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This blog is my professional view and opinions on anything related to massage and fitness. This may range from new therapies, training modes, interesting aspects of massage or fitness, to food, recovery and other aspects to remain in good overall health.

 

By Lee Weston, Jul 15 2018 07:09PM

Ultra-running has kind of become my thing over the last year, more through organic growth rather than an intension, and with the hills getting bigger and distances getting longer I wondered what all these people around me were doing with poles!? So running with poles is a thing and although you may write them off as cheating or gaining an unfair advantage, don’t knock it until you have tried it. I am now a massive fan and convert after recently trying them in the Mozart 100, a 103km ultra in the Austrian mountains, with 4500m of elevation. Without them it would have been an ugly affair. Also, if it’s allowed in the rules and regs of the race, which it is in most mountainous ultras, why not use the kit allowed to gain the most benefit within the race.


After a bit of research into the potential benefits, reading blogs and articles about how they are like Marmite, you love them or hate them, I thought it was worth a try. I have always known of the benefits of hiking with poles. They keep you more upright, therefore reducing the load on the quads and calves giving you more power from the glutes as well as off-loading the lower body and utilising the upper body. Some articles claimed a 40% increase in upper body use whilst using poles which is a huge aid to the lower body.


When my friend who I ran the Mozart 100 with was suffering from a knee issue leading into the race it seemed to make sense to use poles a bit earlier than intended. I had planned to practice running with them leading up to the Arc50, a 50 mile ultra in Feb when ground conditions would be treacherous and very hilly on the Cornish coast path. I decided to invest in a pair, not lightly though as they come at a cost! Made from carbon fiber or aluminum they are designed to fold up smaller for ease of packing away and also to save weight when running/carrying them. This makes them expensive £80+.


I bought a pair of Mountain King Trail Blaze Skyrunner Trail Poles off eBay but not long before realising I couldn’t take them on the plane in my hand luggage. So, I ended using normal light weight trekking poles borrowed from a client’s client who lived in Salzburg. Amazingly they do give you a lot of extra go, even on the level. They definitely take some getting used to but my friend wouldn’t have made it around the 103km without them and I would have been in a lot of pain! I found on the flats you could use them in an alternating swing pattern, and the same on ascents however you could double pole to give a big power uphill walking or running. I found the double pole most beneficial downhill to help reduce the load and impact also stabilising yourself on uneven/slippery descents. They definitely take some getting used to and wouldn’t be for everyone, but I was sold on them in 5-10minutes of using them, and that was just a normal light weight walking pole, not even a specific running pole. However, they do throw up a few logistical things to consider like where to carry them, feeding on the go etc.



Potential gains:

1. Offloads the legs and aids in the mechanics of ascents, descents and flats.

2. Increase upper body work out and opening up of the chest by being upright making it easier to get your breath when working hard.

3. Reduces the risk of injury / falls as helps stabilise yourself on your feet.

4. Reduces the likelihood of early fatigue.


Potential problems:


1. Your hands aren’t free to eat, drink or perform other tasks which can be annoying but just takes some time to get used to.

2. They aren’t permitted on airplanes in hand luggage so can be a pain if traveling light.

3. Consideration has to be given to where you store them on yourself when not using them as running holding them can be arduous.

4. They can be an expensive bit of kit if you don’t like running with them / utilise them enough within races.



Top tips if your considering using running poles:

1. Try before you buy, even if it’s with a trekking pole. You will soon find out a rhythm or whether it is for you or not.

2. Practice makes perfect. This is something I didn’t have the luxury of and had to play with it on race day (not ideal) but it will make you far more proficient and economic with your energy.

3. Think about how you will store them whist running that is easy to access and perform whilst fatigued.

4. Read reviews before you buy as there are pros and cons relating to the brands, material they are constructed from, wrist straps and the construction of them (Z folding or telescopic).

5. Make sure you get the right size too as most aren’t adjustable to save weight. A rough guide is multiplying your height by 0.7 or a pole length allowing your elbow to be at 90 degrees whilst you are holding the grip and the tip on the floor.


Hopefully this gives you a brief overview of a few things I experienced in researching, buying and using poles in the last month or so within my silly Ultras. For me it will be an essential bit of kit, first to be packed in my bag alongside my toilet roll, whistle and phone.



