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Run Long, Run Healthy Weekly Roundup — December 9, 2021

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

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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: Polarized training for peak performance. More shoe cushioning reduces injuries. Overnight fasting makes you faster the next morning. Should you be taking Vitamin D? How to tell when you need new shoes. Careful about your alcohol consumption. How to survive long-term injury. Add life to your years. More.

Try polarized training to reach your peak

The best measure of a training program is the sum of all parts, but little tweaks can make a difference too. The traditional approach is called “pyramidal training” because it builds a big base of endurance training first and tops off the pyramid with a shorter, faster tip of speed training. “Polarized training” is quite similar, as it still follows the general 80/20 rule (80 percent of training should be at a slow, comfortable pace), but finishes with a more dramatic split of very easy and very fast workouts as you peak. In this recent paper, researchers found that a “change from pyramidal to polarized distribution maximized performance improvements.” David Roche went deep in his appreciation of the report with a long article at Trail Runner.

Stuck in the doorway (and that’s a good thing)

We all know that regular movement throughout the day is key to our health, whether an on-the-road tempo run or the stretching and strengthening work (and laundry and vacuuming) that we do in our homes. This short article made me appreciate the doorway and walls in my office; now they’re my new favorite gym. Be sure to watch the very-short videos. It’s amazing the variety of stretching effects you can achieve with just a few changes of body-and-leg position. More at PodiumRunner.

Shoes with more cushioning lower your chance of injury

A French biomechanics group continues to publish interesting and informative papers on runner injuries. Their subject group is one of the largest around (848 recreational runners), and their approach is “prospective” rather than retrospective. Recently, they used a different view of ground reaction forces to explain why “softer” more cushioned shoes might reduce injuries vs harder shoes. They first reached this conclusion a year ago, finding that softer shoes were particularly helpful to lighter runners. More at The American Journal of Sports Medicine.

Overnight fasting improves your performance the next morning

Researchers asked a group of recreational runners to do a hard interval workout one afternoon, and then gave them a number of running tests the next morning. One group ate a normal evening meal after the afternoon interval session. A second group fasted overnight. This second group performed better the next morning on an anaerobic (speed) test and also had a lower heart rate on a sub-max 60-minute test. Surprisingly, there was no difference between the two groups in terms of their fat-burning. The researchers termed the fasting group’s method “periodized carbohydrate availability” and concluded that it “seems to enhance the ability to perform high-intensity exercise.” More at European J of Sport Science.

Get faster with a variety of speed workouts

To increase your running speed, you have to run faster some of the time. Not very often, and not very much. Usually during just 10% to 20% of your running. But that modest amount goes a long way toward helping you improve your fitness and speed. There are many ways to do speed work, ranging from highly structured intervals to highly-unstructured fartlek. The more you incorporate and vary these methods, the better. Here’s a good outline of several such speed sessions. More at Fitpage.

Should you be taking Vitamin D?

I can’t think of a vitamin/supplement question more confusing than Vitamin D. I’ve never taken it because I run outdoors—not on a treadmill, not in the dark. But I think I’m ready to get on board. Last year, a double-blind, controlled trial with ultra runners showed that just three weeks of Vit D supplementation reduced “post-exercise biomarker levels,” and “might play an important role in the prevention of skeletal muscle injuries.” A new systematic review concludes that Vitamin D is a “potential nutritional factor that can significantly affect physical performance and musculoskeletal injuries in athletes.” More at Physical Activity & Nutrition.

How to tell when it’s time for new shoes

There are lots of things we love about our favorite running shoes, one of which is their ability to take a pounding and keep on ticking … I mean, running. No one wants to buy a new pair after just 100 miles of use. We’re often told to trade them in after 300 to 500 miles, but the better advice is to take really good care of them, and to listen to your body. Don’t stick your shoes in the sun or a dryer. Do let them dry out thoroughly when they get wet (by stuffing old newspaper inside, and maybe directing a small fan on them.) And, of course, obey those body signals; it’s time for new shoes when you’re feeling too many aches and pains during/after a run in your old shoes. More good shoe-replacement advice here at Self.

The all-time most popular science articles on “marathon training”

When I discovered a journal article listing the all-time most popular scientific articles relating to specific Olympic sports, I looked naturally for the frontrunners in the category “Marathon Running.” It turns out the most cited article in that field is a 2007 injury article from Dutch researchers that has been widely quoted ever since. This is the paper that reported an injury incidence of 19.4% to 79.3%. More interesting to me was Veronique Billat’s classic 2001 paper on the history of interval training from the early German researchers through Emil Zatopek and beyond. It includes everything you might want to know, and it’s available in free, full-text at the following link. More from Sports Medicine.

How to survive a long-term injury

Most injuries go away on their own. They just take longer to resolve than we want, especially when we have a big race coming up soon. When things take longer than you’d like, it’s important to practice as much patience and optimism as you can muster. Cross-training is a big help, but only if you can do it without stressing your injury. Here’s a complete guide to dealing with a chronic injury from a physical therapist and ultrarunner. More at I Run Far.

A long list of marathon training truisms

No BS, but lots of humor. That has to be a good thing in marathon prep, particularly when it comes to getting out there and completing your long runs. You’ll nod your head in a few places as you read this article. Maybe here: “People will ask you if it’s true you go to the bathroom in your pants to save time.” Or here: “Checking the weather will become your second job and regardless of what it says, you’ll still run.” You’ll also want to add your own truisms to the list. Here’s the first that came to mind for me (sorry, it’s not a joke-y one): “You’ll beg others to join you for at least part of your long run.” More at Run To The Finish.

Add life to your years

A recent Norwegian study of seniors over 70 reached a surprising-to-some conclusion when it found no big cardiovascular health differences between a control group of average Norwegians vs. other groups that received supervised training programs, one of which included high-intensity workouts. In a posthoc analysis, the researchers suggested that the “average” Norwegian is already so fit and healthy that it’s hard to improve them. The Boston Marathon’s co-medical director, Aaron Baggish, a frequent marathoner himself, agreed and pointed out an important, hidden message. “What exercise does, for the most part, is increase how well someone lives,” he noted. “It’s healthspan as opposed to lifespan.” Exercise adds life to your years, in other words, even if it doesn’t add years to your life. More at TCTMD.com.

SHORT STUFF you won’t want to miss

GOOD QUOTES MAKE GREAT TRAINING PARTNERS

“You entered a marathon with hills? You idiot.” —Don Kardong

That’s it for now. Thanks for reading. Stay well, and see you next week.

—Amby