March 30, 2021

UPDATE 3/31: Holy jalapeno! Chili peppers improve endurance

After a systematic review of 22 animal and human studies, researchers concluded: “The available scientific literature appears to suggest that these compounds could be considered an effective nutritional strategy to improve exercise performance.” More at Int J of Sports Physiology & Performance.

TOPICS: Beat marathon injuries. No more muscle cramps. Hot tubs for added cardio. Strength moves for masters runners. Run like Groucho.

Why do marathon runners get injured? Here are some answers
Researchers monitored 675 first-time marathoners in the 2017 New York City Marathon. Among them, 9.5% suffered major injuries that prevented them from starting or finishing the marathon. Another 49% said they had “minor injuries” during the 12-week reporting period. Age and sex were not factors. Injuries were most common in runners with limited half-marathon experience, and those doing 4 or more runs a week. Also: “
Longer training runs were associated with a lower incidence of race-day injuries.” Remember: These are just associations, and can’t prove cause-and-effect. More at The Physician & Sportsmedicine.

Electrolyte drink beats spring water vs muscle cramping

Muscle cramping in endurance racing is a real issue for many athletes, and a topic of long-simmering debate among sports scientists. Is it about electrolytes? Or maybe just bad pacing? Here’s a long-ish overview. Meanwhile, this new study, which used electrical shocks to induce cramping (ouch!), found that electrolyte drinks “decreased muscle cramp susceptibility” better than consumption of spring water. More at J of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.

Hot-tub training for greater endurance

I know at least one Olympic marathoner who recently bought a hot tub for post-workout use. And not to soothe aching muscles (well, maybe that too). But the runner was mainly hoping for a physiological boost. Research is beginning to support this. Here, it was found that hot-tubbing can contribute to “long-term beneficial cardiovascular adaptations.” More at J of Applied Physiology.

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Too much of a good thing--HIT training--is not so good

It’s hard to ignore a NY Times story covering research that undercuts HIT training, but easy to understand what happened. The subjects did well with two hard workouts a week, but then suffered with more than two. That’s no surprise. It’s what we’d expect--overtraining. Top running coach Steve Magness believes we should “embarrass” our bodies a little in training, but not push to the brink. And you know who trains that way? Sub 2-hour marathoner Eliud Kipchoge. We used to say, Train, Don’t Strain.” Still works.

Six simple strength moves for masters runners

Well, they start simple. I’m not so sure I’d say that about the last one. I just tried it in the exercise room next to my home office, and … let’s just say the model is better at it than I am. I had to take real baby steps. But I’ll try again, because it seems a good one to me. More at Runner’s World U.K.

But don’t try to combine your endurance and strength training

Call me silly, but I’m always trying to devise an all-in-one workout--you know, a long run that ends at tempo pace and is followed by 8 x 200 meters on the track, then strength training. Apparently this is both silly and wrong-headed. According to the study below, if you combine strength and endurance training with less than a 20-minute gap between, you get a negative effect. You need at least a 2 hour break. Or, do different workouts on different days of the week. That’s not silly; it’s smart. More at Sports Medicine.

Run like Groucho to reduce impact forces

Slower runners are an important and interesting group that doesn’t get enough attention. They deserve more. After all, there are more of them than there are Eliud Kipchoges. And they run differently. Here a research team found that some slow runners are able to lower impact forces by increasing their “duty factor.” I had to look this up. It refers to the percent of time that your feet are on the ground. With more duty factor, you get less pounding, and perhaps fewer injuries. I think it’s sometimes referred to as “Groucho running,” but it’s nothing to laugh about. More at BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine.

Stay away from ultra-processed foods

You’ve probably read a lot about ultra-processed foods in the last year, and agreed with arguments that we should consume more “real foods.” Me too. But there hasn’t been a lot of hard data. Luckily, the famous, longstanding Framingham Heart Study is good for that sort of thing. Its scientists found that the typical Framingham subject consumed 7.5 servings/day of ultra-processed foods. Beyond that, each additional serving correlated with a 7 percent increase in “hard” heart events, including death. Eat real foods. More at J of the American College of Cardiology. 

Supplements “can play a small but important role” in performance

The supplement market is not well-regulated, and foreign (perhaps dangerous) substances continue to appear in some supplements. These can contain ingredients that “have never been tested in humans and their safety is unknown,” reports one new study. So, buyer: Be forewarned and beware. The Australian Institute of Sport maintains an excellent supplement “framework.” It can’t analyze safety of private-label supplements, but provides an excellent (and cautious) overview. More at AIS.

Runners love their compression garments

This isn’t a cause-and-effect study--that is, not one making any claims about the benefits of compression garments. Except that runners seem to love them. In a survey of athletes from various sports, fully 88 percent of respondents were endurance athletes, mostly runners. They wore compression garments to reduce current injury issues and to prevent future injuries. “A majority of the athletes reported positive perceived effects from the CGs.” More at BMC Sports Science, Medicine & Rehabilitation.

The dance of the running ribcage

I doubt many women would appreciate a spotlight on their chest while running. Shalaya Kipp is different. She’s an Olympic steeplechaser and Ph.D student, and this mesmerizing little video has nothing to do with her bounce. It’s her ribcage movement while running. I used it to peg her stride rate at about 172 steps/minute. Kipp herself is measuring the energy cost of the abdominal muscles. More at Twitter.

Sports nutrition book for masters runners

There are plenty of sports nutrition books, but few or none written specifically for masters athletes. So Lauren Antonnucci’s new book, High Performance Nutrition for Masters Athletes, gets a special mention. Plus she’s a 13-time marathon finisher, works closely with the NYC Marathon, and produces an excellent free newsletter you can find and subscribe to here. Here, from her book: a simple eating plan for the day before and morning of your next race. More at Human Kinetics.

Nature sounds are good for your health

Here at RLRH, we believe there’s little reason to maintain a healthy body if we don’t live on a healthy planet. Also, that the two reinforce each other. It takes healthy people to maintain a healthy planet, and vice versa. That’s the subject of the below study, which finds that “natural sounds” in parks and conservation areas decrease “stress and annoyance” while improving “health and positive affect outcomes.” Sixty percent of sounds came from animals, and others from wind and water. Conclusion: “Parks can bolster public health by highlighting and conserving natural soundscapes.” Yes!!! (I also use those sounds while I’m sleeping.) More at Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 

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

Until then: Run Long, Run Healthy. Amby

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