Did you know that the way that you structure your running week can have a huge impact on the improvements you make, your capacity to avoid injury and maximise enjoyment?! You are probably well aware of the ‘periodising’ concept, which is understood to be the way that you structure your training loads (volume/distance, speeds/intensity, recovery, etc) over the year to peak for a specific event. But I find that often we don’t break that concept down to the weekly unit. We will talk more about the yearly structure in a future post, but for now I wanted to address the smaller weekly ‘unit’ which will be very easy for you to modify and maximise your gains.
You will be amazed how often I hear this from people when they tell me about their weekly running: “I don’t have a lot of time during the week, so I get in a couple of 5km runs before work, and then I do my long 10km run on the weekend”. Often those two 5km runs are at the same speed, and around the same route. And then we DOUBLE the training load for that weekend run. This can be a quite a large jump! So while there is a bit of variety going from the shorter runs to the longer one, we can do a lot better than this!
“Variety is a key to minimising injury and maximising improvements”
Minimising injury: The best predictor of a future injury is a past injury – and this is where the right health professional as a part of your team is soooo important – to develop a tailored re/pre-habilitation program for you! The next best predictor of injury, in my opinion, is high repetition of loads. By this I mean applying very similar forces, over and over, to the same body structures… hmmm… sounds a lot like running doesn’t it?? running at similar speeds (maybe your constant 5min/km) on the same surface (the roads around your house), in the same shoes, for the same distance, is a pretty good recipe for an injury.
Maximising improvements: The body improves by having to adapt to new stimuli. If we don’t challenge the body in new and different ways, it sits on a plateau. A key concept in training is progressive overload. You slowly and periodically increase your training loads; be it by increasing speeds, distances, reducing breaks, etc. (again, more on this in our upcoming post on periodising).
So how do we put all this together? here are a few points to help you plan your week’s training:
- Vary your running distances during the week. Program your distances to cover a good spectrum. So, for example, instead of doing your 20kms for the week as per the example above (5+5+10), a better spread could be 3km + 7km + 10km.
- Vary your speeds. For example, in the structure suggested above, the 10km run could be your easy long run, at a comfortable pace (perhaps at or just over your average 5min/km pace); the 7km run could be broken up into some threshold intervals (or quicker). For example, you could warm up and cool down for a kilometre each, and then alternate a faster kilometre, with a slower kilometre, for the middle 5kms; and the 3km run could be an easy spin of the legs! This way not only are you providing variety, but also starting to work on different components of your fitness!
- Change the surfaces you run in. Try to run in different environments. For example, one of your runs could be on roads, your faster interval session could be around a gravel path, and ideally one of your runs (even if not weekly) should be on trails. Trail running provides great variety through constantly changing surfaces, as well as inclines, no two steps ever look the same!
- Ideally change the shoes you run in. While we all have our preferred shoes, it is also a great idea to vary these. So you may have a pair of trail running shoes, your preferred longer distance shoes, and maybe a slightly lighter show for your speed work. This will be more expensive to start off with, but they will all last you longer afterwards!
If you need any more specific help structuring your program, I’d love to help. You can contact me here!
In the month of September there will be approximately 70,000 Australian participants agreeing to walk, run, swim, cycle the equivalent of 10,000 steps per day for 28 days. The event, ‘Steptember’ which is ran by the Cerebral Palsy Alliance is aiming to raise awareness and funding for services and research for people of all ages suffering from Cerebral Palsy.
Now for some people, 10,000 steps per day (which is the minimum recommended by the World Health Organisation), for 28 days in a row may be quite difficult. If this is you and you’re struggling to find motivation half way through the challenge it is important to remember why you agreed to sign up for the event in the first place. Cerebral Palsy is a horrible condition that affects a sufferer’s movement capability. There are different forms and severities however for most sufferers there will be some abnormality with their movement, muscle control, muscle coordination, muscle tone, reflexes, posture and balance (Refer to the picture below to see how the different types can affect the body)
Despite the impact that this disease can have on a sufferer and their families there is still no cure. To make matter worse there is an alarming number of people with the condition with a child in Australia born with Cerebral Palsy every 15 hours. This equates to 1 in 500 children suffering from the condition.
To make sure that you complete your equivalent of 10,000 steps per day have a look at some tips below:
- Walking to and from work – It’s spring, the weather is warming up. Start and finish your day with some exercise, vitamin D and fresh air. If you are unable to walk the whole way, then look at alternatives such as parking a few km from work or getting off at an earlier stop when using public transport.
- Team up with a friend – Make the exercise a social outing
- Mix it up – your steps do not have to be around your neighbourhood. Try a new walk in a new location.
- Be mobile at lunchtime – take a walk before you eat your lunch to increase metabolism and refresh for the afternoon.
- Spread out the steps – You are far less likely to complete all 10,000 if you knock off work at 5pm and have 8,000 to go. Make sure you get a significant amount completed before the afternoon.
For more information or to find out how you can donate. Visit:
Mastering Gravity: How do you improve your balance?
In a previous blog, we discussed how our lack of play and challenge has slowly led to decrements in our balance. Research in the Age and Ageing Journal (2013) has proven that less active lifestyles appear to accelerate loss of proprioceptive acuity and thus would contribute to loss of functional independence and increased falls.
So the question we are to ponder is…. Can we improve our balance after years of not using it?
