Wednesday, 29 June 2011

#3: I Need You

Having received some attention for what I had intended to be mostly a joke ad on Kijiji advertising myself as an exercologist and fitnician (most of the fun was in coming up with those names), I have decided to take a more serious approach and offer my services as some sort of running coach, instructor, trainer, motivator, etc. I want to help people run faster! That's the point. Once again, I am not officially licensed or accredited to do this, but to me, that's just an easy way for some company or organization to make a profit and that's not cool (unless of course I am the one making the profit!). Anyway, this is the ad I posted on Kijiji:

"Running coach, instructor and motivator

As a graduate student of Exercise Sciences as well as an accomplished amateur runner, I would like to share my passion, knowledge and experience of running and teaching to help coach and inspire others who wish to develop and improve their running abilities. I have an excellent understanding of running nutrition, physiology and psychology as well as training techniques and principles. I can provide individualized training programs for all ages and abilities via online or personal consultation and will tailor a program to your individual needs and wants. Whether you wish to run your first 5k or improve your half-marathon time, I can help you run longer, stronger and faster. Contact me (Dan Way) via email for an initial consultation. Happy Running."

Having been training seriously for the better part of 1.5 years, the past 8 months of which have been with the help of a coach, I feel that I am more than capable of offering quality advice and support to those who truly wish to improve. Clearly my experience as a runner attests to this, but I also spend large amounts of time reading and reviewing scientific journals, articles, newspapers and magazines that have anything remotely to do with health, fitness, running, training, and nutrition. I can't nor won't guarantee results, since those can only come from the individual; but I can offer practical and scientifically based training advice to help one improve their ability to run. I am highly passionate about the promotion of physical activity and exercise (specifically running) and know first-hand the seemingly endless benefits it can have to one's physical, psychological and social health. If you want to experience and enjoy the benefits of running but don't know where to start, or have hit a plateau in your own running, I may be able to help.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

#2: Run for your Life

This post is much different from the one I wrote earlier today. has a point! It began as a response to a blog called 'Healthy Habits' (which BTW is a terrific, informative and accessible health and fitness blog) and more specifically to an entry/post called "HIIT Kicks Cardio's Butt." See the link here: It has since turned into a much lengthier and complete reaction to not only the blog post, but HIIT in general which I have been following with great interest for some time.

For those who don't know, HIIT stands for high-intensity interval training and is a hugely popular and more recent 'trend' within the exercise physiology and training circles. Essentially, it suggests (and good research has been done to back it up!) that rather than long duration continuous aerobic exercise (which is currently recommended); individuals should perform between 6-12 short intervals lasting 30-60 seconds of extremely high-intensity exercise ("all-out" running/sprinting, or on a bike) with short (60-90sec) bouts of rest/recovery in between. This extremely time-efficient method of exercise has been shown to be just as effective, if not more effective, at improving performance, metabolic functioning, biochemical and physiological adaptations to exercise and may even expediate weight loss. So just imagine that instead of doing 5 days a week of 60min or more of running or cycling, you can do a workout of less than 30min (including warm-up and cool-down), only 3 times a weeks, equating to as little as 1.5hrs a week...and get the exact same results. Sounds too good to be true doesn't it?!

That's probably because it is!

