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Frozen Feet

We know reaching fitness goals in the winter can be challenging, but it’s always better with friends and community support! That’s why we are bringing back the Frozen Feet Challenge.

 

We challenge you to run, walk, or hike at least one mile every day for eight weeks, OUTSIDE! Treadmills are great and all, but nothing makes you feel alive like the bite of February air against your cheek. Plus getting outside justifies that cup of cocoa waiting for you!

 

The Frozen Feet Challenge will begin on January 14th and run through March 10th when we will celebrate your accomplishment. You will be able to track your total mileage for that eight week period via a spreadsheet and also be able to give your neighbors gentle reminders to keep getting out the door.

 

FREE SOCKS! This year we are teaming up with Brooks to offer free socks to those who complete the challenge!

 

The Frozen Feet Challenge is a free event and you get a free pair of socks, a finishing party, and some extra motivation to get out the door! What could be better? To sign up for the 2019 Frozen Feet Challenge please fill out the form below and we will send you a link to the official Frozen Feet mileage tracking spreadsheet.

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Winter Off Season Training: Gaining Fitness, Strength, and Durability

As snow begins to accumulate in the mountains surrounding Missoula, many runners long for the warm and sunny days we have become accustomed to over the past several months. Winter, however, provides a crucial opportunity to improve your overall health as a distance runner. Repeating the cycle of training-racing-recovering over several months takes a toll on the body. Consider complimenting your winter running with one of the many winter sports available to Montanans. Not only is winter cross training therapeutic, but it is fun as well. Introducing new movement patterns and loads will allow your bones, muscles and connective tissue to rebuild, providing long-term durability for the 2019 running season. Fitness is comprised of strength, mobility, aerobic conditioning, and power. While running is required to gain running fitness, it is important to gain strength, mobility, aerobic conditioning, and power to maximize running fitness. Winter is the time to train your weaknesses, not your strengths.

 

Strength training should be part of every off season plan for runners. A 2010 research article in the Journal of Orthopedic Sports Physical Therapy showed a correlation between impaired muscular control of the hip, pelvis, and trunk and increased knee pain in runners (Powers C. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther 2010;40(2):42-51. doi:10.2519/jospt.2010.3337). A strength training program aimed at providing functional stabilization of the hip and pelvis in multiple planes is, therefore, a vital part of any off season strengthening program. As we grow older, muscle strength becomes more important as we lose approximately 1% of our muscle mass every year. More importantly, the decline in muscle strength declines at a rate 3-times greater (Goodpaster, B.H., et al., The loss of skeletal muscle strength, mass, and quality in older adults: the health, aging and body composition study. The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, 2006. 61(10): p. 1059-1064. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17077199). Body weight strengthening is important if you are new to weight training or have a history of joint issues. To build muscle strength and durability, however, resistance training (bands, free weights, kettle bells) is necessary. Care should be taken to seek advice of a physical therapist or a personal trainer to assess your strength training technique. One muscle group many runners overlook are the calves (gastroc-soleus muscles). Between the ages of 20 and 60, runners typically experience a 31% reduction in ankle power, total power (ground reaction force to lift you off the ground and in a forward direction), along with a 13% decrease in stride length and running speed (DeVita P, Fellin RE, Seay JF. The relationship between age and running biomechanics. Med & Sci Sports & Exerc. 2016; 48 (1): 98-196.). Performing calf raises-drops and single leg hops will target the calves. Remember to slow down during weight training repetitions to maximize strengthening benefits. Two to three strength training sessions per week will compliment your winter outdoor activities.

 

Mobility becomes more elusive as we age. Runners are particularly vulnerable to stiffness in the knee, hip, and ankle joints as we move in only one plane. Addressing mobility restrictions with the help of a physical therapist will decrease your osteoarthritis risk and improve your running efficiency. Winter is the time to attend a yoga class, seek stretching advice, and have your running stride analyzed to decrease joint loading to promote joint health.

 

Aerobic conditioning requires consistent work. Experience has taught me that maintaining a base level of cardiovascular fitness in the offseason reduces the need to play “fitness catch-up” in preparation for spring running and racing. Building your aerobic engine to carry you up climbs both short and long requires specified training. High intensity intervals are never fun, but mixing it up the means by which you subject yourself to intervals reduces burn-out. Nordic skiing intervals, skinning (backcountry or ski mountaineering set-up) intervals, power hiking intervals, and cyclocross racing are great ways to disguise intervals in a fun and novel activity. One to two longer running or snow hiking workouts in your aerobic threshold range will build or maintain your aerobic fitness.

 

Photo courtesy of stretchcoach.com

Power is achieved through explosive movements such as plyometric exercises and through interval training. Short intervals included in a workout 1-2 times per week will provide the acceleration a summer of long miles has taken away. Utilize a watch timer and heart rate monitor to gauge effort. Plyometric exercises include a loading phase followed by a propulsive unloading phase. Plyometric exercises should not be done when sore or injured, and an adequate level of strength is necessary to perform correctly. Again, seek advice from a physical therapist or personal trainer prior to adding power training to your off season program.

