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: The best training tips from elites. The single best interval workout. The new illegal Adidas super shoes. A new workout called the treadhill double. The health benefits and caveats of coffee. Should you avoid beer after a dehydrating endurance effort? More.
Elite runners deliver their best training tips
An impressive number of top female runners deliver their favorite training tips here (good for guys too). Some made the Olympic Team in the Trials in Eugene, OR, this week; some didn’t. Life happens, but excellent advice persists. I particularly appreciated Colleen Quigley’s “Don’t be so stubborn” even though she had to withdraw from the Trials, and “Practice your weaknesses” from Olympic Marathon qualifier Molly Seidel. More at Women’s Running.
Is there a single best interval-training workout?
Interval training is widely regarded as the best and most time- and science-tested system to improve aerobic fitness and performance. Once you accept that, you naturally want to know: Okay, then, what’s the best interval workout — one with longer repeats or shorter? And what about the rest periods? Alex Hutchinson has written a long, excellent piece that digs into these tough questions. More at Outside Online.
New Adidas “super shoes” are illegal, but you can train in them
We spent so much time during the last year talking about super shoes and how to regulate them that we mostly overlooked the fact that there are no rules regarding training shoes. However, Adidas didn’t miss this. The company has now come out with a super training shoe that has a stack height of 50 mm — that’s 10 mm thicker than World Athletics will allow in elite races. So the new question becomes: What are the risks/benefits of training in a super-thick shoe? Will it allow you to run faster with less wear-and-tear on the legs? Or is it more likely to cause injuries? There are no answers at present. More at Coach Mag.
Here’s a brand-new workout — the “treadhill double”
Coach-author David Roche has coined a new term for a workout I like a lot — both the coinage, and the workout itself. He calls it the “treadhill double.” It works like this. In the morning you do your regular run. In the afternoon or evening, you do an additional 20 to 30 minutes on a treadmill set at a 15-degree incline. That’s steep! You’re not going anywhere fast at that incline, which is the point. Whether you’re walking at a high effort or running slowly, you’ll get almost no impact-stress from the treadmill run, hence a very low risk of injury. But you will get a significant (though short) aerobic challenge. Roche is honest enough to admit that, aside from some good results with athletes he has coached, he has no proof that treadhill doubles are effective. He likes them because they are “different and difficult,” two attributes that might lead to a fitness boost. More at Trail Runner.
Coffee/caffeine has many health benefits
Coffee has long been the performance beverage of choice for runners and other endurance athletes, but also supposedly fraught with health ills. That has changed a lot in the last decade. Here, the New York Times weighs in with a coffee article largely based on a year-old New England Journal of Medicine review by renowned Harvard researchers. The article concludes that drinking up to 4 or 5 cups of java per day has been linked to lower mortality rates and “a reduced risk of all kinds of ailments, including Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, gallstones, depression, suicide, cirrhosis, liver cancer, melanoma and prostate cancer.” More at NY Times and NEJM. Despite its many apparent benefits, coffee consumption is also associated with irritable bowel syndrome, as many runners have discovered. So be aware, especially on race day. BUT…
Coffee/caffeine doesn’t work in the heat
That’s the conclusion of a recent meta-analysis of how hot-weather exercise effects supplement effectiveness on performance and core-body temperature. Same for nitrates, ie, beet juice. The researchers concluded: “Supplements such as caffeine and nitrates do not enhance endurance performance in the heat, with caffeine also increasing core temperature responses.” On the other hand, branch chain amino acids offered a small, consistent effect, and taurine the largest effect of any supplement measured, though from just one study. More at Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. Instead, follow the hydration tips of runners who live in some of the hottest U.S. cities. Kelsey Beckman, from Jacksonville, FL, qualified to run in the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials and also has a neat formula to precisely figure a runner’s total fluid needs/day. More at PodiumRunner.
