Tag: Move

What Are the Purple Dots on Michael Phelps? Cupping Has An Olympic Moment

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Michael Phelps competed in the final of the men’s 4x100-meter freestyle relay during the 2016 Summer Olympics with some strange purple dots on his arm and back.

Michael Phelps competed in the final of the men’s 4×100-meter freestyle relay during the 2016 Summer Olympics with some strange purple dots on his arm and back.Credit Matt Slocum/Associated Press

Have you been wondering why swimmer Michael Phelps and other Olympians are sporting deep-purple circles on their limbs and midsections?

While it may look like the athletes have been in a bar fight, the telltale purple dots actually are signs of “cupping,” an ancient Chinese healing practice that is experiencing an Olympic moment.

In cupping, practitioners of the healing technique — or sometimes the athletes themselves — place specialized, round circular cups on the skin. Then they use either heat or an air pump to create suction between the cup and the skin, pulling the skin slightly up and away from the underlying muscles.

The suction typically only lasts for a few minutes, but it’s enough time to cause the capillaries just beneath the surface to rupture, creating the circular, photogenic bruises that have been so visible on Mr. Phelps as well as members of the U.S. men’s gymnastics team. If the bruising effect looks oddly familiar, it’s because it’s the same thing that happens when someone sucks on your neck and leaves a hickey.

Thanks @arschmitty for my cupping today!!! #mpswim #mp @chasekalisz

A photo posted by Michael Phelps (@m_phelps00) on Sep 10, 2015 at 12:29pm PDT

Physiologically, cupping is thought to draw blood to the affected area, reducing soreness and speeding healing of overworked muscles. Athletes who use it swear by it, saying it keeps them injury free and speeds recovery. Mr. Phelps, whose shoulders were dotted with the purple marks as he powered his 4×100 freestyle relay team to a gold medal Sunday, featured a cupping treatment in a recent Under Armour video. He also posted an Instagram photo showing himself stretched on a table as his teammate, fellow Olympian swimmer Allison Schmitt, placed several pressurized cups along the back of his thighs. “Thanks for my cupping today!” he wrote.

While there’s no question athletes and many coaches and trainers believe in the treatment, there’s not much science to determine whether cupping offers a real physiological benefit or whether the athletes simply are enjoying a placebo effect.

One 2012 study of 61 people with chronic neck pain compared cupping to a technique called progressive muscle relaxation, or P.M.R., during which a patient deliberately tenses his muscles and then focuses on relaxing them. Half the patients used cupping while the other half used P.M.R. Both patient groups reported similar reductions in pain after 12 weeks of treatment. Notably, the patients who had used cupping scored higher on measurements of well-being and felt less pain when pressure was applied to the area. Even so, the researchers noted that more study is needed to determine the potential benefits of cupping.

Another experiment involving 40 patients who suffered from knee arthritis found that people who underwent cupping reported less pain after four months compared to arthritis sufferers in a control group who were not treated. But the cupped group knew they were being treated — it’s not easy to blind people about whether a suction cup is being attached to their leg or not — and so the benefits might have been due primarily to a placebo effect.

Still, a placebo effect can be beneficial, and for athletes at the Olympic level any legal edge, however tenuous, may be worth a few eye-catching bruises.

A few years ago Denver Broncos player DeMarcus Ware posted a photo on Instagram showing his back covered with 19 clear cups as a therapist held a flame used to heat the cup before placing it on the skin. Celebrities including Jennifer Aniston and Gwyneth Paltrow have also been photographed with cupping marks on their skin.

Last year, Swimming World magazine noted that some college programs had begun using cupping therapy as well as former Olympian Natalie Coughlin, who has posted a number of photos of herself undergoing the treatment.

U.S. gymnast Alexander Naddour was sporting the purple dots during the men’s qualifying rounds on Saturday in Rio. He told USA Today that he bought a do-it-yourself cupping kit from Amazon. “That’s been the secret that I have had through this year that keeps me healthy,” Mr. Naddour told USA Today. “It’s been better than any money I’ve spent on anything else.”

