It's important to consult your physician before starting an exercise program, particularly if the following risk factors for coronary artery disease apply:
- Age greater than 45 for men, 55 for women
- Family history of heart attack or sudden death
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Sedentary lifestyle
TRAINING TIPS - WEEK #1
The most important piece of athletic equipment for any sport is a comfortable, well-fitting shoe that's appropriate for the activity. And getting the size right is key. Keep the following in mind:
- Buy shoes from reputable outlets with salespeople who are trained to fit the shoes
- Try on shoes after a workout, when your feet are largest
- Wear the socks you normally wear to work out
- Have your feet measured - don't assume you know your size
- Fit the shoe to your larger foot
- Shoes don't "stretch out" - make sure they're comfortable when you put them on
- The shoe should provide at least one thumb's breadth of space from the longest toe to the end of the toe box. Make sure you can fully extend your toes when you stand
- Find a shoe with a wide toe box if you have a bunion or hammer toe
- Women with big or wide feet should consider boys' or men's shoes, which are cut wider for a comparable length
And Now the Good News - Hold Off On That Diet
As your body adjusts to a new exercise program, it's important to maintain your normal eating pattern - so don't initiate a crash diet as part of your New Year's resolution. Limiting your caloric intake may make you sluggish, since your metabolism will slow as your body tries to store calories for fuel. Also, be aware of hunger - it's your body's signal that it needs sustenance. Eating small meals frequently helps to curb appetite and keep blood sugar steady. And you'll make better food choices if you eat before you're ravenous.
You've Got a Friend
When it comes to exercising, everyone has days when the motivation just isn't there. Stay focused and enjoy your workouts more with a partner! Recruit a friend to join you in your exercise program, whether it's training for the Crescent City Classic or walking in the mall. You'll motivate each other, have more fun - and it's safer to exercise in pairs. Don't know anyone? Investigate some of the many clubs in the New Orleans area for just about every sport and age.
Training Tips - Week 2
You Need a Drink
Of water, that is. Water is great for your health - it provides hydration, and cleanses your system. How much should you drink? Here's a guideline: each day you should drink half your body weight in ounces of water. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should drink about 75 ounces of water (about nine 8 ounce glasses a day). Athletes should drink even more water to offset the amount of water lost from the body through sweating. And remember: coffee, soft drinks, tea, beer and other alcoholic beverages do not count - they act as diuretics and promote dehydration.
Eager to hit the ground running? Just make sure to stretch first. Stretching is an important adjunct to all active exercise programs such as running, walking, bicycling, swimming and weight lifting, to mention a few. Not sure what to do? It's not difficult - just make sure to stretch the major muscle groups you'll be using during your workout. For example, stretch your hamstrings and calves before running, but add arm and shoulder stretches if your exercise of choice is weight training or swimming. Stretch for about 10 minutes before and after your workout. Stretch slowly and gently - no bouncing. Breathe slowly and deeply as you stretch, as this helps deliver oxygen to your muscles. And last, drink water - hydration helps to promote circulation and prevent muscular fatigue.
Warming Up in Cold Weather
When the weather is cold, pay particular attention to warming up. Muscles may tighten in cold weather and flexibility can be reduced, so spend some additional time warming up and stretching to prevent pulls and strains. Warm up inside if the weather is less than desirable. If you still feel a little tight, ease into your run with an easy walk or jog, then increase speed and intensity as you warm up. Cool down after your workout with walking and then gentle stretching when you go indoors.
Chicken Soup and Exercise
Regular exercise boosts the immune system - so your workouts may be your best defense during cold and flu season . If you do catch a cold and your symptoms are above the neck, with no fever, studies say it's okay to engage in moderate exercise such as walking. Hold off on intense exercise until your symptoms disappear. The flu, however, will disrupt your workout schedule. Allow yourself at least two weeks to rest and recover from signs of the flu, such as fever, muscle aches, and swollen lymph glands.
The Weighting Game
It's a common misconception that weight training is just for "bodybuilders". In fact, it's an important part of staying healthy and fit. A good program can strengthen bones and muscles, reducing your risk of injury. And strength training becomes more important as we get older. In fact, most adults begin to lose about half a pound of muscle a year after the age of 20 due to decreased activity. A good rule of thumb is to strength train at least 2 - 3 times a week, working different muscle groups at each session so that muscles groups have at least 2 days of rest between consecutive workout sessions.
Your Mom Was Right
Even the most committed runner might wince a little when heading out early on a frosty January morning - but don't let a little cold weather disrupt your training. Dress for the weather - layering is key and allows you to retain your body heat and remove clothing as the temperature increases. New materials will actually "wick" moisture and sweat away from the body, helping you stay warmer. And 30% of body heat can be lost from the head and neck area, so make sure to wear a hat and gloves. If you find breathing cold air uncomfortable, wrap a scarf lightly around your neck and mouth to warm the air.
