February 2, 2023

Hi everyone: Welcome to February. This is the last week that this website will include the complete, full text version of "Run Long, Run Healthy" for free.

If you’d like to continue receiving the full-text version, please GO HERE to subscribe now at $5/month or $48/12 months for the RLRH Newsletter delivered by Substack. Thanks to the many of you who have already done so.

Next week, this website will include only an abridged version of RLRH--roughly 30 percent of the full-text edition. It will always include a link that allows you to subscribe to the fully complete version.

Stay well. Run long and healthy. Amby.

52 ways to run better in 2023

One for every week of the year. The folks at Precision Hydration are trying to sell their products, but along the way they do a really nice and even entertaining job of providing top notch advice for runners. That’s what you’ll get at the below link titled “52 ways to be a better athlete.”

You’ll nod your ahead in recognition and agreement at almost all, but that’s no reason not to check out the entire list. In my opinion, you can never read good advice too often. I particularly like # 23: “Know when to focus internally and when to embrace distraction.” And also # 38: “Rotate your run shoes.” Others will strike a chord with you. More at Precision Hydration.

Can you go from great shape to even better shape?

It’s not easy, but it’s important. At some point in our training cycles, we all want to jump to the next higher fitness level. But how?

Many coaches and athletes believe that short, fast sprint training might provide the necessary bump. Two new studies have looked at this approach. In the first, a dozen “highly trained” rowers were assigned to do 6 weeks of hard intervals, either 90 seconds or 180 seconds at a time. Conclusion: “The HIIT interventions did not induce significant performance or VO2 kinetics improvements.” More at International J of Sports Physiology & Performance.

A second paper involved “trained cyclists” who were assigned to do “maximal acceleration training” 3 times a week for 12 weeks in addition to their normal training. The max accelerations were all-out efforts that lasted 10-15 seconds each, followed by 2-min recoveries. In each session, the cyclists did 10 of these in about 22 minutes. 

Result: After the max acceleration training, the cyclists improved their peak-power output by 4.1%.

That could certainly make a difference in a long bicycle race that ends, as most do, with a mad sprint to the finish. Still, the researchers concluded that the extra training produced only “modest favorable changes of performance indicators” because it didn’t budge the athletes’ max aerobic power or power output at comparable blood-lactate concentrations. More at Frontiers in Sports & Active Living (free full text).

Glutamine boosts triathlete run times

Researchers decided to test for possible benefits of hydrolyzed whey protein plus glutamine dipeptide on oxygen consumption, distance covered, and muscle damage during “an exhaustion test” performed by nine elite triathletes. They used a double-blinded, placebo-controlled, crossover protocol. Athletes were given the two supplements or a placebo 30 minutes before beginning a progressive treadmill run in a lab.

The supplementation “resulted in the physical effort at a higher percentage of maximal oxygen consumption, improved second ventilatory threshold, increased distance covered, and reduced circulating markers of muscle injury.” Distance covered rose by 2.8%

Conclusion: “These findings support oral glutamine supplementation’s efficacy in triathletes.” It’s not often that we see such a positive change in already elite performers. The investigators reported no conflict of interest with any supplement company (and didn’t name any commercial products). More at Frontiers in Sports & Active Living (free full text).

Eat carbs last at meal times

Patrick Wilson is an assistant professor of exercise science at Old Dominion University, and author of a definitive book on digestive issues that runners sometimes encounter, The Athlete’s Gut.  But he’s not just an expert in nasty stomach problems; he’s also a registered dietitian with wide interests in that field.

One of his interests is “ordered eating,” which refers to the order in which we consume fluids and foods in a meal. Here he performed a systematic review of studies about the effect of order of proteins/fats/carbohydrates in meals. Conclusion: “There may be benefits to eating carbohydrate after vegetable and/or protein-rich foods.”

Why? Because if you eat carbs first--or alone, as in far-too-many high sugar drinks--they will send your glucose-insulin response into “excursion,” which is Wilson’s way of saying “out of whack.” This could lead to diabetic and obesity-heart health concerns. 

On the other hand, carbs consumed after fibers, fats and proteins don’t cause the same response.  “Carbohydrate-last meal orders tend to lower blood glucose and insulin excursions.” More at J of the American Nutrition Association. 

Morning workouts vs evening: Which is better?

A couple of weeks ago I linked to a Training Peaks article about the benefits of morning workouts. I didn’t realize then that the author was going to follow up with another article about the benefits of evening-nighttime workouts.

