Take a look at these two championship photos you’ll notice one thing in common: these runners competed with heart. They found an event that they could put their whole mind body and spirit into, and they gave it their best effort.
Obviously we can’t all compete at the world class level like the athletes in these photos. But we certainly can learn from them how to get the most out of our running experience. The answer is passion. One of my favorite characteristics of track is that there is an event for everyone. Every person on the planet has an event best suited for their talents and their goals. Our job is to find it and own it. Our job is to fight off all the excuses and fears and become the runner and person we were meant to be. Some of us will end up as marathoners, while others (perhaps the more sane crowd) will stick with the mile or 5k and be happy. The point is simply that each of us is capable of the passion displayed in these pictures. There is no greater joy in running than to know you have given your best effort – so it is our job as students of the sport to examine our hearts and be faithful to follow them to the finish.
By Peter Pfitzinger | DistanceCoach.com
Warm weather is here, along with the twin menaces of heat and humidity. Running in the heat can quickly lead to dehydration, which ranks up there with dobermans among runners’ worst enemies. Dehydration hurts your performance, and slows your ability to recover for the next workout. Continuing to run when dehydrated can lead to heat stroke and death.
To better understand the dangers of dehydration, let’s take a look at what happens in the body when you run on a warm day. First, your body automatically sends more blood to the skin for evaporative cooling, leaving less oxygen-rich blood going to your leg muscles. Second, the warmer it is, the more you sweat, and the more your blood volume decreases. Less blood returns to your heart, so it pumps less blood per contraction. Your heart rate must increase, therefore, to pump the same amount of blood. The result is that you cannot maintain as fast a pace on a warm day.
Worst of all, dehydration tends to catch you unawares. If you replace a little less fluid than you lose each day, after a few days you will run poorly but may not know why. Exercise physiologist and marathoner Larry Armstrong, Ph.D., induced dehydration equal to 2% of body weight in runners and observed a 6% decrease in speed over 5K or 10K. That’s a 3% decline in performance for each 1% decrease in bodyweight due to dehydration.
It is not unusual to lose 3-4 pounds of water per hour when running on a warm day. At this rate, after 2 hours a 150 pound runner would lose 6-8 pounds, representing a 4-5% loss in bodyweight and a 10-15% decrement in performance. That’s about an extra 1 minute per mile. Losing more than 4-5% of your bodyweight, however, could do even more serious damage to your body.
If you are running in temperatures over 70 degrees, or over 60 degrees if the humidity is high, then staying properly hydrated can become a challenge. You need a strategy for preventing dehydration during today’s run, and for minimizing the cumulative effects of hot weather running.
Before workouts and races, concentrate on drinking enough fluids to ensure you are fully hydrated. Do not just rely on your thirst-your body’s thirst mechanism is imperfect. Also, you cannot just sit down and drink a half gallon of fluid at one sitting and assume you are fully hydrated. It takes time for your body tissues to absorb fluid. To top off the tank, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends drinking about half a liter of fluid (just over 1 pint) about 2 hours before exercise to help ensure adequate hydration and to allow time to excrete excess water. Drinks containing sodium are more readily retained by the body.
How much you should drink during your runs depends on the heat and humidity, and how far you are running. The maximum amount you should drink is the amount that can empty from your stomach. Research has shown that most runners’ stomachs can only empty about 6-7 ounces of fluid every 15 minutes during running. If you drink more than that, the extra fluid will just slosh around in your stomach and not provide any additional benefit. You may be able to handle more or less than the average, however, so experiment with how much liquid your stomach will tolerate.
It seems that stretching is one of the most controversial issues in athletics. Some research suggests that static stretching is a thing of the past and that dynamic stretching should be the only type of stretching that you should do. And then there is YOGA, which is very static “holds in various poses.” These two seem to contradict each other. There are several types of stretching and lots of science behind each method, but what is real goal of stretching? Is it to get more flexible, prevent injury, or to relax? How flexible is flexible enough? Can I really prevent injury? How relaxed is relaxed enough? Is stretching going to make me faster? What about that guy who never stretches and seems to remain injury free even though he runs 90 miles a week?
