Saturday, May 31, 2014

Hell's Kitchen Man Trains for 70-Hour 'Death Race'

By Mathew Katz  

HELL'S KITCHEN — He's got a death wish.

Hell's Kitchen resident Richard Kurtzer, 31, will travel to Pittsfield, Vermont to run the 70-hour Peak 2014 Summer Death Race in June and he's using the city's parks and streets to train for it.
The race is described on its website as a "48+ hour event that is created to break you physically, mentally and emotionally. All of you will enter, 90 percent of you won’t finish. Only consider this race if you have lived a full life to date."
"It's got death in the name, so it sounds like it's going to be pretty good," Kurtzer said. "It's designed to be the ultimate physical, mental and emotional challenge for an athlete."
During the race, Kurtzer will have to lug a five-gallon bucket filled with rocks up mountains, run around the forest, chop wood and even memorize quotes from Sun Tzu's "The Art of War" — all without sleeping for days.
To train for it, Kurtzer spends his days working out with CrossFit NYC and running around city streets and Central Park with a 30-pound backpack. The only thing he can't practice in the city is wood chopping, so every once in a while he'll head up to Rockland County to hone his skills.
"I spend a lot of time in the northern end of Central Park, doing hill work, up and down," Kurtzer said. "You don't get bored because you make the route random."
Originally from New Jersey, Kurtzer struggled with obesity when he was a teenager and his weight peaked at over 300 pounds.
"I was a nice Jewish kid, so of course I was a little overfed," he said. "When I got into my 20s, I realigned my lifestyle to really enjoy this kind of activity."
Kurtzer swing dances in his spare time and ran his first marathon and triathlon in 2010. He completed the NYC Ironman in 2012.
The Death Race, he said, was the next logical step.
In April, Kurtzer attended a 25-hour Death Race training camp where he learned some of the basics of orienteering, map reading and general physical preparedness he'll need for the race — all while carrying a rock the size of a football.
With a thick build, Kurtzer admits he's not a natural runner and said that speed may be his biggest challenge.
"They cut you if you can't do something physically or if you're not fast enough," he said. "I know I'm physically able, but I'm afraid of either being not fast enough or going crazy from being awake for 48 hours."
Right now, Kurtzer is training between 12 and 18 hours a week for the race — but plans to amp that up as the competition gets closer.
"Yes, I am insane," he said. "But when I'm pushing myself to that limit, that's when I feel most alive.

Friday, May 30, 2014

5 Ways The Underrecovery Monster Is Destroying Your Fitness.

How long have you been squatting, bench pressing or pulling the same amount of weight every time you step into the gym?
How long have you stepped on the scale and witnessed the same body fat each week?
How long have you always been able to do X number of pull-ups, no matter what (and maybe that’s not even one)?
How long have you been running that four mile lunchtime loop in the exact same period of time, day after day?
How long have you been stuck at the same old splits for your 5K, your 10K, your half-marathon, your marathon, your triathlon, or your 500m swim?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

2 Drills to Injury Proof Your Ankles

by Logan Christopher


Drill 1: Sides of Foot Walk

Many people place too much weight either on the inside or the outside of their foot when they stand and walk. This exercise is used to help correct this by going the opposite way of our natural gait tendency. It also trains the lateral tilting action of the ankle joint.

  1. From a normal standing position, raise the insides of your feet so the weight comes to the outside of both feet. Now, walk around.
  2. For the second half of this drill, start with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width. The knees must cave inward as you roll your weight onto the insides of the feet. Now, walk around in this manner.

ankle injury, ankle mobility, ankle strains, ankle sprains, healing ankles

Both of these drills look funny, but they train your body in a position you’re not used to. A little practice of both is great, but you’ll want to primarily focus on the one opposite to how you use your feet naturally when you walk.

So, if you walk duck-toed and more weight is typically on the insides of your feet, you’ll want to balance it out with walking on the outsides of your feet. If you walk pigeon-toed, you’ll correct this by walking with the weight on the insides of your feet.

Since most ankle sprains occur when the ankle is rolled to one side or another, these two exercises train your ability to bear weight in these compromised positions.

Drill 2: Top of Foot Kneeling Balance

This drill stretches the top of the foot and the ankle joint. From a seiza, or kneeling position, with the top of the feet on the ground, lean back so that your knees lift off of the ground. You’ll balance across the top of your feet, though you can support yourself with your hands against a wall if needed. Hold this position for time.

