Runners Connect Sat, 28 Feb 2015 16:32:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Best Races for Food, Fast and Fun! Fri, 27 Feb 2015 10:00:25 +0000

There are many reasons people race, and we have you covered; if its food, fast or fun, we have the best races for you to choose from!

This guest post was written by Allie Burdick

Why do you race?

This is a simple question that may have a very complicated answer. The reasons why individual runners race, can be as varied as the shoes on their feet!

In the interest of simplicity, we’ve broken down race motivation into three broad categories: food, fast and fun. To bring you the most concise list for whatever your racing reasons are, we’ve scoured the inter webs, grilled running friends and even experienced some of these events first hand.

Here’s our top three for each:

Will Run for Food

If fuel is what you’re after, these races know the way to your heart.

Dole Great Race of Agoura Hills, CA (March)

Dole Great Race of Agoura Hills

Not only are there over 500 vendors and live music at this half, full, 10K and 5K event, but also a complete gourmet food buffet and a pancake booth. Carbs with a side of carbs, anyone? Website

Fat Ass 5K, Springfield, IL (May)

Fatass 5k Springfield

With a name like that, they had better bring the food!

This race doesn’t disappoint. In fact, they don’t even wait until after the race to start feeding participants – the actual race route includes ice cream, donut, beer and corndog stations!

We’re guessing there’s a lot of walking between those stations, and they probably boast the slowest finish times around.

Slow, but happy, very happy. Website

Peaks Island Road Race, ME (July)

Peaks Island Road RaceWhen you think of Maine, there’s only one post-race meal that will do – lobster! The best part is you only have to run 5 miles to indulge in this post-race lobster bake that includes lobster, steak, chicken, vegetarian and kids meals! They should really have this once a month. Website

The Need for Speed

Let’s face it; sometimes you just want a BQ or PR.

Town of Celebration Marathon, Celebration, FL (Jan)

Town of Celebration Marathon

What an appropriate name for a race that boasts a 12.8 percent Boston qualifying finish pool! Plus, it’s in Florida in January; what’s not to celebrate? Website

Maui Oceanfront Marathon, Lahaina, Maui, HI (Jan)

Maui Oceanfront Marathon

Just in case you need another reason to travel to Hawaii, we present to you one of the flattest and fastest courses around.

The marathon is limited to 600 runners, and the other distances (5K, 10K and 15K) only accept 400. Get your spot early and then hang out in paradise while you bask in your PR glory! Website

Houston Marathon, Houston, TX (Jan)

Houston Marathon You know everything is bigger in Texas, except the hills!

You can expect a great course with all the trimmings, and a big Texas welcome when you race this course like a rabbit!

With just over 7,000 finishers last year, 700 qualified for Boston. If seven is your lucky number, I think you just found your race. Website

For the Fun of It

Running is supposed to be fun, right? Sometimes it’s great to sign-up for a race just for the bling, swag or atmosphere.

The Wicked Wine Run 5K, Various Locations

The Wicked Wine Run 5K

Do we need to add anything here? I think the name says it all.

Runners are treated to the sweeping vistas of local vineyards along the course, just to get them in the mood for a glass (or three) at the finish line. Website

Nike Women’s Marathon, San Francisco, CA


Sorry guys but we cannot mention ‘fun’ without this one. What could be more fun then being handed a Tiffany & Co. necklace at the finish line? Being handed one by a firefighter in a tuxedo! Personally I think this should happen at every race.

The ladies are also treated to Ghirardelli chocolate at mile 11 and a Nike dry-fit shirt in their swag bag! Website

New Years Double, Allen, TX

New Years Double

Runners earn every bit of the two coolest medals around, when they complete a half or full marathon on New Years Eve, and another on New Years Day! The medal is actually a big plate with two holders, one for each medal that forms one amazing hunk of bling. Website

Happy New Year indeed.

Allie Burdick
Allie is a sweat addict and gets her fix through running, cycling, swimming and chasing after her twin boys.  Allie is a Oiselle Team Volée member and was a part of Team USA in the World Championship Duathlon competition in 2014.  Allie’s blog VITA – Train for Life is all about hard work and motivation with a healthy kick of snark and hilarity.  Allie currently teaches three weekly fitness classes near her home in the Northeast where she and her husband like to live it up big!
You can find Allie on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Google Plus

Have you ever participated in any of these races? Which one is catching your eye?

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Does Your State Allow Direct Physical Therapy Access? Mon, 23 Feb 2015 10:00:17 +0000

With some injuries you know you will need physical therapy to get back to running, but does your state allow direct access to bypass your physician?There are some running injuries that are downright mysterious.

They appear out of nowhere, don’t match the symptoms of any injury you’ve ever heard of, and don’t respond quickly to time off from running.

These are the injuries that send you straight to the doctor.

Other times, it’s pretty clear what you’re dealing with, and if it’s a recurrent injury, you might even have an idea of what’s causing it.

In situations like this, you already know that the most helpful person you can see is usually a physical therapist. PTs can quickly figure out what’s wrong with your running mechanics, and figure out the right stretches, strengthening exercises, or mobility routines you need to get healthy.

Red Tape

However, to get in to see a physical therapist, there can be some arduous hoops you have to jump through.

First you might need to see your family physician to get a referral to the orthopedist or podiatrist, and then the orthopedist needs to prescribe physical therapy. This can take several weeks and cost you a lot of money in insurance co-pays.

Wouldn’t it be convenient if you could cut out the middlemen and go directly to a physical therapist if you needed to?

Can I bypass the physician?

As it turns out, this is possible, at least in some areas of the United States.

This concept—a patient being able to directly to see a physical therapist for an injury without a referral or prescription from a doctor—is known as “direct access,” and is governed on a state-by-state level.

For its part, the American Physical Therapy Association supports and lobbies for direct-access laws, while groups like the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons lobbies against these laws, both for obvious financial reasons.

As a result of bitter legislative battles, state regulations vary considerably.

Though there are compelling arguments for both sides of this debate, the politics of this are probably not of much interest to you as a runner; all you want to know is whether your state allows you to see a physical therapist without a diagnosis or referral from a physician, and what restrictions, if any, are put on your treatment.

After a bit of research, I’ve created a map and two accompanying charts that detail how the laws would apply to a runner with a new injury for each of the fifty states.1

Broadly speaking, there are four categories.

PT direct access map copy LARGE

Runner Friendly

First are the states—twenty-two in all—that have no restrictions on direct access.In these, you can see a physical therapist as often as you want for as long as you want.

There are a few wrinkles: Wisconsin, for example, does not permit direct access for most purposes, but makes a special exception for athletic injuries. How convenient!

A few other states prohibit specific treatments, like spinal manipulation or molding custom orthotics without a referral, but that’s about it.

Thirteen states allow you to seek physical therapy without a referral for a set amount of time. These kinds of restrictions were probably designed to prevent unscrupulous therapists from stringing along injured patients for months at a time without the supervision of a doctor.

At one extreme, Virginia permits only fourteen days of treatment without a referral, while at the other, Minnesota and Rhode Island allow ninety days.

Runner Limitations

Some states also set a limit on the number of visits, too, so you can’t cram in as many PT sessions as possible during the allotted time. States that are time-limited are labeled on the map with the number of days or visits allowed.

Five states allow direct access to physical therapy, but only if you improve “significantly” during the course of treatment. The time span for how long you have to demonstrate said improvement is usually a set number of visits or a set number of days after starting treatment, whichever comes first.

The specifics for each state is laid out below

States with improvement-limited direct access to physical therapists
State Stipulations
Connecticut Must seek referral if no improvement after 30 days or 6 visits, whichever comes first
District of Columbia Must seek referral if no improvement after 30 days
Kansas Must seek referral if no improvement after 15 business days or 10 visits, whichever comes first
New Hampshire Must seek referral if no improvement after 25 days
Ohio Must seek referral if no improvement after 30 days

Maine and Tennessee use a hybrid system which employs both a time limitation for total treatments without referral and a requirement that you show significant improvement within a shorter period of time. The specifics of these requirements are laid out in the second chart.

States with hybrid time/improvement-limited direct access to physical therapists
State Stipulations
Maine Must seek referral if no improvement after 30 days or 120 days of treatment
Tennessee Must seek referral if no improvement after 15 days or 6 visits, whichever comes first or 30 days of treatment

Runner Road Block

Finally, nine states effectively prohibit access to physical therapy without a diagnosis or referral from a physician, at least for new injuries. A couple of these states have exceptions for injuries diagnosed and referred for physical therapy in the past few months or year, but still don’t allow direct access for new injuries.


It should be noted that in any state, a physical therapist must refer you to a doctor if you have an injury or a condition that’s outside of their ability to treat or diagnose.

Even if your state allows direct access, you might want to talk to your health insurance company to make sure they will reimburse you for your physical therapy sessions first.

Going in to physical therapy directly, without first seeing a doctor, isn’t always the right choice, but it can be very convenient in some situations.

Direct access, depending on where you live (or where you’re willing to travel to), can be one more tool in your toolbox for overcoming running injuries.

What has your experience been with seeing a physical therapist?

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The Shocking Truth About Weekend Warrior Fitness Gains Fri, 20 Feb 2015 10:00:53 +0000

Time constraints make it difficult to get quality workouts during the week. If you make the weekend workouts count, do you still get the same fitness gains?If you are like most adult runners, you are pretty busy during the week.

It can be hard to find the time to squeeze in a quality run or workout between Monday and Friday. It’s pretty tempting to put off your quality work and your mileage until the weekend, then cram in all the running you can do on Saturday and Sunday.

You’ve probably been guilty of that from time to time, but is it really that bad for you?

Weekend Warrior Surprise

There are certainly a lot of “weekend warriors” out there who get fit by logging most of their training time on the weekends. Today, we’ll be looking at a clever scientific study that explored this topic.

