Exercise in general

I have gotten a lot out of a book Younger Next Year by Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge, M.D. (See my notes in the link.)

It is amazing to me how much so called "health" advice involves some kind of miracle pill or substance; in any event something to put into your mouth. Certainly diet is important, (stop eating junk!), but nothing is more important than exercise if you are serious about being and staying healthy.

The exercise message is the main thrust of Younger Next Year, (though it covers plenty of other ground). The key recommendation is that you need to work out hard every day (i.e. 6 days a week).

Running is a great way to pack a lot of exercise into a short time, but you are ill advised to run every day. Hiking all day is perhaps the best thing of all (there is a special value to hour after hour of steady exertion). But hiking every day is hard for most people to fit into a schedule several times a week. Biking is great and low impact, so long as you don't get smashed by a vehicle. (Biking for hours along a road busy with traffic totally lacks any appeal for me. I've tried it, and do not dig it, sorry). Swimming might just be a whole new world to discover, but I have yet to dive in (sorry again). Treadmills and other machines bore me silly; Indoor tracks (or any track for that matter) are not much better.

Running in particular

As you might imagine, there are lots of books about running. Here are some of my favorites:

There is of course, "Runners World" magazine, which if you ignore its apparent bias to sell you running shoes (and other stuf) is actually fairly informative.

Here are some interesting web sites:

Once of my favorite resources is Galloway's Book on Running. I like the original version which included marathon training schedules. The new edition is fine, in that it gives the same tried and true information, but omits the marathon information because he wants you to buy his new marathon book (and his half-marathon book, and his running till you are 100 book), which I kind of resent. He has run over 100 marathons (including a time of 2:16 at age 35), was on the 1972 U.S. Olympic team (competing in the 10K), has been running for over 40 years, and coached thousands of people (hundreds of thousands he says). In other words, he is not some young wet behind the ears hot shot, so listen up! His advice is well proven and solid.

His advice to runners over 40 years old is to allow for more recovery time and run only every other day. He says that if you are running say 5 miles per day, you will benefit more by running 8 miles every other day.

Once of his central pieces of advice is the "walk break". You can run long distances non-stop, but he advises against it, even if you are a veteran runner (i.e. this advice is not a stepping stone technique for beginners). In fact, it seems to be recognized that you can improve your overall time in a marathon by an average of 13 minutes by taking "walk breaks"! The greatest benefit comes if you take them early before you feel you really need them (the same principle applies to pace, hold back early and feel strong later). And you will feel better after the event. And you will recover faster. And you will have less risk of injury. And you will enjoy it more (unless you a purist plagued by guilt and a feeling of cheating). Here are some suggested ratios:

13 minute miles - run 1 minute, walk 1 minute
12 minute miles - run 2 minutes, walk 1 minute
10 minute miles - run 3 minutes, walk 1 minute
 9 minute miles - run 4 minutes, walk 1 minute
Another scheme is to take a 1 minute walk each mile. Another common recommendation is run 10 minutes, walk 1 minute. (these ratios are appropriate for someone expecting to run a marathon in under 4 hours).

Be aware that some "running snobs" will mock this technique, and that this is a hot topic in some crowds. They call using walk breaks a "crutch". One person I know calls Galloway, "Gallowalk". Some people definitely have strong feelings about this, but the bottom line is to run whatever way you like. Balanced minded people recommend trying it both ways and see what you like (and which method yields the best time for you). Or if you are being criticized, find out if the critic runs on a treadmill and tell them that they are the real wuss for doing that; or just hit them with a stick. Best of all, ask them what their times were when they tried it, most critics never have.

Apparently it is fairly common for people to finish marathons walking, so why not just do this early and finish strong? And remember that most participants are taking a walk break at water stations. In the 1970's Bill Rodgers walked through the aid stations, stopped to ties his shoes and such and went on to win the Boston Marathon.

To quote Jeff Galloway:

I don't try to drag people kicking and screaming into walk breaks. I've seen the results of using them in hundreds of thousands of people, but you are the captain of your ship.

A trail runners rule of thumb: on the way up the hill, if you cannot see the top, walk it. It is common knowledge that you walk the hills to achieve an overall faster time.

Heart Rate

I have heard it said that if you are not training with a heart rate monitor, you aren't really serious about your training. And I have heard it said that every serious athelete uses one.

The key idea is to maintain the appropriate intensity level on your workouts. I have more details here.

Weight Loss

A lot of people are into running because they want to loose weight, or so it would seem if you read many of the running articles. This is particularly true (and frustrating) if you try to get information on diet or heart rate monitoring. I have never had any weight loss issues, so I am entirely unsympathetic and even annoyed by all of this.

The bottom line is really simple - conservation of mass and energy! If you want to loose weight you will have to create a calorie deficit by eating less, exercising more, or both. Exercise will stimulate your appetite, which goes hand in hand with people feeling they deserve a reward after a workout. In fact some people get into running and find they are gaining weight! My advice is to aim for being healthy and let your weight take care of itself.

I have read some claims that active people have a higher metabolic rate, and effectively burn more calories just sitting around. This is only partially true. Apparently there is indeed a post-exercise elevation of metabolic rate, and it can last up to 48 hours. After that your metabolic rate is the same as any sedentary person (couch potato). If you are running and/or exercising regularly you very likely stay in this elevated zone all the time. Good for you. See this article.

Trail Running

Trail running has a special appeal. Being able to quickly cover long distances has already charmed me (like running a 4 mile loop that I previously did as a laid back day hike, and enjoying it even more flying over the miles in just over an hour).

Here is a great link listing Tucson Area trail runs, some pretty long!

Barefoot Running

I have also been intrigued (in large part by reading the book "Born to Run" by Christopher McDougal) by the concept of barefoot running. This also ties in with my interest in vibram five fingers, and a desire to cure the Plantar Fasciitis that flared up in my left heel as a result of too much too soon in the trail running department.

In a nutshell, the lesson is this: learn to run lightly on the front of your foot instead of heavily on your heel". Your foot is built to pivot at the heel with the calf muscle working as a shock absorber. An out of shape foot with lazy muscles is perhaps the greatest contributor to running injuries. And modern running shoes coddle the foot and are the only thing that allows a running style that involves landing on the heel.

Running Injuries

Have any comments? Questions? Drop me a line!

Tom's home page /