May 19, 2022

Your best training guide--RPE, not high tech. How to decrease mental fatigue. “Decoupling” explains why marathon runners slow down. Positive self talk for improved performance. Caffeine doesn’t work the way you think. Manage/prevent calf strains. A thumbs-up for heel-striking. Distance running and death: the heart of the matter. More.

Why RPE beats high-tech as your best training guide

We modern runners have an ever-growing and sometimes bewildering number of “tech” ways to monitor our training and racing. The trend started 40 years ago with heart rate monitors, and has accelerated since. But the thing is, none of these can beat self-monitoring, usually called Relative Perceived Effort. A new article explains why, though in rather obtuse language. For example, you’re not a runner but a CAS. “The objective of this paper is to reorient the current integrative proposals of sports monitoring by re-conceptualizing athletes as complex adaptive systems (CAS).” That’s not demeaning; it’s meant to make you more essential, because “The presumption that empirical data are superior to information generated by a self-aware, educated and informed athlete is fundamentally flawed.” Finally, “This is not an argument to eliminate objective assessments, but to restore badly needed balance.” The ancient Greeks said, “Know thyself.” Some things haven’t changed. More at Sports Medicine Open.

How to decrease mental and physical fatigue

In the last decade, we’ve come to accept that mental fatigue increases physical fatigue. So now the big question is: How can we decrease mental fatigue? This systematic review takes a crack at some answers. It reveals that “a wide range of countermeasures have been found to successfully counteract MF on a subjective, (neuro)physiological and/or behavioral level.” The biggest ones with the most evidence: caffeine before physical performances, various “odors” during fatiguing events, music, and “extrinsic rewards,” ie, a payoff of some kind. More at Sports Medicine.

How To Manage And Prevent Calf Strains

Calf strains strike almost every runner at some time. Here, 20 clinical experts provide 6 recovery strategies. They are: 1--Run on alternate days; 2--Don’t do “plodding” longer runs; 3--Don’t add distance and speed on consecutive days; 4--Do strengthening exercises after running; 5--Don’t increase weekly mileage too fast; 6--Avoid sudden changes, such as shoes, running surface, hills.

More, with free full text including photos of appropriate exercises, at Sports Medicine Open.

Why do marathon runners slow down?

You know about increasing muscle fatigue, slowing pace, depleted glycogen supplies, and “hitting the wall.” (Sorry about that.) But what do you know about “decoupling,” as when two train cars become disconnected such that one keeps moving forward while the other slows down. That’s what big-data marathon guy Barry Smyth from Dublin terms it when your heart rate stays about the same, but your pace slows substantially. In this analysis of 82,000 marathon performances, he found that decoupling tends to occur after 15.5 miles in the marathon, although more successful runners can delay it until almost 21 miles. Also, “Females had a better durability profile, as they exhibited lower decoupling.” Can you train to decrease your decoupling ratio. Maybe, but Smyth didn’t tackle this question. More at Sports Medicine.

How positive self talk can help boost performance

Research indicates that the more fatigued you are, the more you can change your performance through positive self talk. Some think this means conjuring up sunny skies and Pollyanna thoughts. It doesn’t. Mental performance consultant and PhD candidate Chris DeWolfe believes you’ve gotta get real. Everyone has negative thoughts when the going gets tough. That’s normal. The key is to acknowledge them, and to develop strategies to keep going. Important in training as well as racing. More at Tonal.

The caffeine boost: It’s different than you thought

Caffeine remains every endurance athlete’s favorite performance enhancer because it’s legal and it works. That hasn’t changed. However, a couple of new caffeine studies indicate that caffeine doesn’t work exactly as you might think. For example, widespread caffeine mythology holds that you have to withdraw from your usual brew for a week or two in order to get a performance bump on race day. Not true, says a new systematic review in Sports Medicine. It concludes: “Habitual coffee consumption does not appear to influence the acute ergogenic effect of caffeine.” Also, caffeine doesn’t enhance endurance through a fat burning mechanism, but more likely through the central nervous system. “Caffeine … did not affect total fat oxidation.” More at European J of Nutrition.

