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Run Long, Run Healthy Weekly Roundup — July 8, 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: Do you need a new sports drink? Build a better stride (psoas strengthening can help). Your “wild and amazing” brain. Strength train your fast-twitch muscle fibers. Rotating your shoes could reduce injury risks. A curved treadmill reduces impact shock. More.

Should you be using Maurten sports drink like the Tour de France riders?

These days no self-respecting elite runner would enter a race without wearing a super-shoe from one company or another. The same seems to be coming true of the sports drink, Maurten, a part of Eliud Kipchoge’s marathon arsenal. Apparently it’s now taking the Tour de France by storm. However, there’s a difference between carbon shoes and Maurten. The shoes have been shown effective in lab and field testing. Not so with the drink. So try it, and decide for yourself. There are a lot of issues with drinks, including taste and gut sensitivity. Here’s the Tour de France story.

Build a better stride

Before he became editor of PodiumRunner, Jonathan Beverly spent a year of his life researching and writing a book — Your Best Stride — on good running form. That makes him one of the more-knowledgeable experts on the topic, which interests about 99.9% of all runners I have ever met. Happily, he doesn’t obfuscate or engage in magical thinking like some running-form experts. Beverly looks for simple, workable solutions to common runner issues. You can’t just resolve to stop over-striding. You have to work on your body, especially your hips (See Psoas muscles, below), to engage them in a better, more efficient stride. More at PodiumRunner.

And for a complete guide to the exercises you can do to improve your stride mechanics, check out PodiumRunner’s new online course: Optimize Your Stride with Jay Dicharry.

Strengthen your psoas muscles for faster running

The psoas muscle, which connects the lower back to the legs (the femur), usually doesn’t get as much attention from runners as the muscles of the leg itself. However a new study with “well-trained male long distance runners” indicates that strength-training your psoas muscles “is correlated with an improvement in the performance of long-distance runners.” I didn’t know how to strengthen the psoas, but I found this YouTube video to be both geeky and instructive (start at about 6:00 minutes). More at the Int J of Sports Physiology & Performance.

“Totally wild and amazing” ways your brain can affect your performance

Any time you get a chance to read a discussion between David Epstein (author of The Sports Gene)  and Alex Hutchinson (Endure), you should take the opportunity. Even when that discussion is a podcast transcript generated by a machine named Snackable. That’s why Hutchinson’s former coach, Matt Centrowitz, father of the identically-named 2016 Olympic 1500-meter champ, is here called “Matt Sensorites.” The discussion revolves around ways the brain can affect performance. They are “totally wild and totally amazing,” says Epstein, and you can read more about them at Slate.

With age, you need more strength training for those fast-twitch fibers

All veteran runners know that it gets more difficult every year to maintain the speed/pace of yesteryear. Continued aerobic training is great for many things, including maintenance of slow-twitch muscle fibers. However, modest cardio doesn’t do much if anything for fast twitch muscles. Here an expert group presents research concluding that “additional exercise modalities (e.g. resistance exercise) or other therapeutic interventions are needed to target fast muscle fibres with age.” They also suggest “myotherapy” — a form of physical therapy that focuses on the way nerves, joints, and muscles work together.” More at The J of Physiology.

Rotate your running shoes to reduce injury risk

I was surprised and impressed to find the big retailer Fleet Feet explaining how to extend running shoe life. Good for them. The most important no-no that I’ve read through the years is putting your shoes in the clothes dryer. Don’t do it. Air-drying (out of direct sunlight) is probably the best path, and who doesn’t love the old crumpled-newspaper-in-your-shoes trick? Run To The Finish also does a deep dive on the ways and benefits of rotating your shoes. Last and best, there’s some published research to support this approach. According to a 2013 report in Scandanavian J of Medicine & Science in Sports, rotating shoes could reduce your injury risk by almost 40%.

Weeding out the benefits

Marijuana has, of course, been everywhere in track news this past week. While the debate about whether or not it should be banned rages, PodiumRunner looked at the science of how it might benefit runners. The upshot? It is highly unlikely to make you faster, but could enhance your awareness, recovery and sleep. More details, plus advice on safe consumption for runners at PodiumRunner.

Non-motorized, curved treadmills decrease impact shock

My local running store recently purchased a curved, non motorized treadmill that customers can use to sample shoes. I’ve only tried one of these machines a few times, and find there is definitely a learning curve as well as a curved beltway. Still, Spanish researchers have determined that these treadmills decrease landing shock — a variable of interest to almost all runners. They also make you work hard, which could cut either way. More at Int J of Environmental Research & Public Health.

Carrying items in your hands has low impact on running

I’m often surprised by the number of runners I see carrying something by hand while running, usually a cell phone or water bottle. They’ve never heard of hip belts? (To those of you collecting roadside garbage in plastic bags, I’ll simply say: “Thank you.”) Here, Spanish researchers looked into the aerobic and impact “costs” of hand-carrying. They found the effects to be minimal, at least for typical, low-weight items. Conclusion: “Recreational runners should not worry about carrying objects in their hands in short races because their effect seems minimal.” More at Life.

New studies delve into urban “runnability” questions

The “walkability” rating of cities has become an increasingly researched measure — a trend accelerated by COVID-19. We’d all like to live in places where we could walk to stores, a library, a coffee shop, etc. rather than having to drive a car. Runnability has received less attention, which two new papers begin to correct. In London, investigators found that 50% of male runners and 84% of female runners reported harassment, particularly “fear and shame.” A Canadian team surveyed more than 1200 runners (throughout North America) on their preferred running environment. Most favored well-lit asphalt or concrete surfaces with nearby trees. Sixty percent worried about distracted or aggressive motorists, and 20% about other people. Four times as many women as men feared for their safety, and women preferred running with others and near home. The authors note that these and related concerns are important as “we choose to plan and design communities and cities.” More from the London team and the Canadian team.

Ultra running makes you smarter: update

Just after publishing the item at the below link last week, noting no response from the researchers, I got a response — a good one, from first author Hurrem Ozdurak. She explained that the brain volume changes observed in her study were limited to certain specific brain issues and thus not likely to be from hyponatremia. She also noted that nearly all the ultra runners in the study experienced some degree of runner’s high. In previous work she has found increased levels of endocannabinoids in lab rats who performed endurance running. She is continuing to do research and analysis of brain changes among ultra runners, and hopes to publish her PhD thesis on the subject soon. Original article at Medical Science Monitor.

SHORT STUFF you’ll want to know

> Switching to a low FODMAP diet for several days pre-race can reduce your stomach problems

> Cod-liver oil lowers c-reactive protein (an inflammation marker) in a large sample of recreational endurance cyclists

> Ancient peoples loved bread, beer, and carbs 100,000 years ago


“Only those who risk going too far, can possibly find out how far one can go.” — T.S. Elliot

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