,

Downhill Running Form and Training Techniques

Downhill Running Form and Training Techniques
John Fiore, PT

The challenges of running uphill are addressed through uphill interval training and techniques specific to climbing. Downhill running, however, is often a forgotten aspect of training. While it is true that many races are won on the unrelenting climbs, races are more often lost on the long, technical descents due to blown quads and poor technique. I do not claim to be a stellar downhill runner, but I will pass on useful training techniques founded in running biomechanics which may help you make the Swift Current cutoff time or even soar to victory at The Rut this September.

Regardless of body type or speed, the following seven training tips will improve your downhill running form and efficiency and reduce post-running soreness and injury risk.

Commit to running downhill: When the climb is over and the gradient tips downward, shift gears in your mind and body and commit to descending. Your leg musculature must now function in the lengthened position referred to as an eccentric contraction. In a lengthened position, your muscles are prone to soreness which is minimized through specified training.

Lean forward and use gravity: A common mistake many runners make is to lean back on the while descending. This “back seat” descending techniques results in higher impact loading through the heel, a shift of the center of gravity behind the body, and a higher incidence of blown quads or sliding feet. Lean forward slightly through the pelvis and trunk, using gravity to your advantage. Downhill running is often viewed as controlled free-falling and can actually be as fun as it sounds.

Descending at the Chuckanut 50k

Move your feet quickly: Cadence plays a crucial role in increasing running efficiency by reducing joint impact loading and conserving energy. Increasing your cadence (160-180 foot strikes per minute) will decrease joint impact forces, reduce muscle fatigue, and reduce the incidence of tripping on a stray rock. Try seeking out rocks to land on rather than navigating around rocks as if you are crossing a stream.

Look down the mountain and anticipate your next move: When running uphill, it is best to look a step or two ahead rather than face the entire climb head-on. In contrast, when descending, keep your eyes five to ten feet ahead of your feet and anticipate your next two steps in your mind and your legs will follow. Practice this technique on a rocky familiar descent and train your proprioception (non-visual sense of foot-leg position in space).

Relax your arms and utilize your entire body for balance: Balance becomes more of an issue running downhill at speed. Utilize your arms for balance and allow them to flail wildly while maintaining stable, strong trunk and hip musculature. Core strength and joint stabilization will pay off on the descents and it is important to utilize a regular program to achieve functional running strength.

Simulate race terrain in training: If your upcoming race includes downhill running or technical, rocky terrain, it is imperative to practice on similar terrain. Missoulians are fortunate to have a choice of rocky, steep terrain less than one hour away in any direction from town. Rocky trails abound in the Bitterroot, Rattlesnake, and Mission Mountains. Practice downhill intervals, climbing back up, and practicing a different line and varying your cadence and foot placement strategies.

Emphasize eccentric single leg training: Runners tend to focus on step ups, squats, and non-weight bearing gluteal exercises, but the secret to confident downhill running lies in eccentric single leg strengthening. Utilize single leg plyo-hops, box jumps, and even single leg box jumps onto an uneven surface such as a pad or Bosu Ball to train your body to fly down the scree and talus slopes of your favorite mountain race. For more specific questions related to downhill running training, injury treatment or prevention, call or email me at Sapphire Physical Therapy.

 

John Fiore, PT

john@sapphirept.com

www.sapphirept.com

,

Tips for Master Runners: Coaching Tips by Nicole Hunt

In the October RE article I revealed that maximum strength training for master’s runners can boost fitness by improving your running economy. I will now expand on this concept by presenting research on the benefits of circuit training to natu
rally increase hormone levels.

Circuit training involves combining running specific exercises with short interval running. Shalane Flanagan who earned a bronze medal at the 2008 Olympic Games 10000m revealed one third on her training for that exceptional bronze medal performance was circuit training.

In 2003 Godfrey et al, demonstrated that high intensity short interval circuit training naturally increased human growth hormone (HGH) levels. Research has shown high intensity short interval training to increase HGH up to 530%. HGH maintains lean body mass, reduces recovery time between hard workouts, and increases muscle strength.

Kraemer and Ratamess report to maximize testosterone release a strength workout should include whole body exercises such as squat jumps and burpees.

And finally, a 1992 study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolismtested low-intensity and high-intensity exercise protocols, each lasting one, five, or ten minutes. Blood HGH levels were only elevated after the high-intensity ten minute bout of work.

