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Desk Job Back Pain – 6 Stretches That Help

So you’ve finally landed that new gig – the one in the fancy air-conditioned office generic cubicle with poor air circulation, overlooking a vast city skyline an ever-amassing pile of post-its. Your first day nearly causes you a heart-attack goes swimmingly, but afterwards as you recline at home you begin to feel some unfamiliar aches and pains. You have two options at this point. You could ask Human Resources to drop a cool half-thousand on an ergonomic desk chair and listen to them laugh in your face be told a polite “no,” or you could do the following stretches to stay loose, limber, and pain-free at at work and at the end of the day.   Forward arm stretch – Interlock your fingers and press your palms away from your body, and hold for 10-20 seconds. Overhead arm stretch – The same as the forward arm stretch, but this time press your palms straight into the air. Hold for 10-20 seconds, easing your arms backwards as you keep them straight. Cross-body arm stretch – Reach one arm straight across your chest so that the inside of that elbow is close to your collarbone. Hug that arm with your other arm and breathe slowly, gently pulling that arm a little further with each exhale. Repeat 3-5 times and then switch arms. Chair twists – Using either your chair’s arms or back as support, cross your right leg over your left leg and slowly turn to your right. Focus on keeping your back upright and straight and take 3-5 deep breaths, holding the stretch as you inhale and turning a little further each time you exhale. Do this for directions. Standing side lean – Stand with your feet either together or shoulder-width apart, whichever is more comfortable. Inhale slowly as you raise both arms straight above your head, and the lower one arm as you exhale, and lean to that side. Keep your other arm straight as you lean, and feel the stretch from shoulder blade down to your hips. Breathe deeply there 3-5 times and switch sides. Chicken wing – Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Reach both hands behind your back and grab your left wrist with your right hand. Slowly pull your left arm across until your right elbow is bent slightly. Lean your head towards your right shoulder and take 3-5 slow, deep breaths, and let your left arm relax deeper into the stretch with each exhale. Switch sides and repeat. For even more tips and tricks on how to stay pain-free and healthy, please contact Starkwood Chiropractic at (503)...

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8 Exercises for Contractors to Stay Healthy & Avoid Injury

In a world where most industries are dominated by desk jobs and where people find their extra pay by driving, it is easy to focus on fitness solutions for the problems that plague those sedentary lifestyles. It is equally easy to take for granted the contractors and workers who construct those offices in which those workers live those sedentary lives, and easy to overlook the much more varied and complex physiological challenges those contractors face. From head to toe, manual workers face myriad opportunities for injuries and chronic pain. Fortunately, there are myriad stretches and exercises to prevent those problems. Below are just a few that will help protect the most important areas.   Neck and Shoulder Tension Relief Neck rolls – Relax your shoulders and lean your head towards your right shoulder like your trapezius is trying to whisper something to your ear. Without tensing, reach your arms downward to elongate the stretch. After 2-3 deep breaths, roll your chin smoothly to your chest and across to your other shoulder. Repeat for a total of 6-8 repetitions (3-4 stretches to each side). Shoulder rolls – Shrug your shoulders in a circular motion from front to back. Keep your neck relaxed as much as possible. Repeat for 6-8, and then switch sides.   Chest and Back Tension Relief Cross-body reach – Hold your right arm straight across your chest so that the inside of that elbow is close to your collarbone. Hug your right arm with your left arm and breathe slowly, gently pulling that arm a little further during each exhale. Repeat 3-5 times and then switch arms. Behind-the-neck reach – Reach both arms up, and bend one elbow to reach that hand to between your shoulder blades. Use your other hand to gently pull the elbow inwards to deepen the stretch. Hold for 3-5 breaths, deepening the stretch with each exhale. Chest/back stretch – Interlink your hands in front of you and round your back to stretch your shoulder blades. Hold this stretch for 3-5 deep breaths. Then interlink your hands behind your back. Pull down and away for 3-5 breaths to stretch your chest. Repeat each side.   Leg Tension Relief Straight leg forward bend – Stand with your feet either together or hip-width apart, whichever is more comfortable. Bend forward at the waist and reach your hands to your shins or as low as is comfortable towards the floor. Take 3-5 deep breaths here, easing your hands further down with each exhale. Wide-leg forward bend – Stand with your feet one leg’s length apart and bend forward at the waist. Cross your arms and bend as low as you comfortably can towards the floor. Take 3-5 breaths here, easing deeper into the stretch with each exhale. You can also relax your lower back here and rock gently from side to side as you stretch. Runner stretch – Stay in your wide-leg forward bend and turn towards your right leg. Frame your right foot with both your hands and stretch in that forward lunge. Take 3-5 slow breaths there, easing into the stretch with each exhale. Straighten your right leg, using your arms for balance if you need, and lift your toes off the floor to stretch from your hamstring down to your calf muscle. Take...

