Is It Okay To Run With My Water Bottle or Phone in My Hand While I Run?: The Importance of Symmetry and Balance on Injury Prevention and Running Performance

“It is the harmony of the diverse parts, their symmetry, their happy balance; in a word it is all that introduces order, all that gives unity, that permits us to see clearly and to comprehend at once both the ensemble and the details.” – Henri Poincare

Today was my first day of marathon-specific training for the Montana Marathon in September, with my goal to break 3 hours. I ran ~6 miles and during this run (after ~12 minutes of running at an easy pace), I performed 40-60-second work bouts at ~5k pace or slightly faster and recovered with a slow jog for ~90 seconds between work bouts. After these work bouts, I ran for ~15 minutes at easy pace, and then performed 4 10-second hill sprints with a walk recovery between hill sprints, and then ran for ~10 minutes at an easy pace.

Immediately after my run I did the following exercises:

  • Leg swings forward and back with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
  • Leg swings side-to-side with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
  • Pushups on a stability ball (10 repetitions)
  • Monster walks side-to-side and forward and backward (15 repetitions on each side and in each direction)
  • Y, T, I, and W (10 repetitions for each position)
  • Clamshells (20 repetitions on each side)
  • Prone planks (~45 seconds)
  • Side planks (~40 seconds)
  • Supine planks (~30 seconds)
  • Glute bridge hip lifts (10 repetitions + hold for 30 seconds after last repetition)
  • Quadrupeds (15 repetitions on each side)
  • Fire hydrants (10 repetitions on each side)
  • Knee circles forward (10 repetitions for each leg)
  • Knee circles backward (10 repetitions for each leg)

After performing these exercises, I performed foam and lacrosse/softball rolling on muscles that are commonly tight for me.

During this run, I focused on running form and thought about the importance of symmetry when running. This reminded me of a recent session I had with a runner I coach.

To help minimize the risk of injury and optimize running performance, it is important to be as symmetrical with running form as possible. There are several aspects factors which can contribute to lack of symmetry which runners can control. This includes arm swing, muscle imbalances/weaknesses, and flexibility issues. Lack of symmetry can increase the risk of certain injuries such as IT band syndrome, as well as other common injuries that occur at the ankle, knee, and hip joint.

You should be incorporating arm swing, if you aren’t already, and the range of motion for arm swing should be from the top of the hips to the nipple line (“hip-to-nip”). Both arms should swing through this same range. This can be an issue for those who are holding an object in one hand, such as a water bottle or phone. Therefore, you should not hold an object in one hand and instead, use a fuel belt or some other holder for water, phones, fuel, keys, etc.

Drill for Symmetric Arm Swing

To help be symmetrical with arm swing, I recommend the following drill. You can perform this at any time, although I feel the best time to perform this drill is during your dynamic warmup. Here is the drill:

  • Stand in front of a full length mirror
  • Bend at the elbow so there is slightly less than a 90 degree angle formed by the forearm and upper arm
  • Alternate swinging your arms from “hip-to-nip” at a vigorous pace
  • Continue for 30-60 seconds
  • Your hands should be lightly cupped with thumb gently resting on the index finger
  • Be sure that neither hand crosses the midline of the body

If you haven’t done so already, I recommend that you have your running form and your muscular strength and range of motion assessed at the ankle, knee, hip, shoulder joints for any muscle imbalances/weaknesses and flexibility issues that can lead to a lack of symmetry.

Muscle weaknesses/imbalances can also negatively affect symmetry while you run. It is common for runners to be stronger (dominant) on one side; often the right side. Therefore, it is important to perform strengthening and mobility exercises to address any muscle imbalances/weaknesses that can cause a lack of symmetry. The exercises you perform should include unilateral exercises, which would be performed by one side of the body. One great unilateral exercise that I recommend all runners perform, especially early on in their training, is clamshells.

Clamshells

  • Lie on your side with your torso and pelvis both perpendicular to the ground
  • Straighten the spine
  • Slowly lift the belly up off the floor to create a stable core position
  • Squeeze your glutes tight like you have a quarter stuck between your butt cheeks
  • With your feet resting on each other, lift only the knee up until it’s level with the hip
  • Lower the knee down keeping the glute contracted the entire time
  • Start by performing 8-10 repetitions on each side, and over time gradually increase the number of repetitions until you can perform 20 on each side with proper form

If you haven’t already done so, go to the welcome page on Denver Running Coach (www.denverrunningcoach) to receive videos on strengthening exercises, including clamshells, as well as ways to improve flexibility and mobility for any muscles that are tight and have limited range of motion.

Although perfect symmetry is most likely impossible to attain, we should strive to be as symmetric as we can while we run. This will help make us a more efficient, and thus faster runner, while helping us minimize the risk of injury.

Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can be of help in any way.

Your friend and coach,

Brian

Marathon Training 2019 Day 62: Embrace Hill Running, Benefits and Techniques

March 20 Moonset on Equinox

March 21 moonset small version

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Hills. We love them. We hate them. They make us strong. They make us weak. Today I chose to embrace hills.” – Hal Higdon

Belated Happy Equinox and welcome to Spring! I’m so happy that spring, my favorite season, is here.  On the equinox and the day after the equinox, there were some beautiful moonsets over the mountains. I tried to capture these during my morning runs.

