Category Archives: Exercise Science

Iliotibial Band Syndrome

Image

What’s an IT Band?

You have an iliotibial, or IT band that runs down the outside of each of your legs. This unique ligament serves to move your legs (extending, abducting, and rotating your hip), and runs from your hip to just below your knee. It connects to many of the muscles in your upper legs, including the quadriceps (front thigh), glutei (booty), and hamstrings (back of thigh). It’s also connected to the fascia of your upper leg, which is the tough “gristle” that holds all of your muscles in place.

Image

Because of it’s location, the IT band is easy to injury with repetitive movement. Running, biking, and even long walks can irritate it if the exerciser’s form is incorrect, putting undue pressure on the bursa sack, which enflames the small pouch. This causes the ITB to meet resistance while moving over the femur, instead of gliding.

Do I Have IT Band Friction Syndrome?

If you’re having lateral knee pain, you may have ITBFS/ITBS.

Signs and symptoms:

  1. Pain on the lateral (outside) side of the upper leg and knee joint.
  2. Snapping or popping sensations around the knee.
  3. Swelling around the lower thigh and knee.
  4. In advanced cases, a radiating pain from the knee up to the hip.

If you think you have ITBS, it’s best to see your physician. Because of how the brain discriminates various areas of the knee, pain can seem to come from an area that is close by, but isn’t exactly where the injury is. A doctor will be able to better judge the cause of the irritation.

If for some reason cannot see a physician, a self test you can perform is:

  1. Sit with legs bent.
  2. With your fingers, press on the outside of the knee in question, just over where you can feel the bone of your kneecap. When you move your knee, you should be able to feel the tendon gliding along.
  3. While putting pressure over the tendon, straighten your leg. Once your leg is at twenty to thirty degrees, your ITB will pass over the bone–if you have ITBFS you will have a sharp pain as it does so.

However, this test is not fool proof. The iliotibial band runs the entire length of your leg, which means that irritation may be at the hip as well as the knee. Further, your thigh is one of the most complicated parts of your body, and the pain may be caused by another malady. The proper procedure with any pain is to rest it. Stretching can be performed as long as it does not worsen the pain. If you feel that you may have a stress fracture or more severe injury, please consult a physician.

Image

Causes of IT Band Syndrome

ITBS is caused when, essentially, an exercise that mimics the squatting position is performed in a way that lengthens the IT band. This can be caused by improper form, anatomical variances, muscle and flexibility imbalances, or a combination of all.

Anatomical variances, especially leg length discrepancies, can cause one leg to develop a tight IT band as it must slope inward slightly to allow the shorter leg to land.

Runners typically develop the syndrome when they run on the same side of the same road repeatedly during training. Most roads have a slight angle to them, either banked or canted, to channel water–this can cause the legs to overcompensate and has the same effect as leg length discrepancies, since the pelvis is continuously tilted.

Excessive hill running can also be a cause of ITBS, especially if an intense regimen is started without build up.

Bicyclists often develop ITBS as a result of either pedaling with bowed legs, or with a “toe in” form. Both of these variances can cause the IT band to become irritated–it’s best to bike with knees parallel to the center bar and each other.

How to Treat ITBFS/ITBS

Prevention:

Strengthening the muscles of the leg and hips will allow better stabilization of the limb, which will fend off ITBS, as well as other injuries. Even if you prefer a certain kind of sport, especially running and bicycling, make sure that you cross train at least 20% of your workouts.

A thorough stretching regimen, including both active and static stretches, will prevent many injuries. However, if you currently do not stretch, make sure to add various movements slowly, and never stretch to the point of pain.

Treatment:

If you have ITBS, or suspect you do, the first course of action is that of inaction–rest!

Your ligament is enflamed, which puts your knee at risk. Generally speaking, this is a matter of form, as mentioned earlier. Do not repeat the offending exercise for 1-6 weeks, or until you can climb stairs without experiencing pain. During this time, make sure to stretch the injured limb gently, progressing as it heals. If you can manage to get a sports massage, do.

