May 25, 2023

Here’s the free but abridged version of RLRH for May 25, 2023. Thanks for subscribing and reading. Click here for details about subscribing to the complete, full text edition of “Run Long, Run Healthy.”    Stay well. Amby

The low-carb lowdown: It increases risk of death

An impressive new nutrition study reports on mortality risks/benefits of a low-carb diet vs a low-fat diet. The  investigation tracked more than 371,000 adults (ages 50-71) over a followup period of 23.5 years. During that time, 165,000 of the subjects died. That’s a nice, big number to dive into.

The two contrasting diets have mainly been researched in terms of weight loss, where both have been found successful in different studies with different subject groups. But these studies rarely last more than 6 to 24 months.

What about the long-term health effects of the two diets? That’s what everyone has been wanting to know.

Results from the new paper: Those who most closely followed a low-carb (and therefore high-fat) diet had a 12 to 18% greater risk of “total and cause-specific” mortality ” vs the study’s average risk. Conversely, those on the strictest low-fat diet had a 16 to 18% lower risk.

The outcome included an important wrinkle of the type you can only find in a truly massive study like this one. If the low-carb eaters consumed healthy fats rather than saturated fats, they had a 5% lower-than-average mortality rate.

So you can eat healthy on a low-carb diet provided you pay attention to the types of fat in your meals. Stay away from the greasy fried foods and meats marbled with saturated fat.

Conclusion: “Our results support the importance of maintaining a healthy low-fat diet with less saturated fat in preventing mortality among middle-aged and older people.” More at J of Internal Medicine with free full text.

What’s the best time of day for optimal training?

Many of us don’t have much latitude with regard to the time of day when we train. After all, family, work, and other obligations are often the first concern. But we’re still interested in the question: Does time of day of training have an influence on our health and fitness gains?

The authors of this new paper say they are the first to investigate the question with a systematic review and meta analysis. Note that they weren’t primarily interested in time of day of best performance. That’s generally agreed to be the late afternoon. Rather they were looking for the best time to train to improve performance.

However, they couldn’t reach a conclusion that was “generalizable or consistent across studies.” For example, training to increase vo2 max proved “independent of the time of day at which the training” was performed. So it appears your training can be effective whenever you manage to squeeze it in. 

With this important caveat: If you train at a certain time of day, that will become the time when you are most efficient. If you’ve got an important early-morning race on the horizon, you’d better get up to run early on several occasions. Your body likes routine, and dislikes being shocked out of its normal routine. More in Sports-Medicine Open with free full text.

Tendon injury? Here’s unexpected advice: Lift heavy

Two new papers on tendon injuries provide advice you can use to prevent and recover from these nagging issues at the Achilles and around the knees. 

A study of almost 2000 Dutch runners found that about one-third had experienced a tendon injury at some time. Achilles tendinitis was the most common problem. Others included patella tendinitis and plantar fasciitis. Men had more tendon injuries than women, possibly because they ran more miles and harder, and raced more often. However, the sex association persisted after the researchers made statistical corrections for training and body weight. 

Among women only, there was an interesting link between soft surface running and tendinitis. The soft surfaces increased tendon-injury incidence. 

While earlier studies (mainly in animals) had uncovered certain nutritional associations between diet and tendinitis, this human study revealed none. This could have been because the subjects followed a largely high-quality diet. More at BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine.

If you do develop a tendon injury, you have to decide on a recovery program. A new systematic review and meta analysis of such programs included 110 studies with a pooled total of 3900 subjects. It reported that “Exercise therapy is the main mode of conservative treatment for tendinopathies with a focus on resistance exercise, which is shown to be effective in improving patient outcomes.”

This leads directly to the question of low weights vs high weights? And the answer might not be what  you’re thinking, as heavier weight programs were more successful, provided they allowed for adequate rest. That is, avoid low-weight programs that include multiple sets per day.

Conclusion: The most successful programs prescribed “higher intensities (through inclusion of additional loads) and lower frequencies, potentially creating stronger stimuli and facilitating adequate recovery.” More at British J of Sports Medicine with free full text.

In memoriam: Dick and Ricky Hoyt

The first time I saw Dick Hoyt pushing his wheelchair-bound son Ricky Hoyt in the Boston Marathon, I was, to be totally honest, shocked by the sight of them. Dick was thick and muscle-bound--no marathon whippet. The wheelchair, back then in 1980, was a heavyweight rumbler. Ricky, with his cerebral palsy, looked to be in agony.

