February 2, 2023

Hi everyone: Welcome to February. This is the last week that this website will include the complete, full text version of "Run Long, Run Healthy" for free.

If you’d like to continue receiving the full-text version, please GO HERE to subscribe now at $5/month or $48/12 months for the RLRH Newsletter delivered by Substack. Thanks to the many of you who have already done so.

Next week, this website will include only an abridged version of RLRH--roughly 30 percent of the full-text edition. It will always include a link that allows you to subscribe to the fully complete version.

Stay well. Run long and healthy. Amby.

52 ways to run better in 2023

One for every week of the year. The folks at Precision Hydration are trying to sell their products, but along the way they do a really nice and even entertaining job of providing top notch advice for runners. That’s what you’ll get at the below link titled “52 ways to be a better athlete.”

You’ll nod your ahead in recognition and agreement at almost all, but that’s no reason not to check out the entire list. In my opinion, you can never read good advice too often. I particularly like # 23: “Know when to focus internally and when to embrace distraction.” And also # 38: “Rotate your run shoes.” Others will strike a chord with you. More at Precision Hydration.

Can you go from great shape to even better shape?

It’s not easy, but it’s important. At some point in our training cycles, we all want to jump to the next higher fitness level. But how?

Many coaches and athletes believe that short, fast sprint training might provide the necessary bump. Two new studies have looked at this approach. In the first, a dozen “highly trained” rowers were assigned to do 6 weeks of hard intervals, either 90 seconds or 180 seconds at a time. Conclusion: “The HIIT interventions did not induce significant performance or VO2 kinetics improvements.” More at International J of Sports Physiology & Performance.

A second paper involved “trained cyclists” who were assigned to do “maximal acceleration training” 3 times a week for 12 weeks in addition to their normal training. The max accelerations were all-out efforts that lasted 10-15 seconds each, followed by 2-min recoveries. In each session, the cyclists did 10 of these in about 22 minutes. 

Result: After the max acceleration training, the cyclists improved their peak-power output by 4.1%.

That could certainly make a difference in a long bicycle race that ends, as most do, with a mad sprint to the finish. Still, the researchers concluded that the extra training produced only “modest favorable changes of performance indicators” because it didn’t budge the athletes’ max aerobic power or power output at comparable blood-lactate concentrations. More at Frontiers in Sports & Active Living (free full text).

Glutamine boosts triathlete run times

Researchers decided to test for possible benefits of hydrolyzed whey protein plus glutamine dipeptide on oxygen consumption, distance covered, and muscle damage during “an exhaustion test” performed by nine elite triathletes. They used a double-blinded, placebo-controlled, crossover protocol. Athletes were given the two supplements or a placebo 30 minutes before beginning a progressive treadmill run in a lab.

The supplementation “resulted in the physical effort at a higher percentage of maximal oxygen consumption, improved second ventilatory threshold, increased distance covered, and reduced circulating markers of muscle injury.” Distance covered rose by 2.8%

Conclusion: “These findings support oral glutamine supplementation’s efficacy in triathletes.” It’s not often that we see such a positive change in already elite performers. The investigators reported no conflict of interest with any supplement company (and didn’t name any commercial products). More at Frontiers in Sports & Active Living (free full text).

Eat carbs last at meal times

Patrick Wilson is an assistant professor of exercise science at Old Dominion University, and author of a definitive book on digestive issues that runners sometimes encounter, The Athlete’s Gut.  But he’s not just an expert in nasty stomach problems; he’s also a registered dietitian with wide interests in that field.

One of his interests is “ordered eating,” which refers to the order in which we consume fluids and foods in a meal. Here he performed a systematic review of studies about the effect of order of proteins/fats/carbohydrates in meals. Conclusion: “There may be benefits to eating carbohydrate after vegetable and/or protein-rich foods.”

Why? Because if you eat carbs first--or alone, as in far-too-many high sugar drinks--they will send your glucose-insulin response into “excursion,” which is Wilson’s way of saying “out of whack.” This could lead to diabetic and obesity-heart health concerns. 

On the other hand, carbs consumed after fibers, fats and proteins don’t cause the same response.  “Carbohydrate-last meal orders tend to lower blood glucose and insulin excursions.” More at J of the American Nutrition Association. 

