September 29, 2022

THIS WEEK: Prime your Achilles for peak performance. The astounding Eliud Kipchoge. Do Yasso 800s work? How to prevent/manage knee injuries. It’s not the carbon plate. “Strong evidence for exercise vs breast cancer. Should you try nasal breathing? “You only have to exercise if you eat.” And much more

For peak performance, prime your Achilles first

The Achilles tendon is extraordinarily important to runners. So of course, you want to keep it healthy and injury-free. But in races and hard training, you also want it to be as “stiff” as possible, because the stiffer a tendon, the more elastic recoil (bounce; energy return) it can provide. And that will make you more efficient and faster.

Here researchers looked at the best way to improve blood flow and stiffness of the Achilles tendon. They compared: 10 minutes of running, plyometrics, eccentric heel drops, and static stretching. Two of the four--running and plyometrics--were the clear winners, as they were “intensive enough to properly prepare the Achilles tendon for subsequent sport activities.” Heel drops and static stretching “elicited no significant differences.” Hence the recommendation: “We advise the incorporation of highly intensive exercises such as running and plyometrics within warm-up programs.” More at The J of Strength & Conditioning Research.

Let’s celebrate Eliud Kipchoge

I don’t normally devote much space to an elite athlete performance, because many other media do plenty of that. But Eliud Kipchoge is the G.O.A.T. by such a wide margin that he deserves the focus. Besides, I had an interesting run with him in Kenya way back in 2005, so I consider him a bit of a training partner. (Joking about the training partner, not about the run.) As you’ve probably heard, Kipchoge ran 2:01:09 Sunday morning in Berlin to break his own marathon world record. 

Here’s a blog about our run together in 2005. Even then, Kipchoge revealed a mentality that might be even more important than his physical gifts, as this great NY Times story reveals.

Also, you’ll want to admire these striking photos of Kipchoge in profile and in academic garb, plus a photo grouping of the shoes he has worn the past several years. Finally, a video look at the guy who hands Kipchoge his drinks bottle at Berlin Marathon, and a gorgeous Kenya Tourism Board video featuring Kipchoge.

Can Yasso 800s “predict” your marathon time?

It’s been a couple of decades since Yasso 800s burst onto the marathon-training scene when my friend and RW work colleague Bart Yasso first described his system to me. In his own training, Bart had found that his average time for a workout of 10 x 800 meters (say 2 minutes, 58 seconds) predicted his marathon time as hours:minutes (2 hours, 58 minutes.) Here's the story I wrote in 2001.

The below-linked article reports that I wrote with “delirious excitement” about Yasso 800s. That’s not my normal manner, but I’ll let it pass. The author seems to both damn and praise Yasso 800s, so let me set the record straight. There’s no rule or physiology that makes Yasso 800s a perfect measuring tool. The workout is simply a challenging-but-fun way to get an estimate of your marathon fitness. There are many reasons why it could misfire, particularly if your upcoming marathon takes place in bad weather.

Lastly, I advise runners to “cheat” and stop at 8 Yassos. If you can do 8, I’m betting you can do 10. But the last two aren’t worth the extra effort. By the way, I checked with Bart to ask if he still gets inquiries about Yasso 800s. He said, Yes, a lot. Especially from non U.S. runners.” More at Inside Hook.

A major review looks at ways to prevent & manage knee injuries

In this paper, Australian researchers performed a systematic review and meta analysis of only randomized controlled trials of runner studies on knee pain. In other words, they were looking for “gold standard” evidence. It wasn’t easy to come by. They found “low-certainty evidence” that the following did not work: “various footwear options, multicomponent exercise therapy, graduated running programmes and online and in person injury prevention education programmes.”

Okay, so what’s left? There was a some support for short-term knee pain relief from

“running technique retraining strategies, medial-wedged foot orthoses, and osteopathic manipulation.” One trial with 320 subjects provided some evidence “that running technique retraining [to land softer] reduced the risk of knee injury compared with control treadmill running.” More at Brit J of Sports Medicine.

