Runners Connect Tue, 05 May 2015 03:13:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Are You on the Verge of Overtraining? Mon, 04 May 2015 09:00:48 +0000

More recreational and beginner runners are suffering from overtraining. Are you one of them? We will help you speed recovery to get back to running faster
Subliminal (or maybe not so?) messages all around us tell to keep pushing harder; “sweat is fat crying”, or how about the more traditional “go hard or go home”. You know how we feel about taking it easy on your recovery days, and we have talked about how you can run 23% faster if you run 80% easy, but what if you have already overdone it, and you managed to avoid the dreaded “i” word, but you just feel exhausted on every run.

We know just how awful that feels:

Each coach at Runners Connect has been there before, and we want to make sure you can recognize the symptoms, so you can get back to feeling good while running as quickly as possible.

Overtraining syndrome might not be something you’ve ever thought about or even heard of, but according to Dr Mark Wotherspoon, Consultant in Sport and Exercise Medicine at and Southampton Football Club in the UK, it’s on the increase, especially amongst recreational and beginner runners.

We are going to show you how to self diagnose overtraining, so you can get on your way to recovery quickly.

What is overtraining syndrome?

The term ‘overtraining’ can be misleading as it implies that ‘training’ is the root of the problem, when in actual fact, the individual runner’s ability to recover is the key factor.

‘I actually prefer the term Under Performance Syndrome (UPS)’ explains Dr Wotherspoon ‘Overtraining syndrome implies that the athlete is engaging in a high volume of training, when in fact what’s far more important is the volume of training in relation to what’s going on in the rest of your life.

Here’s the deal:

Your body isn’t a machine and it can’t cope with a full day in the office then 3 hours of training on top. We’re seeing more and more recreational and club level athletes who are trying to juggle families, a full time job, and trying to train like a professional athlete. It’s just never going to work and will inevitably lead to breakdown’.

It is often only with the benefit of hindsight that runners fully recognize periods of overtraining. Ironically the normal reaction to poor results is to increase the volume and intensity of training even more, putting the ‘underperformance’ down to not training hard enough.

The spiral of overtraining and poor performance then begins, and if not caught in time, leads to full blown overtraining syndrome. It can be difficult to define the line between training hard and overtraining.

Listen to this:

‘UPS develops on a continuum’ explains Dr Wotherspoon ‘the initial stages are known as ‘over-reaching’, where the runner may be fatigued, but after a few days rest can recover and resume training. However, if you ignore those initial signs of tiredness and mood changes, continuing to train without sufficient rest; you could end up with full blown UPS; and recovery could take months.

The difference a few days can make; over reaching takes a few days to recover, overtraining…
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Symptoms of UPS

Dr Richard Budgett , Chief Medical Officer for the 2012 Olympic Games and former Director of the British Olympic Medical Centre is one of the world’s leading experts on UPS.

A rowing Olympic gold medallist in 1984, he knows a thing or two about exercise and has dedicated his career to research and treatment of UPS in endurance athletes. He defines UPS as “a persistent, unexplained performance deficit (recognized by coach and athlete) despite 2 weeks of relative rest”.

It gets worse:

Despite years of research, there is still no official diagnostic test for UPS, and it is notoriously difficult to diagnose and quantify. In addition, signs and symptoms of UPS are complex and multifactorial.

He suggests however, that if an athlete is showing a number of the following symptoms and other medical conditions have been eliminated, then UPS must be suspected:

  • History of heavy training and competition (relative to lifestyle)
  • Decrease in training capacity (especially ability to recover from sessions)
  • Drop in performance
  • Fatigued, washed out, drained and lacking in energy
  • Depression
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Increased anxiety and irritability
  • Sleep disturbances (found in 90% of cases) insomnia, nightmares, poor sleep quality
  • Frequent infections (particularly upper respiratory tract)
  • Elevated resting heart rate
  • Mild muscle soreness, general aches and pains
  • Increased incidence of injuries

Full list of the signs and symptoms of Under Performance Syndrome (Overtraining) to refer back…
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Dr Wotherspoon agrees. “There are three main parts to UPS” he explains “Immune suppression is the first. People train hard, don’t get enough recovery, they become immune suppressed, suffer from colds and illness and keep training harder and harder, further suppressing the immune system.

Second is more psychological. We often see months of low-grade depression, which has gone before UPS. Athletes fall into a cycle of low level depression, low mood and lack of sleep. This is a much bigger part than many people realize.

Thirdly, performance in races and training drops off, runners are exhausted and run slower times, but then train harder to try and improve their performance, this leads to even lower performances and a vicious circle”.

How long to recovery?

If you recognize a number of these symptoms or patterns, it could indicate that you are on the verge of UPS. Budgett advises that, depending on the severity and duration of the symptoms, you need to significantly reduce the volume and intensity of your schedule or even stop training altogether.

Hopefully within 2 weeks of rest or light training, you should start to see some improvements and be able to gradually build back up again. Also, spend this time reassessing your training plan, pay attention to good nutrition and get as much sleep as you can.

Who gets it?

The risk of overtraining syndrome is something we all need to be concerned about, not just elite runners.

Although it’s thought that around 65% of elite endurance athletes will experience some symptoms of ‘overtraining’ during their sporting careers; what’s more worrying is the rapid increase of UPS in recreational and average club level runners; due to combining heavy training with an already stressful lifestyle.

This is surprising:

It’s thought that more than 20% of beginner and club level runners may suffer extended periods of overtraining syndrome at some point in their lives.

If you have a typical ‘A type’ personality, you’re more likely to be at risk.

Characteristics such as being driven, determined, successful, high achieving, and competitive are regularly seen in those who suffer. “You do have to do a reasonable amount of exercise to suffer from UPS” says Dr Wotherspoon “Cycling and triathlon are becoming more common, and people find they get quite good and then want to push on, compete in their age group and they try to train like a professional athlete. You just can’t do that on top of a full day at work”.

More than 20% of beginner and recreational runners (65% of elites) may suffer extended periods…
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Training type

Research has shown that athletes who undertake prolonged periods of high volume and repetitive training are most at risk. It would seem that lack of variety and lack of recovery are the two biggest risk factors – yet another reason to mix up your training and keep things fresh.

Periodization in the training program is therefore paramount. This basically means that the schedule must have periods of hard training or ‘over reaching’ with planned phases of recovery allowing the body to repair and adapt.

Runners often find it hard to accept that it’s essential to rest and are scared to take a day off. But it’s during those essential ‘recover’ phases when the body gets stronger and faster.


What amounts to ‘too much’ training for one runner, will be insufficient for another; we’re all different.

What’s the bottom line?

Learn to listen to your body, get in tune with the signs and signals, and act on the feedback.

