Hal Higdon’s Running Programs

“[Hal Higdon]’s all about the democratization of running,” his daughter, Laura Sandall, said. “He was all about making sure that anyone who wanted to get out and run could have a training program at their fingertips.”

At their fingertips, and at the top of Google search results. His free training plans have remained some of the most frequently used — a rarity in a world where most plans and coaches cater to runners who are willing to shell out hundreds of dollars for personalized schedules.

-Talya Minsberg, “The 90-Year-Old King of Training Plans.” The New York Times: Running Newsletter. July 19, 2021

The Hal Higdon website has a variety of plans for various distances. I simply looked at the base plan for intermediate runners, which as you can see below, is a perfectly sane running program. Bookmarking for future reference.

Ahead of the Castration Trend

“According to new research, there may be a surprisingly effective way for men to increase their lifespans — but it requires a pretty severe alteration to the physical body that may not appeal to everybody.

An international team led by researchers from the University of Otago in New Zealand were able to show that castration of male sheep delays the aging of DNA, and the same principles could apply to humans as well.

–Victor Tangermann, “Wanna Delay Aging? Get Castrated, Scientists Say
It’s not an ideal solution
..” Futurism. July 7, 2021.

I’ll just point to “Ask Your Doctor: Is Castration Right For You?” published on this very blog on May 25, 2017. Now, we can add sheep to the myriad examples.

Immortality Potions

“Poisoned potions of immortality caused the death of up to seven Chinese emperors – the last less than three centuries ago.”

-“Death by immortality potion.” The Generalist Academy. May 4, 2021.

It occurs to me that the modern equivalent of the immortality potion is nutritional supplements, which offers extended or healthier life but are more likely to be causing harm. But, the good news is they won’t kill you as quickly as mercury sulfide.

Ordinary Invisibility

“There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says ‘Morning, boys. How’s the water?’ And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes ‘What the hell is water?'”

-David Foster Wallace, “This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life (transcription of the Kenyon Commencement Address), republished in Farnam Street, April 2012.

I’m surprised to find that I have not referenced David Foster Wallace’s This Is Water before. I thought about it in when thinking about the kinds of things that are so ubiquitous that we tend not to see them. Some things that come to mind that are water to us:

  • The hidden labor that makes everything in our lives possible, from migrant workers harvesting industrial agriculture, people working in slaughterhouses, sewing the clothing we wear, manufacturing electronics, etc.
  • There are more slaves today than at any other point in human history.
  • Related, sexual trafficking is a variety of slavery and is pervasive.
  • It is clear the modern lifestyles are destroying the environment, such as the use of plastics.
  • The Standard American Diet is giving us all chronic health conditions.
  • Mass media distracts people from engaging directly with ideas and the people around them.

I’ve only scratched the surface here. What else so permeates our environment that we don’t notice it, even though we know on some level it is there?

A Mass Message From My Doctor

Thought I’d pass this along in case your doctor isn’t as good as mine. Unsolicited, fantastic advice that everyone should read.

“Coronavirus and Clinic Updates:  

…The crisis of Coronavirus is the exponential growth. The number of cases are increasing 30% per day. So however many cases we have today, we will have 10 times as many in 10 days and 100 times as many in 20 days. We worry about having enough hospital resources to care for folks if the outbreak spreads too fast. As you can imagine our health care system will be challenged. Many of us are taking extra shifts in the hospital. This week is calm, but I suspect the next month will be difficult.  

As long as a sick person does not cough into your face, masks won’t help much. The way most of us will get this virus is by touching it with our hands and then touching our face. It seems to be spread by mucus on hands, and its also found in stool. So basically it’s spread like the flu (respiratory droplets) and spread like norovirus (stomach flu). And it’s much more severe. And it can be spread before you feel sick. So it’s basically a perfectly designed virus. Not good for us.  

Many patients will be contagious for days before they ever feel sick, and can spread it by touching doorknobs or preparing food for others. [Note: The CDC says there isn’t any evidence that coronavirus can be transmitted through food. He’s a good doctor, but no one’s perfect.] This is why hand washing and staying away from other people are the two primary ways to avoid covid. Masks help the sick person not spread covid, but they don’t prevent healthy people from catching it. So please save the masks for health care workers.  

