How Runners Can improve Lower Leg Muscle Fitness Using the Foam Rolling Technique

Mostly suitable for runners, there is a popular exercise technique called foam rolling, which is also referred to as self-myofascial release training. It mostly involves exercise that improves the structural integrity of some of their leg muscles using a lacrosse ball or a foam roller. Even though popularly known as the foam roller for runners, the self-myofascial release tool is also used by athletes, therapists, and coaches as part of an everyday routine exercise. The technique itself involves applying pressure and massaging various parts of the fascial system, including the lower leg muscles to get rid of any stiffness and inflammation. Most professional runners do the exercise for 5-10 minutes before and after running, every 3-4 times weekly. During the exercise, the muscles are relieved of tightness and stiffness. Simply put, foam rolling is a highly important exercise technique for runners and athletes who want to improve their fitness levels, especially when it comes to lower leg muscle fitness.

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Source: http://selfcarer.com

Benefits of Foam Rollers for Runners 

The most important benefit of foam rolling for runners is that it promotes fitness levels of some of their most important muscles involved in the sport. For starters, foam rolling is known to relieve and release tightness and muscular tension from lower leg muscles and the surrounding fascia. This tightness and tension are believed to originate from repetitive physical activities such as running, resistance training, and other kinds of repetitive sports or training activities. Foam rollers are also effective in improving muscular flexibility and fascial muscle range of movement, especially when combined with dynamic stretching. The technique can also help decrease the risk of muscular injury. As pressure is applied to some specific points of the lower leg muscles, runners can benefit from the rolling exercise as it helps in quick muscle recovery and improves muscle function. This technique can help runners maintain healthy, elastic, and highly functional muscles to keep them competition-ready.

Primary Lower Leg Muscles Top Target When Foam Rolling 

When using the foam roller there are various points that runners should target in order to improve lower leg muscle fitness. Some of these fascial muscle points include the tibialis anterior, the calves, the thighs, and the gluteus muscles.

1. Tibialis Anterior

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Source: https://www.theguardian.com

The outermost part of the front of the lower leg, which originates from the shinbone is scientifically known as the Tibialis Anterior. The main function of the tibialis anterior is to pull the toes up as the ankle is flexed, during motion activities such as running or walking. In other words, the tibialis anterior muscles stabilize the ankle. To work out the tibialis anterior using the foam roller, one should start at some point near the knee downwards and do the respective reps.

2. The Calf Muscles 

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The back part of the lower leg is referred to as the calf, which is composed of two major muscle groups. These include the Soleus and the gastrocnemius calf muscle.

• Soleus Calf Muscle: This is the bigger flat muscle found in the middle of the calf, which takes care of flexing movements from the ankle joint.
• Gastrocnemius Calf Muscles: These are found slightly on the side of the calf and a responsible for effectuating forceful movements such as jumping.

To exercise the soleus calf using a foam roller, a straight motion is required. However, a slightly inclined motion is needed when exercising the gastrocnemius calf muscle using a foam roller.

3. Vastus Medialis 

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Source: http://www.popsugar.com

Extending to the knee, at the inner part of your front thigh, there exists a muscle known as the Vastus Medialis, which is one among the most important lower leg muscles for runners. In order to work out this muscle using a foam roller, a movement similar to a plank is required. You can also rotate the thigh gradually until you feel some pressure on the said muscle.
The Vastus Lateralis is a large muscle located on the lateral side of the thigh. It is also another highly important lower leg muscle for runners, meaning that it needs to be well-developed and properly functioning. As a matter of fact, it is the most powerful and largest thigh muscle. To work this muscle out, you will need to lie on your side so that you do a side plank motion using the foam roller.

4. Vastus Lateralis

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Source: http://www.popsugar.com

The Vastus Lateralis is a large muscle located on the lateral side of the thigh. It is also another highly important lower leg muscle for runners, meaning that it needs to be well-developed and properly functioning. As a matter of fact, it is the most powerful and largest thigh muscle. To work this muscle out, you will need to lie on your side so that you do a side plank motion using the foam roller.

5. Gluteus Muscles 

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Source: http://www.popsugar.com

These are also known as the glutes, comprising of the gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus located in the thigh. The Gluteus are also among the most hard-working leg muscles when running or walking, even though they are barely noticed most of the times. Some people regard them as not part of the lower leg muscles. For athletes, however, these muscles also need some working out with the foam roller. To work out the glutes, you need to assume a position nearly similar to that used when working out the vastus lateralis, though your body will be required to assume a more inclined position in this case.

