Entering into February, we are now at the time honored point of the year where many of the 50 million or so Americans that entered into a diet as part of their New Year's Resolutions have given up. For whatever reason, it failed and left the individual in a complex, often disappointed but ultimately unique place. As primarily a whole person running coach, you might expect me to say: No! Don't give up! Keep trying to lose that weight!
But that's not what I say. And here's why.
Questions around correct or ideal foot strike is something I get asked about a lot as a coach. Everyone wants to know if there is a correct foot strike. Unfortunately, the answer is both simple and complex. The simple answer is there isn't. Moreover, any coach that tells you to change your foot strike without taking the rest of your running style into consideration is someone to run away from, fast!
Why? Because your foot strike is actually very likely a symptom of your running style, not a cause. This means that if you try to change the foot strike, you are changing something that was actually preventing injury or at least reducing the negative impacts of whatever your body is not doing quite right.
One night in the fall of 2009, I laid down in my bed for the night. Rather than falling asleep, I found myself thinking about my desire to run and race well. As I relaxed deeper into my bed in my darkened room, I began to daydream. I recalled all the factors that created a burning desire within to run. I imagined short and long-term goals that sent my heart soaring with joy and excitement.
And I imagined myself running. Not the way I was running at the time, or had in the past, but in a completely new way. I imagined vividly, feeling with every sense and deeply feeling myself actually running. I imagined flying effortlessly across the earth, my arms pumping fluidly at a rate that was shocking to me. I saw my heart open wide, like a lion's yawn, to encompass the universe around me in ecstatic joy.
I felt my body wanting to tense and slow down even in this imagined scenario, but chose to just go with it, imagining with all my heart and my senses the way i truly wished to run- flying effortlessly in ecstatic joy at speeds no human has any right to go.
And then I fell asleep, and six months passed.
That night receded into my memory, fondly remembered but dim. And then one day I realized I was running exactly as I had imagined six months before.
Barefoot running has become very popular over the last decade or so. The biggest proponents of the movement believe typical running shoes are the cause of the high rates of injury among runners and may even be limiting performance. Are they right?
To answer this question, I first took a look at what the research so far is saying, which you can find examples of here, here, here, and here.
Exercise is a a pretty fabulous activity for improving the functioning of our bodies. It reduces stress, helps with weight loss, and can make other physical activities easier. It can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Exercise can also improve blood lipid profiles by lowering total cholesterol while elevating HDLs or the "good cholesterol". Resistance training can provide protection against sarcopenia (the loss of muscle mass that accompanies aging), osteoporosis, and type II diabetes.
But what I'd like to focus on today are the long term effects of exercise training on bioenergetic pathways, myofibers, the pulmonary system, the cardiovascular system, and blood composition.
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