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Fifteen Fit & Foodie with... Caden Shields!

I was lucky enough to get in touch recently with elite NZ marathon runner, Caden Shields, and quiz him about his lifetime of running and work as a Physiotherapist here in Christchurch. I hope you all enjoy this blog and the value in many of Caden's answers provided ...whether you are chasing a PB or entirely new to lockdown running.

Caden is a physiotherapist and elite marathon runner based in Christchurch, NZ. Caden has been running competitively since he was 12 years old and was an NCAA collegiate athlete in the USA from 2008-2011 for Purdue University. Caden's greatest sporting achievement to date is placing 30th at the World Athletics Champs in the marathon in Doha, 2019. Caden has a huge passion for physiotherapy and loves helping people of all abilities achieve their goals.

1. What is your favourite strength exercise for running and why?

My favourite strength exercise for running is most certainly calf raises. The calf muscles are the primary muscles that drive us when we are running middle to long distances. Most runners don't strengthen their calves enough. Strong calves go a long way in improving performance and reducing injury risk in runners.

2. Who is your biggest inspiration? (Doesn’t have to be an athlete)

The person who has inspired me the most in my life is my junior coach and mentor Richard Barker. He has taught me a lot throughout my life and I try to live by the lessons and values he installed in me each day.

3. Your proudest moment (life or sporting)?

Running at the world athletics championships in the marathon in 2019 (Doha) and marrying my wife Rachel in 2020.

4. What was your key nutrition strategy for the 2019 World Athletics Championships and was this different from previous races for you?

The heat was obviously a major factor in my preparation for Doha. We did a lot of testing in our first training camp in Cyprus with Athletics New Zealand leading into the champs. We looked at sweat rates, skin temperature, and core temperature changes while we were training to get a grasp of our individuals responses to running in the heat. Fortunately, my sweat rates are very low so I only pre-loaded with electrolytes before the race. During the race I focused entirely on carbohydrate intake. A lot of athletes were focused on trying to cool themselves with ice packs and cold water during the race, however as I had learned, this has no impact on core body temperature, which was the main limiting factor of running in hot and humid conditions. You also burn a lot more energy when running in the heat, so I aimed to take on over 100g of carbohydrate per hour throughout the race and I believe this contributed significantly to why I performed so well that night.

5. Favourite food/meal after a long run?

A bowl flat white and a date scone!

6. Your go-to race day breakfast?

Five Weetabix and a banana with coffee

7. What is your favourite quote that’s resonated with you for life?

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail

8. What is something you have learnt about nutrition that had the biggest enhancement for you with your running?

I was never very disciplined with my eating when I was younger. Two stress fractures and low bone density taught me to be much more strict with my post training nutrition to allow for recovery and good performance and health outcomes. It is something I now stress as a physiotherapist when it comes to recovering and reducing risk of injury.

9. From a physiotherapy perspective talking to runners as a whole, what would be your top tip to prevent some of the most common injuries you see?

I see a lot of injuries due to athletes not fully understanding how long it takes for the musculoskeletal system to adapt to increases in training load and intensity. Running is often considered a "cardio" sport and so most athletes focus on their cardiovascular adaptations rather than their musculoskeletal, particularly when returning from injury or time off. This often leads to the athlete "feeling good" in training, and pushing too hard too soon which leads to an overload of the musculoskeletal system and injury. The key is to hold back, even when you are feeling good.

10. What has been your biggest setback in running and how did you overcome this?

I had a few years when I returned from the USA where my running performance and training was very average. I suffered two femoral stress fractures within 6 months and lost a lot of confidence in my body and ability to train hard.

11. If you didn’t pursue physiotherapy, what do you think you would have studied instead?

When I returned from studying at Purdue University in 2011, having graduated with a bachelor of science, I decided that if I didn't get into physiotherapy I would pursue a masters in public health.

12. Your favourite meal choice at your favourite local cafe/restaurant?

I love going to Cassel's and Son's for a Pigeon Bay pizza with my good mate Dr Phil Fletcher. It's our local.

13. What’s been your favourite running event of all time and why?

The marathon is my favourite event. I like how you only get one shot at doing well in a marathon, you cannot race one every week. There is a lot of pressure and intensity in a marathon build up and I love the details that make all the difference in a marathon, such as fueling, mental focus and physical preparedness.

14. When was the moment you knew you wanted to pursue running at the next level?

Right from the time I started running. I always believed I could reach the top of the sport if I was dedicated enough and worked hard. I haven't achieved what I wanted, most athletes don't, but I am proud of what I have done.

15. What would be one thing you would tell your teenage self, knowing what you know now?

Take some rest, it is needed.

Find Caden @shields.caden or


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