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Running Research News And Events
June 29, 2011
Where Do You Go For The Ultimate In 5-K Training?
Have you been scrambling to find the Solution to your 5-K training woes? Would you like to knock another minute or two off your 5-K time? If so, you have arrived at the right place. Running Research News, has blended their training philosophies and cutting-edge techniques into a top-notch 5-K training program.
The program is clear, concise, and straightforward to carry out, taking you day by day through 26 weeks of transforming training. The overall scheme follows RRNews philosophy of progressing from easier to harder workouts, of moving from strengthening exercises which are less specific to running to those which are more specific, and of progressing to workouts which are more and more like the demands of running at 5-K goal pace in your most-important race of the season. Recently, one of RRNews runners used the program to improve her 5-K time from 24:30 to 19:36! RUNNING AT ITS FASTEST
June 29, 2011
PLANNING THE RIGHT TAPER: FAST, EXPONENTIAL DECAY MAY BE THE WAY
Almost all athletes and coaches agree that tapering - the reduction of training in a systematic way - is a good thing, because it ensures good recovery from heavy training (Gibla, M.et al., : The Effects of Tapering on Strength Performance in Trained Athletes, " International Journal of Sports Medicine, Vol. 15, pp. 492-497, 1994) and is a key part of preparation for an important competition (Shepley, B. et al., "Physiological Effects of Tapering in Highly Trained Athletes," Journal of Applied Physiology, Vol. 72, pp. 706-711, 1992).
Unfortunately, there is wide disagreement about how tapering periods should be constructed. These debates revolve around how long a tapering period should be, the extent to which training volume, intensity, and frequency should be reduced during a taper, and also - very importantly - the rate at which these variables should be reduced.
One dispute has centered around whether tapers should contain "step reductions" in training or " exponential decays." In a step reduction, total training is reduced by a certain amount, and the new volume of training is sustained throughout the tapering period. In an exponential-decay situation, the quantity of training decreases steadily over the course of the taper (there is no step-down in volume but rather a continuous slide), reaching bare-bones levels at the end of the tapering period. One popular step-down strategy is to clip training by 5 to 70 percent and then maintain the new, lower volume of work for one to three weeks. Traditionally, exponential decays have been linked with shorter durations of time, often four to eight days.
Until now, the relative merits of step-reduction and exponential-decay tapering have been poorly evaluated. Several years ago, outstanding tapering theorist Joe Houmard asked 5-K runners to cut training by 70 percent for three weeks (a step reduction). At the end of the 21 -day period, the runners' 5-K race times were not significantly better, nor did the runners exhibit greater muscular power (Houmard, J. et al., "Testosterone, Cortisol, and Creatine Kinase Levels in Male Distance Runners during Reduced Training, " international Journal of Sports Medicine, Vol. 11, pp. 41-45, 1990). In contrast, a seven-day exponential decay in which training volume was reduced each day and overall weekly volume dropped by 85 percent produced dramatic improvements in 5-K race times and muscular power (Houmard, J. et al., "The Effects of Taper on Performance in Distance Runners," Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, Vol. 26, pp. 624-631, 1994).
This has led some tapering theorists to argue that when training volume is reduced aggressively and progressively to an extremely low level, performance is improved to a greater extent, compared with a single (or even several-) step reduction over a more extended period of time. Some anti-step scientists even go on to argue that step reductions usually maintain performance but do not enhance it.
Such arguements are not completely fair, however, since step-reduction tapering has been linked with fairly impressive gains in physical capacity. For example, in a classic study carried out by renowned exercise physiologist Dave Costill in his laboratory at Ball State University, collegiate swimmers reduced training volume from 10,000 (!) to 3200 yards per day during a 15-day period (Costill, D. et al., "Effects of Reduced Training on Muscular Power in Swimmers," Physician and Sportsmedicine, Vol. 13, pp.94-100, 1985).
After this 15-day step-reduction taper, the swimmers' performance times improved by 3.6 percent, their arm strength and power swelled by up to 25 percent, and blood-lactate levels were lower during 200-yard swimming "sprints". These results led Costill to recommend - in his fine book Inside Running: Basics of Sports Physiology - tapering periods of approximately two-weeks duration, with volume set at about one-third of usual levels (a large step reduction).
In later work, Raymond Kenitzer and Catherine Jackson asked 15 female collegiate swimmers to pare training volume by about 60 percent over a four-week period (Kenitzer, R. and Jackson, C., "Blood Lactate Concentration in Female Competitive Collegiate Swimmers during End Season Taper," Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, Vol. 21 (2), p.S23, 1989).
For the long distance swimmers involved in the study, volume dropped from 8000 daily yards to 3500 yards. During this step-reduction taper, blood-lactate levels fell steadily for about two and one-half weeks, and performances increased progressively over the same time frame. After two and one-half weeks, however, lactate concentrations and performance times both began to worsen. Kenitzer and Jackson drew the obvious conclusion: 60-percent, step-reduction tapers lasting up to 17 to 18 days are good things.
