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Build An Aerobic Base: A Guide for Off-Season Training

[Originally featured in Run Utah Magazine Oct Nov Dec Edition 2015 – Click Here to read other great articles from this magazine edition]

The fall and winter months are a great time of year to put in some easy running mileage. In fact, it is my favorite time of year because I feel like I can really enjoy running again. The pressure of a race looming in the near future is gone and I can focus on running because I love what it does for both my mind and body. Some runners like to continue to do intervals, tempos, etc. during these off-season months, but if your goal is to increase your weekly mileage and build a solid aerobic base then the safest way to go about it is to avoid coupling mileage increases with intense workouts. You risk injury, overtraining, and burnout. For me it works best to at least take a couple months to run distance and build up my mileage base. If anything, it is the mental break from intense workouts that I need to be primed and ready to jump back into more intense workouts come the beginning of the year.

WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF BUILDING AN AEROBIC BASE?

There are some definite physiological benefits to spending consistent time running easy mileage. We strengthen the cardiovascular system. We create a more powerful pump (heart), which helps get more oxygen rich blood to our running muscles at an increased rate. We increase the cross-section of blood supply in our muscles with the increased number of capillaries (small branches of blood vessels) in our body. We also increase the size, number, and distribution of mitochondria in our body. Mitochondria is where aerobic metabolism takes place, so this increases our body’s ability to take up and utilize oxygen more efficiently. In addition to the cardiovascular benefits, we can become better at conserving our glycogen stores and be more efficient at utilizing fat for energy. Base mileage, if done correctly, also helps build up a resistance to injury and builds a foundation for us to handle more intense/ quality workouts down the road. And if you are still not convinced of the importance of easy running and base mileage, think about how the different energy pathways of the body are utilized during different race distances. We have energy being produced with the presence of oxygen (aerobic pathway) and energy produced with out oxygen (anaerobic pathways) depending on the intensity of the activity being performed. If you take a look at the energy contribution chart you can see that even a shorter race like the mile requires 80% of the body’s energy to come from aerobic metabolism. The marathon requires over 97% from the aerobic pathway! So it makes sense that we should spend 80% or more of our training time developing our aerobic system.

HOW MUCH MILEAGE SHOULD I BE DOING DURING THIS PHASE OF TRAINING?

When it comes to weekly mileage goals, like a lot of training aspects, it is very individual. I know some runners that run consistent 100 mile weeks, some runners who 65 miles per week is their edge, and other beginner or masters (over 40 years old) runners that 30-40 miles a week are what their bodies can handle. So many factors go into this that it is something you have to be very careful about. Jack Daniels, a well-known exercise physiologist and coach, said there is no magical weekly mileage number. He did say, however, that good marathoners tend to be in the 70-150 miles per week average (1). This is a wide range, but it does help us understand that for marathon running, longer weekly mileage is important. While the exact ideal weekly mileage for each person is not always clear, one thing we do know is that it takes YEARS to build up to having your body handle the stresses of 70-150 mile weeks. Runners that are able to handle this amount of mileage have built up to this gradually over years of training. So when deciding on how many miles to do each week, consider what event you are training for (training for a 5K is going to require much less miles than if you are training for a marathon) and then consider how many years you have been running. I’d say if you are just getting started then shoot for 25-35 miles a week. If you are an intermediate runner (3-5 years of running) that has consistently been running 25-35 miles a week then start your base mileage out at the 35-45 range. If you have been running for 7-10 years with consistent mileage above 50 miles then I think you would be okay to start hitting ranges above 60.

HOW DO I SAFELY INCREASE MY MILEAGE?

The most conservative, safest approach would be to stay at the same weekly mileage for 3-4 weeks before increasing your mileage. This gives your body time to adapt to the stresses you are putting on it before you add more demand to it. I like to take a mileage recovery week before making the jump to a new weekly mileage goal. So after the 3rd or 4th week of higher mileage, I drop my mileage for one week by 20% and allow myself a recovery week from the higher mileage. For example, if you are running 60 miles a week for 3 weeks then on the recovery week you would decrease your mileage by 12 miles (20% of 60) and run 48 miles. Then after the recovery week you could head into three consecutive weeks at 66 miles a week. How do I know how much I increase my mileage when it is time to make a jump? Some experts recommend, using the 10% rule of thumb. This means increasing your mileage by 10% of what you have been doing, but maximum amount being 10 miles. Another approach is to increase by the number of training sessions you are doing in a week (1). So if you workout 7 times a week, then you can increase your mileage by 7 miles.

