February 23, 2024 ... And Beyond

The most recent content from Amby Burfoot's "Run Long, Run Healthy" newsletter is now available each week from our partner, MarathonHandbook.com. Here's the link.

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Thanks. Amby Burfoot

February 15, 2024

Every Day, Every Year Strength Training Becomes More Important For You

With every year that passes, strength training becomes more important to your overall fitness program. That’s the conclusion from two recent studies, which confirm many others.

The first doesn’t say anything about improving your 5K or marathon times. But it contains an important message nonetheless. “It is evident that aged muscle displays delayed, prolonged, and inefficient recovery. These changes can be attributed to anabolic resistance, the stiffening of the extracellular matrix, mitochondrial dysfunction, and unresolved inflammation as well as alterations in satellite cell function.”

In other words, with advancing years, you need to double down on strength training. It contributes to “fostering healthy aging”--the essential first step to better performance. 

The authors recommend that your program should consist of “both concentric and eccentric contractions.” Also: While you work hard at your strength training, you also need to allow sufficient recovery between sessions, especially as you age beyond 65. More at Cells with free full text.

A separate paper looked into differences in strength and biomechanics among female runners. It compared runners in their 20s with those in their 60s. This was important because “the relationship between age and running biomechanics specifically in female runners had not been well-studied prior to this research.”

The good news: While older runners are slower than younger ones, “there are no significant relationships between age and variables of running biomechanics.” That is, the older runners are able to maintain good running form. 

However, the ladies don’t have a get-out-of-jail-free card. They do lose strength with age, and need specific exercise regimens to slow the loss. Particularly useful: isometric knee extension and hip abduction.

Conclusion: “Female runners should consider strength training, particularly the muscles of hip abduction and knee extension, to help mitigate age-related declines in muscle strength and physical function. In addition, plantarflexion and hip-extension strengthening may contribute to preserving running pace into middle- and older-age.” More at Old Dominion University with free full text.

Add Cranberries To The Dark Red Foods That Might Boost Performance

I’m not surprised that the first study to measure the effects of cranberries on running performance produced a positive result. After all, other dark/bright red foods like beets and tart cherries have often been found to do the same. All are rich in antioxidants, polyphenols, and flavonols--plant substances thought to have many health-enhancing benefits.

Cranberries rank near the top for these substances. Furthermore, according to this new paper: “Their polyphenol content stands out because of the high concentration in rare A-type PAC, which is believed to be the main contributor to their beneficial effects.” Okay, enough of the fruity nutritional jargon.

To test the impact of cranberries on endurance, researchers asked a group of veteran, well-trained runners to consume a cranberry drink for 28 days. Before and after this period, the runners completed time-trials at 1500 meters and 400 meters.

They improved by 14 seconds on average in the 1500, dropping from 5:21 to 5:07. There was no change in 400-meter times, although the cranberry drink “buffered the post-exercise lactate response.”

Conclusion: “The faster time to completion of the 1500-m time trial was associated with a 1.5% increase in speed, which is important for competitive runners.”

The study was not funded by a cranberry company, although the researchers received a free supply of a freeze-dried cranberry mix. Also, the time-trials could not be “blinded,” as the drink had a distinctive taste. More at More at Physical Activity and Nutrition with free full text.

How Much Would You Run For Free Burritos? Or A $100 Running Certificate?

I try to keep 95% of the items in this newsletter focused on scientific studies and authoritative articles from the best sources. That’s what most interests me, and it’s what draws subscribers to RLRH.

That said, it’s impossible to skip important news like Kelvin Kiptum’s death, below. Also, you gotta have a little fun every once in a while.

That’s why I’m including two short summaries of unusual (and very smart) marketing efforts by running-related companies. First, Strava recently announced that it would be awarding free Chipotle burritos to the runners who complete Strava “segments” (each about 300 meters long) during the month of January. In Washington, D.C., the very persistent winner covered the local segment 1345 times. “It was quite a time out there in the rain, sun, snow, and icicles at all hours of the day and night,” he said. More at Marathon Handbook.

