Saturday, August 1, 2020

Racing in the pandemic era

Lisa Beck original article:

2020 sure hasn't turned out like we thought it would.  I'm sure you would agree that almost every aspect of life has been impacted by the Coronovirus.  For me, I started 2020 having decided to train for my first marathon, the Indy Monumental Marathon in November.  I completed more than 300 training miles before learning how racing events would likely change, if they would be held in person at all.  Much of what I love about racing - the crowds, the hugs, the medal being put around your neck at the end, the party atmosphere, the camaraderie at the starting corral was being impacted by the virus.  You know me - I need ALL the hype and having realized much of what makes a race fun for me would no longer be part of the actual event, I decided to pull the plug on my marathon training and just focus on running for fun and for health in 2020.

Maybe you've considered a race (Chicks Run, Fort 4 Fitness, Pink Ribbon Run, Rat Race, etc).  Here are some ways racing has changed in 2020 and likely into and through potentially 2022:

1.  Many races have been cancelled.  If you are planning on registering for a race, be sure to double check options as far as what happens if they cannot hold the live event.  Would they offer refunds (very rarely is this done)? Will they defer your registration for a year (less common but becoming more common the further along the pandemic goes)? Would they reschedule it (very common to have the date kicked down the calendar again and again and again)- and can you afford the risk that you may not be available for the reschedule date?  Also what does that do to your training when the date is significntly changed (there have been many spring half marathons moved to the fall - ex: Geist, Caramel Half, Sunburst, etc).  Would they allow you to complete the race virtually (see next item for more about that)? With so much of the actual in-person events so much in the air, take a little extra time before registering to find out the race director's contingency plans.  If you are traveling for your race, be mindful of the hotel and/or airline cancellation policy as well should the race be cancelled.

2. Virtual racing.  If you are a person who enjoys the accountability of a training plan, a scheduled distance to complete on a specific date, and getting a medal and/or shirt for your accomplishment but don't need the water stations and hoopla, then virtual racing might be the very best thing ever for you.  Search "virtual races" and you'll find THOUSANDS of options.  Many donate part of the registration fee to awesome charities (I just completed one with money going to the WHO's teen depression program).  Many races are covid-themed with super cute medals like toilet paper or in the shape of the virus with actual sanitizer hanging off the ribbon.  There are so many benefits to virtual racing.  First, they often offer a lot of flexibility.  You can complete the race distance within a frame of time (usually a 1-3 months) making it awesome for scheduling to accommodate weather, life, etc.  Unlike an actual race day where you're at the mercy of the weather....virtual races have more flexibility. Second, races that would be too cost prohibitive or inaccessible due to geography are suddenly 100% available since you complete the mileage wherever you want.  You want to run the Paris Marathon? As a virtual race, you can complete it on the Bluffton River Greenway and earn the medal all the same!  You will need to be able to verify your distance and time which is typically submitted as a screenshot of your Running watch or GPS phone app (I like MapMyRun or RunKeeper or the Fitbit app, but any will work so long as you it shows you did the specific distance and the time it took).  Once you've completed your mileage, most races just ask that you upload a picture of your race data (time,distance, etc) using a link on their website and then they mail you the medal and race goodies within a few days to weeks. Doing the mileage alone may feel isolating or boring.  Grab a friend or a group and complete the distance together. Unlike an actual race where every participant must be registered, in virtually racing, that is not an issue. 

3.  Less participants.  In-person racing will have less crowds and less participants. Often, localities have restrictions on the number of people allowed to gather in a place.  For example, races which normally have more than 1000 racers may be capped by state or local regulations to 500 or maybe even 250.  Some races may have waves to accommodate more race participants while keeping the group size within regulations.  You may find that a race starts at 8:00 for group A, at 8:45 for group B, and 9:30 for group C. Each group may have 500 participants.  If you are a person who loves huge races (like I do), those days are unfortunately over until the pandemic is well in the rear view mirror. 

4.  Smaller Crowd Support.  With social distancing requirements, you are likely to find less spectators cheering on race participants. If that's not an issue for you, then running in the "new normal" will be fine.  If you are like me and pull energy from the crowd, then this change in atmosphere may take some getting used to. 

5. Race amenities - Water stations.  These are likely going to be a big change as a result of the pandemic.  Gone are going to be the half block long lines of volunteers holding water cutps shoulder to shoulder.  I always loved the energy they brought to a race.  Now, social distancing will be critical. Water stops may be completely gone from a race (an environmentally good thing) meaning you may need to carry your own water/gatorade with you.  Other races may stock water stations with offer  bottles of water rather than a single use disposable half filled cup.

