a weekly basis, how fast the runs are, the cross training she performs, etc. The times produced from some of the marathons my client has participated in have been in the 3:20's, which is extremely good. At the Gasparilla 1/2 marathon last year, she placed 3rd overall in her age group (which is quite impressive considering it is such a big race). So my point of saying this is that a lot of people would think, "She is a gifted runner"... which might be the case.... but when I see the amount of time that she puts into her program, week in and week out... she has put herself in a position to be a great marathoner, because of the work she consistently does to make herself a better runner.
I guess even myself, who has taken the running seriously over the last 2 years... sometimes thinks that I put alot of time into running. But when I see some people's schedules, I realize, I'm not even close to being on the same level as them. Everything is so relative sometimes...
So I guess my main point of this blog is that.....
People want so many things sometimes, like
1. Being in a position to win the Bay Hill Invitational on the 72nd hold with a 35 foot putt, and having the crowd roar, and collect a million bucks!!!
2. Run a marathon in under 3:30 minutes (I'm talking to myself here!!!)
3. Lose 50 lbs
4. Make the high school varsity team
5. Lose 20 lbs in 1 month
6. Contentment with life.....

Whatever it is... we all want it, and feel like it's attainable because we see someone else with it, but we have no stinkin' idea what type of dedication, time, effort, sacrifice, has to actually go into pulling something like that off. I mean if it was easy, we would all have it, right????

I write this blog to hopefully encourage someone out there, by getting under their skin... hopefully making you want to work harder and harder at getting that thing that has eluded you. I have actually just pumped myself up to go do an extra workout now... See ya!!!!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Good news... bad news....

I ran for the 1st time this week... and I got some good news... and some bad news...
Bad news first... My knee started to bother me at the 2.5 mile mark. It didn't bother me a lot, but it didn't feel like my other side, so instead of doing 8 miles, I only did 5 miles.
Good news... as I ran faster, it completely stopped bothering me, and more importantly, I started to run really fast, and I could tell that I haven't lost any of my conditioning. I was able to run at a 6:30/mile pace for 1 1/2 miles, which makes me think that even though I am mostly doing the bike as of late, my body is still making improvements. So overall I'm pretty happy... have to try to think what I want to do next week with running... let me see first if there is any residual soreness tomorrow. But no problem... I will continue to do the bike if needed.
Everything else is going well. I am very excited about the response we have gotten over the May Classic 5k in May. I think we have about 20 people signed up so far, so thanks to all that have committed to doing the race. It should be a fun day.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The 5k Challenge!!!

I have never been on a bike for more than 60 minutes in my life....until today. I rode the stationary bike at my house for 90 min. this morning. Gosh, my butt hurts!!! Anyways it was a good workout... not like running, but a good workout. I feel like I am getting some good benefits from the bike, and most importantly my knee didn't bother me during the workout. So hopefully, I will be back on the pavement fairly soon. Did anyone watch the 6:00 news on Channel 8 (NBC)? Well guess what??? My little neighbor that I talk about, Zack, was on TV! Apparently, there was a fundraiser done for him and another child who is battling with leukemia, and they raised $30,000 for the Children Cancer Center!! Wow!!! So, basically I wanted to use this blog today to say thanks to those of you who have supported Zack and given donations to the cause of battling leukemia. I greatly appreciate your generosity and again, if you are interested in giving to caring bridge or the Children's Cancer Center, please let me know, and I will give you the appropriate information to make that possible for you to continue giving.
Okay, so I have a challenge for any of you that are currently reading this blog today, that live in the Tampa Bay area. Coming up in May, there will be a 5k race and a 1 mile Family Fun Run in Hyde Park. The race is called the May Classic. Here is the website. This is a great race, and this was the 2nd race I did when I decided to take on the sport of running. I also did it last year, so this will be my 3rd year in a row doing this race. Well, this year my daughter said she wants to run, so if she doesn't change her mind, I will be running with her in the 1 mile Fun Run.... she always wants to run with me, so I will test her out around the neighborhood and see if she likes it. So, with that said... if my 5 year old can do it??? Then so can you.... c'mon.... give it a shot... The May Classic is having a Corporate Challenge, in which our company, Renewal Rehabilitation is going to participate in. Basically, the local business that gets the most amount of people to sign up for the race gets a unique award (assuming it's a trophy or something like that). So we need your help!!! I think it would give those of you who want to get in shape, and get going with your fitness a good, very attainable goal in the next 2-3 months. You don't have to run, you can walk it also... so this would be very fun. After the race, we all meet at our S. Tampa clinic (which is a 5 minute walk away from the start) and usually have a barbeque or some sort of food after the race. It really is fun!!!! Are you interested? Oh... I know what you are thinking.... how will I start??? I can't even run 10 feet!!!! No worries, I have a program already set up for those that haven't run in 50 years or so!!!! If you can walk for 5 minutes or more right now, you will be ready for the May Classic. No excuses....let's do it!!!! Please e-mail me if you are interested...