 

Motivation becomes challenging as the daylight hours shrink and the temperatures drop. To avoid runner’s burnout, reduce your winter mileage and intensity and shift your focus on the exercise suggestions outlined above. Embrace the season and find an outside activity or sport which is intriguing. I discovered backcountry skiing and randonee or ski mountaineering two years ago. A January-March Thursday night race series (Rando Radness) at Montana Snowbowl which is organized by Mike Foote attracts skiers of all ages and abilities in a fun, social atmosphere. The winter days of riding my bike on a trainer indoors are long gone.

 

Durability will reduce injury risk by preparing your body for the demands of the running season. Overall fitness (strength, mobility, aerobic conditioning, power) combined with reasonable training volume increases and adequate recovery determine one’s long-term running durability. The off season is the time to build running durability as distance running and racing have a catabolic (breaks down tissue) effect on body tissues. Make the coming winter a season full of adventure, recovery, rebuilding, and fun.
John Fiore, PT

Offseason Training for Runners: Why gluteal exercise are not enough.

October marks the beginning of the running offseason. While some lament the cooler temperatures and frozen precipitation, many of us are dreaming of skiing through deep powder over the next several months. The offseason, however, is the time period during which the foundation of your 2018 running season is built. Offseason cross training, mixed with selective running, represents a therapeutic physical and mental break from long miles and needed preparation for the coming year.

Western Montana provides ample outdoor cross training opportunities. If your 2018 running goals include a 10k PR, then short interval running, track workouts, and alpine skiing will meet your needs. If your goals include achieving success in an ultra distance trail run, then Nordic skiing and ski mountaineering will compliment your winter running program. While the intensity and duration will vary based on one’s goals and abilities, below are a few areas an effective offseason running program should include:

Injury Risk Reduction:

The best predictor of future running injury is the presence of a past running injury. The most obvious cause of running overuse injuries is too much volume or load to the system too quickly. Simple solution: gradually increase running mileage and intensity and allow for adequate recovery. Running training programs and racing goals, however, complicate the simplicity of injury preventions. Understanding a few facts regarding how our bodies move is an important first step in understanding and avoiding injuries due to compensatory movement imbalances we may not realize we have.  

Skeletal muscle can be divided into two groups representing their primary function: Stabilizers and Mobilizers.  Stabilizing 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 glutes 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.  

Aerobic Engine:

Cardiovascular fitness requires consistent work. Experience has taught me that maintaining a base level of cardiovascular fitness in the offseason reduces the need to play “fitness catch-up” in preparation for spring running races. Building your aerobic engine to carry you up climbs both short and long requires specified training. High intensity intervals are never fun, but mixing up the means by which you subject yourself to intervals reduces burn-out. Nordic skiing intervals, skinning (backcountry or ski mountaineering set-up) intervals, power hiking intervals, and cyclocross racing are great ways to disguise intervals in a fun and novel activity. One to two running or snow hiking interval workouts can also be implemented during the offseason if you prefer to stick with running.

Mobility:

Consider joint and tissue (muscle, tendon, fascia) mobility as the key to reduce some of the compensatory movement patterns discussed above. Flexibility is often synonymous with extreme stretching. While many of us are inherently “tight,” it is important to distinguish between tight muscles and stiff joints. Joints which lack the necessary mobility (range of motion) for healthy movement are subjected to increased impact loading while running. The offseason is a great time to have your stiff knee, hip, or ankle evaluated by a physician and by a physical therapist to improve joint function. Be proactive with joint stiffness now to avoid cartilage damage and chronic joint-related issues later. Running through joint pain is never a good idea.

Intensity:

While offseason cross training and exercise should be fun, intensity should be added on a weekly basis to build strength and power. As athletes age, the importance of workout intensity increases. Most athletes over age forty gravitate towards long, ultra endurance sports and races. While it is true that longer events suit our highly trained endurance engines well, training with intensity will build muscle strength and muscle performance. Regularly-scheduled (2-3 times per week) plyometric and interval workouts will build some speed in your legs for whatever cross training activity you choose. Short hills will seem easier to run up in the spring as well.

Fun Meter:  

Enjoy your off season! Branch out and try new activities. Missoula is fortunate to be a mecca for outdoor winter recreation and a hub for excellent fitness establishments and gyms. Consult a professional for assistance in setting up a balanced off season program to suit your 2018 goals AND to recover-rebuild from your 2017 running season.

Don’t waste your off season training time by strengthening compensatory movement patterns which lead to a decline in performance and possible injury.  Get the most out of your training through an effective physical therapy consultation. The physical therapy staff understand compensatory movement patterns which lead to movement imbalances and injury. For more information, call or email the Sapphire Physical Therapy staff. Make 2018 the year you run, train, and compete without pain or limitations.  

John Fiore, PT

john@sapphirept.com

www.sapphirept.com