Feb. 16, 2021

Smartphone apps boost exercise by users

Sometimes there’s a place for gizmos. This meta analysis looked for a link between smartphone apps/trackers and exercise among 7400 app users. The study concluded: They “seem to be effective in promoting physical activity.” Go for it. More at Brit J of Sports Medicine.

February 16, 2021

New report on running during Covid shows more miles, less intensity, more injuries
Researchers surveyed 1147 runners (66% F, av age 35). The runners said they were running more than the year before, but less intensely, with fewer hard workouts and less worry about  race fitness. They were 40% more likely to have an injury than previously. More at Plos One.

How to run a fast mile for 19 straight years … or 57 straight
Nick Willis broke an unofficial record last month when he ran a sub-4-minute mile for the 19th year in a row. There are also records for sub-5-miles (43 years, Steve Spence). And for sub-6 (57 years, Harry Nolan). It’s always good to stay fast in the mile, at any age. Here, each runner explains how he did it. More at Podium Runner.

Do you need to lift until you can lift no more?
There are endless debates about the best strategies for strength training. For example, do you have to lift “to failure.” Or can you stop short? This systematic review finds that “Resistance training not to failure may induce comparable or even greater improvements in maximal dynamic strength and power output.” More at J. of Strength & Conditioning Research. 

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Two proven ways to prevent runner’s knee?
In study after study, patellofemoral pain (runner’s knee) ranks at the top of the most frequent and troublesome injuries. So it would be great to protect yourself. Is this possible? This meta analysis looked at results from 11 studies in mostly military and young-athlete populations. It concluded that strengthening, stretching, and orthotics didn’t work. On the other hand, there was low-level evidence that knee braces and running technique changes (run more softly) “can reduce the risk of patellofemoral pain by 60%–79%.” More at British Journal of Sports Medicine. 

Secret to a pain-free marathon
Sorry, there isn’t one. According to this study of 1251 marathon runners, 99.8 percent of them felt pain at some point during their 26.2-mile efforts. (Which makes you wonder what’s wrong with the other 0.2 percent.) The pain tends to begin at 15+ miles, and to be most prevalent in the quads, hamstrings, and calf muscles, which at least tells you where to focus your strengthening program. Women and men registered the same amount of pain. More at Frontiers in Sports and Active Living.

Nasal dilator fails to improve exercise efficiency
Nasal dilators have been around for a while now, and are frequently seen at road races, sometimes worn by elite competitors. These devices claim to improve air (and oxygen) flow through the nose. In this paper, researchers tested a device called the Turbine. They concluded that it “does not reduce the WOB [work of breathing] and has no effect on dyspnea or exercise capacity.” More at Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 

More training is not better training
This study looked at the training of 99 triathletes getting ready for an Ironman-distance event. They all trained a lot, but the ones who trained the most did not perform the best. That’s the big message here. In fact, those who trained more than 20 hours a week finished slower than those who trained 14 hours or less. More at Physiology & Behavior.

Three steps to reduced Achilles tendon pain
In this RCT (randomized controlled trial), researchers took a group suffering from Achilles problems and gave some extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT) ESWT while others didn’t receive ESWT. Both groups improved, because both also received eccentric-loading and stretching instructions. However, “Adding ESWT to this combined protocol resulted in significantly greater improvements in both the short and long term.” More at Foot & Ankle International.

Heart health good in 10 yr follow up of middle-aged half-marathoners
An Italian research group investigated the heart and general health of 35 amateur half-marathon runners 10 years after an initial assessment of the same subjects. Most of them were still entering half-marathons after this decade-long interval. Result: “This study suggests that a regular moderate–vigorous physical training over many years was beneficial in a group of middle-aged amateur half-marathon runners.” More at BMJ Open Heart.

Beets for better running
Beets, spinach, beet juice and other nitrate-containing foods have been extensively researched for a decade or so now. Many of the studies have concluded that these vegetable nitrates can lower blood pressure and improve running performance. This meta analysis and systematic review finds that “dietary nitrate seems to have a positive effect on muscular strength and muscular endurance.” The effect is small but real. More at Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition.

Time to act against air pollution for world health
It goes without saying that air pollution is a serious problem for runners, given all the breaths we take while training and racing. Air pollution is also being linked to an increasing number of chronic health problems. Here leading cardiovascular organizations--including the World Heart Federation and the American Heart Association--argue that it’s time to take serious action. Let’s join their efforts. More at World Heart Federation.