In this post I want to discuss hill running a bit. As I near the end of my fitness training portion of my marathon training, I incorporated some hills on my ~8.5 mile long run today. I also performed 4 x 8-second hill sprints towards the end of this run.

Immediately after my run I did the following exercises:

  • Leg swings forward and back with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
  • Leg swings side-to-side with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
  • Single-leg stand (~60 seconds for each leg)
  • Pushups on a stability ball (10 repetitions)
  • Monster walks side-to-side and forward and backward (15 repetitions on each side and in each direction)
  • Y, T, I, and W (10 repetitions for each position)
  • Clamshells (20 repetitions on each side)
  • Prone planks (~45 seconds)
  • Side planks (~40 seconds)
  • Supine planks (~30 seconds)
  • Double leg hip bridges (10 repetitions + hold for 30 seconds after last repetition)
  • Quadrupeds (15 repetitions on each side)
  • Toe yoga (10 repetitions times for each foot)
  • Fire hydrants (10 repetitions on each side)
  • Knee circles forward (10 repetitions for each leg)
  • Knee circles backward (10 repetitions for each leg)
  • Single-leg balance (~30 seconds for each leg)

After performing these exercises, I did one-minute static stretches for the calf muscles and lots of softball rolling for the calf muscles and plantar fascia!

Recommendations:

It is helpful to incorporate hills on some of your long runs. This will help you build strength in your legs to improve your strength and speed, as well as help you improve your running economy (efficiency) and help you minimize the risk of injury.

Tip of the Day:

Running on hills can be beneficial for building strength and power in the legs, as well as improving running economy (efficiency), which can be transferred into improving running speed. This leg strengthening can also be beneficial for minimizing risk of injury.

When running uphill, lean slightly forward from the ankles, shorten your stride, and increase your arm swing speed. Keep your back straight, so that you’re not bending from waist. Also, keep your head and neck in alignment with your back. Look at least a few feet in front of you, instead of looking straight down at the ground, even if you are running on trails. Don’t dip you chin down. These will all help you keep your airways open, so you can maintain normal breathing.

Unless you are performing hill sprints (previous post), hill repeats (future post), Fartlek or a paced run, such as a threshold pace run, you should not push too hard when climbing hills, and try to stay as relaxed as possible. Keep steady rhythmic breathing, as best as possible. When you reach the top of the hill don’t push the pace and effort too hard on the other side, whether it is flat or downhill.

When descending, think of running downhill like downhill skiing, if you downhill ski. That is leaning slightly forward, instead of leaning back, like you might do if you were descending a hill on a road or mountain bike. You should land on your midfoot or lightly on your heel. You should take smaller steps, so that you have better control

When running downhill try not to push the pace too hard during training, unless you are performing downhill repeats. During training, you should never push the pace on downhill portions when running on the road or other hard surfaces, because this puts significant stress on your joints, particularly the knee. If you are performing downhill repeats, I recommend performing them on a trail or on grass. If you are performing a Fartlek run or threshold paced run, I recommend performing these runs on trails, grass, or shallow (not steep) downhill.

Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can be of help in any way.

Embrace hill running. It will help make you a stronger and faster runner.

Your friend and coach,

Brian

Marathon Training 2019 Day 33: What To Focus on When Performing Strides

“Focus on the things you can change and let go fo the things you can’t.”

Yesterday’s run was ~35 minutes and during this run I performed 4 x 20-second strides with ~90 second slow jog recovery. I performed these strides after running at an easy pace for ~20 minutes. After I finished this strides I completed my run at an easy pace. While performing these strides I focused on different aspects of running form, which is the subject of today’s Tip of the Day. For my first stride I focused on running tall, for the second arm swing, for the third keeping hips open, and for the fourth increasing cadence.

Immediately after my run, I performed the following exercises:

  • Leg swings forward and back with straight leg and bent leg (10 repetitions for each leg)
  • Leg swings side-to-side with straight leg and bent leg (10 repetitions for each leg)
  • Single-leg stands (~45 seconds)
  • Clamshells (20 repetitions on each side)
  • Prone planks (~40 seconds)
  • Side planks (~30 seconds)
  • Supine planks (~20 seconds)
  • Glute bridge hip lifts (10 repetitions)
  • Quadrupeds (15 repetitions on each side)
  • Toe yoga (10 cycles)
  • Fire hydrants (10 repetitions on each side)
  • Knee circles forward (10 repetitions for each leg)
  • Knee circles backward (10 repetitions for each leg)
  • Single-leg balances (~30 seconds)

After these exercises I performed foam rolling for ~10 minutes.

Recommendation: For intermediate and advanced runners, I recommend incorporating strides in your training if you have completed at least 2-4 weeks of easy-paced running. For beginners and those who have taken a significant amount of time off from running (three months or more) you might want to wait until at least 8 weeks of easy-paced running before including strides.

Again, if you have not done so, you can receive a complementary fitness training program, which includes strides, by opting in on the Welcome page of Denver Running Coach. You will be given recommendations on when to incorporate them in your training, how many to perform, as well as duration of strides, and recovery interval.

