Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Stretching and Rolling: Important and Often Ignored

How many times have you finished that long run, hopped in the car, only to hobble out once you get home. Stretching. We all know we need to do it, but few of us ever do or do so on a consistent basis. The underlying benefit to stretching is flexibility. The more flexible you are, the less tight you are. The less tight you are, the less risk of injury. Stretching helps prepare your body for exercise as well as wind-down from exercise.

Pre-exercise stretches need to be comprised of dynamic stretches or "moving stretches." Dynamic stretching actively moves the body in similar movement patterns to those that will be used in the upcoming exercise. So for running, dynamic stretches could include a 5-minute brisk walk or slow easy jog. They could also include various warm-up running drills such as high-knee, butt kicks, skipping, side shuffles, etc.

Static or traditional stretch-n-hold stretches can be done after dynamic stretches (if a runner is still feeling tight), but static stretches are of better use after a run. I tell my runners to think of their muscles as taffy. If you take the taffy out of the fridge and try to manipulate it cold, then the candy will break. But if you let it warm-up some then when you try to stretch it, it will give and bend. Your muscles are very similar. If you try to do more traditional stretch-n-hold type stretches before a run without any type of warm-up, then you may actually pull a muscle or set yourself up for pulling a muscle during the run.

So, now you know to hold off on the static stretches until after your run, but which ones should you do and how should you do them?

The focus of this article is on post-exercise stretching. There are various theories how to do the following stretches, but what I've found to be pretty effective is to hold each stretch for 30-40 seconds. Never bounce into a stretch. Ease into it. Once you've acclimated to a particular distance in a stretch, then you can try extending the stretch a little further. Go only to the point of "feeling the stretch" which may feel a little uncomfortable, but never painful. NEVER stretch through pain. You many cause a problem that previously didn't exist or you may exacerbate an existing condition.

The following stretches are by no means the only effective stretches that can be done. These are several of the stretches I've found to be effective with myself and my runners.

Adductor muscles run along the inner thigh and help pull the legs toward your body. These muscles along with the outer thigh muscles (the Abductors) often get ignored strength-wise as well as when stretching. It's important to keep these muscles stretched and flexible as much as the more obvious running muscles such as the quads and hamstrings. Any one of the following three stretches is good for loosening up the adductors.
1. Sit with your legs stretched out to the side as far as possible. It's okay if your knees are slightly bent. Exhale as you slowly lean forward between your legs with your hands stretched out in front. Hold the stretch for 30-40 seconds, breathing evenly during the hold.
2. Lie on your back with your legs up in the air stretched out against a wall. Gradually increase the stretch between the legs. This is particularly effective after a long run in getting the blood that may have pooled in your legs recirculated helping to reduce inflammation.
3. This stretch not only helps stretch the adductors, but also the muscles in the groin and hip. Sit on your bottom with the soles of your feet touching. Grab your feet with your hands while placing your elbows on your knees. Use your elbows to gently press down on the insides of your knees to activate the stretch .

Often ignored, the Glute Medius or hip muscle is often the culprit when it comes to IT Band issues and/or Runner's Knee. A tight or weak glute medius can cause both conditions. This stretch is more subtle than the other stretches. Gravity does most of the work. Lean your right shoulder against a wall. Cross the right leg behind the left ankle. Then lean into the wall. You should feel a subtle stretch along the outside of the right hip and thigh. Repeat with your left side.
Overworked and/or tight quads can cause issues such as Patellar tendinitis which causes pain-to-the-touch below the knee.
1. To do this stretch, lie face down on a mat. Reach back with your left hand and grab your left foot. Gently pull your foot toward your buttocks. Repeat with the left side.
Note: This stretch can also be done standing, however, I've discovered a much better stretch when doing this laying down.

2. For a more advanced stretch, grab both feet at the same time pulling both feet toward the buttocks simultaneously.



Tight hamstrings and glutes are very common in runners. This can cause a domino effect of problems. Tight glutes can put more demands on the hamstrings which in turn puts more stress on the calves and so on all the way down to the plantar fascia. Keeping the glutes and hamstrings loose can help prevent a whole host of problems.
1. Research has shown that the traditional toe touch with the locked knees puts a great deal of stress on the lower back. An alternative is to place one foot on a step, wall, or car bumper. The position both hands in the fold of the leg. Looking straight ahead, slowly bend forward at the hip while at the same time pulling your toes toward you. This creates a great stretch along the hamstring without the stress on the lower back.
2. The knee hug is great for stretching the glutes. Cross your right knee over your extended left leg. Then hook your left arm around your right knee and gently pull your knee toward your chest. Repeat with the left knee and right arm.
3. This stretch is great for the hamstrings, glutes, and piriformis. Lie on your back. Bend both legs and then cross the right leg over the left knee. Reach through and grab the back of the upper left leg and gently pull it toward you. You'll feel the stretch in the hamstring and glute of the right leg. Repeat the process with the opposite leg.

