Welcome back to my series on strength training and endurance sports. My last article looked at strength work and cycling economy- which was way back in June. I have a good excuse though: the birth of my daughter, Adeline Delanghe!
I would like to say “now that her sleep is normalizing blah blah,” but that simply is not the case. Instead, I’m just getting better at squeezing stuff in, which hopefully will result in more science of training articles for you all!
In any case, if you haven’t already, please review the first three articles in this series. The idea is not to give you a cookie-cutter, magical answer on how endurance athletes should utilize strength training. Instead, this is meant to introduce you to some of the nuances in the science, and how to decide if, when, and how much resistance training you should do.
To add to the above, today’s article will take a look at another parameter of endurance performance- lactate threshold.
Strength Training and your Lactate Threshold (LT)
What is your LT? This is essentially the exercise intensity at which lactate accumulates in the blood faster than it can be removed. This is the “breaking point” so to speak between low and high-intensity work.
While V02max is important, having a high lactate threshold is crucial in endurance performance. The higher the lactate threshold is as a % of your V02max, the harder the effort you will be able to sustain for long periods of time. We don’t race at our V02max, but we do spend lots of time in and around our lactate threshold!
While V02max is a popular thing to measure and be proud of, as we have noted before, somebody with the highest V02max doesn’t always win the race, especially in running. As we discussed, this is in large part due to exercise economy. However, this is also seen when somebody has more effectively trained their lactate threshold despite not having the same max oxygen-consuming ability. In other words, having a slightly lower V02max that’s good enough, and a very highly trained LT can allow you to beat a competitor with a higher V02max.
V02max is the ceiling, and we want to max it out, and then get our LT as close to it as possible to be at our best!
We are looking for the right physiotherapist to join our growing team.
Hours: 10-20 hours/week or more if desired. Flexible in terms of days and times.
We are hoping to find an evidence-based therapist with strong work ethic, who works well independently, is motivated, possesses good people skills, and has a keen interest in the science of injury management with a focus on active care. Acupuncture is an asset.
We are also hoping to find somebody who values patient care above all else, and is easy to get along with and contributes to our positive work environment. We want a great teammate!
No, I’m not talking about this season’s hottest Balenciagas, and I’m not even going to get into the carbon plated shoe thing. (Side note: a lot of interesting studies about their efficiency have come out, as have some important discussions about equity in sport.)
We are going to just have a straight talk about your running shoes – what to look for when buying, how to screen for lemons, and injury considerations. Get ready to nerd out!
What to look for when buying
What is the purpose of the shoe you are looking for?
A trail shoe for grip and stability? A plush road runner for pounding the pavement? A racing flat or track spike to break the speed of sound? Know what you are looking for to help narrow your search.
Stability shoe or neutral? Or dare I say, minimal? This is a complicated question and one where I would look at your previous shoe history and maybe stay within it, unless a change is recommended by your health professional. For example, I know people with pancake flat feet who were put into a stability shoe and it caused more problems for them, so having flat feet DOES NOT mean you need a “motion control” shoe. If you have orthotics, you should go with a neutral shoe 100% of the time so that it can function the way it should. Perhaps get your feet checked out by your health provider if you are in doubt.
Shop when your feet are the largest, and bring anything you typically would have on your feet when you run
Your feet tend to get a smidge larger as the day goes on, so plan your trip to your local running shop for the afternoon or later in the day if you can.
BYOS – bring your own socks, specifically the types of socks you would wear while running. This will give you a much more accurate feel for the shoe and fit. If you wear orthotics, an ankle brace, or special heel lift in your runners, bring them!
Brand loyalty is ok to a point, but keep an open mind (unless you are sponsored, which I am not).
Most companies will tweak their models with each new iteration – new foam! a different upper! a whole new last! There is no guarantee that a shoe will be the same from year to year, meaning it might not provide the same type of ride.
How to screen for lemons
Sometimes life gives you lemons, and that’s ok if you know how to screen for them to avoid being saddled with a pair of defective shoes. You might get some odd looks if you try these in the store, so bring the shoes home, and in a reasonable, non-Hulk manner, put them through their paces.
The video posted below is a sequence of tests developed by physiotherapist Bruce Wilk. Some of my favorites are:
The Break Test: This is to see if the shoe breaks at the level of the toes and not in a weird place like the mid foot. It shouldn’t be overly stiff either. This does not apply to minimalist shoes as they will fold up like a piece of origami.
The Twist Test: Mostly looking for symmetry here
The Rock Test: This is to see if the shoe is sitting evenly on the surface. Press straight down and apply a bit of a rock left and right. Does one shoe start tilting a lot?
There are some footwear considerations when it comes to dealing with injury. I will mostly be talking about drop, which is the height difference between the heel and the toes. Most shoes will describe the drop in mm. Below are a few considerations about heel-toe drop and how it might play into injuries. These are generalizations, so take it with a grain of salt!
Zero Drop (aka a flat bottom, not necessarily no cushioning. Remember, we are talking about the difference in height between the heel and toes)
Places more stress on feet, ankles, and the Achilles, so if you have any issues in these areas, it might be best to avoid this type of shoe.
Good if you are dealing with knee issues, or have a stiff first toe because the shoe won’t bias you into slight extension.
If you are new to zero drop shoes, it is important to gradually introduce them into the shoe rotation because you will probably get tight calves when you start using them.
Regular Runner with a Drop (the vast majority of shoes)
Places more stress at the knee, so if you have cranky knees, consider avoiding this type of shoe.
Good if you are dealing with an Achilles injury, or plantar fascia pain because it will put your posterior chain on some slack.
Cushioning or Barefoot/Minimal?
Cushioning is best if you are: recovering from an injury (notably any bone stress injury, plantar foot pain), have osteopenia or osteoporosis, are new to running, or are planning on doing the vast majority of your runs on pavement*.
Barefoot is something you can work towards if that is what you are interested in. I know people that love the tactile sensation that going more minimal gives them. *you can run in barefoot/minimalist shoes on pavement, but you must give your body time to adapt to the stress.
The most recent studies suggest the best shoe for you if the shoe that FITS, meaning you won’t subconsciously change your gait to avoid that nasty blister on your toe. I know you love that hot new colourway from (insert whatever brand here), but if it has a weird break pattern, or it feels uncomfortable in the shop, it is highly unlikely to EVER be comfortable. Take it from me – I have made that mistake a few times in my career.
Give this post a share with anyone you know who is eyeing up a new pair of kicks. Live in the Kitchener-Waterloo area, dealing with a running injury and want to get a plan in place? Book your appointment here.
How long until we officially race again? I would say probably at least a few weeks, wouldn’t you? While I’m sure many of you miss toeing the line, there are some positives. For instance, one of the best ways to take advantage of this extended offseason is to work on weaknesses that are normally tough to address.
Constantly acting in A-race mode, followed by tapering, followed by recovering can definitely result in short term spikes in performance. But often the long term, gradual development is sacrificed.
A great way to take a swing at improving your baseline ability to perform is a full strength program. However, it is not as logical to include when in close proximity to an A-race. If you’re anything like me, you’ve thought of introducing more strength work throughout the pandemic. If you’re not like me, you’ve actually done it- good for you, you jerk!
The questions that I get fromthe team on this topic are endless. I have written about the topic in short before such as here. However, I thought it was finally time to take a deep dive into strength training for endurance athletes.
Last week I spent most of the week with a mild head cold. Nothing crazy, but enough to motivate me to review my old immunology notes yet again to relearn what I already know (it’s always fun picturing the T-cells destroying the bad stuff). Times like these also motivate me to relearn other things, like how nothing gets rid of a cold other than some basics including: sufficient rest, fluids, stress management and a good diet.
Sometimes when I’m sick, I’ll also scan the literature for new research on the common cold. Usually it’s more of the same: sleep deprivation triggers a depression in immune function, more research is needed to show if supplement X helps, excessive exercise causes a depression in immune function while light exercise may help, and so on.
However, in today’s search, I came across something new that may help us cope with the common cold. The only downside is that this new information applies to a small subset of the population. It fact it’s so specific, it’s almost not worth mentioning and learning…other than the fact that the specific subset I’m referring to is exactly who we are: athletes to train vigorously in cold weather!
What does the science say?
In general, it’s has been proven time and time again that popping vitamins does not help to speed up the recovery associated with the common cold if you are already sick. Long-term supplementation also does not help to prevent the common cold. There is some research suggesting that long term supplementation may reduce the duration of the cold, but that always sounded like a lot of effort and money for a marginal improvement on something
that rarely happens.
So I had long given up on vitamin C. Maintain a healthy diet rich and fruits and vegetables, and that was all I needed in my mind (if I achieve said goal).