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My 26.21 Mile Accomplishment

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I never expected to run a complete marathon. Running a marathon may sound like something only elite athletes or future Olympians would do. It just didn’t seem plausible for me to run for hours straight, especially since I grew up like anyone else. I was involved in cross country in high school, went to class, work, and lived my daily routine normally.  But this year on March 18, 2018, I ran my first ever marathon. After I graduated college, I wanted to take on a new challenge and decided to get back into running. I thought to myself that I might as well “go-big or go-home.” Next thing I knew, I signed myself up for the LA Marathon.

While I did run cross-country in my senior year of high school in 2011, long-distance running was still new to me. Cross-country races are 5 kilometers, or about 3.1 miles, while a marathon is 26.2 miles long. Not only that, but I didn’t keep up with running after high school since I got into weightlifting. As some may know, weightlifting builds muscle, which contradicts the effects that long distance cardio has to break down muscle and build endurance.

Photo by Go to Ann Kathrin Bopp on Unsplash

Signing Up- May 12, 2017

The first thing I did to prepare for the marathon was to give myself ample time between when I signed up for the marathon and when it actually took place. I signed up for the LA Marathon on May 12, 2017. That gave me a little over 10 months to prepare. Yes, I could have just started my training early and signed up later on, but by signing up early, there was an added motivation because actually doing the marathon became “real”. It also helped that once you sign up and pay for the LA Marathon, there are no refunds, which means there was no backing out now!

When I signed up for the LA Marathon, I signed up for two other races as well: The Santa Monica Classic 10k (6.2 miles) on September 10th, 2017 and the Pasadena Half Marathon (13.1 miles) on January 21, 2018. This three-race series was known as the “Conqur La Challenge” that gave me a bundle deal and helped me pace my progress throughout my training cycle.

Photo by Braden Collum on Unsplash

The First Milestone- September 10, 2017

Now, I was almost ready for a 6.1-mile race by September.  As time passed, these smaller run checkpoints ensured that my mileage was going up. I felt stronger and better with each practice run I made and noticed my time was improving, a critical factor when training for a race this long.

Besides my mileage going up over time, my running frequency also went up over time. I was still going to the gym and lifting weights in addition to my running as part of an experiment I was doing. I wanted to see if I could maintain my strength and minimize muscle loss while still building running endurance. Most people focus on bodybuilding or stamina, but balancing both at the same time was a challenge I wanted to overcome.

Photo by Chanan Greenblatt on Unsplash

The Second Milestone- January 21, 2018

Next came the half-marathon in January. I prepared for this by signing up with one of my closest friends. While we may not have trained together very often, we did go to all three races together. Knowing I was going through this marathon experience with a friend helped out a lot. I had someone to talk about training with and had support during the actual races. This was another great source of motivation and was very important to my training.

As the official marathon date approached closer and closer, I cut back the number of times I went to the gym to lift weights and increased the number of times I ran. Before beginning my marathon training, I was going to the gym 4-5 times a week and only running once a week. I slowly changed that to going to the gym 3-4 times a week and running two to three times a week.

Photo by Pietro Rampazzo on Unsplash

Marathon Day- March 18, 2018

As the marathon approached, I, unfortunately, had a minor setback. I hurt my knee after running some very steep hills a few weeks before the marathon. I realized I had neglected incline training but overcorrected by running too steep of an incline. While it was a tough decision, I decided to take some time off before the marathon to let my knee heal. Looking back, this was the right decision because I had already prepared a substantial amount up to this point. One extra week of running was not going to make a difference, but if I had chosen not to take some time off, I could have hurt my knee worse.

When the big day finally approached my knee had gotten better, but I was still a bit nervous about the grueling run I was about to partake in. However, I just remembered to have fun with it and before I knew it, I crossed the finish line and conquered the 26.2 miles!

“I crossed the finish line and conquered the 26.2 miles!”

