Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!

December 25th, 2010

The CCRR Executive would like to extend our very best wishes of the season to you and yours.

We had 33 runners out for the Jingle Bell Run, and a good group this morning for the Christmas Run.

Do come out on Wednesday afternoon at 5:30 pm, and bring your visiting friends and family members to join us too!

Basking in a Workout’s Long, Mysterious Afterglow

December 21st, 2010

It’s a cold day and you have just finished a grueling session at the gym, sweating away on an elliptical cross-trainer. Or you had a tough workout in the swimming pool. Or in a spin class. Or you just finished a hard run or a long, fast bicycle ride.

Now you’ve showered and changed your clothes. You are no longer sweating, but you still feel warm. Your cold house, your chilly office does not feel so frigid anymore.

Exercise researchers used to say that this was an exercise bonus — that you burn more calories not just when you work out but for hours after you stop, even for the rest of the day. Exercise, they would tell people, has a significant effect on weight loss because of this so-called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption.

But then the naysayers weighed in, reporting that such an exercise effect is just a myth. Metabolic rates plunge back down to normal as soon as exercise ends, investigators reported.

Still, many who exercise insist that there must be some change in their metabolism. Why else would they feel so warm? If it is not an increased metabolic rate, then what is it?

Paul Laursen, a performance physiologist at the New Zealand Academy of Sport, competes in Ironman triathlons. Regular prolonged and intense exercise is part of his life. He felt the afterburn effect, he says, after a recent tough 90-mile bicycle ride.

“It was an epic training session with friends, testosterone levels were high, and we were all trying to drop one another on the climbs,” Dr. Laursen wrote in an e-mail. “It was like I had a fever the rest of the day. And even into the night as well. My wife slept with the quilt, but all I wanted was the sheet. My body resembled a furnace.”

It turns out that there is no easy answer to why people like Dr. Laursen feel so warm.

“One thing we know for sure: your metabolism goes sky-high when you exercise,” said Nisha Charkoudian, an associate professor of physiology at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, Minn. “Then, when you stop, the interesting thing we don’t understand is that your body temperature stays up for about two hours.”

The effect is very dependent on how hard you exercise. “If you go out for a walk, your temperature does not go up much,” Dr. Charkoudian said, but if you run hard for an hour or so, you can have what seems like a fever, a temperature of 100 degrees or so.

It’s an effect that Glenn Kenny, a professor in the School of Human Kinetics, Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Ottawa, spent years investigating. He built a million-dollar machine — the only one in the world, he says — that can measure minute-by-minute changes in the body’s heat loss.

It looks like a giant can. The subject sits inside and, if exercise is being tested, pedals a recumbent bicycle. The device can detect the amount of heat dissipated by the subject’s body at every moment of exercise and at every moment of post-exercise rest under different conditions — warmer or cooler air temperatures, more or less humidity.

From experiments with the device, Dr. Kenny learned the reason for the feverlike state that arises when the body’s core temperature is elevated: not because you keep burning calories at the rate you did during exercise, but because the body has a hard time getting rid of the extra heat it generated during the exercise session. Heat dissipation is sharply reduced after exercise: for some reason the body just can’t seem to rid itself of the extra heat that it gained.

Dr. Kenny thinks that the effect is linked in some way to exercise’s effects on the cardiovascular system. But even though you may feel hot, you are not burning more calories, he says, so you are not going to lose more weight.

From other studies, in which he measured metabolic rates, he discounts claims that exercise might also increase the rate at which people burn calories for hours afterward. He found that any effect on metabolism after exercise was so small as to be almost immeasurable, and so fleeting it was gone within five minutes after exercise stops. His subjects, though, were not people like Dr. Laursen.

Joseph LaForgia’s subjects were. Or at least they were experienced athletes. Dr. LaForgia, an exercise physiologist at the University of South Australia, says people who exercise intensely — doing repeated sprints, for example — can experience a prolonged metabolic effect. Their metabolic rates can go up and remain elevated for seven hours after the session is finished.

Even so, the extra calories burned were about 10 percent of the calories burned during the intense exercise. As for people who exercised moderately, like most people do, the small increase in metabolism lasted no more than two hours and added up to only about 5 percent of the amount they burned while exercising. And since a modest exercise bout does not burn nearly as many calories as an intense one, people who exercised modestly ended up with very few extra calories burned afterward.

That still leaves a question, though. If your metabolic rate increases slightly, why would you feel warmer as much as seven hours after a long, hard workout?

Dr. LaForgia says he has not studied sensations of warmth, and Dr. Kenny says that if someone feels warm that long, it is not an effect of delayed heat dissipation.

