With the return of warm weather and longer days, more and more people start thinking of ways to kickstart their fitness regime, and running is one way to do this. Running is a great way to build and maintain cardiovascular fitness, if done correctly and if your body is ready for it. Running can also be a great way to get an injury, and sadly, for a large number of people, this is exactly what happens when they run. The reality is that injuries from running, especially chronic injuries, can largely be avoided by ensuring your body is actually ready for the stresses of the activity. In this article, a checklist for running preparedness is presented, along with strategies to help get you on track.

Before we delve into the checklist, it’s worth pausing to reflect on why running has so much potential to be injurious. From a movement perspective, running can be classified as an isolateral, cyclical, asymmetrically loaded activity. Running is isolateral in nature, because each side of the body is completing a different movement at the same time; cyclical, because the same movement pattern is performed repeatedly; and, asymmetrically loaded because of the combination of isolateral and cyclical movement patterns. This contrasts with something like weightlifting, which is bilateral, acyclical and symmetrically loaded.

The combination of isolateral, cyclical and asymmetrical loading creates very specific loading patterns throughout the body. As an example, let’s look at the knee during running. On the strike of foot, the knee is exposed to a braking stress, after which there is a rapid conversion from extension to flexion before toeing off. If the muscles in the lower body are strong enough, they will take the majority of the load, and will also help to hold the knee in the correct alignment. If the muscles in the lower body are too weak, or there are significant strength imbalances, the knee joint bears the load. In addition to this, there is the risk of falling into valgus (the knee tracks to the inside of the foot), which exposes the ligaments to risk of damage as well as creating a risk for hip impingement issues. Repeat this hundreds of times during each run with a body that isn’t ready and you quickly create the right environment for a chronic injury. With that in mind, let’s delve into the checklist.

  1. Have you had a musculoskeletal assessment? A musculoskeletal assessment should be performed prior to commencing running, with the specific objective of identifying whether there are underlying gait issues, clearly identifiable strength imbalances or movement patterns that predispose you to an injury. A suitably qualified professional should complete this assessment, and a fail at this stage means you should defer all plans to run until solutions for addressing them have been employed.
  2. Can you walk as far as you plan to run? This may seem like an obvious point, but lots of people subscribe to apps like Couch to 5Ks and assume that this is all they need to be able to run. But we need to go a step back from that and make sure we can walk 5km first. After all, if we struggle to walk 5km, we will really struggle to run 5km. And that struggle converts into a loss of form, which translates into an increased risk of injury, while guaranteeing that we learn to run incorrectly, which affects how efficiently we can ever hope to run.
  3. Can you complete the following exercises? At a minimum, you should be able to do the following:

  • 10 bodyweight squats to parallel, with the knees staying in valgus and the torso staying in extension;
  • 10 step ups on each leg, with the ability to extend to lock-out on both side (hips and knees in extension) as well as capacity to control the return to the starting position;
  • 10 step-through lunges on each side, with no toe-dragging or loss of balance at any stage;
  • front plank for 30s;
  • side plank for 30s; and,
  • ring rows or chins up for 10 reps, with no clear loss of form and the ability to hold the torso in a straight line at all times.

It might seem like an exhaustive list, but we’re about to engage in an activity that has a highly repetitive nature, so small problems get the chance to become big problems very quickly. Each of these exercises tests your capacity to control body position or examines your ability to demonstrate that there are no significant strength imbalances. If you struggle with this test, you lack the strength and control to be able to run.

  1. Is your BMI close to normal? Running is a high impact sport. At the very simplest level, it’s basic physics of force equals mass times acceleration. From a kinematic perspective, there are a complex series of changes in loading occurring in the body, with three fulcrums involved (ankle, knee and hip), vertical and horizontal ground reaction forces and changes from shearing to compression forces, and these all happen in very short timeframes. This complex sequence of changes all become amplified as bodyweight increases, particularly if we are talking about increases in fat mass. Simply put – running is not a sport that favours a large build, and it is not a safe or effective way to lose weight.
  2. Have you had your running technique examined? There is a good way to run, and a bad way to run. Good running technique enables you to have a quick leg turnover, which minimises ground contact time (as a general guide – the longer your leg is in contact with the ground, the greater your risk of injury) and improves your efficiency. Poor running technique is the opposite – it amplifies fatigue, increases ground contact time, creates a movement pattern that recruits the wrong muscles and sets you up for an injury somewhere down the track.
  3. Are you following a properly designed training program? To be a good runner, you need to develop strength, flexibility, mobility, address strength imbalances and follow a running program that focuses on central and peripheral adaptations. Failing to address each of these adequately will slow down development of your running ability. For example, a running plan has to include both high intensity training, which facilitates central adaptations (makes the heart and lungs work harder), and low to moderate intensity training, which facilitates peripheral adaptations (improves capillarisation, changes enzyme profiles to help with aerobic metabolism and promotes changes in muscle fibre type). Failing to address both of those will dramatically slow down your progress, and that’s without considering the benefits of the other elements to your training.

