Use Proper Stress and Rest To Achieve Your Maximum Potential

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“Strength and growth come only through continuous effort and struggle”

I will add to this quote proper recovery.

Recently, I have been reading Peak Performance by Brad Stulberg and (running coach) Steve Magness. It’s a book I highly recommend. As an 18-year old Steve Magness competed against several Olympians in the mile in an event called the Prefontaine Classic in Oregon. This was quite remarkable considering that Magness was competing against such high caliber runners at such a young age. He did not win that day, but he still ran the mile in 4:01. Unfortunately for Magness, his running career plateaued that day and he was never able to run a faster mile. Magness attributes this to an improperly designed training regimen that did not incorporate proper stress and recovery; especially recovery. For his training, Magness would run 9 miles in the morning, go to school, lift weights, and then run 9 miles again in the evening, and he would do this every day. Magness shared that he experienced burned out and his running career ended soon after.

However, we get to benefit from Magness’ experience. Yes, I realize that we are not elite runners like Magness, however if we don’t train and recover properly we will plateau, as well, and not achieve our maximum performance.

Proper training includes providing the proper stress to our body, based on our health, fitness, running history, age, goals, and injury history. We need to include some runs that are challenging, but still doable. Our training program should progressively build our endurance and speed, and then include race-pace specific training for our event. We also need to recover properly during our training. This might include a run at snail’s pace. Or, this could be a day off from running, in which we incorporate supportive low- to moderate-intensity cross-training. Massage/stretching, diet, and sleep are also important components of recovery.

As far as the importance of recovery, Deena Kastor, U.S. women’s record holder in the marathon, as well as one of the stars of Spirit of the Marathon, says, “During a workout you’re breaking down soft tissue and really stressing your body. How you treat yourself in between workouts is where you make gains and acquire the strength to attack the next one.” Kastor realized early on in her running career that simply working hard wouldn’t do. Deena follows up intense training runs with significantly easier recovery runs. She also sleeps 10-12 hours per night, has a meticulous approach to diet, and has weekly massage and daily stretching sessions.

The best marathoners in the world, the Kenyans, also appreciate the benefits of recovery and will alternate between very hard training days and very easy (snail pace) days. Research studies have shown this approach to be effective in other sports as well, including Nordic skiing, in which Olympic Norwegian skiers will walk uphill at a snail’s pace on easy training or recovery days.

Several years ago, a friend of mine was using a popular training program to prepare for his first marathon. The program instructed him to run a “practice marathon” during training about a month before his actual marathon. My friend followed the program and actually had a decent time during his “practice marathon”. However, his actual marathon was over 30 minutes slower. Basically, it took my friend a significant amount of time to recover from his “practice marathon” and so he lost fitness before his actual marathon. Plus, it takes a significant amount of time to recover psychologically from the demands of a marathon, typically much longer than it takes to physically recover. My friend wasn’t properly recovered for his actual marathon and his performance suffered as a result.

You need to give your body the time and space to adapt to the training stress. Rest supports growth and adaptation, which can help make you a stronger and faster runner, and can be as productive and sometimes more productive than an additional workout. Rest, although typically viewed as passive, is an active process which allows for physical and psychological growth. I know for myself that I feel much stronger and fresher after a day or two of rest, and I’m sure you feel the same way.

Also, consider that if you are constantly stressing your body with long runs and other intense workouts, not only do you not provide the time and space for physical and psychological growth, you also put yourself at risk for overtraining and breaking your body down, while significantly increasing your risk of injury. For example, a neighbor of mine used to run a marathon almost every month. Unfortunately, this took a significant toll on her body and I would see her barely shuffling along during her training runs. Her training and recovery were not optimized, and as a result she was not able to achieve her peak performance. Instead, she was in a constantly overtrained state and was constantly injured.

So, make supportive recovery an important component of your training to help you reach your maximum potential.

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

If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below. We would love to hear from you!

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

Your friend and coach,

Brian

References

Peak Performance. Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness. Rodale, Inc. New York, 2017.

What is best practice for training intensity and duration distribution in endurance athletes? Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2010 Sep;5(3):276-91. Seiler S.

