Thursday, June 30, 2011

Stair Running: A Climb to the Peak of Fitness

Susan E.B. Schwartz
Runner's World 

Stair running is superb training for running. In addition to strengthening the muscles around the knees, stair running builds stamina and overall lower-body strength, works the gluteal muscles and quadriceps more than road running and is a highly efficient workout in terms of the amount of time spent at very high intensity.

What's the catch? In a word, it's a killer.

"Although it's phenomenal for conditioning, stair running is tougher than most runners realize," says New York Road Runners Club wellness director Beryl Bender. "Even stair-climbing machines seem easy in comparison."

If you plan to ascend the hard way (real runners take the stairs), follow these steps for safe climbs:

Locate Safe, Well-Lit Stairs. If you run inside a building's stairwell, the stairs should access every floor and ideally continue for at least 20 flights. Climb with friends.

Focus on Running Up. Maintain proper form by leaning slightly forward and striking with the balls of your feet. Pace yourself. Use the handrail for balance if you need to.

Don't Run Down, Which Stresses the Knees and Ankles. Use elevators or descend slowly. If you're in a stadium, descend at an angle rather than walking straight down to minimize impact.

Start Gradually, With Two Round-Trip Sets. Build to five, and run them no more than twice a week. Never exceed 30 minutes at a time.

Walk If You Need To. Alternate one floor of walking with one or two floors of running. Gradually increase the running as you become more fit and comfortable with the workout.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

6 Yoga Poses to Improve Your Running

Strung together, these six yoga poses form a routine that builds the abdominals, back, quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and upper body while also improving balance.

Targeting these areas will give you a strong foundation—which means more power, less chance of injury. Two days a week, cut your runs just a mile short to fit in this 10-minute sequence.
Do the first three poses twice (one side, then the other). Then do the second three poses in the same manner.

You can also try these eight tips from a master yoga teacher to help make your practice flawless.


Builds: core, legs, glutes, arms  

With your feet, knees, thighs touching, sit into a squat. Extend your arms.

Twisting Chair

Builds: core, legs, glutes, arms
While in chair, press your palms together, and rotate to the right.

Twisting Lunge

Builds: core, legs, glutes, arms
Step your left foot back while holding the twist. Keep your knee over your ankle.

Warrior III

Builds: balance and overall strength
Balance on your left foot. Fold forward, lifting your right leg. Extend your arms.

Arrow Lunge

Builds: core, legs, glutes, arms
Step your right leg back into a lunge, keeping arms extended.

Extended-Leg Balance

Builds: posture, balance, legs
Swing your right leg up and hold it extended in front of you.

Sage Rountree, author of The Athlete's Guide to Yoga, developed this routine. Watch her demonstrate it at You can also order her strength plan (designed to be paired with marathon training) at

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Race Evaluation

Posted: June 13, 2011 by TriFREAKS
By Wayne Kurtz

Well you finished a key race and my question for you – did you write done your post race re-cap or summary?  It’s such an important part of the taining / learning process many athletes just move on to recovery and then back at it again.

It’s very important to not only reflect on the race but to actually write down a summary that can be used as a tool in the future to review.  As we all know, making mistakes are fine in all aspects of life but the key is to learn from them and never make the same mistake twice.  This is especially true in racing.

Consider spending just a few minutes and write down in your training guide, journal or just a word document answers to the following questions.
  1. What were the specific goals of the race?   Did you meet your goals?
  2. What area of the race did you struggle?    How did you push through it?
  3. Whatare 3 items will you incorporate into your training program to have a better race in the future?
  4.  What are you going to do improve your performance even if you had a personal record?  Did you have a written mental strategy in place similar to your race strategy with respect to nutrition, pacing, etc?    If not, write out a mental strategy.
  5.  What strategy worked to ensure you got through the aid stations quickly and not wasted valuable time?
There are many other questions that you can ask yourself or summarize.   Area’s to consider in your post race summary include, nutrition strategy, negative split accomplishment, any injuries, clothing (what did you wear, was it appropriate for the conditions), how did you get your mind to not go into the “marathon shuffle”.  It’s important to reflect on your accomplishment and in the future make changes if necessary.  For those of you who set PR’s then write down exactly what you did and repeat it again for your next race!

