Students Staff

20 March 2015

Pacing strategy for success

Filed under: Latest news, People pages, Sport — Tags: — Communications Office @ 11:52 am
Dr Dominic Micklewright

Dr Dominic Micklewright

This is the last of a short series of blogs from our sports scientists and experts giving tips and guidance on fitness and nutrition as you prepare for the Colchester Half Marathon.

Dominic Micklewright, Senior Lecturer at the Centre for Sports and Exercise Science, gives the following tips on pacing on the day:

‘Success’ will mean different things to different runners. For some of you, who I will refer to as the finishers, success will mean getting through the distance and finishing the race. Some of you will be aiming to complete the race in particular time, and I will refer to you as time-trialers. Whilst I expect most of you will fall into one of these first two categories, the more experienced competitive runners among you may be aiming for a particular position or to beat a particular individual. If you are in this category, which I will refer to as the competitors, things are more difficult because success is more greatly dependent upon uncontrollable factors such as the quality of the field and how well others perform on the day. Whether you are a finisher, a time-trialer or a competitor, the type of pacing strategy you adopt will be pivotal in whether you succeed or not.

Pacing strategy is a generic term used to describe the way an athlete varies their speed or distributes energy expenditure throughout a race. It is the way the race is run. There are a number of factors that influence the type of pacing strategy selected by an athlete such as the duration of the event, the athlete’s experience, weather conditions and race terrain.

There are two things you can do to greatly increase you chances of success in the Colchester Half Marathon.

  • Before the race think about your experience and ability, and develop an appropriate pacing plan.
  • During the race pay attention to how you feel and be willing to modify you pace accordingly.


Early Danger

In planning your pacing strategy you need to think about the course profile. The Colchester Half Marathon has lots of potential to catch out even the most experienced runners and this is because the first third of the race involves a series of uphill and downhill sections to negotiate. Sure, most of the race is nice and flat but before you get those pastures you first need to run the ‘W’.

The first 4km (20%) is made up of a long downhill section ending somewhere near Colchester train station. Most likely the competitors will set off really quickly, hoping to get an early lead and establish a strong position in the field. That’s fine, they are experienced, well conditioned and will have probably practiced running the ‘W’ many times beforehand. However, if you are a finisher or a time-trialer, be very careful and don’t get drawn into the chase. You could choose to bolt down that first hill screaming, “Yeeeeee..ha, I’m a flying pony” but don’t be fooled, although it might feel easy at the time, downhill running is extremely strenuous on the muscles due to the mechanics of braking and, unless you are very accustomed to this type of terrain, you will arrive at the bottom with legs like jelly and 16 km left to run. Not a good start. The key here is self-discipline. While it’s OK to run this section a little quicker than your normal pace, constrain your speed so that legs are still quite fresh at the bottom of the hill and that you have not used up too much of your energy reserves.

After a short flat section you will next be confronted with North Hill. Depending on your ability, you need to think about whether to run or walk up this hill. If you can run it, all well and good but think about the knock-on effects. At this early stage in the race there is no point killing yourself just to prove a point and there’s no shame in walking the hill; in any case the hill is so short the difference between running it and walking it will make virtually no difference to your completion time. Far better to arrive in good shape at the top, so you can run along the High Street (where people will be watching).

Next is the short steep downhill section of East Hill. Again, be disciplined – control your speed, protect your legs. After East Hill, there is the long gradual uphill section along Ipswich Road to Severalls Lane. Unlike the steep North Hill, you should be aiming to run this section but, with three quarters of the race still remaining, you want to make sure you maintain a pace that enables you to preserve sufficient energy resources to cope with the very long flat section that follows. For the finishers and time-triallers, this probably means running slower than normal. For the competitors, you should be aiming to stay with the pack along Ipswich Road and, depending on how you feel, you could increase the pace slightly and apply pressure on other runners. But you should only do this if you are feeling really confident. Your main aim should be not to get dropped and move into the long flat section feeling strong.

Listen to Your Feelings

I note that iPods or other MP3 devices, which many runners use to distract themselves from feelings of discomfort during running, are not permitted in the Colchester Half Marathon. Actually, I don’t know why a runner would want to ignore their feelings during a race and, in fact, their ability to adjust their pace according to how they feel is very important to their success.

During the race you should be constantly asking yourself, “How exerted do I feel and can I maintain this level of exertion for the rest of the race?” If at any point you feel too exerted, slow down. If you do not feel exerted enough, speed up. Adopting a fast pace early on in the race that results in high levels of feelings of exertion is risky. As you progress through the race, and as the finish line gets closer, your confidence in being able to complete the race will increase and allowing you feelings of exertion to increase becomes less risky. So rather than try to ignore feelings of discomfort while running, learn to understand what these feeling mean and use them to adjust your pace. As you might do so in tucking into a feisty curry, try to derive some enjoyment from the discomfort and, as to paraphrase a colleague of mine from the US, “Embrace the benign masochist in yourself.”

