The Science of Running

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I recently finished two books THE SCIENCE OF RUNNING by Steve Magness and RUNNING SCIENCE by Owen Anderson.  Judging the books by their covers/titles, one would imagine they would be fairly similar… but like your mother told you, never judge a book by its cover.

THE SCIENCE OF RUNNING is a very valuable resource that is worth every penny and is the book in review here.  It’s not your traditional running book and takes a different approach compared to other running/training books.  This different approach is what makes it so valuable.  I have been following Steve Magness at WWW.SCIENCEOFRUNNING.COM and have gained a great deal of respect for his background.  Steve has the experience of competing at the elite level, has a degree in Exercise Science, and is coaching some great athletes.  Not many can say they have this kind of experience.

THE SCIENCE OF RUNNING approaches running from all angles.  It doesn’t say workout “X” will make you faster, or doing X, Y, and Z are the keys to success.  Most running books do this and this is where the others fail.  There is no magic workout or secret.  Although there is a plethora of valuable information in this book, probably the biggest takeaway I got from the book was how different runners respond to training, specifically in regards to slow-twitch and fast-twitch athletes.

Running for the University of Michigan, coaching cross-country/track at Haslett High School, and in my own training… this really hit a nerve with me.  To some degree I wish I would have known this information sooner, but at the same time I don’t know if I could have fully grasped the concept without these priceless experiences.  I could write a book on these experiences, but for now I’ll let Steve’s word be a testament for the in’s and out’s of training.

This concept also gets me thinking about the topic of Kenyan dominance in distance running.  In the United States running system we have a melting pot of genetics.  Coaches have to deal with teams/groups of athletes that all come from different backgrounds of both nature and nurture.  How in the world can a coach accommodate this diversity under their training system?  Kenyans and other undeveloped African nations are pretty unaffected by immigration, and their pool of genetics is not altered much… so once a coach can figure out a system of training, most of these athletes will respond positively to this system.

I love being a student of the sport and out of the 100′s of running books that I have consumed over the years, THE SCIENCE OF RUNNING has made it into my top running related books.  It has been a few years since a book has made into this group, and it is very refreshing to see a coach/runner put something new out there.  What makes these books the creme of the crop is that they don’t tell you to do X, Y, and Z… they inspire you to create the path that works for you and/or your athletes… that their is no magic workout. Take the time to learn from this resource and you’ll see that it’s about getting out there, putting in the work and enjoying the journey. Do those things and you are guaranteed to get somewhere!

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Irish Jig 5k

The 2014 racing season is under way.  I was on the fence for a while on when to start racing again.  Last fall I stepped on a crab apple and got a stress fracture which took me out for about 10 weeks.  I cross trained my butt off in October and November.  December I took my time to get my running legs back.  January workouts started to come together better than I had hoped for.  Early February things were good, so I signed up for the Jig… then my training hit some rough patches… with a sore, then a strained hamstring.  I had to take a few days off, a day of cross training, and a lot of easy running.  The week of the Jig arrived and I wasn’t sure if it would be a good move to run.  The hamstring got better each day leading up to the race, so I figured if anything I’d just play it by feel and try not to dig too deep of a hole.

Screen Shot 2014-03-15 at 7.14.36 PMFor the weather we have had this winter in the mitten, this weekend was a treat.  Clear roads, a brisk breeze and temps in the low 20s.  The Jig always brings in a stronger than average field because of the generous prize money on the line.  We had a group of 5-6 guys together for the first mile in ~4:50.  Right after that the field strung out when Zach Ripley began to push the pace.  I fell back into 4th place for the next 1/2 mile and then Ian Forsyth and Tyler Emmorey came up on me.  Ian kept it going and I was able to hold off Tyler.  I did the best I could to hang onto Ian in the second mile, but could just feel that if I pushed too much more I’d be pushing the limits of my weak link right now.  I was able to finish off with a 5:01 and 4:59 mile to bring me in for 5th place in 15:25.  RESULTS

Not the most desirable way to race, but hopefully it’s a starting point and a stepping stone to build upon.  I have never been a huge fan of wearing braces for an injury, but I am a fan of CEP compression socks so I thought I’d give their quad sleeves a try.  I just used them to warm up and cool down in.  I have to say I am pretty impressed.  I probably should have raced in them too.  I plan to get in some training this week with them and hopefully they will help alleviate some of the hamstring discomfort and help get me back into full training sooner than later.  If they do they were worth every penny.

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The picture/post below from has confirmed a little of what I’ve been thinking in terms of my recent “niggles” that have been popping up as I have transitioned back into running.  The post refers to developing “muscle dexterity”.  As endurance athletes it’s important to be approaching your sport from… lets say at least 3 different angles to develop muscle dexterity.  For running this means running on 3 different surfaces (concrete/blacktop, grass/trails and treadmill)… and probably shoes too.  For cycling this means riding on 3 different bikes (road, TT, MTB).

Screen Shot 2014-03-15 at 7.32.24 PMThe Jig was a start to say the least and I am hopeful that for my next race I won’t have so much baggage to deal with when I toe the line.

Happy running till next time!


PCG – Nutrient Timing

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This NUTRIENT TIMING WEBINAR with DR. JOHN IVY presented by PEAKS COACHING GROUP does a nice job of covering the topics of Nutrient Timing and the use of Nitrate supplementation (BEETELITE) in regards to athletic performance.  At 1hr and 45 minutes it might be a tad long for some time crunched athletes, so here are a few take-aways that might help you get some big gains from small changes until you have time to watch the full webinar.

Screen Shot 2014-01-25 at 2.41.57 PMThings that come in 3′s seem to always have a solid foundation.  When it comes to nutrient timing, The Energy Phase, The Anabolic Phase, and The Adaption Phase all work together.  Disregarding just one of the three will not allow for the other two to do their job.  For The Energy Phase don’t go into training with low energy… for The Anabolic Phase be sure to replenish your body within 45 minutes after harder-longer training… and for The Adaption Phase keep eating a well balance diet of Carbohydrates-Protiens-Fats all day long.

My three favorite slides form the presentation….

Screen Shot 2014-01-25 at 9.52.20 AMConsuming a drink that contains both Fructose and Glucose will increase the rate of CHO one can absorb and use as fuel.  This seems to be a “catch-22″.  As one uses CHO in training they start to train their body to use less fat as fuel and part of endurance training is teaching your body to effectively use a good mixture of CHO and Fat while competing.  Athletes (and coaches) should deliberately use CHO in training.  The bulk of training should be designed to teach the body to use CHO and Fat, but during times of higher intensity, i.e. race pace work CHO should be consumed.  This will help an athlete be able to effectively use CHO in their race to enhance their performance.

Screen Shot 2014-01-25 at 10.08.36 AMWhen it comes to rehydrating after training, using a drink that contains both CHO and PRO will dramatically increase fluid retention compared to using water.  For your harder-longer training and your post-training nutrition (anabolic phase) plan ahead and have a CHO + PRO beverage to get the biggest bang for your buck.  One of the best sources can be found at any corner store or gas station… Chocolate MIlk!

Screen Shot 2014-01-25 at 12.18.55 PMThe above chart brings together the three phases of Nutrient Timing.  Make note of the ratio of CHO and PRO.  Dr. Ivy makes it a point to emphasis the evening snack and puts an emphasis on the protein needs and how this supports one’s growth hormones at night.

There is a good deal of information from Dr. Ivy in this 1hr 45min presentation and some of MY ADDITIONAL NOTES might help you zero in on the other key points.  Stay tuned for more on BEETELITE as I finish up some work with a fun little “study”.