Running for Asthma Sufferers

The following is a guest article, submitted by one of RJR’s readers. If you are interested in submitting a guest post, please email me: janelle@runjanellerun.com, and put “Guest Article” in the subject area.

If you are like many asthma sufferers, you are probably limited to the physical activities and sports you can participate in, like running. Having the desire to run, but restricted by your personal health conditions can seem like a Catch 22 situation, as running with asthma has the potential to provoke an asthma attack. You might also feel like running with this condition can worsen your condition. Naturally, this is all very frustrating!

Believe it or not, however, running with asthma is possible. While you should confer with your doctor first before starting any sort of running routine, it is definitely something that can be accomplished. If your asthma is under control, and you are diligent about taking care of your body, you may be able to avoid the symptoms of asthma all together when you run.

Tips for Athletes with Asthma

If you have the desire to run but feel like your asthma may limit you, take a look at the following tips:

Take your medication.

Make sure you always take your asthma medication before hitting the pavement. Your medication works to relax the muscles that surround your airways. When running, your lungs are going to be working harder and need the extra help that medication provides.

Carry a rescue inhaler.

This is something that any doctor will tell you when you ask about running with asthma. You should never be without a rescue inhaler while you run.

Remembering your rescue inhaler could save you from a trip to the hospital due to an asthma attack while you are out. The inhaler can easily be placed inside the pockets of your running shorts, or even in a secure armband.

Watch the weather.

Before you go running, either check the forecast or step outside to get an idea of what the weather will be like. Sometimes, colder weather makes it harder for those suffering from asthma to breathe, and can also cause flare-ups when you run. When the weather conditions are not ideal, choose to run on the treadmill indoors, or take the day off if you have to.

Asthma sufferers should also check the pollen count. This also aggravates asthma, and it is best not to push your body.

Warm up and cool down.

Although many people do not like to take the time to warm up before they begin running or cool down for a few minutes afterwards, these practices should never be skipped for those suffering from asthma!

Walking before your run gives your body a chance to get used to being outside and allows your lungs to warm up, getting them prepared to work harder. Cooling down afterwards is equally important. Going straight from a hard run to sitting down and resting is not good on your lungs, as they do not have any time to relax slowly. Try walking for a few minutes after you run and your lungs will feel a lot better.

Use a vaporizer.

When you get back from a run, it can be a good idea to do something more to help your lungs recover. The perfect way to do this is by using a vaporizer.

Vaporizers are the perfect remedy for tired or overworked lungs, and are known to be helpful in dealing with asthma. After running, this soothes and relaxes your lungs, even if there was no threat of an attack.

Running might seem impossible when you battle asthma every day, but after speaking with your doctor and making sure that your asthma is under control, use these tips and get your running shoes laced up. Your lungs will appreciate the exercise!

About the Author:

Marcela De Vivo is a freelance writer, yoga enthusiast and mom of three in Southern California. In addition to using yoga as a method to improve her breathing, she has also learned a lot about the importance of air quality. Follow her on Facebook today!

Sleep Lost May Be Weight Gained

Sleep is more important that you probably think.

The past two weeks have been BRUTAL. Waking up every day at 5:10 a.m. so that I could be out the door and running with the girls by 5:45 was catching up to me because I wasn’t getting to bed until midnight or later each night.

The result?

My runs felt sluggish, I felt fatigued all day, and I almost always wound up taking an involuntary nap for 1-2 hours in the middle of the day (good thing I was working from home!).

[image by Cleaner Croydon on flickr]

Sleep and Weight Loss Studies

There have been numerous studies done on the effects of sleep deprivation and weight gain/loss. And not getting enough sleep can cause hormone imbalances, which can wreak havoc on both your appetite and your metabolism.

According to Dr. Michael Breus, Clinical Psychologist and Board Certified Sleep Specialist, sleeping less causes you to consume more calories. Some of the reasons he lists are outlined below.

How Sleep Loss Negatively Impacts Your Weight

  • Changes to your glucose metabolism – causes your body to store the calories you consume, storing them as fat vs. burning them for energy
  • Increased production of cortisol – a stress-hormone that stimulates your appetite, prompting you to eat more
  • More time for food – because if you’re not sleeping, you have more time to eat [source]

According to Breus, there are two key hormones that factor into the sleep loss vs. weight gain equation: grehlin and leptin.

