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Running Research News And Events
January 24, 2010
What You Don't Know About Running Injuries Can Hurt You
Don't get too bummed out if you've had a running-related injury during the past 12 months. After all, you're in the majority. Scientific studies show that about 60-65 percent of all runners are injured during an average year (By definition, an "injury" is a physical problem severe enough to force a reduction in training).
When compared to many other endurance sports, the risks associated with running are higher. For example, runners miss about 5-10 percent of their workouts due to injury, while racewalkers are absent just over 1 percent of the time, and step-aerobics participants go AWOL with a frequency of less than 1 percent ("Incidence and Severity of Injury Following Aerobic Training Programs Emphasizing Running, Racewalking, or Step Aerobics," Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, vol. 25(5), p. S81, 1993).
Still, running is far from being the most injury-producing sport. In recent study in the Netherlands, running ranked fourth-behind outdoor soccer, indoor soccer, and volleyball - in the total number of injuries produced per year, and whne injuries were expressed per hour of actual activity, running was well down the list - in 14th place (Sportblessures breed Uitgemeten, Haarlem, DeVrieseborch, 1990).
In addition, running's 65-percent-injury and 5-percent-absence rates could be significantly lower - if runners knew more about the actual causes of injuries and made a few simple adjustments in their training schedules. In fact, research suggests that running injuries could be cut by around 25 percent (Sport for All:Sport Injuries and their Prevention, Council of Europe, Netherlands Institute of Sports Health Care, Oosterbeek, 1989).
Lets identify where injuries are likely to occur. The five anatomical "hotspot" for running injuries are: (1) The knee (25-30 percent of all running injuries occur ther) (2) The calf and shin (20 percent of all injuries) (3) The ilio-tibial band - a long sheath of connective tissue which runs from the outside of the hip down to the lateral edge of the knee (10 percent) (4) The Achilles tendon (8-10 percent) (5) The foot - the focal point for hobbling injuries like plantar fasciitis (10 percent)
To learn how to minimize your injury risk (the full article can be read by purchasing Vol.9 Issue 5) and many more running related topics. Simply enter What You Don't Know About Running Injuries Can Hurt You, in the "search archives" box, or enter any subject you wish to learn more about. A subscription to Running Research News is another way to receive valuable information. SIGN-UP NOW
January 24, 2010
How Strength Training Will Improve Your Running
Part one--Why Rank and File Runners Should do Resistance Training
The year I turned 20, I graduated from junior to senior grade as a distance runner in New Zealand.
Now I would be running the 3,000-meter steeplechase against seasoned steeplechasers who were faster and stronger than me and chewed us young steeplechasers up for breakfast. However, my running was maxed out--any more and I would have injured myself. So I asked, 'What could I do to get within range of these guys?'
A friend suggested I try weight training to make myself stronger. Maybe that would help? With nothing to lose I started lifting weights three times a week. I felt very strong during my races and my steeplechase time came down by 15 seconds. I even managed to get to the New Zealand Championships in the senior race. Since then there has been no doubt in my mind concerning the positive effects of strength training on distance running performance.
The majority of non-elite runners do not strength train to improve their running performance. Strength Training Will Improve Your Running
Because of the time consumed by running, most runners cannot find the time or do not have the interest to lift weights, while many do not think it will help them race faster.
The irony here is that research shows weight training has a greater improvement on unfit or less fit runners than elite runners in the parameters of anaerobic threshold, running economy, and neuromuscular characteristics. Thatís right--if youíre a runner doing 20 to 50 miles per week, you stand to gain some marvelous improvements compared with elite runners.
A study done a few years ago found that trained runners improve their running economy from 4% to 8% with resistance training. Even small improvements in running economy can have a large impact on longer distance events such as the marathon or 10K races. A 4% improvement for a 41:39 10K runner would reduce this time by 100 seconds.
But what about the rank and file runner, with 10K times between 35 and 60 minutes? Can resistance training help this group bring their times down? Several studies have shown that recreational runners who lift weights improve their performance. One study found lactate threshold, or the point where you start accumulating significant amounts of lactic acid, to be increased after a period of resistance training in untrained individuals.
Many studies of elite runners have not found this benefit from resistance training--indirect proof that rank and file runners have more to gain from strength training than elite runners.
The participants improved leg strength by an average of 30%, but thigh girths were unchanged, meaning they did not add any muscle bulk--something that would slow distance runners down.
And although their oxygen processing abilities were unchanged (as you would expect to find in people doing weight training), their cycling and treadmill running times to exhaustion at 80% of VO2 max were lengthened from 71 minutes to a staggering 85 minutes. Even their short-term high-powered (maximal 4 to 8 minute effort) endurance cycling and running were lengthened by 11% and 13%. In addition, six of the eight runners in this study improved their 10K times from an average of 42:27 to 41:43.
Other research has found similar results. Thus it is clear, that weight training can help you run faster for longer with the same effort and oxygen consumption. Attending a sports medicine conference recently, I heard one speaker make a comment that rang true. The athletes who are winning these days are ones who can maintain high wattage for longer than their competitors, i.e., they sustain their power at a high percentage of their VO2 max--now acknowledged as a major contributor to success in endurance events.Strength Training Will ImproveYour Running
The question is, if you are a recreational runner spending two to three extra hours each week doing weight training, would you be better off spending this time running? Will weight training adversely affect your running? And will weight training make you tighter and less flexible? The answers are no, no, and no. In one study, coaches were surprised to find that substituting 32% of total endurance training in elite distance runners for strength training improved runners' 5K performance significantly.
Other research demonstrated that strength training does not reduce endurance performance in non-athletes.
