Saturday, October 30, 2010

5 Easy Ways to Run Better on Race Day

By Coach Jenny Hadfield
For Active.com

The hay is in the barn and you’ve trained hard all season. It’s time to taper down the mileage, and rest up for race day. Here are five simple ways to run better on race day.

1. Go with what you know. As you begin to taper down towards race day, a funny thing can happen. Your ability to make simple decisions like what to eat and what to wear goes out the window. You might even begin to second guess yourself every step of the way. This condition is caused primarily by taper madness, or the time when the mileage decreases and you find yourself with way too much time to think. Keep it simple and go with what you practiced. Every week has been a dress rehearsal for race week, and it is no time to try something new. Save the new cuisines and cute apparel you bought at the expo for after the race.

2. Eat the elephant one bite at a time. This is something I learned while toeing the line at the start of a nine-day continuous race through the jungle. Although you are well-prepared for the race, it can still be mentally overwhelming standing at the start line thinking about 13.1 or 26.2 miles. Develop a mental game plan and break the total distance into smaller, more digestible pieces. Divide the race distance by two and then again to equal four check points or think your way through specific locations on the course (aid stations, bands, landmarks). Creating a mental road map will ease your mind and keep your focus through the finish line.

3. Run efficiently. It may be tempting to take the scenic route on race day, but if you run the long way around every turn, it can translate into running more miles at the end. And they are not going to give you credit for running 27.2 miles! Think like an elite athlete and run the tangents at every turn on the course. A tangent is a straight line just outside the curve (or as close to the curve while still on the road). At every aid station, perform a head-to-toe form inventory to prevent poor form and energy waste. Think about having your head forward, relaxed shoulders, arms swinging like pendulum and your hands gently clenched. Keep your hips under your shoulders and your feet landing with quick strides [yes! whenever I get tired I start slogging and running with a slow turnover. Speeding up your turnover really helps - mentally and physically! - L] under the hips. Keep your mind actively engaged in running the course and you’ll complete the race distance--and do so with good form.

4. Pace yourself. Control the things you can. Forget about everything else. The most common mistake newbies and seasoned runners make on race day is to get caught up in the excitement and go out way too fast in the first few miles. Doing so makes for a fantastic 10K and a miserable finish. Invest in the final 10K of the race by pacing yourself and running the first half slightly slower (5-10seconds/mile) than the second half of the race. [yes, yes, yes! I have learned this the hard way many, many times!!! - L] Reserving your energy for the second half allows you to have the mental and physical stamina to go fishing in the final miles. That is, mentally casting your fishing hook towards the guy in the red shirt ahead of you and reeling him in (please pass nicely). And my friends, there is nothing more fun than having the stamina to pass people in the final miles of a race. Invest in it. It’s worth it.

5. Go with what the day brings. You never know what race day will bring until you’re in the middle of it. It could end up being a perfect weather day, and you run the race of your life. Or, you could wake up to 30 mile per hour winds and sleet and struggle to reach the finish line. Show up with a flexible game plan and adjust as needed because in the end, it’s all about performing your best on that day. Fast or slow, every finish should be celebrated as it is a significant accomplishment and one that most can’t even begin to imagine.

Coach Jenny Hadfield is the co-author of the best-selling Marathoning for Mortals, and the new Running for Mortals and Training for Mortals series. Coach Jenny has trained thousands of runners and walkers with her training plans. Improve your running performance or train for your next event with Coach Jenny's Active Trainer Plans.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Symptoms and Treatment of Taper Madness

This is funny. Came from Runner's Lounge. If any of you have trained long and hard for a big event, you know how crazy you feel when you're tapering...

'Tis the season. There is a wicked strain of Taper Madness sweeping across the world. Since fall is the prime racing season for so many runners, you can't trip over your own shadow without falling into a runner with a full case of delirium and the shakes from Taper Madness.

Taper Madness is real. Don't let your doctor tell you any different. It isn't a figment of your imagination - it strikes all runners who attempt to take their training down a notch a week or so before the big race. It is a necessary evil that runners live in order to arrive at the starting line with legs that have a bit more spring in the step instead of feeling beat to hell. But the contrary nature of the taper is what you gain back in physical rejuvenation you lose in mental reasoning capacity. The term "madness" wasn't happened upon. It is a full and complete description of the feeling a runner gets as they anxiously await for the race. Their thoughts race - most times in circles of repetition. They sense and feel aches and pains of the tiniest amount and then worry them to the greatest extreme. All their conscious waking moments are consumed with preparing and running their long awaited event.

But there is a bright side to your condition - it is entirely temporary, 100% reversible and completely harmless to your long life. But the symptoms can be confused with other more serious conditions, such as truly losing your mind, life ending not yet discovered diseases, and obsessive compulsive disorders that need to be treated.

