Tips & Advice

10 Tips for First-Time Triathletes

I don’t know if it is accurate to write that triathlon is “the” fastest growing sport in the world; but it has definitely got to be in the top few.

If you survey people that have completed a triathlon and ask them why they decided to participate in the sport—what got them there—you may get an answer included in the list below:

  • I had too many running injuries and needed to do cross training to heal myself. Once I began cycling and swimming, I realized I enjoyed the variety and didn’t want to stop.
  • I wanted a new challenge, a change from my regular activities.
  • It was a stake in the ground. I decided to make changes to my life and triathlon was the start.
  • I wanted a way to celebrate my next birthday.
  • I was decent at several sports and the idea of combining them into a single competition seemed to be to my advantage.
  • I watched a multisport event and thought the madness looked like a lot of fun.
  • It’s a great way to stay fit because I get an overall workout—cycling and running do nothing for my upper body.
  • My buddies and I made a bet. I say a good cyclist can slaughter a good runner or a good swimmer in a multisport event. My buddies disagree. I guess we’ll just have to test those theories. Bring on the race.

The summer is still young and there is plenty of time for you to train for and successfully complete a triathlon. Need more help? Continue reading “10 Tips for First-Time Triathletes”

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Finding the Perfect Running Shoe? For You

Over the past 30 years, running shoes have generally improved. But because of conflicting advice and too much technical information, the best advice?.is to get the best advice. I do. I ask my staff to find me a shoe that is similar to my most successful shoes.

Ask several experienced runners about the running stores in your area. You want one that has a reputation for spending time with each customer to find a shoe that will best match the shape and function of the foot. Be prepared to spend at least 45 minutes in the store. Quality stores are often busy, and quality fitting takes time. Getting good advice can save your feet. An experienced running shoe staff can direct you toward shoes that give you a better fit, work better on your feet. I hear from runners about every week, who purchased a “great deal” but had to use it for mowing the lawn because it didn’t work on their feet.

Bring with you the most worn pair of shoes you own—walking or running.
The pattern of wear on a well-used walking shoe offers dozens of clues to a running store staff person. Primarily, shoe wear reveals the way your foot rolls, which is the best indicator of how your foot functions. Shoes are made in categories, and each category is designed to support and enhance a type of patterns of the running motion.

A knowledgeable shoe store staff person can usually notice how your foot functions
?by watching you walk and run. This is a skill gained through the experience of fitting thousands of feet, and from comparing notes with other staff members who are even more experienced.

Give feedback
As you work with the person in the store you need to give feedback as to how the shoe fits and feels. You want the shoe to protect your foot while usually allowing the foot to go through a natural running motion for you. Tell the staff person if there are pressure points or pains—or if it just doesn’t feel right.

Reveal any injuries or foot problems
If you have had recent injuries or chronic joint issues (knee, hip, ankle) you may need a shoe that protects your foot from excess motion.

6 Common Running Injuries to Avoid

The only thing runners fear more than rabid dogs and porta-potty emergencies is getting hurt. An injury means taking a break, and runners hate the thought of losing fitness, gaining weight, or missing an endorphin fix. But what if you knew what injuries you were likely to face — before a single symptom struck?

Sports physician Jack Taunton, M.D., and exercise scientist Michael Ryan, both recreational runners from the University of British Columbia, were studying sports injuries four years ago when they recognized a lack of data linking specific traits, weight, gender, foot type — to running injuries. So they decided to conduct research that was later published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. “We found that certain injuries were statistically more significant among particular people,” Ryan says. “Women are more likely to experience one kind of knee pain — patellofemoral pain syndrome — while men are more likely to experience another — patellar tendonitis.”

Ryan and Taunton’s findings focus on six injuries and the runners they most commonly afflict. Whether you’re in a high-risk group or not, simple training adjustments can keep you safe. These precautionary measures could save you from the dreaded routine of rest and rehab.

