Runners Connect Fri, 29 May 2015 12:25:43 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Is Your VO2 Max High Enough to Prevent Heart Disease? Mon, 25 May 2015 09:00:50 +0000

A recent study found that individuals with a higher VO2 Max were not only at a lower risk of heart disease and certain cancers, but by increasing your VO2 by a minimal amount, you can seriously reduce your future risk. We show you how to find yours.As Runners we believe our sport is truly the best out there. We know how great our community is, how supportive we are of one another, and we understand how runners are able to make a 180 degree turn from “never running again” to signing up for the next within a matter of hours.

People run for a lot of reasons:

It’s fun, it’s exciting, it lets you spend more time outdoors, and it’s good for your health.

This final point is important to many runners, and there’s quite a lot of evidence that exercise can help ward off debilitating conditions like heart disease and cancer.

Is Running the cure?

A scientific study published last month is making waves in the medical community, but not because it contradicts this common knowledge. Rather, it found that yes, being aerobically fit does reduce your risk of heart disease and some cancers, but it also reduces your risk of death even if you’ve already got cancer or heart disease.

The study, published by Susan Lakoski and colleagues in JAMA Oncology, tracked almost 14,000 men over a period of 38 years.1

At the study’s outset, the men—most of whom were age 40 to 50 at the time—underwent a thorough medical exam, which included a graded exercise test on a treadmill to determine their aerobic fitness level.

Over the subsequent four decades, the researchers used records from Medicare to track the rate of colorectal cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, and heart disease among the study’s participants. The researchers then sorted the study’s subjects into categories based on their performance in the graded exercise test.

Here’s the deal:

Statistical analysis, which controlled for possible confounding variables like smoking status, showed this:

Among men who were healthy at age 65, those whose aerobic fitness test was in the highest 20% had a 55% lower risk of developing lung cancer and a 44% lower risk of developing colorectal cancer when compared to the least-fit 20% of men.

The most fit men also had less than half the risk of death from cardiovascular disease when compared to the least fit men.


Even among those who were diagnosed with cancer or heart disease, the men who were aerobically fit in midlife fared better than those who were not.

Among men who developed lung, prostate, or colorectal cancer after age 65, the fittest 20% reduced their risk of death from cancer by a third compared to the least fit 20%.

It gets better:

The fit cancer patients’ risk of death from heart disease dropped even more, plummeting two-thirds compared to the unfit patients. The authors note that reducing cancer survivors’ risk of death from other diseases, like heart disease, will be increasingly important in the future, as cancer survival rates are steadily improving.

Does this apply to me?

This is all fantastic news for runners, but how do you tell if you’re fit enough to be in that top 20%? The authors of the study used a fairly simple treadmill test, but reproducing that test requires a specialized treadmill capable of very steep inclines.

However, the actual data collected from the treadmill test wasn’t very complicated—they just recorded how long each man lasted on the incremental test before quitting from exhaustion.

The researchers used a formula to derive an estimate of the men’s VO2 max (a standardized measurement of aerobic fitness), then used these values to sort the men into high, moderate, and low fitness groups.

How do I compare to the runners in the study?

If you want to check how you stack up against the men in this study, you can estimate your VO2 the old-fashioned way with a twelve-minute time trial for distance. This test, called the Cooper Test, dates to 1968, when a young Air Force Major, Kenneth Cooper, published a method of rapidly and accurately estimating aerobic fitness levels in military recruits.2

The test itself is very simple:

  1. Head over to your local high school or community track
  2. Run a short warm-up,
  3. Measure how far you can run in twelve-minutes

The effort should be evenly-paced, but all-out.

Calculate your VO2 Max:

  1. Distance covered in meters-509.4
  2. Divide by 44.73.
  3. That number, within a margin of ten percent or so, is your VO2 max

For example, if Bob ran 2157m in 12 minutes

2157-504.9= 1652.1


You might be wondering:

How reliable is the twelve-minute Cooper test is compared to the progressive exercise test used in Lakoski et al.’s scientific paper?

Kenneth Cooper’s original study found the 12-minute run has a 90% correlation with a laboratory-measured VO2 max. The progressive treadmill test used in the JAMA Oncology study has a 92% correlation, so they’re pretty similar.

The top 20% of men Lakoski et al. averaged a predicted VO2 max of 45.5, which means they’d be able to cover just over over 2500 meters (nearly 1.6 miles) on the track in twelve minutes.

Not too shabby when you consider that the subjects were mostly men in their forties and fifties, not sporty twenty-somethings.

The least fit 20% had a predicted VO2 max of 29.4, meaning they’d be expected to cover about 1800 meters during a twelve-minute Cooper test.

Find out if your VO2 max is high enough to prevent heart disease
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What if my VO2 is low?

