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Back To The Future Of Running - Training Techniques

This is a movie made by Colin McPhail, which took 4 months in the making. We think you may learn some useful tips from this movie. Pay attention to the key areas which are the individual chapters of the movie.

Some Key Points For a Training Formula

Colin McPhail demonstrates the main points needed in this 2 min video which has all the major skills subtitled to allow you to replay and learn these in a calculated fashion.

The Principles of a Good Training Formula

The Principles of a Good Training Formula

Training – Do It. But Make It Work For You

Training is not just working out – but working out PLUS rest. The harder you push your
body, whether via distance training, intensity, or strength conditioning, the more you
have to rest to recover. We all know about the benefits of quality recovery – sleep, active
recovery, as well as a healthy diet and what I like to call the aerobic lifestyle. Essentially,
the less stress you’re under in other aspects of your daily life, the harder and longer you
can train. If you’re parenting some kids (or kid) during the day, eating poorly, and not
sleeping well, then you’re living a less aerobic or more anaerobic lifestyle and that
means your training will be compromised. To account for this, I’ve changed the way I
look at the training equation; here’s the new Sock Doc formula:

Training = (Working Out + Daily Stress)/Rest & Recovery

You can see from this new formula that the more external daily stress, (work, family
obligations, & poor diet, for example), you have in your life, the more it will affect your
training, and the more rest and recovery you will need. Many athletes do not take into
account their external stresses, so they get injured, sick, or underperform.
You can handle longer workouts, be it a long run or a long power session, more often if you’re
under less stress. You can obviously handle those more if you have more time to rest
and recover. So the idea here is to try to reduce or eliminate as much external stress as
you possibly can while also making sure you are recovering and resting efficiently.
I like to tell patients to “fix what you can fix.” This means there are some things you can
change in your life, and some you cannot at this point in time. For example, everybody
can change their diet.

You can reduce or eliminate refined carbs, unhealthy vegetable
oils, caffeine if you need to – things like that. Dietary changes have huge impacts on a
person’s life – not just their daily activities but their workouts and their sleep too. So it’s a
great place to start. No need to go into that more here; there’s plenty of info on this site
to help you address your diet but just remember that diet is huge when it comes to
training properly; it’s a significant factor in the recovery part of the equation. The
healthier your diet, the faster you’ll recover, and the more your body can handle working
out and daily stressors. Daily stressors such as work, family, and other daily obligations
can perhaps be changed to some degree to lower your overall stress load. Many may
like to tell their boss at work what they really think but it’s not often the best idea. So you
fix what you can fix. Maybe you can adjust your commute to work or how efficiently you
work, freeing up more time and thus lowering your stress. This in turn makes your life
more aerobic so you can handle more of other types of stress – such as the stress of
anaerobic workouts. And yes, the less rest your body will require.
Rest and recovery means actual rest such as sleep but also active recovery. Sometimes
a very easy aerobic exercise such as an easy run or balance work is much better than
just taking the day off and lounging around. I think we should all be moving every day –
“exercising” every day. This is not plausible for everybody, and as addressed in Part II,
various forms of exercise and intensity need to be taken into account. Even just walking
can be considered active recovery. Do some bear crawls (MovNat training) to mix up the
walk (depending on where you’re walking), or do some squats and one leg balancing
while you’re brushing your teeth. One of the many reasons I like MovNat so much is
because it can be scaled towards anyone’s training. Balancing and barefoot running (or
walking) are great on easy days with lifting, throwing, climbing, and carrying heavy
objects left for harder days.
Sleep of course is a major factor in recovery and as the equation states, the more
working out and the more stress you’re under, the more rest you will need. The obvious
problem here is that often the opposite occurs. The more someone trains the less they
sleep – or the less they’re able to sleep. This is especially true for those who are under a
lot of stress – they sleep less and not as well most often due to spikes in cortisol
throughout the night. My sleep article addresses several sleep conditions, but essentially
dealing with daily stress, including dietary stress, will lead to better sleep. This, as you
can see, has multidimensional ramifications because the less stress you’re under during
the day and the more healthy your diet is, the better you sleep – all leading to more
productive workouts.

Health First, Performance Second

Health and performance (fitness) are often closely associated with one another, though
they shouldn’t be so closely intertwined. Health is not just the absence of some known
disease, but your entire body functioning without any problems – that means your body
is free of aches and pains, has abundant energy, and your mind is sharp and clear. A
healthy individual isn’t injured, constantly sick, or sleeping poorly. Your impression of this
may be that nobody is healthy. The fact is that a lot of people aren’t very healthy, but
they may be very fit.
As you become more and more fit your health should also improve, and vice-versa. If
you change your diet and lifestyle for the better you will see some positive changes in
fitness. You will move more efficiently when you’re healthy and you’ll naturally be more
fit. Unfortunately as many become more fit their health suffers, because they are
stressing their bodies out too much (anaerobically) or not recovering properly. This
excess anaerobic syndrome is the same one that many link with chronic, damaging
“cardio” as discussed in Part I. Most train too much, too hard, and since the majority of
us aren’t professional athletes, we don’t get to rest and recover as much as we’d like.
Overtraining is easy.
Those who only do hard CrossFit workouts and the chronic anaerobic endurance
athletes are not very healthy. When the vast majority of workouts are cortisol inducing
activities the body will break down because there is not enough time in the day to
recover. Although that professional athlete may last longer when they have someone
training, feeding, and managing their schedule it eventually catches up with them.
So whatever training program you want to support, or bash, remember it all should come
down to two things – what you’re trying to accomplish and how it affects your health. Too
often these two parameters do not complement one another. I unfortunately see way too
many injured and unhealthy “athletes” who are training for or have just competed in a
half or full marathon. The general public conception is a misconception that these
athletes are healthy. Far from the truth. (More on this in Part V.) A similar situation of
being fit but not healthy occurs with those who only do some hard weights and sprints a
few times a week as their only workouts.

Overtrained, Under Conditioned, or Under Rested?

