Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim year, during which strict fasting is observed from dawn to sunset. Distance training during this period can be taxing on the runner.

What you can or can’t do will depend on your ability and current form. Some runners can train as usual, others might have to adjust their program to be able to cope with fasting and training. The following information is mostly for the benefit of the latter.

As with running in general my suggestion for Ramadan is also to run at the end of the day, but try to time your run so the ending coincides with iftar. You don’t want to wait around dehydrated after your run. Make sure your meal is prepared ahead of time. You don’t need the extra stress of having to prepare food after a run. Be sure to include plenty of water and fruit juice. If you’re going to the mosque, remember to take water, and drink as often as possible.

Make sure to get as much sleep as possible after your run, but also the night before your run. Your body will need this to help it recover enough to get the full benefit of your program.

Try to stick to a flat route on your run. Your body might not be able to cope with the extra effort required by a hilly course. If it is very hot outside, do your running on a treadmill – if possible.

You may want to avoid training at your VO2 max or to make your runs longer than one hour.

Your morning meal on the day of the run is also very important. Try to include foods that are rich in complex carbohydrates. You will also need to make sure you get adequate protein. The balance of your meal should be vegetables, fruit, water, and then some more water. Avoid foods that will make you thirsty.

Here are examples of the start of a Half Marathon and Marathon program, adjusted for Ramadan:

Day Half Marathon Marathon
Monday 3 x 800 m Easy 3 x 800 m Easy pace
Tuesday 6 km Endurance pace 7 km Endurance pace
Thursday 5 km Easy 5 km Easy pace
Saturday   8 km Endurance pace
Monday 6 km Easy 8 km Fatigue Threshold
Tuesday   6 km Endurance pace
Wednesday 6 km Endurance pace 8 km Endurance pace
Saturday 7 km Endurance pace 8 km Endurance pace
Monday 7 km Easy 8 km Endurance pace
Tuesday   8 km Endurance pace
Wednesday 7 km Endurance pace 8 km Endurance pace
Saturday 7 km Endurance pace 8 km Endurance pace
Monday 10 x 100 m Fatigue Threshold 8 km Endurance pace
Tuesday 5 x 800 m Fatigue Threshold 6 km Endurance pace
Wednesday 7 km Endurance pace 8 km Endurance pace
Saturday 7 km Endurance pace 8 km Endurance pace
Monday 10 x 150 m Fatigue Threshold 8 km Endurance pace
Tuesday 5 x 900 m Fatigue Threshold 8 km Endurance pace
Wednesday   8 km Endurance pace
Saturday 10 km Easy 12 km Endurance pace

Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 17h00

Jack Muller Park, Boston, Bellville

Suited for beginners, but experienced runners may join for technique and form drills.

Perfect for Park Runners who want to upgrade.

ASA Certified Coach

Goal race: SPAR Women’s Challenge 5 km, 26 May 2019

This is the path to your first 10 km.

Contact: quintusvr@gmail.com


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Bellville Athletic Club Members: R250

A new study from The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center examines what may cause chronic back pain in runners and the exercises to help prevent it.

The study, published in the Journal of Biomechanics, suggests that runners with weak deep core muscles are at higher risk of developing low back pain. And, unfortunately, most people’s deep core muscles aren’t nearly as strong as they should be.

To examine the role of the superficial and deep core muscles, researchers used motion detection technology and force-measuring floor plates to estimate muscle movements during activity.

What they found is that weak deep core muscles force more superficial muscles like the abs to work harder and reach fatigue faster. When those superficial muscles are doing the work the deep core should be doing, there are often painful consequences.

When your deep core is weak, your body is able to compensate in a way that allows you to essentially run lie normal. But that increases the load on your spine in a way that may lead to low back pain.

Experts say it’s common for even well-conditioned athletes to neglect their deep core, and there is a lot of misinformation online and in fitness magazines about core strength. Traditional ab exercises with a large range of motion, such as sit-ups or back extensions, will not give you the strong core needed to be a better runner.

Instead, Chaudhari says exercises such as planks that focus on stabilizing the core, especially on unstable surfaces, are what’s really going to make you a better runner.

A child’s attention and memory improves after exercise according to new research supported by the Universities of Stirling and Edinburgh.

Researchers found that pupils’ best responses to tests came after physical activity that was set at their own pace, as opposed to exhaustive exercise.

