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Become a Faster, Stronger, Healthier Runner with Optimal Form

By: Angela Ciroalo

As a runner living along the Jersey Shore I commonly pass other runners by the beach or throughout local trails.

Some are running slow, others running fast – one thing that I can’t help but notice is the many differences in each runner’s form.

A runner’s form is the position of their spine, head, arms, legs and feet while running.

Form is an important component of running that I do not think receives enough attention.

When first learning to run people often focus on the length of time they are able to complete a run or how fast they were, meanwhile the movement of their body is often overlooked.

Form is important because the position of the body can greatly impact a runner’s performance, their instance of injury, and even their level of enjoyment.

As a new runner, I too never gave my form much thought. I did not see the significance and

However, as time continued, and my knee pain increased, I realized the importance of proper running form.

Correct Running Form
Photo taken from travellingscorner.com

Running Form Mistakes
The 10 most common running mistakes, according Iloverunningmagazine.com, include; looking down; keeping the shoulders and body tense; clenching the fists; rotating the torso; placing the arms in the “chicken wing” position; leaning the torso too far forward; over-striding; heel-striking; over bending the knees; and breathing shallow.

Bad Running FOrm
P
hoto taken from zero-drop.com

Most runners will make one or more of these mistakes every day.

Now that you are aware of these common mistakes let’s take a look at how to fix them – and help you achieve peak running performance.

The Runner’s Head
We will address the placement of your entire body, since running is a sport that includes the entire body, but first we will begin with the head.

Proper running form includes an upright head looking forward.
When a runner is looking down, their neck and back muscles become strained trying to support their 7 to 10 pound head.

Over time, the strain can turn into an injury, ultimately damaging muscles and causing unnecessary pain.

In an article published on WorldRunning.com, an international running site powered by the International Association of Athletics Federation, it was suggested that runners keep their head in a straight and neutral position, allowing the head to align with the shoulders and back.

Maintaining a straight and upright head will improve posture, performance and experience.
It will also allow you to notice the beautiful scenery around you, the other smiling runners – and prevent you from running into any poles or cars.

The Runner’s Shoulders
Runners often arch their back and raise their shoulders, as if they were typing at a computer.

Running in proper form includes rolling the shoulders back and keeping them square with the chest.

Another good tip to keep in mind is to allow the shoulders to remain loose and free from tension.

The Runner’s Spine
The spine can move in many different directions depending on the placement of the runner’s body.

Runners can achieve optimal performance when running with a straight, upright spine.

A common term used to explain optimal posture is to “run tall” or to run with a string pulling the head and body up straight.

Placement of the Arms and Hands
While running the arms are used to balance the body while the feet lift off the ground.

Optimal balance and running performance is created when the arms move at the same pace as the feet, the arms are moving towards the shoulders and back down towards the hips, and the hands are loose.

A few things to avoid include running with arms across the body, keeping the hands close to the shoulders, and clenching the fists.

Running should be a smooth and relaxed, symmetrical movement throughout the entire body.

The Runner’s Stride
In an article published on WorldRunning.com, it stated that optimal running performance is achieved when a runner’s strides are short and the knees have a slight bend and lift.

Making shorter strides, no further than your knee, will cause your feet to land under the body, opposed over-striding the leg away from the body.

Forefront
P
hoto taken from altitude-blog.com

The Runner’s Foot Placement
In recent years, much debate has been expressed between the differences in landing on the heel or the forefront of the foot.

WorldRunning.com stated that landing on the forefoot area of the foot is “the most efficient way of running” to prevent injury and achieve peak performance.

Due to the suggested benefits I decided to give it a try.

What I found was that my knee pain disappeared, my form straightened and my performance improved.

Physical therapist Jay Dicharry from the University of Virginia’s Center for Endurance Sport stated in a Runners World Magazine article that when the foot lands on the forefront, the ankle and foot will absorb the force of the landing and create a spring in each lift off.

When the heel lands, however, the landing is a “stiff system” which does not allow the ankle to “give,” Mr. Dicharry said.

