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Runner Therapy: Drop the Weight, Drop the Time

Posted Sep 10 2010 6:00am

Speed workouts are not the only way to get faster. What if I told you that you could improve your running times without lifting a leg?

First things first, work on dropping your body fat percentage or simply lose weight if you need to. This training season my doc made a noise when I was weighed at my annual check up. A kind of ‘oops’ sound. His lips moved funny. What was it? I had gained 10 pounds since my last physical. That’s only one year! I was wondering why I wasn’t as fast this year as last with similar training.

The added non-usable mass needs to go, and when it does, so will you. Extra body fat is just that…extra. It is excess useless mass. It adds weight to drag you down, whereas lean muscle is helpful. Personally, my speed generally has an increase of 15-30 seconds on my average minute miles when I drop 5-10 pounds. The same will be true for you.

First, cut out sugar. Sugar is an inflammatory food. While it promotes the inflammation process, it also helps the body retain water. That being said, drink water daily. Lots of it. It may seem counter-intuitive, but to lose bloating and water weight, you have to drink more water! Once the body realizes it will get water replenishment, it is less likely to hold on to the water it already has. It also keeps your intestinal tract moving.

Speaking of moving your intestinal tract, don’t let your colon work so hard. Throw out the flour and refined foods, yeast and carbonated foods. They have no real nutritional value and will just add weight and bulk that has to work its way through your gastrointestinal system. They can also cause bloat (think of what yeast does to bread). This makes your gut work harder so there is less blood to the working muscle.

It also clogs up your colon. There is a reason why bagels are often called ‘butt plugs”. Not what we need to be swift. A healthy colon will help your body move faster for many reasons, including allowing more blood to be diverted to the working muscle instead of the internal organs.

Pick up your food or bread. The heavier it is, the heavier it is in your colon so the more time it will take to work through. Think fish instead of chicken or beef, liquid shakes and smoothies for recovery or pre-activity nutrition, and more fruits and veggies. Besides being packed with nutrients, they have a significant amount of water content that will flush through you.

I know for me I would rather do a speed workout than limit my eating habits, and getting back to racing weight has proved rather a challenge. But if we truly want to be better runners, we need to look at what we our fueling our bodies with. Like a car needs the right gasoline, so to we need the right foods to make our bodies work more efficiently. I just wish mine ran on Dunkin Donuts.

- Marisa

(Marisa, a MS PT SCS ATC, writes for iRunnerBlog’s Runner Therapy, is a physical therapist in private practice in midtown NYC.  She one of a dozen or so therapists  in the state of NY to be board certified in sports.)

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