“If your body’s not right, the rest of your day will go all wrong. Take care of yourself.” ― V.L. Allineare
I decided not to do my scheduled run for this morning and get more sleep because I could feel a cold coming on. Instead, I waited until the evening to do my run. By that time I was feeling much better and felt about 90% well. I did a easy-paced run for ~33 minutes with 4 x 20-second strides with ~90-second slow jog recovery intervals. This brings me to the topic of today’s Tip of the Day, which addresses whether or not you should run if you are sick. Immediately after my run I performed the following exercises:
Leg swings forward and backwith 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 performing these exercises I foam rolled for ~10 minutes.
Recommendation: If you are feeling well perform the recommended workout from the Fitness Training Program. If you are not feeling well, see the Tip of the Day.
Tip of the Day: Whether or not you should run if you are sick depends on the extent of your illness and the type of illness. This time of year the common cold and to a less extent, the flu, can occur. If you have the flu I recommend not running and getting your rest and fluids, so that you can recover faster and be on your feet running again sooner. If you have the common cold, whether or not you run has a lot to do with how you are feeling and if the cold is in your chest or head. If it is in your chest you should not run. Get your rest and fluids and let the cold take its course. If the cold is a head cold, you could still run, however you might be better served by cutting back on the intensity and duration of your run.
So, assess how you feel. I you feel you are at least 85-90% well, then you can run. If not, you should not run. If you have to take some time off running, when you return, you should perform at least 2-3 days of easy running for 30 minutes before resuming your training. After you do your first run back, take inventory the next day. Use the 85-90% rule to decide if you should go for a run or not. For long runs and runs with speed or hill work, you should feel 100% well. If not, run 30-45 minutes easy with strides (as long as you feel at least 85% well). When getting back to running after being sick, you should simply move your training back a week.
Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can help in any way.
Be well, and be your best self today!
Your friend and coach,
Simple Marathon Training, Jay Johnson, PFB Publishing: Denver, CO, 2016.
As I mentioned in this post, I would consider selecting running shoes that have a wide toe box, that have minimal heel drop, and have minimal cushioning. I recently began running in a pair of Altra Torins, which has a wide toe box (these shoes look like clown shoes!) and zero drop from the heel to front of the shoe. They do have more cushioning than I would like. However, I have been very happy with them so far. There are other shoes made by other manufacturers that will meet the criteria I mentioned. So, I am by no means specifically promoting Altra.
In addition to shoes, you will need running attire. I discussed this in a previous post:
Basically, avoid cotton and use synthetic or technical fibers, keep head, hands, neck covered, and you may consider Yak Trax Ice Grippers for traction when running on snow and ice.
When running in the cold and wind, first try to avoid wind the best that you can. If you can’t avoid the wind, do your harder and faster running against the wind and your slower running with the wind. This way the cooling effect is kept short and is related to harder work, whereas recovery (slower running) can take advantage of the warmer tailwind. For out-and-back steady pace runs, start out against the wind, so that your trip home will be warmer.
Be your best self today.
Your friend and coach,
– Daniels’ Running Formula Second Edition. Jack Daniels. Human Kinetics, Champaign, IL, 2005.
Coach Brian Hand has no ties or investments in Altra or Yak Trax and does not receive any form of compensation for mentioning Altra or Yak Trax or their products in this blog post.
Believe it or not, there are things that you can do throughout the day when you are at work (some of them very simple) to help make you a better runner. The key is to consistently incorporate these each day at work. I recommend scheduling or setting a timer, so that you can take a few minutes every 45-60 minutes to incorporate at least some of these recommendations. In this article with the accompanying video, I will give you five recommendations for things you can do at work to make yourself a better runner.
1.Get Up, Walk, and Hydrate
Many of us have desk jobs and spend many hours day after day sitting at our desk. Research has shown this can be detrimental to our health. It can also be detrimental to your running. One of the reasons is that while we are seated are hip flexors (muscles in the front of our upper leg attached to our hips) are constantly being contracted and as a result oftentimes become shortened. How does this affect your running? Because the hip flexors can become shortened this can limit our hip extension when we run. So, get up and walk and hydrate multiple times during the day.
