Does staying up late make you fat?

Lack of sleep makes you crabby.

But can staying up late make you fat? Or diabetic? Or increase heart disease risk?

Can forcing your body to ignore its evolutionarily-programmed day-night/sleep-wakefulness cycle also distort health, even when sleep is adequate?

Yet another study adds to the growing clinical literature documenting the lack of sleep, or, in this case, the "violation" of circadian rhythms that occurs with unpredictable or shifting sleep patterns.

In this small study of 10 men and women, forcing them to sleep on an unnatural 28-hour per "day" schedule, causing a dyssynchrony with natural day-night cycles, yielded increased glucose (blood sugar) levels, poor response to insulin, increased blood pressure. It also led to a decrease in leptin levels, a phenomenon that can trigger increased appetite.

Such circadian misalignment was meant to recreate the distorted day-night cycles of shift workers, a group that is unusually prone to diabetes and heart disease. This study further confirms that there are indeed unhealthy physiologic consequences of defying normal day-night sleep cycles.

This study suggests that, not only is sufficient sleep important for health, but the predictability and concordance with normal circadian cycles is also important.

Add to this previous studies demonstrating an association with sleep deprivation and low HDL/high triglycerides (Kaneita Y, et al 2008) and increased likelihood of having a positive heart scan (coronary calcium) score (King CR et al 2008), and it is increasingly clear that sleep is a crucial factor for overall health. It may even be a helpful strategy to control weight.

A full report on the importance of sleep is planned for the Track Your Plaque website.

Vitamin D Project: Grassroots Health

Here's an interesting project a Track Your Plaque Member brought to my attention: Grassroots Health.

Carole Baggerly, Director of GrassrootsHealth, is a breast cancer survivor who has engineered an impressive project to collect and tabulate vitamin D blood levels in thousands, perhaps millions of people, over the next 5 years. Anyone can participate at a cost of $30 twice a year to get a vitamin D home test kit. (A fingerprick is required. I've tried the test kit--it's easy and painless to use.) They simply ask you to provide some basic health information that will be accumulated and analyzed.

Here's a graph they feature on their website showing the vitamin D blood levels distributed among the first 300 participants:

(Click to enlarge.)

Ms. Baggerly is apparently working with vitamin D pioneer, Dr. Reinhold Vieth, of the University of Toronto.

This sounds like a really great idea. Should you enroll, please come back here and let us know about your experience.

Statin Diary

Here are a sampling of some of the comments I've received from people taking statin drugs:

Barkeater said:

On Lipitor since 1997, and pretty sure I had no side effects. Hey, I am a man, I don't complain.

Work has gotten real challenging (but they pay me well). At age 52, 2 years ago, I was fed up with working hard, cranky, and wanted to quit. Very low tolerance for frustration. A year ago, I hit a low spot again, but knowing that quitting was not an option, I started pestering my wife about things married people quarrel about other than money. No matter how great she was, every month or so I would get in a complete funk about it. Meanwhile, my brother had an MI, freaking me out, so at my doctor's suggestion I doubled the Lipitor dose (to 40 mg a day), bringing LDL below 100 and total chol. to 162 (40% below what God's original design of me produced). Plus, I ached a lot after exercise with severe "arthritis" in my hip, and these pains took days to go away, and still I got mad every few weeks at my wife and otherwise into a depressed funk (one morning I wrote an essay about suicide, which was much on my mind). Mood swings could be sudden.

She finally asked whether it might be the Lipitor, which I dismissed as very unlikely because I wanted to believe I was controlling my anger and depression better at that point (not really so) and besides everyone knows that statins have very few side effects. But, I did poke around a bit, and saw that kooky internet people seemed to have a lot of statin side effects, including depression. So, I thought I would quit, as an experiment. Like the JUPITER study, the results were so stunning I had to end the experiment in just 48 hours, except unlike JUPTIER, the clear result was that statins are nasty poisins that were ruining my life. I quickly concluded that no statin would again pass my lips. Depression, gone immediately (I am now 45 days off Lipitor). Relationship with wife, great (maybe "saved" is the word). Athletic performance, vastly better (adjusted for my modest natural abilities), with aches reduced vastly. Ability to withstand frustration, zoomed way way up. I feel totally different, and better; I think of my high cholesterol as my friend, protecting my from the abyss.

