APR 29, 2022
Minute 1: How to improve running economy
Let’s talk about running economy. No, that doesn’t mean a financial analysis of shoe companies or a way to afford your running habit on a budget. RE is a measure of how efficiently your body can run, and improving it can have a major impact on your race performance. For a stimulus package of information on the topic, read this blog post from Polar: “How to Enhance Your Running Economy.” Simply put, RE is determined by measuring the amount of oxygen your body needs to run at a certain pace. The less oxygen needed, the better your running economy. It’s a close cousin of VO2 max, a metric that has produced lots of hype and admiration over the years. (Check out this list of “The World Best VO2 Max Scores.” It is heavy on cyclists and nordic skiers, but Joan Benoit Samuelson and Steve Prefontaine make the cut.) Improving RE takes time, but a good place to start is by incorporating hill runs into your training. One study showed that after 6 weeks of intense hill work, runners improved RE sufficiently to produce a 2% faster 5K time. To really maximize your efficiency, you’ll need to train all your body’s systems, as you can see in this story: “What is running economy and how can you improve it?” Hills and weightlifting will grow your biomechanical strength, long runs develop your cardiovascular system, and interval runs/sprints improve your neuromuscular connections. On top of running faster, having a better RE helps your runs feel easier, which can help on the days we describe in Minute 4.
Minute 2: Superfoods, super protein bars, and more
We’re suckers for superfoods. Every time a story comes around proclaiming the next big thing, we dig into the fine print to see if the hype is real. Our latest subject is the chan seed, which is a go-to snack for anti-aging according to “How To Eat More Chan Seeds, a Dietary Staple in the Longevity Hotspot of Nicoya, Costa Rica.” They’re similar to chia seeds in size and texture, and they contain just as many nutrients too, packing omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, potassium, fiber, calcium, iron, zinc, protein, and vitamins A, B, C, and E. To top it all off, they’ve got lots of protein and amino acids, so blending them into your post workout smoothie is great for muscle building and recovery. Speaking of recovery boosting snacks, you should take a look at “Protein Bars: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” from Women’s Running. Lots of products are branded as a healthy source of protein, but the truth is, some of them are just glorified candy bars. To weed out the bad ones, the first thing you should look for is a substantial amount of protein per serving – we’re talking 15 to 20 grams. Another important consideration is the sweetening agent used. Find something natural like tapioca syrup, brown rice syrup, honey, or maple syrup, rather than artificial or sweeteners or processed sugars. #PlantingSeeds
Minute 3: What happens if you change your workout time?
Most of our running buddies think that morning is the best time to hit the streets or the gym. We get it. Quiet streets, a kick-start to the day and an empty stomach. We’ll take the other side of that coin, however. The late afternoon run is often a good way to clear the mind of daily problems and reset for evening time with family and friends. We like the morning hours to get a jump on the work day before a flood of emails, texts and calls disrupts “my agenda” and turns it into “my colleagues’ agenda.” A journalist from Fit & Well provides some helpful perspective: “Which is better: morning or evening workouts? I tried 1 month of both to find out.” Going from morning to evening workouts, Matt struggled to maintain his usual consistency. Sometimes, dinner plans or other obligations would conflict, and he’d have to forego exercise that night. On the other hand, the times where his schedule was open, he found his workouts to be better than ever, since he wasn’t rushing through to get on with the rest of his day. He set a personal best on the bench press, and enjoyed the workouts more. Not to mention, working out near bedtime tired him out and improved sleep quality. For more on that topic, read “The Best Exercises for Sleep.” If you’re someone who likes short and intense workouts that raise your heart rate and body temp significantly, mornings will suit you better so you don’t impede your ability to fall asleep. On the other hand, mild to moderate intensity workouts are good for inducing sleepiness once you’re finished.
Minute 4: Nobody feels great all the time, and that’s okay
When someone tells us to “calm down” or “cheer up,” it rarely has the desired effect. If we’re feeling like the bug instead of the windshield, we don’t want to hear about frowns turning upside down. We’re not proud of our desire to steam in solitude, but it seems that the instinct to embrace misery is not such a bad strategy, according to this new piece: “Don’t insist on being positive – allowing negative emotions has much to teach us.” Psychologist Whitney Goodman, author of the book Toxic Positivity, says the aversion to negativity has its roots in America's 19th century religious movements, as well as scientific research in the 1970s which suggested happiness to be the ultimate goal of life, rather than just a part of the whole. Instead, learning to accept negative emotions for what they are enables us to learn from them, and ultimately grow into a more complete version of ourselves. That’s useful advice for life in general, but it’s especially useful for runners. Take a look at “The 18 Best Running Mantras To Encourage You On Your Run.” A mantra is a sanskrit word meaning “instrument of thinking,” and it’s a way to reframe your mental experience as you run. Olympian and triathlete Sarah True tells herself “This too shall pass,” and we think that’s a great way to engage with the negative experience of a tough run, without giving up. Instead of trying to convince yourself you enjoy the pain that comes with exercise, you can see it as a temporary discomfort, and a necessary sacrifice in service to a healthy lifestyle.
Minute 5: Quick Intervals
Last issue, we covered post marathon nutrition for an optimal recovery. Forgive us for doing this out of order, but today we uncovered a good analysis of how many carbs you should be eating before your race. To get started, follow the rule of thumb of consuming about 10 grams of carbs per kilogram of bodyweight. There’s a lot more nuance to it than that, however, so dive into this article from Trail Runner for the details: “Increasing Carb Intake Before And During Races May Improve Endurance Performance.”
Unless you are asking a teenager, most folks we know think we would all benefit from reducing the time we spend on our smart phones. Lately we’ve been playing a little game with ourselves – when waiting in line at a coffee shop, instead of reaching for our phone, we try to use the time instead for old-fashioned thinking or observing our surroundings. It’s harder than we thought and it turns out we’re not alone. People have tried everything from tapering off, to quitting cold turkey, and the results have varied greatly. One group of researchers believes they have a winning formula for all of us: “How to Permanently Reduce Your Screentime, According to Science.”
If you’d like to be a part of running history, you should consider the inaugural Bank of America Chicago 13.1 that takes place Saturday June 5, 2022. This unique race will take participants on a tour of the historic parks and boulevards of Chicago’s West Side. Runners will start and finish in the shadow of the iconic Gold Dome of the field house at Garfield Park and enjoy scenic loops through Humboldt and Douglass Parks. After the race, stick around for a festival featuring a mix of fitness and lifestyle activations. Don’t miss your chance to be part of the inaugural field on June 5! Visit chicago13point1.com to learn more and sign up today.
Minute 6: Daily Inspiration
14,110,272 feet. 2,672.4 miles. 102 marathons. However you slice it, Jacky Hunt-Broersma’s new record of 102 consecutive daily marathons is simply incredible. Hunt-Broersma, hailing from South Africa and living in Arizona, lost her left leg in 2001 from a rare bone cancer and runs with a carbon fiber prosthesis. She told WBZ Boston, “I was told you can’t run because you’re an amputee, don’t even bother because you need prosthetics and it’s complicated and things like that. And when someone tells you that, because you suddenly can’t do it, you want to do it. That’s how my journey started.” Along that journey she conquered the Boston Marathon last Monday and raised more than $25,000 for other amputee athletes to afford blade prosthesis. To donate to her cause go here. Way to go Jacky!