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How To Improve Your Running And Health For Free

sunlightWhat are some of the ways you may be able to improve your running and overall health at the same time? And have it cost absolutely nothing, nada!

The item that I am referring to may or may not be on your list. It is simple sunlight. Yes, I am talking about that bright light in the sky we take for granted most every day. Sunlight or seemingly more importantly, what it produces in our body (vitamin D), seems to be a possible sports performance aid and an element to assist in general health.

I recently ran across a news article called Vitamin D May Allow Olympians To Dominate In 2012. This article refers to an American College of Sports Medicine paper called Athletic Performance and Vitamin D that researched the existing information on the potential benefits of vitamin D and athletic performance.

What is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble steroid and hormone which is produced by your skin in response to exposure to ultraviolet radiation from natural sunlight. It seems to play an important role in the maintenance of organ systems.

A definition is fine and dandy but what does this mean for you? Let’s see what the article and others mention.

How Can Vitamin D Improve Your Running?

The news article notes that their is evidence that Vitamin D improves athlete reaction time, muscle strength, speed, and endurance. It also mentions that vitamin D helps to prevent stress fractures and other athletic injures. Now this seems like potentially useful information.

It is a bit interesting to also observe that the German elite athletes seemed to be aware of the benefits of vitamin D through UV radiation as early as the 1930s.

Dr. Mercola also commented on this report stating a few interesting and key ideas:

  • …whereas both steroids and vitamin D can improve athletic performance, steroids are obviously quite dangerous to your health. Vitamin D on the other hand is not only safe, but also vital for literally hundreds, if not thousands of other health conditions.
  • Dr. Cannell’s research shows that vitamin D increases the size and number of Type II (fast twitch) muscle fibers. And most cross-sectional studies show that vitamin D levels are directly associated with musculoskeletal performance in older individuals.

This seems like promising news.

How Does Vitamin D Improve Your Overall Health?

Of even greater importance than running performance (gasp) and substantially more research, vitamin D seems to also have significant overall health benefits. Who doesn’t like a WIN-WIN situation!

Mike Adams from Natural News created a free report (a valid email address required to view – no spam) called The Healing Power of Sunlight and Vitamin D in which Adams interviews a top world authority on the benefits of sunlight and vitamin D.

Here are just a few of benefits of vitamin D mentioned in the article:

  • Sufficient vitamin D prevents prostate cancer, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, depression, colon cancer and schizophrenia.
  • Your risk of developing serious diseases like diabetes and cancer is reduced 50% – 80% through simple, sensible exposure to natural sunlight 2-3 times each week.
  • Osteoporosis is commonly caused by a lack of vitamin D, which greatly impairs calcium absorption.
  • “Rickets” is the name of a bone-wasting disease caused by vitamin D deficiency.
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder is caused by a melatonin imbalance initiated by lack of exposure to sunlight.

Who doesn’t see the benefits here? It seems like a no-brainer.

I do question that simply sitting in the sun 2-3 times per day reduces or prevents cancer. That Big Mac, cigarette, unmanaged stress, and poor sleep may have something to say about that.

One other interesting statement mentioned is that obese people require twice as much vitamin D because of an impaired ability to utilize it. Hence another reason to get that weight in a healthy range.

The Million Dollar Question – How Much Vitamin D Do You Need?

If you like hard numbers, Dr. Mercola mentions that peak athletic performance will likely occur with vitamin D (25(OH)D – marker in blood) levels around 50 ng/ml. Mercola also recommends an optimal vitamin D range for overall health to be between 50-65 ng/ml based off of scientific studies mentioned in his vitamin D article.

You can determine your current value by getting your 25(OH)D determined by a blood test with your preferred doctor. There also is a vitamin D home based kit from ZRT laboratories.

If you aren’t into exact numbers, get outdoors and enjoy the sun – responsibly! Anyone involved with endurance sports probably are outdoors more than most but it may not necessarily be true in our health club, office bound lifestyles.

The biggest warning it to not get sun burned. There are no health benefits to that painful, crimson glow. Be smart!

Mike Adams also mentioned some natural “internal sunscreens” that can extend your time in the sun include powerful antioxidants such as Astaxanthin, Acai, pomegranates, and blueberries.

Vitamin D Supplementation

If your vitamin D levels are not in the desired range and you aren’t able to fit additional sunlight exposure into your lifestyle, vitamin D3 supplementation may be an option to discuss with your preferred health care professional in order to raise your 25(OH)D value.

Do you supplement with vitamin D3? If so, what has been your experience?

Back To The Basics

The story of sunlight and vitamin D is definitely not complete. Many chapters are yet to be created but it definitely looks like a potential Life Bestseller.

In a world where complexity is often the desire of the day, getting back to the basics can often have some amazing results in your running performance and health.

Back to the basics may include:

  • eating minimally processed foods
  • drinking clean water
  • appropriate training stressors
  • adequate sleep/rest
  • beneficial exposure to sunlight

Try it, see what happens. You are an experiment of one!

Be active – feel the buzz!

David –

About the author

David Hanenburg David Hanenburg is the passionate dirt-lovin' creator of Endurance Buzz and has been playing in the endurance sports world since 2000 after knockin' the dust off of his Trek 950 hardtail thanks to a friend asking to go ride some local dirt. In 2007 he ran his first ultra on the trails and fell in love with the sport and its people. For more information on David's endurance sports journey, check out the About page.

2 Responses to “How To Improve Your Running And Health For Free”

  1. on 03 Jun 2009 at 7:58 pm Ross

    I take 5000 iu of D3 dissolved in fish oils per day. I’m as fit as I’ve ever been!

  2. on 06 Jun 2009 at 12:52 pm David Hanenburg

    Hi Ross – It is good to hear you experience with D3 supplementation has been positive.

    Curious – why did you decide to take 5000 iu?

    Also, how much sunlight exposure do you typically encounter in a week? (rough guess)