November 30, 2023

This simple form fix will make you faster and more efficient

I’ve received personal arm-carriage instruction from Golden Harper and Tom Miller, both of whom are referenced in the below article. Both are true running experts and record-holders of different stripes, and both made me a believer in their systems. 

And the best thing about this: There’s nothing to buy. You don’t have to pay a cent. (Although I’ll link to one $12 item.) You just have to practice on your own.

Basically, the system could be called: “Run with your elbows.” Or: “Pull your elbows back.” The article claims that driving your arms backward shifts your balance more upright and forward. In that position, your feet can land closer beneath your body, and push backward more efficiently. 

In fact, coach Andrew Kastor says the one thing he typically yells in a race, where a runner can only hear and implement one simple thing, is: “Elbows Back!”

That’s what I see whenever I watch a video of Eliud Kipchoge heading toward another marathon finish tape. Look at the side view of Kipchoge 20 seconds into this video.

You’ll also enjoy this webpage that promotes a $12 elastic band you can buy to practice Kipchoge elbow running. Click down the page once or twice for an adorable, short video with a young girl runner who’s about 10 years old. (You can fashion a similar device on your own by grabbing a length of elastic resistance band, tying the ends together, and sliding the loop over your shoulders like a coat. Once it’s on, simply tuck your thumbs or whole hands into the front of the loop, and start running. More at Outside Online.

NCAA champ Parker Valby proves the value of cross-training

Many runners cross-train to avoid injury and prolong their healthy running, but few bigtime race winners credit their success to cross-training. Parker Valby from the Univ. of Florida is the rare exception. She was second in last year’s NCAA Cross Country Championships, and first this fall. 

We still don’t have a lot of specific information about Valby’s training, but she apparently covers only 25 to 30 miles a week with on-the-ground running. That’s less than half what many top collegiate runners do. When not running, she’ll log an hour or more per day of cross-training on an elliptical machine named the Arc Trainer (a favorite of many runners) and/or an indoor bike or other equipment.

Here her coach of a year ago describes how fiercely Valby attacks workouts when cross training. And here members of the LetsRun message board debate their views on cross-training for runners.

The linked article below summarizes several studies of cross-training for runners--how it can help you maintain fitness, and maybe even improve. Cross training can be particularly helpful for masters runners, and for young runners battling injury. 

A key issue: When you do hit the roads, trails, or track, you’ve got to devote some hard workouts to race pace preparation. I think it’s a good idea to also include some modest downhill running, because it’s hard to simulate eccentric muscle contractions of the legs on most cross-training machines. More at Trail Runner.

Run for your life with endurance and gratitude

This newsletter, “Run Long, Run Healthy,” exists because I believe the running you did yesterday is wonderful, but the running and other movement you do tomorrow is more important. Yes, you’ll probably be slower tomorrow (next year; next decade), but your personal fitness contributes more to your overall health and well being with increasing age.

To serve this end, I have now run Connecticut’s big annual Turkey Trot, the Manchester Road Race (4.748 miles) 61 years in a row--an unofficial world record for road race streaks. I know this streak won’t continue infinitely, but I can’t see any reason to stop now. 

I won Manchester 9 times in my 20s. That was fun. But the race is more meaningful to me now than it was then. Even though it takes me twice as long to complete the course as it did in the 1970s.

Two women are not far behind me. This year Janet Romayko and Beth Shluger finished Manchester for the 51st year in a row. That appears to be a world-record road race streak for women.

Romayko says: “I will continue running Manchester as long as I can. My aunt walked the course on Thanksgiving at age 93. I’d like to beat her record.” That’s the attitude we need.

Shluger: For 50 years I have had the gift of knowing exactly what I’ll be doing on Thanksgiving morning, and it's a gift of love, family, community and the Manchester Road Race. In this sometimes-crazy world, that is a mighty precious gift.” That’s the gratitude we need to express. More at

SHORT STUFF you don’t want to miss

>>> Stride right: The Stryd foot pod is effective to “delineate exercise intensity domains, guide training intensity, and assess aerobic fitness.”

