10K for 10K Running to Eradicate Poverty
Updated: Jun 2, 2020
I am pleased to say that I have been asked to help out some of my clients and their colleagues, who have challenged themselves to Run, Walk or Cycle 10km every day in June to support 10 local causes by raising £10,000! For more information, including how to support and donate to them, visit their Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/nopovertycarlisle/
In this article I will provide some advice for you wonderful 10K for 10K runners, covering all of the basics in recovery and injury prevention to help you along the way!
Strength - The Key to Injury-Free?
Despite common misbelief in the endurance world, strength training does not make you clunky and slow. In fact, up to date research provides evidence of it improving flexibility, mobility, consistency and performance, even in long duration exercise. In other words, it makes you faster, more robust and less likely to injure. It's not to say that strength training will make you into the Terminator of the running world, but it will certainly help when stacked with good sleep and diet.
The Soleus (a deep calf muscles) is the biggest (but often least recognised) player in running, with Quads being the likely No.2 and Glutes playing a key role too (despite not quite being the Holy Grail that they're made out to be). Therefore, improving the strength and muscular endurance of these areas, as well as the control and mobility of the core, hip, ankles and feet, is a worthy starting point for most running/cycling conditioning.
Of course, this is a blanket approach and every athlete requires tailored programming following movement screening, but it will likely help the majority of you in this challenge.
For more individualised advice or injury guidance, please get in touch with me, but otherwise check out the routine I have made for you all (attached to the bottom of this article)... just remember, the exercises are designed to prepare for running. If you are already running every day and weren't used to strength training prior to this, introduce them gradually so as to not overtrain!
Stretching - Overrated?
As any of my clients will tell you, I don't rate stretching too highly. For years it has forever been hailed as a way of decreasing injury risk, improving flexibility and eradicating tightness. The truth is, it hasn't been well shown to do any of them! Not significantly better than eccentric resistance training at least.
Now this isn't to say it's useless or doesn't have a place. In fact, I still use stretching in almost all of my exercise prescription.
It certainly has a time and a place, but just isn't as important as training methods with cause retained adaptations i.e. mechanical or cardiovascular changes. Application and dosage is key.
To use this, we must understand the difference in application;
Static vs. Dynamic Stretching
Static stretching is where a muscle is held in a lengthened position for a set amount of time and its effect is the down-regulation of neural excitement after around 30s. This is why after holding and breathing into a stretch, after a while, you begin to go further. This is not you getting more flexible, it is simply the nervous system letting you go further. For this reason, static stretching is best used post-exercise and/or in a relaxed state. Positions should be held for 20-60s.
Dynamic stretching is where a muscle is repeatedly taken from a shortened to a lengthened position. This still opens up the available range of motion, increases blood flow and gets the tissue warmed up - but instead of telling the muscles to relax, they are excited and prepared for contractions/work. For this reason, dynamics should be used at a faster tempo, before a bout of exercise, as part of the warm up.
Since tightness is more often a perception than it is a tissue restriction, static stretching holds it's place in my rehab and coaching due to the ability to facilitate greater pain-free range. Although this is a short term effect, when followed with strength and control work, we can utilise it to create longer term adaptations and movement.
The problem occurs when we become dependant on stretching and start to chase to effects of it. As we become tolerant to it, we have to apply more time to get the same results, often leading to us spending most of our time of stretching at the cost of strength, mobility and control drills (the ones that really matter). With that said, if you don't feel like you need to or don't want to stretch, then don't.
There is a handful of relevant static stretches in another pdf. file at the bottom of the article!
Warm Up - The R.A.M.P. Protocol
During my time working with pro athletes, I came across this method, which I soon realised is used throughout the Strength & Conditioning world, including elite sport. I've used it with each and every one of my clients, clubs and teams ever since! To make sure your warm up drills are comprehensive and efficient, you can follow it too...
R - Raise heart rate
i.e. 5-10mins of a pulse raising activity such as stair climbs, skipping, jogging
A - Activate muscles
i.e. dynamic stretches to increase local blood flow and neural activity
M - Mobilise joints
i.e. opening up range of motion in the necessary joints including the spine
P - Potentiate movement patterns
i.e. moving towards sport-specific movements to 'groove' the technique or fire up motor units
For more information and understanding of the RAMP technique, see the pdf. file attached to the bottom on this article.
Psychology - Keeping your head in the game!
Physical preparation aside, it's often overlooked how important the psychology of performance is. Not only this, but your mental health is much more closely linked to your body than you think! Knowing how to use your mind to manipulate how your nervous system acts can be a game changer - baring in mind that this impacts hormonal activity, altering pain perception, muscle tone, adaptation and more!
For this reason, I have dug out a programme that I used as a nifty resource during a sport psychology assignment during my uni days, which you can find attached as a pdf. file at the bottom of this article.
Sleep - Not just for beauty!
