THE IMPORTANCE OF SLEEP TO ELITE ATHLETES, WITH REGARD TO OPTIMIZING PERFORMANCE, RECOVERING FROM TRAINING AND COMPETITION, AND AVOIDING INJURY has been investigated and recognized in the scientific literature (see links below). However improved sleep is a health goal for non-athletes and recreational athletes as well, for a number of reasons.
Individuals of each group may struggle with handling the demands of complex, technology-dependent lives, enjoying incredible levels of social connectivity and access to information but finding few opportunities, or perhaps having little inclination, to mentally power-down sufficiently to sleep well at night.
An article by David Klose, “Books and Bedtime”, posted on sleepjunkie.org, a resource for information on sleep-related products (mattresses and bedding) and research, reported on the results of a survey it conducted about reading before sleep.
Over 2300 persons were said to have been surveyed but only the answers of roughly 1000 respondents were analyzed for this piece. It seems likely that all survey-takers were visitors to the site and thus had interest in sleep topics and possibly difficulties in this area. The 1000 selected for analysis were separated about equally into those who averaged five or more nights each week (503) and those who rarely or never read at bedtime.
The before-bed readers were enthusiastic about their habit and its positive effect on sleep; 96% reported they would recommend it to others, 50% said it improved sleep quality and 63% thought it aided falling asleep. Reading helped with stress reduction at bedtime (65%) and with relaxation (81%). Nearly three-fourths of this group thought they “would have a harder time falling asleep if they did not read in bed.”
Most readers preferred traditional print books (44%) but only a few less (38%) liked e-books; the remainder read from a phone or tablet. Interestingly fewer e-book readers reported difficulties falling asleep (25%) compared with print (28%) and phone/tablet (32%) folks, which was thought by Klose to be related to differences in light exposure. E-book readers were also most satisfied with sleep quality and quantity!
This result surprised me. I figured that old-fashioned paper books would take top place in this area. Perhaps visitors to the website were more likely than non-visitors to enjoy digital books. The survey apparently did not delve into the reasons behind reading format preferences of survey respondents or why these sleepers chose to read on 5 or more nights per week rather than 1-4 nights, which could have influenced their answers.
I sometimes ‘read’ audiobooks on my phone at bedtime to induce sleep when it’s not coming easily. The listening app timer can be set for the book recording to stop after as few as 8 minutes or as long as an hour. There’s a custom time setting too, but I’ve never used it. I mostly fall asleep in less than 8 minutes. I also use the audiobook at times after waking in the middle of the night, not able to fall back to sleep. The longest period I’ve continued to listen is about 60 minutes (two 30-minute sessions when just one session doesn’t work).
Since the New Year started, one resolution has been to read print books in bed before turning off the light and attempting sleep. My 8-minute-or-less zonk-out with audiobook listening occurs so rapidly that I realized wasn’t actually reading very much and had come to associate in-bed reading with troubled sleep. I missed the pleasure of a true reading experience and decided to crack open a real paper-paged book at least some nights, partly for enjoyment and partly to obviate the need for an audiobook rescue.
The sleepjunkie.org survey news about book preferences caused me to reflect on why bedtime reading was special, regardless of format.
I think making the effort to read (with eyes rather than ears) before sleeping is more about ritual than turning book pages for me. Pleasant anticipation of reading motivates physical and mental preparations which I might otherwise skip or not even consider necessary on non-reading nights. And it’s my ritual, performed before climbing into bed and before picking up a hardcover or paperback, that leads to de-stressing and relaxation, and ultimately more reading pleasure and restful sleep.
What ritual? Mine is a series of small tasks that signal the ending of one day’s work and anticipate the enjoying of the next. It includes a brief tidying up and an organizing of home, person, and gear. Like performing a complete facial hygiene routine, preparing a coffee station and travel mug, and setting out work clothes and workout gear. It seems weird, but on nights I don’t intend to read, these little chores might not get done early, or at all.
I think completing these small tasks may be what sets the stage for a more restful night regardless of book format, at least for me.
