Category Archives: Running

Antioxidants: Helpful or Not?

Antioxidants are a fundamental mixed bag. On the one hand, their ability to heal the body and combat inflammation helps the body recover quickly from exercise, not to mention help protect your everyday function and immune system.

On the other hand, researchers have in recent years discovered that this antioxidant influx also blunts the body’s adaption and supercompensation to training, that while you heal more quickly and completely you also interfere with the body’s ‘learning process’ in fighting the inflammation markers and growing to adapt to the stressor of your intense training.

Basically, because antioxidants are an external healer, your body is less likely to learn to adapt to the stress for future workouts.

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Building A Better Self: July 2021 Edition

I not only finished Friday with 34 miles this week, with this weekend and a long run workout still to come (after 36 miles last week), but I did so despite insomnia on Thursday night and my air conditioner problem messing with my sleep earlier this week.

While obviously tired, I didn’t feel burned out, and I had the energy in me to pump out 30-45 minute training workouts on the treadmill after work, AND run 1K-2K on all my work breaks (except only for Thursday afternoon, which I walked). I played everything by ear and was willing to bail on any of the above if I simply didn’t feel well enough to do it.

But I did all of the above. No stimulants (outside of the same 12 oz of coffee I have had every morning for years and years), no crutches, no supplements I hadn’t already been taking for a while. Even now, other than understandable general fatigue (and yes I got decent sleep last night), I feel okay.

How am I doing this? I haven’t taken a complete day off from training since June 23 (10 days ago)

There’s a few new things I’m consistently doing. Some regular readers already know about, but some things not as much:

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The Line Between Clean Eating and Orthorexia

I frequently advocate for cleaning up your diet, aka avoiding processed food, focusing on unprocessed meat, fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds, unrefined grains.

I have to keep in mind the fine line between endeavoring to eat as healthy as possible, and drifting into the eating disorder orthorexia, a pathological to a fault obsession with eating clean.

Obvious caveat: Depending on who you’re talking to, any effort on your part to eat clean may seem to a given person pathological, given the average Western person’s poor dietary and lifestyle habits. Taking a serious interest in your diet quality when others won’t is not what I’m talking about.

Orthorexia more specifically is obsessive, to where you simply cannot eat anything that isn’t by your definition healthy. It often leads to a strict, very limited definition of what foods you can eat.

This is also not to say that gluten-free, carnivore, or vegan diets and similar fall into this. Orthorexia is more so that you get so particular that adhering to your diet of choice becomes fundamentally difficult.

Needless to say, just about anyone else’s dietary or cooking choices typically becomes a problem to someone with orthorexia. Restaurants and holiday dinners are often an impossibility for someone with orthorexia.

I advocate for eating clean with a mindset that you should still be allowed, within occasional reason, to eat foods you like but generally shouldn’t eat.

I still eat foods like pizza, hamburgers, drink the occasional beer, in-between my cleaner and healthier meals and snacks. I’m sure many of the ingredients in curry ramen, one of my favorite dishes, are foods I’d generally avoid eating otherwise. I’ve probably given Fausto’s Mexican Grill enough money for fried tacos to pay their rent for a few months. Don’t think from my frequent advocacy that I don’t ever violate the code and not eat these foods. I totally do.

I just follow a sort of 80/20 mindset to eating them. Most of the time, I choose to eat clean, eat healthy, eat to effectively fuel my body and spur recovery. And sometimes, occasionally, I go ahead and eat what would otherwise be considered garbage… even knowing it’ll make me inflamed, cause me to retain water, possibly not feel great energy-wise the next day, etc.

Sometimes, it’s worth it, and I don’t have a problem doing it. Because I know, the next meal or snack afterward, will probably go back to the healthy, whole foods I usually eat.

Your diet is a body of work, much like your training is a body of work. Your training is not made or broken by one workout, any more than one meal or snack can make or break your entire diet. It’s your habits and choices over a long period of time that determine your long term health, fitness, and body composition. You still do need to get it right most of the time: If you’re repeatedly making unhealthy choices, it’s going to add up long term. But enjoying a meal that isn’t on the list here and there between solid healthy choice after solid healthy choice is not really a problem.