“Overtraining is not possible, you’re just under conditioned.” I remember first hearing a
statement like this during the 2006 Tour de France by Floyd Landis, who of course was
later disqualified for doping. It’s the “glass half empty, glass half full” idea. Whether you
think overtraining is a possibility or not, is up to you. I understand some now use the
term “overreaching” which is when one is pushing themselves too much and
performance is starting to plateau or suffer but they’re not in the full blown stage of
overtraining. Call it what you like – overtrained, overreached, under conditioned, or
under rested – if you’re in any of these categories you’re doing something wrong.
Injuries typically don’t come out of nowhere. Sure, there are exceptions – traumatic
accidents for example. You may step in a hole while running and sprain your ankle. You
may slip while performing a lift. If you’re playing a contact sport you’re obviously at risk.
But the majority of injuries that occur do so because of muscle imbalances as a result of
some stress to the nervous system. This is the forte of Sock Doc, and how I am able to
address injuries and health problems faster than most could ever expect. Dietary stress,
hormonal stress, emotional stress, and physical stress (past unresolved injuries,
improper footwear, orthotics, and yes, even harmful <Actinic:Variable Name = 'static'/> stretching habits) all impact
the nervous system causing imbalances in the sympathetic and parasympathetic system
which in turn results in patterns of muscle imbalances. It’s these muscle imbalances that
cause injures, either locally or elsewhere in your body – especially if they affect how you
move (your gait).
So yes, you could be under conditioned to perform a certain activity and end up with an
injury. This happens if you’re training at too high of a heart rate too often and for too long
and never developed your aerobic base. It’ll also happen if you’re lifting too much weight
too often without sufficient recovery. It could happen if you’re not incorporating any, or
very little, aerobic activity into your daily routine. And it can happen if you’re doing too
much aerobic and not incorporating sufficient anaerobic endurance or strength into your
When you’re injured (or ill), you’re forced to rest. So it’s important to realize some of the
warning signs of overtraining – or under conditioning. Read up on them so you can back
off and adjust before it’s too late.

Build Your Aerobic with The Sock Doc.

Build Your Aerobic with The Sock Doc.

Sock Doc Training: Build Your Aerobic System – (Move
Your Ass Often, But Not Too Quickly)

These articles are from The Sock Doc aka Steve Gangemi (

Sock Doc Training Part I: Aerobic Activity Is the Foundation to Your Health AND Fitness
Building your aerobic system is vital whether you’re in a highly anaerobic sport such as
professional hockey, a long distance marathoner, or an average guy or gal looking to be
as healthy as possible. But you have to actually develop this aerobic system, which is
not done by pushing your heart rate (HR) to extreme levels and holding it for a
prolonged period of time. Actually, you want to keep your HR low – such as the 180-age
formula or a Zone 2 or Zone 3 heart rate. (Finding your aerobic training zone is
discussed here.) This is how you develop your aerobic base for optimum fat burning,
overall health, and eventually a strong anaerobic system.
Those who shun aerobic exercise are missing out on these vital benefits – benefits that
will not be achieved by interval training alone. I’ve treated several NHL players who stay
strong well into the third period because they have effectively developed their aerobic
system – not just by skating hard but by doing some prolonged, low HR workouts. Look
at another very anaerobic sport such as boxing. I love to watch Manny Pacquio train and
fight. He does some 800 meter repeats but he, like other fighters, go out and run long
slow distances, just like Rocky. He’s got a superior aerobic system to get him through
twelve rounds of a very anaerobic event. In high school, wrestling was my main sport.
For those of you who have wrestled, you’ll probably agree that it’s the most demanding
six minutes you’ll even endure. Wrestling is very anaerobic, but lasting six minutes and
keeping that anaerobic strength is dependent on a strong aerobic foundation.
The amount of aerobic base you need will be dependent on your sport. If you’re
interested in all around fitness then your goal is to develop your aerobic system to the
max as well as your anaerobic system. If you’re more of a strength and power athlete,
then your aerobic conditioning will not need to be as developed as a long distance
runner. This may seem obvious to some, but many fail to realize the importance of
aerobic for ALL athletes.

Too Much Aerobic?

Aerobic conditioning is best achieved via long workouts several times a week. To some
degree, the more the better, (depending on the aerobic capacity you’re seeking to
achieve based upon your sport), as long as it is truly aerobic, and eventually anaerobic
endurance is incorporated once the base is built. But can you do too much aerobic? You
bet you can. There are two main problems I see with those who overdo true “aerobics.”
I’ll point out that overtraining the aerobic system is much less common than overtraining
the anaerobic system because most people want to go too hard, too fast, too soon in
their exercise program. (I will discuss overtraining more in Part IV.)
First are the people who go way too slow and actually never even get into their aerobic
training zone. These people train at or below Zone 1 too often, which is best suited for
recovery and super-easy days. Running slowly will increase cardiac efficiency but too
slowly has what I all “diminishing returns on your investment” – it will take much longer to
achieve the same results than if you were training at faster aerobic levels, if you’re able
to achieve them at all. It can take years to develop aerobic efficiency, which is why you
see many great long distance athletes peaking in the late 30s. If you’re always walking –
that’s great – but eventually you need to walk faster, or up and down some hills, or
Second, and more common, are distance training athletes who do way too much aerobic
for too long and don’t add in some anaerobic training either via intervals or strength
work. They fail to maintain an aerobic/anaerobic balance. I have overtrained aerobically
twice (that I know of). The overtraining of the aerobic system comes with symptoms a bit
different than those of overtraining the anaerobic system. See signs of symptoms of
overtraining. Clinically, the thyroid gland gets run down when there is too much aerobic
involvement, as opposed to the adrenal glands taking the hit with too much anaerobic (at
least initially). Someone overtraining aerobically will lose some body leanness and
muscle mass, they’ll be more mentally fatigued, more physically fatigued, and may have
a deep chill – “bones are cold.” Anaerobic overtraining may have similar symptoms but
typically results in an injury “that just came out of nowhere” or you “woke up with,” as
well as frequent illness/infection or getting a cold that will not remedy easily.
Interestingly, rest doesn’t correct this aerobic excess problem but rather some anaerobic
activity does. So the prescription is often some hard intervals, hill repeats, and/or
strength training to get the individual out of the aerobic excess syndrome. (For the
therapists out there and others too, you can read my clinical research paper on
evaluating the aerobic and anaerobic system.)

