Competitor.com » Jeff Gaudette http://running.competitor.com Your Online Source for Running Sat, 25 Oct 2014 13:16:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 Why Are Workout And Race Times Different? http://running.competitor.com/2014/09/training/why-are-workout-and-race-times-different_46793 http://running.competitor.com/2014/09/training/why-are-workout-and-race-times-different_46793#comments Tue, 30 Sep 2014 16:15:24 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=46793

There is a lot of science behind improving your run times. Photo: www.shutterstock.com

There's a scientific explanation as to why the vast improvement in your workout times don't always show on race day.

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There is a lot of science behind improving your run times. Photo: www.shutterstock.com


There’s a scientific explanation as to why the vast improvement in your workout times don’t always show on race day.

Have you ever had a perfect training cycle and made breakthroughs in all your most important workouts, only to find that your workout times don’t seem to translate to similar performances on race day?

Don’t worry, you’re not alone and there is an answer — even if you don’t want to hear it.

In one of my previous articles, I explained how long it will take you to reap the benefits of a given workout in the short term. However, by understanding how the long-term process of training works, we can shed a little light on why runners can sometimes work out faster than they can race, especially in the marathon.

In non-scientific terms, I call this phenomenon the “backlog” of fitness. Think of it like investing — you’re banking fitness and miles, but you can’t withdraw them yet because the investment hasn’t matured.

Physiologically, this all relates to the development and lifecycle of mitochondria (the aerobic powerhouse that supplies our muscles with energy). By examining how mitochondria contribute to your racing performance, and analyzing how they are developed, you’ll get a clear understanding of how this “backlog” of fitness works and why it pays to keep training year after year. For our purposes here, we’ll keep the explanations simple and easy to understand.

First, we’ll take a look at the role of mitochondria and how they are developed. Second, we’ll examine how the density and volume of mitochondria play a role in both your short- and long-term development. Finally, we’ll put it all together for you so you can appreciate how your body adapts to a workload and performance improves after a training segment. By the end of this article, you’ll have a very clear understanding how micro and macro cycles work in regards to your aerobic progression.

RELATED: Is The 10 Percent Rule Fact Or Fiction?

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Like An Investment, Training Gains Build Over Time http://running.competitor.com/2014/08/training/like-an-investment-training-gains-build-over-time_41858 http://running.competitor.com/2014/08/training/like-an-investment-training-gains-build-over-time_41858#comments Fri, 22 Aug 2014 10:45:27 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=41858

The training time you put in now will pay off down the road. Photo: www.shutterstock.com

Growth takes time and patience, but the payoff in the end is worth it.

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The training time you put in now will pay off down the road. Photo: www.shutterstock.com

Growth takes time and patience, but the payoff in the end is worth it.

I’m always on the lookout for good analogies to explain how training works, especially for less scientifically based training concepts. Recently, a trip to the financial planner led me to open my first retirement account (yup, I’m that young—or that far behind, depending on how you look at it). After a few months of enthusiastically checking my accounts and learning the basics of financial planning, I was struck by the parallels between investing and training and how the basic principles were remarkably similar.

This helped me better understand my own investment strategies, and since the principles of investing are widely known, I think comparing the two will help you better comprehend the big picture of your training.

Don’t Pay Attention To Daily Fluctuations

Perhaps the most notable parallel between investing and training is the need to avoid assessing progress on a day-to-day scale. My biggest mistake early in the investment process was checking my account daily, hoping to see consistent gains. To my dismay, my initial investment stayed stagnant for a few days before dropping suddenly. The motivation to invest, which had been quite high when I started, waned quickly and I started to think maybe I had made a mistake.

I see this same fluctuation in emotion happen when runners are constantly trying to measure and compare their fitness on a day-to-day basis. Like investing, training doesn’t always occur on a linear curve. Some days you make big jumps in progress, most days the fitness gains are minuscule, and a few days actually feel like they go backward. This begets a roller coaster training experience, which is hard to sustain long-term.

Your takeaway: Don’t be tempted to fixate on daily, or even weekly, changes in your fitness. Instead, look at your progression on a monthly, quarterly, or even yearly scale. It’s not easy to see the big picture, but it will ultimately lead to more consistent progression.

RELATED: 5K Training Tips For Running Rookies

Growth Takes Time

I enjoy watching the Suze Orman show when I happen to catch it on TV. When I see her analyze the financial health of the viewers who call in, I am always amazed at how much money the callers have saved. It seems impossible that I could ever save that much money, let alone earn it—these people must be making hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. In reality, they’re average middle income Americans, but I’m forgetting to factor in the slow, step-by-step process that brought them toward that number.

This same situation happens to runners, especially when they look at the training of elite athletes or are running their first marathon. Runners see the impressive mileage totals of elites or the best runners in their running group and think, “Wow, I can never get there.” The same thinking occurs when runners train for their first marathon. Getting from week 1 to 26.2 miles on race day seems impossibly hard, so many runners either lose confidence or try to do too much, too soon.

Your takeaway: Your goals and the ability to train at a high level take time to achieve. Just like you wouldn’t expect your modest savings contribution to instantly turn into a million dollars, you have to be patient with your training. Trying to reach too far in one training segment or letting the fear of a difficult goal deter you is a recipe for disaster. Remember that gaining fitness takes time and rushing the process is detrimental to your goals.

RELATED: 8 Ways To Become A Better Runner

Compounding Gains Are Your Friend

The remarkable growth of investment portfolios is largely attributed to compounding interest. The principles behind compounding interest are widely known for investments, but it’s also the same concept that allows you to train harder and faster each year and ultimately improve your performance.

Each successful training segment builds upon itself. You train to achieve a new level of fitness and once you’re able to reach this goal, you can build off that previous training and continue to reach higher in future workouts. This is especially important to remember if you didn’t run well at your goal race. Many runners think their hard work and training were wasted when things don’t come together on the course for one reason or another. The good news is that if you trained correctly, you elevated your ability to handle training and you can build off that segment, even if the initial end result wasn’t a PR.

Your takeaway: Remember that no training segment is ever wasted. Each month you can train is like putting money in the bank. It may seem like the training had no benefit when a race doesn’t go well. However, that hard-earned fitness will stay with you and allow you to build an even bigger base of training for the next race.

RELATED: 7 Hot Weather Training Tips

Diversify

Listen to any investment specialist and they will tell you that diversification is the key to success. Putting all your money in one market or investment vehicle is a surefire way to come up short of your investment goals.

The same principle applies to running. Putting all the focus on your long run during marathon training or concentrating on only speed work when you’re training for the 5K is a guaranteed way to fail. Likewise, always training for the same race distance is an easy way to ensure that your progress stagnates. Like diversification in investing, it seems so obvious, yet it’s one of the most common reasons runners struggle.

Your takeaway: Approach your training like your retirement account. Diversify your workouts and vary the types of races you train for each year. Doing so will make you a well-rounded runner and help you achieve your goals.

None of the above should be construed as investment advice. However, you should consider it great training advice and apply the principles to your training. Do you have questions or your own investment parallels? Let’s hear them in the comments section below.

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Is Running 26.2 Miles Necessary Before Racing The Marathon? http://running.competitor.com/2014/08/training/is-26-2-miles-necessary-before-the-marathon_46463 http://running.competitor.com/2014/08/training/is-26-2-miles-necessary-before-the-marathon_46463#comments Thu, 21 Aug 2014 11:25:27 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=46463

The atmosphere at a marathon is electric and with all the likeminded runners around you, the miles can fly by in a way that's not easily replicated on a training run. Photo: www.photorun.net

Find the balance between the optimal training schedule and getting the most enjoyment from your running.

