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Five Cross-Training Activities from Allison Tai

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Article by Allison Tai

Cross Training. It’s Time.
I know you know. You should be cross-training. Just like you should be getting eight hours of sleep every night, drinking at least 8 glasses of water and eating clean. It’s definitely hard to get it all in – and still run.

But cross-training goes a long way. Not just in terms of lowering the number on that finish line clock, but also making sure you can get to it in one piece.
These are my five favourite cross-training activities for runners and my solutions for making them happen.

  1. Yoga
    When I was in my  twenties, I thought yoga was a punishment for over-doing it on the miles. Run too much, break yourself, downward dog. Being of a more mature age, I realize the reason my coach sent me to yoga when I was hurt. Yoga is restorative and has amazing potential to heal and realign the body. You can do it before huge injuries crop up when they’re little and manageable, or after, when they’ve swallowed up your ability to even walk pain-free.
    Solution: Unlike when I was in my twenties, yoga is easily accessible. You can find a reputable studio on nearly every street, or stream a quick video right to your computer screen. If you are a social person, commit to a class that fits your schedule once weekly to start. If you’re the homebody type who’s pressed for time, upload a short video and commit to doing it after your easy runs for the next month. (Related article – five easy yoga poses for runners)
  2. MyoFascial Release
    In case you haven’t heard this term, it’s the fancy pants way of saying “roll around on stuff where your body hurts.” It’s my belief that people should be able to address problems in their own bodies, and see them coming for a long time out. I find out very quickly whether my ankle is tight or my hip is full of trigger points when I dig around with a ball.
    Solution: Buy a lacrosse ball and a roller and commit to spending at least 15 minutes per day, every day, all month, to helping your body heal. If you miss a day, that’s fine. But aim for every day. Just make sure to roll gently, never roll over bones and never go to the point of pain. If you cannot relax while you’re rolling, you’re not doing any good. Again, there are a plethora of video guides on the internet. Find what works for you.
  3. Cycling
    We are lucky to live in one of the best cities in the nation for cycling. Cycling not only builds your legs and lungs without the impact, it does so while maintaining a very similar cadence or turnover rate as running. When I was coaching triathletes, I would constantly see runners who had reached a plateau transition to triathlon out of frustration and see huge gains. Just be clear on what you want out of the ride, if you are going for a nice easy spin on an active recovery day, go easy… and if you are substituting a hard workout, put in the same effort.
    Solution: Bike to commute. Start by riding once or twice a week on easy days. Just make sure you plan your route on bike paths, prepare for all sorts of surprise BC weather, and bring a bike lock.
  4. Hiking
    Vancouverites are spoiled by easily accessible world-class hikes throughout the lower mainland. In my opinion, there is no better way to build single leg strength or hip drive than climbing a mountain. Many runners struggle from “lazy glute syndrome” because it’s relatively easy to leave your bum out of the firing pattern when you’re doing most of your mileage on relatively flat terrain. It’s a lot more difficult to get to the top of a mountain without your hips working hard to fight gravity. That increased hip strength and facilitation will likely carry over into your running and into your stride.
    Solution: Organize a weekly hiking excursion with friends. The Grouse Grind is a quick, easy and relatively safe way to get in a lot of elevation. Just make sure you wait until it opens.
  5. Calesthentics
    It’s a big word for a simple methodology: body-weight training. From air squats, to push-ups and pull-ups, to plyometrics… any time you are using your own body weight, you are doing calesthentics. As a runner, your go to should be things like planks, upper body focused exercises, hip strengthening and single leg work. It’s been shown time and time again that upwards of 90% of injuries are correlated with weak hips and/or a weak core. Even 15 minutes dedicated to your core, hips and your under-utilized upper body will make a big impact on your performance – and longevity – as a runner.
    Solution: Make some non-running goals like being able to do a pull-up or 10 push-ups with good form. I have several doorway pull-up bars positioned through out my house so I can do chin-ups and hanging leg raised while making dinner or watching my kids take a bath. It’s easy to build calsthenthics into your routine: stand on one leg while brushing your teeth or work toward your pull-up goals between emails. It doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does have to be consistent.

Allison is a coach at Vancity OCR and a competitive OCR athlete, placing second at the World’s Toughest Mudder 2014.

Benefits of Cross-Training

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Cross-training isn’t usually a runner’s favourite pastime.  If you’re one of the few who actually enjoys doing activities other than running, you’re in luck. Cross-training is an excellent tool to add into your weekly training schedule.

