Most runners and walkers will benefit from doing some form of movement that is not walking and running. Commonly called cross training, this can be viewed in several ways. It is either an alternative to your primary activity when you can’t do that (pool running when you have plantar fasciitis or a sore knee and can not run for instance), is a supplement to your primary activity to reduce the chances of overuse injuries (as cycling is for many), or closely linked to this supplementary aspect, cross training is a way to improve overall performance in fitness and sport by utilizing other movements and energy systems.
Cross training activities for runners and fitness walkers, can include elliptical trainers, pool (water) running, swimming, hiking, cycling, cross country skiing, in line skating and strength training. Strength training can be used to build both pure strength and mobility, and to improve conditioning.
My current view as a coach is that some form of cross training is highly beneficial for most age group athletes, especially those over the age of 40, and instead of becoming a last resort activity to stop you from going bonkers when you get injured, should be incorporated as part of your training year round, with particular emphasis on this activity for parts of the year.
Focussing on movements in something other than your primary sport is good for you: it gives your body a break from the repetitive actions of your favourite sport which may promote longevity in that sport, and it allows you to work on perfecting another activity and become more efficient at it. Just as you get good at running by running 4-5 times a week, if you focus on riding a bike for a similar amount of time, your skill and ability will improve in that sport and you will be able to get more out of it. It’s a great emotional and mental break to allow yourself to fine tune another skill as well, as well as the satisfaction of mastering a new challenge.
A few notes about cross training activities:
Cycling is an excellent cross-training method for cardiovascular fitness and leg strength and has a similar workout feel to running, with a higher recruitment of muscle fibres. Cycling can be done indoors with your bike on a stationary trainer, on a spin bike at the gym, or through a spin class. Due to the high intensity interval (sweat and burn) nature to spin classes, I don’t advocate these sorts of classes during your regular training, as they leave you feeling ‘destroyed’ on what should be more of a recovery day and depending on the coach, form and technique can be an afterthought.
Cycling as cross training should be done on a bike that fits well, and there should be a period during the training where you focus on good form - single leg drills, high cadence spin with efficiency for example --and generally, very aerobic riding with a good spin cadence (over 90 RPM) is optimal.
There are two ways you can implement cycling into your program - as a low impact supplement to running, you can just 'spin' (high cadence and easy) as a rest and recovery workout, or you can find times of the year to train like a cyclist. That is, perform short and long bike intervals, hill repeats, sprints, tempo rides, and long base rides up to 4 hours. This would be the sort of training you would periodize into the year, simply because you love riding or you know that riding improves your strength, and it’s a nice break to let one type of training take a back seat.
If you do ride, please wear a helmet, a light at night, ride safely and defensively, and obey the laws of the road. Most accidents are preventable incidents. Always use common sense, be alert and take no chances with cars (impact with a car, no matter who is at fault, leaves the cyclist at greater risk for injury).
Pool running is one of the best ways to maintain run fitness and feel when getting over injuries and while pregnant. Pool running or water running is a good cross training activity for running and walking, as it mimics the style and action of your form, but is non-pounding, and is good for most injuries - like sprained ankles, bad knees, achilles, plantar problems. It is excellent for pregnant athletes as the feeling of weightlessness and the hydrostatic pressure feel good on the body.
Pool running also works as a strength drill, as resistance in the water helps build your strength, and running specific muscles. Pool running is a favourite of runners because it closely mimics the action of running without the pounding, is safe, and you can replicate intervals and workouts well. Most runners come back from pool running to land running very strong. Pool running is highly recommended for injury prone runners who like to train every day: substituting pool running minutes for land running minutes is a good way to reduce overuse injuries due to repetitive running.
A note about form in pool running. Start with a pool running belt just to ensure your form is good, and stick with an upright posture, driving the knees up and down piston style, more than slowly pulling them through the water. Use your arms as you would with running. This short video demonstrates the pool running technique well.
These low impact trainers are found at the gym, and, after a period of adaptation, can be used to easily replicate run and walk training. You may need 3-6 sessions on the elliptical in order to feel comfortable enough to feel like you are training, and if you find you like the elliptical it can be an awesome way to cross train. I love the new trainers too -- you can hike all over the world using the video displays!
There are a number of things you can do outside of your sport specific training - of running and walking - that will help decrease your chances of injury and increase your chance of improving. Starting a stretching program is one of these practices. For athletes, stretching refers to the elongation of tissue, which can either be muscle, fascia, or nerve tissues. Stretching either helps us maintain our flexibility or improves it, and can be done in a number of ways.
Like all things training - stretching is a subject with many opinions and views, from how to stretch, to how much to stretch, to whether you need to stretch at all. Stretching is beneficial to athletes, both as a pre training warm up, and as a way to aid recovery.
Sports science has shown us that muscles work by stretching – it is the essential action for our muscle to perform. The stretch, and the range of motion (ROM) of each muscle around the bone to which is attached (the joint) dictates our flexibility. So our flexibility refers basically to how much our muscles can stretch and the range of motion that each joint has.
