There is no better feeling than completing a marathon. All your time and commitment has finally paid off. I had this feeling back in 2019 when I completed my first ever marathon. The emotions I felt were something I will never forget. Ever since that day, I have been chasing that feeling of exhausting accomplishment. Over the next year, I have registered for 2 more marathons. One marathon is on April 30th of 2022. I have since been in marathon training. Wanting to improve my time, I have been studying the benefits of long distance runs versus short distance runs while undergoing my training process.
Long distance runs are important for many reasons. You want to improve your endurance and increase your muscle power. During long distance runs, your body recruits fast twitch muscle fibers to help with slow twitch tasks. You want more muscle fibers to get you through the part of the marathon, which is called the “wall”. This is when a runner’s glycogen within the muscles is depleted. So, training your body to get past this point is essential, which is one of the main reasons for completing long distance runs in training. Some of the other physiological and mental benefits of long runs include training the body to use fat as fuel before the carbs are depleted and it improves your mental toughness and builds confidence. The mental benefits are equally as valuable as the physical benefits. Understanding that you can go 18,19, 20 miles is extremely important for physical and mental resiliency, especially when “the wall” is upon you.
Short distance runs are just as important when training for a marathon. Short distance runs are essential for improving your VO2 Max, which is the maximum rate of oxygen consumption during vigorous exercise. Improving this is essential, as it will increase you heart rate overall during the race, making it easier to breathe and increase the amount of energy you have during the race. Other benefits include increasing the response time of the neuromuscular system which increases your time overall.
DON’T SKIP RECOVERY
Recovery is also an extremely important part of marathon training. We spoke in an earlier blog on recovery tips about doing things that you like, versus doing things that like you. Doing things you like would be eating a big greasy sandwich and having a beer after a long run. Doing things that like you are stretching, foam rolling, getting enough sleep and ice baths. LYMBR is happy to be a part of that recovery process for many clients who train during racing season. Limiting injury and increasing mobility, agility, and even overall race time is what we are here to help with. Finding a happy mix between the training and recovery will not only improve your performance and make your runs more enjoyable, but it will also limit injury and help ensure you do not fall victim to over-training from lack of recovery time.
Check out our Runner’s Package to help you stay committed to your recovery and get the most out of your long and short runs. Enjoy your training!
Things are starting to get exciting if you’re a marathoner, iron man competitor, ultra-racer, spartan racer, or distance runner of any kind. This is the time of year where mileage starts to go up and consequently the creaky knees, ankles, feet, and low backs of many running competitors will start to rear their perennial ugly mugs. As any competitive athlete understands, especially runners, is that in order for optimal results on race day, recovery needs to be equally optimal. Whether that recovery comes in the form of ice baths, topical creams, CBD, — other anti-inflammatory products —- mobility and stretching work, saunas or the other myriad of ways to maintain athleticism, prioritizing recovery is the most important thing for performance.
As counter intuitive as it sounds, we actually do not grow during our workouts but in periods of rest and recovery. Muscle tissue, connective tissue, our cardiovascular, nervous, and digestive systems among many other things, actually gets put through the ringer through bouts of intense exercise or extended durations of exercise. We’ve covered this before but it’s worth repeating: relaxation is the main mechanism for recovery in the human body. During periods of rest and relaxation is actually where the body can adapt to the stressors and stimuli placed upon it. Your energy stores get replaced, your muscles and systems heal, your body adapts, and you are ready to hit the road or the weight room yet again.
There are many forms and modalities of recovery, as listed above, so much so that there’s an entire subsection of the fitness industry being built around it (LYMBR being well within the confines of that description). Now, for someone new to distance running or competitive racing, it’s very difficult to figure out what the greatest mode of recovery is going to be. Like exercise itself, it’s good to play around with different things and see what you like, and see what likes you. What I mean by that is this: There are going to be things that you enjoy doing that may give great psychological benefit, but very little physiological benefit. Having a beer or a big greasy sandwich after a long run, for example. While these may make you feel incredible immediately, there will be little to zero long term or short term physiological benefit from doing so. Yes, replenishing glycogen stores post heavy cardio is not a bad thing, and research has pointed to heavy carbohydrate sources such as beer and bread in order to do that. There are reasons I would not choose those as glycogen replenishment vehicles over others, but that is for another article, and I am by no means vilifying beer and sandwiches. Furthermore I am not discounting the psychological benefits of unwinding after a tough week of workouts with a Sam Adams and an Italian combo, to that I am no stranger. However, there will be modes of recovery that you will have little interest in doing when you start. These are modalities with high physiological benefits, these include mobility work, ice baths, foam rolling, decreased screen time, and dietary changes. These, at least initially, are going to be somewhat psychologically taxing and are going to be wholly unappealing when you start. These are, unfortunately, the things that are most necessary for long term recovery, sustainability, physiological maintenance and improvement. As I mentioned above, these are the things that like you, possibly even love you. Although these activities are often uncomfortable and usually the last thing you want to do after a long day, consistency transforms these often grueling habits into ones we cannot imagine living without. It just takes time and concerted effort.