Hip Flexors are one of the most overused muscle groups in the body. If you have an office job and sit most of the day, then you're flexing your hip flexors that entire time. Then go for a run after that? You can see where some problems might arise. Never stretching the hip flexors can result in a slight pelvic tilt putting stress on the lower back and causing a whole host of muscle issues.
1.  Bend down on a mat with your left knee bent and your right leg extended behind you. Place your left hand on the inside of your left foot. Your right hand should be about shoulders-width from the left hand.  Gently lean forward. You'll feel a slight stretch of the hamstring in the left leg, but the main purpose of this stretch is to open up and stretch the hip flexor of the right leg. Repeat the process with the left leg extended and the right leg bent.
2. A similar version of this stretch can be done by placing one foot on a wall or car bumper and leaning forward to stretch the opposite leg's hip flexor.



Tight lower legs can cause everything from pulled calf muscles, to Achilles Tendinitis, to plantar fasciitis. The following simple stretches can help prevent all of these issues.
1. Place the right foot perpendicular to your body. Extend your left leg out in front of you with your heel on the ground and your knee locked. Put your hands in the fold of your leg and gently bend forward while pulling your toes toward you. Repeat the process with the right leg extended.
2. Place the toe of your left foot  and both hands against a wall. Extend your right leg behind you as far back as you can while still keeping the heel on the ground. Repeat the process with the left leg extended.
3. Similar to #2, this stretch stretches the soleus (the deeper calf muscle). This stretch begins like #2, but instead of extending the right leg behind you, put the toe of your right shoe against the heel of the left foot. Then squat down as far as you can. You'll feel the stretch in the area of the Achilles Tendon of the right foot. Repeat the process with the left foot.
4. The plantar fascia is a fibrous band of tissue that runs from the heel of the foot to the ball of the foot. A tight  plantar fascia can often result in a sore heel, a sore ball of the foot or soreness anywhere in between. To stretch the plantar fascia, place your toes on the edge of a step. Hold onto a rail or use a broomstick for balance. Gently lower both heels below the horizon of the step. This stretch will also help loosen the Achilles Tendon as well as the calves.


The following stretch includes everything but the kitchen sink! This stretch will help to stretch the hamstrings, glutes, hips, calves, and Achilles Tendon. If you want bang for your buck, this stretch is for you.

To do the stretch, lie on your back with one leg in the air. Place a resistance tube, long towel, yoga strap, or belt around the raised foot. (I'm using a jump rope.) With the knee locked, gently pull the raised leg as far as you can while exhaling. To get even more out of this stretch, try slowly flexing and releasing the foot while the leg is extended.

Note: If you are new to this stretch and need a little more support, try placing the raised leg against a door frame. The flat leg will be laying through the doorway.)


Sometimes stretching just doesn't seem to do the trick. Adding a massage tool such as foam roller, a massage ball or a roller stick will be more effective. If tightness is due to a trigger point or "tight spot" within the muscle, elongating the muscle by stretching may not release this tension. A trigger point is the result of myofascia (connective tissue) adhering to the muscle, causing tension. You can often physically feel these spots in the muscle. Lying on a foam roller or massage ball to apply direct pressure on the tight spot will often help to relieve this tension. Lying on a foam roller, massage ball and moving the body back and forth across the tight spot is very effective too. A rolling stick can be used standing or sitting. Instead of lying on the stick using body weight to help increase pressure on the trigger point, you use the roller stick much like a baker's rolling pin by holding it in your hands and rolling back and forth across the tense area.

Massage tools such as foam rollers, massage balls, or roller sticks can also be used to loosen up any muscle groups. Runners may find it effective, if they are prone to tightness in a particular muscle group such as the calves, hamstrings, or quads, to "roll" them out before a run.

It's a good idea for runners to routinely use a combination of dynamic stretches, static stretches, and a variety of massage tools before and/or after running as "pre-hab" to help prevent injury.

Below are some great massage tools available at Omega Sports right here in Greensboro!