6.  Race amenities - medals and finish line parties.  One of my favorite parts of a race is getting handed that medal at the end of completing the growling miles.  It's an indescribable feeling of accomplishment and joy.  Let's be honest...I mostly run for the medals!  Because of social distancing, there is a lot of talk in the racing world that medals will be mailed to finishers much like what happens for a virtual race.  I have recieved 3 medals by mail and honestly, t's pretty anticlimatic.  If getting the medal as you cross the finish line is not a big deal for you, you'll be fine with the new normal racing.  Also, at the finish line of many races, are parties of various sizes.  Food and drinks are common as well as musical entertainment and gear check.  Because of social distancing and local/state restrictions preventing large gatherings, most races will be doing away with much of the post-race amenities.  For many races, this includes gear check.  To be honest, I never cared about gear check until I did a November race when I had wished I had checked my winter coat because I had a 1.75 mile walk back to the hotel and it was pretty cold...especially after being sweaty from running a a half marathon.  It's just something to consider when thinking about racing in the new era.  A quick word about packet-pick up as well.  Pre-race events such as fairs, vendors, autographs, lectures, shopping, pasta dinners, etc are likely gone.  As sad as that is, also gone will be the long lines to get your bib and shirts.  Most races are offering to send those packets in the mail to avoid the exposure risk associated with large in person crowds.

7.  Masks.  Some races are highly encouraging participants, while others are requiring participants, to wear masks during their races especially when social distancing isn't as easy (ex: the starting corral and maybe the first mile or two as well as the last part of the race and finish line area). Running in a mask definitely ups the cardio-respiratory challenge so know the race policy before registering and if needed, speak with your physician. 

I'm sure racing will change in other ways and we will resiliently take on the challenge.  I have zero doubts it will look very different both for the near and long term, but safety of the runners, the race volunteers, and the spectators should always be central to all racing decisions.

Good luck! See you at the next starting line!

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Centers for Disease Control's Walking Resources

For more information and resources about the health benefits of walking, the importance of walking and how to stay safe while walking during the pandemic, click HERE to visit the CDC's walking information site.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

12 Benefits of Walking

12 Benefits of Walking
What’s not to like about walking? It’s free. It’s easy to do, and it’s easy on the joints. And there’s no question that walking is good for you. A University of Tennessee study found that women who walked had less body fat than those who didn’t walk. It also lowers the risk of blood clots, since the calf acts as a venous pump, contracting and pumping blood from the feet and legs back to the heart, reducing the load on the heart. In addition to being an easy aerobic exercise, walking is good for you in many other ways.

1. Improve Circulation

Walking wards off heart disease, brings up the heart rate, lowers blood pressure and strengthens the heart. Post-menopausal women who walk just one to two miles a day can lower their blood pressure by nearly 11 points in 24 weeks. Women who walk 30 minutes a day can reduce their risk of stroke by 20%, and by 40% when they stepped up the pace, according to researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.

2. Shore Up Your Bones

Walking can stop the loss of bone mass for those with osteoporosis, according to Michael A. Schwartz, MD, of Plancher Orthopedics & Sports Medicine in New York. In fact, one study of post-menopausal women found that 30 minutes of walking each day reduced their risk of hip fractures by 40%.

3. Enjoy a Longer Life

Research finds that people who exercise regularly in their fifties and sixties are 35% less likely to die over the next eight years than their non-walking counterparts. That number shoots up to 45% less likely for those who have underlying health conditions.

4. Lighten Your Mood

Walking releases natural pain­killing endorphins to the body – one of the emotional benefits of exercise. A California State University, Long Beach, study showed that the more steps people took during the day, the better their moods were. 

5. Lose Weight

A brisk 30-minute walk burns 200 calories. Over time, calories burned can lead to pounds dropped.

6. Strengthen Muscles

Walking tones your leg and abdominal muscles – and even arm muscles if you pump them as you walk. This increases your range of motion, shifting the pressure and weight from your joints to your muscles.

7. Improve Sleep

Studies found that women, ages 50 to 75, who took one-hour morning walks, were more likely to relieve insomnia than women who didn’t walk

8. Support Your Joints

The majority of joint cartilage has no direct blood supply. It gets its nutrition from joint fluid that circulates as we move. Movement and compression from  walking “squishes” the cartilage, bringing oxygen and nutrients into the area. 

9. Improve Your Breath

When walking, your breathing rate increases, causing oxygen to travel faster through bloodstream, helping to eliminate waste products and improve your energy level and the ability to heal.

