Five Great Workout Tips For
Women by Claudia Piepenburg - editor of
Road Runner Sports Run Today
RUN (FOR TWO)
Most doctors now agree
that women who exercise regularly during pregnancy deliver healthier babies,
have easier labors and return to pre-pregnancy fitness levels much quicker than
their non-exercising counterparts. However, women need to follow guidelines
regarding running while pregnant. Check out these 10 tips:
overheat. This is very important. Don't run on warm, humid days and avoid
running indoors on a treadmill or indoor track where your body will heat up
more quickly than when you're outside. Internal temperatures above 101° can
cause birth defects in the developing fetus.
- Don't run to the point
of breathlessness. Avoid track workouts and races.
- Use a heart rate
monitor. Wearing a monitor guarantees that you aren't running too fast. All
your runs should be within your aerobic zone, which is 65% to 80% of your
maximum heart rate.
- Don't run longer than
40 minutes. Run less the further along you are in your pregnancy. The last
few weeks you may prefer to walk.
- Cool down after you
run. Cooling down is critical to your baby's safety. If you stop suddenly
without adequately cooling down, blood will pool in your legs restricting blood
flow to your baby.
- Exercise your lower back
and hamstring muscles with strengthening exercises. By doing so, you'll
alleviate the back pain most women experience late in their pregnancy.
- Listen to your body!
Rest when your body says so. Make sure you're well-hydrated and always eat
a balanced diet.
- Don't jump back into
running too soon after giving birth. You'll be more prone to
injuries after your pregnancy because your ligaments, joints and muscles will
be stretched. Wait at least four to five days after a normal delivery before
you run again. If you had a C-section, you may have to wait a month before
you'll be able to run without discomfort.
- When you start
running again, pretend you're a novice runner. Take your time getting back
into your running program. You may find that you'll have to combine walking and
jogging for a few weeks until you can run comfortably without
- Occasionally enjoy a
workout with your new baby. Running with your new
baby in a jogging stroller can be a delightful experience, for both you and the
child. Be sure to take these precautions.
- Be careful that you don't
take the baby out when he or she is too young. Wait until your baby is at least
four to six months old.
- Make sure your child is
dressed for the weather conditions.
- Don't take your child
out if it's too cold.
- Avoid pushing a running
stroller on hilly courses.
- Don't take your child out
every day. It's very tiring pushing the stroller, so don't exhaust yourself by
using the running stroller too often.
- Don't use the stroller in
races as it is quite dangerous to everyone, your baby included. Race insurance
generally doesn't cover baby strollers and most sanctioned racers don't allow
them anyway. If you want to run in a small, local event make sure you line up
at the back of the pack.
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The menstrual cycle is composed of three
phases: the follicular phase, ovulation and the luteal phase. The follicular
phase is usually days one through thirteen, with the first three to seven days
being menstruation. Hormone levels are low during this time. Ovulation occurs
on or about day fourteen. During the remaining days, the luteal phase, women
will exhibit high and relatively stable estrogen levels. Estrogen level affects
the type of fuel available for your workout. Low hormone levels provide you
with quick energy fuel, what you need when you're running fast. When your
estrogen levels are high, you're better able to run longer, slower distances.
During the follicular phase, for instance, you'll burn more carbohydrates,
which provide energy for speed workouts and racing. During the luteal phase
you'll burn more fat, which means longer, more intense runs will be easier.
Keep this in mind when you're planning your training and racing schedules.
Don't see your menstrual cycle as a hindrance; instead use your hormone levels
as a training aid.
Unfortunately there hasn't been a great deal of research on how menopause
affects runners. However, the few studies that have been done (most through the
Melpomene Institute located in St. Paul, Minnesota) indicate that many women
believe running helps to reduce the negative affects of menopause. Also, women
tend to associate changes in their running with age, not menopause. Those
changes in running relate to weekly mileage. Menopausal women who ran fewer
miles per week were most likely to say that they'd gained weight. The fewer
miles per week the women ran, the more likely they were to say that they felt
more aches and pains than the women who ran more miles. The women didn't care
whether the decreased mileage was related to the aging process or to menopause.
Women who said they gained weight were the ones who were running fewer miles,
while those who said they had maintained their weight ran more miles per week.
Based on these studies, it would be wise for menopausal women to try to
maintain their mileage levels.
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GET THE RIGHT FIT!