Secrets of success in ultramarathon trail races

We’re pretty sure that fast-twitch muscle fibers contribute to sprint success, and a high cardio fitness (vo2 max) and running economy to distance success. But what about ultra-distance? When researchers investigated runners who competed in a 50K race, an 80K race, and a 160K race, they found that cardio fitness predicted good performances in the two shorter distances. At 160K (100 miles), not so much. That’s unexplored territory where less traditional measures might play a bigger role. Conclusion: “Performance in longer-distance races appears to be less influenced by such physiological parameters.” More at Int J of Sports Physiology & Performance.

The heart of the matter: distance running and death

Here’s a quote from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA): “[That] repeated exercise, such as prolonged training in successive years, may lead to permanent injury of the heart or kidney is unquestionable.” Don’t panic! That editorial appeared in 1903. Now, almost 120 years later, we know that “repeated exercise” is linked to a 30 to 40% lower risk of mortality and chronic disease during a defined time period. We’ve come a long way since Pheidippides. This report traces the entire history of sports cardiology from Plato and Hippocrates to “soldiers’ heart” and “athletes’ heart” to the current day. It’s short, free, informative, and easy to follow. More at European Heart Journal.

Diet changes affect your microbiome and your performance

We runners tend to fiddle with diets a good amount. Some, for example, try to deplete their carbohydrate supply in training, hoping this will increase their fat-burning. And just about everyone uses carbohydrate loading before a marathon or other ultra event. But do these abrupt changes affect the microbiome and performance? A new paper adds some detail. It concludes: “High-protein diets [from low-carb diets] in highly trained athletes resulted in reduced running performance that was correlated with alterations in gut viral communities.” On the other hand: “Short-term high carbohydrate diet improved athletic performance.” A key consideration: “Stable microbial communities were associated with better performance,” so it’s best not to mess too much with your healthy diet. Because your microbiome likes stability. More at M Systems.

Three cheers for heel-striking

Ever since the barefoot-running craze, heel-striking has felt rather like one of those conditions you’re embarrassed to acknowledge. Like, maybe, an addiction to eating marshmallow fluff or binge watching Netflix. There’s no reason for shame, however. Heel-striking isn’t a disease. It’s how a high majority of runners land, and it doesn’t condemn you to slow plodding or injury. In fact, there could be a bright side. Heel-striking forces and loading rates might build stronger bones, as they are predictive of  increased bone mineral density at the hip and spine. More at Int J of Exercise Science. 

SHORT STUFF you don’t want to miss

>>> Use foam rolling after static stretching to increase range of motion without performance losses

>>> 5 great ways to recover and recharge

>>> What’s even better for your brain than the Mediterranean Diet? The green Med Diet

GREAT QUOTES make great training partners

¨Don’t give up on your dreams, or your dreams will give up on you.¨ – John Wooden, famed college basketball coach

That’s it for now. Thanks for reading. Stay well, and see you next week. Amby

May 12, 2022

THIS WEEK: Should kids run marathons? The latest on running and arthritis. “Soft” shoes may reduce injuries. How much should you eat while tapering? New treatments for plantar fasciitis. You only need 7 hours of sleep. Careful with sprained ankles. Masters women know how to train smart. Soft drinks and dental health. More

Should 6 yr olds run marathons?

When a running story reaches national TV and People magazine, you know it has risen above 99.9 percent of other running stories. That’s what happened when a family of 8, including a 6 yr old, ran the recent Flying Pig Marathon. Few think this is a great activity for 6 yr olds, but evidence of harm is lacking, and evidence of low injury rates has been confirmed several times. This includes a newly published paper (on middle school and high school marathoners from the Students Run L.A. program.) They appear to incur “a lower injury rate than adults during marathon training.” The father of the Flying Pig marathoning family raised a robust defense here.

I think it would be good if we could seek some middle ground on this emotional debate. Many marathons simply won’t register runners under 18. That’s a bit strict. Perhaps we could move to something like “Runners under 18 only permitted with appropriate training and racing history, which must be submitted with entry.”

