Tag: Seattle Marathon

A cure for when you hit a Training Plateau and the Running Blues

Feeling like you have hit a plateau in your training or just getting bored with running the same route at the same pace every time?!?! Then it is time to mix up your training! Here are a few different fun run workouts to incorporate into your weekly training that will not only help your running funk, but also help increase your speed, strength and power.

STRIDES: Strides are a gradual build or pick up that ends in about your 5k pace (or 85% perceived effort). Usually they are anywhere from 10-30sec long taking a full recovery between each walking back to the start of the stride, which can be anywhere from 1-2 minutes making sure you are starting your next stride not breathing heavily. The purpose of a stride is to work on your run mechanics and quick leg turnover. They are an easy way to incorporate speed work into your running without it being hard on your body or causing injury. The things to think about when doing strides are: forward body lean from your ankles, relaxed body position, picking your ankles up, mid-foot strike, and quick leg turnover. Great times to include strides are; at the end of an easy recovery or aerobic run to work on a quicker leg turnover, before a track workout to activate and recruit those muscles before you ask them to do a fast and hard workout, or on race day as a pre-race facilitation to help warm up your muscles.

FARTLEK: Otherwise known as “speed play”, fartlek runs are great on mid to longer runs. During a fartlek run you are alternating our pace between a slower easier effort and faster bursts of varying distances. It is key to pace yourself on your hard efforts so that you are running your last effort as fast as your first. Make sure that you recover between your fast efforts so you are not breathing heavily when you are starting your next hard effort. This is a great way to build speed and strength. Be consistent and try to add speed into one of your runs each week.

HILLS: Running a hilly course or hill repeats is a great way to build your muscular strength and endurance, as well as your mental toughness. When running hills make sure to work on that quicker leg turnover and do not bend at your waist, keep a nice tall body again leaning into the hill from your ankles, not bending at the waist, lifting and driving your knees into the hill. When you feel your form is going bad slow it down or choose a less difficult grade of hill. Recovery is running down the hill with a quick and light leg turnover. Just be careful to not overdue the hill training as it can be an easy way to get injured.

TRAIL RUNNING: Not only is it scenic and beautiful to go out and run on trails, but there are great benefits to your running as well! Running on trails is more challenging than running on the road and is a great way to build strength in your running. Trails are also soft and are easier on your joints as opposed to running on hard asphalt as the soft surface of the trails absorb more of the shock. Because of the variable surface, you are naturally adjusting and changing your stride and can become more explosive with it. As your body moves to adapt to the changing terrain you will begin to “find” and strengthen your core. When you move from trial running back to the road, you will notice how much “easier” it is.

Try incorporating one or more of these fun runs into your weekly running routine and as long as you stay consistent with it you will see improvements in your overall running. It might also be the cure to your running blues and just what you needed to help bring enjoyment to your running once again! But remember, CONSISTENCY is key!

Improving Running Strength and Preventing Injuries with Resistance Training for the Seattle Marathon Series

As a runner, there are several exercises you can do to improve at your sport. A good rule of thumb is to train the weak points and correct any imbalances. There are three tiers of training that can be utilized in a resistance program: stability, strength and power.

Stability:
It’s important to focus on balance. Balance work improves activation of smaller stabilizer muscles, improves facial tension relationships and body awareness.

Knee problems can be attributed to poor hip and ankle stabilization. Hence, legs should be worked on individually. Simply doing a single-leg balance while doing an overhead shoulder press, bicep curls and overhead tricep extensions is one thing you can do with your resistance program. Challenging yourself to use a stability disc will add an extra level of difficulty.

Strength:
Strength focused exercises improve activation of large prime movers and synergists (the muscles that assist in a specific movement). An abdominal straight-leg lift or reverse crunch will be exceptionally helpful for an athlete. A weak length-tension relationship between the adductors (inner thighs) and abductors (outer thighs) is common in runners. Since there is so much single-plane movement during running, it is smart to work in the lateral plane. Some examples of this are: lateral lunges, side planks and lateral raises. The upper body should be a major focus for strength training. Doing a seated row and a chest press will help support posture in the upper body during running.

Power:
It’s important to have efficiency when running. A way to improve running mechanics is speed work. Integrating a technique in your running called surges is one way to achieve that. During a moderate paced run pick up your pace for about 15 seconds and then return to your original pace. Plyometrics (impact) drills will improve the catapult-like motion through your posterior change, which runs the length from your neck to the heel of your foot. Squat thrusts, also called burpees, are an excellent drill for runners. There are also classic running drills that you may remember from gym class such as: high knees and butt kicks.