HIIT – High Intensity Interval Training: Good & Evil

I don’t want to call this a fad but it sure does seem to be the new “in workout” though
interval training is nothing new. High intensity interval training is basically alternating
between a period of high intensity activity, say for 5-60 seconds, and then recovering inbetween
each set, typically by walking, for a period of time. Yes, these workouts can be
very effective at increasing your performance AND your health. They can even increase
your aerobic capacity – though they are primarily very anaerobic workouts. Despite the
aerobic benefits, continued implementation of these types of workouts over time will
break you down; your immune system, your hormonal system – all the systems of your
body will all suffer. Additionally, oxidative stress (free radical damage) occurs with
anaerobic excess and that can lead to premature aging and many diseases, such as
autoimmune diseases and cancer.
These workouts will improve your lactate threshold and even improve how well your
body uses glucose in tissues – known as insulin sensitivity. Mitochondria, those energy
powerhouses of your cells, are most prevalent in the slow twitch aerobic muscle fibers,
but anaerobic training will increase them too – that’s called biogenesis. You’ll also burn
fat during these workouts, as well as glucose, and you’ll recruit a high amount of Type II
muscle fibers leading to development of your anaerobic endurance. So yeah, high
intensity anaerobic intervals are super cool, when you’re ready for them.
Now remember that at low intensity aerobic workouts you’ll burn more fat than glucose
but at higher intensity you end up burning more calories over the long run, which can
lead to more fat loss. These are all good things, but realize that HIIT workouts, being
promoted by some as “the only cardio you need to do” can be very harmful to your
health and your fitness if done too often or for some too soon in a training program. Let’s
not all forget, especially with the huge focus today on Paleo and the health and lifestyle
of our ancestors millions of years ago, we didn’t just sprint, lift, sprint, lift, repeat all day
long. Hunter-gatherers traveled across vast areas over time – that’s an aerobic quality.
They didn’t run as hard as they could, but they maintained a steady aerobic pace. Look
at persistent hunting – one had to be in superb physical conditioning, especially aerobic
conditioning, to track an animal for so long, and then utilize the anaerobic system for the
sprint in for the final kill (and the throwing of the spear).
Although I feel that a person can begin strength training (discussed next in Part III)
relatively early in a training program, HIIT workouts should be excluded from any
program until there is a sufficient aerobic base. Unfortunately though, many start these
workouts immediately due to time constraints as advocates say they’re “more practical.”
It’s a time crunch issue, much like a person looking to take a pill for a quick fix rather
than address their health problem. Many people don’t want to, or don’t know how to,
develop some aerobic endurance. Many of the studies, such as this one from 2006 in
the Journal of Physiology, make special note that HIIT workouts are “time efficient
strategies.” That doesn’t mean they should replace all aerobic conditioning workouts.
Plus, these studies are short – they’re not following participants for months after the
study to see how their health and fitness are progressing. And they’re not advocating
they continue in such an exercise fashion either.
HIIT workouts dramatically increase stress hormones, such as cortisol and epinephrine,
which over time can lead to health problems and injuries. Low testosterone levels in men
and low progesterone levels in women occur from training too hard, too often, with
insufficient rest. This can come from too many HIIT workouts or too much high intensity
“cardio” as discussed in Part I. True aerobic exercise, however, can not only lower stress
hormones but increase anabolic hormones such as testosterone, estrogen, and
progesterone. Anaerobic sprints are touted as a great way to increase human growth
hormone (HGH), but aerobic exercise, when done properly, won’t deplete it. Excessive
anaerobic can deplete growth hormone as much as proper anaerobic can increase it.
Essentially, without a sufficient aerobic base, you’ll overtrain (Part IV). Once you are
ready to implement HIIT workouts into your training, you should follow common sense
anaerobic guidelines – adequate recovery (often 48 hours in between workouts), and
adequate breaks (cycle weeks on/off depending on your program). In other words, you
should not be doing HIIT workouts 3-4 times a week for several weeks (5-6+) without a
change in intensity or a break, or you’re destined for problems. The amount of HIIT
workouts you can handle is determined by your health, recovery, aerobic capacity, and
overall stress in your life.
So remember – those who want to talk anti-aerobic are often the same groups that bash
long slow distance training and unhealthy looking, muscle-wasted “skinny” runners. If
done properly, your aerobic workouts should be relatively not too easy but not too
difficult; some say you should finish an aerobic workout “pleasantly tired.” But for many
it’s not low intensity because their health and fitness sucks (yeah, it’s true) and they’re
impatient to develop their aerobic system. Oddly enough, if you’re in a “time crunch” as
most are, HIIT workouts can be one of the worst things for your health, (I underlined that
for emphasis). Sure you’ll develop some aerobic and anaerobic conditioning faster than
if you just logged in a bunch of miles, but when you’re already producing a lot of stress
hormones from being in that “time crunch” and also most likely eating poorly and not
sleeping well, more anaerobic activity in your already anaerobic life is not a good thing.
It’s a great way to soon be injured or develop some health condition. That’s fitness
achieved by compromising health. It’s not just <Actinic:Variable Name = 'all'/> about looking buff. You might not care
to run a 10K in 40min but you should be able to run one in roughly one hour – and not all
out anaerobic, which an unfit person wouldn’t be able to sustain anyway. To me, that’s a
level of fitness. You’re not going to get there doing just speed work.

Build Your Strength With The Sock Doc.

Build Your Strength With The Sock Doc.

