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Run like a Marathoner, Sprint like a Sprinter

By: Preston Johnson

The holidays are here and for most running may be a little bit less of a priority as we are in the off season for most runners. Time away from races is a good time for you to rekindle that fire you have for running and get back to the basics. A much bigger focus on logging miles as opposed to quality speed work. Before you completely cut speed work from your routine you should consider adding sprints into your weekly training regime.

Whenever you are doing anything this intense always ensure that you have warmed up properly. As you do these sprints (or strides as distance runners commonly refer to them as) focus on running as fast as you can while still feeling good and maintaining good form. This isn’t always a 100% effort, more often than not these will be closer to 90%. Strides should be short in duration, anything near 100 meters is sufficient. Keep the number of repetitions low, 4-8 of them is plenty. Between each stride take as much rest as you feel you need, remember that these are not meant to build endurance, they are meant to build speed so taking a rest long enough to fully recover between each one is encouraged. Here is 5 reasons why you should take the time to incorporate strides into your training.

Injury Prevention

Picking up the pace and adding in some short sprints after a run will decrease the odds of getting injured. We spend so much time running the same pace mile after mile on our distance runs. During distance runs our legs are restricted to a limited range of motion to maintain our running form and often times this range of motion is reflected in our flexibility. Changing things up and allowing our bodies to break that repetitive stride pattern opening up your stride as you sprint will help you stay injury free.

Increased Muscle Recruitment

Each of our muscles stores glycogen (energy) within them. As we run we recruit a certain percentage of our muscle fibers. Obviously, the more fibers we can recruit the more the workload of running is distributed between them. There are certain groups of muscle fibers that are utilized less while distance running as opposed to sprinting. As we sprint we are training these muscle fibers, less commonly used while running slower, to fire more efficiently as we run. Sprinting improves the neurological pathways from our brain to these muscles. Think of the ‘use it or lose it’ principle. If we don’t use these muscle fibers and their corresponding neurological pathways our bodies will allow them to atrophy or get weaker and affect the number of fibers we can utilize while running.

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Why is Overstriding Going to Make Me More Injury Prone?

By: Preston Johnson

Whenever you find yourself with a group of runners it isn’t uncommon to hear the topic of heel striking (initial contact with the ground while running is with the heel of the foot) and forefoot striking (initial contact with the ground while running is with the forefoot) brought up. While neither of these styles are necessarily bad, studies have shown that those that over-stride and heel strike excessively have a much higher rate of developing a moderate or severe injury and it is shown to be less efficient and effective when trying to run fast. We want to dive into those concepts a little bit and talk about why it has those effects on your running and talk about how you can fix it.

To explain the effects of overstriding I am going to use some graphs generated from a ground reaction force plate (measures the amount of force on the plate over a period of time). Thanks to Newton’s 3rd Law we know that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. So for the amount of force that a runner puts on the plate, as he runs over it, the same amount of force is exerted back on his leg. These forces exerted by the ground are common causes of many running injuries. Let’s compare the reaction forces between an overstriding, excessive-heel striker and a forefoot striker.


The major difference shown in the images above is fairly evident. We are focusing on the extra spike in the force of the heel strike graph. This extra spike of force exerted through your leg is not absorbed very well when overstriding. When you are overstriding, your heel strikes the ground out in front of you with your leg a lot straighter than it would be if you were landing just in front of your center of gravity with your ankle bone directly underneath your knee (the optimal place to land). The straighter leg will decrease the amount of force that is absorbed through your muscles and joints and instead the force is being absorbed through your bone, which is far less elastic than your muscles and ligaments in your joints. This increases your susceptibility to stress fractures and stress reactions. Another important factor is the rate at which the force increases. Notice that in the heel strike graph the rate at which the force increases is very sudden as opposed to the forefoot strike graph which has a more gradual increase. This sudden increase creates a much higher impulse force than a gradual increase does. This impulse force in heel strikers has been seen up to 7x the force of someone who lands just in front of their center of gravity.

We mentioned previously that overstriding also effects your overall speed. In the image on the left notice the angle at which your foot hits the ground when overstriding. Thinking again about Newton’s 3rd law (every action has an equal and opposite reaction) imagine the force
from hitting the ground with your heel, when you’re overstriding, going in the opposite direction. This force is represented by the red arrow. Notice that the red arrow is pointing backwards. Essentially this force is acting as a break and slowing you down with every stride you take. Upon toe off you are required to exert more force to maintain the same pace due to the breaking effect of the opposing force.

