Saturday, 20 July 2013

Tri Training for Big-inners (Run)

In terms of triathlon, run training is likely the least daunting for most people. It is a natural movement (at least as kids), it's relatively inexpensive and the danger level is much lower than venturing into open water or hurtling down a hill at 30 miles an hour on a bicycle.

However, it is tough for so many of us to just get going. If you haven't run in a while it's going to hurt, I wish I could lie to you but that's the truth. Your feet and legs will be sore, your lungs will burn and you will consistently question whether it's all worth it (it is). As I write this my sister has taken up a running program and she gives me daily updates on her progress and it's really fun to watch her times get faster and her distances increase. We come from a family that was not blessed with the skinny gene. Or skinny jeans for that matter but that's a blessing for society.

Skinny Jeans. I guess they work on this guy.
As with the other triathlon disciplines I would invest in some training sessions with a coach. "But isn't it just running?" Yes and no. You will certainly see improvement if you "just run" but there are ways to make your stride more efficient and therefore go further with less effort. A coach will be able to set you up with a plan to gradually increase your distance and time. Also, a running group can be a wonderful resource. There's something about suffering en masse that makes it just a little bit easier. As I mentioned in previous posts, the group exercise class provides support and more importantly shame. The shame of missing a workout, use it to your advantage.

Once you start running it is CRITICAL that you include a warm up and post-workout stretching as a part of each run. It's not a sometimes thing, it is an every time thing.

My warm up every run includes a slow 5 minute jog to get my muscles working just a little bit. Then I do a dynamic stretch in the 4 different directions of my leg muscles. Dynamic means you're not sitting there holding the stretch, you activate and then release the muscle. I had my 4 year old Kelland help me out with the pictures.

1) Quads:
Pull foot and push hip forward. Do 10x per leg.

2) Hamstrings:
Keep legs straight and reach back as far as you can to get a nice quick pull.
Then reach overhead and push hips through.
3) Groin:
Basically a yoga "triangle." Really rotate hips to get groin stretch.
4) IT Bands:
Place heel on opposite knee. My hand is also pushing on my knee to enhance the stretch.

This is not a list of ALL possible warm ups, just what works for me. Experiment and get a routine you like and that works for you!

After warmup, Kelland knew we had to run so we went to the corner and back.

If you're like me it's probably been a while since running was a common activity and as that time has passed you body's ability to recover has diminished. Without proper warm up and cool down (including stretching) your likelihood to become injured will be greatly increased. And once you get injured trying to get into shape, it's a hard mental battle to get back into the game.  I also strongly encourage rolling out after. This involves you laying on a hard piece of foam or a specially designed tool to self massage your muscles.

Rolling out and watching TV after a run. Look under my closest thigh. That's Trigger Point.

Great starter kit. It keeps me moving!

Most running shoe stores have running clubs for all sorts of distances and abilities and they're usually quite reasonably priced. For example, Running Room in Canada has an 18 week half-marathon program for $69.99, and this includes a technical t-shirt. This is mutually beneficial, you get affordable run training and in return most people will buy their running accoutrements from their stores. As with swimming and cycling there are a myriad of accessories and gadgets that you can purchase to improve your running experience but the one thing you should not scrimp on are good shoes. Which shoes are good? Depends on you.

There is a big minimalist movement right now. The minimalist proponents seem to believe that supportive shoes were created by Satan to slowly weaken our foot muscles and render us completely dependent on orthotics and supportive shoes. Others prefer to run on a cloud surmising that it is better to use science to our advantage and prevent wear and tear on our joints. Sadly, I am like a fish following a shiny object and tend to believe whichever article or Tweet I read last. The best answer is that the shoe that's right for you will be dependent on so many factors. Foot width, arch height, body weight, race length, running style (you'll be bombarded with forefoot, midfoot and heel striking and you'll actually develop a complex about people watching and judging you based on which part of your foot hits the ground first) but be prepared to change shoes a few times. It can get expensive but once you find that perfect shoe it's great! Until they make a modification for next year's model and screw the whole thing up and you start over. HEY SHOE COMPANIES, be creative but don't throw the baby out with the bath water, some of your shoes are actually really nice.
Hoka One One Cushioned Shoe
Nike Free Run minimalist shoe.
Vibram 5 finger shoes. Barefoot running.

I have worn Nike Free Runs for almost every race I've run and have been happy with their performance, but by about mile 18 of a marathon my legs are thoroughly pummeled.  I will be trying the Hoka One Ones  just to see if it's the thin shoes that are the problem or the fact that I'm simply running (read run/walking) 26 miles that makes my legs tired.  In addition to wanting to try a more cushioned shoe, the Free Run 2s have gone to a "fashion style" so the upper (fabric part of the shoe) is now a tight knit that doesn't breathe and it had my feet cooking. Why Nike? Haven't I been good to you?

