THIS FEBRUARY, A BLOG POST repeated last year’s highlight of a proposed revision of traditional seasons that takes into account the available daylight. Starting February 4, the suggested date for the beginning of the season referred to as The Brightening, an article in the magazine Backpackers.com, encouraged readers to get outdoors more.
Earned Runs thinks all outdoor enthusiasts could benefit from this novel season definition, especially in the planning of epic adventures that are best undertaken when days are long and environmental conditions are favorable for sustained physical effort.
However, not every member of a small group adventure will be able to perform at the same fitness level. For example, I would like to hike with others in a multi-day event that we design/organize ourselves, but would need to recruit a few others that walked with a backpack at my pace. It would not be fun to be the only one lagging behind, or to suffer injury trying to keep up with the leaders.
The same is true for a bicycle trip. I am not a ‘sufferfest’ kind of cyclist. However, cycling is an attractive mode of locomotion if enjoying diverse scenery on an adventure is a goal. By running or walking I’ll only be able to cover a relatively short distance. The viewing will be limited. Or the trip will take too many days and definitely stress all physical systems.
Recently I’ve heard about people who are no longer able to run long distances due to joint problems, but now use e-bikes (electrically powered bicycles) for physical exercise. And to challenge themselves in the ‘old’ self-powered way, but without the same wear-and tear issues.
An article in MensFitness.com “Why You Need an Electric Bike” highlights the growing popularity of the bike for commuting, and how using one can provide an workout. “So, you ask, if the bike is doing the work, where’s the exercise?” Exactly what I wanted to know. The author Patty Hodapp says, “the trick to making your e-bike a fitness tool is to use the motor just enough to keep it going”. Rev up the engine when your body is out of gas, she instructs.
The expert she references says that “between steering and pedaling” through your own efforts, not using the engine’s power, you can get a solid workout, especially in terms of core strengthening as your own body is required “to brace you with every turn.”
Another article in the Wall Street Journal (it not’s available free), “Instead of Slowing Down He Revved-up with an E-Bike” by Jen Murphy, features a 70-year old who was working too hard mountain biking for exercise, and turned to this bit of hi-tech boost for help. The article says that with the bike controls set a level 0, the bicyclist receives no assistance, but at levels 1-4 receives “proportional assistance based on how hard he pedals”. There’s a level 5, in which full power is provided. A throttle “gives him the option to not pedal at all.”
The 70 year semi-retired cameraman's workout, diet, gear (cost), and playlist are covered in the article, but it's the description of his adjustment to the e-bike that stands out. He's learned how to use heart rate to guide effort level for solid workouts, used the time-saving benefits of the e-bike to get more time outdoors, and involved family in e-biking when not training.
The cost of such e-exercise is high, however. The Pedego mountain bikes owned by the enthusiast are each $3,600 and the commuter bike is ~$2,500, according to the WSJ piece. Purchasing one is a significant investment that may require planning and saving. Cyclists may not be fazed by the price tag, as non-motorized models can be 2-3 times as expensive. A runner who worries about paying $160 for shoes could experience sticker shock. One or more rental rides or might be a great idea before purchase.
Other advice and comment is available on the internet about how to best use such bikes. There seem to be safety issues and concerns in the area of urban commuting.
Earned Runs is thinks that e-bikes might make certain epic adventures possible for some who would otherwise not be able to cover long distances under their own power (or might want a bit of 'insurance' on such a trip). The WSJ article demonstrates how athletes with injury or age related physical limitations can continue to enjoy moderately to very intense exercise.
What’s your experience or advice?
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
WORST & BEST LISTING IN USA; WHICH HEADLINE WOULD GRAB YOUR ATTENTION? “Worst Cities for An Active Lifestyle” or “Best Cities for an Active Lifestyle”? The former title was chosen as the article of a news story posted on ACTIVE.com written by Jennifer Fox.
It must have been a wise choice because it caused me to explore the slideshow piece in detail. Maybe fear that I live in one of these ‘worst’ locations drove my interest. I was already formulating an argument to refute my city’s deserving this terrible recognition if it made the lowest 10.
Actually, I have lived in quite a few locations but my ‘home’ base has always been West Michigan. It’s snowy here and ‘lake effect’ cloudiness takes its toll on optimism; for days and weeks in the winter, fall, and spring the sun may not shine much. I love it there, though, and despite moving to several southern snow-less cities, and living in them for a few years, I have not changed my heart or mind on this topic.
Fortunately, the results of this particular analysis don’t suggest that ‘good’ weather is the most important predictor of a physically active population. Having a long waterfront is no guarantee either.
According to the WalletHub generated report, the 10 worst cities can be found in Florida, Nevada, Texas (4), California, New Jersey (2), and Tennessee.