Those concerned about sleep for fitness and who hope to turn nighttime slumber struggles into a full 7-8 hours of rest and recovery might wish to give bedtime reading a trial. Consider developing a brief pre-reading ritual. Perhaps this routine and a good book will turn you into an enthusiastic, 5 or more nights per week reader!
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
[The sleepjunkie.org article discussed much more regarding its survey results, and you may wish to check the complete piece out online.]
Optimizing sleep to maximize performance: implications and recommendations for elite athletes https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27367265 (2017)
Sleep-Related Issues for Recovery and Performance in Athletes.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29651858 (2019)
[Recovery strategies in elite sport: focus on both quantity and quality of sleep].https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31920044
WORKOUTS TO IMPROVE POSTURE & REDUCE CORE FATIGUE Mentally I like to picture myself running and walking tall, striding forward with pumping arms and erect posture. Mallory Creveling, in an article for SHAPE.com explains how the strength of a large core muscle, the latissimus dorsi, one on each side of the trunk, connected to the spine, makes this image of good form possible.
“The Muscle You’re Neglecting That Could Seriously Improve Your Run” references an expert who explains how ‘lat’ strength can help to keep fatigue at bay during long runs. She offers advice on how to build strength in this muscle with 3 resistance band and one bodyweight exercise that do not require gym machine use. The moves are described but not demonstrated by images or video in the article itself; there is a link to a video with stretches and exercises.
Julia Malacoff, also for SHAPE.com, explains in an article [“Here’s How to Strengthen and Stretch Your Lats (And Why You Should)] describing latissimus dorsi muscle exercises for beginners, why they tend to be weak and under-utilized in people who sit and work on computers at desks. “Most people’s lats are neglected” she explains. Her expert says that slouching at a desk with poor posture, will “disengage your core as well as your back muscles”. According to Malacoff’s article, strong latissimus dorsi muscles are needed to maintain an upright posture.
Moves to build this muscle, the largest in the upper body, can be found in other online write-ups on the topic, but many require the use of large-sized fitness equipment, weights, and benches.
If you can figure out how to perform the exercises offered by Creveling’s expert from the written descriptions, this workout is one to file way or use right now. You’re not likely to easily find this rare, bodyweight-with-resistance band, physical therapist recommended routine elsewhere. However, a workout from nbcnews.com, which lists the latissimus dorsi as one of the major muscles that it targets, “5 Exercises That Will Strength Your Back and Reduce Pain” might be easier to follow and equally as effective.
[A routine that’s even more basic is posted on homegym-exercises.com, but that site does not reference its source.]
Another reason to put this routine in a safe place for later use is that the exercises help to increase the strength needed to eventually accomplish pull-ups and chin-ups. I’ve been looking for exactly this kind of base level training since I first tried/failed a pull-up in the park equipment near my home. Progression instructions for mastering a pull-up, an iconic power move, usually require access to pull-up/chin-up bars that will support full body weight, which mostly are located in gyms or outdoor parks.
If you notice significant core fatigue at the end of long runs or walks, throughout which you are striving to maintain an erect posture, consider adding lats exercises to pump-up your efforts.
RUN & WALK HAPPY!
https://www.verywellfit.com/great-mid-back-lats-exercises-1231482 (few images)
WEEK 7 HALF MARATHON 2020 with ‘SAINTS DAYS’ Training Plan Starts
The month of February ends this Saturday and March begins Sunday. That’s progress! Runners, congratulate yourself on reaching the point at which the long run at week’s end (6.5 miles) surpasses the distance you’ll be racing in a St. Patrick’s Day 10K (6.25 miles). Walkers will cover 6 miles, just shy of the actual race distance, and can be equally as proud.
If you have not been running or walking hill repeats, consider trying this workout option (Tuesdays) as spring weather commences. It will add variety and help build strength and speed without formal speed drills.
There's only one 'Saints' Day' tune-up race to complete, in the upcoming month of March before the focus changes. After this benchmark accomplishment you will only be concentrating on preparing for the half marathon.
