Thursday, September 4, 2014

I am elastic already i don't need your help

Elasticity - the ability of an object or material to resume its normal shape after being stretched or compressed.

When landing on your foot or feet, you compress tendons, ligaments, muscles.  If you return to original shape quickly enough, the stored energy in the springier elements in this kinetic chain give you an extra push.  Even when running slowly, pop your feet up quickly and deliberately to take advantage of this. 
To test how quick, deliberate motions take less effort, try jumping an imaginary rope at a natural rhythm for 10 jumps.  Then try to jump once every 2 seconds for 10 jumps.  Which took less energy?
 Your natural jump rope rhythm and rate-of-bounce turns on an amazing kinetic chain that returns much of the landing energy (ground force reaction) to the next jump.  To turn off segments of that chain try this.
10 jumps on your imaginary jump rope without bending your knees (turns off quad and hamstring absorption). Reset.  10 jumps on your imaginary rope landing on your heels (turns off lower leg, or gastroc. chain including achilles tendon, calf, soleus, etc). 
Now to the cushioning.  An extreme example of cushioning would be jumping on a trampoline.  If you tried jumping rope on a trampoline, you'd find it's ~3 seconds per hop.  You are adjusting to the resonance of the trampoline's elasticity.   You proved your natural rhythm is much faster, but you had to move to an unnatural rate to accommodate an outside spring put in series with your built-in springs.  

A less dramatic example would be hold a marble 24" from a hard counter top surface and let it bounce.  notice its first bounce is only a few inches less than 24.  Now place a paper towel on that counter and repeat.  You've lost 50% of the bounce.  The marble deforms more and thus returns more energy without the 'help' of the thin cushion.  Try a thicker cushion, try something springy - anything make bounce higher than the original test?  The poor deformed marble needs to re-expand to its original shape to deform this new cushion THEN push itself back up. 

These examples are of simple systems, elasticities that are rigid and only one value.  The beauty of the human form is muscles can tighten and relax in a way to adjust the elastic properties of your kinetic chain.  If you've ever ran across a trampoline, the trick is to pop your foot up so fast that you don't have time to sink into the trampolines large elastic value.  Pop-pop-pop.  That actually takes more energy, but you compensated.  Your shoes' cushions are the same way.  You can compensate, change your natural rate, vary your leg's spring-compliance but why should you? Why are treadmills another layer of springiness you didn't ask for? 

My first minimal shoes were slabs of thin, hard rubber with no foam and no EVA (also... no spring, rockers, air pockets, etc).  It took some getting used to but letting the natural springs take over took me from 5km to 80km runs.  

Beware of those unintended consequences.  Remember that 'help' isn't always helpful.    

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

How to Climb a Mountain

Maybe that should read 'why climb a mountain'.

When I did the Pikes Peak Marathon in 2013, I knew it would be ~6-7 minutes per mile slower than my road marathon pace.  This can be frustrating for a 'runner' where moving slower can seem like failure, in a way.  But if you fix effort level which can be measured by heart rate, an inclined run can turn into a walk and yield the same 160 bpm that a 7 minute/mile pace flat run can yield.

The PPM is an out and back, you get to see every runner.   It's amazing to see the range of human performance in that sample.  Some front-runners are **trucking** long strides, large broad jumps over obstacles - to - those that are doing a sort of zombie walk, leaning on rocks to catch their breath.  A  small handful of runners were heading back down the mountain having missed the cut offs at certain aid stations.

In 2013 my PPM training was convenient since I lived in Manitou Springs.  I could leave my house (on foot) and in 3 miles, I was on the Barr Trail.  For my weekly long runs, I practiced ascending to 8,000, then 9,000, etc etc until I reached the top.  I ascended the full summit 4 or 5 times before the PPM '13, taking the train back down.  I ascended by train and descended by foot a couple times.  Somehow the race went very poorly for me.  5 months of living in Colorado, the training runs, I expected to be 5:30, but it took me 6:48!  Poor estimates like this leave my wife waiting nervously at the finish line.

This year, I'd moved to Boulder training in 5,500-8,200 feet of elevation without taking a road trip.  Family/work life does lend itself to making trips to 14ers for true altitude training.  My training runs got ~20miles by late May (for the August race).  But in early June, on a business trip to Boston I tripped on a trail run and broke my toe - bad.  Cleanly, but non-displaced, fracture of intermediate metatarsal of my second toe.  This being my longest toe, any toe-off stage of gait re-stressed the fracture.  I had to be careful.  I took off the rest of June and most of July.  In my big come back I tried a 13mile sea level flat training run and I was hurting the next day(s).  Even shin splints, which I hadn't felt since my first attempts of running in 2009-10.  I was clicking off some nice 9 mile hilly runs by August.  No long runs, no altitude, but some signs of strength.

