Monday, August 31, 2009

Another article about barefoot running

Here is another article that I found about barefoot running. It seems to be becoming quite popular to talk about. As far as how my own barefoot running is coming along, I am still only doing it 2-3 times a week for only 5 minutes on the grass. I might start uping the time a little in Sept to 10 mins once a week and keep the other sessions at 5 mins.

You can click here for the article or I have copied the text below for you.

Wiggling Their Toes at the Shoe Giants
Published: August 29, 2009

TODD BYERS was among more than 20,000 people running the San Francisco Marathon last month. Dressed in shorts and a T-shirt, he might have blended in with the other runners, except for one glaring difference: he was barefoot.

Tony Post, chief of Vibram North America, in the company's thin rubber running shoes. He says the industry is due for a shake-up.
Even in anything-goes San Francisco, his lack of footwear prompted curious stares. His photo was snapped, and he heard one runner grumble, “I just don’t want the guy without shoes to beat me.”

Mr. Byers, 46, a running coach and event manager from Long Beach, Calif., who clocked in at 4 hours 48 minutes, has run 75 marathons since 2004 in bare feet. “People are kind of weird about it,” he shrugs.

Maybe they shouldn’t be. Recent research suggests that for all their high-tech features, modern running shoes may not actually do much to improve a runner’s performance or prevent injuries. Some runners are convinced that they are better off with shoes that are little more than thin gloves for the feet — or with no shoes at all.

Plenty of medical experts disagree with this notion. The result has been a raging debate in running circles, pitting a quirky band of barefoot runners and researchers against the running-shoe and sports-medicine establishments.

It has also inspired some innovative footwear. Upstart companies like Vibram, Feelmax and Terra Plana are challenging the running-shoe status quo with thin-sole designs meant to combine the benefits of going barefoot with a layer of protection. This move toward minimalism could have a significant impact on not only running shoes but also on the broader $17 billion sports shoe market.

The shoe industry giants defend their products, saying they help athletes perform better and protect feet from stress and strain — not to mention the modern world’s concrete and broken glass.

But for all the technological advances promoted by the industry — the roll bars, the computer chips and the memory foam — experts say the injury rate among runners is virtually unchanged since the 1970s, when the modern running shoe was introduced. Some ailments, like those involving the knee and Achilles’ tendon, have increased.

“There’s not a lot of evidence that running shoes have made people better off,” said Daniel E. Lieberman, a professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard, who has researched the role of running in human evolution.

Makers of athletic shoes have grown and prospered by selling a steady stream of new and improved models designed to cushion, coddle and correct the feet.

In October, for example, the Japanese athletic-shoe maker Asics will introduce the latest version of its Gel-Kinsei, a $180 marvel of engineering that boasts its “Impact Guidance System” and a heel unit with multiple shock absorbers. Already offered by Adidas is the Porsche Design Sport Bounce:S running shoe, with metallic springs inspired by a car’s suspension system. It costs as much as $500.

Some question the benefit of all that technology. Dr. Craig Richards, a researcher at the School of Medicine and Public Health at the University of Newcastle in Australia — and, it should be noted, a designer of minimalist shoes — surveyed the published literature and could not find a single clinical study showing that cushioned or corrective running shoes prevented injury or improved performance. His findings were published last year in The British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Other experts say that there is little research showing that the minimalist approach is any better, and some say it can be flat-out dangerous.

“In 95 percent of the population or higher, running barefoot will land you in my office,” said Dr. Lewis G. Maharam, medical director for the New York Road Runners, the group that organizes the New York City Marathon. “A very small number of people are biomechanically perfect,” he said, so most need some sort of supportive or corrective footwear.

Nevertheless, a growing number of people now believe in running as nature intended — and if not barefoot, then as close to it as possible. They remain a tiny segment of the population — some would say fringe. But popular training methods like ChiRunning and the Pose Method that promote a more “natural” gait, as well as “Born to Run,” a best-selling new book about long-distance running by Christopher McDougall, have helped spur interest.

