Monthly Archives: July 2010

Adjust your thermostat, adjust your expectations

Wow. If you are on the east coast like we are, we don’t have to tell anyone that its been H.O.T.
“But wait……..don’t the weather gods know I supposed to be training for the ___ championship in __weeks ….not to mention the ___ race I’m doing this winter. My workout today was slow, and I felt bad on my long workout this weekend. I’m getting slower and this heat is killing my training!!!!!”
If you guys want some tips on running in the heat, there are some great words of wisdom on this blog if you scroll down. Let’s re-cap: – hydrate, run in the morning, hydrate, loose fitting and light colored clothing, and hydrate. OK fine – but lets get real on this summer’s weather and why we need to take it into consideration.
Last year in C’ville, we had 7 days above 90 degrees and they were scattered about the summer. Except for a small 2 week heat wave in the middle of the summer, it wasn’t all that hot all the time. You had the luxury of moving workouts a day or 2 ahead or behind in the week based on the heat. This summer, we’ve had 45 days above 90 degrees. We’ve had 7 above 100. And let’s be honest, its not really cooling off all that much at PM or in the AM (Friday night was 96 degrees at 9:00 PM!). Its been so hot that all outdoor high school and collegiate practices would be completely cancelled in weather like this. National and State sports governing bodies have established these regulations to protect the athletes. I know – you are tougher than them and need to get your speed work session in today though…….stay with me.
Dealing with this heat is all about adjusting your expectations. Let’s  re-state this point to be absolutely clear: Trying to train at your same intensity and volume (or increasing it) in this type of weather is NOT a smart thing.

If you don’t agree with me, let’s look at it from your body’s perspective. When you exercise, you ask your body to metabolize fuel stores, regulate energy balance, and produce mechanical work so that you can move from point A to point B. All this effort produces heat. Your body has a lot of internal mechanisms to regulate body temperature, and they work pretty well. But your body has limits as to how rapidly it can cool itself off. Did you know that your body actually begins to compromise its ability to perform at around 72 degrees? Now think about how much challenge a 95 degrees environment places on that body.

Still not convinced? Let’s say that your typical Wednesday morning track work out is 12x 90 second 400 repeats, with 45 seconds between each. Think about how much stress that places on the body under normal conditions. Now let’s consider our weather reality. Its now 10-15 degrees hotter than usual and more humid. Trying to run that same workout under these conditions is significantly more stressful than typical. You may notice that you can’t make the 90 second split without taking more rest between reps. You may even notice that under these conditions, 90 seconds is not even possible. Let’s say that your triathlon training schedule has you doing a 5 hr ride on Sunday AM. However, the heat has slowed your pace down significantly after 2.5 hrs, and all you want to do is jump off the bike into a cool pool. Its OK to back off the workload to match the change in conditions – you’ll STILL GET THE BENEFIT OF THE WORKOUT. Shorten the ride. Increase your rest. Take longer breaks between intervals. Do whatever it takes to be consistent with your training, but realize that extreme weather requires some modifications to ensure we aren’t just pounding ourselves into the ground. Remember- you’re body doesn’t really know exactly how fast its going or how long a rest you are taking; it just knows that you are pushing it harder than you have in the past and with all this heat, it just might push back.

This post is written in memory of a local high school runner who died of heat illness during a summer training run.



Runner’s World asked us: What’s the single biggest problem in running?

When most runners, coaches, running shops think of the single biggest problem that affects runners- the answer usually points to the most feared word in running – “over-pronation.” However, we told Amby Burfoot  (link here) that our years of experience quantifying running mechanics through the use of 3D gait analysis has shown us otherwise.

While it’s true that some of us out there may pronate more than others, it isn’t exactly what we’d call an epidemic problem in America. We’ll estimate that less than 30% of runners truly over-pronate (excess motion in the foot) their feet while running. To find the real answer, we need to move up eyes up and look at the hips.  About 80-90% of runners don’t extend their hips.

What is hip extension anyway?

Lifting one knee up to the chest moves the hip into flexion. If you extend the hip the opposite direction (past vertical) that is hip extension. The goal is to do this without extending your back. Stretching your hip flexors to get more motion is the key

So why don’t most runners extend their hips?

We tend to sit. A lot. We sit in class. We sit at work. We sit in our cars. Cyclists, you spend all your time on the bike sitting in hip flexion. When we continually sit in hip flexion, the hip flexor muscles become tight. So tight that the overwhelming majority of runners can’t extend the hips. “Now wait a minute” – you might say –“I see all my friends and their leg does get behind them when they run – so they must be extending their hip right?”

Tight hip flexor muscles cause you to get your leg behind you not from extending your hip – but by arching your lower back. This can cause injury since an arched lumbar spine compromises our ability to use core muscles while we run. This sets us up for a host of leg injuries and also is the most common cause of low back pain in runners. Further, lack of hip extension compromises your running efficiency.  As we increase speed, the bulk of the work supplied to the legs need to come from the hips. Well, if you can’t extend the hips, you are missing out on critical force to move your body forward.

So how do I get hip extension and is it really that simple?

You’ve got improve your range of motion of the hip, and your ability to control the new motion. The best hip stretch is a kneeling hip flexor stretch. Beware though, a lot of the videos on-line show incorrect form for this stretch and you don’t actually wind up extending your hip flexors at all (they stretch the quads).  Check out the July 2010 issue of Runner’s World for an article we helped them put together. It shows correct technique to stretch the hips, and some simple exercises to learn to use your new range of motion.