Monday, March 21, 2005

Quadriceps vs Hamstrings?

As previously promised, I will start with the answer to last week's trivia question. Those of you who emailed your answers to me were absolutely right! A highly respected local health professional who works with National level athletes says:
"Typically, the average person has under developed Hamstrings - this often also applies to runners... whether this is because at some point almost everyone was 'average' I am not sure!! - regardless, typically it is Hamstrings. To further this... the reason for this is that the quads push us off the ground when they contract (extension at the knee), and the Glutes extend the thigh back - not so much the hamstrings. That is when you look at sprinters they tend to have really developed Quads and Glutes - as those are the primary muscles (as well as the calf)."
A great way to strengthen your weaker hamstring muscles is to crosstrain. Adding other activities into your regimen will make you fitter by challenging your body in different ways. Cycling and running are fantastic complimentary sports, working opposing muscles. Now that it's spring, pull out that bike!

That settled, on to bigger thanks to the generous support of runners from the Pickering and Whitby Running Rooms, we raised $750 for Canadian Diabetes Association! Thanks to all who rode Church on Wheels to Hamilton yesterday!! As a surprise bonus, no one had to miss church service.

Many achieved personal bests yesterday, while others ran their very first road race. Although the weather started out a little wet and blustery, it soon stopped raining and snowing, making for a great day for our first spring run.

This week calls for some rest and recovery before resuming vigorous training next week. Be sure to "re-fuel" with proper nutrition and lots of water. Treat your weary legs to a nice hot epsom salt bath. Do lots of gentle stretching. If you head out for a run over the next couple of days, make it an easy one. Head to your massage therapist for a post-race flushing massage.

Rest easy and congratulations to all!

Monday, March 14, 2005

Race Day!!

I have to extend a huge "Thank You" to those who participated in our very first fundraiser for Team Diabetes. I hope you enjoyed the 30km Around the Bay clinic as much as I did.

This Sunday, bright and early, we will be heading down to Hamilton on a sold out bus, some to run their very first 5km race, others to participate in a relay team of 3, each completing a 10km portion of the 30km run, and still others to complete the entire 30km distance. Regardless of the goal, we are all heading down to run an event that has taken several weeks of dedicated training to prepare for. As such, today's blog entry will be dedicated to offering a "pep" talk to all of these amazing athletes.

My first words are "have confidence". Have confidence in the fact that you have several weeks of sound training behind you. Erase from your mind all of the runs that you missed, and focus on the miles that you did log. Remember all of the runs that felt great, when the sun was shining, your spirits were high, and it felt great just to be alive.

Next words - "rest easy". Rest easy knowing that you did all you could do to train for your event. Rest your body, knowing all the hard work is over. Rest your mind, feeling no guilt, knowing rest is the right thing to do.

"Visualize". Visualize yourself on race day, feeling strong. Feel the energy you will draw from the other runners and the spectators. Picture yourself crossing the finish line and receiving your medal.

Get lots of sleep this week, eat properly, don't miss any meals, and drink lots of water. The most important night of sleep is Friday...chances are you may not sleep well the night before your event, so make sure you sleep well the night prior. Eat a good solid meal for lunch on Saturday, and eat a lighter dinner. Have a light snack before you go to bed Saturday night.

DO NOT TRY ANYTHING NEW!!!! If you head down to the expo this weekend, collect all the free samples you can get your hands on...but don't try them til after the race!!! Go ahead, treat yourself to some new socks....but don't wear them race day!!! By all means, try the new mexican restaurant that just opened.....after the race!!! You get the point....and if you are still tempted to ignore this....ask me about my first Around the Bay race, run in brand new shoes.

Race day....start slow. You will have plenty of time to pass all of those people who started too fast and run out of steam. Aim to finish the second half of your run faster than the first half. Save some energy for the end. If you feel good during the final kms of your race, pick up the pace. If you start to tire, shorten your stride, think positive and dig deep.

Have fun!! You will finish this, maybe even "upright and smiling"!!
I would like to sign off today with a trivia question.....
Do runners typically have underdeveloped quadriceps or hamstrings?
The correct answer will be posted at the beginning of the next blog entry....

Monday, March 07, 2005


Congratulations to everyone who ran the Chilly Half Marathon yesterday!! Some ran their very first half marathon, while others set a new Personal Best. I hear the Chilli wasn't too bad either!!

Only 2 weeks til our clinic's goal race...the Around the Bay roadrace. Everyone seems to be in fine form with no injuries. This week will be our last "training" week, and next week we will taper. Be sure to eat well over the next two weeks...concentrating on feeding your body proper "fuel" for race day. Also, be sure you are consuming lots of fluids and perhaps even limiting caffeine intake. Get lots of sleep, and start mentally preparing by visualization. Those of you running the ATB for the first time...visualize crossing the finish line, feeling strong, "upright and smiling", receiving your medal. Those of you who've run the course, try to remember the course, visualize running it strong and steady. Picture climbing the hill, feeling strong.

More on preparing for race day on Saturday....have a great day!!

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Should runners strength train?