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The atmosphere at a marathon is electric and with all the likeminded runners around you, the miles can fly by in a way that's not easily replicated on a training run. Photo: www.photorun.net


Find the balance between the optimal training schedule and getting the most enjoyment from your running.

In the past, I’ve outlined how you canincorporate shorter, more “fun-oriented” races into your schedule while still keeping the integrity of your training plan intact. You may have noticed that I made no mention in that article of how to integrate marathons into your schedule—should you be thinking of including an easy 26.2-mile run as either a long run or a fun run.

Believe it or not, it’s a question I receive often: “Would it be a good idea for me to run a marathon as a long run with my friends before my goal race?”

I can understand the sentiment behind the question. The atmosphere at a marathon is electric and with all the likeminded runners around you, the miles can fly by in a way that’s not easily replicated on a training run. Unfortunately, if you want to maximize your chances of a personal best at your next goal race, I don’t recommend running a marathon in training—either as a course-supported long run, or for the atmosphere and the camaraderie.

Here’s the short reason why: In addition to offering very little training benefit, the 26.2-mile distance is difficult to recover from (yes, even if you run easy) and you risk becoming derailed from your optimal training routine for 10-14 days. Don’t just take my word for it, however. In the next few pages we’ll explain some of the science behind why you should avoid running a marathon as a long run or fun race.

RELATED: Workout Of The Week: Deuces Wild

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5 Common Marathon Training Mistakes http://running.competitor.com/2014/08/training/common-marathon-training-mistakes_79755 http://running.competitor.com/2014/08/training/common-marathon-training-mistakes_79755#comments Thu, 14 Aug 2014 10:45:52 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=79755

Having a plan for aid stations during your marathon is crucial going into the race. Photo: www.shutterstock.com

Is there a fall marathon on your racing schedule? Here are some things to remember as you put in the final few months of training.

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Having a plan for aid stations during your marathon is crucial going into the race. Photo: www.shutterstock.com


Is there a fall marathon on your racing schedule? Here are some things to remember as you put in the final few months of training.

The summer season is in full swing and for most runners, this doesn’t conjure up thoughts of the beach and barbecues, but rather the realization that marathon training has kicked into high gear. With just 12-16 weeks left before most of the major fall marathons, it’s time to buckle down and get serious about training.

Since training time is precious, you need to make the most out of every run on your schedule. Here are some of the most common training mistakes marathoners commit and how you can avoid them.

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Patience In Training Pays Off In The End http://running.competitor.com/2014/07/training/patience-in-training_78593 http://running.competitor.com/2014/07/training/patience-in-training_78593#comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 11:20:52 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=78593

It's not always about how hard and fast you can go in a workout.

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It’s not always about how hard and fast you can go in a workout.

In the vocabulary of a runner, patience is a dirty word. Runners always want to run faster, run more miles, and crush their personal bests, and they want it now. To be more accurate, they wanted it yesterday.

I know I felt this way before I donned my coaching cap. I wasn’t satisfied with a workout unless I needed to be carried off the track and was forced to spend the rest of the day passed out on the couch. That was dedication. Surely, this is what it took to be the best runner I could be.

Unfortunately, this mindset couldn’t be more wrong.

Not only did this way of thinking impact my short-term goals, thanks to all-too-frequent injuries and bouts of overtraining, but as you’ll learn in this article, it likely affected my long-term progress as well.

As I’ve matured as a runner and changed my perspective on training as a coach, I’ve come to fully appreciate and value the art of patience. This shift in mindset wasn’t easy and it didn’t happen overnight. Hopefully, with the help of some hard, scientific data and a sprinkling of anecdotal evidence, this article can accelerate your maturation as a runner and help you achieve your goals.

RELATED: The Secret To Success: Three Runs Per Week

Finish A Workout Feeling Like You Could Have Done More

This is a phrase you’ll hear from any running coach worth his or her salt. As elite coach Jay Johnson espouses to his athletes, “you should be able to say after every one of your workouts that you could have done one more repeat, one more segment or one more mile.”

Coach Jay doesn’t just pay this rule lip service. He’s known for cutting workouts short when an athlete looks like they’re over that edge. It’s one of the reasons his athletes continue to perform and improve consistently, year after year.

Now, thanks to recent research published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, we have the scientific data to prove what good coaches have known for so many years. Patience pays off. (Side note: thank you to Alex Hutchinson for first alerting me to this study through his blog.)

In this study, one group of athletes performed a series of workouts at near maximum intensity for 12 weeks. The researchers then had another group perform the same type of workouts (same repeat distance and same amount of rest) at a much more moderate intensity.

The high intensity group improved rapidly, recording an increase in VO2 max that was 30 percent higher than the moderate group after three weeks.

That doesn’t seem to support our theory that patience pays off, does it?

Luckily, the researchers went a step further and recorded changes to VO2 max for six, nine and 12 weeks under the same training methodology. This is where the results get truly interesting.

After nine weeks, the high intensity group’s improvements in VO2 max were only 10 percent greater than the moderate group. More importantly, after nine weeks, the high intensity group stopped improving and after 12 weeks showed the same level of improvement to VO2 max as the moderate group.

RELATED: Train Slower, Race Faster

Clearly, this research shows that while you’ll see rapid improvements from running workouts as hard as you can in the first few weeks, this improvement curve will level off and running at moderate intensity levels will produce equal, if not better, long-term results.

Of course, like all studies, this research has its flaws. Mainly, both groups performed the same workouts for 12 weeks, which means the same stimulus was being applied with each session. However, I’d also point out that when training for a 5k or a marathon for 12 weeks, the workouts won’t vary much. Sure, the workouts will look different—12 x 400 meters at 3k pace versus 6 x 800 meters at 5k pace, for example—but you’re still training the same energy system.

Regardless, the data supports what good coaches have known for years: Consistent, moderate workouts will trump a few weeks of hard, gut-busting workouts every time.

But I Want To Improve Faster

Of course, looking at that data, most runners would still choose the high intensity approach. If the end result after 12 weeks is the same, why not make the fitness gains faster the first three to six week?

Not covered in this particular research study was the impact of injuries and overtraining on potential improvement curve and long-term progress.

It’s not surprising, and it’s been supported by numerous research studies and anecdotal examples, that increased intensity is correlated with higher injury risk. Meaning, the harder (faster) you train, the more likely it is you’ll get injured.

The problem I encounter with many runners who try to work out too hard is the injury cycle, which inhibits long-term progress because for every two steps forward, you take one step back.

RELATED: For Best Results, Train Your Age

Using a similar graph to the one provided in the research study, let’s examine the long-term consequences of always pushing your workouts as hard as you can versus running moderate and always feeling like you could have done more.

While the actual improvement data in the graph at the top of this page is fictional, it is based off the data from the actual study representing the improvement curve. The difference is that I’ve extended the training period to 10 months and factored in injuries and potential overtraining. This graph accurately represents my experience with trying to run every workout as hard as I could and the vast data I’ve collected working as a coach for the past eight years.

As you can see, the high intensity runner speeds out of the gait and is far ahead of the moderate intensity runner after a few weeks. However, it doesn’t take long before the high intensity runner suffers his or her first injury and is set back a week or two. No worries, though: With just a few weeks of high intensity training, he or she is back ahead of the slow-plodding, moderate-intensity runner. However, this cycle continues to repeat itself until the high-intensity runner is far behind the consentient, steady performer.