Also, the running apparel and shoe company, Tracksmith, is awarding a $100 credit to any runner (not a newbie) who sets a personal record (including an age-group PR) in a standard track or running event before April 30th of this year. I wonder what they’ll give to my friend, 75-yr-old Jeannie Rice, who has already broken her age-group world record for the half marathon in 2024?

I can’t wait for TrackSmith to announce the overall results of this giveaway later in the year. Here’s a great chance for all your amateur runners to turn professional. Just run faster than you ever have before. More at Tracksmith.

>>> “High”ly unlikely: CBD oil fails test for recovery and reduction of muscle soreness

HERE’S WHAT ELSE YOU WOULD HAVE RECEIVED this week if you were a subscriber to the complete, full-text edition of “Run Long, Run Healthy.” Why not give it a try? SUBSCRIBE HERE.

# The simplest--and now proven--injury prevention strategy you can possibly imagine

# Best new Super Shoes of 2024--as shown at the Marathon Trials

# And, do females benefit more from Super Shoes than men? (Yes!)

# A surprisingly smart new way to run “doubles” 

# Tired of black toenails? Here’s how to prevent them

# Unexpected boost: Male sex drugs lower Alzheimer’s risk

# RIP Kelvin Kiptum: Just 24, the marathon world record holder died in a car accident in Kenya

# Fat but fit? Retired National Football League players are often obese, but have “decreased mortality compared to community controls”

# A compelling “dream it to achieve it” quote from all time Olympic great Emil Zatopek

Don’t forget: I Spend HOURS Searching The Internet For The Best, Most Authoritative New Running Articles, So YOU Can Review Them In MINUTES

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

February 8, 2024

 Eat Early To Avoid Early Stroke And Heart Disease

Studies on meal timing or “periodized nutrition” have produced varied results on a variety of important body metrics like glucose, insulin, and even endurance performance. Sometimes it’s instructive to look beyond these to hard-stop events like strokes and heart attacks.

That’s what Dr. Gabe Mirkin does here, summarizing several large, impressive studies that, in sum, seem to conclude: Eat breakfast fairly early in the day, and definitely eat dinner early in the evening--well before bedtime. 

One big review (with free full text)  recently followed 103,000 subjects for more than 7 years. “The researchers found that each hour of delaying dinner after 5 PM was associated with a 7 percent increased risk for a stroke, and that eating dinner after 9 PM was associated with a 28 percent increased risk for a heart attack, compared to eating before 8 PM.” They also found that eating breakfast after 8 am “was associated with increased risk for both heart attacks and strokes.” 

Mirkin cites other papers that have reached similar conclusions, and explains why late dinners can be harmful to your health. To put it simply: You need to move after you eat, and you probably aren’t moving much after a 9 pm dinner.

Based on these papers, the following seems a good approach: Eat dinner early, then take a 12 hour break until you break your fast relatively early the next morning. More at DrMirkin.com.

7 Ways To Run More And Better In 2024

Some things are complicated, some aren’t. Brain surgery belongs in the first category. Running falls into the second. This is a 10 second “read” from a running physiotherapist. It might be slight, but it carries a big potential impact.

You can’t do any better than Scott Carlin’s first piece of advice: “Start with identity. You’re a runner.” This means: Even if you just run 8 miles a week, you take your running seriously, along with all the other health-fitness habits that you know should be part of your overall lifestyle ( good nutrition, occasional strength training, etc).

I also found another of his tips quite powerful: “Sign up for a race.” This underlines the fact that you’re a serious runner, and, as Jeff Galloway has often noted, it will “scare” you a bit. It will scare you in a good way, putting more motivation in your training program as you see that race date edge closer on your calendar. Since motivation is job one, races help you get the job done. More at X/ScottCarlin.

Yoga Breathing Boosts Running Efficiency

Yoga is a popular alternative activity among runners, particularly females. Many find that it helps reduce stress, and may also build strength and flexibility. 

A new study asked a different question about yoga for runners: Can “yoga breathing techniques” improve running efficiency?

Experienced runners (both male and female) of “various fitness” were assigned to 3 weeks of instruction in 3 types of yoga breathing technique: “Dirgha (breath awareness)), Kapalbhati, and Bhastrika (high frequency yoga breathing).” A control group received no instruction of any kind.

