THE MARATHON TAPER...HOW TO ACHIEVE OPTIMAL PERFORMANCE
How Long Should You Taper?
How Should You Reduce Training to Improve Marathon Performance?
Carbo-loading and Hydration During the Taper
THE MARATHON TAPER...HOW TO ACHIEVE OPTIMAL PERFORMANCE
How Long Should You Taper?
How Should You Reduce Training to Improve Marathon Performance?
Carbo-loading and Hydration During the Taper
By Shelly Glover
You may not have given much thought to marathon recovery. After all, you trained, ran, finished and got your medal. With a wave of blessed relief, you realize the pressure is off. Now what?
Coping – The First Few Hours and Days
What’s more painful than running a marathon? How about the fatigue and soreness of the hours and days afterwards? Expect it, its part of the deal. Marathon recovery goes backward. At first you’ll feel worse instead of better. Whether you are bragging or licking your wounds, quicken recovery with our tips for rehydrating, refueling, and reducing soreness.
Keep Moving. When you finish the marathon, it’s a hike to get your medal, a hike to get your blanket and a hike to the baggage and family reunion area. That’s good. Moving prevents stiffness. A 15-to-20 minute walk is helpful. More is better if you can manage.
Drink and Eat. Refuel with carbs and fluid soon. Drink until your urine runs light yellow or clear. This takes a while. Of course how long depends on what you drink. A swig of beer can go straight through you and cause further dehydration. With beer your urine will be clear, but you’ll still be dehydrated. At least you will think you feel better.
Ice. Contain swelling in painful areas by icing for 10minutes or so. Repeat along with ibuprofen for the next few hours and days to combat inflammation.
Stretch Lightly. Limber up, but don’t overstretch fatigued muscles.
Closure. Go ahead, hang around after the race to celebrate. Share stories of the gory and glory. When you’ve gathered the strength, or friends to assist you head home for the shower. You’ll feel better. The shower is optional for your friends. Some runners say a hot bath or whirlpool relaxes and loosens their muscles. Experts resist. They say heat increases inflammation and body temperature. They suggest instead cold showers or baths. No thanks. Not for me!
Stop and Shop. Take a nap. The day’s caffeinated gels and excitement may keep you awake, but just resting a bit is a good idea. Later, go for another walk (15 to 30 minutes) and stretch lightly, or swim to combat stiffness and help you relax. My personal solution to movement and relaxation: go shopping! Every good effort deserves a reward!
The Morning After
Take a bath or warm shower to loosen up. Treat injuries first with ice. Walk and stretch gently. A professional massage speeds recovery. Schedule one 24 to 48 hours after the race and another a few days later.
The Next Few Days
Get plenty of sleep. At night, go to bed early. Other times take naps. Shuteye boosts immunity and heals the overexerted body. The first few nights after a marathon, runners often have trouble sleeping. If that includes you, at least lie in bed and rest often. On the other hand, if you are having trouble staying awake, don’t worry. Your body deserves the extra downtime.
Refueling and Rehydrating
It takes three to five days to refill glycogen stores. Runners often don’t go for carbohydrates hard enough after the marathon. Forgetting to munch with an eye on nutrition prolongs fatigue and delays a comfortable return to training.
Returning to Training – The Reverse Taper
Rebuilding. One predictable truth about runners is – if something works, they’ll change it. Case in point, if a runner runs a strong marathon, the urge is to jump back into training with a little more mileage, a little faster, a little harder, or a little more of something. This is how success breeds failure. After your great marathon effort, don’t be so anxious to start training your heart out and improve. Actually take a few easy runs to enjoy the scenery.
Hold Back. Even if you feel strong, you’re only as strong as your weakest (or sorest) spot. Take one recovery day for every mile of your race. Um, for the math challenged that’s about 26 days or roughly a month. Recovery rate depends on the runner and the marathon. It’s usually easier to recover from a good marathon than a disappointing one.
Biopsies done on marathoners show muscle cells take up to a month to recover from the microscopic damage inflicted during a race. Besides recovering from soreness and blisters, you need time to ignite the desire to train.
Recovery deserves as much planning as your premarathon schedule. Think of it as the premarathon taper in reverse – a few off days, then a few short runs, then a gradual increase in weekly mileage until you reach your normal, pre-marathon peak level.
To Run or Not To Run?
Many veterans insist on running the next day, perhaps even the evening of the marathon. They believe it helps recovery. But a study by Dr. Costill at Ball State University in Indiana indicates you may be better off not even running a step for the first week. Researchers compared a group that didn’t run for a week with a matched group that ran easily for 20 to 40 minutes a day. The nonrunners scored better in tests for muscle strength and endurance three days and a week after the marathon.
Why pound away on muscles that need time to repair? If you insist on working out, stick to 30 to 60 minutes of nonimpact aerobic exercise. Swimming is particularly good with its natural massaging action. Frequent walks help too.
