What to Read: Advocating for the 5k, New Fitness Trends, Chemicals in your Food (Aren’t Always Bad)

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Big benefits from the 5k

“Everyone thinks the marathon is the Holy Grail, when a lot of people should really be doing the 5K,” Jason Karp, exercise physiologist.

In the running world, many of us want to progress from the 5k to the 10k, half-marathon all the way to the marathon—and maybe beyond!  More is always better, right? We think 5ks are for beginners and marathons are for the truly fit and powerful among us. And ultra-marathons? Those are for the real champions.

Well, I suggest that more isn’t always better. Sometimes more is just more. Maybe we should reconsider our view of the 5k. (Remember, the 5000m is an Olympic event. It’s not always easy.)

The 5K, Not The Marathon, Is The Ideal Race argues that for most people and most fitness goals, the 5k is the optimal distance.

The latest fitness trends

“Below are the newest and niftiest fitness programs that have been gaining in popularity, and the odds that they will attract the most disciples in 2016.”

In terms of fitness, exercise and strength training, I believe there is very little new under the sun. Lift heavy things. Sweat often. Eat right most of the time. Rest, recover, repeat. Those are the big-picture concepts that have built healthy humans since forever.

That said, if someone wants to make money in the fitness business, presenting this picture in new packaging is a wise idea. Further, if some sort of new fitness trend grabs someone’s attention then all the better. I believe that anything that gets someone to exercise and stick with it is probably a good thing.

Who’s afraid of chemicals?

“If you can’t pronounce an ingredient, then you shouldn’t eat it, right? Unfortunately, it appears that idea may not be the best advice nor very accurate.”

Those of us who value good nutrition tend to avoid processed foods in favor of those in a more “natural” state. The idea sounds reasonable. Many processed foods are unhealthy garbage. Cookies, crackers, breakfast cereal, many frozen meals and all sorts of packaged foods come with lots of calories but very little nutrition. If you look at food labels you often see a laundry list of strange-sounding substances that bear no resemblance to any sort of food we’ve ever heard of. These types of foods often go hand-in-hand with obesity and poor health. In contrast, we know that fruits, vegetables, minimally processed dairy, meat, beans and whole grains are generally healthier for us.

Internet gurus and quacks such as Vani “Food Babe” Hari, Dr. Oz, and Joseph Mercola have engaged in fear-mongering and misinformation which has led to confusion among consumers. (They’ve made a lot of money doing it too.) These people have told us that we must avoid all chemicals at all cost lest we be struck dead at any moment! The horror!

Here’s news for you: Everything is a chemical, including water, aka dihydrogen monoxide. Further, the central tenet of toxicology is “the dose makes the poison.” This means that a wide array of substances from alcohol to sugar to formaldehyde to chlorine to even water can become deadly at a certain dosage. Meanwhile lower dosages may pose no threat at all.

With these concepts in mind, I like the article from Science Driven Nutrition titled The truth about food ingredients. It’s brief and gives a rational breakdown of why many (but perhaps not all) chemicals in our foods are safe.

 

 

 

Colfax Marathon 10-Miler (A Late Update)

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The Colfax Marathon, half-marathon, 10-miler and marathon relay happened on May 15 and here’s a quick update on things.

A good cause

I ran the 10-Miler to help raise funds for The Gathering Place which is a Denver shelter for homeless women, their kids and the transgender community. I’m very pleased and grateful that a total of $2343 was donated by my tremendously generous friends, family and clients. My original goal was $2000 and I’m thrilled to have gone over that goal. It’s all going to a very good cause that helps a vulnerable segment of my city. I look forward to helping The Gathering Place again in the future.

Race results

Here’s the rundown of the numbers:

Post-race nonsense and a medal.

Post-race strangeness and a medal.

  • Net time: 1:21:36
  • Pace: 8:09/mile
  • Overall place: 81 out of 1014 runners
  • Overall men: 52 out of 325
  • Division, Men 40-49: 11 out of 77

I won’t be winning any ribbons or prize money any time soon, but I’m very pleased with those results. Eight minutes per mile was my most optimistic hoped-for pace. This was on a course that started downhill and ended uphill. In three of my last four miles I averaged just under 8:00/mile. That’s pretty decent, I think.

