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This is your Brain On Bikes

This is Your Brain on Bikes: The Neurological Effects of Cycling



We all know that cycling has great physical benefits — improved muscle tone, increased weight loss, stronger cardiovascular health, and so on. But have you ever wondered if it stops there? It turns out that scientists have also been wondering about the extent of cycling’s benefits for years. According to recent research, cycling has a wide array of psychological benefits that stretch beyond what meets the eye.


One of cycling’s clearest mental benefits is its effect on mood. It’s no secret that cycling makes people happier, but this uplifting effect may involve some unexpected neurological factors. A 2015 study found that aerobic exercise increases blood levels of anandamide, a natural cannabinoid. Cannabinoids affect the endocannabinoid system, which is the same part of the brain that marijuana’s active components affect. This may explain why so many people feel the renowned “cyclist’s high” during a long ride. The activation of this system alters emotional and cognitive processes, giving cyclists a natural burst of euphoria and boost in mental health.


Knowing this, it’s not too surprising that cycling has been proven to help prevent and treat depression in the long term. Even a small amount of exercise can yield these results, according to James Blumenthal of Duke University. Immediately after you start pedaling, your brain gets a spike of serotonin, the “happy hormone.” Lab rats get up to a 200 percent increase in serotonin levels as soon as they start running on their wheels. Serotonin stays boosted after a ride, keeping you happier throughout the day.


The benefits don’t stop there. Cycling has also been shown to help treat ADHD, with some people going as far as calling it a “natural Ritalin.” Though there isn’t much research on this effect yet, many people can attest to its benefits. Specialized founder Mike Sinyard notes, “I have ADHD, and so do a lot of people who ride for hours and hours. As riders, we know it has this effect on the brain.” The scientific evidence behind Sinyard’s statement is increasing — one study found that after aerobic exercise, the brains of ADHD-diagnosed kids had similar neural functioning to children who don’t have the disorder.


Perhaps the most striking benefit of cycling is its effect on Parkinson’s disease. Various studies have shown that cycling is particularly effective in helping to slow down the effects of Parkinson’s, and many satisfied patients can back them up. Researcher Jay Alberts explains that this may happen because aerobic exercise changes the brain by activating the same areas that medication would activate. Cycling also increases the connectivity in the brain’s gray matter, which can subsequently help lessen the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.


The physical benefits of cycling provide more than enough motivation to keep pedaling, but the cognitive benefits take the incentive to a new level. Cycling can improve your brain’s cognition, functioning, and physical structure. It can even slow your brain’s aging and help it become more efficient by building neurons and growing the hippocampus. Whether you’re looking to improve your physique, help treat a disease or disorder, boost your brain’s functioning, or just smile a little more, there’s some way that cycling can benefit anyone.

Source – Bike.Nyc

How low cadence can make your weekly mileage more difficult

All mileage is not created equal. Pace and conditions are common considerations but Max Paquette, a biomechanist and sports scientist, suggests that considering cadence might be just as important as those two factors. Cadence is often overlooked, but it’s a very important variable when it comes to measuring the difficulty of kilometres run. Cadence refers to the number of steps a runner takes per minute and it’s an aspect of training that runners and coaches are starting to pay more attention to.

Cadence makes a difference

The above table shows the vast difference that a discrepancy of 10 steps can make. Runner one takes 180 steps per minute and runner two takes 170. They each run 60 miles a week, but runner two’s body has to work much harder to cover the same distance.

At first glance, this doesn’t seem like a big difference, but over the course of a week, taking 10 less steps a minute added up to an extra 75 minutes of running. That’s like adding a long run to someone’s program for no reason. That extra 75 minutes of running also adds nine per cent more tibial shock (stress on the shins) and five per cent more force.

A case for measuring using minutes

This small difference can make a big impact over the course of weeks, months and years of training. While measuring training by kilometres covered is the most common metric, Paquette’s table suggests that measuring using time might be the way to go. Running for time can alleviate the tendency to fixate on a certain number of kilometres per week and allow the runner to focus on how their body is feeling instead.

Runners who are very focussed on the weekly accumulation of miles may neglect to consider the intensity their bodies are working at and accidentally overdo it.