Grehlin is the hormone responsible for letting us know when to eat, while leptin is the hormone responsible for telling us when to stop eating. When we are sleep deprived, we have more grehlin and less leptin. Breus continues:

It’s not so much that if you sleep, you will lose weight, but if you are sleep-deprived, meaning that you are not getting enough minutes of sleep or good quality sleep, your metabolism will not function properly. [source]

Nurses’ Health Study

One of the longest sleep/weight studies ever conducted was the Nurses’ Health Study, which followed 68,000 middle-age American women for 16 years. According to the results of the study, women who slept five hours or less were 15 percent more likely to become obese.

A later version of the study, which looked at a cohort of younger women who worked rotating night shifts at work, found that the risk for developing diseases such as diabetes and obesity were significantly greater due to irregular circadian rhythms, caused by the nature of their jobs. [source]

University of Colorado Study

In a study conducted at the University of Colorado, sleep researchers tracked the sleep, metabolism and eating habits of 16 healthy men and women for two weeks. The subjects stayed in a monitored room that allowed researchers to record specific information – from the amount of oxygen they used to every single bite of food that was eaten. Strict sleep schedules were imposed, and the goal was to determine how one week of inadequate sleep would affect a person’s behavior, weight and physiology.

During the first week of the study, half of the subjects were allowed to sleep nine hours each night, while the other half stayed up until midnight and slept only five hours. All of the subjects were given access to unlimited amounts of food. During the second week of the study, the roles were switched.

The results of the study showed that the sleep deprived subjects actually had an increase in their metabolism, burning an extra 111 calories. However, it soon caught up with them as they ended up eating significantly more than those in the study who were allowed a good night of rest. When the researchers reversed the roles and allowed the sleep deprived subjects to get more sleep, they began to lose some of the weight they had gained during their first, sleep-deprived week. [source]

The Annals of Internal Medicine Report

Last fall, The Annals of Internal Medicine reported on a study by University of Chicago researchers, who found that lack of sleep alters the biology of fat cells. In the small study — just seven healthy volunteers — the researchers tracked the changes that occurred when subjects moved from 8.5 hours of sleep to just 4.5 hours.

After four nights of less sleep, their fat cells were less sensitive to insulin, a metabolic change associated with both diabetes and obesity. According to Matthew Brady, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Chicago and the senior author on the study, the lack of sleep aged the metabolic structure of fat cells by about 20 years. [source]

7 Positive Effects of Healthy Sleep Habits

Increases your mental and physical alertness

Perform better at your job; drive safer when you’re on the road. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2009, the highest number of fatal, single-car-run-off-the-road-accidents were due to sleep deprivation!

Improves your mood

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that well rested people tend to be happier.

Increases your energy

When you are well rested, you tend to have more energy – another no-brainer.

Keeps your heart healthy

Studies have linked sleep with your body’s blood vessels. The more sleep you get, the better your blood pressure and cholesterol tend to be, which are two risk factors for heart disease. Therefore, try to aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each night.

Reduces stress

When your body is sleep deprived, it produces stress hormones, which (unfortunately) causes an increase in blood pressure and cortisol. This can put you at an increased risk for heart attack, stroke; and ironically, it makes it harder for you to fall asleep.

Reduces inflammation

People who get 6 hours of sleep or less per night have higher blood levels of inflammatory proteins than those who get more sleep.

May help you lose weight

Sleep and metabolism are controlled by the same sections of your brain. When you are sleepy, certain hormones are at work, and when you are sleep deprived, these hormones may also be at work to drive your appetite.

[image by phalinn on flickr]

Ways to Improve Your Sleep

To help improve your sleep, try some of the following tips. Have additional advice that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear it in the comments section!

  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine at least 3 hours prior to bedtime.
  • Sleep in a dark room.
  • Establish a healthy sleep routine and maintain it.
  • Exercise regularly at least 5 days a week.
  • Avoid high-tech distractions in the bedroom.
  • Snack healthy at night.
  • Do 10 minutes of foam rolling before bed, focusing on the legs and upper back.

