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Welcome to the very first edition of the Beyond the Ultimate coaching Emagazine! With a number of great projects being launched over the next 12 months it is a very exciting time for BTU and we are glad you are a part of it.

Race Director: Kris King

Inside are 3 amazing articles from our team of coaches. As the magazine grows so will the number of articles. We aim to provide a great resource for the running community with the most up to date research and science led information. I hope you enjoy our first edition and are as excited as us about the future. Happy running.


In this edition of our E Magazine we have:   

Unlocking the truth about cramp with coach Alan Ruddock Trying an ultra? Coach Susie Chan’s top tips No Pain, No Gain… Is it true? with coach Shane Benzie

Unlocking the truth about cramp! The silent assassin waiting in the shadows to steal your shiny finisher’s medal. The mysterious phenomena and bafflement of runners and scientists. Cramp either teases you with a twinge (or two) or strikes you down in one tetanic lock. It's safe to say we've all experienced cramp at some point, but there's nothing more debilitating than cramping during a run. Research indicates that cramping occurs in 20 to 40% of ultra-distance runners during competition. Of these around 1 to 3% will seek medical attention and is as a primary reason for failing to finish an ultra. Coach: Alan Ruddock

So what causes this distress? Despite the prevalence of cramp - its aetiology is unclear. In other words, we don't really know why it occurs! Two main theories for exercise-associated muscle cramps have been proposed. 1) When our muscles start to fatigue the neuromuscular mechanisms that control how our muscle fibres are activated become over-excited. 2) The composition of electrolytes (required for muscle action) in spaces between cells disturbs normal muscle function. In both cases, it means muscles would like to shorten more than they would like to relax. So instead of returning to a relaxed state they stay in a tense-locked position - that is cramp. To complicate matters, in the second theory, the disturbance is said to be caused by dehydration (via sweat) and electrolyte depletion. That is, reductions in chloride, magnesium and calcium cause cramp. But also, an increase in the concentration of electrolytes. These theories conflict each other and typifies the confusion surrounding cramping. According to this theory we need to supplement and replenish our electrolytes to prevent and reverse muscle cramping. Sports drink companies are very good at telling us this. The evidence for the second theory, however, is limited. The origins of this approach to treating and preventing cramps is based on associations in a small number of cases that were made almost a century ago - weak methodological and statistical approaches. *see footnote for examples of spurious associations (correlations). Even so, this theory, treatment and application prevails in sport and exercise, despite contemporary scientific evidence demonstrating that muscle cramping is unrelated to sodium concentration in the blood. Of direct interest to ultra-runners like yourself, is a study conducted by Dr Martin Hoffman at the University of California. After the Western States Endurance Run in 2014, Hoffman collected body mass, blood samples and asked runners to complete a questionnaire. The results revealed that 14% of runners experienced cramping at some point during the race. 27% reported incidents of near cramping. Interestingly, the largest incidence of cramping and near cramping (combined results) occurred between 48 and 90 km, around halfway. Afterwards, these instances declined and plateaued. This is where it gets interesting. The body locations where cramping was most prevalent were the calf, quads, hamstrings and hip flexors.

And if you had a history of cramping you were 2.5 times more likely to suffer with cramp again. Plus, the groups who suffered from cramp had elevated markers of muscle damage than those who didn't suffer from cramp. But crucially, post-race sodium concentration in the blood wasn't different between those who experienced cramp and those who didn't. And, even when runners supplemented with sodium there was no clear prevention of cramp. This research indicates that muscle cramping was most common in the large muscle groups involved in running, which are subject to loading and therefore fatigue. Such loading is also associated with muscle damage. Dr Hoffman proposes that those runners who were exercising at relatively greater muscular demands were more at risk of cramping and suffered more muscle damage. But cramping appears to be unrelated to sodium concentration and is inconsistent with the electrolyte depletion theory. Although this research has several limitations, the data does point towards cramping being of neuromuscular origin rather than due to some kind of electrolyte or fluid imbalance. It also backs up several pieces of well controlled research that suggest the same thing. So what does this mean for you? Well, we still know relatively little about cramping compared to other areas of exercise physiology so it's hard to make definitive recommendations. Emerging evidence suggests that: 1) You should identify the location of where you have experienced cramp before (calf, quad, hammy). 2) You should check how you use these muscles when you move. If you have imbalances, if you rely on one muscle group to compensate for another etc. you should remedy this with mobility exercises and movement training. 3) You should get stronger. This will reduce the relative neuromuscular demand on your active limbs and protect against muscle damage. 4) You should investigate how and when you use electrolyte supplementation. Perhaps you've experienced stomach upset from these supplements for little benefit and perhaps this discomfort might put your shiny finishers medal at more risk than its worth? So be the detective, investigate, try to prevent the master criminal who defies the law - and put the locks on cramp.

Correlation: 0.93 Source: http://tylervigen.com/view_correlation?id=28711 Reference: Sports Med Open. 2015;1(1):8. Epub 2015 May 21.

