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A few thoughts on stress fractures and training

Stress fractures are one of the most common injuries treated in sports medicine clinics.  Normally labeled as overuse injuries stress fractures occur when muscles and ligaments are not able to bear the loads placed on them.  They then transfer those demands to bones, which develop a small crack as a result.

As runners put significant demands on the leg muscles with each and every step, leg muscles and bones are conditioned to bearing a high level of repeated stress.  Stress fractures can require 6-12 weeks of time off of running plus an incremental period of reintroduction to weightbearing activity, they are certainly worth avoiding if at all possible!

What are few common risk areas to be aware of when training?

Listen to your body

When running hard and long, muscles break down and begin a regenerative process with proper recovery.  However, shortcutting this process results in putting great demands on muscles.  If the muscles have not adapted, they are not prepared to again bear the new stress.  Your runcoach schedule is based on large amounts of data from thousands of training cycles by runners of all ages and abilities, and is intended to provide sensible recovery at every stage of training.  Even so, each runner’s body responds slightly different.  If you feel sore and tired for more than 3 days or before the next significant workout or long run, many factors can be at play.   Don’t be afraid to take a day off here and there as most training cycles are designed to be followed to 90% completion 

Bone health is important

Bone health is important for a variety of general health reasons and is crucial in the avoidance of injury for runners.  Females with a family history or personal past of osteoporosis, and / or an irregular menstrual history may be at increased risk for bone injuries.  They should seek preventative advice on how to improve these measurements through diet or other means before an injury requires more acute attention to general bone health.  Even if bone density is not a problem, both men and women can benefit from core work, plyomtetrics and other strength exercises to help the body’s stabilizing muscles decrease the stress passed on from muscles to the bones.  Check out our full body workout for a few simple ways to make a positive preventative impact in this area.  http://runcoach.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=itemlist&task=category&id=10:core-exercise-videos&Itemid=444

Avoid making several big changes to your training all at once

Enthusiasm is one of the greatest assets a runner can have.  After all, the miles can be long and motivation can wane at times.  Sometimes, a new trainee will embark on  a road toward an ambitious goal with the hope of turning the page or starting fresh on a new stage of life.   Even as that mentality is powerfully effective in helping an athlete out the door each day, raising mileage, while wearing a brand new style of shoes, while trying to adhere to a different diet, while scheduling a rigorous series of races one after another can be a recipe for setbacks.  If possible, pick one variable at a time to tweak – one knob to twist – and make sure your body has handled that change before next big adjustment comes.

The human body can handle a significant amount of activity.  Listen to your body and allow it to recover, maintain good health and healthy habits for the long term, and refrain from greatly adjusting more than one or two variables at once to hopefully stay one step ahead of the injury bug.


bench_croppedRunning a marathon or half marathon is by definition a long and difficult task.  After all, when we speak of anything long and difficult, we often refer to it as a “marathon,” or compare things completely unrelated to athletics as “marathons” instead of “sprints”.

 

Unsurprisingly, training for a marathon includes a wide variety of lengthy tasks, the difficulty of which make the journey arriving at the starting line at least half the battle.  Mentally, runners can be so committed to the audacious adventure that rest and recovery seem like cheating or wimping out.

 

Wrong.

 

Hard workouts and rest are like a Rorschach test for the body.  The outline or fitness created by all the hard work is defined by the shape it has created for itself, but the shape we see is also dependent on the negative space shaped by the remaining parts of the picture.  This is the rest and recovery.  If the rest portion of the picture isn’t well planned and defined, it makes it difficult to see the shape it has left.

 

From what are you recovering?

The motions of running require a great deal of eccentric contraction of the muscles.  That is, a muscle working in the lengthened position.  This type of demand, particularly over the repeated requirements of thousands of strides, causes a lot of trauma to the cells of muscle fibers, which break down and need to regenerate.

 

Among other effects, running hard also results in a sharp increase in the production of the hormone cortisol.  This hormone, which appears in a response to the physical stress of the quality workout, also suppresses the immune system, which may take a full few days to return to normal after a hard effort such as a race or a workout that breaks new ground.

 

How long should recovery take?