I soon learned different, as did millions of us when we read the details about this amazing father-son love story. We are lucky to be part of a sport with so many inspiring runners. None will ever surpass Dick and Ricky Hoyt, at least not in my mind.

The father died 2 years ago, the son this week at age 61. But their story will have no finish line. More at NY Times.

SHORT STUFF you don’t want to miss

>>> Long-running mystery: What killed Pheidippides? Was it rhabdo?

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading. See you next week. Amby

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

# The ultimate, endurance-boosting, carbohydrate-loading plan

# Simple hopping exercises that improve your running economy

# When to lose weight for performance (and when not to)

# Can Coenzyme Q10 increase your immunity?

# The “excessive exercise” guy is calming down

# The world’s tallest, ex-hockey-playing ultramarathon runner

# Plant-based eating: How to get all the exercise you need

# An inspirational quote from Dick Hoyt

Click here for details about subscribing to the complete, full text edition of “Run Long, Run Healthy.”

And remember: “I spend HOURS searching the Internet for the best, most authoritative new running articles, so you can review them in MINUTES.” Stay well. Amby

May 18, 2023

May 18, 2023: Welcome to this week's edition of the free but abridged RLRH. Thanks for subscribing. Please share with your friends, and consider upgrading to the complete, full-text edition ($4/month. Additional details below).

Little time to train? Try this short (but super-effective) workout

Here an interval training expert, Paul Laursen, explains how to do a short interval workout that “refreshes your system without taxing you.” In other words, you get a fitness boost without days of muscle damage and soreness afterwards. Physiologically, Laursen’s workout is based on myoglobin--a muscle protein that rapidly absorbs oxygen when the muscle is relaxed (with modest recoveries) between short sprints.

This is basically a 10/20 workout with 10 seconds of hard effort followed by 20 seconds of jogging. Laursen recommends 2-4 sets of 9 x 10/20 for veteran interval trainers. But you can always start with just one, and build up if you find the workout fun and productive. More at Fast Talk Labs.

Breaking down the blueprint: New insights from Boston Marathon qualifiers

We already knew that Boston Marathon runners are different. After all, they have to train hard to hit a BQ time that only about 10 percent of marathon participants attain. Now a new Strava analysis has added specific numbers to our knowledge. Some of the most interesting: 

1--55% of Boston runners broke 3:30 vs 20% at New York (very hot) last fall. 2--At Boston, 16% ran negative splits vs 10-11% at other major marathons. 3--Boston runners covered a median 53 miles in training vs high-30s for other marathons. 4--At Boston, the more hill training runners had completed, the faster they ran. 5--Across several marathon majors, runners who broke 3 hours did at least 5 training runs per week. 

I was most surprised by the negative-splits data at Boston. I’d previously heard that the figure was under 5%, due to the infamous Newton hills (including Heartbreak Hill). On the other hand, the course is dramatically downhill for the last 5 miles, so maybe some smart, veteran Boston runners have figured out how to tame the second half. Good for them. More at Outside Online.

Running strong from the inside out: “Train your gut” for improved performance

We all know we’re supposed to hydrate well before and during our runs (especially in hot weather), and also consume carbohydrates (especially for the marathon and beyond.). The problem is … well, there are problems.

First, we don’t do this on most easy runs, so it literally feels unusual/uncomfortable. And no one wants to feel uncomfortable while running. Second, too many carbs (sugars) in the stomach can produce nausea. And then there’s always the question of time lost to potty stops.

Yet gut-training apparently works well. Here researchers did a big systematic review of studies that measured “repetitive exposure of the gastrointestinal tract to nutrients before and/or during exercise on gastrointestinal integrity, function, and/or symptoms” during endurance exercise.

Results: They were impressive. “Gut discomfort decreased” by an average of 47% to 26% for gels and liquids. Also, athletes quickly became accustomed to taking in a lot of carbs. That is: “Repetitive carbohydrate feeding during exercise for 2 weeks resulted in the reduction of carbohydrate malabsorption by 45–54%.”

Conclusion: “Overall, gut-training or feeding-challenges around exercise may provide advantages in reducing gut discomfort, and potentially improve carbohydrate malabsorption and Ex-GIS, which may have exercise performance implications.” The review did not look for actual performance differences. But it sure seems like a good thing if you can learn to consume more fluids and carbs without distress. More at Sports Medicine.

SHORT STUFF you don’t want to miss

>>> Hit the brakes: When to stop strength training before your big endurance race.  

