RUN FOR LIFE: The Anti-Aging, Anti-Injury, Super-Fitness Plan to Keep You Running to 100 By Roy M. Wallack
THE CHEAT SHEET – Everything you need to know, right now
As a journalist and average athlete, not a coach, my goal with Run for Life was to produce an objective synthesis of the best of what’s out there. However, there are a lot of pages here; that may mean that a lot of good information lies buried in them, unseen. I want this book to have an impact now, the day you read this. Hence, this cheat sheet —the whole book, boiled down to a few pages.
The upshot here is that there are eight key athletic actions you can take to extend your running life and overall athletic health at any age A side-effect of these steps is that they will also make you faster. You may have heard of some of these eight, but I think this will be the first time they put together in one plan. Note that you don’t have to do all of them to benefit. Each one will work on its own to extend your running life. But two of them will work better than one, and three better than two. Do you have time to do all of them? I prefer to think of it in this way: If you want to run deep into old age, do you have time not to? Here’s the logic:
1. If you don’t RUN SOFT,—i.e., lessen your impact with a short-length stride and shock-absorbing forefoot landing— you won’t run to 100, because you’ll wear out your knees, hips, lower back. Studies prove you can cut impact forces to the knee by 50%. Step one: don’t heel-strike. Step two: don’t overstride. Step three: Get rid of shoes with a big heel cushion. Run in flat, light shoes. To understand the concept, RUN BAREFOOT around the block. It is impossible to heel strike. A pair of individual-toed Vibram Five Fingers. Will change your life. And, of course, run on dirt, grass, and trails as often as possible.
2. If you don’t RUN STRONG—i.e. STRENGTH-TRAIN —you won’t run to 100 because you’ll fall over while vacuuming the floor at 80 and break your hip. Normal distance running does little to stop the inexorable decline in muscle-mass and power that starts at age 35 (1% a year, more after 50 or 60); after 60, even leg muscles wither precipitously, and they are a key to functionality as you enter old age. But weights do stop the slide if done right — meaning fast, heavy, rapid-contraction, all-body weight lifting. The body, alarmed by this stress, sends out a signal for the brain to send human growth hormone to strengthen you fast with more muscle.
Since every muscle of the body deteriorates, try to hit as many of them as possible while at the gym, twice a week. Don’t waste time; use no-rest circuit training with as many freeweight and natural body-weight exercises as possible to safely and efficiently. Move between opposing muscle groups (for example, a chest press and a seated row or lat pull down) and alternate between upper/lower exercises (a biceps curl following a squat). Go to “failure” ( the point at which you can do no more) on each set of exercises, raising the weight and the reps as you get stronger. Don’t forget to hit often-ignored muscles like the calf, hamstring, and butt, and build the interior portion of the quadriceps to enhance knee stability. Figure 45 minutes for a workout; any longer and you’re going too slowly. Try to follow with easy aerobics to cut soreness, and immediately eat some protein afterwards to rebuild muscles.
Do not socialize while lifting weights. If you have limited time that day, chose weights over aerobics. Without strong muscles, you get old fast.
3. If you don’t RUN STRAIGHT—i.e. have GOOD POSTURE—you won’t run to 100 because you will develop imbalances that will cause long-term bone, joint and muscle damage and chronic pain. Ask yourself: Why do some people only wear–out one hip, and not the other? Key is a VERTICAL ARM SWING. A subset of Run Soft, a vertical arm swing forces you to run straight, with little side-to-side wasted energy and less wear-and-tear on hips and knees. While not running, do posture drills religiously to fight the slouching imposed by sitting at a desk 8 hours a day.
4. If you don’t RUN LESS you won’t run to 100. Even if you run soft, years of pounding by running’s g-forces will take their toll. You must cut cumulative running miles. Do that by never running more than three or four days a week and two days in a row (to allow full recovery) and by utilizing crosstraining.
5. CROSSTRAINING. Other sports, aerobic and non-aerobic, can provide an endorphin fix on your off-days and give running muscles a chance to heal. Special crosstraining drills, such as STANDING BIKE INTERVALS and WATER RUNNING, can actually improve your running without the impact. Use the elliptical machine with and without arms. Use convenient and effective WATER RESISTANCE DEVICES, like AQx shoes and Speedo Hydro-Boxers; the former helped like Lorna Kiplagat set a world record in 2007. In addition, sports that involve twisting a
nd multi-planal movement, like TENNIS, racquetball, basketball, boxing, and soccer are valuable balance-enhancers and core-strengtheners for “linear” athletes like runners.