If you’re constantly weary and struggling through training, then back off and cut your training load down before overtraining takes hold. UPS should not be inevitable and if caught in time you can head it off, recover and learn from your mistakes.

Training doesn’t have to be hard all the time; have the confidence to do a bit less and take more rest days. More isn’t always better.

Next Monday we are going to cover what you can do to Recover from URP, but until then, if you suspect this may be you, take a read of our previous posts on the topic:

Defining the line between hard training and overtraining

The causes and symptoms of overtraining 

Eating yourself out of overtraining

How fatigue, illness, and overtraining can affect your resting heart rate

This post may have saved me from falling into the overtraining trap; take a read!
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Are You Too Big to Run an Ultra? Mon, 27 Apr 2015 09:00:47 +0000

Ultra runners definitely have a "look", but does this mean if your body is not the same as a typical ultra marathoner that you will struggle to run well? We show you the science of how this is not the case, and what factors do affect your performance.When you go to an ultramarathon event for the first time, you might find ultra runners a bit intimidating. You may even consider if you want to still compete in the event. Do I really belong here?

Ultra runners are rail-thin, outfitted with gels, sports drinks, and other supplies, and look like they’re built to run for miles without so much as breaking a sweat. Some have beards that would make Grizzly Adams jealous.

Of course, ultra runners are also known for being as nice as they come, but you can still see why a newcomer might wonder whether their body was built for an ultramarathon.

We are going to show you what we found about size and running faster in the ultra distance races, and then give you the training advice you need to get started with your ultra marathon plan.

Factors affecting ultramarathon success

With the increasing popularity of races beyond 26.2 miles, there are a lot of opportunities for researchers to investigate which types of people perform best over very long races. We already looked at how age affects your ultra marathon ability. Now it is time to look into another variable; size.

Do slightly-built, lightweight runners have a distinct advantage in the ultramarathon?

A slew of studies published by researchers in Switzerland, led by Beat Knechtle at the University of Zurich, suggests they might.

In a 2013 study, seventeen participants in a five-day, multi-stage ultramarathon were weighed, measured, and examined before the race.1 Then, once the researchers recorded the finish times of the runners, they used statistical analysis to determine whether variables like height, weight, and body fat percentage would be predictive of race performance.


Most measurements, including (perhaps surprisingly) height and body fat percentage, showed no correlation with finish time. However, higher body mass and having a larger upper arm circumference were both associated with slower finish times.

Interesting read! @Runners_Connect found no correlation between height or body fat percentage and ultra marathon…
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It makes sense too:

More weight to carry around will slow you down, especially in your upper body, where strong, powerful muscles don’t “carry their own weight” like strong legs do.

Notably, calf or thigh circumference were not associated with slower race times.

The findings concerning upper-arm circumference were in agreement with an earlier study by several of the same researchers. In that study, the researchers used a similar protocol, measuring nineteen male finishers of a 750-mile, 17-day race across Germany.2

This time, only upper arm circumference predicted finish time, not body mass. Other factors, like body fat percentage and height, were also not associated with finish time.

How does this compare to research focused on more (pardon the oxymoron) reasonable ultramarathon races?

One study examining competitors in a 24-hour race found no association between body size measurements, but did find that personal best at the marathon was associated with a better finish in the race, with faster marathoners covering more ground over the day-long competition.3

A 2010 study examined 169 runners competing in a 62 mile race again found higher body mass, higher percent body fat, and larger upper arm circumference associated with slower race times.4

Reliable explanation for variability?

Fortunately for larger runners with an inclination to try an ultramarathon, these factors, though statistically significant, only explain 20-40% of the variability in race times. The same 2010 study found that training volume and training speed were much stronger predictors of finish time, with more training and a faster training pace being associated with faster finish times.

Likewise, another study of 62-mile ultramarathon participants found that training volume and marathon personal record were the best predictors of ultra performance, far stronger than body size.5

Marathon PRs and training volume are better predictors of ultra marathon success than body size
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How much of an advantage does it give?

The science shows that there is probably a small advantage to being lighter and skinnier, especially in your upper body. Notably, being tall doesn’t seem to be a disadvantage at all. We already found that bigger runners do not have any higher of an injury risk.

Big biceps, however, don’t do much to help propel you up a rutted trail when you’re doing a fifty-miler.

Whats the bottom line?

It’s not worth fretting about whether or not you are “built” for the ultramarathon—you have a lot more control over how you train and how you prepare, and since these have a bigger impact on your finish time in a super-long race, it’s a much better use of your time to focus on increasing your training volume, doing some faster running, and even dropping down to the marathon to improve your PR if you want to run well in an ultramarathon.

How to train for an Ultra

To help you with this, here is a quick review (and a link to a more in-depth guide) on optimal training for the Ultra. Follow these steps to get started:

  1. Build a solid foundation
  2. Make injury prevention a priority
  3. Be prepared for accumulated fatigue
    • Back to back long runs of 3 hours on Saturday followed by 3-4 hours on Sunday will get your legs used to running tired
  4. Run at “forever pace”
    • Consider using a heart rate monitor to bring the pace down if you struggle to keep it easy enough, but you should be running at a pace you could “run all day” at
  5. Use the split run method
    • Break a 25 mile run up into a 15 mile run in the morning and a 10 mile run in the evening
  6. Continue to cross train, especially long bike rides over hilly terrain
  7. Stay in the here and now
    • Accept that there will be many ups and downs in the race, but you can only focus on the mile you are in, and keep going even throughout those moments your mind is finding reasons for you to stop

For further tips, check out our post on How to Train for an Ultra.

I feel much better about the ultra marathon after reading this post from @Runners_Connect about body size and…
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How to Accept Change & Progress as a Master Mon, 20 Apr 2015 09:00:19 +0000

When your true PRs are behind you, racing motivation can drop. We show you how to reset the PR clock, try new distances, & find other ways to enjoy running.This has been the year for me that most runners dread:

The year when it becomes apparent that most of my PRs are behind me. And strangely enough, I’m ok with that.

I’m 49, which isn’t exactly washed up. It might even mean that I could pull off a PR or two at some longer distances—I know my share of folks who have done just that.

But since I’ve been running for about 17-18 years, and training pretty hard throughout all those years, reality is that I probably am past my prime running age.

For those of you fellow master’s who got a later start on your running, you probably have several years left to enjoy PRs. The general rule of thumb is that most runners, regardless of the age they start running, can expect to improve speed for five or more years.

But for those of you like me with years of mileage in your legs, the writing might be on the wall.

The best news is:

The most substantial declines truly don’t set in until around the age of 75 years old, according to a study by Baker and Yang, et al 1. And with the right types of supplemental strength and stability training, which you can find here, you can help offset some of the age-related performance drops you might otherwise experience.

Regardless, at some point or another, all runners must face a backwards slide.

