Dialing in Your Nutrition and Hydration Strategy

In this month’s edition of Trail Talk we are going to cover hydration and nutrition options for both trail and road runners choosing to tackle longer distance training runs and races.  We have all found ourselves in the middle of a long run where we hit the proverbial “wall”.  Suddenly you lack energy, your vision gets blurry, and although you are exerting even more effort, you cannot help but begin to slow down.   If you have had this experience, there is a good chance it could have been avoided by better managing both your nutrition and hydration during your run. In this article we will go over some general rules of thumb to help you stay on top of your nutrition and hydration strategy.  After reading this I encourage you to test the many options available to you.  Training is the time to dial in a system that suits you best.  Do not be that person who is trying something for the first time the day of a race!

Fuel For The Run

The energy we have stored in our bodies when we start a run comes in the form of glycogen.  In general we have enough of this stored to last us around 90 minutes of exercise.  Once you have depleted your glycogen stores, it is imperative to begin taking in calories to keep from bonking. A general rule of thumb is to begin taking in 200-300 calories an hour after reaching this point.  This will, of course, depend on many things such as your body weight, level of exertion, etc., however, this is a good baseline to begin with.

Gels and Gummies

Energy gels are a great way to take those calories in because they are easy to carry, digest well, and come in convenient packets of around 100 calories each, which makes it easy to track your hourly intake.  They also provide the right type of calories, in the form of carbohydrates, which can be converted into energy quickly. Gels with various amounts of caffeine also exist and can be utilized for an extra boost of energy. Gummy bear consistency chews are also extremely popular for those who may not enjoy the consistency of gels.  These chews are offered by multiple brands and come in a variety of flavors to choose from.


Neglecting to drink enough fluids and replace electrolytes is another common mistake by runners.  By managing hydration and electrolytes well you are also more likely avoid cramping.  The Runner’s Edge carries electrolyte drink mixes as well as flavored electrolyte tablets, which you can dissolve in your water bottles.  As the days get hotter, and your runs get longer, it is important to practice what amount of liquid and electrolytes will keep you feeling strong.

Post Run/Recovery

Just because you are done with your run doesn’t mean you can slack on your nutrition strategy! Now that you have properly depleted yourself with a good workout or longer run, it’s time to replenish your glycogen stores with some calories.  Studies show that eating directly after a run or workout can be very beneficial to recovery. By getting these calories on board early you will minimize post-exercise soreness, rebuild muscle tissue, and restore muscle glycogen.  Nutritionists have found that not only the timing of the food intake, but the type of food you take in post run is very important.  What has proven most beneficial to replenish your body is a protein to carbohydrate ratio of 3 to 1. We carry Hammer Nutrition’s Recoverite drink mix as an easy and convenient option for getting those essential calories after a run. This will allow you to focus more on training and less on recovering!

So come down to the Runner’s Edge and check out the multiple brands, flavors, and options we carry for your nutrition and hydration needs. Our staff have road and trail tested these products, and are happy to help you with figuring out what will work best for your specific training. Remember to test your system early and try multiple brands, flavors, in order to be dialed come race day!  The right strategy will keep you feeling strong over the long run!

Mike Foote

Mike recently mismanaged his electrolytes on a long run and may have had to borrow some water and electrolyte tabs from his running partner before their fourth ascension of Mt. Sentinel.  He hopes to someday practice what he preaches and carry enough food, liquids, and electrolytes for himself!

Useful Pre-Running Exercises For Performance and Injury Prevention

John Fiore, PT
Sapphire Physical Therapy

Choosing the proper warm-up routine for your daily training runs and race day is a necessary component for both performance and injury prevention.  Often overlooked due to time constraints, our pre-running warm-up sets the stage for the run to follow.  A dynamic warm-up routine for runners targets the key muscles involved in both stabilizing and propelling us forward.

