Uphill Running Tips

Running uphills efficiently, quickly and easier is important no matter what level of runner you are. As a professional ultra marathon runner who trains in the Rocky Mountains, I’ve worked diligently on my uphill running technique.  Here are some of my tips for road and trail runners.

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Downhill Running Tips

I use to hate downhills. They would hurt my knees, bang up my quads and I would get passed by so many runners on them. But after learning how to run them correctly, I now love downhills. They don’t beat up my body at all anymore and downhills are now one of my specialties.

Here are some of my tips for running gradual downhills:

  1. Increase your cadence: Basically, this means taking small steps. Doing so will help reduce impact (especially on your knees) and will save you energy. You will notice how much lighter and quieter you run when you do this. Shoot for around 180 steps per minute.
  2. Engage your ‘core’: Doing so will transfer some of the ground reactive forces from your joints to your strong core muscles. Engage your ‘core’ by gently pulling in your belly button about 20-30% and hold this when you run downhill. Don’t engage too hard or too high which will restrict your breathing. Focus on engaging your lower abdominal muscles especially your transverse abdominus.
  3. Lean slightly down the hill: Many runners put on the brakes when they run downhill. This results in greater impact AND slows you down. As long as you are doing the above focuses, allow yourself to flow down the hill. Don’t lean backwards, instead you should feel a gentle pull down the hill almost like you are falling. When you lean, make sure it is coming from the ankles and you are NOT bending at the waist. It is essential that you first make sure you are running with a high cadence and are engaging your core.

Damian Stoy is the founder of Wholistic Running, biomechanics specialist and professional ultra marathon runner.

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How to Run Injury-Free

I use to suffer from many chronic running injuries and had several doctors and physical therapists tell me:

“Give up running.”       “Running is bad for you.”      “You aren’t designed to run.”

I sure am glad I didn’t listen to them. Since then, I have run over 30 ultra marathons and even won 8 of them.

But a much greater accomplishment is the fact that I have been injury-free for the past 10 years. Yep, not a single major running injury in over 10 years even as a competitive ultra runner. Sure, I have minor tweaks and pain after running 100 miles in the mountains. But I do specific things that prevent serious injury which would cause me to go back to the days when I was injured and couldn’t run. I never want to go back to those dark days.10500512_10154308742355584_8044031842047266675_n

Shin splints, runner’s knee, IT band pain, muscle strains and foot pain were just some of the injuries I use to suffer from. Worst of all, I had patellar tendonitis in both knees for two years when I was in college. I was in pain all the time and some days I could barely walk. I went to some of the best doctors and physical therapists in New England and nothing seemed to help so I gave up running completely.

Two years of not running led to depression and a decline in health. I decided there had to be a solution, a better way. I did some research, read lots of books and found out that if I modified and practiced my running technique, I could maybe run again. It sounded unbelievable and I was very skeptical. But I went out and modified my running technique, running for the first time in over 2 years. To my surprise I was able to run with minimal pain. As the days went past, I was able to run more and more with less and less pain. I was hooked.

That was over 10 years ago and since then I have learned extensively about how to run injury-free as well as increase performance. I have experimented with many concepts and lots of trial and error. Now being a competitive ultra runner and injury-free for over 10 years, I have found what works really well for me and my passion is sharing it with others.

My top tips for injury-free running and greater performance:

1. Listen to your body

Yes, I have minor tweaks and pains when I train and after 50 or 100 mile races. The important thing is to not let these become injuries that stop you from running. The key is listening to your body. Do NOT ignore these pains. They are a signal from your body that you need to back off, rest or correct something such as your running technique. Do not be afraid to take a couple days or more completely off.

2. Improve your running technique

The major factor that allowed me to overcome chronic injuries was modifying my running technique. In the past I was inefficient and ran with a high impact technique that beat up my body, though at the time I did not know. For you to correctly modify your technique, do lots of your own research and try different concepts. I highly recommend seeking out a technique specialist to help you with your technique. At a minimum, video yourself running so you can see exactly how you run. Too many runners tell me they don’t heel strike, don’t have imbalances or misalignment issues but most often they do.DSC_0630

3. Improve your nutrition

What I eat greatly enhances my overall health, keeps my energy levels very high and helps me to recover incredibly fast. Again, the key is listening to your body and finding out what works best for you. I have tried just about everything out there and the ‘diet’ that works best for ME for performance, recovery and increased energy is a whole foods, plant-based diet (WFPB).