Morning workouts vs evening: Which is better?

A couple of weeks ago I linked to a Training Peaks article about the benefits of morning workouts. I didn’t realize then that the author was going to follow up with another article about the benefits of evening-nighttime workouts.

The second article has been published now, so you get to review and evaluate both. There’s no denying that most road races take place in the morning, and most track meets in the afternoon or evening, so that will be a big consideration. Beyond that, your personal daily schedule and your chronobiology are likely the most important factors. Either way, be careful to get as much sleep as possible. Good news: One recent paper indicated that nighttime workouts don’t disturb sleep patterns as much as previously believed.

There might be a “missing link” in running injuries

Most experts agree that running injuries occur because of “training errors,” and one way to detect such errors is with a Total Training Stress system, of which there are several. These systems try to account for your mileage, your pace, and even the surfaces you train on. Plus, of course, your sleep, your mental-stress level, and more.

Complicated, right? But wait. There might be a missing link. In a new paper, several biomechanics experts suggest that we should also consider how much we stand and walk around during the day. After all, we perform these activities many more hours/day than our running, and that could make a difference. For example, simply standing for a prolonged period can produce 56% as much knee joint load as running. 

That’s why the researchers make this point: “Given that the accumulated loading from non running exercise and physical activities of daily living can impose substantial and consequential load on the musculoskeletal system, we make the case for considering loading from all sources of physical activity as a contributor to running injury.”

More at J of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, and a helpful infographic from YLMsportscience.

Do nearby footsteps change your running?

At one time or another, most of us have noticed that a training partner’s stride frequency was slightly different from our own. We heard their foot scuffing-stomping on the road next to us, and noted it didn’t perfectly harmonize with our own. So what?

Japanese researchers wondered about this, so they rigged a funny little study to dig deeper. They put two runners on side-by-side treadmills separated by a thin partition. The runners couldn’t see each other, but they could still hear the nearby footsteps.  

Both were told to run at an easy, comfortable pace for a few minutes. But then Runner A, unbeknownst to the other, was told to increase or decrease stride frequency. How would Runner B respond, if at all?

It turned out that Runner B did respond, but very modestly, and this had no effect on heart rate or relative perceived exertion. The researchers were forced to conclude that “the relatively low intensity of exercise did not affect the physiological load due to footsteps.” More at PLOS ONE (free full text).

Sad to say: Micro-dosing with EPO works

Most of us would like to ignore doping violations, and focus on healthy running for ourselves and for our friends. That’s fine. But it would also be nice if our sport could remove itself from the shadow of drugs and illegal performances.

Unfortunately, that’s more easily wished-for than accomplished, especially in a sport that offers prize money to skinny, large-lung athletes that can’t reap similar rewards in other sports. Here an RCT study found that frequent, small intravenous injections of EPO were sufficient to improve several performance measures by about 4 percent. That’s roughly 5 minutes for a 2:10 marathon runner.

Some marathon observers believe that such micro-dosing has become popular among athletes hoping to reduce the chances of getting caught. Conclusion: Microdosing can “enhance aerobic-dominated performance in both trained males and females.” More at Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

The mysterious world of mental toughness

When someone finally figures out what mental toughness is, or if it even exists, I’ll be the first one cheering from the peanut gallery. Until then, it seems a quagmire, at least in terms of how to acquire and improve your mental toughness. 

A new paper digs into the “Goal-Expectancy-Self-Control (GES) model,” which proposes that mental toughness is a “state-like multidimensional concept comprising three resources.” They are challenging goals, self-efficacy, and self-control, which “are proposed to lead to optimal performance through attention, effort, perseverance, and strategies.” Words, words, and more words.

Excuse me, but my attention is drifting. Even Alex Hutchinson had to admit that “all these elements work together and influence each other in ways that, honestly, become hard to follow.” He’s not being sarcastic; he’s just saying that there’s no simple formula here. But you can check here for the original article and here at Outside Online for Hutchinson’s summary.

A more helpful approach comes from a “Fast Talkers” paper of several years ago. After learning

“a personalized self-talk intervention,” the runner-subjects improved their 800 meter times. Conclusion: “The intervention positively influenced mental toughness and finish times.” More at J of Applied Sport Psychology.

