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Can AI create a better running workout than a human coach?

DEC 21, 2022

Minute 1: Can AI create a better running workout than a human coach?

A reader shared a news story last week that explained how artificial intelligence (AI) can produce blog posts and essays with just a few bits of human guidance. (Were they trying to tell us that Siri or perhaps the love child of R2D2 and John Krakauer can write better than we can?) Apparently it’s not just the jobs of nerdy endurance sports writers that are threatened. Coaches and personal trainers may also go the way of rotary dial phones according to this new story: “I let ChatGPT program me a five-move muscle-building workout — and the results were surprisingly impressive.” Don’t know what to do for your next workout? Just ask your computer or smartphone. The author of that story used an Elon Musk app, ChatGPT, to design a five-exercise workout to build muscle. ChatGPT spat out a routine of mostly bodyweight exercises and a description of how to perform them, as well as a safety reminder. Once the initial recommendation is made, you can then ask clarifying questions or narrow down the response by adding additional parameters. For instance, after getting your five-exercise routine, you can tell ChatGPT to revise its suggestion to work for someone with an injured arm, and it will provide an updated list of moves to perform. It’s like having a coach on standby for free. Is ChatGPT actually as smart as a professional coach? No, but it’s an interesting look into where the future of fitness is headed. We imagine this tech could be paired with fitness tracking devices for some remarkable personalized results. On the topic of getting more use from your trackers, check out: “How to Harness Data as a Motivational Tool, Not a Distraction.”

Minute 2: Alex Honnold keeps it casual when he runs

Anyone who’s seen the movie Free Solo knows that Alex Honnold has no problem turning up the intensity. Scrambling 3,000 feet up a sheer cliff without any ropes or harnesses is among the riskiest achievements in sporting history, and that has us wondering: Does Alex bring the same limit-breaking attitude to his other activities? Surprisingly, his latest endeavors with trail running have been rather chill, as you can see in this piece from Trail Runner magazine: “Alex Honnold’s ‘Dad Challenge’ and Learning From Trail Running.” Honnold has recently taken on two marathons and two 50Ks, most notably the Red Rock Canyon 50K, where he took 5th place. Despite his success, he claims the training that went into it was pretty nonspecific. He runs mostly by feel, neglecting to keep a mileage log but aiming for a few 3-4 mile runs a week, plus one longer run on mountainous terrain. His approach is a reminder that sometimes, less tracking is best. Our mileage on paper can often misrepresent our effort and progress, and simply listening to our bodies to determine how hard or long we should run is a viable alternative to consider. For more on that, read “Stop Counting Your Running Mileage.” Terrain, weather, energy levels, and time of day affect the amount of effort it takes to run. They can cause you to log low mileage one week, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you were taking it easy, so take those numbers with a grain of salt. #LogOff

Minute 3: Happy, healthy holidays are possible with these tips

Having a holiday season that’s stress free would be nothing short of a Christmas miracle. Whether you’re rushing to finish the last of your shopping, or trying to catch a plane to visit relatives, it’s easy to bonk at this time of year. However you choose to celebrate, changes to sleep and diet can make or break your holiday spirit, so we’d recommend taking a look at: “5 Things Sleep Experts Do to Sleep Better While They're Traveling.” If you’re bedding down in a new location, you may experience the “first-night effect.” Your body will be reluctant to fall into a deep sleep if your environment is new and different, but maintaining your usual setup and routine can help curb that obstacle. Set the temperature and light conditions to match home, and preserve your bedtime habits like reading or listening to white noise. You think sleeping at your in-laws’ house is bad, at least you don’t have as many interruptions as these Tiktok “sleep streamers.” For a look into this unusual trend, read: “Like Sleeping on the Job? Make $400,000 a Year Snoozing on TikTok.” In addition to sleep, what we eat is connected to how we feel, so consider these “9 Ways to Make Your Holiday Meals More Nutritious.” Foods rich in vitamin D are especially important in the dark winter months, so eat plenty of mushrooms, fish, milk, and eggs. You can also swap out added sodium for various herbs and spices that add flavor and nutrition all at once. Take a look at “10 of the healthiest herbs and spices and their health benefits” to find out what you need in your rack.

Minute 4: Music can improve cognition, reduce stress and anxiety

In the pursuit of mental health and happiness, exercise is one of the cheapest and most effective tools in your belt. If you’re interested in a hack to increase your return on sweat equity, there is a more passive way to improve your wellness, according to: “How does music affect your brain?” The short answer to that question is that music has the potential to increase cognitive performance and dopamine production, while lowering stress levels, anxiety and risk of depression. Researchers theorize that music improves our memory by increasing our alertness and mood. The better we’re feeling, the more likely we are to pay attention and find tasks engaging. When it comes to anxiety, a meta-analysis published in 2022 found “that music listening had an overall significant large effect on alleviating anxiety.” It’s believed that upbeat music lights up neural pathways in our brain associated with positive memories and emotion, which can help you break out of anxiety-inducing thought patterns. There’s also some research that connects music and stress reduction, making it a useful addition to this list of: “Five of the Best Ways to Increase Your Stress Resilience.” If you want to experience any of these musical benefits while you run, you can pick up one of “The best running headphones for 2023: top audio for running.”

Minute 5: Quick Intervals

  • Performance enhancing drugs get a lot of media attention when they’re involved with a major professional sports scandal. They’re a threat to the integrity of competition, which is why drug testing agencies are so essential. However, there’s another downside to PEDs that’s often overshadowed, and that’s their effect on the health of individual athletes. Taking PEDs at high dosages, which is all too common in events like bodybuilding, can result in serious injury or death. The Washington Post just published a longer, thoughtful piece on how bodybuilders are literally risking their lives to compete in a sport that doesn’t pay very well. Check out the details in: “Dying to compete.”

  • For lovers of the outdoors, a YETI cooler would make a great gift. They’re perfect for a beach day or camping trip when you need serious durability and insulation. The only downside? The price tag is a bit steep for some. Well, if you’re up for an adventure, you may be able to snag one for free, because after a cargo ship mishap off the coast of Alaska, YETI coolers have been washing up all over the shore. Check out this bizarre story in: “YETI Coolers Are Buoyantly Washing Ashore By the Hundreds After Cargo Spill.”

  • Muscle strength won’t do you much good without muscular balance, and that’s where push-pull workouts come in. Our muscles work in pairs. For instance, your tricep lengthens when your bicep contracts. For optimal performance, one side shouldn’t be vastly stronger than the other. By developing a routine that pushes with a particular muscle group, and then pulls, you’re able to preserve this balance while you develop strength. Find out how to build a push-pull routine in “More People Searched ‘Push’ and ‘Pull’ Workouts on Google in 2022. Here’s What To Know About This Functional Training Method.”

Minute 6: Daily Inspiration

The road to running an Olympic marathon is long, and it all starts by clocking a great time at an Olympic Trials Qualifier event. The California International Marathon is one such event, and there was an impressive turn out of runners who were pursuing that goal with everything they had. When the dust had settled, 34 women and 35 men had crossed the line in time, and the emotions were running high as competitors cheered each other on to seize this goal. You can relive the emotional women’s finishes in the video below, as they sprinted to beat the 2:37 qualifying time. (Men needed to run 2:18 or better.) More details are in this post from @runnersworldmag.


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