First things first. I am a huge fan of HIIT and honeslty believe that based on the research and even anecdotal accounts, that it does indeed "work." However the caveat is that it only works if one is willing to push themselves past a high level of pain and discomfort and do the workout at a high enough intensity. For those new to exercise, that might not seem like much but it can be extremely discomforting and perhaps even dangerous! But hey, for those wishing to get fit fast, and don't mind pushing themselves to the limit, it will probably get you results. Thus I will agree that HIIT is practical in the sense that it saves times! Maybe even a lot of time. I mean who can afford running an hour or more 5 days a week (besides those of us who are committed and actually enjoy what we are doing!). However, a lot of HIIT proponents will also say that this is the solution to our current sedentary lifestyles and high rates of inactivity. Anybody can do it right? Wrong! HIIT in NOT practical in the sense that anyone and everyone can get up and do it! Most people have such a low level of fitness that telling them to sprint: run, bike, swim, whatever! all-out, even once, is probably not going to turn out well. It takes time and practice to learn proper form which most people will not have and this could easily result in injury. How did we go from telling people to walk briskly for 20min a day to now saying that they should sprint multiple times? Certainly people like being told that they can get by, by doing less, but in this case, less equals time not effort. You're going to need to give a lot more effort than you ever thought possible (and which may in fact be IMpossible). It's also not practical in the sense that not everyone has equal access to a stationary bike, a track or fancy gadgets which can tell them the proper intensity/HR/power (okay, this is a pretty weak argument but I've heard it before and for some it could be relevant). The point I'm making is that HIIT is not as practical than it's touted to be and certainly not for everyone.

Next, suggesting that improved athletic performance will result from HIIT does not seem convincing to me. What exactly does this mean? To me, performance is highly specific to the sport/activity one is doing. You want to do the 100m? HIIT is probably pretty effective for that; maybe other shorter track running as well. Training for a marathon, a half or even a 10k (and whatever the cycling equivalents of these are) on the other hand is probably not ideal for a HIIT style workout and may even be a big (little) waste of time. Show me a study where marathon runners trained using HIIT do better than matched controls doing traditional high mileage and you'll have me convinced. There's a reason that ALL the elite endurance athletes do long endurance training...and that's because we know it works. Intervals, even very hard ones, have also been around for a long time (ie HIIT is not really that new) and it has it's place in training. But it's never been able to replace traditional endurance training as the single most effective staple of training for endurance sport...and perhaps it never will! As far as metabolic and physiological adaptations are concerned, I admit that the research has shown that HIIT can mimic the changes common in traditional endurance training. But the research has also used small sample sizes, short follow-up periods and often trained (or at least marginally healthy) participants. Will one get fit(ter) doing HIIT? Absolutely. Will one save time? Most likely. Will one enjoy it and continue to do it? Umm, maybe!? Thus my final point.

Finally and perhaps most importantly: I love to run and I loving running long. Telling me to run for only 20min is not what I want to hear and I just won't do it (I'll do more)! Endurance exercise is, for many, a way to spend time away from the world, alone, or perhaps with friends and family. What exactly are we trying to acheive here? Do we want everyone to be fit to run a 400m as fast as possible? Who wants to do that? Probably not many people! A lot of people say that doing HIIT is more enjoyable and fun than traditional endurance exercise. I won't argue with them. But I've done it, and it isn't! It hurts, it's painful and hugely discomforting! My bet is that most people will agree with me. I've already admitted that it probably does work quite effectively and incorporating it into your exercise/training program probably isn't a bad idea at all. However, I doubt it is going to become the new way to train nor will it solve our problems of inactivity and poor fitness. Why not let people decide for themselves which mode of exercise is best suited to them and which is most enjoyable. That produces adherence and compliance. Not hyped and exaggerated promises of total fitness with little time or effort. HIIT might work for some people, but let's not get carried away and suggest it's for everyone. Why must we always pit one form of exercise or one training program against the other? Exercise is effective when it is done by a large number of people; it is done safely; it is enjoyable; it is maintained over time; and it gets the results that the individuals desire (not the results we desire for them!) You do your 30min, 3x per week on a stationary bike or treadmill. I'll do my 60, 90 or even 120min runs everyday and anywhere I wish!

Useful references:

Gibala MJ, McGee SL. 2008. Metabolic Adaptations to Short-term High-Intensity Interval Training: A Little Pain for a Lot of Gain? Exerc. Sport Sci. Rev. 36(2): 58-63.

Little JP, Safdar AS, Wilkin GP, Tarnpolsky MA, Gibala MJ. 2010. A practical model of low-volume high-intensity interval training induces mitochondrial biogenesis in human skeletal muscle: potential mechanisms. Journal of Physiology 588: 1011-1022.