There is a lack of understanding with what the goal of every day stretching should be. You often hear people say things like “My flexibility is terrible. I can’t even touch my toes.” The problem with an arbitrary goal of touching your toes is that the ability to touch your toes does not necessarily mean that your performance is going to improve or you chance of injury will be lowered.
I think that balance is really the key if you want to run to your potential and prevent injury. Being balanced allows you handle equal stress on both sides of your body. Since running is a single leg stance phase movement your weakest or least balanced side is going to limit you.
If you have one leg that has to work harder than the other because of a tight or weak muscle on that side your performance could be inhibited not because of a lack of cardio respiratory fitness, but due to mechanical stress and muscle fatigue. So it is clear that spending some time trying to balance your body through strengthening and stretching is worthwhile, but how much time should you spend and what type of strengthening and stretching should you do? Also, how do you balance your body?
Finding out your imbalances and what strengthening exercises you should do can be really tricky and most likely will require skilled PT, Chiro, or running analysis professional that can study your body and do some flexibility and muscle strength testing.
Recently I got certified as a Functional Movement Systems (FMS) certified exercise professional. This certification process filled a gap in my coaching knowledge and understanding of the body.
The FMS system is not about balancing your body in a mystical or theoretical sense but rather in a mechanical sense and actual sense. The power of this system is that you are no longer worried about isolating individual muscles and trying to get them stronger but instead you focus on movement patterns and how to improve an balance them right to left, front to back, and in every plane of motion.
• Get your body tested for balance through an FMS certified professional
• Balance your body through the exercises prescribed
• Stretch using any of the below methods to improve mobility
Following this process will actually allow you to become more balanced, improve your flexibility, and your performance!
I am sure there are a few more types of stretching that I am not listing below but here is a fairly comprehensive list of methods of stretching methods:
• Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF)
• Static Stretching
• Dynamic stretching
• Active Isolated Stretching
If you are interested in getting screened by a FMS professional search for a professional in your area.
Or get in touch with me for a free screening (yes I screen for free), Jay Stephenson here: email@example.com
By Kevin Jermyn and Chris Graff | TrackCoach.com
Plantar Fasciitis (pronounced PLAN-tar fashee-EYE-tiss) is an inflammation of the plantar fascia. The plantar fascia is tissue that lies between the muscles in the mid-foot and the skin on the bottom of the foot. The function of the plantar fascia is to maintain the arch of the foot by attaching the ball of the foot to the heel and creating a bow like shape. During each step of running, the plantar endures stresses three times the individual’s body weight when the heel is first raised off the ground in the forward motion, making it obvious why many runners incur this common problem.
A sign of plantar fasciitis is pain in the middle to front region of the heel, especially in the first few steps of running or walking when you have been inactive for a long period of time. The pain can also commonly be found directly in the arch of the foot, where the tissue is located. At times a small ridge can be seen connecting the heel to the ball of the foot: this is an extremely inflamed plantar. The pain (which is caused by the enlarged plantar trapping or irritating nerves in the foot) can last anywhere from a few days to a few months, depending on the severity of the case and the steps taken to cure it.
The most common causes of plantar fasciitis are a lack of arch support in the shoes, increase in activity, lack of flexibility in the calf muscles, being overweight, using unstable shoes on hard ground, or spending too much time on your feet. There are several cures to the problem although no one is guaranteed to be the absolute solution. The treatments are:
- Applying ice to the arch of the foot after all activities (freezing water in a Dixie cup, rubbing the inflamed area, and peeling the cup away as the ice melts, works well)
- Rolling your foot gently on a rubber ball or tennis ball so that you massage the plantar and loosen it up (a good activity while you are sitting at your desk)
- Stretching the calf muscles gently after periods of inactivity (when you wake up in the morning, after sitting for a long time, etc.)
- Arch support, especially if you have flat feet or high arches
- Losing weight
- Anti-inflammatories such as aspirin, Alieve, or ibuprofen.
