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heel_strike40 years ago, the Boston and New York Marathons had only a couple thousand finishers between them, and the average running shoe was pretty spare (we’d say “minimal” today), without a great deal of cushioning and support.  Today, the average wall of a specialty running store yields a bewildering array of shoes.  Options include maximum cushioning, support, stability, and motion control.  Meanwhile, New York will likely have upwards of 45,000 finishers this year, and the increased popularity of Boston means that having a qualifier no longer means you will actually be able to secure a spot in the race.

 

These trends are related.

 

The increased technological complexity of running shoe design has provided a gateway to the sport of running for many individuals who are outside the physical  “ideal” for world class running.  In fact, the definition of “ideal” itself has arguably been shifted as many recreational runners who strive for personal bests and accomplishment take pride in the capabilities of their bodies to finish, regardless of how fast.  Along the way, the number of runners who may not be built for speed in the Olympic sense have been protected from injury by new technologies offering previously unheard of support and cushioning in a shoe.   That said, the shoes they wear may also have unintended consequences.

 

One of the major ways in which the average running shoe has changed from a generation ago is the amount of heel cushioning coupled with a higher incline off the ground for the back of the foot.  While many runners have a natural stride that lends itself to landing first on the heel, these shoes make it much more easy for anyone to land first on the heel.  Here’s why:

  • -The psychological feeling of protection  - try running barefoot on your heels…just doesn’t feel nearly as good!
  • -The amount of material extending off the bottom of your foot hits the ground first, mainly because it is in the way.

 

Hitting the ground first with your heel can have a couple of problematic results.

  • -If your foot lands on your heel first, it is likely in front of your body when it hits. This means that it will take an extended amount of time for your body to travel over the foot and for it to push off again.
  • -With your leg extended in front of you, it is possible your knee and hip can take some jarring forces
  • -You are spending needless energy each stride, transferring your weight horizontally from behind the foot.

Essentially, landing heel first isn’t the most efficient way to get from Point A to Point B.

 

Preferably for most of us, the first surface to touch ground on each stride should be the midfoot to forefoot, or right around where your shoe is the widest.  This is for a couple reasons:  one, it is really hard to land that far forward on your foot when your foot is extended out in front of you.  In fact, unless you are a ballet dancer, it is hard to even walk like this. So, in order for you to land on this part of your foot, it will be closer to your body, or ideally, pretty much right underneath your body.  This means that you will spend less time horizontally transferring your weight over your foot before push off, and can use the large muscles of your body to both land with everything aligned, and push off immediately, lessening the chance for the type injuries caused by your hip and knees absorbing chain reaction forces when heel striking.  Two, if you are taking steps that allow for your foot to land under or close to underneath your body, you are likely taking more frequent steps, what we might call a quicker cadence.  Although it might be tempting to think of long extended strides as the way to pick up speed, all that time in the air is just spent slowing down.  So, a quicker cadence means you are likely making more rapid progress in the direction you want to go.

 

“Minimalist” shoes, which have come into vogue over the last few years, have a much lower heel profile.  This discourages heelstriking  Particularly for anyone who makes the big jump from a highly cushioned shoe into a minimal model without a gradual transition, the extra work required for your calves can be felt without much need for explanation upon waking the next morning.   For some runners, these shoes are a good supplemental tool or solution if their bodies are ready for that type of transition and their stride naturally might lend itself to a more midfoot to forefoot strike already.  For heel strikers, these shoes might be a supplemental tool to help encourage good posture and start to work on running form, but should be used with caution.  If the support of the current shoe has been a positive injury prevention tool, it should continue to part of a runner’s arsenal.

 

Sometimes, we think of ourselves as a completely different brand of runner than the African athletes we might see at the front of the pack in races.  However, when researchers studied the foot strike patterns of Kenyans, they found that those who grew up running to and from school without shoes were more often forefoot strikers than those who grew up wearing shoes.  So, even among a group that we as recreational runners tend to see as homogenous, significant differences have been found based on their history of footwear.

 

While more research has yet to be done on this, what can we conclude about those of us who currently heel strike?  Regardless of how our foot strikes the ground, we all want to move forward efficiently.  Practicing short stretches (30 seconds or 2 minutes at a time, etc) with a quicker cadence will help teach yourself how to increase speed when finishing in a race and allow you to experiment with what it feels like to land more toward the midfoot.  If you are a steadfast heel striker who has relied on padded shoes to stay healthy, quicker, more frequent strides vs longer, bounding strides is still the way to go.

