What To Do If Your Event Gets Postponed or Cancelled

“What is hope but a feeling of optimism, a thought that says things will improve, it won’t always be bleak [and] there’s a way to rise above the present circumstances.” ―Wayne W. Dyer

Hello Runners,

I hope you are all staying safe and healthy. You may be going through the same initial disappointment that I recently went through when I found that the marathon (Colfax Marathon) I’ve been training for to run this spring will be postponed to a later date. As of this posting, it’s not clear when this event will be moved to, but it will be late summer or fall. Fortunately, this event is only being postponed, and depending on the date it gets moved to, I can still run it.

At least this event hasn’t been cancelled, but some of you may not be so fortunate, and your event may have been cancelled. This can be very frustrating, especially with all the time and effort you have put into training. I can appreciate how you feel because I’ve trained for several marathons, but something happened which forced me not to be able run the event, such as the first time I qualified for Boston and then shortly after developed a severe case of plantar fasciitis.

So what do you do?

If your event has been postponed, keep training. You will most likely need to go into maintenance mode, depending on the reschedule new date. For example, this past weekend I had a 20-miler scheduled to prepare for the Colfax Marathon, and so I ran it. However, I adjusted this run, so that I did it at a slower pace than I would if my marathon hadn’t been postponed. You might do something similar, or adjust the distance, or both pace and distance. Similarly, you will need to adjust your training, so as to delay when you achieve your peak performance level, but you want to be trained, so you can easily transition into race-specific workouts shortly before the event.

If your event has been cancelled, consider the following: how you can make the most of the training you have put in, potentially adjust your schedule for another race down the road, shift your mindset so something good can come out of this. I recently read a post from Coach Jeff Gaudette with Runners Connect that offered some sound advice.

Jeff gave different recommendations based on how far out the cancelled event was. For an event that was only 1-3 weeks away he recommends running your own race. That is, set up a course in a flat area that is free of traffic and is the same distance as your event (best if you set up a loop). You can set out water bottles and fuel similar to aid stations at an event. Warm-up and prepare like you normally would and then race your loop to the best of your ability. You might convince a fast friend to pace you or have a family member bike alongside to help you keep pace. You can even do a virtual race (search online for options), which can help increase your level of motivation. This will allow you to take advantage of your taper and the hard training you have put in.

If your cancelled race is 4-11 weeks out, Jeff recommends transitioning to maintenance mode. In this case, you would back off the intensity slightly, but keep your mileage up. Specifically, you would eliminate really tough, race-specific workouts and replace them with moderate, general workouts. This will allow you to maintain fitness and keep a solid foundation of training allowing you to more easily transition into race-specific training at a later date.

Finally, if your cancelled race is 12 weeks away or more, Jeff says this is a golden opportunity to focus on your weaknesses or address any injuries. This is an optimal time to turn a negative into a positive. Focusing on a weakness can help you make overall progress to achieving your running goals. For example, if endurance is a weakness, compared with speed (you perform better in shorter races in comparison to longer events), concentrate on longer runs and your aerobic development. Reduce the intensity of your workouts and instead increase your mileage.

If speed is your weakness (you are strong aerobically and/or an older runner), focus on improving your running mechanics and improving your speed. Slightly back off your mileage and on any tempo run sessions, and instead include more speed development work like strides, hill sprints, 200 meter intervals, as well as strengthening exercises for muscle weaknesses and imbalances.

If you are consistently injured, focus on what you need to get healthy. Now would be a great time to back off on training and focus on rehab. This includes dedicating time for strengthening exercises, foam rolling, stretching, and the other little things that typically get put on the back burner when we are training for a race. This is also a great time to identify the underlying causes of any injuries and begin addressing these causes.

So, if your event has been postponed or cancelled, it can be helpful to shift your mindset and make a positive of the situation. This may not only help you with your next event, but help your become a better runner overall.

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

Be well.

Your friend and coach,

Brian

Reference

Jeff Gaudette. Runners Connect

 

How To Address Tightness In The Hips To Help Improve Running Performance

 

Hello Runners,

In the three previous posts I have discussed strengthening the glute and outer hips muscles and activation of these muscles to significantly improve running performance and minimize the risk of injury.

However, it is difficult to fully engage the glutes and other muscles of the hips if they are significantly tight. There are different approaches to reducing this muscle tightness, including active isolated stretching and foam rolling. Click on the links to access videos to use these techniques.

Another useful technique, which can also be relaxing, is to use yoga poses. In fact, I use some of the poses, which I will discuss, on a daily basis. When performing yoga poses it is important to breathe naturally and not hold your breath. You should only progress to as far as comfortable, using props such as blocks as necessary to support your knees, hips, or arms. Also, you should hold poses only as long as comfortable. Don’t worry about holding for 30 or 60 seconds, for example. You may only be able to hold a pose for a few seconds when beginning. That’s okay. It’s more important that you are performing the pose properly.