PPM 2014 arriving.  I discussed my plans for the race with my mom.  Getting someone who knows me so
Just don't trip, just don't trip
well, but doesn't understand the sport is ALWAYS helpful.  She said 'just don't trip'.  Such a simple statement and it rang in my head tap-tap-tap-just-don't trip-just-don't-trip-tap-tap-tap.  Thanks mom!  It worked, I didn't trip.  There is carnage after this race, much open wounds from many who fell!  I was not one of them.

My ascent felt great, I was walk/running watching my Heart Rate Monitor(HRM) occasionally.  NOT concerned with distance.  I tried to stay under 160, preferably 156 bpm.  I knew I could hold that for hours and hours.  In 2013 it took me just over 4hours to get up there (worse than most training runs).  PPM 2014 seemed all about restraint, I held that heart rate!  I passed person after person and ascended in 3:40.  Given my training I couldn't expect a better time, but it happened!

Is my camel-toe showing?
The turn around felt amazing, I was bounding and zig-zagging.  I thought I was making good time.  After a few miles down, I could feel the lack of volume in my training.  My muscles were tightening up even before mile 20.  Even on the less technical sections I felt like I was lucky to dip into ~10 minute/mile pace :(.  I felt the sting of people passing me.  'Just don't trip Just don't trip' kept working.  I saw people fall, people cramp up and limp off the course.  People that missed the time cut offs.  I felt ok with where I was.  I consumed ~4 scoops of Ucan Superstarch, 4 honey stinger gels, and a few handfuls of grapes (at aid stations).  For my effort level, it felt like I was perfectly sated.  Taking in 600 calories, and burning 4600 calories proves I'm pretty well fat-adapted.  A fat-burning machine?  ;).
Crossing finish line just a few minute past my goal.

Soaking my legs that would cramp  if I moved them too fast!

The final 1-1.5 miles on road surface I felt like a robot, and the finish I felt like smiling.  Temperatures reached 104 degrees in the sun on the descent.  I KNEW I'd lounge in the creek at the end.  I could feel it towards the end.

My Nathan Quickshot water bottle, Ultimate Direction AK Race vest, and Born2Run Trail Shoes worked flawlessly.

The details of my 'performance':

Friday, August 1, 2014

Overuse injuries?

The are no overuse injuries, just underuse: 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

falling asleep just like running?

My latest focus in running is relaxation.  A body-audit, if you will.

Pick a body part that I shouldn't be engaging for running and ask myself if it's flexed or relaxed.  Muscles you've identified as not helping, then ask yourself if it's relaxed.  Try flexing then releasing.  Pay attention to your running form, the sound of your steps, and your breathing.

Letting go of unneeded muscles will lower your heart/breathing rate, functioning economy improvements.

I have noticed I can incorporate this technique as I fall asleep. Its good practice for muscle relaxation while running. I noticed when I lay down to sleep my hands make tight'ish fists. Recognizing this and flattening out my hands changes my breathing and increases relaxation. Flex a foot then relax it. Notices the difference?  Flex gastric chain then relax it.  Notice Tue difference. Turning off everything allows sweet sleep. Relaxing most things allows for sweet runs.

* This topic supports my theory that the key to endurance is not ability to engage muscles but is the ability to relax muscles. Extrapolated explains a cramp-inability to release a completely flexed muscle. Watching heart rate creep to maintain the same intensity is due to recruiting muscles you don't need for the motion.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Take your time adding more weight to your lifts

Take your time.  

When trying to get stronger.  Say your form is GOOD, rock solid.  

Once form is locked in, getting stronger means the entire chains strengthens. The gains you’ll see given appropriate time to recover:

Muscles take ~90days
Connective tissue takes >200 days
Bone density increases in ~2years

Keep increasing the weights you’re lifting too soon and outpace the connective tissue and bone density and you’ll fail.  

Lift a weight that’s HEAVY for you until lifting it is inconsequential.  Spend months on the same weight perfecting it.  When it no longer causes any adaptations increase that weight, and you’ll be surprised how far you’ve come searching for that next weight that’s heavy for you.  Repeat the cycle.  

What’s your hurry?  

