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In recent weeks there have been some top-notch programs on RunnersRoundTable. As I listened to Julie’s episode on Eating Disorders — I was on the treadmill — I was struck by a thread that connects it from two recent shows:

The thread is normalcy. In the Nutrition episode, for example, guest Nancy Clark, a nutritionist, emphasized the reality that we are unique. Focus on a good balance in what you eat and the body will take care of the rest. Don’t sweat the stuff at the margins. Your weight? If you’re eating properly and getting exercise, it is what it is.

I feared that the Vegan episode would be proselytizing, but there was none of that. Just people who have changed what they eat and feel better about it. Me? I’m not convinced. But while I eat meat, I don’t eat it that frequently.

Tonight, Julie’s guests spoke of their eating disorders. Again, though, and not to simplify, they felt that there was something wrong with what they were and they took drastic action to make themselves “right.” It was frightening. (And it was noted that men with eating disorders (Dave Dunham was on the show) are grossly underreported.) Not simple issues for those who suffer. Part of it to this layman is, as I say, the conviction that she’s “wrong.”

As runners, of course, we’re forever looking for an edge, an improvement. I have books, just by Matt Fitzgerald, on “Brain Training” and the optimal body weight (which turns out to be the weight at which you run your best), not to mention this training approach and that.

It’s good to remember, though, that in the end, we shouldn’t sweat the margins. The body’s an amazing organism. Treat it well and it’ll treat you well. Julie wondered tonight, “what is the line between dedication and obsession?” I hope we can know it when we see it.


It’s a bit of a struggle over at RunnersRoundTable. Those who created it and kept it moving with shows virtually every week, especially Toni Harvey in London, decided to pass the torch, but that has resulted in gaps, notwithstanding the efforts of Mark U. and Amanda L. RRT can use your help. If you’re interested, let them know.

[Click Here for Runners Roundtable – Episode 98]

I had the idea to have a RunnersRoundTable series on fundamentals, and the first thing that came to me is running form. The following is what I posted for the show on Thursday night. If anyone has questions or suggestions, please let me know:

“Distance runners and coaches seem to hate the topic of running form. Most subscribe to the idea that a runner will naturally find his best stride and that stride should not be changed.” Steve Magness continues, “It’s my belief that the wide range of ‘correct’ ways to run has led to this apathetic attitude towards running form changes by most athletes and coaches. The argument that running is a natural movement that should not be corrected is easy to dispel.”

Taking a look at Steve’s series, Pete Larson put up on of his own, On Running Form. Pete took a look at some high-speed/slow-motion videos he had taken at Boston (those are the leaders in the photo) and drilled down to the $64,000 Question: What about heel-strike?

Meanwhile Jason Kehl’s blog Geeks in Running Shoes (with Raymond King) got into the act, linking to Pete’s blog and, in a separate entry, referred to Jeff Kline’s posts about “the” proper form.

Mark U. wrote into his blog Run In America concerning the mid-foot/minimalist cause, his efforts to change his form and his improvement.

Now all those posts have been in the last month or so and there are many others. It sends one’s head aspinning.

To help slow things down a bit, we’ve recruited Steve, Pete, Mark, and Jason to RRT. The subject: Running Form. The objective: Make some sense of the debate. The result: Less confusion (we hope).

On RRT98, Thursday, September 16 at 8pm EDT, we’re going to talk about these issues.

  • Is there “perfect” running form?
  • Should we tweak or should we overhaul our own form?
  • How do you know whether what you’re doing is good? Or bad?
  • What is heelstriking? Mid-foot? Fore-foot?

Or words to that effect. Or maybe it’s 2:12, but that was something that came up on Wednesday in the most recent RunnersRoundTable in which I participated. Entitled “Compete or Complete,” the idea came from a slower runner who took offense at a series of articles and ads that demeaned the efforts of people who were slow. It’s a topic about which I’ve written, and “people of the land,” as the Waco Kid described them, have demeaned my view on the subject.

I was drafted as a voice from the other side of the fence (which is why I included my 2006 in my bio).  What do faster folk think of the slow? After noting the 2:10 standard (for men in the marathon), I figure we’re all in the same boat.  No one cares about my times except me.  The issue is not how fast you are but how you get there. (I also managed to get in what I sometimes think is the motto for some on LetsRun: “You suck if you haven’t run X” where X, in a marathon, is one minute slower than the speaker’s PR.)

Listen to RRT 92

RRT on iTunes

I hosted today’s RunnersRoundTable and a lively discussion it was. My goal was to impress upon people that one needn’t race a marathon to be a runner. I think that got across. Listen.

