WHETHER OR NOT YOU ARE CONCERNED* WITH DIETARY INTAKE of essential and non-essential polyunsaturated fatty acids, (PUFA) you may have encountered the hype surrounding this nutritional issue. The simplified bottom line over the past few decades has been that “Omega-3’s” are good and “6’s” are not.
Thus, consumption of foods and supplements rich in omega-3 fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) like fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines) and plant seeds (flaxseeds and chia seeds) has been promoted to improve cardiovascular health.
Because foods that most commonly show up in our Western diets as the biggest sources of omega-6 fatty acids include snacks and other highly processed convenience/junk foods, rich sources of calories and fats in general, the 6’s have been considered the type of fats to avoid.
What’s worse is the reputation difference between 3’s and 6’s in terms of inflammation potential. Omega 3’s have been cast as anti-inflammatory heroes; omega 6’s have been labeled as pro-inflammatory villains. This is an important distinction because long term, low-level, systemic (body-wide rather than localized) inflammation is known to be behind the development of many chronic conditions including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, neuro-degeneration, and cancer.
As a former dietitian all this information seemed to logically support the simple “3’s are good” and “6’s are bad” labels. That is, until I realized that “healthy” olive oil of Mediterranean Diet fame, is low in Omega-3 and high in monounsaturated and omega-9 fatty acids (another PUFA). And when scientific articles began to appear in my regular email updates from the NIH Library of Medicine that nuts and seeds should be increased in our diets, especially walnuts. Nuts and seeds are high in fat, and many are rich sources of omega-6 fatty acids. What?
[Before continuing further, a definition is in order. All PUFA molecules have a side chain comprised of multiple carbon atoms. The carbon atoms in the chain are connected to each other, joined by a single or “saturated”, carbon-to-carbon bond or a double, “unsaturated” C-C bond. PUFAs have many (poly) unsaturated bonds; saturated fats have, well, saturated single bonds. The Omega-3 PUFAs have one of their carbon-to carbon double bonds in the three position (third from the end of the chain). The Omega-6 PUFAs have one of their double/unsaturated bonds in the six position (sixth from the end).]
Searching and reading for better understanding on this issue, I learned that the ratio of intake of the different omega’s to each other also effects health. Researchers think that early humans evolved consuming a ratio of about 1:1 (omega-3 to omega-6) fats, and experienced lower levels of lifestyle-related heart disease and diabetes than modern humans. Our Western diets typically provide a whopping 1:16-20 ratio of omega-3 to omega-6!!!
I knew, in addition, that the story is complicated by the fact that excess adipose tissue in our bodies also generates inflammation. So, by ingesting the many calories contained in “bad 6’s” snack food fats, we tend to make more calorie storage (adipose or fat) cells that increase our risk of living in the harmful state of chronic inflammation for decades.
My take was that it is best to strive to consume a 1:1 (omega 3: omega 6) ratio by:
-decreasing my intake of excessive junk omega-6 fats that would add inflammatory adipose tissue (fat cells)
-substituting them with healthier omega-6 rich nuts and seeds, especially walnuts
-and adding more omega 3’s in whole foods
I thought my mental game approach to the 3’s and 6’s was in place and ready to put into practice. However, recently I happened across a relatively short August 2019 Harvard Health Bulletin article that called into question the pro-inflammatory influence of omega-6 fats.
The piece indicates that an American Heart Association (AHA) advisory committee, ”two years in the making”, believes that intake of dietary omega-6s benefits cardiovascular health. And that research has debunked the charge that most omega-6 Linolenic Acid (LA) is converted to precursor molecules (arachidonic acid) that promote inflammation.
Other newer scientific articles also seem to shift away from making blanket statements labeling omega-6’s as pro-inflammatory but less clearly and boldly.
This change in perspective is best explained in the Harvard Health piece, “No Need to Avoid Healthy Mega-6 Fats”, the reason for this blog post. To me it’s almost a 180-degree turnaround from what has been preached by academic nutritionists and seconded by amateur experts. I expect to see more reversals as researchers shift approaches to the study of human nutrition and disease.
My personal healthy-fat-intake strategy (outlined above) won’t be drastically changed because of learning of this new viewpoint, but my reading of the literature going forward will be altered. I’ll be looking to learn of other attitude shifts in the scientific community toward dietary fats, including saturated fat, especially in dairy foods. In the future, other foods that were considered harmful may be found to be helpful in promoting health, when taken in context of how much is ingested, especially relative to what else is eaten.
*Why does this matter to athletes? Because our dietary choices should be informed rather than misinformed, so that our good exercise habits aren’t negated by poor nutrition habits but rather boosted by them. It’s a shame to avoid foods and snacks that we find help us perform during and recover after athletic efforts if we mistakenly think they are “bad.” Hopefully manufacturers will take note and offer new and improved products.
Check out the Harvard article for a nicely written explanation of why the “6’s” don’t need to be avoided but balanced with “3’s” closer to a 1:1 ratio than a 20:1 ratio, and which sources of each are best.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
GETTING OUT EACH MORNING, DAY, OR EVENING TO RUN OR WALK COMES NATURALLY TO THOSE WHO LOVE THESE FORMS OF EXERCISE. However, most of us can benefit from at least one to two days off a week for the purpose of injury prevention. Cross training can be a way to reduce the risk of bodily harm due to overuse.
According to an article, "6 Ways Cycling Will Help You Be a Better Runner" by Rick Prince posted by podiumrunner.com, riding, both outside and indoors, not only helps avoid this problem but can actually improve running performance.
The piece explains why cycling can improve running (and surely walking too). The paragraph headings relate how this exercise:
-Mimics (running) Movement
-Strengthens Calf Muscles
-Strengthens Shin Muscles
-Engages the Core
-Builds the Aerobic Engine
-Boosts Anerobic Systems
If not certain how to properly cycle-cross train to help your running (or walking) performance, the next article (it follows the Prince piece after a number of ads…just keep scrolling down) by Jonathon Beverly provides an indoor cycling workout for this purpose. Beverly’s expert on the topic, Tom Miller PhD, outlines ‘The Standing Hill Interval Training’ session he uses in his coaching and personal life.
