How to Run Faster and Longer

Harder, better, faster, stronger is more than just a Daft Punk song. It’s what so many people want to achieve with their own conditioning, fitness, and strength. This might explain why the term “how to run faster” is searched for approximately 33,000 times on Google per month (with nearly three billion search results).

People are always looking for that extra edge, and running faster is an edge in almost any sport you can name.

Tips on How to Run Faster and Longer

What most people will find, though, is that there is no magic pill or secret formula to running faster. Anyone wondering how to run faster and longer won’t be surprised at the answer: hard work sustained over time. More specifically, athletes need to sustain hard work in a few key areas:

Focus on Technique

One of the things that sprinters work on over and over again is their start off the line. Long distance runners will focus heavily on form, too. Why? Because technique—efficiency of motion, essentially—can shave seconds off our times, allowing us to be as fast we possibly can be. If you want to run faster and longer, it’s important to not only get out there and practice, but to practice the right way. This starts with proper running technique.

Add Elevation and Altitude

Improving output and conditioning means introducing new challenges to your workouts. Working hill or altitude training can teach your body to do more with less oxygen—to perform under increased gravitational strain. Head to your local hiking trails, or choose the mountains for your next trips so you can get some alpine runs in. This will improve both your respiratory strength, lending to better short-term and long-term endurance.

Improve Your Core Strength

Your core is the epicenter of all movements. Gains in speed and endurance will not come without a solid core. Make sure you dedicate time to both static (planks and wall sits, for example) and dynamic (medicine ball workouts, for example) abdominal workouts. This will help you not only run faster and longer, but to perform better overall.

Recruit Your Fast-twitch Muscles

Fast-twitch muscles are the muscles you use for short bursts of high intensity movement, such as sprints, jumps, and even throwing a punch. Developing your fast-twitch muscles will train your body to recruit more of these muscles and improve your running, especially in the speed and quickness department. Sprints, lateral motion drills, and agility exercises, along with plyometric circuit work can make for a very effective fast-twitch exercise program.

Tools that Help Runners Push the Limits

There are a number of tools that can help runners push the limits. For starters, many high-performance athletes will use a heart rate monitor. By understanding their different heart rate zones, they can keep their bodies in hard and maximum zones to tap into their anaerobic system.

Other athletes will employ special training masks that simulate running at altitude. Athletes can wear these masks during their normal workouts to improve respiratory strength, another key aspect of one’s speed and conditioning (see hill and altitude training above).

Finally, treadmills allow runners to control speed and elevation for optimized workouts. Special treadmills, such as the AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill™ line of produces, enable athletes to train beyond their maximum capacity—“overspeed training,” as it is commonly known. Using unweighting technology to reduce injury risk, an athlete can train approximately 8% to 13% faster than his or her maximum speed.

Read more about using the Anti-Gravity Treadmill to improve running.

Training Teenage Athletes with AlterG

For so many collegiate and professional athletes, learning and development begins during the teenage years. Start ‘em young, as the saying goes. And for good reason: training teenage athletes provides an opportunity to not only get them moving, but to help them learn the correct movements. This can put them ahead of the game (literally) as they become more competitive in college and beyond.

Training is Learning

Yet, training teenage athletes is about more than just learning how to play a sport competitively. It’s about learning the fundamental forms that athletes will use over and over again throughout the rest of their lives, no matter which sport they decide to play.

From bodyweight exercises, like push-ups, free squats, and lunges, to the fundamentals of walking, running, and lateral motion, establishing the correct fundamentals can help athletes perform at a higher level. More importantly, it can help athletes avoid injury that might result from bad technique. Here’s a few common approaches:

  • Repetition and drills
  • Half- to three-quarter-speed simulations
  • Recording and reviewing video with a coach or trainer

Gait Analysis and Training with AlterG

More often than not, teenage athletes tend to be unfamiliar with moving under the strain of added weight and resistance. When faced with these situations, they will often forget fundamentals, hence the tendency to develop bad habits. They might know how to sprint at 100% effort, for example, but they don’t necessarily know how to control their bodies while sprinting at 100% effort. Add in the pressure of official competition, and the challenge becomes even greater.

Learning proper movement and correcting anomalies is one of the common use cases of the AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill™. Many physical therapy clinics throughout the United States, as well as collegiate and professional sports teams, leverage our treadmills to train teenage athletes in a controlled environment that helps limit injury risk.

More specifically, Stride Smart Gait Assessment Technology can be used by certified physical therapists to not only help monitor and identify gait abnormalities, but to show the athlete incorrect movements in real-time. What a difference it makes for an athlete to actually see the improvements they need make. It makes self-correcting that much easier. And it can help avoid the development of bad habits.

3 Tips for Building Fast Twitch Muscles

Sprint faster. Be more explosive off the line. Increase agility and quickness. These common goals cannot be achieved without the development of fast-twitch muscles. What are fast-twitch muscles, you ask? The difference between fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscles has a lot to do with the intensity of movement sustained over time.

If a person were to hold an abdominal plank for a two minutes, for example, or do a wall sit for five minutes, they would be developing and using  (mostly) slow-twitch muscles. When it comes to slow-twitch, think endurance.

