Category Archives: General

Stretching the Tensor Fasciae Latae and the Iliotibial Band

That’s what the authors of Core Assessment and Training explain in this excerpt reprinted here with permission of the publisher, Human Kinetics.

The tensor fasciae latae (TFL) muscle arises from the upper anterior portion of the pelvis, and it inserts into the iliotibial band (ITB). The ITB is a tendinous structure extending from the gluteus maximus and the tensor fasciae latae. The ITB inserts at the fibular head, the lateral patellar retinaculum, and Gerdy’s tubercle on the lateral aspect of the tibia (Paluska 2005; Messier et al. 1995). Pain in this lateral region is common for certain types of athletes such as distance runners.

Irritation to the ITB (known as iliotibial band syndrome) has been a source of pain for those who ramp up their training mileage too quickly and those who train incorrectly. Treatment programs include stretching the ITB as a key component to a comprehensive rehabilitation program. The following set of stretches will address both the tensor fasciae latae and the iliotibial band.

Static Stretching Techniques for the TFL and ITB

Starting position: The client is standing near a wall and is using the arm closest to the wall to provide support. The leg closest to the wall is crossed behind the opposite leg.

Movement: To create the stretch, the client side bends the trunk away from the wall.

Variations: The client is positioned in the same starting pose. She brings her hands together above her head. To create the stretch, the client side bends to the side opposite the hip being stretched while keeping her arms extended overhead. Researchers found that this position provided the best pose for increasing ITB length (Fredericson et al. 2002).

Dynamic Stretching Techniques for the TFL and ITB

Starting position: The client assumes a standing position with the legs approximately shoulder-width apart.

Movement: The client first lifts the knee out to the side and then swings the foot to the front of the body to take the next step.

Muscles: This dynamic stretch addresses the hip flexors, the hip abductors, the hip external rotators, the TFL, and the quadriceps.

Foam Roll Application for the Iliotibial Band

Starting position: The client assumes a side-lying position on the foam roll. The client flexes the hip of the top leg and positions it so that the foot can rest to the front of the bottom leg.

Movement: The client rolls his body the length of the upper leg (from the top of the pelvis to a point just below the knee joint).

Determine your weekly mileage

Despite the author’s name, Jack Daniels, you don’t have to like whiskey to enjoy this book. It “provides you with his proven VDOT formula to guide you through training at exactly the right intensity to become a faster, stronger runner.”

Here’s an excerpt from Daniels’ Running Formula with permission of the publisher, Human Kinetics.

“A good measure of how much work you’re doing as a runner is how much distance you’re covering. It costs just about the same amount of energy to run eight miles in 40 minutes as it does to run eight miles in 60 minutes; you’re doing the same amount of work–only the rate is different. However, the amount of work (mileage) that you’re performing represents only part of the stress to which you’re subjecting yourself. Slower runners spend more time accumulating the same mileage covered by faster runners, and more time on the road means more footfalls, more landing impact, and a greater chance for increased fluid loss and elevated body temperature. Thus, although mileage achieved is a logical starting point, it’s also useful to keep track of total time spent running.

Keep track of your weekly mileage so that you can use this record as a basis for how much of the various types of quality work you do and so that your training is consistent. Just as you use your current VDOT or (based on current racing ability) to guide your training intensities, you can use your current weekly mileage to set limits on quality sessions–but use time spent running to log points accumulated at various intensities of running.

In the case of weekly mileage, remember the principles of stress and reaction (principle 1, page 8) and diminishing return (principle 5, page 12) I discussed in chapter 1. Stay with a set amount of mileage for at least three weeks before increasing your mileage. This gives your body a chance to adjust to and benefit from a particular load before moving on to a more demanding one. When it’s time to increase your mileage, add to your weekly total as many miles (or one and a half times as many kilometers) as the number of training sessions you’re doing each week, up to a maximum of a 10-mile (15-kilometer) total adjustment. For example, after at least three weeks of 20 miles per week spread over five training sessions, your maximum increase should be 5 miles or 7.5 kilometers–1 mile (or 1.5 kilometers) for each of the five sessions you’re doing each week. In this case, you would be moving from 20 to 25 miles per week.

A runner who’s doing 10 or more workout sessions per week could increase his or her weekly total by 10 miles, after spending at least three weeks at the previous amount. Let a 10-mile (15-kilometer) weekly increase be the maximum mileage change, even if you’re running two or more daily sessions seven days a week. Another way of dealing with increases in weekly training load is to add to the weekly total the lesser of 60 minutes per week or 6 minutes multiplied by the number of training sessions you undertake each week.

I think that two hours a day of running is quite a lot, and it’s unusual for even elite runners to run more than three hours a day (about 30 miles a day for an elite distance runner). Remember that stress is a function of time spent doing something, and that’s why a 20-mile run is more stressful for a slow runner than for a faster one. It’s not just the 20 miles but the time spent completing those 20 miles. The increased number of steps can wear you down, and the extra hour in the heat or on slick roads can take its toll. To avoid overtraining and injury, slower runners might have to run less total mileage than faster runners.”

Drills to improve running form

Yes, there is more to running than simply going to the road and starting. Over the years, you’ll be able to run faster, more efficient, and with less injury by having better form. Here’s an excerpt from Running Anatomy that will help. It’s published with permission of Human Kinetics.

“ABC Running Drills

Other than with strength training, how can running form and performance be improved? Because running has a neuromuscular component, running form can be improved through form drills that coordinate the movements of the involved anatomy. The drills, developed by coach Gerard Mach in the 1950s, are simple to perform and cause little impact stress to the body. Essentially, the drills, commonly referred to as the ABCs of running, isolate the phases of the gait cycle: knee lift, upper leg motion, and pushoff. By isolating each phase and slowing the movement, the drills, when properly performed, aid the runner’s kinesthetic sense, promote neuromuscular response, and emphasize strength development. A properly performed drill should lead to proper running form because the former becomes the latter, just at a faster velocity. Originally these drills were designed for sprinters, but they can be used by all runners. Drills should be performed once or twice a week and can be completed in 15 minutes. Focus on proper form.

A Motion

The A motion (figure 3.2; the movement can be performed while walking or more dynamically as the A skip or A run) is propelled by the hip flexors and quadriceps. Knee flexion occurs, and the pelvis is rotated forward. The arm carriage is simple and used to balance the action of the lower body as opposed to propelling it. The arm opposite to the raised leg is bent 90 degrees at the elbow, and it swings forward and back like a pendulum, the shoulder joint acting as a fulcrum. The opposite arm is also moving simultaneously in the opposite direction. Both hands should be held loosely at the wrist joints and should not be raised above shoulder level. The emphasis is on driving down the swing leg, which initiates the knee lift of the other leg.

B Motion

The B motion (figure 3.3) is dependent on the quadriceps to extend the leg and the hamstrings to drive the leg groundward, preparing for the impact phase. In order, the quadriceps extend the leg from the position of the A motion to potential full extension, and then the hamstrings group acts to forcefully drive the lower leg and foot to the ground. During running the tibialis anterior dorsiflexes the ankle, which positions the foot for the appropriate heel landing; however, while performing the B motion, dorsiflexion should be minimized so that the foot lands closer to midstance. This allows for less impact solely on the heel, and because the biomechanics of the foot are not involved as in running, it does not promote any forefoot injuries.

C Motion

The final phase of the running gait cycle is dominated by the hamstrings. Upon impact, the hamstrings continue to contract, not to limit the extension of the leg but to pull the foot upward, under the glutes, to begin another cycle. The emphasis of this exercise (figure 3.4) is to pull the foot up, directly under the buttocks, shortening the arc and the length of time performing the phase so that another stride can be commenced. This exercise is performed rapidly, in staccato-like bursts. The arms are swinging quickly, mimicking the faster movement of the legs, and the hands come a little higher and closer to the body than in either the A or B motions. A more pronounced forward lean of the torso, similar to the body position while sprinting, helps to facilitate this motion.”

Case for stretching before running

Given these frigid temps, it’s important to consider when to warm up and stretch. Here’s a good article on why you need to stretch from Running Well, printed with permission of Human Kenetics.

“Despite conflicting evidence on it’s benefits, we think neglecting to stretch is a bad idea! The trouble is, because many of us dislike it, we don’t spend enough time or effort on stretching and then it doesn’t work – reinforcing our belief that it’s a waste of time. However, doing it properly may result in a very different experience. To understand why, you need to know a little about what stretching does. what happens when you stretch? When you first take, say, your calf muscle, into a stretch, muscle “spindles” located among the muscle fibers detect a change in the muscle’s length and report back to the spinal cord. The nervous system sends a message to the nerves governing these fibers to tell the muscle to contract, in order to take it out of the stretched position. This is known as the “stretch reflex.” However, if the stretch is maintained for more than a few seconds (which, in many a runner’s case, it is not!), another, more sophisticated receptor, located where the muscle attaches to the tendon and called a Golgi tendon organ, comes into play. This receptor can detect not only changes in the length of the muscle but also in the amount of tension it holds. So, hold that stretch and the Golgi tendon organ, noting that the muscle fibers are contracting and lengthening, triggers a reflex relaxation of the muscle (via a process called autogenic inhibition) to protect the muscle from damage. This is why easing into a stretch slowly and then holding it allows the muscle to relax and lengthen. Over time, stretching can increase the length of the muscle, or at least maintain it at – or restore it to – its optimal functioning length. But why does this matter? Well, running, as you probably realize, involves repeated contractions of specific muscles over a long period of time. This can leave the muscle fibers shorter in length than normal, and misaligned (like hair that needs combing). Stretching is the process we use to restore muscles to their resting length and realign these fibers. Without it, we risk them shortening permanently (by a process called adaptive shortening) and, in doing so, altering the function of the joints they are connected to. For example, if the hip flexors (which work very hard in running) tighten and shorten, they pull the front of the pelvis down and throw the lower back out of alignment, which can have all sorts of knock-on effects.

What’s more, flexibility naturally declines as we age if we don’t maintain it – and changes take place in muscle fibers and connective tissue. Collagen fibers within the connective tissue thicken and, without regular stretching, get stiffer. Soft tissue becomes more dehydrated, decreasing joint lubrication and causing creakiness. One study concluded that stiffness and lack of flexibility were more a result of lack of use than of age per se, while another – on ageing runners – found that stride length declined primarily as a result of decreased range of motion at the hips and knees. Range of motion at the knees during running decreased by 33 percent and at the hips by 38 percent between the ages of 35 and 90. So, while we can’t categorically say that stretching will reduce injury risk or improve performance, it will help to restore muscles to their resting length after the continual contraction involved in running, help to maintain range of motion in the joints and prevent tightness and imbalances between muscle groups.

Six more reasons to stretch
* A flexible joint uses less energy to work through its full range of motion, so good flexibility will enable you to run more efficiently.
* Increased supply of blood and nutrients to joint structures helps keep them healthy and mobile.
* Stretching improves neuromuscular coordination (the nerve impulses that travel from the body to the brain and back).
* Muscular balance, body awareness and posture are enhanced.
* Stretching helps to flush out metabolic waste products post-run.
* It gives you time out to relax and reflect on your session.

When to do it
When – and how often – should you stretch? Ideally every day, suggests research in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine, which found increases in both muscle force and power in subjects who stretched daily for several weeks. The benefits ranged from 2 to 5 percent improvement, which, they estimated, could make the difference to an elite athlete betweenwinning a gold and not making the podium at all –small, but worthwhile, gains. Another study showed that running speed improved as a result of regular stretching when it was not performed immediately prior to exercise, but this was in sprinters, so may not be so relevant to distance runners. Even more important than the possibility of shaving a few seconds off your time is the possible reduction in injury risk. While it is now widely believed that there is no evidence that stretching reduces injury risk, this refers to stretching pre-workout, as part of a warm-up, not as a separate regular practice. Three studies have found a significant decrease in injury risk as a result of regular stretching – or, to put it more accurately, as a result of good flexibility.”

Proper technique to water running

Many of us know what water running is because we’ve been injured and wanted to keep the cardio up or as a preventative measure to reduce the bodily stress of pounding pavement. Here’s an excerpt from Running Anatomy. It’s published with permission of Human Kinetics.

“Most runners have been introduced to water running as a rehabilitative tool for maintaining cardiorespiratory fitness after incurring an injury that precludes dryland running. However, runners should not assume that aquatic training’s only benefit is injury rehabilitation. Running in water, specifically deep-water running (DWR), is a great tool for preventing overuse injuries associated with a heavy volume of aerobic running training. Also, because of the drag associated with running in water, an element of resistance training is associated with water running that does not exist in traditional running-based training.

Although shallow-water running is a viable alternative to DWR, its benefits tend to be related to form and power. Although the improvement of form and power is important, it comes at a cost. Because shallow-water running requires impact with the bottom of a pool, it has an impact component (although the force is mitigated by the density of the water). For a runner rehabbing a lower leg injury, shallow-water running could pose a risk of injury. More important, balance and form are easier to attain in shallow-water running because of a true foot plant. Fewer core muscles are engaged to center the body, as in DWR, and there is a resting period during contact that does not exist in DWR. For our purposes, all water-related training exercises focus on DWR.

In performing a DWR workout, proper body positioning is important. The depth of the water should be sufficient to cover the entire body: Only the tops of the shoulders, the neck, and the head should be above the surface of the water. The feet should not touch the bottom of the pool. Runners tend to have more lean body mass than swimmers, making them less buoyant; therefore, a flotation device will be necessary. If a flotation device is not worn, body position can become compromised and an undue emphasis is placed on the muscles of the upper body and arms to keep the body afloat.

Once buoyed in the water, assume a body position similar to dryland running. Specifically, the head is centered, there is a slight lean forward at the waist, and the chest is “proud,” or expanded, with the shoulders pulled back, not rotated forward. Elbows are bent at 90 degrees, and movement of the arms is driven by the shoulders. The wrists are held in a neutral position, and the hands, although not clenched, are more closed than on dry land in order to push through the resistance of the water. The strength gained from performing wrist curls and reverse wrist curls are beneficial for this.

Leg action is more akin to faster-paced running than general aerobic running because of the propulsive force needed for overcoming the resistance caused by the density of the water. The knee should be driven upward to an approximate 75-degree angle at the hip. The leg is then driven down to almost full extension (avoiding hyperextension) before being pulled upward directly under the buttocks before the process is repeated with the other leg.

During the gait cycle, the feet change position from no flexion (imagine standing on a flat surface) when the knee is driving upward to approximately 65 degrees of plantarflexion (toes down) at full extension. This foot movement against resistance both facilitates the mechanics of running form and promotes joint stability and muscle strength as a result of overcoming the resistance caused by drag.

Due to the unnatural training environment (water) and the resistance created when driving the arms and legs, improper form is common when beginning a DWR training program. Specifically, it is common to make a punting-like motion with the forward leg instead of snapping it down. This error is due to fatigue of the hamstrings from the water resistance, resulting in poor mechanics. To correct this error, rest at the onset of the fatigue, and don’t perform another repetition until the time goal is met. Do not try to push through it. You won’t gain fitness, and you will gain poor form.

DWR is effective because it elevates the heart rate, similar to dryland running. And because of the physics of drag, it requires more muscular involvement, thus strengthening more muscles than dryland running does without the corresponding overuse injuries associated with such training. Specifically, it eliminates the thousands of impact-producing foot strikes incurred during non-DWR running.”

Author shares his swimming secrets (podcast)

Swimming anatomy is quickly becoming a top seller for those wanting to learn more in depth about their swimming. Here’s a podcast by the author of from Swimming Anatomy. It’s published with permission of Human Kinetics.

“Ian McLeod, is the author of Swimming Anatomy. Recommended by USA Swimming, McLeod has extensive experience working with world-class athletes, particularly swimmers. A certified athletic trainer and certified massage therapist, he was a member of the U.S. team’s medical staff at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing. He has also worked extensively as an athletic trainer with the sports programs at the University of Virginia and Arizona State University.”

Signs you need to rest?

Understanding the difference between being tired, fatigue, and over-training is important to progress in training. Here’s a very helpful excerpt from “The Runner’s Edge” that might help. It’s published with permission of Human Kinetics.

“Managing fatigue by reducing your training as necessary is one of your most important responsibilities as a competitive runner. Fatigue is a symptom of incomplete physiological adaptation to recently completed training. When fatigue persists, it means that your body is not benefiting from the hard training that is causing your fatigue. A day or two of soreness and low energy after hard workouts is normal and indeed much preferable to never feeling fatigued, which would indicate that you weren’t training hard enough to stimulate positive fitness adaptations. Extended recovery deficits, however, must be avoided at all costs.

You can minimize the need for spontaneous training reductions simply by training appropriately. Don’t ramp up your training workload too quickly (obey the guideline of 5 CTL – chronic training load-points per week), don’t try to do more than three hard workouts per week, follow each hard day with an easy day (featuring an easy run, an easy cross-training workout, or complete rest), and plan reduced-workload recovery weeks into your training every few weeks. Even if you take these measures, however, you will, assuming you train as hard as you can within these parameters, find yourself sometimes feeling flat on days when you had hoped and expected to feel strong for a harder workout, or find your fatigue level building and building over several days. At these times it’s important that you listen to your body and reduce your training for a day or two or three to put your body back on track.

Technology is no substitute for your own perceptions in these cases. No device can measure your recovery status and readiness to train hard any better than your own body can. When your body is poorly recovered from recent hard training, you can always feel it. And when factors outside of your training, such as lack of sleep or job stress, compromise your capacity to perform, you can always feel that. Before you even lace up your shoes, you know that you’re not going to have a good day because of the heaviness, sluggishness, soreness, or low motivation you feel. Your body itself is an exquisitely crafted piece of technology whose primary function is self-preservation. One of the most important mechanisms that your body uses to preserve your health through hard training is a set of symptoms of poor recovery (those just named) that encourage you to take it easy when that’s what your body needs most. It’s important that you learn to recognize these symptoms and get in the habit of obeying them. Pay attention to how your body feels before each workout and then note how you perform in the run so that you can discern patterns. Through this habit you will develop the ability to anticipate when it’s best to reduce workouts or take a day off and when to go through with planned training.

Technology can be an adjunct to listening to your body in making such decisions. We recommend three specific practices: monitoring your resting pulse, correlating poor workout performances with training stress balance, and performing a neuromuscular power test.
Resting Pulse

The first practice is monitoring your resting pulse, or performing orthostatic testing, as described in chapter 1. Look for patterns in the relationship between the numbers observed in orthostatic testing and how you perform in your workouts. (It will take at least three weeks for such patterns to become observable.) If, for example, you always perform poorly in workouts on days when your morning pulse is at least four beats per minute higher than normal, you can use this information to change your workout plans as soon as you observe a high morning pulse reading instead of waiting to find out the hard way that you need a recovery day (that is, by feeling lousy in the planned run).
Training Stress Balance

A second way to use technology in determining whether and when you need a rest is to note where especially poor workouts and stale patches of training tend to fall in relation to your ATL, CTL, and TSB. Specifically, on days when you have a harder run planned and you expect to feel ready to perform well but instead you feel fatigued and have a subpar performance, note your present ATL, CTL, and TSB. The next time these variables line up in a similar way, you will know to expect lingering fatigue and can alter your training accordingly. Don’t expect to find 100 percent predictability through this exercise, however, because many other variables factor into your daily running performance that these variables do not capture.

These variables may be somewhat more reliable in predicting the multiday stale patches that sometimes occur during periods of hard training. For example, you might find that you always hit a stale patch when your CTL exceeds 50, or when your TSB drops below −20, or when these two things happen simultaneously. Again, once you have observed such a pattern, you can take future actions to reduce the frequency of those stale patches.
Neuromuscular Power Test

Finally, you can use a neuromuscular power test to assess your recovery status. Research has shown that when the body is carrying lingering fatigue from endurance training, maximal power performance is compromised. Your maximum sprint speed is one good indicator of your current neuromuscular power. Running a set of short sprints once a week is a good way to increase and then maintain your stride power, but it also serves as a reliable recovery status indicator. For example, each Monday, after completing a short, easy recovery run, you might run 4 to 10 × 10 seconds uphill on the same hill each time at maximum speed. After completing the sprints, note the highest speed achieved. Pay attention to how you perform in the next hard workout that follows a sprint set in which your maximum speed is lower than normal. Through this process you might locate a maximum speed threshold that indicates the need to alter your training plans for additional recovery.”

A strong core is essential for powerful swimming

Here’s a terrific excerpt from “Swimming Anatomy” published with permission of Human Kinetics.

“To move your body efficiently through the water, a coordinated movement of the arms and legs must occur. The key to this coordinated movement is a strong core, of which the muscles of the abdominal wall are a primary component. Besides helping to link the movement of the upper and lower body, the abdominal muscles assist with the body-rolling movements that take place during freestyle and backstroke and are responsible for the undulating movements of the torso that take place during butterfly, breaststroke, and underwater dolphin kicking.

The abdominal wall is composed of four paired muscles that extend from the rib cage to the pelvis. The muscles can be divided into two groups—a single anterior group and two lateral groups that mirror each other. The anterior group contains only one paired muscle, the rectus abdominis, which is divided into a right and left half by the midline of the body. The two lateral groups each contain a side of the remaining three paired muscles—the external oblique, internal oblique, and transversus abdominis (figure 5.1). In human motion and athletics, the abdominal muscles serve two primary functions: (1) movement, specifically forward trunk flexion (curling the trunk forward), lateral trunk flexion (bending to the side), and trunk rotation; and (2) stabilization of the low back and trunk. The motions mentioned earlier result from the coordinated activation of multiple muscle groups or the activation of a single muscle group.

The rectus abdominis, popularly known as the six pack, attaches superiorly to the sternum and the surrounding cartilage of ribs 5 through 7. The fibers then run vertically to attach to the middle of the pelvis at the pubic symphysis and pubic crest. The six-pack appearance results because the muscle is divided by and encased in a sheath of tissue called a fascia. The visible line running along the midline of the body dividing the muscle in two halves is known as the linea alba. Contraction of the upper fibers of the rectus abdominis curls the upper trunk downward, whereas contraction of the lower fibers pulls the pelvis upward toward the chest. Combined contraction of both the upper and lower fibers rolls the trunk into a ball.

The muscles of the two lateral groups are arranged into three layers. The external oblique forms the most superficial layer. From its attachment on the external surface of ribs 5 through 12, the fibers run obliquely (diagonally) to attach at the midline of the body along the linea alba and pelvis. If you were to think of your fingers as the fibers of this muscle, the fibers would run in the same direction as your fingers do when you put your hand into the front pocket of a pair of pants. Unilateral (single-sided) contraction of the muscle results in trunk rotation to the opposite side, meaning that contraction of the right external oblique rotates the trunk to the left. Bilateral contraction results in trunk flexion.

The next layer is formed by the internal oblique. The orientation of its fibers is perpendicular to those of the external oblique. This muscle originates from the upper part of the pelvis and from a structure known as the thoracolumbar fascia, which is a broad band of dense connective tissue that attaches to the spine in the upper- and lower-back region. From its posterior attachment, the internal oblique wraps around to the front of the abdomen, inserting at the linea alba and pubis. Unilateral contraction rotates the trunk to the same side, and bilateral contraction leads to trunk flexion. The deepest of the three layers is formed by the transversus abdominis, so named because the muscle fibers run transversely (horizontally) across the abdomen. The transversus abdominis arises from the internal surface of the cartilage of ribs 5 through 12, the upper part of pelvis, and the thoracolumbar fascia. The muscle joins with the internal oblique to attach along the midline of the body at the linea alba and pubis. Contraction of the transversus abdominis does not result in significant trunk motion, but it does join the other muscles of the lateral group to function as a core stabilizer. An analogy that often helps people grasp the core-stabilizing function of the muscles of the lateral group is to think of them as a corset that, when tightened, holds the core in a stabilized position.”