Miller’s credentials are impressive. The article indicates he’s won the 75-79 year age group in “two of the last three Xterra Trail Running National and World Championships”.
Enough said; I’m in.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
[THIS UPDATED VERSION WAS INITIALLY POSTED IN 2017. Read it this year if you haven't yet done so. Regardless of intentions to participate in an upcoming November holiday event, both runners and walkers may learn why training on a regulation track may help reach a variety of PHYSICAL ACTIVITY goals in the remainder of this year and the next.]
"IT'S YOUR MOVE! Consider training for a Thanksgiving Day Race in 2021. Unlike 2020 in which the majority of such activities were virtual, there’s a chance that this year most will be held as in-person, real-time events.
CHECK OUT the Earned Runs 2021 Turkey Trot Training Plans for runners and walkers (see PDF links below or RESOURCES page). Each is designed to help first-timers prepare to participate in one of the many Thanksgiving Day events that are likely this year to be held across the USA. Not much has changed from the 2020 plans except that they are a week longer. As before, runners have the option of training on a 400-meter track one day a week.
The first day of each plan is this upcoming Monday, September 13, 2021. There are a few days before a decision must be made to participate and start training. If it’s a “go”, jump right in and perform the first day’s scheduled workout, letting that experience help you commit to the full 10+ weeks leading to November 25. The running plan was adapted from one developed by Mario Fraioli for Competitor.com (now organized as PodiumRunner.com a part of Outside). The walker plan was adapted from plans offered free online by Hal Higdon.
The fact that the Fraioli 5K running plan had a track day scheduled each week was one of the reasons it was selected by Earned Runs for beginners. The TRACK DAY option provides motivation to find a regulation track and take advantage of the potential benefits to be gained from feeling comfortable using one to train. The following is an updated explanation for this choice that was initially posted in 2017.
“Why TRACK DAYS?”
A TRACK IS A TYPE OF FITNESS EQUIPMENT
Many beginning or would-be runners and walkers, may not have ever run, trained, or walked on a standard track. They may not know where the nearest or most accessible high school, college, or community facility is located. It may seem to be a training site that is off bounds to them, and more appropriately used by younger or more ‘serious’ athletes, who are fast, highly competitive, and in top physical shape.
In my experience as a recreational walker/runner, there are three characteristics that make a track an essential piece of equipment that all runners and walkers should learn to consider a training ‘home’.
A track is MEASURED, SAFE, and ATHLETIC.
Specific distance assignments in a plan can be difficult to mentally assess for those accustomed to ‘just running’ or 'just walking' rather than training, especially over shorter rather than longer stretches. A GPS-assisted device can be used to chart a course in miles or kilometers but it requires repeatedly checking that device to be precise with shorter distances.
Visually marking exact distances by this method to avoid such device-checking is problematic too, as rarely are there memorable physical features at needed points to help recall the start and end of a set distance. (“Which tree marks 400 meters?”). If a training plan calls for varying distances the measurement difficulties are compounded.
A standard track lap or fraction of a lap is a limited distance that looks the same every time you run or walk it. Memorizing a series of landmarks isn’t required to determine the exact distance run or walked. Mentally, a standard track is nearly effortless to use.
The track’s straight lengths are easily distinguished from the curved ends, each of which which can be employed for quick successive changes in pace. The time it takes to cover specific distances is relatively easy to measure on a watch or mobile device. I've found that using a track regularly for training helps my body develop a ‘memory’ for different distances.
Safety is a life quality that has several dimensions: training safety, weather safety, endurance safety, traffic safety..
Training: A running surface can be more or less safe from a training injury prevention perspective, especially when workouts will be performed at higher speeds or in adverse weather conditions. A running track used for competition tends to be even, consistent, textured, slightly cushioned, and appropriately drained. This type of surface, designed for officially certified events, is more likely than others to be safe for running faster-paced, precise intervals.
Weather: Your regular road or trail running course may offer various degrees of protection from harsh elements, depending on the potential for exposure to extreme environmental conditions. Or it can leave you far from protective shelter when weather conditions are expected to deteriorate over the duration of a single long workout.
On days in which the atmosphere might be hotter, colder, windier, or wetter than is desirable for performance or health, a track session may be the top safety pick. Although running or walking multiple loops of a neighborhood street course has been my preferred approach on such days, a track will do nicely when one is not readily available.
On the toughest weather days, a track may beat a street course because supportive gear can be made more accessible. Hydrating fluids, nutrition, and dry, cooling or warming clothes can be stowed in a bag and left in full view at the edge of the track on bleacher seats, only a single lap away, or in a nearby parked car.
Endurance: When a runner/walker is uncertain about being able to complete a given workout in its entirety, especially if longer or more difficult than previously experienced, the track can be a great place to safely test individual limits of endurance. You aren't as likely to find yourself miles from the end of tougher than expected finish during a never-before attempted session.
Traffic: Personal safety in traffic is another concern of outdoor runners and walkers. Compared to busier urban thoroughfares, a track open only to foot traffic poses minimal to no risk of bodily harm from accidents caused by faster moving vehicles. Especially now that dedicated lanes near the street curb have been marked off for the use of bicycling commuters, rush hour exercise requires environmental awareness of all traffic dangers including those related to poor visibility in lowlight conditions.
Some runners and walkers prefer isolated paths or suburban and country roads for avoidance of crowds. However, in cases of emergency these are places where the likelihood of receiving timely assistance from passers-by is diminished. A track can also be unsafe if in an area that is poorly lighted, out of the sight of others, or without security monitoring. Checkout the active.com article by Lauren Hargrave, which provides personal safety tips for runners.