What I want to address is how to switch your mindset from PR chasing, to enjoyment chasing. It’s all about redefining what makes you happy as a runner.

Pursue Ultras

Many master’s runners choose this time in life to start hitting the trails, and there’s good reason for this. Trails afford runners the opportunity to switch up the muscles they use, improve smaller stabilizing muscles, and get a break from the harder surfaces of concrete or macadam.

Take all of that and translate it over to running ultras, and many master’s runners find a home.

With well-earned patience from years of running and life experiences in general, master’s runners often do a better job of pacing in the longer distances than their younger counterparts. In fact, a study by Zingg, Rust, et al (2), found that master’s runners dominated 24-hour ultramarathons over a 13-yr. period.

Beyond the competitive advantage of being a master’s runner in ultras, getting on trails definitely brings a new sense of enjoyment to running.

Imagine this:

There’s something about getting muddy, jumping over logs and roots and seeing a wide variety of changing terrain that makes a runner feel like a kid again.

If you haven’t given the trails a shot, now’s the time.

If you want to read more about ultra running, check out our recent posts on how to train for an ultra, and how to pace an ultra.

I am learning a whole new perspective about masters running from @misszippy1 #runnersconnect
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Reset the PR clock

Not convinced trails are for you and want to keep seeing what you can do on the road or the track? There are plenty of options for that, even if your lifetime best times are behind you.

One option is to start paying attention to your results in terms of age grading. New to this term? Developed by the World Association of Veteran Athletes, age grading gives you a set of tables to compare your times by age and gender.

The tables work by recording the world record performance standard for each age at each distance, for men and women.

Here’s the deal:

If a 65-yr. old male runs a 45-min. 10k, he can compare that to the world record for his age and that distance and get a percentage rating for his performance. This allows master’s runners to theoretically even the playing field when comparing their times to their younger counterparts.

Another option is to reset that PR clock with each new age group.

You get a clean slate with each new age group, and compete against yourself throughout that five-year period. This helps keep you motivated, and look at what you can do versus what you used to be able to do.

Exclusive bonus: Download our Age Grading Performance Calculator. It’s an excel spreadsheet that makes it easy to calculate your age graded performance to compare yourself against those young guns or your former self. Download yours for free here.

Awesome! I calculated my age graded performance, you can too!
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New Opportunities

You can also focus on distances you’ve never tried before as a younger athlete.

Say you spent the better part of your 30s chasing a marathon PR and never got around to seeing what you could do in the 10-mile or half-marathon distances, why not try now? Every new distance is a chance at a new PR.

Finally, there’s always the option of running just to enjoy it, without the added element of “training.” You can leave the watch at home, try new routes and maybe even find new/different running partners with which to share the miles.

Whats the bottom line?

Regardless of which avenue you choose to travel, running as a master’s means anything but the end of the road. It can be a time to hit the reset button, find a new favorite distance, or just relax and enjoy the miles without the pressure of competition.

The options are limitless, and if you want to see how other inspiring masters runners are doing it, check out our podcast episodes with Kathy Martin, Margaret Webb, and Doug Kurtis. Something to listen to while you get out there on those new perspective runs.

This article from @misszippy1 for @Runners_Connect has great advice for masters runners!
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What is Your Ideal Marathon Temperature? Mon, 13 Apr 2015 09:00:28 +0000

The weather on race day for the marathon can make a big difference to performance, but do you have an ideal racing temperature? We tell you what yours is!After the long runs and hard workouts are over, and you are going crazy during the taper, what do we tend to do in the 10 days before racing the marathon?

Focus on race week nutrition, and obsess over the weather of course!

We wonder how each possible condition would affect our performance, but what if there was a way to find out what temperature would be best for you, then you could plan for a race in that climate.

Turns out we do have ideal racing temperatures, and they differ depending on your time goal.

In this article, we looked into the science behind this, and show you what temperature you are likely to finish highest in your race.

A while back, we took a look at the science behind how extremes in temperature can affect your running ability. The physiology behind this can be interesting and informative, but ultimately it only confirms what seasoned road runners already know:

Temperatures that are too hot or too cold spell trouble on race day.

Lab research is great for studying the biological effects of hot and cold temperatures on a runner, but it’s not quite as well-suited for answering the other big question about the weather:

“What’s the perfect temperature for a marathon race?”

To answer that, you need to do some serious number-crunching on a big set of data. Fortunately for us, a team of researchers in France and Lebanon were up for the task.

“Big data meets the big-city marathon”

In the study, published in 2012 study, Nour El Helou and colleagues combined ten years’ worth of results from six of the world’s biggest marathons: Berlin, Boston, Chicago, London, New York, and Paris.1 These totaled almost 1.8 million finishers among the sixty races. By combining the finish times from each of these races with historical weather data on the ambient temperature on the day of the race, El Helour et al. were able to determine how race-day temperature affected finish times.

Instead of looking at how specific runners responded to changes in temperature, like a laboratory study might do, El Helour et al. instead looked at how the time required to finish in a certain place in a race changed with different temperatures.

The marathon time required to finish in the top 25% at these major races was 3:31 when the temperature during the race was 43° F, but only 3:39 when it was 61° F.

After some number crunching and a lot of statistics, the researchers demonstrated that any particular marathon pace has an “ideal” temperature associated with it. Temperature deviations in either direction—hotter or colder—result in slower times.

The difference scales exponentially:

Weather that is 9° F hotter or colder than ideal slows you down by less than one percent.

But, this is crazy:

A difference of 18° F can slow you by almost three percent!

This ideal racing temperature post is just what I needed to distract me during taper time!…
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Faster runners need cooler temperatures?

The ideal temperature for a marathon also depends on how fast you are going to run:

Faster runners should desire colder temperatures. In retrospect, this makes sense, because the faster you run, the more heat your body generates.

Colder air temperatures facilitate removing this extra heat more effectively, as long as your body can maintain its own optimal internal temperature for running (i.e. as long as it’s not too cold).

The range of ideal temperatures based on marathon finish time for all runners is still a fairly narrow range, from about 35° F for international-caliber elites to 47° F for back-of-the-pack runners.

Look what we found:

By aggregating the relationship between fastest finish time and race-day temperature for the top 1%, top 25%, top 50%, and top 75% of both male and female runners across the sixty events, a surprisingly stable linear trend emerges, though there’s one snag—the ideal temperature for finishing in the top 1% of women (50° F) is a wild outlier, falling far outside the general trend for other finishers, among both men and women.

Barring a good explanation for this, we have to throw out this data point to continue our analysis. When we do this, we’re able to very reliably predict the ideal temperature for your marathon based on your predicted finish time.

You can check this out in the graph in our handy infographic:

The weather on race day for the marathon can make a big difference to performance, but do you have an ideal racing temperature? We tell you what yours is!

