Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

How not to teach a bull frog to play a video game...

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

"Why The New York Times GPS Running Article Missed The Boat"

This was on my ever-growing list of things to do a post about.  Happily this guy did a far better job than I was even planning on.

The Times usually misses the boat, btw.  That's a fairly safe bet.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Eccentric Heel Drops for Achilles Tendinopathy

My first choice would be to walk or run uphill, and ensure your heel touches the ground at each step.  This is what I've used for Achilles' tendon issues in my bad leg.  (My bad leg is now my good leg, at least for the time being.)

If you can't for whatever reason do that, an eccentric heel drop is the exact same movement.

But, since it's come up, folks have asked for some decent videos.

I'd first suggest listening to this podcast by the (insane) Doctor HÃ¥kan Alfredson [P.S. podcast at new location] who invented the eccentric heel drop while trying to rupture his Achilles' tendon so his boss would have to operate on it and relieve him of his Achilles tendonopathy.  Instead, he cured it.  Whoops.

Having done that, and determining that you most definitely do not want Dr. Alfredson scraping your tendons to sever the nerves, you can try his exercises.

The videos below are the training for a study to evaluate the usefulness of orthotics for treating achilles tendinopathy.
"Achilles tendinopathy is a common condition that can cause marked pain and disability. Numerous non-surgical treatments have been proposed for the treatment of this condition, but many of these treatments have a poor or non-existent evidence base. The exception to this is eccentric calf muscle exercises, which have become a standard non-surgical intervention for Achilles tendinopathy."
The videos look useful, and are based on Alfredson's protocol. I'd skip the marshmallow shoes shown in the video, and do them barefoot. I'd also avoid orthotics... But that's just me. (I'd also avoid taking any medical advice from any doctor from Latrobe University, where this study is being conducted, as the quack Dr. Payne is a professor of podiatry there.  I'll not link to Dr. Payne's site again, but you can find it at the bottom of that link.)

I'll also note that Dr. Alfredson says that the bent-knee heel drops are crucial.  Did I mention that you should listen to his podcast before trying out these exercises?

One more observation: I'm not a doctor, or a physical therapist, just a foot-deformed westerner trying to run the way I was born to.  Also, you should never believe anything you read on the internet, it's all crap.

OK, now that the caveats are out of the way, here are the videos.  I'll note that the videos are also available for download in the study (search for m4v in that page).

P.S. Lest you think I'm being too tough on Latrobe, and podiatrists, Dr. Munteanu, who is conducting the aforementioned study, has this advice:
"...If you are a runner, ensure that you have your footwear professionally fitted and replace your runners [sneakers] at least every 500km/6 months...."
I wonder if that's been shown to be effective?  Anyway...

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

"Barefoot Running Shoes The Biggest Shoe Trend Of 2011, Poll Finds"

We're trend-setters.
26% Barefoot/minimalism
18% Vintage/Americana
15% Lightweight running
10% Espadrilles
If you include "Lightweight running" with "Barefoot/minimalist", it's even more dominant. Throw in "Espadrilles", and it's over 50%. (Not all espadrilles are flat...)

Monday, December 19, 2011

"Folks, This Ain't Normal"

Darya Pino reviews Joel Salatin's book.  Salatin, if you're not familiar with him, is the man who just might save the world.

If we listen to him.

"...Joel is a thinker, and just a few pages into the book it is clear that he has a more intimate understanding of these topics than most experts and advocates could even dream of. Folks, This Ain’t Normal is by far the best ecology lesson I’ve ever had, and I try to be a responsible person and keep up on sustainable food issues. While most people discuss this subject academically, Joel actually knows how an ecosystem works, because he works with one every day back at Polyface Farm. For example, despite the cries of some environmentalists to do away with cows and replace them with tofu (aka soy beans), Joel explains in detail while a tillage-based crop like soy depletes soil, while a grass-based system of herbivore feeding builds and protects soil, and is necessary for environmental sustainability.

Food politics is another topic where Joel’s position runs flatly against conventional wisdom. Most of us in the food movement agree that Monsanto is the devil, and Joel is no different. But while most foodists lean liberal and think more regulation is the answer, Joel explains why those very regulations are what protect the big companies and put small farms like his out of business (exactly what Monsanto wants). So contrary to what you might guess, his position on this topic is strictly laissez faire...."
Sounds terrific.

Friday, December 16, 2011

"Want To Run a 100 Mile Ultra?"

I do. Sadly, life circumstances make going to Jackson Hole to film a reality TV show impractical.

If you're more flexible, this sounds like a fabulous opportunity:

"Team Impossible Productions is developing an online series and television show that will follow a lucky group of 6 along their own Born to Run [BTR] experience with BTR coach Eric Orton. We're taking an incredible physical, mental, and emotional journey to achieve The Cool Impossible... and YOU could be part of it all."

Corrupt Medicine

"...Not surprisingly, in July 2011 an influential Harvard Medical School faculty, famous for his research and teaching about the diagnosis and treatment of Bipolar Disorder in children, was sanctioned by Harvard for not disclosing over a million dollars in fees by the pharmaceutical companies. The same story is unfortunately familiar to us in many different industries today. Powerful corporations motivated by profit, manipulate the consensus reality, and disseminate disinformation that has nothing to do with science or public health...."
Cutely politically-correct diagnosis.  But the problem here is not with the "powerful corporations motivated by profit", it's with Harvard; which sanctioned, rather than fired, faculty members who violated their trust.  Harvard's a non-profit, but that doesn't mean they're saintly.  Unfortunately this sort of slack-minded thinking of attributing all evil to "corporations" is all to common.

Here's the full story:
"...For more than a decade, Biederman and his colleagues aggressively promoted the diagnosis and use of antipsychotics to treat childhood bipolar disorder, a problem that once was largely believed to be confined to adults. But the docs maintained this was underdiagnosed in kids and the meds could be used for treatment, even though they had not been approved for most pediatric use at the time. Meanwhile, the relationships with drugmakers were never properly disclosed (back story).

"And for years, payments they received from drugmakers were not thoroughly reported to university officials. Yet, millions of dollars in NIH grants, which were administered by the hospital, were awarded to the docs at the same time they were receiving money from various drugmakers that make and sell antipsychotics and antidepressants. Which ones? Eli Lilly, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline and Bristol-Myers Squibb.

"At one point, Biederman pushed J&J to fund a research center at MassGen that would focus on the use of its Risperdal antipsychotic in children, well before the med was approved for pediatric use. He was then placed in charge of the institute and began a study of 40 children between 4 and 6 years old who were given Risperdal and Lilly’s Zyprexa, another antipsychotic. At the time, Harvard and MGH rules forbid researchers from running trials with drugmakers if they receive more than $10,000 from a company that makes the drug (back story)....
For this, he received a spanking:
"...In a mea culpa addressed to their colleagues, Joseph Biederman, Thomas Spencer and Timothy Wilens wrote that “we want to offer our sincere apologies to HMS and MGH communities…We always believed we were complying in good faith with the institutional polices and our mistakes were honest ones. We now recognize that we should have devoted more time and attention to the detailed requirements of these policies and to their underlying objectives.”

And what is their punishment? They must refrain from “all industry-sponsored outside activities” for one year; for two years after the ban ends, they must obtain permission from the med school and the hospital before engaging in any of these activities and they must report back afterward; they must undergo certain training and they face delays before being considered for promotion or advancement (you can read their letter here)...."
What's missing from this story?  Any accusation that the  "powerful corporations motivated by profit" did anything wrong.  The doctors clearly did, and the University didn't exercise any oversight over its staff.

As this piece puts it:
"Drug manufacturers are hardly the only ones to blame--American children are being victimized by a consortium of influential psychiatrists at prestigious academic institutions--a list of about 30 KOLs (key opinion leaders in psychiatry) is contained in one of the J&J Risperdal documents; psychiatry's professional associations lend their "authoritative" support to this crime--as do a bevy of industry-financed patient "advocacy" groups. As if that were not enough, government agencies that were established to protect the public health and the scientific process have also come under the influence of industry.

