Newsletter Archives: Volume20, August 2000
"I feel better, at age 78, than I have felt in my 45 years of running.
Slower, yes, but much happier with my running."
I met a runner recently, after a 10-mile race, who was 93 years
old. He was mentally alert and just as fired up about finishing
as any of the other runners. The number of runners is growing, but
the segment of those over 80 is grown faster. I'm proud to say that
my father is one of them. These folks are clearly showing that the
joys of running continue at any age if you're more conservative
and use walk breaks.
Yes, you must add more rest, run slower and put strategic walk
breaks into your runs. But the endorphins are the same at 80 as
they are at 20. And the benefits of extra vitality and a positive
attitude cannot be derived from any pills or any other activity
I know. An 86-year-old man who ran 30 miles a week told me that
his sedentary wife got on him constantly for not settling down and
acting his age. He said the problem was mostly solved when he started
running during her regular naps. His mileage actually increased
and she didn't know any better.
No Bone and Joint Damage After More Than 40 Years of Running!
Twenty five years ago, many well-meaning doctors (who didn't run)
told me that if I continued to run I could expect to be using a
cane to walk by the time I reached the age of 55. I'm proud to say
that I've passed that barrier now and am averaging over 60 miles
a week, enjoying every one of them.
I'm actually part of a study. In the early 70s, the labs of David
Costill, Ph.D. (physiologist) and Dr. Kenneth Cooper (Aerobics Institute
founder) joined resources in a landmark study of world-class athletes.
I was proud to be invited as a subject of this study. Over the past
decade, these two labs have started bringing us back to see how
we've deteriorated. After doing bone scans, CAT scans, and X-rays
of all major joint areas, I received a clean bill of orthopedic
I'm not alone. Two studies have been done on runners over 40 and
50-year periods. Both showed less incidence of arthritis and other
joint problems among the runners. Other experts have told me that
runners who are genetically predisposed to arthritis will get it
but later in life and with less severe symptoms.
If running could destroy joints and cartilage, I would have done
it. During my competitive years, I pushed the edge, going over it
into injury about every three weeks. I was so obsessed with performance
that I continued to run, as hard as possible, until I could not.
In dozens of cases, I had to take weeks or months off from running
because I refused to take a day or two off at the first symptoms.
Needless to say, I've had hundreds of injuries.
Fortunately, our bodies are programmed to adapt to running and
walking and make adjustments. One X-ray specialist told me that
I had the knees of a healthy 18-year-old. So now I want to pass
on the adjustments I've made which not only have made running more
enjoyable but also have kept me from having an overuse injury for
over 14 years.
Question: Hi, Jeff, I was hoping you could answer
a running-related question for me. I've participated in your training
programs here in Boston (training for the Dublin Marathon with the
Arthritis Foundation) and am a big fan of your philosophy on running.
I just turned 32 and with a good number of races behind me, I've
realized of late that the Olympic team ain't calling. I've decided
that while I want to continue racing occasionally (half-marathon
or less), my real goal is to keep running for the next 50 years.
Hard training is fine and I like to improve like everyone else (I
currently run 4 to 6 days a week and have one long day, one hill
day and one interval day when I can squeeze it in. The rest of my
workouts are easy runs and two days of strength training), but not
if costs me my knees and running in my 80s. It just doesn't seem
worth it. I'm in good health, but I have the usual aches and pains.
My doctor keeps telling me that I'm not built for athletics and
should take up sauntering. Like most things, the truth probably
lies somewhere in between. This brings me to my question.
How should I train to keep running for the next fifty years? What
does your experience point to? Would you only do long runs every
other week? Would you only do one hard run a week and not two? Would
you cut hard days out all together and just enjoy the fitness benefits
of easy runs? Would you take a few extra few days off every month?
Would you only run four days instead of six? I'm really curious
what your answer would be. I have a few of your books and have read
all your articles in Runner's World, but I don't think you've answered
this question specifically. If you could direct me to an article
I missed or comment briefly I would appreciate it very much. I respect
your opinion greatly.
