DEC 30, 2022
We hope that all of our readers are enjoying a happy, healthy and active holiday season. Thank you for being a loyal supporter of our humble newsletter over the past three years. It has been a total blast to share news and information for endurance athletes twice every week and to receive feedback from all of you. Nothing gets us more excited than when we see a reader email in our inbox. Sometimes you let us know you disagree with us, but we always learn something from your feedback.
Even if you don’t write to us directly, we can still get a feel for your favorite pieces of content by which stories received the most clicks. Our star intern from last summer is home on break from UVA and he spent many hours combing through our MailChimp analytics data to figure out the most popular Minutes of 2022. In case you missed these stories the first time or would like a refresher, here are the most popular Six Minutes from the past year. Enjoy!
Minute 1: How to live for 100 years or more
As the old joke asks: “Who the heck wants to live to be 100?” Answer: “A 99-year-old.” We are living in strange times in which more people than ever have a realistic shot at reaching the century mark, but yet the average U.S. life expectancy took a big hit in 2020: “Covid helped cause the biggest drop in U.S. life expectancy since WWII.” Cancer and heart disease were still the leading causes of death, with many of those fatalities falling in the category of preventable illness. That’s where new lifestyle, diet and medical advancement can have a huge impact on whether or not we make it the full 100 yards down the field of life. Just this week, 2 compelling stories hit the wires that offer guidance: “10 Things to Do Every Day to Help You Live to 100, According to Experts” and “Five Ways to Live to 100.” The first story relies on research of people living in the Blue Zones – areas of the world which have a high incidence of folks living to be 100, such as Okinawa, Japan, Loma Linda, CA, and Sardinia, Italy. The most prolific author on the subject is Dan Beuttner, and you can check out his published works here. The advice in the 2 new pieces is practical and doesn’t rely on stunning med tech to extend your life expectancy. Recommendations include consuming probiotics, cutting consumption of meat and scheduling more social and mindfulness time. If you want to run the numbers on how long you are likely to live, check out the John Hancock Lifespan Calculator. Life insurance companies have billions of dollars at stake in getting that math correct, so it is a pretty reliable way to estimate the length of your runway.
Minute 2: Try out the Copenhagen Plank and other variations
Planking doesn’t get enough love. And no, we don’t mean the 2011 internet fad; we’re happy to leave that trend behind. We’re talking about the core exercise that builds isometric strength and improves stability. Like wall sits and static squats, planks are a real test of discipline as well. If you think you’ve got what it takes, you should try out the variation described in “Few Exercises Are as Difficult as the Notorious ‘Copenhagen Plank’.” They resemble side planks, but they’re designed to blast your adductor muscles by elevating your leg on a bench, ottoman, or other raised surface. Begin by getting into a side plank position, and then rest your top leg on the surface while keeping your bottom leg off the ground. Immediately, you’ll feel the burn in your adductors (the muscles on the inner part of your leg), and this position can be so intense that it’s better to hold for 10 to 30 seconds, rather than the typical goal of 60 seconds for a normal plank. In addition to Copenhagen Planks, there are several other variations listed here: “12 Types of Plank Exercises.” We especially love ones like the side-to-side plank, which combines isometric strength with a bit of movement, developing your stability and overall strength at the same time. #WalkThePlank
Minute 3: Try these drills to improve your running form
“Don’t practice until you get it right, practice until you can’t get it wrong.” A coach shared that wisdom with us recently and at first we smiled. But then we cringed. When someone shares a good tip, workout or drill with us, we usually give it a shot, modifying to fit our “comfort level.” Do we keep working at it until it’s perfect? Um, well, that would be a “no.” That’s why a new piece from Polar hit home last week: “5 Running Drills To Become A Better Runner.” There’s no one-size-fits-all running form, but there are some basic tenets that are worthy of practicing until we can’t get them wrong. Unlocking a greater range of motion, building full body coordination, and dialing in the right cadence will improve anyone’s running experience, and drills are a good way to make that happen. Drills performed as part of a warmup serve a double purpose: improving your form and protecting you against injury. These drills work as a stand alone workout, too. The next time you’re in need of a recovery day, consider avoiding another run in favor of high knees, lunges, and skips instead. That way, you lower the risk of an overuse injury. Repetitive stress is a major catalyst for injury among endurance athletes, so be on the lookout for “The 8 Most Common Running Injuries.” There are a few key habits which separate healthy runners from the chronically injured, and you can see them in “How to Prevent Running Injuries—Tips, Exercises, and Drills.” One of the most vital aspects of healthy training is running with purpose. Having a well-planned routine with a balance of fast running, slow running, warmups and drills is a good defense against overtaxing your body.
