Science of Ultrarunning Column for UltraRunning Mag


I’ve been quite on the blog front.  It’s not because I don’t have ideas to write about, I just lack the time.  Teaching has been busy.  Getting some research up and running has been busy.  Trying to get back in shape has been keeping me busy.

When I do have the time to write I have focused on my column for UltraRunning Magazine, called the Science of Ultrarunning which debuted in the January issue and can be read for free here.  However, to check out my latest article “Going Mental” in order to up your psychological training you will need to pick up a print version.

About the same time that I agreed to start writing the column I found out that another Professor in Idaho was also interested in bringing sports science to the ultra community.  Science of Ultra Podcast by Dr. Shawn Bearden is an excellent resource for any looking to see how scientific research can be put into practice.  His guests are second to none in the scientific community, really the best of the best when it comes to the field they are discussing.  A few of my favorites thus far have been Psychological Fatigue with Dr. Marcora and Alistar McCormick (which lines up nicely with my article in UltraRunning Magazine), Hydration Physiology withDr. Sam Cheuvront and Dr. Robert Kenefick, and Fatigue with Dr. Joyner.

With all of these different sources coming together now more than ever is the time to learn about how to use both existing and new science to optimize your ultra performances. So read, listen, and learn to perform.


Why “Running Too Much May Be as Bad as Sitting Around” is BS

Its not a surprise that people are confused about the best medical practices to improve health.  Whether the recommendations are for diet or exercise it seems that every 3 months there is a contradicting advice from the medical community.  Eat eggs, don’t eat eggs, high carb diet, low carb diet (I still don’t know the right answer to that one).

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My (Failed) High Fat Low Carb Diet Experiment

There I was in my general physician’s examination room trying to explain why I was eating copious amount of bacon, cheese, and avocado and wanting a more a more advanced cholesterol test to show that it wasn’t really doing me harm. It wasn’t going well to say the least. I think the word “moderation” make more appearances that standing ovations at a State of the Union address.   How did I get here I thought to myself? Continue reading

Fat or Fiction??

As an exercise physiologist I am always interested in evidence-based methods to improve my performance.  However, many of the scientific principles that shape our day to day approaches to training are years behind the current thinking or simply wrong due to scientific dogma inertia.  But its not the fault of scientists, entirely (I swear!!!).   A rigorous controlled exercise study in humans requires a lot of resources.  If the National Institutes of Health has the choice of funding a clinical study examining whether a given intervention improves exercise performance or whether an alternative intervention improve outcomes for patients with a severe disease the decision is obvious, and rightly so.  Even when there are the resources to do exercise studies its immensely difficult.  Noncompliant subjects, inherent inter-subject variability, expensive scientific equipment and small effects on performance (<5%) that are difficult to detect.  Ok, rant over.  Thats why I’ve decided to conduct my own n=1 experiment on myself based on less than gold standard level of existing evidence.

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The National Walkers and Runners Health Studies

Its generic to say that running has shaped my life.  From my choice of undergraduate school and education to where I choose to call home to what dictates my social calendar running is always present.   My high school coach said, “Running is not a sport, its a lifestyle” and I’ve taken it to the point that is also shaped my career choices.

As an undergraduate I was inspired to study exercise biology in hopes of understanding how to train better.  Since then the quest for the understanding the physiology behind performance has morphed to understanding the physiology behind disease, with exercise remaining the prominent perturbation of choice.  In trying to understand how exercise protects against chronic disease I have studied molecular and physiological responses in anything from Drosophila (fruit flies) to humans.  Still I am most excited by the clinical literature highlighting exercises beneficial effects in chronic disease prevention. My PhD mentor and I wrote a massive review article entitled “Lack of exercise is a major cause of chronic diseases” highlighting 35 different diseases in which the prevalence is decreased in physically active people, a document that I immensely proud.  Much of the data used in that article is from epidemiological studies, such as the Framingham or Harvard Nurses cohort.  One such epidemiology study that I am particularly fond of is the The National Walkers’ and Runners’ Health Studies. Continue reading

Running Downhill is Eccentric

Northern California is full of experienced, talented ultra runners.  I don’t really consider myself one of those.  Since I started running Ultras in 2009 I have done 11 ultras, only 6 of which took more than 6 hours and just one 100 miler.  I think Ian Sharman did 11 already this year.

So when I had a bad day at work and ended up registered for a 100 mile race last October I went into sponge mode.  When Ian asked if I wanted to run up Diablo with him I did not hesitate at the chance to pick the brain of the crazy man, Leadville Champion, and new Grand Slam record holder himself.  Ian is only a year older than me, but in ultra running years (I think there is a McMillian or maybe Torrence Calculator for that) is light years more mature than me. The most critical thing I learned that first trip up Diablo was that just because you run (or hike) up slow, does not mean you need to run down easy.  3600 ft of trail descent with 3 sub 5:10s thrown in for good measure and I had my first “real” taste of downhill training.  I say “real” only because I am not an exercise, running science, newbie, and I do understand training. Continue reading