Fast-twitch muscle fibers, on the other hand, are activated by high intensity movements sustained in short bursts. Examples include sprints, burpees, and quick lateral movements. Many activities, such as boxing and basketball, incorporate both slow-twitch and fast-twitch fibers.

How to Build Fast-Twitch Muscle

In many ways, building fast-twitch muscles is about diversifying your workouts. The idea is to introduce activities that force the body to recruit fast-twitch muscle fibers it might not otherwise use. Here are three tips to help you do just that:

  1. Expand your strength training – Resistance training is an important cornerstone of most fitness regimens. Incorporate more fast-twitch movements by performing reps at a faster rate, or working in exercises like power clean and snatch. 
  2. Sprints and agility drills – Straight sprints can be quite boring. Try adding changes in motion to your sprint routine, such as there-backs or three-point agility drills. Sprint up and down a flight of stairs. Incorporate resistance bands or perform explosive movements underwater. You can also recruit new muscle fibers by borrowing from sports you don’t even play, but that rely on good agility, such as football, soccer, and gymnastics.  
  3. Work in some plyometrics – Plyometrics are all about quick, powerful expansions and contractions of a given muscle or muscle group. The burpee is a classic (and timeless!) example. You might also consider explosive bodyweight exercises such as jump squats, split-squat lunges, or plyo push-up. Military training and crossfit programs are famous for incorporating plyometric exercises, so start there if you need ideas.

Pushing the Boundaries Safely

You’ll notice that building fast-twitch muscle fibers often requires pushing your body beyond the limits you are used to. While beneficial in many ways, this also introduces increased injury risk.

Athletes of the highest levels often perform these exercises in controlled environments, or under the supervision of certified professionals. Tools like the AlterG® Anti-Gravity Treadmill can be used, for example, to limit injury risk and body-weight impact during highly strenuous sprinting exercises.

Regardless of how you choose to build fast-twitch muscles, remember that no workout regimen is exclusive of your diet and sleep regimen. Your ability to perform these workouts without injury, as well as to recover properly after taxing workouts, is just as important to building fast-twitch muscle fibers as the exercises themselves.

When a Parent Suffers a Stroke

There are certain phone calls we never want to get, especially as our parents age. Finding out that a parent has had a stroke is among the worst. Immediately the questions begin swirling. What kind of stroke and how severe was it? How much cognitive and motor function was lost?

What will the stroke recovery process look like?

All valid and important questions to ask after such a phone call, one that, unfortunately, is far too common. According to the Internet Stroke Center, stroke is the leading cause of serious, long-term disability in the United States.

What to Do When a Family Member Has a Stroke

The stroke recovery process will begin in the hospital. Immediate and constant monitoring is usually necessary to help stabilize a stroke patient, assess the damage, and then develop a long-term plan for rehabilitation. This will involve a team of physicians, including neurologists, physical therapists, and other specialists. The time needed for convalescing will vary depending on the severity of the stroke.

As family members of a stroke victim, there are a few things we can do lend a hand throughout the stroke recovery process:

Be There for Them

At this time, it’s important to support the stroke victim. The easiest way to do so is to be by their side. Not only can you help them through this difficult time; but you can stay abreast of the latest information from the medical team, including outlook, treatment, and next steps.

Inform the Family

Reach out to family members to inform them of the event and to enlist their support. Visits. Food. A shoulder to cry on, a person to talk to. The stroke recovery process will “take a village,” and no single family member should be expected to shoulder the load alone.

Educate Yourself

Being able to identify stroke and understanding the treatment and recovery process will help you not only support your loved one, but cope with the trauma yourself. Here are some solid resources for stroke awareness and education:

Be an Advocate
Stroke education goes hand in hand with being an advocate for your parent after they suffer a stroke. In hospitals, the saying goes “squeaky wheel gets the oil first.” It’s up to you and your family to ask timely and relevant questions and communicate on behalf of the stroke victim. Stroke recovery is a long, multifaceted process—the opportunities for patient advocacy are plenty. Here are some considerations you’ll likely have to make:

  • Procedures or surgeries needed
  • Medication schedule
  • Fall risk and stroke repeat risk
  • Next step after the hospital
  • Home modifications
  • Post-discharge caregiving needs
  • Insurance considerations
  • Power of attorney
  • Living will and testament

What to Expect During Stroke Rehabilitation

Typically, stroke patients will transition from their inpatient care facility to either inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation. This is when the stroke patient begins the arduous work of relearning motor and speech skills, redeveloping cognitive function, and learning to live with any permanent damage caused by the stroke.

Stroke rehabilitation typically breaks down into three general areas:

  • Speech therapy 
  • Occupational therapy 
  • Physical therapy

During rehabilitation, therapists will make periodic assessments to help make recommendations for insurance companies, discharge, and post-therapy options. Therapists will also perform assessments on a patient’s ability to operate vehicles and return to work.

Because stroke events can severely affect balance and coordination, the rehabilitation process often includes specialized tools. The AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill™ for example, is sometimes deployed during stroke rehabilitation to enable patients to exercise while limiting fall risk. Physical therapists can also use video monitoring to deliver fine-tuned therapy sessions.