Wow, the snow has finally stopped! And the sun returns....along with the biting cold! Reflecting back to last winter's running season, I recall running the Around the Bay roadrace on the last weekend in March.......wearing SHORTS! At this point, I'm a little skeptical that my knobby knees will be exposed on March 20th for this year's race...but we'll see! The temperature only has to reach 8 degrees for me to trade in my tights!
So as runners, should we weight train? When you are running the high mileage that is required to appropriately train for a distance event such as the half or full marathon, is it really necessary to do strength training? ABSOLUTELY, in fact if anything, it is even more important!! As runners, strength training is even more important for several reasons, one being that we are known as having significant imbalances in our bodies, and imbalance is a major contributor to injury. Runners are notorious for sporting weak abdomen muscles, imbalanced quads and hamstrings, and weak upper bodies. Also, strength training is critical in successful weight loss, building stronger bones, and improving posture.
1. When strength training, the most important consideration is proper form. If you've never strength trained, be sure to get started under the supervision of someone who is properly versed in proper form.
2. Be sure you are lifting a weight heavy enough that you are struggling to perform your final one or two repititions. Perhaps you can't even perform the last 2 without sacrificing proper form. (don't ever sacrifice good form) In order for your muscles to build strength, you need to fatigue them.
3. On that note, don't ever stress the same muscle 2 days in a row. Muscles grow during rest.
4. Change your exercise program every 4 to 6 weeks. The body will at some point adapt to the stresses you place on it. In order to continue to experience improvement, you have to change the stress. (don't waste your time!)
5. Avoid using momentum. Perform slow, steady and controlled movements.
6. Breathe! Never hold your breath, and generally exhale during exertion.
I am considering teaching classes that focus on building strength specifically for runners, starting in April. If you are interested, please let me know! This will be one aspect of my "Boot Camp" program.
Lastly, I would like to share with you an interesting quote I found.
"People who run distances they ought to be driving aren't necessarily superior athletes. They're actually a bit freaky physically, born with the kind of biomechanics that can take repeated pounding."
Bill Saporito, Time magazine, March 7
My thoughts: Isn't being born with a "freakish" physical ability what defines one as a superior athlete? I mean isn't one of the reasons Lance Armstrong is the astounding athlete that he is, is his "freakish" lung capacity? Well, that and is super human tolerance for pain....

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Heart Rate Monitors

Ok, I apologize for slacking on the posts lately...what a week it's been! Doesn't it always happen that you get sick the very week that is the busiest you've had in ages!! Oh well, I'm on the mend and hope to be good as new by Sunday, as I have a 35km plus run planned!

So last Saturday, we started to discuss pros and cons of the heart rate monitor, but got sidetracked when I announced my plans to hold a "Boot Camp" training clinic this spring/summer! So allow me to start with a recap....

I started training diligently with a heart rate monitor about a year ago. I would never dream of performing a workout without it...however I have certainly come to recognize that there are times when it's readings are more beneficial than others.

Let me start by saying that the greatest advantage I have realized from my HRM is knowlegde of my own strengths and weaknesses. To me, this is critical information for both training and race performance. A well monitored heart rate will offer clues as to what the body is experiencing....for example fatigue, illness, ovulation (ladies only, of course!) etc. and allow you to adjust your training accordingly, hopefully avoiding injury. During a race it will tell you well ahead of time if you've started too fast, offering the opportunity slow down and avoid "bonking" later. (that's provided you listen....) It will ensure you are running in the appropriate heart rate zones for a given workout. Ie. it will ensure you remain aerobic on slow days, and work hard enough on anaerobic days. Wearing your hrm on race days will tell you what hr you are capable of maintaining (or not maintaining) and at what comfort/discomfort level.

The main drawback to using a heart rate monitor is the varying factors that elevate your heart rate - everything! Hunger, stress, excitement, anticipation, adrenaline, pretty much anything will cause your hr to rise. Therefore, sometimes it is very difficult to keep a heart rate low and still be running! Which is why many people advise not wearing a heart rate monitor on race day.

Here's what I think...a heart rate monitor is a fantastic tool for monitoring your fitness level because as you become fitter, your resting heart rate should drop. It is vital for "easy" workouts to avoid working harder than you should. It is essential for aerobic training to remain in the hr zone that will optimally train your aerobic efficiency and burn fat. Wear it when you race merely as a tool to get to know what you are capable of maintaining.

The time to ignore it....? If you are like me and generally have a high heart rate, ignore it on hard days when you are supposed to have a high heart rate. When I am running my tempo run which should be at 85%, but my heart rate is closer to 95%.....if I can maintain pace for the duration I had planned, I go for it.

To figure out your heart rate:
[(Maximum Heart rate - Resting Heart rate) x percentage level] + Resting Heart Rate

in order to figure out your maximum heart rate:
1. 220-age
2. run hill repeats till you cry/vomit!

in order to figure out your resting heart rate:
take your heart rate first thing in the morning before you've risen from bed. keep in mind any little thing will spike your hr, so I prefer to take it as I am falling asleep at 2 footers to wake you up, no alarm going off, you get the picture.
repeat a few days in a row, and take the average

Happy Training!