Category Archives: Training

The Runner’s Guide to Caffeine

runner caffiene

Just as runners are passionate about running, coffee lovers are passionate about their coffee.  Caffeine is the most widely consumed non-nutritional drug worldwide.  What effect does it have on runners and running performance?

Research shows that without a doubt, caffeine does provide a performance boost (aka ergogenic effect) to participants in a wide variety of sports.  To quote Australian Institute of Sport’s Nutrition Department Head Dr. Louise Burke: “These benefits are likely to occur across a range of sports, including endurance events, stop and go events, and sports involving sustained high-intensity activity lasting 1-60 minutes.”  The breadth of events covered by Dr. Burke’s statement includes every running distance from 400m (one lap around a track) to ultra-marathons.

How to Prevent Ankle Sprains While Running

ankle sprainSprained ankles from running differ markedly from practically every other injury sustained while running.

Most running injuries are often classified as overuse injuries.  They result from your body not being strong enough to withstand a certain repetitive stress or action which often occurs thousands of times during a run.  In contrast, sprained ankles result from a single trauma.  Often, a runner who sprains their ankle has suffered a previous non-running ankle sprain (Bennett is prone to sprained ankles in part due to previous sprains suffered as hockey-playing teen).

Why does spraining an ankle once increase the likelihood of a future sprain? Depending upon the severity, an ankle sprain can damage muscles, ligaments and proprioceptors (PRO-pri-o-CEP-tors) – specialized nerves that control your balance and sense of position.  Proprioceptors are present in muscles and tendons.   Proprioceptors in a properly functioning ankle sense when your ankle is about to roll and instruct your tendons and muscles to fire and take corrective action, i.e. prevent rolling over.  When these nerves are damaged during the initial sprain, they often do not regain their full functionality.  Their ability to control the necessary firing of muscles and tendons is compromised.  It is this phenomenon that is the major contributor to chronic ankle sprains.

How Much Protein Do Runners Really Need?

Woman ProteinThe Athlete’s Kitchen
Copyright: Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD  May 2015

Muscles fibers sustain damage during hard training. Repairing and building muscle is a critical component to successful training and gaining strength. Prevailing beliefs are:

1) The more protein you eat, the more muscle you will build.
2) Protein supplements are more effective than food.

Let’s take a look at what the research* says.

    • The amount of protein needed to build muscles ranges between 0.6 to 0.8 grams protein/lb body weight (1.2 to 1.7 g /kg). If you are starting a strength building program, target the higher amount to support the growth of new muscles. Experienced lifters do fine with the lower amount.

How Different Are Women Runners from Men?

DoctorWe regularly point out how women runners differ from their male counterparts. We’ve seen that due to lower body weight, women runners usually have lower caloric requirements and carbohydrate needs than male runners. Due to having lower testosterone levels, women frequently require greater recovery periods from hard training than men (testosterone promotes protein synthesis, which is critical in repairing the micro-tears that occur in your leg muscles during training).

How Your Menstrual Cycle/Menopause Affects Your Running

StressedSMConsider the following scenario:  Your training schedule includes a weekly track or hill workout.  One week, you hit your workout targets right on.  You are brimming with confidence.  The following week, the identical workout is awful with no apparent reason why.  You feel bewildered and discouraged.

Knowing where you are in your menstrual cycle can provide valuable insight into your performance. Let’s examine why and how to use this knowledge to your training and racing advantage.

The menstrual cycle is comprised of two phases.  During the Follicular Phase (Days 1-14), estrogen levels are low, except for a spike near Day 14.  Ovulation begins on Day 15.  The Luteal Phase (Days 16-28) is marked by relatively high but stable estrogen levels.  Also, progesterone levels peak, inducing a much-higher-than-normal breathing rate during exercise.

Science Has Great News for Runners Over 40

RunningInField2The common belief that we inevitably lose muscle as we age is being debunked by research. There is mounting evidence that muscle loss has to more to do with lack of use than age.  This conclusion is welcome news for runners (and other masters athletes).

A study by Dr. Vonda Wright at the UPMC Center for Sportsmedicine in Pittsburgh assessed the fitness and strength of recreational masters runners, cyclists and swimmers.  Her subjects ranged in age from 40 to 81.  Dr. Wright used MRI scans of the upper leg to measure muscle and fat content. She found no significant decline in muscle size or strength due to aging.  The MRIs of the quadriceps of her 40 year old and 70 year old subjects were virtually identical.  In comparison, MRI scans of a sedentary 70 year old’s quad show a shrunken muscle covered in fat. We use it so we don’t lose it!

When to Replace Your Running Shoes

OldShoesSMQ (from the email bag): I have a question about shoes. I bought my current pair in early January.  I’ve worn them for all my marathon training, putting on about 450 miles. On my last long run, my legs felt achy; they did not feel right.

My marathon is in 4 weeks. Should I get a new pair to race in? Should I consider going with a racing flat? I have run marathons in flats before and am wondering if it would be worth it in this race. There is a weight difference for sure.

Thanks

Ann

A:   Good questions.  Surprisingly, there is no consensus as how many miles you can safely run in a pair of shoes.

How To Defeat Negative Self-Talk

WalkingAwayRunning and racing long distances can be as much a mental challenge as a physical one. Here’s how to effectively manage these counterproductive thoughts.

At critical junctures of a tough workout or race, many runners experience negative self-defeating thoughts.  They begin to doubt themselves, telling themselves that the endeavour is too difficult. They compare themselves to other runners who look fitter or are running faster.  They begin to question if they will achieve their goal.  Their self-confidence becomes eroded.  Effectively managing these counterproductive thoughts is as critical to your success in running as is proper physical preparation.

In our coaching experience, we’ve witnessed runners that consistently race well are those whose mental game is in order.  Conversely, runners that continually fall short of reaching their racing goals usually haven’t yet developed an effective strategy to defeat negative self-talk.

What’s Running Through Your Mind?

human brain with arms and legs running, 3d illustration

By Dr. Kate F. Hays, Ph.D., C.Psych., CC-AASP

Jane, a woman in her late 30s and an experienced runner, wants to qualify to run the Boston Marathon. In order to do that, she needs to complete an upcoming marathon three minutes faster than she’s ever done. Her coach may offer some physical training tips, but as a sport psychologist, what would you suggest?

This question was posed during a recent sport psychology tele-consultation group meeting, and we all chimed in with some ideas. Jane, as I’m calling her, has been thinking about the mental elements of her race. She knows that her physical training has been thorough. According to her training program and the charts, she should be able to manage her goal time.

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