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Transgender athlete Bo Aucoin speaks out on WSER policy changes


By Larry Carroll

The world’s oldest 100-mile trail race is touting a rule change that embraces the inclusion and equal rights beliefs of modern society — and transgender athletes are celebrating.

Photo Credit: Transgender athlete Bo Aucoin speaks out on WSER policy changes

At the beginning of February, the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run issued a Transgender Entrant Policy, with the stated intent “to establish rules to encourage and facilitate the participation of transgender runners at WSER with the goal of ensuring fair and inclusive practices that respect the personal rights and dignity of transgender entrants while preserving the integrity of competition for awards and records based on sex.” Posted on the event’s official Facebook page, it was easy to quickly see the passion with which the message was received.

“So excited to see the sport I love taking steps to be a more inclusive community,” posted one responder. “I will welcome others with open arms, and every single person out there on the trails grinding out miles should be encouraged to compete.”

Photo Credit : Transgender athlete Bo Aucoin speaks out on WSER policy changes

However, not everyone in the racing community has responded favorably — and as of this writing, the post’s 141 comments are littered with plenty of back-and-forth. One of those commenters is transgender athlete Bo Aucoin, who is now speaking out further on the issue in a powerful new interview.

“I know I’m a guy; I don’t know that I’ve ever known something so deeply. It’s terrifyingly liberating and painfully beautiful,” the 37-year-old Aucoin, who was born with female genitalia, tells ATRA . “Before transition I was quite competitive both as a distance runner and as a triathlete. I was never a pro or an elite, but I held my own as an age-grouper. Athletics helped ease some of the dysphoria I felt over my body.”

Regardless of their stance on other issues regarding transgender persons, some athletes and organizers have historically struggled with the issue of how to categorize them in races traditionally divided into “men’s” and “women’s” categories. Policies have increasingly focused on certain medical benchmarks that an athlete must reach in their transition before officially being allowed to compete as a certain gender, and the WSER statement seems to further that attempt at definition.

“A male-to-female transgender entrant can register to compete as a female provided the runner has been undergoing continuous, medically supervised hormone treatment for gender transition for at least one year prior to the race,” the policy states. “A female-to-male transgender entrant can register to compete as a male with no restrictions. The only exception is female-to-male transgender runners can no longer register to compete as a female if they have begun hormone treatment related to their gender transition that includes testosterone or any other banned substance.”

Photo Credit : Transgender athlete Bo Aucoin speaks out on WSER policy changes

The statement goes on to say that although a runner’s self-declared gender at registration will be taken at face value, a challenge can be made if a top 10 finish or age group award is at stake. That challenge may then require the athlete to provide documentation detailing their gender transition status. But as one Facebook commenter put it plainly: “Kudos for starting this conversation. I’m sure there’s no perfect policy and you may find ways to improve it, but thinking about it, writing about it, being a leader on it and such is a net good.”

Aucoin agrees, and is appreciative of the opportunity to participate in a race that has been a lifelong goal: “Being on testosterone, I find it nearly impossible to cry. That news, when it came across my Facebook feed, however, very nearly did the trick … the policy simply takes away a major obstacle that was once there (and in many situations is still there) for transgender individuals — an obstacle that was never there and will never be there for the cisgender population. From my perspective, the policy is not about making exclusive accommodations. It’s about granting inclusive accessibility.”

Ultimately, what the issue seems to boil down to is something that Aucoin states very succinctly: Transgender is not a choice, but tolerance is.

“I’ve said it numerous times to myself and to others, but I’ll say it again: If I could snap my fingers and be comfortable as a cisgender woman, I would do it in a heartbeat,” the athlete explains. “That would be a much easier, and quite frankly, a much ‘better’ life. Transitioning isn’t fun. It’s really freakin’ hard.”

“And I know hard,” Aucoin adds. “I’m an ultra-marathoner.”

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Proteins at the Source – How Much Does an Ultra-Runner Need?


By Larry Carroll

Ever since the first caveman hit a saber tooth tiger over its head with a club, mankind has known that when it comes time to fuel ourselves protein is a necessity. As the years have passed, however, our intrinsic hunter-gatherer tendencies have evolved. These days, we’re more likely to gather salads than saber tooths — but protein is still an imperative, particularly for the ultra-athlete.

So, how important is protein for trail runners? And what are the best sources for those with vegetarian and non-vegetarian diets?

Nutritionists recommend a daily intake of 46 grams of protein for a healthy adult woman, and 56 grams for a man. In those parts of the world grappling with malnutrition, that’s a serious issue. But in developed countries including the United States, it is estimated that most people eat somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 grams of protein every day — and even vegans are above the threshold, using beans, nuts, whole grains and other sources to get an estimated 60 – 80 grams per day.

Photo Credit: Proteins at the Source

Of course, those numbers include all Americans, regardless of physical activity or level of fitness. So, where does that leave folks who spend their days training for marathons rather than sitting in a cubicle?

Although carbs have long been viewed as the rockstars of the running community, all those pre-run plates of pasta won’t cut it alone. Protein makes you feel fuller longer, helps manage your blood sugar, and assists runners with building and repairing vital tissues.


Photo Credit: Proteins at the Source

RunnersConnect breaks down the athlete’s intake needs with a simple equation: 1.2 to 1.7 grams per kg of body weight (in contrast to non-athletes, who need about .8 grams of protein). In order to build and maintain lean muscle mass, divide your current weight in pounds by 2.2 — for example, a 180-pound man would require about 82 grams of protein, while a 135-pound woman needs about 62 grams. As you’ll recall, both numbers fall well below the amount of protein intake for the average American.

So instead of hitting a certain number, perhaps ultra-runners need to act like a journalist and consider the source.


Photo Credit: Proteins at the Source

Some runners swear by chocolate milk, channeling their inner 8-year-olds while claiming it’s all in the interest of good health. But before you mix in that Nesquik, consider this: A glass of garden-variety reduced-fat chocolate milk will get you 7 grams of protein, along with 24 grams of sugar. Instead, it is more sensible to make your own shake with ingredients like protein powder, fruits and almond milk and focus on adding something into your diet like L-glutamine, which will help reduce inflammation and muscle soreness.

Other great sources of protein for runners include: Albacore tuna (low calorie, high in B12), grass-fed beef (leaner than grain-fed), eggs (17 grams of protein each) and skinless chicken (easily prepared in many different ways to keep your taste buds interested). For those aiming to maintain a vegan/vegetarian lifestyle, stock up on canned black beans (low glycemic index, meaning they steadily release energy to the body), raw almonds (lowers cholesterol and improves heart health), sweet potatoes (manganese and copper maintain healthy muscles) and anything whole grain because the fiber/protein mix will deliver a boost to your overall diet.

