Minute 1: Mobility, stability exercises are keys to improving running consistency
Running is about pushing forward, always forward. If you happen upon somebody running backward, you’re probably at the wrong event. (Unless, of course, you are trying to set the world record for running a mile backwards like our SMM podcast guest, Aaron Yoder.) Running optimally, however, requires more than the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other. There is preparation and bodywork to be done. Mobility and stability are keys to performing well in long-distance running, and exercises linked to those specific areas can produce significant advances on the road, as described in this piece: “5 Hip Mobility Exercises for Your Post-Run Cooldown.” USA Track and Field certified coach Mackenzie Lobby stresses the difference between mobility and flexibility and why there are exercise variations to work on each. Improving hip mobility, according to research, is a positive for running economy and force production. The 8 examples in “Hip Strengthening and Mobility Exercises for Runners” will loosen hip flexors and add strength to the stabilizing muscles in that area. These moves are also important in avoiding injuries. Numerous studies, including one by the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, indicate that for pre-workout warm up, dynamic stretching -- moving joints and muscles through a full range of movement -- is superior to static stretching in which one muscle is elongated and held for several seconds. For more info on this, check out “The Benefits of Dynamic Stretching and How to Get Started.” #HipCheck
Minute 2: Could intermittent fasting be right for you?
Discipline, positive mood, and overall health are keys to success as an endurance athlete. Studies have shown that intermittent fasting (IF) can develop all 3. According to a new article from LIVESTRONG, controlling your food intake through IF, in addition to eating probiotics, could improve mental health. Other benefits include a reduction in inflammation, lower blood pressure, and a decrease in sugar cravings. How does one practice intermittent fasting? There are a variety of methods, so experiment with a few to find out what works for you. The core principle is that you partition the day (or week) into 2 windows; time when you can eat, and time when you cannot. A popular option is the 16:8 pattern, meaning you fast for 16 hours of the day, and eat during the remaining 8. Intermittent fasting can improve your health, but can it improve running performance? Nutrition expert Stacy Sims suggests a moderate approach for athletes in this piece: “Should Runners Be Intermittent Fasting?” She cautions that fasted state training can work well, but only if you provide your body with enough energy to support it. The danger comes when “you don’t have enough calories to support your resting metabolic rate, and you don’t have enough calories to support your immune system, your endocrine system.” Spartan Race has developed some good research and content over the past 5 years, and they caution endurance athletes on the limitations of IF in: “Top 10 Things Athletes Should Know About Intermittent Fasting.” #IWannaGoFast
Minute 3: Are you a morning person?
Don’t yawn. Don’t complain about the weather. Don’t repeatedly hit “snooze” on that cellphone. Get up and go. That’s not just your dad or your conscience talking, most of the world class runners and coaches we have interviewed for our Six Minute Mile podcast tell us that they are morning runners. While that is largely a personal preference, there is lots of scientific research suggesting that early a.m. workouts generate the best physical and emotional benefits. For insight on the subject, check out “The Benefits of Running in the Morning” or “Is It Better to Go Running in the Morning?” There are a couple of reasons why sunrise is the best time to lace up and hit the road. They include a jolt of energy that carries forward into your work day, training your body to burn fat not carbs, and curing a hangover. Getting your workout in first thing also means that the demands of work and family won’t interfere with your plans for a lunch or evening run. And here’s a big plus related to sleep -- studies show that individuals working out at 7 a.m. spend more time in deep sleep at night than those who work out in the afternoon or evening. Deep sleep, as we all know, is one of the top 2 bedroom activities recommended for endurance athletes. If you’re “just not a morning person,” remember that on average it takes about 2 months for a new routine to become a habit. It may take some time to convert. Now to flip the script -- some people truly despise mornings. We get that. To help assuage your guilt, remember that there are advantages to evening runs. Studies say your body is ready for harder work at a later hour, and the 9-to-5 workday makes it easier to organize group runs. #AlarmingNews
Minute 4: Double your fun
If you’re having fun running or biking or hiking, could you double your fun if you talk your partner into joining the party? That could either double the strength of your relationship or cut it in half. Before you and your significant other start throwing running shoes at each other, tag along for the ride with someone with experience: Hayley Helms. Check out her take on why “My Partner Won’t Run With Me: Learn From My Mistakes.” That story got us musing about some famous running couples, like Sara & Ryan Hall, Kara & Adam Goucher, and Jenny & Scott Jurek. Ryan is retired from running competition and can now deadlift more than 500 pounds as he focuses on weight training. He is also lifting the career of his wife, Sara, by serving as her coach. “You want your coach to know everything about you. How you sleep, how you eat, what makes you tick,” Sara told Runner’s World in an excellent new story on the fast couple. #CouplesTherapy
Minute 5: Quick Intervals
Mad about Covid? Mad about spring arriving late? Mad about life? It’s time to kick some butt. But make it your own posterior, not that guy who cut you off in traffic. Our suggestion is to try the butt-kick exercise (sometimes known as donkey kicks). Exercise experts say the exercise serves as a great warmup to running and also works as a cardio boost. And it builds endurance and strengthens glutes and hamstrings. And it can release some frustration. Kick it. Here’s some guidance.
Running, working out and miscellaneous other physical pursuits often rock along more smoothly when accompanied by music. To each his or her own in that department, although logging a couple of miles with Lawrence Welk in the earbuds might be stretching the concept. Better choices might be Beyonce, Lorde, Carly Rae Jepsen and Eminem – all represented in Men’s Health’s ranking of the best workout songs. And, of course, “Eye of the Tiger” is in there. There’s even a Spotify list.
It’s not a source we normally turn to for running gear advice, but we have to say that we agree with many of the picks on Newsweek’s new list of “The Best Running Gear of 2021 so Far.” You may want to pair that story with Fleet Feet’s “Best Running Clothes 2021” or Outside’s “Ask A Gear Guru: What Should I Wear For Spring Running?”
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Minute 6: Daily Inspiration
Accurate recording of the mile run began in 1850, during the advent of precisely measured racing tracks. During that period, the best male runners in the world posted times around 4:30, with a steady decline every couple years. It wasn’t until about a century later that the fabled 4 minute barrier was broken for the first time by Roger Bannister of the United Kingdom, leading the way for other athletes to follow in his footsteps. Fast forward another 50 years to 1999, when the current world record holder, Hicham El Guerrouj of Morocco, set a time of 3:43.13. His legendary race is one of the greatest achievements in middle distance running history. El Guerrouj wasted no time, jostling to front of the pack within the first lap and chasing down the pacemakers. Noah Ngeny of Kenya was the only other competitor to pull away from the pack and run alongside El Guerroouj for most of the race. The event commentators noted the significance of what occured: World record attempts usually feature the lead runner pulling far ahead of all others. Instead, this race was competitive to the very end, as Ngeny chased Guerrouj down until the last few meters of the race. Had it not been for Guerrouj, Ngeny would have broken the world record himself that day, but Guerrouj held his lead and crossed the line first. His record remains unbroken almost 22 years later. Watch history get made in the short video below.