Hey fellow trail runners, check out this whistle. Wow, it’s loud!!!😆👂💥
The benefits of running don’t stop below your neck, nor are they purely physical. We have all likely experienced a sense of well-being, clarity, accomplishment, or even elation, after our workouts. What has happened to produce such feelings? Unsurprisingly, given the brain is one of the most complex and intricate creations in the universe, the answers are numerous.
Coursing through your circulatory system, an upregulation of endorphins may manifest as a reduction in pain and even be experienced as euphoria. Contributing to these feelings are a rise in the level of brain chemicals called monoamines, such as dopamine and serotonin. Surges in these chemical messengers in the brain, referred to as neurotransmitters, play a role in elevating such sensations as motivation, reward, sleep quality and mood.
Running stimulates a rise in neurotrophins, growth factors that improve the viability of neural tissue. Some of these neurotrophins are produced centrally, while others are released peripherally and cross the blood-brain barrier to unleash their nourishing effects. One well-documented neurotrophin is brain derived neurotrophic factor. BDNF acts as a potent fertilizer in the brain, not only impacting health of nerve cells, but it is also associated with anti-depressive effects. Socializing, doing crossword puzzles and meditating all boost this chemical, but nothing has the capability to elevate it like exercise.
Our bodies possess phenomenal capacities to adapt to internal and external stimuli and this applies to our brains as well. Neuroplasticity describes our brain’s ability to change in response to stimuli. Running can promote neuroplasticity, rewiring our brains to a more beneficial state by strengthening connections between nerve cells, elaborating existing connections and even creating new connections. Higher levels of neurotrophins, such as BDNF, support these favourable adaptations.
Neurogenesis describes the birth of new neurons. Several animal studies have demonstrated an increase in new neurons in the brain throughout a lifespan, not just in the developing brain. Evidence has mounted that humans equally possess this capacity for stem cells to proliferate, differentiate, migrate and eventually integrate into new functional neural networks. Running can enhance neurogenesis, in large part due to the increase in circulating neurotrophins.
Both neuroplasticity and neurogenesis not only have molecular and cellular effects, but have the ability to affect entire systems such as select domains of cognition. These two processes occur largely in the hippocampus, a part of the brain that is critical in learning and memory. Running can increase activation in this brain structure. As brain research continues to expand, there will undoubtedly be more reasons to revel in your running passion. As you accumulate mileage, glean pleasure knowing you’re boosting your brain along with your lung capacity.
Dr. Syl Corbett, MSc., DC, PhD(c) – Elite endurance athlete and researcher in exercise and brain health
I am most often queen captain of setting goals that I am going to rock with my whole heart. BUT THEN, I try to keep up at the same pace with everything else that I have in my life. There are many things that I love about big goals: the sense of focus/determination it creates, the empowerment of making something new happen, the work and grit, the strength, and the growth. However, what can't be pushed aside is the fact that when we addin a major goal something has got to give (we can add in as many goals as we want, and we still only have 24 hours a day to work at bringing them to life).
This is the part that I have always struggled with. What is going to be the part that gives? When I have trained full force to achieve a race time or build my endurance for an ironman, I have often gone through periods where I become so un-present in many areas of my life. I am constantly thinking where I have to be or what I have to be doing next, causing my present moments to in reality pass me by.
After ironman in July I took a big break from training as I wanted to rediscover balance in my life. I wanted to take in moments without worrying about what workout I should be doing or preparing for. I then realized having a physical goal to train towards is part of what brings me joy. I needed to bring it back into my world; it needed to be a part of my balance. I also knew that there was a lot about slowing down that was bringing me joy. For example: sleep, puppy cuddles, weekend time with friends, workouts rooted in fun, and not feeling rushed 24/7. In my time off I came to appreciate *and remember* these joyful components of my life, and realized that I no longer want them to be lost in a big goal I set.
