Corrective Exercises: No Magic Fixes

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I once thought of corrective exercise as a magic ritual that would instantly fix pain. I believed a Z-Health drill, an FMS glute bridge, NSCA balance exercise, exotic kettlebell move, or some specific stretch or core activation routine would instantly change something so that I could move freely without pain—and without thinking about it. That’s magical thinking and now I think otherwise.

Corrective exercise is only corrective if the movement skills or sensations learned during the exercise transfers to the “real-life” activity for which the correction is sought. This process entails diligent thinking and crucially, it requires awareness. A corrective exercise should promote awareness of how to use certain muscles and/or how to move or stabilize a limb in a new, more effective way.  Here’s an example:

At a recent running-related clinic conducted by running coach and physical therapist Jay Dicharry. we discussed a common problem among runners in which forward propulsion comes from too much lumbar spine extension and not enough hip extension. This is inefficient and may cause low-back pain, knee pain, and other problems. We learned several strategies to run in neutral posture while extending the hip. More specifically, we used the abs to bring the ribs down toward the pelvis, reducing lumbar extension, while simultaneously contracting the glutes to drive the leg backward. Several exercises helped us gain awareness of glute contraction, hip extension, and ribcage positioning. We didn’t stop with exercises. We took the awareness created by the exercises to the act of running. We had to think and pay close attention to what we were doing.

In the context of corrective exercise, my job is to facilitate habit change in my clients. I must select the exercises that help my client move and feel better. The exercises should have adequate similarity to the activity in which my client wants to improve. I must use cues that resonate with my client, that help them understand and feel the proper movement pattern.

This process may require using several exercises that link to the activity itself. For running, we may start with a simple exercise to simply feel a muscle, the glutes for example. We may start with some sort of bridge, lying supine on the ground. We may progress from lying on the ground to kneeling, to standing on two legs to standing on one leg, and then to running. All the while, I must use the right cues and instructions to keep the client focused on the task at hand. Finally, I must ensure my client repeats the new movement pattern. Repetition is essential for learning.

The corrective exercise process is fundamentally about habit change. It’s about focused learning to create and allow new, different movement. The new movement process must be practiced and ingrained so that it replaces the old, painful movement. Corrective exercise is not about an automatic fix.

31 Flavors of the Single-Leg Squat

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Balance and strength on one leg is essential for successful running.

Consider three truths:

1) Running is a series of hops from one foot to the other. Upon landing, you perform a partial, one-leg squat in preparation for the next hop.

2) Research suggests that strength training aids running performance, and

3) The principle of specificity says that to improve at a given physical task, training should resemble that task.

Given these truths, it seems clear you can benefit by including single-leg squats as part of a regular strength program. The hop-and-land sequence of running demands strength and stability in order to perform well and avoid injury.

To continue reading, follow this link to my latest article on PodiumRunner.com.

Collegiate Peaks 25-Mile Trail Race Report

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This is why I do it. (Photo credit to Woody)

I ran the Collegiate Peaks 25 Mile Trail Run on Saturday 5/4. My wife and I stayed in Salida, about 30 min away from the start in Buena Vista. That meant a dark and early wake-up of 4:30 am. Such is life sometimes.

We had superb weather: sun, clear skies and temps in high 30s at the start and highs in the 60s. Views of the Collegiate Peaks (above) were prominent and dramatic. For me, this is going to church.

The well-marked race course was mostly non-technical and followed Forest Service roads. There were some prolonged sandy spots which made for slow going at times but it wasn’t terrible. The sand was much less of an issue than the sand in Moab at the Behind the Rocks Race. A few of the climbs and descents were steep but most slopes were mild. The final few miles came through some fun singletrack of medium technicality. (I MUST come back with the mountain bike!)  Here’s the course elevation profile:

Collegiate Peaks Race profile

 

 

 

 

Runners encountered a shin-deep water crossing at about mile 10. I brought extra socks with me and changed into them soon after the crossing. I thought about gambling and continuing to run in wet socks but I didn’t want to risk blisters. My cold hands made removal of tight compression socks aggravating though. It took a little longer to change than I wanted but again, such is life.