It's extremely uncomfortable to run in a pair of
shoes that don't fit. These days shoe companies offer a full range of models
designed specifically to fit a woman's foot. Most women have a foot that is
narrower than a man's, particularly in the heel. Women also often have a foot
with very tight tendons and ligaments in the heel and ankle area because of
their tendency to wear street shoes with a higher heel than men.
Sometimes the shift from street shoe to running shoe can be extremely
uncomfortable. Often women try to wear a running shoe that's too small for
them. Vanity gets in the way of comfort! Keep in mind that no one is going to
know what size shoe you're wearing. You're not going to have to walk around
with a big "10" tattooed on your forehead!
Like women's clothing
sizes, running shoe sizes sometimes vary considerably depending on many
factors: the manufacturer, the style or model sometimes. Even the country where
the shoe was made. And because your feet need room to spread when you run,
you'll always need to size up from your regular street shoe size anyway.
Remember a size eight Saucony may not fit like a size eight Brooks and neither
will fit if your street shoe size is an eight. Make sure you buy shoes that
Like shoes, it's
easier these days for women runners to find clothing that fits comfortably but
you may still have to experiment with various manufacturers to find what works
best for you. Women often have concerns with shorts bunching up and exposing
too much of their upper leg area. Shorts that "ride up"are also annoying.
And then there's the sport bra issue. You know what we're talking about:
straps that cut your shoulders; bras that fit too tightly; bras that don't give
you enough support; bras that cut into your chest; bras that don't pull on and
off easily. To help ease the pain of bra-shopping and to provide a place for
women to learn how to get the best fit, Road Runner Sports developed
MySportBra.com. Check it out to get all the information you need on how to make
the decision on the bra that's right for you.
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FIT VS. FAT
Women often start running
because they want to lose weight. If the weight doesn't come off as quickly as
they'd like they often start dieting. This is a dangerous practice. Your body
needs a certain amount of fat to simply survive. In women this amount, called
essential fat, is 4% of your total body weight.
Your body also has
6-15% of storage fat. This is the fat you can put on or take off depending on
your activity level and diet. Women also have sex-specific fat, which makes up
9-16% of their body weight. Sex-specific fat is stored in your pelvis, breasts,
hips and thighs. It's needed for normal reproductive functions. When women
start exercising to lose weight and then begin dieting to lose weight even
faster, they can sometimes get caught up in a dangerous cycle of under-eating.
It takes a lot of energy (fuel) to run four or five times a week, or to race on
occasion. If you're restricting your food intake while you're working out
regularly, you'll eventually begin to lose fat that you don't want to lose, the
sex-specific fat. If you're depriving yourself of foods simply to lose weight
faster, or if you think you'll run even better if you're thinner, you're making
Think of your body as a car. Cars don't run without the
proper fuel. If the gas in your car is a low-grade fuel that isn't the proper
type for the engine, the car won't run right. Your body is the same. Keep it
fueled with the right type and amounts of food (50-60% carbohydrates, 15-20%
fat, 10-20% protein) and you'll run strong for a long, long time!
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Women need to be
particularly aware of what's going on around them when they're running. Stick
to these guidelines when preparing your workouts:
- Don't wear headphones
when you're running outdoors! Even though you often see both men and women
listening to music while they're running outside, it's simply not a safe
practice. You must be able to hear if there's someone coming up behind you,
which you can't when you're wearing headphones. Save the headphones for your
- Be careful where you
run. Avoid areas that are far off the "beaten path," unless you're running with
- Try not to run the same
route at the same time every day, particularly if you run alone.
- It's always a good idea
to have a running buddy (or two or three), but if you prefer to run alone do be
- Avoid isolated areas.
- Don't run after dark,
particularly if you're in an unfamiliar area.
- Always run with a sense
of purpose. Be aware, don't run along with your head down. Don't look like a
victim. You're a strong, powerful woman! Run strong, but always be sensible and
don't take chances.
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Run Today contributors' info: Claudia Piepenburg
Claudia has been running for twenty-one years and is the current editor for
Peak Running Performance. She holds or has held state age-group records in
Michigan, North Carolina, Florida, Tennessee and Virginia. In 1990, she was
ranked 18th fastest masters woman in the world and 8th fastest masters woman in
the U.S. in 1990 and 1991. She competed in the 1988 Olympic Marathon Trials,
was 20th woman overall in the 1987 Boston Marathon and women's winner of the
1986 Virginia Beach Marathon.