By Lee Weston, Mar 1 2018 02:44PM

With the running calendar for the year getting closer and closer as spring is around the corner this is a brief blog regarding the most common running injuries and how to combat them. Up to 79% of runners will get injured in any given year (1), so making sure you know what the main ones are and how to prevent them it key to sustaining your fitness and reaching your running goals.


The most prevalent injuries unsurprisingly occur within the lower body injuries, however upper body injuries do occur as a result of falls or load carrying (backpacks etc).


The Most Common Injuries Resulting from Running:


1. Patellofemoral Pain (knee pain)

2. Iliotibial band (ITB) syndrome

3. Tibial stress Fractures/ syndromes

4. Plantar fasciitis

5. Achilles tendonitis (2)


Of these I have experienced them all apart from No. 3, thank fully, at some point in time and prevention is much easier, cheaper and less frustrating than trying to get over some of these injuries whilst continuing to train.


The aetiology (causes) of running injuries are multifactorial but the main ones being overtraining, previous injury history, inappropriate /poorly fitting footwear as well as poor running mechanics. These are confounded if there are a combination of these risk factors and then perpetuated by an increase in weekly running mileage and history of previous injury as found in male runners specifically(3).


Among many anatomical differences in your running style / mechanics (gait and leg length differences and foot arch height) the biggest factor which impacts on lower body injuries, that we do have control over, is muscle strength imbalances in the lower limbs. This is the easiest preventative measure to make when planning your run training along with making sure you have the correct foot wear. Imbalances place greater strains on particular areas of the body finally leading to injury. E.g. if your gluteals are weak and inhibited then you can end up having ITB or knee injury as a result. With weak muscles fatigue sets in quicker and this is when injuries can occur as joint integrity is compromised.


Top Tips to Reduce Injury Risk:


1. Listen to your body- if you're feeling fatigued and supposed to be doing a tempo run then don't, reduce the intensity and take it slow. Or even cross train taking a low impact option instead like swimming or cycling.

2. Develop a specific training plan that from what you know about your own body and weaknesses as well as how you like to train. Everyone is different and an off the peg 10km training plan may not work best for you.

3. Get fitted with the correct shoes to suit your feet and running gait as well as the intended terrain you plan running on. Replace every 400-500 miles too.

4. Mobility and flexibility- make sure you cool down and stretch post runs, use the foam roller, attend yoga classes and also book in some regular sports massages. This will keep you supple and stop your muscles getting tight and fatiguing potentially leading to injury.

5. Strength training is key- make sure you address your weaknesses and stay balanced. Work on a good foundation of muscular endurance and then focus on strength training on your areas of weakness to stop early fatigue and compromised running mechanics.

6. Nutrition and hydration- stay hydrated and make sure you fuel yourself when training and running, both pre, during and after to gain the most from your training into race day.


From my own experience, which is backed up by research (4), the majority of running injuries are due to a sudden increase in mileage or excessive mileage. Again, it takes experience to know when to back off and take it easy so if you have the guidance of a trainer, or experienced runner then listen to them as they will save you a lengthy and painful injury & recovery process.


If you want any advice on how to structure your training for a race, how best to increase your distance/mileage or in a strength training program to improve your running, then please get in touch and we can discuss how I can help you.


Currently I am training myself for my 1st 100km Trail Ultra Marathon in June and chasing a PB in my road ½ and full marathon in April.


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(1) Altman A, Davis IS. (2012) Barefoot running: biomechanics and implications for running injureis. Current Sports Medicine Reports 11(5):244-50.

(2) Taunton JE, Ryan MB, Clement DB, McKenzie DC, Lloyd-Smith DR, Zumbo BD. (2002) A retrospective case-control analysis of 2002 running injuries. British Journal of Sports Medicine 36(2): 95-101.

(3) van Gent RN, Siem D, van Middelkoop M, van Os AG, Bierma-Zeinstra SMA, Koes BW. (2007) Incident and determinants of lower extremity running injuries in long distance runners: a systematic review. British Journal of Sports Medicine 41(8): 469-80.

(4) Jacob SJ, Benson BL. (1986) Injuries to runners: a study of entrants to a 10,000 metre race. The American Journal of Sports Medicine 14 (2): 151-5.




By Lee Weston, Jun 17 2016 03:11PM

6 miles from the end
6 miles from the end
Happy to be standing still at the finish
Happy to be standing still at the finish

So you are happy with half marathons and done the odd marathon but you find that road running is boring? As my friend and colleague said, “why not try this 40 mile coastal ultra-marathon?” An ultra-marathon is defined as anything over the distance of 26.2miles.


