Monday, October 26, 2009

Tangent - Jennifer's Questions

I was asked a few questions, and I thought I'd share them, and the answers, with you.

Jennifer: Does anyone write your running plan or has anyone ever written it, if not, then how do you know what to run?

Jonathan: I have used a number of marathon training plans when I was racing marathons. My favorite was Jack Daniel’s Running Formula, which I still think is one of the best out there. When I changed to running ultras, there are no established plans available, so I found a few guidelines and made up my own plans. Since then I’ve looked at other runner’s programs, studied some sports science and come up with my own approach. I believe in taking far more days off, so that my easy days are actually complete rest, and my hard days are hard. That means I do a lot of quality work.

Jennifer: Do you worry about what you eat before races?

Yes, what you eat before the race is critical on a number of levels. If you get it wrong, you can be depleted of energy, or worse, have an upset stomach. It’s not just the morning of the race that impacts you, but at least the day before as well. I have found that eating a high fat meal the night before a race works much better for me than a high carbohydrate meal. The morning of the race I make sure I am up early to hydrate, eaten and taken care of the other end of digestion, so to speak. Before a race is the one time I do eat junk food - something easily digested, like Pop Tarts, seems to work well.

Jennifer: What are your thoughts on all the products out there on the market, gels, endurance drinks, and candy? Also if you use these items, do you have a schedule you follow while you train and race?

When I’m on training runs I generally take little in the way of gels, drinks or candy. I am prone to weight gain, and I also think I benefit from forcing my body to burn fat. So for runs up to 4 hours, I generally rely on water with added salt. On some longer training runs (4+ hours) I may use Gatorade with extra salt, sometimes gels or M&Ms.

For shorter races (50K or less), I think Gels are great. They are very quickly digested and easily carried. It’s important to ‘sip’ Gels, mixing them with saliva. Simply swallowing them fast can cause problems. My favorite is Gu, and my least favorite is Clif.

On a race I eat whatever appeals at the time. I don’t plan what to eat on a race at all; I believe that the appetite is the result of the body’s analysis of its needs. Sometimes I’ll come into an aid station and want salty cheezeits, sometimes cookies; it all depends on what appeals. I also let my hunger direct my intake. When I’m not actually running, I avoid sports drinks, gels and candy, even candy marketed as ‘protein bars’.

Jennifer: Why running, I know why you started to exercise, but why running?

It was not what I expected. I started off doing aerobics with my next door neighbor and had a blast. I was intending to add in some cycling, as I’d always thought of myself as a cyclist, not a runner. However, I started doing a little bit of running (a mile), and even though it was tough, I just found myself hooked.

Jennifer: Do you ever want to throw in the towel and what motivates you to keep pushing if you feel yourself start to drag?

Jonathan: I’ve never seriously considered giving up. I’ve been at the “I’m never doing this again” stage, and the “why do I do this” stage many times. I’ve decided that I’m not cut out for ultra running a few times, but always licked my wounds and come back for more. Motivation is a very tough question; I don’t think I am self aware enough to know the answer, but if pushed I would say it’s because it’s who I am. I am a runner.
On a more day to day basis, having a race to train for keeps me focused. I know that if I don’t get out the door, I will suffer that much worse on the race. Generally, I don’t have a problem with motivation to run, though actually getting out of the door can be tough.

Jennifer: What is your favorite, I cannot leave the house, running product? I.e. brand of sock, gear, Garmin etc.

I’ve blogged on a number of products that I like, but the one thing that has been my constant companion is my Polar Heart Rate Monitor. I don’t think I’ve run without it in well over 10 years. I don’t always look at on my runs, but I rely on it to create a training log on the PC. It allows me to look back at races in previous years and see what training I did, and how the race went. It also tells me how I’m training now compared with last month, or last year.

Jennifer: Where would your perfect place to run be?

Jonathan: The English Lake District without a doubt. There are few trees in the Lake District, so you can see for miles. It is a beautiful part of the world, and the landscape changes as you travel. A lot of the south east is ‘the long green tunnel’ – you’re in the woods the whole time.