The study, published in 2006 by Tim Meyer and other researchers at the University of Saarland in Germany, attempted to test whether a “weekend warrior” style training program was less beneficial in terms of fitness gained over a twelve-week training program.1

Meyers and his coworkers recruited thirty-eight men and women who were healthy but untrained, splitting them into three groups equally-matched in terms of age, sex, and aerobic fitness.

The first group served as a control; they underwent no training during the duration of the twelve-week study. The second group took on a fairly standard endurance training program, which called for 30 minutes of training at 90% of the anaerobic threshold five days a week. The third group was assigned a “weekend warrior” style training program, which involved doing two sessions of 75 minutes at the same intensity (90% of anaerobic threshold).

In keeping with the weekend warrior philosophy, these days had to be completed back-to-back. It’s notable that this is the exact same weekly volume of training—150 minutes—as the standard-training group, but done only in two days as opposed to five.

All three groups took a VO2 max test on a treadmill at the beginning of the study. The two exercising groups were given a heart rate monitor to use to ensure their training was at the appropriate intensity.

Finally, after twelve weeks of training, all of the subjects, including the control group, returned for another round of VO2 max testing.

The results were surprising: despite cramming all of their training into just two days per week, the subjects in the weekend warrior group improved their VO2 max just as much as those doing regular training.

In fact, though the results did not reach statistical significance, their gains were slightly higher than the regular-training group! Both training groups were able to exercise at the same intensity with a lower heart rate than at the outset of the study, and, not surprisingly, the control group’s fitness stagnated.

What should you make of this?

Even with these results, it’s hard to whole-heartedly endorse cramming most or all of your running into two super-long workouts on Saturday and Sunday. But it does indicate that, at least for untrained people, total weekly volume of training is more important than how you go about doing it. Whether the same approach would work for a better-trained athlete is still up in the air.

If you are pressed for time during the week, you might be able to reap most or all of the benefits of standard training by compressing more of your “quality and quantity” running into Saturday and Sunday.

Higher Risk of Injury?

However, there is some other research that indicates doing so might increase your injury risk—a 1989 study of over 1600 runners in Ontario, Canada found that running more miles per day on running days, and running very far on your longest weekly run, were both associated with a higher risk of injury.2 To stay healthy, maybe consistency is better.

Meyer et al.’s study suggests that getting in high-volume workouts on Saturday and Sunday might be just as beneficial as spreading out your running out during the week, but don’t expect to be feeling very fresh come Monday!


You should always remember the principle of stress and recovery: if you put a lot of stress on your body by running, say, a high-volume fartlek session on Saturday and a long run on Sunday, you need extra time to recover afterwards.

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Bonking vs. Fatigue vs. Cramping: What You Need to Know Mon, 16 Feb 2015 10:00:58 +0000

Most runners use the terms interchangeably, making it difficult to address the actual problem. We explain each, and how you can prevent in future races.The first step to fixing any problem is accurately identifying what is causing the issue.

Got a leaky faucet? Before you can do any good, you need to figure out if the leak is coming from the handle, the spout, the pipes or something else. Only then can you solve the problem.

It’s the same process when you struggle in a marathon.

The dilemma for most runners is that they don’t fully understand what’s happening to their body when they start slowing down; or they use terms interchangeably, which makes it difficult to specifically address the actual problem.

As an example, many runners use the term “bonk” when they fade at the end of the race. But bonking is different than fatigue and mistakenly tying to fix one won’t help with the other, leading to repeated marathon failures.

To help you better understand and determine the reasons for your marathon struggles, I am going to perform a case study of sorts.

My hope is that by dissecting a real-life example and then explaining the science and true meaning behind all the possible outcomes, I can help you fix your own marathon issues.

Let’s get started.

Setting the stage – meet “Jack”

Here is an email I received from a runner who just finished the Houston marathon and really struggled. Because I don’t want to call him out, I removed identifying information and we’re going to call him Jack from here on.

….Long story short: I hit the wall and bonked at mile 17. I was ok with the cardio part, and not “super” tired or fatigued at mile 23, but my legs just couldn’t go faster. I started cramping at mile 12 even though I drank lots of fluids. My training was going well (I PRd at the half marathon about 5 weeks ago) so I am really struggling with why this happened.

Do I need to eat more carbs or take salt tabs or something like magnesium to prevent the cramps? Maybe I didn’t drink enough? Please help.

Clearly, Jack had a tough race (I am sure many of you reading this can relate – I know I can). In the end, Jack took a look back at how he felt and believes the issue was related to nutrition in some way.

However, when I look at Jack’s synopsis, I don’t think nutrition played a big role.

Specifically, I think Jack is using the terms “bonk” and “cramp” to describe the feeling of fatigue and fading he experienced at the end of the race without regard for their true, scientific meaning.

The result is he’s looking in the wrong place to solve his problems.

To help you better understand the factors at play when you struggle in a marathon, I am going to breakdown these common terms into what they really mean, why it happens, how to fix, and provide specific examples of what they might actually “feel” like.

After reading this, you should be able to better diagnose your marathon struggles and train to target and eliminate them at your next race.


What is bonking and why does it happen?

Bonking, also known as hitting the wall, is a term used to describe what happens when your body runs low on glycogen to burn as a fuel source.

While your body can burn fat directly for energy, it tends to prefer glycogen, as it is easier to burn and more efficient. Thus, when running at marathon pace, some portion of your energy output is going to come from burning glycogen – there’s no way around this.

As your glycogen stores begin to run low, your body recognizes the potential danger and slows the body down gradually to conserve energy.

At this point, you can still run, but your pace will begin to slow unless you increase your effort. However, if you continue, your glycogen stores will get so low that your body will basically shut down and even jogging will be almost impossible.

This is what’s called bonking.

Bonking is not feeling tired; bonking is not an inability to move your legs faster. Bonking is when your glycogen stores get low enough that your brain shuts down your body.

What does it feel like to bonk?

A “true” bonk will almost always result in you not being able to physical run any longer.

You may be able to shuffle and probably walk, but anything that resembles running is likely out the window. More than likely you’ll feel dizzy or light-headed (a result of your brain not getting the glycogen it needs) and some runners feel nauseous.

As you can see, this feeling is a bit different than fading or getting fatigued during the latter miles.

How can you prevent a true bonk?

You have to primary ways to prevent bonking.

First, you can slowly train yourself to burn fat more efficiently as a fuel source. This will enable you to burn less glycogen per mile at your marathon pace.

It’s important to remember that you cannot race a marathon using fat alone as a fuel source. If you run easy enough, sure, but if you’re pushing yourself it’s just not scientifically possible.

You have a few ways you can train your body to be more efficient at burning fat. One is to perform “fasted long runs”, which you can learn more about here. The other is to include marathon pace training during your long runs.

The second way to prevent a true bonk is to fuel yourself adequately before and during the race.

The trick here is that it’s just as bad to over fuel as it is to under fuel.

Your body can only process a finite amount of carbohydrate per hour (30-60 grams depending on your individual efficiency). If you try to take in more carbohydrates than you can handle, the digestive system starts to shut down and you don’t absorb anything.

So, how do you figure out exactly how much to take in?

First, use this calculation to determine how much glycogen you need during the race. Then, use this formula (at the bottom of the article) to determine how to divvy up your intake between fluids and gels. (Note: If you want us to do these calculations for you and provide a personalized fueling plan, check out our Nutrition Blueprint)

Using the above calculations and implementing the fat-burning long runs should solve your bonking problems for your next race.


How is fatigue different from bonking?

Now that we understand the true definition of bonking, we can start looking at what runners often “mislabel” as bonking – getting tired.

It may seem simplistic, but I think a lot of the struggles marathoners go through when they have a bad race can be attributed to fatigue.

I think we often forget that a marathon is a grueling event, even when you’re well trained. Three, four and even five hours of pounding the pavement is tough on the body and it’s almost always going to take its toll.

And while attributing your struggles to fatigue may sound oversimplified, it’s the first step in targeting the right elements in your training to prevent it from happening again.

What causes “marathon fatigue”?

Fatigue during the marathon is the same as any other race distance. The problem is that it’s magnified by at least twice as much thanks to the distance.

First, you have muscle damage, which can be quite significant during a marathon.

  • One scientific study conducted on the calf muscles of marathon runners concluded that both the intensive training for, and the marathon itself, induce inflammation and muscle fiber necrosis that significantly impaired muscle power.
  • Another study concluded that creatinine kinase (CK) damage – a marker that indicates damage to skeletal and myocardial tissue – persisted more than 7 days post marathon while another study confirmed the presence of myoglobin in the bloodstream post marathon for 3-4 days post race.

In short, when you’re racing the marathon, you’re significantly damaging your muscle fibers (see this study for some cool muscle biopsy photos post marathon).

This damage to the muscle fibers reduces their ability to produce the powerful contractions needed to maintain marathon pace effort. It also causes that soreness and dead-leg feeling you get late in a race. If you don’t significantly increase your effort, you begin to slow down.

Second, as you begin to increase you effort to make up for the muscle damage, you begin to produce more lactate (a by-product of anaerobic respiration) which interferes with your body’s ability to clear hydrogen and results in a build-up of acid in the muscles.

Likewise, the more effort you expend, the more you have to rely on glycogen as a fuel source (since it’s the most efficient form of energy). As discussed previously, this signals the brain to slow down to ensure survival, which means the brain is now also sending signals to slow down.

As you can see, this quickly becomes a triple whammy of fatigue that sets you down a path of fading during the final miles.

How can you better prepare yourself?

The challenge of preparing yourself for marathon fatigue is that running the full marathon distance in training is not recommended (due to how long it would take to recover).