Not getting enough good quality shut-eye has been shown to hinder both physical and cognitive performance, not to mention recovery and injury. It is therefore a good idea to get at least 7hrs sleep (although I'd aim for 8hrs or more). Many processes such as tissue repair, replenishment, waste removal and growth hormone release, peak during sleep and so not getting enough will obviously hinder your efforts!
It can be tricky though, so here are some basic tips to ensure a top notch 40 winks:
- Curb the midnight snack: Try not to eat immediately before bed, but consider a decent portion of protein in your last meal, alongside some nice starchy carbs, which will kickstart a release of hormones that make your feel lethargic and more inclined to retire for the night.
- Avoid caffeine: Depending on your metabolism, stay clear for up to 6hrs before bed (for obvious reasons).
- Limit screen time close to bed time: Exposure to 'Blue Light' disrupts your circadian rhythm (the 'body clock') and delays melatonin (the sleep hormone) release. If you do find yourself glued to your phone in bed, at least switch it to Night Shift Mode and try to substitute the TV for a book, if you aren't one for being lights-out once your head hits the pillow.
- Keep it cool: Probably the most relevant amidst the current heat spell. While basking in the Sun all day may make your feel sleepy, our bodies struggle to settle down in a hot room. Try to keep your bedroom at ~18ºC. Without A/C this may not be possible, but opening a window or putting a fan on a timer can help your drift off.
- Au Naturel: Try to fall asleep ~6hr before sunrise to allow the daylight to wake you naturally, without cutting your sleep time short!
Nutrition - What to eat, how much of it and when?
Calories - Due to the nature of your task, it is probably a good idea to be in a slight calorie surplus (consuming more than you're burning) to ensure adequate recovery! Keep in mind that you are most likely burning more than what you usually would during this challenge and so the less seasoned runners amongst you, may need to recalculate their energy expenditure.
Calorie Calculators are widely available online for free, but one I would personally recommend would be the James Smith Academy Free Trial (it is a little more detailed and he has a tonne of other great resources on there and on his social media).
During my time supporting the Brathay 10in10 Runners in 2017, I would say our role was about 50:50 between providing therapy/injury management and practically force feeding our athlete to make sure they could recover enough to run the next marathon the following day. Honestly, it's not worth underestimating this one (plus, who doesn't love an excuse to eat more?)!
Macronutrients - As well as eating enough calories, it's important to monitor what you eat. Carbs are your friends. Not all fat is evil. All food is fuel first and foremost, but it helps to understand the basics!
Carbohydrates = 4kcal per gram
Protein = 4kcal per gram
Fat = 9kcal per gram
Our bodies can use them all for energy, but glycogen (carbs) is the go-to source for muscles. We can convert protein into glycogen and oxidise fats, but the 'easiest available' is carbs. This can be manipulated further when looking at Glycemic Index (GI), a scale of how quick carbs can be broken down and used/stored a energy. Starchy "complex" carbs take longer whilst glucose/sugars can be quickly utilised, hence why endurance athletes will 'carb load' with starchy foods running up to an event, but use fruit and gels closer to the run itself. I'm sure there's a few in your group who will be seasoned runners/cyclists who will provide guidance on this, if they haven't already!
From a recovery perspective, aside from replenishing muscle-glycogen levels, protein is key. Our soft tissues are mostly made up of proteins and water, with the amino acids in protein being the building blocks for muscle fibres, and the collagen which makes up your tendons and ligaments. When we exercise, these structures are damaged and go through a process of breaking down. Although this is a normal part of the cycle, it does mean we need enough nourishment to repair and rebuild.
How much protein do I need?
Whilst there are numerous studies citing different recommendations, it is generally agreed that 1.6-2.2g of protein per kg of bodyweight is needed for active populations. However there are also variable which influence this, such as age, body composition, exercise intensity and competition level, so here are the rough goal posts I advise for my clients:
Minimum recommendation: 0.7-1.1g per kg/bw
Minimal for endurance: 1.2-1.4g per kg/bw
For strength and moderate-high intensity: 1.5-2g per kg/bw
For growth or injury rehab: 2-2.5g per kg/bw
Elite athlete: 2.5-3g+ per kg/bw
Micronutrients - Vitamins & Minerals... Eat your fruit and veg! A balanced diet should cover most-all of your micronutrient requirements, however there are certain conditions which may influence your selection (such as sport, intolerances, ethics, allergies etc.) or make you consider supplementation (such as clinical deficiencies, disorders, race, gender etc.). Some key points for the general endurance game:
Keep the pistons going: Muscle contractions use a system called the sodium-potassium pump, which requires these minerals to control the nerve impulses which are firing the muscles. Without calcium, sodium and potassium, this system can become disrupted, leading to weak contractions or muscle spasms. This is why you will often get given electrolytes (sodium) and bananas (potassium) at endurance events!
Bone Health & Muscle Function: Everyone knows we also need calcium to repair bones and increase bone-mineral density, which helps protect against osteoporosis, fracture risk and bone-stress injury. Vitamin D helps to regulate the uptake of calcium and whilst it can be found in many foods, as well as being synthesised after sunlight exposure, many of us in Costa Del Carlisle don't get enough of it. Next time you're hunting out vitamins, consider opting for Vit. D as your top choice over the typical Vit. C.
