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Strength Training & Running

Saturday, August 18, 2012, 10:12PM by Kevin Cann under Blog

Blog by Kevin Cann

Weight training can help improve running performance and decrease risk of injury.  It is easy to get in a routine and stick to that routine without any deviation.  However, sometimes change is for the better.

Strength training has a lot of benefits that transfer over into our running ability.  Typically people correlate their VO2 max, the maximal amount of oxygen the body can utilize while running, with a high level of running ability.  Being a competitive runner is not just about VO2 max.  Paavolainen proved this in his study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology.

Paavolainen and colleagues proved that explosive strength training increased 5k speed as well as improved running economy without a change in VO2 max compared to the control group.  They concluded this study by saying the change was due to improvements in neuromuscular characteristics (Paavolainen, 1998).

Even if running competitively is not your goal there are other benefits to strength training.  Running is a sport with a high amount of injuries.  Strength training can help us avoid these unwanted injuries and keep us training longer.  One way in which strength training can decrease injury potential is through increased hamstring flexibility.  Hartig and colleagues showed that increased hamstring flexibility significantly decreased overuse lower extremity injuries in military basic trainees (Hartig, 1999).  You might then ask, “Can’t I just stretch my hamstrings then?”

In some cases simple hamstring stretches may be effective, but in a lot of cases it will not be.  Tight hamstrings can be caused from a number of different issues.  Our glute medius is responsible for controlling our femur (thigh bone).  If this muscle is weak and our knees collapse inward upon impact while running, our body will have to adapt and find a way to stabilize the knee joint to try and avoid an injury.  One way our body will adapt is by tightening the hamstring.  The hamstring crosses over the knee joint and when tight may be able to supply some stability.  The hamstring may also be tight in this same case due to the weakness of the glutes in an attempt to provide more stability at the hip joint.  If running continues in this state it is only a matter of time before we experience pain, more than likely in the front of the knee.  Simply stretching the hamstring in these cases does not fix the underlying problem and the hamstrings will remain tight (Sahrmann, 2001).

Getting into the gym and having a qualified professional assess your movement is the starting point.  This can help identify weak areas and help develop a program to correct them.  Anyone taking up a running program I encourage to do this.  Identifying weak areas and correcting them can significantly reduce injury risk as well as increase performance through more efficient movement.

To summarize: to improve our running performance and decrease the risk of injury, seek a qualified professional and have your movement screened first.  From there any potential problems can be addressed through corrective exercise.  Try changing up running every day to 2 days of strength training, one day of intervals, and one day of steady state running.  I will guarantee you will be amazed by the results.

References

Hartig, Donald (1999).  Increasing hamstring flexibility decreases lower extremity overuse injuries in military basic trainees.  The American Journal of Sports Medicine.  Retrieved on July 17, 2012.

Paavolainen, Leena (1998).  Explosive-strength training improves 5-km running time by improving running economy and muscle power.  Journal of Applied Physiology.  Retrieved on July 17, 2012.

Sahrmann, Shirley (2001).  Diagnostic and Treatment of Human Movement Impairments.  Mosby, Inc. St. Louis, MO.

 

Fad Diets

Wednesday, January 25, 2012, 8:46PM by Ed under Blog

I frequently get asked my opinion about the latest fad diet book to hit the shelves.  And before I write anything further I should state that I do not think all diet books are the same.  Some have scientific merit while others offer little more than anecdotal evidence from a genetically blessed Hollywood star.  But my general take-away about fad diet books is that most of them offer eating plans that are not sustainable for most people.  First off, the modern idea of a diet is a flawed concept.  A diet implies a relatively short time period during which someone radically changes what they eat, how much they eat, and or how often they eat it.  Now, I have stood in line behind enough people at the gas station buying high calorie processed snacks that hardly resemble real food, to know that some people need radical change in their diets and lifestyles.  So how's this for a radical change…do the basic things well!  Adopt sound lifestyle habits that are healthy and sustainable over the long haul.  Here are some examples:

  • Eat a balanced diet consisting of high quality whole foods
  • Focus on smaller portion sizes at lunch and especially dinner
  • Eat breakfast every day within 45 minutes of waking
  • Get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep each night
  • Add small nutritious snacks at mid-morning and mid-afternoon
  • Exercise 3-5 days per week
  • Limit consumption of grain based carbohydrate
  • Limit consumption of processed foods
  • Drink more water and eliminate high calorie drinks
  • Eliminate artificial sweeteners and flavorings
  • Stay active, even on non-workout days
  • Floss your teeth at least once per day

I am not suggesting that doing these basic things are easy, they will require planning and discipline, but if you do them and make them habits you will never need a fad diet book. 

