How is your Posture? Part Trois – Marc Laithwaite

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                                              Image ©www.mbmyoskeletal.com

Okay, so we’re now onto part 3 of the series and this week we are looking at exercises to correct anterior tilt of the pelvis, which creates the lordosis posture. If you’ve not yet read the last 2 week’s posts, you should read them first. Pt1 HERE and Pt2 HERE.

Why are these exercises important?

Anterior tilt occurs becuase specific muscles may be weak, tight or you simply don’t know how to activate / use them properly. The exercises will therefore strengthen, stretch or activate control of those muscles. By doing this, you will be more aware of correct posture / pelvic position and you will be better able to maintain correct posture / pelvic position during exercise and daily life.

What are the limitations of these exercises?

Don’t presume that by doing these exercises, you will automatically hold perfect posture whilst you are training and racing. The exercises will make it possible to CONTROL your posture, but you must consciously make it happen when you are exercising. I’ve seen many swimmers and runners completing endless drills in the pool or on the track, presuming it will impact on their performance. The reality is that they become awesome at performing the drills and it seems to make no difference to the actual stroke or running stride. The same applies to these exercises, you have to make the transfer happen in a practical setting. Drills and exercises are pointless unless you try to implement them when you actually exercising.

How do I implement them when exercising?

Simple, when running you should always try to run in a pelvic neutral position. The first step is being aware that you’re NOT in a neutral position, then you should be able to use your stomach muscles to rotate the pelvis into the correct position. It might help to do the same cycling, some simple posterior rotation mid ride can prevent hip flexors tightening too much.

What about open water swimming? How many of you get a bad back swimming in a wetsuit? Simple explanation, the stomach muscles are not strong enough and your lower back arches too much (bit like doing a BAD plank exercise and sagging in the middle). Couple this with the fact that a wetsuit gives you buoyant legs and a high head and your body is in a ‘U’ shape position in the water. You need to contract your abdominals and lift your stomach (GOOD plank) to straighten you out and get a level position in the water. The big issue is going from this position in a wetsuit to a complete opposition position leaning forwards on your aero bars, a postural nightmare.

Stop banging on, what are the exercises….

These are the simple exercises which should be done every day without fail. We thought the bext way to show you would be a little youtube video.

NEXT WEEK, we’ll look at the stitch and breathing issues. We’ll also have a look at some of those cramping issues and suggestions to stop calf cramps when swimming etc.

Please pardon by pelvic tilting, it’s not the best viewing. IF YOU FIND THE VIDEO TOO SMALL, click on the YouTube icon, bottom right hand of the video player, it’ll open in YouTube. HERE

About Marc:

Sports Science lecturer for 10 years at St Helens HE College.

2004 established The Endurance Coach LTD sports science and coaching business. Worked with British Cycling as physiology support 2008-2008. Previous Triathlon England Regional Academy Head Coach, North West.

In 2006 established Epic Events Management LTD. Now one of the largest event companies in the NW, organising a range of triathlon, swimming and cycling events. EPIC EVENTS also encompasses Montane Trail 26 and Petzl Night Runner events.

In 2010 established Montane Lakeland 50 & 100 LTD. This has now become the UKs leading ultra distance trail running event.

In 2010 established The Endurance Store triathlon, trail running and open water swimming store. Based in Appley Bridge, Wigan, we are the North West’s community store, organising and supporting local athletes and local events.

Check out the endurance store HERE

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Elisabet Barnes and the Sunset Relay

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Sunset Relay (sunsetrelay.com) is an event organized by Garnier Ambre Solaire in partnership with Association of European Cancer Leagues (ECL). The purpose is to raise awareness of the dangers of the sun. As the name suggests it takes the form of a relay, in which participants race the sun for 96 hours / ~1300km. The line-up included top athletes, business people, bloggers, journalists and celebrities who would run, cycle, row, paddle or roller skate.

Staged in the mythical and beautiful Swedish Lapland during the midnight sun, three main sections forming a triangle constituted the course of this first edition: Luleå à Hemavan à Abisko à Luleå. I took part in the second section with six other trail runners (Olof Häggström, Sylvain Court, Jonathan Wyatt, Elina Usscher, Linus Holmsäter & Maud Gobert) and we were running the famous national trail Kungsleden (”King’s Trail”) northbound from Hemavan to Abisko. This trail is 430km long and offers a great variety of terrain, much of which is more technical than one might think for such a popular trail. In this part of Sweden there is still snow in June and with an exceptionally cold start to the summer it was too deep to run in places. We therefore had some last minute alterations to the route and a helicopter was on hand to help us get to the runnable sections.

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Kungsleden is an undulating path. Its highest point is the Tjäkta Pass at 1150 m above sea level. The ground is very varied including rock, trails in the woods with plenty of roots and stones, miles of narrow boards over swampy wetland, meadows, and stream crossings. Although challenging it made the journey on this trail interesting and varied. The views were simply stunning and with the midnight sun it was easy to lose track of time. Was it 2am or 12pm? It was impossible to say without a watch apart from the temperature being a bit cooler at night.

