Posts Tagged ‘Running’

Why Do Rich People Love Endurance Sports?

August 29, 2017

sportsrec_signoff_fitness_tracker_activity_tracker

Cycling, running, and obstacle course racing are dominated by white-collar workers. And while disposable income makes competing more feasible, researchers are also starting to discover a psychological pull that draws these people to masochistic events.

Participating in endurance sports requires two main things: lots of time and money. Time because training, traveling, racing, recovery, and the inevitable hours one spends tinkering with gear accumulate—training just one hour per day, for example, adds up to more than two full weeks over the course of a year. And money because, well, our sports are not cheap: According to the New York Times, the total cost of running a marathon—arguably the least gear-intensive and costly of all endurance sports—can easily be north of $1,600.

No surprise, then, that data collected in 2015 by USA Triathlon shows that the median income for triathletes is $126,000, with about 80 percent either working in white-collar jobs—professions such medicine, law, and accounting—or currently enrolled as students. Running USA surveys conducted in 2015 and 2017 found that nearly 75 percent of runners earn more than $50,000, and about 85 percent work in white-collar, service, or educational settings. A 2013 report published by USA Cycling shows much the same: More than 60 percent of individuals who compete in cycling events claim household incomes above $75,000. And though it doesn’t track employment, the same USA Cycling report shows that 66 percent of cyclists have at least an undergraduate degree.

There are a handful of obvious reasons the vast majority of endurance athletes are employed, educated, and financially secure. As stated, the ability to train and compete demands that one has time, money, access to facilities, and a safe space to practice, says William Bridel, a professor at the University of Calgary who studies the sociocultural aspects of sport. “The cost of equipment, race entry fees, and travel to events works to exclude lower socioeconomic status individuals,” he says, adding that those in a higher socioeconomic bracket tend to have nine-to-five jobs that provide some freedom to, for example, train before or after work or even at at lunch. “Almost all of the non-elite Ironman athletes who I’ve interviewed for my research had what would be considered white-collar jobs and commented on the flexibility this provided,” says Bridel.

Research published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicinefound that low-income neighborhoods were 4.5 times less likely to have recreational facilities—like pools, gyms, and tennis courts—than high-income neighborhoods. In some low-income areas, less than 20 percent of residents live within a half-mile of a park or within three miles of a recreational facility. Compare that to the 98 percent of New York County residents and 100 percent of San Francisco County residents who live within walking distance to a park.

Even so, there are myriad ways for relatively comfortable middle-to-upper-class individuals to spend their time and money. What is it about the voluntary suffering of endurance sports that attracts them?

This is a question sociologists are just beginning to unpack. One hypothesis is that endurance sports offer something that most modern-day knowledge economy jobs do not: the chance to pursue a clear and measurable goal with a direct line back to the work they have put in. In his book Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work, philosopher Matthew Crawford writes that “despite the proliferation of contrived metrics,” most knowledge economy jobs suffer from “a lack of objective standards.”

Ask a white-collar professional what it means to do a good job at the office, and odds are they’ll need at least a few minutes to explain their answer, accounting for politics, the opinion of their boss, the mood of their client, the role of their team, and a variety of other external factors. Ask someone what it means to do a good job at their next race, however, and the answer becomes much simpler.

“The satisfaction of manifesting oneself concretely in the world through manual competence has been known to make a man quiet and easy,” writes Crawford, who in 2001 quit his job in academia to become a mechanic. “It seems to relieve him of the felt need to offer chattering interpretations of himself to vindicate his worth. He simply points: the building stands, the car now runs, the lights are on.”

“I love the results—running faster, running longer, going after a clear-cut goal,” says Josh White, a biochemical engineer in Philadelphia who is also a competitive age-group triathlete.

Kalliope White (no relation to Josh White), a marketing professional in New York City, told me one thing running offers that her job often doesn’t is “methodical process and simplicity. Whether it’s an easy run or a tough workout, it feels good to lock into a pace and go for it.”

Another reason white-collar workers are flocking to endurance sports has to do with the sheer physicality involved. For a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research this past February, a group of international researchers set out to understand why people with desk jobs are attracted to grueling athletic events. They interviewed 26 Tough Mudder participants and read online forums dedicated to obstacle course racing. What emerged was a resounding theme: the pursuit of pain.

“By flooding the consciousness with gnawing unpleasantness, pain provides a temporary relief from the burdens of self-awareness,” write the researchers. “When leaving marks and wounds, pain helps consumers create the story of a fulfilled life. In a context of decreased physicality, [obstacle course races] play a major role in selling pain to the saturated selves of knowledge workers, who use pain as a way to simultaneously escape reflexivity and craft their life narrative.” The pursuit of pain has become so common among well-to-do endurance athletes that scientific articles have been written about what researchers are calling “white-collar rhabdomyolysis,” referring to a condition in which extreme exercise causes kidney damage.

