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Run Long, Run Healthy Weekly Roundup — December 16, 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: How to make every run better. The run-training of top triathletes. Highly cushioned shoes improve performance of fatigued leg muscles. Skip the BS, focus on basics. How to deal with side stitches. For knee pain, orthotics and hip exercises are equally effective. Does forefoot landing make you faster? More.

Start slow to make every run go better

You gotta appreciate—at least I do—training advice so simple and universal that most experts skip right past it in their how-to articles. Here’s a great example. It features the one tip most likely to make your daily runs “more enjoyable and productive.” What is it? “Start slower.” The article provides anecdotes and backup science, but you don’t need those. All you need to know is that starting slower feels good, lets your legs loosen up gradually (might reduce injuries), and lets you run faster later in the workout if that’s your goal. Win-win-win. More at Trail Runner.

How top triathletes organize their run-training

Several Norwegian triathletes have recently completed their first Ironman races with impressively fast marathon performances—in the mid-2:30s. This caused everyone to wonder: What did they do for their run training? Here physiologist Alan Couzens analyzed their Strava-posted workouts, concluding that they were extremely “polarized.” That is, mostly very slow but harder every fifth day or so. Would this work for mere mortals who don’t train all day long as Ironman champions seem to? Couzens quotes a 2014 study indicating that the same polarized system produces good results even if you are only running 4 hours a week. More at Triathlete.

“Highly cushioned shoes” improve the performance of fatigued leg muscles

Many have speculated that carbon-plated super shoes might do more than just get you to the finish line faster on race day. They might also help you run more efficiently in training on fatigued leg muscles—for example, in the final miles of a long run or after a hard downhill run, both of which produce considerable muscle damage. Now Nike research appears to have demonstrated such an effect. Conclusion: “Despite worsening of Oc [running economy] consequent to muscle damage,” the super shoes continued to outperform other shoes. (Note: The paper did not state that the tested Nike shoes were carbon-plated like the Vaporflys and subsequent generations. Rather they were “highly cushioned shoes” with midsole characteristics basically identical to carbon-plated, super-foam shoes. We’re left to draw our own conclusions about the specific shoe model.) More at Med & Sci in Sports & Exercise.

Ignore the BS. Focus on the basics

Steve Magness nearly broke 4 minutes for the mile in high school, spent years reading every article about the science of running (eventually writing a book by that title), and got a master’s degree in exercise science. He currently coaches distance runners at the University of Houston and writes books and newsletters more about the process than physiology. He has also become adept at composing “Twitter threads” linking short statements on a given topic. You could call this one, “Ignore the BS, people. Focus on the basics.” It’s great, especially, “Avoid foods wrapped in plastic,” my current supermarket mantra. More at Twitter/SteveMagness.

For knee pain, orthotics and hip exercises are equally effective

Runners with knee pain are often advised to get orthotics or to undertake a variety of hip exercises. A diverse group of researchers decided to compare the two, in a randomized, controlled trial, to see if they could pick a winner. They couldn’t. In an investigation of  218 patients with knee pain, the researchers found that both the orthotics and hip exercises improved the condition in about 50 percent of cases. They concluded: “Clinicians and patients may consider either foot orthoses or hip exercises in the management of patellofemoral pain.” More at British J of Sports Medicine.

And here are some hip exercises for you

The hip flexor muscles connect the legs to the body’s core and make a major contribution to our running. When weak or unbalanced, they can also cause injuries. Here’s a brief explanation of hip-flexor functions, plus a clear series of exercises to build hip-flexor strength. One caution: I’m envious of anyone who can comfortably do “deep” squats (past 90 degrees), but don’t recommend them, because they caused me some knee issues a decade back. I use and enjoy all the other exercises shown here. More at Fitpage.

Does a forefoot landing make you faster?

Several prior studies have indicated that roughly 80 to 90% of distance runners land on their heels or rearfoot. That leaves few who land on the midfoot or forefoot, and even they tend to transition to rearfoot landings as race distances increase. This new systematic review places rearfoot strikers at 86 percent. The research team also wondered if footplant made a difference in running speed. While more than half of the studies answered “yes” to this question, the current team ruled the evidence “inconclusive.” More at Sports Medicine-Open.

Moderate exercise has little effect on calorie consumption

Researchers wanted to test if aerobic vs. strength-training workouts would have different effects on subsequent calorie consumption. They suspected a rise in calories consumed at lunch after a 45-minute workout. However, they found no difference in lunchtime calorie consumption between the aerobic and strength groups, and the groups ate about the same as they did when not exercising. Subjects were overweight/obese and sedentary. Conclusion: Do the workouts, get fitter and healthier, and don’t worry that you’ll gain weight due to more appetite. You probably won’t. More at NY Times.

More training mileage = fewer post-race injuries

Here a study team managed to get almost 2000 half-marathon and marathon runners to report on their injuries in the two weeks after a race. That’s a large subject pool. About 24% of half-marathon runners reported injuries vs 30% for the marathoners, with women reporting more injuries than men. The biggest injury factors: inexperience, undertraining, and previous injury. More weekly training mileage proved protective for half-marathoners logging greater than 23 miles a week, and marathoners hitting 40 or higher. More at Clinical J of Sports Medicine.

Statin meds reduce muscle pain and fatigue among exercisers

A lot of runners who are prescribed statin medications have reported that the meds cause muscle pain or weakness. Count me among them. I didn’t like the first statin my doc prescribed but have done fine for many years on the second. This study reached a positive conclusion on statins. It found that individuals on statins generally did better “with endurance and resistance exercise.” In fact, “exercise training may even increase the quality of life in symptomatic statin users.” Here’s an infographic. More at J of the American College of Cardiology.

SHORT STUFF you won’t want to miss


“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” —Arthur Ashe

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