Injured? Try Pool Running!

Unfortunately with running sometimes comes injury. This is probably more prevalent in areas like South Florida where there is little trail (or soft) running and primarily concrete sidewalks – where the pounding on your joints is heavy. It takes a definite toll on the body, the bones, tendons, joints, muscles, etc. I can recall in high school, my mom offering to schedule pedicures and foot massages to ease some of the stress on my very active feet.

With injury, any athlete (but especially a runner) has to take time off, cross train, ice and rest the problem area, etc. For runners, the best cross training of course are those exercises that keep the heart rate up and the endurance high (i.e. swimming, biking). In fact, as I tell my high school runners, there were athletes in college that I knew of that literally did 90% of their training in the pool or on the bike and then competed in meets. Their bodies were either extremely fragile and/or they were coming back from an injury and didn’t want to risk aggravating a sore knee or tendon. But the point being – they did well! They were able to keep their endurance up just with cross training in the pool and/or on the bike.

So, running is always going to be the best form of training for a runner. But biking and swimming aren’t so bad. In order to help those that are wondering what to do on the bike or in the pool, I’ve include some suggestions.

  • Biking: Pretty self explanatory here. Just get on a bike and ride! Don’t pay attention to mileage though. Odds are you will make it much farther than you would running. Stay on the bike for 8 minutes for every mile you intended to run. (For example, if you were supposed to do a 5 mile run, get on the bike for 40 minutes.) Note that this should be strenuous enough biking that it gets your heart rate up and you sweating!
  • Swimming or Pool Running: Swimming is a great alternative to running. Some say it is the best form of exercise. You get nearly every muscle in your body working; it builds endurance; and best of all – there is no impact or pounding on the body. But for us runners, a great alternative is Pool Running. And I’ve spent a lot of time this past Track season with my high school runners in the pool – running. Here’s how to do it: Get in the deep end where your feet are not hitting the bottom of the pool and run. In other words, tread water, but simultaneously keep your farm. Move your arms and legs as if you were running on the street. Keep your back straight and shoulders high. It doesn’t sound bad but I promise you will feel it quickly. It not only works on endurance (I was out of breadth after the warm-up), but you will feel muscles that you didn’t feel before (including your abs). Again, just like biking – 8 minutes for every one mile you planned on running. If you are replacing a hard track workout in the pool, I’d recommend adding a few reps and picking up the speed of your running just like you would on dry land. Sprinting is very possible in the pool! I should mention the aqua belt that many people recommend – if you have one definitely use it…as it will help your form and you can still get in just as good a workout. If you don’t have one, not to worry. Investing in one is optional. Pool Running is interesting though – as good swimmers typically find it easier to float than non-swimmers. But try it out and let me know how you did!

Here is a good article about pool running and ways to make it fun from Runners World Magazine. (Running in the pool – and being in one place for upwards of an hour – can get pretty boring. And bringing an iPod in the water is not such a good idea!)

And here is a pretty good video of what Pool Running should look like. (This guy will have to do until I have a chance to videotape me or someone else running underwater!)

 

Need to Build Speed? Try Running Hills

Great article from Running Times Magazine on building speed by training on hills. From experience, it gets the leg turnover going while going down hill…getting your legs used to moving faster. Try it out – and even if it doesn’t help your speed immediately…it is tons of fun! (Remember to allow your arms to go and spin like windmills…this will keep you running fast and balanced so that you don’t fall.)

For those Floridians wondering where to find hills? Options include bridge runs (Linton Blvd in Delray Beach) and/or parks and former landfills-turned-parks (Okeeheelee Park in West Palm Beach, and Dyer Park in Palm Beach Gardens west).

It’s the worst-kept secret in running: If you want to improve strength and speed, run hills.

Recently, I did a trail run in Seattle with Tony Young, the world record-holder in the mile for men age 45–49 (4:16.09). Tony stopped at a point where the trail split, and he pointed up one fork, a 300m woodchip incline.

“See this hill?” said Tony. “If I beat you for the masters cross country title in December, this hill will be the reason why.”