In summary, to design a training plan to naturally increase your hormone levels and running economy for optimal performance the workout should include maximum strength running specific whole body exercises combined with high intensity intervals lasting 10 minutes and that ideal workout is circuit training.

Below is an example of a circuit training workout which if performed 2x week will increase your strength, coordination, efficiency and speed and subsequently overcome the effects and beliefs of aging. I suggest performing this circuit 6 to 8 weeks before your goal race and you might set a lifetime PB even as a master’s runner! Think Strong, Become Fast!

Example of of a hill circuit. After a thorough warm up begin “Strength Power Hill Circuit”.

  • Run 30 sec hill @ 3k effort
  • 4 to 8 reps each leg 1 legged squats then 40 sec’s each leg One-Leg Hoppers
  • Run 30 sec hill @ 3k effort
  • 4 to 8 reps each leg step ups then 10-20 Explosive Step Ups
  • Run 30 sec hill @ 3k effort
  • 30 to 60 sec squat thrusts
  • Run 30 sec hill @ 3k effort
  • 4 to 8 reps each leg walking lunges then 6 to 10 split scissor jumps
  • Run 30 sec hill @ 3k effort
  • 4 to 8 reps each leg calf raises then 5 one legged hops each leg up a hill
  • Repeat 1 more time

DREAM * BELIEVE * TRAIN * CELEBRATE
Nicole Hunt
Journeysoulrunning.com
Please contact me anytime with questions

,

Masters Runners – How to increase your Hormone Levels and Running Economy for Optimal Performance (Part 1)

Does turning 40 or 50 equate to slower times? The latest science explains how to effectively combat the effects and subsequently the beliefs of age-ing.

A review of the research reveals a well-designed training plan for masters runners can boost fitness by naturally elevating testosterone, human growth hormone levels and running economy.

Research in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning found that people over 50 who identify running as their main source of exercise can lose five percent of their leg strength per year. A decrease in leg strength is often correlated with increased injury rate. A loss in strength reduces a runner’s running economy (RE). Studies from Australia have shown that RE is the most important variable for long distance runners and sets elite athletes apart in terms of performance.

What is running economy? According to Strength and Conditioning Coach, Karl Gilligan, “running economy is the energy demand for the given speed of the runner. Runners who have good running economy use less energy and therefore less oxygen than runners with poor RE at the same speed. As such, there is a strong association between RE and distance performance, with RE being a better predictor of performance than VO2 max in elite runners”.

A 2013 study investigated the effects of two strength-training protocols on running economy. The 16 masters marathon runners were randomly assigned to a maximal strength-training program, a regimen of moderate resistance training or a control group. The runners continued to follow an endurance-running schedule consisting of four or five days of training per week.

After six weeks, the maximal strength-training group showed a 6 percent improvement in RE at marathon pace, translating into 6 percent less energy used while running the same pace. The moderate resistance group that used the same exercises but with lighter resistance showed no such gain. A 6 percent improvement in running economy equates to about 50 seconds faster for a 40 min 10k runner.

The stronger your legs are the less amount of muscle force is needed for each stride thus the runner runs faster at the same effort level.

How do you fit this research into your own training? I suggest to begin with running specific body weight or light weight exercises for 8 weeks. You then would transition into circuit training for another block of 8 weeks and lastly incorporate a blend of circuit training combined with plyotmetrics and maximal running specific training twice per week 8 weeks prior to competition. An example of maximal running specific weight training is three sets of three to four reps of walking lunges and 1 legged squats using a weight that is 85 to 90 percent of the max you can lift.

In November’s Runner’s Edge coaching tips, I will review the research on how to design a training plan to naturally increase your hormone levels for optimal performance.

Please contact me anytime with questions.

DREAM * BELIEVE * TRAIN * CELEBRATE
Nicole Hunt
Journeysoulrunning.com

*Image(s) from Google search images

, ,

Stepping Up Spring: Running While Minimizing Injury

Sixty million people ran for exercise in 20151. Running is a simple, effective means of achieving fitness which is accessible for very little financial investment. Running injuries, however, can be frustrating and expensive to treat. Nearly 80% of runners sustain at least one overuse running injury per year.2 Although spring is only three weeks away, the roads and foothill trails have thawed and the time has come for spring training. This year the inaugural Runners Edge Trail Race Series will provide a great opportunity to test your legs on four local race courses. Proper spring training will insure you reach the start line fit, fresh, and injury-free.

