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Run Long, Run Healthy Weekly Roundup — July 1, 2021

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

Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.

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: Stay fresh, race strong. How to run smart in the heat. The best warmup routine. What sports drinks don’t need to provide. When to start running post-pregnancy. Use music to overcome mental fatigue. More.

How Cole Hocker trained to win the Olympic Trials 1500

When a young runner like college sophomore Cole Hocker can run strong all season long and then steamroll his way past Matt Centrowitz to win the Olympic Trials 1500-meter final, you wonder how he put his training plan together. In this article, written three weeks before the trials, the University of Oregon star explains the philosophy behind his program. It amounts to: modest mileage to stay fresh and injury-free, focusing on just the next race, taking one day off per week, and embracing the thrill of each new competition. The same approach should help him extend his season through Tokyo next month. More at PodiumRunner.

The heat is on, but you can make intelligent adaptations

I just heard on the radio that Oregon’s hot weather last weekend during the Olympic Track Trials reached “one in one thousand years” levels. Tokyo shouldn’t be that hot, but will be much more humid. [Note: The 1964 Tokyo Olympics were held in mid-October. This year’s will be two months earlier — a huge, sweltering difference.] That’s why everyone, including the New York Times, is writing about performance in the heat. Gretchen Reynolds noted that her NYT article was largely based on a big, free review for elite athletes in the appropriately named journal, Temperature, so she tried to broaden the overview to include us non-Olympians. I chuckled over “freeze your underwear” (haven’t tried that one), and think she should have said more about simply slowing down and “chilling” in the mental sense. But lots of good info at New York Times. 

What sports drinks should supply, and don’t need to supply

I found it interesting, while reading through the above report in Temperature, that the authors say sports drinks should include carbohydrates, sodium, and L-glutamine, an amino acid. The first two are pretty much givens for optimal sports drinks, but you don’t hear so much about L-glutamine. What don’t you need? According to the following link, potassium and magnesium (which get discussed quite a bit) don’t make a significant contribution to a sports drink. Since less is more in the sports-drinks world, after you’ve covered all the essentials, these points are worth considering. More at Training Peaks.

Is there a best way to warm up for your race?

Similar to the presumed wisdom behind stretching, the warm-up before competition is an almost ironclad rule of proper coaching and athlete practice. You have a max race effort on tap? You better warm up for it. However, scientific research doesn’t always support this truism, as Alex Hutchinson explains at the link. Here’s what I consider a reasonable way to think about warming up: If you’re doing something very fast and very specific — say the sprint hurdles — you ought to get yourself warm and limber. On the other hand, if you’re simply going to run 5000 meters, which requires a pace considerably slower than your max speed, you probably don’t need much warmup. Instead, conserve energy. This is even more essential before a marathon or ultra race. Another consideration? Pre-race nerves. If warming up a little helps calm your nerves, develop a low-key warmup that works for you. More at Outside Online.

Use music to overcome mental fatigue

Studies in recent years have shown that mental fatigue — taking a difficult test; a busy day at the office; etc. — diminishes physical performance. That makes sense because we’re not just cardiac and leg muscle, but entire, interconnected systems. So a team of Scottish physiologists decided to investigate if listening to music could erase the mental fatigue. The answer seemed to be yes. Music helped “active people improve their endurance running capacity while mentally fatigued.” It could also help you with motivation to “maintain the quality and beneficial impact of exercise sessions.” More at Science Daily.

When to start running post-pregnancy

Many women want to return to running as soon as possible post-pregnancy to regain fitness, emotional stability, pre-pregnancy weight, and so on. But they are understandably fearful. How will they feel? What about injury risk? This study looked at almost 900 postpartum runners to gain some insights. On average, the women took their first run 12 weeks after giving birth. Running during pregnancy was a big bonus. Also: “Fear of movement, the sensation of vaginal heaviness and running-related SUI [stress urinary incontinence] before or during pregnancy should be addressed early by healthcare providers.” More at Brit J of Sports Medicine. Also, more and more articles are including helpful infographics that provide a visual summary. Here’s a fantastic one.

