Fit Facts: Run Strong

Photo by Tim Tadder

AVOID INJURY

In recent years, women have been experiencing more orthopedic injuries than ever. In a report from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, Dr. Kim Templeton attributes this increase to two factors: Most athletic shoes for women are scaled-down versions of men's shoes and do not accommodate a woman's narrower heel and wider forefoot, which may contribute to more injuries; and women generally have stronger quadriceps than hamstrings, which can cause a higher incidence of injuries to the knee's anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).

To reduce your risk, shop for shoes designed specifically for women by brands such as Avia and Ryk?. Also, include hamstring-strengthening exercises in your training routine to avoid muscle imbalances.

TREAT YOUR FEET

Runners put repetitive strain on the plantar fascia ligament that runs along the bottom of the foot, connecting the heel to the toes. Common for women, this ligament can become inflamed, known as plantar fasciitis, and cause severe foot pain. Sufferers may benefit from numerous treatment plans including flexibility exercises (like the calf and heel stretch below), massage, cortisone injections or even electrical therapy.

The good news: Approximately 90 percent of patients get better with physical therapy and non-surgical techniques within nine months, says Dr. Steven Ross, clinical professor in the Department of Orthopedic surgery at the University of California, Irvine.

RUN HAPPY

Until now, researchers had no evidence the elusive "runner's high," the sense of euphoria many athletes report after exercise, actually existed. But, as reported in a recent issue of the Cerebral Cortex journal, German researchers have finally proven the phenomenon isn't just running lore.

Using high-tech brain imaging scans, the neuroscientists took images of 10 runners' brains before and after a two-hour run. What they found: Endorphins flooded the brain during exercise and gathered around areas of the brain responsible for feel-good moods and emotion--hence the blissful high.

DID YOU KNOW?

Taking a 15-minute ice bath after a particularly hard workout or race can speed muscle recovery and reduce swelling and soreness, reports a new study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology.

TRY THIS

Calf & Heel Stretch
Stand in a lunge position facing a wall, with your front knee bent and back knee straight. Keep both heels on the ground as you lean forward and place your forearms on the wall. Hold for 10 seconds, and then switch sides. Repeat 10 to 20 times as necessary if your heels or calves are sore.

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