Members Blog

54 posts

Comrades in 6 Days Challenge

Massive congratulations to the 23 runners who participated in the challenge, all runners completed the 90km within the 
required 12 hours! Incredible!
According to current Comrades finish times, the following medals were earned:
  • 2 x Silver (sub 7.30)
  • 3 x Bill Rowan (sub 9 hour)
  • 10 x Robert Mtshali (sub 10 hour)
  • 5 x Bronze (sub 11 hour)
  • 3 x Vic Clapham (sub 12 hour)

Click on your name below to download your finisher certificate:

 

WCAC Branded Face Masks

From Captain Monique:

Hi All, hope you are all doing well? And looking forward to our first outside run? Going to be the best run ever.

In light of the president’s request that we wear MASKS…we are having masks made in our club colours , with our club logo on. They are very good quality, are washable and have a removable filter. They have been successfully tested through a hospital autoclave machine.

As a community initiative, the club is subsiding 50% of the cost – selling them at R20 each.

Please let me know if you will be interested and how many you would like?

captain@westcoastathleticclub.co.za

Thanks to Graham Hough from Expand A Sign for providing these high quality masks.

Monthly Awards – March

Hi Westies

Welcome to our MONTHLY AWARDS evening. Little different – but we can still celebrate our March winners.

LEGEND AWARD:
Justin Roux for giving up his marathon at Weskus to help an injured runner. A selfless act from an awesome runner. Very proud to have you part of WCAC ⭐️⭐️⭐️

CAPTAIN’S AWARD:
Tamara Maneveld Billimore for persevering like a champ to finish Weskus marathon. Coming back from injury and had to dig really deep. Very well done!⭐️⭐️⭐️

TRAIL RUNNER for March
The amazing Colleen Cross for completing the grueling Addo 44km trail run. Absolutely brilliant!⭐️⭐️⭐️

FEMALE RUNNER for March:
Nominees: Lisl Grobler, Itumeleng Molefe, Elisabeth Stavenga, Monica Paterson and Xolisiwe Tolokazi Booi.

And the winner is…. Itumeleng Molefe for 3 SILVER standards.
Century City 10km (44:29), Slave Route 21km (1:39) and Constantia Village 15km (1:09)
Very very well done ⭐️⭐️⭐️

MALE RUNNER for March:
Nominees: Nick Miles, Wayne Leonard, Willie Coetzee, Elijah Racoco, Anele Bans, Mafika Makhathini,Luca Boyana, Andre Pepler, Graham Hough, Japie Swanepoel,David Yuill, Marius Nel, Iain Park-Ross, Alan Berning, Henricus Cook and Osbourne Renecke.

And the winner is Luca Boyana on a brilliant 2:42 time for the Weskus marathon. A GOLD standard. Absolutely brilliant ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Very well done to all. The awards will be handed out at our first possible awards evening 🏆

Captain Monique

2020 ELE League Cup Races

1. Background

The ELE Trading League Cup was born out of the idea of having reward and recognition for the short distance members since they, the majority of the club’s membership, do not participate in the big-name events such as Oceans Ultra, Comrades, Ironman, Puffer, etc. The competition was initially named the Short Distance League Cup and presented at the club’s monthly awards evening on 7th November 2017 by the then vice-captain for short distances, Naz Parker. Subsequently ELE Trading came on board to sponsor the awards for a period of 3 years and the competition is now known as the ELE Trading League Cup.

2. How the ELE Trading League Cup works

The league consists of races up to a distance of 21.1 km only and includes all those in the Western Province Athletics race calendar along with selected races from Boland and South Western District. The competition is based on points. Each race carries 10 points. However, specially selected races carry bonus points. A bonus point race’s points is determined as follows: 10 Points + Points to the value of the race distance. E.g. if you participate in the Timber City SpookHill 15 km Challenge (a bonus point race), your points tally for that race will be 10 + 15 = 25. Similarly, if you run the PPC Riebeek Berg Half Marathon (also a bonus race), you points for that race will be: 10 + 21 = 31.

3. Awards for the ELE Trading League Cup

A quarterly award for the male and female member leading the points table for the said quarter will be awarded at the club’s monthly awards evenings of April, July, October and January. The male and female winners of the league will be awarded a floating trophy and a trophy or medal or shield to keep at the club’s annual awards ceremony in February/March/April of the following year. In the event of a tie (2 or more members on equal points) for the quarterly and/or final awards, the winners will be determined by means of separate 5 km Time Trial races for male and female members.

4. Rules & Regulations for the ELE Trading League Cup

4.1. Participants can be any paid-up ASA registered member of West Coast Athletic Club.
4.2. Only races listed on the ELE Trading League Cup count towards points.
4.3. Results are obtained from the official race results published by WPA. Ensure that your name (as registered with ASA) is correctly written on the race cards at races and that you hand-in your race card at races. If you name does not appear on the official race results, is incorrectly spelled due to race officials not being able to decipher your handwriting, or you have been disqualified during that race, no points will be awarded even if you did participate.
4.4. Updates to the league table will be published on the club’s website and/or Facebook page.
4.5. All league-related queries are to be directed to via email to: vicecaptainshort@westcoastathleticclub.co.za

Metabolic Equivalent Minutes

How much energy/calories do we burn during training and race participation?
In order to answer this simple yet complex question we need to know what a metabolic equivalent, (MET), is. This is the amount of energy that a person uses per minute during physical activity and is dependent on the person’s body weight, their fitness level, level of exertion and the duration of the activity.
Muscle cells use oxygen to help produce the energy to fuel muscle contractions. The more oxygen that you consume and burn both during and after physical activity the more calories you will burn. The human body expends approximately 5 calories of energy to consume 1 liter of oxygen. If you use more oxygen during physical activity then you will burn more calories or energy.
One MET is the resting metabolic rate (RMR) of an individual which is approximately 3.5 liters of oxygen consumed per kilogram of body weight per minute (mL/kg/min). This represents the amount of oxygen used while the human body is at rest. If an activity requires 4 METS then it is doing 4 times the amount of work as compared to when resting which will then require 4 times more oxygen and calories.
METS and MET-Minutes:
A metabolic equivalent, or MET, is a unit useful for describing the energy expenditure of a specific activity. A MET is the ratio of the rate of energy A well-known physiologic effect of physical activity is that it expends energy. expended during an activity to the rate of energy expended at rest. For example, 1 MET is the rate of energy expenditure while at rest. A 4 MET activity expends 4 times the energy used by the body at rest. If a person does a 4 MET activity for 30 minutes, he or she has done 4 x 30 = 120 MET-minutes (or 2.0 MET-hours) of physical activity. A person could also achieve 120 MET-minutes by doing an 8 MET activity for 15 minutes.
Two Methods of Assessing Aerobic Intensity
The intensity of aerobic physical activity can be defined in absolute or relative terms.
Absolute Intensity
The Advisory Committee concluded that absolute moderate-intensity or vigorous-intensity physical activity is necessary for substantial health benefits, and it defined absolute aerobic intensity in terms of METs:
• Light-intensity activities are defined as 1.1 MET to 2.9 METs.
• Moderate-intensity activities are defined as 3.0 to 5.9 METs. Walking at 3.0 miles per hour requires 3.3 METs of energy expenditure and is therefore considered a moderate-intensity activity.
• Vigorous-intensity activities are defined as 6.0 METs or more. Running at 10 minutes per mile (6.0 mph) is a 10 MET activity and is therefore classified as vigorous intensity.
Relative Intensity
Intensity can also be defined relative to fitness, with the intensity expressed in terms of a percent of a person’s (1) maximal heart rate, (2) heart rate reserve, or (3) aerobic capacity reserve. The Advisory Committee regarded relative moderate intensity as 40 to 59 percent of aerobic capacity reserve (where 0 percent of reserve is resting and 100 percent of reserve is maximal effort). Relatively vigorous-intensity activity is 60 to 84 percent of reserve.
To better communicate the concept of relative intensity (or relative level of effort), the Guidelines adopted a simpler definition:
• Relatively moderate-intensity activity is a level of effort of 5 or 6 on a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 is the level of effort of sitting, and 10 is maximal effort.
• Relatively vigorous-intensity activity is a 7 or 8 on this scale. This simplification was endorsed by the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association in their recent guidelines for older adults.1 This approach does create a minor difference from the Advisory Committee Report definitions, however. A 5 or 6 on a 0 to 10 scale is essentially 45 percent to 64 percent of aerobic capacity reserve for moderate intensity. Similarly, a 7 or 8 on a 0 to 10 scale means 65 percent to 84 percent of reserve is the range for relatively vigorous-intensity activity.

