February 9, 2023

 RLRH will not publish next Thursday. See you again on Feb. 23.

Stay well. Run long and healthy. Amby

NOTE: This is the free, abbreviated version of RLRH. To subscribe to the complete, full-text version, GO HERE FOR DETAILS.

Bad news, big mistake: Many distance runners don’t actually listen to their body

Here’s a report that surprised me at first reading. I think this happened because “Listen to your body” is probably the best and most repeated advice that runners hear. I assumed that a few of us were in fact listening.

But maybe not. Why else would sprinters have more “interoception” than distance runners. Don’t feel bad. I didn’t know what interoception meant either. But it’s clearly defined in the first line of the paper: “the process of detecting and interpreting bodily sensations.”

The paper compared sprinters, distance runners, and non athletes. The non athletes clearly had the lowest interoception. They weren’t very skilled at listening to their body. However, here’s the surprise: “Sprinters reported having better regulation of attention to internal sensations, more emotional awareness, better self-regulation, and a greater propensity to listen to their body for insight than distance runners.”

Also, another unexpected finding: The better the athletes, the lower their body listening. This sounds topsy turvy at first, but the investigators took a stab at explaining it, and I think they hit the mark. They suggest that top athletes must do a lot of “training beyond one’s physiological boundaries.” In other words, we often push hard even when the body is saying “Slow down” or even “Stop, for goodness sake.”

Dedicated runners are incredibly strong, willful creatures. This leads to both amazing success like marathon finishes, and also to high injury rates because we don’t always listen to the body.

We’d all like to find the perfect balancing point between training hard and avoiding injury, but that’s a tough one. Where’s your perfect balance point? Maybe if you listen really hard, your body will tell you. More at PLOS One (free full).

Build stronger tendons and ligaments with collagen

There’s increasing evidence that collagen supplements can improve tendon/ligament strength and stiffness. This is a good thing, as it could prevent injuries. Also, while tendon stiffness sounds bad, it’s not. For runners, increased tendon stiffness is associated with better running economy, since the tendons produce mechanical energy return without consuming oxygen (as the muscles do). So it’s like a “freebie.”

Alex Hutchinson summarizes several new papers at Outside Online, particularly this one from Frontiers in Physiology that investigated the effect of collagen hydrolysate on patella tendon properties of late-teen female soccer players. It found that the collagen could enhance “rapid transference of force” and also “mitigate injury risk.”

A down side for some. Collagen supplements are derived from animal sources like cows, pigs, and fish. While some marketers are pushing “vegan collagen” products, there’s little to no evidence that they are effective … or even deserve to be called “collagen.” More at Live Science.

Why everyone’s jumping in a sauna

With the NY Times recently jumping into the froth, articles about the potential health and performance benefits of sauna bathing are now officially everywhere. Of course, the NYT sought context, including a comment from a researcher at Finland’s University of Jyvaskyla (where they should know): “It’s not like, ‘Oh, instead of going for my 45-minute run, I’m going to sit in the sauna for 45 minutes.'’’ 

Maybe not, but cardio physiology PhD candidate Brady Holmer calls sauna bathing a possible “exercise mimetic” at his Friday Physiology newsletter. That means: It shares similarities with exercise, and Holmer has a lot of scientific references to back his view. So does Evidence Based Muscle.

Lastly a just-released paper put two college runners through 16 post-workout saunas in 3 weeks, plus two runs in a heat chamber. Result: “Both athletes had personal bests in the 5K” in good conditions, and one improved his 10K performance in hot weather by 5 percent. Thus, “Post-exercise sauna bathing could be a practical and time-efficient method” to improve distance running performance.” More at J of Sport & Human Performance.

Who’s better--top trail runners or top road runners?

To begin with, they tend to look a bit different. Many ultra trail runners are thicker than road runners, who are chiseled down to a significant degree. It could be that all that up and down trail running produces stronger-looking athletes, or that stronger athletes are drawn to the trails (maybe because they don’t succeed as much as they would like on the roads).

A recent French study aimed to pinpoint some of the trail vs road runner differences with top performers from both groups. The road runners reported spending 81% more time training, including much more strength training and yet they underperformed the trail runners on several strength-power tests. That seemed weird. Is it possible that the natural up and down training of trail runners is more effective than the artificial work road runners do in the gym?

The road runners were unsurprisingly more economical on flat running, but the trail runners matched them when hills were introduced. There were no biomechanical differences between the groups in terms of stride frequency, flight time, and the like. 

What does it all mean? Probably that each group has either found their best running activity, or adapted to it by their training. Many do wonder: What happens to the best trail runners when truly elite marathon runners decide to head for the hills. Maybe not Eliud Kipchoge but the 2:06 to 2:08 crowd. Will they displace the current top trail elites?

Maybe, according to a new big-data paper that dug into this question with regard to 100-mile ultra runners. It found that Black South Africans were fastest among ultra men, while European racers topped the female list. East African athletes have largely failed in well-publicized attempts to excel at Nordic skiing and cycling. However, the transition to ultra races and trail races would appear much easier. 

More about trail vs road racers at Outside Online, plus the original paper at the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. Go to Nature (free full text) for more on 100 mile ultra results.

SHORT STUFF you won’t want to miss

>>> Stop the junk food junkets:The 17 most filling snacks for runners 

>>> Competitive sports and regular exercise might increase risk of pelvic floor disorders later in life.

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading. RLRH will not publish next Thursday. 

See you again on Feb. 23.Stay well. Run long and healthy. 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 bounce back from overtraining

# What you need to know about running shoe “heel drops”

# Air pollution slows race times

# Should you choose a non-alcholic beer for rehydration?

# Move more around meal times to reduce blood glucose spikes

# Old injuries and marathon training linked to your next injury

# A motivational running quote from Juma Ikangaa 

CLICK HERE for details about subscribing to the complete, full text edition of “Run Long, Run Healthy.