Fit Facts: Run Healthy

Avoid Infections

Sharing facilities, gym equipment or items such as towels, balms or ointments increases the risk of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, MRSA, a type of staph infection that can invade the bloodstream and even infect the bone, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. Decrease your risk by not using communal towels, yoga mats, clothing or personal items and by washing your hands for a minimum of 15 seconds or using a gel sanitizer containing at least 62 percent alcohol.

MRSA appears most frequently as a skin infection and looks like a pimple, boil or abscess, sometimes draining fluid; lesions may be red, swollen, warm or tender to the touch. See a dermatologist immediately if you notice any symptoms of a skin infection.

Get Faster: Sleep

Making sleep part of your training program may be as important as what you do while you're awake, reports a Stanford University study of swimmers. By getting 10 hours of sleep per night (instead of seven to eight), participants were able to swim faster, react more quickly and increase kick strokes during a 15-meter sprint. Researchers noted that many athletes accumulate sleep debt over time, which can compromise performance.

Maximize your potential with these sleep tips:

  • Extend nightly sleep up to 10 hours for several weeks prior to competition to reduce sleep debt.
  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, including weekends.
  • Take brief naps during the day if you feel drowsy.

Go the Distance

Practice doesn't necessarily make perfect in regards to running performance, according to two studies presented at the American College of Sports Medicine Annual Meeting. Researchers compared the characteristics of marathon runners and found key elements to racing success. Surprisingly, years of running experience did not play a significant role--greater training mileage per week usually led to faster race times.

Test Your Ticker

Athletes older than 30 may need more than a routine physical to ensure their hearts are healthy. Undiagnosed heart abnormalities can cause sudden cardiac deaths during exercise, according to a study published in the British Medical Journal. In the study, researchers gave participants an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) while they were resting and during exercise.

Nearly 5 percent of the participants exhibited heart abnormalities during exercise. At rest, only 1.2 percent showed the same condition. The majority of participants with abnormal exercise ECGs were older (30 years or more) than those with normal results.

TRY THIS

Hip Flexor and Hamstring Stretch
Place one foot squarely on a sturdy chair or low table. Lean your core toward the raised foot, while keeping your back straight. Keep the heel of your back foot on the ground. Hold for five seconds and repeat on the other leg.

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