Flexibility varies immensely from one individual to the next, and some of it is just the body we were born with. Even when you were a kid you probably noticed that some of your friends could do the splits, or do back bends, and some couldn’t, and everybody notices that flexibility decreases with age and when they have done intense training. Increasing your flexibility is a way of keeping your body young and supple, and of allowing it to perform better and more pain free.
Each individual has an optimal flexibility and range of motion that promotes a healthy pain free body. Issues with inflexibility are generally a feeling of tightness in the muscles and joints, pain and injury. Tight muscles do not function to their full range, and will affect the range of motion in a joint, which means that speed and power are compromised, as will be the natural efficiency for movement. Working on maintaining your body’s unique flexibility will allow you to perform better, recover faster from workouts, and may reduce the risk of injury.
We stretch to
How to Stretch
Stretching will improve muscle flexibility and performance but it is very important not to overstretch, and not to stretch overly tight or cold muscles. Overstretching is counterproductive in athletes, and causes little micro tears in your muscle tissue that can lead to more soreness and injury.
Some people prefer to stretch before and after workouts, or some: only before, or only after. Generally it is easier to stretch muscles when they are warmed up a little, after about 10 minutes of light exercise.
There are two types of stretching we will consider for this post: dynamic and static.
Dynamic stretching, or stretches that are actively engaging training movements, are usually done before training. Arm swings and leg swings are examples of dynamic stretches. Walking lunges are also dynamic stretches for the hip flexors.
Static stretches are those that are held for several seconds in order to help muscles return to their normal state, and are usually done after training. You can do these stretches right after a training session, but also at the end of the day. When my children were little, I would stretch while playing Lego or other games on the floor. University athletes can often be found stretching on the floor with an open textbook in front of them.
The main muscles groups in running and walking that need to be stretched properly are:
Quadriceps and Hip Flexors: these are the large muscles in your thighs and at your hips, responsible of the dynamic movement of running and walking.
Glutes, Hamstrings and Piriformis: the muscles in your buttocks, hips and the back of your thighs react to the movement of your front of leg muscles contracting. Working on improved flexibility in these areas can help prevent the lower back pain associated with running and walking.
For some great photos of post training stretches for these muscle groups, this Runner’s World article nails it.
Soleus/Gastrocs (calf): the muscles on your lower legs affect the function of your knees, feet and ankles, which is important to the impact of running and walking. Stretching these muscles before and after running can go a long way to keeping your legs stable.
Pecs and Deltoids: muscles in the upper body and torso, and shoulders. While upper body isn’t as crucial, you want to avoid tension through the neck and shoulders so arm swings and shoulder stretches can help you stay relaxed, which helps posture and breathing.
When and how much to stretch is going to be something that you learn through experience. The recommendation is to start gently and be conservative, stretching a little before and after workouts. Often, busy people neglect to stretch at all, but rush away from a workout to get back to work or home for dinner. Taking a few extra moments to stretch your muscles post workout will, like post recovery nutrition, enable your body to recover faster and better from the session, and set you up to improve.
Run for Joy!
If there is one thing we have all learned this year, it has been how to be alone, and for active people, how to train alone. Without a class, a coach, a group or clinic. While we can connect on line, we have had to do a lot of training solo. Easy for some, not so easy for others. This is where we are - how do we work with it?
Mindfulness and the Solo Runner/Walker
I believe it is valuable for people to develop the skill of mindfulness in training for several reasons. Mindfulness brings your attention to what is happening with your body in the moment. When you are mindful, you are more likely to be relaxed and without tension, and this will improve your body’s ability to move effectively. When you are paying attention, you will notice when something isn’t quite right - like a small ache or pain - and you can stop and stretch, slow down or stop before it becomes an injury. When you are mindful you aren’t distracted my multitasking, and this is both powerfully beneficial to your mental health and helps increase your intrinsic enjoyment for training. If you are mindful you don’t ignore a pain that will become an injury.
When you are on your own, you can cultivate the ability to be paying attention to what is happening right now, fully accepting of it, appreciating it, and not wishing for anything more, or for it to be different. Particularly, to not be distracted by ‘thinking’ - by music, your outside environment, or your unhelpful thoughts. I know that for some, music is distracting in a good way, and makes a session very enjoyable. To each his/her own. I never train with music, for safety (so I can be alert to my surroundings) and it's just how I like to run.
I feel there is a helpful correlation to mindfulness and learning to train by perceived effort. This is beneficial for beginners to aerobic exercise as it will teach you to listen to your body - and it is simple and gadget free. At first, even a slight increase in pace will feel hard and uncomfortable, but over time you will find that your body is adapting to lactate accumulation and you can go comfortably, for longer. The other benefit to training by perceived effort, and not heart rate, is that your body is not a robot. Sleep, stress, coffee, and other environmental factors can affect your heart rate, causing confusion and sometimes stress in athletes trying to attain unreasonable rates of work based on what they think they should do (that is, based on a quantitative system of improvement for the sole sake of compiling data). “I ran this loop at x pace last week so I need to run it at x pace this week, or I did x miles last week and I want to do x miles +n - no matter what). Learning your own effort levels in the absence of a coach is a solid start to training and staying healthy.
