Conventional wisdom says you can pretty much eat whatever you want if you’re an avid runner, as your body is burning off all of the excess calories. But is that really true? New research now suggests that avid runners need to pay attention to their diets as well when it comes to the potential for heart disease.
As a 10-mile-a-day runner, Dave McGillivray thought he could eat whatever he wanted without worrying about his heart. “I figured if the furnace was hot enough, it would burn everything,” said McGillivray, who is 59.
But a diagnosis six months ago of coronary artery disease shocked McGillivray, a finisher of 130 marathons and several Ironman-distance triathlons. Suddenly he regretted including a chocolate-chip-cookie recipe in his memoir about endurance athletics.
“My first reaction was, I was embarrassed,” he said.
As race director of the Boston Marathon, McGillivray is a high-profile exhibit in a growing medical case against the devil-may-care diets of many marathoners. Their high-mileage habit tends to lower their weight, blood pressure, heart rate and cholesterol levels, leading them (and sometimes their doctors) to assume their cardiac health is robust regardless of diet.
“‘I will run it off’—that attitude clearly prevails among the marathoners themselves, almost sometimes to an arrogance,” said Paul Thompson, a veteran marathoner who is chief of cardiology at Hartford Hospital.
A growing body of research shows the error of that thinking. A study published in the current edition of Missouri Medicine found that 50 men who had run at least one marathon a year for 25 years had higher levels of coronary-artery plaque than a control group of sedentary men. A British Medical Journal study published this year compared the carotid arteries of 42 Boston Marathon qualifiers with their much-less active spouses. “We hypothesized that the runners would have a more favourable atherosclerotic risk profile,” says the article. As it turned out, that hypothesis was wrong.
Many assumed that extreme-endurance sports could help prevent heart disease, but now the research suggests this extreme activity may actually cause problems.
We should be careful of course to jump to conclusions after several studies, but certainly this raises questions and challenges old assumptions.
It also brings us back to some common sense notions that moderation in diet and excercise can be the best combination. Pushing anything to the limit – whether its your diet or your activities, can lead to risks.
Jamey Codding is scheduled to run his first marathon in Chicago on October 9th. Jamey was a competitive runner in the past, but mainly ran 5K’s or under. He began running again after a long break and has had to educate himself on in-race hydration and nutrition. If you’re interested in running at all, and want to start off on the right foot, you’ll definitely want to read the first part of his series, Training for Marathon #1: Hydration and Nutrition.
1. Running will give you a heart attack or other heart problems. It is true that exercise temporarily raises the odds of a heart attack while you’re mid-workout, but doing it consistently reduces that risk over the long haul, leading to a net benefit. Some researchers have questioned whether marathon running, especially in people who haven’t trained a lot, might cause heart damage, at least temporarily. But there’s no evidence that it causes long-term harm or actually leads to heart attacks. Even athletes with enlarged hearts—if they’re healthy hearts—aren’t, as once feared, at risk of early death. The bottom line: Simply going for a run most days of the week is doing far more good than bad for your heart.
2. Running will ruin your bones and joints. A study in the August issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found no evidence of accelerated rates of osteoarthritis among long-distance runners when compared with healthy nonrunners. “We used to say that osteoarthritis came from wear and tear. That’s now revised to say that is can result from tear but not wear,” says James Fries, emeritus professor of medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine and senior author of the study. Moreover, weight-bearing exercise like running helps stave off osteoporosis by maintaining bone mineral density.
3. Running will kill you before your time. According to a study published this week in the Archives of Internal Medicine, running and other vigorous exercise in middle age is associated with a longer life. Not only that, it will make your later years more pleasant by reducing disability. After tracking runners and healthy nonrunners for 21 years, starting when they were at least 50 years old, a research team led by Stanford’s Fries found that the ability to perform activities of daily life like getting out of a chair and walking was better among runners than nonrunners. And 19 years into the study, 15 percent of the runners had died, compared with 34 percent of the nonrunners. USNews.com
People who engage in very repetitive tasks such as long distance running, labor or swimming show very little or no improvement in the size and strength of their muscles. Long distance events are by nature very low in intensity.
Compare a marathon runner to a 100 meter sprinter. Marathon runners who train for very long periods at a very low intensity are emaciated looking having less than normal muscle mass and carry on average 14 ? 16% body fat. Sprinters, on the other hand, who train for short periods at a high level of intensity are very muscular and have half the body fat levels than marathoners. If cardio is the key to getting lean, as many people presume, why do marathoners have a higher body fat than sprinters? The reason is, a specific stimulus is required for a specific outcome.