More importantly, after 42 weeks, the high-intensity runner is at a point that he or she can no longer make up the difference in fitness simply by training hard for a few weeks. The runner will continue to struggle to reach his or her potential until he or she finally learns to run workouts at a moderate level and train at his or her current level of fitness.

Don’t be the high intensity runner. Learn from the mistakes of countless runners before you, the research and scientific data, and the wisdom of coaches who know their stuff.

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The Pros And Cons Of Electronic Training Aids http://running.competitor.com/2014/07/training/should-you-ditch-your-gps-watch_38478 http://running.competitor.com/2014/07/training/should-you-ditch-your-gps-watch_38478#comments Tue, 29 Jul 2014 16:00:51 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=38478

Are you reliant on your GPS watch? Photo: www.shutterstock.com

Learn how to decrease your dependency on satellite technology.

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Are you reliant on your GPS watch? Photo: www.shutterstock.com

Learn how to decrease your dependency on satellite technology.

In the last few years, GPS watches have completely revolutionized the way runners train. I’m not old by any means, but I still recall doing many of my training runs in high school, college, and even as a professional on roads that I spray painted after measuring them in my car. When I first began coaching athletes online and assigning long intervals and tempo runs of varying distances, it was quite the challenge for many runners, especially the newer ones, to manually mark out routes for their most important workouts. Luckily, GPS devices have made training a much simpler process.

RELATED: Can You Recommend A Speed-Distance Device ?

However, as adoption of GPS devices increases dramatically, I find more and more runners becoming completely dependent on their watches, sometimes to the detriment of their training progression and racing skills. Is it possible that becoming too reliant on your GPS device can actually hinder your fitness and race times? I think so. Here are the three possible drawbacks to having a dependency on your GPS and how you can counter them.

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Are You Overemphasizing The Marathon Long Run? http://running.competitor.com/2014/07/training/are-you-overemphasizing-the-marathon-long-run_55719 http://running.competitor.com/2014/07/training/are-you-overemphasizing-the-marathon-long-run_55719#comments Sat, 26 Jul 2014 19:00:43 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=55719

Learn why long runs over three hours may be doing you more harm than good.

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Learn why long runs over three hours may be doing you more harm than good. 

The marathon long run is overrated.

I’ll pause for a second to let the sound of your gasps fade. In my experience, too many beginner runners, and those running slower than 3 hours and 45 minutes, focus on trying to squeeze multiple 20 or 22 mile runs into their training segment at the expense of improving more critical physiological systems. More importantly, scientific research has shown that runs of over 3 hours offer little additional aerobic benefit compared to runs of 2 hours, while significantly increasing injury risk.

As such, rather than cramming your marathon training schedule with multiple 20-22 milers that increase injury risk and decrease recovery time without decisive aerobic advantages, you should instead focus on improving your aerobic threshold, teaching your body to use fat as a fuel source, and building your overall tolerance for running on tired legs through accumulated fatigue.

RELATED: A Short Cut To The Long Run

Since the long run is such an ingrained element of marathon training, and suggesting they are overrated sounds blasphemous to many marathon veterans, let’s take a look at some scientific research, relevant examples, and suggestions on how to better structure your training to help you run your next marathon faster.

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What’s The Secret To Upping Your Weekly Mileage? http://running.competitor.com/2014/07/training/the-secret-to-high-mileage-training_82973 http://running.competitor.com/2014/07/training/the-secret-to-high-mileage-training_82973#comments Thu, 24 Jul 2014 16:00:21 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=82973

Increasing your weekly mileage number should always be done cautiously and realistically. Photo: www.shutterstock.com

Not all runners are created equal, but patience and time can go a long way.

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Increasing your weekly mileage number should always be done cautiously and realistically. Photo: www.shutterstock.com

Not all runners are created equal, but patience and time can go a long way.

“What was the secret, they wanted to know; in a thousand different ways they wanted to know The Secret. And not one of them was prepared, truly prepared to believe that it had not so much to do with chemicals and zippy mental tricks as with that most unprofound and sometimes heart-rending process of removing, molecule by molecule, the very tough rubber that comprised the bottoms of his training shoes. The Trial of Miles, Miles of Trials. How could they be expected to understand that?” — Quentin Cassidy, Once a Runner

As a former elite runner, I get asked all the time about my training, my diet, and what my workouts were. Inevitably, I reveal that I regularly logged 140-mile weeks as part of my marathon preparation. Of course, this immediately elicits a reaction and usually the response of, “Wow, I don’t even drive that far.”

The next question is always, “How did you run that much?” It’s a fair question and while I admit that 140 mile weeks were not what I ran every week for the entire year and admittedly a bit excessive, the answer isn’t as glamorous as it may seem. I am no super human and there was no super secret workout, type of shoe, or special diet.

The answer: patience and time.

RELATED: Avoid Mileage For Mileage’s Sake

It’s A Long Story

When I first started running, I averaged 20 to 30 miles per week. I ran 3 to 5 miles a few times per week. A workout here and there, a race once in a while, and to be truthful, I didn’t really enjoy it. I started like most beginners do, slow and as a means to an end — getting in shape. The difference? I was 14 years old.

I was a freshman in high school and I ran track during the winter because I was cut from the basketball team — not because I liked it. Luckily, I had a great coach who made practice fun and convinced me to stick with it for the rest of the year.

I went out for cross-country that next fall and with the experience of my freshman year behind me, I upped my mileage to 25 to 35 miles per week. A moderate increase, probably less than many of you reading this upped your mileage from your first to second year of running.

By the end of my sophomore year, I was starting to get pretty fast and that motivated me to train even harder for the next year. So, I upped my mileage and averaged 40 to 45 miles per week. Again, only a slight increase, but I was getting stronger physically and aerobically.

This modest, yet gradual increase in training mileage continued. Senior year I ran 50 to 55 miles per week. My first year of college I ran 60 to 70 miles per week. Each year I added 10 to 15 percent to my average weekly miles. Looking back, it wasn’t explicitly planned this way. It just seemed like the next logical step. Luckily, I had good coaching.

This continued for five more years. I ran throughout college and by the time I had graduated, I was running 100 to 110 miles per week. Each year, I saw a modest 10 percent or roughly 10 miles per week increase in average volume.

After college, I continued training and continued adding miles until 110 to 120 became the normal and throwing in a brief stint at 140 was only an extra 10 to 20 percent for a few weeks — common during marathon training segments when I was training with the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project.

All told, it took me 8-9 years to reach a level where 120 miles per week and occasional stints at 140 felt doable.

Do you think you could add just 5 or 10 miles to your average weekly mileage next year? I am willing to bet most runners reading this article could do so. An average of 5 miles per week over the course of 52 weeks is not a lot. It equates to adding 1 mile per week every two months.

The secret, and the most difficult part of it, is being patient enough to do this for the next 8-10 years.

RELATED: Is There Such A Thing As Junk Miles?

What’s The Lesson?

Of course, getting your mileage to 120 to 140 miles per week is not necessary and maybe not even advised. Moreover, I did have my fair share of injuries and I am biologically talented. I’m not suggesting you should mimic my training. That should not be the takeaway from this article.

Instead, the lesson should be about patience in your training.

Every once in a while, step away from the immediate goal or the next marathon and take a look at the bigger picture. Temper the need to want everything instantly. This is what leads to overtraining, injuries, and stagnant results. Your next race won’t likely be your last, so there’s no need to treat it as such.

