ATC 284: Nerve Flossing and Ankle Mobility ‘Tests,’ Adjustments for A Low Max HR, and Setting HR Zones the Old Fashioned Way vs. New-Age Technology

April 12, 2019


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Intro Banter

  • Kid-friendly strength training tips:
    • Make sure they’re aware of technique and posture.
    • Do lots of jumping.
    • Be creative with the movements (especially by using a medicine ball, bands, or cables).
    • Keep it positive (do movements they enjoy).
  • EP mentioned on (but they forgot Lucho!).


Low max heart rate & strength training follow-up

Fist of all, I love all of your insight and efforts to look into the literature regarding the questions on strength training. I am a physical therapist and specialize in treating endurance athletes and spend much of my “free time” nerding out by reading articles specifically on this topic so I can best direct treatment and injury prevention programs. The question on episode 283 RE: body weight vs loaded strength sparked and interest because this is a topic that I have changed viewpoint in the past few years. usually, I am a fan of higher load, lower rep exercises that specifically target the muscle/tendon/joint of interest (calf, quad, glute, ham). Of course, this means the loading is much less “functional” but does elicit actual tissue adaptation and general load resilience. Since it seems like you guys get a lot of questions regarding injury prevention and strength training, I though you might appreciate this podcast with Dr. Rich Willy. He is one of the leading experts in the field of running injury prevention and rehabilitation, and happens to live here in Missoula (yep, I’m in Missoula and was stoked to hear that you came through here last year and met Julie and that she is now a part of your show!). He has become a wealth of knowledge for me and has spoken on may other podcasts. I think this interview provides a nice, simple summary that you may be able to pass along to your athletes or use in future questions. Also, I loved Lucho’s contribution about importance of lower leg strength…often so under appreciated. Ok, I apologize for the rambling, but this stuff is my true passion, so I could go on about it all day.

Now for my question: I am a runner, but over the years have dealt with enough of my own injuries (mostly due to relative overtraining and under fueling…getting a handle on that and love the episodes that discuss this btw) that I mountain and road bike just as much. At the moment, I am running healthily and training for several races this summer — a few 30k’s, 14 mile trail race, and maybe a 50miler. I tend to stay away from shorter races because I have a serious problem with operating for very long at high intensities. I have gotten a HR monitor and wear it quite often. My max HR is about 163bpm, and my LTHR is about 149-151. My FTP wattage on the bike is 192 and this correlates with the LTHR mentioned above. My resting HR is about 40bpm. Ok, so my issue is, I feel like i don’t have a lot of wiggle room between my LTHR of 150ish and completely maxing out at 160. Does this seem normal to you? I also find it interesting that my MAF HR should be around 148 (I’m 32), but this is way to hard for me to sustain for a 3 hour run. I have given up on that and followed Lucho’s advice to think more as training in Zone 1-2.  I do believe that I tend to train too much in a zone 3/4/5 and rarely train in the 1-2 range, so I have been working on that (125-135bpm), but, I do continue to incorporate 1 day/week of high intensity work (hill repeats, tempo, 800s). My question is: 1) would you suggest focusing more on tempo runs in the 150bpm range on terrain that mimics the race (hilly), or shorter efforts pushing into my max HR with more complete recovery if my goal is to be more competitive in a 3-5 hour trail race but also be able to hang onto the front group when someone attacks in a bike race? As I write this, I’m thinking that I may not be able to get the best of both worlds, but would love any insight you have on the matter.

What the Coaches Say:

  • Tawnee’s notes from Dr. Willy’s podcast:
    • Lift heavier w/ low reps; you don’t have to do a ton of reps as an endurance athlete.
    • Cartilage, tendons, and ligaments adapt better to heavier low rep, and running is more specific to high rep.
    • Lifting heavy can reduce risk of injury by 50%, but stretching does nothing.
    • Heavy squats, calf raises, lunges — keep it simple.
    • Walking can help load tolerance as an athlete.
  • First off, your HR isn’t “bad” so don’t be stressed about that.
  • 125-135 is reasonable if your LT is correct. If your goal is to be competitive in a 3-5 hour trail race then zone 1-2 is key. One workout of intensity per week is ok.
  • To hang on to the front of a bike race requires intensity though. These two goals are very different!
  • Eliminate intensity on run, but do hill repeats, tempo, and high intensity on the bike.
  • You probably won’t excel at the sprint on the bike, but there are less factors involved in an ultra to impede your success.
  • Overtraining and undereating can depress HR (how far out are you from that? Recovery can take years depending on how deep you were into it).
  • It’s common for super fit athletes to not have a lot of wiggle room between LT and max HR.
  • Rather than trying to increase max HR, focus on building zone 1 and 2 so you get faster at a HR of 125-135

Sarah Krone

What is Zone 5?

I have been running as an adult for about a year and half now focusing on half marathon. My last race (road) was early March and my next one is my first full marathon (trail) in November—getting married in June and maintain fitness until I start my marathon training program when I am back from my honeymoon in July.

Right before my last race I got my first Garmin and am new to watching heart rate. One of the episodes I listened to, there was concern about an athlete running 12% in V4. Looking at my last race, I was 95% in V5 or 1:33. I have been looking st each of my runs and I live in V3-5 for everyone of them. Looking at easy hikes I will hit up V3 but spend most of the time in V2. Watching my Garmin today, it looked like my lowest heart rate was 36… I am questioning how accurate my watch is. If it is accurate, what does this mean for me? If it is not, what should I do? How important is it to watch my heart rate? Not sure if this is helpful regarding my heart question but my Garmin indicates my VO2 Max is 49.