If you head out and run the Cooper test, only to come back disappointed at your lack of fitness, there’s some good news:

Health benefits aren’t reserved only for the fittest athletes. Lakoski et al. found that even small increases in VO2 max conferred a reduced risk of lung and colorectal cancer.

Increasing your fitness just enough to make it 160 meters further in twelve minutes could drop your risk of lung cancer by 17% and your risk of colorectal cancer by 9%!


There are some important limitations to Lakoski et al.’s study.

First, they were only able to study people who got sick after age 65, since that’s when Medicare records start being generated.

Second, this study didn’t directly examine the effects of training to improve your aerobic fitness, only static differences among the population.

Finally, and most glaringly, this study only examined men—presumably, another study is in the works on the five-thousand-plus women enrolled in the same observational cohort.

Despite this, the findings of this research are good news for male runners. Not only does aerobic fitness help prevent cancer and heart disease, it also helps you stay alive if you’re unfortunate enough to get them!

Testing your own fitness level is quick and easy, and translating predicted VO2 max values from the research into a tangible distances gives you some useful fitness targets.

Great post from @Runners_Connect about the relationship between heart disease and VO2 Max
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How to Prepare for Running in the Heat as a Master Mon, 18 May 2015 09:00:17 +0000

Running in the heat can be tough, but did you know as a masters runner you are at a disadvantage? These simple tips explain how to successfully run through the summer at every age.We’re headed into the summer months.

Those days when even running in the early morning brings a good dose of heat and humidity. It impacts our race times and sometimes even the quality of our daily runs. Runners Connect even looked into how sunscreen impacts your performance when running.

If you run with a group, like I do, you know that there’s a wide range of hot and cold tolerance from one runner to the next. In my group, for instance, there are two or three girls who are still wearing full-length tights as the temperatures approach 50. I, and a few others in the group, am in shorts and maybe even short sleeves at that point.

I’ve always been someone who tends to overheat in races.

Those gals who wear tights to my shorts never worry about hot marathons, however I’ll avoid the possibility like the plague—I’ve never run a fall marathon before the month of November, for instance.

Aging and Heat

As I’ve aged, I’ve found heat to be more of an issue.


I thought maybe it was just my imagination, but it turns out there is evidence that masters runners don’t dissipate heat as well as their younger counterparts.

A 2013 study by Joanie Larouse, et al, investigated the ability of older runners to handle heat, and found that as early as the age 40, heat can be a bigger factor for runners.

The study examined the sweat and heat loss rates of 85 men, aged 20 to 70, as they rode stationary bikes over four, 15-minute sessions separated by 15 minutes rest between each.

With each additional set of exercise, the older participants sweat less than their younger counterparts, first beginning with the oldest age groups and working its way down all the way to the 40 to 44 year old group.

Other Factors Involved?

Interestingly, VO2 max and fitness levels were similar among all the participants, so when it came down to it, the only variable was age.

What’s the bottom line?

The researchers concluded “aging may have a larger influence on whole-body heat loss capacity than the fitness level or specific physical characteristics of the individual.”

This definitely falls in line with what own experience since turning 40, and I’ve heard from several masters’ friends who have dealt with it as well.

Great advice and how to overcome heat as a masters runner from @Runners_Connect
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What can you do about it?

We know that we cannot change our age, and that means we need to be careful with some aspects of our running, like being at a higher risk of calf injuries.

Racing Schedule

One step I have taken is to ensure I am scheduling my most important races at times, or in locations, where the odds are low of heat being a factor.

As mentioned above, for instance, this means my fall marathons have all been in November, or my spring marathons no later than March, with the exception of Boston.

I’ll do half marathons or 10-milers a bit outside those parameters, but pretty much shut them down for the months of June, July and August. Shorter races and shadier trail races, however, stay on my summer schedule.


The study found that managing the heat became more difficult the longer the masters exercisers were at it.


There’s also the option of working very hard to acclimatize, which is actually your body’s way of relearning to utilize its sweat mechanism.

For most folks, acclimatization takes about two weeks each spring. You can jump start this by wearing extra clothing while training or by training indoors in a warmer environment.

I also like to take one run each week throughout the summer and slide it from my usual early morning time slot to the afternoon, ensuring I practice running in heat.


“Precooling” is another method worth considering.

You may remember that in several of the recent summer Olympics, the temperature has been less than ideal for some events, in particular the marathon. Athletes like Deena Kastor opted for cooling vests and staying inside until as late as possible prior to heading out into the weather.

Here’s why:

The thinking is that the longer you can stay cool before running in the heat, the longer you can go before experiencing its detrimental effects.

A 2013 review by M. Ross, et al, of studies on precooling effects found that it is indeed a beneficial step to take.

Give your body a chance to precool before running by doing things like wetting your hair or hat with cool water, staying inside air conditioning until the last minute, and/or wetting your shirt down.