First Few Return Runs
After a few days of nonrunning, try two to four miles per day or alternate days the rest of the week. Increase mileage the second week to no more than 25 to 50 percent of normal and to no more than 50 to 75 percent during the third and fourth post-marathon weeks (but less than this is okay). By the fourth or fifth week you may be ready to resume normal mileage. For example, this may be 40 miles a week compared to 50miles at peak marathon training.
Pace and Speed Work
Forget about for awhile. Run easy according to how you feel. First aim to run without soreness. Then gradually get back to your normal training pace. Hard runs aren’t advisable for a month or so.
Ease into speedwork. If your body is ready and willing, about 10 to 14 days after the marathon try a light speed session. Controlled fartlek or a tempo run will help you ease into quicker running. Repeat this (or put it off) the next week, or try a few long intervals at 10K pace or slower. By the fourth or fifth week, you may be able to run harder speed sessions.
Anytime during your four-week “reverse taper” feel free to back off training. If you feel fatigued or sore, run less. Take plenty of extra rest days until you’re back to normal. Don’t run on an injury – damage is compounded in postmarathon legs. Remember, recovery is priority for at least 4 weeks after a marathon. There’s no need to rush: Research shows you won’t lose much, if any, fitness.
Depression and Rebound
Your emotional post-marathon experience depends some on your personality type, according to Maryellen Duane, Ph. D., clinical psychologist at Winning Lifestyles.
Duane knows what’s she speaks. A 10-time marathoner, she’s on the frontlines as head of the New York City Marathon Psyching Team.
Newbie’s often have a different post experience than veteran marathoners, she explains. “For first-timers, finishing the marathon is a lifetime experience. They often
revel in feelings of accomplished and pride. Like having your first baby, there’s nothing like your first marathon.
Rebound with your post marathon rush to tackle projects or lifestyle changes you’ve been trying to get up the nerve to do. You know, write the novel! Go get that new job! Start that internet site!
As per Lombardi-ism, “It is time for us all to cheer for the doer, the achiever – the one who recognizes the challenge and does something about it. “Thanks, Vince. The doer is you. The achiever is you. You proved it finishing the marathon. Now go recognize a new challenge and do something about it!
But alas – not all runners rebound from happy marathon experiences. Some runners must rebound from unhappy experiences.
Unhappy competitive marathoners tend to focus on a single negative aspect of the race (for example finishing time) instead of the overall positive experience. They miss the pleasure. Come on all you narcissists; we are talking about you. That should at least make you happy!
Even if you ran a good race, you may feel down for a few weeks. Allan Steinfeld, NYRP top honcho, at the AfterMarathon Clinic compared the let-down to postpartum depression. (Here we go with that baby simile again...) “Your ‘baby’ has reached the finish line and your long-sought-after goal, around which your life revolved for months, has been achieved, leaving you feeling empty, “ he explains.
It’s okay to cool serious running for awhile. Shoo away the blues by delving into stuff you had to give up while consumed by running. Duane suggests setting another challenge for yourself. “Enjoy your marathon accomplishment, and then focus on a non-running goal. Try yoga, or cross country skiing. Run in a new place. Do something novel to avoid staleness.” Not only does this nurture a positive focus, but helps avoid injury too.
But, don’t forget to run. Training during the winter months is a good investment in your future.
Race & Training Analysis
After weeks and months of training a runner races the NYC Marathon, gets a time and moves on. That’s that, it’s over, done, kaput, fine and the end. The course is run. You’ve been there and done that. Onward ho, you cry, to the next race!
Slow down. Hold on. Back up. The finish line clock isn’t the only valuable feedback from a marathon. A backward glance helps direct and focus where you are going with training and racing goals. Most marathons aren’t all good or all bad. While the event is vivid, mentally play back the episode. Take the time to set down what went right – and wrong into specifics.
The objectives of analysis are to:
Here’s a key to looking for clues in your marathon performance:
Record your splits. These are your times along the way (i.e. at 2miles, 10K, 1⁄2 marathon, 20miles) How was your pacing? How does your time compare to your goals, other marathons, predicted time, and training partners?
It makes a difference in how your run. Write down specifics for accuracy.
Marathon Goal Time
First-timers may have wanted to just finish. Others may have wanted to run the second half faster than the first. Still others may have wanted to beat another competitor or have enough energy to show off to the crowds on First Avenue. Mental Preparation. Record your motivational techniques. Maybe use a few from out list:
Make notes on how you planned to run the course. Did they work? Eat and drink. Record what you did and if it was successful. If it gave you less than optimal results come up with an alternative for next time. Cover three areas of intake – before, during and after the marathon. Here are a few suggestions to trigger your memory.