Can a recovery-analysis strap help you reach a new personal best?
Pay attention now: This story is essentially an ad for Whoop, a recovery-analysis strap that is free but apparently useless without a $24/month analytics membership. Ordinarily, I’d never mention a product like this, but the Whoop folks did something interesting. They conducted an 8-week “experiment” with runners who raced a 5K pre-Whoop and post-Whoop, and here they report the results. Non-Whoop runners improved by 2:30, while Whoop runners sliced off 2:41 and reported 34 percent less injury. “Advanced” and “elite” runners showed much more modest gains. And who wouldn’t get faster when given a glitzy band and software offer? Still, this is fun to read, because such side-by-side reports are rare. More at Whoop.

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

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

 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

 Jan. 26, 2021

Increase your lung muscle strength
When my son was 3, he nearly died from an “atypical pneumonia” that continually filled his lungs with fluid. Sitting by his bedside, I caught a much lesser variety, though it was months before I could run without hearing a raspy inhale. So I think about the lungs more than most of you. And six months ago, after reading a few favorable articles, I bought this breathy-thingy for 30 bucks. I tried it, and it works fine. Problem is, I haven’t incorporated it into my daily routine yet. Now I will, in part because of this most-recent positive research result on inspiratory muscle training. More at Medicina.

Nutrify your meals with these simple add-ons
Yes, I made up that word. But it seems to work pretty well for a strategy that adds a nutritional boost to what  you’re eating. It’s simple to keep these things around in a resealable container, and it’s fun to add them to your favorite foods. I’m already putting kefir in my smoothies. Now I’m planning to try cacao nibs in my yogurt, and hemp hearts on my (occasional) ice cream. More at Podium Runner.

At last, a few good words about the benefits of moderate steady training
I don’t have to tell you that HIT training (high intensity) has gotten all the coverage in recent years, promising you more for less. Who wouldn’t want that? But those are often slice-and-dice studies that don’t look at the whole picture. A new report takes a different slant, comparing three days a week of HIT exercise with five days of moderate 30 to 40 minute workouts. Result? Both produced equal fitness gains, but the moderate approach also helped to reduce body fat, lower blood pressure, and lower blood glucose (only on the days when subjects exercised). A doc named Franklin Zimmerman has said, “You only have to exercise on the days when you eat,” and it turns out he’s right. More at NY Times.

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Vegans, vegetarians: Eat smart, especially for strong bones
Listen, I’m one of you. I’ve been a vegetarian--with occasional lapses, I admit--for more than a half century. Fortunately, I know a lot more about nutrition and health than I did way back then. But I was still surprised by this deep, longitudinal report which found a 43 percent higher risk of bone fractures among vegans, and some risks for vegetarians too. It’s especially important to be vigilant about your protein, zinc, and calcium consumption. More, short, at IdeaFit, and long at BMC Medicine.

Best face masks to wear while running or biking
It’s been a twisted, confusing path, but for the most part, I believe experts have come down on the side of believing there’s low covid transmission during outdoor exercise, especially if you maintain a little distance from your training partner. Nonetheless, it’s good to know that some masks are more comfortable than others (while still covering your mouth and nose) during endurance exercise with lots of steady, uninterrupted, modest breathing in and out. This isn’t a scientific review, but the folks at Gear Patrol seem to know their masks pretty well, and have done lots of other articles that you can easily link to. More at Gear Patrol.

Low carb diet (keto) vs high carb, round 143
I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’m fascinated by the low-carb (ketogenic) vs. high-carb war. We’ve certainly learned in the last decade that fat isn’t nearly the monster we once believed, and even has good points. But for weight loss? And long-term? Those are still open questions. In the latest round, uber-math scientist Kevin Hall, from the National Institutes of Health, had subjects follow a plant-based low-fat diet (75% carbs) or a meat-based high-fat diet (75% fats) for two weeks while living in a metabolic ward, and then switch diets. In the ward they couldn’t cheat on their diets. They had no access to food other than the meals delivered to them. 