Having just finished my first marathon quicker than my expected goal I signed up without knowing the first thing about ultras, or the event. You expect it to be hard physically because it is longer in distance, so you prepare physically.


This started with short 60 min weekly run with my unwilling friends who also signed up to the race about 12 weeks prior to the event. These built up to 120 min run 2 weeks prior to the event. I was happy to do this as I knew I needed to get some miles under the belt and would do my own “long” run on the weekends. This would get progressively longer and then match the same hilly terrain as the event. The aim was to reach a 30 mile long run and an accumulated 40+ miles in a week, in the 2-3 weeks prior to the event.


This is where it all changed in my expectations. It went from being physically prepared to focusing on how to be mentally prepared. After running 26 miles relatively comfortable on easy terrain I decided to try to hit 30 miles over the North Cornwall / North Devon coast path. I reached 27 miles. 3 miles off my training target and 13 miles off the event distance. I couldn’t go any further. Limiting factors were being too fast (not having enough rest), being ill equipped (not enough electrolytes) and having the wrong strategy/ mind set. I knew I had got it all wrong when I mentally gave in and accepted 27 miles. I had underestimated it mentally, the speed I expected to run 30 miles, how I expected to feel ok physically after 30 miles, the factor of running by myself with no one to talk to for 6.5 hours. It made the last 3 miles too much.


So having missed one of my training targets I refocused. I managed to hit an accumulated 40 miles with a marathon and a 14 mile run in a week, 2 weeks prior to the event. But more importantly it was setting levels of goals that would allow me not to fail and know how to approach the event successfully.


The event: 40 miles. Hardest thing I have ever done, mentally. Not physically! Reaching 17 miles in at 3 hours 54 mins in with my back starting to cramp, wet, and the person in front dropping out it was all in the head! The hardest 11.5 miles I’ve ever done was after that, to reach the check point at mile 28 with the two biggest hills to come. Thankfully I had support waiting for me at the turn point and a fellow competitor to chat to on the final 11.5 miles which made them pass quickly. With single figures in distance remaining I only got faster. So much so my family missed me finishes the race!


Would I run that race again: no way! Would I do another race of similar distance- yes. It all comes down to my reasons for doing the race: 1. To finish 2. See a new part of the coast line in North Cornwall 3. Finish under ten hours (originally my goal was 8! That changed after my training runs) 4. Prove to myself I am capable, mentally and physically. 5. share the accomplishment of finishing with my friends



Top tips if you are thinking about running any distance, especially longer distances:


Physical training


1. Training: what works for you? Around your lifestyle, commitments, physical limitations and training preferences. Make it social, train with a friend. Schedule when to train at the best times for you. Train in the format that your body most likes, for me it was one long and one shorter run a week, both off road.


2. Eating: practice makes perfect. When training play with types (liquid or solid) and amounts of food. Don’t try something new on race day and see what agrees with your body/gut.


3. Kit: make sure you are prepared: trainers, sun cream & cap, layers, running pack. Ensure you leave nothing to chance as it can cause great discomfort. Best investment was my Hoka speedgoat trainers and Salomon S-Lab race pack.


Mental training


1. Set goals in levels: Make sure you have a goal you will always achieve and ones that you aspire to. For me it was to see the coast line, whether I finish or not that would have happened. Another was to finish, not a given but likely. The desired was to finish in a time. You will always come away from an event having learnt and achieved something if you set the right goals. If you don’t then you are likely to feel like you have failed.


2. What is your focus? Why are you doing this?: If your answer doesn’t have a deep desire and motivation you won’t do the training, you won’t get up at 6 am to run 20 miles before a day out with your family. You are setting yourself up to fail.


3. Mental strategy: Never think of the event as a whole, it will destroy you. Break it down in to manageable chunks. The first 10 miles. Then the following 10, then your over half way. Only 2 hours left, into single figures until the finish. I set my mile lap times in miles but total distance and speed in Km so I have to use mental arithmetic to keep myself busy trying to figure out predicted times to set points.



If you have any questions regarding how to train for a half, full or ultra-marathon then please contact me. Resistance training is also another important part to the equation. However it is mind over matter! If you want to know more about the things they don’t tell you about ultra-running then follow the link below- it is all very true!


http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/active/10956220/10-things-no-one-tells-you-before-you-run-an-ultra-marathon.html




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