Minute 1: Encouraging news for runners who have had Covid
If you’ve had Covid, you may be among the millions who discovered that the effects of the virus can last a lot longer than expected. Returning to your normal exercise routine can be a struggle, as one avid runner points out in “Running After COVID 19: This Is What I Learned!” Even in mild cases, Covid can cause your heart rate to spike and leave you short of breath -- symptoms that are particularly tough on endurance athletes. Some doctors and health experts recommend patients who have had Covid get an EKG before returning to full exertion. Amidst those warnings, however, there is some promising news. A recent study by sports cardiologists concluded that “less than 1% of pro athletes infected by COVID-19 developed inflammatory heart disease.” The study, published in JAMA Cardiology, evaluated 789 infected professional athletes from the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, MLS and WNBA. After each league implemented cardiac screening for these players, only 30 athletes were referred for further cardiac testing while only 5 showed signs of inflammatory heart disease. Three were diagnosed with myocarditis, while 2 had pericarditis, or inflammation of the tissue surrounding the heart. While myocarditis can be extremely serious for athletes, especially runners, the numbers are encouraging. Dr. David Engel, a cardiologist at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, told ESPN that the 3 athletes diagnosed with myocarditis had serious cases of Covid or other illnesses. Engel said the results of the study were reassuring. “All of the athletes who went through the screening … were able to achieve a safe return to play.” Engle and other co-authors of the study recommend runners with serious Covid symptoms be cautious about returning to running. Runner Click, meanwhile, recommends easing into it, monitoring your heart rate, mixing up your workouts, and watching for signs telling you to back off. For more tips from doctors and health experts, the Cleveland Clinic recently published its own protocols for “Returning to Sports or Exercise After Recovering From COVID-19.” #HearteningNews
Minute 2: How to develop mental flexibility for running, life
Life has thrown a lot at us over the past year. Many folks have lost jobs, educational opportunities and loved ones. Even as the virus slowly begins to subside, our mental and emotional reserves have been depleted, making us welcome advice like: “7 steps you can take to stay mentally strong during the coronavirus pandemic.” We have been forced to develop mental flexibility, a trait many elite athletes possess and one Canadian Running says can help you become a better runner. In “The importance of mental flexibility in training,” CRM explains how this type of agility can improve your regular training and help you perform better on race day. Serious runners and racers are notorious for sticking to rigid training schedules and pre-race routines. Sometimes, though, life puts a kink in those plans, whether it’s bad weather, injuries or cancelled races. Running coaches Kirk DeWindt and Brakken Kraker of the The Running Public podcast explain how being mentally flexible can help overcome those obstacles. “We want to get across the power of the mind game,” Brakken says. “Everything doesn’t have to be perfect for your mind to be perfect, and if your mind is dialed in, you can go out and do whatever you want.” Health and medical experts, like Harvard Medical School, have long studied the impact mental challenges like games and brain teasers have on mental health. Elite athletes like 7-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady use mental exercises such as BrainHQ to gain an edge on the competition and keep themselves mentally sharp. Holistic nutritionist and wellness coach Annie Gaudreault also addresses the mental challenges we currently face in “How to Stay Motivated When You Can’t See the Finish Line.” Gaudreault, a marathon runner and 3-time Ironman finisher, compares our slog to the end of the pandemic to runners trudging toward a finish line that seems to keep getting farther and farther away. “It’s no wonder so many of us are feeling discouraged and depleted,” she writes at ThriveGlobal.com. “Instead of a road race with a clear start and finish, it feels like we’re running on a hamster wheel, just spinning endlessly each day with no change, no chance to get off.” Her tips for dealing with such mental challenges include: having compassion, or cutting yourself some slack when things seem bleak; managing your energy; and connecting with others. “What I know for sure is that during any race, there are highs and there are lows,” Gaudrault says. “Sticking to the path, one foot in front of the other, is the only way to keep moving forward. And slowly but surely, we’ll keep getting a little bit closer to the finish line.” For more on building mental strength, check out StrengthRunning.com’s “Mental Toughness Training: The Allure of Mastering Your Mindset.” #StrengthBrain
Minute 3: Regaining fitness levels after a break
The new WFH model has saved American workers about an hour of commuting time every day. One credible study analyzed what folks did with that saved time and here’s how they chose to allocate it:
More work on primary job - 35.3%
Indoor leisure (TV & movies) - 18.6%
Home improvement/chores - 15.5%
Childcare - 11.1%
Outdoor leisure or exercise - 11.0%
Working on a second job - 8.4%