Running the Flat 

The first third of this race is quite tricky and hopefully, if you have been disciplined and careful with your pace during this early stage, you will arrive at Severalls Lane in good shape ready to complete the long flat section of the race that leads out to the village of Langham and then back into the finish line at the stadium. If you are a finisher the key thing here is to settle into a steady pace that you can sustain for 12 km; there is still a very long way to go so don’t be tempted to run off too fast. Pay attention to how you feel and use those feeling to find a manageable pace and stick with it. If you are a time-trialer you need to be on top of your split times. Work out what times you need to reach certain points in the course and pace yourself accordingly. Of course, you should also pay attention to how you feel. If trying to meet your pre-planned split times means generating feelings of exertion that are not sustainable, then you may have to adjust your target time or risk not finishing the race.

The End Game 

As you are running back towards the Stadium along Straight Road, you will pass the junction with Langham Road on your left-hand-side. At this point you have about a mile (1.6 km) remaining or less than 10% If you are a finisher my advice is to just maintain the same pace into the finish. You are almost certainly going to make it but there is no point in taking any risks at this late stage. If you are a time-trialer, once you have passed Langham Road you can afford increase your speed and take some extra risk as you are almost certainly going to make it to the finish line.

Finally, whatever you are trying to achieve, enjoy your race. Think about your pacing strategy and use your feelings to regulate your effort. Good luck.

 

The University of Essex will moderate comments and there will be a delay before any posts appear.

16 March 2015

Sustain your training through effective recovery methods

Filed under: Latest news, Sport — Tags: — Communications Office @ 1:30 pm
Chris McManus

Chris McManus

This is the third of a short series of blogs from our sports scientists and experts giving tips and guidance on fitness and nutrition as you prepare for the Colchester Half Marathon.

Chris McManus, Manager of our Human Performance Unit, gives a few simple, yet important, recovery strategies to prevent injuries.

Firstly, consider ‘recovery’ strategies as ‘preparation’ strategies, in that as soon as one session is complete, your mind should focus on how to optimally prepare for your next training run, be it a short interval session, a long run, a recovery run, a gym session or any other form of exercise. If preparation can begin in the acute period post-training then you are much more likely to begin your next session feeling fresh, well recovered and ultimately train harder, faster or for longer.

Other key areas to consider are:

Nutrition
Replenish, repair and rehydrate – nutrition strategies following exercise are a hot topic for athletes regardless of their sport. Just some questions often asked include; ‘Do I need to buy a recovery supplement?’, ‘Do I need to eat in the immediate 60 minutes following exercise?’, ‘How much do I need to consume?’ Below is a summary of some nutrition recommendations following exercise.

  • If training more than once a day, or training in the evening and then the following morning, a more aggressive recovery strategy is needed. This includes ensuring that carbohydrate, protein and fluid are consumed in the acute period post exercise. With a limited amount of time between training your intention should be to eat as soon as possible after exercise, however, more is not necessarily better, certainly not all in one go.

Example recovery meals could include:

  1. Cereal with milk, yoghurt and fresh fruit juice
  2. Sandwich with lean meat such as chicken, turkey or ham
  3. 500 ml homemade fruit smoothie with spirulina powder
  4. 15-20g whey protein drink and 2 pieces of fruit.

Following this initial post exercise meal, when needing to recover aggressively, aim to eat little and often, rather than consuming one very large meal. A simple strategy would be to eat a similar sized meal every 2 hours between sessions (excluding when not sleeping).

  • Monitor your hydration and aim to consume sufficient fluid so that your urine is a light yellow/pale straw colour prior to beginning your next session. Take your time, sip fluids little and often.
  • If training less regularly, with one day rest between sessions, a less aggressive strategy is required. With a greater duration between training sessions this allows for sufficient time to replace your depleted energy stores without the need to purchase unnecessary supplements. If you are looking for that post exercise drink then look no further than a 500ml glass of milk. Providing a combination of fluid, protein and carbohydrate, this low-cost beverage is an ideal post-exercise nutrient source. 

Compression clothing
Numerous studies support the anecdotal evidence that when athletes wear compression clothing after exercise, they report a lower perception of muscle soreness and consequently a readiness to undertake exercise sooner. Most studies that have demonstrated a positive influence of athletes’ perception of recovery has required the individual to wear compression clothing for 2-6 hours post exercise.

Ice baths
I admit this doesn’t sound particularly appealing, however, when considering acute recovery strategies this method is now common practice with many athletes and teams across the globe. As most of us only have a small ice cube tray in the freezer my advice would be to run a cold water bath high enough to cover your legs and slowly lower yourself in. If this is too unbearable, use your shower to spray warm water on your upper body. Try to keep your legs submerged for a few minutes at a time – 5-10 minutes total submerged time tends to be sufficient.

Foam rolling
Another ideal recovery strategy is the use of foam rollers. Not just useful post exercise, but also on a daily basis as part of a prehabilitative strategy, foam rollers have demonstrated a positive effect in reducing muscle soreness, improving range of motion and certain performance parameters following a muscle-damaging bout of exercise, when compared with not using a foam roller. The Human Performance Unit has recently reviewed a journal investigating the effectiveness of foam rolling.