Proponents of this approach contend that naked feet are perfectly capable of running long distances, and that encasing them in the fortress of modern footwear weakens foot muscles and ligaments and blocks vital sensory input about terrain.

“The shoe arguably got in the way of evolution,” said Galahad Clark, a seventh-generation shoemaker and chief executive of the shoemaker Terra Plana, based in London. “They’re like little foot coffins that stopped the foot from working the way it’s supposed to work.”

The big shoe companies are clearly paying attention to the trend. Nike was first to market with the Nike Free, a flexible shoe for “barefootlike running” with less padding than the company’s typical offerings. It was introduced in 2005 after Nike representatives discovered that a prominent track coach to whom they supplied shoes had his team train barefoot.

But some in the industry are critical of the barefoot push. Simon Bartold, an international research consultant for Asics, said advocates of barefoot running “are propagating a campaign of misinformation.”

SPEND some time in Concord, Mass., and you might catch a glimpse of a fit 51-year-old man in a pair of funny-looking socks running down the bucolic streets.

That would be Tony Post, the president and C.E.O. of Vibram USA, on a lunchtime run. And those socks? They’re actually thin rubber “shoes” with individual toe pockets. Called Vibram FiveFingers, they’ve been selling briskly to runners and athletes looking to strengthen their feet and sharpen their game.

When Vibram, an Italian company known for its rugged rubber soles, designed the FiveFingers a few years ago, company officials figured that they would appeal to boaters, kayakers and yogis. Instead, the shoes, which sell for $75 to $85, caught on with runners, fitness buffs and even professional athletes: David Diehl, the New York Giants tackle, trains in them.

Mr. Post, a shoe industry veteran, said he believed that the business was poised for a shakeup. “It used to be all about adding more,” he said. “Now, we’re trying to strip a lot of that away.”

Strange as they look, the FiveFingers shoes hark back to a simpler time. Humans have long run barefoot or in flat soles. Professor Lieberman’s research suggests that two million years ago, our ancestors’ ability to run long distances helped them outlast their prey, providing a steady diet of protein long before spears and arrows. More recently, at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, Abebe Bikila, an Ethiopian runner, caused a stir when he ran the marathon barefoot and won.

Things changed in the early 1970s, when Bill Bowerman, a track coach turned entrepreneur, created a cushioned running shoe that allowed runners to take longer strides and land on their heels, rather than a more natural mid- or forefoot strike. Mr. Bowerman and his business partner, Phil Knight, marketed the new shoes under the Nike brand, and the rest is history.

At the same time, millions of Americans began taking up running as a pastime. Those twin trends ushered in a golden age of biomechanics research. “There was a lot of concern about injuries because of the boom,” said Trampas TenBroek, manager of sports research at New Balance. The logic, he said, was that “if you build a heel lift and make it thicker, you take stress off the Achilles’ tendon.”

Walk into a sports store today and you’ll see the results: shoes with inch-thick heels and orthotics designed to correct overpronation, supination and a host of other ills.

Mr. McDougall, the “Born to Run” author, ” said manufacturers, doctors and retailers were doing runners a disservice by pushing such shoes. “People are buying it thinking it’s going to do something for them, and it’s not,” he said.

Mr. McDougall’s book is centered on the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico, known for epic 100-mile runs with nothing on their feet but strips of rubber. The book has become something of a manifesto for barefoot runners.

After suffering chronic foot pain and being advised by sports medicine doctors to give up running, Mr. McDougall tried thin-soled shoes. Now, he said, he runs long distances without shoes — or pain.

THAT seems to be a common experience among barefoot converts. “When people get it, it’s almost biblical,” said Mr. Clark at Terra Plana. His initial line of minimal shoes, the Vivo Barefoot, is intended for walking; a performance model, the $150 Evo, is due at year-end.

Sales of minimalist shoes, while still tiny, are growing at a rapid clip. Mr. Clark figures that he will sell 70,000 pairs of minimal shoes this year, double last year’s volume. The shoes have sold mostly online and through 10 Terra Plana stores worldwide.

Vibram says sales of its FiveFingers have tripled every year since they were introduced in 2006, and Mr. Post said he expects revenue of $10 million this year in North America alone.