Photo Credit: Proteins at the Source

“With every footstrike, a runner carries two to seven times his or her body weight,” Dr. Douglas Kalman, a researcher on the effects of protein in athletes, told Runner’s World . “Protein is what keeps your body healthy under all that strain.” According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition, athletes who don’t fuel their workouts with enough protein put themselves at a higher risk for injury.

So be smart with your sources and channel your inner caveman — even if you’re using your proverbial club only to gather a handful of almonds.

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SEX AND THE SERIOUS ATHLETE: CAN ULTRA-RUNNERS FOOL AROUND BEFORE AN EVENT?

by Larry Carroll

When it comes to sex, every athlete (or movie fan) remembers the cautionary words of crusty cornerman Mickey in the 1976 classic “Rocky”: “Women weaken legs!”

Sure enough, sports pop culture is riddled with tales that reinforce the message that athletes need to refrain from doing the nasty while training for a big competition. In “Bull Durham,” Tim Robbins’ golden-armed hurler Nuke LaLoosh puts Susan Sarandon’s bedroom eyes on hold during a winning streak; in “The Fighter,” Mark Wahlberg’s character rebuffs his girlfriend while insisting that he needs to “stay angry” for a big fight. And the advice lingers on — in the recent blockbuster “Creed,” Rocky Balboa busts out Mickey’s old words of wisdom when his protege (Michael B. Jordan) falls for Bianca (Tessa Thompson), advising him to hold back before presumably changing his mind when he arranges their rendezvous.

Is there any truth to the notion that harnessing your sexual desires can result in a better athletic performance? Or is it all a big Hollywood myth?


Photo credit: Sex and the Serious Athlete

According to CNN (sex olympics athletic performance), the notion actually predates Hollywood by a few hundred years, dating back to ancient Greece and Chinese medicine. While speaking with Australian researcher David Bishop, the outlet reports that only four major scientific studies have ever been done on the topic — and all targeted only men.

Perhaps the most noteworthy of those is a 2000 study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, which examined 15 athletes between the ages of 20 and 40, urging them to complete a bicycle stress test while abstaining and then again after having sexual relations with their partners. The conclusion? Although the study found no significant overall effect, it did warn: “The recovery capacity of an athlete could be affected if he had sexual intercourse approximately 2 hours before a competition event.”


Photo credit: Sex and the Serious Athlete

This would seem to strengthen the case of Ronda Rousey. In 2012, wielding a 12-1 UFC record and on top of her sport, the fighter gave an interview saying she has “as much sex as possible” before an event.

“For girls, it raises your testosterone,” Rousey said at the time. “So, I try to have as much sex as possible before a fight.” Laughing, she added: “Not with like everybody. I don’t put out Craigslist ads or anything, but you know, if I got a steady, I’m going to be like, ‘Yo. Fight time’s coming up’.”

Which begs the inevitable question: Would Mickey have warned Ronda that “Men weaken legs”?

In the world of ultra-running, participants are always looking for anything that could give them an edge. So, is the answer between the sheets?


Photo credit: Sex and the Serious Athlete

A 2015 Runner’s World article (Is it okay to have sex the night before a big race) addressed the notion of sex the night before an event, examining three studies. Experts advised that runners keep it to “a quickie,” try to avoid any late-evening marathons, and do their best to avoid anything new.

“Don’t experiment with new positions or acrobatics in the bedroom; it would be a shame to strain or pull a muscle or get that all-so-common calf cramp the night before the big race,” ob-gyn/runner Alyssa Dweck, M.D. told the magazine, adding: “It’s prudent to avoid a new brand of condom, spermicide, or other novel product during sex the night before a race, just in case you are sensitive and have an unexpected reaction.”

A 2013 Trail Runner article (Trail-tips/sex-and-the-trail-runner) quotes professor/author Dr. Tommy Boone, who agrees with the “no harm in a quickie” rule. “Active intercourse for five minutes only burns 20 to 30 calories, and even 40 minutes of vigorous intercourse burns just 250 calories, the equivalent to walking a couple of miles,” he observes.

Then again, some ultra-marathoners may be less eager to mess around then others. An Ultra-Running Magazine article entitled “Living With an Ultrarunner: It’s Not Always Easy” featured a spouse lamenting her husband’s lack of drive.

“Don’t assume the ultra-runner will be the All-American lover,” she explains (Living with an ultra runner its not always so easy ). “Although known for vigorous appetites for food and fresh air, this does not automatically carry over to a runner’s sex life. Adding seven to ten hours a week training time to the 40 hours most people work, plus time for stretching, showering, icing sore muscles, and so on doesn’t leave many magic moments for snuggling by the fire.”

Ultimately, it seems, the key to athletic training is not pushing your body beyond its normal rhythms and practices. “Current thinking in elite sports is that athletes should act in ways they consider ‘normal’ and not do something that goes against their beliefs — which will induce guilt, such as believing pre-competition sex is not good for you and yet engage in sex anyway,” Tennessee State University Health and Human Performance professor Mark Anshel told CNN.

“A lot of athletes feel guilt-free and okay about pre-competition sex because it helps them sleep better,” he explained. “Most contemporary coaches seem to agree.”

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The Science of Altitude Training

Altitude training: If you’ve heard runners rave about the miraculous benefits of training at high altitudes, you may have been left wondering what all the fuss is about. You’re not alone. Despite near-unanimous agreement on its general benefits, altitude training remains a subject of some controversy in the field of sports science.

Why Does Altitude Help Us Train?

In a nutshell: thin air.

If you’re not familiar with high altitude training, that answer may surprise you. Thin air is the last thing most people want when they’re pushing through the end of a hard workout, but it carries a suite of physiological benefits.

The proposed benefits range from the obvious increase in the physical difficulty of performing athletic tasks in low oxygen to the possible placebo effect of believing that your training will make you more effective.

And if you’re looking for the number one reason athletes train at altitude, you need to know about hemoglobin.

Hemoglobin

altitude training

Hemoglobin is the protein in blood which carries oxygen all throughout your body. At high altitudes, your body is unable to efficiently saturate each hemoglobin cell. It begins to counteract the lack of available oxygen by creating more of these cells, increasing the efficiency with which oxygen can be carried from the lungs through the body.

While there is no consensus on what altitude is required to stimulate this production, nor what duration of exposure, studies have shown that 2-3 of training weeks at 1800m results in a significant increase (Laura A. Garvican-Lewis, Iona Halliday, Chris R. Abbiss, Philo U. Saunders, Christopher J. Gore. (2015) Altitude Exposure at 1800 m Increases Haemoglobin Mass in Distance Runners. Between 1400m and 1800m, lesser benefits are suspected but largely unproven.