The study is part of the BBC Learning’s Terrific Scientific campaign – designed to inspire schoolchildren to pursue a career in science – and part-funded by the University of Edinburgh and the Physiological Society. A total of 11 613 children in the UK signed up to participate in the research – including 1 536 from Scotland.

It was found that 15 minutes of self-paced exercise can significantly improve a child’s mood, attention and memory – enhancing their ability to learn.

Overall, the study concluded that exercising leads to improvements in children’s mood and cognition. In most tasks, participating in a run/walk activity was more beneficial. Importantly, this exercise should be in addition to normal physical education.

Research by the University of Kent into the effects of brain stimulation on athletes’ performance has demonstrated that it is an effective way to improve endurance.

The findings are expected to advance our understanding of the brain’s role in endurance exercise, how it can alter the physical limits of performance in healthy people and add further evidence to the debate on the use of legal methods to enhance performance in competition.

The research, which was conducted by Dr Lex Mauger and colleagues at Kent’s School of Sport and Exercise Sciences (SSES), set out to investigate how endurance limits are a matter for the mind as well as the body.

Dr Mauger discovered that stimulating the brain by passing a mild electrical current (transcranial direct current stimulation or tDCS) over the scalp to stimulate it increased the activity of the area associated with muscle contraction. This decreased perception of effort and increased the length of time participants could exercise.

The team explained this is because the exercise felt less effortful following stimulation. tDCS has been used to enhance endurance performance but how it achieved this was previously unknown and this study has helped identify the mechanisms.

“Bilateral extracephalic transcranial direct current stimulation improves endurance performance in healthy individuals” was published in the journal Brain Stimulation.

Women can process oxygen more quickly than men when they start to exercise, according to a new study from the University of Waterloo.

Quick oxygen uptake places less strain on the body’s cells and is an important measure of aerobic fitness.

The findings are contrary to the popular assumption that men’s bodies are more naturally athletic.

The study found that women’s muscles extract oxygen from the blood faster, which, scientifically speaking, indicates a superior aerobic system. By processing oxygen faster, women are less likely to accumulate molecules linked with muscle fatigue, effort perception and poor athletic performance.

They don’t know why women have faster oxygen uptake (yet), but this could change the way we approach assessment and athletic training down the road.

The study was published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism.

(Women naturally more fit than men first appeared on QVRP.net)

Endurance training can actually be helpful in dealing with muscle inflammation, according to a new paper co-written by faculty at Binghamton University, State University of New York, and Karolinska Institutet and Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm, Sweden, and published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Muscle inflammation, or myositis, can be caused by infection, injury and chronic disease. However, specific forms of myositis like dermatomyositis and polymyositis occur when the body’s immune system turns against its own muscles, damaging the muscle tissue in the process.

While there are plenty of prescribed medications to cope with muscular diseases, the medication utilized only does half the job.

The drugs are targeting one immune cell or a group of immune cells, but there are no new drugs that target muscles that are dying. Exercise can take care of the immune cells that are killing the muscles, and repair the cell death of the muscle.”

The study found that endurance exercise altered microRNAs that target and downregulate immune processes, as well as decreasing different microRNAs that target and upregulate mitochondrial content at the protein level. That is, exercise creates microRNA that decreases the number of immune cells that attack the muscle and heals the muscle by increasing aerobic metabolism through mitochondrial biogenesis.

The reason why exercise wasn’t considered before is that if people have muscles that are already inflamed or weak, they believed exercise would make the muscles worse. However, what is surprising is the question of why exercise is so effective. It’s because exercise takes care of the immune cells that are damaging the muscle while simultaneously targeting specific parts of dead or affected muscles.

While there are no drugs today that target all the issues of muscle inflammation, the researchers believe a combination of medication and endurance-based exercise can help patients live a happier and healthier life.

(Endurance training helpful in recovery from muscle inflammation first appeared on QVRP.net)

The best coaches in my area, most of them close to retirement, confirm that they can not train the modern athlete with techniques from 20 years ago. The modern person’s lifestyle constantly differs from his or her ancestors. Our lifestyle creates inflexibility and weakness, which is reinforced when running. Changing our ways requires better focus and frequent repetitions.

Not that we have to discard all we know. Rather, we have to be conscious of how the knowledge base change and align it with the changing needs of the runner.

What follows is a few tips for both novices and experienced runners.

General form
Good form will not only make you a beter runner, but also less injury prone.

  • Keep your head and chest upright. Relax the neck, shoulders and upper body. The upper body should be stable, but not tense.
  • Practice belly breathing. This will strengthen the diaphragm, which in turn aids running economy.
  • Relax your hands – imagine you are holding something precious between your thumb and forefinger. Clenching your hands will make you tense and tire your arms.
  • Work your arms – swing from the armpits to the hips in the direction you are going. No crossing over of arms or a boxing motion / chicken wings, this halters your momentum.
  • If you catch yourself clenching your hands or swinging your arms across your body, shake out your hands for 100 meters to fix it.
  • To improve posture and balance, run on a line in training, feet on both sides.

Speed training should be restricted and well balanced for endurance runners to restrict the buildup of ion molecules in the muscles. Failure to do so will result in enhanced levels of fatigue in races.

Too much speed training will also increase the proportion of fast-twitch muscle fibers to slow-twitch muscle fibers (Jansson, Esbjörnsson, Holm & Jacobs, Acta Physiologica Scandinavica, 1990), to the detriment of your endurance ability.

When you do speed training focus on your posture. Keep your head up, arms swinging in the direction you are going and hips extending and driving. Focus on eliminating unnecessary movements and maintaining balance and control.

Do not mess with your natural stride. Research shows this results in loss of speed (Brigham Young University study, International Journal of Exercise Science, 2017).

Be careful not to overreach in your stride. You will only hasten the onset of fatigue. The feet should strike under your center of gravity, with the hips extending and legs moving well out behind the center of gravity. Drive from the hips.

Improving energy storage and utilization
This is done with the long run in training.

  • Do not eat or drink before your run – this helps the body to improve it’s capacity to use fat. You should now and then experiment with staying off carbs for 12 hours before a long run – only if you had a good rest day before. Some French research suggest this not only improves energy utilization, but also boosts endurance performance by increasing aerobic capacity. Please note that for this to work your general diet should contain enough high quality carbs. You should also take some food during the run, otherwise it will effect the quality of the run and your metabolism may slow due to this semi-fasted state, resulting in fewer calories burned.
  • Do not start too fast or run too slow on the remainder. Start at recovery pace for the first few kilometers and then increase your speed to maximum 20% slower than marathon pace, moving to 10% slower than marathon pace, sometimes finishing at marathon pace. Make sure you cool down if you ran at marathon pace.
  • Do not eat, or drink carbs over the final 8 kilometers, only water – this also improves the utilization of fat.
  • Take a rest day before and a day after a long run – generally, not always.
  • In addition you can now and then run twice on one day on normal training days.

Running Economy
Running economy is typically defined as the energy demand for a given velocity of running, and is determined by the consumption of oxygen. In other words, the less oxygen you consume at a given velocity, the better your running economy.

You improve this ability by gradually increasing distance over time. This also helps your fast-twitch muscle fibers gain the positive characteristics of slow-twitch muscle fibers. Slow-twitch muscles enable our endurance abilities, such as distance running.

To improve your intake of oxygen, keep your head up and practice belly breathing.

Inhale and exhale smoothly and continuously through both your nose and mouth at the same time while running. On average you will inhale for three footstrikes, exhaling a bit faster, but this depends on your speed.

If you have trouble breathing during a race: lie down, relax, inhale slowly, fully expanding your lungs on the inhale, breathing from the belly, not pausing before you exhale. Do this a few times while focusing on staying calm and relaxed, because sometimes our problems with breathing is a result of race anxiety. A warm-up before the race also helps to stem that anxiety.

Strength Training
Strength training should be included at least twice per week in base training and should always be preceded by a gentle aerobic warm-up.

Do about 200 kilometers in new shoes before you use them for a race. This should include at least one long run.

Race preparation
When preparing for a race you should try to mimic the goal race topography on some of your routes.

Do not race more than once every third week – never longer than a half marathon.

The week before a race you should remember to hydrate properly.

During the race, stick to the racing line as far as possible. The racing line is the shortest distance between two points, as measured from the start.

Race nutrition is a matter of personal preference and you should experiment with it in long runs, not during goal races. General guidelines include eating 7 – 8 g of carbohydrates for every 1 kg of body weight in the week prior to the race and taking fluid and carbohydrates at certain intervals during the race. Try not to drink anything after the 40 km mark in a marathon.

(Thoughts on endurance running, form and technique first appeared on QVRP.net)