Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Dr.Van Aaken on Eating....and Not Eating

Dr Van Aaken was a physician who ran,coached runners, and wrote about running and diet.He's been featured many times on this site before.His views,particularly on eating,are still considered by many to be provocative. In an era where there is a unhealthy preoccupation with what we should eat,Dr Van Aaken recognized that healthy eating was much more than what we did or didn't eat. Consider this:
"Nutritionists as well as food faddists are forever specifying what one should eat.But it seems obvious that not the 'what' but the 'how much' is decisive. To keep one's weight at an ideal level,one should take in a n minimum of food and a maximum of oxygen."
The good doctor was referring to getting a maximum amount of oxygen by mostly easy running.However,Dr Aaken recognized decades before the general public,so-called nutritionists and food faddists did, that "excessive amounts of food overload the digestive system and metabolism and increase demands on the liver and kidney." He went on to write that this was a major cause of disease and the reason we encountered poor health as we aged.
During the, endurance athletes must consume mostly carbohydrates years,Van Aaken repeatedly spoke out against the folly of  such a way of eating. "If a person emphasizes carbohydrates in his diet,the excess is turned into fat. The organism acts as a depot for stored energy,since otherwise carbohydrates would be burned up to quickly.And so, while most carbohydrates enter metabolism via the detour of stored fat,the organism uses proteins and fats directly.A consequence of depot fat is water retention and excessive perspiration.At the same time,normal heat regulatuion is disturbed because of unfavorable surface-area-to-heat production relationships."
Most of us these days I'm sure are aware that too many carbos in the diet leads to more body fat but how many were aware of the other problems that come with a carbohydrate heavy diet?
Van Aaken lays it out that just running more to lose weight will most likely not work.
"To burn up one kilo of body fat requires 2000 liters of oxygen,corresponding to walking 350 kilometers in 70 hours or running 120 kilometers in 16 hours.So it should be obvious that a daily one hour stroll isn't the wayto lose weight."
The last line seems almost heretical in an age where walking is repeatedly touted as the best all- around exercise for health and fitness.
Take heed to this runners:"The runner in the middle and long distances should learn to fast again,and run best with a certain feeling of hunger."
Why you ask? Because,"Digestive work shortly before and during a run wastes energy.
In this 21st century,people have made what to eat and what not to eat so complex and confusing.It's all very simple,it's natural,it's logical,is it any wonder why people have become neurotic and paranoid over their diet(way of eating) with so many "experts" giving contradictory direction? Again,I digress.
In closing,Van Aaken tells us that the distance runner who is in training" should eat no more than 2000 calories per day,"  of which should include 50 grams of high quality protein.
The food should be fresh and natural.
Maybe that's why more people don't follow such a plan,it's too simple,too logical,no books to buy,no miracle claims offered.
Sinple Living,High Thinking.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Facing Reality

If you read the running mags,particularly ones from years past,you undoubtedly would have read profiles on runners who were standouts in their age groups. Something I noticed repeatedly were the stories about masters runners(40 years+)all had a similar element to them. It went like this; former excellent high school or college distance runner returns to competition after many years of not running and begins to have alot of success at road racing. I recall being surprised as I read these profiles at the workouts the runners did. They were intense,heavy on the intervals,not unlike what you would see your average college coach giving his charges.There was also something else I noted,the majority of these runners would make an impact on the national scene for a year or two only to drop out of sight.On occasion I would read an update on one of them and find that they had been hampered by injuries.I think you know where I'm going with this.There is a necessity for competitive distance runners to make accomodations to the aging process.I am always amazed at the runners who seem oblivious to this fact or are unwilling to make adjustments as needed.
I mean,isn't it a physiological fact that as we age changes occur in our body?
I have found,and it varies from runner to runner,that there is an age where you notice a drop off in your ability to recover from tough runs and workouts.For me, I think it was around age 44 or 45.
Now,at 63,I have reluctantly come  to the conclusion that when I take a day off a few times a week I feel fresher coming back after an off day.Yeah,I could, and have run easy on the days that are now my days off but my legs don't ever feel as fresh as they do when I'm coming back after a rest day.In fact,the quality of that run is always good whether I'm going long or doing something like a fartlek.There is a misguided machismo that exists in distance runners which implies that to back off,take a day off or ease up means you are a wimp. It's no surprise that this thought exists among master's runners as well. That's unfortunate because no matter what you do,time stops for no one.
There are simple adjustments everyone can make and still perform well. A big one is changing the aerobic and anaerobic percentage in your training.As you age it is best to do alot more aerobic work and less severe anaerobic training.Those who dismiss this should read info by Dr Ernst Van Aaken,Jack Foster and Ed Whitlock for starters.
Another adjustment to consider is finding alternate workouts you can do on certain days.They must however be ones that won't physically exhaust your body.I say this because if you do an alternate workout you want to come back fresh the next day.If you hammered 50 miles on the bike, then what kind of rest is that?
I personally use certain days to rest,I may do a walk or lift weights but they feel like rest days to me.There is another thing I also do,if I want to be competitive and since I am not running as much as I once did,I don't eat and drink whatever I want.If you are not particularly active,stop eating like you are.
As often is the case,ego plays a large role in using common sense when considering the aging process and being competitive.I guess you could throw a little ignorance,anxiety and denial into the pot as well.
But again,the enduring and successful runner,and by successful I'm referring to it subjectively;the enduring and successful runner is one who uses his head.He considers and thinks things through.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Saturday For Sunday