Shoes and Clothing
Aches and Pains
This is where you play sportscaster and recap the event. Make a few notes on each topic:
One in seven marathoners will get a cold during the first two weeks after the marathon. Yuck! That’s a six times greater risk than controls who did not run a marathon. Maybe marathoning should come with a Surgeon General’s warning, “Marathoning may be bad for your health.” Yeah, well, before you start running away from running, look at it this way: six out of seven marathoners do not get colds after running a marathon. Now, which is the newsworthy headline?
The take home message here is that exercise at mild to moderate levels increases immunity. The intense level of marathon racing lowers immunity temporarily to upper- respiratory tract infections, e.g. colds. Young rookie marathoners are more at risk than veteran competitors.
Marathon/Half Marathon Checklist
Each race distance has its own unique physiological requirements and places a different set of stresses on the body. When training to excel at a goal race, it is important to structure a training program to contain the proper mix of workouts for the chosen distance....hence the principal, “specificity of training.”
For example, in the 5k the most important training intensity is VO2 max (5k race pace), followed by lactate threshold, endurance and then speed. This doesn’t mean that lactate threshold, endurance and speed should be ignored; they all need to be part of the training program. It just means that for best possible performance in the 5k, there needs to be a mix of all of these variables with an emphasis on VO2 max training. For the 10k, VO2 max and lactate threshold training are equally important. For the half marathon the training emphasis shifts to lactate threshold with endurance being second. For the marathon, endurance and lactate threshold training intensities are both emphasized while VO2 max and speed are of lesser importance.
Pace (P) runs are used to train the body to run at goal race pace for the marathon and sometimes the half marathon. Pace runs are not differentiated for shorter distances as the race pace for distances below the half marathon is usually at or below lactate threshold, and is at VO2 max for the 5k.
Endurance/Easy and Long Easy Runs (E)
Purpose: Building Aerobic Conditioning, Train the Body to Conserve Fuel
Aerobic conditioning can be any distance runs (or run/walk) of 20 mins-3 hours in duration. Depending on your goal time, fitness level, experience and race distance, the distance of you aerobic conditioning runs will vary quite significantly. These runs are done at about 45–1:30 min/mile slower than marathon race pace, 1:00–2:00 slower than half marathon race pace or 1:30–2:30 slower than 5k race pace. This should correlate to 65–80 % of your maximum heart rate.
Regardless of what distance you are training for, aerobic conditioning represents the majority of your training program.
Endurance long & easy runs will:
Pace Runs (P)
Purpose: Building Aerobic Conditioning and Train the Body to Run at Goal Marathon/Half Marathon Pace
Pace runs are shorter runs at goal marathon or half marathon pace. For the marathon, they are run at @ 20–30 seconds slower than lactate threshold pace or .45-1:30 faster than endurance/easy runs. For the half marathon, they are run @ 1:00–2:00 faster than your endurance/easy runs or just slightly slower than lactate threshold pace.
Pace runs will:
Tempo (T) and Lactate Threshold (LT) Runs
Purpose: Build Stamina by Raising your Lactate Threshold
Lactate threshold and tempo runs train the body to tolerate moderate levels of lactic acid in the blood while running at significantly faster pace than aerobic, “easy” conditioning (where there is very little lactic acid production). Lactic acid is the by-product of “oxygen debt” when we try to run fast for any length of time.
Stamina (or speed over distance) has become synonymous with the term lactate threshold training. Your lactate “threshold” is the speed just below the point at which lactic acid is being produced at a faster rate than it can be removed from the bloodstream Threshold pace is at your 10-mile race pace, 25-30 seconds/mile slower than 5k race pace, 10–15 seconds/mile slower than 10k race pace or 20–30 seconds faster than marathon race pace. This correlates with an effort of about 85–90 % of maximum heart rate. It is very important that lactate threshold runs are done exactly at or right below lactate threshold pace. If you train too fast, the desired outcome will not occur and it will be difficult to complete the entire workout at lactate threshold pace.
Lactate threshold running can be performed as either:
Lactate Threshold/Tempo runs will:
VO2 Max Runs (VO2)
Purpose: Increase the amount of oxygen-rich blood your heart can pump to your muscles and the amount of oxygen that can be used by your working muscles
Your VO2 max is the maximum amount of oxygen that you can take in, process and use to provide the energy you need to run. The upper limit of your VO2 max (also known as aerobic capacity) is in large part genetically predetermined. However, most runners have not “maxed” out their functional aerobic capacities. Fortunately, well-designed training can have a significant impact on improving your VO2 max.
VO2 Max workouts are medium length intervals of 600 – 2000 meters at current 5k race pace and eventually, as improvements occur, at realistic 5k goal pace. In between each interval jog 50 – 90 % of the time it takes to run the repeat. These workouts will increase your aerobic capacity to its upper functional limit. Anywhere from 2 1⁄2 to 5 miles worth of intervals should be part of every VO2 max session (for example 5 x 800 meters) At this running speed, your heart rate will generally be at 95 – 100% of maximum.