To help you decide if you need to ride it out versus see a specialist, here are some of the common symptoms of Taper Madness:

  • Out of Control Phobia of Germs. You have converted your hydration belt, cell phone holder, purse or other items on your person into hand sanitizer and Lysol toting equipment. You find yourself spraying down desks, keyboards, phones, bathrooms, and even your loved ones to keep them 99.9% germ free. You easily move out of the way of handshakes and hugs of most people - even the ones you live with now. Your children and spouse are instructed to stay within arms length and even blowing kisses down wind are prohibited. Even if you have never been a self proclaimed germ phobe before your taper, you find that your eye sight is accurate enough to now see possible viral and bacterial infection lurking around every public surface. No infection, flu, or cold will stand between you and the starting line.
  • Self Proclaimed Expert Meteorologist. Through your running training, you rarely studied weather except to decide how much sunscreen to wear. You withstood all temperatures, wind gusts, precipitation - hell even a tornado and hurricane. But now with weeks to go, you have your email, Twitter, IM and cell phone set up to provide up to the minute reports on the 3, 5, 7, and 14 day forecast for race day. You have enacted a "no talking" zone during nightly weather and find yourself switching to the Weather Channel ten times a day. Some runners will even go so far to try to strike up a relationship with the local meterologist to get the inside scoop. And others will channel ancient forecasting methods to forecast the weather themselves using moon position, clouds and the path of birds.
  • You can't get enough of the details. The race website you glanced at a few times before signing up you now visit regularly in the last few weeks. You have a minute by minute schedule mapped out for the days before the event through the starting gun. You have studied the maps to figure out bathrooms, parking, meeting spots, and more. You have doubled checked your confirmation number, hotel reservation, and your bib number. Every other day of the year you let the little things go but for a few weeks each year, the details are everything.
  • You wonder if you are losing your mind. In the same hour you think to yourself, "I can!" "I can't possibly.." "I will!" "What the heck was I thinking..." "I can't wait!" "Am I really ready?" "I am going to rock that race!" "What if I am last?" "I can't wait to cross the finish line!" "What if I don't finish?" "My training has gone so well." "I should have pushed harder on the miles in the middle...". You flip flop between positive energy and mental anguish in the blink of an eye. Every other month of the year you are a rational, logical human being capable of dealing with complex emotions. But for these few weeks, you can't seem to get seem to talk sense into yourself.
  • You see people talking and hear words, but you really don't care what they are saying. And that's not like you. Most times, you try to pay attention in those boring meetings. You can usually remember what your better half told you last night. You can even stay lucid in a conversation with your kids about video games and cartoons. But not during Taper Madness. Not a chance. You hear people talking. You see their lips moving but you can't focus on the message and you really don't care. During Taper Madness you would you really like to stand up and scream, "Can we talk about what I want to talk about....MY [FILL IN RACE}?!?!?"
  • Your race gear achieves high status. Instead of being throw on the floor, in the laundry or stuffed in a bag, your chosen race gear is clean, folded and perched on a shelf, chair or other place of high honor a few days/weeks before the event. Family members are instructed not to touch it, move it or refold it. It has a purpose.
  • Excursions require safety reviews. Someone casually mentions going out for a meal, drink, shopping, whatever, and you do a mental scan of the route, the establishment, and company before deciding if it is worth the risk of a sprained ankle, chance of eating the wrong food, or picking up a stray germ.
  • You think about the race - ALOT. When you get up you think about what you will be doing that time of the day on race day. When you go for a run you think about what it will be like to start or finish the race. You have visualized the finish line so many times you have your never-to-be-used finish line speech to perfection. You have practiced, secretly, the fist pump, jump for joy, double arm 'yahoo!", etc that you will do for the picture that really counts. And smiles....you know which smile you will try for and at which miles - instead of the death snear - even if that is how you feel. You think about the race at every meal, walking to your car, brushing your teeth, while watching the news, singing your favorite songs (but with new taper related lyrics)... with every step or breath you take.
  • You know you are dying ... or at least facing a race ending injury. You held off minor and major injuries throughout your training, but now in just a few days you have aches, pains, tweaks, tight spots all in places you haven't before and in ways you haven't experienced before. You wonder how your body could betray you now! You spend time on www.webmd.com and www.sportsinjuryclinic.net hoping to find the answer to your mystery illness - only to find that there is nothing that specifically covers what you are experiencing.

If any of these sound like a current symptom you have, congratulations - you have Taper Madness. There is a wonderful home treatment.

The race.

Just go with it for a few days. It will come to a quick end as you cross the starting line.


Monday, October 25, 2010

Paulina Porizkova

She really has nothing to do with triathlons, but I find her articles/blogs really interesting. I think because she posts a lot on beauty and aging, and I'm still struggling with the fact that I turned 40 six months ago. They're good to read because she has an interesting perspective. You can read about her here on Huffington Post.

"...maybe nothing ages as poorly as a beautiful woman's ego.

When you're used to one sort of treatment, it's really hard to get demoted, even if that new treatment is still better than the average. Boohoo. I know. My life is sucks. Now, I don't actually know the exact cut-off age where beautiful ceases and "must have-once-been-beautiful" begins. It's true it's not forty-five. I can still get attention when I try really hard, even if it's greatly reduced. But would I ever have dreamed that I would miss the time I couldn't walk past a construction site unmolested? These days when someone whistles at me, it's mostly a bike messenger about to mow me down."

It's funny and interesting. Here is this article titled Aging.

Friday, October 22, 2010

3 Ways to Improve Your Running Form

By Patrick McCrann
Marathon Nation

For Active.com


The challenge of improving run speed falls primarily to two main physical derivatives: your cadence and the length of your stride. And, either increasing your cadence or increasing the length of your stride -- both of those will, or a combination of the two -- will lead to an improved overall run speed. But becoming a better runner is more than just improving the speed at which you run.