The second article has been published now, so you get to review and evaluate both. There’s no denying that most road races take place in the morning, and most track meets in the afternoon or evening, so that will be a big consideration. Beyond that, your personal daily schedule and your chronobiology are likely the most important factors. Either way, be careful to get as much sleep as possible. Good news: One recent paper indicated that nighttime workouts don’t disturb sleep patterns as much as previously believed.

There might be a “missing link” in running injuries

Most experts agree that running injuries occur because of “training errors,” and one way to detect such errors is with a Total Training Stress system, of which there are several. These systems try to account for your mileage, your pace, and even the surfaces you train on. Plus, of course, your sleep, your mental-stress level, and more.

Complicated, right? But wait. There might be a missing link. In a new paper, several biomechanics experts suggest that we should also consider how much we stand and walk around during the day. After all, we perform these activities many more hours/day than our running, and that could make a difference. For example, simply standing for a prolonged period can produce 56% as much knee joint load as running. 

That’s why the researchers make this point: “Given that the accumulated loading from non running exercise and physical activities of daily living can impose substantial and consequential load on the musculoskeletal system, we make the case for considering loading from all sources of physical activity as a contributor to running injury.”

More at J of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, and a helpful infographic from YLMsportscience.

Do nearby footsteps change your running?

At one time or another, most of us have noticed that a training partner’s stride frequency was slightly different from our own. We heard their foot scuffing-stomping on the road next to us, and noted it didn’t perfectly harmonize with our own. So what?

Japanese researchers wondered about this, so they rigged a funny little study to dig deeper. They put two runners on side-by-side treadmills separated by a thin partition. The runners couldn’t see each other, but they could still hear the nearby footsteps.  

Both were told to run at an easy, comfortable pace for a few minutes. But then Runner A, unbeknownst to the other, was told to increase or decrease stride frequency. How would Runner B respond, if at all?

It turned out that Runner B did respond, but very modestly, and this had no effect on heart rate or relative perceived exertion. The researchers were forced to conclude that “the relatively low intensity of exercise did not affect the physiological load due to footsteps.” More at PLOS ONE (free full text).

Sad to say: Micro-dosing with EPO works

Most of us would like to ignore doping violations, and focus on healthy running for ourselves and for our friends. That’s fine. But it would also be nice if our sport could remove itself from the shadow of drugs and illegal performances.

Unfortunately, that’s more easily wished-for than accomplished, especially in a sport that offers prize money to skinny, large-lung athletes that can’t reap similar rewards in other sports. Here an RCT study found that frequent, small intravenous injections of EPO were sufficient to improve several performance measures by about 4 percent. That’s roughly 5 minutes for a 2:10 marathon runner.

Some marathon observers believe that such micro-dosing has become popular among athletes hoping to reduce the chances of getting caught. Conclusion: Microdosing can “enhance aerobic-dominated performance in both trained males and females.” More at Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

The mysterious world of mental toughness

When someone finally figures out what mental toughness is, or if it even exists, I’ll be the first one cheering from the peanut gallery. Until then, it seems a quagmire, at least in terms of how to acquire and improve your mental toughness. 

A new paper digs into the “Goal-Expectancy-Self-Control (GES) model,” which proposes that mental toughness is a “state-like multidimensional concept comprising three resources.” They are challenging goals, self-efficacy, and self-control, which “are proposed to lead to optimal performance through attention, effort, perseverance, and strategies.” Words, words, and more words.

Excuse me, but my attention is drifting. Even Alex Hutchinson had to admit that “all these elements work together and influence each other in ways that, honestly, become hard to follow.” He’s not being sarcastic; he’s just saying that there’s no simple formula here. But you can check here for the original article and here at Outside Online for Hutchinson’s summary.

A more helpful approach comes from a “Fast Talkers” paper of several years ago. After learning

“a personalized self-talk intervention,” the runner-subjects improved their 800 meter times. Conclusion: “The intervention positively influenced mental toughness and finish times.” More at J of Applied Sport Psychology.

Short Stuff you don’t want to miss

>>> Can creatine help you get in better shape?

>>> Here’s a nice review of the 8 “most prominent recovery techniques out there.”

>>> Too soon to know: Continuous glucose monitors are supposed to help you boost your endurance, but research doesn’t yet show that they have “any meaning in sport.” (free full text).

Great Quotes make great training partners

“Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for us not to try to win.” 

--Atticus Finch, in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird

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