10 ways to cope with everyday marathons
Waiting in line for hours, jetting around the world or running around on a last-minute shopping spree can feel as if you're running a real marathon. The aches and pains you may experience afterward make it even more so. You can use similar approaches to an everyday marathon as you would a real one, says Croix Sather, an inspirational speaker and author, known for running 100 marathons in 100 days. "Focus on the specific results you want to accomplish and enter into all situations being prepared with the tools you'll need. And always make it fun." Try these tips from experts the next time you find yourself in your own everyday marathon.
--By Linda Melone for MSN Healthy Living
A long commute
When the drive in to work stresses you out before you've even started your day, it's time to find ways to cope. A recent study shows that people with a 45-minute commute feel more stress and get worse sleep than those with shorter commutes. The longer the commute, the poorer the person's health, according to the journal BMC Public Health (Oct., 2011).
How to deal: An upright posture can boost mood and energy, according to a new study published in the journal Biofeedback (Oct., 2012). "Sit up straight and avoid leaning back, which stresses the spine," says Dr. John Higgins, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and director of exercise physiology at the Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center. "Adjust your seat to 90 degrees and give yourself plenty of leg room, with the steering wheel at a comfortable reach." Also, men should remove items from their back pockets, which may compress nerves. Use a lumbar pillow for your lower back if you have a gap between your lower back and the seat. If you're stuck in traffic and can put your car in park, stretch your calves by pulling your toes up towards you and then towards the floor, recommends Higgins.
Cooking all day to prepare for a holiday family meal
Standing for hours preparing a meal challenges both your patience and your energy levels. Plus, lifting heavy pans out of the oven, bending and reaching and standing on a tile floor stresses leg and back muscles.
How to deal: Consider standing on a cushioned mat like those used in restaurants, says Higgins. "Or wear good walking or running shoes about a half size larger than you usually wear to give you room for swelling throughout the day." High socks or compression stockings can also help prevent swelling. In addition, try simple exercises while you're standing, such as calf raises: Rise up onto the balls of your feet for five seconds and down and then reverse it and stand on your heels; walk around the house to stretch your legs and sit with your feet up and rest your legs for five minutes to help relax muscles.
A five-hour interview for your dream job
You're dressed to impress and have honed your interview skills. Now the only hurdle remaining between you and your dream job is the five-hour interview, an hour each with five company executives. How can you stay sharp throughout the process?
How to deal: What you eat and drink can help or hinder. "Coffee is fine but don't drink so much that you're jittery," says Andrea N. Giancoli, a registered dietician and spokeswoman for The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics with a Masters in public health. "And be sure to start your day with a nourishing meal before you enter into the interview. Include a lean protein (chicken, egg whites, turkey, etc.), veggies or fruit, a whole grain and a little fat to carry you through the five hours." Giancoli also recommends bringing along one or two bottles of water to keep hydrated. "If you don't get a lunch break, bring along nuts or a granola bar to hold you over," says Giancoli.
Taking the red-eye (when you can't sleep on the plane)
Flying through the night takes a toll, especially if you can't doze during the overnight flight. Some relaxation techniques may help you catch a few Z's - or at least help you arrive healthy and ready to go.
How to deal: To help you relax, make sure to wear comfortable clothing and shoes, says Higgins. U-shaped neck pillows help support your head if you doze off, and make sure to drink plenty of water. Most importantly, walk around every couple of hours or so, suggests Higgins. "This helps reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT, blood clots in the leg), which can happen to an otherwise healthy person. If you can tolerate aspirin, take one the night prior to your flight, which reduces the risk of DVT." While seated, keep leg circulation moving with seated calf raises: Rise up onto the balls of your feet and hold for 10 seconds; then switch and roll onto your heels, pointing toes upwards.
Waiting in line at the DMV for hours
Long lines at the DMV test more than your patience. Your back may also pay the price. "Typically, when we stand still for long periods of time, we tend to position our body in a 'swayback' posture," says Steve Thompson, a certified master physical therapist, orthopedic clinical specialist and CEO of Sport and Spine Therapy of Marin in Marin County, Calif. This places the lumbar spine (lower back) in an extended position, which can cause pain. The stress of waiting also causes increased muscle tension, which can worsen the pain, says Thompson.
