As Sophia Patrillo in Golden Girls would say, "Picture it"... you are starting out on your run and feeling at ease when for no certain reason you start to hear those negative voices creeping into your mind.
Running consistently is important and it is physically demanding; however, the mental aspect of running is often even more important. What is that mental barrier some of us have from time to time and how can we break it in order to obtain success in running long distance?
Running is 90% mental and 10% physical, and once you get a mind block it can be hard to overcome. In this article we will go over some training tips to help you get over your mental block and get your mind ready to keep up with your body.
Building Up Your Mental Toughness For Running
Athletes spend a enormous amount of time planning and executing physical workouts; however, we are often delinquent on the amount of time spent on mental training. "The human brain has many jobs, but they all boil down to protecting you and to keeping you alive. When you begin to experience discomfort, the intensity of your discomfort all depends on how much further your brain thinks you have to go with this pain. When the finish line is really far away, your rate of perceived exertion is higher even if the workload or effort level is the same. This is the way your body is trying to protect you to make sure you don’t empty your reserves. Even though it’s well-intentioned, your brain will convince you that you’ve reached your limit when, in fact, you’re quite far from it." (cited: https://www.trailrunnermag.com/).
Belief is the key: You have to believe that what the mind conceives it can actually achieve. By race day, you have trained and worked toward your goal. When you are toeing the start line, you need to believe in your ability to achieve a successful race. You strengthen the mind the same way you strengthen your body, with practice. You need to condition your mind to believe in success and reframe any negative thoughts. A great way (and leads us to the next tip) is differentiating between ruminating and problem-solving.
Visualization for runners: This is a very effective tool. Playing the "what if" game over and over until every "what if" has an answer to it that reveals success.
Let's Play. What if:
Playing the “what if” game, prior to race day, is helpful only if you provide a solution to every possible fear. When you take the guess work out of the game and replace you questions with realistic solutions, you are left with confidence and determination.
Make peace with discomfort: No one ever gets stronger by stopping when things get difficult. You have to accept and get used to the discomfort that is happening during training so you can embrace the pain during race day.
"Roebuck et al. performed a research study to uncover some of the contributing factors to what they identified as “supranormal pain tolerance” in ultramarathon runners. They had participants perform a cold pressor test (holding their hands in ice-cold water) and then, upon completion, issued them pain-related questionnaires. Compared to the control group, the immersion time for ultrarunners was significantly longer. Through the information gathered in the questionnaires, the researchers found that up to 40 percent of the performance disparity in the test could be explained by differences in pain-avoidance behaviors. In other words, it wasn’t that the ultrarunners felt less pain. They were just better at accepting it.
When you try to avoid or escape something, the resistance generally intensifies the experience rather than ridding you of it. Not only do you not feel any less pain or discomfort, but the fact that things aren’t improving increases anxiety about the situation you’re in. It’s in that state that athletes start to make mistakes or decide to call it quits when they physically could have made it to the finish line.
Mindfulness and acceptance techniques are a very effective way to start noticing and acknowledging any discomfort while also making peace with it. In workouts and training runs, practice noticing that it’s hard or that your legs are throbbing without putting mental energy into wishing it away. Learn to embrace the struggle as a welcomed and reliable training partner. " (cited: https://www.trailrunnermag.com/).
Develop a inspirational saying or motto: You could pick the hook from your favorite song, chant your favorite quote, or make up something on your own. But, when the going gets tough don't let your inner negative thoughts begin speaking, quiet them and replace them with your motto. Some of my go-to quotes are always, "You didn't come this far, to only go this far" or "If you stop now, you will regret it later". Whether it’s a lyric from your favorite song, one of your favorite quotes, or something you make up in your own mind, being able to turn to a motto when hit a mind block can make a big difference.
In summary, running is not just physically demanding. Arguably it is more about mental toughness. Practicing mental strength, prior to race day, is just as important as running consistently. You have to find whatever mental exercise that works to help you get every last bit of energy out of yourself and to the finish line. Remember, nothing worth doing is ever easy. Don't let all your physical training go to waste because you allowed mental barriers/negative thoughts to creep in. Prepare yourself mentally and physically.
Written by Pat Hallahan.
What an event! Escarpment Trails 45th year! For those unfamiliar with the course, it runs roughly 17.6 miles (average of the GPS watches) with 4,800-5,000ft of elevation gain. The terrain consist of mostly relentless rocks, some roots, and steep ascents and descents. The descents can be a bit brutal with steep drop offs and jagged/loose rock.