Carbon plated shoes won’t make you faster (but the foam might)

One reason carbon-plate super shoes are so expensive is the high cost of lightweight but strong-and-stiff carbon fiber inserts. So, if it were determined that the carbon plates contribute little or nothing to faster running, then the next generation of shoes could skip the carbon, and focus more on the new super-foams. You’d think this would reduce prices at the same time.

A new study from running biomechanics expert Max Paquette supports this “forget the fiber” approach, at least among runners over age 60. Subjects ran in 3 shoes rated by stiffness as low, moderate, and high. Conclusion: Increased shoe stiffness resulting from carbon inserts “does not improve running economy and generally does not alter lower limb joint mechanics of rearfoot strike runners over 60 years.” More at Research Quarterly for Exercise & Sport.

Should you switch to nasal breathing?

I’ve heard a lot of talk about nose (nasal) breathing recently, and I’ll admit to experimenting myself. I thought it ridiculous at first, but now I am softening my view. The attraction? Mainly that the nose can remove air pollutants. I now switch to nasal breathing whenever a junky old bus or truck rumbles past.

There’s a down side, of course. We’re so used to mouth breathing that it takes intense concentration to change. Also, it’s tough to run fast with nasal breathing, though I’ve found I can manage 4 to 5 minutes at 10K race pace. And there is supporting evidence on nasal breathing and intense running.  I’m sure we’ll continue to read more about nasal breathing. Here, Dr. Gabe Mirkin summarizes the pros and cons. More at Dr Mirkin.

“You only need to exercise if you eat”

This gem is one of my favorite fitness quotes. It was coined a little more than a decade ago by a Dr. Joseph S. Alpert, who wrote: “You only have to exercise on days that you eat.” You  might think this is a joke of some kind. It’s not.

For a full explanation, see the article at the below link. It’s titled  “Here’s why you should walk every time you eat.” Snacks and meals cause a spike in blood glucose and insulin. With this, your inflammation levels rise, and you could eventually develop Type 2 diabetes. A bit of exercise--like a brisk walk--just before or just after eating smooths out the glucose spike, and keeps you healthy. More at Supersapiens.

“Strong evidence” that exercise prevents breast cancer

A very large consortium of breast-cancer researchers worked together to explore associations between exercise (and sedentary time) and incidence of breast cancers. They used several large data bases, and employed a technique called Mendelian randomization to get closer to a cause-effect relationship between behaviors and diseases. 

Conclusion: “Our study provides strong evidence that greater overall physical activity, greater vigorous activity, and lower sedentary time are likely to reduce breast cancer risk. More widespread adoption of active lifestyles may reduce the burden from the most common cancer in women.” Here’s a news story covering the study at NewsMax. More at Brit J of Sports Medicine.

David Epstein, Alex Hutchinson discuss vascular age, mortality, arthritic knees, and more

The two best science-of-running writers, David Epstein and Alex Hutchinson, recently had a long conversation in Epstein’s email newsletter. They are the authors, respectively, of The Sports Gene and Endure. In this exchange, they discussed many of the controversial topics that surround running: vascular aging, knee arthritis, excessive exercise, and cardio or weights. If you read this, you’ll be smarter at the end than you were starting out. More (free, full text) at Range Widely.

Beware the “Terrible Toos” 

While many runners search for a new shoe, recovery tool, or other hacks to help them avoid injuries, most physicians and experts in the field think they’d do better to look in the mirror. Runner, know thyself, and admit to your training mistakes.

Here well known runner/physician/Ironman veteran Dr. Jordan Metzl cautions against the “terrible toos”--too much, too soon--especially in this Covid season when many runners are edging back into marathon training and racing. He also believes in strength training, cross-training, and listening to your body. In that vein, though not mentioned here: If an ache or pain decreases during a run, you might be okay to keep training. However, if a pain gets worse with each mile, it’s probably time to bail, rest, and rehab. More at NYTimes. 

SHORT STUFF you don’t want to miss

>>> Consuming an ice-slurry in midrace could improve your performance in hot weather.

>>> Speaking of overcoming heat problems, a frequent issue even in mild weather races, caffeine has only a “trivial effect” on your core body temperature. So it may still “provide a worthwhile improvement in endurance performance.”