This was a small race with 212 finishers. I finished in 5:05:38. That put me just in the top half overall and among men. I finished just barely out of the top half of men in my age group. I hoped to do better in that category but I’m not overly distressed. I prepared well, ran hard, and did my best. I do this for the experience, not with the expectation of winning.

Minor cramping

I’ve had some bad adductor and hamstring cramps in both legs in some longer races. I’m pleased this time that cramps only happened in my right adductor. They were minor. A sudden cramp hit with maybe three miles to go. I stopped briefly and stretched the area. I continued to sort of stretch it in a weird way while running. The cramp vanished in a few minutes and didn’t bother me any further. Minimal cramping in a long race gives me confidence that I’m on the right track with my strategy of direct strengthening of my cramp-prone muscles.

Not only will I continue with the strength program, but I also plan to run with mustard packets. Sound strange? You may have heard about the anti-cramping powers of pickle juice. The same anti-cramp effect seems to work with mustard too. The research is limited but it seems that the vinegar in both substances is probably the key. Apparently, the vinegar stimulates certain receptors in the mouth that trigger a neurological reset of cramping muscles.

No calf problems

The left calf gave me no problems. It feels strong and I will continue my strength program.

Metatarsalgia

Metatarsalgia or ball-of-foot pain in my left food reared its head in the final few miles. I’ve battled it in the past. It hasn’t been an issue at all since I’ve placed metatarsal pads in my shoe inserts. This could be a problem for the Grand Traverse. I plan to take the same approach as I have with my cramp-prone muscles and the calf: strengthen it. I have some ideas on how to specifically strengthen the toes.

Finally

Overall I had a fun experience. I liked the course, I liked the small size of the race, and my wife and I both liked Buena Vista. We look forward to a return. If you want a full-on Colorado trail race experience then the Collegiate Peaks Trail Race fits the bill.

Weight Training for Running

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Research supports the use of weight and plyometric (jumping) training to aid running performance. Read all about it here, here, here, and here. I lift and jump about twice a week. I expect specific outcomes from the exercises I use. This is a discussion of my strategy.

Plyometrics

In running, the muscles and tendons act as springs. As the foot hits the ground, the muscles and tendons of the feet and legs lengthen and store energy from impact. The stored energy is then released, propelling the runner forward through the gait cycle. (The Achilles tendon is an especially powerful part of the SSC equation.) This process is called the stretch-shortening cycle (SSC.) Plyometric training is a way to build stronger springs. There are many plyometric exercises to choose from. I use two exercises.

  1. single-leg hurdle hops: This consists of hopping over six low hurdles as quickly as possible. I try to land and balance in control on the very last hurdle. I rest then hop back on the other leg. I accumulate 50-70 contacts on each leg.
  2. two-leg pogo hops: This is a new drill for me. It’s different from a two-leg jump. I pull the toes up toward the shins when I’m in the air. I slap the ground hard on impact—using only the ankles—while keeping the knees nearly locked. I do 10 reps (20 foot contacts) x 5-7 sets for 100-140 total foot contacts.

Key strength exercises

  1. Calf raises: I worship at the altar of lower leg strength. I’ve been injured there and I want armor the lower legs against injury.  A calf raise is a great catchall for not only the calf muscles but the foot muscles and tendons too. Twice a week I do some sort of calf raise or jump rope. I work high weight/low reps and moderate weight/moderate reps.
  2. Step-up: I’m a trail runner so I step up. A lot. I’ve also had cramping issues in my adductors. My strategy for cramping is to a) go right at the cramp-prone muscles and make them stronger, and b) strengthen the supporting muscles so the cramp-prone muscles will have more help doing their job. This exercise does both. I work 5-10 reps typically for 2-3 sets.
  3. Various lunges: Running and lunging are biomechanically somewhat similar. They work the hip adductors, abductors, quads, and glutes very well. I lunge forward, sideways, and I rotate left and right to lunge. This is one of many lunges, the offset lunge.