RELATED: Why distance doesn’t measure total training volume

How to measure your cadence

This research isn’t suggesting that runners alter their cadence, but rather, they use it as a training metric like distance, time or heart rate. If you’re interested in checking on your steps per minute, there are a few simple ways. First, you can simply count the steps you take on one foot for 30 seconds and then double it.

A slightly more sophisticated way is to use the data from a foot pod or your running shoes. Most companies that make GPS watches are now also making foot pod accompaniments which measure everything from stride length to cadence. Some running shoes brands, like Under Armour, have place chips in their shoes to measure the same thing and provide the wearer with training insights.

Runners don’t need to become fixated on cadence, but rather check in on it a few times a season. After all, it’s always better to be careful than injured.

Read the full article at RunningMag

A Running Club In Egypt for Black Foreigners


PUBLISHED: JUL 9, 2020 8:24 AM

Alack of representation in Egypt is why Durand Reeves founded Fugee Run – a running club that is creating a safe mental and physical health space for people of color living in Egypt.

“Visibly seeing beautiful Black Africans all over the country but not seeing these same faces represented in the spaces that I was dealing in, was not something I could accept,” Reeves said. “Searching for opportunities to grow my business, while elevating the African communities here, I saw a void in the running space.”

The group started with just 12 people and has since grown to more than 120 runners that meet early on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

In an interview with Travel Noire, Reeves discussed what inspired him to start the running club and his plans to expand:

Travel Noire: What hat inspired you to launch Fugee Run?

Durand Reeves: So I came over to Egypt about a year ago to lay the groundwork out for my business. And within me traveling around Egypt, I’ve noticed there’s been a void of seeing a lot of Black faces on advertising, any type of marketing, or even having groups specifically for that demographic. There’s a huge refugee community and also outside of that, a huge Black-African presence here but it just wasn’t a lot of representation.

I wanted to make space and create a platform that was, marketing specifically to our demographic and have something that they can relate to.

Travel Noire: Why, why did you feel like it was needed in Egypt?

Durand Reeves: There’s a ton of athletic groups here, but when you look at the marketing or look at who is participating in those groups, I didn’t see a lot of Black African presence there.

After doing some research, I found some people don’t have either the finances to be involved in some of those seven programs, they don’t have the time or availability because they’re working, or they just didn’t feel welcome in those spaces.

And it’s not that there’s racism, but we don’t see a lot of faces that look like ours which makes you a little hesitant to sometimes jump in.

Travel Noire: What’s next for you all?

Durand Reeves: We actually just got some interest from a group in Alexandria, Egypt.

There are about 20 people up there that started their own running group and wanted to grow it up there. The movement has organically started growing.

I always knew there’s potential but I didn’t have that expectation. Now that I know there is a need and as long as everything is consistent with the branding that we’re looking in place, whereas you know community focused and you know giving people this outlet, then I’m all for expanding all over Africa.

Source – Travel Noir 

Fluid Loading With Salt Water


Before a marathon or other long race, you make sure your energy stores are as full as possible by carb-loading. But what about your fluid stores? Is it possible to “hydration-load”? If you just drink a bunch of water a few hours before your race, that will stimulate your need to urinate, and you won’t retain any of the extra water (assuming you’re already well-hydrated). But you may be able to circumvent this urge by adding a little salt to your water, which changes the osmolality of your blood and in turn affects levels of the hormones that make you need to pee. There’s a downside, though, as every shipwrecked mariner has discovered: drinking saltwater doesn’t make your stomach feel good.

So is there an ideal balance that allows you to add extra water stores without getting the runs? That’s what a new dose-response study in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, from researchers at the University of Tsukuba in Japan, aimed to find out. They fed eight volunteers about a liter of fluid over an hour, varying the sodium concentrations, while monitoring changes in fluid balance, plasma volume, and digestive comfort. The sodium concentrations were 0 (i.e. water), 60 mmol/L (similar to World Health Organization oral rehydration solutions), 120 mmol/L, and 180 mmol/L (similar to concentrations that have given the highest increase in plasma volume in previous studies.