The University of Essex will moderate comments and there will be a delay before any posts appear.

9 March 2015

Make sure you stretch safely

Filed under: Latest news, People pages, Sport — Tags: — Communications Office @ 2:13 pm
Justin Hubbard

Justin Hubbard

This is the second of a short series of blogs from our sports scientists and experts giving tips and guidance on fitness and nutrition as you prepare for the Colchester Half Marathon.

Justin Hubbard, Health and Fitness Manager, gives the following tips about stretching:

Preparation before the start

To improve your range of motion and to avoid injury, you do need to stretch, but don’t ever do it when muscles are cold. Start with some gentle aerobic warm-ups (walking into jogging for about five minutes) to get blood to the tissue before doing any stretching keep your tracksuit on whilst you warm up.

Dynamic stretching
Three all-purpose dynamic stretches for your lower body:

  • Butt-kick: As you jog or walk, bend one knee and lift it behind you as if you were trying to kick yourself in the butt. It’s not punishment, it stretches the quadriceps.
  • Goose-step march: Slowly lift your leg straight out in front of you, alternating as you walk with your normal stride length.
  • Knee lifts: As you’re jogging or walking, bring knees up toward your chest. For a variation, as your right knee comes up, twist the lifted leg gently to the left and your upper body gently to the right for a spinal twist. Repeat on each side as you jog or walk

Do several repetitions of 30 seconds each at your own pace. The point is to do the movements in a controlled way.

Alternatively, the sun salutation is good way to stretch multiple parts of the body. You can learn these moves with Tracy at freestyle fitness yoga on a Monday at 5pm and Tuesday at 12 at our Colchester Campus.

After the run stay warm, refuel and carry out static stretches .

Care should be taken when stretching – if you stretch too quickly the muscle can contract and increase tension, and so muscles should always be stretched slowly and the stretch should be held for approximately 30 seconds. This way, the muscle tension falls and the muscle can be stretched further.

When stretching don’t ‘bounce’ the muscle. It’s a common mistake, and doing it can pull or tear the muscle you’re trying to ease. Don’t stretch if you feel tightness in the muscle or if you feel any pain or discomfort.

Stretching should form part of your training session, both before and after your run. While you may not get the same kind of enjoyment from it as running, stretching correctly can improve your performance considerably.

Calf Stretch
Position your body about three feet from a wall and stand with your feet at shoulder width. Place your hands on the wall and keep your arms straight for support. Lean your hips forward and bend your knees slightly to stretch your calves.

Leg Stretch
From the previous position, bend forward to lower your body to waist height. Bring one foot forward with your knee slightly bent. Lift the toes of the front foot to stretch the muscle under the calf. Stretch both legs.

Back Stretch
Grip your elbow with the opposite hand and gently push the elbow up and across your body until your hand reaches between your shoulder blades. Gently push on your elbow to guide your hand down your back as far as it will comfortably go, stretching your triceps and shoulders. Stretch both arms.

Hamstring Stretch
Lie down with one leg straight up in the air, the other bent with foot flat on the ground. Hook a towel over the arch of the lifted foot, and gently pull on the towel as you push against it with your foot. Push gently only to the point where you feel your muscles contract. Stretch both legs. Kneel on your knees (without resting back on your heels). Lean back with your body erect and your arms to the side. Hold for 10 seconds.

Heel To Buttock
Stand on one foot, with one hand on a wall for balance. Hold the other foot with the opposite hand and raise the heel of the lifted foot to the buttocks (or as near as possible), stretching your quadriceps. Keep your body upright throughout. Repeat with the other leg.

Hip and Lower Back Stretch
Sit on the ground with your legs crossed. Lift your right leg and cross it over the left, which should remain bent. Hug the right leg to your chest and twist the trunk of your body to look over your right shoulder. Change legs and repeat.

Hamstring and Back Stretch
Lie on your back with your knees bent. Hug your shins to your chest to stretch your hamstrings and lower back.

Quads and Lower Back Stretch
Lie on your back and, with your feet flat on the ground, lift your hips up until your body forms a flat plane. Repeat this ten times for 30 seconds each to stretch your quads and lower back.

Groin Stretch
Seated, put the soles of your feet together. With your elbows on the inside of your knees, gradually lean forward and gently press your knees toward the ground.

 

 

The University of Essex will moderate comments and there will be a delay before any posts appear.

2 March 2015

Nutrition strategy for endurance exercise

Filed under: Latest news, People pages, Sport — Tags: , — Communications Office @ 2:26 pm
Chris McManus

Chris McManus

This is the first of a short series of blogs from our sports scientists and experts giving tips and guidance on fitness and nutrition as you prepare for the Colchester Half Marathon 2015.

Chris McManus, Manager of our Human Performance Unit, says:

I’m often asked ‘What should I eat or drink on race day?’, or ‘How much should I eat or drink on race day?’, yet this line of enquiry is neglecting a paramount aspect of performance nutrition.

My response would probably be, ‘What have you been doing in training prior to race day?’ and ‘What has worked well and what hasn’t?’. We should concern ourselves with our nutrition strategy well ahead of race day and ensure we have sufficiently practiced our food and fluid intake in the previous weeks, possibly months prior.

