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I'm a Mudder!

tough mudder pic

By: Sean McKiernan, Fitgeek Run Specialist

I’m a Mudder. I’ve got the orange band, t-shirt , and drank a beer to go with it. The Lake Tahoe Tough Mudder was my first and it was awesome. It was my first attempt at an obstacle course of that length but not only did I never regret or hate myself for signing up, I immediately signed up for the next one in my area.

Course Breakdown: 10-12 miles and 25 military style obstacles designed by British Special Forces to test you physically and mentally. There’s the possibility of running into obstacles that involve dirt/mud, fire, water/ice, and electricity but not a guarantee that you run into everything. I didn’t run into any obstacles that had fire blasting in our face but ran into plenty mud, water, and two electric obstacles.

What to bring: A good pair of shoes has got to be the top item I’d recommend. If you’re going to run a long distance, you should be comfortable. When it comes to apparel, it depends on what you’re looking for. Some people will run in costumes but if you’re looking for some performance gear to keep you comfortable during the run I’d recommend wearing moisture wicking apparel. Of my teammates, I was the only one wearing all moisture wicking apparel. My clothes dried within 20-30 minutes while my teammates were still wet throughout the whole race. I had brought a Camelbak with me to keep myself hydrated and it was easy enough to put aside for each obstacles and go back to get it. Some additional accessories to bring for the race day could be some kinesiology tape to help support the joints and muscles, blister protectors since you’ll be more likely to develop blisters when your feet are wet, or some sleeves/ braces if you’re prone to injury in certain areas. Maybe something post-race to help with your recovery as well like a foam roller or a muscle stick.

What I brought to my race weekend:

-Running shoes

-Trail shorts and compression shorts

-Moisture wicking socks

-Moisture wicking shirt

-Sunglasses

-Camelbak

-H20 Rocktape

-GUs, HoneyStinger bars and waffles

-Blister Protector kits

-Muscle Stick

-Foam Roller                                                                              

Experience Breakdown: Well, I think I mentioned that I immediately signed up for the next one in my area, right? That should give you and idea of how much I liked it. Best to sign up as soon as possible! Prices go up the longer you wait! Register now and take the challenge! Are you tough enough?

Crossfit for Runners

crossfit

If you ask a distance runner what their most important workout is they will probably respond with one of the following.

1.) “I love my week day maintenance runs because they are relaxing and enjoyable.”

2.) “I think my interval training is important because it helps me develop better speed.”

3.) “My long distance runs are most important because I need to be mentally tough for those long races.”

I doubt that many runners would say they do as many sets of 5 pullups, 10 pushups and 15 squats in 20 minutes.  Even fewer would probably consider doing 30 clean and jerks of 135 pounds as fast as possible.  Most runners you ask probably wouldn’t even know what a “clean and jerk” was.  Both of those workouts are CrossFit staples that go by the names of “Cindy” and “Grace”.  And I would recommend either of those as a great way for a runner to improve performance and reduce injury risk.

Crossfit has gained more of a name recently with a big sponsorship by Reebok and a competition every summer pitting the best Crossfit athletes from around the world against each other, but the main idea behind Crossfit is to become stronger for whatever you need to be stronger for.  The Nor Cal Crossfit affiliate describes Crossfit as Constantly Varied Functional Movements at High Intensity.  Every workout is able to find your weakness and help you improve on it. 

For runners a large number of injuries come from poor form, muscle imbalances and improper biomechanics.  Crossfit might not be able to fix your gait or speed up your cadence, but it will help to build up proportional strength throughout your entire body.  During distance races we all get tired and the less prepared for the distance your body is the quicker your form will fall apart.  The longer a runner goes the more their form breaks down leaving them susceptible to injury.  Crossfit is definitely not an instant fix for poor form and lifting weights may not be for everyone but including pushups, pullups, squats and burpies into your regular training will definitely help to strengthen your entire body.  Whether it’s to get stronger for your next big race or just to keep healthy and prevent injury Crossfit is a great way to get a full body workout.