I have found through years of training and fixing marathoners, iron man competitors, and ultra-runners that the happiest and most impressive athletes are those that exist astutely in between those two modes of recovery and “relaxation” (I put relaxation in quotations because deep foam rolling and ice baths are in no way relaxing or soothing nor will they ever be. You just become desensitized to self-inflicted masochism over time). They train very hard. Their physiological “like you” activities are dialed in as well as their diet, sleep, and stress management. They don’t shy away from foods or beverages like beer or sandwiches but consume in moderation, usually letting completely loose from the diet for one day a week, commonly known as a cheat meal, “Faturday”, diet break, or whatever nomenclature you wish to assign. In essence, they train very hard, but they recover with the same if not greater fortitude and aplomb. I encourage you to follow in the footsteps of these individuals. Training is very hard, as it should be, but it should also be extremely fun and rewarding. Unless you’re a David Goggins style figure who enjoys and subscribes to the military ideology of “embrace the suck”, you need to let your foot off the gas and enjoy the times between the struggle. There is nothing wrong with going balls to the wall and approaching training, diet, and recovery with a very rigid and militaristic approach. However, most individuals that do that experience high levels of burnout that usually come in the form of injury, illness, or loss of interest altogether. Adherence is the most important factor when it comes to diet and exercise. Oftentimes I’ll be asked by friends or family “what’s the best diet” or more commonly “what’s the best form of exercise for me?”. While I have my prejudices about certain kinds of exercise/diets, and believe almost all people should do some form of weightlifting, my answer is almost always “the one you’re going to stick to and enjoy.” Life’s too short to eat kale and back squat if you hate both of those things.
I hope this helps outline the importance of recovery and to further highlight the direct correlation between an optimal recovery routine and optimizing performance. This is especially true for competitive runners and athletes breaking through a higher respiratory threshold. For those who want to start prioritizing their recovery but don’t have access to things like foam rollers, ice baths, saunas, or what have you, I will leave you with these little cheats to assist you in starting your recovery journey.
Sleep is your best friend: It doesn’t matter if you have the best diet, training, and recovery tools at your disposal. If your sleep is suboptimal, performance will follow. Sleep does a lot, all of which I will cover in a later blog, but for now just understand that quality and quantity of sleep are just as important as diet and exercise in regards to sports performance.
Diet is your other best friend: You’ve probably heard the saying “You can’t outrun a terrible diet.” As much as I hate very general platitudes, this one is 100% true. Some people cite Usain Bolt eating chicken McNuggets and french fries after his races and wonder if diet is really as important as we think. First of all, most of us should not be comparing ourselves to Usain Bolt. Second of all, yes, diet is extremely. In the most distilled and simplistic explanation, food is fuel and fuel is what makes you go. Furthermore, there’s probably a reason we saw him eating that stuff after his races and not before. Remember the beer and sandwich example.
Cold showers, the lazy/ economical ice baths: If you don’t have access to an ice bath, or you’re like me and live in an apartment without a colossal freezer chest then turning your water temperature down for the last few minutes during your shower is a great way to start introducing cold therapy as a means of recovery. Again, without going into too much detail, Ice baths are fantastic for metabolic waste removal and generally make people feel much better once they’re out.
Active, repetition based stretching is just as good if not better than foam rolling at releasing and improving tissue function: This is not to discount foam rolling as a means of recovery. However, those without foam rollers can still active repetition based stretching to assist with release, waste removal, blood flow, tissue restoration, and unlike foam rolling has innumerable central and autonomic nervous system benefits.
Incorporating resistance bands into your exercise routine is a great way to improve longevity and joint health in your fitness journey. You might be thinking, “how can a piece of rubber make that much of an impact on my well-being?” Resistance bands are an extremely helpful and convenient tool that can help you with flexibility, mobility, and strength.