Short Stuff you don’t want to miss

>>> Can creatine help you get in better shape?

>>> Here’s a nice review of the 8 “most prominent recovery techniques out there.”

>>> Too soon to know: Continuous glucose monitors are supposed to help you boost your endurance, but research doesn’t yet show that they have “any meaning in sport.” (free full text).

Great Quotes make great training partners

“Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for us not to try to win.” 

--Atticus Finch, in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird

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

January 26, 2023

At last! An injury-prevention program that actually works

But you’ve got to be really consistent. Swedish researchers managed to enroll 433 healthy veteran runners (a good number, and almost half female) into an 18-week investigation. During that time, the runners kept training as they normally would. Half added “general strength and foam-rolling exercises twice weekly” to their efforts. The other half did nothing special or different. Both groups reported their injuries over the 18 weeks.

A comparison of the runners who “did something” vs those who “did nothing” produced no differences. Damn. However, when the researchers focused on the highly compliant runners who performed more than 90% of the exercise sessions, the results leaped off the page. For their discipline and consistency, these runners were rewarded with an 85% lower injury rate vs the control group. Indeed, only 4.6% of the highly compliant suffered any injuries at all. That’s a number the likes of which you almost never see in reports on runner injuries.

The strength exercises required about 19 minutes in total, and the foam rolling about 11 minutes. Strength: 1-leg squat, forward lunges, side-steps with elastic training band, supine abduction with elastic training band, side-plank, diagonal lifts, and foot supination with elastic training band. Foam rolling: upper leg involvement of hamstring, quadriceps, gluteal and abductor muscles; lower leg involvement of plantar fascia, calf and shin muscles.

The runners had an average age of 39, and covered an average of 13 miles a week of running, with slightly more in the high-compliant group. Forty four percent of all subjects fell into the low compliant group; only 29% managed to hit the high compliant level.

The researchers believe their study is unique in combining both neuromuscular and foam rolling components into an injury-prevention protocol. Also it is "easily performed, familiar to the majority of recreational runners and relies upon minimal equipment.” 

Conclusion: The runners who did strength training plus foam rolling had a “significantly lower risk of running-related injuries” than the control runners” and “took on average 57 days longer to sustain an injury” than the control runners. More at Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports (free full text). Infographic here.

Super shoes produce super training, and that could make you faster

If a pair of shoes help you run faster in training, that should improve your fitness, allowing you to also run faster when race day rolls around. And super shoes appear to do that for hard interval training. Plus, you can wear them on race day too.


Here the study team tested what would happen when 12 well trained men ran a long interval session in Nike ZoomX Vaperfly shoes “or a traditional running shoe.” The workouts were separated by 7 days, and randomized for order. (Of course, the runners presumably knew what shoes they were wearing, which introduces a placebo concern.)

Key result: “Training performance improved 2.4% in the Vaperfly shoes.” The shoes also “reduced subjective perceived muscle pain compared to regular training shoes.” Step length, contact time, and leg stiffness were higher in the Vaperflys, while flight time was lower. 

Conclusion: “Vaporfly shoes improved the long-interval training performance with similar running power, heart rate, and neuromuscular fatigue.” More at European J of Sport Science.

Laura Fleshman, body composition, and weight loss

Let me just say flat out that Lauren Fleshman’s new book, Good For a Girl, is fantastic. It’s sad, scary, riveting and unrivaled in its candor. The book is a must-read for teenage girl runners, the parents of the same, any coach (but particularly of girls/young women), and basically anyone who cares about healthy running.

The book's main topics, to simplify, are male-dominance in sports administration/coaching and eating disorders. Fleshman, a many time NCAA champion who never quite achieved her dream of making an Olympic Team, knows these subjects from deep personal experience. And she doesn’t like what she has seen and experienced. 

That said, she doesn’t proffer easy solutions. I admire her for that. She’s smart enough to recognize complex situations that aren’t easily resolved. She’s shining a big spotlight beam on the problems, and doing so in an effective, well-researched, and engaging personal narrative.

