My Three Favorite Inflammation Remedies

My Three Favorite Inflammation Remedies are delicious and there are many more that you can incorporate into your diet. Read my blog to learn why I transitioned from pills to food.

In my recent post 2019 Running Review I mentioned that I transitioned from Ibuprofen to natural inflammation remedies.

This comment generated a lot of interest and questions.

Most of what I know is from journal and news articles and anecdotal stories from friends.

I decided to write this post to answer some of the questions and take an overview of some articles on the subject.

Natural Remedy Skepticism

In The West we have long been accustomed to doctors doing procedures and prescribing medications. There seems to be a drug or procedure for everything.

Watching TV, I am often surprised to learn about new drugs for conditions I have never heard of.

Most of us have cabinets full of drugs we use without much thought. If they are available without a prescription, they have to be safe, right?

In ancient times before chemistry and modern science, physicians derived remedies from the plants and minerals around them.

aspirin
courtesy – nih.gov

Hippocrates recommended chewing on willow bark to relieve pain and fever.

Willow bark contains salicin and German scientists isolated salicylic acid from willow bark in the early 1800’s.

It was expensive to extract, tasted awful and could cause bleeding. In the late 1890’s scientists at Bayer synthesised acetylsalicylic acid which Bayer went on to sell under the brand name Aspirin. 1

Peruvian bark, which contained quinine, was used to treat malaria. Today you can buy quinine over the counter. 2

While our ancestors chewed on bark or drank bitter concoctions, we now get most of our treatments through a tablet or pill. Bayer actually created the first tablets with aspirin to counter competitors.

In part, because most of our medicines come in a bottle these days the efficacy of natural remedies is questioned by many.

How can spices or teas do anything? They are just food and food is not medicine.

Many societies still rely on natural treatments

In a CNN series Chasing Life, Dr. Sanjay Gupta examined how societies around the world maintain health and treat illness.

In one episode he traveled to Kerala state in India. Thousands of years ago in this Indian state they began the practice called Ayurveda which means the science of life. 3

It was a fascinating program. While Ayurveda involves much more than just using food as medicine they did discuss the spices that go into the foods this practice utilizes.

In addition to ginger and cinnamon they used spices we associate with Indian food like cumin, turmeric, hot peppers and others. The food looked unbelievable.

It’s difficult to believe there isn’t something to a medical practice which has survived thousands of years.

Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen

I’m not a medical professional or scientist. I’m just a runner who is constantly dealing with inflammation. Between muscles, joints and tendons, I often experience pain from inflammation.

In the past I would take Ibuprofen or Tylenol to manage this pain.

I had bursitis in my left hip for years. A few years ago I visited an orthopedist due to chronic knee pain. I’ve pulled or strained various muscles in my legs over the past seventeen years.

Over the years my doctors have recommended rest and ice, sometimes compression and elevation.

None prescribed meds and my PCP and orthopedist both cautioned me about over-use of Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen (Tylenol)

Acetaminophen controls pain but does not reduce inflammation. Controlling pain is good, but my pain is often caused by inflammation. Taking too much acetaminophen can damage the liver, sometimes leading to a liver transplant or death.

Doses over 3,900 milligrams or 12 325 mg pills per day can cause liver toxicity. The safest daily dose is 8 pills or 2,600 mgs. 4

Years ago I stopped taking Tylenol and started taking Ibuprofen. Ibuprofen is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug or NSAID.

NSAIDS do treat pain and inflammation, so I thought I was doing the right thing.

When treating an injury I would often take the maximum daily dose (1200 mg) for weeks.

According to the FDA: NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding, reduced kidney function, and other side effects. The chance of harmful side effects increases the more you take and the longer you take them. 5

A small study published in the July 2017 edition of Emergency Medicine Journal found that 44% of ultra-marathoners who took 400 mg of ibuprofen three to four times toward the end a seven-day, 155-mile race experienced significant reduction of kidney function. 6

The study only had 89 participants in an extreme event but it did highlight the risk of kidney damage. Taking the maximum dose over a prolonged period may have similar consequences for the rest of us.

During several marathons I took 400 mg of ibuprofen. While that is a lower dose and a less extreme event than the study cited above, my kidneys were probably impacted.

When I learned how both classes of drugs could effect my health I made changes.

My Inflammation Remedies

As I mentioned before, I’m not a medical professional or scientist. Please consult your physician before changing your treatment.

First I switched to ibuprofen and then in 2018 I cut back on ibuprofen. Then I began to read about foods and spices that have anti-inflammatory properties.

I was surprised to learn that spices in my own kitchen were potent anti-inflammatories.

turmeric curcumin
Courtesy – Happy Happy Vegan

Both ginger and cinnamon have anti-inflammatory properties. Most studies use purified, concentrated and precise doses of these spices. In order to conduct a scientifically valid study you have to use standardized extracts and try to control all variables.

