Ask the Coach - Page 2
Considering the Big Zero (Drop)
I have calf problems and chronic Achilles tendonitis and I’ve heard transitioning into zero-drop running shoes can help. Fact or wishful thinking?
—Gerald Madler, Columbus, GA
Chronic Achilles tendonitis is an inflammatory condition caused by trauma or overuse to the largest tendon in the body. Relief requires allowing the micro-tears to heal and inflammation to reduce, which means ... time off—the remedy no runner wants to hear.
Says Dr. Ray McClanahan, sports podiatrist and founder of Northwest Foot & Ankle, “Zero- drop shoes can be helpful in restoring Achilles tendon and calf health, but should be used appropriately and in combination with a proper training plan, including gradual changes in both training volume and intensity.” I usually transition my clients with progressive barefoot walking and grass sprints. The goal is to build strong, healthy and injury-resistant lower legs.
Using footwear with an extreme differential between heel and toe (like 14mm) may actually shorten your Achilles tendon. Although rapidly changing, this design still encompasses most conventional shoes on the market.
Recovering on the Run?
My understanding is that a recovery run is an easy run the day after a serious training effort. Is there really a benefit to running as recovery, or is it better to do a non-running activity such as cycling? Is a recovery run just a way to keep your weekly mileage up, or is there more to it than that?
—Ian Rodrigues, Bradford, ONT
Since athletes vary greatly in genetics, physiology and athletic history, a one-size-fits- all approach to recovery is difficult to prescribe. For example an athlete who is at the end of peak week might be teetering on becoming injured; a recovery run could push him over the brink. Another runner who is in the early stages of a training program and has years of experience might feel great after a hard effort, having caused no significant structural damage. The former might need either a whole day off or a recovery bike ride. The latter can probably benefit from a recovery run.
I like to have trail runners reduce the pounding by occasionally spinning easy on a bike or swimming for active recovery sessions. These athletes are of varying ability, but are usually pushing the upper limits of their run volume. The goal is to get blood flowing to your muscles (to quicken recovery), but not put more trauma on your tendons and joints.
Coach Hal Higdon, author of 34 books, including the best-selling Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide, takes an antagonistic view of cross training for recovery, however, saying, “You may convert what should be an ‘easy’ day to a ‘hard’ day by using different muscles and miss the benefit you get from resting your body to get it ready for the next hard running workout.” If you are nailing all your important workouts through the week, don’t stress out on your recovery run. Listening to your body and knowing when it can handle one, and when it can’t, is the key.