So, this information is interesting to learn about, but it isn’t beneficial to you unless you learn how to fix the issues it presents. Focusing on landing on your forefoot or landing in a certain spot when your running is not the right way to go about fixing this, it can become very monotonous and will easily be forgotten as you continue running. Your body naturally runs in the most efficient way it can, but it is not necessarily the most efficient way for a human to run. If you find yourself overstriding and want to change it, focus on Increasing your running cadence, your ankle bone being directly beneath your knee when you land, landing just in front of your center of gravity, and building towards a cadence of 180 steps a minute. Increasing the strength of your Hamstrings and Gluteus muscles is important when increasing your cadence and shortening your stride. Doing squats and hamstring curls every other day is an effective way to improve that strength. As you continue to build strength spend some time on your run listening to a metronome (boring, I know, but its beneficial) set to a cadence that is 5% faster than your current cadence ((Current Cadence x .05) + Current Cadence). Focus on matching each step to the beat of the metronome. As this begins to feel natural over several runs, continue to progress the metronome by 5%.

For additional information on running form and overstriding, check out the video below on the form of 4-time Olympic gold medalist Mo Farah.

Video Credit: James Dunne
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#1 Exercise Routine that Every Runner Should Know: Prevent Injuries, Eliminate Pain, Run Forever!

by Janae Richardson

*Article originally featured in Run Utah Magazine Spring Edition 2018.  Click HERE to download Full PDF version of the Magazine.

In 1996, Paul Pilkington found himself in Mexico.  By this point in Paul’s running career, he had made quite a name for himself.  Originally from a small town in Idaho, Paul had run track at Southern Idaho and then eventually at Weber State in Ogden, UT, where he earned All-American honors in the steeplechase.  After college he began teaching and coaching and supplemented his teacher salary by winning prize money in road races. He stepped onto the world-class scene when he won both the Houston Marathon in 1990 and the Los Angeles marathon in 1994.  He ultimately ended up being a four-time Olympic Trials qualifier and in 1995 was a member of the United States Track and Field Team representing the United States at the World Championships in Gothenburg Sweden. At this point in his career, Paul had gone to Mexico to train with Mark Plaatjes, who was the World Champion in the marathon in 1993.  Both of them were training hard as they prepared for the next marathon Olympic Trials. As they met up on this one particular day for another intense training session, Paul couldn’t help but complain to his training partner about the pain in his hamstring that had been lingering for several days now. Mark, who was also a physical therapist, said he had a hip alignment exercise that many were using in their PT clinics that would maybe help.  So, he had Paul lay down on this back while he pulled and tugged on his leg in a few unique ways before having Paul stand back up. Paul felt some immediate relief in his hamstring and within a few days everything felt back to normal.

Image: Paul Pilkington, WSU Head Coach

Today as a UtahRunning.com Expert and Weber State’s Head Coach, Paul Pilkington makes this simple exercise apart of his team’s everyday routine. “I have each runner on the team check their hip alignment before we start practice and make adjustments if we need to. Then, we do core strengthening exercises to help prevent the hip misalignment from happening in the future,” Paul says.  “The longer a runner’s hips are out of alignment before they are fixed the easier it is for them to slip out of place again, so we check it often.”

I was fortunate enough to be coached by Paul Pilkington during my time competing at Weber State University and therefore was exposed to this magical hip alignment exercise.  I’ve also picked up some modifications and additions to the hip alignment exercise from UtahRunning Expert and Positional Release Therapist Dr. Tim Speicher (Positional Release Therapy Institute in South Ogden, DPT Jeremy Stoker (Mountain Land Physical Therapy), and PT Missy Allred (UtahRunning.com Elite Racing Team member and Ogden High Head Distance Coach).  I’ve shared it with many of my running friends and athletes I’ve coached.  Thus, the hip alignment trick continues to be passed on from runner to runner.  It isn’t a fix all, but it is a very smart place to start when you have pain in the body.

So what causes this hip misalignment and the pain associated with it?  

