Should You Wear A Mask When Exercising Outside?

Most governments haven’t placed many restrictions on outdoor exercise. For example, you might be required to wear a mask when you go shopping — but not when you go for a walk or run. That’s because the science seems to indicate that coronavirus doesn’t spread so easily outdoors, and that your chances of catching it when out for a walk are extremely low. But that really depends more on you.

Whether or not you should wear a mask outdoors should be determined by your actions when outdoors. Are you interacting with other walkers or runners? Then you should wear a mask. Are you hiking on a narrow trail that might force you and another hiker to cross paths in close quarters? Then you should wear a mask. Are you protesting with thousands of like-minded individuals? Mask.

When we say the science “seems” to indicate, keep in mind that there is no real consensus on best practices when exercising outdoors. 

Many athletes or older individuals find that wearing a mask during vigorous exercise restricts breathing, which can be dangerous. 

Larry Holt, who runs Ken Combs Running Store in Kentucky, said that face masks were ridiculous. He was asked whether or not runners who shopped there were wearing face masks. His response? “Oh, gosh no! That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard in my life.”

Others have indicated that exercising means a person will be breathing deeper and faster, which could potentially lead to easy infection, or the spreading of the virus. One study concluded that runners and cyclists can spread droplets farther than six feet, the recommended distance scientists and health professionals recommend for social distancing best practices. That means that you should avoid running or cycling behind someone else when outdoors.

Regardless, the right thing for you might not be right for someone else. You might decide to wear a mask or not, but doing so could make those whose paths cross yours more comfortable. (Then again, it could really irritate conspiracy theorists).

How To Stay Healthy And Happy During The Coronavirus Outbreak

These are trying times for all of us — not only is the entire country at risk of infection from a dangerous new viral outbreak, but we’re being asked to self-isolate. This can have extremely detrimental physical and psychological impacts if not done correctly, no matter how necessary it is that we abide by these government orders. They become more cumbersome each day. New ones are also likely to be implemented.

In other words, now is the time to learn how to cope!

Measures put into place by state and local governments in the United States are much less strict than those put into place by other countries like China or South Korea. As such, you’re allowed to venture outside. And you should go outside. You need exercise, and fresh air has been proven to have a net-positive effect on personal well-being. That means you can keep walking the dog, go for a jog whenever you start to feel stir-crazy, or hike for hours in the woods.

Keep in mind that you should be engaging in these activities alone. If you have company, you need to stay six feet apart for your health and theirs. This is necessary to halt transmission of the virus. Going out in large groups is strictly forbidden. Take this seriously.

Although supplies in grocery stores are limited right now, keep trying until you find the fundamentals: fresh fruits and vegetables, canned foods, and dry goods like beans and rice. Tortillas are a great option if you’re looking for foods that stay fresh. You can even use them to make PB&J! Tofu, Kefir, yogurt, apples, carrots, and pears will all stay fresh for a few weeks. You can freeze other foods. Frozen fruits and veggies retain nearly all of their nutritional value, so feel free to stock up!

There are other ways to relax as well. Making a routine is one of the most important things you can do when you’re stock at home every day. Don’t sleep in just because you can! You’re not a teenager anymore and it’s your job to stay healthy and happy. Get up and go to bed at the same hour each day. Have a cup of coffee, take a shower, and get dressed as if you were going to work. 

From there, either work from home or, if you can’t, spend time with the family as if it were your job! This will help you get a little extra exercise. Eat meals regularly and limit snacking. Instead of spending time looking at screens, you can read a book, listen to music, or do a crossword puzzle from the newspaper. The opportunities to get through this unscathed are endless.

Should You Listen To Music During A Marathon?

Most of us love to listen to music — especially while we exercise. It can help pass the time if we are not excited about the type of exercise in which we are engaging. It can reduce stress, blood pressure, and elevate mood. But when running outside, there are a lot of other factors that you might consider before deciding whether or not to put on those brand new headphones. Should you listen to music during a marathon? It depends.