Sock Doc Training Part: Strength Training – Do It. But
Make It Work For You

We all can agree (hopefully) that strength is important. There is some disagreement as
to when one should add in, or begin strength training. Some say to develop the aerobic
system first and shun weights initially one hundred percent as it will impair proper
aerobic development.
Others say the opposite – start with weights because you’ll burn
more calories and see results quicker than when training your aerobic system alone.
I feel it’s very individualized but I don’t see strength training to be harmful as anaerobic
endurance workouts can be when there is an insufficient aerobic base. For example,
if I saw a person who was doing absolutely zero daily exercise I would first encourage him to start walking. That’s going to be aerobic. Moving – it’s fairly important. I also want to know what he’d like to do so he’d hopefully stick with an exercise routine. So although I’d love it if he were walking and doing some dynamic, natural movements every day and eventually also some strength work too; but that may not happen for some time for some folks.
If the person is already under a tremendous amount of stress and eating poorly he’s
living an anaerobic lifestyle already, so no way do I want him training too hard either via
anaerobic endurance or heavy strength training.

Deep squats, balance work, and maybe some carrying of weighted objects would be a good way to get this individual integrated into more strength training. Now if the person just doesn’t know where to start and he is eating well and under very little stress then I’m all for some weight training to start.
So the point here – take a look at the whole picture and don’t just do what everybody
else is doing; do what works for you, do what you like to do, and make sure your body is
able to handle the workout. Unfortunately, if you’re often involved in group training
sessions, this may be difficult to do as you will be pressured to train with the group
versus doing what is ideal for you. Therefore, the group setting is often not best at least
for the majority of your training program, especially if you start in a class that is above
your current fitness level.
People often go from one extreme to another. It’s somewhat like diets, going from the
high carb, low fat diet to a low carb, high fat diet. Endurance athletes fear strength work
and too much anaerobic while sprinters, lifters, and power athletes fear workouts that
are overly aerobic. The marathoner wants to steer clear of the weight room. The
powerlifter avoids the treadmill, track, or trail.
Strength training is very important for every athlete, even a long distance endurance
athlete. That doesn’t mean the runner needs to be squatting massive weight just as a
shot putter shouldn’t be running several miles every day. How much weight and how
many miles respectively? That depends on the individual – what he’s trying to
accomplish and what their goals are. Clearly a long distance runner doesn’t want the
over-development of Type II muscle fibers or use a lot of energy trying to develop such;
and a strength athlete doesn’t want to expend too much energy into his aerobic system.
But for the runner, power developed by carrying a heavy load up a hill can be very
beneficial at various times in one’s training just as a strength athlete can achieve some
benefits by running for a prolonged period of time – even 30 minutes – to develop one’s
aerobic capacity. That brings us to the next point:

Train Your Weaknesses – Focus on Your Goal

“Train your weakness” is stressed as a MovNat principle. Training your weakness is important in becoming a
well rounded athlete. This can mean training your body more on the weaker side (the
less dominant side) so you become more balanced, but it also means you should train
what you’re not very good at so you can become a more fit and healthy individual. So if
you’re more into lifting weights, work on some easy long runs to develop your aerobic
system. You’re not going to lose your strength and develop skinny legs! I’m talking some
30 minute runs, maybe even up to 60 minutes every so often. Keep it slow; walk if you
need to. Carry a kettle bell or a log if it makes you feel better (or cooler), or benefits your
training. If you’re more of an endurance athlete as I am, work on strength – carry heavy
objects, lift, throw, and jump – things that help develop power. Find the fine balance
between what your goals are, what you like to do – making yourself a well-rounded
Aerobic conditioning may not benefit the strength-only athlete as much as the endurance
athlete can benefit from strength, but they can both can help (or hinder) to various
degrees. The strength-only athlete will lack many of the health benefits of true aerobic
training, such as reduced stress hormone levels, increased immunity, and resistance to
fatigue. Those incorporating aerobic activity are thought to live longer too (see Part V).
On the other hand, the endurance athlete shunning anaerobic will lack power and
speed, impaired glucose metabolism, and might not live as long if they have to climb a
tree to escape a tiger chasing them. (!)
I’m not going to lift heavy everyday even if I was able to keep my running up. That would
impair my ability to run a one to three hour race as fast and as efficiently as I possibly
can. But I do want to develop power and anaerobic endurance, so I incorporate strength
training at different times in my training cycles during the year. Strength training is fine
but the more you do, the less time and energy will go into your endurance training
(which will hopefully be primarily aerobic) and the greater chance you’ll develop an
aerobic/anaerobic imbalance. These aerobic/anaerobic imbalances lead to muscle
imbalances resulting in pain, injury, illness, and lackluster performance. Lackluster is an
old word; thought I’d bring it back.
Likewise, if you want to lift a whole lot of weight, integrate some aerobic activity into your
workouts but not so much that it impairs your strength. The more developed your aerobic
system the longer you’ll be able to sustain certain workouts and the faster you’ll recover.
Even in a very anaerobic sport, such as ice hockey, soccer, boxing, or MMA fighting, the
athlete who is going to still be strong physically and sharp mentally til’ the end is the one
with superior aerobic and anaerobic conditioning.

Training - That Marathon May Kill You

A marathon or any event for that matter can be a very stressful to the human body if not
prepared for properly, and especially if an unhealthy diet, training, and lifestyle factors
are too much for the body to bear. High caliber long distance athletes and sports icons
have died, perhaps as a result of their running and other factors.
Jim Fixx, the author of the 1977 best-selling book, The Complete Book of Running, died
of a heart attack at the age of 52. Fixx is credited with popularizing the sport of running
and demonstrating the health benefits of regular jogging. His autopsy revealed that
atherosclerosis had blocked three of his coronary arteries by 70% or more. This lead to
the belief by many that running was not as beneficial as once thought. However, Fixx
was genetically predisposed (his father died of a heart attack at age 43 and Fixx himself
had a congenitally enlarged heart), and had several lifestyle issues – he had a stressful
occupation, just went through a second divorce, and was overweight and a smoker
before he began running.
Ryan Shay was an American professional long-distance runner who collapsed five miles
into the 2007 Olympic marathon trials. He died of a heart attack due to a pre-existing
cardiomegaly (enlarged heart).
This is not as uncommon as you may think in distance athletes. A good friend of my
brother’s growing up died of a sudden heart attack while out on a training run one day
with his fellow cross country team. He was only 24 and a national level runner. Steve
Larson, the professional mountain biker, road biker, and eventually-turned triathlete who
won Ironman USA in 2001, died suddenly in 2009 at age 39. Recently, (March 2012),
the famous ultrarunner Micah True, aka “Caballo Blanco” died of cardiac arrest while on
a training run.