Several things went well. First, it was a cool, cloudy day. Heat dissipation is a massively important thing for good running performance. I’m about 200 lbs. so I generate a lot of heat and I need all the help I can get.

My training went well. I ran the most I’ve ever run over the winter. I built a plan based loosely on the Hansons Marathon Method. I did speed work one day a week, tempo work on another day and a longer run on the weekend. In between those main workouts I was typically running shorter slower runs to build my aerobic abilities. These short/slow recovery runs were vital! They weren’t “junk miles.” They had a purpose which was to condition my aerobic energy system. I think it’s likely that more such running will help me be faster in future races.

I tapered the week before the race by cutting distance but I kept some of the intensity of the speed and tempo work. I replaced some of the runs with bike rides as well.

Finally, I believe I did a good job of maintaining a sensible pace at the beginning of the race. It’s always easy to launch out of the gate, run too fast, then crap out in the second half of a race. That didn’t happen. I ran within my limits and I was able to put on strong finish.

What I love about running is that there’s always room for improvement. There’s always an opportunity to do better than last time. Some time (sooner rather than later I hope) I’m going to enlist a running coach to help me get better. I’d love to run a sub-8 min/mile 10-miler or maybe half-marathon.

Colfax Marathon & The Gathering Place: There’s Still Time to Donate

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The Colfax Marathon, marathon relay, half-marathon and 10-miler (my race) are all coming up this Sunday, May 15. I’m trained up and ready for a fun dash from Lakewood to beautiful Denver City Park. I’m feeling good, strong and injury-free. The weather should be cloudy and cool which is good for a 200 lb. runner such as myself.

I’ve been raising money for a great organization called The Gathering Place which is a drop-in day shelter for homeless women, kids and the transgender community. I’m very happy to be helping the TGP do their wonderful work and I’m grateful to everyone who has donated thus far. Thus far my friends and family have donated $2343.10. I would love to hit $2500 (or more) by Sunday. If you haven’t donated or if you’ve already donated and you still have some spare money sitting around, then you still have time. Follow this link if you’d like to donate.

So It’s Your First Race…

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Running your first race should be exhilarating, challenging, life-affirming and, of course, fun. I find races to be very emotional. There’s a type of excitement near start that I don’t find many other places. There’s more to this process than just showing up and running though. Thoughtful preparation pays off big-time for an optimal race experience.

Any new experience is guaranteed to come with some surprises. If you’ve trained hard and done everything in your power to ensure a successful race, then you don’t want anything to detract from all that effort. To minimize the chances of trouble, here’s a rundown of things you may want to think about as you prepare for the big race.

Getting to the race

Is your race out of town? If so, do you know how to get from your hotel to the race? How long will it take? If you’re racing at home, how long does it take to get from your house to the race? Set your alarm appropriately. (My suggestion: Set it a little earlier than you think you need to.)

Will you drive to the race, take public transportation, ride a bike or travel by foot?

If it’s a weekend or holiday, what’s the public transportation schedule? Are there street closures for the race? If so, what’s your route to the race?

Exactly where does the race start and finish?

Where do you want to meet your friends and family after the race?

How about bathrooms? Where are they? Early morning race jitters can demand multiple trips.

Sometimes the answers to these questions aren’t obvious.

Sleep

You should aim for a good night of sleep two nights before your race. It’s very typical that you won’t sleep well the night before a race. You’ll have some jitters and if you’re away from home then your normal rhythms and habits will be altered. Don’t worry too much about it. You’ll be fine, but get good sleep 48 hours prior to your event.

Gear and clothing

Many races allow you to drop off warm-up gear and extra clothing. If that’s the case then where do you leave things and where do you pick them up?

