Archive | December 2014

No more Newtons

It started with needing an affordable trail type shoe when I went to Hawaii and ended with an almost complete overhaul of my running shoe collection. Now, I no longer wear any type of Newton running shoe. Why? My reviews have been so positive and indeed I liked them. I think the Distance S III is a fine shoe. So what the hell happened?

Were the shoes not durable? They seemed plenty durable.

Did they not perform to specification? They seemed to do exactly what they were advertised to do.

Have you jumped onto the “maximalist” trend? Hell no, I hate Hokas and I get a twinge of anger if anyone recommends them to me. Why don’t you just run with rubber blocks strapped to your feet?

Did a representative of Newton Running come to your house and kick my dog? No, they did no such thing.

So why did I switch, two main reasons, injury and cost. First, lets talk about injury. When I started running in Newtons I was given fair warning that I needed to “break myself into them” and I did, this came visa vi achilles tendonitis. This pain never really went away and it became somewhat pronounced during my build to the Rock-n-Roll Half Marathon. I don’t like blaming shoes for injury (since it is hard to prove it one way or another) but when I began rotating in an old pair of Saucony shoes my achilles was much more comfortable during those runs.

The second reason is cost. My inner el cheapo bastardo has come out in full force and I refuse to pay extra for anything that doesn’t give me substantial benefit at a reasonable price. This includes bicycles, sport watches, racing wheels, race entry fees, power meters, wetsuits, training camps, personal training etc. Since I can’t axe running shoes completely, I will spend less for them. Most decent running shoes are 1/3 less expensive than Newtons. Sarah got a pair of Kinvara 4s on clearance for $50 or so at Endurance House Westminster, it is hard to beat that price.

As a result of those two factors, I am sorry to have to say goodbye to Newton Running shoes. I wouldn’t discourage people from running in them, but their time with me has come to a close.

Don’t trust your trainer!

OK the headline is a little bombastic but there are a few reasons why you should genuinely doubt whatever it is your trainer tells you. I am not normally a trainer-basher and a really like a few trainers that I know. However, the threshold (which they will readily admit) to becoming a trainer is not very high. More worryingly, it has little to do with actual science.

I recently ran across an Outside article (found here) which dispelled a lot of myths that persist in the industry. A lot of times these articles are fluff pieces, but this one includes a couple of pet-peeves of mine that raise my intellectual hackles every time I hear them.

First let us review what “scientific” means when I talk about “scientifically proven”. When I say that, it broadly means that science guy studied an idea blind or double blind to the results and then plotted the results against a control group. The trend lines tell the story. If the trend lines for the non-control group is noticeably different than the control group, you may have a causative effect for whatever you are studying. This is a really good standard. You may lack a control group or worse, rely on self-reporting (which is susceptible to the reporters biases) but even in those cases researchers figure some sort of compensating control so they can trust their results. If you get evidence that is not generated this way, we call it anecdotal. Anecdotal evidence is anything that happens to you or a small group of people with little to no regularity. Get enough consistent anecdotal evidence and it can cross the “scientific” threshold into a noticeable trend. Your buddy telling you “a couple guys I know who use XXX product see XXX result” is anecdotal.

When you start applying that standard to your judgments you start seeing things differently. Why, exactly, is HGH banned as a PED? Why is marijuana illegal? Why do people insist on small class sizes (oh yes, look up that sacred cow)? Why do we think sugar (look this one up too) makes kids hyper? It gets so bad that you will find yourself immediately doubting what anyone says to you unless you see some sort of believable evidence to support their claim.

When it comes to sports science there is a plethora of short tidbits of wisdom which, it turns out, have very little sound scientific evidence supporting it. For example, stretching to prevent injury. Scientifically, this hasn’t been proven, and in the studies looking at it, the stretching group had an injury rate slightly higher than the non-stretching group. Another example is salt and cramping. I have always been fascinated with the obsession with sodium replenishment in sports because, while sodium is an important part of the cell, it is generally understood that the body needs very little sodium supplementation and the use of salt in the cells doesn’t go up under exercise. Indeed, when studied, no link between sodium supplementation and the prevention of cramps is found. In fact, science hasn’t even proved that mild dehydration really effects performance that much, if at all. The old adage “drink before you are thirsty” is not based in reality. It should be “drink when you are thirsty” which makes a wicked amount of sense. We wouldn’t have survived evolution if our bodies were that bad about telling us when we need to replenish our internal water supply. “Fat burning zone”, don’t even get me started. Let’s just call it “complete hogwash”. 

Facts and educated opinions underpin a successful modern society and, in the sports world, it can help clear up a ton of misconceptions. Cross-check everything your trainer tells you against trusted sources. Not everything on the internet can be trusted, but you are normally only a few clicks of a google search away from sound scientific evidence.