Have you ever seen the term MET on a piece of exercise equipment and wondered what it meant? MET stands for metabolic equivalent, which is one way that exercise physiologists estimate how many calories are burned during physical activity. Having a basic understanding of METs and how to use them can help you determine the best physical activities to help your clients achieve their health and fitness goals.
We can use the following table to determine our average energy expenditure per minute during various types of running and is dependent on the speed at which we are running:

4 miles per hour = 6.4 kilometers per hour= 15 minute miles= 9.3minutes per kilometer =6METS
5 miles per hour= 8 kilometers per hour = 12 minute miles=7.5 3minutes per kilometer =8.3METS
6 miles per hour=9.7 kilometers per hour= 10 minute miles=6.2 3minutes per kilometer = 9.8METS
7 miles per hour= 11 kilometers per hour = 8.5 minute miles=5.23minutes per kilometer= 11METS
8 miles per hour= 13 kilometers per hour= 7.5minute miles=4.63minutes per kilometer= 11.8METS
9 miles per hour= 14.5 kilometers per hour= 6.5 minute miles=4 3minutes per kilometer =12.8METS
10 miles per hour= 16 kilometers per hour=6 minute miles=3.73minutes per kilometer=14.5METS
11 miles per hour=17.7 kilometers per hour= 5.5 minute miles=3.43minutes per kilometer=16METS
12 miles per hour= 19.3 kilometers per hour= 5 minute miles=3.13minutes per kilometer = 19METS
13 miles per hour=21 kilometers per hour= 4.3minute miles=2.73minutes per kilometer=19.8METS
Cross country = 9 METS
Marathon =13.3 METS
Running stairs up = 15 METS

“Rest” During Training? What Does That Even Mean?

Introduction

As some of you may know I attempted my first hundred miler during the month of March. While the event had an unfavorable ending due to a fall my training taught me a great deal about how important rest is. During that time I was researching and having discussions with my coach as to what this entails. The one thing he said that stood out was that rest was possibly far more important than the training itself.

How the pros train has mostly been a secret. If they do divulge on their training methods it has been in a book or training programs you need to purchase. Even in this instance, it has not been down to the exact detail of how they did it.

Jim Walmsley has blasted the door wide open with showing each of his runs on Strava.
Jim is one of the Coconino Cowboys, more commonly referred to as “The Cowboys” in ultra trail running. His story is definitely one to read up on.
What makes his training exceptional is that he runs in the range of 120-170km a week. To add to the mystery even further, is that these runs are often done at high intensity. The first question that came to mind for me was how does he achieve this without getting injured!? The theory, as mentioned above, tells us that rest is just as if not more important than the actual training. This sparked a few weeks of frantic research on the concept of muscle recovery and “rest”. Clearly, Jim is incorporating rest in a different manner as to the traditional rest day.

What does rest mean?

To my amazement, I discovered that “rest days”don’t actually mean you sit and do nothing. In fact athletes and patients that have muscle and or tendon injuries that are stagnant in fact recover slower from injuries than those that don’t. The only reason this was a starting point… was that when searching for rest after exercise the majority of hits were more about injury recovery. Right, so during injury recovery you should not be completely immobile. Why though, surely lying down, sleeping and eating would be optimal? Just on this point, one could submit an article to the medical journals of the science why movement assists in injury recovery. Research further reveals that slight stretching should be incorporated daily combined with foam rolling. Here however they hammer on that the muscles be warm before doing so, and that the intensity is very light. This can be achieved with a warm shower or bath, and or warm packs before doing stretches and foam rolling.

I was able to deduce that injury recovery entails movement of some sort if you wanted to heal faster. This still doesn’t answer what to do for recovery between exercises. However, it does bring us closer to understanding “rest”. Clearly, if injury rest and recovery process entails movement then it would be correct to assume that muscles recovery or in short “rest” needs to include muscle movement.

When is this “rest” period though? For most of us, we think of it as the “off days” or rather the days where we don’t run. Some incorporate cross training on days they don’t run to train other muscle groups around the ones they use for running. The point is we associate the rest time with the days we don’t run. How does that relate to Jim or Ryan Sandes, South African 100 mile champion and red bull runner, who doesn’t take many if any rest days? The truth is… “rest” period for them starts as soon as the exercise comes to an end.

Maximising Rest Period

When your running activity comes to an end, the gap between the end of your current activity and the start of the next activity is essentially a rest period. What the professionals do is they maximize this period by aiding the recovery period. Thus making the hours between activities be as effective as doing nothing for a day or two. This became very apparent when filtering through articles that have been written on effective training and the average day of a pro runner.

Let’s have a look at the summarised “routine” of a pro or a semi-pro athlete:

  • Wake up and consume water with supplements;
  • Eat breakfast;
  • Hot Shower;
  • Stretch and foam roll while muscles are warm;
  • Warm up and exercise for the day;
  • Warm down;
  • Post-exercise drink recovery drink that is pre-made;
  • Stretch and foam roll;
  • Eat;
  • Ice bath or Ocean bath;
  • Nap 3h;
  • Eat;
  • Walk;
  • Hot Epson salt bath;
  • Stretch and foam roll;
  • Drink Supplements;
  • Sleep 8h.

This has been the rough design that I have come up with after combining some of the articles I have read. This excludes Lyno and massage therapists days.

From the above, we can clearly see that “rest” starts as soon as the activity ends. This is also extremely time-consuming for a non-professional athlete. It would almost be impossible to incorporate a normal working day into this. I say almost but I can’t see myself being able to do all of that effectively and work a full days work. Does this mean we should throw in the towel because what’s the point then? Absolutely NOT, what it does give us though is the insight into the concept of the loosely used term “rest”. From this, we might be able to shorten the number of days we “take off” or, more importantly for me, can make the long run days post-exercise feel more comfortable. Not to mention, make the Monday post a hard training weekend feel a little less blue.

Framework

While the above gives a high-level framework it doesn’t go into detail as to what exact stretches, foam roll exercises, length of ice-bath, the amount of Epson salts per liter of hot water nor the exact supplements or diet. What a framework like this does do though is help with incorporating routine and discipline.
I am personally in the process of implementing a framework like this for myself, only been toying around with the exact structure for the last week after weeks of research. Below will be the “work in progress” framework for myself, a non-professional ultra trail runner, to give you an idea as to how you might like to incorporate some type of “rest” framework for yourself.

Weekday structure:

  • Wake up and consume water with supplements – 5 min;
  • Prep and Eat breakfast – 20 min;
  • Hot Shower – Depending on water restrictions, if none then 5 min;
  • Stretch and foam roll after a shower – 15 min;
  • Warm up and Exercise for the day – 1h to 1h 30min;
  • Post-exercise recovery drink and quick shower – 5 min;
  • Stretch and foam roll – 15min;

Therefore 2h 5min or 2h 35min before my workday starts;

  • Eat Lunch – 30min;
  • Walk – 30min;
  • Sneak in another meal at the desk;
  • Dinner;
  • Hot Bath, dependant on water restrictions, otherwise a  short shower;
  • Stretch and foam roll – 15min;
  • Sleep 8h.