You can search the web and find thousands of studies on these and other spices. Some using purified extracts others using common spices.

One VA study looked at 247 patients with significant knee pain over a six-week study period. 7

The VA study found a statistically significant difference in the relief of knee pain between the control group and those receiving the concentrated ginger extract.

Both spices have been in common use for centuries and their medicinal properties have been known for that long also.

You can buy concentrated extracts at your local drug store, or you can eat delicious food.

A cinnamon roll each morning doesn’t have enough spice to make any difference. I think I’m pretty safe in saying that.

Inflammation Remedies that work for me

Most days I have oatmeal for breakfast. I used to add brown sugar and raisins, but cut the sugar and added ginger and cinnamon.

The raisins add enough sweetness and the spices add a lot of flavor.

I’m not a scientist, so you wont find me in the kitchen with a scale or even measuring spoons.

Cinnamon, anti inflammatory spices, Inflammation RemediesI add 3/4 cup of oatmeal and about an ounce of raisins to a Pyrex container. To that I add 2-3 shakes of cinnamon and 1-2 shakes of ginger.

My guess is that this equals about 1-2 teaspoons of each spice.

I’ve tried adding more but the flavor can be overwhelming. I also try not to eat an entire cup of oatmeal for breakfast.

If I’m dealing with an injury I have this breakfast 5-6 days a week.

Green Tea

green tea, anti inflammatory foods, Inflammation RemediesProbably 15 years ago I started drinking water at work. I wanted to reduce my coffee consumption and to stop drinking soda.

Over the years my daily water consumption has increased. To make things more interesting I started adding two bags of green tea to my water bottle.

After about five minutes the tea infuses into the water and adds some flavor.

I use two to four bags of green tea five days a week and sometimes at home also.

The health-promoting effects of green tea are mainly attributed to its polyphenol flavonoids which can represent 30% of fresh leaf dry weight.

Green tea is not fermented like black tea so the flavonoids are preserved. This gives green tea it’s healthy benefits. 8

If an average teabag contains 1.5 grams of tea or 1500 mg, then each bag contains approximately  450 mg of polyphenol flavonoids.

Two bags of tea per day should be enough to achieve the healthful benefits, according to some studies.

Studies have also confirmed that green tea helps control Type II diabetes, blood pressure and many other conditions.

Conclusion

As a runner, I train and push my body twelve months of the year. I consistently experience higher levels of inflammation than most people.

Now I only take ibuprofen for a head ache, and those are rare.

We all experience inflammation caused by the environment and stress so I think that anyone can benefit from adding these food items to their diet.

Consuming tea, ginger and cinnamon are part of my regular diet now.

If you add these items to your diet your health will benefit also.

You don’t like tea, ginger or cinnamon? Try adding or consuming more of these spices:

inflammation remedies, spices
naturalstacks.com

1. Curcumin (Turmeric)
2. Ginger
3. Spirulina
4. Cayenne pepper
5. Cinnamon
6. Cloves
7. Sage
8. Rosemary
9. Black pepper
10. Green tea 9

There are so many great options.

Eat well my Friends!

Andy

Health On Sale

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1119266/

2.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_aspirin
3. https://www.cnn.com/shows/chasing-life
4. https://www.health.harvard.edu/pain/acetaminophen-safety-be-cautious-but-not-afraid
5. https://www.fda.gov/media/112979/download
6. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/is-it-safe-to-take-ibuprofen-for-the-aches-and-pains-of-exercise-2017080912185
7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11710709 – VA study
8.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2855614/#B1
9. https://www.naturalstacks.com/blogs/news/anti-inflammatory-herbs

DEXA Body Composition Scan

The DEXA body scan is the most accurate method to measure body composition and distribution of fat and muscle mass. Read about my scan and learn more about the DEXA body composition scan.

You may have seem TV commercials for the Cenegenics Medical Institute in Boston.

They provide a variety of services from nutrition coaching, metabolism and exercise studies and healthy aging strategies.

One of the services they provide to assess patients physical condition is the Body Composition DEXA Scan.

The DEXA scan is considered the Gold Standard in body composition measurement and is commonly used to measure bone density. Increasingly it is being used to measure body composition.

I received a Body Composition DEXA Scan at Cenegenics Boston as compensation for writing this review.

Cenegenics has offered the DEXA Scan to their clients since 2011 and to the general public since 2015. In 2012 when I first wrote about body composition studies, no one in the Boston area offered the DEXA scan.

Cenegenics Boston provides a single scan for $175, two for $300 and four for $500. If you get a 10 scan package the cost is $99 per scan.

Why get a DEXA Body Composition Scan

The DEXA Scan is performed using a GE Lunar Prodigy Advance. This machine exposes the body to 1/10 the x-ray radiation of a chest x-ray. So the exposure is minimal.