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading. See you again next week. Amby

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

# Proven training methods of the great masters runners

# 5 rules of sustainable, lifetime running

# The history and successes of the “Live High, Train Low” approach

# How quad work and hip work compare vs knee injuries

# Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg is fast, but thinks too much

# Can nose breathing prevent overtraining?

# A “Healthy Runner” project making progress against bone injuries

# A simple, effective trick to improve sleep & recovery

# Endurance athletes have better blood flow in the lower legs

# A motivational quote on optimism from Helen Keller

Click here for details about subscribing to the complete, full text edition of “Run Long, Run Healthy.”

And remember: “I spend HOURS searching the Internet for the best, most authoritative new running articles, so you can review them in MINUTES.” Stay well. Amby

May 11, 2023

Here's the free, abridged version of this week's RLRH newsletter. Click here for details about subscribing to the complete, full text edition of “Run Long, Run Healthy.”

How to boost your mental endurance

Mental fatigue decreases endurance performance, and mental training can increase performance. So how do you do that mental training? Here researchers showed subjects a 10-15 minute mental training video for 3 weeks. 

A control group didn’t watch the videos or receive any other preparation.

Subjects were randomly assigned to their groups, and all took vo2 max and threshold tests before and after the 3 weeks, and a Time To Exhaustion test (TTE) at the end of the three weeks. Researchers also measured  electrical muscle activation. The videos, which were watched for nearly 3 hours per subject, included exercises designed to: reduce stress, improve breathing, teach positive self-talk, and visualize success.

Results: The video-trained subjects improved their TTE by 10%. They needed less muscle activation to attain this result. Conclusion: Three weeks of mental training improves performance by reducing EMG, decreasing activation of the muscle and reducing metabolic factors during the latter stages of exercise.” More at European J of Applied Physiology (free full text).

Short, quick strides can lower injury risks

Anyone who tries to predict which runners will get injured is playing a fool’s game. Of course, there are some indicators. The strongest has always been prior injury. Overstriding is another, often measured as low stride rate.

Predicting which runners will get injured is a fool’s game, but there are some indicators. The strongest has always been previous injury, and overstriding (with low stride rate) has shown up in several injury studies. 

Here 171 active duty soldier-runners wore a shoe pod for 6 weeks to collect key biomechanical data. Twelve months later, their injury records were analyzed. Who got injured?

Those with a low stride rate had more injuries than high-frequency runners, but the biggest stride factor was a long contact time. “Participants with the longest contact time were at a 2.25 times greater risk for a running-related injury.” To the extent that you can manage to do so, it’s generally good to run with a light, quick stride. More at Sports Biomechanics.

How diet affects your sleep … and everything else

We don’t hear much about this, but your sleep is affected by what and when you eat. And of course your sleep impacts everything else, especially mental and physical performance. A high protein diet with plenty of tryptophan is helpful, as are low glycemic index carbs, fruits like cherries and kiwis, and keeping a watchful eye on your caffeine and alcohol intake. It’s also smart to not eat too close to bedtime. More at Cureus (free full text).

Sleeping too much or too little are both linked to shorter lifespans, but performing more exercise reduces this risk. More at European J of Preventive Cardiology. Exercise of various types, including low-intensity housework and walking, “is an effective and safe non-pharmacological intervention for sleep disturbance.” More at International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.

Lost hours of sleep impair endurance exercise the next day. When well trained cyclists were deprived of 3 hours sleep, their performance the following day suffered even though some measures like heart rate, lactate, and glucose were unchanged. More at J of Sleep Research.

Lastly, exercise physiologist Brady Holmer notes the “profound link between sleep and cardiovascular aging.” Even the American Heart Association is paying more attention to sleep. The AHA recently added sleep to its “Life’s Essential” list, now numbering 8 items. The other 7: diet, exercise, nicotine, weight, blood lipids, blood glucose, and blood pressure. Holmer suggests: ‘Think of every night of sleep like an exercise training session--an opportunity to rejuvenate your body and grow stronger.” More at Substack/Brady Holmer.

SHORT STUFF you don’t want to miss

>>> Mile after mile: 7 ways a marathon changes your body.

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading. See you again next week. Amby

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

# Des Linden’s new approach to training

# The best warmup for a 5K race

# Skinny? No worries. You can still get strong

# 3 new ways to run cool in summer heat

# How to use Relative Perceived Exertion to guide your workouts

# Who returns to running after hip/knee replacement?

# An inspiring Ben Franklin quote on sticking with it

Click here for details about subscribing to the complete, full text edition of “Run Long, Run Healthy.”

