Feb. 2, 2021

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Try a new and different way to do interval training
Veteran British coach Peter Thompson has put a lot of effort into exploring and explaining a system that he calls NEW interval training. He believes it represents “the most significant advance in running training since the original interval training.” Given that interval training basically changed the world of endurance exercise, that’s a big statement. Thompson advocates “roll on” recoveries in place of a jog/walk/stop between intervals. He believes these do more to increase your lactate threshold. For a marathon runner, you might do kilometer or mile repeats at your current 10K race pace with a roll-on recovery of the same distance at your marathon pace. So a beginning workout might be: several-mile warmup; then mile (10K pace)-mile (marathon pace)-mile (10K pace)-mile (marathon pace). You might gradually build up to 10 miles in this manner. Much more at New Interval Training.

The latest from evolutionary biologist and runner Daniel Lieberman
The evolutionary biologist and deep-thinking running/health/culture expert
I first met evolutionary biologist Daniel Lieberman in 2008 when I visited his office in Harvard’s Peabody Museum. I wanted to talk about barefoot and minimalist running. He wanted to show me a model of Lucy’s skull down in the basement. The two are connected, and he explained how, but I haven’t got space for it here. I’ll simply add that, ever since, I’ve considered Lieberman one of the smartest, widest-thinking running experts in the world. The range of his analysis has only broadened since then, as exhibited in his new book, Exercised.The book explains how we were born to sit, should be doing a lot of dancing, and stop worrying that running is bad for our knees. Here’s Lieberman’s NPR interview with Terry Gross, plus a nice summary of the new book highlights. More at NPR.

Battle of the sexes: female-male differences in endurance performance and running injuries
The debate over a hypothetical female advantage in endurance and ultra-endurance competitions has been raging since at least the mid-1990s. A new review paper takes an excellent and balanced view of the various arguments. It concludes that, in events over 6 hours, women have several distinct advantages, but those are unlikely to overcome a big disadvantage of lower oxygen-carrying capacity. When it comes to injuries, women are more prone to stress fractures and men to Achilles tendon issues, according to a new meta analysis. Also, women are more likely than men to be injured in races of 10K and shorter. More at Sports Medicine.

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What’s the best way to safely increase your weekly training mileage?
Sure, you can increase by about 10 percent a week--a formula that has never been proven but has served as a reasonable guideline for 50 years. Or you can look more deeply at your training, and follow a different pattern. That’s the path advocated by this article which describes the “switchback method.” You increase a little, hold steady to consolidate your gains, and then increase again. Sometimes you even drop back with a recovery (lower mileage and intensity) week. The key point: Nothing in running is particularly linear. You always have to be ready to switch things up. More at Podium Runner.

When you can’t get on a treadmill, here are some good alternatives
When 18 fit runners, both male and female, exercised on a treadmill, elliptical machine, and step-climber at a range of intensities, all three workouts produced equivalent oxygen consumption, heart rate, and calories burned. The researchers concluded: “Therefore, the elliptical trainer and stepper are suitable substitutes for running during periods when a reduced running load is required, such as during rehabilitation from running-induced injury.” More at Int. J. of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism.

Devise healthy goals and stay motivated
Podium Runner has put together a smart “Goal Setting” section on its website. I can’t think of a more important topic for most runners. It’s the one I spend the most time on myself these days. And not just because of Covid. “Motivation is job one.” I say that a lot, and believe it. I particularly enjoyed Molly Hanson’s research-based article on the psychology of goal setting. Much more at Podium Runner.

When to exercise: morning, noon, or night?
There’s no bad time to exercise, okay? Let’s all agree on that. The best time to exercise is whatever time fits into your crazy, upside-down schedule. Morning works for many, but afternoons are good too, as two recent studies have indicated. One concluded that lunchtime is a fun time (at Bustle) because your body is well warmed up and may even burn a few extra calories. Then the NYTimes covered research indicating that afternoons are best for those with diabetes, perhaps because the exercise period comes close to dinner, usually the high-calorie meal of the day. The two sort of balance each other out. We say: Don’t wait til exercise o’clock time. Take your run whenever you can. More at NYTimes.

