Studying Up On The Heart Impact Of Running

Marathon running is bad for your heart, there I said it.

It’s been coming across my desk a bit lately, most recently last night reading The Longevity Paradox, that yeah running marathons puts chronic stress on your heart and builds up scar tissue and unreversible calcium deposits. Really I’ve been bummed about it since I heard Micah True died after Born To Run.

To me it means it’s important to recover properly and to take an off season. And it reinforces the spiritual connection between ultra-runners and addicts, like we have to do something that’s killing us to feel alive. In running, like drinking, it’s important to abstain sometimes, do it in moderation most of the time, and have the occasional binge so that too much sanity doesn’t drive you nuts.

As I’m reading more on it you do have to be running a fucking lot and ignoring warning signs for the few people who that runner’s heart really happens to. 15 – 20 miles a week is apparently the sweet spot for running health and that’s a lot of miles as far as the vast majority of people, even runners, are concerned.

What I’m curious about is if you can build up your health with intervals and other cardio to make running quicker to recover from and less damaging acutely. And as I’m wading deep into I found this gem: Favorable left ventricular remodeling and increased left ventricular ejection fraction occurred after HIIT …which hopefully means I’m right…

I’ll let you know more as I find it, in the meantime pray for Karnazes

Why We Should Buff More Than Nerf

I linked to this video (Why We Should Buff More Than Nerf, a video about pro fighting game culture) in my Videos I Liked This Week a while ago and said that while it felt important I couldn’t quite express how it was related to Health & Fitness.

Then I was reading about pooping and it all came together.

Really I was reading about digestion and the consequences of a high protein diet but it was poop-motivated, shall we say.

And I added some pre-bed magnesium citrate to my routine. This qualifies as a buff, something added to make one stronger.

Whereas to Nerf is to make one weaker. Running shoes have nerfed our feet, they are weaker because of the raised heel and excessive cushioning. But really to back away from anything is to nerf. If you hit the treadmill and later your knees hurt so you think treadmill’s not for me and give up on cardio then you have nerfed yourself. I’m not saying fight through the pain, I’m saying adapt and learn and get stronger – i.e, buff.

A lot of people nerf themselves because they don’t want to be too different from their peers. It can be hard to say I’m not going to eat this or that because I want to look better around your friends who are broadcasting that they’re totally fine with how they look. So we nerf ourselves.

We can back away from things we want to do because we might not succeed and therefore confirm our loserdom. So we nerf ourselves.

But not everything that makes training easier is a nerf. I’m reading Road To Sparta by Dean Karnazes currently and just passed the section where he writes about the importance of keeping one’s feet dry and changing one’s socks during ultramarathons to prevent a host of problems (what a thriller! I know). So extra socks isn’t a nerf even though it seems a bit like comfort-seeking. Extra socks is a buff because preventing blisters and trenchfoot is going to make you run stronger, longer.

Now I think there is a danger of turning anything into a nerf and I’m thinking of people who bring an energy gel for every 10k of a race. It’s a mental crutch at that point, no one needs that much nutrition.

So you might be bringing all these socks with you everywhere thinking it makes you stronger but really it’s preventing you from ever tapping into your strength. Are you living this life or are your socks, man?

And now clearly this is about alcohol. Or any drug, really. But mostly alcohol. The great social lubricant can get a person out of their shell and into the conversation so it’s a buff but if you always use it and never your own strength, it’s a nerf. Especially once you believe you can’t do something without it.

So, are you buffing or nerfing? Are you adding things that make you stronger or are you hiding behind things that make you weaker?

My Half Of An Argument On Why If You Don’t Like Running Something Is Wrong With You

The Bros and I were talking after squash the other day and one of them disagreed with me that human beings are wired to enjoy running and if you don’t it’s because something is blocking that enjoyment.

I know what you’re thinking; how goddamn dare he and I’m obviously right. Thank you for thinking that, everybody.

Naturally the discussion didn’t end when we got off the train and fist-bumped our good byes, it rattled on and on in my head every day since. I talk to myself about it while running.

And that’s how blogs are born. That’s the blog-stork in action.

