Stories tagged running

Feb
21
2010

Nike's new prototype- the retro model: The running foot is soooo 2 million years ago, but you wait long enough and everything comes back.
Nike's new prototype- the retro model: The running foot is soooo 2 million years ago, but you wait long enough and everything comes back.Courtesy perpetualplum
Have you ever run barefoot? It’s great! I’ve never really thought about why I like it, but some really cool biomechanics research coming out of Harvard suggests that there may be some evolutionary reasons for my enjoyment. Homo sapiens and our early ancestors have engaged in endurance running for more than a million years, and have done so with no shoes, or with minimal footwear (sandals, moccasins, etc.). The researchers wanted to know how these early humans (and some humans today, let’s not forget) were able to run comfortably and safely sans shoes. Daniel Lieberman, professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard, and his crew found that barefoot runners land either on the balls of their feet or mid-foot (the balls of their foot and heel at the same time), while shod runners land on their heels, or heel-strike, to use the lingo. This makes sense when you look at the structure of our feet; our strong, high arch acts like a spring when we run, and this spring can only be loaded when we first land on our forefoot. It wasn’t until the 1970’s when running shoes came equipped with highly cushioned heels that it began to seem normal to run heel-to-toe. (Some research even suggests that not just running shoes, but all shoes are detrimental to our foot health)
With some super advanced equipment (Harvard undergrads are so lucky), Lieberman saw how much of an impact heel-striking causes. When you heel-strike, your foot comes to a dead stop, causing your foot and leg to have to absorb all of that kinetic energy (a force which is 2-3 times your body weight). When you land on your forefoot, however, some of that kinetic energy is converted into rotational energy as your foot goes from toe to heel. This is obviously much less jolting. The researchers hypothesize that heel-striking is the cause of a lot of running-related repetitive stress injuries, and by avoiding heel-striking, more runners could see less of these types of injuries.
If you want to try running barefoot (and I recommend), Lieberman cautions that you shouldn’t just jump into it (especially if it is February in Minnesota), but rather start slowly. Running barefoot uses different muscles and it takes a little while for your feet to get used to it if you’ve been a shod runner your whole life. Who knows, your feet may be your new favorite shoes.

Apr
04
2008


Feels so good: Many of these Marines taking part in a recent marathon in Washington, D.C., likely felt the effects of a runner's high during or after their effort.Courtesy Monica Darby
Don’t you just hate those perky people who come back from a long run or a hard workout and tell you how great they feel? Well, they’re probably not pulling the con job that I always thought was the case. Science has now proven that theoretical runner’s high actually exists.

Ever since the running/jogging craze kicked into high gear in the 1970s, zealots of the craze have extolled the virtues of the runner’s high they experienced. Those in the scientific world figured there might be something to it, that the act of intense working out could produce endorphins in the body that could elevate a person’s feeling of pleasure. But they had now way of measuring that.

Thanks to research being done by scientists in Germany, ways of tracking those endorphins have now been discovered. Researchers at the University of Bonn, who had been studying pain in the body, realized that their same methods could be used to measure the runner’s high. Results of the studied were reported in a story in the New York Times last week.

Here’s how it worked. The researchers conducted PET scans of runners’ brains before and after two-hour runs. The runners knew they were part of a study, but were not told they were being gauged for the effects of runner’s high. Along with the scans, the runners also filled out questionnaires following each run to measure their current mood.

The scans found that indeed more endorphins were being released in the runners’ bodies during their workouts. In fact, they were attaching themselves in the same portion of the brain that are active in emotional reactions like romance or emotion. Runners whose tests showed that they were in the best moods following their runs also showed more endorphins going to their brains.

Not all runners get the experience to the same degree and researchers want to find out why, and possibly how low-endorphin runners can increase their endorphin production.

The Germans are also now moving into a new phase of their study, to see if the endorphin release in physical activity can have an impact on pain felt by the athletes. They have heard stories of people running on broken legs or while suffering a heart attack and not being hampered in their workout. They want to see if there’s science to back up those stories.

BTW: I just want to go on record here and now to volunteer as a participant in any future studies that measure endorphin production while eating chocolate or pizza.

Apr
18
2007

Fast in space: NASA astronaut Suni Williams ran a marathon Monday on a treadmill in the Intenrational Space Station concurrently with Earth-bound runners doing the Boston Marathon. Due to the weightless conditions in space, she had to be bungee-corded to the treadmill. (Photo courtesy of NASA)
Fast in space: NASA astronaut Suni Williams ran a marathon Monday on a treadmill in the Intenrational Space Station concurrently with Earth-bound runners doing the Boston Marathon. Due to the weightless conditions in space, she had to be bungee-corded to the treadmill. (Photo courtesy of NASA)
In real time and space, NASA astronaut Suni Williams completed Monday’s Boston Marathon in about five seconds. That’s impossible, you say?

Actually, Williams ran the marathon while on a treadmill in the International Space Station. She started her 26-plus mile effort at the same time that runners in Boston began the Earth-based marathon. It actually took her 4 hours, 24 minutes to cover the marathon’s distance on the treadmill. She was running in an orbit 210 miles above the surface of the Earth.

But when you factor in that the space station is orbited Earth at 17,500 miles per hour, Williams’ body passed over the actual length of a marathon in just five seconds.

Running a marathon in space required some other special accommodations as well. Bungee cords were used to keep Williams connected to the treadmill because of the weightless conditions of space. And she followed the progress of the actual marathon going on in Boston with a laptop computer.

Two of her friends were running in the actual marathon on Earth, as well. Williams is an experienced marathoner and ran a three-hour-29-minute marathon in Houston last year.