The course is very front heavy on the climb; you start running right up Whindam Mountain until hitting the peak about 3.4 miles in. After a gnarly fun descent, you will then cruise until your second big climb heading up Blackhead Mountain (8.6 miles in). Things start to get interesting here as you will climb 1,000ft+ in .86 miles (23.5% grade). After that, most of the intense climb is over. There will be one more gradual final climb until mile 14.6 when it’s time to hit the final descent. Don’t let this fool you! The final two miles are very technical and demanding after the work you put in. One final nail in the coffin on the legs.
The morning started real smooth as Bethany and I woke up at our campsite and headed to the starting line which was a close 15 minutes down the road. Going into the event, I had no real structure as far as training. The first part of my season was starting to wear me out and I needed to dial it back a bit. This was my 11th race of the season. I really wanted to run Escarpment so I accepted the fact I wouldn’t be able to hammer this in the hard effort that I wanted to.
After seeing some familiar faces and catching up, the race was off. We started in wave 1 and Lee Berube led the pack. I saw him for all of maybe two minutes until he was out of site for the remainder of the race where he would eventually take the win, as well as his second fastest course time. We started our ascent up Whindam. This section consists of switch backs in the first half so one must be careful of pacing themselves because it’s very easy to burnout starting straight up the mountain. I paced myself a bit slower than I had hoped for, but that was just where my fitness was at.
The aid stations were so, so amazing as far as the logistics; they were placed about every 3 miles which became fairly crucial for me. When I hit the first aid station, I could not get the twist lid off the top of my flask. I fumbled for far too long and decided to grab a cup of water and continue on. Luckily, I got the lid off at the second aid station! To my surprise, the rubber on the top somehow got a hole pierced in it and all of my liquid came squirting out. I did take a tumble before this station and I assume that was the culprit. Unfortunately, I had to chug most of the water during the race and my belly was not happy. I had to run it out for 4 minutes afterwards and then it would settle. Looking back, I’m lucky I didn’t cramp looking, but I really needed that hydration.
After leaving aid station two, I felt ok and just continued on at a pace I knew would be sustainable for me to keep the rest of the race. After my buddies, Jay and Justin, took off from me, I was basically alone the rest of the race just enjoying the beautiful trail! On the steep climb up Blackdome, I had some final company with another racer. We paced one another the entire way up. I was hoping to put on a push and make up some time, but each time I tried, my toe would find a rock and I’d have a tumble or a close fall. Every time my morale would start to get a bit low, I would run into an aid station and instantly be in a great mood. I can’t begin to thank all those volunteers enough for hiking in miles upon miles with gallons of water and snacks for us. Those guys truly made this experience that much better.
At about mile 14.5, right before my final descent, I was for sure feeling some exhaustion setting in and I had been running alone for some time at this point. I looked up and there was my buddy Steve. He jumped behind me for a couple minutes and really amped me up! My exhaustion was now excitement and I started my final descent! I tried my best to keep it smooth and steady, but the drop offs started to really be hammering my legs at this point. Going from the steep climb to descent, the muscles are always a bit thrashed at this point. My inside abductors/thighs both seized up on me cramping pretty freaking bad! I had 1.5 miles to go and I just had to drag it out. What made it easier was the amazing views on that final stretch!! I couldn’t help but flaunt a smile. It turns out after finishing, the inside leg cramping was a common theme for people, including Lee and Michelle Merlis, who ended up being the female champ for the day and had a 12 minute PR I believe. Super pumped for her as she will be representing Team USA in Thailand later this year. At 3h34m I crossed over the finish line and plopped my butt down on a chair. I was happy to be done and it felt like my season had been wrapped up there. It was a bit of a relief! I’m excited to get back to a training block and get my fitness back up to another level.
If you love technical trail with big climbs and steep descents this course is for you and is a must on the bucket list! The atmosphere was top notch and the event was run super professionally. The race director, Dick, is somewhat of a legend himself and I commend him on 45 years of hard work and dedication. It brings so much joy to myself and the trail community! Thank you, Dick!
Thanks for taking the time to read this! Shoutout to Miles & Macros for the continued support! Also, to Jared for getting a win at Swain Mountain race on August 6th! I’m excited to have started a new training block this week and look forward to putting one final legit effort in this season.