Running for Your Past and Future Self

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Speed Goggles: Someday

For professional runners, the time before a race is when you think about where you’ve come from and where you’re going.

By JEREMY TEICHER on Publish Date August 3, 2016.

Before a big race, I always feel more sensitive than usual. I feel as if I could cry any minute and also never cry again. I feel nervous. I notice the texture of the grass on the warm-up field more than I usually do — I also sense my heartbeat more than on a normal day when I don’t notice it at all. Stray frizzy hairs tickle the back of my neck. I try my best to keep the thoughts positive and productive and inspiring. Or at least distracting in a good way. When I step on the starting line, I will need to be razor-focused and entirely present – more so than any other time in my life. But on the warm-up field, it is perfectly fine — in fact, encouraged — to daydream.

“Speed Goggles” is a five-part series created by Alexi Pappas and Jeremy Teicher, who also created the feature film “Tracktown.” Ms. Pappas will be competing in the 2016 Olympics for Greece.

Watch: “The Elite Runner.” | “Normal People” | “Nightmares Mean You Care.” | “Group Run.”

Exercise May Ease Hot Flashes, Provided It’s Vigorous

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Credit Getty Images

Hot flashes are a lamentable part of reaching middle age for many women. While drug treatments may provide relief, two new studies suggest that the right type of exercise might lessen both the frequency and discomfiting severity of hot flashes by changing how the body regulates its internal temperature.

As estrogen levels drop with the onset of menopause, many women become less adept, physiologically, at dealing with changes to internal and external temperatures. The result, famously, is the hot flash (also known as a hot flush), during which women can feel sudden, overwhelming heat and experience copious sweating, a problem that in some cases can linger for years.

Hormone replacement therapy can effectively combat hot flashes, and antidepressants may also help, though drug treatments have well-established side effects. Weight loss also may lessen hot flashes, but losing weight after menopause is difficult.

So researchers at Liverpool John Moores University in England and other institutions recently began to consider whether exercise might help.

Endurance exercise, after all, improves the body’s ability to regulate temperature, the scientists knew. Athletes, especially those in strenuous sports like distance running and cycling, start to sweat at a lower body temperature than out-of-shape people. Athletes’ blood vessels also carry more blood to the skin surface to release unwanted heat, even when they aren’t exercising.

If exercise had a similar effect on older, out-of-shape women’s internal thermostats, the scientists speculated, it might also lessen the number or the intensity of their hot flashes.

Previous studies examining exercise as a treatment for hot flashes had shown mixed results, the scientists knew. However, many of those experiments had been short term and involved walking or similarly light exercise, which might be too gentle to cause the physiological changes needed to reduce hot flashes.

So for the two new studies, one of which was published in the Journal of Physiology and the other in Menopause (using the same data to examine different aspects of exercise and hot flashes), the researchers decided to look at the effects of slightly more strenuous workouts.

They first recruited 21 menopausal women who did not currently exercise but did experience hot flashes. According to diaries each woman kept for a week at the start of the study, some women were having 100 or more of them each week.

The scientists also measured each woman’s general health, fitness, blood flow to the brain (which affects heat responses) and, most elaborately, ability to respond to heat stress. For that test, researchers fitted the women with suits that almost completely covered their bodies. The suits contained tubes that could be filled with water. By raising the temperature of the water, the scientists could induce hot flashes — which typically occur if an affected woman’s skin grows hot — and also track her body’s general ability to deal with heat stress.

Fourteen of the women then began an exercise program, while seven, who served as controls, did not. (This was a small pilot study, and the researchers allowed the women to choose whether to exercise or not.)

The sessions, all of them supervised by trainers, at first consisted of 30 minutes of moderate jogging or bicycling three times a week. Gradually, the workouts became longer and more intense, until by the end of four months the women were jogging or pedaling four or five times per week for 45 minutes at a pace that definitely caused them to pant and sweat.