The latest on running and knee arthritis

I hope you’re already a believer that running doesn’t ruin the knees, because it doesn’t. Here are the newest studies. When researchers did a systematic review of studies of only runners over age 55, where you’d most expect an arthritis problem, they concluded: “Middle aged runners did not present greater imaging or clinical signs of OA compared with non runner controls.” This applied to both recreational and elite runners. Another study from the same team compared arthritis among those doing different sports. Conclusion: Certain sports, such as soccer, handball, ice-hockey, and rugby are more likely to be associated with premature knee and hip OA. “Conversely, runners and ballet dancers do not evidence significant increase in OA.” More at Sports Medicine & Arthroscopy Review (runners), and other sports.

Keep those quads strong for knee health

Sticking to the knee arthritis theme, here’s a report showing that quadriceps strength can help protect against cartilage and meniscus issues surrounding the knee. Also, if you do develop knee problems, it’s likely that appropriate exercise, probably including quad strengthening, is your best approach. Conclusion: “Exercise therapy ranked as the best treatment for knee osteoarthritis pain, followed by NSAIDs and opioids.” More at The J of Orthopedic & Sports Physical Therapy.

Soft shoes may reduce injuries, though reasons unclear

Deconstructing the relationships between shoe design, foot-stride, leg mechanics, and injuries is no easy task. Recent papers have indicated that “soft” shoes may reduce injuries by up to 50 percent, but mainly in lighter runners. These shoes don’t necessarily work as expected, however--through peak impact forces (lower in “stiff” shoes) or peak loading rate (about the same in both designs.) A crack research team believes that stiff shoes produce “increased mechanical burden for the musculoskeletal system, especially around the ankle joint.” Alex Hutchinson explores the stiff/soft findings behind an Outside Online paywall. The newest paper is here.

How much should you eat during a marathon taper?

I don’t usually look for disagreements with experts smarter than me, but this one has me thinking. It’s about an interesting topic: How should you eat during your several week marathon (or Ironman) taper period, when you’re probably decreasing your training by 30% to 50%? Here, the nutritionist who helped Shalane Flanagan with her 6 marathons/6 weeks last fall recommends that you continue eating as you did during peak training. She doesn’t cite any evidence, so that makes me a little bolder. I think it might be smarter to maintain the energy balance you observed in training rather than upsetting that balance. That would mean fewer calories with fewer miles. Of course, you still need to carbo load pre-race. More at Run Tri Mag. 

Two new treatments for plantar fasciitis

Simple saline injections have often been used as the “placebo” condition in trials of varied PF injection treatments. Turns out the saline is better than that. It’s a positive, active agent, according to a meta analysis and systematic review of RCTs. In this analysis that included 379 subjects with PF, “Normal saline injections showed a therapeutic effect with statistically and clinically meaningful improvement.” More at Foot & Ankle Surgery. Or you could simply walk backward down a steep slope, which “was confirmed to be helpful in terms of pain relief” according to a different paper.

Sleep: You don’t need 8 hours, only 7

New recommendations often advise seemingly impossible goals like all those fruits and veggies we’re supposed to eat every day. Is it 7 servings or 9, or what? However, sleep, our most important recovery tool, seems to be trending the other way. We all grew up hearing that we needed 8 hours a night. Newer reviews have dropped that number to 7. (Though hard training regimens probably increase your need for sleep.) Here, a news story, a link to the research, and a dissenting view. More at CNN.

Most women masters runners are training smart. Way to go!

This paper looked only at women runners over age 45. They were asked 31 questions about their training, their injuries, and their reasons for running. Most ran between 10-20 miles a week, divided into three sessions. About 10 percent ran more than 30 miles/week. Ninety-seven percent ! also did cross-training. They ran for: mental health, personal challenge, and competition. Leading injury issues were: hip/glutes, foot, knee. Conclusion: “This cohort of runners trained in a relatively smart manner.” More at Int J of Sports Physical Therapy.