WHAT PACE SHOULD I RUN MY BASE MILEAGE?

These easy distance runs are more of a function of time spent running rather than intensity (1). You can’t really go too slow on these runs, but you can go too fast. If you go too fast on these runs you change the desired result and purpose of the run. I would describe these runs as easy to moderate. At a conversational pace. If you are looking for a heart rate range, your distance run pace should be 65-79% of your heart rate max. If you want to base easy run pace off of race paces you can do that too. For instance, these runs should be 45-60 seconds slower per mile than marathon race pace or 1.5-2 minutes slower than 5k pace (1).

Sources:

(1) Daniels, Jack (2005). Daniel’s Running Formula. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Janae

Janae Richardson – Runner | USATF Certified Coach | Masters in Exercise Science

Janae has a master’s degree in Exercise Science from Utah State University and is a Certified Sports Nutritionist. She ran collegiately at Weber State University and continues to enjoy running competitively in road races. As a certified USATF coach she also enjoys coaching runners of all levels of ability. Janae and her husband Ken Co-founded UtahRunning.com in 2009 and reside in Ogden, UT with their three children.

 

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Rehydration: The Key to Peak Performance During and After Exercise

 

by Julie Hansen, M.S., R.D., C.D.

Proper fluid replacement before, during, and after exercise can positively influence how you feel and how you perform.  Most people do not realize how quickly water can be lost from our bodies when exercising.  The heat production rate in active, exercising muscles can be 100 times that of resting muscles.

On the average, the body loses more than two liters of water each day through perspiration, urine, feces and respiration.  During exercise, sweat losses of up to three liters/hour are common.  Technically, dehydration occurs when body water loss equals one percent of body mass (performance is affected at a fluid loss of two percent).  For example, a 150 pound person becomes dehydrated after losing one and one-half to three pounds of body weight.

Thirst is an unreliable indicator of fluid needs after exercising in hot weather, partly because the intake of water quickly dulls the thirst sensation.  Further, rehydration with plain water dilutes the blood rapidly and stimulates an increase in urine production that leads to greater dehydration.

Rehydration will occur more rapidly when beverages containing sodium (the major electrolyte lost in sweat), are consumed.  Ingesting a beverage containing sodium allows the plasma sodium to remain elevated during the rehydration period and helps maintain thirst while delaying stimulation of urine production.  The rehydration beverage should also contain glucose or sucrose because these carbohydrates provide a source of energy for working muscles, stimulate fluid absorption in the gut, and improve beverage taste.

 

The following guidelines will help athletes maintain proper hydration during practice and competition:

 

  • Weigh in without clothes before and after exercise, especially during hot     weather.  For each pound of body weight lost during exercise, drink 2   cups of fluid.
  • Consume a sports drink containing sodium to quickly replenish lost body fluids.  The beverage should contain 5-8% glucose or sucrose.
  • Drink 2.5 cups of fluid two hours before practice or competition.
  • Drink 1.5 cups of fluid 15 minutes before the event.
  • Drink at least 1 cup of fluid every 15-20 minutes during training and competition.
  • Limit beverages containing caffeine and alcohol because they increase urine production and add to dehydration.

 

Try your own homemade sports drink:

5% Carbohydrate:

4 Tbs. sugar

4 cups water

1/8 tsp. salt

2 Tbls. lemon juice

 

6.5% Carbohydrate:

5 Tbs. sugar

4 cups water

1/8 tsp. salt

2 Tbls. lemon juice

Julie Hansen

Julie Hansen, M.S., R.D., C.D. is a Registered Dietitian and Exercise Physiologist.  She has been running competitively in road races since 1980 and competing in triathlons since 2005.  Julie currently teaches a Sports Nutrition course for Weber State University and a Weight Management course for the University of Utah.  She is the dietitian for the Weber State Athletic department and works part time as a dietitian for Kimberly Clark Corporation in Ogden, Utah and for Solstice Residential Treatment Center in Layton, Utah.  Julie also has a private nutrition practice in Utah working with individuals who want to lose weight, improve performance, lower cholesterol or prevent disease.

