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Article originally published by Competitor.com and reposted here with their permission.

Managing the balance between family, fitness and work is never easy, but it becomes all the more challenging when your job is being a professional athlete. Yet, more and more mom runners are coming back from pregnancy stronger than ever. On the mental and emotional front enduring labor or sleepless nights spent caring for a sick child can certainly help to put a race or hard training day into perspective. And good time management is critical to making everything fit in a day. For athletes, that might mean focusing more on the quality of workouts instead of the quantity.

“Becoming a mom has made me a better runner,” says Megan Lund-Lizotte, 30, mom to 1-year-old Maven. “I know I have to get as much out of my exercise time as possible.”

Lund-Lizotte made the 2013 U.S. team for the World Mountain Running Championships last September while she was still breast-feeding Maven, so she traveled to the race in Poland with her daughter, a breast pump and her mom. (She finished 32nd in the 9K race, helping the U.S. to a fifth-place team finish.)

There is also the argument that being a mom can make a woman more physically fit. Just seven months after having her son, Colt, Kara Goucher ran the 2011 Boston Marathon in 2:24:52. Paula Radcliffe won the 2007 New York City Marathon less than a year after having her daughter, Isla. Deena Kastor gave birth to baby girl Piper Bloom in February 2011 and went for her first easy run less than three weeks later. She eased back into training, but saw her fitness return remarkably fast, so quickly that she raced again at the NYRR New York Mini 10K less than four months after giving birth.

While increased blood flow and the growth hormones associated with pregnancy could possibly give some benefits, the boost, if any, is typically short lived and doesn’t make up for a lack of sleep or endless diaper changing.

The time it takes to return to peak fitness has more to do with an athlete’s ability to maintain fitness while pregnant, how their bodies adapt postpartum, whether or not they are breastfeeding (Lund-Lizotte admits to dehydrating quickly when she was still nursing Maven) and how hard they are able to work to get back to top form. Maintaining core strength through pregnancy and immediately afterward to keep the pelvis and lumbar region stabilized is one of the key contributors to postpartum running performance and health.

It might be psychological or it might be something that can’t be measured or quantified.

“Running started out as something purely for me, my escape, my ‘me’ time,” says two-time U.S. 5,000-meter champion Lauren Fleshman, 32, mother to Jude, 11-months old. “It’s still my ‘me’ time, but what I didn’t expect was how whole I would feel when I cross a finish line and Jude is there.”

Darcy Africa, a mom, ultrarunner and two-time winner of Colorado’s grueling Hardrock 100 offers a similar observation.

“When I was running up towards the Hardrock finish line, a friend asked what I most wanted to see or do (after I finished),” she says. “All I wanted at that moment was to see Sophia.”


HumanaVitality is not an insurance product. This material is intended for informational use only and should not be construed as medical advice or used in place of consulting a licensed medical professional. You should consult with your doctor before making dietary changes or starting an exercise routine.


Article originally published by Competitor.com and reposted here with their permission.

Jason Devaney shares his ideas on how to stay safe when you’re out running in the heat.

With summer fast approaching, runners everywhere can rejoice. Gone are the cold, rainy days of early spring and here are the long days of sun and warmth.

Working out when it’s nice outside is one of my favorite things to do. Everything is in bloom, I get to wear my sweatband, and my lungs don’t burn because of the cold air I sucked in all winter.

But be careful what you wish for.

Running can be dangerous when the needle on your outdoor thermometer is buried. Hydrating before, during, and after a run is super important. So is staying as cool as possible, while at the same time making sure you’re protected from the sun. And, of course, always bring identification and a few bucks in case you get into trouble. A phone helps, too.

Here are five tips to remember while running in the heat.

1. Hydrate

Hydration is never more important than during a hot summer run. Your body heats up as you work out, and some people can lose five or 10 pounds of sweat during a long run. You can do one of three things: Drive your running route ahead of time and stash some water and sports drink in various spots, bring a fuel belt, or leave cold drinks at your house and run a loop past it every few miles so you can drink up.

2. Dress Lightly

Now is clearly not the time of year to be wearing running pants or heavy base layers. A pair of light, breathable running shorts, along with a top made of a wicking material, is all you need. Throw on a hat and sunglasses to protect your scalp and face from the sun, and wear sunscreen—particularly on your nose, arms, neck, and legs (the back of my calves always burn). If you’re wearing a tank top, be sure to get your shoulders.

3. Be Prepared

You should be prepared for every run, whether it’s 20 degrees and snowing, 85 and sunny and everything in between. Being prepared means bringing identification (try a Road ID), cash and/or a credit card and a phone. You never know what can happen out there. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are very serious … if you start to feel ill, call for help or flag down a motorist.