Kathy Martin returns with new wins and records

Continuing on the same theme, women masters, Kathy Martin just returned from 5 years of no serious racing, and picked up where she left off. Now 70, Martin won several events at the USATF Masters Indoor Championships. And she has definitely made some smart changes: more strength training, more yoga, and a training “week” that extends over 9 or 10 days to improve recovery. More behind paywall at Outside Online.

Sprained ankles should be taken seriously, and rehabbed

When my college-rugby-playing granddaughter lost some playing time this spring to a sprained ankle, I cautioned her not to take the injury lightly. The NYT running newsletter agrees, noting  that “for an estimated 40 percent of people, a sprained ankle can lead to chronic ankle instability.” The Times also suggests some strengthening and balancing exercises recommended by experts. More at New York Times.

Sports drinks unlikely to have significant bad effect on dental health

The mass media likes to publish articles about how sports drinks (the various “ades”) are destroying your teeth, because it seems ironic that fitness-motivated athletes would gulp down something that’s bad for their health. And the stories are worrisome, because we know that ades contain sugar, and no one wants any more visits to the dentist. But when Mr. Sweat Science, Alex Hutchinson, surveyed the best and most relevant research, he did not discern “a convincing case that endurance athletes are at heightened risk of tooth problems.” More at Outside Online.

SHORT STUFF you don’t want to miss

>>> Self selected music best for running motivation and performance boost

>>> Get your calcium from foods, not supplements

>>> “Laughter yoga” good for body weight and mental health

GREAT QUOTES make great training partners

“It doesn’t matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.”--Confucius

That’s it for now. Thanks for reading. Stay well, and see you next week. Amby

May 5, 2022

THIS WEEK: Blood-flow-restriction training improves endurance. Let’s all try Norwegian training. Amputee runner completes 104 daily marathon runs. Exercise is best option for knee arthritis. Should teens run marathons? Objective proof that exercise limits Covid. TV news anchor suffers heat stroke at chilly Boston Marathon. More.

Blood flow restriction training improves endurance and strength 

Don’t be surprised if you begin to see your fellow runners working out with tight bands around the upper thighs. In a recent trial of blood flow restricted (BRF) training, “endurance athletes” trained for 8 weeks with the straps while a “pair matched” group trained without. Result: The BFR subjects gained significantly more vo2max and knee extensor strength. They also had a better testosterone:cortisol ratio after training. Conclusion: “BFR may be a practical training strategy for promoting cardiopulmonary function and muscle strength in endurance runners.” More at J of Strength & Conditioning Research. 

Let’s all try Norwegian training

Just kidding. But Norwegian training is currently the rage in endurance sports, so we can expect to see any number of articles in coming months and years. Here’s one from an editor who decided to see what would happen if she trained like a Norwegian. That means, in the shortest possible summary, doing a lot of very slow running, tackling some days of “double threshold” workouts (morning and evening), and doing just a little fast running. The editor, Emma-Kate Lidbury, says she’ll be finished with her personal experiment at the end of this month, when she’ll report on her pre-program and post-program test results. That’s nice, and interesting to read about, but also doomed to be meaningless, because it’s an anecdotal, non-controlled “experiment of one.” ANY new program would produce results from her modest base. More at Outside Online.

Everything you need to know about training programs

There’s no link for this item, as it comes straight out of my head under the topic, Principles of Training Programs. It’s provoked, of course, by the previous item. Here goes. 1--The worst training program is no program at all. 2--Any program is better than no program. 3--All equal-volume programs produce relatively equivalent results. 4--The best training program is the one you like the best, and will stick with. 5--At least until you decide to change. Changing programs is cool, and may increase variety and motivation. Just be sure you’re on a program. 

Amputee runner Jacky Hunt-Broersma completed a marathon on 104 days in a row

Amputee runner Jacky Hunt-Broersma just completed 104 consecutive days of running at least 26.2 miles. Day #92 was the Boston Marathon, which she finished in 5:05:13. The next morning, she ran a marathon on a treadmill at a nearby hotel. Her achievement pretty much erases any “I don’t feel like it today” excuses the rest of us might dredge up from time to time. You don’t have to run a marathon a day. But don’t let too many days pass before your next workout. If Jacky did it, so can you. More at ESPN and NBC Nightly News.