Over a period of time with adequate rest, the body adapts to the mechanical stressors by learning to absorb and consume more oxygen, synthesize more glycogen, absorb more amino acids, and more.   As the muscles are broken down in tiny little traumas, blood flow aids in bringing reparative ingredients to the site of these traumas.  This blood flow can also bring inflammation.  All told, plan on about 24-72 hours for the cycle to result in a muscle prepared to forge more new ground.

 

The soreness often felt on that “second day” is also known as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS.  In the long run, this process results in an adapted muscle ready to go farther, go faster, or maybe even both.  However, if a runner repeatedly breaks down a muscle that is not ready once more for heavy work, a cycle of degradation without regeneration will almost always lead to an injury or an eventual period of recovery longer than would have occurred if regularly scheduled recovery had occurred along the way.

 

Notice how your runcoach schedule will not offer you three consecutive calendar days where you run a track session, then a tempo run, then a long run.   Life’s difficult weekly agenda might encourage back to back workouts, but it is almost always advisable to leave at least a 48 hour period between the toughest days of the week.

 

Does everyone need to rest the same amount?

Age, gender, experience, volume (30 miles per week or 90 miles per week?) are all variables which may affect how much time is advisable to wait between hard bouts on the schedule.  If your performance falters repeatedly on the workout following a particularly difficult challenge, it is better to organize the schedule to allow more rest in between than to dogmatically hold on to your current layout and risk injury or prohibitive fatigue from pushing too hard too close to the last time.  Likewise, if you repeatedly catch a cold or have a similar repeated response to upping your mileage or completing a sequence of very taxing runs, consideration of additional recovery is important to allow the immune system to do its job and keep you on the path toward race day.

 

Does recovery only mean sitting around?

Certainly, sleep and rest can help speed the regenerative process, but recovery is also when you remember to bring a snack for after the workout and can replace carbohydrates and proteins immediately.  Recovery is when you roll and stretch to leave the challenged muscles loose and in the best position to heal.  Recovery is rehydrating and replacing electrolytes both during and after a workout or long run.  All of these proactive things can help speed the time you need before advancing out the door again for the type of epic run or workout that makes marathon and half marathon training special.  Not every runner recovers at the same rate exactly, but rest assured, all runners do indeed take a rest.  Our job is to help you along the path that includes rest that is planned so the next training and racing vista can remain in view.

 

 

 



Race day is almost here! Remember to lay low and stay off your feet the days before the race. Your reward is race day itself and the challenge of running. . . .

Arrival

Make sure you get outside and feel the air. Go for at least a 20 minute walk or jog on either the day before, or two days before (or whatever is on your schedule).

Think about what you did, not what you didn’t do in your training. When you go to pick up your race number and run into old friends, family etc. everyone will want to ask about your training so they can tell you about theirs. Forget about theirs and don’t compare yourself to anyone. You followed a terrific training schedule and are well prepared.

Night Before, Morning Of

Have a full meal the night before. Try and consume some complex carbohydrates (pasta). Do not over eat, but make sure you fill up.

On race day eat a light breakfast of 200-300 Kcal of carbohydrates including the sports fluid you drink. If you have a normal pre-race breakfast then stick with it. Don't try any new foods before the race. Drink gatorade (or any sports drink that doesn’t include protein) and/or water frequently to assure you are hydrated (clear urine is a good sign). You should stay well-hydrated throughout the morning before the race. At some point prior to the race stop drinking so you can empty your bladder before the start. It is important to refrain from over-consumption of water alone, as that will drain your body of needed electrolytes.

I suggest you take some throw away warmups to the start especially if it rains or will be cold. This could be an old t-shirt or old sweat pants. Also old socks will keep your hands warm. Some runners will even wear a t-shirt for the first couple miles of the race until they warm up and then pull it off and throw it away. This is a good strategy to prepare for all temperatures.

Take a bottle with gatorade/sports drink to the start with you and right before (less than 5 mins) the gun goes off drink 4-8 ounces. This is your first water stop. If you drink close enough to the start you shouldn’t have to pee – the fluid should only drip through your kidneys because most of your resources (blood) will be in your legs and out of your gut as soon as the gun goes off.