“Triathletes who I interviewed for my research talked about how the pain that they experienced during training and racing was one of the primary reasons they did it,” says Bridel. “To overcome this pain and get across the finish line served as a significant form of achievement and demonstrated an ability to discipline their bodies.”

The great irony, of course, is that one of the main reasons people pursue education, financial security, and solid employment is to create comfortable lives. But for some, this can begin to feel like too much of a good thing. Endurance sports provide a necessary outlet, offering concrete measures of a job well done and the chance to deal with physical suffering—albeit in a voluntary, defined, and immediately escapable environment.

Brad Stulberg (@Bstulberg) writes Outside’s Science of Performance column and is author of the new book Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success.

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Repairing and Rebuilding Torn Muscles

February 18, 2014

torn muscle

A workout recovery is essential if you have over-exerted yourself during an exercise session. A good indicator of straining yourself too much during a workout is if you find that your muscles have become torn. Such tears require immediate repair and rebuilding. Muscles are best defined as contractile tissues that further stem from the mesodermal layer of your embryonic germ cells.

Your body’s muscles perform many important functions, chief among them being the production of both motion and force. This motion may either be the internal movement of your organs, or simply the actual locomotion of your body itself. Torn muscles are serious workout injuries, and if you find yourself with torn muscles, you ought to do everything possible to treat them as soon as possible.

Types of Torn Muscles

If you find yourself with a torn muscle, you will experience one of three types. The first type of torn muscle is the first-degree strain that only involves less than 5 percent of your muscle. This torn muscle will only result in mild pain and barely a loss of strength or range of motion in your muscle. The next type is the second-degree strain. It is a partial tear that is characterized by more than mild pain with each muscle contraction. However, you may not have the ability to walk or stand without limping or feeling pain. The worst type of muscle tear is the third-degree tear, which is an utter tear along the total width of the muscle, disallowing you to contract it at all. This type of tear may need immediate surgery since internal bleeding may result.

Treatment during First 72 Hours

After you realize you have torn your muscle, you have got to stop whatever you are doing. Apply an ice pack to the torn muscle area for 20 minutes, and this will slow down the flow of blood to your injured muscle area. Take care not to ever massage the torn muscle area or apply heat to it; doing either will result in more blood flow to the area, which disrupts the opportunity for your muscle to heal.

Wrapping the torn muscle area is also a good idea, as this will compress and support your damaged area. You should also take care to ensure that your torn muscle area is kept elevated above your heart. Seeing a doctor is recommended, too, so you can determine exactly how serious your tear is.

Treatment after 72 Hours

You ought to apply ice for periods of 15 minutes at a time, for up to four times a day; after three days, you may alternate between ice and heat treatments. Since torn muscles are liable to be torn once more, you are recommended to undergo physical therapy to build up the strength of your torn muscle. With regards to physical therapy, a good idea to pursue is a monitored program which actually measures the progress of your return to muscular strength, so that you are less likely to aggravate the tear in the future.

Article sourced from: http://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/fitness/exercises/workout-recovery-repairing-and-rebuilding-torn-muscles.html

How to Buy Running Shoes

September 8, 2013

Looking for the right running shoes?Running Shoes

These days, the search can be daunting. It used to be so simple. As kids, we had sneakers that we wore for everything from riding a bike to climbing a tree to playing baseball in the backyard.

Now there are shoes for every sport — and countless varieties to choose from. Asics, Nike, Mizuno, New Balance, Saucony — these are just a few of the companies that sell running shoes. It’s hard to pronounce these brands, let alone remember them.

So how do you know which running shoes are right for you?

We asked some fitness experts — all of them runners — how to buy running shoes. Here is their advice:

Know Your Running Profile

The best first step in finding the right running shoes is knowing what you will be doing with them, says Bruce Wilk, physical therapist and owner of The Runner’s High, a running specialty store in Miami. Are you a jogger or a runner? Do you run 15 miles a week or 25? Do you run on trails, asphalt, or a treadmill? Are you training for a race?

“A high school track runner is different than a middle-aged marathoner,” says Wilk.

You also have to take into account your body type, he says.

“A big round person is different than a narrow skinny person,” says Wilk, and there are running shoes out there for every body type.

Identify Your Running Style

Know how you run, says Wilk. It’s important to determine where a person first comes in contact with the ground. Is it the outside of the heel? Is it at the inside of the forefoot?

“If the point of initial contact is mainly through the forefoot (as for many athletes and sprinters), then there’s not a lot of shoe needed behind the forefoot,” says Wilk. “Why would you want to have a lot of cushion in the heel when you’re not going to spend any time there anyway?”

If you’re a forefoot runner, you should be wearing a running shoe like the Nike Vomero, which has most of its cushion in front. If you run from heel to toe, the Asics Gel Kayano might be the right running shoe for you.

