Friday, June 30, 2006

Donating Blood affects Perrformance?

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I have been comtemplating whether i should go donate my blood this weekend, as the last time i offloaded some of my red stuffs was abt 5 mths ago and there is reported shortage at the blood bank now! But, in less that the 3weeks, i will attempting my Mount Kinabalu's Recce Hike in preparation for the coming MK Climbathon race and i am afraid that my body may not recover fully in time to handle high altitude ! From my own experiences, my body takes abt 2-4weeks to restore n recuperate after a blood letting session. Hmm... Decision time...

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Blood is a complicated tissue with many different roles. When you donate blood, you give up a pint of fluid containing mostly water along with various proteins and cells in solution. During high-intensity endurance activities however, it is hemoglobin, found within our red blood cells, that is most important.
Hemoglobin delivers oxygen to our tissues, and when we exercise our muscles require increased amounts of oxygen. If we lack sufficient hemoglobin, anaerobic, or without oxygen, metabolism will ensue (producing lactic acid) at even seemingly moderate levels of intensity.


Donating a pint (450cc) of blood results in a depletion of about 10 percent of your total blood volume. Of that, only about 160cc are red blood cells. The fluid component, the remaining 290cc, is replaced within hours, but the red blood cell replacement takes about two months, (which is why you may not donate more often than every two months). What then are the lasting effects of this red blood cell loss?
Assuming that your cardiac output (the amount of blood pumped by the heart) remains constant, a drop in hemoglobin concentration associated with donating blood will reduce your oxygen delivery to working muscles by 10 percent. Still, when you are at rest, or even during moderate levels of exercise, oxygen delivery, even at this decreased capacity, far outpaces demand.


However, once you reach a heart rate that is around 5 to 10 percent below your usual anaerobic threshold, your body's demand for oxygen will outpace its supply. For example, if your metabolism typically becomes anaerobic at a heart rate of 170, then after donating blood you will become anaerobic at a heart rate of between 157 and 164 beats per minute. This value will fluctuate because your hemoglobin level will be rising slowly each day, thus the most significant effect will be felt in the first few days after donating.
The key to recovery is ensuring your body has the necessary building blocks -- specifically protein and iron -- to replace the lost hemoglobin. For most people, eating a balanced diet with adequate protein and iron intake is sufficient. For some, however (specifically vegetarians and some women), iron supplementation may be required. Talk to your doctor to determine if this kind of supplementation may be right for you.

More here... http://www.runnersweb.com/running/rw_news_frameset.html?http://www.runnersweb.com/running/news/rw_news_20040809_BloodDonation.html


What Active People Need to Know
Competitive athletes and those who work out often wonder if donating a pint of blood will impair their athletic performance or fitness goals. They have good reason to wonder. After all, blood donation can influence hydration status and the oxygen-carrying ability of red blood cells.
In some situations, athletic pursuits and the public's need for blood are cast as competing interests!
After donating 450 mL (1 U) of whole blood, plasma volume falls 7% to 13%, then recovers within 24 to 48 hours. The hemoglobin level decreases by 10 to 20 g/L. With an adequate iron supply, hemoglobin returns to baseline after 3 to 4 weeks (1).
Competitive Athletes
It seems clear that blood donation is contraindicated for endurance athletes who will soon be competing.
He notes that many variables make it difficult to predict how much or how long donating a pint of blood will affect athletic performance. However, he notes that recovery after blood donation is fairly fast. Eichner writes: "In my anecdotal experience, maximal performance can return to normal within 1 to 2 weeks, and surely returns to normal after 3 to 4 weeks."
A study (3) on the effects of blood donation on 10 competitive cyclists before and after donating 1 U of blood found that maximal performance was decreased for at least 1 week after blood donation. (Cyclists were measured at baseline and at 2 hours, 2 days, and 7 days after phlebotomy.) Although researchers found that maximal performance was decreased, submaximal performance was unaffected.