If you don’t have the flexibility to get into the seiza position, you can place a rolled-up towel between your feet and butt to support you, allowing you to sit on the towel and still get into the desired position.

ankle injury, ankle mobility, ankle strains, ankle sprains, healing ankles

Doing all three of these exercises will only take a minute or two, yet can go a long way towards keeping your ankles and feet mobile and injury free. There’s plenty more possible drills, but you don’t need more than these three really. And it doesn’t take long. Just a couple minutes every few days is sufficient to get a positive training effect.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Are Trader Joe’s Snacks Healthy?


Trader Joe’s is considered the “good guy” in the foodie world, because the grocery retailer refuses to sell products with controversial ingredients in its stores. That does not automatically translate to healthy, even though some products could fool you.
Take the product pictured above, screaming “Mango! Mango!” at you. You then notice that’s it’s actually a fruit and yogurt flavored gummy. Obviously not a health food. That’s fine, but let’s see if TJ’s is true to its brand image, and uses non-controversial ingredients.
Here is the product’s ingredient list:
glucose syrup (wheat), sugar, mango pulp, animal gelatin, passionfruit juice concentrate, citric acid, lactic acid, yogurt powder (skimmed milk, yogurt cultures [s.thermophilus, l.bulcaricus]), pectin, natural flavors, sweet whey powder, lactose, elderberry juice concentrate, glazing agent (beeswax, vegetable oil [soybean, palm, coconut]).
As expected, the main ingredients are sugars (marked in bold). The mango pulp is also mostly sugar. A serving of 140 calories has 88 calories coming from sugar. There is no fiber, and no vitamins or minerals listed. Unlike other brands that fortify their candies with vitamin C or calcium to make them seem healthy, Trader Joe’s did not attempt to make their product seem to be what it’s not.
Most of the ingredients in the ingredient list are rather tame. TJ’s does not use artificial colors to make the gummy shapes look brighter. There are no problematic preservatives. The use of “natural flavors” is disappointing though. We expected Trader Joe’s to use high quality mango and yogurt ingredients that would not require the addition of lab-made flavors (yes, natural flavors are also synthesized in a lab).
To sum things up, it would be challenging to call a sugary snack “healthy”. But for many parents, treating their children to this type of gummy is a better choice than the brand name gummies created with problematic ingredients.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

5 Reasons to Eat Berries Every Day


Here are five reasons why berries are some of the best foods to add into your diet, to both prolong your healthy life and to get you back in the gym more quickly.

Berries Are Nutritional Powerhouses

One of they keys to healthy eating is focusing on nutritional density, and berries are the most nutritionally-dense fruits out there, loaded with antioxidants such as flavonoids and antioxidant vitamins. Which berries rank at the top of the antioxidant density chart, among those we can actually buy at the store? Blackberries rank well ahead of raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries in terms of antioxidant bang for caloric buck.1

Large Amounts May Prevent or Reverse Physical and Mental Decline

Blueberries in particular have been shown to prevent motor decline in aged animals and improve memory in older adults.2,3 So if occasionally you’re feeling uncoordinated or forgetful, then commit to loading up on berries every day. You may want to put up a sign on your refrigerator at least in the beginning to help you remember, though.

Berries Have Powerful Cardioprotective Properties

In a 2011 study, consuming just one serving of blueberries a week decreased the risk of hypertension by 10%. And findings in the Nurses’ Health Study published in 2013 suggested that women eating three or more servings of blueberries or strawberries per week was linked to a 34% reduced risk of heart attack compared to a lower intakes of berries.4

How is this possible? Scientists found that in addition to the ability of berry flavonoids to combat oxidative stress, they also prevent the production of atherosclerotic plaque by decreasing oxidation of LDL and they increase antioxidant capacity in the blood. In addition, berries have several anti-inflammatory properties, and higher berry intake is associated with reduced C-reactive protein, which is a good determinant of overall inflammation in the body.5

Berries May Help Stop Cancer 

Blackberries in particular have been shown to inhibit tumor angiogenesis. Angiogenesis is the process of forming new blood vessels necessary for tumors to transition from a benign state to a malignant one. When we eat foods containing angiogenesis inhibitors, like berries and mushrooms, we prevent those new blood vessels from being formed.