Instead, it might be caused by yet another exercise effect — the body’s efforts to repair subtle tissue damage from all that exercise. The immune system can kick in, and so can enzymes that repair muscles and require heat-producing energy. Maybe the heat-generating effects of damage repair are the reason Dr. Laursen kicked off the covers that night after his 90-mile ride.

If so, he probably was not burning many more calories. But then again, that tough ride over the steep hills of New Zealand burned more than enough.

December 20, 2010

The Benefits of Exercising Before Breakfast

December 16th, 2010

The holiday season brings many joys and, unfortunately, many countervailing dietary pitfalls. Even the fittest and most disciplined of us can succumb, indulging in more fat and calories than at any other time of the year. The health consequences, if the behavior is unchecked, can be swift and worrying. A recent study by scientists in Australia found that after only three days, an extremely high-fat, high-calorie diet can lead to increased blood sugar and insulin resistance, potentially increasing the risk for Type 2 diabetes. Waistlines also can expand at this time of year, prompting self-recrimination and unrealistic New Year’s resolutions.

But a new study published in The Journal of Physiology suggests a more reliable and far simpler response. Run or bicycle before breakfast. Exercising in the morning, before eating, the study results show, seems to significantly lessen the ill effects of holiday Bacchanalias.

For the study, researchers in Belgium recruited 28 healthy, active young men and began stuffing them with a truly lousy diet, composed of 50 percent fat and 30 percent more calories, overall, than the men had been consuming. Some of the men agreed not to exercise during the experiment. The rest were assigned to one of two exercise groups. The groups’ regimens were identical and exhausting. The men worked out four times a week in the mornings, running and cycling at a strenuous intensity. Two of the sessions lasted 90 minutes, the others, an hour. All of the workouts were supervised, so the energy expenditure of the two groups was identical.Their early-morning routines, however, were not. One of the groups ate a hefty, carbohydrate-rich breakfast before exercising and continued to ingest carbohydrates, in the form of something like a sports drink, throughout their workouts. The second group worked out without eating first and drank only water during the training. They made up for their abstinence with breakfast later that morning, comparable in calories to the other group’s trencherman portions.

The experiment lasted for six weeks. At the end, the nonexercising group was, to no one’s surprise, super-sized, having packed on an average of more than six pounds. They had also developed insulin resistance — their muscles were no longer responding well to insulin and weren’t pulling sugar (or, more technically, glucose) out of the bloodstream efficiently — and they had begun storing extra fat within and between their muscle cells. Both insulin resistance and fat-marbled muscles are metabolically unhealthy conditions that can be precursors of diabetes.

The men who ate breakfast before exercising gained weight, too, although only about half as much as the control group. Like those sedentary big eaters, however, they had become more insulin-resistant and were storing a greater amount of fat in their muscles.

Only the group that exercised before breakfast gained almost no weight and showed no signs of insulin resistance. They also burned the fat they were taking in more efficiently. “Our current data,” the study’s authors wrote, “indicate that exercise training in the fasted state is more effective than exercise in the carbohydrate-fed state to stimulate glucose tolerance despite a hypercaloric high-fat diet.”

Just how exercising before breakfast blunts the deleterious effects of overindulging is not completely understood, although this study points toward several intriguing explanations. For one, as has been known for some time, exercising in a fasted state (usually possible only before breakfast), coaxes the body to burn a greater percentage of fat for fuel during vigorous exercise, instead of relying primarily on carbohydrates. When you burn fat, you obviously don’t store it in your muscles. In “our study, only the fasted group demonstrated beneficial metabolic adaptations, which eventually may enhance oxidative fatty acid turnover,” said Peter Hespel, Ph.D., a professor in the Research Center for Exercise and Health at Catholic University Leuven in Belgium and senior author of the study.

At the same time, the fasting group showed increased levels of a muscle protein that “is responsible for insulin-stimulated glucose transport in muscle and thus plays a pivotal role in regulation of insulin sensitivity,” Dr Hespel said.

In other words, working out before breakfast directly combated the two most detrimental effects of eating a high-fat, high-calorie diet. It also helped the men avoid gaining weight.

There are caveats, of course. Exercising on an empty stomach is unlikely to improve your performance during that workout. Carbohydrates are easier for working muscles to access and burn for energy than fat, which is why athletes typically eat a high-carbohydrate diet. The researchers also don’t know whether the same benefits will accrue if you exercise at a more leisurely pace and for less time than in this study, although, according to Leonie Heilbronn, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Adelaide in Australia, who has extensively studied the effects of high-fat diets and wrote a commentary about the Belgian study, “I would predict low intensity is better than nothing.”