Be patient enough to understand how much just a tiny increase, even one as small as one mile per week every two months, could have on your training over the course of 8-10 years. Once you learn and fully appreciate this secret, the sky is the limit.

End note

A lot of people ask me what a 140-mile week might look like. Here is a sample from my marathon training segment before the 2007 Twin Cities Marathon.

Also, I get a lot of questions about what I ate to fuel that many miles. Here is a look at my typical marathon segment diet.

RELATED: Reassessing The 10 Percent Rule

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The Role of Muscle Fibers In Running http://running.competitor.com/2014/07/training/the-role-of-muscle-fibers-in-running_82416 http://running.competitor.com/2014/07/training/the-role-of-muscle-fibers-in-running_82416#comments Wed, 23 Jul 2014 00:00:27 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=82416

There are different types of muscle fibers, and it's important for runners to work all of them. Photo: www.shutterstock.com

Learn how to specifically target different types in your training.

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There are different types of muscle fibers, and it's important for runners to work all of them. Photo: www.shutterstock.com

Learn how to specifically target different types in your training.

Understanding the why of training and the science behind your workouts is important, even if you’re not writing your own training. First, with the multitude of training plans and books available, it allows you to distinguish between what’s good and what’s nonsense. Second, understanding the scientific purpose behind specific workouts helps you get the most out of each session while tailoring them to your needs.

In this article, we’re going to take an in-depth look at muscle fibers to better understand how they influence your training. Don’t worry, you don’t need a science degree to follow along, I’ll keep it simple. However, by developing a basic understanding the different types of muscle fibers and how they work, you can learn how to target them specifically to control your training.

Types Of Muscle Fibers

Skeletal muscle, the type that is responsible for moving our muscles when we run, is comprised of three different muscle fiber types, each with its own advantages, disadvantages and specialty.

Type I, better known as slow-twitch fibers, are the body’s primary method for less explosive, sustained movements. They do not contract forcefully and thus require less energy to fire, which makes them well suited to long distance running. More importantly, they house our main supply of oxygen-boosting power plants — mitochondria, myoglobin and capillaries.

Type IIx are best known as fast-twitch muscle fibers. These are the muscle fibers primarily responsible for fast, explosive movements like sprinting. However, they lack the endurance-boosting ability of slow-twitch fibers and can only be used for short periods of time.

Type IIa are what we call intermediate fibers. These are a blend between fast- and slow-twitch fibers. They have some aerobic capability, but not as much as the slow-twitch fibers, and they can fire more forcefully, but not quite as explosively as the fast-twitch fibers

Each individual has a genetic predisposition to certain muscle fiber types. The misconception that many runners have is that each fiber type is exclusive (i.e. you can only use one or another), we can’t train to improve how our fibers function, or the alter percentage we have of each. In reality, with the right training, we can manipulate and improve all three.

RELATED: Why Strength Work Isn’t Enough

How Muscle Fibers Work

Before we can outline how to improve fiber function and conversion, we must understand under what circumstances we use each fiber type, when they are recruited, and when they change.

Recruitment Ladder

This process starts with what we call the recruitment ladder. The recruitment ladder is a way of envisioning how and when each fiber type is activated. At the bottom of the ladder, we have the slowest, least explosive fiber type, Type I slow-twitch, and at the top you have fast-twitch fibers.

You move up the ladder based on how much force you need to generate to sustain a given pace. If you were to head out to the streets right now and begin running easy, your body would start by using slow-twitch fibers. If you were to pick up the pace, your body would start recruiting some of the Type IIa intermediate fibers to supplement the need for more power from the muscles to generate more force during the stride. Finally, if you were to sprint across the road to beat traffic, your body would then engage the fast twitch muscle fibers to give you the explosive burst you need to sprint.

Fatigue

In addition to intensity, the other factor in muscle fiber recruitment is fatigue.

As you get further into a long run, the slow twitch fibers you’ve been using start to get tired and you can no longer fire them as efficiently. As a consequence, you start to recruit some intermediate fibers to help maintain pace. Of course, these intermediate fibers require more glycogen and are not as fatigue resistant as slow-twitch, so it won’t be long before you find yourself slowing dramatically as your muscles start to fail.

How We Can Improve Muscle Fiber Recruitment, Activation And Conversion

Now that we better understand the different muscle fiber types and under what circumstances we use them, we can employ this knowledge to better structure our training. In this section, we’ll outline some of the more common workouts, identify which muscle fiber they target, and what this means for your running-specific fitness.

Long Runs

The long run targets the slow-twitch fibers, making them more efficient by building their aerobic capabilities, and also making them more fatigue-resistant. Continuous long runs also help convert a greater percentage of your muscle fibers into slow-twitch fibers, which is one reason you continue to get better with years of mileage.

RELATED: How Fast Should Your Easy Long Runs Be?

Tempo Runs

Tempo runs target slow-twitch and intermediate muscle fibers. Slow-twitch fibers reach maximum recruitment and contraction speed at tempo pace, which is one reason why tempo runs are so critical to endurance training. In addition, tempo runs help improve the recruitment patterns of intermediate fibers with slow twitch fibers. In essence, it improves the ability of both fiber types to work together for maximum effectiveness.

Short Repeats

Traditional interval workouts like 12 x 400 meters help recruit intermediate and fast twitch muscle fibers. By being used together, these two fiber types learn to interact more efficiently by reducing activation of unnecessary fibers. More importantly, it improves our neuromuscular coordination — the speed at which the brain can send signals to the muscles to fire, thus making you more efficient.

Speed Development And Sprint Work

Speed development work, like strides, hill sprints, and short, maximum effort sprints on the track, help recruit the maximum amount of fast-twitch muscle fibers. While this may not seem like a necessary benefit to someone running the marathon, this type of training makes each stride more explosive and enables you to generate more power without increasing effort. This increased power is what makes your stride more fluid and efficient.

RELATED: Steep Hill Sprints

Ancillary Training Like Strength Work, Stretching And Drills

Drills, strength training and dynamic stretching improve recruitment patterns (the ability of your muscle fiber types to work together concurrently), increase strength, and reduce inhibitions (discussed more in-depth in this article). By incorporating this type of work in your training, you develop more biomechanically sound running mechanics, become more efficient, and train your fiber types to work together.

Runners typically talk about training in terms of metabolic improvements — aerobic development, VO2 max, and lactate threshold — but we often forget the important role muscle fibers play in our fitness and ability to run faster. The next time you plan your training, don’t forget to factor in how you can better train your muscle fibers as well.

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Proper Preparation For A Night Race http://running.competitor.com/2014/07/training/preparing-for-a-night-race_77625 http://running.competitor.com/2014/07/training/preparing-for-a-night-race_77625#comments Thu, 17 Jul 2014 11:10:43 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=77625

Racing at night can be fun, but it's a new experience for most people. Make sure you're prepared. Photo: www.shutterstock.com

Running at night is a lot different than doing so in the morning. Here are some things to keep in mind.

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Racing at night can be fun, but it's a new experience for most people. Make sure you're prepared. Photo: www.shutterstock.com

Running at night is a lot different than doing so in the morning. Here are some things to keep in mind.

For runners who competed in high school and college, racing in the afternoon or at night is a common experience. Particularly in college, almost all high-caliber track races take place at night to take advantage of the cool, calm weather.

