X

Join the SOS Source Newsletter

Join the SOS community and receive the latest news, great offers & exclusive prize draws for our members.

Email Address
Category archive

RUNNING - page 2

Shades of Gray: The Story Behind Trail Runner Joseph Gray

in ATHLETES/RUNNING/SOS PRO'S/USA

Written by Brian Metzler for Trail Runner Magazine

How Joe Gray has become one of the world’s most exceptional trail runners.

When the blast of a starting gun sent the runners on their way in the first wave of last summer’s Pikes Peak Ascent in the town of Manitou Springs, Colorado, Joe Gray was nowhere to be found.

As Andy Wacker, Eric Blake and other top competitors sprung from the starting line of the fast wave, Gray, one of the pre-race favorites, was uncharacteristically scuffling with his bag of gear behind the hundreds of recreational runners preparing to start in the second wave.

One of America’s most iconic trail races, this historic 13.3-mile tussle sends runners up the eastern side of Colorado’s most famous mountain, soaring a leg- and lung-busting 7,815 feet to the lofty finish line at 14,115 feet above sea level. In a race like that, there’s plenty of time to make up ground, but, for an intense runner like Gray, there’s no time to lose either.

Joe doesn’t race without his SOS Hydration

As the frontrunners were already speeding up Ruxton Avenue on the way to the Barr Trail, Gray zigzagged through the crowd, hurdled a barrier and crossed the starting line with the final runner at the back of the first wave. His instincts took over and he hammered the significantly uphill first mile on the road in about 5 minutes 30 seconds, dodging runners in pursuit of Wacker, a notorious fire-breather who was off to his typical fast start.

As a runner, the 33-year-old Gray has earned a reputation as being one fierce and focused dude, one of the most relentless competitors on the international trail-running circuit. Starting the race with a 30-second deficit was a fluky hiccup in an otherwise astounding year for Gray—and it proves those things happen even to the best runners—but it only inspired him to go harder.

“He has kind of a Prefontaine mentality about him that says, ‘When you do something, you do it all-out, 100 percent,’” says fellow Colorado Springs trail runner Peter Maksimow, who would go on to finish sixth in the race that day. “He went by me about 90 seconds into the race, and he was just flying. He might have been going too fast at that point, but that’s what Joe is all about.”

Joseph Gray
Taking the win at the 2015 Mount Washington Road Race, Pinkham Notch, New Hampshire. Photo courtesy of Joe Gray Collection.

It goes without saying that Joe Gray is one of the best trail runners the United States has ever produced. He’s a seven-time recipient of the U.S. Mountain Runner of the Year award and has competed for the U.S. at the World Mountain Running Championships a record nine consecutive years—a still-current streak punctuated last September by winning the individual world title and helping the American men earn their first team gold medal.

Yet, looking at Joe Gray only through the lens of running misses most of what he is all about. The intensity and meticulousness he exhibits in training and racing permeate other aspects of his life. Most notably, he likes spicy food, he loves his Seattle Seahawks, he’s keen on forensic science and he’s a passionate firebrand when it comes to topics he believes strongly in.

He’s not a hothead or an agitator, but he’s not afraid to stir the pot on his social-media channels when something bugs him. He has a graduate degree in criminal justice and a bachelor’s degree in sociology, which explains why he likes to chime in on hot-button issues like performance-enhancing drug use, prize money, runners who chase fame and glory instead of hard-fought victories and, especially in the past year, domestic issues in the U.S.—including racism.

Keep in mind, he’s one of the country’s very few elite-level African-American trail runners and the only athlete of color to represent the U.S. at the World Mountain Running Championships. He’s experienced the sour side of prejudice, both overseas, but especially in the U.S.

“Oh, yeah, I’ve felt that sting,” says Gray, who prefers not to repeat some of the names he’s been called. “We still have issues in this country, more than most people are willing to admit. One of the reasons there aren’t more African-American distance runners or trail runners is because there aren’t as many opportunities. That’s just a fact.”

Gray says African-American distance runners haven’t had the same chances to develop at the high-school, collegiate or pro levels for numerous reasons. He wants to help change that (there’s perhaps a strange bit of irony in the notion that Gray mostly trains with ex-pat Kenyan runners in the American Distance Project in Colorado Springs). But he doesn’t dwell on any of the ugly realities he’s encountered or play the race card; instead he just focuses on living his life to his own extremely high standards—values forged by his dad, Thomas, a career Army man, and mom, Donna, a staff-action control officer—with whom he remains very close. They are like his best friends and talk almost daily.

Joe Gray on a run on his backyard trails, Palmer Park near Colorado Springs. Photo by Fred Marmsater.

Intensity aside, those who best know Gray say he’s also as soft and gentle as a teddy bear, a real happy-go-lucky family guy who’s humble and yielding in deference to his strong Christian faith.

Although he’s a physical specimen of an athlete with an imposing look—tall and lean, sinewy and strong, with a starkly shaven head—he mostly conveys a soft, accessible demeanor. His brown eyes appear tenacious and piercing when he’s racing or talking about a serious subject, but soften when his contagious, wide smile lights up his face—which is often among friends and fellow runners. The impression you get when talking to Gray is that he’s unyieldingly authentic.

“He’s one of the most genuine people I’ve ever met,” says Nancy Hobbs, the USA Track & Field Mountain, Ultra & Trail Chairwoman for the past 15 years, who has known Gray since his initial unsuccessful attempt to make the U.S. Mountain Running Team in 2007 not long after getting out of grad school. “I’ve watched him grow up, both as an athlete and as a person. He can be very focused and very intense when it comes to running, but he’s not just focused on running. He’s very opened-minded and is always open to trying new things and learning about things.”

Perhaps what has really rounded him out as an upstanding guy was marrying his longtime sweetheart, Christy Mills, in 2014. They met in high school back in Lakewood, Washington, and remained friends in college while away at different schools, Joe initially at the University of Portland before transferring to Oklahoma State and Christy at Washington State. (Joe was a good basketball player and runner in high school, who became a national-caliber cross-country and track runner in college.)

The longtime attraction—and Joe’s self-admission of finally growing up a bit—eventually led them to start dating in 2010.

Uprooting their lives to move to Colorado and start their married life together away from family and longtime friends has helped forge a special synergy, which Gray admits is another factor to his competitive progression. Christy has played a big role in helping him secure and manage sponsors as he pursues running as a full-time career over the past five years.

Sophisticated foodies Christy and Joe in their Colorado Springs kitchen.

“She’s been everything to me,” he says. “She’s rabbited me in workouts, she’s hiked water up the trail for me, been my agent, been a friend and been there when things ain’t so good.”