They also, in the last of those 16 weeks, kept another diary of their hot flashes.

Then they returned to the lab to repeat the original tests.

The results showed that the exercisers, unsurprisingly, were considerably more aerobically fit now, while the control group’s fitness was unchanged.

More striking, the women who had exercised showed much better ability to regulate their body heat. When they wore the suit filled with warm water, they began to sweat a little earlier and more heavily than they had before, showing that their bodies could generally dissipate heat better.

But at the same time, during an actual hot flash induced by the hot suit, the exercisers perspired less and showed a lower rise in skin temperature than the control group. Their hot flashes were less intense than those of the women who had not worked out.

Probably best of all from the standpoint of the volunteers who had exercised, they turned out to have experienced far fewer hot flashes near the end of the experiment, according to their diaries, with the average frequency declining by more than 60 percent.

These findings strongly suggest that “improvements in fitness with a regular exercise program will have potential benefits on hot flushes,” said Helen Jones, a professor of exercise science at Liverpool John Moores University, who oversaw the new studies.

Precisely how exercise might change a women’s susceptibility to hot flashes is still not completely clear, although the researchers noted that the women who exercised developed better blood flow to the surface of their skin and to their brains during heat stress. That heightened blood flow most likely aided the operations of portions of the brain that regulate body temperature, Dr. Jones said.

The cautionary subtext of this study, though, is that to be effective against hot flashes, exercise probably needs to be sustained and somewhat strenuous, she said. “A leisurely walk for 30 minutes once a week is not going to have the required impact.”

Speed Goggles: Group Run

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Group Run

Sometimes, your running partners don’t show up.

Publish Date July 28, 2016.

I often make plans to meet companions for a run, but they may not always show up. This could be due to oversleeping, miscommunication or honest forgetfulness. When this happens, there is a rule of thumb among some runners to wait one minute for every five minutes the scheduled run was meant to last. Beyond that, it is considered acceptable to begin the run without the latecomers. Usually the rule is followed without a second thought. However, I find that the closer I am to a big race, the more important companionship is for me.

“Speed Goggles” is a five-part series created by Alexi Pappas and Jeremy Teicher, who also created the feature film “Tracktown.” Ms. Pappas will be competing in the 2016 Olympics for Greece.

Watch: “The Elite Runner.” | “Normal People” | “Nightmares Mean You Care.”.

To Boost Memory: Study, Wait, Then Exercise

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Credit Illustration by Renaud Vigourt

Learning requires more than the acquisition of unfamiliar knowledge; that new information or know-how, if it’s to be more than ephemeral, must be consolidated and securely stored in long-term memory.

Mental repetition is one way to do that, of course. But mounting scientific evidence suggests that what we do physically also plays an important role in this process. Sleep, for instance, reinforces memory. And recent experiments show that when mice and rats jog on running wheels after acquiring a new skill, they learn much better than sedentary rodents do. Exercise seems to increase the production of biochemicals in the body and brain related to mental function.

Researchers at the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behavior at Radboud University in the Netherlands and the University of Edinburgh have begun to explore this connection. For a study published this month in Current Biology, 72 healthy adult men and women spent about 40 minutes undergoing a standard test of visual and spatial learning. They observed pictures on a computer screen and then were asked to remember their locations.

Afterward, the subjects all watched nature documentaries. Two-thirds of them also exercised: Half were first put through interval training on exercise bicycles for 35 minutes immediately after completing the test; the others did the same workout four hours after the test.

Two days later, everyone returned to the lab and repeated the original computerized test while an M.R.I. machine scanned their brain activity.

Those who exercised four hours after the test recognized and recreated the picture locations most accurately. Their brain activity was subtly different, too, showing a more consistent pattern of neural activity. The study’s authors suggest that their brains might have been functioning more efficiently because they had learned the patterns so fully. But why delaying exercise for four hours was more effective than an immediate workout remains mysterious. By contrast, rodents do better in many experiments if they work out right after learning.

