If You Are Not Properly Activating the Glutes and Outer Hip Muscles While Running, You Are Wasting Time and Effort Strengthening the Glutes and Outer Hip Muscles

powerful runners

Hello Runners,

Have you ever worked hard and spent a bunch of time on a project that you thought your boss, co-workers, or significant other would appreciate, and then you presented your hard work and they weren’t impressed, and said something along the lines of, “thanks for your effort, but we’re going to do this instead.” How frustrating was that?

In the last two posts, I shared glute and outer hip strengthening exercises that can help you minimize the risk of injury and improve your running performance. I also provided a plan you can use to progressively incorporate more running-specific exercises once you have established a solid base of glute and outer hip strength that included dedicating at least 3 days per week for several months. That can be a lot of work!

Let’s say you’ve done these exercises consistently for a few months, and you still get an injury like plantar fasciitis, or your running pace isn’t really improving? You’d probably be mad at me!

Yes, performing these exercises consistently and in a progress manner to more running-specific exercises is important. However, that’s not the whole picture. If you are not properly engaging the glutes and outer hip muscles when you run, all your hard work and dedication is for naught.

So, in this post I will share with you what you can do to properly engage these muscles and get the benefit of all your hard work.

Activation of the Glutes and Outer Hip Muscles Before Running

I can’t stress enough the importance of a warmup before your runs. When I say warmup, I mean a dynamic warmup that engages the muscles that your need to utilize during running. Click here for a previous post on a dynamic warmup that can help with engaging the glute and outer hips muscles.

In addition to a dynamic warmup, I also recommend performing neuromuscular activation (NMA) exercises. I recommend performing these exercises before your dynamic warmup. NMA exercises should take less than five minutes to perform.

NMA Exercises:

These exercises teach your brain how to send signals to the glute and outer hip muscles so they can be activated when you run.

  • Single-leg stands:
    • 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 and then do the same on the other leg
  • Single-leg stands with arms crossed:
    • 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
    • Start with both arms straight out to the side and palms up
    • Bring the arms in front of you, so that the cross, bending at the elbows and flipping the hands over so the palms face down
    • Perform for 5 seconds on each leg, switching the arm that is on top as you cross to the front
  • Single-leg stands with foot abducted in back:
    • While standing on one leg, have the other leg straight out in back of you with the foot just slightly off the ground
    • Slightly turn the foot outward an hold for 5 seconds
    • Repeat with the other leg
  • Calf raises with abduction:
    • While standing on both feet, raise straight up on your toes
    • Then turn your heels out to the side and hold for one second
    • Then bring your heels back and lower them back down to the ground
    • Perform 8-10 repetitions
  • Single-leg stands with leg swings:
    • While standing on one leg slowly swing the other leg forward and back
    • Make sure the toes are pointing forward throughout the range of motion, correct if necessary
    • Perform 10-15 repetitions for each leg
    • Note: The range of motion doesn’t need to be as great as when you do leg swings for the dynamic warm-up
    • Bonus exercise to activate inner thighs – Single-leg stands with foot abducted in front:
      • 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 and hold for 5 seconds
      • Repeat with the other leg

After performing NMA exercises, you should then perform a dynamic warmup exercise, which will more fully engage the glutes and outer hips muscles, as blood flow and the temperature of these muscles is increased.

Activation of the Glutes and Outer Hip Muscles While Running

All right, so you’ve woken up the muscles of the glutes and outer hips and they are ready to work for you. You’ve also increased blood flow and the temperature of these muscles so they have oxygen and nutrients for contraction and are pliable.

Now you’ve got to keep them engage while you are actually running.

In a previous post, I discussed several cues that can help remind you to engage the glutes and outer hips muscles. These included:

  • “Imagine someone in front of you grabbing you by your shirt and lifting you up at the chest”
  • “Extend the hips”
  • “Think of knees as headlights that you shine straight ahead”
  • “Put your foot down underneath you”

These cues will all help you better engage the muscles of the glutes and outer hips while you run, allowing you to run with more power, while helping you reduce the risk of injury.

