Einstein, Pyruvate, and Simplicity

I am often asked how to become a better runner. The answer is simple… and complex. As Albert Einstein said, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” So, in honor of Einstein (whom I share a birthday with), here is a simple explanation of how to become a better runner. Understand this picture and the words beneath it and you understand a lot. (I know it’s a little blurry when I enlarged it, but it’s still understandable).

Presentations

When you run, you use carbohydrate (glucose) and fat. Glucose is metabolized and produces pyruvate, which has 2 fates: oxidation in the Krebs (Citric Acid) Cycle, or chemical reduction to lactate. (I discuss lactate in another blog, My Love Affair with Lactate.)

When you run slowly, the pyruvate that is formed from glucose metabolism is directed into the Krebs Cycle. When you run faster, you rely more on glucose and less on fat, which produces more pyruvate, and you begin to put a strain on the ability of the Krebs Cycle to “accept” more pyruvate. At some pace, which is different for everyone, the Krebs Cycle becomes overwhelmed and can’t keep up with the production of pyruvate from glycolysis. When this happens, the pace starts to become more “anaerobic,” with anaerobic metabolism playing a more significant role to supply energy (ATP) for muscle contraction. Lactate accumulates in the muscles and blood, along with other metabolites, like hydrogen and potassium ions, which cause fatigue.

The goal of training for a distance runner is to make the pace as fast as possible whereby pyruvate continues to be directed into the Krebs Cycle, delaying the reliance on anaerobic metabolism. An out of shape runner may become anaerobic at 8 minutes per mile, while the best runners in the world become anaerobic at 4 minutes per mile.

So how do you increase the pace at which pyruvate continues to be directed into the Krebs Cycle? By running more and by running at a faster aerobic pace, because that kind of training increases the metabolic machinery needed to accept more pyruvate. The Krebs Cycle and all of its associated enzymes are inside the mitochondria. The more mitochondria you have in your leg muscles, the greater the capacity of those muscles to run aerobically. Running more also increases the amount of capillaries you have surrounding your muscle fibers, which enhances oxygen delivery to your muscles.      

It is for this reason — enhanced Krebs Cycle activity through stimulating the production of more mitochondria — that runners must run a lot to become better. There you have it — simple as possible, but not simpler. Now go run. 

And if you haven’t read my latest book, THE INNER RUNNER, buy the book for yourself and another for a friend. It is a great holiday gift. And it will touch your heart. Not a bad thing to do for the holidays.
https://www.amazon.com/Inner-Runner-Successful-Creative-Confident/dp/1634507959

My Love Affair with Lactate

 

This piece first appeared in Track Coach magazine in Spring, 2005. It remains one of my favorite articles. Feel free to share with your colleagues and friends.

It all started with an innocent race once around the track in sixth grade. Midway through the final curve, I felt something, something that would change my life. Her name, I discovered later, was Lactate. As I continued to run, she teased me with her power, drawing on the reigns, gently at first, then harder with each passing moment. Harder. Harder. By the time I had reached the finish line, she had taken control of my whole body with her rapture. I could no longer move. It was love at first sight.     

First discovered in 1780 in sour milk, lactic acid, or lactate, as she is known at the pH of body fluids and to her friends and paramours, is produced in a metabolic pathway known as glycolysis. Her mother, pyruvic acid, also known as pyruvate and herself a product of glycolysis, is converted into lactate when oxygen is not supplied fast enough to meet the needs of the cell. This happens a lot during intense exercise because the muscle cell’s need for energy (ATP) is too immediate to wait on oxygen, who left pyruvate standing alone at the altar—the entrance to the Krebs cycle—for his duties as the patriarch of metabolism.

“I’m oxygen,” he says to the muscle cell, with more than a hint of superiority. “I can give you a lot of ATP, but you will have to wait for it.” Oxygen knows that he is worth the wait, as he controls the fate of endurance (not to mention that he is the sustenance of life). Therefore, as it is well known, there is an accumulation of lactate in the muscles and blood during intense exercise. And from the time I first experienced her caress in sixth grade, I was hooked. I still regularly sneak away from home to go to the track, just so I could be near her, feel her engulf my body, yield to her desires. 