Trigger Point MB5 Massage Ball

Addaday Pro Massage Roller

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

There Is a Method To His Madness: Creating a RunTheBoro Route


If you've been participating in the recent RunTheBoro Saturday runs, you may have wondered (and some of you have even asked me) why are there so many turns in the runs? Why so many hills? Why did we go in this neighborhood or that neighborhood. How do he make the routes?

These are all excellent questions. Along with lots of coffee and lots of time, I do have some guiding principles when I create the RunTheBoro routes.
  • Sharing History
  • Exploring Neighborhoods
  • Sharing Art and Culture
  • Fellowship

Hills and turns may definitely be in the run, but they are not top of mind when creating the routes. My main goal is for participants to come away from a run learning something new about their city. We are so busy with our lives that we often don't venture out of our little bubble. I want to get RunTheBoro participants out of their bubbles, explore neighborhoods they've never been to, and learn about Greensboro's rich history.

One of the coolest and most rewarding parts of RunTheBoro is hearing longtime residents, say to me, "I never knew that about Greensboro." "I didn't know that existed." "I didn't know that road went there." "So that's where that's at." "I've lived here all my life and never knew some of this stuff."

Some runs are more aesthetically pleasing than others, but if there is one thing I've learned, beauty takes many different shapes and forms. There is shiny new beauty, there is gently worn beauty, there is thread-bare beauty, there is historical beauty, and there is artistic beauty. You'll find all of the above in the RunTheBoro runs. I want runners to explore neighborhoods they might otherwise never have a reason to visit. One hidden treasure that I shared about in a recent run is the Grove Street People's Market that is open 6-8pm on Thursday evenings in the spring and summer. After mentioning it in one of the RunTheBoro Newsletters, several of the RunTheBoro runners went and checked it out. That's what RunTheBoro is all about...connecting with runners and runners connecting with the community. 

Some routes do have a lot of twists and turns and in a normal run, that might not be ideal, but in a RunTheBoro run it's a necessity. History may seem like a straight line, but in reality, there are interwoven twists and turns that make up our rich past. Our Saturday runs reflect that richness.

History isn't flat either.  We've all experienced rough climbs, much-needed plateaus, and swift descents in our lives. Those ups and downs make up our complex past which is also reflected in many of our runs.

RunTheBoro runs are not about pace. Far from it. They are about discovery.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Last Week To Register!

We have almost 60 members in the RunnerDude 1000 Mile Club covering 6 states (NC, SC, GA, FL, OH, MO)! WeeDoggie! To Guarantee a club t-shirt, be sure to register for the club by this Friday (3/16). For more information and/or to register go to 
Did you start counting mileage in Jan or February? No Prob. Then your 1000 miles will end 12 month from your start date. 

Friday, December 8, 2017

RunnerDude Reviews Endurance Xtreme

I've never been a big user of supplements. I eat a pretty well-balanced and fairly clean diet.  Through my diet I get well above the recommended amounts of macro and micro nutrients needed on a daily basis.

By no means am I a nutrition expert, but I've had 100hrs of nutrition education and I've attended many sports nutrition related workshops and seminars including a weekend seminar by Nancy Clark a well-respected sports nutrition guru and someone I've followed for years and have read most of her books. She provides great practical nutritional advice for athletes. I feel I have a great handle on my own sports nutrition needs. Occasionally I've looked at sports supplements, but I've always questioned what's actually in them.  Do they actually do what they say they'll do.

John Ivy presented at one of the Nancy Clark seminars I attended. John Ivy has a Phd in Sports Physiology and has done a lot of research on the use of Beet root as a sports supplement. Beet root  has been shown to increase nitric oxide levels which improves blood flow and circulation. Nitric Oxide is a naturally occurring molecule that's found in plants. The amount varies from plant to plant. Research has shown that incorporating plants high in nitric oxide such as kale, beets, and spinach into your diet can support healthy blood pressure, cardiovascular health, and exercise endurance.

"Exercise endurance" is the part that gets my attention. If there is a natural way to help increase endurance, I'm all ears.

Dr. Jeffrey Blair, PhD; Certified
Nutritionist and Master Herbalist
Recently, Jeff Blair contacted me about a new sports endurance product he's developed, Endurance Xtreme. This product contains beet root for its nitric oxide benefits. This got my interest, so we met and he shared with me how he as an athlete he had struggled with endurance and finding the right supplement to help increase endurance and decrease recovery time. Jeff has a Phd in nutritional science and is the author of Runology and several other books. While doing research for his book Runology, he came across studies conducted on ancient herbs from Asia being used by athletes with great success. He began experimenting with doses and combinations of these ancient herbs. He was amazed to discover that a precise combination and dosage of these herbs dramatically increased his endurance and improved his recover time. And so Endurance Xtreme was born.


