Each week, Boston Marathon winner Amby Burfoot, also the world’s most experienced running editor, curates the latest and most useful content on running and health from around the internet. “I spend hours finding the best new research and articles, so you can review them in minutes.”
THIS WEEK: How to prevent calf strains. What’s the deal with “super spikes?” Optimal fueling for 30 minutes to five hours. Key training goal—“Win” your workouts. The last word on pyramidal vs periodized training. It’s not easy: post-pregnancy return to running. Tim Noakes strikes again, says muscle glycogen isn’t that important. More.
How to prevent calf strains
Calf strains are right up there with the most common and troublesome running injuries, and I’ve experienced more than my share. So I always check out articles that provide advice for the calf muscles. Like: “Athletes with a history of calf strains should likely avoid forefoot strike patterns and low drop shoes.” Also: “Strengthen those calves! They’re a main mover in running.” I read recently that it’s smart to do heel lifts/calf raises super slowly, so I’m going to give that a try and monitor the results. More at Triathlete.com
What makes super spikes so super-fast?
Bottom line: We don’t know and might never, according to Wouter Hoogkamer and colleagues. Hoogkamer is a super-shoe research biomechanist who has been testing Nike and other super shoes from the get-go. Spikes are a tougher nut to crack than road shoes because road shoes are mainly designed for half-marathon and marathon runners who are racing at roughly similar paces. Whereas different spikes must work for 60-meter sprinters and 10,000-meter distance runners. Hoogkamer looked at spike stiffness, carbon plates, foams (spikes are much thinner by World Athletics regulations than road shoes), and “geometry” (placement of the plates and use of “rocker soles”) and found all of minimal value. Also, any “advantages are likely subject and event-specific.” Conclusion: No one has yet shown how super spikes outperform traditional spikes. In fact, big-data analysis of track times a few years from now might reveal more than lab testing. More at Sports Medicine. Alex Hutchinson covered the subject well in his Sweat Science column last summer. More at Outside Online.
Optimal fueling for races 30 minutes to five hours
You probably enter many races of different distances—like 5K to the marathon. Which means your nutritional plan should adjust. Here a sports nutritionist with a competitive racing background reviews different strategies for race lengths. She covers everything from mouth rinses to homemade drinks and bars to training the gut, with a helpful graphic to summarize it all. Aimed at endurance cyclists, but the same main points apply to runners as well. More at Nutrition Solutions Anne Guzman.
Crucial training goal: “Win more workouts than you lose.”
Here’s another great training thread from Steve Magness, formerly fixated on the science of running but now leaning more toward the psychology of running. While this is fairly basic stuff, it bears endless repetition. A few excerpts: Consistency is everything, and patience is as well. Most overtraining is under-recovering. There are no magic workouts or paces. Be careful what you measure. And my new favorite: “Win more workouts than you lose.” More at Twitter Steve Magness.
Final look: Pyramidal training versus polarized training
Running and fitness writer Matt Fitzgerald did much to popularize polarized training with his articles and book on the 80/20 formula for training intensity distribution, which he derived from the work of American-born, Norway-based physiologist Stephen Seiler. So naturally, Fitzgerald has a few things to say about the recent debate. Here he writes about a Twitter thread from training expert Billy Sperlich. Fitzgerald’s main point is that training should be “balanced” between a simple rule like 80/20, which represents a good starting line, and many other factors like race distance and time of the season. He’s right. 80/20 is a good place to begin your training journey. The rest is up to each of us to figure out on our own. More at 8020 Endurance.
Running healthy in the “fourth trimester”
It’s a charming conceit, this “fourth trimester,” and an important one as well. Getting back to running should be a central part of the new mother’s life, helping her maintain physical health and mental equilibrium in a postpartum world turned topsy turvy by a new baby. But the comeback, sometimes described as simple and “natural,” often isn’t, as new mothers have a host of issues to deal with. Here a top author group recommends that the process “requires an individualized, whole-systems biopsychosocial approach with graded exercise progression, similar to the management of return to sport following musculoskeletal injuries.” Among important considerations: “physical deconditioning, changes to body mass, sleeping patterns, breastfeeding, relative energy deficiency in sport, postpartum fatigue and thyroid autoimmunity, fear of movement, psychological well-being, and socioeconomic considerations.” This paper represents an important step forward in women’s running, and it includes an infographic and a short video from the researchers. More at J of Women’s Health Physical Therapy.
More is better than less—the best warmup for middle distance runners
Marathon runners are often advised to do a very short warm-up because it’s important to conserve energy. (Though I don’t believe anyone has ever tested this hypothesis, for reasons easy to grasp.) But what about warm-ups for middle distance runners? That’s fair game, and here a research team tested a low-volume warmup versus moderate-volume versus high-volume on a group of 800-meter runners. Result: High beat medium beat low. The researchers concluded that the right warmup “may not only assist in preventing injury but also enhance performance.” More at International J of Exercise Science.
Tim Noakes’s latest big theory: It’s not about muscle glycogen
Tim Noakes has made some of the biggest contributions to endurance running—his immense Lore of Running book, his proof that marathon runners can suffer heart attacks, and his discovery of hyponatremia (overdrinking), among others. Lately, he has fallen out of favor among his peers for his endorsement of low-carb diets and other unpopular stands. Now he’s back with a mega-claim that we’re all wrong about muscle glycogen. It’s not a key limiting factor in endurance performance, Noakes argues. Rather we should look more closely at liver glycogen and blood glucose. The paper is 58 pages long, so I’m not about to attempt a concise summary, but it’s free, full text if you care to dig into it yourself. If Noakes is right, you don’t need to fret so much about carbo-loading, but could instead aim to “assist the body in its efforts to maintain the blood glucose concentration within the normal range.” More at Nutrients.
Take a chill pill with your hydration plan
Speaking of Noakes, here’s more evidence that we can chill a bit when it comes to running and hydration. When looking at half marathoners who lost more than three percent of their body weight versus those under three percent, researchers found only minor differences. Conclusion. “Dehydration up to ~ 4 % BM loss does not affect blood ammonia concentrations and cognitive-motor performance in acclimated runners.” In another study, after Spanish ultra runners were educated to consume fluids “according to their level of thirst,” only two of 130 finished with hyponatremia (low blood sodium, from over-drinking) and none required medical attention except for muscular complaints. The education process “entirely prevented development of hyponatremia, without induction of clinically significant hypernatremia [dehydration], or a negative repercussion on race completion times.” More at Frontiers in Sport & Exercise Nutrition.
Would you believe it? Pre-adolescent runners popping pills
The supplement biz is a multi-billion dollar industry with much of the revenue coming from adults, particularly older adults trying to recapture their lost youth. But 13-year-old runners? Yes, them too. Twenty-six percent “used dietary supplements on two or more days per week.” Most of the pills were fairly tame multivitamins and calcium/D/iron, though the girls messed with diet pills and the boys with creatine and protein supplements. In all, one point three percent of the supplements were judged “higher risk.” The researchers would prefer that “preadolescent endurance runners maximize intake from nutrient-rich whole foods and consume a level of energy that supports their exercise energy expenditure from endurance running.” Ditto. Foods first. More at J of the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics.
SHORT STUFF you don’t want to miss
GOOD QUOTES MAKE GREAT TRAINING PARTNERS
“There are some things one can only achieve by a deliberate leap in the opposite direction.” —Franz Kafka
That’s it for now. Thanks for reading. Stay well, and see you next week.