Thursday, November 20, 2014

Strength Training for the Lazy?

In my quest for More Strong I've stumbled across 'Body by Science', a high intensity weight training program which claims you can get all the exercise you need, both strength and cardiovascular, in just 12 minutes a week.  The catch is that you're only supposed to do 12 minutes a week.  For those who hate exercise and are pressed for time this is hardly a catch but for those like me who love to be active and outside a lot this is a prison sentence.  But I'm intrigued.  But I'm also feeling like how can I make this work?  If you're doing a sport you're 'allowed' to work on skills during your recovery week but no more physical conditioning.  Now to be fair this program is completely contra-indicative to triathlon training.  The creator, Doug McGuff, is very much opposed to running and other forms of 'chronic cardio' and endurance sports.  And I can't say as I don't share his concerns.  Here's an interesting video by a cardiologist and runner.

And yes there are alternative points of view.  But nonetheless I've been aware of the issues surrounding endurance training and heart health for at least 7-8 years now and it was instrumental in my switch from wanting to train for a half ironman to doing offroad/Xterra triathlons.  In general the recommendations for most health benefits and least damage are no more than 12 hours per week of training and running should be 1-2 1/2 hours per week spread over 2-3 runs, 10-15 miles per week and no faster than 10 min/mile pace, though I believe sprint/interval training is supposed to be good.  Now for me a 10 min./mile pace is near sprint pace but that's another post.  Anyway, I'm not willing to give up these activities that I love but I am willing to sacrifice training for performance for training for health and I kept my training hours to around 10 hours per week for high volume weeks last summer with a couple weeks heading into the 12 hour range.  This is not the sort of training that necessarily gets someone like me to the podium at Nationals but it's a good compromise of health/performance and I felt sufficiently pushed without being overtrained.  The ultimate damage/benefit to my heart is a complete unknown.

So I'm not sure where this leaves me with the Body by Science protocol.  It seems that I can continue to swim my skills/drills masters workouts.  Maybe even include one USRPT/sprint workout?  But running remains a black box.  I was hoping to really focus on running this winter, especially form and it seems maybe I can do that but sprints/interval training are out of the question or maybe only once a week if I don't so my swim sprints.  I'm going to give it a shot though.  If I feel like I can handle it or I'm pushing myself towards overtraining I'll simply stop and go back to my regular weight training.
 But one weight training session a week is so appealing.  I hates weight training and now that I don't have my boot camp class it's all the more difficult to stay motivated. 

And this sounds like it could be a great program for agility people looking to get into shape and/or people who hate to exercise or are very pressed for time.  In perusing online forums and blogs about the program it seems that anecdotally there are people having success.  Seems like the biggest issue is that the program is centered around the notion of pushing the muscle to failure and that for some people this can be difficult to achieve unless you have a coach or training partner at your session with you.  And also that you can eventually develop an aversion to the training  because it is so hard and unpleasant and this was my experience with the Tabata sprints experiment.  Even though the workout was very short I'd start dreading it an hour beforehand.  But I'm open minded here, mind over matter or whatever.  I'm hoping to start this Saturday and I'll post updates.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

And the Award for 'Worst Nutrition Advice on the Internets' Goes to . . .

USA Triathlon and their article on how we should all eat more bread and wheat and gluten and white flour.  I don't even know where to start with this, makes my head want to explode.  And the author is a coach and registered dietician which only adds to my conviction that registered dieticians are the absolute very last people we should be listening to.  Her main argument is that bread contains B vitamins, iron and fiber and we all need those things.  And it's true that bread contains those things if the flour has been enriched.  But you know what else contains those things?  Vegetables.  And they contain about 3-4 times the amount that bread has.  The bread I used to buy, Rudy's Organic Colorado Cracked Wheat, contains 6% US RDA of iron and 8% fiber.  A cup of cooked spinach contains 36% iron and 17% fiber plus a whole lot of other vitamins and minerals and other good stuffs.  And no gluten.  Various types of meats and seafood are also way higher in iron and B vitamins, some like liver and mollusks provide 129-155% iron.  And no gluten.

Which brings me to perhaps the most aggravating claim in the article, that, "Most of us (97 percent) digest wheat and its protein, gluten, just fine," when in fact 0% of us digest wheat gluten.  This week I've been immersing myself in free online lectures at the Autoimmune Summit and pretty much every single expert lists giving up gluten as the number one thing you can do to help with an autoimmune disease.  And so far pretty much all the practitioners I've heard speak have said that all their patients with autoimmune diseases also have gluten sensitivity (and not necessarily celiac disease which very few people have).  The only lab in the country that tests extensively for gluten sensitivity is Cyrex and it's mostly functional medicine doctors that order these tests, not conventional MD's.  You can have gluten sensitivity and not have GI symptoms.  And you maybe can tolerate gluten until suddenly maybe you can't.  I know, people love to roll their eyes when you mention gluten.  They call it a fad and it'll go away.  Except I don't think it's going to.  Only going to get worse as the generations march on.  Even South Park gets it.

So yeah, let's eat more bread and pasta and nutrient poor processed food.  Because the obesity and diabetes levels in this country aren't high enough.

