Monday, June 24, 2013

The Missing Link: What Every Runner Should Be Doing

Written By: Kyle Will
We are all runners…we all want to improve….and none of us has any extra time to add anything to our training regime.  We are Moms and Dads, Husbands and wives, college students, and business professionals.   So what can we do??  Strength Train!!  Although there has been significant research and empirical evidence to support strength training for endurance athletes for years, it seems that the running community is just now finally coming around with an open mind to strength training.  I think in the past, and still today, runners think if they strength train they will gain mass and bulk and that is the absolute last thing any runner wants!  However you can strength train without gaining mass and bulk and still get the benefits from strength training.  Newer research has proven that by implementing some sort of strength training into your workout routine, runners can increase VO2 max, decrease injuries, and increase their overall running performance.  So why are runners still avoiding strength training?  I believe it is because they cannot figure out how to add it into their routine and they are not willing to sacrifice mileage in lieu of strength training.  For most runners we have been raised to believe that to be a better runner, you have to run more miles.  In the last 20 years or so, we have realized that not just any type of miles count, they should include quality miles, intervals, hill workouts, tempo efforts, etc.  But nonetheless to be a good runner it is widely believed you have to run more miles. 
I want to challenge that thought process and encourage you all….if you want to improve as a runner, one of the best and quickest ways to accomplish that is by adding some sort of strength training to your workout routine.  I would even suggest that if time is an issue, that you will benefit more from dropping a run and adding a strength workout, then by running more mileage.  The right type of strength training program will give you a good anaerobic total body workout that more than substitutes for an easy run.  More strength means more speed.  More strength means less time before your body fatigues and you are forced to slow your pace.  More strength means, you can climb hills and traverse uneven terrain easier and more efficiently thus resulting in faster times.  More strength means more power.  Bottom line is that more strength means you will be a better runner!

Here are a just a few examples of what studies show about strength training for runners:

“The preponderance of peer-reviewed research suggests that strength training improves running performance, whether that’s running economy or time to exhaustion.” - Luke Carlson, CEO of Discover Strength and strength coach for many of the elite runners of Team USA Minnesota.  - Running Times, January 2011.

In a study published in 2005, researchers assigned participants different training schedules to be performed twice a week for 12 weeks. The groups included running endurance training on its own, strength circuit training on its own, endurance and strength training together and a control group.  The group that combined endurance and strength training improved an average of 8.6 percent in a 4K time trial, increased their V02 max by an average of 10.4 percent and ran to exhaustion 13.7 percent longer than the other groups. This study emphasizes the importance of concurrent strength and endurance training. British Journal of Sports Medicine; 2005 August; 39(8): 555–560.

In 2008, a study was published that assigned well-trained runners to either a control group or an intervention group — both groups performed a series of half-squats three times a week for eight weeks. Both groups continued their regular running regimen. The strength training group’s time to exhaustion at maximal aerobic speed improved by an impressive 21.3 percent. - Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: June 2008 - Volume 40 - Issue 6 - pp 1087-1092 

The benefits of resistance training in both competitive and recreational athletes have been well documented over the past 20 years. Improvements in muscle strength and power, increase in muscle size, and improvement in sports performance are common benefits resulting from resistance training programs. In addition, resistance training has also been suggested to reduce the risk for musculoskeletal injuries, or reduce the severity of such injury. The physiological adaptations seen consequent to resistance training on bone, connective tissue and muscle implies enhanced protection against injury for individuals who participate in such a training program.  Reducing the incidence of injury by engaging in a resistance training program is as beneficial for the noncompetitive beginner as it is for the professional athlete. The most important step, after medical clearance, is to locate a qualified individual (exercise scientist/ physiologist or sport trainer) to develop a safe and effective resistance training program. - Written for the American College of Sports Medicine by Jay Hoffman, Ph.D., FACSM

Don’t get me wrong to be a good runner, you still need to put in the miles.  And I am a firm believer that the more mileage you can put in, the better your body will be prepared to train and race hard.  But if you have the time, adding a strength workout can be the quickest and easiest way to make that next significant improvement.  And if you don’t have the time, then cut back on your mileage to make the time.  It will make a difference.

