The treadmill gets a bad rep.
Our goal is to make you a more confident treadmill runner --maybe even enjoy the run.
Dreadmill no more.
Presently, all studios are shut down in the Seattle area. We are living in unclear times and there is a lot that is unknown due to COVID-19. However, one thing I do know is that movement of any kind is still critical to physical and more importantly mental health. This post shares 3 different treadmill work outs you can do on your own. Just picture your favorite trainer encouraging you to pump your arms on a hill, lengthen your stride as you pick up speed, or keep your chin up and heart forward as you conquer your run.
Why Run on a Treadmill?
Believe us, we much prefer to run outside --trails, road, or track BUT the treadmill is a useful tool to build strength, speed, and endurance. As group fitness trainers that coach treadmill work outs, both Christy and I LOVE this piece of equipment.
A treadmill can teach you how to maintain pace. This can be difficult outdoors due to the elements (rain, wind, heat, snow), unexpected hills, or needing to abide by traffic laws. Definitely hard to maintain pace when you are constantly starting and stopping. Enter the treadmill, which allows you to pick a speed and aim for a duration to maintain that pace. I also recommend incorporating the "Talk Test" to learn your pace.
Easy Pace = Can comfortably hold a conversation or say a sentence without gasping.
Fast Pace = Can say a couple of words.
Sprint Pace = Difficult to talk at all.
Another benefit of a treadmill run, is that you can record your stride. You can look at form and note if you are scrunching your shoulders, clenching your fists, holding your breath, or have a choppy stride.
A Few Rules for Treadmill Runs
First and foremost, always warm up.
This is key to ANY workout. You wouldn't leave your house full out sprinting. You would work your way up. The treadmill is no different. Depending on what your goal is for the workout, we recommend anywhere between a 4-5 minute warm up or a full 1 mile one. It is good to take the first 1-2 minutes to play with stride. You can jog or hit some dynamic work.
Never hop off or straddle a moving treadmill.
This should seem like common sense, but I see it all the time. Individuals sprint too fast, can't control their recovery and then jump off the moving belt onto the sides of the treadmill. Umm hello you could biff it majorly or slip and ruin that pretty face. Not worth it. Also, this does not emulate real life. You wouldn't suddenly jolt to a stop mid run --unless there was a car or something unexpected...but even then it takes a few steps to slow down. Can we also take a moment to recognize, the impact of jumping off the tread also is not good for your poor joints. So control your pace, both the pick up and the cool down.
Do NOT skip the cool down.
Similar to a warm up, it's important to cool down after a hard work out. This allows your heart rate to lower gradually and your muscles to relax after HIIT training. You may cool down without realizing it on a road run because you walk it out. But it's just as important when you finish your treadmill interval. Don't you dare forget to stretch either. Often times shin splints are from tight calves. So the warm up, cool down, and stretch can prevent you from discomfort.
The Work Outs:
Below are three different workouts you can perform on the treadmill. Hill intervals build strength. Quarter mile repeats and speed intervals, well those build speed obviously. The pyramid run is one of our favorites for training the body how to control and maintain speed. Together: strength and speed can help build your endurance.
I also included a pace calculator link so that you understand how mph on tread translates.
You can do this on road by finding a hill or stair set in your neighborhood. Hold a fast pace or run up the hill and jog back down. Repeat the hill interval. In Seattle, the Howe Street Stairs are a challenging set to build strength on. I would say pick a hill that is not too daunting, like Queen Anne Hill. This should be challenging but doable!
You can do this on the road by holding a set fast pace for the 3 minute, 2 minute, and 1 minute runs and trying to maintain your jog pace for the recovery portions. It's fun to even cue up your playlist and hit shuffle. Make it a game and for female artists hold a fast run and then male artists it's your jog. This can definitely be a game of Russian Roulette though ;).
Quarter Mile Repeats
To determine your "fast pace", you need to know your average pace for 1 mile in a short distance i.e. a 5k/8k/10k. Example, if your average pace for a 5k is 8 min/mile. Your goal for 0.25 miles is 2 minutes (7.5 mph on tread). So you should try to run 0.25 miles and maintain that time and easy recover for 2 minutes before repeating. If you want to make it more challenging, allow less time for the recovery i.e. 1 minute.
You can do this on the road by wearing a watch like Garmin or using an app like Nike Run Club and programming the workout or just paying attention to the distance and time intervals. A track is great, because 1 loop is ~0.25 miles or 400 m.