Ask Coach Sommer, Robb Wolf did:

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Why Are Fat People Hungry

Weight loss is a terrible goal when simply living, eating and playing in a healthy-ancestral way has the side benefit of a 'nice' body.  A body that suits your pheno-type.  But some people are into solving symptoms like 'losing weight' instead of 'identifying why they need to lose weight.'
I always ask the question 'why are fat people (those who store excess adipose tissue) hungry'?  
I weigh 157 pounds with ~6% body fat.  Let's round up to 10lbs of fat, that's 35,000 dietary calories of energy.  That is enough stored energy to run every second i'm awake for 10days, and I am a pretty small dude.  Yet people with 5, 10, 50, 100lbs of fat on their body need to eat 3 times a day (plus snacks) to maintain their sedentary lives to keep from being hungry?  That's hard to swallow.  

If you're curious,... it's metabolic derangement, that is why fat people get hungry.  with all that stored potential energy on board, one can not burn the stored fat in your adipose tissue if you're producing insulin.  One produces insulin in response to simple carbohydrate intake.  

Consuming simple, refined carbohydrates is like spraying ether in your old lawn mower.  In stead of priming the carburetor to get the REAL fuel from the tank into the engine, you spray something that is burned easily, quickly and then gone. You can keep an engine running by constantly spraying a bit off this fluid into the carburetor, leaving your full tank untouched.  the revs go high and then conk out - like you at 3pm at work looking for a snack, or a carbohydrate-dependent marathoner at mile 20.  

Weight loss clients should be asking, how can I access the fuel in my tank rather than storing more and more. I highly recommend Dr Davis's Wheat Belly which explains how the stored visceral (belly) fat becomes it's own organ secreting hormones contributing to the derangement of needing constant short term fueling.  

Shouldn't I just exercise to get rid of fat?  Exercise has been proven to increase appetite. Making yourself hungrier makes weight loss difficult. The only way exercise causes you to lose stored fat is because high intensity exercise squashes the insulin response from the carbs you've eaten allowing access to some fat.  You have to over come the simple sugars, then suppress the insulin, THEN burn stored fat in that order.  Again, you are squashing a symptom.  

Shouldn't I eat less to get rid of fat?  This is a tough question, you may trick your body into tapping into stored fat after you've beaten the strong urges to eat.  Once this happens you will be surprisingly sated.  This is temporary as soon the stored fat soluble vitamins will be depleted and you will achieve a new hunger, that of micro-nutrient depletion.  This is why calorie restrictive diets typically fail and the dieter regains the weight in spades.  Calorie restriction typically accompanies micro-nutrient restriction, which is bad and beyond the scope of this post.  
  1. Lower carb consumption - plot your macro-nutrients in a web based food log like\myplate and tinker with what foods to cut to reduce high "glycemic load" foods.
  2. Change the timing of your carb consumption - never eat carbs for breakfast, try to continue your sleep-fast into mid day.  Eat energy dense foods early bacon, eggs, sausage, avocado, nuts and raise carb intake as the day goes on.  Workout on an empty stomach, dive right into your fat reserves.  
  3. Both - lifestyle changes give you lifestyle benefits. I kick off my athlete's fat burning metabolism with a weekend fast, no food for 24-36 hours.  It's easier than you think.  Check out Perfect Health Diet, or Warrior Diet for why.
It's not just for you and 'how you look', a carb-dependent, heavy person is starving inside.  Your kids will be born wired to think the world is short on food and posses a thrifty gene epigenetic expression. 

For a crash course in molecular biology to see what's happening inside the cells, Dr McGuff says it all (the entire video is good, but I've ffwd it to the relevant portion):

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Problem of Paleo Diet Arguements

Excepts taken from Chris Kresser's Interview of Mat Lalonde (from here)

Mat Lalonde PHd Chemical and Chemical Biology:

Invalid Inference 1: Our Paleolithic ancestors ate Paleo this way and they were free of disease

