Sunday, November 15, 2009

Running Form

"Correct running form to improve running mechanics, increase running economy. Correct running form reduces injuries and is not only for competitive athletes but also for recreational runners."

Practice has been going well. My weekly total is around 45K and this week I'll reduce that to half in preparation for Sunday's 10K race. Looking for some ways to improve my running I had previously mentioned that I started my routine with a Dynamic Warm-up. Last week I had some free time on my hand and used it to do some more research on improving my form. I found that many running/ marathon coaches and experienced runners had a very similar advice on running form. To improve running form one has to pay attention to one's stride length. According to many articles, top runners averaged between 90 and 100 full strides per minute. A full stride being that one foot pushes off and lands again. Combine this with a well-balanced upper body so that the center of gravity is directly under the body. When the center of gravity is under the body then feet also land under the body which will remove the breaking action of a foot landing in front of the body. Shorter ground time in long distance running increases the air-time and thus a continuous forward motion.
 I have tried shortening my stride length and increasing the amount of strides last week with good results. Running feels easier and with less effort. My time for long runs has improved a little and tiredness is less than before. One thing with short strides is that the ankles need to be flexed quicker to prepare for the next step. Keeping my toes up almost continuously has given some strain on my lower leg so my calves and shins feel a little sore. This new step will take about a month to get used to according to running experts. This form of running is often referred to as the Kenyan running form and has proven to improve speed and economic running.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Dynamic stretching

I used to do a 5-minute easy jog and a static warm-up before running. But somehow old injuries (and new ones) kept surfacing. As my weekly average is rising and long-runs are becoming longer I felt the need to look into the warm-up routine a little deeper. I researched the net and came across "dynamic stretching routines" with all kinds of positive effects and feedback by users. It appealed to me so went to construct my own dynamic warm-up routine by putting together elements from various sites and users. Have a look at this...
1. Easy Jog 5 to 10 min.
2. Toe Walks Walk 2 x 10 metres on your tiptoes with toes pointing straight ahead.
3. Heel Walks Same as Toe walk, but as high on your heels, as possible.
4. Lunge walks 2 x 20 metres then 2 x 20m sideways lunge walk
5. Skip Relaxed, swing the arms as you skip, and don't hurry. 20 metres forward, 20 metres backward, then do both again.
6. Relaxed sideways shuffle Legs don't cross - to left 30 metres then to right 30 metres.
7. Carioca Runs 2 X 30 meters sideways runs to the right 2 x 30m sideways run (carioca) to left
8. Fast skips and straight legs 2 X fast skip 10 meters.  10meters 2 X butt kicks
9. Ankle bounces 20 with push all coming from ankles. Do not go for height, keep relaxed, pull your toes up as you bounce (no pointing toes to ground).
10. Arm drives & accelerations (concentrate on running form & a good ballance of core stiffness & relaxation). Few vigorous arm drives then:- (Sprint race) 3 x bounds into s/o into sprint (total of 50 metres composed of 3 or 4 bounds then 20 metres s/o then 20 meters 20 metres full speed. Walk back slowly and repeat. Practise Starts - a few, if you can fit them in. (Distance race) 4 x 40m metres s/o into 20 metres fast (60 metres total) all the time concentrating on running form and relaxation.

I have applied this routine for little over a month now and am very satisfied with it. Especially the "butt-kicks" really help to warm-up and lube my knees.

I vary the length and amount according to the distance of my run. Also I try do do a proper dynamic warm-up routine before a long run, a high-paced run, and after recovery days. When warming up for a race, consider that on cold days the full effects and benefits of a dynamic warm-up can be lost in a few minutes when waiting in bare clothing.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Silly me

Silly me, I've bumped my left foot against a doorpost at home. It was just before I was going out for an easy run. I ignored it and started with my warm-up routine as usual. A few minutes into running I had to stop because of the pain. Inspecting my toe after limping back home it had already turned blue and black. For a bit I was worried that it was broken, so i went to see a doctor two days later but it turned out to be a bad bruise and he gave me some tape to reduce the swelling. Five days after the incident I was out and running again. Still a little colored but the pain was almost gone. I realized that this intensive running program made me more tired than usual thus lowered my awareness. I have to take more time to do things so not to injure myself again... I thought.