Like lactate threshold training, it is very important that the intervals are run at the proper intensity and that the recovery time is within the time range. Too long a recovery will cause the heart rate to drop too low to stimulate the best possible improvement in VO2 max. Running the repeats too fast will stimulate the anaerobic system more than the aerobic, and will make it difficult to finish the workout.
VO2 Max Runs will:
Speed Workouts (S)
Purpose: Increase leg turnover, improve running mechanics and form, buffer lactic acid
Speed workouts are done at significantly faster than threshold pace and there fore the accumulation of lactic acid is expected. Your anaerobic capacity is your body’s ability to buffer and tolerate this inevitable build-up of lactic acid in the bloodstream. Anaerobic running occurs when the intensity of your running does not allow you to produce energy through the intake of oxygen alone, therefore forcing the body to derive increasing amounts of energy from the breakdown of muscle glycogen. A high anaerobic capacity represents a high tolerance of lactic acid buildup. Being able to continue to run while lactic acid is building up is critical to racing well.
Speed workouts are repeats of 400 meters or less that are done at about 15-20 seconds faster than 5k pace (it is important to remember these are not all-out sprints). Rest periods are longer and are determined by how long it will take you to be able to perform the next repetition at your target time.
Speed workouts will:
If you have run a marathon or half marathon recently, you will have a rough idea of what your goal pace should be for that distance. For many Run Camp participants, however, the upcoming event will be the very first half or full marathon. Others may not have run the distance for an extended period of time and fitness levels may have changed. So how do you select your goal pace? Your training run and lactate threshold pace can give you a general indication, but a recently completed race of another distance can often be a great predictor of what your goal pace should be. Races used for prediction purposes should be run at a best effort. Also, races closer in distance to the goal race are a more accurate predictor than a much longer or shorter race. For example, the half marathon is a much better indicator of marathon time than a 5k is.
For the half marathon, a recent 5k, 10k, 10 mile or even marathon time can give you an excellent indication of what your half marathon finishing time or goal pace should be. You can use the following conversion factors to determine the corresponding half marathon time and then use a pacing chart to determine the appropriate pace.
10 mile 1.33
Marathon .472 For example, if your 10k time is 50 minutes (3000 seconds), your predicted half marathon time would be 6720 seconds (3000 x 2.24) or 1:52 or about an 8:30 min/mile pace. Likewise, if you ran the Crim in 1:30, your corresponding half marathon time would be 7182 seconds (5400 x 1.33) or 1:59 or about a 9:02 mile pace. Recently ran a marathon? A 3:30 marathon, 12,600 seconds, would correspond to 5947 seconds for a half marathon (12,600 x .472) or a 1:39 or about a 7:30 pace. For the marathon, a recent 10k, 10 mile or half marathon can provide a good indication of what your marathon finishing time and goal pace should be. Again, you would use the conversion factors below, than refer to a pacing chart to determine the appropriate pace for the predicted time.
10 mile 2.82
Half Marathon 2.12
For example, with a recent 10k time of 50 minutes (3000 seconds), your predicted marathon time would be 14,280 seconds (3000 x 4.76) or a 3:58 marathon. If you look at corresponding pacing charts, this would be about a 9:02 min/mile pace. If you recently ran a half marathon at 1:40 (6000 seconds), your corresponding marathon time would be approximately 12,720 seconds (6000 x 2.12) or 3:32, which corresponds to about an 8:02 pace. Keep in mind there can be many other factors that can impact your performance. Race time conversions, particularly from a much shorter distance, can be a bit aggressive for the first time marathoner. Training specificity, weather conditions, hydration and fueling are just some of the factors that can heavily impact performances. For example, you can have two people who ran a 40:00 min 10k. One may completed two 20-milers while the other wasn’t able to complete anything over 13 miles. The runner who trained specifically for the marathon will be more likely to run the predicted time, than one who has focused their training specifically on shorter distances.
