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How to Safely Build Endurance as a Runner

Ever wonder how to safely build endurance as a runner?  If you have been following our blog series, you have been establishing adequate range of motion and mobility. Your balance and stability are now ninja-like…or at least ninja-in-training-like.  Now, it’s time to focus on endurance so you can crush your next running goal and continue to improve your running performance.  This post is an introduction to endurance and how to safely build endurance as a runner by incorporating non-running exercise into your weekly routine.

As mentioned in previous posts, running is a high-impact exercise. Trading a few running sessions out for low-impact exercises can increase your endurance fitness without adding additional load to your muscles and joints.

What exactly are we talking about when we say “endurance”?

There are two main types of endurance we will focus on to safely build endurance as a runner, cardiovascular and muscular. Cardiovascular endurance means how well our hearts, lungs, arteries, and veins take in, transport, and utilize oxygen. Muscular endurance is related to how many contractions our muscles can perform before they begin to fatigue.

How can you impact your cardiovascular endurance?

By varying intensity levels in each of these cardio exercises, you can start to increase the ability of your heart to have more cardiac output (heart rate x stroke volume). Improving the ability to get oxygenated blood through your body allows your muscles to continue to work at a higher rate. When you first start exercising, your ability to clear out carbon dioxide, shuttle hydrogen ions, and utilize oxygen is not great so your legs start to get “heavy” and fatigue quickly. As you gain cardiovascular fitness, you are better able to clear out that pesky carbon dioxide, shuttle hydrogen ions so they don’t build up in your muscles, and utilize oxygen so you can continue the activity for sustained periods over your previous capacity. If you are interested in learning more about how to create a running program based off of intensity levels, check out Jack Daniels’ “Running Formula”.

Remember, improving cardiovascular endurance means you need to perform exercises that stress the heart. Cardio exercises include things such as running, hiking, cycling, and swimming. Performing these exercises at varying and increasing intensity levels will improve your hearts cardiac output and your heart will become more efficient at pumping oxygenated blood throughout your body. The faster you transport oxygen to your muscles, the better they will feel and perform. Try adding a long bike ride or a swim, or even dancing (try Lindyhop!) into your weekly training plan. You will improve your endurance while challenging your body in a new way, which ultimately helps improve your run.

build muscular endurance as a runner
Click here for swimming workouts to help build endurance and improve your running.

Now let’s focus on muscular endurance. Running is essentially a series of single leg hops that you perform over, and over, and over again. In order to get through any distance run, it is vital that your leg muscles have the endurance to continue to contract and relax with each step. In addition to propelling you forward, muscle contractions help the venous system return blood to your heart. The more efficient your muscles are at contracting against the veins to return blood to the heart, the better cardiac output you will have and thus, better endurance. Exercises to improve muscular endurance for running include body weight squats, lunges and pistol squats.  Try these pistol squat progressions.

Remember, you will only stick with any exercise program long-term if it’s enjoyable for you! Choose activities that you WANT to spend time doing. Almost any sport can be turned into an endurance workout if done for sustained periods. Rock-climbing, Rollerblading, playing the drums…the list is endless. Be creative and both your run AND your brain will thank you for it.

 

Thank you for taking the time to read our RunLab™ Blog! We hope that you use this information to run more injury free and to optimize your running performance.

For more information about the RunLab™ team and to get your running stride analyzed by one of the preeminent gait specialist teams in the country, please visit WWW.RUNLABAUSTIN.COM

Outside of the Austin area? You can still have your running stride analyzed by one of the best teams in the country. Just visit WWW.RUNLAB.US to see where our partner filming locations are based or choose the self-film option.

RunLab™. Helping runners help themselves.

LEARN MORE:
RunLab™ Podcast RUN.
RunLab™ YouTube channel

 

The Key to a Good Race Photo? Coordination.

(Photo Credit)

The Key to a Good Race Photo? Coordination. Have you ever looked at your race photos and thought to yourself, “WOW. How did I even finish my race? My body seems to be moving in every direction except forward!”  Make your next set of race photos look more graceful by improving your coordination.

When most people hear the word coordination they think of “hand-eye coordination.” These individuals are not wrong. However, when we speak of coordination in the context of running we mean being able to orchestrate the muscles, joints, tendons, and skeleton to execute the desired movement. We develop coordination through challenging our proprioception, kinesthetic awareness, and nervous system.

