Movement Monday: The Hang Clean

For the most part, weightlifting is boring.  Nobody-- especially people who spend the majority of their physical life outside amidst beautiful landscapes-- enjoys spending time in a gym, picking up weights, moving them around and then putting them back down.  It's boring as hell.  It's never going to be as fun as floating along mountain ridges, glissading down scree fields or making a hard-earned summit just in time to watch the sunrise.  But, as hard as it is to hear, lifting weights (properly) can make you a better, stronger, more efficient, less-injured runner.  

If you're going to waste your precious time moving weight around, it better be directly leading you to more FUN.  It better be an amazing supplement to what you like to do most... and if you're even a little bit like me, that almost always involves moving my body up, down and along rugged, variable terrain.  So that's what I'm here to do: show you some (hopefully) engaging movements that you will feel the benefit of out on the trails and in the mountains, doing what you love. 

The Hang Clean:

There are only a couple lifts that are actually Olympic events all in their own: The Snatch and the Clean.  The bench press or the squat don't fall under this category and if you've ever done an Olympic lift,  you certainly understand why.  Similar to running, the clean is seemingly simple movement with an endless amount of subtleties that demand your attention, nuances that need to be mastered.  As you begin to learn more, you realized how little you once knew... 

The key to the Hang Clean is your hip extension.  The strongest movement the human body makes, but-- unlike a squat-- the clean is a power movement, where time is a component.  You start with your feet around shoulder width (where you feel natural) and your hands positioned slightly outside your knees.  After deadlifting the bar off the floor, bring it to the "hang" position, slightly above your knees, with your arms extended and your hips in flexion (bent).  

You initiate the movement with your hips, extending them powerfully and allowing the barbell to begin to float toward the ceiling.  Avoid muscling the barbell with your upper body, the biggest trap that beginning cleaners fall into is trying to "reverse curl" the bar with their arms (tiny muscles) instead of relying on the hips (big muscles).  Essentially all you're doing with your arms is guiding the bar up along your body (the closer, the better).  Then as the bar reaches it's peak, you drop underneath as much as necessary while you let your arms rotate around the bar catching it against your clavicle in the front squat position, with your triceps parallel to the floor.  You finish the movement by standing upright and fully extending your hips.  

This movement may take some time to master, but I guarantee it will be fun. You'll leave the gym and find yourself thinking about it, visualizing the different phases... itching to perfect it.  Olympic power moves are not only difficult and fun but they're also the perfect supplement for a trail runner.  As endurance athletes, we spend the vast majority of our time working the slow-twitch fibers, neglecting the ever-important fast-twitch side of things, the side that keeps your stride rate snappy, your climbing ability explosive and your downhill footwork precise. 

Learn to clean.  It'll be more fun than the other crap you do at the gym and you'll see the benefits all over the trails.   

2015: The Year of Trailflow

Willy escaping snow and smog in Zion National Park this past weekend.

Willy escaping snow and smog in Zion National Park this past weekend.

A couple of weeks have passed since the start of the New Year, so hopefully you’ve already put in some decent miles. With any luck you haven’t lost any toes to frost bite or ate it into the 3 feet of pow on either side of the hard packed single track you’ve been running on.* Not that I’ve done that or anything, at least not in the first two weeks of 2015. What I have done since the start of the year is to realize that 2015 is going to be the Year of Trailflow. I don’t mean for that to sound arrogant or prideful, just true.

The entire Trailflow team is made up of two people, two likeminded individuals who love everything about trail running, even writing about it. Surprisingly enough, Trailflow generates no income for us, it is simply a labor of love. A labor that we have been doing a really terrible job of, I mean honestly, we post stuff as regularly as Karl Metlzer doesn’t win a race he entered. That’s like once a year. We vow to be better, we vow to bring you consistent, thoughtful, funny, insightful and occasionally stupid material all about this wonderful sport. That is why 2015 is the Year of Trailflow.

As ultrarunners our fitness resolutions are not like that of the average person. We may be looking to lose weight, but probably not to avoid cardiovascular disease. We want to tackle hills faster and weighing less makes that possible. We want to exercise more, to the tune of 15 additional miles to our weekly goal or start cross training so your body doesn’t fall apart at the seams 1,200 miles into the year (if so, check out our Movement Mondays). We may even want to eat more, opposed to less, so we don’t bonk during races.  Our resolutions are different but they are still difficult to accomplish. That being said, we have set some pretty lofty resolutions for this coming year.

This year we are going to post on Trailflow three times weekly- Monday, Wednesday and Friday. If we start slipping in March, please call us out. Seriously, do it! It would also be cool to for Trailflow to be featured on Trail Runner Nation or Ultra Runner Podcast. So, if you know those guys put in a good word!

