FEB 12, 2022
Minute 1: Winter Olympians who are also elite runners
Just because they compete on snow and ice, the performance of winter Olympians doesn’t cool down when they switch to dry land. At least 2 of the medalists in Beijing are also accomplished runners – Swedish speed skater Nils van der Poel and American Nordic skier Jessie Diggins. A few years ago, Outside magazine ranked Nordic ski racing as the hardest endurance sport in the world, burning nearly 1,000 calories per hour and requiring head-to-toe strength and prodigious VO2 capacity. Diggins is clearly in amazing physical condition from years of training 2X daily, 6 days a week. At least 3 of those days include running, often on the trails of Vermont’s Green Mountains: “Olympic Gold Medal Skier Jessie Diggins Loves Trail Running.” Her relay partner in winning a gold medal 4 years ago, Kikkan Randall, is now retired from competitive Nordic ski racing, but she is laying down some impressive marathon times. In 2019 she debuted at that distance in New York, shortly after rebounding from stage 2 breast cancer: “Olympic champion Kikkan Randall, cancer survivor, beats NYC Marathon goal.” Randall’s 2:55:12 was almost 4 minutes better than the marathon debut of another crossover endurance athlete named Lance Armstrong a few years prior.
As for the Swedish speedskater, he is so good at his current sport that he almost seems a little bored: “Nils Van Der Poel might be the best speed skater in the world ... but does he even like speed skating?” He told ESPN that "When you're a professional athlete in a sport that sucks as much as speed skating sucks, you've got to find a way to make it suck a little less." So often that means turning to long trail runs to keep himself fit and entertained away from the ice. While taking a break from speedskating in 2019, van der Poel jumped into ultras and immediately began racking up top 5 finishes. Details are in this new story from iRunFar: “Nils van der Poel: Olympic Speedskating Gold Medalist — and Ultrarunner!”
Minute 2: Peloton leadership change spurs controversy
After producing some remarkable wattage during the height of the pandemic, Peloton seems to now be spinning out of control. We greatly admire the Peloton bike as a piece of equipment and love some of their star instructors. Those assets weren’t enough to save the job of CEO John Foley along with 2,800 of his colleagues, however. Things got a little ugly as the new boss took the reins this week according to CNBC: “Peloton CEO Barry McCarthy’s first all-hands meeting ends early as laid-off employees crash it.” McCarthy is an experienced tech exec with success at Netflix and Spotify on his resume. That wasn’t enough to tamp down emotional former employees who logged into the video call to make comments like: “I’m selling all my Peloton apparel to pay my bills!!!” While well-intentioned, it probably rubbed folks the wrong way when terminated employees were given a free Peloton membership for 12 months as part of their exit package. Rumors are rampant that Peloton is now a tempting takeover target: “Peloton is in freefall. These are the companies most likely to buy it.” McCarthy insists that’s not how he rolls: “Do we squander the opportunity in front of us or do we engineer the great comeback story of the post-Covid era?” #PeloToningForYourSins
Minute 3: Why the Autonomic Nervous System is so important for athletes
We geeked out this week on a couple of new pieces explaining why your Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) is so important. Before you yawn and scroll down, you should know that your ANS plays an important role in not only your endurance, but also in your sex drive. Basically, ANS controls most of the important body functions that you don’t activate yourself. You don’t have to think about taking your next breath or contracting your heart muscle, because your ANS is working silently on behalf of your conscious brain. ANS takes care of things like body temperature, respiratory rate, electrolyte balance and perspiration, so it’s a good idea for athletes to take care of their ANS. Top sports devices like Polar and Whoop measure ANS. Here is Polar’s very helpful explanation: “Autonomic Nervous System – What is an ANS charge?” while Whoop dives into the 2 subgroups of your ANS: “Sympathetic vs. Parasympathetic Nervous Systems: How They Work.” Whoop explains that deep sleep is critical to the health of your ANS which is a key data point captured by their wristband. Polar provides a specific metric to its users called “ANS charge.” They explain that it “measures how well your autonomic nervous system calmed down during the first hours of sleep compared to your usual level over the previous 28 days.”
Minute 4: Can your resting heart rate be too low?
Most of our running buddies enjoy the curious look of doctors and nurses checking their pulses. Usually the medical professionals hesitate, look up from your wrist and ask hopefully: “Are you a runner or something?” While that’s a fun flex for our fit friends, there is a reason for concern among medical professionals. Even if your RHR isn’t at the extreme low level of 28 BPM of 5-time Tour de France winner Miguel Indurain, a very slow pulse can be problematic. The Washington Post has a story this week on the phenomenon: ”Should you be concerned about a low resting heart rate?” The average RHR of American adults is about 72 BPM, but about 15% of males and 6.9% of females have an abnormally low RHR of fewer than 60 BPM – a phenomenon known as bradycardia. Some of your heart rate ties back to your ANS health, as described in Minute 3. In general, endurance athletes with very low RHRs should not be concerned unless they experience symptoms of dizziness, chest pain or confusion. Those may indicate the “bad” bradycardia rather than Indurain-style bradycardia. For more info, the Cleveland Clinic offers this guide: “Is a Slow Heart Rate Good or Bad for You?” If you want to lower your RHR in a healthy way, Polar has analyzed millions of data points from its heart monitors and concluded that interval training is the best medicine: “Speed It Up To Lower Your Resting Heart Rate.”
Minute 5: Quick Intervals
In sad news, one of our all-time favorite professional runners, American Kara Goucher, just retired due to a rare neurological condition: “Kara Goucher Announces She Has Been Diagnosed with Runner’s Dystonia.” Goucher was actually relieved when doctors told her that she did not have ALS or MS, which present similar symptoms. If she continues to run, however, her condition could worsen to the point where even her ability to walk would be in jeopardy. “People have said I’m addicted to running and they are right,” Goucher wrote on her Instagram post. “I’m unsure what the future holds, but I’m trying to embrace it.”
Because of the ongoing pandemic and a shortage of staffers, the American Red Cross is reporting blood supplies at a 10-year low. Some hospitals currently have only a 1-day supply. Many runners are civic-minded and in excellent health, so they are natural prospects to donate blood, but should they? Find the pros and cons in this new story: “What Runners Should Know About Donating Blood.” The short answer is that runners should be fine a few days after donating, but should use care to drink lots of water and eat iron-rich food like red meat, leafy vegetables and beans. Ideally, runners should allow 4-6 weeks before attempting a big race to fully recover and rebound from any diminished training following the blood donation.
If you’re looking for more inspiration to get vaccinated, check out this new story: “Running after a COVID vaccine could increase the benefits, suggests new research.” According to scientists at Iowa State University, moderate exercise following a vaccine shot produces more antibodies than for those who remained sedentary.
Minute 6: Daily Inspiration
No two runners are built the same. Some hit the trails while others prefer the road. Some fly for short distances and some take it slow over a long route. Morning, night, hot, cold; the perfect run looks different for everyone. @runwiththeflow, perfectly breaks down a few of the different characters you might see out there as he gears up for Red Bull’s Wing for Life: World Run, which raises money for spinal cord research. It’s a funny take and you’re bound to see a parody of your own style in the video below.