Six Things Saturday #IV – Running in the Land of Reality

Never Going to Burn Off Crazy

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Another week has come and gone, and there is no end to the cold weather … or the great running articles. Actually what I am talking about this week is a combination of new and old – some new things combined with a couple of drafts I’ve had sitting around since last year that I have stripped down. Do you ever do that? So let’s get right to it!

1. Dealing with Our Natural Limitations As Runners

I already mentioned the excellent posts by Amanda and Harold in my Tuesday post this week, but there is a quote that has stuck with me:

it will not change who I am and the limitations that I have as a runner.

What he was talking about was contrasting the reality of our own physical strengths and weaknesses with the blogs that seem to promote the idea that with the right food, right workout plan, right book, playlist or whatever we can suddenly become an elite runner.

So many runners get involved with the sport with dreams of running a marathon or competing to qualify for the Boston Marathon or some other lofty goal – then grab on to a plan they read somewhere and go gangbusters, and eventually run into the reality of their own potential. Maybe they are not overly fast, maybe long distances are not their forte, or perhaps they are able to reach their potential.

But wherever they land, it is based on based on their ability rather than some blog post or ‘essential tip’ from RW or Competitor or Greatist. And as we age, our body eventually reaches a point of decline. Those are all realities … and while finding the right online resource or hooking up with a coach can help maximize our potential or minimize certain negative impacts, it cannot change our physical reality.

2. Another Runner Killed Tragedy

Any time I read about the death of anyone, it is tragic – there is never a right time, a right place, any way to prepare. But I will admit that there are some cases – children and young parents in particular – that really strike a chord. Also, with how much I run and how often I am on the roads when cars go by and I see people distracted, speeding being aggressive or whatever … every time I hear about a runner being killed, it feels like a part of my extended family has been lost.

So when I read this post at Jessica’s blog about how a 31-year old single mother of two was struck and killed last week … it was very saddening. There is also a fund set up for the daughters which has nearly $90,000 of support already. It is unclear the status of the father of the girls.

It is yet another tragic reminder of (a) how important it is to maximize your safety when running and (b) there is absolutely no way to be ‘risk free’.

Today is a ‘Run for Jaime’, so if you DO go out today, post about it on Twitter using #runforjaime

3. Rotating Shoes Lowers Risk of Injury

One of the drafts I have had sitting around since I started the blog was about a NIH study that noted how rotating running shoes could reduce the risk of injury. The report, titled Can parallel use of different running shoes decrease running-related injury risk?, was the first of its kind and noted that (statistical elements removed):

The adjusted Cox regression analysis revealed that the parallel use of more than one pair of running shoes was a protective factor , while previous injury was a risk factor. Additionally, increased mean session distance and increased weekly volume of other sports were associated with lower RRI risk.

So what that tells us is that rotating shoes lowers risk of injury, whereas previous injury raises the risk. Also interesting is that running MORE is correlated with lower risk, as is more general sports activity. You can also read coverage of this study at Runner’s World.

This week at RunBlogger, Pete linked to a blog post at Running Research Junkie that covered a new study from the British Journal of Sports Medicine. I will use the same quote as Pete:

“This was a prospective cohort study in which the runners that were recruited recorded training related data. They compared the training data between the group that got an injury and the group that did not.

What they found was:

those that ran more than 2hrs a week were at a lower risk for injury
parallel use of more than one pair of running shoes was protective
the week-to-week absolute change in distance was protective
a previous injury was a risk factor (which pretty much every study has also shown)
I don’t have much of a critique of the study as what we know is just based on the abstract above, but nothing jumps out at me at this stage as being an issue.”

The researchers in both studies concluded that different shoes distribute the impact forces of running differently, which then lessens focused strain on any particular area.

So what do you think? Do you rotate shoes? I have never been good about this, but have known for a while that it is a good idea … but haven’t gotten around to it yet.

4. Tapering Pros and ? Cons ?

It wasn’t until just before my first half-marathon that I’d even HEARD of tapering, let alone done it! What IS tapering? It is a reduction in activity level leading up to an event such as a marathon, with the goal of getting the body to the best possible state to run a race.

