Runners Connect Thu, 27 Aug 2015 11:33:40 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Track Doesn’t Have to Be For Just Younger Runners. Read Our Masters Guide Mon, 24 Aug 2015 09:00:54 +0000

Masters runners are constantly breaking down barriers; whether its the elites breaking records, or just more masters participating in running events at every age, more information is needed on how to succeed. If you have always wanted to try track racing, here is the lowdown on how to race track, and the basics you need to know come race day.On an anecdotal level, most masters runners tend to gravitate toward longer events—marathons and ultras seem to be a good fit for older runners who maybe don’t have as much “snap” in their legs as when they were younger.

Sure, they might venture onto the track for speed work, but racing on the track?

For as many as 8,100 masters in the United States, however, track meets are the events of choice, according to USATF (U.S.A. Track and Field) estimates.

For these events, masters applies to anyone 35 and over, and meets take place at both indoor and outdoor venues. While masters runners are not what generally comes to mind for the shorter, speedy track distances, masters runners can be quite impressive nonetheless.

We are going to show you how many masters runners only took up track racing later in life, and how they are now running better than ever. After some inspiration, we are going to share the track basics to get runners of every age ready for racing on the track.

Who competes in track races as a master?


The current men’s record for the mile, for instance, is 3:51 for the 35-yr. old age group. For a 50-yr. old, it stands at 4:25.

On the female side, the mile record for a 35-yr. old is 4:17 and 5:00 for a 50-yr. old. Nothing to sneeze at!

Changing attitudes as you age

Arlington, Va., -based 49-year old Alisa Harvey is the current American masters record holder at the indoor mile for both the 35- and 40-yr. old age groups, and the 40-yr. old age group for the 800 and the mile outdoors. She’s been competing since high school and still enjoys the track as a masters, although she trains differently for the events today. “I consider myself to be a track runner,” she says. ”This is where it all began for me. I have always loved the feeling of running fast.”

Before the age of 40, Harvey took to the track as many as three times per week, she says. “Now I am only on the track twice a week,” she says. “I used to follow up each track session with a weight-room session, but now I save strength work for my distance days.”

Harvey says that as a masters, she has found that she is too fatigued post-track workout to handle a quality strength session. She tends to incorporate push-ups, pull-ups, and other strength moves on her easier days.

She also spends more time training for shorter track distances, a departure from her younger days. “I haven’t run the 3,000 or 5,000 since becoming a master,” she says. “I just can’t muster the desire for so many laps now.”

Harvey keeps things fresh by training and competing on the road, a place where she also excels. “I am motivated to run 5k, 8k, 10k, and even longer distances since turning 40,” she says.

It get’s better:

For 42-yr. old Brian Shadrick, of Columbia, Md., competing on the track as a masters has served to quell his competitive juices. Shadrick ran cross-country and track in high school and for a year in college, but took a break from the sport for 20 years.

When he returned to running about three years ago, it was primarily to get back into shape and run a few 5ks. “I didn’t even know about masters track,” he says.

But a local friend and coach told him about some all-comers events and since he had always gravitated toward shorter, speedier distances, he decided to give it a go. “I started racing distances from the 400 to the mile,” Shadrick explains, “and now the 800 and mile are my niche.”
Like many of his road counterparts, Shadrick has learned the hard way, however, that training as a masters is different than when he was younger. “I never thought much about training when I was in high school,” he admits. “I just did what my coaches told me to do.”
Now, however, injuries have taught Shadrick to mix things up and take it easier.

“Start slowly and ease into speed work,” he advises. “Pushing too hard, too fast is the easiest way to get injured.”

Training for success on the track

In spite of the injury risk, however, Harvey says that masters runners desiring to race on the track need to train there, too. “It is fine to use the roads, parks, gyms, etc. to gain running fitness,” she says, “but actually getting on a track surface and performing running drills, strides, sprints, and interval workouts will prepare you to race on the track.”

Finding a masters track race

Masters track meets are not very common in some areas, but masters athletes are welcome at all-comers events. If all else fails, check your local colleges for “open” meets and see if you can find a category that fits your age and/or skill level.

Here’s the deal:

If you think the track might be your jam as a masters, be willing to get comfortable with the uncomfortable, Harvey adds. “Don’t be afraid to try an event that is outside your comfort zone,” she says. “The challenge of a shorter or longer event is usually great training for your preferred event.”

If you’re interested in racing on the track as a masters, finding the events might be your biggest challenge—they aren’t very common in some areas of the country. But they are out there and we’ve got a list of resources to help:

  • USATF—You can find an entire page dedicated to masters events for track and field here.
  • National Masters News—A 40-yr. old publication dedicated to masters running, track in particular.
  •—Dubbed as the home page for adult age-group track and field.
  •—Providing the historical background on masters running

I love that @Runners_Connect covers topics no other running website does; Masters Track Running.
Click To Tweet

What about if I have never raced on the track before?

That’s all very well us sharing stories with you, and informing you how you can find a local race near you, but what if you are one of the many runners who started running long after high school and college? What if you have never raced on a track before, and have no idea about how to go about it?

Well, first we will tell you to head over to our post about How a 5k or 10k Training Plan is Structured with our former Director of coaching, Blake Boldon. That will give you more of an understanding of the type of training this requires, this will be especially useful if you are used to racing half marathons and further.

However, to round up this post today, we would like to share some of the track basics, as well as the words you may hear regarding track workouts.

The Basics

One lap of an outdoor track is 400m around. Here are the breakdowns of the various track races and their distances:

  • 400m – 1 lap
  • 800m – 2 laps
  • 1500m- 3 3/4 laps
  • Mile- 4
  • 3000m – 7 1/2 laps
  • 5000m – 12 1/2 laps
  • 10000m – 25 laps

If you are choosing to race indoor, it becomes a little more tricky; tracks vary from 180m around to 300m, but you will be able to find out from your local track which size it is, and therefore how many laps around your race of choice will be.

A track is made up of 6-8 lanes, and those lanes have lines which stagger start lines, meaning that everyone runs the same distance. If you are on one of the outside lanes, you will start further around the track. This can be confusing at first as you will be “ahead” of the competitors on the inside lanes, but around the final turn, things will balance out.

Final Turn Track

If you are racing a 400m and below, you will start in individual lanes, and will stay in your lane for the duration of the race as you see in the photo above. If you are racing a 1500m and above, you will start using what is called a “waterfall” start. This is where all competitors will line up, closely packed on a slight curve.

Start of 1500m race

You might be wondering:

What about distances between 400m-800m?

Those can be a little more tricky. Some races use a waterfall start, and others use lanes until a certain point in the race (usually about 100m into the race). Some races even have 2 runners per lane. You will have to check with one of the officials what the procedure is if you are racing one of these distances.

Relay races are common at track meets, and the following are common relay events:

  • 4x100m (all 4 runners run 100m)
  • 4x400m (all 4 runners run 400m)
  • Distance Medley Relay- Indoor only (one runner runs each distance- 1200m, 400m, 800m, 1600m)

This post from @Runners_Connect is very helpful for runners new to track racing. I understand now!
Click To Tweet

The Lingo

When you start spending time at a track, you will hear words that can make it sound like you have landed in a foreign country as you cannot understand what they are saying. Here are some of the most common track words:

Check-in- The tent/desk you need to go to 30 minutes- 1 hour before your race to pick up your numbers.

Numbers- Your personal bib number to wear (like any other road race), plus often, two sticky numbers to go on your hips and/or shoulder for the timing staff to use to identify you in a close finish.

Spikes- The best style of shoes for a track race. These shoes are lighter and thinner than other shoes. On the bottom will be a spike “plate” where you will screw in 1/4 inch “spikes” to give you better grip on the track surface.

Running Spikes

Blocks- If you are competing in a race under 400m, you have the option to use starting blocks, which prop your feet up to help you start faster (if used correctly).


The Bell- In races more than 400m, a bell will ring when you have one lap remaining.

Kick- Using your speed at the end of a race to run significantly faster than you have been for the rest of the race. Some runners will have more of a “kick” than others.

Rabbit- A runner whose job is to pace the other runners to a particular point. They will run in front of the other runners, and are paid to run part of the race, meaning the other runners can relax and not worry about what speed they are running.

Baton- In relay races, this is the hollow, metal stick that is passed between runners on a team.

Passing the Baton

DNS- Did Not Start- This means a runner was listed as racing, but pulled out of the race before it began.

DNF- Did Not Finish- This will be listed on results for runners who started the race, but dropped out before the finish.

Metric Mile- The 1500m. This is the distance commonly raced around the world instead of the traditional mile (1609m)

Anchor- In relay races, the final runner, who runs the last leg of the race, and crosses the finish line for the team.

The Gun- To start a track race, a gun is fired (which will make you jump if you are not expecting it), this indicates to the stadium that a race is now on.

False Start- When all runners are still for the start of a race, and one of the runners tries to anticipate the start of the race and begins to move before the gun fires. The starter will fire a second gun, and the runner will be disqualified. If the race is longer than a 1500, the runners will likely not be disqualified, but just everyone will start again.

Heats- As a track only has 8 lanes, shorter races will likely only have 8 competitors per race, longer races can be up to 35, but it is likely there will be a number of different races for each event. These are the heats, organized by how fast each runner has run in that distance (or other comparable races). Events usually start with the fastest heat, and work back to the slower heats (although this can be the opposite). However, in championship races, the heats will be random.

Rolling schedule- At some meets there will not be a set time for each event, instead there will be a list of all the events, and as one finishes, the next will start. This requires paying attention more, and planning your warm up accordingly.

Infield- The middle area inside the track. This is usually a soccer field, or a throwing area. Some venues will allow you to do warm ups and stretching on it, others will prohibit this.

Click To Tweet

In the shorter distances, many runners use blocks to start faster, but it is not a requirement. This is personal preference, but there is a technique required, so this is definitely something to practice with a coach before you implement into a race. Do NOT try this for the first time at a race!

What should I expect at a track meet?

Plan to arrive at the track 1-2 hours before your race (there will be a schedule available). Try to relax, but watch some of the other races to see how things work. Around 1 hour before your race, the check in desk will open (it will likely be a white tent either on the infield or around the edge of the track), at this point, go to the desk, and they will give you your race number(s). Stick or pin these on your racing outfit.

Complete your warm up as you normally would, leaving 20 minutes before the race to be close to the start line and put on your spikes. Each meet will have different protocols, but the announcer will usually call you to the starting area 1-2 times before the race. This is a good time to run a few faster strides up and down the track (not too many!).

The starter will call you to the start, and line you up by hip numbers (if you have them), or by name.

