Posts Tagged ‘research’

How do you taper for a race?

With the Shape Up RI half-marathon only three days away, I’ve apparently moved into “taper” mode…although I’m not exactly sure what that means! I believe it means that I should decrease the distance of my training runs and start resting up muscles for the race, but can I still run at all? I don’t even remember how I tapered last year’s half-marathon, but whatever it was just barely worked, as I made to the finish line with about 99% of my energy expelled. For this half-marathon, I started thinking about following some plan, but in the end I’ll probably just do a couple short trail runs leading up to the race and take it even easier on Saturday. Hopefully this works!

I was curious how everyone else tapered before a race? Do you take the day before completely off? Do you take multiple days before the race off? How many miles do you do for each of the couple days leading up to a race? Any suggestions are welcome!

Anyways, here are a couple of links from the past week for your reading pleasure…

  • So, you wanna start running barefoot? [Barefoot Ted’s Adventures] – Ted (from Born to Run) gives a quick overview on the basics of running barefoot.
  • My top 10 running mistakes (not to be repeated in the marathon) [Boston Road Runner] – Just discovered this blog, written by marathoner Robyn from Boston. In this post she covers some of the mistakes she’s made that hindered her marathon performances in the past.

Why we run

Last week I finished reading Why We Run by Bernd Heinrich and just wanted to share a couple of thoughts on the book. At first my reaction to the book was that there was way too much Biology-speak and I’ll admit, there were parts where I started to lose focus (lots of talk about moths, etc.) However, after finishing the book, I’ve realized that there were some very interesting points made and the more I think about it, the realization sets in that I really enjoyed reading Why We Run.

Off the top of my head, here are some of the things I took away from the book:

  • More than any other animal on the planet, the human is designed for long distance running. A combination of traits, including the ability to sweat, our efficient, two-legged stance, and the fact that we can breathe independent of our strides (plus many more!) make us all ultra-marathoners at heart.
  • Interesting facts: A camel is a better endurance athlete than a horse and a cheetah only has about 30 seconds of sprinting to catch its prey before getting tired.
  • There are two different muscle fiber types: slow and fast. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll have a high number of both, which is why some people excel at sprinting (fast twitch), while others excel at distance running (slow twitch.) You can work at increasing the amount of one of these types of fibers, but probably not both.
  • Weight loss is a lot more complicated than simply “calorie in, calorie out.” The body is designed to store energy for future use and will do everything it can to make sure you have at least the minimum amount it needs for normal activity. It takes a lot of time and effort to train (or trick) the body into thinking it needs less calories.
  • Why do you run? There are a variety of reasons why someone would run and it’s important to know why you are putting your body through it. Are you just trying to burn calories? Lower stress? Because the doctor told me to? Do you want to win races? Prove something to someone? Brag that you’ve finished a marathon? Push your body to the limits in terms of distance/speed? Maybe you just enjoy running? Most likely it’s a combination of a few of these things. There aren’t any right or wrong answers, it’s just something to think about and maybe use to help you get focused with a specific goal you’re trying to accomplish.
  • Related to the previous point, if you want to become a successful endurance runner, you need to think differently than a runner trying to burn calories. To run long distances you need to run as efficiently as possible, burning as few calories per mile as you can so that you can make it to the end without “hitting the wall.” Every part of your routine should be analyzed to find inefficiencies, and then they should be eliminated or at least reduced. One interesting point of inefficiency Heinrich mentions is the up and down motion that a lot of runners have. He focuses on having all his bodily motion be horizontal, pushing him to the finish line, not being wasted bobbing up and down. Those who are trying to lose weight though should embrace some inefficiencies, instead of getting on a treadmill, running at the exact same speed, with no variety in form. The body will quickly adapt to this and with muscle memory, cause the calorie reduction to be less over time. Maybe those looking to lose weight would be more successful by going for some trail runs or at least interval/hill workouts.

Anyways, enough literary review for the day. On to some links that I’ve found, as well as a video I took during a recent trail run. You can see all of the rest of my videos on my Multimedia page.