Performing a workout on a track is one way for beginners to feel and act like the athletes they aspire to become. Acquiring this mental attitude will help a runner or walker persevere in the tougher training regimens and possibly to adopt healthier eating and sleeping habits.
The track is also a user-friendly place to perform pre-run dynamic stretching and mobility routines and to get in post-run static stretches as well as body-weight strength exercises (step-ups and step-downs, plank variations, and push-ups, etc) on benches and stairs. Holding to the rule that you cannot start the running/walking portion of the workout or depart from the premises before completing necessary routines increases the chances they will NOT be skipped.
In some races the finish line is located on a track and the very last portion of the race includes a partial lap. Performing some workouts on a track can help beginners to visualize a successful goal race finish.
Despite the encouragement of Earned Runs, the track may not be a desirable place to train for some. The Track Day Schedule identifies the approximate distances that should be run that day to help you accomplish the session goals without utilizing a track.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
RUNNERS PLAN FREE PDF
WALKERS PLAN FREE PDF
2017 TRACK DAY SCHEDULE
2017 Mintues to Miles calculations
PREVIEW THE RUNNING AND WALKING training plans for 2021 if you are interested in participating this year. Last November many traditional races were cancelled or held as virtual events. The usual atmosphere of community and celebration was missing though, because we were fearful and mostly prevented from gathering in large groups by local rulings.
Hopefully this autumn will mark the return of in-person organized events. Even though previously many may not have wanted to join in such festivities, perhaps this year participation will be viewed differently.
For me the change in viewpoint led to enabling inclusion of neighbors to the north of Michigan in training plans for a Thanksgiving Day event, which in the USA falls in late November. Ever since our (sadly departed) Newfoundland pup’s 1995 travel itinerary to the USA was changed to accommodate the breeder’s wish to celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving Day with her family, I’ve taken note of their national celebration in October each year. In 2021 it falls on Monday the 11th.
The earlier date Canadian holiday has a longer history than that of the United States observation, partly because it reflects the different growing season and harvest period. Having visited and dined in Quebec, Ontario, and British Columbia provinces in Canada, there’s no doubt it’s an amazing day of gathering and feasting! [I’m especially eager to again enjoy the cuisine of La Malbaie in the Charlevoix -Est district of Quebec]
Unfortunately, this post and the plans are not as early as they should be to allow a full 10-week training period, so abbreviated Canadian Thanksgiving day RUN and WALK plans are posted on the RESOURCES page as of today. Perhaps some to the north will start now and then continue to follow afterward with the Turkey Trot schedules.
A separate posting will describe the 5K RUN and WALK Turkey Trot plans in detail, designed to prepare for the USA November date. Because Thanksgiving is a traditional holiday anywhere in the world it is celebrated, the Earned Runs training plans are traditional as well. They have not changed much over the years, nor have the blog posts. But the notion that we are potentially able to return to our “same old” seasonal observances warms my heart.
Check out the “same old” Earned Runs Turkey Trot plans and the new shortened Canadian plans and think about making room in the upcoming weeks and months to prepare for joining friends, family, and neighbors in local events.
Like the return of pumpkin spice lattes and other similarly seasoned beverages and items on coffee shop menus each year, perhaps the beginning of Turkey Trot training will conjure up cozy autumn scenes and fond remembrances.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
THE NATURE PYRAMID; WILDERNESS RX
THE INTRODUCTORY SENTENCES of Michael Easter’s article for menshealth.com, “The 20-5-3 Rule Prescribes How Much Time To Spend Outdoors”, might stop some readers in their tracks or cause them to turn and run for cover. Experiencing extreme nature is not my thing and I nearly clicked off the site immediately. I had pictured an Rx that might call for walks along the beach or snowshoe sessions In the nearby state park, not excursions to the wilds of Alaska facing wild caribou.
However, by the time I reached the fifth paragraph I was convinced this piece had useful information. Easter consulted a neuroscientist who provided her expert opinion on how to understand the human need and requirement for time in the natural world. Dr. Rachel Hopman used the concept of a “nature pyramid”, likening it to the food pyramid, to help conceptualize how much time of each level of natural world exposure is best for our health.
Easter details her three prescribed time segments: 20 minutes for 3 times per week in outdoor nature setting like a city park; 5 hours a month in a semi-wild environment like a state park; and 3 days per year in the wilderness. The wilder the better the PhD expert recommended, with phones turned off in each setting to avoid negating the affects of such sessions.
The article introduced new perspectives about nature’s benefits to those who enter wild spaces without the distractions of technology. To learn about the state of “soft fascination” that humans enter and our engulfment in “fractals” in the outdoors check out the full story!
[Hopman’s explanation of fractals, design patterns of “organized chaos” that can be seen in the way trees branch, clouds form, and mountain ranges are scaled, jogged a childhood memory. I recalled viewing the outdoors through prescription eyeglasses for the very first time. In the 4th grade, I could suddenly make out individual leaves on trees, rather than see them as uniform areas of greenery on the tops of brown tree trunks. To this day I remember the joy of this experience. Since then, until this day, as soon as single tree leaf outlines begin to blur, I know it is time for a lens change and a visit to the ophthalmalogist.]
What if the prescribed times and experiences are beyond practical reach? Remember that researchers attempt to find differences between control and study populations. The cut-off times that might be expected to result in benefits versus no benefits from wild nature setting experiences are their best guesses based on the data collected. It's possible that less time will still boost our health and wellbeing.
My take is that now, when outdoors, I should attempt to maximize each experience, being careful to see the design patterns, hear the sounds, and breathe in the scents of the surrounding natural elements; and feel the weather too at those times. To try immersing my senses in all that the outdoor “wilderness” is delivering at the moment.