"These commercially-driven stakeholders are condemning children to a life of drug dependency and drug-induced disabling chronic physical and mental illnesses...."
Emphasis in the original.

Here's the cherry on top:
"...Dr. Biederman is the researcher whose 'science' the FDA said it was leaning upon when it decided that pediatric bipolar disorder was a valid diagnosis back in July...."
P.S. "Johnson & Johnson fined $1.1bn for misleading doctors over anti-psychotic drug Risperdal":
"J&J, which is America's second-biggest drug company, said that 'an individual state should not penalise a pharmaceutical company for using a Federal Drug Agency-approved package insert or decide for itself whether a company complies with FDA rules'".
That's a good one.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

How To Save Your Local Running Store

Or, Local Running Stores: YOU ARE GOING TO DIE!!!  (I like my title better, Jason's will probably get more hits. :)

But he's spot on.  Hopefully the local running store won't join the local buggy-whip store. 

(That buggy-whip link is awesome, by the way.  Love the 'net.)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

"Sleeping With The Enemy: What You Get From Your Pet"

File this under "Risk Averse, Irrational", or maybe "Scientists, Unable to Understand Cause and Effect":
"Persons, especially young children or immunocompromised persons, should be discouraged from sharing their bed with their pets or regularly kissing their pets…. Although uncommon with healthy pets, the risk for transmission of zoonotic agents by close contact between pets and their owners through bed sharing, kissing or licking is real and has even been documented for life-threatening infections."
To justify this warning, they cite 12, one dozen, cases of people who got a horrible disease and had an animal that was infected with the same disease.

One example given is this:
"...A 48-year-old man with diabetes and his wife had recurrent MRSA infections. Culture of nares samples from the family dog grew mupirocin-resistant MRSA that had a PFGE chromosomal pattern identical to the MRSA isolated from the patient’s nares and his wife’s wound. The couple reported that the dog routinely slept in their bed and frequently licked their faces…."
Poor dog. It caught MRSA from licking its infected owners' faces. That's right. From the above paragraph it's impossible to determine who acquired MRSA from whom.  It's exactly as likely that the dog got it from the people as the other way around. Who could tell?  Were the people and the dog both tested prior to the licking to see who was MRSA-free?  Unlikely.  (Given that MRSA is commonly acquired by immune-compromised people who visit our lovely healthcare system, I'd say it's most likely that the dog caught it from the people.)

Another example:
"A 2008 matched case–control study surveyed 9 plague survivors, 12 household members of these survivors, and 30 age- and neighborhood-matched controls about household and individual exposures. Four (44%) survivors … reported sleeping in the same bed with a pet dog …."
Some of those folks may have gotten plague from fleas they got from the dog, or may just as likely they and the dog got fleas from rodents in their house.  That's the usual vector for getting plague.  One imagines they weren't letting the rats sleep in their beds...

As far as the irrationally risk averse part goes, twelve bad outcomes out of the millions of folks who sleep with pets and don't get any horrible diseases yields incredibly low odds of something bad actually happening.

For the record: I grew up sleeping with a dog, and nothing bad ever happened to me.  The dog, and us, did wind up with fleas for a spell.  Not fun, but not the plague, either.

Now, in my tick-infested neighborhood the dog sleeps on the floor.  We regularly find ticks on our floor: that's what you call a real risk. 

So yes, you're better off not sleeping with your pet.  But if you do, don't lose sleep over it.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Friday, December 9, 2011

"The 100 Most Influential People in Health and Fitness 2011"

This is a silly list.  It's all over the place, with no attempt to rank for quality, or even coherence.

But it's nice to see some familar names on the list:
  • 4. Tim Ferriss Fitness, Author of The 4-Hour Body
  • 26. Mark Sisson Health, Paleo Expert
  • 35. Robb Wolf Health, Paleo Expert
  • 56. Gary Taubes Health, Author
  • 84. Danny Dreyer Fitness, Co-Founder of ChiRunning
 They forgot Chris McDougall.  Or Dr. Nicholas Romanov...  Heck, Jimmy Moore. But like I said, it's a silly list.

The Ultimate Foot Strike

A lot of Brooks logos in that video. ;)  Thanks to Runblogger.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Bent Big Toes And The Genesis Of Metatarsal Stress Fractures

My friend Joe Maller posted:
"I do think the incidence of second met stress fractures probably has a lot to do with neglecting the hallux set. If the big toe is weak or underutilized, mechanical loading seems to shift to the outer toes. This is often seen as 'duck-walking' where people walk with their feet canted outwards; they're making up for lack of big-toe stability by spreading their feet."
Joe, like me, has benefitted significantly from Lee Saxby's (and Jay Dicharry's) advice on pressing down and therefore engaging the big toe while running.

His comment crystalized something I've been thinking about since applying this advice myself, and re-reading D'Aout's paper, The effects of habitual footwear use: foot shape and function in native barefoot walkers (PDF).
D'aout et al found:
"Applying this statistical method to the three groups revealed highly significant differences between [Shod Indian] and [Western] and most clearly, between [Barefoot Indian] and W. Western subjects displayed higher relative pressures in the heel and under the second to third metatarsal head, but lower relative pressures in the midfoot and the toe region (Figure 9)."
In figure 6 from that paper, you can clearly see the difference in where pressure is applied between barefoot and shod feet.

If you're not engaging your big toe (the highest pressure point in the bare foot), your body needs to bear that weight somewhere, so it goes on the next-best place, the second and third met heads.

There's the genesis of your second and third metatarsal stress fractures.
This is not good. See that bent big toe?

Why doesn't the big toe engage more? I tried this test on my thumb (the equivalent structure from the hand): straighten your thumb out to the side so you can effect maximum pressure when pushing, and push hard. Feels fine. (I wound up hurting my hand doing this next step: I don't suggest repeating.) Then try bending your thumb toward the other fingers and press. Much less pressure, and it hurts. Since the big toe is bent, by your shoes, you can't engage the same pressure. 

This is something Mark Cucuzzella talks about, and is the reason he wears Correct Toes when running shod. (Mark's also a fan of Jay's advice about pressing the big toe.)

Now as Pete Larson observes (in a post also inspired by Joe):
"...Clearly, fractures of the 2nd metatarsal are occurring in individuals who give minimalist running a try (for example, check out this great post by Joe Maller), but it’s also important to keep in mind that this is the most common type of foot fracture in shod runners as well. The big question, for which we don’t yet have an answer, is whether incidence is in fact higher among minimalist runners...."
Sadly, we're missing an important bit of information here: the incidence of second (and third) metatarsal stress fractures among the habitually barefoot.  A quick search of Google Scholar for the phrase "metatarsal stress fracture barefoot india" turns up nothing.

But, this study, Comparison of static and dynamic biomechanical measures in military recruits with and without a history of third metatarsal stress fracture, and this article, Pronation in runners: Implications for injury offer two hints, confirming Joe's hypothesis:
"...If the big toe is weak or underutilized, mechanical loading seems to shift to the outer toes. This is often seen as 'duck-walking' where people walk with their feet canted outwards; they're making up for lack of big-toe stability by spreading their feet."
The Pronation article includes the following image (included with explanatory caption):

Figure 1. Rearfoot eversion during the stance phase of running in an uninjured, recreational runner. (A) At heel-strike, the foot is in a neutral or slightly inverted position. (B) At mid-stance, the foot is in a position of maximum eversion

"Duck-walking" is known in scientific terms as "rearfoot eversion", as you can see.  That picture looks very familiar to me: I run like the guy in B, although as I continue engaging my big toe, I look more and more like A.