Weekend structure:

  • Wake up and consume water and supplements – 5 min;
  • Prep and Eat breakfast – 20min;
  • Hot Shower – 5 min (dependant on water restrictions);
  • Stretch and foam roll after shower 15min;
  • Warm up and Exercise for the day – Anything from 1h to 4h;
  • Post-exercise recovery drink and shower – 5min;
  • Stretch and foam roll;
  • Ice bath – 20 min (normally eat during the long run exercises so can wait);
  • Eat a large meal;
  • Nap 3h;
  • Eat;
  • Walk;
  • Hot Epson salt bath 20min (water restriction dependant);
  • Stretch and foam roll – 15min;
  • Drink Supplements;
  • Sleep 8h.

As to the details of the supplements, diet, stretching and rolling exercises, and the training I won’t be sharing on that. Purely because it is going to be different for each person based on the type of running and training they are doing.
I hope that this has been an insightful and fun post to read and would like to hear what you have tried and found to work or just simply your thoughts even if you haven’t tried this before.

One thing is for sure, “rest” does take up a whole lot more time than the actual training. Makes sense why it is just as important as physical training.

Happy running, until next time!!!

Two Oceans Ultra – A Few Ideas and Reminders

Having a few pre-race jitters already? Thinking about how am I going to manage 56km within the required time or at my target pace? How can I improve from last years’ time? Have I really trained enough?
These are a few questions that will be running through more than just one individual’s mind that will be running the Two Oceans Ultra. So yes, you are not alone.

Whether it is a 100 Miler Trail attempt or a 56km Road Ultra attempt there are a few key things I like to keep in mind. I hope that these will come in handy and thus create a memorable experience for your Two Oceans Ultra. Let’s look at a few steps to achieving this.

Step 1: Things you can control.

Finalize things you can control pre-race.
Here I’m referring to registration, on the day transport, arranging seconds, gear check.

Race Registration

Being in Cape Town I would suggest going on Wednesday, or the first day of registration, to collect your race number and Racetec chip. If it’s not your first time, remember to take your old chip with and get them to check it is in good working order.
DO NOT linger around wasting time at registration especially if you are unable to go on the first day. You do not need to add extra time on legs for any reason. If you happen to be going with a group of people that do want to spend time at the expo then arrange to meet them at a coffee shop after.
That being said to make sure that you leave the expo with all the required items you will need for race day such as, race numbers and Racetec chip.

Transportation to the race

Here I would strongly suggest using the Bus provided by the club. It is going to be an absolute nightmare to get to the start in your own transport. It will also be very difficult for anyone to drop you off close to the start. There is simply no need to add-on extra stress or kilometers for the day.
This year however there is no transportation back from the event, therefore organise with someone to collect you, however, I do recommend factoring in some time to enjoy the post-race West Coast Vibe.
For those doing Puffer, this is also a great opportunity to put on your trail shoes and go for a trail run after. This will allow you to get a feeling for what awaits in August, hitting the mountain on tired legs is not something to shrug off.

Seconds

The race is rather well organised and West Coast does have the traditional marathon mark support section. There really shouldn’t be a need for a second in this race. However, if it will make you comfortable having seconds along the route then keep in mind it will be hard for them to move from point to point. I would suggest for multiple seconding points to arrange with different people for each point.

Gear Check

Make sure that you have all your required gear to complete the race prepped and ready two days before. It is not a pleasant experience realising that you don’t have your kit clean or that you left your favorite running cap at a friend’s place the night before. Not to mention that you forgot to get your needed race supplements.

Race Nutrition

Use what you know works for you.
Seriously that’s it, don’t try new things on race day it just will end up making you anxious unnecessarily as you will not know how your system reacts to it.

Don’t get into a shitty situation

Try to go to the loo the night before or in the morning at home before getting on the bus.
Grab a newspaper, magazine, tablet or your phone then sit down and wait for your system to empty itself. There is nothing worse than needing to go unnecessarily on race day.
That being said, run with a few wet wipes in a bank bag or a small ziplock bag just for the off chance nature calls during the race. You do not want to get to a porter loo only to find no toilet paper.

Anti-Chafe Cream and Sunscreen

If you know you chafe then make sure you put on the anti-chafe where needed. Apply liberally as it is going to be a long day out. The same goes for sunscreen. You really do not want to be finding yourself getting roasted. I would recommend applying this at home before heading out to the bus pickup point.

Make sure everything you can control pre-race day is sorted out.
This will help relieve most of the tension.

Step 2: Plan but respect the race.

Understand the race you are about to run, you should know the race profile to the point where you can recite at which kilometer the profile changes and the type of change.

Oceans, for those that haven’t meticulously studied the profile, is a very misleading race the first +-30km. It’s rather flat for the first half and overcooking it from the gun is a huge temptation.
If you are feeling strong then slowdown is my advice for the first 20km. Use the first 20km as a means to get your body warmed up and comfortable. You can always increase your pace later on if needed. Going out too fast will cost you in this race as the climbs are at the end.
I would also strongly suggest joining the clubs long run that recce’s the last part of the route.

When planning your expected pacing take into account that there is going to be traffic at the start.
A big mistake here would be to try running on the pavement and weave in and out amongst runners. It’s risky in terms of falling and wastes large amounts of energy unnecessarily. The field will thin out as the race goes along. REMEMBER TO WATCH OUT FOR CATEYES!
As with any ultra, whether trail or road, it is highly suggested to have a plan A, B, C, D. Things just happen to go wrong the longer the race is. Setup your desired pacing accordingly and know what you will do if something was to go wrong like an upset stomach, blisters, unexpected chafing, etc.
This way you won’t be caught off guard and will also not feel overwhelmed if things don’t go 100% on the day. Also, take note of the weather forecast for the day.
This is what we refer to when we say respect the race, making provisions and acknowledging that no ultra is easy. Knowing the race profile really does help, another thing not to brush off.

Step 3: Race etiquette.

Unfortunately, we have to touch on this subject. There are just a few small things to remember to make it an enjoyable race, not only for you but for others too.
Firstly and foremost is litter. There is absolutely NO EXCUSE not to put the empty water sachets in the bin or to carry them with you to the next bin. I personally will make anyone’s life a living hell for the duration of the race if I see them doing this. The reason being is that the plastic becomes crazy slippery when there are a few of them piled on the tar, making it an accident scene waiting to happen. Obviously, the environmental impact is also something to keep in mind. So please don’t be that person that doesn’t have basic manners and acts like their parents didn’t teach them the right way on race day.

Secondly, have fun. It really is a beautiful race. The views are spectacular and the atmosphere is contagious on the day. It really is a special race that will leave its mark on you.
Thirdly, smile and remember to great your fellow club mates along the route. It really does mean a lot to people when you say hi to them as they know it takes a bit of extra energy to do so.
Lastly, obey the race marshals and remember that your safety is their first priority. They are not there to make your life difficult. Giving them the thumbs up or thanking them also goes a long way.

Step 4: Listen to your body and ignore the mind.

Your mind is going to pull the usual stunts on race day. It normally starts around the 30km mark. I have no idea why but most runners can concur with this. In two oceans however the profile also starts to change at this point. Here is where the training and knowing your strengths come into play. Some people are great uphill runners and others can allow their quads to take a beating on the downs. Remember what worked for you during training and listen to your body. If it needs to take a walk then take a walk. If you have overcooked it and feel like pulling out the race, take 15 min on the side of the road and relax. If it still is unbearable then take another 5 min before you exit the race. In this time try to get some electrolytes into your system. Most runners that have pulled out of a race say that while they sit in the bailers’ bus they start to feel better shortly after getting in.
Stick to your strategy and remember we all have to run our own race.

Remember these steps and you should have a great race experience!!

Curious as to what I will be taking or using on race day then you can read lower down.

