Sunday, February 26, 2012

Have You Hugged Your Hammies Today?

Mother Nature likes balance. Science calls it homeostasis (stability within the body). This Yin and Yang  appears all throughout the various body systems, especially within the muscular system.

Muscles can act as an agonist (the contracting or working muscle) or as an antagonist (the lengthening/stretching muscle) . Usually agonist and antagonist muscles are located direclty opposite one another. For example when doing a dumbbell bicep curl, you're using your biceps as the agonist and the muscle group directly opposite the biceps (the triceps) are the antagonist muscle group.  If the triceps are the "working" muscle group (as in a tricep kickback), then the biceps become the antagonist. In many cases agonist and antagonist muscles are located anterior (front) and posterior (back) on the body (i.e, biceps/triceps, quads/hamstrings, pec/traps, but you can also have medial (close to the midline of the body) and lateral (along the outter sides of the body) agonist and antagonist muscles such as the adductor and abductor muscles in the legs. And you can have agonist and antagonist that are superior (above) and inferior (below) such as delts and lats.

The key "Yin and Yang" muscle groups for runners are the quads and the hamstrings. There are four quadricep muscles (vastus lateralis, rectus femoris, vastus intermedius, and vastus medialis). The quads work as agonist when they contract and flex the hip and further down work with the patellar tendon to extend the knee and pull the lower leg forward. Opposite the four quad muscles are the hamstring muscles (biceps femoris, semimembranosus, and semitendinosus).  As the quads work as the agonist and contract, the hamstrings stretch or lengthen working as the yang to the quads' yin.

However, what goes up has to come down,  or better yet, what contracts has to relax. So, when the quads contract and flex the hip and extend the knee, the hamstrings switch gears  from being the antagonist to becoming the agonist (the working muscle) in order to extend the hip and flex the knee moving both the upper and lower leg backward. When this happens, the quads switch to antagonist mode as they begin to lengthen and relax.

Now this Yin-Yang doesn't always mean a 50/50 relationship. Your quads are a little bigger than your hamstrings and they just get used more throughout the day, so typically your quads are a little stronger than your hamstrings. The normal strength imbalance between the quads and hamstrings is a 3:2 ratio. Women tend to have less of a difference than men.

Runners can have issues with their quads, but more than likely they'll have issues with their hamstrings, especially distance runners. If you haven't had issues, I'm sure you know of a runner who has suffered from a hamstring strain, pull, tendinitis or even worse, a tear. The cause of the hamstring injuries can be from having weak hamstrings, but more than naught, the cause is quad dominance.

When runners log lots of miles they repeatedly load their quads, making them strong. Longer runs can lead to overloading the quads making the quads too strong. This can create an imbalance between the quads and the hamstrings. When this occurs, several things can happen. A worst case scenario would be a hamstring tear. This happens when the hamstrings are too weak to handle the pull of the quads, so they give way or tear. Quad dominance can also wreak havoc on the knees. A healthy counter balance of the hamstrings helps to keep the knees stable. When the quads are too dominant they can pull and tug on the knee joint, muscles, and/or ligaments causing damage. A frustrating result of quad dominance can simply be decreased power causing you to run slower. This happens when the hamstrings kick in sooner than normal to help decrease the overpowering of the quads.

Runners should try very hard to take care of their hamstrings by building up the muscular strength and endurance. Once you get in a quad dominant situation, it's kind of hard to reverse. Also, hamstring injuries usually take a while to heal, so you may be off running for extended periods of time and frustrated.

So, what's a runner to do? Well the first thing that comes to mind is hamstring exercises, right? Right! But hold on, are some exercises better than others? Yep! The typcial hamstring leg lifts, hamstring leg curls, or hamstring roll-ins on a stability ball are all good, but research has shown that eccentric-loading hamstring exercises are even more beneficial, so be sure to throw in some exercises such as eccentric leg slides and hamstring curls. Check out the video below for examples of some great hamstring exercises (including some eccentric exercises) to add to your weekly lower-body or full-body workout routine.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

And the Winner of the Free Soleus GPS 1.0 Is...

to Trish Imiela of Ferny Hills DC Queensland, Australia,winner of the Soleus GPS 1.0 Running Watch! And a huge thanks to all who entered and who support the blog. 

A Big Thanks to Soleus for providing such an awesome giveaway! If you haven't already, be sure to visit their website and check out all their products including the GPS 1.0.