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

Your friend and coach,

Brian

References

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

Triathlon Training Series. Strength Training with Bob Seebohar. Endurance Filsm, Inc, 2010.

Running-Specific Glute and Outer Hip Strengthening Exercises To Significantly Improve Your Running Power and Pace

 

running performance

Hello Runners,

In my last post, I discussed some exercises that you can perform in start improving your glute and outer hip strength, which can help you improve running performance and minimize the risk of injury.

These exercises are a great place to start, especially if your glutes and outer hip muscles are weak. In order to continue to benefit, and better translate this strength to running performance, it is important to perform glute and outer hip strengthening exercises that are more running specific. However, I would not incorporate these until you have performed the exercises in the last post on a consistent basis for at least two to three months.

Once you have done so, you may want to perform the assessments I discussed in a previous post to reassess your glute and outer hip strength. If you are reasonably stable while performing these assessments, then let’s focus on more running-specific exercise to really help your running performance!

Running Specific Strengthening Exercises To Improve Running Performance

I would classify these exercises as more running-specific because they are primarily single-leg exercises or exercises in which you are more in a running positon. The exception would be the first exercise, which is still very challenging and great for improving your running power.

Glute Squats (or Chair of Death)

Regular squats tend to focus on strengthening the quadriceps muscles. A variation is the glute squat, which forces increased utilization of the glute muscles. This exercise can will help improve your power when you run, which can translate into a faster running pace. Here’s how to perform the glute squat, or chair of death:

  • Use a wooden dowel, yardstick, broomstick or pipe so that it is touching your tailbone, your back, and the middle of your head
  • Stand facing a chair with the front of your knees touching the chair
  • Squat down, hinging from your hip, moving your butt backwards, like you are hovering over a toilet
  • Make sure the object you are holding behind you does not come off the back of your body
  • It’s okay to lean the trunk forward until you develop stronger glutes and can have your torso more upright
  • The goal is to squat down far enough so that your thighs are parallel with the ground
  • Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions

 

chair of death

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Jay Dicharry “Anatomy for Runners”

 

Glute Marching

In the last post I discussed glute bridge hip lifts. A progression of this exercise is glute marching. Here is how to perform glute marching:

  • With your head, shoulders, and both feet on the floor, push up into a bridge position
  • While in the up position, begin “marching” – alternating lifting each foot several inches off the ground, while keeping your pelvis steady and facing straight up
  • Perform 3 sets of 20 repetitions (10 on each leg), with a short break between sets
  • You should feel this exercise in the glutes. If not, have a partner place their hands on the front of your pelvis and push very firmly down into the ground

glute bridge marching

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Jay Dicharry “Anatomy for Runners”

 

Multidirectional Lunges

Lunges are another great exercise for strengthening the glutes. Lunges performed in different directions can strengthen more of the outer hip muscles as well as the glutes. Here are a series of lunges that you can perform to strengthen both the glutes and outer hip muscles:

  • Front lunge:
    • Start in a standing position with proper posture and feet together.
    • Take a step forward about half the distance that you are tall.
    • Keep upper body tall and back straight.
    • Keep knee in line with ankle not over the toe.
    • Keep foot and toes pointing straight ahead.
    • Push upward and return to the starting position.
    • Repeat with the other leg.
    • Repeat for a total of 5-10 repetitions for each leg.
  • Front V-lunge:
    • Stand in an upright position
    • Step forward at a 45 degree angle with the right foot and lunge down so that you form approximately a 90 degree angle with the upper and lower leg
    • Maintain proper posture in the upper body
    • Step back to the starting position and repeat 5-10 times on both the right and left side
  • Lunge with twist:
    • Step forward with one leg and perform a partial or half lunge, making sure the knee does not come over the toes
    • Slowly twist the upper body towards the same side as the forward leg
    • Twist the upper body back to its normal position
    • Repeat on the other side for a total of 5-10 partial lunges for each side
  • Side lunge:
    • Start in a standing position with proper posture and feet together.
    • Step about 1/3 distance as you are tall to the side.
    • Keep both feet pointing forward and lean over that knee so that the other leg is straight.
    • Push upward with the leg that you stepped to the side with and return to the starting position.
    • Repeat with the other leg.
    • Perform 5-10 repetitions for each leg.
    • Maintain proper posture throughout this exercise.
  • Back V-lunge:
    • Stand in an upright position
    • Step backward at a 45 degree angle with the right foot and lunge down so that you form approximately a 90 degree angle with the upper and lower leg
    • Maintain proper posture in the upper body
    • Perform 5-10 repetitions for each leg
  • Back lunge:
    • Start in a standing position with proper posture and feet together.
    • Take a step backward about half the distance that you are tall.
    • Position knee over the ankle.
    • Keep feet pointed straight ahead.
    • Maintain proper posture with back straight.
    • Step backward and repeat for the other leg.
    • Perform 5-10 repetitions for each leg.

