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Run Long, Run Healthy Weekly Roundup — August 26, 2021

Your weekly guided tour of the best new research and articles on running from around the web.

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: How to time your peak and race your best. Micro-exercises that pay big dividends. Two minds are better than one. Small sips or big gulps of sports drinks? Probiotics can calm your stomach and sustain your pace. A new “time-efficient” way to train. Strengthen your lungs too. More.

Don’t waste weeks of great training. Peak at the right time

Through the years I’ve seen far too many runners get injured or overtrained in the last 25% of a race buildup. Such a shame, to do 75% of the work and receive almost no payoff. Or as Pete Magill says in this article, “The physiological demand of training and racing—which involves breaking down your body and then rebuilding it, over and over and over — can only be sustained so long before your body cries uncle.” To prevent this, you need to understand proper periodization. There are several approaches. Pick one, and follow it. More at PodiumRunner.

How to combine two different mindsets for one great result

No one doubts the mind’s role in reaching your dreams. The only question is: How to use it best? If you’re super casual … well, that ain’t gonna cut it. On the other hand, rigid thinking doesn’t always serve well either. Here the author explains when and how to use an “execution mindset” (and when not), and how to switch to an “explorative mindset” for those breakthrough efforts. More at PodiumRunner.

Everything about women’s menstrual periods and their effect on running

Lonah Chemtai Salpeter looked like a medal possibility in the recent Olympic Marathon. She ran strong, stuck with the leaders for 24 miles, and has a PR of 2:17. But then she suddenly veered to the roadside and stopped at 24 miles. She eventually got going again, but placed 66th in 2:48, as reported at The Lily. What happened? The next day she wrote on Facebook, “Being on my period affects me a lot. I felt pretty weak and really tired.” She’s hardly alone. The following articles look into the science of women’s training and recovery throughout their menstrual cycle, and how to track your period. More at Trail Runner and Triathlete.

These exercises might be “micro,” but the outcome is big

As soon as I read the subhead, “Ditch the heavy weights,” I couldn’t resist checking into the micro-exercises “that can deliver huge benefits.” I’ve long found the toe raises impossible, but I liked the other ones, especially the variations on moves I’ve done before. My current focus is the runner “quarter squat.” I can certainly use both the extra strength and balance. More at Women’s Running.

Just 4 seconds to fitness? The skeptical view

Speaking of micro-exerciser, does anyone really believe that 4-second intervals are going to improve fitness significantly? I’m not skeptical of the science behind these studies as reported by the NYT and others. But I do think it’s unlikely anyone is actually going to maintain a program that includes 30 repeats of 4-second, all-out intervals for very long. Borrrrrrring. More from the original paper at Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise

Mental health at center of all health, and sports performance too

The Olympics and recent sports headlines have focused attention on the mental health of athletes. Research consistently indicates that regular, modest exercise can lessen the negative effects of depression, anxiety, and similar ills. But what about higher mileage? There the picture is less clear. A recent study of ultra runners (from I Run Far) found them more likely to have reported mental illness than the general population, and also more likely to report issues as their weekly mileage increased. This doesn’t mean that ultra running causes mental-health problems; it could be the other way around; and there are many alternative explanations. Here’s Jill Colangelo’s full 80-page thesis. And here’s a mental-health resource page from the American College of Sports Medicine, which states that “ACSM applauds the bravery of all athletes who have used the world’s stage to shine a bright light on the importance of mental health.” Likewise.

Should you take small sips or big gulps of sports drink? (Surprise coming.)

Drinking on the run poses an eternal question: How do you get enough of the good stuff down? It’s not easy, at least not without slowing to a walk or stopping entirely. Another question: Are many short sips as good as one long drink? Apparently not. It seems that drinking larger volumes will force more glucose-laden beverage from the stomach to the intestines for systemic absorption. Which is what you want from your sports drink. More at My Sports Science.

Probiotics might calm your stomach, and help you maintain pace

A new paper in Metabolites found different “metabolic perturbations” between runners taking a probiotic supplement vs a placebo pill for a month pre-marathon. Earlier work showed that “During the marathon, GI symptom severity during the final third [of the distance] was significantly lower” among those who received the probiotic. These runners also slowed down less during the last third of the marathon. Conclusion: “Probiotics supplementation was associated with a lower incidence and severity of GI symptoms” and the probiotics “may help maintain running pace during the latter stages of racing.” More at European Journal of Applied Physiology.

Veteran runners (50+ years) have impressive slow-twitch muscle fibers

Researchers from the famous Ball State University exercise lab took a deep look into the muscle fibers of local runners who had been exercising about an hour a day for an average of 53 years. This impressive group had “slow muscle fibres that were larger, stronger, faster and more powerful than young exercisers (25 ± 1 years)” or age-matched non-exercisers. However, their fast-twitch muscles were about 20 percent smaller than the 25-year-olds. Conclusion: “Other exercise modes (e.g. resistance training) or myotherapeutics may be necessary to preserve fast muscle fibre size and performance with age.” More at J of Physiology.

Strengthen your lungs too

I’m getting my lung exerciser out again. Here’s another paper demonstrating some real health-fitness gains from “high resistance inspiratory muscle training.” To quote: It’s “a novel, time efficient physical training modality.” The subjects in this RCT were individuals with moderately high blood pressure (aged 50 to 79), and the study didn’t look for oxygen or other performance gains. But it still makes sense to me that the lungs are an overlooked body system that can benefit from specific training. More at J of the American Heart Association.

SHORT STUFF you’ll want to know

> 18 best marathon mantras

> Get the smell out of those smelly running shoes

> Habits every over-40 runner should cultivate


“The reason we race isn’t so much to beat each other,… but to be with each other.”—Christopher McDougall, author, Born To Run