Many professionals agree that while barefoot running may have some benefits, those who are tempted to try running barefoot — or nearly so — should proceed slowly, as they should with any other significant change to their running habits. They also say that more research is needed.

Sean Murphy, engineering manager for advanced products at New Balance, says that there have been many studies suggesting “that shoes can correct biomechanical abnormalities and risk factors, therefore minimizing the likelihood of injury.”

When asked for an example, Mr. Murphy pointed to a 2006 study by three doctoral students that found that wearing the appropriate type of running shoe for one’s foot could reduce the shock of impact or unwanted rotation of leg bones. The study did not address injury rates.

AMID all the controversy, barefoot running and natural gaits are the subject of intensive research across the shoe industry. Companies don’t want to miss out if it turns out to be more than just a fad.

At New Balance’s sports research lab in Lawrence, Mass., Mr. TenBroek and Mr. Murphy are studying the biomechanics of running barefoot and in soles of varying thickness, while designing a “lower profile” shoe.

Asics, too, sees promise in this area. “As technology improves, we will definitely go to a more minimal style,” Mr. Bartold said.

Those big companies could end up profiting from the movement — or they could have trouble getting on board.

Danny Dreyer, the founder of ChiRunning, which uses the tai chi principles of harnessing energy and core muscles to promote a more effortless way of running, said he had worked with a few shoe companies to help design minimalist shoes. In each case, he said, marketing and profit concerns trumped design: “Their profit and direction is based on ‘More shoe is better,’ ” said Mr. Dreyer, who is also a long-distance runner.

Mr. Bartold of Asics, which has not worked with Mr. Dreyer, said the industry had runners’ best interests in mind. “It’s all about trying to protect the athlete,” he said.

Nike describes the Free, its minimalist shoe, as a “training tool.” It offers models with varying degrees of cushioning; they are priced at $55 to $110.

“The key is to offer a range of options, because every runner has different needs,” said Derek Kent, a Nike spokesman. “If you want that sensation of barefoot running, there is the Free, but if you want a product with a little more cushioning and support, we have that, too.”

While Nike would not disclose detailed sales information, Mr. Kent said sales of the Free grew at double-digit rates in the last two fiscal years, with sales in Japan and China especially strong.

Curt Munson, co-owner of Playmakers, a running shop in Okemos, Mich., said that in his conversations with major shoe companies lately, “they see that they need to address this” but “they’re just not sure how much.” But, he said, they must be thinking, “If we say this is the best, then are we saying that what we’ve done before is not good?”

The back-to-basics movement is more than a fad, said Mr. Munson, who runs in FiveFingers. “Most people are not ready to run barefoot,” he said, “but I do think they are ready to go back to ‘less is more.’ ”

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Hanging Lake/Sprouting Rock

This past Friday and Saturday we were in Glenwood Springs for a wedding that Ashley was in. While she was helping the bride get ready all day on Saturday I was able to get in a short (5-6 mile) trailrun at Hanging Lake trailhead just east of Glenwood Springs right off I-70. Really neat area and worth checking out if you are looking for something to do. The steep trails with the rope installed are small side trails that I found that climb the mesa. To get to the lake and sprouting rock it is only about a 4 mile round trip hike on normal trails. The pictures are in the link, enjoy.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Barefoot Running

Been really thinking of taking up some barefoot running since reading the book "Born to Run". My buddy Neal sent me this article with lots of valid points, basically I need to be careful with it. You can read the article by clicking here or I have copied it below for you.

Barefoot running: enthusiasts swear by weird-looking shoes
Gotta be the (lack of) shoes
By Clay Evans
Friday, August 7, 2009

BOULDER, Colo. — Kristen Campbell spent most of her 20s wearing soft leather moccasins everywhere she went, even on extended backpacking trips. But when she “grew up,” she reluctantly moved on to “real” shoes.

“I had to move out of the hippie ranks,” says the avid, 39-year-old distance runner, perhaps a little ruefully. “I had to stop being a dirtbag.”