So, I don’t want to write an advocacy piece on eating disorders. Hopefully you’re not at the point of orthorexia. And if you are and in too deep I hope you can seek out some help, whatever that entails.

But I want to make clear that, while I seek to make ideal choices as often as possible, I don’t have a problem with going off-plan and eating something fun now and again. Don’t let an adherence to a good diet hamper those opportunities.

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It’s Just Too Hot, Guys

Today, after a few easy and off days, I went out for some speed repeats. It’s excessively hot in Las Vegas right now, with high temperatures exceeding 115°F, and low temperatures barely reaching 90°F before going up again with the sunrise.

It was 91°F at about 5:45am when I started the first of what I planned to be five (5) 90 second hard repeats on a long stretch of trail. After two of these, I grabbed my water bottle from the stop point and decided to end the workout right there, heading back.

I wasn’t in serious distress, nor did I go too hard on the repeats. In fact, I probably accelerated into them better than I had been doing on repeats in a while. I ran them smart and my pace was solid. I didn’t feel sick or anything. But the combination of quick fatigue and the heat told me that what little I had done was for now enough. I walked back to the ranch.

I’ve stated before that one of my goals with this summer’s Indy Marathon training was to address training seriously in the heat. So far, as temps have risen this past month, I’ve handled what speed workouts I’ve done in the hotter weather fairly well.

The only workouts I don’t feel good about so far are my longer runs. I’m coming up on three weeks since my last true long run (though I have a 10 miler planned Saturday), and I have yet to exceed 10 miles. It is early and still base training, and the plan all along was to backload the longest/hardest running for after Labor Day when the temps drop back to human levels. But I’m still not able to get what I’m looking for out of current long runs.

All of this said, I have to be mindful not as much of my continuing adaption to the typically extreme vegas heat, but of these stretches where it’s very hot even for a Vegas summer. This is a true heat wave, with temps exceeding 115°F, the top end of what heat Vegas typically gets. Much of the Western United States is in this massive heat wave right now.

This is not the time to power through a workout if I find my body struggling or tiring more quickly in these conditions than expected. While sleep and nutrition can also be factors, I’ve actually done mostly well on both those fronts this week to where I can discount those being key contributors. If anything, I should have been more ready to go for this workout than typical given that and the extra recent recovery.

But extreme heat takes a lot out of you, prior heat adaptions or not. I had water with me but hydration had negligble effect on how it felt.

Sometimes it just makes more sense to cut a workout in those conditions short, and either run it out otherwise later (I can and may cross train after work) or just take a mulligan and move on to tomorrow.

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Experimenting With My Supplement Intake (early 2021 edition)

In recent months I switched up my supplement intake as a long term experiment.

  • I will first note one item hasn’t changed: I’m still taking my usual Cal/Mag/D3 supplement each day with K2.
  • After reading up on issues with Vitamin K2 MK-7 being made with soy and that nutrient’s detrimental effects on male hormones… I decided to try an MK-4 K2 supplement instead for a while.
  • After reading up on concerns about the common rancidity of oils used in Omega 3 pill supplements, I decided to stop taking Omega 3 entirely for a while, relying on diet for Omega 3 oils. I stepped up my consumption of wild sardines, which it turns out are a substantial Omega 3 source and a relatively close competitor in that regard with wild salmon.
  • I swapped out my one a day multivitamin for Hammer Nutrition’s Premium Insurance Caps, but instead of taking the full multi-pill dose I’ve taken 1-2 a day and counted on an improved whole food diet to provide needed nutrients.
  • I cannot mention the use of Hammer supplements without referencing the 2008 situation where several athletes claimed to tie back their positive doping tests to Hammer’s Endurolytes (a product I don’t use, BTW). The suit quietly petered out and was likely settled, and was also the only instance of Hammer being accused of containing banned substances. Some have also fundamentally questioned the accusations, alleging Hammer was not the source and possibly just a legal scapegoat for unrelated indiscretions. And all that was 13 years ago, with no reported instances since. Basically, I’m not worried.