Essentially, we are talking about the period before, during and after exercise when discussing the ‘nutrition strategy’. Often, an overwhelming concern for athletes is what to eat and drink during a half marathon, when the emphasis should be on preparation. If the correct strategies are adhered to prior to getting to the start line, this will alleviate much of the risk associated with endurance running, ie dehydration, cramping, hitting the wall, not finishing etc.  Preparation should begin now, by practicing various meals/food sources, timings and portion sizes.  A brief overview of current recommendations is provided below.

Whilst it may not be possible to adhere to these guidelines prior to every training run, it is particularly prudent to use your long runs (typically weekend mornings) as a dress rehearsal, therefore a perfect opportunity to practice your pre-race meal and fluid intake during exercise.

Pre-Exercise:

  • A pre training meal or snack is important to top up the body’s primary fuel source, carbohydrate.
  • Ideal pre-exercise meals should be consumed approximately 2-4 hours prior to the onset of exercise. Dependent upon the time of day you are undertaking exercise, some examples include:
    • Breakfast cereal (ie porridge, museli etc) with milk (large bowl) + fruit
    • Granary bread rolls with cheese/meat + fruit
    • Brown rice with chicken and vegetables
    • Baked potato with baked beans and salad
  • The exact timing will depend upon the individual, hence why it is important to practice and find what works for you.
  • High in carbohydrates (ideally with a low to moderate glyceamic index).
  • Low in fat and protein
  • If you have a nervous stomach before events, choose lower-fibre products, juice, or pureed foods (toast or crackers, apple juice, soup, yoghurt, fruit smoothie, etc).
  • If hungry in the final 30-60 minutes prior, consume an easily digestible carbohydrate snack ie fruit, cereal bar, fruit smoothie, yoghurt.

During:

  • Typical nutrition advice for exercise or more than 90 minutes in duration (presuming a sufficient pre-exercise meal has been consumed and you are eating a high carbohydrate diet prior) is to aim to consume between 30-90g of carbohydrate per hour. This will provide a steady stream of carbohydrate during prolonged endurance exercise.
  • Fluid requirements are slightly less rigid. It is important that you begin hydrated, which can be easily assessed via urine colour (aim for a light yellow/pale straw colour – it does not need to be completely clear, but should not be a dark yellow colour either). Fluid recommendations during exercise are a highly contentious topic at present. My advice would be to sip fluid little and often if possible, by carrying fluid with you or placing it in a bush if you happen to pass the same place regularly during a long run. If you feel thirsty then certainly ensure you consume some fluid and not ignore this desire for fluid. It is a balancing act of not drinking too much that excessive volumes of fluid are consumed, yet not restricting fluid intake to such a degree that dehydration occurs
  • Examples during exercise could include an isotonic sports drink (providing approximately 30g per 500ml bottle), sports gels, jelly babies, jelly beans, banana or raisins. Practice with these during your long runs to find out what works for you.
  • If you are currently not consuming anything on your long runs, gradually increase your carbohydrate intake. Your gut is trainable and therefore you must make small additions to your fuelling strategy week after week, rather than jump from nothing to a large amount.

By attempting to incorporate these suggestions into your training now will provide you with sufficient time to find out what works for you. There is no one-size-fits-all strategy when it comes to eating and drinking before and during exercise, so listen to your body.

Ideally, come race day, you will have a firm handle on your nutrition strategy and are simply going through the motions. Never try anything new on race day!

The University of Essex will moderate comments and there will be a delay before any posts appear.

11 March 2014

Pacing strategy for success

Filed under: Latest news, Sport — Tags: — Communications Office @ 2:16 pm
Dr Dominic Micklewright

Dr Dominic Micklewright

This is the last of a short series of blogs from our sports scientists and experts giving tips and guidance on fitness and nutrition as you prepare for the Colchester Half Marathon.

Dominic Micklewright, Senior Lecturer at the Centre for Sports and Exercise Science, gives the following tips on pacing on the day:

‘Success’ will mean different things to different runners. For some of you, who I will refer to as the finishers, success will mean getting through the distance and finishing the race. Some of you will be aiming to complete the race in particular time, and I will refer to you as time-trialers. Whilst I expect most of you will fall into one of these first two categories, the more experienced competitive runners among you may be aiming for a particular position or to beat a particular individual. If you are in this category, which I will refer to as the competitors, things are more difficult because success is more greatly dependent upon uncontrollable factors such as the quality of the field and how well others perform on the day. Whether you are a finisher, a time-trialer or a competitor, the type of pacing strategy you adopt will be pivotal in whether you succeed or not.

Pacing strategy is a generic term used to describe the way an athlete varies their speed or distributes energy expenditure throughout a race. It is the way the race is run. There are a number of factors that influence the type of pacing strategy selected by an athlete such as the duration of the event, the athlete’s experience, weather conditions and race terrain.

There are two things you can do to greatly increase you chances of success in the Colchester Half Marathon.