Some common stretches and exercises for ITBS (from RunnersWorld.com):

Stretch #1: Pull foot up to back of buttocks. Cross the uninjured leg over the injured leg and push down, hold for 30 seconds.
Stretch #2: Cross injured leg behind and lean towards the uninjured side. This stretch is best performed with arms over the head, creating a “bow” from ankle to hand on the injured side (unlike how it is depicted).
Stretch # 3: Cross injured leg over the uninjured side and pull the leg as close to your chest as possible.

Foam Roller
Roll your injured leg over the foam roller, add more time gradually each day to help mobilize your tissues and break up scar tissue.

 

Single Leg Balance and Strengthening
May start just balancing on one foot when brushing your teeth. Gradually you can add challenges such as using a soccer ball and moving the ball in different directions. Another good method is to balance on one foot and play catch with yourself with a tennis ball against a wall or dribble a basketball. Start out with one minute at a time, and build up to 3-5 minutes.

 

Side Leg Lifts
Keep the back of the leg and buttocks against the wall. Slide the leg up the wall and hold at the top for 5 seconds then slide back down. Point toes down.

Start with one set of 20 each leg, after 1 week add a second set of 5. Every 2 days add 5 more as long as it is being well tolerated until you build up to 3 sets of 20 lifts.

 

Strengthening with Theraband
Loop one end and close in the door. Loop other end around the uninjured leg. Bend your knee on the injured leg and balance on the injured leg. Put your uninjured leg through a range of running motion, going up and back. Build up to 3-5 minutes, make sure to exercise both legs.

 

If these stretches are not helpful and pain persists or worsens over time, consult your doctor, as the injury may require professional treatment, or could be caused by another injury, such as a stress fracture.

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

What To Do After A Binge

tumblr_mu2f9lnhye1rcuwb3o1_500

It’s Halloween! Some view it as the night the “candy season” is finally over, but really, it’s the first holiday of the winter season–the binging is just beginning.

tumblr_mdv1nsnKLi1qb9pa3o1_500

All of us, except for a few gastronomical saints, will indulge at some point or another this season, and that’s ok! There’s more to these shared meals than nutrition and caloric value–it’s a time to bond with family, get a little giddy with some drinks, and make some memories.

If you want to keep you weight in check this holiday season, here’s the ideal “day after” plan [I don’t always do this, but when I do, I feel much better…and the scale moves a lot less]. This plan is assuming that the binge was mainly carbohydrates since… well… it’s a lot harder to really overeat pure fat and protein:

Binge Recovery

Step one: Getting Home

Oh lordy. I’m so full, it hurts… 

Image

You get home. You know what you did and dammit, you don’t care. You’re an adult, you can eat an entire pie if you want to.

Or you feel immensely guilty.

Or you’re very drunk.

Step 2: Work out when you wake up

Ideally you worked out before you indulged. No matter how much you lifted, ran, climbed, or biked before you ate, though, it’s likely that your glycogen stores (in your muscles and liver) are full. They may already be overflowing, which means that the extra energy is being converted into the dreaded jiggle…

When you wake up you’ll probably feel bloated–that horrible feeling like your skin isn’t quite big enough anymore, and you’re uncomfortable in kind of a nonspecific way. Working out in a way that maximizes glycogen depletion will do some damage control and make you feel like yourself again.

tumblr_mpmi6bGHzP1rjf3ito2_250

The simple principle is, the more energy you use, the less you’ll store–first and foremost, pick an exercise you aren’t going to quit after 10 minutes because you hate it. Going for a long walk will help if you can’t muster the will to do more. A long bike ride is a great choice. Running is fantastic fort his, and if you can do a HIIT work out, and/or get yourself to the gym to lift (high reps is best for this), even better. Explosive movements are the best, but moving in general is the best thing you can do right now.