Spend some time training by feel alone
Training without a watch, or any technology will help you tune into your effort, and help you learn to trust your instincts about pace. Train on your own, without a watch, without HR monitors, music or any gizmos. Choose a route you know will take you roughly the amount of time you need for one of your aerobic easy training days. It doesn’t have to be exactly the 20 or 30 minutes, but close, within 5 minutes. If you don’t feel comfortable training without a watch, because you are new to the sport and do not know your routes, you can wait and do this session when you have some data for the routes that you do often - like in your neighbourhood or around a park. Another option is to do smaller loops - time yourself for one loop. Now you know how long it takes, roughly, to do this loop. Now go do the loop again as many times as you think you need in order to hit the prescribed training time. Or simply go out and back. Wear a watch on the way out, then take off the watch and train by feel and effort for the way home. See how this feels.
Aerobic development is important, but not to the point where you injure yourself.
To walk or run long distances, the development of the cardiovascular system through aerobic endurance sessions is necessary, but also unique to individuals. I learned early in my career, that my heart and desire were far greater and stronger than my muscular skeletal system.
While some of my peers were running 150 km/week, I rarely could hold greater than 80 km before I broke down or got sick. This limited my ability to do massive mileage and I eventually added triathlon to my career - using bike and swim mileage to boost my cardiovascular system. Some athletes can work their way up systematically into high mileage, some people will always break down after a critical point of volume.
Learn to avoid volume for the sake of volume, (which I believe is governed by the law of diminishing returns for anyone not training as a full time athlete, or over the age of 45). Avoid overtraining through too high volume, by listening to your body. Aches and pains that persist 24/7, fatigue, constant injuries to your knees, ankles and hips, and a general feeling (called intuition or gut feeling) that you are not making gains by training so much, means you need to limit your volume, or at least find a way to satisfy your aerobic needs by cross training. Long trail running hikes (where your pace is really easy, and interspersed with walking), hiking hills in the off season and pre-season in order to build aerobic capacity and lower limb strength and resiliency (Mt Doug, Mt Finlayson, Caleb Pike etc), and cycling will all give you the aerobic benefit you need, plus the strength required for fitness walking and running.
Don’t Be a Sheep
One of the greatest challenges to group training environments, is what I call the ‘highest common denominator effect”, where the pace of the group is dictated by the fastest participants. Been there, done that a thousand times. I have warmed up too fast, done long runs way too fast, cooled down too fast and gone out too hard over and over and over again. As a coach, I either encourage everybody to warm up at the slowest pace possible to keep the group together or in the case of particularly persistent ‘fasties’ I let the ‘fasties’ get ahead and learn for themselves that leaving their best training in the warm up isn’t the optimal way to get stronger. Of course with no group training happening at the moment, it's easy to work on being your own 'lone wolf'!
Good training habits have wonderful application to real life. Really listening to yourself is a huge confidence building skill. Knowing how to tune into your body, and just appreciate its movement and strength, and let the distracting thoughts go is a positive mindset in a world full of comparison and distractions. Learning when to back off without judgement from a too fast pace, a too energetic training partner or a too long long run, is one of the best skills and gifts you can absorb. For one, it is refreshingly free of ego, to be mindful and train at a pace that is right for you, instead of clinging to the idea that you have to ‘keep up’ to count. It reduces anxiety (will be keep up; will I be able to complete this?) and it frees you up for listening to your own body and perceived effort.
And finally, here are my Top 3 suggestions to being your own best coach:
1. Commit to getting good sleep; many studies have shown than consistent sleep and bed time routines enhance healthy bodies and ability to train. Training when energy is high is optimal. At least for key sessions.
2. Pay attention to eating well. Fuel with a good simple diet of nutritious food. Plan fuel for late day sessions. Drink plenty of water - your urine should be very light yellow at all times.
3. Make patience your mantra; hard work, routine commitment and practice are still the best guarantees to success.
Run For Joy!
It is fairly typical for runners and walkers to have an array of shoes on the go at any one time. They will have training shoes that may consist of a lightweight pair for speed sessions, a cushioned pair (or two) for endurance or aerobic sessions, and then a trail shoe with a beefier outsole. Some will also own a pair of lightweight racing shoes for event day. Once they find a pair that fits, athletes will often buy multiple pairs of the same shoe to ensure they have a stockpile of their favourite in the right size. While this seems like a lot of shoes, your top priority is to find a training shoe that fits well and that suits your foot, gait and biomechanics. The running shoe market is currently flooded with a plethora of nifty looking styles and models aimed at the active consumer. Companies that formally only made mountaineering equipment and hiking boots, tennis shoes and ski boots, have all entered the running game alongside the long standing running shoe companies, and there are shoes in every colour of the rainbow and for every purpose: racing, tempo, long runs, recovery, barefoot feel, and for every type of foot. The athlete must sift through the hype and trends and maintain a focus on getting the right shoe for them.
A sport specific retailer is your best bet for getting the right pair of walking or running shoes for you. All makes of shoes fit a little different so trying on various models to find the best one for your feet is important. Purchasing running and walking shoes is one of those areas where your dollar is worth every penny. You will be able to avoid injury with the right pair of shoes, so if you find some that work, by several pairs to have in store. Once you have your model that works resist the urge to try different brands or new fads. Stick with what works. The higher end running shoes have superior cushioning, flexibility, responsiveness and workmanship, things you should consider when making you choice. Ask around in your community for referrals and make sure to get fit at a proper sport specific store. Educated employees will be able to check your gait and make sure you are in the right support and cushioning.