So she was intrigued when she learned of a small but growing movement that advocates running barefoot, or something close to it. In Boulder, following the publication of “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall this spring — which, among many other things, wages war against thick-soled modern running shoes — the trend of running in “barefoot” or “minimal” shoes has taken off as fast as Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt.

After reading the book, Campbell bought a pair of Vibram Five Fingers shoes mentioned by McDougall. The shoes have virtually no support, offering only a tough, thin sole and individual pockets for each toe.

“They are so much fun to wear,” she says. “I feel the ground more ... They make for a more intimate running experience.”

Wimpy feet

McDougall, who now runs exclusively in Five Fingers and other low-support shoes, shined a light on scientific research that, in his words, shows that “running shoes may be the most destructive force to ever hit the human foot.” In fact, he writes, modern running shoes actually cause all those persistent running injuries, from plantar fasciitis to bum knees. Essentially, they make wimps of runners’ feet.

“The puzzling conclusion (of the evidence): the more cushioned the shoe, the less protection it provides,” McDougall writes.

There are true, fanatical, evangelistic shoeless runners out there (Google “Barefoot Ted” or “Barefoot Ken Bob”) but on local trails, most “barefoot” aficionados find some protection is necessary for sole survival.

A painful trend?

But before you slap on some funky-looking shoes or all that “new” minimalist footgear now being hawked by major shoe companies desperate to keep up with the trend, former world-champion marathoner and physical therapist Mark Plaatjes says come talk to him.

“How many people do you know who live here who have grown up not wearing shoes?” asks Plaatjes, 48, co-owner of The Boulder Running Co. “You’ve got people who have lived on this planet 30, 40, 50, even 60 years wearing shoes, and now they are going to run barefoot?”

He agrees that running barefoot or in minimal-support shoes can strengthen foot muscles and even help heal certain types of injuries. But he’s already seeing the painful results of the trend in his practice.

“I say this not as a retailer, but as a physical therapist: Shoes protect feet when you run on concrete, pavement and rocks,” Plaatjes says. “If we ran marathons completely on grass, I’d say do it. If we had them on the beach or on soft dirt, I’d say absolutely do it. ... But the majority of people can’t do this. So they’re jumping in, but sooner or later they are coming to see me or a podiatrist or a doctor.”

Barefoot therapy

Benji Durden, long-time Boulder runner, coach and former Olympic marathoner, is one of those who has found that some barefoot running has helped him recover from injuries. But the operative word is “some.”

In the 1980s, he did often trained barefoot on grass “just because I felt like it,” accidentally discovering that it helped with an Achilles tendon injury. He forgot about the joy and utility of running sans shoes over the years, but this spring when he was having Achilles problems again, he ran into a friend wearing Five Fingers. So he started doing some workouts on grass in bare feet again.

“For me, running barefoot is the better solution than all that support,” says Durden, 57. “But I don’t know if that’s valid for the entire American running population.”

Boulder Running Co. has been selling minimalist shoes like the Nike Free and Adidas Echo. But Plaatjes and co-owner Johnny Halberstadt just last week decided to start carrying the Five Fingers, despite Plaatjes' concerns.

"We are just getting so many questions about them," Plaatjes says. "At least they provide some protection."

Ugly maybe, but still selling

But so far, the Pedestrian Shops in Boulder have had a monopoly on the curious-looking shoes. Lauren Polk, operations manager for the stores, says sales of Five Fingers have kicked into a sprint since McDougall's book hit the stands.

“Every week it’s fair to say we’re selling 40 to 50 pairs,” she says.

Polk is intrigued by the sudden popularity of what many see as ugly shoes (as one local Facebook poster wrote, “These are weird even by Boulder standards.”)

“They are sort of the opposite of everything that the running industry has been telling runners until now. I think it may be a turning point, the whole idea of training yourself to run on (the forefoot) as opposed to heel strikes,” she says.

That’s the concept behind Boulder-based startup Newton Running’s super-light shoes, low-support concept shoes, whose design virtually forces forefoot or mid-foot running instead of contacting the ground with a thick, padded heel.