Evaporative cooling, which occurs when you pour cool water on yourself, is in fact more effective than trying to drink an abundance of cool liquids, too much of which can even lead to hyponatremia.

At a race site, staying in air conditioning isn’t likely an option, so finding shade, moving as little as possible, and pouring cold water on yourself prior to the race are your best bets.


Finally, keep in mind that warmer temperatures are a sign to adjust your paces no matter what your age, but especially as you cross over into masters’ territory. Your PRs are likely not going to happen in July, and many of your training runs will likely be off pace, too.

Scaling back, and letting go of your pace ego, is a great way to go in the summer.

And when temperatures start to drop come September, all that training through the heat will pay off in spades.

Your body had to adapt to using oxygen effectively in the heat. When the cooler temperatures hit, your body will be able to thermo-regulate beautifully, producing faster times at less effort. THAT is the time to pick a race and go after those younger folks!

Learn about how the heat affects you as a masters runner from @Runners_Connect
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How Quickly Can You Recover From Overtraining? Mon, 11 May 2015 09:00:47 +0000

We now know overtraining is not just for elites, if you are struggling with symptoms of fatigue. This guide will explain the best way to bounce back quickly, and how to return to running safely.Following on from our previous post, Are You on the Verge of Overtraining, this article now focuses on how to recover from overtraining when you realize that you have gone too far. We will show you how you can return to running as quickly as possible.

Let’s start with the bad news:

If overtraining or Under Performance Syndrome (UPS) has really taken hold, it can take many months to make a full recovery.

You may be suffering for a long time with any combination of chronic fatigue, insomnia, inability to train, loss of appetite, poor running performance, ongoing illness, depression and weakness.

It’s not a great place to be. If you do find yourself with UPS, try to the down time constructively. While you’re resting and recovering, analyze how you got there, and how to make sure you go never go there again.

You might be wondering:

How quickly can I get back?

Don’t rush your return to training. It can take 6 months-2 years to make a full recovery from UPS. Cancel your races, training camps and tear up your ‘schedule’. Accept that this could take some time.

Dr Mark Wotherspoon – Consultant in Sport and Exercise Medicine and Southampton Football Club in the UK – recommends a multifaceted return to exercise and a package of support, coaching and therapy.

Sleeping is a massive part of recovery” he explains “rest as much as possible and don’t seek the magic bullet that doesn’t exist.

Hunting for a quick fix or a nutrition supplement to ‘cure’ you wont’ help. Give yourself time, rest, tick over and slowly build back up.

With my athletes they might do 20 mins on the exercise bike at 50-70% of their Max Heartrate twice per week. When that goes ok, then we’ll increase it to 30 minutes. It’s a slow and gradual return to play”.

You might consider:

Dr Wotherspoon also suggests that athletes benefit hugely from psychological support, counselling and possibly even anti-depressant medication.

Avoiding UPS in the first place

There are a number of practical ways you can assess your training and the signs and symptoms of UPS before it takes hold. Using a combination of these methods should help you gain a better insight into your training, performance and recovery and stop UPS in its tracks.

Training Diary

Keeping a detailed diary may help in the prevention of overtraining and will aid your return to sport if you’ve already slipped into the realms of UPS.

It can be useful to record your training volume, distances, and times, along with variables like your weight, resting heart rate and make a note of sleep and work volume.

Here’s the deal:

This continual monitoring and adjustment allows you to get more in tune with your body’s signals and learn to balance training with rest. Be honest and if you’re regularly writing comments about being run down or exhausted, take a step back and think about to adjust your training load and life stressors.

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

Using a tool like the DALDA may help to monitor your training and help avoid UPS or manage a return to training. Becoming more aware of your own personal response to training, rather than following a set plan, is a crucial skill for all runners, and the DALDA may be key to that ‘intuitive’ approach.

I think I overtrained. Learning how to pull myself out of it thanks to @Runners_Connect
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Heart Rate

Your resting heartrate can be an indicator of recovery status. Get to know what your resting heart rate is, and measure it each morning before you get out of bed.

A rise of 5-10 beats from your normal rate is an indication that you may not have recovered from a previous session, you are excessively fatigued and you would benefit from either resting altogether or having a lighter session that day (easy running at no more than 70% of your maximum heart rate).

Recovery heart rate is another helpful measurement. Check your heart rate 2 minutes and 5 minutes immediately post exercise. Look at how quickly it drops and how long it takes to get to 10-20 beats above your pre-exercise rate.

Here’s why:

If your heart rate is failing to drop as quickly as in previous sessions, it can again be an indication of insufficient recovery, fatigue or stress.

Training Heart Rate

The secret to making sure you never suffer from UPS again could well be:

Monitoring your training heart rate. If doing repeated bouts of too much high intensity, high volume training is part of the reason you’re overtrained, then it makes sense to monitor this aspect of your training in future.

