Random thoughts to run by

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By Paul Oppenheim

Contributing Reporter

Here are a few random thoughts for this time of year:

Visibility. Seems like every winter I nag about some runners' lack of visibility after sunset, but I still see too many runners out there on the streets in minimally visible clothing. Though most of us have jackets or vests with reflective stripes or trim, some are less visible than others. Also, many of those little blinking lights (which some folks feel give ample protection) can be pretty dim.

One good check is when you're running with a group after dark and there's a gap between you and the leaders (which, unfortunately, is always my position these days). You can then see what happens when a car approaches from the rear. Notice which runners ahead of you are more visible in the headlights. Light colors (white is the best) show up clearest, as do the brighter reflective stripes or other protective markings. But some runners seem to fade into the darkness.

If you're curious about your own stuff, hang your jacket or vest in a dark room and shine a flashlight on it. Does it really shine brightly? Think about how it would appear if you were a driver and another runner was wearing your jacket on a dark street. I've got a jacket that I always thought was pretty bright. This was verified when an Oak Park Runners Club group photo was taken about a year ago. My jacket reflected the camera flash so that it almost distorted the photo — a good thing.

Pushups. I was recently talking to someone who had rediscovered the lowly pushup. Most of us remember those basic (and often detested) exercises from school gym classes or the military. Army sergeants kindly referred to the pushup position as the "front-leaning rest," and frequently ordered us to assume that position.

However, a New York Times article from March, 2008 noted that "The push-up is the ultimate barometer of fitness. It tests the whole body, engaging muscle groups in the arms, chest, abdomen, hips and legs. It requires the body to be taut like a plank with toes and palms on the floor. The act of lifting and lowering one's entire weight is taxing even for the very fit."

Runners like to talk about "core strength" as a good means to assure proper running form and resistance to injury. Thus, pushups would appear to be a great basic exercise to build and maintain core body strength. Fortunately, I've been doing them ever since college. My morning routine is 40 pushups (20 the standard way, then 10 with the right foot off the floor, and another 10 with the left foot off the floor), plus 40 to 50 abdominal crunches, followed by running or cycling (weather permitting). And maybe I've just been lucky, but I've never had any back problems. I think those pushups have been a factor.

So, for the new year, wear bright, reflective clothing after dark, and do your pushups!

Paul Oppenheim is a member of the Oak Park Runners Club.

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