Training for the LA Marathon and then actually running it were such great experiences and I hope to run another marathon sometime again in the future. I will take what worked from training for this marathon as well as what I learned (such as preventing injuries) to have a better experience next time around. Finishing a marathon helped me feel like I can accomplish whatever I set my mind to and it is a challenge I would want to conquer again. I hope that by sharing my experience in how I prepared for my first marathon, others can take something away or be inspired to run their first marathon soon.

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Fitness/ Diet

What You Need to Know About Activated Charcoal

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Activated charcoal has taken the modern-day food industry abuzz not just for its mystery and intrigue but also for its health benefits. Did you know it is found in the most ubiquitous foods such as ice cream, donuts, and coffee? Although activated charcoal is starting to become popular, it was widely utilized as a popular product in natural healing around the world. It was used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for generations, and there are recorded uses of activated charcoal that date back to 1550 BC.

What Does Activated Charcoal Look Like and How is it Made?

In terms of its looks, activated charcoal usually comes in the form of black powder. It is usually produced by burning a substance without oxygen that builds a deep char. The substances can include anything from bamboo to coconut shell charcoal. When synthesized in the lab, the char is heated to a high temperature and exposed to various gases to activate the charcoal.  This leads to a porous end product that is safe for consumption.  Once the activated charcoal has been activated, it can bind to a substance and eventually gets absorbed. Activated charcoal is tasteless, odorless and completely non-toxic.

What are Some of Its Health Benefits?

  • Removing Poison and Toxins: Activated charcoal is considered one of the most effective G.I. tract decontaminants on the market. It can quickly absorb 50-60% of unwanted elements that are found in the intestines and the stomach; in fact, these absorption effects can last for up to 2 hours. The positive effects of activated charcoal can continue to last up to two hours after it’s ingested. Many emergency rooms regularly use activated charcoal for handling certain types of poison. Charcoal can bind to and remove substances even after they enter the bloodstream.
  • Oral health: Activated charcoal can be particularly powerful at removing materials from the digestive system and your teeth. It doesn’t directly neutralize toxins, but it can bind to them and quickly remove harmful substances from your mouth. Activated charcoal can quickly remove stains from the teeth and whiten teeth in just a few uses.
  • Skincare: Activated charcoal also has many uses in beauty products. It’s commonly found in many facial scrubs and it’s widely effective at removing chemicals, dirt, and bacteria that can often build up along your skin. Regularly treating your skin with activated charcoal can be an excellent anti-aging solution. It will regularly remove toxins that can make you age faster.
  • Regulating Cholesterol Levels: Activated charcoal can work to remove bad cholesterol and increase the incidence of good cholesterol just as you would receive from any prescription medication.
  • Reduces Bloating: It can be extremely beneficial in removing gas caused by byproducts in food items. Taking 500 mg of activated charcoal can help to reduce bloating and gas regularly after a meal that contains these items.

Is Activated Charcoal Safe?

Activated charcoal is non-toxic; however, if you have any health risks, you should consult your primary care physician before internal use.

Sources:

  1. https://wellnessmama.com/247/activated-charcoal/
  2. https://www.homeremediesnaturalcures.com/2018/11/25/activated-charcoal-can-be-used-to-remove-years-of-toxins-poisons-and-mold-buildup-in-your-body/

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A Brief Guide to Injury Prevention

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Almost every sports game, whether that is on television or in real life, at least one athlete gets injured. These injuries can range from sprains (injuries from ligaments) to stress (injuries from bones), and they occur when there is overuse, direct impact, or application of force that is greater than how much the body can withstand. Injuries are also quite common in daily exercise routines and can often require long recovery periods with intensive care. Therefore, injury prevention is critical not just to optimize performance but also to maintain proper health. Here are a few simple tips on injury prevention:

  1. Adhere to Proper Form: While often overlooked, proper form can help in lessening impact stress and avoiding injury in the first place. If you are starting to exercise, you should consider learning the appropriate form and technique from a professional. The consequences of not maintaining proper form are misaligned muscles, tendons, and joints that have the potential to cause stairs. By keeping proper form, you are also ensuring that the right part of your body is getting worked.
  2. Purchase the Right Gear: Special attention must be given to shoes, so make sure you get the right ones that suit your exercise needs. For example, walking shoes will be a little stiffer, whereas running shoes are more flexible. Moreover, you need to understand your foot shape to know what kind of support you need for your soles. The type of shoe and insoles will not just minimize any ankle or joint foot damage but will also make your work out a more pleasant experience.
  3. Drink Plenty of Water: Sweating is your body’s way of losing essential fluids, so to replenish those, be sure to drink water before and after your sports training or workout, depending on the duration. Hydration will help prevent muscle cramps and keep sodium and potassium levels high.
  4. Eat Healthier: As seen consistently, it is no secret that Western diets are high in fats and carbs. Eating these foods will make your body gain weight and will prevent you from recovering from an injury. Instead, focus on eating tons of fruits and vegetables, as these foods are essential for recovery and injury prevention. Plant-based diets are filled with Vitamin D, calcium, and magnesium, which are optimal for bone recovery and growth.
  5. Know Your Physical Limitations: Understand how much your body can handle. This may mean that you need to start gradually and build up to a more vigorous workout. It is also just as important to cool down, as that gives time for the body to maintain flexibility, composure, and stability. Most importantly, listen to your body when it shows signs of immense physical fatigue.

Although these tips may help in preventive care, it is essential to be mindful of what steps to take in the case of an injury:

Sources:

  1. https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/news-features-and-safety-tips/Pages/Sports-Injury-Prevention-Tip-Sheet.aspx
  2. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/HealthyLiving/sports-injuries
  3. https://strengthrunning.com/2010/05/born-to-run-chris-mcdougall-ultra-runner/
  4. https://www.nfpt.com/blog/importance-proper-form-strength-training
  5. https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/features/how-choose-athletic-shoes#1
  6. https://www.livestrong.com/article/297024-why-is-it-important-to-wear-proper-shoes-while-working-out/
  7. https://www.orthoarizona.org/azbone/blog/hydration-and-injury-prevention
  8. https://www.health.harvard.edu/pain/10-tips-to-prevent-injuries-when-you-exercise
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3 Reasons Why Morning Exercise May Improve Your Health

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Morning exercise versus evening exercise? This lifestyle factor has been a point of contention for many individuals. Millennials, in particular, tend to exercise at night because traditional 9-5 jobs may not afford the luxuries of waking up early or working out at lunch. Some people, on the other hand, work out in the morning as it gives them a boost of energy to focus and concentrate for the day. Science, for the most part, has shown the effectiveness of exercise during the day. Check out some of these benefits below:

  1. Morning workouts have been proven to give a jumpstart to your day by “kickstarting your metabolism early.” In essence, you burn more calories and fat during the day rather than at night. For example, when you wake up in the morning, studies show that fasting while exercising improves glucose tolerance. In the study, there was a control group, a group that had fasted, and a group that consumed carbohydrates prior to exercising. The results demonstrated that those that were in the control and carbohydrate group had increased body weight, compared to the group that fasted. The group that fasted had higher muscle protein content and burned more fat stores compared to carbohydrate stores.
  2. A 2012 study conducted by Brigham Young University demonstrated that 45 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise decreases a person’s motivation for food. Researchers studied 35 women and assigned them to view food images, with and without a morning exercise. The women performed these two tasks in a random order. The researchers then found that after working out in the morning, attentional responses to food had decreased.
  3. A study conducted at Appalachian State University in North Carolina, 20 adults did a moderate-intensity level workout at 7 a.m., 1 p.m., or 7 p.m to monitor the participant’s sleep quality. What researchers found in the study was that the participants woke up fewer times in the night when they worked out at 7 in the morning, spending less time in REM sleep, which is considered the lightest phase of sleep.

In short, exercise during the morning helps you burn more fat stores, decreases attentional responses to food, and results in better sleep. Building up an exercise routine in the morning may seem daunting at first, but it is very doable with a little bit of consistency and motivation. This can be done by re-adjusting your sleep schedule by waking up earlier. Ultimately, exercising in the morning not only brings about the aforementioned health benefits but can also set a positive tone for the rest of the day by making you feel productive and energized.

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