So, we need to get creative in training to simulate the fatigue and develop the muscular endurance needed. To accomplish this, we can do two things:

We can implement what coaches call the theory of “accumulated fatigue”. Basically, this means that the fatigue from one workout accumulates and transfers to the next so that you’re always starting a workout or a long run a little tired from your previous training.

This type of training helps your develop the muscular endurance without needing to run the full marathon in training. An example of accumulated fatigue would running a steady run the day before a marathon-specific long run.

Second, using what we know about how muscle fibers work, you can implement specific workouts that are designed to fatigue your legs and muscle and then have you train and run at marathon pace. Some example workouts include:

Tailoring your marathon training to include accumulated fatigue and specific workouts can make a dramatic difference in how you feel during the later stages of the race.


Thanks to the millions of dollars funneled into the sports drink market every year, most runners blame their cramps on dehydration or lack of electrolytes. But, when you look at the research, it’s very clear that only a very small percentage of muscle cramps in runners are caused by fluid of electrolyte loss.

First, as noted by physiologist and MD Tim Noakes1, exercise cramps don’t occur exclusively on hot days. Even swimmers in very cold water can suffer from muscle cramping and there’s little high-quality research linking exercise in the heat to an increased risk of cramps.

In another study2, 43 Ironman athletes who developed cramps during the course of the race were followed. The data showed that neither body weight changes (which can estimate dehydration levels) nor blood electrolyte levels were correlated with suffering cramps during a race.

Finally, A 2005 study published in the Journal of Athletic Training3 had 13 athletes perform a series of exercises done in hot, humid conditions. During one trial, the men were given large volumes of sports drink with extra salt added in, and during the other, no liquids were consumed. Nine of the 13 men still got cramps even in the sports drink trial. Moreover, in the no-liquid trial, only seven men experienced cramps.

So if it’s not dehydration or electrolytes causing cramps, what is?

The cramps you’re likely experiencing during a marathon are called “muscle overloading” or a fatigue cram.

These occur when the neural mechanisms that are supposed to inhibit muscle contraction are depressed and the chemical and electrical synapses that fire the muscle fibers is enhanced.

But why does this happen during the marathon?

As we just learned, your muscles undergo significant stress when racing. As you get further into the race, the slow twitch fibers you’ve been using start to get tired and you can no longer fire them as efficiently.
As a consequence, you start to recruit some intermediate fibers to help maintain pace. Of course, these intermediate fibers require more glycogen and are not as fatigue resistant as slow-twitch, so it won’t be long before you start compensating.

As an example, as your glute muscle fatigues (one of the most important muscles when it comes to generating power from your stride), your leg won’t simply stop working. Instead, your brain tells your muscles, “hey, this glute isn’t getting the job done, let’s fire the calves more forcefully to make up for the lack of power.”

Your calf isn’t nearly as strong or powerful as the glute. Moreover, it’s likely you’ve never trained it to handle this type of stress. As a result, the calf cramps!

How to prevent cramping during the marathon

Now that we understand how muscle fatigue can lead to marathon cramping, how do we go about addressing the issue?

Specifically, how can we simulate the fatigue you’ll experience 20 miles into a marathon?

  1. Improve form and posture

Just like you need to perform core and injury prevention work to stay healthy, it’s important you perform specific strengthening exercises that target the mechanics that commonly deteriorate late in a race.

For example, if you tend to suffer from calf or quad cramps late in a race, you’ll want to perform exercises, drills and stretches that focus on improving your hip extension and posture (two very common culprits of bad form that leads to cramping).

Not only will this reduce many of the limitations that may be preventing you from generating proper hip extension, these exercises will help you improve your muscular endurance and ability to generate proper hip extension late in a race when you’re tired.

You can download a free sample of our hip extension specific routine here. It is available in PDF and Video format.

  1. Simulate late race fatigue in the gym

Bodybuilders have long employed a technique called split training, where they train the same muscle group twice per day. The goal is to use the morning session to lift heavy and maximize the recruitment of muscle fibers and thereby fatigue the muscles. They then come back for a second evening session where they use lighter weights and higher reps to blast their fatigued muscles. This stimulates tremendous growth.

We can use this principle and tweak it to better train our running-specific muscles to withstand the rigors of the full marathon distance.

First you perform a morning session that consists of heavy weights and low repetitions. These will be mostly compound exercises that focus on the hips, hamstrings, glutes and lower back. Our goal is to recruit maximum muscle fibers and fatigue the muscle.

You’ll then come back for an evening session and perform very running-specific hip, hamstring, glute and lower back exercises designed to train those muscles while they are tired.

This specific training should simulate the fatigue you experience late in the marathon race and prepare the muscle groups most responsible for a breakdown in running form.

This exact routine and more on the science behind it is available in our Strength Training for Runners program (it’s called the Phidippides routine). We don’t currently have a sample because it’s new, but I’ll be writing more on this soon (and providing some case studies).


It’s also important to remember that these causes of marathon failure don’t occur in isolation. I am very certain all runners experience some amount of each in every race they run.

That means you shouldn’t ignore any element in preparation for your next race.

However, most runners find that it’s one particular factor that’s causing the most trouble.

Now that you better understand the science, the causes and appreciate the difference between all three you can better plan your training for your next race.

Were you using the terms incorrectly? Which of these have you experienced in a marathon?

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New to the Running World? Your Questions Answered Fri, 13 Feb 2015 10:00:36 +0000

If you are a new runner, you probably have lots of questions. We answer the 5 most common running questions, to help you overcome pain, get faster, and feel confident.In my 20 years of working with runners, there are some questions that crop up time and time again.

These are undoubtedly the five most commonly asked questions, especially by beginners. However, as the years have gone by, my answers have changed in line with research and advances in sports science. Here’s the current thinking:

Why do my knees hurt?

Where to start? This is probably the number one question I get, and the hardest to answer. Knee pain in runners is common; a review paper in the BMJ in 2007 actually found that the knee is THE most common site of injury in runners, but hugely varied in presentation and cause.

Pain can be ‘on’, ‘in’ or ‘around’ the actual kneecap itself (often described as runners knee), or on the medial or lateral edge (ITB syndrome) of the knee.

However, unless you have had a fall or acute injury to the knee itself, ‘vague’ knee pain is usually a symptom of; overdoing mileage; the wrong shoes; or of some sort of imbalance, tightness or weakness elsewhere.

Beginner runners are especially vulnerable due to a lack of general conditioning and muscle strength.

But don’t panic if you’re a new runner, and have developed knee pain.. it’s unlikely to be arthritis; a study in 2014 actually found that running may actually help prevent osteoarthritis caused by ‘pounding’ the pavements

You also do not need a referral to an orthopedic surgeon, or to spend a great deal of money on orthotics.

More often than not, most cases of ‘knee pain’ in runners can be easily addressed with a combination of Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation; corrective exercises (usually for the glutes, abductors and hip rotators); the right shoe choice; soft tissue release of the quads and hip flexors through massage and foam rolling (ideally every day); and a bit of patience.

In the future, be careful with how quickly you increase your mileage, and try to include pilates and some strength and conditioning exercises to supplement your running. The use of kinesiology tape may help too.

Exclusive bonus: Download our full Runner’s Knee Prevention Routine. It’s a PDF with images and descriptions of the 10 most effective prevention and rehab exercises for runners with Runner’s Knee issues. Download yours for free here.

Our hip strengthening for runners routine (called Bia), which can be sampled here, and our preventive routines available in our strength training for runners program incorporate these functional and balance exercises gleaned from the research to help keep you healthy.

The most important thing is not to give up running, or just ‘rest’ and wait for your knees to get better. Be proactive, get advice and treatment from a physical therapist and use the ‘downtime’ to work on your exercises.

What should I eat before a run?

There’s no simple answer to this one either.

What you eat before a run depends on many things – the time of day, your food preferences, the distance and intensity of your run, your weight management strategy, and your personal physiology.

We have three posts on what to eat before runs

Should I Eat Before I Run? How to Fuel Your Body for Any Running Workout

What to Eat Before and After Easy Runs, Long Runs and Different Types of Workouts

The Glycemic Index: How it can help you find the best foods to eat before, during and after running

The timing and volume of what you eat needs to vary depending on how far you plan to run and your personal response to feeding.

If for example you plan to run for 2-3 hours at 7am, you will need to fuel with a carb rich meal the night before, and then top up with some of the foods listed above around 2 hours before your run.

A short evening run might only require a mid afternoon snack (a yogurt and banana for example) 90 minutes beforehand, and then your normal dinner afterwards.

My advice to runners has always been to keep it fairly simple; do not overeat carbohydrate in general, and try to time food intake accordingly.

Like all things in running, research findings are constantly changing the goal-posts. Whilst not exactly new, the concept of ‘train low, race high’ is popular in some running circles.

The theory being that exercising in a glycogen-depleted state will stimulate an improved training adaption and ability to burn fat. The research is far from conclusive, but if you want to try it, keep the intensity low and duration short; only restrict carbohydrate before and during the run itself, eating normally the rest of the day.

The bottom line?

Experiment and find meals and snacks that work for you; both in terms of practicality, but also in your gastric response, energy levels for exercise, and recovery.

My simple rule of thumb? Never train ‘stuffed’ or ‘starving’. Keep things simple and eat what you enjoy!

How many times a week should I run?

Again, this is another grey area!

How often you run, will depend on your exercise background, ‘running age’ (how long you have been running for), your chronological age, history of injuries, ability to recover and lifestyle.

I have known fit dog walkers take up running in their 50s’ who can quite easily manage 4-5 runs per week without any problems.

On the other hand, sedentary office workers who are overweight, and have no background in fitness may need to restrict their runs to twice a week to begin with.

However, for the vast majority of competitive recreational runners (even marathon runners) who also have busy lives, families and jobs, I recommend building up to running no more than 4 (maybe 5) times per week as a maximum.