 

In short, we are in an age where shoe technology has allowed more people than ever to run for recreation.  Some of that technology has also reinforced not entirely ideal habits our body may naturally have, even as it allows to stay healthy enough to run at all.  We may be content to enjoy the race from our spot in the pace or we may be anxious to move up the standings.  Either way, mindfulness about how our foot strikes the ground and how we can increase our efficiency can allow us to have more fun along the way.



Why We Run! 

  1. Oh the Places You’ll Go – This Dr. Seuss book always shoots up the bestseller list during graduation season.  We’ll give it an extra plug today!  Running helps you see the world!
  2. Time Away from Technology – Running provides one of your only chances to separate from your computer and/or cellphone.
  3. Inexpensive – Yeah, sneakers are pricey…but running is still the cheapest sport around!
  4. Anywhere, Anytime – You don’t need a fancy gym membership or any equipment.
  5. Bonding Opportunities - Running is a great way to make new friends and catch up with old friends.
  6. Total Body Workout – Most forms of exercises only work one part of the body.  Running works both your arms, and legs.
  7. Meditative – Running offers a chance to relax and escape from your worries
  8. Get a burst of energy – Feeling tired?  A run can reinvigorate you and cut down on fatigue.
  9. Beach Body – Yes, we encourage you to do core.  But running will strengthen your abdominals too!
  10. Road races - Studies suggest that people are more committed to their exercise routiines when they have a goal.
  11. Turn that frown upside down - Otherwise known as the "runners high"
  12. Bonding time with Fido - An activity you can do with the dog!
  13. Pasta! - What runner doesn't enjoy carbs?  We encourage yo to eat a healthy diet, but running and the caloric burn will allow you to be a little more flexible with your diet.


Take Care on the Trail this Summer!



This summer, the call of the wild might draw you out of the neighborhood into your local trail system, or vacation travel might bring you closer to nature and out of your comfort zone.  What are some things to look out for when venturing forth on the trail?

 



Poison Oak / Poison Ivy

PoisonPlants
As the old adage warns, “Leaves of three, let them be.”  For both poison oak (found mostly on the west coast with variants in the mountain region and the south eastern United States) as well as poison ivy (mostly found on the east coast), even a slight brush can cause a nasty irritation for the next several days.  Poison oak can feature a reddish tint, while poison ivy is mostly green. Both plants have a surface substance that causes a skin irritation ranging from a row of small bumps, to significant swelling.  While on the trail, take care to avoid plants that appear like these. If you do come into contact with poison ivy or poison oak the rash may take a couple of days to appear, getting worse through about five days after exposure.  Then it can take  as long as a couple of weeks to resolve in bad cases.  The sap of the plants doesn’t dissolve into water, so it can be tricky to treat.  The blisters on the rash won’t spread if opened by scratching, but if hands or clothes that have interacted with the resin at the initial site of infection brush other areas, the rash can jump there as well.  Also, burning poison oak can send the poisonous material into the air, where it can even find its way into an unsuspecting nose or throat.  Let your imagination run wild with that one – definitely avoid!

 

Snakes

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Springtime means snakes are coming out from hibernation.  They may be unfamiliar with their new terrain, and may be looking for sun while it is still not warm around the clock.    Be on the lookout for them in places and at times along the trail where it may be warmer and sunnier than average.  These include exposed flat rocks, sunny patches in an otherwise tree-covered path, and midday sun when morning and evening are still cool.  If you do see one, leave a wide berth move slowly whenever possible.   Snakes typically are not aggressive, but defensive, so avoid picking at them with sticks or letting others with you do the same, even if you think the snake is not poisonous.  You never know.