Regards, Joe Waters
Answer: Joe, thanks for your great question, which
is more often asked every year, mostly by those over the age of
30. I think that when we're in our 20's we just assume that we'll
Assuming that you're not one of the one tenth of one percent of
the population that has structural damage due to football, car accident,
etc., the odds are with you that you'll be running strong into your
80's. During my 20's and 30's I did just about everything you can
do to damage my joints through running. Recent x-rays, bone scans
and cat scans have turned up nothing. I'm now 54, averaging about
60 miles a week.
The activities that seem to cause more aggravation are speed training,
and pushing yourself too far on long runs. Conversely, if you run
every other day, cut down on speedwork, and put walk breaks into
all long runs from the beginning, you'll be running strong past
the 80 year barrier.
I will confess that I take only one day off of running per week,
because I enjoy it so much. The enjoyment increased when I started
slowing down all of my runs, from the beginning. I start all of
my runs at 9-10 min/mi, even on the days when I may finish at 5
min/mi pace. Those fast days are getting fewer and fewer, because
they require more rest, they decrease the enjoyment from the runs
later in the week, and they produce most of the injuries. At your
age, I see no major problem with doing speed training once a week.
Just be sure to back off at the first sign of problems in your "weak
I definitely recommend that long runs be done every other week
and even less frequently when they get longer than 18 miles, as
noted in my MARATHON book. By running at least two minutes per mile
slower than you could run that distance on that day, and inserting
walk breaks from the first mile, you reduce the chance of damage.
Since I talk to about 10,000 runners a year, I hear of just about
every ailment that running can bring. The good news is that almost
none of them cause major layoffs. I can count on one hand the people
I've talked to over the past 20 years who legitimately damaged their
joints from running.
We were designed to run. Our bodies make thousands of adjustments
to help us run and repair any damage that occurs. Your body responds
creatively and positively to running.
The key is to keep having fun, and adjust before you get injured.
I haven't had a running overuse injury in over 14 years.
I wish you the best of running--over the next 70 years or so!
(reprinted with permission from Joe Henderson's Running Commentary,
Time is precious to any runner. It's how we keep score in this
sport so we glory in every second saved and worry about each one
lost in the race against our goal pace.
Phil Uglow from Toronto likes the idea of taking walk breaks during
his long runs. But he wrote after reading "Every Minute Counts"
(September RC), "Could you talk about how to calculate run-walk
times into minutes per kilometer or mile? I train with a number
of run-walkers and they are all baffled, as am I, on how to set
Uglow and friends were training for a four-hour marathon. They
worried, as most new walk-breakers do, about falling behind their
intended pace while walking -- or at least having the breaks play
havoc with their splits.
Another good reason for letting the time "run" on during walks
is that it simplifies split-taking and pacing, I told Uglow. If
you think it's a complication to include walk breaks in total time,
think how confusing it becomes if you punch out during the breaks.
I recommended that he not check his pace at the usual one-kilometer
or one-mile intervals. Some Ks and miles might include two breaks
and others none. Instead, take splits at longer intervals such as
ever 5K to five miles. This equalizes the number of walks per timing
period and gives a truer picture of how the pace is going.
Despite the walking, or maybe because of it, the pace holds up
better than you might think. Brief breaks cost less time than you
If you walk for one minute in every mile, how much time do you
think you'd lose against someone who runs nonstop? Your first guess
might be a minute per mile.
That would be the right answer only if you screeched to a dead
stop during the breaks. But remember that you're still moving at
about half your running pace so this cuts your overall slowdown
to about 30 seconds per mile (slightly more for the fastest runners,
slightly less for the slowest).
Realize too that the walks affect your running pace in two good
1. Run-walkers tend to go slightly faster in the run segments than
if they tried to run without pause. Notice the people beside you
who don't stop as you take your break. You're likely to catch right
back up to them as you resume running...and to leave them behind
as the distance adds up.
2. Run-walkers tend to hold their pace longer (or even increase
it), while nonstop runners are more likely to meet a wall sooner.
The walks also act as leg-savers and energy-extenders, which help
you avoid a time-wasting slowdown late in a run or race.
The longer the distance, the less the difference in pace between
run-walking and run-every-stepping. A four-hour marathoner like
Philip Uglow might lose no time at all by taking his breaks. he
might even save some precious seconds per mile -- which multiply
into minutes in a marathon.
The Athlete's Kitchen
Copyright: Nancy Clark, MS, RD 2/00
"My body must have a metabolic defect-I'm always hungry."
