How is Abdi preparing for his 5th Olympics?

Welcome to the Olympics! By the time this post appears, we’ll be mere hours away from the beginning of track and field events starting in Tokyo (this evening American time is the start). In honor of the Olympics, I have a couple topical articles to share, along with a couple others.

First up, Abdi Abdirahman will be running the marathon at his 5th Olympics at the age of 44. How did he prepare? There might be some good lessons in here for the rest of us.

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Analyzing form

How do we determine what is good form? Knee angles? Foot angle at initial contact with the ground? Various other specific details?

What if we zoomed out? A new paper suggests that may be the way to go. Instead of focusing on all those minute details, this looked at just a few variables and found meaningful differences between elite runners and very good ones. These things basically fall into line with what we would expect but the power is in that we don’t need to get down to minute details that would be hard to analyze. These are things that can be looked at without too much in the line of specialized equipment or technical knowledge.

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How to predict running injuries?

We’ve probably all heard these ideas. Over pronation causes injuries. Strength or flexibility imbalances or simply lack of strength or flexibility cause injuries.

Heck, these are things I’ve said. But are these things true? Maybe not.

Well, there are some interesting caveats offered in that article but the short story is, on the whole, it’s hard to pinpoint any specific things that increases overall injury risk. Interesting to think about.

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Strength training, “running is my drug of choice”

We all accept that strength training is beneficial for runners, right? But what to do? There are so many different forms you can do. What ones really help for runners?

Well, a couple of things I read this month drove the point home: Yes, strength training is beneficial for runners. The key point, though, is that almost anything will help if you have been doing nothing.

Personally, while I do believe anything is better than nothing, I believe the combination of runners more likely sticking to the routine plus working multiple muscles in coordination makes “complex” body weight exercises like squats, lunges and push ups for the upper body are probably best for most runners.

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Tapering your strength training, protein before bed, pre-run stretching

Most of us who strength train intuitively know that it seems right to taper your strength training before important races. However, there are convincing arguments to be made that certain neuromuscular gains will be quickly lost if you reduce your strength training too quickly or completely drop it.

Has this been tested, though? Well, we didn’t think so until people started asking questions during the pandemic when fitness centers and weight rooms were being closed. At that point, a researcher realized he had limited results from a follow up to a strength training study he did some number of years ago.

What did these results find?

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How to pick the right running shoes for you?

We’re always looking for a better way to choose the right running shoe. For a long time, it was believed we wanted to find a shoe that would promote “neutral” pronation. That’s the world I grew up in and what I, along with pretty much everyone else during the time, believed.

Then, we realized that using this method didn’t seem to reduce injury risk. So along came the “just find the pair of shoes that’s more comfortable” theory. It’s one I adopted (and, for myself, it didn’t really change the shoes I was picking). I believe it works well but is it really the best? We haven’t seen injury rates drop dramatically, if at all, since switching to this method.

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Why does cross training work?

If you’ve been around this blog for a while, you’ve probably seen me mention specificity of training. In short, this is the idea that the best way to become a better runner is to run. You can do other things and they will help but they won’t help as much as devoting the same amount of time and energy to running.

But then, why do things like strength training matter? Strength training specifically is extremely different than distance running. It’s basically a polar opposite. So why does it help us run better?

Well, Alex Hutchinson offers some thoughts on that. An interesting read.

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Returning to running after COVID-19?

As should be expected with a virus that we didn’t even know existed a year ago, we’re still learning a lot about COVID-19. I’m sure you’ve all heard the good news that a very effective vaccine is likely on the way but it’s still going to take time to get it produced and distributed. Meanwhile, people are still getting infected and will continue to do so for a while.

So everything we can learn about it is important. If you catch it, you want to know what it means, right? Well, here’s more on returning to your workout routine after recovering from COVID-19. The short story? Be patient and come back gradually. There is evidence that a significant (in some studies a disturbingly high) number of people who have recovered, even very healthy and fit people, developing long lasting serious side effects.

So please be careful. Based on what I’ve seen, I’d recommend being far more cautious than I normally recommend for coming back from a cold or flu.

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