Result: Subjects ate 550 to 700 fewer calories per day on the low-fat diet. However, their glucose and insulin levels were steadier on the high-fat diet--a partial win for high-fat. Most interesting: According to Keto theory, carbs are bad because they perturb glucose and insulin, causing fat gain and increasing hunger. Here, the high-carb diet did affect insulin and glucose, but did not have the hypothesized effect--a loss for high-fat, at least a mechanistic one. More at National Institute of Health.

Train by your muscle fiber types for optimal fitness (and to avoid overtraining)
This little blog from Training Peaks is actually about cyclists, but that doesn’t make any difference: Muscle fiber is muscle fiber, and intensity of training is intensity. The author discusses fibers Type 1, Type 2A-2X, and Type 2B. These cover the range from relatively easy aerobic training to short, intense power sprints. It’s good to train them all, of course, but you have to be careful as you move up the range. More at Training Peaks.

Several steps to a faster recover from Achilles problems
Achilles tendinitis is one of those injuries you don’t want to get because it’s tough to fix and can hang on for a long time. (I missed 11 weeks of running last summer, but am thankfully 99 percent good now.) Pretty much everyone knows about the eccentric heel-drop exercises you’re supposed to do when you have Achilles issues (the Alfredson protocol). This new research report followed an RCT (randomized, controlled trial) design and found “significantly greater improvements” when subjects also used extracorporeal shockwave therapy. More at Foot & Ankle International.

How to pick the best fitness app
For this kind of info, you have to go beyond the usual running websites to a respected tech site. So that's what I did here, referring to Gizmodo. I didn't realize you could subscribe to apps from the big players without also buying their expensive equipment, but apparently that's the case. Gizmodo seemed quite impressed with offerings, at $10-$13 monthly, from Apple Fitness, Peloton, Fit)u have to pick the one that grabs you for ease of use and varied offerings. By the way, given that it's still winter and still Covid, you're excused if you choose to exercise indoors with these apps. Do whatever you have to do to keep moving. More at Gizmodo.

Your diet can reduce your injury risk, and improve your return from injury
Nancy Clark is a runner and sports nutrition expert who has been writing about the intersection of the two for 40 years. That gives her high marks in my book. Recently she attended the virtual conference of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) to keep up on the latest findings on nutrition and injury-prevention and return-from-injury. She summarizes that info at the following link, with a nuanced look into collagen, a hot topic these days. More at Nancy Clark RD.

Fact check: Some things you believe about dieting and weight loss are false
We’re getting to that time of the month when everyone’s Jan. 1st resolutions are becoming  harder to hold together. That’s particularly true about those most common of goals: weight-loss. I figure if you want to get it right, you should have the basic facts on your side, and the editors of the New England Journal of Medicine agree. A few years back, they published a classic, evidence-based article (now free if you choose to click the link below) about myths and wrong assumptions associated with weight loss. For example, it’s not bad to have a rapid weight-loss at the beginning of your diet. (It’s better to be encouraged than discouraged.) Also wrong: that small daily changes yield big results over time; and that you can burn 100 to 300 calories having sex. Would you believe 14? More at New England Journal of Medicine.

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Thanks for reading. See you next week. 

 Jan. 19, 2021

Improve your training with a mix of Habituation and Confusion
Jason Karp has great credentials in running science--more than just his PhD degree. Among other things, he did some of the earliest research on chocolate milk for recovery, and authored the definitive data based paper on the training of U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials runners. Now, in an excerpt from a new book, he writes about Habituation and Confusion in training. He argues that you need both, in the right balance. You need to keep doing the same-old same-old to build consistency and strength. But then you need to confuse your body a bit, and force it to adapt to a new and higher level of fitness. A great concept. More at PodiumRunner.

How sex and footstrike influence injury rates
I keep reading injury studies, hoping someone will eventually come up with an answer. What causes them? What can prevent them? But this stuff is incredibly difficult to do, and rarely provides a simple answer. Here, the folks from the influential National Running Center at Harvard at least find some strong trends. Men have more Achilles injuries, women more trouble at the lower leg and hip/groin. A midfoot strike was linked to Achilles issues, and a forefoot strike to posterior lower leg problems. Greater peak vertical forces were weakly associated with hip injuries. It's good to know what kind of runner you are, and, of course, to respond appropriately when you first notice pain and inflammation. More at MSSE. 