I thoroughly enjoyed the running on Kungsleden. Sweden is my home country and although I spent time in the north as a child skiing and walking in the mountains it was a long time ago. Travelling on this trail felt almost magical. I cherished this unique moment which seemed to encourage me to be present in the now, soaking up the beauty of the surroundings, listening to the roar of the water in the streams I passed and the birds singing in the trees. Occasionally I heard the sound of a branch cracking or leaves rattling on the ground as I disturbed some wildlife. I must admit that I was a bit worried about bears as I ran on the single track through those beautiful mountain birch woods by Abiskojaure Lake. However, it was probably very unlikely I would actually encounter any and all I saw were a few lemmings.

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It was a great privilege to get the opportunity to take part in this event. Aside from the experience of the trail running I met some wonderful people. I would love to go back for an ultra-trail event or maybe run Kungsleden in its entirety. It has been done before by at least a couple of Swedish runners and makes for a beautiful but demanding holiday…

For more information about Kungsleden, go to http://www.svenskaturistforeningen.se/en/Discover-Sweden/Facilities-and-activities/Lappland/kingstrail/

Videos from the event:

https://www.sunsetrelay.com/videos?filter=category&value=14

Photos:

https://instagram.com/sunsetrelay/

The Berghaus Dragons Back Race Day 5 2015 – The back is broken

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‘So what a week, what a journey, impossible to explain how tough, how mentally and physically challenging it was but also how spiritual it has been. Cut off from the world, no social media, no showers, just living in the wild with a group of equal enthusiasts.’ – Mike Evans

It’s over! The Berghaus Dragons Back has been broken. Mike Evans sums it up above, how do you compress the highs and lows of an incredible hard 5 days. For the tough and tireless 66 who completed the full race, the emotion (or lack of) was poignant in Carreg Cennen Castle. For some, it was just too much. I can understand it, 5 days of exhaustion, fatigue and stress and finally it’s over. The simple crossing of a line and a final ‘dib in’ and it was job done.

Some smiled, some laughed, some looked bemused at the assembled group who clapped and cheered; it was all too much and a lack of words summed up the the journey undertaken more than loud chants of yee-ha!

This select and hardy few may well have broken the back of the Dragon but it had been a a touch and go affair for all. Even race winner, Jim Mann said on the final finish line:

‘Dense cloud, rain, cold, difficult navigation, I could have done without that today!’

But slay the Dragon they did and at the evening awards ceremony, race director Shane Ohly summed it up very well:

‘It seems wrong that I have to countdown the finishers from 66 – 1 as it emphasises the top of the field and places a priority on them when in reality, everyone here is a hero.’

The racing and the finish line was full of stories. As you would expect, every single finisher (and non-finisher) had a very unique story to tell. Old to young, these stories will be discussed in time to come and as time passes, more will be revealed. For now, the journey is too raw, too sensitive, the enormity too big to understand. I said during the race that lives would be changed as the race progressed through Wales. I witnessed at first hand how the weak became strong and the strong became weak. It’s the nature of the event. It’s meant to be tough and those who didn’t complete this time, for whatever reason, will learn and I am sure will be back in 2017 for the next edition.

The final day was not without drama. A wet day, conditions proved to be very tough and post race many commented on how difficult the navigation had been in the white out conditions, driving rain and strong winds. It’s somewhat ironic that as Pavel Paloncy crossed the line first, the sun and dry weather followed him and all assembled were treated to a warm and sunny afternoon with incredible views. Paloncy would almost certainly have been a contender for a podium place had he not taken a bad fall on day 1 resulting in hospital treatment.

Mann will of course be remembered as the Dragon Slayer of 2015 but notably it was the year of the ladies with Paris, Pascall and Wraith featuring in the top 10 throughout the race and all 3 of them placing in the top 6 – Paris 2nd, Pascall 4th and Wraith 6th. Just like in the original race when Helene Whitaker showed the men a thing or two, 2015 had all the potential for a repeat performance and this was something Ohly touched on at the awards:

‘Despite the so called ‘advantages’ men have, ladies once again triumphed at the Dragons Back Race and I think that it is brilliant. All 3 ladies raced incredibly well and Paris had all the potential to win the race outright.’

Father and son team Glenn and Huw Davies in many ways provided me with a raw insight into the race. Having lost my father way too young I watched this duo battle the terrain as one. Joined together from beginning to end they witnessed each others highs and lows in a way that is beyond comprehension. Ever day I looked at them, envious of the time they were having together. What they shared is beyond special and I can only wish that I had had that opportunity in my life. When they finished in the castle it was a whirl of emotion for the duo; it all proved too much for young Huw (just 22), ‘I am real proud of my dad!’