If you haven't had a chance to check out my review of the Soleus GPS 1.0 Running Watch, click here.

Your support and readership of the blog means so much. If so inclined, a vote of support for RunnerDude's Blog at The Top 100 Running Sites would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for your readership!

Note: While Soleus requested the product review and provided the GPS watch for testing, I received no payment for completing the review, nor was I encouraged to write a positive review. The review results are strictly based on my experience using the Soleus GPS 1.0.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

And the Winner of the Saucony Triumph 9s Is....

Julie Samuelson, 
the winner of the Saucony PowerGrid Triumph 9s!

To read more about my awesome experience running in the PowerGrid Triumph 9s with it's new lower 8mm toe-to-heel offset, be sure to check out my review.

Be sure to come back to the blog soon! The next giveaway contest will feature the new Soleus GPS 1.0 Watch! Weedoggie!

Your support and readership of the blog means so much. If so inclined, a vote of support for RunnerDude's Blog at The Top 100 Running Sites would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for your readership!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Runners! Celebrate National Pancake Month with this Healthy Pancake Recipe

Healthy Pancakes on the Run
In honor of February being National Pancake Month, I'm sharing my pancake recipe, perfect for kids and runners!

The other morning I was running late for my long run with my running. I didn't have time to fix my
usual breakfast, so I pulled out a leftover pancake from a batch I had made the previous morning. I folded it over like a taco and ate it cold; no syrup. It was delicious! Of course it did have chocolate chips, but then again, I was doing a long run. Felt great on my run. Yes, I know. Pancakes aren't that great for you, but I love them! So, I decided to make it my mission to make a healthier pancake I could eat before a run that my family would enjoy too. To my amazement, I created something that my kids even like.

I tried several different recipes using 100% regular whole wheat flour, but they always seem too heavy. I read about 100% unbleached white whole wheat flour and decided to give it a try. Regular 100% whole wheat flour is made from red wheat that has a coarse texture and a slightly bitter taste. 100% white whole wheat flour is made from an albino variety of wheat that has a smoother texture and a sweeter taste, yet still provides the same health benefits as the regular variety of whole wheat flour. The result is a lighter milder tasting pancake. Just like regular whole wheat flour, white whole wheat flour is not bleached and not bromated. Several companies produce 100% white whole wheat flour, but in my area the King Arthur Flour Company is the brand that I find readily available.

Instead of whole eggs, I used only egg whites. Egg Beaters 100% Liquid Egg Whites work well too. Most of the protein is found in the egg whites, flour and the milk (4.5g). The protein powder adds about 3 more grams of protein to each pancake. Total, each pancake packs 7.5 grams of protein. Only 2 tablespoons of honey are used in the recipe. There's not much difference between table sugar and honey, but I just prefer the taste. Surprisingly no salt is used and you'd never know it. If you miss the salt, just add 1/2 tsp to the batter. The recipe does call for an ample amount of oil, but by using canola, only 3 grams of saturated fat ends up in the whole batch. The rest is polyunsaturated and monounsaturated.

2 c. 100% unbleached white whole wheat flour, sifted
2 tsp. baking powder
4 egg whites (Egg Beaters-100% Liquid Egg Whites work well too!)
2 tbsp. honey
3 tbsp. canola oil
1 1/2 c. skim milk
2 tsp. vanilla or butternut flavoring
1 scoop of vanilla flavored whey protein powder

Add the dry ingredients to a large mixing bowl. Combine the liquid ingredients in a separate bowl. Add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until combined (it's okay to have a few lumps). Cook the pancakes on nonstick griddle at 375 degrees. Makes about eight 5-inch pancakes.
Serving size = 2 pancakes: Protein = 15g; Total Fat = 11g; Saturated Fat = 1g; Monounsaturated Fat = 7g; Polyunsaturated Fat = 3; Calories = 222