Why is limited hip extension a problem?
Limited hip extension can cause the runner to have to arch his/her back, which can lead to low back pain. The runner may also rely heavily on the calves, thus increasing the potential for injury to the Achilles tendon. Limited hip extension limits stride length and results in an inefficient release of energy to propel the body forward when running. Thus, limiting the runner’s speed.
Also, while we are seated our glutes are basically on vacation and are getting weaker because of disuse. This is important because the glutes stabilize the pelvis and hips. Without a stable pelvis and hips we will be unstable when we run, wasting energy and being less efficient each time we have one foot on the ground when we run. This instability also sets us up for an increased risk of injury. The glutes, particularly the gluteus maximus is an important muscle for extending the hip. In fact, if properly engaged the gluteus maximus is the strongest muscle used when running.
So, let’s give those hip flexors a break and engage the hip extensors, including the glutes, instead and get up and walk for a few minutes. This walking will not only get the glutes engaged, but help circulate the blood that may be pooling in our lower extremities while we are sitting. You will probably feel a bit more invigorated as a result.
In addition, while you’re taking a two to five minute walk grab some water to keep yourself hydrated. Most people aren’t hydrating enough. At a minimum you should be consuming half your body weight in ounces of water each day. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should be consuming at least 75 ounces of water every day. As a runner you will need to consume more depending on how much you are running and how much you sweat.
What if you have a job where you are standing and already walking during the day?
Lucky you! This will certainly help you minimize the loss of flexibility and mobility in your hip flexors and hip extensors. However, be sure to stay well-hydrated and I strongly recommend you incorporate the other exercises below.
Engage the Transverse Abdominus
The transverse abdominus (TVA) is the deepest of the abdominal muscles and is an important postural muscle. The TVA is located between the lower ribs and the top of the pelvis and encircles the body like a corset on a women’s dress. Engaging the TVA is like tightening a corset in that it prevents movement and keeps your upper body stable on the lower body. This also helps keep the spine in its neutral position. So, if you engage the TVA, which most people don’t do, you will have better posture and will better stabilize the spine, pelvis, and hips, which is key when you are running. The TVA is not an easy muscle to engage and so it can take some practice before you feel it engaged. I recommend focusing on engaging the TVA for 10 seconds while breathing normally, multiple times throughout the day. Below I have described two different techniques you can use to engage these muscles. I recommended practicing one of these techniques until you feel you can engage the TVA at any time, especially when your run.
How to engage the TVA
Technique 1 (You may want to try this at home first to get used to being able to engage the TVA):
Lie on the floor, rest your hands on your stomach with fingertips in the middle and do an abdominal crunch so you can feel what it is like to engage the rectus abdominus (different from TVA), you should feel the fingertips rise
Now lie flat on your stomach with your hands next to your shoulders with toes on the floor like you are in a standing position
Imagine an ice cube under your belly button and without moving anything else, pull your belly button away from the ice cube, as you do so your TVA will contract
Try this a couple of times, until you feel comfortable with engaging the TVA
Now lie on your back again
Find your TVA by placing your fingers on your hip bone and then slide your fingers one inch towards the middle of your body and then one inch down
Rest your thumbs on your belly button
Again, pretend like you are pulling away from an ice cube
Perform an abdominal crunch and you should feel your thumbs go down and fingers rise up as the belly flattens out
Practice engaging the TVA for 10 seconds while breathing normally
Watch this video to see how to properly perform this technique for engaging the TVA:
Technique 2 (this is one you can do at work):
Place your fingers on your hips and then slide then towards the midline of your body one inch and then slide them down one inch to locate the TVA
As your exhale, make a “Ssssss” sound, this will help you feel what it is like when the TVA is engaged, your belly button should be gently drawn back
As you inhale relax this muscle
Repeat until you can engage the TVA without make the “Ssssss” sound
In addition, you want to engage the other muscles that stabilize the pelvis by gently drawing these muscles upwards
To do this imagine sucking a smoothie with your vagina as the straw, if you are a woman, and if you are a man, Imagine yourself urinating, then imagine stopping yourself mid-flow, also, imagine trying to draw your testicles up, yes this sounds really weird, but it works!
