Minute 1: Can motivation be improved?
Against our better instincts, we sometimes indulge in deep self-analysis through a Buzzfeed quiz like this one: “Your Food Preferences Will Reveal Which TV Character You Are.” They’re silly, shallow, and overgeneralizing, but they’re still a guilty pleasure. Everyone likes to learn more about themselves, even if it’s from an unreliable source. When you add scientific research into the mix, however, these silly articles become exceptionally useful tools. That’s why we recommend -- whether you're a trail runner or not -- this new article: “What type of trail runner are you? (according to science).” Researchers studied a group of trail runners and determined that they belonged to 1 of 3 categories. The first is resilients, who attain satisfaction by overcoming life’s challenges. They had the lowest perceived effort, but experienced the least pleasure during the race compared to the other groups. Next are the hedonists, who participate in trail running for their love of nature and scenery. They had a moderate perceived effort level, and a moderate amount of pleasure gained from running. Last are the competitors, who are motivated by a good performance and overtaking opponents. They had the highest level of perceived effort, but also the highest perceived pleasure. Interestingly, runners within this category are most likely to give up during a race. Unfortunately, figuring out what category you belong to isn’t as easy as taking a Buzzfeed quiz. For that, you’re going to have to use your intuition on your next run to uncover your motivating factors and perceived exertion. You should probably check out “What Does RPE Tell You About Your Workouts” to learn how the scale works, and what it means. Much of your perceived success and happiness from sports is derived from your underlying motivation, as Training Peaks explains in this helpful piece: “What Motivates Successful Athletes.” It explains the fundamental difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Ideally, we would all be driven by an intrinsic drive to work hard and excel at our sport. In reality, however, most athletes fall somewhere between the poles of the intrinsic/extrinsic continuum. Motivation levels can be altered and improved as described in this story from earlier this year: “4 Science-Backed Ways to Motivate Yourself to Work Out.”
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Minute 2: Carbo Loading and Fat Loading: Which works for you?
Carbo-loading is a tradition as old as the marathon. We’re not sure if Pheidippides opted for meat sauce or tomato sauce the night before he ran from the Battle of Marathon to Athens in 490 BC, but we are confident he wolfed down a bowl of pasta. Of course the Greek messenger collapsed and died after running 26.2 miles, so this question is an ancient one: “Does Carbo-Loading Even Really Work?” Simply put, research on carbo-loading shows it is helpful for races, but only if they last for 90 minutes or more. Carbs are stored as glycogen in the body, and carbo-loading combined with exercise increases the size of these glycogen stores. Even without carbo-loading, however, you’ll likely have plenty of glycogen to get through shorter races with no problem. Unfortunately for anyone who’s overindulged at a high school pasta party, you probably did more harm than good for your subsequent 5K. The article notes that there’s another pre-race diet method that deserves more attention: Fat-loading. That may not sound healthy, but for endurance competitors whose events last 4 or more hours, it’s an essential practice. During those long outings, there simply isn’t enough glycogen capacity in the body to get you to the finish line, meaning you’re going to switch energy sources and start burning fat once it’s all you’ve got left. For advice on how to pick the right kinds of fats to load up on, read “Choosing Healthy Fats.” Runners Connect offers up “What are the Best Foods to Eat the Week Before a Marathon?” while Ragnar provides a list of “12 Foods Runners Should Avoid.”
Minute 3: Adventure with confidence using Strava’s beacon feature
In a year full of bear sightings, forest fires, rising crime rates, and extreme weather across the country, our safe havens of outdoor activities may not be quite as safe anymore. As a martial arts instructor once wrote: “Here's a rule of life: You don't get to pick what bad things happen to you.” Whenever we hear of a way to make hikes and trail runs a little safer, we’re anxious to share ideas, so take a look at “Why You Should Turn On Strava’s ‘Beacon’ Feature When You Go for a Run.” Once a feature reserved for paying users only, ‘Beacon’ is now free for all, and it could be a lifesaver if you’re headed to a trail alone. The app allows you to select a contact and provide them with all sorts of info, like when you started running, your current location, and even how much battery your phone has left. A feature like ‘Beacon’ is especially important these days for those on the west coast, and you can see why in “PNW hiking and camping upended as wildfires force tough choices.” Some parks have been closed outright due to the danger, but if you find yourself hiking through one of the remaining open destinations, you should be wary of the danger of fire and high levels of smoke in the atmosphere. Your best bet is to have someone keeping an eye on you, and that’s why we tip our caps to Strava for making this feature free. For more general advice, we liked these “15 Runner Safety Tips” from the Road Runner’s Club of America, particularly #13: Never trust a driver.
Minute 4: Running and blood pressure: What you need to know
Brace yourself, we’ve got a scary statistic to share: About 50% of U.S adults have high blood pressure, according to the CDC. The good news is, active people like runners are less likely to be among those with the condition. Even if you are, your exercise will help to reduce the degree of which your hypertension manifests. You can learn about more ways to keep your heart healthy in “How To Reduce High Blood Pressure Naturally At Home.” There are lots of changes you can make to your diet to see results. Taking in less salt, caffeine, alcohol, and processed foods are all good options. Instead, sub them out for more water, foods containing magnesium, and dark chocolate. That’s a great place to start, but it’s hard to beat the benefits of running. A study titled “Running to Lower Resting Blood Pressure: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis” found that “running regularly at moderate intensity and at a restrained volume is recommended to lower RBP in subjects with hypertension.” You can take it a step further too, as another study found promising results from marathon training. Take a look at “Want to turn back time? Try running a marathon.” Researchers found that first time marathon runners saw results “equivalent to a four-year reduction in vascular age, with the greatest benefits seen in older, slower male marathon runners.”
Minute 5: Quick Intervals
If you’ve tried a “meat free burger,” you’ve probably learned that they don’t quite taste like meat, but they’re unbelievably close. Hence the name “Impossible Burger,” as one brand calls itself. Well, your suspicion is correct. Being plant-based often gets the product labeled as a healthy option, but that might not be the case, due to high levels of saturated fat and sodium. Read this new story, “Why meat-free burgers aren’t always the ‘healthy’ option,” so you know what you’re getting into.
Everyone wants to be a better runner, but the overload of available information sometimes gets in the way of progress. That’s why we like the simplicity of this new piece from Runnerclick: “10 Ways To Become a Better Runner.” We have incorporated many of these suggestions over the years, but we always seem to overlook #5: “Work on your form.”
After failing to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, Jenny Simpson hit an unfamiliar crossroads of her career. In her 14 years of competing, she had never failed to make the team before, and as she grappled with that reality, the need for a change became apparent. She decided to move up from her usual event of 1500 meters to take on one of our favorite races in the U.S., the Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run. Read all about how she’s handling the transition in “Jenny Simpson: ‘I Know There’s Still Something Great Left in Me.”
Minute 6: Daily Inspiration
The Tokyo Paralympic Games provided plenty of lump-in-your-throat moments along with heaps of inspiration. More than once we watched these amazing athletes overcome physical disabilities and asked ourselves: Am I really going to blow off a workout because my knee is a little sore? As if the physical feats of the Paralympians were not enough, we were wowed by a beautiful moment after a heat in the 200m race for visually-impaired women. That’s when Manuel Antonio Vaz da Veiga, a guide to Keula Nidreia Pereira Semedo of Cape Verde, dropped down to a knee on the track and proposed marriage to his running partner. Not a dry eye in the place. Check it out in the video below. Spoiler alert: she said yes.