Cold-water immersion reduces strength but not aerobic performance

The use of cold water immersion and ice baths for recovery was a big deal 15 years ago (when Paula Radcliffe seemed a fan), but has been much debated in recent years. This systematic review with meta analysis finds that the practice has a deleterious effect on strength, but not on aerobic performance. That’s not to say it helps runners, but that it shouldn’t detract from your efforts. Infographic included here at Sports Medicine.

Vitamin D reduces respiratory infections

Army researchers wanted to check the Vitamin D status of recruits, and also to see if extra sunshine or supplements would reduce respiratory infections. From the outset, they found that only 21% of recruits were Vitamin D “sufficient” in winter, and this group had 40 percent fewer infections. Both “simulated sunshine” and “oral Vitamin D3 supplements” eliminated the insufficiency in almost all cases. After receiving Vitamin D, subjects lost 36 % fewer days to infection. More at Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

Ultra running makes you smarter

You didn’t see that one coming, did you? Me neither. And it’s not quite the claim here, but something close. The authors performed post-event brain scans of short-trail (24 miles) and long-trail (75 miles) mountain runners. “Cortical gray matter (GM) and cerebral GM volume significantly increased” in both groups, while other brain measures were higher only in the long-trail runners. Conclusion? Ultra running “may attenuate GM volume decrease in older adult male athletes.” Since more volume is good, the investigators hypothesized that the physical stress of ultra running might prove positive for the brain. I’m skeptical about this, wondering if hyponatremia might provide an alternative explanation. So I emailed the team, but got no response. More at Medical Science Monitor.

Best adductor exercises for strength and injury-prevention

I seem to link often to the posts from a relatively new outfit, Recover Athletics. Why? Because I like their approach. The posts are short, runner-centric, research-based with a reference or several, and always include short videos for two or three helpful exercises. Here, they explain how to strengthen your adductor muscles and perhaps reduce/avoid injury. I just tried the second of the chair exercises, because it looked simple but challenging. (It was.) More at Recover Athletics. Physical therapist Jay Dicharry demonstrates this chair adductor exercise and how it fits into a full body conditioning program in his new course, Optimize Your Stride, available to Outside+ members starting next week. 

Watch out for these bicycling injuries

Runners love to run, but we also do a fair amount of bicycling, because it’s a great exercise, and we like to avoid pounding our bodies every day. Problem is, bikes are unstable, go fast, and often occupy a space close to erratic traffic. The result is injuries — too many of them and too serious. A new systematic review makes these key points, among others: Arm injuries are more common than leg injuries; the most frequent injuries are “road rash” followed by fractures; the clavicle is the most common fracture site; the knee is the most frequent site of overuse injuries; head injuries are common; and difficult terrain increases injury risk. So consider these on your bike, and, of course, wear a helmet and stay traffic-alert at all times. More at Brit J of Sports Medicine.

How COVID-19 affected exercise programs

A top lab wanted to investigate how exercise patterns changed during COVID-19. Its scientists found that activity levels dropped on average even as 55% of 400+ respondents maintained or increased their exercise. What were the negative and positive factors? A drop in income or a job loss was linked to less exercise. On the plus side, subjects who bought home exercise equipment or joined online classes managed to maintain or increase their training. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. More at Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

SHORT STUFF you’ll want to know

> Warm epsom salts baths vs cold water baths for recovery

> Reasons to rotate your running shoes

If it’s not hot enough where you live, put on extra sweats to improve performance potential

GOOD QUOTES MAKE GREAT TRAINING PARTNERS

“The idea that the harder you work, the better you’re going to be is just garbage. The greatest improvement is made by the man or woman who works most intelligently.” — Bill Bowerman, legendary University of Oregon coach

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