Early Miles

I suggest that you start 5-10 seconds per mile slower than your goal pace. By the 2nd mile you should be running at around goal pace while listening to your body. I recommend this approach as it may activate (and utilize) a higher percentage of fat fuel over the first couple miles. Remember we are trying to conserve glycogen and muscle for as long as possible.

Stay on top of hydration. Fluid stations will be located at 4 stations throughout the course. Take note of these opportunities to rehydrate and plan to drink 4-8 ounces every 20 minutes. It is better to consume enough fluid early and sacrifice the later stops if necessary.

Remember the 3 ‘C’s’

Confidence: Have confidence in your ability and your training. Remember all those hard workouts you did. Remember those early mornings, late nights, sore calves, tight hamstrings etc. - they weren’t in jest.

Control: You must relax yourself early in the race. You absolutely must go out under control for the first half of the race. We want to save a little bit for the final miles.

Collection: Keep your thoughts collected and on your objective. There will always be lots of distractions on race day. The further you get in this race the more you need to focus on yourself, goals and race strategy. Don’t let the fans and competitors into your zone.

The Ebb and Flow

I said before that I can’t guarantee anything about the training or the race itself. Well, I can guarantee this: you will feel good at some point and you will feel bad at some point within the race.

Races usually ebb and flow, runners rarely feel terrific the entire way. We always hit little walls. If you hit one just focus on the next mile, don’t think about the end of the race. If you take each difficult moment one mile at a time you will usually feel better at some point. It always comes back because. . .

You Always Have One Cup Left

That’s right – you always have one cup of energy left. The difference is that some people find it and some don’t. Remember what normal, untrained people do when they feel discomfort – they slow down and feel better. You are not a normal un-trained person.

You are a runnining machine!

You are programmed to give your personal best so. . .

Go get that last cup!


nervousWhat differentiates a race from a workout?  The chance to run down the middle of the road, the mile markers, the thousands of other people alongside?  Externally, perhaps.  Internally, on the other hand, a big difference maker is often adrenaline.

Races are a test – a test of fitness, a test of wills, and a test of your ability to handle the elements and the unexpected.  All of the variables, both known and unknown, coupled with the anticipated pain that may precede the finish banner, combine to generate the butterflies that turn stomachs in the day or two before the race.

On the surface, it may seem preferable not to be nervous at all – to feel calm, cool, collected, and carefree heading into a race.  Then again, the term “adrenaline rush” is familiar to many as a performance-enhancing asset.  What is going on?

Adrenaline, or epinephrine, is a hormone released in response to stress  - it increases heart rate, aids in the conversion and use of glucose from glycogen for energy, and relaxes the bronchial muscles to allow for greater respiration needs (among other effects).  Oftentimes, adrenaline is associated with the “fight or flight” response to great danger or acute stress, e.g. the mother who lifts the car off the ground to save a child, etc.

In a race situation, adrenaline can be helpful – increased release of energy, greater respiratory ability, blood flow increased through the arteries – all these things are good for performance and result in noticeable increases in strength and ability to withstand pain.

While adrenaline can be helpful, nervousness can also be debilitating if it takes over completely.  It is important to maintain a balance that allows the utilization of the positive effects of adrenaline without succumbing to the fear of the unknown.

For runners, one oft overlooked aspect is how well we manage this balance.  Develop some loose routines that can provide a road map before races.  Without being to tense and specific, having a series of repeated tasks (lay out clothing, pin on number, tie chip to shoe, set up morning coffee, etc) can help distract from the difficult aspects to come on race day.  Keep up with your log on runcoach or use a written tool to keep track of training and provide a welcome reminder of all the hard work put in – your success won’t be a fluke and your preparedness can be verified.   Familiarize yourself with the course and its topography – any tough hills are far less intimidating when expected. Practice positive self-talk in workouts so you are prepared with encouragement to yourself when the going is difficult and the pace comes less easily.

