So how, exactly, are you running wrong?
And what happens in your muscles when you hit “the wall” during the marathon?
And is using a Fitbit turning you into the Quantified Self?
And how should you be going to the bathroom? (Maybe not a fitness issue, but useful information all the same.)
For the answers to these questions and more, just turn to your online search engine and type in “PBS Digital Studios.”
Yes, that PBS.
The home of Mister Rogers, “3-2-1 Contact” and “Masterpiece Theatre” is creating niche programming aimed at millennials, not usually seen as its core audience. Case in point: “You’re Doing It Wrong!,” a digital video series hosted by Randy and Jason Sklar, comedians and identical twins, now a couple months into its first 20-episode season. Co-produced with Hollywood-based company Kids At Play, “YDIW!” aims to show how most of us do certain normal activities incorrectly, and how we can get better.
What piqued my curiosity was their discussion of running and other fitness issues, including sleeping, breathing and twerking (yes, they insisted in an interview, it’s a fitness activity).
I also found running wisdom in another video series under the PBS banner, “It’s Okay to Be Smart,” featuring Austin-based biologist Joe Hanson. Hanson, whose recent topics have included “Why Are the Bees Dying?” and “How Many Stars Are There?,” used his marathon training as the basis for a seven-minute episode called “Science of Marathon Running.” (Subtitle: “26.2 Miles of Awesome Human Evolution.”)
Other PBS Digital Studios series have delved into the efficacy of using Jawbone and other data-gathering devices for fitness improvement and how training your brain helps increase athletic performance.
These fitness shows are not workout videos. Rather, they’re about the what and the why of fitness and how fitness falls into a broader spectrum of science, technology and culture.
“Our goal is not to demonstrate what to do and go through fitness exercises with the viewer,” Jason Sklar said. “We’re talking about what doing certain things wrong can do for your health and what effect it can have on your body.”
And their goal also is to be funny. The episodes are filled with facts and tips, as well as jokes, some bordering on the risque. (By the way, you can thank them for the images of a romantic night with the musician Sting that will come to mind when you ease into your running session.)
At first glance, viewers may think: This is PBS?
Gaining traction from its first viral hit, the “remix” of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” titled “Garden of Your Mind,” which, since its premiere in 2012, has been viewed more than 10 million times, PBS has created an exclusively online network by partnering with Web hosts, bloggers and professional actors and comedians.
“It’s not the PBS that our parents might expect, that’s for sure,” Hanson told me by phone. “It’s a little bit different, but PBS has been into innovation, even if people might not associate that with PBS. They’re on the forefront of broadcast. It totally fits, it’s just connecting with a new audience.”
The 30-plus active shows that are part of PBS Digital Studios have amassed more than 300 million views and 4 million subscriptions. The shows can be viewed on YouTube, Roku, their respective Twitter and Facebook pages and on their Tumblr site.
Don Wilcox, PBS’s vice president of digital marketing and services, said the Digital Studios’ goal is hooking “the elusive millennial viewer” with high-quality programming that both educates and entertains.
“PBS has a strong brand presence with early children and with adults, but we fall off the radar” between those ages, Wilcox said. Millennial viewers have new consumption patterns, and PBS is hoping to reach them through its multiple media platforms.
“We have to go where they are and speak in their voice and style,” Wilcox said.
How does fitness work into these series?
In the case of Hanson’s “Science of Marathon Running,” the episode grew out of a personal passion.
“I’ve been running for a long time — done a few half-marathons and played soccer. But I wanted to do a full marathon to achieve that, to cross it off the bucket list,” Hanson said. “But, being me, I had to do this in a very scientific way, to get the most out of it. I wanted to know what was going on throughout this process, how my body was changing, how I was to accomplish this incredible and challenging feat.”
Equipped with a GoPro and help from his fellow producers, Hanson documented the race as he ran it and explained his experience before and after. Adding context about the history of marathon running and the muscular process of long-distance races, Hanson created an episode to teach the science of running marathons without it being a traditional lecture.
Both Sklar brothers run, but they say they’re not into long distances or in races. Like most runners, they do it mainly to stay in shape and get out of the house.
“It clears my mind in a way that many other things don’t. Even though it’s hard at times, it’s a great, peaceful time for me,” Randy Sklar said.
One can learn a lot about fitness from the shows. They balance facts and data with entertainment, and the hosts emphasize being informative. The episodes cite academic journals, running Web sites and fitness authorities to underscore the points being made. Even if the hosts aren’t fitness experts, the Sklars and Hanson say they take great care to put the facts first, then comedy second.
So, how are you running wrong? The Sklar brothers say that a few things are impeding most runners. Most run too hard, too fast. Heel striking is a big no-no because you can’t push off when the foot is in front of you. And, citing the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism (yes, that’s a real journal), the brothers say that short sprint-interval training is the way to go for weight loss, as opposed to slow jogging.
Also, watch your posture!
“One thing from [creating] the running episode that I learned was the upper-body posture has a lot of to do with how far you can run and how much oxygen you are taking in. It has a ton to do with stamina and fitness and I didn’t realize it,” Jason Sklar said.
And the top thing runners are doing wrong?
Randy Sklar spoke for the masses: “Whoever wears those Skeletoes looks ridiculous.”