Eelco van Dongen, the study’s lead author and a former researcher at Radboud University (he is now a policy officer at the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research), hopes that future studies will help determine both the optimal time to exercise and the ideal activity to reinforce learning. Workouts that are too strenuous “could be less positive or even detrimental” to acquiring knowledge, Dr. van Dongen says, while gentle exertions — “a short, slow walk,” he adds — might not prompt enough of an increase in the biochemicals needed to influence how the brain learns.

For now, he says, if you are trying to memorize a PowerPoint narrative or teach yourself macroeconomics, it could be beneficial to exercise a few hours after a study session. “Long-term memory is not only influenced by what happens when you learn new things,” he says, “but also by the processes that take place in the hours and days afterward, when new information is stabilized and integrated in your brain.”

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Being Unfit May Be Almost as Bad for You as Smoking

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Credit Getty Images

Being out of shape could be more harmful to health and longevity than most people expect, according to a new, long-term study of middle-aged men. The study finds that poor physical fitness may be second only to smoking as a risk factor for premature death.

It is not news that aerobic capacity can influence lifespan. Many past epidemiological studies have found that people with low physical fitness tend to be at high risk of premature death. Conversely, people with robust aerobic capacity are likely to have long lives.

But most of those studies followed people for about 10 to 20 years, which is a lengthy period of time for science but nowhere near most of our actual lifespans. Some of those studies also enrolled people who already were elderly or infirm, making it difficult to extrapolate the findings to younger, healthier people.

So for the new study, which was published this week in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, researchers from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden and other institutions turned to an impressively large and long-term database of information about Swedish men.

The data set, prosaically named the Study of Men Born in 1913, involved exactly that. In 1963, almost 1,000 healthy 50-year-old men in Gothenburg who had been born in 1913 agreed to be studied for the rest of their lives, in order to help scientists better understand lifetime risks for disease, especially heart disease.

The men completed baseline health testing in 1963, including measures of their blood pressure, weight and cholesterol, and whether they exercised and smoked. Four years later, when the volunteers were 54, some underwent more extensive testing, including an exercise stress test designed to precisely determine their maximum aerobic capacity, or VO2 max. Using the results, the scientists developed a mathematical formula that allowed them to estimate the aerobic capacity of the rest of the participants.

Aerobic capacity is an interesting measure for scientists to study, because it is affected by both genetics and lifestyle. Some portion of our VO2 max is innate; we inherit it from our parents. But much of our endurance capacity is determined by our lifestyle. Being sedentary lowers VO2 max, as does being overweight. Exercise raises it.

Among this group of middle-aged men, aerobic capacities ranged from slight to impressively high, and generally reflected the men’s self-reported exercise habits. Men who said that they seldom worked out tended to have a low VO2 max. (Because VO2 max is more objective than self-reports about exercise, the researchers focused on it.)

To determine what impact fitness might have on lifespan, the scientists grouped the men into three categories: those with low, medium or high aerobic capacity at age 54.

Then they followed the men for almost 50 years. During that time, the surviving volunteers completed follow-up health testing about once each decade. The scientists also tracked deaths among the men, based on a national registry.

Then they compared the risk of relatively early death to a variety of health parameters, particularly each man’s VO2 max, blood pressure, cholesterol profile and history of smoking. (They did not include body weight as a separate measure, because it was indirectly reflected by VO2 max.)

Not surprisingly, smoking had the greatest impact on lifespan. It substantially shortened lives.

But low aerobic capacity wasn’t far behind. The men in the group with the lowest VO2 max had a 21 percent higher risk of dying prematurely than those with middling aerobic capacity, and about a 42 percent higher risk of early death than the men who were the most fit.

Poor fitness turned out to be unhealthier even than high blood pressure or poor cholesterol profiles, the researchers found. Highly fit men with elevated blood pressure or relatively unhealthy cholesterol profiles tended to live longer than out-of-shape men with good blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Of course, this study found links between poor fitness and shortened lifespans. It cannot prove that one caused the other, or explain how VO2 max might affect lifespan. However, the findings raise the possibility, as the scientists speculate, that by strengthening the body, better fitness may lower the risk of a variety of chronic diseases.