The other exciting thing is that I was depending on Lipitor to prevent heart disease, but I see now that it was only a raffle in which I had one ticket, with 75 or 100 other ticket holders in the NNT raffle (to prevent a survivable coronary in the next ten years, but not to prevent death -- that is not a prize in this raffle). There are obviously way better things I can do for prevention, at low cost and no negative side effects (plenty of positive ones, though).

I feel ten years younger. I refer to quitting Lipitor as my "miracle cure." I feel a moral obligation to warn others.

Anonymous said:

It was the craziest thing, my elbows felt like they needed to pop but couldn't. I was taking 20mgs of Zocor, and the first couple of months the elbows were fine, but one day I realized they hurt and wouldn't pop. I enjoy tennis and will occasionally shoot baskets with the boys - working elbows are a requirement for both sports. I told my doctor the problem and he said to stop taking Zocor, and after two weeks he will have me try a different statin. Avoiding Zocor brought relief. After a week of being statin free the elbows stopped aching.

I havn't gone back to my doctor to receive a prescription for that new statin. After learning more about heart disease prevention from this site and others, my starting LDL was low to begin with right around 80, and so decided to take a different natural approach to lower my LDL and more importantly for me raise HDL. I cleaned up my diet and began taking nutritional supplements. It worked, today cholesterol levels are great, and I have working elbows.

Tom said:

Two weeks after I started 10mg/day of Lipitor I developed tinnitus. I had never noticed a ringing in my ears before and now all of a sudden it was LOUD. After three months I saw my doctor for a cholesterol retest (it went way down) and complained of the tinnitus. He said he hadn't heard of this side effect, but I told him the web said 2% complain of it. He suggested I go to 5mg/day to see if it helped. I tried this for a few months, then went totally off for a few weeks, and the tinnitus got better, but never went away. I'm still on a 5mg dose after 9 months and I still have tinnitus. My fear is that the damage is done and the tinnitus will never go away.

Veedubmom said:

I got sun sensitivity from taking Simvastatin. Wherever my skin is exposed to the sun, it turns red and starts itching intensely and my skin looks like giant hives. I have to wear long sleeves, gloves, turtlenecks, etc.

Jegan said:

I was on Lipitor, but as a result of a recent study, asked to go on Simvastatin. I too have never suffered tinnitus until taking statins. I perceive it most at night. It sounds either like a pure high pitched white noise, or often like being stuck in an aviary with a million high pitched birds. I did not suffer any pains, but I clearly am more forgetful. I also feel depressed, and really don;t care about anything... Paying bills, family, cleaning, you name it. Also, my rosacea seems to act up a lot more.

Terri SL said:

Statin side effects are, in my personal experience, vastly under-reported. What Dr. in practice takes the time to fill out FDA complaint forms or contacts independent researchers about a pts. side effects? What pt. even knows that they can do so, whether their Dr. wants them to or not? No surprise about that 80% if you've taken statins!

I've personally taken two different statins (Pravachol, Zocor/Vytorin) and developed horrendous muscle aches even while taking CoQ-10 200 mgs. daily in divided dose. I also experienced mental fuzziness, gait instability and near complete GI shutdown, when Dr. doubled statin dosage against my protests. Stop the drug = complete reversal within ~three days!

What seems to be consistent is the dosage of the statin... the higher the dose, or the more potent the statin (Lipitor, Crestor), the greater the chance of adverse side effects. The other consistency is that Drs. out there in practice are not recommending CoQ-10 to their patients on statins, or at least that has been my experience.

Am I advocating that everyone stop their statin drug? No, I am not.

What I am advocating is that statins be used carefully, after all efforts at correction of lipid/lipoprotein patterns have been made, with an assessment of true coronary risk (not such nonsense as the Framingham score). A more reasonable application of statin drug prescription would shrink the market from its current $27 billion to a tiny fraction of that.