American vs. African feet

But even Campbell, who loves her barefooting, has found that the technique and shoes have their limitations.

“I have a hard time keeping up with people. And I need all my mechanical advantages on gravelly, rocky stuff,” she says.

Like a patient parent, Plaatjes is willing to wait out the fad. He thinks it will fade quickly as more runners become injured and find themselves limping back to a pair of solid modern shoes.

“In Africa, where people run, walk and grow up not wearing shoes, they can do this,” says the South African native. “Still, how many Kenyans do you see racing marathons in bare feet?”

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Why Exercise Won't Make You Thin

Very interesting article that I came across this morning that I thought I would share. You can find the article by clicking here. I have also copied the text below for you. Have a great week, the weekend is just around the corner!
Why Exercise Won't Make You Thin
By John Cloud Thursday, Aug. 06, 2009

As I write this, tomorrow is Tuesday, which is a cardio day. I'll spend five minutes warming up on the VersaClimber, a towering machine that requires you to move your arms and legs simultaneously. Then I'll do 30 minutes on a stair mill. On Wednesday a personal trainer will work me like a farm animal for an hour, sometimes to the point that I am dizzy - an abuse for which I pay as much as I spend on groceries in a week. Thursday is "body wedge" class, which involves another exercise contraption, this one a large foam wedge from which I will push myself up in various hateful ways for an hour. Friday will bring a 5.5-mile run, the extra half-mile my grueling expiation of any gastronomical indulgences during the week.

I have exercised like this - obsessively, a bit grimly - for years, but recently I began to wonder: Why am I doing this? Except for a two-year period at the end of an unhappy relationship - a period when I self-medicated with lots of Italian desserts - I have never been overweight. One of the most widely accepted, commonly repeated assumptions in our culture is that if you exercise, you will lose weight. But I exercise all the time, and since I ended that relationship and cut most of those desserts, my weight has returned to the same 163 lb. it has been most of my adult life. I still have gut fat that hangs over my belt when I sit. Why isn't all the exercise wiping it out?

It's a question many of us could ask. More than 45 million Americans now belong to a health club, up from 23 million in 1993. We spend some $19 billion a year on gym memberships. Of course, some people join and never go. Still, as one major study - the Minnesota Heart Survey - found, more of us at least say we exercise regularly. The survey ran from 1980, when only 47% of respondents said they engaged in regular exercise, to 2000, when the figure had grown to 57%.

And yet obesity figures have risen dramatically in the same period: a third of Americans are obese, and another third count as overweight by the Federal Government's definition. Yes, it's entirely possible that those of us who regularly go to the gym would weigh even more if we exercised less. But like many other people, I get hungry after I exercise, so I often eat more on the days I work out than on the days I don't. Could exercise actually be keeping me from losing weight?

The conventional wisdom that exercise is essential for shedding pounds is actually fairly new. As recently as the 1960s, doctors routinely advised against rigorous exercise, particularly for older adults who could injure themselves. Today doctors encourage even their oldest patients to exercise, which is sound advice for many reasons: People who regularly exercise are at significantly lower risk for all manner of diseases - those of the heart in particular. They less often develop cancer, diabetes and many other illnesses. But the past few years of obesity research show that the role of exercise in weight loss has been wildly overstated. (Read "Losing Weight: Can Exercise Trump Genes?")

"In general, for weight loss, exercise is pretty useless," says Eric Ravussin, chair in diabetes and metabolism at Louisiana State University and a prominent exercise researcher. Many recent studies have found that exercise isn't as important in helping people lose weight as you hear so regularly in gym advertisements or on shows like The Biggest Loser - or, for that matter, from magazines like this one.

The basic problem is that while it's true that exercise burns calories and that you must burn calories to lose weight, exercise has another effect: it can stimulate hunger. That causes us to eat more, which in turn can negate the weight-loss benefits we just accrued. Exercise, in other words, isn't necessarily helping us lose weight. It may even be making it harder.

