Culture

Run Long, Run Healthy Weekly Roundup — January 13, 2022

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: Improve your running posture. Run strong through menopause. The potential power of beets PLUS watermelon. A strong stride can prevent Achilles tendinitis. How to avoid muscle cramping. Foods that build stronger bones. Foam rolling—it works! Pros and cons of “intuitive eating.” More.

5 ways to improve your running posture (during daily life activities)

This is one of those simple “Don’t even think about it; just do it” articles. It offers 5 ways to incorporate basic exercises into your daily life—while brushing your teeth, making your coffee, working at your computer, and so forth. This approach is basically the same as the popular and proven “habit stacking” routine: take something you’re already doing every day, and connect another good habit to it. Don’t waste any time; get started today. More at PodiumRunner.

Run strong through menopause

I know roughly a billion over-40 women runners, including several favorite training partners, and they have questions… Especially about running through menopause and beyond. Here, my former Rodale colleague Selene Yeager, a great athlete and fitness writer, tackles many of those menopause questions. To judge from what I’ve heard on the road, my friends will be especially interested in the advice about the pelvic floor and transversus abdominis muscle. More at Trail Runner.

How phases of the menstrual period affect your endurance

Women runners naturally wonder how their menstrual cycle affects their endurance performance. (Here elite steeplechase runner Colleen Quigley explains what happened when she decided to use an IUD.) Exercise physiologists also study menstrual periods. This clear review of the best recent information concludes 1) that there are no big differences across the cycle; 2) that heart rates trend higher in women on hormonal birth control; and 3) that individual responses varied substantially. A 2020 review found a small to trivial reduction in performance during the early follicular phase. For now, don’t obsess too much, but, of course, pay attention to what your body is telling you. More at Women’s Running.

Are you ready for beets PLUS watermelon?

Beets have been substantially researched in the last decade, with enough studies finding a performance boost that many top athletes now reach for a beetroot “shot” pre-race. Citrulline (mostly from watermelons) has also been investigated, but with few positive results. However, according to this new RCT, the combination of citrulline and beets “could increase maximal and endurance strength.” (A similar paper lists the best polyphenol foods: grapes, beets, French maritime pine, Montmorency cherries and pomegranate.) In the RCT trial of triathletes, researchers concluded that the combination of citrulline and beets “improved performance in tests related to aerobic power” more than either supplement alone. More at Nutrients.

Protect your Achilles tendon by “staying strong” mid-stance

Physical therapist and ultrarunner Joe Uhan warns against “deflating” your stride by letting your body sink downward at mid-stance. This happens when you bend the knees and/or ankles excessively. Uhan writes about and demonstrates several simple exercises to help you stay tall and strong all the way through your stride. More at I Run Far.

How to avoid those pesky muscle cramps

Cramping occurs most often in the heat and when you are pushing hard in a long race like a marathon. There are plenty of theories about calming and recovering from muscle cramps, with little supporting evidence. For example, everyone repeats ad nauseam that dehydration and electrolyte losses cause most cramps, but runners also suffer cramps in cool weather. Pickle juice can sometimes alleviate cramping, though not because it’s so salty. Proper race-pace training might be the best preventative. More at My Sports Science.

Foods that build stronger bones

Every runner should be interested in building stronger bones (or at least avoiding bone loss), so here’s an article for everyone. It provides specific foods and food groups that should be consumed on a daily or weekly basis, with additional advice for those already with osteopenia or osteoporosis. There’s also a “red flag” warning against too much salt, sugar, and inorganic phosphate additives. This graphic illustrates a bone-building food pyramid. And don’t forget: Three to four times per week, you need 30–40 minutes of aerobic and resistance exercises. More at Nutrients.

Foam rolling improves muscle flexibility

Running causes pounding on the road, no doubt about it. A frequent result is tension and knots in the legs and supportive tissues. Can foam rolling release this tension and restore natural flexibility? It seems so. This study, the first of its kind with long-distance runners, looked at 62 runners, male and female, who averaged 18 to 60 miles a week. Result: Basic foam rolling increased muscle flexibility of the piriformis, tensor fasciae latae, and adductor muscles vs simple rest. The researchers “recommend the self-myofascial release technique with foam rollers be incorporated in the daily training routine of long-distance runners.” More at Int J of Environmental Research & Public Health.

Beware of these causes of multiple injuries

A top South African medical team looked into 75,000 runners over their 4 years of racing the Two Oceans half marathon and ultra. Only about 9.2% reported an injury, and only 0.4 % had multiple injuries. The research team was specifically looking at the MIR, or multiple injury rate, of the race participants. The MIR was not affected by total training miles, types of training, or participating in races. It was affected by the following, which also indicates the rate: age over 40 (2x); ultramarathon running (2.1x); running for more than 20 years (2x); chronic disease (2.2x); and history of allergies (2.8x). The last two might indicate an association with medications prescribed for the conditions. More at J of Sport & Health Science.

The pros and cons of “intuitive eating”

Intuitive eating refers to something quite similar to the runner training and injury prevention advice to “Listen to your body.” That makes it appealing, but I learned long ago that few runners trust their instinctive signals. Most people like specific advice: Eat no carbs, eat only carbs, always stretch, never stretch, do lots of speedwork, avoid speed work. This concise article explains that intuitive eating has helped some runners avoid the trap of undereating and suffering from Relative Energy Deficiency or RED. On the other hand, exercise nutritionists believe in rules like: Replenish glycogen after a race or hard workout (when you might not feel hungry). And: Eat carbs before a race (when you might feel like steak). So runners need to balance intuitive eating with performance eating. It may be a balance worth pursuing. More at Fit Page and on PodiumRunner.

For optimal mental health, put some “oomph” in your training

Mental health problems are a rising global health problem, and exercise is believed to reduce mental health issues. But how, and what kind of exercise do you need? While a stroll in the park can never be a bad thing, new research indicates that more intense exercise like running provides a bigger boost. In a recent trial, researchers found that “fitness but not activity-derived physical activity” (i.e., walking, housework) “is associated with mental health in healthy young men and women.” To maximize mental health benefits, you should “focus on eliciting improvements in cardiorespiratory fitness,” as with some hard runs or interval training. More at The J of Sports Medicine & Physical Fitness.

SHORT STUFF you don’t want to miss

> Many runners find themselves coughing after a workout. Here’s what you can do to prevent or minimize the hacking

> Eat fermented foods and 9 other super-nutrition tips from the NY Times

> Your blood pressure is important, and it’s easy (and cheap) to take it at home

GOOD QUOTES MAKE GREAT TRAINING PARTNERS

“O, wind, if winter comes, can spring be far behind?” —Percy Bysshe Shelley

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

—Amby