These drugs can be useful but are miserably and tragically overused.
For a discussion of an alternative to statins for LDL cholesterol reduction, see my post, Which is better?

How apathy saved a life

John from California left this comment recently on my Wacky statin effects post. He tells such a vivid, compelling story that I had to pass it on.

I started taking statins a couple of years ago. A friend told me that he heard that they caused Alzheimers-like symptoms. I didn't think that I exhibited any effects like that, so I pretty much ignored it, except to raise the issue with my doctor.

During the last two years, I gradually lost interest in pretty much everything. It wasn't that I was forgetful, I just didn't much care about anything. Didn't care about my hobbies, quit my job, only paid bills when I felt like it, left a rental property vacant for 1 1/2 years and other similar issues.

I am normally a pretty active person with lots of pursuits. When I spoke to my doctor about my 'lack of interest and motivation', she suggested putting me on testosterone and later a mood enhancer. (I'm 60 and I lost my wife to breast cancer about 3 years ago, so I guess the thinking was either that I was going through male menopause or just depressed over her passing.)

Although I never had the muscle aches or liver problems that are considered the side effects of statins, gradually I began to feel weaker (not uncommon at 60) and more lackadaisical in my approach to bills and responsibilities. I also began suffering continual intense tinnitus and insomnia. I became crankier and more vehement in my dealings with other people and dangerously aggressive while driving.

Oddly enough, my lack of concern with paying bills led to the pharmacist telling me that Blue Shield had canceled me. Although I could easily have called the doctor for a prescription for $5 statins through KMart, I just couldn't be bothered, so I discontinued my medication.

It's been about 2 1/2 weeks since my prescription ran out. Within 4 days I began feeling better and my thinking became clearer. I no longer have tinnitus, my good mood has returned and I actually accept life's small annoyances again. Finally, I feel better physically and am more motivated. (Unfortunately, now I have to clean up all the financial garbage I've accumulated in the last year or so.)

If you take statins and begin to suffer any of the symptoms that I've noted above. Tell your doctor to take you off for a month. If your symptoms improve, you'll know why.

Although I no longer have medical insurance, one requirement of the coverage was that my cholesterol be controllable with statins. I'd rather have a heart attack or stroke and die than to go back to being the useless walking zombie that I was.

Imagine the consequences of of everyone take a statin drug, even "putting it in the water," advocated by some of my colleagues.

Make no mistake about it: The widespread, indiscriminate use of statin drugs is not without profound implications for many people. The popular notion of "the more statin agent, the better" that has propagated, thanks to the billions of dollars spent on marketing and "research," will lead to more unfortunate experiences like John.

Statins are drugs with real effects and very real side-effects.

Wheat hell

Can including wheat in your diet create hell on earth?

Was The Inferno nothing more than Danté’s prediction for the state of the U.S. diet circa 2009?

I’m kidding on The Inferno allusion, but the American diet nonetheless sure does create an inferno of unhealthy phenomena.

If we define hell on earth as constant, nagging pain and discomfort; energy depleted sufficient to impair daily function; chronic bloating and diarrhea; leg swelling, peculiar rashes; progression of a multitude of diseases ranging from annoying all the way to fatal . . . well, that’s a pretty bleak picture.

I have indeed witnessed it all. Inclusion of wheat products in the human diet in many (not all--I'd estimate 70% of people) yields devastating health effects. In a few, it shortens life. In the majority, it leads to a slow, miserable hell of inflammatory diseases like arthritis, coronary disease, and cancer.

I have also witnessed dramatic reversal of these phenomena with complete removal of wheat from the diet.

(For clarity, I am not only referring to gluten sensitivity, the immune reaction gone haywire that plagues people with celiac disease. Celiac disease is indeed another variety of wheat-induced hell on earth, but there’s far more to it than that.)

Among the effects I’ve seen with wheat removal:

--Increased clarity of thought—I can vouch for this effect personally. Focus, concentration, the capacity for prolonged application of effort is restored with elimination of wheat.

--ADHD—Marked improvement in attention deficit disorder can occur in children and adults with this focus-depriving condition. Elimination of sugars and cornstarch may be necessary for full effect. While it doesn’t seem to work in everybody, the effect is powerful enough?and the implications so profound?that it is worthy of consideration in any child with this condition.

