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Sprints & Hamstring Health

With summer FINALLY upon us, and amazing weather to take advantage of, most of us are ditching the dark gym for the outdoors. And, with everyone jumping on the HIIT and sprint bandwagon, that means lots of ugly track workouts and soccer fields being used for the first time in….ever.

I’m a huge advocate of getting outside and running around like a lunatic, but there are a few things to keep in mind when making the transition from treadmill/weight training to outdoor running & conditioning.

1. If you tend to program a lot of Romanian deadlifts (and also Good Morning’s) in your workout, you’re going to want to decrease these a bit and start adding some more glute/ham raises & leg curls. The RDL specifically targets the high hamstring, but tends to leave the belly of the hamstring neglected. If there is too much emphasis placed on this movement, it tends to create an imbalance.  The result? The first time you go to run might just be the last of the summer. Be sure to adjust accordingly.

Hamstring complex

A little Anatomy note: As you can see, the biceps femoris is right in the middle. One head stretches from the ischium to the sacrotuberal ligament, and the other stretches from the linea aspera near the adductor to the high insertion near the glutes. It is the most commonly injured portion of the hamstring, particularly at that high insertion point.

2. If you haven’t been sprinting in awhile, start with stairs and/or hills. It sounds ridiculous, but hear me out. The hill doesn’t need to be dramatic, just a slight incline (~ <12% grade). The incline shortens the stride length which will protect the hamstrings and let them work up to full sprint capacity. Also, don’t worry about sprinting down the hill or down the stairs. The eccentric stress is too great & trust me – you’ll still feel it in your legs if you slow down your pace to walk down.

3. Not every workout has to be an all-out max sprint effort. In fact, it shouldn’t be. 1-2 of those a week is sufficient because they’re extremely taxing on the nervous system, even if you’re only out there for 20 minutes. It is the same as strength training. You’re not always lifting at your max, so don’t sprint at it either.

4. Stride workouts are pretty awesome. A lot of people have heard of 400m repeats, which are usually all-out sprints performed in a 60-90sec time frame with a large rest period (3-5 minutes). But for a lot of people I like using 400m repeats a bit above their mile pace with a 1:1 rest. Just take your mile time (for example: 8 minutes). This means each lap (400m) would be run at a 2 minute pace. Shoot for 2 minutes at first, with a 2 minute rest (4-6 reps).

It is less taxing on the hamstrings, helps build work capacity, and improves overall conditioning and running pace. Obviously, adjust for your goals, but if you’re just looking to improve body composition and get in running shape, these are great.

5. A dynamic warm up is important for running workouts. Get the body going & the hamstrings prepared with some drills and leave the static stretching to recovery days. Find a routine that works for you and that doesn’t take too much time. 5-7 minutes should be enough.

And last but not least..

6. RECOVER. Even if you aren’t as sore as you would be from lifting, let your body recover. You are hitting your body with a new (and intense) stimulus, and it needs time to adapt. Space out your lifting sessions and give yourself some time off. Your body – especially your hamstrings – will thank you.

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Sick day

A few things for you guys today!

Regarding my last post, there was an article by Cal Dietz on Elite FTS the other day concerning “Antagonistically Facilitated Shock Training” which is just a fancier term for ballistics.  I thought it was pretty cool, & it provides a few videos with more examples, so check that out here: http://articles.elitefts.com/training-articles/antagonistically-facilitated-shock-training-edited/

 

Now, since everyone & their mother has the cold from hell lately, it was only a matter of time until my glands started to swell & that tickle in my throat would demand some attention.

 

Exactly

The thing about colds – they’re really just annoying.  No energy, can’t breathe, can’t taste, and they seem to linger for days and days like an unwanted guest you can’t get rid of.  Everyone has a go-to remedy, but the only thing that really works is time – something we have very little of.

I read this article on T-nation a few months ago regarding the start of “flu season” & training – check it out HERE

The author makes some great points about how to keep yourself healthy & when to know if you can still push through and get some solid training done.  While I agree with most of his points, I get frustrated with people that push through hell & high water to get a lackluster workout in.

Here’s the thing: if you’re under the weather, and your energy level sucks, chances are, your performance will suffer too.  Unless you have no choice and you’re training for the Olympics, or you have a competition while you’re sick, the best thing you can do is back off for a minute.  Everyone is so afraid of “detraining” or losing the results that they’ve worked so hard to achieve – which is completely understandable – but the concept of rest & recovery is more important than a lot of people realize.  Even at the very early stages of a cold, where you know you’re just “off” – you’re better off just taking the time to hit the brakes.  Too often this scenario occurs: you don’t feel 100%, but you push yourself to get to the gym, and after a pretty decent warm up, you feel a little more like yourself and you end up overreaching beyond what you had intended.  While this is normally a good thing, and probably leaves you feeling super accomplished, the next day you wake up feeling like a truck ran you over twice.  Would this have happened without the overachieving training session?  Maybe, maybe not.  But if you’re so busy fighting off a cold, is your body really recovering properly for you to gain the benefits from that amazing work out?  Not likely.

A cold is just one of many ways our bodies tell us that we need to relax.  A forced “deload” week, really.  When you’re sick, your immune system is in overdrive – so there is no point in creating MORE stress on your body in the form of exhaustive exercise.  It will delay recovery, prolong symptoms, and create a domino effect of poor training and low energy.  Not worth it.  Take the week off & get yourself together.

 

In fact, if you’ve never taken a full week off from training, sick or not sick, then I suggest you try it.  There might be some SLIGHT detraining that will occur – mainly in the cardio area after around 4-5 days – but nothing significant enough to warrant a panic.  Most of the time, taking a complete recovery week allows your body to catch up and reset – and if you’ve recently hit any plateaus, this can sometimes help bust through them.

 

The most challenging thing about a recovery week is mentally allowing yourself to take time off and understanding that it is NEVER as hard to get something back as it is to get it in the first place.  Also, 7 days is hardly enough time for your body to make any drastic changes: just think how hard it is to “reset” your metabolism, or lose any permanent weight.  Same thing goes for keeping your fitness level.

 

So while I’m recovering from this monster, tell me: do you guys take full weeks off with NO training whatsoever? What are some of your recovery techniques? OR – do you have a fool proof method for the common cold?