Berries Have Special Benefits for Athletes

Ever woken up the day or two after an intense workout and been so sore that it became difficult and painful to do just about anything? Even getting in and out of a chair? That’s what physicians and scientists call delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and they think it’s due to inflammation created by tons of micro-tears in our muscles.6 And one of the best ways to reduce DOMS is by consuming loads of berries. A controlled study done on endurance athletes suggested that daily blueberry consumption significantly reduced oxidative stress and inflammation compared to a control group.7


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Monday, May 19, 2014

Is a Calorie a Calorie

 Link to the study  



The consumption of dietary protein is important for resistance-trained individuals. It has been posited that intakes of 1.4 to 2.0 g/kg/day are needed for physically active individuals. Thus, the purpose of this investigation was to determine the effects of a very high protein diet (4.4 g/kg/d) on body composition in resistance-trained men and women. 


Thirty healthy resistance-trained individuals participated in this study. Subjects were randomly assigned to one of the following groups: Control (CON) or high protein (HP). The CON group was instructed to maintain the same training and dietary habits over the course of the 8 week study. The HP group was instructed to consume 4.4 grams of protein per kg body weight daily. They were also instructed to maintain the same training and dietary habits (e.g. maintain the same fat and carbohydrate intake). Body composition (Bod Pod®), training volume (i.e. volume load), and food intake were determined at baseline and over the 8 week treatment period. 


The HP group consumed significantly more protein and calories pre vs post Furthermore, the HP group consumed significantly more protein and calories than the CON. The HP group consumed on average 307 ± 69 grams of protein compared to 138 ± 42 in the CON. When expressed per unit body weight, the HP group consumed 4.4 ± 0.8 g/kg/d of protein versus 1.8 ± 0.4 g/kg/d in the CON. There were no changes in training volume for either group. Moreover, there were no significant changes over time or between groups for body weight, fat mass, fat free mass, or percent body fat.


Consuming 5.5 times the recommended daily allowance of protein has no effect on body composition in resistance-trained individuals who otherwise maintain the same training regimen. This is the first interventional study to demonstrate that consuming a hypercaloric high protein diet does not result in an increase in body fat.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Friday, May 16, 2014

Three Benefits of Running Short Intervals

Short for Speed Endurance
Distance: 150 to 300 meters

Why: Put simply, the goal here is to remember how to move your legs quickly, and to make your usual race pace seem slow by comparison. You'll get the most out of these workouts by doing them on tired legs, which will simulate the challenge of running fast late in a race and allow you to slip them in as an extra workout after a previously scheduled run.

How: Ryan Vail often does a set of 8 × 200-meter repeats after a 60- to 90-minute run. Another approach is to do a tempo run of four to six miles, then finish with 5 × 300 meters on the track with 90 seconds rest. The effort should be hard enough that you struggle to maintain pace toward the end of each repeat.
Shorter for Efficiency
Distance: 80 to 150 meters

Why: Sloppy running form is more pronounced when you're jogging. When you speed up, your body automatically adjusts to sprint more efficiently: You'll push off more powerfully with each stride, and reduce up-and-down and side-to-side oscillation. With practice, these habits will become ingrained even at slower paces. Practice striding at 90 percent effort, feeling fast but not all-out. Focus on keeping your arms and face relaxed.

How: Once or twice a week after an easy run, do six 100-meter strides on a flat, smooth surface. Alternate between steady 90 percent efforts and accelerations that start a little easier but finish a little harder. Walk back to recover: You shouldn't be out of breath when you begin the next one.
Shortest for Power
Distance: 50 to 100 meters

Why: Full-on sprinting teaches your brain to recruit a full range of muscle fibers, including fast-twitch fibers that get neglected during typical long-distance training. These sprints are the running equivalent of power lifting, so a thorough warmup of at least 15 minutes is essential.

How: The safest way to start is with uphill sprints, which put less stress on your legs than running all-out on flat ground. Start with two sprints lasting six to eight seconds up a four- to six-percent grade, taking a full 2:00 between them. Do the workout once a week, adding two reps each time until you hit 10, and gradually lengthening the sprints to 10 to 12 seconds. When that feels comfortable, try less steep hills, and then flat ground.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014