Be sure to identify any injuries you have developed from running, as well. Problems like shin splints, blisters, tendonitis, and plantar fasciitis often can be reversed with the proper fitting running shoes.

Know Your Arch

The shape of your arch helps determine whether you pronate (roll to the inside of the foot), supinate (roll to the outside of the foot) or remain pretty neutral when you run.

Supinators (sometimes called underpronators) are rare, says Wilk. Many more people overpronate, which can lead to lots of overuse injuries.

Get to know your arch,” says exercise physiologist Jesse Pittsley, PhD, director of exercise science at Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina. “If a person has really flat feet, they’re going to need more of a stability shoe but with a higher arch, they’ll need more of a curved shoe.”

Many stores that sell running shoes will give you a “wet test,” that is, they moisten the bottom of your foot and have you make an imprint on a sidewalk or dark piece of paper to determine the size of your arch.

Test 360 Degrees

When you are being fitted for running shoes, it’s not only important that there is enough space in the toe box when you stand, your whole foot should fit on the platform of the shoe, Wilk says.

“I teach my staff to palpate 360 degrees around the foot to make sure that all the bones are sitting on the shoe platform,” he says. “The shoe fitting is not just that the upper is wide and long enough.” says Wilk.

The running shoe shouldn’t squeeze the foot, and the entire width of the foot should be touching the base of the shoe.

Shop Late

Feet swell during the day, says Julie Isphording, a former Olympic runner and organizer of Cincinnati’s historic Thanksgiving Day Race. They also swell during a run, so trying on running shoes when your feet are at their largest is going to give you the most comfortable fit.

Bring Your Old Shoes

When you are shopping for a new pair of running shoes, bring your old ones along, Isphording says. No, you don’t get to have them resoled or trade them in, but you can help the salesperson determine what kind of running shoes you need by having him look at the pair you’ve been wearing. The salesperson will look at the way your old shoe is worn to confirm your running patterns.

Get Measured

Feet actually change as we age, says Isphording. “As adults,” she says, “we rarely have our foot measured because we just assume we know our size.”

Determining your shoe size is essential for a comfortable fit. Keep in mind, too, that the size you wear in a Saucony shoe may not be the size you wear in an Adidas shoe.

Not only the size, but the shape of our feet change over time, she adds. If your foot flattens, for example, you may need to change the type of shoe you buy from one designed for stability to one with motion control.

Dress the Part

Don’t go shopping for a new pair of running shoes wearing a suit, or flip-flops and no socks, says Isphording. “Wear what you would wear to run,” she says, “especially wear the right sock. And if you have special shoe inserts or orthotics, bring those along, too.”

Forget Fashion

Be careful about buying a shoe for looks, warns Wilk.

“The average time a consumer takes to pick out a pair of running shoes is about 10 to 15 seconds,” says Wilk.

Knowing that, he says shoe manufacturers will use characteristics like looks, weight (lightness) and cushion to sell shoes because these are tactile factors that appeal to consumers.

“Fashion running sneakers,” he says, “are hourglass-shaped because that shape makes the foot look smaller,” Wilk explains. “No foot is hourglass-shaped. It’s either C-shaped or straight.

“Cool-looking running shoes that work is really an oxymoron because a running shoe that works, at some point, looks like feet.”

Don’t Overdue It

Even if you find out you are a pronator with flat feet and weak ankles, you may not necessarily want to buy the stiffest, bulkiest — what people in the industry call the “motion control” — shoe, suggests Pittsley.

“The human body was made to move,” he says. “If the shoe is too bulky, it almost causes the shoe to compensate for your weaknesses. A person should be able to control his own ankles and should be able to control the shock (the natural occurrence of the foot hitting the surface) a little,” he says. “If you do it all with the shoe, it’s like crutches to you.”

In other words, he says, you may be doing yourself a disservice by getting an injury prevention running shoe before you actually need it: “Medium-weight trainers might satisfy many people.”

Try, Try, Try

Once a salesperson can narrow down the type of runner you are and the type of foot you have, he or she will likely have several options for you. Try them all, says Isphording. Don’t rush. Take your time trying on and testing shoes.

“Plan on trying on about six pairs that will range in price from $70 to $100,” she says. Don’t buy for price. Buy the pair that feel the best, she says. “There are a lot of good shoes out there. You’ll find a pair that works for you.”

Test Drive

Most good specialty running stores will have a treadmill in the store where you can try out your shoes. If there’s no treadmill, ask to run somewhere close by. Trying on a shoe is much different than running in it. After all, you don’t just sit in a car and decide you want to buy it, you start the engine and take it around the block.

At Wilk’s Miami store, he calls this stage of the shoe-shopping process “feel.”

“We can do everything to try to fit you to the right shoe,” he says, “but we can’t feel it for you.”