I’ll also say that the goal of my talk at the Ancestral Health Symposium was to help people better justify why they’re using this dietary approach or lifestyle.  You know, I do realize that I ruffled some feathers because there are some folks who are coming out of field, and I’m coming out of field, but not that far, you know, chemistry and medicine aren’t that far off.  But there are some folks who are coming from different fields, and really all they’re grasping on is this evolutionary thing, and they don’t realize that all it is really at the end of the day is a great way to formulate hypotheses, and I was seeing a lot of mistakes made in the blogosphere, and I was afraid that it was going to prevent a lot of professionals from taking our movement seriously.  So that was the goal ultimately, and you know, it’s just so simple to ridicule the whole caveman argument that I wanted to go beyond that, I wanted to give people a little bit more to think about, so if you are on a paleo diet, or what I prefer to say actually, because there’s really no such thing as a paleo diet.  The foods aren’t available anymore.  You can try to mimic it.  That’s the best you can do.  But a diet that’s meat, vegetables, tubers, and fruits.  That’s what I call it.  Typical arguments for this will go like this:  Our ancestors and modern hunter-gatherers consumed a diet that was mostly devoid of grains, legumes, and dairy, and they were virtually free of diseases of civilization.  People then make the invalid inference that consuming a diet mostly devoid of grains, legumes, and dairy will thus allow us to be free of diseases of civilization.  

Invalid Inference 2: We haven’t evolved enough to thrive on modern agriculture

Mat Lalonde:  We evolved over millions of years without consuming the foods that became readily available only after the advent of agriculture.  Hence, we’re not adapted to these foods.  But this assumes that a species isn’t adapted to a food because it’s never consumed it.  And if you look at the evolutionary record, that’s incorrect.  There are plenty of examples throughout evolution where species discover novel sources of food and thrive on them.
You know, when you cooked plant matter or meat, it became more easily digestible so your gut could get a little bit smaller and you got better nutrition as a result.  If you look throughout history, you’ll see that food itself is a huge driver of evolution.  You know, the availability of food has driven some major adaptations.  And that’s another part where I didn’t ruffle some feathers, but I think I was misinterpreted during my seminar talk at AHS, where some people seemed to think that I was implying that adaptation was very quick.  And I didn’t say that.  I said that adaptation depended on time and pressure.  And if the pressure is very high, then it can be very quick.  So European herders becoming adapted to lactose, for example, would be a great example. 

Invalid Inference 3: We should live like our ancestors because we’re still genetically the same

Mat Lalonde:  We’ll lump this into genetics and epigenetics because the third thing I hear a lot is our genes are virtually identical to those of our Paleolithic ancestors so we should live like they did.  And this has to be the most ridiculous statement of them all because here is a group of people that claims to take an evolutionary approach to life, yet shows it does not understand evolution.  Human beings and chimps have virtually identical genomes to the tune of 99.5%.  The difference between a human being and a chimp is in gene expression in the epigenome.  Just because two species have similar genes does not mean that they will both thrive in similar environments or with similar food sources.  You know, one of the mechanisms through which adaptations arise is a change in gene expression.  It would be absurd to suggest the epigenome of modern humans is identical to that of our Paleolithic ancestors, given the substantial changes in environment and food that have occurred since that era.

What is the best scientifically backed argument for Paleo?

Mat Lalonde:  There has been insufficient time and evolutionally pressure for complete adaptation to seed consumption arise in homosapiens.  And I think about that today, and I’m like, well, you know, people might think that there could be complete adaptation.  Let’s say you were to take a population and give them only wheat to eat, but unfortunately I don’t think that’s the case, because all evolution cares about is getting to the next generation. And eating these foods will allow you to reach reproductive age.  There are certain types of insects that live only long enough to reproduce, and then they die off, and then the next generation takes over. That’s right, so the challenge right now is that we are trying to live for a very long time and very well and healthy, so we’re pushing the boundaries.
<<So that we’ve evolved some what might be called “shallow” adaptations or mutations, and some examples of this kind of rapid genetic change are the evolution of light skin in response to humans moving into northern climates or the changes in some genes or gene expression that regulate insulin metabolism in response to a higher carbohydrate diet.  But those are relatively simple mutations.  They’re not complex adaptations, which are characteristics that involve coordinated actions of many different genes together. >>
When you think about these two statements, what I like about it is that it’s pinpointing what think is a fact in that people who are adapted to grains and legumes or who not necessarily thrive, but survive on these foods are probably the minority.  Now, that’s very different than saying, well, nobody should eat this because we’ve never eaten these foods in the past.  And it is a very different statement, and it forces people to think about themselves, which is what you do all the time.  It’s like, OK, where do I sit on this spectrum?  What do I tolerate and what do I not tolerate?
It all goes back to a personal responsibility argument.  Robb Wolf always says, make changes and see how you look, feel, perform and rank in important disease markers.  In other words, keep an eye on the science, but I put a disproportionate weight into personal experience.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

A Surprising Personal Best

Been running for almost 5years now, in the early development of my running performance I am used to getting a new 'PR' (personal records) every race.  I noticed a trend of 10% improvement every 6months.
Note: when calculating % of time, use minutes not fractional hours.  For example, 10% of of 1.5 hours (90minues) is 9mins.
This is not sustainable indefinitely obviously.   The 10% figure will degrade and reverse over time.  But understanding the race specific work needed to improve a specific race distance takes specific training. No one gets faster without targeted effort.

