August 24, 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. 

The complete, full-text version has 3x as much new information. 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

4 training essentials you can’t afford to screw up

If you look at any analysis of training plans and coaching methods, you mostly see just one thing: workouts. Do your long runs this way, and your tempo runs this way, and your intervals this way, and don’t forget hill repeats and the occasional post-run strides.

Do each of these X times per week at Y pace for Z distance. There you have it. A complete training plan. 

Except. Maybe not. According to a new report, the first to ask coaches what they consider the essentials of a training program, workouts fell to the bottom of the list. The report’s conclusions found that “notably and perhaps surprisingly less than a third [of coaches] explicitly rated physical training as the most important factor in determining sports performance.”

These results came from a survey of 106 coaches with an average of 15+ years of coaching mostly individual sports.

What did the coaches rate as more important than key workouts? Here’s the list of 4 big factors: the coach-athlete relationship (56%), life stress (41%), athletes’ “belief in the plan” (37%), and psychological and emotional stress (35%).

The authors’ main point: If physical training is less important than other factors, why does so much exercise science try to derive physical measures like vo2 max, lactate threshold, and muscle fiber percentages? Training science begins with the pervasive presumption “that the mechanisms underpinning physical training adaptation are sufficiently well understood to facilitate accurate training prescription.” 

However, the new coach-centered survey produced a different viewpoint. “Currently, the science seems mired in a strict biomedical conceptualisation of training theory. Many coaches, in contrast, believe non-physical influences affect training adaptations.”

As a result, there seems to be a mismatch between much scientific research and the actual application of key training principles. Future research should aim to turn things inside-out a bit more, and produce plans more attuned to the athletes' full-life. 

And when it comes to individual athletes themselves? It seems clear that they should spend less time looking for magical workouts, and more time on big-picture items like an honest discussion and appraisal of their current training, along with greater emphasis on life stresses. More at Sports Medicine with free full text.

Don’t buy your next pair of running shoes without reading this first

Here’s an article written by someone who worked 2 years in a top running shoe retail outlet, and an additional 7 years with a shoe company. He says: “In that time, I learned there’s a sizable knowledge gulf between folks in the industry and most consumers.”

This happens because brands produce so many similar shoes, or SKUs (Stock Keeping Units). They don’t do this to confuse consumers, but to offer a wide selection that allows everyone to find a shoe that should be the best for them. Of course, since you don’t get to run 100 miles in each pair, this does ultimately become confusing.

So what can a typical mystified shoe buyer do? The article offers 9 things you ought to know before handing over your credit card. Among them, three seem really important to me.

1--The most comfortable shoe is probably the one you should buy. Not the most expensive, or the one with the most heavily advertised features. Comfort is rule one in shoe buying.

2--Running shoes don’t cause injuries. Don’t look down at your feet if you’re troubled by frequent injuries. Look at yourself in the mirror, and admit that you probably made several training mistakes that led to your injuries. Start over again. Train smarter this time.

3--Don’t worry about “support.” No one really knows what support is or means in a running shoe. Or perhaps it means something different to each user. Revert back to rule 1--the comfort rule. That’s where you should focus your attention. More at Outside Online. 

A surprising way to maintain late-life strength

A key goal for a long, healthy life is to maintain sufficient vigor and strength in the late years. The opposite of this is called frailty, or sarcopenia.

Many older runners consume whey protein and other protein supplements to boost/maintain strength and fight frailty. It turns out another common but surprising food may also be effective: caffeine from coffee and tea. 

Chinese researchers followed more than 12,000 subjects for 20 years after they had enrolled in a health study at an average age of 53. Compared with those who drank no coffee/tea, those who consumed 4 or more cups a day had a 46% lower risk of becoming frail. 

There was a clear dose-response relationship, meaning that the more caffeine consumed, the lower the risk of frailty. Conclusion: “Higher consumption of caffeine at midlife, via coffee and tea, was associated with a reduced likelihood of physical frailty in late life.” More at J of the American Medical Directors Association with free full text.

If you’re worried about caffeine causing troubled sleep, theanine seems to neutralize the caffeine buzz that some find troubling. And tea, especially green tea, contains both caffeine and theanine. Therefore, it can reduce “the excitotoxicity” of caffeine to bring “a stimulating effect from caffeine and a calming or relaxing effect from theanine.” More at the preprint website QXMD.

SHORT STUFF you don’t want to miss

>>> Stay straight: How to correct the “side lean” that might have developed in your running form

That’s all 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:

# 6 ways to keep improving your marathon (year after year)

# Why you should own at least one pair of minimalist running shoes

# 8 steps to improve your mental game

# Chasing the path of performance breakthroughs

# Why your kids (or grand kids) need to start running NOW

# No fear--Flat feet aren’t the disaster you’ve been told

# Protein power: Can a bar provide as much as a “shake”?

# A motivational failure vs success quote from Winston Churchill

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