 Image Source: https://www.vivehealth.com/blogs/resources/si-joint-pain

Usually the root of the problem stems from weakness in the core stabilizing muscles.  As runners we have strong muscles when it comes to the muscles that play a dominant role in propelling us forward, but the stabilizing muscles used more prominently with side to side movements get neglected.  When hip misalignment occurs, it usually manifests itself as a feeling of heaviness or a dull ache in the low back and glutes. It can also cause tightness and pain in the hamstrings, glute area, and the groin. The cause is usually the result of a rotation or an upslip in the sacroiliac joint. The sacroiliac joint or SI joint is where the sacrum and iliac bones meet.  The sacrum is the triangular-shaped bone at the bottom of the spine between the left and right iliac bones, which form the pelvis. The SI joints’ function is to absorb shock, support the weight of the upper body, and reduce pressure on the spine.

Source: https://survivingchronicillness.weebly.com/injuries

How Do I Perform the Hip Alignment Exercise?

Here is how it works. The push and pull on the muscles during this exercise uses the muscles to naturally pull the bones and joints of this area back into their correct position.  In fact, don’t be alarmed if you feel or hear some popping in your joints. This is a good thing. It means they are moving to the position they should be in.

Steps of the Exercise: [or check out VIDEO above]

  1. Have athlete lay on their back.
  2. Athlete then bends knees and places feet flat on ground shoulder width apart, then bridges up by lifting hips to the sky. Then athlete drops hips back down; legs flat to ground.
  3. Then grab both of athlete’s legs by the ankles and pull their legs toward you, sliding them slightly on the ground.  Apologize for giving them a slight wedgy and then continue on. ;-)
  4. Put your thumbs over the inside or medial ankle bone and see if your thumbs line up.  If they do not, then the athlete’s hips are out of alignment and you should proceed with the hip alignment exercise.  (I usually do the exercise anyway if they are having the symptoms, because sometimes the rotation of the SI joint is such that it doesn’t always manifest itself as a leg length discrepancy).
  5. Raise knees so feet are off the ground and there is a 90 degree angle at the knees and hips.  Then push on one leg and pull on the other while the athlete resists. Hold for 10 seconds, release and rest for a few seconds, and repeat a total of three times.
  6. Then have athlete put feet on ground, shoulder width apart. Push against outside of knees and have athlete push out.  Hold for ten seconds and release. Then push athlete’s knees from the inside out while athlete squeezes legs together.  Hold for 10 seconds and release. Repeat a total of three times.
  7. Lastly have athlete straighten legs and squeeze ankles against your legs for 10 seconds, release, and repeat a total of three times.
  8. Then pull on legs again and check ankle bones to see if they are lined up.



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5 Common Mistakes with Strength Training

To maximize the results of your running, no matter what your objective for running is (lose weight, improved health, competitive runner, etc.), it is absolutely crucial to incorporate some distance running specific strength training.  If done the right way, strength training has many benefits for runners, including increasing running speed, improving running economy, improved body composition, and lowering the likelihood of injury.  However, oftentimes runners incorporate strength training incorrectly, making it so they are not able to experience the benefits that they potentially could through strength training.  The following are 5 common mistakes that runners make with their strength training.

#1 – Doing the exact same workout time after time after time, without progressively overloading the body by increasing reps and/or weight with the exercises you perform, and without any variation in the actual exercises you perform is a big mistake.  Without progressive overload, and without some variation in your workouts, your body will quickly plateau, and you will see minimal results.  You should always be looking to challenge yourself from one workout to the next by either doing more reps or more weight than you did the previous workout.

#2 – Taking variation too far.  Although there does need to be some variation in your workouts as far as which exercises you are doing, you should not take variation to an extreme.  A lot of people who know that they shouldn’t do the exact same workout all the time take the concept of variation to the other extreme end of the spectrum and are totally random in what they do.  You do need to systematically cycle through the same exercises so that your body has a chance to adapt to specific movements.  It’s good to keep your body “guessing” to a certain extent, but not to the extreme where nothing ever becomes familiar.  Too much variation and no clear direction with your training will make it so you will see minimal results.

#3 – Doing legs only.  Most people primarily think of strengthening their lower body and core for running, but regardless of your purpose for distance running (race prep, losing weight, overall health, etc.), upper body strengthening absolutely should not be overlooked.  However, there are a few things that should be taken into consideration when it comes to training your upper body.  First, make sure you train in a balanced manner.  An example of that is if you are going to do some pushing movements (Bench press, Pushups, etc.), make sure you do at least as many pulling type movements as well to balance things out.  Another thing to consider is that for most people, when they are running, their arms are in a neutral position.  Simply put, this means that the palms are facing each other as they run.  Try tweaking your upper body exercises (bench press, rows, etc.) to be in this same neutral position that will translate directly to moving efficiently when running.