HERE’S WHAT ELSE you would have received this week if you were a subscriber to the complete, full-text “Run Long, Run Healthy.”

# Do “rocker” shoes help you run faster and farther?

# Unexpected result: High heat makes you slower, but isn’t a big health risk

# Should you try a Heinz ketchup packet instead of an energy gel?

# The training tool that provides the BIGGEST bang for the buck ($0.00)

# Nutrition strategies that tame stomach distress

# Feet first--Footstrike pattern is more important than footwear type for injury prevention

# Success! A new surgery alternative that works great for IT Band Syndrome

# An inspirational quote sure to improve your winter training

Click here for info about subscribing to the full-text RLRH for just $4/month. 

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

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

November 16, 2023

Everyone swears by this great half-marathon workout

A training question on Reddit yielded a flurry of eager answers. But that’s not what makes this link interesting.

It’s the fact that most of the respondents largely agreed with each other. Instead of favoring dozens of different workouts, they seemed unified in their approach. That says a lot, I think. A simple key workout is producing good results for a lot of runners. 

Okay, enough beating about the bush. Here’s the question: “What’s your favorite half-marathon workout?” That’s a good one, as the half-marathon is such a popular race distance, and the universal stepping stone to a top marathon.

To assess the full range of responses, you should read the below link. But if you only want my executive summary,  here it is: Run 3 x 2 miles at half-marathon pace with several minutes of recovery walk/jog between the 2-mile repeats.

Why is this workout so successful? Because it’s tough but do-able. It will definitely help you prepare for an upcoming half marathon. It’s also a great one to include in your training arsenal as you get ready for any race distance. More at Reddit Advanced Running.

Save yourself: Modestly hard short sprints are good enough

Speedwork doesn’t have to involve all-out sprinting to be effective and performance-enhancing. In fact, a new study has shown that 10-second sprints at 80% effort improve performance as much as the same sprints at 100%.

This occurred because “training at 80 percent of one's maximum still gets the heart rate up significantly higher than a runner's typical training,” noted the senior author.

In this trial, a group of veteran runners deviated from their normal training for 6 weeks. During that time, they ran 30-20-10 intervals 3 times a week for 15 to 20 minutes per workout. Here’s what this means: The runners ran slow for 30 seconds, then moderate for 20 seconds, then fast for 10 seconds (for a total of 60 seconds). They repeated this routine 5 times (5 minutes), then took a several minute rest period.

After the rest period, they repeated the 5-minute “block” and rest period again. In total, they did 3 to 5 blocks per workout. Roughly half of the subjects ran their 10-second sprints at 80 percent effort; the other half ran 100%. 

“Before” and “After” this training, the 2 groups completed a 5K time trial. Both improved by the same amount, about 3%, though the 80% sprinters actually trended a bit higher than the 100% group.

Conclusion: “Lack of time is a common barrier to regular physical activity, and 30-20-10 training has been identified as a time-efficient exercise strategy to improve performance and health.” Also, non-maximal 30-20-10 training is associated with “a lower perceived effort” than other interval training.” 

Thus, 30-20-10 training is “specifically applicable to people who are not highly motivated or able to do maximal-intensity training.” More at Scandinavian J of Medicine & Science in Sports with free full text. Also, a very complete press release here at Science Daily.

Best running headlamps for dealing with winter darkness

This is not my area of expertise, and I try to avoid running in the dark. But I realize that’s not possible for many, particularly those who have to rise early to train in the winter months. All I really care about is safety on the run. For everybody.

As for product reviews, I trust the runner-tested ones at “I Run Far” more than most. (They do receive an affiliate commission, which they acknowledge.)

The name of the game here is safety--not just being seen by vehicles, but being able to see various road hazards from sticks and stones to patches of ice. One of the top rated headlamps costs just $35, which looks like a great value. Others are pricier, but come with lamps that double as a detachable flashlight. That seems a very hand approach. 

The reviewers note that: “Battery and lighting technology improvements have made headlamps brighter, lighter, and longer lasting.” Good. Also, one of the products they tried is “the Most Ridiculously Bright Running Headlamp We’ve Seen.” Well, there’s a place for everything. 