So, unpleasant as the prospect may be, set your alarm after the next Christmas party to wake you early enough that you can run before sitting down to breakfast. “I would recommend this,” Dr. Heilbronn concluded, “as a way of combating Christmas” and those insidiously delectable cookies.

Available here: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/12/15/phys-ed-the-benefits-of-exercising-before-breakfast/?ref=health


2010 Not-the-Honolulu Marathon & Fun Run

December 12th, 2010

Close to 100 runners headed out for the 2010 running of the 2010 NTHM fun run this past Saturday. Four marathoners left at 7:30 am, with the rest of the group leaving at 8:30 am. Runners from around the province, NS, and even four Ontario runners (running in Kanata) participated.

Run Director Jim Ketterling was out in the wee hours of the morning setting up the course, marshalling and providing support throughout the rest of the run. Thanks very much to him and the other volunteers for all their help in making the event happen.

Afterwards many runners had brunch together at Isaac's Way to discuss their experiences and plan for their next adventures.

Congratulations to all participants and see you next year!

Acupuncture: Reversing the Stressful Effects of Running

December 8th, 2010

Needles pinpoint the root cause of pain, imbalances and chronic conditions

Growing up in North America, like many others, I originally thought of acupuncture as some exotic placebo, questionably effective and a little frightening. My first direct exposure came following a hard marathon in Tochigi, Japan, in November 2006. Looking for a post-race massage, I found that organizers were instead offering complimentary post-race acupuncture treatments. I decided to give it a go and was pleasantly surprised by the experience; a flicker of pain as the needles made contact, a dull pressure as the acupuncturist tapped the needles in position and then the sensations fading to a feeling of relaxation. A year later, I suffered a major injury to my right thigh, which showed no signs of improvement after nearly six months of medical and massage treatments.  I turned to acupuncture and after only two-and-a-half months, was back to the point of running one of my fastest half marathons. My thigh injury has never recurred, and acupuncture has become a regular part of my training regimen.

Despite anecdotal evidence such as my own experience, acupuncture remains relatively uncommon as a means of treatment for runners in North America. Whether it is because of its invasive nature or lack of rigorous scientific methodology, acupuncture’s benefits compared to massage, chiropractic and other forms of alternative treatment are little known in the West. In Japan, acupuncture is as common as massage in treating the ailments that afflict marathoners. Idaten, a Tokyo clinic that offers acupuncture alongside massage and physical therapy, treats the country’s best professional and university runners as well as amateurs. “Roughly 60-70% of our clients are runners,” says the clinic’s director, Jiro Konno. “Many of the elite runners get acupuncture treatments twice a week, but even the amateur runners we treat come in once a week.”

New York-based acupuncturist Russ Stram treats elite Japanese marathoner Arata Fujiwara

Although several U.S.-based elites, including Deena Kastor and Shannon Rowbury, incorporate acupuncture as a means of treating an existing ailment, acupuncture may prove most beneficial as preventative medicine. Arata Fujiwara (pictured), 2010 Ottawa Marathon champion and course record-holder, combines frequent acupuncture treatments with massage and general physical therapy.     

Chinese Origins and Japanese Evolution

Acupuncture, the treatment of pain and injury using thin, disposable needles, has a history dating back thousands of years in China. Although its practice and theory have evolved since being introduced to Japan, both styles share a similar focus: reducing pain and muscle imbalances by treating specific points of the body. Russ Stram, a New York-based licensed acupuncturist at Brill Physical Therapy, practices a mixed style. “Acupuncture follows Chinese medicine theory with the philosophy of restoring balance to the body,” he explains. “A practitioner takes a thorough history and examines the body for tight and painful areas, choosing points based on the meridian point system.”

The meridian system follows the Chinese belief that the body is an integrated whole with interconnections between disparate areas that are accessible at specific meridian points. In Chinese acupuncture, which uses relatively thick needles and deep penetration to access deep muscles, it is common for pain in one area to be treated by needles in a completely different part of the body by the meridian lines. The aim of treatment is to restore the body’s overall balance.

The Japanese method involves thinner needles and superficial penetration, but more significantly, it focuses on stimulating trigger points specific to each individual muscle. Hiroshi Kawaguchi, an acupuncturist who operates the Yamate Street Acupuncture Clinic in Tokyo’s trendy Nakameguro neighborhood and who treated Joan Benoit-Samuelson last year at her appearance on a Japanese game show, describes the Japanese method this way: “When dealing with a sports injury, we approach it in terms of the whole muscle and its tendon connections. When a muscle is tired, the contraction of its fibers is limited. Acupuncture helps to relax the muscle and restore the natural motion of the fibers.”

Despite these differences, the three practitioners agree that both Chinese and Japanese methods have benefits for runners that extend beyond those of the average person. “The physical fatigue and damage runners experience is different from a regular person,” says Konno.    