Of course, all of these strategies may not always account for the complete list of potential unknowns on race day, nor do these remove the painful physical demands very possibly required to yield the desired result.  Adrenaline, however can close that gap, and should be welcomed as a bi-product of the stress / nervousness that produced it.    Combat fear of the unknown with preparedness and facts, and celebrate the arrival of nervousness as the precursor to the adrenaline that helps make race day special.



urlWhether your running style more closely resembles the tortoise or the hare, an efficient stride is a goal we all share.  It is very difficult and sometimes counterproductive to completely overhaul your natural form.  However, here are a few tips you can try out on your next run to help you get to the finish line with less fatigue and a few less ticks on the clock.

 

Avoid taking long, bounding strides

When attempting to speed up, many runners try to take big long strides.  Sure, when traveling quickly, the space between each footfall will increase due to that speed generated by a more powerful push off.  However, purposely increasing the length of each individual stride often results in a harder more abrupt footfall, greater forces landing on the heel as it extends out in front of you, and a longer time spent on the ground (slowing down) before transitioning to the push off phase of each stride.

 

Instead of decreasing the frequency of your strides when attempting to give it some gas, quicken your cadence.  Taking more frequent strides results in smaller landing forces and less time on the ground absorbing them.  A quicker rhythm also allows your body to stay aligned over your feet, which helps you line up all the power producing muscles (glute, hamstring, quad, calf) for more production out of each stride, without straining the stabilization capabilities of those muscles and ligaments.

 

Keep your hands loose

It is not uncommon to feel tense, tired shoulders after a long run, but that tension and the mid-run fatigue it may cause can be reduced by keeping your hands loose.   Rather than a tight fist or fingers fanned rigidly straight out from the palm, loosely curve the fingers back toward the thumb on each hand, as if lightly holding a very thick rope.   With your thumb, pretend to hold a saltine or a potato chip to your loosely curved fingers.  Squeeze too hard and it breaks, too open and it drops.  Tight hands reverberate tension through the arms, up to the shoulders and the neck.  Loose hands help dissipate that tension and helps runners avoid draining needed energy from the hard working lower body.

 

Swing your arms north and south, not east to west

If running forward, avoid movements that deter your progress.  When your arms are swinging backwards and forward, they are helping propel you along the desired direction.  When they swing across your body, they are acting at cross purposes with your goal.  Although arms naturally may have a slight angle inward that causes the elbow to stick out slightly, neither hand should cross the imaginary line down the center of your torso.   Let them hang down from your un-hunched shoulders with an elbow bent at about 90 degrees, and keep them swinging “north and south”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Guest Blog Post from Heather Tanner

Heather Tanner is a 3-time Olympic Trial marathon qualifier, 2004 USA World Half Marathon Team Member and decorated NCAA Cross Country and Track & Field Athlete during her time at the University of North Carolina and Stanford University. Tanner is currently preparing for the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials and offers her advice on fueling for the marathon to runcoach and movecoach trainees. 

There are many things to worry about in the final days leading up to a marathon. Like mapping out a race strategy in line with your fitness so that you don’t end up becoming intimately acquainted with the “wall”. Like taking care of the not so little things such as sleep, nutrition and stress management to ensure that you can get to the starting line healthy. Point is, fueling strategy really shouldn’t be one of those worrisome things. As long as you practice your fueling method in the long runs leading up to the race and have figured out a way to ensure regular carbohydrate replenishment during the race, you will be ok on this front.

During my first marathon experience (Columbus Marathon, 2003), I was a novice on many fronts and broke some major cardinal marathon rules (most importantly: don’t start a marathon injured, ever!). I had no idea what I was doing on the fueling front either and recall being alone at the expo the day before, trying to decide what type of fluids to try (water or maybe that new, strange-tasting Accelerade?) and how many gels I might need (is 1 or 2 enough?). As was inevitable, my hip injury helped me avoid hitting the wall, by slowing me down in the form of 8 stretching breaks. Not pleasant, for the record. Let’s just say fueling probably would have gotten the better of me had something else not have gotten there first.

Fortunately, I’ve had the opportunity to learn from some amazing runners over the last 10+ years and have since followed a few simple yet important guidelines in order to avoid the “bonk”:

1.) Take fluids as EARLY as possible – Do not pass the early water stations by. I typically try to take fluid at every station available, sometimes both water and the race-provided electrolyte beverage. This often means fluid consumption at least every 2 miles. You may only successfully take in a couple of ounces per cup, depending on your speed and your ability to coordinate moving and drinking at the same time, so it’s better to focus on frequency of water stops.

