Feb. 9, 2021

 Feb. 9, 2021

Build your speed with Steve Moneghetti’s fartlek workout
I’ve long admired a handful of great Aussie distance runners for their excellence overlaid on a relaxed, big-picture attitude. Sure, they trained like crazy, but they also seemed to have a refreshing, non-obsessive approach, ie, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” Steve Moneghetti (marathon PR of 2:08:16) was one of these Aussies. Here’s a fartlek workout he used. It doesn’t meet the classic definition of fartlek, but is more a simple, effective way to build speed. More at Candian Running.

The shoes you wear can change your stride length, and knee and ankle forces
A British research team measured several biomechanical outcomes while a group of runners ran on a treadmill in three conditions: barefoot, minimalist shoes, and maximalist shoes (with thick soles). The runners used the shortest stride while barefoot, and the longest stride while in maximalist shoes. Knee forces ranged from lowest (barefoot) to highest (maximalist). Ankle forces were opposite, ie, lowest in maximalist shoes. The study seems to confirm that minimalist shoes could help resolve knee pain while maximalist shoes would be better if you have Achilles and/or calf pain. More at Footwear Science.

Keep your calf muscles strong and supple
At some point almost every runner experiences a calf muscle twinge …or worse. The two muscles, soleus and gastrocnemius, face different challenges on uphills and down, when you’re running fast and slow, and so on. They’ll get you eventually, and often bring on other injuries like Achilles tendinitis and plantar fasciitis. Here Dr. Jordan Metzl presents a modest number of snappy videos showing strengthening, stretching, and massaging techniques to keep your calf muscles happy. More at Runner’s World.

Train like a world-famous exercise physiologist
Renowned British physiologist Andy Jones has advised runners like Paula Radcliffe and Eliud Kipchoge on their marathon training. And he’s an accomplished runner himself, but he had never attempted the marathon distance until last January when he ran 3:34:34 in the Sea of Galillee Marathon. It didn’t go that great; he hit the wall pretty hard. Now he’s training strong for the May 2 Prague Marathon. Here’s his fourth week. He ran six days, covered 17 miles on Sunday, and pushed the pace on four days. The goal: sub-3:00 at age 50+. More at Twitter. (Page down to Jan. 31 post).

Does exercise boost your creativity?
You might have seen the NY Times article about a study finding “an association between creativity and physical activity in everyday life,” according to the researcher. Many writers reported a similar effect in this prior article specifically about running and writing. As Joyce Carol Oates once said, “Running! If there’s any activity happier, more exhilarating, more nourishing to the imagination, I can’t think what it might be." Here’s another comment, this one from Alexi Pappas, film maker, Olympic runner, and author of the new book, Bravey. "I allow myself to obsess over ideas and characters while I am running, because… it’s a great time/place to obsess and invent.” More at NY Times. 

Low carb (keto) diet increases fat-burning, but worsens oxygen efficiency
Australian Louise Burke is both a global expert in endurance nutrition, and a fast 60+ marathoner herself. In recent years, she has done vigorous investigations of low-carb (keto) diets vs traditional high-carb diets for endurance performance. Result: It’s relatively easy and quick to increase fat-burning with a low-carb diet, but this results in a 5-8 percent worsening of oxygen-efficiency at marathon-pace efforts. More at The J. of Physiology.

How to adjust your training when the common cold strikes
Here’s hoping you don’t have Covid, now or ever. But something that will eventually come your way is that pesky virus we call the common cold. And then you have to decide how to adjust your training goals. The most common wisdom: If a “head” cold, running probably won’t bother you and may even make you feel better (less congested). But if a “below the head” cold, you should take a few days off until you feel better. More at Runner’s World. 
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How much weekly mileage do you need for a marathon or ultra?
Dr. Shawn Bearden, a PhD exercise physiologist and ultra runner, puts out one of my favorite running podcasts. It’s a fave in part for its name: SOUP, or Science of Ultra Podcast. But also because he leans heavily on the world’s best endurance science experts while maintaining a sense of proportion about the sometimes insane ultra world. He’s no whack job. Here he discusses, at considerable length (text and audio), some of the questions around the always interesting topic: How much do you need to train? More at SOUP.

Super athletes, like Olympians, live 5 years longer
This study followed more than 8000 former U.S. Olympians, which means some were equestrian riders and some were sumo wrestlers, etc. Combined, the men and women lived about 5 years longer than their non Olympic contemporaries. The biggest gains were against heart disease and cancer. There was no difference for nervous system disorders (like Alzheimers) or mental illness (including dementia). Of course, research like this can’t answer an essential question: Which came first, their great health or their athletic talent? But papers like this are always interesting, because, well, because Olympians are such a special, well-defined group. More at Brit J of Sports Medicine. 

If alcohol is a mind-body depressant, how is that a good thing?
Listen I’m not trying to talk you out of your social-drinking habit. (But maybe trying to talk myself down.) After all, alcohol is a central nervous system depressant that slows brain and body. How can that be good? The first of the two articles below tells how a nutritionist measured some of his physical reactions (heart rate, blood pressure) during a month of no booze. The second talks about neuro effects. If you want some reassurance, it appears that alcohol doesn’t affect glycogen storage. More at Triathlete and Well and Good.

Here’s the key exercise to build hamstring strength and avoid injury to your hammies
It’s called the Nordic hamstring curl. You know, the one where you lie on your stomach, anchor your heels, lift, and then gradually lower your torso downward from the knees with an eccentric contraction. Photo. According to a new paper, this exercise and stability training are the best paths forward. More at J. of Sports Med & Phys Fitness. 

Seeing is believing. Top sports med info graphics from 2020
The American College of Sports Medicine reports that these were the 5 most popular info graphics that it shared with members last year. Take a quick look: App functions; exercise and cancer; monitoring aerobic intensity; strength training for health; and pre-exercise health screening recommendations. More at ACSM. 

Even more reasons to consider a Vitamin D supplement
You can’t pick up a newspaper or surf the Internet these days without finding an article on Vitamin D. Most, but not all, recommend that you consider getting more of the “sunshine” vitamin, especially for northerners during winter. Here the advice is more specific for endurance athletes. At Outside, Alex Hutchinson discusses the possibility that Vitamin D could raise your vo2 max and reduce muscle damage after hard efforts. Dr. Gabe Mirkin summarizes the most interesting Vitamin D research, including indications that it might lower Covid risks. More at OutsideOnline and Dr. Mirkin.   

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That's it for now. Thanks for reading. See you next week. Amby