First and foremost, if the marathon is an organized event, then they probably have a set of rules for you to follow. Many of these rules might be more like suggestions — etiquette, for example. Move aside so larger groups of faster runners can pass you easily. Depending on how fast you run, the organizers may have herded you into corrals so you don’t get in anyone’s way. No matter what the rules are, make sure you stick to them.

In metropolitan areas where traffic is closed off for a marathon, organizers might ask you to leave your headphones at home. This is for your own safety as well as the safety of the other runners. Busier areas require increased alertness. Plus, competitions might ask you don’t wear headphones so they can provide you with information if a race is rerouted or they need to shut it down. Don’t dismiss the rule as unimportant!

And even if the rules don’t expressly forbid the use of headphones or loud music, consider the environment beforehand. You and the other runners might still benefit from avoiding headphones if, say, you’re embarking on a trail marathon where cramped quarters might impede traffic. You want to hear runners behind you. If you do decide to listen to music, consider only using one earbud. 

When you choose to listen to music during a race, select songs with scrutiny. Slower songs will slow you down, while songs with a faster beat will ensure you unconsciously speed up. Many studies have shown a multitude of benefits to using curated running playlists. There are also benefits to avoiding music, however. For example, self-awareness is easier to maintain without distractions, and can greatly reduce the chance of injury.

Keep in mind that music has a noteworthy benefit only if you like what you’re listening to. If you’re not crazy about a song, delete it from your playlist! Streaming services also provide curated playlists for runners, so it might make sense to tune into Spotify or Pandora during a race!

What Is The Worst Food To Eat Directly Before A Big Race?

We almost always focus on what one can do to ensure a good race. We discuss the best clothes, the best means of hydration, the best exercises and breathing techniques — and the best foods to eat before running. But there’s an entirely different side. Although some of these topics can help you out, and failing to take the advice will more likely than not make a huge difference, doing the wrong thing can really hurt you.

So what food should you absolutely stay away from before a big race? Here are a few!

 

  • Caffeinated Beverages. It’s an old wives tale that caffeine dehydrates you. It takes an absurd amount of coffee to have a dehydrating effect, and the vast majority of us will never drink enough for it to make a big difference. The real problem is what caffeine does to your digestion. Have you ever noticed that you tend to take a bathroom break with your morning coffee? Caffeine is great for moving the bowels, and you don’t need that in the middle of a race.
  • High-Fructose Corn Syrup. This is a concentrated form of sugar that many food and drink vendors use in their products because it’s much cheaper than actual sugar. But more sugar in your diet can result in diabetes and increased fat storage. This can make burning calories tougher, especially when you want a thin, toned body when you run.
  • White Bread. Stick to whole wheat products before a big race. You want the added nutrients and fiber, and white bread and similar products are often devoid of what you need. You could experience reduced energy and an increased craving for sugar. In combination, that’s bad.
  • Red Meat. Especially when processed like ham or bacon. These not only increase your risk of colo-rectal cancer, but they can increase cholesterol, blood pressure, and the chances of heart disease.
  • Whole Milk. You probably don’t need the extra fat. Stick to skim milk unless you’re trying to gain milk. Healthy alternatives include coconut milk or almond milk.
  • Alcohol. You already know that booze is bad for you. Over-indulging in alcoholic beverages can dehydrate you, kill brain cells, lead to liver disease, and deplete your energy on race day. A beer or a glass of wine here and there is okay, but avoid overdoing it.
  • Diet Sodas. These beverages swap out sugar for artificial sweeteners that result in an array of health problems, including a craving for sugar (duh), kidney ailments, dehydration, and even weight gain (albeit less than with non-diet sodas).

Why Does It Hurt When We Breathe Cold Air?

Those who have asthma know the struggle all too well — and sometimes, it prevents them from running outdoors in winter. But even those of us who don’t suffer from the breathing condition find that it hurts to breathe when the air turns cold. Why is that the case? And should we push through the pain until we cross the finish line? That’s a long way to run when it hurts. But here are the answers, according to science!