Achilles Tendinitis

What It Is Tenderness in your lower calf near your heel that usually strikes when you push off your toes
You’re at Risk Men with a BMI of 25 or higher (a man who is 5’10” and weighs 175 pounds, for example) who run a nine-minute-per-mile pace or faster
Why The Achilles absorbs several times your body weight with each stride. A faster pace and additional body weight put even more stress on this tendon.
Prevent It Strengthen your calf muscles (with your toes on a step, lower and raise your heels). Stretch your calves (keep your heel on the ground, lift your toes back toward your shin).
Others at Risk People who regularly run hills (the Achilles has to stretch more on inclines) and who have increased their mileage more than 10 percent per week (sudden increases in mileage strain the tendon)

Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome

What It Is Pain and soreness along the inside front of the lower leg, commonly called shinsplints
You’re at Risk Runners whose feet roll inward excessively (overpronate)
Why The posterior tibial tendon, the connective tissue that gets sore with shinsplints, runs into the arch of the foot. If your feet roll inward, this tendon has to work extra hard to counteract that motion.
Prevent It Wear motion-control shoes. Strengthen your calves (hold dumbbells while doing toe raises). If you’ve had daily shin pain for longer than a month, see a doctor for a bone scan to rule out a stress fracture.
Others at Risk Beginning runners; people who train on slanted surfaces; women who wear high heels

Patellar Tendinitis

What It Is Pain in the tendon that connects the kneecap to the shinbone
You’re at Risk Men with a BMI of 25 or higher or who have a history of playing basketball and have suddenly increased their weekly mileage
Why The patellar tendon helps your leg extend during running or jumping, but that repeated motion can create small tears in the tendon. After years of activity and then a sudden increase in mileage, your body may struggle to repair those tears. Extra body weight doesn’t help.
Prevent It Keep your weight in check. Do squats to strengthen the patellar tendon and stretch your quads and hamstrings. Avoid increasing mileage by more than 10 percent per week.
Others at Risk Runners with a history of tendon injuries; overpronators.

Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

What It Is Pain and stiffness around the kneecap
You’re at Risk Women who run a 10-minute-per-mile pace or slower
Why I
deally, your kneecap glides smoothly in the groove at the end of your thighbone. But because women have more flexible joints and a more extreme angle from hip to knee (called the Q angle) than men, their kneecaps are more likely to fall out of alignment. Pain intensifies at slower speeds because the knee goes through less range of motion, putting more demand on a smaller area of the joint.
Prevent It Strengthen your quads, hamstrings, and glutes with squats and lunges to stabilize your kneecaps and help keep the pelvis level while you run.
Others at Risk Runners who overpronate, have flat feet or high arches.

Iliotibial-Band Syndrome

What It Is Inflammation in the band of fibers that runs along the outside of the knee to the top of the shin
You’re at Risk Women with a BMI of 21 (weighing 135 at 5’7″, for example) or higher who do a weekly long run of two hours or more and run hills often. Find your BMI with a BMI Calculator.

Why Extra body weight puts a heavier load on the hips and more pressure on the IT band. Long runs fatigue the muscles that help stabilize women’s hips. The hips sag more than normal on each step, straining the band. During a hill workout, the knee stays bent longer, which also increases tension in the IT band.
Prevent It Strengthen the muscles around the IT band with leg walking (loop a resistance band around both ankles and walk sideways in one direction, then the other). Use a foam roller to loosen the band (see runnersworld.com/foamroller).
Others at Risk People who run on slanted surfaces; runners with leg-length discrepancies

Plantar Fasciitis

What It Is Inflammation of the tissue along the bottom of the foot that’s usually worst first thing in the morning
You’re at Risk Men over 40 who have a family history of the injury
Why The make-up of the tissue in the plantar fascia is stiffer in men and gets less flexible with age. Experts think it could be a genetic condition.
Prevent It The fascia tightens overnight, so stretch your calves before getting out of bed (straighten your legs; flex your toes). Strengthen your calves with toe raises or eccentric heel drops.
Others at Risk People who wear shoes that lack good arch support (flip-flops, ballet flats); pregnant women

Foot Anatomy for Injury Prevention

The human foot is supremely efficient at carrying the body in a variety of gaits and strides. It also plays a major role in facilitating climbing, crawling, swimming, kicking, jumping, height extension and aiding balance.