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Stretches to Help Nurses Prevent Pain – The Backbone of Healthcare

Nurses are the backbone of the healthcare world. They are simultaneously the support and the front lines, and they carry an extraordinary burden, both emotionally and physically. Because of this, nurses are uniquely susceptible to a variety of back and other health issues. Fortunately, there are also a variety of stretches and exercises nurses can do to stay healthy and pain-free while they keep the rest of us healthy and pain-free.   Behind-the-back neck stretch – I also like to call these chicken wings. Begin by standing with your feet hip-width apart. Reach both hands behind your back and take hold on your left wrist. Bring your left arm over so that your right arm is bent, and then lean your head towards your right shoulder. Look straight forward and take 3-5 deep breaths, easing your left arm deeper into the stretch with each exhale. After your 3-5 breaths, tilt your gaze upwards for 2-3 breaths, feeling the difference in the stretch compared to when you were looking straight ahead. Tilt your gaze down towards the floor for 2-3 breaths. On the last exhale, release your arm and bring your head back to a neutral position. Switch sides and repeat. Cross-body arm stretch/Behind-the-back arm stretch – Bring your right arm straight across your chest, with the inside of your elbow facing your collarbone. With your left arm, hug your right art tighter and take 3-5 long, calm breaths, pulling your right elbow a little closer to your collarbone with each exhale. Then reach your right arm up over your head. Bend your elbow and bring that hand down to as close to between your shoulder blades as it will go. Grab your right elbow with your left hand and gently pull that elbow over to increase the stretch. Breathe here for 3-5 breaths, deepening the stretch with each exhale. Bend slightly to the left to elongate the stretch down to your hips for 3-5 more breaths. Come back to neutral spine, release that arm, and switch sides. Seated forward bend –Begin by sitting on the floor with your feet directly out in front of you, legs straight and parallel. Root your hamstrings down and bend forward at your waist, bringing your hands alongside your legs and reaching as far forward as you can while still keeping your back as flat as possible. Take 5-8 deep breaths here, easing further forward even the tiniest bit with each exhale. Secretary stretch – Begin by sitting in the same position as you were when you started your seated forward bend. Cross your right leg over your left and plant your foot flat on the outside of your left knee. Twist to your right, steadying yourself with your right arm behind you and using your left arm to brace against that right knee and deepen your twisting stretch. Take 5-8 breaths here, turning a little further with each exhale. On your last exhale, keep your right leg where it is but turn to your left for a 1-2-breath counter-twist. Bring your right leg back straight, and then repeat the exercise with your left leg. Gluteal stretch – Begin by lying on your back with your legs bent like you are about to do crunches. Cross your right leg over your left, leaving a gap between...

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7 Pain-Relieving Stretches for Professional Drivers