DEXA Body Composition Scan, Cenegenics BostonDEXA Scan gives you the most precise information about your body fat, muscle, and bone composition, and lets you track changes in body composition over time.

Fitness enthusiasts, athletes, and dieters often use body composition scans to get a baseline of where they are now, and to objectively measure their progress.

Scanning every three to six months is a good way to monitor and evaluate your progress.

Some of us need to monitor our bone density or body fat. Athletes want to measure their body fat and muscle composition.

The primary advantage of DEXA Scan over fat estimating devices such as bioimpedance scales, calipers, tape measure, or displacement estimate devices such as hydrostatic dunk tank or Bod Pod is that the DEXA Scan is actually measuring your body fat and giving you precise measurements.

DEXA Scan gives you precise measurements of fat and muscle distribution around your body.

The DEXA Scan scan also shows muscle asymmetries between your left and right sides. These asymmetries throw weight distribution off, cause muscle miscoordination, and create unnatural stresses that lead to injury.

As a true body composition analysis, you can track potentially dangerous visceral fat around your vital organs. This cannot be done with any of the other body composition measurement tools.

You get a better sense of where you are now. And you can track the improvement over time.

For the average amateur runner like me the DEXA Scan can be very helpful.

Getting a DEXA Scan

DEXA scans are available in most major US, Canadian and UK cities. Many large hospitals also offer them to track the bone density of their older patients.

Check here to find the office offering the scan closest to you. Enter your zip or postal code, or use the map.

Check here for how to prepare for your scan and what to expect during your scan.

My DEXA Scan and results

I became interested in body composition several years ago. In 2012 I wrote about the different tests available in a post titled “What’s Your Number?”

You can perform a BMI calculation online or your doctor may provide your BMI at your annual physical. However, the BMI is imprecise and measures body mass, not body composition.

Over the past 15 years, my weight has fluctuated between 175 and 185lbs. When I began running in January of 2003, my weight was 203 on the bathroom scale. In 2014 I trained all year and ran three marathons and my weight dipped to 169lbs briefly.

When I went for my DEXA scan the office scale had me at 188lbs but the DEXA machine had me at 183lbs. I’m also shrinking and am now just under 6′ tall! Between my weight and decreased stature, my BMI was recorded as 25.7. This puts me just into the “overweight” bracket which begins with a BMI of 25.

The DEXA scan gave me the following numbers:

Total Body Mass: 183.7 lbs
Total Tissue:         176.3 lbs
Total Fat:                43.6 lbs
Lean:                    132.7 lbs
Bone Mass:              7.3 lbs
Fat Free Mass:     140.1 lbs

Fat Free Mass combines Bone Mass (7.3) and Lean Mass (132.7) to get 140.1 Fat Free pounds.

Currently I am carrying 43.6 lbs of fat on my body. I was shocked to hear that number. That’s almost a bag of cement!

Dividing 43.6 lbs into my Total Tissue Mass (176.3) gives me a body fat composition of 24.7%. Again, this seemed high.

The important part of this analysis is the next part. The DEXA scans measures both Android and Gynoid fat.

Android fat is primarily carried in the belly area while some is also carried in the chest and upper arms.

Android fat is associated with an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes, hormonal imbalances, some cancers, sleep apnea, and more.

Some Android fat is subcutaneous (under the skin) and some is visceral and surrounds our organs.

The subcutaneous fats is what we see in the mirror and which hides our six packs, no matter how hard we work to get them.

Our bodies need some visceral fat for normal body functions. But too much of a good thing can cause the variety of issues mentioned above.

My estimated Visceral Adipose Tissue was estimated at 2.85 lbs. I was told this is the fat under my abs and that it should be about 1 lb! Yikes! This much fat in this area is not a good thing.

Gynoid fat refers to the body fat that forms around the hips, breasts and thighs. For men this type of fat is typically not an issue. We didn’t discuss this type of fat in depth, but the technician did say that my legs have a healthy amount of fat.

Next Steps and Moving Forward

My goal is to get to 175 lbs. That means loosing about 8 lbs from where I am now. Since my total body fat is 43.6 lbs I need to loose about 18% of my body fat to reach this goal.

With age it becomes increasingly difficult to loose weight. It also becomes increasingly easy to gain weight.

I employed some dietary restrictions over the holidays and didn’t gain any weight. I also maintained my light running routine. This put me in a good position to reach my goal.

By paying attention to my refined carbohydrate and alcohol intake and increasing my running, I will be able to get to 175 and maybe beyond.

My next steps are to train like I have a number for The Boston Marathon. I’ve also been eating more fruit and nuts instead of corn chips and guacamole. I will also be more diligent avoiding sugar as I have been a little lax over the holidays.