The human foot essentially adapts to whatever demands we place on it. In martial arts, feet are used in ways, from kicking to strangling. Our feet have a lot of demands placed on them, but we can learn to support their anatomy for injury prevention.

Consider the foot as a combination of several dimensional variables of strength, durability, sensitivity, and finesse. All of these variables can be improved over time and adaptation. There are 26 bones connected through 33 joints in the human foot. These bones are very stout with lots of surface and knobby ends. They connect more than 100 muscles and tendons.

The foot moves through tendons leading to muscles in the lower leg. Foot muscles work to absorb impact. Tendons are slower to regenerate than muscle, and they strengthen in response to stress. Because the foot has such a large proportion of bone and tendon relative to other body parts, it generally takes longer for it to become conditioned to new stress.

Feet are so durable that they will tolerate abuse through poor form longer than other body parts. This can lead to a false sense of progress in an athletic endeavor until poor form finally causes the foot to injure. Injuries throughout the leg and body may also be caused by poor foot form.

Feet are amazing and they will do whatever you want them to. Special attention to good form is essential for injury prevention. Whatever your sport is, examine your feet and help them adapt slowly over time.

The Importance of a Proper Shoe Fit

Choosing the right pair of shoes to wear on a regular basis can help ensure the long-term health of your feet, as well as your entire body. The best fit for you depends on your daily use, but nothing is more important than comfort. Not only do ill-fitting shoes make you uncomfortable all day, but they can also cause foot pain or aggravate pre-existing conditions.

While comfort is the priority when you’re looking for new shoes, there are a few other things to consider as well:

  • Try shoes on in the afternoon – Your feet swell slightly throughout the day, so trying shoes on in the afternoon when they are bigger will help you find a more accurate size.
  • Not too small, not too big – Shoes that are too big or too small can cause unwanted rubbing and blisters. Find a shoe that gives your toes room to wiggle, but does not allow your foot to slide around.
  • Don’t fixate on size – Just because you’re a size 9 in one brand, doesn’t mean every shoe brand will fit the same. Shoe sizes can vary among manufacturers, which is why it’s important to try on every new pair of shoes and make sure they fit well.
  • Wear the right socks – If you are buying running shoes, wear the kind of sock you would use running when you try the shoes on. That way, you’ll get a better idea of how it will fit during the activity you are buying them for.
  • Don’t worry about breaking shoes in – If a shoe isn’t comfortable to begin with, it’s never going to be.

Proper shoe fit is particularly important if you are diabetic since improper shoe fit can cause blisters and sores that can become serious if not found and treated quickly. If you do have diabetes or a foot problem like plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, or hammer toe, custom orthotics can be used to make your shoe more comfortable. If you are experiencing foot pain or have any concerns, talk to your primary care physician, and he or she can refer you to a specialist if necessary. Our community is fortunate as Cone Health has an exceptional network of orthopedic surgeons, podiatrists, and other healthcare providers dedicated to educating individuals about proper footwear, and caring for patients with foot problems or conditions.

A Runner’s Guide to Understanding Pronation

If you’ve ever had your gait analyzed by a running store salesperson and suddenly found yourself swimming in a sea of motion control and stability shoes, it’s because you do something that 80 percent of runners do: pronate. It may sound alarming, but both pronation and its functional opposite, supination, are necessary adaptations to allow the body to respond to the act of walking and running.

Everyone pronates and supinates to some degree with every step; however, it is the excessive motion, or overpronation, that can lead to running injuries. The good news is that you don’t need over-built shoes to fight pronation. Simply improving your form with the Chi Running technique can increase the stability of your feet and ankles naturally and for the long-term.

What Is Pronation?

Pronation is the flattening of the arch when the foot lands on the ground. This flattening aids in balance and provides some shock absorption. As the foot flattens slightly, the ankle tilts inward toward the midline of the body, and the muscles of the lower leg help keep the ankle from rolling too far inward.

What Causes Overpronation?