Here’s what the changes in plasma volume and overall fluid balance looked like:


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Only the two highest doses of sodium produced statistically significant elevations in plasma volume two hours after the drinking started (though you can see that the lower sodium dose did produce “intermediate” values). Not coincidentally, only the two highest sodium doses produced diarrhea in the subjects — 1 of 8 subjects had it with 120 mmol/L, and 6 of 8 with the highest dose of 180 mmol/L. The conclusion: 120 mmol/L of sodium provides the best balance between boosting plasma volume and not having to visit the portapotty, at least in a protocol that involves drinking 1 liter of water in six equal doses between 120 and 60 minutes before the race.

So does this actually improve performance? In theory, higher plasma volume should help you pump oxgyen to your muscles more efficiently, thus boosting performance. In practice, it’s worth remembering that (a) you’ll be carrying a bit of extra weight, (b) even without diarrhea, a mildly upset stomach could interfere with performance, and mostly importantly (c) individual responses vary. It’s also worth noting that, even at the higher sodium levels, the subjects peed out between a third and half of the water they drank — that could certainly be a hassle in the final minutes before a race, let alone during the race.


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Psychedelics and Endurance Sports: Increased Energy and Reduced Fatigue?

While anecdotal reports indicate psychedelics are useful in artistic and meditative pursuits, users have also reported them beneficial for physical activities dependent on alertness, awareness, and the rapid processing of sensory data — everything from climbing rock pitches to pitching in pro baseball, it seems.1–4

But in recent years, accounts have surfaced on internet forums of psychedelics offering a different sort of benefit for exercise: increased energy and reduced fatigue during endurance sports like cycling and running.5–8

While the scientific literature is lacking in empirical studies examining the effects of psychedelics on aerobic exercise, experts suggest there are several possible mechanisms — including the placebo effect — that may describe these users’ experiences.

What the Experts Are Saying

In his comprehensive and widely cited 2016 overview of psychedelic science in the journal Pharmacological Reviews, researcher Dr. David Nichols of the University of North Carolina addresses the effects of psychedelics on brain function, sleep, time perception, and visual perception — but nothing related to endurance.9

By email, Nichols confirmed he was unaware of any studies to date focused on this research question in humans. He did, however, suggest a potential mechanism for increased energy and stamina based on previous findings in animal models: dopamine.

“Locomotor activity in rodents is generally a product of increased activity in dopaminergic areas of the brain,” Nichols said.

Psychedelics can turn off inhibitory GABA pathways that suppress dopaminergic tone. So dopaminergic activity is disinhibited, and the effect is similar to what happens if you take an amphetamine.

More generally, research in sports physiology has shown that perceived effort, fatigue, and energy levels — especially in endurance sports — are tightly metered and mediated by the brain. Performance isn’t as closely linked to purely physiological parameters such as VO2 max and lactate threshold as researchers once thought.

In his 2018 book Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance, journalist and author Alex Hutchinson argues that runners and cyclists are far more beholden to brain chemistry than they often acknowledge.10 For example, even elite athletes during serious competition have been shown to accelerate — not slow, as expected — toward the end of a race, suggesting they were subconsciously holding back until the effort was almost over.

Hutchinson cites the work of researchers like Romain Meeusen, a professor of human physiology at Vrije Universiteit Brussel in Belgium, who has shown that brain chemistry is involved in the regulation of fatigue during prolonged exercise — with the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine (mimicked by “classic” psychedelics and mescaline, respectively) both playing important roles.11,12

“There’s no doubt that perception of effort is mediated by the brain, even though many of the inputs — temperature, heart rate, oxygen levels, and so on — are coming from elsewhere in the body,” Hutchinson wrote in an email. “And in endurance sports, if you can change perception of effort, you can change your performance. So the idea that psychedelics might boost performance isn’t totally outlandish.”

Meeusen’s team has tried — unsuccessfully, it seems — to improve physical performance during exercise through nutritional manipulation of neurotransmitter systems.13,14 But he hasn’t tested psychedelics yet, he acknowledged when contacted by Psychedelic Science Review.