2.) Take your gels SLOWLY – Your digestive system can only absorb about 1-1.5 grams of carbohydrate per minute. An average gel contains 20-22 grams of carbohydrate. The quick math here means that your body can’t keep up with you very well if you down the whole gel in one second. In addition, gel consumption becomes even slower if you do not consume it with adequate fluids. I may take a gel every 4-6 miles during the course of the marathon (4-5 gels in total), but I take each one in slowly.

Note: Magdalena Lewy-Boulet, US Olympian and VP of R&D for Gu, told me about me this slow Gu consumption method after she had a successful marathon in cold “frozen Gu” weather (CIM, 2001 – 2nd: 2:37:57). Her Gu had formed into a cold, solid state and she was only able to consume small amounts at a time as it thawed. Despite this, Magda felt properly fueled.

Logistically, slow gel consumption can present some challenges. I prefer to hold onto the packet and take a small amount every minute or so, i.e. “sipping” on the gel. It can become a sticky mess, and the only helpful thing I can offer here is that this is all less annoying if you are wearing gloves. If you prefer other types of fuel, there are options that are already conveniently partitioned into smaller caloric chunks. Think Sport Beans or Clif shot blocks. Always intersperse gel consumption at or near water stations and practice this slow fuel consumption method in training.

3.) Ingest electrolyte-based drinks, not just water - This is another fairly obvious one, but not always followed. Research has supported evolution of sports drinks over recent years and many are purportedly optimal for electrolyte replenishment during the marathon. If you have the choice, it’s best to use beverages backed by science and your own experience. Osmo, UCAN, GuBrew and Nuun are some good newer beverage options with solid science to support their use. The more common beverage choices serve their purpose for most of us too though (Gatorage, Powerade, etc.).

The same slow carbohydrate absorption rule may apply for your electrolyte drink, but remember that these drinks are often significantly diluted, which can be a good thing. If the race-provided drink tastes too concentrated, try to balance it out with more water consumption at the next station. This may help your digestive system to absorb the carbohydrates more easily.
Also, if you are at all at risk for hyponatremia, or essentially over-hydrating, counterbalancing your fluid intake with an appropriate volume of electrolytes is even more important. The risk threshold for hyponatremia is known to apply to those who consume approximately 8 oz of fluid (any type) every 20 minutes (a lot!) and this risk is even higher if that fluid is water alone. Don’t over drink.

4.) Adapt your strategy for weather conditions – Heat and/or humidity will of course greatly increase your rate of sweating and will necessitate increased fluid consumption. Stay on top of that early. Potentially equally damaging in a different way, extremely cold conditions may interfere with your desire to consume fluids. You could then be at risk for dehydration and subsequent muscle cramping if you do not drink according to your normal plan, despite your perceived lack of thirst.

5) Don’t worry if something goes wrong – If you miss a water station, or an untrained child volunteer throws the cup all over your shirt at mile 16, do not panic. It will be ok as long as you’re following rule #1. Make it up for it at the next stop by grabbing both water and electrolyte drinks. 

I try to remember these themes as I race, but do so in an unscientific way because, in most cases, there are many other elements you cannot control over the course of 26.2 miles. You don’t want to create an overly specific fueling plan in case it becomes difficult to execute. One missed water station and you could find yourself in an unnecessary tailspin of distraction. Based on your individual body composition, it is certainly possible to estimate the precise amount of carbohydrate, electrolyte and fluid you should consume over the course of a marathon. It is extremely difficult to make that precision happen in real life, particularly if you are not fortunate enough to have the luxury of elite water bottles placed at regular intervals over the course. Fortunately, by keeping these general guidelines in mind, you can still get pretty close to optimal fueling and feel good come mile 26!



mile_markerMany runners have begun to enjoy the luxury of GPS devices measuring their daily runs.  Frankly, many runners have become so reliant on these measurements that success or failure is defined at least as much by the watch readout as how the run or workout feels.