Walking Lunges

A progression of the front lunge discussed above is the walking lunge. This variation will be more challenging due to it being a more dynamic movement. Start with only your body weight and then you may want to progress to adding dumbbells in each hand. When performing this exercise with dumbbells, perform no more than 6 repetitions for each leg. The purpose is to better activate the muscle fibers of the glutes, as well as quadriceps, not to develop big muscles (which would occur by performing 8-12 repetitions with weight).

  • Stand with your feet about hip-distance apart.
  • Check your posture before starting—your torso should be upright and tall, core engaged, your shoulders back and chin lifted. Look straight ahead.
  • Take a wide step forward with your right foot—plant it roughly two feet ahead, allowing your left heel to lift naturally as you step forward. You may want to put your hands on your hips, or you may want to swing your arms naturally—elbows bent at 90-degrees—as you take each step.
  • Keep your core engaged and upright. Bend both knees and lower your back knee toward the floor. Stop just before it touches down. Breathe in during the lowering phase of the exercise.
  • Press firmly through your right heel and extend your right knee to rise to stand as you lift your left foot from the ground, swinging your left foot forward to plant it about two feet ahead of your right foot. Avoid leaning your torso forward from your hips as you take this step. Breathe out as you rise to stand.
  • Continue stepping forward with each lunge, alternating sides as you do. If you find yourself losing balance as you walk, pause at the top of each lunge when your feet are next to each other. Gather your balance, then continue.
  • Finish your set by bringing your back foot to meet your front foot on the final lunge.
  • If using only your body weight perform 5-10 repetitions for each leg.

Here is a video demonstration:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YYWhkctnP2o

 

Split Squats

Split squats are another glute strengthening, which puts you into more of a runner’s position. To make this more difficult you can use dumbbells, but only perform up to 6 repetitions for each leg with dumbbells.

  • From a standing position, take a long step forwards as if performing a lunge. The heel of your back foot should be raised.
  • Keeping your torso straight, lower slowly until your back knee almost touches the floor, then push back up.
  • Complete 5-10 repetitions on one leg, then switch to the other.
  • Keep your knees in line with your toes, especially on the front leg, and don’t let the front knee stray past your foot as you lower.

Here is a video demonstration:

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

 

Bulgarian Squats

Once you can easily perform split squats, then progress to Bulgarian split squats, which will be challenging because you only have one foot on the ground. However, this exercise will more closely mimic running than the regular split squat.

  • Find yourself a step, bench or chair you can rest a foot on, it needs to be about knee height.
  • Get into a forward lunge position with torso upright, core braced and hips square to your body, with your back foot elevated on the bench. Your leading leg should be about 1-2 feet in front of bench.
  • Lower until your front thigh is almost horizontal, keeping your knee in line with your foot. Don’t let your front knee travel beyond your toes.
  • Drive up through your front heel back to the starting position, again keeping your movements measured.
  • Repeat 5-10 times then switch to the other leg.

Here is a video demonstration:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlQb-Ya1YD0

 

Single-Leg Squat

The last exercise in the progression would be single-leg squats, which truly are the exercise that most mimics running. Before including this exercise be sure that you can correctly and comfortably perform the other exercises above. It’s critical to keep good form and not allow the hips, knees, or ankles to collapse inward while you are performing this exercise.

