Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Case for Trail Running

On the first day of my son’s soccer practice, I met another dad who is a big-time runner.  He had done several marathons at a pace I couldn’t think of holding for 26.2 miles. I have been looking forward to running with him since soccer practice ended.  Knowing that he was focused on the Philadelphia Marathon, I gave him a few weeks of recovery before calling him to go out for a run.  Since the weather was looking chilly, I thought a trail run would be a good idea.
With each footstep, I noticed that I was running 30 seconds to a minute slower per mile than his desired pace.  I pushed the pace trying to get, really angering the guys behind me. 
These guys are fast runners, even faster than I could run long distances, so why were the trails so difficult?
There are a few differences between running on trails and running on pavement.  Because of the varied terrain, certain running styles are better suited for running off-road.  These differences include:
  • Shorter stride
  • More side to side movement, both to a void obstacles and follow bends in the trail as well as to make micro adjustments for different surfaces
  • Increased activation of the core to provide stability
  • Land under center of mass which helps to avoid “over striding”
  • Rapid shifts in terrain mean more hills and more intensity
I frequently perform video gait analysis.  Some of the common elements of injured runners are a long stride with a foot strike way in front of the body, weakness in the pelvic stabilizer muscles and poor core strength.  By shortening the stride and throwing some lateral movements into the mix, trail running could be the answer to many running overuse injuries.  
Next time you lace up your sneakers, head out to the trails for an entirely new workout.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Chia Power

I was running with a friend the other day.  We both had the same shoes, but the sounds coming from our feet were decidedly different.  I’m a dedicated forefoot/midfoot striker, while she is more of a heel striker. 

We were discussing minimalist running, when she exclaimed, “I should be able to do that, I have the shoes, and I even eat chia seeds!”
Chia seeds.  If you’ve read “Born to Run” or if you listen to too many triathlon podcasts, you might think that chia seeds are powerful enough to turn Lemonade into Rocket Fuel.  Let’s look at why you might think so.  
Chia seeds contain Omega 3 fatty acids.  Also known as Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT’s), these are fats that are easily converted into energy.  Calories that come from Chia are every bit as good as calories that come from commercially available carbohydrate drinks, especially when used as part of a carbo loading protocol.
Medium Chain Triglycerides are a great souce of fuel if you want to spare carbohydrate and decrease blood lactate increases during moderate and intense activity, especially when compared to Long Chain Triglycerides.
It isn’t enough to consume chia.  You also need to train your body to increase the use of MCT’s and that is facilitated by training.  High Intensity Training in the presence of medium chain triglycerides will enhance the ability to use fat as a fuel during endurance exercise.
So are Chia seeds worth it.  Sure.  However there are other sources of MCT’s such as almond butter, salmon, avocado and hummus that are also worthwhile options, unless you want to grow sprouts on a ceramic animal.

1 Lilian TG, Casey JC, Bishop PA. Omega 3 Chia seed loading as a means of carbohydrate loading. J Strength Cond Res. 2011 Jan;25(1):61-5
2 Nosaka N et al. Effect of ingestion of medium-chain triacylglycerols on moderate- and high-intensity exercise in recreational athletes. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol. 2009 Apr;55(2):120-5.
3 Jong-Yeon K et al. Long- and medium-chain fatty acid oxidation is increased in exercise-trained human skeletal muscle. Metabolism. 2002 Apr;51(4):460-4.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Core Training for Runnners

As the winter months (and weather approach), a lot of people ask me what they can do to help with their running over the winter.  Flexibility and strength training are two items that people want to address in the off season.  I was recently interviewed for an article on about this.  Here's the link:

Friday, October 7, 2011

Runners' World

Check out the November 2011 issue of Runners' World for some advice (by me) on keeping the immune system functioning while training for endurance events.