What is running economy and why is it important? Running economy is the relationship between oxygen consumption and running speed. Running economy measures a runner’s energy usage when running at aerobic intensity (how hard the workout feels to you). Running economy is influenced by many internal and external characteristics.
The internal characteristics include:
Biomechanics. Running mechanics influence running economy because any unnecessary movements or muscle contractions increases the amount of oxygen the body consumes to maintain the current pace you are running at. The more optimal your mechanics are the more economical the runner you will be. Biomechanics includes proper foot placement, correct arm swing, impact force, and center of gravity.
Muscle fiber recruitment. The less muscle that’s recruited to run at your desired pace, the better. Our bodies have over 600 muscles. If you teach your body to recruit only the specific muscle fibers to use powerfully and efficiently you will be able to run faster. When you use any extra muscle during running activities your running economy decreases because of the need for more oxygen to your muscles.
Number of slow-twitch muscle fibers. There are two types of muscle fibers – Type 1 (slow twitch) and Type 2 (fast twitch). Slow-twitch fibers are made for aerobic activities like distance running. They’re much more efficient than fast-twitch muscle fibers, which are made for sprinting or weightlifting.
Number of mitochondria. The amount of energy your muscles receive is supplied by mitochondria. The key benefit to training is that you develop more mitochondria and better functioning mitochondria. Since you have more mitochondria in your cells to spread around the work during your run, this improves your running economy.
Body weight. There is no perfect weight to be a runner; however, science shows the less volume a person has from the waist down, particularly the knee down, is more economical because they require less energy to lift off of the ground.
Ability of tendons to store and use elastic energy. Tendons are like a rubber bands when they are stretched. The Achilles tendon, which connects the calf muscle to the heel bone, stores energy when the foot lands on the ground and then it returns that energy at push-off, propelling us forward. A long, thin Achilles tendon stores energy with each step. The tendon makes our legs work like springs which improves running economy.
The external characteristics include:
Training. Training is the biggest external factor that affects running economy. Increasing weekly mileage in increments in addition to adding in faster-paced running and strength training all improves running economy.
Shoe weight. Finding a pair of lightweight shoes that will still provide cushioning improves running economy.
Nutrition. Nutrition is a key aspect of running economy. An increase in carbohydrates will supply your muscles with fuel. Without carbohydrates, the body breaks down fats in a process called lipid metabolism. However, runners without a high body fat percentage cannot rely on this. Hydration with electrolytes in larger supplies fuel to the muscles sooner.
Wind. If you are running into the wind, this will decrease economy because there is more air resistance to overcome.
Temperature. "Training in warm/hot temperatures will increase your core temperature. This has shown to improve running economy by improving the working efficiency of your muscles. This creates a lasting effect when running at lower temperatures in which a relatively lower core temperatures can be achieved. A lower core temperature is associated with reduced increases in breathing, sweating and circulation at aerobic intensity, thereby increasing overall energy efficiency and improving running economy." (Saunders, Philo U; Pyne, David B; Telford, Richard D; Hawley, John A (2004). "Factors Affecting Running Economy in Trained Distance Runners". Sports Medicine.)
In conclusion, if your athletic goals include personal bests and faster finish times in general, running economy will give you an advantage. If you focus on improving your running economy you will begin to run more productive workouts and have better overall training.
Even if your goals are not race-related, focusing on your running economy still provides benefits to your running. The higher your running economy, the better you will feel during your runs. You will notice that runs will feel less like a struggle and more enjoyable.
Health, nutrition, and sports go hand in hand. It can be difficult to discern what is considered healthy when there are a plethora of influencers, marketing scams, and general toxicity in social media pushing people to act, dress, and behave in a certain way. What it is to be healthy can be hard to define, hard to understand, and it is often over shadowed by highlight reels. It seems obscure to look beyond weight and aesthetics when determining your health. However, it’s not these factors that matter, it’s WHAT constitutes your weight and how this impacts performance, because; after all, this is a discussion of SPORTS NUTRITION. Understanding body composition such as learning if you have too little muscle or too much fat can be a good place to start, but; again, these factors do not determine the impact on performance. It can be valuable to implement a strategy that allows for muscle gain and fat reduction which may lead to the number on the scale staying the same, however, you may be able to now jump higher, run longer, be less prone to injury, etc. These latter metrics are what are important, slimming down or looking different are side effects that may come along with these changes but should not be your main goal.
