Nov 17, 2022

Here’s the free, abridged edition of my weekly “Run Long, Run Healthy” newsletter. It goes to non paying subscribers. 

To receive the complete, full text, deeply researched edition of RLRH (for just $4/month), CLICK HERE for all the details. Remember: You can cancel at any time. Also: "I spend hours searching the Internet, so  you can review the most important and informative new material in minutes.” 

NOTE: Next Thursday is Thanksgiving Day in the U.S., so I’m taking the week off (and running my 60th consecutive Manchester Road Race in Connecticut.) You’ll receive your next RLRH on Dec. 1. Enjoy the holidays, keep moving, and stay safe. Amby 

Intense “block” training produces “superior results”

Training programs allow for an almost infinite variation in the key elements--distance, pace, and recovery. One promising but little studied approach can be called the “short block” or “microcycle” method. It challenges endurance athletes with several days of consecutive hard training followed by several days of relative rest. A training program that lasts 3 to 4 months could then include a number of these blocks as it builds toward a peak. 

Here researchers worked with elite athletes--a group that can’t easily improve fitness. They happened to be cross-country skiers. Judging from their vo2 maxes, these skiers were roughly equivalent to runners who could cover 5K in 15:00. While half the skiers served as a Control group that maintained normal training, the other half were asked to do a 6-day Block of hard intervals. [The 6 days actually included 3 hard, 1 recovery, 2 hard.] 

After the 6-day block, the skiers had 5 recovery days, and were then tested for pre- and post-comparisons. The tests showed that the Block skiers improved more than Controls in a 1-minute speed test, and in pace at a predetermined blood lactate level. In this sub-max test, they also had a lower heart rate and perceived exertion.  

Conclusion: “BLOCK induced superior changes in indicators of endurance performance compared with CON.” More (free, full text) at Frontiers in Sports & Active Living. 

Best therapies for iliotibial band syndrome Iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS) is a frequently seen injury among runners, triathletes and cyclists, producing pain and stiffness on the lateral (outside) edge of the knees. Physical therapists have many tools and modalities to work on ITBS. This systematic review delved into the most successful. 

It concluded that “deep transverse frictions” didn’t seem to work, and “are not recommended.” Trigger point decreased pain and improved function. Both shockwave therapy and dry needling “showed improvement in pain and limb function.” More at Int J of Advanced Health Science & Technology. 

The best exercise routine when you’re 65+ … or even 85

Whatever you age is today, some day you’re going to be 65+. And at that time, you’ll probably be wondering what’s the best combination of aerobic exercise and strength training for the rest of your life.  

A new study looked into that question to provide the answers you want. More than 115,000 “seniors” were followed for 7.9 years to discover what amount of aerobic and strength exercise would provide the greatest longevity benefit. The aerobic benefit was linear--with more being better. Those who logged more than 5 hours a week enjoyed a 32 percent reduction in mortality risk. The strength curve was U-shaped with a 21 percent reduction at 4 to 6 “episodes” a week. At 7+ episodes, this bounced back up to just 2 percent. 

The investigators concluded that continued exercise “is important for all older adults, including those aged 85 years or older.” More at JAMA Network Open. 

Important new insights on the exercise-brain connection

You don’t take tennis lessons to improve your baseball skills, or expect that bicep curls will lower your half marathon time. Yet we have tended to make overly simplistic links when it comes to exercise and the brain. Until now. 

A new paper on physical activity, memory, and mental health employed “roughly a century’s worth of fitness data” pulled off Fitbits to find that “different physical activity patterns or fitness characteristics varied with different aspects of memory, on different tasks.” In other words, the kind and intensity of exercise you do has different effects on various brain functions and your mental health. 

This is a bit of an eye-opener as few have considered these different connections before. The researchers found, for example, that more active participants scored higher on many memory recall tests, but less active participants performed better on “foreign language flashcard tasks.” 

Stress levels floated in and out of the analysis. “Participants who reported higher levels of stress” tended to be more active, which should have a calming effect. However, those doing light activity were less anxious and depressed.  

On the whole, the researchers found that “engaging in one form or intensity of physical activity will not necessarily affect all aspects of cognitive or mental health equally (or in the same direction.)” Clearly there’s much more to come from this new frontier. 

The paper concludes with a very broad statement, meant to be both provocative and far-reaching. “Our work may have exciting implications for cognitive enhancement. Just as strength training may be customized to target a specific muscle group, or to improve performance on a specific physical task, similar principles might also be applied to target specific improvements in cognitive fitness and mental health.” More (free, full text) at Nature. 

SHORT STUFF you don’t want to miss

>>> Sprint the straightaways, jog the curves. Because body forces are much higher on the curves 

That’s it for now. Thanks for reading. See you again in two weeks. Amby

NOTE: If you were a subscriber to the complete, full-text version of RLRH for $4/month, you would also have received news about: 

# Why you shouldn’t do sexy fast intervals and tempo runs

# Proof that high dairy fat consumption improves heart health in men

# A smart post-marathon recovery program

# The differences between an “elite” stride and a “novice” stride

# How skipping can save your knees and strengthen your ankles

# The latest on blood boosting and EPO

# Treadmill recommendations direct from runners who use them

# How prior strength training improves knee/hip replacement surgeries

# How belly fat is linked to poor cognitive performance

# An inspiring quote from Aristotle 

CLICK HERE for details about subscribing to the full text edition ($4 month). You can cancel at any time.