Hit The Road...Running provides fitness training and education aimed at runners. This section is a collection of articles and white papers written by Tony Denford, founder of Hit The Road. Feel free to post your thoughts in the comments of any post.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


For a printable version of this article, click here.

There are 3 types of balance that will affect your performance as an athlete;

Physical Balance
Muscle Balance
Life Balance

In order to reach your peak performance all of these must meet equilibrium.

Physical Balance
This is the ability to control your body's movement through space. Staying upright is just part of the equation. To train physical balance you must train your nervous system. Your nervous system can be trained in the same way your muscular system can by using the SAID principal. SAID stands for Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands, which means that your body will adapt to whatever demands you put on it.

Therefore to train your balance you must make demands on it. One-legged postures, Balance balls etc are an excellent way to do this. After a while your balance will become second nature and as a result your brain will be better equipped to maintain your balance through everyday activities. This will also equate to better performance while running as your responses become faster.

Muscle Balance.
Muscle balance is usually the thing most people are concerned about as it can cause injury and pain.

Every movement your body does is due to a muscle contracting and pulling on a bone that is used as a lever. For each movement there is an opposing movement. For example you can bend your knee or straighten your knee. The opposing movements are caused by opposing muscle groups. For example the knee is bent by the hamstrings and straightened by the quadriceps. These opposing muscles are referred to as the agonist and antagonist.

The opposing muscle groups must be in balance to aid in the fluid motion of the body and prevent injury. If one muscle is much stronger than the other or too tight from a lack of stretching it can cause a joint misalignment that could lead to pain or injury.

The most common cause of back pain is an imbalance between the abdominal and erector spinae muscles. Runners Knee is an imbalance between the quads and hamstrings. Shin splints are an imbalance between the calf and tibialis anterior muscles. Strengthening the opposing muscle as well as stretching can avoid most injuries.

Life Balance

Nothing will be as unfulfilling as an imbalance in your life. The wellness triangle has three sides representing the mind, body and spirit. An imbalance between these three components of wellness will result in poor performance in many aspects of your life.

By concentrating solely on one of these components you will neglect the others so it is important to balance all three. You must train your body and mind and feed your spirit to live a balanced life. Your spirit is not necessarily religion but you should aim to feel good about how you live your life. Spend some time for yourself or enjoy your family or friends. Without this important component you will feel burned out and will not perform at your best.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Leg Strength for Runners

For a printable version of this article, click here.

Leg strength is obviously very important to runners. Your legs are the main motion generating part of your body that you use to propel yourself forwards. Having strong legs will help prevent injury, make everyday activities easier, delay fatigue when you run and make you faster when you get to the hills!

When we talk about leg movement in running we are really three major joints in motion.
- The first is your hip joint. To provide forward motion you must flex your hip and then extend it backwards for the working phase of the motion.
- The second is the knee joint. The working phase is when you flex (or bend) the knee to provide forward motion.
- The third is the ankle joint. The working phase for running is what is called planter flexion (when you point your toes downward). This provides some additional forward motion but also vertical motion.

Of course there are other articulations such as the tarsal and metatarsals in the feet as well as some rotation motions but we are focusing on the primary movements which runners should be concerned about.

Now we know the three major movements involved in the legs producing a running motion, we need to look at which muscle groups are used to produce the movement of each. In kinesiology, we study the origin and insertion of the muscles (which bones they are joined to) and their impact on the movement of a joint. Each movement has an opposite movement so we need to look at the muscles in pairs to understand how to strengthen them. If one of the muscles in any pair is much stronger than the other or much tighter than the other, it will cause imbalance and alignment issues that will eventually lead to injury.

So back to the hip joint. The two major muscle groups for running associated with the hip are the Hip Flexors that provide forward motion of the upper leg and the Glutes that provide the rearward motion of the upper leg. The working phase is when you are pulling your upper leg rearward so the muscle used to do this are the Glutes. If you've ever looked at the physique of a sprinter, it's hard to miss the size of their Glutes. This is because the primarily use the fast twitch fibers of the muscles for explosive movements and fast twitch fibers increase in size when trained. The Glutes are one of the strongest muscles in the body and are often out of balance with the hip flexors. Most runners should be doing some additional training for their hip flexors to prevent injury as well as stretching their Glutes to ensure good flexibility and range of motion.

Some good hip flexor strengthening exercises are sit-ups, hanging leg raises, rubber bank kicks and lever hip flexion exercises. Look for exercises that bend you at the hip and bear weight as you flex the hip.

To strengthen your Glutes try lunges or squats. Ensure that when you do either of these exercises that the knee does not extend past the toes as this is a common mistake that often leads to injury. Any exercise that bears weight as you extend (straighten) the hip is good.

The knee joint is probably the most troublesome for runners. The main muscles that articulate the knee are the Quadriceps that extend the knee and straighten the leg and the hamstrings that flex the knee and bend the leg. These two muscles do a lot of the work for runners and often are neglected when it comes to stretching. The hamstring is typically the stronger of the two but to help strengthen the knee, it's worth some investment in strengthening both. One of the most common injuries in runners is Patellofemoral Syndrome (Runner's knee) which is typically caused by a shortening of the quad muscle which then misaligns the tendons below the kneecap causing swelling and pain. Pulling a hamstring can also sideline a runner. So as well as strengthening these muscles it's particularly important to regularly stretch them both.

Hamstring exercises such as leg curls are very effective. To stretch your hamstrings sit on the floor with your legs extended forwards and bend your upper body towards your feet. The best way to stretch your hamstrings is to have someone help you extend them while lying on your back.

Quadriceps exercises include leg extensions, lunges or squats. Exercised that bear weight as you straighten your lower leg are good. Quad stretches can be done with a standing knee bend pulling your heel up towards your buttocks.

Lastly the ankle. Runners typically have well developed calf muscles that run up the back of the lower leg and underdeveloped Tibialis Anterior muscles. The Tibialis Anterior is the muscle you feel when you have shin splints and is used to pull the foot upwards. Usually shin splints are a result of suddenly increasing the workload on them such as running faster or longer without giving them a chance to adapt. So make sure you stretch the calves and strengthen and stretch your shins.

Calf exercises include any exercise where you push your toes downward such as standing on your tip toes or Calf raises. Stretch your calf by having the toes up against a wall, knee straight and leaning towards the wall.

Tibialis Anterior exercises include toe raises where you have weight as you lift the toes in an upward motion or reverse calf raises. Stretches that point the toes down will help this muscle.

As always the whole picture is much more complicated than the simplified version I've presented here and there are all kinds of collateral muscles that will aid and strengthen your legs so it's important to do a variety of exercises and movements to have strong legs.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Corporate Run Programs - White Paper

For a printable version of this paper, click here.

Every corporation today faces a number of challenges related to staffing. Motivation, retention, the rising cost of providing health benefits, communication, the list goes on and on.

Staff also face their own challenges; the increase pressure on their leisure time, their own health, their social life. 63% of Canadians are not active enough to achieve optimal health benefits which leaves them at risk for premature death, chronic disease and disability.

This paper will attempt to address some of those concerns by discussing some of the benefits of starting a corporate running program. The cost to the employer can be surprisingly low considering the number of benefits and the investment is well worth it. Studies in the U.S. have shown that for every dollar spent on employee wellness, up to nine dollars are returned in the form of better productivity, lower insurance premiums, less sick days and other more intangible benefits.

Even when the cost of wellness programs are transferred to the employees and the employers are just facilitating the programs, many of the benefits are still valid.

Corporate Benefits

Employee attraction.
Potential employees are often attracted to employers who offer a variety of good benefits.

Employee retention
Existing employees are often retained as a result of the benefits they receive being competitive within the marketplace. 85% of Canadians value physical activity.

Better Motivation
Studies have shown that people who perform regular physical activity have a better, more positive outlook. They tend to set goals and work towards them.

More productivity
A result of better motivation is better productivity. Also contributing to productivity is the fact that filter employees take less sick days.

Employee socialization
Setting up a corporate wide run team allows employees to interact with others they would not usually do so with. Running can be a great team building exercise and allow your employees to feel part of a bigger community.

Less sick days
Physically active employees take less sick days than their sedentary counterparts. The length of time they are sick is also reduced. They have less illness such as heart disease, diabetes, less back pain and less obesity.

Better communication and teamwork
Members of the run team will get to know each other leading to better on-the-Job communication and teamwork. Run teams help to break down corporate silos.

Corporate identity and promotion
Local running events can be a great way to promote your business especially if your run team is large. Your company could be promoted even more if you supply the team with company team T-shirts.

Cost saving on health insurance
With the rising costs of insurance benefits, many insurance carriers now offer discounts to corporations that provide wellness programs to their employees. Your company could benefit from lower employer-paid premiums simply by allowing your employees to participate.

Employee benefits

Reduces stress
People who exercise regularly report lower stress levels than those who don't. Taking time for yourself provides great stress relief and greater self worth.

More energy
Regular exercise is a great energy booster. Exercise also gets you ready for the days challenges. Studies have also shown that regular exercise can increase IQ.

Better socialization

Training with a group gives your employees a chance to meet new people. Having fun together is a great way to build new friendships.

Health benefits
Obviously there are many health benefits related to regular exercise. Cardiovascular exercise can lower the risk or heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. It can also delay the onset of osteoporosis and lessen the effects of Asthma and high blood pressure. The list goes on and on.

Lifestyle benefits
As well as the health benefits there are lifestyle benefits related to regular exercise such as looking healthier, feeling more energized and being better prepared for what life throws your way. A well-managed exercise program can improve your mind, body and spirit: the three components of total wellness.

By facilitating fitness programs for your employees at a time and place that is convenient to them you will remove the number one reason people use to not exercise. Our programs are run at, or close to, your work facilities around the time people usually finish work. This way they can exercise right before they go home and before other commitments distract them.

Social Benefits

Corporate identity in community
By having a large run team training together you will be demonstrating to the surrounding community that the welfare of your employees is important. This will show that your company is socially responsible especially if they are training to raise funds for a charity. It creates awareness and the team can become your company’s ambassadors.

Fundraising opportunities
Having a run team at a local event is a great way to raise funds for worthwhile causes or your Corporation's charity partners. Many races have corporate challenges based on performance as well as funds raised.


Our programs are designed with safety as the highest priority. All participants are required to abide by our safety rules at all times. Every route we run is pre-screened to ensure the safety of all participants and they are reminded of the risks and how to minimize them throughout the training.

Every participant is required to sign an industry standard par-Q form developed by Health Canada and if necessary obtain additional sign off from their doctor before starting the training program. They must also sign a significant release and waiver that notifies them of the risks associated with running and indemnifies their employer as well as any program sponsors or associates.

Appendix A – Return on Investment

Sourced from the Public Health Agency of Canada http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/