Emily is founder of BodyShape101.com, a blog where she and her associates talk about exercise, fitness, and yoga. Their aim is to help people like you to achieve perfect body. BodyShape101 is concentrated on exercise & fitness tips, and making the most out of it. She is also a mother of one and she tries to find balance between her passion and her biggest joy in life.

5 Tips To Help You Tell When It’s Time for New Running Shoes

The start of a new year is the perfect time to get rid of the old and start fresh. That’s why Herbalife’s Senior Director of Fitness Education Samantha Clayton suggests assessing your running shoes at the start of the year, so you are prepared to tackle your resolutions with the proper footwear. As an Olympic athlete, personal trainer and track coach, Samantha knows the importance of keeping track of the state of your sneakers.  Take note of the following five tips from Sam to evaluate if it’s time to buy a new set of trainers.

Source: http://herbalife.com
Source: http://herbalife.com

Look: “Most of the time you can simply look at your current running shoes and know that it’s time to get a new pair. Keep an eye out for loose stitching, separation of the glued sole to the shoe or if the heels look stretched out and/or there are places on the outsoles that have completely worn down. However, if your shoes are in good shape, but just look dirty – don’t throw them out. Just clean them up and invest in a new pair of laces!”

Comfort: “We all love to wear comfortable shoes, but if your current shoes have completely molded to the shape of your foot they may no longer be providing you with the support that you need. Also, if your old shoes start to give you blisters or discomfort it may be because they have lost their shape completely and are now affecting the way you run.”

Size: “If your current shoes start to feel too tight or too loose you must get fitted for a new pair. I know we all think that our feet stop growing in our teen years but there are many things that can affect the shoe size that you wear. Pregnancy, weight gain or weight loss can change your shoe size especially the width fitting.”

Function: “Worn tread increases chances of slipping but also indicates an overall aging and breakdown of the shoe’s support. If there are wrinkles and cracks on the bottom of the shoe this is an indication the material in the sole is starting to deteriorate and getting a new pair is essential. If your shoes are making squeaking sounds it’s also a sign that the glue is coming loose.”

Smell: “Most running shoes will smell a little right after taking them off but if your shoes have a terrible odor it’s time to get some new ones, because it’s a sign that they have become permeated with moisture and bacteria. This is an unhealthy environment for feet.”

“Many brands test their product to ensure their shoes can last for up to 500 miles of wear, but we are all truly individuals and the length of time your shoes will last depends on so many factors, including how you run, your weight, if you are getting them wet, the terrain that you are running on, how many days of the week are you wearing them and of course the quality of the brand you are buying. Basically if you are tough on your shoes the less time they will last. Investing in 1-2 new pairs per year for an average gym goer/runner is sufficient and if you are an avid exerciser and runner, 2-4 pairs a year will seem normal.” –Samantha Clayton, Senior Director of Fitness Education at Herbalife

5 Nutrition Tips for Running a Marathon

1. Nothing beats the impact of hydration on performance. Before the race, let thirst be your guide to the finish line and use a sports drink to replace fluids during the race. If you are racing just to participate and finish, then drink when you are thirsty throughout the event.  If you are racing to win or achieve your personal record then have a structured fluid replacement plan during the race and stick with it!

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Credit: http://suggestkeyword.com

2. Getting the proper pre-and-post training nutrition is very important for daily recovery and fueling for the competition. Two important factors when picking meals or snacks before and after workouts are: the combination of carbohydrates and protein, and convenience. For a light pre-training meal try a USANA low-glycemic protein shake. Consuming low-glycemic foods provides sustainable energy, which is ideal for long distance training. When carbohydrates combine with protein, they deliver fuel to your muscles more rapidly. Moreover, the liquid snack easily empties from your stomach just before training or the race. For a post-training snack that contains a good amount of protein and fiber, grab a nutrition bar. Personally, I like to add a chocolate milk to enhance rehydration and boost recovery. They’re convenient and easy to consume after training.

3. Healthy vitamin D levels will do your training a world of good by supporting balanced hormone and metabolic function. Eat fatty fish, drink vitamin D fortified milk, and include a vitamin D supplement daily.

4. Put your food and supplements to work for you. Target most of your carbs around exercise (pre, during, and post) to maximize their fueling function. This also helps control body fat to keep you light on your feet. Supplement your training diet with all the B vitamins (thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, and choline) to support optimal energy and protein metabolism.

