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8 ways to improve sleep

Minute 1: These shoes are helping marathoners smash records

When it comes to winning races, the wizard still matters more than the wand. But if you want to compete with the other running whizzes, it helps to have a little bit of magic on your feet. That was the case for our friend Keira D’Amato last Monday, when she broke the U.S. women’s marathon record, taking 1st place in the Houston Marathon in 2:19:12. Find out the details in “What running shoes was Keira D’Amato wearing for her US marathon record?” Like many elite marathon runners these days, she elected to wear a pair of Nike Alphafly Next% running shoes, which make use of a carbon plate and air pods in the forefoot. They’re similar to the shoe Eliud Kipchoge used to run his sub 1:59 marathon distance in 2019, so it’s safe to say these are the cream of the crop for competitive long distance events. Of course, you don’t set record-breaking times without a massive dedication to the craft, and Keira told us all about her experience as a runner in this episode of the SMM Podcast: “Keira D'Amato - American 10 Mile Record Holder, Realtor.” Remarkably, Keira’s string of impressive performances have come after several years away from the sport. She jokes that she took a “decade-long halftime,” but that could be exactly what she needed to avoid burnout or injuries, and keep the PRs coming long into her career.

Minute 2: Weight gain/loss is more complicated than counting calories

For decades we’ve been told that the math on weight loss is simple: burn more calories than you consume and you’ll lose weight. It turns out that there are more variables than just calories when you want to subtract weight. New research explains why that’s not necessarily bad news for athletes looking to shed a few lbs: “3 new studies show weight loss isn't all about diet and exercise.” Remember the old adage to eat breakfast like a king and dinner like a pauper? That advice is spot on for those looking to limit weight gain, given what we now know about chronobiology. In the morning, your body is primed to create glycogen, so your breakfast will be converted to energy to fuel you up for the day. At night, it’s a different story. Your body's getting ready for sleep, and excess calories will be turned into long term energy storage as fat to be used later on. By eating a big breakfast and a small dinner, you’ll allow your body to burn calories, not store them. The next consideration is your gut bacteria. Research suggests our microbiomes can influence the kind of foods we crave, and you’re especially vulnerable to disrupting your gut bacteria if you’ve been treated with antibiotics. If you want to balance out your microbiome and lessen cravings for sugary foods, eat plenty of “Gut Food - 15 Foods For Good Gut Health.” #SimpleMath

Minute 3: 8 ways to improve sleep

Why is it that back in college we could sleep until noon on weekends (and maybe a few weekdays), but as we age, it is harder to get a full night’s sleep? There are lots of factors which contribute to a poor night’s sleep, and it can be hard to narrow down the precise cause. If you’re looking to improve the quality of your sleep, take a look at this checklist and employ these “8 Essential Strategies for Deep Restorative Sleep.” One issue we often overlook is excessive caffeine consumption, since sensitivity can vary widely from person to person. The FDA recommends no more than 400mg of caffeine per day, or roughly 4 small cups of coffee. Even 1 cup, however, can hinder your sleep if you’re highly sensitive. Consider abstaining from all caffeine for a week and see if it makes a difference. It’s also easy to get into the habit of TV or phone use before bed, but that late night screen time can be overstimulating, and could even impair the release of melatonin in your system. Trade in your phone for a book or other relaxing activity before bed, and consider taking a melatonin supplement if needed. Speaking of melatonin, it's a great natural way to improve sleep, but it’s not the only option. Read about an alternative in “CBD vs Melatonin For Sleep.” CBD is derived from cannabis, but these days, there are lots of non-psychoactive supplements available to improve sleep and reduce anxiety.

Minute 4: How much of your training should feel easy?

When you imagine an effective training schedule, what does it look like? Probably a lot of medium effort days where you’re slower than race pace, but still challenging yourself to work hard. As more research emerges on how to mix up easy, medium and hard days, a lot of pros are taking the easy route: “When Lower Intensity Leads to Higher Results.” The idea is that you can build a base of endurance and limit your risk of injury during the low intensity sessions. Then, you can still reap the benefits of intense exercise without causing yourself any burnout. Research has supported the efficacy of these 20% hard, 80% easy training methods, and there are a lot of psychological advantages as well. Take a look at “Should you train at current pace or goal pace?” Trying to “force” yourself to hit your goal pace prematurely is a recipe for disaster. The odds are, you won’t be able to do it before race day, and fixating on your shortcomings will sap your morale. What’s the solution to our desire to push the pace? Try to “Master These 3 Steps and You’ll Be Pacing Like a Pro Runner.” Go on plenty of effort based runs where you don't fixate on times and distances, but instead get in tune with the way your body feels as you run, and let it guide your pace. Keep some level of specific repetition in your schedule. The more you go out on a run targeting a certain mile pace, the more accurate you’ll become. Pacing is a skill that needs to be practiced and developed, just like any other aspect of your running.


Minute 5: Quick Intervals

  • As we trudge our way through the cold winter months, it’s always nice to find ways to get your cardio in without having to deal with the weather. Treadmills and bikes are great, but this week, we’re shedding light on the benefits of the rowing machine. Most obviously, rowing targets your upper and lower body more evenly than running, so it's fantastic for cross training. That’s one of many reasons to try them out, and you can read more in these “8 Benefits of Rowing for Fitness and Health.” It’s been rumored that Peloton is developing a smart rowing machine of their own, according to “Peloton Rowing Machine Rumors & Information.” That news predates the latest woes to hit the company, however, when it was leaked this week that Peloton is halting production of several machines due to decreasing demand. That led CNN to share this somewhat breathless story: “Peloton may be toast.”

  • Getting in shape means you’ll look a little healthier, which also means you’ll look a little younger, right? Well, not always, as some of you may know from first hand experience. Runners and physically active people tend to age slower, but increased exposure to sun, dehydration, and even lower body fat can actually give the appearance of aging. There are easy steps you can take to prevent any unwanted changes in appearance, so take a look at “What Is Runner's Face? How to Look After Your Skin as a Runner.”

Minute 6: Daily Inspiration

It’s easy to see the joy in running a big race. Fans cheering you on, thousands of competitors beside you offering a challenge, and a well-earned celebration as you cross the line. There’s something to be said for the quiet runs, though. The days when you’re alone, in nature, and really able to soak in the moment. @lanavanhout knows this well, and she writes about her appreciation for her ‘me’ time during a solo run in the Instagram post below. Take a look at her beautifully-filmed video to remember just how valuable the simple runs can be.


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