IF PROBLEM KNEES ARE PREVENTING YOU FROM RUNNING OR PARTICIPATING IN RUNNING EVENTS, now might be the time to investigate whether NOT running is the only option for preserving knee health. Dr. Howard Luks, a New York orthopedic surgeon who has contributed articles to medium.com has a perspective that might be of interest to those who question whether running is a healthy exercise, specifically those with osteoarthritis or a degenerative meniscus tear.
Luks’ words struck a familiar chord in his article, “Can I Make a Meniscus Tear Worse If I Run On It?” and in another lengthy article he authored on osteoarthritis and exercise. Although in much greater detail, he seems to be providing information paralleling that which was given to me by an expert orthopedic surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. I had consulted the surgeon for a complex meniscus tear, one of several unsettling MRI study findings that had prompted my decision to seek expert help at the famous center.
These several pieces present a point of view that may be new to some and offer hope as they did to me. I did resume running about a year ago, after an 18-month break. However, now I am extra careful NOT to neglect exercise that will protect my knees from further harm: resistance training to build and maintain hip muscle strength, stretching, foam rolling, and working on balance. I place more value on these non-running/walking activities than ever before.
And my training “week” remains flexible, such that long runs are put off according to how my legs feel. Rather than scheduled every weekend, the biggest mileage run/walks are spaced anywhere from 10-21 days apart, when I feel at 100% with no discomfort. The key to staying injury-free seems to be alternating walking with running in addition to paying attention to strength, balance, and mobility.
Check out Dr. Luks articles. If struggling to make a decision about running with arthritis or meniscus degeneration you may find clarity and a way forward.
RUN AND MOVE HAPPY!
4/21/20 UPDATE: additional article from medium.com
TRAINING PLAN STARTED YESTERDAY; this post is a day late due to the Easter Holiday. Runners, finally, on the last day of this training week you can prove you have what it takes to run 13 miles! But you’ll run it easy, with stops as needed. Walkers, you are almost there. Both groups are essentially ready to go the distance in competition.
These plans extend for 18 rather than 16 weeks to allow safe preparation, include a generous taper, and provide a little wiggle room for vacation time or mild sicknesses of winter. The Earned Runs programs original attempt was to bring runners and walkers to their half marathon starting lines in late April and mid-May.
Because the half marathons you may have been training for are now postponed or cancelled, you may wish to use the training day in which 13 miles are scheduled as an official race day. Perhaps add the extra 0.125 mile at the end to make the distance official too, and earn 'finisher' status. If your race has offered a virtual option, stick with the plan and continue training.
On Monday, April 20 we should have been able to enjoy TV coverage of the 124th Boston Marathon. It has been re-scheduled for this fall and will take place on September 14 instead. Earned Runs usually advises runners to watch and take note of the leaders’ running form. 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 careers that could 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 confinement, and perhaps we all will be stronger and better prepared to experience the joy of competing.
Congratulations on finishing 12 and 13 miles this week!
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
THE IMPORTANCE OF ARM SWING TO RUNNING is discussed in a 2017 article by Jonathon Beverly for runnersworld.com/uk, “Why Your Arm Swing Is So Important to Running and How to Improve It”. PodiumRunner.com posted an item by Jon-Erik-Kawamoto that addresses the same issue and features exercises that will help to generally assist runners (and walkers) with bettering their upper body running/walking posture, “6 Exercises to Improve Your Upper Body Running Posture.”
According to experts referenced in the articles, arm swing and running posture are linked and influence leg movement. Modern living activities cause us to predominantly “hunch over” while we work, drive, eat, and communicate. Constant and habitual “forward” body and shoulder positioning make it difficult and uncomfortable to maintain a “tall spine” and pull arms back during running. Thus, because arm pumping action helps to power the legs, whatever improvements we expect to obtain from efforts to strengthen and stretch the lower body may not be realized.
“To sum up, tight, rotated shoulders can sabotage all the gains you might get from posture, hip flexibility and strength work, throwing off your balance and drive”, Beverly says in the runnersworld.com article.