The top 10 best cities are: Chicago IL, Portland OR, San Francisco CA, San Diego CA, Seattle WA, Madison WI, New York City NY, Denver CO, Boise ID, Minneapolis MN.
Earned Runs has posted about a similar topic in a previous post (re: WalletHub list of healthiest cities 2017) The methodology in any such ranking can be disputed. However, this particular report relies heavily (70 points of 100 total possible score) on the number of recreational areas available to assign high or low scores. It’s the “Sports and Outdoor” category. Included are number of baseball/softball diamonds, tennis courts, basketball hoops, swimming pools, playgrounds, parkland acres, skateboard parks, and golf courses.
Walk-ability counts. The ease with which cycling can be enjoyed earns big points (bike score, bike sharing and rental facilities). Running, walking, and hiking trails are tallied. The number of dance studios matter! Local governments and voters have some control on how money is spent, and thus can change these numbers over time. Communities with a strong tax base and/or access to philanthropic dollars may have an advantage (fair or unfair is another discussion).
There are a number of criteria that cannot be controlled by the local governments like proximity to a large body of water and to ski resorts, and weather. Air quality is given a full score, which is a complicated issue.
The “Budget and Participation” category contributes 30 points to the score total. This grouping of criteria concerns the affordability of activities like fitness center fees, and the cost of sports apparel, tennis court rentals, and bowling. Also considered is number of sporting goods stores, sports clubs, Little Leagues, intramural leagues, and pick-up soccer meet-ups. The share of physically INACTIVE ADULTS receives a full score. The article links to the methodology for more details.
This summary gives an idea of how the score that determines ranking is obtained. It’s not anywhere close to being a perfect method. However, we can look at our own places of residence, see where the low-scores might be deserved, and try to change them for the future.
If a recreational sport-league sport is created, do we sign up? Poor participation won’t encourage the township or city to sponsor others. If a parkland area is nearby do we ‘play’ there or bring children to enjoy it? Do we make an effort to keep it free of litter so that the beauty is maintained? There are so many questions that could be asked to guilt readers. You get the idea. That’s not the point of this post.
If you dreaded reading the WORST list, it’s possible you would very much value finding your city on the BEST list. And doing so might be energizing, and lead to personally increased physical activity and a healthier lifestyle.
Does having a championship winning sports team increase ticket sales, fan enthusiasm, and civic pride of a city? Revenues to the city and businesses? New regional development that encourages greater game attendance? I don’t know by experience, but that’s what appears to happen. Maybe something like it will transpire if a city wins an ACTIVE LIFESTYLE designation too. It can be great for the whole city, but perhaps best for individuals.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
ONE WAY TO BUST A FITNESS RUT
GET OUT OF YOUR FITNESS RUT ‘Listicles’ (writing pieces that are wholly or partially constructed around a list, but that have enough explanation or discussion to qualify as an article) are a fact of modern life. They are particularly popular in areas of self-help like fitness, nutrition, health. Many are featured in this blog, especially if a novel concept is introduced or a particularly difficult subject is explained.
In my opinion, the short lists are composed by advice ‘lumpers’, who provide suggestions for self-improvement in broad action categories. An example is a lumper nutrition expert whose healthier diet list includes eating foods of different colors at each meal, never skipping breakfast, drinking 8 glasses of water per day, and cutting out fried foods.
Longer lists are by advanced by advice ‘splitters’ who feel readers appreciate more detailed directions to improve. A splitter expert might identify 25 of the most nutrient-packed foods to include in a diet, broken down by categories that include fruits, vegetables, spices, and fermented foods.
Depending on the topic, I appreciate both types of listicles. Both can be useful and inspiring. After all, each one is a guide, a large- or small-scale map, to making improvements in a given area of life. A lumper article might offer a large amount of explanation under each short-list item. A splitter article may be less likely to provide discussion under each long-list item.
Kylie Gilbert wrote a listicle for SHAPE.com that offers readers “20 Ways to Bust Out of Your Workout Rut.” This is a splitter for good reason. The items cannot easily be lumped and remain helpful; they would be too vague. Plus, Gilbert offers a considerable amount of explanation with additional links under each ‘way’.
I count 19 (not 20) ways, with the 19th and last being the ONE item that Earned Runs is best at helping you with: sign up for a race. How to find one near you?
There are races in each community throughout the year that might be sponsored or publicized by specialty running shoe stores. Events posted by stores could also include walks and hiking expeditions, cycling adventures, stand-up paddleboard competitions, indoor and outdoor triathlons, snowshoe excursions, obstacle course challenges, and other group or social athletic activities. Many may be small and local, some could be huge and attract regional or national participation.