It’s funny, all assembled, big to small, old to young suddenly got something in their eyes… maybe it was the wind or the midgies?

Joe Faulkner, legend that he is completed the very first Dragons Back Race and in 2012 he came back for more. Completing the 2015 event makes him quite the unique individual. He is the only person ever to complete all 3 Dragon Back Races. Wow! As a just reward, Ohly offered a tribute to Faulkner at the awards ceremony and acknowledged how instrumental he had been in Ohly’s own rise and development in the sport. As a nod of recognition, Ohly asked Faulkner to offer the awards to male and female winners; Jasmine Paris and Jim Mann.

Beer was flowing, spirits were high and as Paris and Mann sat down with awards in hand, the 2015 Berghaus Dragons Back race came to a close.

I can’t help but think there a great deal of runners (and marshals) today sitting, looking around and thinking, ‘What next?’ Races are like that, they make you, they break you, they inspire you and they take you to the lowest of the low and highest of the high. Plans are being made. What’s next?

It may very well be a new adventure, a new challenge, another race, maybe even recovery  but I know one thing,  all those who toed the line in the north of Wales a week a go will now be thinking of 2017 and contemplating coming back for more.

Like a Phoenix, the Dragon will rise from the ashes of 2015 and return in 2017.

Just one last question:

Can you tame the Dragon?

http://www.dragonsbackrace.com

Full results HERE

It’s extremely important to acknowledge the tireless help and devotion of all the volunteer marshals, kitchen staff and crew that made this race happen. They had their own ultra to undertake and events like this could not happen without them. In addition, sponsors provide an aid that facilitates the day-to-day functioning and feasibility of a race like this. Ohly pointed out his appreciation for Berghaus as a main sponsor, ‘Without them this event could not happen!’

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The Berghaus Dragons Back Race Day 5 2015 – Meet the Runners

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“Remember this day, for it will be yours for all time!” – King Leonidas

Today, 80 runners departed the final Berghaus Dragons Back Race 2015 start line. Battle scarred, they once again face another gruelling day; 56.5km and 2300m of vertical gain.

But who are these brave souls?

Take a look, 4 days of pain engrained on each face. It takes a special person to enter the Berghaus Dragons Back Race but it takes an extra special person to finish.

This race has thrown everything at the runners and in general, weather conditions have been good. Yes they have had rain, mist, clag and occasional strong winds but there has been no disaster days of torrential rain or storms.

It has been an inspiration to share the journey of so many and to document it. We look on in awe at the front of the race and how Jim Mann and Jasmin Paris (and others) can run so fast and effortlessly over such tough and challenging terrain. But Jezz Bragg summed it up for me at the end of day 3 when runners finished well into the night only to get a few hours sleep and then get up and do it all again:

‘These guys are the heroes. They are out all day from 6am, marching on and then they finish at 11pm. They have no rest, no recuperation, no time to eat properly, hydrate and just manage themselves; I couldn’t do it!’

Just last night, the last official runner completed the course in just a few minutes under 11 hours. He was told:

‘You need to start at 6am in the morning so that you have a fighting chance to make the afternoon cut off and complete the race.’

Without hesitation or grumble, they say ‘OK!’ and off they go.

It was never meant to be easy

I can confirm 100% that this race has not been easy, I would actually go as far as saying that this has been one of the toughest races I have worked on. It has been special.

As today draws to a close, the faces below will arrive at Carreg Cennen Castle having run the Dragons Back of Wales. I am looking forward to welcoming each and everyone of them at what will have been a life changing journey.

The Berghaus Dragons Back Race Day 4 2015 – Race Images

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Day 3 took its toll on the runners in the 2015 Berghaus Dragons Back Race and on the morning of day 4; over 50% of the field had withdrawn. It’s fair to say that the Dragons Back Race is one of the toughest multiday races in the world. The relentless terrain, continuous climbing and descending, navigation, sleep deprivation and long days really do make this a toughie!

However, the terrain changed today for day 4. Green fields and rolling hills replaced the dramatic and rugged landscape of the 3 previous days.

Rolling terrain and less vertical ascent does in principal equate to more runnable terrain. However, no matter how runnable the terrain may be, you still need the legs to run! As you can imagine, the runners left in the race do have somewhat sore legs!

After a cloudy start and slight drizzle, the sun slowly broke through the grey but it did take a while; the final hours of the day were baked in glorious sunshine.

Although beautiful, the day 4 course did not have the challenging terrain of the previous days and it was another long day at 64km with 2273m of vertical gain.

It was a routine day at the front of the race with the main protagonists from the previous 3 days confirming their status as the strongest runners in a quality and determined field. Unfortunately, the front of the race did loose a top contender!

 

Jez Bragg had had a tough day during day 3 with stomach issues and then during the night he had chills, sickness and little or no sleep. He did force some breakfast down and start the day but it soon became clear he was depleted. He reluctantly pulled out of the race.