Brings me to my situation, early 2013 we moved to Boulder.  I knew that in the mountains less pressure = less oxygen, any run out the door was hundreds or thousands feet of elevation change.  I was reacquainted with double digit-minute / mile times!  The only 6-min/mile times I'd seen were occasional asphalt downhill efforts.  May days of holding 6min pace for mile repeats seemed gone.

Now we are in Boulder and it seems the town gets very excited for the nation's ~2nd largest 10km race called the Bolder Boulder.  All of my runs this year are slogs uphill and careful descents, with occasional 7min pace downhills.  The day before the race, we came home early from a rained out camping trip and I said "if the Bolder Boulder isn't sold out, I will run it."

I jogged the 4miles from home to Pearl Street Mall and waited in line to see the registration was open.  I saw they were asking for seeding times.  Feverishly I search in line, I found a 10km race in Richmond in 2012.  That race has 16 feet of elevation change and it's at sea level!  I wondered if I could even repeat that performance at 5,500'!  The registration person put me in corral 'AB' (3rd fastest), the cut off time for 'AA' was 41:00 - missed by three seconds, ugh.  I knew I'd need people faster than me surrounding me to suck me in.

Split toe action
In the morning, I was trying to decide which shoes to wear.  I remembered all my speed work I used to do in my Born2Run Road shoes.  Fond memories of moving fast in these shoes that offer some medium-firm cushioning, but allowing toes to splay for longitudinal arch suspension in my stride.

I toe (split toe that is) the line and take off and was able to hang with all my fellow corral runners I picked runners to catch and pass my pass-to-was passed ratio was 50:1.  I was happy to fly by a group of 'A'-corral'ers dressed like superheroes.

Done already??
I was moving my legs at a pace I really hadn't tried since 2012.  I refused to look at my watch, not wanting to know my pace.  It buzzed every mile but did not look.

The entire race besides staying in a groove of breathing, I focussed on relaxing any muscle I didn't need.  Were my shoulders tight?  Yes? Why? relave them! and move on to the next muscle group.  Hands relaxed? No?.... etc.

At the mean 10% grade hill to enter the stadium I danced around another runner's puke and thought "their gut biome cannot process beans, they need to cut out legumes..." I crossed the finish line and was handed a "Sub-40minute badge along with my medal."  My heart soared (and sored a little too, haha).  I passed two more people puking with the thought: "I wish I'd worked hard enough to puke".  As a long distance runner I am SURE I had plenty of gas in the tank, it took 2-3 deep breaths to get heart rate down.  No soreness, tightness or other signs of fatigue as I drank my post race beer(s).

I cannot remember the last time I was pleasantly surprised by a race.  7th in my age group.

Inspired:  Now I'm interested in leaving my ultra-marathon shuffle and actually specifically training for a 10km.  Also I want to fly to Richmond to re-try that 2012 race!  I will bring these good luck charms.

1    6:22
2    6:32
3    6:32
4    6:39
5    6:14
6    6:32
0.2 7:06

Note: this is a subject for another post, but less than 1% of the runners in those first few corral took any water or sports drinks.  

Friday, June 13, 2014

Coolest fact I learned in the past 12 months

It all started when I read Scott Jurek's Eat and Run, he mentioned he's a vegetarian since animal's eat plants therefore instead of eating animals, eat the plants and cut out the middle man.

This resonated with me since my little daughter was just born.  I thought, my daughter eats breast milk why eat that when she can eat my wife's diet and cut out the middle man, right?

But WAIT, a newborn lacks the gut microbiome to process the diet of an adult, she CAN'T eat what my wife eats (obvious-fugging-ly).  As humans can not process the cow's diet due to lack of gut biome and the ruminant fermenting tank of an extra stomach.

Paul Jaminet's Perfect Health Diet then mentions ALL mammals eat the SAME macronutrient ratio ~20% carbs, 65% fat, and 15% protein by calories.  But ruminant animals 'eat' grass or (in the case of a giraffe) Acacia leaves, where's the protein and fats. 