If you’re traveling what do you need to pack? By race day, you should know what sorts of things are essential. The Road Runner’s Club of America gives the following checklist:

  • shoes
  • insoles or orthotics
  • socks
  • shorts
  • underwear
  • long sleeve shirt
  • short sleeve shirt
  • tights
  • jacket
  • gloves or mittens
  • headgear: winter hat, cap, visor, headband
  • watch
  • race number if picked up early
  • safety pins or race belt to which attach race number
  • course map
  • race instructions
  • change of clothes for afterwards
  • athletic tape
  • skin lube or powder
  • sunscreen
  • water bottle or hydration pack
  • sunglasses
  • towel
  • pre-race food/fluids
  • post-race food/fluids
  • wallet/money

Depending on the weather, you may or may not need things like a winter hat or gloves. If you’re racing in a Spring or Fall race, especially in places near mountains or the water, then the weather could change radically and quickly. Don’t assume the weather will be what you expect it to be. If you think you might need it, then pack it! It’s much better to have a piece of gear and not need it than to need it and not have it.

I like to start packing several days beforehand. I always seem to almost forget something. If I start packing early then it’s far less likely that I forget anything.

Finally, race day is not the day to try anything new. No new shoes. No new clothes. No new caps, glasses, socks, or anything else. As the RRCA stresses, “No new is good new.”

Nutrition

Breakfast

If you’re a morning runner then you have it figured out. What did you normally eat for breakfast while training? Stick with it. If it’s new, then don’t do it! You might pay for it with some nasty GI troubles.

If you’ve been running in the evenings and your race is in the morning, then it may take a little more thought. The pre-race meal varies widely from person to person. Generally, you want to eat anywhere from 1-2 hours prior to the race. You want to have enough time for the food to digest, but not so much time that you’re famished at race time.

My GI tract is fairly calm and I can tolerate a fairly wide range of pre-race meals. Other people are the polar opposite and they need to be very precise in the timing and content of pre-race food.

Fruit and yogurt, oatmeal, UCAN, or a smoothie are a few examples of things I like before a race. I’d avoid the steak & eggs trucker special if I were you.

Race nutrition

If your race is something like a 5k then food during the race isn’t much of an issue. It’s not long enough to demand much in the way of sustenance. Water’s probably the only thing you’ll want.

If your race is longer then you may need some calories during the race. Similar to breakfast and race gear choices, this should be determined in your training. Some things to consider:

Will you carry a hydration system and your own food? Will you carry a hydration pack or a hand bottle?

If you plan on eating/drinking from the aid stations, what foods and drinks to they provide? Have you used those products in your training? Recognize that consuming anything that you’re not accustomed to while running may cause you some digestive woes and grind your race to a potentially messy halt… or at least a walk.

Finally, your swag bag will likely contain various snack-type items such as gels, bars, electrolyte drink mix or something similar. If it’s unfamiliar to you then don’t eat it before or during the race. Save it for after.

If you remember nothing else regarding nutrition practices then remember this: No new is good new. (Have you heard that before?)

Running your race

Don’t start too fast.

Your first race! Adrenaline! Excitement! You’ve trained hard, you’re wide awake and you feel electric! Today’s the day for greatness! … And you start out too fast.

I am nearly certain that anyone who’s ever run a race has started out too fast. I have! Some time later that fast start has to be paid for with a slower pace. At worst, it can reduce you to a walk to the finish line.

(I think it’s not only inevitable but also essential that everyone experience a too-fast start at some point. It’s not fun but it’s a very valuable learning experience. It teaches humility and respect for proper pacing.)

No matter how good you feel, no matter how exceptional and strong you believe yourself to be, you won’t do your best if you launch out of the gate too fast. If you’ve been training with paced runs then you’ll know your race pace. Stick to it even it feels way too slow. If you haven’t used paces before then pay attention to how you feel. Pay attention to your breathing and effort. Remember that your hard effort needs to be spread over the entire distance of the race. If you’re feeling strong later in the race then that’s the time to pick it up a bit. Don’t do it at the start though.

Temperature

Spring and Fall morning races may be cold at the start. It’s tempting to bundle up and feel toasty warm. The problem is that once you start running you’ll be hot as hell. If it’s a cold day then you should be a little chilly at the start. You should be a little uncomfortable. Generally, I find that if my hands and ears are warm then I’m comfortable. (Turns out cooling and heating of the hands can have powerful effects on performance. If the topic interests you then read this from Peak Performance )

Finally

This racing thing can be a lot of fun. If you do some planning then it can be a smooth experience. Experience is the best teacher. The more you race the easier the preparation becomes.