Female high-school runners at risk for low bone density
This is a much-discussed topic, particularly since women deposit most of their bone density from age 10 to 30. If they fall behind in this critical stage, there’s a risk of lifelong bone (osteoporosis) issues. Here we have a rare study with data. Researchers compared a modest number of young runners with high cognitive dietary restraint (CDR) vs. those who didn’t attempt to limit food choices. The runners with high CDR ate more fruits, veggies, and fiber. All good so far. But they also restricted their intake of total calories, carbs, fats, and grains. Possibly as a result, they exhibited significantly lower bone mineral density in the lower lumbar spine. Weights and menstrual status were not different between groups. “These findings indicate the need for … efforts to promote an adequate intake of energy, carbohydrates, dietary fats and whole grains” among young female runners. More at Eating Behaviors.

Scientific study says 80 percent training consistency is the key to your success
Turns out your mother, uncle, coach and everyone else are right. Consistency in your training is the key to getting where you want to be. This Australian study specifically looked at the success rate of track and field athletes over a 5-year period. The likelihood of “achieving a performance goal increased by 7-times in those that completed >80% of planned training weeks.” Several more important insights: Injuries tended to happen in an early stage of training, and illness at a late stage. Stay healthy, folks! More at Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport.

Compression garments might improve recovery after hard training
This study was fun because it compared a commercial compression garment with a sham garment. In other words, the subjects sometimes got a garment that looked like a compression tight, only it wasn’t. Researchers took a modest number of novice runners and pushed them hard. To the point, they calculated, of overtraining. Sometimes, subjects received a compression garment post training, sometimes a fake garment. The results showed better recovery with the real thing. More at Int. Journal of Exercise Science.

Pregnant women: Be sure to run more than 38 minutes a day during first trimester
We’ve come a long way, thank goodness, from the days when women were advised not to run (or they’d never get pregnant) and/or that running during pregnancy might harm their baby. Now we know that exercise during pregnancy can actually lower the risk of gestational diabetes, a common issue. This new research indicates that it will take more than a 10-minute jog, though. The authors conclude: “Exercise reduces the risks of abnormal screening and GDM, but the amount needed to achieve these risk reductions is likely higher than current recommendations.” In fact, they set the level at greater-than 38 minutes during the first trimester. More at Diabetes Care.

Eat more fiber to reduce your “biologic aging”
Remember when dietary fiber was a big topic of discussion? Like way back in the 1980s. Then it was overtaken by other diet topics in more recent times. Well, fiber is making a bit of a comeback. One reason: Most Americans consume less than 50 percent of recommended amounts. Also, studies like this one keep pointing out the many benefits of fiber. Here, the analysis showed that a modest increase in fiber consumption would slow telomere shortening, and lead to “5.4 fewer years of biologic aging.” I’m guessing those years would also be more healthy and vibrant. More at Nutrients.
Maybe you should think twice about that beer/wine tonight
Prior studies have shown that the risk for atrial fibrillation may increase in aging, veteran endurance athletes. Afib is associated with higher incidence of stroke. This new report indicates that alcohol consumption, as low as one drink a day, also appears linked to higher Afib fates. The analysis followed 107,000 individuals for 14 years. More at European Heart Journal and NY Times.

Sure, some new shoes are expensive. But obesity doubles healthcare costs
Running is a inexpensive sport overall, particularly if you limit your travel-to-races expenses. (And we’ve gotten good at that lately, haven’t we?) Running is also a good way to buttress a weight-loss program, and to keep the weight off long term. Which could save you a lot of money, like $2500/year in expenses for a normal-weight individual vs someone in the obese category. For the country as a whole, that represents and additional $26 billion in healthcare costs. More at J. of Managed Care + Specialty Pharmacy.

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