Exercise therapy best choice for knee osteoarthritis

You can try NSAIDS and opioids if that’s what you think you need for your knee arthritis, but a new meta analysis and systematic review of RCTs concludes: “Exercise therapy ranked as the best treatment for knee osteoarthritis pain, followed by NSAIDs and opioids.” Granted, “The difference between treatments was small,” but think of all the additional benefits that come with exercise, particularly in the emotional and mental-health domains. More at J of Orthopedic & Sports Physical Therapy.

Should teens run marathons?

The Students Run L.A. program has been enrolling Los Angeles teens into a training program and then marathon participation for more than 35 years now. But is this a good idea for adolescents? What about the injury risks? A new paper found that only 18% of the teens got injured--lower than what’s often observed for adults. In fact, the younger runners--in middle school--were less injured than the high school runners. “Ninety-nine percect of marathon participants completed the race.” Conclusion: “This study represents one of the largest descriptions of injury prevalence in adolescent distance running and highlights a lower injury rate than adults during marathon training.” More at Clinical J of Sports Medicine. 

Tylenol doesn’t provide performance boost among college 3000-meter runners

Previous studies have produced different, conflicting results regarding the use of Tylenol (acetaminophen, paracetamol) to improve endurance performance. I have always leaned toward this positive paper from running expert, Andy Jones. However, a new and nicely controlled study from Western Colorado University finds no improvement in running economy or time-trial performance for collegiate 3000-meter runners after using Tylenol. Conclusion: We must understand that “ACT’s benefits have yet to be significant amongst well-trained runners.” And we need more additional investigations over longer distances. More at Int J of Environmental Research & Public Health. 

Objective Evidence: Exercise Protects Against Covid

Mountains of data show that regular exercise protects us from various chronic illnesses, and now we can add Covid to the list, based on results from more than 65,000 patients who contracted Covid. Their prior activity levels were measured by accelerometers, road race participation, or gym attendance. Result: The high level exercisers had a 34% lower rate of hospitalization and a 42% lower risk of death. The benefits extended to those with “concomitant chronic medical conditions,” ie, underlying disease. Conclusion: “Adults with high and moderate physical activity levels had significantly better outcomes” than others. More at British J of Sports Medicine.

Taking up to 10,000 steps/day increases heart health

Devices like Fitbits and the Apple Watch are so popular these days that everyone is publishing articles that relate daily step counts to health outcomes. Step counts are important because they are so easily understood by so many (vs, say, vo2max results). This makes them useful in public health discussions. Some studies have indicated that 4400 steps/day is a good count for older females, while others have indicated few if any health benefits beyond 7500 steps. A new and rigorous paper, using hard data from more than 4600 middle-aged subjects (younger than subjects in prior papers), found “a linear risk reduction” in heart-disease risk up to about 10,000 steps a day (roughly 5 miles/day). Also, consistent with other papers, intensity didn’t matter much. Just step it. More at Scandanavian J of Medicine & Science in Sports.

Boston Marathon Results Among Fastest Ever

According to, the average finishing time at Boston was faster this year at 3:45:09 than it has been since 2002 when a much smaller starting field likely meant fewer slower runners. Even in 2011, with the persistent tailwind that produced Geoffrey Mutai’s course record 2:03:02, the average finish time was 3:49:54. No doubt this year’s strong performances were due to near-perfect weather and, of course, more super shoes on more feet. More at Marathon Guide.

CNN news anchor suffers heat stroke in chilly Boston Marathon

CNN news anchor John Berman was hospitalized for three days after dropping out of the Boston Marathon at 25 miles with heat stroke and rhabdomyolysis. He provided a long explanation on the air though he seemed to describe “rhabdo” as “rambo.” Marathon medicine expert Bill Roberts told me this was a textbook case of how heat stroke can occur even under cool conditions. (There were two other heat stroke cases at the generally chilly, dry, headwind 2022 Boston.) Also, one of Boston’s medical co-directors is co-author of a paper finding that the downhill Boston course may increase “acute kidney injury biomarkers.” More at Frontiers In Physiology.