Exercise, Stress, Work, Injury, Life… & Crossfit

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A couple of recent articles have me thinking…

Unfortunately for many of us, exercise and injury (or just pain) live very close to each other. I’ve heard a lot of people say things like “I can’t run anymore because of my knees,” or, “The bench press hurts my shoulders.”

Something that’s supposed to be healthy hurts us? That doesn’t sound right.

Exercise and the big picture

When “Healthy” Habits Aren’t comes from Whole 9. It’s written by Kate Galliett of Fit for Real Life. She gives discusses a big-picture view of our exercise habits within the context of our often stressful, unbalanced lives.

She says:

“Exercise is not meant to break you. Exercise habits are not meant to suck other important aspects of your health dry. Exercising is not meant to be a numbing agent to things your body is telling you.”

Seems obvious, right? Who would argue that we exercise in order to feel bad and get hurt? Yet the reality is that multitudes of gym goers, runners, and all sorts of recreational athletes inhabit a world in which their chosen activity puts them in pain every day. This picture is out of whack. Pain is a way of telling us that something needs to change. (Remember though, pain doesn’t always equal injury, but pain is not to be ignored.)

I like this:

“Chronic stress is not helpful for fat loss, muscle gain, or performance improvement. It’s also not helpful for any of the health factors that keep you alive & kicking well into your later years. And many habits society deems ‘healthy’ are much less so when looked at in context to modern, busy, stressed lives.”

And to the previous point, this is extremely important to remember:

“Stress is stress. It’s the same to your body whether you define where it comes from as ‘good’ or ‘bad.'”

Living organisms need a certain level of stress to flourish. With the right amount of stress applied in a progressive way plus rest, plus food, that organism gets stronger. Too much stress of any type plus inadequate rest and/or inadequate food and that organism breaks down. We don’t want that but that’s where a lot of us are.

Why exercise?

A lot of us identify in part by our physical activity. “I’m a runner,” I’m a cyclist,” “I’m a powerlifter,” or “I’m a Crossfitter.” Self-image matters a lot, whether or not you want to admit it. This paradigm can get a little out of control.

Sometimes it seems we get to where we’re working out just to work out. And sometimes we push harder thinking we’ll get stronger yet in reality we’ve dug ourselves a hole and we’re digging harder to get out.

“Take a break? Back off? Are you insane? That’s for losers! I HAVE TO WORK OUT! THAT’S WHAT I DO!”

Well… Okay… But are you realizing a benefit?

Not if your workout hurts you. And if you’re piling stress on top of stress on top of stress, and you’re working harder despite the fact that you’re not sleeping enough, your job is killing you and your family is driving you crazy—all during allergy season—then don’t be surprised if you feel like a wreck. It might be time to try something different.

To me, the takeaway message of the article is that the actions and habits we practice in the pursuit of health and fitness don’t exist in isolation. These practices exist alongside a wide range of other influences in our lives. There are times when we need to take a step back, look at the big picture and at times modulate our beloved running, swimming, weight training or what-have-you. Read the full article for the whole discussion.

The Wellness Continuum

To expand a bit, this article reminded me of something I learned about in grad school, something called the Wellness Continuum.

The Wellness Continuum

The Wellness Continuum

I’ve talked with a lot of people who view health exclusively through the diet and exercise lens. In this view, diet and exercise are separate and distinct from all other aspects of health. To me, this view is like looking through a microscope.

With the Wellness Continuum, we can examine our lives with a telescope. We can see an amazing range of interrelated factors that contribute to or take away from our overall health. Most of us, myself included, probably do very well in some of these categories while other categories deserve extra attention.

To reiterate, none of these factors exist in isolation. These conditions all blend together to determine our well being. If we ignore one aspect of health then the whole operation is diminished.

Crossfit & Injuries

High-intensity workout injuries spawn cottage industry comes from the Washington Post. The article discusses not only injuries that may be generated from Crossfit workouts but also the businesses that have sprung up to treat said injuries.