Part 2 of each training plan begins with week 9. The plans overlap quite a bit, through week 12 so you can follow Part 1 for an additional 3 weeks but some may want to ‘turn the page’ and feel the excitement of being on the last part of the 18-week program.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
The full plans are on the RESOURCES page
THE ORGANIZERS OF THE MARCH 1, 2020 ABBOTT WORLD MARATHON MAJORS EVENT CALLED OFF THE RACE FOR THE MASSES on Monday February 17, explaining to roughly 38,000 registrants that only the field of elite marathoners and wheelchair elites would be competing that day. Because a case of infection with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) was confirmed in Tokyo, the race would need to be scaled down as a preventative safety measure an announcement declared.
The general, semi-elite, and charity marathon runners, and those planning to run the half marathon and 10K races were given the option of deferring their entry for the 2021 Marathon and were informed they would be required to again pay a registration fee.
This is a devastating for all who trained to compete but were prevented from doing so by circumstances. By far the most common scenario of arises on the side of the individual runner, who cannot compete because of injury or other circumstance, and who must suffer the loss of the registration fee and other expenses paid in advance. Major race changes like cancellation are not unprecedented though. A runnersworld.com article that also announced the Tokyo news identified previous international competitions that were either called-off or truncated because of environmental or dangerous conditions.
The motivation behind the 2014 founding of Earned Runs company was the unpredictability of my ‘compete-ability’ (there’s no such term) in organized races. I was unable to make two half marathon races in one year due to injury. In other years, family events prevented my participation after paying registration fees.
Ultimately, I decided to design professional-grade race bibs for personal use in custom events competed on my own terms. I vowed that never again would I suffer the disappointment and expense of not being able to participate in a race for which I had trained. If my personal event, I could determine, or change as needed, the details of each including theme date, time, distance, and challenge format. Because other runners might have experienced similar frustrations, an annual bib set has been mailed to anyone who makes a request.
Just this past fall Earned Runs was a sponsor of a pre-Thanksgiving Day cross country race, but three days before the start a family event prevented our presence there. It was sad not to be cheering on the Turkey Trot runners that day.
I hope that disappointed Tokyo runners who are not able to compete in this important goal race find a way to celebrate their readiness and perseverance, as individuals or in groups, in an alternate endurance contest. Earned Runs has bibs for you.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY
THERE'S NO NEED TO WAIT FOR TUESDAY; FAT THURSDAY IS FEBRUARY 20, 2020
[originally run February 2019]
I’m of Polish heritage, and a tradition in my family, before the start of the Catholic Lenten season on Fat Tuesday (otherwise known as Mardi Gras) is to eat a deep-fried pastry called paczki. These tasty creations have the reputation of being high in calories and fat, and to not be on the modern list of foods that are ‘healthy’.
The planned purpose of the post in 2019 was to dispel these myths by comparing the filled-bun’s ingredients and calorie count with those of other breakfast sweets. And to show runners, walkers, and exercisers that it wouldn’t be too exhausting to burn the calories needed to ‘earn’ one or two for the special occasion.
When I searched the internet last year I learned about Fat Thursday,or Tłusty Czwartek. According to an item from Wikipedia this day represents a traditional “Catholic Christian feast marking the last Thursday before Lent” which is “associated with the celebration of Carnival.”
A time of fasting, the 6-week long period of Lent would not provide an opportunity for feasting until Easter. Thus, this Thursday was a day that became dedicated to the gathering of friends and families to “eat large quantities of sweets, cakes, and other meals usually not eaten during Lent.”
Although Fat Thursday is more popular in Poland, it is might still be celebrated as Pączki Day in some Polish-immigrant-packed centers in the USA, in the Detroit Mi and Chicago IL areas.
The way my mother explained it, any sugar, fruit, eggs, cream, and fat in the household would not be needed until Easter. To avoid spoilage and waste, the cupboards and larders were cleared of such items and used to make rich pastries. Wikipedia indicates that the most popular of these all-national Pre-Lenten foods are the paczki, from Poland. Mom had never told me that pączki-lovers could legitimately, within the old traditional holiday boundaries, begin eating the sweet treats on Fat THURDAY, a full 6 days before Ash Wednesday!