It is important to supplement these runs with cross training, strength work and pilates. You will still be exercising 6-7 times per week, but the variation of training will reduce risk of injury and maintain more consistency.

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For complete beginners, I recommend no more than twice per week to start with – supplemented with brisk walking and cross training – building up to 3 times per week.

Start gradually and ‘test’ out your tolerance. Run twice a week to begin with, after two months and no injuries, then increase to three times per week, and see how you go.

Keep monitoring your body for niggles and injuries and drop back accordingly. As you get fitter, you will find you can run more frequently. But start gradually and build up slowly!

Improved ‘recovery’ – not necessarily performance – is a great indicator of improving fitness. The faster you recover between sessions, the fitter you are becoming. Mix it up with cycling, swimming and strength work for better consistency and keep running in balance.

How do I get faster?

When you first start running, you will see rapid improvement; the personal records will come thick and fast.

However, most people hit a plateau after a little while, and the question of ‘How do I get faster?’ inevitably crops up.

It is at this stage that frustrated runners do one of three things 1) run more miles 2) race more often or 3) do loads of speedwork… or all three! Which usually ends in disaster.

Getting ‘faster’ isn’t an exact science (is there ever?) and there are a number of factors to consider…. training harder and faster isn’t actually one of them!

Slow Down

Having a good aerobic baseline is critical, but too many runners – thinking it’ll make them quicker – run too fast all the time, leading to burn out and frequent injury.

It may sound weird, but to run faster, you might actually have to slow down – at least for a while.

Aim to run around 80% of your mileage at a slower pace (especially your long runs), where you can chat easily, and you’re not out of breath, and the remaining 20% doing some harder workouts.

Spend 2-3 months building this easy base; the speed work can come after that.


Consistency is the golden rule, and will lead to more solid results in the long term.

What I mean by ‘consistency’ is staying injury free, recovering well from workouts, and progressive regular training; rather than peaks and troughs of hard training/time off with injury or fatigue.

I’m also a firm believer in mixing things up with cycling, rowing, swimming and strength work; which will feed into the consistency ‘theory’. It’s always better to do slightly less running but stay healthy, well and injury free, than break yourself and have to take time off.

Speed work

This is the one right? Speed work will make you faster. Well yes to a certain extent it will, but only as part of the overall ‘running jigsaw puzzle’. Check out our post on 3 ways to sneak speed into your training plan.

Consistency, recovery, injury prevention, overall mileage, and speedwork are all in the ‘pot’ and you need to work out your own personal recipe.

Speed work can be great, but treat it with a touch of caution, and start with a speed workout every 10-14 days, and monitor fatigue and pain closely. You could try one of these workouts.

Runners by nature aren’t patient; We want results and we want them now! But running is a lifelong activity, and it’s not always about speed and how fast you can run. Learn to be patient and allow the results to come to you instead of chasing it too hard.

How can I get rid of a stitch?

Stitches are a common problem, not normally medically serious, but annoying and painful.

A classic stitch is a sharp stabbing pain or ache in your stomach just below your ribs. It’s usually on one side (normally the right) and often accompanied by a pain in your shoulder.

Some runners seem more prone to them than others, and it’s often beginners who seem to suffer the most.

‘Unfortunately, no-one really knows what causes a stitch’ explains Dr Mark Wotherspoon, Sports and Exercise Medicine Consultant at Perform Southampton in the UK said, ’It’s likely to be some sort of spasm or cramp of the diaphragm, a feature of not being fit enough or poor conditioning, since stitches usually affect beginners or runners increasing intensity or load too quickly’.

If you do suffer from stitches, you need to try and identify what causes them, and then find ways to prevent them. This is often not an easy task, as stitches often come on without warning and it’s hard to link them with anything specific.

However, there is a general consensus, that beginner runners seem to suffer the most, indicating that stitches are possibly linked to fitness.

In addition, runners pushing the pace or gearing up for speed work are often struck down with a stitch. It’s likely that as you get fitter, you’ll be less likely to get a stitch.

In terms of getting rid of it, there are lots of theories; massaging the site of pain; pushing your fingers into your belly; or deep breathing. However, I’ve developed a breathing technique that seems to work 9 times out 10. Next time you get a stitch.. give it a try:

Sarah’s Stitch Technique

  1. Take a big deep breath in as far as you can.
  2. With an open mouth and relaxed (not pursed) lips, do a really hard, fast and forceful breath out, pushing your breath out as long and hard as you can. Imagine you’re pushing your breath out from the bottom of your belly and you should feel your stomach muscles contract and keep pushing the breath out until you run out of puff.
  3. Repeat this 5-6 times. It does sound like you’re having a heart attack, so warn other runners beforehand.

It might not be a pretty technique, but it seems to work 90% of the time!

*One final note on stitches. If you have ongoing abdominal or chest pain that’s not going away, do get checked out by your Doctor, as it may not be a stitch and may be more medically serious.

Hopefully these tips have been helpful to you, particularly if you are just starting out as a runner.

]]> 2
UCAN for Marathon Nutrition: A Review of the Research to See if it Really Works Wed, 11 Feb 2015 05:01:47 +0000

There has been a lot of buzz in recent years around super starch, Generation UCAN. We talk to a research scientist to find an unbiast look at the productIs Generation UCAN a groundbreaking product when it comes to marathon nutrition? Or, is this yet another case of manipulating research studies to make marginal improvements seem more significant.

That’s the question we’re going to try to answer by delving into the actual research studies during this interview with Evelyn of the Carbsane blog.

Evelyn is a research scientist who loves examining the actual scientific studies of nutritional products, specifically those that deal with carbohydrates. Given her very practical and scientific approach to nutrition, she is the perfect guest for us since we’re all about the research here at RunnersConnect.

In this interview we’re going to talk about the “super starch” called Generation UCAN and whether the research studies found on their site support it being a superior carbohydrate source for marathon racing.

Specifically, we’re looking to see if the research indicates using this product will or should change your approach to race day nutrition.

What we’re not doing in this podcast is recommending one product over another. We simply want to look at the research to verify any claims and see what we can really find.

As we move through this podcast you’ll here us referencing specific studies and graphs. These studies and the graphs can be found below.


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Exclusive bonus: Signup for our FREE Marathon Nutrition Series. It’s a 4-part course where we’ll give you the exact formula to prevent the marathon bonk, find your optimal hydration numbers and a specific plan for how to fuel up before and during the race. Start for free by clicking here.

Outline of Interview

The claim from Generation Ucan is that their super starch effectively provides a slow release glucose source that is low GI (doesn’t spike glucose much), doesn’t elicit a significant insulin response, and therefore doesn’t suppress fat burning. We’re going to address each claim specifically.

  1. The first claim is that this form of super starch is released more slowly and therefore doesn’t spike insulin levels (thereby potentially reducing the “call” for glycogen”). However, you took a look at the actual research studies and noticed some anomalies. Can you describe these anomalies in the studies and their results in more depth.
  1. The next claim from this product is that this starch can improve fat burning. The company makes some claims from the University of Oklahoma study that the product (1) Enhanced breakdown of fat during exercise (2) Enhanced fat oxidation (carbohydrate sparing) during exercise and (3) Enhanced breakdown and use of fat during recovery. However, you took a look at the research and the actual graphs. What did you find the results to actually say or conclude? Why or how is lipolysis misunderstood?
  1. You took a look at some of the ingredients and noticed that modified corn starch was listed in the ingredients and in an internal white paper, this was compared to generic corn starch. The results were unimpressive.  Can you explain what this data means? Compared to glucose, however, the results were somewhat significant, correct?
  1. It seems you found some interesting research and patent information when trying to determine how this “natural” product is produced and what type of starch it actually is. Can you walk me through some of these findings?
  2. In summary, what does this research say about the effectiveness of UCAN for marathon nutrition? Should it change the way we approach marathon nutrition on race day?

Graphs and studies discussed during the interview

Question 1: Is UCAN released more slowly?

generation ucan review research 1


  Question 1: Is UCAN released more slowly?


generation ucan review research 2


  Question 2: Improves lipolysis

generation ucan review research 3

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Quick summary

If you don’t want to listen to the entire interview or read the transcript, here is the one paragraph summary (my advice is to not comment unless you read/listen to the entire interview)

The research we’ve been able to find suggests that UCAN may potentially be marginally better than traditional gels and sports drinks. However, even this claim is weak since some of the studies were conducted at rest and not while running. More importantly, it should not change your approach to marathon nutrition; the physiology of how much glycogen you use and need does not change. Like all varieties of gels and sports drinks, UCAN may work better for your stomach than others, in which case it’s a great product. However, given how expensive it is, I wouldn’t recommend using it if traditional gels or sports drinks work for you.

Exclusive bonus: Signup for our FREE Marathon Nutrition Series. It’s a 4-part course where we’ll give you the exact formula to prevent the marathon bonk, find your optimal hydration numbers and a specific plan for how to fuel up before and during the race. Start for free by clicking here.


Jeff:  Thanks Evelyn so much for joining me today. I’m really excited to talk about the UCAN product, and specifically some of the research that it’s shown and what it can be. Thanks for joining me.

Evelyn:  Thank you for having me.

Jeff:  Great. For those that are listening, what we are going to talk about today is we’re going to talk about the product UCAN, which is a product that markets itself as a “super starch.” What they claim is that it provides a slow‑release glucose source, which is a low‑GI, so it doesn’t spike your glucose.

They also claim that it doesn’t illicit a significant insulin response, and therefore it doesn’t suppress fat burning and may actually contribute to burning fat more efficiently as a fuel source. What we’re going to talk to Evelyn about is some of the research that is on the UCAN site, and some of the holes that we found in the research and what she feels on the subject.

We’re not promoting one product over another. We just want to make sure that you, the listener, have the most, what we feel is a clearer picture of the research and the actual benefits that a specific product can have for you and what that means for your specific training needs and fueling needs.