Tip of the Day: To get the most benefit out of performing strides it is helpful to focus on different aspects of running form. You can focus on such things as “running tall” (http://www.denverrunningcoach.com/marathon-training-2019-day-8-run-tall-to-help-improve-running-form/), swinging hands from “hip-to-nip” (http://www.denverrunningcoach.com/marathon-training-2019-day-9-arm-swing-hip-to-nip-to-help-improve-running-performance/), keeping hips open by imaging knees as headlights you shine straight ahead (http://www.denverrunningcoach.com/marathon-training-2019-day-23-keep-hips-open-when-running-to-help-avoid-injury/), rhythmic nasal breathing (http://www.denverrunningcoach.com/marathon-training-2019-day-12-importance-of-nasal-and-rhythmic-breathing/), cadence (http://www.denverrunningcoach.com/marathon-training-2019-days-21-22-running-cadence-important-for-your-running-performance-and-for-avoiding-injury/), knee lift, looking ahead ~30-35 feet, and so on. For some strides you might want to focus on incorporating more than one of these. Over time these will automatically become part of your regularly running form when you are doing easy-pace running, and so on. As a result you will become a more efficient and faster runner, and reduce your risk of injury.

If you experience pain, especially in any joints while performing strides, stop immediately and seek help from a qualified healthcare professional. Strides should not cause pain.

Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can help in any way.

Enjoy strides!

Your friend and coach,

Brian

Marathon Training 2019 Day 29, Strides: Simple To Do and Great for Running Performance

“The only person you should try to be better than, is the person you were yesterday.”

This morning I ran for ~33 minutes. During this run I incorporated 4 20-second (4 x 20-second) strides after ~20 minutes of easy-paced running. I recovered with a slow jog of ~90 seconds between strides. I will discuss strides more in the Tip of the Day. After performing strides, I finished with an easy run. Immediately after my run, I performed the following exercises:

  • Leg swings forward and back with straight leg and bent leg (10 repetitions for each leg)
  • Leg swings side-to-side with straight leg and bent leg (10 repetitions for each leg)
  • Single-leg stands (~45 seconds)
  • Clamshells (20 repetitions on each side)
  • Prone planks (~40 seconds)
  • Side planks (~30 seconds)
  • Supine planks (~20 seconds)
  • Glute bridge hip lifts (10 repetitions)
  • Quadrupeds (15 repetitions on each side)
  • Toe yoga (10 cycles)
  • Fire hydrants (10 repetitions on each side)
  • Knee circles forward (10 repetitions for each leg)
  • Knee circles backward (10 repetitions for each leg)
  • Single-leg balances (~30 seconds)

After these exercises I performed foam rolling for ~10 minutes.

Recommendation: For intermediate and advanced runners, you might want to begin incorporating strides in your training after 2-4 weeks of easy-paced running, depending on the amount of time you have taken off from running. For beginners and those who have taken a significant amount of time off from running (three months or more) you might want to wait until at least 8 weeks of easy-paced running before including strides.

Again, if you have not done so, you can receive a complementary fitness training program, which includes strides, by opting in on the Welcome page of Denver Running Coach.

Tip of the Day: Strides are great to help you begin transitioning into speedwork. By performing strides you are training your body to run at faster paces, and performing strides can help you improve your running form, as you have to become more efficient to run at faster paces. To perform strides, it is best to run at least 15-20 minutes at an easy pace to warm up. Then, for each stride, gradually accelerate over the duration of the stride, until you are running at ~75-85% of your maximum speed. Then, decelerate to an easy jog to recover for 60-90 seconds. I recommend starting with 90 seconds of recovery and then over time decrease your recovery. I also recommend starting with four strides of 10-25 seconds depending on your running history and fitness level. Beginners should start with 10-15 seconds, while more advanced runners can start with 20-25 seconds. Strides should be performed in a flat area.

In a future post, I will discuss what you can focus on during strides to help you make the most out of strides.

If you experience pain, especially in any joints while performing strides, stop immediately and seek help from a qualified healthcare professional. Strides should not cause pain.

Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can help in any way.

Have fun with strides!

Your friend and coach,

Brian

Marathon Training 2019 Day 24: To Lean or Not To Lean, Goldilocks Got It Right

February 7 2019 too cold for a run! small version“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” – Helen Keller

Brrr! With temperatures in the single digits this morning, Sam and I decided not to do our weekly run/hike. Instead, I walked my dog for about 30 minutes. Then I did the following stability, mobility, and strengthening exercises:

  • Leg swings forward and back with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
  • Leg swings side-to-side with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
  • Single-leg stand (~30 seconds for each leg)
  • Prone planks (~40 seconds)
  • Side planks (~30 seconds)
  • Supine planks (~20 seconds)
  • Clamshells (20 repetitions on each side)
  • Quadrupeds (15 repetitions on each side)
  • Double leg hip bridges (10 repetitions)
  • Toe yoga (10 repetitions times for each foot)
  • Fire hydrants (10 repetitions on each side)
  • Knee circles forward (10 repetitions for each leg)
  • Knee circles backward (10 repetitions for each leg)
  • Single-leg balance (~30 seconds for each leg)

After performing these exercises, I rolled my plantar fascia with a softball and did self-massage for the plantar fascia and calves.