The internet is a common place to search that yields amazing results. I’ve been floored to learn that a totally awesome event is being held not too far from my home or that of a friend or relative (meaning it’s likely I could participate).
If there isn’t an organized race that excites you, EARNED RUNS BIBS allow you to design a customized race or challenge. Solo or with a group of friends. First, COMMIT to a race or challenge to get out of your rut. Then train for it. Finally, pin on a bib, DO IT, and record the results on your bib. No muss, no fuss, all you. The type or theme of the event, date, location, course/setting, participants, and time are all chosen by you.
This is ONE WAY to shake up your exercise world, to get yourself out of a fitness rut! No excuses are acceptable if you run the show. Commit to a challenge. Pin on a bib, if you dare.
No bibs? No worries. REQUEST a set today.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
WEEK 7 HALF MARATHON 2018 with ‘SAINTS DAYS’
5K &10K Training Plan The month of March starts after the middle of this week. That’s progress! Congratulate yourself on reaching the point at which the long run at week’s end surpasses the distance you’ll be racing (if running) in a St. Patrick’s Day 10K (6.25 miles).
Walkers will not reach 6 miles until March 10, 6.5 miles on March 17. If you have not been running or walking hill repeats, consider trying this workout as the spring weather commences. It will add variety and help build strength.
Celebrate the coming of meteorological SPRING March 1.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
NOTE: The dates on the WALKER plan have been corrected! The day of St. Patrick's day was corrected on the RUNNER plan. Sorry for any confusion!
SPRING IS COMING: IT'S SHOE SEASON
DO YOU SOMETIMES SUSPECT THAT you are paying too much for running shoes? An article, “Cheap vs Expensive Shoes: Does it Matter?” by Susan Lacke for Running,competitor.com addresses that question. The title is somewhat confusing though, as the body of the piece begins by discussing the difference between general-purpose athletic shoes and shoes especially designed for running.
“While any shoe can be used for any activity, it’s important to note that running shoes are crafted to function more resiliently than regular sporty kicks,” the article indicates.
True. But to me the cheap shoes are not general-purpose types, but older model shoes that can be purchased through online stores or in big-box stores. These retailers have the advantage of buying wholesale in such huge volumes that they can sell the shoes at lower prices to the masses. In specialty running stores some shoes might be discounted because they are last season’s models and a significant new update has just been issued and is on the shelves.
Usually stores don’t advertise these products as having the high-priced technology of the newest season debuts. Veteran runners who buy them may be replacing a tried-and-true pair they love and feel good about wearing season after season. They're not shopping for innovation.
Personally, I have turned to high-end, top-line shoes when 1) recovering from an injury, 2) in the process of experiencing difficulty running, and 3) doing so well in training that an extra edge seems like it will be worth the expense. To be truthful there’s only been one instance where I paid more for a pair of shoes because I thought my improved performance merited an upgrade.
But the article gets down to discussing this, and ultimately says that: it’s all a matter of individual preference. An expert provides his perspective, partly based based on a study, which suggests that the more that is paid for a shoe, the more is expected, and the less satisfaction is reported.
Earned Runs opinion: unless you are an elite runner, you’ll do fine in a lesser-priced specialty running shoe that fits well and provides the level of comfort and support that suits your training and competing regimen. Color and style preferences might best determine choice of shoes that are intended to be worn outside of training sessions. If top-performance is one your mind, spend more and go for the next evolution.
Enjoy shopping for new shoes, spring season is coming.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
Posted January 20, 2017, updated February 16, 2018
STAY OUT OF THE BELLY FAT DANGER ZONE The article, “The Most Dangerous Fat is the Easiest to Lose” by Trinh Le for Under Armor blog, MyFitnessPal.com has easy to read, understandable, and actionable information about abdominal fat. Not sure about the truth of the “easiest to lose” statement, though.
The author defines “belly fat” and explains how to identify it beyond just looking down at your midsection, by measuring waist and hips as well as calculating the waist: hip ratio. The “apples and pears” body type comparison helps us visualize that it is the deposition of fat around abdominal organs (which shows up as a bigger waist) that makes it so dangerous.
However, it’s possible to exceed the 35-inch (women) and 40-inch (men) waist circumference that marks the presence of this kind of adiposity and still have a less dangerous pear shape and a normal waist-to-hip ratio. Thus, the waist circumference is the most telling number that we can easily determine at home.
If you have a measuring tape, demonstrate to yourself what a 35- or a 40-inch waist measurement would look like on you. It’s a bit scary to see that this size is NOT HUGE. It is an incentive to stay the SAME size or even DECREASE your waist inches if you think you are too close for comfort to the belly fat ‘danger zone’.
