Category Archives: TRAINING TIPS

Tips from members about specific training issues.

Advice from Empire Runners: Staying Motivated Through Injuries

Empire Members answer the question, “How do you stay motivated during times of injury, and how do you motivate yourself to start up regular training again?”

March2016Advice001Catherine DuBay:  How to stay motivated during an injury is a good question and can only be answered by asking yourself, “How do I stay motivated when I’m NOT injured?” Motivation is a very interesting concept and every runner or wannabe runner needs to recognize what motivates them. Is it to lose weight? Look good for my class reunion? Make my ex jealous? Beat my training partner at Kenwood? PR? Etc.

Then you have to decide what type of running you like to do so you can give yourself a fighting chance to be successful. If you like nature, then try trails. If you like to run with others, then join a club or running group. If competition or traveling is your thing, then sign up for a race near or far. The key is to set yourself up for success by finding something that makes running tolerable, because, let’s face it—it is not easy day after day after day.

Once these two questions are answered (why you want to run and what type of running gets you excited), then you can apply these motivators to anything you do. Even for injured runners. What is your motivator for exercising while injured? What kind of exercise (besides running) can I tolerate? Indoor cycling classes are the best for injured competitive runners. Indoor cycling produces the closest thing I have found to that post-run feeling.

March2016Advice002Bill Cusworth: This will probably come as a surprise, but I’ve never suffered an injury that required an extended layoff from running. I’ve had injuries, of course, but none that lasted more than 3-5 days or so, and the short break from running was welcome and likely beneficial. I’ve also had nagging issues such as bruised feet that lasted for a month or more, but I was always able to run through them. My longest periods of not running have been due to sickness or weather. When I start back up, I do low mileage and build back up to where I was. If you try to get back to previous mileage levels too soon, soreness may result, which negatively impacts motivation. If I ever did have an extended layoff, I would try to concentrate on upper body and core exercises as I generally don’t do enough of them and I would try to use the opportunity to develop new good habits.

March2016Advice003Sarah Hallas: During my 2+ decades of experience with countless injuries, I think the biggest motivator carrying me through my time-off stints has been just looking forward to my next event. I try to find a race that is far enough out that I don’t start stressing over not being able to run. I also try to remember that being injured is usually the body’s way of telling us to TONE IT DOWN, which is hard for most runners since we are mostly wired the same. Usually during this time, I swim lots of laps, do lots of core, get lots of massage/rehab work done, and enjoy the mornings of sleeping in.

March2016Advice004Michael Wortman:  When confronted with an injury, the best advice for staying motivated that I can give is to find what motivated you to begin with. If there was a race that you were training for, a goal you were trying to achieve, figure out what it was that was driving you in the first place. Even if you’re injured, the endgame is still there—you just need to find a new route to get there. This means if you can’t run, find some form of comparable cross training to fill the training session. Using your original motivation can help you through drudging pool workouts or extended bike sessions. If done right, cross training can keep you fit and get you healthy quicker, so when you return to running, you haven’t lost much training in effect.

March2016Advice005Tori Meredith: I totally agree with Mike Wortman. I have had my share of injuries in the last couple of years. My motivation is to be able to feel good about myself, sleep well and be alert.  I find that when I don’t exercise I am very sluggish and I don’t accomplish anything. Since I don’t drink coffee my get-up and go has always been to exercise. Depending upon my injury,  if I could not run then I  would do more swimming, run in the pool or ride my bike but I find that nothing takes the place of running.  Running keeps my weight in check, my system working,  and I feel energized.

March2016Advice006Alex Wolf-Root:


Now hear me out. There are more rational reasons to keep at the cross-training (it’ll be easier to transition back to running, you’ll rehab faster, you’ll be mentally more sane, etc.), but we all know that. So if you need motivational advice beyond that advice, what should you do? Say “#@##, injury!”

Look, you’re pissed that you’re hurt, and rightfully so (even if it was your own stubbornness that got you hurt…). So use that anger. Channel that passion into cross-training. That cross-training is how you get back at the injury, how you get back at the shitty hand that life dealt you. In spite of whatever happens, you’re going to come out stronger and better than ever.

Spite is not a way to live your life generally, but if things are in a dark place, and rational reasons to work hard are failing, channel that anger, say “#@##” to your injury, and go get in the darn pool!

March2016Advice007Mike Fanelli:

Now in my 47th consecutive year of training and racing, I look back on said time spent in sport as a series of careers between injuries. Thankfully, some of those careers lasted longer than others. It is an inevitable part of red line running “on the edge” that, in order to achieve one’s maximum potential, there shall be periods of “brokenness.” How long these periods last is a function of how quickly one is willing to accept the bitter pill of down time, and how aggressively one pursues healing solutions. One thing is for sure—the body is an amazingly adaptive machine. Our recuperative powers are nothing short of astounding.

What to do when injured is a competitive runner’s ongoing dilemma. My counsel to athletes that I have coached over the years (including myself) is to absolutely bombard the area with care. In addition to all the normal modalities, extra sleep, hyper-hydration, anti-inflammatory resources, nutritional supplementation, and a wide array of ancillary bodywork protocols can help expedite recovery.

If possible, non-weight-bearing activities like pool running, Elliptigo, and workouts on stationery gym equipment can assist in maintenance. Push-ups (oft referred to as the most perfect form of calisthenics) and an ongoing focus on core work are a must. Using the fallow period to pinpoint weaknesses not normally addressed while fit, and then improving upon them, can produce a long term benefit when once again healthy.

Rather than removing oneself from the sport, staying engaged by volunteering and spectating at races in which you’d normally compete lends both perspective and appreciation. Gratitude has remarkable healing powers.

I also recommend deep reading and learning. There are so many great written works that inspire and foster the “dare to dream” instinct. The list is endless.

Whatever you do, keep a detailed daily log, chart progress with appropriate metrics, and most importantly, embrace the notion that said shut-down is merely temporary.

Here’s to your health.

March2016Advice008Lori Barekman:  As a physical therapist, I have frequent reminders of how lucky we are to enjoy running when things are going smoothly. Running is freeing; it takes us to places where we can be awestruck by the things we encounter. And we can learn so many things about the people around us as we share some time together on our run. However, running can be demanding on our bodies, and it takes work to make sure that our bodies are ready for these demands. We are in a high-risk sport if you look at the statistics for injuries.

What keeps me moving when I am recovering from some type of injury is the opportunity to work on other aspects of fitness. I enjoy having my daughter direct our morning workout of jumping jacks, planks, and pushups, and it sets a good tone for the day. Having time to walk my non-running dog (she refuses to do more than trot) with other family members gives us the chance to talk about what’s going on in our lives. I also like going to meet a non-running friend at the gym for the same reason. At other times, going to a yoga class “alone” is just the ticket for some relatively quiet time. Since rest is also an important aspect of any training routine, I like having down time to relax or get chores accomplished. My New Year’s resolution every year is “lower your standards,” which sounds silly, but honestly sometimes I have to remind myself to just do what I can and let the rest go. I have learned that I will never be in the perfect shape for the events that seem to attract me…but “good enough” allows me to stay motivated and keeps me from driving myself (and those around me) crazy when I wish I could do more to get in ideal condition. We have to listen to our bodies, and pushing through an injury is not the answer for the best long-term health. I am in this literally and figuratively for the long run.

Steve Agar:  I usually just rely on cigars and whiskey to get me through.


Brad Zanetti: In dealing with an injury that stops one from training and racing it is imperative that recovery is undertaken with the same passion that one has for training and racing.  In fact, it could be more appropriate to bring more passion, education, and new understanding to recovery. Then with this renewed passion and new found stregnth inject yourself back into the sport and lifestyle you love.


Val Sell: We can all relate. Haha…


Tell it to me straight, Doc. Can I still run this weekend?

Technology Overload in Running? by Mike Wortman

Back in December I remember reading a list of “Popular Trends in Exercise and Fitness for 2016,” and at the #1 spot was “Wearable Technology.” At first I was kind of excited because I’m a bit of a numbers junkie; my thesis was a meta-analysis (I got to run statistics on other peoples statistics!!). But then I started to think about it more and more. As much as some of this data, if used correctly, can be helpful to improve: training, running technique, shoe design, etc. I realized it can also have a negative effect on individuals as well.

We’re getting to a point where technology is getting so advanced and so cheap that there is some pretty advanced stuff getting out to the general population. As I talk to more people I’m realizing that many of them are in a bit of a state of data overload. Some of the crazy products out there include things like: wearable lactate analyzers, foot strike analyzers built into the sole of shoes, or running shirts that analyze your gait. Someone will tell me their watch told them their vertical oscillation is 4 inches. Then you ask them if that was good, and you get the response “I don’t know.” Then the next question is what are you going to do with that data/what are you going to do to improve that number, and you again get the response “I don’t know.” It’s really cool to have some of those numbers and look at them, but if you don’t know what those numbers are or what to do with them, then why waste your time? True some numbers are pretty easy to wrap your head around and utilize, but now some of these numbers are getting more abstract. I think part of the problem is that in the era we’re in now people just want the newest best thing out there regardless of what it is.


I want everyone to realize that I’m not saying technology is bad in running, but we may be a little overwhelmed with it from time to time. Running is such a simple sport, sometimes we just need to embrace that a little more. With the increase in GPS watches and everyone knowing exactly what pace they’re running every step of the run, we start to lose touch with the internal pacing mechanisms runners had to hone into even a decade ago. The issue with relying on GPS is it tends to hinder your ability to race. When all you’re focused on is time and pace you tend to forget to just race and try and beat people. That’s one of the reasons I like to include workouts that work on making moves and covering moves like you do in a race; as well as workouts where I don’t give a pace to run, I just give an effort (i.e. 5k race effort) so that they can still stay in tune with those internal pacing mechanisms.

I want you all to know that this is coming from someone who runs with a GPS watch, has a Strava account, and enjoys indulging in some training numbers. But it’s nice to go “naked” and run without a watch from time to time. The idea of this blog it to realize that sometimes we just need to take a step back and enjoy running for the sake of running.

Like always leave comments or questions in the comments below, and let me know what you think and if you have any topics you want me to talk about in future posts.


Got Blisters? An interview with Rebecca Rushton, by Doug Murdoch

Feb16Murdoch03(This is an interview with podiatrist Rebecca Rushton, author of  The Blister Prone Athlete’s Guide To Preventing Foot Blisters. You can also visit her website,


Hi Rebecca! I must admit that being a blister sufferer, I had scoured the internet looking for information to no avail. When I came upon your book and website, I said to myself FINALLY!! Why do you think it has taken so long for something so important to be written about in a comprehensive way?

I’m at a loss to explain it, Doug. I’m as surprised as you. Especially considering blisters are such a common injury in sport and everyday life. But it’s been a pleasure to plug that gap. Thank you for your kind words – it’s very rewarding to make a difference in such a specific way.

You know sometimes you think about particular types of doctors    (I won’t mention them here) and you wonder how in the world they became experts in a particular area? So…..blisters……..what is it intrinsically about blisters that caught your interest enough to become an expert on them?

Well, as a podiatrist, if I was going to be an expert on anything, it was always going to be something about feet. The reason that thing is blisters is because I happen to be blister prone. I get foot blisters very easily – when I go for a walk, run, play hockey, new shoes. It’s so annoying. But I’ll tell you what hurt most was the moment I realised I couldn’t fix my own foot problem when it was my job to fix foot problems. That was the impetus for delving deeper into this injury.

It seems to me that many runners and athletes think that certain types of blisters are no big deal, so they really don’t take the time to treat them correctly or prevent them. In your experience what are the most common blisters, and if runners put some effort into it, are they preventable?

Blisters anywhere on the feet are absolutely preventable. The reason people don’t put much effort into blister prevention is that too many of the things they’ve been told to do, don’t work. And so blisters are deemed to be inevitable. Have you noticed that athletes tend to glorify blisters like they’re a sign of how far they’ve run or how hard they’ve worked? It’s a sorry state of affairs, but they don’t see any way around it. So it’s very satisfying to help turn that reality around. I want for athletes to be able to understand blisters and their options a bit better so they can troubleshoot issues themselves. That’s why I’ve spent such a long time researching the literature to help explain what’s going on, in a way that’s easy to understand.

It seems so obvious after I read it in your book, but it never occurred to me that the foot bones move around under the skin which can cause stretching under the skin – you call it shear. It’s probably just something people don’t normally think about. Does the amount of movement differential between the skin and bones vary significantly among individuals?

It does Doug. That means we can have an impact towards blister prevention with certain biomechanical interventions that reduce bone movement – things like orthotics, stretches and changes in running technique. Another variation we see between individuals is that of the skin’s resilience to that movement differential between skin and bone (shear). Even with the same running speed, distance travelled, terrain, shoes, biomechanics, training regime and everything else being equal, some athletes are going to blister sooner than others, just because of the intrinsic shear strength of their skin.


Friction seems to be a very important concept to understand – can you briefly telling about this in relation to blisters?

Friction has a double meaning. One is rubbing, the other is resisting rubbing. This one factor alone has led to a confused mainstream blister prevention paradigm. Everyone’s out there trying to stop the rubbing on their skin, but this shouldn’t be our aim. Our aim should be to lower the resistance to rubbing. This is what reducing friction means.

Put simply, friction is the level of grip between the surfaces of the shoe, sock and skin. High friction levels cause them to grip together, and this makes that movement differential between skin and bone to be bigger, leading to more blisters, bigger blisters and blisters sooner. Our aim should be to reduce the grip – make it slippery. If you can have an impact on friction levels, you will go a long way to stopping blisters.

One of the things I’ve noticed is that different types of running can cause different types of blisters. For example if I’m running significantly faster or sprinting, I know that my foot strike and body mechanics are different. Or if I run trails I may get certain blisters I don’t get otherwise. I suppose it’s less important but I didn’t see anything in your book at particular types of running causing blisters.

You’re right Doug. When you run in a straight line, your foot plants and your foot bones continue to skid forward until they come to a stop. That’s the movement differential we call shear. And the opposite happens in the propulsive phase. So the shear happens in a forwards/backwards direction. Compare that to trail running. The more challenging the trail becomes, the more your bones slide from side to side. And the more you might load other areas of your foot in different ways. So you’re quite right – different terrains, different blisters.

Your book covers the treatment of heel blisters, arch, under the ball of your foot, and all types of toe blisters. Which blisters are the most problematic? Can blisters actually be chronic?

Feb16Murdoch02Toe blisters seem to be the most common. I took a poll on my website and 36% of 1,136 respondents had toe blisters. The next most common was blisters under the ball of the foot (28%) and I think these are the most problematic for runners. The main reason is runners don’t want to take time off running to let blisters heal. I don’t know if you’ve noticed but it’s very hard to run when you’re trying to keep the weight off your forefoot.

One of the most common questions I’m asked is “how long is my blister going to last”. The fact is, your blister won’t resolve in a hurry if you haven’t reduced the shear load on that part of your foot. To get your blisters to heal as quickly as possible, you have to reduce friction levels (I’m not talking about rubbing, I’m talking about how your shoe, sock and skin all grip together – you have to make it slippery at one of these interfaces). That’s the best way to reduce shear. Plus I’d try to reduce pressure if it was possible. There are lots of ways to achieve these things, but it depends on where on your foot the blister is. Different blister locations require different strategies for best results. That’s why I focus on the ten most common blisters by their anatomical blister locations in my book, and describe the most useful prevention strategies for each.

It seems to me that most peoples understanding of blisters is pretty pathetic……whenever the subject comes up, the standard response is “are you using Moleskin?” which really irritates me since I know it does not really work well, at least for me. That’s why I found your discussion of taping, felt donut pads, and ENGO patches quite informative. Tell us about the ENGO patches since I don’t believe many people have heard of them.

I agree Doug. I feel the same way about taping. I can tape my heels til the cows come home but I’ll still blister under the tape. But you can’t deny the fact that less blister prone runners only need a little bit of something to keep them blister-free. I used to wish I was one of those people. But thankfully I’m not, because it has made me delve deeper and find real solutions for even the most blister prone athletes. ENGO Patches are the things that keep me blister-free. I actually found these patches and fixed my blister issues before I started looking into the science of blisters. When I found they worked so well, I had to figure out why, because they didn’t fit into the paradigm as I understood it at the time. That’s how I figured out that paradigm (ie: stop the rubbing) was flawed.

ENGO Patches are made by Tamarack, Minnesota, USA. They’re self-adhesive, low friction patches you apply to your shoe, insole or orthotic, rather than your skin, so they’re quite different to other strategies. They last month on month for around 300 miles and they’re very thin. They reduce friction in a targeted way, which is the best way to manage friction. I highly recommend them for anyone blister prone and any athlete bothered with blisters because of their sport.


Tell us about your website, and is it possible for runners that have serious problems to contact you for treatment via email, skype, or ?

My website is and it’s a treasure-trove of practical advice on specific blister prevention strategies, on the different blisters based on their anatomical location, on sport-specific blister issues and on blister treatment principles. I have a slant towards runners, particularly multiday ultramarathon runners, and blister prone people – so I focus on the advanced techniques needed to make a real difference. If your readers are having trouble, I urge them to have a good look at the topics covered – I’m sure they’ll find something new they can try. Unfortunately, I’m quite busy with my own podiatry practice that I don’t have a lot of time to speak to people one-on-one. But I do have an online consultation service if anyone wants me to take a look at their blisters and walk them through their best options. Other than that, I go to one 6-day ultramarathon a year to provide foot care, which I really enjoy doing. This year I’ll be at the Big Red Run, Australia’s annual 6-day ultramarathon in the Simpson Desert. It’s going to be fun.

Where can runners buy your books?
My book is available from Amazon at on Kindle and as a paperback.



So What’s Your 2016 Resolution? by Michael Wortman

Here we are, the earth about to complete another rotation around the sun. As tradition many people decide it’s time to start a new year’s resolution. Just as much as that is a tradition, so is quitting the resolution by the end of the month. So I figure what a better topic this month than successful goal setting. When I work with my athletes I tell them to be S.M.A.R.T. when setting their goals. A guideline to successful goal setting this new year is to make them: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time based. These are ideas to set you up for success and keep you on point when trying to attain your goals for the new year. Specific – When making a goal you should make it as specific as possible. When you make the goal too vague you never really know when you’ve completed it. At the same time you can quit on it whenever you want because you can just think… close enough. At what point do you really “get in shape” Are you thinking about cardiovascular fitness, muscular fitness, weight loss…? By narrowing down the goal you can hone in on what you really want to do. Measurable – This goes back to the being too vague aspect of goal setting. Usually with a goal you are trying to improve something, so make it tangible. Rather than saying “I want to be more fit,” say something like “I want to be able to run a mile in under 6 minutes,” or “I want to be able to squat 150lbs.” By having something that you can physically measure it will help stay committed. When you say “I want to be more fit” you don’t really have an end point to your goal; and half the fun of setting a goal is completing them and moving on to a newer, better goal. Attainable – Too often people decide to shoot for the moon when they start exercising, but don’t realize they’re barely able to get off the ground – leading to failure and eventually giving up. It’s not a bad idea to shoot for the moon as a long term goal, but sometimes you need intermediate short term goals to get there. When you make these goals you should be realistic about where you’re at personally and know what’s attainable. This isn’t just to say that you need to make your goals super easy, just make them something that can be realistically attained. Relevant – As we talk about long term/short term goals it’s good to make these short term goals relevant to your long term goals. Sometimes we make goals just because they seem easy to achieve or because it sounds like a good idea. But you should really be thinking of is; does this have a direct effect on what I want to do long term. Time Based – When leaving a goal open ended in terms of timetable it’s easy to keep pushing it back further and further. If you don’t have a timetable as to when you want to achieve the goal, there’s no sense of urgency to complete it. This is very important to keep in mind when developing short term/long term goals. You may have a goal that you want to achieve by the end of the year, but you then have other short term goals you can check off each month. An example for all of this is if someone who is currently running 18 minutes for 5k wants to set a goal to “get faster” should instead say something like: I want to run a 5k in 17 minutes by the end of December. On the way to this I want to start by increasing  my mileage by 20% each month for the next 3 months, then as I start doing more speed work lower my 5k time to 17:40 by the end of June and to 17:20 by the end of August. This way the goal is very specific in regard to the improvement to their 5k. They are making it measurable with a time. Taking a minute off a 5k in one year is quite attainable. The short term goals are relevant to their long term goals. And setting a deadline of December makes it time based. Like always leave comments or questions in the comments below, and let me know what you think and if you have anything you want me to talk about in future posts.


People talk about holiday stress and I feel sorry for them. The holidays do not stress me out at all. Other things stress me out; cooking, shopping, traffic, but not the holidays.

I actually love this time of year. When the days get darker and I have to wear gloves when I run and Starbucks cups turn red, I get really happy. This wasn’t always the case. I used to feel compelled to do it all. Decorate, bake, buy tons of perfect gifts, get the annual photo book completed, entertain and stay in shape. I was so busy trying to portray the life we see on the cover of holiday magazines, I would get to January 2 and realize I didn’t really enjoy the season at all! Then I got cancer one year and I was forced by chemo and surgeries to slow down a bit. I entered the holiday season with the perfect excuse to sit back and take in the season. My Cancer Christmas was about healing and celebrating life with family and friends. All the ideas on the covers of magazines that look so good and require so much work were not an option that year.

Photo by Mike McGuire at the 2014 Xmas Relays in San Francisco.
Photo by Mike McGuire at the 2014 Xmas Relays in San Francisco.

The decorations went up but not all of them. We baked but only when we really felt like it. I bought a few gifts but only if I saw something that had meaning or purpose instead of just because gift giving had to perfectly equal between both kids. Kids watch closely. At first they count to make sure they each get the same number of gifts. As they get older they start to calculate the value of the gifts to be sure an equal amount was spent on both kids. The cancer Christmas I bought gifts but my kids went easy on me and didn’t get too angry when they noticed an inequality. We entertained that year, but no one cared that my linens didn’t match or the food was from Oliver’s. They probably preferred this given my cooking!

It turned out to be one of my favorite holidays ever! I swore to myself that regardless of how much better I would feel the next year, I would not go back to my pre-cancer manic holiday state. For the most part I have not! Here is what I learned the Christmas I had cancer:

  • Gifts that matter: Buy 1-2 meaningful gifts for each child. Don’t bother with a score card. Life is not fair. Sometimes one kid will get a spectacular gift because you found something really cool for them and the next year might be a bust. My favorite gift as a child was the year my sister made me a ski outfit-yes, with a sewing machine! Pants and a jacket. I really wanted skis, boots and poles but our family couldn’t afford it. I loved that outfit and still can hear the sound of it as I skied down the mountain. Or better yet, spend a day with your kids. All day. No electronics. Ok, maybe half a day. They won’t forget it.
  • Demand some ME time. I like to run. I make sure to run throughout the holiday season. Some of my best runs are in December running through the neighborhoods looking at lights. Also enjoyable are runs/hikes in Annadel as it is much less crowded. Whatever your ME thing is, don’t sacrifice it this time of year! That quick errand instead of a workout can wait until AFTER your workout or your ME time. Stores open late this time of year.
  • Have Fun. Doing something with your family and friends should be a priority this time of year. That’s the true meaning of the holidays. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. Bowling is our family favorite. Holiday light tours are also fun. A family night hike on a full moon is wonderful and even better; this year there is a full moon on Christmas Eve.
  • Slow down you’re moving too fast…Breath. Relax and be in the moment. Blah, blah, blah…you have heard it so much but have you done it? Play a game with your family. Head’s Up (by Ellen) is a blast and everyone in the family can play. You just need your phone or iPad and 10 minutes. It lightens everyone’s mood and will make you smile.

Don’t wait for cancer or some other life crisis to slow you down and force you to enjoy the season the way it was meant to be. Do it this year. And put happy back into the Holidays.

Happy Holidays and Trails my friends.

Photo by Mike McGuire at the 2014 Xmas Relays in San Francisco.
Photo by Mike McGuire at the 2014 Xmas Relays in San Francisco.




In the last blog we discussed some of the theory about stretching and why it’s important and why you may not need to stretch as much as you think. Now I intend to try to give some practical advice on how to put that knowledge to practice. I know some people treat foam rolling as stretching since it can help range of motion; but because it facilitates a different physiological effect than traditional stretching so I won’t be addressing it here. That may be a discussion for another post if people are interested.

First of all let’s make sure we’re all on the same page with some stretching terminology. Static stretching is what most people think of when talking about stretching. This is when you go into a stretch and hold it for a given period of time, usually around 30-60 seconds. Dynamic stretching is when you go through a range of motion and don’t hold. I tend to approach static stretching as working on flexibility and long term mobility, and dynamic more as part of a warm up to help range of motion for short term benefit.

  1. Pre-Run (Part of Warm-up): I don’t recommend doing much stretching before most runs. For most runs the best thing to do is just start your run nice and easy, and ease into the run. For a point of reference, most Kenyan runners will start their runs 8 minutes per mile or slower and end their run sub-6 minutes per mile. It doesn’t need to be that extreme, but I would recommend starting a minute per mile slower for the first 5 minutes before you settle into your intended pace for the run.

There are some times when doing a little stretching isn’t a bad idea, if implemented correctly. When doing a harder workout and you need to be more warm and ready to go adding some dynamic stretching can help. Usually adding dynamic stretches can be a part of the drills you do normally. By adding dynamic stretches into your drills you can facilitate improved range of motion to achieve better running technique as well as “waking up” certain muscles to help them engage better improving efficiency.

Although I wouldn’t normally suggest much static stretching before runs, there is a bit of an exception. If there is some sort of injury going on that is being caused by a muscle tightness somewhere, it may be advised to add a little bit of stretching (static or dynamic) before your run. An example here would be if you have some lower back pain caused by tight quadriceps, you may need to do some static stretching of the quads. Because of how the two affect your muscles, static stretching may be better for longer runs and dynamic may be better for shorter. But my best recommendation would be to go ahead and try both and see what works better for you.

  1. Post Run (Injury Prevention): It is a good idea to take a few minutes, a few days a week, or even better, after your runs to work on general flexibility. Here is a good time to do some static stretching. You should go through and work on major muscle groups that are worked while running; holding each stretch for about 30 seconds. I have most of my runners do a short yoga routine after each of their runs. This includes exercises that target: hamstrings, quadriceps, gluteus group, hip flexors, abdominals, and calves. Doing a quick Google search can find you plenty of stretches to achieve this. And then beyond a normal routine, you should also spend a little extra time on anything that seems particularly tight or bothering you that day. Side Note: It is really easy to add in some basic core exercises such as planks or bridges to most stretching routines. If you look into some yoga moves to work on your flexibility, many of them double as strengthening exercises as well.

How Normal People Find Time to Run, by Catherine DuBay

I know I am lucky because I live in Sonoma County. I have a great family. I am very healthy and I have great friends. I also have a great job. I manage a health club in Santa Rosa. I come to work in sweats most mornings. I check emails, make my rounds talking with staff and members and then I go for a run. I clean up and then put my sweats back on, add a staff shirt and name badge and spend most of my day encouraging others to stay/get healthy.


I may slip out mid-day and teach a cycle class or test out a new massage therapist in our spa. I am not telling you this so you try to steal my job or to make you jealous. I tell you this because I have a new found appreciation for each of you that do not have the flexibility that I have. Last week I was forced to live like the majority of the world and work an 8-5 day. I was stuck in a computer training class for 2 days and by the 3rd hour of day one I was ready to throw my lap top at the instructor I was so antsy.

I can’t stand to sit for more than about 5 minutes. My job allows me to sit, stand, run, and spin throughout the day. This 8-5 computer training forced me to not only sit all day but to find a time to run outside of the 8-5 workday.

Let me break down the available run time options and give you all the reasons they didn’t work for me:
Before the training meant get up at 5am, run in the dark, by myself so I could be home by 7am to get in a shower and breakfast before the training. I don’t do well in the dark. I am confident that every sound is a mountain lion and every crack in the road will trip me and take me down. So forget running in the morning.

Running during our lunch break wasn’t an option as our lunch break was only 1 hour and I need at least an hour run not to mention changing and cooling down time. Plus when would I eat? I was already starving at 10am so to skip a meal at lunch to get the run in was not going to work.

That leaves running after the training as my only option. However, one kid has a Volleyball match at 5pm and the other kid has a soccer game at 6pm. I guess I could skip those to get my run in. But, the season is so short and one daughter is a senior so I don’t have many games left to watch.

Forget it. I just will have to skip a run today. And tomorrow too since the same obstacles will be before me.

This is why I came to the conclusion that you normal people have it really, really hard! You 8-5’ers have to really work to make it happen. I see you in my 5:45 am cycle class every Thursday and admire your ability to get up before the sun, day after day, so you can get your workout in. I see you at my noon cycle class on Mondays racing to get there on time and then cooling down with a cold shower and rushing back to work still sweating and chomping on a banana as you drive away. I see you at the Empire Runner workouts on Tue/Thur evenings after a long day at work, sacrificing dinner time and kids sports so you can get your run.

Working out is hard. Finding a good time to do it can be even harder. Something always has to be sacrificed – sleep, lunch, family time. Sometimes all three! The payoff is huge and I suppose that is what keeps you going. I admire all of you who get out there day after day despite the challenges you face with schedules and life!

Keep up the good work and hope to see you on the roads, tracks and trails!

Stretching? What’s the Truth? By Mike Wortman

It is amazing just how easily the media can grab ahold of a single study and overemphasize it’s topic to a point of mass misunderstanding. Stretching is one of those topics. There was a study done back in the early 1980s that looked at decreasing injuries. The problem with it was that it looked at nearly 20 different interventions for injury prevention including: stretching, gear, warm-up, field surface, etc. The good thing was that injuries decreased by quite a bit; the bad thing was that the researchers decided to ignore most of the study and attribute the improvements all to stretching. The media got ahold of this and stretching has been overemphasized since then.

Am I saying that stretching is bad? No. Is stretching important for injury prevention? Yes. Should you be stretching as much as you think? Maybe. The tricky thing with stretching is that you need to play a fine line between too much range of motion and not enough. There are two sides of the same coin that you need to pay attention to. There are advantages and disadvantages of being tight, as well as advantages and disadvantages of being flexible.

I feel like I hear about the detriments of being too tight everywhere. Most of those detriments stem from detriments in your running mechanics. Being tight starts affecting your mechanics and thus moves some of the stress to other tissues. You have a tight calf… here comes plantar fasciitis or achilles tendinopathy. The other aspect of your mechanics changing due to tightness is you tend to become less efficient mechanically. Your hip gets too tight and you can’t drive your knee up… it gets harder to extend your stride. So like we all think, stretching can be a very important piece of the puzzle.

But what most people don’t know is there is also detriment to being too flexible. Think about how a fast sprinter looks, everything is so tight on them that they kind of bounce. Their being so tight is part of what makes them so fast. When their muscles contract, their tendons are so tight that there’s no lag and they get the force transferred right away. If they were too flexible, there would be some force lost between the muscle contracting and the limb being pulled. So as you age and your muscles get tighter, your body is actually doing you a favor and just making you more efficient.

The takeaway here is stretch to find a happy medium or a “functional” level of flexibility. Different people need different levels of flexibility based on what they’re doing. Just because a gymnast needs to be able to put their foot over their head, doesn’t mean you need to as a runner. Rightly so, a steeplechaser has different flexibility needs than a 10k runner. Where as a steeplechaser needs a little more hip mobility for the hurdles, the 10k runner could afford to be a little tighter.

This post is more designed to talk about the theory of stretching. I plan to do a follow up post going into some of the practical ideas of when to stretch, how to stretch, etc. Like always, I enjoy to hear your feedback and want to know what you like, don’t like, what you want to hear in future blog posts.


Can trail running help your road racing? By Mike Wortman

From time to time I’ll meet someone who is looking for a place to run in the area. Of course my first response is “you have to check out Annadel. It’s this great park with miles of trails and great scenery”. I am surprised when some of them look at me and respond that they are training for a road race, so they would never touch a trail because it is not what they are going to race on, and there’s no telling them different. Sometimes I just want to loudly silence their ignorance by proclaiming all of the benefits that they are missing out on by simply running on the roads. I admit that there is something to be said to doing workouts on the road or track if you’re training for a track race or road race, but there are so many reasons to jump on the trails from time to time.


Mental fatigue – Running day-in and day-out on the same roads, however convenient, may start to wear on you psychologically. It is good to get away to a new location from time to time, and you might as well mix it up somewhere with a view. Getting out somewhere new will help refresh the mind and help reduce the chance of mental staleness. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are delicious, but do you really want to eat them for lunch every day? Same thing with running, changing routes up once in a while can keep your favorites fresher and more enjoyable.

OCD – With the invention of GPS, people are becoming so obsessed with the speed and distance of every run. On the trails, you’re up in a rolling terrain, so you can start to psychologically get away from the grind of having to hit a specific pace all the time. On the trails you can relax and enjoy the run. If you normally do 7 miles in an hour on the roads, go for an hour run on the trails at a similar effort. This will help you in your recovery; sometimes we get so wrapped up in the numbers we forget to listen to our body. If you’re not feeling great running free of pace gives you the opportunity to back the pace off and actively recover before the next workout.

Muscle stability and imbalances – Running on the roads is very predictable which is good for workouts because you can approach each one with consistency and gradually watch yourself improve. When you run on the roads every day, your body begins to get very acquainted to firing very specific muscles in a very specific sequence to help with your running efficiency. However, with some muscles firing more than others, it will cause some muscles to become proportionately stronger than others. This disproportioned state of muscle activation and strength is called an imbalance. Usually, it is the stabilizer muscles that are the ones that get neglected the most in this situation. These are the ones that keep the joints strong and stable, when these are neglected and become weaker as does the joints they stabilize. By getting on the trails, where it’s uneven, your body has to react and change with each step. This can help get those stabilizer muscles firing more and help reduce those imbalances and in turn help reduce injuries.

I would also like to mention that I want this blog to be something that you all want to read. So please feel free to leave a comment below with what you thought about the blog as well as future topics that you would like to hear about.


XC Starts in June – Stephen Agar

While our cross-country season can be one of the most enjoyable racing experiences available, combining the camaraderie of team competition with the diversity of trail running, it can also be the most challenging. Such is the depth of our cross county circuit that a performance that would rank in the top five at a local road race may not be enough for a top 30 finish. Nothing can enhance your experience like PREPARATION and the time to start preparing is in June. In my next blog post I will discuss summer training for the cross-country season.