Therefore, when the heel hits the ground the shock will be shifted to the knee.

This is not to say that the heel strike is wrong. Some runners prefer it and have not had any issues as a result of landing on their heels.

Running Tips
P
hoto taken from thrillon.com

The Benefits of Proper Running Form
Each of these tips do not have to be incorporated all at once. If there is one that you prefer to the other, try that first and make changes gradually.

Transforming the way you run can make lasting changes in your performance, posture, health as well as your love for the sport.

“Believe that you can run farther or faster. Believe that you’re young enough, old enough, strong enough, and so on to accomplish everything you want to do. Don’t let worn-out beliefs stop you from moving beyond yourself,” running champion and author John Bigham once said.

This article was previously published in Night and Day Magazine

Angela Ciroalo_Running Form_2015

Best,

Angela Joy

Resources for improving running form:
Runner’s World: http://bit.ly/1e62ybx
http://bit.ly/1j2yCtR
I Love Running Magainze: http://bit.ly/1Mt2ehQ
YMCA: http://bit.ly/1FM3J6P
World Running: http://bit.ly/1jr5PTD
The Run Doctor: http://bit.ly/1B98Ukl
Good Running Form: http://www.goodformrunning.com/
Chi Running: http://bit.ly/1pFfEk2
Competitor.com: http://bit.ly/1nLoYOD

Training Workouts to Increase Speed and Endurance

By: Angela Joy

As a runner, it is only natural to come to a point where you want to see improvement.

Some runners seek to run further distances while other runners seek to run at faster speeds.

Regardless of your goal, I have listed below several types of workouts to incorporate into your training routine to improve your overall speed and endurance.

Running

Image taken from talkfeed.co

TRAINING TIPS
One of the best ways to increase your speed and endurance is to create a change in your current exercise routine.

Several well-known workouts that improve speed include the fartlek run, the tempo run and interval training. Workouts that will improve endurance include long distance and hill workouts.

Each workout has its own challenges that will build strength, ultimately improving running ability.

Speed

Image taken from: realbuzz.com

SPEED WORKOUTS
The fartlek, tempo and interval workouts are each different forms of speed runs.

Personal trainer and running coach Jenny Hadfield, better known RunnersWorld.com’s Coach Jenny, explains the differences between the three.

The fartlek run is defined by its Swedish meaning, speed play.

Ms. Hadfield explains a fartlek run as an unstructured workout that varies between moderate to difficult running paces, for different amounts of time.

While completing a fartlek workout, the runner can alternate between faster and slower speeds for short periods of time – such as to that tree or to that sign – followed by slower recovery pace.

“The goal is to keep it free-flowing so you’re untethered to the watch or a plan, and to run at harder efforts but not a specific pace,” Ms. Hadfield stated in a RunnersWorld.com article.

The fartlek run is a stress-free enjoyable run that will improve speed, stamina and mental strength, Ms. Hadfield explains.

The length and speed of the workout and should depend on personal running ability and goals.

An interval workout is quite similar to a fartlek run, however it does include structure.

During an interval workout the athlete will transition between intervals of fast and moderate running for set amounts of time, Ms. Hadfield stated.

An example of interval running is to run for five minutes as a moderate pace, followed by an increase in speed for 30 seconds, consecutively for 20 to 30 minutes.

Interval training transitions between low and high intensity. The result of this form of exercise is increased endurance and strength, creating increased speed and running ability.

Interval training is also known for its ability to aid in weight loss due to the increase and decrease in intensity.

The third form of speed training is the tempo workout.

The tempo workout consists of a warm up, followed by a high intensity speed run without rest, and completed with a cool down.

Ms. Hadfield compares the workout to an Oreo cookie. The warm up and the cool down are the cookie, the increase in speed is the cream in the middle, she explained.

A tempo run is often completed by an athlete either once or twice a week, due to its difficulty level.

The average duration of a tempo run is to maintain a high intensity pace for 20 minutes. The length of time the athlete will run should be determined by on athletic ability.