One observation of the article is this:

“Many people who do the high-intensity workouts aren’t adequately conditioned for such rigorous workouts, or have back and spine conditions that could worsen, said Dr. Marc Umlas, chief of orthopedic surgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami, who said his office has seen an increase in injuries from workouts at CrossFit and similar programs.

“’They plunge headfirst into a high intensity workout and they get injured,’ Umlas said.”

The article describes various business that offer treatment strategies for such injuries. A trainer, Lauren Roxburgh said something related to the theme of the previous article on healthy habits:

“’In our lifestyle it’s been very much about the doing. … It’s all about pushing through, doing, doing, doing, and it hasn’t been enough about the yin, which is the being, being in the moment, being present in our bodies,’ she said.”

That sounds like yoga-speak for respecting the need for rest and recovery. More more more harder harder harder exercise isn’t always better better better. There’s a time for hard work and a time for backing away from hard work.

“It depends…”

“What do you think of Crossfit?”

I’m often asked that. As with most questions, the most accurate answer is “It depends….” on a lot of things.

(To be clear, I’m not a Crossfit coach. I’ve never worked out in a Crossfit gym.  I’ve met lots of Crossfitters and I’m aware of a lot of what I’ll call the Crossfit culture and its components.)

I love that Crossfit has re-popularized free-weights, the Olympic lifts and body weight training. I love that in many Crossfit facilities there is a supportive community that bonds through tough workouts. I’ve met good Crossfit coaches who recognize the need for proper technique and proper progression in doing these workouts.

I’ve also seen some horrendous exercise technique displayed by Crossfitters. I’m aware of a mentality in many (maybe not most) Crossfitters that the harder and faster the workout the better. Some in the Crossfit culture view this mentality with pride. I think it’s a questionable approach.

My answer is it depends on the condition of the individual participant. Is this a raw beginner or an experienced lifter? How well does the person move? Who’s coaching him or her? Does the culture at a particular Crossfit facility emphasize good technique and proper rest and recovery strategies? Or is it all “Go! Go! Go! Ignore the pain!”

Adaptation to imposed demands

Human beings can adapt to all sorts of stresses and conditions. As it relates to exercise; if we work in a progressive manner; gradually applying stress to our bones, muscles and connective tissue; consuming appropriate calories and nutrients; and resting appropriately then our structures will adapt to those imposed demands. (Read up on Davis’s law and Wolff’s law for more on how this process works.)

If, on the other hand, we go hell-bent-for-leather into a new workout routine (particularly if we don’t spend time on learning good exercise technique) then we may outrace our body’s ability to adapt.

To compound issues, if we undertake some sort of intense Crossfit-type workout, and our personal Wellness Continuum is out of balance then it’s highly likely that aches and pains will soon follow.

Discipline

With exercise, most people equate discipline with getting up early, working out hard every day and “pushing your limits.” I would offer that “discipline” really means doing what you need to do, not just what you want to do.

For we who love exercise, working out isn’t the problem! We love being in the gym, on the road, on the trail or in the pool. Sweating and lifting heavy things isn’t the hard part. It’s taking a break that’s near impossible! Taking easy days, letting injuries heal, doing our rehab exercises, tapering for a race, taking off-days or god-forbid, taking an off-season?! …That’s discipline.

So… There’s that.

Hip Internal Rotation: You Need It.

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All human movement can be described in three dimensions. We move in the saggital plane (front/back), frontal plain (side-to-side), and the transverse plane (rotation.) Certain movements are one-plane dominant: Distance running is mostly a saggital plane movement. Swinging a baseball bat is mostly a transverse plane movement. Ice skating and rollerblading feature a lot of frontal plane movement. Still, each of these movements also contain elements of the other two planes.

(Beyond moving in these planes, we also must stabilize our limbs against forces that are trying to move us in each of these planes.)

In my observation, a lot of people lack movement skills in one or more of these planes. Many times it seems clients lack adequate transverse plane movement, especially in the hips where the femurs attach to the pelvis. (We describe transverse plane hip movement as internal and external rotation.)  If we lack good transverse plane hip movement then we may have trouble with all sorts of activities from walking to running to skiing to golfing. Poor transverse hip mobility may result in back pain, knee pain or even shoulder or neck pain. Restricted transverse plane movement may also negatively impact sports performance.