"I don't know if I need to see a nutritionist or a psychologist.
I often devour a box of crackers in the blink of an eye. I feel
like I'm binge-eating...and that scares me."
"I try not to keep cookies in the house, because when they're
there, I eat them--too many of them."
For many active people, food is a feared enemy. Runners, skaters,
and rowers alike try to stay away from it. They endure hunger all
day. When they do succumb to food, their eating tends to be a fast
and furious frenzy that's seemingly out-of-control. Some of these
clients have a full-blown eating disorder, but the majority are
simply hungry. Too hungry.
Being hungry all the time is not a personality quirk. Rather, hunger
is the body's request for fuel. Hunger is a very powerful physiological
force that creates a strong desire to eat. Unfortunately, in our
thin-is-in society, many active people fail to honor this simple
request because they fear food as being fattening. The thought of
eating elicits a sense of panic: "Oh no, if I eat, I'll get fat."
Not the case. Most athletes eat without getting fat! Food, after
all, is fuel. But problems do arise when food is denied and deprived
(as happens with a strict reducing diet), when hunger becomes the
norm. The result is an abnormal physiological state that is known
Starvation has been inflicted upon many people, including third
world natives suffering from famines, poverty-stricken people at
the end of the month when no food money is left, and victims of
the World War II concentration camps. Starvation is also common
among athletes who are intent on losing weight. These include wrestlers,
light-weight rowers, jockeys and others who participate in sports
with weight limits, as well as the athletes who simply believe thinner
is better and diet themselves to (supposed) perfection.
The question arises: What's the cost of starvation? What happens
to the body and the mind when food is restricted and body weight
is abnormally low? In 1950, Ancel Keys and his colleagues at the
University of Minnesota studied the physiology of starvation. They
carefully monitored 36 young, healthy, psychologically normal men
who for 6 months were allowed to eat only half their normal intake
(similar to a strict reducing diet or anorectic eating). For 3 months
prior to this semi-starvation diet, the researchers carefully studied
each man's behaviors, personality, and eating patterns. The men
were then observed for three to nine months of refeeding.
As their body weight fell to 25% below baseline, the researchers
learned that many of the symptoms that might have been thought to
be specific to anorexia or bulimia were actually the result of starvation.
The most striking change was a dramatic increase with food preoccupation.
The subjects, similar to people with anorexia, thought about food
all the time. They talked about it, read about it, dreamed about
it, and even collected recipes. They dramatically increased their
consumption of coffee and tea, and chewed gum excessively. They
became depressed, had severe mood swings, experienced irritability,
anger and anxiety. They became withdrawn, had little sexual interest,
and lost their sense of humor. They had cold hands and feet, felt
weak and dizzy, and their hair fell out. Their basal metabolic rate
(the amount of food needed to exist) dropped by 40% as the body
adapted to conserve energy. (Do these changes sound familiar to
anyone you know?)
During the study, some of the men were unable to maintain control
over food; they would binge eat if the opportunity presented itself.
During the refeeding period, many of the men ate continuously--big
meals followed by snacking. Several ate until they were uncomfortably
full, became nauseous, and then vomited. These abnormal eating behaviors
lasted for about 5 months; by 8 months, most of them regained their
standard eating behaviors. On average, they initially regained 10%
more than their original weight, but then gradually lost that excess
and returned close to their baseline weight.
So what can we learn from this starvation study?
1. Preoccupation with food is a sign your body is too hungry. Hunger
creates a very strong physiological drive to eat.
2. Binge eating stems from starvation. If you worry about being
unable to stop eating once you start, you have likely gotten too
3. Weight is more than a matter of will power. That is, if you
lose weight, your body will fight to return to a genetically normal
4. Dieters who restrict to the point of semi-starvation are likely
to regain the weight they lost--plus more. Hence, if you want to
permanently lose weight, you simply need to push yourself away from
the dinner table when you are content but not stuffed, when you
can say to yourself, "I've had enough to eat. I could have more
but I'd rather not because I'd rather be a little leaner."
You might find it helpful to know how many calories you are supposed
to eat to maintain or to lose weight. To do this, simply--
- Take your weight and multiply it by 10. This gives your resting
metabolic rate (RMR, the amount of energy you need to simply exist,
pump blood, breathe, etc.). If you weigh 140 pounds, your RMR
is about 1,400 calories--the amount you'd burn if you were to
run for 14 miles!