Elite runners know the importance of backward arm swing to running drive. Back in 2014 Tim Broe, an Olympic runner who now heads Saucony’s Freedom Track Club, informed me he coached the girls in his high school cross country team (I think it was Saline MI) to bring elbows back far enough such that thumbs brush the tops of their running shorts with each stride’s arm swing. Retired Olympic medalist Meb Keflezighi is reported in the runnersworld.com article as saying that while running “he looks at his shadow for a triangle of light between his torso and upper and lower arms” to assess whether his arm swing is effective.
Check out images in running articles. Nearly always, moving runners are pictured with elbows pulled back, purposely creating Meb’s ‘triangle of light’.
Not mentioned in either piece is the observation made by others that an upright posture has another esthetic benefit; it provides a youthful body profile. Non-runners and walkers hoping to preserve a younger appearance should consider reviewing these articles and picking a few moves to try. The only equipment needed is resistance tubing. It’s possible that by working on posture you’ll not only improve your look but feel years come off too.
Both posted articles share the same topic, but each provides different information, advice, and exercise/stretch demonstrations. I’ve long searched to find a discussion explaining this aspect of running as well as it was covered by Tim Broe in one training session at the facility where he worked 6 years ago. Serendipity resulted in my finding two, which will be posted on the RESOURCES page.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
GOVERNMENTAL DIRECTIVES TO PREVENT THE SPREAD OF CORONAVIRUS ARE REQUIRING that we not leave our homes except to accomplish essential tasks. That’s the bad news that is no longer news to hardly anyone. The flip-side good news has been that exercising is officially deemed essential. Yay!!!
Of course, there are warnings that we should not be driving to faraway sites but rather staying within our own neighborhoods, that we not gather in groups, and that we still maintain the 6 feet of distance between ourselves and others.
As wonderful as this might seem, suddenly we are stepping outside to find our usual beloved paths, sidewalks, trails, and parks filled with other people, even crowded at times. There are more dogs than ever walking and running with their people with on these surfaces, doing what dogs do, like doo-doo.
The crowds include walkers, runners, bicyclists, ambling families with strollers, toddlers, and children on scooters; there are oldsters with canes. On my favorite running route near the lake there are oodles of fishermen and women leaning on the sides of the boardwalks and walkways, angling for a catch and peace of mind.
You know what I’m talking about. And we’re starting to get on each other’s nerves.
It's bad news. We’re irritated at each other and anxious about our health.
As cloth masks are soon to be blooming on faces, contagion-risk fears might lessen even as health leaders say these coverings should not replace distancing. How can we remain pleasant and supportive members of this new COVID-19 society while outdoors exercising?
Here is my list of suggestions:
And I think we may have realized it’s better to find smaller less crowded spaces than our usual and popular, but now very busy, routes. Because my state park neighborhood has so many additional exercisers these days I’ve taken to running/walking loops of a nearby marina’s parking lot underneath boat hulls.
It’s safer and quieter.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
*Back in the day at my small city’s Catholic elementary school, we got our outdoor recess and lunch exercise on a parking lot. The school did not have playground equipment or places to sit, just a surface for running around, jumping rope, and playing ordinary stand-up kid games. Kind of the like the playground in the movie “The Christmas Story” where Ralphie’s friend Flick took the dare to touch his tongue to a frozen fence pole. https://www.cinemablend.com/new/How-Christmas-Story-Actually-Filmed-Infamous-Tongue-Scene-101537.html
TRAINING STARTS 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.
My very first half marathon was closed, incredibly after the race had started, because of dangerous conditions including downpours of cold rain, thunder, lightning, hail, and high winds. A storm had rapidly blown across Lake Michigan that morning and the "Park2Park" race course followed a lakeshore road between state and county parks. I had been at my personal mid-point in the course, roughly the 6.5-mile mark; the top finishers were undoubtably already in the shelter area, warmer and dryer than the slower paced runners.
In spite of beautiful and mild weather conditions pre-race, I had significant doubts about crossing the finish line. My confidence received a small boost upon overhearing other first-time half marathoners, next to me in the starting chute, talk about their training. They had covered 12 miles on their longest training run, as instructed by a trainer. I knew I had accomplished the exact distance, 13.1 miles, and then tapered 2 weeks.
