Saturday, July 28, 2007

Conditioning for Runners: The Javorek Dumbell Complex

Looking for a new way to improve your running or overall fitness but can’t spend the money or time to go to the gym? Here is a routine that you can do at home recommended to me by Al Sapa, a successful high school coach in Wisconsin who uses these exercises with his athletes. Al recommends Javorek Dumbell Complex Conditioning as a great weight-room alternative for distance runners in particular who may feel intimidated but desperately need some form of muscular conditoning.

According to Istvan Jarvorek, a Romanian born strength coach who developed Dumbell and Barbell Complex Conditioning, “the main purposes for these exercises were to figure out an easier way to do an exercise complex which would change the monotomy of a workout and at the same time have a greater influence on the neuro-muscluar and osteo-muscular system.”

In a nutshell, the Jarvorek Dumbell Complex requires non-stop lifting of very light weights , cycling through a series of exercises that recruit major muscle groups. The routines may look easy, but even 2# and 3# dumbells will be difficult for most beginners.

Javorek stresses the following: perfect body posture, full range of motion, perfect technique of execution, and stable rhythm of execution. Al recommends starting with 2 or 3 pound dumbells. Here are the exercises used in Dumbell Complex I:

Dumbbell Upright Row X 6 reps

Dumbbell High Pull Snatch X 6 reps

Dumbbell Squat Push Press X 6 reps

Dumbbell Bent Over Row X 6 reps

Dumbbell High Pull Snatch X 6 reps

The idea is to perform these exercises in non-stop, continuous order. Start with 1 set, increasing to 2-3 sets as you get stronger. For even greater stimulation increase the number of repetitions up to 12 each set or increase the weight. Finally you can use more advanced routines developed by Jarvorek.

Here are pictures and a videoclip of how to perform each exercise correctly. For further information, you can visit Jarvorek’s website. As with all forms of training, consistency and progression are important keys for optimal results.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

You Don't Have to Be Thin to Be Fit- at least on a bike!

If your fitness activity is non-weight bearing such as in cycling or rowing, you can improve your fitness tremendously without accompanying weight loss. Read this great article called the Bicycling Paradox: Fit Doesn't Have to Mean Thin, by Gina Kolata and published in the New York Times.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Ethiopian Training Secrets

Do you want to run faster? I've always believed that you have to see what the winners are doing and how they are training. has done just that.

A summary of their findings on Ethiopian distance training:

1. Training for speed- sprint drills, 50 meter strides at most or all training

2. Hills, hills, and more hills. Steep, short hills, performed without losing proper form or stride frequency.

3. Plyometric training. Bounding, skipping, bouncing, and other drills to improve the ability to absorb each foot landing and generate greater force upon take-off.

Check out ScienceOfSport for this and other great articles.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Children and Strength Training

"If children or adolescents undertake a strength training program, they should begin with low-resistance exercises until proper technique is learned. When 8 to 15 repetitions can be performed, it is reasonable to add weight in small increments. Exercises should include all muscle groups and be performed through the full range of motion at each joint. To achieve gains in strength, workouts need to be at least 20 to 30 minutes long, take place a minimum of 2 to 3 times per week, and continue to add weight or repetitions as strength improves. There is no additional benefit to strength training more than 4 times per week."

- Strength Training by Children and Adolescents, American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement, 2001

For years we've been told that children should avoid lifting weights at a young age because of potential damage to joints or growth plates. While this type of injury is extremely rare, it's a good idea to hold off on serious weight training until high school. Pre adolescent children should be encouraged to perfom body weight exercises such as push-ups and crunches, along with calisthenics and light dumbell work.

Once they've reached high school, teens can begin a supervised, progressive weight training program if they desire to do so.

If you think it's dangerous for your children to work their muscles, consider the consequences of spending their entire childhood in front of a televison or computer monitor.

(c) Dave Elger 2007 All rights reserved.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Core Strength Training for Runners - Does it really help?