The medical reason to shrink your waist size is explained by a Mayo Clinic article about Metabolic Syndrome. It provides the guidelines employed by the National Institutes of Health to diagnose this condition: “you have metabolic syndrome if you have three or more of these traits”, listed below, “or are taking medication to control them”. The number one component is excess abdominal fat which reveals itself as a big waist.
Mayo Clinic staff, the authors of the piece indicate that “if you know you have at least one component of the metabolic syndrome, ask your doctor whether you need testing” for the remaining four. Having metabolic syndrome increases risk of cardiovascular problems like heart attacks and stroke, and diabetes.
The Trinh Le article outlines some steps that can be taken to reduce belly fat, which include focusing your efforts on decreasing inches rather that weight, exercising daily, cutting back on added sugars and alcohol while eating a balanced diet, and sleeping and de-stressing. These are exactly steps recommended to become a better runner/athlete!
THE GOOD NEWS: regarding exercise, research studies using older overweight men and women with type 2 diabetes and overweight young men have shown that high intensity interval training (HIIT) resulted in significant reductions in both abdominal and subcutaneous fat.
This means that for the purposes of “waist control”, performing roughly three, 20-30 minute HIIT sessions each week over 3-4 months can help lower measurements and at the same time boost running power.
Last week’s post SCIENCE FRIDAY: ABDOMINAL STRENGTH (Part 1) provided new research results that suggest strength training, involving certain abdominal muscle groups, may be a shortcut to decreasing the specific inflammation generated by belly fat, usually achieved by weight loss. Thus, exercise in general fights “the kind of whole body inflammation associated with chronic diseases”; targeting the abdominal muscles may specifically reduce “adiposity associated inflammation”, which is attributed to dangerous belly fat.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
The post from February 15, 2018 last week discussed a potential downside of the use of social media, stress. Communicating with, constantly checking in, or being interrupted by our phones and other devices may interfere with exercise quality, and even quantity.
However, because highly active individuals may use wearables and phone apps to plan workouts, track progress, monitor physical feedback, measure performance, and share data, it’s not a simple decision to power off.
The Earned Runs post offered a few suggestions, such as using a phone’s airplane mode function to suspend incoming distractions.
Another alternative to outright disconnecting might be to perform an overall assessment of social media and internet use and then attempt to decrease general dependence on such devices and programs throughout the entire day. If overall usage is reduced, perhaps powering down (not necessarily off) or stepping away from them during exercise sessions won’t be an experience comparable to caffeine/drug withdrawal.
Madeline Quigley, in her blog “The Gal-ivanter” provides readers with “15 Easy Ways to Disconnect from Social Media and the Internet.”
As a teaser, here are the first 4 “ways”: have a morning routine, don’t use your phone as an alarm, power down before bed, don’t sleep with your phone next to your bed. Quigley explains these actions more fully; they are really GOOD suggestions.
Another “way” that I personally like: “always be reading something”. A potential problem is that I read a lot of audio books!!! But the principle behind this bit of advice is sound.
Most likely it is not going to be necessary to perform all 15 suggested actions; implementation of only a couple may make a big difference in the number of daily/nightly distractions and disruptions experience related to social media and internet use.
Quigley indicates that her purpose in writing is to “inspire you to make the most of you free time, and start 2018 sans addicted [sic] to your phone (or less addicted to your phone)”.
Earned Runs thinks that with less time devoted to scanning/interacting with devices there might be more time available for physical activity and real social interactions. And switching to airplane mode during exercise might be something to eagerly anticipate rather than dread.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
NEW 2018 SURVEY, STICKERS; WHEN VISITING THE EARNED RUNS website to REQUEST BIBS, you’ll notice there is a new 2018 survey. The top section is new and asks what you like about the site, attempting to get an idea of which areas should have more attention and development. And which might receive less attention in the future.
The last item on the list is “Variety of stickers”. IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO BE ABLE TO REQUEST A GREATER VARIETY of stickers for your personal use on your own bibs, you would want to click this button.
Up until now, the stickers have been designed for promoting Earned Runs events. Small batches are ordered. I have used them for decoration and to record my accomplishments. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE to gather my 4 bibs and have proof of all the challenges undertaken and work performed over the year. Clustered together, filled with variously designed sticker, the grouping makes a great picture too.
For the first time in 2018, there is a sticker specifically designed for “training” rather than finishing. It’s for the HALF MARATHON WITH ‘SAINTS DAYS’. Since the running training plan’s duration is 18 weeks and covers 3 races, those following it seemed to deserve special recognition. And runners and walkers training for the 5k and 10k events* too.
