Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Training for Runners for Improved Performance & Injury Prevention- Part 3 -Getting Started

So now you hopefully have some understanding of what you may have ahead for you. First of all, you have read Part 1 and understand a little more about the type of commitment you will need to give.  Not only to achieve your running goals, but to do them well and without injury. Second, you read Part 2 and performed a self assessment on yourself and have a little understanding on what movement or muscle imbalance you need to improve on to help you succeed with your goals.

If you have not read Part 1 or Part 2, please do me a huge favor and read those before moving on. Thanks.

Now, how to get started. A few important things you need to have to begin.
  1. The right equipment
  2. Set a goal and put your ego/pride away
  3. And most importantly, A PLAN!
  • The equipment will be a proper investment into your health & goals. Think of it this way, you wouldn't send your child to play a sport with crappy equipment would you? Then why do that to yourself?  The cost is an issue.  I hate to lecture, but it is either make the investment now or pay much more later (medical bills, surgeries, physical therapy).
  • Set a goal. You want to run a half marathon by fall. Great that is a terrific goal. Why are you running in the first place? I ran a half marathon to see if I could do it and I did. Very proud of that achievement. Now if you are training for a half marathon to help you lose weight, my wife and I would both agree that there are far better ways that take less time to lose weight. But again, if this is your goal than so be it.
  • You need to have a plan/schedule for your running progression. This does not just mean mileage either. This means you plan days for recovery/regeneration, strength/prehabilitation, and for your runs.
Here is a list of things that you will need to be successful with your training.
A.   A TERRIFIC pair of
 running shoes!

This is the one piece of equipment that you will need to be the most successful in your training! Go to a running store (not the mall!)  and talk to someone about your goals for running. Running stores hire employees who will take the time to examine your feet and assess what type of runner you are from the way you walk and jog. Then they should give you a few options for shoes. 

Don't make the same mistake I did. I went to the mall and got me a pair of cool looking (and cheap!) running shoes and began training. I ended up going to a running store 2 months later since I was having so much foot cramping and pain when I was running. I found out that I needed to have a stability running shoe and that I was wearing a pair of shoes 1 size TOO SMALL! They gave me options and let me pick the shoe that felt best for me. I did not know that your feet could feel this good!

If you want to learn more about types of running shoes and how they rate and such, RUNNERS WORLD has a shoe advisor, running shoe finder, and running shoe previews available for you to determine what shoe may be best for you.

B.  Training equipment 

You will need some simple training equipment to help you to stay healthy and strong with your training program.  Here is a list of my must haves:

Very many strength coaches and rehab professionals all have their athletes perform a term called "myofascial release" on a daily basis.  With most training programs, "trigger points" develop within muscles.  These trigger points when not addressed may lead to bigger problems down the road.  If you are able to spend 10 minutes per day (especially before and after runs or any type of training) using the foam roller to work out those trigger points then your muscles that you are training so hard will maintain their flexibility, be more responsive to strength training and will recover much faster for the following day. 

This handout by Perform Better demonstrates the technique behind foam rolling. 

b.  Bands
This simple band which costs only about $3, can be used as a very important training partner for your legs.  This band will help to teach your body to stabilize your legs when running.  

I suggest buying 1 yellow, 1 green and 1 blue since they are so cheap so you can continue to progress with your training by adding the appropriate resistance.

c.  Tubing
This is the final piece of your training equipment but just as important.  Tubing is a great way to get you moving appropriately, which is the main focus of this training article.  Basically the bands and tubing will be used not only as strength training but more importantly as corrective exercise for those muscle imbalances.  These tools can be used to help you "switch on" the perfect sequence of appropriate muscles at the appropriate times.  
 I prefer the Gray Cook Band for its versatility in training, but any type of tubing will do. 

Now there are other options that I think are neces
sary to keep yourself performing like a well oiled machine, but for now.  This equipment will do and I will let you decide if you want to get others.  Personally, I would never ever train anyone for any type of sport without using some type of kettlebell training.  There is nothing that MAKES you use your muscles correctly and in unison more than a kettlebell.  I attest that I have never felt stronger and more connected than I do now.  Also if you need more of a reference, then here is one for you to remember.  Lance Armstrong uses kettlebell training to help prepare himself for his comeback.  And you just thought he would get back on the bike and only do that to prepare didn't ya.....

So in the next part of this series I will discuss more about setting your goal and developing your plan.  After that I will work on a strength training workout to compliment your running schedule.  Any comments or questions are greatly appreciated.  

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Reaching Goals

Nikki here.  Mark and I have been doing this challenge since January for our kettlebell bootcamp.  There a few steps that we need to follow each week and we get points for doing these steps.  Well, I have been following this plan to a T. I eat 5-6 meals a day, each meal includes a veggie and a protein and the majority of my meals have been pretty healthy.  I've never eaten so many veggies in my life!!  I work out in class 3 days a week and do other workouts on my own.  I also have been keeping a food diary- something that I have never stuck to before--and it's been 2 months!  

