Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Injury Nutrition

         Injury Nutrition 

         A well-balanced diet can help fuel the rehabilitation and recover process 

FACT: Though you as an injured player(s) are not participating in games and practices, your body still needs enough calories to provide energy for the body to heal. You should get adequate calories and protein to support muscle growth and recovery without causing lost or gain of weight. To do this, it may be beneficial for you to slightly reduce your carbohydrate and fat intake to lessen calories. However, high-quality carbohydrate and healthy fats should not be eliminated from your diet.

FACT: Consuming excessive amounts of protein during recovery is unnecessary.  For some injuries, it's natural for muscle atrophy to occur at the site of the injury because of non-use. As you begin rehab exercises, consuming adequate amounts of protein will help rebuild muscle. It's a good starting point for young, healthy males to consume about 0.55g of protein per pound of body weight throughout each day to facilitate muscle growth. 

FACT: There's no evidence that consuming a high volume of vitamins and minerals will speed recovery time. However, meeting nutritional recommendations for vitamins and minerals in injured athletes' diet may help support the healing and rehabilitation process. Vitamins and minerals are found naturally in colorful fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy, starches and meats. There is also some indication that omega-3 fatty acids may help support the recovery process. However, research at this point is not conclusive to make recommendations. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Tempo Runs

The Coaches Insider
Tempo Runs: A Staple of Distance Running


Tempo runs have long been a staple of distance training, particularly for those training for race distances of 3,000 meters up to the marathon. The physiological benefits of tempo running and other forms of threshold training are well documented and readily accepted by coaches and athletes.

The idea is not a new one. In fact, Jack Daniels, Ph.D., writes about the use of "cruise intervals" in his book Daniels' Running Formula. The basic idea is simple: You can work out longer at your lactate threshold pace by taking short recoveries at a set interval (usually between 1 kilometers and 3 kilometers). Because the recovery interval is so short (around 30 seconds to 1 minute depending on the length of the work bout) heart rate remains elevated and blood lactate levels remain relatively constant.

This is a great way to get a little more quality effort in a workout. However, there is one piece that can be missing with this type of training: It's not as mentally challenging for many athletes.

Please don't misunderstand what I'm saying. Threshold paced intervals have their place in the training plan, but it should not eliminate the traditional 20-30 (or even 45) minute continuous tempo run. As coaches, we rely heavily on repetition and interval training to improve speed but, athletes teach themselves to run in order to get to the recovery interval. It's a survivalist attitude. The athlete knows that there will be a break soon and that motivates them to push through to the end of the segment. In a continuous tempo run, athletes are forced to apply mental tactics that better emulate racing. They need to be able to refocus when they start to fall off pace. It is a tremendous boost mid-race when you know how to respond as the pain and doubt start to creep into your head. In a continuous tempo run you have two choices when it gets tough: refocus and push through it or quit.

Continuous tempo runs provide athletes with the opportunity to experience and combat many of the same physiological and psychological challenges that they will feel in a race. We need to teach our athletes that problems will arise in every race. The way you deal with the problem will determine your ability to achieve the goals for the day.


So, how do you teach your athlete to deal with the internal doubts that creep in? Well, that depends on the athlete but here are a few ideas:

  • Refocus
  • Change your focus
  • Stepping stones

This method is my personal favorite because it can be relatively easy to learn and works extremely well in athletes that are intrinsically motivated. We talk frequently with our athletes (in all events) about the importance of trusting your training. This concept is the foundation for being able to refocus. The athlete needs to acknowledge the doubt, fatigue or other problem and then put it aside and remind himself that he is ready and able to complete the run (or race) because of an the training that has been put in already.


This method is better suited for extrinsically motivated athletes. When utilizing this method it is important to make sure you are focusing on something that will still allow you to meet your goals for the workout or race. Running Looney Tunes episodes or a song over and over in your head will not be as beneficial as focusing on staying right on the shoulder of a teammate or a competitor.


