Tip of the Week: Hills? What Hills?

Hill running is a type of repetition training. It involves intense, short workouts separated by relatively long recovery periods. Training on hills improves speed, muscle strength (power), cadence, foot strike, increases stride length, develops your cardiovascular system, and enhances your running economy. In short, hill running will make you a stronger, faster and a healthier runner (if done correctly of course).

Tips on Running Hills:

1. Shorten your stride so that your feet are close to the ground in order to minimize impact forces during the uphill and downhill.  Remember, we want to maintain a cadence of 90 spm (steps per minute).

2. Keep your feet pointing straight ahead, lead with your knees to utilize your core and hip flexors and maintain an upright posture (leaning forward from the ankles not your hips).

3. When running uphill, regardless whether it’s during a long run, a race or a workout, your goal is to maintain effort, NOT pace. Trying to maintain the pace you were running on the flat will leave you exhausted later in the workout or race. Efficiency is key for long distance running. The more consistent your pace, heart rate and breathing the more efficient and effective you will be.

4. If your breathing begins to quicken it means that you’re either going uphill too fast, over-striding or creating too much vertical displacement (bounding too far off the ground as you run).

5. Crest the hill. As you start approaching the top of the hill you will need to gradually increase your pace in order to maintain effort over the top of the hill as you start accelerating on the downhill.

6. The key to efficient downhill running is to stay in control. When you start running downhill, shorten your stride and let your turnover increase. When you feel in control, gradually lengthen your stride (avoid breaking).

Tip of the Week: Nutrition

Nutrition is one of the most important topics we will discuss this season. It is essential you “experiment” during your runs (especially your long runs) to learn what foods, liquids and supplements (gels, blocks, bars, etc.) work best for you before, during and after exercise. We are all unique individuals so what works best for your friend may not work best for you. Coach Jennifer Hessmer, covers the basics of nutrition for endurance athletes and the importance of nutrition and hydration before and during exercise in the handout linked here. Please review the handout so you can begin to learn more about the importance of sports nutrition and reach out to one of your coaches ASAP if you have any additional questions by emailing tfkcoach@nyrr.org.

Tip of the Week: Injury Prevention

Top 10 Tips for Injury Prevention

10 – Follow the training schedule and avoid OVERTRAINING. 

  • There is a fine line between OVER-training (doing TOO much and at too hard of an effort) and UNDER-training (doing TOO little). That small margin could be the difference between pain-free training and an injury.

 

9 – Get a GAIT ANALYSIS to understand your movement patterns & limitations.

  • Understanding the ins and outs of your unique running form will give you a more comprehensive understanding of the global movement patterns that could be limiting your strength, mobility and flexibility, and ultimately preventing you from achieving your peak performance.
  • A FREE “Peak Performance Analysis” is available to ALL TFK participants compliments of Finish Line Physical Therapy. Contact Coach Michael Conlon for further details.

 

8 – CROSS TRAIN.

  • Cross training is any form of exercise outside of running. It allows us to add volume and frequency to our training in a safe and effective manner. Running is a high-impact exercise that involves repetitive motion over a long period of time. By implementing other forms of cardiovascular exercise, we can improve our strength, flexibility and endurance without the added stress of running alone.
  • Here are a few popular examples of cross training: yoga, Pilates, swimming, cycling, CrossFit, etc

 

7 – Incorporate STRENGTH TRAINING 2x/week, emphasizing your lower extremity and core.

  • Regular strength training helps you stay healthy and become a faster, more efficient runner.
  • The best strengthening exercises: are three-dimensional, multi-joint; focus on the FULL body and are running-specific. Check out the “strength” workouts in your weekly TFK emails.

 

6 – Stretch in a DYNAMIC, THREE-DIMENSIONAL manner.

  • Functional, dynamic stretching is a more active and specific way to loosen up your body before a workout, expedite recovery post-workout and improve flexibility and joint mobility.
  • A good place to start is with a lunge matrix stretch to assess areas of the body that feel limited or restricted. From there, key in on specific stretches or movements to address areas that need it.

 

5 – Perform SELF-MYOFASCIAL release before and after workouts.

  • Self-myofascial work provides relief from muscle pain & soreness; increases flexibility & strength; accelerates recovery; and releases knots, trigger points and adhesions that can result from training.
  • Roll before and after exercise for BEST results; implement breathing techniques for relaxation.
  • Check out four rolling techniques at http://finishlinept.com/videos.

 

4 – Compression is KEY.

  • Post-exercise compression can be utilized to expedite recovery. Whether it be calf sleeves, full compression tights or the state of the art NORMATEC Compression Sleeves (www.normatecrecovery.com), compression is one of the most effective methods to enhance recovery, especially after those hard efforts (repetition, tempo or long workouts).

 

3 – HYDRATE early and often.