This info graphic on Ideal Marathon Racing Temperature is awesome!
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But here’s the kicker:

Being up to nine degrees Fahrenheit colder or warmer than the ideal temperature shouldn’t slow you down by more than about two minutes (0.6-1.0 percent slowdown).

Temperature differences beyond this will have a bigger impact—a 2-3% slowdown for an 18° F difference, and over twice that much for differences of 24° F.

Other factors to consider

There are some shortcomings:

For one, the study was limited by the relatively weak (though plentiful) data it collected. It didn’t factor in the height or weight of the runners, which can affect heat and cold tolerance, and it didn’t take the course difficulty into account either.

Boston, for example, is a lot more challenging of a race than Berlin or Paris, which might affect how runners deal with heat and cold.

The curious outlier of the top 1% of female finishers is a puzzle, too—perhaps the elite women, who are by far the lightest runners in the field, do not deal with colder temperatures as well as slower women and all men do?

Or it could just be a spurious result.


In any case, these predictions should probably be tested in a laboratory to verify the statistical predictions. Now that doing the numbers on the “big data” has provided a useful set of results, it should be a lot easier to get a small group of three-hour marathoners together and examine how they respond to 45, 40, and 35° F temperatures, for instance.

Despite these limitations, the predictions from this study should come in handy. You can use the temperature guidelines to pick a race that’s usually held in ideal conditions, or you can check the forecast to see how much your pace might slow on race day if the temperature is far from the ideal range.

I found my ideal racing temperature. You can too, click here:
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Is Your Stride Frequency Limited By Your Height? Mon, 06 Apr 2015 09:00:25 +0000

Do taller runners have a lower stride frequency, and shorter runners a lower stride frequency? Things are not always what they seem; studies found no relationship between height and stride frequency.If you follow running research, you probably know about all the evidence that says maintaining a high stride frequency (or stride rate or cadence) can reduce stress on your body and prevent injury.

Maybe you have brushed that off, telling yourself, “Well I’m an awfully tall runner, so I just naturally have a low stride frequency”.

Or maybe you are on the shorter side, and you’ve never even bothered to measure your stride frequency because you’re sure it’s high enough.

The underlying assumptions here—that tall runners, who have long legs, take longer strides, and that short runners with short legs take shorter strides—seem like common sense, but not everything in this sport is as simple as it seems.

How your legs are like springs

The question of whether long legs lead to long strides is fundamentally a biomechanical one. The whole reason stride frequency has been studied so intently is that it’s intimately linked with a very basic but extremely useful model of running.

Often, biomechanics researchers model the running stride as a spring bouncing along the ground. This “harmonic oscillator” model sets aside a lot of things you’d think would be very important—like the difference between impact forces and active forces, and the complex interplay of all the joints of the foot, ankle, knee and hip, but despite all this, it’s astoundingly accurate at predicting things like your stride frequency and the energetic cost of running.1

The harmonic oscillator model revolves around one main parameter: the “stiffness” of your leg. Since your entire leg is modeled as a single spring, the stiffness of that spring is the primary determinant of your stride frequency and stride length.

Of course, your leg doesn’t act like a spring all the time. The spring-like behavior is the result of your muscles tensing up right before impact with the ground, and this only occurs for the few tenths of a second that you spend on the ground every step.

To determine the stiffness of a real spring, you’d measure the force produced when you stretch or compress the spring by a certain amount. Biomechanics researchers do the same thing to calculate leg stiffness—they measure the peak forces when you land on the ground while running, then take into account how much your leg length changes while your foot is on the ground.

Once leg stiffness has been determined, all it takes is a little math to predict a runner’s natural or optimal stride frequency.2

As you might imagine, higher leg stiffness leads to a higher stride frequency, just like a weight on a stiffer spring oscillates faster than one on a looser spring.

Leg length differences

Leg length does indeed play a role in calculating a runner’s preferred stride frequency: all else equal, a longer leg should lead to a lower leg stiffness, and thus a lower stride frequency. But the problem is that all else isn’t equal!

A number of other factors, like muscular stiffness, body mass, peak force production, and more, also factor into the equation (literally), and the rest of these are not dependent on leg length.

Based on this, we would expect a population study to show that taller runners, who have longer legs, tend to have a lower stride frequency on average, but that there is still considerable variability in stride frequency among runners of the same height.

Surprising results

Theory is all well and good, but how does this hold up in the real world?

There aren’t any large population studies that measured runners’ preferred stride frequency, but a 1995 paper by three researchers in Boston reported the height, weight, leg length, and natural stride frequency of the ten runners in their study.3

After analyzing the data, I was surprised to find essentially no relationship between leg length and natural stride frequency in the subjects.

The subject with the longest legs in the study had a stride frequency that was only slightly below average, and the highest and lowest stride frequencies (176 and 144 strides per minute) came from subjects with the exact same leg length!

Once I saw this, I conducted my own informal study on the high school runners I coach. While two of my runners with the lowest stride frequencies are indeed quite tall, another two with stride frequencies that were just as low are no taller than five-foot-four!

Plenty of my taller runners also have average to above-average stride frequencies, and there was a huge range of stride frequencies even among runners of equal heights.


All of this evidence indicates that height and leg length are not the sole or even the main determinant of your natural stride frequency. We looked into this in our post comparing your stride frequency to a two year old.

If you’re injury-prone, you shouldn’t use your height as a cop-out to avoid working on increasing your stride frequency.

Short runners aren’t immune to the high impact forces that can result from having a low stride frequency, and it’s not unreasonable or unnatural for a tall runner to adopt a quick cadence to avoid future problems.

How to apply to your running

Step 1: Determine current stride rate

The first step is you want to assess your own cadence to determine (1) if it needs to be adjusted and (2) what your targets should be.

Start by counting the number of times your right leg hits the ground in 30 seconds of running. Then quadruple the number to get your overall cadence. (you quadruple since cadence is a count of both your feet in a minutes time).

This is your stride frequency, often called cadence or stride rate.

Step 3: Set a target

If your cadence is less than 170, you’ll want to try to gradually improve this number. The goal should be something in the 170-190 steps per minute range. There is no magic number, but this is a good range.

Research has shown that you want to try to improve your cadence by no more than 5% at a time. So, if your current stride rate is 160spm, adding the 5% increase, your new target is 168spm.

Step 3: How to improve

Start by adding short distances into your runs in which you try to maintain your new target. This can be done through use of a metronome (available from Amazon or downloadable as an app for your phone).

Be careful as many of these gadgets still regard 180spm as the “magic” number and will only provide beats of 180spm+. Sites like JogTunes can be used to find music with beats per minute (bpm) to match your desired spm.

Practicing your new stride rate on a treadmill can sometimes be handy as you can set the speed to stay the same.

Once you have can comfortably run your at your new spm without thinking about it, add another 5% and repeat the process.