It wasn’t until years later, when I began my graduate work in exercise physiology, that I learned how misunderstood lactate really is. And it was then, when I finally understood what was misunderstood by so many, that our love affair blossomed.

Fatigue’s Faulty Scapegoat

Fatigue is a difficult thing to pin down. Because there are so many things happening simultaneously inside muscles when they are working hard, it is difficult, if not impossible, to determine the exact cause of fatigue. It’s like trying to find out what causes cancer. Fatigue, like cancer, has many different faces. The fatigue associated with the marathon is not like the fatigue associated with the 800 meters, any more than breast cancer is like prostate cancer. Scientific inquiry typically begins with the formation of a hypothesis and the design of a research study to test that hypothesis. One of the key attributes of a well-designed study is the controlling of confounding variables, things that can interfere with the outcome. It is only when these confounding variables are controlled that a scientist can determine if the observed outcome is an effect of the treatment that was given. It is similar to determining why you ran well or poorly on a given day. After all, there are many things that influence athletic performance. Things like the weather, the training program, the athlete’s level of fatigue, the pacing of the race, the athlete’s degree of anxiety or nervousness, stress from other areas of the athlete’s life, all could have influenced the athlete’s performance on Tuesday. But how does the coach know which is the cause? Such is the case with determining the cause of fatigue. 

From the time Nobel Prize winners A.V. Hill and Otto Meyerhof discovered in the 1920s that lactic acid is produced during fatiguing muscle contractions in the absence of oxygen, lactic acid has been the exercising community’s scapegoat for fatigue. But why? Why does lactate get all the blame? There has never been any experimental evidence that has shown a cause-and-effect relationship between lactate production and fatigue. While lactate increases dramatically during intense exercise, so do other metabolites, most notably hydrogen ions, which are considered the major threat to the muscle’s acid-base balance. Lactate doesn’t even reveal all of herself unless the exercise uses anaerobic glycolysis as the predominant metabolic pathway. So in events like the 100 meters, the marathon, or any of the field events, speaking about lactate is like speaking about your mistress in the presence of your wife. When anaerobic glycolysis is the predominant energy system being used, hydrogen ions, like lactate, accumulate in muscles and blood. However, it is the accumulation of hydrogen ions, which are produced from the breakdown of ATP during muscle contractions and from other chemical reactions of glycolysis, that decreases muscle pH, causing metabolic acidosis and, ultimately, fatigue. But even hydrogen’s role in fatigue has been questioned by some scientists, who lay the blame on yet other metabolites. Because of lactate’s concomitant increase with hydrogen ions and the simple method of measuring her concentration, blood lactate is used by scientists only as an indirect measure of acidosis. Although it has been widely accepted by the scientific community for a long time that lactate is innocuous and is not the cause of fatigue during intense exercise, lactate still takes the blame and still is regarded by runners as the enemy. Scientific terminology is, unfortunately, slow to change, and lactate has been the chief sufferer. 

Lactic Acid is Burning Me

Jane Fonda may have been the first to popularize muscle burning during exercise, asking her exercise video audience to “feel the burn.” As a result, there have been many misconceptions about the nature of the muscle burn, including the wrong assertion that lactic acid is the cause, possibly due to the connotation of the word “acid” and its association with burning. However, lactic acid is a weak acid and, as already discussed, is not the cause of acidosis. No physiologist has ever burnt himself when taking a blood sample from a subject containing a high blood lactate concentration. “Burning” may even be the wrong term to use when describing how muscles feel during intense exercise, since the sensation is certainly not the same as putting your hand over a fire or pouring hydrochloric acid on your skin. (Now that’s burning!) No one seems to know exactly what causes the sensation of muscle burning, but it is possible that it is nothing more than the increase in muscle temperature that accompanies intense exercise.

Will Lactic Acid Massage My Sore Muscles?

Many athletes, coaches, fitness professionals, and the general public think that lactic acid is also the cause of muscle soreness. However, muscle and blood lactate return to pre-exercise levels within 30 to 60 minutes after exercise, so lactate is long gone by the time soreness develops. Muscle soreness is rather the result of microscopic tears in the muscle fibers, causing an initial mechanical injury (which may be related to the contractile proteins—actin and myosin—pulling apart), and a delayed biochemical injury, which usually brings about the perception of soreness. The soreness typically worsens during the first 24 hours after exercise, peaks from 24 to 72 hours, then subsides within five to seven days as the muscles heal. 