10. Slow Down Mental Decline

A study of 6,000 women, ages 65 and older, performed by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, found that age-related memory decline was lower in those who walked more. The women walking 2.5 miles per day had a 17% decline in memory, as opposed to a 25% decline in women who walked less than a half-mile per week.

11. Lower Alzheimer’s Risk

A study from the University of Virginia Health System in Charlottesville found that men between the ages of 71 and 93 who walked more than a quarter of a mile per day had half the incidence of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease than those who walked less.

12. Do More for Longer

Aerobic walking and resistance exercise programs may reduce the incidence of disability in the activities of daily living for people who are older than 65 and have symptomatic OA, a study published in the Journal of Clinical Outcomes Management found.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Step Up Your Walking Game

Original source

Step up your walking game

A new study offers strong support for the life-extending effects of a daily walk.

Published: July, 2020
Want to lower your odds of dying of heart disease? If you don't exercise regularly, taking an extra 4,000 steps per day may help, even if you walk at a leisurely pace, a new study finds.
The study included a nationally representative sample of 4,840 Americans ages 40 and older. For about a week, the participants wore on their hips a device called an accelerometer that recorded the number of steps they took each day. Researchers found that the more steps people took, the lower their risk of dying over the following 10 years, regardless of their age, sex, or race. In fact, compared with people who walked 4,000 steps per day, those who walked 8,000 steps daily were about half as likely to die for any reason — but especially from heart disease. The findings were published in the March 24–31, 2020, issue of JAMA.
"This study supports what we know about the marked benefit of achieving about 8,000 steps per day," says Dr. Edward Phillips, assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School. Most people typically get around 3,000 to 4,000 steps per day without doing any intentional exercise, he notes. That includes things such as doing household chores, checking your mailbox, or going grocery shopping, for example. "But if you regularly walk another 4,000 steps a day to reach a total of about 8,000 steps per day, there's a dramatic difference in whether you live or die over the next decade," says Dr. Phillips.
Although these observational findings can't prove that walking helped stave off death, the study has a number of strengths, including the diverse study population and long follow-up, he adds. Also, data from accelerometers is more reliable than relying on the participant's self-reported activity.

The math makes sense

Four thousand steps equals about 2 miles, which most people can do in 40 minutes or less, since the average person's walking speed is about 100 steps per minute. But if you pick up your pace and cover a mile in just 15 minutes instead of 20, you can log 4,000 steps in just 30 minutes. That happens to be pretty close to the 150 minutes per week of physical activity recommended by federal guidelines, says Dr. Phillips. But in the study, walking speed didn't make a difference in mortality. What mattered was how far participants walked, not how fast they did it.
People who took 12,000 steps per day had an even lower risk of dying from heart disease than those who did 8,000 daily. But the added benefit was small, and walking even more didn't seem to make a difference (see graph, below).

Walking your way to a longer life

Taking 8,000 steps per day may slash your risk of dying from heart disease.

Why 10,000?

Although 10,000 steps has long been touted as an ideal daily goal (it's often the default setting on fitness trackers), that specific number was apparently based on a marketing tool rather than a scientific study. In 1965, a Japanese business, the Yamasa Clock and Instrument Company, sold a pedometer called Manpo-kei, which means "10,000 steps meter" in Japanese. "Apparently, the company chose that number because the Japanese character for 10,000 looks like a person walking," says Dr. Phillips.
Some people like keeping track of their steps with pedometers or activity trackers, which are ubiquitous on smartphones and smart watches. But most people only use them for a short time. "If you want to count your steps, that's great. If not, don't bother," he says. Keeping track of the time you spend walking is just as good.
The bigger challenge may be motivating yourself to get started if you aren't accustomed to regular physical activity. Preventing heart disease and living longer may feel too distant or abstract, so focus on a short-term goal, Dr. Phillips suggests. Walking can relieve anxiety and stress, which his patients find is a good inspiration for getting outside routinely.
These tips may help make your walks more enjoyable:
  • Buy a good pair of shoes. Look for supportive but flexible soles that cushion your feet. Choose shoes with "breathable" uppers, such as nylon mesh.
  • Dress for comfort and safety. Dress in layers so you can peel off garments if you get hot. Light-colored clothes and a reflective vest help drivers notice you.
  • Find a safe place to walk. Quiet streets with sidewalks, park trails, athletic tracks at local schools, or shopping malls are often good choices.
  • Do a five-minute warm-up and cool-down. Start off at a slower pace for your warm-up. At the end of your walk, slow down to cool down.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Summer Striders starts July 1, 2020


Summer Striders 2020 will begin TONIGHT, July 1 at 5:30 p.m. at the Bluffton Middle School Parking Lot door #4.  Because it's going to be so hot tonight, please bring a water bottle, and a sweat towel.  Didn't register yet? No worries - just show up tonight and we'll get you the release form and collect your $10 fee.  You're also welcome to bring a friend - the more the merrier! 

