Winter-izing Your Running Routine

Well, winter is officially here! As exciting as it is to see snow accumulating and chair lifts opening, the short days and cold temperatures make any attempt at sticking to an outdoor running regime much less appealing. Here are a few of my tried-and-true strategies to keep my milage up through the colder weather without resorting to slogging it out on the treadmill (aka "dread-mill").

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Find a Buddy

We have all heard the saying "misery loves company", and while I don't really like to associate running with misery, having a companion can certainly bring some excitement to an otherwise lack-lustre  solo run. Making a date to meet for a run also keeps you accountable and more likely to get out of bed to lace up your runners in the morning instead of hitting snooze. And the best part? Now you have someone to to enjoy your post-run brunch with.

Reflective gear and headlamps

For all you nine-to-fiver's out there, these winter months do not provide much daylight outside of business hours to enjoy the great outdoors. Safety first - when you are heading out in the darkness make sure that you can see and be seen. Find some outerwear that has sufficient reflective or fluorescent detailing and don't be shy to rock a headlamp to light your path. 

Dress for the elements

Our coastal climate can bring in a wide range of precipitation so it is best to be prepared for anything and everything. Wet days usually equal warmer temperatures so you can get away with less layers. The more layers you wear (especially if they happen to be cotton) soak up moisture like a sponge and can weigh you down. Single layered moisture wicking materials are going to be your best bet in the rain.

Cold weather can be more tricky - you want to dress warm, but not so warm that you sweat too much and get a chill. I usually go for a 3-layer approach:

  1. Base Layer: this layer is the most important because it is in contact with your skin. it is crucial that it is synthetic and moisture wicking to keep you dry.
  2. Insulation Layer: depending on your cold threshold, this layer may be optional. Fleece is a good option as it will retain heat and can still wick any moisture thats creeping through your other layers.
  3. Outer Layer: this baby is going to protect you from the elements. Finding a jacket that is wind-resistant, water-resistant AND has the option for ventilation with pit zips is an ideal trifecta of features. Throw on a hood and a little extra length to cover your bum and you'll be ready to brave the most blustery of days.

Strip down STAT 

During exercise your vessels will dilate to increase blood flow and oxygen delivery to your working tissues. Following exercise, these same vessels constrict to regulate your body temperature and bring it back to its set point. Combine this with a uniform of wet, cold running gear and your core body temperature can drop significantly. Get your wet clothes off as quickly as possible and change into warm, dry wear to avoid getting chilled. 

Know your limit, play within it

While these tips can help to enhance your winter running experience, don't try to be a hero - nobody will be impressed when you come home with frostbite, and hypothermia is nothing to brag about. Be aware of the conditions before you head out and plan your route accordingly. When going outside isn't an option, take advantage of the opportunity for an extra strength training session, stretch it out in a yoga class, hit the slopes, or just treat your body to a rest day. 

 

How do you stay warm and motivated to run through the winter?

Getting All the Awesome from your Avocado

Ahh, The Avocado. With its soft, creamy texture its no wonder this small fruit is often referred to as “Nature’s Mayonnaise”. Hailing from one of three main lineages (West Indian, Guatemalan, or Mexican), these little green fruits boast a whopping 20-25 grams of fat per serving accounting for over 80% of its total caloric value.

Thanks to this high fat and nutrient content, avocados offer a wide range of health benefits, including blood sugar control and insulin regulation, satiety and weight management and a decreased overall risk of inflammation in the body. Despite its unfavourable ratio of Omega 6:Omega 3 polyunsaturated fats (10:1 in favour of Omega 6), avocados contain predominantly more monounsaturated fats (including oleic acid). The monounsaturated fats account for 68% of the fat in one avocado and play an important role in heart-related health benefits. The fat content is also responsible for providing phytosterols (beta-sitosterol, campesterol, and stigmasterol), shown to provide anti-inflammatory benefits for the body, specifically the cardiovascular system.

