Training to Change the World

Hey – all you endurance athletes — Here’s a cool app that let’s you train and improve your world!

Charity Miles, started in 2013, rounds up corporate sponsors willing to donate to great causes, all in the name of publicity.  You and I can harness this power-for-the-good next time we head outside or to the gym to train.  These sponsors are willing to pay $.25/mile for walking and running and $.10 for each biking mile you log, to a charity of your choice, while the app is running!

The app uses your phone’s GPS and accelerometer to calculate your mileage and shows you the amount you’ve raised for your charity of choice during each workout.  And speaking of charities — there are plenty to choose from:

  • Girls on the Run
  • Wounded Warrior
  • Standup to Cancer
  • Feeding America
  • World Wildlife Fund

and 27 more…. so lots of options!

The only downsides to this app seem to be getting into the habit of turning it on before you start to workout out and that the use of the GPS adds some battery drain to your device.

On the upside, it’s available for both Apple and Android devices, it’s easy to download and set up, and with every session, you hard work is paying off not just for your performance but also for the charity of your choice!

Want to know more?  Get the FAQs!



Injury Prevention — how are the pros doing it?

For any athlete, the key to a long athletic career (even if it’s only ever your hobby), is to stay healthy and injury-free.  You may think with all the great advances in medical options, minimally invasive surgeries, and physical therapy techniques prevention is not as important as it once was.

Not true!  And to prove my point, let’s look at a company just names one of the Top 50 Most Innovative Companies by Fast Company: Catapult Sports.

Catapult is selling a specially design wearable gadget to elite Teams like the New York Knicks, Orlando Magic, and Baylor University that can measure, according to the company, heart rate, speed, distance traveled, player load, and acceleration and deceleration force.  This information is then processed into usable data to help coaches make informed decisions about practice schedules, recovery needs, and rest states of their athletes — all in an effort to keep those players healthy and injury-free.

I know most of you are not playing to this level…yet…but if you have aspirations of taking your performance to the next level, you need to make injury prevention a priority just like those who manage the pros!

This means making use of the data tracking available to you right now.  Are you monitoring your sleep to understand and ensure proper rest and recovery?  Monitoring your daily activity, as well as, the efforts your putting into training?  Are you logging your nutrient intake — and then taking the next step of pulling all of that data together to make sure the 22 hours a day you aren’t actively training are still inline and supporting your training goals?

You may not be able to afford the Catapult system but there are any number of wearable devices that will help you collect and analyze all of this data.  From FitBit to Garmin to Jawbone, depending on what you really want to monitor, there are options available in many price ranges.

Don’t lose out on getting the edge you need because your not taking care of yourself.  Injury prevention is key to athletic performance and knowing how your training is effecting your body is key to staying injury-free.

Maximalist Shoes….really?

We’ve officially come full circle.  From the minimalist shoe movement of the recent past, the pendulum has now swung to the opposite end of the arc with the advent of ……wait for it….. that’s right — the maximalist shoe.

As the name implies, these shoes can have up to 2.5X the volume in the sole as traditional running shoes.  This creates a really tall, highly cushioned shoe designed to give maximum cushioning while still providing rebound to help speed you along.

But before this trend follows it’s natural course and those of us left disillusioned with the minimalist shoe revolution jump on this new, much softer, bandwagon, let’s take a minute to think about this little piece of advice:

“To me, maximalist shoes fall right in the line of every other shoe trend,” she said. “There’s some good reasoning, but we don’t know enough about how it affects the body longer term, and we won’t know until everyone has been using it a while and all the other research comes out about how it destroys your body or whatever, and then there’s a lawsuit, and then there’s a campaign about how to use the technology properly, and then in the midst of all this confusion the next trend takes off. There is no shoe savior coming for us.”  –Lauren Fleshman

I think that quote says it all.  Many of the injuries athletes suffer happen over the long term.  Short duration studies may give you the mechanics of what a new shoe can do but it isn’t going to tell you how this action is going to effect the body when repeated over hundreds of thousands of strides.

There isn’t a shoe out there that’s going to be able to take an average runner and make them great.  A shoe is a tool — no more and no less.  While a shoe can provide protection and comfort, it can’t completely compensate for every biomechanical peculiarity of an athlete.  Shoes may play a part but so will training volumes, strength, and movement patterns.

So before you get caught up in this new trend, take a moment to examine what your expectations for these shoes really are.  I suspect most of us are better off staying away from either end of the shoe sole spectrum and, instead, focusing the financial resources we save on additional coaching and guidance to help us maximize our strength and running efficiency.

HT: Jay Dicharry an athlete’s body

Common sense isn’t sexy but neither is an Achilles injury

Here’s an amazing statistic:

It’s estimated 52% of all distance runners will injure their Achilles tendon at some point.  Better than half of all distance runners!

The greatest stress to the Achilles, for runners, is running downhill.  If you’re looking to reduce your risk of injury, running on flat courses are a way to reduce this kind of stress.  However, if you’re on of those runners planning on running the Kalamazoo Marathon/Borgess Run for the Health of It this spring (like our 1200+ Run Campers), avoiding the downhills all together is just not possible.