Wayne Kurtz is founder of and Endurance Racing Report,  he has a lifelong passion for racing in various endurance sport races throughout the world. He is also the author of: ‘Beyond the Iron, a training guide for ultra-distance triathlons.’

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Relax, Recharge

Runners who sweat every detail of a workout—pace, distance, effort—may not think twice about a "recovery day" on their training program. After all, rest is easy, right? But while some people are more than happy to take a day on the couch, others can't resist going for a bike ride or even a light three-mile jog. Which is best?

"Recovery days make your training count because your body makes fitness gains while you're at rest," says Brian Glotzbach, head coach of Personal Best Marathon Coaching in Denver. "If you don't give your body the chance to rebuild, you can't maximize those gains—and certain activities at certain times allow for better recovery."

Choosing what to do on your easy day to balance out your hard efforts is key to realizing your full potential. But as with any training principle, your own best formula depends on a range of factors including your fitness level, age, and work/life demands. For most runners, however, the following recovery guidelines will help you get the kind of rest you need to get the most out of tough workouts.


"Easy runs let your muscles recover while improving your biomechanical efficiency, which translates into improved running form," says Ruth England, a coach for Rogue Training Systems in Austin, Texas. The key is to make them short enough and slow enough. England recommends going one-third to one-half the distance of your longest runs and slower than you normally run. "Start out glacially slow for five to 10 minutes," says England. "Your breathing should be light and your speed up to two minutes per mile slower than race pace."   
DO IT The day after a tempo run, speed workout, or hill repeats


Cycling, swimming, and hitting the elliptical or rowing machines are all good, low-impact ways to hasten the removal of waste products that cause soreness, while correcting muscular imbalances caused by running. However, if your goal is recovery, you shouldn't cross-train for too long or go too hard, says Jim MacWhinnie, a running coach and personal trainer for Core Dynamics in Water Mill, New York. Limit your sessions to 30 to 60 minutes (a bit longer if cycling a flat route). Your heart rate should be elevated, but your breathing shouldn't be labored.
DO IT Whenever you're feeling slightly fatigued or sore, especially the day after a long run or speed workout


Strength training gives your legs a much-needed break from pounding the pavement and improves your whole-body strength. "More powerful muscles can improve the efficiency of your stride, making you a better runner," says MacWhinnie. "A strong upper body keeps your form from deteriorating and helps you power up hills, while a strong core and lower body absorbs shock better, which can protect you from injury." Maximize your workout time by choosing exercises that work multiple muscle groups at once, such as squats, lunges, push-ups, chin-ups, step-ups, and bent-over rows. Start with two to three sets of six to 12 reps of each exercise. Your muscles should be fatigued by the last rep.
DO IT The day after running hill repeats or a tempo run

No yoga, no short walks, no pick-up soccer games with the kids (if you can avoid it). "I even tell my runners to take the elevator instead of the stairs," says England. "A day off from activity can be hard for overachievers who think they have to be progressing every single day. But in fact, the training principle of 'super-compensation' suggests that a full day off gives you a bounce in performance. It also gives you a mental break from training."
DO IT Once a week. The day after your long run is ideal, but any day you're feeling out of gas works.

The Easy Plan

HOW YOU PREPARE for and recover from key workouts helps you get the most out of them. Here's what to do before and after your quality days.

Day Before: Cross-train or total rest
Day After: Cross-train or total rest

Day Before: Cross-train or easy run
Day After: Cross-train, easy run, or total rest

Day Before: Strength train or easy run
Day After: Strength train or easy run

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Before You Run: The Dynamic Warm-Up

A dynamic warm-up is one that challenges every part of your body that you use to run.