Tony’s faith in the power of hills has precedent. In the 1960s, New Zealand coach Arthur Lydiard used hill training to propel his country’s distance runners to international acclaim. Sebastian Coe relied on hills for the strength that netted him 11 indoor and outdoor world records in the late ’70s and early ’80s. And the slopes of the Great Rift Valley have lifted Kenyans to domination of the world distance scene for decades.

So why don’t more runners make hills a centerpiece of their training?

Simply put, most runners don’t understand how to train on hills. We pick hills that are too long or too steep. We run them too fast. We allow too little time afterward to recover. The result is a poor training effect at best, injury and burnout at worst.

Before we charge willy-nilly up the nearest mountain trail, we need to understand the training adaptations we’re after and the best way to achieve them.

WHY DOES HILL TRAINING WORK?

A weight lifter looking to improve his maximum bench press doesn’t add lighter-weight reps to his workout. He doesn’t do his reps more quickly. Instead, he increases the weight on the bar, thereby increasing the force required to complete his reps.

It’s the same with running. If we want to get stronger and faster, we must increase the force requirements of our workout. Tempo runs, time trials and fast reps on the track are good, but they don’t generate maximum force. Hills do.

“Running up hills forces the knees to lift higher, one of the most desirable developments for any runner, because this governs stride speed and length,” wrote Lydiard (with Garth Gilmour) in his book Running With Lydiard. “It also develops the muscle fibers, increasing power.”

In fact, we can target all three types of muscle fiber (a “fiber” is what we call a muscle cell) with hill training: slow-twitch (Type I), intermediate fast-twitch (Type IIa) and fast-twitch (Type IIx). Slow-twitch produces the least force of the fiber types, but it works aerobically and takes a long time to fatigue, making it perfect for endurance activities. Intermediate fibers produce more force than slow-twitch, creating the long, powerful strides associated with middle-distance running. Fast-twitch fibers produce the most force of all, but they function anaerobically and are useful only for short bursts.

HOW DO WE TRAIN ON HILLS?

When I attended La Canada High School in the 1970s, we had one of the best middle-distance programs in Southern California. One year, our school of 1,500 students boasted nine runners who could break 2:00 for the 880. Our secret? Coach Pat Logan employed a regimen of long hill runs for endurance, long hill reps for strength and short hill reps for speed.

When we run, we recruit our muscle fibers in a “ladder.” We use slow-twitch fiber first, add intermediate fiber as the required force increases, and recruit fast-twitch fiber when our force requirement is greatest (e.g., sprinting up a steep hill).

Once we know how the ladder works, we can design hill workouts that target each type of muscle fiber and train those fiber types to work together more effectively.

Full article here.

Ice Baths: The Pain & The Glory

After a run with my South Florida Runs group a few months back in Boynton Beach, a few runners were mentioning that their muscles were tired/sore from recent hard workouts (including hills, etc.). Others said the lactic acid build-up in their muscles was holding them back. I briefly mentioned taking ice baths and how that can help. The majority of college and university athletic centers have metal ice baths designed for the athletes. That’s pretty telling that they work! (Side note, I have read up on many athletes that met their significant other while in an ice bath; while this probably won’t happen in your personal bathroom, it’s just another benefit of the ice bath.

Here is more information on the practice:

For recovery after a long run, tough workout or race, nothing beats an ice bath. Soaking in a tub (or container) filled with water and ice will help reduce inflammation of tissues and joints, relieve soreness, and speed up your recovery. Here’s how to take an ice bath.

  • Fill your bathtub with cold water, and slowly get in. (I know many runners that have used clean/new trash cans so that they could stand instead of sit.) Let your body adjust to the temperature. (Note: If you have running partners, share the bath – just make sure you are wearing bathing suits!)
  • If you really don’t like the cold, it’s fine to go in the tub wearing running tights or sweatpants and a sweatshirt or towel (wrapped around your upper body). You’ll still get the same benefits.
  • Dump one or two 5-pound bags of ice into the tub. (At my size – 130 lbs – I need to use two bags…Otherwise the ice melts way too quickly.) You can also ask someone else to dump the ice in – as inflicting pain on yourself is sometimes difficult.