And take heart, the strength training doesn’t have to be complicated or difficult.  You don’t even need a gym or weights.  Your body is weight enough and only a couple of exercises done properly and consistently can make the difference.  Simple lunges, body weight squats, step ups, push ups, and pull ups combined with some core exercises are easy to do, and could get you well on your way.   If you are a bit more experienced you can add weight and some other more complicated exercises, but you don’t have to.  And finally if you are a short distance runner, less than 5K, then some (notice the word is SOME) power type lifting (Power Cleans, Hang Cleans, etc.) could be beneficial to build more power and strength.  However for endurance runners, lifting more than 25-30 lbs. will not ever be necessary. 

Before you get started make sure you have no significant skeletal injuries that would prevent you from strength training.  Consult a Personal Trainer or Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach to make sure you learn the proper form to prevent injuries.  And find a trainer/coach that is also a runner, so that they can guide you on weights, reps, sets, etc.  The last thing you want is someone that is creating a strength program that is counterintuitive to your running goals.  After you have learned the proper form and the proper program, then get after it!  Sign up for that next race and feel confident that a PR just may well be at the next finish line!


Kyle Will is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach, Registered Strength Coach both through the National Strength and Conditioning Association.  He also owns WillPowerTraining Studio and coaches both recreational and competitive runners as well as the Bend High Track and XC teams.  He has been in Central Oregon for 14 years teaching people about the benefits of strength training and running.  Although he doesn’t always follow his own advice, he has seen the benefits of adding strength training to a runners program over and over with his clients and runners.  Although he never made any money running, he has some respectable PR’s in the 5K 16:43. 10K 34:27, ½ marathon 1:16, and marathon 2:46.  Since starting his business and his family in 2005 he enjoys helping make other runners faster more than running fast himself

Monday, June 17, 2013

A Body-Altering Experience

Written by: Sarah Max

Two weeks before I was planning to race the Pole Pedal Paddle solo, I was in bed, staring at a bulbous ankle my doctor friend feared broken. “You don’t need to do anything now, but you need an X-ray when you get home,” he told me the night after my botched attempt to swing off a nine-foot beam and dismount onto four-inch heels. (It was Mexico, a dear friend’s wedding, things got competitive.) 
Yet, a few days later I was running at a pace I hadn’t seen since high school. It wasn’t a miracle, the healing powers of warm sea water or even cold tequila, but the anti-gravity effects of the AlterG treadmill. Therapeutic Associates Physical Therapy added this nifty piece of equipment to its eastside Bend clinic in March and, after ruling that my ankle wasn’t broken, offered to let me run on it in the days leading up to the Pole Pedal Paddle.
The AlterG resembles a regular treadmill but lets you run at less than your full body weight, adjusting in 1% increments from 100% down to 20%. It’s the running equivalent of a pull-up machine. To accomplish this feeling of near weightlessness, you wear a neoprene girdle that zips into a support system built into the treadmill. I started at 50% of my bodyweight – it felt like running on air – and eventually worked my way up to 85%.
Most endurance athletes know all too well that, all things being equal, body weight affects performance. Knowing is one thing; experiencing it instantly is another. At 85% of my bodyweight I had no trouble running 6 miles at a 6-minute-mile pace (versus a typical 7-minute-mile pace, on a good day) and might have gone faster if I wasn’t afraid of doing more damage to myself. The AlterG gave new meaning to “runners high,” and had me calculating what it would take to feel that way again, sans neoprene girdle, on terra firma.
Turns out, the AlterG has pretty broad applications.  While I used it to try to squeeze in a couple of runs prior to race day, my XC Oregon teammate found it helpful in running through a nagging case of plantar fasciitis. Patients at Therapeutic Associates, meanwhile, are using the treadmill for rehabilitation after surgery or injury and even for chronic problems, such as arthritis.
It’s also an option for healthy runners who want to improve their leg turnover or increase training volume with less wear and tear. (Therapeutic Associates sells punch cards for 15-minute increments on its AlterG.) Clinic director Chuck Brockman has knocked 40 seconds off his mile pace running 5-minute miles at 70% of his bodyweight. In fact, it’s one of many devices used by Alberto Salazar at his Nike Oregon Project, and is becoming standard equipment at many university training centers, including at the University of Oregon
Going into the Pole Pedal Paddle, I knew the run wouldn’t be easy. Although running at my full weight didn’t really hurt my ankle, those forgotten 20 pounds were a shock to the rest of my body. Still, I likely wouldn’t have raced at all had I not had the opportunity to test my stride with an assist.
I’m eager to return to the trails, but I’m also looking forward to taking some more high-speed spins at Therapeutic Associates. It’s certainly a safer way to get my kicks than doing impromptu aerial acts.