Folks with flatter feet tend to have highly flexible arches, which are more likely to flatten too much. This is known as overpronation. In this case, the foot provides plenty of its own cushioning but does not retain enough of its own structure, so other parts of the leg, such as the medial tibialis (the “shin splint” muscle) and the knee, try to pick up the job of providing support. They aren’t designed for this, and when they are overworked, they send pain signals indicating they can’t keep doing the extra labor.

Conversely, people with high arches often have inflexible feet which limit the amount of natural motion the foot undergoes as it lands. These people don’t get much natural shock absorption in the foot, and the ground forces will once again travel farther up the leg looking for a place to be absorbed, often in the shins, knees or elsewhere. However, not everyone with flat feet overpronate, and those with high arches may also experience excessive inward ankle rolling due to instability in the muscles of the lower leg.

Just as the structure of the foot can contribute to overpronation, so can poor stride mechanics. Heel striking, leading with your legs, a slow/long stride, or pushing off with the toes can cause excessive motion in the foot. Chi Running reduces these effects by emphasizing a midfoot landing and a shorter, quicker stride, both of which reduce the amount of time the foot spends on the ground and limit the amount of motion necessary to get the foot into position to lift off the ground at the back end of the stride.

How to Correct Pronation

Try introducing the following Chi Running Form Focuses into your workouts:

Maintain a constant cadence of 170 to 180 strides per minute (spm) no matter what speed you’re running.

Practice landing with your feet below or even slightly behind your center of gravity (hips), not out in front. This is commonly called a midfoot strike.

Hold your pelvis level with each stride. This works to strengthen all the connective tissue that runs between the arch of your foot and your pelvis. It’s a great way to strengthen and stabilize your ankles.

When you consistently apply these focuses to your running, you’ll feel stronger, smoother and more relaxed. Eventually, your feet will possess just the right amount of strength, and motion control will no longer be an issue.

Different Shoes for Different Feet

When it comes to running, wearing the wrong shoes for your feet is like wearing a bicycle helmet to play baseball. Having the right equipment matters.

Not all feet are created equal, and each foot type needs exactly the right shoe to prevent blisters and aches or worse.

Knowing how your foot hits the ground dictates what shoes to buy. Walkers and beginning runners tend to hit the ground heels-first, calling for heavy cushioning at the back of shoes. More experienced athletes run on the balls of their feet and need a shoe with substantial soles at the front of a sneaker.

Barbara Saia, 40, of San Luis Obispo, Calif., a marathon runner and Central Coast campaign manager for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team-In-Training, recruits volunteers to walk or run marathons. She counsels volunteers to seek help from shoe professionals before starting their training.

“Most runners don’t realize they’re wearing the wrong shoes,” she says. “Shin splints, pain in the knees and legs are attributed to the wrong shoes.”

Pronation and Shoe Needs

In addition to proper cushioning, identifying how an arch collapses as the foot rolls during each step, called “pronation,” determines the kind of support a foot requires. There are three types: overpronation, neutral pronation and underpronation.

Overpronation
In overpronation, when the foot hits the ground, it rolls and the arch over-collapses, making it unable to stabilize the body or absorb the step’s impact. The best shoes for overpronators are usually stiff-soled, called motion-controlled, to reduce rolling.

Underpronation
In underpronation, also called supination, the arch does not connect with the ground. As a result, the impact of each step is limited to the outer foot, small toes and legs. Shoes that are best suited for underpronation have no added stability and encourage the foot to roll toward the arch, spreading the weight equally on the foot.

Neutral Pronation
Neutral pronation is the most common pattern. As the foot rolls, the heel connects evenly to the ground, and the body’s weight is supported while the step’s impact is absorbed. Recommended shoes are medium-stability shoes with average cushioning and moderate arch support.

Greg Hind, 59, owner of GH Sports, cautions runners to understand their feet before shopping for shoes. At his San Luis Obispo store, he has a prospective buyer walk or run on a treadmill, recording the movements with a video recorder to analyze foot placement and arch height. After that, a customer knows exactly what type of shoe best fits their needs.

“The problem with making generalizations is that not all people fall into a specific category,” cautions Hind. “Each runner is different and so are their needs. A running shoe has no break-in period. If there’s something that doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not going to go away.”