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Run Long, Run Healthy Weekly Roundup — December 29, 2021

Your weekly guided tour of the best new research and articles on running from around the web.

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: Here’s wishing you a happy, healthy, injury-free New Year. Thanks for reading the Run Long, Run Healthy newsletter. Below I’ve included a few items on New Year’s Resolutions and maintaining motivation. I hope they help you get off to a strong start in 2022. ALSO: Make speed work fun again. Should you wear compression gear? How to use Kinesio tape. You can beat side stitches. Better half-marathon recovery. What we’ve learned this year about exercise and weight loss. And more.

Make speed work fun again

Almost everyone agrees that speed work can make you faster, but many would opine that it ain’t fun. So how are you going to get yourself to do workouts you hate? That’s the subject of this simple but important article. I particularly like Tip 3: Don’t time your speed efforts. Run them as fartlek sessions or “speed play,” for example. Go fast for a while, then jog really slow until you’re recovered. Make some of your “fast” pickups really fast, make some a little slower and longer. Adjust recovery jogs as necessary. Variety, variety, variety. Leave your watch at home. More at Podium Runner.

What’s the bottom line on compression gear?

In Alex Hutchinson’s big analysis of compression garments—based on scientific reviews of 100s of studies—he concludes that they won’t do anything to hurt you, and probably won’t help you much either. Not in performance-improvement, not in recovery. In fact, the biggest variable might be how you feel when wearing compression garments. If you like them, that might trigger a positive result. More at Outside Online. 

Lactobacillus probiotic improves half marathon recovery

We read so much random information about the microbiome and probiotics that it makes the head spin. Especially all that talk about trillions of organisms. Okay, that’s a big number, but what does it mean? This report is more helpful than many because it links one specific probiotic, Lactobacillus PS 128, with enhanced recovery after a half marathon. The study was a double-blind, cross-over RCT. The authors declared no conflict of interest, but one appears to have a commercial interest in a Lactobacillus PS 128 supplement. More at Nutrients. For an overview of the microbiome and performance, go to this article at Trail Runner and another at PodiumRunner.

Kinesio tape is modestly effective at low tension

You see KT tape everywhere at track meets and road races, presumably to protect injuries or perhaps to improve performance. But does it do either? Past results have been mostly inconclusive, with many skeptics noting the potential for a big placebo effect reminiscent of those Breathe Right strips a few years back. Here, researchers tested the effectiveness of KT tape at different wrapping tensions—no tension, light tension, or heavy tension. The low tension wrap, at just 25% of full stretch, worked best. Conclusion: “Importantly, our data suggest that KT’s pain relieving effects are likely more than a placebo effect.” More at PLOS ONE.

We’ve learned more this year about exercise and weight loss

The complex relationship between exercise and weight loss got even thornier in 2021 with new evidence for “constrained energy expenditure.” One major report found that only 72 percent of exercise calories count toward weight loss, because 28% is given back by less calorie burning during the remainder of your day. Now a top weight-loss math modeler has re-analyzed his own “Biggest Loser” study (based on the TV show) and found evidence of constrained expenditure as reported by the NYTimes. This stuff is crazy complicated because your metabolism is “dynamic,” that is, “ever changing.” Here’s what it appears to mean: Fast, dramatic weight loss from hours of daily exercise leads to a big and long-lasting drop in your Basal Metabolic Rate. This makes it hard to keep the weight off. On the other hand, the Biggest Losers who followed this path and continued exercising had the best long-term results. Exercise works, even if it’s not a total slam dunk. Gradual weight loss is good, because it does not result in a big decline in Basal Metabolic Rate. The best approach remains two-pronged: Cut calories to jump start weight loss, exercise to keep the weight off and gain multiple additional health benefits. More at Obesity.

How to deal with side stitches

Up to 70% of runners report side stitches (abdominal pains) at one time or another. While this doesn’t usually indicate a serious medical condition, the stitches can certainly ruin a run or race. There’s no guaranteed preventative, but try these. Don’t overeat before running; that’s a trigger. To relieve the pain, try bending over and stretching to your non-affected side (usually the left, since most side stitches attack your right side.) Kneading the side stitch with your hands can also help. More at Self.

Yes, New Year’s resolutions do work

You might think that New Year’s Resolutions are a stupid idea, certain to fail. David Epstein believes otherwise, and has evidence to support his stance. It turns out we are most successful at making changes in our lives at certain clearly-defined calendar dates. Like, for example, a Monday, a new month, a birthday, or a New Year. So go ahead and stake out several big resolutions for 2022. Learn more at Range Widely.

Boost your motivation in 2022

I like to say “Motivation is every runner’s job one.” If you’ve got it, you’re good to go.

If you don’t, you’re in trouble. Nature magazine recently published results of a massive look into exercise motivation. The UPenn researchers tracked gym attendance of 61,000 adults trying out 53 “interventions” (that’s a lot)  to see which were most effective at promoting attendance. 45 percent of interventions—like text messages, micropayments, free audiobooks, etc—increased gym visits initially, but only 8 percent remained significant after 4 weeks. What worked best? Micropayments for each visit; particularly a larger payment to get back to the gym after a missed workout; also a sort of peer pressure in the form of statements that more and more Americans are exercising regularly. Hint, hint: You’d better join the crowd. The NYTimes suggested paying yourself a dollar for every workout. Why not? It will be like that first piggy bank you had as a kid. Save the money for your next entry fee or vacation. More at Nature.

Focus more by worrying less about the stupid stuff

One great way to increase your chances of success with resolutions is to cast aside all the extraneous stuff, and focus on what’s important. Here’s a nice list of habits you don’t need. Apologizing for being slow. Overdoing the gels during training. Hating on others’ workouts. And, my favorite: Embracing the too-busy life. Don’t aim to be more busy; aim to be more centered. The fewer your goals, the greater your chances of reaching them. More at Run To The Finish.

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“One resolution I have made, and try always to keep, is this: To rise above the little things.” — John Burroughs

That’s it for now. Thanks for reading. Stay well, and see you next year.