How to Adjust Your Training to Summer Heat

Summer-running-top-tip-to-help-running-in-the-heat

“A secret to happiness it letting every situation be what it is, instead of what you think it should be.”  – Loubis and Champagne

Hello Runners,

Summer is certainly in full swing in Colorado and throughout the rest of the country.

I certainly felt the effects of the heat during my long run today, which resulted in a slowed pace and even having to cut the run short, because I started too late in the morning.

So, a couple of quick tips to help you better train in the heat include staying well-hydrated before, during, and after your runs. Also, run early in the morning or early evening and wear light colored high tech lightweight wicking fibers.

Here are a couple of other recommendations that I wanted to share with you:

Adjust Your Running Pace Accordingly

You should adjust your pace with increased heat and humidity, instead of trying to complete a run at a specific pace not adjusted for heat and humidity, and become discouraged that you didn’t achieve this pace. One way to adjust your pace is by feel. So, if your training plan calls for a long run at an easy pace, make sure to adjust the pace, so that it still feels easy, even with increased temperature and/or humidity.

Fellow running coach Jeff Gaudette has a pace calculator based on temperature and dew temperature (basically relative humidity). If you know these you can use this calculator to adjust your pace accordingly for an easy, tempo, or race pace training run:

https://runnersconnect.net/training/tools/temperature-calculator/

Beware of Proper Recovery

The summer also offers challenges as far as proper recovery. If we have to start our run earlier in the morning to beat the heat we may not be getting enough sleep at night. This can add up over time and result in us being more fatigued during our runs, especially if we are not adjusting our sleep schedule accordingly. Thus, you may need to adjust your expectations and pace accordingly, as well as your sleep schedule.

In addition, we tend to be more active with other activities during the summer, whether it’s yardwork, doing a hike or being at the beach the day before a run. These can all affect our running performance. Again, this will require us to adjust our expectations and our pace.

Recovery Between Workouts May Be Slowed

Our body is designed to stay in homeostasis to keep us alive, and this includes for our body temperature. During the summer months, more of your blood is being diverted to your skin to cool you, rather than transporting oxygen to and nutrients to your muscles to help them recover. Thus, recovery between workouts will be slowed and your muscles may not be repaired and as strong for your next workout.

Therefore, it can help, as Coach Jeff Gaudette recommends, to include an additional recovery day during your training week. You may also want to include an occasional down week. This can help you catch up on sleep, allow you to enjoy a consequence-free hike or day at the beach, and can help you avoid overtraining and getting frustrated with what appears to be a lack of progress.

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

Your friend and coach,

Brian

P.S. If you know anyone who might benefit from this email, please share this with them. Also, if this was beneficial, please “Like” our page. Thank you.

How to Help Speed Your Recovery from Long Runs to Get the Most Out of Your Training

July 5 2019 Lower South Colony Lake Trip pic 2

Hello Runners,

While I was on a recent hike I thought about something I learned from fellow running coach Jay Johnson about recovery from long runs. It is important to perform some exercise on the day after a long run, or event like a marathon, to help speed recovery. Specifically, it is most beneficial to perform a non-running aerobic exercise that will still deliver oxygen-rich blood to the muscle fibers damaged by your long run. This extra oxygen will help speed the repair and recovery of these muscle fibers.

There are a variety of different aerobic exercises that can be beneficial, such as cycling or swimming. However, Coach Jay Johnson recommends that runners perform a brisk walk, or hike, at a pace of at least three miles per hour. He goes on to say this walk or hike should be performed in a flat area, or in an area with gently rolling hills.

I recommend that your brisk walk or hike be 45-60 minutes. You may also want to incorporate some foam rolling, active isolated stretching, yoga poses, or static stretching afterwards to further enhance your recovery from a long run.

So, start incorporating brisk walks or hikes after your long runs to help you recover faster and be more ready for your next tough run.

An added benefit is that the brisk walk, or hike, allows you to spend some quality time with friends and/or loved ones. I often perform recovery hikes with my wife and dog, which allows for some great connection time.

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

Your friend and coach,

Brian

P.S. If you know anyone who might benefit from this post, please share this with them. Also, if this was beneficial, please “Like” our page, by clicking on the Facebook icon, which will direct you to the like button on Denver Running Coach. Thank you.