If you can’t avoid downhill running, what else can you do to limit your risk of Achilles injury??

Use your common sense!  Our bodies do an amazing job at adapting to many different kinds of stresses to which we subject it.  The key is to make sure we are easing in to those changes slowly enough to give the body time to change our physiology to meet the demands of the new stresses.

For our Run Campers just starting out and anyone who normally trains on a flat course, this means making sure to add their downhill mileage slowly enough to give the body time to strengthen all of our tendons — not just our Achilles.  Tendons and ligaments, like muscles, will get stronger when we put them under additional demands.  However, these adaptions take longer than it takes muscle to adapt to the same stresses.  The take home:

Ease into any new training demand slowly and give your body time to adapt.

This training strategy isn’t as sexy as throwing yourself into a high intensity training plan full of hills but it is the smarter and safe choice for those of us who don’t want to fall victim to a nagging, slow to heal Achilles injury that could potentially sideline us for months.

Be smart.  Add to the volume of Achilles stress slowly.  Stay healthy and we will see you out on our course May 3!

Another reason to steer clear of supplements!

As is often the case here, this is just another example of why the main source of the nutrients you need to perform at your highest level, should come from real food:

The Attorney General from the state of New York has asked major retailers to halt the sale of a number of store brand supplements because these “products… either could not be verified to contain the labeled substance, or which were found to contain ingredients not listed on the labels”.

The investigation leading up to the report and subsequent actions against retailers GNC, Walgreens, Walmart, and Target, used DNA testing to identify ingredients in 6 different herbal supplements across 13 regions of the state of New York.

According to the Attorney General’s press release:

“While overall 21% of the product tests confirmed DNA barcodes from the plant species listed on the labels, 35% of the product tests identified DNA barcodes from plant species not listed on the labels, representing contaminants and fillers. A large number of the tests did not reveal any DNA from a botanical substance of any kind. Some of the contaminants identified include rice, beans, pine, citrus, asparagus, primrose, wheat, houseplant, wild carrot, and others. In many cases, unlisted contaminants were the only plant material found in the product samples.”

So only 21% of the products tested contained what the packaging said it contained!  Add to that, 35% of the products contained ingredients NOT listed on the label!!

You might ask yourself, with the emphasis put on label reading and being an informed consumer, how is this possible??  But don’t forget — the Food and Drug Administration (the Federal agency charged with ensuring prescription medications are safe and effective) does not oversee Over the Counter (OTC) products like supplements.  There is NO government agency ensuring the safety and efficacy of any kind of supplement!!

Given this fact, how can you know, with certainty, what is in the supplements you are taking?  Right now, there are a number of private testing companies providing certifications for supplements but how rigorous is there testing? We as consumers just don’t know! Consumer advocacy groups like Consumer Reports have been testing not only what is in the products but also whether or not there is scientific evidence to support supplements actually do what they say they do.  Often, these reports end as articles entitled:

What’s Wrong with Herbal Remedies
6 Reasons Not to Take Zinc for Your Cold
Garcinia cambogia weight-loss pill is no miracle

And at the same time articles like this tell us not to waste our money on these supplements, they also highlight real dangers found lurking in the ingredients of some of these supplements.  Some testing agencies have found “prescription drugs, experimental drugs, and even untested “designer” drugs” as unlisted ingredients in OTC supplements!  And worse yet, some of these ingredients can show up a banned substances in pre-competition drug screens!!!

Is it really worth the to risk your health AND your chance to compete at the next level to put your faith in an industry that is unregulated and has been shown to lie and cheat to make a profit off of us?

It’s time to us to take stand and stop looking in the wrong places for that little something extra!  Eat clean, train hard, and be smart about what you are putting into your body — that is the BEST way to take it to take your training to the next level!

If you would like more information on the NY Attorney General’s actions, click here!

Does your Kid need a Premium Sports Drink?

The short answer: most of the time, they don’t need a sports drink, premium or not!

When there’s money to made, lots of companies are willing to jump into the ring to compete which leads to more marketing designed to convince us we need something we really don’t.  Case in point, as of 2013, sports drinks are a $6.9 billion market  and new companies are looking to take down the old standbys at every turn.

Fooducate recently reviewed one such sports drink aimed at making parents feel better about their kids’ sports drink options.

Fooducate’s review on the pros and cons of this particular sports drink are worth hopping over to the site to read.

What strikes me most is how, again and again, I see parents feeling compelled to give their kids (and themselves) sports drinks for fear the athlete will not recover from a game or training session without them.  Serving up 9 teaspoons of sugar, these drinks are not a positive for athletes unless they’ve really expended a lot of energy or lost a number of pounds of fluid.  Honestly, most of us just aren’t training for that long at that high of an intensity.

The threshold for sports drink usage is above 60 minutes of intense exercise (with the common sense caveat of high heat/high humidity conditions will make this time shorter). Under the 60 minute threshold, with normal environmental conditions, where, let’s be honest, most kids train and compete most of the time, water and fruit will work just fine to rehydrate and replenish any lost electrolytes.  Plus, let’s face it, the fruit is going to give the athlete fiber, vitamins, minerals and a mindset that real food is a better alternative to manufactured food.  A neon blue sports drink just can’t compete with that!

