Category Archives: Injury

4 Ways to Wreck Recovery

All athletes know their next workout is only as good as their recovery from the last one.  If you’re not able to bounce back from a tough session the next one will certainly suffer.  No matter what type of event you’re training for, proper recovery is key to continuing progress.  While we can’t always be perfect, here are four pitfalls you’ll want to avoid if improvement is your goal.

Starve.  Eat!  Eat something as soon as you can.  Waiting too long will lead your body to breakdown rather than rebuild mode.  Protein bars, chocolate milk, your favorite protein powder or a nut buttered bagel can get you through in a pinch but you’ll definitely want some protein, carb and fat within 30 minutes of wrapping up.  Next be sure to get a full, well-rounded and nutritious meal within two hours.

Get cold.  An ice bath might feel good but it’s not always the best idea.  Dropping your core temperature too soon after a session shuts down the body’s all important inflammation response and prevents damaged muscles from getting the nutrients they need.  This study found that heating muscles improved post recovery performance more than cooling them with a few exceptions.  When working out multiple times a day cooling can speed the recovery process between sessions.  Cooling can also aid in lowering core temperature before bed time, leading to higher quality sleep.  So go ahead and take that hot shower, it won’t hurt.recovery

Booze it up.  That’s not to say you should skip the post race party.  The entire list of pros and cons for a post run beer are covered here but if you’ve just finished a marathon, focus on giving your body something good for it first.  It wants it!  On the other hand, if all you were accomplishing was an easy fun run with pals, you can probably get away with a cold one along side your glass of water.

Skip the Nap.  If you’re not planning a nap after your long run you’re going to miss out.  Sleep is paramount to proper recovery.  There are big benefits to a little snooze.  Those include muscles being repaired, blood pressure dropping and your brain being recharged.  The best idea is always to get a good, full night’s rest with 8+ hours of sleep but a nap is a great way to kick off the process.

Focus on recovering properly from every single workout and you’ll see progress.

Coach Meredith

Strong Hips for Runners: 3 Exercises

Runners need strong hips.  They’re the driving force behind every stride you take and the better they are able to perform the faster you’ll cover ground.  Tight hip flexors and weak glutes are common and contribute to a myriad of injuries from IT Band syndrome to runner’s knee.  Strengthening your hips and glutes helps prevent injuries while improving running form and increasing speed.  Here are four of Team ECRP‘s favorite hip power building exercises.

Fire Hydrant.  This simple body weight exercise is a winner for working the hip abductors.  Start with your hands and knees on the ground in an all fours position then lift your leg away from your midline.  Be sure to keep your hips still while focusing on the activation of hip and glute strong hipsmuscles.  Pause at the top then repeat for your desired number of reps and sets.

Clam Shells.  Another uncomplicated exercise, clam shells also work the hip abductors.  You can step the difficulty up by adding a resistance band above your knees but that’s not necessary to get the benefits.  Begin lying on your side with a neutral spine.  Bend your knees to 90 strong hipsdegrees and hips to 45 with your top leg stacked directly on your bottom one.  Keeping your feet together raise your top knee away from the bottom one (abducting your hip).  Pause at the top then repeat for your target number of reps and sets.

Seated Band Hip Abduction.  Use this move to earn strong hips anstrong hipsd glutes.  Begin sitting on a bench or chair with a flat back and feet flat on the floor shoulder width apart.  Place a resistance band around your legs above the knees.  Grip the front of the bench with both hands and maintain good posture while you pull your knees apart.  Do not let your knees cave in after you pause and return to the starting position for your goal reps and sets.

Strong hips are important and using these three exercises will help you earn them.

Coach Meredith

Running 101: Indoor Workout Alternatives

Winter.  Summer.  Each comes with its own set of weather based challenges.  From high temperatures to icy roads anyone can get forced into an indoor workout once in a while.  While it might seem like the dreaded treadmill is your only option there are plenty of alternative choices that are equally as effective at working you out.  As long you’re not ditching all your miles trying one of these alternatives will keep you safely inside and ensure a quality workout.

Water running.  If you have access to a pool water running can be a great option.  Frequently used as a tool for injured runners to stay in shape while the heal, running in deep water with the aid of a floatation device is a great alternative to dangerous outdoor conditions.  Pushing through the water will strengthen muscles and hip joints while still getting your cardio in.