Energy & Fatigue: Vegetarians and vegans potentially suffer from Iron and B Vitamin deficiencies, which are linked to chronic fatigue, as well as struggling to get as much creatine as those with omnivorous diets. Creatine is naturally produced in the body, as well as being readily available in foods such as meat and is used to fuel our ATP-CP energy system. Although this is primarily responsible for short, high intensity bursts, ensuring adequate creatine levels can help with your strength training or hill sprints (both of which are transferable benefits to your endurance game). As a supplement, creatine is one of, if not THE most, researched substances in sport and is tried and tested as an effective and safe option for the vast majority of active individuals.
Always consult your GP or a qualified/accredited nutritionist before taking any supplements.
Water - We all know how dehydration can negatively impact our bodies and we've all heard the cliche statistics about how we're mainly made up of water. What is often overlooked though, is the middle ground between dehydration and adequate hydration. Make sure you aim for optimal levels to aid metabolic functions, including the processes of your energy systems. To do so, drink 500ml of water 1hr before exercise to enter a state of euhydration (ideal hydration). It is possible to over-hydrate, so more isn't always better, but take a bottle with you for the road and drink enough to completely quench your sensation of thirst, post-exercise. Consider electrolytes (either sports drinks, gels or dissolvables) before, during and after exercise, but more importantly, aim to drink enough throughout the day (usually ~2l+).
Tech - How your gadgets can help!
With all of the above in mind, you're probably wondering how on earth you're going to have the time and ability to keep on top of how much you're eating, what nutrients it contains, how much you're sleeping, how much you're training and so on. This where your smartphone earns its title, rather than just being a tool for flicking through instagram posts and Facebook newsfeeds. Keeping on top of your nutrition is now easier than ever with the ease of access to Food Tracking/Calorie Counting Apps, with my number one choice being MyFitnessPal, a freebie by Under Armour. Simply scan or search your food and let it do all the work for you.
Although MFP can log your exercise too, I prefer to use separate apps/hardware to be Fitness Trackers. Using either a smartphone and/or wearable tech such as GPS watches and HR Monitors, you can also trace your footsteps, noting effort levels to help monitor training load along the way. Apps such as Strava are great for this, as many of you will already know/use. Don't worry if you don't have all the gear though, as smartphones also act as pedometers, GPS trackers and even heart rate monitors with he right selection of apps (although they are likely to be less reliable than the high spec wearables).
If you want to take it up a notch from working in HR Zones or RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion), many purpose built, wearable tech now measures Heart Rate Variability (HRV). Without going into the science too much, HRV has been shown to be a predictor of illness and recovery levels, as it is a reflection of what state your nervous system is sitting in. From this, it has been suggested in recent research that a low HRV can be indicative of an approaching repetitive stress injury or burnout - allowing you to ease off before causing any real damage. In other words, a high HRV shows your body's readiness to 'change gear' from a performance state to a recovery and adaptation state. Although these findings have yet to be fully validated and aren't entirely understood just yet, it is still likely to be a handy advantage to have in your locker.
To read more on HRV, go to this link https://www.scienceforsport.com/heart-rate-variability-hrv/
Footwear - What shoe is best?
This one comes up a lot with new runners (or often actually seasoned athletes) coming into clinic.
"What's the best type of shoe for running?"
"What should I be wearing to help with 'X' problem?"
"Such and such told me that I have pronating/supinating/rotated/broad/narrow/flat feet. Do I need a special trainer to run in?"
"Which shoes will help my biomechanics?"
There's a lot to consider and hundreds of footwear variants to choose from, right? Footwear has been debated endlessly for decades in the sports science/medicine field... and we still don't have an answer!
Barefoot vs. Supportive?
Minimalist vs. Cushioned?
Arched vs. Heeled?
Rigid vs. Flexible?
So what's the solution? Well actually it's pretty simple. Do what works best for you.
Yeah, really, that's it. I know, its not very sciency but it's the direction being taken by a lot of the most respected names in my field right now and to be honest, I agree. Everybody is individual and no two people have identical mechanics, perceptions or needs. Our bodies are fantastic at adapting to challenges, given the time and work, so when buying footwear, just follow my three golden rules:
1. Go for comfort and lightness - it will go a long way when running distance.
2. Function over fashion - try some different brands, you may hit jackpot.
3. Don't be afraid to change - If your Achilles is struggling, try a more heeled shoe/If the front of your knee is struggling, try a reduced heel etc. etc.
Just bare in mind, variation in footwear can be a nifty trick to offload short-term niggles, but shouldn't be used as a one stop fix. Make sure to address your workload, weaknesses, technique or mobility if required. Speak to a professional if in doubt, or if pain persists!
P.s. when being told to get a certain shoe, insole or support by a specialist who is also the one selling you it, remember:
"If you go to a car salesman, he'll probably try and sell you a car."