This study also involved men — and Swedish men at that. So whether the findings are applicable to other people, particularly women, is uncertain.

But “there is no reason not to think” that the rest of us would also share any beneficial associations between fitness and longevity, said Per Ladenvall, a researcher at the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, who led the study. Past studies involving women have found such links, he said.

Encouragingly, if you now are concerned about the state of your particular aerobic capacity, you most likely can increase it just by getting up and moving. “Even small amounts of physical activity,” Dr. Ladenvall said, “may have positive effects on fitness.”

For Alexi Pappas, Nightmares Mean You Care

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Nightmares Mean You Care

Ever have a terrible dream the night before a race? Alexi Pappas has.

By JEREMY TEICHER on Publish Date July 20, 2016.

Nightmares are a strange but not uncommon phenomenon for runners the evening before a race. I have had nightmares about running in clown shoes, running in a uniform constructed out of my own hair and running through a track filled entirely with pudding. I have known teammates to dream of running through oceans. But pre-race nightmares should not be feared. Rather, they should rather be embraced as a friendly indication that we care very much about the challenge ahead. Nervous is a cousin to excited.

“Speed Goggles” is a five-part series created by Alexi Pappas and Jeremy Teicher, who also created the feature film “Tracktown.” Watch Part 1: “The Elite Runner.” or Part 2: “Normal People”. Ms. Pappas will be competing in the 2016 Olympics for Greece.

Lifting Lighter Weights Can Be Just as Effective as Heavy Ones

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Credit Getty Images

Upending conventions about how best to strength train, a new study finds that people who lift relatively light weights can build just as much strength and muscle size as those who grunt through sessions using much heftier weights — if they plan their workouts correctly.

Strength training has long been dominated by the idea that to develop a physique like that of Charles Atlas or even Zac Efron, we — and I include women here — must load our barbells or machines with almost as much weight as we can bear.

In traditional weight training programs, in fact, we are told to first find the heaviest amount of weight that we possibly can lift one time. This is our one-repetition maximum weight. We then use this to shape the rest of the program by lifting 80 to 90 percent of that amount eight to 10 times, until our affected arms or legs shake with fatigue.

This approach to weight training is very effective, says Stuart Phillips, a professor of kinesiology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, who has long studied muscles and exercise. It builds muscle strength and size, possibly, many experts believe, by sparking a surge in the body’s production of testosterone and human growth hormone.

But many people find lifting such heavy weights to be daunting or downright unpleasant, which can discourage them from taking up or continuing with a resistance-training program, Dr. Phillips says.

So in recent years, he and his colleagues have been looking into the effects of a different type of weight training, which employs much lighter weights hefted through as many as 25 repetitions.

Since 2010, his lab has published several studies in which volunteers followed either the traditional regimen using heavy weights or an alternative that employed much slighter weight stacks. In general, the lifters’ results were comparable.

But those studies had been small and featured volunteers who were new to the gym, potentially skewing the outcomes, Dr. Phillips says. Almost everyone who takes up weight training shows significant improvements in strength and muscle size, making it difficult to tease out the impacts of one version of training versus another.

So for the new study, which was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and published this month in the Journal of Applied Physiology, he and his colleagues recruited 49 young men who had been weight training for a year or more. (The scientists plan to study women and older people in future studies.)

All completed tests of strength, fitness, hormone levels and muscular health, then were randomly divided into two groups.

One group was assigned to follow the standard regimen, in which weights were set at between 75 and 90 percent of the man’s one-repetition maximum and the volunteer lifted until he could not lift again, usually after about 10 repetitions.

The other volunteers began the lighter routine. Their weights were set at between 30 and 50 percent of each man’s one-repetition maximum, and he lifted them as many as 25 times, until the muscles were exhausted.

