Varied Training Approaches for Running Events

Written by Jenn Brooks, NASM CPT, CES; USATF running coach

Multiple Training Approaches to Run Performance
One hears a lot about specificity in training, and it is certainly true that some very reliable ways to run faster are to run more, run faster, or both. Do you want faster race times?  Run faster intervals in training. Are you racing a challenging distance? Practice longer segments of runs at goal pace. These approaches generally work.  However, there are some good reasons why this is not always feasible or even necessarily best.  Can you train for a running event solely by running?  Of course, but I don’t recommend it.  Unless you have been blessed with biomechanical perfection and a variety of available running surfaces, it’s a great setup for injury.  Can you train for a running event without running at all?  Yes, but I wouldn’t recommend that either.  There are aspects of running, such as cadence, force transfer, and repetitive fatigue that are very hard to equate in other training modes. So, what are some factors to consider when putting together a training plan and deciding to when to run and when to cross train?

What are the limiters?  
Evaluate the distance and course of your goal event, and try to find limiting factors that can be addressed without running.  Are there a number of long downhills? Quadricep fatigue may be a stronger limiter than aerobic fatigue.  Steep climbs are likely to send hip flexors on strike, particularly if you have underactive glutes.  Multiple or very long sustained climbs can be pretty evil to achilles tendons and calf muscles (Mt. Washington Road Race runners, I’m talking to you), and a long, flat course can be punishing to stabilizing muscles such as the posterior tibialis. Often, particularly in longer races, it is a failure to maintain form due to muscle overload, or simply straight up muscle failure, that becomes a major limiting factor.  These factors can be addressed without running, and it may even be preferable to do so.  Targeted strength training against your identified limiting factors allows you to focus on activating the right muscles, with the right form, without risking further breakdown through running.   Running is an activity that happens at high speed; odds are good when running you will use the muscles your brain is in the habit of using.  Overactive quads will remain overactive, and an anteriorly tilted pelvis will be very comfortable maintaining an anterior tilt. Strength training gives you the time and control to retrain your neuromuscular system to hold new alignments and to move in a more balanced effort.  Strength training also allows you to mimic the specific demands of the course without incurring the damage of running.

What are the goals of the workout, and can the benefits be achieved in another way?
Long runs provide some unique stresses; they train the mind to be comfortable running farther, train the digestive system to accept hydration and fuel simultaneous to significant cardiovascular demand, train connective tissue in the ankles and knees to endure sustained stress without injury.  Tempo runs and interval workouts also provide unique benefits that are difficult to match with a different activity; they create a familiarity with faster cadences, teach the body to run with greater power, teach the stomach not to revolt at high intensity jostling.  While the cardiovascular and overall fitness gains that come from speedwork can certainly be matched on a bike or in the pool, it is difficult to come by these subsidiary benefits that are unique to running.  Easy days, however, are another story.  The goal of moderate and easy runnings days is typically to increase blood flow, train cardiovascular systems, and set the body up for the next hard effort.  None of these benefits is unique to running.  They can easily be achieved through other workouts, and an argument could be made that this approach facilitates greater recovery by stressing different systems.

Cost Benefit Analysis
This is the part that runners are generally pretty bad at.  What are the risks to running a training session, and are the benefits worth it?  (Hint: most of us prefer to run, and we are remarkably good at convincing ourselves the answer is yes even when all evidence points to the contrary). If you are heading into the weekend after a strong week of training with little to no pain or movement compensations, the benefits of running long will likely well outweigh the risks.  In this case the long run is almost certain to net positive, with the significant stress of the workout leading to fitness gains.  Now let’s say you’ve had a frustrating training week.  Knee pain you first noticed on Monday has been gradually building, you’ve caught yourself favoring that leg, and by Friday you can only describe your running experience as miserable. Will a long run this weekend lead to increased fitness, or breakdown?  If you start the long run you will either cut it short or power through.  If the former, you’ve just lost the benefits of the workout, and if the latter, odds are good you’ve just lost another week (or more!) of quality training because you were stubborn and now you can’t walk without limping.  In this case the far better scenario is to crosstrain, approximating the physiological stresses of the long run as closely as possible while taking a biomechanical break from running impacts so that the overstressed tissues can recover quickly.

If you are someone who rarely gets injured and who really just wants to run, then you are probably fine running most workouts with just a couple of strength training workouts per week to prevent muscle imbalances and maintain mobility.  However, that is not most people.  If you are prone to injury, or dealing with time and availability factors that making getting runs in a challenge, it may be  worth delegating your moderate efforts to cross training and focusing on making the days you run high quality days.  And in all cases, if a run is likely to push a nagging pain into a true injury, cross training is the better bet.

— Jenn Brooks, NASM CPT, CES; USATF running coach


Runners: I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to move sideways

Written by: Jenn Brooks, Master Trainer

The average injury rate for the recreational runner is between 37% and 56% per year, with 50-70% of those injuries caused by overuse. This is incredibly high. When injuries do occur, the 5 standard medical advice is typically a variation of “stop running until it feels better.” While this generally works quite well at healing the current injury, it is ineffective at preventing future injuries. To break out of the injury cycle, it’s necessary to explore what underlying factors lead to injury and are likely to do so again. In many cases, the primary factor in an overuse injury traces back to an inability to maintain alignment while managing the multiplanar forces that occur while running.

To better understand how to avoid this, it’s necessary to break down the impacts of running. When you run, every step lands with the force of 250% of your body weight; of that impact, forces equal to 25% of your body weight are directed sideways. In additional to lateral and sagittal forces, you also have rotational impacts; though often subtle, these rotational movements play a major role in both energy efficiency and injury. For instance, there is a strong correlation between excessive internal hip rotation and patellafemoral pain.

Put together, this is a tremendous amount of multidirectional force to control on one leg at rapid speed (the average ground contact time for an experienced recreational runner is 200-300ms). Illustrating the importance of force transfer in the gait cycle, analysis has shown that joint torques and EMG activity are both greater as the body prepares to land than at the point of takeoff in each stride. Taking off (stance phase) is relatively straightforward; transitioning a large amount of energy through swing to stance is the true work of running. An inability to make this transfer in a way that is efficient and safe is behind many running injuries.

So, where does this leave you? Running efficiency requires the delicate balance of having enough mobility to avoid compensations down the chain and enough stability to prevent a loss of alignment and momentum. Strength and mobility training play a vital role in preventing injury by enabling the runner to avoid these damaging compensations. There are many tests that can be used to identify faults likely to
cause injury, but one of the easiest places to start is the single leg squat assessment. If you cannot do a single leg bodyweight squat without losing alignment, you almost certainly cannot maintain good alignment while absorbing a sideways force of 25% your body weight. You have some work to do.

Peruse almost any running forum question about strength training, and you will inevitably read a lot of answers that talk about squats, deadlifts, and pullups. These exercises are absolutely good ideas, but they are not the complete picture. Running is a sport that happens one leg at a time. It makes sense that if the goal is to run without injury, it is imperative to train your legs to stabilize and recoil singularly and to
train your body to control and harness forces in all planes of motion. You are going to have to balance, and you are going to have to move sideways. Single leg exercises, lateral movements, counter-rotational exercises, and mobility work all play a vital role in an effective injury prevention routine.

1. Dicharry, J. Anatomy for Runners . Skyhorse Publishing: New York,NY; 2012.
2. Novacheck, T. The Biomechanics of Running . Motion Analysis Laboratory. Gillette Childrens Specialty Healthcare, University of Minnesota. 22 September 1997.
3. Running Science. Accessed February 10 2018.
4. Souza, R.B. and Powers, C.M. Predictors of Hip Internal Rotation During Running. Am J Sports Med 2009 37:579. doi:10.1177/0363546508326711.
5. Van Mechelin, W. Running injuries. A review of the epidemiological literature. Sports Med . 1992 Nov;14(5):320-35. Accessed February 8, 2018.

How to Rebuild Your Microbiome


According to Dr. Mark Pettus, the Associate Dean at U Mass Medical School, our health model is changing and the goal of the functional medical community is to explore how we have lost our microbiome diversity. The human Microbiome Project, American Gut Project and U Biome are research organizations that have discovered that 99% of our genome comes from our microbiome.

When there are problems in the gut, we experience weight gain, asthma, autoimmune diseases, RA, Hashi-Moto, arthritis, metabolic bone disease, eczema, mood disorders, depression, anxiety, cancer and Alzheimer’s. All of these diseases are linked to a lack of diversity of the microbiome.  This explains why there has been a profound increase in chronic disease and inflammation.

The behavioral health world has also discovered that most of our neurotransmitters are located in our gut, thus, the gut is an active neurological organ. Depressions, anxiety, autism, PTSD are all linked to the gut health of an individual.

As you can see, the microbiome plays a fundamental role in human health; our environment changes the way that our genes express themselves. So what can do to change our microbiome? The” Good Gut” book by Justin and Erica Sonnenberg looks at the modern human microbiome and suggests ways to improve it. If we look at tribes in Africa, their microbiome is much more diverse because these cultures follow a primarily plant based diet, where they ingest anywhere from 80-100 grams per day of fermentable fiber. The typical American diet ingests only 5-10 grams per day.