The Compensation Problem

Earlier this year, the peer-reviewed journal PLoS ONE - PLoS is the nonprofit Public Library of Science - published a remarkable study supervised by a colleague of Ravussin's, Dr. Timothy Church, who holds the rather grand title of chair in health wisdom at LSU. Church's team randomly assigned into four groups 464 overweight women who didn't regularly exercise. Women in three of the groups were asked to work out with a personal trainer for 72 min., 136 min., and 194 min. per week, respectively, for six months. Women in the fourth cluster, the control group, were told to maintain their usual physical-activity routines. All the women were asked not to change their dietary habits and to fill out monthly medical-symptom questionnaires.

The findings were surprising. On average, the women in all the groups, even the control group, lost weight, but the women who exercised - sweating it out with a trainer several days a week for six months - did not lose significantly more weight than the control subjects did. (The control-group women may have lost weight because they were filling out those regular health forms, which may have prompted them to consume fewer doughnuts.) Some of the women in each of the four groups actually gained weight, some more than 10 lb. each.

What's going on here? Church calls it compensation, but you and I might know it as the lip-licking anticipation of perfectly salted, golden-brown French fries after a hard trip to the gym. Whether because exercise made them hungry or because they wanted to reward themselves (or both), most of the women who exercised ate more than they did before they started the experiment. Or they compensated in another way, by moving around a lot less than usual after they got home. (Read "Run For Your Lives.")

The findings are important because the government and various medical organizations routinely prescribe more and more exercise for those who want to lose weight. In 2007 the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association issued new guidelines stating that "to lose weight ... 60 to 90 minutes of physical activity may be necessary." That's 60 to 90 minutes on most days of the week, a level that not only is unrealistic for those of us trying to keep or find a job but also could easily produce, on the basis of Church's data, ravenous compensatory eating.

It's true that after six months of working out, most of the exercisers in Church's study were able to trim their waistlines slightly - by about an inch. Even so, they lost no more overall body fat than the control group did. Why not?

Church, who is 41 and has lived in Baton Rouge for nearly three years, has a theory. "I see this anecdotally amongst, like, my wife's friends," he says. "They're like, 'Ah, I'm running an hour a day, and I'm not losing any weight.'" He asks them, "What are you doing after you run?" It turns out one group of friends was stopping at Starbucks for muffins afterward. Says Church: "I don't think most people would appreciate that, wow, you only burned 200 or 300 calories, which you're going to neutralize with just half that muffin." (Read "Too Fat? Read Your E-mail.")

You might think half a muffin over an entire day wouldn't matter much, particularly if you exercise regularly. After all, doesn't exercise turn fat to muscle, and doesn't muscle process excess calories more efficiently than fat does?

Yes, although the muscle-fat relationship is often misunderstood. According to calculations published in the journal Obesity Research by a Columbia University team in 2001, a pound of muscle burns approximately six calories a day in a resting body, compared with the two calories that a pound of fat burns. Which means that after you work out hard enough to convert, say, 10 lb. of fat to muscle - a major achievement - you would be able to eat only an extra 40 calories per day, about the amount in a teaspoon of butter, before beginning to gain weight. Good luck with that.

Fundamentally, humans are not a species that evolved to dispose of many extra calories beyond what we need to live. Rats, among other species, have a far greater capacity to cope with excess calories than we do because they have more of a dark-colored tissue called brown fat. Brown fat helps produce a protein that switches off little cellular units called mitochondria, which are the cells' power plants: they help turn nutrients into energy. When they're switched off, animals don't get an energy boost. Instead, the animals literally get warmer. And as their temperature rises, calories burn effortlessly.

Because rodents have a lot of brown fat, it's very difficult to make them obese, even when you force-feed them in labs. But humans - we're pathetic. We have so little brown fat that researchers didn't even report its existence in adults until earlier this year. That's one reason humans can gain weight with just an extra half-muffin a day: we almost instantly store most of the calories we don't need in our regular ("white") fat cells.