Training Tips - Week 3
Ready Set Train
The CCC training guide is all you need to prepare for the race, whether you're a seasoned runner, a jogger gearing up for the big race, or you plan on walking the 10K/6.2 mile course for the first time. The official training schedule was prepared by physical therapist Gini Davis, a runner herself, who says that when it comes to training, “slow and steady wins the race." Trying to do too much, too soon, too fast puts you at risk of injury. Get a copy of the training guide online at www.ccc10k.com and meet us at the finish line on race day!
However, no matter what your age, if you have two or more coronary artery disease risk factors (listed below), check with the doctor first. Those risk factors are:
- Men over age 45, women over age 55
- Family history of heart attack or sudden death
- Current cigarette smoker
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Sedentary lifestyle.
Finally, if you have any of the following symptoms or conditions, consult your doctor before exercising:
- Known heart condition
- Pain or discomfort in your chest when you do physical activity, or at rest
- Irregular heartbeat
- Dizziness, loss of consciousness
- Bone or joint problems, or pain in legs or buttocks when walking
- Currently taking blood pressure or heart medication
- Cuts or wounds on your feet that won't heal
- Unexplained weight loss during the past six months
So check in with your doctor if it's indicated and get your training off to the healthy start.
Training Tips - Week 4
Stretching and Warming Up
You've started your training for the big race, and you're raring to go. But before you hit the road, remember that stretching is a critical part of any active exercise program. But why stretch? Stretching will increase flexibility that will promote more efficient movement and better performance, decrease muscular soreness and lower your risk of injury.
Unfortunately, a good stretching program is too often ignored or forgotten as one tries to juggle all the activities of the day, including CCC training. But, just as added calories will add pounds, exercise without proper stretching will catch up to you sooner or later and may ruin a regular exercise routine with time off to rehabilitate from an injury that may just sideline you from the race.
Good stretching technique isn't difficult or time-consuming. Concentrate on the major muscle groups you'll be using during your workout - for example, hamstrings and calves are two important areas of concentration for runners and walkers. If you're swimming, you'd want to add arm, neck and shoulder stretches. Of course, a low back stretch in always important for all exercisers. Stretch slowly and gently, always avoid bouncing. Take your time when stretching and perform the exercise slow and controlled, holding the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds. Do several repetitions of each stretch. Breathing slowly and deeply will help deliver oxygen to your muscles, never hold your breath. And as always, make sure to drink plenty of water - being well-hydrated will help promote circulation, elimination and help prevent muscle fatigue. You'll want to stretch for about 10 minutes both before and after your workout - in fact, stretching after the workout is particularly useful for enhancing flexibility because once you're warmed up, your muscles have greater ability to extend.
For a free guide to "Stretches and Strengtheners for Runners," send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Crescent City Physical Therapy, 2633 Napoleon Avenue, Suite 615, New Orleans, LA 70115, and you'll receive instructions for these and other stretches important for runners, joggers and walkers.
Training Tips - Week 5
It's All About the Shoes
Shoes are your most important piece of running equipment, so choose them carefully. Athletic shoes should be comfortable, well-fitting and appropriate for the activity. And getting the right size is key. Keep the following in mind:
- Buy shoes from reputable outlets with salespeople who are trained to fit running shoes.
- Try on shoes after a workout or late in the day, when your feet are largest.
- Wear the socks you would normally wear to work out.
- Have your feet measured - your feet may change in size slightly over time (for example, many women report their feet are slightly larger after a pregnancy). Also, shoes by different manufacturers may be sized differently, so a size eight may differ a bit from shoe to shoe.
- Try on several pairs of shoes. Put both shoes on, lace them up and walk (or run!) around the store for a minute or two.
- Make sure the shoes are comfortable when you put them on. Tight shoes won't "stretch out," and if the heel slips in the store, it'll slip while you're running.
- The shoe should provide at least one thumb's breadth of space from the longest toe to the end of the toe box. Make sure you can fully extend your toes when standing.
- Find a shoe with a wide toe box if you have a bunion or hammer toe.
- Women with big or wide feet should consider boys' or men's shoes, which are cut with a wider toe box for a comparable length.
And last but not least, don't forget to take good care of your feet - they're going to be racking up a lot of miles, so treat them well. Wear socks, thick or thin, of a material that will "wick" moisture away from your skin, dry your feet well after bathing and keep toenails trimmed, cutting straight across the toe. Better yet, treat yourself and have a pedicure!
