Friday, April 27, 2012

The Runner's..err Dog's High

You might have already seen the New York Times article about getting to the root of the so called "runner's high" by now, but what really caught my attention in the article was the proven concept that it applies to dogs.  To me, this explains a lot!  As you probably know by now, Tucker is one lean, mean, running machine.  And if you follow me on Twitter, you probably see my near daily post-run tweets about what interesting factoid came about during our run.  Yes, our.  I run a lot with Tucker.  He's become a pretty fit dog.  Except for the heat.  Once that hits, he drags.  But in under 70 degrees, he's flying!  And aside from the obvious point that no running means he has more energy to spend elsewhere, once we go for a run, we always return and he is much more calm.  It should come as no surprise, but I've got a dog addicted to running, and it may be because he likes the runner's high just as much as I do!

So back to the story...Here is the meat of the article that gets to the study and what they did:

But Dr. Raichlen wondered if the endocannabinoids had had a more momentous role in the development of mankind as a whole. Had we continued to run, as a species, not because we had to run, but because we had become hard-wired to like it?

To test that idea, Dr. Raichlen and his colleagues decided to compare the endocannabinoid response to running in species that both do and do not historically run — to see, in other words, which animals experience a runner’s high.

Ferrets were chosen to represent the nonrunners (mostly because, Dr. Raichlen says, “we could adopt them out into the community afterward,” unlike other local noncursorial animals like possums and skunks).

Humans and dogs became the designated cursorial, or distance running, species. The scientists recruited 10 local recreational runners and 8 dogs of various breeds.

They then took blood samples from all of the people and animals and, after some preliminary, gentle training (“using positive reinforcement,” Dr. Raichlen says), had each person or animal run on a treadmill for 30 minutes at a pace equivalent to about 70 percent of his, her or its maximum heart rate.

On a separate day, the people and dogs walked for 30 minutes on the treadmill, while the ferrets, which had found walking on the treadmill difficult to master, rested for 30 minutes in their cages.
The scientists drew blood after each session. They checked all of the samples for endocannabinoids.
It turned out that, as expected, the humans had shown significantly increased levels of endocannabinoids after running. So had the dogs, suggesting, for the first time, that they, too, experience a runner’s high.

But neither species had developed increased endocannabinoid levels after walking.
And the ferrets didn’t show higher endocannabinoid levels after either session. They gained, it seems, no neurobiological pleasure from running.

What these findings suggest, besides that ferrets will not make ideal training partners for marathon runners, is, Dr. Raichlen says, that “a reward response” to aerobic activity “appears to be part of our evolutionary history.”

Liking to run, it seems, may have helped to make humans what they are.

Obviously, running = playtime to dogs when you consider the alternative of sitting inside a home, so they look forward to any chance to get outside.  But for me at least, there is a big difference between Tucker's reaction when he sees his running leash vs his walking leash.  When I pull the running belt out from the bin, he know's its on.  If I pull the walking leash out, I get a ho hum reaction.

So what do you think?  Do you have a dog or other pet that has become addicted to running?  

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Morning Run

Somewhere along the way during marathon training, I seemed to have lost what used to be a pretty big staple of my training routine - the morning run.  Whether done as an easy shake out, a chance to get in a run when the rest of the day will be busy, or trying to stack multiple workouts within an 18 hour period for a fitness boost, morning runs should be a part of anyone's repertoire.  If nothing else, they always leave you energized to take on the rest of the day.

Of course, the hardest part of it all is just getting out of bed.  And with some near perfect running weather in the afternoons, I've had little motivation to set the alarm any earlier than I have to in the mornings.  But this morning, I did just that and returned feeling refreshed, with endorphins running high, ready to get a move on with my day.

As I alluded to in my previous post, life is about to get a lot busier.  So I need to be able to adapt my schedule around when there is a window of time to get a run in.  Today for example, we have plans to go see Rodrigo y Gabriela tonight (awesome, awesome show), so the only chance I have for a run is this morning.  Other days, I might be able to get it in later.  Needless to say, I need to establish the pattern of committing to getting a run in no matter how - right now.  Because before I know it, we'll be busier than ever, just trying to hang on.

Running always has a place in life - whether it is to bring calmness to yourself from an exhausting day, get rid of excessive energy, or allow you to focus on things other than what you would be if you weren't running. 