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IT Band Friction Syndrome – When Knee Pain Comes From the Hip

 

What is the IT Band?

The iliotibial band (IT band) is a very thick, fibrous band of tissue that runs from the outside of your hip down the outside of your leg and connects on the outside of your knee.  Your glutes, hip abductor and tensor fasciae latae (TFL) muscles all connect into this band.

 

leg image

What is IT Band Friction Syndrome (ITBFS)?

A sudden increase in mileage (over a 5% increase in one week) or excessive downhill running can cause the IT band to rub and create friction on the outside of the knee creating pain.  Since the IT band has fibers that also connects into the outside portion of the kneecap this can also be a source of pain at the front of the knee.

What Causes ITBFS?

Remember Newton’s 3rd Law of motion that “every action has an equal & opposite reaction?”  During running, every time our foot hits the ground with a certain amount of force the same amount of force is also exerted from the ground back up through our foot and into our leg.  If the musculature involved (usually the muscles on the outside of the hip) cannot contend with these increased impact and force requirements, then the body can start to break down and often times this occurs at the knee.  A rapid increase in running distance, downhill running, or running on slanted or graded surfaces (the same side of the road every run) forces the legs to undergo a significant increase in impact and force.

How Do I Fix It?

Decreasing your mileage temporarily until your symptoms subside then increasing more gradually sometimes can help initially.  Increasing your cadence (steps per minute) can help because it decreases the time your foot is on the ground, limiting the returning force the ground can exert back.  There is research data to indicate runners with ITBFS may have weaker hip muscle strength on the affected side.  So strengthening those muscles on the outside of your hip is KEY and is very simple with performing either, or both of the following exercises (to be performed every other day at 3 sets of 10 or 15 reps):

exercises

The following stretches after your run will also be helpful to loosen those tissues & muscles on the outside of your hip holding each stretch for 30-45 seconds, 3 times daily:

stretches

HAPPY RUNNING!

bret-maiers-sm

BRET MAIERS, PT, DPT, OCS

Bret Maiers received his Doctorate degree in physical therapy from Eastern Washington University in 2010.  He is a board certified orthopaedic clinical specialist through the American Physical Therapy Association and is currently the clinic director for Mountain Land Physical Therapy at their Stansbury Park location. In his spare time Bret enjoys running and both watching and playing sports.

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How to transfer workout performance to race performance

“Hi Im a high school runner and I have a problem. I can stick with all the top guys at my school in practices and everything, in long runs, intervals, etc. But when it comes to races I cant seem to stick with them. I also ran 470 miles over the summer with my friend and hes the fastest on the team and im about the 7th or 8th at the moment but at practice im right behind him. I find that im always putting myself down and struggle with the mental aspect of running when it comes to races. Could I get some advice please? Thanks much! You’re Great!”

Hello High School Runner. It sounds to me like you have a lot of the qualities that I like to see in my athletes. You have a desire to be your best, and you are committed to working hard, yet you haven’t quite reached the level of runner that you want to be and that you know you can be. It can be very frustrating to be putting in all of the work, but not quite seeing the results in the performances.
My first advice to you is to stay patient with yourself. Not everyone progresses at the same rate and not everyone figures out the racing side of running with the same ease. It is very important to not be too hard on yourself. Don’t get discouraged from a bad race. Take something positive from each race, and move on to your next opportunity to prove yourself. Bad races are definitely not the end of the world – don’t let any one race feel like it is the most important thing in your running. And try not to compare yourself to your teammates – ask yourself if you are giving YOUR best effort. If you are, then stay positive. If you are not, then focus first on giving your all. Never stand at the starting line afraid of having a bad day. Bad days happen (all the time) but don’t waste your energy being afraid of them. You should be standing at the starting line knowing you are going to give your best effort – knowing you are going to race with all your heart – whether it is a good day or a bad day.
I hope you are taking confidence from your workouts. If you are working out with the top runners on your team, eventually you will be racing with them as well. Realize that you are a stronger runner than you are showing in your performances and believe that you will eventually be able to show that. Keep treating your workouts like races and start approaching the races the same way you approach a really good workout. Eventually you are going to figure out the racing. Read More….
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Cory Johnson UtahRunning.com Interview

You can click to play the interview below and also you can click the “Download” button to download the MP3 file.