 

 

My Two Oceans Preparations

Last year I ran the long trail the day before and the following day the 56km.
This year I will be doing it the other way around, the 56km followed by an additional 44km trail ultra.
My goal is to try and run 100km in sub 15h. Which sounds like a lot of time however a trail ultra is never a quick exercise.
I will need to have a few logistical and other plans in place.
Firstly, I will definitely be making use of the bus to the event.
Secondly, I will be trying to figure out if I can get my trail gear to the finish of the 56km.
That being said, I will have to make sure that during the 56km that I am very well hydrated and my electrolytes are topped up every 15km. Otherwise, the trail section is going to eat me alive and make for a very very long day out.
Thirdly, provided we start on time, I may have to consider that there is a chance I will be running at night. This is going to mean packing in a headlamp and some warm clothes.
Fourthly, food for the trail. There won’t be aid stations so packing light but high-calorie food is also going to be a challenge of note.

The weather is going to determine if I do attempt the extra 44km on the day. As it is not an official race and I will be on my solo in the mountain and am not prepared to risk life and limb if the weather is unfavorable.
So let’s hope for great weather on the day.

Happy running, until next time!!!

Your First Trail 100 Miler – Part 2

You should now have a good idea as to whether or not you are brave or stupid enough to enter your selected 100 miler.
Either way, this is not going to detract from the fact that training is going to take a large part of your time going forward.
We mainly focused on the pre-entry analysis in the last post.

For this post, we will predominantly focus on how to research and plan training going forward.
Ideally, you would like a year or more to get yourself feeling comfortable for such a large distance.
Best to build slowly over time and after a solid rest. Resting and timing when to rest will also play a key part in achieving getting to the start line injury free.

As with the previous post, I will be breaking it up into steps/sections to attempt to make the flow of the document a tad easier and more pleasant.

Pre Training Analysis

Step 1 – List what you know

We have heard and seen that no one person’s body reacts the same to identical training programs, even at the same intensity, time of day, temperature, humidity, etc.
The reason for this is simple, we don’t live the exact same lives. While some tense up their muscles from stress others perhaps struggle to sleep as the brain unwinds, the point is we are different.

To make life a lot easier for yourself and your coach (really recommend a coach that has run a few of these and completed them) we are going to pick your brain on things you do know.

Starting with…

Race Nutrition

For most people, this will not be their first road/trail ultra.
What do you normally consume during a race?
Do you have a set plan in terms of what supplements you drink or consume?
I, for example, find that a rehydrate or cramp ease every 15km tends to help me stay on top of getting cramps. It is also vital for me to consume some sort of food at 50km like stew or chunky soup with bread, cheese, and biltong. Eggs and bacon is also a winner if possible.
In combination with this, at least 750ml of water is needed every 10km.
For a treat, I enjoy a good date ball that is made of dates, nuts, coconut, and honey. Kind of a reward snack for having reached a certain point in the race or training run.

This combination or strategy has worked for me during my long training runs.

If you do not have a nutrition plan that works for you or one that is rather more guesswork than anything else I recommend to make a huge mental note here. Knowing what does and does not work for your digestive system is a huge plus.
During your long training runs, you will also want to eat, this will teach your system to learn to handle food while running. This will also help you determine at what pace to run before/during/after consuming food.

Recovery

How long does it take you to recover after a marathon FULLY!?
Recovery in this instance means, absolutely zero stiffness or pain AND a back to normal low HR at regular low HR pace? What do I mean here…
During your training for a marathon, there will be some easy recovery runs that you would have done. These will either be pace based or HR based. An example, if I am well rested I can run at 6:15/km at my recovery pace. If I am slightly fatigued or have been training hard for the week that can be 7:30/km. That way I know I am feeling recovered after a marathon, in terms of HR if I am running anything from a 6:15-6:30/km for an easy recovery low HR run.
This is a very important fact to know, so don’t brush it off. How long does it take you to be back to that regular low HR recovery pace with no aches, niggles or discomfort?

This will predominantly give your coach a very good idea as to how to set your recovery weeks, in terms of intervals and intensity for these vital rest weeks as you go along in your training program.

Previous Injuries

What did you injure previously? How did this injury come about, a fall or overtraining or possibly overexertion during a race?
Knowing the cause of the injury and revisiting that moment in time can give you insight into what not to do. Try and write down the warning signs you had before it took place. You want to ideally avoid this at all costs during training.
What was your recovery time and what steps did you take to recover from this?

Initial Recovery Steps

What recovery steps do you take that have worked well for you in the past?
Some people find that a protein shake post a run has worked miracles for them others have found that 20min ocean baths or hot Epson salt baths have done the trick.

Others prefer and swear by supplements such as slowmag, rehydrate and or vitamin C intake post a run within 20min.

Sleep

This little piece of information is always overlooked and gently placed to the side. Our bodies recover best when we have had adequate and sufficient deep sleep.
What have you found in the past to be the recommended hours of sleep?
Do you perform better with a regular sleeping cycle?
Have you given much attention to this point before? A vast majority of runners have not. As an ultra-trail runner, this will become your strength or your weakness. Knowing where your best sleeping pattern lies can really give you the edge during building weeks of training.

Shoes and Socks

These two pairs of items can make or break your 100 miler experience.
Finding the right shoes for me personally was not a huge issue but the socks… I could write a whole book on just how darn difficult it was to find the right socks and knowing how to prep my feet to keep them blister free.
The point is though that this is definitely something you want to know as soon as possible. Unfortunately, it is literally a case of trial and error.
A short summary of my experience. I found that trail toe socks worked well for me. I use baby powder to dry my feet, apply Vaseline to the top of the toenails of each foot then place on the sock. Replacing my socks after river crossings or after 50km. I also run the race with a small towel to dry my feet.
Have also found that after all the river crossings to replace my shoes with the socks worked like magic.
It, therefore, is very important to know this before race day as to what works for you.

Weather

How does your body react to the weather? Some people really struggle when running in severe conditions. These people have to specifically do heat or cold weather training to get their bodies to adapt to conditions. Heat used to be my Achilles however knowing this I informed my coach and he made sure that my training program incorporated enough heat training.
Try research for the race the different possible conditions for the area and train accordingly. Doesn’t help to train in the snow if your race is in sub-Saharan Africa during the summer.

General Nutrition

Felt I had to separate race Nutrition from general Nutrition.
There is a lot of buzz going about as to what to eat etc during training.
My advice is just to make sure that whatever your preferred dietary plan that you consume enough calories in a day. Sounds really strange but make sure you are not starving yourself. It can be extremely difficult as a non-professional athlete to balance a busy lifestyle with enough food. Often you feel like skipping meals because you are just too busy with something. Stop and take the time to eat. Here again, it helps if you know what works for you from past experiences.
If you do not know what works for you or feel that maybe this could be improved upon then now is the time to see a dietitian before the hectic training starts.

General Recovery

How many days do you find that foam rolling and or stretching help?
Do you find that pre or post foam rolling works best? Perhaps rather doing this daily at night before bedtime has a better effect on your system? Do adding certain supplements in this part of your routine also assist with better recovery periods?
Trial and error if you don’t know.
From personal experience, foam rolling at night or at least 5h after exercise works well for me followed by a slowmag and 1 gram vitamin C. This way I minimise cramps in the night and wake up feeling less stiff than usual. In the mornings after a shower, I find that general stretching makes the day a little more bearable especially during building weeks.

Right, so this should give you a comprehensive idea of what you do or rather don’t know.
A lot of these points will come to light as you train.
I suggest having a good old fashioned pen and paper journal whereby you can take note of these things along your journey to training for the 100 miler.

Step 2 … I think that’s enough for this post, next time we can discuss step 2 onwards.

Happy trail running, until next time!!!

Your First Trail 100 Miler – Part 1

The goal of this multi-part series is to assist those that are thinking of attempting a trail 100 mile race.
Hopefully, this will give some insight into the process of getting to the start line.