So, how do you eat to perform? What is a sports nutrition plan about?
Sports nutrition is not a diet plan. Sports nutrition differs from a regular nutrition plan because athletes require different amounts of nutrients compared to non-athletes. In order to perform optimally, you need to train hard and fuel your body appropriately. Sports nutrition is not about cutting out any whole food group or lowering calories to lose weight. A sports nutrition plan is primarily made to help fuel an athlete to perform at their highest level.
Eating to support your goal. If you want to build muscle it takes more than just upping your protein intake. Building muscle requires a combination of: resistance training, keeping a balanced energy state to encourage anabolic hormone production, a healthy distribution of nutrients to sustain tissue health, and adequate sleep. If you want to run longer or faster, you need glycogen. When the body needs a boost of energy or when the body isn't getting glucose from food, glycogen is broken down to release glucose into our bloodstream to be used as fuel. We get glycogen from complex carbs like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Making sure we are eating enough calories through proper macronutrients aids in supporting these goals.
Timing of your meal consumption: When you consume the correct amount of macronutrients at the right times, you encourage MPS (muscle protein synthesis) and energy sustainability. Example: If you work out first thing in the morning, this means your last meal or snack was the night before. This should indicate to you that you most likely need a small meal or snack before beginning your workout. If you are working out later in the day, be sure you have eaten something no sooner that 3 hours before.
Do not skip meals or eat infrequently. Putting yourself into a pattern that fails to satisfy your energy requirements in real time is problematic. Skipping meals can lead to higher body fat levels, lower lean mass, and cardiovascular problems. Eating 3 meals and 2 snacks, spaced correctly throughout the day, has shown to satisfy the appetite, stabilize blood sugar levels, and aid in a more efficient metabolism.
Variety. It is not just about eating the right foods verses staying away from the wrong foods. Obviously, whole food sources are the best and the healthiest options for you to make but eating the same prepped/planned foods on a daily basis can put you at nutritional risk. There is no substitute for eating a wide variety of foods that are well-distributed throughout the day. Consuming plenty of seasonal fruits and vegetables helps to sustain good bacterial colonies that live in your gut.
Hydration. Having a balanced fluid amount is important for many reasons. When an athlete is dehydrated their blood volume is restricted, sweat rate is decreased (resulting in an increased core temperature), and muscle glycogen use begins to increase. Studies have shown that athletic performance can decrease by 2% when an athlete is dehydrated.
Recovery. Getting the proper amount of recovery from exercise is just as important as your workout and fueling yourself. You must give muscles an opportunity to recover from all the stress you have placed on them so that they can benefit from the exercise. Adequate sleep is important by helping to sustain appropriate eating behaviors and muscle recovery.
In conclusion, sports nutrition is important because it impacts performance. A proper nutrition plan aids athletes in achieving their specific goals in their sport. The plan can include when to eat, what to eat to perform, what to eat to prevent injury, what to eat to aid injury, and what to eat to recover properly.
How exactly do speed intervals make you faster?
First, let’s take a look at the physiology behind things. During speed workouts, you maximally activate your slow-twitch muscles and intermediate muscle fibers. This in turn increases your aerobic capacity.
Speed workouts also increase your production of myoglobin, myoglobin is an iron- and oxygen-binding protein found in muscle tissues. Myoglobin transports oxygen to the mitochondria (membrane-bound cell organelles that generate most of the chemical energy needed to power the cell's biochemical reactions) in your muscles, which in turn produce ATP to give your muscles energy. As you increase your myoglobin levels, you improve your body’s ability to quickly transport oxygen to your muscles for energy…making you able to run faster. High-intensity running is the best way to develop myoglobin.
While genetics play a major role in just how fast you can become, you will still see benefits from performing speedwork. Your body will become more efficient at recruiting your fast-twitch muscles. Fast twitch muscle fibers disappear 1% each year. So, it is important to do speedwork and strength training.
Your running economy will improve so that you expend less energy while running faster and your stride will be more powerful. Runners with strong legs and a good technique are able to propel themselves forward and have a longer stride. This also mean less injuries. When you run fast, you have a wider range of motion. This will improve flexibility, use more muscles, and better form means less injuries.