>>> Gotta love it: Among children and adolescents, exercise, especially in team sports, “seems to be effective in reducing aggressive behavior.”

GREAT QUOTES make great training partners

“The best time to plant a tree was 25 years ago. The second-best time to plant a tree is today.”

--Eliud Kipchoge

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

September 22, 2022

THIS WEEK: Forget post-race icing. Use ice pre-race! The perfect marathon-taper program. Better than The 10% Rule. Training methods of the incredible Kilian Jornet. How to reduce stomach pain while running. 7 lessons from first marathons. The secret to speedy downhills. Who’s faster: Vegans or omnivores? And much more.

Forget the post-race ice. Use it pre-race!

Everyone knows about the post-exercise recovery theories built around cold water and ice. They’ve fallen a bit out of favor in recent years, but many still follow them. Now there’s a new kid on the block: ice massage before a race.

In a hot-off-the-presses paper, Brazilian researchers report that runners ran a 4K time-trial 5.5% faster after ice massage than without ice. That’s a huge difference, with average final times of about 19:06 (ice) vs 20:12. 4K is almost exactly 2.5 miles, and weather was similar for both trials. The researchers believe ice produced this dramatic outcome through “a reduced exercise-induced pain perception.”

Subjects were 14 college-age males who had been racing for at least 4 years and were training about 14 miles per week. They ran 4K as hard as they could on a standard 400-meter track once after receiving a light-pressure 3-minute ice massage of the calf muscles, and once after no massage (in randomized order). After the ice massage, the runners had 5 minutes to warm up for their 4K.

It’s possible, of course, that ice massage enhanced performance as a placebo. However, the authors believe the improvement in their study was so great that it must have been more than that. This paper is the first to show that “ice massage locally applied” before a time-trial could have a dramatic positive effect. More at Research Quarterly for Exercise & Sport.

The perfect (proven) marathon taper

We’re getting into marathon-taper season for many runners, so listen up right now!

You probably know what you’re supposed to do, since the “conventional wisdom”--a 2 to 3 week taper--is widely proposed by experienced coaches. Yet many runners still ignore this approach, apparently feeling they will gain weight and/or lose fitness if they taper longer than a week.

This article by Barry Smyth should provide all the guidance and motivation you need. He’s a big data guy at the University of Dublin who analyzed marathon taper data from 158,000 runners on Strava. The goal? To figure out which taper programs produced the best finish-time results.

It’s fascinating to read how Smyth went about doing this, but here’s the bottom line. 1) Set yourself a “strict” taper program, and follow it. 2) 3 weeks beats 2 weeks beats 1 week, ie, longer is better up to 3 weeks. 3) 1 week is worse than anything except for a no-taper, which is really, uh, dumb. 4) Females may get greater benefit than males for any given taper. More at Medium.

Your ACWR is more important than The 10% Rule

New York’s Hospital for Special Surgery is a major sponsor of the TCS NYC Marathon, and recently published important new research on injuries suffered by runners during their 16 weeks of training for New York. The 735 subjects were in their early 40s, nearly 50/50 by sex, and had completed an average of 3 previous marathons and 10 half marathons. They ran 4 days a week and increased weekly mileage from about 27 miles/week during the first 4-week period to a high of 34 miles/week during weeks 9 through 12.

At the end of each 4-week period, subjects completed a questionnaire about their injury and illness days. About 40% of the 735 runners reported an injury at one time or another during training. Illnesses were less common and mostly occurred post-marathon.

Here’s what did not affect injuries: Age, sex, running experience, goal finishing time, and weeks that exceed the 10% training-increase rule. 

Here’s what did affect injuries: An ACWR equal to or greater than 1.5. ACWR stands for Acute:Chronic Workload Ratio. To calculate your ACWR, take your miles in the last week and divide that number by the average of your miles in the last four weeks. For example, if you ran 30 miles this week and 100 miles in the last 4 weeks (including this week), your ACWR is 30/25 = 1.2. 

You can actually calculate your ACWR at the end of every day, using 7 days and 28 days to derive your ACWR ratio. Again, aim to keep the ratio below 1.5. The HSS team found: “The number of days when the ACWR was equal to or greater than 1.5 was significantly associated with injury.” (Here’s another in depth article on the pros and cons of ACWR for runners.) More at Brit J of Sports Medicine.