The bottom line of this disconnect is that eating and ingesting are VERY different.  A ruminant animal eats - through the mouth plants.  These chewed plants enter a fermentation tank (stomach) where a biome of microrganisms who double in count every minute devour these stomach contents.  When the quantity of these gut animals reach a critical mass they are then sent to the stomach-digestive tract that more resembles an omnivores (or carnivores) for final processing and finally absorbed into the blood stream.  The final ratio of these microbes + plants is 20% carbs, 65% fat, and 15% protein by calories.  See the pattern?  

Assuming you have an omnivores short digestive tract and no ruminant stomach and can subsist from plants alone is flawed logic and needs careful supplementation just to survive.  I love vegetarians and vegans that feel they're making ethical decisions, but the logic of physics is not fact-based.  

Obey your biology and you'll be fine.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Hear me on PrimalRunGeek PodCast

From the Link:

Geoff's Description is here:

Primal Run Geek, Episode 3.0

Episode 3 and the first time, and likely not the last, that we’ve managed to surpass our self-imposed 1 hour time limit…but only by the tiniest of 5 minutes. Geoff and Bill talk about mental training, theSageBurner 25k and DirtFest among other things. We are then joined by Mark Lofquist, a primal recreational athlete from Boulder, CO who runs the Paleo Runners blog as well as moderates an active Barefoot and Minimalist Runners group on Facebook and a related Strava group. Mark is self taught in regards to his passion for primal living and is full of great information and is just an all around fun guy to chat with.
For those that aren’t already aware of the great DC Rainmaker site for endurance and fitness related gear reviews, definitely check it out.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Running Camp

A 'camp' to get better at running?  It worked for me when I was young, sent to soccer camps every summer.  I came back to the real-world with new-found interest and enthusiasm about my sport.  I am SURE a running camp would do the same thing for me in my adulthood.  I am sad these two dates conflict with races I have planned.  But this camp is in my future.

When the book "The Cool Impossible" came out by my former running coach, Eric Orton, I was very excited to read it.  Eric and I worked together in what I love to call my couch-to-50-miler goals back in 2010.  

Apart from 100s of important training tips, The Cool Impossible describes what it would be like to attend a running camp in Jackson Hole, WY.  I just saw a wonderful post from here, advertising a training camp at "Eric's Place".

I think this is the ideal running-vacation and I can only imagine the tips/tricks and feedback you'd receive on your running.

The following is Pasted from :

Jackson Hole Run Camp With Eric Orton
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort (JHMR) is pleased to team up with world-renowned running coach Eric Orton and the Teton Resorts to host the first Eric Orton Jackson Hole Run Camp.  This multiday running camp based out of Teton Village combines mountain amenities, world class terrain, and a personalized approach to trail running and training to create an unforgettable experience.
This mountain running academy, set in the majestic Teton Mountain Range, provides every participant the opportunity to train, learn, explore, and discover what is possible with personalized coaching by Eric Orton, the Born To Run coach, and author of The Cool Impossible.  Eric’s creative and unique coaching format will challenge every camper, allowing them to achieve at their own level of ability, within a fun, inclusive group and team environment.  Lodging and spa options, as well as group meals which are provided by the Teton Mountain Lodge and Hotel Terra, round out the three-day camp to create a rejuvenating experience.
“I am looking forward to offering this one of a kind experience in the Tetons this summer,” Orton states, and goes on to note “mountains were made to be explored, and the goal of this camp is to become an explorer of your running, of your goals, of what is possible. This is the natural gift from the mountain and the ultimate reward from this camp.”
Eric Orton Jackson Hole Run Camp Details: 
Dates: August 13 -18, September 10-14, 2014
Cost: $899, to book, click here 
Lodging: Book with Hotel Terra or Teton Mountain Lodge, and save 25% off published rates
Who it’s for: This camp’s itinerary is designed for experienced runners of all levels who are able to comfortably run 2-3 hours, minimum, upon arrival.  Camp participants will be limited, so book now

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Developing the entire chain

It would probably be a good idea to dedicate a series of posts to kinetic chain development, but I just need to get this thought out there.  Especially in light of Vibram settling a law suit suggesting strength of muscles reduces injury.

When I was a silly body-building weight lifter, tracking diameter of biceps (seems so silly).  I would target muscles and do isolating exercises to make them stronger (again, very silly).  Some muscle groups responded well, others not so  much.  I struggled to know why.  

For example, thin wire'y calves.  Lifting tons of weight on a calf-raising machine made no difference in large calf muscle size.  Besides the obvious 'who cares', I thought I narrowed the reason why.  The calf is a link in a chain.  You can't make certain links of a chain stronger than others, it makes no sense.  My Achilles tendon (through genetics? or whatever the reason) was as small as a #2 wooden pencil.  People with large calves had thick thumb-width Achilles.  