  • Water is crucial for your body to achieve optimal function. Water brings nutrition to your cells, helps you digest & metabolize food, and regulates your blood volume & pressure.
  • How much should you drink? 6 x body weight = # of ounces of water/day
  • Instead of sugary electrolyte replacement drinks (i.e. Gatorade), replace the salt you lose during a workout by adding a ¼ tsp. of celtic sea salt or Himalayan salt for every quart of water. To give it a bit of natural flavor, squeeze in some fresh lemon or orange juice.

 

2 – Introduce VARIATION to help avoid repetitive stresses.

  • Alternate and/or change your running shoes frequently; ensure you are in the most appropriate shoe for your foot and body type; vary running surfaces; change your running route; adjust the type of workout; and incorporate cross-training on non-running days.

 

1 – LISTEN to your body.

  • You are the only one that knows exactly what you are feeling. You are the best judge of whether or not you should RUN or REST. Be smart! If there is any doubt as to whether you should run, choose the more conservative route: complete rest or (pain-free) cross training.
  • Additionally, the AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill is a great option to continue running while recovering from an injury—without the added stress on your body. Finish Line PT has one! Visit com/services/alterg-anti-gravity-treadmill for more info.
  • Not sure how long to cross train for? When done in place of running, simply cross train for the same amount of time you were scheduled to run.

 

 

Tip of the Week: What’s Your Pace?

When it comes to endurance training, pacing is one of the most important concepts that we need to learn as long distance runners. Most runners underestimate the importance of easy runs and complete their easy and long runs at a pace that is TOO fast. Many runners, specifically “new” runners, either make the assumption that every long run has to be completed at their goal marathon pace or don’t have the experience to know what their goals are or what their pace should be for a given workout, be it easy, marathon pace, tempo, long run, etc.

Last week, we asked everyone at practice, or on your own, to complete a 5K race at a 5K effort (HARD effort at 2:2 to 1:1 breathing pattern). We completed this 5K to create a baseline of every runner’s current fitness level, regardless of experience. Now that you have a recent “race” under your belt you can utilize the following “pace calculator” to determine your current training paces and learn a little more about your individual pacing. We can even utilize the calculator to determine equivalent race performances for the time you entered. This information is great for measuring your fitness and setting goals in upcoming races based on previous performances.

Here’s how to use the Run Smart Calculator:

1- Go to: www.runsmartproject.com/calculator/
2- Enter distance- 5K
3- Enter your 5K finish time- click “Calculate”
4- Record the following times:

* Race Pace Tab: 5K Pace/mile
* Training Tab: Pace/mile
* Easy Pace
* Marathon Pace
* Threshold (Tempo)
* Equivalent” Tab… Note the following:
* Estimated Half Marathon
* Estimated Marathon

**NOTE: Most running experts agree that your EASY pace is approximately 60-90 seconds slower/mile than your estimated marathon pace (this can vary based on the duration of your workout). It is recommended that you add 60-90 seconds to your estimated marathon pace to determine your easy (long run) pace.

Tip of the Week: Posture, Cadence and Foot Strike

Proper running form is the key to becoming an efficient and injury free runner. To ensure you are running with the best possible form it is important for individual runners to assess the following: posture, cadence and foot strike.

First up, posture. The next time you go out for a run please use the list below to assess your posture and to make sure you are properly aligned:

  • Stand tall with a slight forward lean from your ankles (not your hips).
  • Keep your eyes forward looking approximately 15 feet ahead (focus on shoulder blade region of the runner in front of you).
  • Breath naturally through your nose and mouth.
  • Keep your elbows bent at 90 degrees with your hands loosely cupped and your shoulders relaxed. Focus on swinging your elbows back and your hands forward (slightly towards your midline).
  • Keep your feet straight pointing in the same direction that you are running; forward (avoid turning your feet out).

Next, cadence. Cadence or step rate (steps/minute – spm) is defined as the number of times that your feet strike the ground in one minute. The ideal cadence that most running experts agree upon is 90 spm. Cadence is important because it is how you efficiently improve your running speed (running speed is defined as step rate x step length). Most runners need to first focus on improving their cadence. This can be accomplished by implementing running drills and strides into your weekly workouts to improve your running form. By doing so, we teach our “feet” how to turn over more quickly and more efficiently. In our order to achieve our quest of becoming a faster, more efficient runner, it is critical that we realize that step rate is only part of the equation. If we increase our step rate at the cost of decreasing our step length (i.e. shuffling gait) we will then negate any changes in running speed. The same can be said if we try to increase our step length (i.e. over striding) at the cost of our step rate. The key, increase your step rate (running drills, strides, etc..) without compromising your step length, or vice versa. It’s important to note that step length can be increased through exercises that increase your mobility, stability, flexibility and strength (ie. your weekly “strength” workouts).

The most efficient foot strike patterns are either a midfoot or forefoot strike. Landing below our center of gravity allows our muscles, fascia, etc., to absorb the impact we create while running. The issue with heel striking is that it typically causes a runner to strike the ground out in front of their body (forward to their center of gravity), slowing down their forward motion. In other words, a runner is essentially hitting the brakes with each and every step. This causes a runner to waste more energy and creates a greater amount of impact than necessary or desirable, thus contributing to the frequency of injuries among runners. Improving our cadence occurs when we land directly below our pelvis or center of gravity and take shorter, quicker steps. After all, an increased step rate = increased running speed; what runner do you know who doesn’t want to get faster and do so with less chance of injury?