So, here are a few yoga poses you can use to reduce tightness in the hips. Discontinue any of these poses that cause significant discomfort or pain.

Square pose

  • From a seated position, straighten your right leg out, and place your left ankle under your right knee
  • Bend the right leg (without moving the left and place the right foot in front of or on top of the left knee
  • Fold forward from the hips and allow your spine to round
  • Place your hands down, or rest on your elbows
  • Hold the pose for as long as feels comfortable
  • You are looking for sensations in the outer parts of the thighs, buttocks, hips and around the sacrum
  • To come out of the pose, lean back on your hands and straighten your legs
  • Repeat on the other side
  • Beginner tips:
    • If your knees stay high up, try sitting up on a cushion and place blocks or blankets under your knees.
    • Make sure you avoid any discomfort in your knees. If this occurs, try separating your knees further apart and supporting with blocks.
  • Variations:
    • Place a bolster across your legs to support your chest while folding over.
    • If the neck is sensitive, support your head with your hands by placing the elbows down. Use blocks or a bolster under the elbows if needed.
    • For deeper sensations, stack ankles and knees over each other. However, if your knees lift up, bring the shins back in front of each other.
    • You can bend sideways instead of folding forward to target the side body.
    • You can incorporate a gentle twist before coming out of the pose. Use your hands to slowly roll up, ground your sitting bones to find length in your spine and gently twist towards the side of your upper leg.
  • Here is a video demonstrating square pose:

https://www.google.com/search?q=square+pose+yin+yoga&rlz=1C1GCEV_en&oq=square+pose&aqs=chrome.1.69i57j0l7.6809j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8#kpvalbx=_KotdXvESy9X6BKCtkogB28

squarepose

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pigeon or deer pose

  • Pigeon pose
    • To begin, come onto your back with your knees bent and your thighs parallel and hip-distance apart. Next, cross your left ankle over your right thigh, making sure that your anklebone clears your thigh. Actively flex your front foot by pulling your toes back. When you do this, the center of your foot will line up with your kneecap rather than curving into a sickle shape, which can stress the ligaments of the ankle and the knee.
    • Maintaining this alignment, pull your right knee in toward your chest, thread your left arm through the triangle between your legs and clasp your hands around the back of your right leg. If you can hold in front of your shin without lifting your shoulders off the floor or rounding the upper back, do so; otherwise, keep your hands clasped around your hamstring or use a strap. The goal is to avoid creating tension in the neck and shoulders as you open the hips, so choose a position that keeps your upper body relaxed. As you draw your right leg in toward you (making sure to aim it toward your right shoulder and not the center of your chest), simultaneously press your left knee away from you. This combination of actions should provide ample sensation, but if you don’t feel much, try releasing your pubic bone down away from your navel toward the floor. This will bring a bit more curve into your lumbar and should deepen the hip stretch.
    • Boost Your Bird
    • This variation moves more in the direction of the final shape but uses blankets to help maintain alignment. Come onto all fours with your hands shoulder-distance apart and about a hand span in front of your shoulders. Bring your left knee forward and place it on the floor just behind and slightly to the left of your left wrist, with your shin on a diagonal and your left heel pointing toward your right frontal hipbone. Now bring your attention to your back leg: Your right quadriceps should squarely face the floor so that your leg is in a “neutral” position—you want to avoid the common pitfall of externally rotating the back leg. Establish this neutral leg by tucking your right toes under and straightening your right leg so that the thigh and knee come off the floor. Lift your right inner thigh up toward the ceiling and move your right frontal hipbone forward so that it is parallel to your left frontal hipbone. You want to have your hipbones square toward the front of the mat. As you roll your right hipbone forward, draw your left outer hip back and in toward the midline of your body. Its natural tendency will be to swing forward and out away from you.
    • When the hipbones are parallel in Pigeon, the sacrum is less likely to be torqued, and you can practice the pose without straining your low back. Maintaining this hip alignment, shimmy your right toes back slightly and then point them so that your right thigh releases to the floor. Move your left foot and shin toward the front of your mat, aiming for your shin to be parallel to the front edge, and flex your foot to protect your knee.
    • Now observe your left outer hip. If, after you square your hips, the area where your thigh and buttock meet doesn’t rest on the floor, you need to add a blanket or two underneath. This is crucial to practicing the pose safely. If the outer hip doesn’t have support, the body will fall to the left, making the hips uneven and distorting the sacrum. Or, if the hips stay square but your left hip is free floating, you’ll put too much weight and pressure on the front knee. Neither scenario is good!
    • Get Even
    • Instead, use your arms for support as you organize your lower body. Adjust so that your hipbones are parallel to the wall you’re facing and your sacrum is even (meaning one side hasn’t dipped closer to the floor than the other) and place however many blankets are necessary to maintain this alignment beneath your left outer hip.
    • Place your hands in front of your left shin and use your arms to keep your torso upright. For the final version, keep moving your left foot forward, working to make your left shin parallel to the front edge of your mat. Make sure that in doing so you maintain the alignment in your hips and sacrum, continuing to use blankets if necessary. The left leg will be in external rotation, the right leg in neutral—each position giving access to a different type of hip opening. The right leg will stretch the psoas and other hip flexors, and the left side will get into the group of rotators in the buttocks and outer hip
    • It’s common to experience intense sensations in the left hip as the femur rotates outward in the hip socket. (For many people, this is in the fleshy part of the buttock; for others, it’s along the inner thigh.) Some feel a stretch along the front of the right hip as the psoas lengthens. You do not, however, want to feel any sensations in your left knee. If you do, this variation is not for you! Return to Eye of the Needle, where you can safely open your hips without strain.
    • If your knee is sensation free (hooray!), extend your torso forward across your left shin, walking your arms out in front of you and releasing your forehead toward the floor. Fold forward only after you’ve spent time checking your alignment and paying attention to your body. Your left knee will be to the left of your torso (with the left thigh on a bit of a diagonal), and your flexed left foot will be just alongside the right side of your rib cage. As you fold forward, turn your attention inward. We tend to hold this version of Pigeon longer than more active postures, so see if part of your practice in this pose can be to stay mentally focused once you have settled in. In the Yoga Sutra, Patanjali defines practice as “effort toward steadiness.” In these extended, quieter holds, you get to explore this idea, tethering your sometimes scattered attention by following the breath as it moves in and out, finding stillness as you open and expand.
    • Video:

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQMsyrLowFw

Pigeon Pose Yoga Benefits_19.jpg

  • Deer pose (less intense alternative to pigeon pose)
    • Foundation-Begin seated with your legs in front of you.
    • Action- Bend you right knee into half butterfly with the heel about a foot away from the pelvis, then place your left knee into the arch of the right foot. Bend the left knee until the foot is closer to ninety degrees from the knee towards the bottom. (The legs will look a bit like a pinwheel) Rotate the torso in the direction of the right knee and walk thee torso forward until it rests on a bolster, blanket, or your mat. The arms can relax out to the side like goalposts. Turn your head to the side.
    • Boundary- Keep upright in the seated twist if there are hip issues. Adjust the bend of the knees to your own degree of comfort.
    • While You are There: Relax the front of the torso towards the ground. Remain for as long as comfortable on each side
    • Modify- The easiest option is to stay seated as you twist. The level of bolster/ blanket height can be adjusted to the degree of flexibility. Turning your head in the same direction as the knees will be the more gentle option for the neck.
    • Deepen- Take the chest all the way to the floor to increase the rotation and lower hip compression/ upper hip stretch. Send your arm that is on the same side as your knees up overhead and stretch from the hip all the way through the fingers to add shoulder opening. Turning the head in the direction away from the knees will increase the stretch on the neck.
    • Transition out of the Pose: Place your hands on the ground and use that support to slowly return to seated. Then unwind the twist. It is nice sometimes to lean back on the arms, place the feet in front of you and windshield wiper the knees before taking the second side.
    • Video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AAob8VDW_q4       

deerpose

 

 

 

 

Low lunge

  • Start in Downward Facing Dog pose
  • As you exhale, step your right foot forward, between your hands. Lower your left knee to the floor, sliding the foot back until you feel a nice stretch in the left hip and thigh.
  • Keep the hips low and level with each other.
  • As you inhale, engage your lower belly and lift your chest away from the thigh, sweeping the arms up alongside your ears.
  • Look straight ahead or come into a gentle backbend with your gaze to your thumbs.
  • As you exhale, lower your hands back down and step back to Downward Facing Dog.
  • Beginner tips:
    • You can keep your hands on the floor, blocks or your hips and work on the stretch in the front thigh.
    • Scissor your hips together to keep them level with each other and find stability.
    • Use a folded blanket to pad your back knee.
  • Video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aOfniMZY2hk

lowlungepose

 

 

 

 

 

Be aware that there are several variations of each of these poses and that you can use the ones that work best for you. I recommend incorporating yoga poses at least 3-4 days per week.

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

Your friend and coach,

Brian

References

https://www.yogajournal.com/practice/pigeon-pose

https://www.ekhartyoga.com/resources/yoga-poses/low-lunge

Address These Lower Leg Issues To Avoid Injury and Improve Running Performance

eccentric calf raises

Hello Runners,

In the last three posts I have discussed strengthening the glutes and outer hips muscles, as well as proper activation of these muscles, to significantly improve running performance and minimize the risk of injury.

