Goals for Senior Runners

In my Sports Psychology class at UVM this fall, we were able to choose a topic for a research project on goal setting.  Of course, I jumped at the chance to do this for senior runners!  And for this post, I’m drawing from my project write-up.  Goal setting theory (GST) is used to improve performance in many endeavors.  In sport, GST has been applied to both teams and individuals, with clear links to building skills and task achievement.  Goals have been broadly grouped as subjective or objective.  Subjective goals could include “I want to keep running” while an objective goal might be “I want to run competitively until age 80 and maintain a 70% age-grade standard”.  Objective goals can be subdivided into process, performance, and outcome goals. In sport, objective goals should be: (1) moderately difficult to achieve; (2) both short and long term; (3) specific; (4) feedback looped.  An oft-used acronym to critique goals is SMART, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Timebound.  It’s no secret we senior runners encounter constraints not faced by younger runners. These include various physiological changes that begin to appear in our 30s but accelerate with aging.  These include changes in: (1) … Continue reading

Prehab

We all know the word rehab.  Whether it’s a house or our running body, it’s working with something that has fallen apart, or at least not functioning properly, and making it whole or materially better – restoration!  Prehab is something of a contraction of preventative rehab.  Meaning, if we do things to ward off injury, we may avoid the need for rehab.  Makes sense, of course, and we could agree nobody wants to deal with an injury.  We just want to run!  So, what to do? First, there are some pretty basic exercises that can/should be done on a near-daily basis.  They include eccentric heel dips — (see November 10, 2015 blog post), against-the-wall calf stretches, standing quad stretches — pulling your bent leg back from the ankle and feeling the stretch in the hip flexors, rope pulls – lying on your back and pulling your leg up with three progressive 15-20 second pulls, weighted knee extensions – most easily done on the leg extension machine, and goblet or wall squats.  See the Runner Resources – Resistance Exercises section on my website for descriptions of several of these. Nothing really fancy with this battery, but they strengthen and stretch multiple … Continue reading

Hamstrings and Balance

Most runners have frequent and recurring hamstring problems.  It seems endemic to the sport.  And it’s debilitating – if your hamstring is talking to you, then in Bob Dylan’s words, “You Ain’t Going Nowhere.” The anatomy and biomechanics of the lower extremity is complicated.  A chart noting interrelated muscular actions in Joseph Hamill’s Biomechanical Basis of Human Movement  provides a clear picture of how each muscle, joint, and tendon plays a role in proper movement in running gait.  The three hamstring muscles (semimembranosus, biceps femoris, and semitendinosus) form the “meat” of the posterior (backside) thigh.  And attached to these three, either directly or indirectly, are about a dozen muscles attaching to the hip and knee.  If that isn’t involved enough there are the anterior (frontside) muscles that serve as antagonists to the posterior muscles.  For example, the four quadriceps flex the hip while the hamstrings extend it.  It’s a beautiful system when it works as designed! But few of us have perfect biomechanics and things happen, the most noteworthy being imbalances. These may be minor, for which we tend to compensate without notice.  But over time these imbalances build up and result in some muscles having to work harder than … Continue reading

Olympics 2021

The Olympics are over.  Eliud Kipchoge ran a masterful marathon and put away the competition in hot and humid conditions, throwing in a 14:28 5K (that’s a 4:40 pace!) at 30K.  Kipchoge now joins two others as the only runners to repeat in the Olympic marathon.  He looked good; Kipchoge always looks good and probably will if he’s still running at 70! Reflecting on my last post about whether to hold the Olympics in light of Covid, I admit my fingers were crossed that outbreaks would be avoided among the 11,000 athletes and the games would be viewed as a success.  I believe that is now a given (sigh of relief!)  Certainly, the heat and humidity (which translates into the Wet Globe Index) were major factors in the races 1,500 meters and above.  Under those conditions, athletes respond differently.  In a way, it opened the door for non-favorites to medal.  Not having crowds didn’t seem to materially affect the performances.  In fact, athletes probably were able to focus better without loud crowds. There were some truly outstanding and memorable performances.  Granted, my focus was on the distance running events.  In that vein, four things stand out. Kipchoge’s marathon.  He showed … Continue reading

Let the Games Begin!

There is a swirl of controversy surrounding holding the Olympics in Japan this year.  The track and field events start July 29th with the men’s and women’s marathon on August 6 & 7 (EST).  Should they be held?  The arguments against it include (1) adverse public opinion in Japan; (2) the games becoming a Covid super-spreader; (3) severe restrictions on spectating — suggesting these games are for TV only.  I’d like to probe each of these arguments. For the first, I lived in Colorado in 1972 when there was a vote against hosting the 1976 Winter Olympics in Denver (and the surrounds) after they had been awarded.  Although outspent 5:1 by pro-event advocates, 60% of Coloradans voted no, resulting in the games being held in Innsbruck, Austria. It was a hot topic, fueled by an anti-growth sentiment.  Also, were concerns that much of cost of staging the Olympics was covered by taxpayers.  Forward to 1984, when L.A. said it would not foot the bill, which led to newfound reliance on sponsorship that has continued unabated.  There are also equity issues.  In both Atlanta (1996) and Rio (2000) many lower income people were displaced to make way for Olympic facilities.  I … Continue reading