 

Ticks


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Now found more widely than the traditional hotspots of the northeastern and Appalachian Trail areas of the United States, these insects can cause great havoc if left undetected.  Small and black insects (usually encountering humans in nymph form), ticks grab onto the skin and eventually deposit eggs under the surface, which can lead to all sorts of diseases, but most famously, Lyme disease.  In an area where ticks are known to have been a problem, take care to wear insect repellent, light colored clothing (so ticks can be easily seen against the skin), long sleeves and pants (when possible in the weather), and to do daily checks so no ticks remain on the skin for any extended period of time.  Symptoms include a bullseye shaped rash, fever, chills, and muscle aches

Lightning

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Spring and summer months may bring warm weather storms to your favorite local trail or far flung destination.  Without external warnings, you may be left to make your own judgments as to how to safely manage the situation if you have been caught unprepared .  Keep an eye on the sky to get a visual glimpse of any approaching storm or lightning flashes.  If the thunder has begun to close in rapidly (count seconds after seeing lightning until thunder sounds – then divide by five to estimate how many miles away), stay away from lone tall objects such as a single tall tree or open air picnic structure.  If wearing / carrying a metal object, leave it aside for the time being and try to move to a low lying place (between two boulders or hills, among a bunch of lower trees, etc).  If near your car, make sure not to touch any metal while taking shelter inside.  Finally, wait 15-30 minutes past when the storm has crossed over to ensure you won’t still be in range of stray lightning.

 

Running on the trail can be one of summer’s best treats.  Stay alert and make good choices which hopefully will allow you to enjoy yourself all season long!

 





chicago1The popularity of marathon running has grown by leaps and bounds over the past 20-30 years, and boldfaced names have increasingly taken up the challenge as well. Like a lot of us, they often run for a cause, and some even have hit some pretty quick paces along the way.  Where do your favorite stars stack up?

Politicians

Last election cycle, Representative Paul Ryan’s marathon time made a lot of headlines (real time: Grandma’s Marathon 1990, 4:01), but he is far from the only politician on either side of the aisle to have completed the full 26.2.  Other marathoners with an eye on the White House or the Vice Presidency have included Al Gore (1997 Marine Corps Marathon, 4:54), Sarah Palin (2005 Humpy’s Marathon, 3:59), John Edwards, (1983 Marine Corps Marathon 3:30), and George W. Bush (1993 Houston Marathon, 3:44).  Surpassing them all in the governmental division, however, are former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, who clocked in a solid Boston Qualifier at 3:03 in the 1989 Marine Corps Marathon, as well as retiring Montana Senator Max Baucus, who smoked a 3:01 at the 1982 Governor’s Cup Marathon.

Movie / TV Stars

“Stars!  They’re just like US,” scream the tabloid pages.  However, how much is your favorite screen star like you on the race course?  Green Lantern actor Ryan Reynolds stepped up with a 3:20 at the 2008 New York Marathon, while Katie Holmes clocked in at 5:29 at the 2007 five-borough event. Fellow teen television star Mario Lopez went from a 5:41 finish at the 2002 Boston Marathon all the way down to a 4:23 at the 2011 New York Marathon.  Famously, TV talk show host Oprah Winfrey also ran the 1994 Marine Corps Marathon in 4:29, putting a significant margin on the popular Today show meteorologist Al Roker, who clocked in at a 7:09 in the 2010 New York Marathon.   Celebrity Chef Gordon Ramsay has run several marathons, including the 2008 London Marathon in 3:19, and even Rudy (Sean Astin) has joined in, completing the 2010 Los Angeles event in 5:16 before improving to 4:26 the following year.

Musicians

Does having a golden throat or nimble fingers help you make it across the finish line any faster?  It depends.  David Lee Roth completed the 2010 edition of New York in 6:04.  P Diddy also ran New York in 2003 on a very truncated training schedule, still hustling to the finish in 4:14.  Representing the hipsters, Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie) completed the 2011 Los Angeles Marathon in 3:56, while songstress Alanis Morrissette has a 4:28 in 2009 in New York to her credit as well as a 4:17 trail marathon effort from the 2009 Bizz Johnson event.  Welsh classical singer Katherine Jenkins also competed at London this year, coming home in 5:26.

