Time for a GPS & HRM Update…

A while ago I was asked on the Q&A with #RSP – What #running watch to go for? and my answer, based on the functions and price at that time, was unequivocally the Polar M400

I’m revising this opinion as there has been a change in how Garmin products are being brought into Ireland.

Without having to go into the history too much, the distribution model as well as currency changes and the higher Irish VAT level meant that in most cases it was cheaper to buy your Garmin overseas (not the handiest in terms of warranty claims – there was a unique setup for Irish bought units that added value) but this has now changed.

Today, you will find that we have most of the current Garmin range at prices LOWER than the equivalent from UK online retailers.

Garmin FR 220 with HRM – UK website €299 Our Price €255.00

Garmin FR220 Violet

Garmin Fenix 3 with HRM – UK website €556 Our Price €509.00

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Garmin Fenix 3 no HRM – UK website €515.00 Our Price €460.00

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(Garmin 920XT is the same price as the Fenix 3 bundles)

In the context of the article I wrote following the #RSP Q&A the price gap between the Polar M400 and the Garmin FR220 is much narrower.

The decision based on the value of the watches is tougher to make as while the Polar has more functions in relation to the activity monitor and multiple sport profiles; Garmin does have the legacy effect of dependable GPS and recognition of being the ‘running watch’.

The playing field has changed slightly and we are delighted with the changes in the price structure.

One final thought is in relation to the upcoming FR225 with optical HR. The feedback I’m hearing is that the wrist detector is 5% less accurate than that of the FR220 with chest strap. I would be reluctant to recommend the 225 for this reason, at this moment, as, if you are training to HR you need accuracy and dependability of readings.

What do you think of the new prices?

…whisper words of Wisdom…

whisper words

Just to recap on this series of posts.

Three different paces, three different sets of cadence and stride lengths (naturally occuring) and a comparison of Ground Contact time summaried in content here Let it be… and here …let it be…

The thing which has eluded discussion so far is the effect on Landing Forces these changes have. I’m not going to attempt the maths on this but basically we’re talking about the force generated by my body weight in term of foot contact, grms / sq cm / second.

I have a gut feeling that as a result of Ground Contact time decreasing with a parallel decrease in surface area of foot (moving further forward on the mid foot) the actual grms/sq cm/sec will actually be a constant, or pretty close to a constant  factor.

Why?

Because these cadences and stride lengths are a natural reaction to the paces that I am running at. I am not forcing any particular cadence or stride pattern, they are my body tuning into what it needs to do in order to balance my body weight on my feet for a particular period of time while it deals with landing forces and propulsive energy.

So. The words of wisdom. In all of this you have to tune into what your body wants to do naturally, first. Once you are aware of how your body is reacting to the running patterns then you can comfortably address stride and cadence , if necessary.

There is no point in attempting to force change on your body. You will get injured. Instead easy gradual changes will work with your body. But the starting point is knowing where your body is first.

A great tool for tuning into your body is to incorporate some minimalist work into your training routine. It doesn’t have to be barefoot (and I would be slow to recommend barefoot unless you are disciplined in how you manage the transition) but it can be.

Ideally, a low, lightly cushioned shoe that you can wear which allows you to get a sense of what your feet are doing. Take this to a treadmill where you can relax and ‘tune’ into where your landing forces are focussed, how your feet, legs, knees, hips are reacting and working in unison, how your upper body is positioned; relaxed hands, arms tucked in, straight back but relaxed shoulders.

Do small sessions like this, warmups and cooldowns for example. As your body learns and adjusts to the form and the muscles remember the patterns you can easily take these subtle changes in form to the road, track or trail, whenever and wherever you run and a natural tweaking of cadence and stride length will occur as you body adapts slowly to the changes.

Hopefully this makes sense?

 

…let it be…

Let It Be

Taking my previous post Let it be… on a bit I want to continue the observations.

Running at my comfortable pace the ‘natural’ pace my foot follows a traditional heel to toe rocking motion.

Running at my HMPace my foot follows a shorter heel to toe rocking motion beginning slightly forward of my heel.