FLEXIBILITY & MOBILITY
People often use the words flexibility and mobility interchangeably, but they are not the same. What is flexibility? Flexibility is the ability of a muscle or muscle group to be lengthened passively. What is mobility? Mobility is the ability of the joint to be controlled through a range of motion. Let’s look at some examples. When you grab one of your fingers and pull it backward, that demonstrates its flexibility. When you move that finger backward without assistance, that demonstrates your finger’s mobility.
Some benefits that resistance bands have on stretching are that they allow for a deeper stretch, they allow you to get into positions that are harder to do on your own, and they allow you to decide your own tension. Resistance bands permit you to target areas that are just not possible with bodyweight stretching. LYMBR On Demand has some great stretches that you can use with a resistance band or a stretching strap that will increase your flexibility and mobility.
Though you may have an idea of what strength is, do you actually know the definition of strength? Strength is the ability to exert force. Yes, resistance bands can improve your strength! Since resistance bands come with various levels of resistance, you can choose which challenges you appropriately. As you progress, you can work on making improvements with heavier bands. When you have reached the ability to work with the heaviest band available, you can stack them to achieve extra resistance.
Moreover, resistance bands allow for the same amount of muscle activation as weightlifting but a lower chance of injury. The bands for less force on the joints, which means the muscles can be stimulated more. This is great for the injured or older population as well as those who experience joint pain.
An added benefit is that stabilization is required with many exercises when using resistance bands. Therefore, your ability to stabilize your body will increase. Core activation for balance is very important in many of the exercises. The capacity to control your core through the full range of motion of a movement permits more muscle strength and stimulation.
Resistance bands are very inexpensive compared to buying multiple sets of weights and different workout equipment. They take up little space and are lightweight (especially mini loop bands) which make them great for travel! Sometimes it can be hard to find a gym while travelling. You can stuff them in your suitcase or backpack and you’ll have everything you need for a full-body workout.
Resistance bands can improve your mobility and flexibility by allowing you to reach a greater range of motion and achieve a deeper stretch. They can increase your strength in a much safer way than weightlifting due to less force on the joints. So, what are you waiting for? Go get some resistance bands!
Written by Cory Sanon, Stretch Therapist at LYMBR Newton.
It is very common for women to hesitate when approached with the idea of lifting weights. Suddenly, images of Arnold Schwarzenegger-size muscles start popping into their mind. Most women don’t want bulging biceps or mountainous traps. That doesn’t mean they should skip the weight room altogether.
Weightlifting isn’t going to take away femininity; rather it offers a multitude of mental and physical benefits that women should take full advantage of. Major benefits include getting stronger, sculpting lean muscles, improving athletic performance, preventing injuries, enhancing your mood, decreasing stress and reducing the risk of major health issues.
The most obvious reason to lift weights is to increase strength and muscle. Having muscle mass is valuable to every human body, especially women. Strong muscles makes life easier. Being strong and functional allows women to make their daily tasks and activities less fatiguing. When the body is correctly conditioned through weight lifting; it learns proper movement patterns and how to carry a load, thereby reducing the risk of injury.
INCREASED MUSCLE MASS BURNS MORE CALORIES
Focusing on increasing the body’s muscle mass is when body re-composition truly happens and the transformation follows. This can be explained by muscle building; the more you lift, the more muscle you build. Muscle requires more energy, also known as calories, for your body than fat does. So, by lifting weights and adding muscle mass, the body will burn more calories at rest. But, it’s not just about how fast the metabolism is and burning more calories.
Cardio is known for burning more calories than weight lifting and there is absolutely a time and place for aerobic exercise. When doing cardio in order to burn calories, it is so easy to look at food as numbers and fall into restrictive methods of eating and overexercising. Weight lifting helps to open the door to a healthy relationship with food. It allows women to look at food as fuel to grow and maintain their muscles and get the most out of their weight lifting session.
Weightlifting offers gains that aren’t just physical. There is a mental component to weightlifting that is simply unmatched. Watching oneself get physically stronger often results in getting mentally stronger. The endorphins released during weight lifting can help to lift one’s mood as well. Participating in athletic activity and body movement increases serotonin levels, which is a neurotransmitter associated with happiness.
While lifting weights is beneficial for the everyday woman, it is also beneficial for female athletes. Female athletes should partake in a structured strength program at an early age, even earlier than male athletes. The reason being that females tend to physically develop and hit their growth spurt earlier in life. While their bones grow, their muscles are lagging. This, in combination with anatomical structure, makes female athletes more susceptible to injury; especially ACL tears. There is no reason that female athletes should not train with the same intensity as male athletes to increase their sport specific strength, sprint speed, agility, and joint stability.