Evelyn, where I want to get started is one of the first claims that I mentioned that the UCAN product is advocating or says that it can do is that it claims that this super starch of theirs is a patented process. We’ll talk a little bit more about that later. It basically says that it’s released more slowly and therefore it doesn’t spike insulin levels, and there


fore potentially reducing the call for glycogen.

You took a look at the research in one of your blog posts, and you noticed some anomalies in this specific research. Can you describe these anomalies in the studies and what the results mean to you, in more depth?




Evelyn:  I think the studies that you’re talking about for this would be the ones where they compare the super starch to the maltodextrin, because what they did was they gave about a 25 gram dose and then they looked at the glucose curves.

In their literature, they say that the super starch is 100 percent accessible, like it gets digested 100 percent. I looked at the curves of the glucose versus time. The area under the curve is something that, in pharmacology and things like that, we use to look at the total exposure ‑‑ the glycemic load, as opposed to the peak level.

If you look at the area under the curve for the maltodextrin versus the super starch, there is kind of missing glucose there.

There’s only about like half of the total response or glucose that’s in the blood after the same dose over a period of, it looks like about one and a half to two hours that they measured it that it makes sense.

I’m not seeing where the super starch is kind of living up to the claim that it is a slow‑released glucose source because it’s not providing as much glucose, at least according to the curves that are in there in their paper for a similar dose of maltodextrin.

That was one of the anomalies that I noticed, was that it doesn’t seem to be providing the same amount of glucose at all.

Jeff:  That makes a lot of sense then. For those who are truly listening, if you go to the website that this page is on, that this podcast is on, you’ll notice that we’ve posted the graphs that Eva is talking about here. If you look, now the maltodextrin formula is in blue, correct?

Evelyn:  Yes. The maltodextrin in blue, and the super starch is in red. I don’t know if you have my curves up there where I colored in the triangles. You could see the maltodextrin has…the grey triangle is much larger for the amount of glucose is delivered.

It does have a kind of a hypoglycemic rebound as well. It goes down quite a bit below baseline. That may affect some people but, in terms of the glucose delivery, there seems to be more delivered in that “spike” of the first couple of hours that we’re looking at.

After probably about an hour, we’re not really talking about the product itself that you ingested that’s adding to the blood glucose. That would be something, what the liver is doing to regulate your glucose level.

It’s possible that the super starch formula is a replenishing glycogen stores at a more rapid rate, so that it keeps things more steady. I don’t think that they’ve provided any evidence that that’s the case. I don’t think that they make that claim. That might be what’s going on, but it just looks to me like you don’t have the full digestion of this starch. That’s just what it looks like to me.

Jeff:  Gotcha. I think they’re maybe not…Mistake is probably a bad word for it, but there’s a difference between it releasing slowly and it probably not releasing all of the potential glycogen. Is that a fair way to say that?

Evelyn:  Yeah. Glucose not the glycogen.

Jeff:  Sorry. The glucose.

Evelyn:  I would say, it’s the difference between…exactly. It would be less absorption overall, in terms of that, not just a slower release. Because if it was just a slower release, you should see kind of like that gray triangle kind of turned on its side.

You’d have a much longer exposure there. Basically, you’re back down to baseline almost in the same time frame between those two formulas. A little bit close, you’re not quite back down with the super starch. It’s ever so slightly elevated for, what? An extra half hour or so?

But you’re not seeing the glycemic load. You’re not seeing the glucose. Theoretically, it’s possible that it could be going into the glycogen. Usually, my understanding is that glucose and fructose…

The simple sugars are better at replenishing the glycogen than anything that would be slow‑release. That’s my understanding. I’m not really in to the whole exercise physiology side of things. That’s my understanding.

I would find it hard to believe that the mechanism of that blunted glucose reading has anything to do with replenishing glycogen.

Jeff:  Right. It makes a lot of sense. I think, when you look at the graphs, it’s definitely very easy to see what you’re talking about here with that…after an hour, hour and a half, the glucose levels are very, very similar. It’s an interesting claim that it releases slower.

Also, I think, obviously the claim is also that it doesn’t have as much of a spike. It would seem that these charts definitely show that the spike for glucose definitely is not as pronounced as it is for a regular maltodextrin product. Is that correct?

Evelyn:  Yes, that would be accurate.

Jeff:  I think that goes on to our next question, because the bigger claim for the product is that it can in some way improve the ability to burn fat. I think that’s related to that glucose spike, because I think one of the reasons for those claims is that it’s going to reduce the insulin response to that, because the glucose spike isn’t as high.

They’ve also cited a University of Oklahoma study that says that the product itself can enhance the breakdown of fat during exercise. It can also enhance fat oxidation, and it enhanced breakdown of use of fat during recovery. Again, you took a look at this particular study and you found some anomalies again.

This is, I believe, the second group of graphs that you talked about. Let’s start with what did you find in those results? What did you find in those results that you found that they concluded that might be at odds with what maybe the UCAN product is claiming?

Evelyn:  The biggest thing is that they’re confusing fat breakdown, which is lipolysis, with fat oxidation, or fat burning, which is the beta oxidation. Fats, in order to be burned, have to be broken down from triglycerides, so the triglyceride is broken apart and released into the bloodstream as the free fatty acids.

Those are the ones that can be taken up and then go into the mitochondria, and are burned. The fact that a fatty acid is released does not mean that it’s going to actually be burned.

What they show on their website ‑‑ and I could not find this study anywhere. It said it was supposed to be presented at some proceedings, but I’m only going by what is in some summary findings that Jeff Folick has, what I call a white paper on background and then the graph that comes from the UCAN website. What you’re looking at with the graph is the NEFA. That’s the non‑esterified fatty acids. That’s the free fatty acids.

Yes, the free fatty acid levels go up more, and statistically significantly more, following the super starch versus the maltodextrin. This would be expected, because yes, insulin would, if you ingest a carbohydrate, it’s supposed to kind of knock down the free fatty acid release from your fat cells because you have glucose around to burn.

Apparently, there is not enough of an insulin spike from the super starch to suppress the free fatty acid release and you can see in the graph that, yes, the free fatty acids go significantly higher. In this one, they actually were exercising for 150 minutes. The other curves that we were just talking about before apparently were just consuming maltodextrin versus the super starch.

That’s just kind of like an oral glucose tolerance test type of a scenario. It has nothing to do with what would happen if you were exercising while you’re doing this, so whether or not it would provide a lot more available glucose or keep your glucose more steady during the exercise. It says nothing about that.

In this study, we only have the graph for the fat “burning.” I didn’t see anything for the glucose there. It’s true, the non‑esterified fatty acids go up. I call them NEFA. That’s how I pronounce that acronym. Those go up and it’s statistically significant, but what I found disturbing is that the next line is, “There is also a trend towards lower‑respiratory exchange ratios during the super starch trial compared to the maltodextrin, indicating increased oxidation of fat.”

That’s what they said in the paper. Whenever you hear the word “trend towards,” without the words “significant,” it means that this difference did not reach a level of statistical significance. In essence, they shouldn’t even really say anything.

It would appear that perhaps there’s a little bit more fat burning going on, where the respiratory exchange ratio, maybe it’s down like 0.1 or something. I have no idea, because they don’t provide that information. Like I said, I could not find the actual study for this.

Lipolysis is not an indicator of fatty acid oxidation rate, it’s just not. It’s not a surrogate for it. It’s making the fat available for use, but your body’s only going to use it if you need it. If you have some glucose around, it will use the glucose first, which is not a bad thing.

I don’t know where people are getting the idea that it’s such a bad thing to burn that glucose first, but there’s always well in excess of the fatty acids that you need released into the bloodstream. If you don’t use them, they get packaged back up and go back into the fat cells or they can be stored locally in the muscle cells.

Jeff:  Right. That’s a fantastic explanation, and I do appreciate you talking about, really getting down into ‑‑ especially for those listeners who may not be as familiar with research as you or maybe myself ‑‑ about the “trend towards” line in the graphs, or in the write‑up. You’re exactly right, that means there was no statistical significance and that’s important when we’re talking about what can actually be determined from a study like this.

I appreciate you really delving into that, and also going into the lipolysis. I’m just curious, why do you think that it’s kind of misunderstood that lipolysis equals enhanced fat utilization? Have you found that there’s kind of a reason for that…

Evelyn:  Scamming.

Jeff:  …or is it just something that people want to believe?

Evelyn:  Scamming.

Jeff:  OK. [laughs]

Evelyn:  I actually had finally read the middle of the road Atkins book. I had never read the “New Diet Revolution” one, the one that had come out in like 2000. Basically, Atkins switched from ketosis being kind of a freebie fat burning, incomplete fat burning, in that you urinate out this incompletely burned fat. He switched from that to this enhance lipolysis, that lipolysis was fat burning.

Everybody does it. All of the low‑carb advocates confuse the two. It’s deliberate, because they know the difference and they know that lipolysis, is not fat burning. It makes for a nice gimmick, because you say, “Your fat cells are releasing the fat.”

They’ve created this idea that insulin has trapped fat in the fat cells and that your body can’t get at it to burn. That’s simply not true.

Jeff:  No, it’s a great breakdown. I appreciate you going into depth about that. It’s important for those that are listening ‑‑ not only for this particular product, if they are considering using it ‑‑ but just in general, when it comes to understanding when people are talking about fat burning, especially when it relates to marathon training and marathon performance. Or in general, if they want to lose weight, this may be the thing. I think getting into depth about that is fantastic, so thank you for that.

Evelyn:  No problem. One quick thing, for your listeners. The word that they want to look for is “oxidation.” There are these fat‑burning supplements and things like that. Some of them are not too great to use. If something is a fat burner, if it really does enhance fat burning, it has to increase the oxidation rate but it also has to increase the overall metabolic rate because, if it doesn’t increase the overall metabolic rate or the energy expenditure over a 24‑hour period of time, then it’s not fat burning.

