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Run Long, Run Healthy Weekly Roundup — January 28, 2022

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: Use fartlek to spice up your moderate runs. Are super pants the next super shoes? Plus, super shoes might last longer than we think. Train your lungs to race faster. Drop the strength training when peaking. How to “prime” yourself for a best effort. Boston Marathon linked to kidney damage. More evidence there is no single best running form. Jumping rope—good, and bad. More.

Use fartlek runs to spice up—bam!—your easy/moderate runs

I’ve done fartlek workouts on a golf course that were absolute crushers. But they don’t have to be. Here’s a recipe for using fartlek to add variety to your moderate runs. A friend of mine does workouts just like this, only instead of speeding up for a minute at a time, he counts strides—100, 200, 300, depending on how he feels. The fartleks must be working; he’s won the last two Boston Marathons in his 75+ age group. More at Trail Runner.

Are super pants the next super shoes?

This new article from Alex Hutchinson has a clever title—clever because it doesn’t quite match the rubber bands and exoskeletons in the article. (Although one new suspendered suit is getting close to being a bodysuit like the one Australia’s Cathy Freeman wore to Olympic gold in 2000.) You gotta get a chuckle from the elastic bands, tied ankle to ankle, that can improve your running economy by six percent, which is more than the boost from super shoes. And so we wonder: What’s coming next, and how will the regulators at World Athletics deal with it? More at Outside Online.

And: Do super shoes last longer than we thought?

We’ve all heard the age-old advice about replacing running shoes every 500 miles or so. Since you probably paid $250 for your new super shoes, this leads to a depressing miles/dollar calculation. But wait! What if super foams last longer than our old EVA foam shoes? That would make super shoes a better value proposition, especially if you apply a little rubber goo to the outsoles every now and then. See this good discussion on Reddit.

Train your lungs to improve race-day endurance

I’m generally quite dubious about gizmos and gadgets that claim to improve performance, but for the last several years I’ve noted positive reviews for IMT (inspiratory muscle training), which can be enhanced with simple breath-resistance devices like the PowerBreathe. Still I was surprised to hear ultramarathon runner and respiratory expert Nick Tiller, PhD, also give a thumbs up to IMT in a recent podcast and article. The lungs aren’t usually seen as a limiting factor, but it can’t hurt to strengthen them a bit. More at Skeptical Inquirer. 

To reach a peak, drop strength training for six weeks

More and more runners use strength training as part of their total-fitness training plan. It may help to prevent injury and also improve performance. That’s a power duo. But for optimal performance, you want to reduce or eliminate the strength work at some point. Here’s a graphic depicting a study on runners tapering with 4 weeks of no strength training. And here’s a new study of “highly-trained competitive cyclists” who stopped strength training for six weeks “without losing attained gains in maximal muscle strength and cycling performance achieved by preceding periods.” So, when peaking, lay off the strength stuff and focus on specific sharpening for your big race. More at The J of Strength & Conditioning Research.

How to mentally prime yourself for a big effort

Just about everyone would like to improve their self-psyching methods before races and big training efforts. This paper found that 89% of professional and amateur athletes are already doing it. The big three techniques are 1) music, 2) instructional self-talk, and 3) motivational self-talk. Sixty-six percent of athletes found their approach very effective or extremely effective. The researchers concluded that “the implementation of priming techniques has its place when aiming to improve athlete performance.” More at The J of Strength & Conditioning Research.

Boston Marathon could produce kidney damage

The Boston Marathon is different from other marathons. You have to qualify, meaning the racers are faster and perhaps push harder. The course has a lot of downhill, which produces eccentric muscle contractions. The weather can be warm and humid. A research team wondered if all this, combined, might increase markers of kidney damage vs other marathons. It did. The runners’ “short-term renal stress biomarkers” remained elevated 24 hours post marathon; and some participants, including more females, “failed to effectively rehydrate.” Female runners also experienced more renal stress after the marathon. Researchers could find no explanation for this apparent sex difference. More at Int J of Sports Physiology & Performance.

No particular running form is better than another

This analysis of running form focused primarily on ground-time versus air time. In other words, are you a shuffler or a bouncer? The authors concluded that where you are on the continuum makes no significant difference in your running economy. They refer to one of the classic studies in running science, a 1987 report from Williams and Cavanagh, which found that experienced runners “self optimize” their stride. If that’s the case, then runners and coaches shouldn’t mess with what’s not broken. More at Int J of Sports Physiology & Performance.

Jumping rope—good for bones and quick feet, but what about “leakage?”

Rope jumping can build “quick feet,” (i.e., low ground contact time, a mostly good thing in running), improve power generation, and perhaps improve bone health, as explained in the NY Times. But it was the “Comments” section of this article that really caught my attention: so many women complaining about stress urinary incontinence, i.e., leakage, a bother to many women runners. Here’s a recent paper that uses “curative effects” to describe how pelvic floor muscle exercises (PFME) can reverse the situation. More at Int Urogynecology Journal.

Some ADHD meds should be on banned list

We’ve been hearing quite a bit about Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) for a while now, and apparently it extends into the athletic community. Several ADHD drugs are permitted in elite sports, and that could be a problem according to this new systematic review and meta analysis. The authors conclude that: “Dopaminergic/noradrenergic agonist medications appear to have a positive effect on athletic performance.” They single out a popular antidepressant, bupropion (Wellbutrin), and argue that athlete drug-monitoring organizations should take another look. More at Sports Medicine-Open.

SHORT STUFF you won’t want to miss

> 7 days of a high-protein diet “significantly compromised high intensity performance in trained runners”

> The roles of diet and exercise in cancer prevention/treatment

> One simple graphic that summarizes nearly everything about caffeine and sports performance


“With luck, it might even snow for us.” — Haruki Murakami

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