I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know?  – Ernest Hemingway

References:

  • Bouchez, C. The dream diet: Losing weight while you sleep. WebMd. Retrieved from: http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/lose-weight-while-sleeping
  • Breus, M. (June 2011). How sleep affects weight loss. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-michael-j-breus/sleep-weight-loss_b_881186.html
  • Harvard School of Public Health. The Obesity Prevention Source: Sleep. Retrieved from: http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/obesity-prevention-source/obesity-causes/sleep-and-obesity/
  • Mann, D. Coping with excessive sleepiness. WebMd. Retrieved from: http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/excessive-sleepiness-10/lack-of-sleep-weight-gain
  • Parker-Pope. T. (March 2013). Lost sleep can lead to weight gain. New York Times. Retrieved from: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/18/lost-sleep-can-lead-to-weight-gain/
  • Patel SR, Malhotra A, White DP, Gottlieb DJ, Hu FB. Association between reduced sleep and weight gain in women. Am J Epidemiol. 2006; 164:947-54.

Further Reading:

  • Breus, M. (November 2011). The sleep-weight connection: gender matters. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-michael-j-breus/sleep-weight-gain_b_1069409.html

The Health Benefits of Green Bananas

In Barbados, bananas are kind of a big deal….from green bananas to plantains to regular, yellow bananas – there seems to be no wrong way to consume this sometimes green, sometimes yellow, sometimes black and yellow spotted fruit. And believe me when I tell you that I’ve eaten bananas a ton of different ways. From banana mayonnaise sandwiches and peanut butter banana sandwiches to fried plantains and the green banana recipe I’m about to share – bananas are delicious and generally good for you.

4 Body Benefits of Green Bananas

Green bananas are nothing more than yellow bananas before they’ve ripened, which leads me to believe that bananas are better for you, nutritionally, if you eat them either when they’re ripe or when they are raw.

It’s just a theory.

Green bananas, unlike their yellow family members, are best eaten after they’ve been boiled or fried. Below are a few health benefits to chew over.

GREEN BANANAS ARE HIGH IN FIBER.

Just one cup of boiled green bananas contains 3.6 g of fiber, which satisfies 14 percent of your daily value! And as you may or may not already be aware, there is a decent correlation between the consumption of high fiber food and lowered instances of disease, such as diabetes. Bottom line? The stuff is good for you.

GREEN BANANAS INCREASE YOUR BODY’S ABILITY TO ABSORB NUTRIENTS.

Green bananas contain compounds called short chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which nourish the cell tissue lining of the small intestine, dramatically enhancing the body’s capacity to absorb nutrients [source].

GREEN BANANAS ARE HIGH IN POTASSIUM.

Just like yellow bananas, green bananas are just as high in potassium. For instance, just one cup of boiled green bananas contains 531 mg of potassium. Compare this with the American Heart Association’s recommended intake of 4,700 mg of potassium per day [source].

GREEN BANANAS CONTAIN RESISTANT STARCH.

By definition, resistant starch (RS) is any starch that is not digested in the small intestine but passes to the large bowel. And according to research conducted by Janine Higgins of the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, there is strong evidence to suggest that RS intake is associated with several changes in metabolism which may have positive health benefits such as:

  • Decreases glycemic and insulinemic responses
  • Lowers plasma cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations
  • Improves whole body insulin sensitivity
  • Increases satiety, and reduces fat storage.

Mashed Green Bananas with Corned Beef

If you’re a regular reader of this website, you’re probably aware that half of my background is Barbadian (on my mother’s side), and Bajan meals are incredibly flavorful. One of my favorite home-cooked meals is Mashed Green Bananas with Corned Beef; and on my mother’s most recent visit, I wasted no time putting her to work. I should mention that while the following recipe was made with corned beef, it is also sometimes served with salmon.