You can burn more fat for an hour and then you go back to burning other stuff, whatever it is. You have to look for oxidation rate, because that’s really the bottom line. You have to have increase in fat oxidation rate and you’d have to have an overall increase in your overall energy expenditure.

Jeff:  That makes a lot of sense. Like you were saying, when we look at the graphs from what we were able to find about the research, that’s when we go back to the statical significance portion. Where the super starch’s been claiming it enhances fat oxidation, but we’re not seeing that in the graphs and we’re not seeing that in the summary research.

Evelyn:  I’m also thinking that the numbers aren’t there, because they didn’t even give the numbers. Because, a lot of the times, in weight loss studies, they’ll say, “Oh, the low carb group lost 5.1 kilograms and the other group lost only 4 kilograms. They say, “Oh, they lost 25 percent more weight,” or something like that.

It was not statistically significant, but at least the 25 percent more looks on paper, “Oh yeah, they did lose a couple more pounds in a week,” or whatever the time frame is that they are looking at. I just tend to think that the fact that there’s not any numbers on the oxidation rate, that someone could say, “Oh yeah, six kilograms per whatever versus four.” Even those numbers aren’t impressive.

That’s why they showed the diagram for the non‑esterified fatty acids and didn’t bother with the fatty acid oxidation rates.

Jeff:  Interesting. That’s a great point. Switching gears a little bit. In part, what you’ve tried to all of this as well as try to figure out what the super starch is and learn more about it. One of the things that you looked at, one of the white papers, where it was preparing the ingredients, what the super starch is composed of, and comparing it to generic cornstarch.

You noticed some unimpressive data when it came to this comparison. Can you explain what this data means, in terms of what we were talking about, them comparing the super starch to the basic cornstarch or the generic cornstarch?

Evelyn:  Yeah, so they compared the super starch to cornstarch. It’s a mystery, exactly what this cornstarch is. In their materials, they say that it’s some unique grain. Then, later on, they say, that it’s just cornstarch. Corn isn’t any unique grain that I’m aware of. They don’t give any particular brand, type or strain of corn that it comes from.

They say that it goes under some kind of wet cooking process. Then, they compare it to the Argo, and a couple of the things that they said. One of the main findings was that super starch decreased the acute glycemic impact by 13 percent. Let’s say that you start out from 100 and you go to 200, that’s very high, so let’s say that you start at 100 and you go to 150 milligrams per deciliter of glucose for the regular cornstarch, so you’d go to 147 or something like that.

13 percent lower acute, I’m assuming that by that they mean the peak level or the glucose “spike” that occurs. That’s hardly impressive to me.

Jeff:  I just want to clarify for the listeners here. When you were talking about this specific claim, you’re talking about the glycemic impact, so basically the glucose load, almost in a sense of going back to that insulin response. How much glucose is going to be injected into the bloodstream immediately. Is that correct?

Evelyn:  Right.

Jeff:  What you’re saying is that they compared the super starch to cornstarch, and found that it is only 13 percent less. If you’re going from 100 to 150, you’re talking about a very small difference in the insulin spike or the glucose level.

Evelyn:  Right. If you go back to the other study and ignore the multidextron for a second, the super starch doesn’t have much of a spike at all.

Jeff:  It looks like in the graphic, it goes from 100 to 120.

Evelyn:  Right. You’re talking about 20 units, so 13 percent of 20 units, two? We’re talking that the super starch maybe goes to 120, and the cornstarch would have gone…OK, let’s be generous and say 125. You’re talking about something that would be virtually indistinguishable, as far as anything is concerned. It would appear that super starch is not very much different at all from the regular generic cornstarch.

The second thing that they cite is even less impressive. It said that the glucose levels were maintained closer to baseline seven hours after ingestion of the super starch, minus four percent from fasting, versus minus 13 percent for the Argo. If you’re starting at 100, you’re talking seven hours later, the super starch, you’re down to 96 and, the Argo, you’re down to 87.

That’s kind of a ridiculous thing, because, who’s going to just ‑‑ like this one is like 75 grams, I guess it was. Who consumes 75 grams of starch and then doesn’t do anything else for seven hours? This one, again, I think this comparison was also, just eating, I don’t think this one involved exercise. I think that the only one that involved exercising was that one with the maltodextrin comparison.

Jeff:  Right. I think that’s an important part, when you look at studies as well. This goes across pretty much any study when you look at running, because that’s what we’re talking about specifically. Yeah, in these particular studies, they are only talking about people only ingesting it and then, basically, not doing anything. Obviously, the dynamics and things are going to change, when people are actually running.

I think, sometimes, they are making leaps from the literature that might not necessarily make that jump, when you take it to performing at a high level, like you are with a marathon.

Evelyn:  Yeah, I understand proprietary processes and all this sort of thing. It seems to me that there’s a little bit too much mystery surrounding what exactly the super starch is. Because I’m not aware of any cooking process, that would cause starch to polymerize. Starch thickens sauces and things like that, because the molecules come apart and then they get tangled up, trap water and stuff like that.

Hey, anybody who wants to watch that can watch an Alton Brown cooking show. He does wonderful demonstrations of that. I’m not aware of any process by which the starch molecule is elongated and made larger by this. I really do not know what is going on here. In the comments on my blog post on this, I had some people mention that resistance starch came to mind.

I wrote this post back in, I think it was 2 years ago. That whole resistance starch, which is a big thing in the paleo and the low carb communities on the Internet lately, wasn’t a big deal back then. Yeah, maybe, it’s resistance starch. Maybe they are cooking it and cooling it, so that it’s creating more resistance starch and getting rid of some of the starch that would otherwise be absorbed more rapidly. Maybe they do some kind of a separation.

It’s all a mystery, so we can presume. It seems like it’s cornstarch that’s a little bit ever so slightly less absorbed than the basic cornstarch that you can buy a tub for a buck in the regular grocery store.

Jeff:  Yeah, and that actually brings me to the final point, or what I wanted to inject in terms of this conversation and what you’ve helped me understand. Hopefully, what you’ve helped the audience understand is that, again, Evelyn and I don’t recommend or not recommend a specific product, but what we want to be able to do is give you a real look at the research, an unbiased look, and to help you make a decision whether it works for you.

From what I can understand from, especially, a big part of this conversation, I don’t think that the super starch provides any real significant advantage to marathon performance, in terms of what you’re going to be able to do, in terms of insulin response or “a slow glucose delivery.” I don’t think it provides in any meaningful manner, in the sense that it’s going to change how you would approach a marathon nutrition.

A lot of people have found that UCAN works a lot better for their stomach. They can digest it easier. That’s perfectly acceptable. If it’s a product that works well for you and you don’t have digestive upset, then it’s a great product.

I don’t think that it necessarily changes how you approach marathon nutrition or marathon performance, in the sense that it’s not going to change the amount of glycogenic glucose that you need or how it’s used in the body. It doesn’t change any of the strategies that you would use to maintain a strong marathon, and to not [inaudible 31:12] .

That’s what I’m seeing from the research that we’ve been able to actually look at, and I think that Evelyn would agree that. I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but I think that’s probably what you would say or at least understand?

Evelyn:  Yeah, I would agree with that, because it does not seem…I mean, I had a couple of people who do this sort of thing, that came out and contributed to the comments. They were talking about the [?] [inaudible 31:38] of the glucose and how that can cause some of the stomach upset. Then, some people, I guess, because you essentially get more glucose per particle, that this can help some people with gastric distress, or perhaps that the glucose is absorbed a little bit more slowly so it keeps the glucose levels more stable.

I don’t know. My gut feeling would be that maybe you actually want a glucose spike when you’re feeling the energy lagging, because that just seems to be what I have…


Evelyn:  Why would you go and suck down a glucose gel in the middle of a marathon, if you’re a fat‑burning beast? It’s because you need the glucose. If it’s going to be going up a little faster and down a little faster, then I’d think you’d just have another glucose gel, unless there’s a serious gastrointestinal issue with all of that.

I don’t understand why that would be something else. It’s not really my field. I’m not an endurance athlete and I never have been, so it’s not something that I’ve experimented with personally. One of the favorite “poster athletes” for the fat‑burning beast is Tim Olson.

Steve Finney did a whole thing about him winning some great ultra‑marathon. On Tim’s blog, he was talking about how he ran out of the gels that he uses and he ended up drinking a lot of Sierra Mist, because I guess that has regular sugar in it.

I’m thinking to myself, “That doesn’t sound like he was worried about his glucose spike.” He was worried about getting some glucose in him, and he didn’t have the stuff that he needed at a certain aid station or whatever, so when he could get it in him, he went for the Sierra Mist. I don’t see where it would provide any sort of an advanced benefit.

Jeff:  One of the things that I hear a lot, in terms of questions is should I use this product or how does it change my approach to marathon nutrition, because they claim that it’s slow‑release, they pretty much just take it. If they take more of it before the marathon starts, then they need to take less glucose during the race.

I think that’s been, at least what we’ve looked at from the research, we’ve seen that’s probably not true, because once you get over about an hour, it looks like the glucose release is almost the exact same as what the maltodextrin would be. It’s not really going to change. It’s not really going to slow release glucose and glycogen for you for hours and hours and hours after you do that.

Evelyn:  Yeah. I would think that it’s pretty much about the same as really carbing up and topping off your glycogen stores. I don’t think ‑‑ in that study, they’re talking what, 75 grams? That one wasn’t the exercising one, or was that one the exercising one? I don’t remember.

Jeff:  That was not the exercising one.

Evelyn:  Even if you were to have 100 grams of super starch before the race, that, to me ‑‑ just from all the studies that I’ve seen where they’ve tried to look at the capacity for glycogen ‑‑ you could have some kind of a unique strategy to kind of carb up and have that 100 grams of glycogen in you.