A quick note to let you know that there will be a one day delay in the usual Saturday post.The article,Facing Reality,will be published Sunday evening.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Time To Live

"There are those of us who are always about to live. We are waiting until things change,until there is more time,until we are less tired,until we get a promotion,until we settle down,until,until,until.It always seems as if there is some major event that must occur in our lives before we begin living." (Quote by Dr.George Sheehan).
Change can be intimidating,even scary. That's one thought that comes to mind when you read the above.The other thought,and one not so often considered is that as we get older we seem less willing to venture out of our comfort zone. Yiannis Kouros was once quoted as saying that an ideal life is one that takes risks and has many challenges.You feel alive,your life has a sense of urgency and purpose when you make the decision to "live" in the manner Dr.Sheehan is referring to above. His quote makes me think of the excerpt by Jack London which was on the back cover of the early editions of Pre! by Tom Jordan.I'm sure most of you have read it but it's well worth rereading and considering.
"I would rather be ashes than dust!
I would rather that my spark should burn out
in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot.
I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom
of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet.
The function of man is to live, not to exist.
I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them.
I shall use my time."
So why are you hesitating?


Saturday, February 16, 2013

On Courage

"It's not something that is talked about much by runners,but there is no getting around it:Some of us face the pain or discomfort of the training run or race better than others. A great deal of pain is actually a fear of the unknown.The elite runner feels the same sensations as all other competitors but they have learned to interpret them not as alarming signals that the body is self-destructing but as indications that the pace is too fast,warning signs that lactic acid is too high or that reserves are too low. What is pain or discomfort to the relatively inexperienced runner is merely information to the elite runner.Physically it feels exactly the same,the difference comes when the brain(conditioned by long hours of training)interprets those tiny electrical impulses." (Quote by Marty Liquori---once ranked #1 in the world at the 5k and mile distances.)
The sooner we dispel the thought that those who are successful in distance running occupy a 'different realm' or are people who don't experience what us average folk do,the more likely we will be to recognize that we can accomplish more than we ever imagined. That is of course if we put the time in and do the work.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Message From a Runner

I spoke with a runner a few weeks back,I'll call him Joe. Joe is a runner I've known for quite a while.He was very competitive at one time and racked up some impressive pr's, a high 33 for the 10k,a very low 16 or 15:50 for the 5k and a 2:50 for his debut in the marathon.There were other excellent times at different distances but I can't recall them,however, I do remember thinking I wished I could have run those times.
Well,Joe was telling me how after a fairly minor injury he quit running for 3 months and was having alot of trouble getting back into it.When I asked why he took such a long period off he had this to say.Perhaps what Joe told me might be a help to some of you.
"You know me Dave,I was always a competitive guy.After college I kept playing basketball in the town leagues until recurring ankle injuries forced me to quit.Then I needed some type of physical outlet so I started working out at a gym regularly.My ankle healed and I got very fit.At the gym I ran into some people who were part of a local running club and they invited me to join them on their biweekly runs.I had done very little distance running in the past but I was fit and didn't have much trouble doing an easy run on one of their five mile courses. As I ran at this comfortable pace I kept thinking how good it felt,the pace was smooth and easy,the conversation between us was interesting.               After a month or so I saw there was a local 5k race that the people I trained with were going to do.I thought that sounded like it might be fun so I entered.Surprisingly to me,I finished really well in my age group.I think at that moment I became hooked on racing,like I said,I am a competitive person by nature,whether it's at work or playing a pick-up game at the house.
The one thing that is great about running is that early on you see great improvement in conditioning and performance if you do the work,and improve I did.Age groups and high finishes in the road races came fairly quickly.As they did,the type of people I trained with changed.I started training with guys who were younger and better than me,their workouts were consistently tough.There weren't too many of those easy runs with enjoyable conversation anymore.As I think back,myself and the guys I trained with had an unhealthy,'we're the elite runners they're not' attitude.
Well,as anyone who's been around running a long time knows,eventually improvements in performance sort of plateau.It's at that time when those who know distance running recognize that training and racing seasons, as well as proper rest become things you must pay attention to.I didn't.Although I still raced well I started having nagging little discomforts and injuries,I often had a kind of 'washed out' feeling.I felt anything but energetic.In the past where I looked forward to working out with my 'elite' training partners I now had a subtle sense of dread before a workout.I think this was not only due to the fact that I knew I'd probably be going all out in the training session but it had gotten to the point that these guys,at least most of them, were not that much fun to train with anymore.To them it was all about the race they just ran and the one they were about to do.
Also,I once looked forward to races with a kind of childish enthusiasm, now I fretted about whether or not I'd perform up to my,and even my training partners expectations. I was constantly checking my watch in the early part of the races and freaking if I wasn't hitting the checkpoints like I had planned.I'm sure my wife would want me to add how moody and irritable I could get before certain races,I won't mention how I was after bad ones.
So,after a few years of this nonsense,when I got a calf injury and had to lay off for a couple of weeks, I felt a sense of relief in being injured,like a burden had been lifted,like the pressure was off.Then one evening,I was sitting on the back deck of my house having a few beers when it suddenly hit me,what am I doing to myself ? It was at that point I took another few months off and worked out at the gym like I used to. Then one evening I went to this park I hadn't been to in at least a year and went for an easy 5 miler. It was great. A week later I hooked up with some others who joined me in these easy runs over varying distances and terrains.The conversation was great and I felt great when it was over.As far as competing in the future? I honestly doubt I ever will,maybe that's  because I recognize that I don't have the right perspective on racing,or maybe it's because I just love running too much."

