Six Things Saturday #III – Live Blogs, Running Shoes, Bad Science and More!

Last 2014 Cold Selfie1

Happy Saturday – and welcome to the warm-up if you live in the eastern states! We hit 40F yesterday afternoon and are supposed to get close to there today. I am terribly excited to get out for an afternoon run in this weather. So my lead image is from Thursday morning this week when it was still ‘Polar Vortex’ … and I am declaring it my FINAL SUB-ZERO SELFIE for this winter … let’s just hope that makes it true!

1. Live Blogging Your Run

In what was one of the coolest things I read all week, Laura from the Gluten Free Treadmill (formerly AndThisIsThirty) actually live-blogged her 32-mile treadmill training run yesterday.

Here is Mile 18:

Mile 18: the first thing to really get and stay consistently sore is my hamstrings, quads and IT Bands. Not in any debilitating way, but just sore. Makes stepping off the treadmill a little rough, so I’m going to try to avoid doing that as much as possible (e.g. Minimize bathroom breaks). And yes, Michael, that subtitle is appropriate (see comments).

Her remark has to do with one of my comments being “Subtitle: Laura’s treadmill-to-potty adventures …”

2. Helpful Articles and Tips

I love finding and sharing cool articles about running and everything else, but sometimes you find a post that already did that for you … so I am just going to point you to check out Sara’s blog post from Friday with a number of cool articles to read.

She took a look at a couple of articles that look at running performance that can predict your race-day readiness, ‘best advice ever’ from various elites (given how many of those types of articles there are, she found one of the few actually worth reading), hit on heart rate training similar to an article I cited last week (really looking forward to trying this out in the spring), and a few others. Check out her links, some good stuff there … oh, and one that blended small science with big claims. Leading me to …

3. The Danger of Taking Every Small Study as Law

As someone who makes a living in measurement science and statistics, it might seem odd that I would be so quick to call for skepticism when reading studies. In reality, that is EXACTLY what we should ALWAYS do. Don’t just say ‘oh – someone proved this, so it must be so’. Because in experimentation, all we can do is amass evidence to disprove things, or lack the evidence to disprove them. That isn’t the same as ‘proving things true’.

Sadly so much of science has become politicized, with only snippets of results being picked to put forward a point. Sometimes the actual conclusions say the exact opposite … but with enough of a push the ‘politicized results’ become fact.

This was definitely true with barefoot running, where in 2010 there were ‘conclusive findings’, only to be contradicted within a couple of years … except that many of the things from the original were not ever stated as being absolutely conclusive – but between blogs and traditional media it got cast that way. Oh, and people selling shoes LIVE for this sort of stuff.

I mention this because in Sara’s links is a study citing some positive results for the Spirulina additive. But the study used 9 people across 4 weeks, and all of the people in the study were young athletes in good physical condition.

The problem is that the study and at least this summary article state things in a fairly conclusive light. Oh – and that summary article talks about ‘reading between the lines’ and extrapolating to people never included in the studies. Which is pretty much the type of conclusion that will take off and be used to push marketing, and then be debunked in a few years.

For me it always comes back to this – researchers are generally looking to test hypotheses, and are fine with whatever happens. But when you see a study covered in a blog or media post … start looking for the ‘money trail’. Because if you start seeing more and more ‘spiraling’ sponsored blog posts soon pushing these benefits (there have already been a bunch in 2013 I have seen pushing other studies), then you can be sure it is all about the money.

4. Those Carb/Fat/Protein Percentages? All Wrong!

Of course, while that is what this article at competitor says, I would immediately counter by saying that they are simultaneously ‘all right’. What I mean is that based on how your body works, what your goals are and what your training looks like … your numbers will be different. Here is a quote:

“Percentages are meaningless, because it is the absolute amount of carbohydrate and protein that matters,” said Asker Jeukendrup, Ph.D., one of the world’s leading experts on the effects of different amounts of carbohydrate and protein intake on endurance performance. “How much you need depends on your goals and the amount of training you do.”

In other words, what matters is not the relative proportions of carbs, fat, and protein you eat, but the basic quantity measured as total calories or grams. And since macronutrient needs vary depending on training volume, there is no single macronutrient ratio that could possibly meet the needs of every athlete.

Translation: What works for me … works for me. As athletes, we all want to find what will keep us full and fueled and satisfied and aid our recovery as well as boosting our performance. Some look to performance enhancers or additives or other ‘secrets’, others follow ‘guaranteed to succeed’ methods and blame themselves if they fail, and others just fuel with whole foods and do what works for them. Does anyone believe that balancing to a 1% error will be the difference between success and failure in our next race? I hope not!

Here is the conclusion that is the REAL message “Getting the right balance of macronutrients requires a little math, but it beats using a one-size-fits-all formula that doesn’t really fit all.”

5. What if Everyone Ran?

OK, so I just talked about ‘science as marketing’ … but sometimes there is something so obviously non-scientific that you can just have fun with it. Amanda at Miss Zippy had a post this week that took her usual fun approach covered a recent survey from the running shoe company Mizuno (yes, I just set the money trail).

Mizuno estimates that 270 million Americans could be runners, and cite benefits to marriages, boosts in productivity and the economy, dog happiness … heck, it could probably improve the pothole situation those of us in winter weather spots are dealing with!