All of the volunteers performed three sets of their various lifts four times per week for 12 weeks.

Then they returned to the lab to have muscle strength, size and health reassessed and their hormone levels re-measured.

The results were unequivocal. There were no significant differences between the two groups. All of the men had gained muscle strength and size, and these gains were almost identical, whether they had lifted heavy or light weights.

Interestingly, the scientists found no connection between changes in the men’s hormone levels and their gains in strength and muscle size. All of the men had more testosterone and human growth hormone flowing through their bodies after the workouts. But the degree of those changes in hormone levels did not correlate with their gains in strength.

Instead, the key to getting stronger for these men, Dr. Phillips and his colleagues decided, was to grow tired. The volunteers in both groups had to attain almost total muscular fatigue in order to increase their muscles’ size and strength.

That finding suggests, Dr. Phillips says, that there is something about the cellular mechanisms jump-started in muscle tissue by exhaustion that enables you to develop arms like the first lady’s.

This data does not prove, though, that one approach to lifting weights is necessarily better than the other, Dr. Phillips says.

“But some people will find it much easier or less intimidating” to lift lighter weights, he says, even though they need to complete more repetitions in order to tire their muscles. They also may experience fewer injuries, he says, although that possibility has not yet been tested.

For now, someone hoping to strengthen his or her muscles should choose a weight that feels tolerable and then lift it repeatedly until the effort of the final lift is at least an eight on a scale of one to 10, Dr. Phillips says. “There should be some discomfort,” he says, “but the dividends on the back side” in terms of stronger, healthier muscles “are enormous.”

The $1,600 Marathon

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Marathon expenses can add up.

Marathon expenses can add up.Credit

In May I ran the New Jersey Marathon. Before I started training for the race on New Year’s Eve, I wondered how much this, my sixth marathon, would cost me. And not just the race fee — I knew that one, since I had signed up for the race in November — but the total of every little thing that I would spend money on to get me from my first training run to race day.

After a deep dive into my personal finances and a talk with a professor of finance, I can tell you that it cost me a lot. Eighteen weeks of training and one marathon cost me more than $1,600. Here’s how I arrived at my number.

Race Fee. The average fee for a marathon ranges from $60 to $100, according to the Road Runners Club of America, though those costs can certainly be higher. I paid $266 – a $255 race fee plus an $11 lottery entry fee – for the New York City Marathon in 2014.

For the 2016 New Jersey Marathon, the base cost at the time I signed up was $100, but I did so on Black Friday, and used a coupon code to save $20, plus a $6.40 service fee.

Cost: $86.40.

Instruction. I used the second edition of the “Hansons Marathon Method,” to train for the race. It included my schedule, plus information on other important things like strength training and race strategy. The book retails for $18.95, though I was sent an advance press copy from the publisher.

Cost: $0.

Gear. Running a lot requires extra stuff to run in. So while I already had shirts and shorts and socks, I still added on while training, including two pairs of shoes, another pair of long winter tights, plus two new pairs of capri tights and two new pairs of shorts, a handful of new shirts, a new tank and visor to wear on race day (though I wound up wearing a hat I already had for the race because of rain), even a pair of ski mittens to wear over my regular running gloves during bitter cold training.

If you’re starting from scratch, this number could be much higher, depending on how geared out you get. I already had a tube of Body Glide anti-chafing lotion. I already had a GPS watch. I already owned the shorts, hat and socks I wore on race day. So my gear costs are much lower than that of someone who’s just starting out.

Cost: $578.80.

Intermediate Races. Racing shorter distances while training for a marathon provides a check-in to see how you’re doing speed-wise (and psychologically) and breaks up the monotony of training. I also use shorter races to test out what I will wear on marathon day to make sure it all works. During this training cycle, I ran two 5Ks and two 10-milers.

Cost: $235.40.