Eight 30-second sprints with just 90 seconds of rest in between are kind of a heavy load for anyone, let alone a heavily-stressed working mother. Many of the most effective sprinting studies employ four – not eight – 30-second sprints with three to four minutes – not 90 seconds – of rest in between. And the subjects are often young college students for whom a stressful day means having to wake up before ten o’clock. Oh how I wish my life were like that again.
Traditional sprinting is far more demanding than the sprint cycling often used in exercise science. Few studies even use straight on sprinting unless the subjects are experienced athletes due to the degree of difficulty required. Sprint cycling also doesn’t really engage the upper body at all, whereas sprinting is a total body endeavor.
All that said: I’m confident you can still sprint and accrue benefits, even undergoing external stress, but you’ll have to change things up and make a few tweaks.
30 second sprints require more rest. Period. Some people may be able to handle them with truncated rest, and a carefree relaxed version of you appears to be one of those people, but a stressed-out time crunched version of you is not. Extend your rest periods to three or even four minutes instead of a minute and a half. If that’s “too easy,” you can always slowly reduce your rest as long as you’re still getting beneficial effects.
Don’t do eight of them. That’s way too many for you. They’re no joke and you don’t need to do eight of them. Heck, in one study, men and women did “just” three 30 second all-out sprint intervals on the stationary bike with 20 minutes of rest in between each sprint and they still got results. I’d say start with four and work up or down based on how you respond.
Try shorter sprints. Try 20 seconds instead of 30. Even shorter sprints work, too. In fact, a program consisting of three sets of 5 4-second treadmill sprints with 20 seconds of rest in between each sprint, done three times per week for four weeks up-regulated molecular signaling associated with mitochondrial biogenesis. More mitochondria mean greater energy production and consumption, improved substrate utilization, and overall better metabolic health. Don’t be afraid to run a series of 4-6 second sprints with minimal rest. It’ll feel “easy” compared to your normal routine but it’s still working.
If you’re going to run hills, definitely make the sprints shorter. 30 seconds of sprinting uphill is far more stressful than 30 seconds of sprinting on flat ground. Whenever I run hills, I knock my normal sprint time down. Try 15, maybe 20 seconds instead of 30. Remember, the benefits (and stresses) of sprinting depend on effort expended, not the duration.
Find the point where you start to slow down and stop there. We all have that point. Very few people on the planet can maintain top speed for 30 seconds. You probably aren’t one of them (I’m certainly not). And it’s not that continuing to run after you’ve lost your top gear isn’t useful. It is. It’s just really, really hard on the body. Since your ability to recover from stress is slightly impaired, you’ll likely do better with true sprints that stop once you start to slow down. Besides, as you get stronger, fitter, and faster (from actually recovering from the sprints now!), you’ll find that you can run a little longer at your top speed each time.
Whatever tweak you try, use your well-documented powers of observation and interpretation to determine its efficacy. Good luck!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Are Exercise Cool-Downs Necessary?

“For a long time, the theory was that cooling down by continuing to exercise at a lower intensity would help the legs flush out lactate” and avoid soreness the next day, said Ross Tucker, a South African physiologist and a founder of the website The Science of Sport. “That’s still dogma among many coaches and athletes.”

But it is a myth. “We now know that lactate isn’t responsible for muscle damage or soreness,” Dr. Tucker said, and cooling down does not rid muscles of it anyway.
The available scientific evidence shows, in fact, little benefit from cooling down as most of us do it, with a prolonged, slow easing of physical effort. In a representative 2007 study, healthy adults briskly walked for 30 minutes backward on a treadmill set at an incline to simulate going downhill, an activity known to induce sore muscles.

Some of the group warmed up first with a gentle, forward-facing 10-minute walk. Others did the same afterward, as a cool-down. A few did neither. Two days later, the walkers who had warmed up reported less muscle soreness than the others. But those who had cooled down were just as sore as those in the control group.

Which is not to say that you should abruptly end a workout. During lengthy, strenuous exercise, blood vessels in your legs expand, and blood can pool there if you shift suddenly from high to zero exertion, resulting in dizziness or fainting. A few minutes of jogging, walking or other light exertion will normalize blood flow, Dr. Tucker said.

Meanwhile, there is no evidence that longer cool-downs are harmful, Dr. Tucker pointed out, so if you enjoy cooling down, continue. You have little to lose, except time.

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Ultimate Guide To Improve Your Running With Strength Training

By Poliquin Group

Running teaches us that all things are possible. As awesome as running is for both our bodies and minds, there are some unfortunate pitfalls that even the best running program won’t prevent.

Nagging injuries, exhaustion, and the terrible realities of getting older, like fat gain and reduced speed can all be prevented with one simple tool: Strength training.

This article will tell you how lifting weights can improve your running (and your life!) with specific tips for making it happen.  Read More

Sunday, May 11, 2014

What to get at Costco and what to forget


Joining Costco can lead to big savings in your household budget. But you need to shop strategically, or that oversized shopping cart will fill up, even when you're just popping in for a few staples. The lack of signage in store aisles doesn't help matters. Knowing which products to avoid does—and that's where Consumer Reports' testing comes in. We've rated a slew of Costco products, from small everyday products, like dish detergent and paper towels, to mattresses, grills and other big-tickets items. Here are the winners and losers from our latest tests.