Include Hill Repeats to Be Stronger on Race Day and to Transition from Shorter, Higher Intensity Work Bouts to Longer Tempo and Goal-Pace Runs During Your Training

“Hard times don’t create heroes. It is during the hard times when the ‘hero’ within us is revealed.”

Hello Runners,

As I reached mile 25, I saw the beast in front of me. It was the last obstacle standing between me and qualifying for the Boston Marathon for the first time, and it was formidable. I saw it take its toll on other runners before me as they struggled to ascend, with many having to walk. It seemed like a cruel joke.

I’d arrived the day before without my luggage, including my running shoes and running clothes, which had been taken from me, by an overzealous flight attendant, as I could not stuff the carry-on they were in either under my seat or the overhead bin. Unfortunately for me, my flight later got redirected, as did my luggage, because of a thunderstorm. As a result, I arrived the afternoon before the marathon without my luggage, and I was now in need of running clothes and shoes. I got the clothes at the expo and shoes at a local running store. I walked around as much as possible to break them in that evening.

When I arrived at the start line the next morning, I had pretty much given up on my goal of qualifying for Boston. Sure, I’d put the training in, but now I was running in new shoes that weren’t broken in and I wasn’t absolutely sure they were the right size and fit.  Who knows if they were going to cause blisters and other issues during the marathon. However, my mindset changed after about a mile when another runner flew by me. I decided to catch him and it was “game on” as far as qualifying for Boston.

After each mile, I did the math in my head as far as what pace I needed to run to still qualify. As I got to mile 25, qualifying for Boston was within my reach. However, I’d forgotten about this hill. The last major obstacle I would need to overcome to qualify. I knew I didn’t have a lot of time to spare, so to me walking any part of the hill was not an option. I didn’t appreciate it at the time, however part of my training had included hill work, including hill repeats; the topic of this post.

How To Perform Hill Repeats 

I recommend performing hill repeats on a hill with approximately 4-6% incline. The best surfaces to perform these on are a hard-packed trail free of roots, rocks, etc. or on a treadmill. You can perform these on the road, which I did in preparing for this marathon. If you perform hill repeats on the road, I do recommend recovering with a walk to minimize stress on the joints.

Perform a dynamic warmup and easy run first, of at least 15-20 minutes before performing hill repeats. Then perform 4-6 hill repeats at a comfortably hard effort (~5k pace). Recover with a slow jog or walk for at least 3 minutes. To start, I would perform hill repeats lasting 30-45 seconds. Then progress the length of the hill repeats for the next two weeks.

Sample Hill Repeat Progression

Week 1: 4-6 x 30-45 second hill repeats with 3 minute recovery in between hill repeats

Week 2: 4-6 x 45-60 second hill repeats with 3-4 minute recovery

Week 3: 4 x 60-75 second hill repeats with 3-5 minute recovery

Benefits of Hills Repeats

  • Strengthen the muscles of the legs (quadriceps, glutes, calves, etc.)
  • Increasing range of motion of the ankle joint
  • Help transition from shorter, higher intensity work bouts like VO2max intervals to tempo and goal-pace runs
  • Improve running form and running economy (efficiency)

Fortunately, I had incorporated hill repeats in my training for this marathon. I was still strong enough to attack this hill and run all of it. Then, I was able to push myself and finish strong for the last two tenths of a mile. As a result, I beat my qualifying time and I was able to laugh at all the obstacles I had encountered in my way, including that last hill.

So, I recommend that you consider incorporating hill repeats into your training. I typically include these with runners I coach.

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

Embrace the hills during training because they will pay off on marathon day.

Your friend and coach,

Brian

P.S. If you know anyone who might benefit from this email, please share this with them (there is a share button below). Also, if this was beneficial, please “Like” our page. Thank you.

Make Some of Your Long Runs More Challenging Than Your Marathon To Make Your Marathon Easier

“A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.” – Colin Powell

Hello Runners,

Over the past few weeks I’ve been incorporating hills and trails on some of my long runs. These runs have been really challenging and my paces have been about a minute less than my goal pace. However, I’m getting some great benefits from these runs that are going to help me on marathon day! I used this strategy for the last marathon I ran a few years ago, and while I watched many runners struggle in the last five miles, I was still strong. In fact, several spectators made comments of that nature.