Here are a few more articles related to Fleshman’s concerns. Runner’s World reports that many colleges are concerned that eating disorders among athletes could cause mental health and physical health problems. As a result, the colleges are steering away from regular weigh-ins and body composition testing. 

That said, there are worse and better ways to lose a few pounds, and veteran sports dietitian Nancy Clark lists a number of the better choices here. These are for “athletes who have to/want to lose weight for the short-term” like boxers and wrestlers who need to hit their division weight. With the emphasis on short-term.

Beyond the small realm of elite athletics, the average weight of young American women appears to be continuing its 20-year rise. This is a different kind of health concern--one that we see all around us on a daily basis--and it’s a major public health problem.

The skinny on fruits and vegetable skins

This nutrition article from a solid source taught me things I didn’t know, so I figured I should pass it along. I almost never peel away fruit and vegetable skins because I know they are nutrient-rich. But watermelon rind? Banana skins? I had never even considered these. Now I’ll have to see if I can change old habits. Here are 11 fruit and vegetable skins loaded with fiber, antioxidants, polyphenols, and other good stuff. More at WebMd.

How to get rid of muscle knots

Some of my friends call them “knots,” some use the term “adhesions,” and you may use a different one. But chances are you’ve experienced annoying muscle knots at one time or another. I’ve often been troubled by knotty calves, as have many other runners. How to get rid of them?

I have a training partner who’s currently having some success with dry needling by a PT. There are many other approaches from stretching to foam rolling to massage and electrical stimulation. Here an exercise physiologist reviews them all so you can pick what sounds best to you and your particularly knotty problem. More at The Conversation.

Take naps like the elites to improve your mental & physical game

When you read about elite athletes and/or Kenyan distance greats, you often notice how lazy  their lifestyles appear. Sure, they rack up impressive weekly training miles, but they also seem to have time for naps nearly every day. Is napping a secret performance enhancer?

Could be. In this systematic review and meta-analysis, the authors found that naps of 30-59 minutes have a “moderate-to-high effect” on improved physical and cognitive performance during the afternoon following a normal night’s sleep. The best time for the nap was about 2 p.m, and you shouldn’t run in the first hour after waking up from the nap. Otherwise, you face the dreaded “sleep inertia.”

Other studies have suggested similar benefits after nights of “partial sleep deprivation,” but the evidence is not currently strong enough to be a “firm recommendation.” Napping may also reduce the sense of fatigue you feel after a workout, especially if you wait 4+ hours to begin training after the end of your nap. More at British J of Sports Medicine.

The beet goes on. The latest on performance boosts from beets and nitrates

The possible connection between beet consumption and improved endurance performance has been investigated in probably 100s of studies in the last decade. Most, but not all, have produced modestly positive results. Beets are called “beet root” in England, where the first papers came from. 

When there are so many papers already out there, researchers need to look for new angles. Here’s one: Beets might improve your sprint at the end of an endurance race.

In this crossover, blinded RCT, “9 recreationally active men” consumed/didn’t consume beetroot powder for a week, and just before and during a 2-hour cycling test in a lab. At the end of the 2 hours, they were asked to launch into an all-out sprint for 60 seconds. Result: The athletes on beets were able to produce more power during the final 30 seconds of the sprint effort.

Otherwise there were no differences in “any muscle oxygenation variables during moderate-intensity cycling during the 2 hour endurance cycle.” Also, the difference in that last 30 seconds of sprinting doesn’t appear to have been statistically significant. So this is a small victory for beets. More at Antioxidants. 

Another new nitrate study looked at quadriceps muscle function shortly after volunteers consumed potassium nitrate. It seemed to have an effect on muscle power, as “mean muscle torque production was approximately 7% greater during the first 18 contractions.” The results showed, for the first time, that skeletal muscle can rapidly utilize dietary nitrate, which enhances muscle contractile performance. The researchers also raised “the intriguing possibility” that nitrate supplied by a supplement or food might be more accessible than stored nitrate. More at Acta Physiologica.

Count me skeptical on mass dehydration worries

Excuse me, but I just don’t get this panic over dehydration. Here’s my logic: Body water makes up from 45 to 65% of body weight, so if anyone is chronically dehydrated, it follows that they would lose a little weight every day. But this isn’t happening. We know that more people are gaining weight than losing. So where’s the proof of massive, population-wide dehydration?