If you ticked no to any of the above, you’re not ready to run. Rather rushing out to run and risking an injury, it’s best to put your running plans on hold for the time being, and invest in getting your body ready. The following framework will help you to get your body ready to run

  1. Start walking on a regular basis – start off with 2-3 sessions a week, and slowly build up to the distance over which you plan on running. It’s always a good idea to start with a fairly level course, but over time you can seek out courses that challenge you more. Once you get to the point where you can easily cover your planned running distance, and no niggles or injuries have reared their ugly heads, you’re probably ready to start thinking about turning some of those walks into runs.
  2. Start strength training 2-3 times a week – if you failed the basic strength test, training is the only way to address this. While you might not want to invest a large amount of time and effort into strength training, addressing those strength deficits and imbalances is critical. Strength imbalances of around 10% between sides of the body can dramatically escalate your injury risk. Getting stronger can also help to reduce your ground contact time, which is linked to your injury risk as well. A simple, well-rounded strength program will address your needs, won’t make you bulky and will help to ensure you get the most from your running.
  3. Improve your diet – the easiest, safest and most effective way to get to your desired weight is by having a healthy, nutritious, plant-based diet. Start by adding more salad and vegetables to each meal, and eat these first. They will fill you up and make you eat less of the other, more calorie-dense foods. Think whole-grains, fresh fruit, seeds, nuts and lots of vegetables and you’re on the right track to a healthy weight that will help you more as a runner.
  4. Find a coach or good running group where you can develop the correct approach to running – the Western Australian Marathon Club have group training runs every Wednesday night, and have a range of athletes from complete beginners to elite athletes. They are friendly, helpful and will give you lots of encouragement and feedback. If you’re looking for a more personalized approach, seek out a great strength and conditioning or running coach and get yourself off on the right foot.

Running is a great sport, but it isn’t for everyone. If you and running don’t get on, it is highly likely to result in an injury. While there might be some appeal in using running to lose weight, or because it’s a cheap option, it’s not the best way to do the former (diet is) and if you get injured, the latter is no longer true. If you do want to run, and the appeal is definitely obvious to some, it is worth taking the time to make sure your body is ready for it. And if it is, it is absolutely worth taking the time to build the right strength, mobility, cardiovascular and energy systems characteristics that will let you get the most from your time and effort.

When you are in trouble, especially related to what could be classified as a crime, the person chosen to represent you must be experienced in cases of this nature. Your first thought in the initial stages could probably be to contact either someone you know such as a family lawyer, or someone you have heard of. Although a legal expert in their own right, they may not, however, possess the necessary expertise and experience to help you. Their assistance may have helped you buy a property, or with a car accident and mean they were an excellent civil attorney; but, you need a highly qualified criminal defense attorney.

This legal expert is generally in their own practice or in small partnerships, in a specific location. By comparison, those who specialize in civil cases tend to concentrate within large corporate law firms offering branch offices in various cities. Although individual personalities may influence differences between criminal and civil attorneys, the primary factor is the widely contrasting nature of the work:

Civil lawyers in large firms have a tendency of representing national and/or international companies who have a legal interest country and worldwide. A criminal defense attorney will represent those persons whose problems are generally localized. Further differences in the type of legal services offered, are seen by companies represented by large firms of legal firms having a continuous need for counseling and representation. By comparison, an individual criminal defendant, usually with isolated or sporadic legal needs will require legal representation as and when the need arises.

It is usual for a typical private defense attorney to have had several years of experience with the government before entering into private practice. This experience would have been gained either as a prosecutor, such as a district or city attorney or as a public defender. A person charged with a crime is usually advised to hire an experienced defense attorney in the courthouse from which the case is pending.

There is in most instances a personal factor in an attorney-client relationship with the appointed legal representative speaking only on behalf of their client, the defendant. Therefore, irrespective of how highly recommended a lawyer is it should not detract from them being a person with whom the client is comfortable and trusts on a personal basis.