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

March 29 2019 Snowshoeing in RMNP on KJs bday

 

 

 

 

 

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

Immediately after my run I did the following exercises:

  • Leg swings forward and back with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
  • Leg swings side-to-side with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
  • Single-leg stand (~60 seconds for each leg)
  • Pushups on a stability ball (10 repetitions)
  • Monster walks side-to-side and forward and backward (15 repetitions on each side and in each direction)
  • Y, T, I, and W (10 repetitions for each position)
  • Clamshells (20 repetitions on each side)
  • Prone planks (~45 seconds)
  • Side planks (~40 seconds)
  • Supine planks (~30 seconds)
  • Glute bridge hip lifts (10 repetitions + hold for 30 seconds after last repetition)
  • Quadrupeds (15 repetitions on each side)
  • Toe yoga (10 repetitions times for each foot)
  • Fire hydrants (10 repetitions on each side)
  • Knee circles forward (10 repetitions for each leg)
  • Knee circles backward (10 repetitions for each leg)
  • Single-leg balance (~30 seconds for each leg)
  • Bounced on stability ball with smaller ball in between knees (3 minutes)

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

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

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

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

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

Your friend and coach,

Brian

Marathon Training 2019 Day 30: Hill Sprints: Great for Running Performance and Minimizing Injury-Risk

“When your desires are strong enough you will appear to possess superhuman powers to achieve.” – Napoleon Hill

This morning I incorporated two 8-second (2 x 8-second) hill sprints for the first time in my training for this year. I performed these towards the end of my run. In between hill sprints I walked back down the hill for my recovery. The hill had an incline of ~8% and I could definitely feel it in my legs! See the Recommendation and Tip of the Day sections for more information. I did an easy jog afterwards for about 5 minutes. The I performed the following exercises:

  • Leg swings forward and back with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
  • Leg swings side-to-side with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
  • Single-leg stand (~45 seconds for each leg)
  • Pushups (10 repetitions)
  • Monster walks side-to-side and forward and back (done with resistance band, 10 repetitions for each direction)
  • Prone planks (~40 seconds)
  • Side planks (~30 seconds)
  • Supine planks (~20 seconds)
  • Clamshells (20 repetitions on each side)
  • Y, T, I, and W (10 repetitions for each position)
  • Double leg hip bridges (10 repetitions)
  • Quadrupeds (15 repetitions on each side)
  • Toe yoga (10 repetitions times for each foot)
  • Fire hydrants (10 repetitions on each side)
  • Knee circles forward (10 repetitions for each leg)
  • Knee circles backward (10 repetitions for each leg)
  • Single-leg balance (~30 seconds for each leg)

Then, I spent ~10 minutes with static stretching for the hamstrings and calves, and lacrosse ball rolling on the plantar fascia.

Recommendations: For intermediate and advanced runners, you might want to begin incorporating hill sprints in your training after 2-4 weeks of easy-paced running, depending on the amount of time you have taken off from running. For beginners and those who have taken a significant amount of time off from running (three months or more) you might want to wait until at least 8 weeks of easy-paced running before including hill sprints. I would perform only 1-2 x 8-second hill sprints for your first session with a walking recovery.

If you haven’t done so, I recommend opting in on the Welcome Page to receive a fitness training program, which includes hill sprints for some of the runs.

Tip of the Day: Hill sprints strengthen all of the running muscles, especially quadriceps, glutes, claves, making a runner much less prone to injury. Hill sprints are also beneficial in that they increase the power and efficiency of the stride, enabling a runner to cover more ground with each stride with less energy during races. Therefore, I recommend incorporating hill sprints into your training program. However, it is important to incorporate hill sprints in an appropriate and progressive way which allows for proper recovery. This includes allowing at least three days of recovery between hill sprint sessions.

For intermediate and advanced runners, I recommend performing hill sprints on a hill or treadmill with a 6-8% incline. For beginner runners, I recommend performing hill sprints on a hill or treadmill with a 4-6% incline. Do not jog back down the hill for recovery, walk instead. This will minimize the stress on your joints. Fully recover between hill sprints before performing the next one.

If you experience pain, especially in any joints while performing hill sprints, stop immediately and seek help from a qualified healthcare professional. Hill sprints should not cause pain.

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

Have fun with hill sprints!

Your friend and coach,

Brian

Reference:

  • Run Faster From 5k to Marathon. Brad Hudson and Matt Fitzgerald. Broadway Books: New York, 2008.

Marathon Training 2019 Day 24: To Lean or Not To Lean, Goldilocks Got It Right

February 7 2019 too cold for a run! small version“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” – Helen Keller

Brrr! With temperatures in the single digits this morning, Sam and I decided not to do our weekly run/hike. Instead, I walked my dog for about 30 minutes. Then I did the following stability, mobility, and strengthening exercises:

  • Leg swings forward and back with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
  • Leg swings side-to-side with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
  • Single-leg stand (~30 seconds for each leg)
  • Prone planks (~40 seconds)
  • Side planks (~30 seconds)
  • Supine planks (~20 seconds)
  • Clamshells (20 repetitions on each side)
  • Quadrupeds (15 repetitions on each side)
  • Double leg hip bridges (10 repetitions)
  • Toe yoga (10 repetitions times for each foot)
  • Fire hydrants (10 repetitions on each side)
  • Knee circles forward (10 repetitions for each leg)
  • Knee circles backward (10 repetitions for each leg)
  • Single-leg balance (~30 seconds for each leg)

After performing these exercises, I rolled my plantar fascia with a softball and did self-massage for the plantar fascia and calves.