Are women closing the male-female sex gap in running?

Last week a couple of my favorite running writers went slightly woo-woo over reports that left me less giddy. Alex Hutchinson loves basic science, so he was intrigued by a study showing that women runners are relatively closer to men in the--wait, it’s coming--10-meter sprint than they are at longer distances. Still, they’re 5.6% slower than males, which grows to 8.6% at 60 meters (the shortest distance at Indoor World Championships) and then the familiar 10% to 12% at 100 meters and beyond. These are all significant differences that IMHO justify the time and effort World Athletics is devoting to establish fair sex-based divisions in running. More at Outside. 

Training secrets of the incredible Kilian Jornet

Another top writer, David Roche, seems an excitable type by nature, and I enjoy the raw enthusiasm that permeates much of his writing. He could barely contain himself--”angels sang”--over Kilian Jornet’s recent “how I train” blog in addition to the podcast Roche and his wife, Megan, did with Jornet. 

My view: I couldn’t have more admiration than I do for Jornet, who has been virtually unbeatable for 15 years in ultra-endurance events. Long term excellence is my #1 measuring stick. Think of runners like Joan Samuelson and Eliud Kipchoge. Their longevity makes them best of the best, in my view, and Jornet belongs in this rarefied company.

The thing is, all the veteran stars follow the same training principles, which are now well established. They train consistently, they train high mileage, they train mostly at a comfortable pace, they do faster workouts sparingly, and when they do turn to speedwork to achieve peak racing fitness, they are careful to moderate their other training (and assorted stresses) to make sure they don’t go over the top. There it is: Choose your parents well, then adopt this training pattern. Which seems precisely what Jornet has done.

I do appreciate that Jornet has shared so much in such a coherent fashion, and especially the details about organizing family life so both he and his wife have sufficient training time (they have two young children born in the last 3 years), the importance of being “in a moment in my life where I’m happy,” and his exact fueling protocol during the mountainous 110-mile Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB). Here’s David Roche’s summary at Trail Runner.

How to reduce stomach pain while running

Patrick Wilson, author of The Athlete’s Gut, continues to research reasons why runners have stomach-related problems at various times. One of these is called ETAP, ie, Exercise related Transient Abdominal Pain. When Wilson checked with 168 male and female adult runners, he found that 39.9% of them had experienced ETAP in the last month. That’s a sizable number, and it no doubt impacts performance. Wilson’s analysis found that “anxiety and stress are associated with the presence of ETAP.”  More at Clinical J of Sports Medicine.

7 things you learn in a first marathon

Several months ago, Tara Parker Pope moved to the Wash Post from the NY Times, where she had been responsible for launching the paper’s popular “Wellness” section with a solid assist from freelancer Gretchen Reynolds, who often updated us on the most important new exercise research. Parker Pope’s section at the WaPo is called “Well+Being,” and she has brought Reynolds along with her. Click on the “Lifestyle” tab to find “Well+Being.”

It seems likely that “Well+Being” will include semi-regular updates from the running world, and the first appeared recently. It asked the question, “What did experienced marathon runners learn from their first 26.2 miler? My answers were: Being scared is a good thing, and have your mantra ready. You’re going to need it.

All 7 responses are solid, ranging from Meb Keflezighi’s “Practice patience” to the “Dress lighter than you think” advice. More at Wash Post.

The secret to fast downhill running

It took me 10 years, and many lost races, to learn to run fast downhill. Finally, I figured out a simple cue that worked for me: “Quick feet, quick feet, quick feet.” Once learned, it became a running skill that I could turn on instantly as needed.

A new masters degree thesis from BYU seems to confirm my approach. The author, who studied under well known running biomechanics researcher Iain Hunter, looked into “Anatomical and Biomechanical Factors Related to Running Economy in Uphill and Downhill Running.” She found that a “shorter average ground time” was linked to better downhill running. The opposite, “a longer average ground time,” was linked to strong uphill running. She notes that “this information can be used to make changes in training” to improve your up and down running,” but there could be other factors as well. More at BYU Scholars Archive.