We can change our microbiome by avoiding carbohydrate dense food, antibiotics, refined and processed foods and glyphosates. Glyphosate residue disrupts microbial activity and interferes with the production of serotonin and dopamine. Fiber serves as a fuel for the microbiome, especially fermentable fiber. We want to decrease consumption of grains that are high in gluten, eat only non-GMO, hormone free, antibiotic free food. At the same time, increase your consumption of pre- biotic rich foods such as apples, asparagus, bananas, garlic, kiwi, onions and chicory.

For a closer look into your own gut health, you can work with a functional medicine doctor who will do microbiome testing.


Here’s to your gut health!

Marlene Dickinson
BA Psychology/Sports Nutrition
Food as Medicine

The Benefits of Probiotics


By: Jacqueline Otterbein

Probiotics are live microorganisms, also known as the “good bacteria” that help your digestive processes and digestive organs function optimally. While bacteria tend to get a bad rep, these microorganisms are essential in order to break down the foods we eat appropriately. Our gut is home to about 100 trillion of these beneficial microorganisms. It contains almost 10 times more bacteria than all the human cells in the entire body, with over 400 known diverse bacterial species.

A healthy gut promotes normal gastrointestinal function, provides protection from infection, regulates metabolism, and encompasses more than 75% of our immune system. Achieving and maintaining a healthy gut can be attained by eating foods that already contain these helpful bacteria, such as fermented foods. The fermentation process encourages vital bacteria such as Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria to flourish. Vegetables are submerged in a salty brine during preparation to kill off dangerous, pathogenic bacteria. The good bacteria break down lactose and other sugars and starches in the food, making digestion easier. Once they reach your gut, they continue to break down food and keep out harmful E. coli and C. difficile.

Supportive fermented foods include yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, miso, kimchi, tempeh, and pickles. These foods can help put the gut back into balance and replace the “good” bacteria that may have been lost through the overuse of antibiotics, diets high in refined carbohydrates, sugar, and processed foods, dietary toxins, chronic stress and chronic infections.

If these fermented foods don’t sound appealing, there are other options to reaping the benefits of probiotics. While adding more probiotic foods to your diet is the best way to support digestive health, you can also try taking a daily probiotic supplement. There are countless different probiotic strands in many combinations, but Board-Certified Doctor of Natural Medicine, Michelle Schoffro Cook recommends Garden of Life RAW Probiotics Colon Care for general health. It can be purchased on Amazon for $28.

The most effective ways to maintain and restore a healthy gut is to remove all food toxins from your diet, focus on adding fermented foods into your diet, and taking steps to manage your stress. While it could seem challenging at first to work fermented foods into your daily meal routine, check out for easy and nutritious recipes. In return, these steps to aid your gut flora will reduce inflammation and make you feel healthy and happy.

The Dangers of Glyphosate

Glglyphosateyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup, is the world’s most widely used herbicide. Anresco, an independent FDA-registered food safety testing labratory has found extremely high levels of glyphosate in many popular foods. This list includes General Mills Cheerios, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, PepsiCo Doritos, Oreo’s ,Goldfish, Stacy’s Simply Naked Pita Chips to name a few. Other foods that have high levels of glyphosate include lentils, corn, beets, potatoes, millet, peas, flax, sunflowers, and non-GMO soybeans.

The World Health Organization has labeled glyphosate a “probable carcinogen.” Anresco Labs tested Cheerios and found levels as high as 1,125.3 ppb. New research has shown that levels as low as 10ppb can have toxic effects on the livers of fish and 700ppb, which is the allowable level of glyphosate found in US drinking water; caused significant damage to the livers and kidneys of rats.
Even more alarming, glyphosate is showing up in breast milk!

Glyphosate is linked to many serious health disorders, including cancer, endocrine (hormone) disruption, birth defects, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, MS, ADHD, obesity, diabetes, lowered immune function, celiac and irritable bowel syndrome. Children and the elderly are particularly at risk.

Food Democracy Now and The Detox Project are calling for a federal investigation into the harmful effects of glyphosate on human health. Later this month, I will be taking a continuing education class with Dr. John Bagnulo; to learn more about how glyphosate impacts the micro-biome and how to remediate it effects.

For additional information on glyphosate and the complete list of foods to avoid go to: Glyphosate: Unsafe on Any Plate or To learn more about GMO crops, Monsanto and how Roundup, glyphosate; impacts out food sources I recommend the following books. The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, Altered Genes, Twisted Truth by Steven Druker, Harvest for Hope by Jane Goodall .

A simple solution and the best way to protect yourself and your family from the harmful effects of glyphosate is to eliminate all processed foods, eat locally sourced organic produce, humanely raised, hormone free and antibiotic free chicken beef, milk and cheese, wild caught fish. Whole Foods and Thrive Market are dedicated to selling non-GMO, chemical free food. Know what you are putting in your body and remain informed about the food the choices that you are making.

Marlene Dickinson
Holistic Wellness Coach/Consultant
BA Psychology/Sports Nutrition/Food as Medicine


The Biology of Belief

This past month, I had the honor of taking a continuing education class with Dr. Bruce Lipton; a cellular biologist who later in life studied quantum physics and went on to pioneer research at Stanford University about the biochemical effects on how the brain functions.  While at Stanford, Dr. Lipton discovered that all of the cells of our body are affected by our thoughts. His research revealed that genes and DNA do not control our biology, in fact, genes are responsible for only 2% of disease and DNA is controlled by signals from outside the cell; these signals are directly linked to our environment

While Bruce was cloning human endothelial cells, he discovered that these cells retreated from toxins that he introduced into the culture dish and gravitated toward nutrients. Bruce also observed that a   period of sustained stress inhibits the production of life sustaining energy. The human body contains approximately 100 trillion cells; each cell has a membrane that acts as a receptor to the signals that it receives from the environment. A person’s perception or belief can alter the way that the cells respond, in other words our beliefs can alter our genetic makeup!

Almost every major illness is linked to stress. In his research Bruce discovered that creating lifestyle changes that include, sound nutrition, exercise, meditation, relaxation and better communication altered the activity of over 500 genes over a period of 90 days. Genes can change in a matter of hours and spontaneous remission of disease can happen in minutes! We have the ability to interfere with the toxic chemicals in our bodies by boosting our immune system, keeping our stress levels under control, eating nutrient dense foods and most importantly creating a healthy environment for our cells to grow.

We can begin by reviewing our beliefs and identifying what beliefs are truly our own and what beliefs belong to someone else. This is a revealing process that leads to what really matters for us as individuals. I have worked with this model for many years and have found it to be life changing for many people.

Your beliefs become your thoughts

Your thoughts become your words

Your words become your actions

Your actions become your habits

Your habits become your values

Your values become your destiny.

The human body holds infinite wisdom, we have a choice about how we respond to stress, the foods that we put into our body, the environment we live in and how we live each day. Make conscience decisions and eliminate anything that is preventing you from living a peaceful and healthy lifestyle.

In Gratitude,
Marlene Dickinson
Holistic Wellness Coach/Consultant

How to Eliminate Chemical Calories

In her book “The Body Restoration Plan:” Dr. Paula Baillie-Hamilton, an expert in human metabolism, shares her extensive research about the connection between chemicals and weight gain. Her research reveals that our body’s natural weight-regulation system can be severely damaged by the toxic chemicals that we encounter in our everyday lives. The US produces $101 billion dollars of synthetic chemicals annually.

The most problematic synthetic chemical is a group called organophosphates. Organophosphates are currently used as a pesticide on food crops, as an additive in gasoline and lubricating products, and were previously used to fatten up cattle; although this practice has been banned in many countries. It is the most common pesticide found in soft fruits and vegetables. Organophosphates accumulates in our body tissues and remains there for decades; reducing our ability to use up existing fat stores which consequently causes us to gain weight more quickly.  Another group of synthetic chemicals are estrogen-like compounds called xenoestrogens that are also stored in the fat cells of the body. These compounds wreak havoc on both the male and female endocrine systems and are linked to early onset of puberty, and sterility.

Dr.  Baille-Hamilton has designed a program to eliminate these toxins from our bodies. You must feed the body’s detoxification system by eating enough of the right foods to help your body detox. Your intake of raw foods, especially vegetables, should be maximized, reduce your exposure to chemical calories and get plenty of exercise.

In addition to this, Dr. Baille-Hamilton recommends that we eat only certified organic, non GMO foods. Be certain that your fish is wild caught, not farm raised. Chicken and meat should be grass fed, hormone and antibiotic free. Be discerning about cosmetics, household cleaning products, clothing and toys. These products should be made from natural products and free from synthetic chemicals. Do not purchase clothing that is easy care or flame retardant.  Never use non-stick frying pans, plastic containers, and cling free wrap. Do not drink hot beverages from polystyrene cups. Limit the use of your microwave. These are simple steps that we can take to reduce our exposure to these chemicals. Whole Foods and Thrive Market are two resources that will offer chemical free, non GMO products. Thrive Markets Mission is to make healthy living easy and affordable for everyone. Check out their website

In Gratitude,
Marlene Dickinson
Holistic Wellness Coach/Consultant