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What’s better for athletes -- quinoa or freekeh?

Minute 1: A strong core is an active core

You know you’re a star on the beach and in the gym if admirers describe your abs as “rock solid.” For runners, a strong, stable core is often considered the foundation on which to build form improvements. That description, however, can be a little misleading. Yes, a strong core is important, but that shouldn’t come at the expense of fluid motion. According to running technique expert Jae Gruenke, you should “Forget core stability - work on your core action to improve running performance.” Instead of rigidity, you should embrace the natural movement of your torso with every stride. One study compared runners who were unrestricted to runners whose torsos were stabilized with a cast, and the immobilized torso group used more oxygen, took a shorter stride, and were overall less efficient in their movement. The fact is, torso rotation is a key part of maintaining balance as you run, as you can see in this video: “Run Transformation: How to Position Your Upper Body While Running.” To strengthen your core the right way, consider reducing your emphasis on isometric exercises like planks. Insead, pick moves that are dynamic, engaging your core muscles through the same range of motion you’ll take as you run. To get some ideas, read “Dynamic Abs - Unique and Challenging Moves for Your Core.”

Minute 2: The neurochemistry of running

If the pandemic didn’t amp up your levels of stress and anxiety, you may be either a Zen Master or a master of denial. Or maybe you’re just a runner. There’s a lot of fascinating neurochemistry behind the “feel good” factor of running, and you can read about it in “Hit the Reset Button: Running for Anxiety.” Running and other exercise cause the brain’s natural reward systems to fire. Norepinephrine and endorphins become abundant, while stress hormones like cortisol are reduced as you recover from exertion. The more regularly you exercise, the more potent these reward systems become. It’s important not to overdo it, though, as this can cause the reverse effect. Take a look at “Cortisol, Stress, and Exercise.” Runners who frequently go beyond the 1-hour mark in training should be cautious, as this can cause glycogen levels to run quite low, stimulating cortisol release. Be sure to fuel up beforehand, and consider limiting the number of back-to-back long runs. Another relevant factor is the time of day. Cortisol levels are naturally at their highest in the morning, and intense exercise early in the day can have a compounding effect. Leave the big workouts for the afternoon if you find yourself getting stressed.

Minute 3: Step up your whole grain game

We swear we’re telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth when we say whole grains are amazing. The verdict (again) is that “Whole Grains are Linked to Better Heart Health - Here’s How to Add More to Your Plate, According to an RD.” What exactly does ‘whole grain’ mean? Basically, it denotes grains that have undergone less processing, and retain the endosperm, germ, and bran. Nutritionally, that makes them an excellent source of fiber. Fiber aids gut health, blood sugar, blood pressure, and more, so it should be a top consideration in your diet. While there is a strong consensus around those facts, the jury is still out on the absolute best source of whole grains. There’s certainly room for debate, but one contender is quinoa. Take a look at “These Quinoa Health Benefits Will Have You Incorporating the Grain into Every Meal.” Within a half cup, you’ll get 4 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber, not to mention all 9 amino acids, making this a vegan friendly muscle builder. Quinoa has been cultivated for 5,000 years, and it's grown especially popular in recent years, but there’s a new option giving it a run for its money as the whole grain king: Freekeh. Find out why in “Everything to Know About Freekeh, The Protein & Fiber Packed Ancient Grain.” Here, you’ll get 10 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber in a half cup serving. It’s also got the added bonus of containing zeaxanthin and lutein, antioxidants that protect eye health. #SuperFreekeh

Minute 4: Cold air running is almost here

As Halloween approaches, we’re sad to say goodbye to some of our favorite running weather of the year. Morning frost and the sight of our own breath have forced us to start thinking about how to handle winter running this year. Speaking of breath, take a look at “Why Breathing Cold Air Hurts While Running.” Cold air is dry, and the exchange of heat and moisture results in a burning sensation as you run. It can be uncomfortable, but as long as you have healthy lungs, it shouldn’t pose a risk. That being said, there are a few steps you can take to make things easier. The first is slowly adjusting to the conditions. As the weather starts to dip lower and lower this fall, resist the urge to stay inside on the treadmill. If you ease your way into cold weather running, your lungs have the ability to adapt and lessen their sensitivity. Another tip is to make use of face masks. We know that’s the last thing you want to hear after 2 years of masking up, but it can help create a buffer of warmer air that really cuts down on the harsh difference in temperature. Fleet Feet offers a broad selection here, including the Buff brand many of our staffers favor. On the bright side, the cold weather brings a number of health benefits as well. Here are “8 Surprising Health Benefits during the Cold Weather.” You may see improvements in your skin, allergies, inflammation levels, and more.

Minute 5: Quick Intervals

  • Most sports require you to be laser focused on what you’re doing to perform at your best. Running is a little different, though. Assuming you’ve got your pace and positioning sorted out, you might be better off trying to zone out, according to one study. By making use of external stimuli like music or a podcast, runners showed lower levels of oxygen consumption, blood lactate, and perceived exertion, compared to their undistracted counterparts. Read about it in “This Simple Mental Trick Will Make You Hate Running Less.”

  • Running may seem like an unlikely part of a bedtime routine, but some people swear by it. Studies have shown that high intensity workouts before bed improved the quality of sleep in 97% of people. Additionally, the quality of your nighttime runs are typically high since your body is warmed up from all your daytime activity. Read more in “Running Before Bed - Is It Bad To Workout Before Sleeping?

  • Seasonal affective disorder, appropriately shortened to SAD, affects 10 to 25 percent of people every winter. Lack of vitamin D and exposure to natural light can have a powerful impact on mood, and it’s something everyone should look out for as the days grow shorter. For a list of tips on how to fight the negative effects it can bring, check out “Three ways to combat Seasonal Affective Disorder and feel better this winter.”

Minute 6: Daily Inspiration

As discussed in Minute 1, strengthening the connection between the upper and lower body will pay dividends for your running performance. To do that, you need to engage in movements that activate the whole body, challenge your stabilizer muscles, and develop coordination. If this quote sounds even remotely familiar, you should definitely check out the video: “Many of us have been a victim to an exhausted looking, shrugged over race photo and this is a consequence of fatigue. Poor core strength means energy is further wasted rocking side to side rather than propelling our bodies forward.” That’s where this week’s video can help. Australian company @Rebelsport offers a list of simple core exercises you can do with nothing but your body, a chair, and a mat.


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