Sunday, 14 December 2014

How well to compression socks work?

At the beginning of November, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to run the 2014 NYC marathon.  I had a blast racing the event, but as I write this article, my legs are yet to functionally bend at the knee thus rendering stair walking a hilariously debilitating act (hilarious for those around me anyway).  Time to speed up the recovery process…but how?  Today I am going to take a quick look at using compression socks.

How compression works
Researchers now understand that compression socks help with recovery, to a small degree, when used after a hard effort.  The mechanism of action is simple: it helps to prevent pooling of blood and facilitates better venous return (aka enhanced blood transportation from the legs back to the heart).  The reason why this works is because veins (the blood vessels that feed blood back to the heart) do not have muscular walls like the arteries that bring blood away from the heart.  So, while arteries actively help to pump blood away, veins rely on that momentum generated by the heart and arteries, and simply act as passive channels to bring the blood back.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014


The fall marathon season is finally upon us!  With a massive summer of training in the books, it would be a shame to put that hard work to waste with improper nutrition on race day.  One very important component of this, without a doubt, is fluid intake.  But just how much should you you consume?
General guidelines
The American College of Sports Medicine makes the following recommendation: 5-8 ounces of fluid every 15 minute for events lasting over 40 minutes.  This is a good, general, safe guideline (I guess).  If you don’t want to give your fluid intake any thought, this is a reasonable plan to follow, but I personally don’t like it.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Running beyond the limits of pain

For anybody to run at their best, regardless of ability, that means pushing through pain.  I am here to tell you that ALL of us runners, while we feel we push at or above our limits, are still likely not reaching our physiological limits of performance.
It would be nice to finish a race knowing that we got the most out of bodies as we possibly could, however, this just isn’t the way we are built.  When we run, distress signals build up in the body (lactic acid, heat etc.).  As these distress signals ramp up, our central nervous system slows us down.  Many researchers argue that this stimulus to slow down is so powerful that the brain makes it impossible to push our bodies to their physiological limit.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Is there value in active recovery?

Picture this: You beat yourself up with a massive interval session yesterday, your legs are thrashed, stairs seem like an impossible feat, you wake up with a deep insatiable hunger, and your energy levels are low.  What is it time for?  One of the best parts of every runner’s week: the active recovery day.  Yesterday was 90 minutes of agony, today is a 30 minute shuffle.
The active recovery is something firmly implanted in almost all complete running plans.  But what is the true benefit to these sessions?  Do they actually help us to recover faster, or is it just a case of carrying on a running tradition?

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

How useful is cross-training?

Running is a funny thing.  Often times our desire to lace-up is inversely correlated with how much running we are actually able to do.  When we’re feeling great, sometimes finding the motivation to train can be difficult. On the other hand, when we’re injured, often ALL we want to do is run.
When I see injured runners, often I am asked about the efficacy of cross training.  Is it time well spent, or should an injury just be seen as a time totally away from training?

Saturday, 7 June 2014


This is a topic I have written about in the past, but is something that all runners should have a good understanding of.  With temperatures starting to rise, so do the questions of if it is beneficial to train in the heat, or if it should be avoided.
Some runners argue that any challenge is a beneficial challenge, so training in the heat is a positive stimulus.  Other runners argue that the heat takes away from their ability to push themselves, increases the risk of dehydration, and as a result has a detrimental impact on training.  Both of these points of view intuitively make sense, so we’ll have to go to the science behind heat training for our answer.
While this answer is complicated, what researchers DO know is that training in the heat has a unique impact on your physiology and makes you faster in a way that training at colder temperatures cannot.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Strap on a weighted vest to boost your running economy

Are you striving to become a faster runner?  Maybe you should try strapping on a weighted vest when you warm up!
Some new research is showing that by warming up with a weighted vest (similar to how a baseball player will swing a bat with a weighted doughnut before they step up to the plate), runners are showing an acute increase in leg stiffness.  This stiffness leads to an improved running economy, which could potentially lead to running faster.  Skeptical?  Let’s take a look at the science of why this happens.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Why your antioxidant supplements are making you slower

Some popular buzzwords in the world of nutrition in athletics include “antioxidants” and “decreasing inflammation.”  These words sound like good things, don’t they?  Well, they might be at times, but in just as many other scenarios, they are likely having a detrimental impact on performance.
The Basics
When we workout, or are exposed to other sources of stress (like UV radiation), charged particles called Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) are produced in our body.  These charged particles then can react with cells in our body, creating inflammation.  This has been advertised to us as a bad thing, linking ROS and inflammation to injury, decreased recovery time, and even causing a number of diseases (such as cancer) with chronic and prolonged exposure.
Antioxidants, such as vitamin C or glutathione, work to help to take the charge away from these ROS.  With no charge, the ROS are no longer reactive, and the risk of creating cellular damage and inflammation goes down.
So decreased cell damage, decreased inflammation, faster recovery- how can this be bad?

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Do toning shoes work?

To become a better, faster, fitter athlete, there are some sure-fire ways to succeed.  Generally speaking, if you run more, mix in more intensity, do some strength work and maintain consistency, you will improve very predictably.  The one downside to these guaranteed methods? They require time and effort.
I truly believe that most people are not against putting in time and effort…that is, until a day becomes absolutely filled with work, kids, traffic, house work, homework and shovelling the driveway AGAIN.  It quickly can become tough to put in the time and effort required to see the results we want, and sometimes we reach for shortcuts.
One great example of a widely used shortcut: toning shoes.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Stretching and its impact on muscle sorness

Last month for the WRS blog, I wrote an article that took a look at how stretching makes us slower.  There were some good follow up questions to that article.  I think after reading it, most runners understand how stretching has a detrimental impact on running economy.
However, many wondered: Is that enough reason to stop stretching?  What about all the benefits?  For example, what about stretching and its role in preventing muscle soreness?
Well with today’s article I want to clear up a very common misconception.  It is a topic that I have written about before in my blog.  Here it is:
Stretching does NOT help to prevent muscle soreness.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

One reason to stop stretching

I am going to preface this article by saying I am not anti-stretching.  If you know me, have seen me at a H+P
practice, or have seen me as a patient, you will know that there are times where I recommend stretching.

That being said, this whole idea of “stretching is good” – an idea we were taught in elementary school and has now self-perpetuated to the exercise groups we attend in adulthood – is definitely misleading.  Stretching is good in some situations and stretching has no impact in other situations; I will deal with these scenarios in a future article.  This article will deal with a third situation: how stretching has a detrimental impact on us.

How can stretching be bad you ask?  Well, there are a few reason, but since this is on a running series website, I’m going to stick to this: static stretching makes you slower.

 CLICK HERE to read the rest of the article on the WRS Blog.