Tip of the Week: Breathing Patterns

Everyone has an opinion on breathing patterns during exercise: breathe in through your nose, out through your mouth! No wait, breathe in and out of your mouth. Use a 2-2 rhythm! Use a 3-3 rhythm! Take 45 breaths a minute! No…60! Breathe in for 2, out for 3. The truth of the matter is that you will ultimately find what works for you, but there are certainly a few times when putting thought into your breathing pattern will help your performance.

In general, we focus a lot of our training at an EASY pace where your breathing can be a little more relaxed at this effort. This type of work can often be done with a 3-3 rhythm (or even a 4-4). A 3-3 rhythm is taking 3 steps as you inhale, and 3 steps as your exhale (R-L-R = INHALE, L-R-L = EXHALE).

As we begin to work harder, however, this rhythm obviously becomes more difficult to maintain. Somewhere around your “TEMPO” pace, you may find switching to a 2-2 rhythm (2 steps with each inhale and 2 steps with each exhale) is more effective. These breaths, however, will have to be a bit more shallow.

A great time to practice these different breathing patterns is during your various workouts, such as the ones detailed below:

4:4- Sunday Recovery Runs
3:3- Easy and Long Runs
2:2- Tempo Runs
1:1- Speed and Hill Workouts

How can this help us? First, it can help you monitor your intensity during a race or a workout. If you plan to run EASY, and you find that you’re not able to maintain a 4-4 or 3-3 breathing pattern as expected, then you can conclude that your effort is too hard. Conversely, if the goal of your workout is to run at a harder intensity (tempo), and you’re running at a nice and cozy 3-3 rhythm, then it’s safe to assume your effort is too easy.

During these workouts, I encourage you not be scared of spending some time with a breath that’s a little more labored than usual as it’s important for runners to be comfortable at “uncomfortable” efforts. Breathing patterns can also help keep you in check when you are running hills. For example, when running uphill, in order to maintain a consistent effort during a race or workout, your breathing rate should relatively remain the same. Your pace would need to slow down, but your effort would stay the same as you focus on maintaining the same breathing pattern on the uphill as on the flat (the opposite can be said about running downhill).

So … whether you’re a 4-4, 3-3, 2-2 or some other combination of inhales and exhales, the answer is, there is no wrong answer. Ultimately, you will find what works best for you, but please take a minute to consider what your breathing is telling you about the intensity at which you’re working (it’s much more accurate than relying on your watch). We want you to be 100% prepared for race day, so by learning the different breathing patterns, you will be one step closer (or is it one breath?) to achieving your goals.

Tip of the Week: Shoes

Congratulations once again for taking the plunge to train with Team for Kids.  What’s next, you may ask? Well, look no further – but down. Yup, your feet. These guys have an important job: to keep you healthy and moving throughout the training season, ALL the way to race day and to your finish line!

That’s why running shoes are so important!

A lot of science and research has gone into the biomechanics of our feet and has yielded runners with a plethora of shoe options – neutral shoes, stabilization shoes, racing flats, etc. The type of shoe you need is based upon the type of arches you have (high, flat, normal), where along your foot you strike the ground (heel, mid-foot, or forefoot) and the amount of inward movement your foot makes as it is striking the ground (pronation). If you’re new to running, it’s best to have a professional view your gait and recommend shoes to you to ensure you have a proper fit for your body and foot type.

How do I buy running shoes?
Go to a local running shop. Running professionals will watch (and in some instances, record) your feet while you run to examine how your feet are hitting the ground. Based on their observations and feedback from you, they will recommend a suitable shoe that offers the appropriate type of cushion and stability in the areas where your feed need it the most. Be sure to go when you can spend some time in the store, to ask questions, try on multiple pairs of shoes, etc.

Getting the proper fit is the most important factor when buying new running shoes. Trying to run in an ill-fitted, old, or non-running shoe can lead to a host of running-related injuries and only sets you up for a long training season. Avoid the urge to buy those hot pink shoes because pink is your favorite color and they match your clothes. Just saying.

Do I need multiple pairs of shoes?
Having two pairs (that you buy together at once, or buy a second pair throughout the season) is advised for a couple of reasons:

1.) Our training season is long – one pair of shoes is most likely not going to make it through the entire season.

2.) Just like you, your sneaks need rest and the same pair shouldn’t be run in every day. This is especially true if you run in the rain – having a second pair will ensure your sneaks have ample time to dry out.

Hint: If you ever get caught in the rain and your shoes do get wet, when you get home stuff them with newspaper, it’s the best way to dry them out.

3.) Having a fresh pair of shoes as a reference will help you to notice when your old ones need to be replaced. When should we replace our old, worn out sneakers? Good question…we’ll talk about that later in the season.