I don’t know their finish times or in what physical condition they were at the race’s end, or whether the strategy worked for them in such terrible weather. I was able to push through to the cold and wet end partly because I had covered the full distance and had rested with the taper. The training experience helped me survive.
Unfortunately, there was no official time clocked after the race was called. But the ordeal was so memorable for everyone involved that in addition to the official race shirt the next year, another ‘survivor’ t-shirt was also made available, marking the event.
The Earned Runs plan has you continuing the next week to reach 13 miles and then tapering for several weeks. If you wish to make it 13.1 miles, for mental training, go for it! If your race date is a week earlier, the taper will be shortened, by one week.
So, you’ll keep on keeping on with the Earned Runs plans in order to hopefully acquire both emotional and physical insurance that finishing the race is entirely possible, especially if the going gets tough on race day.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
NOTE: Check out the article from Runnersworld.com if recovery from longer runs is becoming an issue. Overall, the expert referenced in it recommends cold over heat therapy.
EARNED RUNS IS ABOUT BEING COMPETITIVE, about setting goals, finding and following training programs, and then testing the results of training. Repeatedly. Earned Runs suggests that the use of competition bibs may help push this process forward if access to organized events is limited. Bibs can be a source of inspiration and motivation and employed to track progress, record successes, and document victorious seasons.
Earned Runs is not so much about “getting” fit but “becoming” an athlete regardless of age, previous training or sport experience, or body habitus*. It’s about achieving a life perspective in which daily activities are viewed as greater or lesser contributors to athletic successes but not to an endpoint of perfection.
To borrow an overused comparison, it not the destination but the journey that matters to an Earned Runs athlete. By striving to meet a variety of personal or public fitness challenges over an entire year, and then the next year, and the next, the Earned Runs athlete is able to find purpose in exercise and maintain a level of physical activity that benefits long term health.
An article by Sarah Lorge Butler for runnersworld.com, “You’re Never Too Old to Be Serious About Your Running,” highlights the competitive attitude of two runners who may not fit the typical demographic of elite athletes, yet embody the athletes Earned Runs wishes to support.
Jeanne Rice and Gene Dykes, both 71 years old and soon to be 72 in April this year, are featured as endurance race record holders who say a secret to staying competitive at levels that are the envy of younger runners involves focusing on goals and committing to continued hard work and training. Their quest to break records began only 2 years ago.
That genetic luck may have played a role in their late life successes, just as it must figure in the early careers of much younger athletes, isn’t disputed in Butler’s piece. What is featured in her story is their perseverance in training and willingness to put it all on the line in big time competitions, repeatedly, regardless of age.
According to Butler at the time the article was posted (March 5, 2020), Rice was the first to cross the finish line in her age group in Chicago in 2018 and was looking to compete in the March 2020 Tokyo Marathon after a strong showing in Berlin last autumn. Dykes came with seconds of a world record in his age group in Toronto’s 2018 Waterfront Marathon. This April he was planning to run the 5K in Boston as well as the London Marathon, or possibly Chicago in the fall. Of course, the upcoming Spring 2020 races will not be held as scheduled, we now know.
Key to their recent surge in elite running top finishes is annual goal setting and repeatedly participating in contests that they use to consistently push themselves in training. Butlers article, which tells more about their stories and histories, inspired me. In truth, it was the amazing images of ’oldsters’ like me that grabbed my attention; they were running together on a city street wearing competition bibs and looking amazingly athletic.
Although running since age 25, I only became ‘competitive’ in my early 60’s. Osteoarthritis issues took me down a couple years ago, but I’m making my way back with a combination of walking and running. This article helped me to realize that I too can continue to push my limits, by finding a training method that works for me under current constraints to safely avoid injury and repeatedly testing myself in personal challenges or organized events over the entire year.
Global viral infection concerns have led to the postponement of many major spring and summer events, and the virtual running of some. Depending on the resolution of current problems, we might see a huge rebound in Autumn 2020; making it a boom time for celebrating life itself and the resumption of traditional events.