I mention this because of a sodium/dehydration paper that got a ton of press in the last several weeks, presumably because everyone (except for me) is convinced they’re dehydrated. The researchers actually measured blood sodium levels (not water levels), and found that people with higher sodium levels tended “to be biologically older, develop chronic diseases and die at younger age.” 

This seems plausible enough. We know that high sodium consumption can be unhealthy for many. And it’s also true that temporary dehydration (as in marathon running) causes a rise in plasma sodium concentration. However, that still doesn’t convince me that dehydration is a major public health problem. Maybe I’m missing something here, but Dr. Gabe Mirkin seems to agree with me when he writes: “This study does not prove that drinking more water prevents chronic disease.” He does list several of the common reasons to avoid dehydration. Here.

Here’s the original report. It “used serum sodium, as a proxy for hydration habits” and found that a high “middle age serum sodium is associated with a 39% increased risk to develop chronic diseases.” More at E Bio Medicine/The Lancet (free full text).

SHORT STUFF you don’t want to miss

>>> British runner declines trip to World XC in Australia over concerns about long air travel contributing to climate change.

>>> How to become a morning runner.

>>> In 6-year followup study, key to long-term weight loss is limiting large meals.

GREAT QUOTES make great training partners 

“Come what may, all bad fortune is to be conquered by endurance.”


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

January 19, 2023

THINK stronger, act stronger, become stronger

I used to think that marathoners and the chesty bench-pressers in the gym were from Venus and Mars. I’ve modified that view. We marathoners need strength too--in certain muscles, and without most of the mass. 

Research into strength training (called “resistance training” in most scientific papers) is probably more common than papers about running. There’s lots of it. Which means: Things can get complicated. 

Here Alex Hutchinson does his usual topnotch job of summarizing an important, new review piece that you can read in free, full text at the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. It’s about ways to optimize your strength training.

You’ll find info on low reps/big weights vs high reps/lower weights. Both seem to get you to about the same place so long as you “lift until close to failure.”

Then comes the stuff so cool that it boggles the mind. Almost literally in this example: The more clearly and forcefully you engage your brain while lifting, the bigger your strength gains. In fact, simply thinking hard about lifting (without actually moving a muscle) can improve your strength. I wouldn’t call this a “free lunch,” because hard focus requires real effort. 

Now listen up. It appears that thinking hard “is trainable.” Practice it seriously, and you’ll get better at it, opening a new door to strength training. Which sorta begs the question: Can you improve your lactate threshold by thinking hard about a tempo run for 30 minutes? 

I don’t know about that one. I’m dubious but maybe that’s the problem. Afterall, what did the White Queen say to Alice in Wonderland? “Sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” Perhaps I just have to work at it a little harder.

Back to strength training. A few amazing studies have shown that training one arm or leg strengthens the other even if the other does not move. This becomes very practical advice for runners with a leg injury. Do what you can do with your healthy leg, and you’ll actually help your limited leg. More at Outside Online.

How do missed training days affect your marathon performance?

Here comes an answer to a question we have never been able to crack before, because we lacked sufficient evidence. That makes this new paper both novel and exciting. Since it’s also marathon-focused, it will interest the many runners who spend weeks and months on their marathon training plans.

All marathon runners have wondered: What happens when I miss several days or weeks of training during my 12-16 week training period? How does this affect my race-day performance?

Irish runner and big-data specialist Barry Smyth and colleagues now have some answers for us, based on an analysis of 292,323 Strava runners who competed in 509,979 marathons between 2014–2017.

Here’s the low-down: Over 50% of runners experienced short training disruptions up to and including 6 days, but the disruptions over 7 days were the ones that hurt most. Those runners recorded marathon finish times about 5 to 8% slower than those with shorter disruptions. That’s 12 to 19 minutes in a marathon of 4 hours, give or take a little.

There’s more. Statistical tests indicated that “long training disruptions lead to a greater finish-time cost for males (5%) than females (3.5%).” Also, faster runners suffered more than slower runners, losing 5.4% vs 2.6%. You won’t be surprised to learn that lost training time close to the marathon is more impactful than earlier in your buildup. If you lose time early, you can always make it up and get stronger, healthier. Closer to race day, the outlook gets scarier.