And sure enough, from the Military Stress Fracture paper:
"During running, peak rearfoot eversion was found to occur significantly earlier for the stress fracture group than for their matched controls, suggesting an increase in time spent loading the forefoot. The peak applied resultant horizontal force during the braking phase was directed significantly more laterally for the stress fracture group. In addition, the peak magnitude of resultant horizontal force applied during the propulsion phase was significantly lower for the stress fracture subjects."
 Dr. Simon Wikler offers a similar description in his book Take Off Your Shoes And Walk:
"...when baby first starts to walk, he stands with his feet pointed out in a fallen-arched manner in order to balance himself. For a toddler this is normal. When a few months later, he acquires strength (if his feet and toes have not been weakened and distorted by shoes), he will by himself abandon the fallen-arched gait and stance."
Sadly, for Joe, myself, and the majority of the shod world, our feet never get the chance to develop normally.  Our development is retarded by wearing shoes all the time; we never properly develop our hallux, or worse, it's deformed, as in the picture of Mark Cucuzzella's feet above; and we suffer the resultant injuries of metatarsal-cuboid joint pain and iliotibial band syndrome (my case) or stress fractures of the over-stressed second and third metatarsal bones (Joe's case).

And just to be clear: these are not injuries of barefoot-style running.  These are injuries caused by the wearing of shoes.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Skora Finally Available?

Skora Form
Most of us had long since given up on these ever becoming available.  Contrary to our pessimistic expectations, they seem to be nearing production.

Let's hope they make it.

Thanks to Alex Koolhof.

Altra Adam Review

At Running and Rambling.  They sound nice.  I wonder if I can try them on around here...

I'm really looking forward to their Samson model, with laces.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Nettle Stew

No wonder the Romans got such a harsh reception in the British Isles.  Would you want to share your nettle stew?

"There are even containers of food, including a bowl with a wooden spoon still wedged into the contents, now analysed as nettle stew, which may have been a favourite dish in 1000BC."

"Favourite" may be overstating it.  If it had been a favourite, why not finish it?

"The scale, quality and condition of the objects, the largest bronze age collection ever found in one place in Britain, have astonished archaeologists – and barely a fraction of the site has been excavated."
Sounds really fascinating.

New Balance Minimus Zero Trail and Road Reviews

Nice review, Jason.
Minimus Trail Zero
The weights on the Trail vs. Road were ~4oz vs. ~6oz, I recall.

Seems to me like the Trail is a pretty ideal cold-weather road shoe... I'm looking forward to Jason's review of the Road to explain to me why I'm wrong.

I'd also be interested in trying it on the super-technical trails here in CT once I get a pair. I've been using my Speeds, but I wouldn't mind something that's lighter but has a bit better traction than those. ;)

The lime green is an awesome color.

P.P.S. Jason's review of the Road is up:
"...This may be the single biggest improvement I’ve ever seen in one generation of shoes. I get the feeling the design team realized they produced a turd, then redesigned the new Road based on the MT10. The sole has changed dramatically. The upper is even more radical. The shoe is lighter and more flexible. It’s zero-dropped (heel height is the same as the forefoot height.) It went from being the red-headed step-child of the minimalist shoe world to being a legitimate contender for one of the best minimalist road running shoes ever...."
Everything you wanted to know?
Justin at Birthday shoes and two colleagues also review the Minimus Zero line-up.  In typical Justin style, it's completely over-the-top comprehensive.

Troublingly, two of the reviewers note a "crinkling" of the fabric over the toe of the Trail model, which turned into a pretty fatal flaw in the VivoBarefoot Evo shoe.  Hopefully this is just a break-in issue, as the lightness of the Trail due to the laser-cut and welded upper makes it worth a little bit of hopefully blood-free break-in.

I'll be in line for a pair of the lime-green Trails when they're released.  The Road model will likely become my daughters' new school sneakers.

P.S. Here's Christian's take, and Angie Bee's.

Wheat And Dental Disease

Dr. Davis briefly surveys the history of wheat, and notes the following:
"Hunter gatherer humans who first began to incorporate wild einkorn into their diet experienced a downtown in health, including more dental caries, bone diseases, and probably atherosclerosis and cancer. Likewise, modern hunter gatherer cultures who do not consume wheat are spared these conditions."
(Einkorn is the orginal form of wheat, the least toxic variety.)

Oetzi the ice man (found frozen in a glacier), "had wheat and barley as major cereals in [his] intestines, together with some weed seeds..."

"'...Although the Iceman did not lose a single tooth until the his death at an age of about 40 years, he had an advanced abrasion of his teeth, profound carious lesions, and a moderate to severe periodontitis,' the researchers said."
The researchers conclude:
"'We already know that he was eating grains, such as einkorn or emmer. The contained carbohydrates clearly increased the risk of developing dental diseases,' Zink said."
This is mistaken.  There are plenty of high-carbohydrate diets that will leave you with perfect teeth. 
Dr. Weston Price visited Africa and surveyed the Kikuyu tribe:
"Their chief articles of diet are sweet potatoes, corn, beans, and some bananas, millet, and Kafir corn, a variety of Indian millet."
They have the typical malnutrition of a high-carbohydrate diet, "The Kikuyus are not as tall as the Masai and physically they are much less rugged." However, as Dr. Price observes:
Kikuyu teeth
"Note their fine teeth and dental arches."
Tooth decay seems to be a singular side-effect of eating wheat and related grains.  Dr. Mellanby discovered a tooth-decay reversing diet, which consisted of:
"...instead of cereals- for example, bread, oatmeal, rice, and tapioca- an increased allowance of potatoes and other vegetables, milk, fat, meat, and eggs was given. The total sugar, jam, and syrup intake was the same as before. Vitamin D was present in abundance in either cod-liver oil or irradiated ergosterol, and in egg yolk, butter, milk, etc. The diet of these children was thus rich in those factors, especially vitamin D and calcium, which experimental evidence has shown to assist calcification, and was devoid of those factors- namely, cereals- which interfere with the process."
Oetzi suggests that even a bit of wheat in the diet is going to be problematic.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

How To Develop Your Fat-Burning Metabolism

A fascinating post from Ramblings of a Carnivore: "A little something to learn from McArdle's disease".

McArdle's disease is a condition in which the sufferers have glycogen in their muscles, but are unable to access it as a fuel source.  Typically they wind up being sedentary (which just makes the condition worse), but there are training approaches that can develop their non-glycogen sources of energy, and allow them to exercise without needing glycogen.  (This is a compensation strategy, unlike the gene-knockout mice which have no glycogen stores, the people with McArdles disease will always try to access the glycogen store that they can't get to.)
So how do they train a McArdle's sufferer to not need glycogen?
"By increasing the fat content of his diet to 80% with 14% protein (1 g/kg/d) to totally 1.760 kcal, ketosis of 2-6 mmol/l 3-OH-butyrate was established. The principal effects comprise absence of carbohydrate-based stimulation of insulin secretion leading to activation of glycogen synthesis, and repletion of the tricarboxylic cycle with acetyl-CoA from ketone bodies. With a continuous one-year diet his exercise tolerance was 3- to 10-fold increased dependent of the endurance level...."
And then there's this:
"McArdle’s patients easily become sedentary. This just serves to exacerbate muscle breakdown and worsen muscular quality. But you don’t need glycogen to exercise or build muscles. Simple running has proven very effective in one case report [7]. Running also involves eccentric exercise which has a low energy cost for a given level of muscle force."
"Although a ketogenic diet seems the natural choice for patients with McArdle’s, there are no real good studies of the strategy. A few small studies have examined high protein feeding with some very modest results [8], but high protein seems a bit of, as fat and ketones can replace glycogen more easily than proteins."

Of course, we know a high-fat diet will kill you.  (I'm being sarcastic, btw.)  Surplus protein in the diet is converted into glucose.

Seems like a Maffetone-style training program would be perfect for McArdle's sufferers.  Maybe someday it will be tried...  Maffetone, of course, is big on warming up:
"If you are one of the 1:100,000 who has McArdle’s, proper warm up is very important. Gradual warm up causes a gradual increase in fat metabolism which reduces the need for glycogen. This is also a tip to everyone on ketogenic diets who like to engage in vigorous exercise. Proper and gradually increasing warm up exercises makes sure as much fat as possible is ready for use. Patients with McArdle’s are known to experience a “second wind” which happens when alternative sources of energy are increasing in availability."

