Doc’s Talk 07-08-2012

Dr. Scaff talked about cross training.

Cross training by definition means doing things other than running.  Cross Training became very popular with the advent of the triathlon, after all, running is a part of the event but if you can’t swim you don’t have a chance; you have to do some swimming whether you like it or not.  But you have to remember, in the true Ironman Triathlon, the marathon is the hardest part of the whole race.

You will notice in the Ironman, the first person out of the water and the first person off the bike usually do not win the race.  So when you are training for the Ironman you want to have as much left in your gas tank for the marathon as you can.  

A number of years ago the Honolulu Marathon Clinic was training a 60 year old man who used to run with the Clinic for the triathlon.  He was a decent marathon runner with finish times of a little under 4 hours, he was an excellent competitive bicyclist, and being quite skinny he sank in water and was not a very good swimmer.  In coaching, the Clinic advised him to just swim efficiently and not get tired.  Also, he ate bread and grape jelly so that he would not have any fiber, and when he got off the bike he was a pound heavier than when he had entered the water.  That was perfect.  He then ran about a 4:00 – 4:10 marathon and took either 2nd or 3rd place overall, so the training worked, he had used a proper approach.

Later, Runner’s World and the “mavens of education” started saying cross training prevents injuries.  And they were right! …but for the wrong reason.  Cross training is good because it keeps you away from running and hurting yourself.  That is the problem:  In training, people overwork themselves and then get injured.  They go out every day and try to run and cannot run.  That is like the farmer who keeps pulling up his carrots to see if they are growing.  What they need to do is avoid the injury.

The bottom line is NOTHING improves running, …other than running.  Running is the base sport for all other sports:  Basketball players run, boxers do roadwork, swimmers, etc.  When Dr. Scaff used to paddle with the canoe clubs nobody ran, so his team started running around Diamond Head on the way home …and they started winning more races than the other teams.  Now everybody runs.

– So running is good for canoe paddling.
– Canoe paddling is good for running if it keeps you away from running too much.

But the bottom line is, if you want to run the marathon, there is no substitute for running.  That said, Dr. Scaff thinks you should cross train anyway.  It is fun, and there are other things to do, like playing soccer, volleyball, biking, and there are no problems with any of them.  But if you are engaging in these activities because you think they will enhance your running performance, forget it.  We know that running is good for all other sports.

Dr. Ernest van Aaken, the famous German physiologist, characterized running as a recreation of primeval child’s play.  When you tell a little kid, “Go get a soda for your daddy from the refrigerator, but don’t run, you’ll hurt yourself,” they run.  Little kids basically run half a marathon every day, you can’t stop them because we are imprinted to survive.  We enjoy food, we enjoy sex, we enjoy running, and running becomes the base for everything else.

Since we are into the Olympics now, consider, what is the other thing that man is imprinted to universally enjoy?  Throwing!  Think about it.  The first snowfall of the season in Chicago and the executive in his 3-piece suit goes out to lunch and playfully throws a snowball at his secretary or some other person.  Running and throwing are the origin of all sports, including all of our court sports, basketball, baseball, football, it makes no difference.  We enjoy watching these activities.  If we measure the oxytocin (the cuddle hormone) levels in the brain, the level goes up during sex, it goes up in men a LOT watching football games.  So the things that are physically pleasing we are naturally attracted to.  Even a couch potato who cannot climb a flight of stairs enjoys watching a football game or a baseball game.

Now you know the whole background of running, sports, and cross training.

Next Sunday Dr. Scaff will talk about intervals, speed work, and more.

Today Dr. Scaff also discussed Oscar Pistorius, “The Blade Runner” of South Africa, and his participation in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.  To read this edition of “Scaffter Thoughts”, see:




For some good reading on nutrition, Dr. Scaff recommends everyone check out the daily postings on Dr. Alan Titchenal’s “Got Nutrients?” web site:

Here is a recent posting:

July 6, 2012
Drugs called proton pump inhibitors are widely used to treat heartburn and various stomach problems by inhibiting the production of stomach acid. Since the absorption of many nutrients is dependent on a normal production of stomach acid, long term use of these drugs can result in serious nutrient deficiencies.

Consumer Link
Combating Acid Reflux May Bring Host of Ills

Research Link
Am J Gastroenterol. 2009 Mar;104 Suppl 2:S5-9.