This is a key step in the process, he says. Wilk asks customers to run at pace and then asks these questions: How does the shoe feel on initial contact? How does it transition? Is there anything that’s rubbing you wrong or hitting wrong on the shoe?

Shoe Odometer

“Always date your shoes when you buy them,” says Isphording. Don’t keep them longer than six months or 500 miles. “Even if they still look pretty, throw them away,” she says. There is a high risk of injury when running with worn out shoes.

By Barbara Russi Sarnataro
WebMD Feature
http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/features/how-to-buy-running-shoes-tips-to-treat-your-feet-right

Barefoot Running, is it all it’s been promoted as?

June 16, 2013
Is Barefoot-Style Running Best? New Studies Cast Doubt
By GRETCHEN REYNOLDS

Minimalist shoes and barefoot running may not be ideal for running.

Barefoot-running enthusiasts long have believed that running without shoes or in minimalist footwear makes running easier, speedier and less injurious. But a surprisingly large number of new studies examining just how the body actually responds when we run in our birthday shoes or skimpy footwear suggest that for many people, those expectations are not being met.

Consider, for instance, the findings of the most definitive of the new studies, published last month in The Journal of Applied Physiology. It looked into whether landing near the front of the foot when you run is more physiologically efficient than striking the ground first with the heel.

This is a central issue in any discussion of barefoot-style running, because one of the supposed hallmarks of running shoeless or in minimalist footwear is that doing so promotes a forefoot landing. Without the heel cushioning provided by standard running shoes, barefoot proponents say, runners will gravitate naturally toward landing lightly near the balls of the feet.

And they should, most proponents add, because landing near the front of the foot will require less oxygen and effort and allow you to push harder at any given speed and ultimately run faster or longer.

But that idea, while appealing, has not been well scrutinized. So researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst recruited 37 experienced runners, 19 of whom were habitual heel-strikers and 18 of whom landed first near the front of the foot. (Heel striking is far more common than forefoot striking among modern runners, by most estimates, with at least 70 percent of us nowadays leading with our heels.)

The researchers began by outfitting all of the volunteers with the same neutral running flats and then having each run on a treadmill as he or she normally would, using his or her preferred foot strike. The volunteers ran at three different speeds, equivalent to an easy, middling and fast pace. Throughout, the researchers measured oxygen uptake, heart rates and, through mathematical calculations, the extent to which carbohydrates were providing energy.

Then, in a separate experiment, they asked each runner to switch styles — the heel-strikers were to land near the balls of their feet and the forefoot strikers with their heels — while the researchers gathered the same data as before.

In the end, this data showed that heel-striking was the more physiologically economical running form, by a considerable margin. Heel strikers used less oxygen to run at the same pace as forefoot strikers, and many of the forefoot strikers used less oxygen — meaning they were more economical — when they switched form to land first with their heels.

Most of the runners also burned fewer carbohydrates as a percentage of their energy expenditure when they struck first with their heels. Their bodies turned to fats and other fuel sources, “sparing” the more limited stores of carbohydrates, says Allison Gruber, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, who led the study. Because depleting carbohydrates results in “hitting the wall,” or abruptly sagging with fatigue, “these results tell us that people will hit the wall faster if they are running with a forefoot pattern versus a rear-foot pattern,” Dr. Gruber says.

These findings undermine some of the entrenched beliefs about minimalist shoes or barefoot running, but they jibe closely with the conclusions of multiple studies presented last week at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine in Indianapolis. Five separate studies there found no significant benefits, in terms of economy, from switching to minimalist, barefoot-style footwear.

The news on injury prevention and barefoot-style running is likewise sobering. Although many barefoot-style runners believe that wearing lightweight shoes or none at all toughens foot muscles, lessening the likelihood of foot-related running injuries, researchers at Brigham Young University did not find evidence of that desirable change. If foot muscles become tauter and firmer, the scientists say, people’s arches should consequently grow higher. But in a study also presented at the sports medicine meeting, they found no changes in arch height among a group of runners who donned minimalist shoes for 10 weeks.

Other researchers who presented at the meeting had simply asked a group of 566 runners if they had tried barefoot-style shoes and, if so, whether they liked them. Almost a third of the runners said they had experimented with the minimalist shoes, but 32 percent of those said that they had suffered injuries that they attributed to the new footwear, and many had switched back to their previous shoes.

None of this new science, of course, proves that barefoot-style running is inadvisable or disadvantageous for all runners; it proves only that the question of whether barefoot is best is not easily answered. “There are lots of individual instances where people report that change” from one type of running shoes or running form to another “was good for them,” says Rodger Kram, a professor of integrative physiology at the University of Colorado at Boulder, who’s long studied running form. “There are also lots of cases of people switching or trying to switch who got hurt.”