However, for those who didn’t compete in college, racing at night is a foreign experience. Almost all road races take place in the morning, mostly to minimize traffic interruptions. This makes the occasional night race a unique challenge for runners accustomed to racing early in the morning. How do you structure your eating? What do you do all day? Is there anything you need to do differently at a night race?

Racing at night is a unique and exhilarating experience. In this article, we’ll answer some of the common questions and help you prepare for a race under the stars.

Watch Your Pacing

Pacing is difficult enough when all your senses are working properly. Unfortunately, running at night wreaks havoc on your visual perception, making you feel like you are running much faster than you actually are.

At night, it becomes difficult to see your surroundings in great detail until you are very close. In the daytime however, you’re able to see much further and perceive objects in much greater detail. This lack of visual perception at night gives you the illusion that your surroundings have suddenly sprung up on you, which makes you feel like you are running very fast.

RELATED: Essential Gear For Nighttime Runs

In addition, your body is more naturally primed for running fast at night. Even if you perform all your workouts in the morning, scientific literature is pretty clear that your peak running performance—all else, including weather and temperature, being equal—is in the mid-afternoon and into the evening, perhaps even as late as 8 or 10 p.m.

There are two potential issues with this when you’re racing. First, it can cause you to start the race too fast, a problem most runners already struggle with, since your normal race pace will feel too easy. You may feel like you’re running a 7-minute mile, but you’re actually running at a 6:30 per mile clip. Unfortunately, the body’s physiological response to running too fast is the same at night as it is during the day, regardless of how it feels.

Late in a race, this lack of perception can have the opposite effect and make you feel like you’re increasing the effort when you’re really slowing down. One of the most difficult aspects of racing to overcome is that goal race pace during the first mile of a 10K is going to feel much easier than goal race pace on the fifth mile. This is why many runners slow down dramatically as the race goes on, despite working harder the second half. At night, with your perception altered, you will need to run at what feels like and even harder effort than normal.

Planning Your Eating Schedule

Racing at night presents the unique challenge of changing your pre-race nutrition habits. You need to fuel your body throughout the day, so you can’t simply rely on an energy gel or a banana as your only pre-race meal.

Start by eating a hearty, well-balanced breakfast. You’ll want most of your energy for your day to come from this meal. I like to eat this breakfast as late as possible, preferably around 10 a.m. This will help you feel full longer while still providing plenty of time to digest. Keep your meal balanced—my go-to meal is a whole wheat pancake with yogurt and fruit as a topic with one or two eggs. You don’t have to use this recipe, but try to get in as many food groups as possible, since you’ll likely be eating small, runner-friendly meals the remainder of the day.

RELATED: Safety Tips For Running In The Dark

In the afternoon, you should eat a small meal. Choose foods that are simple and sit well in your stomach. I like to have a light sandwich. If the night race will be a goal race for you, I suggest you experiment with this light lunch a few times in your training. This will allow you to find what works optimally for you. This meal should be eaten 4-6 hours before your race, depending on how well you generally handle eating before a run.

Ninety minutes to two hours before the race is when I suggest you eat your last pre-race meal. Generally, this meal should be the same as your pre-race meal for morning races. You should already know it sits well in your stomach and provides the energy you need. Racing at night doesn’t change this.

Keep Your Mind Occupied

In my experience, the most difficult aspect of racing at night is not getting too nervous and balancing getting rest with not sitting on my butt all day. Obviously, you don’t want to do anything too tiring, but you also don’t want to feel lethargic when the gun goes off because you spent the day on the couch.

My advice is to go see a movie or take the time to catch up with some friends. This gets you out of the house, keeps your mind occupied and is a good balance between walking around a bit and saving your legs for the race.

I don’t think there is an exact formula, but if you’re preparing for your first night race, don’t just sit on the couch and think about your race all day. Not only is it boring and ruins the day, but it’s detrimental to your performance.

Night races can be an exhilarating experience and a great change of pace from the routine and familiarity of morning races. Try finding one in your area to mix things up this summer and use these tips to ensure you have a great performance.

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Rebounding From A Rough Marathon Workout http://running.competitor.com/2014/07/training/rebounding-from-a-rough-marathon-workout_58069 http://running.competitor.com/2014/07/training/rebounding-from-a-rough-marathon-workout_58069#comments Mon, 14 Jul 2014 06:00:39 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=58069

Having a rough workout or two isn't the end of the world.

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Having a rough workout or two isn’t the end of the world. 

Having a rough day out on the roads is something that comes along with pushing your limits in training. While bad workouts are never something a runner looks forward to, they can be especially crippling in the final six weeks of training when you want to feel good and need the positive momentum. This is especially true for a daunting race like the marathon, which leaves you in a state of perpetual fatigue and irritability from training and, no matter how many times you’ve run one, is an intimidating distance to contemplate.

RELATED: Take Your Long Runs To The Next Level

Over the following pages we’ll look at why having a rough workout or two in the middle of a marathon training block is OK, and also outline some specific strategies you can follow to bounce back quickly.

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Everything You Need To Know About Energy Gels http://running.competitor.com/2014/07/nutrition/everything-you-need-to-know-about-energy-gels_44642 http://running.competitor.com/2014/07/nutrition/everything-you-need-to-know-about-energy-gels_44642#comments Thu, 10 Jul 2014 13:30:09 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=44642

How they work, as well as why, when and how to use them.

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How they work, as well as why, when and how to use them.

It wasn’t long ago that runners relied solely on water, sports drinks, and maybe some flat cola as their primary carbohydrate supplement during longer races such as half marathons and marathons. Luckily, our understanding of sports nutrition (specifically how glycogen is used during the marathon) has improved to the point that we now have a plethora of products to choose from, each designed to speed glycogen to our working muscles.

The problem these days is not in finding a glycogen delivery product, but rather in sorting through the myriad of possible choices and then developing a strategic nutrition strategy to ensure optimal fueling on race day.

More from Competitor.com: Race Fueling Made Simple

In this article we outline how energy gels and other carbohydrate supplements work and help you understand when–and how often–you should be taking them to ensure maximum performance and optimal fueling on race day.

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Learning To Trust Your Training http://running.competitor.com/2014/07/training/learning-to-trust-your-training_51125 http://running.competitor.com/2014/07/training/learning-to-trust-your-training_51125#comments Tue, 08 Jul 2014 15:20:32 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=51125

Reminding yourself that each workout has a purpose will help improve your confidence in your training plan.

To consistently run well, it's critical that you have an unwavering belief in your fitness and your race plan.

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Reminding yourself that each workout has a purpose will help improve your confidence in your training plan.

To consistently run well, it’s critical that you have an unwavering belief in your fitness and your race plan. 

Trust. It’s one of the most often overlooked components of successful training and racing. Having trust in your training plan, your fitness, and even yourself is as critical in running as it is in maintaining a successful relationship with your spouse.

Too often, runners don’t trust their own training (even when they have a well-written plan or a coach by their side), they don’t trust their race plan (negative splitting is a difficult concept to master, especially when “time in the bank” seems so appealing), and runners don’t always trust the hard work they’ve put in, even after countless miles and track intervals. Instead, a lack of self confidence and negative thinking take over and it shows in poor race results.

If you’re a beginner runner and you think you’re alone every time you question your fitness, your training plan, or your race strategy, you couldn’t be farther from the truth.

RELATED: Four Strategies For Overcoming Race Anxiety

Lack of trust in my training is the most difficult struggle I encountered as a competitive runner. Even more than my numerous injuries and more than bad race results, which I believe were a consequence of me not having faith in my training. The biggest mistake I made throughout my career was not trusting my coaches, not trusting myself, and not trusting my fitness.