Food. This one surprised me. I expected I’d be eating a lot more (or treating myself a lot more) after my 623 miles of training runs. But what I spent on food during that time, including at the grocery store, on takeout, on meals eaten at restaurants and coffee, came out to be about $80 higher than what I spent during a similar period when I wasn’t training for a marathon. I know that I ate more, but I ate better and spent less on junk food, and ate out a lot less simply because I had less time.

Cost: $79.90.

Running Fuel. While running, my fuel strategy is a simple one: one black cherry Clif Shot Blok every four miles. I had some of these on hand before I started training, but I had to buy more: 10 sleeves at $1.99 per sleeve.

Cost: $19.90.

Ibuprofen. Things hurt. So I bought a two-bottle pack of Kirkland brand ibuprofen from Costco, 500 tablets per bottle. A half bottle is left.

Cost: $7.

Laundry. My water bill didn’t go up during this time, but I did buy more laundry detergent than usual.

Cost: $25.

Gym Membership. I didn’t use the treadmill during this training cycle, but I belong to the gym for access to weight machines and free weights. As I got deeper into my training, I tended to do more strength training at home, but I didn’t stop paying for the gym during my 18 weeks of training.

Cost: $130.50.

Pet Care: I don’t have kids, but I do have a dog, and she needed looking after when I was out running races. Most of the time, friends or family watched Emily, my Jack Russell terrier. A dog walker filled in the gaps when they weren’t available. I needed five walks, at $10 per walk.

Cost: $50.

Sports Massages. Two ways I try to keep my weak spot (my right hip) from knocking me out of training are through strength training and sports massage. Both saved me from a world of hurt and got me to the starting line relatively healthy. Getting several sports massages, at $60 to $75 per massage, was the pricier of those strategies.

Cost: $210.

Opportunity Costs. Training for a marathon takes a lot of time. Those 623 miles, in fact, took me about 114 hours to run — hours that, as a self-employed writer, I could be working. So I could add into this equation the opportunity cost, or “what you could be have been doing with that time and energy instead of doing this,” said Nejat Seyhun, a professor of finance at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. Take those hours, multiply them by what I typically make per hour and, yikes: big opportunity cost.

But, while I’m not paid to run, I do write about running and I’m paid for that work – and the experience has provided fodder for a number of paid stories. Running also makes me a better writer by giving my brain a time out, and I tend to be more efficient in my work when I’m running: I don’t dillydally so much; I just do. In that case, said Dr. Seyhun, my opportunity cost is much lower. “See, you’re thinking like an economist already,” he said when I explained how running is part of my job. Given how much my marathon training experiences have influenced my work, I’m going to put the cost at:

Cost: $0.

Transportation/Lodging. According to Running USA, races that require an overnight trip will typically cost runners $104 in transportation, $147 in airfare, and $213 in lodging. I skipped a lot of that for the New Jersey Marathon, and not just because I ran a race less than a two-hour drive from my house. My dad paid the hotel bill for the marathon, and my mom drove me to and from (because she was running the half-marathon that day). I did pay for some transportation costs to intermediate races during the training cycle, though: $37 for tolls, $58 for gas.

Cost: $95.

Post-Race Celebrations. When I finished the marathon, I wanted nothing more than a hot shower, a beer, and then to shovel food into my face. When I got back to the hotel, I had that beer and handfuls of Utz Party Mix, which I eat only after I run a marathon ($4.50 for a six-pack of Miller Lite pony beers; $10.99 for the tub of Party Mix). Afterward my running group, which included three runners and six people who came to cheer, had a late lunch at Porta in Asbury Park. My portion of the bill, which included pizza, pasta and two Bloody Marys, came to $35.

Later that night, my mom and I drove to the Applebee’s by our hotel, and I spent $23.22 more. The next day, I took a friend out to Han Dynasty in Philadelphia to thank him for coming to the race, and maybe because I was still hungry too: $89.75.

Cost: $163.46.

Total Cost: $1681.36. And worth every penny.

Jen A. Miller is the author of “Running: A Love Story.”

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