So here’s my thesis statement that if you disagree with you’re wrong: Going back, back back in human history til it’s pre-human history and you find the earliest possible things that we could identity with and they would eat, fuck, and run. Run from predators and after prey, run to survey ground, run to play as growing young like the young of all species use play to develop adult skills. And they’d ‘enjoy’ those things in the evolutionary sense because being better at them and doing them more would pass on one’s genes. That’s all we’d have in common. We’d otherwise look different, smell different, fear different things, whatever.

Let’s look at the other two things on the list, eating and sex. Starting with sex because. Everyone has sexual expression (if one wanted to argue that not loving running was as anomalous as asexuality I’d accept) and if someone has blockage between themselves and that expression we assume it’s trauma or shame or physical ailment.

Whatever your thing is for sex a progressive society basically wants you to have it. There’s surely a chat room for you at least. If droves of people were saying I hate sex, it’s just not for me we’d try to help them get to a purer, unadulterated, expression of their sexual selves. We want you to grow into a healthy sexual expression and if someone messes that up for you bad enough we put them in jail.

With athletic self expression we’re like yeah some people just don’t like it. And if cruel coaches and jocks and negligent parents warp what could be a healthy and enjoyable expression for you, no one goes to jail or is even shunned.

My completely moderate opinion is that if you ruin someone’s relationship to their body in any way we should bring back stoning.

As a society we’re more likely to mock someone for being overly athletic or a health nut than not athletic at all (fat shaming being a totally different issue because I’m talking about mockery not cruelty, fat shamers should also be stoned). That’s like saying wow you’re too comfortable with your sexuality and knowing how to communicate it with your partners, ho ho, cocktail party laughter.

And Food. The other thing we all have to engage with and enjoy. People have different preferences you say, just like some people don’t like avocados some people might not like running and that’s not a flaw that’s diversity.

But we’re not different or diverse underneath and that’s my actual point. Our bodies all have wants and needs built in. We all need protein, some fats, and basically the same vitamins to not die. You don’t have scurvy for the same reason I don’t have scurvy, no preferences involved. The expression of how you don’t get scurvy is up to you and can be a preference but not your body’ desire to not get scurvy.

Your body has a desire to move, built in from an ancient history of running, that is as real as it’s desire not to get scurvy. Now maybe your expression isn’t marathon running but even if it’s climbing (which is really extreme, vertical, running) or dancing (which is running made symbolic and pointless) the underlying evolutionary drive toward it is real and is in everyone unless they have a dysfunction that we should be striving to alleviate.

This has been my perfectly reasonable rant on the subject so I can go on with my life.

Videos I Liked This Week

I learned about The Barkley 100 race, as I read about running I keep coming across more and more extreme and obscure races and this takes the latest cake. A 60 hour race based on the path of an escaped convict.


I love this video. Brooke calls it a bro session in the beginning and she’s so right, by the mid point of the lifts they’re acting like scratching, spitting, high fiving, heavy lifting bros and it’s great. It goes to show that being a good bro is gender neutral, everyone needs to bro out sometimes.


A classic Jeff this week


And I can’t think of any excuse as to why this is fitness related but there’s something important-feeling about this video about the skills gap and difference between beginners, spectators, and hardcore competitors. Maybe it relates to the Barkley 100 and how some races are for the true greats and other people just want to run short, flat, pleasant races with lululemon gift bags.

Mostly it’s just neat and I love a guided tour of a subculture I know nothing about.

How To Start Going To The Gym For People Who Never Thought They’d Be Going To A Gym

First, as always, buy a new outfit.

You might think oh I’ll just wear my sweats and a t shirt. This is wrong and you will hate yourself.

Because when you go to the gym for the first time you are going to feel like an absolute knob. In your shitty old laundry-day, house-cleaning attire you are going to feel so much more like a knob among the super buff young attractive people you feel are staring at you.

The voices in your head are mean, way meaner than people in real life, your foremost job is to not give them any ammo.

Don’t give your shit-voices (or the loser fairy, or the KFUKD radio station in your head) any ammo, ever.

So buy an outfit that feels good and know that you’re still going to feel like a complete knob.

