January 5, 2023

Cardiologist saves two lives in Monterey Bay Half Marathon with “Today Show” video

This has to be the best running story of 2022, and perhaps any other year. It’s the most inspirational, and also delivers one of the most important messages any runner can learn.

The inspiration: A doctor--a cardiologist no less, named Steven Lome--saved two lives at the Monterey Bay Half Marathon. In both cases, he came upon fallen runners who had stopped breathing, and he brought them back to life.

The message: Learn CPR, or review what you know. You don’t have to be an M.D. to save another runner’s life. And you don’t have to use mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, as the “hands only” guidelines no longer recommend it. You just have to know where to pump on a person’s chest, and how hard and fast to pump.

Here’s a short but intense video segment from The Today Show, which reunited the three participants for the first time since the half marathon. Lome finished in 2:30:32.

And here’s a top CPR video from the Boston Marathon, the American Red Cross, and the American Heart Association. It includes instruction from cardiologist Aaron Baggish, a many time Boston Marathon finisher himself and one of the world’s leading exercise cardiology experts. Please take four minutes to review this video. You never know when you might have a chance to use hands-free CPR. It could be during a race, or any day on any run. 

As Dr. Baggish says: “Each and every one of us has an opportunity and a responsibility to assist in the event of an emergency like a cardiac arrest. CPR is a life-saving action that can be performed by almost anyone, and recent studies have shown that bystander CPR, specifically by the person who first witnesses the cardiac arrest, is the most important determinant of whether a runner lives or dies.” More on You Tube.  

How to set smart goals and achieve “sustainable excellence”

I don’t want to pile on too much with “January Resolutions” material, because you’re probably already tired of it. That said, you’ll likely engage in some goal setting at some point this year, maybe 3 months before a big race. And no one does a better job providing evidence-based advice in that department than distance coach and all around performance expert Steve Magness. So you should consider his recent Twitter thread.

He points out that “process” and structure are key components. I also like several of the physicians he quotes, and the way they say that goal setting should include: “dosing, consideration of harmful side effects, and close supervision.” More at Twitter Steve Magness.

In a similar vein, Magness’s writing partner, Brad Stulberg, has put together a guide to reaching “sustainable excellence” in 2023. It’s a fantastic term, combining both personal aims and our connection to larger wholes like the environment. It’s a long list with 27 items, each worth your consideration. These two struck a chord with me: First, #10, “Become a master of showing up.” And, second, #21, “Take the work extremely seriously, but yourself not so much.”

Be sure to check out the full list. You’ll find others that resonate strongly. More at Twitter.com/BStulberg.

Alcohol causes inflammation, cancers, and has no heart benefits

No nagging here. And it’s easy to understand why many runners enjoy their beers and cocktails. We sweat a lot, we feel that we deserve a small reward for our regular aerobic outputs. This is just a reminder that some of your beliefs about healthful alcohol consumption might be mistaken.

Runner’s World has a long feature story in which the director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism say, “The truth is, there’s no safe amount of alcohol, not even one drink a day.” More here.

Dr. Gabe Mirkin summarizes the research results, pointing out that earlier studies showing an alcohol = longer life connection were flawed by wrongly-selected control groups. In fact, “Alcohol causes inflammation and oxidative stress that damages cells and increases risk for disease.” More here.

Carbohydrates: We keep learning important new wrinkles 

It was more than 50 years ago that Scandinavian scientists and British marathon great Ron Hill popularized carbohydrate loading for improved endurance performance. You might think that 50 years is long enough to reach the finish-line in our understanding of carb loading. But, no, the opposite seems true. Driven by new tools and the growth of athletes attempting extreme events like Ironman and ultra-distance trail events, we keep learning more. 

In particular: More carb-consumption while running is better, but pay serious attention to your stomach-gut issues.

Here are two deep dives into new carbohydrate-loading approaches. Both come from commercial sources, but ones that are putting a lot of time and emphasis on scientific research. The first from First Endurance explains how Multiple Transportable Carbohydrates (carb mixtures that include fructose) increase the body’s ability to absorb and use more carbs quickly. 

Also, it takes only two weeks of “Gut Training” to improve your stomach’s tolerance for high-carb mixtures--up to 90 grams per hour, or about .6 grams/lb calibrated to your personal weight.

The second article explains why modern carb-loading protocols are much shorter than the week-long system used by runners in the 1970s. Now a couple of days is considered sufficient. Your body responds fast to what you consume, burning more fats or carbs according to recent intake.

One new research report found that the optimal marathon fueling might look like this: several days of carb loading, followed by a modest high-fat meal 4 hours before the race, followed by a carb gel on the start line. This approach seems to promote an optimal burning of both fats and carbs for top marathon performance. More at Supersapiens.

Should you wear super shoes in training?

First came the amazing performances that so many runners have recorded since the widespread adoption of super shoes (carbon fibers + lightweight, springy foams) in the last 5 years. Everyone could see the many fast times at various road-race finish lines.

Now comes the next question: Will super shoes also help you train farther and faster, perhaps with fewer injuries? This excellent article at Neo.Life digs into that debate. Most of the experts interviewed here seem dubious. Their outlook could be summarized as: “Running produces forces, and the forces have to go somewhere. They don’t just disappear in a shoe’s midsole.”

