Archive for the Sports & Athletics Category

6 Tips for Endurance Runners: Before, During, and After Your Run

If you’re gearing up for the a Marathon, Half Marathon, an Ironman, triathlon, road race, or relay, consider these six tips for runners using nutrition and specific exercises for before, during, and after your run to help ensure your peak performance and fast recovery. 1. Focus on warm-ups over stretching. Stretching before a run was once believed to be the best way to improve performance and prevent injury. However, we now know that it can lead to stretch-induced strength loss. “What is important,” says William O. Roberts, M.D. in “Should I Stretch Before My Runs?“, “Is to have the functional range of motion needed to perform an activity.” Therefore, functional warm-up routines, like high knees, backwards running, grapevines, side planks, and front planks, can increase and improve your performance, as well as decrease injury. For more on the benefits of warming up over stretching, see this research article from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: “Effects of Dynamic Stretching on Energy Cost in Running Endurance Performance in Trained Male Runners.” 2. Carb up pre-run. “The best pre-run breakfast consists mainly of carbohydrates, since they are digested most rapidly and are your body’s preferred fuel source… (and) small amounts of protein will help stave off hunger during the later miles” (Penny Wilson, PhD in “Perfecting Your Pre-Race Food Strategy” by Monique Ryan). Research shows that consuming 1.5-1.8 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight is ideal for improving performance (Ryan). She advises to begin consuming these carbs four hours before your race or training run. 3. Refuel along the way. “Start taking in fuel within 30 minutes of hitting the pavement,” says Pamela Nisevich Bede in “How to Eat During Long Runs.” For longer runs, bring sustenance with you and try consuming small amounts every 15 minutes. As a rule of thumb, you’ll need to add 30-60 grams of carbohydrates for each hour that you run over 75 minutes (Nisevich Bede). 4. Recover with protein and carbohydrates. Within 30 minutes of finishing, consume about 20 grams of protein and 40 grams of carbohydrates in the form of a workout shake or whole food, depending on your preference and dietary restrictions. Consuming fats immediately is not ideal because these slow down the digestion of the proteins and sugars, so keep it to just protein and carbs. 5. Use dynamic stretching. There isn’t one right answer for what to do post-run as far as movement. But from a functional perspective, dynamic stretching after a workout can help prevent injuries. Dynamic, or triplanar stretching, moves your muscles in all directions. See the following example of tri-planar stretching. 6. Drink water to your thirst. Evidence is diverse on how much water to drink and when before, during, and after your run. According to Dr. Maharam in “Revisionist Drinking,” “We’re used to hearing that thirst falls behind what you really need, but that doesn’t hold true scientifically” (Runner’s World Blog). Therefore, a good rule of thumb is to drink according to your thirst. And if you sweat more, you’ll want […]

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Hamstring Muscle – Function and Importance

BIOMECHANICS OF THE HAMSTRING MUSCLES  The main role of the hamstring muscles is knee flexion, or simply bending the knee. However, it is important to recognize that because these muscles attach on both the medial (inside) and lateral (outside) aspects of the knee joint, pure knee flexion requires activity of both the medial and lateral muscle mass. This means that 3 muscles (outside hamstring has to tendons) will need to work in congruence. Contraction of only the medial hamstrings produces knee flexion with medial rotation of the knee. While contraction of only the lateral muscle mass produces knee flexion with lateral rotation of the knee joint. In addition to flexing and rotating the knee, the hamstrings reportedly contribute to the stability of the knee. The hamstrings provide active resistance to anterior glide of the tibia on the femur. Thus they are described as important adjuncts to the anterior cruciate ligament and perhaps a critical substitute in the ACL- deficient knee. There is considerable evidence from cadaver studies indicating that the hamstring muscles decrease the strain on the ACL. There also is evidence that individual with ACL insufficiencies increase the activity of their hamstring muscles in some activities such as hill climbing. The hamstrings muscle also play an essential role in extension of the hip. EMG data reveals that the hamstring muscles are active in hip extension even when the knee is flexed. EMG evidence also suggests that the hamstring muscles can contribute to adduction of the hip (bringing the leg toward the midline of one’s body). The biceps femoris longus demonstrates activity during lateral rotation of the hip.3 The hamstrings are active during normal locomotion. The most prominent period of activity is at the transition between the swing and stance periods of the gait cycle. The role of this activity is to slow the extension of the knee in late swing and to help extend the hip in the stance phase. More to come on hamstring muscles function, tightness, weakness, and effective ways to lengthen them next week.    

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Back Pain – Why Cyclists Have Back Pain more Often Than Other Sports

I can’t stress the importance of a strong fit back if you fit into the overexercise category. What I mean by that is if your are a runner, cyclist, or a triathlete, you need to avoid back pain at all cost while training. This may seem like an obvious statement, but your back and spine provide the foundation for almost every activity you perform, and cycling is no exception. For the sake of this post I am going to just discuss the low back and back pain as it pertains to cycling. Unfortunately, back pain and low back problems are a frequent complaint of cyclists. Because of the bent-over position on a bike, your back muscles are constantly engaged. This stress can wreck havoc on your body if you’re not conditioned and trained to withstand the ongoing effort. In addition to withstanding the strain of your position, your back was also provided a solid base that enables you to generate power during pedaling. Your back muscles stabilize your spine and pelvis, allowing your legs to generate maximum power. The best strategy for healthy back is to be proactive, an condition yourself to avoid any problems before they rise. There are low back exercises described in previous blog post that you can perform to create a more stable low back.  Make sure you start slow and use lighter weights, when training in your early workouts. Take your time to build strength in your back, slowly and with correct form, this will pay dividends in the long run. When starting out slow, you may often think that the weight is too light. Be patient. The early workouts lays the foundation for your future training with heavier and heavier weights or and unfamiliar workout routines. Even if you think you can lift a particular amount of weight, you’ll often feel the effects a day or two after the workout. Remember, adaptation occurs during your rest days, so make sure that you let your muscles adequately recover. This includes not doing long rides the day after you do a back workout in the gym. More to come about the anatomy / musculature of the low back and ways to hip and low back muscle for a better warm up for cyclist in next weeks post.

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