Day 1 until whenever you’re just getting changed, hitting the treadmill, and calling it a day. You’re just getting comfortable in the space, get to feeling like you are actually entitled to be there for as long as it takes.

And sometime you’ll be feeling really in the zone, good run, nice day, whatever, and you’ll go try a machine.

Machines have instructions. You can lessen your knob factor by reading them. Actually it’s a one-time spike in your knob factor but it’s net reduction over all.

Again, still complete knob but you’ll be chuckling about it. When you start doing machines just be playful, this is why you have to do it on a day you’re in the zone. Don’t do heavy weights or long sets because you’re not building a program, just do anything that you feel like as much as you feel like and keep it light.

Now you’re in phase two and you’re going to do this for a while. Read instructions, watch form que videos online, stretch at home where no one can see your knobbery.

Congratulations, you’re now a gym goer and it took how ever long it took. No set number of days, no before and after photo, no program, no shit. Laugh with everyone you know about how awkward and hard it is and take the power away from your head voices whispering its only you who’s ever been a novice and everyone else is good at everything especially sex all the time.

At some point start pushing yourself hard enough on one body part to require rest days and a split and all that but only do it when you’re in that zone too.

I promise you you’re not running out of time or too late or anything. You’re making your life longer and better you’ve got all the time in the world.

Focus On Incremental Goals And You’ll Get There, Focus On Outcome And You’ll Quit

I was trying to say this last Monday about why you’re not going to run yourself thin but I don’t think it was a success. So I’m going to switch examples and talk about a favourite exercise I once said I’d never do: Bench Press.

Seriously. I’m proud to say I have a tattoo dedicated to my love of coffee and chest work outs. It says French Press & Bench Press. I almost named the blog that too. Anyway…

I had no desire to build up my chest, or get pecs, or even to bench press really. All my training was focused on running and you don’t really need a big bench for that. But I did need to something to balance out all the lower body work and in The 4 Hour Body (which is brilliant for running) there’s a program to get a stronger bench press.

I’ll always take strength training over vanity training so I figured why not?

Ferris’ plan has 3 weights with 3 grips once a week. I did the math for the percentages of my one rep max (I used 115 as a guess really) and put each work out on an index card with a date. Put’em all in a stack and each week I took the card to the gym and did the work out. Along with my usual training and whatever else of my day. Never thought about it much, in fact it was nice not to have to think about it or even measure my progress or check anything. Just doing the cards.

And then, long before I thought it happen, long before the program was done, one of my fitness goals dreams came true.

I got oooh‘d at in the staffroom.

Change snuck up on me and it snuck up on everyone. Just like when I lost a lot of belly fat by cutting carbs I changed my habits and focused on the habits themselves, not on forever, not on outcomes, just the next work out card, the next meal, the run, the sleep, the work, the day itself.

It’s actually a lot like Alcohol Recovery. You get overwhelmed and fatalistic if you think about fixing everything, changing everything, about how things should be if you’d stop fucking up. Success comes one day at time.

That’s how to have a great first year, a year where you look back and gleefully see all the progress you made while you weren’t looking, while no one was looking. If you try and look forward you will not be gleeful, you’ll be resentful. You’re trying to look around the mountaintop while you’re still climbing, you don’t have much of a view. And that’s good. Look at the rock, examine the rock, fall in love with the rock. And keep moving. One hand at a time, one card at a time, one meal at a time, one debt payment at a time, whatever. Make a plan and work the plan, work it so diligently you never want it to end and the outcomes are just pleasant surprises that you don’t care about much because you’re excited forming a new plan.

Why Treadmills

Running on a treadmill is odd at first. Your sense of propulsion is thrown off when you’re moving but not moving forward. There’s a feeling of not being in control.

But after adjusting to that with one or two runs I began to really love the treadmill. And since running outside I notice there are many things about treadmills I prefer.

The treadmill lets you focus. Whether on foot falls, or breathing, or any kind of form work, or on podcasts, or a movie, or brainstorming and problem solving. You can set the treadmill to the speed and incline you want and then concentrate. No cars, no dogs, no soccer games, it’s a Me-zone, a safe space.