In my training experience I have found that incorporating a tempo run every week, or every other week, makes a large impact on running speed and endurance ability.

If you are new to running, it is best to begin with fartlek runs followed by slowly easing into interval runs and once you are fully prepared, beginning to incorporate a tempo workouts.

Through each form of training, the athlete will see improved speed mental strength, endurance and improved performance.  

Long Distance

Image taken from: popsugar.com

ENDURANCE WORKOUTS
Aside from speed workouts, runners can also the incorporate long distance and hill workouts.

These runs are challenging which often causes most people to shy away.

One of the most common reasons runners will shy away is due to lack of confidence and fear.

If you are a short distance speed athlete a long distance run by seem ridiculous.

However, increasing distance will increase endurance, creating the ability to withstand a faster pace for a longer period of time.

A long distance run does not have to be 10 or 20 miles.

Long distance can mean a variety of distances to different people.

Beginners may see three miles as long distance, while an experienced runner may see 26 miles as a long run.

The key here is to increase distance to your current workout – wherever that may be.

The long distance run can be done at a slow or moderate speed – depending on athletic ability.

A hill workout is one that is common among more serious, dedicated runners.

Running up a hill allows the body to utilize different muscles than when running on a flat distance.

This effort can be much more difficult for runners, which is what builds strength and endurance.

One form of hill training is known as the Jack and Jill run. The run consists of going up a hill at a fast pace and coming down the hill at a slow, recovery pace.

Incorporating hill runs into your training routine will create confidence as a runner. It is will also build new leg muscle, ultimately improving running ability.

Both of these workouts are great to incorporate in an exercise routine. They break up the monotony and can be both rewarding and enjoyable.

WHERE TO BEGIN
A new workout, such as the ones explained in this article, should be incorporated into a training routine once or twice a week. Anything more may cause injury.

Choosing the type of run that you would like to incorporate into your running routine will depend on the type of workouts that you enjoy, your fitness level, and your fitness goal.

Be sure that when incorporating a new form of running you stretch properly and give your body adequate rest.

Important: To avoid injury, remember that any new exercise will create new stress on the body which must be fully recovered from with rest, proper nutrition, and stretching.

Tofu and kale

Stretch

Image taken from: espn.go.com

MOTIVATION
To motivate you to push harder and run faster during your next workout, refer to one of Oprah Winfrey’s greatest quotes: “Running is the greatest metaphor for life, because you get out of it what you put into it.”

Your outcome will be determined by your efforts. The more you try, the better you will become – each step at a time.

Motivation

You can do this!! 

Run motivation

I thought this was cute 😉

Angela Joy: If you give these workouts a try, let me know how it works out! I am doing a tempo run today for 30 minutes — I am ready 🙂 

-Angela Joy

Originally published in Night & Day Magazine

The health benefits of mangoes — Also a great post-run recovery food

By: Angela Joy

After returning for a long, hard run one of my favorite foods to consume is a delicious and nutritious mango.

Mango with lobules on a white background

The sweet, juicy flavor and high water content fulfill my post run cravings, while also restoring my depleted carbohydrate and protein stores.

After doing a little research about my favorite fruit I discovered that the mango is a powerhouse full of vitamins and nutrition – along with spectacular flavor.

According to Medical News Today, the mango contains over 20 vitamins and minerals, is one of the most widely consumed fruits in the world and it has been found to decrease the risk of macular degeneration and colon cancer while improving digestion, bone health and growth of skin and hair.

Medical News Today found that within 100 calories of mango, the fruit offers: 

  • 1 gram of protein
  • .5 grams of fat
  • 25 grams of carbohydrates
  • 100 percent of daily vitamin C needs
  • 35 percent of daily vitamin A needs
  • 20 percent of daily Folate needs
  • 10 percent of daily vitamin B6 needs
  • 8 percent of daily vitamin K and potassium needs

The informative medical website further concluded that mangoes offer minerals such as copper, calcium and iron. They are also a great source of antioxidants, which fight off cancer.

