Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Going Downhill

Running hills, especially Georgia hills, can be dreadful for most people. It's the thought of running uphill that people cringe at; however, downhill running can be more strenuous than actual uphill. Rather than going into the physiological reasons just take my word, I promise. Newton's first law (law of inertia) in layman's terms explains that when an object accelerates gravity wants to keep all components of the object together and accelerate as a unit (boring, I know). Basically, gravity pulls your body down the hill at faster acceleration than you were acclimated prior to. Your body can either accelerate with gravity, or you can fight gravity to control your run. If you allow gravity to accelerate your body at an unwanted speed you are more likely to expend your stamina at a quicker rate. On the other hand, if you repel the forces of gravity you can extend your stamina in able to continue your exercise for a longer duration. Here are a few tips to help running downhill:

  1. Proper running mechanics. What I mean by proper running mechanics is basically good posture. Keep your back and abs straight. Running downhill people have a tendency to lean forward with the downhill slope. Leaning forward can complicate your breathing as well as forcing your legs to speed up. So correct your posture and notice how your breathing will remain "normal". Fight the temptation to stomp down the hill. Stomping can lead to numerous acute/major leg/foot injuries. Just keep your "normal" stride length and normal force you use to place your foot on the ground while running downhill.
  2. Minimize stutter-stepping. You may feel the momentum of your body increasing as you run downhill resulting in you trying to slow down by stutter stepping. These short steps are forcing your knees to do majority of the work instead of the your whole leg inserting at the hip. Now you may think your lever is too long to control if you use your entire leg instead of just stutter-stepping. Yea, you increased the length of your lever now it's mind over matter to control your steps by thinking left foot down right foot down. This strategy will also minimize injury.
  3. A strong core. Core meaning abs, glutes, and back. Now that you have your posture down this will help strengthen your core. When running downhill activate your core muscles to help produce more power and control to your legs. It all makes sense. If you have a strong body overall you will be able to control the movements of your body properly. Activating your abs during downhill running will aid in proper breathing. Strong glutes will provide control to your legs, and a strong back will aid in posture. Overall, your running mechanism will increase resulting in good form and posture.
  4. Pace maintenance. Minimize speed bouts down hills to keep your pace comfortable. It's natural to want to increase your speed while running downhill per the boring, or somewhat interesting, law of inertia. If you keep your pace the same prior to running up/downhill you will be able to recover from the hill more efficiently. You didn't expend any necessary energy you may need to utilize to finish at the end of your run.
Song of the week: Jai Ho!/ A.R. Rahman ft. Nicole Scherzinger. Thank you Slumdog Millionaire. I downloaded this song shortly after I saw the movie months ago, and this week my iPod has decided to play it a lot. It's a good upbeat song to help get me through the North Georgia hills :).

Training Tip of the Week: Endurance strength training is just as importance as banking the miles when training for a half or full marathon. Strength training usually doesn't get much publicity from endurance runners because we all want to minimize any unneeded baggage when going for speed. However, endurance strength training will build a better base to your muscle in able to utilize energy more efficiently and produce a little more power. ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) guidelines for endurance strength training for an average healthy adult are as follow:

2-3 days per week
2-4 sets
8-12 repetitions per set
2-3 minutes of rest between each set

Check back in future blogs for more information on this topic as well as cross-training! As for now, go out and conquer those hills! Soon you won't think twice about running hills.

Happy Running,

Saturday, August 15, 2009

What's Your Terrain of Choice?

Few Types of Terrain:

Road/ Pavement:
  • Seems to be the most common type of running terrain.
  • Easily assessable especially when you don't have time to research a new course.
  • If it's a park course, or just even the city sidewalks the pavement is normally kept in good condition with little to no holes or breaks in the pavement. This is good to help prevent injuries.
  • Not very forgiving; therefore, common leg injuries, such as shin splints, can often occur.
  • Traffic. With traffic comes people concentrating more on you running than on driving.
  • Grass is very forgiving on your legs. This is good for people who are hard footed because more shock is absorbed on the grass than on the pavement; therefore, helping to prevent/ heal any future/previous injuries.
  • Good learning ground for perfecting good form. Run on grass if you are having a problem with stepping too hard so you can practice correct form with more shock absorption. Slowly progress to other terrains once your form is in better shape.
  • Provides more of an obstacle course. You have to be more aware of any hidden, or obvious, holes in the ground.
  • Can be itchy if the grass is not cut, or can be infested with poison ivy.
  • May be mixed with dirt resulting in dirty shoes.
  • Trails can be a combination of dirt, gravel, boardwalks, bridges, and some pavement.
  • Your legs absorb shock better because of the natural terrains of dirt, gravel, boardwalks, and bridges.
  • Trees along the path provides more shade than on an open road.
  • You have to be aware of any rocks, uneven paths, or holes depending on the trail.
  • Can be too excluded from civilization so bring a buddy.
  • No water if not at a park.