Plan ahead, stay focused on training, and maintain readiness to race. Wait for it. The time will come to prove our mettle and rejoice in health, in competition.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
*A medical term that refers to a human body’s “build, physique, and general shape”.
RUNNING BOOM NUMBER 3 COULD OCCUR. National stress seems to bring runners to the start lines, indicates a recent commentary from RunningUSA.com, and the level of global stress as we are experiencing now could mean more people than ever will lace up and participate in the sport worldwide. When the infection situation abates and it is safe to gather in numbers, events, including virtual races, may draw increasing numbers of participants after six years of decline, the organization's post suggests.
The newsletter item explains the previous two running booms came in the late 1970’s and in conjunction with the 2008 Great Recession, lasting roughly 5 years, until 2013; both were difficult times
It points out that the boom may already be in process as those sequestered at home realize running is a “simple, accessible, effective form of go to exercise” that can be carried out while keeping the mandated distance between others. A resource exclaims, "It's the perfect sport for a pandemic."
Notice, it says that some big races like the Boston Marathon, have been postponed rather than cancelled, because there’s widespread support for such moves.
Not currently a runner but think you might wish to be included if the running community gets on the road again in a big way? Now is a perfect time to test your legs for the first time or resume if it was a sport you once enjoyed but put aside. Very few people are outside together, so there are few who will witness your rough sessions.
Think about it during these tough times.
Earned Runs will post several upcoming blogs that may help with the decision and the process of starting up. I thought I left running behind forever in 2017, but about a year ago was inspired to combine walking and running to enable a comeback. With the RunningUSA.com news about a potential upcoming boom, I’m motivated to stay healthy and be one of the surging numbers of runners, regardless of pace.
Consider getting ready to power the surge.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
TRAINING PLAN STARTS. Runners and walkers, your long-distance workout is into double digits this week! 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. It's not a practice prescribed only for oldsters.
Congratulations for all the progress made this far.
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.
RESOURCE PAGE FROM USA RUNNING: “Resources, news, statements and more from around the global running industry” can be found on this page from usarunning.org. Whether as an individual you are interested in learning the status of a specific event or hope to be updated on the effect of the pandemic on events in general, information is available. The main focus is on “aggregating news, event organizer statements and public resources from official sources relevant to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic here”.
Categories of some, but not all, included links that may be of help to the public:
There’s a great deal of additional information aimed at assisting race organizers and other running industry members with handling the changes made necessary by the situation.
Many of us at home are eager for news, that which is encouraging and hopeful, but also helps us navigate the new world of infectious danger. Perhaps it will also help to turn away momentarily from general news to coverage that looks forward to resumption of normal sport activity.
For example, a statement from race organizer Beth regarding the 10th Fort2Base Race scheduled for later August 2020 indicates organizers are continuing to make preparations “unabated”. It’s a bit of a boost to look ahead and imagine the event will take place as it has for 9 years and that training should begin on schedule.
For some RunningUSA’s page may be a hopeful look toward the close of a frightful period.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY
SEVERAL WEEKENDS AGO I WALKED/RAN THE 13.1 MILES I HAD PLANNED TO COVER IN AN EVENT ON APRIL 4, USING A PERSONALIZED VERSION of the Earned Runs Half Marathon 2020 with ‘Saints Days’ Walker Training Plan. I had adapted the Walker program to accommodate an intent to cover the distance alternating mostly walking with some running instead of just walking. Last weekend I realized I had gotten far ahead of the walker schedule and my own personal run/walk plan schedule too, possibly because it felt so much easier to crank out weekly long sessions with this mix of locomotion types.
Incredibly I was discovering that walking/running was much less difficult for me than only walking or only running! It was an entirely unexpected revelation that my knees, legs, core, and arms felt less fatigued, stiff, and sore when I was able to run part of each mile instead of just walking.
From previous experiences training to run half marathons competitively, with the goal of finishing in the top three places in my age group, I knew only running was likely to increase the risk of a sidelining injury. Walk/run training not only felt better, it was a smarter way to train. I was running slowly, but still moving with one foot hitting the ground surface at a time.