  • Before the race think about your experience and ability, and develop an appropriate pacing plan.
  • During the race pay attention to how you feel and be willing to modify you pace accordingly.


Early Danger

In planning your pacing strategy you need to think about the course profile. The Colchester Half Marathon has lots of potential to catch out even the most experienced runners and this is because the first third of the race involves a series of uphill and downhill sections to negotiate. Sure, most of the race is nice and flat but before you get those pastures you first need to run the ‘W’.

The first 4km (20%) is made up of a long downhill section ending somewhere near Colchester train station. Most likely the competitors will set off really quickly, hoping to get an early lead and establish a strong position in the field. That’s fine, they are experienced, well conditioned and will have probably practiced running the ‘W’ many times beforehand. However, if you are a finisher or a time-trialer, be very careful and don’t get drawn into the chase. You could choose to bolt down that first hill screaming, “Yeeeeee..ha, I’m a flying pony” but don’t be fooled, although it might feel easy at the time, downhill running is extremely strenuous on the muscles due to the mechanics of braking and, unless you are very accustomed to this type of terrain, you will arrive at the bottom with legs like jelly and 16 km left to run. Not a good start. The key here is self-discipline. While it’s OK to run this section a little quicker than your normal pace, constrain your speed so that legs are still quite fresh at the bottom of the hill and that you have not used up too much of your energy reserves.

After a short flat section you will next be confronted with North Hill. Depending on your ability, you need to think about whether to run or walk up this hill. If you can run it, all well and good but think about the knock-on effects. At this early stage in the race there is no point killing yourself just to prove a point and there’s no shame in walking the hill; in any case the hill is so short the difference between running it and walking it will make virtually no difference to your completion time. Far better to arrive in good shape at the top, so you can run along the High Street (where people will be watching).

Next is the short steep downhill section of East Hill. Again, be disciplined – control your speed, protect your legs. After East Hill, there is the long gradual uphill section along Ipswich Road to Severalls Lane. Unlike the steep North Hill, you should be aiming to run this section but, with three quarters of the race still remaining, you want to make sure you maintain a pace that enables you to preserve sufficient energy resources to cope with the very long flat section that follows. For the finishers and time-triallers, this probably means running slower than normal. For the competitors, you should be aiming to stay with the pack along Ipswich Road and, depending on how you feel, you could increase the pace slightly and apply pressure on other runners. But you should only do this if you are feeling really confident. Your main aim should be not to get dropped and move into the long flat section feeling strong.

Listen to Your Feelings

I note that iPods or other MP3 devices, which many runners use to distract themselves from feelings of discomfort during running, are not permitted in the Colchester Half Marathon. Actually, I don’t know why a runner would want to ignore their feelings during a race and, in fact, their ability to adjust their pace according to how they feel is very important to their success.

During the race you should be constantly asking yourself, “How exerted do I feel and can I maintain this level of exertion for the rest of the race?” If at any point you feel too exerted, slow down. If you do not feel exerted enough, speed up. Adopting a fast pace early on in the race that results in high levels of feelings of exertion is risky. As you progress through the race, and as the finish line gets closer, your confidence in being able to complete the race will increase and allowing you feelings of exertion to increase becomes less risky. So rather than try to ignore feelings of discomfort while running, learn to understand what these feeling mean and use them to adjust your pace. As you might do so in tucking into a feisty curry, try to derive some enjoyment from the discomfort and, as to paraphrase a colleague of mine from the US, “Embrace the benign masochist in yourself.”

Running the Flat 

The first third of this race is quite tricky and hopefully, if you have been disciplined and careful with your pace during this early stage, you will arrive at Severalls Lane in good shape ready to complete the long flat section of the race that leads out to the village of Langham and then back into the finish line at the stadium. If you are a finisher the key thing here is to settle into a steady pace that you can sustain for 12 km; there is still a very long way to go so don’t be tempted to run off too fast. Pay attention to how you feel and use those feeling to find a manageable pace and stick with it. If you are a time-trialer you need to be on top of your split times. Work out what times you need to reach certain points in the course and pace yourself accordingly. Of course, you should also pay attention to how you feel. If trying to meet your pre-planned split times means generating feelings of exertion that are not sustainable, then you may have to adjust your target time or risk not finishing the race.

The End Game 

As you are running back towards the Stadium along Straight Road, you will pass the junction with Langham Road on your left-hand-side. At this point you have about a mile (1.6 km) remaining or less than 10% If you are a finisher my advice is to just maintain the same pace into the finish. You are almost certainly going to make it but there is no point in taking any risks at this late stage. If you are a time-trialer, once you have passed Langham Road you can afford increase your speed and take some extra risk as you are almost certainly going to make it to the finish line.

Finally, whatever you are trying to achieve, enjoy your race. Think about your pacing strategy and use your feelings to regulate your effort. Good luck.

 

The University of Essex will moderate comments and there will be a delay before any posts appear.

4 March 2014

Make sure you stretch safely

Filed under: Latest news, Sport — Tags: — Communications Office @ 11:35 am

This is the fifth of a short series of blogs from our sports scientists and experts giving tips and guidance on fitness and nutrition as you prepare for the Colchester Half Marathon.