Track races begin by the firing of a gun, but before the gun is fired, the starter will say “on your marks”, which is the indication to have everyone in the race stand very still in a race ready position (think one foot in front of the other, arms in a running motion), they will then say “set”, and you still need to stay still, but be ready to go. When everyone is still, the starter will fire the gun, and the race will begin.

The rest is up to you, but we can help show you how to race a 5k correctly.

Hopefully this has given you more of an idea of what to expect at a track meet, but if you have any other questions, feel free to add them in the comments, and we will answer them for you!

This guide from @Runners_Connect is very helpful! Now I am thinking about racing on the track!
Click To Tweet

If you were thinking about it before, now you know how, give it a try, you never know what you might find out about yourself!

]]> 0
Sick & Tired of Struggling Through Your Training? This May Be Why Mon, 17 Aug 2015 09:00:16 +0000

Did you know that mentally challenging tasks before your training can affect your running ability? They can! If you have been struggling on your runs, and cannot see why training is so hard, this may be your answer. This article explains how to overcome ego depletion and prevent it as much as possible.Did you know that Barack Obama only wears two colors of suits?

It’s not because he’s sartorially unimaginative; rather, he’s taking advantage of some of the latest psychology research on how to avoid decision fatigue; a problem that faces anyone who has to make tough calls on a regular basis.

Recent research has shown that you have a finite amount of energy to dedicate to analyzing information and making good judgment calls, so you should avoid fretting about insignificant decisions (like “does this tie go with a tweed jacket?”) if you know you’ll be facing big challenges on a regular basis.

We are going to look at how stressful situations could be affecting your running and your training more than you realize through ego depletion. We are going to show you how to prepare for it and how to avoid ego depletion as much as possible.

If you are struggling to see why your big breakthrough is not happening, this is probably the post you have been looking for.

Does Stressing Over the “Little Things” Limit Performance?

Runners don’t often face decision fatigue, but they do have to face a closely related problem that psychologist call ego depletion.

Much like decision fatigue, the premise of ego depletion is that willpower is a limited resource, so you are much less likely to be able to do something that takes a lot of willpower (like grind through the last mile of a 5k) if you’ve already had to will yourself to do a lot of difficult things earlier in the day.

Classic experiments that demonstrate ego fatigue involve having test subjects engage in one challenging activity, then moving on to a different task which is physiologically unrelated, and ideally one which can be measured and quantified.

One example is a 2012 study by Derek Dorris, David Power, and Emily Kenefick. The study described two distinct experiments. In the first, competitive rowers attempted to complete as many push-ups as possible following completion of a series of cognitive tests.

This experiment took place over two separate days. One day the cognitive tests were very easy, but on the other, they were very challenging.

As ego depletion theory would predict, the rowers were not able to complete as many push-ups after the difficult cognitive tasks as compared to the easy ones.

I always enjoy these interesting articles from @Runners_Connect. Today I am reading about Ego Depletion.
Click To Tweet

Is it Applicable to Other Sports?

Hypothesizing that athletes from a non-endurance sport might perform differently, Dorris, Power, and Kenefick conducted a similar experiment on hockey and rugby players.

The subjects engaged in cognitive tests, either easy or difficult, then attempted to do as many sit-ups as they could. Though their sport of choice was different, the results were the same—they could not do as many sit-ups after a cognitively challenging task.

The effect of ego depletion on endurance performance was underscored by a different paper published in the Journal of Applied Physiology in 2009.

Check this out:

In this study, sixteen cyclists completed either 90 minutes of continuous cognitive testing (rapid identification of patterns of letters) or watched a 90 minute documentary on trains and sports cars. Then, all subjects completed a cycling ride to exhaustion at 80% of their peak power. This test was repeated on another occasion so that every subject had a chance to complete the ride after the cognitive testing and after watching the documentary.

After compiling the results, the authors found that the cyclists were able to ride for an average of 10.7 minutes at 80% of peak power after completing the 90 minute cognitive testing.

However, after watching a documentary for the same amount of time, they lasted 12.6 minutes—an 18% improvement!

Yes, you did read that right!

Are Cyclists and Runners Tougher Than Other Athletes?

To take a skeptical stance; rides (or runs) to exhaustion are known to exhibit much more variability than a straight-up time trial, and neither this study nor the previous one used a large number of subjects. Further, the person-to-person variability was quite high.

But a 2012 review paper by Michael Inzlicht and Brandon Schmeichel states that over one hundred experiments have supported the idea of ego depletion—doing two challenging tasks consecutively, even if they should not be related physiologically, impairs performance on the later task.

How Does this Affect Your Running?

To run your best, these studies indicate that you should avoid doing anything that’s very mentally challenging, or that takes a lot of mental effort or willpower before a race or an important workout.

Given that next year’s Boston Marathon is April 18th, maybe you shouldn’t wait until the last minute to do your taxes!

Running the 2016 Boston Marathon? Get our Boston-specific training articles, exclusive access to our VIP Boston events, and the latest on where, when and how to meet the RunnersConnect team. Click here to stay updated

If you work a tough job, an easy way to get around this problem is to do your runs in the morning. The only thing about getting up early is that you need to make sure you get enough sleep, too: dragging yourself out of bed at five in the morning surely depletes your mental reserves!

I had no idea mentally challenging tasks could affect my running, very interesting!
Click To Tweet

Can You Prepare for Ego Depletion?

It is all very well us suggesting to you to run in the morning, but what if that is just not possible.? What if you have other commitments that just do not allow for morning running, and besides, we all like to train through the winter, what can be done to offset the effects?


Earlier, we mentioned that willpower is a resource, and if that is the case, we should be able improve it, right? Through careful training, we can work to improve other limited resources at our disposal, like our glycogen stores, aerobic power, or muscular strength.

Persistence Priming

In one study, researchers at Universiteit Maastricht in the Netherlands examined whether a technique called “persistence priming” could be used to increase resistance to ego depletion.

Undergraduate students at the university were split into two groups. Like with other ego depletion research, each group underwent a test of physical ability (a hand grip squeeze to fatigue) following either a simple mental test (solving easy mazes) or a difficult one (challenging mazes).

Each group was provided with a short paragraph to read before the physical test to “prime” their mental state. To disguise the intent of the experiment, the participants were given a trivial reading comprehension task which involved the paragraph.

Imagine this:

One group received a neutral prime—their paragraph was a mundane description of the International Olympic Committee’s charter. The other group received a prime intended to boost their perseverance; it was a paragraph about Olympic speed skater Gerard Van Velde, who persevered in the face of numerous setbacks and disappointments to win a gold medal in 2002.

The group which received the persistence priming performed far better on the hand-grip endurance test following ego depletion than the group that received the neutral priming. The persistence priming allowed them to match their pre-depletion best, while the neutral prime group gave up earlier.

It gets better:

Surprisingly, the results were flipped when the test was conducted without an initial stage of ego-depletion—the group which read the neutral prime performed better than the group which received the persistence prime!

Even the authors themselves were puzzled by this result. One potential explanation they forwarded was that, in a state of mental freshness, the subjects were more likely to perceive themselves as different from the Olympic speed skater (“Wow, I’m not as tough and persistent as that guy!”).

This post from @Runners_Connect about ego depletion is really getting me thinking. Check it out!
Click To Tweet

The Stroop Test

A study published by Thomas Webb and Paschal Sheeran at the University of Sheffield in the UK took a different approach. In their experiment, undergraduate students were asked to stand on one leg and count backwards from 1000, either in multiples of seven (a difficult mental task) or multiples of five (an easier mental task).

Then they were asked to perform a Stroop test, a classic psychology examination that involves identifying the ink color of words printed on a page (e.g. the word “green” written in red ink). But in this experiment, the researchers used a strategy called “implementation intention” to attempt to offset the effects of ego depletion.

You might be wondering:

An implementation intention is a particular kind of command or instruction that you repeat to yourself. In this experiment, the subjects were asked to tell themselves, “As soon as I see the word, I will ignore its meaning and I will name the color ink it is printed in.”

The results showed that the subjects who used the implementation intention strategy performed just as well on the Stroop test after the difficult mental test as compared to the easy one; the same was not true for the subjects who did not use an implementation intention strategy—they performed worse, as expected.


These studies are a bit contrived, as early-stage psychology research tends to be.

You could easily point out that a hand-grip test or color identification is not the same thing as a 5k race, but that’s the fascinating thing about ego depletion: it doesn’t seem to matter what your activity of choice is; if you do it in a state of ego depletion, you’ll perform worse than if you were fresh.

Putting it into Practice

Fortunately, it’s easy to translate the findings of these studies into practical advice. To give yourself a “persistence prime” after a long day at work or a fatiguing multi-hour drive to a faraway race, listen to one of our inspirational podcast episodes on your drive; Kathrine Switzer’s Boston Marathon storyChris McDougall’s story about the Natural Born Heroes in Crete or Laura Hillenbrand’s recall of Louie Zamperini’s story, or you could watch a short YouTube video of one of your running heroes winning a race.

Implementation intentions are even more useful. They should take the form of statements like “As soon as [some event] happens, I will do [something related to what you want to achieve].” We talked about this in our post with 9 Mental Tips and Tricks to Overcome Negative Thoughts in Race.

Give yourself a concrete goal-related task, and choose a cue for initiating it. For example, if you’re racing a 5k, you can tell yourself, “As soon as I pass the two-mile mark, I will push as hard as I can for the last 1.1 miles.”

Even though the research is fairly rudimentary for now, persistence priming and implementation intentions can be an extremely useful addition to your mental toolkit as a runner. Add these to your repertoire and you’ll be able to push yourself harder to achieve the results you want.

I never knew a long day at work could affect my running. Now I know how to offset it.
Click To Tweet

Can Ego Depletion be Avoided?

One way to prevent ego depletion is deceptively simple, and can be summarized in one word: habit. When we fall back on habit or routine, we’re not executing any overt cognitive control over our actions, which should spare us from needing to draw on our willpower reserves.

According to a 2006 scientific article published in Current Directions in Psychological Science, a habit, strictly defined, is an automated response that is triggered by external cues or preceding actions—think hanging up your keys as you walk in the door, swiping your phone’s unlock pattern to respond to a text message, or making a cup of coffee right after getting up in the morning.

You learn a habit by repetition; what starts out as a conscious action gradually becomes automated as your brain picks up on the external cues and actions that cause it.

Here’s the deal:

For most people, bad habits are a source of frustration. Plopping down on the couch and turning on the TV when you get home from work might not be what you want to be doing with your evenings, but if it becomes an engrained habit, it can be very hard to break.

A series of psychology experiments conducted by David Neal, Wendy Wood, and Aimee Drolet at the University of Southern California investigated the good and bad habitual responses of subjects in ego-depleted states in a variety of tests (one example was offering MBA students healthy snacks or junk food during or prior to a difficult midterm exam), and found that good habits work the same way as bad habits.