At ‘flat out’ or interval pace I am running on my toes. All my weight is concentrated on the mid to front of my foot. (This is not an issue as you will understand shortly)

Focusing primarily on the natural pace work for a moment. If I run at the natural form I land on my heel, my foot pronates inwards with slight over pronation on the left leg (controlled by my choice of shoe) and through to the mid and forefoot for the propulsion phase of my stride.

What happens if I increase the cadence at the same pace?

Well, first of all I have to shorten my stride right down to fit that many steps into the time. Lets reverse the maths for a second…..

By the magic of paper and pencil,  running at my HMPace cadence (180bpm) at natural speed I would have a stride length of 1.06 meters and my ground contact time remaining the same 0.666 seconds per side per minute the following happens –

  1. 1000m (distance covered) / 1.15m (stride length)  x 0.712 (GC Time) = 619.13 seconds total GC time / km
  2. 1000m (distance covered) / 1.06m (stride length)  x 0.666 (GC Time) = 628.3 seconds total GC time / km

Do you see what has happened?

Following conventional wisdom by shortening my stride and increasing my cadence results in me incurring LONGER ground contact time and all while I am more loaded onto the front of my foot. So in effect spreading more body mass over a smaller area more often per kilometer!!

What I am identifying in a long and convoluted manner is that forefoot running is not the be all and end all of running. In certain circumstances it can be a nice idea to aspire to achieving but actually be detrimental to your overall running health.

There are mitigating factors and I’ll examine those next so that it is not all about sensationalising the topic.

Let it be..

Tomorrow I’m giving a presentation on “How to choose your perfect running shoe”.

I’ve done these before and while they are similar to the conversation that you have with customers in the shop the setting is different and the crowd is different so you need to be prepared more.

One of the topics that has been batting around in my head for the last while is to do with people overthinking their running.

In my opinion far too many people are getting hung up on heelstriking / forefoot striking etc and as a result are either hanging up their run progress or are injuring themselves.

I briefly touched on this topic before in a post about my selection of shoes and how I use them. In particular how I seem to have preference for different shoes depending on the type of running that is being done. Now, don’t get me wrong I’m not banging a drum about footwear before form, I’m highlighting that they are mutually beneficial areas of your run that should be addressed in training.

As mentioned in that post above, different paces, different shoes suit better or worse.

“What do you mean?”, is the chorus I hear.

Well… let it be…

By this, I am suggesting recommending that whatever your natural running form is you allow it to flow through. Don’t try and force change on what comes naturally to you, work with it enhance it, make it work for you rather that you trying to work against it.

Huh?

Take me as an example.

If I go out for a run without any goal, just a nice relaxed run trotting around the area, after a while I settle into a rhythm that just works. I lose myself in the run, relax into the surroundings, find a rhythm that resonates nicely for me. All of this is subconscious and happens when I switch off.

Let me put this in numbers.

I’m 86kg (important to know for later) 6′ tall and using a footpod I know that I run naturally at 83/84 strides per foot per minute with an average stride length of 1:10 – 1:20 meters.

Doing the sums this means –

(83.5 x 2) x 1:15 = 192.05 meters per minute

or

11.523 km per hour or roughly 5:12 minutes per km is my natural, comfortable pace at which my HR (Heart Rate) will be around 140 bpm (Beats Per Minute).

Now, the important thing to take out of this is that every minute my bodyweight lands on my feet 167 times or to be more precise a multiplier of my body weight creates a landing force on each of my feet 83.5 times per minute which means my Ground Contact time is 0.712 seconds (at this pace) per foot.

Now, I’m not an engineer so I’m not even going to calculate what the point load per square cm is for an 86kg mass landing from approx 25cm is but I’d gladly take someone’s calculations if anyone is good enough to do those for me.

I have a funny intuition that whatever that ^ calculation works out to be it will remain fairly constant through this series of posts.

So what happens if I run faster?

Let’s look at my Half Marathon pace (HMPace) of 4:30 minutes per km.

Again using footpod data 89/92 strides per foot per minute averaging 1:22 – 1:25 meters

(90 x 2) x 1:24 = 223.2 meters per minute

= 13.4 km per hour

The important factor is again Ground Contact time which in this instance is 0.666 seconds.