But one area they cover is health benefits:

Health/Medical Impact
$143 billion savings in health-care costs
200 million inches lost from American waistlines
48.1 million fewer cigarettes smoked daily
116,000 fewer hip replacements annually
Increased average life expectancy of 6.2 years in men and 5.6 years in women

Of course, the report is based on extrapolating all of the POSITIVE benefits without addressing mitigating negatives. They assume all sorts of things, and take only the good impacts.

Oh – and expect to see this everywhere the ‘research’ is cited:

“Disclosure: This is a sponsored post for Mizuno.”

Am I saying that running is NOT good? Absolutely not … but PLEASE let’s not pretend that it is right for everyone, that everyone will deal with it the same way, or that it is somehow the cure for all of life’s ills.

Because while I think any sort of ‘get moving’ campaign is a great idea (and totally necessary in our obese, sedentary culture), pretending that this sort of fluff is ‘science’ or ‘research’ is insulting to the scientific community and to the running community and to the intelligence of anyone who they pretend it isn’t just marketing.

[UPDATE] I just wanted to be clear that my intention wasn’t to blast Amanda at Miss Zippy, whose blog I follow and really enjoy. In fact, when I quickly browsed her post I totally loved her ‘wouldn’t it be awesome if everyone could get the joy from running that we do?’ approach. My issue was with Mizuno – rather than taking that same fun approach, they talk about partnering with a university and conducting exhaustive statistical analysis. C’mon guys, running is awesome and you make cool shoes … can’t we just go with that?!? 🙂

6. Common Running Injuries

Am I lazy for using two info graphics today? Oh who cares!?! Here is one that talks about common running injuries, and the link takes you to a page with 12 (!) running infographics:

commonrunninginjuriesinfographicharrisburgphysical_4f1e422ae4169_w587

Bonus: Infographic on Choosing Running Shoes

And this one on choosing the right running shoes has loads of information, including some stuff on lacing I had never even thought about (yes I lace my shoes identically to when I was a little kid way back when):

runningshoes_infographic

Happy Saturday! Did you find any cool running links to share?

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11 thoughts on “Six Things Saturday #III – Live Blogs, Running Shoes, Bad Science and More!

  1. I didn’t know you were going to do HR training in the spring! I’ve done it for probably 4 training cycles and it’s very different, overall I like it (you know, except that lactate threshold test to set your max HR, ugh, the most miserable 30 minutes of any training cycle…).

    • I am not so organized – it is more that I got one with my Magellan Echo and I like the data and feedback, and want to leverage it to work with my training. So we will see how it goes 🙂

  2. I like what you wrote about the Mizuno company, yes I love their shoes and clothes, but all that lovey feeling people get… for a brand… I just don’t get it. I’ve seen so many adoring posts on the new Mizuno company, obviously it is just good marketing.

    • Brand loyalty and antipathy is a rather bizarre thing, whether it is Mac/PC, Apple/Google, Nike or whatever. For me it is about the products, and if a company delivers on the products they earn a bit of leeway … but it is quickly lost. And I never forget that their loyalty to me extends only to my wallet! 🙂

  3. Well…I think we all have to take ‘research” like this for what it is: fun. Yes, the world we be a better place if more people ran, but of course there’s no hard science behind any of that. And yep, I was (product) compensated for the post and have no bones about that being the case–perk of a running blog on occasion. Thanks for tagging me!

    • Thanks for the comment Amanda – I have updated the post because my intent was not to come across as harsh as I did towards you, but rather to show my annoyance towards the tactics Mizuno uses and how they leverage the blogging community. As I say in my update, I thoroughly enjoyed your post and found it captured the fun spirit that Mizuno could have taken.

  4. I am 100% with you on the research thing. One thing you learn right away in the peer-reviewed research world is that non-significant research isn’t published. So we rarely see studies published that say: there is not a relationship here. Sometimes it requires a very careful examination of the article, sample, statistical methods, etc (and often I have to check some quantitative studies against the literature) before I can even say a study is reputable and worth citing. It’s easy to say that a relationship exists, but hard (and almost impossible) to conclusively prove it.

    • It is a definite pet-peeve of mine, seeing how much of the stuff in the running world is so heavily marketing sponsored. And because many running / health bloggers are at least trying to cover costs if not make a few $$ from it, it puts the companies in a position of power where they can push this stuff as ‘research’ and fully expect to see it mimicked all over the blogosphere.

  5. Having spent a fair amount of time debunking claims, especially lately, it is clear that peer-review is a great first line of defense, but not at all a guarantee of any sort of quality. I assume you’re familiar with John Ioannidis?

    In any case, what I find more often than not is that while the study might only reach limited conclusions, it is the hype surrounding the result that you have to look out for, either from the author directly or from crappy journalism or both. And follow the money is a good shorthand, but still there are people whose identities, as say activists, are tied to an outcome as well, without any significant monetary gain.

    • Absolutely – it is more like ‘follow the influence’, or really ask the basic question of who has something to gain or lose.

      And it isn’t just big public studies … I remember one of the first times I had someone come to me about an old project saying “I was told you did a study that showed ___” … which was a totally twisted and misrepresented version of what was found. And I knew who had twisted it around after I was done on the project …

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