For running form in particular it’s great because when you’re mind wanders, as it does when scenery changes, your body wanders back into bad habits.

No distance home means you can give it your all. There’s a psychological trick at play when you’re running, you’re tired, and you’re far from home. Your brain is doing the math of how much energy it’s going to take to get back so you’re counting every step twice. Furthermore, once you decide to go back the run is over, you either feel victorious or defeated but you don’t feel like running one more K just ’cause.

On the treadmill you just cross thresholds, see how you feel and where the next one is, then you keep going ’cause you can stop anytime. The first time I ran 10k I got myself to go way harder than I’d have predicted by caring about getting to a round number on the distance and the time. Meaning at 6.78K I’d think about 7k then at 7k I’d be at 31:23 so I’d focus on getting to 32 minutes.

Also, I find something cute about how 10k used to be a struggle.

Even on a bad feeling day on the treadmill I can always see how I feel at the next ten minute interval or kilometer.

Running outside it’s just do I have another lap in me? Feels like no. I’m far enough from home, might as well turn back.

Which brings me to the next great thing about the mill, knowing the time and distance. Free running you just know how tired you feel and what the weather is like. On the treadmill you get that first feeling of wow I’m surprisingly tired and it hasn’t been that long, am I not strong, should I hate myself? and then you look down and think oh right in that 12 minute zone as usual la de da.

That’s a personal thing I noticed. There’s always a twinge of crappy feeling at 12 minutes or 6k.

As an addendum for people who think they hate running: once you find your race pace you only feel the suck at that first wall. If you’re running harder than race pace (or lactate threshold) you’ll feel the suck a bunch of times as you sprint up and die down, feeling in and out of the zone alternately, and if you’re running slower than pace you’ll get bored. Those are the two reasons people think they hate running. But at your special magic just-for-you lactate threshold race pace you can just get in the zone and stay there for hours, just banging out K.

Which also reminds that on a treadmill It’s controlling pacing so you don’t have to. This might look like laziness but I’d say it’s just the efficiency of machine living. Free running you’ll start too fast, burn out, speed up for good songs, speed up when you think you’ve slowed down just because you’re in the zone and not struggling, you’ll slow down and down and down as you tire then burst back to compensate, and you’re just gonna be a mess of tempos wreaking havoc on your system. On the treadmill you’re like treadmill, I wanna be in the zone for 90 minutes and bang out some K and the treadmill is just like Yo.

You can’t slow to a pathetic stop you have to push a button that represents fully quitting. And when you reach for that button you’ll ask yourself do I really not have one more step in me? No, I can finish out the kilometer, or the 3 minutes to get to the next multiple of ten, I’ll be in the shower 2 minutes after I stop no matter when I stop so fuck it. And then the treadmill is like I got you, the whole time you were thinking I still had you had 7.6 mph and you’re like thanks brutha and it’s like Yo.

This is evidently the blog where Alastair got caffeine psychosis while writing.

And finally to wrap it up. The Weather. It would be easy to blow this off as complaining but toughing out the weather is what kills people. During the winter on the treadmill I was banging out 10k, then 12, then 15, then 17, in a climate control, dust free room. And bang those K I did, sir.

If you’re a beginner and weather is making you want to quit take it out of the equation. Don’t buy the notion that you have to toughen up because you won’t. Forming new habits is about training dopamine, the reward system in the brain. No reward, no habit. Build up the habit and the toughness on the easy levels and then do the boss fight of running in a hail storm. (Melissa’s 2018, I was there, humblebrag)

Do run outside eventually, do run outside when you feel like and sometimes when you don’t, do learn to control your own pace, do learn to rise and fall with your feelings, do run on different surfaces, do run barefoot, do everything. Swim, bike, and strength train.

I wrote about a while ago about the danger of being too sciency with your training and this post is more about the danger of being too spiritual, too earthy. Someone said to Tim Ferris that treadmills are bad for your soul and I’m like fuck off. This isn’t a prayer circle this is running, we’re training – we don’t have time for pretentious hippie bullshit.

With no offense intended to my pretentious hippie readers.