This paper doesn’t tell you what to do when you experience a marathon training setback. But it provides a clearer view of the setback’s influence. The researchers say they hope it “can help runners and coaches to better understand the relationship between training consistency and marathon performance. This has the potential to help them to better evaluate disruption risk during training and to plan for race-day more appropriately when disruptions do occur.”

That’s no small contribution. Having a realistic plan on your marathon race day is a big part of your success/failure ratio that day. More at Frontiers in Sports & Active Living (free full text).

Do super shoes help mid-pack runners as much as elites?

There have been a number of quality studies on the new Nike super shoes (and other super shoes), and how they affect performance of elite runners. They make the runners faster by about 3 percent on average. Of course the elites represent only .01% of the total running population.

Less is known about how the shoes affect more modest runners--those who cross the finish line after the clock reaches 3:15. This is an important topic because anywhere from 80- to 90% of all marathoners finish after 3:15.

Now we have such a paper by senior author Geoff Burns, a PhD biomechanist, top ultra runner, and keen observer of other super-shoe research. If we cut to the chase, here’s the key finding: The super shoes do less to boost slower runners, but still make a clear difference. It amounts to 0.9% to 1.6% depending on your pace. This amounts to “an approximately 3-minute improvement for a 3:30 runner and approximately 2.5 minutes for a 4:15 runner.”

The study protocol was fascinating. Burns recruited veteran male and female runners with 5K bests roughly equivalent to a 3:30 to 4:15 marathon. They each ran efforts in a Nike super shoe (the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next%, the newest available at the time), and a “control shoe”--an Asics Hyper Speed racing shoe. Since the Nike shoe was slightly lighter than the Asics, Burns & co added several “wing nuts” in the Nike lacing system to achieve equal shoe weights.

The subjects exhibited very small differences from shoe to shoe for: heart rate, step frequency, vertical oscillation (“bounce”), and ground contact time. I found it interesting that they increased their step frequency in both shoes from 173 to 178 when speeding up from 9:40 pace to 8:00 pace.

Burns and co-authors concluded: “From these data, it appears that the VFN2 still enhances running economy at 10 and 12 km·h−1 ; however, these benefits are smaller in magnitude compared with previous research at faster speeds.”

Also, since Burns is interested in ultra-running, he noted that super shoes could do more than just help 3 and 4-hour marathon runners. “Certainly, these findings could also extend to longer duration events (ultramarathons and triathlons) contested on road surfaces, often at similar speeds to those studied here.” More at Int J of Sports Physiology & Performance.

How to change your stride for winter running

It’s pretty obvious that frigid winter weather changes things vis a vis outdoor running. You’ve got everything from potential frostbite to falls that cause injury. Yet many of us love winter running--I’m at about the 95% level. We enjoy getting out there. We also want to run smart.

Here a running physiotherapist takes a good look at how winter running can change your stride and your overall biomechanics. He notes three big differences from warm weather: decreased range of motion, increased tissue stiffness, and impaired stride efficiency. And he’s got good advice for all three. More at I Run Far.

“Good morning” a good time for working out

Most high school and college runners train in the afternoon when their coach calls everyone together. Adulthood brings new challenges, and many runners switch to the morning: It seems a good way to start the day and get things done before life rushes in to overwhelm you.

And that appears to be a good strategy. Here’s a strong article with scientific references that lists many benefits of a morning run. These include better cognitive and heart health, and increased fat-burning. Also, there’s no denying that most races are held in the morning, so you might as well get your body accustomed to that time of day. More at Training Peaks.

Skip the compression socks on race day

Compression running socks don’t seem as popular now as a few years ago, though there are certainly runners who continue to favor them. Research has been at times supportive, and at times less so for both improved performance and better recovery. But most previous studies have suffered from a “placebo effect” problem--subjects knew when they were wearing the socks after all.

