Will Aging Impact My Exercise Routine?

By the time you reach your 50s and 60s, it’s more likely than not that you will begin to feel the great slow-down — you will look and feel less energetic than you once did, and you will begin to wonder whether or not it’s time to change something about your exercise routine. The worry is obvious: too much strain might cause serious damage to your body. But the good news? Daily work will allow you to stay healthy by keeping the same exercise routines.

For the most part, anyway. You might need to focus less on strength training (i.e. lifting 400 pound weights) and more on endurance training (i.e. lifting 100 pound weights 400 times). Lifting weights will increase muscle mass and endurance — and more importantly, bone density, which is apt to become weaker in your later years.

Running and cycling remain the best methods to increase your cardiovascular endurance even in your later years, and if you feel comfortable continuing to exercise strenuously, then by all means — exercise strenuously. If anything about your health situation changes (such as a long or periodic break in your exercise routine or a cardiac event), then you should seek counsel from your healthcare provider first. 

Because we slow down as we get older, it might be necessary to transition to a less strenuous but more periodic workout — especially after retirement, when health often begins to decline in the general population. What might that look like? Frequent walks, ten-minute runs around the block, twenty minutes of cycling, a trip to the pool, etc. 

Studies indicate that bouts of sedentary living — even when experienced by people who pop into the gym everyday — can lead to serious health issues later in life. To avoid these problems as you grow older, try to ask yourself a simple question: “Can I stand instead of sit?”

Is It Safe To Run Outside Now That COVID Cases Are Down?

We’ve received this question constantly over the last few months. We can say two things with certainty, and the rest is conjecture. One, people are more stir-crazy right now than we’ve ever seen them. And two, people are much more prone to taking bigger risks precisely because of how stir-crazy they are right now. When you put these two facts together, you can finish the equation: it’s about as safe to run outside now that COVID cases are down as it’s been over the past few months.

And that’s not to say that it’s not safe to be outside. Studies have continually shown that the chance of coronavirus infection is much reduced in outdoors environments. That isn’t a guarantee that you won’t get sick if you go outside to fit in some exercise.

But here’s what you need to do if and when you decide to venture outdoors. First, make sure you continue to socially distance yourself from those who are not in your immediate household. That means stay six feet away from the vagrants at all times. And second, make sure you wear a mask whenever you’re in close quarters with other people — like on a narrow mountain trail. We understand the desire to ditch the mask up in the mountains, but your safety is more important than a minor inconvenience!

We also recommend only using outdoor spaces close to home. Coronavirus only travels from neighborhood to neighborhood and from country to country because people travel. If we would all do a little less traveling, the spread of coronavirus would have tapered off long before now. 

Thankfully, overall case counts are lower now that the winter holidays are behind us — and with the new vaccines added to our arsenal of weapons we can use to fight back, we can all have a little more faith that our days of social distancing, isolation, and quarantine will soon be over!

Why Do My Teeth Hurt While Running?

If your teeth ache and hurt during or after a run, then you’re not alone. The first search items that pop up in Google when inputting the words “running” and “teeth” will provide prompts like: “Why do my bottom teeth hurt when I run?” or “Why do my teeth tingle when I run?” or “Mouth guards for running.” Others ask whether or not running might actually be beneficial to the teeth. We’re going to answer a few of these questions to put your minds — and your teeth — at ease.

First and foremost, your teeth are important tools that you need for everyday use — just like your legs. Taking care of both will result in less pain. What causes the tingling or achiness in your teeth when you run? There are a number of reasons. You might be choosing to run in inclement weather conditions. When you do this with your mouth open, the cold air can be painful to those with sensitive teeth. Training yourself to breathe through your nose (weren’t you paying attention in P.E.?) could help alleviate the symptoms. 

The very act of running means that your heart is beating furiously to pump more blood through your veins and arteries to ensure the flow of oxygen to your brain. This results in two situations: First, the increased flow of blood puts pressure wherever there are blood vessels present — and this doesn’t always happen uniformly. If there is pressure near your teeth, they might hurt. It’s not unusual. And second, the increasing blood pressure might occur near the sinuses, which can also result in pain.

Another possibility is where you choose to run. If you run on a hard surface like pavement, your footfalls will occur with a little added “oomph.” Combine those heavy footfalls with another activity many of us can’t help but do — clenching our teeth when we’re under stress — and you can often experience a type of vibration in the teeth, which results in the tell tale tingling sensation so many runners have.

There are a number of additional “steps” you can take (har har) to reduce the pain or tingling in your teeth. At the end of the day, all dentistry is cosmetic dentistry. Taking care of your teeth might help more than you think. Brush twice a day, and floss at least once. See your dentist every six months for a routine cleaning, and be sure to have any hygienic problems fixed as soon as you know about them.

