December 22, 2022

 “Run Long, Run Healthy” will not be published next week. It will return on Thursday, January 5.

Happy Holidays to All! Amby

“Descending ladders” climb to top of max fitness ladder

The descending ladder interval workout has always made a lot of intuitive sense. You go really hard for a set distance and pace (let’s say 3 laps) that you probably couldn’t repeat a second time. So you cut down your second repeat to 2 laps while maintaining pace. Then you do a 1 lapper. Then half a lap. Always at the same pace.

The result is a strong piece of training at a hard pace. You manage to hold that pace through the entire workout, with each repeat remaining “do-able,” only because each is shorter than the preceding one. 

Now we have impressive physiology data to reinforce the benefits of descending ladders. At Outside Online, Alex Hutchinson describes a paper that compares several different workouts, and explains the power of descending ladders.

Several weeks ago I noted another report favoring long intervals over shorter ones for stimulating your vo2 max. It appears that High Intensity Decreasing Interval Training, or HIDIT, is even better. More at European J of Applied Physiology. 

The secret of Kenyan running success

It’s no secret that Kenyan runners have dominated world competition for the last 30 years. The “secret,” or at least the unknown, is a clear and compelling explanation. Maybe good genetics plays a role; no one is quite sure. Maybe it’s the altitude and clean air. Or the fact that most Kenyan runners don’t touch a drop of fluids during their weekly 30K long runs. “That’s okay,” says head coach Patrick Sang. “They don’t need it.”

In this wonderful story with fantastic photos, Sang posits that simplicity and community are the key building blocks to strong Kenyan running. At training camp, the athletes follow a routine of “Sleep, eat, train, repeat.” Everyone pitches in with the shopping, cooking, and cleaning--even superstar Eliud Kipchoge. He has just one special perk--a modest private bedroom.

“I think that when you stop leading a simple life, your mind-set loses contact with the outside world and you lose your focus on your actual goals,” says Kipchoge. “At this point, you run the risk of forgetting about the really important things in life.”

The article author adds: “The Rift Valley – Iten and Kaptagat in particular – is like nowhere else on earth. Everybody knows a champion who is friends with another champion, who is the neighbor of another champion.” Magic begets more magic. More at World Athletics.

Welcome to the “Recovery Decade:” Get more sleep

If you or I were to claim that we’re in the “Recovery Decade” of exercise training science, it would be hard for anyone to argue. Sleep is the new intervals. A few examples follow.

Here’s an Infographic that sums up a recent Sleep Loss systematic review and meta analysis. It found that every hour of lost sleep diminished performance by 0.4 percent.

The U.S. Navy considers itself a “ high-reliability organization that must maintain optimum performance under challenging conditions.” To see how things were going, the USN commissioned a major study of the sleep habits of 7617 personnel on 73 different ships. Result: Basically no one was getting more than 7 hours sleep. Worse, “Fatigue-induced occupational functional impairment was directly related to sleep deficiency.” More at Journal of Sleep Research.

Most interesting of all, recent Philadelphia Marathon winner Amber Zimmerman, PhD, is doing post-doc work in “sleep medicine.” Does that make her a believer? Yup, big time. Even though she’s often running long in the pre-dawn hours, Zimmerman aims for 8.5 to 9 hours of sleep a night. There’s another good reason she’s performing better now than ever before, having achieved a 5 minute improvement with her 2:31:35 at Philly. Zimmerman notes that she has slowed her easy-day runs from 7:00 pace to 8:30 pace. More at Fast Women.

Big data reveals that exercise protects against serious Covid

Doctors from the large Kaiser Permanente health insurance group took a retrospective look at more than 190,000 people in their system who had a positive Covid test. They asked these subjects: “How much did you exercise before getting Covid?”

The results showed a clear dose-response association between degree of inactivity vs regular exercise and severity of eventual Covid illness. “Those who were consistently inactive were 191% more likely to be hospitalized and 391% more likely to die than those who were consistently active.” This held true across ethnicities, ages, prior high blood pressure, and other variables. 

The researchers concluded:The results of this study document substantially higher odds of hospitalization, deterioration events, and death, with lower amounts of self-reported physical activity in a stepwise fashion for adults infected with COVID-19.”

Therefore, “Public health leaders should add physical activity to pandemic control strategies.” More at American J of Preventive Medicine.

SHORT STUFF you don’t want to miss

>>> Nasal breathing strips helpful to runners but certainty of evidence is “very low.”

>>> DIY myofascial release effective against ITB in cyclist group (free full text)

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