Reference: Pfitzinger, P., and S. Douglas. 1999. Road Racing for Serious Runners. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
DECLINE TRAINING: THE BENEFITS AND TECHNIQUES
Sprinters have used downhill training for years to improve leg turnover, but it can also be beneficial to the distance runner as well and has been incorporated into many distance training programs. Decline training not only teaches you proper downhill technique, but will also improve speed while running on the flats and can even help prevent
Increased Leg Turnover
Improved Downhill Running Performance
Reduce Delayed-onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)
Gaining an Advantage When Cresting a Hill
Downhill reps of 75-150 meters
Up and Down Intervals
Pfitzinger, P. 2005. “Moving Up by Going Down.” Running Times 328 (July/August): 16
|Proper race pacing can make or break your half marathon or marathon experience and performance. The outcome can just as easily be determined by what happens the first few miles after the gun goes off as much as what happens during the many weeks of training and preparation. What is the best pacing strategy? Should you run hard early on while you are fresh? Run easy at the start and clock a negative split? Or how about running an even pace throughout the entire race?In 2005 I signed up to run the Martian Marathon. Physically I was well-prepared. I had the training under my belt and was feeling fresh...perhaps a little too fresh. The gun went off, the adrenaline was flowing and I ran the first mile about a minute faster than my marathon pace. The 2nd mile I realized my mistake and pulled it in, but was still about 40 seconds ahead of goal pace. By 6 miles, my pace was 30 seconds ahead, and by 8 miles, I started to slow ...to a pace slower than goal marathon pace. By 12 miles it was all over....my calves cramped up so badly from the lactic acid that had accumulated; I had to stop altogether. I dropped out and walked a 3 mile short cut back to the finish.
Three weeks later, at the Boston Marathon, I practiced an entirely different strategy. I ran the first few miles right at marathon pace. It felt very slow, but I knew I had to conserve energy for the hills that loomed beyond the 15th mile. By mid-race, I was very comfortably cruising along the slight downhill and flat sections of the course about 10 seconds faster than goal race pace, but feeling fresh. Eventually the hills, and a natural slowdown in pace came, but the slowdown wasn’t drastic and the hills did not present a difficult challenge. Because of the warm weather and hilly course, my calves started to cramp a little during the 17th mile, but it was different than the debilitating cramps that were caused by the accumulation of lactic acid 3 weeks earlier. Pretty soon I had crested Heartbreak Hill, ran down the other side and was approaching Boston proper. Before I knew it, the finish line loomed ahead of me and I crossed in PR time. My average pace per mile was 3 seconds faster than my first mile....and my time a PR on the most challenging road marathon course I had ever encountered.
The answer to proper pacing lies within the principles we learned earlier on lactate threshold. Your ideal half marathon pace is just below lactate threshold and your ideal marathon pace is about 20 – 30 seconds slower than lactate threshold pace. If you run faster than lactate threshold pace the lactate accumulates in your blood and muscles, which affects the enzymes for energy production and forces you to slow down. When you run faster than lactate threshold, you also use more glycogen, so you are depleted more quickly. This is especially detrimental to marathon performance as it can cause you to “hit the wall” sooner.
The best strategy, as evidenced by both physiology and my Boston experience, is to run relatively even pacing. If you run much faster than your average pace for any one part of the race, you will likely start to accumulate lactic acid and use more glycogen than necessarily. Proper pacing can be especially tricky for the half marathon since it is run so close to lactate threshold. It can be easy to creep above the ceiling. If you attempt to run a negative split and run much slower than your average pace, you will need to make up for it later on, again running faster than your most efficient pace for another part of the race. The best strategy, is to run nearly even splits, taking into the account the topography of the course. At Boston, my time splits weren’t dead even. The first few miles I ran on pace, the middle flat and slightly downhill portions I ran 10 seconds faster, and the up hills a bit slower. The nature of the course required some variation in pace to account for the variation in effort demanded by the terrain.
Most runners shouldn’t try to maintain dead even splits, especially in the marathon. During the marathon, your slow twitch fibers gradually become fatigued and your body begins to rely more on the less economical fast-twitch fibers. This will make both your running economy and lactate threshold pace decrease. Towards the end of the marathon, your pace will be reduced slightly. This suggests a more efficient strategy would be to run the first half just slightly (2-3%) faster to allow for the natural slowdown that occurs.
The first mile of a marathon or half marathon you want to run right at or slightly slower than goal pace. You still won’t be completely warmed up and won’t be prepared to go much faster. Once you have run the first mile, the best strategy is to find a good rhythm; a fast but relaxed pace. For the half marathon, this will be about 5 – 10 seconds slower than lactate threshold, for the marathon about 20 -30 seconds slower. At this stage, you should be cruising and saving your mental and emotional energy for the 2nd half. In the half marathon concentrate on maintain a fairly even pace for the first 10 miles, then dig deep the last 3.1 miles to bring it home. If you paced yourself well and stayed right below that lactate threshold ceiling, you should be able to run a strong final 5k.
In the marathon, the halfway point to 20 miles is where the mental discipline of training really kicks in. At this point you are tired and still have a long way to go. Keep a positive attitude and watch your pace closely. This is where most runners start to let their pace drift, first 5 seconds per mile, then 10, then beyond. Concentrate on your splits.....at this point, most well-trained marathoners are still physically able to maintain goal pace. Sometimes, especially during this stage, it is not uncommon to have a bad patch, and then have it disappear. If you start feeling bad, press on, it may pass. Taking carbohydrate in the form of energy gels, etc often help with this. The last 6.2 miles is what you have ultimately prepared for during your many months of training and where your long runs will pay off. Dig deep here...you want to push as hard as you can, but not so hard your muscles tighten and you cramp up. Concentrate all the way to the finish line and cross over strongly (but don’t sprint at the end of a marathon)! Then Savor the fruit of all your labor...you did it!