Yesterday morning however, being in a hurry to leave for work in the morning I kicked the leg of the new home-trainer which I had bought the week before. I cursed myself for being so stupid to hurt myself again. I quickly checked my toes and determined that it was the same toe. Having no time for icing I put the leftover tape on my toe and left for work. Coming home in the afternoon I took off my socks to inspect my toes to find out that it was another toe which had turned black-purple. Stubborn me, I got ready for a sic kilometer run and was actually very fast. Although it was very painful I managed to run 5 minutes flat for 6KM. But upon arriving home I was unable to walk... Today I'll do a long workout on my home-trainer to speed-up recovery time and keep stamina.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Keeping up with the plan

Last week I started with Hal Higdon's 8-week training program. The first week was about 30KM with one tempo run, one long run, one cross-training day and one day off. So far no serious pain. Feeling tired but that will hopefully wear-off after I get used to this training program. I realize and feel that my body needs healthy food and rest to keep up and keep going. I have brown rice, vegetables and some fruit during the week. Maybe I need some more fruit, but this year it is so expensive.
Also, last week I have purchased a Home-Trainer Bike to use for cross-training. It really uses other muscles than when running but it delivers a good sweat on the forehead. And in winter when the weather gets too crazy to go out it will be useful to maintain stamina. I haven't used a bicycle here in Japan for some years now, so it was rather painful to peddle for just 20 minutes. My cross-training program says I should peddle for about an hour but then I'll turn into a triathlon athlete instead, so I'll try to go for 4o minutes next time.

Monday, September 21, 2009

10K race plan

I've decided to run a 10K race in November to see what kind of time I can put out. I'm trying to find out what target time I should use to practice pace running for my next marathon. I want to aim at running my next (2nd) marathon around or just under 4 hours. I know I need a 5:30 kilometer pace in order to finish the marathon in four hours. So during my 10K race I want to check if I can pace under 5:00 per kilometer.

I'm going to train according to a new, and more challenging running program form Hal Higdon which somehow appealed to me very much. Hal Higdon's 10K running program is hard but feels very motivating to just get out there everyday. I've noticed that I'm losing some weight due to every day training so I try to eat as much as I can to get enough energy to keep going. From next week I will start using the new workout formula, so wish me luck.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Mid-term Goal

I've been running hard this summer and worked to running 12K once a week. Hope to increase this by 2K every other week. My 3 month rehabilitation period has really taken its toll on my physical condition which means I had to start from about 5K as a long run and about 3K for regular runs. Recently I started to incorporate interval training, which means I try to run faster than my race speed in three sets. First set is for about ten minutes and then I take a walking break for about 2 minutes. Second set I run fast for 8 minutes and take a ninety second walking break. The third set I run fast for 6 minutes and cool down with a ten minute jog. The first time I tried this it was easy so I hope to increase the fast runs by 1 minute per set (=3 minutes) every other week.
Now, for my mid-term goal, I've decided to run a 10K race in November. This will give me an indication of the tempo I could run at my next marathon (without injuring myself again). The thing is though, that I'll run with some colleagues and friends who might slow me down as I know that I'm the fastest of the bunch. Maybe I'll just run alone and meet them at the finish line.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Runners Knee

I'm back! After my first marathon in April this year I came down with Runners Knee, which gave me (obviously) pain in my left knee. Before i was diagnosed I tried to run through it but no matter what I did it was just painful. After some X-rays and analysis of my symptoms,the doctor said I had Runners Knee and had to refrain from running for two months.
At home I did some rehabilitative exercises which the doctor had suggested. Runners Knee rehabilitation needs to restore muscle strength in and around the knees to ensure stability and minimal joint friction.
First rehabilitative exercise: very simple lower leg lifts, which means siting on a chair and straightening the leg by bending it at the knee bringing the foot up.
Second rehabilitative exercise: was squatting, which I used to do as cross-training before the marathon so that was easy to do. Making sure not to bend the knees more than 90 degrees and keeping the weight back so that the knees don't pass over the foot. I reached a peak of two sets of 60 reps. (without weights)
Third rehabilitative exercise: I did bridges lying on my back, bending the knees and bringing the buttocks up. This felt good to bring more stability in my upper legs, bottom and hamstrings.