When athletes return to sea-level, the additional hemoglobin remains, and the body is more able to effectively deliver oxygen than it could be otherwise. This is considered to be the primary reason why training at elevation is effective.

Watch Your Iron

altitude training

You need iron to produce hemoglobin, so it is commonly recommended that you take an iron supplement while training at altitude. At least one study has shown that athletes who are typically iron deficient see a greater increase in hemoglobin mass, so long as they receive proper supplements (Laura A. Garvican-Lewis, Andrew D. Govus, Peter Peeling, Chris R. Abbiss, Christopher J. Gore. (2016) Iron Supplementation and Altitude: Decision Making Using a Regression Tree.

The Devil’s Bargain

It is widely accepted that elevation training does cause an increase in hemoglobin production, and that additional hemoglobin allows athletes to perform at increased levels, but there remains some debate whether elevation training is a completely effective method.

Many athletes and researches see an unspoken trade in elevation training. They believe that the environmental benefits conferred at high altitudes are negated by the increased difficulty of training there in the first place. While little quantifiable evidence has been found to justify this claim, it has led one research team to suggest a novel approach.

Live-High; Train-Low

In 2015 a group of Journal of Sports Science and Medicine researchers, led by Amelia Carr, published a study which suggests that three weeks of training at lower altitudes (~1400m) while sleeping in tents designed to simulate the oxygen levels at 3000m could stimulate hemoglobin production as effectively as living and training at 1600m.

By using this “LHTL” method, athletes can take full advantages of the benefits of high altitude training, while maintaining a relative intensity that wouldn’t be possible a little higher up (Amelia J. Carr, Philo U. Saunders, Brent S. Vallance, Laura A. Garvican-Lewis, Christopher J. Gore. (2015) Increased Hypoxic Dose After Training at Low Altitude with 9h Per Night at 3000m Normobaric Hypoxia.

Timing Matters Too

Once you’ve decided to incorporate altitude into your training routine, you’ll need to figure out the timing. It is generally recommended to use the first 1-2 weeks at altitude for a low-intensity training acclimatization period. However, more seasoned athletes (particularly those with experience training at altitude) may be able to resume high activity training in the first 2-4 days with better results.

On return to sea-level, hemoglobin mass has been observed to remain stable as many as 14 days, and, in some cases, has been suggested to last as many as 4 weeks. Overall, it seems that the first 4-8 days after completion of an altitude training camp is the optimal time to compete (Avish P. Sharma, Philo U. Saunders, Laura A. Garvican – Lewis, Julien D. Périard, Brad Clark, Christopher J. Gore, Benjamin P. Raysmith, Jamie Stanley, Eileen Y. Robertson, Kevin G. Thompson. (2018) Training Quantification and Periodization during Live High Train High at 2100 M in Elite Runners: An Observational Cohort Case Study.

Journal of Sports Science and Medicine (17), 607 – 616. https://www.jssm.org/hf.php?id=jssm-17-607.xml)

Journal of Sports Science and Medicine (14), 413 – 417.https://www.jssm.org/hfabst.php?id=jssm-14-413.xml).

Journal of Sports Science and Medicine (15), 204 – 205.https://www.jssm.org/hf.php?id=jssm-15-204.xml).

Journal of Sports Science and Medicine(14), 776 – 782. https://www.jssm.org/hf.php?id=jssm-14-776.xml#).

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Does Running Ultramarathons Cause Long-Term Foot Damage


Carry the Weight: Does Running Ultramarathons Cause Long-Term Foot Damage?

Endurance runners spend a lot of time talking about their feet. Eavesdrop at the starting line of any ultra, and you’re likely to hear the chatter: kindly blister tip exchanges; vigorous debates over shoe style, arch supports, or how and when to use compression socks; endless hand-wringing over plantar fasciitis; and constant anxiety over proper foot strike patterns.

Despite this obsession with maintaining their feet, there seems to be a generally accepted superstition in the running community that the accumulation of wear from years of ultras will eventually saddle the sport’s most dedicated practitioners with chronic, debilitating foot conditions.

So, are the best distance runners truly doomed to painfully shuffling through their twilight years? Let’s look at the evidence.

Recognizing the Immediate Risks

Photo credit: Ricardo Mejía

Unfortunately, due to the relative youth of the sport, we don’t yet have a large enough sample size of lifelong endurance runners for any study to reach a definitive conclusion on the long-term effects, but we can to build a case by looking at the common short-term foot injuries that distance runners face.

Setting aside blisters and bunions, the most common foot maladies faced by runners fall into two categories: , and stress fractures. Both categories are the result of repeated microtrauma: in the former, inadequately repaired minor tissue damage in tendons leaves them weakened and vulnerable to more significant re-injury. In the latter, degeneration of bone occurs too rapidly for the body to repair it1.

Another common running injury is plantar fasciitis, a degeneration in the soft tissue that holds up the arch of the foot2.

The first bit of good news here is that none of these conditions is considered chronic or incurable. Tendinopathies do seem to carry a high risk of re-injury, but the risk is mitigated by exercise (to increase the strength of the tendon), making it reasonable to infer that a return to running after such an injury is the safest course5.

You’ve probably also noticed that none of these complications is unique to runners, nor even to athletes. That’s the other good news: running may increase an individual’s risk of developing certain injuries or conditions, but it does not create any risks of its own.

Treatment and Prevention

Photo Credit:  Treatment and Prevention Of your foot

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: untreated or improperly treated injuries will cause long-term damage, particularly if placed under continued strain. That’s as much true for the guy on the couch as it is for the woman running the Barkley Marathons. But for the athletes who do seek responsible medical care, the future outlook isn’t nearly so grim.

Treatments for tendinopathies, stress fractures, and plantar fasciitis tend to follow the same basic procedures. Rest, ice, pain relievers, and anti-inflammatories are used to reduce pain and encourage healing until the injured area is adequately repaired to begin a progressive course of exercise. Load is then gradually increased until the foot is restored to full functionality1. Sometimes surgery is employed to accelerate repairs, or else to re-break improperly healed bone in the case of some stress fractures, but this is considered a last resort.