“Joe is obviously very competitive, but it’s not to the point that he’s annoying to be around. If a race doesn’t go well, he’s not sulking around the whole time,” says Christy, who is a claims adjuster at the United Services Automobile Association in Colorado Springs. “He has a good balance between a very serious athlete and a normal, laid-back person.”

The two love to travel, are sophisticated foodies who are handy in the kitchen and have become passionate gardeners. Joe especially enjoys cooking spicy foods he’s sampled while at different races around the world, often with some of the many varieties of hot peppers from their garden. Christy was a competitive rower in college and for many years afterward, but she’s given that up for cycling races since moving to landlocked Colorado.

Along with his mountain-running team streak, Gray has excelled in many other races in the United States and around the world, for example, a victory in the 21K Iztaccihuatl Skyrace that climbs 15,800 feet in Mexico, a runner-up showing and American record time at the historic Sierre Zinal 31K village-to-village mountain race in Switzerland and, of course, what turned out to be a dominating win at the Pikes Peak Ascent last August.

After starting off the back, Gray caught Wacker in the second mile of the race, and by the 4.3-mile split at No Name Creek had gapped him by nearly two minutes. True to his aggressive racing style, he kept charging and led by more than three-and-a-half minutes near the midway point at Barr Camp and won with an eight-and-a-half-minute margin in 2:05:28—the fastest time in 21 years.

“At Pikes, he went by me and I was like, ‘Yeah, man, go for it,’” says Wacker. “He was in such good uphill shape that I just knew he was gone.”

Although Gray is mostly known for his trail prowess, what makes him special as a runner is that he’s one of the country’s most prolific racers and isn’t afraid to throw down in just about any discipline. His success extends across all types of running—cross country, road running from 5K to the marathon, snowshoe racing and all varieties of trail running, including short and steep mountain races, vertical kilometer uphill courses and even ultra-distance races up to 50K.

“I really admire his versatility,” says Wacker. “It shows that he’s a great athlete and no matter what kind of running obstacles you throw at him—if you put a mountain in front of him or if you put snowhoes on his feet or if you put him on a flat road—he’ll be competitive.”

A look at Gray’s initial 2017 results gives a glimpse at his competitiveness and versatility. In early February, he placed ninth at the U.S. Cross Country Championships in Bend, Oregon, covering the muddy 10K course amid a stacked field in 31:04. Later in the month he won the 2017 World Snowshoe Running Championships in Saranac Lake, New York, covering the slippery, slushy 8K course in 28:24. Then, on March 4, while competing in a Team USA jersey, Gray placed third in the 8K North American/Central American/Caribbean (NACAC) Cross Country Championships in Boca Raton, Florida—the 21st time he’s represented the U.S. in international competition.

For Gray, running over hill and dale seems to come naturally. But he also works hard at it and definitely doesn’t take a single step of his progression for granted.

“I always enjoyed playing in the woods as a kid and I like being out in nature, so it makes sense that I found trail running,” says Gray. “But there have been some moments in my career when I’ve been on top of some mountain and it feels very surreal, and I think, ‘Wow, my life could have been so different,’ and, ‘I don’t deserve this; I’m not worthy of this life.’ But in the end, I know I’ve worked as hard as I can for everything I’ve done and am appreciative of where I’ve been.”

In 2013, Joe and Christy decided to move to Colorado Springs so Joe could reap the benefits of living and training at altitude and running a diverse array of trails every week. But perhaps the biggest catalyst for his progression has been the guidance provided by coach Scott Simmons and the opportunity to train with faster runners.

Simmons had guided numerous elite track and road runners through the years from the collegiate to the pro ranks in his American Distance Project (ADP) training group and, since 2010, honed his chops further with famed Italian marathon coach Renato Canova.

But, he had never coached a trail runner before Gray.

“In our first conversation, he made me feel like maybe I wasn’t ready to be coached by him,” Gray recalls, furling his brow and tilting his head. “I felt almost insecure and disappointed and upset at the same time. It hit me personally and I thought, ‘I kind of want to work with this guy and prove him wrong.’”

That initial tension and intrigue, along with the ensuing synergy they built, has helped catapult Gray into another level of fitness, confidence and, ultimately, race results. Simmons challenged Gray to become faster on the track and roads from 5K to the marathon, but, just as importantly, he hammered home the value of rest and recovery, helping to eliminate the detrimental effects of overtraining that had plagued Gray earlier in his career.

Training with the likes of Hillary Bor (the 7th-place finisher in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the Rio Olympics), Lawi Lalang (a 13:01 5K runner) and Augustus Maiyo and Sam Chelanga (both 1:01 half-marathoners) has proven to be invaluable. For example, Gray has regularly done 5 x 1-mile repeat workouts with the ADP averaging 4:35 per mile and hard 6 x 5-minute sessions with just two minutes rest.

Under Simmons’ tutelage, Gray has set strong new PRs for the 5K (14:12), 10K (29:03) and the half-marathon (1:03:42, which qualified him for the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon). He also won the individual title at the U.S. Club Cross Country Championships 10K race in 2013, set a new American record with his second of three straight wins at the gruelingly steep Mt. Washington Road Race in 2015 and has won three of the past four U.S. Mountain Running Championships.

While the ADP crew keeps adding world-class road and track runners, it’s Gray that is often ending the group’s workout reps with something extra. For example, after finishing each rep of an 8 x 800-meter workout in about 2:10 on a flat dirt loop last fall in a Colorado Springs park, Gray could be seen jetting off into the woods to finish with a stout uphill effort on a singletrack trail.

Plus, he still gets plenty of legit trail running with local mountain stalwarts Maksimow, Zach Miller and Alex Nichols, among others, and also spends some days and nights training in the 8,500-foot environs of the small mountain town of Woodland Park.

“Joe is the expert on the trails and knows what he has to do to excel out there,” Simmons says. “But training with our guys … he’s not quite on the level they are as far as 5K, 10K or half-marathon times go, but when he does workouts with them, he’s right there in the thick of it. And the faster he’s gotten, the more he’s been able to apply that to uphills and downhills and longer races out on the trails.”

Gray en route to a podium finish at the 2015 U.S. Mountain Running Championships, Mount Bachelor, Oregon. Photo by Joe Viger.

Heading into last year’s World Mountain Running Championships in Albania—which was staged on a grueling 12.5K uphill course with 4,500 feet of elevation gain—Gray was in the shape of his life. Outwardly, he was hoping to improve upon his fifth-place effort at the 2015 championships in Wales, but quietly and inwardly he says he wanted to win. Still, as much as he was laser focused on his own race, he made it a point to keep his younger Team USA teammates motivated, inspired and loose when they arrived in the small mountain hamlet of Sapareva Banya in the days leading up to the race.