1. The Coors Brewing Company found that, in 1990, it returned $6.15 for every dollar spent on its corporate fitness program. This was the sixth year of its fitness program with annual returns ranging from $1.24 to $8.33. (Wellness Councils of America 1991)
Kennecott Copper Company showed that, over four years, for every dollar invested in its corporate fitness program the company returned $5.78. (American Institute of Preventative Medicine 1991)
Equitable Life Assurance realized a return on investment of $5.52 : $1 in the first year of its corporate fitness program. (Fitness in Business 1987)
In the first year of its TriHealthalon employee fitness program, General Mills, received a payback of $3.10 per dollar invested. In its second year, the payback increased to $3.90 : $1. (American Journal of Health Promotion 1989)
Motorola returned $3.15 per dollar from its employee fitness program. (Fitness Systems 1990)
PepsiCo found its corporate fitness program had a 300% return on investment: $3 for every $1 invested. (Fitness Systems 1990)
Over a six-year period, DuPont had a return of $2.05 for every $1 invested in its employee fitness program. (Health Behaviors 1992) Prudental Life Insurance found, in a five year study, it returned $1.91 per dollar invested in its employee fitness program. (American Institute of Preventative Medicine 1991)
Johnson and Johnson averaged a 30% return on investment from its Live For Life employee fitness program over a 12 year period, 1978-1990. (Preventative Medicine 1990)
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Indiana found that its corporate fitness program had a 250% return on investment; $2.51 for every $1 invested over a five-year period. (American Journal of Health Promotion 1991)
The Economic Benefits of Regular Exercise, IRSA, 1992
2. A two year study conducted by Mesa Petroleum revealed that its corporate fitness program had a benefit-to-cost ratio of $1.07. (Compensation and Benefits Management, Spring 1993)
New York Telephone saw a return of $1.95 for every $1 spent on its corporate fitness program. (Compensation and Benefits Management, Spring, 1993)
The Economic Benefits of Regular Exercise, IHRSA, 1996
3. From 1980 to 1991 there were 24 published studies evaluating the health benefits and, in some cases, the cost benefits of comprehensive health promotion and disease prevention programs in the worksite. In those previous studies, all 24 indicated positive health benefits and every study that analyzed for cost effects and / or cost benefit demonstrated a positive effect.
There were 24 new studies conducted between 1991 and the early part of 1993. Of the studies that analyzed cost- effectiveness or cost benefits, every one indicated a positive return.
§ City of Mesa B/C of 3.6
§ Travelers Insurance Company B/C ratios ranging from 1.4 to 14
§ Reynolds Elec. & Engineering Co. B/C ratio of 1.68 for evaluation period
§ DuPont Health Promotion Program B/C ratios of 1.11 (1985) and 2.05 (1986)
§ Johnson & Johnson "Live for Life" Program B/C ratio of 1.30 for evaluation period
§ General Mills Health Promotion Program B/C ratios of 3.10 (1985) and 3.90 (1986)
§ Adolph Coors Wellness Program B/C of 1.24, 3.75 and 8.33
§ Heart at Work Program B/C 1.15 and 1.28 for interventions groups
§ Northern Telecom B/C ratio of 1.54 for evaluation period
§ Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Indiana B/C ratio of 1.45 for evaluation period
§ Prudential Fitness Program B/C ratio of 1.93 for evaluation period
§ Mesa Petroleum B/C ratios of .76 and 1.07
§ Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto B/C of ratio of 1.41 for evaluation period
§ Equitable Life Assurance Program B/C ratio of 5.52 for evaluation period
Messer, Jeffrey, Worksite Fitness and Health Promotion Benefit-Cost Analysis: A Tutorial, Review of Literature, and Assessment of the State of the Art, AWHP's Worksite Health, 34-43, Summer 1995
4. 10-year, independent follow up study of the Canada Life program showed a return of $6.85 on each corporate dollar.
Kisby, Russ, The ROI of Healthy Workplaces, Canadian HR Reporter, 31
5. In reviewing the most recent 24 studies, all but one evidenced positive health outcomes. Again, of the studies which analyzed cost-effectiveness or cost benefits, every one indicated a positive return. (studies published between 1991-1993)
Pelletier, Kenneth, A Review and Analysis of the Health and Cost-Effective Outcome Studies of Comprehensive Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Programs at the Worksite: 1991-1993 Update, American Journal of Health Promotion, 8(1), 50-62, September/October
6. Reports of ROI include:
§ Travelers Insurance Co. =$3.40
§ Kennecott Copper =$5.78
§ Metropolitan Life =$3.15
§ Equitable Life = $5.52
§ Blue Cross/ Blue Shield of Indiana =$2.51
§ Mesa Petroleum = $2.16
§ Prudential =$1.91
§ Motorola =$3.00
§ New York Telephone = $1.90
Stead, Bette A., Worksite Health Programs: A Significant Cost-Cutting Approach, 37(6), 73, November 1994

"Economic Impact of Sport", a study carried out for HKSDB in 2001 by an independent economic consulting firm, Business and Economic Research Ltd (BERL).