6. If you don’t RUN FASTER —with ULTRA- INTERVALS—you won’t make it to 100. Short, all-out-intense intervals of 20 to 30 seconds expose you to less cumulative repetitive-motion pounding than long 5k-pace intervals that last for minutes. They actually force you to run with good forefoot-landing form, and deliver a potent jolt of fountain-of-youth hormones, including HGH. In fact, the effect is very similar to rapid-contraction weight lifting; all high-intensity work cues HGH production, but going all-out (out-of -breath, gasping, lung-heaving) gets you the most, building-up your speed, stamina and VO2 Max. In an ultra-interval, anything longer than 30 seconds probably means that you’re not trying hard enough and thereby limiting the hormone surge, says Phil Campbell, the inventor of the Sprint 8 program that partially inspired this chapter.
Ultra-intervals are hard, but the benefits are huge: muscle growth, fat-burning, and much reduced workout time. Think of it like this: what rapid-contraction weights are to muscles, intervals are to lungs, veins, and metabolism; your body quickly responds to the extreme stress. 20 minutes is plenty of time to do 8 intervals. One study showed similar benefits with a crazy 4-minute workout with eight 20-second intervals separated by 10 seconds of rest. Warning: Slowly build up to strengthen your connective tissue before blasting off and use hills, water runnng, and standing cycling to do joint-safe intervals. Research has shown that brief, intense exercise is the best way to obtain a healthy, long-lasting body.
7. If you don’t RUN FLEXIBLE, you get old before your time. The first thing you notice about “old” people is how stiffly they move. Stiff muscles and connective tissue not only make you look bed, they hinder athletic performance. If you don’t take a few minutes a day to stay loose and supple with some of the relaxing stretching and run-specific yoga exercises outlined here, you build cumulative stiffness that increasingly sabotages the other elements of your longevity fitness plan.
8. If you don’t RUN MOTIVATED, you might not leave the couch. Studies show that aging accelerates when you do it alone. Make running social by getting a rival, going to races, joining clubs like the SOLE RUNNERS (I added this) or the New England 65-Plus Runners Club, running regularly with a pal. Volunteer to do something good with your running, like training kids. And of course, keep yourself excited once in a while by pushing the envelope with running races and multi-sport challenges outside your comfort zone..
FINALLY, A WORLD ABOUT DIET – Although I have written a lot about food over the years, this book does not delve much into diet, Here’s why: The story on supplements seems to change day by day; many swear by glucosamine and chondroitin for joints, but some recent studies say it’s merely a placebo. Resveratrol, the wonder nutrient found in red wine, will extend the life of rats—if they have the equivalent of 1000 glasses of wine a day. Save money and snack on red grapes. Even Dr. Cooper’s vaunted “anti-oxidant cocktail” of vitamins C, E, and beta carotene has come under fire. As for food, it is common knowledge at this point that fruits and vegetables, lean meats and fish (although take it easy on mercury-heavy tuna and swordfish) , and complex carbs constitute a healthy diet. Find convenient healthy foods and keep the fridge stocked with them. I graze all day on bell peppers, grapes, raw green beans, and apples
While high calorie-burning athletes can get away with ingesting simples sugars and even terrible man-altered creations like high-fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils, it makes sense to put the most pure, natural, high-octane fuel into your body. Carbs fuel muscular movement, so put in good ones—whole grains, fruits, vegetables. And since building and maintaining muscle is key to staying long and strong, do not short yourself on protein. Vegetarians: go heavy on the nuts and other non-meat protein sources; beware piles of pasta. Preceding and following a weight workout with protein is a necessity. A hamburger within a 30- or 45-minute window after a weight workout or an interval session (which has similar muscle-building effects as weights) is not a bad idea.
Finally, what about calorie restriction, the rage among academians who consider restocking their book shelf to be athletic exercise? Cutting your calorie intake by 50% won’t be fun or logical for runners, who need more calories than average people to support their endorphin high. Just do your best to make sure that they are high-quality calories.
Email Roy to get your Personalized Autographed Book at: RoyWallack@aol.com