Your brain doesn’t really care whether habitual behavior is “good” or “bad”; when willpower resources are low, you’ll automatically fall back on habitual behavior. So, instead of willing yourself to get out of bed every morning to go run, what if you make it a habit?

The Importance of a Routine

A few years ago, I was talking with Nobby Hashizume, legendary New Zealand running coach Arthur Lydiard’s most dedicated pupil. He let me in on a secret for making morning runs a part of your routine. He would go to bed wearing his running shorts, and put his shoes and socks at the foot of his bed. In the morning, he’d roll out of bed, put on his shoes, and immediately head out the door.


It may take a while to establish a routine like this, but once you do, it’ll become as automatic as brushing your teeth or taking a shower! Moreover, you’ll be able to fall back on that habit and conserve willpower when you’re already overwhelmed by other things in life.

Other research by Wendy Wood, Jeffrey Quinn, and Deborah Kashy suggests that relying on habitual behavior induces less feelings of stress.

By having a large group of undergraduate students record daily diaries of their activities and emotional states, then running statistical analysis on the aggregate data, Wood, Quinn, and Kashy were able to show that habitual behavior correlates with lower stress levels and higher feelings of control.

This is all the more reason to try to establish good running habits when you know your schedule will be swamped with other obligations future.

The core problem of ego depletion, according to Neal, Wood, and Drolet, is that “when [willpower] resources are limited, people are unable to deliberatively choose or inhibit responses, and they become locked into repeating their habits.”

Establishing good running habits is a convenient loophole that allows you to bypass this problem.

It’s not easy to establish a new habit, like heading out for a morning run every day, especially if it conflicts with an older habit (like hitting the snooze button), but once you do, there are numerous advantages.

When you’re overwhelmed or stressed out, you can turn your brain off and go on auto-pilot. Roll out of bed. Tie shoes. Put on watch. Head out the door.

Awesome post from @Runners_Connect about ego depletion, and how to prevent it!
Click To Tweet


This has been an extensive post, but we really wanted you to get an understanding of how ego depletion can affect your running performance in a way you may not have considered before. If you have been wondering why you are struggling in your training, or why that big PR just will not happen (especially when everyone around you is running them!), this might be your solution.

Although the research is limited in some areas, it provides a good insight into why we may struggle to mentally stay focused during those times we have a lot on our plate.

Hopefully this post helped you see how to overcome ego depletion, and if possible, prevent it in the first place!

]]> 0
What You Need to Know About Kinesiology Tape for Runners Mon, 10 Aug 2015 09:00:04 +0000

Kinesio tape is common at running events and races, but does it actually help? We research into its background, uses, and effects for runners to give you the best advice on how to use it for performance, without becoming reliant on it to run fast.As a runner, chances are you are already familiar with kinesiology tape and may well have personal experience regarding its use.

For the unacquainted, we are talking about the typically brightly coloured tape that is often seen adorning the limbs of both recreational and professional athletes in an attempt to either help rehabilitate an injury or increase performance on race day.

The fact is, these days if you see a therapist for a running related injury, there is a high chance you will leave with at least one strip of kinesiology tape stuck to your body somewhere, normally over the area of pain. But does it actually help? And if so, how does it help?

We are going to look into why kinesio tape may be effective, even if there is little evidence to back it up, and how you can use it correctly to get the most out of your running without becoming reliant on it.

History Of Kinesiology Tape

The first documented use of kinesiology tape was in 1979 when Japanese chiropractor Dr. Kenzo Kase developed a strong, stretchy, sticky tape he called ‘Kinesio Tex Tape’, with the purpose of reducing pain and enhancing healing between appointments.

Although the tape was introduced to the USA in 1995 and Europe in 1996, it was not until the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing that the world really saw the tape in action, mainly because Kinesio USA donated 50,000 rolls of it to 58 participating countries.

High profile athletes in volley ball, water polo, wrestling, basketball and even on the track were suddenly seen with mysterious flashes of black, pink and blue tape whilst competing.


The 2012 Olympics produced an equally impressive display of the tape, and today we see all levels of athletes, especially recreational runners, often covered in new alternative and popular brands that have hit the market, including Rock Tape and KT Tape.


The term ‘Kinesio Tape’ should strictly speaking only be used by Dr Kenzo’s original company Kinesio as they have trademarks on use of the word, so we will refer to it as kinesiology tape or for the sake of brevity in this article, simply tape.

Does Kinesiology Tape Actually Help With Injuries?

Here lies the problem. Though some runners claim it ‘saves them on race day’, others report no effect at all. As far as research goes, there is a distinct lack of quality investigation. We actually researched this in our previous post about the tape, but overall, there is little to go by.

Here’s the deal:

With the current lack of evidence, claims made by smaller brands such as “aids lymphatic and muscle systems”, “reduces recovery times” or “improves fitness” have lead to them being sued.

Fortunately, some of the larger companies have been devoting time and money into producing higher quality research, but for now we will have to wait and see.

In the meantime, lack of quality research should not be used as a reason to dismiss the use of tape completely.

Many of you would be surprised to hear that much of the therapy used to treat injury is not backed by any quality research – ice, heat, massage, ibuprofen are some of the more common ones, and other methods such as Active Release Technique, Shockwave Therapy, and Ultrasound.

It is the apparent success they have in a clinical environment that means we still continue to use them, and most therapists do report that used as a adjunct, kinesiology tape does seem to help some runners some of the time.

Do you use Kinesiology Tape? You need to read this interesting post from @Runners_Connect!
Click To Tweet

Questionable Claims

In the search for justification to use tape, many mechanisms of success have been suggested and promoted. Different tensions of tape, direction of application, even colour of tape are promoted as ways of treating different injuries.

As of yet, none have been substantiated by any evidence.

What the elastic qualities of the tape do seem to do (regardless of degree of stretch) is lift the skin away from the structures underneath it, and it is suggested that this improves blood and lymphatic flow.

Photos of bruises with criss-cross patterns on them where tape has been applied for a few days are often used to demonstrate the effect of tape on blood flow. Whether this visual effect has any relationship with recovery from injury has yet to be demonstrated.

The wrinkles that appear after applying tape to a stretched muscle are used as a sign that some type of ‘decompression’ has occurred between the skin and the tissue underneath.


The problem is, people see benefits of tape both with and without these wrinkles, so how significant is this ‘decompression’ effect?

Is it the physical effect of fluid being able to flow better and speed up healing, or is it that thanks to the tape the brain is receiving different feedback, given that the skin is the first point of contact for the nervous system?

Is It All In The Mind?

Hearing that kinesiology tape may have an effect on the brain & nervous system is interpreted by many as suggesting that ‘it’s all in the mind’.

Indeed, common objection to the use of kinesiology tape by both therapists and runners is that it is just a ‘placebo effect’ and therefore a waste of time and money.

Such criticism is valid but unsubstantiated as there is no quality evidence to date suggesting kinesiology tape is just a placebo.

In fact:

Involvement of the ‘mind’ or better said the ‘brain & nervous system’ is probably one of the soundest proposed mechanisms out there as to how the tape can help reduce pain. After all, it is our brain that decides if we feel pain, when we feel pain and how much we feel.

The skin is one of many important sources of sensory feedback that our nervous system uses in regulation of pain so maybe the presence of the tape does play a mechanical role? As we said previously, research is light but this may be one of the developments in understanding that comes with time.

Can Kinesiology Tape Be Overused?

Just as the effect of kinesiology tape on the nervous system may be the best explanation as to why we decide to use it, it is also the reason that if presented improperly tape could also have a detrimental effect on the wearer and potentially delay recovery.

Comments like ‘the tape saved me’ or ‘the tape held me together’ can be counterproductive for runners as they can reinforce ingrained beliefs that the body is weak, delicate, dependent on external support.

When we take a look at how modern neuroscience explains pain, belief of vulnerability becomes a very significant factor when looking for ways to reduce pain and overcome injury.

Research has shown that just understanding pain can itself be a great tool in overcoming it, especially when it is what we call persistent or chronic pain (has lasted for over 3 months).

Understanding Pain

Despite the common view of pain as an ‘enemy’, it is actually one of the most highly sophisticated defence mechanisms we have to keep us alive and out of danger.

It protects us by serving as an alarm system to warn us that the brain feels threatened. The important thing to take from this is that the pain alarm sounds when the brain feels threatened and not just when actual damage has occurred.

It would be a pretty useless alarm system if it only sounded when damage had already occurred.

Want to know the best part?

The ‘level of threat’ is based on sensory feedback that the brain receives continuously from all over the body, e.g. our proximity to heat, chemicals, pressure, anything that could result in danger.But sensory feedback of potential threat also includes how we are feeling emotionally, what we see and hear, even memories.

Think about a time when you felt no pain until you saw blood. There was no threat until you saw the blood. And how about the runner who has dislocated their knee so many times that it really doesn’t hurt anymore when they do it, as they know someone will eventually pop it back in and everything will be fine.


It is important to point out that we are not saying pain is all in your imagination.

Pain is very real.

However, if your goal is to reduce pain, you need to take into account all of the sensory feedback that may be contributing to it. Our bodies are much stronger and resilient than you probably think.

A tear in a muscle may sound horrific but in reality every time you run you are causing painless micro tears. They heal, you get stronger; that’s the way it works. It is our minds that too often delay recovery due to something we have heard or read.

If you use tape in the belief that it is ‘fixing you’ or ‘holding you together’, you may well be subconsciously increasing a perception of vulnerability and threat, fuel for the brain to continue outputting pain.

But here’s the kicker:

Any form of tape, brace or support sends a message to our brain that we may be in danger. This can be a good thing if we have an acute injury that needs rest.

However, the path to recovery (and therefore pain reduction) is one that requires a gradual increase in our confidence to perform.

This means you taking responsibility and control of the situation and actively proving to yourself (your brain) that you are able to move better and perform more challenging tasks. There comes a point when you need to show yourself that you do not need the crutch anymore.

This post from @SportInjuryMatt for @Runners_Connect about kinesiology tape is changing the way we should look at it.
Click To Tweet


Though it is true there is as yet little quality research showing that kinesiology tape does anything, on a clinical level many therapists see it helping many people some of the time, in the same way that massage, acupuncture and a lot of manual therapy can reduce pain.

Personally, I suspect the benefits we see are the result of the tape influencing the nervous system via sensory feedback, which is why success is very subjective and depends on the individual runner.

For an excellent debate on this topic, listen to Session 12 of The Physic Matters Podcast in which Rocktape UK’s medical director Paul Coker debates the use of kinesiology tape with staunch tape sceptic & triathlon coach Paul Westwood. With both of these speakers being very experienced and respected full-time physiotherapists, the content is excellent.