The specific stimulus needed to stimulate muscle and strength is high intensity training. This is a universal training principle that affects everyone without exception. This is due to the fact that we are anatomically and physiologically the same. If this were not true doctors could not perform surgery and prescribe medicine. Consequently, the stimulus needed to induce biochemical changes that build muscle and strength in humans is the same.
Intensity, when referring to training, is the percentage of physical exertion that one is capable of. Training with one hundred percent intensity is the best way, the only way, to stimulate muscular size and strength in the shortest amount of time. How does one gauge the intensity of their workouts? By taking your working sets to positive or concentric failure.
Taking a set to the point of failure, where you cannot possibly perform another rep despite your maximum effort is one of, and perhaps the most important of several factors in your success. There are many who disagree and advocate high volume training with 60%, 72%, 95%, or whatever percentage of intensity they decide is the best. Some even claim training all out, with one hundred percent intensity is not only unnecessary, but detrimental. Over the years I’ve seen so called strength coach specialists, and personal trainers with 15 letters after their last names, concoct the most ridiculous routines, using almost every percentage, that have yet to show any effectiveness in real world application.
The main problem with these bogus routines is that there are only two accurate measures of intensity. Zero, when you are at rest; and 100%, when you?re training to the point of failure. How do you measure anything less than 100% intensity? If I can do 10 repetitions to complete failure with 100 pounds on the leg extension machine, where do I go for 80% intensity? Do I perform 10 reps with 80 pounds? Or do I use 100 pounds and only perform 8 reps? Is 80% the optimum percentage, or is it 65%? There is no evidence that suggests, let alone proves, anything less than 100% effort is equally or more effective. Are you starting to see the ridiculousness and inaccuracy of such training prescriptions?
Intensity cannot be measured accurately with reps or weight. While performing a set, intensity increases exponentially with each successive rep. Performing the first 5 reps on the leg extension is not equivalent in intensity to performing the last 5 reps. Hence, 5 reps is not the equivalent of 50% intensity.
The only way to train that is completely accurate is with all out intensity to failure. This will give you a concrete view of how you?re performing. If you train with 100% intensity during every workout and you do not progress, you know you are not recovering. There will never be a question whether you are providing a strong enough stimulus for progress. However, if you follow the percentage of intensity or the percentage of max rep principles, how will you know you are training intensely enough to stimulate muscular size and strength? If you plateau, are you training too hard or too long? Do you lower the percentage or raise it? Do you need more rest, or do you need to train at a higher intensity? There is no need for this guessing game.
Your goal is to bring about the largest, most rapid outcome for your individual genetic potential. In order for this to occur, the body requires 100% intensity every working set of every exercise. This is the only truly accurate way to gauge the efficacy of your training program. Nothing less than 100% will do. The body needs a reason to adapt. Give it!
Buying running shoes can be a frustrating experience if you have flat feet.
If you’re not too sure if you have flat feet, you can tell by looking at the insides of the feet. A person with flat feet has flattened arches in the insides of the feet. When a person with flat feet stands up, the entire foot touches the floor. A normal foot has an arch on the inside, so this part of the foot never touches the ground. The arch provides natural shock absorption. Without it, extra stress is placed on other parts of the body such as the hips, ankles, and knees. To reduce the impact on other parts of the body, including the other parts of the feet, running shoes that provide either extra cushion, support, motion control, and stability are essential.
Although flat feet is a common condition, people with flat feet still have to search for special shoes that reduce the impact on other parts of the body, in order to prevent injury. Individuals with flat feet, especially those that play sports or exercise regularly, have a higher risk of medical and lateral midfoot injures such as metatarsal (the long bones in the forefoot) stress fractures. Metatarsal injuries are common in ballet dancers, gymnasts, and runners.
There are several manufacturers that you probably have never even heard of that make the best shoes for flat feet. These include Brooks and Mizuno. Popular makers of running shoes for flat feet include New Balance, Nike, Saucony, Asics, and Reebok.
No matter which brand you choose, you will still have to test them to make sure they are right for you. One of the best indicators of compatibility is how your ankles, feet, hips, and knees feel when you run or jog in them. Most large athletic stores will have a running track or enough space for you to jog around to see just how well the shoes work for you. Spend as much time as need to test cushion, support, motion control, and stability, with stability being top priority.
Expect to pay the same price for specialty running shoes as you would for a high quality pair of non-specialty running shoes. In-store prices typically start at around $120. You can shop online where “Internet only” specials are plentiful, but purchasing specialty shoes without trying them out first is not recommended.