After about the first 2 weeks, I weighed in and was down 3 pounds. I was so excited!  Well, the excitement hasn't lasted because I've been up and down every since.  So this last week I tried to tweak a few things in my diet, so when I weigh in tomorrow we'll see how it goes.  One thing that I have to keep reminding myself so I don't get discouraged is to not worry so much about the numbers on the scale but think about more how I feel and look at myself.  Since we are doing kettlebell training I'm doing a lot more weight training type of exercises than I ever have been and I can definitely tell the difference in my body.  So the scale may not be moving very much, but my body is definitely toning up, so for me that is an accomplishment.  

I know a lot of people (especially women) get hung up by what the number says on the scale.  One way that I am measuring my weight loss success is shopping and trying on clothes! I haven't been shopping a lot since we started this contest, so I thought I'd give it a try.  I went to the mall yesterday and as long as I can remember I've been in between two sizes, erring on the higher size.  Well, I tried on a pair of jeans in my lower of the two sizes and they were way too big! I was really excited.  So I had to go down a size.  I haven't been that size since I was probably 14 years old.  So the numbers on the scale may not be dropping as much as I'd like, but I guess if my clothes are fitting better that I know I'm reaching my goals!  We have 6 weeks left of the contest, so I'm excited where we end up.  

Friday, February 20, 2009

Alwyn Cosgrove's Can a Trainer Help with Results?

Alwyn always backs up what he says with some good science.  Here is a terrific article that helps people to understand the benefits of a workout partner or personal trainer/group exercise instructor.

I know that I have benefited greatly from Nikki and I working out together as well as working in a group setting in our KB Bootcamp Class.


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Training for Runners for Improved Performance & Injury Prevention- Part 2 - Self Assessment

The first thing you SHOULD do if you are going to train the RIGHT way towards your race is to perform a individual body assessment. This assessment is a way to try and determine if muscle imbalances are present within you body. Trust me those imbalances are there. Some are hidden deep within your body, some are more apparent. These imbalances may not be noticeable now but during your training those mild imbalances might pop up at any time and bite you right in the ass (sorry to be harsh, but that is what it feels like).

When I perform the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) it consists of seven total tests and usually takes me a total of 20-30 minutes to be able to determine what muscular imbalances exist and the best way to tackle them. EVERY runner should have a FMS performed once per year. This is the type of screen they run at Athletes Performance Institute for all of their athletes and many pro & college teams take all of their athletes through the screen at least once per year. (To learn more about it and to find FMS certified specialists in your area, check out www.functionalmovement.com)

I am going to explain to you an assessment you can perform on yourself to give you some idea of what muscle imbalances you might be dealing with.


Stand in front of a mirror and place one foot straight ahead and pick the other leg up so you are flexing your hip, knee and ankle joint to a 90 degree angle.

Hold that pose for 60 seconds, then perform the exercise on the other side.

Note if you are having trouble anywhere. Can you hold the 90/90/90 position for the whole time without losing your balance? 

Were you able to hold the position with your waist line level and the hip, knee, and foot all in a straight line?

Most people have some problems arise in this position. 1-they cannot keep their balance, 2- their foot rotates outward towards their body, or 3- they cannot keep their thigh parallel to the floor.

How did you grade on one side compared to the other? Was one side fairly easy but the other side was completely difficult? If the answer is yes, then I am afraid you have a significant muscle imbalance present within your body. This imbalance needs to be cleared up before you start getting into heavy mileage.

Again in front of a mirror or better yet have someone video record you performing a stationary lunge. Keep both feet pointing straight ahead and take a large step out in front. Now in that position with good posture, drop the back knee to the floor and touch lightly and come back up. Perform about 6 reps each side if you can.

How did you do? Did you have trouble keeping your balance? Did either of your knees move in or out to help stabilize you? Did either of your feet turn outward in an attempt to provide you with more stability? This will be what happens when you are running, especially when you get tired or "hit your wall".


lay down on your back in a doorway. Have the doorway line up directly middle the distance of your thigh muscle. Both toes pointing towards the ceiling.

Now place a rolled up towel underneath your knee joint on one leg

The leg that has the towel placed underneath your knee you are going to try and keep your foot, knee and hip all in a straight line and pressure onto the towel roll. With the other leg you are going to lift it as high as you can without bending your knee or losing a straight line with your foot, hip and knee

Were you able to get your heel on the up leg past the doorway without having to cheat on either leg? No? Then were you able to get your heel past your knee joint of the down leg?

How was one side compared to the other?

Next stand up and try and touch your toes without bending your knees. Was it easy or hard? Were you able to perform it?

