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From the Expert: Dr. Mark Cucuzzella’s Simple Food Rules for Runners

Posted by on Tuesday, April 30, 2013 @ 11:25 am | Leave a reply

This article originally appeared on Dr. Mark’s, Natural Running Center

My wife’s grandmother lived to 103, and the holidays just past have reminded me of how she lived. She was not a runner, nor did she do a lot of cardio, except for sauce stirring and daily walks to markets and church. Our own local legend Frank Buckles who lived to 110 ate in this manner too; he was a farmer.

Walking and running are good for you, but without proper nutrition one will not achieve optimal health.

On  this topic, I encourage you to read Dr. Phil Maffetone’s most recent Natural Running Center’s article that examines the negative impact of sugar consumption (even from refined-flour food favorites such as bagels) and the runner.  As he points out, “Unfortunately, too many of these calories burned during a workout are in the form of sugar and not fat. This occurs because the consumption of sugar affects one’s metabolism, forcing the body to use much more glucose for energy and too little fat. The result is less energy available for working out and virtually all other activities, and, because less fat is used for energy, it’s stored throughout the body.”

Best-selling food author Michael Pollan has written extensively on the topic of sound, life-extending nutrition. He states, “Cultures eating wide variety of traditional diets do not get Western diseases.” How true.

And many of us have committed to memory his simple recommendation: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants”

In his book, “Food Rules,” he identified “64 Health and Nutrition Facts. The Unfortunate Truths” Here’s 10 of them from his useful list:

2. Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.
17. Eat only foods that have been cooked by humans.
18. Don’t ingest foods made in places where everyone is required to wear a surgical cap.
19. If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t.
20. It’s not food if it arrived through the window of your car
21. It’s not food if it’s called by the same name in every language (Think Big Mac, Cheetos or Pringles)
37. The whiter the bread, the sooner you’ll be dead,
57. Don’t get your fuel from the same place your car does.
58. Do all your eating at a table
64. Break the rules once in a while!

Here’s some other helpful  resources that will help keep you on the road to healthy eating:

Details on sugary drinks: http://fewersugarydrinks.org/

Recipes for Health, NY Times: http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/health/series/recipes_for_health/index.html

The ultimate source for what’s in foods (go here if you dare): http://www.calorieking.com/foods

The Skinny on Obesity. A must view for every human: http://www.uctv.tv/skinny-on-obesity/

Weight of the Nation on HBO- 4 hours of documentary free online: http://theweightofthenation.hbo.com/

Dr. Dan Lieberman: http://nytimes.com/2012/06/06/opinion/evolutions-sweet-tooth.html

Books: In Defense of Food and Food Rules by Michael Pollan; Why We Get Fat and What to do About It and Good Calories , Bad Calories by Gary Taubs

Movies: Forks over Knives; Food Inc; Super Size Me; Sick, Fat, and Nearly Dead

 

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From the Expert: Dr. Mark Cucuzzella On Single Focus Running Studies

Posted by on Thursday, February 14, 2013 @ 7:55 am | Leave a reply

recent study of less than 40 East African tribesman showed that most  land on their heels while running at a slow pace on a compliant surface (not pavement) and when they sped up most changed their pattern to midfoot landing.  Some in the media then grabbed onto this small sample and somehow arrived at the following “conclusions”:

•    Barefoot running is not a good thing…the fad is over
•    This supports cushioned running shoes with elevated heels

The study looked at the Daasanach who are a pastoral tribe living in a remote section of northern Kenya. According to the New York Times, “Unlike some Kenyan tribes, the Daasanach have no tradition of competitive distance running, although they are physically active. They also have no tradition of wearing shoes.”The study looked at the Daasanach who are a pastoral tribe living in a remote section of northern Kenya. According to the New York Times, “Unlike some Kenyan tribes, the Daasanach have no tradition of competitive distance running, although they are physically active. They also have no tradition of wearing shoes.”