This year I am pumped to crush the Calgary 1/2 marathon, my first tough mudder, the Calgary 1/2 ironman, and the Edmonton marathon. What's different about my training this year than before? I am giving myself permission to participate in these amazing events and not necessarily "show myself what I am capable of." No, this does not mean I am going to show up and not try. Nor does it mean I am going to slack in the training department. What it does mean is that I have made the choice to be the best athlete that I can be without compromising other joyful areas of my life.
So. What is going to give for me this race season with these goals? Well my #1 goal this year is PURE joy, so what will not give is that. It might not be a season of personal bests or new achievements, but it is going to be a season of A LOT of fun and A LOT of love. Maybe I'll catch that 6:05:00 1/2 ironman time... but hey, maybe I won't. And I have decided THAT is okay.
I have been feeling pumped about starting to find that balance piece in my life, and it is extremely rad and beautiful! I wish I had an exact answer, solution, or equation to finding balance (wouldn't that be nice)? What I do have is my reflections and experiences to share. I think what I am learning is that the best way to find balance is to keep your life open and available to the things that bring you PURE joy.
DO A LOT of what makes you PUMPED!! If its achieving personal bests - make it HAPPEN! If it is cooking - chef away!! If it is family time - make more time!!! Get out there and enjoy the JOY of this lifetime.
LIFE ROCKS!! #rockon
Krissie Eberhart 2018 Balm Squad Member
Inigo San Millan has good news and bad news for those determined to make this the year they get healthy and shed some pounds: carbs are not the enemy, but you and your well-worn couch need some time apart.
The physiologist and University of Colorado director of the Sports Performance Program's research found success in weight loss and fending off cardio-metabolic diseases lies in metabolic flexibility.
"Metabolic flexibility is the ability for your body to quickly switch back and forth between fat and carbs, efficiently using whatever fuel sources you throw at it," San Millan said.
This kind of flexibility doesn't hinge on an ability to touch your toes, but on the state of your mitochondria. A flashback to high school biology should recall mitochondria as the powerhouse of the cell, responsible for burning through fat, carbohydrates and lactate.
"As we become sedentary and physically inactive, our mitochondria become atrophied or dysfunctional, and they start losing the ability to burn glucose and fat," San Millan said. "That's when we become metabolically inflexible."
General symptoms of metabolic inflexibility include: sluggishness, trouble losing weight regardless of dietary changes and increased blood sugar levels.
For a more accurate diagnosis, San Millan developed a non-invasive method of assessing the mitochondria's performance he initially used to gauge the metabolic flexibility of athletes. The physiologist now uses a streamlined version of the test — "metabolic rehabilitation" — for the general public involving a brisk treadmill walk or stationary bike ride while wearing a mask that measures how efficiently the subject utilizes fat and carbohydrates.
By 2018, San Millan said the test will be covered by some insurance companies.
"We want to bring this to the masses," San Millan said. "The ultimate goal is to have a more science-based diagnosis across many clinical settings of the methodology I use that is not just utilized as a diagnosis but also used for a prescription of exercise."
The exercise is key, San Millan said.
"There's a misconception out there that people believe the only way to exercise is high intensity," San Millan said. "We know that's totally wrong. It's not sustainable. The main thing in an exercise program is to create sustainability."
San Millan suggests low-intensity aerobic activity, endorsing something as simple as walking for one hour a day, four to five days a week.
"Our society has become more and more sedentary in the last 20 years or so," San Millan said. "The food isn't the problem. It's the lack of physical activity. Sixty minutes of activity used to be nothing when we were kids. You were lazy if you only moved for an hour a day. Now, that's a major goal."
Liz Wolfert is a believer.
The 34-year-old Denver resident found out she was pre-diabetic and discovered San Millan and his metabolic rehabilitation in 2016 through the urging of her mother.
Wolfert and her mother signed themselves up for the test.
"Her metabolism was in the range of a good, healthy metabolism, and mine was not," Wolfert said. "That was a huge shock."