The other factors are harder to control, but there are certain steps you can take. First, have you figured out where the pain is coming from? If not, it’s important to understand that environment is a key factor in why pain occurs (remember the cold air example). A brief change in environment might help you determine if the location of your run factors into the pain. If you run outside, then try running inside for a while. If you run on cold, rainy days, then try running in the sun instead. Try a soft track, or head to the treadmill at your local gym.

If all these steps fail, then see a doctor or ask your dentist if they might be able to help.

Why Does My Back Hurt So Much From Running?

Most avid runners will experience moderate to serious injuries at some point in their active careers. Those injuries come in many forms: overuse injuries like tendonitis, shin splints, osteoarthritis in the knees, or maybe even chronic back pain. Sometimes it just hurts all over. Many of these injuries require only rest, while others will leave you home in bed until you can see a doctor, find treatment, and heal properly. To keep from doing lasting damage, you will want to seek medical attention for more serious injuries — like back pain — right away.

Of course, back pain can be nothing. Many people experience back pain the same as they would a headache — something that comes and goes with no obvious cause. But if you think you were injured while running, it’s better to be safe rather than sorry.

There are a few different causes of back pain, which usually strikes in the lower regions of the back. They include, facet joint irritation, sacroiliac joint dysfunction, weak back muscles, or stressed myofascial trigger points. Most often, a combination of these conditions creates a cascade effect that results in the pain. But what does each type of pain mean?

Facet joint irritation occurs because of certain types of physical activities that result in a “hollow” space in your lower back between the vertebrae. When you combine the hollow space with weakened abdominal muscles, you get inflamed joints. What can you do about it? You can walk into a musculoskeletal care office like Long Island Spine Med, or you can go about it the old-fashioned way: do plenty of sit-ups and push-ups until you develop a stronger core. 

Sacroiliac joint dysfunction occurs when the pressure on one joint (there are two) exceeds the pressure put on the other joint on a routine basis. This occurs most often when you land harder on one foot than the other, something which most runners have to train themselves not to do — and if your pain fits into this category, then guess what: you do too!

We usually run to strengthen our lower body and increase lung and heart fitness levels. But unfortunately, a weak back can lead to back pain wherever there are weakened muscles. When combined with weak abdominal muscles, the stress on the spine becomes even greater. In other words, a weakened back requires targeted exercises to strengthen those muscles, but also to increase abdominal muscle mass.

Have you ever cramped up at the exact moment you needed to put your body into overdrive — like at the end of an ultramarathon? Myofascial trigger points get excited when your weaker lower back muscles can’t handle the increased stress of the day, which results in terrible cramping. If cramps are the source of your lower back pain, you can generally do one of two things to reduce the chance of a recurrence: one, drink plenty of water. And two, strengthen your abdominal and lower back muscles. Have you noticed the trend in our advice?

The Coronavirus DOs and DON’Ts Guide To Exercising During COVID-19

Does the very idea of going outside during the coronavirus pandemic fill you with anxiety? You’re not alone. You should always wear a mask, avoid touching your face, and carry hand sanitizer when venturing to public places like grocery stores, restaurants and, realistically, liquor stores (we know you’ve done it!). But what about when you venture outside for a quick run or walk? Should you take precautions for routine exercise?

First and foremost, careful is better. Even if you don’t plan to stop or interact with anyone during your outdoor exercise excursion, it’s still safest to carry a mask — just in case you need to use it. Never interact with someone you don’t know without a mask. Not until the pandemic clears up, anyway.

Avoid the gym. The equipment will not be safe to use and the patrons of the establishment will make up a wide swath or American society — which means some will be playing it safe during this pandemic while others will be under the impression that the whole thing is a government conspiracy meant to unseat Trump in November. Just don’t go. Take a jog instead.

Keep in mind that not everyone should exercise with a mask. Those who have respiratory issues or older persons should avoid anything that could restrict the flow of oxygen.

Grayson Wickham, Movement Vault specialist and physical therapist, said, “Due to the increase in breathing resistance, it’s normal to get out of breath quicker than you typically would in your workout when not wearing the face mask. You may not be able to perform at the same level that you would when not wearing the face mask.”

Be wary of your body when exercising using a mask. Are you starting to feel faint or lightheaded? Then it’s time to remove the mask and take a breather. Remember: this is about keeping yourself safe, not overdoing it when we all need each other the most.

Worried About Your Health During Self-Isolation? Try These Pro Tips!

COVID-19 has changed all our lives in only a few short weeks, but it doesn’t have to change our health. Self-imposed isolation or mandatory quarantine are very scary and they can have a big impact on our health if we don’t take a few extra steps to stay active. You might be stuck home for weeks with the wife and kids, but don’t fret — it’s not a death sentence. Here are a few tips you can use to stay active in this time of crisis. 