You will improve fat burning. 100% of fat is burned during a speed session compared to just 50% fat during a long-distance run. During your session your body will burn off carbs as its main energy source; however, after your session your body will start to burn off fat. This is your body’s natural reaction to resupply your anaerobic system and aid in recovery. * On the flip side, you’ll likely to pick up a few muscle strains when you start your journey to becoming a stronger/faster runner. It happens to everyone so don’t be disheartened - trust the process.
So simply put, if you want to run faster, you have to practice running faster! Speed workouts train you how to output more effort, maintain a higher cadence, and mentally cope with physical discomfort while running. If you practice this skill once per week consistently, you won’t just become faster -you will run faster with less effort.
Now let’s debunk one thought many of you have: You need to be fast to do speed work.
There is no pace requirement to do speed workouts. Every level runner can receive benefits from doing speed work. Even if running faster is not one of your goals, speed workouts should still be part of your routine to get a well-rounded training program.
Your paces for speed workouts are relative to your current fitness. Your body knows effort and that is purely what you go by! Speed work is performed at an effort that is hard (think an 8-9 out of 10). It doesn’t matter if hard is a 5-minute mile for you or a 10-minute mile for you.
Implementing speed workouts into your running routine will improve your stride, speed, and endurance. Together, these will enable you to run faster with less effort during your daily training runs. Becoming a more efficient runner will also help you get fewer injuries.
Additionally, a race day strategy can be planned once you gain the experience from these fast-paced training sessions. Your body will learn to tolerate the physical and mental discomforts while racing.
Societal pressures have created a toxic environment for individuals with regard to their nutrition, especially with regard to women. We are bombarded by trendy diets and Instagram challenges to show how skinny we can be and if we aren't we should be ashamed. However, to have feelings of guilt and shame for being hungry or for wanting to eating carbs is like feeling guilty for needing breathe air. Our basic human needs are now a basis of shame and ridicule and it is about time to refuse to feel guilty - You are allowed to eat!
So, what happens when we become obsessed with this culture and where do we differentiate disordered eating and eating disorders? First, we need to understand what the normal standard is.
Standard eating habits are when an individual sensibly consumes food when they are hungry and is able to stop when they are full. Additionally, the individual incorporates a variety of foods into their diet. Now, under this definition, many people who consider themselves to have a terrific relationship with food, may be classified as “disordered eaters”: maybe they eat when they’re bored, have the same thing for lunch daily, or possibly cut out a main food group (i.e. carbs), etc. Societal pressures, as well as fascinations with weight loss and exercise, may lead individuals to alter their food intake. Some may say "this works for me". More so, It does not interfere with their lives; they are able to find food they’re comfortable with eating at any many restaurants and they do not feel overwhelmed to a point where they want to change their habits. For others, this way of eating can be a precursor to developing an eating disorder.
There are three critical factors to look for when wondering if someone has a disorder. Behaviors, obsession, and functionality that will let your nutritionists, dietician, or yourself know where your habits lay.
When an individual is struggling with an eating disorder, they generally engage in multiple behaviors. These behaviors could involve food, body image, and their mood. The level of obsession around eating thoughts and behaviors can distinguish disordered eating from an eating disorder.
What are eating disorders? Well, the most common eating disorders are binge eating disorder, anorexia nervosa, and bulimia nervosa, and each disorder presents differently and they all have long term consequences to your body.
Anorexia is characterized by a distorted body image along with an unwarranted fear of being overweight. These individuals may not only try to starve themselves but they might try to rid their bodies of any caloric intake they consumed by self-induced vomiting, diuretics, laxatives, and heavy exercise regimes.
Bulimia nervosa involves distortion of one's body image and an obsessive desire to lose weight, in which bouts of extreme overeating are followed by depression/guilt and self-induced vomiting, fasting.
Binge Eating Disorder (more commonly known as BED) is characterized by repeated episodes of uncontrolled intake of large amounts of food in a short period of time. These binging episodes are followed by feelings of guilt and emotional distress. Having at least three of these symptoms while binging is apparent in BED:
• Eating until you are uncomfortably full
• Eating quicker than normal
• Eating a large consumption of food when not hungry
• You find yourself eating alone because of embarrassment
• Feeling ashamed, depressed, or guilty after the episode
So what is the difference between having a eating disorder and having disordered eating?
What Is Disordered Eating?
Disordered eating is not an "eating disorder"; however, it is an abnormal behavior that can possibly become dangerous. Disordered eating occurs when individuals eat for other reasons than hunger, performance nutrition, or optimal nutrition. Individuals may eat when they are bored/stressed, feed their emotions, skip meals, engage in binging/purging, may leave out major food groups, or eat the same thing every day.