Both during and after recovery, emphasis is placed on correcting the foot posture that caused the pain in the first place. As Dr. Dave Hannaford, a podiatrist who has completed the Badwater 135 and Western States 100, wrote in Ultrarunning Magazine, “In high-mileage ultrarunning the feet have to be pretty close to optimal or pain and injury result. Every day in my practice I am amazed at sometimes how little is required to cure injuries which have been present for years. For many runners, a wedge the thickness of a nickel placed accurately can be enough, shifting the motion closer to optimal.3”

That leads to more good news: the same plantar short foot muscle exercises that are vital components of rehabilitation can (and should) be used by healthy runners to correct their foot posture, both reducing the risk of injury and mechanically improving the ability to run4. This suggests that athletes who have suffered, and responsibly recovered, from foot injuries may be at a reduced risk of future injury due to form improvements made incidentally in the course of their rehabilitation work.

OA? No Way

Photo Credit: Running Ultramarathons Cause Long-Term Foot Damage

Osteoarthritis, commonly called OA or degenerative join disease, may be the number one fear among long-time runners. OA is a complex condition characterized by a breakdown in the tissues that connect joints, and the tendons and ligaments around those joints.

OA has long been a serious concern amongst runners, but multiple studies have shown that habitual running does not increase the risk of developing of the condition, nor the severity in those who have already developed it. One study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), followed a group of male runners with a mean age of 56, and a second group of male non-runners with a mean age of 60, over a 12-year period. Using radiological examinations supplemented with subject self-reporting, they reached the following conclusions: “Our observations suggest, within the limits of our study, that long-duration, high-mileage running need not be associated with premature degenerative joint disease in the lower extremities6.”

Due to the relative prevalence of knee OA compared to OA in the joints of the foot and ankle, the majority of research on the effects of running on the development of OA focuses on the knee. While the indirect nature of these studies does call for caution (and further study), the results are nevertheless encouraging. One study, conducted with a larger group over nearly two decades out of Stanford University, reached similar conclusions to the JAMA report: “This study was unable to document that long-distance running among older adults confers any deleterious or protective effects on the development of radiographic OA… Long-distance running or other routine vigorous activities should not be discouraged among healthy older adults out of concern for progression of knee OA7.”

No Evidence of Long Term Damage

In what may be the most comprehensive medical research conducted on ultrarunners to date, Dr. Martin D. Hoffman’s Ultrarunners Longitudinal TRAcking (ULTRA) Study, published in 2014, collected self-reported data from 1,212 active ultramarathon runners.

The ULTRA study had a broad range of findings, all of which warrant further study. Among the conclusions, ULTRA appears to show that Ultramarathon runners are more likely to experience asthma and allergies than the general population, and are more likely to experience stress fractures in the foot than shorter distance runners (risk of most other injuries appear to be roughly equal between short and long-distance runners).

Despite these minor risks, the overall conclusions were optimistic. The study notes, “Compared with self-reported data from the general population, the prevalence of virtually all chronic diseases and mental health disorders appeared lower in the ultramarathon runners9.”

Even more interestingly, “the present study found that greater age is associated with a lower injury risk among ultramarathon runners.”This finding reinforces the idea that running maladies are most often caused by form and posture problems, further suggesting that endurance running presents more benefit than risk over the long term.

Hoffman himself supported this conclusion in a 2018 interview with The Irish Times, when he said, “At present, there is no good evidence to prove there are negative long-term health consequences from ultramarathon running.”

That may be a hard answer to swallow. You’d expect that carrying an entire human over thousands of miles per year for decades would eventually wear a foot down to the bone, like the treads on a tire (or on your old running kicks), but recent research may have begun to uncover the explanation.

The Magical Human Foot

A research team followed along with 44 runners at the 2009 Trans Europe Foot Race (TEFR), a 4,487km race from southern Italy to the North Cape in Norway. The subjects were scanned with a Tesla MRI scanner every three to four days over the course of a 64-day period.

During the first 1,500 to 2,500 kilometers, nearly all cartilage in the lower legs and feet of the subjects was observed to have degraded significantly, but what happened next was a surprise:

“Interestingly, further testing indicated that ankle and foot cartilage have the ability to regenerate under ongoing endurance running,” Dr. Schütz explained when presenting the findings to the Radiological Society of North America. “The ability of cartilage to recover in the presence of loading impact has not been previously shown in humans. In general, we found no distance limit in running for the human joint cartilage in the lower extremities.”

We’ve only begun to understand this ability of the human foot to recover while still under extreme duress, but it goes a long way toward explaining why we don’t see significant evidence of damage to the feet of aging endurance runners. As Dr. Schütz remarked in his presentation, “The human foot is made for running.”

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Chad-Weller

Does Running Ultramarathons Cause Long-Term Foot Damage

Carry the Weight: Does Running Ultramarathons Cause Long-Term Foot Damage?

Endurance runners spend a lot of time talking about their feet. Eavesdrop at the starting line of any ultra, and you’re likely to hear the chatter: kindly blister tip exchanges; vigorous debates over shoe style, arch supports, or how and when to use compression socks; endless hand-wringing over plantar fasciitis; and constant anxiety over proper foot strike patterns.

Despite this obsession with maintaining their feet, there seems to be a generally accepted superstition in the running community that the accumulation of wear from years of ultras will eventually saddle the sport’s most dedicated practitioners with chronic, debilitating foot conditions.

So, are the best distance runners truly doomed to painfully shuffling through their twilight years? Let’s look at the evidence.

Recognizing the Immediate Risks

Photo credit: Ricardo Mejía

Unfortunately, due to the relative youth of the sport, we don’t yet have a large enough sample size of lifelong endurance runners for any study to reach a definitive conclusion on the long-term effects, but we can to build a case by looking at the common short-term foot injuries that distance runners face.

Setting aside blisters and bunions, the most common foot maladies faced by runners fall into two categories:  , and stress fractures. Both categories are the result of repeated microtrauma: in the former, inadequately repaired minor tissue damage in tendons leaves them weakened and vulnerable to more significant re-injury. In the latter, degeneration of bone occurs too rapidly for the body to repair it1.

Another common running injury is plantar fasciitis, a degeneration in the soft tissue that holds up the arch of the foot2.

The first bit of good news here is that none of these conditions is considered chronic or incurable. Tendinopathies do seem to carry a high risk of re-injury, but the risk is mitigated by exercise (to increase the strength of the tendon), making it reasonable to infer that a return to running after such an injury is the safest course5.

You’ve probably also noticed that none of these complications is unique to runners, nor even to athletes. That’s the other good news: running may increase an individual’s risk of developing certain injuries or conditions, but it does not create any risks of its own.

Treatment and Prevention

Photo Credit:  Treatment and Prevention Of your foot

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: untreated or improperly treated injuries will cause long-term damage, particularly if placed under continued strain. That’s as much true for the guy on the couch as it is for the woman running the Barkley Marathons. But for the athletes who do seek responsible medical care, the future outlook isn’t nearly so grim.

