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 2

In my last post I talked a bit about different cooldowns that you can perform after your workout, including active stretching, which can be beneficial for lengthening muscles and tendons.  I highly recommend performing a cooldown, which incorporates either active stretching and/or what I discuss in this post.  Another type of cooldown, which can be just as beneficial, if not more, is foam and/or ball rolling with eccentric lowering exercises.  This type of cooldown will address mobility issues within the muscle, which is commonly affected because muscle fibers, which undergo micro tearing when we run and perform other types of exercise, haven’t properly repaired.

If you run today, it will typically take the muscle fibers a couple of weeks to repair from this run.  But who waits two weeks before their next run for the fibers to properly repair?  So, we can facilitate this repair process with foam and/or ball rolling with eccentric exercises.

So What’s the Issue?
The problem with muscle fibers that don’t properly heal and repair after a run, or strengthening workout, is that they clump together and they’re not in their normal proper arrangement or alignment.  Scar tissue can develop in this area as well.  This decreases the mobility in this area of the muscle tissue and causes this area of tissue to be under more stress the next time we run.  This can increase the risk of significant injury in that area of the muscle, as well as affect the function of the joint(s) connected to that muscle through tendons.  This can also lead to compensations in which other muscles are used instead.  This can cause these compensatory muscles to get overused and tight as well, further increasing the risk of injury.  A prime example of an overused compensatory muscle is the TFL or tensor fascia latae, which is located on the front (just under the hip) and towards the outside of upper leg.  An overused TFL can contribute to the development of a whole host of injuries, including iliotibial (IT) band syndrome, plantar fasciitis, knee pain, just to name a few.

Step 1 To Addressing This Issue
A great way to break up the clumps of muscle fibers and scar tissue is by rolling, either with a foam roller, lacrosse/tennis ball, or other devices, such as The Stick.  I highly recommend using a foam roller and lacrosse ball.  Basically, you will slowly roll on the muscle for 30-60 seconds and then identify areas in the muscle that are sore or tender.  This is where the clumps of muscle fibers and scar tissue are located.  Now apply pressure by resting the foam roller or ball on this area for 30 seconds.  You might also increase the amount of pressure by crossing the non-rolling leg.  By rolling and applying pressure you will break up the clumps and scar tissue.   This can also cause that area of the muscle to relax.

Some areas in which muscle tissue mobility is compromised in most runners, which I recommend that you roll include:

∙ Hip flexors/quadriceps – roll along the front of the upper leg from just above the knee to just below the pelvis/hips

∙ TFL – it may be best to use a ball, roll on the front and slightly to the outside of the upper thigh, just below the pelvis

∙ Adductors – roll along the inner thighs

∙ Hamstring – roll on the back of the upper leg from just above the knee to just below the hips/pelvis

∙ Glute/piriformis – it may be best to use a ball to roll on the glutes

∙ Calves – roll from just below the knee to just above the ankle

Now on to step 2…

Step 2 To Addressing This Issue
You might think of muscle fibers as a straws and you want to line up these straws so that they are parallel to each other.  Obviously these straws aren’t parallel to each other if they are in clumps.  Now that we have broken up the clumps with ball or foam rolling, we can take the next step to get our muscles to properly function again.  To realign the muscle fibers so that they are straight and parallel again we can perform body weight exercises, in which we focus on the eccentric or lowering/lengthening phase of the exercise.  This is sometimes referred to as the “negative”.  In performing these exercises, I recommend assisting on the concentric or shortening phase of the exercise so we can focus on the eccentric phase to get the most benefit.  I recommend starting with at least 10 repetitions of the eccentric exercises, ideally increasing the total repetitions to 20-40.  Keep in mind that you don’t have to perform all repetitions in one set.

The eccentric exercises that I recommend you perform include:

∙ Leg raises for hip flexors with slower eccentric lowering:
–  Sit on the ground with both legs straight
–  Place a rope or band underneath one the upper legs
– Use the hands and arms to raise the leg
– Slowly lower the leg using the hip flexors to control the lowering of the leg

∙ Romanian deadlift focusing on slower eccentric lowering:
–  Stand with feet shoulder width distance apart
–  Slowly hinge from the hips
–  Lower until you feel a stretch in the hamstrings
–  Raise up to the starting position and repeat