It’s clear that aside from being a tasty addition to your dish, avocado packs a serious nutritious punch. Here are a few tips and trick to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck:

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Picking the Prime Avocado

Sometimes that massive pile of avocados at the store can be intimidating, piled 20 high in 50 shades of green. If you’re lucky, you’ll have timed your grocery shop just right to pick up a couple perfectly ripe avocados. Here’s how you’ll know if you’ve hit the jackpot:

  • You know your avocado is ripe for the picking when it is slightly soft to the touch. Don’t rely on the darkness of the skin to determine ripeness, go by touch. Hold it in your palm and press gently - a ripe avocado will yield slightly to pressure without feeling too squishy.
  • Make sure there are no dark sunken bruises or cracks in the skin... chances are the inside won’t be in great shape either!
  • Look for one with a slight neck rather than a rounded top, as it may have ripened on the tree longer and therefore have a richer flavour.
  • As a general rule, smaller sized avocado’s tend to be more oil and higher in fat where as the larger fruits have a lower oil and fat content.

The "Peel and Nick" Technique

It turns out that the greatest concentration of carotenoids (nutritious plant pigments) is contained in the dark green fruit closest to its skin. By peeling the avocado you ensure you don’t miss out on all the nutritional benefits that you would be by scooping or cutting. Plus, you’ll be at lower risk of experiencing a casualty in the kitchen, as it's a much safer alternative to using a knife to remove the seed.

  • After confirming that your avocado is ripe and ready to go, carefully cut the avocado in half length wise around the seed.
  • Rotate the avocado and cut lengthwise again so you have 4 equal sized quarters that you can separate and remove from the seed.
  • Now for the main event! Starting from the tip, carefully nick and peel each segment so you are left with only the flesh. Discard the peel and the pit.

Consumption!

Eating avocado in its raw, unheated form is best to minimize damage to the avocado’s fats and preserve all of its health benefits.

  • For an added nutrient punch, combine avocado with carotenoid rich foods, such as sweet potatoes, carrots and leafy greens. The fat content of the avocado increases the absorption of carotenoids into cells by two to six times, as well as converting specific carotenoids (beta-carotene) into active vitamin A.
  • Add a few slices to to accompany your eggs in the morning, sprinkle some cubes atop your salad at lunch, and even slap some on your burger for dinner. Heck, you can even use avocado to make a tasty treat for dessert!

Storage and Saving

Can’t polish it all off in one sitting? On a budget with no grocery store sale specials? No problem! Here are a few tips to make your avocado rations last all week long.

  • Don’t throw ‘em in the fridge til they’re ripe! You can ripen a firm avocado in a paper bag or fruit basket at room temperature. If you aren’t ready to eat it yet and don’t want it to go past its prime, a ripe avocado can be refrigerated for up to a week.
  • If you’re storing a pre-sliced avocado, keep it from going brown by sprinkling the exposed flesh with some lemon juice and storing it in a glass contained (or you can get one of these handy-dandy devices!)

For all of you avocado lovers out there, go forth and relish in your newfound knowledge of this beloved fruit! And for all you taste and texture critics, I hope this post has given you some reason to get out there and give our green little friends another chance at consumption.

 

Information can be empowering, but we all have unique health profiles and needs. The information in this post is intended for education purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for a visit with your primary care physician. For more information or individualized treatment, contact Dr. Crape for a consultation here.

 

References:

  • http://www.californiaavocado.com/blog/why-you-should-peel-avocados
  • http://whfoods.org/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=5&utm_source=feedly_reader&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rss_feed
  • Fulgoni V, Dreher M, and Davenport A. Contribution of Avocados to the Diets of U. S. Adults: NHANES, 2001-2006. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Volume 110, Issue 9, Supplement, September 2010, Page A30.
  • Fulgoni VL 3rd, Dreher M, and Davenport AJ. Avocado consumption is associated with better diet quality and nutrient intake, and lower metabolic syndrome risk in US adults: results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2001-2008. Nutr J. 2013 Jan 2;12:1. doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-12-1.
  • Kopec RE, Cooperstone JL, Schweiggert RM, et al. Avocado consumption enhances human postprandial provitamin A absorption and conversion from a novel high-β-carotene tomato sauce and from carrots. J Nutr. 2014 Aug;144(8):1158-66.
  • Wien M, Haddad E, Oda K, et al. A randomized crossover study to evaluate the effect of Hass avocado intake on post-ingestive satiety, glucose and insulin levels, and subsequent energy intake in overweight adults. Nutr J. 2013 Nov 27;12:155.