Treatments for tendinopathies, stress fractures, and plantar fasciitis tend to follow the same basic procedures. Rest, ice, pain relievers, and anti-inflammatories are used to reduce pain and encourage healing until the injured area is adequately repaired to begin a progressive course of exercise. Load is then gradually increased until the foot is restored to full functionality1. Sometimes surgery is employed to accelerate repairs, or else to re-break improperly healed bone in the case of some stress fractures, but this is considered a last resort.

Both during and after recovery, emphasis is placed on correcting the foot posture that caused the pain in the first place. As Dr. Dave Hannaford, a podiatrist who has completed the Badwater 135 and Western States 100, wrote in Ultrarunning Magazine, “In high-mileage ultrarunning the feet have to be pretty close to optimal or pain and injury result. Every day in my practice I am amazed at sometimes how little is required to cure injuries which have been present for years. For many runners, a wedge the thickness of a nickel placed accurately can be enough, shifting the motion closer to optimal.3”

That leads to more good news: the same plantar short foot muscle exercises that are vital components of rehabilitation can (and should) be used by healthy runners to correct their foot posture, both reducing the risk of injury and mechanically improving the ability to run4. This suggests that athletes who have suffered, and responsibly recovered, from foot injuries may be at a reduced risk of future injury due to form improvements made incidentally in the course of their rehabilitation work.

OA? No Way

Photo Credit: Running Ultramarathons Cause Long-Term Foot Damage

Osteoarthritis, commonly called OA or degenerative join disease, may be the number one fear among long-time runners. OA is a complex condition characterized by a breakdown in the tissues that connect joints, and the tendons and ligaments around those joints.

OA has long been a serious concern amongst runners, but multiple studies have shown that habitual running does not increase the risk of developing of the condition, nor the severity in those who have already developed it. One study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), followed a group of male runners with a mean age of 56, and a second group of male non-runners with a mean age of 60, over a 12-year period. Using radiological examinations supplemented with subject self-reporting, they reached the following conclusions: “Our observations suggest, within the limits of our study, that long-duration, high-mileage running need not be associated with premature degenerative joint disease in the lower extremities6.”

Due to the relative prevalence of knee OA compared to OA in the joints of the foot and ankle, the majority of research on the effects of running on the development of OA focuses on the knee. While the indirect nature of these studies does call for caution (and further study), the results are nevertheless encouraging. One study, conducted with a larger group over nearly two decades out of Stanford University, reached similar conclusions to the JAMA report: “This study was unable to document that long-distance running among older adults confers any deleterious or protective effects on the development of radiographic OA… Long-distance running or other routine vigorous activities should not be discouraged among healthy older adults out of concern for progression of knee OA7.”

No Evidence of Long Term Damage

In what may be the most comprehensive medical research conducted on ultrarunners to date, Dr. Martin D. Hoffman’s Ultrarunners Longitudinal TRAcking (ULTRA) Study, published in 2014, collected self-reported data from 1,212 active ultramarathon runners.

The ULTRA study had a broad range of findings, all of which warrant further study. Among the conclusions, ULTRA appears to show that Ultramarathon runners are more likely to experience asthma and allergies than the general population, and are more likely to experience stress fractures in the foot than shorter distance runners (risk of most other injuries appear to be roughly equal between short and long-distance runners).

Despite these minor risks, the overall conclusions were optimistic. The study notes, “Compared with self-reported data from the general population, the prevalence of virtually all chronic diseases and mental health disorders appeared lower in the ultramarathon runners9.”

Even more interestingly, “the present study found that greater age is associated with a lower injury risk among ultramarathon runners.” This finding reinforces the idea that running maladies are most often caused by form and posture problems, further suggesting that endurance running presents more benefit than risk over the long term.

Hoffman himself supported this conclusion in a 2018 interview with The Irish Times, when he said, “At present, there is no good evidence to prove there are negative long-term health consequences from ultramarathon running.”

That may be a hard answer to swallow. You’d expect that carrying an entire human over thousands of miles per year for decades would eventually wear a foot down to the bone, like the treads on a tire (or on your old running kicks), but recent research may have begun to uncover the explanation.

The Magical Human Foot

A research team followed along with 44 runners at the 2009 Trans Europe Foot Race (TEFR), a 4,487km race from southern Italy to the North Cape in Norway. The subjects were scanned with a Tesla MRI scanner every three to four days over the course of a 64-day period.

During the first 1,500 to 2,500 kilometers, nearly all cartilage in the lower legs and feet of the subjects was observed to have degraded significantly, but what happened next was a surprise:

“Interestingly, further testing indicated that ankle and foot cartilage have the ability to regenerate under ongoing endurance running,” Dr. Schütz explained when presenting the findings to the Radiological Society of North America. “The ability of cartilage to recover in the presence of loading impact has not been previously shown in humans. In general, we found no distance limit in running for the human joint cartilage in the lower extremities.”

We’ve only begun to understand this ability of the human foot to recover while still under extreme duress, but it goes a long way toward explaining why we don’t see significant evidence of damage to the feet of aging endurance runners. As Dr. Schütz remarked in his presentation, “The human foot is made for running.”

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Making Meditation Part of Your Training Routine

It’s long been widely recognized that regular meditation practice brings a variety of health benefits. Reduced anxiety and depression, increased pain tolerance, improved attention span, lower blood pressure, and improved sleep are just a few of the medically acknowledged benefits to mindfulness.

That’s a list that looks like it could double as a description of the benefits of long distance running, which may be what inspired a team of researchers to examine the effects of combining meditation and running1. Their research suggested was a big win for the combined program, which is one of the reasons we now see ultra running pros, like two-time Western States 100-mile winner Timothy Allen Olson and three-time Hardrock 100 winner Darcy Piceu, advocate for what they call “mindful running.”

Getting Started

 

Photo Credit: Meditation

If you’ve never meditated before, you won’t accomplish much trying to get your first session in on the road. Instead, you should start by adding a short, seated meditation session before you start your workout.

Find a comfortable seat—there’s no need to cross your legs, unless you’d like to—close your eyes, and tune in to a guided meditation program. There are several applications available serving exactly this purpose. Three favorites:

Calm – an excellent meditation primer. The freely available “Seven Days of Calm” unit is a perfect place to start, and the additional features are well worth the subscription cost.
Headspace – another solid introduction. The free offering isn’t quite as robust as Calm’s, but the opening session is slightly more approachable.
Run Mindful – Timothy Allen Olson’s own offering to the selection, an app made specifically for endurance runners.

Once you’ve got the program running, all you have to do is sit still, listen for about ten minutes, and do the best that you can to follow along. There’s no need to worry about whether you’re doing it right, just trying will be enough to improve.