Whatever the combination, resistance training can make you a better runner and prevent injury. Keep muscle balance in mind; compensation patterns occur when there are poorly developed or underused muscles, and when there is tight or overused muscles. Always train your weak points and listen for warning signs that a muscle needs to be stretched or massaged. Doing this will create longevity and health for a lifetime of running.

Spring Into Running with a Balanced Body

As spring approaches, we get excited about enjoying outdoor activities here in the Pacific Northwest, including running. It’s easy! Just grab a pair of running shoes and head out the door! But have you ever jumped into a running regime, only to find yourself nursing an injury a few weeks or months down the road? Whether you are new to running or training for yet another marathon, look for ways to cross-train for a balanced body so you can enjoy running all season long.

Most runners know that it is critical to have a strong core, back, hips, and pelvic muscles, but what is the best way to achieve that? One option for this cross training is Pilates. Pilates is a series of exercises given to you by an instructor who learns your weaknesses and tight areas, and then develops a program based on those needs of stretching and strengthening.

I’ve noticed that runners are generally good at Pilates; they seem to know how to engage their gluteals (bottom muscles) and are aware of their core/abdominals. However, runners also tend to have tight quadriceps (thighs) and hip flexors, as well as weak hamstrings (back of legs) and inner thighs. These imbalances in the muscles of the legs and hips can potentially cause pain and injury for runners, especially the knee, hip, ankle and foot.

Pilates helps to balance things out in the legs by strengthening the hamstrings, inner thighs, and gluteals to take pressure off the front and side of the leg, leading to better alignment and less chance of injury. Plus the hip, abdominal and back strengthening exercises help to maintain better stability and alignment through the entire body while running.

The best way to learn what your body specifically needs is to meet with a Pilates Instructor one-on-one. But, in the meantime, some at-home exercises you could start today include the following:

1) The Hundred

2) The Abdominal Series of five

  • Single leg stretch
  • Double leg stretch
  • Single straight leg stretch
  • Double straight leg stretch
  • Criss-cross

3) The Swimming

A balanced body will result in better performance, quicker recovery, and less chance of injury so you can enjoy running all season long.

Strength Training for Endurance Athletes

Endurance training works one of two physiological energy production systems in our body; the aerobic cardio respiratory system, while resistance or strength training works our anaerobic energy system. Energy is used primarily in the muscle fibers, often referred to as the slow twitch and fast twitch fibers. The aerobic system trains our type I muscle fibers, which are more densely packed with mitochondria which utilize oxygen to make ATP. Meanwhile, the type II resistance fibers create ATP in the absence of oxygen by splitting molecules. Since many sports and other events rely more heavily on one type of fiber more than the other, athletes and the general public often train for that specificity. Most the population is composed of each fiber type by a 50:50 split, but specificity in training can shift the ratio of fibers either way slightly.

What happens when an endurance runner trains not just for their endurance abilities but also for strength simultaneously?

There have been multiple studies on this topic, with some studies suggesting that training simultaneously with both strength and endurance takes away from the optimal performance of one to improve the other, meaning you can be highly trained for endurance or just moderately trained for both strength and endurance, or vice versa. However, in opposition to many of those studies, others have tweaked the study method in finding how both can be trained for the benefit of improving upon an already trained ability. That is to say, if a runner was to train aerobically and then perform strength exercises used in running, would they improve? In the Journal of Strength and Conditioning, one of many studies was conducted on well trained endurance runners on how the addition of strength training to endurance training would affect stride ability. Groups were assigned to a periodized sport specific strength conditioning program with endurance (strength exercises changed each week), a consistent sport specific strength conditioning program with endurance (same workout), and an endurance only group. They found that the combination of periodized strength conditioning program with endurance training greatly resisted fatigue in overall strides than both the other groups. The exercises were sport specific to running, including squats, calf raises, hamstrings, and others. Many studies done on cyclists, soccer players, and rowers suggest the same findings.

There are several things to note on how this training would optimize performance. Strength was done at sub maximal weights and moderate repetitions – never to fatigue. This type of training will train the muscles for more endurance prolonged use, while enhancing strength. In the case of the runners the addition of strength increases the threshold of fatigue that the muscles endure by improving power. More muscular strength in the leg muscles contribute to greater power in each stride the runner takes. With that said, the studies in which competitors improved both modes of exercise were all trained with sport specific muscle groups. For instance a competing runner would not want to bulk their upper body like a rower might; it would only take away from their running ability. Studies among the general population show that those who want to improve health should train both modes for better overall conditioning. Strength and endurance training does not seem to negate one or the other for improving health and rehabilitation, but for those with an athletic specific goal, remaining sport specific is key.