Costco winners   

Bacon. Mmm, bacon—to quote the great ham-loving Homer Simpson. We think he'd go along with our testers, who gave Kirkland Signature Regular Sliced Bacon, $14 for a 64-ounce package, top marks in our latest bacon test. The strips crisped up nicely, with a balance of fat and meat flavors, complemented by wood smoke and a hint of sweetness.
Car battery. Suitable for large cars, trucks, and sport-utility vehicles from Ford or Mercury, the Kirkland Signature 12866, $85, aced all of our tests, nearly beating out the category's top-rated pick from Interstate, which sells for $280. If you drive another type of vehicle, see our full battery Ratings, since there are other Kirkland batteries that performed very well in our tests, though they missed our recommended list.      
Coffeemaker. Costco's well-priced Mr. Coffee BVMC-EHX33CP, $30, is one of the highest scoring models in our Ratings of drip coffeemakers. Its brew performance was outstanding, and we also found it convenient and easy to handle. Programmable settings let you set when the machine starts to brew, helpful if you like waking up to the aroma of coffee.  
Ice cream. Beating out brands such as Breyers and Baskin-Robbins, the Kirkland Signature Super Premium Vanilla was described by our ice cream tasters as full and dense with big dairy flavor and complex vanilla-extract flavor, though some commented that it could be slightly gummy at times. It works out to about 30 cents per serving, compared with a dollar per serving for the top-rated Ben & Jerry's.    
Laundry detergent. Our winner's list of detergents that can be used in all types of washing machines includes the Kirkland Signature Ultra Clean, a CR Best Buy that works out to just 9 cents per load. The powder detergent was tough on grass, blood, and ring-around-the-collar. If you prefer the convenience of a laundry pod, consider the Kirkland Signature Ultra Clean Pacs, 14 cents per load.

Urban Islands 4-Burner by Bull

Costco losers

Gas grill. At $1,600, the Costco exclusive Urban Islands 4-Burner by Bull is actually more expensive than most midsize grills in our gas grill Ratings. And it's nowhere near as proficient as our top-rated models. It's particularly bad at maintaining even heat at high temperatures, a must for perfectly seared steaks. A better bet from Costco is the KitchenAid 720-0733A for $750, which misses our recommended list but was very good overall.
Gel dishwasher detergent. With an overall score of 34, the Kirkland Signature Gel is one of our lowest-rated detergents. It struggled with dishes, pots and pans, and resistance to water spots. But all is not lost in the Costco detergent aisle. While it fell short of our picks list, the Kirkland Signature Dishwasher Pacs was very good or better in each of our tests.
Facial tissue. With an overall score of 60, Kirkland Signature facial tissue, $1.23, is middle of the pack in our facial tissue Ratings. So-so strength is its big shortcoming, though the tissue is pretty soft. A better bargain buy is the Puffs Basic, $1.23, which combines superb softness with very good strength.    
Mattress. The best mattresses in our Ratings offer very good, if not excellent, support for back or side sleepers. Costco's $1,100 Ara 13" 100% Visco Memory Foam is just so-so for side sleepers and even worse for people who sleep on their back. It's also mediocre at providing stabilization.
Toilet paper. Though it's quite soft, Kirkland Signature toilet paper offers only so-so strength and tearing ease, making it an also ran in our toilet paper Ratings. Though it costs twice as much, White Cloud 3-Ply Ultra, a Walmart exclusive, combines superb strength and softness, making it our top-rated toilet paper by a wide margin.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The manifold beauty secrets enjoyed with spirulina


A rather simple algae plant by the name of spirulina has been creating headlines in the beauty industry for many days now, thanks to its superior skin enriching properties. Considered to be a magical cure for any kind of skin ailment out there, spirluina is fast becoming one of the most popular remedies for skin care.


A rather simple algae plant by the name of spirulina has been creating headlines in the beauty industry for many days now, thanks to its superior skin enriching properties. Considered to be a magical cure for any kind of skin ailment out there, spirluina is fast becoming one of the most popular remedies for skin care.

Listed below are some of the more common benefits one can enjoy by using spirulina on a regular basis.