A recent study (Jan 2012) in the New England Journal of Medicine looked at the
incidence and outcomes of cardiac arrest. (Cardiac arrest is when the body doesn’t
efficient pump blood due to poor heart contractions whereas a heart attack is lack of
blood flow to the actual heart muscle.) The study found that atherosclerotic coronary
disease and hypertrophic cardiomegaly accounted for the majority of cardiac arrests and
the incidence rate was significantly higher during marathons, and in men over women.
The atherosclerotic coronary disease does not result in the traditional plaque rupture
leading to an embolism (blockage in a blood vessel), but ischemia – lack of oxygen that
is unable to meet the demand the body requires.

In December of 2011 an article published in the European Heart Journal found that
marathon runners and others engaging in extreme endurance exercise may temporarily
damage the right ventricle of their heart. This was reversed one week later in most of the
40 athletes they studied but five of them showed lasting damage.
These cardiovascular damaging effects of long, hard training and racing are in-line with
what many long distance athletes put on their bodies. Athletes are taxing their
cardiovascular systems throughout a distance event much like it’s a chronic high
intensity interval session over a very long period with inadequate recovery. And
everybody has to sprint to the finish – even if they’re last. If you’re training aerobically
and will have built a sufficient aerobic base, then you’ll be racing primarily aerobically
and be able to withstand anaerobic periods during the race. The chance of any ischemic
incidence is greatly lowered, perhaps eliminated, in such a conditioned athlete.
I think, based off the groups of people I associate with as well as the types of patients I
see in my office, that the boom of half and full marathon racing is creating more and
more unhealthy people. Too many people should not be doing these events as they’re
not healthy enough even for a 10K. I say healthy, not fit – as they have the fitness to
stick out the miles, but their health suffers because their lives and training are too
anaerobic. Interestingly, those doing ultras and Ironman distance triathlons seem to be
healthier and my thought there is it is because they are training much more aerobically
since these events can last in the 10-20 hour range, if not longer. There are of course
still a lot of unhealthy long distance triathletes and ultra runners, but from my experience,
it’s the people who want an obtainable goal and sign up for a half or full marathon that
end up injuring themselves and decreasing their overall health.
Perhaps those who put the stickers “13.1” or “26.2” on the back of their vehicles to say
they went the distance should also include their heart rate, maybe their time too – but
heart rate is more important. It’s much more respectful to the body for a 40 year old to
run a marathon in 4:00 at a 140-150 HR than do the same race in 3:30 at a 155-165 HR.
A marathon run by a Kenyan in 2 hours is often going to be much less stressful on his
body than someone “running” a 4-6 hour marathon.
Extreme racing and training can take a toll on an athlete’s body; even a highly fit
individual. But this doesn’t mean that aerobic conditioning is bad as discussed in Part I.
Dietary and lifestyle factors play a huge roll here. Inflammation is clearly one main factor
that will raise your risk of not just performing poorly, but perhaps dying from working out
or racing. Inflammation of the body can be measured via a blood test to test for Creactive
protein. CRP levels increase dramatically in acute inflammation and remain high
when there is chronic inflammation. Elevated CRP levels are associated with diabetes,
hypertension, and cardiovascular diseases. Inflammation is often dramatically increased
following a marathon. Although the inflammation may subside in many, if there are
several other health factors involved then the athlete could be in a chronic state of
inflammation. A healthy CRP level should be <1.0 mg/L, although “normal” is allowed up
to 3.0 mg/L. I’ve raced 20 Ironman races and check my CRP at least once a year. It is
always well below 1.0 mg/L , often <0.5 mg/L.
If you keep it aerobic the majority of the time, running long distance can be very
beneficial to your overall health and longevity.
In 2010, researchers from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas published a review of
fourteen studies comparing longevity and mortality in elite athletes with that of the
general population. Included in these studies were data for endurance athletes, power
athletes and mixed-sport athletes. They concluded that elite endurance (aerobic)
athletes and mixed-sports (aerobic and anaerobic) athletes survive longer than the
general population, as indicated by lower mortality and higher longevity. The studies of
power (anaerobic only) athletes were inconsistent.
Long-distance runners and cross-country skiers lived significantly longer than the
general population (2.8–5.7 years longer). Soccer, ice-hockey and basketball players,
track and field jumpers, short-and middle-distance runners, and hurdlers also survived
longer than the general population (4.0 years longer).
Though the studies looked at elite athletes and not the average Joe running marathons
or playing a hard weekend soccer game, it does provide merit that aerobic activity is
very beneficial to the body – but it has to be true aerobic exercise. Anaerobic exercise
combined with aerobic exercise is beneficial too, but only when a sufficient aerobic base
has been built, (Part II). It’s most likely safe to say these types of elite athletes have a
superior aerobic base.