The Key to a Good Race Photo? Coordination.
(Proprioception)

Proprioception is the mechanism that allows us to know where our body is in space. For example, if you were in a pitch-black room, you would still know where your hands were without having to look at them. Kinesthetic awareness is similar to proprioception but allows us to sense body movements. These mechanisms work by transferring information from our muscles and joints to our brain.

Most individuals have underdeveloped proprioception and kinesthetic awareness and are over-reliant on their visual system to activate their muscles. To test this, balance barefoot on one leg with your eyes open for 30 seconds. Now try the same thing with your eyes closed.  If you fell over as soon as you closed your eyes, you are over-reliant on your visual system and lack proprioceptive awareness from your muscles and joints. If your muscles and joints aren’t sending appropriate data to your brain, it makes it extremely challenging for your brain to coordinate efficient movements. Lack of efficiency implies that the wrong muscles will be recruited during a movement which will lead to a lack of stability and power. All of these things combined can lead to a higher probability of being injured while running.

In addition to building proprioception and kinesthetic awareness, you can improve coordination by developing neural pathways. The brain and spinal cord make up the central nervous system. Nerves that enter and exit the spinal cord run to every muscle in your body making up the peripheral nervous system. You can improve these pathways from your brain to your muscles by movement repetition or muscle memory.  The more you perform a movement, the stronger and faster the communication from your brain to your muscles will be. Running is a high impact exercise. In order to improve the neural pathways without the increased loading rate of running, perform parts of the running motion in less impactful ways. For example, perform three rounds of butt kicks, skips, and high knees for 15 to 30 seconds each, three to five days a week. These exercises look very similar to running without the same loading rate. Meaning, you can improve your pathways for running and enhance your coordination with less strain on the body. 

The Key to a Good Race Photo? Coordination. Butt Kicks.
View example of butt kicks

 

The Key to a Good Race Photo? Coordination. Power Skips.
View example of power skips

 

The Key to a Good Race Photo? Coordination. High Knees.
View example of high knees

 

Thank you for taking the time to read our RunLab™ Blog! We hope that you use this information to run more injury free and to optimize your running performance.

For more information about the RunLab™ team and to get your running stride analyzed by one of the preeminent gait specialist teams in the country, please visit WWW.RUNLABAUSTIN.COM

Outside of the Austin area? You can still have your running stride analyzed by one of the best teams in the country. Just visit WWW.RUNLAB.US to see where our partner filming locations are based or choose the self-film option.

RunLab™. Helping runners help themselves.

ABOUT LORIN WILSON

RunLab™ Clinical Gait Specialist

Lucky enough to be a part of a great running program in high school, Lorin not only went on to win the 2007 Texas 4a State Championship in the mile but also went on to earn a track scholarship to the University of Texas at Austin. Lorin graduated from the The University of Texas at Austin with a major in Exercise Science and a minor in business. While still attending UT, he began coaching distance running at St. Stephen’s Episcopal school where he would coach student-athletes to break school records in the 400 meter, 800 meter, 1600 meter, 3200 meter, 5000 meter, 4×400 meters, and 4×800 meters. After graduating from UT and during his aforementioned tenure at St. Stephen’s, Lorin also worked for the local Austin non-profit Power For Parkinson’s as a fitness instructor, which provides free fitness programs for individuals with Parkinson’s disease. No longer a trainer at Power For Parkinson’s, Lorin does fundraising campaigns for Power For Parkinson’s. During this period he also started BlueSky Running LLC, which provided on-site Yoga programs for employees of the Austin Independent School District (teachers, administration, bus drivers etc).

Lorin has the following physical training certifications: National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) Certified Personal Trainer, Performance Enhancement Specialist (NASM), Corrective Exercise Specialist (NASM), Senior (elderly individuals) Fitness Specialist (NASM), Fitness Nutrition Specialist (NASM), RunLab Clinical Gait Specialist, USA Track & Field Level 1 Coach, and a USA Yoga Alliance 200 Hour Certified Yoga Instructor certification earned while studying in Rishikesh, India. Lorin is a MBA Graduate with an emphasis in Accounting from Texas State University. He was also the President of the Texas State MBA Student Association and a Future Texas Business Hall of Fame Scholarship Recipient.

