Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The One Exercise That Might ChangeYour Running-- The 100 Up

The One Exercise That Just Might Change Your Running Forever
The Huffington Post  | By Sarah Klein
 on Dahlen, The Huffington Post
What if all it took to improve your running immeasurably was a few minutes marching in place?
In a 2011 New York Times Magazine feature, Christopher McDougall, author of Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Super Athletes and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen experimented with just that."
     I was leafing through the back of an out-of-print book, a collection of runners' biographies called 'The Five Kings of Distance,' when I came across a three-page essay from 1908 titled 'W. G. George's Own Account From the 100-Up Exercise,'" he writes. "According to legend, this single drill turned a 16 year old with almost no running experience into the foremost racer of his day."
Walter Goodall George's earliest sporting interests were rugby and cycling, but he went on to win over 1,000 amateur prizes and races and set long-standing records as a professional runner. "He became unbeatable over the middle distances in an era before training became scientific," the Oxford Dictionary Of National Biography writes, all while pioneering his own personal brand of "scientific" training, namely the 100-Up. In 1878, at age 19, he wrote a plan to break the then-world record for the mile -- and proceeded to run nearly exactly his plan's predicted time in 1886. In addition to his 100-Up essay cited by McDougall, he also published a short book on the exercise in 1913, according to the Oxford DNB.
Walter Goodall George in circa 1884. Credit: Getty Images
George's 100-Up routine is divided into two parts, the minor and the major. The minor involves standing with both feet about eight inches apart "and your arms cocked in running position," McDougall writes.

Then, raise one knee at a time to hip height, bringing it back down lightly to its original position.
All that's left after that is to repeat this movement 100 times.
The major involves the same movement at a higher speed. McDougall quotes George: "The body must be balanced on the ball of the foot, the heels being clear of the ground and the head and body being tilted very slightly forward.... Now, spring from the toe, bringing the knee to the level of the hip.... Repeat with the other leg and continue raising and lowering the legs alternately. This action is exactly that of running.”
Sounds a little too simple, no?
Experienced runners will likely recognize these movements as the tried-and-true running drill commonly referred to as high knees, a simple way to up strength and endurance of the hip flexor and quad, according to New York Road Runners (NYRR). Straightforward as it looks, high knees --and other running drills -- can help you become a better runner, says NYRR coach John Honercamp. The 100-Up is essentially exaggerated running form, and performing 100 repetitions can help build muscle memory during a similar state of fatigue that a runner might experience at the end of a tough workout or a grueling race, he says.
But it's the focus on form that's most important. "You're reinforcing poor form if you're doing it improperly," says Honerkamp. "Once you stop doing it correctly, you shouldn't do it at all." That means concentrating not just on returning each foot to its starting point, but paying attention to arm swing, keeping the core stable and landing close to your center of gravity on the balls of your feet every single time, he says. For most 100-Up beginners, 100 reps is a long-term goal. Aim to start with maybe 20 repetitions instead -- or however many you can complete with perfect form.
Don't expect to see immediate results, either, Honerkamp warns. Running on your toes, typically considered more efficient because you're spending less time on the ground, may be the end goal, but heel strikers need to ease into adaptations. "I worry about people trying to drastically change,” says Honerkamp. "It's something to work on and think about, but don't over-think or overcorrect," he says.
Whether or not you devote yourself to the 100-Up for life or simply dabble in running form drills periodically, incorporating focus on form into a warmup or regular training routine is a good idea, says Honerkamp. “People skip [warmups] because they're busy getting out of the door," he says, "but five minutes probably will go a long way."
Note from Runner, Running Author and Rowan Mathematics Professor Tom Osler, "This is wonderful.  For years I wondered what this "100 up" of Walter George was.
Decades ago Dave Costill, the doc who studied runners at Ball State told me about reading George's book and his insistence that he owed his success to the 100 up. 
So now I know what it is. I'm going to give it a try. Starting very, very gently at first."
Article reprinted by kind permission of the Huffington Post and Sarah Klein.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Study finds that parental spending on kids's sports often misguided

Study finds parental spending on kids' sports is often misguided

                    The days of furthering a kid’s athletic career by telling him to go play outside are ancient history.
    Today, sports is big business, and moms and dads act accordingly.There are travel teams for their kids to play on, club memberships,clinics, individual coaching, expensive equipment.
Parents are spending thousands of dollars a year — just the travel expenses for youth sports is $7 billion a year, according to a recent report from CNBC —
on kids’ sports careers.