Stay in the tub for 10 minutes. Your legs will turn red. If you feel extreme numbness, get out sooner.

Background information on why ice baths work:

Ice Baths: Cold Therapy
Ice baths are one of the most effective ways to offset the damage done on a run.
By Nikki Kimball; Nikki Kimball, a physical therapist in Bozeman, Montana, was named USATF’s Ultrarunner of the Year in 2004, 2006, and 2007.

Long runs are essential to the training distance runners because they enable the body to adapt to running greater distances safely and efficiently. Unfortunately, long runs also increase the runner’s risk of injury, which can result in unplanned—and unwelcome—time off. One simple way to offset the risks inherent to long bouts of running is cold-water immersion, known to many runners as the ice bath.

Cryotherapy (“cold therapy”) constricts blood vessels and decreases metabolic activity, which reduces swelling and tissue breakdown. Once the skin is no longer in contact with the cold source, the underlying tissues warm up, causing a return of faster blood flow, which helps return the byproducts of cellular breakdown to the lymph system for efficient recycling by the body. “Ice baths don’t only suppress inflammation, but help to flush harmful metabolic debris out of your muscles,” says David Terry, M.D., an ultrarunner who has finished both the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run and the Wasatch Front 100-Mile Endurance Run 10 consecutive times.

Though you could use individual ice packs, cold-water immersion generally produces a greater and longer lasting change in deep tissues and is more a more efficient means of cooling large groups of muscles simultaneously. The discomfort associated with sitting in a tub full of ice water scares off some athletes. I admit that after my long runs I’d rather reward myself with a hot shower and a big plate of scrambled eggs than an ice bath. However, I have been running ultramarathons for nearly 10 years without any significant injuries, and I credit my ritual of post-workout ice baths for much of my orthopedic health.

Over those years, I’ve discovered tricks to make the ice bath experience more tolerable. First, I fill my tub with two to three bags of crushed ice. Then I add cold water to a height that will cover me nearly to my waist when I sit in the tub. Before getting in, I put on a down jacket and a hat and neoprene booties, make myself a cup of hot tea, and collect some entertaining reading material to help the next 15 to 20 minutes pass quickly.

Though scientific research exists to support the use of ice baths to promote recovery, no exact protocol has been proven better than others. In general, water temperatures should be between 50 to 59 degrees Fahrenheit, and immersion time should ranges from 10 to 20 minutes. Among top runners, I see ice bath techniques that vary within and on either side of these ranges. My favorite method is the post-race soak in a cold river or lake with fellow competitors.

Welcome To Running Tips 101

Welcome to Running Tips 101 – a blog site dedicated to all things related to running.

Why running and fitness? Well it’s what I do! My name is Melissa Perlman and I am a runner! I’m not the type of runner that goes out on a six mile jog to clear my head or because I think the weather is beautiful. I don’t run for the fun of it either (for the most part). I run for results! I run to stay in top physical shape; I run to feel good and stay healthy; I run so that I can enter races and feel like I can win them; and I run to help others (students, running partners, etc.) achieve the same. And I do it while running a successful Public Relations and Communications Firm in South Florida (in other words, living a normal life)!

Take a look around my site and come back often…because I’m about to tell you everything I know so that you can start seeing results too! Further, I am going to share all the tips I know (from ice and salt baths to drying your running shoes after a rain storm to keeping your energy up without coffee)! I understand it’s not easy – believe me! But I’m here to tell you that it’s much easier than you think to get back into the best shape of your life! (And maybe have some fun in the process!)

Have questions? Post them so that other readers can benefit from the answers as well!

(PS. That’s me on the right at the finish of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in Miami Beach (December 2011). It wasn’t my first half marathon but it was the first time that I felt adequately prepared and trained for the 13.1 miler. And that was an amazing feeling in itself. Time was 1:38.)

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