5. To support cellular, vascular, and joint health, eat at least 3 servings of fatty fish per week. Salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, black cod, halibut, catfish, crab, oysters, or shrimp are a few examples. Also, supplement your diet daily with 1000 mg DHA+EPA.

image001Susan Kleiner, Ph.D, RD, CNS, FACN, FISSN, is a high performance nutritionist and foremost authority on nutrition for strength and power. In addition to having a Ph.D. in sports nutrition, she’s a founder and fellow of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, fellow of the American College of Nutrition, and the best-selling author of numerous books, including Power Eating—written specifically for athletes to build muscle.

Racing Strategies from Dr. Jason Karp

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Photo Credit: http://active.com

Most runners run races without giving much thought as to how they are going to run the race.  They just pay their entry fee and run, without any intention to their actions, hoping for a good result.  Successful racing takes knowledge, planning, execution, and a little courage.  When you develop and execute your race plan, you’ll achieve your potential and run better races.  Try these racing strategies to improve yourself when it comes to running a race.

Strategy 1: Know your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses and capitalize on them. 

Knowing your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses can help you design a race plan that will help you beat him or her.  For example, if you know that your opponent always goes out too fast and gets slower with each successive mile, you can feel confident that if you let him go in the beginning and stay relatively close, you’ll pass him late in the race when he fatigues.

Strategy 2: Visualize your race before it happens. 

Visualizing your race before you run it allows you to experience it beforehand, making the experience familiar and thus making you less nervous.  If the experience is familiar, you will feel more comfortable.  Practice visualizing your race each day for a few days before it, seeing the whole experience. Then, when it’s time for your race, you will have already run it.

Strategy 3: Know what pace you can sustain in the race.

Learn from your workouts and know going into the race what pace you can expect to sustain.

Strategy 4: Have specific, meaningful goals in mind for your race.

By having specific goals for your races, it allows you to get away from thinking about the race as a whole, which can be overwhelming.  It also allows for something positive to be taken from each race, even if the overall outcome is disappointing.  Have one or two goals for each race that are within your control.

Strategy 5: Control your nerves at the starting line.

Every runner gets nervous before a race.  That’s perfectly normal.  The important thing is to not let your nervousness get the better of you and prevent you from running a winning race.

Strategy 6: Run even or negative splits. 

The best way to run your fastest possible race and beat others is by running the second half of the race at a pace that is equal to or slightly faster than the first half (even or negative splits).  To negative split a race requires accurate knowledge of your fitness level, confidence to stick to your plan when others have taken the early pace out too fast, and a good dose of self-restraint.

Strategy 7: Stay close to your opponent at all times. 

If a large gap opens up between you and your opponent, it can be very difficult to close the gap and beat him or her.  So try to do whatever you can to remain close to your opponent at all times during the race.

Strategy 8: Keep changing the pace. 

While the best way to run your fastest possible time in a race is to run as even splits as possible, sometimes whom you beat and the place in which you finish matters more than the time on the clock.  In those races, a great winning racing strategy is to keep changing the pace on your opponent, in effect turning the race into a very hard fartlek.

Strategy 9: Own the process. 

Racing isn’t something that just happens. Know when to hold back and when to take control of certain moments in the race. Become an integral part of the racing process and take responsibility for your thoughts and actions, before, during, and after the race.

Strategy 10: Become your own hero.

There is a moment in every race when it starts to feel uncomfortable.  While it’s a natural human tendency to back off from physical discomfort for self-preservation, one of the things that makes runners unique is their penchant for seeking it out.  It is in that moment in the race that you learn about yourself and what you are willing to do to meet your goal.  You want to walk away from your race feeling like you gave it everything you had.  You want to be proud of yourself.  Racing gives you the opportunity to become someone better than you currently are.

Jason Karp is a nationally-recognized speaker, writer, and owner of RunCoachJason.com, a state-of-the-science running coaching and personal training company in San Diego. He is the 2011 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year and holds a Ph.D. in exercise physiology. Dr. Karp has written more than 200 articles for international fitness, running, and coaching magazines, is the author of four books, including 101 Developmental Concepts & Workouts for Cross Country Runners (Coaches Choice, 2010), 101 Winning Racing Strategies (Coaches Choice, 2011) and Running for Women (Human Kinetics, 2012), and is a frequent speaker at national fitness and coaching conferences. His books can be purchased here at www.runcoachjason.com. Dr. Karp’s books can be purchased directly from his website at http://www.runcoachjason.com/merchandise.