If you get a cough and fever, you could have COVID and you should call to discuss. Especially as flu season winds down, the likelihood of COVID as the cause of fever will go up. Most patients don’t need to be tested, you just need to self quarantine and stay away from other people. As testing becomes easier to get, we may start testing everyone – but we are not there yet. Still a huge backlog. The major reason to get tested is if you have to work; Or if you are risk factors for a poor outcome: age > 60, diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, cancer, HIV, weak immunity.

If you get severely short of breath, you should call our office or go to the ER. Generally, this would not happen all of a sudden, it’s usually after being sick for 7 days. Patients with covid who get sick, go from initial symptoms to needing the intensive care unit on day 7 -10. So it takes some time. Most young healthy people will never need to see a doctor. We are sending the majority of covid + patients home…Mortality in the USA is still only 1%. Mortality is greater when older than 60. And especially over 80. So keep grandchildren away from grandparents[.] Young kids do not seem to get sick, they can still carry the disease and transmit to others who might have risk factors.

A new symptom being described is loss of taste or smell. In South Korea where they tested widely, 30% of covid patients had loss of taste or smell, even without fevers. So if you have that symptom, you may not get sick but you are contagious, so avoid people for 14 days, wash those hands like crazy. Most people get sick within 5-6 days of exposure, but some take as long as 14. Which is why we’re using 14 days as an estimate for quarantine.

Information and thoughts about moving forward are changing every day. I encourage you to get your medical information from Dr. Fauci and other medical and public health experts, not from politicians or pundits. The CDC’s website has great (and scientifically accurate) information. I hope this has helped…”

2020 Experiments: Exercise & Running Program

Open Question: What is a reasonable program for people to follow to develop a good level of fitness?

I’ve been thinking a bit about the 2018 Experiment: HIIT Burpee and Running Program. The challenge of that program was to met a minimal standard for health, which I define using the American Heart Association standards:

  • 25 minutes of aerobic activity, 3 times a week
  • moderate intensity muscle-building, 2 times a week

Aerobic Activity

I prefer running for cardiovascular fitness. I have always wanted to run a sub-20 minute 5K. So, I was thinking that a speed program at the desired speed, 9.0 on a treadmill or 6:40/mile pace on Monday and Fridays, incrementing as the current level becomes easy.

  • 0.25 miles with 0.25 mile recovery walks, moving up one from 4 to 12 reps
  • 0.5 miles with 0.25 mile recovery walks, moving up one from 2 to 6 reps
  • 0.75 miles with 0.25 mile recovery walks, moving up one from 2 to 4 reps
  • 1 mile with 0.25 mile recovery walks, moving up one from 1 to 3 reps
  • 1.5 miles with 0.25 mile recovery walks, moving up one from 1 to 3 reps
  • 2 miles with 0.25 mile recovery walks, moving up one from 1 to 2 reps
  • 2.5 miles with 0.25 mile recovery walks, moving up one from 1 to 2 reps
  • 3 miles at one rep.

On Tuesday & Thursdays, it’s an easy 4 miles. On Wednesday, it’s either a easy 6-10 miles, an easy 4 miler or a rest day, depending on how I’m feeling. I’m not sure how long this kind of program will take, but I think taking two years seems like an achievable time frame.

Moderate Intensity Muscle-Building

But, the burpee program I came up with was positively brutal. I wanted to avoid making the same mistake this time, and keeping this easy.

This year, I spent some time revisiting The Hacker’s Diet, and I think his idea of having a low-intensity, low-time commitment exercise regime that can be done daily and anywhere is a good one. I took his program, and modified it to include a stepped program that increases 7% from 10 up to ~200 of bends (hands over head, legs spread, touch toes and return), sit-ups (hands across chest), skydivers (one rep, 4-count, hands to head and legs), push-ups, scissors (one rep, 4-count), jump squats, planks (front, back, each side for X seconds and 20 second rest period in between each), and jumping jacks (one rep, 4-count).

Each exercise is done for one set. The first rung takes less than 15 minutes. It’s easy to start, but it has the potential to become seriously challenging as you progress.