There’s an overall, a SPECIAL 5K, a SPECIAL 10K, and a TRAINING sticker in this HALF MARATHON WITH ‘SAINTS DAYS’ group. Each is a 1.5” heart-shape. The reasons for the SMALL SIZE? Hearts can’t be ordered in the large 3” diameter size and the stickers from this one effort would cover an entire bib, with little room to spare for other challenge stickers or writing. So, they are small. The remainder of the year the stickers continue to be ordered in the LARGE size, except for the RUN/WALK ACROSS AMERICA CHALLENGE weekly segment stickers.
Periodically a few ‘test’ stickers will be posted on WEBSITE WEDNESDAY blogs for your inspection for various upcoming Earned Runs suggested events for 2018**. There will be a chance to VOTE on your favorites in some instances. The following is a listing of planned stickers/events:
Daylight Savings Dash 5K (March 11)
‘SAINTS’ DAYS ‘ Saint Patrick’s Day 10K (near March 17)
Springtime Warm-up (March 20, first day of spring)
MLB Opening Day Mash-up (March 29)
April Fool’s Day No Foolin’ 50 (April 1)
National Walk to Work Day (April 6)
CELEBRATE (USA RUNNING) TRADITION RUN (Boston Marathon Day, April 16)
Earth Day Earned Run (Earth Day April 22)
Day of 5ths FIVE (Cinco de Mayo, May 5)
Mother’s Choice (Mothers’ Day, May 13)
Memorial Day Remembrance (May 28)
If you have an opinion and want to help Earned Runs deliver information and materials that you value, take the survey. Especially the first part. The second section will help us understand who is responding.
If you haven’t requested bibs in 2018, consider doing it now, before the big fitness seasons of spring summer and fall arrive. And If you’ve never had stickers, try using them this year! You can stick one on AFTER a goal accomplishment as a reward, or before as incentive to keep training.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
The weekend following the official St. Valentine’s Day was perfect for my 5K. The weather was beautiful and I was on vacation in warm and sunny Florida! I had spent a few days before the planned date of my event loosening up with longer distance walks, strength sessions, stretching, and foam rolling. Because I was on vacation and could spend nearly as much time as desired to exercise!
This was my first time in 2018 walking rather than running a 5K, so there were more possibilities for a venue. I chose a long, flat, hard-packed-sand beach rather than a road. It was somewhat crowded with other early morning strolling beach-lovers, but not so busy that they interfered with my progress, or I with their enjoyment. Running past other people can be a bit disrupting and intrusive, as the movement can startle them momentarily. It is easier for other walkers to sense someone else walking faster from behind, and provides them with slightly more time to make adjustments, as people tend to do almost by reflex. And I had time to make my own polite adjustments too. So, the beach walk event was ideal.
This effort wasn’t intended to be a 5K race for speed. The preceding several weeks had been spent helping family move and get situated, so I had fallen off the training schedule. There was no benefit now to be gained from pushing hard to reach a certain pace. The reason I had trained with the WALKER plan was to avoid injury. Last March, I ran the second ‘SAINT DAYS’ 10K on snowy, icy roads. It was the start of a knee issue that plagued me until late Fall. I’m still sensing a strength difference in the involved weaker leg.
I will resume workouts on the plan schedule, train to be a bit stronger and faster, and hopefully enjoy a fun St. Patrick’s Day 10K event. EARNING MY FIRST EVENT BIB STICKER for the year on February 17 amped up my excitement for spring, and the rest of 2018!
How was your ‘SAINTS DAYS’ 5K? Consider working to improve some aspect of training for the 10K next month.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
Remember the training plans can be found on the RESOURCES page.
If you need bibs, be sure to REQUEST a set.
ALL ABOUT ARMS
SIMPLE UPPER BODY MOVES Want quick exercise routines to use in training? If you’ve avoided upper body strength work until now, you might find motivation in these two simple sets from SHAPE.com. The site provides a pair of workouts that target the arms, especially the triceps, but also work the shoulders and back. Thus, they are advertised as being able to give you sexy-looking, ‘rock star’ arms.
Sure, shapely, toned arms are attractive, but “a strong upper body is as important as trained legs to run fast and easy,” states the subtitle to a Runner’s World magazine article, “A Call to Arms”*. Author Samantha Lefave explains that ”failing to train your upper body” can be detrimental to running and “hold you back big time”. Her article stresses lifting heavier rather than lighter weights, with fewer repetitions, and with good form.
Lefave suggests that if new to strength training, skip the heavy weights and first try bodyweight exercises that build the upper body, back, and core. The Mazzo workout in SHAPE.com (below) puts together a good starter routine. However, the RW article advice suggests that rather than hurry through the 5-minute, fast-paced bodyweight moves to get in as many as possible in 30 seconds (directions provided in the Mazzo workout, below) maintaining form is most important. Go as slow as is necessary; don’trush. Play the video and follow along; the demonstration takes you through 2 consecutive sets.