Other than the occasional trip, slip, or fall, the repetitive dynamic forces generated and sustained during running often result in lower extremity injury. Among the twenty common running injuries, 70% to 80% of these injuries occurring from the knee to the foot.3 The most common running injuries include patellar tendinitis, meniscus tears, iliotibial band syndrome, patella femoral pain, shin splints, plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, hamstring strain, stress fractures, and ankle sprain. The most common underlying cause of running injuries, however, is functional weakness of the hips and core which causes compensatory running form.

Stabilizing Excess Motion
Three different planes of motion act on the hips and pelvis while running: Forward/backward motion (sagittal), side-to-side motion (frontal), and rotational motion (transverse). Stabilization of motion in these three planes through targeted strengthening exercises will allow you to run more efficiently while greatly reducing your risk of running-related overuse injuries. A bi-weekly strengthening program must include activation exercises (finding and feeling the muscle working), strengthening exercises (fatiguing the muscle), and dynamic functional exercises (working the muscle in positions which simulate the demands of running). In addition to the gluts, core, abdominals, and lower leg musculature, the upper body and trunk must be strong and mobile. A physical therapist or trainer specializing in the treatment of runners can develop a program specific to your running needs.

Mileage Increases
Whether you are training for your first 10k or The Rut 50k, mileage increases must be incremental. The age-old 10% mileage increase per week rule is a safe and effective guideline. Gradually increasing your weekly mileage will allow for adequate recovery between runs, allow for muscle strength gains to be realized, and reduce connective tissue (tendons, ligaments, fascia) overload. The net result will be fewer injuries and the ability to run with better form. Remember, rest days are as important as high mileage days. Allow your body to rest, sleep, recover, and be ready to go following your rest day(s).

Training Terrain
Unlike the 10% rule for increasing weekly mileage, different races warrant different training terrain. I am often asked how many miles I run per week. While mileage is important to track, the time on your feet and the elevation or vertical climbed is of greater importance for trail runners. Many trail ultra races have upwards of 10,000-30,000 feet of vertical gain. Factoring equally time on your feet (hours), vertical (elevation climbed), and miles run in training will give you a gauge of how you will do on race day. Simulate the terrain of your race while training. Practice your race pace (which may require slowing down if your race is an ultra) and don’t forget to include a shorter, high-intensity workout simulating race terrain once or twice per week. Running cadence, running light on your feet, and nutrition on the move should all be included in your training runs.

Listen to Your Body
Most of us follow a weekly training routine to prepare us for our goal race(s). Because each of the 60 million runners who ran in 2015 are unique individuals, flexibility must be built into our training routines. Listen to your body when you are tired (How’s my stress level? When was my last total rest day?). Listen to your body when you feel good (What did you eat yesterday? How many hours did you sleep last night?). Listen to your aches and pains (Where do I hurt? Does slowing down my pace help? Does increasing my cadence help? When did I last strength train? Do I need to see a professional so I don’t get sidelined?). Running through exertional pain is very different than running through injury pain.

Sapphire Physical Therapy is here to help you reach your 2016 running goals. Call us or email your questions and I will respond to your within 24 hours.
John Fiore, PT

Sapphire Physical Therapy
john@sapphirept.com
www.sapphirept.com
406-549-5283

Image credit: innovative-results.com
1 www.stastista.com 2 Van Gent RN, Siem D, van Middelkoop K, et al. Incidence and determinants of lower extremity running injuries in long distance runners: a systematic review. J Sports Med. 2007; 41:469-480. 3 Ballas M, Tyrko J, Cookson D. Common overuse running injuries: Diagnosis and management. Am Fam Physician. 1997: 55(7):2473-2484.

, ,

Running Without Injury: Identifying & Addressing Movement Imbalances

Running without injury to achieve one’s fitness, training, and/or racing goals is the predominant objective of runners. It is important to filter training and treatment fads to understand the true reason runners get injured. Why do some runners get injured while others following an identical training plan do not? The answer lies in observing key movement patterns and asking the right questions.

Simple movements such as walking, running, skiing, reaching, and throwing are comprised of movement patterns we learn at a young age.
Movement patterns allow us to move efficiently and repetitively. Factors such as lifestyle changes (prolonged sitting), repetitive motion, muscular weakness, postural changes, prior injury, and range of motion limitations change our movement patterns. These changed movement patterns, which we often do not recognize in ourselves, create compensatory or synergistic movement imbalances. Our risk of injury (micro-trauma, overuse, sprain/strain, pain) increases in the presence of compensatory movement imbalances.Unless a physical therapist screens for addresses movement imbalances, injury treatment will ineffective in the long run.

