Preventing Shin Splints #RunFormFriday

You don’t think about your shins until they hurt. And by then, you could be looking at some major downtime. A recent study found that it takes, on average, 71 days to rehab shin splints. Shin splints (the term for pain that occurs on the front outside part of the lower leg) often occurs when your legs are overworked. That’s sometimes from a jump in mileage. And sometimes because your shins pick up the slack for body parts that are weak. Protect yourself by strengthening your feet, ankles, calves, and hips, which support your shins. Do two to three sets of 10 to 15 reps daily (but not before a run, you don’t want to over fatigue your lower limb muscles):

Toe Curls

Stand with feet hip-width apart at the edge of a towel. With the toes of your left foot, gather the towel and slowly pull it toward you. Return to start and repeat with the other foot.

Monster Walks

With feet shoulder-width apart, place a resistance band around your thighs and step forward and toward the right with your right leg. Bring your left leg up to meet your right, then step out toward the left. Then walk backward in the same way to return to the start. Repeat.

Heel Drop

Stand on your toes on the edge of a step. Shift your weight to your right leg, take your left foot off the step, and lower your right heel down. Return to start, and then repeat with your left leg.

One-Legged Bridges

Lie on your back with your arms out to the sides, knees bent, and feet flat on the floor. Squeeze your glutes to lift your hips up off the floor. Extend your left leg out and hold for 30 seconds (work up to 60-second holds), then lower it. Repeat with your other leg.

Here are some tips that will help alleviate your shin pain:

Massage with Ice

Freeze a paper cup filled with water, tear off the top edge of the cup, and massage with comfortable pressure along the inside of the shinbone for 10 to 15 minutes after running to reduce inflammation of the shin splints.

Stretch & Rest

Loosen up tight calves and Achilles tendons–both can contribute to shin splints. Reduce running mileage and do low-impact cross-training (biking, swimming, elliptical) instead. When you resume your training, ease in gradually. Too much too soon could cause a relapse.

Heel Strike V Forefoot Strike #RunFormFriday

Foot Strike - Heels

 

One of the most common questions I am asked by runners of all standards is “What part of the foot should I land on?”. This is also the topics of many running articles, theories, advertising campaigns and debates.

My short answer, which surprises 99% of people is..

“It doesn’t matter”

Which part of the foot touches the ground first is not a reflection of good technique. It is entirely possible – and unfortunately quite common, for people to land on the ‘right’ part of the foot and still have poor technique or be creating injury inducing stresses or loads. The most common of these are people that focus on landing on the toes or front forefoot. It is quite easy to land on this part of the foot with zero knee lift and be essentially jamming the foot into the ground. Watch the last couple of km of Dennis Kimetto’s WR marathon, and at least some of the time you would say he’s almost heel striking.

Yet the runner thinks they are running correctly ’cause they are landing on their toes’. Blisters around the ball of the foot or bruised toes are normally a give away as the foot ‘brakes’ into the ground moving in the shoes against the direction of travel – and constantly applying brakes in a run is never a good thing for your body or run time.

The long answer to the question “Which part of the foot I should land on?” is that if the rest of the mechanics of the run are correct then your foot really has no choice about where it lands. Good knee lift (note the word ‘lift’ – not push), good extension through through the hips, square chest with lack of shoulder twisting etc means that the foot will typically land around the mid foot. Try running like this (focussing on knee, hips etc) and try to land on your heels – it is virtually impossible.

Proper-Running-technique2

I encourage running on the spot to focus on the correct technique and striking directly under the hips.

So, rather than focus on the foot strike spend your time analysing the main area of your run technique – knee, chest and hip position and your foot strike will quite literally fall into place.

By the way – for the triathletes. What I have found is that when technique is correct, the part of the foot that hits the ground is exactly the same as the position of the pedal axle when a bike fit is correctly performed.

Send us a message or leave a comment and let us know if you have any questions! We all have our own thoughts on the matter, and we all have something different that suits us.