To help you better understand this concept, and hopefully prevent you from making the same mistakes, here are three very specific examples of how a lack of belief in my coaches, my training, and myself lead to poor results and injuries, and how you can prevent similar situations from happening to you.

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Carbohydrate Cycling For Weight Loss http://running.competitor.com/2014/07/nutrition/carbohydrate-cycling-for-weight-loss_51293 http://running.competitor.com/2014/07/nutrition/carbohydrate-cycling-for-weight-loss_51293#comments Tue, 01 Jul 2014 22:40:25 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=51293

Runners can rotate no-, low- and high-carbohydrate days in order to shed a few pounds. Photo: www.shutterstock.com

It’s a fine line, but there is a way to tweak your carbohydrate intake as a runner for the purpose of losing weight.

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Runners can rotate no-, low- and high-carbohydrate days in order to shed a few pounds. Photo: www.shutterstock.com


While tricky, it’s possible to achieve that delicate balance between weight loss and optimal performance.

Losing or maintaining weight is usually a goal that ranks pretty high on a runner’s priority list. Whether it is for optimal performance, general health, or even the reason they started running in the first place, weight is a critical issue for runners. Unfortunately, despite how close the relationship may seem, losing weight and running at your best aren’t easy to do in conjunction.

If you understand the basic principles of weight loss, you recognize that the most critical factor in weight loss is incurring a calorie deficit. To do so, not only do you have to measure portion sizes, but you have to control the quality of the foods you consume; specifically, limiting your intake of simple carbohydrates. This is why low-carb diets are effective.

However, on the opposite spectrum, to train hard and recover quickly from difficult workouts, a runner must consume adequate calories and fuel with complex carbohydrates — and even simple carbohydrates at the right times. Being in a constant caloric deficit and not providing the muscles with the right type of fuel will leave you tired, struggling to recover, and will derail your performances.

So, what’s the solution if you’re a runner who wants to balance hard training and solid race performances with losing weight? Perhaps we can look again to bodybuilders for an answer. By modifying the time-tested bodybuilding strategy of carb-cycling to the specific metabolic and training demands of runners, it’s possible to achieve that delicate balance between weight loss and optimal performance.

RELATED: Healthy Weight Loss During Marathon Training

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Hydration 101: Sports Drinks vs. Water http://running.competitor.com/2014/06/nutrition/hydration-101-sports-drinks-vs-water_52293 http://running.competitor.com/2014/06/nutrition/hydration-101-sports-drinks-vs-water_52293#comments Mon, 30 Jun 2014 13:50:28 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=52293

Learn how each works and when it's best to use one versus the other.

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Learn how each works and when it’s best to use one versus the other.

Most runners have heard over and over again that drinking fluids as the summer months approach is of the utmost importance; neglecting to drink when it’s hot outside is committing one of the cardinal sins of sports nutrition.

Well, that’s somewhat true, but it isn’t quite that simple. Instead of telling you to drink more fluids when the mercury rises, over the next few pages we’ll take a look at when you should be drinking water versus when you should be drinking sports drinks or an electrolyte beverage. This is also an important topic to explore in regard to hydrating during marathons or fueling for marathon-specific long runs, but that’s a different topic for another article. Here, we’ll stick to a discussion of hydration and drinking protocols during training.

RELATED: Hydration During Running

Finally, I’ll help you calculate exactly how much fluid you need to consume on any given training run, and how to apply that information to your training.

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Run Faster By Improving Your Lactate Clearance Rate http://running.competitor.com/2014/06/training/run-faster-by-improving-your-lactate-clearance-rate_52609 http://running.competitor.com/2014/06/training/run-faster-by-improving-your-lactate-clearance-rate_52609#comments Thu, 19 Jun 2014 18:02:46 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=52609

Photo: Scott Draper/Competitor

Lactic acid itself isn’t responsible for the muscle fatigue that causes you to do the skeleton dance at the end of a race.

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Photo: Scott Draper/Competitor

Lactic acid itself isn’t responsible for the muscle fatigue that causes you to do the skeleton dance at the end of a race.

Despite what you might be tempted to believe after scanning the headlines of your favorite running magazines, there’s no one secret workout that will guarantee you set a new personal best at your next race. As experienced runners know, it’s the right mix of workouts and consistency over time that brings long-term and steady results. With a seemingly endless variety of workouts to choose from, picking the most effective workout to accomplish your racing goals takes a little research.

Luckily, coaches and exercise scientists alike understand the specific metabolic demands placed on the body during long distance events. As such, they know what type of workouts will be the most effective for success at each particular race distance. Specifically, coaches and exercise scientists realize the important role of lactate during long distance running — how the body produces it, how the body utilizes it as a source of energy, and how lactate contributes to slowing down.

Therefore, it’s no surprise that most training schedules include a steady diet of threshold runs, particularly in the form of tempo runs or tempo intervals. However, when we take the time to examine exactly how lactate works, both as a fuel source as well as how the body clears it, many coaches have come to realize that straight tempo runs might not be the best way to improve your body’s use of lactate.

RELATED: Six Lies You Were Taught About Lactic Acid

Instead, many coaches and exercise scientists are beginning to understand that the goal of threshold training isn’t to produce less lactate — as has been traditionally thought — but to improve the body’s ability to clear lactate from the blood. In essence, you should be training to improve your lactate clearance rate.

In this article, we’re going to debunk some of the faulty science about lactate that still permeates training theory today so you can better understand how to train more efficiently. More importantly, we’re going to look at how adding lactate clearance workouts into your training schedule can help you improve as a runner, Lastly, we’ll show you some specific lactate clearance workouts you can implement right away.

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How Long Before I See The Benefits Of A Workout? http://running.competitor.com/2014/06/training/how-long-before-i-see-the-benefits-of-a-workout_46005 http://running.competitor.com/2014/06/training/how-long-before-i-see-the-benefits-of-a-workout_46005#comments Tue, 17 Jun 2014 17:50:39 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=46005

Photo: istock

The exact rate your body absorbs and responds to a given workout is going to be influenced by a variety of factors.

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Photo: istock

In short, it depends on the experience of the athlete and the type of workout he or she is performing.

It’s the question all runners want to know the answer to: “How long will it be before I see the benefits from my workout?”

Unfortunately, like most aspects of running and training, there isn’t a quick and easy answer.

Most experienced runners have heard that it takes 10 days to realize the benefits of a workout. While I agree that this is a good rule of thumb to follow, especially during the taper phase of a training plan, it’s not a very accurate measurement of how your body responds and adapts to a myriad of different training factors. For example, the exact rate your body absorbs and responds to a workout is going to be influenced by the type of workout, the intensity, your recovery protocol, and your body’s own rate of adaptation.

RELATED: 3 Simple Ways To Improve Speed and Endurance

However, while there is no universal and simple answer to this question, if we take the time to break down all the factors that affect workout absorption, you can extrapolate a fairly accurate estimation of how long it will take to benefit from each type of workout on your training schedule.

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Is A Lack Of Sleep Before A Race Really A Bad Thing? http://running.competitor.com/2014/06/recovery/is-a-lack-of-sleep-before-a-race-really-a-bad-thing_83503 http://running.competitor.com/2014/06/recovery/is-a-lack-of-sleep-before-a-race-really-a-bad-thing_83503#comments Fri, 13 Jun 2014 20:30:26 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=83503

If you're worried because you didn't sleep much the night before your race, think again. Photo: www.shutterstock.com

Is a lack of sleep the night before a race really a problem for runners? One study says no.