A few are also concerned about the tall stack height of super shoes. The height seems likely to increase instability problems--ankle sprains and the like. And still others note that training more and harder doesn’t seem a recipe to reduce injuries vs training more modestly

But a few are cautiously optimistic. And if you ask Maegan Krifchin how she ran 3 ever-faster marathons in a 4-week period last fall (culminating in a personal best of 2:29:21), she’ll point straight to her Adidas super shoes. “I definitely think they’re helpful,” Krifchin says. “One hundred percent. I think it allows us to bounce back from workouts and races and feel pretty fresh.” More at Outside Online.

Strides can build speed without injury risk

As the general trend in endurance training slides toward more miles of easy running vs too many miles of hard tempo runs and high intensity intervals, coaches and runners have to figure out how to incorporate some degree of speed work. After all, at almost any race distance, you need a certain amount of leg speed.

One possibility: More use of fast, short strides to keep you sharp. Such strides--say 20 seconds modestly fast, 40 seconds decelerating, and then the next stride acceleration-- will get you moving fast without having to hold the pace for too long. This should train the muscle fibers and oxygen delivery to the fibers without adding so much stress/force that you risk injury.

Strides aren’t sprints. Strides are smooth, fast, controlled running. Use the short rests as “a natural governor on pushing too hard,” as recommended by David Roche at Trail Runner.

Cold water immersion aids recovery, doesn’t hinder training adaptations

Post workout cold-water (ice) baths first gained notoriety about 20 years ago when Paula Radcliffe revealed that she was using them as a recovery system. This news spurred a big boost in the process, and we soon saw photos of Meb Keflezighi sitting in the freezing streams of Mammoth Lakes CA after his workouts.

Years later, an opposing position appeared. Some theorized that reducing inflammation with cold-water immersion could also reduce the natural training effect that occurs when muscle cells are damaged and must repair themselves. 

The recently published first meta-analysis and systematic review of cold water immersion (CWI) therapy found it “more effective than active recovery, contrast water therapy and warm-water immersion for most recovery outcomes.” It was significantly less effective, however, than “air cryotherapy,” which requires super-cooling in a chamber. 

Conclusion: “CWI is effective for promoting recovery from acute strenuous exercise in physically active populations compared with other common recovery methods.” More at Sports Medicine.

Two years ago, a similar research review, but more narrowly focused on the question of possible interference to exercise adaptations, also offered reassuring news for runners. CWI has “a deleterious effect on resistance training adaptations but does not appear to affect aerobic exercise performance.” More at Sports Medicine.

What are the big trends and best products for 2023?

With regard to new trends, I’m intrigued like Alex Hutchinson about how Artificial Intelligence will affect personal training. I’ve even asked ChatGPT for a 16-week marathon plan, but it cut out after 12 weeks--not very helpful. I think Michael Joyner made the most insightful comment when he observed that we’re tired of HIT training. “I think we are going to see people challenge themselves to be consistent without feeling like they need to go all-out. There will be more focus on low intensity: Just doing something and building physical activity into your day.” More at Outside Online.

Needless to say, we fitness fans will have a lot of new products to consider this year. My wife and I can’t stop talking about a mini home sauna, and I’m also intrigued by some of the vertical greens-growing devices I’ve seen. Here are 25 fitness product picks from Fortune.

Silly walks aren’t efficient walks, and that’s the point

It was inevitable that a study into “silly walks” as performed by the Monty Python comedy team would attract media attention. And it did. Here’s one example. 

I’m pretty sure the so-called “teabag walk” isn’t going to change anyone’s walking-for-exercise habit even though it increased calorie burn by 250%. The thing is, you could achieve more-or-less the same by walking backwards, or wearing a 50-lb vest, or marching about while pretending you’re in the North Korean Army. And no one’s doing any of those things.

As runners, we try to increase our efficiency--our running economy--by wasting as little energy as possible. Any extra, unnecessary movement increases our oxygen intake. When someone’s trying to lose weight, however, they might aim for the opposite, as inefficient movements burn more calories.

But this approach is almost always short-sighted. The only exercises we continue to do in life are those we find simple and pleasant--a stroll around the block, a run around a park. Monty Python can be both fun and instructive. But you won’t be doing silly walks for long. Original research paper here at the British Medical Journal (free full text).

Twin studies teach us new exercise truths

Studies of identical twins who are raised together but then lead separate adult lives often produce fascinating and impactful results. For example, they can help us understand the influence of epigenetic forces. The twins have the exact same genetic makeup, but they “evolve” in their own lifetimes due to their individual habits like exercise, diet, and so forth.

Here researchers investigated epigenetic differences between identical twins at age 50. They twins were divided according to who exercised 150 minutes per week, and who didn’t. Did the exercise make any difference in genetically-identical individuals? Yes. “An increase in physical activity is correlated with a decrease in metabolic measures such as BMI and waist circumference,” which are related to negative health outcomes. Walkable neighborhoods also made a difference. 

We are what we were born with. We also are what we choose to become. Choice and behavior can make a big difference. More at Nature (free full text).

SHORT STUFF you don’t want to miss

>>> Meta-analysis and systematic review of wearing a mask during exercise = higher perceived exertion, breathlessness, fatigue, and heat sensation “although the overall effect on exercise performance appeared to be small (free full text)

>>> Sometimes good, sometimes bad: In an RCT, Ibuprofen had some bad effects on the gut-intestines, but seemed “to suppress circulating markers of inflammation.”

>>> How many calories do you burn while strength training? About 6 per minute.

GREAT QUOTES make great training partners

“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other.”

--Abraham Lincoln

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