See what’s up next week for our #RunFormFriday tip! For more in depth understanding on how to put this into practise, get in touch and we’ll see how we can help!

Streamline – Feel The Speed #SwimTechTues

streamline

Why Get Streamlined?

This might seem strange to some people who predominantly race in open water – and therefore have no turns. But maintaining a good streamline throughout your pool training will massively aid your overall swimming – and as a result your race speed. There are several very sensible reasons for this:

Speed

When you push off the wall, you should be moving faster than you can at any other point in your swim. Bar none. Whether you are joe bloggs novice swimmer and learning, or Michael Phelps, you should be able to generate more speed from a start or turn than when you are swimming. This is a simple fact of physics; due to the inherently inefficient nature of propelling yourself through water, a good push off the wall will carry more power. Obviously this is only useful to you if you get into a good streamline position, otherwise as on the bike you will just cause more resistance!

Use Your Strengths

Being a triathlete, you’re most likely to have strong glutes and quads from cycling and running. And if you are doing squats as part of your strength routine, you’re halfway toward a good push off.

Quality Swims

Or getting more of a rest – depending on which way you look at it! Even without kicking a good streamline means you should be able to make 5m off the wall. In most cases, this means only 20m left to swim. If you find swimming tough, then take advantage of the boosts each length so that you have to swim less. If you are a stronger/faster swimmer, use the turns to your advantage to make sure each length you swim is quality. By having more turns, you can make sure you reset your technique each length. A good streamline will even help set you up for the length feeling good and strong.

Gaining A Good Streamline

A good push off is like a squat jump on dry land. Because you’re weightless in the water, there isn’t the fatigue that is associated, so you can really make the most of this.

Streamline effectively

How to get a good, tight, fast streamline

As you leave the wall, your body should be pulled in tight – your core “set” and your hands stretched out above your head. Ideally your ears should be between or just below your shoulders, arms tight against against your head. If flexibility allows, then one hand should be on top of the other, pulling the body taught. When teaching young children, you would teach them to push off like rockets – the idea still holds true even if the imagery changes!

Try it yourself. See how far/fast you push off the wall ordinarily, then try really tightening things up and really focussing on that streamline. Remember, if you hold a good streamline and shape, then you are automatically in a better position to start swimming, and maintaining your speed off the wall. And if you get used to swimming fast between the walls, then you’ll be ready to swim even faster in a wetsuit.

Take your time with learning this – as with any skill. The point is that drills are there to make you smoother, stronger, more efficient. Make sure you hit all those target points!

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to get in touch; either by email, facebook or leave a comment on here!

See what’s up next week for our #SwimTechTues tip!

Swim Slow To Swim Fast #SwimTechTues

Swim Slow

Swim Slow

Making gains in your swimming is a constant battle, and this is not made any easier with so much conflicting information available. Add to this new go-faster devices and gadgets that promise to deliver fast swim times, and it can be extremely confusing for anyone trying to improve their swim times.

I know there’s lots of information out there and much of it is conflicting. I think it’s important to look at a balance of practical information and provide realistic guidelines. We all want to become faster, but in terms of swimming, I think it is important to learn to swim slow paced first. The latest fad of giant pull buoys will please many by allowing faster less accurate swimming. It is also great at replicating swimming in a wetsuit, but this is lazy in terms of technique. You are covering up a multitude of issues in your front crawl that could be uncovered come race day if the temperature nudges up and it becomes a non-wetsuit swim.

Starting Out

For anyone still finding swimming continuously for 400 metres tiring, then a fitness session is not really in your best interest. To keep your swim slow is good. Slow is accurate, slow is ingraining new habits, slow is erasing bad habits and slow is what happens before you start swimming fast. Don’t be in a hurry to leave this period of your swim journey. There might be adverts out there that promise great returns in speed with the latest piece of equipment or session, but swimming slowly is a good place to be while erasing bad habits permanently, making use of active recovery and learning good movements permanently. To make good habits permanent takes time, as well as frequency.

