Heat therapy; healthy body, healthy brain; using stress trackers

I have a few topics close to my heart to discuss this week.

First, “heat therapy” or essentially heat training as us old timers call it. Second, the connection between a healthy body and a healthy brain. It’s a real thing. Finally, something I’ve experienced on the benefits of those fitness trackers that seem to keep track of everything you could imagine.
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Monthly roundup: May 2018

This month, I’d like to address a topic I often find myself discussing: running your easy days easy enough.

Then I’d like to address a few very common beliefs many runners carry around that are not (or may not be) right:

1) Running isn’t bad for your knees, possibly even if your knees are bad to start.

2) Lactate is not your enemy.

3) “Extreme” running may not be bad for your immune system.
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Bonus roundup

I’m off enjoying spring break with the family this week. The good news, though, is that I read so many good things in March that I felt it was a good time to share a bonus roundup.

In this bonus roundup:

Why you should eat a big breakfast.

How strength training makes you faster.

Don’t just tell yourself to avoid a bad habit. Replace it with a good habit instead.
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Monthly roundup: March 2018

I’ve been reading a lot of good things this month. So much, in fact, that I might give you a bonus roundup next week.

For now, though, I have three interesting topics to share. First, we know caffeine is a performance booster but does it work for everyone? Second, who should we be modeling our running mechanics after? Third, how well do we do at monitoring our hydration during workouts?
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Monthly roundup: January 2018

Stretching pre-run

I’m sure most of us who have been around for a while have heard both sides of the story. First, we were told pre-run stretching was an important component of injury prevention. Then we were told that stretching before working out was useless and could, in fact, hamper your performance.

Well, this study tested that second theory. The result?

Participants felt they were more likely to perform well when stretching was performed as part of the warm-up, irrespective of stretch type. However, no effect of muscle stretching was observed on flexibility and physical function compared to no stretching.

Whether static or dynamic, stretching seemed to make no difference in performance. This seems to confirm what we’ve seen in other recent studies.

So what do we do with this information? We do what feels best. If you feel better after some pre-run stretching, then do it. If not, then don’t.

Athlete development process

This is why I changed the format of these monthly posts. It isn’t science but it’s a great summary of a well designed long term development plan for an athlete.

The picture is worth a thousand words but I’ll try to summarize in relatively few words.

A new athlete first needs to develop a baseline fitness. Once that fitness is built, you can work on technique. For runners, in my opinion, this primarily means things like basic form drills. As the runner continues developing, you can get more specific and strenuous with conditioning (things like more strenuous workouts, higher volumes, and race specific workouts). Finally, you can get more advanced with your technique training.

At no point do you drop what you’ve done earlier in your progression but, as you develop as a runner, you add new elements that will further your progression.

Tom Brady and junk science

Tom Brady is a highly successful quarterback. Like him or not, can we at least agree on that? We may argue about how great he really is versus the greatness of the people around him but you don’t maintain the level of success he has for as long as he has without being great.

What does he know about why he’s great and how he’s maintained it at an age where most other quarterbacks are either retired or greatly diminished? Well…

Why am I bringing this up? Because I see the assumption that someone who achieves at a high level knows the key to that success all the time. This is a great example of one who either doesn’t or is cynically using his fame to sell junk science.

In the running world, often the greatest coaches and people generally with the greatest advice are not those who were setting world records and winning Olympic golds. Look at and learn from what those runners do but don’t think that, just because they are so fast, their advice is better than you can get from others, especially coaches whose runners consistently beat expectations.

Running and your knees

We’ve gone over this numerous times, right? Is running good, bad, or no difference for the health of your knees? There’s plenty of evidence that it’s not bad for your knees and some solid evidence that it’s actually good for them.

Given that, I was a little skeptical as I started reading the abstract of this study:

Existing evidence on whether marathon running contributes to hip and knee arthritis is inconclusive.

Inconclusive? Really? Well, let’s keep reading and see what the results are:

Arthritis prevalence was 8.8% for the subgroup of U.S. marathoners, significantly lower (p < 0.001) than the prevalence in the matched U.S. population (17.9%) and in subgroups stratified by age, sex, body mass index (BMI), and physical activity level (p < 0.001).

Well, that sounds pretty convincing. Roughly half the rate of knee arthritis in the runners compared to a similar cross section of the general population. Knee or hip pain were pretty high but I can’t find a comparison to a matched non-running population.

So what’s the conclusion?

Age, family history, and surgical history independently predicted an increased risk for hip and knee arthritis in active marathoners, although there was no correlation with running history. In our cohort, the arthritis rate of active marathoners was below that of the general U.S.

So risk factors are risk factors, runner or not. However, running was NOT a risk factor for knee arthritis. In fact, this study suggests not running is the real risk factor.

It’s just one study but, combined with many others we’ve seen, when can we stop saying existing evidence is inconclusive?

Monthly roundup: December 2017

Another month, another large number of articles read. A couple especially that caught my eye were a comparison between fresh, frozen, and canned vegetables and the benefits of lifting weights, not just for your running but for your health in general.

Is there a difference between fresh, frozen, and canned vegetables? Well, yes but not quite what you would expect. In the end, the best thing you can do is eat whatever will get you eating the most vegetables.

We know pollution is bad for us. We know exercising is good for us. So what has the bigger impact? Well, don’t let pollution stop you from exercising. Sure, avoiding pollution while exercising is ideal but exercising in pollution is better than not exercising at all.

We’re runners. We know that running can prolong our lives, right? Well, do you know that strength training can also prolong your life? For the record, size (muscle mass) doesn’t matter. Strength matters. Based on the numbers, it almost looks like being small but strong is actually better than being big and strong (though the most important thing is being strong and the difference between the small/strong and big/strong might fall within the margin of error).