Another factor that can adversely affect running performance and increase your risk of injury is muscle tightness. I had planned to address muscle tightness issues in this post. However, I recently had the opportunity to have a conversation with massage therapist and ultra endurance runner, Aaron Lange. Aaron practices massage on athletes, include Olympic athletes, in Boulder, CO. In our conversation I asked Aaron about some of the most common issues that occur in runners and how to address these issues. The main issues Aaron encounters in runners are poor running mechanics, overtraining, improper function of the ankles, and lack of glute strength.

In a previous post I discussed proper running mechanics, and in another post I included cues that you can use for proper running mechanics. In addition, Aaron mentioned that running drills and performing strides, in which you are running faster, can help. To run faster you have to run more efficiently, so that is why performing strides and sprints are beneficial. I have discussed these previously, but will revisit these in a future post. I will also discuss overtraining and signs that you are overtraining in a future post. As far as glute strength, Aaron shared this is important to keep your feet from landing close to, or even crossing the midline of the body, because this promotes a turning outwards for the foot. When the foot turns inward or outward this can lead to the most common injuries that runners encounter including: IT band syndrome, plantar fasciitis, knee pain, Achilles tendon issues (tendonitis or tendinosis). Proper engagement of the glutes can minimize this outward movement of the foot.

In the rest of this post, I will talk about what Aaron shared with me regarding issues with the ankle and how to address these. Having proper control at the ankle without the foot turning outward or inward can significantly minimize the risk of injury and results in a more efficient stride, which means you can run faster. As with the muscles at the hip (glutes, outer hips, hip external rotators, etc.), muscle weakness and tightness of the muscles that control the ankle can result in the inward and outward movement of the foot upon landing and then push off of the ground.

Muscle Weakness Issues

The muscles that control the movement of the ankle include the gastrocnemius (outer calf muscle), soleus (deeper or inner calf muscle), peroneals (outside of lower leg), posterior tibialis (inside of lower leg), and flexor halluces longus. The best exercise to address weaknesses in any of these muscles is eccentric calf raises.

To perform eccentric calf raises:

  • Use a step with a hand railing, so that you can balance yourself as needed as you lower your foot so that it drops below the level of the step.
  • Position each foot so that approximately half the foot hangs over the edge of the step
  • Have your legs straight and engage the core so you are as tall as possible
  • While using the hand railing for support as needed, raise up on both feet
  • Then slower lower on one foot so that foot drops to below the level of the step
  • Raise back up on both feet
  • Perform 15 repetitions for each foot
  • Make sure to keeping breath throughout this exercise, ideally exhaling as you slower lower
  • Make sure the foot is pointed straight forward when lower and not turned to the side

I recommend starting with one set of 15 repetitions for each leg with a straight leg. Once you are comfortable with this then increase your frequency to 2-3 times per day. Then increase the number of sets to 2-3. Aaron also performs this exercise with a bent knee, which can better target the soleus muscle.

Muscle Tightness Issues

Most runners statically stretch the calf muscles, at least the outer, or gastrocnemius.  You should also be stretching the inner or deeper soleus muscle by bending the back leg (the one being stretched). Bending the knee will also stretch the Achilles tendon.

Although many runners are good about stretching the gastrocnemius and sometimes soleus, they ignore addressing tightness in the other muscles important for proper ankle function. Some of these muscles are referred at as the “stirrup muscles” and are found on the outside (peroneals) and inside (posterior tibialis) of the lower leg. These muscles can become tight, especially if a runner does not properly control at the ankle and has their foot turn inward or outward.

The best ways to address tightness in these muscles is through foam rolling (for the peroneals) and self-massage while flexing the ankle (for the posterior tibialis).

To reduce muscle tightness in the peroneals:

  • While lying on your side, place a foam roller directly underneath the outside of your lower leg between the knee and ankle
  • Support your upper body using your forearm and free hand. Adjust pressure into the roller with your free hand and foot.
  • Slowly roll up and down the length of the peroneals (outside of the lower leg between the knee and ankle) while slightly rotating the leg periodically for 20-30 seconds.
  • Repeat on the other side.
  • Be sure to keep breathing while rolling
  • You may also want to apply pressure on the most tender area of the peroneals and hold for 20-30 seconds while you continue breathing

To reduce tightness in the posterior tibialis:

  • While seated cross one leg over the opposite knee.
  • Apply pressure with your thumbs on the muscle just on the inside of the ridge of the shin
  • Slowly flex and extend the ankle
  • Start for 30 seconds and gradually build up to 1-3 minutes daily
  • Repeat on the other leg

 

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

Also, please feel free to share this with anyone you feel might benefit

Your friend and coach,

Brian

 

References

Jay Dicharry. Anatomy for Runners. Skyhorse Publishing: New York, NY, 2012.