--Improved bowel health?Many people plagued by chronic bloating, diarrhea, and urgency experience complete relief. In its most extreme form, it is expressed as celiac disease. But there are a larger number of people who do not have celiac who are plagued by this lesser form of intestinal intolerance.

--Weight loss?Patients have told me that they were actually frightened when they eliminated wheat, meaning weight dropped so rapidly that they thought something was wrong. Nothing is wrong. The weight loss simply represents the removal of this bizarre, unphysiologic trigger of appetite, blood sugar, insulin, and weight gain.

Relevant to heart health, wheat elimination effects include:

--LDL cholesterol reduction?Yes, I know that it’s not what the “official” agencies say. “Reduce fat, reduce saturated fat and cholesterol will drop.” That’s barely true; reductions of saturated fat reduce LDL cholesterol, but rarely more than 20 mg/dl. In contrast, elimination of wheat yields LDL reductions of 40, 50, even 100 mg/dl. And the type of LDL reduced is the small particle variety, the kind mostly likely to lead to heart disease. (Cutting fat generally reduces large LDL, the more benign form.)

--Triglyceride reduction?Triglyceride reductions of 50, 100, even 1000 mg/dl can be achieved with elimination of wheat (though elimination of cornstarch, sugars, and other processed carbohydrates may be necessary for full benefit).

--HDL increase?A variable response, but increase of 5-10 mg/dl are common.

--Reduced inflammation?This phenomenon expresses itself in a number of ways, including dramatic reductions of the common inflammatory marker, c-reactive protein. While the media focuses on the JUPITER trial of rosuvastatin’s (Crestor) ability to reduce CRP 50-60%, wheat elimination can easily match this?without drugs.

What's more, you just feel better. Less commonly, I've seen arthritis (both common osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis), skin rashes, and sleep disorders improve. I've had pre-diabetics become non-pre-diabetics, diabetics become non-diabetics.

It's not so much whether that food is carbohydrate-rich or protein-rich. It really comes down to calories, a very simple message.'
— Dr. Frank Sacks

While some advocate the notion that only calories count and diet composition makes no difference, I offer this possibility: Whether or not weight is lost by diet, there can be enormous health effects independent of weight based on the composition of diet. Inclusion or exclusion of wheat is one such crucial factor.

Image courtesy Wikipedia, The Eighth Circle of Hell.

Unique vitamin D observations

It seems not a single day passes that I don’t learn something new about this unique hormone (mis)named “vitamin D.”

From its humble beginnings recognized only as the factor responsible for bone maturation (with deficiency leading to childhood rickets), vitamin D now commands a recognized role in almost every conceivable aspect of health and disease.

Among the unique observations I’ve made over the past several years, having corrected vitamin D in well over 1000 people:

--Ankylosing spondylitis—This fairly rare genetic disease programs a peculiar solidification of the spinal column that leads to disabling restriction of spinal mobility, accompanied by incapacitating pain. A physician came to my office after reading my Life Extension summary of vitamin D’s cardiovascular benefits, After reading it, he put himself on vitamin D 10,000 units per day and verified “therapeutic” levels with a blood test. He came to my office (he requested a consultation) and proudly showed me his near-normal spine flexibility that, until approximately 2 months earlier, had left him rigid and unable to even tie his shoes. He also reported that the chronic pain that had left him completely dependent on anti-inflammatory agents and narcotics was nearly entirely gone.

--Aortic valve disease—The list of people with either aortic valve stenosis (stiffness) or insufficiency (leakiness) that develops later in life (not congenitally deformed or bicuspid aortic valves) continues to grow. Not everyone responds, but some of the cases I’ve seen have been nothing short of miraculous. One man had severe aortic valve insufficiency (severe leakiness). After one year of vitamin D, 8000 units per day that yielded a blood level of 67 ng/ml, the insufficiency was down to a minimal level. Before vitamin D, I had never witnessed “spontaneous” reversal of aortic valve disease before.

