OCT 6, 2023
Minute 1: What type of exercise is best for longevity?
Like sunshine and baby giggles, who doesn’t love the idea of living longer? If you’re reading this newsletter, you are probably a true believer in the power of exercise to help live a longer and healthier life. Even so, you may not know the answer to this important question: “Is Cardio Fitness or Muscular Strength More Important for Longevity?” Cardio, of course, is one of the best weapons to fight against heart disease, which kills one American every 33 seconds according to the CDC. On the other hand, grip strength and muscle mass are strongly correlated with longevity, which makes weightlifters feel they have the edge. Well, a recent study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that a combination of the two yielded the best results. To that end, we’d like to add another longevity builder to your toolbox: “What Are the Benefits of Hugging?” It turns out that hugs reduce stress, protect against illness, and lower blood pressure. That sure warms our heart, and it's something we needed after reading this extensive report in the Washington Post: “The Post spent the past year examining U.S. life expectancy. Here’s what we found.” The U.S. was on track to raise average life expectancy above 80 years old, but starting in 2014, we experienced a downward trend. The main culprits behind premature deaths are chronic illnesses like diabetes, cancer and heart disease. Sadly, another key predictor of early mortality is whether you live in a poor or a wealthy neighborhood. Forty years ago in America, low income zip codes saw an 8% higher likelihood of premature death. Now that disparity stands at an astonishing 61%.
Minute 2: 4 training tweaks for a faster marathon
Here at Six Minute Mile, we’re all about efficiency. That’s why we love small changes that can have a big impact, so you bet we were psyched to find these “4 Micro-Training Tweaks for Your Fastest Trail Race Yet.” Don’t be fooled by the article title, since these tips are applicable to runners on any sort of terrain. The first suggestion is to carbo-load the easy way. In the past, coaches have recommended depleting carbohydrate stores through a restrictive diet before entering the loading phase, but new research indicates these restrictions are unnecessary. All you’ve got to do is consume about 8 to 10 grams of carbs per kilogram of bodyweight in the days leading up to the marathon and you’ll have the energy you need. The article also recommends emphasizing the long runs in your training plan. If you want to learn how to make the most out of them, check out this piece from Runner’s World: “Essential guide to long runs: long training running tips.” Most of the time, your long runs will be quite slow, but some runners have found success embedding a workout in the middle of their outings. If you want to develop speed while maintaining endurance, give the workout/long run hybrid a try.
Minute 3: Find the right pace for the run-walk-run method
Ever since speaking to Jeff Galloway on our podcast, we’ve become true believers in the run-walk-run method. (Of course that could also be related to a few editors here who now line up in the Masters corral.) Jeff developed this approach after working with runners of various experience levels, realizing how a low-intensity approach could bring beginners to a higher level of performance. The run-walk-run method can be tailored to runners of any skill level, though, and you can dial in your routine with this guide: “Use the run-walk-run method to start running with less chance of injury.” By using the “Magic Mile” fitness assessment, runners can figure out the right ratio of running to walking, as well as the appropriate pace to seek while training and racing. Using walks as a strategic way to recover energy has its benefits, but there’s something to be said about walking for its own sake, especially if it’s done without any distractions. For more on that, take a look at this new story from the NYT: “The Beauty of a Silent Walk.” It’s become the norm for a lot of us to do our walks and runs with headphones in, playing music, audiobooks, and podcasts. There’s a lot of evidence to suggest these things can lower your perceived effort and improve your performance, but it could help to balance things out with a silent, meditative walk from time to time. Research shows it can reduce negative thinking, increase creativity, and lower your risk of depression.
Minute 4: Shoe Review: AltraFWD Experience ($140)
Altra running shoes rose to cult status among a cadre of runners committed to the concept of a zero-drop shoe. As our reviewer and shoe historian Brian Metzler points out, the Altra founders were convinced that having the heel and toe cushioning be equal heights created a safer and more productive running style. When Altra released its first-ever shoe with a heel higher than the forefoot, however, devotees braced for a reaction like Bob Dylan received in 1965 at the Newport Folk Festival when he switched from acoustic to electric guitar. Fortunately for Altra, we haven’t heard anyone shout “Judas” the way they did at Dylan back then. In fact, Brian explains that this shoe is likely to be well-received by current Altra customers and newbies alike. A few highlights of Brian’s review of the new AltraFWD Experience are below, but for his full take, check it out on our website.