Although both disordered eating and eating disorders are abnormal, eating disorders have very specific diagnostic criteria outlining frequent and severe behaviors.
Many of the individuals demonstrate problematic or disordered relationships with food, body, and exercise. Individuals may count calories, over-exercise, exercise solely to lose weight, and cringe at the sight of skin rolls, dimples on legs/arms, and cellulite. What we must remember is that these are normal and it is time to start normalizing bodies of all shapes and sizes. Perfect bodies to not exist. Everyone is built differently and require different amounts of nutrients to maintain homeostasis for THEIR body and activity level.
What should I eat? That is the question most of us ask ourselves prior to our daily and long runs. The answer to the question depends on a few factors. What time are you working out, how intense will the workout be, and when was the last time you ingested anything. Based on your answers to these questions we can figure out what will need to eaten before working out, the timing of when to eat it, and what it is that you should eat.
When was the last time you ate?
If you are competing or working out first thing in the morning, this means your last the last meal or snack was the night before. This should indicate to you that you most likely need a small meal or snack before beginning your run. Glycogen is the main fuel source for your body (stored in your muscles and liver). When the body needs a boost of energy or when the body isn't getting glucose from food, glycogen is broken down to release glucose into our bloodstream to be used as fuel. Since much of your glycogen has been depleted overnight; whatever you eat for breakfast will top off your glycogen storages.
The importance of eating before your run is dependent on the type and intensity of the run being performed. If you are planning to go for a short training session, your fueling strategy is pretty simple. If a short run or a few intervals planned for the day, you won’t need to eat much, if anything, before starting.
If your run or race is intense and/or going to last longer than 60 minutes, it is recommended to eat a small meal or snack beforehand. Not eating before an intense workout or race can lead to decreased glycogen stores and muscle protein breakdown resulting in fatigue and poor sports performance.
Keep meals minimal before short or intense runs. Ideally a meal should be eaten 3-4 hours before exercise for sufficient digestion and to increase your muscle and liver glycogen stores; however, exercising first thing in the morning does make this more difficult. When there is less time available, lean towards eating easily digestible food with more carbohydrates (less fat and protein). This will provide the sufficient energy boost without the need for extended digestion.
What to eat before exercise?
Choosing what types of foods to eat before you run all depends on how much time there is between your meal/snack and when your plan to do your run. If there is less than an hour of time before running/racing, it is recommended to eat 15-20 grams of carbohydrates (100 calories roughly). Make sure to opt for food with low protein, fiber, and fat because these foods delay digestion. Aside from delayed digestion, these foods are notorious for giving an athlete digestive issues (cramps, diarrhea, etc.).
Sample go-to foods:
For those whom struggle with digesting food before running, drinking your carbs or using gels/chews at the start or during your run can be helpful. These products are developed for athletes to aid with fueling and hydration without causing stomach distress.
If you have more time to digest before your run your amount of food can be increased. Protein can also be introduced (in small amounts) along with enough carbs. Please note that fat is still not a productive choice of fuel prior to running. It takes fat longer to digest and digestive issues could arise while on the run.
It is recommended to eat 30-40 grams of carb with a small amount protein (about 200-300 calories):
What to take away from this
Deciding if you should eat and what you should eat before running/racing can make a huge difference in your overall performance. The most important thing to remember is that if the workout is less than an hour and not intense, you’ll be fine just drinking water. However, if you have an intense workout or competition lasting longer than an hour, sports nutrition will play a critical role on how well you will perform.
Remember every individual is different and what works for one, may not work for another. Sometimes it is a case of trial and error to get the right plan for yourself.
There is a truth behind the argument that “running is natural – put in enough time and miles and you will naturally get better at it.” Yes, running in itself is simple; however, when we start increasing the frequency, the intensity, the duration of our runs this is where skill comes in. This is where sustained effort can rely on possession of a more efficient running form.
Enter the running drills. If you haven't run track and field in high school or even trained on a track, the chances of you being familiar with drill movements is slight. Though there is no one-size-fits-all way to run, the mechanical process of running can be hindered by individual biomechanical constraints. With the repetitive nature of running, as individuals, we all have personal limits as to how far and how fast we can run before injuries occur. Reducing our individual constraints and improving our running efficiency will allow us to set ourselves new limits. We are able to improve these factors when we implement running drills.