A preferred attorney-client relationship is one in which they are full partners in the decision-making process. It, therefore, may be regarded as crucial that defendants are viewed as partners in the proceedings, not just as another case file. If there are various questions and reservations, the client may have regarding hiring any lawyer, they should address them directly. They could mentally determine whether a particular attorney is someone with whom they can work with complete honesty being shared. A further consideration is related to communication and full understanding of all issues.

A criminal charge is a huge burden for any defendant and many, usually first-time offenders, will be seeking a display of personal concern from their attorney, as well as a genuine desire to help! In addition, does an attorney seem a person whom prosecutors, judges and possibly a jury, will view as sincere and trustworthy?

For anyone faced with the potential of time in prison, it is advisable to hire the best available legal expertise, or for a defendant with a restricted income level, one will be appointed by the court. For a person with ambitions towards defending themselves, the nature of the legal system determines that, even highly competent self-representation in a criminal trial is almost impossible.

An attorney specializing in defending alleged criminals is specifically trained and, therefore, it may be considered critical that their unique skills are utilized appropriately in any court proceedings. The profession of a criminal defense attorney has many and varied aspects. Not only are they involved in calling witnesses for their client and cross-examining prosecution witnesses, they also negotiate with the prosecutor, regarding “plea bargains.” This type of negotiation can frequently achieve the result of a reduced sentence or even the elimination of some or all of the charges brought against a defendant. This is just one of the advantages of being represented by the properly qualified legal expert, as prosecutors can be unwilling to negotiate with defendants who are self-represented.

In the event of a defendant being found guilty of the charge(s) against them, their defending attorney may be able to negotiate a leniency that would prevent their client from returning into the criminal justice system. By example; instead of serving a 12 months prison term, their representative could propose on merit, that only 9 months, or less is served, with the balance spent in an appropriate rehabilitation center.

An experienced legal specialist has the ability and knowledge to maintain their clients in a state of reality. They are fully aware of how the case appears or is processing during a criminal trial. Their added advantage is that they remain objective throughout proceedings, enabling insights into the near future of the trial. This is particularly valuable in the event of a client deciding whether to accept the terms of a prosecution plea bargain.

The rules and laws related to criminal prosecutions are complex, with many concealed buried within regulations and procedures and even prior court judgments. A simple example of this is determining if a search conducted by the police at the premises or home of a defendant, was lawful. When deciding whether to enlist the services of a criminal defense attorney it should be kept in mind that this is a decision-making process, related to keeping their freedom!

Cataclysmic variables are binary star systems that are usually composed of a type of superdense stellar corpse called a white dwarf and a normal star like our own Sun. They are small systems–and the entire cataclysmic variable is usually only about the same size as our own Earth-Moon system, with an orbital period of a very brief 1 to 10 hours. In July 2015, an international team of astronomers, along with the valuable assistance of amateur astronomers, announced that the Gaia satellite has discovered a unique cataclysmic variable where one star is devouring the other–but neither of the two sister stars has any hydrogen! Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the Universe, and most stars are primarily composed of hydrogen, so this very bizarre system can provide an important tool for understanding how binary stars might blast themselves to pieces in mighty supernovae explosions at the end of their normal, main-sequence (hydrogen-burning) lives! The system can be used as an important laboratory for the scientific study of ultra-bright supernova explosions, which provide a vital tool for measuring the expansion of the Universe.

The system, dubbed Gaia14aae, is located about 730 light years away from Earth in the Draco constellation. It was discovered by the European Space Agency’s (ESA’s) Gaia satellite in August 2014 when it suddenly and dramatically became five times brighter over the course of only one day! Gaia was designed for astronometry, and it aims to create a 3D space catalog of approximately 1 billion astronomical objects in our Milky Way Galaxy–mostly very bright stars. It was launched on December 19, 2013.

Gaia14aae is a unique binary stellar system that is the first of its kind to be discovered by astronomers. The system includes one sister star that completely eclipses the other. In this system, the white dwarf is gulping down gas from its companion star–and victim–effectively “cannibalizing” it.

Astronomers led by the University of Cambridge in the UK analyzed the information collected from Gaia and determined that the sudden, brilliant, and dramatic outburst resulted from the fact that the white dwarf is eating its larger companion star. A white dwarf is so dense that a teaspoon of its material would weigh as much as a whale.

Additional observations of this strange system were conducted by the Center for Backyard Astrophysics (CBA), which is a collaboration between amateur and professional astronomers. The astronomers discovered that the weird system is a rare eclipsing binary, where one star floats directly in front of the other, totally blocking out its fiery stellar light when observed from Earth. The stellar duo are tightly orbiting each other, resulting in the occurrence of a total eclipse every 50 minutes.