Jim Mann obviously decided that his 1hour 30min lead over the rest of the field was enough and decided to run day 4 with 2nd overall and 1st lady, Jasmin Paris. Paris was a favourite coming into the Berghaus Dragons Back Race and she has excelled showing everyone a clean pair of heals everyday and in the process she has looked fresh and confident.

Beth Pascall and Lizzie Wraith both looked strong all day, Pascall said post race said, ‘I felt as though I couldn’t go any faster but then I hit the last section. All road! I decided I had to get that over with as soon as possible so I speeded up. Just goes to show, it’s all in the head!’

Wraith came into the race with a bug and had said that she was unsure how her week would go. Obviously it has gone well and just this morning, before the race started she said, ‘If I can finish top 10, I will be over the moon.’

Equally consistent at the front end of the action has been Konrad Rawlik and Damian Hall. Rawlik is 3hour 30min ahead of Hall so we have no fears of a last minute surge on the final day. That would take some serious navigation error!

Tomorrow is the final day! It’s fair to say that anyone who has now finished the first 4 days will finish day 5. Of course, there are no guarantees – a fall, an accident or a serious navigation error could stop all that but lets cross our fingers; believe me, everyone is going to deserve the finish line.

Results day 4

1 – Jim Mann 7:58:50

2 – Jasmin Paris 7:58:54

3 – Beth Pascall 8:27:31

4 – Konrad Rawlik 8:28:25

5 – Damian Hall 8:47:52

6 – Lizzie Wraith 9:11:03

7 – Owen Rees 9:42:01

8 – Jonas Mollare 9:45:26

9 – Lawrence Eccles 10:30:20

10 – Charlie Sharpe 10:38:38

 

The Berghaus Dragons Back Race Day 3 2015 – Race Images

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It is day 3 of the Berghaus Dragons Back Race and despite a very long day for all the competitors yesterday (53.9km), today they have a whopping 68.3km to cover. Ouch!

Needless to say the runners are exhausted and this is reflected in the current drop out rate of 30% (+/-.) This will change as today progresses! Early morning good weather had been replaced with clag, drizzle and colder temperatures. It’s a difficult combination to contend with; navigation will be considerably harder due to a lack of visibility and of course colder temperatures and wet increases the risk of hypothermia.

It was going to be tough.

Starting in a timing window of  0600 – 0900, the runners looked in good spirits as they climbed up to the first control at Gau Craig (683m.) Today they finished with a final climb of Pumlumon Fawr (752m) but before that, they have 5 peaks to ascend and descend and a total of 10 controls to meet.

An epic day and one that confirms the Berghaus Dragons Back Race as one of  the (if not THE) toughest events I have worked on.

From the early action, as one would expect, male leader Jim Mann and female leader Jasmin Paris looked the strongest. However, it was long day with some challenging navigation and in these conditions, anything could happen.

Lizzie Wraith and Beth Pascall both looked strong as they tried to close the gap on Paris and notably, Jez Bragg appeared to be getting stronger as the race progresses but this only lasted for so long as unfortunately Bragg’s stomach caused him issues during the day which really impacted on his pace.

Mann continued his dominance producing another spectacular performance and Pascall rallied producing the fastest time for the ladies just a couple of minutes ahead of race leader, Paris.

Konrad Rawlik and Jez Bragg once again ran consistent performances and placed 2nd and 3rd men but they were both beaten by Pascall and Paris.

Bragg said post race, ‘My stomach flared up. It can do that every now and again. I usually have it under control but on multiple days like this it can become fragile. Have to say, this is a seriously tough race. It is relentless! It’s also great to see the top 3 ladies doing so well; they are so consistent.’

So, although Mann is providing everyone a masterclass performance at the Berghaus Dragons Back Race, the ladies trio of Paris, Pascall and Wraith are providing some serious inspiration for all.

Day 4 is going to be another long day and as I write this, another 13 runners have retired from the race. Cut off is 2300 hours and I will update more tomorrow and provide an insight into the day 4 route.

Results Day 3

  1. Jim Mann 9:12:03 – 25:02:47
  2. Beth Pascall 9:42:50 – 28:20:17
  3. Jasmin Paris 9:44:26 – 26:37:06
  4. Konrad Rawlik 10:01:53 – 27:26:16
  5. Jezz Bragg 10:07:37 – 28:28:41
  6. Damian Hall 10:18:31 – 28:13:47

Lizzie Wraith was 10:20:09 – 30:31:40

Overall results after 3 days:

  1. Jim Mann 25:02:47
  2. Konrad Rawlik 27:26:16
  3. Damian Hall 28:13:47
  1. Jasmin Paris 26:37:06 (2nd overall)
  2. Beth Pascall 28:20:17
  3. Lizzie Wraith 30:31:40