Recommendation: Afterwards, I was thinking about the subject of today’s post and decided to give another tip related to running form. For some of your runs, I recommend focusing on leaning slightly forward from the ankles. As with the other tips I have given, I recommend focusing on this for about 20-30 seconds each mile.

If you haven’t done so, I recommend opting in on the Welcome Page to receive a fitness training program, which includes workouts similar to what I have been doing. This program also includes exercises to strengthen the core to help you maintain proper alignment with a slight forward lean.

Tip of the Day: There is benefit to having a slight forward lean when you run. One important benefit is that you take advantage of gravity to help pull you forward, thus conserving energy. A slight forward lean is an important aspect of Chi running. The lean needs to be from the ankles, not from the waist, hips, or somewhere else. With this slight forward lean your feet, hips, shoulders, and head should all be in alignment. If you are leaning from the hips and/or waist you will most likely be leaning too much and feel this in your lower back. You may also feel strain in the front of your knee. On the other hand, too little lean or leaning back can result in straining the shins, hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves. Therefore, in between is the best case, so you don’t feel strain and take advantage of gravity.

A drill that you can use to practice finding the proper amount of lean is rocking back and forth on your feet, and leaning just to the point of falling forward. Keep in mind that the lean will be slight.

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

Marathon Training 2019 Day 23: Keep Hips Open When Running to Help Avoid Injury

“Failure will never overtake me if my determination to succeed is strong enough.” – Og Mandino

This morning’s run was chilly and foggy. I ran ~42 minutes. At various points during my run I focused on controlling with the hips and glutes to keep the hips and pelvis area open.  More on this in the Tip of the Day. After my run I did the following exercises:

  • Leg swings forward and back with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
  • Leg swings side-to-side with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
  • Single-leg stand (~30 seconds for each leg)
  • Pushups (10 repetitions)
  • Monster walks side-to-side and forward and back (done with resistance band, 10 repetitions for each direction)
  • Prone planks (~40 seconds)
  • Side planks (~25 seconds)
  • Supine planks (~20 seconds)
  • Clamshells (20 repetitions on each side)
  • Y, T, I, and W (10 repetitions for each position)
  • Double leg hip bridges (10 repetitions)
  • Quadrupeds (15 repetitions on each side)
  • Toe yoga (10 repetitions times for each foot)
  • Fire hydrants (10 repetitions on each side)
  • Knee circles forward (10 repetitions for each leg)
  • Knee circles backward (10 repetitions for each leg)
  • Single-leg balance (~30 seconds for each leg)

Then, I spent ~10 minutes with static stretching for the hamstrings and calves, and lacrosse ball rolling on the plantar fascia.

Recommendations: At various points during your run focus on engaging the outer hips and glutes to keep your hips open. Try to do this for 20-30 seconds each mile. Over time you will automatically engage these muscles and have your hips open when you run.

If you haven’t done so, I recommend opting in on the Welcome Page to receive a fitness training program, which includes workouts similar to what I have been doing. This includes exercises to strengthen the glutes and outer hips to help you keep your hips open when you run.

Tip of the Day: One of the major causes of injuries in runners is not properly controlling movement while running, especially movement to the side when one foot is on the ground. Therefore, it can be extremely beneficial to focus more on controlling and minimizing movement with the outer hips and glutes to prevent the inward collapsing of the hips, knees, and ankles. For 20-30 seconds each mile, focus on keeping the hips open by using the outer hips and glute muscles. One of my physical therapists used to instruct me to focus on “wrapping the glutes around to the back”. That cue certainly works for me and hopefully it will work for you as well.

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

Marathon Training 2019 Day 16: Consistency: One of the Keys To Achieving Your Running Goals

January 30 2019 cold morning run consistency“Success doesn’t come from what you do occasionally, it comes from what you do consistently.” – Marie Forleo

This morning my dog, Zadar, needed me to take him for a walk first thing after I woke up. So, I took him for about twenty minutes. It was another bitter cold morning and after we got done and got inside, I really did not want to go back out in the cold for today’s run! However, I remembered my goal, got my running clothes on, performed my dynamic warmup and headed out for ~32 minute run. As I was running, I was reminded of the importance of consistency with training for maximizing running performance and achieving running goals. So, today’s Tip of the Day addresses consistency. After my run, I performed the following mobility and strengthening exercises:

  • Leg swings forward and back with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
  • Leg swings side-to-side with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
  • Single-leg stand (~30 seconds for each leg)
  • Pushups (10 repetitions)
  • Monster walks side-to-side and forward and back (done with resistance band, 10 repetitions for each direction)
  • Prone planks (~40 seconds)
  • Side planks (~25 seconds)
  • Supine planks (~20 seconds)
  • Clamshells (20 repetitions on each side)
  • Y, T, I, and W (10 repetitions for each position)
  • Double leg hip bridges (10 repetitions)
  • Quadrupeds (15 repetitions on each side)
  • Toe yoga (10 repetitions times for each foot)
  • Fire hydrants (10 repetitions on each side)
  • Knee circles forward (10 repetitions for each leg)
  • Knee circles backward (10 repetitions for each leg)
  • Single-leg balance (~30 seconds for each leg)

Then, I spent ~10 minutes with foam rolling and eccentric lengthening exercises.

Recommendation:

  • Beginners:
    • I recommend doing an easy walk for 25-30 minutes.
    • Also, perform the following mobility and strengthening exercises:
      • 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 (~20-30 seconds for each leg)
      • Standard or knee-assisted pushups (8-10 repetitions)
      • Monster walks side-to-side and forward and back (done with or without a resistance band, 8-10 repetitions for each direction)
      • Prone planks (25-30 seconds)
      • Side planks (15-20 seconds)
      • Supine planks (15-20 seconds)
      • Clamshells (10-15 repetitions on each side)
      • Y, T, I, and W (5-8 repetitions for each position)
      • Double leg hip bridges (8-10 repetitions)
      • Quadrupeds (8-10 repetitions on each side)
      • Toe yoga (10 repetitions for each foot)
      • Fire hydrants (5-10 repetitions on each side)
      • Knee circles forward (5-10 repetitions for each leg)
      • Knee circles backward (5-10 repetitions for each leg)
      • Single-leg balance (~20-30 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:
    • Dynamic warm-up.
    • Then, I recommend a 35-50 minute run at an easy pace, ideally in a primarily flat area.
    • After your run, perform the following mobility and strengthening exercises:
      • Leg swings forward and back with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
      • Leg swings side-to-side with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
      • Single-leg stand (~20-30 seconds for each leg)
      • Pushups (10 repetitions)
      • Monster walks side-to-side and forward and back (done with resistance band, 10 repetitions for each direction)
      • Prone planks (~30-40 seconds)
      • Side planks (~20-25 seconds)
      • Supine planks (~15-20 seconds)
      • Clamshells (15-20 repetitions on each side)
      • Y, T, I, and W (8-10 repetitions for each position)
      • Double leg hip bridges (10 repetitions)
      • Quadrupeds (10-15 repetitions on each side)
      • Toe yoga (10 repetitions times for each foot)
      • Fire hydrants (10 repetitions on each side)
      • Knee circles forward (10 repetitions for each leg)
      • Knee circles backward (10 repetitions for each leg)
      • Single-leg balance (~20-30 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: Consistency is one of the keys to maximizing your running potential and achieving your running goals.  Make sure that you have your goals written out, so that you can see them every day to remind you of the importance of performing your scheduled run or cross-training, mobility and strengthening exercises, and cool-downs every day. All of these aspects are important. If you don’t have time to perform the mobility and strengthening exercises and/or cool-downs after your runs, make sure to schedule a time later in the day when you can perform them. If you don’t, you will miss out on some of the adaptations that help you maximize your running performance and you may increase your risk of injury. There are exceptions, such as if you develop an injury or are feeling pain and/or soreness, especially in a joint (in this case you may need to take a day or more off or cross-train), if you are sick, or fatigued. If you are injured, have pain or soreness, sick, or fatigued you may need to take one or more days off, so that you can recover and get back to your training sooner. If your schedule calls for a long run or interval or otherwise higher intensity run, and you are fatigued, you might still be able to perform a shorter, easy run. So, yes, there are circumstances which may cause you to miss one or more of your scheduled workouts, however, as best as possible, you will want to minimize these occurrences. Certainly, if sustain an injury, you will want to have this addressed as soon as possible, and meet with a qualified healthcare professional who can properly diagnose the injury and develop a treatment and recovery plan for you.

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

Marathon Training 2019 Day 14: Simple Things You Can Do At Work To Make Yourself a Better Runner

November 13 2018 Birthday hike pic 3 medium version“Your true success in life begins only when you make the commitment to become excellent at what you do” – Brian Tracy

Today was a non-running day for me.  Instead, I went for a nice, snowy walk with my dog Zadar. After my walk I performed the following exercises:

 

  • Leg swings forward and back with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
  • Leg swings side-to-side with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
  • Single-leg stand (~30 seconds for each leg)
  • Prone planks (~35 seconds)
  • Side planks (~25 seconds)
  • Supine planks (~20 seconds)
  • Single-leg balance (~30 seconds for each leg)

During the day I also performed leg swings and single-leg balance. I try to do this throughout the day, but certainly get up and walk and get water every hour. These simple acts can help improve your running performance. See more below in the Tip of the Day.