The “Comments” section includes additional advice from well-informed readers. Stay safe this winter. Be seen. Be able to see the road/trail in front of you. More at I Run Far.

SHORT STUFF you don’t want to miss

>>> Podium pride: Here are the shoes that “won” the New York City Marathon.

HERE’S WHAT ELSE you would have received this week if you were a subscriber to the complete, full-text “Run Long, Run Healthy.”

# Is sodium bicarbonate the next big performance booster?

# You might think you’re getting enough marathon carbs. (But you’re not!)

# Why the “Wim Hof Method” failed a controlled experiment

# A look into the tantalizing link between your low heart rate (from running) and a longer life

# Which is more difficult, the Boston Marathon or New York City?

# How a Harvard physics prof broke the female record for the Trans-America run

# Are marathon shoes faster than track shoes?

# For Thanksgiving Day (the most popular road race day of the year), a great Ralph Waldo Emerson quote about “gratitude” 

Click here for info on subscribing to the full-text RLRH for just $4/month.

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

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

November 9, 2023

How to design your perfect training program

Ever since top fitness writer Matt Fitzgerald popularized the research of sports scientist Steven Seiler and others with his 2014 book 80/20 Running, the topic of training intensity distribution (TID) has been one of the hottest, most important in the endurance performance world. We keep learning more, though none of it strays very far from the basic model. In other words, if you don’t want to dive any deeper than 80/20, that’s okay. Just don’t stray too far from that ratio.

On the other hand, if you want more, here’s an important update. A veteran research team investigated what is known about TID in world-class athletes from different endurance sports, and also at different times of the year. They used the simple 3 Zone model--basically easy effort (1), tempo-like easy effort (2), and faster interval-like training (3).

Their findings: First and most important, the principle that Zone 1, easy-effort training predominates is a truism that extends across all endurance sports. Second, cyclists and swimmers can do more hard training than runners, no doubt because their sports don’t involve pounding against gravity. They tended to spend 72% of their training time in Zone 1, and 16% in Zone 2.

Third, most athletes do more hard training during their peak competitive season than during their training-buildup period. Another way of saying this: Training is more pyramidal early in the season, and more polarized later in the season.

Inexperienced athletes often have trouble following the logic of “train slow to get fast.” Here the authors present two nice sentences to explain. The two key concepts to remember: glycogen re-supply, and muscle fibers. 

“One reason for training primarily in Z1 is that glycogen stores can be replenished during sessions of low-intensity endurance exercise performed between more intense workouts. Another reason, although not as well investigated, might be that extensive volumes of low-intensity endurance training are required for additional “aerobic” adaptations in the highly oxidative Type I fibers.”

This free and important paper adds new information to our understanding of TID, but the authors caution strongly against oversimplification. To really figure things out, you need to stick closely to the demands of your own sport, and to the timing of your peak efforts. 

Conclusions: “The analysis presented here does not allow identification of an optimal TID for any individual sport.” Also: “Reliable comparisons between different sports or the phases of a season [are] impossible.” More at Frontiers in Sports & Active Living with free full text.

Only a pin prick away: Use acupuncture and dry needling to resolve injuries

Acupuncture and a physical therapy technique called “dry needling” are both claimed to resolve some running injuries. Of course, it’s hard to rule out a placebo effect after someone has stuck you with needles. 

But many runners also report success from these treatments. In fact, I had a fairly miraculous return to running health earlier this year after just one go-around (with a bit of “Ouch!” involved) of dry needling to my ailing upper leg.

A recent article from Outside Online reports that acupuncture can reduce pain, decrease inflammation, and correct muscle imbalances. Several published journal papers support acupuncture and dry needling for sports injuries. 

One states that “acupuncture can help relieve short-term pain and recovery from dysfunction.” A second systematic review of case studies  “suggests that dry needling is effective in reducing pain associated with lower quarter trigger points in the short-term.” Medical reports have noted only minor risks associated with the two procedures, mostly skin infection if the needles are not clean.