 

Those who use a GPS device on a daily basis are naturally inclined to strap them on for race day, only to be quite annoyed by the discrepancy between the race’s official measurements and what the GPS device indicates.  Technology advances year after year, and when paying several hundred dollars for a gadget, it is a let down when the measurement appears to veer so widely off the mark.   Alternately, we may place blame on the race management, assuming a poorly measured course or sloppy monitoring.  More likely than either scenario, the discrepancy probably occurs due to the different ways in which the watch and the race record your distance traveled.

 

GPS devices measure the time it takes to receive signals traveling at the speed of light from multiple satellites orbiting the earth.  A couple dozen of these are currently in the skies, and they are arrayed so that at any one time, four or more are visible to any point on earth.  The watch essentially then builds a three or four way Venn diagram by overlapping the readings taken by each to confirm a fairly accurate location.   This is called triangulation.  Still, under a clear sky in the middle of a desert, an accuracy of a few meters either way is probably the best possible result.

 

Most importantly, GPS does not measure the distance you travel in a continuous fashion.  It take readings at different points along your route every few seconds, again maybe varying in a radius of 3 meters to 10 meters or 30 feet to each side.  What was a straight path for your actual travel, may be a fairly zig-zag line of plotted points as read by your GPS device.   Add in periodic blockages due to overhanging trees, tall buildings, and even loud noises (yes!) and you will begin to see how your watch’s measurements are a helpful guide, but by no means a perfect representation of the actual route you traveled.

 

Certainly many low-key races may not seek or receive certification by the sport’s domestic governing body, USA Track & Field (USATF).  However, most worth doing have received this certification, and certainly all of the big ones.  When the question of GPS discrepancy was posed to the “dean” of Northern California course certifiers, Tom Knight, he encouraged reading the self-termed “generic response” Doug Thurston, the Director of Operations for the Competitor Group (Rock ‘n’ Roll series, Carlsbad 5000, etc) has developed after countless inquiries on the subject.

 

Thurston’s main points are summarized briefly as follows:

  1. Courses are measured by using the shortest possible route (tangents) to ensure that when the distance is reached, no one could have run less.  Of course, that means in a crowded race, everyone is pretty much guaranteed to run at least a bit longer than this minimum measurement.
  2. ALL certified courses (ALL) include a “short course prevention” cushion, of about 5 feet per 5K or 1/10 of 1% of the distance.  For a marathon, that is about 135 feet, and is evenly distributed throughout the race, not placed at the end or the beginning.
  3. Courses are measured with a calibrated counter on the wheel of a bicycle, called a Jones-Oerth counter.  It is calibrated using a 1000’ steel tape and registers as frequently as once every three inches.

 

In short, anything that measures in a zig zag pattern is going to differ from a method that takes the shortest possible straight line between two points.  GPS devices are great tools that have allowed us to understand our daily running in a very useful quantitative way.   Course certifiers have a specific charter, method, and rigid canon of regulations to follow, their only goal being to provide the most accurate measurement possible under the ground rules.  Although we’d all enjoy if our watches marked exactly 5000 meters when we hit the finish line of a 5K, the fact that it often reads more or less shouldn’t steal any of our joy – either way, you’ll want to come back and improve your time on that course next year!

 

 



compression_socksSurvey the start line at any road race these days and more and more knee socks are popping up.  Compression socks are one of the most popular new accessories for distance runners of all speeds.  Look more closely, and compression clothing of all kinds are now found on athletes of all ages and abilities.  Are they for you?

 

For decades, compression socks have been recommended by doctors to help with circulatory problems, including varicose veins, diabetes, and deep vein thrombosis / blood clots.  The increased elastic strength of compression socks, particularly around the ankle, acts like a pump of sorts, elevating the amount of pressure on veins and therefore decreasing their diameter and increasing the blood flow velocity.

 

While these benefits were previously sought by individuals who were forced to sit or stay put for long periods of time, non-active individuals with these circulatory concerns, and even post-op / bed-ridden patients in needs of some assistance with blood flow during recuperation, over the past several years, compression socks have become popular among runners who seek these benefits as performance aids.