I highly recommend a nutritional coach like Lindsey at Wholicious Living who can get you great results (she’s also my girlfriend and elite runner, in the picture above).

4. Train smarter, not harder

I am a firm believer in quality over quantity. Training with this philosophy can prevent burn out, decrease injuries and running will be more enjoyable. You will also be more likely to reach your long term goals. Every run you do should have a purpose. Get rid of the junk miles that do not serve a purpose. Cyclic and periodization training are very valuable for reaching long term goals.

There are many good training programs out there. However, most do not focus on injury prevention. I highly recommend looking for a running coach that specifically focuses on injury prevention as well as performance.

5. Other important factors

Cross training and runner specific strength training are beneficial but in my opinion NOT as important as the factors I discuss above. Your foundation should be overall health, an efficient technique and proper training. Strength and cross training will build upon your foundation but too many runners rely on them exclusively for injury prevention.

I am also an advocate of sports massage, yoga, physical therapy and other techniques to help enhance recovery and overall health. But again, do NOT rely exclusively on these for injury-prevention.

Damian Stoy is a running coach, biomechanics specialist, nutritional consultant and founder of Wholistic Running. He offers online coaching and nutritional consultations for runners all around the world.

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Foods to improve athletic performance

-Damian Stoy is the founder of Wholistic Running, respected coach, biomechanics specialist and certified running instructor. As a professional ultra runner he has been injury-free for over 9 years.  Read his bio and race results.

 

 

Damian offers Online Coaching and Online Running Technique Improvement Plans

 

Fixing foot injuries and issues

Foot pain can often linger and become a chronic injury. Prevention is a must for all runners before you get injured. These tips will help you prevent AND fix foot injuries.

4 effective and natural steps to fixing your feet and keeping them healthy:

  1. Wear Correct Toes to renew, align and strengthen your feet.
  2. Wear Altra shoes which allow your feet to spread and move naturally.
  3. Follow a Wholicious Living nutritional lifestyle to reduce inflammation and pain and speed up the healing process.
  4. Learn low impact, efficient and pain-free running and walking technique. It’s amazing how many people I’ve helped with a couple simple exercises.

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-Damian Stoy is a professional ultra marathon runner, founder of Wholistic Running, biomechanics specialist, running coach and has been injury-free for over 10 years.

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Online Coaching

Are you training for an upcoming race?  Are you unsure how to train and prepare?  Would you like to be optimally prepared, stay healthy and have your best race ever?   Damian can help you achieve your goals no matter what level of runner you are.

Damian shares his vast experience as a sponsored elite racer to help you accomplish your goals while maximizing enjoyment and success.  He has coached with some of the greatest endurance runners ever and shares his expertise with all levels of runners. Damian can even help you achieve your goals of running a faster or longer distance race with his proven, easy to learn methods.  Believing in quality over quantity, Damian gets results for runners of all abilities.

  • Specific & Detailed Weekly Training Plans: Maximize training for your schedule
  • Technique Guidance Plan:  Run better, easier & pain-free
  • Pre-Race Planning: How to optimally prepare and perform well
  • Runner Specific Exercises:  6 simple exercises every runner needs
  • Optimal Nutrition: Recover faster and feel more energized
  • Efficient Technique Lessons: Easy to learn and designed specifically for you
  • Professional Expertise :  Specific tips for you to run your best
  • Online Video Analysis for runners all over the world

Read how Damian has helped so many runners here…

Online Coaching includes specific and detailed weekly training plans, online video analysis with comprehensive technique guidance, unlimited email communications and a weekly phone or Skype consultation.  Everything you need to perform your best is included.

Paypal Bill me later2

Monthly Package   Cost:  $250      Pay here

6 Months Package    Cost:   $950     Pay here

3 Months Package    Cost:  $500     Pay here

30 Min. Phone or Skype Consultations (included in packages)   Cost:  $50    Pay here

My experience eating fruitarian

-Damian Stoy is the founder of Wholistic Running and is a professional ultra endurance athlete.  He received a certification in Nutrition from Cornell and offers Nutritional Coaching as well as Online Running Coaching.

For many years I wanted more energy, greater health and better performance. I have tried a variety of supplements and ‘diets’ including Paleo, cleanses, superfoods and the ‘Clean Diet’ and nothing worked. I then decided to experiment with a raw, fruit-based (fruitarian) diet for just one week. Instead, it turned into a 16 month life changing experience.

Almost immediately after going fruitarian, I felt my energy levels increase.  After a month, I felt like a NEW person.  I now feel vibrant, alive and I am absolutely thriving.  My energy levels are high ALL day long, everyday.  Most of the time, I feel like I am ‘bouncing of the walls’ with energy yet I do not have the energy crashes many people have (I consume no stimulants such as coffee, tea, chocolate).  I’m sleeping better, have much greater mental clarity, am more focused and I’m happier.  My digestion has strengthened (didn’t know mine could get better), my skin is clearer and my eyes are brighter.

I also won the Antelope Island 100k race recently with the second fastest time ever.  My time at this year’s Wasatch 100 was an hour faster than last year. I also recently won the Bighorn 50 miler. Bottom line:  I feel totally ALIVE, I am performing better and I am THRIVING.

My girlfriend Lindsey has experienced similar if not greater benefits. She has unlimited energy and is at her ideal weight, something she has been looking to achieve for many years.DSC_0630

UPDATE⇒ Three years since going fruitarian, Damian has won several ultra marathon races and Lindsey has won 5 consecutive races including the RRCA Montana State 5k Championships. We have modified how we eat because a fruitarian diet has its challenges and we found what works just as well. Our way is easier, tastier, cheaper and has all the same health benefits.This is why Lindsey (she has a M.S. in Holistic Nutrition) and I offer Nutritional Consulting. It’s so others can get just as amazing results including weight lose, increased energy, vibrant health and better performance. If you want similar or better results, our nutritional consulting is the answer. Click HERE to learn more.

“Run smarter” – Antelope Island 100K recap

People often tell me that I make running look easy.  And for most of the Antelope Island 100K I was relaxed, comfortable and having fun. I train and run smarter, not harder and rely on an efficient technique to get the results I desire which is to run injury-free, perform well and do what I love.  And it really paid off with a win and the 2nd fastest time ever.

I made the decision to do the race just the week before.  That week was spent doing hard, manual labor for my brother’s landscaping business including moving over 2.5 tons of rock in one day.  It wasn’t ideal right before a race and I went into Antelope a little fatigued and beat up.  No worries, I just had to focus on efficiency even more.

Antelope1

The start of the race was glorious.  We ran underneath a huge full moon and the stars all overlooking the Great Salt Lake.  For nearly 1.5 hours we ran in the dark with the moonlight shimmering on the lake.  The sunrise and brilliant alpenglow on the Wasatch mountain range was also spectacular.  There were lots of bison and antelope out there as well.

The first 50K I ran with friends and was pretty conservative.  I was trailing behind Zac Marion who was in 1st and caught him at the halfway aid station. We took off together comfortably chatting and discussing the day so far.  We had a pretty fast first half and I decided that if I pushed it I might have a chance to go under 9 hours. So, I took off.  I ran miles 32-52 pretty fast.  I was all alone and was reminding myself to run smarter, not harder.  The course was fairly technical and hilly with some long, gradual climbs including one of over 1000 ft.  When my hamstrings were tired I focused on pelvic and spinal rotation.  When my quads were fatiguing I focused on engaging my core. Around mile 52 my left quad starting seizing up from a deep bruise I got when I pinched my leg between a large rock and wheel barrow a few days before.  This threw my technique off a bit but I was determined to keep moving.

I never carry a watch when I run so I actually had no idea how much time I had to break 9 hours.  I just decided to keep pushing it.  I repeated a mantra, “I am light, I am strong” thousands of times.  I finished fairly strong with a 1st place finish and the 2nd fastest time ever of 9:06:40.

I was happy about my race because I had fun, enjoyed being out with friends and took in the spectacular scenery.  My consistent work of practicing technique sure paid off.  The amazing thing is that I never really got sore after the race.  Even 4 days after, I literally feel like I didn’t do a race.  I attribute this to my efficient running technique, smarter way of training and plant-based diet.  Now it’s time to look into doing another ultra in a few weeks…

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I wanted to thank my friends and family for all their wonderful support.  Also, a thanks to my sponsors, Altra shoes, Hammer Nutition and Macrolife Naturals.  I am grateful to be able to do what I love, thank you!

Photos: Courtesy of Lori Burlison

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2013 Wasatch 100 – “Never Give Up”

Running 100 miles is a challenge.  Running 100 miles in the mountains with over 26,000 ft. of uphill and over 26,500 ft. of downhill in one day is crazy . Yet, I decided to run Wasatch again this year even after last year I swore I would never do it again (read on to see if I’ll ever do Wasatch again).

My preparation for Wasatch this year was somewhat better than last year (check out my past race results).  I put in about the same amount of mileage as last year but with less racing in 2013.  Instead,this year I focused on playing in spectacular places such as Glacier and Grand Teton National Parks and the Beartooth Wilderness area. As I saw it, the one advantage I had this year over last year is that for the 4 months prior to the 2013 Wasatch, I ate fruitarian.  That’s right, I ate 99% just fruits and vegetables.  I was curious…and nervous, to see if going fruitarian would contribute to my success or possibly my failure.

The night before Wasatch, Lindsey and I slept under the stars at the start of the race.  It was spectacular and we got a good 3 hours of sleep.  The start of the race approached and like always, I saw lots of friends and wished them a great day.

And just like that, me and a couple hundred other runners were off into the darkness at 5 am.  The first 20 miles I enjoyed chatting with other runners and I quickly fell into my groove.  It was refreshing  to have company before the long day ahead.

I felt great for the first 30 miles.  However, during one long descent, I started feeling my quads more than usual so early in the race.  I knew this would be a very rough day for me! So I did what I normally do which is focus on my running technique.  In this case, it meant focusing on engaging my core to help absorb the impact of the very long downhills. Temperatures were pushing 95 degrees and I did everything I could to stay cool including put ice under my hat, stay wet, drink sufficient fluids and maintain adequate electrolyte balance.  However, I reached the Big Mountain aid station incredibly hot and more fatigued than I wanted.  My excellent crew was there to greet me and take care of me.  They included my wonderful dad, amazing girlfriend Lindsey, and super helpful brother Alex.  A few minutes of care and off I went.

The next section was the hottest part of the day.  It was hard to consume enough calories, drink enough fluids and stay cool.  I was ready to puke, quit and pass out all at the same time.  “Just get to Lambs aid station”, I kept telling myself.  Miles 45-52 were some of the most challenging of my life.  It was fairly flat but the heat was unbearable.  I decided I would get to Lambs and quit.

Seeing my crew and family after running 52 miles is just heaven.  I ran in, knowing I would quit but not wanting to tell them just yet.  They cooled me off, gave me food and provided the support I desperately needed.  I whispered to Lindsey that I was “cooked”, “done” and ready to “quit”.  She didn’t say much, but I knew she supported me no matter what…as long as that meant keep going. Luckily for me, my brother Alex decided to jump in and pace me.  He’d run with me to Brighton.  To have a brother physically fit enough to jump in to help at any time is pretty cool.  I take him for granted and can’t thank him enough.  I finally decided to get going and we took off from Lamb’s with me thinking, “I’ll just quit at the next aid station” which was about 8 miles up.

I spent the next hour trying to refuel, cool off and rehydrate which I slowly did.  Alex and I reached the next aid station and I felt somewhat better.  I decided, “I’ll just make it to Brighton” which is at mile 75.  Then I’ll quit.  We continued to run together and had a blast. Darkness fell and we put on our headlamps.  I serenaded Alex with hits of the 80’s and 90’s.  I know he enjoyed it because my singing is pretty good.  We finally reached Brighton where I again was ready to give up.  But, luckily for me, Lindsey found a willing fool to pace me to the finish.  This was just what I needed since I was adamant about quitting (at least to myself) and especially not wanting to head into the darkness alone knowing and afraid my legs wouldn’t carry me the rest of the way.