1. “At Home Arm Workout for Strong Arms” By Lauren Mazzo
Kym Perfetto does 2 repeats of a 5-component routine. Each move is performed for 30 seconds. Perfetto verbally stresses exercisers to pay attention to proper form, but in the heat of the demonstration she admits her own form suffers a bit in the enthusiastic video. Best not to hurry, moving slowly takes more effort and strength but will result in less chance of injury.
Bear crawls - 30 seconds
Triceps dips - 30 seconds
Push-ups - 30 seconds
Dive bombers - 30 seconds
Plank-ups - 30 seconds
The second workout uses dumbbell weights for the first 4 exercises and body weight for the last set. This set is perfect for following the advice in the Lefave article
2. Rock Star Dumb-bell Arm Workout
By Jessica Smith
Overhead press- 20 repetitions
Triceps chop- 20 repetitions
Inverted curl to front press- 20 repetitions
Rear fly to press back split stance, 10 each side
Diamond leg push-ups- 20 repetitions
The presence of women trainers in the videos should not dissuade men from paying attention. Especially if you’ve not added upper body exercises to your training. Sure, tougher moves are proposed in other male-specific resources, but starting with these saves you the time and effort of ‘shopping’ around for others. And they are designed to have you spend a relatively short time at this task.
With spring break approaching, a glance in the mirror may convince you that besides improved running, walking, and general fitness, the benefits to be gained from working these UPPER BODY STRENGTH routines include better looking arms.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
*the article is not generally available (free) online; I read it in the March 2018 print magazine.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
WEEK 6 HALF MARATHON 2018 with SAINTS DAYS 5k&10K Training Plan
The upcoming weekend is probably the last on which an organized or custom race might be scheduled with a St. Valentine’s Day theme, so almost everyone will be looking ahead to the next “SAINTS DAY” 10K run at the beginning of Week 7.
St. Patrick’s Day-themed races can be found scheduled in later March (Chicago’s Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8K will be held March 25 this year), although the actual holiday is March 17. For those of you not running a 5K this week, the long run is 6 miles (walk is 5.5 miles) and, going forward, you will be building endurance to allow finishing this race distance with confidence.
There have been postings about cross training options. The RUNNER plan does not formally schedule a cross training day. The WALKER Earned Runs plan suggests Mondays, and this could work for runners too. Each individual must determine what and how to cross train without adversely affecting running days.
Sundays, Wednesdays, or Fridays could also handle cross-training sessions, depending on your usual level of activity. You may find that a moderately paced swimming session provides a pleasant level of tiredness, or that a short high-intensity interval cycling class invigorates your next run.
Experiment and learn what helps you perform best physically and mentally. Although this runner plan has 4 running days (walker plan has 4 walking days), one day could be substituted with cross-training to spare your legs. However, runners should keep the long run session and the hills’ session if you are comfortably able to do them. Walkers should try to maintain the long walk and one HIIT walk session.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
I was at the grocery store last month and wanted to find something to rejuvenate my winter weather-dry facial skin and chose a product that contained hyaluronic acid (HA). There was a reference to this ingredient in an article describing how to fight the effects of the elements that I had browsed. Of course, the article listed the “best” products with HA, but I didn’t have it on hand while shopping. A face cream had been on my list to buy for a while, so it seemed like a good idea to try something not too expensive but that I could put on immediately.
I had been wearing a Buff-like neck gater for lower face protection when outside in the bitter cold. Or pulling up a tall turtleneck for this purpose. A few of my wool second layer tops had a high neck and a small face opening, so that when fully zipped they covered my chin.
In the very cold, with a covered chin and/or partially covered mouth, my breath would condense and wet these pieces of clothing, which would rub against and chap the skin.
My cheeks were exposed.
I tried a cream offered by a common product line (L’Oreal was on sale) that advertised it contained HA. Surprisingly, it moisturized and improved the feel and appearance my skin! I wore a night ‘mask’ cream, and a day cream plus sunblock.
I made no attempt to sample or trial a number of product to find which one was “best”. I just chose one and tried it, and it worked.
I could not locate the original article that lead me to search for this type of product, but found another one that is informative. Expert references identify hyaluronic acid as a humectant that “absorbs up to 1000 times its weight in water” such that it helps skin as it “holds on to moisture and keeps your face looking plump and dewy”.