Rich in Antioxidants
Spirulina is one of the most potent antioxidant agents as it contains all the known anti-oxidants, including B1, B5, B6 and C. Spirulina also contains Vitamin E and other minerals like zinc, copper, manganese, beta carotene and amino acid methionine, all of which help nourish the skin and retain its suppleness. Spirulina is also a rich source of gamma-linoleic acid which is considered very important to preserve the integrity of the skin’s muscles and cells. Gamma-linoleic acid also helps in the production of new cell membranes, thereby keeping the skin healthy and youthful for longer.
Rich in Amino Acids
The skin, connective tissues and muscles of the body are primarily made of amino acids. And Spirulina contains a total of over 18 amino acids to benefit the skin. The well balanced amino acids present in the plant are considered very essential to promote healthy and youthful looking skin.
Beauty Recipes using Spirulina
In most cases, spirulina is used in facial masks in order to prevent wrinkles, fine lines and other signs of premature aging. Facial masks containing spirulina as an active ingredient are also very effective in treating acne.
A simple homemade facial mask using spirulina would involve mixing some of the algae with water to make a paste which can be applied over the face for about 20 minutes. Washing the face after about 20 minutes would result in soft and smooth facial skin.
Spirulina can also be mixed with other ingredients normally used in facial masks. For instance, the plant (1 tablespoon of its powdered form) can be mixed with oatmeal (1 tablespoon) and sour cream (1 tablespoon). The ingredients need to be ground in order to form a paste which can then be applied on the face. Washing the face with cold water after about 20 minutes would make even the driest of skins soft and smooth. Continued use of this remedy for a week or so can also remove wrinkles and fine lines, thereby preventing premature aging.
Spirulina has many benefits for the skin, and can be used as an active ingredient in any facial or skin masks. Its potent antioxidant properties, coupled with the nutrients it houses, makes Spirulina one of the most beneficial remedies for the skin. So consider opting for this algae to treat your skin related issues.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Powerade drops controversial ingredient

from Associated Press

The ingredient, brominated vegetable oil, had been the target of a petition by a Mississippi teenager, who questioned why it was being used in a drink marketed toward health-conscious athletes. The petition on noted that the ingredient is linked to a flame retardant and is not approved for use in Japan or the European Union.
In response to customer feedback, PepsiCo said last year it would drop the ingredient from Gatorade. At the time, Coca-Cola declined to say whether it would remove the ingredient from the two flavors of Powerade that contain it as well.
But this week, bottles of Powerade in fruit punch and strawberry lemonade flavors being sold in the Detroit, Michigan; Omaha, Nebraska, New York and Washington, D.C. areas no longer list the ingredient. Some bottles still list it, however, suggesting Coca-Cola Co. may have started phasing it out recently.  Read More

Monday, May 5, 2014

Round-Number Times for Marathons

by By Alex Hutchinson

There was a neat blog post in the New York Times last week about the distribution of marathon times just under round-number barriers, based on a new study by a group of economists from USC, Berkeley, and the University of Chicago. Basically they used marathon finishing times as a way of studying how specific goals and expectations influence our behavior, testing ideas developed by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky (as discussed in Kahneman's bestseller Thinking, Fast and Slow a few years ago).

The headline graphic was this one, showing the distribution of finishing times from an amazing database of 9,378,546 marathon finishes, taken from marathons around the world dating back to 1970 (though 91% of the results are from 2000 or later, drawing from the database). It includes the 51 biggest American marathons, plus virtually all North American marathons since 2000, plus other major races from every continent. Here's the picture that emerges:

You can see the big spikes that occurs just under each hour, most half-hours, and if you look closely, many 10-minute increments. People really prefer to run 3:59 rather than 4:00, in the marathon as much as the mile! The NYT blog post gets into the economic theory of this, and is worth a read. But this isn't the only interesting nugget in the original paper, which goes into much greater detail to explore what's happening. For example, it runs detailed analyses on marathons with fewer than 200 people (to show that the pattern isn't a result of pace groups at big marathons), and on the intermediate splits of a subset of 852,526 runners. Another graph that I found interesting:

This one is a little trickier to read. It shows how much runners sped up or slowed down in the last 2.2K compared to their pace in the first 40K. If they maintained a perfectly even pace, the value on the vertical axis would be 1. Instead, you can see that on average everyone is slowing a bit by that stage, from ~5% (1.05) to ~14% (1.14). Not everyone slows by the same amount, of course: runners who are very close (on either side) to a round-number barrier are able to summon some extra energy to run a bit faster. Interestingly, the people who slow down most when it's clear they're going to miss their goal are the ~3:00 runners; those who speed up most when it's clear their goal is in reach are the 5:00 runners.
There's a similar pattern in this graph, which shows the proportion of runners at different finishing times who managed to speed up in the last 2.2K compared to their pace in the first 40K:

In this case, about 30% of runners on pace for 3:00 are able summon enough energy to speed up; in comparison, more than 40% of 5:00 runners are able to kick home. If you ignore the round-number spikes, there's also a similar background pattern: runners on pace for a non-round-number time between 4:30 and 5:00 are nonetheless more likely to be able to find an extra gear compared to runners on pace for times between 3:00 and 3:30.