The primary lesson of the accumulating new science about barefoot-style running, he says, is that “the biomechanics of running are not simple, and generic proclamations” — like claims that all runners will benefit from barefoot-style shoes and running form — “are surely incorrect.”

Dr. Gruber agrees. “I always recommend that runners run the way that is most natural and comfortable for them,” she says. “Each runner runs a certain way for a reason, likely because of the way they were physically built. Unless there is some indication that you should change things, such as repeated injury, do not mess with that plan.”

Article first appeared June 5, 2013 on: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/06/05/is-barefoot-style-running-best-new-studies-cast-doubt/

Pace yourself … the LONG run

May 14, 2013

Smacked myself on a long, slow run yesterday. Contradiction? Apparently not.

Since February I’ve been following (a bit loosely, as it turns out) the Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training (FIRST) program for the coming Sydney Morning Herald half marathon. The idea behind the program is to train at a pace based on your fitness and to run only three days per week with cross training in between.

The upside is that the risk of injury and burnout from overtraining is lessened, but each session is tough. That’s where I’ve been a little tardy. In the speedwork and tempo sessions I’ve worked hard to meet my target times, but until recently I’d been treating the long runs as just building time on my feet and not really worrying about pace. That’s what I’ve done in the past when training for half or full marathons. But now that I think about it, I’ve always regretted not having had more speed in the final quarter of a race…

I think that’s where the “slow” part of LSD (that’s long, slow distance) has let me down.

So for the past couple of weekends I’ve been doing my long runs with my speedwork group and have discovered there’s a big difference between running 17km at 5:06 minute per kilometre pace and 4:40min/k pace.

I asked coach Kathryn Holloway about this. Kathryn is a former all-England cross country champion and owner of Positive Fitness personal training on Sydney’s lower North Shore. She has tried many programs and is a strong advocate of FIRST, having used it to run a personal best time of 3:03:00 for the 2011 New York Marathon.

“Some weeks in the program it is about running slow and not worrying about the pace, but generally there is a purpose behind the long run,” she says.

“We are all time-poor and we are getting older, so I believe strongly about training with purpose and quality. The purpose of the long run is to improve endurance by raising your aerobic metabolism. If you have a goal of 85 minutes for a half marathon and go for your long run of 19 kilometres at 5min/k pace, how on earth will you ever feel confident about or indeed be able to hold a 4.01min/k pace?

“A steady, cruisey run sightseeing and thinking about what you need to get done in your day is OK now and then, but the success factor of the program is to run at a set pace based on your race goal, which you first calculate from your 5K race or time trial pace.”

The 5km time trial sets a realistic goal for the half marathon and subsequently the speed of the three weekly running sessions. Another 5km time trial halfway through the program is a good way to track your progress and see if your goal time is still achievable. This can be adjusted accordingly as you should see an improvement.

“The pace for the long run can change week by week depending on what stage you are at in the program, as can the distance,” says Kathryn. “That is, it could be a 20km run done at goal pace plus 19 seconds, or a 17km run done at goal pace plus 12 seconds.”

And for people like me who take a while to get going, it’s OK to start off a long run slower, and build up during the middle and then come home hard.

“Overall it’s the average pace that matters,” says Kathryn, “so if you are going uphill, you don’t have to hold the goal pace plus 12 seconds, for example. Play around with strategies to get to your average based on the course you’re running.”

Because the FIRST program for the most part takes the “slow” out of LSD runs, it’s not ideal for beginner runners without much of a distance base or those without speedwork experience, or anyone not interested in improving their times. There are plenty of other programs that will still get you over a fun run line. It’s just a matter of shopping around a bit.

“The FIRST studies discovered that focusing on a specific pace prepares runners physiologically and mentally for racing,” says Kathryn. “The physiological side is that it increases the muscles’ ability to metabolise lactate, which is that horrible feeling when you legs start to burn.

“By training at a higher intensity, your muscles will adapt and use the lactate as an energy source rather than allow it to accumulate in your muscles and blood and give you that horrible ‘I want to stop’ feeling.”

So the bottom line is, if you want to run faster, you need to train faster. But never underestimate the value of the occasional mood-enhancing meditative mooch. Sometimes it’s just what your mind and your body needs.

* FIRST as written about by Bill Pierce, Scott Murr and Ray Moss in their book Run Less Run Faster, (updated edition released 2012).

What role does the long, slow run play in your life?

Article source here:
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/executive-style/fitness/blogs/the-long-run/pace-the-key-to-long-slow-success-20130510-2jd21.html#ixzz2TEPrClAQ

Running Backwards?

December 16, 2012

running backwards

This column appears in the Dec. 9 issue of The New York Times Magazine.

Backward running, also known as reverse or retro running, is not as celebrated as barefoot running and will never be mistaken for the natural way to run. But a small body of science suggests that backward running enables people to avoid or recover from common injuries, burn extra calories, sharpen balance and, not least, mix up their daily routine.