I began with the following premise. There are four things a runner can:

  1. Run an ultra
  2. Race a marathon
  3. Run a marathon
  4. Race shorter

Read the rest of this entry »

As I sit here, I am decidedly undecided about whether to run New York. Which hasn’t stopped me from suggesting a RunnersRoundTable show on Reasons Not To Run A Marathon. It’ll be on May 19. Feel free to head into the chat room.

It’s a continuation of the debate I had on January 1, which in turn followed up on Flo’s similar thoughts. My premise is that the point is to race a marathon and that requires lots of work. (To get off of my high-horse for a moment, this is not to say I wouldn’t run NY if I don’t race it. I likely would. It is to say that it wouldn’t be the focus of my fall training.)

TK recently commented on a celebrity chef (I don’t know about the “hottie” part) doing the LA Marathon on eight day’s training. “Why he and everyone else is acting like it’s such a great and amazing thing is beyond me. What a terrible example he’s setting for people; folks who don’t know any better could get seriously injured! And, notice the braces he’s wearing on his knees, and his finishing time [5:19:03]. Pbblt.”

If there’s one point I want to get across on the RunnersRoundTable it’s the unhealthy obsession that I sense about the marathon (or, I imagine, the Ironman (as opposed to halfs and Olympic-distance) for triathletes).

Read the rest of this entry »

Der Mensch ist, was er ißt (A man is what he easts)

The Nov. 18 RunnersRoundTable featured a Canadian named Yuri Elkaim. He has a bunch of websites, some of which are aimed at those seeking to lose weight and has a line of treadmill-training podcasts. “Interval Training iPod Workouts to Help You RUN FASTER, Farther, and Longer Than Ever With Just 2 Runs Per Week…Or Your Money Back!”

The topic of nutrition arose. Here’s a follow-up email exchange (me in italics):

Toni [RRT’s top honcha],

There were several items that were brought up on today’s show that I think could use clarification. I went to Yuri Elkaim’s site but, alas, there is no email address. I’d like to email him directly or have you forward this. I’m sure he can set my mind at ease about a couple of points.

In particular, I believe he said that raw food digests more easily than cooked food. Now I’m no scientist, but based upon the recent “Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human” — an excellent read by the way which includes reference to the evolution of the human foot — I understand that in fact cooked food digests with far less energy use than does raw food and that homo sapiens are unique in the animal kingdom because they do eat cooked food and, accordingly, use less energy for digestion, had more energy to devote to other uses (specifically the development of larger, more energy-intensive brains, and have a far smaller digestive system than do other animals (or pre-cooking ancestors). Hence the notion that raw food diets are preferable because animals in the wild follow them is wrong.

I raised this question several times in the chatroom but, alas, it was missed. This is distinct from the eat-more-fruits-and-vegetable point, with which I agree.

Similarly, Matt, the other resident skeptic in the chatroom (I’m cc:ing him), questioned Mr. Elkaim’s comment about acid and alkaline in food. Matt [Tartar, of DumpRunners fame] linked to an article “Acid/Alkaline Theory of Disease Is Nonsense.” I confess to even less knowledge about this, but I think it is something that warrants a response from Mr. Elkaim, if only to, you know, explain why it’s not nonsense.

Again, I’d appreciate getting his email address or forwarding this to him for his response, which I’m sure will clear things up for me. I may do a post on it.

Finally, as to interval training which you raised as to your own training, it is a useful part of any training regimen. But it is only a part. Taking training to the next level requires a judicious mix of all of the types of training (long runs, intervals, repeats, tempos), and application of them in an intelligent manner. So an interval is not simply “run as fast as you can for a bit and then rest.” I hate to see anyone identify any single workout or type of workout as the silver bullet.

Joe Garland

Hey Joe,

I understand that you need some clarification based on some of the stuff we discussed on yesterday’s call.

First off, I don’t understand how cooked foods are easier to digest than raw foods??? I haven’t read the book you refer to but my from my own knowledge and research raw foods are easier for the body to digest because they are loaded with food enzymes, intact “recognizable” nutrients, and require less energy and water to be broken down.

The only caveat to this is that some people have a tough time digesting the more fibrous vegetables like celery, brocolli, etc…

Second, the acid/alkaline theory is a big concept in health and disease prevention.

These are concepts which I discuss in my book and I would rather not spend more time than this email to debate over this stuff.

No matter how much research you do you’ll always find opposite views. Find what works for you. That’s my best recommendation.

In regards to interval training, I wrote a blog post about it on my blog this morning. Here you go:

Hope that helps.

Yuri Elkaim, BPHE, CK, RHN
Owner, Total Wellness Consulting
Author, Eating for Energy

Mr. Elkaim,

Thanks for the response. Again, I’m no expert, and I recommend “Catching Fire” to you. It details the studies concerning the digestion of food, raw v. cooked. Also, a quick Google search (“digestion of raw food”) found a 2000 article “Raw vs. Cooked” that discusses the enzyme theory and says there is no evidence to support it. That people on raw-food diets lose weight also suggests that raw foods require more energy to digest as does the fact that the human digestive system is materially shorter than that for all other animals (all of which eat just raw food) is also consistent with that book’s thesis.