Recommendation: Today, I recommend a brisk walk or hike of 20-30 minutes. Immediately after your walk or hike I recommend performing the exercises listed above. If you sit for long periods throughout the day, I recommend getting up every hour and at least walking and getting water. I also recommend performing exercises like leg swings and single-leg stands and balance throughout the day.

Tip of the Day:  It can be extremely beneficial to perform certain activities while at work to support your running.  Most of us spend a significant amount of the day seated at a desk.  It is important to get up periodically (I recommend at least every hour) and move around, get some water and incorporate exercises such as leg swings and single leg balance and/or stands.  These can help you stay well-hydrated, reduce tightness in the hip flexors, and improve balance and stability on one leg (we spend a significant time on one foot when running). Here is a video that demonstrates these and other tips that you can do at work to help support your running:

http://www.denverrunningcoach.com/five-things-you-can-do-at-work-to-make-yourself-a-better-runner/

I recommend accumulating 5-10 minutes total of single-leg stands/balance throughout the day. However, do not do this all at one time.

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

It’s Not All About the Shoes or at Least Not in the Way You Might Think

I’m dating myself, but several years ago Nike had an ad for Air Jordan shoes featuring Michael Jordan and Spike Lee with the tagline “It’s all about shoes.”  However, just like we can’t be amazing basketball players just by wearing Air Jordan basketball shoes, research has shown that running shoes generally have little or no effect on running performance and injury prevention.  In fact, the design of some current running shoes may increase your risk for injury!

So, at some point you will need to purchase running shoes again, unless of course you are going to run barefoot.  If the shoe model you currently use feels good and you feel no pain, then by all means continue with this same model.  Running shoe companies make this a challenge though, because they are constantly changing shoe models.  Also, the current shoes you are running in may be decreasing your running efficiency and increasing your risk for injury.

Therefore, I wanted to share with you a few things to consider when purchasing your next pair of running shoes. A couple of years ago I posted an article entitled “Runners and Triathletes: Let’s Go Shop Shopping.” Most of the considerations I mentioned in this article still hold true, so please check out this article (http://www.denverrunningcoach.com/runners-and-triathletes-lets-go-shoe-shopping/).

However, I want to update tips numbered 2 and 3 of the list of 16 tips that I gave based on the research on running shoes.  Basically, these tips addressed determining arch type for your foot and the proper shoe based on your arch type.

Research has shown that trying to “classify” a runner’s arch type or height (high arch, neutral arch, flat arch or flat-footed) doesn’t really describe what is happening when you run.  Differences between structural arch heights are muted when running.  Numerous studies have shown that assigning shoes based on arch type doesn’t improve performance or decrease injury.  No matter your arch type, we all need to dissipate shock during pronation (foot turning inward) and actively stabilize during push-off.  This is the responsibility of our body, not the shoe we are running in.  Proprioception and muscles ability to respond and stabilize when we run, especially with one foot on the ground are critical.

Proprioception is the sensory information that allows our body to sense its position and allows us to control our limbs without directly looking at them.  This is important in controlling how we land and stabilize when we run.  Poor proprioception can negatively impact how we use our muscles when we run resulting in overstriding, which increases stress on our body and can make us a less efficient runner.  This sensory information is impacted by the extent to which our foot is in contact with the ground.  The body will respond best when we maximize proprioception.

The better your proprioception and your ability to stabilize your pelvis, hip and ankle joints when you run, the more efficient (and faster) runner you will be, and the better your ability to minimize the risk of injury.  In future articles and videos, I will address how to improve your ability to stabilize, which involves properly engaging the muscles.  In this article I will focus more on how running shoes can affect your proprioception.  Any delay in this proprioception can negatively impact your body’s ability to respond and stabilize, especially since the time that we have one foot on the ground in each stride cycle is so brief (~0.07-0.25 seconds).

Maximum proprioception would occur when we are running barefoot on a firm surface.  If you have run barefoot or watched others run barefoot you may have noticed that you and/or they run differently.  A big part of this is the improved proprioception causes you and/or them to land differently; often softer and closer to the body, which is beneficial, because we will experience less impact on the body and tend not to overstride.  Unfortunately, most of the time we are not running on surfaces which lend itself well to running barefoot.  We need some type of protection on our feet.  Thus, most of us run in running shoes, instead of running barefoot, most or all of the time.

So, how do running shoes affect our proprioception and what can we do to maximize our proprioception if we are running in shoes?