∙ Calf raises focusing on slower eccentric lowering with one foot:
–  Stand on a step so that your feet are hanging halfway off the step
– Gently rest one hand on the railing for support
– Raise up on your toes with both feet
– Slowly lower with one foot

∙ Leg raises for abductors with slower eccentric lowering:
– Lie on your side with your hips stacked on top of each other
– Raise the top leg and then slowly lower it

∙ Leg raises for adductors with slower eccentric lowering:
– Lie on your side with your hips stacked on top of each other
– Bring the top leg in front of you so that the foot is flat in the ground
– Raise the bottom leg and then slowly lower it

I strongly encourage you to watch the video below for a demonstration on how to perform these two important steps on the muscles in which mobility is commonly an issue in runners.  I recommend that you perform these steps 3-6 times per week.  If performed consistently you should be able to improve your tissue mobility and thus, your running performance within 2-3 weeks.

Depending on the time you have available, you may not be able to perform the foam and/or ball rolling and eccentric exercises after your workout.  If this is the case, at least perform some active stretching and then perform the rolling with eccentric exercises later in the day, such as when you are watching television.

I hope this has been helpful.  If so, please pass this along to anyone you feel might benefit.  Also, leave any questions or comments that you have in the comment box below.  Also, please feel free to post your questions and comments below the video.  I look forward to hearing from you!

 

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

General Guidelines for an Off-Season Program to Help Transition into the 2014 Season

I have addressed some of the components of an off-season maintenance program in two previous articles, specifically cross-training and strength training. In this article I will tie together all of the important components of an off-season training program and provide guidelines for each. Although cross-training is one important way for us to maintain aerobic fitness during the off-season, we don’t want to neglect running, if possible, depending on the weather or access to a treadmill.

Guidelines for running during the off-season:

• Run 2-3 days per week

• Most runs should be at a comfortable, conversational pace

• Include a longer run once every 2-3 weeks, distance depends on goal events, fitness level, running history, any current injuries

• May progress to short intervals, such as strides, hill sprints, Fartlek (speedplay) runs

• Include proper warm-up (maybe include some basics for warm-ups)

Strength training guidelines:

• Should be done after any cross-training or running workout

• Focus on exercises to improve activation of abdominal, hip abductor, hip flexors and extensors (gluteus maximus and hamstrings) lower back, and scapular stabilizers

• Performed 2-3 days per week on non-consecutive days

• Use body weight resistance or low resistance

• Typically involve a progression, which can include adding an instability component, such as performing exercises on a pillow, or increasing the range of motion of the exercise

• Exercises are typically performed to fatigue and not a specific number of repetitions

• Rest period can be 30-60 seconds between exercises, or you can perform the exercises in a circuit, and just move from one exercise to the next with little or no rest

Cross-training guidelines:

• Performed 2-3 days per week

• I would recommend using a variety of cross-training modes to incorporate a variety of muscles

• Ideally, choose at least some cross-training modes, which incorporate motion in different planes than running, such as side-to-side or transverse plane motion, as opposed to forwards and backwards motion

• Intensity should be light to moderate, with incorporation of short intervals every 2-3 weeks with full recovery

Additional components:

• 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

• Perform 5-7 days per week

• Stretching:

• Should include calf, hamstring, glutes, hip flexors, IT band, lower back, chest

• Hold stretches for 30-60 seconds

• Perform 1-4 repetitions for each stretch

• Perform after foam rolling, as the last component of a workout

If you don’t own or have access to a  foam roller I highly recommend getting access to a foam roller. Foam rolling can be beneficial in improving flexibility and reducing soreness in tight, overused muscles. An example of tight, overused muscles common to runners and triathletes are the hip flexor (thigh) muscles. To improve flexibility and lengthen these muscles roll on the hip flexors until you find the most tender/sore areas and apply pressure with the foam roller for 30 seconds (see picture below). If performed on a regular basis, this can result in increased range of motion when bringing the back foot up towards the glutes. This will increase the power with each stride, increasing speed.

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

Final note: A maintenance program should be designed to accomplish a few goals, which will help transition us into successfully building aerobic fitness for the next running season. The goals of a maintenance program are to maintain and start rebuilding endurance, and to address muscle imbalances and flexibility issues to improve running form (biomechanics), so that we are more efficient runners with less chance of developing running-related injuries, and possibly start incorporating some short intervals to improve running economy (similar to efficiency) and biomechanics.

Please contact me if you have any questions. I would love to hear from you!

See you on the road or trail.

Brian