Training Tips - Week 6
Training and Nutrition
You've made the decision to take care of your body's need for exercise by training for the Crescent City Classic, but what about your body's fuel supply for this new exercise program? What constitutes good nutrition for a runner? Your eating plan should include foods to supply an adequate amount of energy, a steady supply of the important nutrients the body needs, and sufficient fluids. Achieving a well-balanced, healthy diet requires that you consume a variety of foods each day. If you're not sure that you are eating well, your doctor, licensed dietitian or nutritionist can help.
As your body adjusts to a new exercise program, it's important to maintain your normal eating pattern - don't initiate a crash diet while training for the Classic! Severely limiting your caloric intake may make you sluggish since your metabolism will slow as your body tries to store calories for fuel. Also, be aware of hunger - it's your body's signal that it needs sustenance. Eating small meals frequently helps to curb appetite and keep blood sugar steady. You will make better food choices if you eat before you're ravenous. Try to stay away from "fast foods" and snacks with lots of sugar - you may feel a "rush" of energy immediately, but the longer effect will sap your energy producing fatigue. Snack on fresh fruits and vegetables - or have some nuts for protein if you have to eat between meals. Remember, water should accompany all meals to maintain adequate hydration, especially as the weather warms up and distances get longer. Many times fatigue will be the result of inadequate hydration, not inadequate food intake.
What you eat will impact not only your performance while training but may also affect you on race day. Despite what some runners may tell you, there's no magic pre-event meal. Since the race will be in the morning, experiment during your training with pre-workout meals - some people can get up early to eat several hours before training, however others may do well not eating much until after the race. If you're eating a healthy diet on a regular basis, your body should have ample stores of fuel for your race activity. Choose foods and beverages you enjoy, that don't upset your stomach. Again, experiment ahead of time to see what works best. The most important thing, though, is to concentrate on eating a nutritious, balanced diet every day. And remember, good hydration is absolutely key - drink plenty of water before, during and after the event.
Training Tips - Week 7
The Benefits of Cross-Training
So if running is good, more running is better, right? Not necessarily! Cross-training, or incorporating another exercise activity to refocus the intensity and duration of your workouts to other parts of the body, is key. For example: a runner may run 4 to 5 days a week and cycle 2 days a week, or use an elliptical trainer. The variation will alleviate excessive weight-bearing on the joints. It also will challenge different muscle groups - and give others a chance to recover, reducing the risk of injury. Cross training will help you achieve a balanced fitness program that will develop your entire body. And another very important benefit - it will add variety to your workout routine, helping to keep you interested and motivated.
What kind of exercise is best for the runner or jogger looking to cross-train? Since running is weight-bearing, make sure your cross training activity is not primarily weight- bearing - cycling, swimming, Pilates and yoga or strength-training would all be good choices. Beyond that, it's important to choose something you enjoy - remember, part of the benefit of cross training is the enjoyment you'll derive from doing something different. It's a great opportunity to try something you've been curious about.
Ready to start cross training? Remember: too much, too soon can lead to injury. Don't overdo it; you may want to substitute a cross training workout for one of your running sessions at first. And start with minutes, not hours. As with any new activity, your muscles, bones and joints will need time to adapt. Build up your level of activity over time - even though the first day out you may feel as though you could ride that bike forever - overdo it and you could be too sore for your next run. As your body gets used to the new activity, you can increase the duration and intensity of your workouts. Finally, always, always listen to your body. If you feel fatigue and/or discomfort, stop. Fatigue means your body needs a break.
Training Tips - Week 8
Is pain an inevitable part of running? It doesn't have to be - but the stresses placed on your legs and feet, in particular, can cause problems, especially overuse injuries like shin splints and heel pain. Bear in mind, though, that many injuries can be prevented by good training habits like a gradual buildup of weekly mileage, then increasing speed while holding weekly mileage stable. Remember that seeing your physician before you start a running program will alert you to health issues that could impact you down the road. Always warm up before a jog or run, and start out slowly. Don't forget to stretch both before and after your workout.
Unless you have taken a tumble on an uneven surface, or twisted your ankle in a hole in the grass, most running injuries are not serious and you will recover by cutting back your routine for a week or so. However, you should see a physician if you have fallen or if you have pain that doesn't resolve within a few days and doesn't allow you to resume your exercise, alters the way you walk around during the day, or keeps you awake at night.
Let's consider the less serious problems and some possible causes. Think about your workout - perhaps you are adding mileage too soon, or perhaps you just added speed training or hill training and just need to back off a bit. Additionally, if you just bought new shoes, it may be that you need to break them in slowly. Remember, most problems can be fixed with a little ice and rest.