  • Forget the PR Mohican 50K Race Report [Trail Hacker] – Luc describes his first attempt at an ultramarathon in Vibram Five Fingers. I’ll give away the ending…he makes it. But just barely!
  • Put the shoe on the other foot [Bixy’s Midday Runners] – Just found Bixy’s blog recently and had to add it to the blogroll. In this post he gives his take on the barefoot running debate.
  • 13-year-old Girl Runs 50-Mile Ultramarathon [RunnersWorldTV] – Amazing video about a 13 year old who ran an ultra-marathon. I’m twice her age and have only run a quarter of that distance!


Is marathon training actually BAD for your heart?

Now that my PT tendon seems to have healed itself (for now at least!) and the first race of the season is in the books, it’s time to get back to my regular routine. In terms of bloggin, this means listing the interesting websites I’ve found over the past week or so, starting with a scary one posted today on, entitled Marathoners Face Greater Risk of Artery Problems. Everything I’ve previously read about endurance running led me to believe that this was the way to stay healthy and live a long life, so any news about it negatively impacting the length of time you’re on this earth is a little alarming. My question about the study is whether different types of running affect your arteries differently? For example, non-expert ultramarathon runners commonly walk uphills/rocky sections, then run the downhills and flat sections. Is this change in pace/heart rate helpful in terms of preventing the artery damage that occurs when training for a marathon, which usually consists of running with very little variation in speed. Just a thought, but since I’m neither a marathoner or ultramarathoner at this point, I’ll worry about it at a later date. Anyways, here are the rest of the links for your reading pleasure…

  • Why I Love Barefoot Running [Barefoot Chronicles] – Jason shows us some of the less talked about reasons you should run barefoot.
  • The Green Girl Tapes For Posterior Tibial Tendonitis [The Green Girl] – Another runner who shares my PT tendon issues. Here The Green Girl shows how she tapes her feet to help prevent injury.
  • Why Running shoes do not work [On and off the Track] – An article explaining why the running shoe industry is focused on the wrong things, such as preventing pronation and impact forces.
  • Micah True a.k.a. Caballo Blanco [Running Times] – An interview with the man nicknamed White Horse by the Tarahumara Indians and one of the main characters in Born to Run. He’s also the creator of the annual Copper Canyon Ultramarathon.
  • Running Tip #31 – Modified Nike Free [Fellrnr] – An awesome modification to Nike’s “barefoot running shoe.”
  • Barefoot Running: Thoughts on My First Barefoot Run [Runblogger] – A review of one man’s attempt at barefoot running. [Spoiler alert!] After one brief run in dark, cold, wet conditions, he decides it is not for him. There is hope though, as from the comments it appears that he’s willing to give it another shot when the weather improves. At least it’s good to see that he enjoys running in Vibram Five Fingers!
  • barefoot in the world [Badass Dad Blog] – The bad ass dad gives his reaction to reading Born to Run, as well as meeting one of the main characters in the book, Barefoot Ted.
  • Running AHEAD – Thanks to the suggestion from Barefoot Josh, this is now my go-to site for documenting my runs. It allows you to record your runs, as well as schedule races, track equipment mileage, and view everything nicely on a month-by-month calendar. The site can also sync with the Garmin Forerunner GPS watches, which will be great once I get mine! (Sorry RunKeeper, but your days are numbered!)

Stretching before a run could make you less efficient

While sitting around, nursing my PT tendon injury, I wanted to share some links I’ve come across this week that piqued my interest. The first is an article from Runner’s World, which tries to make the case that static-stretching before running could actually make you less efficient than if you simply sat and relaxed for an equal amount of time. In the study mentioned, a group of “highly fit” runners stretched before one treadmill run, while just sitting and waiting before another. After running for an hour in both trials, the results showed that when they stretched, they ended up running slower over the last 30 minutes than when they had skipped stretching (average 5.8 km/hr vs 6.0 km/hr.) Also, when they stretched they burned more calories, which may be interesting to those trying to lose weight, but shows that their running was less efficient. The control group seems a bit small to get any real definitive answers from the study, but as someone who prefers some light jogging/sprinting over stretching to loosen up before a race, I’m hoping it’s true.