Don’t mistake keeping your swim slow for swimming just once a week. I appreciate this is sometimes unavoidable, but for progression consistency is key. I encourage swimmers to count sessions per month to avoid the habit of being content with a good week and then letting it slide. Aiming for 12 sessions per month is a far more worthwhile and productive objective. Two to three of these sessions per week can then be slower, technical and more accurate. You can still add harder threshold or endurance sets during the remaining sessions. For the best improvement to technical accuracy and fitness you can mix the week’s training as long as most of the sessions are slow and highly accurate.

Swimming is harsh with regards to how you are punished when you don’t do it. The downside to swimming just once a week is that you have six days of unlearning happening within your front crawl. The benefits from that last session have the ability to be carried over into the next session if it falls quickly enough. This way the important feel for the water is maintained. Frequent contact with the wet stuff helps the water feel more solid and secure, so you have something to hold onto, anchor the hand and lever the body over. There is nothing worse than the sensation of swimming through slippery water. To make this situation worse arriving rested at the pool from so few sessions per week will only make you feel stronger and faster. The trade-off here is that you are unlikely to pace your swims sensibly.

Pacing is a big problem for many triathletes and few know how to start at a steady enough pace in order to swim well and get to the bike relaxed. Once learned, this skill will be a key to further improvements. Every week swimmers are trying to do more fitness work, yet they find 400 metres of continuous swims tiring. I have to remind athletes that good technique and pacing are key. A faster than sustainable pace at the start of a swim during a race using power and strength, rather than easy technique, will result in a massive fading of pace later on and a slower overall swim split. Repeating accurate pacing with good technique in training will help to ingrain it come race day. Without accurate technique at slow speeds now, will mean a lack of accurate technique at fast speeds as we move into the spring.

Swim Slow

Swim Slow to Swim Fast

Critical Slow Speed

Much has been made of working out your critical swim speed in order to help your swim training progress. To know your approximate threshold speed at a certain point in your swim development will be of use. From some timed swims and simple maths you can find a speed that you should be able to hold for a certain amount of time (or specifically the theoretical swimming speed that can be maintained continuously without exhaustion). Personally I’m not such a fan of this – I would rather work targets out from pb’s, target pb’s and something like a T30 swim.

For most of the people I work at a critical slow speed, which is far more useful. I will regularly set a  swim of 400 metres attempting to swim at an even pace with similar stroke count. Many find this tiring in its own right without a consideration for constant stroke count or pacing. If you find swimming 400 metres tiring then the mechanics of your front crawl technique are not allowing you to progress effectively. Most of my time is spent improving swimmers technique to the point where they swim continuously with little effort. At this point drag has been reduced, propulsion improved and steady continuous non-tiring front crawl is possible. Drag must be less than the degree of propulsion achieved, and it must come from the smaller more efficient muscles available.

The reverse of this holds true since swimming is generally tiring due to the larger muscle groups creating propulsion. Swimming well comes from efficient and effective propulsion doing the least amount of work for the most distance travelled through the water. I will often set novice/improver swimmers 16×100 metres front crawl with approx 15 seconds rest, challenging them to swim relaxed and easy.

Over 1,500 metres I feel most people should strive for 30 minutes or better and reduce drag so that 2:00 per 100 metres becomes a lot more attainable. Whether you hold this 30-second pace at 15 or 25 strokes per length, work out a stroke rate that you are comfortable at. If it is above 25 then you possibly have more technique work to do. Start to then think of your stroke count not as a minimum to strive for, but as an alarm bell if the count is rising in fitness sets and efficiency is no longer being maintained. If it does start to rise then I suggest slowing down and running a quick front crawl MOT to check where things might be falling down. To do perform this MOT mentally run through a quick list. Check that your kick is still small and being generated from a tiny movement at the hips and make sure the hips and shoulders are rotating. Make sure the water is being pushed backwards towards the feet once you are pulling and your fingertips are pointing downwards with the back of the hand facing the pool wall you are swimming towards after your catch. This should be enough to bring your stroke count back down to your comfortable and repeatable optimum.