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Why runners need leg workouts

Minute 1: Our fall trail running shoe guide

Somehow the term “trail running” has become synonymous with ultra marathons over the years. If you visit the homepage of the American Trail Running Association, for example, you are greeted first by a list of trail races where 50-milers would seem to be a rest day. That’s like Googling “skiing” and seeing nothing but links to Lindsey Vonn’s crash into the safety nets at 60 MPH in her last career Super G race. Just as there are sunny days of gentle powder turns in Vail’s Back Bowls, so too are there fun trail runs that don’t require a support crew and the ability to consume 6,000 calories mid-run without burping. For the record, we have written many times about the amazing folks racing ultras and we admire ATRA’s mission. But we also want to remind readers that a 4-mile run through the woods on a crisp autumn morning beats a pavement-pounding or treadmill session by a country mile. Not only is there greater joy to be found on the trails, but according to these “Six Mind and Body Benefits of Trail Running,” softer surfaces are more joint-friendly and a varied footfall never uses muscles in precisely the same way. If you’re interested in exploring trails near you, we recommend this simple search tool from the Trail Run Project To help you master the trails in comfort and style, we are pleased to share our newest gear guide from Brian Metzler: “Dirty Dozen: 12 of the Best Trail Runners for Fall.” Brian has crushed it again with an excellent selection based on his test runs in the hills of Boulder. We love one of his expert picks in particular: the La Sportiva Bushido II. This low profile shoe has ample cushioning, great traction, and a strong but flexible rock plate - everything you need to stomp through tough, technical mountain terrain. Frankly, we think they will also make you look a little hipper whether you are running through the Marin Headlands or grabbing artisan coffee in Brooklyn. Click on the image below for more info on the Bushido II. #HappyTrails

Minute 2: Apple Watch now offers VO2 max measurement

Our most popular story this month has been the guide from Gear Junkie on “How to Boost VO2 Max.” Automagically, Apple responded quickly and just released their first watch with VO2 max measurement. (We thought it was only Facebook that was snooping on our data?!?!) The VO2 calibration is not as precise as a treadmill test in a lab, but it will give you a good estimate. The Apple Watch Series 6 also measures blood oxygen levels which is another good indicator of cardiovascular health. The CNET review of the watch is here and the mobihealthnews review is here. #WatchingYourHealth

Minute 3: Funniest reader mail of the year

The only thing we appreciate more than negative splits and a trail run with friends is fan mail. Not that every email you send us is always loving and free from caustic criticism, but 99% of your feedback is thoughtful and well-intentioned. Once in a while we mention reader comments in this space, but we have never reprinted anyone’s ideas in full. Until Doug. This week. Doug responded to our last issue where we observed that most runners are either morning or evening workout folks who don’t typically alter their time to head out the door. It’s kinda like people who love french fries -- you either put ketchup all over them or off to the side for one-by-one dipping. Doug eloquently weighed in on the matter, delighting our office youngsters sporting creative facial hair as well as our Masters runners complaining about creaking knees. Take it away, Doug:

“Then there is the guy who would never corrupt his fries by putting catsup on them. Fries are spectacular as they are. They need no red tomato stuff on them. Just nice and clean and salty. No goop. Don’t need goop. That guy (me) runs after 10 pm and before 12 am. It’s a great time. The bar slugs have not yet hit the streets. They are still hoping to score, and will stay at the bar until at least 1:00, just hoping. It’s a perfect time to run, no nut cases. I did it for years. Loved it. I’m approaching 80 now, and have other issues, but I will never forget the quiet nights, all alone, with only the stars as my companion, putting in my 10 miles. Oh God, I loved it.”

Rock on, Doug. Slide into our DMs if you’d like to apply for a freelance gig.

Minute 4: Are runners neglecting their legs?

“Dude, I’m a runner. Why would I need a leg workout in the gym?” If we had a dollar for every time we’d heard that, we’d have enough spare cash to buy a Six Minute Mile T-Shirt. Just as it’s a big mistake not to support humble email newsletters through t-shirt purchases, it’s also a big no-no to skip gym workouts. The cause of many running injuries can be traced back to muscle imbalances between the front of our legs (quads) and the back of our legs (glutes and hamstrings). Runners tend to be much stronger on the front of our legs and this imbalance causes a cascade of issues affecting knees, hips and even shins. You can find a good explanation in this article: “Five Key Muscle Groups for Stronger Running.” You can find a video overview of our favorite gym exercise for runners below in Minute 6, but you can check out “The 4 Hardest Lower Body Exercises You Can Do, According to Trainers.” We like that story because it features Ridge Davis, a hardworking trainer to the stars of Hollywood. Why do we like Ridge so much? In addition to his charm, expertise and good looks, Ridge agreed to join us for the new Six Minute Mile Podcast series that launches next week, so you know he’s cool. And if all your running and gym workouts leave your legs a little creaky, you may enjoy advice from professional runner/triathlete Nell Rojas, who shares “7 Ways to Prevent Post-Run Stiffness.”

Minute 5: Quick Intervals

  • As if a worldwide pandemic wasn’t enough to drive race directors mad, now the wildfires raging in the western U.S. are causing race cancellations. Check out the story of why the Lake Tahoe Marathon was just 86ed.

  • We love smoothies as part or all of our breakfast. Many of our favorite ingredients add way more calories to our Vitamix than we need to start the day. That’s why we liked this new story: the 8 Best Low-Calorie Smoothies. And while you’re considering your breakfast sugar intake, you may enjoy this story from Women’s Running: “Are Natural Sweeteners Better For You Than Sugar?

  • If you’ve ever looked up from your home desk at 4:00 pm and said: “Wow, I’m still in my sweats and I haven’t been outside in 8 hours,” then you may want to check out this story from Fast Company: “How To Intentionally Build Break Times Into Your Work Day.” We picked up good advice on squeezing in workouts during the day as well as tricks to avoid the monotony of working from home. We liked the idea of setting intermediate goals before rewarding ourselves with a run or a quick search of online news. 

Minute 6: Daily Inspiration

As a follow-up to Minute 4, we wanted to share one exercise that many trainers say is the single most important workout move for runners. If you only have time for one strength exercise, many trainers recommend the Bulgarian Split Squat. You can find more background in “The One Strength Exercise Every Runner Should Try” and If you’re wondering how to do a Bulgarian Split Squat, the video below demonstrates the right way and the wrong way to perform the exercise.


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