“Joe is such a competitor, but he’s such a leader, too,” Wacker says. “He’s been there so many times. He was very confident and had this calm, cool demeanor, and I think that helped everybody get focused on what they had to do.”

When the race started, Gray burst out to the lead and continued to run from the front through the 4K mark. That’s when he noticed teammate Hayden Hawks was just behind him, followed by a slew of other Team USA jerseys. Inspired, Gray pushed harder and gapped the field a bit, holding off a challenge from Mexican runner Israel Morales. Gray was still in the lead with about 3K to go when Ugandan runner Robert Chemonges challenged him on a flatter section just before the final climb.

“I was hurtin’ and riggin’ pretty badly, but I was still confident and knew I could still win at that point,” Gray says.

Gray surged again, but so did Chemonges, this time with a younger Ugandan teammate suddenly running alongside of him and literally pushing him with his hands up the steeper sections. Infuriated, Gray yelled, “You can’t do that,” and looked around to see if anyone else saw what was going on. Determined to outrun the cheater, Gray surged again as they approached the final ascent. But with 200 meters to go, Chemonges, who was still being aided by his pacer, made a push that Gray couldn’t match.

After crossing the finish line in second place, Gray went straight over to confront Chemonges, but the Ugandan tried to play it off like it was no big deal, and so did his coach. Although he was absolutely livid, Gray switched his focus to cheer on his own teammates and then was sequestered to provide urine samples to comply with IAAF drug-testing protocol.

No one among the American contingent ever officially protested—mostly because of a lack of photo or video proof—but fortunately a race marshal and other teams did, and Gray was eventually awarded the win.

What was even more heartening to Gray, though, was hearing the final team standings announced. Thanks to Gray’s victory—as well as strong efforts from Hawks (fourth), Brett Hales (seventh) and Wacker (20th)—the U.S. edged Italy by a single point in the lowest-score-wins standings, 32-33, and earned the Americans their first team title in the 32 years of the event.

Photo by Fred Marmsater.

“Overall, I was pumped and had the race of my life. I felt that I attacked the course and was able to crush everybody,” Gray says. “The guy’s cheating took a little bit of the sweetness out of it, but I knew I could sleep at night knowing I did what I did with my own strength and integrity. But, honestly, winning the team gold medal is one of the biggest highlights of my career.”

So what’s next for Gray? He’s an odds-on favorite to make his 10th straight U.S. Mountain Running Team on June 3 at the Cranmore Mountain Race in New Hampshire, and that will give him a chance to defend his world championship on July 30 in Premana, Italy. Unlike last year’s uphill races, this year’s championships will both be held on up-and-down courses.

Can he make a serious run at Matt Carpenter’s 24-year-old Pikes Peak Ascent record on August 19? In 2015, he eclipsed Carpenter’s mark on the daunting Manitou Incline—the ungodly steep 0.9-mile converted cog-wheel rail trail up the lower flanks of Pikes Peak—and his effort in winning the Ascent last summer shows he’s got a chance. But the trail has changed a lot since 1993—it’s more rutted and slippery in many places. Gray is the first to admit it’s a stout record, and he’s still four minutes away from getting a sniff at it.

“To me, it’s all about racing and running faster than I did before,” Gray says. “I think the authenticity of racing allows you to have respect for yourself for years and years to come. Whereas if you did it for something really fleeting like fame or money or even going for a record, those things go away, and, in the end, they don’t really have any density. You can tell the guys who love what they do, because they’re consistent.

“I’m not in it for fame. I love what I do.”

Want to try SOS for yourself? Click here and see what all the fuss is about!

A post shared by Joseph Gray (@joegeezi) on

Magnesium and Muscle Cramps

in ATHLETES/BLOGS/RECOVERY/RUNNING/TRIATHLON

Anyone who has suffered from a muscle cramp during or after exercise understands that it’s definitely something worth trying to avoid.

For those who have been lucky enough to evade them, a muscle cramp is a sudden, involuntary, painful contraction of a muscle. These symptoms generally ease off within seconds to minutes but are often accompanied by a palpable knotting of the muscle. While magnesium does play many important roles in the body, unfortunately the prevention/reduction of exercise-induced muscle cramps is not one of these. It is easy to be confused considering the heavy marketing for magnesium supplements and the prevention of cramps, but to date the scientific research suggests that there is no strong link between exercise-induced muscle cramps and magnesium supplementation.

While oral magnesium does not appear to have any beneficial effects in athletes with adequate magnesium, supplementation may improve performance in individuals with a diagnosed deficiency. Those undertaking a high volume chronic training load (e.g. long distance runners) or those with a restricted energy intake may be at risk of magnesium deficiency, although this is not common and you should always get this checked out with your GP before supplementation. It is worthwhile noting that the intestinal absorption of magnesium varies depending on how much magnesium the body needs. If there is too much magnesium, the body will only absorb as much as it needs. So how much do I need? I hear you ask. The recommendations suggest that adults consume a range between 350 and 400 mg/day as the upper limit. Most individuals who are eating a healthy well balanced diet will be acquiring the required amount of magnesium through wholefoods. Good food sources of magnesium include vegetables, legumes, fish, nuts and whole grains. For example, 30g of brazil nuts provides ~100mg, and ½ cup cooked quinoa provides ~50mg of magnesium.

1 litre of SOS Rehydrate provides 20% of the recommended daily intake of Magnesium

Ok, so what does cause cramps and what can I do to avoid them?

What we do know about cramps is that the main risk factors include; family history of cramping, previous occurrence of cramps during or after exercise, increased exercise intensity and duration, and inadequate conditioning for the activity. This explains the classic example of cramping on race day. During a race you’re typically working at a higher intensity than normal, and often over a longer duration than during training.

From a nutrition perspective, glycogen depletion (insufficient carbohydrate) or low energy availability can also contribute to fatigue and therefore cramping. This highlights the importance of getting your nutrition and fuelling plans for long sessions and races spot on.

original source

Running Clean in a Sometimes Dirty Sport: Joseph Gray – World Mountain Running Champion

in ATHLETES/BLOGS/RUNNING/SOS PRO'S/USA

As a youngster, long before I had dreams of being a fast runner, my first sport was basketball. Growing up, my competitive side was sparked by the influence of watching my father, and I quickly learned winning was not something that came easy.