Edited to add:
A quick Google search of the author reveals that her 'primary areas of expertise include focus group moderating and meeting facilitation' and that her 'clients include the grocery industry, leading food companies, and public relations firms. She has worked closely with government agencies, trade associations, and other non-governmental organizations.'  So yeah, it's her job to promote the food industry and make them look not so evil.  So important to vet the sources of nutrition info. on the nets. Shame on USA Triathlon for serving as a vehicle for the food industry though I can't say I'm surprised.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

On Strike

Been enjoying my off season/recovery month.  Perfect weather, the nicest fall I can remember ever, anywhere.  Lots of hiking, walks w/ dogs, Kangoo jump boots, even some agility - I know, shock horror.  I've been doing my strength training at the playground.  Very fun.  Very challenging.  First time I tried it I did 20 minutes worth and it felt like nothing then I woke up the next morning and couldn't move for 2 days.  Lots of little experiments planned.  Too many in fact, had to cut down and I think the first one getting the axe for now is ketosis.  Partly because I'd have to pony up just over $100 for a ketosis meter but mostly because - Sweet Potato Season!  I love sweet potatoes.  But they don't go with ketosis so much.  Again I could buy a meter and see how much if any I could eat and stay in ketosis but . . . yeah, too much money and hassle for now.  It's still on my list of experiments, just moved to the bottom.

The big thing I'm working on right now is my running.  It's the one thing that didn't improve this year despite what felt like a lot of hard speed work.  So I've decided to focus on form this fall and there are lots of methods to choose from.  For now I've decided on Kelly Starrett's 'Ready to Run' book, hot off the presses.

He's a bit controversial I think, especially amongst triathlon folks/runners probably because his focus is Crossfit.  But I like his 'systems approach' to running.  He outlines 12 steps to take to prepare the body for running and these include mobility exercises for various systems of the body to improve range of motion, restore function, etc.  I have a suspicion that these range of motion limitations are a big part of what's holding me back.

Step number 2 of this program involves building up strength in the foot by walking around barefoot when possible and otherwise wearing flat (zero drop), minimally or uncushioned shoes with the end result of being able to run in such shoes.  And I suspect this will be the biggest issue for me because right now I have mega-cushioned stability shoes and custom orthotics.  And despite several years of trying to change my stride I'm still a heel striker.  Big time.  My feet are not so fabulous either.  I'll spare you the tedious details of all my issues but I've had foot surgery that included sawing through my big toe and reattaching it with pins and plates.  And I've got broken sesmoid bones in both feet (the sesmoid bones are in the forefoot).  So I've spent maybe 20 years avoiding landing on my forefoot in addition to 14 years of cushioned stability shoes and custom orthotics.

The podiatrist told me my foot problems arose as a result of wearing flat, unsupportive shoes so I'm very leery of drinking the Kool-Aid of minimalist running shoes.  And don't even get me started about the myth of it's impossible to heel strike in a pair of uncushioned, flat shoes or while running barefoot.  Because I just saw a video of an agility competitor running in 3 different styles of flat shoes including the Vibram 5 Fingers and she was heel striking in all 3 of them.  One of the runners in the promo video for Kelly's own book is heel striking!

Check out the runner heel striking at around 44 seconds.

And how big of an issue is heel striking anyway?  I honestly don't know.  There are disadvantages to forefoot striking.  Plus for me all the hardware and broken bones in my forefoot.

But I do like the idea of building up strength in my feet and if I have any complaints about the book so far it's that there are only mobility exercise for the foot, no specific foot strengthening exercises.  You're supposed to rely on barefoot walking and minimalist shoe usage to build up the strength.  So I set out yesterday to get a pair of cheapo flat gym shoes at the local Payless only to discover that it's fallen victim to the mansionification of Boulder, ie rich folk don't buy their shoes at Payless and Boulder is so overrun with rich folks.  Middle class/working class pretty much gone.  And real estate prices/rentals are going through the roof again.  Not sure what I'm still doing here but that's a post for another day.

Anyway I ended up at Boulder Running Company which is the last place I wanted to end up somehow it sucked me in and I ended up with a ridiculously expensive pair of zero drop but minimally cushioned shoes.

Very comfy, very purple.  I do love the purple.  Probably too much cushion for what Kelly was intending but the only zero drop shoes in the joint and they're probably a good transition for me given all my issues.  Something in between the super minimalist and the super cushion.  Might not build up the foot strength as much at first but again maybe a good transition for now until I get used to the taste of the Kool-Aid.

But despite the minimal drop and lighter cushioning, I'm still heel striking though admittedly not nearly as bad as in my regular shoes.

First 2 clips are in regular shoes the rest are in the new shoes

The plan is baby steps.  I'll spend 2 months just walking in these things, first just a mile on Lola's old dog walk then increasing gradually to a longer, faster Strummer walk.  Then the protocol is for 10% of total distance and gradually increasing I think by 10% each week but I may go even slower than that.  I'm going to wear them for my plyometrics and playground strength training as well.  I'll shoot more video in a month or so to see if there's any improvement.  There's definitely a change in stride with these shoes and I think I'll like it but I'll need to read more in the book to see what else is going on.

Oh for the days of being able to run around like a little kid without so much thought or risk of injury.