Listen to this:

Although the actual mechanics behind the reported benefits of kinesiology tape are as yet unclear, trying to make do with a cheaper tape could waste your time, money and even cause harm.

Cheaper brands have less fibres per cm2 so will naturally hold their shape for less time. They also typically use lower quality glue which means they come off quicker, especially if they are less resistant to water and sweat. You also run the risk of getting more skin irritation with cheaper brands.

Personally, I suspect the benefits we do see are the result of the tape influencing the nervous system via sensory feedback.

On the right person, kinesiology tape can be very useful especially in the early stages of recovery, but it has to form part of a comprehensive treatment program. It is not magic and does not hold you together.

Any impression given to the runner that this is the case can actually delay the recovery process and even result in more pain. Kinesiology tape can be an important step in the ladder to recovery, but as English biologist Thomas Huxley eloquently said: “The rung of a ladder was never meant to rest upon, but only to hold a man’s foot long enough to enable him to put the other somewhat higher.”

Happy Running!

Awesome post from @SportInjuryMatt for @Runners_Connect about the Pro's and Con's of Kinesiology Tape! A Must Read!
Click To Tweet

Matt Phillips is a Running Injury Specialist & Video Gait Analyst at StrideUK & Studio57clinic. Follow Matt on Twitter: @sportinjurymatt

]]> 0
Is the Secret to Running Injury Free Foot Core? Mon, 03 Aug 2015 09:00:00 +0000

New research points to the importance of strengthening the small muscles in your foot to stay healthy as a runner. This article analyzes the data and makes suggestions on how to implement this "foot core" into your training.When you think of core exercises, what comes to mind?

Probably sit-ups, planks, and back extensions.

If you’re really on top of your game, you might be picturing side leg lifts, the glute bridge, and other hip strength exercises, because you know that hip weakness been connected with a litany of running injuries. But a provocative new paper published last year proposed that there’s another core you need to worry about—the “foot core.”

Is Your Foot the Key to Running Injury Free?

Patrick McKeon and collaborators from four American universities laid out their theory in a paper in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.1

In the article, the authors draw parallels between the core muscles of the abdomen and spine and the small muscles within your foot itself.

The authors state that although these “plantar intrinsic” foot muscles are very small and not very strong, their role isn’t to create motion. Instead, they stabilize the foot, providing a solid foundation for the larger, more powerful muscles in the lower leg to efficiently move the foot.

The biomechanics of the foot are a little unusual, because it has to alternate between stiff rigidity and springy flexibility during walking and especially during running.

The human body has developed a number of mechanisms that allow for this, and McKeon et al. argue that the small plantar intrinsic muscles inside the foot are one of them.

Another biomechanical quirk of the foot is that the major muscles which control your foot motion, and even your toe motion, aren’t located in the foot itself. The main muscles that scrunch up your toes, point your ankle down, or roll your foot outward are all in your lower leg, adjacent to your calf muscles.

These so-called extrinsic foot muscles are already popular targets for strengthening in rehab programs—think towel scrunches, theraband ankle exercises, and so on. But, as McKeon et al. point out, these exercise don’t do as much to stimulate the plantar intrinsic foot muscles.

Learning about Foot Core and how it can help you run healthy (and happy!)
Click To Tweet

Fatigue in Foot Muscles and Injury Risk

The centerpiece of McKeon et al.’s hypothesis is that proper functioning of the “foot core” is essential to being able to walk and run without injury. With scientific research focusing mostly on hip dysfunction as a cause of injury in the past decade, the paper’s authors worry that researchers are missing an important piece of the puzzle.

There is some evidence that foot muscle function plays a role in biomechanics:

A 2008 study by researchers at the University of Virginia showed that doing an exercise that fatigued the foot muscles causes the arch to collapse slightly,2 and another study of eight people with plantar fasciitis in one foot found smaller and presumably plantar intrinsic muscles in the injured foot than in the healthy foot—though this could also just be the result of favoring the healthy leg.3

Since the idea of a foot core is very new, McKeon et al.’s discussion of the practical implications of this idea is rather brief.

In addition to calling for more research, the authors recommend the use of a special maneuver called the “short foot exercise” to begin strengthening the plantar intrinsics, as well as small, controlled amounts of barefoot activity (e.g. running on grass).

Remember, we interviewed Chris McDougall on our podcast a few months ago, take a listen if you have not already!

 Foot Short Strengthening Exercise for Injury Prevention

The foot shortening exercise is performed by sitting in a chair with your foot planted normally on the ground, then using only your plantar intrinsic muscles (the ones underneath your arch) to “shorten” your foot and raise your arch.

Here’s the deal:

This can be very tough to learn, since your first instinct is to flex your toes or just roll your ankle outward to accomplish this.

McKeon et al. write that establishing control of this muscle can be difficult, but once you’ve mastered it, you can try doing the short foot exercise while standing or even while balancing on one foot. The authors provide no recommendations on how often to do this exercise, or even how many repetitions you should do—this underscores the fact that these are only preliminary recommendations based on McKeon et al.’s hypothesis.


As for the efficacy of the short foot exercise, McKeon et al. point to a couple of small studies, including a 2010 doctoral thesis by Lindsay Drewes at the University of Virginia.

Drewes found that adding the foot shortening exercise to a standard rehab program for chronic ankle instability resulted in better subjective improvements in foot function among the study’s subjects who included the short foot exercise in their rehab program, though these improvements weren’t measurable through objective measurements, like dynamic balance testing.4

Wow! What an interesting post! Could Foot Core be the way to healthy running?
Click To Tweet


The idea of a foot core in addition to your regular core is an interesting proposition, but there’s far too little research on it yet to fully endorse it.

As the focus of research swings back towards the foot, it will be exciting to see what new findings are discovered, but for now, the most you should do is think about trying out the short foot exercise and perhaps incorporating a little bit of barefoot running on grass into your weekly training routine, if you don’t do it already.


]]> 6
How to Plan Your Racing Schedule for Success Mon, 27 Jul 2015 09:00:19 +0000

It can be difficult to determine a racing schedule to allow you to reach your goals, and run fast when it matters, at your goal race. This article explains how to plan your training and racing, depending on how much you like (and have time to) race.When it comes to racing, there seem to be two types of runners; those who race often, competing in many marathons a year, thinking about their next race before they have even made it out the finishing chute of the last, and spending most of their training time recovering from races. These people essentially race themselves into shape, and truly make the most of racing while they can.

Then there are the others, and I fall into this group. Maybe you are an elite, maybe you are injury prone, or maybe you just can only fit a few races into your schedule a year because of other commitments. These are the runners who are very selective with their racing schedule, and only really race when they are ready to chase down some fast times.

There is no right or wrong when it comes to racing… long as you are smart with your 5k, 10k, Half-Marathon, or Marathon race day strategy that is!

At the end of the day, all that really matters is that you challenge yourself, have fun (need more of that? Try these 6 extreme and unusual races), and do the best you can with the circumstances you are presented with.

But we often get the question; how far in advance should I plan my races out, and as I am sure you can guess, there are two answers to this question based on which camp you fall into.

Both methods will get you to the same peak race ready to go, and both have their pros and cons (which I will go over). If we say that your goal race is 16 weeks from your starting point, I will explain the various factors that go into each.

If You Love to Race

If you like to race often, you probably enjoy the social aspect of racing, and this means that you may be running with friends during a few of your races. If you are doing that, you may not be pushing yourself quite as hard as you would if you were by yourself, or at least not emotionally racing as hard as you would alone as friends tend to keep those demons away a little more.

For that reason, you are probably able to bounce back from races a little quicker than those who race less often. Your body also gets used to racing, which helps it understand what is going on. This correlates with what we found in our research about weekend warriors and the success despite cramming miles into a weekend.

If you are in the race often group, you do not need to schedule your races as far in advance… long as you are prepared for the first few races to be a little sub par, as you are not yet at your peak fitness.

If you can swallow your ego and do this, then this method is likely best for you.

How to Race Often

Racing often involves just that; within the 16 week stretch, choosing 7-12 races of varying distances (and terrains if your peak race has any hills or turns). You will not taper for any of the races, and will use the races as a workout for the next. Each race should build on the last, and although some will go better than others (and not necessarily in order), your fitness should continue to improve as your peak race closes.

You may also find that you are able to handle pre-race nerves a little better than if you race less.

In the weeks you are racing, you will be able to do one other race specific workout each week. The race will be your second workout. A long run will depend on the distance you are racing, and the distance of your goal race.

Risks for the Race Often Method

If you are injury prone, this method can be risky as you are pushing your body very hard, often.

If you do want to race often, then you should probably consider either a long run or a second workout each week, not both. That way you are essentially racing and recovering for the entire segment. This also involves being very diligent with your recovery, not making these recovery mistakes, and listening to your body, even if it means backing off (or backing out of a race) if you have any pains that have last more than a few days.

Here’s the deal:

This method also calls for some restraint. If you are a runner who tends to give their all to their racing, this method may not be for you as you could end up burned out by the end. Racing to your max not only takes a lot out of you physically, but emotionally too, which can catch up with you by the time you get to your goal race.

This method is best for:

  • Runners who enjoy the social aspect of racing
  • Runners who are good at listening to their body
  • Those who are unable to get enough training in during the week due to schedule conflicts
  • Runners who enjoy being spontaneous

I love to race often! @Runners_Connect explains how to plan our your schedule for the season ahead.
Click To Tweet

If You Need to Race Hard, Sparingly

On the other end of the spectrum are those runners who are not as in to racing. These are the runners who enjoy the race specific workouts, and like to have a detailed plan from start to finish.

If you, like me, fall into this group, you are probably a Type A personality. Or maybe you have other commitments (or maybe little ones running around) who determine your schedule weekend to weekend. Either way, racing often is not on the cards for you, and you need to make the most of every opportunity to race.

How to Race Sparingly

Runners in this group usually like to have a full schedule, knowing their goal race, and all the workouts in between.

If we use the 16 week away goal race, you would chose 3-5 races of varying distances during that 16 weeks. You are unlikely to race until you are in close to PR shape, although you should expect to be a little rusty in that first race.

This is where we usually advise people to change your perspective on racing, to limit the amount of pressure we put on ourselves when we do not race very often.

This works well when you have a few big races in mind, and you love to run them hard. You love to cross that finish line knowing you have given your heart and soul to the race. By racing less often than other running friends, you have more time to emotionally and physically recover between them.

Risks for the Race Sparingly Method

Firstly, be prepared for jealousy. This is one of the issues I personally struggle with being one of these runners, as you see friends with their medals and that post race smile on their faces what seems like every weekend, and you wonder if you should abandon your plan and race anyway. To use this method you have to be confident in your coach or in your plan, and trust that you are doing the right thing.