National Academy of Sports Medicine Essentials of Corrective Exercise. Ed. Michael Clark & Scott Lucent. Lippincott, Williams, & Wilkins: Baltimore, MD, 2011.

Goals Set the Direction, But Habits Are Best For Becoming The Runner You Want to Become

“When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at this rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that last blow that did it – but all that had gone before.” – Jacob Riis (social reformer)

Happy New Year Runners!

Each year approximately 40 percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions. Unfortunately, by the time February arrives most have quit, and will probably make the same resolution next January. Why weren’t they successful? Most likely they didn’t develop the proper behaviors and habits necessary to be successful. Yes, goals are important and provide direction, however it’s the systems and habits that we develop, that are most important to our success.

I recently finished reading James Clear’s Atomic Habits, which I highly recommend. He shares some valuable insight on how to develop good habits, and eliminate bad ones. In this article, I will touch upon a few insights that might help you get started in developing the habits you need to become a better runner and achieve your running goals.

Goals are helpful in that they provide us direction. Such as if we were flying from Los Angeles to Maui, it is helpful to know which direction we need to go. However, if we set a course starting from Los Angeles to land in Maui we would not arrive, if we did not make adjustments along the way. Similar with our running goals. We may have a goal of completing our first marathon, or breaking four hours, or qualifying for Boston, however if we don’t develop the proper plan, get in the runs and support work (dynamic warmup, cool down, strengthening exercises, and cross-training) and develop other important habits, we’ll not optimize our training. Instead, we may develop an injury and we won’t develop the endurance and/or speed necessary to achieve our goal.

Take Small Steps with a System-Focused Approach, Instead of Goal-Focused

One important principle from Atomic Habits is developing systems that set you up to become the person necessary to achieve whatever goals you set for yourself. Thus, to become a better runner such things as: proper training and nutrition plans, running form, support work, sleep, and hydration are important. If these are implemented on a consistent basis, incremental progress will be made leading to improved running performance, which then lead to better race results.

One of my favorite coaches of all time is the late Coach John Wooden, who had his players focus on making some small improvement each day that would help improve their game. These small improvements compound over time, like when you invest in mutual funds. Wooden put the emphasis on improvement and not on winning basketball games and national championships. As a result, some of Wooden’s players became some of the best basketball players in history (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton), and his teams won ten national championships, including seven in a row.

It is interesting to note that Wooden did not win his first national championship until he had been coaching at UCLA for 16 years! So, it took him a while to develop and successfully implement a system that would maximize his players’ performance, as well as his own coaching abilities. Similarly, if you are growing bamboo. It takes a significant amount of time for a bamboo plant to lay down an extensive root system. Then, all of sudden, a whole bunch of bamboo appears!

A systems-first mentality also allows you to fall in love with the process rather than the product/goal and you don’t have to wait to give yourself permission to be happy. You can be satisfied anytime your system is running. This is important because we are hardwired for immediate gratification. The goal-first mentality forces us to delay gratification until the next milestone is reached. The goal-first mentality also creates an “either-or” conflict in which you are either successful or a failure. Also, a goal-oriented mindset can create a “yo-yo” effect, which once the goal is achieved, you revert back to old habits. This is common with those trying to achieve weight loss.

So, it can be more beneficial to focus on what you want to become, instead of what you want to achieve, and develop the habits or systems to do so. If instead of waiting until we achieve our goal, we can achieve satisfaction in performing the steps along the way, we will be much happier and are more likely to make good habits automatic. Early on we may want to set up a rewards system for when we are completing the habits that we need to become the runner we need to become. Therefore, if we complete our run and the important support work, then we reward ourselves appropriately. For example, I reward myself with ten minutes of additional guitar-playing time. Over time you may not need the reward system because you automatically include support work on your run days.

So, again even though your goals will direct you, what’s most importance is the system you implement to become the runner necessary to achieve those goals. If you develop the habits and put in the work, the results will follow, just as they did for Coach Wooden.

 Identity Focus

Another important aspect of Atomic Habits is to become identity-focused, instead of goal-focused. Your habits are consistent with the identity you have for yourself. So, in order to change your habits, you have to change your identity. For example, if someone is trying to lose weight, they could change their identity to that of a healthy person, instead of focusing on losing a certain number of pounds. They can then focus on making decisions consistent with what a healthy person does, and could ask themselves, “What would a healthy person do in this situation?”