So why does cross-training have such a bad reputation?  Typically, it’s because these activities are associated with injury.  When a runner is taken out of the game and forced to rest, or do another form of exercise other than running, they’re usually not very happy about it.  Thus, they aren’t excited to be on the bike, in the pool, or in the gym.  This mindset needs to change.

Cross-training provides so many benefits: increased muscle strength & flexibility, reduced risk of injury, recovery promotion, and can potentially prolong your running career.  Here are the top reasons to add any form of cross-training into the mix:

  1. Injury Prevention:
    Running is a very repetitive sport that puts stress on the same muscles and joints every step you take.  Pounding the pavement is not easy on your body, and after too many miles, your body will remind you of that by breaking down in some way.  Overuse injuries occur from a variety of factors including muscle imbalances, muscle weakness, inadequate recovery, and irregular biomechanics.  Cross-training helps by: reducing the amount of impact subjected on your body; strengthening non-running muscles; and increasing overall cardiovascular fitness through different means.
  2. Active recovery:
    Running can wreak havoc on your body, especially if you’re doing a lot of mileage.  The continuous pounding of the pavement is required to some extent to prepare your body for longer road races, but can definitely leave you feeling pretty beat up after long days on the road.  While full rest days are essential throughout training, a lot can be gained from taking a day off of running to do an easy cardio day somewhere else.  Switching out an easy run for a bike ride, a swim, or pool run can help to flush out your muscles, promote blood flow to working muscles and actually aid your recovery.
  3. Enhances performance:
    Participating in activities that utilize muscles other than the ones you use while running, will benefit your running performance.  Things like yoga, pilates, swimming, and gym work can help to strengthen your upper body and core which is essential to maintain good running posture.  We’ve all seen people at the end of a race when they’re fatigued and they’re hunched over, have limited knee drive, and their neck jutting forward/backwards.  This can happen due to poor pelvic stability, weak core/upper body muscles, and any other instabilities.  If these areas are strong, you’ll expend less energy trying to stay upright, and instead use that to translate into finishing kick leg power.
  4. Keeps the motivation up:
    Taking a day off from running isn’t going to make your fitness disappear.  Instead, it could increase your motivation for your next run.  Human tendency is to stray from anything that is too monotonous.  No matter how much you adore something, if it’s the only thing you do every single day, there are times when it starts to wear on you.  Throw in a spin class, or a swim, or even a day on the mountains (weather dependent of course), and give your body a break from the daily grind.  You’ll come back to your next run workout feeling fresh and ready to get back into what you love doing.
  5. Greater running fitness:
    Trying new race distances keeps things fun, but when you return to a race you’ve done before it’s in our nature to want to be better, and ultimately faster than we were before.  Cross training can help achieve this.  Your running can be enhanced through other activities as they will help your efficiency, power, and ability to consistently train without excessive cumulative fatigue or injury.  Not only will cross training will work on your cardiovascular fitness and muscular strength without the same impact as running, it will speed up recovery so that you’re able to push harder and get more bang for your buck in each running workout.
  6. Rehabilitation:
    Whether it’s a full-blown injury, or just a little niggle, cross training can help you get back into the game.  Sometimes when a more serious injury occurs, in order to stay in shape you have to modify your schedule to accommodate cross training variations of your running workouts.  Activities such as water running, elliptical training, and cycling are the best for mimicking the muscles used in running.  They are leg dominant alternatives that compliment your running and keep your cardio levels up.  Even if you don’t gain fitness while rehabilitating, you can certainly maintain a solid base that will make your return to running much smoother.

Yoga for Runners

By | Elite Athletes, Training Tips | No Comments
by Katherine Moore (@RunningIntoYoga)

As runners, we’re told time and time again that yoga is great for our tight muscles. So why don’t we practice yoga more frequently if the benefits are innumerable? From the physical benefits, to the mental aspects, and becoming more in-tune with one’s body, it’s hard to belief more athletes don’t have it as part of their structured workout plan.

The more mileage a training program has, the higher the risk of injury.  Pounding the pavement isn’t forgiving, so it’s good to give your body a little TLC to help the muscles recover and relax. Especially if you’re prone to injury.  Quite often, time is a limiting factor.  Compared to quickly lacing up your running shoes and bolting out the door for a run, it takes time to get to a studio, complete your practice, and head home.  However, you don’t have to go to a scheduled class.  If you’re new to yoga it might be worth hopping into a class, just so you understand/experience the different poses.  After that, it’s easy to do some key poses at home that are great for runners and still reap the benefits yoga classes provide.