In case you missed it, Altra recently shocked the running world by releasing its first shoe that doesn’t conform to its classic “zero-drop” platform geometry. (The AltraFWD Experience, which includes a 4mm heel-toe drop, officially launched at stores and online sites on Tuesday of this week.) Zero-drop refers to the level platform of cushioning the foot sits on, meaning there is no heel-toe drop or differential between the stack height of the outsole and midsole under the heel and the forefoot. It’s been a unique characteristic of the Altra brand (along with a foot-shaped toe box) since it launched in 2010. Founders Golden Harper, Brian Beckstead and Jeremy Howlett believed the level platform produced a more natural running gait that is less injury-inducing than the stride patterns that result from shoes with a forward-sloping geometry. (Most running shoes have a heel-toe drop of 4mm to 8mm – a feature originally implemented into running shoes by Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman because he believed it helped a runner optimize forward propulsion.) Each of the dozens of models of shoes Altra has produced over the past decade has had a zero-drop geometry. Until this one.
So why did Altra break its own mold after all these years? Well, to sell more shoes, of course! And, after five years under the control of parent company VF Corp, I’m frankly surprised it took as long as it did. In fact, I had asked Harper and Beckstead in 2012 about the possibility of creating a low-drop shoe to entice runners into their other Altra models. Not saying it was all my idea, but that turned out to be one of the biggest factors behind the new AltraFWD Experience. While attracting new customers who have concerns over zero-drop shoes, Altra is also giving its current customers a way to expand their shoe quiver a bit. It’s kind of a gateway shoe – a way to help runners adapt to the sensation of running in zero-drop shoes, since it takes some time to get used to having your heel sit slightly lower to the ground depending on what you’ve been running in.
Why It’s Great: I think it’s great because it’s a really smartly built lightweight shoe that’s durable, protective and stable. It has a wide forefoot footprint that contributes to an inherently stable ride without inhibiting the ability to run at faster paces. The asymmetrically-beveled heel and moderately-rockered outsole accommodate a variety of footstrike positions and allow for quick heel-toe transitions through the gait cycle. To be honest, I found it to be a nice break from the super-soft or excessively bouncy shoes I’ve been running in so much recently. This is a great shoe for transitioning to lower-drop shoes with zero to 4mm in heel-toe offsets. I could barely sense the heel lift, but it’s there and it seems like it’s enough to reduce Achilles soreness that sometimes comes from going from a shoe with a shoe with a 5-8mm drop to a zero-drop or level platform.
For Brian’s full analysis of the AltraFWD Experience, check it out here.
Minute 5: Quick Intervals
Our fast friend and music aficionado, Rebecca Trachsel, received some fan mail here at SMM Global HQ. It seems that many of you appreciate not only her music choices, but also the lively writing style on her blog, Running With Music. (Rebecca’s account of guiding a blind runner through the torrential rains and winds of the 2018 Boston Marathon is a must-read for anyone who remembers that challenging day.) Anyway, back to the present, here is her latest recommendation: Today's song is 'Big 7' by Burna Boy, an Afro-beat artist from Nigeria. 'Big 7' is off his latest LP, "I Told them..." which was released this past August. I'd never heard of Burna Boy prior to discovering this new song but the guy is prolific and if you're into this sound he's actually got a total of seven albums to explore. I love his quote in Stereogum about this song in particular, "‘Big 7’ is a melodic tribute to embracing new heights in my musical journey." Amen to that! This song definitely takes me to new heights in my run journey every time it comes on. Check it out here. Play it loud! And as a bonus feature, Rebecca pulled together a mini Windy City-themed playlist as a tribute to everyone lacing it up at the Chicago Marathon this weekend. You can check out her new playlist here. #turnitup
Here’s a new one to add to your running dictionary: “plogging.” It sounds silly, but don’t let the name fool you. Plogging can bring serious benefits for both you and your community. That’s because it’s the combination of picking up litter and jogging, and if you want to learn how to plog like a pro, check out this new piece from Runstreet: “I Tried Plogging: Here's How to Do It.”
Plyometric boxes might be the most rudimentary piece of exercise equipment out there. It's just a wooden box, after all. But when you see someone using them in action, it can actually be pretty exciting. Plyo exercises help runners build explosiveness, balance, and coordination, and if you want to hop on this trend yourself, try some of “The Best Plyo Boxes for Jumping to New Heights, Tested by Our Experts.”
Caffeine can be a useful tool to improve energy and focus, but not all sources are equally safe. We’re looking at you, energy drinks. It seems like every day, a new brand launches a product to tame our energy fix, but it’s worth noting that these drinks aren’t without risk. To see the pros and cons of energy drinks, read: “What Happens to Your Body When You Drink Energy Drinks Every Day.”
Minute 6: Daily Inspiration
If you’ve spent any time on the “running influencer” side of social media, there’s a good chance you’ve left feeling a bit inadequate. Unfortunately, a lot of these folks are content to post unrealistic standards and exaggerated reports of their performance, and it can be a buzzkill for your self-confidence. That’s why we’d like to thank @run_sabrina for bringing things back down to earth and poking a little fun at the more egregious offenders of the “runfluencer” lifestyle. Her video gives a hilarious side by side of what gets posted vs. the reality of what most runs are actually like.