And remember: “I spend HOURS searching the Internet for the best, most authoritative new running articles, so you can review them in MINUTES.” Stay well. Amby 

May 4, 2023

Here's the free, abridged version of this week's RLRH newsletter. Click here for details about subscribing to the complete, full text edition of “Run Long, Run Healthy.”

Pooping for performance (Yes, there’s a scientific study)

This article falls into one of my favorite categories: “Didn’t see it coming.” Also: “I knew it felt good, I but didn’t know why.”

Researchers tested a group of elite triathletes after “rectal defecation” (pooping) vs no rectal defecation. A good poop decreased systolic blood pressure, increased blood supply in the prefrontal brain, and increased “sub navel oxygen consumption” (oxygen pickup of the leg muscles, a good thing.) Most importantly: “Pre-exercise defecation significantly improved high-intensity endurance performance.”

Conclusion: “This study demonstrated a performance enhancing effect of defecation for elite triathletes.” I think race directors might have to increase their Porta Potty orders. More at J of the International Society of Sports Nutrition (free full text).

A hot debate: Should every runner try the marathon?

Here’s an intriguing question that many runners have found themselves facing. The Forum questioner says he/she is happy and healthy running half marathons. But of course it’s impossible not to think about the marathon distance. Is the full 26.2 worth trying? 

Some respondents argue, essentially: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That is, if you’re happy doing what you're doing (nothing longer than a half marathon), there’s no reason to change your habit. Makes sense, right? Hard to argue against this perspective.

Of course, some do. And I like what they say: “Marathons aren’t the only game in town, but I can tell you they are very rewarding, and bring something different to the table.” Also: “You should definitely continue to do things in running that scare you a little or that you’re uncomfortable with.” 

This is one reason ultra running has grown so popular. Many runners are curious, adventurous, and willing to explore the unknown and challenge themselves--all excellent qualities. More at Reddit/Advanced Running.


Females (especially) take note: A plant-based diet could increase bone injuries

The relationship between eating disorders and possible bone injuries has become one of the most investigated and most important in endurance sports. It started decades ago with the Female Athlete Triad and has more recently turned to male eating disorders, especially in sports where low weight might confer a performance advantage such as running and cycling. 

A big question: Do females have greater risk than males? Here are several recent studies that increase our understanding of bones and vigorous exercise.

This “critically appraised” review of the topic found “low-moderate evidence” of a link between eating disorders and bone injuries in female athletes. Less is known about males. More at J of Sport Rehabilitation.

“Bone stress injuries have plagued the military for over 150 years,” afflicting up to 10 percent of new recruits. The primary risk factor is “too much training, too soon.” Women have about twice the bone injuries of men. Good nutrition can help but also “exposure to stress, sleep loss, and medication is likely harmful to bone.” More at J of Science & Medicine in Sport (free full text).

A study of 16,000+ U.S. adults from 2005 to 2018 found “hidden dangers” to a plant-based diet on bone health. Specifically, plant-based diets, which are often recommended for their potential health and environmental benefits, are “associated with decreased bone mineral density in a nationally representative population of U.S. adults.” The most protective foods are: vegetables, refined grains [yeah, I don’t get it either; but that’s what they reported], animal fat, eggs, and meat. More at Nutrients

Here’s a super deep dive into sacral bone stress injuries in runners with specific advice on training and diet errors that might be causative factors. As well as solid, healthy guidance on getting back onto the road. More at Pogo Physio.

Lastly, a group of world-renowned exercise nutritionists have concluded that consuming sufficient carbs, even more than total calories, is the key to maintaining strong bones in endurance exercisers. In a 6-day study with elite race walkers on a low-calorie diet, they found that: “Carbohydrate may be key for maintaining bone formation during prolonged exercise, but both overall energy and carbohydrate are necessary to support bone formation at rest and limit exercise-related bone resorption.” More at J of Bone & Mineral Research (free full text).

SHORT STUFF you don’t want to miss

>>> Run for the future: More and more shoes and running fitness apparel are made from recycled and sustainable materials.

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading. See you again next week. Amby

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

# Do super shoes change the 180 strides/min rule?

# The truth about exercise and better brain function

# 3 ways to strengthen your tendons and ligaments

# How to carbo-load like an expert

# Drinking these 3 liquids will help you live longer

# High schoolers who over specialize in one sport get more injuries

# The multiple benefits of outdoor running (vs treadmill)

# An inspirational quote from Mark Twain about pursuing goals

Click here for details about subscribing to the complete, full text edition of “Run Long, Run Healthy.”