Perhaps a heightened, conscious enjoyment of nature during outdoor sessions will fully nurture mind, body, and spirit, even if the number of minutes, hours, and days falls short of the current recommended prescription.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
AT A CERTAIN AGE PEOPLE TEND TO TALK ABOUT STAIRS as if they were the worst feature a house could possess. The living situation of have “everything on one floor” is oftentimes described as the ideal by 50+ year aged adults.
Laundry rooms in new construction homes are placed on the ground/main floor to attract buyers who aspire to this living standard. Only guest bedrooms are permitted to occupy a lower walk-out level. Mostly this view appears to be held by adults who wish to downscale from larger family residences once gown children have moved away into their own dwellings. The one-level living-space floor design seems especially important for those who aspire to relocate to a distant retirement spot.
Or so it seems to me, having entered that demographic years ago. I’ve never heard a “hot” home on the market described in terms that gush about this feature, as in: “it has multiple levels and stairs, stairs, and even more stairs”.
However living in a home that requires frequent stair climbing, with many opportunities to do so each day may have health benefits. Not just once a week level-changing to perform laundry chores, but stair climbing that is built into many daily routines, like selection of clothing from an upstairs bedroom closet or chest of drawers, retrieval of food items or cooking utensils from a basement pantry, and access to and from transportation in a lower-level garage.
Populations have been identified with low rates of chronic disease who live longer than anywhere else in the world. They reside in certain geographic areas designated as “Blue Zones”. Much of the good health of these BZ inhabitants is thought due to their diets and active lifestyles, with only about 20-30% due to gene inheritance. Author Dan Beuttner wrote about 5 specific Blue Zones, in his book of the same name, that are home to the world’s oldest people: a region in Sardinia (Italy), Icaria (Greece), Okinawa (Japan), the Nicoyan Peninsula (Costa Rica), and Loma Linda, California (USA).
Blue Zone people tend to live in island locations with hilly or mountainous terrain and few if any formal fitness centers. A study that sampled men of Sardinia showed their long lives were predicted by the “amount of distance walked and stories climbed each day”, according to an article in Healthline.com.
Results from a 12+ year-long study of male Harvard Alumni aged 60-71.6 years found that that habitual stair climbing could contribute to lowered mortality from all causes. The study, in which participants self-reported the number of floors climbed per week as well as other physical activity, could not find a link between the number of stories ascended and lowered deaths from cardiovascular disease (CVD). The authors theorized the results reflected early signs of fraility from CVD that prevented this activity.
Which brings up the point that to be able to climb stairs or scale steep slopes throughout the entire day with vigor, a person must be healthy. Thus, regular stair climbing is perhaps a habit that must be adopted early in life if it is to be continued into later life, and that effort must be made to remain strong enough, when possible, to retain this capability.
Whether stair climbing is truly a method of extending longevity and health or rather a sign of health that allows a longer, functional life, you might wish to take advantage of your own in-house flights. That’s according to an article posted by the Mayo Clinic, “Step It Up: Seven Quick Stair Exercises to Do at Home”.
A more challenging leg strength workout is offered by trailrunnermag.com in the “Three Minute Mountain Legs” routine authored by David Roche. The embedded YouTube video demonstrates two simple exercises, the Single-Leg Rear Lunge (20-50 per leg) and Single-Leg Step Ups (30-100 per leg). Because each is performed on one leg, balance will be improved over time too. The article suggests holding on to a railing or side support at first but indicates that hip strength increases can permit unsupported movements with continued training. As the trainer remarks in the video, these moves are tougher than they seem!
Homes with stairs can be seen as disadvantageous living quarters and avoided. Or potentially they might also be recruited early in life to function as built-in pieces of gym equipment and ultimately assist over time with healthy “aging in place”.
Check out the stair climbing exercise and Blue Zone articles to investigate further.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
REMEMBERING WHY TO KEEP GOING
“REMEMBERING WHY” AND “KEEP GOING " QUOTES: “Whatever it was”, Amanda Brooks writes in her email newsletter “Run To The Finish”, that motivated runners to take “that first step and keep going”, sometimes we need help remembering it, when we lose sight of that reason and the heart to continue.
Runners and non-runners who work to improve performance and health through physical activity and training might find inspiration from the words of others. Especially when enthusiasm dips, progress stalls, and meeting such goals seem less achievable.
Although Brooks’ newsletter post provides multiple offerings in several categories, which include Marathon Training; Personal Growth; Keep Going; and Remembering Why, readers don’t need to be to runners or training for a marathon to discover a saying that’s personally up lifting.
I liked Meb Keflezighi’s perspective on running, found in the “Remembering Why“ category. “Most of us have enough areas in our lives where we have to meet others’ expectations. Let your running be about your own hopes and dreams,” the great Olympic marathoner urges.
My barrier to fulfilling running hopes and dreams is avoidance of non-running work. I have no problem getting out and running; it’s support work that I put off, even though doing so can be a dream ending habit. Part of the problem is that the consequences of neglecting important training program components like strength training, balance work, and recovery activities aren’t experienced immediately. Instead, barely perceptible discomforts sneak into legs and hips, core, and even shoulders after months or even weeks. These physical twinges are signaling that risk of sidelining injury is increasing. In the past I would ignore them and suffer a setback. Now I know it’s wisest to back off and take a break.
But recurrent running breaks, cycles of stopping and re-starting to prevent injury, are motivation killers when they interrupt a many-months-long training program designed to prepare for a specific goal event.
I have learned, after experiencing a variety of soft tissue problems (almost anything doesn’t involve an injury to bone), that the way to avoid such preventative cycling is to faithfully perform non-running work. To be smart about enjoying the fun of running while embracing the training that safely allows it. To find inspiration to perform the grit-your-teeth-and get-it done sessions that keep me on track for success. But easier said than done!!!
