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Run Long, Run Healthy Weekly Roundup — September 30, 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,” Burfoot says.

THIS WEEK: The secret of great workouts. Ten commandments of healthy running. You need a more disciplined marathon taper. What causes Boston Marathon heatstroke? Acetaminophen (Tylenol) improves endurance performance. Beat leg fatigue by strengthening your plantar flexors. Exercise, compensation, metabolism, weight loss. More.

The secret to great workouts? Name em!

Here’s a new thought: Maybe the secret to great workouts is naming them. This simple device gives the workout more personality and oomph. Consider “Yasso 800s.” Or “The Michigan.” And this week, ta-dum, we’ve got “Sisyphus Hills.” They boost your speed and strength through a series of uphill repeats at 5K effort. In races, however, it’s smart to keep your hill running under control. More at PodiumRunner.

The 10 commandments of healthy running

The ole “10 commandments” gambit is a cliche in the field of “advice” articles, and I’m sure I’ve been guilty many times myself. This list of 10-healthy running commandments is way better than most. How can you fail to appreciate “Running is bad dance practice,” so work on side-to-side movements? Or, “Thou shalt not start a run with cold feet.” That’s a novel notion. I also support any article that points out the overuse of NSAID painkillers and the benefits of elevating the legs for 5 minutes every evening. Ahhh, feels so good. More at Trail Runner.

Big data report: Taper longer and more disciplined pre-marathon

Almost all previous studies into the marathon “taper” have focused on serious and elite runners. That research supports a several-week, disciplined step-down approach. Now, a big-data analysis of 158,000 recreational marathoners has concluded much the same. Rec runners who followed a minimal taper ran about 5:30 slower than similar runners who used a strict 3-week taper. Women received a bigger boost than men from a proper taper. More at Frontiers in Sports & Active Living and Medium.

What causes heatstroke in the Boston Marathon?

My friends running Boston are already checking the weather outlook. It’s good, but you know what they say about the weather in New England … and nearly everywhere else. Wait 15 minutes. An October  Boston could be a little warmer than April, but might also provide some tree-shade in places.

These things are important to prevent heatstroke. A new paper from Boston’s crack medical team reports that heatstroke cases have developed mainly at temperatures in the mid-60s and above, and mostly among younger, faster runners. That’s because your pace is the biggest trigger to rising body temperature. More at Medicine & Sport in Science & Exercise.

Acetaminophen improves endurance performance

It’s no secret that acetaminophen (brand name Tylenol; and known as paracetamol in Europe and other countries) has the potential to improve endurance performance. This was first shown more than a decade ago, though recent reports have been less conclusive. Now a new meta-analysis has confirmed this effect. It suggests taking acetaminophen 45–60 minutes before a big effort. Acetaminophen is not an NSAID, but it does have potential side effects and risks, so use it cautiously. More at Sports.

“Fall back” marathons are much faster than “spring ahead” marathons

This is another of those cool studies that you never imagined. Sure, you know that good, consistent sleep is important for your training and racing. But did you ever think about springtime marathons run the day after the beginning of Daylight Savings Time (and one-hour loss of sleep) vs the opposite time in fall? That’s what this report investigates. And the result: Fall “wins” by a whopping 11 minutes. Even a new pair of super shoes would be hard-pressed to match that. More at Chronobiology International.

Why exercise contributes less than expected to weight loss

I’m guessing that a lot of people are confused by the big energy compensation story of the last several weeks. (A wrongly-stated NYT headline — “Your workout burns fewer calories than you think”— contributed to this.) In fact, nothing has changed in terms of your calorie burn per mile of running. It’s still roughly 100 calories per mile (or .75 x your body weight in pounds, if you want a more precise estimate). After you run those miles, however, your body dials down your calorie burn. You either move less or conserve energy through little-understood biological mechanisms. Here the senior author explains fully on Twitter.

Can you boost your metabolism? Maybe a little

Since the above paper just robbed you of some weight-loss calories, here’s a surprisingly good story about boosting your metabolism. Stories like this always provoke howls of protest from physiologists and nutritionists who said, “Nope. Can’t be done.” They were talking mainly about basal metabolism, admittedly hard to change. But a few little tricks throughout the day can give you a short boost, which could prove helpful. That’s what this article provides. More from CNN.

Build your plantar flexors to avoid leg fatigue

A group of British scientists wondered what leg muscles get the most fatigued during high-intensity running. To find out, they recruited 18 competitive middle-distance runners to run hard on a treadmill for 3 minutes. At the end of that time, the runners’ plantar flexor muscles were contributing less, which forced the knees to work harder. Conclusion: “Improving the fatigue resistance of the plantar flexors might be beneficial for middle-distance running performance.” You can find many internet articles and videos on plantar flexion exercises. More at Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

Marathon training and racing doesn’t harm your spine

Second only to the tired disproven myth that running will ruin your knees comes the old complaint that running will ruin your back. Wrong again. At least there’s no evidence so far. In this new study of first-time marathon runners, the directional arrows actually point the other way. “Running 500 miles over 4 months plus a marathon for the first time had no adverse effects on the lumbar spine.” And: “Additionally, there was evidence of regression of sacroiliac joint abnormalities.” Listen to your body, but don’t be afraid. More at Skeletal Radiology.

SHORT STUFF you’ll want to know

> Masters athletes might not need as much protein as widely recommended

> How to fix shin splints 

> Mindful eating — “awareness of eating” — better for healthy living and obesity prevention


“If you want to win a race, you have to go a little berserk.” —Bill Rodgers

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