#4 – Doing only bilateral movements.  Some of the most popular and common lower body strength exercises are squats, deadlifts, leg press, etc.  These exercises are considered bilateral movements – movements where both right and left sides of the body do the same thing simultaneously and work in unison to move a load.  Running on the other hand is a unilateral movement – when the two limbs do two different/independent movements at the same time to move a load.  With this being considered, although there isn’t anything wrong with including bilateral movements in your strength training program, if you are a runner, it is crucial that you also include unilateral movements such as lunges and step ups that are more specific to the movement of running.  If you are going to do one or the other, as a runner, go with unilateral movements.  Not only will they improve your strength, but they will improve the efficiency in which you move while running.  You need to keep this in mind when strength training your upper body as well.  An example of this would be if you are doing a dumbbell bench press, you could alternate arms within a set, instead of just having both dumbbells moving together.


#5 – Not paying enough attention to correct technique.  Distance running injuries are frequently caused by muscle imbalances and asymmetries, that if not dealt with, become deeply ingrained by the repetitive movement of running, and the body breaking down as a result of dealing with continuous inefficient movement.  With that being considered, when incorporating a running specific strength training program, it is extremely important to perform each exercise with perfect technique.  With perfect technique, the exercises can serve as both strength AND corrective exercises, slowly correcting the muscle imbalances that have become so ingrained from your running.  On the other hand, if your exercises are done with incorrect technique, your body will just continue to ingrain the same muscle imbalances that have developed over time with your running.  So, not only is it important that you incorporate strength training in connection with your running, but it is equally as important that you perform your strength training exercises with perfect technique.  This will help you move more efficiently as you run, and will significantly lower the likelihood of injury.


Coach Eldon Brough, who currently holds the position of Head Strength Coach at Utah Valley University, has a decade of experience working with high level collegiate and professional athletes (Utah, UC Davis, Detroit, Dixie State, Westminster, Real Salt Lake, Utah Jazz).  Brough, a graduate of the University of Utah, is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the National Strength & Conditioning Association with distinction as a Registered Strength & Conditioning Coach, and is Certified in Applied Functional Science and 3D Movement Analysis & Performance Systems through the Gray Institute.  Check out his website, www.strength4running.com, follow him on twitter – @ebrough25, and reach him by email at eldonbrough@yahoo.com.  

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Five Things to do While Injured

by: Preston Johnson

Being injured is tough. Not being able to get out the door and run, or feel the pavement beneath your feet as you run, the breeze on your face as you fly down the road, or even the strain in your legs as you finish a hard workout. It can be both mentally and physically debilitating. As I go through setbacks in running I try to focus on five rules I have set for myself to help me through the injury.

1. Get Healthy: This first one is pretty obvious, but you would be surprised how often it is forgotten. Being injured often means more than just not running, it means taking a break from anything that causes discomfort to your injury.
It also means taking the necessary steps to getting healthy, if your injury requires physical therapy get it, if your muscles need a sports massage you need to get one, if you need to be on crutches make sure you use them consistently. Injuries don’t just magically disappear so make sure to introduce them to the treatments that will be of the most benefit. Read More….

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Shoes: Function or Fashion

“Are my shoes cute?”  A question you may have asked yourself, or have been asked by someone else. Or possibly you have pondered the questions, “What is the best shoe for me?” or “What type of shoe should I wear?”  Although I think these last two questions are valid and are more pertinent to this article than the question, “Are my shoes cute?” I think the latter question may need to be re-phrased. The question more appropriately should be, “What type of shoe shouldn’t I wear?”

There are likely multiple shoes out there that will do well for a particular runner. As you are aware we are all unique individuals, including our feet and running gait. Shoe companies have had a big impact on what a runner will choose to wear for their running shoe; the newest model, the cutest patterns or colors, the type of shoe for your foot type, what the current fastest professional is wearing, etc.  Through the years you have probably seen changes in shoes, and some shoes have had drastic differences. On one side you have the extra thick Hoka and on the other side you have the thin Vibram five finger shoe (or even no shoe at all). The scope of this article is to talk about different aspects to consider when choosing a running shoe and how to use your shoes to your advantage. Read More….

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