An ever-changing life inspired by the pneuma


Post-10k Run and Black Belt Test – Why Run and How Much Recovery Time?


Some people might wonder why a taekwondo do jang would make its students run a 10k as part of the black belt test. Here is my Master’s philosophy.

He already knows how good his students are; otherwise, they would not be testing for their black belts. What he wants to know most is what kind of person and character his students are. While he does not expect his students to be elite 10k runners, he wants to see how determined and disciplined his students are when it comes to getting a black belt.

Essentially, my Master wants to know if his students have developed spiritually as well as physically. Most people think it’s easy to get a black belt, but the training can be hard or easy depending on the person. By making his students run a 10k for the test, my Master knows that a person is really serious about their martial arts training and will be more likely to continue training because they worked so hard to achieve it. After running a 10k, it takes solid determination to get through the rest of the test. Elite 10k runners try to complete the run as fast as possible – they do not have to ensure they have enough energy remaining in order to do more after. For a martial artist to run a 10k, we have to ensure that our muscles are NOT thoroughly exhausted afterward because we have the test to go through. Traditionally, a martial artist during a time of war should be able to run and continue to fight after.

After the 10k run and black belt test, I wanted to know how much time my leg muscles needed to recover. If you are cross-training your martial arts with running, the following should be of particular interest to you. I found out that after a tough run (well, tough enough for me since I’ve never run a 10k before Saturday) followed by a black belt test, it’s not a good idea to head out for a run or to the do jang for a strenuous martial arts kicking class in the next few days immediately after. Here’s why.

According to this article, Leg muscle injuries: how badly does a 10K race injure your leg muscles?, the leg muscles take quite a beating after running 10 km. The muscle most notably affected by running is the hamstring. The hamstring muscles perform a key role in running, which is to control forward acceleration of the leg during the swing phase of the runner’s gait. The use of the hamstrings like this in running is called “eccentric action”. Eccentric action occurs when the hamstrings are producing force while being stretched. It has been noted that eccentric activity of the muscles has a tendency to induce injury and to reduce muscle function. The effect on the hamstrings from running a 10k is referred to as “hamstring trauma”. From this information we can conclude that after running a 10k, the hamstring muscles have been sufficiently worked out and probably need a rest.

Now, let’s consider what happens while executing specific kicks in taekwondo. There are quite a few kicks in taekwondo that rely heavily on the hamstrings – these are front snap kick, axe kick, roundhouse kick, hook kick, and spinning hook kick. (The side kick and back kick requires the gluteus and the quads more than the hamstrings.) For the axe kick, the hamstrings are stretched when the leg is brought straight up. This can be a sudden shock to the hamstrings if they are not properly warmed up beforehand. For the front snap kick and the roundhouse kick, the hamstrings are used to help pull the leg back after extension of the kick. Essentially, the hamstrings provide resistance to the kick so that muscles and knee ligaments aren’t pulled when kicking. This action in the kick is done quite sharply and requires strong hamstring muscles. For the hook kick and spinning hook kick, the hamstrings are primarily used to help pull the leg back after kicking. This is, like the front snap kick and roundhouse kick, done quite sharply and requires strong hamstring muscles. All of these kicks were required during the black belt test after running a 10k. Therefore, the hamstrings were not given time to rest after the 10k run. They were required to perform sharp action after experiencing slight trauma from the running. The effects of the running on the hamstrings can be felt by the martial artist as a heaviness in the legs and sub-par performance when executing kicks. Basically, the martial artist is experiencing slight hamstring trauma and is probably providing more trauma to the hamstrings with every kick.

Because of the amount of work the hamstrings do during running and the additional work done during kicking, the hamstrings require some more recovery time than the other muscles in the leg. In the above article, the researchers found that “Immediately after the race, there was a significant decrease in peak torque produced by the hamstrings during knee flexion…” and that this loss was only restored after 48 hours. The researchers also found that “the hamstrings exhibited losses in total exercise capacity and average power immediately after the race” – this too was restored after 48 hours. Further to this, the researchers found that “total work performed by the hamstrings over the last 17 reps of the 50-repetition test was significantly reduced right after the race – and also after 48 hours”. This indicated that the hamstrings had not restored their ability for endurance work. Additionally, the researchers found that there were “significant reductions in peak vertical jump force” which stayed reduced 48-hours post-10k run. Based on these findings, the article suggests waiting 72 hours before conducting any high strenuous running.

Although, we did not run the 10k as fast as the runners did in the research given in the above article, I think it is reasonable to assume that the added trauma of kicking after running a 10k would have similar findings as in the research with the 10k runners. Therefore, I think it would be safe to wait at least 72 hours before running again or engaging in a strenuous martial arts kicking class (besides, my body still feels sore and tired). As much as I don’t like being still for too long, I guess I’ll have to suck it up and rest. 😉

Your local webmistress and martial artist
Brigid’s Flame

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