  • Make a double batch and store the left over pancakes in zippered baggies. Make individual servings by putting 2 pancakes in a baggie. When reheating leftover refrigerated pancakes, remove them from the baggie, place them on a plate and microwave for about 30-35 seconds.
  • Want a heavier pancake? Use regular 100% whole wheat flour.
  • Want to use less oil? Try substituting applesauce for some of the oil or add another egg white in place of some of the oil.
  • Want to cut some of the calories? Use Stevia instead of honey.
  • Like more texture in your pancakes? Add pecans or walnuts to the batter.
  • Like your pancakes sweeter? Add blueberries, strawberries, or bananas to the batter or on of cooked pancakes.
  • Need a little more oomph to entice your kids? Try adding a few semi-sweet chocolate chips to the batter.
  • Miss the salt? Add 1/2 tsp to the batter.
  • Want more protein? Add another scoop of protein powder. That will increase the protein to 15 grams per serving (2 pancakes).
5 Cooking Tips for Making the Perfect Pancake
  • Use fresh ingredients. 
  • Let the ingredients come to room temperature before making your pancake.
  • Let the batter sit for a little while (about 10 minutes) before heading to the griddle. This gives the baking powder time to activate.
  • Be sure the griddle is nice an hot before pouring the first pancake.
  • Wait until tiny bubbles appear all over the surface of the pancake before flipping. 

    Wednesday, February 8, 2012

    Soleus Is In the House!

    Garmin has reigned king over the GPS running watch market for years. Not so much because they're the best, but rather they've been the only thing available. Not knocking Garmin, they have a good product (except I did have a horrendous time with a 405 that was a lemon from the get-go and never worked right), but they are a bit pricey. 

    If you're looking for a basic GPS watch to measure your distance, speed, pace, and calories burned that's not going to bust your budget, there really hasn't been much available....until now. A new competitor has entered the market--Soleus. The Soleus GPS 1.0 Digital Running Watch is very much affordable ($99) as compared to Garmin's lowest priced GPS watch the Forerunner 110 (not really sure of it's price because on the Garmin website it's listed at $179.99 on one page and then on the page where you order it, it's listed at $229.99).

    I've been testing out the Soleus GPS 1.0 for a little over a month now and I've really enjoyed using it. It has everything I need. It's very simple to use right out of the box. It's provided accurate pace and distance each time I've used it. I have really small wrist and the other GPS watches on the market always felt so huge and bulky on my wrist. The Soleus GPS 1.0 is about as close to the size of a regular sports watch that I've seen. It fits well. I think both women and men will be surprised and happy with the size and feel when wearing it. Another cool thing about the Soleus GPS 1.0 is that you can input your personal data to help you track calories burned during your workout.

    More specifically, the Soleus GPS 1.0 comes with the following:
    • GPS: high-sensitivity receiver
    • Distance: current & total in Miles or Km
    • Pace/Speed: current & average
    • Calories Burned: current & total Kcal burned
    • Chrono: 1/100 second resolution
    • Data Storage: 100-lap memory
    • Water-Resistant: 3 ATM
    • World Time: 106 cities covering all time zones
    • Rechargeable Battery: USB rechargeable lithium-ion
    • Weight= 2 ounces

    Fits my small wrist well and is very light!
    Some GPS users who like downloading all their data so they can analyze their runs, may not like not having that ability with the Soleus GPS 1.0. It does have a certain amount of memory to store each run's data so you can look back at past runs directly on the watch.

    What it doesn't have in data "downloadability" it makes up for in reams with it's high sensitivity GPS receiver. The runs with my clients take me into all kinds of terrain much of which is thickly covered with trees, even a tunnel! So having a GPS that can quickly find the satellite and keep it is a must and Soleus delivers on both. Love that!

    The Soleus website provides great easy-to-follow videos on how to use the GPS 1.0. This really helped me get up and running very quickly.

    So, if you're thinking about getting a GPS watch and don't want to (or can't) take out a bank loan to get one, try the Soleus GPS 1.0. I'm very pleased with my experience with the Soleus. It does everything I need it to. It's dependable. It's small. Best of all, it's affordable!

    Note: While Soleus requested the product review and provided the GPS watch for testing, I received no payment for completing the review, nor was I encouraged to write a positive review. The review results are strictly based on my experience using the Soleus GPS 1.0. 

    Your support and readership of the blog means so much. If so inclined, a vote of support for RunnerDude's Blog at The Top 100 Running Sites would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for your readership! 

    Saturday, February 4, 2012

    Shoe Review: Saucony PowerGrid Triumph 9

    RunnerDude has found a new favorite running shoe. Oh wait, no it's an old shoe. No, it's new. Confused? Don't be. Saucony recently revamped some of their popular shoes (the PowerGrid Triumph, PowerGrid Hurricane, and the ProGrid 5).

    How did they revamp them? They decreased the heel-to-toe offset. Before the revamping, the heel was 23mm high and lowered to an 11mm lift under the forefoot which resulted in a 12mm heel-to-toe offset. The revised versions starts with a 20mm heel and a 12mm lift under the forefoot for only a 8mm heel-to-toe offset. The result? A more level ride.

