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How to measure improvement other than time

Minute 1: Runners and yoga

Like flossing and writing thank you notes, yoga is something runners know they should practice, but don’t do often enough. Integrating just 1 weekly yoga session into your training regimen can help, as explained in this story: “Is It Worth Doing Yoga Once a Week?” Of course more weekly sessions are even better, but there’s not much excuse to avoid yoga, with videos like this readily available: “7-Minute Yoga for Runners.” Yoga and running, it turns out, go together like peas and carrots. Yoga can promote recovery and running efficiency while reducing the risk of injuries. “Yoga for runners: 7 stretches to release hips, glutes, quads and hamstrings” demonstrates yoga poses that benefit our lower halves. Standards like Downward Dog and Pyramid lengthen our spine and hamstrings. Revolved Chair stretches out your calf muscles. Pigeon can open up your hip joints and glutes, getting those important areas strong and flexible. Others, like Chair Pose, can help stretch your Achilles and shins. Of course you don’t need to do a full session to take advantage of these poses. You could work them into any post-run stretch like Butterfly and Half-Pigeon. Many standard stretches we already do are so similar to yoga poses that the combination of them with these suggested poses will only help. Namaste. #LegWork

Minute 2: What happens to a runner when they donate blood

A few numbers for you. Someone in the US needs blood every 2 seconds. 38% of the American population is eligible to donate healthy blood but only 2% actually donate blood. During the pandemic are badly needed and donations have helped in some unexpected ways. The Red Cross tests all donations for COVID-19 antibodies, and blood that tests positive for the coronavirus is actually welcomed by the Red Cross. It can be given to current coronavirus patients to help their recovery through convalescent plasma transfusions. So, that’s the good stuff about donating blood, but many athletes wonder what effect it will have on their performance. Fleet Feet answers that question in this new story: “Donating Blood as a Runner: What You Need to Know.” The story breaks down some of the basic things to know about how your body works to make red blood cells – 2.4 trillion of them in a single pint. When you take that single pint of blood away from a runner, it can cause a big decrease in peak aerobic power for 2 to 3 weeks after donation. Your body adapts quickly and begins plasma production to recover the lost blood volume, however that dilutes red blood cell concentration causing the feeling of fatigue and weakness in your body. If you’re a runner, there are things to take into consideration before donating, like recovery time, how you felt if you’ve donated previously and your health. Talk to a doctor before donating and consider donating in your offseason so as to reduce the effect a donation may have on your training. If you do donate, plan for a likely impact to your training and don’t go crazy as you recover the few weeks after. For more perspective, check out what Training Peaks has to say: “Donating blood is one of the single most important things you can do to help doctors. Here’s how you may need to adjust your training to do it.” The National Academy of Sports Medicine offers this analysis: “Donating Blood and Exercise: What Athletes Should Know.” #BloodWorkOut

Minute 3: Ways to measure improvement other than time

Runners obsess with time the way teenagers obsess with social media likes. They’re kinda missing the point sometimes. Of course races are ranked by finish time, not by running form or the underlying goodness of the competitors. Thanks to an explosion of GPS training devices and tracking apps, even our training runs are judged largely by speed. (Raise your hand if you’ve ever hesitated to upload a really slow training run to Strava?) We tend to gauge our improvement by relying upon whether our pace or total time has gotten faster. There are so many other ways to measure improvement, but sometimes we all need a reminder of what’s important. That’s why we liked this new story that encourages runners to listen for and respond to a range of physiological signals: “12 Ways to Tell You’re Getting Better at Running That Aren’t All About Your Time.” Non-speed-based metrics include increased mileage as we emerge from winter, increased strength on hill and easier recovery. Ever review the metrics your smartwatch is tracking? One of the biggest indicators of improvement and recovery is your heart rate. Heart rate training has been a popular approach given the access to modern technology. Staying in dedicated heart rate zones (and seeing if your pace has changed – can’t avoid that time metric entirely!) across your recovery runs is an interesting experiment and a great way to add more fuel to your personal training journey. #LetTimeStandStill

Minute 4: Earth Day

Earth Day is next week on April 22nd and the theme is “Restore the Earth” so it seems like an appropriate time to consider how running can positively impact the environment. Running and sustainability has been gaining a lot of traction in the past few years, hence new articles like this: “Best Eco-Friendly Fitness Products.” The list includes products like a shirt made with recycled fabrics, carbon neutral running shoes from Allbirds, yoga mats made from biodegradable naturally harvested tree rubber and even a massage roller that is made from natural cork. Allbirds isn’t the only shoe brand in the sustainability lane. Adidas, HOKA and Newton all made this list of “12 Best Sustainable Running Shoe Brands for 2021.” You can research your favorite brands for their sustainability practices (Patagonia is one of the most transparent), and you can make strides to turn your entire running practice into a mindful and sustainable approach. For more ideas on being a good steward of the trails, check out “The 10 Commandments of Trail Preservation” from Trail Runner. #ReduceReuseRecycleRerun

Minute 5: Quick Intervals

  • As we mentioned on Tuesday, we’re getting excited about the prospects of rejoining in-person races really soon. Minnesota is home to 2 large and well-regarded marathons, the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon and Grandma’s Marathon. In the land of 10,000 lakes, organizers across the state worked together for the last year to figure out the complexities of how to relaunch live races. It involved working with the biggest races and many of the smallest organized races, learning from one another and cooperation with the state to make the future real. Grandma’s and Medtronic will both have live runners this year.

  • After you’ve tried some of the techniques to measure your improvements without a watch, you’ll still need that watch for other tactics. Learning how to pace yourself is one of the biggest individual challenges a runner faces. There’s an interesting debate that was the focus of a new article this week: “Pace on treadmill vs. outside: Which is better?” The story explores whether learning your pacing is better on a treadmill or on the roads, and the pros and cons of each.

  • The surging stock price of Peloton means the company is now worth $35 billion. Not bad for a stationary bike company, you say. That’s true, but it’s also true that Peloton has become much more than a fitness equipment company with a huge digital content library and software infrastructure. They have attracted the attention of more than just 401k investors, and some think tech behemoth Apple is now trying to catch up with Peloton. This new story: “Fitness App Face-Off: Apple Fitness+ vs. Peloton” is a well-researched piece from Consumer Reports. Surprisingly, Apple gets higher rankings for quality of instructors while Peloton gets the nod for music engagement.

Minute 6: Daily Inspiration

During the depths of the pandemic last April in England, an unlikely hero emerged to inspire the country -- 100-year-old Captain Tom Moore. He was a WWII officer and had enjoyed an adventurous life that included racing motorcycles and running a successful business. To celebrate his 100th birthday, Captain Tom decided to raise money for frontline healthcare workers by walking 100 laps around his garden over 10 days. He reckoned that if things went well, he would raise £1,000 for the National Health Service. The plucky former tank instructor showed the younger generations how to really command social media attention, and by the time his birthday arrived, he had raised more than £30,000,000 for the NHS. Although Captain Tom passed away earlier this year, his family is hoping to inspire future generations by making the Captain Tom 100 an annual affair. Tom chose to walk around his garden 100 times, but many runners are planning to take part thanks to sponsorship by the London Marathon. Participation can be in any form you’d like as long as it’s based on the number 100 -- run for 100 minutes, run up 100 stairs, score 100 goals or bake 100 cookies. The fun engagement will run from April 30 - May 3. More info is here and the excellent video below featuring British stars ranging from Julie Andrews to David Beckham gives further motivation. As Tom liked to say: “Tomorrow will be a good day.”


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