Strength training.  Every runner needs strength training.  It provides tons of benefits from increased endurance to better form and faster times.  There are thousands of options for exercises and classes out there so find something you like.  Focus on higher intensity activities with weights on the heavier side to build running muscles.  Perform exercises that strengthen your entire body so it can support you for as long as you want to run.indoor workout

Plyometrics.  Plyometrics can fall under strength training or it can be performed on its own.  Jumping is a great way to build running power.  Whether it’s box jumps, jump rope or lateral bounds jumping around will get your heart rate up while making your quads, hamstrings, hips, knees, ankles and feet stronger.

Yoga.  With the massive variety of yoga classes available at most studios you’re sure to find something that will get your heart rate up.  Mobility is a big issue for lots of runners but having a good range of motion is incredibly important.  This indoor workout will help you stretch, open up joints and relax all at once.

Coach Meredith

Running 101: Injury Free Training

Every runner dreads injury.  Not only can it derail all of your recent training effort, it can be painful, uncomfortable and come with a potentially hefty medical bill.  The best way to keep logging miles without some sort of boo-boo or broken bone sidelining you is to use preventative care.  That can mean lots of things but here are Team ECRP‘s favorite ways to run injury free all year long.

Strength Train.  Strength training and cross training are extremely important elements of a training plan that helps you steer clear of injuries.  It will help you build muscle to support the pounding your body takes from running.  Strength training also makes you a more durable, injury resistant, athlete.  No matter what kind of strength training you choose make sure it’s something you like.  There are tons of options available out there from Crossfit to spin class so you’re guaranteed to find something fun.injury free

Listen.  Pay attention to what your body is telling you on a daily basis and you’ll be able to head off any injury before it happens.  Injury free running isn’t a dream.  It’s a reality if you’re able to pick up on what your body needs.  A day off?  An adjusted workout?  What about that massage you’ve been waiting for?  Stop waiting, rest up and tone it down.  No one know what your body needs better than you if you’re willing to listen to it.

Gear Check.  From chaffing to shin splints worn out, poorly fitted gear or improper gear can lead to disaster.  If you’re tackling trails, don’t wear your track spikes.  Be aware of training environment and dress appropriately.  Check in regularly with your clothing and especially your running shoes.  Crummy old shoes love creating problems from lack of support.  Stay injury free by having the right gear in the right condition.

Eat.  While every runner has different nutritional needs, eating is important.  Eating too much can lead to weight gain and numerous health issues while eating too little means your body can’t recover or build muscle like it wants to.  Poor nutritional habits can result in stress fractures, excess fatigue and bad workouts.  Consult a professional when designing your meal plan to make sure you’re taking in enough calories to stay injury free.

Coach Meredith

Are You Too Sick to Run?

Can I run?  Should I run?  Wondering if you’re too sick to run is a common questions for runners.  This is a tough question to answer.  Everyone reacts to feeling badly differently and we all recover at different speeds.  What one person can do with a slight head cold might not work for another.  Here are a few tips to help you determine if you should hit that session or stay inside.too sick to run

Weather.  Take into account the weather.  Bad weather isn’t going to help you get well.  Heading out into cold, windy or wet conditions when you’re feeling crummy isn’t a good idea.  Working out can put a lot of stress on your body so don’t make it even tougher but adding adverse outdoor conditions.  Have an indoor or cross training session instead of braving the elements if possible and don’t worry about one or two missed workouts.  You’re better off being healthy!

Move Around.  Sometimes getting up and moving around can help you feel better all on its own.  Increasing circulation and putting muscles to work will kick your body into repair mode.  We tend to be idle when we aren’t 100% and that can make things worse.  If it feels more like lack of motivation than actual sickness, get up and move.

The Neck Rule.  If your symptoms are above your neck, say a runny nose and mild headache, you’re good to go.  When symptoms present below your neck, such as coughing or weakness, you should probably skip out.  The single exception to this rule is a fever.  If your temperature is climbing, stay put and enjoy some chicken soup with a movie.

Activity Level.  Many tapering marathoners catch colds.  Their bodies are so used to repairing and fighting during months of training that when they take a breather the immune system goes bonkers.  You’re probably not too sick to run if that’s your situation.  You won’t be doing any incredibly challenging workouts anyway, so enjoy those few light weeks even if you’re not 100%.

Coach Meredith

Running 101: Do You Need an Off Season?

Professional runners across all disciplines get an off season.  Whether they’re choosing to compete at certain times of the year or their sport predetermines it, they are sure to take time off between seasons.  For those of us who aren’t professional athletes, however, options to compete carry on all year long.  You can run a 5k every single weekend if you want to but you can’t race one.