Jennifer: Do you do any other sports?

Jonathan: No. If I had the time, I would like to do a little Yoga. Not for the flexibility, but for the mediation and peace it brings.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Running Tip #29 - Cold

This post includes a few simple tips for running in moderately cold temperatures, down to around 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Running in extreme cold is outside of my experience.

  • The 20 degree rule. A good approximation is to dress for temperatures that are 20 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the actual temperature. So if it's 20 degrees out, dress for walking in 40 degrees.
  • Dress in layers. Layers will keep you warmer than a single layer, and allow for flexibility of removing some of your insulation.
  • Shed after warm-up. If practical, you can overdress for the first mile or so, until you warm up. This requires you having somewhere to discard the extra clothes, or a way of carrying them.
  • If your hands are cold, wear a hat. This is an old boy scout saying, but it works. If you core temperature starts to drop, your body will protect your vital functions by sacrificing your extremities, such as hands and feet.
  • Don't sweat through. If you wear too many clothes and sweat too much, you will sweat through your clothes. Once your clothes are soaked, you will become suddenly chilled. This means you will probably have to dress to be slightly cold, rather than toasty warm.
  • Windproof layers are a mixed blessing. A windproof layer will boost the insulation value of the underlying layers, which can really help keep you warm. Unfortunately a windproof layer also stops sweat evaporating, which regulates your temperature. This makes it much more likely that you will sweat though and become cold. I use a windproof layer, but open it up as soon as I warm up, then try to stay slightly cool. A windproof layer is very useful as an extra layer, as it can be wrapped around your waist easily. I will wear it until I warm up, then carry it in case I need some extra warmth later in the run.
  • Hydrate. Just because it's cold doesn't mean you don't need to drink. Use your thirst as a guide - for more on hydration see and
  • Try to stay dry. Rain can chill you very quickly, so in cooler conditions, you need some rain protection. More on this in the next post.
  • Your lungs are fine. Your lungs will not freeze, not even at -40 degrees. Your lungs may get irritated by the low humidity, but they will get used to that. It is possible to get exercised induced asthma, which is a narrowing of the airways when exercising. If you suspect you have this condition, seek medical advice.
  • No cotton. This is true for any conditions, but worth restating here. Wear clothes made from synthetic, wicking fibers, such as CoolMax.
  • Watch for frostbite. Your extremities may go numb early in your run, but they should warm up. Anything that stays numb needs to be checked.
  • Watch for ice. Slipping on ice can pull muscles or cause falls. You can get traction aids to attach to your shoes if ice is a significant problem – look for Yaktrax or similar.
  • Hat and gloves. These are important to keep you warm, but they can also be taken off and tucked in a waist band easily. This allows you to adjust your insulation for the conditions. I like gloves that convert into mittens (more on these in a future blog)
  • Vaseline. If you are still having problems with your hands and feet, spreading Vaseline over them before putting on your socks or gloves will dramatically improve the insulation. It’s a bit strange the first time you do it, but it works very well.

Hypothermia is often thought about in connection with very cold temperatures, but mild temperatures (50s) and rain are common causes of hypothermia.

If you are shivering, but can stop if you make an effort, you are suffering from mild hypothermia (core 96-98f). This will reduce your coordination, which could be a problem on technical trails. The biggest problem is that mild hypothermia will make you mildly stupid, and less lightly to make good decisions. It is important at this stage to correct the problem as soon as possible.

If you are shivering and cannot stop even if you try, you have moderate hypothermia (core 91 - 95). This is a dangerous condition; You need to get warm and dry urgently.

“The first casualty of hypothermia is good judgment.” If you are hypothermic your decision making is likely to be impaired. If in doubt, seek shelter, get warm and dry. If you are with someone who appears to be hypothermic, you may have to look after them more than normal.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Running Tip #25 - Gear Review - SunUp Dawn Simulator

I prefer to run in the morning, but I struggle getting out of bed. The best aid I have found to waking up is the SunUp light controller. This device acts as a programmable light dimmer; It will bring up the lights slowly at a given time. I find that the light tends to disturb me at a point in my sleep cycle when I am sleeping most lightly. Occasionally I will come around with the light full on, but this is rare.

