The Triathlon Hub

The Triathlon Hub & Sports Therapy NW

Why do I need to read about Sports Therapy now?  I’m not injured….

We’ve got a few questions for you:
1.     Have you had a good season?
Have you had an injury free season?
Are you looking to improve for next season?
Do you know if your body is performing at its best?

We appreciate this isn’t an X-Factor audition, but hopefully you’ve got 4 “yes’s”!  However, most people may have 3 “yes’s” and possibly a “no”?  Some 2 of each and let’s hope no body falls into just answering “yes” to question 3.

We’ve bought into the philosophy of The Triathlon Hub and are here to offer you Sports Therapy advice with hands-on treatment should you require it.  We know that the science behind performing better can be complex and sometimes hard to make work, so we believe that if you do the simple things right, i.e. look after your body, then everything else will fall into place. 

If you answered “no” to questions 2 & 4, then please take a moment to consider whether you could benefit from having the equivalent of an MOT so that you can enter an intense training regime with your body primed and prepared to take the exercise you are going to give it. 

Some of the unseen benefits of Sports Massage Therapy are often the most important, such as restoring muscular condition, balance and elasticity; unfortunately what no one can promise is that you won’t get injured, but by trusting your body to someone who can gauge, assess and feedback to you what your current state is, as well as being able to offer you advice on how to make improvements on your current condition, then you’re doing all you can to realise your goals for next year.

We have experience of working with athletes from many disciplines, but in particular, we know and understand the particular mental and mechanical stresses that Triathlon and multi-sport events place on your body.  What we also know is that you have to work 5 days a week (for some anyway), so whilst we’d all like to be professional athletes with access to daily treatments and siesta’s at 2pm, the reality is that we’re not and we have to train when tired mentally, train when tired physically, train when cold and train when stressed.  These conditions can lead to injury, so our philosophy is to give individual advice and treatment before injuries occur.

Hopefully you see a Therapist already to keep you in good order, so please feel free to share information on injuries you may have had and what worked best for you – often it’s the tell-tale signs of an injury in the making that are the most important signals to act upon, so please tell us what you’ve experienced and we’ll also be here to give you relevant information on what to look for.  We work closely with Paul to give him feedback on what we find so he can monitor you and help you in more ways than one…

Here’s to a brilliant season of training for 2014!

Montane Lakeland 100 & 50, July 2013

Well, that was something a bit special I think you’d all agree!  What an event!!  The weather was fantastic, the atmosphere was a bit special and then the rain arrived at 10pm – bit of a shame and it changed the atmosphere a bit; the focus changed from dehydration to dehydration and hypothermia which was a shame and the crowd moved inside, but the vibe was still there and each and every competitor received a rapturous welcome as soon as they were in the building!

We were kept really busy trying to loosen off some extremely tired muscles, so we adapted ourselves to soothe the aching limbs and bring people back round to planet earth.  We were overwhelmed by the effort all the competitors had put in and it was a real pleasure to see everyone leave our tent feeling better and able to shuffle to their showers/beds a little more easily than when they’d fallen onto our treatment couches.  Some of the tales of pushing on through extremely traumatised injuries were almost beyond comprehension, but fortunately all will be recoverable with the right post-race rehab.  Concerns were raised at people with stress fractures who were unsure about what to do, so we did have to have a few sterner words with those guys to make sure they did the right thing for themselves – you know who you are!  Please get yourselves repaired…

We wanted to get more pictures taken, but as we were rushed off our feet, the camera got put away unfortunately.  Anyway, here are a few from behind the scenes and it was great working with Gary Wilkinson and John Warburton to the very small hours – who says you can’t pull a 19 hour Sports Therapy shift…?

We look forward to seeing you out at the remaining events, so we hope your training goes well and get in touch with us if you need advice on injury management – better to nip any problems in the bud wouldn’t you agree?!?!

Proximal Hamstring Tendinopathy ” A pain in the backside”

To the vast majority of the population, the image of a hamstring tear will be a Sprinter pulling up in a race looking like they’ve been shot. To me, a common hamstring condition is an endurance athlete, runner, cyclist or triathlete, saying to me that they’ve got “a pain right in my ar*e” and “I’m struggling to increase my speeds as I know it’s going to go”.

It’s really important to run a full diagnostic with the evidence presented and pinpoint the cause, but invariably, the description given will lead you right to the spot, basically proximal hamstring and often right at the Ischial Tuberosity (your seat bone).

To understand what’s where, there are 3 hamstring muscles of the posterior thigh: Semitendinosus (ST), Semimembranosus (SM) and Biceps Femoris (BF) with it’s long and short heads. Proximally, while the short head of BF attaches to the femur, all the other hamstring muscles share a common point of origin on the ischial tuberosity (seat bones) of the pelvis, all covered by the gluteal muscles.  Distally, ST and SM both attach to the medial tibia while BF attaches distally close to the fibular head, lateral to the knee.


However, the hamstrings, being a two-joint muscle group (crossing hip and knee), when we run there are other considerations to take into account, especially during stance phase. During this phase the foot is anchored to the ground by our body weight creating what’s called a “closed chain environment”. As the hamstrings contract with Glute Max to create hip extension propelling us forwards, they also create an extension moment at the knee… rather than just knee flexion.

The Injury Itself!
The common origin point of the hamstring muscles at the ischial tuberosity of the pelvis is basically the site of injury when diagnosing Proximal Hamstring Tendinopathy. The injury is classified as a tendinopathy rather than a tendonitis, as it has a more degenerative nature rather than being an inflammatory condition.

Sufferers will complain of pain local to the ischial tuberosity when running, especially when accelerating and sustained faster paced running as mentioned before. The pain will most likely be an intense ache in nature, rather than sharp or stabbing. Due to the anatomical proximity to the common hamstring origin, the sciatic nerve can sometimes be affected (Therapist will check Glute Med and Piriformis), which can cause referred pain into the posterior thigh. Once aggravated, sitting on solid surfaces can also be uncomfortable, as can direct palpation and pressing onto the ischial tuberosity manually.

Differential diagnoses for similar symptoms can include piriformis syndrome, pelvic stress fractures and low back injuries. Thus, a proper assessment from a musculoskeletal physiotherapist or similar sports injury professional is important. Often an MRI scan will be used to support diagnosis once and for all, but this can be avoided with accurate diagnosis – depends entirely on the choice of the individual!

Treatment and Rehab:
Soft Tissue Treatment, Manual Therapy & Stretching:
Hands-on treatments providing soft tissue mobilisations to break up scar tissue and adhesions can be useful, as can transverse frictions to the affected tendon. Care should however be taken not to apply direct pressure to the ischial tuberosity itself. This sort of soft tissue work is complementary to a gradual introduction to regular hamstring stretching.

If upon assessment, pelvic malalignment (anterior innominate rotation in particular) is identified, manual manipulation to restore alignment of the pelvic bones is often useful in restoring proper hamstring function. The question of course must always be asked – where does the imbalance come from that caused the pelvic malalignment…?

Specific Hamstring Strengthening
It is suggested that the progression of targeted hamstring exercises should go as follows:
Double leg, non-weight-baring isometric exercises:
Bridge Holds
Single leg isometric (closed chain) and isotonic (open chain) exercises:
Single Leg Bridge Holds
Single Leg Hamstring Catch
Eccentric hamstring loading exercises:
Swiss Ball Hamsring Curls
Single Leg Swiss Ball Hamstring Curls

It goes without saying that these progressions depend on the pain free completion of each stage.

(“Finally, you might say”) Core Strength & Pelvic Posture Correction!

Hands-on treatments, stretching and progressive strengthening are all important parts of the any good rehabilitation plan for Proximal Hamstring Tendinopathy. However, in my experience, I find the following core strengthening element to be the key to a successful outcome.

In my experience of working with triathletes/athletes/runners who suffer from proximal hamstring tendinopathy, or recurrent hamstring strains, almost all were displaying poor ability to control their pelvic position throughout the performance of functional movements for their sport.

In virtually all cases, it seems that the recurring theme is that they fall into an anterior pelvic tilt/innominate rotation during exercise; this will put the hamstring in a position where they are chronically held under tension, or put a different way, the soft tissue is now technically inelastic and unable to contract and extend from a neutral (and stable) position.

Re-educating proper pelvic position throughout movement, and working to correct imbalances which predispose an athlete to poor pelvic posture should be treated with equal importance, because if not, increased precedence over elements of the rehab programme such as eccentric hamstring strengthening protocols are potentially exacerbating the problem. It’s absolutely vital to check for quad flexibility or a dominance (unwilling to release), and tight hip flexors.

It’s very simple to prescribe a raft of general exercises that will help build stability, but equally as important, you have to treat and deal with the individual in front of you so that the balance between anterior and posterior muscle groups must be achieved first so that all you are strengthening on a “stable” platform rather than over-exerting already (technically) weakened muscles.

Get in touch with us if you want to talk further and we’d also like to hear about the topics that interest you that you’d like us to put on the website!

Train well and look forward to seeing you soon (preferrably uninjured!)

The STNW team.

Sports Therapy, Science Testing and Bike Fitting clinic now OPEN!

