For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere (most of us reading this, but there are a lucky few entering those warm summer months), this time of the year can be a little bit of a downer. Our favorite trails are being covered with snow (or have burned down…) and the short days make getting outside for a run a little more difficult. If we’re lucky, we have access to a treadmill, but is this really lucky?!?!
Ellie and I don’t get much Netflix viewing time during the warmer months, but the treadmill makes a great opportunity to log some ‘binge miles’ and catch up on what we have been missing! If you have any suggestions, please send them this direction!
A year ago, David wrote this great article about how to ‘enjoy’ the treadmill a little more, and it’s a great refresher for us all! Additionally, let me know if/when you plan on utilizing the treadmill, and I can modify workouts to be better suited for it!
When on the treadmill, avoid running fast and completely flat. I have seen some hamstring and calf injuries surface from doing so! Increase the incline if you have the option (.5-1% grade practically feels flat)! If you brave the snowy trails and roads, really slow things down! For those of us that are more in tune with pace, bring it down by a full min/mile or just think ‘too easy’. Forces get weird with snowy footing and let’s just keep things healthy and safe out there!
Non-racing season doesn’t mean ‘off season’! Running economy keeps improving with consistency even if the consistency isn’t the highest quality!
Quad Strength & Mobility:
Originally, I planned on including hamstring work as well (and doing a glute/hip focused newsletter next weekend), but a large snowstorm + a piece of exercise equipment needed for hamstring strengthening destroyed by the wolf-pack running around the house has me short on time and without the right gear! So...we’ll just focus on the quads today, which are incredibly important for running as anybody with a large descent in yesterday’s run can tell you!
The quadricep muscles control leg flexion at the hip and knee joints. If you concentrically contract (contraction that shortens a muscle body) your leg will move closer to your abdomen by moving around the hip joint. Your lower leg (below the knee) will move into a ‘straight-legged’ position moving around the knee.
In running, we utilize the quads in propulsion, but more importantly, in deceleration in the stride. As you exit the ‘swing phase’ of your running gait (bring a leg forward), the quads contract concentrically to straighten your leg and brace for impact. As you absorb the load, your quads eccentrically contract to resist lengthening, or collapsing, around the knee. This is ‘complicated’, but know that your muscles are able to produce more force when resisting ‘lengthening’ (eccentric contraction) as opposed to shortening (concentric).
For trail runners (or anyone running downhill), this controlled eccentric contraction is especially important as it allows you to ‘fight gravity’, or resist the constant force that would have you accelerating down a hill continuously if it could (that would be pretty scary). As we have discussed in the past, it’s best to really turn those legs over on the descents, and the main reason is that you have control without putting any ‘large eccentric loads’ on those quads (or just less of a load). This is the reason your quads are tender after a run with a lot of vert.
There are a lot of injuries that surface due to weak and chronically tight quads. Most every knee issue surfaces for these reasons (ITB syndrome, Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome, Runner’s Knee, etc…). After this unreasonably long introduction, let’s dive into how we can strengthen and mobilize the quads and run injury free!
First, let’s reiterate the idea that we don’t want to strengthen areas that are currently healing from an injury. If these movements cause any discomfort, hold off until they do not as they’ll lengthen the amount of time needed to heal!
Start standing and move one leg back into a lunge (can touch the knee to the ground or wherever you feel most comfortable) before returning to standing. Repeat using the same leg 10 times and increase weight or number of reps for increased difficulty. Full disclosure, my morning balance is terrible and these pictures may look funny!
Using a chair, prop one leg on the chair as you support your body weight with the other leg. This is similar to a lunge position, but one leg is elevated on a chair. Squat 10 times with the supporting leg and increase weight or reps to increase difficulty.
Single Legged Squat to Box (chair):
Start standing and supported with one leg. Slowly lower yourself to a seated position with one leg (eccentric contraction - controlled descent) and use both legs to stand back up. Repeat 10 times and add weight for added difficulty.
Quad and ITB Smash Rolling:
This is the ‘go to’ for all quad mobility! Using a conventional roller, a small ball, a massage gun, R8 roller, etc… work into those quads and ITB and hold at spots that feel especially tight and ‘dig in’ there. A variation that I really like is to stretch your quad to move ‘muscle fibers’ around the roller as opposed to the entire leg around it! Silly pictures of me rolling around on the ground below! This makes for great ‘scrolling’ or reading time!
Deep Quad Stretch:
The best stretch for the quads and hip flexors is using a kneeling position and a wall to really force stretch! The pictures below show a nice progression!
In the true strangeness of 2020, this past weekend ended up being one of the busiest for the crew with a lot of success! We also had a lot of races yesterday and more next weekend! Wahoo!
Trevor B. knocked out the TWOT 100 miler this past weekend!!! This is actually a 112 mile outing with 22k’+ of climbing…! The training building into this may have had a combined 22k’ climbing, and plenty of life stress, but Trevor is tough and he knocked it out of the park!
Fabrizio L. had a similar story and went into a race without having had a lot of opportunity to build the legs up. It’s really hard to travel to train this year, and when you don’t really know what is/isn’t going to be run until the week of, it’s hard to invest too much into your training. Fabrizio finished the GTL 75k with around 13k’ climbing! Finishing a race this year is hard, doing so when training hasn’t been perfect and life has been a lot is exceptionally impressive!
Josh G ran a last-minute marathon with the format of ‘chase the hare’! I had never heard of this before, but a couple runners up front leave ‘markings’ for everyone else to chase after, so that the course is created on the run! This sounds very exciting and Josh had a great time! My hope with everyone is that they can hop in last-minute races and have those awesome experiences!
Jed G. and Josh C. crushed a team effort on the Wildwood Trail outside of Portland this past weekend! This point-to-point trail runs about 50k in distance and it sounds like they had an absolute blast! This was Josh’s first time tackling the distance and he crushed it!
Josh K. (alright, this is the weekend of ‘the Josh’), got an elk in the Medicine Bow Wilderness of Wyoming! Josh had tried to get one last year during a couple of bow-hunts and went out earlier this year with a bow with no luck. Last weekend he filled his tag and has some awesome elk meat to hold him over to next year! The overlap between running fitness and hunting doesn’t seem terribly obvious, but carrying a heavy backpack on long hiking trips is not easy work! Think of these outings as through hikes with a modified objective! So cool!
Rachel V. is officially a homeowner! Rachel has had an incredible year full of so many ups and downs and it has been incredible to see her handle every obstacle with grace (or occasionally that extra glass of wine :) )! The home buying experience hasn’t been easy ether and as many of us have experienced, there were some heartbreaking experiences along the way! Wahoo to big life changes!
Jim F. has also recently moved into his first home! Jim and his wife, Casey, also had their fill of heartbreak finding a home, but apparently it’s just a 5 minute warmup jog away from some amazing trails, so I’d say it all worked out!