This method works well for intrinsically and extrinsically motivated athletes. In this method the focus becomes setting and achieving smaller goals. This might mean hitting specific split times or getting to the next intersection. With this method it is important to celebrate achieving each goal (without stopping, of course). The nice thing about this method is that it can be used in conjunction with the other two methods.


This section is by no means all-inclusive but we use a variety of different threshold workouts in our training. From continuous tempo runs to cruise intervals we try to implement a variety of threshold training opportunities in our program to avoid stagnation and to challenge the athlete to grow physically and mentally. Here's a few of the ones we use on a regular basis:


I'm going to "kill two birds with one stone" here. The continuous tempo and the progressive tempo are very similar. In the continuous tempo, your athlete is trying to maintain an average pace without much deviance from that average for the duration of the run.

In the progressive tempo, there are two ways of attacking it. The first method, which is very suitable for early fall training, is to build from mid-intensity pace (we usually define this as around 150-160HR for a collegiate runner) to threshold pace (again, I like to use Daniel's VDOT charts to determine this pace). The alternative method, much more suited for late season training, is to average the threshold pace while building up throughout the run. For example, in a 20-minute tempo, a 4:20 miler trying to average 5:15 per mile might run 5:20, 5:17, 5:13 and 5:10 per mile. This results in an average of about 5:15/mile.


We've covered these a bit already in this article but the basic concept is shorter threshold based intervals with a short recovery. In our program these usually show up as 2K or 3K intervals with a 1 minute recovery. For us, these usually show up around the start of the indoor track season and are alternated every other week with other threshold work. Intervals could be made as short as 400 meters or as long as 20 minutes if one so desires.


This is the term I use for a run that is set up with half the distance at easy run pace and the other half at threshold or the slightly slower marathon pace. The determination of whether to use threshold or marathon pace is determined by the total length of the run. The key here is that there is no transition between the easy run and the faster portion. That means no drill sets, no rest break, no stopping to stretch out the calves and hamstrings. You hit the halfway point and pick up the pace.

Where we have used this the most is as part of the long run. This also means that it's technically not a threshold workout but it can easily be converted into one using shorter distances or times. Instead, I use Daniels' marathon pace and I encourage my athletes to run this section over a hilly or rolling course rather than a flat stretch of road. Typically, we'll see this workout once every three to four weeks but theoretically it could be done more frequently. The catch with this run is that if you have someone with a base pace of 6:15 per mile, this will put their faster section around 5:30 per mile. That means that if they were to go out for a 2 hour long run, they'll run about 9.5 miles at the slower pace and 11 at the faster pace for about a 20-mile day. That's not necessarily a big deal but it does require more recovery time and that is why we space it out so much.


Continuous tempo runs are perfect for summer and early fall training and can work well during the transition period between cross country and the indoor track season. I've found that they can help in the transition between indoor and outdoor track as well. During the winter, especially in the northern part of the country, we will frequently do our tempo runs on the treadmill or along a bike path and changes of pace are difficult with the snow and ice. In each of these times, the athlete's workload is likely to be lower initially and building on a weekly or biweekly basis. This is convenient because it allows us, as coaches, to increase the length of the tempo, and therefore the amount of time that the athlete needs to remain focused, in a controlled manner. When I am working with an athlete who has focus issues, my goals for them in their tempo run and even the route that I send them on will depend on which mental strategy I want them to employ.

For example, when applying the refocus method I like to put athletes on the treadmill (and turn the television and music off). I may even have them cover up their screen. Additionally, I will set the pace so they don't have to think about that. This works especially well if you start with a shorter run like a 10 or 15 minute tempo run.

If I want to use the "change your focus" or "stepping stones" methods I will usually send them out on the bike path with a group that is slightly faster and have them work on staying with the group for a prescribed amount of time. The key to this is to make sure that they believe they can run with the group in the first place. If you take your No. 10 runner and ask him to stay with your No. 1 runner for an hour there is a good chance he won't last 10 minutes because he's worried about surviving the run and doesn't focus on the actual task of staying on the No. 1 runner's shoulder.