Core strength training has been one of the new additions to distance running training programs. Advocates believe that a strong core translates to better running and resistance to injury.

Here is the first study I've seen on the subject. Thomas Nesser, an assistant professor of Physical Education at Indiana State University, found only a slight correlation between torso stability and performance (sprinting and strength).

My personal opinion on the subject of core strength training is this- let's test core strength of the top Kenyan and Ethiopian distance runners. Until they are found to be significantly stronger than their slower counterparts, I am not buying into the hype.

Alan Webb is the king of core strength training and is now running great, but I suspect his performance can be attributed to his running workouts more than his core workouts.

Fundamental abdominal and back extension strength exercises are probably all most of us have the time for or need. Distance, intervals and proper running form still make up the foundation for better times.

(c) Dave Elger 2007 All rights required.

Post-Run Ice Immersion Perhaps Not a Great Idea

CONCLUSIONS: "The protocol of ice-water immersion used in this study was ineffectual in minimising markers of DOMS in untrained individuals."

Go here to read a summary of the article published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine

Barefoot Science Insoles

“Barefoot Science presents a unique approach to the maintenance of proper foot biomechanics. As a user with an injured foot and ankle, I am now able to generate ground reaction forces and a functional push off. "

-Peter J. Fowler, MD FRCS(C), Past president of the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine 2002-2003 Medical Director of the Fowler Kennedy Sports Medicine Clinic at the University of Western Ontario

“As you know, I have been using your product on my patients for two years now, in approximately 1600 cases, with nothing less than spectacular results."

-Bruce Comstock, DC, Author, Weight Training Safely - The F.I.T.S. Way

“Barefoot Science philosophies are based on sound medical and scientific principles, common sense, and provide a vastly superior understanding of foot function when compared to conventional views."

-Thomas D. McClain, MD ABOS AAOS, American Board of Orthopedic Surgery

I've been suffering from left foot pain for several months now- on the inside of the foot between the arch and the heel bone. Always on the lookout for new products, I came across the Barefoot Science Foot Strengthening System.

The System is actually a soft insert that "works inside the shoe like a rehabilitative exercise program to safely and naturally stimulate, strengthen, and restore healthy foot function, optimizing comfort and performance. The stabilized foot and improved muscle function facilitate optimal bone alignment, not only in the foot, but up through the body."

They come with 5 plugs that fit into the bottom, so you start at 1 and work your way up.

Currently I am going on my second full week, and I have to admit they do feel better than any over the counter insoles I've tried.

I'll post updates on how I am doing, but like most other overuse pains cross-training is probably the ideal recipe.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Alberto Salazar Survives Heart Attack Scare

"I found a guy laying on the ground and not doing well," Barahona said. "He was blue. He was trying to breathe, but he wasn't breathing effectively. I rolled him over and checked for his pulse. He didn't have a pulse."

If you have not heard by now, former running great Alberto Salzar suffered a heart attack on June 30th. Still lean and fit running about 30 miles a week at 48 years of age, it would seem highly unlikely that he could have heart disesae.

This is not the first time that Alberto has experienced a life-threatening problem. Back in 1978, he collapsed at the finish line of the Falmouth Road Race with a core body temperature measured at 107 degrees F and given last rites. In 1982 was the "Dual in the Sun" with Dick Beardsley at the Boston Marathon. He edged Beardlsey for the win, but was taken to the hosptial immediately following the race for 6 liters of intraveneously fluid. Alberto is now a successful distance running coach heading up the NIKE Oregon Project in Portland.

We do not know about other coronary risk factors such as high blood pressure and cholesterol, but certainly he did not smoke. He probably could be classified as a Type A personality, but most significant is the fact that both grandfathers had heart disease. Sometimes that is all it takes.

Thankfully, and lucky for Alberto, he survived again, but not without help. A local ER physician along with a former combat medic were able to perform CPR until the EMTs arrived, who jolted Salazar 4 times with a defibrillator before establishing a normal heart beat.