 

Let’s see now, the African subjects were running barefoot; but people land in different ways, and as you speed up you get more forward on your foot. Not surprising as anyone who runs, coaches, researches, or even observes runners knows .  There was absolutely no reference or relevance to injuries or footwear effects in this study. These happy tribesman were jogging slowly in their bare feet as they do daily, and I doubt any of them had or ever will have running injuries.

They were active tribal people (not habitual runners) running at a jogging pace.

This study reinforces what many of us in the Running Medicine field have been voicing for a long time. People are focusing on one variable and most often it is footwear or what part of your foot hits the ground first,  and ignoring the other 90% of the equation.

Runners get hurt by running.  Most often by running  too much, too fast, and often with poor strength and movement mechanics. Humans are also highly variable and it is doubtful any of us does or should land in the same way every time, on every surface , and at every speed.

No one of credibility in the professional field is telling runners to land on their forefoot or ball of foot in isolation, nor suggesting  for folks to chuck their shoes.  What is interesting in studies is they rarely agree on what a forefoot or midfoot strike actually is.  A true forefoot strike is probably along the base of the 5th metatarsal (outside edge of foot), not the ball of the foot or metatarsal heads.

As an often barefoot runner I land different on different surfaces at different speeds. On soft golf courses and easy pace, I roll nicely from the heel.  Running fast on concrete, I need to engage the foot more as shock absorber and to prestretch the takeoff muscle contraction.

Remember the key is running elastic– landing close to your center of mass, and engaging the posterior muscles (glutes).

I still stand behind what we filmed here as the Principles of Natural Running. Not where do we say that runners should aim to land on the ball of the foot.

Running barefoot in itself will not change most of the other variables contributing to poor form and injury, but it does have a role in the relearning process.

See our Stability and Mobility section on the Natural Running Center, and notice where the real improvements occur and do lots of progressive drills to rewire the movement pattern.

Another finding reinforcing what we know is that as the runners ran faster, they landed on their forefoot more often. This is normal and necessary.

Everyone’s form changes when they go from 9:00 per mile to 5:00 per mile. As one moves faster it is efficient to eccentrically stretch the triceps surae the load the Achilles spring. This is like jumping: .load, trigger, fire.

Instructing an 9:00 mile runner  to  emulate the 5:00 mile biomechanics is short sighted and one should not suggest it.

My personal take-home messages from this recent study of African tribesman and the “barefoot” attention that resulted from it is as follows:

•    Do not focus on footstrike in isolation
•    Gradually increase cadence
•    Mix it up….surfaces, shoes, barefoot,
•    Use your glutes and extend the hips from a stable core
•    Watching a barefoot runner land on their heel does not mean that we were not born to run barefoot or that shoes need a cushioned heel.
•    Have fun!

Click here to visit the Natural Running Center!

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From the Expert: Dr. Mark Cucuzzella Talks Elastic Recoil

Posted by on Monday, January 28, 2013 @ 2:24 pm | Leave a reply

There is a lot of confusion around the term elastic recoil vs. braking in running.  A critical feature of efficient running is a strong and stable base of support.  Without this foundation, there can be no efficient transfer of energy.

Screen shot 2012 11 12 at 4.21.14 PM resized 600Our tendons are highly adapted to storing and releasing energy under tensile strain.  Jay Dicharry uses  a slingshot analogy.  As runners we must land a bit in front of our center of mass to store the energy and it then releases as we push off the ground.  This is not braking if done correctly.

Can we tell what the runner is actually doing with a video camera?  Not exactly, as we cannot see forces?

But we can make some likely conclusions with slow-motion film as one can see a springy motion vs. a hard hit and resulting shock wave with an overstride.  Muscles lengthen and shorten in the overstride and slow cadence pattern and compromise the elastic storage, as does trying to pick up your foot too soon with active muscle contraction (this is sprinting).

Rewatch this video on the “Principles of Natural Running” below. Do some of the drills shown in the video such as the jump rope and run with tether drill to learn how to land closer to your center. Also a must read is “Anatomy for Runners” by Jay Dicharry“.

 

 

Please be sure to visit Dr. Mark at The Natural Running Center!

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