*Bonus* Pyramid Run
Remember to set yourself up for success. Proper warm up and cool down is a MUST.
Some days you may hit slower paces or need longer recoveries and that is OKAY.
Some days you may feel unstoppable.
Just keep showing up for yourself and each other in these uncertain times.
Are you ready to run mama? Before we dive into the strength test, I want to share that I am currently studying to obtain my Pregnancy and Postpartum Corrective Exercise Specialist Certificate through Dr. Sarah Duvall's online course. Along with my ACE Group Fitness Certification, my hope is to add more knowledge to my arsenal so that I can empower women and mamas specifically with evidence-based research and tools needed throughout pregnancy and beyond. Being a mom of 1 (and hopefully more some day) I have learned both through my own personal journey and research that the perinatal population is severely under served. My passion for fitness and the pregnancy & postpartum journey is what led me to begin obtaining this certificate.
To give you a little insight into who I am learning from, Dr. Sarah has rehabbed thousands of women with pelvic floor issues, diastasis recti, SI joint dysfunction and low back pain. She is a doctorate and has over 19 years of experience in the health and wellness field. I chose to learn from her not only because of her experience, but also because of her evidence-based approach. My hope is to begin sharing more with this audience through blog posts and today I am going to equip you with three strength exercises to perform before beginning to run postpartum.
MY EXPERIENCE WITH RUNNING:
College is where I found a deep appreciation and love for running. I was not a college athlete, but it was the exercise that felt the most natural for me after dancing competitively in high school. Since, I have ran 4 marathons and more than a handful of half marathons. If you are interested in my marathon journey, check out my "Boston Bound" blog post, here. After I had my daughter a year ago, I wanted to get back into it as quickly as possible. With a birth injury, where I pinched my femoral nerves and lost feeling in my my legs from the knee down, I also lost a tremendous amount of quad strength and had to build strength before I could run again. I craved being able to hit the pavement, run outdoors, and sprint until I was breathless. In full transparency, I am still gaining strength as working full time and breastfeeding, plus being a new mama has made it hard to retain muscle on my naturally lean and lanky body. I have taught treadmill and strength based classes and also absolutely love to incorporate running intervals on the treadmill or outdoors in my personal workouts. I say all of this to get the point across that running strength is VERY important to me. I want to keep mamas (including myself) safe and we have to keep in mind that running is a single leg dynamic activity, so it takes a solid foundation of strength to run with correct form and without wreaking havoc on your Pelvic Floor... AKA compensating for lack of strength by putting too much pressure on the pelvic floor. If you haven't yet... do yourself a favor and go see a Pelvic Floor Specialist if you feel any pain during the below strength test or just as a safety precaution after giving birth even if you feel no pain. There was added pressure and whether you had a vaginal birth or a C-section, it's good to have someone check how your movement patterns have changed. Feel free to message me or comment below and I can recommend a PT in the Greater Seattle area!
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO BUILD STRENGTH BEFORE RUNNING AGAIN?
Running is a plyometric movement and works the entire body. The muscles we are testing include the muscles that absorb the most impact when running and stabilize your pelvis to ensure the pelvic floor is not overworking. This includes:
BACK TO RUNNING STRENGTH TEST:
Let's get into it. If you are newly postpartum and wondering yourself whether you can start running, I want you to try these 3 very simple strength tests before hitting the pavement
Perform 30 of each of these exercises, on each leg. I will demo these moves on Instagram and save them to our highlights for future reference!
FORM TO CONSIDER WHEN PERFORMING THE ABOVE STRENGTH TEST:
When performing these exercises, make sure your knees do not collapse in, your hip does not collapse under one another, and you have good posture. If you cannot perform these moves without your knees and hips collapsing in and/or under, without good posture, or without taking a break it simply means you need to build strength before you begin running again.
If you are in this boat, I feel ya sister. It takes time if you lost muscle mass and I am here to tell you that you with patience and persistence you will be able to gain strength back. To give you a little motivation, I will remind you that I personally couldn't walk down the stairs without heavy assistance from a handrail for over 1 month postpartum and at 8 1/2 months postpartum I was able to PR (personal record) a half marathon which I couldn't have done without strength work prior or Ives pacing with me, thanks sista for being fast, fierce, and supporting my running goals!
WHAT IF YOU ARE UNABLE TO PERFORM THE STRENGTH TEST?