First and foremost, it helps to understand what the lungs are designed to do. In a relatively short amount of time, they heat up the inhaled oxygen to 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit by increasing humidity. The process needs to be done without damaging the lung’s cells and tissues. When the heated oxygen reaches the end of its journey inside the lung’s alveoli — which connect with your blood vessels — it is then exchanged and exhaled as carbon dioxide.

Simple, right?

Not so much for most of us, but the important part is this: the oxygen needs to be humidified. That’s why it’s so much easier to breathe in summer than it is in winter. The air is much more saturated with moisture in summer, whereas in winter it is devoid of that same moisture.

William O. Roberts, MD, writes: “The burning sensation you feel when breathing in cold air is probably due to the combination of heat and water exchange that is occurring early in the inspiration of cold, dry air. For most people, this sensation goes away after a few breaths. It is not known to cause harm in a healthy lung, but can trigger an attack of bronchospasm in someone with asthma.”

Roberts says no one should worry about frozen lungs, even in very cold weather. “Many people worry that the lung tissue will freeze in cold air, but the extensive network of blood flow through the lung tissue seems to prevent that from happening.”

Over time, he says, the human body has evolved and adapted to the harshest winter temperatures imaginable. 

And there are easy ways to soothe your lungs before heading outdoors for that strenuous run. You’ll want to keep your skin covered during particularly low temps, but even when the danger of frostbite is not present, it might make sense to wrap your neck and mouth with a balaclava. While this won’t add any moisture to the air before you inhale, it will contribute to warming before the oxygen enters your lungs.

When Do A Runner’s Shoes Become Immoral Rule-Breakers During A Marathon?

Technology is starting to implant itself into everything we do these days. Because microchips are becoming so inexpensive, they’re being placed in everything. That’s what the Internet of Things is all about: Making everyday objects “smarter” to make our lives easier. Soon enough you’ll have a chip in your toilet that tells you when to visit the doctor based on what foul organisms are living inside your waste.

But what happens when those same technologies are implemented in typical athletic gear? Will marathon organizers begin to ban certain types of wearable technology in the near future? Those are the questions being asked because of Nike’s new technologically advanced Vaporfly sneakers — because Nike has already measured wearers running about 4 percent faster.

The sneakers have been the subject of controversy for about a year. That controversy heated up even more in October, when two Kenyan runners broke recorded marathon records — both wearing Vaporfly shoes.

But what’s so special about them? Nike used a foam-packed carbon-fiber plate in their design, because the company knows that runners in those shoes are more efficient. But runners are also more efficient when they take performance-enhancing drugs and supplements, which are obviously illegal.

Where is the line between right and wrong when it comes to performance-enhancing shoes? Is there one? 

Those are the questions currently being addressed by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). If the organization concludes that shoes like Nike’s Vaporfly line provide an immoral advantage to runners who wear them, then New York Road Runners (NYRR) might ban them from New York City marathons.

NYRR Vice President Chris Weiller said, “We are in touch with all the athletes who will be competing in the marathon this year and they are all looking forward to competing in whichever shoes they choose to run in.”

Retired long-distance runner Ryan Hall believes the shoes should be banned. On Instagram, he wrote, “When a shoe company puts multiple carbon fiber plates in a shoe with cushion between the plates it is no longer a shoe, it’s a spring, and a clear mechanical advantage to anyone not in those shoes.”

And whether or not the shoes are mechanically better might provide the answer to our questions. Either way, the controversy is likely to get even more heated in the coming years, as more and more of these performance-enhancing shoes are put on the market. Especially when they include computer chips!

New Wearable Devices For Marathon Runners

The cost of microchip sensors has decreased a lot over the past two decades. Only twenty years ago, the same computing power that we find in our current generation of smartphones would have cost millions of dollars. These days the same microchips can be purchased for a mere fraction of the original price tag. But what we can do with that cheaper and more powerful tech is the real question.