Each time I think about heading to the fridge for an IPA, I think about that 2.85 lb pad of fat between my abs and my intestines. Do I really want to feed that thing?

Knowledge is Power

You don’t know what you don’t know. Getting a DEXA Scan is a lot like getting a blood work up at your doctor’s. Until the blood work comes back you don’t know what your cholesterol or triglyceride levels are. You don’t know what your A1c or vitamin levels are.

You can’t take action and control of your health until you know whats going on inside.

While a DEXA scan may seem expensive, I would encourage you to go at least once. It’s not just knowing how much you weigh that’s important. It’s important to know where you carry your weight so that you can understand your risks and what to do about it.

Run well my Friends,

Andy

Big Long Run

This Saturday was the longest of the long runs before Boston. We had a convoy of cars take us out to Hopkinton for the 21.5 mile run to Boston College.

Big Long Run

We have spent the past twelve weeks building up to this run. Prior to this run, our longest had been 20 miles. 21.5 isn’t a big leap in miles, but we did add in the Hills of Newton including the most famous hill in running, “Heart Break Hill.”

boston marathon, big long runThis was an inter-club run with several Mystic Runners joining us and a few runners whose affiliation I did not know. I also met John Worrall one of my team mates from FamilyAid Boston.

There were thousands of runners on the course and in many towns there were police directing traffic for us. In Newton the actually had the right-hand lane coned off for several miles. I must have said thank you 100 times to all of the police and people who came out to support us.

The Big Long Run is the dress rehearsal for the big show on April 18th. This is where we try out anything new. After this point you probably shouldn’t buy new shoes or a new shirt. Don’t even change the expression on your face! If it worked on Saturday, chances are it will work for you on Marathon Monday.

On Friday I happened to be in Trader Joe’s and found this delectable delight.

danish, pastry We had one of these at my office before last Christmas. Let’s just say that it didn’t last long! This is the best Danish I have ever had. I’m not a big fan of the Danish you often see on a breakfast buffet at a hotel.

This Danish has a soft buttery crust, and just enough crust to hold the frosting, fruit filling and a small amount of pecans. It is to die for!

It was so good that I took this photo when we had the Danish in the office.

I thought I had to order these from Wisconsin. When I saw it at Trader Joe’s I just had to have it. It is loaded with carbs after all.

I had several slices while I got ready for the run. It goes great with coffee! Unfortunately it does not go good with running! While there are plenty of carbs in this delight, there is also a lot of butter. Butter and margarine are both listed along with several forms of sugar.

Butter is not a runners friend. I had to make three pit stops including a Starbucks in Newton. A nice lady in line directed me to the restroom as soon as I stepped inside the door! On Race Day this would be a disaster.

On race day I’ll be sticking to plain bagels without butter. Lesson learned! This pastry is strictly for home use.

Aches and pains and discomfort, oh my!

If you have been following along on my brief journey to Boylston Street, you know that I have been dealing with several physical issues. Injuries are not something you can control, but they are something that you can manage and attempt to heal.

My $500 seat at work almost broke my back. A $2 lumbar support that my colleague Jeff Thomas picked up for me at Micro Center in Cambridge has been a life saver.

I’ve run through many of the aches and pains that runners get. Back pain is different. I don’t exactly know why but it’s not a pain I can push away. Maybe it is fear. I can get a new knee or hip, I sure as hell don’t want spinal surgery.

I’ve had this back support for about three weeks and experienced immediate relief. Within a week my back was 20% better. In two weeks it was 40% better. This Saturday my back didn’t bother me at all until around mile 15!

When it twinged I though, “oh, here we go.” But it just twinged once in a while. No lightning bolts. No thoughts of paraplegia.

As much as my running crew has helped me out with advice and running slow with me, I have to give credit to Jeff for saving my marathon. I don’t think I could fight through the last five or ten miles of the marathon with that pain.

Much gratitude my friend!

My knee spoke up at mile 9.51. Again, I was afraid it would be all down hill from there. Hah! I’ve been icing my knee for the past month like a case of beer. Almost every night I lay on the couch to watch TV with an ice pack under my knee and sometimes one of top.

I’ve been taking fish oil for about two months and started taking turmeric recently. The great thing about these items is that they are all natural. I eat this stuff all the time.

My knee didn’t start to impact my running until around mile 15. By then that pain had to compete for mind share with my flaming quads. Climbing hills is a be-yotch!

The knee pain has been with me for over a year. When I was only running 5Ks and long runs were no more than 7 miles, my knee didn’t bother me. When FamilyAid Boston gave me the opportunity to run Boston, things got real serious real quick. No more half long-runs. It was all in for Boston.

While up-hills will tear your quads, down hills will beat up your knees and hips and every joint connected to the bottoms of your feet. You know the tune!

My right knee never bothers me but those blessed down hills get my left knee every time.