All that said, I also during these recent months took a few other Hammer supplements:

  • The Tissue Rejuvenator, a more bioavailable and comprehensive form of the traditional glucosamine and condroitin, the supplement that help maintain joints, tendons and cartilage. Rejuvenator seeks to promote better recovery in your tissues, and while typically advised for injuries you can generally take it as a preventative.
  • The Race Caps Supreme, a mix of CoQ10 and vitamin E plus other vitamins to help your heart and improve running performance. I took it generally in the early going for a couple weeks, but now only take one occasionally and before tougher workouts.
  • The Mito Caps, a vitamin mix designed to promote recovery and building of your body’s aerobic powerhouses, the mitochondria. These have to be refrigerated, so it’s harder for me to remember to use them because they’re off the counter and out of sight. But like the Race Caps I take one occasionally and before tougher workouts, but also after many workouts.
  • In all these cases the recommended full dosage is several pills, but I typically only take one pill at a time, given I only want these to supplement my natural effort and recovery rather than drive it as others generally use it.
  • I did maintain some supply of my one a day, Omega 3 caps, and my old MK7 for occasional control doses, in case these switches ended up being bad decisions that deprived me.

For what it’s worth, my training has made reasonable progress, but given its challenges plus life stresses, and what training progress I expected to make from training recovery and improved nutrition, it’s hard to tell how much the supplements have or haven’t benefitted me. I realize a lot of this is likely confounding, but I’m trusting my observations in moving ahead.

These weren’t cheap purchases, so I did want to make a firm decision on whether or not I’d continue using them regularly. Here’s what I’ve concluded after 3+ months of regular use.

  • I probably will switch back to my old one-a-day multivitamin before the Premium Caps are exhausted, though I’ll take the multi separately in the morning rather than at night with my other supplements. I suspect that previously taking the one a day at night unduly spiked hormone production that was keeping me awake, not to mention being at rest may have caused more of it to get excreted unused than if I take it in the morning and move throughout my day. My occasional doses during this time have all been in the morning, and I’ve noticed fewer issues with better energy overall.
  • After not touching the stuff for a while beforehand… I have noticed no ill effects when dosing Omega 3, and if the rancidity concern was legit I think I would have noticed after doing so. So I think I will go back to dosing Omega 3, at least if I know I haven’t eaten sardines/salmon, or I think I’m sore enough during training to need the extra anti-inflammatory boost.
  • I noticed a somewhat quicker recovery day-over-day from my longer/harder workouts when dosing with the Race Caps and Mito Caps. So I may keep a supply of those on hand for the time being. I don’t want to lean on them for all key workouts, so I’ll probably go in-and-out with using one or both of them over time to note any differences in results.
  • I have decided that the issues with taking MK7 are worth the benefits, and will go back. The MK4 was a bit cumbersome to take (there are few varieties available, and you have to dissolve it under your tongue), and further research has confirmed my original belief that it’s not as bioavailable as MK7.
  • I do get sore more often… but realize I’m also training more and harder than I have in the last previous couple years. So I can’t necessarily say the new supplements didn’t help me, nor necessarily say that removing the Omega 3’s hurt me. I will continue to monitor this as I make adjustments and resume taking Omega 3 regularly.

Ultimately, it would be great if my diet was clean and robust enough that taking supplements beyond an occasional pill here or there wasn’t necessary. Until I get there, I’ll continue to work on what supplements I take and where.

I also wouldn’t go out of my way to recommend any or all of these supplements. Your diet remains most important, and any supplements most take should be broad and bioavailable, like multivitamins and regular vitamin supplements. I’m taking these with specific improvements and goals in mind, and as I’ve implied the results were largely inconclusive and slight.