I don't know what running is going to be for me once this little one comes into the world, but I sure am excited to find out.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Updates, Updates, Updates

I kind of envision that title to be said in your head similar to the monster truck commercials of "Sunday, Sunday, Sunday"...but anyways, I feel like I've been slipping away here with being busier and all.  You know the drill - you get a great idea for a post and by the time you get to the point of going to write it, you either forget or realize you don't have time to write it up.  So I've been in one of those modes for the past few weeks.  So let's get to it bullet point style:

- A new project at work has me commuting a significantly more amount of time than previously.  Though I don't have any reason to complain, since the vast majority of my previous project had me working from home, this commute is a bit of a drag - up to 2 hours each way, depending on traffic.  Typically though, this would include a variety of modes of transportation including, walking, buses, and metro, so the time does go by.  However, take away approximately 4 hours from anyone's day and I guarantee you they'd struggle to find time for things too.

- I had hoped to run a 5k this past weekend as my first real fitness indicator, but I started feeling sick on Saturday night and Sunday morning, so that idea got axed.  And ever since, its been cold and dumping rain, which makes my running motivation pretty low.  I know I'll feel better once I get myself out the door, its just that when the weather changes so drastically, it is always difficult.  And if I am already feeling no so good, going out in pouring rain and 40 degrees ain't my thing.

- I'd like to redeem myself from this weekend's lack of racing by signing up for another 5k in 2 weeks, since I can't race this coming weekend.  I've already scoped out some race options, so I have a few courses to choose from.  I'm excited to see where I'm at, because I've sort of been in a steady training phase since the marathon, so the race will give me a baseline of my fitness and where I want to go from there.  I'm feeling really good and know where I should be.  Just have to validate that with a fitness test before moving forward.

- Rebecca and I are in countdown mode!  Things are really getting down the wire now.  Roughly one month to go.  I like to think that we're ready, but you never really can be ready for life-altering changes like this.  I know we have a great support network of friends and family around us, so it will be a team effort, but I can't help but feel ready for it.  Or maybe its just the anticipation of finally meeting someone you've witnessed develop over the past 9 months.  Either way, we're excited about it!  And if I thought I was busy before (see 1st bullet above), we'll I'm not kidding myself into thinking that my definition of busy won't be changing.  It will for sure.  But that kind of busy is the good kind.  Commuting for 2 hours isn't!

I think those are about all the updates I've got for now.  Stay tuned for more...

Monday, April 16, 2012

Speed First - Why You Should Always Incorporate Speed

As someone who is always seeking to learn more about our sport, I have a number of resources among my regular reading that I consider to provide great value of my time.  I've posted a number of Jay Johnson links before, but Jay has made a number of references to another great resource - Vern Gambetta - and incorporated some of his knowledge into the advice he shares.  So needless to say, I started following his stuff too a while back, along with the other folks that are part of the EliteTrack group.  Topics cover a variety of sports, but many of the concepts are similar.  Posts are typically short and sweet, which is good for quick consumption.  But there are always worthwhile nuggets of information that have me constantly coming back.

This post is one of those short and sweet ones, but there is a lot of good insight crammed into one paragraph:

"Most people agree that speed wins, then why if that is the case isn’t it made a priority. You must work on speed first and foremost. You must incorporate some elements of speed from the first training cycle through to the peak competition. That is true if you are training for a marathon or 100 meters, basketball or rugby. It must be part of every training cycle. I find it quite amusing when I hear a coach say that we have been working on base work, but I have not started speed work yet. What are you waiting for? The problem with that approach is that they are not training to be fast, they are training to endure, and then magically they hope that the fast will come. They are essentially training speed out that is easy. The inevitable result is undue soreness and greater risk of injury because of the abrupt change in the training program when they do start to emphasize anything fast. The key is to never get too far away from running fast. Always train speed in. It should be part of the first training cycle of the year and be a part of each subsequent training cycle. Speed development work can be as simple as sprint drills, light acceleration drills, or for a distance runner simply finishing each run with 8 –10 x 100 meter fast strides, but it must be there all the time. Speed first to be first."

In other words, periodizing your training is still important, but that doesn't mean that you need to eliminate all speed workouts just because you are in "base training".  There is a huge misconception out there regarding base training, that it is strictly doing LSD runs to "build your base".  You can still do the same thing, while incorporating a bit of fast, such as the options presented above, whether it is an occasional 3k-5k speed pickup in the middle of some runs or strides.  Training only one part of the equation by running long and slow leaves you exactly that - able to run long and slow.

I've said it before and I'll say it again - if you want to run fast, you have to run fast.  No amount of slow will ever make you run fast.  You have to make it happen.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Monument Ave 10k Official Photos

Being in the first wave of a 40,000+ person race has its perks. Primarily, the race photographers have a much easier time picking you out. Historically, I've had some decent photos taken from the race and I thought this year would be no different. While I was happy to find myself in a few, they weren't anything I'd consider buying.

Just after the start, barely in view

This was taken at Mile 3 - I ran with that girl the rest of the race (she's speedy and help me keep movin!)