The technique is simple enough. Most of us have done it, at least in a modified, abbreviated form, and probably recently, perhaps hopping back from a curb as a bus went by or pushing away from the oven with a roasting pan in both hands. But training with backward running is different. Biomechanically, it is forward motion’s doppelgänger. In a study published last year, biomechanics researchers at the University of Milan in Italy had a group of runners stride forward and backward at a steady pace along a track equipped with force sensors and cameras.

They found that, as expected, the runners struck the ground near the back of their feet when going forward and rolled onto the front of their feet for takeoff. When they went backward though, they landed near the front of their feet and took off from the heels. They tended to lean slightly forward even when running backward. As a result, their muscles fired differently. In forward running, the muscles and tendons were pulled taut during landing and responded by coiling, a process that creates elastic energy (think rubber bands) that is then released during toe-off. When running backward, muscles and tendons were coiled during landing and stretched at takeoff. The backward runners’ legs didn’t benefit from stored elastic energy. In fact, the researchers found, running backward required nearly 30 percent more energy than running forward at the same speed. But backward running also produced far less hard pounding.

What all of this means, says Giovanni Cavagna, a professor at the University of Milan who led the study, is that reverse running can potentially “improve forward running by allowing greater and safer training.”

It is a particularly attractive option for runners with bad knees. A 2012 study found that backward running causes far less impact to the front of the knees. It also burns more calories at a given pace. In a recent study, active female college students who replaced their exercise with jogging backward for 15 to 45 minutes three times a week for six weeks lost almost 2.5 percent of their body fat.

And it aids in balance training — backward slow walking is sometimes used as a therapy for people with Parkinson’s and is potentially useful for older people, whose balance has grown shaky.

But it has drawbacks, Cavagna says — chiefly that you can’t see where you’re going. “It should be done on a track,” he says, “or by a couple of runners, side by side,” one facing forward.

It should be implemented slowly too, because its unfamiliar motion can cause muscle fatigue. Intersperse a few minutes periodically during your regular routine, Cavagna says. Increase the time you spend backward as it feels comfortable.

The good news for serious runners is that backward does not necessarily mean slow. The best recorded backward five-kilometer race time is 19:31, faster than most of us can hit the finish line with our best foot forward.

Baby, we were born to run

June 24, 2012
The great thing I’ve discovered about running is that it really isn’t about comparing yourself against other people.

I would dream about being able to run like most people dream about being able to fly, for it was only when I was asleep that I could finally do something my body seemed unable to accomplish in real life: I’d put one foot in front of the other and propel myself down roads and tracks and over mountains and through the trees, all the while effortlessly filling and emptying my lungs with oxygen.

In real life, however, running the way I ran in my dreams simply wasn’t an option. As a child, I was a reasonable sprinter and was usually able to score myself a coloured ribbon of some kind in the 100 metre or 200 metre races at school athletics carnivals, but anything further than those distances had me gasping for breath, clutching at my chest and begging to borrow an asthma inhaler off a nearby student (I clearly believed puffers had magical powers that could even help those who had not been diagnosed as an actual asthmatic by a licensed medical professional). The idea of participating in the “cross country” event – a misleadingly named 3km run that saw competitors soaking up the sights and sounds of a couple of suburban streets before doing a lap of the school oval – was absolutely laughable to me.

By the time my school years were over and mandatory physical exertion was no longer a part of my life, I had already heartily embraced smoking, and once my tobacco habit made friends with my predilection for alcoholic beverages, it only took a couple of years for whatever vague level of fitness I may have had when I was younger to completely disappear.

“I can’t run,” I would tell people, probably with a cigarette dangling from my mouth and a beer in my hand, “I’m not actually physically able to, my lungs pack it in after about a minute.” As though I was built differently to every other human being on the planet, a flawed version of the factory model that had somehow, accidentally, been released onto the market with all the rest of the functioning people. I knew I was making the situation worse, what with all the recreational boozing and fagging, but still felt absolutely certain deep down that even if I did cease indulging in all my bad habits, running continuously for longer than sixty seconds was simply not an option for my body. I quite liked dreaming about running, but I had absolutely no desire to punish myself physically by attempting (and failing) to do it in real life.

Cut to the day my friend Paddy lent me a book called Born To Run by Christopher McDougall. I reacted the same way most normal people would if kindly offered a loan of a book seemingly about exercise – I smiled and graciously thanked Paddy for his thoughtful offer, and when I got home I put the book on my desk and didn’t go near it for months. I’m a busy woman, so the idea of spending any spare moments I had reading a text about running seemed about as appealing to me as pressing play on the Crazy Frog Presents Crazy Hits album, or repeatedly slamming my fingers in a door, or having Kim Kardashian read the Herald Sun letters page aloud to me.