Keep learning, keep improving: Strategies for long term success

However we do it, learning is a key lifelong practice. We all want to run long and healthy. Hence this newsletter. And the only way to do so is to keep learning.

Some of us have been lucky enough to encounter great coaches/mentors in our careers. Alex Hutchinson had a coach who made him take off his watch during interval training, because Alex was checking his splits too obsessively. Link here.

I had a mentor constitutionally averse to spelling out any rules of long distance running. He taught me and his many other disciples by personal example. We ran in his footsteps, and observed that he: started all runs slow, and finished harder; veered off road onto trails at every possible opportunity; ignored the weather to maintain training consistency; and so on. 

Simple stuff. Important stuff. Another term for learning is “acquisition skills.” 

Here several experts in performance “acquisition skills” provide a narrative review of what coaches often do wrong, and what they could do better. In fact, they provide 5 important guidelines from both sides of the coin. It doesn’t take much to turn these into lessons we can adopt for ourselves.

We learn about coaching “myths” that are not backed by solid evidence--like “Demonstrations are always effective,” and feedback should be “frequent, detailed, and provided as soon as possible.”

Other principles of “skill acquisition framework for excellence (SAFE)” may be more helpful. These include: “Find a balance between long-term learning and short-term performance;” and “Facilitate learning rather than dictate or abdicate.”

I appreciate that the authors believe “hands off” instruction may prove more powerful than “hands on.” They also believe in “optimizing challenge.” More at J of Sports Sciences with free full text.

SHORT STUFF you don’t want to miss

>>> Brainy marathoners: New research indicates that marathon runners gain a modest amount of fuel from myelin--a fatty tissue surrounding nerve fibers. 

HERE’S WHAT ELSE you would have received this week if you were a subscriber to the complete, full-text RLRH.

# Every breath you take: Going the distance with nasal breathing

# Experts tell you: “What to look for in your next heart rate monitor”

# Why Boston Marathon runners develop stomach-gut problems

# How whey protein in your recovery drink boosts hydration and endurance

# The truth about the super shoe marathon advantage

# How more exercise is better for those over age 60

# Winning strategies of Olympic 1500-meter champions

# A miraculous combo: motherhood and breast feeding 

# An inspiring “mothers are tough” quote from Kellyn Taylor, first American in the NYC Marathon

Click here for info on subscribing to the full-text RLRH for just $4/month.

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

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

November 2, 2023

Stuck in a rut? Here’s how to break through

We’ve all been there. After some period of training--whether months or years--you seem to keep producing the same results in your big efforts. Maybe you run 3 marathons in succession in 3:33, 3:35, and 3:32.

Those are strong finish times, but what you really want is a sub-3:30 marathon. How to get there? Alex Hutchinson dissected a recent paper on the limits of strength training to look for answers. You might not be interested in all the microcellular elements, but Hutchinson’s personal conclusion offers good insight.

“In practice, I’m pretty sure that most training plateaus, whether in muscle size, marathon time, or other fitness goals, don’t actually reflect some immutable biological law. We slip into comfortable routines, repeating the same workouts even though our bodies have already adapted to them. We settle for incremental goals instead of dreaming of quantum leaps.” More at Outside Online.

Big dreams are important, and also breaking out of a rut. The NY Times noted that “workout plateaus are an inevitable part of any fitness journey.” One expert suggested: “It’s a chance to listen to your body, figure out what it needs to improve, and reconnect to what you love about running.” More at NY Times.

This often requires moving away from your target for a time. Switch from road marathons to the mile, or to trail running, for 6 to 12 months. Then jump back on that sub-3:30 goal. You might be surprised by how quickly your fitness returns, and even exceeds what it was previously.

Healthy feet, faster times: Why you need to rotate your shoes

Many runners, when they find a favorite, most-comfortable pair of running shoes, stick with those shoes for years. Some even buy a half-dozen pairs of a particular model once they have identified it as their chosen shoe.

This could be a mistake. 