Controversy exists regarding static stretching programs.  Does stretching a muscle in a lengthened position truly prepare us for a dynamic activity such as running?  The answer is probably not.  Does static stretching improve running performance?  The answer is no as several recent studies have concluded (J. Wilson, PhD; Journal of Strength and Conditioning). Is static stretching harmful for runners?  The answer is probably not, provided you are stretching correctly and not over-stretching.  Stretching to address an asymmetry in the body can be an effective treatment in conjunction with addressing muscular strength issues, but static stretching will not make you run faster and farther.

A dynamic warm-up routine for runners will prepare the upper body, the core, quads, hamstrings, gluts, gastroc-soleus, and intrinsic foot musculature for running.  Dynamic warm-up is simple, requires no equipment, can be done on your front porch, outside your office, or at the start line.  The warm-up may look impressive to your friends and may even intimidate your competition at the line, but the philosophy is simple:  Move the joints, wake-up the muscles and the associated connective tissue (fascia, tendons, ligaments) for the orchestra of motion we know as running.

A happy joint is a joint in motion.  Joint range of motion stimulates the release of synovial fluid from the joint capsule (synovium), providing a low friction cartilage surface.  Synovial fluid is the most effective lubricant on the face of the earth, period.  Osteoarthritis in our hips, knees, and spine occurs as a result of trauma or stiffness.  It is logical, therefore, to move your hips, knees, feet, and ankles prior to running to pre-lubricate the joints.

Performance can be enhanced by waking up cold and sleeping muscles.  When we sit at work or drive to the trailhead, our glutes are dormant.  A dynamic warm-up routine wakes up the glutes and prepares them for the extremely important job of stabilizing us, propelling us, and transferring the force of impact associated with running into forward progress.  Your heart rate will begin to increase as well which will make that first mile feel like less of a shock.  Do 10 repetitions of each illustrated exercise.  If you have time, do a second set.  Save your static stretching for the end of the run or in the evening when you can relax.  Give the illustrated dynamic warm-up routine a try for a week and see if you notice a difference.

Happy Trails!
John Fiore, PT (sapphirept.com)

KICK OUTS #1                                                          KICK OUTS #2

TOE JUMPS #1                                                                          TOE JUMPS #2

SIDE HOPS                                                                          LUNGES

BUTT KICKS                                               HIP HUG

Running Injuries: Suggestions for Preventing & Treating Three Common Running Injuries

John Fiore, PT

Whether you are new to running, working toward a personal best in an upcoming race, considering trail running, revamping your running and training technique, or a seasoned runner, avoiding injury is easier than recovering from injury.  Last month’s article focused on the role of the hip in preventing injury and recovering from injury.  This month I will provide a few simple preventative pointers aimed at preventing common running injuries.  Three common injuries will be briefly explained and key preventative components listed.  Because exercise prescription should be an individualized process, I recommend a biomechanical running and strength assessment to determine your areas of strength, weakness, and asymmetry.  Biomechanical running assessment should preferably be done on the road or trail, not on a treadmill.  Treadmill running does not require active hip extension which greatly alters hip dynamics.

The following common running injuries can be prevented and/or treated by identifying an area of weakness and the associated area of overcompensation or overuse.  The trick is identifying the cause or culprit.  Below I will list some key areas to strengthen to prevent a running injury or effectively treat an existing running injury:

Common Running Injuries:

  • Knee Pain
    • Hip Strength:  Strong hip musculature is necessary to prevent torsional force through the knee during running.  Hip weakness results in a valgus (inward) stress through the knee and leads to pain and injury.
    • Quad Strength:  Strength through all four quadriceps muscles is necessary to allow the patella (knee cap) to track properly across the knee joint.  The vastus medialis oblique (VMO) is often underdeveloped in runners and leads to lateral tracking of the patella and knee cap pain.
    • Intrinsic Foot Strength:  Weakness of the deep musculature of the foot can lead to excessive pronation and subsequent torsion through the knee.  Pronation is not bad, but the ability of the foot to come out of pronation during the end of the running stride (supination) and lead to knee pain.
    • Adductor Strength:  “Runners Knee” is an overuse injury cause by inflammation of the Pes Anserine (medial knee) tendon.  Overuse or weakness of the adductor muscles, gracilis muscle, and semi-tendonosis hamstring muscle lead to Pes Anserine tendonitis.
    • Quick Check:  Stand in front of a mirror with a 4 to 8 inch step or box in front of you.  Slowly place one foot on the box.  Gradually step up onto the box as you watch your hip, knee, and ankle in the mirror.  See if you can step up onto the box without movement in the hip (outward), knee (inward) or ankle (inward or loss of balance).  Did you pass?
  • Foot Pain
    • Intrinsic Foot Strength:  Weakness of the deep musculature of the foot can lead to excessive pronation (arch falling inward).  Pronation is not bad and allows our foot to accommodate to uneven surfaces and absorb shock.  The tibialis posterior muscle, however, is required to supinate the foot or switch our foot from shock-absorbing mode to rigid push-off platform mode.  Weakness in the foot and lower leg can compromise the balance of pronation & supination.
    • Anterior Lower Leg Strength:  The tibialis anterior (TA) allows us to clear the ground while running.  Adequate TA strength relative to calf strength prevents foot injury.
    • Calf Flexibility:  Limited gastroc-soleus (calf muscle) flexibility has been correlated with increased tension through the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon.  Stretch the calf with the knee bent and with the knee straight.
    • Dynamic Balance:  Balance is a multi-faceted phenomenon enjoyed by two-legged runners.  It begins with foot and ankle balance reactions and can be strengthened with a series of standing motions on a dyna-disc or pillow.
    • Running Shoe Choice:  Talk to the experts at Runners Edge for the correct running shoe choice.  New to running? Experienced runner?  Strong feet, lower legs, quads, hamstrings, hips or do running injuries lurk behind every bend in the trail?  A shoe will not take the place of proper conditioning and training practices.
    • Quick Check:  Sit in a chair with a towel flat on a slick floor.  Slowly curl the towel beneath your foot using your deep foot intrinsic muscles and repeat 5-10 times.  Now stand with your bare feet flat on the floor.  Slowly “curl” your arches to make them “taller” while keeping your big toe on the floor and slowly release without your arch flattening completely to the floor and repeat 5-10 times.
  • Shin Splints
    • Lower Leg Strength:  Balance of anterior and posterior lower leg strength is key in preventing and treating shin splints.  Muscle imbalance equals asymmetry which spells o-v-e-r-u-s-e  i-n-j-u-r-y.
    • Gluteus Medius Strength:  Once more the gluteus medius plays a key supporting role in preventing lower leg torsional force as the body resists the pull of gravity during running which can be described as “graceful falling” stride after stride.
    • Foot and Ankle Flexibility:  Limited ankle medial and lateral mobility (subtalar joint of ankle) limits the foot-ankle-lower leg complex’s ability to conform to terrain irregularity and the compressive forces of running.  Excessive calf tightness leads to premature heel elevation during the stance phase of running can increase stress through the anterior lower leg resulting in shin splints.
    • Running Surface:  Running on firm or off-camber terrain requires the strength and mobility of the joints and muscles of the leg ranging from the overlooked intrinsic foot musculature to the power-generating quads, hamstrings, and glut musculature.  Shorten your stride, run naturally, listen to your body, vary your training terrain, and gradually transition from trail to road running and visa versa.
    • Training Progression:  Gradual changes in running intensity and duration are required to allow your body to heal from training micro-trauma and recover stronger.  The 10% weekly distance increase rule is a good place to start.  Rest is just as important as training.  Overtraining or lack of adequate recovery after a huge training or racing effort increases injury risk.

John Fiore, PT

Next Month’s Article: Dynamic Warm-up Exercises versus Static Stretching

Well it’s officially winter! Our nice, temperate fall gave way to a blustery first week of winter and we definitely felt it at the Turkey Day 8k on Thanksgiving morning. (For all of you who participated, kudos to you! I am always amazed at the number of runners and walkers we get at these freezing events. Read more

Take two holidays just one month apart, add a work party, two neighborhood Christmas parties and that pie you receive each year from Aunt Sue, and you officially have an extra layer of winter chub to keep you warm for the season. Read more