The Anthology of Adidas

I have started what may be an impossible task: writing a book about my development as a distance runner in the context of how the sport has evolved over the past 60+ years. The impossible part may be writing it so it interests others.  Several friends are reading early drafts of the first chapters and providing great feedback. Time will tell if/how this project proceeds. However, I do think many will find interesting the story behind the founding and growth of the first running shoe companies, which parallels the expansion of recreational running.  It could be argued more available shoes spurred expansion of the sport.  Alternatively, that new shoes met the exploding demand.  Probably neither argument stands on its own: runners needed shoes and shoes needed runners, though a subset promoting barefoot running argues shoes are an anathema and should be avoided.     Currently, there are 12 or so well-known brands of running shoes.  But 50 years ago, Adidas, Puma, Tiger (now ACSICS), and Nike ruled the roost.  Adidas has been my go-to for racing flats and lightweight trainers for the past 15 years so I took particular interest in that company’s development and highlight it here.  Adidas is a … Continue reading

Stress and Stressors

We all know stress!  Life without stress is not a vibrant life.  While there is a great deal of attention on reducing stress, the real need is to manage and channel it in productive ways. Stress can be either a noun or verb.  As a noun, it describes something.  For example, the pressure placed on our joints or muscles from physical activity is stress.  Emotionally, something that bothers us causes stress, with research showing this impacts us mentally and physically in various ways.  In physiologic terms, stress is defined as the damage caused by “adverse” circumstances.  Of course, that is an important element of training: breaking down and then building back stronger.  As a verb, stress describes an action or effect: e.g., an exercise that stresses our quads (presumably with the aim of strengthening it.)  For sure, we have all experienced the feeling of being “stressed out”. Hans Selye, an endocrinologist who lived from 1907-1982, is known as the founder of stress theory, described by the General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS).  Selye suggested the initial response to stress is alarm, followed by resistance, and if continued exhaustion.  In running, the alarm phase alerts the body to fatigue, soreness, stiffness, and a … Continue reading

The Precious Moment

Last week I saw an email from Ralph, a long-time running friend, briefly describing a bike accident.  He was on a less traveled road approaching the Charlotte Town Beach.  The scenery approaching Lake Champlain on this downhill stretch is beautiful.  In its infinite wisdom, the Town of Charlotte decided this was a good place for a pronounced speed bump, just on the downhill side, with the aim of slowing traffic approaching the beach parking lot.  Good idea?  Maybe.  But for Ralph it proved otherwise. Ralph’s front tire hit the bump at a slight angle, twisting the tire and sending him flying over the handlebars.  He spread eagled on the pavement, landing hard on his arm and side.  As he slid along, gathering road rash, he had a rush of thoughts and questions, foremost being “what just happened.”  In any event, the result was a fractured pelvic bone, determined later at the ER, and an arm that looked like Popeye’s.  Fortunately, four people on a bike tour happened to be there (in fact it was noticing the parked bikes as well as the vista that distracted his attention from the road) and came to the rescue.  The tour leader bandaged his … Continue reading

Slingshot Form

This week I finished my graduate program in clinical and translational science at UVM and last week presented at the department’s weekly seminar, summarizing my research interests in runner biomechanics, which I explored during my program.  Suffice it to say, at this point I thought I’d have a clear idea of next steps.  Not so!  However, in preparing for the presentation, I leafed through three running books in my library: Running Anatomy by Joe Puleo and Patrick Milroy, Running Form by Owen Anderson, and Anatomy for Runners by Jay Dicharry.  They deliver the same message in different ways: to run fast and avoid injury, you need a strong chassis and you’ve got to be efficient in how you use your energy.  I looked through my blog posts and saw one from June 25th, 2019 drawing from Dicharry’s book that I entitled Gait Keeping.  I’m going to expand on this here, but recommend looking at that prior post too.   Dicharry suggests thinking about a slingshot, as we probably played with as kids.  You pull it back and there’s tension.  Depending on the thickness of the band and how far you pull it back, the projectile shoots out.  To maximize distance, … Continue reading

Setting the Bar

There is plenty of scientific evidence to support the notion we do best when we have a goal. This seems to hold for all elements of human endeavor in such varying activities as sports – achieving a time or score, or in the arts – completing a written or visual piece of work every two weeks, month, or what may be appropriate.  Whatever, the key is focusing on the end result, not the process.  If the end is clearly in mind, the steps to get there become apparent. A key question, then, is where to set the bar.  Research suggests that if it is set too high or too low one defeats the purpose of setting the goal: to maximize output or potential.  Running is a perfect example for exploring this phenomenon.  Let’s look at two common scenarios:  (1) setting annual race time targets; (2) returning from injury. Many runners sit down at the start of the year and map out a tentative race schedule.  This may be driven by a club or series schedule, races in a particular location or time of year, or ones that have been enjoyable in the past.  For recreational runners, this mapping typically includes … Continue reading