To Go Bare, or Not to Go Bare? That is the Question!

Many magazines and gyms have heard the hype about running barefoot. It’s becoming a craze with running enthusiasts everywhere. There is even a brand of shoes on the market that are supposed to mimic wearing nothing called Vibram FiveFingers. The company states that “it puts you in touch with the earth beneath your feet and liberates you to move in a more natural, healthy way.” So the question is; what is the best way to run for your feet; no shoes, natural shoes, or running shoes?

Many exercise physiologists believe that wearing shoes, like other braces and supporters, weaken the muscles, ligaments, tendons and natural arches that support the structure of the foot. They think that the added cushion and supportive shoe inserts create poor biomechanics which can lead to increased risk of foot, knee and leg injuries.

On the other hand, some experts believe that certain proper fitting shoes can actually correct a lot of biomechanical problems, helping to alleviate the risk of injury. They state that if correcting foot pain was as simple as going bare foot, why isn’t everyone doing it, and why is the pain still present. Jumping into wearing no shoes can shock the feet, and without an adaptation phase can create more severe foot problems.

Until there is definitive research about whether one is better than the other all we can do is make an informed decision on what mode of running would benefit us most. So here are the pros and cons of barefoot running.

Pros:
* May develop a more natural gait, strengthen the muscle, tendons and ligaments of the foot
* Helps the calves & Achilles tendon lengthen and stretch, reducing likelihood of lower leg injuries
* May learn to land on forefoot rather than heel. Heel striking while running came around because of the excessive padding in the heels of shoes. Research is now showing that heel striking is less efficient, because you are basically putting on the brakes every step. Landing on the forefoot allows the arches of the foot to act as a natural shock absorber.
* Can improve balance and proprioception by working smaller stabilizing muscles

Cons:
* If you are not experiencing any problems, should you not run in shoes?
* They offer a layer of protection against foreign objects and the elements like snow and rain.
* Overworking the small muscles, causing Achilles tendonitis and calf strains.
* Without the stiff-soled shoe, our soft tender plantar surface may be more susceptible to plantar fasciitis.
* Blisters will be your friends for the first couple of weeks without shoes.

If your feet have had aches that wont go away, try bare foot running. Just be aware that there are some consequences of running with protection; but your feet may thank you for the freedom to move more naturally, or they may say get me back in my protective environment. Only you can decide what is right for your own feet. If running bare foot is just too much, try one of the new shoes on the market like the Vibram FiveFingers and see if it is that perfect combination of support and freedom you feet need. Like any exercise, don’t jump in full bore, try it out a little at a time and listen to your body! Have fun and get running.

Pilates + Running = Speed + Distance

Training for a marathon this summer? Maybe a 5K race? Whether you’re a marathoner, short distance or casual runner there is no doubt running is great cardiovascular work. But your body can take a beating and this can lead to muscle imbalances in the body that can sideline runners. Pilates can help balance things out and get you running faster and further.

WHY PILATES?
As a runner, you have great leg strength. However, you may notice that your hamstrings (back of legs) are weak. Your quadriceps (front thigh), inner thighs and hip flexors may feel tight. These imbalances in the muscles of the legs and hips can potentially cause pain and injury for runners, especially the knee, hip, ankle and foot.

PILATES EXERCISES WILL:
• Strengthen hamstrings, inner thighs, and gluteals, taking pressure off the front and side of the leg
• Elongate and align the spine for better stability
• Improve technique, flexibility and balance so you move efficiently
• Recover faster from injuries
• Increase range of motion in hips and shoulders
• Enhance concentration through focused breathing

The best way to know what your body specifically needs is to meet with a Pilates Instructor who will learn your weaknesses and tight areas, and develop a program based on those needs of stretching and strengthening.

But, in the meantime, here are some at-home exercises you could start today:

  1. The Hundred
  2. The Abdominal Series of five
  3. Single leg stretch
    Double leg stretch
    Single straight leg stretch
    Double straight leg stretch
    Criss-cross

  4. The Swimming

A balanced body will keep you out on the road, track or treadmill all season long; not to mention shave seconds off your times!