Friday, December 2, 2011

"Attack Of La Nina"

It's getting to be that time of year again... (Watch in full-screen...)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Barefoot Runner


Love the gloves.

"Your Brain Knows a Lot More Than You Realize"

I've been involved in a lot of discussions concerning the Pose method of running lately.  I think that Pose has a lot of value, but it also has a couple of issues.  One of those issues is attempting to control what ought to be autonomic processes in running. 

One thing I've learned while trying to improve as a runner is that some things are best left to your body, as your concious mind doesn't have a lot to add.

So this is pretty timely:

"...You are not consciously aware of the vast majority of your brain’s ongoing activities, nor would you want to be—it would interfere with the brain’s well-oiled processes. The best way to mess up your piano piece is to concentrate on your fingers; the best way to get out of breath is to think about your breathing; the best way to miss the golf ball is to analyze your swing. This wisdom is apparent even to children, and we find it immortalized in poems such as “The Puzzled Centipede”:
A centipede was happy quite,
Until a frog in fun
Said, “Pray tell which leg comes after which?”
This raised her mind to such a pitch,
She lay distracted in the ditch
Not knowing how to run.
"The ability to remember motor acts like changing lanes is called procedural memory, and it is a type of implicit memory—meaning that your brain holds knowledge of something that your mind cannot explicitly access. Riding a bike, tying your shoes, typing on a keyboard, and steering your car into a parking space while speaking on your cell phone are examples of this. You execute these actions easily but without knowing the details of how you do it. You would be totally unable to describe the perfectly timed choreography with which your muscles contract and relax as you navigate around other people in a cafeteria while holding a tray, yet you have no trouble doing it. This is the gap between what your brain can do and what you can tap into consciously...."

Anyone who's learned a sport or a task well is perfectly familiar with this phenomenon.  You know you've taught it to yourself when you stop thinking about it, and you haven't really learned it until you can do it unconciously.

Do read the whole thing; especially the section on chicken sexers, which (assuming the story's not apocryphal) is a pretty brilliant example of training one's brain to do something that the concious mind can't even understand, let alone control or describe.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

"Calling All The Ladies!"

"Calling all of the ladies, women, girls. Where are you? If I started this blog by calling you to a girls night out for a happy hour, a social group run or a coffee chat amongst friends…would you come? I bet so! So I beg the question now…where are you when we want to talk and try minimalist/barefoot running and working out? We all like to get our sweat on. So why not learn about a healthier way to move? If you are skeptical, that’s totally cool, but I challenge you (like any fun runner would) to read on."Emily put together the Merrell Barefoot session in NYC a while ago. While she tried to get a decent female participation, she only got a few. The ratio was probably 7/8 to 1. It's pretty clearly still a male-dominated movement, for whatever reason.

Seems like a worthy effort to me. Please click on the link at the top of this post and see what she's got to say.

BTW, Emily does public relations for Merrell and a few other Wolverine shoe products.  I've run a couple of races with Emily and her family: they're all wearing minimalist shoes, and the first race I ran with her, she finished fourth among the ladies.

She's the real deal, not just a PR "flack".  As are all the folks at Merrell, in my experience.

"Why Running Shoes Do More Harm than Good"

From the Discovery Channel:

"...They’ve put together a collection of stats, tips and barefoot facts that may convince you to shun running shod and go barefoot, saving you from wrenching a knee or blowing out an Achilles in your rubber-soled trainers...."

Eek, it's becoming the conventional wisdom...

Friday, November 25, 2011

"Hadd’s Approach to Distance Training"

Fascinating (PDF):

"...Note that there can be two things “wrong” with your PR’s. One, as shown, there can be no evidence of a relationship (usually meaning your aerobic ability is wayyyyy poor). Or there can be a relationship, but it is too loose (instead of slowing up/adding 16 secs/mile to run double the distance, you slow up/add 20-24 secs/mile). In this second instance, your aerobic ability is less poor, but still needs work.

"To sum up; if you are well trained aerobically, you do not fall apart (as in the earlier examples) when the race gets longer. And here some of you may like to do a quick check and see how your own performances compare…"
Great.  I fall right in between "wayyyyy poor" and "less poor".  Yes, I just put a spread sheet together and compared my race paces.  How depressing.  Maybe I'll share it at some point.

Thanks, Luis, for ruining my evening. :)

Eat Like A Swede

Perfect follow-up to the previous post: Swedes soon the slimmest people in the Western world?

We win!  Wait a minute...
As Dr. Eenfeldt notes, Sweden is in the middle of a Low-Carb, High Fat diet revolution.  Complete with butter shortages, sadly:

"Also, she added, many diets such as LCHF (low-carb high-fat) are also advocating the use of real butter instead of margarine and other light products, at the same time as there are fewer dairy farmers producing these products in Sweden."

(You'll note the thinnest country in that list also has the second-highest dairy consumption. France is the highest.)

One can just look at the US results to see how well the high-carb, low-fat protocol has been working in the United States.

A Couple Of Recent Runs

[Just came across this post from 11/9/2009]

I've had a few interesting run recently.  I thought I'd share some details of them and what I'd learned hoping it might be of some use to others.

10/24: Nike+ Human Race 10K.  Ran in KSOs with no socks.  Had a problem w/ nausea before, during, and after the race.  I'm pretty sure that this was due to really wanting to put in a good time.  My friends said afterward that I was "Running to win" (finished six minutes ahead of them).  Ran at a 7:41 pace [actual result was 7:40], which is much better than my previous best effort at this distance.  Tapered for a few days beforehand, and pushed it during the race.  Calves hurt after the race (good hurt), had a few minor abrasions from the KSOs, but nothing else.  Followed the "relax, relax" mantra during the race, which meant that the sticks and nuts that were on the course just really weren't an issue for my feet.  Stopped worrying about them after a little while and just let my feet deal with them.  Have to take a few days off after the race to let my calves recover.  Feet felt great.  Do a few three and five milers during the week.

11/1: Run with "The Runner". 8.6 miles, 4.6 road, 4 trail.  We all must have a friend like this (if you aren't yourself one of these people).  He's a real runner.  Puts in creditable performances in all his races, has been running for years, and almost never suffers running injuries.  In this case, he also read Born to Run this summer, and ditched his big sneakers for some racing flats.  Not worried about his form, because obviously what he's doing is working for him, except for his bunions.  He's not been interested in barefoot/Vibrams since he's sure he never heel strikes.

So we run, in the rain.  I'm wearing my Treks with injinji crew socks.  He's got the racing flats on.  I listen to his running, "thwap, thwap, thwap".  "Hey, you know you're heel-striking?" Thwapping stops, he's corrected his form. "I am not."  We have an discussion about how to tell if he's heel striking, to listen to the feet.  About half way up the big hill that makes up the meat of this run my calves start to ache. 

Thinking back on the many posts on this group, I think I've got a choice.  Take it easy, or push through and risk injury.  Well, I'm running with The Runner, for the first time since I started running in Vibrams.  There's no way I'm bailing... the only thing bothering me is the calves: Push on.  On the downhill stretch, I pass him in his racing flats and bomb down the slope.  Thank you, Vibram!  As we approach the end of the race, The Runner comments on how much quicker I'm running now.  Finish the run in pretty strong form.  This is my longest run in Vibrams.

Calves are hurting mightily that afternoon.  I go home and crash on the couch for a few hours and watch some TV.  I'm a little worried. Next morning, go for a slow three miler and then for a four-mile hike with the kids.  Calves aren't doing that badly, actually, they're improving with the exercise, but the right Achilles has taken to aching and throbbing.  Take a couple days off, then do a few more three milers.  Setting me up for the next run:

11/8: Trail run w/ 3 new runners I don't know.  Wearing the Treks with Injini mini socks. I invite The Runner along, since it always helps to have the fastest runner be one of your friends. :)  Achilles is still aching a bit, so I'm a little nervous about this. We all show up and chat for a few minutes.  One of the other guys says, "Look at his feet!"  They all ask about the Vibrams, they think I'm nuts.