- Add to your RMR about half that number for activities of daily
living. For example, if you weigh 140 lbs. and are moderately
active (without your purposeful exercise) you need about 700 calories
to come and go.
- Next, add calories for purposeful exercise. For example, a 140
pound person would need about 1,400 calories (RMR) + 700 (daily
activity) + 300 (for 30 minutes of aerobic activity) = 2,400 calories
to maintain weight. To lose weight, deduct 20%--to about 1,900.
This translates into 600 calories for breakfast/snack, 700 for
lunch/snack, and 600 for dinner/snack--and that's the reducing
The next time you get into an eating frenzy and wonder if you are
borderline bulimic, calculate your day's intake. You'll likely see
a huge discrepancy between what you have eaten and what your body
deserves.Recognize hunger's power--and stop getting too hungry!
Nancy Clark, MS, RD is nutrition counselor at Boston-area's SportsMedicine
Brookline and author of Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook,
2nd Edition. To order this best-selling book, send $20 to Sports
Nutrition Materials, 830 Boylston, St #205, Brookline MA 02467 or
Questions about slow marathons
(from Jeff Galloway's Marathon! - revised February 2000)
"I've tried to run a marathon slowly, and I became more
sore than I was after a fast one."
Jeff: If you're getting sore or feeling more effort
when going slowly, then you're running inefficiently. By shortening
your stride and keeping the feet low to the ground, you incur very
little exertion. In this very efficient running mode, your main
running muscles are mostly resting.
I've talked to several fast runners who seem to be running correctly,
yet still became sore after a marathon. After a few more questions,
however, I learned that they went into the marathon with a long
run of only 19, 16, or, in one case, 12 miles. Whenever you ask
your body to go that much further than you have gone in the recent
past, you can predict that there will be some muscle retribution
To reduce the chance of soreness under any long run mileage increase,
don't run with the same form every step of the way. By taking walking
breaks early and often you'll accomplish this.
"Why should I waste a marathon by running slowly? I don't
understand how you can run a slow marathon. You have to train for
six months and I want to make the most of this once, or twice, a
Jeff: I understand where you're coming from. For
my first 60 marathons, I was the competitor. When the gun fired,
the force of my being was directed at reaching the finish line as
I would in any race: with nothing left. While I ran some fast times
including a 2:16, I did not enjoy these experiences. When I placed
well, such as a win in Honolulu and fifth and seventh place finishes
at Boston, the afterglow was compromised by weeks of healing: soreness,
tiredness, blisters and ego (which always told me, even when I ran
well, that I could have run faster).
Injury of the Month: Shin
I've not found that an extended layoff speeds up the healing of
shin splints. Here are my suggestions. There's some info on shin
splints in my original book: Galloway's Book on Running.
1. Make sure that your shoes are right for your feet, and that
you're not pronating so much that you could use an orthotic. Even
if you over pronate, a good arch support will often give you enough
correction, but make sure.
2. Put much more walking into your long runs. If you've been doing
a one-minute walk break every 4 minutes, do a 1 minute every 2 minutes.
3. Try to stay below the threshold of irritation. If running 3
miles every other day makes it hurt, then drop to 2 miles and put
walk breaks into each.
4. Don't race or do speedwork until the shin splints go away.
5. You can run through shin splints, as long as you don't have
a stress fracture or other more serious shin problem.
Get Over That Hill: Next time you ponder walking
(instead of running) up a hill, consider this: That hill probably
isn't as steep as you think. According to a series of experiments
done at the University of Virginia, people often overestimate the
steepness of a hill, especially when tired. In fact, most people
estimated hills to be three times as steep as they really were.
(from "Health and Fitness" by Alisa Bauman, Runner's World, March
2000, p. 19, www.runners world.com)
Did you know . . . Researchers have learned that the activity involved
in chewing gum can burn extra calories. The added energy expenditure
amounts to about 11 calories an hour, say investigators at Minnesota's
Mayo Clinic. But a dieter would have to chew calorie-free gum every
waking moment for a year to lose 11 pounds. (from Special Supplement
to the Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter: February 2000,
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