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If you're worried because you didn't sleep much the night before your race, think again. Photo: www.shutterstock.com

One study refutes the idea that a lack of sleep hurts race performance.

It was my first conference championship in cross country, arguably the most important team event in college running, and I was a nervous wreck. As a freshman, I was being counted on for a great run. I had never experienced pressure like that before.

The night before the race I tossed and turned in my bed, fretting about my fitness and hoping that I had a good day. What few minutes I did “sleep” I had the all-too-familiar runner’s nightmare of running helplessly through mud while everyone else seemed to glide along.

All told, I got maybe an hour of sleep that night.

As the team gathered together in the morning for our shakeout run, I sheepishly told my coach about my lack of sleep and how I feared I’d ruined my chances of running well. He responded, “Don’t worry about bad sleep the night before a race; what matters is your sleep two nights before the race.”

I was a little skeptical. That advice seemed like an old wives tale. But then he told me the story of how he qualified for the Olympics as a junior in college, running a personal best in both the preliminary and final round of the steeplechase, all without sleeping a wink the night before the race. That convinced me I was going to have a great performance, and I immediately put my sleepless night behind me and ran great that day.

That’s the advantage many runners who competed in high school and college have. We can lean on the stories of our teammates and coaches to give us confidence when things don’t go as planned. But, since you likely don’t know me or my college coach, a simple story isn’t going to give you confidence should you have a bad night of pre-race sleep.

That’s why we’re going to look at some of the research on sleep and performance to demonstrate how science has proved the idea that the night of sleep before a race doesn’t matter, why we feel like it does, and how to combat it.

RELATED: Sleep In — It Will Make You Faster

The Impact Of No Sleep On Physiological Markers

A 2007 review paper by Thomas Reilly and Ben Edwards at the Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences sifted through a variety of studies on the impact of sleep and performance. The data they collected from a myriad of studies suggested that while mental cognition was lessened, physiological markers of endurance performance were surprisingly stable — even after a few days worth of poor sleep.

Reilly and Edwards were able to demonstrate that leg strength, fatigue resistance, and oxygen demand at various speeds on a treadmill were all unaffected by one night of poor sleep.

Lack Of Sleep And Actual Performance

While raw physiological data is the backbone of exercise science, it sometimes doesn’t translate to race-day performance. In the end, what every runner should be most concerned about is whether these measurements are going to have a measurable impact on their actual performance.

Turns out, the data supports this as well.

In one study, Dutch researchers had 10 men do all-out, 20-minute cycling time trials. The control group was allowed to sleep as normal while the other group arrived at the research lab at 11 p.m., and were not allowed to sleep until they had completed the time trial at 1 p.m. the following afternoon.

The control group covered an average of 7.68 kilometers during their 20-minute cycling time trial. Surprisingly, the no sleep group performed almost exactly the same: they covered an average of 7.62km, and physiological measurements, including average heart rate, were also nearly identical.

RELATED: Eat Your Way To A Better Night’s Sleep

Why Does It Feel Harder On No Sleep?

Now that we can emphatically show that not sleeping the night before a race has no impact on performance, we need to address the problem of why it feels so bad and what we can do about it.

Reilly and Edwards’ review noted that subjects rated their perceived efforts higher when sleep-deprived. Reilly and Edwards suggest that this may be because the brain and the nervous system are the biological structures that need sleep the most: while your heart, lungs, and legs are ready to go at full-tilt even when sleep deprived, your brain and its neural system are sluggish and tired.

This is demonstrated quite nicely in the above mentioned study on Dutch cyclists. The researchers also had both groups estimate how far they had ridden during their time trial. The control group guessed, 7.2km, pretty close to their actual output. However, the sleepless group estimated only 6.51km — almost a full kilometer short.

What Does This Mean For You?

After a poor night of sleep, it’s likely you’ll be very unmotivated and cognitively feel like you’re not able to perform your best. In training, this might lead to you skipping workouts for fear of them not going well. In a race situation, this likely leads to increased nervousness or results negative thinking, which can be detrimental to performance.

Utilize this research, bolstered by a few stories of successful runners who have performed well on no sleep, to stay positive on race day should you have a bad night’s sleep or have to wake up extremely early to get to the start line on time.

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Getting To The Source Of An Injury http://running.competitor.com/2014/06/injury-prevention/getting-to-the-source-of-injury_84233 http://running.competitor.com/2014/06/injury-prevention/getting-to-the-source-of-injury_84233#comments Thu, 05 Jun 2014 15:38:04 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=84233

More often than not, running injuries are the result of having poor running form. Photo: www.shutterstock.com

Instead of using the band-aid method to fix an injury, find the root of the problem — which is usually poor running form.

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More often than not, running injuries are the result of having poor running form. Photo: www.shutterstock.com

Instead of using the band-aid method to fix an injury, find the root of the problem. It will prevent future setbacks.

For most runners, the onset of an injury is immediately followed by frantic icing, stretching, massage, popping some NSAIDs, and a likely massage. While we could argue the merits and potential pitfalls of each, the real issue is that we immediately focus on eliminating the specific pain, inflammation or tightness. This makes sense since the faster the pain goes away, the sooner we can get back to running.

Many runners end the injury and recovery process at this point. Once they’ve mitigated the problem, they return to training and hope the issue doesn’t pop up again. However, some of the more experienced and savvy runners know the injury process isn’t finished yet. They’ll begin to look at why they felt a specific pain. Were their calves tight, which resulted in a tug on the Achilles? Did a tight hip cause that IT band pain? Once they’ve identified potential issues, they’ll work diligently to fix and ensure that their calves never get tight again.

This is typically where the injury and rehab process ends. For recurring and stubborn injuries, runners will continue to focus on strengthening the specific area and keeping the muscles loose and pliable. But, as many of us injured runners know, this doesn’t always work. If I had a nickel for every eccentric calf raise I did to strengthen my Achilles, I’d be writing this from the Bahamas. Yet, Achilles issues remained the bane of my running existence no matter how hard I tried.

So, what is the solution?

If you’re someone who is plagued by a stubborn and recurring running injury, I think there is another level we can take our rehab to. One that 99 percent of runners either don’t consider or can’t connect how it might relate. Looking at our running form.

RELATED: The 5 Most Common Running Form Mistakes

Drilling Down By Looking At Running Form

The body is an interconnected chain. This is what makes diagnosing the underlying cause of many running injuries difficult. It’s hard to imagine how sitting in a chair all day can somehow increase the chances of injuring your Achilles. But it can, and it does.

While it can be extremely complicated, the most important thing to remember when trying to understand how the body, brain and muscles work together is that your body will always compensate to get the job done. Meaning, if your glute muscle is inhibited and not firing correctly, your leg won’t simply stop working. Instead, your brain tells your muscles, “Hey, this glute isn’t getting the job done, let’s fire the calves more forcefully to make up for the lack of power.” This “rerouting” occurs unconsciously and often you’ll never even realize it occurs.

When this happens occasionally, it’s not a major issue and we should appreciate how amazingly our body adapts. I certainly wouldn’t want my leg to lock up in the middle of a run simply because my glutes got tired or inhibited.

However, this becomes a problem when it occurs every run. This is when the body makes long-term compensations that continually place additional stress on other muscle groups not designed to handle the extra workload.

