April 6, 2021

THIS WEEK: Chili peppers for endurance. Marathons improve knee health. “Shock” your body faster. Guys--Sex lowers leg strength. Plantar fasciitis guidelines. More.

Holy jalapeno! Chili peppers can boost endurance

In this systematic review, researchers looked at 22 studies (14 with animals, 8 with human subjects) that investigated the potential effects of capsaicinoid or capsinoid compounds on endurance or resistance performance. Conclusion: “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. 

You didn’t expect this: Marathon running improves knee health

This study appears to be a year old, but somehow I missed it earlier. It’s noteworthy because we don’t often see a report on how marathon running can improve knee health. That’s what happened here, among a group of 44 first-time marathoners in the 2017 London Marathon. Doctors looked specifically at the “bone marrow and articular cartilage” of the runners. Conclusion: “The knees of novice runners achieved sustained improvement for at least 6 months post marathon.” More at Skeletal Radiology.

“Shock” your body to run faster

Last week we talked about the dangers of too much High Intensity Training. However, shorter bursts or “shocks” can be productive. In this study with well-trained cyclists, the subjects completed 5 HIT workouts (12 x 30 seconds hard) in a week. This dramatically increased their vo2 max and power output vs other cyclists who did much longer intervals. The researchers concluded that short intervals “may induce superior changes in indicators of endurance performance.” After a week, return to your normal training. More at Int J of Sports Physiology & Performance.

Rules of the road--good etiquette for runners

I’m generally a well-mannered guy, so of course I believe in good running etiquette, of which there are 10 nice suggestions linked below. Others: A couple of years ago, I decided I should stop saying, “Looking good” to women runners on the road. I switched to “Looking strong.” Also, at races, LINE UP WHERE YOU DAMN WELL BELONG. Sorry, lost my manners there. More at Canadian Running. 

Sorry guys: Sex before exercise lowers leg-force production

But I bet the researchers had an easy time recruiting subjects. Fifty guys agreed to do leg squats before and after sex. Results: “Sexual intercourse within 24 hours before exercise has a detrimental effect on lower extremity muscle force.” More at Postgrad Medical Journal. But don’t despair. Most previous studies of this kind have reached the opposite conclusion.

One hundred marathons in 100 days, with heavy heel strike

The story here: This runner did the opposite of everything you’ve been hearing since Born To Run was published. He didn’t run with a forefoot or midfoot strike, but with a very heavy heel-strike angle of 29.5 degrees. Yet he produced forces “remarkably lower” than a control group. He did this with a very high “duty factor” (time on the ground), which I mentioned in a different item last week (“Run like Groucho”). He ran slow, sure, with an average daily marathon completion time of about 4:30. But he got the job done, and no injuries! More at J of Sport & Health Science.

Fighting shin splints: old news, but a hot new medium

I’m chuckling over this one, and also trying to appreciate it. One of the oldest running-injury tricks in the books has made it big as aTikTok “hack,” bringing enlightenment to the apparent millions who are TikTok fans. I won’t tell you what it is, but I’ll give you  a hint: I might make a TikTok video about the frozen peas in my fridge. More at TikTok/@whatrunsyou.

45 best ideas for breakfast

This is an outrage. We all know there is only one best breakfast, and here it is: plain nonfat Greek yogurt, blueberries, oatmeal, walnuts, unsweetened coconut flakes, and just a touch of either honey or maple syrup. There, I’m glad that is settled. Placing second, by a considerable distance, is number 30 from this list. More at Self.

How to recover from plantar fascia pain

It’s a common runner injury, a literal shooting pain in the foot (especially in the morning, getting out of bed), and not easy to recover from. But here’s an excellent guide based on a systematic review of evidence. Start with taping, stretching, and a review of your footwear. Move on to shockwave therapy and custom orthotics. More at Brit J of Sports Medicine.

If you feel like running 8000 miles this year, do like David

Last year, 61-year old David Simon logged 8000 running miles, according to his Strava stats. Once a 3:20 marathoner, he now runs slow and comfy, talking on the phone or listening to podcasts. He fuels his morning efforts with a caffeine-laced energy drink, consumes 4000 to 5000 calories a day, including protein bars and whole-grain breads (but not meat), and regrets the one time he had knee surgery. (And if you don’t feel like running 8000 miles this year, that’s okay too.) More at Runner’s World.

Walking an ultra has a surprising impact, while fast ultras take big training

Researchers measured the physiological response of 43 thirty-somethings who walked 100K in 24 hours. That’s not fast--it amounts to less than 3 miles per hour--but the results were surprising. Scientists noted that, “Although the intensity level demanded from our participants was low” compared to marathon studies, “the alteration of tested parameters was similar.” In other words, long-slow walking is serious exercise. More at Frontiers in Physiology. On the other hand, if you want to excel at fast 100K running, you’d better log a lot of weekly training mileage. More at Clinical Nutrition ESPEN.

I bet he was good at figuring out his marathon splits

I happen to be a fan of mathematicians way smarter than I am. On an early-1990s visit to Cambridge University, we cajoled my math-centric son to enter the physics building, where he saw Stephen Hawking in the hallway. Which brings us to Alan Turing, famous for code-breaking (“The Imitation Game” movie) and much more. Less well-known: He was a talented distance runner with a marathon best of 2:46:03 in the late 1940s. More at DrMirkin.com.


> Four days of blueberry consumption lowers runners’ blood lactate but doesn’t improve performance

> Cinnamon has “beneficial effects” on metabolic conditions

> For Achilles tendinitis, straight-leg and bent-knee stretches are both good

> Mariko Yugeta ran a 2:52 marathon in January at age 62