4. Leg curl: Cramps have been a problem in my hamstrings too. This exercise should help strengthen the hamstrings appropriately. It’s also a good glute exercise. I’m able to do almost 20 reps in the single-leg curl. That’s a little high for strength work. I need to find a way to weight this exercise but I’m not sure how…

Other strength exercises

I consider these exercises less vital to running but useful nonetheless. First and foremost, I enjoy lifting. I also like to stay generally strong and resilient and I want to maintain my lifting skills.

  1. Back squat: I like to squat. Squats build general total-body strength. I work up to three heavy sets of three reps. This keeps me from being very sore and doesn’t overstress my nervous system.
  2. Incline press, standing press, or dips: I like to maintain some general upper body pushing strength. I work various rep ranges from 3-10.
  3. Pull-ups: Same as above.
  4. Ab wheel rollout: It’s one of many good ab exercises. I do two to three sets of 10-15 reps.
  5. Hitting the heavy punching bag: I’ve done a little boxing training with another trainer and I watch boxing videos. Hitting the heavy bag, throwing combinations, and doing something very different from running is a lot of fun.
  6. Road cycling and mountain biking: I’m a cyclist! Gotta pedal the machines sometimes. I’m happy if I get two rides per week.

When to lift?

I get the lifting in when I can fit the lifting in. I aim to lift twice a week. I prioritize the calf work and the plyometric work as I believe those are the most important to my running. Running, work, and other responsibilities dictate that some weeks I may only get one day of lifting in.

A common phrase among coaches is, “Make the hard days hard and the easy days easy.” Thus, I try to lift on the hard running days, which are Tuesdays and Thursdays. The problem is I feel better when I have 48-72 hrs between lifting sessions. That means I often lift on easier days. I typically try to do plyometrics on easy days. Plyos should be done in a non-fatigued state. On some lifting days, I feel tired or sore from running, or I may not have time to do everything, so the workout may consist of only one or two exercises for one or two sets. Other days, I feel great and I have plenty of time so I get more work done.

In the grand scheme, I’m more concerned with being consistent, and less concerned about following a precisely perfect schedule. Brad Stulberg has good thoughts on consistency:

 

Burnout & Harmonious Passion

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Modern living, competition, achievement, and seeking external validation all contribute to burnout. Burnout is more than just feeling tired at the end of the day. It’s a condition that comes with real, negative health effects. Two recent articles discuss the idea and how to counter it.

Burnout

Burnout is not a recognized medical condition in the US but it is recognized as such in France, Denmark, and Sweden. These countries recognize it as a legitimate reason to take time off from work. A Washington Post article discusses burnout with psychologist Sheryl Ziegler:

“Ziegler defines burnout as ‘chronic stress gone awry.’ The big three symptoms are emotional exhaustion, cynicism and feeling ineffective, according to the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI), a survey designed to measure employee burnout in the workforce. Other symptoms can include frequent colds or sicknesses, insomnia and a tendency to alleviate stress in unhealthy ways, such as with too much alcohol or online shopping.”

The article discusses the difference between stress and stressors:

“Burnout is caused by chronic stress, not stressors… It’s important to differentiate the two. Stressors are external: to-do lists, financial problems or anxiety about the future. Stress, on the other hand, ‘is the neurological and physiological shift that happens in your body when you encounter [stressors],’ Emily and Amelia Nagoski write in their book Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle.”

Fixing burnout isn’t necessarily easy. It involves recognizing the condition and making some changes, not just checking more things off of your to-do list.