USE IT OR LOSE IT
The female body is constantly changing through various stages of life. From puberty, to child bearing, through regular aging cycles, the female body evolves much more than the male body does. As the female body ages, muscle mass decreases 3-5% every decade after the age of 30. Muscles have a use it or lose it mentality. Research shows that between the ages of 40 and 70, women lose an average of 22 percent of their total muscle. So, it is better to have built a solid base when dealing with the aging process. Fast twitch muscle fibers specifically deteriorate with age. The fast twitch fibers assist in speed and power movements. Slow twitch muscle fibers help to maintain endurance. It may not seem like a big deal if fast twitch fibers deteriorate. But these fibers are used in simple tasks such as getting up from a chair, getting in and out of the car, or stopping the body from falling. Having increased muscle mass helps to assist your body in the aging process and maximize quality of life and independence.
Lifting weights isn’t just about muscle. It can also be your best defense against osteoporosis by increasing and protecting your bone density! Osteoporosis is a disease that decreases bone strength and mass which raises the risk of fracture. While everyone’s bones become weaker with age, a key risk factor in developing osteoporosis is simply being female. This disease affects over 10 million Americans, 80 percent of which are women. By lifting weights, you are engaging muscles that then pull tendons, which in turn pull on bones. This domino effect leads to stronger bones!
All of our Stretch Therapists are certified in personal training and all have varied experiences with the latest fitness studios, workout trends and various sports. If you have a question about which workout routine is best for you, consult a few of the therapists at your local studio. We have relationships with a lot fitness brands so we may even be able to make an introduction for you!
Written by Natalie Veneri. Natalie is a Stretch Therapist in our Darien, CT studio and is a former college athlete.
Strength Training continues to grow in popularity, now more than ever. Considering the many benefits – an increase in muscle size and strength, the ability to help maintain a lower body fat percentage, stress management, and, of course, the aesthetics we see in the mirror – strength training has been regarded as one of the most effective ways to stay in shape.
The few minutes you may (or may not) spend stretching after a workout are not substantial enough to give you the benefits you need to keep you progressing at the gym, and keep your risk of injury to a minimum. One to two hours per week of proper, purposeful stretching will help keep you right on schedule at your gym or fitness studio. Stretching on your own, or with the assistance of a LYMBR stretch therapist, will help keep your body performing and recovering to the best of its ability.
An avid weight-lifter, who focuses primarily on upper body exercises, came into LYMBR and expressed concern with lower back pain. A postural assessment was performed and it was identified that his shoulders were rounding forward. This posture imbalance caused the front-side of his upper body to become overactive, and the back-side of his upper body to become underactive.
Over time, the client’s training regimen caused his body to become conditioned to a misaligned posture. Strength training shortens the muscles and creates microtears on the tissue during a workout. These microtears are caused by the tension placed on the muscle from using weights. Through this process, the length of the muscles is shortened, and over time, the more these fibers remain shortened, the more prone you become to injury and compromised posture.
The physiology of the body tends to seek equilibrium, or homeostasis. The body will always seek a balance in which the body creates a stable internal environment. But in our client’s case, this new stable environment came at a cost. The rounding of his shoulders created an imbalance within the mid-line of his body, which led to certain muscles to over-compensate through this poor posture. And thanks to gravity, the weight-bearing lumbar spine had to support more weight due to the slight protruding head that comes with rounded shoulders, resulting in lower back pain.
Stretching the muscles in the front-side of his upper body helped him regain better posture by lengthening the appropriate muscles. As the muscles lengthened, the rounding in his shoulders decreased. As his body found its new, more efficient equilibrium and his posture improved, the pain resolved as the pressure was taken off his lower back area (primarily the quadratus lumborum and latissimus dorsi muscles).
We are often asked, “what is the best set of stretches for strength training?” The answer – there is no specific stretch regimen. It all depends on each person’s body blueprint, and what they need according to their overall assessment. Whether you’re a beginner, moderate or frequent gym member, the stretch protocol followed is based on the needs of the client.
Our sessions helped him to better understand how his body works and how to be conscious of when his body is in need of a stretch. With LYMBR as a part of his wellness routine, the client’s workouts are more effective, his movements are more efficient, his training can progress, and he will reduce the risk of further pain or injury.