May 26, 2022

THIS WEEK: Reach your goals with this surprising strategy. Train smarter with heart-rate zones. The exact best time to eat before running. Get the max from your VO2 max. When to drink, and when not to. Why East Africans win everything. Start slow, finish fast (for lifetime success). Have a backup fueling plan. More

Reach your goals with this surprising strategy

You can’t reach a goal unless you have a goal. But you also might have trouble reaching that goal if you over-obsess about it. Is there another path? “Yes,” says evidence-based running coach Steve Magness. He suggests an approach that looks like this: 1--Set your ultimate goal. 2--Figure out a bunch of intermediate steps on the road to your goal, little “mini goals” if you will. 3--Forget about your big goal. 4--Instead set your sights on the mini goals, one at a time. 5--When you’ve reached all your mini goals, guess what? You’re ready for that last, big step to the maxi goal you established at the get-go. This approach takes the pressure off your training and racing, since you don’t focus every day on what might seem almost impossible at the beginning of your journey. More at Twitter/Steve Magness.

Train smarter with the right heart-rate zones

Training by heart-rate has long been popular among endurance athletes. It has drawbacks--it’s thrown off by heat, hills, altitude, and a few other factors. But it can be a very useful tool, especially if you’re a runner who does slow runs too fast, and fast runs too slow. Your heart rate can help you find your “zones.” This article presents 5 heart rate zones, and explains how the 80/20 training principle meshes with the 5 zones. Not mentioned but often useful: Your morning heart rate can help you decide if you’ve recovered well from previous days of training, or if you’re perhaps coming down with a cold or other illness (or overtraining). More at Inside Tracker.

The best time (the exact best time) to eat before a run or race

The folks at Supersapiens are in the business of selling glucose monitors, but they also provide good insights and information. Here they dig down into the exact best time to eat before running. Actually, they focus a lot on when not to eat--between 4 hours pre-run and 20 minutes pre run. Basically, they’re advising a modest meal 4 hours before exercise, and then nothing more, unless you can sneak in a carb boost 20 minutes before starting. Also, “Nothing new on race day.” Try this in training first. More at Supersapiens.

Get the max from your VO2 max

Dr. Peter Attia has been doing deep podcasts and blogs on health-fitness-performance-longevity topics for a long time. Here he discusses various aspects of vo2 max, the well known “cardiac fitness” metric that lies at the very center of endurance success. It shares this center with several other measures, particularly economy, but it’s never far from the bull’s eye. Here Attia explains vo2 max and its links to mortality, best training practices, and other endurance factors. More at Peter Attia MD.

When to drink and when to pass the water stops

Do you need to drink fluids in 5K and 10K races? Canadian Running found little evidence for drinking at the shorter distances. In the research world, most dehydration studies attempt to connect percent dehydration with percent change in performance. They currently advise that performance doesn’t diminish until dehydration exceeds 2%. The below systematic review with meta-analyis looked into dehydration and Relative Perceived Effort, an important variable for runners in hot weather. It found that the link between dehydration and RPE is “unlikely to be practically meaningful until a body mass loss of at least 3%.” More at J of Exercise Science & Fitness.

Why East Africans win almost everything 

It’s manifestly clear that East African runners win more than their share of big time distance races. The reasons aren’t clear, however, not even after 30 years of focused study. A new paper explores “genetic differentiation” of two groups--the Kenyan/Kalenjin and Ethiopian/Oromo--that have been particularly successful. It finds many traits that could be contributors. They are related to “anthropometry, circulatory and respiratory systems, energy metabolism, and calcium homeostasis.” These traits include: collagen-related genes that could increase elastic energy return of tendons for better running economy; “enriched gene sets for lung function;” genes associated with increased vo2 max trainability; fat-burning or “lipid metabolism enriched gene sets;” calcium-related genes that could enhance muscle contractions; and others. Of interest: “It seems unlikely that high-altitude adaptation in East Africans is the major driver of endurance-running success.” We should be careful not to use any of this data to reinforce “population (racial) stereotyping,” which is “scientifically incorrect.” Free, fulltext at PLOS ONE. 

Start slow, finish fast (for lifetime sports success)

We hear many stories of child-adolescent sports stars who “burn out” and never seem to reach their potential. But are these mere anecdotes, or is there evidence for the same? A new systematic review and meta-analysis found evidence, concluding “Excess childhood/adolescent specialized practice may hinder athletes’ long-term development.” An early start, intense practice, and sport specialization did lead to “Short-term junior-age athletic success.” However, multi-sport practice, a later start in specialized sport, and “gradual initial progress” led to more “long-term adult-age success.” More at Sports Medicine.

Have a backup fueling plan

Runners in 24-hour track races have a chance to grab food once every 400-meter lap, so they make extensive fueling plans. Then--bam!--their plans blow up. They often find that they can’t tolerate the foods they had planned to consume. As a result, they consume 50% less of these foods in the last 6 hours of the race. That could spell disaster. Only the runners are good at switching to other, unplanned fuels, which saves them. Any meaning for marathoners? I’m not sure, but it can’t be bad to have a secondary fuel option in case you lose your taste for the first. More at J of the Int Society of Sports Nutrition.

Strength training lowers mortality risks

A systematic review and meta analysis concluded that strength training (resistance training) lowered all cause mortality by 15%. The highest risk reduction (27%) came with 60 mins/wk of strength training. More was not better. Another systematic review with meta analysis looked for evidence that aerobic exercise might “interfere” with strength gains. It found “moderate declines” in strength when aerobic training preceded resistance training, especially when the aerobic workout was particularly intense or long. Declines in lower leg strength were more pronounced among cyclists than runners. More at Sports Medicine.

The strange science of running at night

I’m not sure it’s a universal, but I generally feel faster and smoother when running in the dark. I’ve always assumed this was related to the limited visual field--the whole world seems to be skimming past. On the other hand, when scientists measure actual speed and effort in the dark (on a treadmill), they find that we are running slower and less efficiently. Because--doh!--we’re not dumb. We run with shorter strides and more “lift” in the dark to avoid tripping and falling. Alex Hutchinson investigates these phenomena at Outside Online.

SHORT STUFF you don’t want to miss

>>> Exercise training increases testosterone in both males and females over 40.

>>> On days when you need to be particularly sharp, exercise can help.

>>> After 16.6 yrs of followup, those consuming more full-fat dairy were less likely to develop heart disease than those eating less dairy.

GREAT QUOTES make great training partners

“I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become.” --Carl Jung

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