Make sure the athlete understands the purpose of the run before starting out. You also have to make sure the athlete is ready for that run mentally. I don't mean are they ready for a tempo. I mean, do they "buy in" to the idea that they have to do this to become a better runner? While the athlete might trust you as a coach, they may not believe that they can complete every workout you give them. With that in mind it is best to start with an easy task such as a 10- or 15-minute tempo run and work your way up. Even a 20-minute tempo run can be daunting if the athlete believes the pace is too tough.

As the athlete gets more comfortable, progressive tempo runs can be interspersed to bring up the overall training effort. In a progressive tempo run the pace is increased over the course of the run. Some coaches, myself included, use pre-set intervals of a half-mile, kilometer, or full mile. Other coaches simply give a target pace for the final mile. Both methods have pros and cons. In the former, the athlete knows exactly what they have to do and it is completely controlled from start to finish. The distances used to gauge pace can be tracked using a GPS watch, known checkpoints, or it can be done on the track. The downside is that an athlete can get discouraged if they aren't hitting the pace. The latter method allows the athlete the freedom to determine how fast they go through the run and allows them to have more freedom over their pace. The downside here is that an athlete may not put enough effort into the run until the final mile.  


By now you're probably wondering if any threshold interval-style runs are even going to be done. Absolutely! The key is to bring this work in later, around mid-season. Don't just abandon the threshold training, transition out of it. As you start needing faster paced work, replace the traditional tempo run and the progressive tempo run with the interval-based threshold running. Daniels' cruise intervals fit in well at this point in your training cycle. This can also be a time to introduce continuous effort intervals in which you alternate between faster-paced intervals and recoveries done at your standard training pace.

You can use both of these methods to help transition your athletes without having to abandon the strength that will carry them through three seasons of competition. Many coaches believe that you can't have three good seasons of competition. They believe that an athlete must either train through the cross country season to have good indoor track and outdoor track seasons or train through the indoor track season to have good cross country and outdoor track seasons. However, if you carefully analyze your athletes I'd be willing to bet that your strongest athletes tend to perform well in an three seasons.


We used 7-day microcyles for our training and broke that up into six phases: summer, cross country, transition 1, indoor track, transition 2, and outdoor track. During the summer training and both transitions you will find us using tempo runs and their variations as the primary fast workouts. We also use them early in the cross country season and part of the indoor season.

Every season we watch our runners set personal records (PRs) in every event they ran on the track even after a good cross country season. Our upperclassmen show extremely good versatility with this type of training. Many of our middle distance runners are able to race 800 meters through 5,000 meters without seeing much variance between events.

Without a doubt, the use of continuous and progressive tempo runs played a role in their success. The use of the mental training strategies discussed earlier were a part of that training. When they were asked to employ these strategies in races, they raced better. Knowing how they were going to cope with the boredom, doubt and fatigue that can set in left them ready and able to continue to push on. We have had athletes that split their mile and 5,000-meter races at their 800-meter and 3,000-meter PRs, respectively. But they weren't distracted by that. Instead they were focused on continuing to push through to the finish.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Shin Splints

The Coaches Insider 
Tips to Prevent Shin Splints

Ever wonder why that pain in your shin increases every time you finish a track & field workout? Aside from soreness, which you would feel in the belly of the shin muscle and still be able to move around, shin splints occur alongside or behind the shin; and they can sometimes be debilitating, forcing you to miss some playing time.

Performing proper track & field exercises can help prevent shin splints.

What is a shin splint?

A shin splint occurs when the tibialis anterior (the muscle of the shin) tears slightly along the bone, causing excruciating pain. This often happens during sprinting, the result of too much force being placed on the shin bone and connective tissues that attach the muscle to the bone. Shin splints are common among runners and those who participate in activities with sudden stops and starts, such as basketball, soccer or tennis.

The anterior tibialis, the muscle in the front of the shin, is responsible for the pain. This muscle keeps the foot dorsiflexed, or, simply put, helps keep the toes and foot up. The tibialias anterior muscle absorbs most of the force during sprinting, and depending on the type of surface you are running on, can prevent the pain.