Exercisers and Recreational Athletes
Marvin Adner, MD, a hematologist and internist in Framingham, Massachusetts, and medical director of the Boston Marathon, says that blood donation should not be a concern for active people who are not world-class athletes—as long as they are not iron deficient. He notes that though hemoglobin values will be lower than normal a few weeks after donation, blood donation does not erode fitness effects.
Adner cautions active people who donate blood to avoid taking regular iron supplements unless they are iron deficient from giving blood. Iron intake can cause symptoms in patients who have hereditary hemochromatosis. Iron supplements can also mask the anemia of colon cancer and damage the heart. "Unfortunately, many athletes—especially those who don't eat red meat—have borderline iron deficiency," he says.
Donald M. Christie, Jr, MD, an internist and sports physician in Lewiston, Maine, says hydration is the best recovery strategy. Donors need to drink not only what is offered afterward at the blood donation center, they need to aggressively hydrate over the remainder of the day, says Christie, who is an editorial board member of The Physician and Sportsmedicine. "Noting the color of the urine is a good way to gauge hydration status," he says.
He advises endurance athletes to think of the blood donation day as a rest day, and to tread cautiously the next day because hydration stores may not be replenished and delayed vasovagal effects may occur. Christie says though the performance decrement would be slight in an endurance athlete, blood donation should have virtually no effect on strength or short-burst activities.
In a study (4) that sought to determine the effects of blood donation on older exercisers, researchers measured submaximal and maximal working capacity and blood viscosity in younger donors, older donors, and older controls the day before and after blood donation. They found that mean submaximal and maximal values increased the day after donation in all groups, but that increases were only significant in the younger donors. Plasma viscosity decreased significantly in both donor groups. The authors concluded that a single blood donation did not alter the physical fitness of otherwise healthy people.
-- Lisa SchnirringMinneapolis ... more click here.. http://www.physsportsmed.com/issues/2001/06_01/news.htm


Thursday, June 29, 2006

FAQs abt High Altitude!

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Acclimatization is the process of the body adjusting to the decreased availability of oxygen at high altitudes. It is a slow process, taking place over a period of days to weeks.

High altitude is defined as:

- High Altitude: 1500 - 3500 m (5000 - 11500 ft)

- Very High Altitude: 3500 - 5500 m (11500 - 18000 ft)

- Extreme Altitude: above 5500 m


Practically speaking, however, we generally don't worry much about elevations below about 2500 m (8000 ft) since altitude illness rarely occurs lower than this.
Certain normal physiologic changes occur in every person who goes to altitude:
* Hyperventilation (breathing faster, deeper, or both)
* Shortness of breath during exertion
* Changed breathing pattern at night
* Awakening frequently at night
* Increased urination
More about An Altitude Facts....
http://www.ismmed.org/np_altitude_tutorial.htm
Normal Acclimatization
Acute Mountain Sickness
High Altitude Cerebral Edema
High Altitude Pulmonary Edema
Treating AMS
Prevention
The Golden Rules