Ingredients:

  • green bananas (find them at your local hispanic food store; sometimes Asian food stores will have them too)
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1/2 of a fresh, green bell pepper
  • 1 can of corned beef
  • EVOO
  • crushed red pepper
  • 1-2 sprigs fresh parsley, chopped (to taste)
  • paprika
  • *fresh hot pepper, finely chopped

*optional

Directions:

  • Wash and score the green bananas lengthwise to peel off skin. 
  • Cut peeled bananas lengthwise and place into medium-size pot of water.
  • Bring bananas to a rapid boil and then reduce heat; continue to cook (covered) for 25 minutes or until bananas are tender.
  • With a potato masher, mash bananas until smooth. Add water to make it more creamy and smooth.

Directions for Corned Beef Sauce:

  • Sauté green pepper, onion, parsley, red pepper and paprika in a medium size pan with EVOO.
  • Add 1 cup of water to pan and cover with lid. Increase heat until it reaches a rapid boil. Add corned beef and reduce heat to a simmer for approximately 20 minutes.

Top mashed bananas with sauce and enjoy!

Resources:

Vadnais Versus Vermont and the Killington Stage Race

I drove up to Long Island a couple of days ago, specifically for one reason: to support my younger brother as he prepared to race in the Killington Stage Race (KSR). The race (held annually) is a 3-day-long cycling event that takes place on the roads that wind through the Green Mountains in Killington, Vermont.

Stage Racing

For those who may not be familiar, stage racing consists of one giant race that is broken down into sections and raced over the course of several days. Within the road cycling arena, there are different levels of stage racing. The Tour de France, for example, is one of the most well-known stage races, but because of its elite and prestigious level, it is also referred to as a ‘Grand Tour’.

A Grand Tour refers to one of the three major European professional cycling stage races: Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España. Collectively they are termed the Grand Tours, and all three races are similar in format being multi-week races with daily stages. They have a special status in the UCI regulations: more points for the UCI World Tour are distributed in Grand Tours than in other races, and they are the only stage races allowed to last longer than 14 days. [source]

Racing Categories for Cyclists

When racing, each cyclist competes in a category, or “Cat”. Cats range from 1 to 5. The lower the number, the more experienced and proficient the rider is (ex: Beginner cyclists would be in a Cat. 5 racing group). Below, you can view the breakdown of how cyclists advance through each Cat. Complete rules may be seen on the USA Cycling website here.

  • From Cat. 5 to Cat. 4 – 10 races, races must be at least 15 miles long or 10 miles long if it’s a criterium
  • From Cat. 4 to Cat. 3 – 20 points; or experience in 25 races with a minimum of 10 top-10 finishes with fields of 30 riders or more; or 20 pack finishes with fields over 50. 30 Points in 12 months is a mandatory upgrade.
  • From Cat. 3 to Cat. 2 – 30 points; 40 points in 12 months is a mandatory* upgrade
  • From Cat. 2 to Cat. 1 – 35 points**; 50 points in 12 months is a mandatory* upgrade

**Additionally, attending any USA Cycling Development Camp will yield a cyclist points toward any category except Cat. 1.

Racing the KSR

Yesterday, we made the 5-hour drive from Long Island to Killington, Vermont, giving ourselves plenty of time to drop our stuff off at the hotel, attend the check-in at the KSR race headquarters and then review the maps for the various courses.

Stepping out of the car, I was suddenly grateful to my mother for lending me some of her winter clothes. Only a couple of days before this Vermont trip, I had driven up to Long Island from North Carolina, bringing with me nothing more than the flip flops I had on my feet, a pair of jeans and several days-worth of t-shirts. I had progressed from 80+ degree weather to 65-degree weather to 40-degree weather in just 3 days.

55 miles: DONE.

There are at least 10 different stage races taking place each day, according to category and gender. While in Killington for the next few days, my brother will be competing in the Men’s Cat. 4 races.

Today, he raced well and placed 15th in a 55-miler, which allows him to advance to the next race tomorrow. In order to advance to the next race, riders must cross the finish line within 20 percent of the winner’s time.

Given the weather conditions, I am extremely proud of my brother as well as all of the other cyclists. Earlier, it was 37 degrees and pouring rain; and as I drove us back to the hotel so that we could both change out of our soaking wet clothes, it actually started snowing. Again- I was thankful for the winter gear!