--Chest pain—Not the chest pain of heart disease, but a chronic gnawing, toothache-like pain in the sternum that is relieved within days of initiating vitamin D. I don’t know precisely why this happens, but I speculate that, with vitamin D deficiency, there is disordered calcium metabolism, and perhaps the sternal pain represents cellular (osteoclastic) activity that is eroding sternal calcium for the purpose of maintaining blood calcium, since intestinal absorption of calcium is poor. Replace vitamin D and the abnormal calcium uptake ceases. Just my guess.

--Relief from claustrophobia—This one has me stumped. But one man’s vivid description of his previously terrifying experiences in elevators and other enclosed spaces, now entirely gone raises some fascinating questions. For instance, how much psychological disease is nothing more than the expression of disordered metabolism from vitamin D deficiency?

--Immunity from viral infections--I first learned of this association from Dr. John Cannell of the Vitamin D Council ( Dr. Cannell recounts his experience with the 2006 flu epidemic in the hospital in northern California, where he is a psychiatrist charged with the health of 200 inpatients held in closed wards. While the flu spread like wildfire to the patients in all the other wards, the 200 patients in Dr. Cannell’s ward failed to contract a single episode of flu while taking 2000 units of vitamin D per day.

I was a little skeptical at first, having been disappointed by the failure of several nutritional agents like zinc, vitamin C (perhaps, at best, a minimal effect). Now, three years into my vitamin D experience, I am absolutely convinced that Dr. Cannells’ early observation was correct: Vitamin D enhances immunity enormously. Not only have I personally not had a virus in several years, the majority of my staff and patients have been happily free of viral infections. There have been a few, to be sure. But the usual winters of hacking, coughing, and sneezing in the office have become largely a memory. It is a rare person who comes to the office with viral symptoms.

With new lessons being learned every day, it is inevitable that other fascinating new vitamin D observations have yet to be made.

Dr. Michael Eades on the Paleolithic diet

Dr. Michael Eades has posted an absolutely spectacular commentary on the Paleolithic diet concept:

Rapid health improvements with a Paleolithic diet

The post was prompted by publication of a study that tried to recreate a Paleolithic-like diet experience over a brief study period:

Metabolic and physiologic improvements from consuming a paleolithic, hunter-gatherer type diet.

Dr. Eades discussion is wonderfully insightful and comprehensive and there's little to say to improve on his discussion.

I'd make one small point: From what I see in my experience, the improvements in lipid patterns seen in the brief period of this study are very likely to have been primarily due to the removal of wheat. Followers of this blog know that wheat elimination is among the most powerful cholesterol-reducing strategies available.

What vitamin D form?

In response to questions regarding why don't vitamin D tablets work, here are my observations.

When I first started correcting vitamin D levels around 3 1/2 years ago, people would begin with starting 25-hydroxy vitamin D blood levels of around 20 ng/ml.

Taking, say, 6000 units vitamin D as tablets over 3 months yielded blood levels of 24-30 ng/ml. Taking 6000 units in an oil-based form, and blood levels would commonly be 60-70 ng/ml.

In other words, tablets are very poorly absorbed. I also saw very erratic absorption with tablets, with tremendous variation in blood levels.

I witnessed this effect many times. I finally began telling patients to avoid the tablets altogether. It's simply not worth it. Taking dose X of tablets, you cannot predict what the blood level of vitamin D will be.

Now, you can sometimes make the tablets get absorbed by either taking with a teaspoon of oil (e.g., olive, flaxseed) or taking with an oil-rich meal. However, I am uncertain just how consistent the absorption is under these circumstances, not having done this enough times to know.

Oil-filled gelcaps are no more expensive than tablets (or perhaps a dollar more). Health food store employees and pharmacists don't know this. I have had many patients come to the office claiming they changed to tablets because that's all their health food store or pharmacy carried and the person behind the counter assured them it was the same. Blood level of vitamin D to confirm: right back down to the starting level or near it--little or no absorption.

The only way to know whether a preparation is absorbed is to check a blood level. But, in my experience, having checked vitamin D blood levels thousands of times, gelcaps never fail; tablets fail over 80% of the time.