Prevention of Altitude Illnesses more .. http://www.princeton.edu/~oa/safety/altitude.html
Prevention of altitude illnesses falls into two categories, proper acclimatization and preventive medications. Below are a few basic guidelines for proper acclimatization.
*
If possible, don't fly or drive to high altitude. Start below 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) and walk up.
* If you do fly or drive, do not over-exert yourself or move higher for the first 24 hours.
* If you go above 10,000 feet (3,048 meters), only increase your altitude by 1,000 feet (305 meters) per day and for every 3,000 feet (915 meters) of elevation gained, take a rest day.
"Climb High and sleep low." This is the maxim used by climbers. You can climb more than 1,000 feet (305 meters) in a day as long as you come back down and sleep at a lower altitude.
* If you begin to show symptoms of moderate altitude illness, don't go higher until symptoms decrease
("Don't go up until symptoms go down").
* If symptoms increase, go down, down, down!
Keep in mind that different people will acclimatize at different rates. Make sure all of your party is properly acclimatized before going higher.
* Stay properly hydrated. Acclimatization is often accompanied by fluid loss, so you need to drink lots of fluids to remain properly hydrated (at least 3-4 quarts per day). Urine output should be copious and clear.
* Take it easy; don't over-exert yourself when you first get up to altitude. Light activity during the day is better than sleeping because respiration decreases during sleep, exacerbating the symptoms.
* Avoid tobacco and alcohol and other depressant drugs including, barbiturates, tranquilizers, and sleeping pills. These depressants further decrease the respiratory drive during sleep resulting in a worsening of the symptoms.
* Eat a high carbohydrate diet (more than 70% of your calories from carbohydrates) while at altitude.
The acclimatization process is inhibited by dehydration, over-exertion, and alcohol and other depressant drugs.
Preventive Medications
Diamox (Acetazolamide) allows you to breathe faster so that you metabolize more oxygen, thereby minimizing the symptoms caused by poor oxygenation. This is especially helpful at night when respiratory drive is decreased. Since it takes a while for Diamox to have an effect, it is advisable to start taking it 24 hours before you go to altitude and continue for at least five days at higher altitude. The recommendation of the Himalayan Rescue Association Medical Clinic is 125 mg. twice a day (morning and night). (The standard dose was 250 mg., but their research showed no difference for most people with the lower dose, although some individuals may need 250 mg.) Possible side effects include tingling of the lips and finger tips, blurring of vision, and alteration of taste. These side effects may be reduced with the 125 mg. dose. Side effects subside when the drug is stopped. Contact your physician for a prescription. Since Diamox is a sulfonamide drug, people who are allergic to sulfa drugs should not take Diamox. Diamox has also been known to cause severe allergic reactions to people with no previous history of Diamox or sulfa allergies. Frank Hubbell of SOLO recommends a trial course of the drug before going to a remote location where a severe allergic reaction could prove difficult to treat.
Dexamethasone (a steroid) is a prescription drug that decreases brain and other swelling reversing the effects of AMS. Dosage is typically 4 mg twice a day for a few days starting with the ascent. This prevents most symptoms of altitude illness. It should be used with caution and only on the advice of a physician because of possible serious side effects. It may be combined with Diamox. No other medications have been proven valuable for preventing AMS.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Runners Knee, I thought !!!!!

Runnerknee03Runnerknee02
" I thought that i may be getting the Infamous Runners Knee ... it could be due to my increased Hill runnings n the Stairclimbing! It is still at its infant stage, i am taking more Glucosamine, doing stretching, quad muscle sstrenghten exercises and monitoring the conditions so that it will not turn Chronic! I want to Keep Running Comfortable till my ripe old age!!!
Went to consult my sinseh last week, and was given some acupuncture treatments to relieve some inflamation on my knee inner ligaments! He explained to me that the pains that i am experiencing are actually the Qradriceps 's muscle strains caused by too much stairsclimbing n hills runs. The Weakened Quads muscles unable to supports the Knees properly resulting in stresses in the Knee joints area as well.

Through my Running Journey, i learn that our body core muscles, ligaments n tendons are actually Interlink n function as One. If one portion is weaken or strained , it will affect the other part of the body. Just like my Shin Splints after last year's SCSM, the source of this injury was actually my slightly twisted ankle. Luckily, i went to see my sinseh early n he was able to located the root cause of the Shin problem. He realigned the ankle and the strains n stresses on the shin disappeared. "

Runners Knee / Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome is one of the most common causes of knee pain in all age groups, including teens and young adults. It can be chronic or intermittent. It is common in runners, hence the term "runners knee", but also occurs in inactive people.
Runners Knee / Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome is a condition characterized by pain behind or around the kneecap. Poor kneecap tracking is believed to be the main cause this condition. The kneecap (patella) slides over a groove on the thighbone (femur) as your knee bends and straightens. If, for example, the front thigh muscles (quadriceps) are weak or imbalanced, the resulting muscle imbalance can pull the kneecap to the left or right of the groove, causing pressure, friction, and irritation to the cartilage on the undersurface of the kneecap when the knee is in motion.
* Overuse/overload of the quadriceps - especially running, going up and down stairs- can cause this condition to flare up, as can poor exercise techniques, e.g. a poorly fitting bicycle, improper footwear etc.
Causes of Knee Maltracking
* Muscle imbalances / weakness or inflexibility in the muscles that support the knee, and mechanical errors can cause poor knee tracking.
There may be multiple factors involved.
Muscle imbalances in the lower body, especially the quads are common. Tightness of the muscles and tendons can also pull the kneecap toward one side. In females, the increased inward slant of the thigh towards the knee is believed to the reason they are at higher risk of developing Runners Knee / Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome
* Mechanical errors include misaligned joints in the foot or ankle; a kneecap that is located too high in the joint; flat feet / over pronation. Pronation is the normal inward roll of the foot as the arch collapses after heel contacts ground during walking or running.
Over pronation causes excessive internal rotation of the lower leg and knee.
MUSCLE WEAKNESS / IMBALANCES / TIGHTNESS CAUSING POOR KNEE TRACKING INCLUDE:
* Weak Quadriceps
: Quadriceps (front thigh muscles) strengthening exercises are considered to the most important exercise, in most cases, for correcting poor knee tracking. The quadriceps controls the movement of the kneecap. (They are attached to the kneecap and then to the top of the shine bone by tendons).
Imbalanced Quadriceps:Sometimes the quads (there are four divisions) are imbalanced. The inner quad pulls the kneecap inwards and the outer quad pulls the kneecap outwards. If the inner quad is weak, the stronger outer quad tends to pull the kneecap off center. In this case, exercises to strengthen the muscles of the inner quadriceps are particularly helpful
Weak Hamstrings: Another imbalance can occur when the muscles in the front of the thigh are significantly stronger than the muscles in the back of the thigh (the hamstrings). If your hamstrings are weak, your quads have to work harder. Tight hamstrings cause increased pressure between the patella and femur.
Tight Iliotibial Band: If too tight, this muscle/tendon of the outer thigh can pull the knee to one side.