But we need not resolve this here. I just wish we had the chance to have you discuss it on the show. I do agree on the importance of a balanced diet and the avoidance of junk foods (well, in excess at least). I do not agree, however, that in science “you’ll always find opposite views.” I mean, sure, you’ll find creationists out there, but their rants don’t compromise the theory of evolution.

Also, I’ll comment on your “interval” post on your site.

Finally, Toni has asked me to post this thread on the RunnersRoundTable webpage, and I trust that’s alright with you. I’ll probably also post something on my blog.

Joe Garland

Sure thing sounds good Joe.

Thanks for the reference.

As noted, I posted a comment on his interval post, which describes:

    Interval Protocol #1
    1. Sprint for 10 seconds
    2. Jog for 30 seconds
    – repeat for 20 minutes

    Interval Protocol #2
    1. Run at 90% for 2 minutes
    2. Jog for 1 minute
    – repeat for 20 minutes

My comment:

    I don’t think your Interval Protocols #1 or #2 qualify as interval workouts as runners understand them. Or at least as I understand them.

    Protocol #2 is a tempo run, which is designed to improve one’s lactate threshold.

    I don’t know what Protocol #1 is designed for. It is too fast to be an interval and too short to be a repeat.

    I use terminology adapted from “Daniels’ Running Formula.” In that world, an interval workout is designed to improve one’s VO2max. To reach the max, and thereby stress it for adaptation, one must run for a certain period and limit the recovery. The recover is the “interval.” In its simplest manifestation, one runs for 5 minutes. From scratch, it takes 3 minutes to reach one’s VO2max. Five minutes allows for 2 minutes in that zone. One takes a somewhat shorter, i.e., under 5 minute, break before the next.

    Alternatively, one can run 400s. But that doesn’t get into the VO2max zone except that if one shortens the interval one doesn’t fully recover and one doesn’t start the next one from scratch. So, e.g., one workout I do (corresponding to a Daniels workout, is 16 X 400 at 80 w/ 40 sec. break. (The data for this are set forth at page 125 of Daniels’ Running Formula, 2nd ed.)

    The third variable, after distance and interval, is speed. I get to the 80 seconds not randomly but because it corresponds to the appropriate pace for someone who is in 35:30 10K shape. When I was younger and faster, the pace would be quicker as well. And every bit of running, from first to last, is at the same pace. Were I to do the first ones too fast, the last ones would be too slow. (This calculation is based up the “Running Formula” whence the book gets its name.)

    Now it may well be that “90%” matches one’s interval pace, but I can’t say since I don’t know what it is 90% of. And your description of the purpose matches tempo runs.

    The formula tells me that my pace in a tempo run, which would be ideally 20 minutes, about 88/400. The pace is slower because the system being stressed differs from the one being stressed in an interval workout.

    As to protocol #1, given the full recovery, I don’t know how one will get to the VO2max. Indeed, a third type of workout is the repeat, in which you run faster than in an interval workout and have full recovery, which works the anaerobic system as well (and more importantly) one’s form.

    In a sense your #1 is more akin to short, steep hill workouts. Brad Hudson describes these — 8 seconds (later extended to 10 and then 12 seconds) “at maximal intensity on the steepest hill we can find.” The purpose of this workout, however, is to build strength and to “increase the power and efficiency of the stride.” (Run Faster, at 35.) They are more like weightlifting and I periodically supplement my other workouts (or sometimes do part of a workout on a track and then head up a nearby hill) with them. By definition they are full recovery since it takes a while to jog back down the hill.

    Perhaps it is more akin to a short hill workout that some coaches add as an element of a t

    Now I don’t know any serious runner, of which I count myself one, who does not do interval workouts as well as tempo runs. Repeats are rarer.

    In the end, my point is that pointing to a single workout as the key is silly since each workout has to be part of a whole. I’m sure you recognize that, but I took from RunnersRoundTable (and I apologize that I was disconnected for a brief portion of the discussion) that interval training was being suggested as something more than it was, and it also seems that your use is inconsistent with the terms as commonly (albeit not universally) understood. The degree to which one does these various types of workouts also varies by the events for which one is aiming. I would do only a few interval workouts in marathon training and many more if I was shooting for a 5K since the need to push one’s VO2max in a race won’t arise in the former as it will in the latter.

    And, of course (and I’m sure this is done elsewhere on your site) it is crucial that one define the pace of any workout and also not to have everyone simply do it at X pace. The Goldilocks principle applies, not-too-fast/not-too-slow.


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