For more information on the importance of cadence, check our in-depth look at the science in this article.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to improve your own running form and develop the most efficient stride for YOUR biomechanics, signup for our video gait analysis and online course that will identify flaws in your own form while providing you with a simple-to-follow, progressive set of exercises, drills and mental cues to help you make lasting changes to your form. Click Here to Get Yours Now!

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Stabilization and Strength for Master’s Runners Fri, 03 Apr 2015 09:00:39 +0000

Master's runners need to make strength and stability a priority to stay healthy, we explain why, and share 6 of the best exercises to make sure you stay healthy.The machine has to be stable if it’s going to run long.

When I first started running in my early 30s, injury was the farthest thing from my mind. And it seemed that my body was fairly foolproof: in my first eight years of running, I had only one injury, a stress fracture, clearly caused by too much/too fast/too soon.

Flash forward to my 40s, however, and things just fell apart.

My long list of injuries has included IT Band Syndrome, plantar fasciitis, high hamstring tendinopathy, and Achilles tendinopathy.

I spent more time rehabbing than I did running, and this in spite of a solid, conservative approach to training.

I will probably never feel confident that my injuries are 100 percent behind me, but I do feel that I have taken the right steps to incorporate PREhab into my routine and improve my odds in the future.

Let me add here that I’m not some special snowflake—my biomechanics aren’t unusual, and I don’t have any glaring factors that have predisposed me to injury. But what I did have was a lack of good stability and strength where I needed it.

The funny thing is, I had always been faithful to strength training and what I thought was core training throughout all those years of injury. Turns out I just wasn’t doing the right things, and it took a really great PT to help me learn that and fix it.

Why Master’s Runners Need Strength Work

The thing about the human body, is that muscles are really great at pinch-hitting for each other. So if your glutes aren’t firing correctly, for instance, your hamstrings might fill in. This can only last so long, however, before things start to fall apart and you end up injured.

This is especially true with master’s runners, who often have the combination of many years of improper muscle function going on coupled with years of bad habits, like sitting at desks all day long.

Today, I spend at least 30 minutes six days per week performing a variety of strength and stability exercises to help keep injuries at bay. It’s not really how I’d like to spend that half an hour, but it beats time on the injured reserve list, so I set the alarm early to fit it in, most days prior to my run.

Master's runners need to make strength and stability a priority to stay healthy, we explain why, and share 6 of the best exercises to make sure you stay healthy.The bonus here is that I am often sufficiently warmed up when I do head out the door.

A small disclaimer: My PT recommended these exercises for my particular shortcomings, but multiple studies* have shown that by building glute and hip strength and stability, runners can decrease their likelihood for poor movement and injury.

Here then, in no particular order, are six of my go-to exercises for keeping the machine running as it should. Note that I use a large stability ball, an exercise band, a dowel, a bench, and a mirror in performing some of these moves.

I also perform all of the moves in my bare feet, so that I am better building all those stabilizing muscles—shoes provide some of this for you and can be a bit of a crutch.

When performing the exercises, I concentrate on “bracing” my core before all moves and in all of my day-to-day activities—proper bracing helps the entire kinetic chain fire as it should.

Clam shells with a band

Placing the band around your thighs, lie on the floor on one side with legs stacked and aligned. Bend both knees and open the legs at the knees, holding for five seconds at the top and then returning to the starting position. Two sets of 15 reps on each side.

Master's runners need to make strength and stability a priority to stay healthy, we explain why, and share 6 of the best exercises to make sure you stay healthy.

Single-leg deadlifts

Probably my favorite move because I can feel my glutes activating throughout the move, plus it adds in the challenge of balance.

Facing a mirror, stand on one leg and hinge at the hips, keeping free leg straight behind. As you tilt forward with your chest, your free leg rises—this is a seesaw relationship, if you will. Move until the leg and chest are just about parallel to the ground.

Remember to keep this move smooth, slow and steady. Two sets of 15 on both sides. As this becomes easier, add in kettle bells or handheld weights.

Master's runners need to make strength and stability a priority to stay healthy, we explain why, and share 6 of the best exercises to make sure you stay healthy.

Lunge with rotation

As much as I love the single-leg deadlift, I loathe this move! Requires a bench or plyometric box, a mirror, and a dowel.

Place one foot behind you on the box and the other in a lunge position in front. Note that you want this front leg a good distance out in front. Place a dowel on your shoulders and hold onto it with your hands. Squat down into the lunge, placing the majority of the weight on your rear leg. Rotate first to the right, back to center, and then to the left. Once back at center move up out of the lunge position—that is one rep.

Two sets of 10 reps. The key in this move is to keep your knee steady, not collapsing in or out. It’s harder than it sounds, trust me!

Master's runners need to make strength and stability a priority to stay healthy, we explain why, and share 6 of the best exercises to make sure you stay healthy.

Bird-dog with a dowel

We are all familiar with the bird dog move, but by placing a dowel on your lower back, you will be kept honest and in the best position for running (avoiding an arched back).

Do these in front of a mirror to check form. Two sets of 15 on each side.

Master's runners need to make strength and stability a priority to stay healthy, we explain why, and share 6 of the best exercises to make sure you stay healthy.

Stability ball bridge with curl

Lie on the ground with calves on a stability ball, and arms lying palms up so that you don’t use them in the lifting motion.

Lift your hips up off the floor so your body forms a straight line from ankles to shoulders. Then, using hamstrings and glutes, curl the ball toward your butt, bending knees. Once in this position, lift hips again into a straight line and slowly straighten legs out again, keeping hips off the ground.

That’s one rep. Two sets of 15.

Master's runners need to make strength and stability a priority to stay healthy, we explain why, and share 6 of the best exercises to make sure you stay healthy.

Single-leg balance with band

Wrap one end of an exercise band around the ankle of one leg and the other around a secure object (I use the leg of my plyo bench). You are going to work four different directions.

First, face the bench and extend your free leg out behind you. Then stand with the bench to your side and pull your free leg across the center of your body and past your standing leg. Reverse directions so that your standing leg is closest to the bench and pull your fee leg out and away from that leg. Finally, with the bench behind you, pull your free leg up and in front of you in a running motion while moving your arms as you would in running (do with a mirror).

Switch legs. Do 20 reps in each position on each leg. Focus on keeping core stable and legs neutral.

Master's runners need to make strength and stability a priority to stay healthy, we explain why, and share 6 of the best exercises to make sure you stay healthy.

This is just a sampling of my regular exercises—there are more where these came from! As you can see, they are time consuming but if they keep me running, they are worth every minute!

Make sure you read Amanda’s previous post, How to Master Being a Masters Runner

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How to Train for a Success in a Tough Mudder Mon, 30 Mar 2015 09:00:48 +0000

We look at the traits at what makes a good tough mudder runner. Are you training the right way? We give you the findings of what you need to race to your potential.On Friday, we looked at some of the risks of doing a Tough Mudder, Spartan Run, or other obstacle race. Though the absolute risk of injury during an obstacle race is very low, they are nevertheless riskier than a traditional road race.