First, very few government authorities around the world have actually restricted residents from leaving their homes, ours included. You can venture outside for some sunlight and fresh air! And as the weather continues to get warmer around the country, you should consider getting outside as much as possible. Take the kids for a walk, go for a run, or find an obscure park where you won’t run into many people. The natural world can release happy hormones in your brain. 

Second, be sure you’re eating right. Stock up on dry goods like rice, beans, quinoa, and oats. Not good at using up the produce before it goes bad? Then now isn’t the time to buy it. Try frozen fruits and vegetables instead of fresh produce. Freezing keeps nutrients locked inside. Stocking up no cereal and making a powder milk purchase isn’t a bad idea either, but keep in mind that these can be unhealthy options if consumed in vast quantities. 

Don’t stop snacking! You’ll want to portion out sugary foods and snacks, but you don’t need to stop eating them altogether. They can be a great way to stay sane in a crazy world.

Limit screen time. Two or three hours of TV, video games, and smartphone use is plenty per 24-hour period. Overdoing these activities will result in reduced energy and increased anxiety, stress, and depression — all of which can impact you physically.

Instead, try reading a book, listening to music, writing, or talking to family. Keep the kids busy for a few hours with school work, send them outside to the backyard, or play a board game. 

Last but not least, you’ll want to abide by a daily routine. Get up and go to bed at the same time each day, don’t skip the morning coffee or shower, make sure you cook at least one meal a day, and make room for exercise. These might seem like trivial actions to take, but they can make an enormous impact on the overall picture of your mental health. Don’t underestimate them!

The Pros And Cons To Curated Running Playlists For Marathons

Suffice it to say, most people would prefer to listen to music during a race than go without. That’s not a surprise: music can make time seem to fly by, whereas going without can force a runner to spend more time inside his or her own head. For some runners, that’s exactly the point of running a race music-free. Especially when the race is conducted in a natural environment like a mountain trail. Isn’t nature worth listening to?

But as with everything, there are pros and cons to keeping the headphones firmly affixed to your ears. 

First, be sure to check in with the race organizers. Once upon a time, most marathon rules required runners to go without headphones. It was especially important for races conducted in major metropolitan areas where a single mistake could be fatal. Organizers might also need to pass on important information, a much more difficult task when runners aren’t actually listening to anything except Lady Gaga.

Running a marathon absent headphones also makes more sense from a traditional etiquette point of view. You want to be able to hear runners who are about to pass you. If you’re too busy listening to your music, then you might impede the flow of race and infuriate competitive runners at the same time. Not a great idea. Fights have been known to break out for this exact reason. 

Of course, marathon rules have become much more relaxed over time. There’s a good chance your race won’t ask you to remove headphones before you start. But even when headphones aren’t outright banned during a race, you might consider removing them anyway.

Studies have shown that running without music can improve self-awareness and decrease the opportunity for injury. Besides, if you’re running through a quiet forest or along a mountain ridge, then why not listen to the natural environment around you? It can be a great chance for self-reflection in an otherwise hectic world.

Should you choose to run with music, it’s smart to leave one earbud out so you can still hear most of what’s going on around you. 

Music can be beneficial as well, according to a number of studies. If you’re a fan of the song to which you’re listening, it can elevate your performance. This is especially true if you’ve curated a playlist specifically for running. Music streaming services often provide playlists that you might like, so it could be worth checking them out. Be sure to scrutinize every song selection and delete the ones you don’t enjoy. They will slow you down.

Everything You Shouldn’t Eat When Trying To Run Faster And Farther

Training your legs for a race or group hike? Then you cannot afford to throw away your health with a bad or unbalanced diet. We have already explained what you should eat, what you should wear, and even how you should breathe. But when there are certain things you should do, then that means that there’s an equally long list of things you should avoid doing. These things all include the same subjects. But one of the most important things is diet. 

These are the foods and drinks that you should avoid when you’re trying to maintain good health or increase muscle performance before a run.

High-Fructose Corn Syrup. This is probably the most obvious on the list. Manufacturers use HFCS in place of sugar because it is a cheaper and more concentrated substance. Lots are ditching HFCS because of country-wide health activism, but not enough. HFCS can spur diabetes, which can make trying to train your body all that much harder. HFCS can also make it easier for your body to store fat when you’re trying to burn it. HFCS is also even more addictive than sugar, so it’s best to just stay away from it whenever possible!

Caffeine. Have you ever noticed that your cup of morning joe is quickly followed by a trip to the toilet? That’s because caffeine can lead to bowel movements, which is not something you want to risk in the middle of a race. Try to reduce caffeine intake the morning of the big event, or you might be having a “big event” you’ll never forget! By the way, the idea that caffeine has a net dehydrating effect is an old wives tale. Still, you’re better off with actual water if you’re looking for hydration.