There are probably more than a million of these CVs in our Galaxy, but only those close to our Star–several hundred–have been studied in X-rays so far. This is because CVs are dim in X-rays.

White Dwarf Supernovae

Our Milky Way Galaxy’s 200 to 400 billion stars were born as a result of the gravitational collapse of an especially dense blob embedded in one of the very numerous frigid, dark, and enormous molecular clouds that float around throughout our Galaxy.

Cold molecular clouds are primarily composed of gas, with a smaller amount of dust, and they can be found everywhere in our Milky Way. The dark, billowing, and frigid clouds serve as strange nurseries for baby stars (protostars), and these undulating, ghostly stellar cradles tend to mix themselves up together and combine. However, stars that share a kindred chemistry commonly reveal themselves within the same clouds at about the same time.

Our Solar System formed from jumbled fragments left over from the dead, nuclear-fusing cores of previous generations of stars. In the secretive folds of a dark, vast molecular cloud, a dense fragment ultimately collapsed under the pull of its own gravity to give rise to the new protostar. In the hidden billowing depths of such mysterious, dark clouds, dense pockets form, where fragile threads of material gradually clump together and merge–growing in size for hundreds of thousands of years. Then squeezed together tightly by the crush of gravity, the hydrogen atoms within this dense pocket suddenly fuse, lighting a fabulous stellar fire that will flame for as long as the protostar lives–for that is how a star is born.

Our Sun is a middle-aged, main-sequence (hydrogen-burning), relatively small Star. As stars go, it is not particularly special. There are planets and an assortment of other objects, both large and small, orbiting our Sun, which is located in the distant suburbs of our Galaxy in one of its starlit spiral arms.

In another 5 billion years, or so, our Sun will die. Stars do not live forever, and a star of our Sun’s relatively small mass lives for about 10 billion years. Our 4.56 billion year old Sun, and stars like our Sun that are still in main-sequence middle-age, have retained enough of their youthful bounce and roiling heat to go on actively burning hydrogen in their cores by way of nuclear fusion–which serves to form heavier atomic elements out of lighter ones in a process termed stellar nucleosynthesis. When our Sun, and stars like our Sun, have finally consumed their necessary supply of hydrogen fuel in their hot nuclear-fusing hearts, their appearance starts to change dramatically. A terrible beauty is born, and the doomed star is now old. In the seething hot core of an elderly Sun-like star, there is a core of helium, surrounded by a shell in which hydrogen is still being fused into helium. Helium is the second-lightest atomic element in the Universe, after the lightest and most abundant element, hydrogen. The shell starts to swell outward, and the heart of the elderly star grows bigger as the star ages. The helium core itself then begins to shrink under its own weight, and it grows very, very hot until, finally, it becomes sufficiently hot at the core for a new era of nuclear fusion to begin. Now, at this new stage, it is the helium that is being fused to create the still heavier atomic element, carbon. Five billion years from now, our Star will harbor a small and searing-hot heart that will be emitting more energy than our middle-aged Star is at present. The outer gaseous layers of our roiling Sun will have swollen up to hideous proportions, and it will no longer be a beautiful, small, brilliant little Star. It will have evolved into a fiery-red, swollen, hot and enormous sphere of gas that is termed a red giant. Our Sun, in its swollen red giant phase will grow large enough to consume Mercury in its stellar flames, before it goes on to swallow Venus–and afterwards, possibly, our own scorched planet. The temperature at the surface of this immense swollen red sphere of hot gas will be considerably cooler than that of our Sun’s surface today. This explains its (comparatively) “cool” red hue. Nevertheless, our gigantic red, flaming, swollen elderly Sun will still be hot enough to alter the frigid denizens of the distant Kuiper Belt, such as the ice dwarf Pluto and its moons and other frozen kin, into tropical paradises–at least for a while. The core of our dying, old Sun will continue to shrink, and because it is no longer able to manufacture radiation by way of the process of nuclear fusion, all further evolution will be the result of gravity. Our Sun will finally hurl off its outer layers. The heart of our Star, however, will stay in one piece, and all of our Sun’s material will ultimately collapse into a tiny, relic stellar-corpse–the superdense white dwarf, that is only about the same size as Earth. The new white dwarf will be encircled by a lovely shell of expanding multicolored gases termed a planetary nebula. These beautiful, shimmering objects are sometimes referred to as the “butterflies of the Cosmos” because of their great beauty.