Athletes from other Sports

Those who have completed a marathon have one year left to claim they are faster than Mo Farah (the 2012 Olympic gold medalist at 5000 and 10,000 meters; he ran only half of London this year as a practice run).  With other celebrity athletes, we may not be so lucky.  Star athletes from other disciplines who have completed a marathon include 1996 gold medal winning gymnast Kerri Strug (presumably with two good ankles and without Bela Karolyi carrying her), who did the 2008 New York Marathon in 3:56.   Without ice or skates, hockey great Mark Messier and speed skater Apolo Ohno both did New York in 2011, with finishing times of 4:14 and 3:26 respectively.  New York Giants wide receiver Amani Toomer took on the same course in 2010, running 4:13.  Interestingly in his case, a charity partnership with Timex had him start as the very final person in the race, with incentives for how many people he was able to pass along the way.  Across the pond, tennis great Amelie Mauresmo ran right by her old stomping grounds at Roland Garros in the 2012 Paris Marathon, hitting a solid 3:16 on the finishing clock, while Olympic champion swimmer Summer Sanders finished this year’s Boston in 3:33, and World Cup winning soccer player Brandi Chastain earned a 4:08 in the 2008 New York Marathon alongside Strug.

Stars who should run a marathon

The growing list of celebrities attempting the marathon begs the question:  “Who should be next?”  For the sake of argument, and in the context of the running done while on screen, here are a few potential training recruits:  Tom Cruise (let’s see what he’s got – there is always at least one scene of him running at full speed in all of his movies), Angelina Jolie (as Lara Croft, Tomb Raider), Daniel Craig (as James Bond), Tom Hanks (as Forrest Gump), Regina King (as Lydia Adams on Southland, yes, but as Marcee Tidwell from Jerry Maguire, no), and Benedict Cumberbatch (either as Sherlock running to solve crimes or Khan from Star Trek: Into Darkness, running from Zachary Quinto as Spock, but most definitely not as Christopher Tietjens in Parade's End).

Who knows?  These names only represent a few of the famous faces you might encounter on your next marathon attempt. Keep an eye out on the course and a smile on – you never know who might be grabbing the cup next to you at the fluid station!



118-Marathon-Runner-Costume-33322Even the most experienced among us was once a rookie.  Those of us who have raced for years at shorter distances can also feel like beginners when it comes to the humbling aspects of the longer events.   Whether you are trying something new this training cycle or hope to in the future, read on to inoculate yourself against these common pitfalls.

 

Don’t OverEXPOse yourself

Two to three weeks of taper, deliberate sleep hours, and careful treatment of your body cannot be completely undone by spending hours walking and shopping at the expo on the day before the race, but it definitely won’t help!  Resist the urge to spend hours walking up and down the aisles of the expo at your first big race.  If possible, visit the expo two or three days before when there are smaller crowds.  If you have things you need, like a particular souvenir for someone, some gel packets, or a container of body glide, look at the map before heading over.  Then, stick to your list and keep a hard time limit after which you promise yourself  (in advance) that you will leave.  Combined with what may include lots of walking to get into the facility and any other activities you may do, minimizing the walking at the expo is in your best interest to keep the legs feeling fresh.

 

Read My Lips, No New Gear (the day before the race)

A rookie racer might be tempted to try cool new shoes (without breaking them in), a new pair of shorts (without testing if they will chafe), a new fueling item (my friend said this gel works really well for her!), and so on.  The enticements of the expo can make this one even more difficult.  As the saying goes, “dance with the girl you brought.”  Your weeks and weeks of training have helped you to figure out the shoes, shorts, and fuel that will work best on race day.  You’ll be a bit nervous anyway – no need to leave more to chance with the essentials!

 

Keep Anthony Boudrain away from your table

A fun new city, maybe a great dinner spot the night before your race…seems like a great time to ask the waiter what the “specials” are, right?  Wrong.  Running a marathon or a half marathon can be a gastro intestinal adventure with a number of twists and turns, and there is no need to court danger.  Avoid adventurous eating the night or two before.  Plan on eating food that your system will recognize and that you know will digest according to plan.  Again, you might have some butterflies anyhow.  Do not risk anything here.

 

Hydrate, but don’t overdo the water

One of the most common tips a newbie racer likely hears is to STAY HYDRATED.  However, too much water in the final day or two before a race can wash crucial electrolytes from the system when they are needed most and leave you in the portapotty when the gun goes off.  Balance your water intake with a sports drink your body trusts.  Very light yellow or almost clear urine is a good sign you have consumed enough.  If you proceed incrementally, you should only need to sip a bottle the morning of the race, thus lightening the near term load on your bladder.