It is also about improving comfort and your ability to sustain any given pace for a longer period of time. This is where technique can have a role in your running. While there are many different things you can do to improve your technique, here are my top three.

The first one is to improve that cadence. You can go out right now, start running, and get up your cadence between 90 and 92 foot strikes per minute (or RPMs). If you have a GPS device with a cadence sensor, your work is practically already done. If you don't have a cadence sensor, you can use your stopwatch, and every 15 seconds just count the number of times one foot hits the ground.

You want to strike the ground between 22 and 23 times every 15 seconds. Once you get that cadence up between 90 and 92 rpms your body begins to assume a lot of the proper positioning. You are not inclined to over-stride; you are forced to have a slightly more efficient gait. And you can do that right now as you lace up your shoes and walk out the door.

Number two, you can learn to breathe from your belly. A lot of people tend to run at a low Zone 3 or moderate tempo pace. This is just hard enough that you need to change how you breathe, but not hard enough to really induce any specific fitness adaptation. One of the characteristics of this level of intensity is what I call "tension" of breath. It's a subtle tensing, part of what makes us feel like we are "working," and it happens in your upper chest. What I want you to do on your next run is to move that breath down.

Relax your diaphragm -- just below the front of your rib cage and just above your belly button -- and really try and do your best to get your breath to naturally come from that space. Let the diaphragm do its own work without forcing it (as you do when breathing within your chest). That relaxation process is going to translate to an overall relaxed posture throughout the body, enabling you to become much more comfortable at your given pace.

The number three thing you can do to start improving your running technique today is to take off the watch. Remove the watch, put it on the table and slowly back away. Stop focusing on time; stop benchmarking yourself in every single run you do. Take a period of time to get back to the basics: it could be two or three days, maybe you need a week. Discover why you enjoy running. Find some new places to run. As you do this, focus on your cadence and focus on that relaxed breathing.

Some combination of these three elements can help you create the conditions in which you can improve your running technique...and the best part is you can start today.

Good luck!

The following article is pulled from the Marathon Nation members only site. If you'd like more running technique information, please consider signing up for their free 30-Days to a Better Runner email series, which starts on May 3, 2010.

Marathon Nation is a brand new virtual team of marathon runners. Coach and founder Patrick McCrann is building a unique marathon community using training plans, forums, podcasts and videos to create an incredibly effective and affordable team coaching solution. Learn more about Marathon Nation and sign up for our Wait List online.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

More core exercises!

As I've mentioned before, I'm injured so I can run or bike. Wish I loved swimming more! :-) Anyways, I'm always looking for new core exercises. I found this today. Though it was good, despite the "Flatten your Belly in 3 Weeks" title (which I think is a load of crap). And by the way, "Ball Circle" is NOT EASY!

If you want toned abs in less time (who doesn't!), add a ball, disc, or roller to your workout. Their wobbly surfaces will challenge your core twice as much as traditional crunches, says a recent Auburn University study. That means you can get away with doing only 2 moves and still see fabulous results. The ball routine is the easiest because the large surface area provides more stability. As the props become smaller, there's less contact with your body and the floor, increasing the challenge.

THE PLAN

Do your chosen ab workout 3 times a week on nonconsecutive days, completing 2 or 3 sets of each exercise.

FOR FASTER RESULTS

Include 30 to 45 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio 3 to 5 times a week to burn off the fat that's hiding your abs.

EASY

Ball Routine

To make the ball easier to control, release a bit of air from it; to increase the difficulty, pump it up. Bonus: You can sit on the ball during strength-training to add a balance challenge.

Leg Extension

Targets rectus (front abs), transverse (deep abs), quads, inner thighs

Sit up straight on top of ball with knees bent, insides of legs touching, and arms extended to sides, palms down. Press knees and inner thighs together while lifting right foot and straightening leg. Lower foot and repeat with left leg for 1 rep. Do 8 to 10 reps.

Ball Circle

Targets transverse obliques (side abs), back, shoulders

Kneel on floor with forearms on top of ball, keeping body in one long line (A). Circle forearms to roll ball clockwise 8 times and then counterclockwise 8 times (B). Keep rest of body still.


MEDIUM

Disc Routine

Keep your feet off the floor with these moves to activate more muscles. Bonus: Stand on the disc barefoot while talking on the phone or doing the dishes to work your core at the same time.

Toe Dip

Targets rectus (front abs), transverse (deep abs)

Lie faceup on floor with disc under hips and lower back, shoulders and head on floor, and arms at sides, palms down. Start with legs together in a tabletop position, knees over hips, shins parallel to floor (A). Keeping legs together, lower feet as close to floor as possible without arching back (B). Return to start. Do 8 to 10 reps.

Ab Balance

Targets rectus, transverse, lower back, thighs

Sit on disc with hands on floor behind you. Lean back slightly and bend legs so shins are almost parallel to floor. Keeping chest lifted, extend legs straight out. Return to start. Do 12 to 15 reps.


HARD

Roller Routine

When you lie vertically on the roller (as in these exercises), make sure your tailbone, spine, and head are supported. Bonus: This prop can ease muscle soreness. Click here to get moves.