With the following poses, keep these five general principles in mind:

  1. You should always be able to breathe evenly. Challenge yourself to find your edge but don’t go past it! Allow your body to open up and adjust over the space of about eight to ten breaths in each pose.
  2. Keep your core muscles active throughout the poses, but still remember to breathe.
  3. Keep a neutral spine; try to keep your back flat and don’t over arch your back.
  4. Twisting happens at the waist, not at the shoulders.
  5. Hinge forward from the hips, not your back (remember, neutral spine!).

 

Thunderbolt Pose (toes tucked under)

 

Begin in a tabletop position. Bring feet together and tuck toes under. Slowly lean hips back until you can sit comfortably on heels. Eventually you want to sit with a tall spine, lengthening your tailbone up through your spine. Keep the abdomen toned and hands resting on the thighs. Hold for 8-10 breaths, 2-3 sets. Release slowly and repeat.

 

Opens toes and feet. Strengthens ankles. Start out slowly if feet are tight.

02-11-downwardDownward Dog 

 

From Thunderbolt inhale and lean forward to tabletop pose. Press your hips up and back to form inverted V from the side. Spread your fingers and ground down from the forearms into the fingertips. Outwardly rotate the upper arms broadening the collarbones. Engage the quadriceps strongly to take weight off the arms. Keep a bend in the knees to continue to lengthen the spine.

Opens the entire body fingertips to toes. Opens the hamstrings, shoulders, and strengthens the core, upper body and quadriceps. Hold for 8-10 breaths.

02-11-lungeHigh/ Low Lunge

 

From Downward Dog step your right foot to your right hand and bring your left knee to the floor. Stack your right knee over your right heel. Press your fingers into the floor to lengthen the spine. Roll your shoulders down your back and lengthen your chest forward. Straighten the back of your knee up towards the ceiling (or keep it on the floor for low lunge). Relax and breathe into your hips. Once you feel balanced stretch your arms overhead and spread your fingers wide.

This pose opens the hips, lengthens the spine and stretches the groin and legs. Hold for 8- 10 breaths.

02-11-pigeonPigeon Pose 

 

From Downward Dog, lift your right leg up and place your right knee to the outside of your right hand. Release your left leg to the floor with the toes tucked under. Square your hips. Use padding or a block under your right hip or knee as necessary to bring your hips square. Keep both feet active and begin to lengthen your spine forward and down towards the floor.

Stretches the thigh, glutes, groin, psoas muscle and lengthens the spine. Hold for 8- 10 breaths.

Camel Pose

 

Stand on your knees hip width apart. Place your hands on your lower back for support. Hug your legs towards each other with energy. Inhale lift and expand your chest. Draw your chin in to lengthen the back of your neck, throat back slowly head back. Eventually reaching for your heels. Keep your hips stacked over your knees. Breathe evenly and slowly. To come out of the pose bring your hands back on your lower back lead with your chest head comes out last.

Opens hips and hip flexors, lengthens and improves flexibility of the spine, opens the chest and shoulders improving respiratory, complements overall health and well being.

Savasana – Corpse Pose

 

Complete this series by lying on your back, relax your legs, arms palms face up and close your eyes for 5-15 minutes. This is complete relaxation of all muscle tension and relaxes the mind completely. Never skip Savasana!

10k to Half Training Program

By | Scotiabank Vancouver Half, Training Tips | No Comments

As the spring racing season begins, it’s always worth looking forward to your next goal. The months of training that have prepared you for a spring 10km can set you up for many subsequent races. It’s a perfect launching point for a new distance: the Half-Marathon. Running 21.1km may seem daunting at first, but it’s likely that when starting to prepare for your 10km race that seemed scary too! With a gradual build in mileage, this 10km to Half-Marathon program will prepare you to toe the start line at your next Half-Marathon with confidence!

If your spring goal was a Half-Marathon, keep the momentum going with our Half-to-Half program below! We also have a beginner 5km program and simple Half training schedule as well.