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How is your Posture? Part Deux – Marc Laithwaite

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So last week we introduced the subject of ‘lordosis’ or ‘anterior pelvic tilt’ and how it impacts upon runners and triathletes. In the blog I stated that from my experience, athletes with lordosis or anterior tilt are at high risk of suffering the following injuries or problems:

  1. Lower back pain (pretty much always a link between lower back pain and anterior tilt of the pelvis).
  2. Constant tightness in the hamstrings (certainly can’t touch your toes!).
  3. Possible pain or tightness in the front of the hip/groin area.
  4. Potential cramp or spasm in the quads (front of your thighs), more common running downhill.
  5. Running ‘stitch’ (bearing in mind that a stitch is a word used to describe and pain in the abdominal region when running!!).
  6. Problems breathing (can’t breathe deep and have to breathe rapid and shallow), sometimes but not always coupled with stitch.
  7. For triathletes, these problems are worse when running after cycling (when running immediately after cycling your hamstrings are tight, get quad cramps and breathing difficulties or stitches).

The aim of today’s blog is to explain the potential reason why each of the above happen, linked to lordosis posture.

Some basic things to understand:

In last week’s blog we discussed that the pelvis can tilt forwards or backwards, dictated by which muscles are pulling and in which direction. The 4 muscle groups we discussed were:

1. Core abdominals
2. Lower back
3. Hamstrings (rear of thigh – including glutes)
4. Hip flexors (front of thigh / hip)

when you have lordosis posture we said that the hamstrings and hip flexors are tight, as are the lower back muscles. The core abdominals are generally weak.

Why are muscles tight?

It’s important to understand why muscles are tight, as there is more than just one reason. If you stretch a muscle and make it longer, you will inevitably make it tighter. It’s simple to understand, imagine a muscle is like an elastic band. Pull the elastic band and lengthen it, it gets tighter. However, muscles can become tight because then are shortened, NOT lengthened. Initially this doesn’t make sense, think about the elasatic band, if you stop pulling it and allow it to shorten, then it relaxes. Generally muscles will get tighter when stretched and lengthened and relax when shortened, but not in every case.

Shorter and tighter

Imagine if you put your leg in a plaster cast for 6 months with your knee bent at 90 degrees. When you bend your knee, this shortens the hamstring. When the day finally arrives to have the cast cut off, it’s unlikely that you will be able to straighten your leg. The reason for this is that the hamstring muscle has spent so long in a shortened position, it’s now stuck at that length! Here’s the critical thing, if muscles spend a long time in a shortened position, they eventually get used to that length and it becomes relatively permanent. The irony is that they were initially shortened, which made them relax. They got used to that shortened position, adjusted in length and eventually that makes them feel tight!!

Confused?

Let’s simplify this, some muscles get ‘stretched’ which makes them feel tight and some muscles get ‘shortened’ which makes them feel tight. It just anterior-pelvic-tiltdepends on whether you lengthen it (stretch it) or shorten it (and leave it shortened for a long period of time). Check out our image which we used last week, here’s what happens to our 4 muscle groups:

1. Hamstrings get pulled upwards (stretched) and this makes them feel tight.
2. The hip flexors are shortened and over time they adjust in length (feel tight)
3. The lower back muscles shorten and over time they adjust in length (feel tight)
4. The abdominals are stretched (you won’t feel this like stretched hamstrings)

Why am I getting the symptoms you’ve written above?

Ok, so at the start of this blog I listed the possible symptoms of lordosis. I think the 4 points directly above explain the reason for lower back pain, tight hamstrings and tightness in the front of the hip / groin area. Let’s just take a closer look at the lower back pain. How does the lower back pain feel? Does it feel tight (like a tight hamstring) or is it more of a sharp, disabling ‘spasm’?

Spasm or cramp?

We’re going off into weird territory now, but this is a really worthwhile discussion. When a muscle contracts very sharply (often painfully), we refer to this as a ‘spasm’ or sometimes we call it a ‘cramp’. They may sound different to you, but we tend to use the words interchangeably for the same thing, largely because we’re confused and really don’t fully understand what’s going on.

When people get cramp in running races, generally they are in a state of fatigue and often they blame a lack of salts. It’s unlikely that loss of salt is causing cramp, but that’s a whole scientific discussion we’re not going to have in this blog. Back to the point, when people are knackered, they start to cramp. Whether it’s 22 miles into the marathon, 95 miles into a bike ride, it happens when you’re tired, ran out of fuel, feel dehydrated and generally in an all round bad state.

Here’s an interesting question then, why do people sometimes get cramp in their feet whilst they sleeping? How vigorous is your sleeping? Do you need to be waking at regular intervals to take on board electrolyte drinks? If you’re a triathlete, you may well have suffered from calves cramping during the swim, especially in open water. How dehydrated and fatigued can you really be during the early stages of a triathlon swim? That doesn’t make sense at all.