Which one of these tests did you do the absolutely worst at? Better yet, was there one side that you rocked on and the other side was terrible? Then that is the movement you need to improve to make you a better/less injury prone runner.

Why are these movement important to running? Let me tell you.

SINGLE LEG STANCE-this movement mimics a runners actual running gait. The exercise helps to test stabilization on one leg while it is in a weight bearing position (closed chain), while the other leg is stabilizing in a non-weightbearing position. If you had trouble balancing on the down leg or have trouble keeping the up leg in proper alignment then the test is telling you that you will not be running with optimal technique and are subject to problems developing due to this imbalance. Now think about how many times you run... If each time you step you perform it wrong think how that adds up. Think of it this way. What would happen if you hit 10,000 golf shots incorrectly one right after the other? This is the same thing only with running.

LUNGE-the importance of the lunge is that your body is trying to use its stabilizers during the movement but now the exercise is more dynamic than the single leg stance assessment. Now your body also has to resist a rotational force put upon your body. This helps to tell if your muscles can dynamically stabilize while you are moving

STRAIGHT LEG RAISE- Many of you probably think that this is a test of how flexible your hamstrings are. It is to an extent. Actually your hamstrings don't usually get "tight" they just get overused alot. This is a great test to see how one leg can stabilize while the other is moving dynamically and stabilizing as well. Yes the hamstring needs to work correctly and be able to lengthen. But sometimes the hamstring is not the one to be blamed, at times it is a tight hip flexor on the opposite side.  This is why I have you try and touch your toes after performing the test.  If you were able to do so with not too much trouble then it is not the hamstring to blame.

If you are not all too sure which movement/assessment was the worst then start with the straight leg raise and move your way to the single leg stance and finally the lunge. Feel free to video record yourself and send it to me. Probably the best way to do this is sign up for a youtube account and upload the video and then send me the link to it.

Need more?  Feel free to contact me at mark.snow@vanderbilt.edu and ask about the Injury Prevention & Human Performance Program (IPHP).   There are also package options available that can either include a FMS screen and 30 minute corrective exercise session or you can also get 60 minute workout sessions as well. 

Not close enough to be screened?  You can again check the FMS directory at www.functionalmovment.com.  Other resouces include: the Atheltic Body in Balance by Gray Cook which includes a more specific self screen procedure (5 movements) or Core Performance for Endurance Athletes by Mark Verstegen

The active straight leg raise and lunge were taken from the Functional Movement Screen developed by Gray Cook and Lee Burton.  The Single Leg Stance test was taken from the Core Performance for Endurance Athletes by Mark Verstegen.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Training for Runners for Improved Performance & Injury Prevention-Part 1-Introduction


Back in 2006, my fiancee (and now wife) decided to compete in a 1/2 marathon to help her get in better shape for our wedding. She ran in the race, had a terrific time and I learned a lot about her determination. After the wedding, we decided to compete in a 1/2 marathon in 2007 for something that we could do together as a couple. It did help us to make our marriage and friendship stronger and there was nothing like the feeling that I got when we finished the race hand in hand. I never ever thought I (at 220 lbs) would be able to run and finish a 1/2 marathon.

But I paid a price for my achievement. I turned into the typical runner. I felt that I did not need, (nor did not have time for) flexibility, weight training, and alternate forms of training. I only had time to run. As I built up my tolerance for distance I felt great! Never ran more than 2 miles before and now was training with 6-8 miles on long days and felt great. Until one time I was running on the indoor track before the race and I felt it, "crack, crack, crack". My knee started to pop. I tried to ignore it (like most runners do) but then the pain began to enter. I developed IT band syndrome (runners knee). I had pushed myself to far and did not maintain the form and strength I needed to prevent injury and keep my performance. The next 2 months I battled with my knee pain using ultrasound, rehab, and the foam roller. I entered the 1/2 marathon with a knee brace on, taped as well and full of ibuprofen. I made it to mile 10 with no pain, but then I hit my wall and it felt like a knife was stabbing me in my knee with every step of my right foot. I finished the race, almost crying, if it were not for my wife coaching me the rest of the way I would most definitely have quit the race. Don't let this be you.

You might think that this instance will not happen to you. You have run in 1/2 and full marathons before and did not have any problems. All you need to train is to run, run and run some more. I promise you it will catch up to you sometime. Every runner hits their wall at some time and that is when you are risking your overall health by pushing through that pain.

Believe me I have experienced it, but more important I have seen it up close and personal. I met a man who ran all his life and just had a total knee replacement. He told me "if I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't. I would find something else to do other than run, because all of what I am going through right now is not worth anything I achieved when I ran." I have seen members of my gym who had to find other forms of exercise to perform cause there was just too much damage to their knees for them to be able to run anymore. And this fact just killed their spirits.