The professional driving business has been booming across the Pacific Northwest. For passengers, this is a guaranteed convenience, as companies such as Lyft and Uber have a constant presence on the roads. For drivers, however, this means many hours spent sitting in seats that are not exactly ergonomic, and options for staying limber while in the car are painfully limited, in more ways than one. Nevertheless, there are a handful of exercises drivers can do to protect problem areas such as the neck and back. Shoulder rolls – Smoothly shrug your shoulders in a circular motion from front to back. Avoid tightening your neck as much as possible. After six to eight repetitions, change directions. Neck rolls – Relax your shoulders and lean your head to either side. Hold the stretch for a couple slowly breaths without tensing your shoulders. Roll your chin to your chest as your switch sides. Avoid rolling your neck back, as this can actually cause your neck and shoulders to tighten. Upper-body twists – Sit upright and turn your body carefully in either direction until you feel the stretch in your back and/or abdominal muscles. If you need help turning further, you may use the door arm rest or the seat next to you, but always keep at least one hand on the steering wheel at all times and never take your eyes off the road. You may feel your back pop during this exercise. Bonus: Neck rotations  – Caution: do NOT perform this stretch while the vehicle is in motion or if the vehicle is about to be in motion. While the above stretches were more preventative, this is an excellent stretch for people who have suffered whiplash. Keep both hands in place on your steering wheel and sit up tall and relaxed. Gently turn your head to the right until you feel the stretch down the left side of your neck. Hold the stretch there for 3-5 seconds, and then slowly switch sides. Repeat each side 10 times. While in-between passengers, it is crucial for drivers to exit the vehicle when possible and actively move about. Many drivers perform a few static stretches and then return to driving, but this is not enough. Elastic exercises like the three listed below are key to preventing aches and pains. Knee raises – Hold your hands at approximately waist-level. Raise one knee at a time to meet the corresponding hand, and repeat approximately twenty times with each leg. This can be done at a gentle walking pace or quickly like you’re running place. Jumping jacks –  Begin with your feet together and your arms at your sides. Jump your feet to approximately one leg’s length apart, and simultaneously raise your arms either above your head or to shoulder-level. Jump your feet back together and bring your arms back down to your sides. Repeat enough times to feel loose but not so many times that you begin to feel tired or out of breath. Pot stirs – Stand with your feet approximately one leg’s length apart and bend forward from your waist. Rest your left arm against your left thigh and let your right arm hang straight towards the ground. Rotate your right arm clockwise for eight repetitions and then switch directions. After eight counter-clockwise rotations,...

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How to Best Protect Your Muscles and Joints during Cold Winter Months

How to Best Protect Your Muscles and Joints during Cold Winter Months

Feeling a little stiffer after a day in the office now that autumn has turned to winter? Does it take your arms and legs a little longer to wake up when you’re preparing for your workout? Is your uncle complaining that his knee hurts so a storm must be coming? Well the good news is that you’re not alone. These are all just symptoms of wintertime cold weather and its effect on the human body. The effects of cold on your muscles: When temperatures drop, muscles contract more slowly because oxygen is not transferred to the muscle cells as efficiently. This means your muscles need to work harder to produce at their normal levels, raising the risk of muscle tears and injury. Muscles are also not as likely to receive the normal amount of attention and exercise because the cold weather forces people indoors and into a more sedentary lifestyle. Finally, cold weather can numb sensory mechanisms so that it’s harder to feel when you may be pushing certain muscle groups too hard during workouts. This can lead to serious injury as well. How to minimize these effects: Warm up and stretch before workouts. This is always important, but it’s even more so when your muscles are cold and stiff from the weather. Stretching prior to the workout should be more aerobic and cardio focused. While great post-workout, static stretching prior to can actually cause your muscles to tighten more from the strain. Dress warmly and cover your extremities. The body’s thermoregulatory mechanics highly prioritize internal organs, so you need to pick up the slack when it comes to keeping your arms, legs, fingers, toes, and ears warm and safe. Eat high-energy foods. Make sure you’re getting your daily servings of protein for quicker and more effective muscle recovery time. Also try to stay hydrated and eat foods rich in B Vitamins and iron.   The effects of cold on your joints: The effects of cold weather on your body’s joints are tougher to definitively prove than cold weather’s effects on your muscles, but there is a generally universal consensus that they do exist. The most stereotypical one is cold weather causing more pain for people suffering from arthritis. Changes in the weather cause the arthritis to flare up, oftentimes allowing the person to predict weather changes before they actually happen. The most widely accepted explanation for this phenomena centers around barometric pressure, which is essentially the pressure that Earth’s atmosphere is applying to us at all times. Weather changes cause the barometric pressure to rise and fall which makes the inflamed arthritis tissue expand and contract causing the pain. How to minimize these effects: Dress warm. Exposure to cold can cause your muscles to contract which leads to joint issues. Take warm baths, hot tubs, or swims in heated pools. The heat loosens up your muscles, and swimming may be the best way to get a great workout while applying the least amount of stress to your joints. Consider Vitamin D supplements. Arthritis pain and Vitamin D deficiency have been linked, so make sure you’re getting enough of it in your diet. Use a heating pad during periods of inactivity. A little focused heat on a painful joint can loosen up the surrounding muscles, widen the veins, and...