The Striding Safely Steps (cute pun don't you think)...
1. Masks are optional for participants.  The facilitator will wear one when speaking to the group for pre/post announcements and when popping into different groups during the session.

2.  Walking in the parking lots will allow everyone to be able to stay 6' apart while still being able to chit-chat.  There is limited shade so be especially mindful to stay hydrated and pace yourself appropriately including rest breaks. 

3.  We will meet at door #4 for each of the 7 Wednesday night sessions.  Here is our tentative walking schedule:
Week 1 = orientation & 15 min socially distanced group walk
Weeks 2-3 = 25-30 min of walking/running time
Weeks 4-5 = 35-40 min of walking/running time
Weeks 6-7 = 45-50 min of walking/running time

Friday, August 2, 2019

Walking is good for your brain!

Just 6 months of walking may reverse cognitive decline, study says

(CNN)Worried about your aging brain? Getting your heart pumping with something as simple as walking or cycling just three times a week seems to improve thinking skills, new research says. Add a heart-healthy diet, and you maximize the benefits, possibly shaving years off your brain's functional age, according to the study published Wednesday in the journal Neurology.
"Our operating model was that by improving cardiovascular risk, you're also improving neurocognitive functioning," said lead study author James Blumenthal, a clinical psychologist at Duke University. "You're improving brain health at the same time as improving heart health."
Many experts "are already convinced about the benefits of lifestyle interventions to reduce risk of Alzheimer's and cardiovascular dementia," said Dr. Richard Isaacson, who directs the Alzheimer's Prevention Clinic at Weill Cornell Medicine. "But for those who are not, this study is a randomized, clinical trial that illustrates the benefits.
"You can do something today for a better brain tomorrow," said Isaacson, who was not involved in the research.

    Diet, exercise or nothing at all

    The study was a first, said Blumenthal, who has long studied the effects of diet and exercise on depression and overall cardiac health.
    "I don't think there is another study that looked at the separate and combined effects of exercise and diet in slowing cognitive decline in patients who are vulnerable to develop dementia in later life," he said.
    The study enrolled 160 adults who had high blood pressure or other risks for cardiovascular disease, who never exercised and who had verified cognitive concerns such as difficulty making decisions, remembering or concentrating. Participants were an average age of 65, two-thirds female and equally divided between whites and minorities. Anyone diagnosed with dementia or unable to exercise was excluded.

    Researchers randomly divided participants into four groups for the six-month study. One group started the DASH diet, short for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. DASH is a widely respected heart-healthy diet that cuts salt, fatty foods and sweets while emphasizing vegetables, fruits and whole grains. This group received nutritional guidance on how to stick to the diet but was not encouraged to change their couch-potato habits.
    A second group exercised but was not encouraged to diet. For the first three months, this group was supervised at a cardiac rehab facility where they did non-strenuous exercise three times a week: They warmed up for 10 minutes and then did 35 minutes of continuous walking or stationary cycling. During the last three months of the study, this group exercised at home, filling out compliance logs that were monitored by research staff.
    The third group did both: They exercised three times a week and followed the DASH diet. The fourth group received only advice on reducing their cardiovascular risk during a 30-minute call with a health educator but was told not to change their diet and exercise habits.
    Before starting their assigned path, participants underwent a battery of cognitive tests, a treadmill stress assessment and a dietary analysis. In addition, their blood pressure, blood sugar and lipids were recorded. The tests were repeated at the conclusion of the study.

    Change in only six months

    The group who only exercised saw significantly greater improvements in their executive functioning skills than the group who did no exercise.
    "The results showed that controlled aerobic activity within a very short period of time can have a significant impact on the part of the brain that keeps people taking care of themselves, paying their bills and the like," Isaacson said. "Not only can you improve, but you can improve within six months!"
    Blumenthal noted, "Remember, these are older adults who are completely sedentary and have verified cognitive impairments. We had no dropouts, and everyone was able to sustain the exercise program and do it on their own. That was great."
    The group who followed the DASH diet with no exercise didn't show a statistically significant improvement in thinking skills, but both Blumenthal and Iscaason stressed that they only missed it by a small margin.
    "I would be cautious in saying diet didn't help, because I believe it likely did," Isaacson said. "While the brain sits in a separate compartment, it's still part of the body, so everything that affects body will also affect the brain."
    However, it was the group who combined exercise and the DASH diet who saw the greatest benefit. This group averaged nearly 47 points on the overall tests of executive thinking skills, compared with 42 points for those who only exercised and about 38 points for those who were told not to change their diet and exercise habits.
    In fact, the group that both dieted and exercised reversed their brain's aging by nine years.
    Here's how that worked, Blumenthal said: At the start of the study, the group's average executive functional score was 93 years, a whopping 28 years older than their average chronological age of 65.