Vitamin D for the pharmaceutically challenged

Most Heart Scan Blog readers already know:

Your doctor has been brainwashed by the pharmaceutical industry.

Your doctor more than likely has spent the better part of his or her career in the Guantanamo Bay of healthcare, water-boarded by seductive sales representatives, enticed with promises of fame and riches, threatened with ostracism from the clubby internal halls of healthcare if--gasp!--he or she didn't subscribe to the "rule" that only drugs are good, anything else is bad.

The same FDA-approval-is-necessary-to-be-good brand of nonsense is gaining popularity among my colleagues who, having caught some mention (on the Today Show, Oprah, or similar source of medical information), hope to join the vitamin D hoopla.

People will proudly declare that they are taking a high dose of vitamin D: 50,000 units once per week.

No. They are taking a barely useful form: D2, ergocalciferol.

Studies examining the reliability of the D2 form differ:

There's the Heaney study suggesting that D2 is less effective than D3:
Vitamin D2 is much less effective than vitamin D3 in humans

Then there's the Holick study showing they are equivalent:
Vitamin D2 is as effective as vitamin D3 in maintaining circulating concentrations of 25-hydroxyvitamin D.

My experience is more in line with the Heaney study: Little or no real effect with D2.

One particularly illustrative case I witnessed was a woman who was mistakenly prescribed D2 at 50,000 units per day. She told me that she'd been taking it for a year. I fully expected to see clear-cut signs of toxicity (e.g., high blood calcium levels). Curiously, she showed no signs of toxicity. Nor did she show any vitamin D at all in her blood: 25-hydroxy D level of zero--literally zero.

I've witnessed similar phenomena several times: plenty of vitamin D2 . . . very little vitamin D in the blood.

All in all, I suppose that D2 is better than No-D at all. But you are far better off joining the ranks of the pharmaceutically challenged and go with the stuff that really works: D3.

D3, or cholecalciferol, yields confident increases in blood levels. It is inexpensive, safe, and an exact copy of the human form of vitamin D. (Of course, gelcap or drops only, NEVER tablets.)

There is absolute NO reason to take vitamin D2, the form that sometimes works, sometimes doesn't, the facsimile plant form issued by the drug industry.

Why don't stents prevent heart attack?

No study has ever documented that stents prevent future heart attack. But, in day-to-day practice, stents are frequently implanted for just this reason.

A little clarification. Stents do prevent heart attack--if the heart attack is already underway, either as an "acute myocardial infarction" or "unstable angina."

In other words, a plaque in a coronary artery can rupture just like a little volcano. Rather than spewing lava, the underlying plaque contents--fibrous tissue, inflammatory cells, cholesterol crystals, fatty material, debris--are exposed to flowing blood and trigger spasm of the artery and blood clot formation. A ruptured plaque is typically found in people who go to the emergency room with severe chest pain or have difficulty breathing.

A heart catheterization is performed, a severe (e.g., 90-100%--completely closed) is found. A stent in this situation is of clear-cut benefit.

What is not clearly beneficial is someone with no symptoms, symptoms only with physical activity that has been present for at least several months, or someone with a high heart scan score and no symptoms. In these circumstances, stent implantation does not reduce risk for future heart attack.


Take a look at this angiogram of a right coronary artery. You can seen plaque all along the artery (represented by areas that appear pinched off. There are at least 4 visible.)

Putting one 15 millimeter stent in the artery will only affect the area of artery stented. (Stents vary in length, but typically are 12-18 millimeters in length.) The right coronary artery is about 10 times or more this length. There are also two other arteries of similar length. A stent at one location will do nothing to affect the potential for rupture in any of the other plaque-laden areas.

Say a stent is implanted in the "worst" blockage in this right coronary artery, the plaque located at around 9 o'clock. What about all the other plaques? They can still rupture.

Why not put in many stents, say, 4 or 5, and stent all the visible plaques?

Two reasons: 1) Plaque you can't even see on an angiogram can still rupture, and 2) it is very costly (easily $30,000 at the very least), 3) incurs greater procedural risk, and 4) messes up the artery for future procedures, since a steel-lined artery that develops more disease in future will be more difficult to re-implant stents, bypass, or perform other procedural manipulations.

