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