Like it or not, as triathletes, we are all runners. Some of us thrive on the run, others simply survive. The latter was certainly the case for me when I first broke into triathlon. Running was much more of a chore than it was a hobby. “I am just not made to run,” I would tell myself. I logged miles each week, plodding along, just hoping I would build up enough fitness to “just get through the run.” I would inevitably get nagging injuries along the way and some of those would go away or become more chronic in nature. I assumed that was just part of the process. I could not have been more wrong.
It wasn’t until I took a step back and took a serious look at my form and training regimen--along with the help and feedback of others--that I started to make real changes that led to significant improvement in my performance. The reality is, it is hard to do a self-analysis of your running and what you need to improve. You can always run more and train harder, but that usually isn’t the answer. In fact, you may be doing more harm than good, if you're using poor technique and overtraining.
I won’t bore you with my whole story, but a large part of why I started my own clinic was to be able to help runners. I do not claim to be an elite runner myself; I am far from it. However, I believe my own experience combined with my background in sports medicine and podiatry has given me a great foundation to help others get the most out of their running.
A running analysis can be a very effective tool to give you feedback and coaching on what tendencies or deficiencies you may have in your running form that are either contributing to or predisposing you to injury, as well as hindering your performance. One of our primary objectives here at Endurance Foot and Ankle is to help athletes of all levels maximize their performance while avoiding injury. We offer this service to all runners and triathletes who are either suffering from nagging injuries or want to see an improvement in their performance.
It should be noted that this does not require a complete change in your running form. We understand that people come in all shapes and sizes and not every running style is going to look the same. What is important, however, is to focus on a few core principles of good running technique and then you can make small, subtle, incremental changes that can be integrated into your practice and can do wonders for your running. It does not matter what your ability level is, as we have helped clients looking to do their first 5k, to first-time or multiple Ironman finishers, to Boston Marathon qualifiers and ultra runners.
A run/gait analysis appointment consists of the following:
Just as swimming and cycling should be fun and enjoyable, so should running! In fact, running can be your strongest discipline. Don’t limit yourself. Don’t buy into the excuse that you “just aren’t made to run.” Don’t believe that getting injured while running is simply part of the process. Even for those who do quite well on the run, don’t believe you have peaked and you can’t improve your performance. You can!
With races cancelled or postponed and our training schedules up in the air, there is no better time than now to focus on getting your run dialed in so you will be injury-free and ready to thrive on the run come race season. Feel free to give us a call or send us an email if you are interested or have any questions.
Chris Jones, DPM
Endurance Foot and Ankle
175 1st Pl NW Ste B
Issaquah, WA 98027
My name is Shaun Linse, and I've been a member of RTB for 14 years. Those of you that don't know me personally may know me as Disco Lady who dances at the Lake Meridian Triathlon. I am reaching out to this community because I have always felt that all members have supported each other, whether you're an elite athlete or not. I have always felt cheered on while racing.
Normally when there is a hot-button topic or political agenda, I have kept my mouth shut on any social media sites because I did not want the backlash or to engage in argument. Lately, I have been stepping out of my shell and speaking on something that is very personal to my family. All of this outrage of racism that is going on in the world is very disturbing to me. I am afraid that people are not understanding and missing the message. I would like to share a couple stories with you because my own family members and other black professionals can't always express their opinions because that could cause them problems in their jobs, which is very sad. They must suffer in silence.
My son is of mixed race, my daughter-in-law is black, and then I have an adorable grandson. My son and his family came home from having dinner out. While walking up to their house, a man approached them and asked, "Where did the white people go that lived here? How could they let you live here? How can you even afford a place like this?" My son took his family inside, did not engage, and locked the door.
They have to suffer in silence.
My son's good friend who is a well-known sportscaster has been pulled over 19 times and had his car searched many occasions because he is black. He was never been arrested because he didn't do anything wrong. Again, he must suffer in silence.
My daughter-in-law's sister just graduated Bellermine Prep and came home crying to her mother, "Why are we treated this way?" She has a basketball scholarship for Gonzaga University and is great student. Her mom said, "Just focus on the positive things." She did go out and protested trying to be heard but all people see is the thugs.
