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New fitness trends you can expect in 2021

Minute 1: Could vaccines, COVID tests be required when marathons return?

With worldwide vaccine programs making steady progress, researchers are beginning to forecast a roaring ‘20s ahead of us, just like the decade that followed the 1918 flu pandemic. Instead of flapper dresses and speakeasies, one Yale professor predicts that “People will relentlessly seek out social opportunities,” including an “increase in sexual licentiousness.” (Details may be found in the book Apollo’s Arrow, by Dr. Nicholas Christakis.) Most athletes we know would settle for a race in the streets if they can’t have a romp in the sheets right now. The race calendar in Q4 will be absolutely jammed, but we may still see lots of postponements and virtual races until then. The Pittsburgh Marathon just cancelled its May race and The St. Louis Marathon will return in April, but with restrictions that include a field at less than 10% normal capacity, 10-minute intervals between start times, and masks requirements at the start, finish and when passing other runners. The May 30 Buffalo Marathon will likely require runners to pay for a COVID test, which was also mandated for fans attending the Buffalo Bills home playoff game. There’s a theory that upcoming marathons could return with only participants who have been vaccinated. The NFL may have started the trend by “giving 7,500 vaccinated health care workers free tickets to Super Bowl LV.” Similarly, some countries and airlines are considering COVID-19 vaccine passports for air travel. The 2021 Barkley Marathons, one of the most challenging trail running events in the United States, is using a similar “COVID passport,” requiring participants to be vaccinated or only allowing competitors who have already had the virus. Dr. Megan Roche, a runner who is pursuing a PhD in Epidemiology, recently analyzed the “COVID-19 Vaccine And Athletic Considerations” for Trail Runner Magazine and expects the vaccine to lead to a return to live racing this year. “We are heading into winter, but after reading all about these vaccines, it feels a lot more like spring,” she wrote in December. Overall, U.S. cases are dropping while the number of vaccinations just topped 32,000,000, according to the CDC. That is most importantly good news for all citizens, but may be particularly good news for runners lusting for real races. #Roaring26.2’s

Minute 2: New fitness trends you can expect in 2021

The pandemic caused a dramatic shift from in-person gym visits to online workouts. It turns out that the $100 per month some folks had been spending for their gym membership buys a whole lot of dumbbells on Craigslist. (Check out these “10 Must-Use Craigslist Tips for Finding Used Gym Equipment.”) The upshot of this phenomenon for both athletes and gym owners is described in a detailed Bloomberg story entitled: “How Covid-19 Has Permanently Changed the Fitness Industry.” One survey last summer found that “Most Americans believe that gyms will become a thing of the past after coronavirus.” That probably overstates reality, but according to the survey, 75% of participants said they found it easier to stay at home and exercise, while 64% are more interested in exercising at home than before the pandemic. Even though 90% of gyms had re-opened in the U.S. by last fall, the number of in-person workouts was still down significantly. Healthline just looked at this dilemma and detailed “9 Fitness Trends to Expect in 2021.” Healthline says industry experts are anticipating even more “massive shifts” in our fitness culture. That’s good news for exercise equipment companies, but bad news for gyms and workout facilities. Healthline’s experts predict a continuing shift toward home exercise equipment, from big purchases like treadmills and bikes to smaller tools like dumbbells and exercise bands. It also expects fitness enthusiasts to continue to delve into holistic techniques like yoga, meditation and sleep therapy, while continuing to look for ways to reduce stress and promote mindfulness. The American College of Sports Medicine just published its “Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2021.” The top 5 trends this year will be:

  1. Online training

  2. Wearable technology

  3. Body weight exercises

  4. Outdoor activities

  5. HIIT

Men’s Health sounds some similar notes in: “21 Biggest Health and Fitness Trends of 2021.”

Minute 3: Are thru-hikes good, or bad, for your body and soul?

If you’re an avid hiker, your miles in the woods and mountains have shown you first-hand “How Hiking is Good for Body and Mind,” as WebMD puts it. In addition to being a good cardio workout and lowering your risk of heart disease, hiking also benefits the muscle mass between your ears, as one blogger points out in “Why hiking is so freaking good for you.” Jeff Galloway, one of the most respected running coaches and authors in history, is a big advocate of mixing walking into your running workouts. He has developed a calculator to suggest the ideal mix for runners of various abilities in his Run-Walk-Run program. Galloway explained in detail why he likes walking so much when he joined us recently on our Six Minute Mile Podcast. Grayson Haver Currin knows all these things, but a 2,200-mile thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail made him question every one of them. He broke a toe 3 days before reaching the summit of Mount Katahdin and his body was so battered at the finish that he was unable to run for the next 17 months. Suffering from chronic pain all over his body, including “dead butt syndrome,” and struggling with post-trail depression, Currin went through a battery of tests and therapy sessions before he was able to run or continue hiking nearly 2 years later. The painful journey led him to raise the question: “Did Thru-Hiking the Appalachian Trail Ruin My Body?” Through his experience, he discovered that other thru-hikers have had similar problems, suffering from stress fractures and chronic pain in their joints and ligaments. Another writer broached the subject even more provocatively: “WARNING: Thru-hiking is Terrible for Your Health.” While that warning is mostly a tongue-and-cheek post about all the bizarre things that can happen or go wrong, it also points out the damage to your knees and the risk of post-hike depression. Currin says the last 2 years have been like “a slow-motion episode of ‘House,’” but he is finally back to running and hiking again and is even making plans to trek the Pacific Crest Trail. Clearly, the months of chronic pain and therapy sessions did not ruin his love for hiking. “The Appalachian Trail remains the happiest and hardest span of my life, and, at least since finishing, I’ve never regretted the decision.” #DropTheHike