Traditional running shoes evolved to share four basic key features:

Postings – dual-density material that tries to stop motion, think stability and motion control shoes

High heels – heel is about two times as high as the forefoot

Cushioned material – softer surfaces designed to absorb impacts

Narrow toe box – narrow toe boxes supposedly improve fit and control

In a previous article (http://www.denverrunningcoach.com/get-ready-to-achieve-your-running-goals-for-2017/) I mentioned three of these factors, and that they can be detrimental to running efficiency and potentially increase your risk for injury.

Postings

Postings, which are found in stability and motion control shoes, are supposed to help runners who overpronate.  However, maximum pronation actually occurs just after midstance (when we have one foot fully on the ground), after the heel has left the ground.  This means that the posting under the rearfoot that is designed to “stop” the foot from moving isn’t even in contact with the ground, so it’s not able to do what it is supposed to do!  In addition, these postings create some significant issues at midstance, including increasing the stress on the inside of the knee.  This can lead to the development of osteoarthritis.

A couple of years ago, I purchased a pair of motion control shoes.  I began noticing knee pain when I ran in these shoes.  I switched to a shoe with a significantly lower heel (less posting) and the knee pain went away.  For the shoes in which I had experienced knee pain, I measured the difference in sole from the heel to the front of the shoe on the shoe.  This difference was approximately 15mm (1.5 cm or ~3/4 inch)!  Talk about your high heels!  Well, at least for running shoes.  If you are experiencing knee pain and you currently have motion control or stability shoes, you might consider trying a flatter more neutral shoe and see if that reduces or eliminates your knee pain.

High Heels

Another running shoe feature that can have a negative impact on your running and increase your risk for injury is high heels.  Heel may be high because of a posting for a motion control or stability, or it may be due to excess cushioning.  Research suggests that the proprioceptive responses of the foot works best when the foot is flat and that high heels can mute or compromise proprioception.  Fortunately, shoe manufacturers have been offering flatter shoes, most likely due to Chris McDougal’s “Born To Run” and the barefoot/minimalist movement.  This is a good thing, because these flatter shoes increase our proprioception.

Check your current shoes.  Measure the sole at the heel and front of the shoe.  What’s the difference between this?  If this difference is 10 mm or greater, you might consider trying a shoe with approximately a 5-6 mm drop from the heel to front of the shoe.  Running shoes with a high heel mask our foot’s sensation (reduced proprioception) and allow us to land hard on the heel well in front of our body’s center of mass (overstriding).

Something to consider when you are not running:  If you put your foot in a better position throughout the day by wearing flatter shoes, you’ll be better able to maximize the function of your foot.  This will carry over to your running.  Even if you aren’t running in flat shoes, use flatter shoes throughout the rest of the day, as much as possible.

Cushioning

Just as motion control and stability shoes may be inappropriate for those who overpronate, or have flat arches, shoes with a lot of cushioning may be inappropriate for those who supinate (underpronate), or have high arches.  More cushioning results in less proprioception.  This in turn results in less control with our muscles to stabilize us when we have one foot on the ground and can result in overstriding; decreasing our running efficiency and increasing our risk of injury.

Narrow Toe Box

The last running shoe feature that can significantly impact your efficiency and injury risk is the toe box.  Unfortunately, fashion has dictated that we have shoes that taper in the front.  A shoe with a narrow toe box scrunches your foot, and thus can make it more difficult to control your big toe.  Approximately 80-85% of foot support when you run should come from the big toe.  So, your running shoe should have a wide toe box so that you can spread your toes.  This allows your muscles that control the toes to be properly activated, thus you can better control your big toe and increase your stability when you are in midstance.  This will also allow you to better push off with this foot making you a faster runner.

A few additional qualities in a running shoe that would be beneficial include:

– Thin: to provide some protection for the feet, but allow for near maximum proprioception

– Firm: enough in the midsole to optimize proprioception in the foot, but not so much to allow hard landings in the front of the body

– Light: weight matters in regards to efficiency

Summary:

  • Proprioception is the sensory information that allows our body to sense its position and allows us to control our limbs when we run. This affects our body’s response and along with muscle control affects our stability, which in turn affects our running efficiency and risk for injury
  • Don’t depend on shoes to correct for issues with running form, we’ll discuss how to correct for these in future articles
  • Consider using a firm, flat (6mm drop or less from heel to front of shoe), light shoe that is wide in the toe box
  • Consider using a shoe with little cushioning to maximize your body’s ability to control motion and to effectively respond to changes in conditions while running
  • Running shoes should be about function, not fashion. Adjust your shoe size if your foot grows, such as what can happen with wider toe box shoes as the foot widens

References

Clinghan, R., et al. “Do You Get Value For Money When You Buy an Expensive Pair of Running Shoes?”  Br J Sports Med. (42): 189-93, 2008.

