Thursday, January 30, 2014

Altra: "Local Shoe Company Reaches Global Market"

Very cool!:

"...Instead of resorting to running in “high heels” as he called them, [Golden] Harper “zero-dropped” his shoes by cutting the heel elevation out of them. “It was effortless,” Harper said. “I had shoes on but I ran naturally like I was barefoot! I wanted everyone to feel that feeling of being able to run natural.”

"Harper and some of the employees at the store started cutting shoes flat for people to try at their running store, and within months, more than 1,000 people had paid the local shoemaker $20-$60 to cut the heel elevation out of their shoes.

"Harper knew he had something great and set out to create and market what he had named Altra Zero Drop, stemming from the innovation of “AL-tered shoes” and his love for ul-TRA marathons.

"The shoes had a foot-shaped toe box for more room in the front, as well as a cushioned, zero-drop sole.

"However, after proposing the concept to several companies that showed no interest, he spoke to his cousin, Jeremy Howlett. “Let's just do it ourselves," Howlett told him...."

And they did. Thanks to Zach Bitter on Twitter:

Saturday, January 18, 2014

A Plague of Doctors

My title is more appropriate than the one the New York Times offers: An Epidemic of Attention Deficit Disorder, since the point of their editorial is that the "epidemic" they're discussing doesn't actually exist, but has largely been manufactured by predatory drug companies and compliant or ignorant doctors:

"...A two-decade campaign by pharmaceutical companies promoting the pills to doctors, educators and parents was described by Alan Schwarz in The Times on Sunday. The tactics were brazen, often misleading and sometimes deceitful. Shire, an Irish company that makes Adderall and other A.D.H.D. medications, recently subsidized 50,000 copies of a comic book in which superheroes tell children that “Medicines may make it easier to pay attention and control your behavior!” Advertising on television and in popular magazines has sought to persuade mothers that Adderall cannot only unleash a child’s innate intelligence but make the child more amenable to chores like taking out the garbage.

"The potential dangers should not be ignored. The drugs can lead to addiction, and, in rare cases, psychosis, suicidal thoughts and hallucinations, as well as anxiety, difficulty sleeping and loss of appetite. On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration warned that some A.D.H.D. medications, including Ritalin, Concerta, and Strattera, may, in rare instances, cause prolonged and sometimes painful erections known as priapism in males of any age, including children, teens and adults.

"So many medical professionals benefit from overprescribing that it is difficult to find a neutral source of information. Prominent doctors get paid by drug companies to deliver upbeat messages to their colleagues at forums where they typically exaggerate the effectiveness of the drugs and downplay their side effects. Organizations that advocate on behalf of patients often do so with money supplied by drug companies, including the makers of A.D.H.D. stimulants. Medical researchers paid by drug companies have published studies on the benefits of the drugs, and medical journals in a position to question their findings profit greatly from advertising of A.D.H.D. drugs.

"The F.D.A. has cited every major A.D.H.D. drug, including the stimulants Adderall, Concerta, Focalin and Vyvanse, for false and misleading advertising since 2000, some of them multiple times. The companies, when challenged, typically stop those misleading claims, but the overall impact appears marginal. The number of prescriptions for A.D.H.D. drugs for adults ages 20 to 39 nearly tripled between 2007 and 2012, and sales of stimulant medications in 2012 were more than five times higher than a decade earlier.

"Curbing the upsurge in diagnoses and unwarranted drug treatments will require more aggressive action by the F.D.A. and the Federal Trade Commission, which share duties in this area. It will also require that doctors and patients recognize that the pills have downsides and should not be prescribed or used routinely to alleviate every case of carelessness, poor grades in school or impulsive behavior."

Millions of children, mostly boys, are on these drugs for no good reason. The difference between this and the old snake-oil salesmen is that snake oil was ineffective, but had no side effects. It was a simple fraud. This is malpractice on an industrial scale.

Patients need to realize that First, do no harm is no longer a directive for the medical profession, and perjury, the breaking of an oath, is no longer considered a crime.

"I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures [that] are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism."

Your only protection is your own diligence. Buyer beware.

Thanks to Seth Roberts.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

"What Ultra-Marathons Do to Our Bodies"

Very little, apparently, except make us healthier than average.