However, there eventually came a time when I was suitably bored enough to pick it up and I decided that at the very least, I could finish the first chapter before returning the book to my friend. That first chapter was interesting enough for me to bother with the second, and by the time I completed the third I knew what I held in my hands was a book that was probably going to change my life in some way.

Without going into too much detail, Born To Run tells the story of a reclusive Indian tribe from the Mexican Copper Canyons called the Tarahumara whose society revolves around running, the eccentric American runner known as Caballo Blanco who studied their ways, and the ultramarathon event he decided to create which saw some of the world’s greatest long distance runners travelling to the  land of the Tarahumara for the chance to compete against the indigenous people. It’s a story so unbelievable, I often found myself grabbing my laptop to “fact check” what I was reading because it all seemed so impossibly wonderful. And while sharing the absolutely thrilling tale of the greatest running race hardly anyone got to see, McDougall peppers the book with facts and anecdotes that promote the idea that the human species, as both the book title and the Springsteen song insist, were born to run. And not just in short bursts, either – McDougall offers up to readers the “endurance running hypothesis”, which is the theory that before we learned to make weapons and hunt down creatures for food using spears, humans would chase animals over long distances until our prey collapsed from exhaustion. Once we mastered using weapons for hunting, most of us forgot how to run – but our bodies are still built to do it.

“Well, I’m a human,” I thought to myself once I had finished the book, trying to process everything I had read, “or at least I was the last time I had a check up at the doctors. Is it possible that… that even I could learn to run for an extended period of time?”

I talked about it with friends of mine who I knew loved running, people I had previously written off as sick bastards but who now possibly had advice that could be useful to helping me to join their sweaty cult. One pal, JP, told me that when she started running she used to imagine herself as Cliff Young, the late great runner-slash-potato farmer who captured the heart of the nation in 1983 by winning the inaugural Sydney to Melbourne Ultra Marathon at the age of 61. “I would imagine myself in a pair of gumboots,” she said, “just shuffling along slowly but surely, like Cliffy did – the important thing is to keep moving, not how fast you’re going.”

I’m not going to lie to you – this seemed to me to be a piece of absolutely useless advice, and I made a mental note to avoid asking JP for running tips in the future. If this was the best guidance I was gonna get from my jogging chums, I had no choice but to try and make a fist of it on my own.

I got some myself some running shoes, made a killer playlist on my iPod (surely the most important of all pre-exercise rituals, no?) and headed to a nearby park that has a 1km loop track around it. I started running, and sure enough after a couple of hundred metres, I began to feel the familiar sensation of not being able to breathe properly kicking in… and then, I heard the voice of JP in my head.

Imagine yourself as Cliffy Young, Jess”, the JP in my head whispered, “you’re wearing gumboots now, so just slow down and shuffle along, take your time, just keep moving, that’s all that matters!”

With the image of Colac’s finest in my head, I slowed down but kept moving. My breathing got better. I did one lap of the park, and since my lungs had suddenly decided to play ball for the first time in my whole entire life, I kept going until I had finished another. Afterward, my chest felt like it was going to burst. Not just because I’d run – well, plodded along continuously for – 2km and I was exhausted, but also from excitement because I’D JUST RUN 2KM! AND SINCE I TRULY BELIEVED I HAD BEEN BORN WITHOUT THE ABILITY TO RUN,  WHAT JUST HAPPENED WAS ACTUALLY MIRACULOUS! SOMEONE ALERT THE VATICAN!

This happened a couple of months ago at the beginning of February. As I lay in bed later that night, I decided that if I could manage to do something so previously unfathomable as running 2km without stopping, I could probably do 3km. Which I did, later that week. I started looking at my body in a new light. No longer was it the disobedient failure I had loathed for so long; I’d underestimated it, for it was capable of things I could’ve never imagined. A few weeks later, I cracked 4km. A few more, and I’d conquered 5km. I set myself a goal of finishing the 8km Mothers Day Classic run in Geelong, and two weeks ago I’m happy to say that despite the miserable weather and a head cold I was battling, I completed the course. Sure, at one point a woman pushing a pram managed to overtake me with embarrassing ease, and yeah, okay, I was one of the last to cross the finish line. But you know what? The great thing I’ve discovered about running is that it really isn’t about comparing yourself against other people. The only person I’m trying to better whenever I put my trainers on is myself. And there’s something fantastically liberating about smashing through my own self-imposed limitations, too. All those old mantras – “I can’t run. This is just the way I am and I can’t change” – were just falsehoods that were holding me back. I know that sounds like the kind of nonsense you’d hear on a late night informercial for a cheeseball American motivational speaker, but I swear to god it’s true. If I can run, and keep breathing, and even occasionally smile while I’m doing it, then there’s a pretty good chance I can do almost anything I put my mind to.