Someday soon, those microchip sensors will be all around us, in almost every device imaginable — even the toilet. Why would we want one there? Well, because those sensors can analyze our waste to let us know exactly what kind of vitamin deficiencies or ailments might necessitate a visit to the doctor. Or better yet, they might upload that information directly to our healthcare providers.

This will keep us healthier and happier for longer, increasing our life expectancy substantially. 

But what does that mean for runners? A new generation of wearables is upon us, and soon you’ll find more of those sensors in the very clothes you wear. Until then, here are a few new wearables and wearable trends that can help you keep an eye on your health.

The Polar M430 was Europe’s best selling smart watch for runners. It’s basically a real-time smart coach for your wrist. The watch monitors heart rate and tracks your fitness. When you fall asleep, it monitors rest so it can provide advice on when and how to fall asleep.

Athos Gear is a brand of clothing that has a Bluetooth snap-on device that measures speed and orientation to track muscle performance while you work out. Sensoria Fitness Socks help track your base number of steps, speed, distance, and how you land while running. Right now these devices will set you back hundreds of dollars, but in the near-future you can expect the price points to lower substantially.

The trend in microchip sensors for runners is on smart coaching using artificial intelligence to sharpen your technique. Using this advice will help runners (and other athletes) avoid common overuse injuries like tendonitis or torn ligaments and muscles. Most come paired with specific apps that you can use on your smartphone.

Racefox Run is one such smart coach that actually provides advice to create an elaborate and personalized training regimen. Not only does it self-adjust based on how or where you like to run, but it also takes note of your own goals. In this way it will eventually help you reach your highest performance.

What Should I Wear When Running A Marathon In Winter?

Marathon running is difficult enough without considering inclement weather. These races take months and months of preparation even for those of us in the best shape. Normally marathon runners will find a spring, summer, or fall marathon in which to participate — but running marathons is a year-round activity, and some are even organized in the coldest winter months. What should you wear when running in a cold-weather winter marathon?

First, you need to be prepared for a variety of different weather phenomena. Second, you need to practice running in those different weather phenomena. Third, you need to check the weather before your race.

One of the biggest obstacles to winter marathon running is knowing what clothing to use. Normally, athletes who run or hike in winter weather use a crafty layering system. Once you begin to exercise, your body produces a lot of heat and you will start to sweat. Do too much sweating in cold weather, and you could soon find yourself suffering from hypothermia.

While not as effective, you still need layers when running a marathon in winter. Since you won’t have anywhere to pack those extra layers when you decide to shed them, you’ll have to tie off the unwanted clothing around your waist. 

Here’s the golden rule: Never, ever wear cotton. It gets wet and stays wet.

  • Start with a base layer. When running in especially cold weather, you’ll need a form-fitting base layer. Look for merino wool long underwear for both your legs and torso. It’ll keep you warm and wick extra moisture quickly.
  • Add a middle layer. If necessary, add a thin fleece or synthetic hoodie over your base layer.
  • Add an outer layer. This layer is meant to trap any body heat that escapes the other two layers. Normally you would wear a “puffy” synthetic or down coat with a hood. These are very thin but also very warm.
  • Add a shell. You won’t always need this outer layer, but you’ll want a thin rainproof coat or poncho. Look for water-proof and wind-breaking jackets and pants to make your shell.
  • Add Headgear. Your body loses heat through your head. Try wearing a ski balaclava, ski goggles, and buff. These should keep you warm under the two hoods, but add a quick-dry cap if needed.
  • Gloves. Poor circulation can quicken hypothermia, so when choosing winter gear make sure you have free-range of movement — especially when choosing gloves. Try a fleece base layer underneath a thicker, weather-proof outer layer. Make sure you choose gloves you can clip to a belt or another piece of clothing so you can take them off when you get warm.

  • Shoes/Boots. Running in boots is nigh impossible, so you’ll want to do your research and try on a number of different options. Start with trail runners for warmer weather, and then move on to form-fitting boots for colder weather.
  • Socks. Be sure that your socks are thin enough to fit in your footwear, but thick enough to keep you warm on a cold run. You’ll want wool or synthetic socks — never cotton.