Immediate Benefits

timothy olson Photo Credit: Timothy olson

Over time, you’ll start to notice better sleep, experience reduced stress, and exhibit lower impulsivity and greater patience in your daily life. The improvements won’t be limited to long-term gains: in the short term, you’ve brought your breath under control, lowered your heart rate, and cleared your mind of the day’s stress. Pay close attention, and you may notice a marked difference in the quality of that first workout.

Honing the Mind-Body Connection

Depending on the guide program that you choose, you’ll likely encounter body scan meditations. These meditations encourage you to mentally scan your body from end to end (usually head to toe), carefully observing any and all sensations. With practice, these body scans can help you discover knots, tightness, and posture imbalances. Sometimes, simply noticing a pain that you’ve been ignoring is enough to relieve the tension. Even when it isn’t, if you pay attention to the signs, you’ll know when you need a little extra stretch, or a date with the roller.

Take It to The Road

Mediatation

Photo Credit: Meditation is a positive mantra

As you grow in your meditation practice, you are essentially developing the ability to train your focus on one stimulus while tuning out distractions. At first, the stimulus will almost always be the rhythm of your own breath, but once you’ve got the knack, you can substitute anything. That’s when it’s time to take the show on the road.

Some mindful runners like to silently repeat a positive mantra (a simple, short, repetitive statement, usually reflecting a goal or ideal). Focusing on the finish line can be a strong motivator, or general thoughts about life can help influence positive thinking outside the run.

You can apply the body scan technique here, too. Any time pain crops up as a distraction, you can try impartially listening to it. Our natural instinct is to push pain aside, which often leads to unconscious changes in form and stride. By making an effort to listen to the pain, welcome it, and understand it, we avoid making these comfortable negative corrections, and give ourselves a much better chance of correctly identifying and treating the problem. As Timothy Allen Olson told REI, “When you observe it and accept it, many times pain simply dissolves.”2

Mindful Running Retreats

If you want to make the advantages of mindfulness a part of your running routine, but you don’t think a phone app will get you there, there is help available. As the practice has grown in popularity, there’s been a movement toward group mindful running retreats. Timothy Olson’s Adventure Mindful is one of the groups on the forefront of this movement. They’ve got retreats planned for 2019 in the Canary Islands, Colorado, and Austria, which include trail running for all experience levels, mindfulness training, food, and transportation.

“MAP training: combining meditation and aerobic exercise reduces depression and rumination while enhancing synchronized brain activity.” B L Alderman, R L Olson, C J Brush & T J Shors. Translational Psychiatry volume6, pagee726 (2016). https://www.nature.com/articles/tp2015225
“For Runners: How to Stop Stalling and Start Meditating.” Kelly Bastone. REI. May 15, 2018. https://www.rei.com/blog/run/meditation-for-runners

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Jacob Puzey

Training Tips from Three of Ultra Running’s Coaches

Ultra Running’s Training Tips Whether they’re gearing up for your first marathon, making a third attempt at the Vibram Hong Kong 100k, or testing their legs on a 24-hour, the most important piece of any long-distance runner’s preparation is a thorough, intentional training plan. The right regimen can spur an athlete to P.R.s and victory laps, and a mistimed routine can leave the same athlete on dead legs before the starting pistol fires.
With so much riding on a runner’s routine, there’s little wonder that a handful of high profile champions have leveraged their racing success into reputations as the sport’s ultimate gurus. Let’s check in with three of the top trainers in ultrarunning for a quick primer on the techniques and philosophies that carry their clients to the finish.

Sundog Running’s Ian Torrence

Ian

Photo Credit: lan ultrarunner

Ian Torrence has built a sterling reputation in the ultrarunning world, winning 53 of the 200 ultras he’s completed. 27 of his finishes have been 100-mile runs. Formerly a coach under the legendary Greg McMillan, Ian and partner Emily Torrence (nee Harrison) formed Sundog Running in the hopes of reaching more runners. They offer personal coaching services, advisement, and weekly training plan packages, and keep up a blog with free tips for all levels of experience.
The Sundog team stress individualized plans for each athlete. They build long-term plans for the full season based on the runner’s goals, experience, form, injury history, life events, and fitness gains.

Training Zones

Torrence’s training philosophy revolves around four training zones, each of which focuses on improving a small subset of the body functions involved in an endurance run. This allows a runner to emulate the effects of extreme distance in shorter training sessions. As Torrence himself wrote in Trail Runner Magazine, “Training is the art of replicating different exertion levels in short, controlled bouts so that our body and mind may adapt to the new stressors and be better able to handle that workload on race day.”

  • In the Spring Zone and Neuromuscular Training phase, we enhance the ability to run quickly when our muscles our inundated with lactic acid. This includes workouts like neuromuscular strides, and interval springs with slow jogging recovery between. In this zone, a focus on proper form is stressed.
  • During Speed Zone Training we run full speed for extended durations (8 to 15 minute bursts) to improve mechanics, recruit fast-twitch muscle fiber, improve our metabolic pathways to use fuel more efficiently, and improve the rate of oxygen uptake from blood into muscles.
  • To improve the body’s ability to remove lactic acid building, we use Stamina Zone Training, which consists of race pace work for an hour or more. Steady state runs, tempo runs, tempo intervals, cruise intervals, and progression runs are a few recommended Stamina Zone exercises.
  • Lastly, Endurance Zone Training, which forms the bulk of the training under Torrence’s plans. These runs improve the ability to run for long durations, maintain aerobic fitness, and maximize the capacity to train and recover in the other three zones. These are long, easier runs where the heart rate should not rise about 70% of the runner’s maximum threshold.

Base Phase

Torrence’s plans interweave the 4 training zones throughout four training phases. The first phase is the base phase. This phase should make up more than half of a runner’s training throughout the year, and consists of lighter work in all four training zones to keep the body fast and efficient without a high degree of exertion.

Pre-Race Specific Phase

This consists of a 4 to 6 week ramp-up phase. Runners in this phase perform roughly the same exercises as in the base phase, but slowly increase distance, duration, and intensity to prepare the body for hard running.

Race Specific

Three to 10 weeks of full intensity in all four zones. During this phase, the runner focuses most strongly on their individual weaknesses and on the specific demands of the race.

Peaking

For the last two to three weeks before the race, Torrence’s team recommends maintaining the race specific routine and intensity, but gradually dropping the volume of each run to rest while maintaining peak form.

Jacob Puzey of Peak Run Performance

Jacob Puzey

Photo credit: Jacob Puzey

Compared to Ian Torrence, Peak Run Performance founder Jacob Puzey has had a slightly rockier road to renown in the running community. While Torrence’s claims to fame largely hinge on his own running career, Puzey became a name in the running community when he returned to Hermiston High School, his Alma Mater, and coached the cross-country team to their first ever state title. Despite the differences, the two do share one key link: both have worked as coached under the legendary Greg McMillan.

Training On A Treadmill

As holder of the 50-mile treadmill world record, Jacob Puzey is a major proponent of training on a treadmill. He sees treadmills as a technological advantage, a way to help balance the demands of long running with the other commitments of a busy life.

Aside from taking advantage of treadmill time to spend time with family while training, catch up on TV, or listen to an audiobook, Puzey also loves it for form improvement: put a mirror in front of the treadmill (or find one near the mirrors at the gym) and watch yourself run.

Finding Your Form

If you’re not sure what to look for in the mirror, Coach Puzey has a lot of great advice available on the Peak Run Performance YouTube channel, including an excellent series on injury prevention that serious runners absolutely must see.

In his “Running Form Cues” primer, he provides these vital tips to help with efficiency, speed, and safety.

  • Relax your jaw. To get the feel for this, Puzey recommends clenching your teeth and then letting go until your mouth is slightly open. A tight jaw causes tension in the neck, which can travel through the back, shoulders, and even into the glutes and hamstrings.
  • Relax the shoulders, too. To test this out, raise them as high as possible, then drop them to your sides.
  • Hold your elbows at a 90-degree angle, and don’t open and close them while you run. Your arm movement should be driven from the shoulders, almost like putting your hands into your pockets.
  • Don’t let your hands cross your upper body.
  • Hold your hands slightly closed, but not clenched, with the thumbs on top, nearly touching the index finger. Puzey suggests visualizing a delicate, dry leaf between the thumb and finger.
  • Hold your body tall while you run, with a slight lean forward at the ankles. Your feet should strike the ground directly beneath your hip.
  • Sage Canaday’s Sage Running

Photo Credit: Sage Canaday’s Sage Running

Sage Canaday has been running, and winning, on some of the sports biggest stages for 16 years. His pro endurance wins include the World Long Distance Mountain Championship (Pikes Peak Ascent), the Tarawera 100k, the Speedgoat 50km, and TNF50 mile championships.

Through his and Coach Sandi Nypaver’s Sage Running coaching company, Sage offers training plans and advice to runners across the world. His Vo2maxProductions YouTube channel, where he releases training tips, gear reviews, and other content, has over 100,000 subscribers.

Feeling Based Training

As vital as a strong training plan is, it can be even more important to know when to know when to leave the plan behind, so Sage Running’s training plans are all based on how the runner feels. Canaday and Nypaver futher explain the philosophy in a joint post on the Sage Running site, “The Art of Feeling Based Training”.

In the same post, they offer several tips to avoid (or recover from) overtraining.

  • The coaches caution that poor sleep, incomplete nutrition, long term stress, or bad caffeine habits can all mimic the symptoms of overtraining. If you maintain healthy habits outside of running, it will be easier to tell when your body needs more rest.
  • Be honest with yourself when evaluating your condition. You don’t want to force yourself to meet the schedule unless you’re sure it’s right for your body.
  • Bad quality of sleep, an uncharacteristically sour disposition, a weak immune system, or an elevated resting heart rate can all be signs of overtraining.
  • If you have overtrained, check your training logs to get a sense of where you went wrong. For now, cut back on hard runs and mileage. Go easy until you’re feeling normal, and then cautiously ramp back up to full intensity over a few weeks.

Don’t Underestimate Easy Runs

Canaday is a big believer in easy runs, and pushes runners to take them at an even lighter pace than they typically expect. Pushing the pace on easy runs limits your ability to recover from the hard days. The key is to get enough work in to keep your heart rate elevated for an extended period, while still giving yourself enough rest to heal from your more intense work. The exercise strengthens your heart, builds capillaries and increases the efficiency with which your body transfers oxygen to your muscles.

Make the Long Runs Count

The long runs on Coach Canaday’s schedule are all specific workouts, rather than pure mileage. Canaday believes that this is the most effective way to simulate race conditions for event specific training exercises, so he makes them an integral part of his training. To further simulate the intensity of competition, Canaday recommends planning long run workouts so that the second half of the run is taken at a much faster overall pace than the first half.

“The Dream Season,” Ian Torrence. July 11, 2013. https://trailrunnermag.com/training/training-plans/the-dream-season.html

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The Science of Altitude Training

Altitude training: If you’ve heard runners rave about the miraculous benefits of training at high altitudes, you may have been left wondering what all the fuss is about. You’re not alone. Despite near-unanimous agreement on its general benefits, altitude training remains a subject of some controversy in the field of sports science.

Why Does Altitude Help Us Train?

In a nutshell: thin air.

If you’re not familiar with high altitude training, that answer may surprise you. Thin air is the last thing most people want when they’re pushing through the end of a hard workout, but it carries a suite of physiological benefits.

The proposed benefits range from the obvious increase in the physical difficulty of performing athletic tasks in low oxygen to the possible placebo effect of believing that your training will make you more effective.

And if you’re looking for the number one reason athletes train at altitude, you need to know about hemoglobin.

Hemoglobin

altitude training

Hemoglobin is the protein in blood which carries oxygen all throughout your body. At high altitudes, your body is unable to efficiently saturate each hemoglobin cell. It begins to counteract the lack of available oxygen by creating more of these cells, increasing the efficiency with which oxygen can be carried from the lungs through the body.

While there is no consensus on what altitude is required to stimulate this production, nor what duration of exposure, studies have shown that 2-3 of training weeks at 1800m results in a significant increase (Laura A. Garvican-Lewis, Iona Halliday, Chris R. Abbiss, Philo U. Saunders, Christopher J. Gore. (2015) Altitude Exposure at 1800 m Increases Haemoglobin Mass in Distance Runners. Between 1400m and 1800m, lesser benefits are suspected but largely unproven.

When athletes return to sea-level, the additional hemoglobin remains, and the body is more able to effectively deliver oxygen than it could be otherwise. This is considered to be the primary reason why training at elevation is effective.

Watch Your Iron

altitude training

You need iron to produce hemoglobin, so it is commonly recommended that you take an iron supplement while training at altitude. At least one study has shown that athletes who are typically iron deficient see a greater increase in hemoglobin mass, so long as they receive proper supplements (Laura A. Garvican-Lewis, Andrew D. Govus, Peter Peeling, Chris R. Abbiss, Christopher J. Gore. (2016) Iron Supplementation and Altitude: Decision Making Using a Regression Tree.

The Devil’s Bargain

It is widely accepted that elevation training does cause an increase in hemoglobin production, and that additional hemoglobin allows athletes to perform at increased levels, but there remains some debate whether elevation training is a completely effective method.

Many athletes and researches see an unspoken trade in elevation training. They believe that the environmental benefits conferred at high altitudes are negated by the increased difficulty of training there in the first place. While little quantifiable evidence has been found to justify this claim, it has led one research team to suggest a novel approach.

Live-High; Train-Low

In 2015 a group of Journal of Sports Science and Medicine researchers, led by Amelia Carr, published a study which suggests that three weeks of training at lower altitudes (~1400m) while sleeping in tents designed to simulate the oxygen levels at 3000m could stimulate hemoglobin production as effectively as living and training at 1600m.

By using this “LHTL” method, athletes can take full advantages of the benefits of high altitude training, while maintaining a relative intensity that wouldn’t be possible a little higher up (Amelia J. Carr, Philo U. Saunders, Brent S. Vallance, Laura A. Garvican-Lewis, Christopher J. Gore. (2015) Increased Hypoxic Dose After Training at Low Altitude with 9h Per Night at 3000m Normobaric Hypoxia.

Timing Matters Too

Once you’ve decided to incorporate altitude into your training routine, you’ll need to figure out the timing. It is generally recommended to use the first 1-2 weeks at altitude for a low-intensity training acclimatization period. However, more seasoned athletes (particularly those with experience training at altitude) may be able to resume high activity training in the first 2-4 days with better results.

On return to sea-level, hemoglobin mass has been observed to remain stable as many as 14 days, and, in some cases, has been suggested to last as many as 4 weeks. Overall, it seems that the first 4-8 days after completion of an altitude training camp is the optimal time to compete (Avish P. Sharma, Philo U. Saunders, Laura A. Garvican – Lewis, Julien D. Périard, Brad Clark, Christopher J. Gore, Benjamin P. Raysmith, Jamie Stanley, Eileen Y. Robertson, Kevin G. Thompson. (2018) Training Quantification and Periodization during Live High Train High at 2100 M in Elite Runners: An Observational Cohort Case Study.

Journal of Sports Science and Medicine (17), 607 – 616. https://www.jssm.org/hf.php?id=jssm-17-607.xml)

Journal of Sports Science and Medicine (14), 413 – 417.https://www.jssm.org/hfabst.php?id=jssm-14-413.xml).

Journal of Sports Science and Medicine (15), 204 – 205.https://www.jssm.org/hf.php?id=jssm-15-204.xml).

Journal of Sports Science and Medicine(14), 776 – 782. https://www.jssm.org/hf.php?id=jssm-14-776.xml#).

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Is Sugar A Problem? A Runner’s Diet Guide

Runner’s Diet: To Carb Or Not To Carb?

In the general canon of nutrition science, sugars have long ago been pinpointed as an area for caution. Refined sugars, in particular, are treated as a scourge, especially here in health-crazed California, where candy ephemera are treated with a general, miserly suspicion.

Let’s clear the air with a general conclusion: sugars are not bad for you and Runner’s Diet . And from a biochemical perspective, the perceived quality of the sugar-containing nutrient is never at issue; that $8 fresh-pressed juice may indeed be worse for you than, say, a glass of milk. For all carbohydrates –– sugars, simple and complex, cheap or luxuriant –– break down into glucose, that vital energy source that keeps us moving.

Long distance Runner’s Diet plan

Depending on how complex their structure, different carbohydrates break down at entirely different rates. Refined sugar will flood your bloodstream with glucose in one go, while a fruit or vegetable will trickle its dose at a leisurely pace, as your body breaks down the complex carbohydrates through digestion.

Runner’s Diet

Foods we love, reduced to their sugar content, paint a startling picture.

There are hidden troves of sugar in such varying foods: Granola, Pasta Sauce, Soup…these are foods that belie their glucose content, foods whose palette and tenor suggest a dearth of sugar. And yet, be ever aware of the nutrition label.
Undercover glucose is a major concern in the modern American diet, especially for the time-crunched worker, whose
quick-fix diet is plagued with processed nutrients brimming with flavor-inducing sugars.

Both diabetes and obesity, global epidemics in their own right, have strong correlations to sugar-rich diets. Yet don’t be afraid to enjoy yourself; as with many things, glucose intake is a question of moderation, and not elimination.

And as for us runners? Well, sugars are indispensable to our method of exercise, and even especially so. Those fast-acting sugars in gels, sports drinks, and candies offer crucial support in maintaining energy throughout a long race, and invigorating our muscles.

To improve recovery and maintain stamina, it’s important to start a workout with a ready store of available glucose. Some toast, granola, or fruit will offer a digestively mild source of energy pre-workout. For a brief run or a jog, such vital fuel should keep you rolling, and will contribute to a healthy mental state during your run. Carb-loading is a common practice among many long-distance runners, but we’ll save that for another post.

Foregoing a fuel source could leave you with low blood sugar, which is unhealthy, even if its effects make the workout feel more intensive. If you ever feel shaky and lightheaded after a run on an empty stomach, you’re probably experiencing low blood sugar.

Please, my fellow runner’s diet, be cautious in fasting before a long run. Although fasting may help you burn fat more efficiently, this practice should be incorporated with care. Having low blood sugar (Hypoglycemia) for too long can lead to seizures, loss of consciousness, and even brain damage. And actually, under fueling is more likely to cause you issues down the line than having that extra doughnut on Sunday night.

If your run is longer than two hours, it’s important to top off your glucose stores to prevent fatigue. Consuming 200-300 calories in simple sugars (energy drinks, gels, candy, trail mix, etc.) will keep your mind and muscles in the game. And consuming carbs and proteins after your run will help you recover more smoothly, too.

In short, carbs are the runner’s friend.

Certain apostles of the Ketogenic Diet will disagree about importance of carbohydrates, and I here acknowledge their perspective, although the jury is still out on whether or not Keto improves endurance performance.

In short, Keto is a high fats diet that restricts carb intake. With a deficit in energy-rich glucose, the body goes into Ketosis, whereby the liver beings to produce ketones, chemicals produced in the liver that offer surrogate energy. The Keto diet is a fat burning diet that some suggest offers enhanced performance at distance. Yet the transition into Ketosis, whereby glucose intake is subsumed, can be a long and painful process.

Thus, for the everyday runner, we suggest a  runner’s diet that includes various sources of glucose, consisting of both complex and simple carbohydrates. Every individual, through trial error, can find a nutritional balance that works for them.

And, as ever, running is neither a valid excuse, nor a suitable counterbalance, for a poor runner’s diet 🙂

Leave a comment or question, and we will continue the conversation!

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