I also see the young ones who come into physical therapy with pain associated with running. Some are training for the 1/2 for the very first time and began having pain and symptoms. Some have trained for years and wonder why now they are having problems when they ran in 3 marathons last year. I tell them that they are the lucky ones. They don't have as much damage now that they would have if they kept it up for another 5-10 years when then the damage is irreversible. If they can correct their imbalances, recognize when their form gets sloppy, and get on a true training schedule then they are on the path to a better lifestyle that includes running.

There are so many runners here in Nashville, TN and I would say that a day does not go by that I am not working with, in some aspect, a runner who is recovering from some type of injury. It has gotten to the point that it inspired me to write this article. I am tired of seeing you runners who only make time to run and nothing else and end up paying a huge price. Think of this, spend a little time and money now to be happy or spend a lot of time and money later being miserable. Your choice.

Why am I doing this? What credentials do I have? What do I know that others don't? I understand muscle imbalance. I understand what poor posture, improper joint mobility, improper joint stability, and improper running mechanics can do to hinder running performance and lead to injury. Most important, I have gotten runners of all ages back to running pain free.

For example: I was very fortunate to rehabilitate a terrific gentleman in physical therapy 3 months ago who was suffering from a ton of damage under his kneecap and arthritis within his knee joint from years of running. Over time that we worked together he developed proper mobility and tissue quality. He understood the idea of improving stability in his joints (especially his hips) and he developed strength and the ability to use his stabilizing muscles at the right times to help protect his knees. He walked out of physical therapy able to walk and run pain free.

Why was he so successful?

  1. He listened to everything I had to say, asked questions, and always told me what he was feeling during the exercises (good communication)

  2. He committed completely to the program and used the time when he had knee pain to develop strength in other aspects of his body (checked his ego at the door)

  3. He had his AHA moment (he found out how to key his muscles to work and make his knee pain disappear)-(very determined)

  4. He did everything I asked him to do. He never tried to do new things or train more or run farther than I asked him to do (he trusted me)

Now on the last day of therapy I instructed him on some important points.

  • Stick with the plan

  • understand that he has irreversible knee damage and that he will have good days and bad days

  • listen to his knee and know when he could run, how far he could run and when he needed to rest

  • understand when he should cross train

  • understand the importance of tissue quality and active rest

  • understand the importance of interval training when running

In the next part I am going to teach all of you my plan for training for your running goals. This could be if you are training for a 5k, 10k, 1/2 or Full Marathon. Overall the important principles still apply. The other chapters will include:

  • necessary equipment for success
  • self assessment
  • mobility & flexibility
  • stability & strength
  • reactive neuromuscular training
  • running mechanics and "sloppy running"
  • interval training
  • cross training
  • running/training schedules
  • putting it all together

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Sunday workout

It's been a while since I've posted something, so I thought I better get to doing it more often:)  Every Sunday Mark and I have this kettlebell workout that we like to do. I actually found it on the dragon door forum and it's a workout that Tracey Reifkind did and from what I read she lost over 100 pounds, so I know I'm going to keep trying her workout!  All in all the workout takes us about 1/2 hour or so, so not too bad.  It was extremely nice out today in Nashville, so we went to the park to do our workout.  Definitely beats doing it in our tiny apartment living room:)

The workout has seven different sets in it.  So I do a set then while I rest Mark goes, then we switch back.  Today Mark was so happy cause lil' red came in the mail, so he had his 24kg and my goalswas to use a 16 kg for the whole thing (I'm usually alternating between a 12kg and 16kg for the most part).  

Here's the workout:
1)  20 one arm swings, switch (without putting the bell down) then 20 with the other arm.

2) 10 one are swings, switch, 10 one arm swings other arm, then alternating one swing left and then one swing right for a total of 40 swings (or 20 each side).

3) 1 left one are swing, switch, 1 right one arm swing, keep alternating for a total of 60 swings or 30 each arm.
4) Swing, clean and press 10 times L side, switch, swing, clean and press 10 times right side

5) Swing, clean and press 1 time L side, switch, swing, clean and press 1 times R side, switch, do 20 total or 10 each side.
6) Swing, snatch 10 times L side, switch, swing, snatch 10 times R side.
7) Swing, snatch 1 time L side, switch, swing, snatch 1 time R side, then keep alternating for a total of 10 times each side or 20 times total.

So there you have it! It may be a little different then what Tracey had been doing, but that's where our concept came from.  We've been doing it for a few weeks now.  I did use the 16kg for the majority of the workout.  I did have to use the 12 kg on the presses when I did the 10 continuous on the right side. I did 5 with a 12, 5 with a 16, other than that, 16 all the way, so I was pretty excited about that!  My hands are pretty torn up--I'm just now learning how to take care of them a little better.  Mark taped them all up for me- I feel like Rocky right now with all this tape on my hands, but it'll keep me from further injuring them!

Kettlebell Training in the Nashville News