Before and after the instruction period, both groups ran on a laboratory treadmill at a “prescribed relative perceived exertion (RPE).” Okay, this is not exactly the most vigorous test of running economy I’ve ever seen. It’s not the way serious running physiologists go about it.

Nonetheless, after the yoga breathing instruction, those runners ran at a significantly faster pace while maintaining the prior RPE. The control group did not change pace.

Conclusion: “Yogic breathing technique positively influences running velocity regulation during self-selected running.” More at International J of Exercise Science with free full text.

SHORT STUFF You Don’t Want To Miss

>>> Find the right shoe: Researchers at MIT have developed a model that “predicts” which shoe will be fastest on your feet

GREAT QUOTES Make Great Training Partners

“It doesn’t matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.”


HERE’S WHAT ELSE YOU WOULD HAVE RECEIVED this week if you were a subscriber to the complete, full-text edition of “Run Long, Run Healthy.”

# Here’s what evolution can teach us about distance running

# Secrets of the “Super Masters” runners

# Progress at last on prevention of running injuries

# Yes, you can “spot reduce” belly fat

# Should you be following the Paleo Diet?

# Flossing not required: Moderate exercise produces “superior” gum health

# Gut-check time: How to tell if you’re drinking too much water

# What Confucius can teach us about success in running

Don’t forget: I Spend HOURS Searching The Internet For The Best, Most Authoritative New Running Articles, So YOU Can Review Them In MINUTES

Click here for info about subscribing to the full-text RLRH for just $4/month--20% off!

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

February 1, 2024

 “Move It To Improve It”--How Exercise Makes Almost Everything Better

How long has it been since I reminded you that “Motivation is job one.” Too long, I think. 

Happily a recent New York Times article gives me good reason to return to a favorite topic.

The Times asked a group of experts why we make so many exercise “excuses” and/or erect “mental blocks” that interfere with our fitness plans. And how can we overcome these blocks to increase our workout consistency?

For beginners, says How To Change book author, Katy Milkman: Stop calling them “excuses.” That self-critical term leans too close to shame, an unhelpful burden. Instead, plan, plan, plan. Devise a complete strategy or series of action steps. 

That is, always know what you’re going to do next. Forget about the excuse that’s pushing you toward not doing. Forge on to Plan B.

Also, don’t obsess about the cold, the expense, the time-crunch you’re feeling, or various aches and pains that might accompany your exercise program. With all the fitness alternatives surrounding us these days, there’s always a way to deal. Again: Be prepared.

The best advice of all came from Edward Phillips, a Harvard professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation. “If you remain sedentary, your risk of deleterious health effects is 100 percent,” Phillips said. 

Now, that’s telling it like it is. Anything you do, even 5 minutes, is better than nothing at all. More at NYTimes.

Related: Last week I wrote that we needed a variation on the venerable  “Use it, or lose it” phrase that’s popular among regular exercisers. “Lose it” is a negative thought that might not prove helpful to some. 

With an assist from RLRH reader M Hanlon, I’ve now got a good variant. Here it is: “Move it to improve it.” It’s a maxim that would be supported by a wide range of health-fitness professionals from orthopedic surgeons to physical therapists to cardiologists to strength and marathon coaches. Last and perhaps most important--mental health counselors.

Tell your friends: “Move it to improve it.”

Running Builds Strong Bones In Mid-Life Athletes

Running generally builds stronger bones, particularly of the lower body … except when it doesn’t. Bone fracture risk is high in teen runners, especially among  females who don’t fuel sufficiently. Under-eating male adolescent runners also face higher risks. 

But what about in midlife when one wants to build strong bones as a hedge against any future osteoporosis? How are those runners doing in the bone-health arena? A recent paper looked at bone mineral content and density in 212 runners (average age in the early 40s) vs 110 age-matched non runners who did not meet global recommendations for physical activity.

The reviewers analyzed the two groups in terms of “cumulative loading rate” on the bones. This cumulative load was almost twice as high in runners vs non runners. We often call this “pounding.” It can lead to some injuries, but it can also promote greater bone strength and health. 