Another area of debate is walking during a "run." Some believe that through training you should be able to maintain a run ad nauseum. Others theorize that scheduling a walking break before you "need" one will allow your body to recover and in the long run your overall pace will be greater than if you just run no matter how slow that run becomes. I'm personally in the run/walk camp and favor an approximately 12 min run to 1 min walk. This works perfectly for me at Ironman because the aid stations are placed every mile so in theory I should run to every aid station, walk through the station refuelling and then start running at the other side. Unfortunately, I end up having more and more walking breaks as the race goes on, but my plan going into the race was to run to each aid station and it's echoed by a number of my fellow competitors that are finishing WELL ahead of me. 

Don't start out trying to do 12/1 intervals though. Many plans will actually have you start out with 1 min running and 1 min walking repeated and slowly building from there.

That being said, if you can run an entire marathon without walking (first off, why are you even listening to me) please run the whole thing. 

                                                  Ironman Canada 2012 and LOOK! Skinny people behind me!
Each week we'll take a virtual first visit to a local tri shop. We'll be looking at the shoe department but in this case you'd do just as well to visit a shoe specialty store. I would tend towards a boutique style store for most things in triathlon as typically it's run by a few people that have a passion for their work and have a really good knowledge of the product. At most chain sporting goods stores you'll find minimum wage employees just looking to sling shoes and other product. 

- "Good" running shoes. These will be the shoes that are perfect for you. A good salesman should be able to look at your gait in different shoes and guide you towards a few that will be about what you need. After that it will come down to fit and feel. Many small shops offer a trial period to actually road test them. 

- Roller. There are a few different types but my personal favorite is the Trigger Point (TP) Therapy        roller sets. They have a few different tools in the kit to hit different muscles and it's been amazing for my recovery. A roller gives you the ability to get a massage as often as you need without having to shell out big bucks and making an appointment. This seems like it should be in the "want" category but for my money it's been essential to my running.

Realistically when it comes to "need," good shoes and a roller are about it I think. However, the "wants" list can get pretty long.

- Running hat. These hats are a little more ventilated and lighter than a normal baseball style hat.

- GPS watch. Much like the GPS bike computer this fun little tool will give you a great deal of information about your run. Distance, time, speed at any given time, elevation changes and heart rate. You can get a ton of information from it but you need to know what to do with it. 

- Water belt. I love my Fuel Belt running belt. It has a space to put my keys and money while I'm running and has 6 little water bottles rather than 1 heavy bottle to evenly distribute the weight.

Fuel Belt. The small bottles distribute the weight nicely.
- Compression shorts. I feel like these are a need but if you don't have my ample thunder thighs they may not be as necessary. The greatest benefit I get from these shorts is that they allow my legs to slip by one another with hardly any friction. Without them you would likely be seeing crotch smoke by mile 2 of my run.

- Running jacket. These are commonly referred to as "bum jackets" because the back is cut low to keep the splash off of your pants when you're running in rain. In addition to warmth these jackets provide a place to put your things. "Why not just get a regular jacket?" Running jackets have the pocket in the small of your back where there is the least movement so a wallet or keys won't be banging around and affecting your run and are usually trimmed in highly reflective material that makes you very visible if running at night.

- iPod/MP3 player. I find it so hard to train without music so my iPod and my headphones have a special place in my gym bag and if they're not where they're supposed to be I have a minor freak out (actually it's fairly severe) and won't leave home until they're located. I favour the iPod Nano (Gen 2) because it is small and has a built in clip so you don't need any armbands or other accessories, but realistically any MP3 player that you can comfortably run with will do great. If you do opt to use an MP3 player that you wear on your body make sure it is in a waterproof case. I sweat... a lot. I sweat so much that I actually shorted out my first iPod Nano. To Apple's credit they acknowledged that I was using the product as designed and replaced it at no cost. Very classy and have a customer for life.

-Headphones are another toy that I have exhaustively tested. I cannot run or workout with normal ear buds. I spend half of the time putting my ear buds back in and it is too distracting.  There are some ear buds that come with hooks that go around your ear and they work really well. My only criticism of that style of headphone is that if you wear them with sunglasses they can cause some discomfort behind your ears. My personal favourite is Yurbuds headphones. These are basic ear buds but with a soft rubber cover that is designed to fill and stick to your ear opening. These are brilliant! It doesn't matter whether I'm jogging, cycling, doing a weight circuit or full-on sprinting Yurbuds DO NOT fall out!

Yurbuds earphones. Just awesome

Note: I do not receive any compensation for endorsing any products (yet, fingers crossed). My opinions are based solely on my experience using the products in training and racing. 

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