Hydrotherapy: diving into the benefits of hot and cold

If you have ever had the pleasure of spending time at the Scandinave Spa in Whistler, then you are aware that it is easily one of the most relaxing spots around. Aside from the pristine setting and soothing silence, what is it about the baths, steam rooms and saunas that leave us in such a blissful state?

Hydrotherapy is based on the idea that health and healing are proportional to the normal flow of blood throughout the body. By using hot and cold temperatures it is possible to manipulate the amount of circulation to a given tissue and even improve the quality of blood.

It is widely recognized that extreme water temperatures produce mechanical effects, such as hot water helping to relax tight muscles or the use of an ice pack to limit swelling. These properties also improve the quality of the blood by enhancing blood flow through the organs responsible for detoxification, working to eliminate waste products and increase beneficial elements, such as oxygen, nutrients and red blood cells.

Research conducted on the health benefits of hot and cold water exposure boils down to one common theme: stress. When we stress our body with exposure to extreme temperatures, it activates our sympathetic (“fight or flight”) response, causing an elevation in stress hormones in the short term. However, similar to the stress induced by regular exercise, exposure to these acute stresses over a longer duration provokes a compensatory adaption and overall reduction in stress hormones.

 

Temperature Tips:

HEAT:

Exposure to heat produces an immediate vasodilatory effect, which acts to increase oxygen absorption, CO2 excretion, decrease tissue tone and increase blood glucose. Recently it has been found that regular sauna use (2-3 times per week) has produced a significantly lower risk of fatal heat attacks. Using heat has also been shown to reduce oxidative stress in both health and sick individuals by lowering prostaglandin levels, increasing antioxidant capacity, and improving both lipid profiles and insulin sensitivity.

COLD:

The effects of cold application can vary depending on the duration of application. A short cold application has a stimulating effect on metabolism, causing increased oxygen absorption and co2 excretion (more so than hot application), as well as increasing nitrogen absorption and excretion and increase cell counts of both WBC and RBC. Long term cold application, as you would expect, has a depressing effect on metabolism, causing blood vessels to constrict and send blood back to internal organs and glands.

By exposing the body to cold temperatures it is possible to enhance the immune system by increasing the number and activity of cytotoxic T cells responsible for fending off infected or damaged cells. Short cold applications can also act to stabilize blood pressure and improve circulation through vessel constriction and a compensatory increase in heart rate.

Longer exposure to cold temperature as an analgesic effect by increasing the release of endorphins and catecholamines which both carry proven pain-reducing properties

 

Bringing the Scandinave experience to your Home:

Cold shower blast

  • This is the simplest (but maybe not the most enjoyable) way to incorporate the stimulating effects of hydrotherapy into your daily life. By turning the tap to the coldest setting for the final 10-30 seconds of your morning shower, you’ll notice a boost of alertness (not surprising), mood and may even notice increased recovery if you’ve already gotten your workout in that morning.

Sauna or steam room

  • If you have access to a steam room or sauna at the gym or your apartment building, incorporating regular use (try 20 minutes, 2-3 times per week) into your schedule can aid in detoxification and elimination of toxins, lower oxidative stress and even enhance physical performance.

Warming socks treatment

  • This treatment is especially indicated in any case of congestion (including the sinuses, ears, eyes, throat and lungs) by increasing circulation to the feet and drawing the congestion down from the upper body. This should be done right before bedtime using the following steps:
  • Soak a pair of cotton socks in cold water, wring them out thoroughly and put them on your warm feet. Immediately cover with thick, dry wool socks and go to bed. When you wake in the morning the wet cotton socks will be dry.

It should go without saying that exposure to both extreme heat or cold can be overly stressful and even dangerous. Be careful that you do not get too hot or cold, make sure you stay well hydrated and always consult with a health care professional before embarking on any aggressive hydrotherapy adventures.

If this post wasn't inspiring enough to , check out the My Reason Video Series from the to take a look into the lives of some Whistler locals and how they incorporate hydrotherapy and the Scandinave Spa into their unique lifestyle.

 

 

Information can be empowering, but we all have unique health profiles and needs. The information in this post is intended for education purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for a visit with your primary care physician. For more information or individualized treatment, book in for a consultation with Dr. Crape here.