Carbs win again (in your last pre-race meal)
You’ve probably read a hundred articles about carbohydrate loading before and during marathons, but let’s think for a moment about that before period. What do you really know about the effect of your last meal 3.5 hours before hard, endurance exercise? Not much, I don’t think. Most of the research has been on drinks, gels, bars, etc, during the marathon. In this RCT study, researchers gave runners pre-test meals that were high in carbs, low in carbs, or left them in a fasted state after their overnight sleep. The high-carb runners lasted 8 percent longer than the fasted runners in a time-to-exhaustion test, and 7.2 percent longer than the low-carb runners. The results remained consistent with both “recreationally trained individuals” and with the “well-trained.” It seems that carbs score again. More at Frontiers in Sports & Active Living.
Fact or fiction: Sunscreens and sweat, menthol’s cooling effect, post-exercise beer
Here’s a solid article answering questions many runners wonder about. Does sunscreen inhibit sweating? Does menthol really have a cooling effect? Should you avoid beer after a dehydrating endurance effort? The answers: no, yes, and no. More at I Run Far. Also, here’s an explainer on how menthol works from Train Right.
“A time to eat and a time to exercise”
That’s the title of a paper voted one of the best of the past year by the American College of Sports Medicine. It proposes that our around-the-clock food availability and low levels of physical activity “perturb the circadian clock, increasing the risk of metabolic disease.” Time restricted eating (intermittent fasting) could help, but if you’re getting enough exercise, “meal timing may be less important.” More at Exercise & Sport Sciences Reviews. In a similar vein, to limit your glycemic response to a meal, begin walking within 15 minutes post meal. Many Italians do this in their evening “passeggiata.” More at Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.
Complete guide to fighting plantar fasciitis
I don’t fully understand plantar fasciitis because I’ve never had it. Lucky me. Knock on wood. But I’ve heard plenty of horror stories from less fortunate friends. Here’s a great plantar fasciitis article from a physical therapist. It covers everything from causes to stretches to strengthening exercises to best footwear, icing, and night splints. Just about everything you could want to know to get past the heel pain. More at Mind & Muscle PT.
The top nutrition news from a big sport med conference
Longtime runner and nutrition expert Nancy Clark shares about a dozen nutrition and performance tidbits she picked up at this year’s annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine. Among them: Breakfast really does help power activity all day; older athletes probably eat less but still need sufficient protein; and global warming may force us to get better at cooling and hydration. More at Nancy Clark RD.
Urban marathons are fantastic, but have air-pollution risks
In my opinion, big urban marathons have been a defining, global achievement of the last half-century of running… You know, “bring running to the people.” But they come at a cost. Even without vehicles on the course, cities have more polluted air than the countryside. Researchers have found that a runner’s “huge” breathing rate during a marathon increases the quantity of inspired particulate matter by a factor of five over World Health Organization recommendations. They propose a category of “clean air marathon runs” in rural areas. Sounds nice, but not likely to attract many runners, for purely demographic reasons. Fortunately, there’s little to indicate that urban running has a negative effect on health; quite the opposite. More at Environmental Science.
Exercise and fitness lower healthcare costs
Regular exercise doesn’t just help you live longer and better. It also helps you live more economically, which is a great thing for retirement-agers living on a relatively fixed income. The annual savings add up to $800 to $1800, reports the New York Times. Authors of the original research paper conclude that late-life medical costs “could be reduced through promotion of physical activity participation throughout adulthood.” Also, metabolic syndrome (MET-S) patients who began exercise needed no additional prescription medicine five years later, while those who didn’t exercise had doubled their need for meds (and the associated costs). More at Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.
How to overcome recurring calf-muscle strains
The linked study that follows is the first “to identify kinematic [movement] characteristics associated with recurrent calf muscle injury.” Calf muscle issues strike many runners at some point, and do tend to recur, which makes them especially troubling. The authors suggest hip-strengthening to keep the pelvis level and to prevent excessive work by the ankle plantar flexors, and also “gait retraining interventions” such as an increased stride rate. More at International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy.
SHORT STUFF you’ll want to know
GOOD QUOTES MAKE GREAT TRAINING PARTNERS
|“Mind is everything, muscle mere pieces of rubber. All that I am, I am because of my mind.” — Paavo Nurmi, Finnish distance runner, 9 x Olympic gold medal winner|