Step reductions can do more than maintain performance levels. However, the exponential cause was advanced pretty dramatically shortly after the publication of Kenitzer's work. Another scientist with a strong interest in tapering, Duncan MacDougall of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario (Canada), asked a group of well-conditioned runners who were averaging 45 to 50 miles of running per week to try out three different kinds of one-week tapers. The three startegies were:
(1) Doing nothing at all during the week (a 100-percent step-reduction),
(2) Running about 18 miles during the week at a leisurely pace, with a complete-rest day at the end of the week (a 64-percent step reduction), and
(3) Undergoing a drastic exponential decay in training over the week, with an emphasis on quality running. Using this strategy, the runners completed five hard 500-meter intervals on the first day of decay, four 500-meter blasts on the second day, 3 X 500 on day three, just 2 X 500 on day four, and a single 500-meter surge on day five. After a rest on day six, they were ready to be tested on day seven (as were the employers of strategies one and two). Importantly, each 500-meter interval was performed at about one mile race pace, and since the runners warmed up with 500 meters of inchmeal running before the quality intervals were undertaken, the total training volume for the week was about 10K, or just over six miles. Thus, this decay involved an overall 87- to 88-percent reduction in training (MacDougall, D. et al., "Physiologic Effects of Tapering in Highly Trained Athletes," Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, Vol.22 (2), Supplement, #801, 1990)
To learn more about Planning the Right Taper (the full article can be read by purchasing Vol. 17 Issue 5 of Running Research News) and many more running related topics, simply click-on the Back Issues link, and select the volume and issues number, from the drop-down menu. A subscription to Running Research News is another way to receive valuable information about running. BUY NOW.
June 18, 2011
The Science of Kenyan EatingIt's strange, but true: The nutritional practices of the best endurance athletes in the world have not been carefully studied.
Those "best endurance athletes" are clearly the Kenyan runners. Attempting to verify this fact for you is probably unnecessary, but it can at least be noted that one study found that athletes from one collection of Kenyans, the Kalenjin tribe, had won approximately 40 percent of all major international middle-and long-distance running competitions in the 10-year period from 1987 to 1997 (1). In addition, approximately half of all the male athletes in the world who have ever run the 10K in less than 27 minutes hail from Kenya. When they are allowed to enter freely, Kenyan athletes dominate road races around the world. It would be possible to continue in this vein for many more sentences. 20 Kenyan Commandments
And yet, until now the eating habits of the very top-level Kenyan runners have not been examined in a scientific way, even though the Kenyans' nutritional practices must assuredly represent a key reason for their running success. The person who might argue that "If only the Kenyans would eat differently, they could run much faster," would appear to be flimsy ground. The Kenyans are doing things right when they sit down at their dinner table, or they would not be so dominating in international competitions.
To answer these questions, Yannis Pitsiladis of the international Centre of East African Running Science in Glasgow, Scotland, along with Mike Boit (the Olympic bronze-medal winner from the 1972 Games), Vincent Onywera, and Festus Kiplamai from the Exercise and Sports Science Department at Kenyatta University in Nairobi and the Department of Foods, Nutrition, and Dietetics at Egerton University in Njoro, Kenya, recently monitored everything that went into the mouths of 10 elite Kenyan runners over a seven-day period at a training camp near Kaptagat, Kenya (2). This brace of Kenyan athletes was truly top-level, including several Olympic medalists and also first-place finishers from the Paris and Athens World Championships.
(1) Breakfast at 8:00
(2) Mid-morning snack at 10:00
(3) Lunch at 13:00
(4) Afternoon snack at 16:00
(5) Supper at 19:00
To learn more about More News Concerning The Science of Kenyan Eating (the full article can be read by purchasing Vol.21 Issue 1 of Running Research News) and many more running related topics, simply enter "the science of Kenyan eating", in the Search-Archives" box to the right. A subscription to Running Research News is another way to receive valuable information about running. EAT LIKE A CHAMP
June 18, 2011
A FINE FOOTSTRIKE
How do we actually "take the brakes off" during the stance phase of the gait cycle? Two factors must be at work: First, our nervous systems must be highly reactive, so that muscular actions which inhibit forward propulsion can be inhibited from the moment of impact and muscular actions which boost propulsion can be instigated without hesitation. Second, our movements must be well-coordinated, so that there is no need to spend extra time (and energy) restoring the body's equilibrium position in response to awkward movements. Footstrike must be an explosive time, not a period in which weakly controlled joint movements must be corrected prior to toe-off or in which the leg muscles "throw on the brakes." What we want to achieve is both extreme quickness and incredible control. Footstrike-related deceleration must be minimized.