In addition to wearing special running shoes, people with flat feet may perform foot exercises (using ping pong balls) to prevent injury and they may also use insoles for flat feet in other types of footwear. New Balance, ProKinetics, and Dr. Scholl’s sell a variety of insoles for flat feet.
Feeling a little tired to go to the gym? Feeling like you had a rough day, and just don’t feel like going for your every other day run? Or, are you just feeling plain lazy, like most, and need some inspiration? Watch the following video.
When most think of carbohydrate loading, the classic method of low carb consumption coupled with bouts high intensity exercise followed by a high intake of carbs a few days before competition comes to mind. The result, according to the theory, is super-compensation of glycogen storage in the muscle cells and liver. The theory holds that one must deplete their glycogen stores prior to consuming or loading carbs in order to facilitate super-compensation.
The average person’s total amount of muscle glycogen is approximately 300 – 500g depending on their gender, size, and level of training. The liver stores between 60 and 120g. A linear relationship exists between the depletion of muscle glycogen and fatigue during exercise. With less glycogen to produce glucose, hypoglycemia begins to affect the athlete. Typically, a person with a blood glucose level below 70 will start to feel light headed, lethargy, and have cold clammy skin. A highly trained athlete, on the other hand, can train at much lower levels than 70 for long periods of time.
As with all training topics there is conflicting evidence on what is the best method to achieve super-compensation of glycogen stores. studies are reporting similar results to the classic method, which so many athletes swear by, without carb depletion, while tapering their training (1,2,3). One thing is for sure, carbohydrate levels play a key role in training and competition success.
In order to figure out what works best for you, try different methods and keep a detailed journal. We all process carbs the same way, but we metabolize them at different rates. Keep mind, studies on training are by no means the end all be all. There are too many variables in most training studies to be reliable. Athletes, especially endurance athletes are over-trained. It is my opinion that athletes who are achieving super-compensation without depletion coupled with bouts of intense training, are doing so because they are over-trained and under-fed before starting the process.
The body is constantly working to stay in homeostasis. Physiology shows us glycogen storage is finite; the body needs a reason to super-compensate. Achieving a glycogen depleted state over a period of time produces an insulin sensitive environment, which is essential for more than normal levels of glycogen storage.
1. Eur J Appl Physiol 2002;87:290-295
2. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab 2003;285:E1304-E1311
3. Int J Sports Med 1981;2:114-118
Men?s Fitness.com details an easy way to strengthen your ankles for when you?re doing plenty of outdoor running this summer:
Problem: Tight calves and a weak tibialis anterior muscle (the one next to the front of your shin) are two of the most common causes of ankle injuries.
Solution: Ankle circles, which can stretch your ankles and strengthen your tibialis. Lie down, grab the back of one knee, and pull your leg to your chest. Begin making circles with your foot. Do 20 to 40 clockwise and then repeat the opposite way. Do these every day and strive for more circles at each session. Increase the effectiveness of the exercise by using a foam roller on your calves beforehand.
While it may seem too simple to be effective, ankle circles will make a difference right away. By bringing your tibialis into balance, you’ll increase the potential for your calves to get stronger and boost the stability of the joint, lessening the likelihood that your ankles will roll out on you when playing basketball or any other vigorous sport.
How often can, or more importantly, should I train per week? Optimum recovery time between training sessions is essential if one is going to continue to make progress. Training frequency, which is determined by ones recovery ability, is often a forgotten part of most training protocols. It never ceases to amaze me how many people train for months and years experiencing little or no success, and never consider the fact they may be doing too much.
Don’t be so concerned with how many training sessions you can handle per week. Be more concerned about the optimal amount. More is not always better. In fact, when somebody comes to me for advice because they’ve stopped making progress, usually I either reduce the workout volume or add days off. There is no reason in going to the gym if you’re not going to make progress. In every workout, if you have fully recovered, and you come ready to work, you should make progress, which is gauged by your strength.
How can anyone get stronger every workout? One can only bench press so much. Eventually, you have to hit a plateau. This is true. If one stays with the same exercises, the same number of reps and the same number of sets, progress may eventually stop. If the proper changes aren’t made at the right time, eventually the body adapts to the stimulus. And this is where the “art” of program design comes to play.
It’s easy to follow a workout. The real challenge is assuring the stimulus is sufficient and more importantly, you recovery from workout to workout so that progress continues over a long period of time. Sometimes this entails having the discipline to deviate from something that is not working. If you’re not making progrss, and you’re training with all out intensity, try taking an extra day off.