Frog Crunch

Targets rectus (front abs), transverse (deep abs), obliques (side abs), quads

Lie faceup on roller with forearms pressing floor for balance. From a tabletop position, open knees 6 to 8 inches; keep heels together. (A). Extend legs at a 45-degree angle to floor, squeezing legs together (B). Don't arch lower back. Bend knees back in. Do 15 to 18 reps.

Roll-Up

Targets rectus, transverse, obliques

Lie on roller, arms extended toward ceiling, knees bent, and feet shoulder-width apart. Lift head and neck, reaching arms toward knees as shown. Then roll up until you're sitting upright with arms parallel to floor. Slowly roll down. Do 6 to 8 reps.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Fat Burners and Sugar Burners

Interesting stuff in regards to long races. I'm intrigued by how drinking juice before a race instead of sports drink can help you.


by Joe Friel

Are you a fat burner or a sugar burner? Most athletes don’t know, yet this is valuable information, especially if you compete in four-plus-hour races. A limiting factor for such events is carbohydrate intake. If you don’t take in enough sugar during the race you are likely to run low which ultimately means your name in the results will be followed by the letters ”DNF” (did not finish). On the other hand, take in too much sugar and your gut can’t process it possibly resulting in bloating and nausea.

To further complicate the matter, there is a fair amount of individuality when it comes to using carbohydrate during such events. Some people’s bodies burn more carbohydrate as a percentage of total calories used. They are “sugar burners” and need to be very concerned with carbohydrate intake. The “fat burner” has a body that prefers to use fat for fuel and so spares sugar stored in the body. This person is metabolically designed for long endurance. That may be the result of fortunate genetics or effective training.

How do you know if you’re a sugar-burner or a fat-burner? And how do you determine if you are taking in the right amount of carbohydrate? Ultimately you need to experiment during your long workouts to find what works best for you. But you can narrow it down by discovering your “Respiratory Quotient” (RQ) which is sometimes also called the “Respiratory Equivalency Ratio” (RER). (They aren’t exactly measures of the same thing but close. You can read about RQ here and RER here.) Once you know your RQ rate you have a better idea of what your carb needs are during exercise. If you find you’re a sugar burner it may even be possible to change your body so that it relies more heavily on fat. More on this later.

RQ may be found by doing a metabolic assessment or VO2max test. It used to be that you had to go to a medical clinic or university lab to have such a test done, but now there are boutique testing centers popping up around the country in health clubs, bike shops, and running and triathlon stores. You can probably find such a test facility somewhere near where you live. The test generally costs between $150 to $250. It can be done on your own bike using the test center’s indoor trainer (this is preferable to using a stationary bike) or on a treadmill for running. If you’re a triathlete and can afford only one test I’d suggest doing it on the bike as your nutrition here generally has a greater impact on your performance than when running due to the duration of the bike portion.

The typical test protocol starts you at a very easy effort and increases the intensity every few minutes until you fatigue and can no longer continue. In order to get good data you need to treat the test like a race by resting for a couple of days before. Doing this test tired will muddle the results and what you do with them.

There will be several pieces of information resulting from such a test. One is RQ. As the intensity of the test increases you will gradually burn more carbohydrate (glycogen) for fuel. The RQ closely estimates how much of the energy came from carbs and how much fat. The following table may be used to determine your percent of energy burned from these two nutrients throughout the test.

RQ

Carb %

Fat %

0.71

0.0

100.0

0.71

1.1

98.9

0.72

4.8

95.2

0.73

8.4

91.6

0.74

12.0

88.0

0.75

15.6

84.4

0.76

19.2

80.8

0.77

22.8

77.2

0.78

26.3

73.7

0.79

29.9

70.1

0.80

33.4

66.6

0.81

36.9

63.1

0.82

40.3

59.7

0.83

43.8

56.2

0.84

47.2

52.8

0.85

50.7

49.3

0.86

54.1

45.9

0.87

57.5

42.5

0.88

60.8

39.2

0.89

64.2

35.8

0.90

67.5

32.5

0.91

70.8

29.2

0.92

74.1

25.9

0.93

77.4

22.6

0.94

80.7

19.3

0.95

84.0

16.0

0.96

87.2

12.8

0.97

90.4

9.6

0.98

93.6

6.4

0.99

96.8

3.2

1.00

100.0

0.0

The fat-burner will start the test with an RQ of around 0.80 meaning that he or she is using about 33% carbohydrate and 67% fat for fuel. That’s good. I like to see that in those I coach. An otherwise similarly fit sugar-burner may start the test at the same low intensity but with an RQ of 0.90. At this RQ he or she is burning 67% carbs and 33% fat. That’s not so good. I see very few of these but they are out there. When both athletes reach their anaerobic or lactate thresholds they will be at about 1.00 RQ which means 100% carbohydrate and 0% fat. (Total fatigue will end the test at an RQ of about 1.1 to 1.2 for both.)

Notice that the sugar burner has a much narrower RQ range (0.90-1.00) than the fat-burner (0.80-1.00). So at moderate intensities, as are common in long-distance events, the sugar burner needs to be very aware of carbohydrate intake as he or she risks running low on this precious fuel. Some athletes are such gigantic sugar burners that they find it difficult to take in enough carbohydrate during the competition. They’re using sugar faster than their stomachs can process it from sports drinks. That often means a gut “shutdown.”