White Bread. You want the whole wheat grains in your diet, especially before a race. Not only are they healthier than non-whole wheat grains, but white bread can lead to reduced energy and sugar cravings. Carbs can be a great form of energy just before a race, but make sure you’re getting the right ones or you’ll be sorry.

Alcohol. As with everything on this list, alcohol is best enjoyed in moderation. It can flatline your energy, massacre brain cells, or result in a variety of dangerous diseases. Of course, none of this should stop you from enjoying a drink at the end of a race.

Red Meat. Try lean meats like chicken or venison before a race, but stay away from red meats like bacon or ham or sausage, all of which are processed and are made with a lot of added nitrates that are bad for your health. Red meat can also increase cholesterol. You could end up with higher blood pressure or even heart disease, which could put you in bed for good when you’d rather be up and running.

Can I Keep Running In Winter? It Hurts To Breathe!

Sometimes it does not matter how well you keep your bones and muscles in shape. Other factors can and will prevent you from running — on occasion. But many people wonder if the icy winter air should be considered one of those factors. An old wife’s tale says that going out in cold weather will freeze your lung tissue. Is that true? The short answer is “no” — and you shouldn’t worry about exercising in winter either.

The lungs are amazing organs. In only the space of a single breath, they take the oxygen you inhale, heat it up to your body’s normal temperature, humidify it to about 100 percent, and then release the same breath as carbon dioxide. It’s a complicated process but it happens almost instantly. All of that needs to be done without any damage to your cells — even in winter months when the temperatures fall very low.

And for the most part, that’s exactly what they do. There’s no need to spend time thinking about the pain in your lungs. Your cells and lung tissues will be just fine. William O. Roberts, MD, wrote: “Many people worry that the lung tissue will freeze in cold air, but the extensive network of blood flow through the lung tissue seems to prevent that from happening.”

Basically, the more blood in the cell, the more protected. That’s similar to why we don’t suffer from heart cancer: There’s simply too much oxygenation of the cells in the heart to succumb to the deadly disease. Cancer cells in the area are destroyed almost immediately. Cold temperatures can’t destroy blood-filled cells as easily, either.

The human lungs have adapted to cold weather over time.

Roberts said, “The burning sensation you feel when breathing in cold air is probably due to the combination of heat and water exchange that is occurring early in the inspiration of cold, dry air. For most people, this sensation goes away after a few breaths. It is not known to cause harm in a healthy lung, but can trigger an attack of bronchospasm in someone with asthma.”

And that means those of you who have lung ailments or conditions like asthma still need to be careful about cold-weather exercise regimens. There are plenty of alternatives: treadmill jogging, swimming using an indoor pool, weight lifting, etc.

For those of you who would like to get out in the winter weather for a long run but want to avoid the pain of cold air, try wrapping your face with a balaclava. This will warm up the air. Your lungs will do the rest!

How To Keep Your Knees Strong After A Lifetime Of Running

Long-distance runners and hikers all experience the same types of pain as they grow older. Much of that pain will be focused in the knees. That’s because the cartilage there will begin to break down due to the tremendous force of impact. And that’s what happens each time your feet strike the ground. Running is great for your health, but you need to resort to other ways of protecting the rest of your body.

These are the best ways to spare your knees so you can continue running well into old age!

According to certified health coach Neal Pire, “Squat really affects all of the muscles around the knee joint.” Doing several repetitions of squat exercises each day can make the quadriceps, glutes, and all the muscles around the all-important knee joint stronger. Stronger muscles mean less breakdown due to overuse. Performing lunges as an alternative can achieve the same result.

Step-ups are another exercise that increases relevant muscle mass. “You’re lifting your body,” according to Pire, “like you would going up the stairs. Keeping the hip joint muscles strong and well-conditioned along with muscles around the ankle strong and well-conditioned will help minimize the risk of injury at the knee joint.” Of course, you could just go up and down stairs.

Chief of sports medicine Siffri at Greenville Health System in Greenville, South Carolina said, “A good core strengthening program is important and paramount to the health of your knees, hips and lower extremities — so [do] a lot of abdominal exercises and lower back exercises.” The plank position is a great core-building exercise. It might be time to start doing yoga!

If you already suffer from damage to your knee joints, it’s important to reduce or eliminate running until that damage can be repaired (if possible at all). Walking might be a safer, healthier alternative.

An elliptical machine can provide your legs and knees with a strenuous workout that isn’t too rough on the knees. Siffri said, “Your foot is planted against a platform — so there’s not that repetitive impact that can also lead to degradation of cartilage over time.”

Riding a bicycle is also a low-impact activity that can really benefit your knees by increasing the muscle mass of calves and quads.

You may have realized that exercising most every muscle in your body will help protect your knee joints. That’s because equilibrium is an important part of maintaining a single joint. Before trying to perform those exercises, though, ask your doctor if conditions like osteoarthritis or a previous knee injury could make it worse.