Right now, I’m training to complete a 26.3-mile distance in the FIRST EVER VIRTUAL Boston Marathon. In 2021 the famed footrace of elites is scheduled to be held in October rather than April and to include a field of virtual runners, including me, who don’t qualify by time but by merely paying a registration fee.
It’s a so very exciting yet scary opportunity, as the calendar change is a big hurdle. For me, cold weather training for a spring race is physically far easier than hot weather training for one in the autumn. And socially easier too; the winter is a more isolating and quiet time, during which adhering to a strict exercise and nutrition program is less difficult. Summertime means vacations, visits from loved ones, and weekend gatherings. Marathon preparation programs in which progressively longer mileage sessions and their accompanying physical demands build week by week are not much fun. In this summer season full of fun temptations abound to stray and break from the rigid regimen.
But participating in this year’s virtual Boston race will be the closest I will ever, ever come to completing the real iconic annual event. I signed up as soon as registration opened because there was no way I wanted to miss it. Adhering to the marathon training program is crucial in these few months prior to race day, October 11
When Amanda Brooks’ newsletter article arrived by email, I hoped it would include a much-needed inspirational boost. It did. Meb’s encouragement was a reminder that the 2021 Virtual Boston Marathon provides me with a one-time chance to race “Boston”. And that to be healthy to run it, I’ll need to train wisely to find my own way to success, avoiding breaks by adhering to a sound non-running workout schedule.
I also need to face the possibility I won’t be ready on race day. Adapting a schedule to one that enables slower progression to longer mileage weeks in August-September-October and allows greater recovery time (like Meb suggests for older runners) could mean it won’t be safe to cover the marathon distance on that exact calendar date of the premiere New England event. Quite possibly (oh no!!!) my race day will be a week or more later.
This is the tough decision that Keflezighi’s quote will hopefully guide me to make when the time comes, to follow my dream of completing this virtual marathon yet not trying to meet others’ expectations of doing so on the official day. I’m almost embarrassed to admit contemplating this move. Every other virtual participant will be planning to run on THE DAY, along with the rest of the real field of runners.
However, in my heart I am with the rest of the field EVERY DAY during these training months and that form of comradery will need to suffice if I am to avoid sidelining injury and be well enough to go the distance.
Another quote, from Amby Burfoot in the “Keep Going” category in the Brooks’ piece, was a reminder that my struggle with difficult workouts and recovery efforts, specifically non-running training, of necessity will be an integral part of the accomplishment. “Winning has nothing to do with racing. Most days don’t have races anyway. Winning is about struggle and effort and optimism, and never, ever, ever giving up.”
Struggle on with your challenge, whatever it is, and believe that with “effort and optimism,” it will bring a personal win. Perhaps you’ll find inspiring and encouraging quotes in Brooks piece to help you through your struggle.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
YIKES! It’s been nearly 4 months since the last EARNED RUNS post. What happened?
Well…. life. In 2020 and the early months of 2021, instead of being able to focus on fitness challenges, our world has had to contend with the unprecedented challenge of fighting a rapidly spreading and deadly infectious disease. Before this time, we may have encountered the word “pandemic” in a movie, game, or book title, not as one that described an event that suddenly governed how we lived, day by day.
Fortunately, since the problem was identified in the winter of 2020, astounding advances in medical science, the work of brilliant researchers, and the dedicated efforts of health specialists, governments, and ordinary everyday ‘heroes’ across the globe, have led to the development, production, and administration of vaccines that can slow and potentially halt disease transmission.
Perhaps we may be able to envision a return to a more normal life, albeit with changed perspectives. However, even as this post is being readied for uploading, increasing concerns of continued infection means such optimism may be premature. It’s still a wait and see situation.
Despite continued worries, Earned Runs will work to slowly get back on track over the remainder of the summer of 2021 with regular postings. The outlook will be tempered by the experience of the pandemic, but hopeful, urging a resumption or initiation of athletic physical activity to balance lives that may have been unsettled by uncertainty, anxiety, and precaution-taking. Such activity may possibly help to heal the small and large hurts suffered over the past months. Whether striving to meet self-determined goals or competing with others to improve fitness and performance, these are manageable challenges unlike those we faced these past, long, dark months.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
Runners, finally, on the last day of Week 14 training you proved you have what it takes to run 13 miles! But you’ll run it easy, with stops as needed. Walkers, you did it at the end of Week 15. Both groups are essentially ready to go the distance in competition now.
These plans extend for 18 rather than 16 weeks to allow safe preparation, include a generous taper, and provide a little wiggle room to allow for minor training setbacks or other circumstances that prevent continuous training according to plan. The Earned Runs programs initial intention was to bring runners and walkers to their organized half marathon events’ starting lines in late April through mid-May.
However, because of COVID-19 pandemic precautions continuing from 2020 into 2021, many half marathons are likely to again be postponed, cancelled, or converted to virtual format. There may be no need to taper through week 17 or 18! The taper is built into the schedule to help prevent injury and to boost performance under actual race conditions. If your race is personal or aimed at achieving a ‘soft’ record, there’s no reason to put it off.
On the third Monday in April, the 19th of 2021, we should have been able to enjoy TV coverage of the 125th Boston Marathon. [It has again been re-scheduled in the fall and will take place on October 11.] Earned Runs usually advises runners to watch TV coverage and take note of the leaders’ running forms.
Their heads would have been up, chests out, torsos tall and erect, shoulders loose and down, with elbows rhythmically pulled back. If it was possible to count the number of steps taken per 15 seconds (multiply by 4 to get steps/minute) to calculate cadence, you might have counted a number greater than 180, possibly up to 200.
You would have had a chance to compare your form with that of the elites.
When I had been advised to do this by a trainer to correct my form, I scoffed at the idea. I wasn’t an elite, was my thinking, so why run like one? I am a plodder, with a pace about 2.5 times greater than the best in the world. It would be pretentious!