If you have never attempted a 100 miler trail race, forget everything you think you know about running a race. Start afresh with your preparations and be prepared to train like never before.

“Really!? You are starting with training as the first post?”
Unfortunately, most of us think of training as putting your exercise clothes on and heading out to do some physical activity. In a 100 miler it would be impossible to finish the race without the physical training however, the mental and analysis skill development outweigh the physical.
“Analysis skill development… right…”

Yes, the ability to analyse, assess and execute in a situation when you are awake for more than 24h gets challenging. As with the physical side, you cannot be expected to master this skill set without some training. The starting point of developing this skill is to learn to research and read.
Your biggest challenges are going to know what to do when faced with adverse obstacles during your run. DNF’s (Did not finish) can be avoided, in most cases, if the runner has mastered the skill of pre-race Analysis. I’m going to attempt to break it down into a few steps to make the thought process seem a bit more logical. To be honest you will be visiting these steps at random, most likely while preparing for your race.

In the first post, we will discuss…

“Entry” Analysis:


Step 1:

Pick your race carefully. Make sure it will be roughly during the year where you can afford to take some time away from other activities. It will consume you mentally and physically especially leading up to race day. As a non-professional athlete, this is very difficult to predict a year in advance. We all know life happens in between and that we don’t live in a bubble where everything happens according to plan.
Note: a year in advance…

Step 2:

No, you cannot click enter just yet… for a while, so relax the submission button won’t jump off the screen!
Don’t get carried away by the sales pitch videos on the website or from pro athlete interviews about the terrain! “Flat, runnable” are two very subjective terms in trail running. For some there are even newly paved roads that are “runnable” or “flat” at 5km into a race but not at 130km into a race.

The term jeep track is also one to take very lightly. I have seen some jeep track that is absolutely not runnable without taking on some serious risk. Even though being simply flat you may discover that they are littered with ankle breaking rocks.
Take into account that running at night can make the terrain also shift from runnable to not.
Another great idea is to establish communication with the event organiser concerning the terrain.
Most of the event organisers will gladly respond to emails or other channels of communication even if you are just a potential entrant. In my experience, if they do not respond to you within a reasonable time it’s most likely not the type of race you want to be associated with. That being said, asking questions one month before a race is not exactly helpful. Allow yourself enough time to research. When asking  organisers don’t hold back, it helps you to gather as much information as possible. If you haven’t been able to find videos of the terrain, not the scenery, ask the organiser for pictures or videos.
Make sure you know where the river crossings are, if there are any, and what terrain follows the river crossing. Wet shoes combined with some steep rocky downhills shortly after might make you reconsider or at least prepare you for possible gear change etc.

The two videos give a great example of how even the professional runners can view a race very differently. I think it is clear to see that it is rather subjective as to what is runnable or less challenging.

Step 3:

You should now have an idea if the terrain is something that is acceptable but still a challenge for you over a 161km distance.
Profile examination and checkpoint analysis are generally a great follow up to this. Based on the terrain you get an idea as to why some of the checkpoints are only 10km apart and others might be 6km. The race organiser would’ve pointed out either in the general description of the event or, as a reply to your communication why there might be a difference for some checkpoints. Do NOT forget or disregard this information. Also, take special note as to where the checkpoints are in terms of the race profile and how far after river crossings. It could be on the day or the days leading up to the event that terrible weather has made it impossible for them to set up an aid station. If that was to happen then would you have the correct sized pack and equipment to carry you past a missing checkpoint with adding too much stress to your system?

Step 4:

This brings us to the required and recommended gear list. As mentioned above does your gear allow you, if need be, to miss a checkpoint due to unfavorable weather conditions?
Do you meet the minimum gear requirements and are you able to purchase this well in advance to the race as you need to do the physical training with it. Take into account that when the bag is packed with the required gear and the water is filled that you could be sitting with a 7kg bag, especially if it’s possible that you need to carry food and water for missing checkpoints.
At first glance this is going to be not such a big issue, however, you are going to revisit this point for consideration later. There are some little extras that you might like to add to your gear that you will find during training to prevent blisters, chaffing, cramps etc. A good example of this might be 3 pairs of extra socks and or a towel to dry your feet. Again adding to the weight factor, as wet clothes do add on weight.
Very few bags are fully waterproof for if you fall into the water at river crossings. The last you want is to be pulled from the race because you didn’t waterproof some of the required electronic devices!

Step 5:

If at this point you are happy about the gear requirements, the race profile, and setup, you need to consider the financial implications.
Most events are not around the corner. They require flights, car rentals, accommodation. Often not only just for you but for people seconding and or supporting you.
Make sure you are well prepared and informed into the total cost of this exercise. Don’t forget the car rental deposit…
When computing this also take into account the cost of gear replacement during training. You might be burning through a few pairs of shoes, running shorter “training” races etc to get you to ready for the big day. This part can add up significantly.

Step 6:

Have a discussion with your coach as to what they envision your training would be like for the event. Here you ideally want someone that has done a few of these events themselves. The reason you don’t really find generic 100 mile training programs is that this type of training goes on a day to day basis. Yes, there will be targets set for the different phases that are weekly but it needs to be carefully monitored so that you build but do not injure yourself.
Here you need to get a rough idea as to the amount of training time that make take place to achieve your finish. Also, keep in mind that when you are doing high mileage weeks that post-training recovery time might be needed. Here a good example might be an ice bath or a dip in the ocean or even an afternoon nap on weekends.
You need to take note of the fact that driving to different locations to simulate race day environment might be needed. A great example of this is if you live on the coast that you may need to drive inland for 50km to train in extreme heat conditions. This in order to prepare your body and mind for hot conditions above 40 degrees on race day, which may be common climate for that environment.

Step 7:

The most important step!
Have a discussion with your life partner about what you are wanting to attempt. Show them the research and have a heart to heart about why you are wanting to do this event. Make sure they are aware of the amount of time you estimate it will take in training etc.
If they are not 1000% committed or have reservations as to whether you will be able to manage it then reconsider. Often these people know you better than your happy go luckily race entry clicking fingers.
This part can often make or break getting to the start line.

Step 8:

Be honest with yourself, can you really tick off comfortably steps 1-8?
If so, take a night’s sleep and enter for your race the next day.

Happy Trail Running, till next time!!!

IS RUNNING GOOD FOR YOUR SELF-ESTEEM?

1) THE CONFIDENT NOVICE

Running is a great self-esteem booster, especially if you are a beginner runner. Running will allow you to test and expand your limits like never before. With each milestone you reach you will find yourself more confident and able to take on the world.

Initially, once you make the decision to run and actually do it, you will begin to notice changes. You will shed some weight and tone your legs, which will definitely help with your self-esteem. When you start running regularly, you’ll quickly realize that your mental strength or will power, are stronger than ever, which should make you feel as good as you look. You will feel energized and great in general.

After a while you might decide to join a running club, which will be another stepping stone. Eventually you enter a few races for which you train diligently. You muster up courage to show up at the start line of each event. The gun shot goes off and excitedly you run your race. Many races and PB”s later you have grown in confidence and feel as if you can conquer any race.

2) SELF-ESTEEM FLIES OUT THE WINDOW (FASTER THAN YOUR FAILED RUN)

But unfortunately there is always that one race that humbles you. You run the first few kilometers full of confidence and expectation but further into the race your legs begin to feel heavy, your heart begins to race. You force yourself to keep on plodding, gasping for breath. Horrified you watch your slower counterparts effortlessly whizz past. Things aren’t going according to plan and your body is not co-operating. It’s not a good race day. So the comparisons and self-doubt begin. Self-esteem has flown out the window faster than your failed run.

3) SELF-CRITICISM

You feel shattered and broken. Feelings of self-doubt and anger start to creep in. How can your body fall apart at a race you prepared and trained so hard for? The answer is… “Because you are not a robot, but a human being with your own unique, individual body make-up of which the brain is the most important and complex organ.” Which means that when faced with failure, we implicitly assume self-criticism is necessary in order to motivate strong future performance. But in reality this strategy often falls flat. Giving oneself a harsh talking to doesn’t just make us feel bad, it also interferes with our ability to calmly examine the situation and identify what to change in order to improve.