Other useful info: I am 29, female, 5.5 feet, 130lb and healthy body fat range.

I cross train 3-6 times per week and run 3 times per week. Cross training includes rock climbing, circuit training, Olympic weightlifting, and mountain biking. I also walk my dogs, walk to get places, and go hiking regularly.

My goals are:

1) To not get injured

2) Run the distance and climb the feet for my first full (5000 ft trail marathon—North Face Endurance Challenge in Marin Headlands)

3) Run a Boston Qualifier time at some point—first opportunity early March 2020

4) Run a 5:30 mile

What the Coaches Say:

  • Your watch is accurate but the zones it’s setting for you are wrong.
    • Zone 5 is 5K effort. The coaches would guess your watch’s zone 5 is actually your low zone 3.
    • You can technically only hold zone 4 for an hour.
  • Do field testing to set your own zones; then reset your watch based on what you find. Two different protocols for fielding testing include:
    • MAF test
    • Joe Friel LT protocol
  • In preparing for this gnarly trail marathon, Lucho recommends training at MAF, meaning that you’re going easy enough that after the first hour you’re sure you could hold the pace for another 2-3 more hours.
  • As a new runner, don’t feel pressured to get super in depth with field testing and data. PE and basic HR can be a great approach.
  • Also for the NF 50K you want to practice descending!

Annie Duncan

“Flossing the nerves” in your ankle + other questions

I’m an avid listener and so enjoy your podcasts.

Quick backstory on myself:

37YO female that lives in the glorious PNW.

Grew up an avid swimmer and cyclist, picked up running in college.

Played football in college (quarterback and free safety) for a women’s team. When I comment more on this, my husband calls me “Uncle Ricky.”  🙂

Post-college I got into tris (sprint and Olympic distances).

About five years ago, I got into CrossFit and LOVED the competitive nature of it, and for five years have gained a lot of strength, but my running has suffered (just gotten a lot slower, which is frustrating).

I recently got into IM70.3. While training for them, I still did CF 4-5 times per week.  Mostly because I’m competitive and I didn’t want my gym friends to be stronger than me. Haha.  But…Now that I’ve completed two 70.3, I want to be a bit more competitive in them. This fall, i made the hard decision to leave my CrossFit gym to concentrate more on running (my weakest leg in IM).

I’ve ran the better part of 1/2 my life, but never with a lot of structure or strategy.

For three months, I’ve been trying to put into practice a lot that I’ve learned from y’all. My week now consists of shorter runs (3-4miles 3+ times per week) followed by simple strength WODs, 8×400 once per week, and then a tempo run (6 miles) and long run (8-10miles depending on how I feel).

My pace per mile has dropped 1 min (was running at a 9:30 pace, now under 8:30) for my tempo runs.

I love that improvement and it confirms my decision to leave my CF gym.

Two questions that I have regarding all that I’ve learned from listening (and I know I still have a lot to learn, so If anything in my description above sounds off, LMK!):

1) when doing strength wods, is it okay to up the intensity (like I would for CF?)? Or is it better to keep it at a lower intensity and more reps. Does upping my intensity on these shorter wods give more risk to injury in running?

2) my left ankle is constantly giving me problems. I’ve learned that I need to “floss the nerves” in my ankle often to prevent this. Am I the only one that struggles a lot with this? Is it from running? Any advice? I wear Altra shoes and try never to wear high heels. Is the increase in pain due to the more miles I’m running (or the fact I’m getting older?)?

What the Coaches Say:

  • Increasing intensity always increases risk of injury. Why do you want to do it? It doesn’t seem like it will help you achieve your goals, but you do enjoy it.
    • If you can be happy with lower intensity workouts (i.e. no CrossFit WODs) then do that! Some circuits are ok, but if you want to be a better runner then focus on your runs.
    • That said, it seems like the Simple Strength workouts are working for you, since you’ve already seen an increase in your run pace.
  • You might have to redefine intensity given your history as a college athlete. If a workout impedes your ability to run the next day then you need to reduce that workout’s intensity.
  • There’s no downside to flossing, but it probably isn’t getting to the root cause.
  • Ankles are generally a reflection of an upstream problem: posterior tibial tendon, shins, calves, glutes, hams, etc.
  • Possibly consider changing shoes (even though Altras are awesome!)
  • It’s unclear if this pain is bone, tendon, ligament or nerve.
    • If it’s arthritis then it won’t go away.
    • Nerves don’t stretch or contract. But they can get caught on scar tissue causing pain. In that case, do some ART with a specialist or even a chiro.
      • Nerve flossing can also prevent scar tissue build up.
      • Floss nerves through different channels and muscles.
        • Ex. lay on back, lift leg and dorsiflex/plantar flex your toe – you can use a band for this as well.
  • Try some exercises on that side to see what the basic movement patterns are like.
    • Do an overhead squat to assess imbalances: if arms/torso fall forward then there’s an issue with your ankle mobility, if knees cave in that’s related to ankle dorsiflexion, if toes point out that’s also a lack of dorsiflexion.
    • Kicking in the pool might also be indicative of an ankle mobility issue.
  • Some exercises to consider:
    • Lucho recommends isometric dorsiflexion to strengthen anterior tibialis.
    • Tawnee recommend barefoot stability (work on soft surface doing 1-leg exercises), bent knee calf raises, and SL step down. Do these 10-15 min a day.
    • Pick up Kelly Starrett’s Ready To Run book for more ankle mobility exercises.
  • Lastly, you’re 37 and that’s NOT OLD!!!

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