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Run Long, Run Healthy Weekly Roundup — September 9, 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: Careful with your work ethic. Train one leg at a time. Fun new (running) therapy for Achilles injuries. At last — good news on stretching. Exercise during pregnancy reduces problems by 40%. Foam rolling supported by new studies. Can glucose monitoring boost your endurance? More. 

Your work ethic could be a liability

I often tell other runners “That which makes us strong also makes us weak.” I’m talking about discipline, determination —  an iron will. Runners tend to rank high in these qualities, which also bear fruit in other areas of life. But in training, too much of a good thing often backfires. There are many times — when you have an incipient injury, too much stress, too little sleep, etc. — when it’s smarter not to call upon your iron will. That’s the subject of this “work ethic” article, and it’s super important. Run slower than you planned, do a little less rather than a little more, or just skip a day. In the immediate future, this decision won’t make a difference. In the long term, it will: It can keep you healthy, injury free, and better prepared for your next important workout. More at PodiumRunner.

Running is a one-legged activity, so train one leg at a time

There’s plenty of evidence that strength training (your legs) can improve your running performance. But an interesting question has arisen: Should you train both legs together, as with typical squats and presses? Or one at a time? After all, running involves hopping forward from one leg to the next. You don’t do a series of successive two-footed jumps. Here’s the evidence from comparative studies, which gives a slight edge to alternate, single-leg strength training. More at  Outside Online.

At last a positive view on stretching

It’s been a while since stretching fans have received any good news, but a new study from Italy should cheer them. Researchers found that both static stretching and dynamic stretching improved running economy and decreased relative effort among recreational runners in their mid-30s who ran about 10 miles per week. Static stretches should be held for relatively short periods — less than 90 seconds. Stretching had no effect on VO2 max. The paper concluded that stretching “may optimize the running energy cost and reduce the perception of effort, making the training session more enjoyable.” More at Int J of Environmental Research & Public Health.

A fun new treatment for Achilles tendinitis

Most runners who have had to deal with Achilles tendinitis know something of the Alfredson protocol, widely recommended for healing and resolving Achilles tenderness. It involves eccentric heel dropping of the affected tendon, often on a staircase. Now there’s a neat new way to achieve basically the same thing: Run backwards down a modest hill. This “provides a similar eccentric load while enabling ongoing physical activity; thus, it may be suggested as an alternative treatment,” states a new study. The system was tried and found effective among Achilles-injured runners who did it for 5 weeks and a total of just 9 sessions. Result: 93% of subjects “completed the full protocol with no adverse events, and almost all achieved their running-related functional goals.” More at J of Sport Rehabilitation.

No proof that running injuries are caused by training mistakes

Since no one has yet figured out what causes running injuries, it’s often stated that injuries result from “training mistakes.” You increased your mileage too dramatically, or attempted more speed work than your body was prepared for, and so on. Now, however, a new systematic review says: Not so fast, partner. “Current evidence does not consistently link RRIs [running related injuries] with specific training parameters or recent changes in training parameters.” That means we’re back in the Wild West again. Future studies will need “to consider the interaction between training parameters, as well as psychosocial, hormonal, lifestyle and recovery outcomes to better understand the onset of RRIs.” More at J of Athletic Training.

Exercise during pregnancy reduces risks by 40%

After decades of positive research regarding exercise during pregnancy, too many women are still condemned to bed rest for “contraindications” — or so they are told. In fact, this advice is based on doctor opinions not supported by medical evidence. A recent review found that “regular exercise during pregnancy was associated with a 40 percent reduction in the odds of developing major pregnancy complications.” Those sorts of complications do exist, and you can read all about them in the free, full text link. Even then, bed rest is rarely the best alternative. Rather, “activities of daily living should be continued.” More at British J of Sports Medicine.

Foam rolling supported by new scientific studies

Approximately 101% of runners I know have one or more foam rollers. Heck, I’ve got three in the corner of my office. Two new studies might induce me to actually use them a bit more. The first compared standard foam rolling with “vibration foam rolling” and found they had similar effects on range of motion, plantar flexor muscle strength, and jump performance. The second showed increased blood flow to the rolled muscles immediately after roller use, but not 30 minutes later. In other words, it might be good to use a roller several times a day to get the immediate effect multiple times. “This increase of blood flow could promote important advantages for post-exercise recovery.” More at The J of Strength and Conditioning Research.

When “vices” are good for your running

Here’s a topic I’ve read little about in 50 years — “vices” that can help you run better. Well, maybe chocolate chip cookies the night before a marathon falls into that category. But in this article the author talks more about personality traits: envy, pride, selfishness. Can these sometimes make you a better runner? She thinks so, even though they raise another important question: Is it possible to be a great athlete and a great person at the same time? I’d certainly answer “Yes” to this, as I have met many runners, including Olympians, I’d put in both camps. All the same, no one is perfect, and you don’t have to be perfect to hit your running goals. More at I Run Far.

Sodium bicarbonate improves performance in 12 to 15 minute races

Sodium bicarbonate is one of the very few legal and proven ergogenic (performance-enhancing) substances for runners. Problem is, it can produce severe GI distress and has been thought useful only in events lasting a couple of minutes. A new study of elite orienteers (essentially distance runners with maps and compasses) has extended that horizon to 12 to 15 minutes. More at Int J of Sport Nutrition & Exercise Metabolism.

Can blood-glucose-monitoring boost your endurance?

When I first encountered a website named Supersapiens several months ago, I figured it must be selling an IQ pill. No, it’s an app and energy band (and another gizmo — the Abbott Libre Sense biosensor) that claims to help you run better through blood glucose monitoring. The real-time glucose monitoring represents an impressive medical-technical advance, but no one’s totally sure that this can be linked to improved performance. Even if Eliud Kipchoge is one of your “ambassador” athletes. Alex Hutchinson goes deep here at Outside Online.

Get fitter and healthier in just 8 weeks

This article isn’t so much for you directly as it is for all those family, friends, and colleagues who you would like to nudge into an exercise program. The bottom line: It only took 8 weeks for a group of inactive, obese subjects to show dramatic improvements in insulin sensitivity (which is good; insulin resistance is bad), visceral fat, and several microbiome measures. Subjects exercised 2 to 4 times a week for 50 minutes at a moderate intensity on a stationary bike. “This is the first study that examines exercise-induced changes in gut microbiota diversity in relation to gold standard measurements of insulin sensitivity.” More at Obesity.

SHORT STUFF you’ll want to know

> Your quads provide 35% of your forward force production. Here’s how to strengthen them.

> Why hills are the ultimate all-things-at-once workout

> Let’s be sure you’re not doing one of these, especially not #9: The 10 worst training mistakes a runner can make


Your health account, your bank account, they’re the same thing. The more you put in, the more you can take out. Exercise is king and nutrition is queen.” — Jack LaLanne, the “godfather of fitness”

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