The area we're running in is rocky in the way that only Connecticut is rocky.  If you think you live somewhere that's rocky, imagine this: take a mountain range higher than the Himalayas.  Crush it down to rubble over several Ice Ages, and then spread that rubble around with a thin topping of dirt and newly-fallen leaves.  Welcome to CT.  They can't believe that the Treks are going to be OK in the rubble...

Fortunately I've done most of my Vibram hiking and trail running in this area and in Baxter State Park in Maine, which may be the only spot on Earth that's rockier than CT, so I'm pretty confident.  Off we go!  Legs, feet, most importantly, that sore Achilles are all feeling just dandy, and more importantly, I'm having no trouble keeping up.

We continue for maybe 3 miles.  The only spots that are giving me trouble are the downhills, since the rocks are all covered with leaves, I'm taking it easy. But I'm catching back up on the flat bits (that wonderful feeling that you're being rushed along). We all stop, and the three guys I don't know look at me and comment that my feet must be killing me. Thanks to the relax, relax (and a little bit of EVA midsole), I can honestly say that they feel great. My feet seem to be finding their way to the ground through the leaves. They all shake their heads. At this point I take off the Injinjis, as they're binding between my toes.

Unfortunately shortly after this, the unthinkable happens: running down a fast, clean slope, at full speed, I stub my right pinky toe.

It nearly takes me off my feet, but I manage to get my feet back under me and recover. I'm convinced that if I'd been wearing sneakers I would have gone down hard here; my body was on auto-pilot and recovered. It felt like my feet flew back up to catch my falling body, sort of like Hermes, the Greek god with wings on his feet. The fellow behind me complimented my on the recovery, and asked if I'd sprained my ankle (he was running with an ankle-brace). I don't miss a step, but clearly the toe is a problem. So I keep going. After about another mile and a half, we stop to wait for the guy in the ankle brace, and the toe siezes up. I'm running, but limping, all the way back to the parking lot, about half a mile.  Afterward, the toe swells up (it looks like a grape the morning after) but all the rest of the aches and pains are gone. Calves, perfect; Achilles, perfect; feet, perfect. 6.2 miles, my longest trail run to date, over rocky, nasty terrain, and aside from a stubbed toe, I feel better at the end of the run than I did at the beginning.

The couple of days off was key, I think, between the days where I was pushing it. And your body does love the beating, so I guess that's in favor of "active recovery" days too, as I was feeling better at the end of the last run than I was before the first in the series.

But what's great, is that each run is more fun than the one before it. How long can this keep up?

BTW, the stubbed toe is the first injury I've had from minimalist running. I have been taking it easy, and not pushing runs, and I think it's been paying off.
[A few thoughts: I can't remember the last time my calves hurt.

Kicking rocks, or any other immovable object with your toes is a bad idea, and hurts. That said, it's one of the least significant injuries, I've now done it a number of times and never failed to finish the run. If you do it, as I learned above, don't stop running

I've not done another road 10k race since the Nike race.  It's a great distance, I really need to do another...

Oh yeah, the runs are still great. The newbie glow has worn off, though.]

P.S. That was more than a stubbed toe. It was quite broken. I wound up having to wear some New Balance MT100s in order to run on it: the rock plate in the shoe helped to stabilize the toe when running. Pretty amazing that you can break a toe and keep running, but I guess from an evolutionary perspective it's a good feature.

Butter and Your Brain

This is your brain; this is your brain on butter:
Pretty fascinating stuff. I wonder if the difference between butter and pork fat is the linoleic acid content? I also wonder if cream, of which I eat a lot, and from which butter is made, has the same effect?

I've certainly noticed better mental acuity since going paleo, but I haven't tracked the variables the way that Seth has.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

An Overview Of The Science Of Barefoot Running

From The Science of Sport blog:

"...The evidence so far suggests that barefoot running produces some potentially beneficial changes, mostly related to how running form and kinetics are altered without shoes. However, it also points to a potentially large group of people who, when running barefoot, may have increased risk of injury, especially early on - these are the people who continue to heel-strike when barefoot, and who may 'force' a forefoot landing, leading to huge strain on the calf muscle and Achilles tendons....

"In terms of advocacy, I believe that barefoot running will help most runners. It may be as part of a training programme where barefoot running helps with adaptation because it loads the joints differently, activates muscles in different patterns and therefore provides a good training impulse. For some, barefoot running (or minimalist shoes) will go on to become the 'only way'. For others, it will remain a training technique, and that's fine too. But I'd certainly look at incorporating it, just for the training adaptations it provides...."

I don't agree with his assessment of injury as stated in this post. I think the evidence is quite clear for certain types of injuries that they are caused by the changes in form one sees when wearing sneakers.  And you only need one clear injury linkage to decide that sneakers are worse than barefoot.

The Science of Sport guys continue to get the logic backwards.  Barefoot is the null hypothesis, as Lieberman regularly points out.  It's the default.  You need to prove that the shod condition is an improvement over that.  And, cold weather aside, it's quite easy to show that it's not an improvement.

Of course there does need to be a careful conversion away from sneakers, just like you need a period of rehabilitation after a long period in a cast, as they correctly note.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Follow-up to "Linoleic Acid and Blindness"

Finally rediscovered the study that led to this post in the first place:
"Seddon et al.'s single prospective cohort study found that fish intake did not affect the progression to advanced [Age-Related Macular Degeneration] overall, or in a high [Linoleic Acid] consumption group, but did protect against the progression to advanced ARMD in the low (below median consumption) LA consumption group.20 This parallels what was observed exclusively via a significant test for trend in the Seddon et al. study described earlier with reference to its investigation of the influence of the intake of omega-3 fatty acids on preventing the onset of advanced ARMD.15 However, the results from neither study can be used as yet to provide a conclusive answer to their respective research questions. Both require replication and a plausible explanation."

 Sounds like they've now got replication and a plausible explanation (see the original post).  Prevent blindness: skip the seed oils.

Linoleic Acid, Fat Rats in Labs, and Fat Humans

Stephen Guyenet recently posted:
"...High fat diets, particularly in combination with refined starches and sugars, were among the most effective. The composition of these diets has been refined since then, and modern "purified" high-fat diets reliably induce obesity in susceptible strains of rodents. The most commonly used diet is Research Diets D12492, which is 60% fat by calories, and composed mostly of lard, soybean oil, casein, maltodextrin, sucrose and cellulose (7). It tastes kind of like raw cookie dough, and the rats are crazy about it."
Turns out a whole big chunk of science has been drawing faulty conclusions:
"...I got an email today from Dr. Matthew Ricci, the Vice-President and Research Director of Research Diets, the company that produces the infamous 60% fat, lard-based rodent diet D12492. I've written about this diet before. The company had previously been using the USDA database to determine the diet's fatty acid profile, but recently had it directly analyzed, knowing that the fatty acid profile of lard can vary according to what the pigs are fed.

"It turns out that the diet obtains 32% of its fat from PUFA instead of the previously reported 17%. The ratio of omega-6 linoleic acid to omega-3 linolenic acid had been previously reported as 7.8 but is actually 14...."
Whoops.  Chris Masterjohn compliments Research Diets on their transparency, which compliment they are due. However, Research Diets made a big mistake.  To paraphrase a line from Animal House, "They f---ed up, they trusted the Federal Government."  Obviously the USDA is not a reliable source of nutritional information.

The following is from one of several emails I sent to Stephan Guyenet in April 2010, shortly after I fixed my diet (and contributed $100 to support his blogging efforts):
"One more update.  I've been going through your site and it occurred to me that some of the other effects I've seen might be of interest.

"We have a candy bowl in the office.  Once of the first things I noticed after dropping n-6 from my diet was that I was no longer craving starch and sugar.  I haven't hit the candy bowl in 3+ weeks.  Didn't feel a need to.  My wife also noticed after not eating n-6 that she was no longer craving starch (and this has been a big problem for her).

"I didn't start craving fat for 3-4 days after making the change, and had almost no starch or sugar in the interim...

