Monthly Archives: January 2017

In Running, Hip Extension Matters

A lot of attention gets paid to foot strike these days.  Unfortunately, it’s not one of the biggest problems runners face.  The major factor that most often gets overlooked is hip extension.  Since our stride starts at the hip, that’s where we should focus to fix everything that happens after it starts.  We need our hips to open for an efficient stride, to run faster and help prevent injuries.

How does a good stride start?  The gluteus maximum fires.  It creates most of our forward propulsion when running and causes hip extension.  Unfortunately, this seemingly simple movement  can be limited by several things.  Hip flexor tightness, weak supporting muscles like the gluteus medius, groin tightness, unbalanced pelvic bones, quad tightness and even pronation of the feet can all restrict hip movement.  This restricted movement creates all sorts of form errors, most commonly overstriding, and can lead to injuries.

To open our hips and help our most powerful asset, the glutes, function properly, we need to stretch and strengthen.  Check that your glutes are firing when you run by feeling each thigh Image may contain: one or more people and people sittingpulled back with every step.  If you’re not sure, practice bridges or single leg deadlifts until you’re comfortable with what a working glute feels like.

When you know your glutes are working but still have some restriction, look to your hip flexors.  Hip extension gets a whole lot tougher if they’re tight.  Think of your hips like a bowl.  You want to keep the bowl still and not spill all of the valuable energy they harness.  Tight hip flexors can lead to lots of lost power by rocking that bowl forward and back with each step.  Exercises like couch stretch and pigeon pose can loosen them up and should be done regularly.

Be sure to remember practice makes perfect.  Any additional mobility or strength will change the way your body moves.  Train with proper form at all times.  When a run gets challenging, stop to reset.  It’s hard work but those missed injuries and new PRs are worth it in the end.

Coach Meredith

4 Tips to Run Faster

Everyone wants to run faster.  Whether it’s breaking a 30 minute 5k or hitting a sub-3 hour marathon every runner has a goal they haven’t reached yet.  Here are four tips to improve your running and help you hit that next PR.

Form:  It’s hard work to run faster than you’re currently comfortable.  Wildly moving elbows, over-striding and breaking at the hip all make it that much tougher.  Developing proper posture and a good foot strike position can go a long way to help.  The base of any good program should focus on eliminating form faults that hamper your ability to get where you want to go.  Try taking a video of yourself to see what your form looks like then think about what could improve.  Of course, every runner has a different natural gait, making it a good idea to get together with a coach for a gait analysis before comparing yourself to the run fasterprofessionals.

Turnover.  Moving your feet faster is a good way to run faster, right?  Increasing your cadence, also known as step rate, has two big benefits.  The first is that it can decrease your risk of injury by lowering the amount of time your foot spends in contact with the ground.  It’s hard for your body to get injured in the air.  Less time being pounded into the ground means less stress on your legs.  The second benefit is that it can make you faster and more efficient because less time spent on the ground means less friction and faster movement.  Elite distance runners have an average step rate of 180-220 steps per minute while less experienced runners typically average around 165.  Use a metronome to help you find your current rate then work to gradually increase it.  Striders and short repeats are a great way to work on this skill.

Power.  The more power you put into the ground with each step the more will be returned to your body for the next one.  The key to building power is strength training.  You can run hills, hit the gym for box jumps or jump rope, they’ll all help you run faster.  Sit-ups and push-ups are also great exercises for runners.  They build the core stability and strength that’s needed to maintain proper form late into any race.

Practice.  To run faster, you actually have to do it.  To be ready for speed on race day you need to get comfortable at race pace or even faster.  Speed work, whether it’s on the track, road or trail is the key to better race times.  Repeats at a variety of distances and speeds all have a purpose and should be part of your training plan.

Use these four tips to run faster for success racing this spring.  Challenge yourself to improve in each of these categories and see what you can accomplish.

Coach Meredith

Easy Running for Faster Running

Easy running might seem pointless.  How can you get faster if you don’t actually run faster?  The truth is you can’t.  To improve speed, running economy and endurance you do have to run faster than you are comfortable.  But you don’t have to do it all the time, nor do you want to.  A balance between hard and easy workouts is the best way to build fitness without risking injury easy runningor burnout.  The purpose of easy running is to build a foundation.  Building this foundation is how your body adjusts to the stresses of road running over time and will ultimately lead to improved race times and a lower risk of injury.

Easy running will help you earn stronger bones, tougher joints, improved running economy, develop slow twitch, fat burning muscles and increased aerobic capacity without beating yourself up.  You need fast days to work on turnover, mitochondria and VO2max but easy running days are not necessarily ‘junk miles’ because you’re still working towards a goal.  As long as each run has a purpose your time and effort is never wasted.

That’s because going as fast as you can all the time is asking for trouble.  Your body has to take care of itself after hard workouts.  It has to repair damaged muscle, expand blood vessels and learn to process more oxygen.  An easy workout helps clear out waste from muscles, improve circulation and might actually help speed muscle recovery.  If you push all the time, those processes never get to finish their jobs and you’re inviting over training and burnout.  Alternating hard and easy running workouts gives your body a chance to make all of the positive performance enhancing adaptations it can.