When you start back running:

Keep your heartrate around 70% of your maximum and allow your body time to build a solid aerobic base without too much stress.

Be strict with yourself. If you find your heartrate creeping up, then slow down (walk if necessary), and keep it to the right zone. If you don’t know your maximum, try using the Maffetone method (180 – age) to get your ‘training heart rate’. Maffetone suggests subtracting another 5-10 beats from this figure if you’re recovering from illness or overtraining etc.

It might feel slow, but it gives you structure for your training and permission to slow down. Spend 3-6 months training like this before you consider speedwork, marathons or racing.

Think you overtrained? Check out this post from @Runners_Connect to speed recovery
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Depletion of carbohydrate stores is clearly linked with a rise in the stress hormone cortisol, thereby reducing immune function and the body’s ability to fight infection. We covered this in our post about running while sick.

Chronically elevated cortisol levels leave us wide open to coughs, colds and upper respiratory infections as well as having a catabolic effect (breakdown) on muscle tissue.

Here’s what you need to know:

Timing and volume of carbohydrate intake is critical, not just for performance during training and racing, but to protect the immune function and allow the body to recover from the stress of training. The use of carbohydrate during lengthy endurance and tough interval sessions may be useful in preventing carbohydrate depletion. We covered this further in our post showing you how to eat yourself out of overtraining.


A study on overtrained v’s non-overtrained runners found that the athletes suffering from UPS consistently neglected their recovery nutrition. They also took in fewer calories, less protein, and less carbohydrate immediately post exercise than the non-overtrained runners.

A recovery meal or drink comprising a mix of protein and carbohydrate should be taken on board within 30-40 minutes of training. This can even be as simple as chocolate milk, but we have a post on other foods you can eat after a run if you would like more information.

Think smarter, not harder

UPS is, on the whole, largely preventable:

An understanding of where your training ‘threshold’ lies (given your current life stressors) is, without doubt, the key to avoiding this debilitating condition.

Balancing your training schedule, lifestyle, and race goals needs to be the main consideration. This may mean adjusting goals and psychologically assessing what you want to get out of running and competing.

A marathon PR may be possible in theory if you had nothing else to do, but combine it with a new born baby, sleep deprivation, and a high stress job; and overtraining is only a small step away.

The body and mind can only take so much. Training and racing is just another ‘stress’.

Try this:

Instead of pursuing a PR every time, enter some fun off-road races or even a triathlon or adventure race. This will take the pressure off, and will allow you to focus more on what sports psychologists call ‘process goals’ – simply enjoying taking part rather than obsessing over the ‘outcome’.


Of course if you want to perform to your best you must train hard and push yourself to your limit; but the key is learning what that ‘limit’ is for you as an individual.

Forget what your fellow club runners do and don’t blindly follow a training schedule which, given your lifestyle, may be entirely inappropriate.

Learn to listen to your own body, get in tune with the signs and signals and trust what it tells you. Work out how to balance training with life and don’t beat yourself up so much! Stay healthy, train hard and rest well.

Overtraining is not just for elites, learn how to recover quickly from @Runners_Connect
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Are You on the Verge of Overtraining? Mon, 04 May 2015 09:00:48 +0000

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

We know just how awful that feels:

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

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

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

What is overtraining syndrome?

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

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

Here’s the deal:

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

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

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

Listen to this:

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

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

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

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

It gets worse:

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

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

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

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

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

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

How long to recovery?

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

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

Who gets it?

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

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

This is surprising:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

What’s the bottom line?

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

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

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

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

Defining the line between hard training and overtraining

The causes and symptoms of overtraining 

Eating yourself out of overtraining

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

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

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

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

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

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

Factors affecting ultramarathon success

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reliable explanation for variability?

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

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

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

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

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

Whats the bottom line?

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

How to train for an Ultra

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best news is:

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

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

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

Pursue Ultras

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

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

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

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

Imagine this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s the deal:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whats the bottom line?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Big data meets the big-city marathon”

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

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

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

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

The difference scales exponentially:

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

But, this is crazy:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Look what we found:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other factors to consider

There are some shortcomings:

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

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

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

Or it could just be a spurious result.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How your legs are like springs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leg length differences

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

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

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

Surprising results

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

How to apply to your running

Step 1: Determine current stride rate

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

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

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

Step 3: Set a target

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

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

Step 3: How to improve

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Master’s Runners Need Strength Work

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clam shells with a band

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

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

Single-leg deadlifts

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

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

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

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

Lunge with rotation

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

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

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

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

Bird-dog with a dowel

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

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

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

Stability ball bridge with curl

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

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

That’s one rep. Two sets of 15.

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

Single-leg balance with band

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Traits of a Good Tough Mudder

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

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

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

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

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

Training for a Tough Mudder

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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