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Living Long and Healthy

Who doesn't want to live a long healthy life? Billions of dollars are spent in the U.S.on all things pertaining and relating to living long and healthy.For most,but not all,running is what we believe is a means to staying healthy.
I have also noticed that people adopt certain types of eating and diets in hopes of remaining healthy,vigorous and active well into what some call their "golden years." As one who has studied health and nutrition for about 40 years I have come to two conclusions on the subject of diet and nutrition.
1.Be cautious of the person,author, or health "expert" that is advocating a certain way of eating. Recognize that their livelihood depends on what they are advocating.By this I mean, would someone who has made money from book sales and seminars advocating a particular type of diet be willing to admit they were wrong if evidence came out to the contrary debunking their claims? I personally have never seen this happen. Actually,I've read of instances where some "experts" promoted one style of eating but didn't adhere to it themselves. This is a personal thing with me and may not be relevant but I always look at how the health advocate looks. For instance,you say you've been a "raw-fooder" for 25 years,then how come you look like anything but the picture of health? Perhaps I digress.
2.This is important,show me the proof that the diet and/or way of living you advocate is the way to go.Where on this earth are the people who over the generations have lived long and vigorous lives doing what you are advocating. If there aren't any, then you're just speculating brother. A wise man once wrote: calling yourself a preacher or a health expert are about the only two professions where you are not required to provide real credentials.That,is a true statement if there ever was one.
What follows are some findings pertaining to health and longevity backed up with the facts to verify what the person is reporting.I will inject a comment or two,as usual.
"Dr Alexander Leaf,a former professor at the Harvard Medical School, years ago visited three isolated areas of the world--Hunza in Pakistan,Vilcabamba in Ecuador and Abkhazia in the USSR---where men and women routinely live beyond 100. He discovered that these three groups shared several traits:
1.They live in mountains.
2.They are somewhat cut off from the mainstream of modern life.
3.They give high status to the aged and let them participate fully in the community.
4.Their everyday life demands constant endurance activity.
5.They eat lightly,with the diets including little or no meat."
Consider #5. They eat lightly. This is a recurring belief among those who study diet and longevity.Research has found that what some call, systematic undereating prolongs life and vitality.There is no way around the fact that light eating slows physical deterioration. I have referenced this fact on previous occasions when I did posts on Dr Van Aaken.We have been so conditioned to eat to excess that what I just said seems to be an invitation to starve yourself but it isn't.It is however an invitation to consider that you adopt an eat to live mindset rather than a live to eat one.I know fit,healthy older people who eat lightly throughout the day and have a dinner which they enjoy but would be called anything but heavy.You can still enjoy eating and foods while not doing so to excess.I always felt bad for the people I worked with who sat at a desk all day but ate breakfasts and lunches that seemed more suited for what a construction worker should eat.Sadly, their bodies reflected this but the biggest impact of this lifestyle choice will come in the future.
Lastly,notice the comment in #5,little or no meat, one of the biggest falsehoods promoted by some is that a vegetarian diet is a one way ticket to health and longevity.As a vegetarian for decades I can say from my experience that some of the people with the worst kind of eating habits were vegetarians. Many seemed to think that junk and fatty foods were ok if they didn't have any animal in them. I don't think so! The key is the amount of meat we eat,we need much less of it than what most Americans eat.Dr Barry Sears once wrote that you should eat no more meat at one siting then what you can put in the palm of your hand. I would add that you try to get it from organic sources if at all possible.
To close,live life vigorously and with purpose,eat light!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Do Not Be Discouraged!