If you discover from a test that you are a sugar burner you may be able to modify this condition somewhat. I say “may” because there is some research indicating that there is an element of genetics involved [1]. This probably has to do at least in part with your muscle make up, especially your percentage of slow twitch or “endurance,” muscles [2].

Another chief determiner of RQ is your diet. Simply put, the more high glycemic load carbohydrate foods you eat (starches are the most prevalent in this category) the more your body will rely on sugar during exercise [2,3]. Conversely, the more fat and protein in your diet the lower your RQ will be. Eating starch or taking in glucose in a sports drink before the start of the test or the race may also shift your RQ to the sugar-burning side whereas fruit juice will not have this effect [4]. (Lesson: Best not to rely on sports drinks or starches before races.) The other known influencers of RQ are related to training. As you become more aerobically fit your RQ will drop [5], and related to that, research has shown that as your training volume increases RQ is also reduced [2].

It is even possible to determine how much carb you need to take in during a race from a test. All you need to do is find your goal race intensity—heart rate, power or pace—for your race in the test’s raw data results and determine, also from the results, how many calories you were burning at that point. Then check RQ at that same intensity to see what percentage of those calories came from sugar. You will need to replace most of this expended energy during long events (this is not a big deal for short races). The test technician can help you figure this out.

Knowing your RQ and, more importantly, keeping it on the low side through diet and training has the potential to improve your performance in long-distance endurance events.

References

  1. Toubro et al. 1998. Twenty-four-hour respiratory quotient; the role of diet and familial resemblance. J Clinic Endocrin Metab 83(8):2758-2764.
  2. Goedecke et al. 2000. Determinants of the variability in respiratory exchange ratio at rest and during exercise in training athletes. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab 276(6):E1325-E1334.
  3. Hughson and Kowalchuk. 1981. Influence of diet on CO2 production and ventilation in constant-load exercise. Respir Physiol 46(2):149-160.
  4. Decombaz et al. 1985. Oxidation and metabolic effects of fructose and glucose ingested before exercise. Int J Sports Med 6(5):286-288.
  5. Kiens et al. 1993. Skeletal muscle utilization during submaximal exercise in man: effect of endurance training. J Physiol 469:459-478.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Mars and Venus Go for a Run

And discover that a life partner isn't necessarily the best training partner.

Ha, ha, ha! My "life partner" and I used to train with each other when we were first dating. Now, after 10 years together, have discovered that it is not always the best thing for our relationship. :-)

By Jennifer Van Allen
From the October 2010 issue of Runner's World


"Mother nature," my husband said through a clenched jaw in a tone he'd never used with me before, "is fraught with conflict." When your spouse utters this kind of comment, you know it's best not to respond. It was 90 degrees. We had bugs stuck between our front teeth. We had been running for five hours, and I had just chirped for the millionth time that the woods were so beautiful and wasn't it nice to enjoy the summer like this?


We were on our first trail run together, a 50-K. Weeks earlier, Peter had run his first half-marathon, and he was game for any adventure that promised sweat, woods, and sunshine. That is, until we got to mile 20.

You see, Peter and I love each other a lot. We love running a lot. We have discovered in our six years of marriage that we don't love running together or doing many other sports together. A lot.

He loves to row. On my first lesson, shortly after Peter sculled by, yelling, "Hi, Honey!" so proud of his wife and future rowing partner, I slipped on duck poop, landed on the boat, and split my ear open. Too hysterical to interrupt his workout, I drove myself to the ER. When I passed him still on the river, I honked with the hand that wasn't holding my bloody ear. He waved and smiled. I burst into tears. I needed 22 stitches.

We were in Vermont celebrating our second anniversary when we tried cycling together. I trudged up and down the rolling country roads as he zoomed effortlessly into the distance. I couldn't understand how he could go so darn fast. He couldn't understand why I lumbered along so slowly. By the time I caught up with him, both of us were huffy, puffy, and completely out of patience. "What happened to you?" we both demanded.

As much as I like the idea of us running in lockstep, I know that this just isn't us. When his pace slips, I ask if he's okay, and he hates that. When I fall behind, I hate that he doesn't ask. We've learned that we function best as athlete and crew. He loves to watch the Boston Marathon, and be at mile 17 with water. I love to watch his regattas, and be at the end with a fleece.

Peter's races are mostly close to our home and over in a matter of minutes. He, on the other hand, got to spend our fifth anniversary watching me run around a one-kilometer loop at the 24-Hour World Championships in Italy. Beforehand, I was an irritating bundle of nerves. Afterward, I was a moaning pile of sore muscles he had to push in a wheelchair.

When we got home, I reviewed our wedding vows. We promised to love each other through every bounced check, dirty dish, and every body part that surrenders to gravity. Nothing in there about watching your wife run in circles for 24 hours and then celebrating your love over a family-sized tub of Tums. He cleaned the blisters on my shredded soles and even encouraged me to show them off to my friends. "That's pretty hard-core," some said. He replied, "That's my girl."

Who needs a training partner when you've got a love like that?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Body Shop: Safe Keepers

I think these are good exercises. In battling an injury now, I've realized that going to the weight room is not all about lifting weights to make your muscles stronger. It's also about strengthening the smaller stability muscles. These are good to add to your strength routine.