The SunUp does not have a built in light, but is a controller for ordinary lights. You can configure how long the light takes to go from 'off' to 'full on'. You can also use the SunUp controller to go down, acting as a dusk simulator, which helps me go to sleep.

The SunUP is not cheap at $160, but it is well worth it to me.

Running Tip #27 - Portable Pharmacy

I carry a portable pharmacy when I run. This consists of a small plastic film canister filled with a few important pills. I generally use an APS film canister, but 35mm will work well. You can get these from most places that process film. I put a little packing foam in the bottom, and then use another 'plug' of packing foam at the top. This foam prevents the pills rattling and breaking apart. In the film pot I have:

  • Electrolyte capsule. I don't use these very often, but they are useful if there are no other electrolytes available.
  • Antacid tablets. Some foods can acidify the stomach, especially coke.
  • Gas-x. Any gas can cause real pain when running, and it's hard to predict what will cause it.
  • Ibuprofen. This is the strongest and the most dangerous of the pills I carry. I will post an entry specifically on Ibuprofen.
  • Caffeine. The world's favorite recreational drug and the best plant neurotoxin! More seriously, I will write a post on this drug as well.
  • Katadyn MicroPUR MP1. Having water purification tablets can be handy at times, especially on long trail runs. These are the smallest and most reliable on the market.

From left to right: Foam plug, MicroPUR (foil), Antacid (green), Gas-X (pink), ibuprofen (red), electrolyte capsules, caffeine (yellow)

Running Tip #26 - Gear Review - Race Ready Shorts & Tights

I have been wearing Race Ready shorts and tights for many years; they are now the only ones I wear. The unique feature of Race Ready is the mesh pockets around the back, just below the waistband. These pockets allow you to carry a number of small items in comfort. If you use the compression version of the shorts & tights (and you should), there is no bounce from items in these pockets. I have found some discomfort from my phone after long periods, but it is fine for up to about 8-12 hours of running. The longest run (in time terms) was 34 hours, and they remained comfortable. Even without the pockets, the shorts and tights are some of the best I have found. The tights actually long enough to fit someone with a runners build (skinny with long legs), which is unusual in my experience. You can see slight wear in images below, which is from sitting on asphalt to change shoes. This shorts shown below have been worn for several thousand miles with no other signs of wear. I think that being able to carry a cell phone comfortably is an important safety aid.

I often run with my Race Ready shorts loaded up with:

  • Olympus voice recorder
  • Cell phone (blackberry) in ZipLoc snack bag
  • Occasionally I will add Credit Card, Drivers License and cash if I think I may need to buy something on the run. I add in my medical insurance card if I think that might be important! These all fit in with the cell phone without a problem.
  • iPod nano, also in ZipLoc snack bag
  • Gu (not normally used, but there for emergencies)
  • Pepper Spray. I often come across loose dogs on the greenway
  • Portable pharmacy (film canister with pills - more in a later blog)

Men's Shorts -
Men's Tights -
Women's Shorts -
Women's Tights -
Woman's Carpis -

Here they are fully loaded...

The right side with portable pharmacy, Gu and iPod...

The left side with voice recorder, pepper spray and phone...

And the contents...

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Running Tip #24 - The Journey to Primal Running

Humans are designed to run barefoot, so the ideal training is easy; you're born, learn to crawl, learn to walk, learn to run. What could be easier? The problem comes when you've been wearing traditional shoes for years. The shoes act like a cast on a broken limb, supporting the limb, but also causing it to become weak and vulnerable. Running in traditional running shoes also trains us to run in an unnatural way, which has to be unlearned.

The primal running movement is a recent phenomenon in developed countries. This means that there is relatively little experience in moving from traditional shoes to primal or barefoot running. We do not have a well defined body of lore to call upon, or scientific studies to refer to. This post gives some general guidelines and advice based on the current body of knowledge.