He was back coaching 9 days later.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Ibuprofen found to increase oxidative stress in runners

Ibuprofen has also been found to increase oxidative stress in ultra-runners, according to this study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. Higher oxidative stress undoubtedly translates into fatigue, greater tear-down, and longer recovery.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Ibuprofen- Friend or Foe?

The other day I was chatting with a new young friend with a passion for running- turns out he also played high school basketball and happened to ask me what I knew about ibuprofen. It seems it was common practice for his teammates to pop 800 mg before games and who knows how much after.

The practice of taking over the counter anti-inflammatories is not uncommon among high school athletes. One survey found 75% of high school football players used them.

Since it was approved by the FDA as an over-the-counter drug in 1984, ibuprofen has been thought of as a harmless yet effective way to relieve pain related to such maladies as arthritis, joint pain, toothache, headache, sports injury, fever, or general muscle pain due to overuse. In the military, ibuprofen has been standard issue for years in first aid kits and used extensively by soldiers hoping to ward off the inevitable muscle soreness following a long march or “hump” (hence the nickname “grunt candy”).

Ibuprofen can be your friend and is considered safe and effective if taken for a few days at a time or as prescribed by your doctor. When using over-the-counter ibuprofen such as Motrin, take exactly as recommended on the container. The maximum dose for over-the-counter ibuprofen is no more than 1200 mg in one 24 hour period (one or two 200 mg tablets taken every 4-6 hours).

Professional athletes, once notorious for popping ibuprofen and other pain killers like candy, nowadays are wary since two of their own, Sean Elliot of the San Antonio Spurs and Alonzo Mourning of the Miami Heat, underwent kidney transplants. Mourning is convinced that his kidneys were damaged by years of taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as ibuprofen. According to this article, another athlete, former Seattle Seahawk football player Kenny Easley, thinks he lost a kidney because during one stretch in his playing days he took up to 32 ibuprofen tablets a day.

The National Kidney Foundation estimates that 10% of kidney failures are due to "substantial overuse of NSAIDS." While doctors and the Kidney Foundation both maintain that there is no established link between the kidney condition afflicting Mourning and Elliot, called focal segmental sclerosis, and use of anti-inflammatory drugs, players around the league remain unconvinced.

Since it is sold as an over-the-counter drug without a prescription, ibuprofen is generally thought of as safe. However, when taken under extreme conditions that may promote dehydration, in excess, or for long periods of time, it can cause health problems.

NSAIDs work by inhibiting prostaglandin, a hormone that plays a role in sensing pain, controlling fever and inflammation. It also regulates blood flow to the kidneys. During exercise, it becomes vitally important that the kidneys receive adequate blood and oxygen in order to continue normal function. As dehydration levels rise, such as during exercise, ibuprofen becomes more concentrated, potentially reaching toxic levels.

Some general rules on taking ibuprofen are:

1. Do not take ibuprofen before, during, or shortly after lengthy endurance exercise, especially when there is potential for dehydration.

2. Take ibuprofen with a full glass of water or milk, ideally with meals to avoid stomach irritation.

3. Do not take with alcohol.

4. Don’t take in combination with other medicines, supplements, or herbal products without first consulting with your physician or pharmacist.

5. Avoid if you have a history of any reaction or allergy from another anti-inflammatory medication.

6. Discontinue use immediately if you notice any of the following symptoms: urine that is cloudy or bloody, pain or burning in the stomach, diarrhea or black tarry stools, severe nausea, indigestion or heartburn, vomiting blood.

7. Do not use if you are pregnant or breast-feeding.

8. Talk to your doctor first if you have high blood pressure, liver or kidney disease, heart failure, ulcers or other stomach problems.

(c) Dave Elger 2007 All rights reserved.


How would you like to run like you normally do but carry less weight? That is exactly the concept behind Alter-G, Inc. The G-trainer allows you to train using your normal gait but is able to reduce your body weight from 3 to 80 percent! Pretty interesting concept for those few who have access to this technology.