Monday, April 24, 2017

Q & A With Mark Cucuzzella

Mark ( 2377 ) 2017 Boston
I want to thank Dr. Mark Cucuzzella, who is a fellow Dr Phil Maffetone enthusiast and has the website as well as being the founder and owner of Two River Treads,   walking and running store, for answering some questions I sent to him.  Being one of the admins at The Maffetone Method FB group I thought it would be nice to have his thoughts on a number of areas.  Mark, who also just competed the 2017 Boston Marathon in 2:56:03 at age 50, has run a sub 3:00 marathon a year for the last 30 years is an avid barefoot runner and all-around great source of information.
Natural Running Center

Mark will be presenting alongside Dr. Maffetone this weekend (April 26-29, 2017) at Healthy Running San Luis Obispo.  According to Mark you can still come!  Also Dr. Maffetone shared Mark's story last year.

Now lets get into the interview:

Q: What is your regular diet?  Would you consider your diet LCHF or some version of it?

Definitely LCHF and flux between 50-100g of healthy carbs/ day (sometimes less).  May have an occasional day over this but rarely.  If you download the “real lists” on Real Meal Revolution I am pretty much green list with occasional dips into the orange for good quality fruit and legumes.  Bread and grains almost 100% gone other than a rare treat of thin crust homemade pizza where the wonderful toppings buffer the little bit of homemade crust (which is loaded with olive oil).

Q: What are your thoughts on MET (Metabolic Efficiency Training) and being fat adapted?  Do you think this works for shorter distances as well as long?

The key is about restoring your health, and then your workouts will go well either high intense or endurance.  So if you are insulin resistant (IR)/carb intolerant  you need to be fat adapted for your health.  Phil’s White Paper spells it out. I have some good friends crushing their Crossfit workouts once they figured out they were IR.

Q: How do you fuel your training runs & races?  What are your thoughts on fasted runs?

For training it’s pretty much all fasted.  I going for long morning run I get up and have good coffee then go.  I’m never hungry or feel depleted during long runs anymore. For long races where performance (not adaptation) is the goal I have a low carb cocktail of UCAN, VESPA, and a packet of Keto OS.  If I can get it on the course I will use UCAN Hydrate (zero cal electrolyte) and Superstarch and a VESPA every couple hours. I think for fat adapted athletes there may be some benefit to a little exogenous ketone salt before the race.  Not much science yet on this and like every strategy we are all individuals who need individual self-assessments in training and racing

Q: What are your thoughts on Carbohydrate Intolerance/Insulin Resistance?  Do you think this is pretty regular occurrence in the general public or a person by person thing to figure out?  Also, how much of this do you think comes from how our food, in general, has been modified or processed?

I see this as the root cause of patients who have obesity, pre DM/DM, Fatty Liver, High Blood Pressure, Coronary Disease, and metabolic syndrome.  This is about 70% of the US population now.  Dr. Gerald Reaven who has published 800 papers should have won the Nobel Prize with the discovery of what he termed “Syndrome X” over ten years ago.  He outlined the cascade of nefarious pathways ignited by IR and hyperinsulinemia.  The foods that accelerate the slow steady march to IR are the sugar sweetened beverages (incl. juice), all process grains, added sugar products, and refined vegetable oils.

Dr. Tim Noakes explains it well in “The Real Meal Revolution” as well Gary Taubes in his 3 best selling books “Good Calories, Bad Calories”, “Why We Get Fat”, and “The Case Against Sugar”.  “New Atkins for a New You” by Drs Phinney, Volek, and Westman is another must read and was the book that sent Dr. Noakes down this rabbit hole.

People need to check their HgA1c, fasting glucose and insulin levels, and well as glucose and insulin levels after a load of glucose (called a glucose tolerance test).  This will give an individual an objective measure.  NMR Lipid Profile can also give you a IR score.

Q: When did you start running barefoot?  How long did it take you to adapt to running regularly barefoot?

Started full barefoot in 2011 when asked to speak on this topic at the Boston Marathon. I 2 months could go on 10 mile runs with no shoes on smooth pavement or grass.  This is not the norm.  I had been full on minimal with a focus on form for a solid 5 years at this point so was essentially there other than adapting the soles of the feet.

I presented this video at the Boston Conference as a demonstration that this was not academic theory, but something anyone could learn safely.

Q: How did you come about with your thoughts on form and barefoot running?

I was always geeked out about the biomechanics from a foundation of understanding the role of spring and fascia.  Dr. Irene Davis has enlightened me on the importance of the foot.  I would read something and then try to feel it while running.  South African Sports Chiropractor Dr. Lawrence Van Lingen has helped shaped my thought with his endless curiosity.  Jay Dicharry and Dr. Ray McClanahan also huge influencers who also treat runners.  I think the video we shot in 2012 for UVA Run Med Conference is still pretty spot on.

Q: What are your thoughts on cadence?  So many have issues, me included, when they try for 180 cadences when running slowly, especially when starting MAF.  Do you think that the 180 number might change as one gets taller?

The cadence is about how your foot functions.  If you have a springy foot like a child the 180 is natural.  If your foot behaves like a hacky sac then it is more difficult.  Just try jumping rope or hopping on one foot barefoot, you will get your answer. If you have hallux valgus your will never have a springy foot.  The foot will collapse and land with a “thud”.  Correct Toes from Dr. Ray have been my lifesaver since I have this condition.