Your body is a machine—your machine—and there are lots of moving parts. Your cardio capacity is certainly a driving factor in your performance, but your ability to get the most from your cardio endurance is highly dependent on your body's ability to transfer your effort efficiently, from head to toe and on to the pavement, during each and every running stride.

A dynamic warm-up coordinates all of your moving parts—muscles, ligaments, and joints—by challenging your flexibility, mobility, strength and stability all at once; because that's what you ask of yourself when you run, right?! Doing so is pivotal in getting you to the finish line as fun, fast and pain-free as possible.

The Goals of a Dynamic Warm-Up

Increase heart rate to get the blood pumping through the body and warm up the muscles.
Open up your joints, especially those within the hips, spine, feet and ankles.
Actively stretch your muscles to prepare them for what you'll be asking them for during the run.
Reinforce great posture.
Hit the ground running with all systems go when the gun goes off!

The Keys to a Dynamic Warm-Up

• Think of it as a part of the race. Do it!
• Set aside time dedicated to it. Whether it's 30 minutes or two minutes, you can do your body good.
• Clear your mind and focus on your body. Save chit-chatting with friends for before or after the race.
• Move through the movements purposefully but continuously so that your heart rate increases throughout.

The Key Elements of a Dynamic Warm-Up

[NOTE: Click on exercise names for a link to videos of the exercises.]
1. Great Posture
  • Stand tall, like a string is attached to the top of your head gently pulling upward.
  • Stand with feet shoulder width apart and pointing straight forward.
  • Tighten key abdominals by pulling the bellybutton inward and rib cage downward.
  • Pull the shoulders back and downward while keeping arms relaxed.
2. Fire Up Your Glutes, Then Use Them, Always
Two Options:
    Glute Bridge: Lying on your back, bend your knees to 90 degrees, keep heels on floor while pulling toes to your shins. Use your glutes to raise your hips so they are in a straight line with your knees and shoulders. Keep hips parallel to the ground. Hold for two seconds. Release, then repeat 10 times. Lateral Lunge: Start with great posture and your feet wider than your shoulders. From there, squat your hips down and over to the right while keeping your left leg straight. Keeping your feet flat on the ground, use your right glute to push you up to your starting position. Repeat on the left side. Do 10 total.
3. Open Up Your Joints and Stretch the Muscles Around Them

Spine: Flex, extend, rotate and laterally bend the spine. Do this by rounding the back while reaching for your toes and then extending your back in the opposite direction. Then do a few side bends while keeping your abdominals and hips locked in place.

Hips and Knees: Try these two options:
    Knee Hugs - Standing with great posture, grab one knee with both hands and bring it up toward your chest. Maintain balance on the lower leg by firing the glute. Release the knee and step forward with that leg. Alternate legs while stepping forward for 10 yards. Forward Lunge with a Twist - Lunge forward with one leg while keeping hips, knees, and ankles in line and hips parallel to the ground. Forward foot should be planted firmly on the ground to activate your glute. Hold that position strong while first reaching up with the arm of your lower leg, then reach the same arm to the outside of the forward leg to get a rotational stretch. Hold stretches for two seconds each. Face forward once again and return to standing using the strength of your forward leg.
Ankles and Feet: Do the all-important Calf Raise and Calf Stretch. This will not only warm up your calves and the muscles and ligaments of your ankles and feet, but will also stretch out your plantar fascia and prepare it to take on the forces of your running stride.
    Calf Raise and Stretch: Either keep it simple by raising your calves up and down while standing in place, or find a wall or a large tree trunk and, while facing it, stand three to four feet away with both hands on the wall. After doing a posture check, lift one leg just off the ground and raise the other calf by coming up all the way up on your toes. Hold that position for two seconds, then release and push the heel of that foot into the ground to get a calf stretch. Then bend the knee and continue to stretch. Repeat 10 times on each side.
4. Put it all Together With Some Marching and Skipping
You've moved all your parts, now it's time to get the heart rate even higher, and give you control of your movement instead of gravity.
    Forward March: Maintaining great posture and keeping your upper body as quiet as possible, march forward by bringing each knee up one at a time. Keep your toes pulled up toward your shin and hit the ground directly beneath your body, on your midfoot, each step forward. Drive your elbows back and keep them at 90 degrees throughout the drill. Do this over 10 yards twice. Forward Skip: Same as the march, except you alternate with one foot bouncing on the ground while one hip drives up as in the march, then both feet bounce together, then the opposite leg, then both feet. Repeat. Again, cover about 10 yards twice. Or something similar, as long as you are actively changing the direction of force on the ground and getting your heart rate up while keeping great posture and opening up the hips.