How to deal: A swayback posture results from a weak core that does not support the legs and/or trunk, says Thompson. "Ideally, you should get in better shape overall beforehand so you can rely on your muscles to help support you during the prolonged standing state. Focus on exercises that strengthen the core and legs." Otherwise, while you're in line, try marching in place, which keeps blood and oxygen flowing through the muscles, suggests Thompson.
An all-day, last-minute shopping spree at the mall for gifts
You have one day to get to the mall and finish up your holiday shopping before closing time. Running around on the hard floor while lugging packages can cause knee, back and shoulder pain if you're unprepared, says Tim Ramirez, a chiropractor and the owner of Pacifica Wellness in Costa Mesa, Calif.
How to deal: The most important thing you can do is wear comfortable sneakers, says Ramirez. "Avoid shoulder and back pain from carrying packages by equally distributing the weight of purchases on each side of your body. Better yet, leave packages at guest services until you're finished shopping." Ramirez also recommends leaving your heavy handbag at home and carrying only what you need in a fanny pack around your waist. And remember to keep calm, he says. "When you're anxious and panicked you don't breathe correctly, which adds to the stress." If you need, sit down at the food court to relax for five minutes.
Staying up all night with a sick child
Sitting up all night and falling asleep in a chair can wreak havoc on your neck and back. "As severe fatigue sets in, your core musculature would not support you, which could result in altered posture and pressure on the lumbar (lower back) discs," says Thompson. Falling asleep while sitting up can also cause the "chicken bob," where the body realizes that you are falling asleep and snaps awake, creating a similar mechanism to that of a whiplash injury, Thompson says.
How to deal: If you are feeling sleepy, try to position your body in a semi-reclined position so your head doesn't fall forward as the body relaxes, says Thompson. Place pillows around your head so it doesn't fall to one side. The ideal position when staying by a loved one who is sick is to lie down on the floor, a cot or on the same bed as that person, if space allows, so the body can be positioned in a supine manner where the body can relax, says Thompson.
Crossing several time zones and back within a week
International travel or crossing two or more time zones causes our internal clock to become misaligned with the external world, says Dr. Allen Towfigh, a board-certified sleep medicine doctor and neurologist affiliated with Weill Cornell Medical Center/New York Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. "The severity of jet lag typically depends on the direction of travel and the number of time zones crossed. Eastward travel is typically tougher to adjust to. Westward travel prolongs the traveler's day, while eastward travel shortens the traveler's day." Fatigue, headache, gastrointestinal upsets and other symptoms may result.
How to deal: Sufferers of jet lag make more errors and have slower reaction times, says Towfigh. "So try to schedule meetings to coincide with when you would normally be at your peak performance back home. And make sure the lights are on, since bright light has been shown to improve cognitive performance." If traveling east, Towfigh recommends going to bed one to two hours earlier than usual and waking up one to two hours earlier than usual for a few days before the trip. Westbound travelers should try to go to bed one to two hours later than usual and wake up one to two hours later than usual. During the flight drink plenty of water to stay hydrated -- and avoid alcohol.
Dancing at an all-day wedding reception
Dancing and partying at an all-day wedding reception can cause foot pain and lower back spasms if you're dancing in high heels, says Dr. Richard Lee, an orthopedic surgeon with Hoag Orthopedic Institute in Irvine, Calif. "High heels alter weight distribution, so we compensate for that awkward foot position by flexing a lot of different muscles from our lower back."
How to deal: A lower heel and less restrictive forefoot is best, says Lee. "In general, the higher the heel the worse the effect. A supportive pair of tennis shoes is best." If you do wear a heel, make sure you've worn them at least two times beforehand, says chiropractor Ramirez. "Don't wear a brand new pair of shoes because you don't know how you'll respond to them." To stay light on your feet, dance near the middle of the dance floor, not near the perimeter where you're more likely to trip, says Ramirez. "When you get home soak your feet in an Epsom salt bath for 20 minutes and relax."