Step 3: Drink a ton of water throughout the day

Back to that bloating feeling–know why you get it? For every molecule of glucose (pie, cake, pasta, ice cream, sweet drink mixers) your body stores, it stores two molecules of water. It has to do this, which means that the rest of your body has become dehydrated. Gulping water throughout the day, especially before, during, and after your workout, will help kill the lethargy.

tumblr_m908t9CRmV1rdmqnio1_400

Step 4: Make the next meal low in carbohydrates

You’re already full up–make a point to have a low carb meal the next time you eat. Something classically “healthy” like a salad is great, because it also contains a lot of water, but an omelette, a bunless burger, or a lettuce wrap will work equally well.

Fiber will help you get rid of any garbage left in your digest tract a little faster.

It’s also a good idea to make your next few meals small to help your stretch stomach shrink back to its original size.

tumblr_mlrfffDvIF1rvkw6no1_500

Follow these steps and you should feel like your old self by the end of the day or the next day!

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Top 5 Fitness Myths: Nutrition Edition

I’m back! As many of you know, I spontaneously moved to Boston last week with my husband. I’ve got to admit, I didn’t do much in the way of going to the gym, but I certainly got my exercise moving everything!

In this edition of Top 5 Fitness Myths, I’m going to address some nutrition errors many people make without knowing they’re making them. Because the fitness industry isn’t regulated, any product can claim that they’re “healthy,” without proving anything. I encourage all of you to read your labels, weigh your food, and most of all, use common sense; if it tastes like candy, it is candy, and if you feel like you’re dying, you’re probably not on a “healthy” diet.

1. Protein Bars Are Good Meal Replacements

When you’re strapped for time and cash, sometimes grabbing a $2 protein bar is tempting. It definitely has enough protein to keep you fueled, right? It’s about the right amount of calories for a meal anyways, right?

Something to keep in mind is that all of the ingredients (unless you make them yourself, in which case, go you!) in these bars are highly processed. Because of this, they don’t take a lot of energy to digest, so you actually retain more of it than you would eating, say, a piece of chicken and some mashed potatoes (which would have a similar calorie and protein profile). The ingredients in protein bars do not provide any naturally occurring vitamins, and rely on supplements to bolster their numbers. This is a great example of why you should always read the label!

It’s fine to eat protein bars, but consider them only one step up from a candy bar–not a food you want to be replacing too many meals with.

2. Calcium is From Dairy Only

This is simply not true! Lots of non-dairy foods naturally contain calcium. Look to white beans (191 mg per 1 cup, also a great source of iron), canned salmon with bones (232 mg per 1/2 can, the bones hold all the calcium on this one), sardines (321 mg per 7 filets), turnip greens(197 mg per 1 cup cooked), and many other options.

3. All Vegetables Are Created Equal

Most naturally occurring food contain useful vitamins and/or minerals, but in different amounts, and with different calorie loads. Keep in mind that it’s rare to find produce that hasn’t been bred to be bigger, sweeter, and more colorful than it’s ancestors. Both broccoli and turnips are nutritious, and bananas and raspberries are both valuable to your body, but you can’t swap one for the other without having to recalculate your calories. Though a lot of programs such as Weight Watchers allow unlimited amounts of fruits and veggies (which on the whole is a good thing for the average person battling their weight), once it comes down to the last few pounds it’s necessary to be a bit more choosy.

4. Detox Diets Cleanse Your Body

There are an incredible number of “diets” (or lack thereof) that claim to “detox your body.” These diets generally consist of drinking juice, which aims to gather the nutrients from produce without all that silly fiber.

I’ll be brief on this (but keep your eyes open for a real post on this topic). What these diets do:

  • Prevent you from eating junk food, or food that you may think is healthy but doesn’t actually get along well with your body (Wheat, lactose, various animal proteins, excessive fiber consumption, processed foods of any kind, legumes, etc.). In place of these you are only consuming the very easiest things to digest. This can make a lot of people feel really good, since they are no longer eating whatever doesn’t agree with them.
  • Get you to partially fast. Your calories will drop dramatically, usually under 700 a day. This will have you dropping pounds quickly, but will make it hard to keep them off once you start eating normally. Fasting has some great benefits, and has been proven to basically have the same effect on your neurons as exercise has on your muscles, so this aspect of “cleanses” is a real benefit.