Weirdly, this body-knowledge escaped my attention until about 3 weeks ago, when it hit me that I had been reading the program’s schedule incorrectly and had jumped ahead by about 3-4 weeks. I had been covering roughly 4-5 more miles than recommended by the plan yet wasn’t physically wasted afterward!
The next Monday, after checking the upcoming workouts, I decided to keep going on the accelerated schedule, thinking I might train to compete sooner in a personal race than wait to do so in the April half marathon with other participants. Shortly thereafter, when coronavirus infections in the US hit the level to be qualified as an outbreak, it seemed increasingly likely that either I would decide not to put myself at risk by mingling with race day crowds in a large city event, or the organizers would cancel the race.
I resolved at that point to be ready early and go it alone in a personal half marathon, shooting for a goal pace of 16-minute miles or less, as required by the rules of most distance races.
Warmer than normal weather, sunny days, and the absence of snow boosted each long outdoor effort the next several weekends. The result was an early completion of my goal race about a month ahead of schedule on a lovely Saturday morning with birds singing under a clear sapphire sky. My average pace was 14:03 minutes per mile. Success!
I plan to continue with weekly long walk/run sessions through March and April, probably increasing long session mileage based on ‘feel’. If there’s no extreme fatigue, soreness, or pain associated afterward, both the day of and the day after long days, I’ll persevere and see where the training takes me.
It’s a disappointment not to be competing in the April Chicago-area half marathon, but by walk/running my own race the situation has been saved from being a total bust. Especially as the race ultimately was cancelled due to coronavirus concerns. I did not lose the race fee because I hadn’t yet paid. Also, I was not prevented from testing myself and my months of training.
Perhaps I’ll attempt to stay at a readiness level that allows competing later in the season, when the viral outbreak is, hopefully, under control. From past years, for me this has meant maintain each week’s long session mileage in the range of 9-11 miles.
Beginners who are following the run and walk programs should continue as scheduled and not speed up as I did. I was about 2 weeks ahead of the walk plan when I began to train in January, and at an intermediate to advanced level of physical training when I began to combine walking and running.
However, you might consider the walk/run form of training for your next race.
The annual 10-nautical-mile distance Fort2Base Race (about 11.5 miles) held in late August in North Chicago, IL, offers run/walk training plans with either 4 minutes running/2 minutes walking or 3 minutes running/2 minutes walking. Like me you can customize these schedules to run according to feel. My intervals are about 3 minutes running/ 3 minutes walking. Additional information on the 2020 event on August 23 will be posted as more details become available in a future post. The race website is being moved and will be back up ‘running’ according to contact Beth Salinger.
Enjoy spring training, it’s almost here!
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
WEEK 11 HALf MARATHON TRAINING PLAN STARTS You should be settling into a rhythm by now, but you’ll notice a few changes on the horizon.
The WALK schedule includes 1 short ‘easy’ walk + 2 longer ‘easy’ walks + 1 high intensity interval training (HIIT) that’s been bumped to a duration of 36 minutes this week + 1 long ‘brisk’ walk. On the next 2 Tuesdays there’s still an option of a hill repeat workout, but 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 25, 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 25 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 /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 repeats session has been offered as an option on Tuesdays. In week 13 there will be an option of a tempo run on Thursdays.
However, runners can individualize one or both sessions now that all work is focused on the half marathon.
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 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 easy steady continuous speed run that day. They have 3 options (see below) for running the shorter distance session on Thursday. #1 is for runners who only wish to “finish” the 13.1mile distance and are not concerned with time. #2 is for those who wish to finish strong but aren’t focused on gaining speed. #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 hill repeats.
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, 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.
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!
PLANS ARE POSTED ON THE RESOURCES PAGE
NOW THAT WE’VE BEEN QUARANTINED, SOCIALLY DISTANCED, PHYSICALLY ISOLATED, AND GENERALLY PREVENTED FROM ENJOYING the simple routine activities of our modern lives during the coronavirus pandemic, what’s left to do?