Keeping inflammation at bay is highly dependent on diet. Zero partially hydrogenated
oils and as few refined vegetable oils (corn, soy, safflower, sunflower, canola, peanut) as
possible are important steps in keeping inflammation down. Good fats from extra virgin
oil, fish oil, coconut oil/milk, eggs, and avocados are also vital, as is a diet low in refined
sugars and carbohydrates. (Think Paleo Diet.) Obviously, most long distance athletes
are carb-junkies. They drink sugary fluid replacement drinks and consume gel packs
often, usually daily. Due to improper training (lack of an adequate aerobic base) they’re
burning predominantly sugar when training rather than fat – so they must consume more
and more sugar to fuel this cycle. This all provokes and sustains inflammation and
makes their tissues insulin resistant, rather than insulin sensitive. Insulin resistance is
very, very bad. How long can you train without food or some sugar water before having
blood sugar handling problems such as cramping, lightheadedness, or even bonking? If
it’s less than one hour then you’re very anaerobic. Aerobically conditioned athletes won’t
break down and bonk or hit the wall as the miles add up.
Some note a general guideline for a well conditioned aerobic athlete can be seen in their
race times over various distances. Generally, for example, if your one mile run is at 7:00
then your 5K race time should be around 22:30 (7:15/mile), your 10K time around 46:30
(7:30/mile), your half-marathon 1:41:30 (7:45/mile) and your marathon time around
3:30:30 (8:00/mile). Though genetics play some role here, if you’re running your 5K at
23 minutes and your marathon time is around four hours (or more), you’re not
aerobically conditioned to run so far. You’re running the race too anaerobically
(inefficiently), period.
As discussed in Part II, the more you develop your aerobic system the more you develop
your mitochondria. The more mitochondria you have, the less lactate your body makes
at a given intensity. This raises your lactate threshold, so what was once mostly
anaerobic is now less (and more aerobic). The net result? You’re faster, more efficient,
and much healthier.
Developing the aerobic system is important – actually it’s vital. There is no shortcut to it.
It takes consistency and discipline in training. Consistency means you have to stick with
it and give it time. If you’ve never developed your aerobic base then it could take several
months, maybe a year. Follow the aerobic & anaerobic training guidelines to know when
you should add in some anaerobic training and/or weights. The discipline is not just to
stick with it, but to keep yourself from going too hard. A heart rate monitor becomes very
important with aerobic training and you may not be able to train with your friends, unless
they want to go your pace. Running long and hard too often, just like many people
training for a half or full marathon, can definitely kill you, but so can a life of no running
or little movement activity. Slow down, and take the time to develop superior fitness and

The Potty Squat

5 Reasons To Full Squat
September 24, 2012 by James Speck

The full squat is one of the most basic and fundamental human postures. Due to industrialized society's heavy reliance on chairs and modern footwear however, it has become a position that many people have difficulty achieving.

Born To Squat

The full or deep squat refers to a position where the knees are flexed to the point that the back of the thighs rest against the calves with the heels remaining flat on the floor. Young children under the age of four will instinctively go into a deep squat when they want to reach for something low, and often hold themselves in a stable squatting position to engage in play.

Among Asian adults, squatting often replaces sitting.1 So what happens to Westerners, as we grow into adults, that causes us to lose this ability? This is primarily a case of use it or lose it. Many cultures throughout history would rely on the squatting posture as a means of performing work, eating meals, or resting. Modern society has all but eliminated the need to squat in our daily lives.

A second reason relates to the design of modern footwear that often features an elevated or raised heel. Habitual shoe wearing causes a shortening of the calf muscles and Achilles tendon, and a gradual loss of the ankle mobility required to properly do a squat. This often leads people to perform a variation called the Western squat, where the heels remain propped up in the air.

Fortunately, many of the adverse effects brought on from frequent sitting, improper footwear, and squat avoidance are reversible. When performed correctly, the full squat carries many benefits for physical health. Squatting can be performed as a body weight exercise, to reach something on the ground, or simply as a rest position.

5 Health Benefits of the Full Squat

1. Ankle Mobility
Limited ankle dorsiflexion range of motion is a common problem linked to a number of other issues in the body, including overpronation, bad posture, and runner's knee. A loss of ankle mobility is caused by both inflexibility in the calf muscles and Achilles tendon, and stiffness in the joint. A proper squat, with the heels flat on the floor, requires good flexibility at the ankle. Getting into and maintaining a full squat is a great way to improve ankle mobility and restore full range of motion.

2. Back Pain Relief
Many people have an excessive curvature in their low back as a result of the pelvis being pulled down in the front by tight hip flexor muscles. During a full depth squat the pelvis rotates backward, allowing the spine to elongate. This stretches the tight or shortened muscles in the low back. The body's position in a deep squat also produces a traction effect that decompresses the spine by creating space between the individual segments of the back.

3. Hip Strengthening
In a person whose hip muscles are weak, you'll often see their legs move inward (adduct) and internally rotate when they perform closed-chain movements, like jumping or going down stairs. This adducted, internally rotated position puts the knee at an awkward angle and can lead to injuries. A full squat moves the hips in the opposite position, abduction and external rotation. The squat strengthens the muscle groups responsible for performing these actions, allowing them to better control the position of the entire leg.

4. Glute Strengthening
The gluteus maximus is one of the largest muscles in the body, and with good reason. The muscle comprises the bulk of the buttock region and is integral to performing many activities we do on a daily basis like walking, lifting, and running. The glute max is also an important stabilizer muscle of the trunk and leg. EMG studies have shown that during a squat the glute muscles become targeted only after descending past the half way point.2 This means the same strengthening benefit cannot be achieved from only squatting in a partial range of motion. Coming in and out of a deep squat is by far one of the most effective ways to strengthen the glutes. Not many people are going to complain about having a firmer backside.

5. Posture Correction
The cumulative effect of working on the areas listed above is an overall improvement in both static and dynamic posture. When joint mobility and lower body strength are restored the entire musculo-skeletal system will naturally be able to assume better alignment, which has a tremendous impact on the way we look, feel, and move. The full squat is a way to reverse some of the bad habits the body has assembled from our modern lifestyle.

Potty Squat Continued..............

The Modern Squat
When a person not used to performing a full squat attempts to squat down, often times their heels will lift off the floor, or they will fall backwards. These are two signs of a loss of ankle flexibility. Here is a picture demonstrating the difference between a full depth squat and the Westernized squat that occurs when the ankles are stiff.

Notice how in the Western squat the ankle remains at about a 90 degree angle. Without adequate ankle mobility, attempting to go any lower would move the center of gravity behind the base of support, and the person would lose their balance and tip over backward. The disadvantages of remaining up on the toes include:
" a higher center of gravity and smaller base of support (the toes), making this a less stable position.
" an overuse of the calf muscles to stay in the position, making it unsuitable for resting
" increased compression of the soft tissue between the upper and lower leg
Many adults instinctively go into the Western squat because it has become physically impossible for them to get their heels down. Correctly performing a full depth squat is a sign of good mobility and strength and can be a reasonable goal for anyone looking to improve their fitness.