Anyways, here are some other links of interest from this week:

  • Baby steps [MissZippy1] – Just wanted to give a shout out to a runner/blogger who is contemplating turning to the barefoot-side of running. Good luck!
  • 13 Twitter Tips for Bloggers [Girl Goes Tech] – Saw a tweet mentioning this article and figured I’d share it. The post gives some pretty good advice and inspired me to add the Tweetmeme (retweet) links to my site, so make sure to use them! Also, make sure to follow my Twitter-feed (@BarefootBrandon) if you aren’t already!
  • Garmin Forerunner 305 GPS Receiver With Heart Rate Monitor [Amazon] – Both the 305 and 205 models are heavily discounted on right now. I am seriously thinking about getting one to use instead of worrying about my iPhone battery/gps connection all the time when using RunKeeper.
  • How to strengthen Tibialis Posterior to cure Shin Splints [YouTube] – Just wanted to link to this video showing an exercise you can use to strengthen your PT tendon…something I’ll be trying out once my foot is healed in hopes that it won’t happen again!
  • Exercise or Not, Sitting at a Desk All Day Is Bad for You [Lifehacker] – Scary stuff for someone who sits at their desk all day for work. I’ve been trying to walk around and stand up more often since reading this article. Can’t complain about more coffee breaks I guess!

That’s it for today…hopefully the next post I put up will actually be about me running, not more complaining about my foot!

Random running thoughts

Just wanted to share a few running-related things I’ve been thinking about or have found on the web as of late:

  • Compliments of our friends over at Running is Funny, here’s an article in the San Francisco Chronicle that explains how the benefits of running are continually compounded the more and more you run:

    …for years…national guidelines (have recommended that) people get at least 150 minutes of exercise a week, or about 30 minutes a day, five days a week. That’s a fine goal for the couch potatoes…but it’s shortchanging the millions of Americans who already get the minimum amount of exercise and might not realize that doing more – maybe even doubling their workouts – would improve their health (including) everything from heart disease and stroke to vision problems and arthritis…The health improvements continue up to about 50 miles a week of running, roughly eight hours. It’s likely that health benefits keep growing above that level too – with the 100-mile-a-week runners, for example – but there aren’t enough people in (the) study running that much to provide hard data.

  • Got my running streak up to a career long four days! However, a snowstorm last night and an upcoming cruise to the Bahamas are seriously putting the streak in jeopardy. Might have to put the treadmill to use to get me through the weekend, or I could just start a new streak after the vacation I guess.
  • With my wedding rapidly approaching in July, my sister (one of the bridesmaids) has decided that she wants to get into running to look trim and fit for the ceremony. The currently plan is for her, my other sister (who ran the Fairfield half-marathon with me last year), and myself to run in the Seaside Shuffle 5 miler, so it should be a good time. If all goes according to plan, this will be my first barefoot race, so I better start getting my barefoot distances up!
  • As I’m very interested in ultra-marathons at the moment (but nowhere close to running them myself :-(), I just wanted to mention that my cousin runs them. After doing a little digging online (instead of actually talking to him?), I was able to come up with some race results from a few of his runs, including: 100K, three 50-milers, and two 50Ks. Pretty impressive stuff. While the video quality isn’t the greatest, I’m pretty sure I even found him (go to 1:43) in some guys video of the Lookout Mountain 50 mile race at a rest area.

Harvard’s “Barefoot Professor” publishes studies on barefoot running

January 27th, 2010
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It must have come out today, because all of a sudden I’m seeing tons of links to a study published by professor Dan Lieberman (Professor of Human Evolutionary Biology) from Harvard about the benefits of barefoot running:

He concludes what most of the barefoot running community was already aware of, which is that barefoot running decreases the impact of each step while running and can lead to less injuries down the road versus running shoes.

dan liebermanProbably the best source I’ve seen so far is the actual video of an interview with Lieberman, which describes the study in a more visual way that will be a lot easier for most people to understand (and will keep their interest a bit more!) I find it pretty funny that they randomly stick a Vibram Five Fingers shoe on his table towards the end of the video even though I’m pretty sure he never mentions them once. I’ve heard that the study was funded in part by Vibram though, so some product placement might make sense :-)

How much do running shoes really protect you?

January 19th, 2010
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I just came across Barefoot Ken Bob’s latest post on, which references a article, Running Shoes Jog Joints, that mentions that while running shoes protect the feet (minor scrapes, cuts, etc.,) they don’t protect the ankle, hips and knees. From the article:

New research finds that running shoes actually increase the pressure on ankles, knees and hips