But I followed the advice and started to check out running form on all images, including magazine covers, ads, and online articles. All the pros displayed similar form. Athletes who dedicate their efforts 24/7 to being the best runners in the world and building professional running careers that span decades don’t adopt a certain form to look pretty in pictures; they do it to be fast and prevent sidelining injuries. I wanted to be fast and avoid injuries too, so tried to model my form on that of the elites, just like Coach instructed.
There are other components to good form running. See the chart from New Balance on the RESOURCES page to refresh your memory. The secret to maintaining it throughout a long run is to build core, upper body, hip, leg and strength in training. The form for walking fast, but not race walking, is somewhat similar.
I find that the greatest source of fatigue at the end of 13.1 miles comes from having a tired back, core, and arms. Which means there’s more work to do to become stronger in these areas.
An additional benefit is that this work will translate into a more athletic posture.
Those who counted on competing in an organized long-distance event, now postponed or cancelled, have been given extra time to work on strength, posture, and form. Summer and fall will hopefully bring an end to COVID-19 confinement, and perhaps we all will be stronger and better prepared to experience the joy of competing.
Congratulations on finishing 13 miles!
There’s not much to do this week, as you are on the glide path to your half marathon race. Don’t overdo the long run at the end of the week. You want to be prepared and fresh for the race.
An extra foam rolling session is scheduled next week for runners and walkers, but either/both can add extra sessions anytime. It can be a full or an abbreviated session. Use it to roll out sore and stiff spots any day of the week.
If you are tempted to introduce new nutrition, shoes, gear, or apparel into your race preparations, be careful. Most experts would advise against making changes. There isn’t much time to truly test a new fuel strategy. Also, the runs/walks are not as demanding as earlier in the plan and can’t serve as adequate trials of new food or gear items for use on race day.
New spring fashion upgrades can serve as zero-calorie rewards for following through on your commitment to train and finish a goal race! Enjoy them AFTER crossing the finish line.
If you have not yet found an organized virtual race to run or walk, or plans have collapsed, consider pinning on an Earned Runs bib to be sure you meet the challenge of running or walking the half marathon for which you trained. Don’t let circumstances deter you from reaching your goal race! Request a set of bibs today to keep one in reserve, “just in case”.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
WEEK 12: Runners and walkers, your long-distance workout extended into double digits last week (week 12), and next two-three long runs will build to a peak at week 14 for runners and week 15 for walkers when you will cover the longest distances of your training plans Can you believe yourself? Wow! This calls for a celebration - AND A FOAM ROLL.
You might consider performing an abbreviated foam rolling session on the areas that tend to bother you BEFORE running or walking, and a full session afterward. You can foam roll the next day as well, if still feeling a bit sore.
The bit of advice about pre-run foam rolling was provided by a trainer who at the time, was coaching a championship high school cross country team. Tim Broe now heads training at Saucony™ shoes company's Freedom Track Club, which is dedicated to developing Olympic running hopefuls. Pre-session foam rolling is not a practice prescribed only for oldsters or newbies.
Congratulations for all the progress made this far.
WEEK 13: Runners: your long run this week is the distance that some half marathon plans stop: 12 miles. Walker plans often stop at 10 miles.
Both Earned Runs plans have you going farther.
The why of this training tactic requires the telling of a bit of personal history.
Because of a sudden change in late September 2012 weather that brought dangerous conditions including downpours of cold rain, showers of hail, thunder, lightning, and high winds, officials closed the very first half marathon in which I participated.
The decision had been made mid-race for me, which meant the fleetest of the lead group were nearing the finish line and shelter of the gathering space church auditorium. I found myself being encouraged by race personnel to stop and leave the course, roughly at the 6.5-mile mark, the farthest possible point from my car, safety, and warm dry clothes. I was determined to finish, not to call for help and a ride.
In spite of beautiful and mild weather conditions pre-race, I had had a tiny fear that I might not make it to the finish line. My confidence received a small boost upon overhearing other first-time half marathoners, next to me in the starting chute, worry about their training. They had covered 12 miles on their longest training run, as instructed by a trainer but weren't sure of that last 1.1 miles. I had accomplished the exact distance, 13.1 miles and then tapered 2 weeks.
I didn’t ever learn their finish time or in what physical condition they were at the race’s end, or whether the 12-mile prep strategy worked for them in such terrible weather. However, I felt that my resolve to push through to the cold, wet finish had been cemented by that 13.1- mile training experience. I had done it before and could do it again, I knew.
Unfortunately, official times weren't recorded for me or any other finishers after the race was called. But the ordeal was so memorable for everyone involved that in addition to the official half marathon race shirt the next year, an additional ‘survivor’ t-shirt was also made available, marking that event. Indeed, we were proud survivors!
Thus, the Earned Runs plans have runners and walkers reaching 13 miles and then tapering for a couple weeks. Those who wish to make it exactly 13.1 miles, for mental training, go for it! If your race date is a week earlier, shorten your taper by one week.
So, you’ll keep on keeping on with the Earned Runs plans in order to hopefully acquire both mental and physical insurance that finishing your race is entirely possible, especially if the going gets tough on race day.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
See the RESOURCES page for FOAM ROLLING links, including "5 Minute Warm-up With A Foam Roller " by Shane Barnard for Under Armor's MyFitnessPal.com.
WEEK 10 & 11: HALF MARATHON 2021
WEEK 10 HALF MARATHON 2020 Training Plan You officially entered the second half of the plan during the 10th week. Congratulations for making it this far! There are no more ‘tune-up’ races after the completion of a St. Patrick’s Day-themed 10K event. You are now looking ahead toward your goal half marathon event.
Remember it’s especially important to foam roll before, after, or before AND after covering high mileage workouts, and perform the other warm-up and cool-down routines. Continue with strength work to prevent injury and help improve endurance.