After a few years of running, using thin (or no shoes) my calves are getting functionally stronger BECAUSE the entire chain is strengthening.  As you'd expect, my Achilles tendon is two times thicker.  Tendons, ligaments, bones, muscles: they all react and adapt.

Adaptation is a reMARKable thing.  

A good source that describes bone mineral density, tendon and muscle adaptation, check out  the book 'Brain Training For Runners'.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The real story behind cramping

The bottom line is - so electrolytes, their presence in the blood is what's important NOT their presence in your sweat or urine.  A salty sweater is a person trying to get rid of salts that are in surplus.  Sadly that person's advised to take in MORE salts.  

and pooping is a sign you need to eat more poop

The following is the work of Martin Schwellmus, the master on the subject.  Drinking sports drinks is a silly plan.  

Muscle Cramps: Part I  //  Theories and Fallacies of muscle cramps
20 Nov 2007Posted by 
As promised in yesterday’s post, today we kick off our latest series – Muscle Cramps. We hope that none of you did cramp in the middle of the night, as we mentioned yesterday! Though if you did, we’re sure you stretched your calf and avoided the temptation to point your toe!
This is a follow-on from our series on Fluid Intake and Dehydration, and as we were preparing to write this series, we realised that there may actually be even more nonsense and blatant lies in the media than there were for dehydration!

Conflicts of interest revisited

In the dehydration series, we dealt with the very obvious conflict of interests that arise when a company which manufactures and sells sports drinks become the company who are funding and then performing much of the research on fluid and exercise. This is what happened when Gatorade created the Gatorade Sports Science Institute, and began funding research studies all over the USA, that rather unsurprisingly told the world that thirst was not enough, and you just had to drink as much as you could.
Can you imagine Gatorade issuing the results from those first studies saying to people “Folks, we’ve tested the sports drinks, and we don’t have much evidence that you really NEED them. You’d most likely be fine without them, but hand over your money and buy your Gatorade at the counter anyway”. An unlikely scenario. Of course, it was never as simple as that, and as we tried to explain previously, some of the early lab-based science was actually sound, but its application became the problem. More than this, the manner in which the research was compromised, becoming a form of shameless endorsement for the sake of sales in subsequent years was the ultimate problem. But that was all covered in our previous series, for those who are interested…


The same marketing vs scientific integrity debate exists for muscle cramps. The industry that has sprung up around the muscle cramp issue has spread far and wide. It includes Gatorade, who advocate the use of their drinks to replace the loss of salt which is, according to their research, responsible for the cramp in the first place! But more than this, there are dozens of products that claim to prevent cramp – next time you are in a pharmacy, take a look at the range – everything from gels, to creams, to pills, to effervescent tablets.

The two broad theories for muscle cramps

All these products work off the same premise – they put back the electrolytes that exercise will take out. And it’s the loss of those serum electrolytes, the theory goes, that are responsible for the cramps during exercise. This theory, over 100 years old, is one broad category of theories for muscle cramps.
The second theory is that muscle cramps are caused by a ‘malfunction’ in the control of the muscle by the nerves – an abnormality of neuromuscular control which is caused by fatigue.
Our objective in this series is to look at these two theories, beginning with a bit of groundwork and history…

Defining cramp

Perhaps one of the first things to do is provide a definition for cramp, as well the usual disclaimer that we cannot possibly cover all the possibilities and scenarios in this series. Firstly, cramp has been defined as a “spasmodic, painful, involuntary contraction of the skeletal muscle that occurs during or immediately after exercise”.
Note that this definition applies to exercise-related cramps only, and therefore, it excludes a whole host of other possible cramps. We must point out that if you do suffer from very regular cramping, there are some conditions that can cause this – endocrinologic, neurologic, and vascular disorders, treatment with certain drugs, and occupational factors. Then of course, some cramps are what the experts call “idiopathic”, which means they have no cause (but actually means we don’t know what causes them, but it sounds better to say “idiopathic”!). If you are a regular cramper, it’s probably worth seeing a doctor and just having an exam to determine whether any of these broad factors might be responsible.
But returning to muscle cramps, the lifetime prevalence of cramping is reported to be as high as 50%, which is remarkably high. Some people are also quite clearly more susceptible, and you can actually predict with a fair degree of accuracy who will cramp during a marathon based on their history and their racing strategies (more on this later).