As noted above, if you are unable to perform these moves, more strength in the muscles that absorb the impact when running (muscles noted earlier) is needed. To begin building strength, you can perform the above strength test exercises 2-3X per week. Start with a rep amount you can perform with good form and add 1-2 reps each week until you can perform 30 of each. There are of course additional exercises that strengthen your running muscles that we can go into in a different blog post, but this a great place to start!
As always, if you ever feel pain during any of these movements or when you begin to run again, schedule an appointment with a local PT (Physical Therapist), who specializes in women's health and the pelvic floor. I recommend seeing a Pelvic Floor Specialist and PT to take a look at your movement patterns postpartum before beginning any workout routine.
Please note, we are all individuals and our needs vary. For healthy adults that are looking to get back into running postpartum, these exercises will help you determine whether you are ready to run again or if you need additional strength assistance and hopefully encourage you on your journey!
NEXT STEPS TO BUILDING MORE RUNNING STRENGTH:
In the next few weeks, I will also be sharing dynamic moves you can add to your workout routine to further aid in running strength, once you are able to perform the above strength test. Once it is complete, I will link it here. Please drop a note if you have any questions or comments about this subject! I would love to hear from you!
THE WEEKS FOLLOWING RACE DAY AND GLYCOGEN REPLENISHMENT
It's been three weeks since Ironman 70.3 Coeur d'Alene and I am a couple of weeks into marathon training. If you are new to endurance training (or you are my husband) you may roll your eyes and think, "this biish is crazy." Truly, I never thought I would be the person to finish a race of any kind let alone be hopping from one to the next. But they are addicting. I'm not even close to NYC Marathon and I am already thinking of what will be my next marathon or Ironman. That being said, recovery between races is SO important.
After my first marathon, I heard from other runners that you should take ~30 days off after you race and let your body recover. I didn't do much research, but that sounded good. I was so sore the first week and I also missed cross training, so it wasn't that difficult to hold off on running and fill my time with my favorite group fitness classes. A handful of races later, I am actually interested in understanding why recovery is important and how to recover appropriately. Reminder every human and race is different. This is meant to provider more details and look at what evidence if any is out there. Always feel free to share your perspective below or email us!
When Should I Start Running Again?
There are lots of opinions and recovery plans out there. As a clinical pharmacist, I have access to scholarly literature searches (Pubmed and UpToDate), which I used to help delve into some of the later details on this topic. However, I decided to start my search like many of you would, by surfing the web to see what comes up when you type in "marathon recovery plan."
If you have ever looked up running plans, then chances are you have come across a Hal Higdon plan. Hal Higdon is a runner and a best-selling author. He has developed training plans for everyone from novice to advanced runners, half marathons and full marathons, and even has a week by week guide for the month post marathon. He refers to the time frame post marathon as, "Mile 27" in his book. I will be the first to admit that I have not purchased any of these plans, so I cannot vouch from personal experience, but I do think they create a great framework. My spark notes summary of his recovery program for advanced runners is below:
I wanted to compare the Hal Higdon post-marathon recovery plan to other internet plans. My next web search brought up and article from Runner's World. Pleasantly, Runner's World broke down the recovery post marathon week by week as well. They didn't provide as much detail on when to run or incorporate speed work, but encouraged adding on to intensity and duration as week's progressed.
At this point, I want to look into the science behind the recovery. Most plans are recommending a similar amount of time to recover, but why? What is going on in your body after a marathon?
In a study by Tsai and colleagues, massive aerobic exercise i.e. running 26.2 miles led to un-repaired DNA base oxidation. "This oxidative DNA damage correlated significantly with plasma levels of creatinine kinase and lipid peroxidation metabolites, and lasted for more than 1 week following the race." WHOA...what does that actually mean?? Creatine kinase is a muscle enzyme that lives within your mitochondria and is usually elevated in response to muscular damage, which in turn is a marker of the degree of muscle injury. It is also involved the storage and transfer of energy. In elite athletes or in marathoners the concentration of this particular enzyme increases within skeletal muscle and is usually in response to regenerating muscle fibers.
So basically, running a marathon = elevated creatine kinase for ~1 week = wait a couple weeks to resume vigorous aerobic exercise.
Runner's Connect is another great blog with a wealth of information, including a post on overtraining. In this post, the recommendation is to wait 2-3 weeks post marathon to allow ample time for recovery of both creatine kinase and myoglobin (myoglobin acts as oxygen storage for mitochondria). Based on my research, there are limited studies and data on the physiologic changes that occur after prolonged aerobic exercise; however, it appears that at least 2 weeks of light or minimal exercise is recommended before the athlete resumes rigorous training. One of the other topics that intrigued me was nutrition after the race. We all have heard of carbo crams before aerobic sporting events, but what about replenishing our glycogen stores after crossing the finish line?