I mimicked everything I saw him do when he practiced on our backyard hoop: his shot technique, dribbling, all the way down to the shoes he wore. I learned that Pops was dedicated and intense, and you could see in his eyes (especially during competition, even friendly one-on-one pickup games) that he intended to win, exerting every ounce of energy he had ‘til the end.

That defined competition for me.

I followed his lead, bringing my own dedication and intensity when I would challenge my friends and go toe to toe in a game of one-on-one. When we were kids, we used what we were born with. Sometimes you had a natural advantage over another—whether it was height, weight, quickness, agility or just pure desire to succeed. Thanks to my father’s influence, hard work was usually the deciding factor for me, as most young kids were not extremely dedicated or even motivated to push themselves to the limit in the name of improving the craft of their favorite sport.

As I got older and found myself competing in a new sport, much was the same. Once I became a distance runner, I found that being devoted and working diligently could lead to amazing outcomes. Still, accomplishing goals became difficult and, at times, failure was more frequent than success. I thought this was something that happened to us all, even the crème de la crème. Again, referring back to my father’s example, I believed the only way to continue forward was to work harder.

Early in my high school career, though, I began to hear stories of athletes using “medicine” to gain advantage over their competitors. Initially I paid it no mind, thinking: “How could medicine help you, unless you are sick?” Little did I know, this medicine was not being used to treat the sick, but rather to unnaturally boost red blood cells in healthy athletes. The medicine I had heard of was EPO, and it had been around for years.

I came across stories of the great German cyclist Jan Ullrich, whom I was a huge fan of at the time. The fact that a human could hold such a high level of power over such a long period of time in a cycling race was astounding. Being that I was making my shift into endurance athletics, seeing such a performance was inspiring. Watching Ullrich gave me the idea that maybe one day I could accomplish endurance feats just as insane. I had no idea he was cheating by using banned substances. The very day I stumbled upon various articles concerning Ullrich testing positive for doping, my impression of amazing performances blurred. Many performances of my favorite athletes at that time led me to start questioning whether they were using the gifts they were born with—or giving the genetics they were born with a boost to achieve success, win races and earn money.

A post shared by Joseph Gray (@joegeezi) on

This was a devastating moment for me.

It was probably comparable to the moment when a child finds out Santa Claus isn’t real. I started to think certain feats in distance running that I wanted to achieve were also unattainable. My personal goals seemed unreal now. Confidence fled the scene like a criminal.

At the time, many thoughts crashed my mind, even thoughts of the benefits and how remarkable of an athlete I could be if I too chose to cheat. Would it be worth it? What would my family think if I headed down that path? What would I think of myself? How could I sleep at night knowing I would be cheating? What would my health look like 10 to 20 years in the future?

But none of it felt right, and I never went down that road in my high school career, college career or now in my professional career. Turns out Pops’ example was spot-on for me. Stay true, keep working hard and you will find success.

I actually think most athletes are competing clean, but that’s what helps expose the ones that are doping.

As a professional athlete, you hear stories, rumors of athletes cheating or those that cheated in the past. You notice patterns in training in relation to performance for athletes who test positive for banned substances. I had even met athletes in my past who had doped in their careers. Hearing their stories of glory, only to be pained later in life with the notion that they didn’t compete fairly was more than enough reason for me to avoid that path. Many of these athletes I have come across have had health issues of somewhat unknown origins. I’m talking about cancers, diseases and other ailments—with some linked to drug abuse with products such as EPO, steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs. If that wasn’t enough to deter, reading the stories from the few who were caught about how their lives changed drastically following the skeleton in their closet being exposed also served as a strong reminder of the negativity that follows a cheater’s lifestyle: Losing close friends, not being able to compete in the sport you love, seeing the look loved ones gave you following a positive doping test. All these things were a reality and a possibility.

As a professional athlete you can weigh the good and bad and, in my eyes, the bad far outweighs the good when it comes to doping. I’m not oblivious to the fact that many people have different value systems and beliefs. It would be ignorant to believe that principles that I value, which deter me from doping, are also valued by every other athlete. There are many athletes who do not care about the dangers of doping, or the negative aspects that will tag along in their lives long after they’re done competing.

I came across one such an athlete early in my professional career. My first experience losing to an athlete who later failed a doping control test was one of the most frustrating moments in my life. I had raced this athlete in the past and had never lost to him or seen him post stellar results. We toed the line in a half marathon on a crisp morning in California. He was aggressive from the start, but none of the guys in the lead group seemed concerned as we all expected him to drop back. But this day he was different. He was not coming back easy; in fact, he was continuing to distance himself from us halfway through the race. At first thought, I figured maybe he was injured or just out of shape when I had raced him in the past.

After talking with him and others who lived near him, I found out that was not true.

This runner had been healthy and been training consistently for years with good but not great results. And here’s something you need to understand: Unlike the world of recreational running, injuries or lack of fitness are not usually factors in the elite ranks. Why? Professional athletes do not improve so drastically due to the nature of their lifestyle, family or work scenarios, which might play a role in their ability to train. Most pro athletes typically have the opportunity to prepare and train hard for extended periods of time, especially for races with a good amount of funding/prestige. They toe the line when they are ready, hoping to achieve optimal results. But top-tier contenders rarely show up out of shape for a high-level race.

That’s why the phrase “the athletes always know” rings true even before coaches, administrators or the media start asking questions or pointing fingers.

Typically athletes within the same tier know who the most likely dopers in their sport are. We know how our competitors are training, so when we see something fishy from someone whom has been on the racing scene awhile, we naturally become suspicious. When you see a monumental improvement from an athlete you’ve known for some time who wasn’t injured or was not merely out of shape most of their career, you immediately scratch your head and wonder.

Following the race I described above, many of us who had been beaten that day were left in shock without much to say about what we had just witnessed. During my cool-down run with a few other runners, the chatter started to heat up. A few athletes were questioning how this guy improved so greatly over such a short period of time. Where there is smoke—especially that much smoke—there is usually fire. Sure enough, time went by and one of his training partners was busted for EPO use. A little more time passed and the athlete who lit us up in that half marathon was busted for the same. It was a huge disappointment and also gave me a twinge of discouragement.

I knew I would wind up eventually receiving more prize money from that race, given the disqualifications. I also began to contemplate the use of PEDs myself. The moment of glory coming across the finish a position higher was stolen from me. Money couldn’t give me that moment back. This guy was not someone who should have been capable of even placing in the top 3 in this race, yet he destroyed the field. This left me briefly contemplating the benefits of PEDs. I was tired of having money taken from my pockets without the certainty that every athlete ahead of me was clean.

Before even investigating how to purchase performance-enhancing drugs, I sat there and asked myself a series of simple questions. Why am I in this sport? What do I want from this sport in the long term?