Preparing to Squat

Since the squat is such a basic and functional movement, simply practicing getting into the position is often all that is needed to achieve proper form. For anyone unfamiliar with the squatting movement it would be wise to work on the smaller components first, to build up the necessary strength and motor control needed to get in and out of the position. Here is an article and video showing the fundamentals of good squatting technique and providing some recommendation on ways to progress for beginners.

For someone who finds they have the strength to squat down but then have difficulty getting their heels flat without losing their balance it might be necessary to do some extra calf and ankle stretching to gain flexibility. Here is an article that goes over some helpful ways to increase ankle dorsiflexion.

Are Squats Bad for Your Knees?

Some people may have heard advice that performing a full squat is dangerous or bad for the knees. Squatting like most exercises carries a certain degree of risk, but the notion that squats hurt the knees is largely a myth.
When performed properly the risks are greatly reduced and usually outweighed by the benefits that can be gained from regular squatting.

Based on current evidence, full range of motion squatting using your own body weight is not only a safe activity, but one that can have a great influence on overall physical health. Still, it is important to be aware of the risks to lower any potential for injury before performing any movement the body is not accustomed to doing. The two major concerns usually voiced over squatting are the potential for joint wear leading to arthritis and ligament injuries.

Squats may actually decrease the risk of arthritis

During a squat there are increased comprehensiveness forces on the joints of the knee. Very few studies however have shown that squatting can cause damage to the joint. One retrospective study on a group of elderly subjects in Beijing found that those who reported squatting several hours a day in their youth were more likely to demonstrate osteoarthritis of the tibiofemoral (TF) joint.3 A later study however found that squatting actually decreased the risk of TF arthritis when performed at least 30 minutes a day.4

The reason for these contradictory findings is not clear. The important thing to remember is that, as is true for most activities, moderation is key. The body is certainly capable of adapting to a natural squatting position, and almost all of us were able to do it at some point in our lives.

The other joint in the knee subject to increased loads during squatting is the patellofemoral (PF) articulation, between the underside of the knee cap and the femur. The compressive forces at the PF joint increase as the knee moves into flexion (depth of squat). However, during that time the contact surface of the joint also increases.5 The increase in contact area distributes the joint forces over a larger surface area, which maintains, or even reduces, joint stress as you get deeper in your squat. Patellofemoral compression force should still be a consideration though for anyone with a history of anterior knee problems or cartilage damage of the patellofemoral joint.

In regards to ligament injuries, the idea the deep squatting when performed as a weightlifting exercise causes ligament laxity in the knee can be traced back to an older study performed in the 1960s. Later studies have refuting these results and actually found that squatting enhances knee stability.6,7

The same principles that apply to other forms of exercise also apply for squats. Squatting too often, holding the position for hours on end, or not allowing your body to recover between squatting session can place you at risk for injury.


The full squat is a natural human posture often used as an alternative to sitting in Asian cultures and among young children, but rarely performed by adults in Westernized countries. Spending time in a squat position offers many health benefits and can serve as way to correct postural imbalances. Squatting is a safe activity when performed properly. Someone who is healthy and in relatively good physical shape without a history of knee injuries should be able to squat safely with minimal risk. Individuals with a history of knee injury need to give consideration to the increased forces placed on the structures of the knee when squatting. A lack of ankle mobility is usually the limiting factor that would prevent an individual from reaching full depth. The ability to do a full depth squat is a sign of good physical health.

1. Dobrzynski J. "An Eye on China's Not So Rich and Famous". The New York Times. Retrieved Sep 23 2012.
2. Caterisano A, Moss RF, Pellinger TK, Woodruff K, Lewis VC, Booth W, Khadra T. The effect of back squat depth on the EMG activity of 4 superficial hip and thigh muscles. J Strength Cond Res. 2002 Aug;16(3):428-32.
3. Liu CM, Xu L. Retrospective study of squatting with prevalence of knee osteoarthritis. Zhonghua Liu Xing Bing Xue Za Zhi. 2007 Feb;28(2):177-9.
4. Lin J, Li R, Kang X, Li H. Risk factors for radiographic tibiofemoral knee osteoarthritis: the wuchuan osteoarthritis study. Int J Rheumatol. 2010;2010:385826.
5. Besier TF, Draper CE, Gold GE, Beaupré GS, Delp SL. Patellofemoral joint contact area increases with knee flexion and weight-bearing. J Orthop Res. 2005 Mar;23(2):345-50.
6. Chandler T, Wilson G, Stone M. The effect of the squat exercise on knee stability. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 21(3). Pp 299-303. 1989.
7. Escamilla RF. Knee biomechanics of the dynamic squat exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2001 Jan;33(1):127-41.

How Far How Soon "The Ultra Dilemma"

The Ultra Dilemma
October 21, 2013 by Sock Doc
In today’s endurance world, covering longer distances has become the new and
expected normal. Gone are the days when racing a fast 5K or 10K meant something and
we’re even starting to lose the concept that running one marathon is a big deal. Yet
much like triathletes feel it’s imperative to race an Ironman as soon as possible
regardless of one’s current fitness level, trail runners are viewing ultras the same way –
the more distance the better. But for most, more training and racing eventually leads to
poor health and even lowered fitness levels.
More Isn’t Necessarily Better