Sarah Max is an elite Nordic skier with XC Oregon in Bend and three-time winner of the Pole Pedal Paddle.


Monday, June 10, 2013

Keep Calm and Run (Happily) On - (at the Happy Girls Half)

Written By: Terri Freyermuth

I recently completed 8 weeks with FootZone’s Half Marathon Training Group as an alternate mentor and was basking in the glow of earning a PR at the Hippie Chicks Half Marathon on May 11. The following week, our five adult children flew in from various states to compete on “Team Frey” for the Pole, Pedal, Paddle. Though it was heaven to have them all home again, it was an extremely busy, chaotic weekend with little down time. With all of this going on, and no races planned in the near future, I had decided that I could “let myself go” for a short while. You know, stop running and relax. Sleep in once in a while.  Reduce the laundry load by wearing only one outfit a day.  Splurge on some junk food. Just breathe.

But it wasn’t meant to be. Four days before the HappyGirls Half, a friend sent me a text and asked if I wanted to enter the race.  Arguing that I was “out of shape” from not having run for two weeks did no good. “It won’t be the same without you,” she argued.  She slapped my name on an entry form and told me it was “a done deal.” I was in.

Panic set in. How do I regain the momentum I had lost in those last 14 days? How do you taper when you’ve not been running at all? And most important, what would I wear??

I could feel the excitement building.  A smile appeared on my face again. I realized I had been missing not only the routine of running, but the contentment that came from getting off the computer and out into the fresh Bend air where I always felt stress free and happy. HAPPY!! That was it!! And now I was going to run my second Happy Girls Half. It began to feel just right.

I packed my bag on Saturday night with all the gels and water I felt I would need. I laid out my clothes – a variety of items due to an inclement weather forecast. I charged my GPS and set out my sunglasses. Jitters were starting to set in. This was going to happen, whether I was ready or not.

Arriving early for a team photo, I found our meeting place – the FootZone tent. I was happy to see coworkers Allie and Melanie already there wearing their happy faces. We discussed the impending rain and chilly weather while waiting for the entire team to arrive. The team I speak of is a group of women with whom I’ve trained on Saturday mornings, been friends with for months or years, shared numerous cups of coffee, and discussed all of our fears and challenges, as well as our successes. Our families are intertwined now and we support each other. One after another they arrived, each one more excited than the last, each one shivering and trying to layer their clothing.

Following group photos, and numerous trips to the Port-a-potty, I joined my friends in our own “dynamic warm-up” as we watched the jazzercise ladies lead hundreds of women in a highly charged workout to the invigorating beat of an unknown, but very loud song. By now everyone was ready, laughing nervously, and heading for the start line.  Finding our place in the queue was easy, due to the sparkly skirts worn by our handsome pacers holding signs announcing various paces. We hugged, said our “Good Lucks,” and made sure our watches were still working. In a sea of neon colors, tutus, black marker down the backs of some runners’ legs that encouraged us to “Keep Going,” and enough chatter to drive any man crazy, we were off!!