    Doesn't sound like much, but by decreasing that higher heel by 4mm you get a much more natural gait that allows you to have a better mid-foot landing. The higher heel-to-toe offset tends to promote heel-striking. The lower heel in the Triumph maximizes muscle power by allowing for a more efficient stride. Heel-striking causes a runner to pull forward before pushing off. Running should be more of a push. In order to pull forward, you actually recruit more muscle. This expends more energy which means more fuel is burned. This can result in quicker onset of fatigue. Lowering the heel promotes more of a mid-foot or flat foot landing more under the center of the body which allows you to work with the pavement pushing off, instead of working against it as a heel-striker does with a push-then-pull. It also lets the body work more like a shock absorber creating less breaking effect and jarring of the knee and hip. Less jarring = less injury.

    Don't expect a teeny thin sole like a minimalist shoe. You won't be running on a strip of leather or a carved out recycled tire. The point of the shoe is to provide a "flatter" run not decreasing cushion. While the heel-to-toe offset has been decreased, Saucony has kept the integrity of a traditional running shoe with plenty of cushion in the heel and forefoot. Saucony has constructed a durable IBR+ outsole that provides 15% greater cushion than standard blown rubber and a PowerGrid foam midsole that's more resilient than traditional EVA. If you're an overpronator and need stability and/or motion control don't worry. The ProGrid Guide 5 and PowerGrid Hurricane 14 still provide the support you need while at the same time providing that 8mm heel-to-toe offset.

    I've been wearing the Triumph 9 now for a couple of months now and I'm lovin' them. I've been a big fan of the Triumph since they first debuted several years back. They've been my personal running shoe of choice for years. So, I was a little apprehensive at them being tinkered with. However, at the same time, I've been wondering why all the hoopla over the minimalist movement. I keep thinking why doesn't a running shoe company just lower the heels of their running shoes while  keeping the integrity of a traditional running shoe. So, while apprehensive over an old favorite being tinkered with, I was eager to test them out.

    As you probably have figured, being a running coach, I put a lot of miles on my feet. Last summer, I was having a heck of a time with the balls of my feet. I discovered I had two dropped metatarsals. Ouch! I've been working on more of a mid-foot landing to help decrease the stress on my lower body when running, so I was doubly eager to see how this decreased heel-to-toe offset was going to possibly help my sore footsies.

    My findings? Well, true to form, the Triumph still provides a great cushioned ride. The wide/roomy toe box was still there and best of all the 8mm heel-to-toe offset is amazing! My feet feel much better. It's kind of funny that I'm celebrating the obvious, but it's true. I've been telling women runners having calf, Achilles, and plantar fasciitis issues to toss the high heels and wear lower shoes; all the while (while not stilettos) I've been running around with "heels" that were putting me more on the balls of my feet and promoting more of a heel-strike making it hard to achieve that mid-foot landing.

    The PowerGrid Triumphs have always been my personal running shoe of choice and now it's been made even better. So, if you're wanting more of a natural ride but not ready to wear gloves on you feet or run "exposed" then give Saucony's new 8mm line a try. You won't be disappointed.

    Your support and readership of the blog means so much. If so inclined, a vote of support for RunnerDude's Blog at The Top 100 Running Sites would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for your readership!

    Note: While Saucony requested the product review and provided the shoes for testing, I received no payment for completing the review, nor was I encouraged to write a positive review. The review results are strictly based on my experience running in the shoes.

    Wednesday, February 1, 2012

    Running: A Saving Grace

    Running is anything but Radical, it’s the saving grace for many a runner.

    Through the blog, I’ve had such an awesome opportunity to meet so many amazing runners from all over the world who have used running as a means to overcome life’s adversities. Some overcame family hardships, others medical issues, and still others the death of loved ones. Some used it as a means to raise funds and awareness to the plights of various causes such as breast cancer or mental illness. And still others had monumental health issues and used running as a platform to bring awareness and support to and for their own illness.  And others used running to bridge the gap from being laid off to re-employment, helping give them a sense of stability while their lives were put on hold.

    When you have the time, click here  to meet and read about some of these awe-inspiring individuals...heroes such as Danica, Ann, Thomas, Mel, Joe, Ashley, and David.

    Your support and readership of the blog means so much. If so inclined, a vote of support for RunnerDude's Blog at The Top 100 Running Sites would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for your readership!