August 3, 2023

Here's the free but abridged version of this week's RLRH newsletter. I hope you enjoy it, and learn something new. Please consider upgrading to the complete, full-text edition here. Thanks. Amby

Could an Artificial Intelligence coach unlock your full potential?

We’ve seen a number of articles similar to this one already in 2023--the year Artificial Intelligence escaped its previous bounds and exploded onto the world. We’ll be seeing many more. 

The big question: Should we let AI coach us? No doubt, there are situations where AI can produce certain results super fast and sometimes even super well. Is personal coaching one of them?

To decide for himself, runner-writer Andy Cochrane let his Garmin Watch dictate everything he did for a month with regard to his training and recovery. His particular Garmin has many algorithm-derived training tools. A spokesperson for the software company that delivered these suggestions said: “We applied accepted training philosophies, and tested for years.”

Cochrane really liked how the software could pick up and analyze data from other devices, like his bicycle. He never had to actually input information into a training log. It all migrated there, to his log, on its own. 

All of this hums along in the background and only gets more accurate as you use the watch more often," wrote Cochrane. “Overall, I found the AI behind the watch to be mostly accurate, suggesting base efforts in line with my expectations, threshold workouts consistent with past workouts, and anaerobic sprint workouts to be hard, as they should be,” he noted.

He didn’t, however, stick with the program after his 30 days of testing. Why not? Probably because he preferred “training by feel, an approach that offers more flexibility.” I suspect many of us would react this way. 

On the other hand, it’s also alluring to think you could assign your training decisions to a smart system that might produce superior results. At the least, it might prove a fun experiment. More at Trail Runner.

Knee pain? This simple exercise will set you free

I’m accustomed to reviewing studies that conclude there’s only “low quality evidence” for this or that. So it was different and impressive to find an important exercise routine that has produced “high quality evidence to support” its practice.

And the problem being investigated is an important one that troubles many endurance athletes as well as the general population: knee arthritis. What can be done? Well, there are various options, including over-the-counter and prescription meds, and even surgery.

But before you go down any of those paths, consider simple exercises that can increase the strength of your hip abductors. “Ab” means “away from” (I had many years of Latin in jr. high and high school), so an abductor exercise is one in which you move your legs, against some resistance, away from the midline of your body. You can use gravity, rubbery bands, or machines to apply the resistance.

Doing hip abduction strength training rests on a foundation of “high-quality evidence as a rehabilitative treatment for subjects with knee osteoarthritis.” More in this systematic review and meta analysis at BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders with free full text.

Holy bunions! Are barefoot running shoes making a comeback?

In a long detailed article, we learn that “ancestral living” fans and, yes, some runners have spurred a rebirth in sales at barefoot running companies. I rarely see anyone running barefoot these days, and the infamous Vibram Five Fingers shoes are long gone. But other minimalist and zero-drop running shoes appear to be finding a niche.

They may also be at the forefront in using sustainable materials. One company, Vivobarefoot, is making shoes from “algae-based foam,” recycled and vegan materials, and leather sourced from small-scale, independent farmers.

Also, if you only knew that Emily Sisson is the current fastest American female marathoner of all time (2:18:29), you’re missing out on some details about her father, Mark, a former top triathlete. Five years ago, he sold his “Primal Kitchen” business for a reported $200 million. Recently he launched a minimalist shoe company, Peluva, with a son. Peluva shoes emphasize four key approaches the father-and-son team believe crucial to healthy walking: zero drop from heel to toe, increased flexibility, a wide toe box, and thinner soles. More at Fast Company.

SHORT STUFF you don’t want to miss

>>> Have another cuppa: Increased midlife caffeine from coffee and tea decreases frailty among senior age groups

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:

# 5 proven ways to reach your training goals

# A new (somewhat risky) way to improve your marathon time

# The science of short strides vs stress fractures

# 6 reasons to be careful about “massage guns”

# How to boost iron absorption, and avoid anemia

# How to burn more calories (with very little effort)

# An atrial fibrillation update: Ladies, pay attention!

# What Abraham Lincoln said about an optimized life

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