Recommendation: Afterwards, I was thinking about the subject of today’s post and decided to give another tip related to running form. For some of your runs, I recommend focusing on leaning slightly forward from the ankles. As with the other tips I have given, I recommend focusing on this for about 20-30 seconds each mile.

If you haven’t done so, I recommend opting in on the Welcome Page to receive a fitness training program, which includes workouts similar to what I have been doing. This program also includes exercises to strengthen the core to help you maintain proper alignment with a slight forward lean.

Tip of the Day: There is benefit to having a slight forward lean when you run. One important benefit is that you take advantage of gravity to help pull you forward, thus conserving energy. A slight forward lean is an important aspect of Chi running. The lean needs to be from the ankles, not from the waist, hips, or somewhere else. With this slight forward lean your feet, hips, shoulders, and head should all be in alignment. If you are leaning from the hips and/or waist you will most likely be leaning too much and feel this in your lower back. You may also feel strain in the front of your knee. On the other hand, too little lean or leaning back can result in straining the shins, hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves. Therefore, in between is the best case, so you don’t feel strain and take advantage of gravity.

A drill that you can use to practice finding the proper amount of lean is rocking back and forth on your feet, and leaning just to the point of falling forward. Keep in mind that the lean will be slight.

Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can be of help in any way.

Be your best self today.

Your friend and coach,

Brian

Marathon Training 2019 Day 23: Keep Hips Open When Running to Help Avoid Injury

“Failure will never overtake me if my determination to succeed is strong enough.” – Og Mandino

This morning’s run was chilly and foggy. I ran ~42 minutes. At various points during my run I focused on controlling with the hips and glutes to keep the hips and pelvis area open.  More on this in the Tip of the Day. After my run I did the following exercises:

  • Leg swings forward and back with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
  • Leg swings side-to-side with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
  • Single-leg stand (~30 seconds for each leg)
  • Pushups (10 repetitions)
  • Monster walks side-to-side and forward and back (done with resistance band, 10 repetitions for each direction)
  • Prone planks (~40 seconds)
  • Side planks (~25 seconds)
  • Supine planks (~20 seconds)
  • Clamshells (20 repetitions on each side)
  • Y, T, I, and W (10 repetitions for each position)
  • Double leg hip bridges (10 repetitions)
  • Quadrupeds (15 repetitions on each side)
  • Toe yoga (10 repetitions times for each foot)
  • Fire hydrants (10 repetitions on each side)
  • Knee circles forward (10 repetitions for each leg)
  • Knee circles backward (10 repetitions for each leg)
  • Single-leg balance (~30 seconds for each leg)

Then, I spent ~10 minutes with static stretching for the hamstrings and calves, and lacrosse ball rolling on the plantar fascia.

Recommendations: At various points during your run focus on engaging the outer hips and glutes to keep your hips open. Try to do this for 20-30 seconds each mile. Over time you will automatically engage these muscles and have your hips open when you run.

If you haven’t done so, I recommend opting in on the Welcome Page to receive a fitness training program, which includes workouts similar to what I have been doing. This includes exercises to strengthen the glutes and outer hips to help you keep your hips open when you run.

Tip of the Day: One of the major causes of injuries in runners is not properly controlling movement while running, especially movement to the side when one foot is on the ground. Therefore, it can be extremely beneficial to focus more on controlling and minimizing movement with the outer hips and glutes to prevent the inward collapsing of the hips, knees, and ankles. For 20-30 seconds each mile, focus on keeping the hips open by using the outer hips and glute muscles. One of my physical therapists used to instruct me to focus on “wrapping the glutes around to the back”. That cue certainly works for me and hopefully it will work for you as well.

Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can be of help in any way.

Be your best self today.

Your friend and coach,

Brian

Marathon Training 2019 Days 21-22: Running Cadence: Important for Your Running Performance and for Avoiding Injury

“You need to be content with small steps. That’s all life is. Small steps that you take every day so when you look back down the road it all adds up and you know you covered some distance” – Katie Kacvinsky

Yesterday was a day off from running, so I walked my dog for ~30 minutes at a fairly brisk pace. Today, I ran for ~32 minutes at an easy pace n the cold. The temperature when I started was about 19 degrees, but despite the cold I encountered about 10 runners and a coyote. I took a different route than what I have done the past two Tuesday mornings and the variety was nice! In a previous post I discussed the important of variety:

http://www.denverrunningcoach.com/marathon-training-2019-day-13-importance-of-adding-variety-to-your-running/

At various times during my run I focused on my cadence. This relates to the Tip of the Day, which can help you with your running speed/pace and in injury prevention. After my run I performed the following exercises:

  • Leg swings forward and back with straight leg and bent leg (10 repetitions for each leg)
  • Leg swings side-to-side with straight leg and bent leg (10 repetitions for each leg)
  • Single-leg stands (~30 seconds)
  • Clamshells (20 repetitions on each side)
  • Prone planks (~40 seconds)
  • Side planks (~30 seconds)
  • Supine planks (~30 seconds)
  • Glute bridge hip lifts (10 repetitions)
  • Quadrupeds (15 repetitions on each side)
  • Toe yoga (10 cycles)
  • Fire hydrants (10 repetitions on each side)
  • Knee circles forward (10 repetitions for each leg)
  • Knee circles backward (10 repetitions for each leg)
  • Single-leg balances (~30 seconds)

After these exercises I performed foam rolling for ~10 minutes.