If you’re looking for a product to reverse the changes brought about by days and weeks of outdoor winter exercise consider trying one that contains hyaluronic acid. My experience shows that relatively inexpensive creams can do the job.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
SCIENCE FRIDAY: ABDOMINAL STRENGTH
NEW RESEARCH published electronically in February 2018 ahead of print in the Journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise offers potentially encouraging news for those of us worried about chronic inflammation related to abdominal adiposity (translated, this is ‘dangerous belly fat’).
The article, “Abdominal Muscle Density is Inversely Related to Adiposity Inflammatory Mediators”, was authored by Dr. Rachel Van Hollebeke and colleagues from the University of California at San Diego, La Jolla California. It describes their study in which blood markers associated with the low-level chronic state of inflammation, noted with obesity, were measured and compared with the density and area of certain abdominal muscle groups (rectus abdominus, obliques, paraspinal, and psoas) as detected by MRI (magnetic resonance imaging).
Previous studies informed these scientists that obesity and diabetes lead to increases in skeletal muscle lipid/fat, which translates into less dense muscle and MRI signals that are MORE attenuated. They knew also that the presence of increased numbers of fat cells inside muscle had been shown to increase the concentration of inflammatory substances in nearby tissues. And that MRI signals of DENSE skeletal muscle with lower amounts of lipid/fat appears LESS attenuated.
The UCSD group wanted to determine if certain blood markers of ‘adiposity-related’ inflammation in study participants would change according to the amount of lipid/fat in specific abdominal muscles and would correlate with muscle MRI characteristics (density and area).
Data collected, at baseline and at regular intervals over about 8 years, from 1970 participants in a previous larger multicenter study was used. Men and women and individuals of different racial ethnic backgrounds were included. The average age was roughly 64-65 years. Females made up 49% of the group. The mean BMI was 28; 30% were obese. Just less than 50% were former or current smokers, and about as many had hypertension. Blood samples, history/questionaires, body measurements, and imaging studies were administered. There were other health details (not identified here).
Results showed an inverse (opposite) relationship between “specific adiposity associated inflammatory mediators and muscle density” even after taking into account the amount of visceral and subcutaneous fat. This suggests that regardless of how much ‘bad’ visceral/abdominal fat is present, the amount of harmful inflammatory substances (cytokines) circulating in blood may be less if these abdominal muscles contain less fat cells, and thus are denser.
The paper discussed how skeletal muscle is increasingly being viewed as an endocrine organ that secretes helpful anti-inflammatory hormones or ‘myokines’. Because obesity leads to excess calorie storage as fat in many tissues, including skeletal muscle, indications are that the presence of this excess intra-muscular fat is what causes muscle to become less sensitive to the actions of insulin.
Insulin insensitivity is a hallmark of Metabolic Syndrome, which is associated with increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
The results of other scientific work, the authors indicate, is that EXERCISE which increases dense muscle may have beneficial effects on health when it comes to reducing whole-body inflammation by reducing body fat overall. And it’s hypothesized that the secretion of myokines that occurs with the contraction of muscles (as in exercise) plays a key role in reducing inflammation as well.
The results of this study, the authors suggest, is that “intervention aimed at improving abdominal muscle density” such as “strength training, may result in lower levels” of “adiposity associated inflammatory mediators and thereby contribute to the prevention of inflammation-linked CVD” (cardiovascular disease).
The bottom line: strength training that leads to increases in lean muscle mass overall may help to fight the kind of whole body inflammation associated with chronic diseases; that which targets the muscles of the abdomen (belly) may specifically help fight metabolic syndrome leading to diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Losing weight and exercising may be commonly prescribed methods of prevent and combat metabolic disease, but is difficult for many individuals. An alternative method may be strength training that concentrates on increasing the density of abdominal muscles specifically!
The follow-up to this SCIENCE FRIDAY blog will be posted next week. It will include a practical discussion of belly fat and metabolic syndrome.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
SOCIAL MEDIA STRESS AND RUNNING
Posted February 28, 2017; Updated February 13, 2018.
THE AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION (APA), in its annual survey on “Stress in America™” has looked at sources and effects of stress on “health and sense of well-being on Americans living in the United States” since 2006.
Until January 2017, the survey had revealed that “overall” levels decreased every year since that initial report, with the lowest level in a decade charted in August 2016.
That August survey also “revealed that social media conversations about politics and culture have had an impact on Americans’ stress’. Almost 4 of 10 adults said that these discussions caused them stress.” In fact, those who used social media seemed to be more stressed about the 2016 election than those who did not.
Unfortunately, a change in the steady state was detected in a special additional January 2017 poll which revealed more Americans were feeling stressed. Rather than the usual issues (money, work, and the economy), people were “citing personal safety and terrorism” as concerns, possibly building upon the polled psychologists’ patients expressed anxiety about the upcoming US elections reported earlier in the year.