How long to wear a pair of shoes
This is a hard one to answer definitively because running shoes are so different from each other and each person is individual in weight, running style, where they train, and just how hard they are on their shoes. Wearing worn out shoes almost always leads to pain and discomfort in the shins, knees or feet and can lead to other overuse injuries. Because of the durability of the rubber outsoles these days, don’t check for wear on the bottom of the shoe, but for the ‘dead’ feel in the midsole, the blown rubber part that provides cushioning. It becomes unresponsive after a time and also can pack out unevenly. Generally, shoes last about 500-800km. You can do a rough calculation from the time you get your new shoes and mark your calendar for about when that 450-500km mark might be. At that point you can start being aware of a tired shoe and also start looking for another pair, if you liked that one.
Minimal, maximal and old school
Barefoot, minimal, maximal or traditional - everybody has an opinion and debate is ongoing on whether barefoot running is actually superior to the shod foot surrounded by support and cushioning. One thing is clear: shoe technology is more advanced right now than it has ever been. I have been training in running shoes for over 30 years, and the shoes on the market today are superior in every way to that first pair of runners I owned.
There are four basic types of running shoes out there: neutral, supportive, cushioned and lightweight. Generally, cushioned shoes have more midsole material and are used for longer endurance days as they provide more cushioning against the forces of landing, and lessen the impact of running on the body. A lightweight shoe is used for faster running: intervals, tempo and racing, where carrying less mass can increase speed. Neutral shoes work well for athletes with good biomechanics and efficient strides, and a supportive or corrective shoe works well for athletes with biomechanical deficiencies. The correction provided by the shoe can minimize stresses to the knee, hips and back. Cushioned and lightweight shoes can be neutral or corrective. Within each category, there are also road and trail shoes. Technical trail shoes have been a great addition to the running shoe market. With a more studded outsole for good grip over rocks and roots, water shedding uppers to keep the foot dry and the ability to keep out pine needles and small rocks, a good trail shoe makes the forest environment a very enjoyable experience.
While the minimal trainer trend has reached its zenith, any shoe with less than a 10mm drop, is super flexible and neutral counts as minimal. Whether you are talking about running barefoot, in a Nike Free or the Xero Prio barefoot runner, the main thing that separates the new minimal shoes from the traditional shoe is the rear foot to forefoot drop (measured in mm). The difference in height between heel and toe in traditional shoes is significant, at about 15-23 mm. In a barefoot or minimal shoe, the attempt is to mimic the barefoot, so there is either a zero drop in heel to toe height, or less than 10mm. Minimalist shoes look flat, and they are. A minimal shoe will often work (but not always) for a naturally efficient runner or an elite athlete that has strong feet, a midfoot plant, and been training for years, but most efficient runners can run well in anything. For a new runner, doing too much too soon, in a minimal shoe will most often result in soreness in the calves and Achilles as the drop puts too much tension on this part of the lower leg after years wearing shoes with a greater toe to heel rise. A less efficient runner can learn to run well in a minimalist shoe, but needs to be very patient in progressing to this form of running. I do believe that we can all improve foot strength by running drills, walking and doing our strength in bare feet, but it takes time to get used to this. When I am not in my shoes, I am barefoot in my house.
At the other end of the spectrum are the maximalist shoes, which provide ultra cushioning across the whole foot platform, but still possess the flexibility to assist a natural foot movement. Designed to provide cushioning for athletes running long distances, they have become a favourite for people who are returning from injury and for reducing impact fatigue of long distance urban walking and running, especially on pavement and concrete.
Whether you go for a minimalist, maximalist or traditional running shoe, make sure you shop around and try them on. This is one product you don’t want to buy just because there’s a sale, it’s cheap online, or is a cool colour. There is a reason that your local running specialty store hasn’t been usurped by Amazon yet. The personalized service and ability to try shoes in the store and at home is crucial.
What to look for in a shoe, and it’s not your favourite colour
Forefoot width and heel cup:
It is a positive trend that shoe companies are now building shoes with wider toe boxes that alleviate pressure on the toe joints and metatarsals. For someone with a narrow foot, however, a too roomy toe box provides excessive movement that either causes chafing or injury. Trying on different brands and models, even in the same width, will give you an idea of the most comfortable fit.
The heel cup is one other area where you won’t know until you try a shoe. Depending on your ankles, and heel sensitivity, different shoes will feel different. The last thing you want is for your shoe to be digging into your ankle bone when you train.
Racing flats: comfort versus speed:
While some athletes can get away with a really lightweight shoe for racing, others prefer the comfort of more cushioning. In long distances, being comfortable and managing sore legs and calves is more important than pure energy return, so a trade off to a more cushioned shoe can be the better choice. Testing out racing flats in training will give you a good idea of how you adapt to a racing flat. Keep in mind that trainers are generally incredibly lightweight now because of the advancements in midsole technology so weight is not a huge issue anymore. I often race in my lightweight trainers.