"I know you stress cutting starch[*] more than n-6 in your thinking.  I didn't want to change too many variables at once in my experiment, but since I don't eat processed starch or sugar, I figured removing the n-6 was the more significant change to make.

"It makes me wonder if there might be a mechanism linking the two..."
This sounds a lot like what happens to the rats.  I think Stephan may want to reconsider this post:
"As my knowledge of obesity and metabolism has expanded, I feel the evidence behind the hypothesis that seed oils (corn, soybean, etc.) promote obesity due to their linoleic acid (omega-6 fat) content has largely collapsed. "
I was very surprised when he posted it, as his previous position coincided perfectly with my experience as stated above.  It also turns out that the research he now quotes in support of the problematic food reward hypothesis also supports the position he's abandoned, given this updated information on the composition of the diets he cites.

Stephan may have reconsidered his position on seed oils, but I haven't.  I still avoid them like the plague, as they had a clear effect on me once I stopped eating them.

If you want to "reliably" induce obesity in humans or rats, feed them high amounts of linoleic acid**.

* Stephan corrected me about his thinking on starch he's basically OK with it.  And I think he's likely correct, so long as you're not eating large amounts of linoleic acid.

** Your results may vary. :)

P.S.  Chris Masterjohn posted a follow-up at the Weston A. Price Foundation website: Good Lard, Bad Lard.

One other thought: my sure-fire test to find out what chips are fried in is to start eating them.  With chips fried in olive oil or animal fat, I eat a few, and then move on.  With chips that are fried in seed oils, you eat the quantity presented to you, and then you want more.  This has been reliable enough that I've been able to detect when the staff at a restaurant gives me bad information about the constitution of the chips that are served.

P.P.S. "Dietary Linoleic Acid Elevates Endogenous 2-AG and Anandamide and Induces Obesity"

Friday, November 18, 2011

"Foot Strike Patterns of Recreational and Sub-Elite Runners in a Long-Distance Road Race"

Runblogger on his day job:
"Although the biomechanical properties of the various types of running foot strike (rearfoot, midfoot, and forefoot) have been studied extensively in the laboratory, only a few studies have attempted to quantify the frequency of running foot strike variants among runners in competitive road races. We classified the left and right foot strike patterns of 936 distance runners, most of whom would be considered of recreational or sub-elite ability, at the 10 km point of a half-marathon/marathon road race. We classified 88.9% of runners at the 10 km point as rearfoot strikers, 3.4% as midfoot strikers, 1.8% as forefoot strikers, and 5.9% of runners exhibited discrete foot strike asymmetry. Rearfoot striking was more common among our sample of mostly recreational distance runners than has been previously reported for samples of faster runners. We also compared foot strike patterns of 286 individual marathon runners between the 10 km and 32 km race locations and observed increased frequency of rearfoot striking at 32 km. A large percentage of runners switched from midfoot and forefoot foot strikes at 10 km to rearfoot strikes at 32 km. The frequency of discrete foot strike asymmetry declined from the 10 km to the 32 km location. Among marathon runners, we found no significant relationship between foot strike patterns and race times."
We've got a long way to go.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Barefoot in NYC

Pete Larson took this video at the 2011 NYC Barefoot Run on Governor's Island in New York.  I'm the runner on the far side of the group (the one with a head).

So if you've ever wondered what I look like running, this is it.  This was right after the start of my longest barefoot run to that date: 8 miles, or 4 laps of the island.  (I didn't measure it, but was told it was a 2-mile lap.)  Feet felt great afterward, although I was ready to stop when I did. Always stop before you have to. :)

Unfortunately it was a bit overcast that day, and Pete was hiding in a bush so as not to make the barefoot runners get "prancy". So it's a little dark.

P.S. I don't know why I hold my thumb up that way, but it's the only way I was able to 100% identify myself in this video. :) Hey, Haile Gebreselassie runs like he's holding a school book, so I'm allowed this quirk.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Mark Allen on Proper Running Form

Thanks to Luis:
"Talking about instructors, two weekends ago I attended a camp that Mark Allen gave down here. His lesson on proper running technique was simple: 1- take your shoes off and run around the oval, 2- note how it feels, 3- replicate it with shoes on, 4- do this every week. Here is a picture of him explaining this (I am the one with the red hat):

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Dr. Phil Maffetone's "Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing" Review

Thanks to some of the participants on Barefoot Ted's Google group, I recently became aware of the work of Dr. Phil Maffetone.  We spend a good bit of discussing a various topics on that group, but a most of it concerns barefoot and barefoot-style running, and peripheral topics to running.  Diet comes up very often, because runners are either concerned with increasing performance or losing weight. A good diet is obviously important on either front.

Given my personal history, diet is of particular concern, and over the last 2+ years, researching diet and barefoot-style running have become my intellectual hobby.  So I've spent quite a bit of time learning about the science behind barefoot-style running and the paleo diet, since, respectively, reading Born to Run and discovering that I'm acutely wheat-intolerant.
So with that background, and my skeptical nature, I'm pretty impressed with Dr. Phil's book.  (As he's known in his online posts.)

The cons of this book are: Dr. Phil's credentials.  He's not a medical doctor, and he comes from an "alternative" medicine background [update: see the P.P.S. below].  That said, based on the reading I've done, he's pretty spot on for almost all of his suggestions.  And for whatever strange reason, most of the "alternative" doctors seem to be more open to diet as a cause for common medical maladies.  Examining the reasons behind that fact are fodder for another long post, but I will say that if the suggestions seem scientifically sound, you shouldn't discard them just because they come from a chiropractor.  That said, I'd recommend this book to anyone, with the following caveat (and the second con):

It's not well-sourced.  One of the compelling aspects of the Jaminet's Perfect Health Diet is that there book is well-footnoted with online resources that you can look up to learn more about why they make a specific recommendation.  Dr. Phil's book is not well footnoted.  You've got to take him on faith if you're not familiar with the research behind it.  The fact that the foreword is written by Mark Allen, the famed triathlete, and the afterword is written by Dr. Timothy Noakes, the famed exercise physiologist, should give you skeptical types some comfort.  For myself, I've already done enough reading to realize that Dr. Phil's work is well-founded, and don't have to rely solely on the testimonials.  But it would be good if he presented better evidence, as some of his ideas are pretty out there; while being correct, in my view.

The pros of the book are pretty simple.  You can save yourself my two years of diligent reading to achieve a much healthier approach to fitness and health just by following the recommendations of this book. 

I've been following most of the recommendations on diet and barefoot-style running for long enough (and before reading the book) that I'm a big fan.  The one part the book added for me was a detailed explanation of Dr. Phil's 180-formula for training intensity.  I'm now using this as my guide, and have definitely noticed benefits so far.  It's not magic, but it's definitely improved my training in the few months I've been using it.  I hope to continue through the winter, and start seeing the benefits of this approach come spring.

In a nutshell, Dr. Phil argues that you should train for most of your miles by keeping your heart rate low enough that you're primarily burning fat, and not carbohydrates, as fuel.  Dr. Noakes observes that following this approach helped Mark Allen to become one of the most fit and successful athletes in the world.  It's a pretty well-tested, if counter-intuitive, approach.  The formula is simply 180 - your age = the heart rate at which you should do most of your training.  (There are some complications based on fitness and injury status, but that's the basics.)  In my opinion, this is a training program for broken humans, who've been following the bad diet advice of the modern era, and not getting the sort of vigorous exercise that our bodies evolved to expect.

So I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking to get a better and comprehensive view of how to be fitter and healthier.  Or if you don't feel like poking around on this or any other blog that covers healthy diets and barefoot-style running, you can just buy Dr. Phil's book and be done with it.  I've already loaned my copy out to a good friend, along with Mark Sisson's The Primal Blueprint and the afore-mentioned The Perfect Health Diet.  (Happily I also got the Kindle version.)