Modified Hacker’s Diet Exercise Program

Rung Bend Sit-up Skydivers Push-up Scissors J-Squats 4-Planks Jacks
1 10 10 10 10 10 10 45 10
2 11 11 11 11 11 11 50 11
3 11 11 11 11 11 11 50 11
4 12 12 12 12 12 12 50 12
5 13 13 13 13 13 13 55 13
6 14 14 14 14 14 14 55 14
7 15 15 15 15 15 15 60 15
8 16 16 16 16 16 16 60 16
9 17 17 17 17 17 17 65 17
10 18 18 18 18 18 18 65 18
11 20 20 20 20 20 20 70 20
12 20 21 21 21 21 21 70 21
13 20 23 23 23 23 23 75 23
14 20 24 24 24 24 24 75 24
15 20 26 26 26 26 26 80 26
16 20 28 28 28 28 28 80 28
17 20 30 30 30 30 30 85 30
18 20 32 32 32 32 32 85 32
19 20 34 34 34 34 34 90 34
20 20 36 36 36 36 36 90 36
21 20 39 39 39 39 39 95 39
22 20 41 41 41 41 41 95 41
23 20 44 44 44 44 44 100 44
24 20 47 47 47 47 47 100 47
25 20 51 51 51 51 51 105 51
26 20 54 54 54 54 54 105 54
27 20 58 58 58 58 58 110 58
28 20 62 62 62 62 62 110 62
29 20 66 66 66 66 66 115 66
30 20 71 71 71 71 71 115 71
31 20 76 76 76 76 76 120 76
32 20 81 81 81 81 81 120 81
33 20 87 87 87 87 87 120 87
34 20 93 93 93 93 93 120 93
35 20 100 100 100 100 100 120 100
36 20 107 107 107 107 107 120 107
37 20 114 114 114 114 114 120 114
38 20 122 122 122 122 122 120 122
39 20 131 131 131 131 131 120 131
40 20 140 140 140 140 140 120 140
41 20 150 150 150 150 150 120 150
42 20 160 160 160 160 160 120 160
43 20 171 171 171 171 171 120 171
44 20 183 183 183 183 183 120 183
45 20 196 196 196 196 196 120 196

So, I’m going to give this a try next year, and I’ll report back on how it worked out.

Army Fit

I’ve argued before about the value of a periodic fitness test. These are the current United States Army standards, perfect and passing, for each exercise, courtesy of Outside Magazine.

Deadlift

Lift the heaviest weight you can three times.

Max (100 points): 340 pounds
Pass (70 points): 180 pounds

Power Throw

Launch a ten-pound medicine ball over your head and behind you.

Max (100 points): 13.5 yards
Pass (70 points): 8.5 yards

Hand-Release Push-Ups

Perform as many reps as possible in two minutes.

Max (100 points): 70
Pass (70 points): 30

Sprint-Drag-Carry

For 50 meters each, sprint, drag 90 pounds, side-shuffle, farmer’s-carry 80 pounds, then sprint again.

Max (100 points): 1 minute 40 seconds
Pass (70 points): 2 minutes 9 seconds

Pull-Up Leg Tucks

While hanging from a pull-up bar, hoist yourself until your arms are at 90 degrees while bringing your knees into your chest, then lower. Complete as many as you can.

Max (100 points): 20
Pass (70 points): 5

Two-Mile Run

Finish as quickly as possible.

Max (100 points): 12 minutes 45 seconds
Pass (70 points): 18 minutes

From Outside Magazine, November 2019

Suggestions for Good Health

Blue Zones is a good place to start. However, if I were to give advice to my younger self, I’d focus on:

  • Sleep: Get a full night’s sleep and take a midday nap for a total of eight hours.
  • Food: Limit eating to four consecutive hours a day. Eat mostly plants. Drink powdered psyllium and water to stave off hunger feelings in the off hours.
  • Exercise: Walk/run for 16,000 steps a day or 8 miles, incorporating a full range of movement. Include some weight-bearing activity or physical training twice a week.
  • Social: Cultivate a social environment for flourishing among family, friends and your larger social circle. Be a positive, creative person and look for the same in others. Relentlessly prune relationships that are predominantly negative.
  • Being & Doing: Find something to do that leaves the world slightly better than you found it and promotes good sleeping, eating, exercise and social habits. The Buddhist idea of the Noble Eightfold Path is a useful model of how to be and what to do.