Friday, 26 April 2013

Run Technique Revisited

With the snow melting and runners starting to increase their mileage I thought it was a good idea to revisited running technique and check your run specific strength.

Strength Test  
As a runner, overall muscular health is very important, but there are a few areas of specific concern. These include the hip abductors, quads and hamstrings. So it's helpful to be able to get a good snapshot of these areas so you know whether you have adequate strength.

Weakness in any of these areas can lead to injuries and undermine your hard work to improve your running performance. Dr. Adam Reynolds works with many athletes, including runners. He suggests doing a simple strength test for your abductors, quads and hamstrings. This will let you know what you need to work on -- before you get injured.

In this video, Reynolds demonstrates how to do each exercise and how many reps you should be able to do. He also suggests you repeat the test as you train so you can keep tabs on these important areas.

Strength Program
If you have inadequate strength in any or all of these exercises in the video it is a good idea to incorporate them into your weekly strength program with three sets of each exercise for one minute per side, stopping to rest as needed. Once you can complete the three exercises as outlined in the video with good form for the goal repetitions it is a good idea to maintain this strength throughout the year by completing the three exercises once per week as opposed to two times a week when you were building up your strength to the desired level.

Strength Program
  • Hip Abductor exercise - 3 x 1min
  • Quad exercise - 3 x 1min
  • Hamstring exercise - 3 x 1min
Take 30 second rest between sets and 1min rest between exercises and complete two times per week.

Strength Maintenance
  • Hip Abductor exercise - 1 x 1min
  • Quad exercise - 1 x 1min
  • Hamstring exercise - 1 x 1min
Take 30 second rest between sets and 1min rest between exercises and complete one time per week.

Technique Test
Running faster, more efficiently, and injury free is what runners strive for, and having good running form is paramount to achieving these goals. Watching this video you can get a sense on how the strength test above will work to provide strong running technique.

We have test here at the shop we can put you through on the treadmill to test the efficiency of your technique and how you can apply the strength exercises in the video above to the technique ideas in the technique video below.

Technique Advice
 In the following article, it's my goal to give you some ideas to help you improve your running form. The bulk of this article comes from information gained from my readings and working on my own technique over the past few years.

Running is a skill that can and should be worked on, on a daily basis. 

How to run
Foot contact should occur on the outside edge of the foot and depending on speed either at the mid-foot or forefoot. The initial contact on the outside of the foot is generally not felt and instead for practical reasons should be thought of as a simple mid/whole foot landing. By hitting forefoot or mid-foot the braking action is minimized. Additionally, the landing should occur in a neutral position(90 degrees to the ground) at the ankle, as that sets up the calf and Achilles for optimal use of elastic energy. (This also protects the Achilles from being strained) Once landing has occurred, it is important to allow the foot to load up. Loading up the foot means allowing it to move through the cycle of initial contact to fully supporting the body. Since initial contact is on the outside of the foot, the support will move inwardly. With forefoot strikers, the heel has to settle back and touch the ground to allow for proper loading. Holding the heel off the ground and staying on the forefoot will not allow for the stretch-reflex on the Achilles-calf complex to occur. 

After the initial loading phase, propulsion starts to occur and the foot begins to come off the ground. The center of pressure should move towards with the big toe before the foot leaves the ground and once the hip is extended, leave the foot alone whereby insuring that the foot acts as one entire unit, allowing for greater forward propulsion coming from the hip, the foot coming along for the ride.

While foot contact is occurring the extension of the hip is where the power comes from, not from pushing with your toes. The hip should be thought to work in a piston like fashion. This speed and degree of hip extension is what will partially control the speed. A stronger hip extension results in more force application and greater speed. Once the hip is extended, the foot will come off the ground and the recovery cycle will begin.

The lower leg will lift off the ground and fold so that it comes close to your buttocks (how close depends on the speed you are running) then pass under your hips with the knee leading. Once the knee has led through, the lower leg will unfold and it is then the runner’s job to put it down underneath them. Ideal landing is close to the center of your body and directly underneath the knee.

Once the knee has cycled through, the lower leg should drop to the ground so that it hits close to under your center of gravity. When foot contact is made, it should be made where the lower leg is 90 degrees to the ground. This puts the foot in an optimal position for force production. The leg does not extend outwards and there is no reaching for the ground. Reaching out so to paw back with the lower leg results in over striding and creates a braking action and simply engages the hamstrings and other muscles to a greater degree than necessary, thus wasting energy. The leg should simply unfold and drop underneath the runner.

The lower and upper body are linked together as one unit. First, you should run with an upright body posture with a very slight lean forward from having a relaxed flexible ankle, and not from the waist. The arms and legs should work in a coordinated fashion. 