  • Stand on one leg with your foot pointing straight ahead and the knee of the other leg slightly bent.
  • Place your hips on your hips
  • Roll your shoulder blades back and keep your back straight.
  • Keep your weight centered over the ball of your foot, your upper body erect, and your head facing forward.
  • Raise the non-supporting foot from the floor slightly.
  • Lower to a squat position, keeping the knee of the supporting leg centered over the ball of the foot. Start with shallow squats and work your way closer to the ground.
  • Repeat for 5-10 squats on each leg. Aim for three sets for each leg.

What Should You Do

Start with multidirectional lunges, glute squats (chair of death), and glute marching and perform these three days per week. Once you can correctly and comfortably perform 10 repetitions for each leg, progress to walking lunges and split squats. Once you can correctly and comfortably perform these exercises, add Bulgarian split squats and then finally single-leg squats.

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

Please share this with anyone that you feel might benefit.

Your friend and coach,

Brian

 

References

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

https://www.verywellfit.com/how-to-do-walking-lunges-4588048

https://www.coachmag.co.uk/leg-exercises/7016/how-to-do-the-split-squat

https://www.coachmag.co.uk/leg-exercises/199/bulgarian-split-squat-instructions-form-tips-and-variations

https://www.verywellfit.com/build-balance-and-strength-with-single-leg-squats-3119147

 

 

Avoid the Frustration of Injury and Disappointing Performance Caused By Weak Glutes

clamshell exercise

Hello Runners,

In my last post I talked about how weak glutes and outer hip muscles are common in runners, and lead to increased risk of injury and negatively affect running performance. I also included assessments you can perform for your glute and outer hip muscle strength.

In this post, and the following post, I will discuss exercises you can incorporate into your training plan, that won’t take much time, and will be effective in increasing your glute and outer hip muscles strength.

What Are The Important Glute and Outer Hip Muscles and What Do They Do?

First, before going into these exercises, what are the glute and outer hip muscles and why are they important? The muscles that are primarily involved include the muscles of the glutes (gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimize), tensor fascia latae (TFL), and deep lateral rotators (quadratus femoris, piriformis, gemellus superior, gemellus inferior, and obturator internus). Basically these are muscles of the buttocks and the outer hips important for speed and injury prevention. They are important for extending the hip (puts power in your stride!) and stabilizing the pelvis and hips when you have one foot on the ground. Without this stability your leg will be shaky when you have one foot on the ground (you may have experienced this if you tried the assessments in the last post). This shakiness makes you less efficient because your body has to use extra energy to try to stabilize and makes you more prone to the common injuries that runners experience.

Exercises for Strengthening Glute and Outer Hip Muscles

Since most runners have weak glutes and outer hip muscles, it will be best to start with basic exercises to build strength, endurance and then move into more running-specific and functional exercises, so that you can perform the more running-specific exercises properly. So, here are some basic exercises to start with:

  1. Clamshells

Most physical therapists who are treating runners with weak glute muscles will have runners perform clamshells. You’re probably familiar with clamshells and hopefully you do them! If not, here’s how to peform clamshells:

  • Lie on your side with your torso and pelvis both perpendicular to the ground
  • Straighten the spine
  • Slowly lift the belly up off the floor to create a stable core position
  • Squeeze your glutes tight like you have a quarter stuck between your butt cheeks
  • With your feet resting on each other, lift only the knee up until it’s level with the hip
  • Lower the knee down keeping the glute contracted the entire time
  • Perform 8-20 repetitions on each side

 

  1. Side Lying Leg Raises and Hip Circles

Several years ago when I was going to physical therapy to address my own plantar fasciitis issue, the clinic I was being treated at incorporated pilates into their treatment plans. They even had the pilates reformers, which look and feel like torture machines! But they are effective.

In addition to strengthening my core, which was pretty wimpy at the time, my physical therapist, Laura, had me do a lot of side lying single leg raises and hip circles (killers!).