If you have sensitive feet or race in bare feet, finding a shoe with a smooth lining is crucial and a few companies make this a priority now, as even with socks on, runners often end up with chafes and blisters wherever there might be a seam in the shoe.
A few companies have tried to improve on lacing systems, by going asymmetrical or other devices but in my opinion, nobody has been able to improve on the traditional system. Whether you go with elastic or standard laces, pay attention to tension on the laces and find the right level of tightness for your foot and stick with it!
Water and Soggy Feet:
On the west coast, winter training tends to be wet, so make sure your shoe works well when having a shower. A soaking squishy foot can cause blisters and a slowdown in pace. Some companies, make a trail shoe with drainage systems.
For years we all trained in cotton sweats and cotton t-shirts. We were just as fast as we are now, but we are a whole lot more comfortable in our moisture wicking polyester fiber running clothes these days. Your running apparel is the one area where you can branch out and have fun with colors and styles. There is a whole fashion show of excellent running clothing out on the market now, including running skirts and comfortable running bras for women.
While you will have to develop your own fashion sense and unique style for your training outfit, I will offer a few tips for comfort and function:
Love a pair of shoes? Love your local running shop? Found a great deal on the perfect run jacket (sorry, the perfect run jacket still doesn’t exist but I’ll let you know when it does), then share your information with your friends! That’s what the warm up and cool down are for!
Welcome to Week 2 of the RunSport 14 week Training Program. This week we are still focusing on practicing the good habits that will carry us through the whole program: paying attention to what we are doing, learning about posture and form in order to have a strong foundation to start from, and showing up with a positive mind set.
Before some pointers on walking and running form, I am going to reinforce the ‘show up’ mindset again as an introduction to the next week of training:
Preview your weekly training schedule, and look through it with anticipation. This helps you plan logistics for key sessions and to start the mental preparation that is needed to perform sessions for the week.
Visualize yourself performing well on training days, see yourself having a successful session and being happy and satisfied during those workouts. The stronger the visualization becomes, the more likely it will be reality.
Timing A morning session indicates you have to be ready to get going early in the day, and an afternoon session means you have to plan meals and nutrition, and also take into account personal fatigue that might happen later in the day for you.
Logistics Decide when and where the session will take place and be prudent with your energy in the hours leading up to the session. Make sure you plan nutrition for the session. Eat a light meal 2-3 hours before the session and be hydrated. Nothing derails a session like the completely avoidable event of being lightheaded and hungry, or having stomach cramps from eating too close to the session.
Rough Patches Having a bad day? You are not the first person to have a bad day, or an off training session. It happens to us all, and makes us human. An off day is an off day, nothing more and nothing less. What you make of the day – your judgements about it, your self-talk around it, and your behaviour and attitude – is up to you. Life goes up and down. Put the effort in to the best of your ability, don’t expect miracles when your energy is low, and while there is no magic pill, the magic comes from the hard work you put into consistently.
Training like You Mean IT
Get excited! This means that you come to the session ready, ready to give best effort and having made the decision to have a good day. You are not coming to ‘wait and see what happens’. As a coach, I call this ‘training like you mean it’. It means arriving early, prepared, with positive energy, and standing tall. Not having a great day? Go to Plan B: Rough Patches. (see above).
Posture and Form
Even after 40 years of running, I spend time in every training session paying attention to my form. I do quick scans for tension - working on being relaxed through my neck and shoulders and arms, tall in my trunk and quick and smooth in the way my legs are moving, and thinking about my feet tapping lightly on the ground as I run. In essence, I pay attention to, and give myself feedback for whether I am being my most efficient self, doing the best work I can do in that moment, and because it’s always evolving, training never becomes stale for me.
Walking and Running both share posture awareness as the core to improving and maintaining efficiency, but they are different movements, so below are two different sets of bullet points - things to keep in mind as you train. While these may seem like a lot of things to think about, you don’t have to nail everything all at once. Sometimes, just reading information about thinking about your own stride is enough to create a mind body awareness. You can also just pay attention to one part of your body at a time, and then relax. The other tip is to check in every 10-15 minutes, not constantly being vigilant.
Walking Posture and Form
Good posture will make it easier to go the distance, with less fatigue. Here are some posture pointers for stronger striding during your next walk.
Stand up tall. Imagine that a string (like on a Marionette) is attached to the top of your head and is pulling you upward. This will help you maintain erect, but not tense posture.
Keep your eyes on the horizon or towards the distance. Trust your peripheral vision to sense obstacles below and avoid looking down. This will help you to stand taller and avoid stress on your neck and back.
Lift your chest and tighten your abs. Using muscles in the front of your trunk to straighten up will take pressure off your back.
Bend your arms. Have a relaxed and natural feeling bend to your arms. You’ll be able to swing your arms faster, which helps increase your speed. It also prevents swelling caused from blood pooling in your hands as you walk longer distances.
Relax your shoulders. Your arms will swing more freely, and you’ll avoid upper back and neck tension.
Maintain a neutral pelvis. Don’t tuck your tailbone under or over arch your lower back.