Omnivores run faster than vegans/vegetarians

The Swiss-German research project called “The NURMI study” is surely one of the best named out there. (After the great Finnish runner of the 1920s, Paavo Nurmi, who won 9 Olympic gold medals in distance running events.) Here NURMI stands for “The Nutrition and Running High Mileage” study.

Previous NURMI papers have looked primarily at ultra runners. This one, with 864 subjects, investigates marathon runners and half-marathoners by diet type, BMI, finish times, and more. There’s a lot of slicing and dicing. You can read it all at the free, full-text link below.

The top-line findings: 1) Females were more likely to follow vegan or vegetarian diets than males. 2) Vegetarians tended to have the lowest body weights, and omnivores the highest. 3) Higher body weights were linked to slower times in males, not females. 4) Omnivores were significantly faster than vegans or vegetarians in most performances.

More at Nutrients.

Every step counts, but faster is better

You might wonder why researchers continue to study step counts and their relationship to good health. After all, step counting seems much less scientific than heart rates, vo2 max testing, cholesterol levels, and the like. The reason is simple: Steps are easy to measure with inexpensive “bands,” and might motivate non exercisers to get moving. Steps are also meaningful. 

In fact, “Every step counts,” according to a new systematic review and meta-analysis of studies looking at adults over age 60. Increasing step counts offers “a wide array of positive outcomes.” More at The Lancet.

Another step-count paper looked into records of 78,000 British citizens (ages 40 to 79) with a followup period of 7 years. It found “more steps per day (up to almost 10,000) “may be associated with a lower risk of all-cause, cancer, and CVD mortality.”

This paper also looked at step-rate intensity, what we runners call pace or stride rate.  A high cadence [stride rate] “consistently associated with lower risks across all outcomes, beyond the benefit of total daily steps.” Thus steps you take walking fast, or even better running, count more than slow-strolling steps. Pick it up a little if you can. More at JAMA Internal Medicine.

SHORT STUFF you don’t want to miss

>>> Best runner recovery tools of 2022.

>>> Systematic review: “The findings do not support broad use of viscosupplementation [hyaluronic acid] for the treatment of knee osteoarthritis.”

>>> Weird science: Microbiome transplant from human to mouse improves mouse endurance.

GREAT QUOTES make great training partners

“I’m not afraid of failing and I’m also not afraid of bringing everyone else along on the journey to see me vulnerable with what I’m attempting to do. Maybe I’ll do it, maybe I won’t.”

--Keira D’Amato, American record holder in the marathon who is trying to break her own record Sunday morning in Berlin

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

September 15, 2022

THIS WEEK: Which is better--speed work, or distance? Sugar intake impacts cultures in diet transition. Does weight-loss improve marathon times? How to set goals that work. Research supports orthotics. Three cheers for 80-yr-old female marathoners. Mental strategies of Nell Rojas. Guide to hydration products. Do top cyclists train like runners? Everyone’s talking about melatonin. And more

Which works better--speed work, or distance?

It’s the essential training question--the one we all want to have answered. You’re increasing training for an upcoming race, and want to know which type of training will give you the biggest payoff: more speedwork, or more distance? A Finnish research team recently tackled this question using a 2-week training block for comparative purposes.

Here’s the key data: 2 groups of mid-30s runners averaging about 30 miles per week were placed into performance-matched groups. One, the Interval group, then did the same workout (6 x 3 minutes hard) 10 times in the next two weeks. They basically maintained their prior mileage. The Volume group, by contrast, did 10 slow, comfortable runs that increased mileage by 70% to 48 miles per week.

Who won the race? It was basically a tie, with both groups improving by about 2 percent.

The Interval trainers seemed to struggle more, at least in terms of increased muscle soreness and decreased heart rate variability (a higher score is better). This caused the researchers to comment that interval training might leave “less margin for error.”

Nonetheless, both training programs seemed “tolerable for recreational athletes,” and both led to “statistically significant and practically meaningful” improvements. More (free, full text) at Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

“Can I improve my marathon time by losing weight?”

This is a topic that a lot of researchers, often members of sensitive college communities, don’t like to discuss much. The same is true of elite marathoners who are universally super-thin, but don’t want to talk about it. They’d rather talk about their tempo runs. 