Geeks will love this…

I’m not pretending to give you the definitive answer to this question, but here is an opinion and some ideas. At this point let’s introduce the subject of ‘stretch receptors’ and the ‘stretch reflex’. You have receptors in your muscles and they detect how much and how quickly a muscle is stretching. If they believe a muscle to be stretching too much and too quickly, they trigger a contraction to protect the muscle. The best example of this (you will all have experienced the action of the stretch receptors), is running along happily and suddenly going over on your ankle. As you roll your ankle, the muscles on the outside of your lower leg contract and pull the foot back into position. You hobble for the next few steps, before realising that you got away with it and the ankle is still in one piece. What happened in that split second was not a conscious decision, you didn’t note that you had rolled your ankle or think about trying to correct it, the whole episode ‘just happened’, it was a contraction triggered by the stretch receptors.

What’s this got to do with cramp (or spasm for that matter)

When cycling, your hip flexors are in a shortened position (if your thigh is close to your stomach, hip flexors are shortened. The more aero, the more they’re shortened). Sometimes if i’ve been riding my bike for several hours, when i unclip, step off and stand upright, i get a ‘spasm’ in my hip flexors. I usually ‘crunch forwards’ immediately and then in goes. The likely cause of that small hip flexor spasm is the fact that the muscle has been working in a very short position for several hours. Over that time, the stretch receptors become accustomed to that shortened length. At the end of the ride I suddenly stand up vertical and the hip flexors lengthen dramatically. The stretch receptors are confused, causing a panic response which is a sudden sharp contraction (my little spasm) and it’s done to try and stop me lengthening the hip flexors too much or to quickly.

I’ve had this response before. My saddle height was too high which meant that I cycled with my toes pointing down slightly (posh term is planter felxtion, you can have that one for the next pub quiz). As my toes pointed down slightly, the calf was in a shortened position until the end of the bike ride. When I jumped off and started to run, the calf was suddenly lengthened and my stretch receptors (who had become comfortable with the shortened position during the bike) were alarmed by this sudden change, so reacted the only way they knew how, they initiated a sharp contraction (my calves cramped). It’s worth pointing out that most triathletes will cycle with a slightly ‘toes down’ position, so this problem is common.

Another example, a slightly shorter friend of mine, who is often referenced in this blog did the Ironman triathlon a few years ago. During the swim his calf kept ‘cramping’ and when he got out of the swim onto dry land, it cramped severely to the point where he could not walk! If fact, the cramp was so severe, he coudn’t run the marathon later in the race (to be fair, he probably wouldn’t have been able to run it under any circumstances). During open water swimming, the toes are pointed (it’s that plantar flextion thingy again), this means the calf is in a shortened and relaxed position. It’s probable that the stretch receptors become comfortable to that shortened position and perhaps become a little confused with this sorter length. When the calf is suddenly lengthened or sometimes when it isnt’t legnthened at all, this confusion in muscle length means that the stretch receptors trigger a sudden contraction. Sometimes the contraction is so strong, it can tear the calf muscle (or any other muscle), this is why severe ‘cramp’ as people often refer to it as, can lead to pain for several days.

How is this linked to the subject of lordosis?

In the original list of symptoms, we listed hip flexor cramps and quadricep cramps. Anterior tilt causes shortening of the hip flexors and the spasm I mentioned above, when I get off my bike is caused by lordosis / anterior tilt. In terms of quad cramps, one of the 4 quadricep muscles acts as a hip flexor. It’s called Rectus Femoris and if it’s tight, it tilts the pelvis forwards. In fact, there’s a strong research link between Rectus Femoris and back problems. If you have an enterior tilt of the pelvis (e.g. running after cycling) the Rectus Femoris muscle is in a shortened position. Running downhill encourages an anterior tilt of the pelvis and I’ve spoken to several people who in triathlon events, have suffered ‘cramp’ in the quads, in particular running downhill. It generally involves both legs completely locking.

Here’s the thing. All of the above scenarios are relatively common and advice tends to favour ‘salts and electrolytes’ to prevent the ‘cramp’. There is a real case of cramp or spasm caused by fatigue and dehydration, such as the 22 miles point in a marathon, but that’s not the simple answer. If you take the common example of cramping calves in open water swimming, there’s no way on earth that’s caused by fatigue or salt loss, all of the above can be explain by unnatural shortening of muscles and confusion of the muscle spindles and nervous system, resulting in a sudden contraction.

Okay, I haven’t touched on the stitch or breathing issues. I’d not anticipated on rambling so much. I could get 4 weeks out of this, it’s turning out better than expected. Next week we’ll talk about corrective exercises and ways to stop these problems. The following weeks, we’ll look specifically at breathing issues and the dreaded ‘stitch’.