Wolfert was no stranger to exercise. She'd climbed fourteeners, cycled, swam and done Kung-Fu, but her regimen wasn't consistent.
San Millan prescribed walking for about one hour a day. When Wolfert returned a year later to get tested again, she did not have any indicators of early diabetes.
"It's so interesting," Wolfert said. "I had climbed fourteeners before, but I remember how hard it was. After I started walking more, I climbed another one, and it was so much easier. It was like my body was working so much more efficiently. I started to run, and it wasn't an excruciating process. My body has just been better primed."
Wolfert said she spreads the news of a low-intensity aerobic workout to her friends.
"The beautiful heart of the advice is that it doesn't have to be this big, complicated thing," Wolfert said. "Yes, it would be great if you could run 5K's and do fourteeners, but you will get much healthier and potentially avoid diabetes just by walking. Just walking!"
I could barely sleep the night before. I was so excited … and nervous. I had dreamt about this moment for what felt like a lifetime. Countless hours perfecting my moves and thousands of shots. Running dekes in my head against imaginary defenders. I had practiced and I had prepared and the time was now. I woke up before the sun that day and tried my best to eat, but couldn’t stomach much.
As an Endurance athlete who races in some rather extreme environments –goal settling is the only way to succeed and overcome adversity. This summer I competed in my first ever Ultra-Distance Triathlon. The Ultraman distance is rather intimidating to anyone who hears about it. The third day of racing is an 84.4 km run, on a backroad that has some nasty hills and difficult footing. This experience was ultimately a success, but not due to lack of adversity.
I have raced multiple Ironman events- but have never run more than 50 km. With some good training in my legs I felt prepared. Using that day as an example- here is a look at my thoughts on how to be successful.
1. Aim High, but know what you are capable of. Set goals that are within reason, but that doesn’t mean they have to be small. I looked at the previous course records on that run and set myself a goal to finish in 7.5 hours. This would not be a record, but was something I felt was obtainable.
2. Scare yourself. If it isn’t a bit scary- it isn’t really a challenge! Don’t take unnecessary risks, but you will rise to a new level when you enter the “unknown.” In fact, experts in the art of “State of Flow” (Similar in part to the runner high” attribute this to being necessary to get the best out
3. Step- by-step. Looking at the “long run” (pun intended” can be daunting to say the least. I got through the first 50 km of the race by changing the story in my head. I routinely run 800’s on the track when I train, and its distance I am very familiar with. So instead of looking at the whole distance, I kept track of how many 840m “sets” I accomplished. This meant every time I checked my pace, I saw how many “One percent’s” I was had done. Just few minutes into the run I had done 3% and it felt like nothing- and my confidence grew and grew…until…..
4. Things go south. Expect it. Sorry, but it isn’t going to be all easy sailing just because you have put in the training. At 60 km I had under estimated my nutrition needs a couple hours earlier, some very hot temperatures. I began getting some pretty bad blisters. In this case, there is only one thing left to do.
5. Readjust your priorities. This doesn’t mean you lower your expectations, but it does me you do your best to stay positive, deal with situations as they come along and address them- in real time- in the best way you are capable! During the race I started to really struggle at the 60km. In order to get to the finish line I had to do something very counter intuitive. I had to stop. In fact I stopped every 3 kilometers for the rest of the run. This allowed for my body heat to drop, gave me the chance to take on valuable nutrients, and left me with new goals. Run 8x 3 km as smooth and strong as possible.
6. Accept Help. These times can get ugly! I know it did for me. In fact my own mom got out of the car during the race and helped pace me for 800 meters at a time. I didn’t want help. I wanted to go it alone. I got grumpy! But in the end the extra help is what kept me in first place! Don’t go it alone if you don’t have to! Feed off of the energy of others!
7. Follow through. When I finally got to the finish line, I didn’t hit my overall run-time goal, but I did win the race and also had a truly exhilarating experience I was proud of! The only thing left to do- was recover and then start with Step 1 all over again.
-Jordan Bryden @jordanbryden