I recommend incorporating these into your training plan. You might do these in place of clamshells on some days. Here’s how to do these:

For side-lying leg raises:

  • Lie on your side with your legs straight and one leg on top of the other so the hips are lined up and stacked on top of each other. Your shoulders should be lined up and stacked on top of each other, as well.  You can rest your bottom hand under your head and the top hand can rest on the mat in front of your ribs.
  • Adjust your legs so that they are at a 45 degree angle with your upper body.
  • Flex the outer hip muscles of the top leg and lift that leg while having the toes on that foot pointing upwards. Keep the knee relaxed.
  • Kick the top leg up toward the ceiling, and then pull the leg down, lengthening the leg. When pulling down imagine pulling a great weight off the ceiling as the leg lowers.
  • Perform 5-10 repetitions
  • Repeat with the toes in neutral position (pointed out to the side, instead of up) and with toes pointing down
  • Repeat with the other leg

 

For hip circles:

  • Lift the top leg to hip level, with the hip turned out and the heel pointing toward the floor. Keep the knee relaxed. This is the top of the circle.
  • Circle the leg down toward the bottom ankle, around and back to the top.
  • Perform 5-10 circles in one direction and then reverse directions.
  • Focus on keeping the trunk stable while doing the circles.
  • Repeat with other leg on top.

 

  1. Monster Walks

This is another favorite exercise prescribed by physical therapists to strengthen the glutes and outer hip muscles. You might start without a resistance band, but then later start incorporating one to make this exercise more challenging. I recommend performing monster walks both side-to-side and forward-to-back. Here’s how to perform these exercises:

For Monster walks side-to-side:

  • While standing place a resistance band just above your knees (if you don’t have a resistance band you can still perform the exercise without a band)
  • Start with both feet about shoulder width distance apart and parallel to each other
  • Engage your abdominal muscles and bend at the knees like you were sitting in a chair
  • Make sure the knees don’t go over the toes
  • Take a step to the right with your right foot so that you feel the resistance
  • Take a small step with your left foot so that the tension remains in the resistance band (feet should be about shoulder width distance apart)
  • Repeat this motion to the right for 5-10 steps
  • Then repeat in the left direction
  • Breathe normally during this exercise

For Monster walks forward and backward:

  • While standing place a resistance band just above your knees (if you don’t have a resistance band you can still perform the exercise without a band)
  • Start with both feet about shoulder width distance apart and parallel to each other
  • Engage your abdominal muscles and bend at the knees like you were sitting in a chair
  • Make sure the knees don’t go over the toes
  • Take a wide step forward with your left leg
  • Take a wide step forward with your right leg so that it passes your left leg and you have tension on the resistance band
  • Repeat for 5-10 steps for each leg
  • Repeat this exercise, except now taking steps backward

 

  1. Glute Bridge Hip Lifts

You’ll want to pay attention to where you are feeling this exercise. The glute muscles, and possibly the hamstring muscles, should be doing the work. Runners with weak glutes, or glutes that aren’t being properly engaged, may feel this exercise in other muscles, including the muscles of the lower back. If this is the case for you, discontinue this exercise for now, and revisit it when your glutes are stronger and instead, focus on the other exercises.

Here’s how to do this exercise:

  • Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  • Clasp your hands together and raise them up towards the sky
  • Lift the hips off of the ground and hold briefly and then slower lower, trying not to arch your back
  • Perform 10 repetitions and on the last repetition hold at the top of the lift for up to 30 seconds.
  1. Fire Hydrants and Hip Circles Forward and Backward

These exercises are great for the deep lateral rotator muscles, which don’t get mentioned, like the glute muscles, but play an important role in stabilizing the hips when one foot is on the ground.