Most people have some sort of training plan for a marathon or half-marathon that involves a build-up of weekly mileage and a change in your diet to better fuel your workouts and recovery periods. Recovery was another thing I never really knew about – that it was AFTER the workout your body built the muscle based on your activity. Which is why the importance of ‘recovery foods’ is touted so often.

Over the last two years I have learned that while training we are building up fatigue levels, to the point where many experts say you are better off running two semi-long 2-hour runs on consecutive days than an extra-long single day run because of how the body deals with the chronic fatigue and recovery.

So with week after week of constantly increasing mileage, you are continuing to create fatigue in your muscles but not giving them time to fully recover. This can only continue for so long until you either plateau or hurt yourself. This is where tapering comes into play!

You can find loads of resources about the benefits of tapering such as at, Competitor and MapMyFitness.

So I was surprised to read some posts on blogs proclaiming that tapering was useless or even bad. It didn’t make sense – until I looked and saw they were all one-person anecdotes based on a single race (I got a PR without tapering … therefore tapering is bad; or I had a crappy race … tapering is bad). The general advice is that – yes, you should taper if you have put in the considerable effort and mileage of most training plans (>30 miles/week for marathon training).

During taper we are looking at a compromise between glycogen storage/fresh nervous system (benefits of tapering), and the loss of aerobic fitness (drawbacks of tapering). For those preparing for a marathon using a typical training plan, tapering for two weeks before the race will provide a clear benefit. For somebody who does NOT run a whole lot of mileage tapering could cause enough of a drop of aerobic fitness that it is not compensated in other areas.

And that distinction makes sense – because like all things there is no absolute truth, and since athletes heading into a half or full marathon come from an incredible range of training programs, it is impossible for a one-size fits all solution to work. In fact, Greg McMillan had an article several years ago talking about ‘peaking’ rather than tapering, which talked about NOT reducing the number of days you run but dropping your volume. Other articles talk about how over-tapering (7 days no running or any sort of exercise) can leave you feeling leg-heavy and rubbery, and under-tapering can have you feeling fresh at the start but quickly fatigue over the first half of the race.

So what is YOUR tapering strategy?

5. Weight and Health

One of the more surprising recent findings in health studies is that the conventional wisdom of being overweight putting us at increased health risks might not be true at all, as summarized at Greatist:

Perfect health is a complete myth. We all exist on a spectrum from the most to least healthy among us, and these designations are affected by a huge range of factors, from genetics, to nutrition, to fitness, to socioeconomics. There is no conclusive proof that simply being overweight means that a person’s health is in trouble.

I’m going to be honest – I think the article is pretty lousy, meandering (I’m one to talk) and unfocused. The biggest criticism is of the use of BMI as a singular health metric, and really the entire thing could be replaced with a recommendation to ditch BMI and “Do you eat well? Do you exercise regularly? These questions are more important than the number on the scale, which is sometimes nothing more than a distraction.”

A few other cool health-related reads? There is one over at Greatist with 89 ‘swaps’ that could change your life. Here is one I keep saying I am going to do … eventually (should be a 2014 goal for me):

14. Foam rolling for static stretching. Need to get the knots out? Try using a foam roller instead of sitting and stretching to the toes. It’s almost like a personal massage.

Also at Greatist there is an article about 5 reasons to see a doctor even if you are healthy. This is something I STRONGLY recommend – you might be in your 20s and great health now, but if you don’t know how your numbers tend to run, you will have no basis for comparison later on … and since ‘normal’ is a fairly broad range, you DO want to know your numbers:

Feeling indestructible can lead young adults to overlook important components of health and wellness. Taking the time up-front to build a health portfolio with a physician acts as a safety net and helps to ensure that patients are able to accrue the benefits of wellness across a lifetime.

Do you see your doctor regularly? If not, please make it a priority!

6. The ‘Forbidden’ Shirt

As I seem to say every week, I love all of the blogs I discover and what I learn from them. Last week there was a post at Tripping the Kenyans called The Forbidden Shirt, which talks about whether or not you should wear the shirt for a race AT that race.

I remember my first few races where we got shirts, and I would ALWAYS put on the race shirt. I thought along the same lines as the position noted in the article:

You may think I’m crazy and wondering “Why shouldn’t someone wear the shirt given to them specifically for that race?”

