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Do Your Feet Have a Running Surface Preference?

By: Geoff Rubin, Fitness Propelled, CPT/CIFT/TRX II

I certainly think they do. Running surface differences are quite vast, from grass fields, to synthetic tracks, to the brutality of pavement. The beauty behind all of these surfaces is that the majority of them are easily accessible to us, almost anywhere in the world. However, we know that all surfaces have their own pros and cons as related the health of our feet and on up from there. I am sure that you would agree that the softer the surfaces you run on the longer your running career will last. That is why I wanted to examine my top 5 running surfaces, and what are our feet and bodies were saying to us after.

Ratings are listed as most preferred to least preferred.

1. Grass – Ahh grass, the finely cut blades of an open field, with a soft layering of compact dirt beneath. This is my clear cut preferred surface for running on. Grass also provides with the options of running barefoot, connecting with our running surfaces and making sure that we connect every step with the surface it is hitting.

Pros: Grass is soft and easy on the legs in terms of impact, but makes your muscles work hard as the surfaces vary. This builds strength and help drive improvement when returning to the road. Additionally when you find an open field, your surrounded by others who utilize the grassy area for their own recreation providing constant sources of people gazing.

Cons: Grassy plots are often uneven and can be dangerous for runners with unstable ankles. It can also be slippery when wet, runners with allergies may suffer more symptoms when running on it, and its softness can tire legs rather quickly.

 

2. Sand – If only more of it were available in Arizona. Sand offers a run with a challenge. When the sand is dry and deep, you give your calf muscles an excellent work-out without risking any impact damage to your joints.

Pros: Sand gives an opportunity to run barefoot in a pleasant environment. Running through dunes provides good resistance training and strengthens the legs. Open air with vast distances and crashing waves isn’t a bad place to settle into a constant running stride.

Cons: The pliability of sand means a higher risk of Achilles tendon injury. Also, when you run on the sand at the water’s edge, the tilt of the surface puts uneven stresses on the body.

 

3. Synthetic Track – Who doesn’t love a track that is made up of synthetic material, laid out and measured in 400 meter distances. These tracks are generally open to the public, allow runners to measure distances accurately, and focus on improving times related to desired distances.

Pros: Synthetic tracks provide reasonably forgiving surfaces and are pretty close to being 400 meters around, make measuring distances and timing sessions easy.

Cons: With two long curves on every lap, ankles, knees and hips are put under more stress than what one might be accustom to. Longer runs also become rather boring. Rat cage anyone?

 

4. Treadmill – The constant option. Treadmills are the best indoor running option for most runners. Generally, treadmills have monitors that display incline, pace, heart rate, calories burned and other data, which give us users with constant feedback. The running surfaces vary depending on make and model of treadmills.

Pros: The smooth, constant surface is generally easy on the legs, and hitting a desired pace is as easy as setting a number. Additionally, you don’t have to worry about X-factors such as animals, wind and bad weather. The constant speed and control makes a treadmill ideal for speed work.

Cons: Running on the same spot isn’t very exciting, and if you don’t concentrate on keeping up your pace, you could be thrown off the machine. Treadmill runners tend to sweat profusely as your usually cooped amongst other runners with limited air flow. Machines are too expensive for most runners, and gym memberships may be unrealistic if you are just going there to run.

 

5. Roads – Just look outside your front door and take that first step. Altough very abundant, it certainly isn’t exciting to run on something meant for commuter traffic. Concrete is primarily made up of cement (crushed rock), and it’s what most pavements and five per cent of roads are constructed from. It delivers the most shock of any surface to a runner’s legs.

Pros: Concrete surfaces tend to be easily accessible and very flat. They go on forever, and accruing mileage won’t be a hard task.

Cons: The combination of a hard surface and the need to sidestep pedestrians, can lead to injury and too much weaving.

These are my top 5, please leave your comments below and share your running surface preference below or some funny stories that have occurred to you while running on one of your favorite surfaces.

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Sources:

– Top 10 running surfaces – Marc Bloom and Steve Smythe

– Google Images

Fuel Your Body Effectively Pre/Post and During Your Running Program

By: Geoff Rubin, Fitness Propelled: CPT/CIFT/TRX II

Our bodies are constantly on the go and we know the importance of what we fuel ourselves with has a direct correlation on the performance of what we can get out of it. Every fitness program emphasizes certain nutritional guidelines, whether you are looking to bulk up, lose weight, or sustain your energy levels throughout your day. Running is no different and requires specific nutritional guidelines in order to sustain pace, increase distances and derive marked improvements in speed/time. Below, we will emphasize a few critical nutritional components towards improving your “Running” program:

Before You Exercise:

Stay away from the snack if you are running for less than an hour. When needing a boost, have 100 calories of mostly carbs, like a couple of handfuls of whole-grain crackers. If you do not have time for a quick snack, drink 8 to 12 ounces of water or a low-cal sports drink such as a Gatorade G2 and get to your run. If running longer, (over 3 miles) eat a combo of protein and carbs, like peanut butter with a banana or apple and multi-grain toast (200 to 300 calories), about an hour beforehand.