Tips to eliminate shin splints

Here are a few tips to implement in your track & field exercise regimen to eliminate shin splints.

  • Icing. Icing reduces the inflammation of the tibialis anterior muscle. Icing for about 20 minutes after a tough interval sprint workout or track meet can prevent shin splints.

  • Tibial Pulls. Attach a light resistance band to a rack in the weight room and place the band around the top part of your foot. Sit on the floor with enough distance between you and the rack to create slight resistance in the band. Pull your foot up toward your head and hold each rep for five seconds. Perform 3 sets of 10 reps.

  • Running Shoes. If you are experiencing shin splints or any type of lower leg problem after a running workout, maybe it's time to change your tires. Many of my track athletes who experienced shin splints solved the problem simply by changing their running shoes.

  • Running Surface. The type of surface you run on always has an impact on your joints. The amount of stress taken from the ankle to the knee joint usually travels along the tibialis anterior. Avoid running on hard surfaces such as concrete if you are going for an early morning jog or late night run. Try to find a park where you can run on the grass. A track is another great solution, but the greatest surface to run on is turf.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Training To Run

Running a steady pace is a good general race strategy, but if you want to PR, you may want to mix things up.
Exercise scientist Ross Tucker, Ph.D, has studied world-record performances at various distances and has found that certain pacing patterns lead to faster times. Follow these guidelines to break your own times.

5-K and 10-K: Fast-"Slow"-Fast
In world-record performances at these distances, the first and last miles are almost always faster than the middle miles. To emulate this pattern, aim to run your first mile five seconds faster than your goal pace for the full race, then find a steady groove for the next few miles, and finally put everything you have left into the last mile.
Pace Training
By testing your limits, you will develop a better feel for them so your brain can better guide you to a truly maximal performance. Workouts that simulate the challenges of a race do the best job of calibrating your internal pacing guide. Start with a speed and distance that is challenging but not overtaxing. Repeat the workout every seven to 10 days, each time increasing your pace or distance or both slightly. Ten days before your race, complete your toughest workout. Below are suggested workouts.

• 1-mile easy warmup
• 5 x 1-K at 5-K race pace with 400-meter recoveries
• 1-mile easy cooldown

How to Warm-up Before a Run
Done before any workout or race, a proper warm-up will help you achieve peak performance.
It's easy to overlook the importance of a good warm-up. After all, it's just the opening act before the real thing. But if you skip or skimp on your pre-run routine, you risk poor performance and injury. "A proper warm-up increases heart rate, breathing rate, and blood flow to the muscles.” "It prepares the body for increasingly vigorous activity, allows it to work more efficiently, and reduces injury risk by loosening you up."

What makes a good warm-up? It's a common question beginners ask. If you're doing the same routine before every run and every race, you've already made your first mistake. Simply taking adequate time to warm up isn't enough—you have to match the level of preparation to the intended effort. For instance, the faster you'll be running or racing, the longer and more thoroughly you should warm up. But the effort shouldn't be so tiring that you wear yourself out before the starting line. Here's how to get ready for every kind of run.
Easy and moderately paced runs—and even those that start slow before picking up, such as progressive tempos—don't require much warm-up. But they do require some movement to introduce your body to running, especially if you've just rolled out of bed, it's cold out, or you're achy.

WARMUP ROUTINE: Walk one or two blocks to loosen your muscles and joints. "When you do start running, start out really easy and gradually speed up until you're at your normal, easy-run pace." "This usually takes about a half mile, but it can take longer if you're tired or sore."

To prepare for the rigors of hard training sessions such as speed-work, you should ideally do a 20- to 40-minute warm-up. Properly warmed up, you'll be able to hit your target paces from the outset of your repeats. "Most runners start speed sessions with an inadequate warm-up." The body is thus ill-prepared to adequately transport oxygen and offset the by-products of fast running, so it's harder to generate the power to run at goal pace.

