Running Through Allergies

It hasn’t felt like it the past few days, but believe it or not, spring is here.  With the change from winter to spring, many people begin to suffer from seasonal allergies.  If you’re a runner, like me, you know that allergies can ruin the best intentions for running.  You may not even suffer right now, depending on what you’re allergic to. For some reason, my allergies are the worst from August to September.
Running is considered “high exposure” in regards to pollen count. Because running increases the respiratory rate, more airborne pollens strike the face and are inhaled into the lungs.  I’ve seen it suggested that running in the early morning hours is best because that’s when the pollen counts are at their lowest. The truth is it all depends on where you live.  Plants release pollen early in the morning and the air carries it away throughout the day. So if you live in a pretty rural area, with lots of trees and fields, the pollen count will most likely be highest between 5am and 10am. If you live in an urban area, the pollen count will probably peak around noon. The weather affects the pollen count too. It is usually higher on warm, breezy, dry days and lower on rainy, cooler days.
-Check the pollen count before your run. You can go to to see the count for the area in which you live.
-Wear sunglasses. This will help keep irritants out of your eyes.
-If you can, choose routes that avoid trees, grass and flowers on the days with the highest pollen count. Run on asphalt instead of grass. If it’s extremely high, run indoors on a treadmill.
-The worst symptoms may occur post-run. This is due to the extra adrenaline released while running that dampens the allergic response.
-Immediately after your run, take a shower, wash your hair and wash your clothes.
The ability to avoid all plant life is not very realistic, especially for outdoor runners.  Hopefully, these tips will help you get outdoors and have an enjoyable spring running season, with or without the pollen.

Written by Genie Bianchi

Choosing the Perfect Running Shoe

Spring is here and for many people this means getting outdoors to get active. If you are planning on amping up your spring training, beginning a running plan, or just getting out to walk, it's a good idea to make sure you have the proper shoes. Improper shoes can wreak havoc on your joints and leave you feeling sore and dissatisfied with your workout. Below are some tips to choosing your perfect pair.

The first thing to do is find out how your foot pronates. Pronation is the rolling of the foot from the heel to the toe through the foot strike. A proper or neutral pronation is hitting the outside of the heel and up to the ball of the foot evenly across the front. Underpronation occurs when the outside of the foot takes most of the shock. When a person overpronates, their foot rolls too much to the inside.

To figure out your pronation, you can start by looking at your old shoes, particularly the forefoot. If most of the wear is on the inside, then you overpronate and probably need motion control running shoes. If the wear is on the outside, then you underpronate and probably need to choose cushioned running shoes. If the wear is uniform across the front, then you have a neutral stride and probably would be best suited with stability running shoes.

Another way of determining pronation and foot type is the wet test. Wet your feet and stand on a paper bag. After a minute, step off and look at the footprints.

The first footprint shows a low arch/overpronator. This foot would be best suited with a motion control running shoe.

The second footprint shows a normal arch/neutral pronator. This foot would be best suited with a stability running shoe.

The third footprint shows a high arch/underpronator. This foot would be best suited with a cushioned running shoe.

I suggest shopping a a specialty running store to find the shoe that's right for you. Shop late in the afternoon when your feet are at their largest and bring your old shoes with you. Make sure the sales person measures both of your feet. Often, one foot is slightly larger than the other and you should be fitted for the larger foot. Remember to check for adequate room. Your thumb should fit between the end of your toe and the top of the shoe.

Try these tips when you're looking for your perfect pair. Once you find the shoes that are best for you, try this website for great deals.

Written by Genie Bianchi

Strength Training for Runners

Strength training is essential to any running program. Running is highly repetitive and the same muscles get stressed over and over. Runners may think that they only need to do upper body strength training because the lower body is already strong from running, but this is just not true. There is no lateral or side to side movement in running and leg strengthening can help address muscle imbalances that may lead to injury.
More intensive strengthening adds power to the legs.  Power to the legs equals speed. From personal experience, after incorporating strength training twice a week, I’ve shaved off about one minute per mile from last season. I also notice that I can push myself harder during speed work and farther during my long runs.

Recreational runners should stick to doing strength work twice per week year round, while more serious runners should add on an extra day during the winter or off-season. As spring and summer approach and the running workouts intensify, cut back to twice a week.

You don’t have to spend an hour a day at the gym to develop strength and stability. The goal is to develop balanced muscle groups and prevent injury, not become a body builder. Just remember when the exercise becomes easy, it’s time to adapt it so that the muscles keep getting challenged.

If you don’t have much time to work on strength, try squeezing the following exercises into your schedule twice a week. Try to do two to three sets. As you progress and the moves become easier, remember to increase the reps or add weight resistance to make it more challenging.

-Alternating Forward Lunge: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hands on hips. Lunge forward with one leg.  Be sure your front shin remains perpendicular to the ground; your knee should not extend past your foot. Keep the back straight and head up. Push off with your heel back to the standing position.  Repeat with the other leg. Alternate legs for 20 repetitions.

-Side Lunge: Stand with feet normal width apart, hands on hips.  Step one leg out to hip width apart and squat.  Stop once your thighs are parallel to the floor.  Make sure the knee does not extend past the foot.  Push off the foot and back to standing position. Repeat on other side.  Alternate legs for 20 repetitions.

-Calf Raises: Stand on the edge of a step.  Drop your heels slightly and then raise them to a level position.  If no step is available, this can also be done by just raising and lowering the heels from the floor.  Do 20 repetitions.

-Front Plank: Hold the plank position for one minute.  Keep your hips low and back straight, with the head up.  Concentrate on keeping the stomach tight.

-Side Plank: Hold the plank position for one minute on each side. Keep the body and head in a straight line. Extend your top arm straight into the air. To make it more challenging, try lifting your top leg and holding.

-Push Ups: These are the best overall exercise to incorporate your arms, chest, back and core muscles. You can do them regular or modified on the knees if need be. Keep the back straight and head up, lowering the chest to the floor and slowly pushing back up. Do 20 repetitions, increasing as it becomes easier.

Even if you don’t have much time, incorporating just some of these exercises a few times a week will make you a stronger runner and help you avoid injury.

Written by Genie Bianchi