The same restrictions don’t apply to real-world marathon runners like the folks at Reddit who are trying to set PRs, achieve Boston Qualifiers, and so on. They know that dropping a few pounds has the potential to yield faster performances, but also to raise risks.

There’s nice variety here. One poster wrote bluntly: “1--Restrictive eating; 2--Maximize fitness gains; 3--Stay injury free. You can only do 2 of these at a time.” The next wrote that he had lost a pound a week in three consecutive marathon buildups with apparently good results, and encouraged others to do the same. If you’re wondering about your weight and your marathon time, this is a good place to review other runners’s experiences. More at Reddit.

New insights on successful goal-setting

Noel Brick, author of The Genius of Athletes, conducted deep interviews with 21 runners after they achieved “excellent performances.”  Almost all “persisted with their initial goal” but more than half adjusted it in some way. Stay strong but flexible. More at University of Lincoln.

Another research team undertook a systematic review and meta analysis of 27 studies that investigated goal-setting. This team found that “process goals appear to be the most effective goal type for enhancing performance.” Process goals are those relatively small steps that are actually under your control, such as “I will run 4 times this week” or “I will go to bed 30 minutes earlier this month.” These can increase self-efficacy/self-confidence--a clearly important variable for runners.

On the other hand, “normative comparisons do not improve performance and result in some maladaptive psychological outcomes.” Surprisingly, non-specific goals like “I will do my best in all workouts” proved as successful as specific goals. More (free, full text) at Int Review of Sport & Exercise Psychology.

Queen Elizabeth's longevity secrets

This one's a bit light weight, but it relates to the biggest news of the week, and what's not to like about 96 well-lived years? Thanks to walking, dogs, purpose, time in nature, and moderate tea, alcohol, and dark chocolate. More at Today.

A fascinating cultural view on the “limit your sugar” story

We’re often told that our modern, highly processed diet (vs the whole foods diet of several centuries ago) is the source of many current health issues like obesity and diabetes. Sounds reasonable, but show me the money … I mean, the proof. That’s what a group of Spanish researchers set out to do recently.

Basically, they identified 11 cultures which underwent a “nutrition transition” and also had sufficient health data pre- and post-transition. From these, they selected four diverse cultures for intensive analysis. Yes, population health deteriorated substantially after transition to a “modern” diet. In one case, for example, BMI jumped 19% and diabetes rates soared 40-fold. 

But what aspect of the modern diet led to these negative outcomes? That was the big question the research group wanted to answer.  It wasn’t total fat calories or even saturated fat calories, as it turned out. Rather, “The nutrient category most strongly associated with negative health outcomes was sugar and refined carbohydrates.” Sugar consumption increased more than 600% in some societies. There was a weaker association with total calories and reduced exercise. You’ve heard the “limit your sugar intake” message hundreds of times before. Now you’ve got a bit of historical-cultural context to reinforce the message. More (free, full text) at Frontiers in Nutrition.

New research supports orthotics usage

Orthotics are disdained by some, and adored by others, especially those who find their way to healthy, pain free running with orthotics. But what aspects of running do they actually improve, if any? Here several British researchers conducted a randomized, controlled trial to find out. They concluded that orthotics felt significantly more comfortable than no orthotics, and resulted in a significantly faster average running pace. There was no significant difference in injury rates, though orthotics tended to reduce injuries. More at World J of Orthopedics.

Nell Rojas explains her mental-toughness tricks

This week the Boston Marathon began accepting applicants for the 2023 race, and I’m guessing Nell Rojas will be one of them. She seems to run her best on the tough Boston course, where she has been the top American female the last two years, improving her best to 2:25:57 last April.

Maybe she succeeds because of her strong mindset. Here, at an unexpected source, CNBC, Rojas explains her approach to realistic thinking. “We’re all human. If we fail, we fail. There will be more opportunities in the future.”

She also notes her opposition to the “no pain, no gain” approach, and says “an absence of negativity” is the key to her mental approach. “[You learn] how to cope with something you’re scared of, or you don’t want to do: Do it anyway. Get through it and do it well.” More at CNBC.