What these diets do not do:

  • “Detox” anything. There really is no science (peer reviewed and unbiased) supporting that this can be done through diet apart from the first point above.

Essentially, these diets are a friendly way to introduce yourself to fasting without going headfirst into a water fast. The juice keeps your blood sugar from plummeting too quickly, which means, essentially, it doesn’t suck as much. But you won’t get quite as many benefits from it.

5. All Alcohol Is Bad For You

This one is the most fun! Alcohol is an anticoagulant, which means that it essentially works similarly to blood pressure medication. Never try to self medicate, but a moderate (8-12 ounces of beer or wine, or one shot of liquor) amount of alcohol won’t do any harm. Unless you’re binge drinking, alcohol is fine to indulge in–just remember to account for the calories that come with it, and try to avoid the super sugary drinks (mudslides, anyone?).

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Top 5 Fitness Myths: Weight Loss Edition

There are a lot of misconceptions out there about wellness, mainly because the industry lacks regulation. I’d like to address some of the more common health and fitness myths and misconceptions here, in several parts. If you have a question you want answered, leave it in the comments!

For this session, I’ll focus on weight loss. It’s fall, the season of “turning over a new leaf.” Maybe theres a Halloween costume you’re really wanting to rock, or perhaps you’re simply becoming increasingly more aware that you’ll be seeing your extended family in a few months and wanting to give them a shock–or maybe create some envy. Whatever your reasons, hopefully you don’t fall for these doses of “advice”:

  1. Commercial Meal Replacements
    This one is by far my biggest pet peeve. Products like Special K cereal, Body by Vi, SlimFast, and many others rope in unsuspecting customers by claiming that their product has a unique property that will make “the pounds fall off!” Guess what that special property is? The thing you’re replacing a meal with is only 100-200 calories. You would get the same effects replacing a meal with a cup of coffee with cream in it, a small piece of cheese, or a piece of fruit, without your wallet also shedding some weight.
    Image 
  2. 6 Meals A Day
    I’ll save you the “discussion” and just link you to my argument for intermittent fasting. Basically, there is no proof that eating 6 tiny meals a day (for someone maintaining an 1800 calorie diet, 6 meals would be a measly 300 calories at a time) is any better than eating one massive meal. In fact, there’s a strong case for the latter.
    Image 
  3. Slower Exercise Burns More Fat
    It’s true that you’ll burn more fat proportionally while you exercise, but when you get your heart rate up (over 170) you increase your metabolism for hours afterwards.
    Image 
  4. Eating Fatty Foods Makes You Fat
    Eating fat is an essential part to any healthy diet. Not only is it necessary for absorption of many vitamins, but it also helps regulate your mood, keeps you satisfied for longer after a meal, and actually lowers cholesterol.
    Image 
  5. If I Do What They Did, I’ll Look Like That
    Dr. Bouchard taught us in 1990 that everyone gains and loses weight at different rates. It’s fine to take pointers from others’ success, but don’t expect the exact same results–you’re a unique human being, and your body processes energy in its own way.
    Image

Are there any weight loss myths that bug you? What weight loss tip seems like pseudo science?

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sleep Your Way To The Top

Image

Sleep: every single creature does it, it takes up about a third of life, if we skip it just for one day we lose the same amount of mental function as being legally drunk, and scientists don’t know what it really does.

Earlier today, I decided that a visit to ted.com was in order. This video caught my attention:

In it, Russell Foster explains that sleep is not “an illness that needs some sort of cure,” but rather one of, if not the most important behavioral mechanism that controls us.  Though no one knows definitively why we do it, science does know that it is tied to memory consolidation and problem solving, and without it, we become stupid.

Lately, however, sleep deprivation has become somewhat of a thing to be proud of. I’m sure we’ve all witnessed (or been guilty of) bragging about only getting a few hours of sleep and then going to work or school the next day. The braggart may have gone, but were they anywhere near as productive?