Keep your front leg straight but not locked. As your leg swings through to the front keep it soft, you’ll have a smoother stride and be able to propel yourself forward more easily.
Aim your knees and toes forward, within your own biomechanics, however proper alignment will reduce your chances of injury.
Land on your heel. This facilitates the smooth heel-to-toe walking motion that will carry farther and faster than if your foot slaps down on the ground with each step.
Run Form and Posture
Stand up tall. Imagine that a string (like on a Marionette) is attached to the top of your head and is pulling you upward. This will help you maintain erect, but not tense posture.
Keep your eyes towards the where you want to go. Trust your peripheral vision to sense obstacles below and avoid looking down. This will help you to run taller and avoid stress on your neck and back.
Lift your chest and tighten your abs. Using muscles in the front of your trunk to straighten up will take pressure off your back.
Bend your arms. Have a relaxed and natural feeling bend of about 90 degrees to your arms. Try to avoid too much cross body swinging. Hands should have no tension (you could hold a feather without crushing it)
Relax your shoulders. Your arms will swing more freely, and you’ll avoid upper back and neck tension.
Look to where you want to go, use strong arms to propel the legs and feel a strong push off from the back toe-off as your foot leaves the ground.
Lean a little - think of your body as being perfectly balanced along a slightly forward leaning central axis.
A midfoot strike creates less ground time, reducing forces of impact on the body, which helps prevent injuries and increases overall speed. A midfoot strike is quiet and quick. Think ‘quiet and quick feet’ as you run. Your base runs, while slower, should also be reinforcing this midfoot technique and good posture gained from drills and shill strides.
A Final Note on Paying Attention
Good movement requires attention. Not obsessive thinking, but mindfulness of what is happening. In the early days of this program resist training to music, and pay attention to your breathing, a relaxed body and a tall, graceful posture while walking and running. Remind yourself often to check to relaxed face and shoulders, a strong but relaxed arm swing and a feeling that you are moving smoothly in a straight line going forward.
Are you training for the Virtual TC10K this year? Are you starting a new running or walking program?
It all starts now and you have 14 weeks to build positive habits and create success! Success is not a random occurrence. Success is something you create for yourself through careful self-awareness, planning, preparation and execution. Success is also a self-defined emotional environment that each of us has to find for ourselves. While we can emulate the success of others, feel motivated by it, and learn from it, each one of us has to create our own platforms to jump from. Personal success is that place where attitude and passion intersect.
Success in a fitness goal requires some effort and specific training. While a lot of people think of training as a series of workouts for fitness, it is helpful to have the mindset that training in itself is a practice, and one that requires certain habits. You have the right, and the power to develop habits that are positive and that work for you, right from the get go. As you gain experience, you will learn what works and what doesn’t and you will be able to fine tune your training program so that you own it. If this all seems like a lot of work, it is. But it's good work, and will come with satisfaction.
In this blog we will discuss a positive and logical approach to training and how to create rituals that work for you and take you towards your goal in a productive and joyful manner. The TC10k is a goal future event that keeps you motivated towards working hard, your short term weekly goals keep you working in a timely manner towards that big goal, and finally, your training sessions are really the bricks and mortar, the path your journey takes. It makes sense to create a strong, solid foundation: this is your life and health we are dealing with!
· If you have a training plan, look at it! Not just what’s coming up today, but what is planned for the week. It makes sense to look ahead at your schedules, both to plan out your week and to start wrapping your mind around the sessions that are coming up.
· Plan out when and where you are going to complete this session. Don’t leave it up to chance. Know exactly when your session is scheduled and make sure that time is sacred. Know where you are going to be doing the session so you aren’t making that decision right before the session. Be adaptable too; if something changes, move onto Plan B and become a problem solver. Find another time calmly.
· Choose environments that suit the session to ensure success. A long section of beautiful trail is a far better choice for a long run, than through the city. But if you have to train at night, a well lit city street might be your best bet.
· The people you train with are also your environment. Choose training partners that lift your spirits and motivate you, people that are fun to train with and who bring out the best in you.
· Have your gear ready to go and in good shape. Keep your running apparel and gear all in one easy to find place.
· Prepare for how long the session will take. This allows you to plan time for training into your day, including warm up and cool down, around the other tasks you have in your life.
Executing the Session
Training can mean heading out of the door for a required amount of time (or until you fatigue or get bored) or training can be a practice. Training for a purpose and to achieve mindfulness is not more difficult, but can be more effective. Breaking a session into parts: the warm up, the main set and the cool down, will allow your body to be more prepared to exercise, and you will be able to maximize what you are able to do on that session. Paying attention to workouts and executing them correctly has tremendous pay back: you become a stronger athlete, you learn to stretch your own comfort levels and you are less likely to get injured.
Before completing a session it is important to warm up your body well. Warming up is an important step in preparing your body to perform. You need your muscles to be warm and loose and your mind to be focused on giving an effort. A well warmed body is ready for the physiological stress of the workout, and a strong mental focus provides the concentration necessary to perform well. A good warm-up therefore is the positive prelude to the great show to come.