I don’t see that it’s going to provide any more glucose as the race goes on, unless you’re going to go through the race without any aid stations. To me, that would be the only advantage, if they ran some sort of a race where you weren’t allowed to have anything but pure water for the entire race or salt water, or whatever.

Unless they were going to have some kind of a race where you weren’t allowed to fuel yourself any other way, then it doesn’t seem like there should be any advantage for that. If anything, just from what I know and what I’ve read, it would seem that having high‑glycemic carbs to store, to promote glycogen storage, would be a better way to go about things than just eating some kind of a slow‑release.

If it is indeed a slow‑release, it has to be from slow digestion because it has to be broken down into the glucose molecules to be absorbed. These giant glucose polymers are not being absorbed as is and then breaking down in your blood. They’re broken down in your digestive tract and then absorbed.

If it’s taking a long time to digest, you’ve got blood flow going to your digestive system there. That’s less blood flow going to your muscles. I don’t know. Your mom always told you, “Don’t eat half an hour before swimming” or whatever it was kind of for a reason, I guess. When you’re digesting food, blood flow is diverted to the digestive tract and therefore away from other things.

Therefore, if you’re in an elite competition, that could make a big difference. It’s not going to make much of a difference for somebody who is going for a stroll around the block, but I would think it could make a negative difference, if anything. I don’t know.

Jeff:  Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s a great summary, a great recap to everything we’ve talked about and what we’ve seen that the research shows. I really appreciate you kind of going into depth about this and really taking the time to walk us step‑by‑step through what you’ve been able to find about the super starch and really talking about the research in a way that I think makes sense.

I think a lot of listeners will be able to actually understand and kind of see how it connects, from looking at a graph to what that actually means for them. I actually appreciate you taking the time. For those that are interested, you can check out Evelyn’s blog. It’s at

We’ll link that up in the show notes for this podcast, so you can go ahead and check it out. We’ll link to this post that we’re specifically talking about and then we’ll also link to the graphs that we’ve discussed in this episode, so that way you can see exactly what we’re talking about. You can either follow along or look it up afterward.

Thank you, Evelyn, so much for your time. It’s really, really appreciated.

Evelyn:  Thanks for having me on. I enjoyed it.



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Mastering the Marathon- 26.2 as Unequal Halves Mon, 09 Feb 2015 10:00:25 +0000

Elite runner (Runners Connect Coach) Sarah Crouch describes a different perspective for how to conquer the marathon distance, and how importance the mental side is to your race.The marathon presents a physical challenge that tests the human body to find out not only how fast can the distance be covered, but how well the body can maintain a strenuous activity once its “tank” has been drained.

The physical challenge of the marathon is one of its greatest draws, calling to those who wish to climb a mountain simply because it is there.

Arguably just as challenging as the physical task of the marathon, is the mental aspect of running 26.2.

An Actor Rehearsing Lines

Just as marathoners train their bodies to become efficient and streamlined, targeting their weaknesses and flaws in form; striving to fix them, so too must mental toughness be developed and strengthened before the big race.

An actor rehearses the lines of a play again and again before the big performance; learning the correct sequence and timing of the performance.
So too should a runner spend time in visualization, rehearsing the big race over and over in the mind.

Too often do runners focus on the negative possibilities of race day, latching onto doubt and leaving the mind tumbling in negative summersaults of “what if” and “I can’t”.

An actor does not intentionally rehearse the wrong lines before a play, which would not make sense; instead an actor focuses on and repeats the performance in the way they would like it to happen. Runners should take the time to visualize their upcoming performance in a positive light.

Two Races, One Day

One way to do this, is to decide before hand to divide the marathon into unequal halves.

The marathon is much easier to handle when it is approached from a standpoint of effort-based halves.

Choosing to break the marathon into two pieces, the first 20 miles and the last 10k, helps to focus on two distinctly separate tasks on race day.

The first half of the race (the first 20 miles) is more than twice the length of the second half, but most marathoners would agree that the final 10k is as difficult, if not more so, than the first 20.

Viewing the first 20 miles as a long run is much more manageable than attacking the race as a whole, especially since most runners have at least one 20 mile long run under their belt during marathon training and the distance is familiar.

Keeping the first 20 miles deliberately comfortable with the constant knowledge that “the race begins at 20” will keep you patient as the miles pass, with an expectant outlook on the second half.

A 10K is a long race in itself, and even if you feel fresh and fast at 20, knocking a minute per mile off your pace is not a good idea.

Stick to the plan outlined by your training and your coach, but refocus your mindset to let go of the previous 20 and begin a brand new 10k.

It is best to fully accept the agony of a marathon’s final 10 Kilometers before you reach it. Don’t just anticipate the pain, accept it, welcome it, and embrace it.

The final 10K of a marathon should hurt, it is only when a runner can accept that concept that they can truly reach full potential in the marathon.


Splitting the race into effort-based halves with a longer, more comfortable 20 mile first half and a shorter, more aggressive 6.2 mile second half gives the runner a structure that will prepare him or her for the long stretch of sustained effort for the first 20 miles, and the assertive strain of the last 10k that make up the marathon.

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How to Calculate Carbohydrate Intake After Your Overnight Fast Sat, 07 Feb 2015 10:00:13 +0000

Have you ever wondered if you are negatively affecting performance by not eating before a run? We look into the science of why, and how much you need.It’s long run Sunday (or Saturday), and your alarm wakes you. How can it be time to get out of bed already?!

Are you one of those runners who just rolls out of bed, puts on your shoes, and wanders out the door half asleep?

If so, you might be curious whether you’re going to run out of stored carbohydrates earlier in your run because you have heard all kinds of horror stories about running on a completely empty stomach.

After all, it’s widely recommended that you fuel up in the early hours of the morning before you race a marathon. Did you read our post on How to Fuel Your Body for Any Workout?

Energy Requirements

How much energy do you actually burn during your overnight fast? And if you do end up running before breakfast, is your run going to be negatively impacted because your carbohydrate “gas tank” isn’t full?

The easiest way to figure out the first question is to do some simple math.

If you ate dinner at 6pm and went to bed at 10pm, we could safely assume your carbohydrate reserves were fully topped off when you fell asleep. If you slept for eight hours, got up and went for your long run starting at 6:30 am, it’s just a matter of totaling up how much energy you expended while asleep, and figuring out what proportion of this energy comes from carbohydrates.

The energy you expend while you sleep is dependent on your height, weight, and age, but for a typical male runner—5’10, 150 pounds, and 35 years old—you’re expected to burn about 68 Calories per hour while at rest.1

About 30% of this energy is from carbs, so now it’s a straightforward math problem: 30% of 8.5 hours times 68 Calories per hour, or about 175 Calories’ worth of carbohydrates.2

If you are running at an easy to moderate pace, this is about three to three and a half miles’ worth of energy.

Now, there’s going to be some individual variation in these figures, which is why they’re only an approximation. Women, for example, have a lower resting metabolic rate, so women burn less energy overnight. Unfortunately, as you get older, your metabolic rate drops too.

In most cases, though, it’s safe to assume you will burn through between two and four miles’ worth of carbs overnight.

If this is going to be a problem— if your running group has planned a 23-mile long run in the morning—you might want to grab a carb-rich snack before you head out the door.

Can your body pace itself?

Multiple scientific studies have found that the body does not alter its consumption of carbohydrates during exercise based on how much carbohydrate energy you have in reserve: if you’re running the same speed, your carbohydrate usage will be the same whether or not you’ve had breakfast before your run.3, 4, 5

In this sense at least, your body does not “pace” itself. And, contrary to earlier research which suggested that training in a state of low carbohydrate availability, the latest and most comprehensive research on well-trained athletes shows has not uncovered any clear advantages (at least in events lasting for about two hours) to “training low,” i.e. doing some or all of your workouts after intentionally keeping your body’s carbohydrate stores low.6 Did you read our post on Can Limiting Your Carbohydrate Intake During Training lead to Better Performance?

You do not need a scientific study to tell you that your performance is going to be significantly impacted if you run out of carbohydrates during a long run or in your next marathon.


The good news is that your overnight fast doesn’t incur too big of a penalty to your carbohydrate stores. You can easily make up the deficit with a light snack that you can eat before you head out for your long run or make your way to the start line.

In our earlier example, our runner lost around 175 Calories of carbohydrates during his overnight fast. This can be easily restored with a banana and a piece of toast, a small bowl of cereal, or a granola bar—each of these totals around 150-200 Calories, most of them from carbohydrates. This is good if you’ve got a finicky stomach!

As long as your carbohydrate stores are topped off before you go to bed, you only need a light snack in the morning to be ready to go.

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How to Analyze Your Training to See if You are On Track to Reach Your Goals Mon, 02 Feb 2015 10:00:59 +0000

Have you ever been in the middle of marathon training, wondering if you are progressing how you should be? We explain GraphMyRun, and how you can use it to see where you are at.In December of 2012 Phillip ran a very disappointing 4+ hour marathon, and immediately began plotting and training for his comeback “revenge” marathon.

Does this sound familiar to anyone?

We can edit the time, but haven’t we all thought about our comeback at some point after a bad race?

Four months later Phillip ran a sub 3:30 (a PR!) at the Eugene Marathon in Oregon, definitely what you would call a successful training period.

Phillip is now trying to recapture that success this year in preparation for the Boston Marathon, and is going to share his analysis of how you can find out if your current training plan is working.

This post may be a little too detailed and scientific for some, but if you love data, and love analyzing your training, this is definitely the article for you!


This guest post was written by Phil Miller

I am in preparation for the Boston Marathon. I’m curious to find out if my current training plan is working right now, but I don’t want to wait to find out if my training was on plan by reading the results off the clock at the finish line in Boston.

It all boils down to this question: “How can you tell if your marathon pace is getting faster?”