The spontaneous fool that joined me was Nate Blouin and I cannot thank him enough for joining me on my adventure.  He was positive, funny and very helpful.  Slow and steady we kept ticking off the miles.  I was tired, grumpy and ready to be done but still had to do some tremendous work to reach my final goal.  Miles 82-92 were the longest of my life and Nate did the best he could to keep me going.  Ultra races are crazy (and addictive) because of the extreme highs and lows both mentally and physically.  One minute I felt on top of the world and the next I felt ready to give up and melt into the ground.

Fortunately, I got into mile 92 feeling pretty good.  From here, the race was mostly on a dirt road which allowed me to pick up the pace quite a bit.  So off we ran.  I am very proud to say that for the last 6 miles, I ran almost every step of the way.  Finally, we could see the finish and like always, I started getting very emotional.  I couldn’t get to the finish line fast enough for I was excited to see my family, hug Lindsey and be done.  I sprinted (probably running 6 mph) into the finish where I embraced them and couldn’t have been more happy. After wanting to give up so badly and so often, I finally reached my goal in a time of 24:15:51 in 13th place.  It was a tremendous feeling of accomplishment and joy.

I couldn’t have achieved my goal without the support of so many people.  I want to thank my family, especially my dad and Alex for supporting me.  Without Lindsey’s encouragement and positive energy, I could not have reached the finish.  I also want to thank Nate for helping me get to the finish.  And finally, I’d like to thank all the volunteers and race directors for helping myself and hundreds of others achieve something they will never forget.

It is now a week after the race.  I am amazed at how quickly I have recovered.  I have already gone for a few runs and feel wonderful.  I attribute my quick recovery and ability to run such long distances completely injury-free while performing well to several things. First, to my dedicated practice of an efficient running technique which I also teach. Eating vegan greatly contributes to my performance and health.  I greatly appreciate the support of my sponsors.  For shoes, I wore the Altra Superior’s which were awesome, check them out HERE. I used mostly Hammer Nutrition to fuel me during the race. Macrolife Naturals also contributed to my performance, quick recovery time and overall health.

So will I do Wasatch next year?  Maybe.  Right now I’m focused on doing another 100 miler sometime in October.  I said it was addicting right…

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Bridger Ridge Barefoot Run

Running the Bridger Ridge barefoot has been a goal of mine for a few years.  This 20 mile run traverses the Bridger Mountains in Bozeman, Montana and is considered “possibly the most rugged and most technical 20 mile trail race in existence”.  To do the run unsupported and barefoot would be a challenge to say the least.

Why I would want to do this is a question I’ve been asked many times.  There is no easy answer but a few things come to mind.  1.  No one has done it before  2.  It would be harder than anything I’ve done before including several 100 mile runs  3.  People have said it is impossible  4.  I had to find out if I could do it.

I pushed back the start date for my attempt of The Ridge because of my decision to run two races this Fall.  The first was the Wasatch 100 in early September and the Yellowstone-Teton 50 which I completed and won a week before my barefoot Ridge Run attempt.  This later start meant colder conditions and more snow and mud than ideal.

With the help of friends, I reached the trailhead around 11 am.  I decided on a mid-morning start to allow the air, soil and rocks to “warm up”.  Temperatures at the start were in the 40’s and it was windy and mostly cloudy.  I hesitantly took off my shoes and began my ascent up Sacajawea Peak at a decent clip.  This almost 2,000 ft. climb had a mixture of thin snow and cold rocks.  I kept going back and forth whether it was easier and more comfortable to run barefoot in the snow or on the rocks.  I’m still conflicted on that one. The ascent up Sacajawea proved to be tricky.   Over half way up was a dangerously steep slope with considerable snow and ice.  I had to kick ‘boot’ steps into the snow for traction…barefoot.  I was constantly slipping down slope but determined to keep moving up.  I passed about 10 people on the ascent and a few of them had comments such as “maybe barefoot is easier” or “that looks easier” and “wow, he’s flying”. Maybe I made it look easy and I was flying but it…kinda sucked.  I reached the summit probably 15 minutes slower than when I’ve ‘raced’ The Ridge.  Shit, I was cold. The amazing views on top of Sacajawea kept me determined to keep moving.  My feet were a strange combination of incredibly cold, sore, sensitive and numb.  Pretty typical for a barefoot run but I still had 17 miles to go on very rocky terrain.  Going down Sacajawea was a challenge because of its sharp, loose rocks.  This wasn’t much of a problem for me because I was prepared for this (unlike the snow and cold mud).  I’ve been running barefoot for the past 8 years or so.  I’ve had several runs over 30 miles barefoot, mostly in the desert Southwest.  I’ve also run 10+ miles barefoot in the Bridgers before but never this far or on top of The Ridge for so long.