10k to Half-Marathon Program
WEEK MON TUE WED THU FRI SAT SUN
Apr 24–30 Rest 4km Cross-train 4km Rest Cross-train 7km
May 1–7 Rest 5km Cross-train 4km Rest Cross-train 10km
May 8–14 Rest 6km Cross-train 5km w/ hills Rest Cross-train 12km
May 15–21 Rest 6km Cross-train 6km Rest Cross-train 14km
May 22–28 Rest 7km Cross-train 6km w/ hills Rest Cross-train 16km
May 29–June 4 Rest 8km Cross-train 7km Rest Cross-train 18km
June 5–11 Rest 8km Cross-train 7km w/ hills Rest Cross-train 20km
June 12–18 Rest 8km Cross-train 7km w/ hills Rest Cross-train 12km
June 19–25 Rest 5km Rest 4km Rest Rest 21.1km — Event Day

 

Half-to-Half Training Program
WEEK MON TUE WED THU FRI SAT SUN
May 8–14 Rest 5km Cross-train 4km Rest Cross-train 10km
May 15–21 Rest 7km Cross-train 6km w/ hills Rest Cross-train 13km
May 22-28 Rest 7km Cross-train 7km Rest Cross-train 15km
May 29- June 4 Rest 8km Cross-train 7km w/ hills Rest Cross-train 17km
June 5–11 Rest 9km Cross-train 8km Rest Cross-train 19km
June 12–18 Rest 8km Cross-train 8km w/ hills Rest Cross-train 12km
June 19–25 Rest 5km Rest 4km Rest Rest 21.1km — Event Day!

Cross-train with swimming, hiking, cycling, yoga, or strength training. Make sure not to over do it on these days as they are part of your recovery process. Recovering properly is essential to bridge between your two races, so actually rest on those Rest Days! When adding in hills, try to incorporate a few steady climbs into your route, anywhere from 200m to 500m long.

The Scotiabank Vancouver Half-Marathon & 5k offers the perfect summer race weekend. The Half takes participants along a beautiful route from UBC to Stanley Park. The 5k route features Lost Lagoon and the English Bay seawall. Bask in the summer sun and sign-up for the Scotiabank Vancouver Half-Marathon or 5k today!

Date: June 25, 2017
Start time: 7:30am (Half) | 9:30am (5k)
Start location: East Mall, UBC (Half) | Stanley Park (5k)
Finish location: Stanley Park

Tips to Improve your Running Form

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There are many ways to improve as a runner.  If you’re a beginner, getting out the door and having consistent training will make you a better runner by just going through the motions.  As you become more involved in the sport, you begin to make changes to training like incorporating speed work into your schedule, and maybe even seeking out a running coach to help you achieve your goals.  As time goes on, you begin to nitpick the details.  These details are typically part of one’s running form.  Don’t try and fix every issue at once; focus on one change at a time to create better running habits.  From head to toe, here are some things to consider:

Posture – Run with a slight lean forward that comes from the ankles, not the waist.  Bending from the waist, hunching your shoulders, or a slumped position of any part of the body can restrict circulation and reduce the oxygen supply your muscles crave.  You want to maintain a straight line from head to toe; try to maintain a forward lean of about 10 degrees.  To practice, lean forward until you feel like you’re going to fall, then go up onto your toes.  This posture will help gravity drive you forward while you’re running.

Head – Let your gaze guide you. Keep your head looking straight ahead at the horizon, and try not to lean your head back or jutted forward as this can put excess tension/stress on your neck.  Your head position is the starting point of your entire body’s positioning.

Shoulders – Keep your shoulders low and loose.  A lot of runners have a tendency to let their shoulders creep up towards their ears, especially as they get tired.  If your neck gets sore and you feel there’s tension in your shoulders/neck, it’s probably due to keeping your shoulders in a shrugged position.  Shake your arms outs when this happens to remind your upper body to relax.  Tension anywhere in the body will make you less efficient.

Arms – Running is a lower body dominant activity, but your arms move in conjunction with your legs and are a critical part of proper running form.  Keep your arms and hands relaxed, and don’t clench your fists.  Pretend you’re running with a raw egg in each hand that you don’t want to crush.  Keep your arms bent at a 90 degree angle and swing your arms forward and back between your waist and lower chest.  Avoid too much cross-body movement.

Torso – As mentioned, it’s important to keep your back straight, without any exaggerated curvature in your spine.  Keeping your shoulders relaxed and your head looking straight ahead will help maintain an upright position.  Think of it as “running tall”; stretch yourself up to keep your whole body in alignment.  It’ll also help keep your lung capacity at it’s maximum.

Hips – Your hips are your centre of gravity.  While in a slight forward lean, it’s important to remember not to lean forward by bending from your hips.  Doing so will restrict your leg movement/knee drive.  Hunching over, or leaning too far forward will throw your body out of alignment and can put additional pressure on your lower back.  If you finish long runs with a sore lower back, this is a key posture component to work on first.