I looked at it this way: getting a shirt is part of the sign-up fee, getting a medal is for finishing. But what if a race gives shirts but no medals (I’ve had several of those)? I had never thought about that …

But as he notes, for veteran runners things are simpler and more clear-cut:

And this “forbidden shirt” rule is one that numerous veteran runners told me before my very first race.

It’s a commonly held belief amongst runners that wearing the shirt for a particular race when you actually run that race is bad luck.


Because you haven’t crossed the finish line yet. You haven’t earned it.

To do this is to risk offending the running gods and have them punish you with a bad finish time, runner’s trots or even the dreaded DNF.

So that is the thought – anything related to your current race needs to be earned by completing the race. It sort of makes sense, even if I think it is a little bit of an over-thought. From now on, you can be sure I won’t wear the ‘forbidden shirt’, but I will definitely be looking around to see who does!

Bonus. Running in Space

OK, a friend on Google+ forwarded this great post at Gizmodo, which highlighted a Tweet from the International Space Station:

Ran for ~1 orbit today. 12 miles on the treadmill while the station travelled more than 25,000 miles. I’ve now run around the world.

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

Six For Saturday – Cool Stuff I Learned About Running This Week


Happy Saturday and I hope it is warmer wherever you are than it is here! We have another sub-zero wind chill morning, and the sad thing is this is going to be the warmest day in the next week! Fortunately the temperature should hit the 20s for my run today … so you can be sure I’ll take advantage!

The image above is my new running shoes – Merrell AllOut Rush. I have these to review from Merrell, so you can look forward to my impressions going forward – I loved the Vapor Glove but they were just ‘too little shoe’ (2mm cushion) for me. These are rock-solid trail shoes with much more cushion – and they are very heavy compared to my New Balance Minimus!

Anyway, I seemed to keep finding cool and interesting things about running … so here we go with another set of six things about running!

1. Eating Disorders and Runners – Because this is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, I wanted to highlight Eating Disorders and runners – which was the topic that started me writing about eating disorders in early 2013. I really had no idea it was such a big thing.

Over at Runner’s World they talk about the Role of Running in Eating Disorders, talking about how running can be such a structured and positive thing, even when someone with ED is at risk due to running … it might be all that they have. Stride Nation further discusses those dangers, as does Lauren Fleshman in her blog.

One powerful quote about those who suffer:

“The victims of such illnesses are often very ambitious, outwardly successful young women who pursue these ideas of control and achievement,” she said. “We’re driven, compulsive, obsessive, competitive, persistent and seek perfection. That can be channelled incredibly negatively.”

What I learned? This disorder is again incredibly complex and heart-breaking: because what at once puts you at risk for injury and death while you are suffering from ED can also be the thing that makes you sane and keeps you alive.

2. strong>Injure Yourself Like a Pro! – While looking at Lauren’s site I came across an article she wrote this week for Runner’s World. She was just coming back to racing, and was thinking about all of the silly mistakes she’s made through the years:

2. Rest days are for babies
I like to run, and I want to get better, so why would I take a day off? The hard-core don’t take days off, do they? I bet Shalane worked out twice today. What will I do on my day off, anyway? Think about working out while my mitochondria evaporate? In one day my jeans feel tighter. There is no way this is from being hydrated for the first time in a week. It is fatness as a direct result of laziness. It’s only 9:30 p.m. . . . still time to get in a quick four-miler.

The funniest thing was that the same article was highlighted at Running With Wine, and again this morning at Loving on the Run … so I think it is safe to say this has resonated with the running community in a big way – and I totally love Lauren for all of her incredible commentary.

I chose the rest days comment, because I realized that when I took 2 days off last week I had only taken 4 rest days so far the whole year (4 out of 49 at that point). So … maybe I need to work on resting better?

3. Excuses for Not Running

I have talked about how mentally I feel like the cold was kicking my butt this week – after our warm-up last weekend to near 50F, seeing -17 again on Friday, had me muttering and sputtering like Ewam McTeagle (Monty Python) or Jasmine (from Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine).