I loved running not solely for the competition or winning, but also because of the exploration and camaraderie behind it. When I’m older I want to be able to look at my career and say, “I won this race or ran this time with the gifts God blessed me with.” There is nothing more satisfying in my opinion than knowing that you’ve worked hard to earn every goal, gift, victory and personal achievement you collected with natural ability and work ethic. Anyone can cheat, but not anyone can work hard and handle intermittent failures only to rise again.

I always admired the athlete who could consistently compete with the best rather than the athlete who rarely competed with the best but once in a blue moon dominated the field. Not anyone can be consistent. Dopers usually aren’t consistent. The ability to be consistent requires a never-ending commitment to being your best and requires a strong mental state.

When you cheat you are basically succumbing to the idea that you have a weak mentality. Weak-minded athletes look for an easy way out, shortcuts or even excuses to underachieve. I’m confident that a study covering the relationship between mental toughness and doped athletes vs. clean athletes would conclude that dopers have mental instability to go along with a weak mentality. The answers and revelations to those simple questions reaffirmed who I was and were more than enough to leave me satisfied with my natural abilities and never taking the steps of crossing that road to cheat.

Sport is a gift that we are able to share with our community. Through sport we can show respect and admiration for others who also share the same passion. Doping is highly anti-sport, anti-community. If you truly love a sport and what it brings you, why slap your peers in the face and piss on your sport by cheating? I mean, after all that, who are you supposed to enjoy the sport with?

I compare my love of the sport to my passionate endeavors in gardening. I can’t truly call myself a gardener if I simply plant fully grown pepper plants from a store and skip the nurturing process from seed to plant. When you love your sport—in my case, running—you even love the struggle of being out of shape, the struggle to accomplish goals, even the days where you might have a bad workout as you become motivated to work harder. Taking short cuts only leads to an artificial feeling of happiness. A cheater cannot truly be happy with their feats because, deep down, they know they are dirty. In the end, as an athlete we have to live with ourselves, and our internal thoughts impact our lives far more than external appreciation from other athletes, media, rivals and supporters.

So, to truly be happy with what you accomplish and plan to achieve in sport, you must respect sport and the community surrounding it. Being genuine is simply being natural and pushing yourself to reach your potential. When you have to cheat to go beyond what is natural, then you have lost touch with the moral, ethical and existential fabric that holds sport together.

Keep it clean my friends, and run strong!

A post shared by Joseph Gray (@joegeezi) on

via MotivRunning.com

Food v Supplements

in BLOGS/RECOVERY/RUNNING/TRIATHLON

We all know a fast-food competitor, the person who, despite using a drive-through burger after training as their version of quick recovery nutrition, continues to run well.

This same person is likely to take vitamins and other supplements because they know their nutrition is below average. Those who prioritise optimising their nutrition as part of their training regimen simply shake their heads at this attitude, while others might copy the practice thinking it will deliver them the same results!

What needs to be understood is that talent plays the greatest role in an athlete’s performance. Talented athletes certainly appear to get away with poor nutrition, particularly when there is little depth of talent in a field. However, the difference between winning gold or finishing a season undefeated, can come down to millimetres or milliseconds – and that kind of difference can be achieved with optimal nutrition. Professor Ron Maughan of Loughbrough University, UK says it best:

“A good diet will not make a mediocre athlete into a champion, but poor food choices can turn a champion into a mediocre athlete”.

Sports Nutrition Pyramid

The role of nutrition in exercise

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) position stand is that the use of supplements does not compensate for poor food choices and an inadequate diet”. Reinforcing this importance of food, researchers have found that athletes eating a diet rich in nitrates from vegetables (not supplements) for just 10 days were able to enhance their exercise performance, compared to when they were eating their usual diet.

It is clear that active people would benefit most from consistently eating a nourishing whole foods diet, rich in a variety of whole foods. However, there may be situations where supplements may be beneficial to complement (not replace) a good quality diet and provide a suitable option for the very active – for example players who have very high energy needs and struggle to eat enough to meet their sports nutrition needs or travelling athletes who do not have access to their usual food preferences.

For busy athletes, eating something—particularly in the recovery phase—is better than having nothing. While it is important to be careful not to double up your recovery nutrition needs and don’t dismiss whole foods in favour of sports supplements, the use of convenient prepackaged sports supplements may be helpful in achieving performance and sports nutrition goals.

original source

LetsGetRunning.co.uk Podcast with SOS CEO James Mayo

in BLOGS/INTERVIEWS/RUNNING/TRAINING/UK/USA

On this episode Shaun and Jermaine chat Running Hydration with former international athlete and founder of SOS rehydrate, James Mayo.

We discuss hydration myths, tips and tricks and discuss the story behind SOS Rehydrate; how one too many bottles of red wine got James, his wife Blanca, and his brother Tom thinking…

How To Boost Your Post-Ride or Run Recovery in the Café

in BLOGS/LIFESTYLE/RECOVERY/RUNNING/TRIATHLON

Cycling and running have become synonymous with a café culture that, for some, is the motivation for getting out the door in the first place.

No matter what type of rider or runner, nutrition is a hot topic of conversation rife with some of the most entertaining myths, choices, and habits. No matter who you talk to, social to elite athletes all seem to dive towards food choices they consider to be high in protein, second to their coffee order, as post-training habits.

What many don’t seem to have a grasp on is the portion size required to reach their protein needs, and the best ‘bang for buck’ items on café menus to achieve those needs.

What is recovery?

It’s true that post-training protein is important for muscle recovery after exercise. But so is carbohydrate, water, vitamins and minerals, and of course the most underestimated factor, portion size.

The rule of thumb is to aim for 20-25g protein within the first hour of finishing training with the more serious athletes able to quote it off by heart. Ask them about carbohydrate, however, and you will find a mixed response from those who avoid to those who consume it without consciously knowing it.

To help restore glycogen stores in the muscles a few ratio theories (carb:protein) exist to promote optimum recovery in the post-training hour window. They range from 2:1 up to 4:1. This means a range of carbohydrate from 40g – 80g.

A post shared by Heidi See (@heidisee_) on

Eating to match energy needs

Depending on the intensity and duration of training, energy needs could be low to high and should be assessed for each individual.

Advice that won’t change is to select nutritious foods, lower in fat and in particular saturated fat, that are high in both carbohydrate and protein. In the first hour post-training, quickly absorbed carbohydrates (or high GI) have been associated with good recovery strategies.

Choosing from the café menu

With so much to think about when translating this into real food from café menus, here are some common options for you to see which ones fare best for optimal recovery:

Menu item Energy (kJ) Carbohydrate (g) Protein (g) Total fat (g) Saturated fat (g) Fibre (g)
Banana bread
(ave slice 85g)
1980 35 6.8 28.1 13.8 2
Raspberry/blueberry friand
(ave serve 85g, with fruit)
1370 28.6 7.1 20.1 8.8 1
Egg & bacon roll
(1 egg, bacon & BBQ sauce, Turkish bread)
2886 45.8 50.1 28 15 1.5
Berry smoothie
(no cream, reduced fat milk & natural yoghurt, 450ml cup)
1355 70 5 3 1.5 2.5
Egg on toast
(2 poached eggs on Turkish bread)
1540 27 20 15 5.7 2
Yoghurt cup with granola
(325ml cup)
1028 32 16.7 4.2 1 1.5
Regular latte coffee
(reduced fat milk)
504 12 10 2.4 0.6 0

 
And the winners are….

Poached eggs on toast with a regular latte coffee
Yoghurt cup with granola* and a regular latte coffee
Poached eggs on toast with a berry smoothie (high energy needs)

* Granola recipes vary as much as opinions on carbohydrates in cycling circles. Ask if the granola used is low fat as many can add a significant amount more energy that you may not need.

FINAL TIPS

Most cafes serve eggs on Turkish or white toast but if the option exists, wholegrain/multigrain or a seeded bread is always the more nutritious option.

The last thing to remember is spread on bread – ask to have it on the side and, where possible, go without or replace with avocado.

If there are no options that will suit for recovery, simply have a regular coffee and have breakfast as soon as you get home.

 

What Our Perspiration Reveals About Us

in BLOGS/RECOVERY/RUNNING/TRIATHLON

We all know that we sweat when we are hot, anxious or embarrassed – it’s less well known that sweat actually carries emotional messages

In 1934, a British physician named BA McSwiney stood before his colleagues at the Royal Society of Medicine and lamented that most folks didn’t concern themselves with the chemical composition of human perspiration. Instead, they focused solely on the mechanisms by which the evaporation of sweat from the skin’s surface allowed the body to cool itself.

But McSwiney knew that there was more to sweating than just evaporative cooling. Under certain conditions “the loss of constituents of blood-plasma by continued sweating may be considerable”. In other words, other stuff leaves the body in our sweat. But what kind of stuff, and is its loss a good thing or bad?

Some substances in our sweat we probably wouldn’t want to lose. Take chlorides. These compounds – chlorine atoms, often attached to sodium ones to form salt – are important for maintaining the body’s internal pH balance, regulating the movement of fluids in and out of cells, and transmitting impulses across nerve fibres. It’s normal for some chlorides to leak out of the body as we sweat, but there are some instances in which a person might lose too many. Imagine working for several hours in a hot place, for example. Most of us would know to drink water to stay hydrated. But sweat too much and drink too much and you might start to show symptoms of water poisoning. In those circumstances the body just can’t replace the chloride lost in sweat fast enough.

(Credit: Getty Images)
Your sweat contain tiny trace amounts of metals such as zinc and magnesium (Credit: Getty Images)

Also mixed in with sweat is urea, the substance for which urine is also named. By at least one estimate, between 0.24 and 1.12 milligrams of the stuff is dissolved in every cubic centimetre of sweat. That might not sound like much, but given that a person sweats some 600 to 700 cubic centimetres worth of liquid each day, sweat is responsible for up to 7% of someone’s daily elimination of urea. (For comparison, that much sweat would just about fill up a can made for pineapple chunks.)

Then there’s ammonia, proteins, sugars, potassium and bicarbonate. Not to mention trace metals like zinc, copper, iron, nickel, cadmium, lead, and even a tiny bit of manganese. For some of those metals, sweat is an important mechanism for excreting them from inside of the body.

Not all of the things that leak out in our sweat are chemical in nature

Sweat exits the body through one of two types of glands. Apocrine glands are found in the armpits and nostrils and on the nipples, ears and parts of the genitalia. Much more common, however, are eccrine glands, millions of which are distributed over most of the rest of the human body – everywhere except the lips and the genitals. When the body and skin get too warm, thermoreceptors send a message indicating as much to the brain. There, the hypothalamus – a small cluster of cells that controls our hunger, thirst, sleep, and body temperature – sends a message to the apocrine and eccrine glands, which begin pumping out sweat.

There is also a third type of sweat gland, first discovered in 1987. It’s only been found in the same places that apocrine glands show up, but because researchers couldn’t classify them as apocrine or eccrine, they became known as apoeccrine glands. Some think that they are eccrine glands that become somehow modified during puberty.

Tool for communication

Not all of the things that leak out in our sweat are chemical in nature. Everybody has, at some point or other, started to sweat because they ate something spicy, and most people are familiar with emotional sweating due to fear, shame, anxiety, or pain. It’s no wonder that it’s the palms, forehead, and foot soles that are so commonly associated with emotional sweating: eccrine sweat glands there are clustered far more densely, up to 700 per square centimetre, than they are on, say, your back, where there are just 64 per square centimetre.

It turns out that emotion-induced sweating is an important tool for communication. In fact, the scents that we detect in sweat can tell us a lot about how others are feeling.

(Credit: Getty Images)
The scent of people in certain emotional states can also influence the feelings of those that smell them (Credit: Getty Images)

In one experiment, a quintet of Utrecht University psychologists collected sweat samples from 10 men as they watched videos designed to evoke feelings of fear (excerpts from The Shining) or disgust (excerpts from MTV’s Jackass). In order to avoid odour contamination, the volunteers agreed to forego smelly foods, alcohol, smoking, and “excessive exercise” for two days prior to their sweat donation session.

Then, 36 women were asked to see whether they could detect any emotional cues hidden in the sweat samples. The researchers found that when women were exposed to fear-derived sweat samples, their own facial expressions suggested fear as well. And when they were exposed to disgust-based sweat samples, their faces mirrored that emotion too. (Sweat collection pads that remained unused served as controls; these didn’t cause the participants to show any predictable sort of facial expression.)

People who sniffed the sweat of scared skydivers became aroused in response to angry faces

That suggested to the researchers that sweat appears to be an effective means of transmitting an emotional state from one person to another. Importantly, the facial expressions the women made while sniffing the sweat were completely independent of their subjective perceptions of the odours’ pleasantness or intensity. So they might show a look of disgust even if they reported a particular sweat sample as smelling pleasant.

Similar patterns have also been seen in other experiments. In 2006, Rice University psychologists discovered that women exposed to sweat samples collected from fearful donors (this time the sweat came from both men and women) performed better on a word association task than women exposed to sweat produced by people watching neutral videos, or by sweat pads that contained no sweat at all. The fear-related cues gave them a heightened awareness of their environment.

(Credit: iStock)
The sweat of first-time skydivers contained powerful chemical clues of their fear (Credit: iStock)

And in 2012, psychologists and psychiatrists from the State University of New York extracted sweat from the t-shirts of 64 donors. Half of the donors jumped out of an aeroplane for the first time, while the other half exercised really hard. People who sniffed the sweat of scared skydivers became aroused in response to angry faces, but also to neutral and ambiguous ones. Psychologists refer to it as vigilance; the freefall-invoked sweat induced participants to pay attention to whatever possible subtle social cues that they might otherwise have overlooked. Those who sniffed the sweat of exhausted exercisers only became more alert when viewing angry faces, as would be expected under any circumstance.

Yet another experiment conducted by German psychologists and neuroscientists found that sweat from anxious men (who participated in a high ropes course) caused women to make riskier decisions – after spending more time deliberating on their choices – in a computer game designed to assess risk-taking behaviours.

Our ancestors took advantage of the olfactory data constantly flowing into their noses

None of these studies indicate whether people are aware that other people’s sweat has altered their own cognition or behaviour, but they do suggest that sweat might, in some cases at least, communicate important information about our internal mental states. They also suggest that we use the information contained in other people’s sweat to better understand our surroundings.

Perhaps that’s not surprising. Our species may be adapted to verbal and linguistic communication, but language is a fairly new item in our social toolkit. It seems reasonable to imagine that our ancestors took advantage of the olfactory data constantly flowing into their noses – and that they passed the skill down to us.

(Credit: Getty Images)
Even the sight of sweat can reinforce the feelings of perceived emotions (Credit: Getty Images)

Indeed, people seem better able to identify emotions in virtual humans on a computer screen when the animated characters visibly perspire. And not only that, but the addition of sweat seems to allow people to perceive the intensity of a displayed emotion. Sweat, in other words, isn’t just a smelly signal, but a visual one too.

Sweat, in the end, is more than just the body’s air conditioning system. It just might be an emotional weather vane as well, a tool used for broadcasting our innermost feelings to our friends and family.

Original Source

WATCH: Hydration For Runners

in ATHLETES/BLOGS/RUNNING

About Elizabeth

An NCAA Division 1 distance swimmer and water polo player, Elizabeth transitioned into triathlon after college and is a multiple podium finisher at the Olympic and 70.3 race distance and a USAT National Qualifier at the Olympic distance.

Elizabeth has an undergraduate degree in Humanities from UCSB, an MA Education in Health Sciences and a CA Teaching Credential in Health Sciences and History.  In addition, she is a certified sports nutritionist from the ISSN (International Society of Sports Nutrition).

Fuel For A Faster Marathon

in ATHLETES/BLOGS/RUNNING/SOS PRO'S

The final 10km of a marathon can be a world of hurt. Make it easier on yourself with a fuelling strategy.

Performance in a marathon is about controlling the controllable. Train hard, recover well and the variables associated with fitness are minimised. Practice pace judgement and the likelihood that you reach your goal begins to increase. Fuel properly and you maximise the chances of avoiding ‘the wall’ or the myriad of other names associated with struggling through the last 10-12km.

Fuelling is a strategy of supplementing the bodies diminishing glycogen stores throughout long distance racing. There are two sides to the coin of fuelling: hydration and carbohydrates. The key is maximising the bodies ability to utilise both, so absorption and availability is king.

The general consensus in the scientific community is that the body generally has enough glycogen ‘on board’ to get you to around 75-90 minutes of hard running. However, by implementing an effective hydration and carbohydrate protocol, gains can be anywhere from 2-15% based on where you’re racing.

When it comes to fuelling for the marathon there is plenty of conflicting information floating around, yet there are a few in the scientific community that (a) specialise in this area (b) are runners themselves and work with elites, and finally (c) can communicate this information clearly and concisely. One of the few to be (d) all of the above, is Trent Stellingwerff.

Stellingwerff provides physiology and nutrition expertise to Canada’s national rowing, track & field and triathlon teams, as well as leading their Innovation and Research division. He is currently one of the leading-brains in the field, and below we have implemented some of his recommendations into a “how to” guide for fuelling with SOS for any race where you’re likely to be on your feet for longer than those 70-90 minutes.

SOS athlete Patrick Rizzo finishing the London Marathon in 12th place. April, 2013. Rizzo has found that without effective fuelling he is unable to get the most out of his fitness and regularly practices taking on fluids in training.

Where does SOS fit? 

SOS is an Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS) and one of the most effective ways to absorb electrolytes outside of an IV Drip, which would be difficult to utilise while racing…

What about the Carbohydrate? 

For the purpose of this analysis we will look at the personal favourite of some of the SOS marathoners: gels. Gels are widely available and are easy to carry on the run or dissolve in water. They’re also available at most major marathons and trail races.

Getting Started 

Although there are some useful ‘general guidelines’, we all have different needs, so it’s always a good idea to complete a bit of an amateur sweat test during training. It is as simple as it sounds: track your weight pre and post run. The metric system makes this a lot easier as 1L of sweat is equal to 1 Kg of body weight. Ideally you will end up somewhere between the 2-5% range. That will give you an idea of how much fluid you will need to get down to keep the tank running. Try it across varying types of weather and distances to get a bit of an idea of how your body is working to keep itself cool.

Laura Thweatt successfully implemented her favourite Mango SOS as a key part of her fuelling for the NYC Marathon in 2015 where she was 1st American.

What type of fuel? 

Gels compliment hydration via SOS pretty well. However, not all gels are created equal, and neither are all sugars. Stellingwerff recommends a blend of glucose and fructose, with studies indicating that this allows between 20-40% greater absorption and delivery of carbohydrate over glucose alone. This is because there are separate transporters for glucose and fructose in the intestine, meaning that a glucose/fructose blend of around 2:1 results in increased uptake of carbohydrate and more delivery to the muscles.

Various brands of gels offer a wide range of consistency and viscosity that is all a matter of personal preference. What is important is the glucose/fructose ratio. Look for maltodextrin (which is glucose as well) or sucrose and fructose as the first two ingredients.

The Rule of 15 

The ‘Rule of 15’ is basically consuming something close to 15 grams of carbohydrate every 15 minutes and 150 mL of fluid. Don’t overthink the exact numbers, the key is being there or there about over the course of an hour (ish), which is around 60g per hour of carb’s and 600 mL of fluids.