Running injuries are often caused by “overuse.” Translation: You repeat the same motion (your running stride) over and over until a given muscle grows fatigued, and breaks down. Such overuse is magnified when you always run in the same pair of shoes, with the same construction, same midsole, and same fit.

Using different shoes, on the other hand, reduces overuse. Your leg muscles must make slight adaptations for each run in different footwear. For example, you could do your shorter, easy-day runs in a pair of minimalist shoes rather than the thicker shoes you use when logging more distance. You could also alternate between shoes with a significant heel-toe “drop,” and others with zero-drop. 

Some runners choose to run in shoes made by different companies--say New Balance and Brooks--figuring that even this simple tactic should produce variations in the forces their legs encounter while running. And indeed it should.

A 2015 study investigated this “mix ‘em up” strategy to see if it would prove effective. It did, finding that the “parallel use of more than one pair of running shoes was a protective factor.” In fact, mixing up shoes resulted in a 39% drop in running injuries.”

Research has also found that certain shoes, often with low heel drops, can reduce knee injuries. Or, if you’ve got Achilles or calf problems, you could try thicker shoes with more dramatic heel to toe drops. 

The following article summarizes much of this information, as it argues the case for rotating your running shoes. Somewhat strangely, it quotes an apparent injury expert who is never fully identified. More at Training Peaks. 

High aerobic fitness can reduce flu deaths by 50%

We in the northern hemisphere are edging into flu season, so it’s a good time for a study on exercise and flu. Here a big report looked for possible links between aerobic exercise and/or strength training, and risks of mortality from influenza and pneumonia

It included more than 577,000 subjects who were followed for over 9 years. Result: Those meeting guidelines (150 minutes/week of moderate cardio, plus 2 strength workouts/week) “had a 48% lower adjusted risk of influenza and pneumonia mortality.”


When looking at aerobic exercise alone, the risk of death was lowest (minus 50%) for those logging 301 to 600 minutes/week. That’s equivalent to 30 to 60 miles/week of running if you’re running your miles at about 10:00 minute pace. Those exercising over 600 minutes per week still had a 41% lower mortality rate. The lowest exercise group (10 to 149 minutes/week) enjoyed a 21% lower risk.

With strength training, 2 sessions a week produced good results, but 7 or more workouts/week increased mortality risk by 41 percent. Conclusion: “Aerobic physical activity, even at quantities below the recommended level, may be associated with lower influenza and pneumonia mortality while muscle-strengthening activity demonstrated a J-shaped relationship.” More at British J of Sports Medicine with free full text.

SHORT STUFF you don’t want to miss

>>> Amazing bicycle gizmo: Here’s a new bicycle balancing device that can prevent falls, especially at slow speeds.

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

# Wait!!!??? There’s a time for decreased carb intake?

# Drafting is dramatic: How Kelvin Kiptum could have run 1:57 with a pacer

# Why you should consider run-walk training to boost your performance

# The ultimate marathon warm up = almost none at all

# How PEACE & LOVE can reduce muscle pains

# The data proves it: You can run away from breast cancer

# “Time” magazine picks several running products as “Best inventions 2023”

# A great quote about the “pandemonium of joy” that greeted NYC Marathon finishers in 1896

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.”

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

October 26, 2023

From fresh to frayed: How long do super shoes maintain their advantage?

Now that we’ve all accepted that super shoes can improve performance, the big questions have shifted to things like: Should you train in super shoes, or just race in them? And how long do super shoes retain their advantage?” And are super shoes likely to cause more injuries, or perhaps reduce injuries?

The answers will come, perhaps slowly, and with the important reminder that all runners are different, as are all shoes and foams. This week we received an important new insight. 

The bottom line: Super shoes lose their performance advantage rather quickly, at least in terms of the running economy of subjects wearing the shoes. Indeed, after about 450 kilometers of use (270 miles), a pair of super foam (PEBA) super shoes delivered a 2.2% lower boost than a new pair. Surprisingly, an EVA shoe with a carbon plate suffered no similar loss after 270 miles. 

The PEBA shoes were, however, superior when both shoes were new. At that point, they delivered a running economy 1.88% better than equivalent EVA shoes.