If you suffer from calves cramping during swimming, hip spasms getting off the bike during long rides, quads cramping or any of the above, then reply and let us know with a single line. We can then tailor next weel’s exercises to the reponses and problems you have.

If you found this blog useful or interesting, we’d really appreciate a share, re-post or retweet on social media.

Until next week, stay relaxed.

About Marc:

Sports Science lecturer for 10 years at St Helens HE College.

2004 established The Endurance Coach LTD sports science and coaching business. Worked with British Cycling as physiology support 2008-2008. Previous Triathlon England Regional Academy Head Coach, North West.

In 2006 established Epic Events Management LTD. Now one of the largest event companies in the NW, organising a range of triathlon, swimming and cycling events. EPIC EVENTS also encompasses Montane Trail 26 and Petzl Night Runner events.

In 2010 established Montane Lakeland 50 & 100 LTD. This has now become the UKs leading ultra distance trail running event.

In 2010 established The Endurance Store triathlon, trail running and open water swimming store. Based in Appley Bridge, Wigan, we are the North West’s community store, organising and supporting local athletes and local events.

Check out the endurance store HERE

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Skyrunning Mont-Blanc 80k 2015 Preview

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The 2014 edition of the Skyrunning Chamonix 80k proved to be a stunning and exciting race with Emelie Forsberg and Luis Alberto Hernando being crowned respective champions and in the process they also were crowned Skyrunning Ultra World Champions.

The 2015 edition of the race may not be a world championship but racing is expected to be just as fast and ferocious. Runners are travelling from all over the world to take part and as you may have expected we have a who’s who of Skyrunning toeing the line.

New for 2015 too is a tougher course! Yes, if the race wasn’t already tough enough. Changes have been made to avoid towns in favour of more secluded trails. It’s a stunning course with 6000m of vertical gain and it takes in Bel Achat, Brevent, Col de Montets, Buet, Col de la Terrasse, Tre les Eaux, Aiguillette des Posettes, Montenvers, Mer de Glace, Plan d’Aiguille and of course the wonderful finish in Chamonix.

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In the men’s race several names stand out. Dakota Jones fresh from a top placing at Transvulcania will be looking to establish a grip on the race and recently has been training in the area with 2014 ladies champion, Emelie Forsberg. Unfortunately Dakota is injured.©iancorless.com-0271Kima2014_

Manuel Merillas is a rising star in the Skyrunning world after an incredible 2014. All looked to be going well at Transvulcania in May when he was racing with the front 5, however, it all became too much and he eventually finished outside the top 10. Manuel bounced back remarkably well placing on the podium just one week later at Zegama-Aizkorri. He is podium material for sure; he just needs to get his pacing right for the longer distance.

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Hardrock 100 champion (2013) and UTMF winner Sebastien Chaigneau needs no introduction to a French or Chamonix audience. His face is synonymous with the area after repeated runs at UTMB. He placed 2nd in 2009 and 3rd in 2011. He knows the trails in and around Chamonix so well. However, 2014 was a tough year for Seb, we can only hope that he is 100% fit for the 80km. If he is, he is without doubt one to watch.

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Alex Nichols is an ever present on the Skyrunning circuit and his confidence will be high after a top 10 placing at the IAU world trail championships in Annecy.

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Aurelien Dunand-Pallaz had a good run in Chamonix in 2014 and recently placed 10th at Transvulcania. I see him looking for a top 10 once again in the 80k and if his day goes well top 5 may be a possibility but I don’t see him contending the podium.

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Pablo Villa may well dish up a surprise? Since a breakthrough performance at Transvulcania in 2014, he moved to Salomon and that almost certainly has boded well. One to watch!

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My last tip is Cristofer Clemente who placed on the podium just last week at Ultra SkyMarathon Madeira and on the podium at Sai Kung MSIG 50k. He is on the up at the moment and his performance in Chamonix will all depend on his powers of recovery.

Catlow ShipeckPascal GiguetDavid PasquioFranco ColleDan DohertyStuart Air and Francois Favre are all names that will add fire to the front of the race.

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The ladies race all looks about 3 people with Dong Li, Mira Rai and Hillary Allen as the main contenders for the podium. The proximity of the IAU world championships in Annecy and Skyrunning’s Ice Trail Tarentaise (in 2 weeks) have impacted on who was available to take on this tough Chamonix course.

Mira Rai has had a sting of high profile victories recently and is without doubt a hot favourite. Mira burst onto the scene in 2014 with victory at the Mustang Trail Race. Recent results are 3rd at Buffalo Stampede, 1st at MSIG HK50 and MSIG Lantau 50.

Dong Li has all the potential to upset Mira’s plans for the top of the podium and in all honesty, a longer race may well fall into her hands. Dong Li won TNF 100 in Australia and placed 3rd at Transgrancanaria.