In order to limit GI distress and maximise absorption while also working to the guidelines above, we have found that it’s a good idea to separate your fuel and hydration. Rather using a generic sports drink that is trying to be both, alternate SOS and a gel at each available station. This way you can let your body focus on one thing at a time while still getting your fuel requirements.

Separating hydration also allows for a greater ability to modify consumption based on weather without sacrificing glycogen intake. If it’s hot, you can drink more and vice versa. Hydration needs can vary; glycogen requirements do not.

Take your time with your fluids; you don’t need to get your whole bottle down in 30 seconds. It’s not uncommon to see those at the top end of the field sipping over the course of a kilometre. It’s easier on the system and settles with less distress.

Practice makes perfect 

Running is fast can be hard, and drinking while running fast is even harder. With that in mind it’s important to practice your fluids in training as much as is feasibly possible. Set up a foldout table or put bottles on the hood of your car. If you’re carrying bottles, practice long runs and workouts with your fuel belt or bottle in hand. If you are leaving hydration purely up to what the race provides, try and get as efficient as you can with drinking out of paper cups.

Don’t let all the training you have done fall apart because of an inadequate fuelling strategy. You can be as fit as you have ever been, but if the pump from the engine to the tank isn’t working optimally you will almost certainly run below your ability.

How To Successfully Manage Achilles Pain

in AUSTRALIA/BLOGS/NEW ZEALAND/RECOVERY/RUNNING/TRIATHLON/UK/USA

Lachlan Chisholm (Physiotherapist) for Runner’s Tribe and The Source

The Achilles tendon is a very common injury area in running and sport in general. Injury to the Achilles has a multitude of potential causes. The most common site of injury is an Achilles tendinopathy to the mid portion of the tendon, the other common site is the insertion to the heel. There are also other pain causing structures around the Achilles including the retrocalcaneal bursa and subcutaneous calcaneal bursa.

The way we treat tendons has changed over the last few years and will continue to evolve as our understanding of tendon injuries continues to improve.  From my experience, each tendon injury responds slightly differently so it is hard to give specifics in this kind of forum. So I will focus mostly on general injury prevention advice and general advice in regards to the current methods of Achilles rehabilitation.

The Achilles connects the calf muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus and plantaris) to the Calcaneus (heel bone) and allows you to plantarflex, or point your foot/ankle. The Achilles is the thickest and strongest tendon in the body, and the tendon can receive a load stress 7.7 times body weight when running, in my case of a 75kg middle distance runner that is up to 577 kg per step! However, if that force is not applied in a longitudinal manner, say a lateral force is applied, it becomes weak and very susceptible to injury. So, as you can imagine the Achilles takes a lot of the load which also makes it susceptible to injury if it is overloaded or loaded in the wrong way.

Prevention

The best way to treat an Achilles injury is to prevent it in the first place, so my main tips for prevention of Achilles injuries are;

  • Adequate strength and flexibility– As a general rule I expect all of my running patients to be able to do 30 (slowly 1sec up 1sec down with good control and alignment) single leg heel raises. I also aim for a minimum of 12cm knee to wall (have your toe 12cm from a wall and keeping your heel on the ground lunge your knee forward to touch the wall).
  • No compressive loads– This means you cannot have anything pressing into your Achilles. Sometimes the back of a shoe, for example, can press into your Achilles and this changes the line of force through the Achilles causing an inappropriate load, leading to Achilles tendonitis.
  • No sudden changes in load– By this, I mean no rapid increases in training volume, type or surfaces, and type of shoes. When it comes time to move through phases of training this must be done gradually over a period of weeks to allow the body to adapt to the new load whether it be increased volume or increased intensity of training. The same applies for training surfaces and your change from normal training shoes to flats and spikes. (The lower heel in your spikes means your ankle range of motion (ROM) increases when you run which increases the time and ROM your Achilles is under load. This also includes getting adequate rest/recovery between sessions.
  • Appropriate footwear- This one can be a tricky subject with the minimalist/maximalist debate. Basically, you need a shoe that fits your foot type and fits comfortably and that is not worn out. I generally find I get between 500-700km out of a pair of shoes before they feel “dead” and are showing significant crush signs on the cushioning.

Injury Rehabilitation

If you are unlucky enough to develop Achilles pain you really should see a physiotherapist or other appropriate health care professional as soon as you can. But in terms of general advice, this is what I give my patients.

Often the first signs of an Achilles tendinopathy is your first step or two out of bed in the morning, the back of your heel feels stiff and sore but after a few steps/minutes the pain goes away and you think no more of it. This is the best time to get onto it and get proactive about treating it. Basically a bit of ice, gentle stretching, self-massage/foam rolling, and a little bit of relative rest (reduced load). You can also make a start on controlled loading i.e. heel raises/strength.

But once you have passed that point you will notice it when you start to run but again it “warms up” so you continue to train as normal. At this stage, I am not against continuing to train through an Achilles injury as long as it is carefully monitored and managed and is improving with the right treatment and management. However, it tends to improve faster in my experience with modified training or cross training.

You should monitor your morning pain and use this as a guide as to how your Achilles is progressing. Monitor how bad out of 10 the pain is with your first few steps in the morning and how long it takes to go away? If it is getting worse you are doing too much and need to reduce the load.

As above, you want to ice and self-massage and some gentle stretching (if part of your problem is reduced range of motion). Then you need to start loading your tendon in a safe and controlled manner. Tendon healing responds to load, if it is loaded correctly, you can end up with a strong pain-free tendon at the end of your rehabilitation. If not you often end up with a stiff sore tendon and long term problems.

At this point you start out with a period of isometric loading in a neutral ankle position (i.e. not up on your tippy toes and not hanging your heel off a step.  Your heel should be held just off the ground or a step – but held at the step height) for 45sec x 3 x 2 daily. Do this on one leg at a time and repeat on the other leg. I use 4/10 as a guide on pain if you are getting over 4/10 pain start by doing both legs at the same time. You will often find that after doing this you have a short pain-free or reduced pain period. It also seems to improve muscle activation. After a week or so you modify this by adding a set of heel raises in between each isometric hold. The number depends on your strength but I often start with 8-10 and progress to 15. As you improve you then reduce the isometric loading to be used as a pain management/ warm up tool and then progressively increase the number of heel raises until reaching 30 single leg heel raises.

You should continue to perform these exercises for up to 12 months once pain-free, as tendon repair and remodelling continue long after your pain has ceased.

About Lachlan Chisholm 

Lachlan is a physiotherapist and was one of Australia’s leading 1500m runners for many years. His 1500m PB is 3:37 and he is a two-time Australian 1500m champion.

Go to Top