SHORT STUFF you don’t want to miss

>>>  Canadian docs now prescribing outdoor time in nature--call it green health or eco-health.

>>>  Maximalist shoes do not reduce impact shock while running.

>>>  Single leg squats beat core training for improvement of drop vertical jump.

GREAT QUOTES make great training partners

“The men who learn endurance, are they who call the whole world, brother.”--Charles Dickens

That’s it for now. Thanks for reading. Stay well, and see you next week. Amby

April 28, 2022

THIS WEEK: How “regret” produced the greatest marathon ever run. Super shoes good for non elites. How to carry your arms while running. Can you go faster in reverse? A new view on compression garments. Some indigenous runners are heel-strikers. Time-restricted eating fails test. Aging runners need to boost ankle power. More.

How “regret” led to the greatest marathon ever run

By my accounting, Mariko Yugeta has run the greatest marathon of all time. That would be the 2:52:13 she achieved at age 62 in the 2021 Osaka Women’s Marathon. It gets her an age-graded score of 103.17. For his world record 2:01:39, Eliud Kipchoge scores a lowly 100.12. Over at the New York Times, Lindsay Crouse has written a thought-provoking essay about how “regret” has fueled Yugeta’s midlife accomplishments. Read it. Think about it. The essay adds to all we know (and mostly don’t know) about the mental side of marathon running. More at NY Times.

Super Shoes good for non elites too

Many have wondered if the various brands of super shoes work as well for midpack and slower runners as they apparently work for the elites. Wellknown runner-biomechanist Geoff Burns recently tested this in the lab. He and his colleagues put runners on the treadmill at roughly 9:40 pace and 8:00 pace. They ran twice in super shoes (Nike Next%) and twice in traditional shoes of the same weight. Result: The super shoes “still provide benefits to running economy,” but the difference “may be smaller in magnitude” than that gained by faster, elite runners. More at SportRxiv.

How to carry your arms when running

Runners think more about their stride than anything else, but arm swing follows closely in second place. Just last week, running through Framingham in the Boston Marathon, I made sure to check my arm swing in the large plate glass windows at the former Hansen Electric outlet as thousands of other runners have done through the years. Various running gurus promote different “arm carriage” advice, but little of it is evidence based. What does the science say? Mostly that it’s not as important as you might imagine, thus probably not worth obsessing about. More at Outside Online.

Can you go faster in reverse?

Most endurance training programs emphasize a long period of base building followed by a shorter peaking period of more intense, faster training. But what happens if you do things in reverse? Because you might also choose to begin with speedwork and gradually add distance. A research team recently performed a systematic review of “reverse periodization” to see what they could find. Conclusion: “Use of reverse periodization likely induces similar improvements to a traditional model” in events lasting a minute or so. For runners who race 2000 to 5000 meters, there appears to be little difference. In sports like distance running “where body composition is important for performance,” traditional block periodization “may elicit more favorable improvements in body composition.” For sure, anything is better than “non-planned training.” More at Sports Medicine Open.

A new view on compression garments

Runners might use compression garments for any number of reasons, especially hoped-for gains in performance and recovery. But what if they serve a different purpose? What if they improve training gains by making your workouts more efficient, after the model of blood-flow-restriction training? That seems to be the implication of a new runner study that tested this hypothesis. While the effects were small, researchers concluded that compression garments “may increase the training stimulus during running” and also “aid post-exercise recovery.” More at BMC Sports Science, Medicine, and Rehabilitation.

Biomechanical factors related to injuries

In the eternal quesy to understand what causes running injuries, it makes sense to explore underlying biomechanical factors. The way we move, especially from the hips down, would seem to predict certain injuries. Then we only have to change our movement patterns to see if such changes can reduce or eliminate injuries. Let’s go for it! Of course, it’s not as easy as it sounds. When a team of top researchers completed a systematic review of “biomechanical risk factors for overuse injuries in distance runners,” they encountered many conflicting and even contradictory studies. They could only conclude that “running related biomechanical risk factors are injury specific,” and that “joint mechanics within the frontal and transverse plane [front and back movement; top of body and bottom movement] are more often related to running overuse injury compared to sagittal plane [side to side] joint mechanics.” This is an important topic, and you can find much more at the free, full text link. More at Sports Medicine.