Lorin has a marathon best of 2:37:05 (5:59 per mile pace) run at the 2011 Los Angeles Marathon. He ran his first 100 miler in 17 hours 30 minutes (10:15 per mile pace) in Flagstaff, Arizona in September 2018. He ran the 2019 Boston Marathon in 2:37:59. He also has three top 10 finishes (5th, 7th, and 10th) in the Capital 10,000, the largest 10k in Texas, with the latest two being 2016 and 2017. Lorin looks forward to working towards his goal of making high-quality fitness accessible to everyone while he continues to train for 100 mile races.

LEARN MORE:
RunLab™ Podcast RUN.
RunLab™ YouTube channel

Running Times Hit a Brick Wall? A Lack of Power Training May Be the Culprit!

Running times hit a brick wall?  A lack of power training may be the culprit!  Have you ever run a 5k or marathon where you had the sensation of floating down the road? You felt light, springy and stronger than ever. If you have, you were running with power and elasticity.

If your running times hit a brick wall recently or you don’t feel a “bounce” or “spring” when you run, there is most likely a lack of power training being integrated into your training.  You’re then getting stuck on the ground in the load acceptance phase of the gait cycle. As you contact the ground, you want your body to absorb that force and then convert it into energy that propels you forward. The success of the conversion of forces can be seen in the float phase cycle of gait (period when both feet are in the air at the same time). If you find yourself with an extremely short or non-existent float phase, it may be time to add some power and elasticity training via plyometric (jump oriented) type exercises.

The equation for power is force multiplied by displacement divided by time. When applied to running, power is simply the interplay between your strength and the time you spend on the ground, i.e., contact time. The stronger your muscles and the shorter your contact time the more power you are able to produce. Therefore, in addition to getting functionally stronger, you need to train your body to spend less time on the ground. You can achieve this by increasing the amount of load put on your tendons.  Power training like jumping exercises not only increase the amount of load on a tendon, but they also improve a tendon’s spring-like properties. Both of these things can help improve your run times and help you hit those desired paces

Lack of Power Training
(shuffling pictured, a lack of power training)
(power gait pictured)

Caution: Plyometrics training can be very hard on the body. Make sure you always properly warmed up and understand the risk before performing the exercises.

To improve your elasticity and power training today, start with simple bunny hops in place for 30 seconds.

Lack of Power Training, bunny hops
Bunny hops in place (power training exercise)

If you have no pain, and you can master this you can progress to bunny hops forward x 10 hops.
Once you have mastered static bunny hops you can progress by adding forward movement.

Lack of Power Training, forward bunny hops
Forward bunny hops (power training exercise)

Once you feel comfortable try to progress to single leg bunny hops in place and then forward.

Lack of Power Training, single leg bunny hops
Single leg bunny hops in place and then forward (power training exercise)

Thank you for taking the time to read our RunLab™ Blog! We hope that you use this information to run more injury free and to optimize your running performance.

For more information about the RunLab™ team and to get your running stride analyzed by one of the preeminent gait specialist teams in the country, please visit WWW.RUNLABAUSTIN.COM

Outside of the Austin area? You can still have your running stride analyzed by one of the best teams in the country. Just visit WWW.RUNLAB.US to see where our partner filming locations are based or choose the self-film option.

RunLab™. Helping runners help themselves.

ABOUT LORIN WILSON

RunLab™ Clinical Gait Specialist

Lucky enough to be a part of a great running program in high school, Lorin not only went on to win the 2007 Texas 4a State Championship in the mile but also went on to earn a track scholarship to the University of Texas at Austin. Lorin graduated from the The University of Texas at Austin with a major in Exercise Science and a minor in business. While still attending UT, he began coaching distance running at St. Stephen’s Episcopal school where he would coach student-athletes to break school records in the 400 meter, 800 meter, 1600 meter, 3200 meter, 5000 meter, 4×400 meters, and 4×800 meters. After graduating from UT and during his aforementioned tenure at St. Stephen’s, Lorin also worked for the local Austin non-profit Power For Parkinson’s as a fitness instructor, which provides free fitness programs for individuals with Parkinson’s disease. No longer a trainer at Power For Parkinson’s, Lorin does fundraising campaigns for Power For Parkinson’s. During this period he also started BlueSky Running LLC, which provided on-site Yoga programs for employees of the Austin Independent School District (teachers, administration, bus drivers etc).

Lorin has the following physical training certifications: National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) Certified Personal Trainer, Performance Enhancement Specialist (NASM), Corrective Exercise Specialist (NASM), Senior (elderly individuals) Fitness Specialist (NASM), Fitness Nutrition Specialist (NASM), RunLab Clinical Gait Specialist, USA Track & Field Level 1 Coach, and a USA Yoga Alliance 200 Hour Certified Yoga Instructor certification earned while studying in Rishikesh, India. Lorin is a MBA Graduate with an emphasis in Accounting from Texas State University. He was also the President of the Texas State MBA Student Association and a Future Texas Business Hall of Fame Scholarship Recipient.

Lorin has a marathon best of 2:37:05 (5:59 per mile pace) run at the 2011 Los Angeles Marathon. He ran his first 100 miler in 17 hours 30 minutes (10:15 per mile pace) in Flagstaff, Arizona in September 2018. He ran the 2019 Boston Marathon in 2:37:59. He also has three top 10 finishes (5th, 7th, and 10th) in the Capital 10,000, the largest 10k in Texas, with the latest two being 2016 and 2017. Lorin looks forward to working towards his goal of making high-quality fitness accessible to everyone while he continues to train for 100 mile races.

LEARN MORE:
RunLab™ Podcast RUN.
RunLab™ YouTube channel

Strength Training To Enhance Running Performance and Prevent Running Injuries

Integrating strength training to enhance running performance and prevent running injuries is important for all levels of runners.  At RunLab, it is not uncommon to hear from clients, “I can barely do a push-up.” “I never do strength training. I don’t want the bulk to slow me down.” 

Runners need more strength as a population. This is a universal truth, and yet runners almost seem to take pride in the lack of strength training they do. Somehow the idea that strength training is detrimental to one’s running performance has taken a space in the collective running consciousness. Often neglected by distance runners, strength is very important for injury prevention and performance optimization and is often neglected. Having adequate strength will lower the probability of injury by preparing muscles to accept increased demand during training cycles.

In order to understand the importance of strength in the context of gait, let’s take a quick look at each phase of the running gait cycle:

Contact Phase (Gait Cycle)
Midstance Phase (Gait Cycle)
Push-Off Phase (Gait Cycle)
Early Swing Phase (Gait Cycle)
Late Swing Phase (Gait Cycle)

If you look at the pictures, you can see that you are performing a series of single-leg squats and hops in rapid succession when you run. Due to the explosive nature of running, you are producing four to ten times your body weight in force PER STEP. It is vital to have sufficient strength to accept these loads if you hope to run injury-free. If you do not have ample strength in the primary working muscles, you will start to recruit smaller secondary muscles to perform the role of the primary muscles. Secondary muscles are not adequately equipped to do the job of a prime mover, either due to size or position in the body. Too much reliance on secondary muscles will result in a premature  break down and aberrant movement patterns programmed into your body over time.

It is important to understand that strength comes in various forms. Functional strength is even more important than brute strength when it comes to a repetitive motion exercise like running. Being able to squat 2,000 pounds is an example of brute strength. However, this type of strength does not translate well to running. Functional strength is the ability to use your strength to perform your desired movement pattern under repetitive load. In order to be able to transfer strength to the desired movement pattern, one must be able to coordinate muscle firing patterns efficiently. Having functional strength will not only allow you to have more control over where the load is being produced while you are running, but also how efficiently the absorption load from the ground is transformed into propulsion energy. You gain functional running strength through performing exercises that look very similar to the running motion. Think of single leg squats, step-ups, or single leg plyometric exercises.

Strength Training To Enhance Running Performance and Prevent Running, single leg squatInjuries
Single Leg Squat
Strength Training To Enhance Running Performance and Prevent Running Injuries, Step-ups
Step-ups
Strength Training To Enhance Running Performance and Prevent Running Injuries, single leg plyometric
Single Leg Plyometric

One important point in regards to strength training is the concept of “bulking up”. With regards to bulking up, it is important to understand that strength has two major components. One component involves the nervous system’s ability to recruit motor units. Your brain is a major piece of hardware. From your brain, you have nerves that act as wires that conduct electrical signals to motor units that control muscle contractions. The more you perform an exercise, the thicker the myelin sheath, or the insulation surrounding the nerves, becomes. This makes the signal from your brain to your muscles more efficient. The more efficient your brain is at activating motor units, the more force production you are going to be able to generate and thus the stronger you are going to be. Nervous system adaptations happen rather quickly and the strength gains you experience within the first eight weeks of a strength and conditioning program will be neurological. 

The second major component of strength is the cross-sectional area of your muscle. You gain cross-sectional area, or hypertrophy  when you cause micro-trauma to muscle tissue through exercise. The stressed muscle repairs itself by having the myofibrils increase in thickness and number. Cross-sectional muscular gains take at least eight weeks of training. This is part of the reason to get your running gait re-analyzed every eight to twelve weeks. This gives an adequate amount of time for neurological and muscular strength adaptations to take place. 

A final word with regards to the idea that strength will “bulk you up and slow you down”. The main components contributing to muscle bulk are nutrition and the amount of testosterone in your body. You would have to work a muscle very hard, have the right amount of testosterone, and eat a specific diet to bulk up significantly. The amount of high intensity cardio most distance runners undergo keeps muscles lean, but we are often missing the strength to take full advantage of our high intensity workouts, which leads to injury and suboptimal performance.

Consider adding regular strength sessions into your weekly routine to help enhance running performance and prevent running injuries. Your body will thank you for it, and so will your mind when you hit that next PR because you didn’t break down half way through the race! 

Thank you for taking the time to read our RunLab™ Blog! We hope that you use this information to run more injury free and to optimize your running performance. 

For more information about the RunLab™ team and to get your running stride analyzed by one of the preeminent gait specialist teams in the country, please visit WWW.RUNLABAUSTIN.COM

Outside of the Austin area? You can still have your running stride analyzed by one of the best teams in the country. Just visit WWW.RUNLAB.US to see where our partner filming locations are based or choose the self-film option. 

RunLab™.  Helping runners help themselves.

ABOUT LORIN WILSON
RunLab™ Clinical Gait Specialist

Lucky enough to be a part of a great running program in high school, Lorin not only went on to win the 2007 Texas 4a State Championship in the mile but also went on to earn a track scholarship to the University of Texas at Austin. Lorin graduated from the The University of Texas at Austin with a major in Exercise Science and a minor in business. While still attending UT, he began coaching distance running at St. Stephen’s Episcopal school where he would coach student-athletes to break school records in the 400 meter, 800 meter, 1600 meter, 3200 meter, 5000 meter, 4×400 meters, and 4×800 meters. After graduating from UT and during his aforementioned tenure at St. Stephen’s, Lorin also worked for the local Austin non-profit Power For Parkinson’s as a fitness instructor, which provides free fitness programs for individuals with Parkinson’s disease. No longer a trainer at Power For Parkinson’s, Lorin does fundraising campaigns for Power For Parkinson’s. During this period he also started BlueSky Running LLC, which provided on-site Yoga programs for employees of the Austin Independent School District (teachers, administration, bus drivers etc).

Lorin has the following physical training certifications: National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) Certified Personal Trainer, Performance Enhancement Specialist (NASM), Corrective Exercise Specialist (NASM), Senior (elderly individuals) Fitness Specialist (NASM), Fitness Nutrition Specialist (NASM), RunLab Clinical Gait Specialist, USA Track & Field Level 1 Coach, and a USA Yoga Alliance 200 Hour Certified Yoga Instructor certification earned while studying in Rishikesh, India. Lorin is a MBA Graduate with an emphasis in Accounting from Texas State University. He was also the President of the Texas State MBA Student Association and a Future Texas Business Hall of Fame Scholarship Recipient.

Lorin has a marathon best of 2:37:05 (5:59 per mile pace) run at the 2011 Los Angeles Marathon. He ran his first 100 miler in 17 hours 30 minutes (10:15 per mile pace) in Flagstaff, Arizona in September 2018. He ran the 2019 Boston Marathon in 2:37:59. He also has three top 10 finishes (5th, 7th, and 10th) in the Capital 10,000, the largest 10k in Texas, with the latest two being 2016 and 2017. Lorin looks forward to working towards his goal of making high-quality fitness accessible to everyone while he continues to train for 100 mile races.

LEARN MORE:
RunLab™ Podcast RUN.
RunLab™ YouTube channel