Dicharry, J.  (2012).  Anatomy for Runners.  New York, NY: Skyhorse Publishing.

Kurz, MJ, and N. Stergiou. “The Spanning Set Indicates That Variability During the Stance Period of Running Is Affected by Footwear.” Gait Posture. (17): 132-5, 2003.

Nigg, BM, et al. “The Effects of Material Characteristics of Shoe Soles on Muscle Activation and Energy Aspects During Running.” J Biomech. (36): 569-75, 2003.

Ramanathan, AK, Parish EJ, Arnold GP, Drew TS, Wang W, and Abboud RJ.  “The influence of shoe sole’s varying thickness on lower limb muscle activity.” Foot Ankle Surg. (17): 218-23, 2011.

Reinschmidt, C., and BM Nigg. “Influence of Heel Height on Ankle Joint Moments In Running.” Med Sci Sports Exerc. (27): 410-6, 1995.

Richards, CE, PJ Magin, and R. Callister.” Is Your Prescription of Distance Running Shoes Evidence-Based?” Br J Sports Med. (43): 159-62, 2009.

Robbins SE, Waked WE, Allard P, McClaran J, Krouglicof N. “Foot position awareness in younger and older men: the influence of foot wear sole properties.” J Am Ger Soc (45): 61–6, 1997.

Robbins SE, Waked E, McClaran J. Proprioception and stability: foot position awareness as a function of age and footwear. Age Aging (24): 67–72. 1995.

Ryan, MB, et al. “The Effect of Three Different Levels of Footwear Stability on Pain Outcomes In Women Runners: A Randomised Control Trial.” Br J Sports Med, (45): 715-21, 2009.

Sekizawa, K, et al. “Effects of Shoe Sole Thickness on Joint Position Sense.” Gait Posture. (13): 221-8, 2001.

Stacoff, A., X. Kalin, and E. Stussi. “The Effects of Shoes on the Torsion and Rearfoot Motion In Running.” Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. (23): 482-490, 1991.

What Are The Leading Causes of Injuries in Runners and How to Avoid Them

Injuries in runners are very common. In fact, research has suggested that 50% of runners experience a running-related injury every year! During my many years of running, I have experience a variety of injuries including: plantar fasciitis, IT band syndrome, patellofemoral syndrome (knee pain), and shin splints. However, I have learned how to minimize the risk of reoccurrence of these injuries and to minimize the development of other injuries.

There are several common risk factors that increase our chances of developing running-related injuries. In this article I will discuss a few of these and steps that you can take to address these to minimize your risk of future injury.

First, I want to mention the two most common risk factors for the development of running-related injuries. The first is a previous injury. Although, I have not discussed this yet the year (and really should have done so!), if you currently have an injury you need to address it before you get too far into your training to achieve this year’s goals. This may involve seeing your chiropractor, physical therapist, physician, massage therapist, acupuncturist, etc. This is a really important step! If you haven’t remedied an injury that you already have, this will negatively impact your training, and you could make your injury worse, which could put your training on hold for an extended period of time. Also, you may compensate for this injury and develop another injury.

The other most common risk factor for the development of injury is excessive mileage or increasing the volume of your training too quickly, such as increasing the intensity or number of intervals. Therefore, you must have a solid plan that will progressively and properly train your body’s systems to reach your goals. This plan needs to incorporate adequate recovery and recovery weeks. There can be lots of confusion as to what the proper plan should be. There are lots of training plans available online, in books, magazines, etc. These plans may work well for someone else, but may not be best for you. Therefore, I recommend consulting with an expert who can develop a proper training program specific for you.

Another risk factor for the development of injuries is improper or worn shoes. Boy, have I learned this one the hard way! Several years ago I decided to buy a pair of running shoes that were on sale and ordered them online. I got these shoes at a bargain price, but in the long run paid more because of my physical therapy bills to treat the plantar fasciitis that I developed. Now, I’m not necessarily saying the shoes caused the development of plantar fasciitis, but I believe they contributed. As a result of developing plantar fasciitis in both feet, I couldn’t run for nine months and missed out on the Boston Marathon that I had qualified for. However, through my experience I learned a lot about injury prevention, which I pass along to other runners, including you. So, make sure that you are replacing your worn running shoes. When you replace them make sure that you do so with shoes that are right for you. I discussed this in my last article.