I’ve found that restrictions in the transverse plane are often hidden. , Many people may feel tight hamstrings, tight pecs, or tight neck and upper back muscles, but rarely do I hear encounter a client who’s aware of something that doesn’t move well in the transverse plane. It seems a lot of us are walking around with no clue that we lack adequate rotation in any of our joints.

Why might an individual lack internal or external rotation? It could be any number of reasons. I believe our modern, seated, immobile lifestyle is probably a major contributor. Other reasons could be an anteverted or retroverted femur. These are structural issues of the femur that can’t be changed. Some sort of past injury could also be a culprit. All three issues could be at play.

I rest my case that hip internal and external rotation is important.

Here’s a video discussing hip internal rotation, why it’s important, and how to achieve it. Live it up kids!

Running Technique: 3 Simple Cues

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Running form is a frequently discussed topic among injured runners and runners looking to perform better. How should we run? Is there one ideal way to run? Should we run on the forefoot, mid-foot or heel? Does our core matter? What should our upper body do when we run?

There are many schools of thought in the running world and there doesn’t seem to be any ironclad consensus on any of these questions. If you’re running pain-free and you’re performing as well as you’d like then I don’t believe you should change your running form. In other words, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

If, on the other hand, you experience pain when you run or if you’re not as fast as you’d like to be then some technique changes may be in order.

Run tall.

A lot of us run in a hunched type of posture that resembles the way we sit (and sit and sit…) in our work chairs or in our cars. This hunched position may be problematic and may be contributing to running problems. To address this issue:

Imagine a chain is attached to the top of your skull. That chain pulls you up. It lengthens your spine and makes you tall. See if you can feel this long, tall spine as you run. As part of this process, keep your gaze up and out toward the horizon. Don’t stare at the ground directly in front of you. This tall posture should help with some of our other running form considerations.

Tight hip flexors may contribute to a hunched posture. The following stretch sequence may help.

Run light.

The impact of the foot hitting the ground is worth considering as it concerns injuries. Recent evidence suggests runners who hit the ground lightly are injured less than runners who hit the ground hard.

You may run with earphones and you may be unaware that you stomp and pound the ground with each footfall. So to run light, remove the earphones and pay attention to the sound you make.

Imagine you’re weightless. Your strides are feathery light, and energetic. You don’t pound the ground but rather you glide across gossamer.

Another way to run lightly comes through this skipping drill:

Use a short, quick gait.

One way to lighten the impact of running is to drop the foot very nearly under your hips. This should result in your shin being vertical or near-vertical. Look at the picture. Try running like #2. The skipping drill from above can help you feel that foot landing directly below your hips.

Runner #1 is pounding. Runner #2 is running lightly.

Want to run lightly? Run like #2.

Don’t concern yourself with whether or not you’re hitting on the heel, mid-foot or forefoot. Where the foot lands is more important than on what part of the foot hits first.

Quickening your cadence too much can be a problem. There is an obvious point at which gait can becomes too quick and inefficient. An excellent way to work on your cadence is to use a metronome. Kinetic Revolution has a great article that discusses research on cadence as well as how to introduce metronome running into your training. The article also links to a digital metronome that you can download.

Change takes work.

Running may seem like something we should all be able to do. In fact, most of us can execute some version of movement in which we rapidly put one foot in front of the other. Kids learn to run without detailed instruction and without much in the way of typical running injuries. Shouldn’t adults be able to do the same thing? Maybe or maybe not… If we hurt while running or if we think we’re too slow, then some sort of alteration to our running style may make sense.

Changing your gait takes some tinkering, some awareness and mindfulness. It won’t happen automatically. Physical therapist Rick Olderman helped me to change my running gait. He once said that “if it feels normal, then you’re doing it wrong.” He meant that in the early stages of changing how we move, it should feel weird and unnatural to us. Learning any new skill requires some struggle and awkwardness. If you practice frequently and work at it then things should improve at a reasonable rate.

Personally, I never listen to music while running. I pay attention to how I run, where my foot falls, how I move. I don’t want to fall back into bad habits.