WARMUP ROUTINE: Walk for two minutes, then jog at a conversational pace for 15 to 20 minutes to raise your heart rate. Loosen and activate your muscles with five to 10 minutes of dynamic stretches and form drills such as lunges, skipping, and high-knees running. Then run 800 meters at moderate intensity (a little slower than your 10-K race pace), and do two to four 100-meter strides. Beginners or those pressed for time can eliminate the form drills and 800-meter run.
With all the things you need to accomplish before your race starts—pick up your number, use the porta-potty, chat with friends—it's easy to shortchange your warm-up. But you need time before your race to get your body ready for race pace. That's why it is recommended arriving at least one hour before the start. "This gives you time to take care of everything, including a relaxed warm-up, without going into panic mode."

WARMUP ROUTINE: Get all the logistics out of the way at least 30 minutes before the start, then do a warm-up suited to the distance you're racing (See "Primed to Race," below). Begin with easy jogging. Add in a few light stretches, and then do several 100-meter strides, accelerating smoothly to race pace.
Primed to Race

Generally, the distance of your event determines the length of your warm-up. Shorter races such as 5-Ks and 10-Ks require longer warm-ups because you need to hit a faster pace right from the start.
WALK OR JOG 15-30 minutes

STRIDES 8 x 100 meters RUN BETTER Before a race, perform part of your warm-up, such as 100-meter strides or easy jogging, on the final stretch of the course so you can visualize finishing.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

All fluids are not created equal. This Drinking Guide offers expert advice on the best drinks for runners.

The Simplest Choice: Water

With so many thirst-quenching options, plain old water may seem rather pedestrian. But water is less expensive and more readily available than any other beverage. It's also calorie-free for those watching their weight. While tap water may seem less pure than bottled, it's often subject to more stringent safety regulations and is generally more mineral-rich. But drink whichever you think tastes better to ensure you drink enough. Just remember that water won't refuel your carbohydrate (energy) reserves or replace electrolytes lost through sweat.

Drink It... On runs under 30 minutes. "The person out for a three-mile jog typically has enough stored energy to meet the demands of the workout and can simply rely on water for hydration," says Carmichael. Drinking water is also a great way to stay hydrated throughout the rest of the day.

Pass It By ... On runs over 30 minutes, since you need to replace spent carbs and electrolytes. And those who find the taste of water boring may want to experiment with flavored drinks to ensure that they drink enough to meet their hydration needs.

Get Some Carbs: Sports Drinks

The carbohydrate-electrolyte-fluid potion that Gatorade launched back in 1965 has since spawned an entire beverage category based on the theory that athletes need more than just water during strenuous aerobic exercise in order to stay properly fueled and well hydrated. Ideally, sports drinks have a six to eight percent carbohydrate concentration (14 to 20 grams of carbs per serving), which allows them to be absorbed by the body up to 30 percent faster than water and provide a steady stream of carbs to restock spent energy stores. They also contain the electrolytes sodium and potassium, minerals that are lost through sweat and important for fluid retention.

Some runners--particularly weight watchers--avoid sports drinks because they contain calories. That's a mistake, says Suzanne Girard Eberle, a sports dietitian and author of Endurance Sports Nutrition. "When you're training long and hard, you shouldn't minimize your caloric intake. Don't work against your body while you're asking it to perform." Besides, research indicates that consuming carbohydrates during exercise may suppress appetite later in the day.

Drink It ... On runs over 30 minutes. Sports drinks are ideal before, during, and after such workouts. Runners bored by the taste of water may also want to experiment with sports drinks during shorter runs.

Pass It By ... On runs under 30 minutes. During such short workouts, runners might not want the extra calories and are well served by water. People with sensitive stomachs may need to experiment with different brands and flavors during training.

Carbs and More: Endurance Sports Drinks

This new breed of sports drinks aims to serve longer-distance runners. Endurance drinks typically offer the same carbohydrate content as regular sports drinks, but they throw in an extra dose of sodium and potassium--the main electrolytes lost through sweat. Most contain approximately twice the sodium as regular sports drinks. "Endurance formulas that deliver both carbohydrate and electrolytes can enhance performance in very long workouts and competitions, while helping to maintain electrolyte levels," says Carmichael.