 

If I go at a ‘flat-out’ sprint for an interval:

(100 x 2) x 1:60 = 320 meters per minute

=19.2 km per hour or 3:12 minutes per km

Ground Contact time is 0.6 seconds

So the faster I go the less Ground Contact time there is per foot but to achieve this I have to increase the cadence or number of foot landings per minute. Makes sense?

Further examination of this trend in this is that the faster I’m moving, the less ground contact time there is, the higher my cadence,  the further forward I am positioned on the foot.

The reason I’m looking at these figures and establishing them is because they have a bearing on the footwear that I should be choosing to suit me naturally but they also have a bearing on what suits you too.

More to follow.

 

Heel to Toe, what?

There is so much talk about Heel to Toe drop / differential / ramp / profile of running shoes these days that it is confusing everyone.

At the end of the day whatever is comfortable for you is the most important aspect of H/T measurements. The footwear must suit your natural running gait and that’s what we are looking at here in +Amphibian King West.

I’ve blogged plenty before about #minimalism and you can find a lot of those articles through the labels at the bottom, just click on the word.

We’ll leave the good folk at +Saucony to give you the low down (so to speak) on what Heel to Toe is all about and how it impacts you as a runner.

Heel To Toe Offset Explained from Saucony on Vimeo.

When is Minimalism too much?

Lower and lower, sleeker and faster, lighter shoes is what we all want.

In my opinion, transitioning to a minimalist shoe for many may be a step too far.

When transitioning to a minimalist shoe ‘form’ should be the first consideration. Do you naturally run as a forefoot striker or a heel striker?

If you are a forefoot striker naturally, ie. without forcing it or thinking about it when you slip off your shoes and run, do you land on the front, outside of your foot as per the diagram below?

Barefoot Forefoot Strike

If this is you, then it should be no bother to you to effect a transition process to a minimal shoe. Depending on where you are starting from we would expect to see this transition period having different durations for each individual.

If, on the other hand, you are more of a midfoot striker or heel striker you have a lot more work to do to achieve a smooth, injury free transition to minimalist shoes.

Barefoot Heel Strike

Transitioning from this position is a much more gradual change as you are having to work on changing your natural form, re-mapping neuromuscular pathways and developing core strength to help stabilise the pelvic area which will become more active during the transitional phases.

Speak to us about this as invariably you will be best advised to rotate between your traditional shoe and minimal shoes more frequently to prevent tweaking connective tissues or causing injury.

The series of images below graphically represent and explain the differences in the loading of the feet during the landing phase and the effect on capturing and releasing kinetic energy on the propulsive phase.

Running Kinematics

Heel Striking

Forefoot Striking

Moment

of

Impact

Hip and knee are flexed.
Ankle is dorsiflexed (toes point up). Ankle is plantarflexed (toes point slightly down). Foot is usually slightly inverted (the sole is angled inwards).
Land on the middle to outside of the heel just below the ankle joint. Land on outside of the forefoot (the ball of the foot, just below the 4th and 5th metatarsal heads).
As you land, the ankle begins to plantarflex (toes move towards the ground). As you land, the ankle begins to dorsiflex (heel moves towards the groud).
Arch of the foot is not loaded. Arch of the foot is loaded and begins to stretch/flatten.
Impact  Foot Flat Barefoot Heel Strike

Barefoot Foot Flat
Barefoot Forefoot Strike

Barefoot Foot Flat
Knee and hip flex.
As the ankle plantarflexes, the forefoot comes down. As the ankle dorsiflexes, the heel comes down under the control of the calf muscles and Achilles tendon, which are stretching.
Foot Flat Midstance Barefoot Foot Flat

Barefoot Midstance
Barefoot Foot Flat

Barefoot Midstance
Knee and hip continue to flex.
The ankle dorsiflexes as the lower leg moves forward relative to the foot and the foot everts (rolls inward).
Now that the whole foot is on the ground, the arch begins to stretch/flatten. The arch continues to stretch/flatten.
This combination of eversion, ankle dorsiflexion and arch flattening is called pronation. This combination of eversion, ankle dorsiflexion and arch flattening is called pronation, but occurs in the reverse direction compared to heel striking (from the forefoot to the rearfoot not heel to toe).
Midstance

Toe Off

Barefoot Midstance

Barefoot Toe Off
Barefoot Midstance

Barefoot Toe Off
Ankle plantarflexes bringing the heel off the ground (calf muscles and Achilles tendon now shorten).
Foot’s arch recoils, and the toes flex.
These actions push the body upwards and forwards for the next stride.