Possible Role of the Default Mode Network

There is a yet another potential mechanism more germane to psychedelics that could be involved, at least in theory. Extensive research has shown that activity in the default mode network (DMN) of the brain is reduced after ingestion or injection of psychedelic drugs. The DMN, as we now know, is associated with introspective and self-reflective thought. Additionally, activity in the DMN is often inversely correlated with that of nearby networks geared toward task completion.15

If the DMN is tamped down by a psychedelic during exercise, and task-oriented networks amplified, could the result be an athlete who is less likely to dwell on discomfort or self-doubt and more likely to be laser-focused on the job at hand — all while being energized or at least distracted by a heightened sensory experience?

In her 2019 book The Joy of Movement: How Exercise Helps Us Find Happiness, Hope, Connection, and Courage, author Kelly McGonigal notes that studies have shown that exercise (particularly in green spaces like parks) can reduce activity in the DMN, just like psychedelics.16

“If you focus on what is unique about green exercise, the class of drugs it most closely resembles is the entheogen, a category that includes psilocybin, ayahuasca, and LSD,” McGonigal writes in her book. “Like green exercise, these drugs alter consciousness by temporarily reorganizing the default state.” So perhaps there is some synergy in play.

Is it the Placebo Effect?

Or could all this be the result of the placebo effect — more cynically, an imaginary phenomenon — engendered by some people’s desire to perform better, or at least to feel better, after taking a small dose of a psychedelic? Even given all the potential mechanisms seemingly available to explain away claims on internet message boards, Hutchinson wouldn’t rule that out. At least until some treadmill tests have been run.

“There’s a difference between saying something is theoretically possible and showing something is actually true. And to make that jump requires more than anecdotes and subjective impressions,” he writes. “So to me, until proven otherwise, psychedelics are in the same category as all the supplements and wearable gadgets that I get press releases about: it’s an interesting idea, but nothing more until proven otherwise.”

Source – PsychedelicReview

RUN | Pleasures of Pain

I’m beginning to get that consistent urge to run again. During the cold weather I rather not get out there. It’s warming up and I don’t just have to run, it feels as if I need to run. In the midst of a flood of information and nothing but time to sift through it all I’m realizing I’m find my peace of mind through the pleasure of pain. Running is pain to me. Pain is released, my will power is tested and I learn pain is temporary. I’ve come to look forward to the soreness in my body after a good run. There’s something satisfying about not being able to stand up for more than 20 seconds in the kitchen while I assemble the food to a cutting board. It’s the memories that come back with each step it’s the memories I don’t want to remember that make me run harder, faster, more pain. Pain can’t be ignored only accepted. I’d be lying to myself if I said it’s a struggle to get my shoes on and build up the motivation to run but I’ve found myself bored when I’m not in the realm of pain. The pink suede Pumas I copped for my first art exhibition I now run in aren’t meant to be ran in at all but that’s all I have to work with. I say I’ll buy some new shoes soon but I enjoy the pain of pushing kicks beyond their limit. Similar to my body I push it to test it’s limits to test how much pain can I really tolerate. Typing this the back of my left ankle is throbbing but I look forward to being outside running 12 hours from now. 12 minute methodical miles. 2 hours of pain that has become my personal pleasure. I can depend on this pain but I know one day everything will feel good and I will have to make my self hurt to feel alive.

April – 36.79 | avg time 12’51 | 8 Runs

With another week left I may go for a sizable run on the last day of this month to wrap it up strong. About 14+ miles and slow pace it to 5 miles a day until the 28th. I’m even thinking of starting a running section for the Infocus247 YouTube page The post run routine typically includes a nice big meal to replace some weight all veggies salmon from time to time. Big Sorrel drink to get the stomach bubbly and boo boo explosive. Tmi? Until next time RUN IT!!!!

– London

71 Marathon Runner Jeannie Rice

Jeannie Rice keeps running, setting records, and encouraging the rest of us to stay motivated.

She’s 71 years old but following her world-record-setting half marathon in August, Jeannie Rice has no intention of slowing down.