Recommendation: In my last post I mentioned opting in on the Welcome page of Denver Running Coach, in order to receive a complementary fitness training program, which you can follow for 2-3 months. This will help you prepare for specific half- or full-marathon training. The workouts in this program are similar to the ones I perform. I also recommend focusing on cadence periodically when you run, such as for 20-30 seconds at the beginning of each mile.

Tip of the Day: Cadence (the number of steps you take per minute) is an important aspect of your running form and running performance. Ideally, your cadence should be ~180 steps/minute, although it may be closer to 160 steps/minute now. When I first began my training a few weeks ago, my cadence was ~160 steps/minute for some of my first runs. It is now ~170 steps/minute. A quicker cadence can increase your running speed, since running speed or pace = cadence x stride length. A shorter stride length and higher cadence can also be beneficial because a longer stride length is typically associated with heel striking, which can put more stress on the hip and knee joints, and possibly lead to injury in these joints.

How to increase cadence:

  • In a previous post I discussed the importance of arm swing:

http://www.denverrunningcoach.com/marathon-training-2019-day-9-arm-swing-hip-to-nip-to-help-improve-running-performance/

  • When you swing one arm forward, the opposite leg will also come forward to keep your body moving in a straight line. Thus, the faster you swing your arms the faster your legs will come forward. Just don’t go too crazy with your arm swing, or your arms and shoulders will probably get tired very quickly!
  • You should also focus on one of the following:
    • Imagine your leg as a wheel and take short light steps. Imagine that you are running on eggshells and don’t want to crush them.
    • Imagine your leg as a pogo stick and focus on exerting force from when the knee is at its highest point until the foot impacts the ground. This will create a rebound of the foot towards your glutes, shortening the stride cycle and allowing your legs to go through the stride cycle quicker.
  • The last two items (leg as wheel and pogo stick) are nearly opposite approaches to increasing cadence and I have used both with success. Although for me, I like the pogo stick approach because I feel I engage the glute muscles more and have more power in my stride.
  • You don’t have to focus on these recommendations throughout your entire run. That would be too mentally draining! However, I recommend focusing on these for 20-30 seconds each mile and over time these will become automatic.

Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can help in any way.

Enjoy your run!

Your friend and coach,

Brian

Marathon Training 2019 Day 9: Arm Swing (“Hip-to-Nip”) To Help Improve Running Performance

June 20 2018 pic 6 beautiful morning walk with Z small version“Every mountain top is within reach if you just keep climbing” – Barry Finlay

This morning’s run was another cold and dark run with wind, instead of ice. I ran for ~41 minutes, although there were times when I wanted to turn around sooner to get out of the wind! Yesterday, I mentioned “running tall” as an important cue for running form. Another one is “hip-to-nip”, which I focused on today. Basically, this means using arm swing when you run. Arm swing is beneficial for increasing cadence because as you swing one arm forward, the opposite leg will come forward to keep you running in a straight line. This can improve your pace and thus running performance.

After my chilly run, I did the following exercises:

  • Leg swings forward and back with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
  • Leg swings side-to-side with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
  • Single-leg stand (~30 seconds for each leg)
  • Pushups (10 repetitions)
  • Monster walks side-to-side and forward and back (done with resistance band, 10 repetitions for each direction)
  • Prone planks (~40 seconds)
  • Side planks (~25 seconds)
  • Supine planks (~20 seconds)
  • Clamshells (15 repetitions on each side)
  • Y, T, I, and W (10 repetitions for each position)
  • Double leg hip bridges (10 repetitions)
  • Quadrupeds (15 repetitions on each side)
  • Toe yoga (10 repetitions times for each foot)
  • Fire hydrants (7 repetitions on each side)
  • Knee circles forward (7 repetitions for each leg)
  • Knee circles backward (7 repetitions for each leg)
  • Single-leg balance (~30 seconds for each leg)

Then, I spent ~10 minutes with foam rolling and eccentric lengthening exercises.

Recommendation:

  • Beginners (such as those wishing to complete their first marathon):
    • I recommend doing an easy walk for 20-30 minutes.
    • Also, perform any of the following mobility and strengthening exercises:
      • Leg swings forward and back with both straight and bent leg (5-10 repetitions of each for each leg)
      • Leg swings side-to-side with both straight and bent leg (5-10 repetitions of each for each leg)
      • Single-leg stand (~15-30 seconds for each leg)
      • Standard or knee-assisted pushups (5-10 repetitions)
      • Monster walks side-to-side and forward and back (done with or without a resistance band, 5-10 repetitions for each direction)
      • Prone planks (20-30 seconds)
      • Side planks (15-20 seconds)
      • Supine planks (10-15 seconds)
      • Clamshells (10-15 repetitions on each side)
      • Y, T, I, and W (5 repetitions for each position)
      • Double leg hip bridges (5-10 repetitions)
      • Quadrupeds (5-10 repetitions on each side)
      • Toe yoga (5-10 repetitions for each foot)
      • Fire hydrants (5 repetitions on each side)
      • Knee circles forward (5 repetitions for each leg)
      • Knee circles backward (5 repetitions for each leg)
      • Single-leg balance (~15-30 seconds for each leg)
    • In addition, I recommend foam rolling, static stretching, yoga poses, or active isolated stretching for at least 5-10 minutes
  • Intermediate/Advanced (those runners who have completed at least a couple of marathons and have not taken a significant amount of time off from running):
    • Dynamic warm-up.
    • Then, I recommend a 35-45 minute run at an easy pace, ideally in a primarily flat area.
    • After your run, perform the following mobility and strengthening exercises:
      • Leg swings forward and back with both straight and bent leg (5-10 repetitions of each for each leg)
      • Leg swings side-to-side with both straight and bent leg (5-10 repetitions of each for each leg)
      • Single-leg stand (~20-30 seconds for each leg)
      • Standard or knee-assisted pushups (8-12 repetitions)
      • Monster walks side-to-side and forward and back (done with or without a resistance band, 5-10 repetitions for each direction)
      • Prone planks (30-40 seconds)
      • Side planks (20-25 seconds)
      • Supine planks (15-20 seconds)
      • Clamshells (10-15 repetitions on each side)
      • Y, T, I, and W (5-8 repetitions for each position)
      • Double leg hip bridges (10 repetitions)
      • Quadrupeds (8-12 repetitions on each side)
      • Toe yoga (5-10 repetitions for each foot)
      • Fire hydrants (5-7 repetitions on each side)
      • Knee circles forward (5-7 repetitions for each leg)
      • Knee circles backward (5-7 repetitions for each leg)
      • Single-leg balance (~20-30 seconds for each leg)
    • In addition, you should perform a cool-down that incorporates foam rolling, static stretching, yoga poses, or active isolated stretching for at least 10 minutes

Tip of the day: Today, just before you start your run, stand with your arms hanging down.  Relax your shoulders.  Now bend your elbows to a 90 degree angle or slightly less angle between your upper and forearms.  Place your thumb on your index finger and hold it there like you were holding a potato chip, but don’t crush it!  Your fingers and thumb should form an “O”.  Position your hands so that they are inside your elbows or more towards the midline of your body.  Now practice swinging your arms so the hands brush the top of your hips and then come up to the same level as your nipples or slightly above (“hip-to-nip”).  This is the range of motion that you want for your arm swing.  When you are running focus on the backswing, instead of focusing on swinging forward.  Your opposite leg will come forward as you swing one arm back.  The faster you swing your arms the faster the opposite leg will come forward.  However, you don’t have to get crazy with the arm swing!  Remember that a cadence of 160-180 steps per minute would be a great place to start.  In future posts I will talk more about cadence and running form.  One of the runners I worked with a couple of years ago began incorporating arm swing into his running and he said it helped him improve his running speed.  In fact, he went on to break three hours in the London Marathon.

You may want to have your running form evaluated, to determine if there are any adjustments to your running form, that would help you improve your running performance and minimize the risk of injury.

Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can be of help in any way.

Have a great day!

Your friend and coach,

Brian

Marathon Training 2019 Day 8: “Run Tall” To Help Improve Running Form

August 4 2018 Statue of Runners in Olympic Statue Park“Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.” – Peter Drucker

After my dynamic warm-up, I ran for ~32 minutes at an easy pace. It was a chilly, dark, and icy run, but I’m glad I got it in! In addition to being aware of ice, at various times during my run, I focused on different aspects of proper running form. One important aspect is running with a smooth, fluid motion, and not choppy motion, as I occasionally see other runners do. Another important aspect is running posture. As I am writing this post, I remember the Statue of Runners in Olympic Statue Park Seattle that is pictured above. You may have heard of the term “running tall”. Basically, it means actively engaging your core and glute muscles, so that you’re pelvis is stable and you are upright when you run. This includes having your upper and lower body in one plane of motion. Today’s tip of the day will help you with this.

After I ran, I immediately performed the following exercises (see yesterday’s post for a video demonstration):

  • Leg swings forward and back with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
  • Leg swings side-to-side with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
  • Single-leg stand (~30 seconds for each leg))
  • Prone planks (~30 seconds)
  • Side planks (~20 seconds)
  • Supine planks (~15 seconds)
  • Clamshells (15 repetitions on each side)
  • Double leg hip bridges (10 repetitions)
  • Quadrupeds (10 repetitions on each side)
  • Toe yoga (10 repetitions times for each foot)
  • Fire hydrants (5 repetitions on each side)
  • Knee circles forward (5 repetitions for each leg)
  • Knee circles backward (5 repetitions for each leg)
  • Single-leg balance (~30 seconds for each leg)

Then, I performed 10 minutes of foam rolling and eccentric lengthening exercises.

Recommendations:

  • Beginners:
    • I recommend 20-30 minute run at an easy pace, in a flat area
    • Perform the strengthening exercises above
    • Then perform either active isolated stretching, foam rolling, static stretching, or yoga poses for a cool-down
  • Intermediate/advanced:
    • I recommend 30-45 minute run at an easy pace, in a flat area
    • Perform the strengthening exercises above
    • Then perform either active isolated stretching, foam rolling, static stretching, or yoga poses for a cool-down

Tip for Today: One of the best cues that I have heard as far as running form is the following: “Imagine someone grabbing you by your shirt and lifting you up at the chest.” This can help you stay lifted as you engage your core and glute muscles, as well as promoting forward lean, which can help you utilize gravity to help propel you forward while prevent overstriding.