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6 Tips for How to Safely Exercise During the Extreme Heat of the Summer

6 Tips for How to Safely Exercise During the Extreme Heat of the Summer

Whether it’s exercising more often to keep up that ‘summer bod,’ or just having more fun playing sports outside on a nice day, when the sun comes out, we become active. Yet with that summer sun comes the heat, which can have significant effects on your muscles and the way your body works. Here are a few things to be aware of when playing outside this summer. Muscle Fatigue, Dehydration & Heat Stroke Your body is constantly doing things to regulate its internal temperature. Too keep it cool, either from exercise or air temperature, it creates sweat to reduce body heat through evaporation while pumping more blood to circulate through your skin. During exercise, your muscles are in higher demand for oxygen, which they receive through blood flow. If you’re exercising in hot conditions, it creates a stiff competition for the blood flow in your body, as a result your body temperate can rise, and if you’re muscles aren’t getting enough oxygen through blood flow you might notice them becoming fatigued or cramped. Dehydration is a common effect of exercising in the heat. As your body is trying to cool itself through sweat, its expelling fluids, and if you lose more water than you take in, dehydration can occur. Mild dehydration will cause fatigue and dizziness, while extreme dehydration can be more dangerous, causing mental and physical deterioration, even fatalities. Dehydration also reduces blood flow in the body, which in turn hiders its ability to cool itself, raising your internal temperature. Both exercise and hot weather will cause your body temperature to rise. If your internal temperature is taking on more heat than it’s dissipating, then it can reach the point of heat exhaustion. This is where your body temperature rises as high as 104 F. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, headache, weakness, and cold, clammy skin. If this goes untreated, it can lead to heat stroke, which is when your body temperature is above 104 F, and can be a life-threatening situation. How to Safely Exercise During the Scorching Summer Months: Be extra careful when exercising in very humid conditions, as it will hinder the amount of sweat that is actually evaporating from your skin, and reduce your body’s cooling effects. Drink lots of water. As your body continues to cool itself, it will need extra fluids to expel through sweat. Not consuming enough liquids can result in dehydration and the body overheating. Staying hydrated is critical to keeping body cool and restoring electrolytes and water you sweat out. Glycerol is a 3-carbon molecule that’s produced naturally in the body under healthy metabolism. Taking extra glycerol can help you retain more fluids and electrolytes during lengthy exercise so you don’t give up all your essential nutrients while you sweat. Cool yourself down before you begin. Studies have shown that lowering your body temperature before exercise will prolong the time it takes for you to heat up, and actually improve performance in hot weather. Dunk yourself in a frigid stream, take a cold shower, water or yourself in a cold room before you work out. Listen to your body when it’s hot out. Studies have shown that your brain will anticipate your body overheating and actually you slow down if its temperature is getting too hot. If you’re paying attention,...

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How To Warm Up Your Arm For Throwing

How To Warm Up Your Arm For Throwing

When you’re a pitcher on a baseball team, you have to make sure that your shoulder and arm are prepared to throw 50 to 75 pitches during a game. Injuries happen when your muscles aren’t ready to exert that kind of force. It stresses your muscles and joints, so you need to have a plan to warm up. Before you do anything, make sure your muscles are relaxed and loose. If you worked out the day before or just pitched a game, it tightens the shoulder muscles. Self myofascial release is a technique you can use if you can’t afford your own personal massage therapist. Warm-up Warm-ups for your muscles should work the same types of movement patterns that you’ll use when pitching. These include your scapula and rotator cuff muscles, but don’t underestimate the need to work out your entire body. Experts recommend resistance tubing. Warm-ups shouldn’t make you fatigued, nor are they a substitute for strengthening exercises. Work with your trainer and coach to find the right warm-up for your own level of play. Ease into Practice Don’t start by throwing fast pitches at a long distance. Throwing is stressful on your body. Throw pitches at short distances with your catcher standing up to begin. This gets your body prepared for the upcoming work it’s going to do. Every pitch you throw shouldn’t be an attempt to gain velocity or strength, because of the stress it puts on your muscles and joints. As you practice, increase the distance. Throw the ball with a bit of an arc, like you’re attempting to hit your catcher in the chest. The ball shouldn’t fly past them. If it does, you’re throwing too hard for the distance. It’s okay to ease your body into throwing so that when you are ready to do the hard work of gaining strength and speed, your arm and shoulder aren’t injured. Maintaining Your Arm Regular chiropractic care can benefit your spine and muscles. Many professional baseball players use the professional services of a chiropractor to help them maintain their pitching arm. The American Sports Medicine Institute recommends that youth pitchers have a program to build their strength and throwing ability. This is good advice no matter what age you are. Always make sure that you listen to your body. Fatigue and pain are indicators that your muscles and joints are stressed. Talk to your coach and trainer so that they can evaluate your ability to practice so that you avoid an...

