March 16, 2021

TOPICS: Menthol improves performance. Elite runners don’t poop. Check your arm swing. Best long run pace. Endurance training hierarchy. Fast-recovery foods.
Run Long, Run Healthy // March 16, 2021
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Use menthol to stay cool, and boost your endurance
I’ve been running marathons with hard peppermint candies for about 20 years now for no particular reason other than I like them. Now science is making me seem a smarty pants, which comes as quite a surprise. A new randomized trial has shown that menthol mouth rinsing improves hot weather endurance cycling for women. And the following consensus statement recommends menthol skin cream and menthol mouth rinse for endurance athletes in the Tokyo Olympics. More at Sports Medicine.

The hierarchy of endurance training needs
This is a recent synthesis from U.S.-born but Norway living-and-teaching physiologist Steven Seiler. He has pioneered much of the work turning laboratory physiology into real-life, helpful training strategies like the 80/20 approach. Click on the image in the Twitter link, following, to see larger versions of both Seiler’s text and the graphic. What you’ll find is: Emphasize this first; then move on to this ; and so on--a hierarchy. Good, useful stuff. More at

You didn’t want to know this, but it’s my job
In a survey of elite runners taken at the 2019 European Cross-Country Championships, “more than half the athletes reported bowel movements once a week or more rarely.” The runners had an average age of 22, and had been training/racing for 7 years, with 79 percent of women and 54 percent of men at risk for insufficient calorie consumption (low energy availability). Men had an average BMI of 19.8 and women 18.3, with 41 percent reporting non-normal menstruation. More at Nutrients.

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The latest on “runner’s high”--but not the first
Runner’s high is an ever popular subject, and it made a splash again last week in the NY Times. Just remember: It’s not the “endorphins,” it’s the “endocannabinoids.” (Which are similar to marijuana.)  I’ll simply point out that the finding isn’t new. Way back in 2003, an important American physiologist, Phil Sparling, discovered the same. He’s important because he spearheaded the first scientific investigation of elite American women runners (1985) and also won the 1971 Grandfather Mountain Marathon in 2:52:11. You can buy an inexpensive collection of his non-fiction essays from Amazon.

Swing those arms … the right way
Don’t you always LOL when you watch TV ads showing runners as backdrop to some non running sales pitch? It’s pretty clear that the directors don’t know running, and the models once took dance classes … but also don’t know running. Two big tip offs: The models are prancing instead of running, and they shove their hands and arms waaay out in front of their bodies. There must be a better way, and the below “arm carry” article discusses one perspective. I say, it’s not that complicated: The less wasted arm energy, the better. Also, run like Eliud Kipchoge unless you are Konstanze "Koko" Klosterhalfen (go to 3:00 in video). Different strokes for different folks. More at Canadian Running.

How to get the most from your long run
The “long run” is surely one of the most discussed topics among runners. How far to go? How fast? How to recover? Etc. This article digs into the key topics, with answers from Ben Rosario, coach to the Hoka NAZ Elite marathoners, and Joe McConkey, an exercise physiologist and coach. I found one controversial tip: McConkey believes in going as slow as possible on long runs. Others will disagree. That debate won’t end soon. But good basic info here at Runner’s World. 

Try a classic but essential running exercise--step-ups
RLRH often follows the latest diet, physiology, and medical reports on running, because those are hard to find elsewhere, and can keep you on the cutting edge. But we think the basics are just as important, and should never be overlooked. Like step-up exercises. I enjoy doing low step-ups at relatively high speed, and higher step-ups at low speed to build strength and stability. These both work because they are one-leg-at-a-time exercises just like running. More at Podium Runner.

Flavonoids can help you recover better
You’ve probably heard a lot about flavonoids and polyphenols in recent years without paying much attention to what these food-related terms actually mean. Or if they’re important. I know I’ve been confused. WebMD can help. And it might be worth paying some attention, since this meta-analysis says the “bioactive phytochemicals found in fruits and teas” can help you “improve recovery of muscular strength and reduce muscle soreness in the 4-day period” after a hard workout or race. More at Sports Medicine.

Strength training for better, faster performance
Here, Alex Hutchinson does his usual great job at summarizing a few recent studies. These are about strength training for runners. The key takeaways: It may not work for injury prevention, but can boost performance gains, largely by improving your running economy. Resistance training (strength work) doesn’t add bulk (which might make you slower). You should probably mix gym work with plyometrics like hopping and skipping.  Anything is better than nothing, and, yup, the old standbys are a good place to start: squats, deadlifts, lunges, and step-ups. More at Outside Online.

Thin, flexible orthotics retain more energy return
Orthotics remain popular because they help some runners at least some of the time. It appears, however, that they decrease running efficiency. This study found a link between use of stiff orthotics and lower running economy, because the orthotics impeded the natural energy return provided by the arches. If you need orthotics for your flat feet, a pair of thinner, more flexible orthotics might “facilitate energy storage and release,” a good thing. More at Int J of Sports Physiology & Performance.

Beat low-back pain with posterior-chain exercises
Sometimes it seems that everyone has low-back pain, though a study of Chinese runners reported only a 4.5% incidence among marathoners. That’s good. And the pain was mainly linked to insufficient warmup, fatigue, and poor running stride. Meanwhile, the following meta-analysis concluded that posterior chain strength training is an effective treatment for low-back pain. That is: movements that involve several muscle groups at the back of the body (calf muscles, hamstrings, gluteals, low-back muscles, ie, erector spinae). More at Sports Medicine-Open.

Young female runners who miss menstrual periods have more injuries, less improvement
This small study compared young female runners (and nonrunners) for body composition, calorie consumption, training, and menstrual status over a year. More than half of the runners were amenorrheic, and these individuals had more injuries and missed training days than runners with regular periods. Also, only the eumenorrheic runners (with periods) improved their performance during the year. More at Int J of Sports Physiology & Performance.

Laughter makes you run better
That’s not actually true, so far as I know. I just made it up. Though “periodic smiling may improve movement economy during vigorous intensity running,” according to this study. Anyway I liked the illustrations from a forthcoming book titled I Hate Running, and You Can Too. More at Outside Online. You know anyone like this? Look in the mirror.

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

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