During Your Run:

Consume 6 to 8 ounces of H2O or other fluids every 15 minutes to stay hydrated or every mile and a half. When running over an hour, your body will want more than water. Sports drinks give you the electrolytes, fluids, and sugar-filled carbs you need. Recommendations for sports drinks include: Coconut Water, Emergen-C Electro Mix formula. Energy gels are also potential alternatives.

When You Are Done:

Emphasize the need to refuel effectively by eating within 30 minutes post-workout.   This is when your muscles replace their power supply fastest. For example, grab an 8- to 12-ounce glass of chocolate almond milk or a combo of mostly carbs being rice cakes or pretzels, and a combination of fruits. Target your carbohydrate consumption to (75 to 80 percent) with some protein (20 to 25 percent).

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Sources:

Alyssa Shaffer – Fitness Magazine

 

Why Integrate heart rate training into your running program?

ImageBy: Geoff Rubin, Fitness Propelled (CPT/CIFT/TRX II)

I am a runner; however I am not one with a strap tightly fastened across my chest. However, more recently as I progress in my running distances and pace, I wanted to garner an understanding of the basic rationale for wearing a heart rate monitor while running. Heart rate monitors are not essential tools for training, but when used properly, they can be a valuable training aid.

Wearing a heart rate monitor while running provides an indicator of exercise intensity. A heart rate monitor, therefore, allows you to monitor and control the intensity of your running. Starting runners often make the mistake of not sufficiently varying the intensity of their running pace. A heart rate monitor can help you accomplish this variation through monitoring.

To do this, you first need to determine your individual heart rate response to running intensity. Step one is to determine what is called your lactate threshold heart rate. Lactate threshold is a moderately high running intensity — the highest intensity that can be sustained without significant discomfort. At exercise intensities below the lactate threshold, your breathing is controlled. When you exceed lactate threshold intensity, there is a sudden increase in breathing rate.

Strap on your heart rate monitor and jog for two to three minutes at a very comfortable pace. Then increase your pace moderately and sustain the new pace for two to three minutes. Continue this pattern, noting your heart rate at each pace, until you reach a pace at which your breathing rate spikes. You are now above your lactate threshold. Your lactate threshold heart rate is the heart rate you noted at the preceding pace.

Heart rate-based training involves targeting different heart rate zones in different workouts. The most popular zone system is the following:

Zone 1

Active Recovery

<80% lactate threshold heart rate (LT HR)

Zone 2

Aerobic Threshold

81-89% LT HR

Zone 3

Tempo

90-95% LT HR

Zone 4

Sublactate Threshold

96-99% LT HR

Zone 5a

Lactate Threshold

100-101% LT HR

Zone 5b

Aerobic Capacity

102-105% LT HR

Zone 5c

Anaerobic Capacity

>106% LT HR

Each zone holds its own benefits and is appropriate for different types of workouts. Zone 1 is so light it barely qualifies as exercise, and is appropriate on days when you are especially fatigued from prior days’ running and for “active recoveries” between high-intensity intervals. Zone 2 is very comfortable and quite useful for building aerobic fitness, fat-burning capacity, and endurance. Running in Zone 2 more than in any other zone is recommended.

Zone 3 is just a bit faster than your natural jogging pace — that is, the pace you automatically adopt when you go out for a run without even thinking about the intensity. It is useful for extending the benefits of training in Zone 2. Zone 4 is a running intensity that requires a conscious effort to go fast but is still comfortable. It is close to the intensity that is associated with longer running races, and should be incorporated into your training in moderate amounts to get your body used to that intensity.

Zone 5a is your lactate threshold intensity. It is more stressful than the lower zones, so you can not do a lot of running in this zone, but it is a powerful fitness booster, so you will want to do some Zone 5a running each week. The typical Zone 5a workout contains one or more sustained blocks of Zone 5a running sandwiched between a warm-up and a cool down. For example: 10 minutes Zone 2 (warm-up), 20 minutes Zone 5a, 10 minutes Zone 2 (cool-down).