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36 best treadmills, according to Runner’s World 
For most runners, a treadmill is likely to be the biggest running equipment expense of a lifetime, so you want to get it right. Few places have the capacity to test many treadmills, so it’s hard to find good, wide ranging reviews. That’s where Runner’s World, the big dog, comes through, claiming here to have run-tested 36 new treadmills, and particularly recommending five with price ranges from $1799 to $16,944. Brrrr. At that last price, I’d be willing to suffer through a few frigid outdoor runs. I do like treadmills all the same, and think safety is a particularly important issue during the dark, slippery winter months. More at Runner’s World.

The more you move, the lower your risk of developing heart disease or stroke
This study got quite a bit of mainstream coverage, often under the headline "There is no limit to the healthy amount of exercise you can do." That's not quite what the study said. It didn't look at exercise in the sense of 10-mile tempo runs or marathons. Rather it looked at total movement --like walking the dog and vacuuming the house. The good news is that the study had 90,000 subjects and used accelerometers (think Fitbits) to measure their movement. So it was more accurate than many previous studies. And, indeed, the more participants moved, the lower their risk of heart disease. Bt a whopping 30 to 60 percent. Still, you can't use this report to justify running a marathon every weekend. We don't actually know if that is healthy or not. My story at Podium Runner.

World record runner, Julia “Hurricane” Hawkins, gets vaccinated at age 104
If she can do it, you can too. Hawkins took a day off from her regular 30 minutes of “fast walking” to get her covid vaccination. She holds multiple world records, and is hoping she can soon visit again with her children. Aren’t we all. Don’t miss the great video. More at WBRZ.

But we can’t all run fast like Julia, you know
This is a great article by Erin Strout because it balances out all the super fast race times that have been recorded in 2020. Those performances are good for the elites … and fun to read about. But the rest of us aren’t full time pro athletes, and few can expect personal bests during a Covid pandemic. Life gets in the way--time after time after time again. So don’t get depressed if you’re not running fast. Pat yourself on the back if you’re merely maintaining. You’re slow? That’s okay. Just keep moving.This is a tough, tough thing we’re all going through. Stay as positive as you can, and be good to yourself and others. More at Women’s Running. 

I try to resist Listicles but … 17 great longevity tips got to me
I decided to include this link because the tips are largely evidence-based and the advice comes from experts. Also, they put exercise at the top of their list. This article is a little long, but it’s info packed, so helpful. More at Well + Good.

Here’s some good advice for your next pre-race taper
The language is a little confusing because the researchers talk about “cessation” of a certain kind of training before your next race. What they mean: Stop doing this. And “this” is high-intensity, explosive plyometric training. It’s good during your big buildup period. But then you should lay off it during your taper. It will help your running economy improve. More at MDPI.

When you hit the hills, consider taking a walk break
In my first Comrades Marathon in the mid-1990s, I got mad at the other runners when they all started to walk on the first long incline. I had to dart and dodge to get around them, which took a lot of extra effort. Stupid me, a Comrades rookie. The vets who were walking intuitively knew what Alex Hutchinson recently explained in a "Sweat Science" article: On hills, walking can often beat running for pace and efficiency. More at Outside Online.

Run now, less psoriasis later
This gets a mention because it’s a fitness-health connection I’ve never seen before. The study was conducted with results from more than one million members of the Swedish military. The results showed that the lowest-fit male recruits were 35 percent more likely to develop psoriasis later in life. Of course, you have to remember that running outdoors raises skin-cancer risks. So cover up, and use sunscreens. More at PLOS ONE. 

Great new running books, and a handful of “classics” as well.
Elite runner Becky Wade has been doing nice book-review roundups for Runner’s World for a couple of years now. Here, she surveys the best of the recent crop while also taking a look at a few classics. (It’s always tough to beat the classics.) She seems to find a lot of nutrition/recipe books among the newcomers, but also likes The Genius of Athletes for any runner interested in improving their thinking and mental skills. Among the classics: Endure, Once A Runner, and of course Born to Run. More at Runners World. 

Fast shoes make fast runners. Doh. But this article has good stuff
At first I wasn’t very interested in an article claiming that all the recent fast marathons (and other top performances) were achieved by better shoes--not better training, not human evolution. Doh. I already knew this, and didn’t need a science paper to convince me. But the report is well argued, and includes a great Table that compares many of the current carbon-boosted shoes. Here’s the table. More at Sports Medicine.

That's it for now. Hope to see you again next week. Amby

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