Similarly, if you have a time goal and/or want to be a Boston qualifier, your identity could be I’m a “sub-3:45 marathoner” or a “Boston qualifier” and put your focus on the habits necessary or consistent with being a “sub-3:45 marathoner” or “Boston qualifier”. You can then ask yourself, “Who is the type of person that would get these results?” Therefore, you would begin developing the sleep habits (such as 7-9 hours of sleep per night, because while you are sleeping the important adaptations to your training are occurring), nutrition habits (proper nutrients to fuel you and support adaptations), and support work habits necessary. You may also determine that it is necessary to work with a coach, so that you optimize your running form for performance and have an optimal training plan.  You may also need to develop the mind-set of focusing on improving as a runner from year-to-year, and appreciate that it may take a couple of years to break 3:45 in a marathon, or qualify for Boston.

Habit Stacking and Designing Your Environment

Techniques such as habit stacking and designing your environment (make it obvious) may help you facilitate the habits consistent with your identity of being a “sub-3:45 marathoner”, for example. After my runs I grab a glass of water to begin hydrating and focus on “relaxing my legs” by doing gentle leg swings, gradually increasing the range of motion. I perform these close to our designated workout room, which has my yoga mat, resistance band, dumbbells, foam roller, and lacrosse ball all laid out in full view (designing my environment). This cues me to perform the rest of my support work, including my strengthening exercises and cool down (habit stacking). Also, I usually play music I enjoy while performing these, which makes it easier to perform. I’ve performed this routine so many times that it has become automatic, and I recommend setting up a similar situation for yourself.

I will touch upon other important principles from Atomic Habits and other behavior change strategies in future blogs, to help you become the runner you want to become and help you achieve your goals along the way.

Summary of Key Points

  • Success is the product of daily habits
  • Goals are about the results you want to achieve. Systems are about the processes that lead to those results
  • Identity the person you want to become and develop the habits consistent with that identity
  • Consistency of habits is important. Start small and implement a proper reward system for immediate gratification once you’ve completed these habits. These habits should soon become automatic.
  • Focus on improvement over time, such as year-to-year, as a runner, not just a one-time goal

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

I don’t want to leave you with the idea that goals aren’t important. They have their place, as far as providing direction. Also, there are other steps you should take before beginning your training. Click here for a post from last year on goal setting and here to learn of other steps you should take before you begin training.

Also, it’s not too late to get started on training, if you are planning to run a spring half- or full-marathon. I began my formal training for the Colfax marathon last week.

Finally, I plan to lead a half- and full-marathon training group this year for fall half- and full-marathons. The group will meet once per week in Louisville (CO) for a run, and participants will be provided with a 16-week training plan. If you are interested, or would like to learn more, please contact me at brian@denverrunningcoach.com

Your friend and coach,

Brian

References

James Clear. Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones.  Avery: New York, 2018.

Cooldown: I Hate Static Stretching So I Don’t Do It – Part 1

Cooldown is a critical component of your workouts.  A cooldown is important because it can help facilitate bringing the heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure back to their normal, resting levels.  Also, a cooldown can facilitate removal of by-products produced from your workout from the exercising muscles.  One of these by-products is lactic acid, which is converted to lactate.  Lactate is actually a primary fuel used by the heart.  Lactate can also be recycled in the liver to reform glucose, which then can be used again as a fuel the next time you exercise.  Isn’t the human body great!

There are different types of cooldowns and one which will help facilitate what I just described is walking for 5-10 minutes.  This is certainly something that I recommend after your run workouts.  I also recommend a cooldown, which will address the length or mobility of the muscle.  In this post and the accompanying video, I will address a cooldown to improve muscle length.  In the next post, I will discuss what you can do to improve muscle mobility, which for many runners may be a more important issue to address.

 

What Is Static Stretching?

It seems every time I run I see someone performing static stretching, either before or after their run.  You may already know this, but I want to make sure everyone is on the same page.  Static stretching is used to stretch muscles while the body is at rest. During static stretching the muscle is gradually lengthened to an elongated position (to the point of discomfort) and held in that position, typically for 30 seconds.  Static stretching is meant to increase or at least maintain the length of the muscles and tendons, which are constantly being shortened when we run or perform strengthening exercises.

 

Does Static Stretching Really Work To Improve Muscle Tissue Length?

Several years ago when I was in graduate school I worked at the university’s wellness lab where I was earning my degree.  As a graduate assistant at this wellness lab I was involved with exercise testing, developing exercise programs, and demonstrating exercises to university staff and faculty.  At this wellness lab we recommended static stretching for those who exercised there.  However, I remember the director sharing in private with me that even though we recommended it, static stretching doesn’t really work.

Unfortunately, I did think too much about this until several years later as I incorporated static stretching after my own workouts, and have recommended it to other runners I have worked with.  Then I began reading more of the research and here it what I found…

Research suggests that to fully realize the benefits of static stretching you need to hold a stretch for 3-5 minutes!  Also, to lengthen the muscle you need to perform static stretching 4-6 days per week and it will typically take 10-12 weeks before you get positive results.