On the off chance reading this has sparked a desire to give running a go, I’m going to leave you with two inspirational things to help motivate you.

First: the words of acclaimed Japanese writer Haruki Murakami, a man so enamored with the sport of running that he wrote a book about it (called What I Talk About When I Talk About Running).

Most runners run not because they want to live longer, but because they want to live life to the fullest. If you’re going to while away the years, it’s far better to live them with clear goals and fully alive then in a fog, and I believe running helps you to do that. Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: that’s the essence of running, and a metaphor for life.

Second: a picture of Cliff Young hurtling through the fields of Colac wearing gumboots as running shoes and looking as graceful as a gazelle in the wild.

Article sourced from : http://www.dailylife.com.au/health-and-fitness/dl-fitness/baby-we-were-born-to-run-20120524-1z72s.html

If the “running” shoe fits, wear it

April 1, 2012
Advice on the run
At Coffs Coast Health Club we see lots of runners,  so when we found this article about running and shoes we thought we would share it with you.  With so many running shoe options out there, or no shoes at all, it can become confusing.  So let’s shed some new light and then you decide which shoe fits for you.
Barefoot running enthusiasts are adopting "foot-gloves" while some go without shoes altogether.Barefoot running enthusiasts are adopting “foot-gloves” while some go without shoes altogether. Photo: Nick Cubbin

For the past few years, proponents of barefoot running have argued that modern athletic shoes compromise natural running form. Now a first-of-its-kind study suggests that in the right circumstances, shoes make running physiologically easier than going barefoot.

The study, published online in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, began by recruiting 12 men with extensive experience in running barefoot. ”A novice barefoot runner moves very differently than someone who’s used to running barefoot,” said Rodger Kram, a professor of integrative physiology at the University of Colorado who oversaw the study. ”We wanted to look at runners who knew what they were doing.”

Specifically, Kram and his colleagues hoped to determine whether wearing shoes was metabolically more costly than running unshod. In other words, does wearing shoes require more energy than going barefoot?

A few previous studies have suggested that in terms of physiological effort, it’s easier to go barefoot. After all, shoes have mass. They add weight to your feet, and pushing weight through space, as you do with every step while running, demands energy.

These earlier studies generally concluded that every additional 100 grams added to your feet should increase the energy cost of running by about 1 per cent. Over many kilometers, that 1 per cent becomes magnified if you wear heavy running shoes, which can easily weigh 300g to 400g or more.

For their study, Kram and his colleagues wanted a relatively lightweight, cushioned shoe, and chose a lightweight shoe, barely reaching 150g.

The runners were asked to run multiple times on treadmills, either wearing the shoes or not. The runners were never completely barefoot; when unshod, they wore thin yoga socks to protect them from developing blisters and for purposes of hygiene.

Next, the researchers taped thin lead strips weighing a total of 150g to the tops of the runners’ feet. By adding an equal amount of weight to the bare foot, they could learn whether barefoot running really was physiologically more efficient.

It was not. When barefoot runners and shod runners carried the same weight on their feet, running barefoot used almost 4 per cent more energy in each step than running in shoes.

To the researchers’ surprise, barefoot running, often touted by fans as more natural, was actually less efficient.

”What we found was that there seem to be adaptations that occur during the running stride that can make wearing shoes metabolically less costly,” said Jason Franz, a doctoral candidate at the University of Colorado who led the study. Shoes, he said, ”provide some degree of cushioning”. If you eschew shoes, ”something else has to provide the cushioning”.

That something, he and his colleagues believe, is your legs. If you are barefoot, the job of absorbing some of the forces generated when your foot strikes the ground shifts to your leg muscles, a process that Kram calls the ”cushioning effect”. As a result, the leg muscles contract and work more and require additional energy. The metabolic cost of the activity rises.

Of course, most barefoot runners do not jog weighted by lead. But even when unweighted barefoot running was compared foot-to-foot with running in the shoes, the latter won out. For eight of the 12 runners, wearing shoes remained slightly more efficient, although the shoes added weight.

The study looked only at the metabolic efficiency of wearing shoes, compared with going barefoot. It did not evaluate the common claim that running barefoot lowers injury risk.

In the end, the difference in metabolic cost between going barefoot or wearing light shoes is probably of greatest interest to serious racers. They might want to mull the trade-off between having less mass on their feet when barefoot versus having greater potential strain on their leg muscles.

For the rest of us, the lesson might be that even if you don’t want to go barefoot, you might want to invest in a slimmed-down shoe. ”There is a metabolic cost to wearing really heavy running shoes,” Franz says. He suggests wearing lightweight shoes that provide cushioning to spare leg muscles without having mass to slow movement might be the physiologically smartest alternative to being barefoot.

The New York Times

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/executive-style/fitness/advice-on-the-run–if-the-shoe-fits-wear-it-20120328-1vyqr.html#ixzz1qlmA173N