“To fix burnout, people need to address the stress itself. They must allow their body to complete its stress response cycle. Instead, people tend to focus on stressors. ‘They assume their stress will go away if they’re on top of things, if they’re accomplishing things, and constantly checking things off their to-do list,’ Emily Nagoski says.”

Read the full article for more information.

Harmonious Passion

I’m an enthusiastic fan of running coach Steve Magness and researcher/journalist Brad Stulberg. They are the authors of Peak Performance, an excellent book. Their second book is the Passion Paradox. I’m looking forward to reading it soon.

Burnout and what Stulberg and Magness call harmonious passion are the subjects of a recent blog post titled Burnout Runs Deeper Than Too-Much Work:

“Harmonious passion is when an individual becomes completely absorbed in an activity because they love how the activity itself makes them feel. Obsessive passion is when an individual gets hooked on something because of external rewards: fame, fortune, a promotion, or in this day and age, social media followers. Obsessive passion is firmly linked with burnout.”

and,

Harmonious passion requires three main things. This has been studied for over 45 years and the evidence is highly replicable across diverse fields of practice:

1) Autonomy: the ability to have significant control over one’s work.
2) Mastery: the ability to see improvement and progression in one’s craft.
3) Belonging or relatedness: a feeling of connection and community.

If you think about the fields where burnout is especially prevalent (e.g., medicine, teaching, corporate work, and sport) you see that at least one, if not more, of these critical attributes is missing.

Read the article to learn more.

 

 

Training Update: 10 Days Until Behind the Rocks

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I’m running the Behind the Rocks 30k in Moab, Utah on March 23rd. It’s my first race of the season and my first race since my calf injury last year. I’m happy to report that all my parts feel strong. I’m pleased and proud to have overcome the problems from last year. Strength training aimed directly at the calf has been the key.

Calf exercises

Calf and lower-leg strengthening is my religion. I do specific calf strength exercises twice a week. I rotate among the following exercises. I also jump rope and do other two- and one-leg jumping exercises at least once a week:

I use several different weight and rep schemes for the exercises:

  • Heavy loads for <6 reps. This builds strong muscles and strong, stiff tendons. Stiff tendons are like stiff springs. Stiff tendons absorb and transmit forces efficiently which makes for efficient running.
  • Moderate loads for 8-15 reps. This builds muscle bulk. More muscle mass helps make muscles strong and durable.
  • I may go as high as 20-30 reps for the mini-squat. That’s due to the soleus muscle (the main muscle in that’s worked in the exercise) being comprised mostly of endurance muscle fibers. I typically put a barbell on my back.
  • For the jump rope, I’ll mix two- and one-leg jumping and I’ll jump for about 1 minute x 5 sets.

Other key exercises

The hip hike and offset lunge are great exercises for lower legs, quads, glutes, hip adductors and hip abductors.

I like the single-leg tubing squat as well.

Coaching

Finally, Coach Andrew Simmons of Lifelong Endurance has been indispensable. He listens to me, pays attention to detail, and inspires confidence. I’m grateful to have his guidance. If you’re looking for a running coach, I recommend him highly.

Nutrition Myths and Eating for the Environment

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Nutrition Myths

Nutrition nonsense is everywhere. Fads and half-truths prey on our hopes and desperations. Poor news reporting misrepresents both valid and invalid research findings. Somewhere among all the noise is legitimate information on how to eat well. For that reason, I appreciate The top nutrition myths of 2019 from Examine.com.