How much is too much when it comes to training and especially racing? Well that
depends on you – the individual – and what your body is capable of handing in regards
to the stress demands you choose to put yourself through. As I’ve addressed in the Sock
Doc Training Principles, the more frequent and the more intense your training, the more
you need to rest and recover. For most competing in long distance events, such as
marathons and ultras, recovery is going to be affected by the demands of everyday life.
Most athletes have work, family, and other life responsibilities beyond training and
racing. Simply put, if your only job isn’t to train and race, then you’re already at some
disadvantage because your recovery (and training) time and energy are required
Many endurance athletes are Type-A personalities who excel in what they do outside of
racing. They work long hours and have active families. These athletes are already
stretched for time and energy resources, and they’re often lacking proper sleep and
recovery. So when they add in more and more distance, it quickly can, and does, take its
toll on the body.
How Much Distance Can a Body Handle?
Professional athletes are more likely able to handle longer distance events more often
than amateur athletes. The time commitment to properly train for these events is huge.
Unfortunately, many athletes today do not put in the necessary time needed to train
adequately for these events; yes that includes recovery. Running a couple short
distances during the week and logging in some massive miles over the weekend doesn’t
teach your body to adapt properly to cover distances in a safe, efficient, or fast manner.
At best you’ll get fit quick enough to race the distance while most likely having to deal
with some nagging health and injury-related problems along the way, or soon thereafter.
I’ve been in the endurance racing scene since the early 1990s. Back then, (and sorry if I
sound like your reminiscing grandpa), there weren’t marathons or ultra-distance events
every weekend, or even every month. You trained for the one big long distance event of
the year, and for many that was a race lasting a few hours. In my opinion, I don’t think
it’s just a coincidence that during that era we saw athletes such as Mark Allen and Paula
Newby-Fraser win the Ironman World Championship multiple times (six and eight
respectively). They weren’t racing big events throughout the year as athletes are doing
today, and part of the reason they weren’t was because those events just weren’t
available. But now these events are, and with the increased amount of endurance
events we are seeing more athletes racing more often and ultimately they inevitably
break down and their careers end way sooner than anticipated. You can only race so
fast, so often, for so long. So next time you think you’re not performing well because of
“old age” perhaps consider you’re not training properly, and that could mean you’re just
training and racing way too much.
Humans Evolved to Run, Not Race
I’m all for endurance racing, but I’m more for training properly and racing to the point
where your health doesn’t suffer permanently. I say permanently because running these
types of races too often can result in permanent injuries and health problems. Yes, being
outside and active for long periods of time often is very healthy, not just for your body
but for your mind too. But when you ramp it up to the point of trying to get from point A to
point B at a pace above a certain threshold, (defined by each individual’s fitness level),
then you’re inversely affecting your health. Many athletes are training improperly to the
point where they are chronically affecting their health in a negative way with more and
more training.

If we look back to how humans are thought to have developed as persistence hunters,
we see that our hunter-gather ancestors didn’t just run hard for hours upon hours to
track down their food. They tracked their food at a slow, aerobic, fat-burning pace rather
than pushing their bodies hard for prolonged periods. Now sure I’ll entertain the idea that
there were some stellar human athletes back then, (probably more than there are today),
and they could perhaps comfortably cover ten miles of harsh terrain in an hour or so. But
just like the small handful of elites today, they are just that – the minority. Humans aren’t
evolving in the same linear fashion to run these longer distances faster and more often.
I’ve discussed previously that for elite marathoners running a sub 2:30 they are most
likely creating less damaging stress on their body than the average amateur running
a four to five-hour race. It’s all about how efficient you are and how quickly your body
breaks, (or doesn’t break), down.
Breaking Down Your Body
Everybody has their breaking point in a race. If you’re healthy and you trained properly
and follow your race plan (pace and nutrition) then ideally you won’t break down until the
very end of the race, if at all. I define this point of breaking down when your body no
longer can keep up with the demand you are placing on it and muscle imbalances begin
to occur. Your muscles will be affected by the stress placed on your nervous system
which is constantly monitoring each and every system in your body – particularly your
digestive, hormonal, and cardiovascular systems when it comes to racing.
How do you know when you’re starting to break down? It’s happening way before you
bonk and even before you start to feel fatigued. Little signs such as misjudging a rock
and almost tripping is a good way to tell you’re starting to falter. A tight muscle that
comes out of nowhere – say in your calf or maybe a side stitch – more signs of your
body fading. A change in your gait is also another huge sign of a broken athlete as gait
is so closely influenced by glucose regulation, yet you might not realize this until you
literally fall or see a photo of yourself and see an altered posture.
The problem with breaking down is not just a loss of performance but also impaired
health. Oxidative damage (from excess free radicals), inflammation, and high levels of
stress hormones (particularly cortisol), go hand-in-hand with racing hard (and for many
training hard too). The more you train broken, and the longer you race broken, the more
you run the risk of not just injury and illness but also other health problems, particularly
immune system issues such as auto-immune diseases and yeah, even cancer.
Plan For the Big One
Yup, I threw out the Big C there in that last sentence because chronic stress will slowly
but surely take its toll on your immune system. It may take years for you to realize the
negative effects of training too hard, too often, and racing too long, too often, but it will
eventually catch up with you if you don’t balance the intensity and duration with rest,
recovery, and the adequate fitness necessary to train at these high levels.
If you want to safely participate in long-distance events then you have to put in the time
and effort to build stellar aerobic endurance. The longer you train and race in a fatburning
mode the less likely you are to break down resulting in better performance.
Once you build your aerobic fitness, (which can take years for most people), then you
can add more and more distance, to a certain extent, to take your fitness to the next
level without compromising health.
Don’t get sucked into racing such long distances so often, especially early on if you’re
new to the sport. Ultras require a high level of fitness as well as mental stamina which
takes significant time to develop. Personally, I think that one race a year over 50K is
more than most can safely handle, yet we hear of so many doing multiple centuries. Ain’t
nothing wrong with going shorter. Speed and strength are healthy attributes every
human should have to some degree, let’s not forget that.
There’s more to this game than just being effective (covering the distance and finishing).
You want to be an efficient human athlete which means you can cover the distance in a
manner where you can still function the next day and next week and you’re better for it
all around – mentally and physically.

Sandal Running in Edinburgh with Teaching Tips (Subtitled)

Click to view Luna Venado Huaraches Sandal a subtitled teaching film with some hot tips on foot placement using the LUNA VENADO huaraches running sandal, by BarefootworksTV. Filmed on location in on Blackford Hill Edinburgh. Some spectacular scenery on this early morning run to work.

Vibram fivefingers Spyridon in Action on Multi Terrain

This is the one of the latest additions to the Vibram fivefingers range, the Spyridon is an off road fourwheel drive supergrip piece of technology. It is as versatile as a Range Rover Sport but will keep you healthier by default!!! Barefoot running, trailrunning, with the feel of nakedness, its a dream come true for the natural runners out there.