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The Fit 5: Training for Runners

Our fitness expert answers your questions about proper training for runners.

For all of our fans who shoot us questions on our Facebook Page, this one is for you. Each week, we will tap into our pool of editors and experts to help with any questions or challenges you are having with your fitness regimen.

This week, Jim Lubinski, Professional Triathlete, USA Triathlon Certified Coach and NASM-CPT answers questions about proper training for runners.

You can also catch Lubinski on Twitter @JimLubinski

1) Shin Splints — asked by Nick Reygers

How do I prevent or repair shin splints?

“Shin splints are an inflammation of the tendon on the front of the leg and they can lead to major pain/problems. Ice and ibuprofen are necessary to get the inflammation down. You may need to take a few days off from running until the pain begins to subside. Running through the pain of shin splints only makes them worse, so take the pain seriously.
The cause of shin splints can be attributed to a few different factors.

ONE: Pronation of the foot. This causes the foot to collapse, which puts added stress on that tendon and causes the inflammation/pain. You must go to a good running shoe store and get fit for a shoe that is built for your type of foot.

TWO: Tight calves/Achilles/tibialis anterior. If your muscles surrounding the tendon are tight, there's synergistic compensation happening, which means smaller muscles are compensating for the larger, mover muscles during runs. As a result, muscles become imbalanced and add stress on the tendon causing the shin splints. You must diligently stretch/roll these muscles 2-3 times a day in order to get proper muscular activation while running.

THREE: Weak ankles. If your ankles are weak and unstable, this causes the foot/ankle to collapse, which adds stress to the front of the shin. You must incorporate ankle strengthening into your training. This is accomplished through trail running or balancing in an unstable environment. For example, stand on one leg (no shoes) for 30 seconds and repeat 3-4 times per leg. As your ankle gets stronger you can use gym equipment such as a Bosu Ball/half foam roll.”

2) Personal Bests — asked by Salvatore Cretella

I want to break my personal record for a 5K of 19:15, how do I get faster?

"19:15 is a fast time and it sounds like you know a bit about running. If you want to decrease that time, you have to get used to maintaining a faster pace. This is accomplished through building you muscular/strength endurance. You will want to incorporate hard efforts followed by short rest, back to the hard effort. For example: Run 40 seconds ALL OUT, then run easy 20 seconds (repeat 8-10 times). You can progress this to 10 x (50 seconds ALL OUT, 10 seconds rest), 10 x (60 seconds all out, 20 seconds rest), etc. You will also want to incorporate hard hill running into your training. This will give you the strength to push through the entire 5K distance. For Example: 12 x 30 seconds HARD uphill, use downhill as recovery. These two varieties of workouts will bring your running to new heights and have you setting PRs race after race."

3) Runner Warm-up — asked by Ayman Nassar

I heard that running is its own warm-up. Is warming up necessary, and what is the minimum time you need to spend on warming up?

"I will answer this by saying yes and no. Running is itʼs own warm-up, but you will also want to incorporate some dynamic stretching to begin engaging the correct muscles and increase your flexibility in order to get the most out of your running stride. Initially you will want to run for 5-10 minutes at an easy pace to warm the muscles up. After this initial warm-up, you should stop and perform several dynamic stretches, focusing on the primary mover muscles used while running. These stretches should consist of lunges, squats, hip-openers, high knees, butt kicks, bounding and strides (short pick-ups). Once you target these muscles you are ready to start with the main portion of your workout. Regarding warm-downs, you will want to finish off your run with 5-10 minutes of easy running. You can follow up this easy running with static stretching, focusing on your hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, ankles, glutes and hips."

4) Detrimental Stretching — asked by Elias Illescas

Stretching my calves before a run seems to make it worse while I'm running. Am I doing something wrong?

"I would tend to think your calves are tight and very immobile. The static stretching before a run pulls cold, tight muscles and puts added strain on these calf muscles which are engaged while running. The strain is adding to the the pain of the tight calves. First off, you need to be rolling/stretching your calves two times per day. You can roll before the run and roll/stretch after the run. You must gain flexibility or the pain will only get worse. After you warm up for 10-15 minutes of easy running, then you can stop and actively stretch your calves. You may also want to seek out a massage therapy/PT/Chiropractor who specializes in ART. This relaxes your calves and quickly increases flexibility. Tight calves can lead to other injuries so you will want to be diligent in caring for them."

5) Transitioning to Barefoot Running — asked by Sam Briski

I'm considering transitioning into a barefoot running shoe. What are the advantages and disadvantages of running in a minimalist running shoe?

“Barefoot running is a huge trend right now as you can tell by looking at the abundance of barefoot running shoes on the market. There are, however, pros and cons to barefoot running. Personally, I'm a fan of minimalist (barefoot) running on occasion. Barefoot running is a strain on your system and it causes a lot of high impact, which stresses and fatigues the muscles involved in the running motion. This stress to the system causes pain. If you're repetitively pounding on your muscles with no shock absorption, you will feel it.

That being said, I believe it is good to stress your system in this way occasionally. Especially for distance runners. You will adapt to the pounding and get stronger for it. You will also strengthen your ankles, feet and calves as well as gain flexibility in these same muscles. I would advise you to ease into barefoot running. Start slow/short distances once per week and build from there. I would not throw away your traditional running shoes because I do not believe the barefoot running stress to your system is beneficial more than once per week. More than that could cause damage to your feet/knees/hips/etc."

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