But perhaps you, like 1.5 million other participants every year,1 laugh in the face of broken bones, electrical burns, or dislocated shoulders. How should you actually prepare for an obstacle race?

Most obstacle races are not real competitions, per se, with awards and timing chips, but as the old saying goes, if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing well.

Who wants to be slogging through the mud in the back of the pack, anyway? And given that only 78% of entrants in a Tough Mudder race are able to complete it, you definitely don’t want to be in the other 22%.

Since races like the Tough Mudder can be up to twelve miles long, your regular running training should prove very useful. But the twenty or thirty obstacles you’ll encounter along the way might be another story if you aren’t prepared—runners are not exactly known for their upper-body strength or all-around athleticism!

All this should be evidence enough that you’re going to have to prepare for an obstacle race if you want to do well in one.

Traits of a Good Tough Mudder

In a 2012 article in the Journal of Exercise Physiology, Nicole Mullins of Youngstown State University analyzed research on performance in military obstacle courses to determine what makes a good obstacle course runner.2

As you might guess, being aerobically fit, able to tolerate bursts of high-intensity effort, and having good coordination are all associated with strong performance over obstacle courses in military recruits.

Having a low body fat percentage was also identified as a strong benefit in numerous studies—good news for runners.

But another important factor is what Mullins calls your strength-to-weight ratio.

According to her research, raw strength is not as beneficial as being strong for your weight, since almost every single obstacle you’ll encounter in an obstacle race involves climbing, crawling, jumping, or some other body-weight resistance movement.

Training for a Tough Mudder

Improving this ability is also easier to improve than raw strength, and it doesn’t take any fancy weight machines: exercises like pushups, pull-ups, and bench dips are all great for improving your strength-to-weight ratio.

Mullins suggests implementing interval-style workouts that involve a mixture of moderate to fast running and body-weight obstacle-style exercises done on whatever equipment (if any) is convenient.

Some examples include “rope climbs” up a swing set, vaulting over park benches, sprinting uphill, elevated pushups, and hurdling small objects like rocks or cones.

Each of these should be separated by a segment of running—exactly how much depends on the design of the obstacle race you’ve signed up for, but anywhere from a hundred yards to half a mile is about right in most cases.

Like specific interval training for a traditional race, you probably don’t need to be doing this type of workout more than once every week for 4-6 weeks leading up to the race. You can add in some more strength exercises on the side, but otherwise you can continue with your usual run training.


If you want to do well in an obstacle race, or if you want to have a better chance of actually finishing one, it’s worth your time to prepare.

Add in an obstacle-style interval workout once a week and supplement that with some body-weight strength exercises to improve your strength-to-weight ratio.

With this approach, you’ll be sure to have a better time than jumping into a mud run unprepared!

Are you ready to try a tough mudder yet? What advice would you give?

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How High is Your Injury Risk in a Tough Mudder? Fri, 27 Mar 2015 09:00:15 +0000

Tough mudder and obstacle races are growing in popularity, but are you putting yourself at a significant injury risk compared to other running events? We researched to find out and directly compare these races.Have your friends been trying to convince you to do a Tough Mudder or a Spartan Race? You are not alone. We wrote about How to Train for a Tough Mudder or Obstacle course last year, but it has since grown even more.

Obstacle races are on the rise, with over a million participants every year. There’s no question that they can be loads of fun, but being the injury-averse runner you are, you might be wondering about the risks.

Just how dangerous is a mud run? What are your odds of spraining your ankle, breaking your arm, or winding up in the emergency room with some other awful injury that will keep you from making it to the start line of your next running race?

Obstacle races are a relatively new phenomenon, so there isn’t an overwhelming amount of data to review, but there are enough scientific reports and case studies to at least get an idea of the kinds of injuries that can occur and roughly how risky (relative to other events, like a running race) a mud run can be.

Just how likely are you to get injured?

A number of case reports have described some spectacularly scary injuries sustained by participants in mud runs and other obstacle races: Fainting, head injuries, electrical burns, dislocated shoulders, and broken bones. But of course, most of these things (barring electrical burns!) occur from time to time at road races too.

Hardcore running fans will remember 2006 Chicago Marathon champion Robert Cheruiyot slipping on the timing mats at the finish line at that race, falling backwards and hitting his head on the concrete. Cheruiyot wound up in the hospital for two days. Surely, this sort of thing must happen to the middle-of-the-pack runners every now and then, too.

The best way to gauge relative risk is to look at the records of the medical personnel who manage an event.

A 2014 report by several medical doctors at Lehigh Valley Hospital in Pennsylvania detailed the rate of serious injury among 22,000 participants in a Tough Mudder event.1

Thirty-eight participants sustained injuries serious enough to merit being transported to the hospital. To make risk comparisons easy, scientists often standardize rates. In this case, the numbers work out to 1.72 hospital transports for every 1,000 participants at this event.

A response to this paper, by Stephen Luke and Martin Dutch, medical doctors in Melbourne, Australia, contrasted this relatively high rate in the Pennsylvania event with their own experience providing medical care for a Tough Mudder event held in Australia, which also had about 22,000 participants.2

Their event was a quite far from any local hospitals, so they set up a “field hospital” to treat serious but not life-threatening injuries on-location. By doing so, they were able to stabilize broken bones (twelve cases), treat dislocated shoulders (twelve cases), and clean and apply stitches to deep cuts (twenty-six cases), which kept the local hospital from getting bogged down in case somebody really needed hospital transportation.

This resulted in only three patients being taken by ambulance to a hospital, though ten additional patients were sent to the hospital by private car, implying a rate of 0.59 hospital transportations per 1,000 participants.

An additional fourteen participants were referred to their family doctor; including them in the calculation bumps up the rate of medical referral to 1.23 per 1,000.

If we look at the total number of patients treated at the field hospital—126 people, which includes all of the above-mentioned case too—we get a rate of 5.73 “field hospitalizations” per 1,000 participants.

Now, this last rate is probably too high, since many of the injuries treated were not serious enough to even warrant referral to a family doctor. But the range of medical transport rates provided by the Pennsylvania study and the various ways of interpreting the data from the Australia study peg your risk of winding up in the hospital because of a Tough Mudder at somewhere between 1 and 6 in 1,000, roughly speaking.

Comparing to the injury risk of a marathon

You’re probably wondering how this risk compares to typical hospital-transportation rates at an event like a big-city marathon. Fortunately, a 1999 report by William Roberts, medical director of the Twin Cities Marathon, provides us with the data we need.3

Roberts’ paper describes the various injuries and illnesses that occurred over a twelve-year period at the Twin Cities Marathon. Some 81,000 runners started the race during this time period, and of these, thirty were transported to a hospital.