Legs/stride – Following the rest of your body, your legs are your driving force.  Keeping a slight forward lean will allow for optimal knee drive, and consequently more leg power. Over-striding occurs when you run too upright, reach your legs out ahead of your body, or land with a straight leg rather than a slightly bent knee. Instead, aim to keep your feet under you, not in front of you; and land with your knee slightly bent to absorb the impact of hitting the ground.  Overstriding can put your hamstrings and knees at risk of injury, or cause shin splits.  Try to increase your cadence in order to shorten your stride enough to have your feet underneath you.

Ankles/feet – While running, try to step quietly without slapping your feet onto the ground.  Aim to land in the area between your heel and mid-foot, then roll forward to toe off and into your next step.  You’ll be able to feel your calf muscles working at each push-off.  The ankle will be slightly flexed to provide more force to each toe-off.  Two words to describe good running form are springy and quiet.

There are many video resources on the internet that have great drills for improving your running form.

Preparing for your First Race

By | Race Roster Spring Run-Off, Racing Strategy, Training Tips | No Comments

With race day approaching fast, it can be daunting if it’s your first one.  There are so many tips and to-do lists all over the internet, but which ones are actually useful?  Sometimes the lists are so long, the race prep becomes scarier than the race itself!  Here are a few of our key preparation tips:

The week before the race:

Stop stressing. Races are meant to be fun. They’re great community events with an incredibly positive atmosphere for both runners and spectators.  Locals line the course and cheer you on; volunteers take time to ensure your race experience is top-notch; and you get to celebrate accomplishing your own goals amongst other like-minded people. Race day is an exciting time!  Even if it doesn’t pan out exactly as you had planned, soak in the experience and take what you’ve learned into the next race.

Cover the route beforehand. Course tours are a great way of familiarizing yourself with what to expect on race day.  Knowing what hills or tight turns there may be, will better prepare you and alleviate any unnecessary stress.  If nothing else, it’ll prevent you from getting lost!

Get off your feet. In the days before you race, try to stay off your feet as much as possible.  Doing additional training in the week before a race won’t make you more fit, in fact it can just make you more tired.  Relax, enjoy the taper knowing that the hard work is done!

Don’t carb load in one sitting.  The key to the carb-loading phenomenon is to gradually increase your carbohydrate intake in the few days before the race.  Lower training volumes and higher carb consumption allows the muscles to store more fuel to be utilized on race day.  Eating one massive bowl of pasta the night before a race won’t help your energy stores and can leave you feeling heavy and bloated.

Eat what works for you. If you have a particular meal that you eat the night before long runs, or big workouts, that’s the meal you should have the night before the race.  Trying anything new can put you at risk for GI distress during the race.

Pickup your bib the day before.  Your bib is one of your essentials for race day.  Head to the race expo/package pickup as soon as you can to make sure you have everything you need.  Pin it on whatever top you’ve decided on to be ready for race day morning.

Get ready the night before & stick to what you know. Lay out your gear and know where your necessities are.  Plan on wearing an outfit that you know doesn’t cause any irritation; prepare a race-day breakfast that you’ve had success with before; and don’t try out new shoes or race fuel on race day.  Stick to what you know!

Catch those zzz’s.  Pre-race nerves can leave people feeling anxious and can interrupt their sleep.  Rest east knowing that it’s actually the sleep you have two nights before a race that is the important one!

Race day:

Limit your fluid consumption. The days leading up to the race are when you should be hydrating, but race morning isn’t the time to be chugging back fluids.  Sip at water or electrolytes in the morning, but don’t go overboard.

Arrive early. Having picked up your race bib the day of two before the race means that all you have left to do is warmup, use the washroom, and gear check anything you need to.  There can be lines of people at the port-o-potties or gear check tents, so arrive with enough time to factor that in.  You don’t need to start your race with a sprint to the start line.

Carry the essentials.  Don’t forget to carry a piece of ID, write your information on the back of your bib, and bring your credit card or cash in case something goes wrong.  There are always plenty of volunteers and spectators along the race that will be able to help you, but you want to be overly prepared.  Just in case.

Bring a garbage bag. If it’s going to be a rainy day, garbage bags make for excellent throw away rain jackets.  They’ll keep your running attire dry and warm, and can be thrown to the side once the race begins.  Just make sure to go to the side of the road to toss your bag so you don’t hit anyone running behind/beside you.

Set a few goals.  Not every race is going to be spectacular, and it’s good to be prepared for that.  After the months of training, it’s great to set a few goals: an A goal that could be achieved on a perfect day; a B goal that is reasonable is the conditions or your body is feeling sub-par; and a C goal that has nothing to do with your finishing time.  That way, no matter what the day brings, there will be something positive to take away from it.