Now onto our running goals: We are both going to run our first 100-mile race, attempt an unsupported sub-10 hour crossing of the Zion Traverse, run the entire length of the backbone trail (Santa Monica Mountains), possibly climb and ski Mt. Whitney and overall we would like to just run to the top of more mountains than we did in 2014. That’s what it is all about, right?

2015 will be the Year of Trailflow. At least it will be in our little world.

 

*Yeah, I know Bobby G. You're running shirtless in baggies. I'm running in 6 layers. It sucks.

Movement Monday

Runners like to run.  It's a simple as that.  For most of us, that means that the (vast) majority of our physical activity is going to come in the form of running.  We all seem to have at least a vague notion that "cross training" is important and can help us be better runners and avoid injury... most of us just choose to neglect this instinct.  We'd rather run.  

Back in October, smack in the middle of some high mileage weeks, I really started to let everything else I was doing fall by the wayside; the only thing I cared about was hitting my mileage goal.  I was ignoring my body, refusing to listen to the warning signs, singularly concerned with hitting 100 mile weeks.  And, eventually, I lost over four months of time in the mountains with a stress fracture in my fibula.  

During those four months,  I had a lot of time to consider what when wrong (the fibula is a non-weight bearing bone, so it wasn't as simple as "I was running too much") and what I could do to prevent this from happening in the future.  The result was a strength and movement program that I developed to help supplement my running: running on trails in the mountains in variable, unpredictable conditions.  

Starting today, every Monday I am going to share a movement with you, a movement that is not "running" but will help facilitate and supplement your running.  I choose to call these "movements" and not "exercises" because the emphasis here is always going to be doing the movement correctly, not how much weight you use (if applicable) or how many reps you get in.  

Movement Monday #1: Front Squat

The Front Squat is a great movement for trail runners for a few reasons.  First, by holding the load in the front squat position, you're emphasizing your glutes and your core (specifically lower back muscles), two very important body parts out on the trail and in basically every other part of your life that doesn't involve sitting on your ass.

Secondly, holding the bar in the correct position (with your triceps parallel with the floor) forces you to open your shoulders, pull them back and maintain perfect posture throughout-- something most runners are in desperate need of.  

So, the two most important form points: 1) Get your butt all the way down below your knees.  Even if you have to use a broomstick instead of weight.  This range of motion is crucial to the movement and to maintaining flexibility as you add strength. One more time: YOU MUST USE A FULL RANGE OF MOTION. And 2) keep your triceps parallel to the floor.  There's a photo of Mike Wolfe doing a front squat on the NorthFace Instagram feed and his upper arms are perpendicular with the floor.  Don't do them like this.  Open your shoulders!!

And don't laugh at me... It was the end of my set. 

 

Fantasy Football? Try Fantasy Ultrarunning instead!

So… it is fantasy football season, err, it is football season, which means it is also fantasy season. I love fantasy football I love making fun of my friends when I beat them and I love making up ridiculous excuses when those turds get lucky and beat me. This got me thinking… Why don’t I start a fantasy ultrarunning league?!

Here is how I imagine it working-

The key with fantasy ultrarunning is that it isn’t quite as regular as football. Realistically you could only play a handful of times per year if you wanted to make it competitive. I can see there being decent competition for a few races- Western, UTMB, Speedgoat, the Montrail races and maybe the some other larger races.

This is what a roster would like for a race weekend-

Male Top 3-

1st place- Kilian Jornet

2nd Place- Anton Krupicka

3rd Place- Timothy Olsen

Wild Card- Hal Koerner (Had to throw him in here, my man crush is too large not to.)

So that is the top part of your roster. If you guess the winner correctly, you get 10 points. The second place guy gets you 8 points and the third place guy gets you 6. If the wild card shows up anywhere in the top 3 you get 3 points. Also, if any of your players end up in differing spots in the top 3 you receive 2 points.

Female Top 3-

1st place- Rory Bosio

2nd place- Nuria Picas

3rd place- Anna Frost

Wild Card- Jenn Shelton

Same scoring applies to the women in the field as the men.  Now onto the fun stuff.

DNF 1-  Sally Mcrae

DNF 2- Hal Koerner

Sorry Sally, I just don’t think your expertise is 100 milers quite yet.  And Hal, I love you but you are either going to kill it or crash and burn. 15 points each if you guess one of the DNFs right.

 

Last place Finisher- Random Joe Blow off of Ultrasignup.

This is a tough selection. Hop on ultrasignup.com before the race and pick the person you think is coming in last place. Those projections are always right! 20 points for this one because there are so many people to choose from!

The last roster spot is for the person who dresses the dumbest for the post race celebration.

T.P.W.D.T.D.F.P.R.C.- Dominic Grossman

The more I think about it this will always be Dominic Grossman so we should probably just leave this category out.

Well there it is guys, a guide to starting your very own UltraRunning Fantasy League! I suggest doing the draft at least 2-3 days in advance, just to get the trash talk going!