Category Archives: running

Run Less, Run Faster

What would you say if I said that you could run less miles and get faster just by adding a couple of short high intensity interval workouts into your running program?

If you have ever trained for an endurance event, then you know that part of the training involves long, slow runs in order to build up your mileage. These types of runs are essential for physiological and psychological reasons. However, in order to become a faster, more efficient runner, you need to do more than just long runs. Three main factors determine endurance performance:

  1. Maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max): the maximum amount of oxygen that an individual can use during exercise. Elite endurance athletes have a higher VO2max and the body is better able to utilize and supply oxygen to muscles;
  2. Anaerobic threshold: the level of exercise intensity at which lactic acid accumulates faster that the body can get rid of it;
  3. Running economy: basically how efficient of a runner you are.

In order to become a faster/better runner you need to improve one or all of the above factors. The million-dollar question is how? Although most runners think running longer is better, research has shown that this is not the case.

A recent systematic review examined the short- and long-term effects of interval training on performance in recreational distance runners, compared to traditional long continuous running. All of the intervention studies used interval training for a minimum of 4 weeks and maximum of 10 weeks. Interval training consisted of repeated short to long bouts of running at close to 100% VO2max, interspersed with recovery periods. They all included 2-4 interval sessions per week, combined with traditional long, slow runs.

Overall, they discovered that interval training had beneficial effects on endurance performance, despite reductions in overall training mileage. Specific benefits of interval training versus a training program, which focused solely on long runs at low-moderate intensity included:

  • Improved VO2max;
  • Improved anaerobic threshold;
  • Improved running economy;
  • Delayed muscle fatigue;
  • Ability to sustain muscular performance at faster speeds
  • Activated a greater number of muscle fibers
  • Runners were less likely to get injured, which could be related to increased strength, as well as decreased training volume and time.

So where do you start?

Adding at least two days of short interval runs into your running plan will improve your performance. The above authors found that the most beneficial results were with intervals of less than a minute, with a work:rest ratio of 1:1 or 1:2, performed at close to maximum intensity.

Sample Interval program:

10-minute warm-up of jogging at an easy pace, followed by 4 x 30 sec. repetitions (covering 90-200 m), with a one min. rest, repeating 4 sets. Follow this with a 10 min. cool down jog.

Interval training must be integrated into a running program with long, continuous runs. Both training regimes are needed to improve endurance performance. Workload and intensity of the interval program should change throughout the training program, according to training goals and periodization.

Garcia-Pinillosa et al. (2016). How does high-intensity intermittent training affect running performance in recreational endurance runners? Acute and chronic adaptations. A systematic review. Journal of Sport and Health Science. In press

 

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Is Barefoot the way to go? New Research in Running Shoe Design

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Whether you’re a veteran marathon runner or newbie at jogging, we’ve all experienced the daunting task of trying to find the perfect running shoe. The criteria are usually pretty standard: comfort, affordability and look. This seems pretty basic until you approach the running shoe display and have dozens of shoes staring back at you. In this blog we’re going to discuss some of the recent research on running shoe design and injury prevention.

What are the different types of shoes?

Minimalist:

These are running shoes that mimic a barefoot running style. They are flexible, lightweight and have a low heel to toe drop. A low heel–toe drop simply means that there is less “shoe” between your heel and the ground (see picture below, the shoe on the left has a low heel-toe drop vs the shoe on the right). It has been shown that a low heel-toe drop encourages a mid-forefoot strike pattern, as opposed to a big chunky heel that encourages heel striking.20160203_141814Some common brands include Vibram Fivefingers, New Balance Minimus and Nike Free.

Neutral

These are meant for the average foot that doesn’t over-pronate or supinate. They are cushioned and have support, but have very little correction for any biomechanical issues.

Stability

These are meant for people who have low arches and mildly pronate during walking. There is medial and lateral support built into the shoe to help control the amount of pronation.

Motion Control

These are meant for people who have really flat feet and severely over-pronate. They provide a lot of biomechanical support to prevent the foot from falling in. You would not wear an orthotic with this type of shoe since it already is meant to correct foot alignment.

For years running shoe selection has been based on your foot shape and arches. For example, if you had flat feet and over-pronated, you would be given a motion-control shoe. Unfortunately, there is little to no research to support this method of shoe selection (Knapik et al., 2014). Furthermore, research has shown that motion-control and stability shoes don’t always control foot pronation or lower leg biomechanics, nor do they prevent injuries or lead to increased comfort.

So why do salespeople and Runners World magazine still advocate their running shoe selection based on your arch type and biomechanics? Perhaps because running shoes are a billion dollar industry and they don’t want you to know about the conflicting research.

