August 17, 2023

Here's the free but abridged version of this week's RLRH newsletter. I hope you enjoy it, and learn something new. Please forward or share with your running friends. Thanks. Amby

The complete, full-text version has 3x as much new information as what you’re about to read. And all of it is authoritative, science-backed, and presented in an easy-to-understand manner. I hope you’ll consider upgrading to the complete, full-text edition here. Thanks. Amby

Marathon training puzzle: Should you cross-train during your buildup?

We all know that the more miles you log in your marathon training, the better you’re likely to run on race day. That’s good news for the well-disciplined. But it’s also widely believed that cross-training is a great way to get strong and healthy.

The problem? Assuming you’re not a fulltime, professional runner, how do you achieve both in a real-life world that places many demands on your time? It’s one of those eternal training questions.

The below article digs into the issue, providing a solid list of PROs and CONs. It even rounds up a few scientific studies, though none are specific enough to resolve the conundrum.

Which sounds like this in every-day terms: I’ve got 5 hours a week for my marathon training. Should I do running workouts only, or should I mix together running and cross-training?

Like I said, a good and eternal training question. This article concludes: “Cross training can be a fantastic complement to your marathon training program, enhancing your overall fitness and reducing the risk of injuries. Remember, moderation is key – don’t overdo it with cross training to the point where it hinders your running progress.”

If I were forced to vote, I’d opt for running-only for the last 8 weeks of your marathon buildup. Try to run 4 to 5 times a week, and take good recoveries on the days when you can’t run. 

After your marathon, ease back into a mixture of running and cross-training. A concentrated period of run-training is the best way to prepare for a marathon. A balanced program of running and other activities is the best way to lead a long and healthy life. More at Sport Coaching NZ.

Endurance boost or myth? The scientific truth about nose breathing

A widely circulated photo created quite an Internet sensation last week. It shows top tennis pro Iga Swiatek practicing with her mouth taped over. Fans of nasal breathing took this as proof of their favored technique even though Swiatek said, “It’s harder to breathe when you’re only breathing through your nose.”

Okay, but does nasal breathing improve your endurance? The Washington Post (subscription required) found some physiologists who agreed with this method, but most experts pooh-poohed it. This was especially true of Nick Tiller, an ultramarathoner and respiratory function PhD. He compiled a list of six key studies in the field.

In sum, the research indicates that nasal breathing can sustain modest to intense exercise, but there’s no advantage to it. Most athletes find it more natural to use “oronasal” breathing (mouth and nose combined) during hard efforts. More at Twitter/NickTiller.

Arthritis myth debunked: Marathon running doesn’t cause knee/hip issues

Here’s more good news concerning the old wives’ tale about running and knee/hip arthritis. It comes from the medical team at the Chicago Marathon. Over a several year period, they surveyed 3804 Chicago participants. 

The researchers were particularly interested in debunking the “current dogma” that running causes arthritis, so they asked not just about arthritis pains, but also about age, years of running, mileage, lifetime marathons completed, family history, and so on. In total they posed 30 running-related questions to each subject.

The respondents looked like this: average age, 43.9; 52.2% male; 27.9 miles/week of running (with one outlier claiming 180); average pace, 8:52; 9.5 previous marathons (with one at 664); BMI, 23.8; years of running, 14.7. 

The paper didn’t report average marathon finish time, but we know from other data that this would be right around 4:30 (10:18 pace). Previous similar studies with marathoners have included much smaller numbers of usually more elite runners.

Results: Overall, just 7.3% of runners reported hip or knee arthritis, with 70% of these cases at the knee. After multivariate analysis, the researchers concluded that, as expected, a history of previous hip/knee arthritis or previous hip/knee surgery were strongly linked to joint pain and arthritis. Family history was also a strong predictor, as was higher BMIs.

Looking for the good news? There was plenty here. Increasing age reduced the odds for pain, but slightly increased the odds for arthritis. Sex was not a risk factor for arthritis, but did increase the odds for hip/knee pain. Higher weekly mileage and more previous marathons were linked to less pain. “Notably, neither the number of marathons completed, running pace, weekly running mileage nor the reported number of years running were found to increase the risk of hip/knee arthritis.”

Unfortunately, many general practitioners haven’t gotten the message, as a full 24.2% of runners in the study “who discussed running with their healthcare provider were suggested to either stop or reduce their amount of running.”

Most--caution: snarky comment forthcoming--didn’t listen to their doctor. A full 94.2% of marathon respondents told the researchers that they planned to run another marathon. And why not? They appeared to have little risk of pain/arthritis, and much opportunity to continue with a running lifestyle known to increase dozens of important health outcomes.

Conclusion: “From this largest surveyed group of marathon runners, the most significant risk factors for developing hip or knee arthritis were age, BMI, previous injury or surgery, and family history. There was no identified association between cumulative running history and the risk for arthritis.” More at Sports Health.

SHORT STUFF you don’t want to miss

>>> Does fasting make you faster? A deep dive into the science of fasting before exercising

That’s it 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 on:

# Eliud Kipchoge’s secret core-training device

# What makes super shoes so super--the plate or the foam?

# Long run variations: 5 different types of long runs to get you marathon-ready

# How to optimize recovery so your easy days actually do their job

# A ginormous study proving that exercise lowers cancer risks

# Guaranteed weight loss: The secret to every successful pounds-off program (infographic)

# Does fasting make you faster? A deep dive into the science of fasting before exercising

# An inspirational “enjoy the process” quote from Jimmy Buffet

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