Fire hydrants:

  • Position yourself so that you are on all fours (on hands and knees in table top position), with the hands under the shoulders and knees under the hips
  • Keep the back straight
  • Use the outer hip muscles to raise the left leg out to the side keeping the knee bent, only raise as high as feels comfortable and for which you can still keep the back straight
  • Slowly lower the left
  • Repeat with the right leg
  • Perform 5-10 repetitions for each leg

Hip circles forward (clockwise) and backward (counter-clockwise):

  • Position yourself so that you are on all fours (on hands and knees in table top position), with the hands under the shoulders and knees under the hips
  • Keep the back straight
  • Use the outer hip muscles to raise the left leg out to the side keeping the knee bent
  • Now make circles in a clockwise direction from the hip
  • Perform 5-10 repetitions
  • Repeat these circles in the counter-clockwise direction
  • Repeat for the other leg

 

How Often and When Should These Exercises Be Performed

I recommend performing these exercises at least three days per week. Ideally, you should perform these right after your run and before your cool down. However, if time does not permit, you could perform them at another time during the day. For example, you could perform them at work, or while watching television, or you could perform them with your kids when you get home.

Video Demonstrating These Exercises

Here is a video with several exercises including most of the exercises I just described:

 

 

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

In the next post, I will discussed more advanced exercises to improve glute and outer hip strength, which are more running specific.

 

Your friend and coach,

Brian

 

References

Bob Seebohar. Triathlon Specific Strength Training. USA Triathlon Level I Coaching Certification Clinic, Englewood, CO, 2013

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

Jay Johnson.

 

Simple Cues To Help You Optimize Your Running Form To Run Faster and Help Avoid Injury

 

Hello Runnerrunning form image 2s,

In the last blog, I discussed the key aspects of optimal running form, especially in relation to body position, feet, arm swing, hip extension, and rhythm or cadence. In this post, I will share simple cues that you can use in order to help improve your running form in these areas. It is best to focus on only one or two of these at a time, for a few weeks, until they start becoming automatic, and then you can move on to another cue. Also, I recommend focusing on this cue for 10-20 seconds every 5-10 minutes, otherwise you will most likely be mentally exhausted at the end of your run, especially a long run! Another possibility is to focus on a cue while you are performing strides. If you are not familiar with strides click here to learn what they are and how they are beneficial.

So, here are a few cues to help you optimize your running form:

  • “Run tall”
    • Helps you engage your core, thus improving running posture, and also helps with hip extension, so that you can generate more power during your stride
  • “Imagine someone in front of you grabbing you by your shirt and lifting you up at the chest”
    • Similar to “Run tall” in that it forces you to engage the core
    • I like this cue better because it can also help with forward lean and helps prevent overstriding
  • “Extend the hips”
    • Focus on extending the hips when the knee is at its highest point until impact with the ground
    • Increases power, and thus speed, as the glutes are activated, and will create a recoil or rebound force with the ground, thus generating passive energy to propel you forward– hip extension, increases power of stride and thus speed
  • “Watch the horizon and try to limit it to a slight bounce”
    • Helps you create the right angle to propel yourself forward, so you are not moving too vertical or too horizontal
    • Helps you avoid contacting the ground too long and being too bouncy (up-and-down) with your stride
  • “Hip-to-Nip”
    • Stimulates arm swing, which facilitates coordination between the arm and opposite leg
    • Helps improve cadence and thus, running speed
  • “Think of knees as headlights that you shine straight ahead”
    • Helps engage and open hips to minimize risk of several common injuries including plantar fasciitis, IT band syndrome, patellofemoral syndrome (knee pain), which results from inward collapse of hips, knees, and ankles
  • “Put your foot down underneath you”
    • Helps prevents overstriding
  • “Leave the ankle/foot alone”
    • Helps minimize the loss of energy caused when activating the muscles of the lower leg and hamstrings
    • Activating these muscles can increase risk of injury
  • “Lean from the ankles”
    • Helps facilitate appropriate forward lean, which can improve speed

The key is to make gradual changes and to prepare for alterations in form by conditioning the body, which will be discussed in future posts.

I offer running evaluations to assess running form and can help you identify the cues that would be most beneficial to improve your running form.

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

Your friend and coach,

Brian

References

Cindy Kuzma. “Hips”. Sports Medicine Clinic, Boulder, CO, February 2015.

Road Runners Club of America Certification boulder, CO, May 2013.

Steve Magness. Science of Running. Origin Press, 2014.

 

Use Proper Stress and Rest To Achieve Your Maximum Potential

20120526__20120527_C12_SP27RUNBOLDERp1

“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