Heading out of Hopkinton I kept the mantra going that Terrance Mahon taught me several years ago – pretend you are running on egg shells coming out of Hopkinton. The idea is to not land like a ton of bricks on your feet. You have to be mindful and think about what you are doing.

Automatic for the Runners

Easter Bunny, big long runSo much of running can become automatic. The focus is on moving forward and getting up the next hill. Late in a race, form goes out the window for many of us. We just want to survive.

Being aware of your running form is important and can make a big difference. Keeping Terrance’s mantra in mind helped me get as far as I did before pains interrupted my perfectly pleasant run.

If you do something often enough it becomes automatic. Over the past year or so with this bum knee, I’ve been more conscious of my foot falls and envisioning egg shells.

Running the day before Easter, this was much easier to do!

When the knee acted up I had a few moments of worry. Would it get worse? I was running at least 5 miles further than my longest run in over a year.

While I paid attention to it and assessed it with each step, eventually I was able to push it out of my consciousness. It just stopped hurting after a while. Will power.

My third problem area has been my right shoulder. Soon after injuring it I ran the Super Sunday 5 Miler and thought I would not be able to finish that race.

I tried light exercise of my shoulders and that turned out to be a bad idea. For the past six weeks or so I haven’t done anything with my shoulders. Not even planks.

Sometimes my right hand tingles and gets numb in spots, but it is getting better. Now I am able to run with zero pain and only occasional  tingling.

On the big long run, my shoulder wasn’t a problem.

The Long and Winding Road

big long run, boston marathonFor some reason, when we got to the right-hand turn in Newton to head up the hills I was surprised. I’ve run this course eight or nine times. That turn still gets me every time.

A few minutes after we arrived at Boston College a runner came up to us and asked us which way to Boston? He was serious but we all kind of laughed. He laughed too. We told him to turn left at Cleveland Circle and keep following the runners.

If he didn’t know that the road continued to Boston, he probably didn’t know where the hell Cleveland Circle was either. Still, there were plenty of runners heading to Boylston Street.

It felt so good to be finished. The official distance was 21.5 miles. My Garmin has 20.95 at a moving pace of 9:05. At that pace I could still do a 4 hour marathon.

I have three weeks to taper and be cranky! I’m hoping that my knee will get better during this time and that my back will continue to improve.

One of my goals was to get down to 180 lbs before the marathon. I knew I didn’t have time to train properly, but I knew that loosing a few pounds would help. Even after refueling after the run, I was 180 lbs exactly. Hopefully Easter wont pack all those pounds back on again!

If you have donated to FamilyAid Boston, I thank you. If you would like to contribute to FamilyAid Boston, please see my fundraising page. We are making progress towards our goal and you can help us get there.

Run well my Friends!

Andy

Photos courtesy of Paul Locke, Mary Comerford O’Connell. Link to Paul Locke’s Flickr account for more photos.

February Wrap Up

In my last post I went over my mileage and training for February. For tracking purposes February ended on Saturday for me. But on the calendar February is still rolling along.

Last week I ran a grueling 14.6 mile long run. It was just awful in so many ways. Looking ahead to this week’s 18.1 mile run left me apprehensive. I knew I made some mistakes but some of my issues were physical and not easily addressed.

February Wrap up Run

One of my big problems last week was improper fueling and hydration. To address those issues I ate a high carb dinner Saturday night and had two beers in the afternoon.

Sunday morning I had a large bowl of Grape-Nuts and even put some sugar on top. A half-cup serving has 47g of carbs. I had well over a cup and added sugar on top of that. So my carbohydrate stores were pretty well stocked.

I made an extra pot of coffee on Saturday afternoon and put a quart into a sport cup and put that in the fridge. Sunday morning I added some milk, but no sugar. I really need caffeine to get me going in the morning and 32oz of high octane juice really hit the spot.

Stretch This

Last week I did a nice stretch and yoga session Saturday night. I’m pretty careful, but I did manage to over do it a little bit. With the issues I already have, a little over stretching didn’t do me any good. This week I sat on my glutes and watched some TV. The result was positive.

stretching, yoga

I also did no stretching before my run. Instead, I took the first mile to warm up and loosen up. This worked out well for me also.

After the run I did some stretching. I was really surprised how easy the IT band stretches were. I didn’t think I would be able to bend over like that and my back didn’t hurt at all.

When I got home I rolled my glutes and hamstrings. When I rolled my calves the pain was amazing. I could only bear about one minute of that business.

My left knee is still a mess. I tried some stretching but it was painful. I decided not to push it as I really was concerned I’d break something. Knowing when to say when is very important.

Stretching before a run has seen some controversy. I tend to agree with the no stretching before a run camp. I do a few moves to loosen up my ankles, knees and hips that Terrance Mahon showed me at a BAA clinic a few years ago. Sometimes even stretching the day before can effect your run.