Studies investigating the effects of weight training on flexibility found weightlifters possess average to above average flexibility in most joints.
So how, then, does strength training actually improve running performance? The theory goes something like this. Your running speed is dependent on the force applied to the ground during each foot strike and the time over which this force is applied. The faster and more powerful the foot strikes, the faster you will run. Thus, if you improve the power you exert during each of your steps, you will run faster. Strength Training Will Improve Your Running
Resistance training improves the tensile strength of your leg muscles, and thus enhances the recoil or return of energy with each foot compression or step. Additionally, your neuromuscular system becomes better coordinated from resistance training, enabling you to run using less energy and less oxygen.
A typical comment heard from runners I have coached who have taken up weight training is "I'm able to finish 10K races with a longer, sustained drive, and strong finish." Others claim that strength training has helped them relax their arms during the early and middle stages of their races. Women in particular have a lot to gain because they tend to be 20% to 40% weaker than their male counterparts in the major body regions (legs and upper body strength).
Other major benefits that weight training are theorized to have for runners includes injury prevention, correction of muscular imbalances, increase in stride length, improvement in core stability, and increase in basic speed. Although there is not yet enough evidence for all coaches and exercise scientists to agree on, these aspects should not be completely ignored and today are accepted reasons why coaches ply their runners with strength training.
Here, for example, is how resistance training can help prevent injuries. Lifting weights may help correct imbalances and biomechanical deficiencies such as the ratio of strength between the quadriceps and hamstrings groups. (Hamstrings tend to overpower quadriceps in distance runners.)Strength Training Will Improve Your Running
When all the research is examined, it is safe to claim that weight training is likely to improve your running, while it has never been found to detract from your performance. Now that I have sold you on its benefits, here is some practical advice on what to do and how to do it.
Part Two--Weight Training Advice and Programming for the Runner
There are several different types of resistance training equipment available in your local fitness club--free weights, Universal systems, Nautilus, Cam Systems, etc. They use different types of resistance, e.g., air pressure, fluid resistance, friction, pulleys, gravity, etc. Which of these is best? It does not matter--as long as you are pushing or pulling against resistance and overloading the muscle, you will gain strength.
Ideally, a combination of modes is best, so try using a mix of free-weights and fixed machine equipment. Your workouts should only last about 45 minutes to an hour, including warm-up time and stretching.
How do we go about improving our strength? We must overload our muscles with a resistance that is slightly more than we are used to pushing or pulling. Resistance (or weight) should be increased every few workouts or weeks and not every workout.
General sequencing strategies include using multiple-joint exercises before single-joint exercises. Work your large muscle groups before small muscle groups. This way you will not pre- fatigue your small muscles, which would make it more difficult to work the larger ones later. Do heavy weight training exercises that require greater force before lighter exercises, for the same reason. Strength Training Will Improve Your Running
If you can manage three to four workouts with weights each week, I would recommend a split workout, where you alternate exercising the upper body with the legs and trunk. To achieve balance between muscle groups, alternate pushing exercises with pulling exercises on the opposite side of the body.
January 10, 2010
POST-WORKOUT CARBOHYDRATE ALONE DOESN'T LOWER MUSCLE SORENESS
Tough workouts promote heightened fitness, but they can also lead to so much muscle soreness that athletes are unable to train effectively during the days after a rigorous session. To promote more consistent training and to limit muscle damage, exercise scientists have searched for ways to prevent excessive post-work-out soreness.
One popular anti-soreness recommendation has been for athletes to ingest ample amounts of carbohydrate shortly after a strenuous training session. The idea is that the extra carbohydrate would quickly make its way into muscle cells, providing plenty of fuel to kick-start the repair process which takes place after a workout. The rapid repair would then block muscles from becoming overly inflamed.
Unfortunately, a new study carried out at California State University suggests that pot-workout carbos don't have much effect on muscle pain. In the California research, 20 males started muscle-soreness ball rolling by completing eight sets of 10 eccentric muscle contractions on bench press, arm curl, and single leg extension machines (Eccentric contractions, in which muscles are stretched while they are trying to shorten, are noted for inducing soreness. With weight machines, eccentric contractions generally take place as a weight is being lowered). During the four hours after the workout, subjects consumed either a placebo or a carbohydrate-containing sports drink which provided .4 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight.
Muscle soreness increased appreciably both 24 and 48 hours after the eccentric workout, but there were no differences between the two groups; the carbohydrate-ingesters did NOT have less muscle pain. Likewise, blood levels of creatine kinase (a muscle enzyme used as a marker of muscle damage) were similar in the two groups.
Why didn't the post-workout carbohydrate limit muscle soreness? The subjects' muscle membranes may have been damaged by the strenuous weight-training sessions, so carbohydrate migt have had a rough time even making it across the membranes into the interiors of the muscle cells. However, it's also possible that carbohydrate alone can't cure muscle soreness; it would have been nice if the Cal State researchers had added a third group of athletes to their study - a group which consumed surplus carbohydrate AND protein. The protein might have knitted together damaged muscle areas, while the carbohydrate could have yielded the energy necessary for repair, downplaying overall soreness.
The Cal State study didn't measure "functional recovery" in the two groups, so it's possible that the carbohydrate group might have been stronger than the placebo group following the eccentric workout, even though soreness levels were similar. The Cal State researchers also used relatively untrained subjects; experienced strength trainers might have been able to use the supplemental carbohydrate more effectively.
It's also important to mention that the Cal State study doesn't mean that post-training carbohydrate is worthless. In fact, other investigations have shown that taking in carbohydrate after workouts speeds glycogen replacement and suitably prepares athletes for training on subsequent days, even if it doesn't dampen. 2010 Training