How different exercises affect knee joint forces

Because we runners often experience knee pain, we worry about patellofemoral joint forces (at the knee) induced by various exercises. For example, I’d like to know why squats always give me cranky knees, but running and most other exercises don’t bother my knees. Thanks to a new study, we now have more information about those knee joint forces. Here’s some key average data: walking = .9 x BW (body weight), stair descending = 2.8BW; stair climbing = 3.2BW; and running = 5.2BW. Some ranges, derived from fewer studies: leg press and knee extensions = 5-8BW, bicycling = 3-8BW. I was most interested in squats, where the results bounced all over the place, going as high as 18BW in some cases. (Avoid squats where your knees extend beyond your toes; those are super-bad.) The researchers suggest you can use these results “to select appropriate variations of exercises and physical interventions” when injured. More at Brit J of Sports Medicine.

Vive la difference in running economy

Rigorous studies of running economy are always interesting, because we know RE is closely tied to marathon and endurance running performance. Here biomechanics researchers have uncovered a new and unexpected result: Southeast Asian runners have a significantly worse running economy (by 6%) than those outside SEA. The definition of SEA is a bit of a slippery slope, but the runners in this study were from China, Malaysia, and Indonesia. The non SEA runners came primarily from England and Europe. Runners were matched for recent training and race performance. Unexpectedly, given their poor RE, the SEA runners exhibited what are often believed to be good running metrics: lower body mass, and short, quick strides, and short ground-contact times. They also had relatively shorter legs. The research team could not explain what caused the difference in RE. Conclusion: “There is no unique or ideal running pattern that is the most economical among runners.” More at Nature.

Speaking of feet … and indigenous running

Harvard evolutionary biologist and running expert Daniel Lieberman and students have been traveling around the globe to check out the running form of peoples from various indigenous cultures. Do they all employ the same “universal” footstrike? It appears not. A new paper investigating the Tsimane forager-horticulturalists in Bolivia finds that they overstride and land on their heels. Lieberman thinks this is because running is not “an important part of cultural identity” for the Tsimane. In tribes where it is, he finds what he believes to be better running form--shorter strides with forefoot striking. More at Evolutionary Human Sciences.

Protein added to carbs pre running does not impact performance

Many runners think that a little bit of protein added to their carbohydrate intake would be a good thing for one reason or another. The research doesn’t often support this notion. Here, in a randomized, cross-over test, runners consumed either an all-carb beverage or a 3:1 carb:protein beverage before an all-out treadmill stress test. The study team concluded that the protein had “no impact on running performance and related metabolic variables.” More at The J of Sports Medicine & Physical Fitness. 

Time-restricted eating fails test

The food calorie, which was more or less quantified in the basement chem lab of my alma mater, has resisted attempts to disconnect it from body weight. The latest example of this is a new study, deeply reported at the NY Times, that finds no benefit of intermittent fasting over the traditional reduced-calorie approach. This doesn’t mean that intermittent fasting doesn’t work or isn’t healthful for some people. It works for those who like it and find that it helps them lower their daily calorie intake. But there’s no universal truism to it; it doesn’t work for everyone. More at the New England Journal of Medicine.

SHORT STUFF you don’t want to miss

> A nutritional meta-analysis indicates that HMB supplementation can reduce cortisol and increase testosterone in “aerobic and anaerobic combined exercises.”

> Junk food snacks are bad but “exercise snacks” ( short movements like taking the stairs or emptying the garbage) throughout the day promote a long, healthy life.

> Aging runners should develop more ankle strength for fewer injuries and better performance.

GREAT QUOTES make great training partners

“When a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person achieve the dream.”--Paul Coelho

That’s it for now. Thanks for reading. Stay well, and see you next week. Amby