If I’m in a yoga class, holding a pose or a stretch for minutes is possible because I have the instructor constantly cueing to help distract me.  However, if I’m not in a yoga class, holding a static stretch for 3 minutes, even with my favorite music playing is a real challenge!

 

Is There a Better Option?

Fortunately, yes!  Research suggests that there are more effective ways to improve muscle length than static stretching.  These include techniques such as proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) and active stretching usually referred to as Active Isolated Stretching (AIS, developed by Aaron Mattes) or Active Isolated Flexibility.  These techniques typically involve contracting either the muscle we want to stretch first, or contracting the opposing muscle.  This can help trigger the nervous system to cause the muscle we want to stretch to relax, so that we can more effectively stretch that muscle than with static stretching.

I won’t discuss PNF in this post, but will focus on AIS.  In AIS, you contract the muscle or muscle groups opposite the ones you want to stretch for 1-2 seconds and then relax and repeat 5-10 times.  You can gently assist the stretch using a rope or your hand.

In the accompanying video I demonstrate several stretches that I recommend you incorporate into your cooldown.

 

Here is a description of each stretch:

Hamstrings:

–          Lie on your back with your right leg straight and a rope or band wrapped around your foot

–          Keeping your right leg straight, actively lift it as high as possible, then give gentle assistance with the rope until you feel a stretch

–          Keep your opposite leg in the ground by pushing your heel as far away from your head as possible, contracting the glute

–          Pull the rope above your head

–          Exhale and hold for 2 seconds and then relax

–          Repeat 5-10 times

–          Switch legs and repeat

Quadriceps:

–          Lie on your side with your knees curled up against your chest (fetal position)

–          Relax your neck, resting your head on the surface or on a pillow

–          Slide your bottom arm under the thigh of your bottom leg and place your hand around the outside of the foot, if you can’t reach the foot stabilize the knee

–          Contract your abdominal muscles to keep you from rolling

–          Reach down with your upper hand and grasp the shin (or ankle or forefoot) on your upper leg

–          If you are unable to bend your knee sufficiently for you to reach your foot with your hand, use a band or rope and wrap it around the ankle and grasp the ends

–          Keep your knee bent and your leg parallel to the surface on which you are lying

–          Contract your hamstrings and glutes and move your upper leg back as far as you can

–          Use your hand to gently assist

–          Exhale and hold for 2 seconds and then relax

–          Repeat 5-10 times

–          Switch sides and repeat

Psoas (hip flexor):

–          Get in a table top position on hands and knees

–          Reach back with your right hand and grasp your right ankle

–          Contract the hamstring and glute muscles to lift the right leg until the thigh is parallel to the ground

–          Be careful not to arch your back

–          Use your hand to gently assist

–          Exhale and hold for 2 seconds and then relax

–          Repeat 5-10 times

–          Switch legs and repeat

Gluteals:

–          Lie on your back with both legs extended straight

–          Rotate the leg you are not stretching toward the midline of your body by pointing the toes inward, this stabilizes the hip

–          Using your abdominal muscles and hip flexors, lift your bent knee toward the opposite shoulder, keeping your pelvis flat on the surface

–          Place your hand on the outside of the knee and gently guide it toward the opposite shoulder

–          To get a deeper stretch place the opposite hand on the shin and press your heel toward the floor as your knee nears your shoulder

–          Exhale and hold for 2 seconds and then relax

–          Repeat 5-10 times

–          Switch legs and repeat

Adductor (Inner thigh):

–          Lie on your back with a rope or band wrapped around one foot, it should be wrapped around the inside of the lower leg

–          Hold on the end of the band or rope in the hand on the same side as the roped leg

–          Actively lift your leg as far to the side as possible, then give gentle assistance with the band or rope until you feel a stretch

–          Exhale and hold for 2 seconds and then relax

–          Keep your opposite leg on the ground by pushing the heel as far away from your head as possible, contract the glute

–          Keep your toes pointed upward

–          Keep your back in line and your shoulders on the ground

–          Repeat 5-10 times

–          Switch legs and repeat

Abductor (Outer hip):

–          Lie on your back with a rope or band wrapped around the outside of one foot

–          Hold the end of the rope or band in your opposite hand with your free hand out to the side

–          Actively lift your leg across your body as far as possible, and then give gentle assistance with the rope or band until you feel a stretch

–          Exhale and hold for 2 seconds and then relax

–          Keep your non-roped leg on the ground by pushing your heel as far away from your head as possible, contracting the glute

–          Keep your toes pointed upward

–          Keep your back in line and your shoulders on the ground

–          Repeat 5-10 times

–          Switch legs and repeat

Gastrocnemius (Outer calf):