The moves that Terrance showed us are enough to get the “kinks” out. You know, those snapping sounds your joins make sometimes?

Final February Run

This week the course was 18.1 miles. I really had no idea how this was going to go. I took a few precautions and planned well, but 18.1 is a lot more than 14.6.

I was a little stiff for the first mile or so, but I had planned on this. By the time we hit the hills in Breakheart Reservation in Saugus, I was attacking the hills. I felt pretty good. The hills began just after we hit 5 miles. My legs were warmed up, but not fatigued.

I was worried that poring it all on for those hills would make the hills on Main Street difficult. We hit the Breakheart water stop a second time on the way out and I grabbed a GU. As we ran down the driveway to The Fellsway I could feel the carbs hitting my system.

My shoulder didn’t give me much trouble at all. A few twinges late in the run, but nothing like last week. Around mile 10 my left knee spoke up and about the same time my back chimed in. Physically I was not exhausted at this point, but those aches had me concerned.

Getting the legs to move that first 100 yards or so after the last three water stops was increasingly difficult. At the last stop knowing that our last hill was just around the corner didn’t make getting started any easier.

After the last water stop and hill it was pretty flat for the last three miles. My knee and back were just killing me at this point.

15 miles was further than I ran last week, and no walking this week. Somewhere along Main Street in Wakefield I managed to will my knee pain out of my mind. All of a sudden it just didn’t hurt so much.

Don Keren, Malden Irish American 5KI ran the entire 18 miles with Don Keren. Early in the run he pushed the pace but eventually he settled into a pace that I could run. We ran a pace of 9:16. Last week we ran a 9:56 pace for 14.6 miles. I was a wreck last week but my friend stuck with me even though I slowed him considerably.

Preparation for next week

Next week we run the 20 mile Mystic Lakes Route. After this week’s run I’m more confident about this run. My fueling and hydrating worked out well this week and I’ll continue that.

Consistent training is important. Last week I had two 5 mile treadmill runs. Nothing grueling, but enough to help me build up for this week’s 18 miler. I’ll do two 5-6 mile treadmill runs this week also. Again, nothing grueling, but good consistent miles that will allow my body to recover and be prepared for the 20 miler.

By running inside last week I was also able to recover substantially from my chest cold. Congestion is not good for running! I’ll probably skip the Tuesday night club run and just do the two treadmill runs again this week. It worked well last week, and perhaps I can kick this thing.

  • How is your training going?
  • Any tricks for running an abbreviated marathon plan?
  • Are you running Boston this year?

Run well my Friends!

Andy

© 2016 andrew nagelin

Marathon Training Begins

Probably the worse run of my life was the 2003 Boston Marathon. I had never run a marathon and was woefully under trained. I had jumped at an opportunity without much thought and had no concept of what I was about to do.

The two things I had going for me were youth (38 years-old) and lack of in juries. I guess I could count a priori enthusiasm as a plus also. How many things would you have never done if you knew what you were really getting yourself into?

Marathon Training Begins

Boston Marathon, running, BAA 10KJump ahead 13 years and I should know what I’m doing. I’ve run Boston six times and 15 marathons all together. I’ve solved many running issues and my finish times have come down a lot since that first Boston Marathon.

This Sunday I officially began my Boston Marathon training. It was the Melrose Running Club’s Sunday Long Run; a comfortable 14.3 mile tour of Melrose, Stoneham, Medford and Malden.

I made so many mistakes and had so many issues it was one of the worse long runs I’ve ever had.

Things I can fix

When I found out I had a number for the marathon I did a weigh in just to see where I was at. Well, I was at 188.6 lbs! I haven’t seen that number for years and it was shocking. Since I have a limited time to train I decided dropping down to 180 would be a good idea.

I’ve been really good at work eating fruit for breakfast and skipping bagels and other carbs often found around an office. By the end of the week I’d knocked off about 2 lbs.

Saturday night for dinner I had some chicken, a 1/2 cup of rice and 2+ cups of veggies. Veggies have carbs and I had some rice so I thought I was good.

Unfortunately I was wrong. I ran out of juice pretty quick on the long run. Through mile six I managed to stay under 9 minute miles. Mile seven came in at 9:40 and things slowly went down-hill from there.

Lesson – Eat lots of carbs the night before a long run. I ran off 2,019 calories. I think I can afford a cup or two of rice.

This is a totally solvable problem. I know better.

Mechanical Issues

Most of my issues are mechanical. My left knee has been acting up sporadically for the past year. While running short track it didn’t really bother me. Foolishly I have not had my PT look at this. I’m pretty sure it’s an over use issue. Sometimes I can feel a tendon slip over a muscle when I bend my leg. At least it’s not runner’s knee or torn cartilage.

Downhill pounding really aggravates the hell out of it. Uphill is still my strong suit.