Justin Hubbard, Health and Fitness Manager, gives the following tips about stretching:

Care should be taken when stretching – if you stretch too quickly the muscle can contract and increase tension, and so muscles should always be stretched slowly and the stretch should be held for approximately 30 seconds. This way, the muscle tension falls and the muscle can be stretched further.

When stretching don’t ‘bounce’ the muscle! It’s a common mistake, and doing it can pull or tear the muscle you’re trying to ease. Don’t stretch if you feel tightness in the muscle or if you feel any pain or discomfort.

Stretching should form part of your training session, both before and after your run. While you may not get the same kind of enjoyment from it as running, stretching correctly can improve your performance considerably.

Calf Stretch
Position your body about three feet from a wall and stand with your feet at shoulder width. Place your hands on the wall and keep your arms straight for support. Lean your hips forward and bend your knees slightly to stretch your calves.

Leg Stretch
From the previous position, bend forward to lower your body to waist height. Bring one foot forward with your knee slightly bent. Lift the toes of the front foot to stretch the muscle under the calf. Stretch both legs.

Back Stretch
Grip your elbow with the opposite hand and gently push the elbow up and across your body until your hand reaches between your shoulder blades. Gently push on your elbow to guide your hand down your back as far as it will comfortably go, stretching your triceps and shoulders. Stretch both arms.

Hamstring Stretch
Lie down with one leg straight up in the air, the other bent with foot flat on the ground. Hook a towel over the arch of the lifted foot, and gently pull on the towel as you push against it with your foot. Push gently only to the point where you feel your muscles contract. Stretch both legs. Kneel on your knees (without resting back on your heels). Lean back with your body erect and your arms to the side. Hold for 10 seconds.

Heel To Buttock
Stand on one foot, with one hand on a wall for balance. Hold the other foot with the opposite hand and raise the heel of the lifted foot to the buttocks (or as near as possible), stretching your quadriceps. Keep your body upright throughout. Repeat with the other leg.

Hip and Lower Back Stretch
Sit on the ground with your legs crossed. Lift your right leg and cross it over the left, which should remain bent. Hug the right leg to your chest and twist the trunk of your body to look over your right shoulder. Change legs and repeat.

Hamstring and Back Stretch
Lie on your back with your knees bent. Hug your shins to your chest to stretch your hamstrings and lower back.

Quads and Lower Back Stretch
Lie on your back and, with your feet flat on the ground, lift your hips up until your body forms a flat plane. Repeat this ten times for 30 seconds each to stretch your quads and lower back.

Groin Stretch
Seated, put the soles of your feet together. With your elbows on the inside of your knees, gradually lean forward and gently press your knees toward the ground.

 

 

 

 

 

The University of Essex will moderate comments and there will be a delay before any posts appear.

20 February 2014

Sustain your training through effective recovery methods

Filed under: Latest news, Sport — Tags: — Communications Office @ 10:42 am
Chris McManus

Chris McManus

This is the fourth of a short series of blogs from our sports scientists and experts giving tips and guidance on fitness and nutrition as you prepare for the Colchester Half Marathon.

Chris McManus, Manager of our Human Performance Unit, says:

With just over 3 weeks from race day, I’m sure that training has been going well for most people and weekly mileage continues to increase.It is at this stage that many runners become increasingly concerned with the risk of injury, so here are a few simple, yet important, recovery strategies.

Firstly, consider ‘recovery’ strategies as ‘preparation’ strategies, in that as soon as one session is complete, your mind should focus on how to optimally prepare for your next training run, be it a short interval session, a long run, a recovery run, a gym session or any other form of exercise. If preparation can begin in the acute period post-training then you are much more likely to begin your next session feeling fresh, well recovered and ultimately train harder, faster or for longer.

Other key areas to consider are:

Nutrition
Replenish, repair and rehydrate – nutrition strategies following exercise are a hot topic for athletes regardless of their sport. Just some questions often asked include; ‘Do I need to buy a recovery supplement?’, ‘Do I need to eat in the immediate 60 minutes following exercise?’, ‘How much do I need to consume?’ Below is a summary of some nutrition recommendations following exercise.

  • If training more than once a day, or training in the evening and then the following morning, a more aggressive recovery strategy is needed. This includes ensuring that carbohydrate, protein and fluid are consumed in the acute period post exercise. With a limited amount of time between training your intention should be to eat as soon as possible after exercise, however, more is not necessarily better, certainly not all in one go.

Example recovery meals could include:

  1. Cereal with milk, yoghurt and fresh fruit juice
  2. Sandwich with lean meat such as chicken, turkey or ham
  3. 500 ml homemade fruit smoothie with spirulina powder
  4. 15-20g whey protein drink and 2 pieces of fruit.

Following this initial post exercise meal, when needing to recover aggressively, aim to eat little and often, rather than consuming one very large meal. A simple strategy would be to eat a similar sized meal every 2 hours between sessions (excluding when not sleeping).