Examine.com is a source I trust for valid, evidence-based nutrition and supplement information. In brief, here’s the list of the 19 nutrition myths for 2019:

Myth 1: Protein is bad for your bones and kidneys
Myth 2: Carbs are bad for you
Myth 3: Fats are bad for you
Myth 4: Egg yolks are bad for you
Myth 5: Red meat is bad for you
Myth 6: Salt is bad for you
Myth 7: Bread is bad for everyone
Myth 8: HFCS is far worse than sugar
Myth 9: Fresh is more nutritious than frozen
Myth 10: Food nutrients are always superior to supplemental nutrients
Myth 11: Dietary supplements are necessary
Myth 12: You should eat “clean”
Myth 13: You should “detox” regularly
Myth 14: Eat more often to boost your metabolism
Myth 15: You need to eat breakfast
Myth 16: To lose fat, don’t eat before bed
Myth 17: To lose fat, do your cardio on an empty stomach
Myth 18: You need protein right after your workout
Myth 19: Creatine will increase your testosterone but cause hair loss and kidney damage

Dig into the article for more information.

Meat and the Environment

I am an environmentalist. The threat of manmade global warming is a brutal reality. I do what I can to limit my contribution to the nightmare. If you share these concerns then I hope you’ll read How to Eat Meat if You Care About the Environment from U.S. News & World Report. Briefly, the article lists the following:

  • Limit your meat consumption.
  • Know how different meats stack up.
  • Shop local, if possible.
  • Learn your labels.
  • Be a prudent cook.

My wife and I are especially concerned about greenhouse gas emissions. Our food choices come with come with a greenhouse gas cost. Meat production produces an especially large amount of CO2 and methane. Accordingly, we now limit our meat consumption, especially of beef and lamb which produce the most greenhouse gas. We haven’t gone vegan but we have made the deliberate choice to reduce our animal product consumption.

(Further, by most measures, Americans eat too much meat. It’s not a coincidence that most Americans are also overweight. An additional benefit to limiting meat consumption in favor of plants is that it’ll help most people drop a few pounds and get fitter.)

Animal welfare is also a concern of ours. The article also links to the Environmental Working Group (EWG.) EWG provides this guide to animal welfare standards and labeling of meat and dairy products. We haven’t abandoned meat completely, but we don’t want to contribute to the suffering of animals. This guide has helped informed our food shopping. You might find it useful too.

When to Walk. When to Run

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I’m fortunate to be able to run in the Rocky Mountains. Every trail run features ascents and descents that are often long and/or steep which means significant changes in pace. I often run with a group and I’ve noticed that it’s not uncommon for runners to run too hard on the ascents. It’s easy to hit the redline on ascents, to burn out, and have the run reduced to a stagger. (Sometimes I’m the one running too hard.) This isn’t optimal for racing or training. Running harder isn’t always better.

Check the ego

“I’m a runner! Therefore I must run!”

I’m probably not the only runner who feels self-imposed pressure to by god keep running! Walking can feel like an embarrassing moral failure, especially when running with a group. I want to compete and keep up with my peers. In this case, my brain, wired to prefer short-term rewards over long-term goals, works against me. A simple question illuminates the right course of action:

What’s the goal?

Is my goal to “win” a training run of no consequence? Or is it to train effectively for a specific race? The answer is the latter. Put another way, the purpose of a training run is not to prove fitness, but to improve fitness.

In my case, I’m training for long trail races. That means low-intensity running and hiking for a long duration. Thus I need to train my aerobic energy system, not my phosphocreatine or glycolytic systems. The goal for long training runs is to build a bigger aerobic engine. If I run too hard, drive my heart rate too high, and generate too many hydrogen ions (Neither lactate nor lactic acid is responsible for burning muscle. It’s a buildup of H2 ions. The myth must die!) then aerobic conditioning is deemphasized. I’m training wrong and impeding my goal if I do that.

(There is a time and place for hard running. The training plan may call for harder efforts: hill intervals for instance. That’s a different topic.)

What I think I’ve learned

At some point walking up a slope is more economical than running. Running economy matters more as races go longer. For a short race, running up a steep hill may be fine because I’m not limited by energy reserves, but for long races, conserving energy matters a lot.

Research from CU Boulder has investigated running vs walking up a range of slopes. One of the researchers, Nicola Giovanelli, Ph.D., discussed the research on the Science of Ultra podcast. He suggests that walking makes sense on slopes starting at about 15-20 degrees.