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Strength Training Tips for Runners

Strength Training

Why is strength training beneficial?

Strength training can be beneficial for many reasons. Many injuries can be caused by imbalances in muscle strength. The body will work more efficiently if the muscles are trained properly. An imbalance in one area causes another area to work harder. Overexertion of these other areas can often lead to injury. Strength training is a good way to rehabilitate from and prevent injury.

When running long distances, runners burn through not just fuel, but through muscle as well. Burning through muscles can lead to less muscle to stabilize the joints.

What is strength training? What methods or equipment can you use?

Strength training is the use of resistance to muscle contractions to improve the strength, endurance, and/or size of muscles. Different methods of strength training can target the muscles with different results. Generally, higher repetitions focus on improving endurance, whereas higher intensity exercises focus on improving strength.

There are several different kinds of methods that can be used. Calisthenics involves using bodyweight and can be a nice balance between muscular endurance and strength development. Calisthenics can be progressed or regressed to a participants’ level. For example, adding weights or changing leverage in a way the participant is at a disadvantage would increase the difficulty.

What types of exercises are best for runners?

Exercises that would support the frame and alignment while running would be very beneficial. Strengthening as many/all the muscle groups is the most ideal way to balance the body and not cause any compensation. Also, distance running requires endurance; higher repetitions would increase stamina.

How often should runners strength train?

For distance runners, strength training should be done a minimum of 1-2 times a week to preserve lean muscle and/or on days that you are not running long distances. An upper body regiment is equally important as a lower body to synchronize an upper-lower body swing coordination. The upper-body swings opposingly to counter the lower-body, leading to a more efficient running pattern that will preserve energy.

What are some good exercises for runners?

  1. Squats: With your feet hip-width apart and your knees and hips bent, lower you torso downwards. Knees should be as close to above the ankle as possible. The torso leans forward to maintain balance with the glutes backwards but the back should remain straightened, not bent over.
  2. Plank and side-plank: While engaging the core muscles, keep the torso and legs straight and not bent while balancing on your forearms and forefoot. When in position, hold. Side-plank is a plank position with the body facing to the side.
  3. Push-ups: Laying flat on the ground, hands chest level and with forefoot contact on the ground, push your body upwards while keeping it as straight and level as possible.  Different distances between the hands can vary the intensity. For beginners that lack the strength for a full push-up, balancing on your knees, rather than your forefoot, can lower the intensity.
  4. Pull-ups/ Chin-ups: Hanging from a bar, pull yourself up until your elbows are bent with your head above your hands. Having the arms closer together, and/or with the palms facing the body, will put more emphasis on the bicep muscles.
  5. Burpees: From standing, drop to a squat and place hands on the floor. Kick the legs out into a pushup position. Return to a squatting position. Stand.

These five exercises can be combined into a variation of burpees. Step-by-step: Squat down, place your hands, extend legs out into a plank, switch into a side plank (doing both sides), plank, push-up, tuck into a fully squatted position, stand, pull-up.

 

Want to go Minimal?

Minimal shoes

Minimal shoes have been an increasingly popular option for different types of runners and athletes. While the idea of a shoe that allows an athlete to improve their natural biomechanics sounds like a great idea, there are more to minimal shoes than what meets the eye.

What are they?

A minimal shoe is a shoe that provides significantly less support than a traditional running shoe. The support in the heel, midfoot and arch is significantly less, which depending on body mechanics, can be a good or bad thing. With good running mechanics, having less support/cushion can be beneficial since it cuts down on unnecessary weight. Bad mechanics, however, can lead to injury because there is not as much supportive cushion to help correct inefficient running form. Because minimal shoes have less support, they are very light and generally form around the foot.

After prominent Olympic star Zola Budd became famous for running/training barefoot, and Christopher McDougall’s national bestseller novel “Born to Run,” the interest for minimal shoes arose. Nike released the first “Free-Runs” in 2004, then two years later Vibram came out with the first “Five Finger” shoes. The drop in minimal shoes between the heel and forefoot is anywhere from 4 mm to 0 mm, as opposed to a traditional shoe that is around 12 mm. A minimal running shoe can help an athlete run more naturally by utilizing a more efficient foot strike, cadence and gait.

Different Types of Minimal Shoes

Just like regular shoes, minimal shoes vary from each other. Each brand/model has its own unique characteristics. For example the Merrell Trail Glove is a shoe that has a 0 mm drop (the height difference between the heel and forefoot). This means the shoe has no slope, and has the least amount of support. Another example would be the New Balance Minimus which also has a 0 drop. A level up from that would be a shoe with a 4 mm drop, such as the Saucony Kinvara or the Brooks PureCadence. These shoes have a bit more support than a zero drop shoe.

Some other minimal shoes are:

  • Merrell Road Glove - 0 mm drop
  • Merrell Dash Glove - 0 mm drop
  • Merrell Pace Glove - 0 mm drop
  • Merrell Bare Access - 0 mm drop
  • Vibram 5 Fingers - 0 mm drop
  • New Balance Minimus - 0 mm drop
  • Saucony Hattori - 0 mm drop
  • Brooks PureCadence - 4 mm drop
  • Brooks PureGrit - 4 mm drop
  • Brooks PureConnect - 4 mm drop
  • Brooks PureFlow - 4 mm drop
  • Saucony Mirage - 4 mm drop
  • Saucony Kinvara - 4 mm drop
  • Nike Free Run 4.0 v3 - 4 mm drop

Who can wear these shoes?

Some steps should be taken before going minimal. Going to your local specialty running store would be a good idea, since they can provide more information in regards to your own foot type and unique running style. Not everyone’s foot type is an ideal candidate for a minimal shoe. Minimal shoes are most suitable for people who tend to have a “normal” foot type, where the alignment of the foot is straight, or close to straight. Foot types which are not aligned between the forefoot and rearfoot may have problems with minimal footwear. These foot types are often unstable due to imbalances and intrinsic weakness in the foot. As a result, there could be excessive internal rotation called overpronation. This places stress on the foot, ankles and legs. Because there is not a lot of support in minimal shoes, having good running mechanics is also helpful. But that doesn’t mean people who over-pronate or don’t run regularly can’t go minimal. If you don’t run regularly, beginning to run in a traditional shoe is important. After your body becomes used to running, the transition to a minimal shoe will be much easier. Try walking or doing light jogging in minimal shoes at first to help strengthen the muscles in the foot.

Pros

Like most things in running, there are pros and cons for going minimal. Some great things about going minimal is being more connected to the ground, improving your efficiency, form, and strengthening your overall body. This is not to say that someone can not improve their running form in a traditional shoe, however a minimal shoe can facilitate a more natural foot strike. A study by Daniel Lieberman (Harvard University) in 2010 showed that running barefoot/minimal puts less stress on the body, since you are more likely to land on your midfoot. After going minimal many people say that it is actually more comfortable than wearing a traditional soft, cushioned shoe. In the long run, minimal shoes may also help cut down on overuse injuries, because with a more efficient foot landing, there is less impact and rotation of the body. Minimal shoes are also significantly lighter than traditional running shoes, which cuts down on weight and improves flexibility.

Cons

On the other hand, there are some things to consider in wearing a minimal shoe: they have less support/cushion, it takes time to get adjusted to minimal shoes, and there is a higher risk of injury if not transitioned appropriately. For people who just begin wearing minimal shoes, there may be some soreness at first. It takes time to become fully adjusted to minimal shoes because you are engaging parts of your body that weren't being used before. Just as if you were strengthening your arms or legs at the gym, your feet need some time to become stronger also. Some common injuries for minimal runners range from shin splints to knee pain, to overuse stress fractures. Other injuries such as plantar fasciitis and achilles tendonitis are common, especially if you do not gradually transition into running minimal. Sore or even pulled calf muscles are also common because the transition to a midfoot strike engages more calf muscles. Overall, there are many different aspects that should be taken into account when choosing the appropriate shoe for you, whether it be minimal or traditional.

 

The New Balance Minimus Have Arrived!

New Balance Minimus

After months of anticipation, the New Balance Minimus MR00 and WR00 have arrived!  These super-lightweight shoes will be sure to please minimalist and barefoot enthusiasts.  We just got a pair ourselves to test run and they are awesome!

CW-X Stabilyx Tights – Product Review

CW-X Stabilyx Tights

I have been wearing this product for several years now and I believe it is the best performing tight on the market.   Basically, the tights contain a support web technology that mimics kinesiology taping.  This helps to stabilize major muscle groups in your legs and core, provide compression to reduce fatigue, and improve efficiency by minimizing extraneous tissue movement.  

My problem areas for running have chronically been my IT band and my knees.   These tights are TIGHT and wrap around my knees perfectly.  When you put them on you definitely feel the compression, too.  And even though they are TIGHT – it feels tight in a good way.   (They also make me look skinnier which is always a plus).

Bottom line: they increase stability and balance, provide better shock resistance for the joints, and increase circulation so I can run longer.  They aren’t cheap at $100 but they’ll last forever if you treat them right (wash gentle, hang dry).  They perform well for training runs or race days.  And, oh yeah they are one of Oprah’s favorite things so they must be good, right?

Grand Opening Celebration + Active Release Therapy

Saturday, January 28th 11 AM

Join us in celebration of our grand opening!  We are very excited to have this opportunity to open a small business that supports an active lifestyle as well as our local community. 

We will have food, drinks, raffle prizes, AND an Active Release Therapy demonstration by local family chiropractor Dr. Cassandra Mason DC, QME, ART.    Dr. Mason will bring her table and offer complimentary ART to those that are interested!

Active release therapy is a movement based massage technique that treats back pain, shin splints, shoulder pain, plantar fasciitis, and knee problems are just some of the conditions that can be resolved with ART. 

For more information about this and other events, see our website at http://www.fitgeeksports.com/runs-events/

“Good luck with your new business! Hope you don’t end up like everyone else!”

This has been more or less the conversation I have been having lately with various people: such as the Fedex guy, the roof guy, the homeless guy, friends, family, and of course even myself.  Starting your own business is…hard.   Really hard.  No matter if it is a running store, a dry cleaner, or a tech company. 

The scariest part is the unknown.  What’s going to happen?  Am I going to fail or am I going to succeed?  Most people would probably say that the biggest risk in starting your own business is losing all of the money that you put into starting it.  But really, I think that the biggest risk is that of being a failure; the feeling that for some reason you weren’t good enough so that’s why the business didn’t succeed.  

Growing up, I always wanted to be in a profession in which I could help people in some capacity.  In college, I thought I was gong to be a psychologist.  Then, I went into teaching.  Next, I studied to be a dietician.  And now I have decided to start a running store and oddly enough, I think I finally got it right.  Why am I crazy enough to start a running retail store in one of the worst economic climates?  I guess it’s really quite simple.  I love this sport and I just want to help people realize their goals.

Health and fitness is one of the few things that I get really excited and happy about sharing with others.  I know that it is going to be tough.  I know there is certainly a lot of competition out there with plenty more money to spend on inventory and marketing than myself.   But that’s the thing about starting your own business.  Despite all of the ups and downs and all of us the naysayers, you must have a strong, enduring unshakeable belief in yourself and what you’re doing.  It must be so strong that you even have the power to tell your own worst inner critic to shut up and go away.  

No matter what happens in the future I am really happy that I decided to take on this challenge.  Yes, this is testing my skills, my relationships with loved ones, and even my drive to succeed.  But this is evolving into one of the best experiences of my life.  

Warriorism #25

Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.

- John F. Kennedy Jr.

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