Here are a bunch of segments that I highlighted in my Kindle and manually typed in here, since the Kindle doesn't allow copying [update: see the P.S.].  Sigh.
"Aspirin, ibuprofen (such as Advil), naproxen (such as Aleve), and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDSs) are commonly used for pain relief. If taking NSAIDs lessens your pain, it probably indicates your fats are not balanced."
Makes a lot of sense to me.  Excess omega-6 intake and insufficient omega-3 are pretty obivously indicated in a lot of maladies, most especially joint pain and weak cartilage.
"The most popular shoe in this category is the basketball sneaker.  Plain high-top sneakers were popular for many years, but today they have become fancy over-supported, overpriced high-top shoes. Supposedly, the added ankle support, the key feature of this shoe, protects against ankle sprain and other injuries. But studies don't verify this. Actually, these shoes can do just the opposite, as basketball players may have the highest rates of ankle sprains of any sport. When the ankle, or any area of the body, is supported, we run the risk of weakening that area. This is the result of muscles that sense the support and no longer have to work as much; the result is loss of some of their strength."
Again, makes perfect sense to me.  I think basketball players, and most other athletes, have been sold a bill of goods by the sneaker companies.  There's no evidence for any of the sneaker-company claims, except lots of injuries.
"Perhaps the first published scientific evidence describing the harm from shoes came in 1954 when researchers Basmajian and Bentzon measured the electrical activity in foot muscles using an electromyographic (EMG) device. This study showed that when shoes were placed on the feet, certain muscles lost significant function."
Well, Dr. Munson predates this by quite a stretch, as The Soldier's Foot and the Military Shoe was published in 1912, and tested on millions of feet by 1954.
"This is because shock absorption in the feet occurs at the same level of intensity whether we wear shoes or not."
It's even worse than that: shock absorption is worse when wearing shoes, not better, or even equal.
"For acute foot problems - recent injuries such as a fall, twisted ankle, or stubbed toe - the traditional RICE remedy of rest, ice (or cold), compression, and elevation can be very effective."
I'm not a big fan of RICE.  It's been tested, and found to be ineffective.  But if it makes you happy, or keeps your mind off your pain, go for it.  I never take pain killers or use RICE for my frequent falls and stubbed toes.  And I don't miss it.  (Twisted ankles are a thing of the past since going barefoot-style.)
"Other important factors included balancing fats, eating ten servings of vegetables and fruits each day, and controlling stress."
OK, sorry.  Ten servings of fruit and vegetables a day?  I think this is ridiculous.  I generally eat three meals a day, and may have a snack.  I think that if you eat more frequently you're probably doing something wrong.  This is one area where Dr. Phil is conveying ill-considered conventional wisdom.
He also has a chapter on oral pH, which is interesting, but about which I know very little...  But given the solid character of the rest of the book, something I will take into consideration.

So I have a couple of quibbles with Dr. Phil.  Big deal. I highly recommend this book.

P.S. Sean points out that one can access highlights via the Kindle web site.  I was using the Kindle for PC software to try to copy the text.  Live and learn.  This will make my next review a lot easier, as I love using the Kindle highlight functionality.

P.P.S. Luis notes this page where Dr. Phil describes himself thusly:
"While Tim’s essay seemed to focus on so-called alternative medicine, my practice style was not alternative. Instead, it was a physiologically based approach of evaluating and treating an athlete in an individual way rather than a cookbook style that is still common today. Properly stated, I practiced complementary sports medicine. Alternative medicine is an alternative to this approach, and especially one departing from more traditional or conventional medicine. (Many in the alternative medicine community say that I’m too scientific.)"
I like this description, and think it's 100% accurate.  Lots of reasonable practices are decribed as "alternative", complementary is a much better term for what Dr. Phil does.

P.P.P.S.  Sean has some additional thoughts.

P.P.P.P.S. Here's an update. Pretty remarkable improvements, IMHO. In addition, I did a regular warmup at the gym. I found a speed on the treadmill that would reliably keep my HR under the MAF rate (137 at the time), and then did my warmup run at that speed. I initially had trouble keeping it below 137. Now, I don't even get close to 137, and have finished my warmup run with HRs as low as 121. Pretty incredible. The treadmill warmup is a part of my gym routine that I've been doing for about 4 years prior, but I would also try to run fast. So this recent improvement in HR is not simply because I've started doing a warmup run, my routine was pretty consistent for years prior to starting Maffetone.

Blogger Wonderfulness

I can't comment on my own posts from Blogger while on my home computer. I get this idiocy:
"Your current account ( does not have access to view this page. Click here to logout and change accounts."
Needless to say, following the instructions doesn't get me anywhere, and of course there's no real "help". I've been having login problems from this computer on Blogger for months. All of my software is up to date.

You do get what you pay for. Google is pretty lame when in comes to software, in my experience.

So if you've posted a comment, and I've not responded, it's because Google won't let me. Sorry...

P.S.  Of course Blogger's post editor ate all of my paragraph breaks.  The post editor truly stinks.

P.P.S. Jan. 12, 2012: It works now.  No idea when it started working.  The post editor still truly stinks.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Runner's Knee

As I detailed in this post, I had a bout with Runner's Knee (patellofemoral syndrome, to address it formally) a couple of years ago.  I attributed it in part to the shoes I was wearing at the time.  What I've since come to realize is that those overly-cushioned shoes merely exaggerated poor form.

Well, RK is back.  This time, however, I've been doing most of my miles in minimalist shoes like the Vibram FiveFingers Speeds, or barefoot.  I've had many successful miles in the Speeds, in the VivoBarefoot Ultra, and barefoot this summer.  I've increased my mileage, as I did the last time RK appeared, and this time I think it's safe to say that while the shoes, even minimalist shoes, accentuate the conditions that lead to RK, they're not the cause.  RK re-appeared on a 10k run in the Speeds, by the way.

When RK first appeared switching to Vibrams from the NB MT100s was enough to make it go away.  That's clearly not going to work this time.  So what could it be?

It's got to be form.  Today I went for a 10 mile Maffetone run, 5 on road, and 5 on trail.  I wore the Speeds, as it was in the low 30s F at the beginning of the run.  RK appeared almost immediately on the road stretch, but went away when I got on the rougher trail sections, only to reappear on the flat parts of the trail.

As I've posted before, I've been working on form issues on my weaker right leg.  While that leg is not 100%, it's much improved, and running on the trails I ran today is where those issues first appeared.  The right leg was good to go today.  One of the key suggestions Lee Saxby gave me was to press down on the big toe while running.  This resolved the metatarsal-cuboid joint pain I was having almost immediately.

So once I got back to the road section (after stubbing my second toe on my right foot nicely on the trail: blood from the nail, but no break: thank Heavens for shoes sometimes...), I took off my shoes for the 2.7 mile run home.  RK continued to bother me, even barefoot.  So finally what I decided to do, as an experiment, was to exaggerate the toe-press.  Basically, I was running on my big toes.  This forced my left foot inward.  My right big toe and foot have straightened much more than my left, and I have much more trouble flexing the left big toe down, so this seemed like a pretty good approach to take.  My hypothesis is that the feet should be doing pretty much the same thing, so if one leg hurts and is working differently from the other, try to make it the same.

Running on the big toes was kind of an odd feeling, and a bit of a strain on the calves, including a nasty pull in my left calf I suffered a few weeks ago while mountain biking.  I probably ran about 1.2 miles on my big toes, until I got home.

RK is completely gone in the left knee.  It feels great.

Your mileage may vary. :)

P.S.  I forgot to mention one of the key hints: I've been getting pain in the tendon under the second toe on the left foot during runs.  Lee had said that people often put too much pressure down on the second toe, which is why pressing down on the big toe makes a difference.  You're shifting the pressure to where it ought to be.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Altra Adam Review


I don't mind the toes.  In fact, the forthcoming Altra Sampson (the Adam with laces) sounds like my favorite shoe, the Vibram Fivefinger Speed, without toes.

I like the toes...

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Barefoot At The New York Marathon

Good luck, guys.

"...That’s right. Wood, a 35-year-old programmer, is running the entire 26.2 miles completely barefoot.