The Effects of Sleep Deprivation

Depriving yourself of sleep wreaks havoc on both the mind and the body, yet it’s become a norm in Western society. But what are the effects?

Mental

Does sleeping 6 hours a night sound fairly normal to you? Perhaps the effects don’t seem that bad, you’ll catch up on the weekend…right?

Chronic Sleep Deprivation

A study by Van Dongen showed that though the effects seemed benign, restricting sleep to 6 hours or less a night over 14 days reduced cognitive ability to a level similar to skipping two days of sleep in a row. However, participants did not rate themselves as feeling impaired, which is why it can seem fairly harmless to consistently restrict snooze time.

Sleep Deprivation and Mental Illness

Sleep is also a prime time for the formation and cementing of memories. In a Q&A session following the above presentation, Foster also explains that regular trouble sleeping can be connecting to a variety of mental illnesses, including depression, schizophrenia, and PTSD. He and his colleagues have found that those who are sleep deprived have much more difficulty remembering traumatic memories than those who are fully rested, and hypothesize that excessive wakefulness may be a natural coping mechanism.

Physical

As every athlete (at any level) knows, a huge part of exercise performance is based on mental stamina and willpower. The body also needs time to repair itself after heavy exercise sessions, and to be ready for the next physical trials we throw at it.

Length of Physical Effort

It should come as no surprise that sleep loss has detrimental effects on exercise. In a study that deprived participants of sleep for 36 hours, then stuck those poor souls on treadmills, an 11% decrease in time able to exercise was witnessed, despite a doubling of prize money for completing the assigned goal. Two groups seemed to form: “resistant,” and “susceptible,” with the resistant group losing as little as 5% of their productive time, but the susceptible group losing up to 40% of theirs.

Metabolic Changes

When you are sleep deprived, your body starts releasing higher levels of ghrelin, and decreasing leptin. This surge causes you to feel hungry more often, especially for carbohydrates, as they are a quick way to “boost” energy.

At the same time, because growth hormone (GH) is released in it’s highest amount during the first portion of each sleep cycle, those who miss out have slower metabolic functioning. In addition, sleep deprivation increases the rate at which the gastrointestinal tract absorbs glucose, which can lead to increased insulin resistance if chronic. (Mullington)

How to Get a Good Night’s Sleep

Thinking of hitting the sack a little earlier tonight? Good! Here’s how:

  • Make your bedroom as dark as you possibly can. This helps tell your brain that it’s time to shut down.
  • If you can cool down your room, do! It will help you sleep.
  • Spend 30 minutes or so not looking at a screen.
  • Think, talk, and do happy things in the hours leading up to bedtime. It will help you sleep deeper, and will lower the chance of you waking up in the middle of the night.
  • Don’t drink caffeine after lunch time, no matter how tolerant you think you are!
  • Above all, give yourself enough time before waking. There’s no definitive time that adults need to sleep, but we do know that 7-9 fits most of the population. If you need an alarm clock to wake up, you need to go to bed earlier!

Parting Thoughts

There are many more effects that chronic sleep deprivation can have, including some very scary statistic on cardiovascular health. My goal for this article was to point out the effects that are more immediate, and therefore, more inconvenient for us in the short term.

Hopefully I’ve helped motivate some people to put their phone down and get that extra hour or two of sleep!

Comments?

How many hours do you sleep when you don’t have an alarm set?

Do you often deprive yourself of sleep? Why? How do you feel it affects you?

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Exercise During Pregnancy: a Discussion

Lea-Ann Ellison, 35, has been an avid follower of CrossFit training for several years.

Today I was at a loss for what to write about… until this story showed up on Google News: Health.

The article discusses the debate started when Crossfit posted pictures of Lea-Ann Ellison, 8 and a half months pregnant, doing Olympic lifts to their Facebook. There are around 2000 comments debating the merits of Lea-Ann’s routine, but I wondered, what does science have to say?

As usually it seems there are no definitive answers. 