In New Orleans' hot, humid weather, proper hydration is critical for running safely. When it's hot outside, try to run early in the morning or in the evening. And drink water before, during and after a run - and throughout the day. Don't forget to protect yourself from sun exposure - sunglasses, hat or visor and sunscreen should all be used to avoid overexposure.
No matter when you run, make certain to be aware of your personal safety. Avoid running after dark, but if you do, wear some type of reflective clothing so that you may be easily seen. Run with a partner - it's fun and safe. If you do run alone, carry identification in case of emergency. Finally, let others know when you're headed out for a run, and tell them where you will be running. Be familiar with your running route and be mindful of traffic. People driving cars do not always notice runners.
Above all: have fun and be safe by thinking ahead
Training Tips - Week 9
Running on Hard Surfaces
Hard surface activities can be hazardous to your health! When you're running, your feet, legs, and back absorb much of the impact placed on your body. Running on hard surfaces increases the stress, and compounds your risk of injury. In fact, prolonged activities on hard surfaces can lead to all kinds of problems, from simple muscular aches and pains to heel pain, Achilles tendonitis, and even stress fractures.
When and where possible, try to exercise on the softest and most forgiving surface possible. The less compressed the surface, the softer it will be. Concrete is the hardest of all; avoid it if you can. Asphalt is softer, and grass or dirt is softer still. On these and other outdoor surfaces, make certain to watch out for holes, ruts, curbs and other uneven areas that could cause you to lose your balance or twist an ankle. A rubberized or cinder track is the best possible surface because it's designed to absorb shock and it's smooth, level and predictable.
If you can't get away from hard surfaces, try to modify your schedule and vary your activities. For example, rest at least a day between activities, stretch before and after exercise, and alternate daily activities or cross train with non-weight bearing activities such as cycling, swimming, deep water exercises or water running. These will help to minimize the harmful effects of the high-impact activities and will add some variety to your workouts as well.
Training Tips - Week 10
Sooner or later, many athletes will experience pain in the lower leg below the knee, either on the front outside part of the leg or the inside of the leg. The catchall term for this pain is "shin splints." Excessive pronation, or inward rotation of the foot, can cause extra demand on the muscle on the front of the shin and can contribute to shin splints, but the most common cause of shin splints is overuse. If you do experience shin soreness and pain, be sure what you're feeling is in fact a shin splint and not something more serious, such as a stress fracture. Persistent shin pain should be evaluated by a doctor. When dealing with shin splints, keep the following in mind:
- Carefully examine your training routine. If you've made a change in distance, terrain, speed or frequency, it may be time to return to your original training program and introduce change more slowly.
- Cross-train with lower-impact activities (swimming and cycling are good choices) to maintain conditioning while giving your legs a rest.
- Check your shoes. A pair of new running shoes, or continuing to train in shoes that are really worn out, can contribute to shin splints. The shoes need to be correct for the athlete and the sport.
- Add shock-absorbing innersoles. This may simply mean placing over-the-counter, cushioned innersoles in your shoes, or having a specially made insert or orthotic made.
- If your doctor okays it, use anti-inflammatory pain medication, such as aspirin or ibuprofen, to relieve symptoms.
- Rest and ice packs are the best early treatment for this problem, no matter what the cause.
- See a physical therapist for rehabilitation, which may include stretching and strengthening exercises, along with training advice.
Training Tips - Week 11
Is It Too Late To Begin Training?
It's been on your “to do" list. On Ash Wednesday, you vowed you'd do it. But what if, despite your best intentions, your training for the Classic hasn't really taken off? Race day is now three weeks away. If you're already a regular exerciser, able to walk or run four miles, jump right in to the training schedule - but be careful. You may be able to complete the race, but don't push for speed. Run or walk for fun this year - enjoy the day and the crowd and slowly make your way to the park for the party. Completing the race, whatever your time, will give you a great feeling of accomplishment and will provide some incentive to continue exercising after the race.
If you're a total beginner and haven't done any training yet, now is probably not the best time to start, at least to run or to walk the CCC. Pushing yourself too hard, too fast can lead to frustration, fatigue, and in some cases, injury. If you haven't trained at all and have to sit out this year, set your sights on next year's race - but that doesn't mean you have to wait until next year to start a fitness program. Start your exercise program now, and make the next Classic your goal! You can also participate in this year's Classic by volunteering as a race worker - see the website for details. You'll get a free t-shirt, entrance to a great party, and a nice dose of motivation for next time! And, consider one of the other CCC races that are held throughout the year - info is also on the website.