The point: Putting in stents does not reduce potential for plaque rupture in the entire artery.

What can prevent plaque rupture? That's the whole point of following an effective prevention program: prevent plaque rupture.

(Of course, this discussion cannot encompass the wide variety of potential situations that may cause your doctor to individualize your approach. Nonetheless, when advised to have an elective heart procedure, a healthy dose of skepticism and is clearly a good practice.)

Top image courtesy National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
Top 3 Strength Training Exercises for Runners

Top 3 Strength Training Exercises for Runners

First and foremost, if you’re a runner and you’re not strength training you need to start.  This in and of itself could be an entire blog article.  But here I go with the synopsis. 

Strength training will indirectly help you run longer and faster.  Strength training exercises can improve your running mechanics, so that you run more efficiently.  Efficient running mechanics will lead to less wasted energy with each step and less injuries. 

Think about it.  You will take 80 to 90 steps per foot each minute you run.  If you have muscular imbalances that lead to joint mobility or stability issues you will move through an improper range of motion with each step. 

When you run for 30 minutes you take 2700 steps with each foot for a combined 5400 steps.  That could be 5400 steps of feet rolling in, rounded shoulders, wasted side to side movement or just pure pain.  Needless to say, when you are an endurance athlete it’s important that each step and every workout is adding to improved performance not to injury or fatigue.

The key to becoming a better runner is consistency.  For most runners, injuries are the biggest disrupter of consistent training.  Runners get a few good weeks or months of training, and then they are injured.   That means time off, loss of motivation, and a decrease in fitness. 

Strength training with proper form 2 to 3 times a week will reduce the onset of injuries and improve your running form.  Here are my top 3 strength training exercises for runners. 

Bulgarian Split Squat

You will need a bench, chair or stepper to perform this exercise.  Start by doing this exercise with just body weight and then progress.  The progression could include holding dumbbells, kettlebells or a barbell.  You can also make this exercise explosive. 

  • Place the to top of your back foot on.  If you are having a hard time with balance, flex your back toes and place them on the bench.   
  • Stand in a staggered stance about 2 to 3 feet wide.  This should allow your knee to bend while keeping your knees behind your front toes. 
  • Inhale as you begin to bend both knees. 
  • Focus on your back knee pointing straight down toward the ground and your body weight in your front heel.   
  • Keep your front kneecap inline with the 3rd toe of the front foot. 
  • Exhale as you straighten both knees to come back up to standing.  
Start with 10 repetitions on each leg and progress to 15. 

Calf Lowers

Use a stair or a stepper to perform this exercise.  Start by doing this exercise with just body weight.  The progression would include holding a dumbbell in one hand. 


  • Place the ball of your foot on the stair while holding on to the wall or railing.   
  • Rise up on the ball of your foot as high as your heel will go.  Make sure you have weight evenly distributed on all of your toes and that you are not rolling onto one side of your foot. 
  • Slowly, lower you heel back to the starting position.  Try counting 3 to 5 slow counts to ensure you really focus on lowering part of the movement.   
Do 10 reputations on each foot to start.  Work up to doing 20 reputations on each foot. 

Band or Cable Row

How many runners do you see hunched over logging long miles.  This exercise is for improved running posture, which can lead to improved respiration. 

To perform this exercise, use a band or a cable.  This exercise can be done with both arms or with just one arm. 

  • Stand in a staggered stance with relaxed knees.  Make sure your ribs on stacked on top of your hips to ensure good posture. 
  • Grab the handles of the band or the cable in the thumbs up position. 
  • Start the movement by protracting the shoulder blades.
  • Then bend the elbows straight back so that your biceps are close to your rib care.  Keep  your knuckles forward. 
  • To release, begin to straighten your elbows and bring your shoulders back to the starting position. 
Start with 10 repitions and work up to 20.  To increase difficulty, use a more difficult band or more weight on the cable system. 

Here’s to improving your running mechanics so that you can train more consistently.  Can’t wait to hear about the PR at your next race.