Eating Mangoes After Exercising

After completing a run the most common fruit eaten is a banana– and for good reason. The banana is fantastic.

However, I like to change things up. I am also very thirsty after a run, therefore consuming foods with a high water content serves me well.

Some of the benefits to eating a mango specifically after a run or workout include the carbohydrates, amino acids, sodium and potassium available.

During exercise:

While undergoing exercise the body burns energy and releases sweat.

To create the energy burned, the cells must bind together protein, fat and carbohydrates.

To create sweat, the body needs sodium.

After exercise:

Once a workout or form of exercise is completed, the body must restore the utilized protein, carbohydrates, fats and sodium – that was burned.

What is amazing about the mango is that it offers protein, carbohydrates, fats and sodium (not large amounts of each, but it does however offer it).

The chart below was taken from the United Stated Department of Agriculture National Nutrient database, and listed on the nutrition-and-you.com website.

Nutrition Value per 100 g of Mango
(Source: USDA National Nutrient data base)
Principle Nutrient Value Percentage of RDA
*Energy 70 Kcal 3.5%
*Carbohydrates 17 g 13%
*Protein 0.5 g 1%
*Total Fat 0.27 g 1%
Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
Dietary Fiber 1.80 g 4.5%
Vitamins
Folates 14 µg 3.5%
Niacin 0.584 mg 3.5%
Pantothenic acid 0.160 mg 1%
Pyridoxine (vit B-6) 0.134 mg 10%
Riboflavin 0.057 mg 4%
Thiamin 0.058 mg 5%
Vitamin C 27.7 mg 46%
Vitamin A 765 IU 25.5%
Vitamin E 1.12 mg 7.5%
Vitamin K 4.2 µg 3.5%
Electrolytes
*Sodium 2 mg 0%
Potassium 156 mg 3%
Minerals
Calcium 10 mg 1%
Copper 0.110 mg 12%
Iron 0.13 mg 1.5%
Magnesium 9 mg 2%
Manganese 0.027 mg 1%
Zinc 0.04 mg 0%
Phyto-nutrients
Carotene-β 445 µg
Carotene-α 17 µg
Crypto-xanthin-β 11 µg
Lutein-zeaxanthin 0 µg
Lycopene 0 µg

 Infograph taken from: nutrition-and-you.com

(Stars were added to the graph to emphasize the areas in mangoes that are beneficial to athletes after a workout) 

Essential Amino Acids in Mangoes

Mangoes are also one of the few fruits that offers such a great amount of essential the amino acids (the building blocks of protein in the body’s cells).

According to Chem4kids.com, amino acids are used in every cell of your body. The amino acids build/create protein in each cell – which we use in order to function (especially when exercising).

There are over 50 amino acids in the body – however, only 20 of them are actually used to create proteins, Chem4kids.com further explains.

Of the 20 amino acids utilized to create protein, nine are “essential.”

The difference between essential and non-essential is that the body has the ability to synthesize 11 of the 20 amino acids.

The body cannot, however, create the remaining nine amino acids (Histidine, Isoleucine, Leucine, Lysine, Methionine, Phenylalanine, Threonine, Tryptophan, and Valine).

As a result, the nine were named the essential amino acids – because they body needs to consume them in order to create long chains of amino acids (protein).

Like the human body, plant foods also do not contain all nine amino acids. They do however offer different varieties of the nine.

The only “food” that humans can consume with all nine amino acids is foods derived from animals. Foods from an animal (meat, eggs, dairy) contain all nine because amino acids have been broken down and synthesized inside of the animal to create a complete protein.

Many people often argue that a diet without the consumption of animal products is unhealthy because of the lack of protein.

The truth however, is that the body has the ability to breakdown and synthesize all of the amino acids it has consumed throughout the day to form a complete protein.

The best way to understand this is, say I eat fruit for breakfast, peanut butter for a snack, pasta for lunch, and rice and beans for dinner – I never consumed animal products, although my body would have all nine essential amino acids.