It’s been an incredibly busy few months what with getting everything ready at the Endurance Store in Appley Bridge and also supporting the Epic Events in the sun-kissed Lake District, but we’re now incredibly happy to announce that we’ve got our dedicated facility OPEN!

Before we go on, about us being OPEN 6 days a week, Monday to Saturday, how about we make you an introductory offer of £20 for your first Sports Massage treatment?  The only proviso being that you’ll need to bring a stick to bite down on once Jacqui (who works in the Store) gets a hold of your legs!  Richard’s a bit nicer…he brings his own sticks.

We don’t want to be boring here, but we’ve now got a great team of Sports Therapists, Performance Analysists and Coaches who have been brought together with the sole purpose of understanding how you currently train, compete and perform so that we can help you look for and find the ways that will help you maximise your performance on your efforts.  If it makes it easier, we’ve broken down our Services into the following:

Sports Therapy – Injury Rehab, Soft Tissue Improvement, Sports Massage, Postural Analysis, Personal Training and Event Support

Science Testing – Metabolic Testing, Nutrition Analysis, Performance Feedback, Coaching, Training Plans

Performance – Bike Fitting, Personalised Coaching, Training Schedules, Core Fitness, Winter Spin Classes

We are always present in support of Epic Events at the weekend’s, so feel free to come along and have a chat, discuss whether you’d like to know more about our services (a bike fitting session could be the answer to many an issue), and it’s also our intention to give you a free rub down (BYO bite stick)!  We will also usually be present at the Tuesday evening Duathlon and Open Water Wednesday’s at the 3 Sister’s Lake (email us if you can’t make it and have a question).  In all seriousness though, we understand the rigours, stresses and strains that a tri event (or double or single for that matter), place on the human body, so we are here to get to the cause of the problems and give you accurate feedback as to what’s happening and then help you out.

All our details are in the “Contact” section, so even if you’re not injured, why not take up the £20 offer and see if we can get you feeling in top shape by ironing some well used soft tissue fibre’s from your heavy training schedules, especially now the business end of the season is here.

We look forward to seeing you all soon!  Train hard, train smart and it will be a pleasure to sort your body’s out.

The Sports Therapy North West Team

p.s. Don’t forget your bite-stick…

Runners, don’t lengthen your stride.. just fly a little further and faster..

“How do you run quickly when you’re such a short arse?”

My reaction to this was twofold, one part of my brain started to analyse stride rate, stride length and how they combine to influence run performance. The other part of my brain was hung up on the fact that ‘short arse’ was indeed a little harsh considering I’m 5’9 on a good day, 6′ in my HOKA’s.

It is a question that I’ve been asked many times, surely if you are short with proportionally little legs, you have to take far more strides than a taller runner with his irritating, lanky, ‘look at me I’m over 6′ tall’ frame. The answer is dictated by your definition of key terms, let’s explain further!

Stride Length V Stride Rate

Stride length is simply how far you stride. My old running coach used to tell me to stride out and reach a little further. If I could increase my stride length by an inch each time, those inches would add up to a mile by the end of a marathon! The problem with ‘increasing your stride length’ as we have discussed many times is that it tends to lead to heel striking, whereas taking shorter strides promotes the preferred mid/forefoot landing. I’m not going to discuss the benefits of shorter strides and forefoot striking as we’ve done that lots of times already on this blog, check older posts if your interested.

Stride rate is how quickly you stride, generally measured as strides per minute. An average runner may take 170 strides each minute (most people only count on one leg, e.g. 85 right foot strikes per minute). If a runner completes a training run, with a stride length of 1.5m and a stride rate of 170, then in one minute they would travel 255m (1.5m per stride x 170 strides). This equates to 6 mins 18 secs per mile and if they want to go faster this can be achieved by increasing stride rate, stride length or both simultaneously. This sounds simple right? We haven’t even got started yet and this is where it gets good..

In your head, how would you describe stride rate?

In my head, I would describe it as the furthest distance between my right and left foot when I am in mid flight, in simple terms, how far apart do my feet separate. If you are a short runner with little legs, it’s likely that your feet will not separate as much as those taller runners with their longer legs. It won’t be the case all of the time, but as an average, it’s fair to presume that longer legs will naturally result in a longer stride length.

Look at the picture below, if you could take a tape measure and measure the distance between their right and left feet when they are at maximum distance apart, that would give you stride length. If all of the runners below were using the same stride rate (180 strides per minute) then the runner with the longest stride would win.. right? In fact this isn’t the case at all, stride length isn’t actually that critical, it’s flight distance and flight time which really decide who wins.