There are many more stories out there that are unheard because people have been crying for years, and it has just been swept under the rug. People don't believe it exists.
I feel most divide is because of ignorance. I don't think most people want to be racist or prejudice towards anyone. I myself have kept quiet on this issue with lots of my friends and colleagues because it lands on deaf ears, and it's just too painful. It's also much easier than stepping out of your comfort zone and having this conversation.
Today is a new day, and I am going to step out of that comfort and project my voice. I ask each of you to try to listen and have conversations with your black friends and other ethnicities to see what their story is. The more we hear, the more we communicate, just maybe we can all come together as a country!!
Thank you for listening!!
By Holly Pennington, PT, DPT/Outpatient Physical Therapy
As the COVID-19 spreads throughout our region, tragically claiming too many lives close to home, triathletes face new dilemmas about exercise and illness. While there are no easy or straightforward answers to our practical questions (Should I go to the gym? Is the swimming pool safe? What about the pull buoys and kickboards? Will my upcoming race be canceled? And, if it’s not, should I get on a plane to get there?), we do know a few things about the effects of exercise on the immune system.
Surprisingly, as recently as the 1980’s, scientists believed that regular exercise had no effect on the rate or severity of infections. Contrast this with today’s prevailing cultural belief that active people are healthier, and we catch a glimpse of how much has changed in the past two decades. There is now a plethora of research citing the connection between regular physical activity and reduction of illnesses ranging from acute infections to chronic diseases. Today, it is widely accepted that moderate intensity exercise improves the immune response to respiratory viral infections. In a study of over 1000 adults, frequency of aerobic exercise was associated with reduced frequency and severity of symptoms of upper respiratory infections. An 18% reduction in risk infection was associated with high levels of physical activity in a scientific report of more than 1500 Swedish men and women. Some researchers believe physical activity decreases inflammation within the respiratory tract and activates the immune response.
Of particular relevance to triathletes during the COVID-19 outbreak may be the controversial topic of how episodes of vigorous, prolonged exercise affect the immune system. Until a pivotal study published in 2018, the “open-window” hypothesis ruled in exercise science. According to this theory, there is a window of time following vigorous and/or prolonged physical activity in which the immune system is compromised, and, therefore, more vulnerable to opportunistic (bacterial, viral, fungal, etc.) infections. The “open-window” hypothesis is highly influenced by early studies in exercise immunology that focused on runners who, in the days and weeks following marathon races, reported upper respiratory infections. However, in these studies, infection incidence was measured by self-reported symptoms, not laboratory tests. (When it comes to bacterial and viral infections, self-reports and positive clinical tests are not highly correlated.) Authors of the 2018 report challenge the “open-window” hypothesis for this and other reasons. They cite multiple studies that conclude athletes who participate in the largest volume of aerobic activity - ultramarathon runners – miss significantly less work per year due to illness than the general population. In summary, according to these researchers, “It is important to highlight that there are as many epidemiological studies showing that regular exercise reduces infections as there are studies showing exercise increases infections, and that these studies are often overlooked in the exercise immunology literature.”
So far, we have two take home messages: 1) moderate exercise has a known positive effect on the immune system over the lifespan and 2) current research supports the idea that even vigorous and/or prolonged activities may protect athletes from infection. Good news for triathletes who want to keep on training as usual, right? Most likely, but…
Exercise does not protect you from COVID-19! Of course, there are many factors to consider as you look at your training program and race schedule in upcoming months. For example, we do know that air travel and mass gatherings, both of which are often associated with Ironman and other triathlon competitions, are known to increase infection risk for everyone. (Check here for the latest COVID-19 Ironman updates.) Also, where you exercise matters. For some perspectives on going to the gym during the outbreak see here and here, and inquire about how your facility is handling the situation. Regarding the pool, current thinking is that the risk of contracting infection in the locker room or shower is higher than in the swimming pool, as long as the pool is properly chlorinated. However, the “rapidly evolving” Coronavirus situation demands that we stay informed with new findings and developments in this uncharted territory.
In conclusion, we have scientific reasons to believe that exercise is good for our immune systems. And we also have questions that no one knows the answers to right now. But, perhaps more importantly, we have these timeless truths: Triathletes are people who persevere, triathlon communities such as Raise The Bar are groups of athletes who encourage each other through the hardest times, and the sport of triathlon exists to bring goodness and hope to the world. So, go train wisely and bring out all the triathlon good!