"Do not be discouraged because you may affirm that you were not born strong. It is true that some types seem to inherit the factor of physical strength,just as some seem to inherit more brains.However,life has taught me in very many examples I have known personally,that with some natural flair for anything at all we can achieve heights quite exceptional if we will only believe in ourselves, and do the essential work,find the true way."
"Indeed--those who are hell-bent to succeed are those who often do what others believe to be implausible or impossible ".  Percy Cerutty.
Don't let the thought of what you believe it may take to achieve your athletic goals intimidate or overwhelm you.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Angry Al Presents Fred Funt

Some of you may recall Angry Al, he has contributed two articles over the last few years to this blog.For those who don't know him,Al was a guy myself and several other runners used to do our Sunday long runs with in the mid to late seventies. Al was a talker during these runs,always giving his two-cents on the state of running and the world.As his conversation became increasingly opinionated and strident, we would pick up the pace in an effort to shut him up. To his credit,Al,now in his late 60's, is still running.He's as opinionated as ever.Recently,he was bemoaning the state of today's American male distance athlete as compared to the one of decades past.What he had to say was interesting so I asked him to write something up to express how he felt. That he did in about eight hours.What follows is what he sent me.To you younger readers I should give a little background on a few of the things you are about to read. One,Jeff Galloway.Al doesn't like Jeff Galloway.In the early 90's, and perhaps still,Galloway has preached about the dangers of running too much. Al believes Galloway cites flawed and personal prejudices as to why he believes this is so.Meanwhile,Galloway has made a career out of  selling his books and seminars to people on how to get from zero mileage to a marathon in x amount of months.Also,Al is not a fan of the sensitive male runner.Beers and sweat suits are still the way to go. Cross training and fancy gear and gadgets are not for him.To sum it all up,he believes in a time when 'men were men and women were glad of it.' Consider the following by Al,he writes:
"Runner's World Profile:Fred Funt
Runners of some of the U.S.' major marathon's may recognize Fred but it won't be for his finishing times.He's known for the funny hats he wears in the marathons he runs.At the recent Disney Marathon he wore  a huge Mickey Mouse figure on top of his sombrero.Although it weighed close to eight pounds,Fred had a smile and wave for everyone on his way to finishing in 4:58:34.
We're profiling Fred this month for the work he's done  with former Olympian,now coach and writer,Jeff Galloway.Together they have started an internet support group for runners who haven't yet achieved their marathon goals.'It's long overdue Fred states,'  'Jeff has been such a help in offering his computer software programs at a fraction of their cost to runners who are going through some very difficult emotional times.Not reaching your marathon goal(s)can impact every aspect of your life.'  Readers who are interested in their support group can email Fred and Jeff at .
Runner's World salutes Fred for making the running world a better place.
Fred's Profile:
Name:Fred Funt   Age:39
Occupation: Clerk,Fred's working part-time at the college bookstore where he is pursuing a second PHD at SUNY Buffalo. Says Fred, 'My wife says I'm a schoolaholic.'
Marital Status: married to Elizabrth Clare Farrant,an assistant professor at SUNY Buffalo.
Religion:Zen Buddhist
Political Affiliation: Liberal
Favorite Movie:Titanic--'I've watched it at least 9 times.'
Hobbies: 'Elizabeth and I have recently started clogging.'
Favorite Musician: Adele
Favorite adult beverage:Skinny Margarita---
Favorite Food:I'm a strict vegan. I love my celery/tomato bisque.
Favorite non-running sport: Golf
Current Book Your Reading: History of the Modern Women's Movement,1965 to 1969,Vol.1.
Years running:12
Favorite runner: Katherine Switzer Robinson.
Favorite running magazine: Runner's World.
Mileage last week:45, my all-time high. I'm gearing up to hopefully qualify for Boston.
Most important aspects of your training right now: 'my 3x's a week yoga sessions,the hot yoga is a bear! Also, my monthly 20 milers are a cornerstone to my marathon preparation.'
Burning running question: 'Why do I keep running out of gas at the 21 mile mark in my marathons?'
Advice to other runners:'Try not to take it too seriously,after all,it's only running.'
Runner's World Salutes Fred as our Runner of the Month."