Initially, I expect that many runners will move to primal running because they are forced to by injury. As the benefits of primal running become better understood and publicized, I expect this will spread. I am going to give suggestions for two types of people; those that are not currently running, and those that are running. I'll then add in some general suggestions, but remember that these suggestions should be taken as a starting point for your journey to primal running, not as rigid rules.

Primal Running for the non-runner

You may not be a runner at all, or you may be a runner who has been forced to stop running by injury. In either case, you should start primal running as a new runner. Running tip #6 goes into more depth on this subject, but I'll include a short summary here.

Start off by walking in your chosen primal footwear (or barefoot) for 30 minutes. This is a critical step to build up foot strength and get used to moving without cushioned shoes. Once you are happy doing 2 miles in 30 minutes, start introducing a little running. Do two one-minute runs in the 30 minutes - run 1, walk 14, run 1, walk 14 (2x1R:14W). Then gradually build up, doing 2x2R:13W, 2x3R:12W etc, until you are running the full 30 minutes.

Primal Running for the runner

It would be prudent to start off by doing some walking in your chosen primal footwear. Walking a few miles for a few days will give you a sense of how strong your feet are. If you have problems doing the walking, then you will need to be more cautious in your move to primal running.

After the walking stage, I would suggest that you add a little primal running to the end of each of your normal runs. For the first few times, just run a quarter of a mile, then walk for a bit and depending on how you feel, repeat once or twice. If, after a few days of this, you are comfortable with the quarter miles and have no problems, move on to primal running for the last mile or two of your normal runs.

From there, gradually move from traditional running to primal running by increasing the primal portion. I would avoid doing speed work or hill work in the primal section at this stage. When I got to 50/50 I then swapped to only primal running, but did not do any speed work or hill training for a week or so.

General Advice
  • Learn to run again. This means starting with short distances, with walking breaks and building up.
  • Doing too much too fast is counterproductive. Some people naturally go to extremes; if you are one of these people, expect some pain. If you don’t listen to the pain, the pain will get worse. You have been warned.
  • Listen to your feet. A loud slapping sound is a bad sign.
  • Find your own style. Most peoples' biomechanics are naturally much better with primal running than running in traditional shoes. When primal running, you can't land on your heel without it hurting. However, don't force yourself up on your toes. Let your body and mind try different things to find out what works for you. Some folks seem to run on their forefoot, but many land on their midfoot.
  • People who have a forefoot style for primal running will often find their calves become sore. It will take time for these muscles to build up.
  • Keep your cadence high. A short, rapid stride is the natural way of running. You'll probably do this naturally, so don't fight it.
  • Lean forward. One approach is to stand upright, then lean forward until you have to start running to prevent yourself landing on your face. A slight forward lean seems to work well.
  • Your feet may have grown weak in shoes. You may have to take time to regain the strength they need. Consider wearing minimal or no shoes as much as possible, not just when running. If you wear shoes that fully 'support' your arch, you may need to take time to rebuild your foot strength and wean yourself off this type of shoe.
  • Some 'foot soreness' seems very common. Icing the bottom of the foot can help alleviate this, but this soreness is a sign to back down the intensity a little.
  • Consider ChiRunning or the POSE method, which are running styles that are intended to be more natural. You will probably move towards this style of running naturally with primal running, but understanding these styles may help.

Further Reading
Chi Running ( and the Pose Method ( are natural styles of running that work well with barefoot running.

How to run barefoot -

Google group for barefoot/minimal running -

Barefoot Running has three plans for transitioning

Running Tip #23 - Primal Running Shoes

What is Primal running?

Primal running is running in a shoe that has no cushioning, a very thin flexible sole, the same height at the front and back. It is similar to barefoot running, but with a little extra protection from abrasion.

Options for Primal footwear

Vibram FiveFingers (VFF)
The VFF range of shoes is very popular for Primal Running. They are a thin sole combined with just enough material to hold them to your foot. Each toe has a separate pocket, hence the name FiveFingers.