In terms of injury recovery, the point at which most people seek physical treatment, “Acupuncture is able to promote increased blood flow to an area and stimulate healing—similar to a histamine response—from the slight irritation that the needles produce,” says Stram. “Tight muscular restrictions can be released, which will allow the body to work on healing itself instead of getting constantly restrained by poor patterns of movement caused by pain or restriction.” 

The advantages of acupuncture compared to other forms of treatment are two-fold. “Where massage involves manipulation of surface muscle in dealing with underlying tissues, acupuncture allows treatment of deeper muscle tissue without aggravating surface muscle, making it the most effective and direct method of treatment,” says Kawaguchi. Secondly, since the symptoms of pain or fatigue can occur somewhere other than where the problem actually lies, acupuncture is effective in treating the root cause of the problem, rather than only the area of symptomatic expression. Kawaguchi raises the example of IT band pain. “IT band pain is one of the most common issues for runners. It often manifests itself on the outside or rear of the knee, but the actual problem is with the band as a whole. By treating the trigger point near the hip, we can correct the problem by restoring the balance of the entire band.”

Supplementary techniques used by some practitioners include moxibustion, burning herbs to heat needles, which increases blood flow to the insertion point. Gentle, rhythmic electrical stimulation of inserted needles is another common supplementary technique, one that Kawaguchi says amplifies the restoration of proper contractile mobility to muscle fibers. Konno also utilizes laser acupuncture, a recent technique permitting treatment of tendon injuries, which can be hazardous to treat with standard needles.

On Point with Injury Prevention

But more than recovery from injury, acupuncture’s greatest potential may come in injury prevention. According to Stram, “Running and training hard, whether it is fast acceleration sprints or long distance, takes a toll on the body. This is especially true of problem areas such as the back, hips and legs, which are most affected by running. Acupuncture needles can get directly to deep muscle bands to maximize the treatment effect. For example, when a deep muscle of the hip is treated directly, it will be more susceptible to stretching and can relax more. There is subsequently less stress on the joint, and the muscle has more potential to fire and contract without fear of spraining muscles or tearing ligaments.”

Kawaguchi agrees. “Regular treatment can help prevent problems through improving muscle fiber mobility,” he says.  For these reasons, Konno recommends regular treatment—two or three times a month, or at most once a week for amateur runners—as a key component of maintenance and injury prevention. 

Whether for injury or prevention, acupuncture can help improve chronic running-related stresses.  Kawaguchi puts it simply when he says, “If you have a problem with your form, pain will continue to return. If done properly, one session can help relieve this pain, but regular treatment can help improve flexibility and correct these problems.” Stram expands on this, saying, “Some acute muscle strains may respond well to one treatment and never return. Other more chronic conditions, which come and go depending on an individual’s conditioning or intensity of training, may require several sessions to reduce the severity of pain or tension, and may be best followed up by a program of physical therapy and stretches to prevent recurrence. Finally, there is the scenario of more severe or chronic conditions, which have seen little to no relief from treatment such as massage, physical therapy, chiropractic or surgery. Such patients may see some change in their symptomatic complaints with acupuncture, and should feel empowered by these changes to plan a program that best supports their body and allows them to maintain their goal levels of training.”     

Overcoming the fear of being stuck full of needles is one of the main obstacles to trying acupuncture, but Konno compares it to going to the dentist. “There’s no need to be afraid,” he says. “Start easy, and ask the acupuncturist to use light needles. When you are accustomed to the sensation, you can move up to a more thorough treatment.”

Finding a Respected Specialist

To find a reputable practitioner, it is key to make sure the acupuncturist is licensed and uses sterilized, disposable needles. American acupuncturist licensing regulations vary by state. Because California and New York have the toughest regulations, Kawaguchi says residents of those states are most likely to find good practitioners. “These days it’s easy to research online to find out about different therapists’ reputations,” he says. “You can also talk directly to licensing agencies for recommendations. As with any doctor, be sure to check if the acupuncturist has experience dealing with sports injuries, as the sorts of soft-tissue problems to which runners are prone differ from those of non-runners.” 

“If you are interested in trying acupuncture but are worried about your insurance not covering the treatments of a licensed acupuncturist, you should check out a local acupuncture school where you can get treated by student practitioners under supervision,” says Stram. 

AVAILABLE: http://runningtimes.com/Article.aspx?ArticleID=20198&PageNum=2

Brett Larner lives in Tokyo, where he is the editor of Japan Running News. A lifelong runner, acupuncture has been a part of his training regimen for the last three years; he visits his specialist once or twice weekly when training strenuously, and about twice per month otherwise.


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