"...Hoping to better understand what happens to an ultra-endurance athlete’s body, researchers at Stanford University and the University of California, Davis recently contacted more than 1,200 experienced ultra-marathon runners and asked them probing and almost impolite questions about the past and current states of their bones, hearts, blood pressures, prostates, breasts, skin, lungs, moods, bowels, eyes, waistlines, livers and many other body parts and systems. They also asked about their race histories, times, training regimens and any recent injuries and illnesses....

"...And there can be substantial, accruing benefits to covering those miles, says Dr. Eswar Krishnan, an assistant professor at Stanford and co-author of the new study. Over all, the ultra-runners in the study were absent from work less often than other American adults because of illness or injury, he said, and rarely felt compelled to see a physician, with almost half visiting a doctor only once in the past year, usually because of a running injury.

"Of course, the ultra-competitors may have “developed stoicism” from their many hours of training, Dr. Krishnan said, and ignored niggling ills that would keep the rest of us from work or send us hurrying to the doctor. But they also displayed a substantially reduced risk of developing many of the common diseases of modern life...."

No surprise to me. This is what we evolved to do.

From the study:

The present work provides an analysis of medical issues in a large cohort of ultramarathon runners. As expected, the work demonstrates that, with the exception of asthma and allergies, ultramarathon runners have fewer chronic medical conditions than the general population, tend to miss little time from work or school due to illness or injury, and make limited use of the medical care system.

So go run. I'll note that most of the injuries they describe could be reduced with a barefoot-style running form...

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Perils of Incorrect Training

"Why Crossfit works...but really doesn't. The randomness of adaptation, and why beginners just need change."

"... When your bread and butter is randomized intensity, performed at near max or to exhaustion, you can’t just simply push beyond exhaustion to the next level. Once fitness gains flat line, no amount of pushing will create a new stimulus. You’re maxing out the intensity, and because you don’t believe in progressive, controlled, low-moderate and high intensity mixes, you’ve got to nowhere to go. There’s no way to progressively overload and create new stimuli and adaptation....

"...But what about those “joggers” who don’t look fit who you may see out at the park. You know the ones who may have gained a few pounds, yet still can crank out their 5 mile daily run. I often get pointed towards these people as evidence that running somehow makes you fat…

"The reality is that jogging syndrome describes the opposite side of the coin. It’s the person who gets caught running their same volume at the same moderate intensity every single day. When we do this never-ending cycle of same run or same workout each and every day, we get really efficient at doing that same run or workout. It’s no longer pushing us outside of homeostasis. We’ve nailed it and it’s a walk in the park.

"Of course not every run needs to challenge us, as we need to recover and then cement adaptations, but if we never challenge our norm, we will not adapt. So we get really efficient at running our 5mi run at 8min pace every day for example. Our body hones in on the most efficient way to run at that pace and distance, and that’s about it. Our “fitness” won’t progress, and those extra 400 calories burned a day might not be enough to stave off gaining a layer of fat. So to me this presentation of the jogger as unfit, is simply not true. He’s prepared for what he continuously does, jog 5 miles, but not much else. But if that’s all he cares about, then that’s fine I guess, but he probably should include some variation....

"...The problem is we’ve got this polarized argument of long slow VS. super intense. When in reality, that is an argument no one is having, or should be having...."

Steve Magness, with a typically terrific, thoughtful post. Read the whole thing.

When I started running seriously 12 years ago, I started by running a 5.1 mile loop in a local park. I did that same loop religiously, in the same direction, for the next year. (Yes, I can be OCD when I want to be. :)

The first time I did it, it took me 2.5 hours. It was agony, a total suffer-fest. I couldn't run up any of the hills. When I stopped doing that run regularly, I did it in 49 minutes, a year later.

But I always did that run the same way: I ran as hard as I could for the whole run. In early runs this was typically interrupted by an exercise-induced asthma attack at the start of the first hill. (Oddly, that was always it for the asthma for the rest of the run...) What I was not getting was the training effect at longer distances that one needs to run longer races easily, as Steve would have predicted. I also stopped improving, as my 5k and half-marathon PRs were stuck at the ones that I set on my first races.