If you’re just out there to get moving every time you toe the line, odds are you aren’t training at a very high level.  You might run for fun.  You might just run with friends.  If, on the other hand, you’re an age group or contending athlete your training is intense.  The more intense each training cycle is the more likely you are to need an off season.  Here are three reasons why.off season

Recover.  Injury prevention is a big reason to take an off season.  Our bodies cannot continue indefinitely to be beat up the way they are when we train and race hard all year long.  Work load is dramatically decreased, especially running, during the off season.  Both our minds and bodies need a break from the constant barrage of stimuli that come along with a hard training cycle.

Repair.  Take the time now to deal with any lingering issues.  See that physical therapist you’ve been putting off.  Get massages and take bubble baths.  Build strength in the muscles that got you through race season.  Eliminate weak spots and work towards strength goals that will help you run faster next race season.

Plan.  Goal setting is incredibly important.  Use this down time to look back at how your season went.  Why did it go that way?  Put time and effort in determining what went well and what didn’t rather than nailing each workout.  Decide what races you’ll target during your next training cycle and how to best prepare for them.  Set realistic goals based on past performances.

Taking an off season can be a wonderful training tool and a welcome break.  It’s the time to relax and have fun while letting your body heal and prepare for the next cycle of hard work.

Coach Meredith

Running 101: Cross vs Strength Training

Often used interchangeably, cross training and strength training are something all runners should have in their training plan.  They are, however, not the same activities.  Cross training is any activity that increases or maintains your fitness while giving you a break from your most trained modality.  That means biking or kayaking if you’re a runner and swimming or rowing if strength trainingyou’re a cyclist.  It also means strength training.  Strength training is a type of cross training that makes your muscles stronger, not just give your body a variety of stimuli.

Cross training makes us better athletes.  It gives our bodies different stresses to respond to and leads to more flexibility with improved coordination.  It helps prevent injury, aids recovery and staves off boredom.  Having options other than running is also a must for when the weather gets ugly.  Too hot, too icy, too windy or too dangerous, you don’t need to miss a workout if you have a solid cross training option ready to go.

Strength training, on the other hand, is meant to make us stronger.  Building muscle mass isn’t strength trainingour goal as runners but being tougher is.  A weak core means poor posture and less speed.  Stronger legs generate more power and last longer in a race.  Unilateral strength exercises eliminate muscle imbalances and improve balance.

Runners should focus on exercises and activities that will strengthen running specific muscles while being sure not to neglect your incredibly important upper body.  Improve power with box jumps and jump rope.  Maintain good posture with push-ups and pull-ups.  Keep your core strong with planks and sit-ups.  Stay even with lunges and step-ups.

Any quality training plan will include both cross training and specific strength training.  They are key elements in building a quality athlete who is injury resistant and ready to compete successfully.

Coach Meredith

The Lowdown: Beer and Running

Beer and running naturally go together.  Runners love a post run cold one, right?  Races are sponsored by beer companies, we get complimentary ones after we cross the finish line, group runs meet at bars.  The list goes on but does that mean you should be throwing them back?  Check out these pros and cons to the post workout beer.beer and running

Socializing.  There’s one thing runners love as much as running and that’s talking about running.  Post race recaps in real time with your friends is something everyone looks forward to and they’re fueled by booze.  Isn’t that why running clubs were invented in the first place?  It’s true.  Downing a cold one is a great way to connect with connect with other runners.

Health benefits.  Beer can help you turn carbs into energy with its B vitamins and chromium while the flavonoids in dark beer counter cell damage to help prevent heart disease and cancer.  It can also help you relax and that’s all good news for pairing beer and running together.

Hydration.  Beer is alcoholic and alcohol is a diuretic.  That means it helps take water out of you without replacing it.  That’s bad news when your body is trying to work hard or repair itself.

Sleep.  Since beer dehydrates you, it makes you use the restroom more.  That means disrupted sleep and less quality recovery as you fail to reach deeper sleep states.  It might also make you snore, which only serves to make your sleep even lower in quality.  Poor sleep leaves us grumpy in the morning, too, making it harder to get a good workout in the next day.

Gains.  Human growth hormone is what makes us stronger and faster.  It is produced when we’re in those deep sleep states alcohol keeps us out of.  Alcohol will also delay almost any healing process so backing off when you’re injured is key for getting back in action.  The carbs in beer are automatically stored as fat since the sugar raises our blood sugar levels.  That leads to major potential for weight gain.

