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Each week, Boston Marathon winner Amby Burfoot, also the world’s most experienced running editor, curates the latest and most useful content on running and health from around the internet. “I spend hours finding the best new research and articles, so you can review them in minutes.”
THIS WEEK: Run a marathon on just 8 weeks of training. Best alternative workouts when you’re injured. The latest on endurance exercise and heart health-mortality. A hydrogel formula that works! Exercises that overcome knee pain. Best run:walk ratios. The older you are, the more important your exercise routine. Everything about iron and running. Coffee doesn’t cause atrial fibrillation. More.
Yes, you can run a marathon with an 8-week training plan
Forty years ago I wrote a magazine article proposing an 8-week marathon training plan. It didn’t take long for readers to begin hurling lightning bolts at me. Many felt it was immoral to train less than 16 weeks for a marathon … or at least 12, for goodness sake. I still believe 8 weeks is reasonable for a veteran runner, and now others are beginning to agree. This program delivers “long runs, tempo runs, fartleks, and a few speed workouts.” What else could you possibly want? Bonus: The shorter your plan, the less likely you’ll get injured or burned out. More at PodiumRunner.
The best running alternatives when you’re injured
Even in an 8-week program, injuries happen. When they do, you generally have to remove the force generated by running foot strikes from your training program. This article looks at three alternatives — the Alter G treadmill, aqua jogging, and the Lever Running system — and judges aqua jogging the best first step, in part because it’s much less expensive than the others. I agree. But often you can put some weight on your feet and legs without reinjuring them. So don’t overlook bicycling, the elliptical, and rowing. And when you return to running, go slow with a super-short stride until you can increase distance and speed. More at Triathlete.
What’s the latest on exercise, heart health, and mortality
Everyone agrees that moderate running and fitness are good for your health and lifespan. Hence the universal guidelines for 150 minutes a week, or roughly 12 to 20 miles per week. But the debate can get contentious when researchers investigate larger amounts of endurance exercise. No one follows this turf more closely than Alex Hutchinson, the SweatScience columnist at Outside Online. In a new overview, based on several recent papers, he looked into the biggest exercise and heart-health questions: calcium deposits in the arteries (which I have), atrial fibrillation, heart scarring, and outright mortality. Hutchinson concluded: “If you’re playing the odds, I’d suggest you keep running, swimming, and cycling to your heart’s content.” I agree, plus life is more fun when you’re moving. More at Outside.
Here’s a particularly good time NOT to stop exercising — when you get older
You’re familiar with all the blood markers associated with aging and mortality: high cholesterol, high blood pressure, high blood glucose, etc. All are causes for concern. You don’t hear much about another marker, high fitness, which has the opposite effect — it lowers your mortality risk in the coming years. When health scientists looked at 6500 males and females with an average age over 75, they found that the traditional health markers proved non informative about future longevity. “But a higher fitness level identified older persons with good long-term survival regardless of CVD risk factor burden.” More at Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
At last, a research experiment that supports hydrogel sports drinks
For several years now, Eliud Kipchoge has been using a hydrogel sports drink named Maurten. Kipchoge just won his second straight Olympic Marathon, guaranteeing that he is widely considered the greatest of all time (GOAT) in the event. Maurten is supposed to allow you to consume more carbs during a race with fewer stomach issues. Result: You can run faster and longer. Problem was, laboratory studies didn’t supported the claims. (from Outside Online.) Now a new trial shows a 2.1 percent performance boost for a slightly altered hydrogel (not Maurten) vs a traditional sports drink, plus fewer GI complaints. Subjects in the RCT were veteran 2:40 marathon runners. “It’s hard to say why these results were different from previous studies,” one of the authors emailed me. “It’s likely a mix of things. We still have more work to do here.” This particular hydrogel increased carb burn, decreased reliance on fat, and improved time in all-out 5K after 2 hours of moderate running. More at Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.
How to determine your best run-walk ratio
There are a nearly infinite number of ways to combine running and walking. You can do long runs, fartlek, intervals, and even races. At some point, you’ll want to determine what’s the best way to mix running and walking to achieve your goal times and paces. Here’s an article (from SportCoaching) that suggests an optimal run:walk ratio for various goal pace. It says 4:1 is about right for a 9:00 minute/mile pace — which happens to be what I’ve used in a half-dozen 4-hour marathons (9:10 pace). Worked for me. The below calculator helps you determine your average pace for a large number of run:walk ratios and efforts. For example, if you run 3:1 at 8:00 while running, and 18:00 while walking, your overall pace will be 8:41. (Provides output in mins/km also). More at My Pace Calculator. And if you need convincing that run-walking is valid and beneficial, take a look at my article, How Run-Walk Training Can Make You Stronger and Faster in PodiumRunner.
Don’t laugh: Squatting can help relieve knee pain
Okay, I chuckled when I read “squats fix everything.” But this article did a good job of briefly describing runner’s knee, possibly the most common of all running injuries, and also presented three simple exercises to injury-proof your knees. Guess what? The first is a squat — the single leg variety with a chair for support. Another, “Eccentric hamstring bridges,” was new to me. I tried it, and I liked it. Good stuff. From Recover Athletics.
Everything you need to know about iron and endurance performance
And I mean just about everything. Why you need it and how much. What foods contain the most iron (oysters!). How you can get heme-iron even if you don’t eat meat. Why too much fiber could be a problem. The best supplements. And iron-rich recipes to prepare at home. More from Nutrition Energy.
Despite what many think, coffee doesn’t appear to provoke atrial fibrillation
A reasonable amount of research indicates that veteran endurance athletes face an increased risk of atrial fibrillation. That has led many runners to reduce their coffee intake, as it seemed likely to boost heart rate. Some doctors counseled the same path. However, a big new study analyzed data from 386,000 individuals, and detected the opposite effect. Each additional daily cup of coffee was associated with a 3% reduced risk of developing an arrhythmia. More at JAMA Internal Medicine.
The revenge of the face mask
With the Delta variant surging, we’re once again seeing news and regulations on face masks. For the most part, we’ve been told (from American Thoracic Society) that masks are “unlikely to impact exercise tolerance significantly.” However, a new case study represents the first attempt to “specifically evaluate the effect of a protective face mask on physiological markers of endurance performance in a recreational runner.” It concluded that “the use of a protective face mask affected exercise tolerance and running economy.” So here’s hoping Delta doesn’t hit us too hard this fall. More at Brazilian Archives of Cardiology.
SHORT STUFF you’ll want to know
GOOD QUOTES MAKE GREAT TRAINING PARTNERS
|“I figured, this is the Olympics. It only happens every four years. You might as well make a go of it.”—Molly Seidel, American marathoner, third in the Tokyo Olympic Marathon|