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.

Is It Time To Invest In A Smart Wearable Device?

A few decades ago, the microchips currently resting inside our smartphones would have cost millions of dollars to manufacture, and only a few people in the world had access. Now, not only are they a fraction of the price, but nearly everyone has access. There are a few parts of the world that still aren’t online, but the number of people going without internet support will be drastically reduced over the next five years.

The era of the embedded microchip sensor is finally here. But what can they do and where will they be embedded? In a little bit of everything: cameras, phones, cars, fridges, toasters, walls, dresser drawers — even toilets. Each new device using an embedded microchip sensor will tell us a little bit more about how we live our lives, and how we could be living them better for longer.

For example, the toilet sensor would analyze our waste for vitamin deficiencies. We might one day get a call from our healthcare provider: “Johnny, what have you been eating? It looks like you haven’t been getting enough roughage in your diet. You’re at a higher risk for colo-rectal cancer if you don’t start turning things around.”

Then again, an app on our phones might automate the process so the doctor doesn’t have to get involved at all.

Sensors in our beds might help analyze sleep so that we can learn to regulate it better. If we’re drinking too much too close to bedtime, the wirelessly connected toilet and bed sensors might communicate that we should reduce liquid intake after a specified time based on exactly when we routinely go to bed — and the sensors would also let us know when that should be based on when we need to wake up and go to work the next day. 

The world is changing fast, but what does that mean for athletes?

A time is coming when wearable devices contain personalized “coaches” that are built to help us analyze how we work out. In time, they might actually turn on automatically to urge us to go out for a run or walk based on constant heart rate and performance monitoring (if we turn these applications on). That means athletes will be able to get into shape easier and faster. 

Again, our connected devices will communicate exactly how we should be eating based on how much exercise we want or need, and then tell us how to go about getting that exercise or achieving that diet.

Right now, most wearables monitor heart rate. But they can do so much more. As they get cheaper, they will be more likely embedded within the very clothes we wear. We’ll barely notice they’re there at all. Some people might be apprehensive about the technology — but truly it is making a better future for all of us. We’ll be living longer, happier, and healthier lives!

How To Keep Warm When Running In Winter

Runners don’t necessarily hang up their shoes when winter rolls around, and then hibernate for four months while the snow melts. They keep running. They sign up for marathons. They might do a little more strength training at home or use the gym’s treadmill, yes, but many prefer to stay outside even when its coldest. That’s because there’s something magical about taking a jog while it’s snowing out. 

When running in fall or winter, most runners use a layering system. When hiking, it’s easy to shed layers and place them in a small backpack until you need them again — but when running, the extra layers are more of an encumbrance and need to be tied around your waist instead. You still need them.

When using new clothing or running in winter for the first time, make sure you don’t stray too far from home. If the clothes end up too thin, you’ll want to be indoors before hypothermia can set in. 

First and foremost, don’t wear any cotton clothing. Always look for merino wool, synthetic, or waterproof down clothing options. Here’s a list of what you need:

  • Footwear. You’ll want a pair of wool socks — not too thick and not too thin — that will keep your feet warm in cold, wet weather, but will also fit in your shoes or boots. Because you’re running, you’ll probably want a pair of breathable trail runners. Try adding insulation and buying a size up if necessary.

  • Hands. You’ll want to protect fingers from frostbite as well. A form-fitting fleece glove will keep your hands toasty, but you’ll probably want a shell to keep the digits dry. Try a slightly thicker weatherproof brand of glove or mitten, but make sure you can still move your fingers easily.

  • Head. In super cold weather you’ll want a balaclava to cover your entire head. These can be complemented well with a buff, bandana, or neck warmer. Add a hat only if necessary. Try a pair of ski goggles to protect your eyes from the sun and wind.

  • Base Layer. Start with a pair of form-fitting fleece or synthetic long underwear. You can find merino wool for this as well. These should cover both your legs and torso.

  • Mid Layer. Some people skip this layer entirely depending on the temperatures. Try a fleece hoodie to trap more body heat and keep your head a little warmer.

  • Outer Layer. Find a puffy jacket made of synthetic or down material. These are thin, lightweight, and trap a lot of heat.

