MASTER RUNNERS: Getting the most out your training this winter
Updated: Mar 10
The profile of injuries shifts as we get older with soft tissue injuries being the most prevalent ie tendons and calfs
So why is this?
We see a 13% reduction in step length by the age of 60
This is due to reduced muscle mass (sarcopenia), reduced neural drive (signal to muscles to contract) and reduced tendon stiffness, as we get older.
As a results force production is impaired.
Where 50% of propulsion comes from below the knee- the planterflexors/ calfs take the biggest hit
We compensate by increasing our stride frequency
Despite these biomechanical differences there is evidence that running economy is maintained in older runners- this is the metabolic or energy cost of running.
So how do we attenuate these changes in the muscles and protect again soft tissue injuries?
Soft tissues respond favorably to (heavy) load- this stimulates collagen synthesis via a process can mechanotherapy
Running on is own is not enough
When we run our foot is in contact with the ground for only about 0.25/ second, we only get close to our peak muscle contraction for a fraction of this time
Strengthening promotes time under tension (increased peak contraction time)- so we are able to sufficiently stimulate the muscles to get an adaptive response
High load, low reps is optimal ie 6-8 rep max for 3-4 sets. These sessions should be repeated 2-3 times/ week
So what exercises are best?
It is good to do a combination of isolated, single joint exercises (to target key muscles and get an overload response), as well as more functional compound movements
Here are our favorites for runners:
Single leg calf raises - this targets the gastrocnemius
Bent knee heel raises- this targets the soleus muscle, the deeper of the calf muscles- a big muscle that makes up nearly 70% of the calf musculature- essential for propulsion in running
Single leg knee dips off a step- this targets the quadriceps- avoid bending forward
Squats- this is a great triple extension exercise (combing hip, knee and ankle)- it targets multiple muscles including the hamstrings and glutes
Lunges- Again a nice functional movement pattern targeting multiple muscles- it also encourages hip extension and more dynamic movement
You can challenge the planterflexors outside the gym by adding speed and hills to your runs, but do not neglect the above
So where do these strength sessions fit in around running?
Endurance training compromises strength training- this is called neuro- physiological intereference. Strength does not compromise endurance training, but avoid doing immediately pre or post.
It is more important to schedule hard and easy days so that on hard days you can work hard and on easy days you can work easy- this gives tissues time to adapt and recover. This is when the magic happens.