Digging Deep- Willpower and running

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In my last post I asked the question of how many times we could go to the well in training. Implied in the discussion was the idea that going to the well fatigues us in a profound way and that if we go there too often we “overtrain” or “burnout” and don’t bounce back like we normally do. There are a lot of potential physiological explanations for this happening that were discussed earlier, but what about the mental aspect?

I vaguely mentioned this in the last post, stating that Italian Coach Renato Canova has noted the different approach to hard workouts that western and African runners seem to have. Of course this has a physiological impact, perhaps they rely less on stress hormones to get them through it, but it also likely has a psychological impact. Which brings me to my point.

I stumbled across an article in the New York Times discussing the research on willpower. In the article it talked about how our willpower has not changed over the generations according to research, just the amount of stimuli that trigger our use of willpower has increased. In food terms, that might mean back in the day we didn’t have to pass an endless supply of chocolate or candy every time we checked out from the grocery store.

Going to the well and Seeing God- How hard should workouts be?

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Going to the well and seeing God:

As runners we take pride on pushing through pain and testing our limits. It is essentially what the sport is about. However, there seems to be a finite number of times that we can dig as deep as we can and pull out all the stops. Obviously on race day is one of the particular times when we try and give everything that we possibly can, but what about during practice?  Obviously hard workouts are required, but I'm not talking about any old hard workout, I'm talking about those workouts done at maximum effort where you are completely done afterwords.

From my experience, there are several different schools of thought of how hard workouts should be. On one extreme you have coaches who say that workouts should be under control and you should save the race for race day. Others take the opposite approach and say that workouts are used for callusing and that you should work use hard workouts to mimic what you would feel on race day. What’s the correct answer? How often should we give that extra 2% during practice to take it from a hard workout to an extremely hard workout?

The Genetics of Obesity: The Thrifty Gene Hypothesis

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While this topic has little to do with running, it is pertinent and interesting.  For one of my grad school classes I had to explore the genetic side of Obesity, in particular the Thrifty Gene hypotehsis.  The paper and presentation is below.  My take away from all the research is that the genetic side is incredibly complex and it isn't as simple as there being a few obesity genes or not.  The important thing to remember is that environment and activity levels play a very large role.  Sure we all have different body types and some of us are more likely to put on weight, but the good news is that with proper dietary and exercise practices, you pretty much control your destiny.  First, you'll see the powerpoint and then my paper.
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