Matches for: “sam murphy” …

Frustrating Lack of Consensus

You’d think that after decades of modern running and sports science that we’d have reached a few consensuses wouldn’t you?

Last week I went along to Runners Need in Holborn to hear from Sam Murphy (see previous post), Brad Jones and a chap from SiS and another from Brooks. During the two hour seminar I learned a few new things: don’t stretch after long runs – especially the marathon itself – it just worsens the microtears in your soft-tissues; tendon injuries show no inflammation in their pathology and that SiS gels are isotonic so you don’t need to sink a load of water with them at the same time.

I also picked up a free running magazine Running Free which I sort of guessed would be a bit cheap and cheerful and so wasn’t surprised when I discovered a rogue apostrophe in Fiona Bugler‘s editorial.  Reading it on the train I found another article by Andy Dubois where he dismissed static stretching. Which I think was the final straw for me. Why is there so little consensus on even the basics of running and training? Surely after decades of research, millions of miles run and hours exercising we’d at least have come to some irrefutable conclusions about biomechanics and physiology?

Listening to the chaps on Marathon Talk (regular long-term runners) I’ve heard them assert that they never or rarely stretch. Last night Brad Jones told us never to stretch a sore tendon, other sites tell you to do just that to avoid the build up of scar tissue. Then there’s Mr. Dubois telling me not to hold a stretch whereas everything I’d heard before then said hold for 30 seconds. Oh, and if you’ve got a tight tendon you might be advised to stretch this out or you might be told that stretching is bad.

My physio tells me to use ice and heat cycles to flush out toxins and encourage repair. Other sites tell you to never heat an injury that is probably inflammation. Brad Jones told us last night that there is no inflammation in tendon injuries so heat and ice are just pain management tools and not restorative/curative at all.

I realise everybody’s body responds differently but surely we’re not all that different. Is it just the consequence of limited amounts of research? So perhaps there are just a handful of decent studies on this stuff? When there are billions of pounds invested in sport around the world I simply can’t believe this to be true.

But all the time there is no consensus I find myself scouring the web looking for the elusive magic answers for the constant round of tendon and muscle soreness that has plagued the second half of my marathon build-up.

On Sunday I ran for 3 hours, somewhere between 32.5 and 33.5km [20.8 miles] (depending on my Nike+ data vs. Runkeeper’s data) and today (14 March) I am pretty sore. Once again I ran too fast and ran too many hills. Next weekend is a half marathon speed session but I failed to get into an organised race so will have to trace out a measured and flat course. This will give me my final benchmark time for London by running it through the McMillan calculator.

And so, to cheer us all up, have a look at some poor lads who’ve been requisitioned to model their girlfriends’ creations on Etsy: Sad Etsy Boyfriends.


The Obsolescence Treadmill (feat. Nike Mayfly)

Nike Mayfly

Nike Mayfly by moleitau, on Flickr

Followers of my public streams will be aware that I am engaged on a 16-week training programme* to run the Virgin London Marathon on April 17th. This does rather mean that much of my waking moments are preoccupied with all things running. Occasionally my vocational and extra curricular interests collide, as is the case here with the Nike Bowerman Mayfly running shoe.

Alerted to its existence via Matt Jones’ concise post on the Berg blog, I started to think a little more about what this does to strengthen my opinion of Nike‘s marketing function as one that just gets the psychology of the runner.

It may be stating the obvious to some, but Nike aren’t just a manufacturer of sportswear. Their heritage shows a healthy track record (ahem) of producing products based on solid insight within the running community. In the case of the Mayfly this is insight that runners are want to wear their shoes for too long. The ramifications of this are not inconsiderable: worn-down shoes lead to poor form and consequentially impact-related injuries. In addition, enthusiastic amateur runners may well own multiple pairs of shoes aligned to particular conditions: trail, track and asphalt surfaces for example. Keeping track (again…) of the kilometres out through each pair of shoes is a challenge.

In the case of the Mayfly we have a £20 shoe with a tight limit on their effective usage; you get just 100km wear out of them. A planned obsolescence. The shoes have been designed with a tight engineering tolerance such that their performance is notably degraded once the user (runner) exceeds 100km. This fact isn’t hidden, it’s considered a selling point and the shoes themselves feature a manual odometer for you to clock up the km run on the side as an aide memoir and perhaps badge of intent to fellow runners.

So, what’s happening here, isn’t this just a trick to get us to buy more shoes more often? The cynic might suggest so, but let me suggest:

Scarcity: We are a little biased toward placing greater value on items that have a obvious limitation … the scarcity of the distance you can run in these shoes ensure you use them for only the right conditions (e.g. track running) and not perhaps as your daily runner – they’re your best pair.

Anxiety: Nike have form here – Nike+ on your headphones counts you up to the mid-point and then down to the end point of your run, increasing the performance anxiety. The same ticking clock is at work in these shoes, from the moment you put them on you’re running them into the ground. Of course this is nothing new – all shoes wear out – but these shoes makes it notably more explicit.

Reactance: When faced with a limit we’re rather prone to reacting against it (see anxiety above and consider the effect this has on performance). Does this limit actually challenge the runner to exceed it faster, sooner by covering the mileage at a greater pace or running more often? Mayfly runners might find themselves running harder and faster as consequence. There is little in life that is a simple and free as going running, by placing a limit on such a libertarian behaviour the reaction – if largely subconscious – could be profound.

I’ll concede that this might all be a case of me over-thinking a rather crude marketing strategy – planned obsolescence is nothing new after all – and that instead of positive reactance, consumers might actually react by seeing the limit as a weakness in Nike‘s durability and applicability to their sport. An analogous example might be the restrictions printer manufactures placed on their low usage and non-refillable ink cartridges. Indeed, one of the most significant issues that Nike will face is possibility that consumer watchdogs may deem the practise simply unethical. Perhaps in defence of this – and the inevitable environmental criticism – the shoes have been designed to be recycled by the responsible owner.

For the moment I am happy to continue with the upgrade treadmill of my (Asics) shoes on a 500km cycle which (at a current weekly effort of 30km+) should just see me through the 16 weeks.


* – Training programme via the wonderful Sam Murphy from her seminal work Marathon & Half Marathon: From Start to Finish

Tagged , ,