All this helps explain why our herculean exercise over the past 30 years - all the personal trainers, StairMasters and VersaClimbers; all the Pilates classes and yoga retreats and fat camps - hasn't made us thinner. After we exercise, we often crave sugary calories like those in muffins or in "sports" drinks like Gatorade. A standard 20-oz. bottle of Gatorade contains 130 calories. If you're hot and thirsty after a 20-minute run in summer heat, it's easy to guzzle that bottle in 20 seconds, in which case the caloric expenditure and the caloric intake are probably a wash. From a weight-loss perspective, you would have been better off sitting on the sofa knitting.

Self-Control Is like a Muscle

Many people assume that weight is mostly a matter of willpower - that we can learn both to exercise and to avoid muffins and Gatorade. A few of us can, but evolution did not build us to do this for very long. In 2000 the journal Psychological Bulletin published a paper by psychologists Mark Muraven and Roy Baumeister in which they observed that self-control is like a muscle: it weakens each day after you use it. If you force yourself to jog for an hour, your self-regulatory capacity is proportionately enfeebled. Rather than lunching on a salad, you'll be more likely to opt for pizza.

Some of us can will ourselves to overcome our basic psychology, but most of us won't be very successful. "The most powerful determinant of your dietary intake is your energy expenditure," says Steven Gortmaker, who heads Harvard's Prevention Research Center on Nutrition and Physical Activity. "If you're more physically active, you're going to get hungry and eat more." Gortmaker, who has studied childhood obesity, is even suspicious of the playgrounds at fast-food restaurants. "Why would they build those?" he asks. "I know it sounds kind of like conspiracy theory, but you have to think, if a kid plays five minutes and burns 50 calories, he might then go inside and consume 500 calories or even 1,000." (Read "Why Kids' Exercise Matters Less Than We Think.")

Last year the International Journal of Obesity published a paper by Gortmaker and Kendrin Sonneville of Children's Hospital Boston noting that "there is a widespread assumption that increasing activity will result in a net reduction in any energy gap" - energy gap being the term scientists use for the difference between the number of calories you use and the number you consume. But Gortmaker and Sonneville found in their 18-month study of 538 students that when kids start to exercise, they end up eating more - not just a little more, but an average of 100 calories more than they had just burned.

If evolution didn't program us to lose weight through exercise, what did it program us to do? Doesn't exercise do anything?

Sure. It does plenty. In addition to enhancing heart health and helping prevent disease, exercise improves your mental health and cognitive ability. A study published in June in the journal Neurology found that older people who exercise at least once a week are 30% more likely to maintain cognitive function than those who exercise less. Another study, released by the University of Alberta a few weeks ago, found that people with chronic back pain who exercise four days a week have 36% less disability than those who exercise only two or three days a week.

But there's some confusion about whether it is exercise - sweaty, exhausting, hunger-producing bursts of activity done exclusively to benefit our health - that leads to all these benefits or something far simpler: regularly moving during our waking hours. We all need to move more - the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says our leisure-time physical activity (including things like golfing, gardening and walking) has decreased since the late 1980s, right around the time the gym boom really exploded. But do we need to stress our bodies at the gym?

Look at kids. In May a team of researchers at Peninsula Medical School in the U.K. traveled to Amsterdam to present some surprising findings to the European Congress on Obesity. The Peninsula scientists had studied 206 kids, ages 7 to 11, at three schools in and around Plymouth, a city of 250,000 on the southern coast of England. Kids at the first school, an expensive private academy, got an average of 9.2 hours per week of scheduled, usually rigorous physical education. Kids at the two other schools - one in a village near Plymouth and the other an urban school - got just 2.4 hours and 1.7 hours of PE per week, respectively.

To understand just how much physical activity the kids were getting, the Peninsula team had them wear ActiGraphs, light but sophisticated devices that measure not only the amount of physical movement the body engages in but also its intensity. During four one-week periods over consecutive school terms, the kids wore the ActiGraphs nearly every waking moment.

And no matter how much PE they got during school hours, when you look at the whole day, the kids from the three schools moved the same amount, at about the same intensity. The kids at the fancy private school underwent significantly more physical activity before 3 p.m., but overall they didn't move more. "Once they get home, if they are very active in school, they are probably staying still a bit more because they've already expended so much energy," says Alissa FrÉmeaux, a biostatistician who helped conduct the study. "The others are more likely to grab a bike and run around after school." (Read "Our Super-Sized Kids.")