–          Lie on your back with a rope or band wrapped around your right foot and your right leg raised in the air

–          Actively pull your right foot to your shin and then give assistance with the rope

–          Exhale and hold the stretch for 2 seconds and then relax

–          Perform 5-10 repetitions

–          Switch legs and repeat

Soleus (Deeper calf) and Achilles Tendon:

–          Lie on your back with a rope or band wrapped around your right foot and your right leg raised in the air

–          Bend the right knee

–          Actively pull your right foot to your shin and then give assistance with the rope

–          Exhale and hold the stretch for 2 seconds and then relax

–          Perform 5-10 repetitions

–          Switch legs and repeat

 

 

References

Anatomy for Runners.  Jay Dicharry

The Whartons’ Stretch Book.  Jim and Phil Wharton

Core Endurance Performance.  Mark Verstegen and Pete Williams

It’s All in the Hips (and Pelvis) Part 1: Hip Flexors

The April issue of Running Times include an article entitled “It’s All in the Hips”, which I felt contained useful information for runners at all levels, on improving running performance, and factors which can negatively affect running performance and potentially increase injury risk. The hips and the pelvis play very important roles in running, in fact I refer to the hips as the steering wheel to help us run effectively. Originally I planned to hilite and elaborate upon the important points of this article in one post. However, I soon realized this would result in a post that was much too long! So I will be sending out multiple posts hiliting the important points and elaborating upon these.

In this article, elite running coach Bobby McGee, who I’ve had the privilege of meeting and who has helped me as a runner and coach, states that the first issue that should be addressed to improve running performance is tight hip flexors. In fact, approximately 85% of runners have tightness in the hip flexors. Therefore this article will focus on the importance of hip flexors, what causes tight hip flexors, and what can be done to address this.

What are the hip flexors and what is their function during running?

• Muscles located on the front (anterior) and inside (medial) of the hip

• Includes the rectus femoris, iliopsoas, hip adductors (longus, brevis, and magnus), tensor fascia latae (TFL)

• Allow us to bend at the hips for such activities as sitting

• During running allow us to, both accelerate our thigh forward, or decelerate the thigh as it moves backward

What causes tight hip flexors?

•The primary cause is overuse of the hip flexors because they are constantly being contracted and shortened while we sit for hours at work, while driving, and during leisure time

• In addition, while sitting the glutes become deactivated and weakened, this will be discussed further in my next article

What are the potential issues related to tight hip flexors?

• Ideally the pelvis should be properly aligned (think of the pelvis as a cup of water, or your drink of choice, which we don’t want to spill by the pelvis tipping too far forward or back), which allows the hips to be more stacked under the torso. This allows you to increase power as your leg drive pushes your body forward (hip extension), rather than twisting your hips forward, arching your back and losing energy in the torqueing. Tight hip flexors will cause the pelvis to “spill forward” and reduce or inhibit the amount of hip extension.

• Low back pain, strains in the hamstring, quadriceps, and groin

• Knee issues such as patellar tendinopathy, patellar femoral syndrome

• IT band tendonitis

What can I do if I have tight hip flexors?

• There are several muscles that flex the hips and these should be foam rolled and stretched

• Ideally, foam roll hip flexors 4-6 days per week

• General guidelines for foam rolling:

• Roll on tight, overused muscles until a tender/sore spot is found

• Apply pressure to tender/sore spots and hold for 30 seconds

• Foam rolling exercises:

Rectus Femoris:

http://www.menshealth.co.uk/cm/menshealthuk/images/Lw/quadriceps.jpg

TFL:

http://stoneathleticmedicine.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/TFL-Foam-Roll.jpg Hip adductors: http://icraved.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/foam-roll-adductor.jpg

• After foam rolling, stretch the hip flexor muscles. Hold each stretch for at least 20-30 seconds, perform 1-3 sets of each stretch.

• Hip flexor stretch:

– Kneel in the right knee, with the left knee bent and directly over the left

ankle

– Lean forward, shifting your body weight on to your front leg. You should

feel a stretch in the right leg.

– Hold for 20-30 seconds and repeat 3 times

– Keep the back straight and abdominals tight. Do not allow the front knee to

pass over the toes.

– A folded towel can be placed under the knee on the floor for comfort

http://eplerhealth.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/hip-flexor-stretch.jpeg

• Yoga variation of hip flexor stretch – Kneeling lunge (Anjaneyasana) http://www.yogachuck.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Low-Lunge.jpeg

• Hip adductor or “butterfly” stretch: http://www.velogirls.com/resources/publications/stretching101/butterfly.jpg

• TFL Stretch:

http://hilloah.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/tfl-wall-stretch.jpeg

Please contact me with any questions or comments.

See you on the road or trail,

Brian