“Pączki have been known in Poland at least since the Middle Ages. Jędrzej Kitowicz has described that during the reign of August III, under the influence of French cooks who came to Poland, pączki dough was improved, so that pączki became lighter, spongier, and more resilient.” So says Wikipedia.
In my experience hunting for paczki in many locales across the USA I’ve enjoyed a variety numerous fillings, including traditional plum, prune, and poppy-seed, and modern raspberry jelly, blueberry and strawberry preserves, apple, lemon, custard, and Bavarian crème. The paczki surface is most commonly dusted with granulated or powdered sugar, but occasionally is glazed or plain. (if frosted it becomes a ‘bismarck’ or jelly roll, in my opinion.)
Which leads to one of the points I was originally hoping to make in my Pączki post, that properly made, they are light and fluffy pastries, not fat-soaked, heavy-tasting and weighted calorie bombs. If this is your experience, find another source, preferably an established ethnic bakery. If they are heavy it is because of abundant filling, not excessive fat. The same Wikipedia entry mentioned above, says a bit of grain alcohol was added to the dough before cooking, which, as it evaporated, prevented the absorption of oil deep into the dough.
Okay now let’s get to the ingredients. Rather than provide a listing with calorie count here’s a recipe* (link is at the very bottom of this post You can check it out and determine for yourself how delicious it might be to celebrate February 20 (Fat Thursday) or February 25 (Fat Tuesday) with one or several. Add an extra mile or two of brisk walking each day, starting today February 19 through 25. At roughly 65-100 calories expended per mile depending on your weight, you’ll be able to afford this tradition!
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
NOTE: Waiting in line on Fat Tuesday to buy paczki at local bakeries that specialize in making the annual treats, along with other hungry and happy people celebrating the day, is a unique community-bonding experience. It has been a cherished tradition of mine for decades. As such bakeries close and supermarket chains become the only places to find mass-produced paczki, it may be necessary to make them at home. Consider saving this recipe for later use and have fun in line.
SAINTS DAYS 5K &10K TRAINING STARTS The upcoming weekend February 22-23 is probably the very last on which an organized or custom race might be scheduled with a St. Valentine’s Day theme. So, everyone is likely to be looking ahead to training for the ‘SAINTS DAYS’ 10K competition at the end of this upcoming week .
Although the official holiday date is March 17, St. Patrick’s Day-themed races can be found scheduled on the March 14-15 weekend and the following March 21-22 weeknd. For example, Chicago’s Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8K will be held March 21 this year.
For those not running/walking a St Valentine’s 5K this Saturday, the long run is 6 miles and the walk is 4 miles. Going forward, you will be building endurance to allow finishing the 10K, 6.1- mile race distance next month with confidence.
How exciting; soon there will be one Saint's Day in the books and only one more to go!
Occasional posts in past years have suggested cross training options. The RUN plan does not formally schedule a cross training day. The WALK Earned Runs plan suggests Mondays, and this could work for runners too, depending on your usual level of activity and need for recovery. Each individual must determine whether to cross train, and how to do so without adversely affecting running/walking days.
You may find that a moderately paced swimming session provides a pleasant level of tiredness, or that a short high-intensity interval cycling or rowing session invigorates your next run. An article in runnersworld.com features the "unconventional" training program of an elite runner, Ann Mazur who qualified for the 2020 Olympic Marathon Team Trials by running less and swimming more (much, much more), plus continuing with another leg-saving specialty activity, yoga.
Experiment to learn what helps you to perform best physically and mentally. Although the RUN plan has 4 running days and the WALK plan has 4 walking days, one day could be substituted with cross-training to spare your legs. However, runners should keep the long run sessions and the hills’ sessions if you are comfortably able to perform them. Walkers should try to maintain the long walk and one HIIT walk session.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
MAKE AN EFFORT to notice that ways nature demonstrates it's love on this Valentine's Day!
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
SLING EXERCISES activate core
GEAR LOVE: TRX. ALTHOUGH A TRX SUSPENSION SYSTEM IS A RELATIVELY EXPENSIVE PIECE OF FITNESS EQUIPMENT TO PURCHASE FOR HOME USE (roughly $145) for the exercises that incorporate its use might be included in trainer-designed gym workouts. If you’re not currently exercising with TRX you might consider attempting exercises demonstrated in one of the articles described below.
