How Dr. Phil (not that one) is helping my running

I’m sweet enough already

Today’s run (street): 4.25 miles
Yesterday’s workout (Treadmill and elliptical): 40 minutes
Tuesday’s run (street): 3.5 miles

Roses are red, violets are blue, sugar is sweet and so bad for you. I recently read Christopher McDougal’s newest book, “Natural Born Heros” that at one point focused on Dr. Phil Maffetone whose methods have helped many elite athletes increase performance. The key takeaway for me is that most assumptions about fueling athletes are incorrect.

Two examples of this both relate to hydration. One, that runners are at much higher risk of dying from water intoxication than from dehydration. The point being that humans are made to endure long periods without water and that’s why we are successful hunters. The other example is that hydration drinks like Gatorade, that contain large amounts of sugar, provide little benefit compared to the damage they do. High sugar drinks will spike both glucose levels and insulin response and can contribute to disease, inflammation, depression and increased body fat.

A lot has been written about how processed foods, especially those with refined sugar, are quickly stored in the body and become very difficult to burn. I started thinking about my own diet, which is pretty good compared to many, but it’s higher in sugar and simple carbs than it should be. I decided to address this in a logical way that doesn’t require a big change. I believe this has already yielded benefits.

I currently eat a vegetable-rich diet and that won’t change. I get protein from high quality sources (mostly chicken, turkey, nuts or tofu) and that won’t change either. But I am reducing the amount of refined carbs I ingest (far fewer) and sugars of any type that have anything more than a low (value of 10 or less) glycemic load.  An important aspect of these changes is that I am increasing the amount of time I wait between any meal and any snack that follows it. This is to prevent insulin spikes that promote the conversion of glucose to stored fat.

It’s been about 10 days since I made these changes and I believe there’s something to it. I haven’t sacrificed much except cutting a few hundred sugar-heavy calories from my daily intake. I’ve lost a couple of pounds and my energy level is noticeably higher, while my crankiness level is lower (Mrs. ER debates this but I know better). Work pressure is high right now, but I’m feeling far less stress than I usually would.

That’s all well and good, but here’s the best part. Today I had my best run of the year. It wasn’t my fastest, and it certainly wasn’t effortless, but not once did I wish for the run to end. I felt like I did back in 2011, when my running was at its peak. I took a few opportunities to throw in speed during the run and snapped back without feeling overtaxed when I resumed my natural pace. I felt great in both mind and body.

Will I feel the same tomorrow when I run? I hope so, but I know that every run is different and I’ve had bad runs follow good ones. I may not achieve today’s level of energy and spirit, but I think these practical changes have yielded real results. It’s hard to believe such a simple change could provide so much improvement. It will be interesting to see if I feel this way in a couple of weeks.

Heroism by the book

A worthy sequel

Today’s run (street): 3.2 miles
Thursday’s workout (elliptical): 30 minutes

I’m reading an interesting book by Chris McDougall called Natural Born Heros (NBHs). McDougall wrote Born to Run, which launched the minimalist running movement. That craze has since given way to maximalist, pontoon-like trainers from Hoka and other shoe companies, but I still love my Kinvaras. Natural Born Heros is about athleticism and self defense that is developed through practical need rather than controlled competition.

The through-line story in NBHs is about how Churchill’s special agents worked with Cretan shepherds and farmers to significantly disrupt Hitler’s progress toward Russia during WWII. Like Born to Run, McDougall writes a lot of about physiology, especially the role the fascia plays in energy efficiency and power. I’m only halfway through the book but I understand running technique is discussed further in the story.

This was a particularly busy work week for me, so much so that I ended up going into the office every day. I count on my work-from-home Fridays for one of my weekly runs. Knowing that wasn’t going to happen, I did an elliptical workout the night before. This morning I needed to get back to the road, but that didn’t go too well. I can’t explain it, but I couldn’t really get going this morning. I tried to appreciate the pleasant weather and the fact that I wasn’t stuck on the treadmill. All the same, I was glad when the run was over.

If I’m up to it, I may head to Bethpage tomorrow and would like to cover at least five miles. My running buddy SIOR is up in Kennebunk for the 2016 Shipyard Maine Coast Marathon. She’s running it with a friend who’s doing his first marathon. I’m wishing them both lots of fun and I’m hoping she breaks 3:30!