Minute 4: So long, sit-ups: Here are some superior core workouts
Mom always told us that appearances are overrated; it’s what’s on the inside that counts. For core strength, Mom was right on target. Looks can be very deceiving, since having 6-pack abs has a lot more to do with your body fat percentage than your actual strength. To develop functional core strength, look past the hyper-specific isolation exercises like crunches, and instead, choose movements that engage your core alongside the rest of your body. Take a look at “How to get strong abs without sit-ups.” Although they’re mostly associated with leg strength, squats and deadlifts engage your core stabilizers considerably. Whether you use kettlebells, a barbell, or just bodyweight, these compound movements hit the whole body, allowing your muscle groups to work together to move the weight. When we hear core, we think abs, but don't forget about the other half of the equation: your erector spinae. That's just a fancy way to say lower back muscles, which are essential for maintaining proper form when you run. To see some great ways to work your back in a safe way, read “Best Core Exercises For Runners to Improve Performance.” Try out the superman back extension, where you extend one arm and one leg simultaneously while engaging the back for stability. You’ll hit every major muscle group needed for running while keeping the impact level to a minimum, making it the perfect exercise to use on a recovery day.
Minute 5: Quick Intervals
Top 3 Running Shoes of 2022 – Brian Metzler’s list of his three favorite shoes of the year wound up being his most popular SMM post ever. He was impressed with many models in 2022, but we asked him to pick his absolute favorites to share with our readers. He came up with the Saucony Endorphin Speed 3 ($170), the Hoka Tecton X ($200), and the ASICS Metaspeed Sky+ ($250). To see the full write-up on these winners, plus all of the runners up, please click here. If you’d like to see the list of every shoe Brian has reviewed in 2022, please click here.
Like any other group of hobbyists, runners have developed a bunch of slang to talk shop. If you’re in the know, that’s great, and these conversations come easy. For anyone still getting their foot in the door, it would be nice if there were a dictionary to explain all this jogger jargon. Well, we’re in luck, because the folks at Lifehacker have put one together for us. If you’re going to train like a pro, you should talk like one too, take a look at “A Beginner’s Guide to Runners’ Terminology”. While we’re talking shop, you may also get a kick out of “5 Running Clichés That Must Die” and “50 More Funny Running Quotes.”
Why is it that back in college we could sleep until noon on weekends (and maybe a few weekdays), but as we age, it is harder to get a full night’s sleep? There are lots of factors which contribute to a poor night’s sleep, and it can be hard to narrow down the precise cause. If you’re looking to improve the quality of your sleep, take a look at this checklist and employ these “8 Essential Strategies for Deep Restorative Sleep.” One issue we often overlook is excessive caffeine consumption, since sensitivity can vary widely from person to person. The FDA recommends no more than 400mg of caffeine per day, or roughly 4 small cups of coffee. Even 1 cup, however, can hinder your sleep if you’re highly sensitive. Consider abstaining from all caffeine for a week and see if it makes a difference. It’s also easy to get into the habit of TV or phone use before bed, but that late night screen time can be overstimulating, and could even impair the release of melatonin in your system. Trade in your phone for a book or other relaxing activity before bed, and consider taking a melatonin supplement if needed.
Minute 6: Daily Inspiration
Getting cheered on by friends and family as you make your way through a marathon is usually a bigger energy boost than a slurp of Gatorade or a squeeze of a Honey Stinger packet. It can be even more uplifting if your cheering squad includes a surprise guest. We’ll admit, this viral TikTok has us tearing up a bit, but we’ll wipe our eyes to watch it again. The video shows one proud dad spotting his daughter on the sidelines and grabbing a quick hug. She flew all the way from San Diego to watch her father run the Chicago marathon last fall.