Running coach David Roche offers further analysis in this article at TrailRunner.com:

“The study found that ‘on inclines steeper than 15.8°, athletes can reduce their energy expenditure by walking rather than running.'”

“While that study looked at relatively fresh athletes, it’s likely that the optimal grade for walking decreases as the length of the race increases and muscles fatigue. In long ultras, like 50- and 100-milers, most racers are hiking on anything over eight to 10 percent later in the race—grades they’d usually bound up. So if you are doing a short race with steeps or a long race with normal hills, knowing how to walk can save energy. Here are three form tips to unlock your hiking prowess.”

Walk early. Walk often.

For my purposes, I’ve translated the research into this: Walk early. Walk often. I start walking/power hiking well before I blow up. I stop running and start hiking before I truly need to start hiking. I start before the slope gets very steep. This is similar to efficient uphill cycling in that a rider should shift into a low gear early and before he or she struggles at a very low cadence.

I find that I can keep pace with and often pass other runners when I hike instead of run. They work harder yet we move at about the same rate. The ascent often resembles a slinky type of process where we pass each other a few times before we hit the peak. Often, the other harder working runners are completely gassed at the top while I can resume running.

Low-end speed

I’m not an elite-level runner, so there’s no question that I will spend significant time hiking and walking during my races, especially during the 40-mile Grand Traverse Run. Therefore my training should resemble the race. If I prioritize my low-end speed, get faster at going slower, then that should help my performance more than developing higher-end speed.

 

Calf Strength Progress

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A calf injury derailed this previous racing season. I’m taking steps to avoid a repeat. Primarily I’m making my calves and feet stronger, not just the muscles but the connective tissue as well. My process is detailed in an article for Competitor Running. Every week, twice a week I spend time working on the lower legs. I treat it like religion. The work isn’t especially exciting but if I don’t do it then I can expect more problems. Thus, I don’t give myself the option to avoid the work. Here are the main features of my lower-leg workouts:

  • I choose two of the following:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=darNO5nfl48&feature=youtu.be

  • Bent-knee or straight-knee depending on the part of the calf I want to target
  • High-weight/low-reps (< 6) to strengthen and stiffen tendons to improve running efficiency, and increase force production of the muscles
  • Lower-weight/higher reps (>8) for muscle hypertrophy which should also help with strength and durability.
  • I jump rope 6 x 1 min or I do various two- and one-legged hops once or twice per week.

I expect this program to enable me to train for and run several big races in 2019, including the Grand Traverse Run from Crested Butte to Aspen on 8/31. Sim sala bim.

 

Truth About Hard Work and Breakthroughs

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Advertising surrounds us and comes at us from every angle. We are inundated all day by interesting/annoying messages designed to tug at our emotions and coax us into purchasing something. Take holiday and fitness advertising. More often than not, both are concocted of contrived platitudes wrapped in a seductively sincere candy coating. I don’t mean to be a grinch or overly negative, but rather I’m trying to see through the haze of flimsey, manipulative nonsense.

Christmas ads for diamonds (aka shiny dirt) and gift-wrapped luxury cars suggest in serious tones that these trinkets are the ultimate expressions of love and devotion. The message: “If you really love her/him, you’ll spend lots of money on this thing that sits there.”

Materialism disguised as love.

Fitness-related messages are similarly emotional and ubiquitous. From running to weights to yoga, pilates, and obstacle races, social media feeds are chock-full with soaring inspirational messages to Just Do It, Find Your Bliss, Pain is Weakness Leaving the Body and all sorts of sappy garbage that I try to ignore—because unicorns, fairy tales, and magic happy miracles aren’t real!

Let me calm down… If you thrive on messages like this then fine.