Another British study, this one from the University of Exeter, found that kids who regularly move in short bursts - running to catch a ball, racing up and down stairs to collect toys - are just as healthy as kids who participate in sports that require vigorous, sustained exercise.

Could pushing people to exercise more actually be contributing to our obesity problem? In some respects, yes. Because exercise depletes not just the body's muscles but the brain's self-control "muscle" as well, many of us will feel greater entitlement to eat a bag of chips during that lazy time after we get back from the gym. This explains why exercise could make you heavier - or at least why even my wretched four hours of exercise a week aren't eliminating all my fat. It's likely that I am more sedentary during my nonexercise hours than I would be if I didn't exercise with such Puritan fury. If I exercised less, I might feel like walking more instead of hopping into a cab; I might have enough energy to shop for food, cook and then clean instead of ordering a satisfyingly greasy burrito.

Closing the Energy Gap

The problem ultimately is about not exercise itself but the way we've come to define it. Many obesity researchers now believe that very frequent, low-level physical activity - the kind humans did for tens of thousands of years before the leaf blower was invented - may actually work better for us than the occasional bouts of exercise you get as a gym rat. "You cannot sit still all day long and then have 30 minutes of exercise without producing stress on the muscles," says Hans-Rudolf Berthoud, a neurobiologist at LSU's Pennington Biomedical Research Center who has studied nutrition for 20 years. "The muscles will ache, and you may not want to move after. But to burn calories, the muscle movements don't have to be extreme. It would be better to distribute the movements throughout the day."

For his part, Berthoud rises at 5 a.m. to walk around his neighborhood several times. He also takes the stairs when possible. "Even if people can get out of their offices, out from in front of their computers, they go someplace like the mall and then take the elevator," he says. "This is the real problem, not that we don't go to the gym enough." (Read "Is There a Laziness Gene?")

I was skeptical when Berthoud said this. Don't you need to raise your heart rate and sweat in order to strengthen your cardiovascular system? Don't you need to push your muscles to the max in order to build them?

Actually, it's not clear that vigorous exercise like running carries more benefits than a moderately strenuous activity like walking while carrying groceries. You regularly hear about the benefits of exercise in news stories, but if you read the academic papers on which these stories are based, you frequently see that the research subjects who were studied didn't clobber themselves on the elliptical machine. A routine example: in June the Association for Psychological Science issued a news release saying that "physical exercise ... may indeed preserve or enhance various aspects of cognitive functioning." But in fact, those who had better cognitive function merely walked more and climbed more stairs. They didn't even walk faster; walking speed wasn't correlated with cognitive ability.

There's also growing evidence that when it comes to preventing certain diseases, losing weight may be more important than improving cardiovascular health. In June, Northwestern University researchers released the results of the longest observational study ever to investigate the relationship between aerobic fitness and the development of diabetes. The results? Being aerobically fit was far less important than having a normal body mass index in preventing the disease. And as we have seen, exercise often does little to help heavy people reach a normal weight.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

JT's Hardrock 100 Race Report

I took awhile for it to get done since JT has been a lazy sh*t but as promised in my earlier post here is JT's race report for the Hardrock 100 mile trail run. He wrote in sections so I have linked each section below for you. Enjoy... Hopefully I can have the chance to run this race, there is nothing else like it.

Part 1: Silverton to Cunningham

Part 2: Cunningham Gulch to Maggie Gulch

Part 3: Maggie Gulch to Pole Creek

Part 4: Pole Creek to Sherman

Part 5: Sherman to Grouse Gulch

Part 6: Grouse Gulch to Ouray

Part 7: Ouray aid station

Part 8: Ouray to Governor Basin

Part 9: Gov Basin to Virginius Pass

Part 10: Kroger's to Telluride

Part 11: Telluride to Chapman Gulch

Part 12: Chapman Gulch to KT

Part 13: KT to Putnam

Part 14: Putnam to Silverton(Finish)