Many of us will turn to devices to check for news updates, communicate with friends and family, perform work from home, and for entertainment. That means there’s potential for a lot more sitting time. There’s also the potential for more fitness sessions but the constraints of home exercise will present a challenge.
Health cautions in recent years that “sitting is the new smoking” may add anxiety about being relatively inactive for weeks and perhaps months to disquieting feelings about infectious disease. What to do besides standing more? Evolutionary history may provide some answers to this question.
It turns out that evolutionary biologists have observed a few behavioral options that, rather than sitting, may have worked to protect certain human populations from industrialized civilization-linked metabolic and cardiovascular diseases. Scientists who examined sedentary inactivity practices in a hunter-gatherer society living in Tanzania, the Hadza, identified postures which they then demonstrated involve a greater amount of muscle work than chair sitting.
The study by Dr.David A. Raichlen of the University of Southern California and colleagues from other universities, involved gathering and analyzing data from thigh-worn accelerometers, observations, and electromyographic (EMG) measurements of leg muscle activity. It showed that although this group of people live in a manner closer to hunter-gatherer societies in our evolutionary history, their sedentary non-ambulatory (not walking or standing) time is similar to our own, averaging almost 10 hours a day.
Despite total sedentary time being at levels close to that of our own society, linked with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), the Hadza did not demonstrate biomarkers of this risk. The study importantly showed that instead of sitting in chairs when not ambulatory, the Hadza achieved active rest in postures requiring more lower leg muscle work, and possibly added effort from trunk muscles too.
The abstract of the reported results, available free online from the PubMed (National Library of Medicine), identified squatting as a posture. The full article, “Sitting, Squatting, and the Evolutionary Biology of Human Inactivity”, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, which requires a subscription, elaborates. Squatting, as well as assisted squatting, kneeling, and ground sitting were additional non chair-sitting postures observed in this group.
Postures were defined by researchers as such:
The authors focused on the sedentary behavior differences between societies but checked levels of daily moderate to vigorous activity too, which were higher in the Hadza than recommendations developed for US adults. There are dietary differences too that cannot be ignored. According to the article, the Hadza who participated in the study live far from villages and survive almost entirely on wild foods, similar to those who follow the current Paleo diet prescription.
This study does not represent an equal comparison of urbanized and non-industrialized societies when it comes to assessing reasons for differences in CVD risk. But it does suggest that there may be a way to lessen the detrimental effect of work and leisure time spent in a non-ambulatory positions like sitting on health. And that way might not involve just standing more but rather assuming positions of high-intensity active rest at intervals during the day.
Intensity matters, the study authors indicate. EMG data they gathered shows activity generated in some lower leg muscles by squatting and assisted squatting was recorded at 20–40% the level generated by walking. Wow.
I’m alternating between kneeling, assisted squatting, and ground sitting as I compose this post. My body will require some time and work before I’m able to spend longer sedentary periods not sitting in a chair. I usually dislike standing while working, but now find it a welcome relief to stand after assuming these postures for mere minutes at a time.
The movement it forces me to perform, which is more than that generated while I sit quietly with butt resting on a chair or sofa, at this point may come from regularly transitioning from one cramping posture to another and standing in between!
I likely can’t yet achieve the level of leg muscle activation seen in Hadza because I just can’t assume those positions comfortably for long periods. But the overall strategy of trying to mimic them may be more effective than the tactic of setting a timer, often ignored, to move during each hour of Western-style sitting.
I loved this study because it looks to evolution to find solutions to chronic medical problems we are told arise exactly because we no longer live like our ancestors. Their ancient, rugged, survival-mode lifestyle’s effect on our genes seems to continue determining our bodies’ responses to modern living, to our detriment.
Rather than being at the mercy of our ancestral genetics, and thus metabolism and physiology, it seems more empowering to take this approach to health. For some, attempting to change sedentary position habits to those of non-industrialized societies, like changing nutrition to a Paleo diet, may be something try. If your joints can handle it*.