4) LIFE IS LIKE A MARATHON. FULL OF UPS AND DOWNS

Have you heard the saying “Life is like a marathon, it’s full of ups and downs that take your breath away?”
So yes! You will definitely experience highs and lows in running. It’s part of the package. It’s what you do with the package that matters.
So please try not to loose your running MOJO because no matter how hard you may have trained or over trained (another story in itself) life happens. It is unrealistic on our part to expect all our runs to be greater and faster. Injuries and failed runs occur to the best of us as we all have our flaws and weaknesses. The secret lies in learning from our failures and to come out stronger and more compassionate.

5) RUNNING AND FAILURE CAN PROVIDE A SENSE OF HUMAN CONNECTION

Running is sometimes considered an isolated and competitive sport, but this isn’t always necessarily true. There are runners who step in to help others in times of difficulty. Running and failure can provide a sense of human connection, because it shows that the struggle is normal. So while running may sometimes be painful, we have to experience a degree of suffering and failure in order to truly value ourselves, to appreciate others, and learn what it means to be self-compassionate so as to pass it onto others. Perhaps because it allows us to appreciate just how small we are in the scheme of things.

6) UNWRAP YOUR PACKAGE

So please do unwrap your package, and if what is dished out to you on the day does not work out, use it to help another struggling or frustrated runner. Be kind to others and yourself, you both deserve it! Remember running is a gift. Open your package and share it with others. Most importantly have fun with like-minded individuals.

How Hip Flexor Stretching Relates to Running Economy

by Erik Bies, DPT, MS
Runners, coaches, and other athletes are always looking for ways to prevent injury and become more efficient and economical while running. In this example, let’s consider our athlete is the weekend warrior with a 40 hour/week desk job or high school student-athlete. This person sits several hours a day, with maybe a 10-minute walking break every hour. Conventional wisdom is that this person will develop a lack of hip extension due to tight/stiff hip flexors. The hypothesis is that stiff hip flexors shortens stride length negatively impacting running economy, defined as steady-state oxygen consumption at a given running speed.
So does improving hip extension range of motion directly affect running economy? According to the evidence, the answer is NO! Though a 20 year old article, this topic has been researched.1 Subjects were young, athletic male college students determined to have “less than normal hip extension” meaning they were unable to passively extend the thigh past 0 degrees. Subjects were divided into a THREE DAYS PER WEEK (yes that is all) hip flexor stretching group and a control group. Despite a statistically significant change in passive hip extension measured using the modified Thomas Test, change in running economy was not statistically significant. The control group (those who did not stretch) actually showed greater improvement in running economy. On average, hip extension improved 9.8 degrees in those who stretched 3 days per week.
What does this mean practically? Improving hip extension through stretching anterior hip structures does not improve running performance at speeds associated with running at paces one could maintain for 10-20 minutes. Could it actually be counter-productive? From both injury and performance perspectives, YES! Consider that running at faster speeds requires sufficient anterior stiffness to withstand the forces generated by some of the strongest torque producers in the body; the gluteals and hamstrings. It has been speculated with good biomechanical evidence that excessive hip extension forces and joint angles are associated with injury to the anterior hip joint.2 Furthermore, improving your stride length is not primarily the result of greater hip joint extension range but rather more distance traveled during the float phase of running. This requires power, the perfect combination of force production and timing. A well-timed and stronger stretch-reflex in the hip flexors generates a more powerful hip flexion moment. Finding the optimal blend of stiffness and mobility at exactly the right time is what is important. Improving economy comes down to practicing a skill and improving timing of force production along with other metabolic processes.
How does this affect you? First, understand the goal of your flexibility exercises. If you are stretching because of hip pain, back off stretching and get assessed by your physical therapist. Stretching could be counterproductive even if you get short-term relief of pain. Are you certain you have limited hip extension? Don’t assume that working at your desk creates short and stiff hip flexors. Videotape yourself from a side view running at fast and slow speeds when you are not fatigued. Even if you notice that your low back is arched and your pelvis is anteriorly tilted, do not assume you have stiff hip flexors. This often is a coordination issue that can be addressed through specific trunk and pelvic girdle movement awareness.
Sources:
1. Godges JJ, McRae PG, Engelke KA. Effects of exercise on hip range of motion, trunk muscle performance, and gait economy. Phys Ther. 1993; 73:468-477.
2. Lewis CL, Sahrmann SA, Moran DW. Effect of hip angle on anterior hip joint force during gait. Gait and Posture. 2010; 32:603-607.

The surprising science behind why ‘easy days’ and ‘hard days’ make a difference in your workout

ALEX HUTCHINSON
SPECIAL TO THE GLOBE AND MAIL
PUBLISHED MAY 27, 2018UPDATED MAY 28, 2018

Stephen Seiler’s awakening occurred shortly after he moved to Norway in the late 1990s. The American-born exercise physiologist was out on a forested trail when he saw one of the country’s elite cross-country skiers run past – and then suddenly stop at the bottom of a hill and start walking up.
“And I said, well what the heck are you doing? No pain, no gain!” he later recalled. “But it turned out she had a very clear idea of what she was doing.”
Seiler’s observation led him to devote 15 years to studying how world-beating endurance athletes train, revealing that they push harder on their hard days but go easier on their easy days than lesser athletes. But, as research that will be presented this week at the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) conference in Minnesota reveals, most us haven’t incorporated these findings into our exercise programs – which means we’re not training as effectively as we should.
When Seiler began analyzing the training of elite athletes in sports such as cross-country skiing and rowing, he found a consistent pattern. They spent about 80 per cent of their training time going relatively easy, even to the point of walking up hills to avoid pushing too hard. And most of the other 20 per cent was gut-churningly hard, with very little time spent at medium-effort levels.
This approach is often referred to as “polarized” training, since it emphasizes the extremes of very easy and very hard efforts. The pattern has now been observed in top athletes across almost all endurance sports, including cycling, running and triathlon. It was popularized in endurance coach Matt Fitzgerald’s 2014 book 80/20 Running. But it’s still not necessarily what athletes, especially less experienced ones, actually do.

In the new study being presented at the ACSM conference, a team led by Ball State University kinesiology researcher Lawrence Judge followed a group of collegiate distance runners through a 14-week season. The coaches were asked to assign an intended difficulty rating, on a scale of one to 10, for each day’s workout. Using the same scale, the athletes were then asked to rate how hard they actually found the workouts.
The results were telling. On easy days, when the coaches wanted an effort level of 1.5, the athletes instead ran at an effort level of 3.4 on average. On hard days, conversely, the coaches asked for an effort of 8.2 but the athletes only delivered 6.2. Instead of polarized training, as the coaches intended, the athletes were letting most of the sessions drift into the middle.
The new findings echo a similar 2001 study by Carl Foster, an exercise physiologist at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, who is among the pioneers of using subjective perception of effort to guide training. The problem, he says, is that athletes have the misguided sense that the easy days are too easy – and as a result, on hard days, they’re simply too tired to push hard enough to get the biggest fitness gains.
To Seiler, who in addition to holding an academic post is a research consultant with the Norwegian Olympic Federation, the willingness to keep the easy days easy – “intensity discipline,” he calls it – is one of the traits that distinguishes successful and unsuccessful athletes.
Of course, the same principles apply even if you don’t have a coach. If you try to hammer every workout, you’ll never be fresh enough to really push your limits; if you jog every run, you’re not challenging yourself enough to maximize your fitness.
Figuring out the appropriate intensity doesn’t have to be complicated, Foster adds. According to his “Talk Test,” if you can speak comfortably in complete sentences, you’re going at an appropriate pace for easy days. If you can barely gasp out a word at a time, you’re in the hard zone. If you can speak, with effort, in broken sentences, you’re in the middle zone.
The hard part isn’t identifying the training zones – it’s having the discipline to adhere to them. Most of us, Foster believes, have internalized some vestigial remnant of the puritan work ethic, conflating hard work with virtue. But to truly push your limits, you sometimes need to take it easy.

