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How to improve your ground contact time (GCT)

JUN 28, 2023

Minute 1: Feeling tired? The solution could be more movement… or less movement

When a baby cries, that’s their way of sending you a message: “I’m hungry. I’m wet. I’m sleepy.” But sometimes they’re just fussy and DMing you for no good reason. Your body can be the same way. Like an infant (or a teenager on BeReal), the signals to your brain can be a head fake. Your body may say: “I’m tired, so let’s go to sleep,” but the real prescription could be more exertion, not less. If you want to figure out what your body needs for a pick-me-up, take a look at: “When You’re Feeling Exhausted, Is It Better To Nap or Get Moving To Get More Energy?” Many folks find that skipping a nap and boosting their heart rate instead is actually what wakes them back up. Let’s say you’re getting plenty of sleep, but still experience fatigue. Could more exercise be the solution? Some experts think so, according to: “Does exercise really boost energy levels?” Regular exercise improves your body’s efficiency when it comes to energy use. It also increases the presence of energizing hormones, signaling your body to create and use more energy throughout the day. On the other hand, there is no substitute for a good night’s rest, so if you aren’t sleeping long enough, you’re going to rack up “sleep debt.” If you’ve been getting to bed late, getting up early, or experiencing interruptions to your sleep (those pesky infants), your best bet to reduce fatigue will be a power nap. Not only will napping restore energy to your body, but it can even bolster your cognitive performance too. That’s why there have been “Calls to make nap part of working day after latest study on brain benefits.” A recent study found that habitual napping was associated with greater brain volume in adults, so researchers concluded a 10-20 minute nap could be an effective antidote to neurodegeneration.

Minute 2: Your rest intervals should differ depending on your fitness goals

Jazz legend Miles Davis once said that "It's not the notes you play, it's the notes you don't play." He knew that giving space for your performance and taking rests was essential to the process. Funny enough, exercise and music might share that in common, because the way you approach your rest periods can have a pivotal effect on your results, according to this Polar blog: “How Much Rest Should You Take During Your Interval Workouts?” Taking rests between sets brings a number of benefits, including increasing your capacity for waste removal, boosting available energy, and reducing your likelihood of injury. The duration of your rest time will depend on your goals, and you can follow these guidelines for each kind of workout. To build muscular endurance, 20-60 seconds of rest will do the trick. For muscle growth, 30-90 seconds can promote hypertrophy – the increase and growth of muscle cells. For power and strength, a full 2-5 minutes will be best, allowing you to perform close to your maximum exertion level several times in one workout. Not only will the length of your rest periods alter your performance, but so will the kind of recovery you use. If you want tips on how to maximize rest-period effectiveness, this is what Training Peaks recommends: “Strategizing Rest Periods During Interval Training.” One of the most important factors is choosing between active or passive recovery. Researchers have found that a combination of both resulted in the highest muscle reoxygenation levels and greatest heart rate reduction among athletes.

Minute 3: Here are the best hot weather workouts

As the weather heats up, it can be tempting to slow your running schedule down. There’s nothing wrong with sidestepping a workout here and there to avoid the heat, but there are plenty of ways besides running to exercise in the summer while staying safe. If you think it’s too hot to run, but don’t want to record a “zero day,” consider the ideas in this new piece: “These Are the Best Hot Weather Workouts.” Included on the list are some obvious choices, like swimming and paddleboarding. Not only will paddleboarding keep you cool with easy access to the water, but it’s also a fantastic way to develop core strength and balance too. Some paddlers like to keep a damp towel around their shoulders to chill out and provide additional protection from the sun. There are seven activities listed in the article, but if you’d like to stick to running, make sure you’re dressed for the occasion. If you’re not sure what clothes to put on (or take off), you should read: “Does Running Shirtless Keep You Cooler on Hot, Humid Days?” Sweat works by evaporating off your skin to transfer heat away from your body. Therefore, exposing as much skin to the air as possible can improve your body’s ability to cool down, which is why many runners like to go sans shirt on hot days. Of course, you’ll need to strike a balance between staying cool and limiting your risk of sun damage, so don’t forget to apply plenty of sunscreen and avoid running at noontime if possible.


Minute 4: Lab grown meat could be the future of sustainable protein sources

In the race to develop sustainable, cruelty-free meat products, a lot of ideas have been thrown around. There’s the Impossible Burger, which can be a solid source of protein and fiber. However, they’ve got quite a bit of sodium, according to: “How Healthy Are Fake Meats Like Impossible and Beyond, Really?” That means they can contribute to your risk of heart disease and stroke. The good news is, plant-based meat substitutes are just the beginning, and there’s a new frontier of meat alternatives breaking ground: “First 'lab-grown' meat approved for sale in the US.” They call it “cultivated” meat, and it’s grown in a bioreactor from real animal cells. If you’re skeptical of the product and its safety for consumption, we don’t blame you; it sure does sound like something out of a sci-fi movie. However, in 2019, the FDA established a regulatory body to ensure the safety of lab grown meat for human consumption. Now, two California-based companies earned approval and are bringing their products to shelves. Currently, the greatest concern will likely be price, but experts believe the process could become cheaper and better for the environment than traditional meat farming within 5-15 years. Speaking of suspicious chicken, we should clear up a rumor that was going around this past spring about one of our favorite protein sources: “What's Going On with Costco's Rotisserie Chickens?” Customers recently noticed a change in flavor, causing the chicken to taste chemical or soapy to some shoppers. Experts weighed in, and suspect it could be due to the addition of a different kind of preservative made from phosphates. Much like cilantro can cause a soapy flavor for those who are genetically exposed, phosphates could have a similar effect. If you’ve experienced the flavor change, you can rest assured you’re still healthy, but we don’t blame you if you decide to switch brands.


Minute 5: Quick Intervals

  • Last week, we shared some words of wisdom from Martinus Evans (Insta: @300poundsandrunning), the founder of the Slow AF Run Club. We found his story so inspiring that we wanted to tune back in and see what else we could learn. Lucky for us, NPR just released an interview with Evans where he outlines his “5 tips for how to actually start running.” The article is aimed toward beginners, but we think even hardcore runners could benefit from these helpful reminders on form and pacing.

  • Martinus has your back on what you should do while you run, but what about the things you shouldn’t do? For that, we’re taking a look at “3 common mistakes new runners make and how to avoid them.” The article covers things runners often overdo, the gear they need to avoid, and the scheduling pitfalls that will bring your progress to a halt. We always appreciate a reminder to adhere to the 10% Rule which suggests you should never increase your weekly mileage by more than 10%.

  • If you’re traveling or running a lot more than usual thanks to the nicer weather, it’s common to experience an increase in knee pain. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to stop, because there’s a lot you can do to alleviate tension and inflammation in your joints, starting with the stretches found here: “I used a five-move stretching routine to relieve knee pain, and the results were surprising.” Try out the couch stretch, patellar mobilizations, cossack squats, and more to take care of all your sore knee needs.

Minute 6: Daily Inspiration

If you’ve ever used a fitness tracker, chances are you’ve come across the metric known as ground contact time (GCT). It’s a measure of how long your foot stays on the ground for each step, and a quick GCT is the mark of a truly skilled runner. For more on that, check out this advice from Adidas: “What is ground contact time balance? 5 Tips for improving running symmetry.” Reducing your GCT can improve your speed and efficiency, which is why we were psyched to come across this video from @schonherrdavid and @katja_runs on Instagram. They showcase a few moves that will fit right into your warmup or cooldown routine, specifically focused on developing the muscles in your feet and legs to improve GCT. Click here to watch and follow along if you want to develop your own elite-level running form.


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