Zone 5b is very intense, but when incorporated into your training in small amounts it will elevate your running performance significantly. Zone 5b is too intense to be done in sustained blocks, so instead it is incorporated into interval workouts featuring multiple short segments of fast running separated by active recoveries. For example, you might run 5 x 3 minutes @ Zone 5b with 3 minutes @ Zone 1 after each Zone 5B interval.

Zone 5c covers everything between the fastest pace you could sustain for a mile or so and a full sprint. It is incorporated into very short intervals and should be used very sparingly in your training because it’s so stressful. You will not want to make the mistake of avoiding it, though, as it is a great way to boost speed and running economy.

The content above contains some basic guidelines for using heart rate to monitor and control the intensity of your running. The biggest limitation of heart rate-based training is that, while heart rate is a good indicator of running intensity, it is not a perfect indicator. Heart rate is affected by a number of other factors, including fatigue level, sleep patterns, psychological state, hydration status, and diet, which make it somewhat unreliable in certain circumstances.

For example, while heart rate tends to be lower at any given pace on a treadmill than it is outdoors, running at any given pace actually feels easier outdoors, and one can also sustain higher heart rates outdoors, possibly for psychological reasons. The relationship between heart rate and running intensity also changes continuously as your fitness level changes, so you need to repeat the lactate threshold test frequently to keep your target zones accurate.

Many experienced runners, including elite runners, train without heart rate monitors, instead they rely on a combination of perceived exertion and pace to monitor and control the intensity of their workouts. The success of these runners is proof that a heart rate monitor is not needed to realize your full potential as a runner.

The most comprehensive indicator of running intensity is perceived exertion, or how hard running feels. Perceived exertion attributes for not only heart rate but also all of the other physiological and psychological factors that influence exercise intensity. You will always want to pay more attention to how hard running feels than you do to your heart rate when running.

Heart rate monitors provide users with important data that can be used towards improving running intensity, duration and speed; just do not use it as an end all.

ImageSources:

Matt Fitzgerald -Running 101: Training With A Heart Rate Monitor

 

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Contribute your strong suits….

ImageBy: Geoff Rubin, Fitness Propelled (CPT/CIFT/TRX II)

Contribute (Verb) give (something, such as money or time) in order to help achieve or provide something. (Dictionary.com). I’ve often wondered how could one person, especially me!, “contribute” to make a difference. Well, it took some internal investigating, but I had always known that through fitness, I could create a special bond with young men and women on the Autism Spectrum. Having a broad career of working with youth and young adults on the Autism Spectrum as an adaptive P. E. teacher for years and as a fitness professional with specifically designed fitness programs, that have delivered resounding results, I knew this would be my avenue to “Contribute”.  

Recently, I took my experience and volunteered some time to teach the teens and youth of Phoenix High Functioning Autism how to jump rope and play a few fun games. When you enter into a room and can see the nerves of the youth group escalating, know that many sensory needs must be addressed and turn an overwhelming consensus of “I do not want to do this” into O my goodness, look I am doing it. Where you can see children sitting off to the side and then engage them in the group and even get a good two thirds of the group to crack a smile. That is a powerful contribution. On behalf of all the youth there that night, I think it’s safe to say, we ALL HAD A BLAST.

I encourage you to respond to this post or connect with myself and Fitness Propelled LLC, where we have a specifically designed personal training program “Personal Power” that has shown to contribute to the empowering of young men and women on the Autism Spectrum. Please let me know how you “Contribute”.

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It Is All In The Shoes

ImageBy: Geoff Rubin, CPT/CIFT/TRX II

In the world of running, we could easily say that the most important aspect of hitting the road is what happens to be covering our feet. This is not your article for promoting a certain brand or offering expert insight into “The Magical” shoe for running, but simply meant to create open discussions and commentary about what YOUR personal preference for running shoes are and why?

With an inquisitive mind, I have always wondered, why so many different types of shoes? We see shoe’s that cover so many different foot structures from pronation to inversion, to plantar or dorsal flexion, to overuse of the heal strike, so on and so forth. With so many options out there how does one identify the right shoe? Taking my wondering mind into action, I have used everything from barefoot running, to New Balance, Nike, Adidas, Saucony, and Brooks. From my own personal experience, I have fallen into an allegiance to Brooks running shoes.

Currently, I own a pair of Brooks Pure Flow II’s where my feet take on an average 15-20 miles per week. They feel great, are light and adjust to my high arches and slight ankle pronation. As to share only my personal preference as to get this conversation started here is a review of the Brooks Flow III line from   http://www.runnersworld.com/shoe/brooks-pureflow-3-mens.