Hillary Allen is not a lady who I have met on the run circuit, however, I am aware of her 5th place at The Rut (50k) in 2014 and she also placed 4th at Speedgoat 50k. Past records show that 50k or 50 miles are Hillary’s preferred distance so this 80km may well stretch her. This is no ordinary 80k course.

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Racing starts in the early hours of Friday 26th June and you will be able to follow online via the Skyrunning Facebook page and on Twitter @skyrunnning_com

A list of entrants is available HERE

The Berghaus Dragons Back Race Day 2 2015 – Race Images

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What a day! Wales looked magnificent in bathed in glorious sunshine but as you can imagine, running 50km+ in intense heat over some of the most gruelling terrain is not a match made in heaven.

Runners struggled and buckled.

However, Jim Mann once again made what is extremely tough look relatively easy. He finished the day in 8 hours! At control 1, the summit of Cnicht, runners appeared in dribs and drabs due to the staggered start. Mann, starting last rocketed up and as he ran past us he was made aware of his time. His response was cal calculated, ‘Good, looks like I am gaining time!’ He then proceeded to come off the clearly defined trail and turned right down the scree slopes using his navigation skills to the full.

Ultimately, it was day that was all about the ladies; Jasmine Paris, Beth Pascall and Lizzie Wraith all embraced the terrain, the heat and the course and finished within the top 5. Jez Bragg also had a great day, ‘I’m feeling better today, the legs are feel good and I’m finding my pace.’

Unfortunately, Konrad Rawlik and Ed Catmur had tough days. Catmur fell while running in a strong position at the front of the race which resulted with a visit to hospital with a leg wound. Rowlock finished the day but looked dejected. He started the day 2nd overall but the terrain took its toll on his knees and he struggled.

‘Today was a tougher day than in 2012 as day 1 was made a little easier,’ said Shane Ohly race director. ‘It has been a very tough day, relentless some may say and of course the heat added to the severity.’

Camp 2 is in Llanelltyd in the grounds of Tymer Abbey. It’s quite the setting! Hot food is being consumed in vast quantities, cake and custard eaten in multiples of 2 or 3 and to top it all, as each runner finished, Ohly had an ice cream waiting for them.

Tomorrow is a big day. Read into that what you will but we can conform that the course will be 68km with 3700m+

My advise to the runners is sleep and sleep as soon as possible! They are going to need all the recovery time as possible.

Top 6 day 2

  1. Jim Mann 8:00
  2. Jasmin Paris 8:41
  3. Jez Bragg 9:03
  4. Konrad Rawlik 9:12
  5. Beth Pascall 9:29
  6. Damian Hall 9:42

Overall Results

  1. Jim Mann
  2. Jasmin Paris
  3. Konrad Rawlik
  4. Damian Hall
  5. Jez Bragg
  6. Beth Pascall
  7. Andre Jonsson
  8. Alexander Beaven
  9. Jonas Mollare
  10. Owen Rees

Ladies:

  1. Jasmin Paris
  2. Beth Pascall
  3. Lizzie Wraith

The Berghaus Dragons Back Race Day 1 2015 – Race Images

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MANN ON FIRE – Day 1 The Berghaus Dragons Back Race 2015

Jim Mann took the fire out of the Dragon and blazed a trail on day 1 of the Berghaus Dragons Back Race. Mann crossed the line to record a time of 7:49 almost 1 hour ahead of predicted time. Post race apparently was heard to say, ‘I was taking it easy today to safe myself!’ That is a worrying sign for the other competitors.

Andre Jonsson finished 2nd 11 minutes behind Mann; a great run! However, it was interesting to hear how Jonsson’s fatigue compared to Mann on the line. He has his work cut out if he hopes to topple Mann.

The weather is always a significant factor in any mountain race and it was an up and down day of rain showers, clag, cloud and sun. When the sun came out it was incredible to see; particularly for those runners who were on Crib Goch.

Jasmine Paris (8:11) placed 1st lady and crossed the line with Konrad Rawlik, Ed Catmur and Damian Hall just behind. Steve Birkinshaw was next to finish running day 1 as a single stage for the Berghaus relay team. The Spine female winner, Beth Pascall (9:07) looked strong all day and finished 2nd. Lizzie Wraith was 3rd lady in 10:06.

Day 1 camp is in Nant-Gwynant and as per all Ourea Events; all runners are looked after with homemade fresh food, constant tea and coffee supplies and an abundance of cake. In contrast to other Ourea Events, participants do not need to provide their own ten, Berghaus as race sponsor have provided large 8 man tents and runners sleep together similar to bivouac at the Marathon des Sables.

As I write this runners are still out on the course and therefore we can only update on retirements when the 2300 cut off has elapsed. However, one of the pre race favourites, Pavel Paloncy (Spine winner) took a fall and has had to retire.

Day 2 will have a staggered start with runners departing between a window of 0600 and 0900. Start times are based on finishing times from day 1.

All times are provisional and will be confirmed in due course.