Seven Running and Fitness Articles I’m Glad I Read

by Jason Fitzgerald

Everyone knows that I am a huge running nerd. I own an unreasonable number of running books, talk about it with my friends constantly, and read too many studies on performance enhancement. Hell, I even write a running blog!

But alas, I’m not the only writer who’s helping runners get faster, make better diet decisions, and get healthier. Sometimes it’s hard to filter through the noise and know who you should listen to; I’ll help with that. Below are six of the most interesting articles I’ve read recently about running, diet, fitness, and general domination. I hope you’re ready.

Fireworks

Hat tip to the authors listed below. These guys are the real deal so definitely check them out.

What Really Causes Heart Disease?

Dave Csonka at Naturally Engineered put together five nutrition and health videos that help explain why people get fat and have heart disease. The answer isn’t what you think! If you haven’t read the latest research on diet and evolutionary health, definitely check out the post: Five Videos on Nutrition and Health You Must Watch.

After reading some of the books on the paleo diet like Mark Sisson’s Primal Blueprint and The Paleo Diet for Athletes, I’m convinced it’s the optimal diet for everyone. Making certain key adjustments is important for runners since we need carbohydrates to fuel our running (which is why I like The Paleo Diet for Athletes).

I see a lot of runners scarfing down cupcakes and eating gels for runs lasting less than an hour. It’s simply not necessary and could actually hinder your performance and negatively impact your health. Carb intake should be strategic and something we runners only implement in excess for long races.

The Secret Weapon to Running Faster!

I’ve been talking about it for over a year here on Strength Running. The one simple key to running faster is aerobic capacity – or simply your ability to run faster for longer. It’s not an easy solution. It doesn’t come cheap. It’s not a quick fix.

Coach Jay Johnson writes an important reminder about this concept in his blog post titled Secret Weapons. He quotes University of Colorado cross country coach Mark Wetmore as saying, “The cornerstone [of being a successful runner] is the long-term patient development of the aerobic metabolism.”

If you want to get faster, run more.

The Perfect (?) Stride

Pete Larson at Runblogger looked at videos of elite runners at the 2011 Boston Marathon. If you’ve been hiding under a rock, you should know that it was an incredibly fast day thanks to the tailwind and favorable weather conditions. The world’s fastest time (but not record) was run by winner Geoffrey Mutai in 2:03:02.

These videos analyze step time, step rate, stance time, aerial time, and swing time. While the science is fascinating to me, the important lesson to learn from these videos is that there’s no optimal way to run. I truly believe there’s an ideal framework to an ideal running form, but there are variations even among the world’s fastest runners.

Watch the videos in Pete’s post Gait Variability in Elite Runners at the 2011 Boston Marathon and see how fast runners look in slow motion.

Your Backup Plan Should Have a Backup Plan

Have you ever woken up ready to run a fast track workout only to notice the wind is whipping and it’s pouring rain? It’s not ideal weather for a great workout, but you should have a Plan B workout in your back pocket.

You’re never going to have that perfect period of training where you run the distance you planned, hit the workout splits you were hoping for, and do every single strength exercise. That’s why it’s crucial to keep your momentum and do something to stay in shape.

Steve Kamb, author of The Rebel Strength Guide that I purchased about a month ago, has a great article that teaches you to go with the flow and have an alternative plan ready. Read What MacGuyver Can Teach Us About Plan B. He goes over what to do if you have to skip your scheduled gym workout, run, or eat at an unhealthy restaurant.

Who’s Your Support Team?

Top performers always have a circle of other successful people that they can ask for advice, bounce ideas off of, and confide in. If you’re not part of a running team, you need to build your running support network so you can stay motivated and on track (bad pun intended) to reach your goals.

Greg Strosaker writes about his own Running Board of Directors that helps him stay healthy and training hard. I’m honored to be part of this group as his “trainer.” If you’re new to running, you absolutely need to talk to more experienced runners. They’ll make sure you don’t do anything silly – like running a half-marathon in your third week of training.

New runners and those looking to reach a higher level of performance can also benefit from talking to a coach about reaching their goals and preventing injury. An outside opinion is incredibly valuable.

Making Time for Running…or Anything Else

Let’s face it: we’re all busy. If we could have an extra few hours in the day to spend time with our families, get in that strength routine we think we don’t have time for, or clean our houses we’d all be better off. Personally, I would love to have an extra hour to read during the day.

Matt Frazier at No Meat Athlete has written how to save an hour every day by aggressively eliminating things you don’t care about so you can focus on what you’re passionate about. Check out You Have All the Time You Need: How to Find an Extra Hour and Start Something Awesome Today.  Matt did something crazy and cancelled his cable, something I did almost a year ago. I haven’t regretted it for a second and highly recommend it for anybody looking to save time and do more things that actually matter.

Matt is also the author of Marathon Roadmap: The Vegetarian Guide to Conquering Your First Marathon and has a neat line of shirts for vegetarian runners.

It Isn’t the Heat that Slows You Down

Every runner knows that on a scorching hot day you won’t race as fast as if it were cool. It seems that every runners knows this, but a recent study shows the opposite. It seems that your brain tells your body to slow down to prevent over-heating. This begs the question, “What if you could override your brain’s decision to slow down?”

A discussion of the study is posted by Alex Hutchinson on his blog Sweat Science called Cycling in the heat: knowing the temperature slows you down. Hutchinson summarizes some implications of the study:

This [study] suggests that your beliefs about how weather affects you can actually become self-fulfilling prophecies. If you’re convinced that heat will slow you down, it will. On the other hand, maybe someone like Sammy Wanjiru (RIP) simply wasn’t burdened by the belief that heat would slow him down — which could help explain his otherwordly performance in the heat of the Beijing Olympic marathon.

Hutchinson is also the author of Which Comes First, Cardio or Weights? Fitness Myths, Training Truths, and Other Surprising Discoveries from the Science of Exercise. It’s a mouthful, but I can’t wait to read it.

I want you to actually do something after reading these articles. Whether it’s cancelling your cable, upgrading your diet, or even talking to an experienced runner about what you can do differently, action always beats inaction. Use the information here to change your life. Get after it.

Make sure you retweet and share this to help other runners. These authors deserve a little more recognition. Sharing is how powerful ideas spread.

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