Also known as sling exercises in the scientific research literature, this type of training was shown, in a small German study (44 patients) to be more beneficial to older adults (age 62-84 years) with osteoporosis (Bone Mineral Density T-score equal to or less than 2.5) in improving mobility and reducing fall risk than traditional physical therapy. Pain was alleviated by both types of exercise.
Both Abbate’s and Charkalis’ routines take advantage of the suspension system’s unique construction, which Charkalis informs was developed by a US Navy Seal, to build strength, endurance and balance.
Also known as sling exercises in the scientific research literature, this type of training was shown, in a small German study (44 patients) to be more beneficial to older adults (age 62-84 years) with osteoporosis (Bone Mineral Density T-score equal to or less than 2.5) in improving mobility and reducing fall risk than traditional physical therapy. Pain was alleviated by both types of exercise
Performing any exercise using the sling system that ordinarily would not utilize one, like a push-up, transforms it to a move that significant increases core activation, and makes it much more difficult in my experience. Experiment a bit in 2020 if you haven’t used one before or add a couple new TRX moves to your list of exercises if you are already familiar with the tougher muscle-shaking workout it can provide.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
WEEK 5 HALF MARATHON 2020 WITH ‘SAINTS DAYS 5K&10K TRAINING STARTS. St. Valentine’s Day is Friday! The true holiday may be the actual date some of you will be running the first of the two ‘SAINT’S DAYS’ tune-up races, the 5K. A personal, custom-designed competition will allow this, so use Earned Runs bibs if you choose this 5k option.
Most of the organized St. Valentine’s Day themed races are likely to be slated to be run on the Saturday-Sunday part of the weekend. Good luck to all who join happy crowds of others to celebrate this day; have fun!
Congratulations to all who've persevered with training up to this point. If you don’t have a race planned, but still want to cover the 3.1-mile distance on the 14th, swap Thursday’s run or walk session with Friday’s. Treat it like an official tune-up race; it can be a tempo training run/walk performed at less than all-out effort.
Check out the article by Pete Magill about Tune-Up races that was discussed in the original blog post on the topic. The referenced expert, Paul Aufdemberge, explains the way to approach this race. ”Since it’s not a goal race you should feel like you ran fairly evenly all the way through. You should feel like you could have run faster. You don’t want to charge out and die”. It’s about building confidence.
You will then be able to stick with the plan as it builds up mileage and get in a long slow 6-mile run or brisk 5-mile walk on Saturday.
Stretch and roll afterwards and look forward to the next goal in your plan, the 10k. Hopefully if you have been paying attention to building strength, improving balance, and increasing speed in the last half of your long runs/walks, you will notice fresher legs, and achieve a strong finish. Good luck.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
ATTENTION GRABBING TOPICS THAT SURFACED DURING THE WEEK, WHICH YOU MAY WISH TO INVESTIGATE:
1. SLEEP AS PERFORMANCE ENHANCER; THE SCANDI METHOD A Runner’s World email featured an article on why sleeping hard might beat training more for those seeking a better race time. The Scandinavian practice of shared-bed sleeping, with each person having their own separate bedding, might help some situations in which couples' slumber is not restful. (FYI: I could not find the special UK Ikea TOG-ether duvet offer that was mentioned online).
“I Swapped Training Sessions for Sleep and Never Ran Faster” by Kiera Carter
“One Bed, Two Duvets -Does the Scandi Method of Sleeping Work?” by Sadhbh O’Sullivan
2. CAN ONLY FOUR DAYS OF EATING ‘HEALTHY’ IMPROVE PERFORMANCE? When I think of instituting eating habit changes to improve my nutritional intake and ultimately boost health, I think of the activity as a process. A long process, in which results can be realized, not after days, but weeks and probably months of adherence. If I were to follow a new diet for only 4 days, not even a full week, the effort would be graded as a failure. Until now.