Before I continue, I’d like to take this opportunity to remind you all that…

I am not a doctor. Take any conclusions I draw or allude to as you would from a friend, not a medical professional.

Phew, anyways. Continuing with the subject at hand…

Main Facts

  • She is 35 years old and a former body builder
  • This is her third pregnancy
  • The images were taken 2 weeks before her due date
  • She has been actively training since she was 16, and a Crossfitter for the past two and a half years.
  • Her OBGYN approved her continuing exercising, as long as she met certain guidelines, such as staying at low weights (usually using no more than 35lbs–the barbell in the picture only weighs 45), never doing lifts she did not feel totally in control of, and not “pushing to the limit” such as the style of Crossfit usually dictates.

Ellison’s claims that by staying active, she has avoided getting many of the common ailments that are common with pregnancy…

No back aches. No sciatic nerve issues. No sickness or cravings. I attribute this all to being healthy and strong. And studies show that strong fit mums have strong healthy babies. Exercise keeps weight issues down and that of course keeps diabetes rates low. Exercise also produces endorphins from the mother that get passed along to the baby. Happy mom equals happy baby.

Last note on the case for Ellison: a caller in this interview did bring up that if the pictures were of her holding a young child “who may even weigh up to 100 pounds” over her head, “no one would say a thing, it would be totally normal.”

Science Approves of Brawny Mommies…to a Point

Scholars tend to agree with Ellison, with the caveat that she doesn’t push herself too hard. It is not recommended to start Crossfit, at least in it’s usual form, during pregnancy, but many doctors believe that women who exercise on a regular basis have no reason to stop because they are expecting. (Hartmann)

The current advice accepted by the general medical community is for mothers to continue the exercises that they were doing previous to conception, but to be very aware of their level of exertion. (WebMD)

  • You should be able to speak full sentences at any time during an exercise
  • Beware of warning signs
  • Don’t try to set a PR! Keep in mind that as your pregnancy progresses, you won’t be able to do as much. Don’t try to keep up with previous times or lifts–you’re exercising for the health of you and your child, not competitively.
  • Abdominal exercises are fine to perform during pregnancy, but as with any exercise, pay attention! If it feels “weird” or uncomfortable, stop. Past the first trimester, it’s not a good idea to lie on your back, so substitute conventional abdominal exercises with modified or standing versions.

Danger Signs to Watch For

If you experience any of these while working out during your pregnancy, stop and call your doctor immediately:

  • Nausea that persists after you’ve cooled down
  • Sudden change in body temperature
  • Heart palpitations
  • Swollen calves
  • Vaginal bleeding or fluid leaking –contact a health provider immediately, or go to the ER
  • Fainting
  • Sharp pains in your chest or abdomen

As always, workout smart, not hard, especially when you’re making a new person! (Babycenter)

Parting Thoughts

I’ve yet to boot up the ol’ in-unit 3D printer, but this information makes me a little less scared of it. I feel for Ellison, though I’m not sure what my opinion of her actions are. Sure, she wasn’t actually lifting that much in the picture, and the images were originally taken for a personal photo shoot. But how will a non-informed mom take this? Will she do her research and see that Ellison was careful? What about a mom with body-image issues?

What do you think of Ellison’s action?

If you’ve been pregnant, what exercise, if any, did you do?

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How Important is a Good Workout Playlist?

Need to go to the gym, but not feeling motivated? Feeling run down by the world? Craving that pre-workout supplement, or maybe having a moment where you considering purchasing some? Science says that you can get similar benefits from your ear buds as from your local GNC.

Music as a Supplement

Music, undeniably, affects our bodies production and regulation of hormones, cytokines, peptides, and signalling molecules for neurotransmitters. Our emotions, stress levels, and immune function are thus altered while we listen to those sweet beats (Gangrade). It stands to reason that the right tunes can give us a physiological boost, as well as a psychological one.

