April 13

TOPICS: Train more precisely and smarter. Positive affirmations that work. Plan easy days “pro-actively.” Do women runners recover faster than men? Carbohydrate loading--the full story. Plank variations. Build foot muscle to prevent injuries. More.

Train more precisely and smarter
Many runners have gotten the message that they should train with an 80/20 system: 80 percent easy runs (in Zone 1), 20 percent harder. And that the harder runs should be “polarized,” ie, more really fast (Zone 3) than tempo pace (Zone 2). But when exercise scientist and endurance coach Shawn Bearden dug into the primary research studies, he extracted a subtly different story. If you consider the way we actually run (by miles or by minutes), the breakdown shifts even further toward modest-pace running, and is pyramidal not polarized. Think 90-6-4. More at Science of Ultra.

Positive affirmations work best in the second person
That means, simply enough, you should say, “You can do it,” not “I can do it.” Use the second person (“You”) not the first person (“I”). This study has been around for a couple of years, but I stumbled across it recently, and continue to find it utterly fascinating. In a randomized, controlled trial, investigators found that grammar makes a difference. No one can be sure why. Maybe because “you” is a little more distant and less pressured than “I.” Maybe because your first, most powerful affirmations came from parents and coaches who used the “You can do it” form. More at J of Sports Science.

Best elliptical training tips for runners
There’s a fairly wide range of elliptical training devices out there these days, and of course they carry different names to try to set themselves apart. In my experience, you have to try a few to find which you like best. Ellipticals have a lot to offer runners, particularly in reducing impact and working on cadence (stride rate). This article describes many of the benefits, particularly the all-important “Don’t lean on the machine to support your weight.” You run straight and tall, you should elliptical straight and tall. More at Best Play Gear. 

There’s more than one way to plank
And the more ways you plank, the better. One of the basic precepts of exercise training goes something like this: A little variation is good for you. It stresses different muscle groups, leading to fitness enhancement, not ho-hum homeostasis. In other words, run slow sometimes, faster at other times. And do a variety of planks. Here’s how from Canadian Running.

PLAN your training, don’t just re-act to it
Sure, you can be the spontaneous, emotional type: When your body and mind feel good on a given day, go for it! Hammer that workout! But there’s a smarter way: Plan the days when you will go hard, and especially the recovery days. Many believe “Recovery is when the magic happens.” Training expert Stephen Seiler says: Be pro-active, not re-active, in your approach to training. More at Twitter.com/StephenSeiler.

Shalane Flanagan challenges you to set an audacious goal
Nice word, that one--audacious. And Flanagan has certainly achieved some noteworthy goals herself. Here she says “To chase the dream is to live,” and “to feel more alive.” She outlines the process too: “Stress + Rest = Growth.” The only thing strange is that this blog appears on a site that apparently wants to do a personalized blood test for you, claiming it will help you plan your fitness program. More at Inside Tracker.

Speaking of audacious women--Marika Yugeta! Yuko Gordon!
Japanese runner Marika Yugeta, 62, ran her third amazing marathon of the year. This one was a 2:52:01, beating her own world record for the 60-64 age group. Yuko Gordon ran in the 1984 Olympic Marathon. Now 70, the British citizen may have set a new world record with her recent 3:29:01. In case you’re interested, the updated, 2020 Age-Graded Calculator gives Gordon a score of 96.31 and Yugeta an out-of-this-universe 103.29. I think that’s the highest ever except for Harriet Thompson’s 105.76 when she ran 7:24 at age 94.

If you can’t train at altitude, train in the heat
No one actually likes running in hot weather, but it does have its benefits, so maybe it’s time for an attitude adjustment. Look at it this way: Heat running can make you faster, even as it forces you to go slower. This meta analysis of 28 studies concluded that training in the heat could have “at least a small and up to a moderate-large effect” on your vo2 max in the heat. More at Sports Medicine.

When sitting a lot, mix in some sprints
By now, everyone should have gotten the message that prolonged sitting is unhealthy. This kind of sitting is sometimes called “screen time,” because that’s what we’re doing--watching the TV at home, a computer screen at work, or our mobile device … all the time. Bad, bad, bad. Which raises the question: How often do we have to get off our butt and do something else to counteract all the sitting? This little study suggests: Go hard for 4 seconds five times an hour. Just stand up and do 4 seconds of fast running in place with high knee lifts. This will be enough to “significantly lower the next day's postprandial plasma triglyceride response and increase fat oxidation.” More at Med & Sci in Sports & Exercise.

Women endurance athletes may recover more quickly than men
Until recently, exercise scientists mostly studied male college subjects easy to find in P.E. classes. That’s changing now, but we have a lot of catching up to do. And a lot of questions to answer. For example, do women endurance athletes recover differently than men. Some early results are indicating “Yes,” they recover better. In this report, women had “a greater ability to recover metabolically” than men after high-intensity training, and suffered less power loss between intervals. Another study looked at recovery after a hilly 20K road race. Where men suffered a 42% loss of max knee strength post-race, the women decreased by 28%. Of course the men were stronger at the beginning, but their greater losses made the two sexes virtually equal at the end. An important note for everyone: Even though your delayed muscle soreness dissipates after several days, your “functional muscle recovery” takes longer. More at Frontiers in Physiology.

Carbohydrates--here, there, and everywhere
It appears that next fall will bring a marathon season like no other, with major global and regional races every weekend, since all this spring’s marathons have moved to fall. Which of course means it’s time to think about carbohydrate loading. Runner’s World has an excellent overview, in part because it mentions the work of Ben Rapoport. He did a really deep scientific dive into carb-loading a decade ago. And after your 26-miler? It seems, based on a 15K study, you’ll recover just as well with more carbs as you would with carbs + protein. More at Nutrients.

Build more foot muscle for fewer injuries
Everywhere I look, I seem to find articles about strengthening the intrinsic foot muscles. I seem incapable of even the most basic of these exercises, but I’ll keep at it, because runners who do them may have a 2.4 times lower rate of injury. Here’s advice from an outfit called Recover Athletics. And here’s an infographic from YLM Sports Science.

Runners as blood donors … even organ donors
Many of us are fortunate enough to enjoy excellent health. That makes us attractive donors. I won’t claim to be a standout in this arena, because I’m not. But I do have a 70+ runner friend who donated a kidney to his wife, and still beats me at the races. Strange that these two important articles popped up the same week. Think about it. Runners as blood donors at Fleet Feet. Runners as organ donors at Runner’s World.
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