Hopefully, if you were outdoors during the long run of WEEK 10 this past weekend you took note and were able to enjoy the first day of Spring on March 20. The songbirds may be starting to return to your region. I was amazed to hear a few scattered sweet tunes over a month ago. Over the following weeks there have been increasingly more tweeting and chirping bird voices especially just before dawn.
For me, having the silence of winter broken in this way is reason to rejoice and motivation to get out before or just after daybreak. Consider foregoing listening to music playlists to enjoy this special spring and summer experience.
[*NOTE: to learn more about birdsong, Birdwatchersdigest.com has a free download that may be helpful.
WEEK 11 HALF MARATHON 2021 TRAINING PLAN You should be settling into a rhythm by now, but you’ll notice a few changes on the horizon.
The WALK schedule includes the usual 1 short ‘easy’ walk + 2 longer ‘easy’ walks + 1 long ‘brisk’ walk. The 1 high intensity interval training (HIIT) on Thursdays is now bumped to a duration of 36 minutes. The option of a hill repeat isn’t provided after WEEK 12. It disappears in April, replaced by walks of same then decreasing duration as the long weekend walks increase to distances above 10 miles. After hitting 13 miles on April 24, the taper will begin.
IMPORTANT WALKER NOTE: If you are planning to cover the 13.1-mile half marathon distance just to finish in a custom solo personal race, you can treat April 24 as your official event day and be done with training!
If you’re registered for an organized event later in April or May, you may wish to continue to build mileage then follow the taper. The Earned Runs plan adapts (extends) a Hal Higdon program that stops at 10 miles in 12 weeks.
Rather than stopping at 10 miles, the Earned Runs (ER) plan is taking competition-minded walkers out to the actual distance. To gain confidence from surviving the full distance, but at a slower pace. In training you’ll be walking more easily with breaks and stops as needed. On race day, in the company of other competitors, ER thinks you’ll push yourself to a higher intensity, and for safety reasons to possibly avoid injury, is offering the opportunity to train the actual distance. However, this strategy is not based on the advice of an expert or another plan; information could not be found that supports or refutes it.
The RUN schedule includes 1 recovery walk + 3 shorter distance runs + 1 long run, each week. The types of shorter distance runs have not been specified up to this point, although 1 hill repeat session has been offered as an option on Tuesdays. Starting week 13 there will be an option of a tempo run on Thursdays.
However, runners can individualize one or both (hills and/or tempo) sessions now that all work is focused on the half marathon, as explained after this next paragraph in italics.
Remember, this plan is for beginners or those getting back into running races who did not have one available to them for this distance. Advanced runners who wish to increase their speed to a faster pace and finish with an improved time will have scanned this plan and likely realized it was not going to help with that. They will have likely used a plan provided by event organizers if formally registered for a race or found one online that promised to prepare runners for their “best finish time ever.”
Beginners can choose to run hill repeats on Tuesdays or run an easy steady continuous speed run that day. They have 3 options (see below) for running the shorter distance session on Thursday. Option #1 is for runners who only wish to “finish” the 13.1mile distance and are not concerned with time. Option #2 is for those who wish to finish strong but aren’t focused on gaining speed. Option #3 is for runners who wish to push their limits a bit more and test themselves in the upcoming event.
Jenny Hadfield offers 4 tempo runs for runners who are new to them in an article for Runnersworld.com, “Four Tempo Workouts for Runners”. Included are warm-ups and cool-downs, which are a must! You are roughly running 2-4 miles, because the exact distance will vary by running pace. With increased running intensity in certain segments, the swap with a 3-mile run would be fine, and suitable for the Thursday 3-mile run, especially if you're not running a hill repeat on Tuesdays.
Have fun experimenting with these shorter runs soon. There’s enough time now, before the race, to try the negative split, the tempo run, or both, and revert to the old comfortable routine if the change-up doesn’t work for you.
RUNNERS and WALKERS, recognize the progress you've made and be proud.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
*MOST ORGANIZED RUNS WILL STILL BE VIRTUAL IN SPRING 2021. HOWEVER, IF YOU HAVE REGISTERED FOR AN IN-PERSON ORGANIZED EVENT, read on:
If you are new to racing, the Jenny Hadfield “high-five” tempo workout listed first might help you deal with one aspect of competition, the speed-ups and slow-downs normally experienced in a race if you’re not a leader at the head of the pack. For example, in a competition you occasionally might wish to speed up and pass a group that has slowed down in front of you, then dial it back a bit after the harder work. Or tackle a long, low hill that requires more effort, after which you take a little breather by easing up.
When you are training by yourself or with friends you or they control the pace. In a competition with many other participants, you and your running partners will not always be in control as others surge or fall off their pace around you, which will prevent movement in a familiar straight-line direction. If not ready for it mentally and physically, it could throw off your race plan.
WEEK 9 HALF SAINTS DAYS 5K & 10K Training Plan Starts
The fun continues this week if you are anticipating running or walking the 'tune-up' St. Patrick’s Day 10K scheduled in each of the running and walking plans. Last week’s post discussed how this shorter distance race fits into your half marathon training. By the way, you can find this week's schedule on both Part 1 and Part 2, which overlap a couple weeks to allow visualization of the previous training weeks once part 2 is officially entered, after the 10k 'tune-up' race.
This post will be about the fun of the holiday! Did you know the Irish in North America may have been responsible for the first St. Patrick’s Day parade? Bostonians take credit for an event on March 17, 1737 as a “gesture of solidarity among the city’s new Irish immigrants”, to “honor the memory of the beloved Patron Saint of Ireland”, according to information on the South Boston parade website.
However, a History.com item indicates that the first recorded parade took place on March 17 in New York City, commemorating the anniversary of the Saint’s death on that date in 461. Irish soldiers serving in the British army there had the idea of marching through the streets in 1762 to celebrate the holiday.
Wikipedia.com informs that new research has revealed the world’s first parade took place in the Spanish Colony of St. Augustine, Florida in 1601!