If you are running a flat marathon, such as the Chicago Marathon, you will most likely be pleasantly surprised at how strong you feel by incorporating some tougher long runs in your training. If you are running a marathon with hills, especially at the end, such as the NYC Marathon, then you will be stronger on these hills.

Fortunately, I’m able to run from my house to areas with hills, trails, and both. Here are some benefits to running in such areas:

Benefits of Running Hills

  • Great leg strengthener, especially for quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, and muscles connected to the ankles providing great support for our knees and ankles to help minimize risk of injury and increase running pace
  • Our muscles are made up of different muscle fiber types. You may have heard of these. Basically, we have Type 1, or slow-twitch fibers, which we predominately use when we run a 5k, half- or full-marathon. However, for longer events, such as marathons, these fibers need a break from continually contracting. This is when we use our other muscle fiber types, especially the intermediate, Type 2a fibers, to give our Type 1 fibers time to recover before using them again. Basically, cycling between different fiber types during marathons, allows us to keep running. While the Type 1 fibers are great for endurance, the Type 2a are great for endurance and speed. Training on hills helps strengthen these fibers and helps improve their endurance performance, so they can help us out more during our marathon. This can result in a faster running pace, minimization of fatigue towards the end of a marathon, and allows us to be stronger on any hills we encounter during our event.

Benefits of Trails, Especially with Rocks

  • This is great for running form because it forces us to pick up our knees more, which improves running cadence (number of steps you take per minute). Unfortunately, I was not as focused on getting over some of the rocks on the trail I was running on a couple of weeks ago. I tripped and did a face plant resulting in some nice cuts and scrapes on my hands, elbows, knees, stomach. Fortunately, it wasn’t worse than that! So stay focused when running, especially in rocky areas!
  • Running on trails can provide some nice variety to our training, and often will require the use of some different muscles to help stabilize us more, especially muscles connected to the ankle joint. This can help with running form as well, in that it can improve our stability when you have one foot during your marathon or other event.

So, I recommend incorporating some tougher long runs early on in your training. I would focus more on flatter long runs on roads, or hard packed trails with minimal rocks, during your last 2-3 months of training. This will allow you to run closer to your goal event pace.

Also, you will need to appropriately balance these tougher long runs with your runs during the week, so that you can allow for recovery and still complete these runs. This is certainly something I keep in mind when developing training plans for the runners I coach, and for my own training plan.

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

Also, if you know anyone who might benefit from this email, please share this with them. Also, if this was beneficial, please “Like” our page. Thank you.

Your friend and coach,

Brian

How To Get The Most Out Of Your High Intensity Runs

“Comfort, the enemy of progress.” – PT Barnum

Hello Runners,

In my last post I discussed the importance of VO2max for your aerobic fitness and performance. I also talked about how you can improve VO2max. One thing I mentioned was an appropriate progression over 3-4 weeks, so that you continue to get the benefits of each workout as your body becomes more aerobically fit.

Whether it is improving your VO2max, lactate threshold, speed, etc. there are several variables you can adjust in your progression from week-to-week to get the most benefit out of your workouts. They include the following:

Number of repetitions

One way to make your workout more challenging from one week to the next is to increase the number of work bouts you perform. For example, in week one you might perform four work bouts, week two five work bouts, and then six work bouts for week three.

Length or duration of work bout

A second way to accomplish progression is to increase the length or duration of work bouts. So week one might be 30-second work bouts, week 2 45-second work bouts, and week three 60-second work bouts.

Pace or effort

Generally, I don’t change this variable alone during a progression, however I might change it if I’m changing the length or duration of a work bout, such as when I’m doing Fartlek runs. Usually if I increase the length or duration I will slightly decrease the pace, such as performing the work bouts at a pace that is 5-10 seconds/mile slower. Or, I might perform work bouts of the same duration at a slightly faster pace from one week to the next. If you include hills as part of your progression (see below), the effort may be the same from week-to-week, but obviously your pace will change.

Recovery time

Another way to make a workout more challenging from the previous week is to cut the recovery time. For example, the recovery time may be twice as long as the work bout for the first week, equal to the work bout for the second week, and half the time of the work bout for the third week.

Surface in which you perform work bouts

A way to add variety and challenge to a workout is to add some hills during the second or third week of the progression after running in a flat area during the first 1-2 weeks.