*My terrain of choice at the moment: Trails*
Trail Raves:
  • Feels more refreshing because of all the fresh air from nature.
  • Temperature is a little cooler on the trail and helps keep my endurance going.
  • The forgiving factor feels like you can run longer and harder.
  • The scenery helps pass time while on long runs.
Trail Rants:
  • Inexperienced bikers who are all over the course and have no respect for runners.
  • Transitioning from a bridge/ boardwalk to a paved part of the course. The stress levels change abruptly causing your pace to change and get readjusted.
Suggested Trails:
-North Georgia Area:
  • Big Creek Greenway- The trail will be roughly 15 miles in length one way (don't quote me). It expands from Fulton to Forsyth County through excluded paths. It defiantly is a "greenway" with lots of trees and shade. Few complaints: The trail is fairly new and not much information regarding access is provided, and some parts have too much pavement. But overall it's a good choice.
  • The link is only for the Fulton County part of the trail: http://alpharetta.ga.us/index.php?p=136
  • Sawnee Mountain Preserve-Commonly known as the "Indian Seats" in Cumming. The trail is about 2-3 miles. I have ran this course a few times, and have actually enjoyed it. It was a challenge to run up and down a mountain dodging all the rocks. Once you get to the top it's a nice view of Cumming (woohoo, it's noting like ATL :[ ). Nonetheless, the trail provides a challenge and is a nice change of scenery.
  • http://www.sawneemountain.org/
-Atlanta Area:
  • Stone Mountain Park- I have personally not ran the trail, but it seems to be a good challenge. Run up a big rock mountain, yes please. The park has always been a popular tourist attraction for ATL, so why not get a good run in while enjoying some tourist attractions? The trail is approximately 6 miles in length at the base of the mountain.
  • This trail is defiantly on my list of things to try!
  • http://stonemountainpark.com/maps-directions/hiking-trails.aspx
  • I'm doing my homework to provide more information on trails in the downtown area. :)

Training Tip of the Week: Carbolishish: Pack in those carbs the day, or two days, before a long run. Carbohydrates are energy efficient during long runs and allow you to get that second wind.

Song of the Week: Too hard for me to pick. Best thing I have ever done on Facebook was joining the iTunes group. Why you ask? The free access to different albums provided by iTunes really allows me to expand my variety of music. It's like the free Tuesday song by iTunes on drugs. Normally it's like 12 free songs about once or every other month. Top song choices from this week based off the free albums:
  • Airstream Driver/ Gomez- So Much to Save Album
  • Fine Excuses / Yonder Mountain String Band- So Much to Save Album
  • Crazy/ Deep Rooted- Indie Spotlight Sample Album
  • Strangers/ Van She- Indie Spotlight Sample Album
Happy Running,

Saturday, August 8, 2009

It's All About the Pace

Training for a half or full marathon your pace will break or make you. 26.2 miles is equivalent to running from Georgia State University (downtown Atlanta) to downtown Alpharetta. So, 13.1 miles is like running from GSU to downtown Chamblee. My point is regardless if it's 26.2 or 13.1mile, it's a long distance!

It's obvious that the more races you run the better your pace will be, but really that is no help to someone who is at the beginning of their racing career. Setting goals will help in perfecting your desired pace. Choose how far you want to run, how fast you want to accomplish that distance in, and then start timing yourself. You can also substitute one of your scheduled runs with a 5k or 10k. You can then calculate your race time to obtain your pace. Then calculate your pace into a half or full marathon distance. The challenge you have now set will help you to train harder. The harder you train your body will be exposed to a higher degree of fatigue similar to longer distance fatigue. It is important to have the long runs scheduled in your training to help mimic the distance on race day. Knowing the course will also allow you to pace your time better because you can evenly distribute your energy throughout the run. Being familiar with a course inhibits any surprise terrain.