This method requires putting your eggs in one basket. With fewer opportunities to race, you are trusting that you are going to be able to avoid injury and get to that goal race. We never know when we are going to get injured, so it can be difficult to accept if you do have to pull out of your goal race, as you feel like you have gained nothing from the training segment, which of course, is not true!

I have fallen victim to this thinking many times!

This method is best for:

  • Injury prone runners
  • Runners who tend to race to the max every time they race
  • Runners who have other commitments/a busy schedule
  • Beginner runners
  • Runners who like to have a distinct plan (usually Type A personalities!)

I chose my races carefully. Which group do you fall into? Planning races with @Runners_Connect
Click To Tweet

What’s the bottom line?

Unfortunately, I am not making this easy on you. There is no right or wrong method for planning out your races, it really depends on what your goals are, and how your body handles training. With either method, you need to make sure you are keeping your easy runs slow enough for your body to recover, which we talked about in our post about running 80% easy leading to 23% faster results.

This post will give you a few things to consider when you are planning out your next race, but 16 weeks generally the amount of time most people use to prepare for a peak race.

How much you race during that time, is up to you!

If you are looking for a specific training plan for your next race, you should give the RunnersConnect training plan a try. You can get a 2 week free trial, and we would love to have you as part of the team!

Not convinced RunnersConnect is right for you? Read about how we compare to Hansons, Hal Higdon, Pfitzinger, and McMillan.

Great post from @Runners_Connect about how to plan out your races #runnersconnect
Click To Tweet

]]> 0
How to Run Like an Olympian in the Pool Mon, 20 Jul 2015 09:00:02 +0000

If you are injured, you will do anything to keep your running fitness as high as possible. Deep water running will do just that. This guide explains the correct technique for you to get back to running as quickly as possible when you get back on land.You knew in your heart something was wrong. You knew that pain was not the kind of pain you could run through, but you pushed it aside and kept going. Soon you were in the doctors office, and they said the one word you hoped they would not say, rest.

You haggle with your physician, and they agree to let you cross-train if it does not irritate your injury. You frantically begin to search the internet for the best way to stay in shape. Short of spending thousands on an Alter-G treadmill or an Elliptigo, what is the next best thing?

Pool Running.

We have talked about the research behind pool running in the past, and shared 7 workouts that will make you feel like your heart is going to explode, but today we are taking it one step further. Giving you advice from an expert who explains (and demonstrates) exactly how to pool run correctly, so you not only maintain your fitness, but you may even come out in better fitness than had you been running all along.

If you want to keep your running fitness during injury, this post is for you.

This guest post was written by Lynda Huey

When I took the first few UCLA distance runners into the pool in 1983, virtually no one was cross training in water. They found it an odd idea. But when runners can’t run, they become desperate – desperate enough to put on a bathing suit and try it out.

We started doing the full running motion, which included a foreleg reach, but we quickly discarded that. The resistance of the water slowed the motion so proper speed could not be attained. These days, we use that old “full running motion” for recovery, especially when hamstrings are sore. But during all other training cycles, we do the back half of the running motion only. That’s the technique that allows runners to reach top speed.

Deep-Water Running


In deep water, we do only the back half of the running motion; that is, there’s no forward reach with the foreleg and foot. In fact, I tell runners that if they can see their feet they’re not running correctly. One knee lifts while the other foot drives down and back.

Pool Shots 1 039

We use this running form so we can move quickly enough to duplicate the effort and speed of high-intensity running. Once you have mastered the Knee Up/Foot Down motion, start using the same good arm action as proper running form on land. Pull the elbows straight back. Pull the hand all the way back to an imaginary hip pocket. Keep the chest erect and the shoulders relaxed and down. Find a focal point at eye level ahead of them. That keeps the head level. Don’t let the shoulders wobble. Work to establish smooth, efficient running form without any extraneous movement.

Here are the most common mistakes:

  1. Swinging the arms across the chest. The arms should be pulled straight forward and back.
  2. Rocking the shoulders forward and back. The shoulders should remain stationary while the arms move at the shoulder. The whole torso should be solid and motionless. Only the arms and legs move.
  3. Bending and straightening the elbow. The elbow should remain bent at 90 degrees and the movement should take place only at the shoulder.
  4. Not pulling the elbows back far enough. Emphasize pulling the elbow back and your hand will come all the way to your hip.
  5. Rocking the head from side to side. Keep the head level without motion.

Uh Oh! I just realized I was pool running incorrectly. This article from @Runners_Connect explains how to do it right
Click To Tweet

Without a tether, the tendency will be to lean forward and try to reach the other side of the pool. The point isn’t to travel anywhere but to focus on turnover rate and good form. So keep the chest lifted or get a tether to help with good form. You can attach it to a ladder, a starting block, or even your athletic bag placed poolside. If you’re in an outdoor pool, you can attach the tether to the leg of a lounge chair or even to a rope tied to a tree.

Pool Shots 1 041

Deep-Water Running on a Tether

If it’s a casual workout, I might let the runners move around the pool. The same is true for a recovery workout after competition or a tough workout.

But if the intent of the workout is focused, high-intensity training, I put all the runners on a tether so there are no distractions. Without having to think about turning or avoiding others in the pool, the runners can put their attention on the mental part of the workout.

Workouts Specific to the Distance the Athlete is Training For

I put runners together who run similar distances so they can calculate the correct cadence for the workout. If I ask elite distance runners for a 5-minute mile pace, they will find the right cadence that will translate to that pace together.

I will put the 5K and 10K runners together. They will run intervals per their coaches’ instructions and we will monitor the work based on time rather than distance.

For instance, if the coach wants the 5K runners to do 4 x 800M, I ask them each to hit the pace they could hold for 2 minutes and I will talk them through two laps of the track. Even though most world-class tracks have longer turns and shorter straight-aways than they did twenty years ago, I still use my same formula: every 15 seconds equals 100M, and I consider each 100M either a turn or a straight-away.


When the milers start their first 800, I’ll get them started at an easy running speed and make any corrections on form. Then I’ll say, “Ready, GO! Out around the first turn. Establish your speed.” I will keep up the chatter to help them internally visualize that they are running on a track. “Top of the turn,” I will say about 7 seconds into it, then at the 15-second mark, I’ll say, “Coming out of the turn. You’re on the first backstretch now. Maintain your good form and keep the pace you’re supposed to run.”

I will talk them through the second turn and the home stretch then do the same thing for the bell lap. When they hit the home stretch for the second and final time, I start clapping my hands and tell them to “Lift, go into your kick, use your arms.”

All the things their coaches would say to them during a race. I watch the clock, but I want them keeping their eyes forward, their heads steady. So I count down the last 50M for them. “40M, 30M, 20M, 10M….STOP!” Their effort ceases and they start their easy-movement recovery before getting ready for the next 800.

10k Runners

The 10K runners might do 4-lapper, 6-lapper, or 8-lapper repeats, so we’ll pace those out as if on a track, too. And again, I’ll talk them through each lap, which equates to 60 seconds on the clock.

The narrative I use to keep them motivated might put their biggest rival right beside them. I might say that the rival has pulled ahead to make the athlete I’m training work harder, both physically and mentally. Over the 8-lapper, that lead can go back and forth a few times to keep the interest level high.

At the end, I like to let my athlete edge out the rival. That builds more mental confidence.

Learning about how to use deep water running correctly to maintain fitness during injury
Click To Tweet

Marathon Runners

On the other end of the spectrum, when I work with marathoners, we might simulate a 10-mile run that they can mentally picture over familiar terrain.

It helps if I know the course, but if not, I let them do the running at a specified pace and I ask them to keep me posted if we’re approaching an uphill or downhill.

If they tell me there’s a hill at the 9-minute mark, I start telling them about it at 8:30, asking them to summon up their strength, then push them verbally up the hill, asking for increased effort and force against the water.

Although they enjoy having training partners, they do equally well without a partner as long as I keep the commentary going so they can mentally be running on their favorite ten-mile loop.

We spend a lot more time in the pool running, because marathoners have to train many more miles (which are measured in minutes) than runners who race shorter distances.

The mental aspect of pool training can’t be underestimated. Anyone can do the running, but it requires the mental work to create training that carries over and shows up in the athletes’ first land workouts when they come back to land. The mental work gives the athlete confidence.

Other Exercises Using Deep-Water

Besides running, I use other deep-water techniques to provide variety, strengthen muscles in different ways, and break up all the forward and backward motion. Flies are a great exercise for strengthening the inner and outer thighs during the recovery time between intervals.


Have your runners lean slightly backward until they learn the balance point on this exercise. Then they can assume the upright position shown in the photos below.

Start with the arms together and the feet together (photo A). Then open the arms and legs wide to the position in B. The hands are in a palms-down position just beneath the surface of the water so that they “slice” through the water with little resistance.

Close the arms and legs again and continue with Flies. Use Flies for 30 seconds to two minutes of recovery. Virtually all elite athletes recover in two minutes, regardless of how hard they were working.

Pool Shots 1 013

Pool Shots 1 014

Power Walk

Hold one arm and the opposite leg forward. Now switch positions so the other arm and leg are forward. Keep both arms and legs straight throughout this motion. Turn the hands wide like paddles so that the palms face backward through the forward and backward motion of the arms. Then lift the toes up on the leg that is moving forward and at the same time point the toes down on the leg that is moving backward.

I use the commands: “Flex-Up, Point-Back.” When asking the runners to work harder on this exercise, I use the commands: “Push Forward, and Back, and Forward, and Back.”

Pool Shots 1 034

The muscles that are fairly neglected in deep-water running are the calf muscles. We add the pointing and flexing of the feet to create work for the calf muscles in Power Walk in order to correct that imbalance.

Distance runners often experience over-use injuries because of the repeated micro-trauma that comes from “pounding the pavement.” Micro-trauma is the repetitive stress placed on tissues over time that result in a cumulative injury. The minor pain at the onset of common over-use injuries is an example of micro-trauma that left unattended eventually leads to dysfunctional injuries. Below is a list of the most common injuries that plague distance runners – they all can be caused by over-use.

  • Runner’s knee – pain around or behind the kneecap
  • Achilles tendinitis – inflammation of the Achilles tendon
  • Plantar fasciitis – a painful, inflamed thick band of tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot connecting the heel bone to the toes
  • Shin splints –pain along the shin bone (tibia), the large bone at the front of the lower leg; often a first-year runner’s ailment
  • Iliotibial band syndrome – a tight or inflamed ligament that runs down the outside of the thigh from the hip to the knee, often causing knee pain
  • Stress fracture – a crack in a bone caused by repetitive stress rather than sudden trauma
  • Patellar tendinitis – inflammation of the patellar tendon, the connective tissue that attaches from the bottom of the kneecap onto the tibia

The best way to avoid these injuries is to turn to the pool at the first sign of over-use pain. By doing a high-intensity workout in the pool, you can “take a day off without taking a day off.” Start cross training right away and don’t go back to running on land until you can run in chest-deep water without pain.