So, try changing one or more of these variables from one week to the next for your higher intensity workouts to make them more challenging, so you continue to benefit from these workouts. However, be sure to make adjustments that are appropriate and keep in mind the goal of your workouts. That is are you trying to improve VO2max, lactate threshold, etc. It is important to know the purpose of each workout, so that you are performing a workout that will most benefit you. This is certainly something I spend a significant amount of time with for the runners I coach and for my own workouts.

Here is an example of a four week progression for Fartlek runs. This is something I would include early in training to help your body adjust to performing higher intensity workouts:

Week 1:

  • Perform dynamic warmup
  • Run 20 minutes at an easy pace
  • Perform 6 30-second work bouts at a comfortable hard pace (~ your 5k pace, if you’ve done a recent 5k) in a flat area
  • Recover with a slow jog for 2 minutes in between work bouts
  • Run for 10-15 minutes at an easy pace
  • Perform cooldown

Week 2:

–              Perform dynamic warmup

–              Run 20 minutes at an easy pace

–              Perform 6 40-second work bouts at a comfortable hard pace (~ your 5k pace, if you’ve done a recent 5k) in a flat area

–              Recover with a slow jog for 2 minutes in between work bouts

–              Run for 10-15 minutes at an easy pace

–              Perform cooldown

Week 3

–              Perform dynamic warmup

–              Run 20 minutes at an easy pace

–              Perform 6 40-second work bouts at a comfortable hard pace (~ your 5k pace, if you’ve done a recent 5k) in a hilly area

–              Recover with a slow jog for 2 minutes in between work bouts

–              Run for 10-15 minutes at an easy pace

–              Perform cooldown

Week 4

–              Perform dynamic warmup

–              Run 20 minutes at an easy pace

–              Perform 6 60-second work bouts at a comfortable hard pace (~ your 5k pace, if you’ve done a recent 5k) in a flat area

–              Recover with a slow jog for 2 minutes in between work bouts

–              Run for 10-15 minutes at an easy pace

–              Perform cooldown

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

Also, if you feel anyone can benefit from this email, please share it and “Like” our page.

Your friend and coach,

Brian

 

VO2max: What Is It, Why Is It Important to Your Running Performance, and How Do You Improve It

Hello Runners,

There are three factors that are most important to your running performance and can affect whether you finish an event pumping your fists in celebration, or hanging your head in disappointment.

These factors are your running economy (basically how efficient you are when you run), your lactate threshold (maximum pace you can sustain for a prolonged period of time), and your VO2max or maximal oxygen consumption.

One of my workouts last week specifically focused on VO2max. For this particular workout, I performed a dynamic warmup and then ran at an easy pace for 20 minutes. Then the real fun began! I performed 40 second work bouts in a flat area (a track for example) at a hard pace. I focused on form during these work bouts to maximize my speed and effort. After each of these work bouts, I did a slow jog recovery interval for two minutes and then repeated for a total of six work bouts. I finished my run at an easy pace for approximately 10 minutes. Then I finished up by performing stability, mobility, and strengthening exercises and foam rolling. This was a challenging workout!

What Is VO2max?

VO2max is the maximal amount of oxygen our body can use to produce energy by aerobic energy systems when we are running at maximal effort, and is considered the “gold standard” for assessing aerobic fitness. VO2max is affected by our body’s ability to take oxygen into the body and deliver it to our running muscles, which incorporates our cardiovascular system, including the heart, blood, and blood vessels. Another important determinant of VO2max is the muscles’ ability to extract oxygen from the blood and use it to produce energy. This involves our “mighty” mitochondria in our muscle cells. The mitochondria are the powerhouses that will extract oxygen and use it along with carbohydrates, fats, and proteins in our body to the produce energy for us to run.

How Is VO2max Measured?

There are labs that will assess your VO2max by measuring the volume and composition of the gases you inhale and exhale while running. This test is usually performed on a treadmill in which the speed and/or incline is increased every 2-3 minutes. Basically, run until you feel you can run no more, or it is deemed that the test needs to be stopped for safety purposes. The test typically lasts ~12-15 minutes. As you might guess, it’s a hard test! In addition, you need to wear apparatus that will allow the volume and composition of gases to be measured. Here is an image of a typical VO2max testing setup:

vo2max testing

It is also possible to have VO2max measured outside while running on a track, although this requires sophisticated equipment.