Finally

I can’t guarantee that any of these changes will result in either a pain-free running experience or a podium finish in a race.Time with a physical therapist, podiatrist, chiropractor and/or a running coach may be what you need.  That said, these cues have helped my running as well as several of my clients’ running experience. I’ve also incorporated things like the short foot drill, ankle dorsiflexion work, and a wide variety of single-leg squats and lunges (here, here, here for instance) to improve my movement competence. Clearly, there are a lot of moving parts to consider when we run!

Charity Fundraising Via the Colfax Marathon 10-Miler

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I am very fortunate to be able to live a safe, secure, healthy life with supportive people around me. I want for very little and I have a lot for which to be grateful. Many others in this country live in far less desirable conditions than I. In May, I’ll get do something that I enjoy (running) and help people who are in need.

The Gathering Place

The Gathering Place is Denver’s only daytime drop-in shelter for women, children and the transgender community who are poor or homeless. TGP also offers a wide variety of services to this vulnerable population. I was contacted recently by TGP employee Juliette Lee to see if I’d be willing to run the Colfax Marathon on their behalf as well as do some fundraising for them. I said, “yes.”

I think I’m like a lot of people in that I know I should and I could do some charity work. For all sorts of lazy reasons it seems that at the end of the week/month/year I haven’t done much. Thus I’m very pleased that the process has been made easy for me.

I will be running the 10-mile race on Sunday, May 15. I hope to raise a minimum of $1000 in donations. Contributions will help support the following services:

  • Betsy’s Cupboard: Members may receive 25 lbs of food per month as well as toiletry and hygiene items.
  • Bridget’s Boutique: TGP’s clothing bank features items for members donated by the community.
  • Showers
  • Laundry
  • Phone access
  • Mail access
  • Physical & mental health services
  • Family program: Our Family Program provides a safe and fun space for children under 18 to be while at The Gathering Place. Staff also provides resources and referrals specifically targeted to families.
  • Housing stabilization: TGP’s only case-managed program, our Housing Stabilization Advocate works with members seeking long-term, sustainable housing options.
  • Nap room: 6 beds are available for napping on a first come, first served basis. Clean linens provided.
  • Community resources: The 1st Floor Resource Desk is a great place to learn about wider Denver Metro area resources. If what you are seeking is not at TGP, our Resource Advocates will do their best to connect you with where you need to go.
  • GED classes: The Education Classroom hosts GED Class twice a week and holds on-site testing periodically.
  • Job readiness: TGP’s Job Readiness program offers support with résumé assistance, interview prep, and job seeking.
  • Computer lab
  • The Card Project: Members create original artwork to be sold as greeting cards at TGP and by local businesses. Seventy-five percent of each card sale goes back to the artist.
  • The Writer’s Group: The Gathering Place has two writer’s groups that meet weekly on the 3rd Floor – one for technical writing and one for creative writing.
  • Knitting & crochet
  • Open art: Open Art time gives members freedom to explore creative self-expression and experiment in a variety of mediums.

Please help

I’m asking for your help. If you want to donate then a suggested minimum amount is a $20 pledge ($2 per mile.) You can follow this link to my donation page. Any donation you can provide will be greatly appreciated.

Physical Activity, Appetite & Weight-Loss

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There is a lot of important research out there on subjects like exercise physiology and nutrition. I’m not a researcher and I have a difficult time deciphering information that I know is useful to me and my clients. So I appreciate Alex Hutchinson’s Sweat Science blog in Runner’s World. He does a great job of discussing complex research findings in language that I can understand.

A recent Sweat Science post titled the Jute Diet details some tremendously important research regarding the intimate relationship between physical activity and appetite. The research is from the 1950s so I was completely surprised that I didn’t already know this information. From the blog post:

image is from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

image is from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

“What you see is that, above a certain level of physical activity, caloric intake increases linearly and weight is stable. For these workers, the body’s “balance” mechanism is functioning, and those who burn more calories also consume proportionately more calories.

“But below a certain level of physical activity, the appetite balance breaks down. Caloric intake rises again, and these workers are the ones who gain weight. The researchers call this “’he sedentary zone,’ and suggest that the regulation of food intake breaks down in this zone because ‘in his hundreds of years of evolution, man did not have any opportunity for sedentary life except very recently.'”