In the end it depends what your goals are.  Was it a recovery run just to get your legs moving?  Go ahead, drink that delicious post run beer but have a water with it.  Did you just destroy a brutal strength and speed session?  That beer might not be the best idea.  Knowing the effects of alcohol on your can help you might the right beer and running choices.

Coach Meredith

Running: Benefits of Shorter Steps

Taking shorter steps while running might sound counter intuitive.  For some people, it might actually be true.  For many others, especially a large percentage of recreational runners, shorter steps are the answer to many running form and injury issues.

Just about anyone who runs knows that ‘heel strike’ isn’t something you want to hear.  It has a really bad reputation that it doesn’t necessarily deserve.  It is, however, often equated with over striding.  Taking steps that are too big almost always results in heel striking while heel striking shorter stepson its own isn’t the horror you might have heard.  Shorter steps have several benefits over ones that are too big and here are four big ones:

Faster turnover:  Taking shorter steps means you’ll take more of them over the same distance.  That might sound like it also means more work, it actually means less.  If each step is shorter, your feet spend less time on the ground and less time on the ground means less time to get injured.  With your feet underneath you, you’ll also have forward momentum on your side and be able to use gravity to help you move along.

Stop stopping:  Landing with your foot out in front of you is the same as putting on the breaks.  shorter stepsReally.  It’s the same thing your dog does when they don’t want to go.  Put their center of gravity behind their feet, throw those paws forward and say ‘nope’.  Keeping your feet underneath you with faster turnover will keep your body moving forward with less effort.

Happy muscles.  When we kick that leg out in front during over striding, our quadriceps are doing the bulk of the work.  That muscle does not want to do that.  Ever tried to walk down stair after a marathon?  Yup.  It’s not fun.  Shorter steps fire up powerhouse glutes and hamstrings for happier running muscles.

Reduce injury risk:  Faster turnover, no braking and happy muscles mean a lower risk of injury.  You’ll get to use the elasticity of your Achilles, foot arch and calf to absorb the impact of each step rather than the bones and joints that hit when you over stride.  Once muscles are doing the work, instead of bones, risk for any number of injuries can decrease.  IT Band issues, knee pain, hip pain, ankle issues and general body soreness can all decline with proper stride length.

The best way to determine if you’re running with an appropriate stride length is to have a professional gait analysis.  A quality running coach will let you know if shorter steps can help you earn better form and faster times.

Coach Meredith

The Every Runner Foot Care Plan

Having two healthy feet is something most runners take for granted.  Until one gets injured.  Foot care is often overlooked by runners who stretch hamstrings, quads and calves but miss their most important part.  Feet take the first impact of every step.  They also help us stay upright, balance and learn about our environments.  Here are some of Team ECRP‘s favorite ways to keep them healthy and happy.

Find the right shoes.  If your shoes are too loose they can rub and causing blisters.  Too narrow and you’re susceptible to callouses, too.  If they’re too small, add in the risk of black or foot carefalling off toenails.  When you buy running shoes, do so from a reputable running store and make sure the fit is correct.  And, once you have the correct shoes, know when it’s time for new ones.

Socks.  There are tons of socks out there, and you want to be sure you’re running in the right ones.  Cotton socks can lead to blisters while other materials, such as acrylic, can help protect your feet from rubbing by pulling sweat and moisture away.  You might need to vary your sock choice based on the weather, a light sock won’t be equally fit for a speed workout and racing a marathon.  Although there are lots of choices, socks are fairly inexpensive, so try different brands, fabrics and cuts until you find what works best.

Keep your feet dry.  This can be hard if you’re running in the rain, on the trails, in snow or on the beach.  Waterproof trail shoes are a great choice for those who brave nature, but for those who run mostly on pavement or a treadmill, the answer is usually to wear moisture wicking fabrics.  Never start with damp or wet socks and shoes and keep an extra pair nearby for when you’re finished.

Massage your feet by rolling them on golf or lacrosse balls, a rolling pin or foot roller.  Not only will a foot massage relax those hard working muscles, it’ll give you a few minutes to chill out foot careand take a break.  Be careful, though.  Rolling or massaging your feet too hard can cause damage to tender fascia and harm, rather than help, this important body part.

Make them strong.  Do foot and ankle strengthening exercises.  Weak feet mean you lose out on power and speed while increasing your risk of injury.  Try being barefoot as much as you can.  Shoes support muscles so they don’t have to work.  Taking off your shoes will strengthen the arch of your foot while aiding in your body’s ability to sense what’s happening around it.

Use these tips to keep your feet in good working condition and they’ll help you hit a new PR.

Coach Meredith