A warm-up is nothing more than a period of light, specific physical activity that prepares the body for the activity. It should last roughly 5 to 15 minutes. Give yourself time to warm up and cool down, as rushing through warm ups may leave you feeling stressed and not ready, and failure to warm up or cool down well over the long term can leave you at risk of injury. Mentally, use your warm up to get excited, but not so nervous or anxious that tension builds in the body. If you feel too nervous, take some deep breaths, relax, and remind yourself of why you are there (I’m sure it’s not because you want to be anxious).
· Stay warm during warm up. If it’s cool outside, leave outer layers on to the extent that you actually feel warm while warming up.
· Jog, walk, or do light activity really easy for warm up, focussing on breathing, being relaxed and having a great posture
· After a warm up jog, you can try some run drills. They will further prepare your muscles for any fast running or walking that is to come.
· Some gentle stretches can follow: glutes, hamstrings, calves and quads.
· For longer easy days your warm up can be built right into your practice - just head out the door at a walk, or an easy pace until your feel your natural gait and stride falling into place.
· Cooling down is basically the reverse of the warm up, a 15 minute very easy pace to allow the muscles to relax and flush some of the waste product accumulated during a session of faster effort. For long steady effort, you can make the last 10 minutes of your session at a slower pace and very relaxed.
Mindfulness, Self-Talk and Visualization
When you are training, pay attention to what you are doing. This is a habit that will make you a stronger athlete and has the added benefit of making you more calm. When you train, practice to pay attention to what your body is doing, how you are breathing, the rhythm of your feet, the swing of your arms and how well you are moving. This focus will help buffer you from the world of multitasking we are all a part of now and creates a calming effect that refreshes. Be aware of your thoughts and notice them, and try to go of the ones that aren’t necessary. You don’t have worry about dinner, or the work presentation right now.
Be mindful of what you are doing in the moment.
A huge part of doing well in anything revolves around planning for success and seeing yourself being successful at that endeavour. Plan for success constantly, by taking care of details that affect execution and by using strong visualization to ‘see’ yourself working at your best and being great.
In every session you should be mindful and alert to what is happening in your brain and in your emotional state. Being tuned into feelings that are either calm or confident, or their opposite, stress and anxiety will have great benefit to your overall program. Each time you train you are giving yourself a chance to accomplish something and to be great...and you are ingraining key habits and mindsets that you want to replicate during the more intense race environment. You can choose to have an inner 'mean' coach, or an inner 'helpful' coach. Delete the mean coach: he or she is not helpful and doesn't care about your success. If you are having trouble with this, think about how you would talk to a child you love. So now talk to yourself the same way.
Practice being relaxed for sessions, even when you are tired or not having an ‘on’ day. Develop ways that you can stay relaxed so as to perform as best as you can. This can be rehearsed body awareness cues such as ‘relaxed shoulders and back’ or ways to calm your mind and re focus on the task at hand. Becoming aware of negative self-talk and training yourself to delete self-defeating inner voices is one of the best things you can do early in a training program. As the training increases, and the peak race looms, trying to change bad habits becomes harder. Sometimes it helps to write down a new mental routine for yourself and affirm this behaviour until the new behaviours becomes automatic.
Distractions: one of the most common things that causes people to underperform is to let oneself get distracted by irrelevant thoughts about events. Distractions are usually somewhat chaotic conditions that arise unexpectedly and interfere with our perception of how things should be. When you are in the flow, distractions slide off your calm and confident exterior. When unpredictable events happen the best way to deal with distractions is to re-focus on the internal process of what you are doing and decide to get on with whatever really counts.
Training to be Your Greatest Self
Training is a path in itself. Training lets us take control of our lives, to do quality work on a daily basis, to create health and strength in our bodies and to build positive habits and routines that make us happy. Training also gets us prepared to execute our larger dream goals and gives us great life skills including resilience. Optimal training requires dedication, planning and a commitment to being our best as much as possible.
I hope the best for your next 14 weeks as you gear up to the Virtual TC10K on April 25th! Whether you are involved in one of the RunSport Clinics, or preparing with your bubble, or training on your own, you can check back here for weekly inspiration and tips that I hope can help you in your training!
Run For Joy!
RunSport Lead Coach
6 time Winner of the TC 10K
RunSport Victoria Society Announces
2021 RunSport Virtual Training Clinics powered by Frontrunners
December 10, 2020
(Victoria, BC) The RunSport Victoria Society are proud to announce that the registration is now open for the RunSport Virtual Training Clinics powered by Frontrunners. People from around the Capital Regional District, Vancouver Island and beyond will now have the ability to follow training that is created by 6x TC10K Champion, Lucy Smith, as they participate in a 14 week virtual training program.
“In an ideal world we’d all get out together at recreation centres across Victoria and enjoy the social benefits running has to offer,” stated RunSport Victoria Society Executive Director Keith Bridge. “However, with current restrictions in place for the foreseeable future it seems more prudent than ever to ensure we offer people a way in which they can stay healthy; both mentally and physically. These Virtual Training Clinics, which will adhere to all protocols from the Ministry of Health, can provide a great outlet to enjoy a training program that helps you achieve the goal of running the Virtual TC10K in April.”