The five most common running injuries—and how to make sure you never get them.

By Adam Bean
Image by Beth Bischoff
From the October 2010 issue of Runner's World


When a runners gets hurt, plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS), shinsplints, or runner's knee usually is the diagnosis. Allison Lind, a physical therapist in New York City, developed an exercise program that will make you less vulnerable to these five injuries. Do them together as a prerun routine.


SIDE-LEG RAISERS

Prevent ITBS by strengthening the gluteus medius muscle near the hip. When it's weak, another upper-leg muscle overcompensates and pulls on the ITB, causing pain along the outside of the leg, down to the knee.

Lie on your side with your hips and legs stacked. Lift your top leg up, keeping it straight, but point your toes inward and toward the ground to isolate the gluteus medius. Hold for 30 seconds, then release. Roll over so your opposite leg is on top, and repeat. Do three sets on each leg, working up to one minute per set.


HEEL WALKING AND BIG-TOE RAISERS
Prevent shinsplints by strengthening the muscles that attach to the shinbone.

A. Walk in place barefoot for one minute with your forefeet off the ground. Do three sets.




B. Lift the big toe of one foot as high as you can, lower, repeat 10 times. Switch feet. Do three sets.





HALF-SQUATS ON A DOWNWARD SLOPE
Prevent runner's knee by strengthening the quads to keep the kneecap aligned.
Stand facing down a hill or on a decline board. Squat halfway between the start position (straight leg) and a full squat (90 degrees). Do three sets of 10. Too easy? Try single-leg squats (below).



CALF DROPS
Prevent Achilles tendinitis by strengthening the calves.

The move: Stand barefoot with the balls of your feet on a step. Rise up on your toes with both feet. Shift your weight to one foot; lower down on that foot. Rise up on both, lower on one. Do three sets of 10 on each side.


ARCH RAISERS
Prevent plantar fasciitis by strengthening foot muscles.
Stand barefoot on one leg. Imagine your foot is a tripod and place even pressure on your big toe, pinkie toe, and heel. Ground these three points as you "scrunch up" your arch. Hold for 30 seconds; repeat three times.

Friday, October 8, 2010

How to Recondition After Injury

By Alan Peppard, P.T., A.T.C.
Running & FitNews ®
American Running Association

from Active.com

If you become injured, rest for a while and then find you are unable to return to your favorite sport or exercise without aggravating your injury, you will become frustrated. The injury-rest-re-injury cycle is common for athletic injuries, but you can avoid this cycle using the principles of reconditioning and working back safely to your former level of exercise or sport performance.

Reconditioning after injury means you should modify your normal workouts to control your intensity, judged by overall perception of effort (muscle tension or soreness, joint stress, breathing and chest sensations). Then, you should monitor residual pain in your injured area to an acceptable level.

When you are injury-free, normal conditioning requires you choose a level of exercise that causes enough overload to produce improvement in performance after recovery. If the intensity is too high you may become injured. There is a range of exercise intensity that will work properly to provide conditioning. We call this range the "intensity window." When you are not injured this window is wide. When you are injured this window is very narrow. Too high an intensity will prevent recovery and cause re-injury. During reconditioning you must be very specific in your choice of intensity in order to succeed in helping recovery.

It is helpful to think of pain in two ways. Type I pain is the pain felt during exercise. Type II pain is the residual pain, felt about 1.5 hours after exercise. These should be monitored to help select the right exercise window.

When you are not injured you can use overall Type I pain to regulate exercise intensity; you exercise to the point of slight discomfort or overall pain then go a little further, but short of producing specific pain in a localized area such as a muscle or joint. You have to continue to challenge your general exercise pain in order to achieve maximal performance gains.

Successful uninjured athletes continue to confront pain and push through Type I pain (when it comes to optimizing athletic performance, in the overall sense no pain no gain is true). Type I pain is relieved by rest soon after exercise and does not produce lasting effects.

When you are injured, no pain no gain doesn't work, and you will be frustrated if you try to use a similar approach during reconditioning. Instead of growing stronger you will become re-injured. Type II pain can become intense, even though you felt only slight pain during exercise.

When you are injured you should change your approach. Now you should focus on the injured area and use Type II pain instead of Type I to regulate your reconditioning. When you have no Type II pain or only mild pain relieved in one hour of light activity, you can slightly increase your exercise level. If Type II pain is intense, you should rest for up to three days, and then resume your reconditioning at a lower intensity.

To select appropriate exercise windows you should begin reconditioning with exercise involving static, pain-free stretching. When flexibility has returned you can begin weight lifting (or using resistance machines), using light weights at first and progressing slowly to heavier loads to increase muscle strength. When normal strength has returned you can practice the drills and moves associated with your sport, cautiously at first and gradually increasing intensity.

During each stage of your reconditioning you should take care to choose an intensity that does not increase Type I or Type II pain. As your recovery continues, your exercise window will grow wider and you will find at some point you can increase Type I pain with minimal or no Type II pain.

When you are injured you should recognize that your exercise window has narrowed, and you should take care to concentrate on monitoring your Type II pain. If you follow these guidelines you should be able to recondition an injury without stumbling into the injury-rest-re-injury pathway.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Strength Train for Trail Running

INSIDE JOB

Before you head out to cover new ground, work these exercises into your training routine.