VFFs were created for boating, not running, but they have become hugely popular for many sports. In fact, it can be hard to get some of the VFF shoes as demand outstrips supply. I would recommend either the KSO (Keep Stuff Out) or the KSO Treks. The Trek version has a leather upper and a thicker sole, with a tread pattern.

It's been known for a long time that running barefoot is more efficient than running with shoes. It's been assumed that this is because of the weight of the shoes, but a recent study has shown running in FiveFingers is more efficient than traditional running shoes [1].


I have not used Feelmax shoes, but they have a very good reputation in primal runners. Feelmax shoes have a very thin (1mm, 0.04 inch) sole made of a Kevlar composite. This sole is very flexible and provides great feel. It also provides very good puncture resistance, which protects the foot. The shoes are also very light at about 4 oz.

Huarache Racing Sandals

I have no experience of these, but Barefoot Ted sells running sandals inspired by the Tarahumara Indians


Some people have been running in moccasins, especially in colder weather.

Options for near-Primal footwear (minimalistic)

Nike Free

The Nike Free are running shoes that are light weight, with very flexible soles. The sole is not thin, but is made flexible by deep groves in the sole. The Nike Free is a great minimalist running shoe and a half way house to Primal running. There is no outer sole (the hard rubber that meets the road), just a robust midsole (the cushioning part). The deep groves cut into the midsole allow the shoe to flex more than is possible with a traditional shoe. There are lots of different models of Nike Free, each with a number that indicates how flexible they are. The scale of the number is based on 10.0 as a traditional shoe and a 1.0 a barefoot. I would recommend using the Free 3.0, which is not as close to barefoot as the number suggest. A more realistic rating might be 6 or 7. I have been running in Nike Free for about 5 years and I believe they have helped me stay injury free in that time.

The biggest downside of the Nike Free from a Primal running standpoint is that it has a heel that is higher than forefoot. (Most shoes have 12mm high forefoot and 22mm high heel.) I take a knife and cut the heel down so it is roughly level with the forefoot. The Nike Free is ideal for this as it does not have a separate outsole. The midsole (the cushioning bit) is designed to be tough enough to withstand contact with the ground. It is relatively easy to cut the heel of the Nike Free away to produce a flat shoe. I find this is much closer to primal than the unmodified Free.

Racing Flats

Some racing flats are popular as minimalist shoes. I have used the Nike Mayfly and I know that the Mizuno Universe is also recommended by the POSE method. I think the Nike Free offers better value for money, but these shoes are worth considering.

Modify your old shoes

Another cheap option is to take an old pair of running shoes and modify them. To do this, you would need to cut off the heel of the shoe to be level with the forefoot. This may work if your existing shoes are reasonably lightweight and flexible anyway, but not all shoes are suitable.

Canvas Sneakers

Some people have got on well with Converse style canvas sneakers, which are cheap and easy to find. Note: this is not the same as cheap running shoes. These canvas sneakers have very little sole.

Run Barefoot

Running barefoot is different to Primal running, but both fit under the general concept of 'natural running'. There are advantages and disadvantages to barefoot running. The biggest advantage is that it is cheap and easy. It is a great way of finding out what it's like to run without traditional shoes. Even if you don’t intend to do much in the way of barefoot or primal running, this is an easy thing to test out the idea without having to spend any money. Just try running for a short distance on a treadmill or on a grassy area. This should give you a sense of how different this style of running is.

A shoe to avoid - The Newton

Newton shoes focus on forefoot running by adding extra height to the forefoot of the shoe. I purchased a pair thinking they would move me closer to barefoot running. The result of the high forefoot is an unstable shoe. What I found was the Newton takes a bad idea (the traditional running shoe) and makes it worse. I hated running in the Newton shoes, but I think they are a valuable lesson. Natural running requires a minimalist shoe, not a more complex one. You can get a better alternative to the Newton just by hacking the sole off an old pair of running shoes. I would advise you to avoid these shoes.