Flight Distance

This simply refers to the distance you cover between your left foot leaving the ground and your right foot hitting the ground (or vice versa). When running quickly, after your left foot leaves the ground, you then fly through the air (not being in contact with the floor) until your right foot hits the ground. The further you fly through the air and the greater the distance you cover before landing again, the greater your flight distance.

What’s the difference between stride length and flight distance?

Stand with your feet together and jump as far as you can, landing with your feet together (commonly called a standing long jump). measure how far you traveled from take off to landing, that’s your flight distance. I already know your stride length, it’s zero, your feet didn’t separate, they stayed together at all times during take off, flight and landing. I told you this was going to get good..

Imagine you’ve got little legs and your stride length isn’t very big (your feet don’t get that far apart). Now imagine your little legs are so powerful that when you take off, you fly 2.5 metres before you land on the other foot. By contrast, imagine a tall runner with long legs and a big ‘stride rate’. Unfortunately this tall runner isn’t powerful at push off and almost as soon as he’s got airborne, he’s landing again on the other foot, with a total flight distance of 2 metres.

What’s the relationship between stride length and flight distance?

Something worth considering is that forefoot landing (easier when running with shorter strides) allows runners to generate more ‘plyometric’ energy return, using natural bounce in the foot and knee. This greater plyometric return / bounce will lead to greater flight distance. By contrast, heel striking reduces plyometric return, thereby potentially reducing flight distance. In simple terms, trying to increase your stride length, may well decrease your flight distance. I’d bet that most people trying to increase stride length, do so because they are in fact trying to increase flight distance.

Can you handle one more thing? OK.. let’s quickly mention flight time

Without making this whole article too confusing we do have to mention flight time, the easiest way is to give another running example. If a runner has a stride rate of 180 strides per minute and a flight distance of 2 metres per stride, he’d travel 360m per minute (2m X 180), this is slight quicker that 4 minutes, 30 seconds per mile (dream on..). One of the key problems which may prevent people achieving this is how long they spend in the air, now bear with me on this part. If our super fast runner completes 180 strides per minute, that equates to 3 strides per second and each of those strides covers a 2m flight distance!! Do the maths, as the foot takes off, the runner flies 2m through the air and has to touch down in less that 0.3 of a second. If he doesn’t fly quickly enough, he’d never manage to complete 3 strides per second!!

Try this.. bound from one foot to the other and try to travel as far as you can each stride, maximise your flight distance. I’ll bet that some of you can easily bound 2 metres per stride but you’ll hang in the air with a ‘pause’ in your running style, land, bound, hang and pause, land, bound, hang and pause. So, you’ve managed to travel 2 metres, but your stride rate (strides per minute) is now incredibly slow. You need to travel 2 metres, but couple it with a 180 strides per minute stride rate.. sorry to bring you that news.

What’s the conclusion to this article?

The main driver behind this article was my dislike at being called a short arse, but it has now ‘grown legs’ (like what I did there) and developed into a more structured discussion. The main points I would take from this are:

1. Do not to confuse stride length with flight distance, they are different things (in my head at least)
2. Be aware that by trying to increase stride length, the subsequent changes in technique (heel striking) may reduce flight distance
3. Flight distance and flight time are generally governed by force production, largely plyometric energy return
4. Never pick on little people.. we will crush you.

If you like this article or found it useful, please do the right thing and share ;)

Marc Laithwaite
The Endurance Store

Technique Threshold, the key to unlocking run potential?

I feel a little like I’m getting a little repetitive with blogs relating to run technique, but I don’t think I stressed the ‘technique threshold’ significantly in previous blogs. Based on that,  I decided to give it an article all to itself..

What is the technique threshold?

The technique threshold is the running speed at which good running technique starts to falter. The simplest way to understand this concept is to find a flat 100m stretch and conduct this simple test. Start by jogging the first 10 metres and then gradually increase running speed every 10 metres, getting faster and faster. The key to this test is starting slow and making gradual increases every 10 metres, most people just sprint flat out and by 30 metres, it’s all gone very ugly..

At some point your ‘good technique’ will start to falter and you may feel the following changes:

1. Tension rather than being relaxed, things start to feel ‘strained’ rather than ‘effortless’.
2. Changes in general posture (some people twist, other lean back and stick their chest out.. to name but a few).
3. The arms start ‘pumping like a sprinter’ rather than being ‘relaxed like a distance runner’.
4. Your stride starts to feel uncomfortable and uncoordinated (however you wish to describe, it certainly isn’t smooth and fluid).

Examine a little deeper..