UtahRunning.com:  Well, hello, everybody. This is Ken Richardson with UtahRunning.com. We appreciate you listening to this interview that we’ve got today. We’re really excited to interview a renaissance man, Cory Johnson. He owns Old School Body Shop, he’s into ultra‑running, he’s great at metal artwork, and he also is an auctioneer. So he is a jack of all trades, but today our interview is going to focus on that ultra‑running piece, and he’s going to tell us a little bit about himself and will hopefully be able to share some tips with you out there in the UtahRunning.com community.

So, Cory, tell us a little bit about your running background.

Cory Johnson:  Well, as far as my background, I’m going to maybe just gracefully hit on high school. I was a sprinter back in high school and went to state a couple years in a row in various events. After graduation from that, I kind of went into a slump of 18 years and never had any activity as far as physical activity. Then I guess you would say I woke up one day to sort of a midlife crisis, so to speak, and got into running. I actually did a 100‑miler before I’d ever run even a marathon. But I kind of jumped into that whole trail‑running thing approximately about eight years ago, and it just kind of went from there.

Read More….

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Runner’s Trots

 

Question & Answer:  Frequent bathroom breaks while on the run aka “Runner’s Trots”

Question:   I am so hopeful you have time to respond to this question. I am a runner. I average about 40 miles a week, and compete in marathons and halfs. I am pretty fit. 5’7” 135lbs. I love running, and try to keep a good diet. The problem I have though, which doesn’t seem too rare, but is embarrassing, is that every time I go for a run, or run on my treadmill, I have to go to the bathroom. Sometimes, even multiple times before I can get my miles in. I don’t eat fatty foods, so I am confused on what to eat. I live in a rural area, so there are no bathrooms on the road like the city offers. So often times I have to find a discrete place to relieve myself. And I go a lot throughout the day, definitely more than the average person. I know this is kinda funny, and I wouldn’t blame you if you are chuckling right now. But it has become increasingly bothersome, and I need to know what to do, or eat. Is there any way to stop this from happening? Thanks for your time!!! John

Answer:   Hi John.  Thanks for the question.  Unfortunately over the years I have coached many people that have had this problem.  I think the first thing to do would be to start logging the foods you are consuming and see if there is some sort of sensitivity you are having to certain foods.  Be sure and track your BM’s (Bowel Movements) & exercise.  Many people are sensitive to foods that contain fructose (the sugar found in fruit).  If this is the case you can simply avoid having fruits, foods or juices with fructose before or during runs.  Some electrolyte beverages, bars and gels contain fructose, so be sure and read labels.  Dairy, spicy, fatty and high fiber foods can also be problematic for many runners so you will want to avoid these before a run too.  Some food sweetners can also cause problems (ie. sorbitol, aspartame etc…) so be on the lookout for these in sugar-free gums, candy, breath mints, etc…High doses of Vitamin C can cause the “trots” so review any supplements you might be taking.  Dehydration can also trigger bowel movements so be sure and stay hydrated with water.  Be careful with beverages that tend to dehydrate (diuretics) like coffee, tea, alcohol and foods containing caffeine.  Warm beverages can also stimulate gastric emptying.  You might also consider not eating anything too close to running (within two hours) since there is a decreased blood flow to the intestines while running and it may compromise digestion and cause the stomach to be upset.  After logging your foods, and if you can not detect any sensitivity to foods or food patterns then your problem may be related to the muscles or something else.  Another possible cause would be that the muscles in the intestines & stomach are being stimulated to contract more rapidly with the “jarring” of running.  I wonder if you would have the same result using an elliptical in lou of some running to see if it makes a difference.  You could give it a try and see.  Stress or having the “jitters” can exacerbate this problem so be sure and stay relaxed.  If not, then unfortunately I don’t think there is an easy fix to this, but I have had some clients find that using anti-diarrhea over-the-counter medications, like Imodium, before races and important workouts to be helpful.  I would caution you against doing this too much.  It would also not be a bad idea to consult physician to rule out anything else that could be going on.  There are other diseases that could cause this problem like colitis, Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), celiac (gluten intolerance), etc… It’s worth getting it checked out just to be sure.

Happy Running,


Coach Lora Erickson

“Blonde Runner”

USATF certified running coach

www.BlondeRunner.com

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