Friday Finds – 25th November

Friday Finds is a regular feature in which I collate and share interesting articles and posts on running/health/fitness which I’ve read recently. Some might be inspiring, some might be scientific, some might provoke debate. All are things I’ve found in some way thought-provoking.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a runner, in possession of the desire to run, will eventually succumb to an injury. Those injuries might be caused by many things such as overuse, a biomechanical issue or wearing shoes unsuited to an individual’s running style. The debate has raged for years about what the “right” running form should be and what the “best” trainers are. Personally, I subscribe to the theory that the best shoes are the ones I can comfortably wear for miles and miles, while the right form is whatever feels most natural (with the odd tweak here and there). I’ve found this to be a controversial issue though, with zealots declaring that their preferred style/shoe is gospel and all else must be wrong, and this has led to various fads such as barefoot running, minimalist shoes and, more recently, maximalist shoes. To say nothing of the traditional gait analysis and methods of shoe selection. To date, I have believed that there was no substantial research to support a particular running style or shoe type over another when it comes to injury prevention, so was surprised to see two newspapers this week extolling the virtues of a minimal shoe and forefoot strike as leading to a lower incidence of injury. Intrigued, I read further, only to discover that this study was based on just 29 test subjects! I’m no scientist, but it seems to me that this is a very small sample and am inclined to take this particular revelation with a grain of salt. As far as I’m concerned we’re all individuals and therefore there can be no “best fit” for all. I’d be interested to hear your views on this…

While I’m on the subject of potentially controversial studies, I felt I just HAD to share this gem from The Daily Mail, a newspaper I’m not generally a fan of. According to this article from the end of last week, the stress of Christmas shopping can raise the heart rate to a level comparable to running a marathon. Now while I’m quite sure that the physiological response is true, I’m not convinced that comparing the stress of festive shopping to running 26.2 miles is quite accurate. To me, one is very much a negative stressor, whereas the other is a healthy activity where raising your heart rate is seen as a positive to aid fitness. But if you are worried about the “marathon” effort of completing your gift shopping, a solution is offered: high intensity interval shopping! Yes, you did read that correctly. Perhaps I should suggest it to Steve as a seasonal fitness class đŸ˜€

Something which seems to have much more sound theory behind it is the assertion that exercise helps to combat depression. As runners, we know the mood-lifting properties of a good run and I’m sure I’ve shared articles on a similar topic before. What I found interesting about one recent study is that it drew on data from many previous studies, a data pool of over 1 million participants. Unsurprisingly, the link between physical fitness and mental health was considerable, with the least fit participants around 75% more likely to be given a diagnosis of depression than those with the highest level of fitness. Obviously it takes more than one run to make a long-term difference, and more work is needed to determine an optimum amount of exercise, but it is clear that being active is key to improving mental health.

Related to this is this article about using brain stimulation to improve athletic performance. For me, the idea of zapping my brain is a rather scary thought, however it seems that several sports teams/organisations are buying into the premise and using the devices mentioned. It’s certainly true that the mind is a powerful factor in athletic performance, but I’m not sure I would go as far as this to shave a bit of time off a run. What about you?

And finally, a piece about a most unusual running partner. Many people like to run with friends, family or a club. Some like to run with their dog, but Christopher McDougall (yes, the author of perennial favourite Born to Run) has a much more unconventional partner: a donkey! In this first part of a new column for The New York Times, he explains how he came to have a donkey in the first place, and what thought process led him to believe that making that donkey his running partner might be a possibility. I’ll leave it to you to read the rest…

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

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