The easy answer is yes! So how does it work? The best way of understanding how we can approach this issue is looking at the science behind it. To improve overall balance we need to ensure our body is skilled at interpreting what is happening to our body (through taking in sensory input) and then how we can try maintain a position of safety (motor output). For example, as we walk down the street and we trip on a paver. We first need to recognise that we are falling. Physiologically this sensory input is acquired a few ways:
- Vestibular system within the inner ear (the sensations of body rotation, gravitation and movement)
- Somatosensory systems (conscious perception of touch, pressure, pain, temperature, position, movement, and vibration, which arise from the muscles, joints, skin, and fascia)
- Visual system (seeing where our body position is in space)
These signals then travel through nervous system and the brain or spinal chord either create conscious or unconscious motor output which generates a movement. In our example, this would result in a very large sidestep to prevent us from falling. To perform the request we need muscular strength, power and co-ordination.
Training the sensory input and motor output:
- Proprioception exercises: This allows us to train us to recognise where our body is in space
- Co-ordination exercises: This allows us to create the desired movement with the appropriate muscles (to save the day)
- Strength exercises: This allows us the necessary strength to produce the actions
If you would like more information regarding your ability to master your own gravity, I am more than happy to have a chat.
I don’t think I have enough fingers and toes to count the times I have heard clients utter the phrases, “now I am getting older, my balance is getting worse” and “I am scared of falling so I can’t do the things I used to”
It is true, there are age related changes to our balance (reaction time, equilibrium and proprioception). But these physiological changes are compounded by the fact that we stop challenging facets of our balance as we mature. When we are young, we play on all sorts of objects. We climb trees, jump over puddles, dodge our friends and even hang upside down on the playgrounds. Children are unknowingly challenging their limitations every time they play. This brings about improvements in important aspects of balance.
Maintaining our body’s centre of gravity (balance) depends on co-ordination of several sensory systems within each of our bodies:
- The vestibular system (regulates equilibrium/head position)
- The visual system (spatial location relative to objects through vision)
- The somatosensory system (information from skin and joints to sense position and movement relative to surfaces and different body parts relative to each other)
As we leave our childhood into the monotony of adulthood – cooking, cleaning, working, we typically stop playing. Once we hit our 40’s, unless we specifically engage in different types of sports/activities, we tend to avoid or completely ignore actions such as jumping, hopping, balancing on a single leg. We stop practicing this co-ordination of systems….
The age-old saying is true… Use it or lose it!
Want the good news! Yes, we can improve these systems, much like we can with strength or aerobic fitness. We just need to challenge ourselves!
Tune in for part 2 on Mastering your Gravity if you are interested on HOW you can improve your balance.
The fringe festival is now in full swing, bringing the weird, wonderful and sometimes unimaginable acts. Perhaps you have seen the ‘Cowboy’ who now holds the world record for sword swallowing after having magnets implanted in his chest, behind the sternum… The human body is sometimes altered according to our desires but sometimes it just presents itself structurally different to the ‘norm’.
You may have heard the phrase ‘it’s as impossible as licking your elbow’… Well for some of us that is not true…
Perhaps you or someone you know has a similar trick up their sleeve. Hypermobility is common in the general population and may be present in one or more joints. It is the term used to describe the ability to move joints beyond the normal range of movement. It’s necessarily not as cool as it may look… In many people joint hypermobility may not cause any symptoms, however, for others it is associated with joint and ligament injuries, pain, fatigue and other symptoms.
A hypermobile joint is lax as a result of a gene mutation affecting the body’s connective tissue proteins. The looser connective tissue, particularly ligaments and tendons, gives rise to an increased risk of soft tissue injuries and dislocations as the joint can over extend or twist easily.
It has been found that individuals with hypermobile joints have impaired proprioception compared with that of matched control groups. Although you can’t change the structure of the lax tissues, research has shown that appropriate exercise can increase the control and stability of the muscles around the joints.
So how do you prevent an injury?
The key is to strengthen the stabilising muscles around the joint through guided resistance training. Knowing your limits and how to control movement patterns is essential. Try to avoid loading the joint past its normal range. The idea is to develop protective reflex actions when a joint is being pushed past it’s normal range.
For example, if you are known to have knees which hyperextend and play a sport which involves jumping, knowing how to control your landing without allowing the knee to move into hyperextension is essential in preventing knee injuries or muscle tears. In addition, it is important to strengthen the muscles around the knee, hip and ankle to better stabilise the joint.
If you have any concerns or questions regarding your joints, feel free to ask any one of our qualified staff members.
Enjoy the fringe festivities!
Mark Lindsay, from Eliza Park Stud (where Black Caviar was conceived) was once quoted as saying of the great sprinter “she’s got an arse like a bus”, which he meant as an utmost compliment. Her generous rump was one of the physical gifts she possessed that gave her such a phenomenal turn of speed. A distant view of her powerful back-end was all she offered her competitors across her perfect career!
For a horse, their gluteals act as a powerful hip extensor- in other words they drive the legs backward in order to propel the body forward. So having big, chunky glutes is a good thing for a sprint-distance horse. Black Caviar was built for speed.
Our glutes perform much the same role, or at least they have the potential to. In walking and even slow jogging on flat ground, the glutes should activate when the foot hits the ground to stabilise the hip and pelvis- and that’s about it. Start accelerating or going up a hill however, and they (should) kick into power-house mode and start quickly pushing us forward from behind. For proof, next time you see top-level sprinters on TV, check out their backsides. They are impressive (I am strictly speaking from an anatomical, physiological and biomechanical perspective here!). (more…)