Oh, Lactate!  How I Need You!

Not only does lactate not cause fatigue, her production in muscle is vital during intense exercise, as she serves a number of roles. Lactate production maintains the ratio of certain biochemical molecules, supporting the continued ability of glycolysis to keep working. Lactate is also used as a fuel by the heart, is used by the liver to make new glucose (blood sugar) by a process called gluconeogenesis, and is converted back into glycogen (the stored form of carbohydrate) by a reversal of the chemical reactions of glycolysis. Both the new glucose and glycogen are then themselves used as fuels by muscles so exercise can continue at the desired intensity. So much for lactate being a waste product. 

Lactic Acid Whispering Sweet Nothings in My Ear

As a mirror to what is taking place in the muscle during exercise, the lactic acid concentration of the blood, which is typically obtained from a prick to the finger or ear, tells us the changing relationship between effort and speed. My first finger prick came in the fall of 1995 in the Human Performance Laboratory at the University of Calgary. A number of finger pricks generates a graph like the one shown below. At slower speeds, lactate increases slowly, while at faster speeds, lactate increases rapidly. But why the tease? Why does lactate change the rate at which she reveals herself? At slower speeds, lactate is removed from the muscles as quickly as she is produced. At faster speeds, however, when there is a greater reliance on anaerobic glycolysis for energy, lactate removal starts lagging behind lactate production, and lactate begins to accumulate in the muscles and blood. Think of a bucket with a hole in it that sits out in the rain.  When it’s drizzling, the water that fills the bucket empties through the hole. But when it’s pouring, water fills the bucket faster than it empties through the hole, and water accumulates in the bucket. To take the analogy further, there is an intensity of rainfall at which the amount of water emptying the bucket is just enough to keep up with the amount of water entering the bucket so that the level of water reaches the top of the bucket but does not overflow.  If the rainfall is heavy enough, the bucket will eventually overflow. The point at which lactate quickly accumulates—the overflowing bucket—is an important marker in physiology, and is affectionately called the lactate threshold. With an increase in aerobic fitness, the “lactate curve” shifts to the right (the red curve in the graph) because there is less lactate accumulation at the same submaximal speeds.  With training, the lactate threshold occurs at a faster speed. This happens because endurance training improves the ability to remove lactate—someone cut a larger hole in the bucket. The lactate threshold could just as easily be called the acidosis threshold since, as already discussed, the accumulation of lactate is only a reflection of the state of muscle and blood acidosis. 

The rightward shift of the lactate curve (from blue to red) indicates an improvement in endurance.

effect-of-training-on-the-lactate-threshold

Biochemically, a lactic acid value indicates the status of pyruvate metabolism, with a high value indicating conditions that favor the conversion of pyruvate to lactate instead of its transportation into the Krebs cycle. People who achieve high maximal lactate values (the highest point on the graph’s curve) do so because they have many fast-twitch muscle fibers that use anaerobic glycolysis as their primary energy system. Being able to increase an an individual’s maximal lactate value through training would help performance in races that rely on anaerobic glycolysis and therefore result in high lactate values, such as 400 and 800 meters. Being able to produce lots of lactate is a good thing.

Lactic acid is also used in the clinical setting, where a high resting lactic acid value may indicate liver disease or hypoxemia (deficient oxygenation of the blood). Since the liver uses lactic acid to make glucose, a high lactic acid value may indicate liver dysfunction. Alternatively, a high lactic acid value may indicate hypoxemia since, in the absence of oxygen, pyruvic acid will be converted to lactic acid.

Although my intellectual love affair with lactate over the years has sometimes been put on hold to study other things, our physical love affair has always remained, reuniting with her every time I go to the track. Perhaps, someday, she won’t be misunderstood, and she can be admired for what she truly is.

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Running Technique, Riding a Bicycle, and Repetition

If you watched the New York City Marathon yesterday, either in person or on TV, you may have noticed something if you watched carefully. It’s pretty amazing, even extraordinary: People have different running styles. Woah! Can you believe it? Unbelievable!

Most runners heel-strike, others mid-foot strike. Some hold their arms low, some hold them high. Some even make circles with their arms and twist their torso. Some runners’ technique is as pretty as pretty can be, some are as ugly as ugly can be. And guess what? It’s not all the elites that look pretty and all the recreational runners who look ugly. They are all mixed: Some recreational runners look pretty and some elite runners look ugly. But somehow, they all get the job done.

Most people who run are told there’s a specific technique they should use. But no one really knows what the “best” way to run is, or even if there is a “best” way at all. The “best” way is likely slightly different for each runner, because every runner subconsciously runs as efficiently as he or she possibly can. Your body is not going to do what is inefficient, and it is not going to adapt in a way that hurts you. Running biomechanics are influenced by skeletal alignment, flexibility, and strength. If you try to change a runner’s biomechanics without changing the factors that influence it, he or she can get injured.

Like any other skill, from playing the piano to riding a bicycle, running expertise comes through constant repetition. Read that sentence again.

Acknowledging that there is no ideal running technique that should be adopted by every runner, there are certain things you should strive for when you run. The most important technical thing a runner should focus on is having the foot land as close to directly underneath the hips as possible. This minimizes any deceleration (“braking”) and assists the “rolling” from one step into the next.

If there is nothing else you focus on, focus on that. Get your feet under your hips when they land on the ground. You can also think of this as moving your hips to keep up with your legs so that the hips are directly over the feet when they land. Everything else will take care of itself if you run enough to ingrain the movement.

If you have not ordered your copy of THE INNER RUNNER yet, Christmas and Hanukkah are coming. And this year at the same time!

https://www.amazon.com/Inner-Runner-Successful-Creative-Confident/dp/1634507959

Two Schools of Thought

“There are two schools of thought,” the college coach said to me seven years ago, as I watched the 800-meter runners run 200-meter reps on the track at 800-meter PR pace in November. She was referring to how to train middle distance and distance runners — with lots of speed training or lots of endurance training. “You’re right,” I responded, “the right school of thought and the wrong school of thought.”    

I spent this morning watching seventh and eighth graders in a cross country race in southern California. One of the parents invited me to watch the race and talk to her and some other parents about how to train their talented kids. And I heard the same story I’ve heard hundreds of times before: The coaches subscribe to the wrong school of thought.

People always tell me that they like my candid, direct way of stating things, that I’m very good at simplifying the science so that everyone can understand. And so, as Albert Einstein used to say, I will make things as simple as I can but no simpler: The single biggest factor in your long-term running success is the amount of running you do, not the intensity, and if you do a lot of high-intensity interval training, especially at a young age, you will sacrifice your aerobic development and retard your progress as a runner. 

One of the main goals of training is to increase the pace at which you can run aerobically, before oxygen-independent (anaerobic) metabolism begins to play a significant role. Because when the pace starts to become anaerobic, fatigue is imminent and you will slow down. So, the faster you can run before that happens, the faster you will run a race.   

You cannot keep getting faster by hammering more and more interval workouts. This is true for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that the anaerobic side is limited (you can only increase speed by so much) and constantly pulling the pH of your muscles down with anaerobic workouts (a condition called acidosis) negatively affects muscle function. In contrast, the aerobic side is virtually unlimited, at least up to the point that your genetics will allow for further adaptation.  

If you have kids, or if you run yourself, the best way to train, especially in the developmental years, is to take a methodical approach, focusing on the aerobic training, increasing how much running you can handle each year, and sprinkling in just enough speedwork to improve speed and create a peak in performance. You can improve speed from aerobic strength; doing it the other way around by trying to improve speed first doesn’t work. You’ll get faster more quickly that way, but your long-term development will get flushed in the toilet. It’s amazing to me how many coaches still don’t understand that, including that college coach I had the conversation with seven years ago.

For distance runners, the volume of training induces the biological signal for adaptation and dictates the performance capacity. And in order to accomplish a large training volume, the runner must perform most of the running at a relatively slow pace, and then by doing quality aerobic work.

Aerobic running develops many physiological and biochemical traits:

1) It increases total blood volume.

2) It increases the number of red blood cells and the amount of hemoglobin contained within them, giving your blood vessels a greater oxygen-carrying capability.

3) It creates a larger spider web of capillaries around your muscle fibers, enhancing oxygen delivery to your muscles by shortening the diffusion distance from capillaries to mitochondria. Think of a highway system — you want lots of highways traversing your muscle fibers so that when oxygen takes an exit, it has only a short distance to travel to arrive at the mitochondria.

4) It increases the volume of mitochondria in slow-twitch muscle fibers, where aerobic metabolism takes place. 

5) It increases aerobic enzyme activity, which enhances the speed at which the chemical reactions of metabolism occur. 

6) It enhances neuromuscular coordination, improving running economy, the oxygen cost of running at submaximal speeds.

7) All of the above improves VO2max, the maximum volume of oxygen your muscles can consume per minute. 

The more aerobically fit runners are, the more they will ultimately get from their subsequent speedwork. Since recovery is an aerobic process, being more aerobically fit enables runners to recover faster during the rest intervals of interval workouts (which enables them to run more reps) and in the days following a workout (which enables them to do fast workouts more often when it is the right time to do them).

As I wrote about in a previous blog, the best 800-meter runners and milers in the world run a lot of miles each week, because even a race that short requires a large aerobic engine (i.e., a high VO2max) and is more aerobic than anaerobic.

Seven years after my conversation with the college coach about the two schools of thought, and the cross country team is still near the bottom of the conference. Perhaps one day, if she truly cares about her athletes, she’ll go back to school.

Biceps, Butts, and Bikinis

When I got a phone call on Wednesday this past week to judge the Musclemania bodybuilding, bikini, and physique competition on Saturday, I thought it was a prank call. Apart from having great legs, why would anyone ask a runner to judge a physique competition? I’ve never gotten a spray tan, after all.

It took me a few days to decide whether or not I was going to do it, because I didn’t really feel like taking a few hours out of my Saturday to judge overly-bronzed bodies on stage.

I decided to do it… and it was so worth it. I met a lot of great people, including the other judges, one of whom looked like he should have been one of the competitors himself.

judges

It’s not easy to be judged while posing on stage half naked, and it’s not easy to do the judging. I only had seconds to score the competitors on different criteria, like symmetry, condition, and appearance. And to judge each as an individual, without comparison to the others, was even more difficult. Our brains naturally make comparisons. We know beautiful only because we know ugly; we know strong only because we know weak.

Although I had fun and met great people, that kind of competition doesn’t appeal to the athlete in me. Why spend all that time training to pose on a stage and win or lose based purely on what you look like? Why not train to develop a skill instead? There are other types of athletes who look even better than the men and women I saw on that stage, and they look that way by training skill. Gymnasts could rival any one of these physique competitors, but they do it by achieving tremendous skill. What they can accomplish is extremely impressive and extremely difficult.

Some of the bodybuilding and physique competitors from the Musclemania Fitness California Championships 

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The 2016 U.S. Olympic Men’s Gymnastics Team

gymnasts

And then, of course, there’s Usain Bolt and other world-class sprinters, who train to develop speed and power. I once stood right next to Carl Lewis, winner of 9 Olympic gold medals. It was like standing next to a sculpture. Sprinters, like all athletes, train movement, not muscle. Bodybuilders and physique competitors train the opposite way—muscle, not movement.

Bolt

I have written many times in my articles and books that what muscles look like isn’t as important as what they can do. Just ask the world’s best distance runners with the skinny legs and arms, who can run unbelievable speeds for long periods of time (the men’s and women’s marathon world records are 4:41 and 5:10 per mile pace, respectively).

Judging last night’s competition opened my eyes to a new area of the fitness industry. But I still believe that people should train for function rather than form. If you do that, your muscles will not only be able to perform well, they will look great, too. Form follows function, after all.   

Miles, Metabolism, and Curveballs

As you probably know, I have been deeply interested in the science of athletic performance ever since I was a kid. One of the first scientific questions I had at a young age was how a baseball pitcher throws a curveball. It’s so cool how pitchers exploit the physics of aerodynamics to make the ball curve down or away from the batter before it crosses the batter’s box so that the batter swings and misses. When I was a kid, I played a lot of baseball, even trained at Bucky Dent’s Baseball School in Florida, and was mesmerized by curveballs.

Studying the science of athletic performance has also helped me understand why runners need to run many miles. Last week, I posted a blog about my conversation with Nick Symmonds, one of the best 800-meter runners in America, who has run 1:42.95. He told me he runs 60 to 70 miles per week. To the recreational runner, it may seem excessive to run that many miles each week to run a race that takes less than 2 minutes. Nick is not the only half-miler who runs that much. Peter Snell, the Olympic 800-meter winner in 1960 and 800-meter and 1500-meter winner in 1964, ran 100 miles per week during his aerobic base phase. And Sebastian Coe, the Olympic 1,500-meter winner in 1980 and 1984 and 800-meter silver medalist in 1980 and 1984 and former 800-meter world record holder ran 50-55 miles per week. The best milers in the world don’t run that much less than the best marathoners, despite their race being so much shorter.

The reason for so much running for such short races is endurance. Any race that takes two or more minutes to complete is more heavily influenced by aerobic metabolism than by anaerobic metabolism. To complete 800 meters in 1 minute and 40-something seconds still requires a lot of aerobic training. As Nick Symmonds said during our conversation, “The 800 meters requires you to be a 100-meter sprinter and a marathoner at the same time.”              

People think of running endurance as the ability to run for long periods of time. But that is only one (superficial) way to define it. Endurance is also the ability to sustain a high fraction of your maximal speed, to run as fast as possible by recruiting only your slow-twitch (aerobic) muscle fibers. If you can increase the speed that can be supported by slow-twitch fibers, that leaves all of your fast-twitch muscle fibers ready and waiting when it’s time to pick up the pace toward the end of a race. But if you have to recruit the fast-twitch fibers to hold the pace in the middle of the race, you’ll start to fatigue and won’t be able to pick up the pace later. In fact, you’ll slow down.

That’s why a lot of aerobic training is so important, even for short races: To train your slow-twitch muscle fibers to handle as fast of a pace as they can so you can postpone the recruitment of fast-twitch muscle fibers and thus delay fatigue. This is important whether you are a world-class runner or a recreational runner.    

As I tell my audiences during every presentation or workshop I teach, the number of weekly miles (or the amount of time) you run each week has the single biggest impact on your running performance, from 800 meters to the marathon.

Think about that during the World Series next week when pitchers throw the curveball.  

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A Conversation with an Olympian and the Gum He Chews

What do you get when you cross a stick of gum with caffeine and an Olympian? You get Run Gum, the creation of Olympic 800-meter runner Nick Symmonds, whom I had the pleasure of speaking with via Skype this week. For those of you who don’t follow track and field, Nick Symmonds is a bit of a trendsetter. Not only is he one of the best 800-meter runners in the United States, he is a huge advocate for runners’ rights, trying to make a semi-professional sport professional. He runs 60 to 70 miles per week to train for a race that takes 1 minute and 43 seconds. That alone is fascinating in what it reveals about the importance of aerobic metabolism for short races, but I’ll save that discussion for another blog post.

This time, we talked about something else. Tired of the feeling he got in his stomach from gulping caffeine-loaded energy drinks, Nick used his biochemistry degree to create Run Gum, a natural alternative to energy drinks that maximizes the absorption of caffeine sublingually — along with B vitamins, Taurine, and sugar alcohols for taste — without having to drink anything.   

He chews the gym for a couple of minutes before he runs, spits it out, and off he runs. Sounds a little crazy, I know, but it works. Research shows that mouth rinsing with caffeine or carbohydrate can improve both endurance and repeated sprint performance. Seems that our brains are pretty smart — they can sense when stimulants and nutrients are in our mouths and, in response, make changes or adjustments, even without the stimulants and nutrients being ingested. Pretty remarkable.

I’ve never been a gum chewer, never learned how to blow bubbles with my Bazooka bubble gum with the Bazooka Joe comic strip on the wrapper. But after talking to Nick, I’m going to try Run Gum. Perhaps it will slow down the aging process for me and get my legs a little closer to what they were when I was in my 20s. Of course, that’s still a lot slower than Nick, who has run 1:42.95 for 800 meters and 3:56 for the mile.

Get your Run Gum at https://getrungum.com

Running, and the Meaning of Life

“Watching young children run around the playground, it is evident that something special is taking place when we move on two legs. Indeed, it is a form of locomotion that makes humans unique from most other animals. There is no shortage of scientists studying running from every possible angle: physiological, biochemical, anatomical, biomechanical, medical, psychological, evolutionary, cognitive, and emotional. Not only is bipedal running unique, how humans think about running and about themselves as runners is also unique. The reason that humans are the only animals that think about running is, of course, the size and complexity of our brains. Unlike even our nearest mammalian ancestors—apes and monkeys—humans have the ability to look inward and think about themselves, their place in the world, and how to improve their characteristics. Unlike other animals, we are aware of our own mind, our own soul, and our own emotions. And that gives us a tremendous amount of power and responsibility.

Running may be simple, but it is also extremely complex, because human beings are complex. And that’s what makes running so interesting. It allows us to look inward—at the inner runner—to find out who we really are and embrace the challenge of discovering our true selves. Sometimes we find out things we don’t want to know. Not every time I have run a race do I cross the finish line feeling like I gave it everything I had. There have been many times I have felt guilty, that I knew there was something else I could have done in that race that I did not do. It bothers me, because I feel like I have failed myself. Sometimes that happens in life. We fail ourselves. But also like life, we often have another chance.”

Excerpted from The Inner Runner

If you haven’t ordered The Inner Runner yet, please do. After you order the book, email me your proof of purchase at jason@run-fit.com for a FREE bonus gift.

I wrote the book from my heart and feel so deeply about it. I want to share it with you and the world.

A portion of sales go to the American Heart Association and Susan G. Komen for the Cure in memory of my parents.

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Cover

The Truth About Weight Loss

 

I’ve been seeing a lot of nonsense on social medial lately about weight loss, so I made a video for you (I think that’s called a Vlog instead of a Blog). Enjoy! Share this with your colleagues, clients, and friends. And don’t forget to pre-order RUN YOUR FAT OFF, which hits bookstores in March!

Workout Time

Beginning in the seventh grade, I became fascinated with time, how fast it goes and how each year seems to go by faster than the previous year. When I once shared my perception of time with my 90-year-old grandmother, she said, “Just wait until you’re 80.” I’m still far from 80, so I can only imagine how fast time will go by then. It likely will go by in no time at all.

I’ve spent much of the last 30 years appreciating the impact that short workouts can have, and creating workouts that make you extremely fit in a short time. My next book, 14-Minute Metabolic Workouts, includes a thorough collection of these workouts that target the five components of physical fitness. Here’s two brand new workouts for you.

Treadmill Hill Pyramid 1
Use the same speed for each rep and for each recovery interval. For the reps, choose a speed that is challenging. For the recovery intervals, decrease the speed to a slow jog that enables you to recover.

  Duration Grade RPE Intensity
Rep #1 1:00 2% 8 85-90% max HR
Recovery 1:00 0% 2-3  
Rep #2 1:00 4% 8 85-90% max HR
Recovery 1:00 0% 2-3  
Rep #3 1:00 6% 8.5 85-90% max HR
Recovery 1:00 0% 2-3  
Rep #4 1:00 8% 9 >90% max HR
Recovery 1:00 0% 2-3  
Rep #5 1:00 6% 8.5 85-90% max HR
Recovery 1:00 0% 2-3  
Rep #6 1:00 4% 8 85-90% max HR
Recovery 1:00 0% 2-3  
Rep #7 1:00 2% 8 85-90% max HR
Total Time 13:00      

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Resistance Band Circuit
This circuit alternates lower body and upper body exercises, moving from large muscles to small muscles. Go immediately from one exercise to the next.

Exercise Reps
Resistance Band Squat 15
Resistance Band Chest Press 15
Resistance Band Inner Thigh Pull 15 with each leg
Resistance Band Bent-Over Row 15
Resistance Band Leg Curl 15 with each leg
Resistance Band Cross-Overs 15 with each arm
Resistance Band Reverse Lunge 15
Resistance Band Triceps Kickback 15
Resistance Band Squat Side Steps 15 with each leg
Resistance Band Overhead Press 15 with each arm
Resistance Band Biceps Curls 15
Total Time 12:00-14:00

EXERCISE INSTRUCTIONS

Resistance Band Squat

Grab both handles of the resistance band with an overhand grip and stand with feet shoulder-width apart on the middle of the band. Make sure equal lengths of the band are on both sides of your body so that they are the same height on each side. Hold the band so it is behind your shoulders with your hands near your shoulders, your elbows pointed down, and your palms facing away from you. Bend your knees as you squat down until your thighs are parallel to the ground. Push through the heels of your feet to stand back up to the starting position, and repeat for the prescribed number of reps.

Resistance Band Chest Press

Wrap the resistance band at chest height around an immovable object. Stand with your back to the object you have anchored the band to and grab each handle. Step forward a few steps to create enough resistance and stand with one foot slightly in front of the other for balance. Hold the band at chest height with your elbows up and palms facing down. Push the band straight out in front of you until your arms are fully extended. Slowly return to starting position and repeat for the prescribed number of reps.

Resistance Band Inner Thigh Pull

Anchor the resistance band at ankle height to an immovable object and stand with your right side facing the object. Wrap the free end of the band around your right ankle. Stand perpendicular to the band and step away from the object to which the band is anchored to to create enough resistance. Lift your right leg slightly off the ground and sweep your right ankle across your body past your left leg. You can lean on a wall for support. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat for the prescribed number of reps before switching to the left leg.

Resistance Band Bent-Over Row

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart on the center of the resistance band. Bend your knees slightly and bend over at the waist, keeping your back straight. Hold the handles at shoulder-width with your hands facing each other and arms extended. Pull the band up toward your chest, squeezing your shoulder blades together until your elbows form a 90-degree angle. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat for the prescribed number of reps.

Resistance Band Leg Curl

Lie face down and loop the resistance band around your right ankle, anchoring the other end to an immovable object behind you. Move forward from the anchor point to create enough resistance. Bend your knee, curling your right leg up until your heel comes close to your butt. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat for the prescribed number of reps before switching to the left leg.

Resistance Band Cross-Overs

Stand on the resistance band with your left foot and hold one end of the band with your left hand at the side of your left leg. Hold the other end in your right hand with your right arm across your body so that your right hand meets your left hip. Keeping your arm straight, use your shoulder and upper back muscles to lift your arm up and away from your body until your arm is fully extended. Lower your extended arm back down across your body to return to the starting position and repeat for the prescribed number of reps before switching to the left arm.

Resistance Band Reverse Lunge

Stand with your feet hip-width apart on the middle of the resistance band with your left foot on the band. Grab the band in each hand far enough away from the handles to provide enough resistance. Lunge back with your right foot and lower your right knee until your left thigh is parallel to the floor. Keep your left knee over your toes as you lunge back. Press off your left heel to return to the starting position and repeat for the prescribed number of reps before switching to the left leg.

Resistance Band Triceps Kickback

Stand with your right foot forward in the middle of the resistance band. Grab the handles and hold your arms at your sides with palms facing back. Keep your arms tucked by your sides with your forearms parallel to the floor and your elbows bent at 90 degrees. Extend your arms at the elbows until your arms are straight. Only your forearm should move. Return to the starting position and repeat for the prescribed number of reps.

Resistance Band Squat Side Steps

Secure a resistance band or physical therapy band around your ankles and stand in a squat position with feet shoulder-width apart and thighs parallel to the floor. Move to the left by pushing with your right leg while stepping laterally with the left while remaining in the squat position. Keep your chest up and back straight. Bring your right foot back to the starting position and continue for the prescribed number of reps before switching to the other direction.

Resistance Band Overhead Press

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Hold the handles of the resistance band with elbows bent at 90 degrees and pointing down and palms facing forward. Press the handles up and in together over your head until they meet. Lower the handles back along the same arc to the starting position and repeat for the prescribed number of reps.

Resistance Band Biceps Curls

Stand with feet shouder-width apart and your back straight. Hold the handles of the resistance band with your arms by your sides. Keep your elbows close to your body. Lift the handles by bending your elbow and rotate your hands so that your palms face up as the handles reach your shoulders. Lower the handles to the starting position and repeat for the prescribed number of reps.

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