Saturday, February 9, 2013

It's All In the Timing

“The right thing at the wrong time is the wrong thing.” 
― Joshua Harris

The other day, I was watching TV (a terrible habit that I will never break), and there was a story on the "news" about the right time to eat. I put "news" in quotes because one of my HUGE pet peeves is TV news. I hate when they deliver soft, fluffy, warm & fuzzy stories about puppies or cats or doughnut runs. Give me the news!! OK, short rant. I'm done (for today). Anyway, this "news" story said if you eat your big meal earlier in the day (like 3 o'clock) you'll control your weight better. Yeah, that's fine, as long as this just doesn't leave MORE time to allow you to eat MORE ice cream before you go to sleep. Supposedly, you eat early and your body processes the food better and it doesn't just sit in your stomach like a big meat & potatoes ball while you sleep. But, the whole object is that eating is all in timing.

This got me to thinking about timing in terms of running, rehabbing, and exercising. There's an optimal time for everything. When you ice your injury or eat or strength-train at the wrong moment, you could miss the full benefit. Here's some that have come to my wondering mind:

I have always hated stretching and probably always will. I don't mean hate it with a passion. I just will never enjoy it enough to do it every day, even though I'm stiff as a telephone pole. However, the question I'm asked most is "Should I stretch before or after I run?". It makes sense to stretch after the muscles have warmed up, but studies actually show that there is no significant beneficial difference of when you stretch. Just get it done...early, late, before/after you run, at home, in your office...doesn't matter. I believe flexible muscles will help you run better, so I guess stretch when you can, but for it to be effective, you have to be consistent. Therefore, timing has no dog in this fight.

Hit the Road
Studies suggest that athletes perform best in the late afternoon, but most of us cannot dictate when we want to run - we run when we most conveniently can fit it in. Fortunately, research also shows that we can train our bodies to run well at any time of day simply by exercising regularly at that time. When you consistently time your exercise, you train the cardiovascular system to deliver more oxygen to the working muscles at that time. I guess, for me, three years is not quite enough time for my body to accept 4:30am as an acceptable time to acclimate. I'll let you know what that acclimation period is when I adapt to it.

After hard or long runs (two hours or more), eat carbs and protein within 30 minutes to restock energy stores and rebuild muscle. If you can't refuel within 30 minutes, then for sure shoot for 2 hours. Your muscles will still soak up those depleted fuels like a sponge. Of course, when I finish a long run, I'll pour anything into my gut and let my body figure out what to soak up. Why should I have to figure it out? I'm too pooped from running.

Ice Your Pain
The quicker you ice, the faster you slow down inflammation, the faster you begin to heal. Or that's the way the thinking has been for the past 100 years that I've been a therapist. Seems some research now shows that the Earth is not flat and icing may actually slow healing in that it inhibits inflammation which initiates the healing process (sometimes I hate science). But, being old and set in my ways, I still recommend icing. Only ice for about 20 minutes, but you can do this hourly if you you're really aching. If you run with an injury, keep some of those disposable icepacks in the car. Now, taking anti-inflammatories might be a different bunch of bananas. See the next topic.

Taking Anti-inflammatories
A study looking at taking anti-inflammatories (ibuprofen, naproxyn,etc) during marathons and ultra marathons showed that anti-inflammatories actually increased inflammation by BLOCKING the body's natural healing process. So that might not be a good idea. Also, anti-inflammatories can really mess with your kidneys during the race, causing the inability of proper fluid balance. Another not so good thing. Other research has demonstrated that taking anti-inflammatories post workout decreases training adaptations, which is the main reason we train. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is a pain reliever, and although safer than Advil (ibuprofen) or Aleve (naproxyn), should be also be taken very judiciously during training or racing. I have found the Tylenol 8 Hour tablets to be the best for decreasing my aches after a long run. A Sam Adams Winter Lager works pretty good too.

Speedwork and long runs
Because speedwork is a horrible intense, workout, it should be spaced out from long runs by at least two days. For some reason, long run day is usually Sunday and speed work is Tuesday. It would be better to give those muscle fibers an extra day to repair... Saturday/Tuesday or Sunday/Thursday or, oh you get the idea. 

Two strength-training sessions per week can improve your running. But strength training can be a hard workout, so separate those workouts from hard runs by at least a day. Again, one question I hear is "should I do my strength training before or after my runs".  The two pathways competing for adaptation interact and can help turn each other “on” or “off”.  So if you do strength training and then follow it up with a good little run, you've shut off the pathway for muscle growth (which could be good or bad depending on what you’re training for). If you run first and then lift, you won't get the full adaptation effect of the run. How you adapt neurally depends on the timing of what was done first. 

Eat on the (Longer) Run
Your body's carb stores can fuel runs that are less than two hours. During longer sessions, you need to replenish carbs at a rate of 45-60 grams per hour (about 250 calories). The most you can process, with training, is about 350 calories per hour of carbohydrates and you're burning 600 total calories (carbs, fats and proteins), so timing when you take your carbs (usually in the form of gels or drinks) is crucial. Take your first gel 30-45 minutes into your run, your second 30-45 minutes later, and so on. Each gel has about 100 calories, but if you take too much, it can lead to GI distress (not a good thing) and blood will be diverted from your muscles (again, not a good thing).

Donate Blood
The body replaces lost fluids (plasma) within 24-48 hours of giving blood, so logging an easy run the next day is fine. However, donating blood can interfere with hard training. Oxygen-carrying red blood cells begin to regenerate immediately, but can take six weeks to reach full count. That means you may not be able to hit your target times during that period, and you may feel like you're hitting a brick wall.

Shop for Shoes 
Ideally, you want to purchase a new pair of running shoes before they lose their effectiveness, which is around 300-500 miles. It's a big range but that's because you, not just the shoes, are part of the equation. If you land hard on your heels or are a big runner, you'll wear down a shoe faster than lighter runners or midstrikers do. If you need shoes before a race, get them a month prior to work out their rigidity (about 50-75 miles). As for the best time of day to shop, your feet will be slightly larger late in the day, but this is not a real big deal (but, a deal). 

So, there you go. Food for thought. Assuming my timing is right, I'll see you all on the roads - AL

"One child lost is too child saved can change the world"



Running said...

I like the advice about the beer for aches and pains. It seems to work better than other alternatives for me.

Bill Woody

AL said...

Yeah, you just have to pick the right time for the beer. I find RIGHT after the run usually is not a good idea. I'm fine, but the world starts spinning!!