Quick thoughts on “foot strike”

Foot-strike is as big a misnomer as midfoot or forefoot running. This has created countless foot injuries from runners re-learning to basically tiptoe through their runs, or land forcefully on the ball of their foot.

Your foot is designed to make full contact with the ground. But that said, this doesn’t mean slapping the length of your foot against the ground flat-footed is correct either.

Your foot is also designed to roll through contact and carry momentum from back to front, more akin to a wheel than a peg-leg. So the notion of foot “striking” is incorrect, not to mention the source of so many common runner problems (stress fractures, ankle injuries, knee problems, shin splints, etc).

Unfortunately, so many runners and coaches pay attention to what part of the foot hits the ground rather than, more important, how momentum moves throughout the foot before, during and after each step.

What many think of as forefoot striking should instead be a focus on making sure your momentum propels through the ball of the foot and forward, rather than through the heel and into the ground.

Intuitive intervals: Using a heart rate monitor to pace your run/walk intervals

If you have a Garmin watch you can set it to alert you during workouts if your heart rate goes higher or lower than a given threshold… kind of like a built in speed limit monitor for your heart rate.

I tried this feature once and quickly disabled it. I wanted to just run at my own pace and found the alarms when I reached a moderate heart rate annoying.

After a long recent layoff, as I recently started ramping up training, I found basic runs to be a bit too difficult, and sure enough my heart rate would rocket into marathon pace and the lactate threshold. It’s one reason I started doing Galloway style intervals, run/walking the workouts in 2 minute run, 1 minute walk intervals.

Galloway Intervals kept my heart rate level on-average: Even if it spiked during the runs, the minute of walking would bring it back down, the overall average more closely resembling a typical easy run. And overall the effort on these runs didn’t feel terribly difficult.

I’ve since gone on actual full-length training runs of 30+ minutes, and this past weekend I ran a 10K (albeit at closer to regular training paces), so I’m now in condition to run at distance again.

But I want to improve the usage of my natural speed. Now that I track walks on my Garmin watch, I can track paces of not just my walks, but those moments when I run across streets and the pace of those brief, hurried sprints that have always been a part of Working Class Running.

I find those easy, brief sprints vary around a 5:00-7:30 pace without much difficulty. I have speed, but it’s hard to maintain that speed over anything beyond those random little sprints. Even in 400 meter repeats and other workouts I find it very tough.

Is there a way to develop my ability to use that speed at distance in a race?

I think there’s a way, and it goes back to that once-annoying Garmin alert feature.

Continue reading
Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Adding mileage with bookended run/walk intervals

I recently made another accidental discovery while training.

After cutting back on running for a while, leaning instead on strength and cross training, I started training seriously again after getting roped into joining a couple of spring 10K’s in the Vegas Valley. With COVID restrictions fading back, races (at least on a smaller scale) are coming back to the area.

To see where I’m at and give me an easy, productive training schedule, I had Garmin set me up on a McMillan algorithmic plan. McMillan’s easy workouts are often flexible, e.g. you can run 20 minutes at an assigned pace, or have the option to extend that paced run up to 35 minutes before the cooldown. I wanted to have that option rather than have to run 3-5 miles at pace or bust.

Previously I had been doing runs Galloway-style, with a run-walk approach. I figured out how to program my Garmin Forerunner to give me run-walk alerts on basic runs, and set it to have me run 2 minutes, walk 1 minute, repeat.

This had actually worked quite well in that my cross training helped me maintain more than enough aerobic endurance, but neuromuscularly I was still struggling to run more than 15-20 minutes without sending my heart rate towards the lactate threshold. I was able to easily extend runs beyond 15-20 minutes with the walk breaks.

Still, I figured forcing myself in the short term to combine some 20+ minute runs with some speedwork and ample nutrition/recovery in a training plan would compel my body to catch up.

On one easy training run I was laboring and decided to cut the workout short at 20 minutes, but that after the cooldown and nominal end of the training session I would “Resume” the rest of the run at an easy pace to cover the distance I wanted.

I got to end of the workout, hit “Resume”, and continued running. Within seconds I was surprised to hear my watch chime and tell me it was time to Walk 1:00, just like on my default runs.

Continue reading
Tagged , , , , , , ,

The TB12 Diet Is Really No Big Deal

This morning I saw Pete Blackburn’s CBS Sports writeup about practicing the TB12 Diet for a week.

TB12 is the health and fitness approach of football star Tom Brady, who as you might have heard had led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the Super Bowl, which will be played this Sunday. Brady published a book about his approach a short while back.

The TB12 Diet is built around a restrictive diet with the following rules that Blackburn helpfully outlined in his story:

Continue reading
Tagged , , , ,

Rapid-Fire Sets: A Strength Training Workout For Endurance and Strength

The Rapid Fire Set workout can be done on a Smith Machine rack or on strength machines at the gym

The following strength training workout is an excellent way to test your strength while still developing your muscular endurance.

It requires that you can quickly adjust the weight: Gym machines, a Smith rack, or at home with quickly adjustable dumbbells. I wouldn’t recommend doing this workout with conventional barbells or dumbbells unless you have the entire training area to yourself, such as at a home gym. Definitely don’t do this with barbells and dumbbells at a regular gym.