Understanding a few facts regarding how our bodies move is an important first step in understanding and treating movement imbalances. Skeletal muscle can be divided in to two groups representing their primary function: Stabilizers and Mobilizers. S
tabilizing muscles allow us to maintain the posture necessary for movement. Diminished stabilizing muscle activation leads to movement imbalances and overuse injuries in the lower extremities. Stabilizing muscles (which all runners should work to strengthen) include the gluteus medius, transversus abdominus (lower abs), obliques, lower trapezius, serratus anterior, multifidus (deep low back muscles), rotator cuff, and deep neck flexors. Mobilizing muscles are more familiar to us as they are responsible for moving our extremities: Quadriceps, hamstrings, gastrocnemius, hip flexors, adductors, rectus abdominus (six pack muscle), erector spinae, and latissimus dorsi. In the presence of muscle shortening (secondary to frequent sitting, postural tightness), prior injury, weakness, or repetitive motion activities (involved in single-sport training such as running) stabilizing muscles are inhibited unbeknownst to the individual. For example, in the lower extremities, the stabilizing gluts and abdominals are often inhibited and overpowered by the hamstrings, hip flexors and quadriceps.


A movement imbalance example common in both recreational and competitive athletes is that of hip extension.
The ideal muscle firing pattern for proper hip extension is stabilization of the low back with the multifidus and transversus abdominus, extension of the leg with the gluteus maximus, and secondary assistance with the hamstring. A common compensatory movement imbalance for hip extension is contraction of the erector spinae and hip flexors, extension of the leg with the hamstring, and little or no contraction of the gluteus maximus. If such a compensatory hip extension movement pattern is not changed through training, even the most progressive strengthening program will not protect a person from injury or allow him or her to return to running following an injury.

Don’t waste your training time by strengthening compensatory movement patterns which lead to injury! Get the most out of your training through an effective physical therapy consultation.The physical therapy staff understand synergistic compensation patterns which lead to movement imbalances and injury. For more information, call or email the Sapphire Physical Therapy staff. Make 2016 the year you run, train, and compete without pain or limitations. Move well, be well!
John Fiore, PT
john@sapphirept.com
Sapphire Physical Therapy
www.sapphirept.com

,

Race-Specific Warm Up: Coaching Tips By Nicole Hunt

You have trained for months preparing for your goal race, and now you are feeling primed for a great performance. However, without a race-specific warm up to rev up your neural, thermal and cardiovascular systems for high performance, months of dedicated training can be negated by race day frustration.

What should your pre-race warm consist of? Not every race benefits from the exact same warm up. In general, the shorter the race, the more intense and the longer the warm up should be. The weather is also a key factor. The hotter the day, the less easy running you need. Below are some examples of pre-race warm ups:
Mile

  • 20 to 25 minutes jog including a total of 2 min (broken into manageable segments if necessary) @ mile race effort. Full recovery then dynamic exercises* and 5 x 100 meter (m) @ goal mile pace.

10k

  • 15 to 25 minutes jog including 2 min @ 10k feel. Full recovery then dynamic exercises* and 6 x 100m @ 5k feel.

Half Marathon

  • 15 minutes jog including 2 min @ HM effort. Full recovery then dynamic exercises* and 6 x 100m @ half marathon feel.

Marathon

  • 5 minutes jog including dynamic exercises* and 5 x 100m @ marathon effort.

Begin your 100m efforts about 10 minutes before your race starts and finish the last 100m rep about 1 minute before the starting gun fires.

If race day temperatures are in 80’s or warmer, your goal is to keep your core temperature as cool as possible while still preparing your muscles neurally to run fast. Jog just enough to allow you to build safely into the few minutes of fast running before doing your dynamic stretching and 100 m race-pace efforts.

It is important to practice your warm up routine in training.

In a future RE article, I will discuss visualization which is another crucial component of a successful warm up. For now, focus on a warm up that includes some faster running and dynamic exercises to help optimize your race day potential.
* See Dynamic Warm Up Exercises for Runners as described by PT John Fiore’s in his previous RE article HERE.

DREAM * BELIEVE * TRAIN * CELEBRATE
Nicole Hunt
Speed Endurance Coaching
Please contact me anytime with questions