Ultra-hyped sports products almost never live up to their performance promises.  While your athletes may not have to worry about the obesity crisis in the same way other kids do, you still want to give them the tools that will best serve them well into adulthood.  Learning the importance of rehydrating with water and refueling with fruit is one of the lessons that will help them maintain their athletic abilities long into the future.

For more information on sports drink guidelines, check out this great guide from the American College of Sports Medicine!


You are not a Machine

More, bigger, faster remains the prevailing mantra in most organizations.

Machines have no interior life and they can run continuously, for long periods of time, on a single source of energy. Human beings are designed to pulse between spending and renewing energy.  –T. Schwartz

How many times have you heard and used the machine comparisons as it relates to your body and your performance.  We use them all the time — talking about being more efficient, fueling, performance, limits…you name it.  But, guess what? You body isn’t a machine.  It has mechanical functions, electrical circuits, it is subject to physics, and it can be taken apart and put back together…all like a machine.  But there’s something else….something magic we don’t understand that really pulls it all together and makes it come alive.

And what is that magic?  Your spirit, will, consciousness…we have different words for it but whatever we call it, we can’t forget it in our quest to be great.

Are you actively cultivating renewal for this magic part of yourself? Rest, playing, ensuring time with family and friends even when training demands are high?  Foods more closely aligned with comfort than performance? Days on the couch watching TV in sweatpants not designed to wick?

As our culture, both in sport and in general, continues to push the mantra of bigger, faster, more, the drive for continual improvement will end up at injury, or worse, burnout, if we don’t remember this important fact:

We are not machines.

We need rest, renewal, comfort, and non-competitive social interactions.  If this is not a staple in your training plan, both in the office and at the gym, you’ll never be as great as you could be because you do not have a clear vision of what you really are.

To eat or not to eat…

As I read through my blog list this morning, two of the posts discussed whether it is better to eat before your workout or workout in a fasted state.  I find it interesting that two performance coaches are writing about this today and, ironically, I am not any more informed now than I was.  Why?? Well, like so many truisms of sport, these articles reached opposing conclusions.

This study from researchers in Belgium found exercising in a fasted state creates muscular adaptions which improve glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity. (Which means many a popular article will start with the title “Fasted Exercise: the quicker way to reach your goals!!”)

While this article (although admittedly less structured and not published as a formal study) offers up the conclusion “Exercising in a fasted state does nothing to improve fat loss”.

I’m sure, with a little bit of searching, I could find similar reports on as many outcomes for fasted v. non-fasted training as I had the desire to read.  And what does this mean for you and your training program?

First, circle back to your training goals — what are you trying to achieve?  If you are overweight and looking to boost your fat burning skills (yes, fat burning is a skill that needs to be developed), fasted v. fed is a less important question for you than if you are struggling to maintain healthy glucose ranges.

Other athletes may not be concerned with efficient fat burning or glucose management but may really want to focus on building muscle, improving their mid-intensity endurance or some other specific goal.

There is no single answer to a question as simple as which is better: fasted or fed.

Like all training plans, your answers need to be based in science but specific to what you are really trying to accomplish.  It may take some digging and some experimenting to determine how your body responds, how you feel, and what gives you the best results.  Part of this is going to feel a little bit like art — the part where you’re logging fatigue and exertion levels — and part science — reading or consulting with professionals to make sure your training practices are consistent with the most current scientific research to help you reach your goals.

Don’t shortchange yourself by looking for the one-size-fits-all answer!  Make sure the article titles you are reading really apply to the goals you are trying to achieve.

Apps to keep you safe!

Technology is so cool — especially when it helps us live better.  With 1300+ Borgess Run Campers taking to the streets to train for one of the Borgess Run for the Health of It/Kalamazoo Marathon events, this article from Runner’s World is especially well timed.

Check it out to find out what you need to know about four apps:

  1. Kitestring
  2. RoadID
  3. bSafe
  4. ReactMobile

These apps are designed to help keep you safe when you’re out on your runs.

Remember: work smarter, not harder and stay safe out there!!

Life improves Sports improves Life

Sports have a powerful impact on how we view life – which in turn impacts how we perform in sport.  This powerful connection can be used for the positive (sportsmanship, teamwork, increasing our sense of responsibility to others) or to the negative (win at all costs, watch out for number one, it’s all about me because I’m the star).

Tim Elmore has written an interesting post on how athletic principles can be expanded into larger life context. His basic ideas are:

  1. Life is a team sport
  2. Life is a contact sport
  3. Life is an aerobic sport

From these principles, he builds a strong case for rethinking how we create leaders both in sport and in life.

“Great athletes and, for that matter, great people in general, understand these truths about life. They reach the summit because they do it together, they expect to get bumps and bruises along the way, and they build a sustainable pace.” –Tim Elmore

In an age of increasing screen time, helicopter parenting, and a more me-first/me-only attitudes, creating an environment where leadership development thrives may take a little more thought, planning, and hard work than before.