Should Beginners Do Running Drills?
The introduction of running drills, if only once a week, can reinforce the most fundamental and underappreciated concepts behind running performance. Injury prevention for runners comes down to either running less or strengthening the body more.
Running drills help enforce the fact that if you are constantly raising the demands on your body through running, unless you add suitable weekly conditioning exercises to your training program, you will eventually reach your limits and most likely get injured.
Examples Of Running Drills
Skipping places a load on the musculoskeletal system, leading to increases in strength in the supporting leg.
Keep your body tall and do not allow the arms and legs to cross the midline of the body, something that needs to be discouraged as excess rotation is thought to reduce running efficiency.
The B-Skip is an extension of the A-Skip. Importance should be given to “pulling down” the leg in order to strike the ground as this is thought to determine the power of the hip extension as the body moves over the supporting leg. The B-Skip can be a very useful in developing strength and coordination of the gluteal and hamstring muscles.
Butt kicks are considered a key running drill for athletes who want to gain better form, efficiency in their stride, and protection from injury. In particular, butt kicks may help increase the speed of hamstring contractions, which can help you run faster.
The high-knee drill exaggerates the running stride, getting your calves, glutes, and hamstrings firing while promoting knee lift and encouraging a faster turnover.
Dork walks are great for the shins, ankles, and your hips. Keep your body tall and use your arms.
Running drills can help develop efficient movement patterns that your body will then be able to adopt when running.
Performing weekly running drills can strengthen specific muscle groups that are needed for running, especially the muscles of the feet, calves, shins, thighs and hips. They also help prepare the ankle, knee and hip joints for the specific range of movements required during running.
Being an athlete, you know that injuries are inevitable. Sooner or later we all get one. So, what happens to the body when you are injured and how should you amp up your recovery?
How Does your body react when it is injured?
When an area of the body is injured an inflammatory response is set off. Although, inflammation is a crucial part of the body's natural healing process, it creates a significant challenge for your immune system. Your immune system is heavily dependent on lots of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals to provide effective protection.
When you are injured, the body triggers the immune system to begin the healing process. Cells travel to the site of the injury, some cells destroying infection and others isolating the affected area. Healthy cells nearby to the injury also become more active, using extra oxygen and energy to repair the damaged tissue. Healthy nutrition during these healing process is imperative.
Don’t Cut back on your Calories
Post injury rehab/recovery can require up to 20 percent more calories. Rehabbing an injury requires energy to heal your muscles, bones, ligaments, and tendons. I know most of us athletes immediately worry about weight gain from the decrease in activity levels; however, you will still be performing daily exercises to rehab your injury.
Eating nutrient dense food should be the first in nutritional care. If you decrease your calories this will accelerate muscle loss especially during your duration of immobility. Additionally, reducing your protein levels will lead to loss of muscle mass maintenance.
Eat More Protein
When you’re injured you lose muscle mass in the immobilized area and because of the overall decreased training. Immobilization decreases your muscle’s ability to absorb amino acids which aid with muscle's growth and repair. It is recommended to eat a high protein diet by consuming 20-35 grams of quality protein every 3 to 4 hours throughout the day. During the repair phase, you may need double the amount of protein you previously ate spread throughout your several daily meals.
Select the Right Carbs
The increase in protein doesn’t mean you should avoid eating carbs. Choose carbs that help promote healing. Carbs such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables contain important antioxidants and nutrients for your body. They also contain dietary fiber. All of these are important for your recovery. Again, be careful choosing which carbs to eat. Eating heavily processed carbs increases inflammation in the body.
It is reasonable to replace some of the carbs you would normally consume to fit in your protein increase. Balance is important during these times of recovery.
Add some Collagen
Unlike your muscles, tendons and ligaments get nourished with little blood flow to provide nutrients. Consuming a collagen supplement 30 to 60 minutes before exercise promotes collagen-building amino acids to tend to the damaged tissue. This can help promote healing.
Calcium and Vitamin D
Calcium is important for bone strength; however, it also helps the brain signal nerves and contract muscles properly.
Vitamin-D enhances the body’s ability to absorb and process calcium for recovery. Vitamin-D is one of the best methods for natural pain management. ]
If you have become injured, it is time to start thinking about your nutrition plan. How can you use food to promote healing? Knowing how to fuel your body while rehabbing an injury is a major step to getting you back to your running routine.