Start slow, and stay even. It’s easy to go off the start line like a bat out of hell, but it’s important to keep your adrenaline in check and start conservatively.  The first part of the race usually feels easy as your muscles are fresh and ready to go.  If you start too fast, the time you’ve “banked” can come back to bite you in the butt later in the race when the fatigue sets in.  Try and maintain an even pace, and if you’re feeling good, expend that remaining energy in the final stretch to the finish line.

Isn’t all that running bad for your knees?

By | Training Tips | No Comments

The Centre for Sport and Recreation Medicine has been a proud medical sponsor of the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon for 15 years. We’ve had the privilege of helping many runners make it to the start line and watch thousands of runners cross the finish line every year. New this year, we’re partnering with Canada Running Series to provide a monthly blog to support runners preparing for the race. Whether this is your first 5K or your 50th marathon, we wish you well in reaching your goal!

By: Alison Pinto, PT, FCAMPT, CAT(C)
Physiotherapist, Athletic Therapist

Good-intentioned people (typically non-runners) often advise runners to be wary of running so much because of the harm it will do to one’s knees.  While it’s assumed that pounding the pavement also results in pounding the cartilage of the knees, eventually leading to arthritis, this is not the case. In a recent study comparing runners and non-runners, Lo et al. determined there was no increased risk of symptomatic arthritis in runners and that running does not appear to be detrimental to the knees. Similarly, Chakravarty et al. looked at x-rays for a group of long distance runners and non-runners over almost twenty years and determined that runners did not develop arthritis at an accelerated rate compared to non-runners. It’s believed that running could even be protective against arthritis since running assists in maintaining a healthy weight and keeps muscles strong, thereby decreasing load on the joints.

Strong Glut Medius – Proper alignment

That being said, knee pain in runners must be common enough to coin the term “runner’s knee”. This type of injury (also known as patellofemoral pain syndrome, or PFPS) is characterized by pain in the front of the knee around the knee cap. Pain usually occurs while bending the knee, such as squatting, going down stairs, or running. While the pain can be sharp and hinder day to day activities, this type of injury is usually the result of a muscle imbalance and not structural damage to the knee. Since running is a forward motion, runners tend to develop tightness in the muscles that move the hip in that direction, namely the iliopsoas (hip flexor) and tensor fascia lata. Conversely, muscles that control the lateral mobility of the hip (gluteus medius and mimimus) are underused and become weaker. However, those lateral muscles are important to stabilize the pelvis and knee while running.

Weak Glut Medius- Leads to hip drop and knee collapse.

To test how strong your lateral muscles are, stand in front a mirror with your hands on the top of your hip bones. Now bend your right knee to lift the right foot off the ground. Ideally your hips should remain level and your knee should remain over the ankle

If your right hip dropped it indicates weakness in your left hip stabilizers. Hip drop leads to the knee collapsing inwards when all the weight is on that leg. As a result, the knee cap (patella) rubs against the ridges of the thigh bone (femur) instead of gliding smoothly in the groove. This leads to the sharp pain that is felt when bending the knee.

If you found that you were weak on one (or both) side, try this strengthening exercise:

  • Lie on your side with hips and knees bent slightly. Ensure shoulders, hips and heels are all in a straight line.
  • Keeping the feet together, lift the top knee as high as possible without rotating backwards through the pelvis. Ensure you feel the muscles of the buttocks and not the front of the hip working.

Repeat 3 sets of 10-15 reps, or as many as you can do with good form.

Don’t let runner’s knee hold you back. See one of our highly-trained therapists who can determine if you have any muscle imbalances which may be impacting your running. Visit our website at www.torontosportsmedicine.ca to book your appointment today.

References

Chakravarty, E. (August 2008). Long Distance Running and Knee Osteoarthritis: A prospective Study. American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 35(2), 133-138.

Lo, G. (February 2017). Is There an Association Between a History of Running and Symptomatic Knee Osteoarthritis? A Cross-Sectional Study From the Osteoarthritis Initiative. Arthritis Care & Research, 69(2), 183-191.

Tell-tale signs that you need a day off

By | Training Tips | No Comments

It’s often believed that “more is more” when it comes to training.  Runners get stuck in a mindset that the more they do, the better they become.  This is true to a certain extent, but oftentimes the value of a rest day gets forgotten.  If you have put your body through the wringer with workouts, long runs, and cross training without a day off, chances are you aren’t going to recover enough to reap the benefits of your efforts.  Instead, a cumulative fatigue can set in and leave you overtrained or burnt out.