Check out the abstract that reports 11 young male and female athletes (avg. age ~28 years, avg BMI ~24.6) showed improved running performance in a 5K after eating a Mediterranean diet compared with eating a typical Western diet. This is a very small study but made me consider that even my intermittent bouts of healthy eating might be worthy of a pat on the back. It’s an uplifting thought.
“Short-term Mediterranean Diet Improves Endurance Exercise Performance: A Randomized-Sequence Crossover Trial” in the Journal of American College of Nutrition
3. EXTREME CROSS TRAINING DELIVERED OLYMPIC TRIAL QUALIFYING RESULTS. Maybe those of us who must decrease miles spent pounding the pavement because of health limitations can improve performance with other intense aerobic and mobility training sessions.
A Runner’s world article highlighted the unusual training method of Ann Mazur, who achieved an Olympic Trials Qualifying Time at the California International Marathon his past December. Mazur swims miles in the pool each week and practices yoga (she’s an instructor) to save her legs, running much less than the usual 100+ miles per week of elite marathoners and skipping speedwork. Clearly, she is a talented and hardworking athlete who enjoys sharing how she’s learned to prevent and manage injuries with rigorous cross training. A word to the wise.
“How Rigorous Swimming and Yoga Helped Ann mazur Get Into OTQ Shape” by Hailey Middlebrook
Enjoy the weekend TGIF!
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
TO CONSIDER DURING HALF MARATHON OR OTHER COMPETITION TRAINING: DIAGNOSE AND FIX MUSCLE STRENGTH IMBALANCES
ALINA KENNEDY’S article on Medium.com offers a simple method for identifying and lessening muscle group strength inequalities we all possess. Kennedy starts by explaining why muscle strength asymmetries “limit performance” and why eventually they will lead to injury. Runners and walkers training for a competition like the half marathon will be asking their power, balance, and stabilizer muscles to perform harder and harder work as training progresses, which may ultimately force the body into revealing weaknesses between the right- and left- sided muscle groups.
Kennedy helps readers find and fix them. In the article she indicates her clinical experience shows that “muscle aches, strains, tendinopathies, and joint injuries could all be prevented with better strength training”. As the recipient of almost identical advice from an expert trainer, Tim Broe, who explained my knee problem in the same terms, I will testify to the truth of Kennedy’s statement!
Five areas receive attention in her article: calves, balance, hip stabilizers, hamstrings and gluteal muscles, and abdominal oblique muscles.
Kennedy doesn’t prescribe exercises in the article. One simple way to start correcting specific imbalances is to use the specific diagnostic move for that area as the correcting exercise! As an example, because side planks (#5) are the diagnostic move to discover inequalities between the right and left abdominal oblique muscles, performing side planks as Kennedy directs in the last part of the article will serve to strengthen those oblique muscles. Online searches will turn up additional exercises to try.
In a similar way, if single-leg, standing calf raises (#1) are used to identify which calf is weaker, the right versus the left, performing them is a great way to build calf strength.
Before getting deep into training, consider testing yourself. On strength days you can concentrate on these areas rather than randomly perform other lower body, upper body, and core strength exercises.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
WITH ‘SAINTS DAYS’ 5K & 10K TRAINING PLAN STARTS
Today is Super Bowl Sunday in the USA, so it might be wise to get your recovery session walk in early to leave the remainder of the day to enjoy the fun and excitement if doing so is in your plans.
The calendar is counting down quickly to Friday, February 14 - St. Valentine’s Day! That means the first of the Saints’ Days Races, the 5K, could potentially be scheduled as early as this coming Saturday or Sunday for some runners and walkers.
If weather forecasts of extreme cold or snowy conditions threaten to prevent your participation in an organized event you may be out the registration fee. However, that shouldn’t stop you from accomplishing a goal race. Consider running/walking a custom event using Earned Runs bibs on a day of your choosing during Week 5 or 6 rather than February 14-16 weekend to avoid this outcome or to prevent disruption of other plans. Request bibs for the competition, or get it done without a bib, but with love in your heart!
At the end of week 4 you will have spent one full month in training. Congratulations.
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.
New! Search Box
Earned Runs is now searchable! Check it out...