In fact, going after records has become a pastime for this grandmother from Mentor, Ohio, who finished the Akron Half Marathon in 1:37:07 (chip time 1:37:01) to surpass the previous mark for 70-plus women by more than 30 seconds. She’s also the age group world record holder in the marathon (3:27:50) and has the American records in the mile (6:37), half, and full marathon distances.

Rice has advice for all of us about goal setting, motivation, and maintaining health in order to train and compete consistently. She also talks about why her only rival is herself. Read on for tips from the master.

Constantly change your goals.

Rice, who initially started running when she was 35 with a modest objective to shed a few pounds, now runs to set world records.

“I wouldn’t have dreamed years ago of a world record; I wouldn’t even think that. And now I’m trying to break my own record,” said Rice, who qualified for the Boston Marathon in 1984 during her second attempt at that distance and has done so every year since.

Over the last 36 years, Rice has adjusted her goals to ensure that they are ambitious but also attainable, acknowledging that her age brings new limitations.

“I understand one of these days maybe I won’t be able to run a marathon. I’m not going to give up until my body says no…. at that point I’ll do half marathons,” said Rice, who has completed more than 1,000 races.

Persist with discipline, knowing failure is not final.

Running impacts every facet of Rice’s life: early morning runs, nutritious meal planning, and the eliminating alcohol before races. Each choice brings Rice closer to achieving her running goals.

She routinely wakes up before sunrise to train.

“I don’t think I have natural talent. I train hard, and I work hard to get where I am,” she said. “Sure, some days I wish I could sleep in, but I know I wouldn’t feel good that day. I know I would feel better once I get up and do it.”

Persistence has also been crucial to her achievements. For Rice, if at first you don’t succeed, try and try… and try again. This was especially true during her quest to secure the 13.1-mile world record.

Rice came close to eclipsing the record, not once, not twice, but three times prior to actually doing so. After narrowly missing the record by one minute in Naples, Florida, due to hot and humid conditions, she made another attempt in Fort Myers. There she ran a world-recording breaking time of 1:36, but the course had not been sanctioned by U.S.A. Track & Field, which is a requirement for certifying any record. Her third go was in May 2019 at the Pittsburgh Half Marathon, where she came up two minutes short due to a particularly hilly course.

Play some mental games.

When the running gets tough, Rice strategically and intentionally focuses on variables that are in her favor.
During the Akron Half Marathon, she knew that the hilly course could thwart her attempt to secure the world record, as it had done in Pittsburgh. Instead of obsessing about the tough terrain—something out of her control—she reminded herself that she felt good and that the weather was ideal.

Rice also employed mental games to propel her through the toughest portions of the race.

“When I started going uphill, I didn’t look up high,” she said. “Instead I just looked down and pretended like I was going downhill.”

Remember that prehab is better than rehab.

Remarkably, Rice has never experienced a running-related injury. The consistency in her training is a huge asset to getting the results she wants.

“Injury free is the most important thing. I have a lot of friends they get better, they get faster, and then they get injured,” she said. “Then they start all over again. Injury-free is number one. Listen to your body.”

Some of her good health is genetic, but Rice also doesn’t take any chances. She’s proactive about maintaining a healthy body and she is keenly aware that if she breaks or injures something, it will take her much longer to heal.

“I used to like trail running when I was younger. But, with all the up and down and tree stumps, I avoid that now. I am very careful,” said Rice, who splits her time between Ohio and Florida, opting to live and train in Florida during the precarious Ohio winters.

Find motivation in unexpected places.

Even though Rice has secured her ultimate goal—age group world records in both the full and half marathon distances—she has an insatiable drive to train and compete. She wants to set a new marathon world record (besting her own) by 30 seconds at the Berlin Marathon this month.

“I want to make it a little bit harder for other girls to break my record, so I can keep the record for as long as I can,” she said. “That’s my motivation.”

She has also gotten encouragement from unlikely sources. After setting the world record in the half marathon, Rice was overwhelmed with encouraging comments on social media from hundreds of strangers.

“Even the guys say I’m an inspiration and that makes me go out and run even harder,” Rice said. “They don’t know me; I don’t know them. Things like that make me feel good. I am helping people.”

Source – WomensRunning 

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