- Better shoes and/or running on grass or trails instead of sidewalks or roads.
- Decreasing athletic activity or time spent on your feet
By Peter Pfitzinger | DistanceCoach.com
As I rode the exercise bike in the lab this morning, it occurred to me that there are 3 good reasons to cross train: 1) you are injured and can’t run, so you need to do something to keep your sanity; 2) you want to improve your cardiovascular fitness without getting injured; or 3) you want to improve your running by doing other activities (such as weight lifting or yoga) that do not target your cardiovascular system.
The first 2 reasons to cross train involve maintaining or improving your cardiovascular fitness. Cycling, rowing, in-line skating, swimming, stair climbing, and deep water running fall in this category. The third reason covers all of the other activities you can do to enhance your running performance. Weight lifting, yoga, and stability ball sessions fall into this category. In this month’s column we will focus on cross-training to improve aerobic fitness, and next month we will look at other forms of cross training.
Studies have shown that predictable training errors such as increasing mileage or adding speedwork too quickly lead to the majority of running injuries. Just as the risk of coronary artery disease can be reduced through regular exercise, so can the risk of running injuries be reduced through modifying risk factors. One way to do this is to reduce pounding on the legs and back by substituting other forms of exercise for a portion of your running.
But, won’t your racing performances suffer if you replace some of your running with cross training? The Principle of Specificity of Training says that your body adapts very specifically to the type of training that you do. That is why you wouldn’t have much success as a runner by doing all your training on the bike or in the pool. But, what if the majority of your training is running, can you enhance your cardiovascular fitness by doing other types of aerobic workouts? Let’s see what the research says.
In a 1995 study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, Carl Foster, Ph.D. and colleagues investigated the effects of increasing training volume via additional running versus as equal increment of cross training. Thirty reasonably well-trained runners were divided into 2 groups. One group (run + run) increased their running mileage by 10% while the other group (run + swim) added an equivalent amount of swimming to their training. After 8 weeks of increased training, the run + swim group improved their 2 mile race performance by 13 seconds whereas the run + run group improved their 2 mile time by 26 seconds. In addition, the 4 mmol lactate threshold improved in the run + run group but not in the run + swim group. The results of this study suggest that even reasonably well-trained runners can improve their running performance through cross-training, but that the improvement is likely to be less than through increased running.
Spring is here and you’re ready to really cover some miles. No more ice and snow and miserable winds to hold you back. Watch out though. All the beautiful weather in the world won’t make up for being grounded by overuse injuries. Follow these guidelines to reduce your risk of running yourself into the ground.
Maximizing running performance requires you to improve conditioning by overloading–slightly surpassing present functioning levels–both the cardiovascular and the musculoskeletal systems. However, excessive overload exceeds the body’s ability to adapt to the increased stress and overuse injury will occur. Therefore, you must be very cautious in selecting an appropriate overload, one which will provide optimal conditioning without producing injury.
Cardiovascular Vs Mulculoskeletal Conditioning
Perceived exertion (how hard the exercise session feels) is determined by the status of the cardiovascular system or how fit you are. Since the cardiovascular system improves at a faster rate than the musculoskeletal system, reliance on perceived exertion to determine your workouts can cause you to overstress the bones, joints, tendons, ligaments, and muscles. Limit your increases in both intensity and duration of your conditioning program to no more than ten percent per week. This gives the body time to adapt to the stress provided by exercise.
Hard Day, Easy Day
Maximum gains in conditioning are obtained when appropriate rest is provided along with exercise, which enables the tissues to adapt and increase in functioning. Inadequate rest increases the probability of sustaining an injury. An intense workout should be followed by a light workout the next day. During the race season, a race should be considered a hard day. Depending on the intensity and duration of the race, additional easy days may be required. Always remember that your body makes gains in strength and endurance during recovery. If you don’t provide time for recovery, the body can break down.
Recognize the Symptoms of Overuse Injuries
Overuse injuries can be prevented if you are familiar with the progression of injury, and you modify your workout prior to the onset of injury. Overuse injuries usually progress through stages, which include: