Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Anatomy for Runners by Jay Dicharry

Over the course of a year I read quite a few books on a range of issues. Some are related to my day job and would be of little interest to many of those who have found this post. Those that are related to my triathlon obsession will get streaky in the topics I choose. Sometimes I read a lot on cycling, or injury prevention, or diet, or whatever I have on my mind for a period of time. At other times I just go randomly from subject to subject. Lately my reading has been more diverse.

Anatomy for Runners by Jay Dicharry, MPT, SCS is a book about running that is about more than just running. What you won't find here are training plans or how to reach your marathon goals in 16 weeks. Instead what you get is a book that the runner or triathlete can use to avoid being a part of the 75% of us who get sidelined with an injury each year. Anatomy for Runners is the book you can use to keep you out there running on a consistent basis.

The author states very clearly that the "book's aim is to reveal how the musculoskeletal system responds to running and how to optimize this relationship." He does this by taking you through the real basics of running - physics, anatomy, mobility, biomechanics, footwear and the runner's gait. While you could skip along and just go to the assessment and corrective exercises, having an understanding of what could be wrong (and figuring out what is more correct for your body) is an important step for long-term success.

After getting through the background information, Chapter 9 (Assessment) is where you start to find out what might need to be corrected. There are ten tests - 5 focused on mobility, 5 dealing with stability. Dicharry believes the best time to take these tests is, in his own words, "Now!"

If you are suffering from injury or not, he believes it is important to figure out what underlying issues you may have and correct them asap. Because "if you fix the factors driving your problem, you not only help your current problem, you also decrease your chances of getting another injury related to the same cause. Imbalances that take our body away from the norm cause problems, and these problems are usually present well before you have pain." With each test you get some suggestions on how you can improve what is being tested.

In Chapter 10 (Corrective Exercises) you get the exercises needed to fix your underlying issues. For each exercise you get a picture or to as well as an explanation of what you are doing and why you are doing it. Very easy to understand.

I took myself through the tests and found an interesting little connection to an ongoing thing I have had going on with (I thought) my hips. Really what has been an issue appears to resonate from my glutes, and can be fixed in about 2-3 minutes per day. To simply integrate it into my life I do my have two exercises with my normal warm up routine. Since I don't miss my warm ups I don't miss my prehab exercises.

Who Should Read Anatomy for Runners?

Everyone who runs and doesn't want to get hurt doing it. This book is written for everyone from the beginner training for her first 5k or the grizzled veteran going for Boston Marathon number 10. The novice triathlete or the Ironman world champion will be able to utilize the information presented.

Running is simple yet it can be so destructive to the human body. The most effective way to get faster is to train consistently combining long runs, tempo efforts and speed work. But consistency is the key. If you get hurt, even just a "nick" or a "little niggle," you will interrupt your training plan. Taking some time out to read a book, take a few simple tests and then do a few basic exercises on a regular basis seems worth it to me. It should for you as well.

I know more than a few bicycle enthusiasts who started off as runners or triathletes who eventually either wore something out due to poor biomechanics or got tired of getting injured all the time. Running should be enjoyable. When you are constantly coming back or running hurt the fun just goes right out the window. If this sounds like you, or feel that it cold be you someday, pick up a copy of Anatomy for Runners.

Bottom line: I recommend this book to anyone who runs and wants to continue to run for a long, long time.

Thanks for reading.

Train hard. Stay focused.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Training Review: December 2015

If you've been following me for a while you know that I have become very comfortable looking at my training on a monthly basis, having an agenda that extends for roughly 30 days at a time. Back when I was a coached athlete I had trouble with the weekly nature of the focus. The problem wasn't the plan, but me. If it was on the paper I would do it, regardless of how I might have been feeling that day. Pushing through worked for a while, eventually leading to tired legs and sub-optimal performances.

Winter has finally arrived.
December was a transition month from the restfulness of the off-season into the day-to-day grind of Ironman training. Looking back at my training journal November was a month of little training volume and virtually no intensity in any of the three disciplines. This I expected. October, while I did train for and race in the Philadelphia R&R 1/2 Marathon, was much more relaxed than I remembered. I continued to run, even increasing mileage in mid-month as part of my prep. where I surprised myself was the lack of swimming and biking. For the most part I had taken October off from both.

Needless to say, I entered December with a dropped level of fitness.

Fortunately, this is exactly what I was going for. In order to get better you need to sometimes take a step backwards, allowing the body and mind to heal. Taking time away from training (but still exercising) brings back the desire to train and train hard.

My goals for December were simple. Over the 31 days I needed to just be consistent, slowly building volume over the month.

Swim: Started out the month with a few easy swims and gradually built up the total time per week each week, with the exception of Christmas week, which schedule just didn't allow me to get to the pool as much as I may have wanted to. Or not. It's the holidays and there were things more important than trying to squeeze in a swim workout just to get some yards. By the end of the month I was feeling better in the pool and swimming a reasonable amount.

Bike: After pretty much taking the previous two months off, December was very consistent. The good weather helped, giving me time outside every week, including a Christmas Eve ride in shorts and a short sleeved jersey in 70 degree weather!!! Not being exclusively stuck in the basement and/or riding in extreme cold weather is big motivation. Still, reality is no matter how warm the weather is for December, riding at 6 am requires me to embrace the trainer. The volume this time of year is always low. Power gradually started to come back to a respectable level, but not where it eventually will be.

Run: Of the three disciplines this is the one that requires the most care. My mileage has been low for two years now, averaging under 20 mile per week over that time. With Ironman on the agenda, December started the slow process of rebuilding run specific fitness and muscular endurance. It's a big project that will take months. December was a good start. I did run a 5 mile race (see below for some details) as well as my annual NYE South Mountain Run.

Strength and Mobility: For the first time in years I managed to not slack on strength and mobility work during the Summer and Fall. Turns out that is helpful when you get to the off season as you don't have a rebuilding process. I ended the month stronger than I have been in years.

Racing: I did actually do a race in December. I ran hard but didn't truly race it. Every year since 1998 I have done the XMas City 5 Mile Run in Bethlehem, PA. It is held on the second Saturday of December and is a great excuse to hang out with friends, grabbing a post-race meal with anyone who can come. Once again Rick did a great job, putting on an excellent race, selling out early with what had to be a record number of participants. I ran a 33:32, which was fine. More important, I enjoyed myself doing the only speed work for the month.

Overall: December turned out to be a good month. The workload was not unreasonable by any stretch of the imagination, but slowly built over the 4 1/2 weeks. I started the new year feeling fresh and fit enough to start the base training period on January 4.

What's Happening in January? There are no races on the schedule, just steady training. In all three disciplines I intend to be at full winter volume by the end of the month. In the pool I will be working on my weak kick. On the bike it is about building strength and getting the wattage back up to where I was at at the end of last season. Running is all about building muscular endurance.

Train hard. Stay focused.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Why I Run Over South Mountain Every New Year's Eve

A long standing tradition of mine has been a fun out-and-back 10 mile run on the last day of the year that just happens to go over South Mountain in my adopted hometown of Bethlehem, PA. In the beginning it would be just me and Jack who would make the treck. Over the years I have been joined by as many as 10 and as few as one other person in my personal end of year ritual. And while the weather was favorable for the 2015 edition, weather conditions can add an additional challenge beyond the 1200+ ft of climb.

Last Thursday me and three of my regular training partners got together for my annual trek. With a 2:30 start time we had good daylight, the warmth of the day (for December) with a 10 mph wind from the North. The best New Year's Eve running weather we have had in a few years.

As for the run it went well. The warm up - from Sand Island Park to the corner of 4th and Hayes St. - was a bit faster than I would have liked. The climb from there to the mountain's peak at Lehigh University's Mountain Top Campus felt hard but good, while the backside decline was a nice relief on the legs.

Jonathan Soden - South Mountain Run Crew
Apparently we color coordinated beforehand.
After regrouping at the turnaround point, which is just past Stabler Arena, we started the trek back to Mountain Drive South for the final 2 mile climb at a moderate pace. My goal this year was to make it to the top without stopping to walk after blowing up spectacularly the year before. As we started the climb I settled into what I felt would be a sustainable effort level, not concerning myself with who was in front of me and who was behind.

While the front side (north) of the mountain is steeper to start and flattens out in the final quarter mile, the backside (south) is a sustained climb that gradually gets steeper as you go up. My preference has always been the front side and I almost always struggle on the backside.


This year I successfully ran the final assent without a walk break or major blow up.

After regrouping at the top we eventually made our way back to the cars

Not a bad view while kicking your own arse!
But why? Why do I run this same route every year instead of running the NYE Peeps Run, or the trails, or just take the day off?

After taking some downtime at the end of racing triathlons and running races this is a hard run that I am never ready to do. Which is exactly the point. Jack and I didn't start running this because we could run it fast or to prove we could do it or boost our egos going into the new year. What got this run started as a tradition was that it would kick our asses every single year.

Every. Single. Year.

Some years that comes in the form of walking a portion of climb number two. Many years it comes with sore legs during the first few days of the new year. Every year it is a good reality check on where the fitness level is and what needs to be done in the coming months. A reminder that fitness can come and go.

Over the years there are people who have come and gone from this run for a variety of reasons. Some have moved, others have moved on from running, as others haven't really connected with the value I find in doing this run. Others have been invited but never showed up. The one steady presence over the past 16 years has been me.

And come December 31, 2016 it is a good bet that at some point during the day you can find me running over the mountain, getting a lesson in just how fit or unfit I will enter 2017.

If interested you can find the exact route we run here .

Thanks for reading.

Train hard. Stay focused.