Do top cyclists train the same as runners?

It’s always fun to look into the training of elite athletes from non running endurance sports to see where there are similarities and differences. This paper looked at three top-rank cyclists, and their training through the buildup months and major races. Several things stood out. 1--Overall training was “pyramidal,” building total volume from the early weeks to later peak weeks. 2--Nonetheless, the pyramid turned into “polarized” training in the race season. That is, volume stopped increasing, and the athletes did more speedwork along with their slow training. 3--They didn’t taper for big races as much as the scientific research suggests (40 to 50%). Instead, they cut back about 10% to 20% on average. 4--They also did not do strength training, despite scientific recommendations that favor strength training. More (free, full text) at Scandinavian J of Medicine & Science in Sports.

Score one for 80-yr-old female marathoners

The Berlin Marathon is scheduled for Sept 25, and this year promises more fast running with Eliud Kipchoge slated to return and American Keira D’Amato hoping to lower the American record she set in Houston last January.

We all know that weather makes a huge difference in marathon performances, which was recently verified in two papers looking at hundreds of thousands of Berlin and New York City finishers. High heat and high humidity are both impossible to overcome.

When I looked at all the results presented here, I focused more on the gaps between age-groups. At New York, men’s times were roughly similar through the 40-49 group at 4:12. Then they began slowing: 50-59, 4:27; 60-69, 4:40, 70-79, 5:30; 80-89, 6:45. Women finishers were about 10 percent slower than men, except at 80-89, where both sexes had essentially the same time. This was probably due to few runners, and several super-fast “old ladies,” god bless them. But I have an evidence-free theory that women runners slow down with age slightly less than men. So I’m filing this factoid for future reference. More at European Review for Medical & Physiological Sciences (Berlin), and Frontiers in Physiology (NY).

Ultimate guide to hydration products

I spoke recently with the founder of Doctors of Running, and liked what I heard and learned, so I plan to pay more attention to this site going forward. Here, they branch out from their main topic--shoe reviews--to take a crack at hydration products. It’s a daunting task with so many players in the field, including many niche companies. Also, for me anyway, it’s tougher to distinguish among hydration and fuel products than it is to tell which shoes I like the best. (I’m lucky. I seem to have a cast-iron stomach.)

The DORs do a good job here, skipping over several of the biggest companies that we’re all familiar with to highlight some others with distinctive offerings. I learned that cats like UCAN (photo joke; check out the article), and that the hydration products range from no calorie to quite high calorie, and little salt to quite high salt. This gives you plenty of options, which you should try in training well before your next important marathon. More at Doctors of Running.

Melatonin is one of those fascinating hormones that we’ve read about for decades, mainly in regard to its effect on light, darkness, and sleep. Now it’s popping up frequently again. The NY Times wonders if melatonin can become addictive (no) and how well it works for sleep and other concerns (little evidence, mixed results).

A SportsSmith review of a study recently published at PLoS One explains how melatonin reduced measures of muscle damage among professional soccer players at their intense preseason training camp. The review adds: “A unique characteristic of melatonin is that it can cross all intercellular barriers to exert its antioxidant effects – due to its amphiphilic (i.e., water and fat-loving) properties – making it highly impactful.”

At Psychology Today, a physician fills in the history of melatonin, which the body produces in decreasing amounts as we age. She seems to agree with others who have termed it a “potential disease-deferring hormone.” More here.

SHORT STUFF you don’t want to miss

>>>  In some studies, Citrulline supplements have boosted aerobic performance. However, a systematic review and meta-analysis found that it “did not prove to have any benefits.” 

>>>  Dave Wottle relives his 1972 Olympic gold medal (800 meters) in the actual Munich stadium where he raced. (A short but satisfying interview and video, thrilling every time.)

>>>  Caffeine was found not to raise blood pressure in a trial, and “low-dose” caffeine “positively impacted mood/arousal and cognitive performance.”

GREAT QUOTES make great training partners

“Only the disciplined ones in life are free. If you are undisciplined, you are a slave to your moods and your passions.”

--Eliud Kipchoge, marathon world record holder,  and two-time Olympic champion

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