Injured? This post from @Runners_Connect explains how to pool run in detail (with pictures and videos)! Very helpful!
Click To Tweet

If you want to learn more about pool running, be sure to take a listen to our podcast with Lynda; 7+ Ways Cross Training Will Make You A Better, Stronger, Runner- Alan Webb, Darren Brown & Lynda Huey. This will really open your eyes, it’s worth a listen….especially if you are injured!

E90A5418Lynda Huey, M.S. founder of Huey’s Athletic Network and CompletePT, pioneered the use of water rehabilitation with Olympic and professional athletes in the 1980s. She trains aquatic therapists from Australia, Europe, South America and the Middle East as well as from private clinics, hospitals, and universities. Her five books on water exercise and rehabilitation are considered the foundation of aquatic therapy world-wide. Learn about her aquatic rehab online course at

]]> 0
Do Runners have a Free Pass for Unhealthy Eating? Mon, 13 Jul 2015 09:00:16 +0000

Can runners eat anything they like and stay thin? We look at the research to find out if you can keep your weight low, run fast, and eat fast-food.When trying to lose weight, what is the first form of exercise that comes to mind for most?

If you said running, you would be correct. As runners we are proud of our sport, and we love to reap the rewards of our hard training and dedication to getting faster by indulging in some rewards after the race is complete.

We are told to eat healthy, and usually runners are pretty good at this, but when you are at that point in your training where the mileage and intensity are high, it can be tempting to get into the mindset of being able to eat whatever you want, as you will burn it off in that 20 miler you have coming this weekend.

Runner and author John L. Parker Jr. once wrote that “if the furnace was hot enough, anything would burn, even Big Macs”—meaning that distance runners could, if they ran enough, eat pretty much whatever they wanted and stay healthy and lean.

Does running give you a free pass to eat anything you like?

An editorial published last month in the British Journal of Sports Medicine explicitly and sharply critiqued that viewpoint, arguing that, as its title states, “you cannot outrun a bad diet.”

The authors, Aseem Malhotra, Tim Noakes (who was interviewed on our podcast last year), and Stephen Phinney, argued instead that the key to weight loss and overall health is a low-carbohydrate diet, not exercise.1

The editorial went on to criticize the food industry for marketing sugar-laden products while supporting the message that exercise is the best path to weight loss and health. They cited a number of recent scientific studies in support of their argument, including one which showed no significant change in physical activity levels over the last thirty years, despite obesity rates spiraling higher.


This puts runners in an uncomfortable position. Traditionally, we’ve relied on our prodigious exercise volume to counteract our carb-heavy and often less-than-perfect diets (post-race pizza and beer, anyone?).

If Malhotra, Noakes, and Phinney are correct, runners might need to rethink their approach to maintaining good overall health.

Read about what the pioneers of the future in running discovered about unhealthy eating and…
Click To Tweet

Is a healthy diet more important than exercise?

The BJSM paper attracted a horde of media attention, spurring articles with titles like “Exercise ‘not key to obesity fight,'” but it also raised some eyebrows among fellow medical doctors and public health researchers. The reaction among experts was a mixture of cautious endorsement and stern criticism.

Here’s the deal:

On one hand, Ian Broom of the Centre for Obesity Research and Epidemiology at Robert Gordon University in Scotland said in an interview that he tends to agree with the paper’s point that high-carb diets promote insulin resistance (a precursor to type 2 diabetes), and that exercise does not have a significant contribution to weight loss, though he pointed out a few misconceptions in the paper.2

On the other, in a commentary for a group called the Global Energy Balance Network, Steven Blair, a professor at the University of South Carolina, criticized Malhotra, Noakes, and Phinney’s interpretation of the data analysis, and Nicholas Finer at University College London claim the paper’s authors confused correlation with causation in many of their examples.3, 2

This is interesting:

When the BJSM temporarily retracted the paper because of “an expression of concern,” it only added to the controversy.

According to Retraction Watch, a website that reports on scientific papers that are withdrawn, the retraction occurred because of some undeclared conflicts of interest from the authors, though there were also grumblings about claims made from tenuous evidence.4

Being transparent about potential competing interests that might bias your results is one of the cornerstones of scientific research.

In this case, the BJSM reinstated the paper after it was made clear that two of the authors have written popular books extolling the benefits of low-carb diets, and one is a paid member of the Atkins Scientific Advisory Board (of Atkins Diet fame).

Exclusive bonus: Get the only runner’s calorie calculator that factors in your metabolism and the miles you ran to help you determine exactly how many calories you burned each day. Plus, get a breakdown of how many calories you need to eat (including how many carbs, proteins and fats you should target) to lose weight. Download yours for free here.

It’s important to note that this does not invalidate their research; in fact, it’s far from the only potentially confounding interest in this story.

Steven Blair’s Global Energy Balance Network, which criticized the study, is funded in part by The Coca-Cola Company, and another health expert who publicly criticized the article had previously given paid talks on behalf of a fruit juice company.

Just because you run, can you eat anything you want? @Runners_Connect covers both sides
Click To Tweet

What does this mean for “you can’t outrun a bad diet”?

The good news is that there are a few points of agreement among researchers.

Even Malhotra, Noakes, and Phinney admit at the beginning of their article that moderate to vigorous exercise decreases your risk of heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and dementia.

And some critics of the study pointed to a large meta-analysis published last year that found, while including exercise in a weight-loss program does lead to better long-term results than only dieting, it does not lead to more weight loss in the first several months of a program.5


But the real question, which may remain muddled for a while longer, is whether exercise can counteract the effects of poor dietary decisions.

On top of this, it’s not quite clear what exactly constitutes poor dietary decisions!

Does the very high carbohydrate turnover of a runner in training offset potential health risks (if there are any) of eating a lot of carbs in your diet?

You can probably guess what the soft drink industry and low-carb dietary institutions think the answer to that is, but uncovering the real truth will likely take several more years of patient, careful, and rigorous research.

As that process unfolds, it’s probably best to follow that old adage of “all good things in moderation.” It’ll be a while longer before we have any good answers on whether a lot of exercise negates a bad diet, so for now, better to hedge your bets and lean towards a healthy diet, even if you do run a lot.

Interesting! @Runners_Connect examines the 'furnace is hot enough' argument
Click To Tweet

Struggling with your weight?

Losing weight is one of the primary reasons many runners begin the sport, although most runners then fall in love with the other benefits running brings, but what if you are struggling with weight? Can we remind you that you are not the only one! Not only does almost every runner worry about their weight in some way, but many runners even gain weight shortly after starting their training!

Check out our previous posts about weight for more information, and to hopefully put your mind at ease!

Why You Might Gain Weight While Training For The Marathon

How Much Does Excess Weight Impact Your Running Performance?

Why You Might Not Lose Weight While Running

Losing Weight Without Sacrificing Running Performance

Understand How Metabolism Works to Unlock the Mystery of Running and Weight Loss

If you want to keep better track of your calories, check this out:

Exclusive bonus: Get the only runner’s calorie calculator that factors in your metabolism and the miles you ran to help you determine exactly how many calories you burned each day. Plus, get a breakdown of how many calories you need to eat (including how many carbs, proteins and fats you should target) to lose weight. Download yours for free here.

]]> 2
Why You Need to Take Care of Your Runner’s Knee NOW Mon, 06 Jul 2015 09:00:21 +0000

Runner's knee is painful and frustrating, but could you also be doing long term damage and risking arthritis by running on it? We look at the research, and show you how to keep your knees healthy.When something hurts, and is coming in the way of you and your running goals, you are looking for any kind of solution that could make it go away.

We know how you feel, and that is why so many of our posts provide such specific recommendations on common running injuries like achilles tendinitis, shin splints, and of course runner’s knee.

Have you ever had runner’s knee?

If not, you probably know someone who has.

It’s a nagging, aching pain just underneath your kneecap, and it’s by far the most common running injury, accounting for one out of every six injuries in all runners.1

Runner’s knee, more properly referred to as patellofemoral pain syndrome, can be tough to shake off. Scientific research has uncovered some solid rehab protocols to treat the problem, but even with these, recovery can take a while.

Exclusive bonus: Download our full Runner’s Knee Prevention Routine. It’s a PDF with images and descriptions of the 10 most effective prevention and rehab exercises for runners with Runner’s Knee issues. Download yours for free here.

Does runner’s knee cause long term damage?

The exact mechanism of injury in patellofemoral pain syndrome is unclear, but it appears to have something to do with the cartilage underneath the kneecap. The involvement of cartilage in an overuse injury is a bit alarming, since cartilage is known for its poor healing ability.

You might be wondering:

Could long-standing cases of runner’s knee lead to chronic knee problems later in life?

A lot of people get knee pain as teenagers or young adults, but knee pain at a young age has been traditionally chalked up as a mostly benign, self-limiting condition. Recent research has begun to question this, however, as a large percentage of people with knee pain at a young age appear to go on to have ongoing knee pain for several years.

Runner’s knee and chronic knee pain

These findings spurred a systematic review of the scientific literature by Martin Thomas and other researchers at Keele University and the University of Central Lancashire in the UK.2

In their 2010 paper, Thomas et al. highlighted seven studies that investigated the potential link between anterior knee pain (much of which was likely patellofemoral pain syndrome) and osteoarthritis of the knee later in life.

While having this many studies to look at seemed promising, most of them were small, low-quality case series whose findings are tenuous at best.

Here’s why:

Many relied on vague definitions of what constituted “anterior knee pain” or included both traumatic knee injuries (like twisting your knee playing basketball) alongside knee injuries that resulted from overuse.

Despite this, Thomas et al. evaluated six low-quality studies to estimate the annual risk of developing knee arthritis after having anterior knee pain.

Two studies with a combined thirty subjects had none go on to develop knee osteoarthritis after five to sixteen years (a zero percent risk), while annual risk in the other studies ranged from 0.9% to 3.4%.

Learning about the connection between arthritis and runner's knee
Click To Tweet

Any relevant data?

One study, however, was of fairly high quality: three medical doctors at Southmead Hospital in the UK published a 2005 paper which interviewed 234 patients undergoing partial joint replacement surgery for knee arthritis about their history of patellofemoral pain syndrome-like problems when they were younger.3

Half the patients were undergoing surgery for arthritis isolated at the patellofemoral joint, while the other half were undergoing a different surgical procedure for arthritis isolated on the inside of the tibia-femur joint (so-called “medial compartment” arthritis).

This second group acted as a control group, since their variant of knee arthritis did not involve the patellofemoral joint, so presumably patellofemoral problems earlier in life didn’t influence their arthritis risk.