It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint

A wise doctor once said, “there are no minor strokes.” Every stroke is different, and every stroke patient will follow a different path to rehabilitation and recovery. It will never be easy—not for the patient, nor the patient’s family.

From the family’s perspective, there will be a lot of coping and psychological impact. Seeing a parent who was active for so many years lose function is tough. And there is a tendency for family members to shoulder more burden than is healthy or sustainable.

It is important that no one family member bear the burden alone. It’s also important to talk with other family members, seek support and additional information where necessary. Taking care of ourselves, leaning on the people close to use, and being good advocates are the best ways we can best support our parents through this difficult life event.

Back to School! How to Deal with Youth Sports Injuries

First, the bad news: summer is nearly over. Sigh. For parents, this means everything is about to get a whole lot busier—everything. Back to school preparations. Rides to and from activities, sports, and clubs.  

With everything going on, the last thing parents need is an injury or illness. A kid coming down with the flu is one thing. But a broken leg suffered at soccer practice is something different altogether.

Avoiding youth sports injuries, and understanding how to deal with them when they do happen, is a major consideration for any parent. Here are some important considerations.

Thinking of Getting Your Child Involved in Youth Sports?

Good on you! There are many benefits to participating in youth sports. Apart from helping kids stay healthy and fit, kids can also find fulfillment in the camaraderie and socialization that comes with being part of a team. According to the National Council of Youth Sports, youth sports can boost physical health, social well-being, psychological health, and even academic performance.

Yet, youth sports are not without risk. Stanford Children’s Health highlights some eye-opening injury statistics youth sports:

  • Approximately 30 million children and teens participate in organized sports, resulting in more than 3.5 million injuries annually (United States) 
  • Approximately 21 percent of all traumatic brain injuries among American children are the result of sports and rec activities

The riskiest sports? In an article in TODAY, Dr. Bennet Omalu listed American football, ice hockey, mixed martial arts, boxing, wrestling, and rugby as sports to avoid until the age of 18. And though contact sports carry higher risk, a child can suffer an injury no matter what sport they play.

Common Youth Sports Injuries

The most common injuries will vary by sport. Common basketball injuries, for example, will likely differ from those of swimming. Generally speaking, there are two types of youth sports injuries:

  • Acute
  • Overuse

Acute injuries are usually the result of collision or a certain movement. Examples of acute injury include fractures, sprains, and contusions. Overuse injuries, on the other hand, result from repetitive motions and repeated stress put on a particular part of the body. Tennis elbow is a good example, as is tendonitis.

How to Reduce the Risk of Youth Sports Injuries

There are a number of precautions that parents can take with their children to prevent youth sports injuries. We’ve organized them into three broad categories:

  • Diet and hydration. A child’s nutrition impacts their everyday life, including sports performance. Without proper nutrition and hydration, the body does not have what it needs to stay strong and resilient during athletic activity. This contributes directly to injury risk. 
  • Preparation. There is a reason we stretch before going out for a run, or exercise at the gym. If we just jumped right into it, we’d likely injure ourselves. The games for youth sports, where stretching, strength and conditioning, and practice can help limit injury risk. 
  • Protection. Helmets, pads, and other protective gear is crucial, even during practice. This is especially true for contact sports like American football.

My Child Suffered an Injury – Now What?

Many common injuries do not require any kind of escalation. The old formula—rest, ice, compression, elevation (RICE)—will usually suffice. RICE and time.

When a child suffers an acute or overuse injury that requires therapy, however, you might consider physical therapy. Finding the right therapist will require a little work. We recommend look for clinics that specialize in sports rehabilitation and pediatric therapy.

You might also refine your search based on what tools and approaches a clinic uses. Some clinics leverage the Anti-Gravity Treadmill™ for pediatric rehab, helping adolescents overcome pain resulting from sports injury or other conditions. The best way to find out is to just ask.

AlterG® Anti-Gravity Treadmill and Youth Sports Injuries

Whether it’s a young person or seasoned professional, the AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill can be highly effective in rehab for athletes. Using unweighting technology, the Anti-Gravity Treadmill can be fine tuned to enable rehab while limiting the risk of re-injury or discomfort. Plus, what better way to convince kids to go to the physical therapist than to tell them they’ll get to walk on air!

Yes, the fall is here. The best way for parents to prepare for the bumps and bruises to come (and they will come!) is to stay informed and be prepared. Information is power, and knowing what to do when youth sports injuries do happen can help shorten rehab cycles and get kids back on the playing field sooner rather than later.

 

Get to Know the AlterG® Video Monitoring System

What makes the difference between a three-week recovery time and a six-week recovery time? Between a highly effective rehab cycle, and a less than optimal one? The answer largely depends on the extent to which physical therapists and patients can collaborate. This is true during injury rehabilitation, advanced athletic training, or stroke recovery.

In each of these therapy scenarios, gait assessment plays a central role in the pace and progress of rehab. Fortunately, there are many tools today that help automate certain aspects of gait assessment and facilitate patient/therapist collaboration. In our last post, we took a closer look at Stride Smart, our integrated gait assessment technology.

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