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Developing the Trickling Marathon Training Plan

Without getting too deep into my methodology… every few days I schedule one or more days off from training, whether I’m just base training or actively training for a goal race (as I’m doing right now). On these days the only exercise I do is walk and use the spin bike. Otherwise, I avoid exercise and definitely avoid training.

In the past I trained with few to no days off, and in fact leading up to Chicago in 2018 I ran 70 straight days… with no ill effects in either case. My only knockout injuries have occurred randomly during down periods in training.

But, never minding the first digit in my age is now a 4, I recognize the balance between training enough (and hard enough) to generate fitness adaptions… and taking enough time away from training to allow those adaptions to manifest through recovery and supercompensation.

What I’m doing with the Indy training plan is something that for now I’ll call a Trickling 18 Week Plan. At some point I’ll diagram this all out in detail but in general I’ll describe it:

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A Long Workout With Less Stress Than A Long Run

I didn’t schedule a long run for this weekend, planning rest days on Saturday and Monday.

I did originally plan an easy workout for Sunday, but after having to cut short Thursday’s speed workout (five 2 minute repeats) due to fatigue from poor sleep, I decided to re-attempt the workout Sunday in place of the easy workout.

I also had a 3 mile walk booked for a Garmin weekend badge on Saturday, but had other plans come along and couldn’t do it before the weather got hot. Still wanting to badge-chase, I decided Saturday that I’d do the long walk on Sunday morning right after finishing the speed workout.

The repeats went just fine (that whole speed workout only took about half an hour), and once done with the timed cooldown I began the walk by heading back to base (I was only 1/4 mile away), getting a protein drink, and continuing the walk with the drink as I did some exploring: With some neighborhood construction done, I wanted to check out the mileage on a couple of new potential running routes.

After exploring the first loop while re-fueling, I returned to the ranch, recycled the bottle plus had more water, the continued the walk farther out to examine the 2nd new loop. (While not the main topic of this post, both routes are promising)

I returned after about 6 kilometers (3.72 miles), 80 minutes, of total walking (… and a brief running segment, as part of the 2nd route was in direct sun and I felt like getting out of it as soon as possible), to end the walk and the full workout session around 7am.

Between the speed workout and the extended walk, I was outside Sunday for close to 2 hours. Only about 35-40 minutes of that time I spent running, and the early repeats were the only truly challenging part. Most of that time I walked at fairly low intensity and that last 80 minutes was basically an extended cooldown.


This was in a strange way a long-run level workout, even though it clearly was not a long run. I spent 2 hours of my feet, though only covered about 7 total miles. My body had to operate aerobically (however mild in effort) for close to 2 hours, and while the intensity was not that of a 2 hour run, it still had to absorb the stress of two hours of total effort.

This is akin to the notion that your time to bonking in a marathon isn’t necessarily a function of your distance traveled, but your time spent at a given level of effort. Most runners can go about 2 hours at the typical 80-85% max effort most run the marathon before their natural glycogen stores tap out. How far they travel before this happens is a function of their fitness, the conditions, and all sorts of other variables, but most without fuel can give about 2 hours on their own.

That’s not why I did this, however. I just wanted to get a planned long walk in after a shorter, easier workout, before the Vegas sun got too hot. That I got this benefit was a welcome, inadvertent side effect that I only discovered in hindsight.

Still, this approach can be a fine hedge if you need a bit of a break on a long run day, or you want to maintain fitness and development on a down week.

It’s similar to Jeff Galloway’s Run Walk method, though Galloway would still expect you to run most of a given distance, while here you would just do a shorter, do-able workout and then chase it with a much longer, slower walk.

You could also take a page from IronFit‘s cross training plans, and swap the walk with low intensity cross training… though the idea of what I discovered is more about spending all your time on your feet and better neuromuscularly working your lower body.

I just wanted to share what I found after Sunday’s extended session. This is not necessarily something I’d make the key component of a training plan. It’s just an option for certain situations where you might want to dial back the intensity on a non-crucial long run day, or on a stepback or lighter weekend.

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