The Two-Minute Version

  1. Glute Bridge or Lateral Lunge
  2. Forward Lunge with a Twist or Knee Hugs
  3. Forward Skip
You're committed. Your mind is strong and will only get stronger. Make sure you give your body the best chance you can give it so you can do all that you'd love to do with it. Because you can!

Jessi Stensland is a professional triathlete who races all types of endurance events. She's also a video producer and an expert on the subjects of movement efficiency and true athleticism as it relates to endurance performance. Learn more about her adventures on her website,

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Single Leg Balancing - The Power of One

by Chris Johnson, PT

Triathlon performance largely depends on the ability of an athlete to maintain a straight and balanced position over the course of three disciplines. On the swim, we strive for a streamlined stroke. On the bike we try to establish and maintain an aerodynamic and powerful position. On the run we aim for an upright posture. The unfortunate reality for most triathletes, however, is that we have not earned professional status and therefore need to work.

In the case of most jobs, an inordinate amount of time is spent sitting, which often leads to a bent forward and slouched position. In time, we become a postural wreck and lose our sense of balance. Next thing you know, training sessions start to feel more like battles of attrition as we fight to exercise tight muscles in a lengthened and upright position while hoping that we avoid injury.

The Single Leg Stance
One exercise that is particularly helpful for triathletes in offsetting the ill effects of sitting is balancing on one leg. While many of you probably think that you could fall asleep on one leg, you might be surprised! Single leg stance involves a complex interplay between several regions of the body.
  • Working from the ground up, the foot should be positioned so it’s pointing straight ahead.
  • The knee should be slightly bent rather than locked.
  • The hip should be positioned over the knee and foot while the pelvis should be maintained in a level and squared off position.
  • Lastly, the head should be stacked on the torso.
While it may seem to be a trivial task, proper execution of single leg stance is a rarity even among high-level triathletes, so there is always room for improvement!
Tips for Incorporating the Single Leg Stance Into Your Daily Routine
  1. Start barefoot on a firm surface to ensure proper form. This will afford you more control versus a cushioned surface and allow you to focus on the quality of the exercise.
  2. Also start by resting your hands on the top of your head with your fingers interlaced. This brings about a better sense of head position while improving overall alignment [top image, click to enlarge].
  3. Once you have the fundamentals down, begin to increase your time in the position up to 60 seconds. If you fatigue or lose form before 60 seconds, stop. [second image]
  4. As your ability to balance on one leg improves, you can increase the difficulty by practicing it on a cushioned surface or adding arm movements to replicate running. [bottom image]
  5. Lastly, as a general rule of thumb, single leg stance should be performed at least once every hour of the workday.
If you are a triathlete who spends the majority of your workday sitting, single leg stance will be prove to be a game changer. It is a simple and inexpensive exercise that can be performed anytime and anywhere. The next time you are at work and find yourself getting sucked in to your chair, stand up and balance on one leg. This will not only help you survive the office but will also improve your training and racing.