More... http://www.knee-pain-management.com/runners_knee.html
Runnerknee04Runnerknee05
Here is more sites for reference... http://www.knee-pain-management.com/index.html , http://www.sportsinjuryclinic.net/cybertherapist/front/knee/irunnersknee.html

Sunday, June 25, 2006

My New Adizero SN ( Supernova Cushion )!

AdizeroSN01
I was not very impressed with the forefoot cushioning of my New Mizuno shoes, thus decided n went on search n hunt mission for this new Adidas Supernova Cushion. Finally, located the shoes at adidas novena outlet and collected them on Friday.

Took the shoe out for this morning 26 km LSD with the MF guys. Route: Clubhouse -> Henderson Rd -> Tiong Bahru Park -> Havelock Rd -> Clark Quay -> Fort Canning Hill (2 rds) -> Esplanade -> Marina Promenade (2nd Toilet) U-turn -> Esplanade Bridge -> Shenton Way -> Keppel Rd -> Harbourfront -> Henderson Rd -> Clubhouse ... Distance: 26 km

My knees were feeling some discomforts and aches due my recent sudden ramp-up Stairs-climbing sessions and maybe due to lack of forefoot cushioning fm my new mizuno shoes. Yesterday, i went to see my sinseh who applied some acupuncture needles around the knee area, and was advised to stop running for the next few days. Haha... When DO runners ever listen to doc's advices!!
I was worried whether my knee will suffer further pains and damages fm this run with my new yet to run-in Adidas shoes. Shortly, into my run with her, i found she was very comfortable and the cushions are compatible, if not better than my favourite Asics Cumulus. SN has very good and more broader forefoot cushions that i can even bounced for my take-off rather stably, thus reduced the efforts required in our usual toe-off actions for most shoes including Cumulus. I am very impressed with my Real New Darling... i think that i found my new "ShoeMate" !! I did not even any jarring or pains at my knee areas even running down slippery down slopes at Fort Canning hills.

Besides, being light n comfortable for Neutral Gait n Forefooter runners, we discovered that she drained any rainwater fm the inners very rapidly. I stepped into puddles of rainwater several times as it was raining heavily this morning, but the water was drained off in short time leaving my foot "reasonably dry".
AdizeroSN02
Adidas Supernova Cushion or Known as Adizero SN
Soft Cushioning ... extracted fm http://www.runningnetwork.com/productreviews/springshoereview06neutral.html
This Supernova Cushion is back in shape to reclaim its performance legacy. Overlays have been replaced by HF-welded supports that maintain structural integrity in the forefoot. Heel fit is ensured by the GeoFit ankle collar. The eyelet placement accommodates a variety of lacing options that permit tightening to suit most tastes. The midsole feels firmer, letting the adiPrene heel insert provide the necessary cushion while returning a feel for the road. The forefoot now sports broader flex grooves that improve forefoot flexibility and allow the foot to work with the shoe rather than conform to it. Weartesters liked the shoe: "Great combination of cushioning and forefoot flexibility." "Excellent fit, immediately comfortable. I like this shoe, a good all-round, most- purposes shoe, fine for someone who does not need a huge amount of stability." "Flexible forefoot. Love the forefoot. I expect to get a lot of miles out of these."
A thoughtful redesign results in improved performance and our Best Shoe honors in the Neutral category.
Updates the Supernova Cushion

* Sizes: Men 6.5-13,14,15; Women 6-11
* Weight: Men 12.0 oz. (size 9); Women 10.0 oz. (size 7)
* Upper: mesh with synthetic and HF-welded overlays, reflective trim, GeoFit
* Midsole: CM-EVA, adiPRENE heel, adiPRENE+ forefoot
* Shank: TORSION * Outsole: adiWEAR heel, blown rubber forefoot
* Innersole: Ortholite
* Shape: semi-curved
* Construction: Strobel slip lasted, adiPRENE Strobel board in heel
* Recommended for: medium- to high- arched feet with neutral biomechanics




Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Running for a Cause!!

cause
Hmm.... Recently, there are several incidents that happened that got this golden boy's rusty grey matter started thinking.....

Mount Faber Challenge

The Mount Faber Challenge (something equivalent to MR25 Ultra-Marathon). This challenge cover the 10 km MF route that we usually trained. We are given 5 hrs to complete as many 10 km as possible. The target is to complete 4 x 10 km. From every 10 km, we can take a drink or rest at the clubhouse as you wish.

The details of the challenge are as follows:
Start point: Mount Faber Safra clubhouse
Start time: 7.00 am
Finish time: 12.30 pm
Route: Cluhouse -> Henderson Rd -> Harbourfront -> Kampung Bahru ->
Mount Faber Hill -> Morse Rd -> Harbourfront -> Kampung Bahru ->
Telok Blangah Rise -> Clubhouse

MF cha

The Results...

The highest rounds completed: 5 rounds (50 km) in 4 hr 19 min (Yong Lai Chee)
The fastest time in 40 km: 3 hr 6 min (Teng Teck Hou)

Mount Faber Challenge
(per round = 10km)

I did 3 rounds in 2 hrs 53mins
DO - 57 min, 53 min, 1 hr 3 mins
< - 57 min, 1 hr 50 min,2 hr 53 mins >

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Stairclimbing Trainings

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Just started my own stairclimbing trainings as i found the present MK trainings do not have sufficient stairclimbing ! I estimate that the Climbathon's route to its Peak has at least 6km equivalent of stairclimbing, so it is a must to condition the body n the core muscles like quad, hamstrings n lower back to the extended n prolong stairclimbing actions!

1st workout, 11/6 - 6sets of 40 storeys Time Taken : 53mins
2nd workout, 14/6 - 8 sets of 40 storey Time Taken 1hr 12mins.


I am planning to gradually increase the number of sets to 20 ( or 800 storeys ), the rate of progress will depend on my body's ability to recover after each stairclimbing sessions.

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Benefits of Stair Climbing

* Stair climbing burns about twice as many calories than any other sport or activity.
Because it is a grueling sport, stair climbing requires less time to do the same intensity of a workout. For example, if you run 30 minutes per day, the same workout intensity could be achieved with 15 minutes of stair climbing.

* Stair climbing is a total body workout. It makes the arms stronger with the use of the arms pulling you up with the use of the rails (or banister) which is allowed and encouraged. Stair climbing especially builds muscle mass in the legs, including the quadriceps and calfs. It is an aerobic sport as it works the cardio-vascular lung package. Stair climbing becomes an anaerobic event after about 10 to 20 flights of stairs as it strains your aerobic capacity to hold an intense load on the cardio-vascular package to the top of a very tall building. Since the contest is vertical, even a 70 story race up is not a total sprint and requires endurance, sprint, and muscular strength to complete in a fast time.

* Stair climbing is excellent for cross-training. Runners, swimmers, cyclists, rowers, soccer (or football), and others find stair climbing to be helpful with its total workout. Cyclists, skiers, and rowers are especially attracted to the muscle mass in the legs which can be developed with stair climbing. Remember the 1976 Picture of the Year? Sylvester Stallone played the boxer, Rocky Balboa and one of the most famous scenes in the movie was when Rocky was training for the big fight with many exercises and ended with a run up the stairs to a museum and raises his arms in triumph at the top with the hit music "Gonna Fly Now" playing.

* Stair climbing does not require the purchase of any expensive equipment. It can be done almost anywhere. You could practice stair climbing at any public place that has many flights of steps, including, but not limited to: your apartment building, condominium building, your house stairs, the stairs leading to a public building, the library, or at a gym.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

3 New Darlings!!

Montrail Susitna II XCR
Susitna II
This Montrail Shoes was given to me for the Upcoming Mount Kinabalu Climbathlon!

The Susitna II XCR is Montrail's highest performance trail runner to date.
A new platform with four foam densities and a molded plate to dial-in an optimal ride that is smooth for road and stable for trails.
Dry Shell™ technology with GORE-TEX® XCR creates a complete waterproof shell around the entire shoe and enhances breathability and comfort.
IntegraFit™ technology for a supportive feel in the arch, firm heel hold, and smooth contact pressure for a variety of foot shapes.
TerraFlex™ technology that combines a high-traction outsole, a protection plate, and a shock absorbing midsole.
Multi-density EVA midsole.
Gryptonite™ GT outsole is non-marking and has great friction on a variety of trail conditions while being hard enough for high mileage.
Weighs 12 oz./0.34 kg.


Tested the shoes on tarmac road, found there are sufficient flex n cushions on this shoes unlike many trail shoes which are built to be very rigid ... the gel padding on this shoe provides adequate cushion n flex for forefooter like me. Will be testing the shoe at MR or BT during the weekend if time n weather permits...

Mizuno Wave Rider 9
WR9
Mizuno Wave™ 9 - SmoothRide Engineered, Composite Parallel wave for superior shock absorption and dispersion with a great transition to boot.
SmoothRide™ - Engineering approach to minimize the rapid acceleration and deceleration of the foot during transistion, creating the smoothest ride possible.
AP Mid Sole - Lightweight, responsive, yet durable cushioning copolymer.
VS-1 - Shock-absorbing cushioning compound found in the heel.
Mizuno Intercool - Full-length midsole ventilation system reduces heat and humidity build-up inside the shoe.
AIRMesh - Provides the utmost in breathability and comfort of the upper.
X-10™ - The most durable carbon rubber that allows for longer wear in high impact areas and supplements traction at heel strike.
SmoothRide Engineered - SmoothRide Engineered, solid rubber forefoot outsole design for durability and flexibility.


This is my second WR.. the first being WR7 which was good and comfortable which it lasted, i was rather disappointed when the cushions started failing in less than 6 months usage ( hehe.. in those days, i din track its mileages )

Ran about 15km with my new Darling WR9, the shoe is much lighter and the fit was snug than my previous WR... i din experience any issue with the shoes during run. Hope this time, the lifespan of WR9 can last at least 800 km!


Mizuno Aero 4
Aero
Mizuno Wave Aero 4 Racing Shoe. This Mizuno racing shoe has been developed for the racer or runner with a neutral foot type who wants great cushioning and flexibility. Composite smoothRide Engineered Wave construction developed to ensure efficient neutral cushioning. High memory Pebax material combined with metal mesh, The Wave immediately returns to its original shape. It is highly recommended by Mr Hunk , Ironman SC5 who use them in his fast n furious training runs.

I am planning to use this lightweight shoes for the upcoming AHM n SCSM. Hopefully, the cushions are sufficient for marathon distance. I will test out this Darling Aero in future LSD runs !!

Saturday, June 03, 2006

DOWNHILL RUNNING

DOWNHILL RUNNING by John Harding

Mk Climbathon2climbathon03
Most distance runners shy away from hard downhill running, both in training and racing, because of fear of soreness and injury. In the Lore of Running by Dr Tim Noakes, there is a lengthy discussion of the medical and physiological research literature about muscle soreness and its various causes. The bad news is that fear of soreness is well founded for the runner untrained for downhill running. The good news is that not only can the possibility of ill effects from hard downhill running in cross country, mountain running and road races be minimised by appropriate training, but such training can greatly improve performance.