The body takes the amino acids from each food consumed and combines them – creating a complete protein (all 20 amino acids).

After my run:

20150330_124508 (1)

I consume one whole mango (two if available).

I will first drink water, then cut up the mango into cubes and eat it.

Mangoes can be eaten, raw, in a smoothie, mashed, or even mixed into meals to add flavor.

My favorite is to consume the mango whole and enjoy each of the outrageous and rewarding flavors (they taste 10 times better after a long run). 

Depending on the length of my run and the amount of calories burned, I will also consume a protein smoothie and a piece of toast with peanut butter (to fully restore what my body burned during my run).

*Always make sure to fully hydrate after completing a long run or workout*

———>The best part about this post: Mangoes are NOW in season <———

Mangoes in season

So pick one up today and begin enjoying the tasty flavor and wonderful benefits.

Wishing lots of love, joy and blessings ❤

Best,

Angela Joy

Resources:

http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/mango-fruit.html

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/275921.php

http://www.chem4kids.com/files/bio_aminoacid.html

The healthy way to fuel for long distance running

By: Angela Joy

As a runner, or exercise enthusiast, the foods that you eat should be taken just as seriously as the shoes you wear and the time you finish in.

Unfortunately, proper diet is not always top priority.

According to Erin Strout of Running Times Magazine, runners continue to follow the age-old beliefs that eating large amounts of pasta the night before, chugging bottles of sports drinks or following fad diets, will improve performance.

However, what runners are beginning to recognize more commonly is that high quality protein, fats, carbohydrates, electrolytes and superfoods, each play an intrical role in fueling a succesful athlete.

Healthy Foods

Photo taken from wicklowpartnership.ie

Ms. Stout writes in the Running Times magazine, proper nutrition and hydration are critical components for improved running capabilities.

Upon first beginning my running career I was not aware of the importance of a healthy diet.

I maintained a seemingly healthy diet, although had not true idea of what health really was.

I followed the all of the age-old runner beliefs, leading me to suffer during my first half marathon race.

It wasn’t long after when I recognized the importance of nutrition and consuming healthy organic whole foods as a runner.

During my second half marathon I cut my time by 15 minutes, finished strong, and recovered almost immediately after.

A year or so later, I took on the next challenge – running a full marathon.

I began my training unaware of how often or what types of foods I would need while running a distance longer than 90 minutes.

I can still remember coming home from my first 15 mile run. I was ecstatic, but once I met my living room I was done for the day.

I went to bed that night with an incredible headache and woke up the next day feeling worse than ever.

It was at this point that I looked to ultramarathon champion, and author of the book, “Eat & Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness,” Scott Jurek.

SCott Jurek

Photo taken from Twitter.com

Jurek is known for his victories in nearly every elite ultra trail and road event. He is most commonly recognized for his seven straight victories at the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run, his record-breaking Badwater 135-mile Ultramarathon win, and his historic 153-mile Spartathalon win.

Jurek explains the importance of eating carbohydrates prior to a run, eating carbohydrates during a run that is longer than 90 minutes, and eating protein 30 minutes after a run to restore your energy levels and avoid fatigue.

Jurek follows a whole foods plant-based diet, and suggests that runners eat a variety of organic whole foods such as grains, legumes, green vegetables and fruits.

Running

In reaction to reading Mr. Jurek’s book, and seeking guidance from other professional runners, I created this training guide to prepare for long runs:

Day before:
Avoid carbo-loading the night before.
Instead, focus on fueling your body on quality protein, unsaturated fats and carbohydrates throughout the day.
Your body will store the protein, fats and carbohyrates and utilize them the following day.
Also make sure to allow the body proper time to digest all of the food you eat, prior to race morning. In other words, try not to eat too late at night.

A sample pre-race day, or pre-long run, meal for me would include:
Organic brown rice
Black beans
Avocado
Tomato
The day before I also snack on different fruits and nuts between meals.

Morning before: Before embarking on a long run it is best to wake up at least 30 minutes to one hour before running to allow yourself to eat and digest the food.