Training Tip of the Week: During your run keep the same speed to run up hills as you would on a flat surface. Speeding up a hill will expend more energy then needed and will cause fatigue sooner.

Training Song of the Week: Two Step Remix- DJ Unk ft. T-Pain, Jim Jones, & E-40

Happy Running,

Thursday, August 6, 2009

"Beat It"

Beat the Heat. Atlanta weather this week has been flirting with 90 degrees and higher with humidity of about 50%. Running outside is tough when it's hot and humid. A few tips on how to beat the heat so you can enjoy your run:

1. Run during the early/ late part of the day. Running before the sun is above the horizon promises you a much cooler run. Not a morning person? Run when the sun goes down leaving just enough daylight to get your run in, but not much heat from the sun to drain you. If your time only allots you to run during midday try to add in a swim after your run for some cool exercise. Runner's World Magazine: Every 5 degree rise in temperature will slow your pace about 15-20 seconds.

2. Stay hydrated. Drink water throughout the day, but don't forget to rehydrate those muscles after running. If running marathon distances it is important to intake some electrolytes during your run to maintain the electrical impulse to your cells to prevent dehydration. Gatorade/ Powerade are a good source, but remember to dilute the sports drinks with water because of the high sugar content.

3. Wear light colored and loose fitting clothing. Light colors help reflect the sun's rays instead of absorbing the rays. Loose fitting clothing meaning not skin tight, but not baggie. The clothes need to be loose enough to allow a breeze, but tight enough your clothes are not hanging off. Don't wear cotton clothing because cotton will soak up your sweat instead of letting it escape. "Wickering" type clothing that beads the sweat away are ideal, or polyester. If crazy, run in the minimum amount of clothing possible. Guys can run in shorts with no shirts, and ladies can run in shorts and a sports bra. This technique allows the body to breath more adequately and eliminate sticky clothes.

4. Start slow. Starting at a relative slower pace will allow your heart rate and blood pressure to incline at a steady rate. Starting your run at a relative faster pace will quickly increase your heart rate and blood pressure causing fatigue more rapidly. The rapid increase also doesn't let your body acclimate to the heat properly for your run. Lack of heat acclimation can result in heat illnesses.

5. Use sunscreen. The sunscreen can not only prevent your body from the ultraviolet rays, but it can also help to keep your body temperature a little cooler.

Stay cool and beat the heat during the last of these summer months.

Happy Running,

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

"Miles in the Bank"

It's that time of the year again... half/full marathon training! I have one half in the bank and now working on a few more. One would assume since I've complete a half before I'm prepared for the mind torture. However, the feeling of accomplishment after crossing that finish line makes all the training worth it. Here are a few tips for a recipe to completing a half:

1. Find a good training guide for a minimum of 4 months. Join a running group for support if you're able to. A good training guide will slowly increase mileage and dedicate one day of the week to your "long run". It's important not to increase mileage too quickly because the risk of injury increases at the same rate. Slow and steady always wins the race. :)

2. Proper hydration and nutrition. It's very important to keep your muscles hydrated especially before a long run. Drink water throughout the day. It take a few days for the water to reach the cellular level of the muscles. You should get the proper amount of nutrients as advised by USDA each day. http://www.mypyramid.gov/pyramid/index.html for more information of the daily recommendations. Proper hydration and nutrition do a body good keeping your bones and muscles strong for the amount of mileage your body endures through training.

3. Don't cheat your runs. Don't take shortcuts. Do what your training guide states. Cheating yourself will cause failure in the long run. Part of training is pushing yourself. It's going to get hard; otherwise, you aren't gaining any advantages.

4. Run with music. Create a play-list of music that's upbeat. Your play-list should entail a big variety of music; therefore, you won't hear repeated songs throughout your workout. A good play-list can put you in the mood and help determine you to run faster and harder.

5. Good Shoes! After about 400-500 miles kick those old shoes to the curb. After 400-500 miles shoes loose their ability to absorb shock properly. Less likely to absorb shock means an increase risk for injury. Proper distance running shoes need to be light in weight and fit your foot accordingly.

Now it's time to deposit those miles in the bank. No matter how hard you think your training is getting stick to it because it only gets easier.

Happy Running,