In the Lore of Running, Tim Noakes says that soreness after unaccustomed or particularly severe exercise is not due to an accumulation of lactic acid in the muscles, as many people have argued in the past, but is most likely due to damage of the muscle cells, 'in particular the connective (supporting) tissue as well as the contractile proteins'. The most muscle damage occurs with hard downhill running because of the eccentric contractions that occur during downhill running. Noakes explains that when an unloaded muscle contracts, it always shortens, and this is called a concentric contraction. In contrast, when a force applied to the musle exceeds the force that the muscle can produce during contraction, then the muscle length increases, and is called an eccentric contraction. In downhill running, these contractions occur in the quadriceps muscles (upper front of the leg) when the forces through these muscles become very large, particularly as the foot lands on the ground, and can be as much as three times the body weight. Noakes says the initial contraction of the quadriceps is not quite strong enough to overcome this force, so that the muscle is stretched in an eccentric contraction for a brief instant every time each foot hits the ground. Muscles are not designed to repeatedly experience eccentric contractions, and so running long downhills hard makes the muscles susceptible to muscle fibre damage, creating severe soreness.

Firstly, sprinters and middle distance runners have found that downhill running on a grass slope of 150 to 300 metres enables them to turn their legs over more quickly, an excellent form of exercising the fast twitch muscle fibres. A month or so of one or two downhill workouts a week on grass can produce a significant pick-up in leg speed and an improvement in running efficiency.

Secondly, training offers the opportunity to develop and improve technique. Running action is all important in achieving both downhill running efficiency and minimisation of the potential muscle fibre damage. There is a natural tendency by many runners to lean backwards and put on the breaks on a steeper slope. This is the worst thing to do as it increases the impact, jarring the body from the heels right through to the torso, creating stiffness and soreness in the quads, buttocks, hip flexors and lower back. Good technique involves leaning forward to get the body vertical to the ground, relaxing instead of tensing the legs and the arms, using the arms actively for balance, and using gravity to assist. To check up on your technique, the ideal is to get someone to take some video footage of you running fast downhill in a few different race situations, from the moderate downhill to the steep, from grass to fire trail. From seeing yourself in action, you should be able to work out for yourself areas you can work on to improve your technique, from arm movement to leaning of the torso to foot-plant, to stride length.

Thirdly, training allows testing to occur of footwear options for race day. In cross country, road and mountain running, footwear that grips the ground firmly on the downhill!

Fourthly, psychological preparation for downhill racing is very important. The best form of preparation is to actually practise downhill surges over the course to be used for the race, as this allows refinement of technique over different slopes and surfaces, testing of maximum speed at critical sections, and positive self-imagery to be built up.

Fifthly, the great American runner Bill Rodgers once said that in a hilly race the best place to attack is coming off the top of a hill. Psychologically the other runners are probably looking for a breather when they reach the top of a hill. If you relax on the uphill and then accelerate coming over the top, you have a splendid opportunity to catch other competitors by surprise, particularly if your running armoury includes good downhill technique.

Finally, there is what I call 'the little kids' benefit of downhill training. A favourite past time of my three children when they go to a park or a forest is to go the top of a small grass or other hill, yell, 'Yippee (or something similar)', and run to the bottom. There is something exhilarating in just letting yourself go, and running fast downhill with the wind in your hair and the terrain rushing by.


How best then to do downhill training?
My personal preference for technique training is soft dirt trails or short, firm grass, with the length of the repetitions dependent on the timing of the training cycle. I will explain this further. The research by Morgan and Proske suggests that year round weekly practice of downhill running is desirable, and some downhill striding out as part of a weekly long run on a hilly course would achieve this. However the best time to work on maximising downhill speed is the last six weeks before the major race being targeted. Start much earlier than that and you risk peaking too soon.

Initial workouts should desirably be downhill bursts over short distances of the order of 50 to 80 metres and not at full speed in order to provide transitional adaptation to eccentric contractions over three or four workouts. If the target race involves long downhills then the distance of the downhill burst can be extended up to 200 to 400 metres to practise technique, particularly if the training surface is soft and impact-absorbing. If the race course is over a harder surface such as fire trails, judgement has to be used about the length of the repetition. The goal is training and adaptation, not destruction and injury, particularly during the last month or so before a major race.

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