Occasionally weather or racing strategy may require you to change your pacing plan. If you are running into a head wind, there is a big advantage to running with a group of runners and taking turns drafting. You save considerable energy this way, but you also may need to run slightly faster or slower to stay with the group. The most you should deviate from your goal pace, however, is about 8 – 10 seconds per mile.
Pfitzinger, P., and S. Douglas. 2001. Advanced Marathoning. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
What it Hits: transcerses abdominis (deep abs) and erector spinae (lower back)
Start facedown on the floor, with your arms and legs extended out front. Raise your head, your left arm, and right leg about five inches off the floor. Hold for three counts, then lower. Repeat with your right arm and left leg. Do up to 10 reps on each side.
Hints: Don’t raise your shoulders too much.
Make it Harder: Lift both arms and legs at the same time.
What it Hits: Glutes and hamstrings
Lie faceup on the floor, with your knees bent 90 degrees, your feet on the floor. Lift your hips and back off the floor until your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Hold for five to 10 seconds. Lower to the floor and repeat 10 to 12 times.
Hints: Squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement, and don’t let your spine sag.
Make it Harder: Straighten one leg once your hips are lifted.
What it Hits: Obliques
Lie faceup on the floor with your knees bent and raised over your hips, with your ankles parallel to the ground, your feet lifted, and your arms extended outward. Rotate your legs to the left side, bringing your knees as close to the floor as possible without touching. Return to the center, then move your knees to the right side. Do 10 to 12 reps on each side.
Hints: Make sure not to swing your hips or use momentum; start the movement from your core and continue to move slowly from side to side. Make it Harder: Keep your legs straight.
What it Hits: Transversus abdominis and lower back
Begin facedown on the floor, propped up on your forearms, with knees and feet together. With your elbows under your shoulders, lift your torso, legs, and hips in a straight line from head to heels. Hold for 10 seconds. Raise your right leg a few inches, keeping the rest of the body still. Lower and repeat with your left leg.
Hints: Pull in your belly and don’t let your hips sag.
Make it Harder: Extend the time of the exercise. Each time you lift your leg, hold it for 15 to 20 seconds.
What it Hits: Obliques, transverses abdominis, lower back, hips and glutes.
Lie on your right side, supporting your upper body on your right forearm, with your left arm at your left side. Lift your hips and keeping your body weight support on the forearm and the side of the right foot, extend your left arm above your shoulder. Hold this position for 10 to 30 seconds. Switch sides and repeat.
Hints: Keep your hips up; don’t let them sag.
Make it Harder: Support your upper body with your right hand, instead of your forearm.
What it Hits: Rectus Abdominis, transverse abdominis
Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Place hands so that your fingers are by your ears (rather than cupping your head in your hands). Contract the abs and curl forward to lift both shoulders off the floor without tucking your chin to your chest (keep chin pointing up). Hold for two counts and then lower. Do two sets of 10 to 12 repetitions.
Hints: Keep stomach tight and tucked in
Make it Harder: Grab two cans from the pantry and hold onto to add resistance.
What it Hits: Rectus abdominis, external obliques and internal obliques.
Lie on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and hands on the sides of your head. Contract your abdominal muscles as you bring your knees up to a 45-degree angle. Straighten and bend your knees as you alternate crossing and touching right elbow to left knee, then left elbow to right knee. Do two sets of 10 to 12 repetitions for each leg.
Hints: Make sure to keep a straight back.
Make it Harder: Do the entire motion in slow motion.
|This packet is designed for education to prevent injury and to promote health. If you experience an injury you should consult with your physician for proper care and treatment. The physicians and physical therapists at K-Valley Orthopedics specialize in sports medicine injuries and understand your desire to maintain an active, healthy lifestyle. Call 269-343-8170 for more information or to schedule an appointment.
Guidelines for Stretching: The key to stretching is consistency over the long haul. You will get more benefit from doing a few minutes each day, rather than spending half an hour one to two days a week. When you stretch you should keep the muscles relaxed and only pull to where you feel a gentle stretch. Do NOT strain. If you pull to hard the muscles will automatically tighten to protect against a muscle tear and you will not improve your muscle length. Do not bounce and remember to relax and breathe easily while stretching.
Hold each stretch for 30 seconds and repeat twice. Do 1-2 x a day.
ITB: This is a large tendon which starts at the top of your hip and pelvis and runs down along the outside of your leg and inserts along the side of your knee and shin. Use a rope or dog leash to assist this stretch. Lie on your back and place a loop around the involved foot. With your knee straight, first raise the leg straight up until you have reached waist height and then pull your leg across your body. Keep your back and shoulders flat on the floor the entire time.