April 27, 2023

 Surprising training methods of the world’s fittest 75-yr-old

(Disclosure: I wrote the below-linked article.) In a recent lab test, Hans Smeets broke the unofficial world record for the highest vo2 max by a 75 year old. His score was roughly equivalent to that of a young man in his mid 20s. And Smeets isn’t just a lab rat. He has won dozens of world championships in his age group, excelling in particular in the 800 meters and 1500 meters.

How can an old guy be so fit? Smeets admits that probably 50% of his success comes from good genetics. The other 50%, according to exercise physiologist Bas van Hooren, is Smeets’s consistent training through the last several decades. Surprisingly, much of this training has been slow. Smeets says he often walks up several of the biggest hills on training routes near his home. 

“Speed training produces more damage,” notes Van Hooren. “By doing higher volumes of easy training, masters athletes might gain positive adaptations with less damage and need for recovery.”

More at Outside Online.

What shoe company won the Boston Marathon?

Or could I have prevented my post-Boston soreness by racing in a different shoes? (I wore a pair of Saucony supershoes.) 

Everyone’s talking about the fact that the top 3 male finishers at Boston wore Adidas shoes, not Nikes. Meanwhile, the female winner wore shoes from “On,” a company that has enjoyed big market success due to the street appeal of its shoes, and has also sponsored a visible elite team. However, its earlier running shoes were a bit clunky. Apparently that has changed.

Now comes the question: Have other brands caught or even surpassed Nike, the leader since its stealth introduction of super shoes in 2016? Here’s a shoe count from Outside Online. It tallies who wore what among the top 25 male and female runners at Boston. The podium looked like this: Adidas--16; Nike--14; Asics--8.

A British newspaper story drew fascinating comments from England’s 42-year-old elite marathoner Chris Thompson, and runner-biomechanist Geoff Burns. Thompson said he’s hearing about runners logging 160+ miles a week in training, because the super-foams provide dramatic recovery-benefits. “There’s no shying away from it: super shoes have a huge impact on performance,” says Thompson, who pegs that impact at 4 minutes for an elite male marathoner.

Burns says the benefit is relatively more for slower runners. Why? Because the fast folks encounter greater wind resistance, which subtracts from any performance gain. Slower runners don’t face much wind resistance, so they don’t have to subtract anything from their shoe-enhanced boost. More at The Guardian.

Not for women only (but mostly)

More research is beginning to focus on women-only subject groups, as women may react differently than men to exercise and other stressors. For example, it’s fairly well established that women runners have twice (or more) the risk of bone stress injuries. What to do?

This study measured the effect of strength training on bone mineral density (BMD) of college-age female runners. When the runners added 16 weeks of strength training to their typical training program, they increased their total body BMD. This could lead to a decrease in bone injuries. More at The J of Sports Medicine & Physical Fitness (free full text).

Another paper looked at ways female runners change their stride, through an “internal focus” or an “external focus.” The goal was to lower impact forces of each stride when the foot hits the surface. Result: Participants were most successful at lowering impact forces when they employed an external focus, such as looking around at their surroundings. The researchers hypothesized that this approach worked better because it helped maintain a relaxed running form, which lowers impact forces. More at J of Sport Rehabilitation.

Speaking of forces, females apparently run with less pain and greater efficiency when they restrict breast movement. Researchers asked 13 recreational women runners (average age 37, average cup size “C”) to perform 3 separate treadmill running trials in a lab. The women ran with: 1) no bra; 2) a low-support bra; or 3) a high support bra.

Subjects ran most comfortably and efficiently with high-support, which increased their knee “stiffness” (usually associated with higher running economy) while decreasing their “knee joint excursions,” or bending. The authors stated that their paper emphasized “the importance of proper breast support in female runners.” More at Frontiers in Sports & Active Living (free full text).

SHORT STUFF you don’t want to miss

>>> The eyes have it: Exercise produces molecular changes that “may confer protection against retinal degeneration.” (free full text).

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading. See you again next week. AMBY

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

# How to get the most out of interval training workouts

# Two proven ways to boost your running economy

# The many benefits of downhill run training

# The 6 worst foods you can eat (and the 5 best)

# What happens when you run on a side-to-side tilting treadmill

# How to find the right heart-rate training zones

# What’s wrong with carbs? Nothing. (But you have to choose the right ones.)

# An insightful marathon quote from Frank Shorter

Click here for details about subscribing to the complete, full text edition of “Run Long, Run Healthy.”

And remember: “I spend HOURS searching the Internet for the best, most authoritative new running articles, so you can review them in MINUTES.” Stay well. AMBY