Result of the current comparison: Bone mineral content and bone mineral density of the runners was significantly higher than the non runners. That’s important because “the objective of the middle aged population is to maintain or slow the reduction in bone mineral density.” The enhanced bone health was true only in the lower body, not in  the lumbar spine.

Conclusion: “We recommend running as a suitable physical activity, supplemented with other activities, such as building muscles, including the back muscles, to promote

bone strength in the spine.” More at J of Sports Medicine & Physical Fitness with free full text.

Maybe Ketones Are A Functional Brain Food--Not A Body Fuel

The Keto or ketogenic diet gained much of its early notoriety for its potential to enhance weight loss and endurance performance. The first of these has produced modest supporting evidence, but the second not so much--at least not for endurance athletes. Now the field seems to be shifting from the body to the mind. 

This shouldn’t be a big surprise, as the strongest support for a keto diet comes from studies of epilepsy, a brain disease. 

Researchers are currently digging into other possible links between a keto diet and our mental states. In his newsletter, Physiologically Speaking, Brady Holmer explains that ketone esters could limit brain fatigue, thus improving ultra-endurance performance in events where your mental focus is just as important as carbs-glycogen to keep you going. 

A deep new report at National Public Radio quotes a number of experts in the field of psychiatric medicine. They are intrigued by the possibility that ketogenic manipulations could reduce symptoms of bipolar and depressive disease. This is a long way from hard science, but there are a number of serious trials under way.. 

Proponents of “functional nutrition” believe we might someday come closer to understanding how specialized diets could improve the health of individuals with specific conditions. This is a long step from carbohydrate-loading for marathon runners, but it’s an area receiving increased attention.  More at NPR. 

SHORT STUFF You Don’t Want To Miss

>>> Risk-benefit ratios: Although the benefits of midlife running “always outweigh the risks,” it’s only smart to know your limits

HERE’S WHAT ELSE YOU WOULD HAVE RECEIVED this week if you were a subscriber to the complete, full-text edition of “Run Long, Run Healthy.”

# Better Breathing PROVEN To Boost Your Performance

# Should you let ChatGPT Coach You?

# Don’t Get Stuck In A Rut: Yes, You CAN Improve Your Marathon Time

# The Latest On Marijuana & Running: You Might Get “High” And Feel Groovy, But You’ll Run Slower

# Can Elliptical Training Simulate A Treadmill Workout? 

# How To Run Smart In The Heat

# Sorry, Ladies: Dark Chocolate Won’t Help You Run Faster

# Double Check Your Therapy: There’s Little Evidence For Graston Technique Or Prolotherapy

# An Inspiring Hal Higdon Quote About The Joy Of Marathon Running

And Remember: I Spend HOURS Searching The Internet For The Best, Most Authoritative New Running Articles, So YOU Can Review Them In MINUTES

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

Click here for info about subscribing to the full-text RLRH for just $4/month--20% off!

January 18, 2024

How To Train (And Eat!) For World-Record Endurance Performance

It’s always fun and informative to read case studies of athletes who attempt endurance feats most of us admire but would never consider. Here are two. One describes what it’s like for a recreational cyclist to ride the Tour de France course, and compares his physiology to that of an actual elite Tour competitor. The other tells us about the training of a runner who broke several ultra-distance world records in recent years.  

The two cyclists (one recreational, age 58, weight 212 pounds; the other elite, age 28, weight 148 pounds) both covered just over 2000 miles in 21 stages). The rec rider burned 8,580 calories/day en route--an astounding amount. The elite rider burned 7,098 calories/day.

Amazingly, both ate almost as many calories/day as they burned. We know this because “both individuals lost minimal body mass during the event.” The elite rider was able to spend more time at higher intensities. But, hey, give him a round of applause, our 212-pounder got the job done. 

Conclusion: “Not only professional cyclists but also recreational athletes can reach currently known ceilings of total daily energy expenditure for humans.” This could be one reason explaining the big growth of ultra-endurance racing. Yes, the event distances can be staggering. But, also yes, recreational athletes can train to complete the distance (and eat enough on a daily basis to sustain themselves.) More at J of Applied Physiology and Outside Online.

