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The science behind the runner’s high

Minute 1: The science of the runner’s high

A true runner’s high has been described as euphoria, a sense of pure bliss and joy. It’s an addictive enough drug that some fitness instructors and coaches have taken to wearing t-shirts that advertise themselves as “Endorphin Dealers.” Endorphins and dopamine are produced by our bodies not only during exercise, but also when we are falling in love. The stuff is that powerful. New research, however, surmises that the real trigger for runner’s high is cannabinoids. Yep, the same thing that gets you high from marijuana. Details are in these 2 recent stories: “What's behind the runner's high?” and “Runner’s High Depends on Endocannabinoids (Not Endorphins).” When runners were given opioid blockers -- effectively shutting off endorphins -- they still experienced euphoria and reduced stress levels, which led researchers to the thesis that another chemical may be responsible. After testing the runners’ blood, they discovered elevated endocannabinoid levels. If you’re in search of the high that’s legal all over the world, check out: “How to achieve the ultimate runner’s high” or “When will I feel a runner’s high? #HighTimes

Minute 2: Is your core the core to being a better runner?

We love a highly focused workout and cross training regimen when it’s designed and geared specifically for runners. You could say that runner-centric training is at the very core of what we do. The 6 minute mile and 6-pack abs are natural allies. Who doesn’t sit up with excitement about running?! OK, enough abs puns. Let’s talk about why we like new advice from Formula Running Center coach, Alison Staples: “This 10-Minute Ab Workout Will Help You Build Stability and Speed on the Run.” Coach Staples targets your obliques with equal attention, boosting strength and stability during your runs. We also like this workout from Ashley Arnold of Fleet Feet, winner of the 2013 Leadville 100 trail race: “10-Minute Core Routine for Runners” or if you can spare an extra 5 minutes, check out the “15 Minute Runner's Core Workout.” If you’re wondering why you should worry about abs in a sport that’s performed with your legs, the answer is here: “Why You Need a Strong Core for Running.” The basic answer is that your core provides the link between upper and lower body, and if it gets soft and sloppy during a run, your lower body mechanics and efficiency are thrown out of whack. #Core-poralPunishment

Minute 3: No, too much cardio does not equal too little muscle

Speaking of getting stronger, what impact does cardio have on your body’s ability to build muscle mass? Don’t listen to the bulky gym bros who tell you that cardio “kills your gains.” A new story from Insider this week provides some evidence: “I want to build muscle, but I enjoy cardio and don't want to gain weight. Will running and HIIT hinder my gains?” In fact, anaerobic and aerobic are like two buddies who go hand-in-hand like, well, a hand and a dumbbell. The rap against heavy cardio for years has been that it consumes lots of the calories and protein necessary for muscle recovery and growth in the weight room. But even publications like say that there is a Goldilocks blend of not too much and not too little cardio. In fact, for athletes looking to bulk up in the gym, ignoring cardio can have a negative effect on muscle mass gains. The two systems need to function symbiotically for success. We’ll let Men’s Health have the last word on this topic: “How Long, Slow Runs Help You Build Muscle.” #WWRyanHallD

Minute 4: Ramadan and running

The world is currently in the midst of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar observed by Muslims worldwide. One of the major facets of Ramadan is fasting between about 4:30 am and sundown. Fasting during Ramadan means refraining not only from food, but also from water. Naturally, those restrictions can create some challenges to maintaining fitness during the fasting portion of the day. British runner, Haroon Mota, explains his approach to training during Ramadan in this new story: “How to work out safely and effectively during Ramadan.” Mota describes how he heavily consumes water after sundown, upwards of 3 to 4 liters, during the small window of replenishing. He also focuses on nutrition and supplementing electrolyte loss. Mota times his workouts to lead directly, or very closely, into sundown so he can immediately replenish after a run. Other challenges of Ramadan include rest, which is planned around prayer, so timing that can be complicated as well. This overlap between Ramadan and sport is not a new one, in fact during the 2018 World Cup, Muslim players balanced fasting and training, as described in this Bleacher Report story: “How Do Muslim Players Cope with Fasting Ahead of the World Cup?” Players worked with teammates, coaches and trainers to meet the unique restrictions that don’t always align with an athlete’s needs. There are many more examples of elite athletes like NFL players in this story “Here’s How 15 Hardcore Athletes Train During Ramadan.” #FastAthletes

Minute 5: Quick Intervals

  • Thanks again to all of you who have signed up for our new Six Minute Mile Pro newsletter. The response has been bigger and better than we’d hoped. Probably the most frequent feedback we’ve received is that even athletes who don’t work fulltime in an endurance sports job have really enjoyed the content. We are giving early looks at shoes, upcoming events, new specialty run shops and stocks to follow if you want to invest in your passion. We have been offering longer original stories by Brian Metzler every week that have unearthed trends and news not covered by traditional sports publications. If you’d like to try it out for a month, it’s only $6. What do you have to lose? (OK, $6, wise guy, but other than that…) We were never asked to sit at the popular kids table in the school cafeteria, but our SMM Pro readers are actually super cool, so we feel as if we are rubbing elbows with the A Listers finally. Check out more at Six Minute Mile Professional Edition.

  • Admit it, you choose your running gear not just because it’s functional, but also because it looks awesome. And as Billy Crystal taught us years ago, it’s not how you feel, it’s how you look. Gear companies understand that too. Fitbit recently launched their Luxe which is made to look classy. The Apple Watch is extremely popular on wrists across the world, but it misses the mark on some mandatory fitness needs. So this article, “I shouldn’t care that my running watch isn’t pretty… but I kinda do,” hits upon the dilemma of choosing a running watch that actually looks good, too.

  • University of Delaware sophomore runner, Jessica Stratton, wrote an open letter to coaches of female distance runners last week. In it, she detailed the extremes her body went through during her intense training in high school and into her first years at Delaware - injuries, weight issues, and the loss of period for nearly 3 years. Her experience to excel at the detriment of her health isn’t something new. In fact, it aligns in many ways to the challenges that Mary Cain, former Nike Oregon Project runner, famously faced. Jessica’s letter is an important reminder that female runners tend to disproportionately feel the burden of body expectations, and even though Mary’s story has made changes to the Nike atmosphere, changes to approaches of training for women still have a ways to go.

Minute 6: Daily Inspiration

What’s going on with bear videos this month. Last week we shared some wild video of a bear chasing a mountain biker. This week we bring you another hair-raising (bear-raising???) story. Evan Matthews was out for a run in Grand Teton National Park recently, and noticed that a bear was following him. Instinct for most may be to turn and hoof it back to your car, but that’s never a good idea as you may accidentally suggest that you’re prey - which you’re not. In the video, Matthews smartly shows his bear spray, which he didn’t need to use, but was ready to. In an interview, Matthews explains his knowledge of wilderness running and survival. Don’t run from a bear, don’t play dead. Be human and be loud. Also, be prepared. Or prebeared? Sorry, that’s the last pun for this newsletter. Any more would be a real bear. (That’s an idiom).

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