VO2max can also be estimated based on time to run a mile. The advantage of this is that it doesn’t require sophisticated equipment and having to wear potentially uncomfortable apparatus. I offer this estimate as part of my running evaluation I do with runners. I can also offer this to runners who may not be able to do an in-person running evaluation with me.

It’s most helpful to repeat the measure of your VO2max after at least three months, to see if it has improved with your training.

What Factors Affect My VO2max?

There are several factors that affect VO2max including genetics, gender, age, fitness level, and training.

How Do I Improve My VO2max and Thus, My Running Performance?

There are several ways to improve VO2max depending on your fitness level. For beginner runners just running frequently and increasing the duration of your runs can significantly improve your VO2max, especially over three months.

For intermediate and advanced runners, it is more difficult to improve VO2max. However, hard work bouts in which you are running several minutes at ~95-100% of your current VO2max can help improve it. I recommend starting with hard work bouts for 30-40 seconds. Recover with a slow jog for 2-3 minutes between these bouts. Repeat for a total of 4-6 work bouts. Over the next 2-3 weeks, I recommend a progression in which you increase the time of your work bouts. This will depend on what’s appropriate for you. For runners I coach, we discuss how these work bouts went each week, as well as their fitness level to determine the appropriate progression. In addition, you should have been recently cleared by your physician to participate in vigorous physical activity. Also, you should have performed some previous speedwork, such as Fartlek runs, before engaging in VO2max work bouts.   

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

Also, if you feel anyone can benefit from this email, please share it.

Your friend and coach,

Brian

What To Do When A Race or Training Run Doesn’t Go Well

“Successful People Don’t Fear Failure, But Understand That It’s Necessary to Learn and Grow From.” – Robert Kiyosaki

Hello Runners,

I hope your running is going well.

As I mentioned in the last post, I did a 5k during Memorial Day weekend. It was a nice, low-key 5k. There were about 20-30 runners. Certainly no frills, but it was a free 5k and you got your time at the end. Plus, it offered the opportunity to run in a competitive environment (or non-competitive environment, if you wanted) with other runners. I mainly used it for some variety in my training and as a measure of my aerobic fitness early in my marathon training.

I certainly enjoyed the event, and it’s nice to have this option only 5 miles from my house every Saturday.

I had a couple of goals for this race, which I did not achieve. This certainly will happen at some point during our races or training runs. When this happens with runners I coach, we discuss what happened and how to move forward.

So, instead of beating ourselves up for less than expected results, I recommend that you learn from your performances that didn’t go as well as you’d hoped. However, before we focus on this, I recommend considering the positives from the race or training run, and asking yourself, “what did go well?” I’m sure you will be able to find some silver lining.

After you have identified the positives, I recommend taking some time to reflect upon what didn’t go well and why that might have been. If you could do the race or training run all over again, what would you do differently? Was it not being properly hydrated or fueled? Did you make a bad food choice the morning off or night before? Maybe you realize that you need to improve your fitness and/or speed and can focus on this more.

Here are a few things that I learned from my 5k that might help you:

Pacing

One of the biggest challenges with races is getting caught up in the race environment and what other runners are doing. I’m certainly guilty of this, and it happened to me for this particular 5k. I started at the front and within the first minute I was in third and wanted to win the race. I went out too fast in the first mile and got distracted from my goals, which included a negative split (running second have faster than the first have). As a result of going out too fast in the first mile, I had to slow my pace in the second mile. I was able to use self-talk to push myself through and actually ran the third mile faster than the second, but I didn’t achieve my goal of a negative split. Now, in a 5k, this wasn’t a significant issue because the race is short enough that I only had to struggle for a short time. This same approach would not work well on marathon day! So, this is something I need to be careful of. A friend of mine actually did go out too fast in a recent marathon, and unfortunately for him, the last 11 miles were a struggle, and the result was disappointing.

Know the Course As Best As You Can

Beware that there may not be race volunteers at every turn and some turns may not be well marked. This was the case during my 5k. Although most of the course was straightforward, there was some confusion that I and another runner had shortly after the first mile. Although it didn’t cost a lot of time, it did cost some time, and certainly at that point my chance of winning the race was gone. You should also be familiar with the race profile and know when and approximately how long and steep the hills are, if there are any.