A white dwarf radiates away the energy of its collapse, and is normally composed of carbon and oxygen nuclei swimming around in a pool of degenerate electrons. The equation of state for degenerate matter is “soft”. This basically means that any contribution of more mass to the object will result in an even smaller white dwarf. Adding ever more and more mass to the white dwarf only results in further shrinkage, and its central density will become even greater. The dead star’s radius ultimately shrinks to a mere few thousand kilometers. Therefore, a white dwarf star, like our future Sun will become, is destined to grow cooler and cooler over time.

Small stars like our Sun die much more quietly than their more massive stellar kin–if they are solitary stars, like our Sun. However, if a white dwarf dwells in close contact with another star in a binary system, explosive things can occur. Massive stars blow themselves up at the end of their stellar lives in the fireworks of a supernova blast. Similarly, when a cannibalistic white dwarf has managed to reach the Chandrasekhar limit of 1.4 solar masses–after lunching on too much of its sister star–it may acquire sufficient mass to blow itself to smithereens in a supernova blast, just like the big guys. This violent and explosive event is termed a Type Ia supernova. As the small star approaches this limit, pressure mounts up and the internal temperature skyrockets enough for carbon fusion to take place. Most white dwarfs are composed primarily of carbon, and when this fusion occurs, all of the carbon experiences fusion instantly. The result is a Type Ia supernova.

A Bizarre Binary Star System

“It’s rare to see a binary system so well-aligned. Because of this, we can measure this system with great precision in order to figure out what these systems are made of and how they evolved. It’s a fascinating system–there’s a lot to be learned from it,” explained Dr. Heather Campbell in a July 2015 Cambridge University Press Release. Dr. Campbell, who led the follow-up campaign for Gaia14aae, is of Cambridge’s Institute of Astronomy in the UK.

Using spectroscopy from the William Herschel Telescope in the Canary Islands, Dr. Campbell and her team discovered that Gaia14aae harbors large quantities of helium, but no hydrogen–which is very odd because hydrogen is the most common atomic element in the Universe. Because of this lack of hydrogen, the astronomers were able to classify Gaia14aae as an extremely rare type of system termed an AM Canum Venaticorum (AM CVn), a special type of cataclysmic variable system where both sister stars have lost all of their hydrogen. This is the first known AM CVn system where one star completely eclipses the other.

“It’s really cool that the first time that one of these systems was discovered to have one star completely eclipsing the other, that it was amateur astronomers who made the discovery and alerted us. This really highlights the vital contribution that amateur astronomers make to cutting edge scientific research,” Dr. Campbell noted in the Cambridge University Press Release.

AM CVn systems are composed of a hot, small white dwarf, which is feeding on its larger, still-“living” companion. The gravitational effects from the superdense, searing-hot white dwarf are so extremely powerful that it has forced its sister star to balloon up to enormous proportions and travel towards it.

The still-“living” companion star is approximately 125 times the volume of our own Sun, and it is considerably larger than the petite, but sinister, white dwarf–which is only about the same size as Earth! The difference in size of these two very unusual stellar sisters has been compared to a hot air balloon and a marble. However, the swollen companion star is light in weight and it weighs in at a mere one percent of the white dwarf’s mass.

Astronomers consider AM CVn systems valuable because they could shed light on one of the greatest and most nagging mysteries in modern astrophysics: what causes Ia supernova explosions? That is the question. Type Ia supernovae occur in binary systems, and they are important because their extreme brilliance makes them an important tool to measure the expansion rate of the Cosmos.

In the case of Gaia14aae , it is unknown whether the stellar duo composing the system will collide and trigger a supernova blast, or whether the white dwarf will manage to eat its unlucky companion first.

“Every now and then, these sorts of binary systems may explode as supernovae, so studying Gaia14aae helps us understand the brightest explosions in the Universe,” explained Dr. Morgan Fraser to the press. Dr. Fraser is of Cambridge’s Institute of Astronomy.

“This is an exquisite system: a very rare type of binary system in which the component stars complete orbits faster than the minute hand on a clock, oriented so that one eclipses the other. We will be able to measure their sizes and masses to a higher accuracy than any similar system; it whets the appetite for the many new discoveries I expect from the Gaia satellite,” Dr. Tom Marsh commented in the July 2015 Cambridge University Press Release. Dr. Marsh is of the University of Warwick in the UK.

Dr. Simon Hodgkin, who is leading the hunt for more transients in Gaia data, told the press in July 2015 that “This is an awesome first catch for Gaia, but we want it to be the first of many. Gaia has already found hundreds of transients in its first few months of operation, and we know there are many more out there for us to find.”