So I was amused reading this ‘motivational’ article about ‘getting past excuses not to run’. Here was one:

5. “It’s Too Cold (or Hot) Outside.”
Photo by altrendo imagesI always tell runners, “There’s no such thing as bad weather — just bad clothes.” In other words, if you’re dressed properly and prepared to deal with less-than-ideal running weather, you can still go for a run — and actually enjoy it. Get tips and precautions to take for running in the cold, heat, and rain.

Um, yeah. Pretty sure they are talking about temperatures in the 20-30F range.

4. Learning to Relax – Anxiety-Induced Insomnia and Performance

An interesting article this week looked at endurance athletes who suffer insomnia due to anxiety and how it impacts their performance. Here is a quote:

Dr. Katz says he encourages athletes to take control of the variables they can control; when you go to bed, what you eat, how much alcohol you drink, if any. “That can be very comforting,” Katz said.

Katz noted that athletes tend to fixate on the outcome before the race is even run, which can be paralyzing. “People worry they are going to fail,” he said. Katz likens the pre-race anxiety to the race itself. “When you are running a marathon, you need to focus on the mile you are running. Once you get ahead of yourself, or conversely, start thinking about the two miles you just ran, it takes time and energy away from the task at hand.”

I was also reading a lot about the ‘mental game’ of running this week. First because I am working to push through the cold for the coming week and actually enjoy my runs, but there were also a number of posts from bloggers I follow that focused on their running anxieties, due to injury, weather, keeping with the plan and so on. There are a couple of good articles specifically about relaxation here and here. Here is one quote:

I know that with nothing more than my enhanced focus and breathing, I am able to immediately change the way I feel and perform.

5. The Benefits of Heart-Rate Training

I got heart rate monitors along with the Polar RC3 GPS and Magellan Echo, so I sort of backed into heart-rate training. This winter has been cold enough where I haven’t worried about it yet, But I have frequently worn my heart-rate monitor and will glance at the charts to see how I am doing. That is good enough for now, but come spring I plan to put it into action!

An article at Competitor looks at the basics of setting up a heart-rate monitoring training plan. Here is a quote:

Heart rate-based training involves targeting different heart rate zones in different workouts. The most popular zone system is the following.

Zone 1 Active Recovery 106% LT HR

Each zone carries its own benefits and is appropriate for different types of workouts. Zone 1 is so light it barely qualifies as exercise, and is appropriate on days when you are especially fatigued from prior days’ running and for “active recoveries” between high-intensity intervals. Zone 2 is very comfortable and quite useful for building aerobic fitness, fat-burning capacity, and endurance. You should run in Zone 2 more than in any other zone.

Polar has a great article about the benefits of heart-rate training here … and I look forward to when it is warm enough that I can relax and focus on that as a part of my training plan!

6. Winter Fueling Tips

When you want to go for a long run on a really cold winter day … how should you handle fueling? Water can freeze, same for Gu and even every bars can get too solid to consume easily. It is all about adjusting to the temperatures – I know on my daily runs (just under 7 miles) I don’t worry about it. But on runs longer than 9-10 miles I make sure to bring a water bottle and some fuel, and fortunately haven’t had a freeze-up yet … and keeping fuel near my body handles any solidifying effects of temperature. Here is another one from this article:

Liquid Logistics
Sari: “On days when I use a hydration bladder in my pack, I’ll use an insulated hose sleeve and stick as much of the hose as possible in my jacket. If I’m carrying a bottle, I’ll keep it inside my race suit and use body heat to keep fluids from freezing.”

Zeke: “For really cold days, I’ll use bottles instead of a bladder with a hose. On days when I do use a bladder, I blow the water back into the bladder after I drink, so it doesn’t freeze in the hose.”

Bonus. Impact of Dehydration on Our Body

I talk a lot about hydration – because I simultaneously dehydrate easily and have the bladder the size of an acorn – and I constantly refer back to Megan’s hydration post. And we know that the body is lousy at differentiating hunger and thirst – I tell my kids that if they think they are hungry between meals to have a cup of water, do something else, and THEN eat. So I totally loved this huge info graphic that details all of the issues associated with dehydration. Head to the official site for the full-sized image.


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