[1] FiveFingers footwear is more efficient for runners than conventional running shoes

Monday, October 12, 2009

Running Tip #22 - Are your running shoes injuring you?

Runners know the importance of getting the correct running shoe. After all, the right shoe will correct your biomechanical problems and prevent injury, right? Maybe not.

There is no evidence that running shoes reduce or prevent injuries [1]. In fact, all of the evidence is that running shoes and injuries go together [2]. Also, more expensive running shoes are linked to more injuries than cheaper ones, even after allowing for mileage and injury history [4, 8].

This is all counterintuitive, because running shoes reduce the impact of running, don't they? Wrong again. It has been shown that running shoes do not reduce the impact [5, 6]. It seems that the cushioning from shoes messes with the body's natural way of running [7]. One study went as far as describing running shoes as "safety hazards" [3]. One study showed that when stepping down to a cushioned surface the more cushioning, the more impact [11].

But we need arch support, right? Nope. An arch is a self supporting structure. If you push up under an arch, you dramatically weaken it.

There is indirect evidence from the human body; we are designed to run long distances. Regardless of your belief around the mechanism for that design (divine or evolution), our bodies have only had running shoes for a few decades, but we have been running for millennia. Currently, 24-65% of runners are injured each year [10]; it's hard to imagine humanity surviving if such rates are typical of the species. Many features of the human body are believed to be adaptations to running [12, 13].

There is also a growing body of anecdotal evidence that moving from traditional running shoes to minimalist shoes or barefoot cures chronic problems [9]. My experience is part of that anecdotal evidence. I used to find that I would suffer various nagging injuries, mostly around the knee, hip or ankle until I swapped to a more minimalist shoe.

Running shoes; an analogy

Here is an analogy. Imagine you are running through the woods blindfolded. This is painful, because you keep running into trees. To ease the pain, you get a bigger, more padded blindfold. This helps a bit, as it cushions the pain of hitting the trees, but does not solve the problem. If you take off the blindfold, you will actually see the trees. Running in traditional running shoes is like running blindfolded. Your feet are very sensitive so that they can detect and adapt to the surface. To see this adaptation, check out this video -

Are running shoes always evil?

So, are all running shoes evil? There is ample evidence that for most people, shoes are a significant evil, causing a variety of injuries. For a few, they are able to run correctly in traditional running shoes. But even for those people, they are probably slower and less efficient due to the extra weight.

Barefoot Running and Primal Running

The alternative to running in traditional running shoes is barefoot running and primal running. Barefoot running is pretty obvious; it's running without shoes. Primal running is inspired by the Tarahumara Indians in Mexico, made famous by the book 'Born to Run'. The Tarahumara run vast distances in sandals made of deerskin or sections of car tires. Primal running is to run in shoes that are very minimal, with no cushioning. Both barefoot and primal running create a running style that is natural and efficient. The body then absorbs the running motion in the way that it has for millennia. This barefoot/primal running style is very similar to Chi Running or the POSE method. The Chi/POSE methods teach the conscious mind a new way of running, which you then practice. The barefoot/primal running approach seems to bypass the conscious mind and taps into the instinctive ability to run correctly.

What does this mean to you?

  • If you are a runner and had any running injuries, I would strongly recommend that you try either barefoot or primal running.
  • If you are a runner who has never been injured, I would suggest you try either barefoot or primal running. You may find that it improves your speed, efficiency and more importantly, your love of running.
  • If you are not a runner, but would like to get fit, lose weight or live longer, running is a great way of achieving these goals. Just remember that barefoot and primal is a better way.

What's next?

I will be writing more on this in the next blog entries on 'Primal Footwear' and 'the journey to Primal Running'.


[1]Is your prescription of distance running shoes evidence based?