My back has been another sporadic issue. I think all of us get sore backs eventually. Things wear out and we do stupid things when we are young and invincible. I’ve carried double-hung wood frame windows up a ladder and I’ve hung sheet rock on the ceiling, by my self.

An adjustment to my work chair about two months ago aggravated my back and the pain lingers. I got rid of the adjustment and tried some yoga, but I’m not sure if yoga helped.

I’ve often said that my back will take me out of running before anything else. Well, this unfortunate experiment may have accelerated that retirement.

Then there is my shoulder. As a modest goal I decided to do 15 daily push-ups. I’ve been doing shoulder and chest work for the past year. It seemed like a reasonable addition that I could do anywhere.

I go through cycles with my shoulders. I’ll start bench pressing, make some progress and eventually get hurt. My threshold seems to be 45 lb dumbbells, so that’s where I topped out this time.

This had been working well until one evening I tweaked my right shoulder doing push-ups. That was about five weeks ago.

I ran the Super Sunday 5 Miler a few days after my injury and had shooting pain right away. It was so bad I considered dropping out of the race. Being a problem solver I gripped my right hand to my left shoulder to stretch the right shoulder and relieve some of the bouncing.

This worked well enough that I was able to run 7:55 miles.

These are issues that I cannot easily solve. Time and rest usually work for me. But I have eight weeks until the big race.

What I did right

I started breaking a new pair of Adidas Supernova Sequence Boost shoes. Two months out is the time to do this. I wore the socks I am likely to wear on Marathon Monday also. My toes had plenty of room and my heels did not slip. I did feel some heat in my arches, so that could be an issue.

Running shoes can cause all kinds of problems, so getting them right is crucial. If things don’t settle down in the next few weeks, I’ll get a pair of Brooks Adrenaline GTS shoes. I’m also hoping new shoes will help with my knee and back.

I dressed correctly. Last week it was -32° F at times. This week it was about 42° F when the wind was blowing. Marathon Monday will probably start in the 40s and may get warmer or colder. It’s gone both ways. I ran in 2012 when it was almost 90° F.

Today I was only cold when the wind blew and I never felt over-heated. Core body temperature control is key to successful running. You don’t want to accelerate the loss of electrolytes.

I discovered that my new Under Armour shirt is too tight. Their web site sized me into a medium. As an under layer it works fine. Nice and tight and no chaffing. Sunday I wore it with a tech t-shirt like I probably will during the marathon.

My old Under Armour shirt is a large. It’s still tight, but I can push up the sleeves. My new shirt is basically body paint and isn’t going anywhere.

During a marathon the temperature can swing wildly. A cold morning can turn into many sun drenched miles. The ability to roll up my sleeves and prevent over-heating is very important. So I’ll be wearing my old Under Armour shirt on Marathon Monday.

Hydration and fuel

PowerGel Quartet,gu,gel

While I screwed up my dinner, I did the right thing on the run. I got plenty of fluids at our water stops and took two gels. During a half marathon I typically take two gels. One of the gels may have been old and didn’t settle well with my stomach.

I actually had cramps, and I can eat anything. For Boston, they hand out gels after the Rt. 95 overpass. These will be fresh and common, popular flavors like vanilla or chocolate. I’ll also bring my own.

What a Train Wreck

This long run was a mess. Not much went right and I have some issues I may not be able to resolve by April 18th. I’m also heavier than I want to be and way out of marathon shape.

I guess it can only get better from here!

I’m running to support FamilyAid Boston this year. Your contribution will help homeless families in Boston.

Run well my Friends!

Andy

© 2016 andrew nagelin

How to Prep for your First 5K

In January I wrote How to choose your first 5K and How to choose a running watch. I was expanding on the information from the info-graphic below.

my first 5k, running bibIn this post I discuss the other points in the info-graphic.

I don’t have a dog, so I can’t give any advise from my own experience there. I’ll let the pros advise you on how to treat runner’s knee or any injury for that matter. But I will cover the other items in this post.

How to Prep for your First 5K

First, you should pick a race that is at least 8 weeks out. This will give you the time to properly train and avoid injuries. You should follow a couch to 5K program or some other beginners program from a reputable source.

Safely Increase mileage

new runners, first 5kThis is #4 on the info-graphic. Any training program for beginners will slowly and carefully increase your mileage. The rule of thumb is no more than a 10% increase in mileage per week.

When you are first starting out it may be safe to double your mileage in a week. If you jog one day for two miles the first week, you should be able to add a second day of jogging for two miles.

Depending on your schedule you could then add a third day in week three, or make your two two-mile jogs into two and a half or three-mile jogs. If you have the time it is better to spread your miles over three days.

As a first time 5K runner, your goal is to be able to jog three miles comfortably. A 5K is 3.1 miles. If you can jog three miles, you can do the race.