The researchers found that 22% of the patients with patellofemoral joint arthritis recalled having anterior knee pain when they were younger, compared with only 6% of the patients with medial compartment arthritis.

However, even this study has its limitations.

It relied on the patients to recall their own injury history stretching back several decades, which has the potential to be very unreliable.

Even though runners have a good memory of their own injury history, you probably have to check your logs to remember the specifics (“was that arch trouble I had back in college in my left or right foot?”). It would have been much better to rely on medically-diagnosed cases of patellofemoral pain syndrome, but the difficulty of assembling a long-term study like that is immense.


Whether having runner’s knee in adolescence or early adulthood leads to a higher risk of knee osteoarthritis later in life is still an open question.

Some research indicates that there may be an association between the two conditions, but if runner’s knee does increase your risk for arthritis, we do know that the magnitude of that increase isn’t enormous—after all, runners as a whole do not have a higher risk for knee osteoarthritis than the general population, so if the risk was very large, we’d expect to see a difference in that statistic too.4

Additionally, the risk of knee arthritis following injuries common in other sports is far greater. Research in soccer players, for example, pegs the risk of knee arthritis following an ACL tear at over fifty percent!5, 6


If you’re still worried about the connection between runner’s knee and arthritis, the best thing you can do until more research comes out is work to keep your knee healthy.

There may a link between Runner's Knee and Arthritis. Better get it taken care of NOW!
Click To Tweet

Some researchers have hypothesized that the same faulty biomechanics that lead to runner’s knee are linked to knee arthritis as well, so the most logical thing to do is adopt a strengthening and stretching plan similar to one you’d use to treat runner’s knee. We actually created a prevention routine for you to keep those knees healthy, and reduce your risk of arthritis.

Exclusive bonus: Download our full Runner’s Knee Prevention Routine. It’s a PDF with images and descriptions of the 10 most effective prevention and rehab exercises for runners with Runner’s Knee issues. Download yours for free here.

]]> 4
9 Ways to Overcome The Negative Thoughts in a Race Mon, 29 Jun 2015 09:00:05 +0000

The mental aspect of racing is almost more important than the physical training you have done to get there. These 9 tips are great for switching your perspective when those negative thoughts emerge.We hear that running is 90% mental, and we know that once you let those negative thoughts come into your mind, they can quickly send you backwards as your thoughts spiral out of control. So why is there not more out there helping us with the mental aspect of running?

We have all been there.

That moment in a race when you start to believe the plea to slow down, and you start to actually believe the “I cant do this” thoughts.

Before you know it, you are questioning why you put yourself through this. Then you go even further and start to question your sanity; “why would anyone PAY to do this?”.

What feels like a lifetime later, the finishing line comes into view, and suddenly your second wind arrives.

You power past people in that straightaway, feeling strong, crossing the line and feeling that rush of endorphins; THAT is why we do this, but it is hard not to feel disappointed in yourself.

If only I kept up my pace, and didn’t have that funk in the middle, who knows how much faster I would have run.

Does this sound familiar to anyone?

Is there anyone not nodding their head?

Runners are in it Together

Before I go any further, I just described this situation, and I am an elite runner. EVERYONE has those thoughts from time to time. Everyone has had those races, even elite runners, and you should find some comfort in that, knowing that when you are struggling, if you look to your left and right, the chances are, those people are going through those same emotions you are.

Recently, I interviewed bestselling author and sports psychologist Dr. Stan Beecham, who gave great advice for how to get the most out of your racing, even when things are going wrong. I strongly encourage you to take a listen. It was a really interesting interview, and you will learn a lot about how successful runners are able to overcome those moments of doubt.

You might be wondering:

What can we do to make sure we do not let ourseslves spiral out of control? How can we give ourselves the best chance of success in a race, without changing anything physically?

Like your muscles in your body, your emotional state has to be trained to deal with that pain too.

1. Training the Body and the Mind for Pain

Have you ever noticed that it is much more difficult to push yourself in a race or a workout after you have not done it in a while. That is one of the reasons, actually, the main reason those rust buster races are usually not great.

It is not so much physically, but we forget what it feels like to push through the pain. We forget that running may bring us happiness, but it also hurts, a lot!

When you are forced to step away from it, all you can see are the good parts of racing, but you forget that in order to achieve that moment where your hands are in the air, beaming with pride, you had to go through some real pain to get there.

Like the old saying goes, anything worth having is worth fighting for.

Therefore, tip number one is that you need to keep doing it.

Persevere and trust that you will get stronger, you will get better at handling the pain, and each time you race, you are taking a step forward, getting stronger, even though it may not seem like it at the time.

2. Thinking about the Finish Line

When we are in that moment of a race where we have to make a decision of whether we are going to push through the pain, or give in to the voice telling you to slow down, as I mentioned earlier, we often forget why we are doing this.

Travis Macy talked about these “why goals” in much more detail in his podcast episode.

Remember, you want to get that feel good, hands in the air, proud moment at the finish. If you think about that moment, and how good it is going to feel, it may just be enough to kick you back into gear, and make you realize that you are actually not hurting as bad as you thought.

Or that you want that end goal no matter how much it hurts. If you visualize yourself crossing the finish line, huge smile on your face, you are probably going to wake yourself up enough to get through the rough patch. We talked about this in more detail in our post on visualization.

3. Take the Pressure Off

Often we go through these mental struggles because we feel like we are going to let someone down.

We wonder about what others are going to think or say if we do not have a good race.

We wonder what will happen to our self worth if we do not succeed in running. Especially in our sharing culture, we think about what we NEED to do too much.

Remember, at the end of the day, it is just running. It is just putting one foot in front of the other. It does not say anything about who YOU are, and you have more to offer this world than just being a runner.

You will still be you, and your family and friends will love you no matter whether you finish first, last, or even if you DNF. I actually wrote more about this on my personal blog post; Be Brave, Be Strong, Be You.

Reminding yourself of this before the race, or even during, can be a great way to change your mindset to see that there is no need to be nervous, this is just a reward for your hard work.

These mental tricks from @Runners_Connect are going to help me in my next race
Click To Tweet

4. Run for Something Greater than Yourself

Running is an individual sport, yes, but that does not mean there are not other people involved.

We each have our own support network, filled with friends, family, physical therapists, coaches, or whoever else yours may include, but those people support you and believe in you.

Here’s the deal:

Sometimes when a rough patch hits in a race, it helps to take your thinking away from “I” and dedicate a mile (or minute) to each member of your support network instead.

This usually works best with the marathon as it shifts your thinking away from how long you have to go, but instead you are just focusing on one mile at a time, and giving your best for that person who has given you their time and support, and most of all, believed in you.

That being said, it can work in a shorter race, if you think about how much those people mean to you, and how good it will feel to hug them afterwards when you have accomplished your goal.

Another way of looking at this, is to think about your team. If you are a part of a team of runners, or running for a charity, you want them to be successful, you want them to earn the respect they deserve. By shifting your focus away from I, it helps you to  get rid of that whiny voice in your head, and focus on other people instead.

5. Use Mantras

This one is fairly well known, but different for each of us.

We all have our own phrases or mantras that help motivate us, and which one works for you will depend on the experiences you have had in your life.

For me personally, I love the Rocky Balboa movies. Cheesy, yes. Old, yes. Completed unrelated to running; yes, but I love it. I love comparing myself to Rocky, thinking that I am the one who has nothing but sheer grit compared to many other runners who have all the resources in the world. My favorite quote is this:

“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place, and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done! Now, if you know what you’re worth, then go out and get what you’re worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody. Cowards do that and that ain’t you. You’re better than that!”- Rocky Balboa

As I am sure you can guess, this is a little too long to recite in a race (but I do actually know it word for word!), I therefore say to myself, “keep moving forward” amd that is enough to motivate me most of the time.

Here’s the secret:

Look around you. Think hard about a favorite quote, and find some way of reminding yourself of it, using one word or a few words. And do not be afraid to change if you find one is no longer working for you.

When I raced the London marathon, my word was “believe”, and I even went as far as to write it in big letters on the insdie of my forearm. When I struggled, I looked down at it, and it reminded me of why I was doing this.

This is one of the most powerful ways to overcome a struggle in a race, and you can personalize it to you!

6. Focus on Your Form

This one is often used by elites towards the end of a race. This is a great way of distracting yourself, while giving yourself the best chance of success. As we tire, our form tends to break down, which means we become inefficient, which makes it even more difficult to run faster, or even maintain.

By focusing on your form, you can focus on the mechanics, rather than the pain. This is especially useful for hills during a race. We have a great post on how to run up and down hills correctly. Think about those points when you are having a hard time. It may just be the distraction you need.

7. Counting as Distraction

Just like focusing on your form is a distraction, another tactic is to count. Paula Radcliffe used to count during the tough patches of her world record setting marathons. She chose to count to 300 as she knew that would be about a mile for her.

For most of us, 300 is not going to be enough to reach a mile, but the technique works the same.

Here’s the deal:

By keeping your mind focused on doing a cognitive task, it is not able to think about how much you are hurting, or spiral out of control with negative thoughts. I actually tried this in my previous marathon segment, and found that although it only worked for a few miles, sometimes those few miles, or even just a few minutes of distraction are all you need.

It helps you to focus on the present, rather than the future (or what you have left to go).

8. Think About How Far You Have Come

When we are running, it can be hard not to look at how far we have to go, instead of how far we have come.

This can be in the sense of the race itself, the training segment or even your entire running career. Everyone has setbacks, everyone has challenges, yet it is how we overcome those challenges that makes us stronger.


During that moment of doubt, you need to think about what you have overcome to get to this moment. Here are some of the important ones, and you can fill in the blanks yourself:

“I did not come this far to give up now”

“I did not spend all those hours…… to quit now”

“I did not overcome….to not make myself proud”

“I did not travel all this way for……”

Usually, by reminding yourself that you have been through worse, and likely been through moments where all you wanted to do was be able to run, to be able to test yourself and be in a race.

Well, now is your opportunity, and if that previous struggle taught you anything, it should be that we need to make the most of every opportunity as we never know what is going to happen. Now is your time to do it for yourself, not for anyone else, but because eyou were the one who put in all those hours of hard work to get here, so you are going to do it to get the result you deserve!

9. Have Fun!

This one is THE most important, yet the one we most often forget.

I was only reminded of this in the London Marathon this year, but at the end of the day, we run, and especially race because we enjoy it.

We WANT to be out there.

We all have our own sources for the joy in running; it may be the finish line, it may be the wind in your hair, it may be the comraderie with other runners, it doesn’t matter, what does matter is that you find YOUR joy in running.

Sometimes we can be tempted by other things, we can put pressure on ourselves, or think about the bad, but if you just focus on going out there and enjoying it, you will probably find (I definitely do) that you have a more positive experience AND you run faster!

