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Dry January

Minute 1: Smart weight loss

Even after the profound economic challenges of 2020, the only type of belt-tightening that interests most folks is literal, not fiscal. According to a Statista consumer survey last month, of The 10 Most Popular 2021 New Year’s Resolutions, eating healthier and losing weight are 2 of the top 4 choices. (Exercising more is #1.) A subset of our readers tells us to cut back on stories about losing weight. We hear you. There are more important things than lopping a few seconds per mile off your next virtual 10K or looking good on the beach. (Who can tell how you look anyway, from a social distance?) For those of you in that camp, you may enjoy this piece in the Atlantic: “New Year’s Resolutions That Will Actually Lead to Happiness.” At the top of their list are forgiveness and gratitude. For the rest of us who wouldn’t mind dropping 5-10 pounds, here are some good perspectives from among the many published at this time of year.

  • 14 Best Diets For Weight Loss in 2021, According to Experts -- Based on a US News survey, the top 3 are Flexitarian, Weight Watchers and Vegan

  • 4 Research-Backed Ways This Science Journalist Shed Weight When Nothing Else Worked -- Key takeaway is to reduce sugar intake

  • The best way to lose weight boils down to these 5 principles -- Advice from NBC includes “exercise, but not to lose weight”

  • Does Intermittent Fasting Work? -- The short answer is “yes,” according to the New England Journal of Medicine

  • Eating This Before Exercising Will Burn More Fat, Study Finds -- The answer to the clickbaity headline is you should eat protein at the breakfast table

Minute 2: Dry January

“Uncle Walter, please tell us that great story again about how the airline lost your luggage,” said no human being ever. Along with travel delays and insurance conferences, we’d throw in long discussions about a new diet as a topic better left unshared. As Minute 1 detailed, diet and healthy eating are important, but normally best left between you and your calorie-counting app. We’d make one exception to that during the first week of 2021 -- we’re kinda fascinated by Dry January or “Dranuary,” as the cool kids call it. According to Strava, runners like beer (while cyclists prefer coffee), so we are actually very interested in what’s driving athletes to teetotal. Perhaps it’s a response to the fact that “More Americans Are Binge Drinking During Pandemic.” That is particularly true among women in a recent study. It seems that in early 2021, athletes are moving away from the old philosophy of “If the furnace is hot enough, it will burn anything.” If you’re a newbie to the concept, check out this piece from Healthline: “Say ‘Cheers!’ to Dry January with These 8 Easy Tips.” If you want to geek out on more science, we’d recommend this story from Triathlete magazine: “A Nutritionist Shares What a Month of No Alcohol Did to His Body.” The main takeaway is that even modest alcohol consumption raises your resting heart rate, but we were more interested in the adverse effect of alcohol on the author’s sleep. Based on some of our own field research, two beers or glasses of wine at the end of a long day make us doze off more quickly, but also wake us up at odd hours. Another recent story in WebMD confirms this: “Alcohol and a Good Night's Sleep Don't Mix.” Regular readers know that we subscribe to the edict of “Everything in moderation, including moderation.” To be consistent, we are aiming for a “Dryish January” by consciously avoiding the mindless reflex of a drink/drinks at the end of the day.

Minute 3: Is it faster to walk or run on steep hills?

A few years ago as we approached the finish line of the iconic Mt. Washington Road Race, we were determined to run -- not walk -- the entire distance. The race course is only 7.6 miles long, but it climbs more than 4,000 vertical feet. The last mile is particularly steep, maxing out at a 22% grade. With burning legs, we didn’t want to admit after the race that we were forced to walk. Until we were passed by a much older runner who was pursuing a fast hiking gait rather than our bouncy trot. As it turns out, that much wiser runner’s strategy was just confirmed by a new story in Outside magazine: “Yes, Walking Is Sometimes Faster than Running Uphill.” Elite trail runner Jackson Brill has been studying the phenomenon for several years. Based on his research, there is a point for every runner at which it will be faster to walk. “Our research gives people permission to walk if they want,” Brill says. If your ego needs more reassurance, Jeff Galloway, a former Olympian and one of the most accomplished running coaches in history, has written a book on his recommendation to mix running and walking throughout your training. We had a great discussion with him about the benefits of walking when he joined us on the Six Minute Mile Podcast. #RaceWalking

Minute 4: Return to racing

Just as treadmills are a poor substitute for a run outside, virtual races are really just serving as a snack while waiting for the main course of in-person races. The Abbott World Marathon Majors are being pushed to the back half of 2021, with the hope that large-scale vaccinations will enable them to come back in force. Our best guess is that many events will limit field sizes so they can plan for a scenario in which we have not quite achieved herd immunity. If you want to score along at home, the CDC provides a running total of how many U.S. vaccines have been distributed and how many have been administered. Overall, the process is moving more slowly than hoped. If you’d like to see where your state stands, check out this update from USA Today: “These states are the most behind in giving COVID-19 vaccines. Is yours on the list?” We’re confident some enterprising race director is dreaming up an event for healthcare workers and first responders who have already been vaccinated. Until then, there are a few options for in-person racing like the A1A Marathon in February and Spartan Race which kicks off its 2021 season in Jacksonville in February.

Minute 5: Quick Intervals

  • West Virginia, Mississippi and Arkansas are the 3 laziest states in America according to a new study from the digital publication BestLife. They created an index based on time spent watching TV, gym usage and measurement of an overall sedentary lifestyle. Minnesota, Alaska and Connecticut are at the happy end of the list. Check out where your state ranks here.

  • We are big fans of mixing in high intensity interval training with our standard endurance work. If you are pressed for time, you really have no excuse whatsoever now that a new study has determined that exercise bursts as brief as 4 seconds can have a big positive impact. The New York Times just described the new study in “Can 4 Seconds of Exercise Make a Difference?” The takeaway is that if those 4 second bursts can be pieced together over a few minutes, the answer is “yes.” If you want some ideas about challenging yourself, check out “10 HIIT Workouts You Can Do at Home” suggested by Men’s Journal

Minute 6: Daily Inspiration

Our shop teacher in high school was a bald-headed philosopher who shared aphorisms about his scalp like “Grass doesn’t grow on a busy street.” and “The best tables have marble tops.” He also shared nuggets about how to calculate board feet, which we didn’t understand, and why we shouldn’t enroll in home economics classes, which made sense at the time, but in hindsight was a missed opportunity in favorable dating ratios. We hadn’t really thought much about shop class until a reader sent a video from a Michigan industrial arts teacher and runner named Matthew Barbercheck. He looks like the child Tom Hanks would have fathered if he’d met a woman on the deserted island in Cast Away. Beneath the shaggy hair and bushy beard, Barbercheck continues the tradition of philosopher shop teachers through his viral TikTok account. The installment below provides good perspective on tenacity in response to this question: How many times have you forgotten your phone charger on a trip and just accepted the fact that you were going to have a dead phone?

BTW, if you’ve ever wondered how Hanks lost 55 pounds in 4 months for Cast Away, the answer is 2 hours of cardio per day and a diet of water, vegetables and fish.


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