 

Belinda Byrne of Melbourne, Australia, along with many colleagues in various studies conducted over the past fifteen years, has provided much cited research supporting the conclusion that compression socks aid in preventing deep vein thrombosis (a worry for those runners who travel home via long airplane rides soon after marathons).  Byrne has more recent work that also suggests compression socks aid in recovery by helping muscles clear more blood lactate faster, and that socks worn below the knee are also effective, compared to the previous model of medically prescribed compression socks that extended up through the thigh.

 

These recovery benefits appear to be generally accepted and are backed up with other research finding self-reported post-run/ race soreness decreases with the socks.  However, those looking for a mid-race performance boost from compression socks find a more limited field of supporting evidence.   A few studies suggest an increase in anaerobic threshold of a couple percentage points (Scanlon, et al. 2008; Kemmler, et al 2009), but many more studies found a lack of distinct or statistically significant performance advantage by wearing the socks.

 

Like many other distance running accoutrements, the usefulness of compression socks is defined by a combination of personal preference and experience, coupled with scientific evidence.   In this particular case, compression socks can cost as much as $60, so their use might require a bit of an additional investment as well - a financial commitment to be balanced with the enjoyment found in running and the importance of that experience going well.  The field of compression garments and their use by endurance athletes is a continually growing business, where new information (much with direct commercial motivation) continues to evolve.

 

If you struggle with delayed onset muscle soreness after long races, or wish to assist your legs in their efforts to recover quickly and train hard again, compression socks are a worthwhile tool with which to consider and experiment – how you feel they help you is often the most important variable.  However, it is also worth remembering that the most crucial aspect of your race plan is the training you put in, and compression socks won’t take the place of that.  Stay focused on good habits, and hard work, and perhaps compression socks will provide the opportunity to recover in time to go for it more often.

 

 



Beginners and experienced runners need to navigate successfully around other runners, walkers, obstacles, and shared spaces alike.  Although many small communities of runners may have their own language and habits for dealing with various situations, it is instructive to keep in mind a basic knowledge of common running etiquette.   Like many things in life, the golden rule applies.  Sometimes with outstanding running etiquette, we can even influence another runner to employ more people-friendly tactics their next time out.  Here are a few tips on how to manage a few recurring situations.

 

Passing someone coming the opposite direction

On a bike/ pedestrian path, sidewalk, trail, or other two-way, directional running surface, pass others as cars would.  If you are in the United States, that means bearing right, but perhaps that might mean bearing left if in the UK.  If you are running with a group, take care not to take up the whole path and slide into single file as necessary to let the oncoming runner have a straight path.  If necessary, make eye contact and even take a half step to one side to indicate your planned passing lane when you think confusion might be occurring.

 

Passing someone from behind

If moving in the same direction as the person you are trying to pass, again pass as cars would, with the faster party (you, in this case), moving by toward the center of two directional surface path or sidewalk or if narrow, on the left. First, alert them to your presence by saying “On your left” loud enough for them to hear you and not so close as to startle them.  Give it a little gas if you can and pass quickly so as not to dwell in the “two abreast” stage of the pass.

 

If the person in front of you is wearing headphones and can’t hear you, give a wide berth as you pass to avoid startling them.

 

If in a race, pay special attention before and after fluid stations, heading in and out of sharp and curbed corners, and at a turn around so as not to cause a pileup or a chain reaction.  You and the other runners are entitled to hold your own space, but it is your responsibility to maintain that space with the people immediately in front of you, and to not encroach that space by dangerously slipping by someone right at the curb before or after a turn.  If looking for a particular line for an advantageous tangent to a distant corner, to stay out of the wind, or for another reason, you must allow a step and a half of space between yourself and the person you are passing before moving in front of them into their lane / line.  If in doubt, give the other runner an indication by announcing your intention with an “on your left”, “head’s up” or a point of the finger where you are headed so they can see what you have planned.

 

If passing a horse on a trail, make sure you alert the rider well in advance of your arrival, and plan to walk around the backside of the horse with a wide berth.  Yes, that might be annoying and a disruption to your run, but a worse disruption is a startled horse and back kick into your stomach.  Don’t take any chances.