Improve Fitness

Certainly this race was a good assessment of my fitness, and made me more aware of the difficulty in breaking three hours is a marathon. Yes, I was able to run a slightly faster than goal marathon pace for this 5k, but it’s a 5k, not a marathon! Therefore, I will need to be consistent with all of my remaining training, including all of my runs and other aspects of my training that support my running, including strengthening exercises and cooldowns, so that I can get the most out of my runs.

Adjustments to Running Form

Something else I’ve thought about are any adjustments to my running form that might help me improve my efficiency and speed. One thing I have been working on for a while, is incorporating more forward lean. After my 5k, I decided to incorporate a drill in my dynamic warm-up to make this adjustment more natural. For those of you who are intermediate or advanced runners and consistently incorporate core strengthening into your training, I recommend incorporating a slight forward lean, from the ankles, into your running form. You can practice this during your dynamic warm-up for 30-60 seconds, until it becomes natural:

  • Stand perpendicular to a full-length mirror, so that you can view your body position from the side
  • Engage the core muscles to stand erect
  • Slowly lean forward from the ankles, until the point in which you fall forward
  • While doing so, make sure that your body is in one plane, and that you are not leaning from the waist or head and neck
  • While you are leaning forward, imagine yourself being pulled up and forward by the top of your shirt. This cue will help you keep the core muscles engaged.
  • Once you start to fall forward, catch yourself and return to the starting position
  • Repeat

When you are running, you should lean from the ankles just to the point where you start to fall forward. Now you have gravity helping to pull you forward, thus you don’t have to work as hard. This is a key component to chi running and is one reason why chi running is effective. However, make sure the lean is coming from the ankles and not waist, neck, etc.

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

Also, if you feel anyone can benefit from this post, please share it.

Your friend and coach,

Brian

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 69: Train Like An Athlete, Not Just a Runner, or Risk Not Achieving Your Running Goals in 2019

March 29 2019 Snowshoeing in RMNP on KJs bday

 

 

 

 

 

Today I ran ~10 miles at a comfortable pace and included 4 x 8-second hill sprints towards the end of this run with full recovery in between hill sprints.

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)
  • Glute bridge hip lifts (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)
  • Bounced on stability ball with smaller ball in between knees (3 minutes)

After these exercises I did active isolate stretching for the calf muscles and ball rolling for the calf muscles and plantar fascia.

While I was performing my ten mile run, I was thinking about the importance of training like an athlete, not just a runner. Running is a repetitive exercise performed primarily in one plane of motion, the sagittal, or front-to-back, plane. However, it is important to be able to stabilize motion in the other two planes of motion, the frontal, or side-to-side, plane, and the transverse, or rotational, plane. In fact, lack of stability, mobility, and strength in these planes leads to many of the common injuries experienced by runners, including IT band syndrome, plantar fasciitis, and issues of the knee and ankles. Therefore, runners need to train like athletes and improve stability, mobility, and stregnth in all three planes of motion. Thus, I have included exercises in the fitness training program for this. If you have not received the fitness training program, you can access this by opting in on the Welcome Page, under “Subscribe to My Newsletter.” Such exercises would include monster walks from side-to-side (frontal plane exercise) and forwards and backwards (transverse plane exercise).

You can also improve stability, mobility, and strength in the frontal and transverse planes of motion through certan modes of cross-training. One of my neighbors is a very fast runner and I see him running with his young daughter from time-to-time. Last week I saw her rollerblading, which is going to help her build stability, mobility, and strength in the frontal plane. She’s going to be a great athlete and runner!  Cross-country skiing is another great cross-training activity that will similarly be beneficial in the frontal plane. For this, and other reasons, I like to include cross-country skiing for some of my cross-training workouts. Other forms of cross-training can also be beneficial for improving stability, mobility, and stregnth, so I recommend including some variety in the modes of cross-training that you perform. My wife’s birthday was this past Friday, and we sprent a couple of days snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park. Snowshoeing is another great mode of cross-training. I have continued to feel the effects of those workouts in my glutes, which is also going to help me have more power in my running stride, and thus be a better athlete and runner.

So, embrace being an athlete and not just a runner, to improve your chances of achieving your running goals for 2019.

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