[With the presidential elections behind us but mid-term Congressional elections coming up, there’s hope we all learned how to cope and that social media sites will block stressful content.]
Part 2 of the survey was conducted to follow-up on this stress increase and find links between Americans’ use of technology and social media and their “stress, relationships and overall health and well-being”. The survey report indicated that the percentage of Americans using social media increased greatly over the past decade (7% in 2005, to 65% in 2015), with the largest increase seen in the ages 18-29 years (12% to 90%). It says 43% of Americans are “constant checkers” of emails, texts, and social media accounts.
Here’s an excerpt from that report: “For constant checkers, stress runs higher than for those who do not engage with technology as frequently. On a 10-point scale, where 1 is “little or no stress” and 10 is “a great deal of stress,” the average reported overall stress level of constant checkers is 5.3. For non-constant checkers, the average reported stress level is 4.4. Constant checkers also reported a higher average level of stress related to technology during the past month than their non-constant checking peers (3.0 vs. 2.5, respectively). Among employed Americans who check their work email constantly on non-workdays, their reported overall stress level is 6.0.”
Although about 65% of us feel it’s a great idea to periodically ‘unplug’ or ‘detox’ for the sake of mental health, few report doing so (roughly 28%).
What this means for runners and exercisers is that communicating and checking in with social media at or around the time of exercise could potentially cancel or diminish the health benefits of our sessions. Especially if we check-in constantly, allow interruptions, and perceive such activities as stress provoking.
Rather than totally unplugging indiscriminately for large chunks of time, prioritizing and identifying smaller critical periods to be offline may be easier. Families try to do this. Perhaps laying down some ground rules to carve out specific running/exercise times, as we do with sacred family and friend time, can preserve its positive effect on our physical and mental well-being. We, like most Americans as the report shows, probably know we should disconnect from electronic devices, but don’t.
However, it’s not as simple as it seems for highly active individuals. Many use tracking devises and GPS while running, walking, and exercising. We possibly are as addicted to physical feedback and performance measures as to social media, and may even regularly share this data on social media.
There is online advice on how to ‘disconnect’ by tech experts. Check it out if you understand the methods and don’t find tinkering with phone settings each time you train another unwelcome stress.
Another option is to return to the time-honored practice of running by ‘feel’ that allows you to turn off most phone functions (switching to airplane mode is one tactic). Advocates include Coach Jay Johnson (his newsletter) and Matt Fitzgerald (his book and article). Coach Jenny Hadfield recently wrote an article for Runnersworld.com on the subject. She offers a step-wise approach that might be easier than going cold-turkey.
The bottom line is that time spent improving our physical selves is precious, just as the time is that’s devoted to building and preserving personal relationships. We should make the most of it when possible.
HAPPY VALENTINES DAY EVERYONE! The history of Valentine’s Day (originally St. Valentine’s Day, a Roman Catholic feast day) is fairly fuzzy with regard to how this day came to be, probably coincidentally, named to honor romantic love.
According to an item by Fr. William Saunders on catholiceducation.org, the “popular customs of showing love and affection on St Valentine’s Day” may have come about because of a “common belief in England and France” from the Medieval Age that “birds began to pair” on February 14 “’halfway through the second month of the year’”. Since the martyred saint’s feast day fell on that date the association may have formed.
In modern times, it is often different things to different people. For young couples, it may be mostly about love and romance. For school children, it can be about sending and receiving paper cards at classroom parties. It’s a big day for marriage engagements and potentially an opportunity for singles to meet a future significant other. Sadly, it can be a day of high expectations in which some more sharply feel less loved (haven’t we all experienced this?).
In the world of running, walking, and fitness this secular holiday can be used to mark a special workout of a training plan, schedule a preparatory effort for a future more challenging competition, or enjoy a themed race. THERE’S NO ROOM to feel left out or less loved when you are one in this globe-full of people using exercise to observe a traditional holiday.
Holidays are made for celebrating. We can accomplish this traditionally with food, drink, prayers, commemorations, dances, parades, and decorations. However, it seems like walks, runs, bicycle trips, and even swims, are being added as active ways to enjoy special dates. And more and more commonly, culturally specific holidays are being adopted by outsiders as a way to appreciate and better understand the ways of others. Expatriates are encouraged to keep their own as well as the country of residence' holidays in an article by Scott Rousseau for InterNations.com as a way to stay connected with home and to form connections while away.
Pin on an Earned Runs or other organized competition bib today and race. Or just get your athletic shoes on and actively enjoy, coincidentally, this day in mid-February AND LOVE THE MOVEMENT.
RUN & 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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