Thursday, February 28, 2013

Tabata workouts and High Intensity Interval Training

Tabata workouts and High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) have become both popular and controversial. There are those that believe they are a silver bullet that will dramatically improve performance and others that believe that HIIT is more like snake oil. While these dramatic positions make for entertaining reading, the truth is rather more subtle. I've reviewed the scientific studies to come up with some recommendations based on your fitness objectives.

A night with Adidas

My local running store hosted a meeting with our running club and Adidas to try their new shoe, the boost. It was an entertaining evening and we got to have a short run in the new shoes.

The new foam

The Adidas boost uses a new type of foam in the sole that has more bounce and is more resilient. Adidas demonstrate the extra bounce by dropping a steel ball on their new foam and EVA, the industry standard foam. The ball will bounce much higher on the boost foam than EVA. However, it’s unclear how this will translate into running performance. When running, our feet do not bounce off the ground, but have a short period of sustained contact, often called the ‘stance phase’. So when your foot lands, it seems that the boost foam would return the landing shock back up your leg rather than absorbing it, which is less than ideal. It would be good to see a study that looks at how the boost foam changes the stresses on knees and hips compared with a standard running shoe. Regardless of how the bounce impacts your running, the increased lifespan of the new foam is appealing. Having a shoe that lasts longer is obviously good, but Adidas also claim that the new foam is more consistent through most of its lifespan, rather than gradually decaying in the way EVA does. Adidas also claims that their new foam does not change characteristics in extreme temperatures like EVA does.

The new shoe

So enough of the theory, what’s the shoe like? Well, the boost is clearly a mainstream running shoe, with the typical raised heel and front that does not mirror the shape of the human foot. If you accept that the boost is intended for that market segment, then it’s an impressive shoe. It’s immediately comfortable, with a light, flexible upper with no noticeable seams. Thankfully Adidas has used a traditional tongue and laces, rather than a sock style upper or Velcro fastening. While the sole has the traditional raised heel, there is none of the multi-density foam or other intrusions that are so common. The shoe is light weight, and the new foam is pleasant under foot. I think a lot of people will buy the boost because of its immediate comfort. The forefoot had good ground feel combined with reasonable protection. I’m not a big fan of the traditional running shoe, preferring either something minimalist or the maximum cushioning/minimal drop approach that has been made popular with the Hokas. However, if you’re in the market for a traditional running shoe, I’d highly recommend trying out a pair of the boost shoes.

The future?

I’m hoping that Adidas create other shoes based on the boost. If they simply reduce the heel height they’d have a great minimalist shoe without changing much else. If they widen the sole and increase the forefoot sole thickness they’d have a great ‘maximum cushioning/minimal drop’ shoe that would put the Hokas to shame.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

CEP Calf Compression Sleeves

I've added CEP sleeves to my comparison of calf compression sleeves, and I've changed the comparison table so you can sort on different columns.

Friday, February 22, 2013

VO2max and velocity at VO2max (vVO2max)

For those that are interested in some of the underlying science of exercise, I've updated my page on VO2max and added a page on vVO2max (velocity at VO2max). The changes are based on some of the research I needed to do for my article on High Intensity Interval Training. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Bug fix for Garmin Footpod calibration utility

I've fixed a bug in my calibration utility for the Garmin Footpod that was causing some bad calibration factors. (The underlying problem was due to a misinterpretation of some of the recorded points that only have heart rate and cadence data, no GPS locations.)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The viscosity of energy gels

I've updated my comparison of energy gels with some measurements of viscosity. I was surprised by how widely the viscosity varied, from nearly liquid to paste like.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Upcoming articles

I've not published anything to my Wiki for a while, so I thought I'd let you know what's pending. I'm close to finished on a major update to High Intensity Interval Training and Tabatas. I've got a new article on Long Run recommendations that I've been tweaking for a while, that just needs some more polishing. I'm analyzing the viscosity of gels, which has been fun, and testing the CEP compression socks, which has not been so much fun. I'm not impressed with the CEP so far, but I want to give them a fair evaluation. I've also ordered a new iPod nano to see how that stacks up. Hopefully there will be a flurry of updates soon.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

VDOT Calculator for slower runners

I've updated my VDOT calculator to support slower runners. The standard Jack Daniel's book only goes as slow as a 9:11 mile, 30:40 5K, 2:21:04 half, or 4:49:17 marathon, so I've extrapolated the values for slower runners. 

For those interested in the details, I ran through all the values in the book and worked the percentage of VO2max each was using. For nearly all the VDOT levels, the percentage was always the same, with only the shorter ‘R’ paces having some variation. I took the average VO2max percentage for each training pace, then used the calculated VO2max to generate the actual times.

So far, I think the values that are calculated are reasonable. Even for a 6 hour marathon run, the Easy pace is 12:49 min/mile, which is slow, but still viable.

Let me know what you think, or if you spot any problems.