[2]Robbins SE, Hanna AM (1987). Running-related injury prevention through barefoot adaptations. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 19, 148-156

[3]Robbins SE, Gouw GJ (1991). Athletic footwear: unsafe due to perceptual illusions. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 23, 217-224

[4]Robbins S, Waked E (1997). Hazards of deceptive advertising of athletic footwear. British Journal of Sports Medicine 31, 299-303

[5]Robbins SE, Gouw GJ (1990). Athletic footwear and chronic overloading: a brief review. Sports Medicine 9, 76-85

[6]Mechanical comparison of barefoot and shod running

[7]Running-related injury prevention through barefoot adaptations

[8]MARTI, B. “Relationships Between Running Injuries and Running Shoes – Results of a Study of 5,000 Participants of a 16-km Run – The May 1984 Berne ‘Grand Prix’”

[9]Minimalist Footwear

[10]Factors related to the incidence of running injuries. A review.

[11]Balance and vertical impact in sports: Role of shoe sole materials

[12]Running paced human evolution

[13]Running Extra Mile Sets the Human Apart

Further reading,0,5107405,full.column

Friday, October 2, 2009

Running Tip #21 - Why compression clothes

Most athletic clothes that are called 'compression' really provide very little pressure. Mostly these are really 'form fitting', flexible clothing that touch the skin rather than being lose. There are a number of advantages of compression clothing over lose...

When you are cold, and therefore not sweating, compression clothing will trap the air next to the skin and keep you warmer than lose clothing.

When you are hot, and therefore sweating, compression clothing will spread out the sweat to that it evaporates more efficiently. The evaporation cools the compression clothes, which being next to the skin, helps keep you cool. Very thin compression clothing will keep you cooler than bare skin. With bare skin, the sweat will drip off your body with little cooling effect.

Compression clothing moves far less than lose clothing, reducing chafing. On longer runs, chafing can be a significant source of pain. While lubricants like body glide can help prevent chafing, I believe it is better to have a longer term solution in the form of non-chafing clothing.

The only downside of compression clothing is that it reveals the underlying body shape. For some, this is psychologically uncomfortable. Lose clothing can be worn over the compression layer. While this may be less effective than just the compression layer in warm conditions, it may be better than just the lose layer.

There are clothes that claim greater benefits from compression, such as CW-X. I have used their running tights and not noticed any difference.

Compression socks/calf sleeves generally have much higher levels of compression and are a separate topic.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Product Review - Teeter Inversion Table

While this is not a running product directly, back problems are prevalent, so I thought I would include this in my blog.

Having read lots of reviews, I decided it was worth getting a 'quality' product, rather than getting the cheapest available. If I am going to be suspended by my ankles, I figured I wanted to be confident in the quality of my support. The most highly recommended make is Teeter, so I ordered the EP-550 from for $299. (

The inversion table is heavy. If you have a back problem, you will need lots of help getting the table into the house and assembling it. The box is marked as needing two people to lift it, and they are not joking. Assembly is not difficult, but the instructions and pictures are not as clear as I would like. They provide a DVD with great instructions, but of course, I only looked at that after I was all done. RTFM.

The build quality is something I would expect to find in a gym rather than home equipment. The table is very solidly made, and everything moves smoothly and with precision.

The table needs to be setup for your height, so that you can control the inversion easily. The idea is that you raise your arms to change the balance point so that the table gradually inverts. If this is setup correctly, you can finely control your exact position. It took me a while to get this setup correctly. Being a runner with the 'T-Rex" build (big legs, tiny arms), my arms do not provide the same relative weight, but I still ended up with great control.

I was concerned that the ankle grip would hurt my skin, but so far I've not had a problem. Given the delicacy of my skin, I am tempted to try using the table with ski boots, but for most people, this should not be an issue.

It takes a while to get used to be inverted, as the blood rushes to the head. If you have high blood pressure, or other medical conditions, you should consult a physician. I find that I need to move to the inverted position slowly. I am expecting that my tolerance for being inverted will improve over time.

Being inverted helps my back significantly. I can massage the back muscles when fully inverted much better than in any other position. I have no problems with nerve compression, just muscular spasms, so I can't comment on how it would help that problem. I like the inversion table and I think it is well worth the money. It complements my massage chair (Panasonic EP3202) rather than replaces it. The massage chair is also an order of magnitude more expensive!

A recommended product.