    But after just six months of exercising and following the DASH diet, their executive function improved by nine years, bringing their mental age down to 84.
    The control group's executive function declined by six months, or the length of the trial, which was to be expected with no interventions, Blumenthal said.

    No improvement in memory

    Unfortunately, there was no improvement in memory for any of the groups. That's not surprising, Isaacson said.
    "We can positively improve executive function with lifestyle interventions more quickly, but memory takes longer to respond," he said. "It could be that if this study had continued for 18 months or used a different type of brain diet, memory too would have improved."

    What's needed now, Isaacson added, are additional studies: "If we could get multiple centers together to do multisite studies, we will learn more."
      Because those who combined diet and exercise saw the greatest improvements, it may be that multiple lifestyle changes, not just diet and exercise, are needed to maximize success, Blumenthal said.
      What's important, he said, is that "adopting a healthy lifestyle can improve your risk, improve neurocognitive functioning, and it's not too late to start. Even in older people with some indication that their brains are compromised, they also benefit as well."

      original source:

      Friday, July 26, 2019

      Take a walk....without leaving your house

      Get a Walking Workout Without Leaving Your House

      It’s no secret walking can be an excellent way to get in shape and shed a few inches from your waistline. Unfortunately, getting a walk in isn’t always as simple as it sounds. Whether it’s a hectic schedule, a house full of kids or foul weather, sometimes heading out for a walk can be tricky — and that’s where house walking comes in.
      Here’s what you need to know about house walking and how it can help you burn calories when your other options are limited:


      Instead of simply focusing on getting from point A to point B, house walkers aim to get steps in whenever possible. This might consist of a short 10-minute bout of walking stairs, walking in place or completing a 30-minute walking video in front of the TV. At the end of the day, all those 5–10-minute bouts add up and are more effective at helping you reach your weight-loss goals than if you didn’t exercise at all.


      While it might not seem doable at first, house walking is easy as long as you have a basic plan. Here are a few tips you can use to get in a good walking workout from the comfort of your home:


      Setting a realistic step goal gives you a specific number to shoot for by the end of the day. This provides an incentive to get up and moving when you’re falling behind. It also gives you a way to measure your steps indoors against those days when you are able to walk outside or on a treadmill.
      You can also set a goal to increase your total steps each week by a 1,000, which can be a good way to progress and keep challenging yourself to improve your fitness.


      These devices count steps for you and provide other data, like calories burned, which can be useful in tracking your fitness. Some fitness trackers also provide prompts when you haven’t moved in a while, making it easy to stay on track. Though the price of most fitness trackers is reasonable, most smartphones also include step counters if you’re on the fence about investing in one. Another cheaper option is a basic pedometer. It won’t provide as much data but it will count your steps.


      The less you’re still, the more steps you’ll get. Go for a lap around the house every 15 minutes, walk while you dictate your grocery list to your iPhone or walk in place during your favorite TV show. Don’t stay seated for too long at any point during the day and you’ll be surprised how many additional calories you can burn.


      Yes, walking in place for 30 minutes at a time or heading up the same flight of stairs can be a bit boring. One way to up the calorie burn and keep things a bit more interesting is to alternate your steps with a few different bodyweight exercisesLungespushupssquats, butt kickers or sidekicks are a few different options to try. For every 3–5 minutes of in-place walking you complete, stop and do a set of 10–15 repetitions of an exercise. This circuit-type workout is great for getting your steps in and toning the rest of your body.


      There are a ton of walking videos and workouts you can do at home if you’re having trouble coming up with ideas on your own. Besides walking while you multitask, here’s an example of an at-home walking interval set you can do whenever you’ve got 15–20 minutes to spare.
      Set time: 6–8 minutes
      Total sets: 2–4
      Walk in place for 3–5 minutes. This place can be easy the first go-round, but try to pick up the pace as much as possible in the rounds that follow.
      Do a set of walking lunges for one minute, alternating legs.
      Walk with high-knees or do a set of butt-kickers for one minute. This should be performed at as fast of a pace as you can handle.
      Complete as many burpees as you can handle in one minute.

      original source: