This past weekend, I was privileged to attend the Healthy Running conference, a CME-certified conference geared towards medical professionals like physical therapists and physicians, as well as runners with a good understanding of human anatomy and physiology.  Last year, Michelle travelled out to Boulder, CO for this conference, but I was lucky to have my shot at it in the convenient confines of Falls Church, VA!  Put together by Jay Dicharry (running biomechanics guru who used to run the UVA Speed Clinic), Ian Adamson, and Mark Cucuzzella, the Healthy Running conference was exceptional.

Michelle and I have long made it a priority that Crozet Running be not only a source of great footwear, but also a resource for helping people run better:  less injuries, less fatigue, better enjoyment and health…we will be the ones who will tell you that running shoes are really only a small part of the healthy running equation.  We will be the ones to tell you to go see a PT, or to slow down and stop running so fast, and we will also be the ones encouraging you to hang in there no matter how frustrating or bleak your fitness setbacks may become!  We believe that a running store needs to offer more than just shoes!  We need to help you think about all the other important things – your mechanics, your mobility, your strength, your stress, sleep, nutrition, training intensity… ALL of these things matter… a lot!  We can help you with some, and refer you to the right people for others.  Runners need a comprehensive information resource and that is our goal at Crozet Running.  I’m not sure you can find another running store who’s owners regularly read journal articles and attend continuing education courses so that we can help you run the best that you can!

So here, in no particular order, are just some of the “pearls” that I took away from the weekend:

  • Being fit does not equal being healthy.  Overtraining, eating poorly, living with too much stress – all these things eat away at our health, regardless of our marathon times…
  • When going for a long run in the heat – don’t wear sunscreen!  It messes up your evaporative cooling from sweat!
  • There have been zero deaths from heat stroke at marathon events, but there have been dozens of deaths from hyponatremia (low blood sodium).  For long endurance events, drink what you need, but drink to your thirst –  don’t overdo it.  Becoming slightly dehydrated during a marathon or longer is perfectly normal and functional – just drink to your thirst and reduce your effort in the heat.
  • Its best to train on an empty stomach.  Eating just before a race or a run will spike your insulin, which shuts off your bodies ability to burn fat – Effective fat burning is critical to endurance events.  You have topped off your glycogen supplies the days before the race.  Eat nothing before training runs to better teach your body fat burning, and eat 2-3 hours before a race.  Then, during a long endurance event (marathon and beyond), start taking fuel about 30 minutes after starting because your insulin response is very different during exercise.
  • Sitting is bad for us.  One study in Australia:  Sitting 8 hours a day increased mortality risk by 50%, and 12 hours a day the risk increased by 100%.  Get a standing desk and sit as little as possible.  This also leads to weak glutes and tight hip flexors, the leading cause of all running injuries!!
  • When running, at best, you will have 2.6 times your body weight bearing down on one leg – if you’re inefficient, it will be more – are you strong and stable enough for this??…
  • People have been breaking 3:00 in the marathon since well before 1900.  All there was were minimalist-type shoes prior to the 1960s.
  • “Normal” does not always equal good.  Diabetes, obesity, and hypertension are normal but not good.  Overstriding heel-strike gait patterns in runners are very normal, but not good.
  • When you’re running, you land with a force equal to 2.6-3.0 times your body weight.  This is at its max when you are in mid-stance, i.e. doing a one-legged squat.  If you stand on one leg with a foreword lean, where is all the weight concentrated – under the ball of your foot and the big toe.  So why have so many shoes disproportionally built up the heel cushioning??  Or why do “pronation control” shoes post the medial rear foot, where it is not even useful in controlling motion at mid-stance??
  • How one runs is more important that what’s on the feet, but what’s on the feet affects how one runs
  • Each year, 250,000 high school athletes (all sports) suffer ACL tears.  Weaknesses in hip stability is the number one risk factor.  Guess what is a huge contributor to running injuries?  Weakness in hip stability.
  • The majority of runners run their easy runs too fast and our speed workouts too fast.  There is a lot of science to this.  During your easy runs, keep it really slow so that you are maximally improving your body’s fat burning system, which is the system that drives your aerobic base.  Doing your easy runs too fast (which most of us do…getting out of breath up hills, etc), switches your body over to more glucose burning, so you’re no longer getting the most out of your aerobic training while also doing nothing to make yourself faster!  Likewise, doing your speed work too fast gives you no extra benefit, but only leaves you more fatigued and more likely to get injured.  This section of the conference was HUGE!  Most of our runs – do ’em super easy.  Tempo runs and track workouts, don’t beat yourself up!  But be sure to get some race pace training in in the 6 weeks leading up to your goal race.

There were many more pearls and loads of information and we are already putting this to use in our conversations with runners in the store.  Lets get you in some great shoes, but lets also get you thinking about the other things that matter so running can be successful for you now, and more importantly, in the long term.