Minute 1: Why pandemic hiking is good for the mind and soul
For many, hiking conjures up images of a peaceful walk along the wooded paths of a well-maintained state park. Your goal and destination may be the summit of one of “America’s most beautiful mountains.” You may believe your endurance training will make a walk in the woods, well, a walk in the park. That may be true until you attempt a steep incline on one of the “8 Most Challenging Hiking Trails in America.” When you finally reach the summit, you’re exhausted, out of breath, and dehydrated. But you are rewarded with both an awe-inspiring view and the knowledge that your strenuous climb not only enhanced your fitness level, but also improved your mental health. A new Healthline post explains “How All That Pandemic Hiking is Benefitting Your Brain.” According to the story, intense exercise coupled with the soothing, stress-relieving benefits of nature is good for your cognitive health. The American Hiking Society calls hiking “nature’s therapy” and a recent study by the National Library of Medicine backs that up, showing that spending time in nature promotes a more relaxed state. “While the very act of working out supports the brain, nature’s sights, sounds and even smells also have a positive influence,” Healthline points out. According to medical experts, “exercising your internal GPS” is better for the body and mind than working out on a treadmill. “When you do exercise on an elliptical or treadmill, you’re not being challenged cognitively. You’re just using automatic movements you’d use every day,” says Dr. Sarah C. McEwen, a cognitive psychologist. But on a hike, she says, “you have to use spatial navigation, your memory and your attention.” Neuropsychiatry expert Dr. John Ratey recently touched on the issue in a SMM podcast, offering advice on how to develop your brain with the triple play of exercising, in nature, with friends or family. For more on the wonders of hiking, check out the “Top 5 Mental Health Benefits of Hiking” or “10 Reasons Hiking Is Good for Your Soul.” #ParkMagic
Minute 2: Best foods for fighting the winter blues
Winter is here, and with the days getting shorter, many are dealing with increased fatigue and a lack of energy, leaving us wondering “Why Am I So Tired In The Winter?” It may just be the winter blues, or “Seasonal Affective Disorder,” or you might be suffering from “pandemic fatigue.” Whatever the cause, you need an energy boost, and one of the healthiest sources is the food we eat. VeryWellFit breaks down the best nutritional energy sources in its new post “Foods for Fighting Fatigue.” While carbs and caffeine can produce a quick energy boost, it is better to consume proteins, fruits, and vegetables for a longer-lasting impact. For ways to translate that nutrition into some balanced meals and tasty treats, check out Runner Click’s “Favorite Runners Cookbooks for 2021.” Also check out WebMd’s “The Best (and Worst) Foods to Boost Your Energy.” For more ways to fight the winter doldrums, consider these proven tips to “End Winter Fatigue” or this circadian optics light to fight off SAD while sitting at your desk. #ColdComfort
Minute 3: Galloway: Pandemic will lead to running boom
Jeff Galloway is the EF Hutton of running. When he talks, people listen. The 1972 Olympian, known fondly as “America’s Coach,” is the creator of the popular Run-Walk-Run method and the author of “Galloway’s Book On Running,” which has inspired thousands of athletes to take up the sport. Galloway, 75, has seen booms and busts in running, but recently made a profound statement that bodes well for the sport: “America’s Coach declares distance running is about to boom.” Galloway believes the sport will experience its “biggest running boom ever” over the next 18 months because of the surge in running during the pandemic. “I have yet to hear of someone getting COVID by running outdoors, or even by running indoors,” he said in a recent interview with Patch.com. “The vaccine is not going to eliminate this virus. I think it will be manageable by this summer. However, I think we will be dealing with this through the rest of 2021.” The pandemic has led to a “resurgence of outdoor running” and a “running boom in America,” leading many running experts and entrepreneurs wondering, “Is The COVID-19 Running Boom Sustainable?” Galloway, who was a recent guest on our SMM podcast, obviously believes so. And when he talks, people listen. #TrainingPeaks
Minute 4: How posting your results on social media can sidetrack your training
A run is not a run if you don’t post the results or share the experience on social media. At least that seems to be the message from the 72 million Instagram posts tagged #running. The motivation to overshare may not be just humble-bragging, however. Some experts contend that posting workouts to social media or tracking apps helps you run faster and farther. Citing a UK study, Runner’s Radar declares “Posting About Running on Social Media Proven to Make You a Better Runner.” Our friends at Fleet Feet also explored the issue, raising the question: “Can Social Media Make You a Faster Runner?” Allowing yourself to become obsessed with social media posts and fitness trackers like Strava, however, can also have a downside. Imagine finishing a record run, surpassing your previous best, only to pick up your phone, log onto Strava and discover that your training partner just ran even faster. Studies have shown that such experiences can have a negative impact on your confidence and mental health. Runner Sam Robinson discovered how deflating such comparisons can be, prompting him to write that “Strava is Killing the Blissful, Beautiful Loneliness of Running.” Active.com also explored the issue in a post called, “Is Social Media Sabotaging Your Running?” Active cited research that shows that falling into the “comparison trap” can spoil your running or fitness experience and have a negative impact on your training. “Instead of inspiring me to be a better runner, 5 minutes of scrolling through social media has only inspired me to want to throw my phone into a large body of water,” runner Jennifer Fox writes. Women’s Running recently cited a British study that examined the impact of social media on a person’s well-being and found that people who spend too much time comparing themselves to others are often less happy and prone to disappointment, depression and mood swings. The site offers some sound advice with “5 Ways Runners Can Ditch Self-Comparison on Social Media.” The best policy may be to mimic the hero of our favorite running spoof video: “First Person to Run a Marathon Without Talking About It.” #Stravacide
Minute 5: Quick Intervals
Keira D’Amato thought her running career was over. After a foot injury sidelined the NCAA All-American, she gave up her Olympic dreams and started a family and a career. Years later, she had successful foot surgery and began running again just to “have something that was mine.” Now, as PodiumRunner points out, D’Amato is “Breaking All the Rules,” becoming an elite distance runner and finishing 15th at the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials last February. Part of her training includes a race she created herself — The Updawg 10 Miler — that led to a new American 10-mile record. In our latest Six Minute Mile podcast, we caught up with the “Running Realtor” to talk about her new record and how she balances a successful business and elite running career, all while raising a family. F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote, “there is no second act in American lives.” Check out how D’Amato is proving the famous author wrong.
We love healthy snacks. A few nuts, a piece of fruit or a healthy energy bar can help us get through a busy day and make it from one meal to the next. But what might be even more important, especially during a restrictive and confining pandemic, is a daily exercise snack which involves treating yourself with a mini-workout rather than a trip to the kitchen. Research has concluded that short bursts of exercise, like a 20-second stair climb, can have a significant impact on your fitness. Other studies show that even “4 Seconds of Exercise Can Make a Difference.” The New York Times has some recommendations for quick “exercise snacks,” including this “New Standing 7-Minute Workout.”
“Negative Runs” are when you intentionally run your fastest pace at the end of a race or workout. They are often confused with Negative Splits, a common racing strategy, or with trying to make up for a bad run with a strong push at the end. But according to Stack.com, a purposeful Negative Run with the focus on running your fastest pace at the end can have significant benefits. Check out “The Hidden Benefits of a Negative Run” for more on this misunderstood training tool.
Minute 6: Daily Inspiration
As we mentioned in Minute 5, Keira D’Amato is chasing Olympic dreams at an age when many runners are considering a transition to leisurely neighborhood walks. 37 years ago, Joan Benoit Samuelson helped to blaze a trail for D’Amato and every other female American distance runner. It seems hard to believe, but women were not allowed to compete in an Olympic marathon until 1984 in Los Angeles. Joanie thrilled the home country crowd when she emerged from the stadium tunnel in first place and held off Grete Waitz of Norway to take the first-ever Olympic gold medal. The video below gives the highlights of her historic victory. BTW, Joanie has aged pretty well, finishing Boston in 2019 in 3:04 at age 61.