Conclusion: “There is a clear running economy advantage of incorporating PEBA versus EVA when the models are new. However, after 450km of use, the PEBA and EVA shoes had similar RE.”

The research was conducted by an experienced Spanish team and well known U.S. based super-shoe expert, Wouter Hoogkamer. The ON shoe company produced the shoes worn in the testing, but didn’t fund the project. 

The selection of shoes was interesting and unusual. Two pairs were what many would now consider typical super shoes: They included carbon fiber plates with PEBA super foam. The other two pairs included traditional (older) EVA foams, but with carbon fiber plates. In other words, all the shoes included carbon fiber plates.

All shoes weighed about the same. All subjects ran in 4 versions of the shoes: 1) new PEBA shoes; 2) new EVA shoes; worn (270 miles) PEBA shoes; and worn (270 miles) EVA shoes. 

In their subjective evaluations, runners could not tell the difference between the four conditions. In the worn EVA condition, they increased their step frequency. This did not happen with the worn PEBA shoes, a finding the researchers termed “surprising.”

They speculated: “It could be that an embedded plate is more effective in PEBA than in EVA foam.” They also believe their “results generate important new knowledge for the footwear industry.”

They suggest that shoe companies should consider manufacturing a carbon plate PEBA shoe for optimal race results while the shoe is new, and a plated EVA shoe for lower cost and longer “shelf life.” The paper did not attempt to explore the injury question. More at Scandinavian J of Medicine & Science In Sports with free full text.

What is “hyperhydration,” and why should you care?

The topic of sodium use for long runs and races continues to be one of the most discussed subjects I see and hear among serious marathon and ultra runners. Recently I posted this link to a systematic review by respected experts in the field. It concluded that “pre exercise hyperhydration may improve exercise capacity due to a reduced heart rate and core temperature, stemming from an acute increase in plasma volume.” It also suggested that “different osmotic aids (e.g. glycerol and sodium)” could prove helpful.

So that’s the science. But there’s also another important perspective--that of real runners in the field actually trying different approaches and products in their own races. 

Here’s a good discussion with plenty of opinions, outcomes, and favorite hyperhydration approaches. This particular question--and the use of sodium and glycerol--seems a near perfect example of the famous “experiment of one” principle. 

The only way you can know for sure is to give it a try yourself. In training. On a run that simulates what you’ll be doing on race day. More at Reddit/Advanced Running.

[ Check out the podcast, “Running: State of the Sport,” with Amby Burfoot and George Hirsch. Recent episodes have featured Merhawi Keflezighi and Deena Kastor ]

Amazing veggie fuels: How beets and betalains can boost your endurance

The last decade has produced lots of research on the possible benefits of beet consumption for improved endurance performance and recovery. The mechanism behind the magical beets has generally been assumed to be nitrates that are converted to nitric oxide, which could increase oxygen supply.

Now the beet research is expanding a bit to include a class of antioxidant pigments called “betalains.” These are often found in red and yellow fruits and vegetables.

A 2017 paper on betalain supplements “containing no sugars or nitrates” found that they improved the 10K running times of triathletes who had already completed 40 minutes of cycling. The subjects were also faster the next day in a 5K trial, suggesting better recovery. The experiment used a double blind, randomized, cross-over design.

A brand new review paper has concluded that “Betalains have the potential to become a natural ergogenic aid or nutraceutical compound for sports people during exercise and competitive performance.” More at Current Nutrition Reports.

SHORT STUFF you don’t want to miss

>>> A short track & field video guaranteed to make you smile

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

# Eliud Kipchoge’s surprising “Breakfast of Champions”

# The simple workout that predicts your half-marathon time

# Nutty news about peanut butter: It doesn’t cause weight gain

# The “inside story” of Des Linden’s marathon success

# What you can learn from those crazy ultra runners. (More than you think.)

# 7 recovery myths revealed by a strength & conditioning coach

# The history and health-fitness significance of vo2 max

# An inspiring George Sheehan quote about the first day of the rest of your life

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.”

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