By Holly Pennington, PT, DPT
Take a deep, slow breath and close your eyes. Imagine your ideal run. Go through all of your five senses. What do your surroundings look like? How do your legs feel? What scents are in the air? What do you hear that soothes you? How does a fresh drink of water taste on your tongue?
Whether you pictured yourself enjoying the flow of a fast run on a cool, fall morning or settling into the rhythm of an easy pace on a warm, summer evening, chances are that you are among the majority of runners who wish your “ideal” happened more often. You may start your workouts with high hopes, encounter unexpected cramps or fatigue, power your way through with a mix of determination and iTunes distractions, then settle for the satisfaction of checking a mileage and/or time goal off of your list.
But, what if your time spent running could be consistently enjoyable? What if the feelings associated with your ideal run could be experienced more often than not? Enter mindful running, a technique that may help you do exactly this.
The positive benefits of mindfulness meditation are practically endless. From easing physical pain to improving feelings of loneliness, mindfulness can play a significant role. Typically, it is performed seated with a still body and plenty of athletes advocate for the addition of this type of meditation to a training program. However, scientific research and running experts have started asking questions about the benefits of practicing mindfulness during exercise. So far, research suggests that those who intentionally focus on the feeling of movement and pay attention to their surroundings enjoy exercise more than those who do not, and feel less stressed, anxious and depressed.
Mindful running draws from this research and incorporate elements of mindfulness meditation into training, helping runners tune into the present moment and focus attention on the body, mind and environment during the act of running. Through training the mind, the full experience of the body improves, enhancing the natural, positive effects of the increased endorphins produced by running. Physical discomfort and pain are met with the nonjudgmental acceptance characteristic of mindfulness. Increased attention is placed on form, improving efficiency and flow.
There are many ways to begin mindful running and a variety of resources to help you do so (see my list at the end of this article), but here are a few tips to get you going:
Breathe before you begin: Before you start the clock, take a few deep, slow breaths. This signals your mind to become attuned to your body through breathing and shifts you into a less distracted mental state.
Set your intention: Before you start the clock, find your focus for this particular workout. This is different than an objective goal like distance or time, as it shifts the focus to form and flow. (If you have questions about your running form, see the resource list below.) To set your intention, ask yourself questions like, “how do I want to feel during my run?” or “what specific aspect of my form do I want to focus on today?”
Count something: If you are new to mindfulness, counting your breaths or footfalls as you run will help your mind and body stay connected. When you get to 10, start over and when your mind drifts from the count, simply return to where you left off and continue. No judgment!
Use a mantra. Choose a short phrase that is meaningful to you to repeat in your mind as you run, such as “be here now” or “breathe in, breathe out.”
Ditch the earbuds. To be fully present in your mind and body as you run, the elimination of distractions such as music and podcasts is a must. (exception: mindful running meditation apps!) If you can’t bear the thought of a device-free run, start small. Try 5 minutes of mindfulness before starting your playlist.
Pay attention to your surroundings. Direct your attention to the sights, smells and sounds around you for a fully embodied run. Try a 3-2-1 pattern where you name 3 pleasing sights, 2 soothing sounds and 1 pleasant smell. Or, focus on sights for 3 minutes, sounds for 2 minutes and smells for 1 minute.
Start small. As with building any new habit, start small and build incrementally. Try mindfulness intervals, where you focus on counting your breaths for 5 minutes then switch to your familiar running routine for 5 minutes. Or try alternating a 3-2-1 pattern for 6 minutes with a 4-minute return to your usual habits.
Mindful Running Resources
Running with the Mind of Meditation: Lessons for Training Body and Mind by Sakyong Mipham
Let Your Mind Run: A Memoir of Thinking My Way to Victory by Deena Kastor
The Mindful Athlete: Secrets to Pure Performance by George Mumford
Headspace (Search for specific running meditations)
Running Form Assessments:
www.outpatientpt.com (contact a clinic near you to find a PT who specializes in running assessments)
Raise the Bar
Race reports, upcoming events, news, and more, from RTB.