#1: Hello Goodbye

It's a sunday afternoon and I have nothing to do so I decided to write a blog. I wrote a blog last year when I lived in Germany but it was honestly a lot of work and I quickly ran out of creativity (a finite resource) so I quit. But then I joined twitter last week and realized that everybody who is anybody (mostly middle class over-educated white people) had a blog and so after reading a pretty good one this morning, I was inspired to give it another shot.

Disclaimer: You should know that probably about 95% of anything I say (write) is unnecessary pointless drivvle, but who doesn't like to hear themselves talk?! Of that 95%, a small minority is also blatantly rude, jerkish, discriminatory and angry! So be prepared for that...

I'm currently watching the Women's FIFA World Cup where Canada is facing the host Germans in Berlin (and are losing at half-time). The other day I got in a friendly argument with some females about why womens sports would never amount to much since it is inherently less exciting than male sports (a statement by which I firmly stand) but nonetheless got an earful about inequality and how women don't ever get the chances that men do and Yada Yada Yada...the world sucks for women. Well, here I am supporting female sports and admit that it's not half bad. Hell, how often will I ever see Canada represented at a FIFA event?! Canadian women rule!

So ya, I joined twitter. And have been harassed ever since. Just for the record, I didn't join because I thought I had anything valuable or important to say but because it's truly a great source of information, news, and a way to be in the know. Admittingly, I have already made some (useless) tweets but felt incredibly guilty for it. More importantly though, as a wannabe academic in training, I think it's important to stay informed and eventually to try and contribute to the sharing and dissemination of "knowledge" which I one day hope to generate (or plagiarize).
For those who don't know, my MSc thesis (U of T; Exercise Sciences) is about what committment to exercise means; what it takes to maintain it; and whether this is healthy and adaptive. But enough about that.

As mentioned, today is Sunday and as a runner that usually means one and only one thing: long run. We (I'm a member of a Toronto running club called Longboat Roadrunners) met at the usual spot (West end YMCA) but decided to start one hour earlier (8am) which meant my alarm went off at 7, and for a few brief seconds I honestly considered ignoring it and skipping the run. I'm really glad I didn't becacse it turned out to be a beautiful morning and a very enjoyable run (probably because it was run extremely "slow" relative to the speed work I've been doing). There isn't much to say about long runs...they're long! It's like taking a 2 hour period out of your day and running...without stopping! But at least it means I get to be outside in a well-landscaped area. I guess it's just like golf except that it requires some basic health and fitness. (*Tangent Warning: A great blog post from a fellow (and much better) runner, SpeedRiver's Rob Watson, highlighted the difference between a sport and a game, being that the latter can be completed and indeed excelled at by individuals who are both old and fat; which is near impossible in the former. Thus, a sport might include the likes of tennis, running, cross-country skiing, football (soccer), and lacrosse; while a game would be something like golf, darts, horseshoes, curling, baseball and perhaps cricket!) But back to my sport: running. I'm sure some would argue that even running is not a sport...but those people are idiots who probably watch baseball and American football and likely lose their breath walking up a single flight of stairs. Anyway, I've been running for what seems like forever but has only been about 2 years. In that time, I've gotten a whole lot faster, ran like 3000km, but may now be reaching my physical limits. Next week I will test those limits in the Pride 5k race in downtown Toronto. I want to run under 17:30 which for those who don't know is pretty fast (3:30/km) and never comfortable. After that, I will "rest" briefly before getting set for marathon training. It (the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfromt Marathon) is not until mid October but doing it well will mean a 15 week training program and some mega-mileage. I honestly don't even want to think about it now. And yes, marathon running is pretty stupid...even we runners acknowledge that! I mean running 42km; 3+ hours; It's ridiculous! I plan to get it over with as fast as possible and if I could do it in 2 hours like the East Africans, I would! But I'm a white guy from Canada so will be more than happy with something under 3 hours! Okay enough about running.

Well, I've rambled on for far too long so will bring this senseless writing to an abrupt close. The end.