Hutchinson references other research that supports this idea that physical activity strongly influences body weight. More supporting research can be seen here, here and here. (Beyond that, some of the research shows a dose-response relationship in which more and more vigorous activity yields more weight loss and better weight-loss maintenance.)

I’ve never thought about the effect that exercise has on appetite beyond that it probably increases it. That exercise may make appetite more accurate is very interesting to me.

I have found that I tend to lose weight when I’m training a lot. When I try and track my calories while training I often find that I go over my suggested caloric intake and I still lose weight. I simply eat the amount that feels right and I’m able to maintain or improve my body composition. It’s much tougher to do though when I’m not training hard. That’s been a curious thing to me. This research seems to speak to my observations.

The Merrell Bare Access Ultra & Me: A Love Affair

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The Merrell Bare Access Ultra. Very green aren't they?

The Merrell Bare Access Ultra. Very green aren’t they?

Though the minimalist shoe fad has largely passed, I’m still a fan of the near-barefoot running concept. I like the idea of my feet being strong, mobile and able.  I don’t like the idea of relying on a lot of foam, plastic and arch support; and I like the idea of the low drop from heel to forefoot. Maybe what I like most is that I find minimalist shoes to be the most comfortable for me, which seems to count a lot when selecting running shoes.

My last pair of road shoes was the Nike Free 3.0 v 5.  I loved ’em! Unlike some prior iterations of the Free, they had a roomy forefoot which allowed my toes to spread out as human toes are wont to do. Though they were a minimal shoe, they had just enough padding to make running on pavement and gravel quite comfortable.

All good things must end though and the Frees are worn out, destined for yard work. I needed new shoes.

As I said, the minimalist shoe movement has faded out a good bit. They were touted by many to be the cure for all sorts of foot ailments. (I fell under that spell.) And like any miracle cure, their “magic” wasn’t magic for everyone. Thus, the selection of minimalist shoes has shrunk.

My Internet prowling revealed far fewer minimalist shoes than I remembered being in existence. To make a long story a little shorter, I couldn’t find more of the exact Nike Free that I wanted and I felt the replacement called the Nike Flyknit was more money than I wanted to spend.

I love my New Balance MT1010s (my 3rd pair) and I recalled there being a similar version of a road shoe. That shoe doesn’t seem to exist anymore. (For that matter, it looks like the MT1010 is out of production. Damnit.) The search continued…

I looked for reviews for minimalist road shoes and found a very useful site called Run Repeat.  It aggregates shoe reviews so it’s sort of like a Rotten Tomatoes for running shoes. (Run Repeat features far more than just minimalist shoes. It appears to discuss a very wide range and brand of shoes.) I found their list for 34 Best Minimalist Running Shoes in 2016. On that list was the Merrell Bare Access.

I was familiar with Merrell shoes such as the Trail Glove but I’d never owned any. I always thought I’d like to check out a pair and the Bare Access seemed like it was up my alley: a low-drop, lightweight minimal road shoe for training with lots of good reviews. I wanted to find a pair.

A few days later I found myself at the always fun DSW Shoe Warehouse. What did I behold in that store but several pair of Bare Access Ultras — on the bargain rack and in my size!

I was ready to run as soon as I put them on. They felt very light and lively. Sounds weird but I wanted to run out of the store in them. I’m not kidding.

What’s so great about them?

  • Fit: The heel and mid-foot are perfectly snug but not tight. The forefoot is spacious and gives my piggies plenty of room to spread out.
  • Cushion: The cushion feels great. It’s a minimal shoe so it’s not terribly thick but enough to make running very comfortable. I find the shoe to be very snappy which I suppose is largely a function of the sole and cushion. They make me want to sprint!
  • Upper: I can tell the upper is very well ventilated which isn’t much of an issue in the winter but I think they’ll be very cool and comfortable in the heat.
  • Weight: They’re very light which again, makes me want to move fast.

All of this adds up to a shoe that feels light and fast. I honestly don’t want the run to end when I’m in them.