Drink It ... During workouts or races that last two to three hours or more. Also a good option for endurance athletes who are heavy sweaters and have a history of muscle cramping during long workouts.

Pass It By ... On runs lasting less than an hour. These drinks were designed for longer workouts.

Just a Little Extra: Enhanced Waters

Also known as fitness waters, most of these drinks, which typically contain less than 50 calories per eight-ounce serving, list water as the first ingredient, followed by a sweetener--either real or faux. Many are also enhanced with vitamins and minerals and come in a wide variety of flavors. But don't expect the extra vitamins and minerals to boost your running. "There is no evidence that the small amount of vitamins and minerals added to these drinks will aid performance," says Eberle. "And there's no evidence that we need them during exercise." These waters also won't properly fuel long workouts because of their low carbohydrate content.

Drink It ... On runs under 30 minutes. Also can be used for hydrating throughout the day by those who don't want a lot of extra calories or when drinking plain water seems too blah.

Pass It By ... On runs over 30 minutes. You need the extra carbs in traditional sports drinks to support longer workouts.

A Lot of Extra: Energy Drinks

What puts the "energy" in energy drinks? Most contain a potent mixture of caffeine and sugar, both proven to enhance performance. But the extremely high amount of sugar in these drinks (between 110 and 160 sugar calories per eight-ounce serving) actually prohibits them from being a smart fluid choice during exercise. That's because the dense carbohydrate content slows fluid absorption and can give some runners an upset stomach. Other stimulants often found in these drinks, such as guarana, ginseng, taurine, and L-carnitine, may boost performance but can also increase your blood pressure and heart rate and make you feel shaky--particularly if taken on an empty stomach.

Some traditional sports drinks have so-called "energy formulas," but they're often not the same as energy drinks like Red Bull, since they usually aren't as high in sugar or caffeine. (Gatorade's energy formula, for example, while high in sugar, is caffeine-free. See "What's in Your Bottle," page 73.) "Most sports drink energy formulas--even when they have caffeine--still have the right concentration of carbohydrate to meet guidelines for proper hydration," says Carmichael.

Drink It ... If you're well fed, well hydrated, and looking to boost alertness and energy before or after a run, not during.

Pass It By ... If you have a sensitive stomach, a history of heart palpitations, or are watching your weight.

When It's Over: Recovery Drinks

Research indicates that adding a little protein to the carbs you consume postrun helps speed the restoration of your glycogen (energy) stores and facilitate muscle repair. Consequently, most recovery drinks contain 30 to 60 grams of carbs and seven to 15 grams of protein--roughly a four-to-one ratio. "Recovery drinks can significantly improve any athlete's ability to have a quality workout tomorrow and the day after that," says Carmichael.

Drink It ... After a race or workout, especially if you have no appetite after running. Recovery drinks can also serve as a prerun meal if you can't tolerate solids when fueling up. Ultrarunners might want to experiment with these drinks during exercise to help meet their high need for calories.

Pass It By ... If you're logging easy miles and don't need or want the extra calories.

Traditional Sips: Juice and Soft Drinks

Both juice and soda can help keep you hydrated, although their relatively dense carbohydrate concentrations (10 to 14 percent) slow fluid absorption in the intestinal tract and can cause stomach distress or nausea in some runners when taken in during exercise. If you're looking to fulfill some of your fruit quota for the day, check out the label of your favorite fruit drink and make sure it's made with 100 percent real fruit juices. Soda offers no real nutrition, but those that are caffeinated can serve as an occasional pick-me-up.

Drink It ... When hydrating or fueling before or after runs.

Pass It By ... When hydrating or fueling during runs or if you don't need the extra calories.

Nontraditional sips: Oxygenated Waters

Here's all you need to know: Humans absorb oxygen through the lungs. Just in case, here's an expert: "Studies have not been able to determine that drinking oxygenated water has a measurable effect on a person's resting heart rate, blood pressure, or blood-lactate values," says sports nutritionist Dallas Parsons.

Drink It ... If you are a goldfish.

Pass It By ... If you are a human.