Thus, the hospitalization rate for the Twin Cities Marathon over this period was 0.37 per 1,000 participants. Roberts is careful to point out that Twin Cities is run in fairly cool temperatures—races run in the heat of summer probably carry a greater risk.

So, should you run that mud run all of your friends are doing?

There are two ways to look at it. On one hand, your absolute risk of injury is still quite low. At worst, six in one-thousand participants in an obstacle race wind up headed to the doctor’s office, the ER, or the hospital. Even this worst-case scenario only represents a 0.6% chance.

On the other hand, when comparing the risks of an obstacle race to running a marathon, the mud run is three to fifteen times more dangerous, depending on which data set you’d prefer to use.


There’s no denying these events can be a lot of fun, so your risk tolerance is going to be what dictates whether or not you should do an obstacle race while you’re training for a “real race.”

Are you okay with about a half of a percent-chance of a broken bone, dislocated shoulder, or other significant injury?

Does a three to fifteen-fold increase over a lower-risk event like a road race scare you off? If you’ve been training for years to qualify for the Boston Marathon, and you finally got in this year, maybe this spring is not the best time to do a mud run. But if you’re a bit of an adrenaline junky and there aren’t any immensely important races on the horizon, go right ahead!

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How to Train for an Ultra Mon, 23 Mar 2015 09:00:58 +0000

If you have decided it is time to take on a new challenge, and try an ultra, this is the article for you. We look at all the aspects involved to prepare for your longest run yet.With the growing population of ultra runners, and questions that come in to us about ultra running, it is clear that many runners are becoming curious about ultra marathons.

However, like most things in running, although we want a clear cut answer, one does not exist, but that does not mean we cannot give you advice on how to prepare. A few weeks ago, we covered Why You Should Not Be Scared of Running an Ultra, and today we are going to explain how to take that next step to start training.

Training for an ultra is a far more intuitive and organic process than training for any other distance.

There really are not any set rules when it comes to mileage, pace or distance; and you need to find what works for you on a very individual level and figure it out as you go along.

How you approach it will depend on many factors, and your own personal response to training, as well as the distance of the race you’ve chosen.

To be a good ultra runner, you must become an expert in listening to your own body, and respond accordingly, whether that’s in training or in the race itself.

One thing is for certain; you need to get used to running for a very, very long time. How you do this will depend on your training background, injury susceptibility, fitness level, and ability to adapt to increasing training loads.

Build Foundations

An ultra distance event might have you out on the course for six, seven or many more hours, and probably on rough terrain too, meaning a strong resilient body is going to be vital to keep you injury free and upright.

Before you even think about building up to an ultra, spend a number of months doing a mixed program of strength training, hiking, cross training, and cycling, in addition to your running.

Injury prevention is your number one goal. Before you knock out too much mileage (and get injured), work with a PT or coach on some specific strength and conditioning exercises, focusing on your glutes and core, to iron out any dysfunction and reduce your risk of injury.

“Building solid foundations is vital for anyone contemplating an ultra” explains Mimi Anderson, X-Bionic sponsored ultra-runner and multiple World Record Holder. “I like to think of an ultra runner as a big oak tree. To be successful, you need to put down some roots first. Things like core work, strength and conditioning and general fitness. Then build the main trunk, which consists of your weekly running mileage.

Build some consistent, solid mileage before you even think about tackling an ultra distance event or pushing your long run too far. It might take many months if not years, but like a mighty oak tree, a good ultra runner starts with strong roots and foundations’.

Run a Marathon First?

‘People don’t want to just run a marathon anymore’ explains Hugo Pettit, Organiser of Race to the Stones 100km ultra in the UK, ‘they want a life experience. And that’s exactly what an ultra run will provide.

It’s more about the journey and the experience. And as a result we are seeing a larger proportion of runners who bypass the marathon distance and go straight for the ultra’.

Ultra distance runs are becoming more accessible and open to all runners of all abilities. Races such as Spartathlon and the UTMB for example are still very exclusive and selective with entry requirements and cut off times, but many others are far more inclusive and open to all.

Race to the Stones in the UK is one of those events set up specifically to encourage runners of all abilities. ‘We are seeing the emergence of the ultra-plodder’ explains Hugo, ‘runners who might not be fast, but are strong and can keep going for a long time’.

That’s exactly the lure of the ultra. As the focus is more on ‘completion’ rather than finish time, it tests runners of all abilities regardless of speed.

That said, the ultra is not to be underestimated and whilst you might not need to have done marathon, you do need to train properly and respect the distance.

Weekly Mileage?

Running long once a week isn’t going to cut it when it comes to ultra training. You need to build accumulative fatigue with weekly mileage so you get used to running on tired legs.

If you’re training for a 30-40 mile ultra, your program won’t look much different to a regular marathon training schedule. The only differences might be that your longest run will be closer to 30 miles and you might not do as much speed work.

You will also want to try to include some longer midweek runs (of around 8-10 miles) and work up to back-to-back long runs where you might run 3 hours on a Saturday and then another 3-4 hours on a Sunday on tired legs. It is important to remember it will be much slower than the pace you’ve been used to, and you will need to include more walking/hiking.

What Pace Should I Run at?

The key factor in ultra distance running is to develop your aerobic capacity and your body’s ability to tap into fat stores; you need to become a fat burning machine.

Forget about ‘pace’ as such, and focus on long slow running, lots of walking and just keeping going for a long time. Hugo Pettit calls it your ‘forever pace’; the pace you can just keep going at all day long.

‘Runners coming up from the marathon distance have a natural set pace’ explains Marc Laithwaite, Endurance Coach and organiser of the Lakeland 100 in the UK, ‘Getting those runners to slow down for an ultra can be really hard. They are locked into a pace and it’s hard to get them to run slower. But to run an ultra, that’s really all you have to do’.

Using a heart rate monitor can be a good way to bring the pace down. ‘The Maffetone method (calculate your training heartrate at 180-age) can be great for ultra runners’, explains Marc. ‘It provides a simple structure and a tool to make sure your training is in the right aerobic zone’.

How Long is Long?

‘Your ‘long run’ will depend on the distance of the ultra you’re training for, and varies from person to person’, explains Marc.

‘You can’t fully prepare for a 50 mile race in the same way that you might with a marathon. It’s impossible and you wouldn’t run 50 miles (or even close) in a long training run. So you have to accept you’re going into unchartered territory when you get to the race’.

Many coaches suggest there’s not much benefit in going further than 30 miles in training (in one run), especially if you’re new to ultra running, and for some that might still be too far. Anything further in training can be tough to recover from.

Some ultra runners use a ‘split run’ method to break the mileage down, where they might run 15 miles in the morning, and then another 10 later on in the afternoon for example.