4. Cool Down

When you return home from your summer run, you’re most likely drenched with sweat and feeling overheated. Grab a drink of cold water and hop in the shower. Turn the water as cold as you can stand it and let your body cool down. Or, if you’re feeling particularly bold, give yourself an ice bath and bring your body temperature down to a normal level again.

5. Ease Into It

After months of running in colder temperatures your body won’t be used to pounding out 15 miles in the hot summer sun. So don’t jump right into it. If you have a long run scheduled and the forecast calls for temperatures in the 90s, head out before sunrise when it’s not as warm. Or wait until the evening. Try to run along shady paths as much as possible. After a few weeks your body will adapt—but don’t become complacent. If it’s too hot or if you’re not prepared, it’s better to wait a day than to to go put yourself in potential danger.


HumanaVitality is not an insurance product. This material is intended for informational use only and should not be construed as medical advice or used in place of consulting a licensed medical professional. You should consult with your doctor before making dietary changes or starting an exercise routine.

Ever had a calorie-fest because you felt like you “earned” it after a particularly difficult workout? Maybe you made reservations at your favorite restaurant after achieving an exciting health goal. Food rewards, while delicious, can set you back and potentially unravel all that hard work you’ve done.  Consider some of these healthy rewards for your next milestone:

  1. Shop till you drop: Get your 10,000 steps while shopping for some new clothes that show off your hard work. Or spend your Vitality Bucks on something from your Amazon Wishlist! You can even visit the HumanaVitality® Mall to purchase a Macy’s or Amazon.com Gift Card to sweeten the deal.
  2. That’s Entertainment! Film buffs can revel in their rewards by using Vitality Bucks to purchase Hollywood Movie Money® Movie Admissions.  If movies aren’t your thing, see if any of your favorite bands are touring, or keep an eye out for when your favorite team is playing a home game. Rewarding yourself with something you can look forward to will keep you motivated to continue with healthy habits.
  3. Step it up: Reward yourself with a gift that keeps giving—visit the HumanaVitality® Mall for Pedometers, Heart Rate monitors and accessories that you can use to earn even more Vitality Points!
  4. An iPod a day?: You can even use those hard earned Vitality Bucks on Apple Products.  From mp3 players to tablets, the HumanaVitality Mall has some great gadgets that can make you feel great about making those habits stick.

What other non-food rewards do you use to stay motivated? Let us know!

Photo used under Flickr Creative Commons license courtesy oftoasty.HumanaVitality is not an insurance product. This material is intended for informational use only and should not be construed as medical advice or used in place of consulting a licensed medical professional. You should consult with your doctor before making dietary changes.

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Article originally published by WomensRunning.com and reposted here with their permission.

Spring is an exciting time of year for running. Warm weather and better training conditions makes any runner excited to add miles to their day. However increasing mileage and intensity too fast can lead to a dreaded affliction- shin splints. Also known as medial tibial stress syndrome, shin splints are a troublesome and persistent injury that is the result of an escalation of activity. How do you treat this issue and, better yet, keep it from reoccurring? Try these tips.

Rest and Ice
This is the last thing most runners want to hear, but a little bit of time off can be the most beneficial treatment for shin splints. Plan for some down time, ice the shin, and take ibuprofen to reduce inflammation. When returning to running, increase mileage slowly. If time off sounds unpalatable, remember that shin splints can turn into stress fractures if left untreated. A week off now is better than 4-6 weeks of injury rest.

Consider cross-training
While nothing can replace our beloved running, there are many exercises that will keep you strong and fit while shin pain subsides. Try a spin class or a ride on a stationery bike. Head to the pool for a lap swim. If you really miss running, you can mimic your training plan by aqua jogging, except without the impact.

Get fitted for correct running shoes
Improper footwear is often the source of shin splints. Immediately replace running shoes that are old and worn out. If you pronate while running, which is rolling inward upon impact, it is essential to be in a stability shoe. Professionals at your local running store will be able to analyze your gait and fit you in the proper shoe.

Stretch and Roll
Tight muscles will only increase pain felt during running. Grab a foam roller and focus on calf muscles. Try adding calf raises to your routine. Imbalances can often times lead to pain on one leg. Use these exercises to determine if one side is weaker than the other. Adding a dynamic warm up routine before running can increase range of motion, making runners less susceptible to injury.

Stabilize that shin
Wrapping up shins with a bandage or applying KT Tape pre-run can help keep them secure and stabilized during runs. Compression socks and sleeves can either be worn during a run or after to promote recovery.

Vary your running surfaces
Cambered roads and other hard surfaces create more stress on your legs. While recovering from shin splints, plan for runs on soft surfaces, like gentle trails or grass.

Stop overstriding
Understanding the way you run can help prevent shin splints. Overstriders tend to land heel first, with their foot way ahead of the rest of their body. A way to fix this running form issue is to measure your cadence. Count every foot strike with your left leg for a minute. Ideal cadence is between 170-180. If you fall below this, try to increase your cadence by 5-10% to reduce risk of injury.

