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: Bust out of that rut. Run fewer speed sessions, race faster. Insects as a recovery food. Foot exercises that reduce injuries. When to wear minimalist shoes (or maxi’s). Runners are positive people. What triathlons teach about life. More.
Bust out of that rut you’re in
It’s a problem every runner faces at one time or another. And I mean, every. You reach a plateau, maybe a good one, but you want to bust through and get to the next level. How? I like the argument presented here in summary notes to a triathlon podcast. “Go back to the specific, and train for the specific demands of the event.” In other words, don’t assume you need to do more stuff to break through. More likely, you need to do less. But very much targeted to the goal (pace and distance) of your big race. More at Scientific Triathlon.
College runners are getting faster. Here’s what you can you learn from them.
It’s an Olympic year, which means that elite runners worldwide are peaking for their best efforts. That includes, in the U.S. at least, hitting an Olympic Trials qualifier as well as an Olympic qualifier. To judge from the fast times, many are succeeding. The question is, Why? Is it motivation? Carbon-fiber shoes? Or something else? This intriguing article suggests the latter — specifically that NCAA runners are racing faster by training and racing fast less often. Notice that I didn’t say “racing faster by training slower.” That’s an entirely different proposition, and rarely true. During the pandemic, many of these runners simply dropped from two fast sessions a week to one fast session. That’s an approach worth trying in your own training. More at Podium Runner.
What’s your preferred recovery food — chocolate milk or insects?
In this study, both appeared equally effective for recovery after a hard workout. Indeed, “lesser mealworm-derived protein is followed by rapid protein digestion and amino acid absorption and increases muscle protein synthesis.” Result? The mealworm “does not differ from ingesting an equivalent amount of milk protein concentrate.” So, after your next hard session, you have a choice. Yum. More at The American J of Clinical Nutrition.
Intrinsic foot exercises lower runner injury risk by 60 percent
Many studies have shown that it’s difficult to lower the risk of running injuries. But not this report. Fifty-seven runners were given an 8-week course on strengthening the foot-ankle muscles, and then compared over the next year with runners who didn’t get the same instructions. The non-course-takers reported 2.42 times more injuries during the year of followup. Here’s an article with a short video, less than 3 minutes, showing some good foot-ankles exercises. And here’s the original study at the American J of Sports Medicine.
Four ways exercise can fight aging
A recent TIME magazine article reports on 4 ways that exercise can fight aging. They include: healthier muscles, bones, and telomeres, and better cognition. The same article links to an online “Perspectives in Medicine” that begins “Overwhelming evidence exists that lifelong exercise is associated with a longer health span, delaying the onset of 40 chronic conditions/diseases.” These include, picking just conditions that begin with the letter “D”: deep vein thrombosis, depression, and diverticulitis. More at Perspectives in Medicine.
When to wear minimalist shoes, and when to go maximalist
Researchers used a “musculoskeletal simulation” to determine runner biomechanics in minimalist shoes, “traditional” shoes, and maximalist shoes. They filmed the runners landing on a force plate, and then used various statistical approaches to analyze the results. It appeared that minimalist shoes increased injury risks for “impact related chronic injuries” while lowering risk of a knee injury. Thick, cushiony maximalist shoes increased risk of incurring shin splints. More at Footwear Science.
Aerobic exercise best for weight loss and fat loss
A European expert group has looked into the links between exercise and weight loss/weight maintenance, reaching a handful of major conclusions. For loss of body weight and total fat, along with improved blood pressure, the group concludes: “An exercise training program based on aerobic exercise at moderate intensity is preferentially advised.” Strength training is best to preserve muscle. Exercise also has “beneficial effects on quality of life and psychological outcomes” when dealing with overweight and obesity. More at Obesity Reviews.
How to taper for the 1500m/mile
Middle distance runners who specialized in the 1500-meters race and had an average pre-experiment best of 4:01 tried two different 7-day tapers. In the first, they reduced training by 30% while running intervals at race pace. In the second, they reduced training by 60%, and ran their last workout 10% faster than race pace. The second taper proved superior. The study team concluded: “Running faster than race pace late in a low-volume taper is recommended to improve 1,500 m track performance.” Might work for other distances as well. More at Applied Physiology, Nutrition & Metabolism.