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Should you be new to the running world and are looking for criteria on how to analyze the data that shoe companies represent check out:

 

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Interval training, a must for reaching greater heights as a runner

Image “If you ever want to be a successful runner, you have to consider everything.” (Arthur Lydiard) All the more reason that just running more or longer simply doesn’t cut it in today’s ever growing popularity with running. Well, you must be asking, what am I supposed to do instead?   It is time for us to understand and implement the benefits of “Interval Training”.

 Interval training is defined as training in which an athlete alternates between two activities, typically requiring different rates of speed, degrees of effort. The University of Western Ontario, showed that with just six weeks of sprint interval training participants elicited jumps in VO2 max, running performance and lower heart rates as compared to regular endurance training.“You can train all the energy systems with interval training, including stamina, threshold, strength and improve your mental discipline” (Ken Rickerman). When you have the chance to get more bang for your buck, why wouldn’t you consider ramping up the intensity occasionally?

 Let’s put interval training into practice. Training intensity should follow the widely cited rule for endurance athletes, which is to do 80% of your training below your lactate threshold and 20% at or above it. In more simplistic terms, your lactate threshold is the intensity at which lactic acid begins to build up in your blood stream. As runners world puts it and I agree, “it’s all about pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, but generally at a controlled pace”.

Examples of implementing interval training into common mileage distances:

  • 1 mile: .25 @ 4mph / .25 @ 4.5mph / .25 @ 5mph / .25 @ 4mph
  • 3.2 miles: 1mile @ 5mph / .50 @ 6mph / .25 @ 6.5mph / .25 @ 7mph / 1mile @ 6mph / .20 @ 5.5mph

  • 6.0 miles: 2miles @ 4.5mph / 1mile @ 5.5mph / 2 miles @ 4.5 / 1 mile @ 6mph

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5 Strength Training Exercises for Running Enthusiasts

Who knew that in order to increase running efficiency, lessen injury potential and develop more core and lower body stability that we need to incorporate “strength training” as opposed to just running more? Well, if you find yourself on the side of choosing to run more, you might want to consider adding a strength training component to your work out regime. Fitness Propelled has been examining preventative running practices, injury treatments and understanding common running injuries. Now, it is time to take our collective knowledge and become proactive by applying the exercises portrayed below. Recommended 3 sets of each @ time and repetitions listed.

1)      Reverse lunges with overhead presses:

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  • Hold a pair of dumbbells straight above your shoulders, with your arms straight and elbows locked. Step backwards with your left leg, and lower your body until your front knee is bent 90 degrees. Return to the starting position, and repeat with your right leg. That’s one repetition. 12-15 repetitions per set.

              i.      Muscles worked: quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus, shoulders, core

2)      Planks:

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  • Prop yourself up on your elbows with your feet slightly apart. Make sure your body is aligned, your abdominal muscles are tight, and shoulders are directly above the elbows and down and back, not hunched up. Hold this position for 45 seconds to one minute per set. Gradually add time as your core gets stronger.

                   i.      Muscles worked: core, lower back, shoulders

3)      Stability ball back extensions:

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  • Lie face-down on a stability ball with your feet spread wide for balance. Your elbows should be bent with your hands lightly touching the ground for initial support. Squeeze your gluteus and lift your torso up until your body forms a straight line. As you lift your torso, allow your hands to come off the ground, keeping your elbows bent. Extend your arms overhead. Hold for one or two seconds. Release your arms and then your torso back down to the start position. That’s one rep. Aim for 12-15 repetitions per set. No stability ball? You can do the movement on an exercise mat: Raise your thighs and arms off the ground while your torso stays in contact with the ground.

                   i.      Muscles worked: lower back, glutes, middle back, shoulders

4)      Kettlebell squats w/ rotational twists

ImageHold the kettlebell with both hands in front of your chest. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Push your hips back, and lower your body into a squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Press the kettlebell above your head to the right shoulder rotating through your abdomen, return the kettlebell to the original position and repeat to the left shoulder. 12-15 repetitions per set.

                       i.      Muscles worked: glutes, quads, hamstrings, lower back, upper back, shoulders

5)  Stability ball hip extensions or gluteus bridges

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  • Lie on your back on the floor, and place your calves on a stability ball. Extend your arms to your sides to help support and balance your body. Push your hips up so that your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Without allowing your hips to sag (keep with your body at all times), roll the ball as close as you can to your hips by bending your knees and pulling your heels toward you.

                  i.      Muscles worked: hamstrings, gluteus, core

 

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