Photo by Tim Tadder
That burning knee pain you experience while running may be caused by inflammation of the iliotibial (IT) band
, a tough tissue that runs along your outer thigh from the hip to knee. Researchers at the University of Delaware wondered what caused the inflammation, so they conducted gait analysis on a group of recreational female runners and followed their training for two years. Eighteen runners who had greater hip adduction (the amount the hip rolls toward the middle of the body) and internal knee rotation at the start of the study developed IT band syndrome by the end, suggesting a possible biomechanical cause for the painful condition.
You can take steps to avoid developing IT band syndrome. "Exercises to strengthen the muscles around the hip help, and include lateral side walking with tubing, lateral step-ups, squats and lunges," says Irv Rubenstein, Ph.D., exercise physiologist and founder of personal-training center S.T.E.P.S., Inc., in Nashville, Tennessee.
No matter how hard you try, you can't force yourself to sprint at an all-out effort faster or for a longer period of time. Within seconds, your muscles move from exertion to exhaustion, and now researchers know why. A new study in the American Journal of Physiology reports that when your muscles are pushed past the "critical power level"--the intense level of effort you can sustain for a period of time, usually 75 to 80 percent of your maximum capacity--they quickly become tired, and the level of phosphocreatine, an important energy source, is fast depleted. Together, these factors force you to slow down or stop. The good news: The more fit you become, the longer you can maintain workouts at your critical power level.
Milk the Benefits
Getting an adequate amount of vitamin D--through dairy products, fish and even sunlight--does more than prevent bone fractures. New studies show that intakes of 800 to 1,000 IU a day increase muscle performance and help prevent falls later in life. Vitamin D also helps the body absorb calcium, which can boost the density of the hip and pelvis as well as improve balance. It may also lower your risk of developing breast cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
Too Much of a Good Thing?
Dehydration during a long run can be a real concern, especially in the hot summer months. But the dangers of overhydration, "hyponatremia," may be equally deadly. Hyponatremia occurs when excess water dilutes the sodium in your blood, says Dr. James Muntz of The Methodist Hospital in Houston. Muntz recommends drinking no more than one cup of water or sports drink every 20 minutes during exercise.
Illustration by Damon Wilde
Start standing with your legs straight and spread wide apart. Turn your right foot 90 degrees to the right while keeping the left foot pointing forward. Place your right hand on your right shin or ankle. Roll your torso open, so both shoulders face forward, and raise your left arm straight over your head. Look up toward your left hand or straight ahead if this bothers your neck. Focus on stretching your left fingertips as high as you can. Take a few deep breaths, and then slowly straighten to a standing position. Repeat on the other side.