Written by Pat Hallahan
Soapstone 24k is a technical 15.2 mile course consisting of roughly 2,100ft of climb. It is single track with some wider sections consisting of two major climbs (first climb at mile 3 with a 26.7% grade for .21 miles with 300ft of fun). Second climb is much more tame and is at the end of the race. Spots of the course had knee high mud if you found the right spot (in which I did and the people behind me were sure to thank me for showing them where not to go!). There are technical smaller rocks, but plenty of room to spread your legs if technical running is your sort of thing. Plus some downed trees to get those hurdle legs on as well! Let’s get into it!
I checked out the start and noticed after about 100 yards it funnels into single track and I did not want to get stuck shuffling behind people so I went out hot. The rain had just stopped and instantly the humidity came out and I knew this may be some trouble as I am a big, big sweater. I was passed and found myself running in second but quickly noticed we were going sub 5:30 the first half mile and I slowed it down a bit. I settled in 4th and knew I had gone a bit too hard with the heat. Mile 1 hit and I looked down at my watch….5:51 it read. Usually this would be fine, but my HR was not happy in the heat. I have yet to train in weather like this this season. I spent the next two miles trying to catch my breath and my legs did not have the normal climbing strength in which I find is usually my strength. I got passed some more and found myself getting worried as it was going to be a long race feeling like this already.
Mile 3ish came and we were at the first big climb. It was wet with slimy loose rocks and my race shoes do not handle the wet rocks well. Thankfully this was the only spot I really struggled getting footing. I knew my heart rate would drop a bit having to climb very slowly (even though it usually doesn’t feel that way on scramble climbs). I was disappointed with how I handled that first big climb and shortly after I found myself getting passed by Brian. Today I wanted to make sure whoever passed me just didn’t run off with it so I stuck to his heals and just ran a pace I knew I wouldn’t bonk out on. With the humidity I just knew I couldn’t push or I would unravel way further. The slightest incline was just destroying me, which was something I haven’t felt in awhile. Many things went through my mind.
My brain loves trying to trick me into stopping when my body is screaming in pain on the inside. I’ve been in this situation way too many times and know it always passes and I’ll find some relief even momentarily at some point in the race. Unfortunately, it really only came for about 1 mile, but hey, that is better than none at all! I knew another racer, Brian, was in front of me struggling in the heat as well with the grunts and vocal descriptions. I couldn’t help but laugh, smile, and totally agree. At that time we saw Ben go off course a bit and Brian gave him a holler. He would cruise back by us later and eventually I’d try to catch him one last time.
Mile 7 came and I saw I had a bit more in my legs than Brian did on the descents so I pulled the trigger and pulled away from him. Quickly we hit a slight incline and, again, my quads just were not firing. Brian and another voice was now right on me and they both cruised by. Once again I told myself just stick to Brian’s heels and don’t give up. I knew there was a big climb with the last two miles back up Soapstone Mountain and I was hoping some runners would be struggling. I made the conscious decision to stay steady and open up on the final climb. I know I can suffer with the best of them for at least two miles and then die when I finish!
Ben who went off course had gone by so I found myself in ninth place at this point. This time with 2.5ish miles left I pulled the trigger on Brian again this time on an uphill. I saw the final big climb and two people struggling - Ben and another guy who got by me. I was able to get by the one guy and was now about 20 yards behind Ben. We bombed the descent and hit the final road section. This race truly felt like a mini ultra as it just would not end in the heat! I thought it was all down hill, but the final mile was a slight incline out in the sun and I could not wait to be done!
I saw Ben take a glimpse back and see me and he was able to maintain the same pace as me and even started pulling away again. I’ll be honest, I was pretty pooped at that point and rode it home for a 7th. I thought Breakneck was going to be the most stacked race this early in the season, but this for sure was and I was so pumped with that. This makes six races for me in the last month and a half. I wanted to get that mental edge and learn as much as possible so I felt comfortable moving forward. I understand I won’t be where I want overnight and I look forward to steady progression.
Was this the race I wanted? No! But it’s what my body gave me when the time called. All we can do is learn, adapt, and push through when we truly do not want to. We never know what we are made of until we go there time and time again. I will forever have this knowledge moving forward and that’s all I can ask for.
Next up! Many On The Genny 40 miler on June 18th by #TrailsRoc