Here are some tell-tale signs you might be due for a day off:

Altered heart rate:
This is noticeable particularly with individuals who train with a heart rate monitor.  Many of us have an idea of what our resting heart rate is, and if you don’t it’s worth figuring out.  When your resting heart rate is altered, it’s a sign that your metabolic rate is elevated to meet the demands of training.  A lower-than-normal heart rate can also be an indication that you’re overtraining.  When you’re feeling off, take a heart rate check and see if it’s trying to tell you to rest!

Increased irritability:
Overtraining can not only affect your physical state, but your emotional state too.  When you’re starting to burn out, moodiness, depression, and general irritability are common.  While we all know exercise is supposed to make us happier due to the blissful endorphin rush, these stress-fighting chemicals are released alongside cortisol which is a stress hormone.  If cortisol levels remain elevated for an extended period of time, it can negatively affect one’s mental health.  It can get to the point that running/exercising is no longer enjoyable, and anyone/anything can send you spiraling into a bad mood, especially if they ask about how training is going!  If that’s the case, take a day or two to reset and allow your body to relax.  Pop into a low key yoga class to really let your mind settle – just make sure it’s easy.

Extended muscle soreness:
When you’re training hard, it’s common to have delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) for one or two days after a workout.  The issue is when that muscle soreness is prolonged, or just doesn’t go away.   If you’re still sore after 72 hours, it’s worth scheduling a day off.  Working out on sore muscle can hinder any muscle building efforts.  Instead of trying to hammer out another workout session, or even pounding the pavement on an easy run, take that time to roll, stretch, refuel, and hydrate to allow your muscles to rebuild without being broken down again.

Insomnia:
When we’re tired from intense training, it’s usually easy to fall asleep.  However, when we’re extremely fatigued, insomnia can set in.  This is due to an overload on the body’s nervous system and hormonal system.  It’s crucial to sleep during the 10pm to 2am period as your body builds and grows during rest, not during training.  The stress of overtraining can lead to anxiety, impair our judgements, decrease cognitive function, and lower our immunity.  Anyone who has suffered from insomnia knows that it’s a negative cycle: the less you sleep, the more you worry about not sleeping, and the harder it is to sleep.  Taking a few days off and focusing on allowing the body to properly shut down at night could be the winning solution to one’s insomnia.

Unquenchable thirst:
Dehydration can play a huge role in overtraining.  Our body sweats during exercise, and the more you exercise, the more you sweat.  A good indicator of your hydration level is to look at the colour of your urine.  The darker the colour, the more your body is struggling to retain fluids because there isn’t enough circulating the body to properly hydrate you.  The dark urine indicates that the body is retaining as much water as it can while still excreting waste.  Therefore, the more hydrated we are, the more water we have in our urine making it more diluted.  Dehydration can also cause headaches, dizziness, muscle cramps, and irritability.  If these symptoms are present, be sure to add in some electrolytes into your water too.

Safety Tips for Runners

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Running safety is of the utmost importance, but sometimes it gets pushed out of people’s minds as thinking about the consequences isn’t appealing. Run-ins with bicycles, cars, dogs, or other people are all things that could have a potential risk associated with them. The best way to eliminate any fear or reluctance while out on a run is to be properly prepared. Follow these simple guidelines for best practices in run safety:

  • Know your route.  Make sure you’ve planned ahead according to what time of day you’re running at.  If there’s a route that’s well-lit and more populated, choose that if you’re heading out in the dark.
  • Tell someone where you’re going.  Not only is planning your route good practice for your own benefits, but it makes it easier to share with someone else.  If you’re planning on heading out on a solo run, inform a friend, significant other, or family member of where you’re going and how long you’ll be.  That way, should anything happen they’ll know where to go.
  • Be aware.  It’s easy to zone out while on a run, especially when we get into a good rhythm.  However, it’s important to keep tuned in to your surroundings throughout the entire run and not just when you deem it necessary.
  • Avoid headphones.  While it’s nice to have the company of some good music or an interesting podcast, running with headphones can eliminate the sounds of the things around you.  It can be difficult to hear an approaching bike, car, person, or even a foul ball from a recreational baseball game if you’re plugged in. If you must have your headphones, leave one ear out.
  • Be visible.  Don’t assume because you’re wearing a light coloured jacket that people will see you.  Instead, make the assumption that no one can see you and dress appropriately.  Wear high-vis gear such as reflective vests, headlamps, and other clip on lights so people know exactly where you are.
  • Bring your phone.  It’s always nice to leave your phone at home and take a break from the incessant buzzing of e-mails, texts and other notifications, but sometimes it’s smarter to bring it with you.  You can set it to ‘Do Not Disturb’ so your pocket isn’t constantly making noise, but at least you’ll have it in case of emergencies.
  • Carry ID.  Heaven forbid something does happen during a run, having a piece of identification can help if you’re injured or in a situation where you need someone else’s help.
  • Run with a group.  It can be a local running group, a friend, or your dog. When you run with someone it decreases the chance of being targeted as a victim, and provides a helping hand if you get hurt.
  • Trust your instincts.  Don’t put yourself in a situation where you feel uneasy.  If heading into the trails as the sun is setting doesn’t make you feel confident, stick to a well-lit path.  If there’s a person that doesn’t look trust-worthy, veer away from them or change direction accordingly.
  • Follow the rules.  Face oncoming traffic; look both ways before crossing the road; obey traffic signals; and check around you to avoid bumping into an oncoming or passing runner.
  • Vary your route.  Not only does it keep things fresh for you, mixing up your route can stop recognizable patterns.  Be sure to stay in familiar areas and keep in mind where the nearest open stores/businesses are.
  • Know basic self-defense.  Take some time to learn some basic self-defense moves to properly prepare you for any situation that may occur.

Running Solo

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By: Katrina Allison, Speed River Track and Field Club.
Photo Credit: Michael P Hall.

My name is Katrina Allison, and I am a 10,000m runner with Speed River TFC. I was born in Vancouver where I was introduced to the sport through the Thunderbirds Track Club, and then attended the University of Guelph where I competed for four and a half years as a Gryphon. Recently I have taken on my next academic chapter, where I am studying to become a naturopathic doctor in Toronto. I am now running post-collegiately, and am still coached by Dave Scott-Tomas and the Speed River group in Guelph. I’m currently gearing up for an outdoor track season after suffering an injury that put me out for the 2016 season.

Most runners would agree that running is an activity best enjoyed alongside their closest training partner or community running group. However, many of us will find ourselves lacing up alone at some point or another. While having a training group provides structure, a social outlet, and a little friendly competition, running on your own can also have benefits. The key is approaching solo workouts with the right mindset.

  • Stick to a schedule. If training on your own for an extended period of time, the flexibility of being able to fit workouts and runs into your own personal timetable is a definite plus, however it can also lead to a loss of accountability. If you procrastinate a run because there’s no group to notice your absence, it may lead to runs being skipped or pushed off. I recommend planning out your week’s workouts ahead of time. That way you can still navigate social events, work or school obligations, all while ticking off your training plan.
  • Download an upbeat playlist. Or don’t! If the hardest part of a solo run is getting out the door, having some tracks on hand that energize you and make you want to move can definitely do the trick. That being said, don’t be afraid of running sans tunes. You’ll be amazed at how therapeutic a run can be when you allow your mind to wander without the bombardment of the latest beats. Before you know it, you’ll be back at your door with a clearer mind and a few km’s in your legs.
  • Use GPS sparingly. Without the pressure of your training partner breathing down your neck, it may seem difficult to push yourself to the pace you know you’re capable of running. This is when a GPS watch can help give you an indicator if you’re way off pace, or right where you need to be. If you know what pace you normally run with a group, you can use that as a bench mark for solo workouts. But don’t berate yourself if you’re a second or two off pace; the mental toughness aspect of your workout is definitely higher than when you’re just coasting behind your workout buddy.
  • Change it up. Workouts can get monotonous when you don’t have playful banter to make the miles blow by. It may be helpful to constantly keep your body and mind guessing by trying new things. If the thought of doing the same set of mile repeats around the same park at the same time every Tuesday makes you sick to your stomach, it’s definitely time for some creativity. Hit the track one week, followed by trails the next. Throw in some hills, try change of pace workouts, find a cross training modality, and add in some strength training. Your fitness and your sanity will thank you.
  • Appreciate the chance to listen to your body. As much as running with others helps us to push ourselves, it can also cause us to push ourselves too hard. Training solo even one or two days a week can help you stay in tune with what you’re body is telling you, and give you the chance to comply with your body’s needs. You may even notice earlier indicators of overuse injuries that would have been drowned out by the latest recount of Game of Thrones with your pals. Go the pace that best facilitates your recovery and preparation for the next big race or workout, and check in with how your body is coping with your recent training.