The earliest reports of muscle cramps come from 100 years ago, when labourers in hot and humid conditions of the mines and shipyards suffered from cramps. Even that far back, the sweat could be analysed, and it was noticed that the builders had a high chloride level in their sweat (chloride, incidentally, is one half of the salt in your sweat). The conclusion that was made was that the labourers were sweating out valuable electrolytes, causing their muscles (and nerves) to malfunction. The heat and humidity were key factors that caused this situation. It must be pointed out that no one prospectively measured the sweat of the labourers who DID NOT CRAMP, something that we’ll look at in our next post.
Later, the builders of the Hoover Dam famously recovered from cramp when they were made to drink salty milk, entrenching the theory that salt loss was the cause of cramp.
And perhaps rather surprisingly, that was it – based on those anecdotal observations, the theory which you probably hold true today, was born. That is, cramp is caused by a loss of sodium, chloride, and later calcium and magnesium were added to the mix. Heat and high humidity were implicated as “accessories”, and the term “Heat-Cramps” was even conceived. According to this theory (as seen by this article and the “expert” testimony) , cramps happen because athletes exercise in the heat, lose electrolytes in their sweat, and the depletion combined with high body temperatures cause muscle cramp.
For example, take these testimonies:
“When a young athlete experiences heat cramps, pull him or her off the field into a cool area and gently stretch the affected muscle. “Have them drink, drink, drink, and then drink more,” says Albert C. Hergenroeder, professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine and chief of the sports medicine clinic at Texas Children’s Hospital.
“High-sodium drinks will prevent children from getting heat cramps,” says Jackie Berning, PhD, with the National Alliance for Youth Sports. “Gatorade has just enough sodium to prevent those cramps. But if you’re a heavy sweater, and you’re still getting cramps after drinking Gatorade, eat some salted pretzels or salted nuts. Those work fine.””
There is of course more to it than this, but the essence is that the serum electrolyte depletion theory was created without any controlled, clinical studies to establish whether the depletion of salt through excessive sweating was to blame. Rather, the theory was picked up on and used to spawn the numerous products you can purchase today. But, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, there are some holes in it.

The problems with the serum electrolyte depletion theory

First of all, there is a key conceptual problem here, and that is that when you sweat, you don’t actually reduce electrolyte concentration. That is, there are certainly electrolytes in the sweat, but the concentration of these electrolytes is so low, that sweating is likely to make you HYPERTONIC, not hypotonic. We looked at this in our posts on fluid – when you sweat, you lose more water than electrolytes, because the sweat is HYPOTONIC. Therefore, sweating cannot lead to a fall in electrolyte concentration.
What transpired was that Gatorade (and the rest of the ‘industry’, it must be said) developed the theory of “salty sweaters”, which is the term they gave to people who they said have abnormally high salt levels in their sweat. Small problem – no one actually knows what a salty sweater is. How much salt does there need to be in the sweat before you are placed in this group? No one knows. Recently, Professor Martin Schwellnus, widely published in this area, posed this question to scientists at the Gatorade Sports Science Institute at a conference on cramping – he received no answer.
The truth is, even the saltiest sweaters around still have hypotonic sweat, and so the more they sweat, the more they will cause their electrolyte levels to rise, not to decrease. This is a very obvious problem that is overlooked by the electrolyte replacement advocates.
Of course, those of you who read our fluid series might be thinking that if you then drink a lot of sports drink, you can reduce the electrolyte content, but that’s yet another reason why drinking too much is not a good idea…

The cramping paradox– WHY SPECIFIC MUSCLES?

The second problem is something we asked you in yesterday’s post. We asked whether the depletion of serum electrolytes would be expected to cause cramps in specific muscles, or all over? Hopefully it is evident that if a cramp was caused by a loss of serum electrolytes, there is no reason for the cramp to be limited to one muscle only. Rather, you would cramp everywhere. In fact, in people who have lost a great deal of salt and have become hyponatremic (not during exercise, but clinically), we know that they cramp in ALL their muscles.
But somewhat surprisingly, exercise-associated muscle cramps ONLY happen in the muscles that have been used extensively for exercise. The afore-mentioned Prof Schwellnus found in 2004 that the quadriceps, hamstrings and calves made up 95% of cramps in the 56km Two Oceans race in Cape Town.


In the interest of time, we’ll call it on this post for today, and say that in our next post, we’ll tackle the electrolyte theory in more detail and look at some of the studies that have looked at people who cramp and those who don’t and compare their values.