The arm swing occurs from the shoulders, so that the shoulders do not turn or sway. It is a simple pendulum like forward and backward motion without shoulder sway or the crossing of the arms in front of your body. 

Summary of Running Form:
1. Body Position - upright, slight lean from ground
2. Feet - as soon as knee comes through, put the foot down underneath you

  • land mid or forefoot underneath knee, close to center of the body
3. Arm stroke - controls rhythm
  • forward and backwards from the shoulder without side to side rotation
4. Hip extension - extend the hip and then leave it alone
5. Rhythm - Control rhythm and speed through arm stroke and hip extension

Changing mechanics:
Running drills have not been that useful for improving my mechanics because they do not replicate the running form, instead running form should be worked on when actually running which is why every run I do I am thinking about my technique, looking for that sweet spot.

Race Nutrition Revisited

With the snow melting and the spring marathon and ultra marathon season approaching I thought it would be a good idea to revisit the idea of race nutrition. Through my training and racing I tried many approaches to my nutrition and through readings and trial and error I have come to follow the following guidelines. 

Run fast and have drinks pre-made:-)
At the core of race nutrition is the idea of consuming small amounts of carbs every 15mins and to start each workout or race fully loaded and not getting behind in calories. Also the longer the event the more calories needed. For myself having a bowl of porridge or toast with olive oil pre-event has been magic using this system of fueling.

In my readings by Trent Stellingwerff and Asker's Jeukendrup, Trent drives home the point of 15grams of carbs every 15mins in 150ml of fluids and Asker has some specific ideas based on distance.

Asker showed some interesting data showing a pronounced trend that faster times were correlated with higher carb intake per hour in ultra events and suggests that ultra-endurance athletes should aim for up to 90 g/hr of carbs, and he showed some data from Ironman triathlete Chrissie Wellington who set a new Ironman world record in 2010 using this approach.

He offers these guidelines with my suggestions based on Trent's "rule of 15"

(Trent's rule of 15 is adjusted slightly when moving to the ultra marathon)
  • less than 1hr: no carbs needed 
  • 1-2 hr: up to 30 g/hr, any type of carb
    • 10 grams of carbs every 15mins 
  • 2-3 hr: up to 60g/hr, carbs that are oxidized rapidly like glucose or maltodextrin
    • 15 grams of carbs every 15mins 
  • 3-20 hrs: up to 90g/hr, combination of carbs
    • glucose or maltodextrine combined with fructose at a 2:1 ratio
    •  22.5 grams of carbs every 15mins

In terms of tolerating high carb intake, it’s definitely an individual thing, but you do get better at tolerating high loads with practice. In his example of triathlete Chrissie Wellington, she was consuming 86 g/hr in 2007 and in 2011 was apparently taking quite a bit more than that, because she’s managed to train her system to tolerate it. 

Another change Wellington made was that she takes just carbs, no protein. In Asker’s opinion he found no benefit from adding protein — so eliminating the protein might make it easier on the gut.

Also he noted that his recent studies have found no difference in absorption rate for bars, gels and  fluids, so you can mix and match to find what your stomach tolerates best. He makes no reference to non sport nutrition products in terms of absorption rate but I would think that certain foods such as cooked sweet potato would also be a good addition to your mix of foods. 

The thing that stands out here for me is that when you consume food like soups, potatoes etx in an ultra event be very careful to keep to the rule of 15 in that you do not consume more than 25grams of carbs in 15mins as your body will not be able to tolerate the large increase in calories, i.e. do not come into transition and sit down and consume a pizza, have the pizza cut up into small pieces in a zip lock and consume in small portions as you walk on the hills.

It takes a about an hour for the rate of carb uptake to reach maximum. So if you only start taking carbs after an hour, there will be a delay before those carbs are being fully utilized, so it is best to start right from the start utilizing the rule of 15 deciding how you want to consume the calories utilizing gels, bars, sports drink and in what combination. 

For myself, I tend to lean toward more liquid nutrition in shorter events with watered down gels and more solid food in longer events using a combination of sports drinks, gels, bars, sweet potatoes, soups and many combinations there in.

What now, how do I carry all this food?
Given all this, the thing that strikes you the most, is how am I going to carry all these calories so that I can consume them in such small amounts throughout the event. This is where a little planning can go a long way and breaking down the legs and deciding how long each leg will take and how many calories  you will need using any number of hydration packs and handhelds. In marathon events,  I tend to carry my calories and use the aid stations for water where as with ultras I decide on size of bladder and food combination based on the length of the leg as I need to carry both the water and calories. For the longer legs I put more emphasis on having enough calories on board than having enough water. Also I look for calorie options that have electrolytes combined just in case I run low on sports drink.