If you’d like to run 198 miles in 24 hours, you’d better be prepared to average well over 100 miles/week in training with occasional weeks up around 230 miles. Your peak training will come 4 weeks before your big race. Regular training will include both cross-training and interval sessions with repeats from 1000 meters to 6 miles. 

You’ll do most of your daily training at about 7:15 min/mile, and also complete your 24-hour race at that pace. Conclusion: You should train with “high-volume running at varied paces and intensity with cross-training to avoid injuries.” More at International J Of Sports Physiology & Performance.

Positive Self-Talk Improves Mid-Distance Performance

A Greek researcher wondered if middle distance runners would benefit from learning positive self-talk cues and strategies. In other studies with endurance athletes, the process seemed to work. What about 1500 meter runners?

To find out, he gave an experimental group of adult runners 5 weeks of lessons in the use of positive cues. The idea: “While practicing strategic self-talk as a part of an intervention, athletes become able to internalize the use of the predetermined cue words and finally they choose them unintentionally as part of their organic self-talk during the moment they perform.”

Another group of matched runners did the same physical training for the next 5 weeks, but received no instruction on self-talk cues. Both groups were tested in a “field setting” (ie, not in the lab) before and after the 5 week period.

Results: Both groups improved their performance significantly, and about the same. “Nevertheless, participants of the strategic self-talk improved more.” Conclusion: “This study supports the effectiveness of self-talk training in running performance in a realistic field setting. More at University of Thessaly with free full text.

Your Body Can Absorb More Protein. But Then What?

Protein-loving fans, perhaps mostly body builders, are excited about a revolutionary new study result. The paper seems to show that we’re capable of utilizing much more dietary protein from a meal than was previously believed.

Old school: Your body can only absorb about 20 to 30 grams of protein at a time. Therefore, to maximize protein intake over the course of a day, you should consume that much at every meal. 

New school: You can absorb up to 100 grams of protein (and possibly more) at a time. This seems reasonable from an evolutionary perspective, since early humans didn’t have credit cards or a nearby Whole Foods supermarket. They had to cope with periods of “feast or famine,” so it wouldn’t make much sense for a feast to have a protein ceiling, given protein’s importance to so many body processes.

Brady Holmer explains the study’s methods and findings in his Physiologically Speaking newsletter, and protein/strength expert Stu Phillips has written “Great study! Best evidence yet that meal distribution doesn’t matter that much.”

But we should note a few things first. There’s little evidence that most of us are lacking protein. There’s consistent evidence showing a link between higher (meat) protein intake and shorter lifespan, though this may not be true for those over age 65. More at National Institutes of Health.

Finally this is one of those trials that measures a measure--”muscle protein synthesis”--and not the sort of outcome we’re really interested in such as strength, endurance, or health. As Phillips himself observes: “We don’t know if all this protein 'translates into gainz.' ”

Also, before boosting your protein intake, take a look at studies showing a link between higher (meat) protein intakes and shorter lifespan, except in those over age 65. 

SHORT STUFF You Don’t Want To Miss

>>> Exercise Vs Cancer: A systematic review reveals that “aerobic and resistance training enhance the quality of life of patients with prostate cancer.”

HERE’S WHAT ELSE you would have received this week if you were a subscriber to the complete, full-text edition of “Run Long, Run Healthy.” (Subscription Link Here.)

# Three cheers! Running is good for your vertebral discs--just as it’s good for your knees

# Is plyometrics a secret too for faster races and stronger bones?

# The best, most useful, safest pills for better sleep & recovery

# 9 ways to improve your running form

# Regular run training is enough to beat back the ills of too much sitting

# Here’s an expert consensus strategy for returning to running after childbirth

# OMG! Many recreational cyclists take 12 supplements a day, and 23% consume banned drugs

# An inspiring quote from Des Linden on personal responsibility and training

Click here for info about subscribing to the full-text RLRH for just $4/month--20% off!

And remember: “I spend HOURS searching the Internet for the best, most authoritative new running articles, so you can review them in MINUTES.”

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