If running shoes aren’t doing what they’re meant to do, is barefoot the way to go?

With the increased popularity in barefoot and minimalist running, a plethora of research has emerged around the topic. So what does the research show in terms of traditional running shoes vs barefoot/minimalist shoes? Research has shown that traditional running shoes will change your natural biomechanics, causing heel striking, pronation, and improper knee alignment. As a result, they also lead to a decreased cadence and increased vertical loading; all of which have been shown to lead to injuries. On the other hand, running barefoot, or in minimal shoes, has been linked to mid- and forefoot striking, lighter strides, and proper alignment of the lower body, which has in turn resulted in a higher cadence and decreased ground reaction force. Although no long-term studies have been completed to date, the current research suggests that barefoot/minimalist running MAY actually prevent running related injuries.

Based on the promising research around barefoot/minimalist running, should you throw away the motion control shoes that you’ve worn for the past 20 years and buy a pair of minimalist shoes, and try to run your regular 10 km loop? NO!!! You will get injured and jump on the Vibram class-action lawsuit requesting your money back. Transferring to a barefoot or minimal running shoe has been linked to an increase in injury, IF the transition is done too quickly. The rule of thumb for transitioning to a minimal shoe is one extra minute per day starting with one minute. It’s a very slow progression and you must listen to your body. If your Achilles or the bottom of your foot starts to hurt, you’re transitioning too fast. Barefoot/minimalist running isn’t for everyone, and people with certain health conditions (i.e., diabetes with decreased sensation in the foot), foot deformities or current injuries should not be transitioning to a minimal shoe.

If you want to learn more about running shoe selection, I strongly recommend that you check out Blaise Dubois’s website. A couple years ago I had the pleasure of taking a course with Blaise, a physiotherapist and international leader in the prevention and treatment of running injuries. A lot of the research in this blog is based on his work around running shoe design and injury prevention. Through research he has developed a number of great tools for runners to help guide and educate them on proper shoe selection. Check out his site therunningclinic.com for more great information.

If you want to learn more about the prevention and treatment of running injures, chat with one of the therapists at Sheddon.

Knapik et al. Injury-reduction effectiveness of prescribing running shoes on the basis of foot arch height: summary of military investigations. Journal of Orthopaedic Sports Physical Therapy. 201444:80512.

Land Softer, Run Faster

In our last post, we spoke about how an in-depth gait analysis performed by a physiotherapist or pedorthist can be a great way to prevent running injuries. In this post, we are talking about your stride.

The biomechanics of your stride affects both your safety and your speed. Running with a forefoot strike can reduce your risk of stress fracture, and now new Harvard research shows that forefoot running puts more spring in your step. This technique immediately puts force on your arches so they act like springs, explains researcher Adam Daoud.

By contrast, heel striking stretches your arches after your forefoot and heel have touched the ground, producing less energy to propel you forward. Another possible spring snatcher: too much arch support in your shoes.

Disclaimer! Current trending footwear sell their products with claims that forefoot striking is the best for everyone, however this is not the case–especially for those with lower limb pathologies. If you are wondering if “barefoot running”, “forefoot striking”, or “mid-foot striking” is right for you, contact your Sheddon Physiotherapist at (905) 849-4576

By Dana Clark

Helping You Run More Efficiently and Injury Free

Gait analysis involves having a certified pedorthist check for irregularities in your stride and muscle imbalances in your body by watching you walk. An examination of the shoes you usually wear shows if you’re in the right kind of footwear.

And a brief run on the treadmill with and without shoes lets you know if it might be a good idea for you to consider adapting your cadence and footstrike to run efficiently and injury free.

At some pedorthic clinics, patients are videotaped running on the treadmill as a helpful gait analysis tool.

“The side camera view of patients running on the treadmill is really valuable,” says Neil Rosenthal, certified pedorthist. It’s an opportunity for people to see themselves running. If someone doesn’t belive us that they are landing on their heel, they are easily convinced when they see the video.” Rosenthal explains that this visual evidence encourages patients to chanage their shoe or their technique or to be open to adding flexibility and strength training to their workout to correct muscle imbalances.

“The video fine-tunes their footwear choices,” says Dana Hall, certified pedorthist.”running mechanics are different from walking mechanics.” Hall notices that clients see if they are striking with their heel and driving that heel into the ground, causing a lot of impact.

“Improving running technique through gait analysis is not just for elites,” says Hall. “It applies to any distance, any age and any level.”

If you would like to know how efficient your gait is or curious as to what is the best footwear for you, contact your Sheddon Physiotherapist at (905)849-4576

By Dana Clark