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.
Brain training: Smile for that extra mile
Any conversation between David Epstein, author of The Sports Gene, and Alex Hutchinson, Endure, Sweat Science, is one you don’t want to miss. The one focuses on the connection between your brain and your exercise performance. Bonus — you’ll learn how to lift a car, or dive to 300 feet below the ocean surface. More at Range Report.
Hammer the hills. (And be sure to give them names.)
We all know, or should know, that hill running is about the most effective training in any runner’s toolkit. It’s good to have hills on your typical modest-pace runs, and even better to do hill repeats from time to time. Find a suitable hill, away from traffic, and run intervals up it at different lengths and paces. Short hills, good. Long hills, good. Intermediate hills, good. Hills with names, even better. I’m going to try “The Fast and the Spurious” from this excellent hill-running article. More at Trail Runner.
When to carbo load. Hint: Not before shorter-distance races
Marathoners regularly stock up on high-carb foods for several days before a 26-miler because they want their leg muscles to load as much glycogen (high-octane fuel) as possible. The practice is evidence-based, but has little to no impact on shorter-distance races. Now we know why: “Glycogen supercompensation … is exclusive to type 1 fibers” — the ones that power slow, steady running vs sprints. More at Experimental Physiology. Here’s an excellent review of glycogen loading for endurance races, with the cute phrase, “turning pasta into performance.”
Practice your psych skills for a less-stressful marathon
We know what training we need for a better marathon — more miles, more long runs. But we’re less sure how to reduce pre-race anxiety and in-race fears of “hitting the wall.” So a Spanish researchers enrolled veteran marathon runners in a 7-week course that taught psychological skills such as association-disassociation, thought-stopping, and progressive relaxation. Result: Subjects reported a “decrease in negative thoughts, mental stress, and self-doubt” before and during the marathon. Sounds great. Unfortunately the study didn’t say anything about changed marathon times. More at Frontiers in Psychology and Matt Fitzgerald’s take on the study and the marathon experience.
Protect your knees and ankle area first
This paper doesn’t add a lot to what we already know, but it is a large, systematic review, and it does give a good “big picture” view of the subject. Whether you run only up to the marathon distance, or sometimes run ultras, you have about a 40 to 44 percent chance of getting injured in a year, particularly at the knee, lower leg, or ankle. Therefore the researchers recommend “injury prevention measures related to the knee and ankle (Achilles tendinopathy)” as these will likely have the biggest payoffs. More at J of Sport & Health Science.
Should we push teens into distance running?
Of course not! We all believe, I hope, that there are plenty of healthy outdoor activities for our youngsters. But what if a teen loves running, and is good at it? Shouldn’t we encourage them to attain success and enhance self-esteem? This is a topic way too big and important for this space. But here’s good news for those who believe in the moderate approach. In a study of 12- to 15-year-old boys and girls, those who regularly engaged in organized sports-club games achieved as high a VO2max as those who spent 7 hours a week in pure endurance training. That means the game-players, at age 15 or beyond, could switch to specific run training from a high-fitness beginning point. More at Scand J of Med & Sci in Sports.
Make every day an Earth Day
We’re a week past Earth Day now, but it’s never too late to save the planet. This good story on steps you can take notes that running is a low-impact sport until you start over-using plastic bottles, gel packages, etc. Also, you can make a simple, direct contribution: When you see trash on a run, pick it up, and carry it out (Runner’s World). Races are aiming to go greener. More companies are making more shoes from sustainable products although we found they may not be ready to be your daily trainers. And famed French exercise physiologist Veronique Billat has turned her attention to the environment, pointing out that driving and flying are by far the biggest-baddest contributors to our carbon footprint. Similarly, the changing environment affects runners and vice versa; air pollution and extreme weather limit our exercise, while sports-related transport “is also a source of greenhouse gas emissions.”
Stronger glute muscles made simple
Everyone is always telling me to strengthen my glute muscles, but I’m never quite sure why or how. This article makes it simple, and even provides three great exercises. It doesn’t promise miracles, noting “If the key to injury free miles was just hanging out beneath your back pocket, somebody would have found it by now.” I always appreciate a dose of honesty. More at Recover Athletics.
Yes, those new “super shoes” make you faster
At this point, I don’t think there’s any doubt about the new generation of shoes with super foams and various “plates” in the foams. Here, for the first time, some running experts analyzed a large data set of elite running times from 2012 to 2019. There was a big leap forward after 2017 when the new shoes started to appear. The best women marathoners, for example, have improved by more than 2 minutes (1.7 percent). There’s some evidence, not noted here, that less-elite runners improve by an even greater percentage. A news story and the original paper at Frontiers in Sports & Active Living.
Get your stride analysis via telemedicine
You knew we live in a world of exploding telemedicine alternatives, but you probably never considered this path to a personal stride-analysis session. Three physical therapist- biomechanics consider the option in a new journal article. They conclude that they now have options “to be more creative in how we assess and treat patients.” You might soon have an opportunity to Zoom in on your feet and legs. More at Brit J of Sports Medicine.
The pro runners do this (but you can skip it)
It’s smart to emulate some things the pro runners do, yet impossible to follow most of their routine. After all, you don’t have time to train 8 hours a day. Here veteran coach Jay Johnson admits that he doesn’t prepare gourmet meals everyday — he’s a big fan of breakfasts from a blender — and generally can’t manage to fit in strength training at the gym. Instead, he does body-weight work at home. More at Podium Runner.
You are what you name yourself
As a Runner’s World editor, I spent hundreds of hours at road race Expo booths and far too often heard this refrain, “I’m not really a runner, I’m just …” Yes, I know you can’t run a sub-2-hour marathon (and maybe not a sub-3 or sub-4 either). But why let that define you as a runner? So I cheered when a Reddit poster recently wrote about how good it felt when “I finally started calling myself a “runner.” Be impeccable with your word. Call yourself a runner. Lace up those shoes. Run your own pace. Do it, be it. More at Reddit.
> Simple heel-lift inserts may beat Alfredson technique (eccentric heel drops) for Achilles rehab
> The best (cheapest) time to buy new running shoes.
> Just in case you haven’t yet seen the “Dog wins the relay race” video. Start at 1:35 into video.
GOOD QUOTES make great training partners
“To be a consistent winner means preparing not just one day, one month, or even one year. But for a lifetime.” —Bill Rodgers