More on our caveman folks. Alright, before you carry on reading, I must say that this particular post has got no research or scientific backings. They are just what I feel personally. Now that you know, I will let you know a foolproof way to achieve running success. In short, to enable you to run faster and stronger.
The secret - run as hard as fast as long as it seems right. I guess I can call it a back to basics sort of training, sort of like the caveman.
If the caveman had a training program it would probably have just 2 words - run hard. Or else no dinner. Worse if the caveman was running away from say a fierce lion, the outcome would be disastrous if he wasn't quick enough.
In an age where there are so many gadgets and recommendations to help with our training like GPS, heart rate monitors, mileage advice (how many miles you should log a week), supposedly better running shoe technology, fuel belts, lactate and V02 testing etc. You can even run against your friends, track their training etc with the Nike+ devices (I've never tried it tho').
I am sure that in the era of the caveman, he definitely didn't have all these gadgets and our caveman had no trouble covering more than 10 miles a day tracking down their dinner.
My uncle was the person that got me started on running. I remember when I was just a 10 year old kid my uncle Simon used to bring me running with him. I didn't know what pace or distances we ran. I just tried my best to follow him, to keep up with my uncle. Definitely didn't know what sort of times we clocked on our runs. Later in secondary school (high school for our American readers) when I began running longer, further and faster I still "just ran" even when I started winning track and cross country races.
Now we have running experts, coaches and exercise physiologists saying we should train at this particular pace, run intervals, and long runs etc.
Well, here is the good news. Running can be as simple or as complicated as we make it. You want the graphs, charts, bells and whistles, etc go ahead and use all the available technology. Want to go the old school, stripped-down, and bare bones version? Just run.
I first read about the Paleolithic diet back in 2005. In his book "The Paleo Diet for Athletes, the author Loren Cordain states that the Paleo diet will make you fitter and healthier. The author also calculated that Paleo man got 55% of their calories from meat (more protein than what is currently recommended) but the Paleo diet also contains much more fiber, calcium, vitamins, iron, folate and essential fatty acids, but much less sugar, salt and saturated fats than we now get from our current diet. The meat from Paleo man's era were also not burgers or anything like the Atkin's diet.
To the author, grains were the original fast food back then as it is fairly cheap, easily obtained and overly processed (humans first began cultivating grains about 10,000 years ago). Moreover, grains have a lot less nutrients than fresh fruits and vegetables. Since most of our current available grains were only available in the last 10,000 years, our Paleo ancestors ate no bread, pasta, pancakes, kuay tiao, bee hoon or rice as these "modern" grains were not available then. Cordain believes that we live healthiest when we consume a diet similar to what early (or Paleo) man ate as even now our digestive systems are not adapted to process grains properly.
I was rather skeptical upon reading this as I had been brought up on a diet of pasta, bread and rice especially (since I am from Singapore where it's fried rice paradise).
Well, this is what Joel Friel, renown triathlon, multisport and cycling coach who has written "The Training Bible" series of books on cycling, triathlon etc had to say. He first tried the diet to actually proof Cordain wrong. In Friel's first two weeks, he felt terrible but by the third week, he felt strong enough to increase his training by 50% and another 50% on the fourth week and since then he's been a true believer.
Friel explained in great detail on how to get the best carbohydrates before, during and after training or races. He is especially particular about the post exercise or post race period breaking it into 3 separate stages where you eat/ drink fruits and fruit juices to potatoes and sweet potatoes and finally to the last stage where you mix carbs and protein.
According to Cordain, the Paleo diet will likely increase your protein and fat consumption while lowering your carbohydrate intake slightly. But since your carbs are mostly coming from fruits and vegetables, you will have a lot more micronutrients. Protein is from lean meats with low saturated fat levels and from fish (with high levels of healthy omega-3 fats) and fats from canola, walnut and olive oil (which is healthy monosaturated fat).
I feel like having a big greasy burger for lunch after this with my favorite fries especially since I'm no longer racing. But after writing all that, I think maybe I should have steam vegetables instead.....
Loren Codain (2005). The Paleo Diet for Athletes: A Nutritional Formula for Peak Athletic Performance. Published by Rodale Inc
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Or should I stick to the more popular but unhealthy western diet like burgers, pizzas, and french fries etc?
Most of us know that too much of the typical western diet leads to numerous chronic diseases. But would a Paleolithic hunter-gatherer diet do better? A what diet you say? A Paleolithic diet (also known as Stone Age diet) is one that is similar to what our pre agricultural hunter-gatherer ancestors (or caveman) ate before. The Paleolithic era is one that is nearly 2.5 million years ago.
The Paleolithic diet consists of foods that can be hunted and fished, such as meat and seafood, and that can be gathered, such as eggs, insects, fruit, nuts, seeds, vegetables, mushrooms, herbs and spices. This diet included more low fat proteins, healthy fats and much less carbohydrates than most of us eat today.
A group of researchers decided to find out, feeding 9 healthy, non-obese volunteers a Paleo diet for 10 days (no grains, dairy & legumes). The protocol was designed to ensure the volunteers did NOT lose weight, which would have influenced results.
The results? Compared to their prior diets, the volunteers experienced significant reductions in blood pressure and plasma insulin. Moreover, there were large, significant reductions in total cholesterol, LDL, and triglycerides. All this in just 10 days. Impressive or what?
Stay tune as I will discuss in my next post on how the Paleo diet can help in your training and racing.
Frasetto L et al, (2009). Metabolic and Physiologic Improvements from Consuming a Paleolithic, Hunter-gatherer Type Diet. European Journal Of Clinical Nutrition. 63: 947-955
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About Gino Ng
Prior to joining Physio Solutions and starting up Sports Solutions, Gino Ng worked as a senior sports physiotherapist at the Singapore Sports Council (SSC) from 1999-2009. He graduated with a double masters in Musculoskeletal and Sports Physiotherapy from the University of South Australia on a SSC sponsorship.
Gino's position is perhaps most unique amongst sports physiotherapists in Singapore having seen all sides of the field as a practitioner, an athlete and as a patient.
His special interests are in the treatment of articular cartilage injuries having done research in the area whilst undergoing his postgraduate training. He specializes in treating sports injuries, as well as devising sports rehabilitation programmes after reconstructive surgeries to the shoulder, knee and ankle joints.
As a former national triathlete, Gino is a 2-time Singapore National Triathlon champion (2000-2001), National Duathlon champion (2001), 10-time winner of the National Vertical Marathon (1998-2001, 2004-2005, 2007-2010). He has also placed 4th at the 2001 Asian Duathlon Championships in Hong Kong and made several podium finishes in the Asian Cup Triathlon Series events over the years while holding down a full time job as a physiotherapist.
Partly as a result of his gruelling training regime, Gino needed 3 knee surgeries in 2002 and 2003. After which he made a comeback and placed 4th in the 2005 SEA Games triathlon event.
When not participating, Gino has kept close to sports, travelling widely with the Singapore medical teams for major overseas events such as the various SEA Games, 2002, 2006 Commonwealth Games, the 2006 Asian Games and he is the only local Singaporean physiotherapist to have been to both the 2004 Athens and 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Gino is also one of only three certified Kinesio Taping Instructors (CKTI) in Singapore and teaches the Kinesio Taping Level 1, 2 & 3 courses. He is also a frequent speaker at symposiums and sporting events.
While cycling last year, Gino had an accident and fractured his skull and spine. Thankfully, he is a lot better now and is back working part time. Having neck and back pain? Well, now you know who came back from a broken skull and back.