Trying to keep in shape, I did an extensive cross-training program to strengthen my upper body as well. I had enough energy every day to do about one and a half hour workout before dinner.

Now I'm back and running. I'm going to make a new training schedule and aim to run the same marathon next April 2010.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Cross Training

In December 2008 I decided which marathon I wanted to run. My marathon was the Kasumigaura marathon in Ibaraki prefecture Japan on April 19th 2009. With this goal set, I could really start concentrating on a serious training program and make myself mentally ready. Since this was going to be my first ever marathon and the biggest physical exercise in my life I felt increasingly stronger and more confident as the weeks went by. After doing some research on the web I found that it would probably be useful to collect some cross training exercises to further strengthen other body parts. I started with pushups, hooking, and bridge training. Also I do some exercises with light 1kg dumbells to strengthen my arm and shoulders.
I found some wonderful core exercise video's on Runnersworld demonstrated by Matt Tegenkamp. There are various useful video's here made with and by highly experienced and professional runners. Core strengthening, dumbbell, and balance training are really helping me to improve my posture and running style. Creating a stronger upper body gives me more speed as well.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Protein Supplements

Suddenly going from doing no sports at all to running around 50KM a week took its toll on my health and physique. I went to look for protein supplements which also contained Glutamine or Chondroitin to give some protection to my knee and ankle joints. I found that the most reasonably priced (whey) protein supplement was Weider Muscle Fit Protein. weider muscle fit protein
Calories 73Kcal Vitamin B2 0.54mg
Protein 14.2g Vitamin B6 0.46mg
Fat 0.3 - 1.1g Vitamin B12 0.80~3.60µg
Carbohydrate 2.6g Niacin 8.0mg
Natrium 60mg Folic Acid 80µg
Calcium 300mg Pantothenic Acid 2.4mg
Iron 3.6mg Glutamine 3,000mg
Vitamin B1 0.46 Isolated Glutamine 26mg

Weider Muscle Fit Protein seemed the best because it also contained Glutamine, vital vitamin B, and a fairly large amount of calcium. Within a few weeks of taking protein supplements I started to notice that my recovery time was shortened, muscles felt less sore the day after intense workout and a quicker buildup of muscle tissue. This protein supplement powder is easily dissolved in cold water and doesn't taste bad at all. I drank some protein before doing a work out and always before going to bed at night. Taking protein supplements at night gave me the best recovery and muscle buildup results.

Winter Training

Marathon Winter Training
From October (2008) I started to increase distance and frequency of my long-runs to four runs a week with a weekly total of between 40 and 50 KM. very soon I felt my body becoming stronger and fitter than ever before. From December I did cross training almost every day, only taking Mondays off to recharge. Winter temperatures were between minus 5 to plus 10 from December to March. Doing warm-ups and stretching in this cold weather wasn’t really fun so I did that as quickly as possible, probably inviting injuries to start developing from this stage.

Friday, May 22, 2009


Last summer (2008), I heard one of my colleagues talking about his preparations for running his first marathon ever. Somehow he seemed so motivated and ready to work hard in order to finish a marathon race that I felt deep respect. I thought it could be a great challenge for me too, so I stated with runs of three or four kilometers. Feeling sweat run over my face after many years of being a couch-potato, I remembered the euphoric feeling and sensations of a good workout, and I loved it!!

I'm living in Japan where the summers get humidity percentages in the eighties and nineties so the summer time is not the best for practicing long runs. I tried to do two runs a week until October. then it started to cool down and as my physical endurance was build up little by little I increased my weekly runs to somewhere between five and seven kilometers. It felt really good and mentally I was completely convinced that I would be able to finish a marathon race.

From November (2008) after browsing the web about marathon running, I started to do some simple cross-training like sit ups, push ups and playing with 1KG dumbbells. Very basic stuff but it felt good to work on other parts of my body while resting between running days.