The 11.1% increase in exercise mapped closely to Strava data that showed the average athlete increased their activity level by 13% from 2019 to 2020. While that’s great for the average endurance athlete, it doesn’t mean everyone was so lucky. Many folks found their workout time dramatically reduced by a relentless triple threat of Zoom calls for work, homeschooling kids, and additional meal prep responsibilities. If you are in that unlucky cohort, you may be wondering how long you can skip working out without sacrificing all the gains you’d made previously. The Wired Runner recently addressed those concerns in “How Long Does It Take To Get Out Of Running Shape?” According to TWR, there are a number of factors that determine how quickly your fitness levels fall off, including age, body composition, how long you’ve been running, and your performance level. While you may experience a slight dropoff after 6 weeks of inactivity, you can stretch your break to 8 weeks and still be able to bounce back quickly. For breaks longer than 8 weeks, however, regaining your fitness level may take longer. “If you’ve only been training for 3 to 4 months, you may find after 8 weeks that you’re right back at square one,” according to TWR. Keep a close eye on your resting heart rate to figure out how badly you need to get back on track. The good news for endurance athletes is that cardio fitness tends to survive layoffs better than muscular strength which starts to diminish quickly after only 2 weeks of inactivity. For more tips on how to resume your running or workout routine, check out “7 Tips to Start Running After a Long Break.” #TimeCrunches
Minute 4: The vegan running debate rages on
One competition that has not been curtailed by the pandemic is the debate between advocates and critics of vegan diets for athletes. There have been hundreds of posts and columns advocating vegan diets, including one website devoted solely to the No Meat Athlete and its plant-based diet. There are many, though, who still have serious questions about avoiding meat if you have an active lifestyle or work out regularly. The main concern is typically whether a vegan diet can supply the “complete protein” required for muscle repair and bone health. Podcaster Joe Rogan brought widespread attention to the debate in 2019 when he slammed vegan diets and famously declared that “Almost All Vegans Go Back to Eating Meat.” Rogan then did a 180 after hosting a marathon debate featuring James Wilks, the producer of the vegan athlete documentary, The Game Changers. The debate continues as Canadian Running Magazine recently raised the question again: “Is a vegan diet healthy for runners?” Sports dietitian Dr. Nanci Guest, a vegan researcher at the University of Toronto, says vegan diets can not only support serious runners, but can also improve performance if followed correctly. Longtime vegan Lisa Gonzalez-Turner says she used to gulp down five or six different supplements a day, but struggled to find multivitamins that had the right mix of nutrients for someone who doesn’t eat meat. As a result, she launched a new company that is “Making Multivitamins Specifically For Plant-Based Eaters.” Her company, wholier, is a wellness and supplement company for vegans. For more info on the subject, check out “Six Reasons Athletes Are Running Toward a Vegan Diet,” “How to Fuel for Running as a Vegan,” and “The Best Vegan Diet Tips For Long-Distance Running.” #VeggieMight
Minute 5: Quick Intervals
We just released a new podcast episode that is already on its way to becoming one of our most downloaded ever. We got a lot smarter during our conversation with Nancy Clark, the woman who literally wrote the book on endurance sports nutrition. Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook has sold more than 750,000 copies and has become the trusted gold standard on the topic. Countless Olympic and collegiate athletes have followed her advice for decades. So have the Boston Red Sox and Celtics. In our conversation, Nancy describes the ideal daily meal plan for endurance athletes. She also explains why she hates almond milk, which has disrupted our personal breakfast menu. Check out the full episode here.
The 6-mile loop around Central Park is one of the most traveled running routes in the U.S., with part of the loop making up the final stretch of the NYC Marathon. The route now has a new and fitting name. The “Ted Corbitt Loop” honors the man many call “the father of American distance running.” The New York City Parks Department is installing 6 scenic landmark signs bearing the name of Theodore “Ted” Corbitt, the first Black man to represent the United States in an Olympic marathon (1952, Helsinki). Corbitt was also the co-founder and first president of the New York Road Runners and an early proponent of ultra racing. In “Celebrating the Father of American Distance Running,” Outside says Corbitt ran twice a day every day for 13 years, running from his home in the Bronx to his job at the International Center for the Disabled on 23rd Street and 1st Avenue. According to his obituary — Corbitt died in 2007 at age 88 — he competed in 199 marathons and ultra marathons, including the inaugural New York City Marathon in 1970 on a Central Park course he designed. Though some have advocated for a bronze statue of the man known as the “Jackie Robinson of distance running,” Outside says the Ted Corbitt Loop “feels like a suitable tribute — a cherished running route is now named after one of the sport’s most devoted practitioners.”
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Minute 6: Daily Inspiration
Training for a triathlon is a challenge for any athlete, not only physically but mentally. That’s why 27-year-old triathlete Sam Holness believes he has an advantage over his competitors. You see, Holness has autism, which he considers to be his “athletic superpower” since he is able to stay intently focused for long periods of time, especially when completing repetitive tasks like running, swimming and cycling. Sam’s father, Anthony Holness, says: “We’ve had to adapt our training to work with Sam’s autism, but this has been made easier by his single-mindedness.” TheAutismSite.com recently documented Sam’s story in “Triathlete with Autism Defying Expectations, Training to Complete Ironman World Championship.” An amazing 2 minute video on Sam from Hoka, one of his sponsors, is below.