The most important thing is to make sure your easy running is just that.  Easy.  Aim to be at least one minute slower than your goal race pace for the duration of an easy workout.  As your fitness level increases it can become hard to slow the pace down.  Keep the goal of each workout in mind when you’re out there feeling like you’re not accomplishing anything.  Your body has to have time to adapt to training stimuli so you can ultimately increase your performance level.

Coach Meredith

4 Treadmill Workouts for Bad Weather

When the weather’s bad runners can be stuck inside earning their miles on the dreaded treadmill.  It can be incredibly boring to spend lots of time running in place and it’s not known to be many runner’s first choice.  Luckily, a little variety can help and as long as you don’t fall for these treadmill myths, you’ll get a good workout in regardless of where you have to do it.  Here are treadmill workoutsfour treadmill workouts to try the next time you’re not able to hit the road.

Build It.  This 30 minute pyramid workout makes a great tempo session.  After your warm-up, start running at an easy pace.  Increase your speed by a comfortable margin every 2 minutes for the first 18 minutes then decrease by the same amount every 2 minutes to finish back at an easy pace.  When it’s time to up the ante, 0.2 miles an hour is a good jump.  If you’re not comfortable with your top speed being over a mile an hour faster, cut it down to 0.1.  You’ll still get a solid session in and your time on the dreadmill will be over before you know it.

Mix it up.  Intervals can be done anywhere and that means even on a treadmill.  No need to be afraid, most treadmills can handle whatever speed your workout calls for.  Determine whether you should stand, walk or jog between speedy sections and set the treadmill to do it automatically for you.  It’s a good idea to give yourself a few extra seconds at each speed, however, because the mill takes longer than we do on the road to speed up and slow down.

Start climbing.  Build strength by running treadmill ‘hills’.  Ramp up the incline and then lower it back down at predetermined minutes or distance.  Mix up the height of your ‘hill’ while trying to maintain your speed for a challenging session.  While you won’t get practice running downhill too, you will get stronger as the time flies by.

Do something else.  Add some other exercises to your treadmill workouts.  Warm up, run a mile then hop off to do some squats or push-ups.  Repeat several times to build full body fitness while still racking up some of those needed miles.  Pick a treadmill at the end of a row and choose exercises that keep you close.  Body weight and dumbbell movements are perfect, especially upper body ones that give those hard working legs a breather.

Of course, you can always put on a favorite show and just run.  If you’re looking for a little more fun, give any one of these treadmill workouts a try.  You’ll stay on track with your training no matter what’s going on outside.

Coach Meredith

Cross-Training to Run Faster

With the spring training season gearing up and dreams of new PRs, there’s no better time to add cross-training to your plan.  A workout that doesn’t include running is considered cross-training and is a must with any training plan.  With an option out there for everyone, it’s easy to find something you enjoy doing while giving your body a break from the pavement.

It’s true.  No matter what you enjoy doing outside of going for a run there’s something for you.  Yoga, swimming, cycling and Crossfit all get the job done while making you a stronger athlete.  Here are some of the big benefits you’ll get from adding two or three non-running sessions to your weekly plan.

Lift weights.  Strength training is a great way to resolve the muscle imbalances many runners experience.  We’re all naturally stronger on one side than the other and running just makes that more pronounced.  By training unilaterally, one side at a time, with exercises like walking lunges, pistols and side planks, you’ll be a more balanced and less injury prone athlete.  Strength training also increases running economy which might just mean a new PR.

Move your legs.  Spinning or cycling is a fun alternative to hitting the track.  It’s also a great way to work on increasing your cadence.  A higher cadence means more efficient running and the cross-trainingbike is a perfect place to get your legs used to moving faster.  Cycling with tension uses leg muscles similarly to running uphill without the impact, reducing risk of an injury while building strength.  Hit the trails on a mountain bike or join a spin class to reap the benefits.

Less stress.  Swimming, cycling and rowing are low impact activities that increase fitness without additional stress on bones.  They can lower your risk of overuse injuries and stress fractures while improving overall cardiovascular capacity.  Even strength training can be considered low impact and is hugely beneficial to runners.

Mix it up.  Try different types of cross-training.  There’s no reason your non-running workouts always have to be the same.  Changing the stimulus your body experiences constantly to get stronger, fitter and faster before you know it.  Mountain bike on Monday, take a yoga class on Thursday and a recovery swim on Sunday to keep muscles challenged without overuse.

Find something you love.  The key with cross-training is to find something you enjoy doing.  You might even find more than one thing you love.  You’ll have the opportunity to meet new people, push yourself in new ways and have fun.  No matter what that activity is, you should look forward to your non-running workouts.

The most important thing about cross-training?  Be sure your alternative workout isn’t so hard it takes away from the quality of your target training runs.

Coach Meredith