Hip Flexors: These muscles start from the lower spine and the top of the pelvis and insert onto the thigh and knee. Start in a half-kneeling position, with the leg you are stretching behind you. Keep your back straight and lean your hips forward until you feel a gentle stretch across the front or your hip. Do NOT overstretch.
Quadriceps: This is a group of muscles along the front of the thigh. Stand with your back straight, pull your heel toward your buttock until a gentle stretch is felt across the front of your thigh. If you do not feel a stretch, tighten your butt muscles to increase the pull on the front of your thigh.
Piriformis: This is a small muscle which runs from your sacrum to your hip. Laying on your back, with one hand pull your knee up toward your opposite shoulder and with the other hand pull your ankle toward your opposite shoulder until a gentle stretch is felt along your hip and buttock region.
Adductor Stretch: This is the large group of muscles along the groin or inner thigh area. Sit with your legs yoga style but with the bottoms of your feet together rather than crossed, push out on your knees until a gentle stretch is felt along the back of your thigh. Standing with your heel up on a stool, keep your back straight, push your butt back, straighten your knee and pull your toes up until you feel a gentle stretch along the back of your leg.
Gastrocnemius: This is the large muscle along the back of your calf. Position your back leg with knee straight, heel flat on the floor, toes pointed straight ahead. Position your front leg with knee bent, foot flat, toes pointed straight ahead. Lean forward until you feel a gentle pull in the calf muscles of the back leg.
Soleus: This is a smaller muscle of the calf that lies under the gastrocnemius. Position your back leg with knee slightly bent, heel flat on the floor, toes pointed straight ahead. Position your front leg with knee bent, heel flat on the floor, toes pointed straight ahead. Lean forward until a gentle stretch is felt in the muscles of your calf on the back leg.
Hamstrings: This is a large muscle group along the back of the thigh. Place heel on a chair with your toes pulled up towards you, knee straight and push your hips and butt, backwards. Keep your back up straight, DO NOT bend over at the back.
IT Band: This is a large strap like muscle and tendon that runs from the hip to the knee. Cross right leg over left, stick left hip out to the side, bring left arm up over the top of your head. Repeat the same to the other side.
By Alyssa Shaffer
A generation ago, you’d be hard-pressed to find elite runners paying attention to their abs. Today, it’s practically mandatory. “Our coaches drill the importance of core conditioning into our heads,” Says world champion hurdler Lolo Jones. “We’re at it all the time.” That’s because scientists and coaches now know that you can’t run your best without a strong core, the muscles in your abdominals, lower back, and glutes. They provide stability, power, and endurance that runners need for powering up hills, sprinting to the finish, and maintaining efficient form mile after mile. “When your core is strong, everything else will follow,” says Greg McMillan, a running coach in Flagstaff, Arizona, who has worked with scores of elite and recreational runners. It’s the foundation for all of your movement, no matter what level of running you’re doing.
The key is to train your core like a specialist. Experts have mapped out precisely how the movements of running draw on the strength and stability of the glutes, obliques, and ab muscles that lie deep beneath the six-pack. They’ve learned how essential it is for runners to engage these muscles to finish fast, reduce pain, and hang tough on long runs. Best of all, they’ve tailored workouts to help them do that.
All runners – from those rehabbing injuries to elite gunning for PRs-can benefit from this detailed approach. “When all the muscles involved in running are supported, and the muscles in the hips and trunk work together you don’t get as many injuries and can enjoy running more,” says Phil Wharton, a musculoskeletal therapist and co-owner of Wharton Performance Group in New York and the Wharton Health Experience in Flagstaff.
Quality core work isn’t easy. But it doesn’t require more than 15 minutes a few times a week-an investment that will pay dividends on the road. Just ask Lolo Jones. Even in the off-season, she’s working her core three times a week so that when she races, she’ll have the stamina to retain her status as America’s top hurdler. “When my core strength is at its peak,” says Jones, “I can run more efficiently and maintain the extra edge.
Speed. As you enter your stride or quicken the rate of your leg and foot turnover when you’re trying to pick up your pace, the lower abs-including the transverses and rectus abdominis- and lower back are called into action. The stronger and more stable these muscles are, the more force and speed you can generate as you push off the ground.
The glutes and lower abs support the pelvis, which connects to the leg muscles needed to get uphill. If the core is strong, the legs will have a stable plane to push fro, for a more powerful ascent. When you swing your leg forward, the hip-flexor muscles, such as the rectus femoris, pull on the pelvis. As you push off the ground, the glutes and hamstrings are engaged.
When you’re flying down a slope, you need strong gluteal muscles to help absorb the impact and counter the momentum of the forward motion. As fun as it may be to zoom down, without the core strength to control your movement, your quads and knee joints bear the extra pounding of your body weight, which can lead to fatigue, pain, and even injury.