Saturday, March 8, 2008

One Step Back....

Sometimes they say you have to take one step back to take 2 steps forward, right? Well, I have decided to take off a few days because I have been dealing with a left knee irritation (I can’t even call this an injury) for the past 10 days. After the Ft. Lauderdale marathon, I took off 6 days before attempting to run again. I ran 5 miles without any problems. I didn’t run again for another 5 days, but this time, I ran for 10 miles. I had no problems during the run, but when I went inside my house and sat to eat breakfast, I noticed that my left kneecap felt sore, and then really started to stiffen up. I took an anti-inflammatory, iced my knee and the symptoms were gone by the end of the day. The next morning, I felt absolutely nothing at my knee…everything seemed to be back to normal. I decided to run the following day, and again I felt perfect at the knee, but when I got to the 10th mile, it started to bother me, so I decided to walk the rest of the way home…just being very cautious. It is one of those things that if it happened during a race, I could’ve just run through it, but since this wasn’t the case, it didn’t feel like it was worth it. So again, I followed my same treatment as a few days ago, and again it was completely gone by the next day.
I decided that this week I would run shorter distances, and run slower, so as not to put too much pounding on my knees. The discomfort has not been as bad after the runs, but I’m still getting that stiffness under the kneecap after I finish…. So I feel like I had to make a decision on my running…. But…..
I usually can’t think straight when it comes to myself. Other people? Yes. I do that for a living, and I feel completely comfortable making decisions for others and telling them what to do, when to do it and how long to stay away from their training routine. But I just think that I have a very difficult time making decisions because I love to run (just like everybody else that‘s a runner) so your judgement gets a little cloudy when you are the patient. So you know what I have to do?
I thought of the last patient I treated, with a similar problem to myself, and look at how I treated that person, and I have decided that is how I will deal with my problem…..crazy, huh? So, with that said, I will not be running tomorrow morning; instead I will be doing the bike for about 90 min. (the same length of my scheduled run). I will not attempt to run until Tuesday at the earliest, and I will substitute all of my runs for bike sessions until I am fully back to normal. Will keep you updated.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

What's the trick?

So, I have been thinking about some stuff today... and I want to try to blog about it...hopefully this will make sense.
As most of you know, besides being a physical therapist, I spend 2 days per week on setting clients up on the Therafit program that my business partner and I designed about a year ago. Things have gone well with the program and people have had some incredible results. On Sunday, most of my clients will send me their information of their weekly workouts via e-mail, and I usually spend a few hours reviewing the information as it comes in throughout the day. Today I got an email from one of my clients stating the following,
I am working hard. I feel so good. People are starting to tell me they see a difference. I feel such a difference."
This is from someone who has been on the program for only 1 month, but the ironic part about this, is that about 1 month ago, I blogged about consistency and I talked about one of my potential clients I met with that day, who happened to be the same person that just sent me the e-mail I received today. At that time, she was not on the program, but I think that part of the reason she has done so well is because I was truthful with how hard it is to lose weight the "right way". You see the truth is that I have lost 40 lbs over the last 2 years, but I think the best way to lose weight is to not think about losing weight. I started running because of health issues, but I wasn't going on the scale every day to see what my progress was.. because it would probably have depressed me. I mean if you think about it, 40 lbs is a lot of weight, but over a span of 2 years, it probably averages out to like 1 1/2 lbs per month... not too fast, huh? This hasn't been hard for me, because participating in running events took my mind off of weight loss. I started to just focus on initially completing the races, then on completing the races in particular times. I started to focus on training for these races, and participating in training regimens that would give me the best opportunity to achieve my goals for that race. In other words, weight loss hasn't even been a goal or an issue for me for probably about 22 of the last 24 months that I have really taken care of myself from a health standpoint. I think that is a better way of doing it, IMO. As I started to focus on my running goals, I realized... maybe I shouldn't eat that at 9:00 pm, or let me not have that fattening piece of pork, or let me hold off on that McDonald's apple pie.... (they are so good, though!!!) You see, if you can just find a way to participate in a healthy lifestyle through exercise and healthy eating habits that makes you happy on a daily basis and brings you benefits that get you to the point that you start to look forward to your routines each week.... well that's when you have hit the jackpot!!!! Learn to love your exercise routine... if you don't???? Find an exercise routine that you can learn to love. Running is not for all of us... trust me I know that, but it might be Zumba, or biking, swimming, walking, circuit training, going to the gym, spinning classes... whatever... just find something that you can train yourself to love to do. Remember it shouldn't be a chore... it should be fun!!!
Well I did run this weekend... and it was fun (even though it was at 6:45 am)!!
Ivy Lake/Suncoast Long Run