Stay tuned for future posts on more tips to help you improve your running performance and help you prevent your body and health from breaking down as you reach your goals

Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can be of help in any way.

Be your best self today.

Your friend and coach,

Brian

It’s Not All About the Shoes or at Least Not in the Way You Might Think

I’m dating myself, but several years ago Nike had an ad for Air Jordan shoes featuring Michael Jordan and Spike Lee with the tagline “It’s all about shoes.”  However, just like we can’t be amazing basketball players just by wearing Air Jordan basketball shoes, research has shown that running shoes generally have little or no effect on running performance and injury prevention.  In fact, the design of some current running shoes may increase your risk for injury!

So, at some point you will need to purchase running shoes again, unless of course you are going to run barefoot.  If the shoe model you currently use feels good and you feel no pain, then by all means continue with this same model.  Running shoe companies make this a challenge though, because they are constantly changing shoe models.  Also, the current shoes you are running in may be decreasing your running efficiency and increasing your risk for injury.

Therefore, I wanted to share with you a few things to consider when purchasing your next pair of running shoes. A couple of years ago I posted an article entitled “Runners and Triathletes: Let’s Go Shop Shopping.” Most of the considerations I mentioned in this article still hold true, so please check out this article (http://www.denverrunningcoach.com/runners-and-triathletes-lets-go-shoe-shopping/).

However, I want to update tips numbered 2 and 3 of the list of 16 tips that I gave based on the research on running shoes.  Basically, these tips addressed determining arch type for your foot and the proper shoe based on your arch type.

Research has shown that trying to “classify” a runner’s arch type or height (high arch, neutral arch, flat arch or flat-footed) doesn’t really describe what is happening when you run.  Differences between structural arch heights are muted when running.  Numerous studies have shown that assigning shoes based on arch type doesn’t improve performance or decrease injury.  No matter your arch type, we all need to dissipate shock during pronation (foot turning inward) and actively stabilize during push-off.  This is the responsibility of our body, not the shoe we are running in.  Proprioception and muscles ability to respond and stabilize when we run, especially with one foot on the ground are critical.

Proprioception is the sensory information that allows our body to sense its position and allows us to control our limbs without directly looking at them.  This is important in controlling how we land and stabilize when we run.  Poor proprioception can negatively impact how we use our muscles when we run resulting in overstriding, which increases stress on our body and can make us a less efficient runner.  This sensory information is impacted by the extent to which our foot is in contact with the ground.  The body will respond best when we maximize proprioception.

The better your proprioception and your ability to stabilize your pelvis, hip and ankle joints when you run, the more efficient (and faster) runner you will be, and the better your ability to minimize the risk of injury.  In future articles and videos, I will address how to improve your ability to stabilize, which involves properly engaging the muscles.  In this article I will focus more on how running shoes can affect your proprioception.  Any delay in this proprioception can negatively impact your body’s ability to respond and stabilize, especially since the time that we have one foot on the ground in each stride cycle is so brief (~0.07-0.25 seconds).

Maximum proprioception would occur when we are running barefoot on a firm surface.  If you have run barefoot or watched others run barefoot you may have noticed that you and/or they run differently.  A big part of this is the improved proprioception causes you and/or them to land differently; often softer and closer to the body, which is beneficial, because we will experience less impact on the body and tend not to overstride.  Unfortunately, most of the time we are not running on surfaces which lend itself well to running barefoot.  We need some type of protection on our feet.  Thus, most of us run in running shoes, instead of running barefoot, most or all of the time.

So, how do running shoes affect our proprioception and what can we do to maximize our proprioception if we are running in shoes?

Traditional running shoes evolved to share four basic key features:

Postings – dual-density material that tries to stop motion, think stability and motion control shoes

High heels – heel is about two times as high as the forefoot

Cushioned material – softer surfaces designed to absorb impacts

Narrow toe box – narrow toe boxes supposedly improve fit and control

In a previous article (http://www.denverrunningcoach.com/get-ready-to-achieve-your-running-goals-for-2017/) I mentioned three of these factors, and that they can be detrimental to running efficiency and potentially increase your risk for injury.

Postings

Postings, which are found in stability and motion control shoes, are supposed to help runners who overpronate.  However, maximum pronation actually occurs just after midstance (when we have one foot fully on the ground), after the heel has left the ground.  This means that the posting under the rearfoot that is designed to “stop” the foot from moving isn’t even in contact with the ground, so it’s not able to do what it is supposed to do!  In addition, these postings create some significant issues at midstance, including increasing the stress on the inside of the knee.  This can lead to the development of osteoarthritis.

A couple of years ago, I purchased a pair of motion control shoes.  I began noticing knee pain when I ran in these shoes.  I switched to a shoe with a significantly lower heel (less posting) and the knee pain went away.  For the shoes in which I had experienced knee pain, I measured the difference in sole from the heel to the front of the shoe on the shoe.  This difference was approximately 15mm (1.5 cm or ~3/4 inch)!  Talk about your high heels!  Well, at least for running shoes.  If you are experiencing knee pain and you currently have motion control or stability shoes, you might consider trying a flatter more neutral shoe and see if that reduces or eliminates your knee pain.