I knew the run down to Ross Pass would be one of the ‘easier’ parts of the day.  I wanted to make up time here so I cruised this section as fast as I could barefoot.  This equates to probably 5 mph versus in shoes I’d be running it at about 9 mph.  My feet were holding up very well and I was pretty confident about the day.  The only thing I was nervous about was the snow and mud as I made my way towards Saddle and Bridger Peaks. I continued my barefoot run on The Ridge moving very slowly.  Some parts I was averaging about 2 mph.  To call this a run may sound comical but I was truly running much of the traverse albeit very slow.  Also, much of the run was climbing and tip-toeing over sharp rocks at less than 1 mph.  It was a very painful, slow going forward progress.  I was grateful to have my experience as an ultramarathon runner knowing all I had to do was put one step in front of the other and eventually I would finish my goal.I continued to make my way south towards the M.  Running The Ridge barefoot was proving to be possible, painful and enjoyable.  The benefits of running barefoot are hard to describe but it forces you to slow down and really appreciate the beauty this world has to offer.  You have to be in the present moment and your mind cannot wander.  It turns running into a moving meditation which is a truly sublime and wonderful experience.   The challenge for today was complete concentrating, determination and focus for 8 hours. I continued my traverse of The Ridge staying around 8500 ft with many ups and downs both literally and figuratively.  I continued to ask myself why I was doing this.  But my experience as a runner and yogi motivated me to keep moving.  At the time, I didn’t know why I was doing this but eventually I would find that answer.  Running barefoot not only increases my connection and love for Nature but also teaches me about my greater Self and about life and its wonderful mysteries.

I continued to experience longer and longer stretches of mud and snow.  I was beginning to doubt if running The Ridge barefoot today was possible and if it was smart.  My feet and toes were beginning to get frost bite and I just didn’t know if this goal was worth long term injury.  About 11 miles into my barefoot attempt, I decided to put on shoes.  It actually wasn’t a difficult choice, I had to or risk long term damage to my feet.  Just the thought of that now makes me shudder.  How important our feet are.  Sure, for 11 miles my feet were incredibly cold, sensitive and the rocks were unimaginably painful.  But frost bite is not something I like to mess around with.  I put on my shoes and continued on my way with not a single regret.

The rest of run was just as spectacular as the rest, just a little faster.  Going from barefoot to wearing shoes made me feel like I was wearing balloons on my feet they were so soft and cushiony.  I spent the last 9 miles enjoying the beautiful Fall day and grateful I get to do what I love to do.  How glorious it is to be moving in the mountains,  in the wilderness.

I reached the finish over 7 hours after I began.  Compare this to when I raced The Ridge in 2011 at 3:40 and to my 50 miler the week before which took me 7:11.  Running barefoot in the mountains is very slow.  It is also incredibly rewarding.

Something I realized today is that running The Ridge barefoot is possible and will happen.  I will attempt it again with better conditions, probably the Summer of 2013.  I expect it to take me 10-12 hours to complete, at least.  For now, I found the answer to some of my questions even if they aren’t the answers I wanted:  no one has completely run The Ridge barefoot including me, it was harder than my previous 100 mile races and it is possible, just not by me today.  I now know it is possible, anything is possible.  Everest and the Grand Teton were attempted dozens of times before successfully summiting them.  Is running The Ridge barefoot comparable?  No, but it’s the concept.  Just like anything else in life.  If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

You can see the rest of my pictures here