Soy v. Whey Protein

There is a lot of dissension on the good and evils of soy protein in endurance athletes.  One of the arguments that is made by the detractors of soy protein is that it inhibits protein synthesis.  While it may have less muscle protein synthesis after resistance exercise (which itself is a big contributor to muscle protein synthesis), it is still better than casein, another milk derived protein.
The researches from one study concluded that the rapid rise in amino acids after whey, compared with soy ingestion may be one of the contributing factors.
Source: Ingestion of whey hydrolysate, casein, or soy protein isolate: effects on mixed muscle protein synthesis at rest and following resistance exercise in young men. Tang et al. J. Appl Physiol. 2009 Sep;107(3):987-92.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Why good people take bad advice

I recently had lunch with a friend from medical school.  She was telling me about her running coach.  This coach was an attorney who got fed up with law and decided to become a running coach.  She now tells people like my friend how far to run every day.  Only problem is, my friend isn't losing weight the way she wants.  So she does her own thing, like cross-fit.  "It's the only way I can lose weight" she tells me.
"Why not run like you do cross fit?" I asked
"You mean run fast?" she says
"Exactly." I reply
"Because I can't keep up the speed."


One of the best ways to get fast, lose weight and build endurance comes down to interval training.  Too many people follow programs designed for training volume with no focus on training intensity.  Of course doing too much of one without any of the other isn't good either.

Unfortunately, most intervals are based on distance.

800x4, 200x8, etc.  As you get faster, your intervals are getting shorter.  If you aren't fast enough, the intervals are too long and fatiguing, which limits recovery.

Intervals should be aimed at the skills of the fast twitch fibers they are trying to target.  Fast twitch fibers perform very well for 4-5 minutes (Type IIA fibers) and for 20-30 seconds (Type IIB fibers.)  Of course, there is a lot of variability in there, but these represent good interval times to start.

Shoot for a goal of 6-8 intervals with complete recovery at the 4-5 minute pace or the 30 second pace.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Adolescent Female Stress Fractures

In a recent study in Archives of Adolescent Medicine (August 2011), the stress fracture rate is higher in girls ages 9-15 who participate in running, basketball, cheerleading and gymnastics.

One of the study recommendations is participation in lower impact activities.

My recommendation is conditioning to help lessen the impact of running and landing activities. Some suggestions include hip abduction and lower extremity strength training to keep the legs aligned and cushioned during running and landing.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Blood Pressure is Rising

A new study published today shows that adolescent blood pressure is rising (Add Health). This is compared with a previous look at the nation's health (NHANES).
Although use of antihypertensives, consumption of food, caffeine, and cigarettes was recorded, there was no mention of exercise.
As we know, exercise initially causes blood pressure to increase, but following exercise, there is a decrease in blood pressure.
Hopefully, further NIH studies will examine the rates of adolescent exercise and blood pressure.

Monday, March 21, 2011

And they're off....

Well, there at it again. The racing season kicked off this weekend for the Performance Lab team. Davy Dawson took home 4th at the Philly flyer. Great result for our 19 year old, especially since this is his first race back after a broken collar bone.

At another race this weekend, Steve Blackman finished 3rd and Tim got 7th.

I'm sure there will be more to come.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Barefoot aka Minimalist Running

I have been speaking with my patients quite a bit recently about barefoot running. I have been testing runners both with and without shoes to find which is more efficient; toe and midfoot strike or heel strike. Although there is no clear cut answer, even those who are less efficient with a forefoot strike feel faster and more comfortable when hitting the ground with the front of their foot than with their heel.

I gave a lecture at the Endurance Sports Expo and was delighted to see both high-tech stability shoes and minimalist footwear on the feet of the attendees.

If you missed that talk, you can catch it again at Philadelphia Runner (16th and Sansom) on Tuesday, March 15th at 7pm.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Off Season Resistance Training for Endurance Athletes

From my experience with endurance athletes, most injuries and loss of speed comes from weaknesses of small muscles. Learn how to strengthen these muscles to help make you faster. The exercises can be done with a home gym that can be assembled for under $50--likely the best money you will spend this year.

The class will take place at the Performance Lab on February 15th at 7pm. The cost is free, but please take a moment to RSVP 856-874-9700.