Trying an ultra? Here are some tips Fancy trying an Ultra? You can do it.. Here are my TOP TIPS! It seems everyone’s at it! Running into distances beyond marathon, 30, 50, 100 miles… some runners are doing races that look like utter madness on paper.

Coach: Susie Chan

If you have ever been even slightly tempted by the growing world of ultra-marathons, I can assure you that they are not as hard as you think. Unless you are one of the top flight runners (then you really don’t need to read further) Ultra Running is a different kettle of fish to more standard distance races. Your race will not be governed by minute miles, by that feeling you get when you run fast, fast, faster, trying to get to the finish line within a minute or two of an estimated time. Running an ultra is less about the time and much more about the sense of achievement. The race will be more about nice slow pacing. Stopping now and again, eating, and then eating some more, possibly lots of mud, hills, views (most ultras are trail races) and definitely a sense of being in it together with your fellow runners. The chances are if you can run a marathon, you can run an ultra. Here are my top tips for getting from marathon to ultra. 1) SLOW DOWN: Yes, unless you are one of the gifted few (you never know you might be!) then adopting a nice steady pace a couple or more minutes slower than your marathon pace should see you right. Taking into account the various stops that frequent ultra-races (check points, wee stops, route checking) you tend to spend time faffing. This may seem alien to half marathon and marathon runners. However the more ultra-races you do, the quicker you will refine this element. Walking up hills is perfectly normal in ultra-races. Walking! Yes indeed. Your legs will thank you once you are past 26.2 miles. 2) FOOD: I love my food, but when I run long distance my normally raging appetite tends to desert me. Things which I find yummy can seem repulsive. You may be lucky enough not to experience this. Practise eating on the move (eat whilst walking up the hills) find out what you enjoy eating during a run, and make sure you have a variety. Make sure when you do run long you keep your energy topped up regardless of appetite. Enjoy the carb load, and stock the fridge post-race. Have Dominos on speed dial, book a table for a carvery, whatever your guilty food pleasure is…the post run hunger will catch up with you! 3) TRAIN, BODY & BRAIN: An obviously necessity, however, you don’t have to bang out massively long runs every weekend. (For my 100 mile race the furthest I ran was 40% of the final distance in one go) Try day on day training, get out running on tired legs. Perhaps 3 or 4 days of 7 – 12 milers for example. Or split the miles over 2 sessions in one day. Your training should be like a longer slower extension of marathon training. Adding only a couple of miles a week, getting slightly slower each time. I like to mix it up training with weighted training and biking to strengthen my legs. You will need to practise running on varied terrain, and with your chosen kit on. A nice running vest with bottles or bladder will be a solid investment, as is choosing the correct footwear. For the longer training runs, forget pace and pick out a new route to explore.

Distraction tactics to keep you occupied on the long run can help if you are that way inclined… audio books, pod casts, radio. See if a friend will meet you toward the end and see the last 6 miles in with you. Pack a really nice slice of cake to eat; having things to look forward to can help. During the long run is a useful time to prepare your head. If you tell yourself you will complete the ultra, you will. Yes, having strong legs help, but resolute positivity in your mind is the most powerful thing. In an ultrarace, as in other races, you will experience ups and downs. There might be points where you feel tired, and it all seems rather ridiculous. These do pass and 5 miles later you can be feeling much better. Focus on the good stuff, the achievement of finishing, the post-race-gloating, the MEDAL! If you fancy having a go at ultra-running, take the plunge! A race such as Extreme Energy’s multistage races might be a good start. You can go for just 1 day (the last day is best) and they don’t have time limits, are open to runners and walkers so there is no pressure to make a cut-off point, and are super friendly. I know people that have gone from a half marathon straight into Ultra running. If you are thinking about it give it a go! Go on… you know you can do it!

No Pain, No Gain... Is it true? "If it's not hurting, it's not working" These phrases may be true in many situations including, perhaps, training, however when it comes to running and walking over long distances and long periods of time good technique dictates that less is definitely more. We are no longer strangers to the theory that as persistence hunters in a previous incarnation, we are perfectly designed to cover long distances over extended periods of time. As well as Coach: Shane Benzie my work as a technique coach, I also spend time in Kenya and Ethiopia working on research projects with coaches and athletes looking at natural movement and I work with Kent and Kingston Universities to try and better understand how the human body reacts to endurance events. The more of this work that I do, the more I am convinced of the theory that we are perfectly built to run, we've just forgotten how. Whilst working in Iten, Kenya with the Runfast team, I was very privileged to spend some time with Wilson Kipsang. The chance to do some video analysis and chat about his thoughts and approach to technique were invaluable. As I watched Kipsang and the Runfast team train I pondered on the subject of how come these men and women can be moving so fast, trying so hard and yet look so relaxed, even smiling as they put in times we mere mortals could only dream of. Then suddenly, it struck me, I had one of those moments where everything becomes clear! They're not trying hard at all! Everything about their motion is relaxed, but very, very deliberate. Ok so less is clearly more but how and why? Two years on I completely get it. Continued work in Africa, with Kent University and, in particular, James Earls (a specialist in Myofascial release and structural integration) and author of Born to Walk has enabled me to understand and coach a thought process and technique that allows us to move with maximum energy efficiency and minimum impact on the body. I'm sure you will agree that runners who do not complete ultras don't do so because their cardiovascular system can't keep up, it's usually because the body and/or mind breaks down. Moving your body naturally and understanding the process that is taking place will help with both of these issues significantly. There are three main components that contribute to natural movement: the fascia system, posture and gravity. So‌ the fascia system. We've heard about plantar fasciitis and that our IT band is constructed of fascia but beyond that many of us are not really that aware of fascia's role in the movement of the body. Included in the fascia system are tendons, ligaments and myofascia. Myofascia is a connective tissue that covers the muscles. in fact, I like to think of myofascia as one complete organ in the body that has around six hundred pockets in which the muscles sit. This makes it the body's second skeleton and you could argue that, from a movement point of view, it's as important as our bone structure. After all, the concept of tensegrity dictates that without fascia connecting our bones they would be just a pile of individual units lying in chaos on the floor. Facia has many exciting qualities, three of which are important to us as runners.