9 Tips and Tricks from @Runners_Connect for how to stay focused during a race
Click To Tweet


Unfortunately, at the end of the day, racing does hurt. It is going to test your mental strength, and no amount of tips or tricks will make it hurt any less. However, that pain is what leads us to the moments of pride; because we know the struggle we have been through to get to that moment.

Hopefully you will be able to use at least a few of these for future races of your own to stay strong in your weakest moments. If you have a tactic that you find especially helpful, share it with us in the comments. Maybe your suggestion will be what really helps another runner!


]]> 2
Bone Stimulators & How to Return to Running After a Stress Fracture Mon, 22 Jun 2015 09:00:29 +0000

We research bone stimulators to see if they speed recovery of stress fractures, and provide a program proven to help you return to running quickly & safely.A stress fracture is a runner’s worst nightmare.

It can completely shut down any plans for a season of racing, and worse, the only treatment is that dreaded four-letter-word: rest.

Even one or two unplanned days off can be irritating if you’re a serious runner, but being required to take four, six, or eight weeks off to let a stress fracture heal can be truly agonizing.

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to speed up that recovery period?

Recently, some doctors have been prescribing a special machine called a bone growth stimulator which uses pulsed waves of ultrasound in an effort to get stress fractures to heal more rapidly.

Today we’ll take a look at whether this technology can help you get back running faster following a stress fracture. Then we will discuss new research on how to return to running as quickly as possible once your fracture has healed.

The stress fracture treatment you have been waiting for?

Ultrasound bone growth stimulators have been used to treat regular bone fractures with fairly good success. A 1994 study in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery randomly assigned sixty-seven patients with fractured tibias to either an ultrasound bone growth stimulator or a placebo device.1

Both the patients and the doctors were “blinded” to which treatment they received, so there would be no potential bias in interpreting how well the bone fractures were healing.

The patients who used the placebo device had fully healed from their broken bone in 114 days, while the patients who used the ultrasound bone growth stimulator healed in only 86 days.


Bone stimulators are also used to treat nonunion fractures, a situation where the bone on each side of a fracture does not heal back together, though the research is less clear on whether ultrasound bone stimulation is helpful in these cases.

A 2012 review study concluded that low-intensity ultrasound waves were effective at speeding up healing in “fresh” fractures, but a lack of quality studies prevented the authors from endorsing it for nonunion fractures.2

The pulses of ultrasonic waves generated by a bone growth stimulator claim to speed up bone healing by increasing the cellular uptake of calcium in bone cells and speeding up the rate at which new bone cells solidify.3

These claims are based on research in lab rats with artificially-induced fractures, so it’s unclear if these same benefits extend to stress fractures as well.

Does it really work for most fractures?

To date, only one peer-reviewed clinical trial has investigated ultrasound as a treatment for stress fractures.


A 2004 article by J.P. Rue and coworkers at Johns Hopkins University studied twenty-six US Navy recruits with tibial stress fractures.Many of the sailors had stress fractures in both legs, so the study involved a total of forty-three fractures.

Much like the 1994 study, half of the patients were assigned an ultrasound bone growth stimulator to use for twenty minutes every day, and half were assigned a placebo device that did nothing, and again, both the patients and the doctors were blinded to who received which treatment.

Unfortunately, the ultrasound treatment did not lead to any decrease in healing time—the sailors who got the fake treatment recovered just as fast as the ones who got the real thing.

It get’s worse:

Rue et al.’s study is particularly disappointing because it’s fairly well-designed. Though twenty-six subjects is on the low end of what’s acceptable for this kind of experiment, results from studies with significantly fewer participants have been trumpeted if the result is positive.

Navy recruits are also an ideal population, because recruits are all about the same age and live very similar lifestyles. Further, the training that was done which led to the stress fracture is also very similar from patient to patient.

Is it worth the price tag?

What’s the bottom line?

Because of the relative strength of this study, and the absence of any other research supporting the use of ultrasound waves for stress fractures, bone growth stimulators do not appear to be worth your time and money as a runner.

Some doctors still may prescribe them for stress fractures with a high risk of nonunion, like navicular stress fractures, but only your doctor can make that call.

Ultrasound bone growth stimulators are exorbitantly expensive, and worse, they are marketed as “single use” devices—you, or your insurance company, pays $2,000 to $4,000 for a machine programmed to render itself inoperable after only a few months’ worth of use!

Still, because of the research demonstrating the benefit of ultrasonic waves in stimulating healing in fresh fractures, more research should be conducted on using ultrasound bone stimulators to promote healing in stress fractures.

Ever considered a bone stimulator to heal your fractures faster? @Runners_Connect had some interesting findings
Click To Tweet

What can I do to help my stress fracture heal?

Rue et al. suggested that future studies could try higher power ultrasound waves, treatments longer than twenty minutes, or multiple uses per day to see if a stronger dose would have a measurable effect.

Until that research rolls in, however, we still don’t have a “magic wand” that can speed up how quickly a stress fracture heals, but we can offer you our best advice on how to promote recovery.

Exclusive bonus: Download our full Stress Fracture and Shin Splint Prevention Routine. It’s a PDF with images and descriptions of the 4 most effective prevention and rehab exercises for runners with shin splints or stress fracture issues. Download yours for free here

Conservative Treatments

  • Use this time to reflect on your training. Look at what you could have done for this injury develop. Look especially at the past 3-4 weeks to see if you overdid it at any point. This helps to accept what has happened, and learn from it to prevent it occurring in the future.
  • By looking at images, or once your body recovers enough to run, look at your stride. Are you over striding? We have a great post on heel striking, over striding, and cadence to help you reach the magic number of 180 steps per minute or more. This will put less stress on your joints, and reduce your risk of injury.
  • Look into other health issues that may have played a part in your susceptibility to fractures.  Amenorrhea in females is a major concern, and also a major health risk even outside of running.
  • Once you have recovered, incorporate more lower-body strength training into your regimen. Muscle size and strength are linked to bone size and strength; additionally, there is some evidence that stronger muscles will absorb more shock, leaving the bone less vulnerable to high impact loading.
  • Consider your lifestyle. Are you trying to do too much? Maybe you are on the verge of overtraining. If your body is worn down, it becomes more susceptible to injuries.

Aggressive Treatment

  • If you have a history of tibial or metatarsal stress fractures, you could look into a custom orthotic. Some doctors have proposed that custom orthotics can alter how forces are transmitted up your leg, theoretically leading to lower peak stresses on the bone. Be aware that this theory currently has no experimental evidence to back it up! We have some differing thoughts on custom orthotics.
  • If you have a history of tibial fractures, consider running in thin, low-profile “minimalist” shoes. Wearing a thin shoe will force you to maintain a high stride frequency, and will also encourage a midfoot or forefoot strike, which should reduce impact loads on your leg.
  • If you have a history of metatarsal fractures, move towards the more cushioned shoes. Minimalist shoes put increased stress on your foot and metatarsals; some doctors have warned that wearing minimalist shoes can even increase your risk for a metatarsal stress fracture.
  • Take a calcium and vitamin D supplement that provides 200% of your RDV of both. This carries a small risk of kidney stones if your dietary calcium intake is already high, however.
  • Change the surface you typically run on. Try to run on soft, natural surfaces like dirt trails and grass fields. However, there’s no experimental evidence that runners that train on any particular surface are more or less at risk for injury. In fact, there’s some suggestion that soft surfaces may increase the loading on your bones somewhat, as they demand your body maintain a higher overall leg stiffness. You’ll have to experiment with running surfaces to see what type you feel is more beneficial for you.

I wish there was a magic wand to heal stress fractures, but this guide from @Runners_Connect is the the next best…
Click To Tweet

How to return to running safely

We already know stress fractures are some of the most frustrating running injuries you can get. We have already discussed that the time off is non-negotiable, but worse, if you try to return to running too quickly, you could reinjure the stress fracture and have to take even more time off!

Until recently, there hasn’t been much in the way of guidance from the scientific literature.

However, a review article on stress fractures published last October in the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy by Stuart Warden, Irene Davis, and Michael Fredericson, three of the top running injury experts in the country, outlines an easy-to-follow program to safely return to 30 minutes of running after a stress fracture.1

We’ll take a look at the program and discuss how to follow it.

Is this program for me?

Here’s the deal:

If you’re very new to running and 30 minutes is about as far as you’ve ever run, this program might be too aggressive for you.

Additionally, this program is only for low-risk stress fractures. Most stress fractures are low-risk, meaning that they tend to heal up quite nicely during your time away from running.

But a small subset of stress fractures are designated high-risk stress fractures, meaning they are known to be prone to delayed or incomplete healing, or can easily progress to a full-blown bone fracture.2

Fortunately, the vast majority of the stress fractures that runners get are low-risk. These include fibular stress fractures and most tibial and metatarsal stress fractures as well.

High-risk stress fractures include femoral neck stress fractures, navicular stress fractures, and talar stress fractures, among others.

High-risk stress fractures require more time off and a more gradual return-to-running program. If you’re not sure if this program is right for you, talk to your doctor.

Walking completely pain free?

This is important:

To begin the program, you must first be totally pain-free during and after walking unassisted (i.e. without crutches or a walking boot) and doing all of your usual daily activities for five full days.

Every run session consists of 30 minutes of activity with progressively more jogging and progressively less walking, and each session is separated by a rest day.

When doing your run sessions, it’s probably best to stick to a flat, even surface to minimize stress on your body.

How to return to running

The initial stage of the program involves progressing from a 30 minute walk to a 30 minute jog over two weeks.

During this stage, all running is done at an easy jog—defined as 50% of your usual pace.

If you typically ran at 9-minute-mile pace before your injury, your jogging during the first three weeks should be done at 13:30 mile pace (9:00 x 1.5).

Once you’ve progressed to 30min of easy jogging, the next two weeks are spent progressing from 30min at 50% of your usual running pace to 30min at your usual speed.

Finally, the last week is spent progressing towards running daily.

You must remember:

There is a caveat to all of this: as you progress through the schedule, you must remain pain-free both during and after your run sessions.

If you feel any pain, you must take a rest day and move back to the last session you were able to complete without pain, progressing again once you’re able to do it pain-free (during and after).


By following these guidelines, you can safely transition back to 30min of daily running at your usual pace in as little as five weeks.

This might seem like a long time to be away from training, but don’t forget, you can do as much cross-training (check out our podcast with Physical Therapist Jeremy Stoker) as you like as long as it doesn’t irritate your stress fracture.

Hopping in the pool for an intense aqua-jogging session on the “rest” days in this schedule is a great way to maintain your fitness while you transition back into running.

Returning to running after a stress fracture can be scary. This @Runners_Connect article is helpful
Click To Tweet

]]> 0