Alex Hutchinson (@sweatscience) is the author of Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance.

Why 85 percent Effort Is Important

85 Percent Effort Is Important
What does 85 percent effort mean and what’s the significance of that number?
If you have read running magazines, books on running, or any of the hundreds of websites offering running or training advice, you may have come across the following terms:
• Tempo Runs
• Anaerobic Threshold (A/T) Workouts
• Threshold Pace
• Lactate Threshold Pace
• Sub-maximal effort
• Cruise Intervals
• vVO2Max Runs
• Steady State Runs

In some of these more intense workouts you may see 85% as the suggested effort level. For the most part – without getting into minuscule technicalities – most of these terms represent essentially the same workout. Over the last 40-50 years of research on long-distance running, most scientists have drawn fairly similar conclusions. At this MAGIC pace (at either side of 85% of maximal effort) a lot of very special things happen to the human body.

For the beginner/novice level runner: 85 percent is the effort that “feels like you’re doing something.” You know the “no pain/no gain” mentality? Welcome to the threshold where you will soon be in pain if you don’t back off! When you are just getting into it – you may find yourself skyrocketing to 85% in no time at all. This is why WALK BREAKS are so important in gauging your pace to keep you more in the 65-75% range for most of your training. The 85 percent effort level is something to play with very occasionally. Until you establish a true foundation of aerobic endurance (the 65-75% range), the 85% level will be pretty hard on you.

For the recreational runner: 85% is the effort or pace that’s just slightly faster (I mean slightly – about 6-8 seconds a mile – just a step or two quicker!) than your half-marathon pace. Doing some running at this pace a few times a week will help you gradually get more comfortable at a slightly quicker pace in your half-marathons. As you may have figured out already, an improvement of just 6-10 seconds a mile is a BIG improvement in your overall time.

For the advanced runner: 85% is the effort that you begin to feel strong. Somehow when you hit this pace, you get the feeling as though you could “run all day long.” The truth is, if you are truly at your Anaerobic Threshold, you can probably hold this pace for 50-60 minutes (a little short of that “all day” feeling). Since none of us will be running any 50-60 minute half-marathons any time soon – the world record is currently just under 59 minutes – it is important to train sparingly at 85%. The “minutes” workouts, “tempo” workouts, and “cruise interval” workouts you will see on your intensity day will allow you to play in the 85% playground for short periods of time.

For the competitor runner: 85% is the effort that helps you control an opposing runner. If you know where 85 percent effort is for you and you learn to stay “just this side of it” – holding on to your extra gears for later in the race – while the person you are running against is “just the other side of it” and beginning to struggle or fade, guess what happens? Shift gears and good-bye. The “minutes” workouts, “tempo” workouts, and “cruise interval” workouts you will see on your intensity day will allow you to determine exactly where your personal gears are and help teach you how to conserve, accelerate, recover, and GO when you need to!
We follow this philosophy in our

Team GFR Training Plans. Take a look at our training plans and join us.

Workout Of The Week: Recovery Run

Matt Fitzgerald / February 17, 2016

If you asked a stadium-size crowd of other runners to name the most important type of running workout, some would say tempo runs, others would say long runs, and still others would say intervals of one kind or another. None would mention recovery runs. Unless I happened to be in that stadium.

I won’t go quite so far as to say that recovery runs are more important than tempo runs, long runs, and intervals, but I do believe they are no less important. Why? Because recovery runs, if properly integrated into your training regimen, will do just as much to enhance your race performances as any other type of workout. Seriously.

It is widely assumed that the purpose of recovery runs—which we may define as relatively short, slow runs undertaken within a day after a harder run—is to facilitate recovery from preceding hard training. You hear coaches talk about how recovery runs increase blood flow to the legs, clearing away lactic acid, and so forth. The truth is that lactic acid levels return to normal within an hour after even the most brutal workouts. Nor does lactic acid cause muscle fatigue in the first place. Nor is there any evidence that the sort of light activity that a recovery run entails promotes muscle tissue repair, glycogen replenishment, or any other physiological response that actually is relevant to muscle recovery.

In short, recovery runs do not enhance recovery. The real benefit of recovery runs is that they allow you to find the optimal balance between the two factors that have the greatest effect on your fitness and performance: training stress and running volume.

Here’s how:

Training stress is what your body experiences in workouts that test the present limits of your running fitness. You can be fairly sure a workout has delivered a training stress when it leaves you severely fatigued or completely exhausted. The two basic categories of workouts that deliver a training stress are high-intensity runs (intervals, tempo runs, hill repeats) and long runs. A training program whose objective is to prepare you for a peak race performance must feature plenty of “key workouts” that challenge your body’s capacity to resist the various causes of high-intensity fatigue (muscular acidosis, etc.) and long-duration fatigue (muscle tissue damage, etc). By exposing your body to fatigue and exhaustion, key workouts stimulate adaptations that enable you to resist fatigue better the next time.

Running volume, on the other hand, has a positive effect on running fitness and performance even in the absence of exhaustive key workouts. In other words, the more running you do (within the limit of what your body can handle before breaking down), the fitter you become, even if you never do any workouts that are especially taxing. The reason is that increases in running economy are very closely correlated with increases in running mileage. Research by Tim Noakes, M.D., and others suggests that while improvement in other performance-related factors such as VO2max ceases before a runner achieves his or her volume limit, running economy continues to improve as running mileage increases, all the way to the limit. For example, if the highest running volume your body can handle is 50 miles per week, you are all but certain to achieve greater running economy at 50 miles per week than at 40 miles per week, even though your VO2max may stop increasing at 40 miles.

You see, running is a bit like juggling. It is a motor skill that requires communication between your brain and your muscles. A great juggler has developed highly refined communication between his brain and muscles during the act of jugging, which enables him to juggle three plates with one hand while blindfolded. A well-trained runner has developed super-efficient communication between her brain and muscles during the act of running, allowing her to run at a high sustained speed with a remarkably low rate of energy expenditure. Sure, the improvements that a runner makes in neuromuscular coordination are less visible than those made by a juggler, but they are no less real.

or both the juggler and the runner, it is time spent simply practicing the relevant action that improves communication between the brain and the muscles. It’s not a matter of testing physiological limits, but of developing a skill through repetition. Thus, the juggler who juggles an hour a day will improve faster than the juggler who juggles five minutes a day, even if the former practices in a dozen separate five-minute sessions and therefore never gets tired. And the same is true for the runner.

Now, training stress—especially key workouts inflicting high-intensity fatigue—and running volume sort of work at cross-purposes. If you go for a bona fide training stress in every workout, you won’t be able to do a huge total amount of running before breaking down. By the same token, if you want to achieve the maximum volume of running, you have to keep the pace slow and avoid single long runs in favor of multiple short runs. But then you won’t get those big fitness boosts that only exhaustive runs can deliver.  In other words, you can’t maximize training stress and running volume simultaneously. For the best results, you need to find the optimal balance between these two factors, and that’s where recovery runs come in.

By sprinkling your training regimen with relatively short, easy runs, you can achieve a higher total running volume than you could if you always ran hard. Yet because recovery runs are gentle enough not to create a need for additional recovery, they allow you to perform at a high level in your key workouts and therefore get the most out of them.