 

Plan to Work and then Work the Plan

With a first big race looming on the calendar, a race plan or splits schedule towards a goal time can be helpful to ease the feeling of the unknown going into the race.  When a big wave of adrenaline carries you out to sea on the first few miles of the race, do not fall prey to the urge to throw your plan out the window.  Stick to the plan you have formulated when thinking logically and with plenty of time.  If during the second half of the race you realize you have undershot the mark, you will still have a chance to finish strong.  However, the reverse situation (going out way too fast and trying to hang on for dear life) can be much more difficult.  Use your first race as an opportunity to try something new.  This debut experience will then establish a baseline and create a springboard that will give you the confidence to move on to faster and more adventurous performances in the future.



This is the general race weekend final instructions note. 

Remember to lay low and stay off your feet the days before the race (no Expo attendance for longer than 1 hour). Your reward is race day itself and the challenge of running. . . .

Arrival

Make sure you get outside and feel the air.  Go for at least a 20 minute walk or jog on either the day before, or two days before (or whatever is on your schedule).

Think about what you did, not what you didn’t do in your training.  When you go to pick up your  race number or run into old friends, family etc. everyone will want to ask about your training so they can tell you about theirs.  Forget about theirs and don’t compare yourself to anyone.  The training plan that you completed has been highly successful for many runners.  So when “joe cool” tells you he did ten 25 mile runs just remember all the good workouts you have completed.

Night Before, Morning Of

Have a full meal the night before.  Try and consume some complex carbohydrates (pasta).  Do not over eat, but make sure you fill up.

On race day eat some calories early in the 400-500 range of carbohydrates including the sports fluid you drink.  For mid-morning race, you may want to have a few extra calories because of the late start or have a snack in the 100-200 calorie range wants you arrive at the race site.  Drink gatorade (or any sports drink that doesn’t include protein) and/or water frequently to assure you are hydrated (clear urine is a good sign).  You should stay well-hydrated throughout the morning before the race.  At some point prior to the race stop drinking so you can empty your bladder before the start.  It is important to refrain from over-consumption of water alone, as that will drain your body of needed electrolytes.

I suggest you take some throw away warmups to the start especially if it rains.  This could be an old t-shirt or old sweat pants.  Also old socks will keep your hands warm. Some runners will even wear the t-shirt for the first couple miles of the race until they warm up and then pull it off and throw it away.  This is a good strategy to prepare for all temperatures.

Take a bottle with gatorade/sports drink to the start with you and right before the gun goes off drink 4-8 ounces.  This is your first water stop.  If you drink close enough to the start you shouldn’t have to pee – the fluid should only drip through your kidneys because most of your resources (blood) will be in your legs and out of your gut.

Early Miles

I suggest that you start 30-60 seconds per mile slower than your Marathon Goal Pace (MGP).  You should run the 2nd mile at 15-30 seconds/mile slower than MGP.  Try to get on pace by the 3rd mile and stay on pace until 18 or 20 miles when the race starts.  I recommend this approach as it may activate (and utilize) a higher percentage of fat fuel over the first couple miles.  Remember we are trying to conserve glycogen and muscle for as long as possible.

Glycogen conservation is key as you can’t rehydrate during a marathon.  So drink early and often (4-8 ounces every 20 minutes).  It is better to consume enough fluid early and sacrifice the later stops if necessary.

Remember the 3 ‘C’s’

Confidence:  Have confidence in your ability and your training.   Remember all those hard workouts you did.  Remember those early mornings, late nights, sore calves, tight hamstrings etc. - they weren’t in jest.

Control:  You must relax yourself early in the race.  You absolutely must go out under control and run easy for the first 18-20 miles.  The marathon is evenly divided into thirds (in regards to effort):  1st 10 miles, 2nd 10 miles and 3rd 10K.  Save yourself for that last 10K by running easy in the beginning.

Collection:  Keep your thoughts collected and on your objective.  In the typical big city marathon there will be about 250,000 distractions along the way.  The further you get in this race the more you need to focus on yourself, goals and race strategy.  Don’t let the fans and competitors into your zone.

The Ebb and Flow

I said before that I can’t guarantee anything about the training or the Marathon race itself.  Well, I can guarantee this:  you will feel good at some point and you will feel bad at some point within the race.

Marathons always ebb and flow, runners never feel terrific the entire way.  We always hit little walls.  If you hit one just focus on the next mile, don’t think about the end of the race.  If you take each difficult moment one mile at a time you will usually feel better at some point.  It always comes back because. . .