Training Tips - Week 12
Rest, Relaxation and Down Time
In the pursuit of a healthy lifestyle, we spend a lot of time on proper training and nutrition as we should, since they're vitally important for your body. But keep in mind that rest is equally important to prevent undue fatigue and needless injury and to promote a general sense of physical and mental well being. You'll note that the Training Guide builds in rest days at all levels of participation it's important for your body to have a break from the stress and impact of training. Even with cross training, your body needs down time. Take it it will pay off in the long run. Also, despite everything you're trying to pack into your day, make getting adequate sleep a priority. You perform better physically and mentally when you are rested.
Consider treating yourself to a massage by a licensed massage therapist you will improve circulation, enhance muscular rest and relaxation, promote healing from micro-trauma and reduce stress. If you've never experienced a massage, come to the CCC finish area after the race and try a free massage offered by massage therapy students. Most elite athletes depend on massage for muscular rejuvenation. And for athletes who have suffered previous injuries or who have recurrent muscular or tendon problems, call your physical therapist and ask about ASTM AdvantEDGE". This special soft tissue massage, provided by specialty trained, licensed physical therapists, is designed to treat chronic problems and pain. This therapeutic approach breaks down troublesome scar tissue and uses focused stretching and movement exercises to promote the re-development of scar tissue that will permit better function through enhanced range of motion and reduced pain.
Training Tips - Race Week
The Home Stretch
You're almost there! The Crescent City Classic is this weekend - Confirm the date and start time on the home page - and if you've been training consistently, you are ready to cover the 10K distance in good form and get to the big post-race party to celebrate your accomplishment.
Eat, Drink and Be Ready
Wondering about what to eat before the race? Don't change your diet at this point - whatever you have been eating, nutritious or not, is what your body is prepared to digest on race day. Do try to eat a typical, healthful meal the night before - and don't worry about "loading up" - you'll feel sluggish if you eat a heavy meal of high fat foods the night before the race. And "carbo-loading" will not help you over this short race distance. Remember: what you drink, or don't drink, will affect your performance. Over-indulgence in alcohol the night before the race may make for a rough road to the finish line - alcohol is dehydrating. Instead, drink lots of water the day before the race.
On race day, keep the fluids coming before, during and after the race. There will be plenty of Kentwood Springs artesian spring water at the starting area in the French Quarter, at water tables every mile marker along the course, and at the post-race festivities. Two hours before the race, drink a half-liter of water to allow time for good hydration - and a restroom stop - before the race. Thirty minutes before the race, drink another 8 oz. cup of water. During the race, drink 5 to 8oz. of water every 15 to 20 minutes to keep up with sweat loss, and if you need to, take more frequent water breaks (every mile) to stay cool. And post-race, hit the water table before the beer truck! Keep drinking water throughout the day to help your body recover.
CCC Means Cool, Comfortable Clothes
What to wear? You'll see almost everything, including costumes. This IS New Orleans, after all! But do think "cool and comfortable" first. Lightweight clothing of a light color will help keep you cool. Fabrics that breathe and allow the air to circulate around the body will also help you to feel more comfortable. If the weather is cool in the morning, layer your clothing so that you can remove a long sleeved shirt and tie it around your waist during the race. It may also come in handy after the race to avoid sunburn. Remember that parts of the CCC course have little shade, so you may want to wear a hat or visor - especially walkers, who may be on the course for an hour and a half or more. Sunglasses are another important piece of equipment to bring with you - even if you don't need them for the race, you may want them for the party. Wear waterproof sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or more, and bring some extra with you to apply after the race.
It's All in the Details
Make certain to review your race instructions before race day - you'll find them in your registration packet with your race number, which you can pick up along with your t-shirt at the big CCC Expo at the Marriott Hotel New Orleans on Thursday or Friday (10 AM 'til 8 PM). Check out the exhibit hall for great buys in the latest running wear, from shoes to sunglasses to shorts and "fanny packs." If you haven't registered yet, you can do it at the Expo. And remember, wear your race number for the race!
Plan your race day ahead of time. First and foremost, allow plenty of time to get to the starting area before the race's 8:30 start time and have time to stand in line for the Port-o-Let. Make a plan for parking, meeting your friends before and after the race and getting back to your car after the party. There will be buses to help move all the runners from the finish area back downtown after the race. Make sure you look at your map - it will show you the layout of the starting area in the French Quarter and the tent setup at the stadium to help you find your friends. Your whole day will be much more enjoyable if you know what to expect and know where you're going.
You're ready - get excited for Saturday! Besides being one of the world's most competitive races, the CCC is certainly the most fun. Whether you walk, jog or run, whether you're competing or just enjoying the day, have a great time and be proud of your achievement.