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Sitting Is The New Smoking

Sitting Is The New Smoking

There is no denying that smoking is a lifestyle choice with serious health repercussions. Most people are aware of this and have made a conscious decision not to start smoking. Unfortunately, these same people may face just as high of a cancer risk if they lead a sedentary lifestyle. Unlike past generations where most people engaged in physical labor to earn a living, we live in an era where it’s common to spend all day in front of a computer at the office and then come home and spend the evening in front of the television. If we’re not in front of some type of screen, we’re driving somewhere in our cars. All of this sitting is having serious consequences for our health. Deadlier Than Tobacco Recently, a reporter from the Los Angeles Times interviewed Dr. James Levine, the director at the Arizona State University Obesity Solutions Initiative at the Mayo Clinic. Dr. Levine also invented the treadmill desk as a way to keep office workers moving during the day. He has discovered through his research that prolonged sitting greatly increases the risk of several types of cancer as well as heart disease, high cholesterol, and Type II diabetes. Like smoking, extensive sitting affects the body for years. This remains true even after people decide to incorporate more physical activity into their lives. Dr. Levine goes so far as to say that sitting for hours every day, year after year, is more dangerous to our health than years of smoking. Stating the Obvious: Too Much Sitting Leads to Obesity People who spend six or more hours per day sitting are far more likely to gain weight than those who make an effort to limit sitting to three hours a day or less. While a healthy diet and exercise are key to maintaining a desirable weight, so is moving frequently throughout the day. When we spend most of our waking hours at a desk or on the couch, there is no opportunity to burn off the calories we consume from meals and snacks. Obesity and all of the health complications that go with it is the natural result of so much inactivity. Stiff Muscles and Arthritis In addition to serious health consequences like cancer, prolonged sitting can cause problems with muscle stiffness that eventually causes arthritis and mobility problems later in life. Being locked in a seated position with elbows bent and leaning forward to stare at a screen slowly destroys the muscles over time. After decades of sitting like this, the muscles in the arms, neck, back, and legs become painful to move. That is because they were locked in place for so long that they lost their pliability. Sitting Less Improves Physical and Mental Health A steady, serious decline in physical health is not the only consequence of too much sitting. Medical researchers have also implicated it as a leading cause of clinical depression. Those who sit frequently and don’t exercise at all have nearly a 100 percent greater risk of struggling with this serious mood disorder. Physical activity increases levels of dopamine in the brain, a chemical that is responsible for mood regulation. People who lead a completely sedentary lifestyle can make small changes every day to help improve their health. As they meet each new goal, it only helps them feel better...

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Reduce Shoulder Pain & Increase Strength