You Always Have One Cup Left

That’s right – you always have one cup of energy left.  The difference is that some people find it and some don’t.  Remember what normal, untrained people do when they feel discomfort – they slow down and feel better.  You are not a normal un-trained person.

You are a marathon machine!

As a machine you will have to dig down at the end to determine if you will have a good effort that you can be satisfied with or not.

Go get that last cup!


treehouse-dishes-up-some-alphabet-soup-24750
Quick Guide to Running Lingo

 

Like athletes in many other sports, runners have a vocabulary that may seem completely foreign to beginners.  Even experienced runners may be confused by some of the lingo.  At runcoach, we’re here to help!  Read on for a list of some common running terms.

 

For more info on specific terms used in your workout schedule, mouse over terms on your pace chart or contact us with your questions!

 

Negative Split/ Positive Split

Contrary to what these terms might imply, usually negative splits are more fun than positive splits.  A negative split is when the second half of your run, race, or interval is faster than the first half.  A positive split means you slowed down in the second half.  It only takes a few painful positive split efforts to remind you of the difference!

 

Kick

This is a general term for the final part of the race when an athlete is really going for it.  Another term used when talking about the kick might be “change gears.”  The runner increases frequency of their stride cadence and embarks upon a faster pace or harder effort level.  Don’t start kicking too early!  Make sure you have enough energy left to sustain this pace through the finish line.

 

Shake-out

This term can be used to describe a run that is light and easy and done just to get the kinks out.  We often describe the last run before a big race as a shakeout.  You might hear, “I went on my three mile shakeout this afternoon, before heading to the pasta dinner.”

 

LSD

Although running can indeed provide that “natural high,” when athletes refer to LSD, they are usually talking about Long Slow Distance, which is known on our runcoach schedules as aerobic runs or Easy / Long pace.

 

Fartlek

Eeeew!!! No, no, fartlek is a term for “speedplay” in Swedish.  It can mean a semi-unstructured run with varying periods of up-tempo running interspersed with easy recovery running.  These days, fartleks are often structured, but unmeasured sets of work at a perceived effort, such as 8x 2minutes comfortably hard with 90 seconds of easy running in between each.

 

Hitting the Wall

No need for a definition if you have felt it even once.  Hitting the wall can be described as a sudden and steep decrease in energy level and ability to perform at the previous pace due to the onset of fatigue, a lack of fueling, or both.  Mile 23 is a fairly common place to “hit the wall” in a marathon.  See “Bonked”.

Chip Time vs. Gun Time

In races where your time is recorded by wearing a computer chip that is read while traveling over mats along the pavement, you will often be given 2 different times in the race results.  The gun time is the time elapsed since the race was started,.  The chip time is time that begins when you actually cross the starting line mat.

 

PR or PB

These stand for Personal Record (usually US speaker) or Personal Best (usually everyone else).

 

Taper

The portion of your training cycle where you cease the really difficult workouts and attempt to get cumulative rest with lighter workouts while preparing for an upcoming race.

 

Bandit

A competitor running in the race without having officially entered.

 

Rabbit

An athlete charged with setting an early pace for the benefit of (usually) the top athletes in the race.  The rabbit usually then drops out at the agreed upon time, although there are examples of races where the pacer continued on and won!

 



cropped_little_girlDownhill running may seem like a breeze, but runners hoping to do it effectively should consider a few tips before heading down the mountain.

Avoid stepping on the brakes

Instinctively, most runners heading downhill will extend their foot out in front of them on each stride, essentially braking themselves and preventing themselves from losing control.    If on a steep hill or an area with uneven ground, this may be necessary as a safety precaution, but if on a manageable grade, this puts needless stress on the knees, hips, and quads.  Instead of concentrating on slowing down via longer slower steps, try to land on the foot as similarly as possible to your regular stride.  What would qualify as good running form on flat ground also qualifies downhill.  Try to replicate it as much as possible.

Lean in!

It is difficult to make up ground or extend a lead over others on an uphill grade.  With such a steep cost required to extend or quicken each stride, the benefits may wash away in fatigue by the time you reach the crest of the hill.  On the downhill, the cost and effort is much less, and effective downhill running can provide an opportunity to change the dynamic of a race by the time level ground is reached.  To run downhill effectively, you must lean forward in the direction in which you plan to go.  On flat ground, the ideal body posture includes an ever so slight forward lean from the ankles.  Maintain this on the downhills.  This lean will also make it easier to take more frequent steps and avoid landing with your foot out in front of you, absorbing needless stress.