10 Running Strategies for Your Next Race

Unknown-1Most runners run races without giving much thought as to how they are going to run the race. They just pay their entry fee and run, without any intention to their actions, hoping for a good result. Successful racing takes knowledge, planning, execution, and a little courage. When you develop and execute your race plan, you’ll achieve your potential and run better races. Try these racing strategies to improve yourself when it comes to running a race.

Strategy 1: Know your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses and capitalize on them.
Knowing your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses can help you design a race plan that will help you beat him or her. For example, if you know that your opponent always goes out too fast and gets slower with each successive mile, you can feel confident that if you let him go in the beginning and stay relatively close, you’ll pass him late in the race when he fatigues.

Strategy 2: Visualize your race before it happens.
Visualizing your race before you run it allows you to experience it beforehand, making the experience familiar and thus making you less nervous. If the experience is familiar, you will feel more comfortable. Practice visualizing your race each day for a few days before it, seeing the whole experience. Then, when it’s time for your race, you will have already run it.

Strategy 3: Know what pace you can sustain in the race.
Learn from your workouts and know going into the race what pace you can expect to sustain.

Strategy 4: Have specific, meaningful goals in mind for your race.
By having specific goals for your races, it allows you to get away from thinking about the race as a whole, which can be overwhelming. It also allows for something positive to be taken from each race, even if the overall outcome is disappointing. Have one or two goals for each race that are within your control.

Strategy 5: Control your nerves at the starting line.
Every runner gets nervous before a race. That’s perfectly normal. The important thing is to not let your nervousness get the better of you and prevent you from running a winning race.

Strategy 6: Run even or negative splits.
The best way to run your fastest possible race and beat others is by running the second half of the race at a pace that is equal to or slightly faster than the first half (even or negative splits). To negative split a race requires accurate knowledge of your fitness level, confidence to stick to your plan when others have taken the early pace out too fast, and a good dose of self-restraint.

Strategy 7: Stay close to your opponent at all times.
If a large gap opens up between you and your opponent, it can be very difficult to close the gap and beat him or her. So try to do whatever you can to remain close to your opponent at all times during the race.

Strategy 8: Keep changing the pace.
While the best way to run your fastest possible time in a race is to run as even splits as possible, sometimes whom you beat and the place in which you finish matters more than the time on the clock. In those races, a great winning racing strategy is to keep changing the pace on your opponent, in effect turning the race into a very hard fartlek.

Strategy 9: Own the process.
Racing isn’t something that just happens. Know when to hold back and when to take control of certain moments in the race. Become an integral part of the racing process and take responsibility for your thoughts and actions, before, during, and after the race.

Strategy 10: Become your own hero.
There is a moment in every race when it starts to feel uncomfortable. While it’s a natural human tendency to back off from physical discomfort for self-preservation, one of the things that makes runners unique is their penchant for seeking it out. It is in that moment in the race that you learn about yourself and what you are willing to do to meet your goal. You want to walk away from your race feeling like you gave it everything you had. You want to be proud of yourself. Racing gives you the opportunity to become someone better than you currently are.

UnknownMore on Dr. Jason Karp:
Jason Karp is a nationally-recognized speaker, writer, and owner of RunCoachJason.com, a state-of-the-science running coaching and personal training company in San Diego. He is the 2011 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year and holds a Ph.D. in exercise physiology. Dr. Karp has written more than 200 articles for international fitness, running, and coaching magazines, is the author of four books, including 101 Developmental Concepts & Workouts for Cross Country Runners (Coaches Choice, 2010), 101 Winning Racing Strategies (Coaches Choice, 2011) and Running for Women (Human Kinetics, 2012), and is a frequent speaker at national fitness and coaching conferences. His books can be purchased here at www.runcoachjason.com.

Dr. Karp’s books can be purchased directly from his website at http://www.runcoachjason.com/merchandise.

Review of Barefoot Running

Here is a fantastic short video on barefoot running by Dr. Daniel E. Liebermanwho is the Professor of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University in Cambridge, MA. Note the interesting comments on the various loads placed on the body with traditional heel strike running compared to a forefront landing. Here is a copy of Dr. Lieberman’s often-read research paper published back in 2004 in Nature that I had previously read and thought you might find interesting as well.

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