  • Shell. You’ll want to protect yourself from rain, sleet, and snow. Find a wind-breaking and waterproof coat and pants, as lightweight as possible. Keep in mind that shedding your pants will be a more difficult task in winter!

How Running A Trail Marathon Can Help Train Your Leg Muscles

If you routinely run or jog for exercise purposes, then you’ve probably at least considered the possibility of a half-marathon or marathon. Have you tried training for one? Almost everyone can run almost thirteen miles without any major side effects, but it’s at this point that the least healthy among us will begin to suffer from any number of unwanted consequences — tendinitis, stress fractures, severe dehydration, or even hallucinations!

That’s why training for such an event is so important.

Gradually increasing the amount of exercise week by week will help reduce the potential for injuries and increase the chance that your muscles will build up instead of break down. That’s the goal. But there’s one major problem for many runners who decide to tackle this admirable obstacle: pavement hurts! If you’ve ever walked and ran mile after mile on sidewalk or asphalt, you know what we mean. Not only can your feet succumb to injury on the hard surfaces, but your toes will also start to go numb. It’s not fun.

No one wants to experience these phenomena, but what can you do to prevent it?

One possibility is training to run a trail marathon instead. These races usually take place on popular local trails, where runners will travel up and down hills or along ridgelines. While this might sound even more difficult than a normal marathon, there are several benefits — and it might not be as hard as you think. 

First of all, running on uneven, slanted surface forces you to keep alert at all times — so counter-intuitively, it can help prevent injuries that result from reduced awareness. Also, you’ll build leg muscles you’re not accustomed to using during a run on level ground. Last but not least, running on soil can actually hurt less than running on pavement.

We’ll be the first to admit that it takes a well-rounded and strong physique to make it through a trail marathon. Sometimes it’s more about mental toughness than physical fortitude or lasting endurance. As long as you keep one foot in front of the other and don’t look “up” too often — seriously, never ever look up — then you’ll be fine.

We recommend the Iron Mountain Trail Run at the end of August for those who live in or around southwestern Virginia. There are even 50-mile ultramarathon options for those seeking an even greater challenge! The race takes off from Damascus, VA, a place often referred to as Trail Town USA. It’s known as one of the most hiker-friendly destinations in the country and is a great spot from which to embark upon other outdoor adventures like riding, hiking, or backpacking.

Put Away The Fitbit, Find Some Friends To Join You In Good Health!

We all have that aunt who just loves her fitbit: she loves it so much that she starts shaking her hand in the air while she slurps down the second or third margarita after noticing that she only has a few more “steps” to take before reaching the daily 10,000. Well believe it or not, she might be onto something. Fitness trackers aren’t as good as we think they are, for all the high technology they implement to determine whether or not we’re getting enough exercise to stay healthy.

Turns out friends are a better measure of overall health than traditional fitness tracking devices.

While that doesn’t mean you should slurp down margaritas, it does mean you should pay more attention to your personal relationships than your devices (big surprise there). Studies conducted by researchers at the University of Notre Dame have concluded that these very devices lead people astray. Our heart rate won’t tell us whether or not we’re stressed, just like those 10,000 steps won’t tell us whether or not we’re getting enough daily exercise. 

Director of the Interdisciplinary Center for Network Science and Applications Nitesh V. Chawla said: “What we found was the social network structure provides a significant improvement in predictability of wellness states of an individual over just using the data derived from wearables, like the number of steps or heart rate.”

Researchers say the results could change how employers balance incentivizing with interpersonal relationships in the workplace. For example, providing fitbits may not be enough. Instead, it would be a good idea to create a forum where employees can share their life experiences to develop closer relationships, which will do more for overall health than those silly steps ever could. 

Machine learning models showed a 65% higher rate of being able to predict a person’s happiness, a 54% higher rate of predicting a person’s own predictions, a 55% higher rate of being able to predict a person’s attitude, and a 38% higher rate of being able to predict a person’s success — but only after accounting for social network structure and fitness tracking data together. 

What constitutes a social network structure? Every aspect of a typical relationship is included in this metric; is there a balance between the relationship and life, are the subjects close, are they connected by more than just devices, and do they give back to one another in the relationship. It turns out all this greatly affects how much activity a person obtains throughout the course of a day, which means the overall number of steps is typically greater for those people who form closer bonds!