  • Monitor your hydration and aim to consume sufficient fluid so that your urine is a light yellow/pale straw colour prior to beginning your next session. Take your time, sip fluids little and often.
  • If training less regularly, with one day rest between sessions, a less aggressive strategy is required. With a greater duration between training sessions this allows for sufficient time to replace your depleted energy stores without the need to purchase unnecessary supplements. If you are looking for that post exercise drink then look no further than a 500ml glass of milk. Providing a combination of fluid, protein and carbohydrate, this low-cost beverage is an ideal post-exercise nutrient source. 

Compression clothing
Numerous studies support the anecdotal evidence that when athletes wear compression clothing after exercise, they report a lower perception of muscle soreness and consequently a readiness to undertake exercise sooner. Most studies that have demonstrated a positive influence of athletes’ perception of recovery has required the individual to wear compression clothing for 2-6 hours post exercise.

Ice baths
I admit this doesn’t sound particularly appealing, however, when considering acute recovery strategies this method is now common practice with many athletes and teams across the globe. As most of us only have a small ice cube tray in the freezer my advice would be to run a cold water bath high enough to cover your legs and slowly lower yourself in. If this is too unbearable, use your shower to spray warm water on your upper body. Try to keep your legs submerged for a few minutes at a time – 5-10 minutes total submerged time tends to be sufficient.

Foam rolling
Another ideal recovery strategy is the use of foam rollers. Not just useful post exercise, but also on a daily basis as part of a prehabilitative strategy, foam rollers have demonstrated a positive effect in reducing muscle soreness, improving range of motion and certain performance parameters following a muscle-damaging bout of exercise, when compared with not using a foam roller. The Human Performance Unit has recently reviewed a journal investigating the effectiveness of foam rolling.

 

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11 February 2014

Time to enjoy the great outdoors

Filed under: Latest news, People pages, Research impact, Sport — Tags: , — Communications Office @ 2:05 pm
Dr Valerie Gladwell

Dr Valerie Gladwell

This is the third of a short series of blogs from our sports scientists and experts giving tips and guidance on fitness and nutrition as you prepare for the Colchester Half Marathon.

Dr Valerie  Gladwell, Senior Lecturer in Sports and Exercise Science, says: 

The sun has finally come out and I write this after a lovely run outside. I had to run on the roads as the fields where I normally run are too soggy to do any speed work and today was a speed session.

There are less than 5 weeks to go now until the half marathon and still it seems so dark for so long.  Getting outdoors to run or walk in the daytime is particularly important at this time a year. It can give you a real boost, especially if you are surrounded by nature. Research from here at Essex, shows that it can boost your mood and self-esteem with just 5 minutes.

Our research also consistently demonstrates that there is a lower rate of perceived exertion if you undertake your exercise within nature. What this means is that you either find the same exercise easier or that the time taken to complete the run is reduced at the same effort.

So, if you can, try and get out during the daylight hours for some of your training sessions. Even it is for a short period of time, you really don’t need long to get the benefits.

Obviously this is easier at the weekend. However, if you do get the chance to break up your working day and take control of your lunch break you might also feel really empowering. Most of my sessions are no longer than 25 minutes which includes a brief warm-up, three five-minute efforts, few strides and, if I have time, some drills which include high knees, heel flicks and jumps.

If you like running with others you can always train with the group that goes out on Wednesday lunch times from the Sports Centre at our Colchester Campus, or why not team up with someone else who is completing the same challenge as you? Saturdays also offers you the chance to take part in a park run. These are turn-up-and-run 5k sessions in local parks where you run with other like-minded people. There are events in Colchester, Chelmsford and Ipswich. The great thing about these is that you can track your progress.

Go run outdoors, not only will it make the training easier but you will improve your mood too.

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4 February 2014

Nutrition strategy for endurance exercise

Filed under: Latest news, Sport — Tags: — Communications Office @ 4:34 pm
Chris McManus

Chris McManus

This is the second of a short series of blogs from our sports scientists and experts giving tips and guidance on fitness and nutrition as you prepare for the Colchester Half Marathon.

Chris McManus, Manager of our Human Performance Unit, says:

I’m often asked ‘What should I eat or drink on race day?’, or ‘How much should I eat or drink on race day?’, yet this line of enquiry is neglecting a paramount aspect of performance nutrition.

My response would probably be, ‘What have you been doing in training prior to race day?’ and ‘What has worked well and what hasn’t?’. We should concern ourselves with our nutrition strategy well ahead of race day and ensure we have sufficiently practiced our food and fluid intake in the previous weeks, possibly months prior.

Essentially, we are talking about the period before, during and after exercise when discussing the ‘nutrition strategy’. Often, an overwhelming concern for athletes is what to eat and drink during a half marathon, when the emphasis should be on preparation. If the correct strategies are adhered to prior to getting to the start line, this will alleviate much of the risk associated with endurance running, ie dehydration, cramping, hitting the wall, not finishing etc.  Preparation should begin now, by practicing various meals/food sources, timings and portion sizes.  A brief overview of current recommendations is provided below.