Each runner’s stomach will handle foods and digestion differently, therefore trial and error is key – the same goes with foods eaten during the run.

Carbohydrates are key the day of a run.

istock_000017061174small

My pre-run meal often consists of a piece of cinnamon raisin Ezekiel toast with peanut butter and a banana or orange. If I wake up early, I will eat a small bowl of oatmeal with organic blueberries.

During the run: A runner only needs to consume food if they are partaking in exercise longer than 90 minutes.

If running for longer than 90 minutes it is best to eat every 30 minutes, or so, to fully restore the body’s glycogen levels.

Most professional athletes suggest eating at least 30 grams of carbohydrates every 30 minutes.

Jurek created a conversion that meets each runner’s specific needs through relying on the runner’s weight.

The runner’s body weight, divided by 2.2, multiplied by .7, equates to the amount of carbohydrates consumed while running.

Jurek’s conversion: (Body weight/2.2) x .7 = grams of carbohydrates

I weigh 130 pounds, therefore my conversion would appear as; (130/2.2) x .7 = 41.4.

What to eat on the run:

Many runners reach for sports gels to meet their carbohydrate needs while exercising.

I opted for the natural whole foods remedies.

A few examples of foods I consume while running include;
Bananas
Figs
Organic fruit baby foods
Dates

While running I eat one item every 30 to 40 minutes and drink water after every mile.

sproutbabyfood

Photo take from: livingrichwithcoupons.com

Angela’s Tip:
Bananas are a common go-to food for me while running. I often peel the banana right before the run and place it in a plastic bag untouched. I will mush it up right before I eat it to allow easier digestion and carbohydrate absorption.

Post-Run: After completing a run it is time for the body to refuel, recover and prepare for the next run.

Physiologist Deborah Shulman concluded in an article on Active.com titled, “Get enough protein post-workout,” that it is important to consume carbohydrates and protein within 30 minutes of completing endurance exercise.

She explained that the nutrients consumed after exercise will fend off fatigue and promote recovery.

Ms. Schulman suggests that 20 grams of protein is optimal after completing an endurance exercise activity.

She said 20 grams can often be found in one scoop of protein powder.

What to eat after a run: Eating can be difficult after undergoing a sustained, difficult workout. My solution is to reach for a protein-packed smoothie.

I often consume one full cup of a protein smoothie after each run.

Angela 3

Photo courtesy of Angela Joy

My favorite post-run smoothie; Blueberry, banana and flax seed smoothie

  • Banana
  • Rice milk – you can use any kind of milk
  • Frozen blueberries
  • Hemp protein
  • One tablespoon of crushed flax seeds
  • One teaspoon of cinnamon

If you prefer a sweet smoothie, include one teaspoon of honey or maple syrup to the mix.

Finding Inspiration

A quote that gets me through long, strenuous runs is one of Jurek’s common phrases, “Sometimes, you just do things.”

The quote resonates with me to the fact that I don’t have a specific explanation of why I run other than the fact that I simply enjoy it.

Truly, we don’t need an explanation for why we do things that make us happy – it is just important that we go out there and do them.

Don’t worry about what people think or say – just do it.

I challenge you to go out and do something that you love for the simple reason that, “Sometimes we just do things.”

Blog Post Takeaway:

Healthy Food

Photo taken from:socialdashboard.com

Have you ever heard of the expression, “You are what you eat,” well, my motto is, “Your performance is only as good as the food that you eat.”

Therefore, make sure that you are eating well!

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. I hope it was helpful! Please share your feedback, comments, questions.

❤ Wishing you lots of love, joy and blessings

-Angela Joy

Information obtained from:

  1. http://running.competitor.com/2014/04/inside-the-magazine/the-long-run/the-long-run-eating-on-the-run_28754
  2. http://www.runnersworld.com/nutrition-for-runners/fueling-facts
  3. http://www.active.com/nutrition/articles/get-enough-protein-post-workout
  4. Eat & Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness by Scott Jurek with Steve Friedman
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