Carbo-loading Post-Race: Glycogen Replenishment Facts
Disclaimer, the pic above is part of the dinner my husband an I enjoyed before my Ironman 70.3. It has absolutely nothing to do with building back glycogen stores after the race. I wanted to share this pic to spark some intrigue --everyone's pre-race rituals and nutrition vary. That is normal and I don't encourage you to suddenly change your diet the day before a race to reflect what works for me. However, a part of training involves using the months prior to race day to figure out what food fuels YOU best. I don't change my nutrition drastically the days leading up to my race. I don't eat pasta often in my regular life because it makes me feel heavy so you probs won't see me eating pasta the day before a marathon. I do love sushi and fries. So you can bet my pre-race meal always includes sweet potato fries and either sushi or an alternative lean protein source (baked fish is great if the city doesn't have great sushi). I also drink one, no more than two glasses of wine or a margarita in my normal week. PAUSE. Yes, you read that right. I am an athlete who enjoys fries and alcohol. Pre-race jitters would be so much worse if I also forbid myself from enjoying the foods and draaanks I love. Again, I don't binge drink while training so I definitely don't binge the day prior to the main event but a glass of wine is the perfect way to unwind. But enough about pre-race carbs, let's chat about what comes after.
Massive aerobic training does not just impact your muscle fibers and enzymes, it also depletes your glycogen stores. But what is glycogen? An article in The Sport Journal, titled "Glycogen Replenishment After Exhaustive Exercise," delved into awesome detail on this topic.
Glycogen is made up of long chain polymers of glucose molecules which are stored in liver and muscle and used by the body during exercise . At higher exercise intensities, glycogen becomes the main fuel utilized. When liver glycogen is depleted it can reduce blood glucose levels which results in volitional exhaustion. The concentration of muscle and liver glycogen prior to exercise plays an important role in endurance exercise capacity. It is actually typical for glycogen to be more depleted in the liver than muscle following intensive training, 85-95% versus 65-85%, respectively. Although you did a stellar job building up your glycogen stores before the race, now you have used all that energy and need to refuel.
Think about it, your body is like a race car. You fueled it with premium fuel leading up to race day and you won because you competed and completed by crossing that finish line. Now I don't know about you, but my bodice is even more of a temple after that race and I definitely want it running smooth quickly after. So fuel up! The two hour window immediately after exercise cessation is optimal for carbohydrate (carb) ingestion. Your glycogen resynthesizes at a rate of 2% per hour after this two hour window, but this rate rises to 5% when 50 grams of carbs are consumed. Another lit search led me to a great read titled, "Fundamentals of Glycogen Metabolism for coaches and Athletes," which states that 1-1.2 g carbs per kg of body weight per hour should be consumed to take advantage of the improved glycogen synthesis that can occur immediately post massive aerobic exercise. The overall goal is to ingest 10 g of carbs per kg of body weight in the first 24 hours.
For example, I weigh 63 kg (or ~140 lbs) so my goal is 630 grams of carbs post marathon and I should ideally try to eat 60-75 g of carb per hour. Let me put that in perspective, a banana has ~30 g of carbs and a slice of bread has ~15 g of carbs. So it takes WERK to eat all those carbs. Work smarter, not harder people! Help your bod recover by capitalizing on improved glycogen synthesis occurring immediately after the race and start ingesting those carb dense foods shortly after crossing the finish line.
Below are some examples of carb-rich foods from that article:
P.s. you can bet I looked up grams of carbs in my two fave foods (because research duh)... a side of sweet potato fries at a restaurant is ~50 g and the average sushi roll is anywhere between 50-60 g. Unfortunately, a pour of wine is only 4 g of carbs. Soo I guess I will stick to eating my carbs ;).
OKURRR... I know I hit you guys with a lot of science and knowledge bombs, but hopefully this helps you understand the importance of recovering the right way after your next big race. I know I have personally failed at glycogen replenishment in the past and feel fatigued the evening and day following the race. I will definitely be making some big changes to nutrition after NYC Marathon and am hoping this helps with energy. I also need to SLOW DOWN after races and allow more than 5 days before revisiting vigorous physical activity. Guilty of starting back up again too quickly! I promise to be more patient after the next race and respect my body if you all do, k?