Unlike strength training, I actually quite like speed interval training. I love the hours trundling away on the trails at 10-15km/h but there is something uplifting and freeing about sprinting at maximum speed- perhaps it is a throw-back to early childhood where only two speed settings existed, maximum and stopped.
I therefore don’t find any trouble dedicating myself to a couple of speed sessions per week. But I know many runners do find plenty of trouble! If that is the case it may be worth considering the following points. There is good evidence to suggest that high-intensity training (HIT) will make you a better distance runner; and that perhaps your distaste for intervals is based upon the perspective you apply to the associated feelings. I’ll get to that point later. Continue reading
I really don’t enjoy strength training. That may seem strange seeing as my office is a gym and functional strength training is my bread and butter. But still, it ain’t my cuppa tea. I’m a pretty busy person, so when I am able to devote an hour or two to physical activity, I love nothing more than hitting the trails somewhere in the Adelaide Hills. I’d do it every day if I could. But I don’t- because I do two to three strength sessions a week- training I don’t really like doing. Strange. Continue reading
If you have even the slightest passing interest in running, you would have read something about barefoot running recently. It is very topical at present. Media exposure has been given largely to those who fall in one of two categories; those who advocate barefoot running and those that oppose it.
I believe the biggest issue relating to barefoot running is exactly those two groups of people; those that swing vehemently to one side or the other. I like to think I have a rather balanced perspective on barefoot running, so in the spirit of balance over the next couple of blogs I will hang some trash on both the zealots and the cynics!
So first up, we have the barefoot running evangelists:
It would seem that supporters of barefoot running would have you believe that it is your shoes, and the evil multi-national companies that make them, that are at fault for all the niggles, pain and injuries that you have had in your running life. Barefoot running is the panacea, the magic bullet, the one simple change that if you apply, shall cure all and you will become the ultra-marathoning God that has always resided within.
At last search, there is not a single published, peer-reviewed study that has proven that barefoot running reduces the likelihood of injury.
That is not to say there is not ‘evidence’. Their are case studies, and case studies are a (pretty poor) form of evidence! I have read a few of these case studies and they are compelling. Typically they go something like this:
Mr/Ms Runner, after years of toiling with running injuries, and thousands spent of physio and podiatry, orthotics and supportive, expensive shoes, in desperation, took up barefoot running and hey presto, problems solved.
That is a summary of the first paragraph and often that is all that is absorbed by the reader. If you read these case studies in more detail however, they almost always describe a concurrent ‘barefoot conditioning’ program including some stretches, mobility drills, self-directed massage, strengthening exercises and usually a dramatic reduction in kms before a slow and steady re-build.
As far as scientific quality goes that is not ticking many boxes. Barefoot running wasn’t the only change made, it wasn’t the only variable. Many changes were made to the program, yet alone the likely changes to running form typcial of barefoot running such as a decrease in stride length/increse in cadence and a probable shift of foot-strike from the rear toward the front.
The question I would ask is this: If Mr/Ms Runner made all of those supplementary changes and kept their shoes on, would their experience have improved also? That is unknown.
A published case study does exist, in which two otherwise healthy runners made only one change- from supportive, cushioned shoes into barefoot mimicking shoes and both ended up with stress fractures in their feet (Giuliani et al, 2011).
In fairness to almost all barefoot-advocates that I have read and spoken to, a progressive preparation phase to acclimatise to barefoot running is seen as essential to minimise injury risk. It may then be the fault of the media that this message is deduced down to such a simplistic cause-and-effect mentality- that barefoot running cures running injuries.
Our society craves simple solutions to complex problems- the weight loss industry is built on that! And the media’s purpose is to grab our attention so I understand their motivation to be controversial and appeal to our wants. But let it be known- barefoot running, in isolation is not THE cure for running injuries. If you are getting injured from running it is probably because: you are physically incapable of running well; don’t know how to run well; you aren’t managing your body well; or a combination of some or all of the above.
In my next blog I will discuss the role barefoot running can play in improving your running style and how being a closed-minded cynic is to your detriment.
If the Tin-Man, the Lion and the Scarecrow had to engage in an ultra-marathon along the yellow-brick road, racing to reach the wiz, I’d have my dough on the Scarecrow every day of the week.
The Tin-Man, lacking a heart, would lack the necessary circulation of oxygenated blood and would fall over after a minute or so. The Lion, bereft of courage would drop his bundle at the bottom of the first hill and find a tree to sit under and sulk. The Scarecrow would then win by default against this meager competition. But he would be unlikely to lament on this (remember he doesn’t have a brain), he would just run. Continue reading
I have utilised the services of numerous trainers in my health and fitness journey, and they have been very good. However, my current trainer has drawn me back to the joys of my childhood.
Her programming model is raw and instinctive. It’s a refreshing change from the empirically driven and rigid protocols that I’ve used in the past (rightly, a necessity in clinical settings).
She gives me no leeway in getting everything done when we train. She always drags me outside; and sessions are generally impromptu. They are never excessive in length, and may occur more than once in a day.
There are no set rest intervals, little predictability, and without fail, I am left puffing, sweating, and smiling.
And I’m yet to suffer an injury. Continue reading
Running is not for everyone!
I was recently on a running track alongside a busy highway when I received a spray of abuse from a passenger in a car. It’s not the first time it has happened – actually it’s surprisingly common. Obviously it didn’t hurt me, and I suppose it comes out of the joy within an action that bears no consequence. Whatever. I don’t really get it…but it leaves me thinking every time. In a twisted way it motivates me. I start to think about how I would respond if the abuser actually had the gaul to do it NOT from a car driving 80kph in the opposite direction to me!
So, with tongue slightly in cheek – and without wanting to be labelled an internet tough guy – I leave my response to destiny in the hands of cyberspace.
Here’s why you’re better off undertaking some physical activity than riding shotgun in a passenger vehicle:
Do you ever think that you would feel better if you could run 5km’s without stopping? Or 10km? And does your picture of health involve a person who does this multiple times per week, perhaps with the resemblance of a smile on their face?
Are your barriers to achieving this for yourself centred around time, ability or pain? If so, read on, because I’ve got some good news. Continue reading
Having recently completed my first official ‘mini ultra’ 50km marathon, one of the most common queries I received was about when I was going to do my carb loading, so I thought I would put forward my opinion on this concept!
Carbohydrates are stored in the body, and unlike fat, storage space is limited. Our muscles are the primary storage site, however our liver has a small capacity to draw upon for various functions. Upon requirement of energy, stored carbohydrate (in the form of glycogen) is converted into glucose and utilised as fuel.
Now, the body uses two primary fuel sources – carbohydrates and fats. For rapid production of energy, carbohydrates provide the bulk of the fuel. This occurs predominantly during high intensity exercise. At low and moderate intensities, fats contribute a greater proportion of fuel as the process for breakdown is more complex and requires oxygen. At any given time the body is using a mix of these two sources but the contribution of each is dependant upon what we are doing.
The average human body can hold somewhere between 1600-2400 calories of energy from glycogen.
So the City to Bay has been run and won for another year. And for many South Australians this event marks the culmination of many months of hard work in preparation, and I applaud all those who acheived this goal for 2011. I too am such a person, partaking in my very first City to Bay. I thoroughly enjoyed it, for more so than just the simple joy of running on a beautful spring day.
To an extraterestrial observer, the sight of this mass of humanity snaking through Adelaide’s CBD and South Westerly suburbs would have resembled a mass migration such as those seen accross the Savannah lands of Africa.
But on closer inspection, one fascinating difference bewteen this lyrca-clad, ear-phone wearing procession, and a herd of migrating Wildebeest would have been observed. In a herd of Wildebeest, in fact in a herd, flock, school or swarm of any creature other than homosapiens, each member of the pack moves in basically the same way as each of its bretheren.
Humans on the other hand- well let me put it this way, there were 34,000 entrants this year, and I reckon there were about 34,000 running styles too!
There was heel-striking, toe-striking and something in-between. There was slouched postures, forward-leaners and straight backers. Head’s were bobbing up and down, shaking side-to-side and some barely moving at all. Some fists were pumping, some were cradled into the body like they were in slings, and some were waving around the hips like a salsa dancer’s. Some legs were shuffling, some were bounding, some were prancing, some were cutting side-to-side like an ice-skater’s, whilst some were flailing around like egg-beaters.
Our alien voyeur would surely find this quite perplexing, and I do too. Why do humans run so differently to one another? Structurally, we are all basically the same. We each have the same muscles connecting the same bones, with the same organs providing the various fuels.
I believe we all run so differently because basically, most of us don’t know how to run. More specifically, I think that we have forgotten how to.
When a foal is born, it’s horsey mummy and daddy don’t teach it how to run. It figures it out by finding the most efficent method, and then it never stops. Human’s are the same. Noone teaches a toddler how to run, they just figure it out and then go 100 miles and hour at it. And in most cases, they do so with great efficiency and speed.
But then they stop. And they sit. And they keep on sitting. And after some period of time,they lose the knack for running. When running is taken up later in life it is often assumed that all we have to do is start walking then add a little air time to it and that is running. And whatever it looks like, hey, that is just how I run buddy. The way many people run (or more accurately, jog) is simply an extension of how they walk, and many people walk terribly, but that is another blog. But even if you do walk well, running well is an entirely different movement pattern.
In any given year, 80% of runners will get injured. I believe it is because most runners run badly. It is a simple technique thing and it can be corrected through training. I have been training for a trail Ultra-marathon for the past 14 months. For the first 9 months, my sole focus was on improving my running technique. I have been able to progress in this time, from being able to run perhaps 10km with pain in my shins and lower back the following day, to now being able to run 25km easily, 40km in one day, and multiple 20+km runs in the course of a week with not one injury developing. Not even a slight niggle.
This is of course, a case study of one, so I won’t be publishing anything in Nature just yet, but it has convinced me that running technique is fundamental to running well. I believe there is a single perfect running style for humans that anyone can learn if they devote the time to it, and I will delve into this in great depth over coming blogs.
Damn it’s cold outside! This was my thought as my knuckles were becoming numb on a frosty Adelaide Hills’ morning on my regular run!
We are all no doubt struggling through some of these colder months, so I thought this was the perfect time to talk about how our body’s natural warming system could possibly be a way to keep ourselves from putting on weight.
Scientists our now discovering that a type of fat storage tissue called Brown Adipose Tissue (BAT) is more important than we first thought.
In fact only 50g of BAT can account for up to 20% of someone’s daily energy expenditure!