But that investment may be misguided, according to a new study from Utah State University’s Families in Sport Lab. Researchers have found that the more parents spend on youth sports, the more likely their kids are to lose interest. There’s nothing worse than a sullen 11-year-old goalie.
“The more money folks are investing, the higher pressure kids are perceiving,” says Travis Dorsch, an assistant professor in Utah State’s department of family, consumer and human development. “More pressure means less enjoyment. As kids enjoy sports less, their motivation goes down. (So) the indirect effect is, yes, spending more money and less motivation.”
Parents justify their financial outlay by saying they’re increasing the child’s chances for a college scholarship or, down the line, a lucrative professional career. But a look at the numbers shows they may be deluding themselves.
     According to the National Collegiate Athletic Association, only about 2 percent of high school athletes receive athletic scholarships to college. Even fewer move on to the professional ranks. For example, just 11.6 percent of college baseball players go on to minor or major leagues.
The figures for athletes in other sports are even smaller: 1.7 percent of participants in football make the pros, 1.2 percent in men’s basketball and 0.9 percent in women’s basketball.
Further, the amount of scholarship money awarded is less than one might imagine. A 2008 analysis by The New York Times found the typical athletic scholarship valued at $10,409. Yes, $10,000 is something. But the College Board reports that the cost of an in-state public college education for the 2013-2014 academic year averaged $22,826.
The Utah State study involved 163 families. Parents were surveyed on family demographic variables, gross household income and investment levels in youth sports participation.
The kids were asked about parental pressure, their own enjoyment and their plans to future participation. The results indicated that the more money parents invest, the more pressure the kids perceive.
The problem, Dorsch believes, is in the system. Youth sports in U.S. are not set up for participation’s sake or fitness or — gasp — fun, but to transform a young athlete into the best, to make that elite team, to reach the top of the pyramid.
  “Why do we do this whole youth sport industry thing in general?” he asks. “I think it’s to help kids acquire life skills and have fun. If the goal is to get them to participate longer — the dropout rates peak at 11, 12, 13 years old, unfortunately — we want them to be motivated and enjoy the experience. We should not do things that pressure them out of sport.”
A better parental approach would help, he says.
“If you miss a game, and your kid comes home, what’s the first question most parents ask? ‘Did you win?’ That’s always first. And that’s implicitly what the child is perceiving,” Dorsch says.
“If we can teach parents to ask, ‘Did you have fun?’ ‘What did you learn?’ ‘Are you excited about next time?’ and make statements like, ‘I love watching you play,’ those things go a long way in creating motivation in our children.”
Besides which, all that money parents are spending might be better invested in a college savings fund.
Note: In the past few years we have also noticed that excessive parental spending has other consequences on young athletes. First, parents are less likely to let their children try other sports when they are heavily invested in one. Young athletes are not permitted to try a different sport that they may naturally be better at-- discover on their own, and also enjoy more.
     Second, when the parents perceive that they are not getting the return on their investment that they expected, they often look to blame their child's coaches. It can't be that their child really just isn't that good, after all of the expense, personal coaching and training and expensive leagues-- it must be the coach that is holding them back. We have also recently witnessed parents spending $10,000 on personal trainers and coaching to land a $6,000 college scholarship.
     In a conversation with Bill Hageman about this article he mentioned another great point, "Too many people equate spending money on their kids with good parenting. The more you spend the better parent you are. Eventually reality intervenes-- and they are left looking for someone to blame.."
Two other excellent articles on this subject:

Celeste Whittaker's "Youth sports can be costly":

Kevin Helliker's "The problem for sports parents, overspending":
 Article used by kind permission of William Hageman, Chicago Tribune

Friday, June 6, 2014

Can The Power of 10 Make Make You a Better Runner?

The Power of 10 is a best selling book and also a popular fitness Program originated by Adam Zickerman.
The program consists of  high-intensity, slow motion, resistance training workouts  that provide an entire week’s worth of exercise in 20 minutes-- performed once or twice a week. 

The book contains illustrations and in-depth descriptions of the exercises to perform, and many testimonial-- including from a handful of celebrities from disciples of the program.
     A few of these testimonials caught my interest-- specifically those who claimed they either lost weight on 2 sessions per week,  or from those claiming to be runners who claimed they were able to increase their fitness by not running-- by replacing their daily runs with 2 deep muscle weight workouts of 20 minutes duration a week. These strength workouts did not include running or any cardio exercise.
     It sounded too good to be true, so I decided to investigate and try the program myself. To be as George Sheehan once said "An experiment of one."
First the good parts of the program. The weight lifting advice seems sound-- lift weights slowly, ten seconds up and ten seconds back. Progression, working a balance of muscles until they are fatigued, all in a safe environment.
     The Power of 10 program lets the muscles repair with rest before repeating the process in the next workout. This seems to be weight lifting 101, and the program provides plenty of illustrations of the correct way to perform the exercises.
Many of the exercises in the program I would not have thought to do on my own and they could provide runners who are most likely to neglect weight work with a good strength base.
Some reviewers have quibbled with the diet advice in the book, or its reliance on new found muscle burning fat, but much of the dietary information is common sense:
Eat when you are hungry. Stop eating when you are full. Eat things you enjoy but within reason. Eat with awareness of what your are eating. Stay hydrated.  Nutrition 101.

For all of it's good points, I think the Power of 10 program strains credibility when it makes the case, mainly through testimonials, that the program can increase it's participants overall fitness, and actually help them improve in cardiovascular activities such as  running without actually running.
While a tired, over-trained runner may benefit from the rest from running and the activation of new muscles built into the Power of 10 program in the short term, you only get better at an activity by doing that activity. Running 101.
In conclusion, any runner who followed the Power of 10 workout for a few months in lieu of running, who then hopped into a race with expectations of performing well, would quickly agree that anything that sounds too easy and too good to be true once again is just that.

For more information on the Power of 10 program