The traditional way to measure your marathon pace was to race a 5K, and extrapolate those results to 26.2 miles. If you aren’t planning to race 5Ks, you can use some of the unique capabilities of a free website I designed called

Like most runners, I run a couple of standard routes every week. I meet some friends on Tuesdays and Fridays at Starbucks for a 5 mile loop. It’s a social run, not a training run, per se.

Hard core runners might think of these as “junk miles”. I think of them as time on my feet, and a chance to see my friends. My point is that there is nothing special about these runs. Let’s take a look to see if there’s anything we can glean from my social runs.

First I went to Garmin Connect and downloaded 6 months worth of my social runs onto my computer. (I exported them in .tcx format, but .gpx would work, too.) On GraphMyRun, I went to the Trends tab, clicked on the Choose Files button, and selected the files.

Here is the graph that was created:
Garmin Data Graph

It’s pretty boring — mostly because the y-axis spans such a large range of dates.

There is an outlying data point from the June 7th run that is forcing the upper limit of the y-axis to a 75 min/mile pace. As a result we don’t see any detail down in the 5 to 10 min/mile range — where it counts.

On the Garmin Connect website, the user can click and drag on the graph to zoom in on a portion of the plot,but there is a faster way: Simply click on Spread in the legend (chart key) to turn off the scatter data. Here’s what it looks like with the Spread data turned off:

Garmin Data without spread

The y-axis rescales automatically and now we start to see some interesting details.

The March 26th and June 4th runs stand out as unusually fast.

By opening up one of those files in the Graph tab, we can see what is happening. This is the March 26th run:

March 26th Run with spike

Notice the big spike in my pace right at mile 3.1 where I walked for a bit.

Looking back, I had in fact used this particular run as my own personal 5K race – to tweak my pace zones. (Remember the “traditional approach” to determine marathon pace? Here it is in practice.) I did the same thing on June 4th.

Since these were clearly special cases, I decided not to include them in my “Was I getting faster?” analysis.

Back to the Trends tab, I clicked on the Choose Files button again, but this time excluding those two runs. Here are the results:

Box plot to analyze data

This kind of graph is called a “Box Plot”. It was invented by a statistician, and the beautiful thing about it is that using one makes it trivially easy to analyze the data. All we need to know is, “If the Quartile boxes (light blue shaded area) overlap a lot (when looking horizontally across the graph), the data sets aren’t statistically different.”

Keeping this rule in mind, we see that the paces of the first three runs are the same, as their boxes mostly overlap.

Likewise, the paces of the last three runs are the same as each other. But the last three runs are different (faster) than the first three runs because the boxes don’t overlap that much if they were compared side by side.

In other words, this graph shows that I was getting faster even on my social, “time on feet” runs. That’s a sign that my marathon pace should be getting faster, too. (And it did.)

Looking at the data another way, how were my ¼ mile best times changing over these runs? On any training run, we can ask, “How fast was the fastest ¼ mile?” or “How fast was the fastest mile?”.

This is not quite the same as asking “How fast was the fastest ¼ mile split?” or “How fast was the fastest mile split?”

Splits start and end at predefined distances. There are four ¼ mile splits in each mile. They occur from 0 to ¼ mile, ¼ to ½ mile, ½ to ¾ mile, and ¾ to 1 mile.

Mile splits run from 0 to mile 1, mile 1 to 2, and so forth. On the other hand, the fastest ¼ mile sub-segment might start at mile 2.16 and end at mile 2.41. For sure it’s a ¼ mile long, but it doesn’t start at any particular place.

By selecting “Fastest Sub-Segment Trends” from the drop down button on the Trends tab, GraphMyRun will automatically find your fastest ¼ mile, ½ mile, mile, and 5K sub-segments. Here are the results for the 11 runs of our previous graph:

Using Graph my Run to Analyze training

Clicking on the 1 mile and 5Ks labels in the legend (chart key) to turn off those data sets, zooms in on the ¼ and ½ mile results shown below:

The results are a little less compelling than the previous Box Plot, but they do show a decreasing trend. Even when running “junk miles” without trying to hit a specific pace, I was running them a little bit faster. My fastest ¼ mile and ½ mile sub-segments were gradually decreasing. I was getting comfortable running faster. My easy pace was getting faster and my marathon pace was decreasing, too.

In my 2015 training cycle I’ll look at my 5K race times to gage my progress in the traditional way. But now I can also look at my social runs to see if I’m following the same trends that I showed in 2013.

380Phil Miller is a marathon runner and triathlete. He PRed and BQed at the Eugene Marathon when he got serious about training at age 53. A scientist and inventor with over 10 patents, he created as a hobby for his fellow runners in the Plano Pacers running group. He enjoys woodworking and is a certified beer judge by the BJCP. He is currently writing a book on Product Development.


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Stopping Mid Run- Do You Get the Same Results? Mon, 26 Jan 2015 10:00:14 +0000

Have you ever wondered if those short stops for the bathroom or at intersections will affect your training? We researched for you, so you can stop wondering, and focus on what really matters; your training!Stop lights. Every runner hates them.

Nothing is more jarring than cruising along during a run at a solid pace, until you realize the world is not with you in your rhythm, and you have to suddenly come to a stop at a busy intersection to wait for the lights to change.

If you live in the city, or near a road with heavy traffic, this might happen to you a lot.

You may wonder if interruptions like this counterproductive for your training. Is a three or four-minute break in the middle of a run interfering with the benefits of your workout?

This question is relevant even to runners lucky enough to have routes that don’t have stoplights on them. What about bathroom breaks? We have all needed to go to the bathroom while running before.

Or what if you’re a newer running using a broken-up walk/jog training program for your first marathon? Read our post Why Running Slow Doesn’t Matter.

Continuous running vs. stopping and starting

Surprisingly, there has not been any direct research on the question of the effects of very short breaks in a run versus completely continuous running, so we will have to get a bit creative about how we go about searching for answers.

Most research on continuous versus intermittent training in athletes is focused on comparing the relative value of high intensity running during the “on” periods, and walking or standing recovery during the “off” periods—essentially, an interval workout.

Several studies have compared interval-style training to continuous running, but these are not a helpful analogy to taking short breaks during a regular run, since the intensity is not going to be drastically different before and after you interrupt your run.

There is some research on breaking up exercise into several smaller chunks of equal intensity, instead of one continuous block. These studies, however, are focused on improving fitness in overweight or sedentary adults, not athletes. Regardless, they are worth a look.

A 2006 study of fifty sedentary adults in Hong Kong analyzed fitness gains from one daily session of 30min of continuous activity compared five six-minute blocks of activity interspersed throughout the day.1

The study found that VO2 max improved by about the same amount in each group, with the authors writing that the benefits of intermittent exercise of equivalent energy expenditure were similar to the benefits of continuous exercise.

Whether this carries over to higher level training in fit athletes is unclear, but it’s at least a good sign.

Another study, published in 2008 by researchers at the University of Virginia, investigated the effects of a 30min bout of exercise or three 10min bouts at the same intensity on the levels of growth hormone in the blood during the 24-hour period following exercise.2

Though the study focused on obese individuals, there was a fifteen-person control group which had a healthy weight, and within this group, both the 30min and the 3x10min exercise sessions resulted in marked increases in growth hormone in the blood during the day following exercise sessions—a good thing for performance gains—but no significant differences between the two.

We can interpret this to mean that the hormonal benefits of training persist regardless of short (or even longer) breaks in your run, as long as you accumulate the same total amount of running. Check out our post about Understanding How Metabolism works to unlock the mystery of Weight loss for more about hormones.

Heart rate as an indicator of effect

A more obvious factor to consider is heart rate. As soon as you stop running, your heart rate drops.

How fast your heart rate “recovers,” or returns to its resting level once you stop, is dependent on your level of fitness: the fitter you are, the quicker you are able to decrease your heart rate when you stop running when compared to people who are out-of-shape.

This ability is such a good indicator of overall fitness that it’s been found to be a protective factor from sudden death!3

Being able to quickly bring down your heart rate is great for your lifespan, but it does mean that your heart rate will have dropped by 40 or more beats per minute even after just one minute of rest.

If there is a benefit to maintaining a consistently elevated heart rate—and this is an uncertain proposition—you would need your run to be more or less totally continuous, with no stopping at all. On the other hand, the dependence of heart rate recovery on fitness means that newer runners who are not very fit will still maintain a fairly high heart rate during a one or two-minute walk-break.

Plan your route

Real-world experience tells us it can’t be that critical to run nonstop during regular runs: plenty of very fast runners live and train in places like Boston or New York City, and are prepared that one of the downsides of living in the city is that they will need to stop at intersections often.

The occasions where you would like to prioritize uninterrupted continuous runs are your race-specific workouts: if you are doing a ten-mile run at your goal marathon pace, for example, you should try to set it up on a route that won’t have any interruptions.

Even if there’s uncertainty over the physiological benefits, you should keep your race-specific workouts as similar to racing conditions as possible.


From the limited research available, the evidence indicates that short interruptions to your run, whether it’s a stoplight, a bathroom break, or a planned walking break, do not have any major impact on the physiological benefits of training.

Fitness gains, at least in sedentary people, appear to be the same when you compare intermittent versus continuous exercise, and growth hormone levels respond similarly regardless of how you structure your daily exercise.

The big unanswered question is heart rate: is there any additional benefit to your cardiovascular fitness by keeping your heart rate elevated continuously for a long time?

It would require a very well-designed experiment to test this, and the effects, if any, are likely to be small.

In general, you should not fret if you have to stop at a light or use the bathroom for a few minutes. Though research to date is limited, it indicates that you’ll still get the same benefits as long as your total duration of running is the same.

Do you get frustrated stopping during your run? Do you feel it is better psychologically to break up the run, or does it mess up your rhythm?

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