Techno music, specifically, has been found to cause a significant increase in heart rate, systolic blood pressure, and a raise in emotional state. A 1998 study suggests that 30 minutes of fast techno music would out perform many pre-workout supplements, by boosting not only your heart rate and blood pressure, but also by increasing your endorphines, GH, and noripenephrine by about 50%.

Effect of 30 minutes of techno and classical music on heart rate, systolic and diastolic blood pressure (data adapted from Gerra. 1998 by Suppversity)

Relative (to baseline) neurotransmitter, catecholamine and hormone response to 30 minutes of techno vs. 30 minutes of classical music (data adapted from Gerra. 1998 by Suppversity )

What if you don’t like techno? Don’t listen to it! Being subjected to music you don’t like can make you feel tired faster, and raise your perceived exertion without any actual increase in heart rate(Nakamura).

You’ll get similar benefits by listening to any music that syncs with your heartbeat. As you exert yourself further, you’ll get more bang for your [heart] pump by listening to music that matches the tempo of your body (Karageorghis).

Resources for the Perfect Playlist

I’m a huge fan of Steady130, a site that creates monthly original mixes and organizes them by beats per minute. They have a few different genres of songs, and I either stream them from my phone or download them (depending on how reliable the WiFi will be where I’m working out). 

If you want to look up the beats per minute of any song, check out songbpm or runningplaylist.

Closing Thoughts

Do you run to music?

What kind of music do you perform cardio to, vs. anaerobic (lifting)?

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What is Runner’s High?

Image

I would class myself as a runner. A slow runner, but a runner. I only recently broke a 30 minute 5k, so I’m by no means a speed demon, but as we learned from the video yesterday, women aren’t meant to be that fast…right?

Regardless, running is my therapy. It’s what I feel like I need to do when I’m overwhelmed with the world and all I want to do is hide. It seems that if I run long enough, any problem can be solved, any load can be lightened.

I also want to run when I’m feeling particularly happy and engaged. I am guilty of being a “drunk sprinter,” and I think it’s because my body knows that I’ll feel awesome if I run, even if it’s down a bar crawl street in boots.

Regular runners call this the runner’s high, others who engage in cardio that isn’t running may call it exercise high. But what is it, really?

Endocannibids and Euphoria

According to research done by Raichlen and Affiliates at Arizona University, at a certain level of intensity (usually around 20-30 minute of moderate to intense effort for humans) cardio exercise has an affect on endocannibids, which play a significant part in our moods by signalling the production of endorphins and canniboids. 

Say What?

The “high” is partially the pituitary gland sending out endorphins to help your body push through the pain when you have maxed out your muscle glycogen stores and switched to anaerobic activity (fat burning instead of glycogen burning). However, endorphins cannot get through the blood-brain barrier, and therefore can only be responsible for the lack of physical discomfort, and natural pacing rhythm achieved. The canniboid anandamide, however, can and does get through the blood brain barrier, and is released when the CB1 receptor is triggered by those handy endocanniboids I mentioned earlier, which are released during prolonged physical stress.

How Long Do I Have To Run Until I Like It?!

A common question asked to runners is “how can you like doing that to yourself!?” We usually roughly translate that to “How long do I have to run until I’m not thinking about how much I don’t want to run anymore?”

This is different for each person. The mechanism of runner’s high can be simplified to bustin’ A hard enough for long enough that your body releases morphine to help your muscles keep moving. Timing it seems to be a matter of how hard you’re willing to work–the slower you go, the longer you have to wait.

However, the “golden” advice I have heard time and time again is “30-60 continuous minutes of working.” If you’re not there yet, I highly suggest either C25k training, or just starting with what you can do and working your way up (worked for me!).

If you’re an experienced runner, but perhaps not getting the same “high” as before, try varying the speed of your runs, doing a fartlek run (you have no idea how many puns I have to put up with), or perhaps trying hill sprints to get that same glow going.

Parting Thoughts

Have you ever had an exercise induced feeling of euphoria?

Do you do cardio regularly? Why?

If you’re a LCHF runner, do you get a runner’s high really quickly? Because I certainly do… and now I know why!

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,