Stead, Bette A., Worksite Health Programs: A Significant Cost-Cutting Approach, 37(6), 73, November 1994

The Public Health Agency of Canada http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/

About The Author
Tony Denford is a personal trainer and owner or Hit the Road. He has been training primarily runners since 2002 and has worked with beginners all the way to Boston Qualifier Marathon runners.

Tony emphasizes balance and variety in his training methods and always tries to make sure his client’s fitness routines are fun as well as beneficial.

Visit www.hittheroadrunning.com for more details on Hit The Road’s programs and services.

Your Core - The Foundation of Your Running

For a printable version of this article, click here.

Your core strength is more important to your running than you may think. Your core strength is the foundation your body uses to propel itself through physical space. Your limbs are merely levers used to produce movement. Without a solid core to push against, those levers will be inefficient.

Core strength is produced by the major muscles in your abdomen namely your Rectus Abdominis, Erector Spinae, Obliques and Transverse Abdominus. To have a solid core you must strengthen and balance all these muscles. Imbalance between these muscles could contribute to alignment issues, back pain and an inefficient gait so its important not to overwork one muscle at the expense of others. The most common mistake is people work their abdominals but neglect their back and obliques.

So why is a strong core so important?

When you move your legs to produce a forward motion, your legs which are acting as levers have 2 points of contact; the road and your core. When you push on the road there is no 'give'. If your core is weak and you push off against it, it will absorb some of the energy causing inefficiency. The stronger your core the more energy will be translated into forward motion.

If you've ever run in sand you will know how inefficient your running is when the surface you are pushing against is soft. It's the same with a soft core.

Engineers know the importance of a strong chassis in a car to provide better performance. The less energy absorbed into the car itself, the more is put into the road, where it matters and the same is true of your body.

A strong core will not only help your running performance but also will give you better posture, less back pain and will also help you prevent injury.

If you currently do not specifically work your core, start with one workout per week with at least one set for each muscle and work up from there.

There are a lot of exercises you can do for your core. Here are some examples;

Abdominal crunches are very effective. To do them correctly try to shorten the distance between your rib cage and Pelvis. Start with your arms by your side and progress all the way to your arms above your head for more resistance. Crunch slowly for good technique. Don't do sit ups for your abs. These work your hip flexors more than your abdominal muscles.

For your erector spinae try the superman exercise. Lie on your front with your arms up (like superman flying). Raise your right arm and left leg towards the sky. Lower them slowly and repeat with the opposite arm and leg.

0bliques can be worked with side bends. Start with no weight and add dumbbells as you become more advanced. You can also use variations on crunches that have a more lateral twisting motion.

Your transverse abdominus muscles run side to side from your midline like a girdle. To strengthen it stand up straight and pull your belly button in towards your spine, hold and slowly release.
Just as important as working your core muscle is stretching them. You do not want to be hunched over in later life or put up with back pain because your range of motion has been neglected. Just like stretching your leg muscles, you need to work on stretching all the muscles in your body to ensure they stay supple. Stretching is a entire subject to itself but the rule of thumb is to make the muscle you are stretching as long as possible, without pain.

Health Canada’s guideline for stretching is that you should be spending 30 minutes, five to seven times per week. That may seem like a lot but it does not have to be 30 minutes concurrent. Just stretch while you watch your favorite TV show.

These were just a few examples of exercises for your core. There are many different ways to work your core. Search the Internet or ask your trainer for more variations.

So, don’t neglect your core when choosing your workouts. Your technique will improve and you'll feel less fatigue on longer runs so the effort is well worth it.