Whilst it may not be possible to adhere to these guidelines prior to every training run, it is particularly prudent to use your long runs (typically weekend mornings) as a dress rehearsal, therefore a perfect opportunity to practice your pre-race meal and fluid intake during exercise.

Pre-Exercise:

  • A pre training meal or snack is important to top up the body’s primary fuel source, carbohydrate.
  • Ideal pre-exercise meals should be consumed approximately 2-4 hours prior to the onset of exercise. Dependent upon the time of day you are undertaking exercise, some examples include:
    • Breakfast cereal (ie porridge, museli etc) with milk (large bowl) + fruit
    • Granary bread rolls with cheese/meat + fruit
    • Brown rice with chicken and vegetables
    • Baked potato with baked beans and salad
  • The exact timing will depend upon the individual, hence why it is important to practice and find what works for you.
  • High in carbohydrates (ideally with a low to moderate glyceamic index).
  • Low in fat and protein
  • If you have a nervous stomach before events, choose lower-fibre products, juice, or pureed foods (toast or crackers, apple juice, soup, yoghurt, fruit smoothie, etc).
  • If hungry in the final 30-60 minutes prior, consume an easily digestible carbohydrate snack ie fruit, cereal bar, fruit smoothie, yoghurt.

During:

  • Typical nutrition advice for exercise or more than 90 minutes in duration (presuming a sufficient pre-exercise meal has been consumed and you are eating a high carbohydrate diet prior) is to aim to consume between 30-90g of carbohydrate per hour. This will provide a steady stream of carbohydrate during prolonged endurance exercise.
  • Fluid requirements are slightly less rigid. It is important that you begin hydrated, which can be easily assessed via urine colour (aim for a light yellow/pale straw colour – it does not need to be completely clear, but should not be a dark yellow colour either). Fluid recommendations during exercise are a highly contentious topic at present. My advice would be to sip fluid little and often if possible, by carrying fluid with you or placing it in a bush if you happen to pass the same place regularly during a long run. If you feel thirsty then certainly ensure you consume some fluid and not ignore this desire for fluid. It is a balancing act of not drinking too much that excessive volumes of fluid are consumed, yet not restricting fluid intake to such a degree that dehydration occurs
  • Examples during exercise could include an isotonic sports drink (providing approximately 30g per 500ml bottle), sports gels, jelly babies, jelly beans, banana or raisins. Practice with these during your long runs to find out what works for you.
  • If you are currently not consuming anything on your long runs, gradually increase your carbohydrate intake. Your gut is trainable and therefore you must make small additions to your fuelling strategy week after week, rather than jump from nothing to a large amount.

By attempting to incorporate these suggestions into your training now will provide you with sufficient time to find out what works for you. There is no one-size-fits-all strategy when it comes to eating and drinking before and during exercise, so listen to your body.

Ideally, come race day, you will have a firm handle on your nutrition strategy and are simply going through the motions. Never try anything new on race day!

 

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28 January 2014

How to prepare for the Colchester Half Marathon

Filed under: Latest news, Sport — Tags: — Communications Office @ 12:23 pm
Dr Dave Parry

Dr Dave Parry

This is the first of a short series of blogs from our sports scientists and experts giving tips and guidance on fitness and nutrition as you prepare for the Colchester Half Marathon.

Dr Dave Parry, Director of our Human Performance Unit, says:

Running is simple, right? Just put one foot in front of the other, over and over again. So, preparing for a half marathon should be simple too. And, largely, it is. Do some running, enjoy the process and get fit enough to cover the distance. There’s not really any need for anything complicated or overly clever.  Having a sensible training plan, however, can help you to ensure that you are ready in time for your chosen event, and to avoid the pitfalls of injury or over-training.

If you are an inexperienced runner, and perhaps aiming to complete 13.1 miles for the first time, then there are some fairly simple guidelines to help you complete your challenge:

  • Running little and often is the best approach. Try to run at least three times a week, but, for relatively short durations. As you get used to running frequently you can start to increase the length of one of the runs, but by no more than 10% in one go. Ideally, you’ll do a longest run of 8 to 10 miles around 2 weeks before the race, after which you should reduce your training before the race.
  • Keep it steady. Don’t be tempted to push the pace, run no faster than your expected half-marathon pace. When you increase the pace, you also increase your chances of injury.  Some people find that alternating jogging with brisk walking helps them to complete longer training sessions.
  • Be sure to give yourself time to stretch after each training run. Runner’s World has a good set of stretches to follow.
  • For all runners, even elite athletes, real life intervenes sometimes.  Don’t stress when this happens. By all means move your training to the next day, but, don’t ‘stack’ sessions that you miss, moving them all to the end of the week.  If you can’t train for a couple of days, just get back in to your three time a week schedule at the next opportunity.
  • Don’t be tempted to train when you are ill or injured as doing so won’t make you fitter and could make matters worse.  Wait until you are recovered before resuming training. And if you have to miss several weeks, then there is always another race to prepare for.
  • Finally, make sure it is not an ordeal, enjoy the whole process. That way you can make it a part of your normal routine, and become fitter, healthier and ultimately happier even after the half marathon is long since finished.

 

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