Chris Johnson is a successful physical therapist and certified triathlon coach in New York City, who specializes in providing care and coaching for endurance athletes. He spent the early part of his professional career as a physical therapist and researcher at the Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma (NISMAT) of Lenox Hill Hospital before opening a private practice in the West Village of Manhattan, Chris Johnson, PT, LLC. He is the co-founder of Formula Tri Club and currently races at the amateur elite level. He also maintains his own blog, Critter’s Corner, which focuses on medical and performance issues related to triathlon. You can contact him at

Saturday, June 4, 2011

3 Exercises to Train Your Mind

By Amanda McCracken

What percentage of performance on race day is mental: 50 percent; 75 percent; 95 percent?
And how often do you train your mind?

Many athletes would readily admit that more than 70 percent of our performance depends on our mental outlook, yet most athletes spend little to no time training their mind.
Our mental race dialogue is built upon what we do in practice. We can't flip a switch and expect to have a positive mental dialogue (that we actually believe) during a race unless we've practiced the same dialogue in training.

Train your mind and prepare to battle negative race-day banter with three simple techniques.

Superman Booth

Clark Kent was a dorky awkward looking reporter badgered by Lois Lane until he stepped into a phone booth.

Create your own imaginary phone booth where you feel extraordinary. Step inside mentally and physically. Create your safe and magical space. What colors do you see? Does it sparkle? Is there a buzz or a particular song playing in the background? What smells do you notice? What three adjectives describe how you feel inside? Define this space for yourself. Try to channel your inner child to tap into your imagination. Practice stepping into this magical space before every practice. Come race time, your phone booth will feel powerfully familiar.

Helium Balloon

What does your inner voice say to you? Is it encouraging or does it drag you down into a mire of self-contempt? My inner voice is a skinny male elite marathon runner telling me I'm too fat to run as fast as the other girls I want to compete with. Solution? Simple. If I imagine giving that voice a hit on a helium balloon, I take away his power over me. Instead he sounds like a wimpy cartoon character who couldn't stand up to Bugs Bunny if he tried. 


Give yourself permission to be a kid again. Leave yourself visual reminders of key words that contribute to a mantra in your head. I use address labels and stick them to my bike, water bottle or body. My words are positive but have no opposite meaning so that my mind doesn't twist them against me: swift, breathe, glide.

You can also leave Post-it Notes at your desk, on your mirror or by your nightstand with constant reminders of time goals or positive words you wish to use to override the negative voice before it takes that helium hit.

Perfect Practice

Like those tedious physical therapy exercises we neglect until our injury rears its ugly head, we forget these mental exercises until we are at the mercy of negative self-talk beating us into submission. If perfect practice leads to perfect racing, why not spend a little more time on your mental game before practice? Carve out one minute before your workout to train your mind with these techniques. You'll thank yourself come race day.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


I'm just going to write something myself today rather than re-posting an interesting article.

I had my LUNA Chix workout Tuesday night, and posted pictures on FB from the workout the next day.  Not all the pics I took, but ones of people I knew.  If it's a really bad picture, I don't post it.  And since this was a swim/bike brick, there were some not so good swim pics that will stay on my computer.

After posting the pics I got responses from two people. 

The first person said:
"Please don't tag me in the neoprene photo. Ugh, I look about ready to give birth. I HATE WETSUIT PIX OF ME! ;) OK, done yelling now."

I had not tagged her in the first place.  But I took down the picture, cropped her out, then re-posted the picture.

Then I got this message from the second person regarding a different picture:
"Oh my. That is a very unflattering picture :( Ack!" 

Feeling like I was not doing a nice thing posting pictures after all, I suggested that she could untag herself.  This was her response:

"Nay! I shall take it as a good thing, ie keep getting outside and being active :)" 

That made my day!  What a great attitude!  Many, many times I have felt like the first person, unhappy with my body, low self esteem, and generally not happy all-around.  Pictures put all that I hate about myself out there.

But honestly, people don't look at us as critically as we look at ourselves.  And I love that the second person, even though she didn't like the picture, is happy with herself  and the progress she's making to put it all out there!