April 20, 2021

THIS WEEK: Stay fast for decades. Best hydration strategies. Can shoes prevent injuries? Training with AI. Exercise and cognitive decline. No more ice baths! Healthiest grains and meats. More.

How to stay fast through the years … and decades

First, get there when you are young. Then hold onto your speed with appropriate strength training, plyometrics, and injury-resistance exercises. It’s all here in an excellent overview from Alex Hutchinson at Outside. Here’s my own favorite: Do some modest, quick, but relaxed downhill strides on a smooth surface. More from the original paper from J of Aging & Physical Activity.

The best hydration advice from the biggest expert in the field

Larry Armstrong has been a leading researcher in endurance hydration/heat issues for four decades (as well as a committed runner himself). Recently he pulled together his best strategies and tips in a new journal paper. Here’s a concise, clear summary from Podium Runner.

5 a day keeps the Grim Reaper away

Nutrition researchers from Harvard looked at fruit and veggie consumption and mortality in more than 100,000 subjects. The lowest risk was linked with 2 servings of fruit and 3 of vegetables per day. More was not better. Potatoes, corn, peas, and fruit juices do not count. Five servings a day vs 2 lowered  mortality by 12 percent, with the biggest impact on respiratory diseases (down 35 percent). More at Circulation.

The ultimate running advice

If it works for you, YES! Cheesy, inspirational quotes, you bet! (See end of newsletter). Post-run selfies online or on the fridge, absolutely! Books or tunes on tape, rock ’em! Wearing yesterday’s socks, save the planet! Walk the first minute, perfectamundo! Go slower, hell yes! Visualize yourself breaking the tape, someone’s gotta do it! Join a real-virtual-imaginary group, people power! Talk to yourself, hey no one’s listening! Inspired by Farah Miller’s great “How to Start Liking Running” article at the NYT.

Should you train with artificial intelligence? 

Here comes the newest training system, full of algorithms, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and similar buzz words. Before long, someone will be touting themselves as the “Amazon” of training programs, or maybe the “Netflix.” Me? I think I’ll claim to be the  “Bitcoin” coach. According to a long but mostly incomprehensible article at Outside, a group called TrainerRoad has the inside lane for now. They’ve started in cycling, but such outfits always include running before long. I give them credit for this: It seems their Forum is free to all, which I didn’t expect, and they’re publishing lots of public blogs. So take a look. Or just follow the old-school, no-intelligence approach: Run 10 x 400 hard, then puke. It never fails. More at TrainerRoad.com

Shoes that prevent injuries … it’s complicated

A group of Dutch researchers has spent years trying to determine the effect of different shoe types on injury risk. They’ve shown that motion control shoes are probably a good choice for those with pronated feet. And also that highly cushioned shoes tend to reduce injury risk (by about 50 percent), but only in lighter runners--an unexpected finding. In their latest report of 800+ runners randomized to two shoes that differed only in cushioning (one “soft,” one “hard”), the Dutch found no difference in peak impact force. That is, cushioned shoes didn’t provide more cushioning than hard shoes. While this can be a bit difficult to fathom, it’s consistent with similar studies about soft and hard ground surfaces, ie, that a soft surface like grass doesn’t reduce impact vs asphalt. The team is now hypothesizing that cushioned shoes may reduce injuries by delaying the time from initial impact to peak impact. More at Euro J of Sports Science.

Does exercise prevent cognitive decline?

We’d all like to believe so. And it would seem to make sense: All that increased heart stroke volume and flexible arteries sound like they should deliver more blood to the brain, and that extra oxygenation has to be good, right? Plus, some studies have delivered positive results. But apparently, we haven’t hit the finish line yet. Here, in a systematic review with lots of RCTs (in other words, a high-quality paper), the researchers find little support “that physical exercise is as potent as previously proposed” for the brain. More at Sports Medicine.

But to avoid depression in later life, yes, get those legs moving

Maybe exercise doesn’t do much for brain volume, but it definitely makes most people feel a lot better, and avoid depression--a major global health problem. Here’s another systematic review. It concludes, “Exericse brings mental health benefits.” Whew! Now I feel bettr. More at Molecular Biology Reports.

Brrrr no longer. Ice-water baths decrease the training effect

If you’ve been running for a few years, you’ll remember the hullabaloo around Paula Radcliffe’s ice-water recovery baths during the period when she ran a 2:15 marathon. For a while, such baths were the only way to show your dedication and toughness. More recent research, such as that linked here, suggests that regular cold/ice-water baths post workout may actually decrease “physiological adaptations to exercise training.” And that’s not good. More at Frontiers in Sports & Active Living.

All about lactate threshold and vo2 max in training

Here’s a medium dive into two of the most popular measures of training intensity: lactate threshold and vo2 max. In other words, basically: tempo training and speed work. The author is Spanish, where they pay close attention to these things. I like his thinking that you can do appropriate lactate threshold training every week, but maybe save vo2 max days for once every two weeks. More at Training Peaks.

Foods that fight chronic inflammation

No mere mortal (like me or you) can understand the number and effect of the trillions of bacteria in our microbiome, and how they interact with our diet, but a Dutch research group recently took a deep dive. They believe their results are “robust,” ie, worth paying attention to. The researchers compared diet and microbiome bacteria between apparently healthy controls and other adults with known inflammation such as Crohn’s disease, colitis, and irritable bowel syndrome. Those with inflammation problems consumed more meat, fast food, sugar, soft drinks, and hard alcohol. Their low-fiber intake made things worse. The healthy controls ate more plant proteins, nuts, oily fish, fruits, vegetables, coffee, tea, and red wine. You should too. More at  Brit Medical Journal.

Eliud Kipchoge wins again, now trains with glucose monitor

After a rare (for him) loss last fall in the London Marathon, Eliud Kipchoge returned to form Sunday morning in a small Dutch marathon, winning in 2:04:30. He’s now training with an external glucose monitor made by major marathon sponsor, Abbott. It’s supposed to help him decide when to take drinks and gels, etc. Basically, the LibreSense is a tool for diabetics, which some runners are. More at Runner’s World UK, including Kipchoge video.

Exercise protects against the most serious Covid outcomes

The NY Times reported on a report with strong evidence that regular exercisers have a significantly lower risk of serious outcomes from Covid than non exercisers. The research, with more than 48,000 subjects from the big Kaiser Permanente medical-health system, showed that the inactive had hospitalization and death outcomes 2.26 times and 2.49 times greater than those hitting 150 minutes of exercise a week. Other than getting vaccinated, “I think regular exercise is the most important thing they can do to lessen their risk. And doing regular exercise will likely be protective against any new variants, or the next new virus out there,” Dr. Robert Sallis told the Times. More at Brit J of Sports Medicine.

What are the healthiest grains and meats?

Studies have shown that eating whole grains is generally associated with healthy weight and BMI when refined grains are not. But why? Here, researchers did a systematic review and found that whole-grain consumption “significantly impacts [lowers] subjective appetite,” which would do the trick. In another report on more than 100,000 subjects, unprocessed meats and poultry had no impact on mortality. However: 

“Higher intake of processed meat was associated with higher risk of total mortality” by 50 percent. More at American J of Clinical Nutrition.


> RCTs show aerobic exercise decreases waist circumference and blood glucose in middle-aged women

> Systematic review: Few cases of Covid spread outdoors

> Super foam may do more for super shoes (Nike, etc) than carbon fiber

> Essential nonrunning stuff for runners. Drying racks--yes!

GREAT QUOTES make great training partners

“We don’t stop exercising because we get old. We get old because we stop exercising.”--Ken Cooper