As you’re nearing the end of a race, a solid core helps you maintain proper form and run efficiently, even through fatigue. With strong lower abs and lower- back muscles, such as the erector spinae, it’s easier to stay upright. If your core is weak, you may end up shuffling, slouching, and putting too much stress on your hips, knees, and shins.
Whenever you have to suddenly move to the side-to turn the corner on a track, dodge a pothole, or navigate undulating terrain-the obliques provide stability and help keep you upright. If your core is weak, then you may end up leaning into the movement, which can put excess weight and strain on the joints in your legs and feet.
By Rich Morris
Let’s face it. As distance runners we don’t pay much attention to the basics of stretching. I know that is a generalization, but it is true for most of us. Sure, we probably do some light stretching before a workout or race to loosen up our muscles but we really don’t give proper stretching the attention that it deserves. A proper stretching program will help in several ways. It reduces the risk of injury; decreases muscle soreness and improves performance. There are six basic stretching techniques: static, passive, dynamic, ballistic, proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PFN) and active isolated (AI).
This is the most commonly used technique. A stretch position is gently assumed and held for 20 to 60 seconds. There is no bouncing or rapid movement. Do not stretch to the point of pain. You should feel a slight pull, but no discomfort. Keep all joints in alignment. Do not twist joints into unnatural positions. The stretch should be felt in the belly of the muscle and not in the joints. This type of stretch works best after your workout rather than before.
The basic technique is the same as static stretching. The muscles are kept relaxed and a gentle stretch is maintained for 20 to 60 seconds. The difference with a passive stretch is that a helper actually provides the forces of the stretch. In a static stretch, you get your body into position and supply the force for the stretch with other muscle groups and using body weight. With passive stretching you relax your entire body, while a helper provides the force to stretch your muscles. The same rules apply here. There should be no bouncing or rapid movement. Do not stretch to the point of pain.
A current popular buzzword among athletes is function training. That basically means training that mimics the actibity you are training for. Dynamic stretching could also be called functional stretching. A dynamic stretch is one in which your limbs are moving through their full range of motion. For example, walking with high knees is a dynamic flexibility exercise that stretches your glutes, quadriceps and lower back. Thesestretching exercises are best performed after a warm up and before you begin your activity.
Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF)
Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) was originally developed by physical therapists for reabhilitation purposes. This type of stretch is accomplished by maximally contracting the muscle to be stretched for 5 to 10 seconds. This is followed by a slow passive stretch. This is repeated several times. By contracting the muscle and then stretching, you overcome a tendency for the muscle to resist the stretch, which results in a higher degree of flexibility.
Active Isolated Stretching
Active isolated (AI) stretching is the latest development is flexibility. AI stretching involves contracting the opposing muscle while the target muscles is stretched. The theory is that as one muscle is contracted, the opposing muscle will relax. An example of opposing muscles are the hamstrings on the back of the thigh and the quadriceps muscles on the front of the thigh. By contracting the quadriceps as your stretch the hamstrings, the hamstrings will relax to a greater degree, resulting in a better stretch. Many dynamic stretches are a form of AI stretching.
Which is Best?
With all of these choices, which is the best way to stretch? The recommended methods are dynamic stretching before your training run and either static or AI stretching after your workout. The dynamic stretches do a good job of preparing your muscles for your workout or race without decresasing the energy return potential of your muscles. PNF stretching have been shown to be a high-risk type of stretch. Studies show that AI stretching provides more flexibility than either passive or static stretching. However, all of the stretches are appropriate for beginning runners.
Basic Strength Training Exercises
Single Leg Squat
Squat down on one foot until your leg is bent about 50 degrees; push back up. "Keep your hips even, and your knee over your foot," says coach Bob Larsen. Once you've mastered the move, add dumbbells (start with 5 pounds).
Repetition: 2 sets of 10; build to 2 sets of 12
What it Works: Quads and glutes
Stand on a curb or platform with your heels over the edge. Lift up onto your toes, raise one foot and slowly lower. Once you have the move down, add dumbbells (start with 5 pounds).
Repetition: 1 set of 8; build to 3 sets of 15
What it Works: Calf muscles and Achilles tendon
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding a 5 to 8 pound ball in your hands. Squat down with the ball between your knees, keeping your heels on the floor, sticking your butt out, and not letting your knees go more than a few inches toward your toes. Return
to standing, raising the ball overhead, maintaining a slight bend in your knees. Keep your core engaged the whole time, as if bracing for a punch. Do two or three sets of 12 to 15 reps; increase weight of the medicine ball when you can do 15 in good form
Repetition: 2 to 3 sets of 12 to 15 reps; increase weight of the medicine ball when you can do 15 in good form.