High Heels

Another running shoe feature that can have a negative impact on your running and increase your risk for injury is high heels.  Heel may be high because of a posting for a motion control or stability, or it may be due to excess cushioning.  Research suggests that the proprioceptive responses of the foot works best when the foot is flat and that high heels can mute or compromise proprioception.  Fortunately, shoe manufacturers have been offering flatter shoes, most likely due to Chris McDougal’s “Born To Run” and the barefoot/minimalist movement.  This is a good thing, because these flatter shoes increase our proprioception.

Check your current shoes.  Measure the sole at the heel and front of the shoe.  What’s the difference between this?  If this difference is 10 mm or greater, you might consider trying a shoe with approximately a 5-6 mm drop from the heel to front of the shoe.  Running shoes with a high heel mask our foot’s sensation (reduced proprioception) and allow us to land hard on the heel well in front of our body’s center of mass (overstriding).

Something to consider when you are not running:  If you put your foot in a better position throughout the day by wearing flatter shoes, you’ll be better able to maximize the function of your foot.  This will carry over to your running.  Even if you aren’t running in flat shoes, use flatter shoes throughout the rest of the day, as much as possible.

Cushioning

Just as motion control and stability shoes may be inappropriate for those who overpronate, or have flat arches, shoes with a lot of cushioning may be inappropriate for those who supinate (underpronate), or have high arches.  More cushioning results in less proprioception.  This in turn results in less control with our muscles to stabilize us when we have one foot on the ground and can result in overstriding; decreasing our running efficiency and increasing our risk of injury.

Narrow Toe Box

The last running shoe feature that can significantly impact your efficiency and injury risk is the toe box.  Unfortunately, fashion has dictated that we have shoes that taper in the front.  A shoe with a narrow toe box scrunches your foot, and thus can make it more difficult to control your big toe.  Approximately 80-85% of foot support when you run should come from the big toe.  So, your running shoe should have a wide toe box so that you can spread your toes.  This allows your muscles that control the toes to be properly activated, thus you can better control your big toe and increase your stability when you are in midstance.  This will also allow you to better push off with this foot making you a faster runner.

A few additional qualities in a running shoe that would be beneficial include:

– Thin: to provide some protection for the feet, but allow for near maximum proprioception

– Firm: enough in the midsole to optimize proprioception in the foot, but not so much to allow hard landings in the front of the body

– Light: weight matters in regards to efficiency

Summary:

  • Proprioception is the sensory information that allows our body to sense its position and allows us to control our limbs when we run. This affects our body’s response and along with muscle control affects our stability, which in turn affects our running efficiency and risk for injury
  • Don’t depend on shoes to correct for issues with running form, we’ll discuss how to correct for these in future articles
  • Consider using a firm, flat (6mm drop or less from heel to front of shoe), light shoe that is wide in the toe box
  • Consider using a shoe with little cushioning to maximize your body’s ability to control motion and to effectively respond to changes in conditions while running
  • Running shoes should be about function, not fashion. Adjust your shoe size if your foot grows, such as what can happen with wider toe box shoes as the foot widens

References

Clinghan, R., et al. “Do You Get Value For Money When You Buy an Expensive Pair of Running Shoes?”  Br J Sports Med. (42): 189-93, 2008.

Dicharry, J.  (2012).  Anatomy for Runners.  New York, NY: Skyhorse Publishing.

Kurz, MJ, and N. Stergiou. “The Spanning Set Indicates That Variability During the Stance Period of Running Is Affected by Footwear.” Gait Posture. (17): 132-5, 2003.

Nigg, BM, et al. “The Effects of Material Characteristics of Shoe Soles on Muscle Activation and Energy Aspects During Running.” J Biomech. (36): 569-75, 2003.

Ramanathan, AK, Parish EJ, Arnold GP, Drew TS, Wang W, and Abboud RJ.  “The influence of shoe sole’s varying thickness on lower limb muscle activity.” Foot Ankle Surg. (17): 218-23, 2011.

Reinschmidt, C., and BM Nigg. “Influence of Heel Height on Ankle Joint Moments In Running.” Med Sci Sports Exerc. (27): 410-6, 1995.

Richards, CE, PJ Magin, and R. Callister.” Is Your Prescription of Distance Running Shoes Evidence-Based?” Br J Sports Med. (43): 159-62, 2009.

Robbins SE, Waked WE, Allard P, McClaran J, Krouglicof N. “Foot position awareness in younger and older men: the influence of foot wear sole properties.” J Am Ger Soc (45): 61–6, 1997.

Robbins SE, Waked E, McClaran J. Proprioception and stability: foot position awareness as a function of age and footwear. Age Aging (24): 67–72. 1995.

Ryan, MB, et al. “The Effect of Three Different Levels of Footwear Stability on Pain Outcomes In Women Runners: A Randomised Control Trial.” Br J Sports Med, (45): 715-21, 2009.

Sekizawa, K, et al. “Effects of Shoe Sole Thickness on Joint Position Sense.” Gait Posture. (13): 221-8, 2001.

Stacoff, A., X. Kalin, and E. Stussi. “The Effects of Shoes on the Torsion and Rearfoot Motion In Running.” Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. (23): 482-490, 1991.