Signs & Symptoms of Overtraining

I am only about 4 weeks away from running the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington D.C. and I should be at the peak of my training. I've logged the miles and I do feel that I'm ready, but just as I need to be finishing up one last 20 plus mile training run, I've caught a cold (or something). Anyway, I just don't feel well and it's irritating me that I'm not out there on the road. Of course, I'd rather be sick now than on the day of the race. I don't think that I've been overtraining, but being sick did bring it to mind. Below, I've listed some symptoms of overtraining. If you're physically exerting yourself day after day and you have some these symptoms, it may be time to listen to what your body is saying.

-Consistently feeling tired all day long
-Your normal pace feels harder than normal
-Your resting pulse is higher than normal for more than a few days
-Constant aches, pains, and injuries
-You have cold, flu-like symptoms, sore throat, etc. more frequently
-Loss of appetite
-Trouble sleeping
-Loss of enthusiasm for running

Written by: Genie Bianchi, RRCA Coach

Benefits of a Training Log

If you're a runner, or even a regular exerciser, I suggest keeping a training log. For each day of the week, write down what you did, how you felt, pace, heart rate, course, etc. At the end of the week, you can look back and see what has been accomplished. I've even used mine to look back to last year's training to see the trends with different injuries and how many miles I was logging at the time. For runners, it's a great way to keep track of miles throughout the year, so new shoes can be bought at the right time. It can also be a great tool to keep track of long runs, easy runs, and speed work for the week. I've also found that it's a great motivator to get my butt off the couch. I hate seeing those empty days, so I try to fill them up with something, whether it be a run, strength training, or simply a walk, it doesn't matter.

Once you're keeping a written training journal, consider adding some pictures. I like to stop and snap a few pics when I'm running in a different or beautiful place. Of course, we all get our pictures taken after a race and these would be a great addition to the training log.

At the end of the year, review what you have accomplished and set your fitness goals for the upcoming year. This will give you a greater chance of achieving those goals. Then start another training's been proven there's power in putting things down in writing!

Written by Genie Bianchi, RRCA Coach

Another great article I had to share from Prevention Magazine

I know I'm not the only one searching for ways to get rid of bloating...check out these tips:

Special Concerns for Female Runners: Menstruation

A female runner’s performance truly depends on which stage of the menstrual cycle she is in.  The menstrual cycle has been typically thought of being twenty-eight days, but in reality it can range between twenty-one and thirty-five days, depending on the woman. There are three phases to a woman’s menstrual cycle: menstrual, pre-ovulatory, and post-ovulatory.

 A lot of women complain that in the days leading up to menstruation, running  just seems harder.  This is due to the levels of progesterone and estrogen dropping during the pre-menstrual period.  Both hormones decline to the fourteenth day, but the progesterone climbs to a peak on the twentieth day. This is the major hormone that causes pre-menstrual syndrome (pms), which can leave a female feeling fatigued and moody. This point in the cycle is called the mid-luteal phase and is about a week after ovulation or about a week before menstruation actually begins. During this time, exercise becomes more difficult and ventilation rates increase due to progesterone stimulating the brain’s respiratory center. Because of that, many women find that exercise feels harder. This not the time to do speed work or to expect top performance in a race. However, the mid-luteal phase is the perfect time to store glycogen in the muscles. Recent research shows that glycogen storage is 22% higher in the leg muscles of females in the mid-luteal phase, compared to before ovulation. It also shows that the total endurance performance tends to be about ten percent greater. So this may actually be the best time to run a marathon because of the added glycogen stores. Non-menstruating women and women taking oral contraceptives don’t have a mid-luteal phase; therefore, don’t have to worry about negative psychological and physical changes.

Any sport can have an effect on the cycle of a menstruating woman.  Running can place stress on the body and could lengthen or shorten the time of menstruation.  It could also lead to irregular cycles, called oligomenhorrhea and cessation of the cycle, called amenorrhea. Amenorrhea is not good for the body. It can lead to osteoporosis, decreased calcium absorption, decreased bone density, and an increase in musculoskeletal injury. A high calcium intake is essential, around 1200mg per day. If a woman experiences irregularities in her cycle, she should consult her doctor.

During the mid-luteal phase, a female runner should listen to her body and train by ratings of perceived exertion.  To combat PMS, eat a well-balanced diet. Limit the amount of refined sugar, red meat, salt, alcohol, saturated fats, and caffeine.  PMS symptoms have been linked to low levels of magnesium, which affects blood sugar levels and hormonal metabolism.  Add foods rich in magnesium, B vitamins, and calcium to the diet, such as fish, beans, and green leafy vegetables.

A female runner should listen to her body, adjust workouts as needed, and push it when she’s feeling great. It’s best if she learns to train with her cycle, not against it.

Written by Genie Bianchi, RRCA Coach

Learning to Listen to the Body

Last year this time, I was training for the Philly Marathon and developed pain in my lower left leg so bad that I went and had it x-rayed. I've always been prone to shin splints but I thought this might have been a stress fracture. The docs told me I was fine, so I kept running through the pain and popped advil (Referred to as Vitamin I by some athletes). How foolish I was! All I did was mask the pain and probably injure myself further. Not to mention it could have affected my blood pressure during exercise and damaged my liver in the long run. Whatever the injury was, it eventually went away and I made it to the starting line injury free. Now I'm six weeks from the Marine Corps Marathon and that nagging pain is back! This time I'm being a little smarter. First, I'm taking a week off from running (it's killing me!) and doing other exercise instead. I'll continue to ice, but I'm staying away from the advil this time. I have really learned to listen to what my body is telling me. Right now it's screaming (from my shin) to give it a break.

Below, I've written today's tip from my training log. I think it's very fitting.

"The old mantra 'No pain, no gain' might be true in love, but it's definitely not true in running. Learn to tell the difference between good pain and bad pain. For example, if your shinsplints are uncomfortable but not painful, keep running. If you feel shin pain while walking, head to the doc; you might have a stress fracture."

Exercise at the Office

Summer is fading and along with it are those lazy beach days and fruity drinks by the pool.  Now is the perfect time to refocus on your fitness goals. I know what you’re thinking…how am I going to fit exercise into an already hectic schedule. Work, school, kid’s sports…we all have the same busy lives, but there is always time to squeeze in something. Even five minutes at different times throughout the day can help you tone up (And wake you up). You spend five minutes surfing the internet… 

Below I’ve listed a few simple exercises that can be done right in your office! In addition to these, try sitting on a balance ball at your desk instead of a chair (you’ll be firing up your core all day long) or walking on your breaks. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Be creative…squeeze it in any way you can. You may not be doing 30 consecutive minutes of exercise, but it’s still exercise!

1.       Desk Push Ups:  Place hands on desk, shoulder width apart. Keep the torso and legs in a straight line and the head up. Lower the chest down to the desk, hold for 10 seconds and push back up. That’s one rep. Do 3 sets of 12-15 reps.

2.       Chair Squat: Stand in front of your chair with feet hip width apart. Place the hands on the hips and hinge the hips back. Lower your body down as if you were about to sit down. Be sure the knees stay in line with the ankles. Hover about an inch over your chair for 10 seconds and stand back up. Do 3 sets of 12-15 reps.

3.       Hip Lift: Sit up straight in your chair. Lift one glute so that it almost comes off of the chair, and then repeat on the other side. It will look like a rocking motion. Do this for 30 seconds. Do 3 sets of these, resting 10 seconds between sets.

These are only a few exercises that can be done at work. The possibilities are endless. Remember, you can do these at different times all throughout the day. It doesn’t have to be just one time. Be creative and please feel free to share any other ideas with me. I’d love to hear what other exercises people come up with.

Written by Genie Bianchi, RRCA Coach