A newer review from Sweden went deeper. Literally. It measured intramuscular pressure and oxygen delivery at the muscle-cell level among experienced runners who did one treadmill run with compression socks and one without. With socks the runners experienced more muscle pressure (a sign of fatigue) and less oxygen. Also a blood test revealed that the socks did nothing to reduce muscle-damage enzymes. 

Conclusion: “The use of CS during running affects the muscles in the lower leg negatively in healthy individuals.” (The researchers noted that medical compression stockings could still be helpful in preventing blood clots for certain individuals and situations.) Here’s a link to the original thesis page, and here’s a good article at Study Finds.

Sign up for sighing to improve your mood and energy

Here’s a blog from the authors of a recent systematic review on mindfulness for elite athletes that I previously summarized. Now they explain what they did and what it means, writing:  “Overall, athletes that underwent the mindfulness-based programmes reported improved mental health compared to the athletes in the control groups. Significantly reduced symptoms of stress, psychological distress, and anxiety were reported. Full text here at British J of Sports Medicine.

In the past, we rarely heard much about mindfulness, stress reduction, mood control, relaxation techniques, and similar approaches for athletes. Now they are considered an ever more important part of the “whole-athlete” approach, and research is flourishing.

This new paper from Stanford University says: Hey, mindfulness, we got a better way. It’s called “cyclic sighing,” which is a form of breathwork that emphasizes long exhales. The study team found that “breathwork improves mood and physiological arousal more than mindfulness meditation.” Also, “Cyclic sighing is most effective at improving mood and reducing respiratory rate.”

Cyclic sighing is essentially the same as sighing--taking in a big breath and letting it out in a long, slow exhale. The research team recommends 5 minutes a day. More at Cell Reports (free full text).

How to use Relative Perceived Exertion in your training

Relative Perceived Exertion (RPE) might be one of the most important concepts in training, coaching, and exercise physiology. But it comes under indirect attack everyday because you don’t measure it with digital gizmos backed by huge marketing budgets (read: heart rate monitors, pace trackers, stride counters, HRV monitors, sleep monitors, glucose monitors, and the like). 

As a result, RPE doesn’t pop up in direct ads on web pages or in the billions of ads auto-generated by search-engine algorithms and economics. And if you don’t see something every day in your web browsing, you don’t pay much attention.

Too bad. Because in many ways, RPE is more powerful and helpful than all the above. It generates an outcome based on the sum of the above, not just the small fractional parts. 

Here’s the rub: You can’t read your RPE from a tiny blinking screen or anywhere else. It exists in your brain as a gauge of your overall well-being, which you then have to translate into a number on a scale (either 6 to 20, or 1 to 10). 

Unfortunately, many runners don’t trust their brains in the same way they can’t figure out how much to drink when told to “drink according to thirst.” We have become overly reliant on external measures that aren’t nearly as useful as our internal feedback. The brain: Use it or lose it.

Here are several examples of RPE’s utility: Say you’re running a high-altitude race. Or a hot and humid one. Or one for which you didn’t fuel up adequately (for whatever reason). Your devices can’t tell you what to do across different conditions like this. But your RPE can, as long as you have trained yourself to tune into it.

RPE was invented by Swedish physiologist Gunnar Borg in the 1970s. He eventually put his RPE findings on a 6 to 20 scale that measures your sense of wellbeing and exertion. Since those numbers perplexed many, RPE was also verified on a 1-10 scale. Both extend from no effort to max effort. 

If you begin to pair RPE with your post-workout entry in a training log, you might move yourself toward an enhanced notion of training intensity and recovery adaptation through the days and weeks of your training. If your RPE is too high for several days, you need some rest. If it’s lower than you would expect, you might be ready to increase your training load. Here’s a big background paper at Int J of Environmental Research & Public Health, including a free, full text history with updated neurophysiology and practical applications.

SHORT STUFF you don’t want to miss

>>> Exercise is better than medicine: 100-yr-old works out every day at gym.

>>> Nose strips: A systematic review found some evidence for nasal dilators for “maximal oxygen uptake and perceived exertion,” but the evidence quality was “very low.”

>>> Most active World Cup soccer players covered about 7.5 miles per game.

GREAT QUOTES make great training partners

“Perseverance is a great element of success. If you only knock long enough and loud enough at the gate, you are sure to wake up somebody.” 

– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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