Minute 4: What to eat during your long-distance training

Whether you are training for an in-person marathon or just trying to garner kudos on Strava for an impressive Sunday morning long run, nutrition is a critical component of success. “If you don’t eat the right foods in the right amounts, you might not get enough energy to train and compete properly,” says sports dietician Evangeline Mantzioris, the program director of Nutrition and Food Sciences at the University of South Australia. Not having the proper fuel, Mantzioris says, can lead to Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport Syndrome (RED-S), which can cause poor recovery between training sessions, injuries and a suppressed immune system, among other health problems. Mantzioris recently outlined her recommendations in “What to eat for long-distance running.” Her tips include eating 6-10 grams of carbs for each kilogram of body weight (2.2 pounds). Protein intake should be around 1.4 grams per kilogram of body weight, including 20 grams within 2 hours of finishing a workout. For further advice along these lines, check out the “Top 10 Carbs Athletes Should Love” and these “High Protein Foods For Runners.” #EngineRoom

Minute 5: Quick Intervals

  • When the Six Minute Mile podcast interviewed former women’s world record holder in the marathon, Paula Radcliffe, we picked an interesting fun fact. Paula’s great aunt won an Olympic silver medal in swimming in 1920. The sad part of the story is that the family lost the medal and it hasn’t been seen in decades. OK, so maybe our finisher medals aren’t quite the same as an Olympic medal, but they’re still worth keeping around. Run To The Finish says you should be proud of your race awards and offers some suggestions for “Creative Ways to Display Race Medals and Bibs.” There are all sorts of hangers and displays for race medals, like these from our friends at Gone For A Run. Run To The Finish has also collected some neat ideas from fellow runners, like turning your medals into coasters or wind chimes or using them to make a lamp or Christmas tree ornaments. For race bibs, it recommends using them to make a tote bag or other accessories. And if you have a box of old medals you don’t really want anymore, they recommend donating them to organizations like Medals 4 Mettle.

  • Super Bowl parties will be virtual or very different this year, with most limited to just a few masked family members and friends. If you’re looking to maintain your training regime during one of the biggest eating days of the year, check out VeryWellFit’s “Healthy Low Carb Super Bowl Snacks and Swaps for the Big Game.” They offer healthy alternatives for everything from wings, nachos and pizza to alcohol. For more healthy tips for your Super Bowl shindig, check out “45 Healthy Super Bowl Recipes That Won’t Leave You Feeling Sacked.” Or try “50 Suprisingly Healthy Super Bowl Recipes That Are Irresistibly Delicious.” Bon appetit, and enjoy the game.

  • Many athletes view outdoor running in freezing temperatures as an opportunity to challenge both body and mind. A new story explains “The Benefits of Exercising in Cold Weather — and How to Do It Safely.” Stanford health psychologist Kari Leibovitz says runners who view outdoor exercise as an opportunity “had more positive emotions, greater life satisfaction, and greater personal growth.” According to fitness experts, exercising in the cold burns more fat and calories and increases both stamina and brain activity. And your body actually keeps you warm by burning excess fat. Even recovering in freezing temperatures is good for you, with some experts recommending cryotherapy, which aids muscle regeneration and boosts the immune system by freezing the body for a few minutes after a workout. For more information on the new-age technique, check out the “7 Benefits of Cryotherapy.”

Minute 6: Daily Inspiration

Walter Faion hasn’t missed a day of running in decades. “No matter what life has thrown at me, I have always managed to get a run in,” he says. In September of 1998, Faion’s son Spencer was born prematurely. He made a vow then to “run every single day if he comes through and lives a normal life.” Faion hasn’t slowed down since. He has run a 2:20 marathon and has trained numerous world-class athletes. He now coaches master’s club runners at the University of Toronto and recently offered these “7 Keys to success as a master’s athlete.” Check out Faion’s remarkable story of why he runs every day in the 2 minute video below.


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