Others run back-to-back long runs on consecutive days, and most also include a lot of walking and hiking in their training as well. Ultimately, it’s simply a case of building up your general mileage, increasing the long run (to the point you can handle), and staying injury free.

Striking the balance between training stress, recovery, and adaptation is never more important than in ultra training; probably more so than for any other distance. So keeping an eye on your recovery and monitoring your adaptation/fatigue levels will be really important.

The Daily Analyses of Life Demands for Athletes (DALDA) — First produced in 1978 by Dr Brent Rushall at San Diego State University and later revised in 2011- is a self-report sport-specific tool to help athletes monitor their individual stress response, training load and signs of overtraining.

Using a tool like the DALDA may help to monitor your training as you build up to an ultra. Becoming more aware of your own personal response to training, rather than following a set plan, is a crucial skill for ultra runners, and the DALDA may be key to that ‘intuitive’ approach.

Don’t Just Run

With volume, comes increased risk of injury; especially as your mileage and long runs build up. Cross training, and specifically road cycling can play a huge part in your fitness, and the reduction of that injury risk. The fitness gains from road cycling transfer well to running; helping with strength, cadence, long sessions to build aerobic capacity and recovery.

Did you listen to our podcast Everything You Need to Know about Injuries with Jeremy Stoker yet? We reveal some interesting findings about Cross training.

‘Long runs can really impact on your body’ explains Ian Corless, coach and host of ‘Talk Ultra’. ‘Hours of running might adapt you to the demands of the race, but sometimes we run the risk of pushing too far, and risking injury.

Long bike rides on hilly terrain for example, can be used to provide multiple hours of low impact exercise. Hours where you can push harder than running, without the risk of damaging knees, muscles, and ligaments. If incorporated with long runs, you have a great way to do back-to-back sessions while reducing impact injury risk’.

Many top ultra runners include cycling as part of their training program, not just when they’re injured, but as part of their day-to-day schedule. Try alternating a long bike and long run each weekend, or use the road bike to spin your legs on a recovery ride the day after a long run.

Mental Toughness

But running an ultra isn’t just about physical fitness; it’s as much about mental toughness as it is about physiological preparation.

‘Successful ultra runners are the ones who stay in the here and now’ explains Marc Laithwaite ‘you need to accept that in an ultra you’ll go through ups and downs, bad patches, and good. Having the mental strength to push through the bad, and stay focused is really important. You need to prepare to be in discomfort at some stage, but know that it will pass’.

‘The hardest part of an ultra in my opinion is always the time during the race when you are going through a bad patch or when things start going wrong’ confirms Mimi Anderson. ‘Your body hurts, you’re struggling to keep yourself motivated and your mind is trying to find reasons why you should stop, this is the point where you need your mental toughness.

Our bodies are capable of a lot more than we give them credit for and being mentally tough means that you can learn to overcome these moments. Mental preparation is just as important as the physical preparation’.


Tough training helps build mental toughness long before your stand on the startline of an ultra. Long runs, early mornings, getting used to training on tired legs, and the accumulation of fatigue are as much about your psychological confidence as your physiological fitness.

It’s simply a circle of confidence.

When we experience success in training and racing, our confidence increases. With increased confidence we can tackle longer distances and more challenging events. Our bodies are only limited by our minds; and we are all more capable of much more than we might think.

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How to Master Being a Masters Runner Fri, 20 Mar 2015 09:00:46 +0000

This guest post was written by Amanda Loudin

Experienced runner Amanda Loudin gives some very helpful advice on how and why you need to adjust your approach training as you age, to become a master, in every sense of the word!Why do you race?

This is a simple question that may have a very complicated answer. The reasons why individual runners race, can be as varied as the shoes on their feet!

As much as we runners like to think that we’re invincible and that age will never impact our running performance, the truth is, it does.

After almost a full decade of running at the masters level, I’ve experienced these effects first hand. I’ve had to change and adjust my approach to training and as I stare down 50 next year, I know that the changes will need to keep coming.

Let me say that masters running is not all gloom and doom—in fact, in some ways I enjoy it more than I did as a younger athlete. But it does require some adjustments and the smart runner will learn to train differently at 45 than he or she did at 35.

Strength work is non-negotiable

One of the biggest issues masters runners need to comprehend is that there is less margin for error.

The risks you might have taken as a younger athlete—and gotten away with—are risks you can no longer take.

For instance, you can’t add on miles or dial up the pace in a prescribed workout. You also can’t cut corners by skipping all the auxiliary work that goes into running.

Speaking of the auxiliary work, it is more important as a masters runner than ever before. I used to take entire race seasons away from strength training. Now, it’s non-negotiable. I incorporate it two times each and every week, plus I include stability training on a daily basis.

Why so important?

First the strength training part: as we leave our 20s, but especially as we cross over the 40-yr. mark, we lose muscle mass at the rate of three to five percent per decade if we are inactive, and around one percent if we remain active.

That muscle loss translates to reduced running economy (our VO2 max at any intensity).

If we counteract that muscle loss via heavy strength training, however, we can maintain a similar running economy and endurance performance, according to a 2013 NIH Study.

The stability work becomes especially important in our 40s because by this stage in our lives, we’ve developed imbalances and poor movement patterns from injuries and our more-sedentary-than-not Western lifestyles.

Deficient function of any component of movement will increase your injury risk, according to a 2013 article by Dr. Trent Nessler in the International Journal of Athletic Therapy. Speaking from experience, these are the things that have hurt me more than training errors.

In order to counteract these accumulated affects, I religiously perform exercises that enhance my balance, my hip stability, and my glute activation. Among my favorites are single-leg deadlifts, a split-lunge rotation, clamshells, and single-leg bridges.

Finally, masters runners cannot overlook flexibility training, but by this, I do not mean a static stretching routine.

Instead, focus on tissue mobility via dynamic warm ups and soft-tissue release with tools like foam rollers (are you making the 4 common foam roller mistakes?), mobility balls, and compression bands.


The bottom line is that masters runners can keep running productively well into their final decades, IF they are willing to make some adjustments to overall training approaches.

Your running machine at 50 is not the same machine it was at 30. Become a different/better mechanic and you’ll enjoy many years of running to come.

If you would like more information on running as you age, read our post; running as you age, is it all bad?

Amanda Loudin Amanda Loudin is a freelance writer, running coach, and the voice behind the MissZippy blog, a site for runners seeking experienced advice, the latest running news, and a fun exchange of all things running related.
Amanda has been running and competing in triathlons for 17 years now. Her athletic experience includes 15 marathons, an Ironman, several trail races, and everything in between, totaling more than 100 races. Still on the agenda: an ultra.

You can find Amanda on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram

How have you adjusted to becoming a masters runner?

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