Wednesday, 16 December 2015


The off-season is officially upon us! YA. Time to dial back the volume and intensity, take care of low-grade injuries, get back to other aspects of training you’ve missed, and just generally take it easy and dream up performances to come in 2016.

At our club, Health and Performance, I have seen a number of different approaches to the off-season from our athletes. Some are still hammering, some are decreasing volume and intensity to varying degrees, and others are 100% taking time away from running. Deciding how to manage your off-season is a complicated decision based on a number of factors (injuries, 2016 goals, mental fatigue, level of performance/training in 2015, complicating non-running things) that probably only YOU know all the details of.

However, no matter who you are, I still strongly suggest that some time away from running entirely (1-3 weeks) is a good idea. There are a number of reasons why I say this, but I was once again reminded of the importance of time off when a colleague sent me this study looking at the rate of cellular turnover in different cells in our body...

Thursday, 5 November 2015

The Alkaline Diet: Should you be testing your urine?

With the off season approaching, it’s time to start thinking about making small changes that can help you to improve upon your 2015 running performances. One area that’s always good to strive to learn more about: diet.

On this topic, one of my pet peeves revolves around fad diets based on cool sounding pseudoscience that over-simplify what it actually takes to consume a well-rounded, complete, healthy diet. In reality, it’s a challenge to consume a diversity of fruits and vegetables, consume adequate but not excessive calories, jam in enough protein, etc. Even though this is a challenge, and sometimes seemingly impossible, it is not a reason to stop striving to achieve it.

I think that while most of us know this, when the going gets tough, these over simplified fad diets can suck some of us in.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

The three keys to fueling your marathon

The fall marathon season is almost upon us! With only a few weeks to go for many of you, it’s time to taper, to let the body recover and to get ready for battle. At this point it’s difficult to make any significant fitness gains, so dial back on that running. It is, however, quite easy to do a number of different things that can sabotage your performance. One of these detrimental decisions is not managing your race day nutrition properly.

Usually I present novel research studies in this column, but today I am going to give you a breakdown/reminder of what to do during your race to optimize performance. It is important to make a nutrition plan and stick to it. Going by hunger or the desire to consume food will leave most runners not consuming enough and therefore not running to the full potential of their current level of fitness.

When it comes to the research there is a lot in sports nutrition that we do not know (i.e. when exactly is beet juice helpful, if at all), and these areas need more time for definite guidelines to be established. Fortunately there is a lot that we do know for sure, and have been proven to make any runner faster. Here are the three most important nutrition rules to following during your marathon:

Sunday, 6 September 2015

The gender gap in running

At the 2015 ENDURrun, we had a number of different spirited challenges within our Health and Performance team. One was a very entertaining and fun challenge between a loving/ ruthlessly competitive couple- Howie and Manny. Howie ended up taking the 160K, week-long challenge by 19 minutes, or just under 2%, after around 16 hours of racing. We also had an all-women’s team who were up against all the boys as they were the only 100% female crew. They posted a 4th place time of 13 hours, 23 minutes. This put them about 2 hours 8 minutes back of the first place team (they would have to be about 16% faster to catch them), and 17 minutes off the podium (they would have to be just over 2% faster to sit in 3rd)

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Are you running slow enough?

In the past, I have written about the importance of interval training to improve running performance.  Yes, it is very important to hammer above your lactate threshold a couple of times per week depending on where you are in your training to get the most out of your body.  This is the gold standard of any good performance-oriented running plan.   These are your key workouts, and must not be missed.

That being said, there is still a way to mess up your other runs, and that is by going too fast!  Your recovery runs and long runs, for the most part, need to feel slow.  This is a rule that most runners know, have read about, completely understand, but it still seems to be one of the top challenges that I see competitive people struggling to conquer.  After all, it feels good to run 10-15s/K slower than your 10K race pace for an 8K off-day.  It feels fast, the effort is up but manageable, and seeing a close-to-race effort without struggling excessively always provides a nice mental boost.

In this article, I am going to provide an overview behind the physiology of why the long run and recovery runs should be slow.  It's nice to know the rule, but understanding the physiology will help you stick to that rule and slow things down.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Do altitude tents work?

Every runner has heard of altitude training.  The principal is simple: go somewhere high up where the air is thinner and force our bodies to adapt to the decreased oxygen concentration.  These hypoxic conditions stimulate a release of the hormone EPO which causes a spike in the production of red blood cells, increasing the oxygen carrying capacity of our blood. To no surprise, an increased oxygen carrying capacity of our blood enhances performance by improving delivery to our oxygen starved running muscles as we push our limits. It’s legal blood doping!
Many of us have dreamed of getting this extra boost to our performance, but simply do not have the resources or opportunity to disappear to a high altitude location.
Enter the altitude tent.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Why the sit-ups must stop!

There are many uncertainties in healthcare, but this isn’t one of them: sit-ups are not good for your back.
Understanding that sit-ups are bad for the lumbar spine is not a new development. Yet, for some reason, we still do them. I see it all the time in practice– leg and back pain triggered (or at least aggravated) directly by flexion dominant core routines that include the sit-up.
Why? I think sometimes it’s because if we can’t visualize why something is bad for us, it’s harder to stick to the habit. Blindly following a rule is tough, but understanding why the rule is there makes it much easier to abide by. Hopefully this article helps to give method to the no sit-up madness.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Is pain slowing you down?

As you read this (as long as you are reading it in the first full week of May, 2015), a local runner named Charlotte Vasarhelyi is trying to conquer a 6-day running event.  The premise of the event is simple: ignore your brain and its valiant efforts to slow you down and keep running.  Do this for 144 hours straight.
While many of us will never pursue the 6 days of pain that Charlotte seems to thrive under, we all could still learn a lot from her ability to psychologically conquer the impulse to slow down.  Back in 2013, I wrote an article for Canadian Running taking a closer look at Charlotte along with general coping mechanisms runners possess and can develop to beat pain and its maniacal quest to slow us down.  The following is one of the drafts from the article...

Monday, 6 April 2015


Chronic tendon pain is something most runners face at one point or another.  When the injury is acute, there is obvious inflammation and tears in the tissue.  Time, relative rest, ice and a gradual return to running usually does the trick.  These are cases of tendinITIS.

However, once pain persists beyond 6 months, the origin of that pain completely changes.  I have written about the subject before here.  In summary, the tears and inflammation are gone.  The pain persists from a not entirely known mechanism which includes lingering pain neurotransmitters that no longer belong in the tissue, and new blood vessels penetrating into the tissue and bringing pain sensing nerve fibers with them.  The tissue is hypersensitive.  It has healed after 6 months, but it has not “learned” to be normal again.  These are cases of tendinOSIS.

The reason I am bringing this up because I just came across a review study that puts into question a commonly recommended treatment protocol: eccentric loading.  Eccentric loading involves putting force through the tissue you are wanting to rehab as you take it from its short to long position.  Almost 4 years ago I wrote about the importance of using eccentric loading, and it is something that the research has supported.  However, eccentric loading, as I have seen in practice and have long suspected, may not be the magical movement we once thought.

Thursday, 5 March 2015


What’s better, a forefoot or a rearfoot stike?
This is a complicated question and one that I get asked quite frequently.  It’s a topic I have avoided writing about on this blog until now because it is impossible to tackle and do the debate justice with just one post.  Sometimes topics area easy to summarize with clear conclusive statements, such as “toning shoes are bad.”   Rearfoot vs. forefoot strike is a little more complex.
Gradually, overtime, with multiple posts, I hope that I will be able to answer many of these questions.  With today’s post, all I want to do address the prevalence of each strike type and the associated importance.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Why does strength training make us faster?

Last month, I wrote an article looking at the impact strength training can have on our running performance.  In essence, the studies I presented showed that weight training, specifically high weight low rep, is great for boosting running economy.
Why does strength training impact our running economy?  There are a few mechanisms of action that experts suspect are at play.  For me, understanding these mechanisms really helps to solidify the importance of strength work as part of a training plan.  Getting to the gym is tough- picturing what you’re doing to your muscles makes it a little more palatable!

Tuesday, 6 January 2015


It’s the off-season!  Does your training look exactly the same as how it does during your competitive months?  If your goal is to be as fast as possible, it shouldn’t!  One of the best training tools that runners should use during the off-season (that is a little more risky/costly to use during your competitive season) is strength training.
I am not going to waste your time preaching about how strength work is better than no strength work.  It think all runners know that whether you are doing high rep low weight, low rep high weight, or explosive/plyometric/jump training, adding some sort of strength training will make you run faster.