 

Thoughts on Aging Part I

Wednesday, January 4, 2012, 9:02PM by Ed under Blog

Since my early twenties I have heard a familiar refrain from elders dismayed by their slow march towards physical decline…  “Just wait until you hit forty, after forty everything goes downhill.” But this concession to the perceived inevitability of the negatives effects of aging has always bothered me.   Now don't get me wrong, I am not naïve to the physiological changes that occur in the human body as it ages, however I do not subscribe to the notion that all of the negative changes are inevitable.  Let's take a look at a couple of the most common complaints people make about aging and see what can be done to mitigate and/or eliminate them:

 

Complaint

When I was a teenager I could eat whatever I wanted and never gained a pound.  Now my metabolism is considerably slower and I have put on 5 pounds a year for the last 5 years.

 

If I had a dollar for every time I have heard this one over the last 14 years I would be independently wealthy.  First, changes in metabolism do not have to be permanent and are almost always precipitated by a change in a person's activity level.  When you eliminate disease, metabolic rates are cause and effect, so the reality is you have probably slowed down from your hyperactive teenage years and your metabolism followed suit. 

Secondly, we start to lose muscle at an average rate of ¼ per year if we fail to do something about, i.e. strength training.  The problem with this as it relates to metabolism is that muscle is our most metabolically active tissue and helps us burn calories faster.

 

What to do about it…

  • Eat breakfast every morning!  Breakfast should be consumed within 45 minutes of waking up and should have a balance of protein, quality carbohydrates, and healthy fats.  (specific food choices will be outlined in subsequent posts)
  • Eat every 3 to 4 hours.  Your dietary day should look like this: breakfast, mid-morning snack, lunch, mid-afternoon snack, dinner. If weight management is an issue, snacks should not exceed 250 calories and dinner should be the smallest of your 3 major meals.
  • Sleep 7-8 hours each night.  This is way more important that people realize and will be addressed in subsequent posts.
  • Exercise regularly.  I highly recommend 3-4 moderate to intense workouts that integrate strength training and interval based cardiovascular training each week with 1-2 active recovery days sprinkled in.  Keep in mind, an intense workout may only be 30-40 minutes, but if well structured and done at a high pace you will get a lot of bang for your metabolic buck.  Active recovery days can be hiking, biking, recreational sports, yard work, etc.  If most of your workouts are done in an indoor gym it's nice to get outdoors for your active recovery days.

To be continued in the next post…


 

Thoughts on Aging Part II

Wednesday, January 4, 2012, 9:00PM by Ed under Blog

Continued from the last post…

  

Complaint

When I was younger I was never injured, now that I am older I have nagging injuries all the time.

 

As we get older our tissue quality changes, it loses water content and does not bounce back from trauma like it did when we were younger.  The daily demands of our lives forces us into repetitive movement patterns that create muscle imbalances and restrict joint mobility, making us more susceptible to chronic injuries.

 

What to do about it…

  • Corrective exercise. Seek advice from your health professional about what corrective exercises make the most sense for your particular lifestyle (i.e. sedentary desk job, plumber, etc.) Then ask your health professional to design a 10 minute corrective exercise program you can do every day.
  • Sleep 7-8 hours each night with relatively consistent bed and wake up times. This recommendation will be repeated over and over because of its importance for overall health.
  • Don't go 0-60 as fast as your car does.  In all my years in the gym I have seen way too many people (guys) “warm-up” with a set of bench press or heavy squats. The first 10-15 minutes of your workout should be preparing your body for higher intensity movement.  In fact, your warm-up is the perfect time to do your corrective exercise program.
  • Supplement with a high quality fish oil.  The positive health effects of fish oil have been well documented in numerous studies in recent years.  One of the most notable benefits of fish oil is as an anti-inflammatory, and low inflammation is important for joint and tissue health.
  • "Know the path and walking the path are two entirely different things" -Morpheus, The Matrix

 

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