Some other risk factors for the development of running-related injuries include muscle weaknesses and imbalances and improper running mechanics. Imbalances in muscular strength and flexibility issues can cause stress to underlying tissues, affecting alignment, and interfere with proper running mechanics and form. Some common issues can be tightness in the hip flexors (due to sitting for extended periods of time, such as at work), hamstrings, and the Achilles tendon. These can cause a shorter stride or briefer-than-normal foot strike. Another common issue is weakness of the hip abductors (glutes). These can all increase the risk of development of IT band syndrome, plantar fasciitis, and patellofemoral syndrome. Strengthening the hip abductors and increasing the flexibility of hip flexors, hamstrings, and the Achilles tendon can resolve these injuries and reduce the chances of future injury.

For those of you living in Colorado, to help you minimize the risk of injuries from muscle weaknesses/imbalances and improper running mechanics, I offer a stride analysis along with tests for muscle weaknesses/imbalances and flexibility issues. If you have muscle weaknesses/imbalances and flexibility issues, I will prescribe exercises to address these issues. I will offer this analysis at a discounted rate for the rest of March and all of April. This discount also applies for those who would like to be reassessed (I offer reassessments at a reduced rate compared with initial assessment).

Please pass this along to anyone you feel might benefit. Also, please contact me at brian@denverrunningcoach.com with any questions or comments that you have.

Happy training!

Brian

It’s All in the Hips (and Pelvis) Part 3: Activating the “Glutes”

As part of an ongoing discussion of the article entitled “It’s All in the Hips” that appeared in the April issue of Running Times I want to discuss the importance of properly activating the “glutes”. As I mentioned in the last article, many of the injuries that runners develop are due to weak or improperly activated “glutes”. This article will cover making sure the “glutes” are being properly activated.

Neuromuscular activation (NMA) is the fancy term that is often used to discuss whether a muscle is being properly activated. Basically, we want the brain and nervous system signaling the appropriate muscles to be active when we run. We can prime our brain and nervous system to do this during our warm-up. Therefore, there are really two important components of a warm-up. The first is NMA and the second is a dynamic warm-up (important for increased blood flow to muscles and increasing the temperature of the muscles to make them more flexible). For most athletes I have focused solely on the dynamic warm-up, although I have begun incorporating the NMA component of the warm-up with athletes that I have recently started working with.

Below, I will give you a couple of tests to determine if your glutes are properly being activated or “firing”. Then I will give you a few exercises that I use in the warm-up to get the glutes “firing” before your run.

Tests to determine if “glutes” are activated. The Running Times article describes three tests that can be used (I have included two of them):

1. The bridge:

a. Lie on your back with your knees up and your feet flat on the ground

b. Hold your arms straight out above you

c. Lift your hips up to make a straight bridge from shoulders to knees

d. Notice where you are feeling stress. Is it in the butt? If you are feeling the stress elsewhere, rock your hip angle and change

your back arch so that you don’t feel the effort in your back or hamstrings, but in the center of your butt.

e. If you are having trouble isolating the “glutes”, try first pulling one knee to your chest, which locks out the back’s ability to

arch, then do a single-leg bridge.

2. Standing hip extension:

a. Stand on one leg with the other held so that the calf is parallel to the ground by bending at the knee.

b. Hold your hands on your hips, wrapping around the front.

c. Without allowing the pelvis to rotate forward or your spine to tip, drive the lifted foot backward into an imaginary wall. As the

leg extends you should feel the “glute” activate and the hip flexor stretch.

Exercises you can we do to activate the “glutes” and hip abductors during warm-up

1. One leg balance with diagonal abduction:

• While standing on one leg, have the other leg straight out in back of you at ~ a 45 degree angle with the toes relaxed

• Hold for ~5 seconds

• Repeat 1-2 times for each leg

2. Calf raise abduction:

• Stand with both feet flat on the ground

• Raise up on your toes for both feet as if performing a normal calf raise

• At the top of the calf raise, turn your heels out and toes in

• Then turn the heels back in and the toes back out and lower the heels to the ground (starting position)

• Repeat for a total of 8 repetitions

Other helpful NMA exercises which activate the hip flexors, quadriceps and hamstrings:

1. One leg balance high knee lift:

• While standing on one leg, raise the other leg in front of you with the knee bent until the thigh is parallel with the ground

• Hold for ~ 5 seconds

• Repeat 1-2 times for each leg

2. Hamstring holds:

• While standing on one leg, raise the other leg in front of you with the knee bent until the thigh is parallel with the ground

• Bring this leg back so that the knee is pointing to the ground and the hamstring muscle is engaged

• Hold in this position for 3-4 seconds

• Return to the position in which this leg is in front of you

• Repeat 2-3 times for each leg

3. One leg balance with leg extend & toe pointed out:

• While standing on one leg, have the other leg straight out in front of you with the foot just slightly off the ground

• Slightly turn the foot outward

• Hold for ~5 seconds

• Repeat 1-2 times for each leg

 

Please let me know if you have any questions.

 

See you on the road or trail,

Brian