What's my point? I've blogged a bunch recently on topics like pain tolerance and mental training -- the idea that as you train and get fitter, it's not just your body that is changing; your mind is too. You learn to sustain a higher level of relative effort, and leave less in reserve at the finish. That's what these results seem to show: when the finish line gets in range, slower runners are more likely to find they still have extra energy in the tank. Of course, these are just average results; there are clearly plenty of exceptions on an individual level. There are other possible contributing factors, too -- it could be that 3:00 marathoners tend be more optimistic (i.e. less realistic) in their goal setting, and thus are more likely to be slowing down near the finish. And experience in judging the right pace could play a role (though you'd expect that to work in the opposite direction: on average, it's actually the slowest runners who come closest to maintaining their pace in the final kilometres). Whatever the reason, the graphs suggest that fitter runners come closer to finishing with nothing left.
Anyway, it's interesting to see these patterns emerge from such a massive data set, and it will cool to see if the researchers do some more analysis to see what else they can find!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Why Fitness isn’t Cardio; You Can’t Play your Way into Shape


A female midfielder came to us wanting to improve her speed and ability to fight off defenders. We were impressed with her drive to improve considering she had just been awarded the Herman Trophy (given to the top male and female college soccer players). Her initial scan (below left) showed that her movement signature had low t scores for LOAD and EXPLODE, what we call a linear movement signature. When we found out what her training history was, we weren’t surprised. She was the soccer equivalent of a “gym rat,” spending all her time on the field and had almost no strength or explosive training history. She could run for days, and her ball skills were fantastic but when it came to closing down gaps quickly and using her body to shield off defenders, she simply didn’t have the strength. Her lack of speed, particularly “first step” speed was seen in her lack of LOAD, which we define as an athletes’ ability to create stiffness. Her low EXPLODE, an athletes’ ability to maintain stiffness, was the reason she felt weak on the ball. Athletes with good EXPLODE usually have very good trunk and upper body strength and that’s something she was definitely lacking.

When it comes to producing large force (LOAD, EXPLODE) you’re either born with it (SpartaPoint), or you need to build it (SpartaPoint). We prescribed a healthy dose of squats and dead lifts to increase her LOAD (SpartaPoint). These movements focus on the knee and ankle joints, as well as the anterior (force producing) leg muscles. And because the movements are performed on two legs, the overall intensity can be kept very high. We made sure of this by keeping the rest long and the reps low. Her fitness was already so good that we didn’t need to increase the density of her training (SpartaPoint). She needed to work on really high quality, high intensity efforts. We also made sure she was getting plenty of upper body work. This had two important effects. The first is that is increased her ability to maintain the new force she was producing with her legs . The second was that upper body workouts are a great way for sports with a high endurance demand (soccer, rugby, lacrosse) to increase endurance without taxing their already over trained legs (SpartaPoint). When you look at her movement signature now (upper right) it’s almost the mirror opposite of her initial scan. She now has what we call a lateral movement signature. The result for this athlete was a trip to the Women’s World Cup where she held off defenders better and was much faster closing down gaps.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

How To Make Your Own Energy-Saving Wool Dryer Balls

How would you like to never buy another fabric softener product again AND cut your laundry drying time in half???
Would you believe me if I told you these little woolen gems can do that?
Wool Dryer Balls save you money, energy and time by cutting the dryer’s drying time and by eliminating the need to buy softeners. When you use 4 balls in your dryer, you can cut your dryer time by 25-50%!

The balls circulate and separate the clothing and get the warm dry air right down to the core of the laundry load! The more balls you add, the faster the drying time. They also soften your clothes through gentle friction of the felted wool fibers against your clothing fibers. And as if that weren’t enough…..they LAST for YEARS!
I immediately fell in LOVE with this idea when I saw in on The Sleepy Time Gal.  They couldn’t be simpler to make (all you need is some wool yarn, and a pair of pantyhose) and I just LOVE how PRACTICAL they are! I actually think these would make a wonderful gift! (Making mental note.)