For now I am at least trying to practice what I call “High Intensity Interval Active Rest Posturing” (HIIARP), arranging myself in positions that require greater knee flexion than chair sitting, as well as ground sitting at least some of the time when not standing.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
* As is always cautioned, if you are or have been treated for muscle or skeletal issues, check with your health care provider before attempting changes.
BECAUSE THERE IS USUALLY ONLY ONE UPPER BODY ERGOMETER (UBE) MACHINE IN A GYM IT MIGHT GO UNNOTICED, In my gym it is sandwiched between a row of ellipticals and the couple of studio spinner cycles that are kept on the floor for use outside classes. It has a rounded somewhat old-fashioned appearance, with green-light numbers displaying details of time and effort that seem to be from decades past.
In my experience, most times it sits there unused. Occasionally someone with a leg or foot splint will be seated at it. The only equipment brand I have seen in place is TechnoGym although apparently there are others.
In spite of the UBE’s tendency to be ignored in fitness centers, I love using one. There have been several time periods when I’ve suffered with lower body problems, affecting knees most commonly, and wanted a good aerobic workout that rested my legs. Swimming has been my top, go-to cardio-respiratory exercise when in rehab or recovery mode. Rowing takes second place.
But for a change-up any time regardless of injury status, when I want to spend an extra 15-20 minutes on moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity before heading home, arm cycling on the UBE is most appealing.
During my first session on an arm bike, a very fit woman on the UBE next to me (there were 2 machines in my gym at that time 16 years ago) had kindly given me encouragement and her tip for mixing up the movements. She suggested alternating pedaling action every few minutes by gripping the hand bar device in different positions: 1) horizontal bar with palms facing down, pushing in a forward move 2) vertical bar with palms facing inward, pushing forward, and then 3) horizontal bar with palms facing up in a push-forward-then-pull backward move. This last positions always been hardest for me, possibly because it requires decent bicep strength, which I must constantly work to maintain
The upper body muscles worked by this equipment are the biceps, triceps, and deltoids.
With repeated use, I came to realize the stabilizing abdominal and back muscles of my core were being worked hard too. This bonus workout was achieved by maintaining a straight upright body posture while using only arms and shoulders to power the pedaling movement, not allowing the small of my back to arch or my trunk to significantly twist.
An article by Andrea Bolt for livestrong.com describes the benefits to be gained from using an arm bike, from getting leg-resting cardio and burning calories to working on upper body strength without lifting weights (the resistance can be adjusted on the machine just like a regular bike to increase or decrease difficulty). A YouTube video by Kusha Karvandi demonstrates and instructs how intervals and endurance workouts can be accomplished on a UBE.
The biggest caution I have with the TechnoGym model used in the video and placed in my gym is that to change the machines resistance/difficulty level requires taking hands off the pedals and reaching up and forward to push the control button, which disrupts the flow of the movement. During short intervals this disruption is quite annoying, but in longer endurance sessions it’s not so much. My intervals work-around is to set the resistance significantly higher after the warm-up period and then adjust pedaling speed, faster and slower, to increase and decrease the intensity level, respectively.
Consider trying this equipment if you tend to avoid upper body strength work and enjoy endurance and interval training. Start with a 5-minute warm-up going through different bar/hand positions. Increase the resistance level for 1-2 minutes at each position, gradually working up to build strength; or vary pedaling speed to adjust intensity, like you would during a traditional bike workout. Finish with a cool-down of 1-5 minutes. After that you may wish to create a custom routine according to your fitness goals (endurance, interval training, or strength).
Boldt reports exercise scientists demonstrated that a UBE can be used to assess physical fitness in rock climbers , which to me indicates it can provide a challenging exercise session. Don’t be put off by the fact that few others in the gym use the arm bike; you won’t need to wait your turn to get started.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
WEEK 10 HALF MARATHON 2020 Training Plan Starts You are officially entering the second half of the plan this week! Congratulations for making it this far! There are no more ‘tune-up’ races after this last week of St. Patrick’s Day-themed events. You’ll be looking ahead toward your goal half marathon event.
Runners and walkers who completed a ‘Saints Day’ 10K run, will have an 8mile (or 80 minute) run and walk respectively. scheduled for Saturday. For both groups, it may be the longest training distance ever. Wow!