I believe that recovery runs also yield improvements in running economy by challenging the neuromuscular system to perform in a pre-fatigued state. Key workouts themselves deliver a training stress that stimulates positive fitness adaptations by forcing a runner to perform beyond the point of initial fatigue. As the motor units that are used preferentially when you run begin to fatigue, other motor units that are less often called upon must be recruited to take up the slack so the athlete can keep running. In general, “slow-twitch” muscle fibers are recruited first and then “fast-twitch” fibers become increasingly active as the slow-twitch fibers wear out. By encountering this challenge, your neuromuscular system is able to find new efficiencies that enable you to run more economically.

Recovery runs, I believe, achieve a similar effect in a slightly different way. In a key workout you experience fatigued running by starting fresh and running hard or far. In a recovery run you start fatigued from your last key workout and therefore experience a healthy dose of fatigued running without having to run hard or far. For this reason, although recovery runs are often referred to as “easy runs,” if they’re planned and executed properly they usually don’t feel very easy. Speaking from personal experience, while my recovery runs are the shortest and slowest runs I do, I still feel rather miserable in many of them because I am already fatigued when I start them. This miserable feeling is, I think, indicative of the fact that the run is accomplishing some real, productive work that will enhance my fitness perhaps almost as much as the key workout that preceded it. Viewed in this way, recovery runs become essentially a way of squeezing more out of your key workouts.

Practical Guidelines For Recovery Runs

Now that I’ve sold you on the benefits of recovery runs, let’s look at how to do them so that they most effectively serve their purpose of balancing training stress and running volume in your training. There are five specific guidelines I suggest you follow.

  1. If you run fewer than five times a week, recovery runs are generally unnecessary. Recovery runs can only serve their purpose of balancing training stress with running volume if you run five or more times per week. If you run just three or four times per week, you’re better off going for a training stress in each run, or at least in three out of four.
  2. Whenever you run again within 24 hours of completing a “key” workout (i.e., a workout that has left you severely fatigued or exhausted), the follow-up run should usually be a recovery run.
  3. Do key workouts and recovery runs in a 1:1 ratio. There’s seldom a need to insert two easy runs between hard runs, and it’s seldom advisable to do two consecutive hard runs within 24 hours. A good schedule for runners who run six days a week is three key workouts alternating with three recovery runs, as in the following example:

Monday: OFF

Tuesday: Key Workout (High Intensity)

Wednesday: Recovery Run

Thursday: Key Workout (High Intensity)

Friday: Recovery Run

Saturday: Key Workout (Long Duration)

Saturday: Recovery Run

Most elite runners who train twice a day do a hard run in the morning followed by a recovery run in the afternoon or a hard run in the afternoon followed by a recovery run the next morning. The frequency is twice that of the above example but the ratio of key workouts to recovery runs remains 1:1

  1. Recovery runs are largely unnecessary during base training, when most of your workouts are moderate in both intensity and duration. When you begin doing formal high-intensity workouts and exhaustive long runs, it’s time to begin doing recovery runs in a 1:1 ratio with these key workouts.
  2. There are no absolute rules governing the appropriate duration and pace of recovery runs. A recovery run can be as long and fast as you want, provided it does not affect your performance in your next scheduled key workout (which is not particularly long or fast, in most cases). Indeed, because the purpose of recovery runs is to maximize running volume without sacrificing training stress, your recovery runs should generally be as long as you can make them short of affecting your next key workout. A little experimentation is needed to find the recovery run formula that works best for each individual runner.
  3. Don’t be too proud to run veryslowly in your recovery runs, as Kenya’s runners are famous for doing. Even very slow running counts as practice of the running stride that will yield improvements in your running economy, and running very slowly allows you to run longer (i.e. maximize volume) without sabotaging your next key workout.

Make A High Stride Rate Work For You

Kelly O’Mara / July 15, 2014

 

Over and over, top runners maintain consistently high stride rates—and so should you. 

Running speed is a function of two very simple things: the length of your running strideand the frequency at which you take those strides. To go faster, either one or the other has to increase.

But, for elite runners, one of those two rarely changes. Top-level distance runners typically run at a high number of steps per minute – between 180-200 – no matter what speed they’re going; simply varying the length of their stride to run faster or slower.

“Fitter people have a little longer stride, but the rate stays the same,” said Jack Daniels, coach, exercise physiologist and author of the seminal book Daniels’ Running Formula,which first included analysis of stride rate.

Daniels’ initial study that established the magic number of 180 steps per minute was conducted during the 1984 Olympics. He counted the stride rates of every athlete competing in every distance from 800 meters on up. Only one racer had a stride rate below 180 steps per minute – and she was at 176. Conversely, over his years as a coach and collegiate physical education instructor, he never had a student above 180 steps. The average recreational runner is closer to 150-170 steps per minute.

That original research has since been duplicated and corroborated many times. In a race in London in 2011, Bernard Lagat outkicked Kenenisa Bekele with a 51 second last lap, but his cadence stayed just over 200 steps per minute throughout the entire race, not increasing as he sprinted for the finish. In the 2011 Boston Marathon, both Desiree Davila and Caroline Kilel held a 180-190 stride rate even as they struggle at the end of the race. Over and over, top runners maintain consistently high stride rates.

The reason a higher stride rate is ideal is two-fold, said Daniels.  Most casual runners run at a slower rate with longer steps. A higher step rate forces smaller strides, which brings a runner’s feet more directly under them instead of out in front, decreases the injuries associated with overstriding, and increases efficiency.

“You’re landing more in the middle of your foot than on your heel,” said Elizabeth Chumanov, from the University of Wisconsin. Chumanov recently co-authored a study where a group of runners ran at their natural stride rate and then increasd that rate by 5% and then 10%. A 5-10% increase was associated with lower forces as the foot hits the ground and a greater engagement of the hamstring and glute muscles as the foot prepares to strike and push off.

Chumanov is now conducting research that she believes will show an increase in stride rate can lead to a decrease in the tension and forces on the knee and, in turn, a decrease in knee pain.

he reason a higher stride rate can reduce injury is because it decreases the amount of time the foot hangs in the air and changes the angle at which it lands. The longer the foot is in the air the harder it hits the ground.

The second reason a higher stride rate can be ideal is related to that push-off. The force from your push-off the ground is what propels you forward. Spending too much time in the air decreases the amount of force pushing you forward. Spending too much time on the ground with each step means you’re, well, stuck on the ground and not running forward. A high turnover pushes a runner forward quickly and strongly.

“You want to just roll over the ground,” said Daniels.

Compared to changing your stride length, increasing your stride rate is relatively straight-forward. A person’s stride length can vary depending on their height, hip mobility, and general fitness.

It takes more energy to run with larger steps, which is why Daniels says that fitter athletes tend to have slightly longer strides. It also requires hip mobility, flexibility, and glute engagement to pull your leg back behind you. Though it was in vogue in the 1970s to try to maximize stride length by throwing your legs as far in front of you as possible, that’s now considered overstriding, which can lead to injuries and is not efficient. Mostly, though, an individual’s stride length can only be increased so much.

Studies done on 100-meter sprinters, who have the longest stride length of any racers, show that over a range of athletes the average length is consistently 1.35 times the runner’s height. In distance running, strides are understandably shorter than in sprints.

The best thing a casual runner can do, rather than worry about stride length, said Daniels and Chumanov, is to focus on increasing their stride rate.

First, count your steps while running. Count how many times your right foot lands in a 30-second period and then multiply by four to get your total stride rate per minute. Then, attempt to increase that rate slightly. It’s easiest to play with your stride rate on a treadmill where you can set the speed to stay the same, said Daniels. You can also purchase a metronome and use it for brief periods during runs to build up your cadence.

However, UK coach and sports rehab specialist James Dunne cautions runners not to become too focused on some so-called magic number for stride rate. Instead, he suggests simple small increases at a time.

“Unnaturally forcing an uncomfortably high cadence too soon can result in its own technique issues,” said Dunne.

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About The Author:

Kelly Dunleavy O’Mara is a journalist/reporter and former professional triathlete. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and writes for a number of magazines, newspapers, and websites. You can read more about her at www.sunnyrunning.com