Regardless of the city in which the practice of organizing this parade originated, history.com says it all started because “early Irish settlers to the American colonies, many of whom were indentured servants, brought the Irish tradition of celebrating St. Patrick’s feast day to America.”
In their home country, the Irish had observed this day as a religious holiday. They attended church services in the morning and then spent the afternoon enjoying food and drink. In the New World the feast day seems to have begun with festivities rather than church services. History.com says that, over the years, parades eventually became “a popular celebration of Irish-American heritage”.
And here we are now, with a recent history of using the celebration as an opportunity to run and walk in races, often times wearing crazy green or Irish-themed apparel! Until the Covid-19 pandemic closed everything down in 2020, that is. Enjoy your readiness to compete with yourself, a small group, or virtually on this day, earned by hard work and perseverance. Even if the raucous experience of joining a crowd on a fun course may not be possible this year as well, the day can be one of accomplishment and satisfaction. And it can be a day of hope that more ‘normal’ times are withing sight.
If your event has been cancelled due to coronavirus infection concerns, commit to running or walking it as a personal race of your own design. Don’t let circumstances out of your control derail your opportunity to train with this tune-up race.
Get your green on and celebrate the unofficial start of the spring race season.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
A FEW GEMS
MY EMAIL BOX IS FILLED WITH UPDATES FROM DAILY AND WEEKLY NEWSLETTERS THAT PROVIDE INFORMATION, ADVICE, SCIENTIFIC INSIGHTS, AND NOTICES RELATED TO RUNNING, FITNESS AND EXERCISE. The headline article which is partly revealed in the subject line sometimes doesn’t have a topic that excites my interest and there’s the temptation to delete the item without opening it.
Experience cautions that a particularly valuable piece might also be contained in the email, and to find buried treasure in the inbox, each one needs to be checked out in full. It’s so much easier to clean without regard to what might be tossed out, but a more careful examination has sometimes yielded a hidden gem. Below are links to several that I discovered this past week.
Physical therapist from Hospital for Special Surgery promotes recovery days: https://www.shape.com/fitness/tips/workout-recovery-myths-tips-according-exercise-physiologist?
Quick discussion about time intermittent fasting for runners:
Amanda Brooks talks up walking:
You might see this type of blog post again every so often. I’ve abandoned long posts for the most part because the work of composing these pieces keeps me sitting and thinking and not moving and doing, an unhealthy practice.
Check them out.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
WEEK 8 HALF MARATHON 2020 with SAINTS DAYS 5k &10K TRAINING PLAN STARTS!
At the end of this week a few of you may planning to run or walk a very early St. Patrick’s Day-themed 10K RACE. Most will run later, on the March 13-14 and a few March 20-21 weekends.
If the 10K is your GOAL race (you DO NOT plan to continue training for a half marathon) you may be running or walking to just to cross the finish line, or possibly to complete it in a specific length of time. As indicated many times previously (but it’s worth repeating), the EARNED RUNS ‘Saints Days’ walking and running plans do not aim to prepare trainees for speed, especially a personal record (PR), but once you’ve recorded one 10K finish time, a PR is a goal you will be able to consider in a future competition!
As a first time 10K runner, back in 1979, I had no race strategy and no idea one would be needed. I had not looked at the course map. I suffered that late August, 95 degree, sunny, and humid day, and nearly developed heat exhaustion.
A race strategy needn’t be complicated.
One that many runners follow to insure they will not quit mid-race but finish in good form is to resolve to start it comfortably slow and end it with their best effort. The plan is to hold back initially, pick up speed gradually, sustain an increased effort for miles 4 and 5, and dig deeper for the final 1-1.25 miles. Attempt to cover the second half of the race distance, just after passing the mile 3 marker, in less time than it took to complete the first half. This type of pacing is referred to as a ‘negative split’.
The benefit of starting at a slower than normal pace, in spite of other runners/walkers enthusiastically passing by on either side, is a strong finish. As you pick up speed in the last half of the race, you’re likely to be moving past some, possibly many of these same people. The strategy has worked for me in both walk and run events. I wish I had known about it in 1979.
Those who are training to run, run/walk, or walk the HALF MARATHON later in the spring, will treat this 10K as a ‘tune-up’ event rather than a goal race. You’ll plan to hold back a bit, maintain a steady pace, and not push hard with an all-out effort at the finish. For this reason, there wasn’t a scheduled taper or a ‘peak’ for this distance.
If you don’t remember the BLOG post that introduced the running and walking plans and explained the concept of training or “tune-up” races (linked to an online Runner’s World article) you might check it out. There was a similar discussion in advance of the 5k St. Valentine’s Day tune-up race as well.
The advice given in that article was to run the ‘tune-up’ 10K evenly all the way through, finishing as if you felt you could have run faster. This race is about gently testing yourself before the half marathon. It provides you with a ‘practice’ race that should build confidence. In other words, easy-does-it, especially at the start. Don’t blast out of the gate and wither before the end.
Also, there’s a piece by Kelly O'Mara posted by PodiumRunner.com that provides more explanation.
Those not racing for a few weeks might begin to think about a race strategy and practice it mentally as you run or walk the end-of-the-week long runs.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
2021 EARNED RUNS BIBS
BIBS ARE GOING OUT! It has been a rough start to the new year. At last, fresh bibs with a bit of hopeful green color are being mailed. The athletic competition stripe is a bit different design that may inspire and motivate challenges throughout the year.
RUN AND MOVE HAPPY!
BRIDGE TO PHYSICAL SELF
Running, walking, and fitness activities enable us to experience our physical selves in a world mostly accessed through use of fingers on a mobile device.
EARNED RUNS is edited and authored by me, runner and founder. I began participating in road races before 5Ks were common. I've been a dietitian, practiced and taught clinical pathology, and been involved with research that utilized pathology. I am fascinated with understanding the origins of disease as well as health.
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