“I’ve been running through a lot of back streets where sometimes it’s all rubble and glass,” says Wood, whose long training runs take him through Brooklyn, over the Manhattan Bridge and up the West Side of Manhattan. 
"Wood isn’t participating in some sort of monastic self-flagellation.
"Rather, he’s part of a growing number of New Yorkers who’ve said bon voyage to their sneakers and embraced the idea that running barefoot promotes proper form, thereby preventing most injuries that plague long-distance runners.

"“I think a lot of people are under the impression that someone has stolen my shoes, and I’m running after them,” quips the second-time marathoner who ditched his running shoes about a year ago because his knees began to bother him.

"He began his barefoot odyssey with funky “five-finger” wetsuit shoes that are made by Vibram, then went the full monty.

"After a recent 19-mile barefoot run through the city, Wood didn’t need to ice his body or stretch out thoroughly. “The knees feel great. I feel a complete difference,” he swears...."

Good luck to all the folks running the marathon shod, also.

Back from a long hiatus, this story features the popular Obligatory Ding-Bat Podiatrist quote!
"...Though running barefoot is increasingly popular in the running community, there are experts who say sole-to-pavement jogging is playing with fire.
"“Some people say the caveman is a perfect example of how walking barefoot is safe and not harmful to the body,” says Dr. Rock Positano, director of non-surgical foot and ankle service at the Hospital for Special Surgery.
"“What they don’t mention is that the average caveman didn’t live past age 20. It’s not a very good comparison.”
"Running a marathon barefoot is a “nightmare in the making,” he says. “The feet will be screaming for mercy — [as will] the shins, knees, hips and back.”..."
Thanks Doc!  Another podiatrist ignorantly spreading fear, uncertainty, and doubt.  Gotta love that.  Read the literature, Doc. We do.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Omega-3 Fats and Dental Health


"...To be fair, professional researchers are starting to figure this out. A 2010 study of 9000 people found that “participants in the middle and upper third for omega-3 fatty acid consumption were between 23 percent and 30 percent less likely to have gum disease than those who consumed the least amount of omega-3 fatty acids.” With the right dose, I believe gum disease becomes 100% less likely...."

My gums used to bleed at every brushing, like clockwork.  Since fixing my diet, gum bleeding has become a rare event.  I never take flax seed oil, but do eat pastured meat, salmon, and macadamia nuts, all of which are good sources of omega-3 fats.  I also avoid seed oils diligently.

The only time I've noticed the same sort of bleeding I used to get is after eating wheat, however.  I wonder if the lectins in wheat affect the gums, as they do mucus membranes...

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Fila Skeletoes Amp and Skeletoes Voltage First Impressions


"What do you think? Am I being too harsh?"

Not harsh enough.  It's the Vibram/Nike Free.  What a horror.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Best Sellers In Men's Running Shoes

At Amazon, no minimalist shoes until no. 17, the Merrell Barefoot Trail Glove.  Next it's the Tough Glove at 44, and Vibram FiveFingers KSO at 50.  (I'm skipping the New Balance Minimus MT10 at 47, because it's got a heel rise.)

Still a long way to go...

Friday, October 28, 2011

"The Doctor Told Me He Could Not Believe It"

I can:

"He told me that I was lucky to be walking and that I would be in a neck brace for about a year and we would just have to see how my body took to the bone fusion. He then said that he doubted that I would ever be able to do high intensity sports again...."

"...But since my diagnosis was grim I decided to look into everything that could possibly benefit me. I began researching what might help my recovery and stumbled onto At first I was just intrigued by how different of an approach it was from everything else I had come across. After reading for a long while, a lot of it seemed to make sense to me and I decided that I would give it a shot.

"Over the next few months, I stopped taking supplements, stopped eating grains and legumes, and ate a high omega 3 diet with clean protein..."
Hmm. That diet sounds familiar. Oh yeah:

"What exactly was this diet? Here's how it was described in the paper (note: cereals = grains):

"...instead of cereals- for example, bread, oatmeal, rice, and tapioca- an increased allowance of potatoes and other vegetables, milk, fat, meat, and eggs was given. The total sugar, jam, and syrup intake was the same as before. Vitamin D was present in abundance in either cod-liver oil or irradiated ergosterol, and in egg yolk, butter, milk, etc. The diet of these children was thus rich in those factors, especially vitamin D and calcium, which experimental evidence has shown to assist calcification, and was devoid of those factors- namely, cereals- which interfere with the process."
Cod-liver oil is a good source of omega-3 fats, of course.  It's not suprising at all that a diet that heals your teeth would also heal your bones.  And our caveman ancestors recovered from some pretty brutal injuries, so it's not surprising at all that the paleolithic diet should help bones to heal.
Read the whole thing.

Authentic Paleolithic Sports

"Wife" being carried
This is excellent:

"Wife Carrying Championships feature many similarly strange rules, and perhaps the oddest one is this: the wife you carry doesn’t even have to be yours. According to the official rules, “The wife to be carried may be your own, the neighbor's, or you may have found her further afield.” The only requirement is that she is at least 17 years old.

"The World Championships originated in Finland and take place there annually. There’s historic context to all this: some say the event commemorates a 19th-century marauder whose gang raided small villages to steal food and kidnap the town’s women. Others think it recalls a custom of young men sneaking into neighboring villages to steal someone’s wife for their own, literally carrying them back to their own house. Sure, it’s barbaric, but realistically, there probably weren’t many other sports in early Finland aside from wife stealing...."

Stealing wives was a part of many cultures.  This sport could have world-wide appeal.

"Sounds Gross, Works Great: Fecal Transplants Cure Nasty C. Diff Infections"

Given the predelictions of the medical profession, it's only used as a last resort:

"A new review of more than two dozen scientific reports involving 317 patients, some dating back 50 years, finds that fecal bacteriotherapy, commonly known as fecal transplant, cured the problem in 92 percent of the cases. Nearly all got better after just one treatment. That's a better record than other treatments, including probiotics, toxin-binding molecules and an experimental vaccine."
The bacteria from the healthy donor out-compete the bad bugs, and you get better without using antibiotics to destroy your symbiotic biome. 

Which is what causes C. Diff infections in the first place.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

"Advice For Novice Marathoners by Arthur Lydiard"

Read the whole thing:
"Eat normal meals during race week. People who have been training thousands of miles have a greater ability to lift their blood-sugar levels than the untrained. You've been hearing alot about carbo-loading these days, take my advice, forget about the carbohydrate-loading and eat your normal meals. Don't overeat on race day. If you have eaten well the week before a race and lightened the training workload, you should not require very much food on the day of the race. If you are racing early, a light breakfast of cereal with some toast and honey, tea or coffee should be sufficient---and the less the better. On race day and the day before, do not eat foods that will form gas in your stomach. Gas can cause pain and cramps throughout the large intestine."

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Does A Healthy Diet Cause Distress?

I don't think it should. 

"Too Many Vegetables? How To Prevent Gas and Digestive Problems Caused By Healthy Eating":

"The number of questions I get from people about bloating, gas and other digestive problems is not small, and since it is a sensitive subject I’m sure the questions I get represent just a fraction of those of you with concerns."

One of the real joys of adopting a "paleo-style" diet has been a great reduction in gas and digestive upset.  "Elimination" is a better way to put it, in fact.  (I originally wrote "near-elimination", but that is not correct, in my experience.) So my inclination is that if you're suffering, that's prima facie evidence that you're not eating a healthy diet.

Ms. Pino has a number of good suggestions, but I think the best one would be to follow a program like the Primal Blueprint or the Perfect Health Diet for 30 days, and see if you can't just eliminate your digestive upset entirely.  It worked for me and for my family.

In my experience, grains, vegetable oils, beans, and starch are the main offenders, in that order.  (Vegetable oils are typically produced from grains or beans, so that's not too surprising.)  Another note: "lactose intolerance" is a typical side-effect of wheat poisoning, and often goes away once wheat is eliminated.  I consider "lactose intolerance" to be a symptom of wheat poisoning, in fact.

So skip the Beano, and skip the beans.  You just might feel a whole lot better.

Ms. Pino's of a similar opinion.