 

Running with a group

If running on a surface with any regular oncoming running traffic at all, two runners across is probably the maximum appropriate amount of width.  If running with three or more with plenty of room, be prepared to maintain the responsibility of yielding to an oncoming runner if you suddenly come upon one rather than force them to the shoulder or the bushes.  Even if there is no oncoming traffic, running with three across can prove a hazard as cyclists, cars, and other runners might be coming from behind and have to swing wide into oncoming traffic to avoid hitting your group.

 

Minding your manners on a busy track

Unless the track is empty or no one present is running for time or fast enough to encounter each other, do not jog in lane 1 of the track.  Many tracks encourage this through gates or signs to jog in outside lanes. Even if not, a community track is a treasure for all who use it and a very expensive item to resurface.  If you want to continue accessing your home track, it is best for all to allow lane 1 to wear out as slowly as possible.  Therefore, if you don’t need to use it for timing a workout, don’t.

 

Again, unless the place is empty or traffic is limited enough to definitely avoid bumping into each other, do not run the opposite direction (clockwise).  If you do for some reason, it is your responsibility to yield to those running counterclockwise.  Likewise, do not ever run clockwise in lane 1, unless you really, really, have the place to yourself.

 

If passing from behind on a track, always do so to the outside of the person you are passing, particularly if both of you are too out of breath to let them know verbally that you are coming by.  If someone (toddler, random person talking on their cell phone, slouchy teenager, or similar) is standing or otherwise blocking your lane while not running hard themselves, give them a sharp “TRACK!” before you come upon them to give them time to move out of the way.  Likewise, if you accidentally are daydreaming or forget where you are and hear “TRACK!” while standing in a particular lane, it is your responsibility to get out of the way immediately as you would hope another would do for you.

 

Fluid stations

Do not cut off other runners in a crazy diagonal direction to get fluid.  Fluid stations are often areas with slippery footing, and race-ending injuries can occur even when best intentions are met with poor geometry.  Prior to the station, merge as you can so all runners can get a clean shot at the drinks without banging into each other.  If you need to stop and consume whatever it is you picked up, do so AFTER you clear the table and out of the main line of travel.

 

Drafting

If it is windy, or the road is particularly cambered, runners will often naturally form a single file or thin line as the race stretches out.  However, if it is just you and one other poor runner, by yourselves into the wind for five miles straight, it is bad form to just silently just have them take the brunt of the weather without offering to take turns if evenly matched.  If you are hanging on to the pace for dear life and there is no way you could help, at least acknowledging their help or asking if it is ok for you to run along with them for a bit is far better than just wordlessly breathing down their throat the entire way.

 

Assorted other Do’s and Don’ts

  • Do shake hands with someone you just worked with or competed against for a large portion of the race.
  • Do look oncoming runners in the eye and say good morning or hello.  If running by yourself, this can also be a way for others to have remembered you if you go missing on a run.  Sounds scary, but it is true.
  • Do not knowingly (when possible) bring meandering children on training wheels or hard to control (even if good natured) dogs to a location where people are running hard for time in narrow confines.  Freak injuries and accidents from this type of thing are more common than you may realize.
  • Do wipe down your treadmill in the gym for the next person, even if they aren’t yet present.
  • Do not stop short in lane 1 of a busy track or in the middle of a busy bike path if doing timed intervals.  Decelerate by stepping to the side or the inside of the track, or take a glimpse behind you first to make sure no one is immediately on your tail.
  • Do not randomly “race” some person you just came upon in the park without exchanging pleasantries at least or acknowledging you are trying to stay with them.
  • Do completely clear the finish line of a race before engaging with your watch to check splits, etc.
  • Do not keep the beeping function of your GPS device on during a race.  It may not match up with the race markings and quickly becomes a stressor and annoyance for anyone running with you.
  • Do not wear headphones unless in a situation where you are sure it is safe for you and others to do so.  If doing so, always keep them at a level where you can still hear the ambient noise around you.

 

Most importantly, keep it light and try not to take yourself so seriously when situations requiring etiquette occur.  We all put a great deal of effort and time into our running, but most of us do so for the fun, relaxation, and enjoyment of the sport.  Acting in a way that allows your fellow runners the chance to do so as well is the least each of us can do for each other.



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