Images and table layout from http://barefootrunning.fas.harvard.edu/4BiomechanicsofFootStrike.html

In transitioning, a natural heel lander has to overcome the tendency to load the arch in a forward motion. As I’ve mentioned in previous articles the best way to naturally change your landing pattern is through a mixture of your ‘normal’ running and some focused efforts at re-teaching your body what natural (forefoot) running form is all about.

Any questions please fire them at me!

Happy running 🙂

Ready to be Vanquished?

On being demoed the Zone3 wetsuit range we were really impressed in Amphibian King with the quality of the materials and the manner in which they had been designed and put together.

I was so impressed that I put my wetsuit from last year up for sale and ordered a Vanquish for my 2013 season and beyond. I’ve still got my original wetsuit which I will continue to use for training and hopefully I will get the benefits of the technically advance Vanquish when racing. (Bit like the wetsuit equivalent of having a training shoe and a racing shoe).

Features include:

  • The Vanquish makes use of some of the World’s highest performance materials and combines these with a thoroughly researched panel design to ensure maximum flexibility and balanced buoyancy.
  • Aerodome neoprene designed with air bubbles built between the fabric layers producing up to 30% more buoyancy than conventional neoprene. Featured on the top of the chest to help aid the essential course sighting when swimming open water and also on the thighs to help support the core leg muscles
  • Buoyancy carefully balanced through the suit to ensure the optimum streamlined swimming position and maximum efficiency through the stroke.
  • Stylish graphite neoprene on the arms and gold and bronze tones for an exclusive look.

 

Galway-20130503-00949

Galway-20130503-00950

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You get a Zone3 wetsuit storage bag when you look under the suit. Perfect, ventilated bag for storing your suit between swims with a sturdy shoulder strap for carrying it around.

 

 

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V-shape neck design with built-in moulding which keeps the suit in position at the sides but allows a lower and more comfortable ‘T-shirt’ fit on the front keeping the suit away from the adams-apple

Galway-20130503-00953

Speed Channels on the chest to divert water flow and direct more water on to the legs to increase natural buoyancy and to give a boost with each leg kick.

Galway-20130503-00954

Sensory Catch Panel: Aeroforce fabric is used on the forearms to give an improved feeling and catch in the water. Rather than a traditional rubber fabric, the Vanquish uses a double layer of high performance, water-repellent lycra fabric. This firstly reduces arm fatigue as there is not as much buoyancy resistance during the catch phases of the stroke but also allows the swimmer to improve their efficiency in the water. No water can enter the suit but you will feel the coldness of the water on the forearm panel which helps to align your hand and forearm during the stroke to give more propulsion and also a more natural feeling swim.

Galway-20130503-00955

Designed with an ultra thin one-piece shoulder panel stretching from elbow to elbow. As soon as you put this suit on you can feel the difference! Maximum flexibility meaning you can increase your distance per stroke, conserve energy and minimize any shoulder pain.

Upwards breakaway zip design for even quicker transitions and protection from having your zip pulled down during a race.

Galway-20130503-00956

Pro Speed CuffsTM on the arms and the legs for rapid removal after the swim to ensure the quickest transitions, saving you vital time on any course.

 

I’ve been in for a swim since I got the suit. The fit is brilliant, the quality neoprene ensures that the fit follows your body shape with no gaping and hugs you like a second skin without being constrictive. The first swim was a bit short to actually check out all the benefits of the features, however, the buoyancy was just perfect! Not too much and not too little allowing me to swim through and under breakers without having to fight the buoyancy and having enough to allow me to lift my legs high and ‘body surf’ back into shore.

