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: