Olympic Day

 

 

Happy Olympic Day!

Ever since I was a little kid, I have had a deep passion for the Olympics.

I wish I could post a photo of me running in the Olympics like many of my social media friends are doing today, but I was not blessed with such Olympic talent. Instead, here’s a photo of me in the 1996 Olympic stadium in Atlanta. I was 23 years old. Every morning, I hung out in “scalper’s row” outside the CNN building and bought tickets from scalpers to see everything I could—gymnastics, fencing, baseball, volleyball, and, of course, track and field. I saw Haile Gebrselassie from Ethiopia outsprint Paul Tergat from Kenya in the 10,000 meters to win by inches. I saw Amy Van Dyken win one of her 4 gold medals in swimming. I saw Poland win the team gold medal over Italy in fencing. (I found myself chanting, “Polska! Polska!” along with everyone else in the arena.) And I saw my childhood idol, Carl Lewis, win his fourth Olympic gold medal in a row in the long jump.   

It’s easy for Olympians to say things like, “If you work hard enough and believe, anything is possible,” but that is not really the truth. Talent can take one very far, in sport and in other areas of life. Truth is, most of us cannot be the best in the world at something. Very few people make it to the Olympics, no matter how hard they try.

What is really important (listen closely, because this is what you came to my post for) is that, just like an Olympian, we can all strive to be better than we were yesterday. And we can all put our hearts into something to see what we can become, despite the fear of failure. People take risks because the chance of failing makes success taste even sweeter.

RUNNING STRIDE

 

RUNNING SPEED = STRIDE RATE X STRIDE LENGTH

Is stride rate or stride length more important?

When you increase your pace from a jog to a run to a fast run, stride length increases more than does stride rate by the plantar flexor muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus) producing more force against the ground, until you’re sprinting very fast, when stride rate begins to dominate further increases in speed. At very fast speeds (faster than about 3:50 per mile pace), the speed of muscle contraction is so fast that there is not enough time to produce a lot of force, and plantar flexor peak muscle force begins to decrease.

The subconscious manipulation of stride length and stride rate at different speeds is governed by what is most economical for runners; at each pace you run, you may have a stride length that’s most economical (optimizes oxygen use) for you, while staying at a specific stride rate (or within a narrow range of stride rates) may be what’s most economical for all distance running paces. It’s a more economical strategy to increase the distance of each stride than it is to increase the cadence of the legs. (Same is true for swimming or rowing—distance per stroke is more important than the number of strokes per minute.) When sprinting, however, optimizing running economy is not an issue (because sprinting is not about using oxygen), and stride rate can play a more prominent role.

Learn much more about stride rate and stride length when you sign up for the REVO₂LUTION RUNNING™ certification course.
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Dr. Jason’s Success Principles

 

I get asked all the time about how I got started in my business and grew my career. If you come a little closer and bring the screen close to your face (with or without a mask), I’ll tell you my secret. Ready?

Vision. Relentless persistence. Not knowing any other path.

Vision: I knew from the time I started running track in 6th grade that I wanted to pursue the science of athletic performance for a career. And I knew that coaching would be at the center of that career. Even if you decide on what you want to do as an adult, have a clear vision of what you want your career to look like and ask yourself why you want that.

Relentless persistence: Years ago, I was asked at a symposium to share my one piece of advice for people to be successful. I said, “relentless persistence.” Even when you fail and when people tell you no, you can’t ever give up. Keep showing up and following up a million times. Make yourself a pest. (I’m really good at this.)

Not knowing any other path: Much of my career goes back to when I was a kid. I got hooked on a subject and didn’t know or consider anything else. It’s not too late to focus on a passion when you’re an adult or even if you’re currently in another career. You just have to pretend (and believe) that there is no other path for you. When you don’t know any other path, you’re forced to laser focus on the path you choose.   

ENZYMES

 

Let’s talk about enzymes! I love enzymes!

Enzymes speed up chemical reactions. What that means is that they make you run faster (although I skipped over a lot of steps!). In the absence of enzymes, chemical reactions wouldn’t occur quickly enough to generate the energy you need to run.

Enzymes have funny names, like succinate dehydrogenase and phosphofructokinase. Some of them are tongue twisters!

Enzymes can be activated or inhibited, which means that their effectiveness in speeding up chemical reactions can be either increased or decreased, determining which metabolic pathways are functional during certain cellular conditions. Enzymes essentially control metabolism and therefore control the pace at which you fatigue. Isn’t that cool?

Both aerobic and anaerobic training increase their respective enzyme activity. Do more aerobic training and you increase enzymes involved in aerobic metabolism. Do more anaerobic training and you increase enzymes involved in anaerobic metabolism.

Now listen closely because this is what you came for: The more aerobic enzymes you have, the more you steer metabolism toward a greater reliance on aerobic metabolism at a given pace. Without a surplus of aerobic enzymes, your muscles will rely on anaerobic metabolism and you’ll fatigue (slow down) at a slower pace. To be a better distance runner, one of the goals of your training should be to make as many aerobic enzymes as possible.

RECOVERY

 

 

Do you do everything you should to recover between workouts? Recovery is perhaps even more important than the training itself since the adaptations to training occur during the recovery period between runs, not during the runs themselves.

Guidelines for recovery:

NUTRITION
Consume carbohydrate to resynthesize and store glycogen in muscles and liver. To maximize the rate of glycogen resynthesis, consume 0.7 gram of glucose per pound of body weight within 30 minutes after your run and every 2 hours for 4-6 hours.

Consume protein to repair microscopic muscle fiber damage and to provide amino acids for adaptation to your training. Consume 20-30 grams of complete protein (those which contain all essential amino acids) after you run.

Consume antioxidants (vitamins A, C, and E) to help muscles repair cellular oxidative damage.

REHYDRATE
Water is vital for many chemical reactions that occur inside your cells, including the production of energy for muscle contraction. Dehydration from sweating also decreases blood volume, which decreases stroke volume, cardiac output and, ultimately, a decreased oxygen delivery. Drink half a liter of water for every pound you lose during your workout. If your run is longer than 1 hour, drink fluids with sodium.

ICE BATHS
Research is mixed on this. Ice massage or cold water immersion doesn’t decrease the perception of soreness, but it can decrease the level of the enzyme creatine kinase in the blood (an indirect indicator of muscle damage). If you soak your legs in cold water, limit it to about 10 minutes to prevent frostbite.

MASSAGE
Research shows that the effects of massage on recovery are rather small. It can reduce muscle soreness but has no effect on muscle function.

SLEEP
Getting adequate sleep is paramount to recovery. Get at least 8 hours of sleep per night.

Toilet Paper, Social Distancing, and Marathon Training

 

A lot of people I know seem to be going a bit insane being home so much, and it’s not just because they don’t have enough toilet paper. It is seriously affecting their mental health. I am not a psychologist, nor do I play one on TV. But, for what it’s worth from someone who found some Charmin Ultra Soft toilet paper and has spent many years working from home by himself, with no girlfriend, no kids, and little in-person contact with others, what helps a lot is throwing yourself into your ambition—growing your career, writing a book or screenplay, running, starting a business, parenting your kids, or learning to play an instrument. Whatever stimulates you. When you completely throw yourself into your ambition, it keeps you off the street (#stayathome) and you don’t have time to be lonely. It gives you purpose. And having some chocolate nearby also helps.

Now that we have the toilet paper and dealing with social distancing solved, let’s turn our attention to running. This is not a time to stop training! If you’ve been training for a half marathon or marathon that’s been postponed, don’t panic! This is a great time to train smarter. Since the half marathon and marathon depend almost exclusively on aerobic metabolism and endurance takes a while to be fully developed, this is an opportunity to train differently than you have done before.

Instead of increasing your weekly mileage and length of long runs week to week like most training programs do, give your legs a chance to fully absorb, adapt, and habituate to the workload before increasing the workload. The slower your weekly mileage is increased, the less chance of injury. 30 miles per week should become normal before increasing to 35 miles per week.

In addition to increasing weekly volume, increase the quality of aerobic work with fartleks and threshold workouts. Here’s the weekly pattern: Increase volume, get used to that volume, then insert some intensity into that volume with a quality aerobic workout, then get used to that intensity at that volume, then increase the volume again with the same intensity, then get used to that volume, then insert more intensity to that volume, and so on. Avoid increasing volume and intensity at the same time.

This all takes time to do it right. Now that you have the time, train smarter and you’ll run faster on race day!

 

Why We Run

 

“If you were to ask a zoologist why we run, he or she might say we run because we are animals, and that’s what animals evolved to do. Running is essential to an animal’s life. Animals run to hunt; they run because they’re being hunted; they run to play; they run out of panic; and they even run to flirt with and show off to other members of their species. The zoologist may be right—on playgrounds across the country, human animals show off their speed, as boys and girls race each other during recess.

There are countless stories of people who run when faced with difficult circumstances. That’s not a coincidence. We all have things we run toward or away from. I’ve met runners who run toward life, toward freedom, health, and friendships, toward love, toward happiness. And I’ve met runners who run away from obesity, from family, relationships, and divorce, from drugs, from depression, from heart disease and cancer.

When we run, we are free of those things. We are free from what binds us, from what keeps us down, from what holds us back. Running helps us cope—with tragedy, with disappointment, with frustration, with sadness, with all of the negative feelings that hold us back from living a happy, fulfilling life.

Running eliminates the stress of most of life’s problems, heightening the enjoyment of the good things in life, at least for the precious moments that we run. We can literally put space between ourselves and our problems, inserting clarity in the space and developing the confidence to handle and deal with what is asked of us. The confidence and empowerment that running gives us can make every hour of our lives better. On both a large, public scale and a small, personal scale, running gives us hope for our future.”

THE INNER RUNNER

 

 

ATP

 

We usually talk of energy in vague terms. “I don’t have a lot of energy today,” or “You can feel the energy in the room.” But what really is energy? Where do we get the energy to move? How do we use it? How do we get more of it? Ultimately, what controls our movements?

As you may have learned in high school biology class, the energy for all physical activity comes from the conversion of high energy phosphates (adenosine triphosphate, ATP) to lower energy phosphates (adenosine diphosphate, ADP; adenosine monophosphate, AMP; and inorganic phosphate, Pi). During this breakdown, or hydrolysis, of ATP, which requires water, a proton, energy, and heat are produced: ATP + H2O → ADP + Pi + H+ + energy + heat. Since your muscles don’t store much ATP, you must constantly resynthesize it. The hydrolysis and resynthesis of ATP is thus a circular process—ATP is hydrolyzed into ADP and Pi, and then ADP and Pi combine to resynthesize ATP. Alternatively, two ADP molecules can combine to produce ATP and AMP: ADP + ADP → ATP + AMP.   

Like many other animals, humans produce ATP through three metabolic pathways that consist of many enzyme-catalyzed chemical reactions. Two of these pathways, the phosphagen system and anaerobic glycolysis, do not use oxygen to create ATP and are therefore referred to as anaerobic. The third pathway uses oxygen to create ATP and is therefore referred to as aerobic.

Which pathway your muscles use for the primary production of ATP depends on how quickly they need it and how much of it they need. Racing 800 meters, for instance, requires energy much more quickly than running a marathon, necessitating the reliance on different energy systems. However, the production of ATP is never achieved by the exclusive use of only one energy system, but rather by the coordinated response of all energy systems contributing to different degrees. Think of three dials that are always being adjusted to optimize the production of energy. When you race 100 meters, the phosphagen dial is turned up very high, while the other two dials are turned down low. When you run a marathon, the aerobic system dial is turned up very high, while the other two dials are turned down low. When you race a 5K, the aerobic system dial is turned up high, the anaerobic glycolysis dial is turned to medium, and the phosphagen system dial is turned down low.

Simplistically speaking, running faster comes down to increasing the rate at which ATP is resynthesized so it can be broken down to liberate energy for muscle contraction.

Phosphagen System

During short-term, intense activities, a large amount of power needs to be produced by the muscles, creating a high demand for ATP. The phosphagen system (also called the ATP-CP system) is the quickest way to resynthesize ATP. Creatine phosphate (CP), which is stored in skeletal muscles, donates a phosphate to ADP to produce ATP:

ADP + CP → ATP + C

No carbohydrate or fat is used in this process; the regeneration of ATP comes solely from stored CP. Since this process does not need oxygen to resynthesize ATP, it is anaerobic, or oxygen-independent. As the fastest way to resynthesize ATP, the phosphagen system is the predominant energy system used for all-out sprinting lasting up to about 10 to 15 seconds. However, since you have a limited amount of stored CP and ATP in your muscles, fatigue occurs rapidly when you sprint.

Anaerobic Glycolysis

Anaerobic glycolysis is the predominant energy system used for all-out running lasting from 30 seconds to about two minutes and is the second fastest way to resynthesize ATP. During anaerobic glycolysis, carbohydrate, either in the form of glucose in the blood or its stored form of glycogen in the muscles and liver, is broken down through a series of chemical reactions. Every molecule of glucose broken down through glycolysis produces two molecules of usable ATP. Thus, very little energy is produced through this pathway, but the trade-off is that you get the energy quickly, so you can run fast.

You rely on anaerobic glycolysis when oxygen is not supplied fast enough to meet your muscles’ needs for ATP. When this happens, your muscles lose their ability to contract effectively because of an increase in hydrogen ions, which causes the muscle pH to decrease, a condition called acidosis. The concentration of other metabolites, including potassium ions and the two constituents of ATP (ADP and Pi) also increase. Acidosis and the accumulation of these other metabolites cause a number of problems inside muscles, including inhibition of specific enzymes involved in metabolism and muscle contraction, inhibition of the release of calcium (the trigger for muscle contraction) from its storage site in muscles, and interference with muscles’ electrical charges, ultimately leading to a decrease in muscle force production and running speed.

Aerobic System

Since humans evolved for aerobic activities, it’s not surprising that the aerobic system, which is dependent on oxygen, is the most complex of the three energy systems. The metabolic reactions that take place in the presence of oxygen are responsible for most of the energy your cells produce. Races longer than two minutes (800 meters to ultramarathons) rely most heavily on the aerobic system. However, aerobic metabolism is the slowest way to resynthesize ATP.

The aerobic system uses blood glucose, muscle and liver glycogen, and fat as fuels to resynthesize ATP. The aerobic use of carbohydrates produces 38 molecules of ATP for every molecule of glucose broken down. Thus, the aerobic system produces 19 times more ATP than does glycolysis from each glucose molecule. If that sounds like a lot, using fat gives you much more ATP—a whopping 130, give or take, depending on the specific fatty acid being used.

Running performance, whether recreational or elite, is most dependent on the aerobic system. The more developed the aerobic system, the faster a person will be able to run before he or she begins to rely on the anaerobic energy pathways and experiences the consequent fatigue.

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Training Plan

 

 

“What do you think about this workout two weeks before the marathon?” she asked me, showing me her workout.

I often get asked about workouts. Runners always want to know what workout they should do on Tuesday.

Training is not like cooking, simply mixing ingredients together in a skillet and adding a little salt and pepper. Every week and every month of training should build on what came before it, applying the precise amount of stress in a systematic way and transitioning from one type of training to another seamlessly.

The secret of training—listen closely, because this is what you came for—is how your aerobic and anaerobic fitness are developed and in the prescribed combination of workouts you do each week. When you do each type of workout matters. It’s not arbitrary.

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Choose from 12 different training programs (5K to marathon) for beginner, intermediate, and advanced runners and for endurance-type and speed-type runners that highlight runners’ different strengths. All programs include detailed instructions and a complete calendar-style training program.

“What workout you do two weeks before the marathon depends on the purpose of the workout and the week of training, what you have been doing in the weeks and months prior to that workout, and what you will do in the weeks after that workout,” I responded.

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RUNNING SPEED = STRIDE RATE X STRIDE LENGTH

 

RUNNING SPEED = STRIDE RATE X STRIDE LENGTH

To get faster, one or both components of the stride must increase. However, because stride rate and stride length are inversely proportional (as one increases, the other decreases), running speed can only increase if an increase in stride length is not accompanied by a similar decrease in stride rate or vice versa.

Stride length is more important than stride rate for increasing distance running speed. When you increase your pace from a jog to a run to a fast run, stride length increases more than does stride rate, until you’re sprinting very fast, when stride rate begins to dominate further increases in speed. Stride length explains much of the difference in speed among distance runners.

Research has shown that, up to about 3:50 per mile pace, running speed is increased by increasing stride length by the plantar flexor muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus) producing more force against the ground. At very fast speeds, the speed of muscle contraction is so fast that there is not enough time to produce a lot of force, and plantar flexor peak muscle force begins to decrease. (The force-velocity relationship dictates muscle force production; the faster the speed of contraction, the lower the force.) The primary strategy used to increase running speed faster than 3:50 per mile pace changes from increasing stride length to increasing stride rate. Specifically, the hip muscles (gluteus maximus, psoas, and hamstrings) become prominent players to quickly accelerate the leg forward during the swing phase.

Unless you’re a sprinter, don’t focus on increasing stride rate (unless you land with your foot far out in front of you, in which case it would be beneficial to take quicker steps), and instead focus on increasing stride length by increasing hip extension and applying greater force to the ground at push-off.

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