By Michelle Hamilton
on runnersworld.com
PUBLISHED 09/09/2010


Roads, for the most part, are steady and predictable. Trails are not. "On the trail, every footfall is different," says Nikki Kimball, a physical therapist and ultrarunner who has won the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run three times. "If you land on a rock or slippery moss, your body has to be able to stabilize itself." To prepare for the task, Kimball suggests adding plyometric (jumping), core strength, and flexibility exercises into your routine.


Plyometrics

"Trail running is a miniplyo workout," Kimball says. "You jump to leap over a creek, avoid mud, or to land on a rock." But if a trail run is your first plyometric workout, your muscles, ligaments, and tendons might not be strong enough to keep you upright or to handle the impact from all directions. Perform these exercises, ideally on a soft surface (dirt, grass, rubber padding at gym), once or twice a week after an easy run or on an off day.

Jump-Offs
WHY: This two-part exercise prepares the quads for the abuse they'll take on descents. Part one approximates the impact the quads experience on downhills; part two strengthens the entire leg.
HOW: Jump off a six-inch step (or curb). Then immediately jump up as high as you can. Step back up onto the step and repeat. Start with three to five repetitions (one set). After three sessions, add another set. Increase reps to eight.

Single Leg Jumps
WHY: This exercise increases ankle strength and stability as well as proprioception—the body's ability to tell where it is in space—which helps to improve your overall balance.
HOW: Stand on one foot and jump from side to side and then back and forth (in a crisscross pattern) rapidly 10 times on each leg. The goal is balance, not height or distance, so jump gently. When this becomes easy, do it with your eyes closed.

Skip and Jump
WHY: Skipping and jumping develops explosive power and strength in the legs and hips that enable quick and safe negotiations of technical terrain.
HOW: (1) Skip for height for 15 steps, then skip for distance for 15 steps. Do two or three sets. (2) This is a lateral leaping exercise. Start with feet together and jump sideways. Land, and then jump back to your starting position. Repeat 15 times. Build to three sets.


Core Strength


Lower-leg stability depends on strong hips and a stable pelvis. Without them, your lower extremities have to adjust to both trunk motion and changing ground surfaces, which increases your risk of injury. Do these exercises two or three times a week, after an easy run or on an off day. You can combine these with the plyometric exercises, or do them on their own.

Side Plank
WHY: These build a stable core while also strengthening the glutes, which aids lower-leg stability.
HOW: From a plank position, rotate to one side, forearm on the floor, hip raised. Hold for 20 seconds; build to 60. Change sides. When this becomes easy, lift the upper leg three to six inches off the lower leg, hold for one second, and lower. Do five to 10 repetitions on both sides.

Bridge with Leg Lift
WHY: Strengthens the glutes, the powerhouse of stability for the entire leg. Strong glutes also power climbs.
HOW: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Lift your hips and back off the floor, squeezing your glutes as you rise. Hold for five to 10 seconds. Lower and repeat 10 times. Do two sets. When this becomes easy, straighten one leg after you lift your hips.


Flexibility

Having full range of motion decreases injury risk, says Kimball, who encourages runners to add these groin stretches to their postrun routine.

Groin Stretches
WHY: "The groin gets ignored by most road runners," Kimball says.
HOW: (1) Sit with the soles of your feet together. Press your knees toward the floor. Hold for 30 seconds. (2) From a wide-legged standing position, move into a side lunge. Hold each side for 30 seconds.

Monday, October 4, 2010

4 Exercises to Increase Your Running Speed

American Running Association
from Active.com

Years of studying elite runners in freeze frame video clips have revealed certain truths about optimal form. Both sprinters and distance runners alike can benefit from exercises that duplicate the distinct joint and limb movements, as well as the range of motion, of these athletes.

Try the following exercises using resistance tubing secured to a stationary object such as a post, or secure them with an Active Cord attachment, available at most sporting goods stores. (Resistance tubing comes in varying degrees of tension; be sure to try several in-store before purchasing.) The resulting strength, flexibility and muscle memory will improve your running form, stride length and explosiveness, which will mean faster race times.

Each of the exercises below is preceded by a few words about form. In addition to these tips, avoid rotating your torso or shoulders as you run. This, in turn, will keep your hips square so that your pushoff forces you directly forward.

To run well, great ankle joint extension is necessary, as this increases the power of your pushoff. The more you can extend, the better. During running, keep the knee slightly bent in the pushoff leg to maximize horizontal force. A perfectly straight leg results in more of a leap and is a waste of force.

Heel Raise

Secure the tubing under the balls of your feet. Fasten the ends to an Active Belt around your waist or to a post, or have someone assist you by holding the ends. Stand on the balls of your feet and lower your heels until you feel a stretch in your Achilles tendon (there is no need to push the heel beyond the point where you first feel the stretch).

Rise up as high as possible and hold for one to two seconds. Perform 10 repetitions. This exercise is best achieved standing on a stable board two to four inches from the ground.

Forward thigh drive increases stride length and the power of your pushoff. Hip flexors, located in the front of the hip are largely responsible for this, and you can benefit from strengthening them.

Hip Joint Flexion

Attach the tubing to a stationary object about knee high and attach the other end to your ankle. Stand far enough away so that there is tension with the leg behind the body (as in the thigh position immediately after pushoff).