While you are doing this make sure your shoulders are relaxed, that you are breathing normally, that you are not “sucking in your stomach”, that you are not arching or rounding your back, that your ribs stay back and your chest isn’t pushed out
Because the hip flexors are commonly tight in most runners, especially those who spend a significant portion of the day seated, I recommend leg swings to help minimize the loss of flexibility and mobility in the hip flexors and extensors. Perform leg swings multiple times during the day.
How to do forward-to-back leg swings
Use a stable chair or other immoveable object to perform leg swings
Stand to the side of the chair or other immoveable object with the hand closest holding on to this object for support
Place the other hand on the hip to help stabilize the hip and pelvis, engage the TVA
With the leg that is closest to the immoveable object bend at the knee and swing this leg forward and then swing this leg back gradually increasing the range of motion that you swing back, so that you extend back as far as you can without moving the pelvis and not arching the lower back
Perform 15-20 repetitions for each leg
Bonus: Side-to-side leg swings
If you have time, I recommend performing side-to-side leg swings as well to help engage the other glute muscles (medius and minimus), which are also commonly weak in runners
Stand so that you are facing an immoveable object and hold with one or both hands for support
Lift one foot off the ground and gently swing that leg in front of your body from side-to-side, gradually increasing the range of motion, engage the TVA
Make sure that the rest of your body stays stable and that the motion is only coming from the outer and inner hip muscles
Perform 15-20 repetitions for each leg
Single leg balance is a great exercise to help you establish balance with one foot one the ground, which occurs often while running. Through single-leg balance your body will better be able to develop the ability to microcorrect its position at various joints to stabilize your body. This is tied in with proprioception, which I mentioned in a previous article. For now I recommend the basic single-leg balance, however there are several variations that you can incorporate to further develop your body’s ability to microcorrect, such as performing single-leg balance with eyes closed. I will go into more variations in a future video.
How to perform single-leg balance:
While standing with hands on hips and with good posture, weight evenly distributed over the entire foot, and the TVA engaged, lift one foot off the ground and bend the knee so that this foot is in back of your body with approximately a 90 degree angle formed between the upper and lower leg
Spread your toes out to maximize your base of support and try to push you big toe down, while keeping it straight and not curled
Imagine a triangle formed between the inside ball of the foot, the end of the big toe, and the outside of the foot kept in solid contact with the ground
Try to stand with minimal movement for 30 seconds
Switch legs and repeat
Perform this exercise multiple times during the day to try to accumulate at least 5-10 minutes for each leg during the day, instead of one 10-minute block
I recommend performing this exercise with shoes off to get the most benefit
Glute Squats, aka Chair of Death
Glute squats, also known as chair of death, is a great exercise not only to strengthen the glutes, but it forces you to utilize the glutes, instead of the quadriceps, which most people primarily use when they do squats. This will help you better engage the glutes when you run.
How to perform glute squats:
Place a chair with its back against the wall or desk so that the chair is stable and won’t move
Hold a yardstick, broom handle, pipe or wooden dowel (you can get one at Home Depot for about five bucks) so that it touches and will remain in contact with your tailbone, upper back, and middle of your head
Stand facing the chair so that the front of your knees are touching the chair
Squat down moving your butt backwards just like you are hovering over a toilet. The yardstick, broom handle, pipe, or wooden dowel should not come off the back of your body as you hinge from the hips, it’s okay to lean the trunk forward as you get used to this exercise
Perform 10 repetitions at least two to three times throughout the day
Over time you should be able to squat to parallel (thighs parallel with the ground) and you should be able to keep your torso more upright