Once you are able to run three miles at a time, you don’t need to go much further.

If you want to try a few four or five-mile runs, go ahead. The important thing is that you feel comfortable doing the run.

If you feel sick, dizzy or have any of the other heart attack or stroke symptoms you should stop immediately and see your doctor or call 911.

If you feel good running three days a week for three or more miles, start working on your speed.

Keep your miles the same but start adding a little kick and see what you can do.

As a first time runner your primary goal is to be able to jog/run three miles comfortably. On race day your only goal is to finish. Don’t worry about what anyone else is doing.

How to safely run in the heat

The best advice is to try to avoid the hottest parts of the day. If you can run in the mornings or evenings when it is cooler, that is the best choice. If you do have to run in the heat do not push your speed or your distance. You want to take it easy.

You may want to choose a different route. Can you switch to a tree-lined street or a park? Can you use a treadmill in an air conditioned gym?

It’s a good idea to wear a hat and take a bottle of water with you. Almost all runners wear a hat. It shades your face and keeps the sun out of your eyes. If you run in hot conditions often, you should buy a running hat at the local running store.

I run races with a water bottle. Don’t feel like you can’t train with a water bottle.

Don’t feel like you have to prove anything. If you can only do one or two miles before you start to feel the effects of the heat, walk home. Your family will be impressed that you used your head and aren’t passed out on the sidewalk somewhere.

Hot days are often sunny days. Don’t forget the sunscreen.

I have run a marathon in 85º weather before. It can be done. But, as a new runner don’t be foolish and train in the heat unless you have to. Until you know how your body will react , play it safe. I have seen experienced runners fade on hot days. I’ve seen marathoners hauled away by EMTs.

Race day anxiety

Almost everyone I know feels the nerves before a race. It is totally normal and to be expected

There are things you can control and things you can’t. What can you do to reduce race day stress?

  • Get to your race early and not stress over parking or being late
  • Pack your gear the day before and don’t worry about checking it many times
  • Bring your own food and beverage, so you have what works for you

You can’t avoid race day nerves but you can control some of the contributing factors. A race is fun. Only a hand full of runners at most 5Ks are out to prove anything. Most are there to do their best and have a good time; just like you.

The info graphic above lists “How to prepare for your first 5K” as #7, and focuses on food.

Food and Hydration

Food is very important. Ryan Hall, a famous American runner, talks about how a meal the night before a race can ruin four months of training.

You are running a 5K, so don’t get too worked up about food. The rule of thumb is not to eat anything new the day before a race, or day of a race. For a 5K you don’t need to carbo-load or eat special foods.

Don’t eat a big heavy or greasy meal the night before. If you eat oatmeal every morning, that’s what you should eat race day morning. I try to avoid fiber since my race day nerves tend to move things along all on their own.

Hydration can make or break you. Just about every 5K I have ever run has a water stop around the half-way mark. Just make sure your race does.You may still want to carry your own water bottle on your first race.

My rule of thumb is to stop drinking anything an hour before my race. I drink plenty of coffee or water up until that point. I stop an hour before the race so my body has time to process most of what I drank earlier. This helps me avoid a porta-potty break during a race.

I often take a bottle of water with me on a marathon or half. You should take a bottle with you for your first 5K. Just before the start take a few drinks, but not much. If you need a drink before or after the water stop, you will be prepared. A bottle is a nice insurance policy.

Running YOUR race

The last and one of the most important tips for your first 5K, is to run YOUR race.  What do I mean by this? If you did the eight-week training plan, you’ve run three miles many times by race day. You know what a comfortable pace is for you.

On race day, all you need to do is run that pace. Run YOUR race. That’s what you’ve been training for. Your race, not the lycra wearing hotty’s next to you race.

For your first 5K all you want to do is finish. Once you have your finish time for your first race you can start to set goals and work on your PR (personal record). But that’s a subject of many books and another blog post.

Recovery and Cross Training

At the end of the race grab a bottle of water and any food items available. Chips are okay on race day, your body needs the carbs and salt. Don’t grab a ton of stuff, just a few items to help replenish your body. If you finish near the end of the race you may not have much to choose from, so the extra food you brought with you can be handy at the end of the race also.

Your best bet is to walk around after the race. The movement of your muscles helps increase blood flow which helps your body remove waste and bring in nutrients to aid in recovery. If you can’t walk or feel ill, seek medical attention.

When you get home a hot shower is a good idea. This will help relax your muscles and make you bearable to be around! If you have been stretching for your training runs, do that routine soon after your race.

As a new runner, I wouldn’t worry too much about cross training. I think it is more important to get the running routine built into your life first. Cross training is important and has running benefits. Running can take up a lot of your time and early on I think you should focus on making that time part of your weekly routine.

Let me know if you have questions.

Run well my friend and enjoy your first 5k.

Andy