Start with a skein of 100% WOOL yarn. (This cost me about $5 and I got four balls out of it.)

To start your ball, wrap the yarn around your fingers about 20 times and then slip it off and wrap the yarn around the middle of that circle you just made about 20 more times.

 Now pinch the beginnings of your yarn ball together and keep wrapping! Make sure you wrap it nice and tight.

 Pretty soon you will have something that looks like this. Tuck the end of the yarn under some of the other strands of yarn to secure.
Repeat above steps until you’ve made 4 or more balls.

Now you are ready to give them the “felting” treatment. You are going to need one leg of a pair of pantyhose or tights. Put the first ball into the toe of the pantyhose and secure it there with a piece of embroidery floss or acrylic yarn. Do NOT use wool yarn, you don’t want this to felt.
Toss the pantyhose “snake” into the washer (the hotter the water the better) and then into the dryer (again, the hotter the better. Speeds up the felting process.)

 This is how they will look after the first felting. The fibers have fused and it’s much smoother and tighter. At this point you can do another layer of yarn and “felt” again if you want a larger sized ball. I chose to leave mine as is. Keep in mind they will get slightly smaller over time as they continue to felt.

 You just made your own wool dryer balls! Go ahead, give them a spin! If you want, you can even add a couple of drops of essential oil to the balls before you throw them in the dryer. I used 1 – 2 drops of lavender on each one and my clothes came out smelling sooooooo nice!!!  I think the scent should last through several loads!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

What Not to Do Before Your Triathlon Race


Don’t Try Anything New

While some athletes actually say don’t try anything new, I completely agree, but I always think that you end up trying something new anyway. But really don’t try something new at a big race. If what you were planning doesn’t go as planned, it can derail your mind and screw up the entire day. And this is all because you should have known better to not try something new on race day.

Don’t Go to A Race With No Plan

Racing plans have a purpose, just like new parents have a birthing plan. It’s a schedule of exactly how you want the day to go. A good racing plan has contingencies included regarding problems that may or may not occur on the event day.

If the plan is written down, you can continually rehearse and refine it so you know it by memory. We do this in the military by having a briefing before a mission so that everyone is on the same page. A coach should help develop your plan, but you should never go to a race without one. Otherwise, you are setting yourself up for failure

Don’t Train Too Much

Don’t give in to the voices telling you to get in more training the week of your race because you don’t feel ready. I have to constantly remind my athletes to stay relaxed and convince them that the training has been accomplished and it will all play out on race day. It’s not that they aren’t actually ready, but they feel unready usually due to their friends or training partners continuing to train hard before the same or different race.

An athlete can be his or her own worst enemy, and doing tough workouts the week of your big race can completely ruin everything you have worked for. Tapering is a challenge for most athletes, so you’re not alone. But knowing you should try to focus on not training too much the week of your race is key. I constantly tell my athletes that it is better to be 10% undertrained than 1% overtrained. You can make up that 10% on race day, but once you are overtrained, it takes time to recover back to your normal self.

Don’t Think You Can Race Well Without Warming Up

Some athletes think they can just show up and do well. Wrong. You need to warm up if you expect to do well. I realize you may not be able to swim prior to your race, but bringing stretch cords is a way to mimic the swimming motion. If you feel that you don’t have time, doing some dynamic stretches ahead of time is a great and quick to get the blood moving.

Getting your muscles ready for race day can help get you great results. That means warming up when you are running anything from a 5km to a marathon-distance race. Your marathon warm up may not be long, but it’s better than feeling stiff, slow, and sluggish when you start. If you don’t warm up for your race, then you can expect crappy results.

Don’t Quit

You may be having of the worst days of your athletic career, but if you aren’t being carried off on a stretcher or your bike isn’t completely broken in half, there isn’t any real reason to quit a race early. Even for you professional athletes, all endurance events should be finished even if you have to walk to the finish.

You’d be surprised what you can learn about yourself, about others, and more when you take a different perspective on a day that you just want to quit. I am guilty of this and it wouldn’t be right of me if I didn’t say that I haven’t quit, because I have. At the event in question, I was sick with food poisoning and made it through the swim and bike, but I was just three miles into the run when I quit. Looking back I regret that decision. I wish I had stuck it out and to this day I still think about it.

So don’t just quit unless you have some serious reason as to why you can’t continue. It’s the tough days at your race that will help define your character and motivate you in the future to push through the temporary pain.