A routine for you; to dramatically enhance quickness, abbreviate the time duration of footstrike, and decrease energy wastage during the footstrike portion of walking and running, carry out the following routine several times a week:
(1) Jog along with very springy, short steps, landing on the mid-foot area with each contact and springing upward after impact. As you move along your ankles should act like coiled springs, compressing slightly with each mid-foot landing and then recoiling quickly - causing you to bound upward and forward. Move along for one minute with quick, little spring-like strides, alternating right and left feet as you would during regular running. After this minute is completed, jog in your regular manner for about 10 seconds, and then "spring-jog" for about 20 meters, alternating three consecutive spring-like contacts with your right foot with three contacts with the left (e.g., three hops on your right foot, three hops on your left, three more on your right, etc., until you have traveled about 20 meters). Jog in your usual manner for 10 seconds again, and then spring-hop along for meters on your right foot only, before shifting over to 20 meters on the left foot alone (make certain that you land in the mid-foot area with each ground contact).
(2) Perform two 40-second sets of one-leg hops in place on each leg. Stand in a relaxed position, with your full body weight supported on your left foot only. Lift your left heel slightly, so that the force of body weight is passing through the ball of the left foot (your right knee is flexed so that your right knee is off the ground). Then, hop rapidly on your left foot at a cadence of 2.5 to 3 hops per second (25 to 30 foot contacts per 10 seconds) for the prescribed time period, while maintaining relaxed, upright posture. Your left foot should strike the ground in the area of the mid-foot and spring upwards rapidly, as though it were contacting a very hot burner on a stove. Your hips should remain fairly level as you do this; try to minimize vertical displacement of your upper body.
(3) "Box-hop" with "sticks" for 60 seconds on your right foot, rest for a few seconds, and then shift over to 60 seconds of box hopping on your left foot. After resting for a moment, repeat with each foot. The box utilized for this exercise should be sturdy and about six inches in height. To perform the exercise, stand about two meters away from the box, and then hop forward quickly toward the box on one foot only. As you near the box, hop up onto the box surface (continuing to hop on only the chosen foot), and then hop quickly off the "far" side of the box. When you land on the other side, hop forward explosively, i. e., with as little ground-contact time as possible. In this explosive hop, try to avoid significant vertical oscillation of your center mass; you are trying for length, not height. When you land from this explosive hop, continue hopping on the same foot four more hops, and when your foot touches down after the fourth hop. "stick" your position, i. e., and stop movement completely while remaining relaxed and nicely balanced on your single foot. Jog back to the starting point on both feet, and then continue the exercise on the chosen foot until the time limit is up. Following a short rest, do the hopping routine on the other foot.
(4) Complete 10 high-knee explosions with your right leg, rest for a few seconds, and repeat with your left leg. To carry these out, stand with erect but relaxed posture with your fully body-weight supported on your right foot. Begin by jumping very lightly in place on your right foot only, but then suddenly - while maintaining fairly erect posture - jump vertically while swinging your right knee up toward your chest (your left arm should swing forward as your right knee comes up). Land back on your right foot in a relaxed and resilient manner, jump lightly for a few moments, and repeat nine more times, before resting briefly and continuing the pattern on your left leg.
(5) Perform 3X 20 seconds of Shane's In-Place Accelerations. To carry these out, stand with erect but relaxed posture with your feet directly below your shoulders. Begin by simply jogging in place, but then - when you feel ready - begin to dramatically increase your in-place "stride rate", building up fairly quickly to as rapid rate of striding as you can sustain (remember that you are not moving forward to any significant degree). Keep your feet close to the ground as you do this; you're not shooting for high knee lift but rather for dramatically minimized foot-contact times. Maintain erect but relaxed posture. As you accelerate up to "top speed". it sometimes help to turn your legs slightly outward at the hips.
To minimize the risk of injury, at least at first, please make sure that all of these activities are completed on a "forgiving" surface (soft dirt, grass, cushioned artificial turf, or wooden gym floor).
The above quintet of quicksilver exercise will of course enhance the reactivity of your nervous system and thus help to minimize footstrike time. Naturally, strength and coordination of the weight bearing leg are also needed to ensure that energy will not be wasted correcting non-optimal leg and body movements associated with footstrike. As mentioned, the overall idea is to create quick-to-act legs which channel all available energy toward forward propulsion, without the need to correct anti-propulsive movements.
Stay tuned for exercises that strengthens the legs tremendously and improves balance and coordination to a close to maximal extent.
To learn more about A Fine Foot strike (the full article can be read by purchasing Vol.17I ssue 5 of Running Research News) and many more running related topics, simply click-on the Back Issues link, and select the volume and issues number, from the drop-down menu. A subscription to Running Research News is another way to receive valuable information about running. BUY NOW.