Tomorrow, Stage 2 will cover roughly 63 miles over increasingly difficult terrain and in similar, challenging weather (they’re calling for a snow/rain mix). And if he does well, there will be a third and final stage race on Monday: a 10-mile time trial.

So, Why Cycling?

It started with a simple invitation from a friend. My brother had already started dabbling in cycling when he managed to dig out our father’s Cannondale. Then, a friend invited my brother to do a race, after which he became “hooked”.

But what does the KSR mean to my brother? What is he thinking as he and other cyclists battle it out over hills, through wind, rain and sleet and frozen limbs, risking nasty spills and dangerous curves on slick mountain roadways?

My brother sums it up in a way that is so typical of him:

Today’s race marks the next step in cycling for me. Every ride I do at this point is helping me to get stronger and faster. It’s about moving forward.

[image via]

**You may view additional pictures here or on my Facebook page.

Helpful Healthy Nutrition Facebook Pages

he following is a guest article, submitted by one of RJR’s readers. If you are interested in submitting a guest post, please email me: janelle@runjanellerun.com, and put “Guest Article” in the subject area.

Facebook serves many purposes for many people, but the social networking platform’s usefulness doesn’t end with staying in touch with old school friends and distant family members! Thanks to Facebook pages, people are able to converse and collaborate on a number of topics, and health, fitness, and nutrition are some of the most popular in a world full of fattening foods and reasons to stay on the couch.

If you’re working to build healthier eating habits and could use a bit of support from others on the same path, check out these five helpful healthy nutrition Facebook pages for a boost in both morale and know-how:

1. Scoop Nutrition

A big part of being a healthy eater is knowing the best foods to zero in on, and how to cook them, and that makes the Scoop Nutrition Facebook page a great one to “like,” filling your news feed with tips, tricks, and recipes several times each day.

Besides reaping the rewards of knowing your food better than ever before, you’re also likely to find yourself learning the kind of useful trivia that will make you a hit with friends and exercise buddies, alike!

2. Nutritional Disorders Journal

While it may not be a topic that often comes to mind, the fact is that our diets can play a major role in our likelihood of developing some forms of chronic disease, and the Nutritional Disorders Journal Facebook page is the perfect place to stop by for a healthy dose of insight on how your eating habits can affect your physical well-being.

From studies of foods that are linked to everything from obesity to autism, to those that reflect on the dangers of compounds like aspartame and bisphenol A, this Facebook page offers a unique look at food and diet – one that you’ll not find anywhere else.

3. NutritionFacts.org

No matter what your exact fitness goals are, a simple search in Google will reveal a long list of confusing facts, advice, and other information, often times causing enough conflict to leave you not knowing in which direction to go.

Aiming to solve that problem is the NutritionFacts.org Facebook page, an easy to access community that offers up straightforward, sensible tips and facts several times daily. Should you eat three meals per day, or six? Do you really need eight glasses of water per day? Is aspartame really as risky as many people claim it is? You’ll find answers to those questions and more on this page.

4. Nutrition Diva

The Nutrition Diva is a well-known figure on Facebook, and the more than 22,000 people who take part in what her page has to offer are all drawn by the creative and super healthy recipes, tips, and web links that she posts every day of the week. Besides those offerings, you’ll also find a constant discussion taking place here about any and every facet of eating well, giving you the opportunity to grow and learn with others who share the same interests as you.

5. Nutrition on a Budget

Let’s face it: eating healthy can get quite expensive, and that makes even considering a major change in our diet a headache for many millions of people around the world. Thankfully, the Nutrition on a Budget Facebook page provides you with multiple creative tips and tricks every single day, each of them designed with only two things in mind: saving you money, and making you healthier.

Whether you’re looking to create your own sauces, dressings, and dips in order to avoid preservatives, or you just need information on how to choose the products that will serve your pocket and body best, you’ll find everything you need here, along with lots of tips that you’d never knew you needed until you saw them!

About the Author:

Anna is the health blogger writing about weight loss herbs and various other natural health tips. She adores traveling and is passionate about healthy food, active lifestyles, and self-improvement.