Within the fascia system there are receptors that pass information to the muscles when movement takes place. Our feet contain 25% of all the nerves in the body. They are our proprioceptors and antenna for the rest of our body as we move. We have around 200,000 nerve endings on the bottom of our feet. As the foot makes correct contact with the ground (a whole other article) the nerve endings send vital information into the fascia system which is passed on to muscles by the receptors. The fascia then receives information back from the muscles and acts accordingly, this communication chain continues in order to enable our body to move correctly and with fluidity. We have the most amazing self-levelling system that, providing our foot makes the correct contact with ground and we have the correct posture, we do not even have to think about it, it comes naturally. Synergy is created in the body, thus creating fluid movement. The creation of this fluidity is free, making the movement of our body far more energy efficient and ensuring that the impact from the ground is dissipated correctly through the body, thus reducing injury. Myofascia has elastic qualities and providing our movements are correct and our posture is good resulting in efficient tension in the fascia any movement of the limbs is aided in its transition back to its original position, using elastic recoil. For example when the arm swing has a dynamic movement to the rear the tension created in our fascia results in elastic recoil bringing the arm back to its original position. We have twelve lines of fascia that influence the way we move, if we understand them and utilise them our economy of movement can be improved significantly. Elastic recoil is free energy, making the movement of the body far more energy efficient with no extra effort needed, in fact the more we release the tension from the body and ensure that we make the correct movements the better we move, less is definitely more!! As if myofascia wasn't clever enough saving us all of this energy, it also actually produces energy! When receiving impact during body movement, the fascia creates, stores and then releases natural energy. No doubt we have all have read about 180 being the optimum cadence when we run. This cadence falls in line with the creation, storing and release of the natural energy produced by our body's movement. Providing we move at the correct cadence we optimise this energy source. It's also free and helps us to move with maximum energy efficiency. Posture: Without good posture the myofascia system will lose some of its integrity and tension. The proprioception and elastic recoil in the fascial system will not work optimally, so having good posture and running tall becomes incredibly important. Good posture also ensures that our skeleton supports our body weight. So often when we run our muscles have to join in to support our structure, hence, muscles tire and injure because they are overused or misused. Good posture ensures that our muscles can concentrate on propulsion. Sounds simple and actually, once we understand good posture, it is! Once again, this is natural to our body and is free. Moving with good posture is much easier than moving with bad posture and the payoffs are huge.

Gravity: This will not be the first time that you have heard about lean being good for your running technique and it's not breaking news that gravity can help our propulsion. What we have to consider, however, is how we lean and from where in the body the lean comes from. We already know that it’s important to have good posture and run tall so that we fully utilise our fascia and ensure that our bone skeleton supports our body weight. It feels natural to lean from the waist but in doing so we loose much of the integrity in our structure, leaning from the ankle will ensure you embrace gravity and maintain good posture. When we run ultras and multi day events we put a lot of time and thought into kit, nutrition, hydration and mileage during training. These are all very important but if we get them right and our running technique wrong, we have a very weak link in the chain. Many ultra-runners stand on the start line well below 100% as they have weakened the body during training rather than strengthening it. Concentrating on running technique can improve economy of movement and reduce the effects on impact by up to 10% if we thought we could carry 10% less weight or have 10% better lung capacity we would surely jump at the chance. Including technique in our training can make the difference between success and failure. Running is a very subjective issue and there are clearly many things going on as we run, but making the most of everything that is available, natural and free, will surely help us to be the best we can be and make the whole experience more enjoyable!! That's why we run right?

Profile for Beyond The Ultimate

Beyond The Ultimate - E Magazine  

Ultra marathon coaching from some of the top coaches in the world. The most up to date science led information available.

Beyond The Ultimate - E Magazine  

Ultra marathon coaching from some of the top coaches in the world. The most up to date science led information available.