As a side note there did not seem to be direct link between nutrition and cramping, the studies seemed to indicate that cramping was more in line with starting too fast or not going into the event fully rested.

The take home message in my mind is not so much what you use as fuel but how you consume that fuel and if you can take small sips, small bites and start early you will stay well stocked and energy levels will remain even throughout your event. 

The same can be said in your daily nutrition, small meals consistently through the day so that you start your workouts fully stocked putting more focus on consumption early in the day and less focus latter in the day, i.e large breakfast and a small dinner.

Hope that helps.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Doubles, and why they're good

First, the plain and simple explanation of doing doubles, doubles have been proven by trial and error to benefit your running. Your body adapts best to what it does most often - provided you give it a chance to adapt. "Doubles increase your capillary density faster than singles do, and even if you've been doing them for a few years, they can still continue to improve your capillary density and your mitochondrial density."

The pace should not really be a concern on the shorter run (or the run which is not the primary workout of the day). 

Look at what the Japanese do - they'll run 10K in 50 minutes as a secondary session! And we're talking 2:10 marathon types here! The main purpose of such an outing is simply to get time on your legs. I like going so easy that I can envision myself as "storing up energy" for the next workout.

Some members of the run club have added doubles with good success.
Speaking of pace, putting in a short jog at a slow pace as your secondary outing actually enhances your primary run and the two sessions can work together providing a better training effect. If you do your "real" workout in the P.M., a "shake-out" in the morning will often help you feel better (more warmed up and less injury prone) for the later outing. If your "real" run is in the A.M., a slow second run later will help relax you and will possibly prevent stiffness from setting in (it might help you sleep better, too, if you keep the pace super-slow). Either way, if you're performing the same basic activity (running) that you normally perform at a medium or hard effort level - albeit at a much-reduced intensity - you're providing blood flow to the primary working muscles without overstressing them and without generating a lot of impact stress. If you can get into a good two-a-day routine, these dog-slow jogs can help prevent injuries that might result from your principal workouts. I'd recommend 20 minutes as the shorter run of a double only as a stepping stone to those of 30 minutes and longer.

I would say that if the second run is the primary run, it should usually be done six to eight hours after the first run (a "shake-out") If you just want a warming up effect for your "real" workout of the day, you can reduce the time between runs to about four hours. If your A.M. run is the primary session, you can wait a little longer than eight hours to do your second run. You may need a few extra hours to guard against overburdening yourself if your first run was fairly taxing (in terms of length or pace or both).

Finally, there are some intangible benefits to running twice a day several days per week, not the least of which is the sheer familiarity with putting one foot in front of the other - "a practice, if ingrained in the subconscious recesses of the mind/muscle interactive process, can let you hold form to the finish of some races by operating on sheer autopilot!"

Monday, 1 April 2013

Fast Trax 2013 Run Team

Team Program Mission
To create, promote and support a group of runners who are focused on personal improvement in running, at any level. Setting goals and training for personal bests, age group accomplishments and top placings.

Sponsored Athlete Program
Inspired by the efforts of the working athlete, Fast Trax offers a Sponsored Athlete Program providing a 30% discount at the shop to select athletes.
  • Chris Stone
  • Brian Torrance
  • Niall McGrath
  • Greg Meiklejohn
  • Joe Husing
  • Chantell Widney
  • Annett Kamenz
  • Shannon Maisano
  • Ailsa MacDonald
  • Kelsi Rudy - Facebook draw winner
  • Cliff De bruijn - Facebook draw winner

Junior / University Athlete Program
Inspired by the dedication and drive of Northern Alberta's Junior / University Athletes, Fast Trax offers a program specific to their needs giving all Northern Alberta Junior / University Athletes that register on-line for the program a 20% discount at the shop.

AthleticsNorth Team Program
AthleticsNorth is designed to provide runners of all abilities a proven training schedule, based on varied interval training, allowing variation in training types and full recovery between workouts. The program helps runners of all abilities make smart training decisions, use better and more efficient workouts, establish good training routines, peak for big events and get the most from their training as well as receiving a 15% discount at the shop.

High-end aerobic runs

The general idea of a high-end aerobic run, which for us here at the shop is scheduled on Tuesday and Thursday is to find the fastest pace at which you can run without feeling as though you're having to fight to sustain the pace. You should start at your usual easy run pace and let your breathing and perceived effort stabilize before attempting any increase in pace. As the run progresses, the pace should always be manageable; that is, you should be well in control of the speed rather than forcing yourself to maintain it. You should always finish a high-end aerobic workout feeling strong - almost energized from the sensation of running right on the edge of pushing it.

The most prudent approach is to work with your body rather than against it, watching for the signs that tell you that you are about to go too hard, as opposed to struggling and fighting yourself and undermining the effectiveness of your workouts