The 14-week training program will begin mid-January, led by Lead Coach Lucy Smith. Smith has created a virtual clinic training program that will allow participants of all ages and levels the ability to train and achieve their objectives. Each week participants will progress in skill and fitness under the guidance of Lucy Smith and experienced clinic leaders.
“For the last 4 years I have been the Race Ambassador and lead coach for the RunSport Clinics,” stated Lucy Smith. “With the help of amazing clinic leaders we have supported hundreds of runners and walkers to get to the start line of the TC10K healthy and injury free. There won’t be a TC10K live event in 2021, but I want to continue to help people to move through a virtual 14 week training clinic.”
Participants in the clinics each pay $69 + GST and receive a comprehensive 14-week training program, a training manual, constant advice and guidance from Clinic Leaders and Lead Coach Lucy Smith, a supportive online community to access and discuss training, and a technical training shirt.
“The new virtual clinic will look a little different but I am excited to be involved again,” stated Lead Coach Lucy Smith. “ This is a great way to stay connected in our communities and to bridge the time until we can train and race in person again. We are all in this together, so let’s connect, train and stay fit together!”
The announcement around the Training Clinics launch also coincides with the partnership between Frontrunners and the RunSport Victoria Society. Frontrunners will become the Official Running Store of the TC10K and Run Clinics in 2021, marking the return of this long-time community supporter.
“Frontrunners is excited to once again be partners with the TC10K and RunSport Training Clinics,” stated Frontrunners Co-Owner Nick Walker. “We are thrilled to be a part of this iconic local event and continue our mission of supporting health and fitness in our community.”
“We are so pleased to see Frontrunners returning to the TC10K and RunSport family and are looking forward to working together on health and wellness programs in our community, such as the Training Clinics”, commented Keith Bridge.
Interested individuals who wish to learn more, or join the clinics can follow this link: h ttps://runsport.ca/clinics/
I'll be honest. This week's post is usually about how to train through March break - or while on holiday, how to balance vacation activities and your training schedule. However, as I write this, the Ministry of Health in BC has asked that all events over 250 people be postponed or cancelled, that we avoid large gatherings of people, and many, many people are re considering travelling anywhere. I am not an expert in epidemiology, so I thought I'd write about simply, where we are right now, and what you can do over the next few weeks, with the fitness you have earned so far, and how to keep your motivation moving forward.
If you have been training for one of the many amazing spring races in BC over the past few months you have likely already learned one of the big lessons in sport:
You can’t wait to feel motivated. Motivation happens as a result of good planning and great habits.
It only takes a brief scroll through Instagram to notice that the world is full of inspiring words and photos, however, one of the most important things people learn through this process of following a training schedule, is that habit and action create far more meaningful results, than does reading about motivation or inspiration.
Right now, with x number of weeks remaining until your planned (now cancelled) race day, the goal post has been moved, and I would like to plant the seed that will help you continue your motivation to train, motivation that lasts for a lifetime if you nurture it.
I encourage you to approach the weeks mindfully - that is, do your training, as you have been doing it, with good habits and practices (nutrition etc) - and TRUST that you will be as ready as you can be for some future Race Day.
Your fitness may be to the point where you can work well in discomfort by now, during your faster intervals, but resist the urge to go beyond your scheduled training in the hope that you can boost your fitness even more right now. Stick to the plan - it is good practice for the future.
Resist the urge to test yourself too much, or too many days in a row because you are curious. Save that curiosity and challenge for when it's appropriate in the schedule or you risk leaving your race in a training session. The training over the next weeks is to prepare you for your best effort, not BE the best effort.
With weeks of training under your belt, your body is fitter and stronger, but also is carrying fatigue and you have to be particularly careful not to overdo it right now – injury prevention is still your goal.
Maintain patience for the process, and trust that you don’t need to do anything extra or find extra magic out there. The magic is in the process and the mental preparation for things to go well.
Take the long view and have perspective
As we get caught up in the momentum of our training, planning and preparing for sessions meticulously (or even winging it) we sometimes can’t see that we are giving an energy and passion to something that is unmatched elsewhere in our lives. You have a training plan mapped over several months and every couple of days is a session that brings you closer to your goal. From taking care of your time management to tinkering with your nutrition and gear, you create a forward momentum to your goal race that becomes a constant part of your life. You are committed to eating well, sleeping well, and making positive choices on a daily basis to support your clinic night and goal race. You even have a vision of what that finish is going to look like and how you feel crossing it. This is awesome and a fantastic part of sport, but do you have a sense of calm about the journey, not the destination. The destination has changed, there is uncertainly, but your calm reaction to this is going to be the best practice.
A Zen approach would suggest that all events are neither good nor bad, they just are. While sport is full of highs and lows, weathering everything with a sense of the satisfaction and wonder creates a peaceful relationship with your journey.
Live in the moment AND think ahead. While most people think only of their next race or in one year season cycles, great training encompasses development in 2-4 year spans. When you know that your last training build is only a part of a bigger picture, you get a good sense of perspective that allows you to fully appreciate all the moments that a season offers.
Meanwhile, keep loving your walking and running program and feel proud of where you ARE RIGHT NOW!
Stay healthy, and be safe.
Run For Joy
Promoting running and physical activity one joyful heartbeat at a time!
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