Pick up the cadence

The only way it will be possible to both land on your foot similarly to when running on flat ground and to lean forward at the same time is to quicken the cadence of your strides.  A more rapid rhythm in your stride will help you accomplish the form cues you need to minimize needless stress and possible injuries to your body.  It can also be a catalyst for you to implement these form cues to keep up with your stride rate once you have adjusted the mental metronome.

Confidence will take practice

Most runners internalize and repeat a more defensive downhill approach due to an understandable desire to stay upright and avoid just tumbling down the hill.  It can pay dividends in a hilly race to consciously practice downhills of varying grades to build confidence with the feeling of leaning into the descent.  Golf courses (when available to run) can be a great location to practice a more aggressive approach without a large contingent of observers and with a forgiving surface.

Although many races have famous hills – Boston’s Heartbreak Hill, Bay to Breakers 12K’s Hayes Street Hill, and the Doomsday Hill at the Lilac Bloomsday Run, many experienced athletes will cite the effective management of the downhills in these races to provide the crucial difference.  At the Boston Marathon, it can be seen some of the pros running with“reckless abandonment” while navigating the final five miles of net downhill from the top of Heartbreak to the finish.   This takes practice, particularly if “reckless abandonment” is not a typically appropriate description of your running style.   Choose some low key tune up races with hills, include hilly terrain on a regular basis during workouts, and stay mindful of your form.  This can help set aside some of the fear of falling and focus more on getting to the finish line as rapidly as possible.

Whether contending for a win at the Marathon Majors or hoping to just complete your first marathon or half, avoiding injuries and working out effectively is a shared goal by all.  Reckless abandonment may continue to prove an inappropriate description for your approach down hills, but by using just a few tweaks to your approach, at the very least your PRs might have a shot to improve!

 



As many of you come off successful spring race seasons let’s consider our recommendation for a return to training and racing. Previous blog posts have touched on the basics of the immediate recovery period, and now let’s focus on the transition back to running.

 

After the race and subsequent recovery period has come and gone, sometimes runners are left with a bit of “no man’s land”.   This period can be a dangerous time, as the temptations to jump right back into it are great and the exaltation or disappointment from the previous goal race are still fresh.  Rather than a curse, this period can also be a blessing, a time to lay tracks for the better runner you hope to become when things heat up again on the training schedule.

 

A time of recovery is a great opportunity to broaden your range of competency on a variety of fronts.  Even if cross training is a part of the weekly schedule and has been for years, switching things up can provide an opportunity to find an even better complementary activity to your regimen.  Always swim or water run as your go-to cross training activity?  Try cycling or the elliptical machine.  Sign up for the yoga or Pilates class you don’t usually have time for, but have been excited to try. Cycle to work or other daily destinations when you don’t have to allocate tons of time and energy for running.

 

If you worked through a manageable but bothersome injury while race training, now is the time to rehabilitate.   If the goal race period seemed like the wrong time to introduce yet another routine into the mix, now is the right time.  Begin a maintainable core strength routine and work through any initial soreness while you don’t have your hardest running workouts to recover from as well.  Do the rehab exercises on that balky ankle you have been ignoring or regularly roll the IT band that always causes trouble when you begin to ramp up mileage.  In other words, prepare your body to handle the challenges of your next training cycle better than ever.

 

Running stores will have lots of options for shoes and injury prevention tools, but time and interest are needed to identify the current risk level of a shoe change, the addition of a foot care insole, or other “gear shift”.  Now is a great time to incrementally adjust to new things that can be highly beneficial long-term.

 

Most importantly, a period without a looming goal can be a perfect time to build the good habits that will serve you well when the schedule requires more strenuous efforts and careful timing.  Whether you are changing shoes, adding a new cross training element, or focusing on good nutritional or sleep patterns, practicing these good habits now will allow them to effective  with your regular routine.  While your fitness level may fluctuate as you move toward your eventual goal, good habits developed in transition can assist you in reaching each rung of the ladder in a sustainable and confident way.

 

 



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