Inhale and hold your breath as you drive your thigh forward. Keep your knee bent so that your shin remains parallel to the ground until your thigh is past vertical position. Do not drive the thigh all the way parallel to the ground, as this will teach you to drive your thigh upward rather than forward when running. Therefore, it's also best to add an additional cord for more resistance than to rely on a greater stretch of the tubing as you become stronger.

Turning over, such that your feet are in contact with the ground more often, provides more force-generation, allowing you to go faster. Cutting short your time in the air, however, reduces the extent to which you are using that generated force.

Therefore, during flight phase, do not drop your thigh as it reaches its highest point and the forward leg begins to straighten. Only after straightening should the leg come back and down. Aim to land with your landing leg close to the body's center of mass--for distance runners, this means only slightly in front of you. For sprinters, your leg should be more or less directly underneath you.

Combined with a full-foot or even ball-of-foot landing, this running technique will generate the least amount of braking force at the point of contact and keep you moving fast. The greater the angle between your legs midflight, the faster the results. The best sprinters open this angle up to as much as 165 degrees; distance runners employ a slower and more economical form, which means a maximum angle of about 100 degrees.

Hip Joint Extension

Attach the tubing to a high stationary object. Stand in front of it and attach the free end to your ankle. Stand with your leg raised, thigh slightly below parallel.

To begin, straighten your leg and pull down until your foot touches the ground beside your other leg. Perform this action vigorously for 10 repetitions. As you become conditioned, try balancing yourself (instead of holding on to a wall or stable object) to achieve even greater results.

Lunge

The down position of the lunge duplicates the airborne position in sprinting. This exercise will also stretch the hip flexors. With your feet hip-width apart, step forward with a very long stride. Upon landing, slowly lower your upper body straight down. Shift your weight backward and extend your forward leg. Return to your standing position and repeat with the other leg for 10 repetitions each.

In addition to the lower body workouts discussed here, there are a variety of lower-back, abdominal and upper body exercises that will increase your strength and improve your form. Coupling these sport-specific exercises with regular speed work will give you even more dramatic improvements in running speed.

Adapted from Explosive Running by Michael Yessis, PhD, Contemporary Books, Chicago, IL, 2000, 173 pp. $17.95.

© American Running Association, Running & FitNews 2003, Vol. 21, No. 5, p.2

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Don't Blow It Now!

How to avoid the most common prerace gaffes.

By Liz Plosser

From the October 2010 issue of Runner's World


This month, thousands of runners will toe the line with mixed emotions. Some will be looking down at a brand-new pair of running shoes because they forgot to pack their tried-and-true trainers. Others will be kicking themselves for running too hard during their taper, or for hanging out too long at the expo—in flip-flops. The good news: If you follow our expert advice on how to avoid common prerace blunders, you won't sabotage all your hard work come race day.


NOT BEING PREPARED
AVOID IT: Make a detailed packing list and a race-weekend schedule.

"A week before the race, begin a 'pack pile,'" says Kristen Dieffenbach, Ph.D., assistant professor of athletic coaching education at West Virginia University. "This reduces last-minute chaos and the likelihood of forgetting something." To take the preparation process seriously, Dieffenbach suggests pretending your boss is running your race, and you're responsible for getting him to the starting line. Would you pack his shoes in his checked bag, or would you insist he wear them en route? Would you let him wander around hunting for a restaurant without a two-hour wait, or would you book a reservation?


NOT RESTING ENOUGH
AVOID IT: Taper smart: Reduce mileage by 60 percent during race week

You're at the peak of fitness. It's no wonder you're desperate to pound the pavement at warp speed. "Resist that temptation," says Christine Hinton, a coach in Crofton, Maryland. "Workouts break you down. Rest builds strength." Reducing mileage and intensity lets your muscles recover; it also restores depleted levels of fuel. Do your last long run three weeks before race day, and gradually cut back each week until you've nixed 60 percent of your peak training mileage in the final week before the race.


RESTING TOO MUCH
AVOID IT: Remind your legs they're speedy with strides while tapering

Okay, we just told you to chillax. But that doesn't mean parking yourself on the couch. "Too little activity during your taper or tapering too long can make you mentally and physically rusty," Hinton says. If you normally run five days per week, you can continue this pattern during the taper—just reduce the length of each run. Hinton recommends peppering your race-week runs with four to eight strides (speedy bursts for 10 to 30 seconds). Recover fully between each one.


OVERBOOKING YOURSELF
AVOID IT: Watch an in-room movie

You traveled to a new city and loved ones are in town to cheer you on. Hold the party until you've crossed the finish line. You don't want to wake up on race morning with achy legs, swollen feet, or excess fatigue from socializing and sightseeing. Set a curfew—such as home by 9 p.m. and lights off by 10 p.m. And no wandering around (and around) the expo.


GETTING OVEREXCITED
AVOID IT: Channel your inner Yoda

Rookies and veterans alike endure nerves and excitement before the gun goes off. You can deal with this surge of emotions if you've practiced going to a Zen place during your training, says Lucinda Seares-Monica, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist in Freehold, New Jersey. Close your eyes and practice deep breathing for five minutes every morning. Whether or not you meditated during training, taking deep breaths at the starting line will help you through prerace highs and lows.