What Is A Trail Marathon And How Can I Train For It?

Most runners will attempt a half-marathon and then a subsequent marathon at some point in their lives. These feats of strength are not for the faint of heart, and they can be both a test of willpower and endurance in addition to mental fortitude. Those with even more drive might embark upon an ultramarathon, some of which span a distance of hundreds of miles. And then there’s a completely different sort of beast that only the most patient, persistent, and capable runners will attempt to tackle: a trail marathon.

Many typical marathons are routed along streets and sidewalks, which means you’ll spend most of your time on pavement. While this can result in the same overuse injuries as those sustained by other professional athletes, they aren’t necessarily difficult for those who have trained in earnest. A lot of marathons also avoid hilly areas.

And therein lies the difference between a marathon and a trail marathon. 

The latter option is for those who prefer a steep climb surrounded by the natural world. When tackling a trail marathon, you won’t have to deal with vehicular traffic — you’ll just have to deal with making it up that next hill, and then down the other side without sliding off a cliff. No big deal, right?

For example, the Iron Mountain Trail Run takes place in Damascus, VA (Trail Town USA) each year and costs a nominal fee to register. The race itself takes place on the old Appalachian Trail (which was eventual redirected to the nearby Grayson Highlands), which was renamed the Iron Mountain Trail. Portions of the route will take runners on the road as well, depending on the course chosen.

There are four options: 16, 30, 40, and 50 miles. That means the IMTR isn’t just a trail marathon — it’s potentially a trail ultramarathon.

Those who fail to train are doomed from the start.

Before even thinking about a trail marathon, runners should do things the old-fashioned way. Run regularly, bike, and swim to build muscle and endurance, but be sure to give tired muscles a chance to build back up. When you’re ready, try a half-marathon, and then a marathon. If you handle those with enough grace, then it’s time to train for the trail marathon.

You should go on long-distance backpacking trips in order to build the muscles that don’t get used during other forms of exercise. You’ll be surprised how much everything hurts after each outing, but slowly you’ll start to feel better about the upcoming trip. Once you’ve grown accustomed to backpacking, it’s time to start running up mountains on the regular. After a few months — you’re ready to register for a lesson in pain.

How Often Are Runners Injured Or Killed While Running A Marathon?

Those who run know the risks — but without risk there is no reward to savor at the finish line. When the London Marathon started in 1981, there were only 6500 runners. Now there are an average of 32,000 who finish the race each year. Because it is the largest “normal sized” marathon in the world, it’s a good source of information through which we can sift to find our answers. How often are runners subject to injury or even death when they try to finish a marathon?

First, it’s important to note that not all marathons are conducted the same way. The London Marathon provides would-be runners with medical advice prior to the race, asking them to agree to only participate should their general healthcare provider agree that they are fit enough to do so. 

On the day of the race there are 40 first aid stations at regular intervals from start to finish — at which point runners will find themselves next to two fully functional field hospitals, one of which has its own intensive care unit for runners who have incurred serious injuries. At least 1000 medical staff are on standby to provide assistance to anyone who gets into trouble.

In other words, the London Marathon is conducted only with the greatest care in mind. 

We’ll start with deaths, the rate of which is fairly low. Over the entire twenty years during which the race has been conducted, there have only been seven deaths — which equates to about one in 67,414. Alternatively, you might consider that one person died for each two million miles run in total during the marathon. 

Casualties or “contacts” are recorded whenever someone stops for medical assistance, even minor, during or after the race. If someone has a bad blister in urgent need of draining, that counts as a contact. In 2000 there were 4,633 contacts out of 32,600 runners. 38 visited the intensive care hospital.

What does this all mean?

Well, you can take it to mean that learned runners are well aware of the risks and often take their own precautions before signing up for a long race, which is why the numbers stay so low. Because most of these contacts are for smaller injuries that don’t necessarily threaten to remove someone from the rest of the race, many runners are also smart enough to have any injury, however small, cared for.