When Bad Form Results In Injury

Calf, Achilles and plantar fascia issues
Again, let’s use the glutes as an example. We know the glutes are one of the strongest muscle groups in our body. More importantly, research shows that they generate a majority of power during the stride — being active at strong levels at the end of swing phase, during the first third of stance, near the time of footstrike, and to aid in contraction of the hamstrings.

When the glutes are not activating, which is often the result of poor running form, this power needs to be generated elsewhere. So, the body shifts the work to a muscle like the calves. The problem is that the calf is not nearly as strong or fatigue-resistant as the glutes, and the added stress is more than the muscle can handle. The result is calf strains, Achilles issues, and even plantar problems.

RELATED: Want Good Form? Don’t Be Lazy

Shin Splints And Stress Fractures
There aren’t many aspects of running form that all experts agree on (part of what makes it so difficult to teach), but there is one element that no biomechanist believes is good — over-striding.

Over-striding occurs when your foot lands too far out in front of your hips or center of mass, typically with a more straightened leg. It doesn’t matter if you hit the ground with your forefoot, mid foot, or heel — if you over-stride, your impact-loading rate is going to increase dramatically. This adds a significant amount of stress to the muscles, ligaments and bones in the lower leg.

When most runners develop shin splints, they immediately ice the shin and begin to strengthen the muscles in the surrounding area. This is helpful, but if you don’t first fix the potential issue of over-striding, your shin splints are going to come back no matter how strong your shin and calf muscles are.

Runner’s Knee And IT Band Injuries
During the “stance” phase of the stride, the body is supported by only one leg. So, when your right leg is planted, it means your entire left side is “cantilevered” over your left hip. If the right hip muscles aren’t firing correctly (either because of weakness or just bad neural patterns), the pelvis and upper body will tilt downwards on the left side. This is what running coaches would call “excessive hip drop.”

RELATED: Meb’s Top Tips For Good Form

We know from numerous studies that this hip drop, or excessive adduction and internal rotation, results in increased stress on the knees.

So, while you may be massaging your IT band to get it supple and strengthening the quads to help support the knee, your IT band or runner’s knee issues will continue until you’re able to fix your hip drop.

These are just a few examples of how minor flaws in your form could potentially result in injuries far down the kinetic chain. If you suffer from recurring injuries or have issues you just can’t seem to shake no matter how much stretching and strength work you do, consider taking a deeper look at your running form and how your injury might be connected.

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Summer Running: Adjust, Adapt And Be Realistic http://running.competitor.com/2014/06/training/adapting-your-training-to-the-summer-heat_75181 http://running.competitor.com/2014/06/training/adapting-your-training-to-the-summer-heat_75181#comments Wed, 04 Jun 2014 18:00:08 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=75181

Training in the summer gets complicated because of the heat and other factors. Photo: www.shutterstock.com

Summer training presents a unique set of challenges. Here's how to combat a few of them.

The post Summer Running: Adjust, Adapt And Be Realistic appeared first on Competitor.com.

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Training in the summer gets complicated because of the heat and other factors. Photo: www.shutterstock.com

Summer training presents a unique set of challenges. Here’s how to combat a few of them.

While it’s true running in the winter presents some serious motivational challenges thanks to short days, cold weather and icy roads, it’s actually the summer season that negatively impacts training the most. Sure, bright sunshine and beautiful scenery make it much easier to get out the door, but the truth is, heat, humidity, vacation and a lack of sleep all wreak havoc on your training plan.

Since summer is one of the most popular and important training seasons, especially if you’re racing a fall marathon, it’s critical that you approach the summer with realistic expectations about your performance and understand the potential pitfalls. In this article, we’ll look at the two most common summer training mistakes and how you can avoid making them this year.

Not Adjusting Workout And Race Times For The Temperature

You will train and race slower in hot weather. This is a physiological fact and it’s critical to keep in mind when planning your workouts and evaluating performances.

Your normal body temperature is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Exercising, even in cold temperatures, naturally raises the core body temperature. At first, this rise in temperature aids performance by increasing blood flow to the working muscles, hence the importance of warming up before hard workouts and races. However, once your internal body temperature gets above 102 degrees, you start to experience a significant drop in performance.

At 102 degrees, your body can no longer effectively cool itself and your body begins to divert blood to the skin to help keep it cool. This decreases the amount of blood available to carry oxygen to your working muscles. As a result, your ability to run fast is diminished considerably.

Therefore, you need to be realistic about your race performances and ability to hit workout splits when running in the heat. Many of the runners I consult with get very frustrated when they aren’t able to hit their goal times or when workouts feel harder than they should in the summer. However, it’s impossible to avoid this and it has nothing to do with a lack of fitness. It’s simply a physiological reality.

RELATED: 5 Tips To Stay Safe On Summer Runs

How To Combat
My advice is to use a temperature calculator, like this one derived from the work of Dr. Jack Daniels, that can help estimate how much your times will be impacted by hot weather. Of course, every runner handles heat individually, but this can be a good gauge for how much to adjust your summer workout and race paces.

Not Enough Recovery

Getting enough recovery during the summer months is also a huge challenge for many runners, and it often results in poor performance and overtraining. I’ve found this recovery deficiency to be a result of a lack of sleep, more activity outside of running, and from fatigue buildup as the body redirects resources from recovery to keeping itself cool.

Lack Of Sleep
To beat the heat, most runners have to hit the streets before the sun comes up. Unfortunately, in the summer this can often mean starting workouts at 5:30 a.m. or earlier. Typically, this earlier wakeup time isn’t offset by earlier bed times. In fact, most runners probably go to bed later in the summer as they enjoy the opportunity to take advantage of the weather.

Moreover, it’s difficult to catch up on sleep during the weekends since you still have to get up and out the door early. In the winter, runners can make up for early weekday mornings by sleeping in and enjoying more pleasant running weather later in the day. Unfortunately, if you’re not out the door by 6 or 7 a.m. in the summer, you’re in for a miserable run. As a result, you never have a chance to catch up.

Travel And Fun Stuff
The summer is a time for family hikes, trips to the beach and a host of other activities that make the season so enjoyable. However, as I’ve covered in a past article, being active all day or soaking up the sun at the beach will impact your run the next day. While I am not suggesting you avoid having fun this summer, factor in your activities to your workout expectations. If you spend Saturday at the beach or on a great hike, don’t expect to have a great long run Sunday. Manage and adjust your performance expectations.

RELATED: 5 Ways Heat Affects Running Performance

Fatigue Backup
Recovery between workouts is slowed during the summer months. Unless you happen to spend your entire day in an air conditioned building (and unfortunately, some us may actually do this), your body is going to use resources it would normally use for recovery on keeping itself cool.

As discussed previously, your body will divert blood to the skin to facilitate cooling rather than pumping your muscles full of oxygen and nutrient-rich blood. As a result, recovery is slowed. Think of this process like a traffic jam. All it takes is a small bottleneck or one lane closing to back up traffic on the highway for miles. With recovery, all it takes is a slight reduction to back up the recovery process for days. Therefore, in the summer, running the same number of miles per week is going to feel harder than it does in the spring and fall when the weather is perfect.

How To Combat
My advice is to schedule the occasional down week or build in an additional recovery day during your weekly training. This can help you catch up on sleep, allow you to enjoy a consequence-free hike or day at the beach, and can help avoid overtraining and getting frustrated with what appears to be a lack of progress.

As you prepare to tackle your summer training, keep these factors and physiological principles of running in the heat in mind to avoid frustration and potential overtraining.

Check out our library of training plans.

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