Reduce Shoulder Pain & Increase Strength

Your shoulder is a complex joint made up of many tendons and muscles. When injuries or strain occur, it’s important to seek treatment from your physician. Sometimes, these injuries require surgery, but many conditions can be treated with physical therapy or exercises that focus on maintaining shoulder health. Check with a health professional to make sure the exercises listed below are appropriate for you. These exercises help with stability, flexibility, and strength – all of these are important for preventing strain or injury. Before You Begin Warming up the body to prepare it for exercise is important. Typically, a warm-up prior to exercising the shoulders consists of a few minutes of light aerobic exercise followed by some gentle stretches of the shoulders and arms. Aerobic exercise can be as simple as walking or light jogging in place. For a light warm-up stretch, try this: Lean forward so your back is at about a 45-degree angle and place one hand on a table or other similar support. Your other arm will hang freely. Gently swing your free arm forward, then back. Repeat for about ten seconds. Now, let your arm swing side to side. It will move toward your body and the support, then away. Let it swing gently but freely. Do this for the same amount of time: about ten seconds. Lastly, swing your arm in a slow, circular motion for ten seconds. Repeat this series of movements on the opposite arm. Stretch and Strengthen These four exercises will help stretch and strengthen the muscles and tendons of the shoulder while also enhancing flexibility. Regularity is key – for best results, make an effort to do these exercises five to six days each week.  Crossover Stretch. This stretch strengthens the posterior deltoid muscles. Simply sit or stand, relax the shoulders, and pull one arm across the chest. Be careful not to put pressure on the elbow. Switch sides. Repeat four more times on each side. Bicep Curl. Curls help strengthen the bicep and take pressure off of the shoulder. Stand or sit, relaxing the shoulders. Grip a light weight (one to two pounds) in each hand. Keeping your elbows snug against your sides, curl the weight in toward one bicep, then release. Repeat with the other arm. Movements should be slow and steady. Do five repetitions on each side. Internal Rotation.  This exercise helps maintain the pectoralis muscle. Stand comfortably with shoulders relaxed. Raise the arm so it’s in a straight line out from the shoulder., palm facing forward. Slowly bring it diagonally across the body, palm facing inward, until the arm touches the body, then back up to the starting position. Repeat four more times. Do the same with the opposite arm. External rotation. This is essentially the opposite of the internal rotation. Start with a straight arm snug against the body diagonally. Sweep the arm out and up, ending with the arm straight out from the shoulder, palm facing forward. Repeat for a total of five times with each arm. This exercise will help strengthen the deltoids and upper back muscles. Finish up your shoulder exercise routine by repeating the warmup stretch. Try to maintain a habit of doing these exercises five to six days each week and take note of improvements in shoulder pain, mobility and...

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Preparing For A Big Race

Preparing For A Big Race

You’ve already put in the long hours of conditioning, long-distance runs, speed work and stretching for hours every day. Now your 5k, half-marathon or full marathon (defined as a 26.2 mile race) is right around the corner. Hopefully at this point you have some idea of how to prepare for the race, but we want to give you some pointers on how to stay healthy and enjoy the race. It’s important that you do more than stretch and practice good nutrition. Protecting your health, along with your posture and joints, is imperative before taking on a race of this magnitude. Let’s take a look at practice recommendations, sleep requirements, the proper clothing and marathon preparations the day before your big race. Practice Recommendations Leaving yourself enough time to prepare for the marathon helps to ward off injury and ensure a smooth and steady race to the finish line. It’s always best to check with your primary care doctor, nutritionist and physical therapist or chiropractor (if you have any preexisting conditions) to make sure you’re healthy enough for a marathon. You can also get tips and advice from these professionals regarding nutrition and optimal performance as well. For example, appropriate training and proper weight distribution are absolutely crucial when it comes to the joints such as the knees, says Runners World. Healthy joints result from compressive forces that are even in terms of amount and direction, so learning the proper running form, wearing the right shoes, offsetting running regimens with cross training, and avoiding over-taxed joints are all keys to success. Race Day Before the big day, take it easy. There’s no need to run at all on this day; don’t worry, you won’t lose any conditioning, says Active. You want to warm up before you race, but don’t deplete your energy doing so. You’ll be doing enough walking by heading down to the race site, registering and picking up your number (many marathons do this the day before, not the day of). The night before, feel free to participate in carbo-loading but this isn’t a necessity. Many runners find that a lot of extra carbs help with energy levels during a long grueling race like a marathon. Don’t east too much and stuff yourself though. Eating too much can be counterproductive even though runners are historically told to eat a lot. A better rule of thumb is to practice a healthy eating plan, which you can replicate again the next day. This is where you want to consult with an expert to ensure you have the right nutrition for you. There’s nothing worse than running on a full stomach or not feeling well because you’re not used to loading up on pasta. Eat what’s right for you and that gels with your nutrition routine. Sleep You may have aspirations of sleeping like a baby for hours upon hours the night before the marathon. This lofty goal is not always attainable but definitely try your best to get some good rest. That being said, don’t stress about not getting enough sleep. Often the biggest hindrance to getting a good nights sleep the night before a race, is the desire to have a good nights sleep. Relax and let nature do it’s thing. If you’re nutrition is on point and you’ve...

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