Hot weather running and hydration
Warmer days are here for many of us, and it’s not easy logging our usual training. Still, some evolutionary biologists believe that our survival and evolution as a species was at least partially dependent on our being better hot-weather endurance runners than many other animal species. So, try to look on the brighter side, and “Decide that the heat is your friend.” That’s what this article argues for, and I agree. Of course, you have to adapt distance and pace as well. More at Trail Runner. Also, for science-backed hydration strategies in the heat, a good article at Precision Hydration.
Speed increases bone stress and injury risk
It shouldn’t come as a big surprise that running imposes more stress on the leg bones than walking. Or, perhaps, that stress is greater for women, given their smaller bones. The lesson here is quite simple and straight-forward: Adjust your pace appropriately when bone stress and injury are a concern. More at American J of Sports Medicine.
Food taste gives insight to performance benefits
I had never thought much, if at all, about how a food’s taste might inform its effects on human physiology. But Russell Best, a New Zealand PhD expert in human performance, has. Of course, carbs taste great, so it’s easy to load up before a marathon. That’s a good thing. Bitter foods? Well, caffeine is bitter and has a proven positive effect; quinine is also bitter, and might improve short, power events. Capsaicin (in hot peppers) can also boost your performance in races up to about 5 minutes long, but take a capsule rather than assailing your mouth, throat and gut with the real thing. Menthol provides some cooling relief in hot weather events up to 60 minutes, and is likely to begin appearing in more sports drinks. More at Aspetar Sports Med Journal.
Delayed first menstruation in Japanese runners could impact bone health
Japan trails only Kenya when it comes to Olympic medalists in the women’s marathon, which is one reason for the interest in distance running among young Japanese girls. So Japanese researchers looked into BMI and age of menarche in ninth-grade female runners in their country. Age of early running proved key: Girls who began running in elementary school were 18 times more likely not to reach menarche by age 15 vs. those who started training later. The researchers concluded: “Starting to compete at elementary school could be a risk factor for delayed menarche,” which itself “is associated with osteoporosis and increased fracture risk, according to a 2010 summary of biology and endocrinology. More at Amer J of Human Biology.
All training is good, but sometimes in different ways
Give a group of subjects the same 3-month training program, and you don’t necessarily see the same results in all of them. Some people respond more to aerobic training, some to resistance training, and some are more likely to show changes in their blood glucose levels. The point is: All of us are different, and all have some degree of positive change to exercise. Scientists are learning more about the molecular proteins behind these changes. In the meantime, we keep moving because it feels good and we know it is producing various physical benefits. More at Medical Express.
Runners are positive people
Which is one reason why we like each other so much. World Athletics, formerly known as the International Association of Athletics Federations, organizes track and field for the Olympics and also hosts track World Championships every other year (including next summer in the U.S. — Eugene, OR — for the first time). WA is trying to broaden its appeal by providing more information for recreational athletes. Recently, its partner, Nielsen, conducted a poll of 8000 people in 10 different countries. It concluded that “runners are positive people.” They get high scores for “warm and friendly, family oriented, optimistic, and passionate.” Sounds like a lot of runners I know. More at World Athletics.
Yes, short 7- and 11-minute fitness videos can work. No equipment needed
My grown son, the muscle-and-gym-rat type, does an intense 7-minute home workout whenever he visits. It practically shakes the house foundation. Here, researchers looked at a similar 11-minute body-weight workout that included just 5 common calisthenic-type moves. They found that, despite a minimal time commitment, the workout was effective at enhancing cardio fitness. However, their subjects were inactive adults. If you’re already fit, you’ll probably have to do these sessions at a shake-the-foundation intensity. More at Int J of Exercise Science.
Triathlon lessons extend to other important areas of your life
We runners often talk, perhaps with a beer in hand, about how life is a marathon, and how training for and running a marathon can teach many life skills. Here, several authors suggest that “academic faculty can effectively structure their day-to-day ‘training’ to achieve their career ambitions similarly to how a triathlete structures their training plan in preparation for a race.” Triathletes need to master swimming, cycling, and running. For college professors, the triad is service, teaching, and research. Of course, we can easily identify three key strategies for just about any profession. Then, to succeed, simply apply the lessons you’ve learned in training and racing endurance events. More at Currents in Pharmacy Teaching & Learning.
SHORT STUFF you’ll want to know
GOOD QUOTES MAKE GREAT TRAINING PARTNERS
|“A (wo)man on a thousand mile walk has to forget the goal and say every morning, ‘Today I’m going to cover twenty-five miles and then rest up and sleep.’” — Leo Tolstoy|