You basically do a lot of light, gradually increasing reps for each exercise in rapid-fire sets of just 4 reps per set. Eventually, you hit a max weight, then take the weight down and repeat the rapid-fire cycle one more time.

This can build muscular endurance while still building muscular strength, and gets your heart rate going enough to generate better mitochondrial development than your typical strength endurance weight training.

Continue reading
Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Heart Rate Training Zones: A New Approach

Photo by Torsten Dettlaff on Pexels.com

Heart Rate training zone systems take for granted that a fairly high level of sustained aerobic effort is comfortable or consistently sustainable for most people, which of course it’s not. Most runners just take for granted that it’s normal and never consider that what they consider “easy” or “recovery” is in fact still too hard.

One of the reasons a runner’s aerobic development improves more quickly than their neuromuscular development is because running itself is very demanding. On both fronts you’re being pushed very hard. However, your aerobic and hormonal capacities bounce back much more quickly than your muscles, bones and joints.

Still, it’s incredibly stressful on your body chemistry to go that hard that often, and the fatigue can snowball too quickly for you to be able to handle a high volume of that kind of aerobic training.

In my cross training, I find I need to go pretty hard to get to Zone 1 in most heart rate training zone systems… somewhat too hard for the purposes of whatever cross training I’m doing. The level of effort require would leave me rather tired and possibly sore. This supposed recovery exercise ends up not helping me recover much at all.

It’s not that most runners are just stronger. They just spend all their lives in this perpetual fatigue, physical and adrenal. The long term effects on their health are taken for granted as aging or wear and tear, when in actuality it’s probably preventable… without compromising your fitness or development.

My most recent heart rate zones of choice were a standard 50/60/70/80/90/100 split based on the Karvonen Formula, which uses heart rate reserve. This is a function of your resting and max heart rates, and the zones are proportioned against those rates. Zone 1 for example would be 50-60% of the gap between your resting and max heart rate (your “heart rate reserve (HRR)”), zone 2 60-70% of the HRR, etc.

With a max HR of around 184 beats per minute, this sets my minimum training heart rate around 120 (depending on what my resting heart rate is at that time), with zone 1 peaking at about 130-135. This is about where most heart rate zone systems would put zone 1, and is considered a “recovery” heart rate.

On the spin bike, even at a brisk but easy effort, my heart rate is around 105-110. On the ARC Trainer I can get to 125-130, but only with a more moderate effort. On the rowing machine, a concerted effort typically gets me to about 110-120.

However, when running, I rarely can cruise at a heart rate below 130, no matter how slow and easy I run. I basically have to stop and walk/run to average a zone 1 heart rate. This is not a product of lacking fitness: Even at my peak condition and training in Chicago, it took the right combination of circumstances for me to average 125-130 at an easy effort.


All of this is to say that maybe our view of heart rate zones and “recovery zones” is a bit warped and could use an adjustment.

This is especially true in our coronavirus circumstances, where if we go to the gym (and in many cases train outside) we need to wear a mask while while exercising. We can’t huff and puff at full volume and expect max results if a mask is filtering much of the air taken in or expelled. I’ve talked before about this being a long term training benefit, but in the present it makes the effort required for aerobic training a bit too much.

Bear in mind as well that, to maintain the typical intensity for a full volume of training, you have to consume a lot of carbohydrates, which can cause a variety of inflammatory health problems if consumed in the large amounts that most endurance athletes tend to require.

One of the reasons low-carb diets tend not to work well for endurance athletes is because they train at an intensity where they need a lot of glycogen, and that can only come from and be replenished from a carbohydrate rich diet.

Could it be possible to scale back carb consumption to a more (shall I say) human level, rely more on slower fat burning, and still be able to train, perform, and develop at a high level.

I say yes, and I say the key to doing so is combining (now-)traditional 80/20 training principles with a revised approach to heart rate zones.

Continue reading
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Should You Intermittent Fast? A Basic Primer on Intermittent Fasting

Photo by Omar Mahmood on Pexels.com

First, in brief:

Intermittent fasting can work sometimes with exercise, depending on what you do and how.

You should avoid intermittent fasting if you work out in the morning.

The more training you’re doing, the less likely it’s a good idea.

Most of those who practice intermittent fasting and train effectively only strength train as their only meaningful, intense exercise. Generally, their only aerobic training is whatever walking they do during the day, or very brief high intensity interval training… if they do any cardio at all.

If you don’t do much exercise at all, then yes intermittent fasting is a good idea. And you should probably get some exercise, but intermittent fasting is a good habit.

A General Overview of Intermittent Fasting:

Instead of traditional fasting, where you may go a day or more without eating… intermittent fasting is about eating all your day’s meals in a short window of time and not eating the rest of the day.

Even if you eat a similar number of calories, the long break from eating gives your body an extended metabolic break, which can help reduce inflammation and better promote healing and recovery. This is actually more of the benefit of intermittent fasting than the potential fat burning improvements that can occur during the fast.

There’s no calorie restriction on how much you eat during the food window. But, obviously, it’s going to be harder to overeat in a single 8 hour window than it would be if you ate meals throughout the day.

Still, it is possible to outeat the fast during the 8 hour window and still maintain or gain weight. The fast doesn’t cause you to lose weight in itself. While it’s obviously more difficult in a shorter window of time, you can still overeat. That said, intermittent fasting can help with food portion and weight control.

Continue reading
Tagged , , , , , ,