Marathon Training 2019 Day 2: The Importance of a Proper Cool-Down

January 12 2019 family hike“The best preparation for tomorrow is doing your best today” – H. Jackson Brown Jr.

Today’s run was another easy run and at various times during the run, I focused on different aspects of my running form. In future posts, I will share these with you and some things you can focus on during your run to help improve your running form. You may also want to have your stride assessed, so that you can make any necessary adjustments to improve your running performance. Another thing I needed to focus on during today’s run was not pushing the pace and keeping a relaxed and easy pace, which you should do as well on your easy days.

I began with a dynamic warm-up. Then, I ran for ~42 minutes at an easy pace, in a primarily flat area. Immediately after my run, I did the following mobility and strengthening exercises for 10-15 minutes:

  • Leg swings forward and back with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
  • Leg swings side-to-side with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
  • Single-leg stand (~30 seconds for each leg)
  • Pushups (8 repetitions)
  • Monster walks side-to-side and forward and back (done with resistance band, 10 repetitions for each direction)
  • Prone planks (~30 seconds)
  • Side planks (~20 seconds)
  • Supine planks (~15 seconds)
  • Clamshells (15 repetitions on each side)
  • Y, T, I, and W (8 repetitions for each position)
  • Double leg hip bridges (10 repetitions)
  • Quadrupeds (10 repetitions on each side)
  • Toe yoga (10 repetitions times for each foot)
  • Fire hydrants (5 repetitions on each side)
  • Knee circles forward (5 repetitions for each leg)
  • Knee circles backward (5 repetitions for each leg)
  • Single-leg balance (~30 seconds for each leg)

After these exercises, I did a cool-down, which included foam rolling and eccentric lengthening exercises for ~10 minutes, as shown in the video below. You can also do the active isolated stretching exercises, as shown in the video below, or use static stretching and/or yoga poses.

Recommendation: For beginners and those who have taken a significant amount of time off, you may want to start your training by running three days per week. Other runners may want to start with 4-5 days per week. So, depending on your running history and fitness level, I recommend the following:

  • Beginners (such as those wishing to complete their first marathon):
    • I recommend doing an easy walk for 15-20 minutes.
    • Also, you may want to perform any of the following mobility and strengthening exercises that you know how to perform properly:
      • Leg swings forward and back with both straight and bent leg (5-10 repetitions of each for each leg)
      • Leg swings side-to-side with both straight and bent leg (5-10 repetitions of each for each leg)
      • Single-leg stand (~15-30 seconds for each leg)
      • Standard or knee-assisted pushups (5-10 repetitions)
      • Monster walks side-to-side and forward and back (done with or without a resistance band, 5-10 repetitions for each direction)
      • Prone planks (20-30 seconds)
      • Side planks (15-20 seconds)
      • Supine planks (10-15 seconds)
      • Clamshells (10-15 repetitions on each side)
      • Y, T, I, and W (5 repetitions for each position)
      • Double leg hip bridges (5-10 repetitions)
      • Quadrupeds (5-10 repetitions on each side)
      • Toe yoga (5-10 repetitions for each foot)
      • Fire hydrants (5 repetitions on each side)
      • Knee circles forward (5 repetitions for each leg)
      • Knee circles backward (5 repetitions for each leg)
      • Single-leg balance (~15-30 seconds for each leg)
    • In addition, I recommend foam rolling, static stretching, yoga poses, or active isolated stretching for at least 5-10 minutes
  • Intermediate/Advanced (those runners who have completed at least a couple of marathons and have not taken a significant amount of time off from running):
    • Dynamic warm-up. You may want to do the same dynamic warmup as yesterday, so that you start getting used to that specific dynamic warm-up so that it becomes easier.
    • Then, I recommend a 30-45 minute run at an easy pace, ideally in a primarily flat area.
    • The effort should feel easy. You want to focus on those important adaptations that will help build your “aerobic engine” including strengthening your heart, building more blood vessels and capillaries, improving blood flow.  So don’t push too hard and enjoy it and let your “aerobic engine” build.
    • After your run you may want to perform any of the following mobility and strengthening exercises that you know and can perform properly:
      • Leg swings forward and back with both straight and bent leg (5-10 repetitions of each for each leg)
      • Leg swings side-to-side with both straight and bent leg (5-10 repetitions of each for each leg)
      • Single-leg stand (~15-30 seconds for each leg)
      • Standard or knee-assisted pushups (5-10 repetitions)
      • Monster walks side-to-side and forward and back (done with or without a resistance band, 5-10 repetitions for each direction)
      • Prone planks (20-30 seconds)
      • Side planks (15-20 seconds)
      • Supine planks (10-15 seconds)
      • Clamshells (10-15 repetitions on each side)
      • Y, T, I, and W (5 repetitions for each position)
      • Double leg hip bridges (5-10 repetitions)
      • Quadrupeds (5-10 repetitions on each side)
      • Toe yoga (5-10 repetitions for each foot)
      • Fire hydrants (5 repetitions on each side)
      • Knee circles forward (5 repetitions for each leg)
      • Knee circles backward (5 repetitions for each leg)
      • Single-leg balance (~15-30 seconds for each leg)
    • In addition, you should perform a cool-down that incorporates foam rolling, static stretching, yoga poses, or active isolated stretching for at least 10 minutes

Tip of the Day: To maximize running performance and minimize the risk of injury, you need to do a cool-down after your workouts (this might be after a run and/or mobility and strengthening exercises, which I will discuss in a later post). There are different types of cool-downs you can do. Below are links to videos for two cool-downs; active isolated stretching/flexibility and foam rolling. It is important that you length the muscles after running and break up any adhesions or scar tissue in muscles that could cause shortening of the muscle, and thus, negatively impact running form and increase the risk of injury.

Active isolated stretching:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1080&v=wSUNK3SJWVE

 

Foam rolling:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=7&v=oEJjHW4A1U0

 

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

Be your best self today.

 

Your friend and coach,

Brian

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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