Mark @ the JFK 50 Miler
Q:  With how low your HR was for the first 43 miles or so of the JFK 50, under 100, lots of people were wondering how long it took to get there.  Do you regularly train at your Maximum Aerobic Function (MAF)?  Do you use the standard 180-Age with some adjustments?  If so how long have you been training like this?  I know I have been running for many years so early on since Arthur Lydiard was influential some of my early training was probably at MAF but did not know it.  Do you train in cycles and when do you add speed work and how do you do that?

I started training with MAF HR in 2000 after reading a Maffetone article about Mark Allen.  Ran an amazingly comfortable 2:28 for 3rd place at the 2000 Marine Corps Marathon after about 4 months full MAF. Haven’t looked back since.  I rarely use HR in training now and breathe through the nose. This assures aerobic without needing technology.  I’m a Ludite by nature.  When I do put HRM on I am usually below 130 on an easy/moderate training run.  I keep a strong base year round and a couple months before a main marathon will dial in a longer and quicker 2 hour run to get a feel of race tempo.  This is not “hard”, it’s just a quicker gear. I do drills daily as shown here on these short videos.

Q:  I have seen you mention that you do strides daily, can you explain the reason and how many, how long and how fast they are?

I do strides as a form of neuromuscular training.  Lydiard called these “alactic sprints” The goal of training is to gain endurance and speed without running “hard”. I do 4 to 6 of maybe 50-80 yards on grass.  I aim for fast turnover as fast as I can go on the last couple.  Again they are so short this is not hard or acidotic.  When done all joints are mobilized and sets me up to recover optimally.  Just do not return to 6 hours of sitting after these sessions.

Q: Will wearing regular running shoes occasionally, and even on a more regular basis, impede progressing towards a more natural running form?

In my opinion yes.  Mix up the surfaces and paces of your runs but stay as minimal as possible for the proprioception and optimizing foot function.  If you need a lot of cushion to recover you are training too hard. Better to do easy runs and recovery ridiculously slow using the body as designed vs using an adaptation (structured and over-cushioned shoe). After several months/years your body will tell you what is best, and I’ve never seen anyone who starts down this path go back to the big bulky shoes.

Q: Do you train exclusively barefoot, or w/sandals, or do you wear conventional running shoes as well?

At this point almost all my running barefoot or sandals (with Injinji socks if cold).  Hard to explain but there is a feeling of freedom in the sandals.  I have thin sandals for smooth terrain and thicker ones for trails.  Weather proof  Vibrams are great in the snow. Now that it is spring weather the shoes are coming off again.  For runners entering the space a firm level training shoe with some protection is a good entry in and may be the ideal long term place to be.  At Two Rivers Treads we carry Newton, Altra, Topo, Merrell, ON, NB Minimus, Inov8 and some others which our customers really enjoy and I stand behind.  The lifestyle shoe is critically important and make this your covert foot strengthening system.  The brands VivoBarefoot, Lems, and OESH have some great minimal shoes for all occasions. Support small business and shop with us online!

Q:Are there plyometric or other drills and exercises you recommend to help injury prevention and if so how often?

I do light plyos almost daily as part of my runs. The whole routine of skips, plyos, burpees, mountain climbers, and short sprints is a 10 minute investment for the present and the future. The drills shown on prior question are all a form of plyometric. Episode 3 on this page also has some good light plyos.  Doing them with my kids!

Q:Along those same lines, do you advocate foam rolling or any other work to relieve tight calves or hip flexors ?

I have a morning routine with a roller for quads and calves and movement exercises for hip mobility.  This needs to be individualized for each runner and has to be so simple that it becomes an ingrained habit.  When the coffee is brewing I’m on the ground with the dog doing my morning routine.  This is good attention time for my dog too. To her its 10 minutes of pure love as she gets some good belly rubs.  I do not roll aggressively, just easy massage with breathing.  Your muscles should feel supple between your fingers, a cue your fascia is healthy.  Healthy diet and not overtraining is more important than rolling in my opinion.  It’s best not to create damage in the first place!

Q: Lastly for those of us in our more “mature” years how has your training changed as you have gotten older? What percentage of your training is spent on preventative maintenance and prehab to maintain flexibility and joint mobility? While you have touched on some extra drills and exercises are there any things you have found specific to people as they age that you recommend?

Great question.  It used to be 100% run, rush, pile in lots of quick carbs, and get back to work.  My mileage maxed out at about 70-80 miles per week in college and later in my 20 and 30’s when I was running faster marathons and getting close to Olympic Trails standard.  I wish I knew half of what I do now as I was trying to run the Trials standard of 2:22.  Managed 2:24 twice but always hurt myself in the process.

Now it is about 70% running and 30% strength, drills, and mobility.  Total running volume now at most is 50-60 miles a week in a 2 month marathon build.  Like many overextended people, I have learned the hard way to make sleep more of a priority.  Engaging and helping those in my community find health through better diet and easy aerobic activity also keeps me honest to the principles and makes me want to go to work every day.  When we get older it’s about “purpose” , not one’s individual goal of a PR in some race.  I think I have found my purpose through communities like this one following the principles of my good friend and mentor Dr. Phil Maffetone who to me is truly “Yoda”.  So keep passing it forward.

Thanks again to Mark for his answers and I encourage everyone to go to his website the Natural Running Center and this post is also up on his site as well.

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