These messages don’t run to my taste because I find them shallow and dishonest. They imply a quick-fix approach to fitness and health. We are a short-attention-span, soundbite culture that rejects the long-term, patient view of the steady hard work that’s crucial for excellence. My role as a trainer and writer is to dispel some of the misinformation that’s out there and speak honestly about health and fitness.

With all that in mind, two recent articles are worth a look.

Running Sucks Sometimes—And That’s OK comes from running coach David Roche. David and his wife Megan are both successful, experienced runners and coaches. They know of what they speak. David discusses the idealized social media version of running:

“Let’s start this article with an assignment: open Instagram and click on the ‘Search’ button. What do you see? To start, you probably see at least a few mostly naked people. It is the internet, after all.

In addition, if the almighty algorithms think you are a runner, you’ll probably get photos and videos of people running with glorious form, on glorious trails, with gloriously big smiles. The captions? You guessed it . . . glorious.

“The perfect day…”

“Running is amazing…”

“I owe it all to [insert brand here]…”

“If we programmed a computer to use machine learning to understand running via social media, it’d probably think running was a mostly perfect, amazing activity. #brand #brandmotto. I am guilty, too—it’s just how social media works. No one wants to hear about your heavy legs and sore feet. It’s a highlight reel by design.”

Roche observes the ugly truth of running, something that every runner both new and old has experienced: Running ain’t always a bag of fried rainbows.

“Even if you do everything right, training consistently and intelligently for years on end, running will still suck sometimes. I’d guess 10 percent of my runs feel rather unpleasant, down from 30 percent when I had been running for a few years (and 100 percent when I first started). Not only is that okay, it’s an essential part of the adaptation process.

“If you felt perfect all the time, you’d probably be selling yourself short in training, not pushing your limits at all. So embrace the suck. It’s something we all share, even if we don’t always share it on Instagram.”

The article normalizes the reality of running and points out that even the best runners don’t always love it. (BTW, you could sub the word “running” for cycling, swimming, weights, or any number of athletic and non-athletic activities.) Roche gives practical advice on adopting the right mindset when the going gets tough. I most appreciate his discussion on how to mentally process the discomfort of a hard run. We can change our perception of pain and exertion.

“Solution: aim to perceive discomfort as a neutral observer. Yes, it’s uncomfortable, but no, you don’t have to stop. And when you let yourself document it, running-induced discomfort actually isn’t that bad at all.”

Alex Hutchinson makes similar observations in this Wall St. Journal article titled The Mental Tricks of Endurance Performance. This process of perception is a crucial component of endurance performance. I use this process in my own workouts and it makes a difference. Definitely, read both articles if you want to change your relationship with exertion.

The second article is titled What Lies Behind Every “Breakthrough” Performance. It’s from Brad Stulberg at Outsideonline.com. He examines the underpinnings of sudden breakthrough performances. The reality is that sudden breakthroughs are built on consistent hard work and gradual progress.

Stulberg quotes habit researcher and writer James Clear:

“Breakthrough moments are often the result of many previous actions, which build up the potential required to unleash a major change,” says Clear, who researches and runs workshops on habit development. The problem: “People make a few small changes, fail to see a tangible result, and decide to stop. Once this kind of thinking takes over, it’s easy to let good habits fall by the wayside.”

The message here isn’t just applicable to athletics. It applies to any type of work from writing, to music, to painting—probably to preparing taxes.

“A similar path to progress happens in other endeavors. A recent study published in the journal Nature found that while most people have a ‘hot streak’ in their career—‘a specific period during which an individual’s performance is substantially better than his or her typical performance,’ the timing is somewhat unpredictable. ‘The hot streak emerges randomly within an individual’s sequence of works, is temporally localized, and is not associated with any detectable change in productivity,’ the authors write. But one thing just about every hot streak has in common? They rest on a foundation of prior work, during which observable improvement was much less substantial.”

Essentially, the article extols the virtues and necessity of punch-the-clock work, work that isn’t transcendent or worthy of soaring language. The bread of performance is buttered with these types of workouts.