Wearing just a running skort and a short sleeve T-shirt, I was freezing, but tried to focus on the bits of blue sky peeking out of the heavens above. There was still hope.

I chatted casually with my running partner, Nikki Cheney. We tried to keep each other reigned in so as not to follow others who were sprinting those first few miles. We would be smart, we agreed, and keep a steady, slower pace at the beginning so as not to burn out later on. The scenery was gorgeous – the winding Deschutes River, the Bill Healy bridge, dirt trails along Century Drive, and then on into Tetherow, complete with hilly terrain and views of the Cascades. Crowds of men and children lined the course, some with witty signs and cowbells, and many (including my own husband) held cameras to document the day. My favorite moment was when a handsome young man, waiting along the sidelines, yelled out, “Hey, Sweetheart!” and every lady around me looked up in response. It told me so much about the relationships they had with their significant others.

On we trekked into Phil’s Trails, where the fans thinned out, but determination among the runners grew stronger. About this time, Nikki went into her “super runner” mode and left me in the dust. I tried hard to keep up, but just couldn’t do it. The race was getting harder for me and my lack of preparation was showing. Negative thoughts began to creep into my mind. It was then that I saw the mile marker quote: We must do the things we think we cannot do. Perfect. It became my mantra. I made my inner voice say only positive phrases, I pictured my adult kids’ faces as they ran their first PPP the weekend before, each one giving their event their best effort, trying hard not to let their siblings down, and thought hard about the other 1,000+ women who were running that day, each one with their own motive. 1,000+ women were going to go home that night with a story to tell, a sense of accomplishment, and a renewed sense of pride in themselves. Whether running the 5K, the 10K, or the Half Marathon, each woman in this race would feel stronger and more confident. They were all running for a reason. They were all going to be winners.

Inspirational thoughts such as these kept my legs moving, one after the other, until I realized that I was done with the hills and I was heading into the final half mile.  I looked ahead of me to see my husband perched on some steps, calling my name, camera in front of his face. I knew I should smile and wave, but I couldn’t muster it. Every ounce of effort was now going in to lifting my legs and getting me to the finish line. I felt someone by my side, but couldn’t even look up. I then heard his voice. It was my husband of 31 years, my confidant, my best friend, and my biggest supporter. He had run down the steps to join me in the last few steps. I wanted to hug him, but decided to wait until I stopped running. We parted ways at the home stretch and I decided that I had enough left in me to sprint to the finish. (Well… it was sort of a sprint!)

I felt a finisher’s necklace being pressed into my hands, said a quick prayer of thanks for staying upright, noticed the sun had come out and blue skies were prevailing, and began looking for anyone I knew. Nikki appeared out of a sea of faces and wrapped her arms around me, telling me she was proud of me and asking me if I was OK. It would only be later that I realized I didn’t really answer her. I needed to breathe and eat something cool and wet.  I found my husband who had been detoured by the crowd and the vendors, and he escorted me to find  nutrition, water, some of the best-ever-brownies, and a Crater Lake vodka drink. Ahhhh… I felt revived!

Eventually, I was reunited with most of my running partners and was filled with pride when I saw three of them on the podium accepting awards. I snapped photos to later post on Facebook and checked the results board. Turns out I beat last year’s time by 14 minutes and came in 7 places higher in my age group than I had in 2012. I, too, was a winner and felt that renewed sense of pride and accomplishment.

Thanks to all the Happy Girls who ran that day. You inspired me to be a better person, to try harder, to do “what you think you cannot do.” I watched you run, walk, hug your friends and families, smile through the pain, do better than you thought you could do, and find a new part of yourselves - the BEST part!

Run on, ladies, and do what makes you smile.

Terri Freyermuth is a retired school teacher, a mentor for the FootZone Half Marathon Training Group and one of FootZone’s newest employees. Visit Terri at the original FootZone location which is now FootZone’s sister store, OutsideIn Bend. We feel lucky to have Terri onboard and know you’ll love seeing her at more FootZone events.