A more in-depth review will follow as I venture more into the open water.

Stay tuned!!

Related articles

 

Smokin’ Joe – Ride Fit

This past winter, out of necessity, I became good friends with my turbo trainer.

I’ve found it hard to get time firstly, to get out on the bike and second, the one day you have a chance it’s miserable and just not enjoyable out in the West of Ireland winter.

Searching around and asking pals advice there was a mixture of box sets, movies, Sufferfest, Spinervals, Carmichael Training videos and all sorts of things to do on the turbo to while away time. Initially I found it hard enough to simply motivate myself to get on the darn thing but with a little bit of focus and planning of training sessions it started to come together and I started to ‘enjoy’ a bike session.

Recently I made contact with a company www.ride-fit.com about their training films.

Ride Fit

On first impressions they look good, plenty of information on how to push yourself, good guide on gearing, cadence, effort and turbo settings.

Have a look at the sample video here:

 

I’ve ordered Smokin’ Joe and the plan is to download the file and do a decent workout on Monday evening.

Stay tuned for updates. 

 

 

Progressive Polar

Image

The beautiful new RC3 Watch with integrated GPS from Polar.

What’s a triathlon wetsuit?

Loiter around the start of any open water triathlon and you will see as many different wetsuits as competitors. 

In Ireland the water conditions are rarely near or above the limits set by ITU governing the requirement of compulsary wetsuits in the swim leg, so inevitably you must wear a wetsuit in triathlon racing in Ireland.
As a result anyone trying out triathlon will reach for the old surfing suit in the shed or borrow one from a friend. A wetsuit is a wetsuit. Right?

Not really, well, not at all to be honest.

A surfing wetsuit is designed to keep you warm when surfing or sailing. You are up, exposed to the elements and need to keep warm. Hence the 5mm or 7mm thickness of the neoprene or Winter suit / /Summer suit to help retain some body heat. Also the neoprene is quite tough as it has to withstand the occasional contact with a board or deck or rock etc.

When swimming you are immersed in the water (which may be cold but at least no wind chill) only have to worry about contact with other bodies in the water and are looking for a wetsuit which has a number of important primary features:

Warmth– The neoprene or rubber material traps a small layer of water close to the skin that is warmed by core body temperature and delays hypothermia in water.
Buoyancy– The wetsuit provides safe and fear-reducing buoyancy, but should not be relied upon as a life preserver. However, increased confidence in the open water can be another benefit. 
Speed– Reduction of drag, the effects of providing buoyancy to the hips and legs, and the ease of breathing and sighting all contribute to a 10% or greater reduction in time over an Olympic distance swim (3-5 minutes!). 
Energy Conservation– This should be your goal on the swim, since you still have some biking and running left to do!

After that, proprietary features like, body roll panels, forearm friction, zip up / zip down, easy on / off cuffs, Yamamoto neoprene, silicon coating, number of panels, all work to improve the fit and the function of the wetsuit in use. They also generally add cost to the wetsuits too.

How should a wetsuit fit?

  • Snug but not tight.
  • No folds or excess material.
  • Retaining shoulder mobility is important!
  • The fit of the neckline is a consideration so that you don’t feel like you are being suffocated.
  • Make sure that the arm an leg holes are equally snug so they do not act as scoops to pull in water = extra weight.
  • Many wetsuit styles offer different zipper options for the back and even legs.  This comes down to personal preference for when you put it on and take it off during a race.

Of course when it comes to buying your wetsuits, whether its your first entry level suit or you are trading up to an advanced level after a couple of seasons racing, the staff at GottaRun are on hand to help you sift through the choice and pick your perfect match.

We will work with you to identify the suit that will best suit your swimming abilities and your goals. Then selecting the correct size for you and possibly the most important thing, advising you on how to put it on properly.

We also host wetsuit clinics through the early part of the season as we get ready for open water swimming. Watch out for these Tri-itOut sessions as these are a perfect opportunity to test a new wetsuit for fit and function in the safety of a swimming pool.