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.
If you’re outdoors during this session, take note and enjoy the first full weekend of Spring (March 20 is the first day). The songbirds may be starting to return to your region. I initially was amazed to hear one sweet tune a few weeks ago, doubting that it was real. Over the next week there were a couple more instances in which birds were chirping and singing.
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.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
*NOTE: to learn more about birdsong, Birdwatchersdigest.com has a free download that may be helpful.
RUNNERSWORLD.COM POSTED AN ARTICLE DISCUSSING THE OUTBREAK AND WHAT SHOULD BE OF CONCERN TO RUNNERS IN PARTICULAR. written by Danielle Zickl. The main warning involves those who are at peak levels of training for or who have just competed in a long-distance race, including marathons and half marathons, or ultras.
Immunity can be compromised in situations in which athletes push themselves to the highest levels of effort, making them more vulnerable to infection the article cautions.
Earned Runs decided to look a bit more closely into the specific details of increased risk for athletes related to immune status. A 2018 article by Neil P. Walsh from the University of Bangor in Bangor, United Kingdom, reviewed the scientific information on this topic: “Recommendations to Maintain Immune Health in Athletes.”
Most helpful was Walsh’s initial identification of prominent risk factors that contributed to decreased athlete immunity, which included “intensified training in the winter; long haul travel; low energy availability; high levels of psychological stress and anxiety; and depression.”
This information was followed by a listing of challenges that “athletes might frequently encounter”: heavy exercise, life stress, sleep disruption; environmental extremes, and nutritional deficits.” Shown in diagram form for big-picture understanding, these challenges were also discussed in separate sections in the article, with the background science explained in much greater detail.
Most importantly Walsh offered the promised recommendations as to how training might be modified to maintain the body’s protections against infection during and after sessions as well as competition. One word, in my opinion, might be used to summarize these training recommendations: modulation.
The definition of this word according to Google is “the exertion of a modifying or controlling influence on something.” By my take, Walsh is saying that physical training at levels which greatly stress the body should be controlled by activities that promote recovery and modulated by alternation with sessions of lesser stress. The points of his self-described mini-review on the topic discuss specific tactics by which training rigors can be smoothed out to help athletes avoid dips in immunity:
Most of the above recommendations seem to be what expert trainers already preach to recreational runners. Many will welcome a fitness prescription that directs us to rest and relax, to enjoy life after a tough season of training and a completed goal competition. Elite athletes are likely to view rest and recovery differently, especially professionals who depend on results/outcomes to secure financial support. However, the attitudes of elites toward training can be adopted by high-performing recreational athletes who love winning contests for non-financial reasons.
The recommendations put forth by Walsh for maintenance of immunity in athletes, in the midst of a novel coronavirus pandemic, can help us use fitness activities to boost rather than harm health. According to the expert quoted in the runnersworld.com article, runners who train normally are likely to enhance their ability to fight off infections like the common cold. Improved immunity is one of the expected benefits of improved fitness!
Because some runners may have followed intense training programs during the winter to compete in spring endurance races, and now in the midst of a pandemic infection threat face additional life stresses, a personal assessment of risk should be considered to guide further training.
These next months, in which social distancing and preparedness are advocated by health authorities, could present the perfect recovery opportunity to recharge bodies recently tested by heavy physical training.
Family members have expressed distress at not being able to exercise, run, and cycle, and otherwise work out on a normal schedule because of life disruptions related to the COVID-19 outbreak, precautions taken against infection, and efforts to get ready for a potential confinement period. Now might be the time to acknowledge that settling for a more-manageable level of physical activity will be beneficial to health and protective against psychological stress, anxiety, and depression.
Literally, the best advice might be to not ‘sweat’ these next weeks and months of abbreviated or missed training. Whatever level of physical fitness effort can safely and logistically be exerted, given the dangers and constraints of the pandemic, should be celebrated.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
“Recommendations to maintain immune health in athletes.” European Journal Of Sport Science. Neil P. Walsh. (Abstract https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29637836)
Full article: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/17461391.2018.1449895
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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