HumanaVitality is not an insurance product. This material is intended for informational use only and should not be construed as medical advice or used in place of consulting a licensed medical professional. You should consult with your doctor before making dietary changes or starting an exercise routine.

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Article originally published by Competitor.com and reposted here with their permission.

Here are some ideas for eating and drinking the best carbohydrate sources for runners. Eat (and drink) these items to up your carbohydrate intake and reap their performance benefits.

Runners need a lot of carbohydrate. Why? Because your muscles are fueled primarily on carbohydrate when you run hard. Thus, sports nutrition experts generally recommend that runners get approximately 60 percent of their daily calories from carbohydrate.

But you need to get the right kinds of carbs at the right times. Immediately before, during, and after exercise, fast-acting high-glycemic carbs are best. At all other times, your carbs should come from low-glycemic foods that provide longer-lasting energy and are packed with lots of other nutrition.

The following are the top 10 carbohydrate sources for runners. Some are best for use during and after exercise, while others are ideal for regular meals and snacks.

1. Bananas. Because they are easy to eat and digest and are loaded with fast-acting carbohydrates (one large banana provides 31 grams of carbs), bananas make the perfect pre- or post-exercise snack. Just be sure to have your banana with some form of protein after exercise to promote muscle recovery and repair.

2. Berries Strawberries, blueberries, and other berries are among the most nutritious sources of carbohydrate. They are rich in vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that promote health and performance in all kinds of ways. Berries are not the most concentrated source of carbs, however (a full cup of strawberries contains just 12 grams), so don’t rely on them too heavily to meet your daily carbohydrate needs.

3. Brown Rice Cereal grains such as brown rice are among the richest sources of carbohydrate. One cup of brown rice has 45 grams of carbohydrate. Whole grains such as brown rice are considered healthier than refined grains such as white rice because they contain more fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They are also absorbed more slowly (their glycemic index is lower), so they provide more lasting energy and promote less fat storage.

4. Real energy bars — the kind designed specifically for use before, during, and after exercise — are great for fueling and refueling around workouts as they provide abundant, fast energy. Before and after workouts, choose bars that are high in carbs, moderate in protein, and low in fat and fiber. With 44 grams of carbs, 9 grams of protein, 3.5 grams of fat, and 1 gram of fiber, PowerBar Performance is a good example. For snacking, choose bars made from real food — fruit, nuts, and whole grains — and with minimal added sugar, like Forze GPS.

5. Lowfat milk-based foods such as yogurt are very rich sources of carbohydrate. A six-ounce serving of lowfat blueberry yogurt supplies 26 grams of carbs. Lowfat yogurt is a better choice before and immediately after exercise because it has a higher glycemic index, so the carbs go to work quickly. Most yogurts, even those with fruit in them, contain added sugar, which is totally unnecessary and less healthy. So try to find a brand with no added sugar. 

6. Old-fashioned oatmeal is an ideal pre-exercise breakfast choice. It’s easy to eat and digest and provides a ton of carbs: one half-cup gives you a whopping 54 grams! Add a sliced banana and wash it down with a glass of OJ and you’ll take in 100-plus grams of carbohydrate.

7. Sports Drinks such as Gatorade Endurance and Accelerade provide the carbs you need to fuel your muscles during exercise, along with water and electrolytes for hydration (plus protein to reduce muscle damage, in the case of Accelerade). Because they are high in sugar, though, these products should only be used immediately before, during, and right after workouts and races.

8. Tomato Sauce is a rich source of carbohydrate (at roughly 21 grams per cup), as well as various vitamins and minerals and antioxidants such as lycopene. Studies have shown that thanks to these antioxidants, regular tomato sauce eaters have a lower risk for certain diseases, including prostate cancer in men.

9. Whole Grain Bread. We Americans love our sandwiches. But often we make them with low-quality breads that contain refined grains. Whole-grain breads are a better choice. They don’t have any more carbohydrate than refined-grain breads (one slice has 12 grams), but they have more fiber, vitamins and minerals, and a lower glycemic index to give you longer-lasting energy. Just note that even most whole-grain breads have added sugar, so try to find brands that don’t.

10. Whole Wheat Pasta. You don’t need me to tell you that pasta is high in carbs. One cup of whole-wheat spaghetti provides 37 grams. As with other grain-based foods, whole-grain pasta supplies more nutrition, yields longer-lasting energy, and promotes less fat storage than regular pasta. Serve it with a protein, such as shellfish or meatballs made with lean ground beef or turkey, and you get a lower glycemic index meal for even longer-lasting energy.


HumanaVitality is not an insurance product. This material is intended for informational use only and should not be construed as medical advice or used in place of consulting a licensed medical professional. You should consult with your doctor before making dietary changes or starting an exercise routine.