Try the test and see how far you get, if you have a ‘high technique threshold’ you’ll be able to run very fast and still remain relaxed and smooth. If your technique threshold is ‘low’ then you’ll have a ‘technique wobble’ at a relatively slow speed. The main impact of a low technique threshold is that runners simply are not able to change pace whatsoever. They commonly increase their speed over the first 30 metres and then hit a ceiling, with no further increases in speed. They simply can’t run fast.

What’s the meaning of all this..?

Consider this simple fact: ‘It doesn’t matter how big your car engine is when you’ve got flat tyres’

What if you’re engine was actually pretty big by comparison with other runners who beat you in races? All this time you thought those other runners were ‘fitter’ than you, had a bigger VO2 max, and actually that was never the case at all. It is very possible that you have a bigger engine than many of the other runners ahead of you, but unfortunately, you just can’t move your legs properly. Your flat tyres mean that you just can’t roll along efficiently, no matter how hard the engine tries.

*Fact: the above scenario is 100% realistic as we’ve tested hundreds of runners in the lab and there are plenty of people with high VO2, poor running style and subsequent poor 10k time.

How does this impact upon my running?

If you can’t move your legs properly and you run with an uncoordinated style then it has 2 negative consequences:

1. It stops you running quickly as explained above
2. It’s uneconomical and leads to greater fuel usage

Its important to point out that if your technique threshold is low, it will impact on all distances ranging from 800m runners right through to ultra runners. It limits you moving quickly but it also impacts significantly upon your economy when running at slower speeds. It will come as no surprise to hear that if you spend lots of time running at slow speeds, your technique threshold will drop, impairing your ability to run at faster paces.

Coordination and speed just don’t go together..

Any skill which require coordination is easy to do when it’s done slow. Hitting the right notes on a piano keyboard, playing a computer game, or learning new dance moves are much simpler when you do them at a slow, step by step speed. It’s when you try to speed up those movements that your coordination tends to let you down. Running is no different, placing one foot in front of the other at jogging speed is simple, but it’s an altogether different challenge coordinating limb movements when running at top speed. Even if you are able to coordinate your limbs at speed, can you actually make them move fast enough? Does your neurological system fire a nerve signal to the muscles and create movement fast enough for you to run quickly?

2 simple questions:

1. Can you physically move your limbs quick enough?
2. Can you coordinate them when doing so?

I’d stick my neck out and say that technique threshold is perhaps the key to unlocking running potential for the majority of ‘stuck in the rut’ club runners. All runners, no matter what their ability should spend some time developing technique threshold if they aspire to improve their performances.

previous blogs and video posts have discussed correct running technique so I don’t intend to discuss that again. What you shouldn’t do in response to this blog is traditional speed work (1 mile repetitions etc) as that’s not the point. If your technique threshold is poor you’ll run them slowly, whilst still working that big engine and nothing will change. The answer is more simple, you just need to learn the skill of running fast before you attempt intervals. Start with ‘acceleration strides’ after 10 minutes of warming up, do them before and after each session. Find a 50m flat stretch and gradually build your pace (as during the test described earlier) and learn to run quickly whilst remaining smooth, efficient and in control.

It may well open a whole new world of personal bests!!

Please share if you found this useful.

Marc Laithwaite
The Endurance

Iliotibial band syndrome recovery strategy?

Sports Therapy North West attended the Montane Ultra 26 last Sunday where we provided pre and post event massage and taping to the competitors. It was a good event and a great day was had by all. One thing that I did get out of it was getting to know what makes a trail runner tick and also recognising that the majority had more or less the same problem.. General tightness and inflexiblity of the hamstrings, quadriceps and iliotibial band (ITB) ..a large tendon that runs along the outside of your thigh from your hip to the outside of your knee.

This tendon attaches to a muscle at the hip assisting in movement of the hip joint but also in stabilising the knee joint and it is for this reason why it is common for runners to suffer from a tight ITB.

Some runners may have no problems at all, however if you suffer from a tight ITB it can lead to chronic pain on the outside of your knee or hip where the tendon gets inflamed.

I recently read an article by a guy called Jason Fitzgerald who ran a marathon in 2 hours 40 minutes but then subsequently suffered for six months through injury which was as a result of his tight ITB, called ITB syndrome, (ITBS). I have copied a link to the article as I thought you may find it a useful and interesting read, as it documents his road to recovery.

Usually it is recommended that a combination of sports massage, strengthening exercises to the hip, core and thighs and flexibility exercises can speed up recovery. These will help restore any muscle imbalances, increase flexibility and improve the general condition of the muscles.

Even if you don’t currently have problems while training, I think there is great mileage in complimenting your training regime with appropriate stretching, strengthening exercises and sports massage to keep injury free.

I hope you find the article useful…