The ingredients in Endurance Xtreme have been clinically proven to increase oxygen uptake and utilization in the lungs and muscles. More oxygen uptake in the lungs and muscles means greater endurance. The herbs in Endurance Xtreme have also been shown to increase circulation during and after a workout and reduce lactic acid build up while reducing cortisol to speed recovery.

So what's in Endurance Xtreme? There are four main herbs used:
Cordyceps: A powerful mushroom that grows in the high altitude of the Himalayan Mountains and used by elite Chinese athletes for endurance. It has been clinically
proven to increase oxygen uptake and utilization as well as increase circulation.
Beet Root: Beet root powder can increase nitric oxide levels in blood vessels and improve blood flow and circulation.
Schisandra: Used by Asian athletes traditionally for strength and endurance.
Ashwagandha:  An herb from India traditionally used for energy, endurance, and cortisol reduction from stress and overexertion. 

I've used Endurance Xtreme on several runs and while I can't say in this limited time frame that yes, the product was the direct cause of a good run, I can say that all of the runs on which I've use Endurance Extreme were good runs and my recovery time was quicker leading into my next run.

So, if you're looking for an endurance and/or recovery supplement that's made from natural ingredients, I definitely recommend you give Endurance Xtreme a try.


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Yea Taper Time! Boo Taper Time!

During a past training cycle, I overheard one of my runners telling another runner (who sometimes
runs with us but isn't one of my race trainees), that he was in his marathon taper time. The other runner proceeded to tell my runner, "I never tapered before a race. It's a waist of time. You lose too much of what you've gained." My runner proceeded to say, "I don't know, I really think there is something to this taper thing. I'm going to follow what my coach has planned out for me. I mean I paid for it. Might as well, follow the plan. But, it makes sense what he's telling me."

That was a proud moment as a coach. This particular runner did not follow the plan with his previous race. Every run was a hard run. He put in extra runs on his own and didn't taper. Result? He got injured a few weeks prior to race day. He still tried to race on race day and injured himself more. This training cycle, he decided to follow the plan and he was doing great! The other runner is a fast runner. But like my race trainee's former self, he runs every run hard and never tapers. As a result he's often injured. I often kid this runner (but not really) that he's not allowed to talk to my runners trying to lure them to the dark side.

More is not better. Never a better example than with marathon taper. The marathon taper is probably THE most important part of race training. So, what is taper time? There are different approaches, but the standard taper for marathon training begins three weeks prior to race day.Typically the last long run (which is often your longest run) is three weeks from race day. The following long run is 75% of the longest run, and then the long run before race day is 50% the distance of the longest run. So, if you're longest run is 20 miles, then the following weekend the long run will be 15 miles, then the next long run will be 10 miles with the following weekend being race day. The mileage of the other weekly runs during this time can begin to decrease as well. My runners usually have a speed workout on Mondays, a tempo/progression run on Wednesdays, and easy run on Thursday or Friday and then their long run on Saturday. During Taper time, the distance of the Wednesday runs begins to decrease and usually I have them run an easy 4 miler the Wednesday the week of race day.

So what makes doing less the last three weeks help you on race day? High mileage week after week depletes a runner's glycogen levels. It also decreases levels of enzymes, hormones and antioxidants. Research has shown that these levels return to normal during taper. Even more important is the repair of muscle damage that takes place during taper. Runners that push their training up to race day also run the risk of compromising their immune system increasing the chances of catching a bug before race day. Taper allows the body time to bolster the immune system. Research has also shown that runners that heed the taper tend to have times 5 to 10 minutes faster on race day than those that do not taper in their training.

The main problem with marathon taper is what I call the Stir-Crazy Complex. You've been running, running, running, for so many months then all of the sudden, just before race day, you're not running nearly the mileage. It can play with your mind. Doubt begins to creep in. You become insecure that you've done enough. This is normal. This is where you have to Trust in your Training. Believe in Yourself. And Conquer your Goal on race day. Doing more may occupy your brain and your body, but it will only hurt you on race day.

Use taper time to relax, recover, and focus on nutrition. Also use this time to think through mental strategies for race day as well as make your race day check list. A check list is particularly important if your running a destination race involving travel.

Also use this time to reflect on and appreciate all the hard work you've put in the past several months.