Monthly roundup: January 2018

Stretching pre-run

I’m sure most of us who have been around for a while have heard both sides of the story. First, we were told pre-run stretching was an important component of injury prevention. Then we were told that stretching before working out was useless and could, in fact, hamper your performance.

Well, this study tested that second theory. The result?

Participants felt they were more likely to perform well when stretching was performed as part of the warm-up, irrespective of stretch type. However, no effect of muscle stretching was observed on flexibility and physical function compared to no stretching.

Whether static or dynamic, stretching seemed to make no difference in performance. This seems to confirm what we’ve seen in other recent studies.

So what do we do with this information? We do what feels best. If you feel better after some pre-run stretching, then do it. If not, then don’t.

Athlete development process

This is why I changed the format of these monthly posts. It isn’t science but it’s a great summary of a well designed long term development plan for an athlete.

The picture is worth a thousand words but I’ll try to summarize in relatively few words.

A new athlete first needs to develop a baseline fitness. Once that fitness is built, you can work on technique. For runners, in my opinion, this primarily means things like basic form drills. As the runner continues developing, you can get more specific and strenuous with conditioning (things like more strenuous workouts, higher volumes, and race specific workouts). Finally, you can get more advanced with your technique training.

At no point do you drop what you’ve done earlier in your progression but, as you develop as a runner, you add new elements that will further your progression.

Tom Brady and junk science

Tom Brady is a highly successful quarterback. Like him or not, can we at least agree on that? We may argue about how great he really is versus the greatness of the people around him but you don’t maintain the level of success he has for as long as he has without being great.

What does he know about why he’s great and how he’s maintained it at an age where most other quarterbacks are either retired or greatly diminished? Well…

Why am I bringing this up? Because I see the assumption that someone who achieves at a high level knows the key to that success all the time. This is a great example of one who either doesn’t or is cynically using his fame to sell junk science.

In the running world, often the greatest coaches and people generally with the greatest advice are not those who were setting world records and winning Olympic golds. Look at and learn from what those runners do but don’t think that, just because they are so fast, their advice is better than you can get from others, especially coaches whose runners consistently beat expectations.

Running and your knees

We’ve gone over this numerous times, right? Is running good, bad, or no difference for the health of your knees? There’s plenty of evidence that it’s not bad for your knees and some solid evidence that it’s actually good for them.

Given that, I was a little skeptical as I started reading the abstract of this study:

Existing evidence on whether marathon running contributes to hip and knee arthritis is inconclusive.

Inconclusive? Really? Well, let’s keep reading and see what the results are:

Arthritis prevalence was 8.8% for the subgroup of U.S. marathoners, significantly lower (p < 0.001) than the prevalence in the matched U.S. population (17.9%) and in subgroups stratified by age, sex, body mass index (BMI), and physical activity level (p < 0.001).

Well, that sounds pretty convincing. Roughly half the rate of knee arthritis in the runners compared to a similar cross section of the general population. Knee or hip pain were pretty high but I can’t find a comparison to a matched non-running population.

So what’s the conclusion?

Age, family history, and surgical history independently predicted an increased risk for hip and knee arthritis in active marathoners, although there was no correlation with running history. In our cohort, the arthritis rate of active marathoners was below that of the general U.S.

So risk factors are risk factors, runner or not. However, running was NOT a risk factor for knee arthritis. In fact, this study suggests not running is the real risk factor.

It’s just one study but, combined with many others we’ve seen, when can we stop saying existing evidence is inconclusive?

Monthly roundup: December 2017

Another month, another large number of articles read. A couple especially that caught my eye were a comparison between fresh, frozen, and canned vegetables and the benefits of lifting weights, not just for your running but for your health in general.

Is there a difference between fresh, frozen, and canned vegetables? Well, yes but not quite what you would expect. In the end, the best thing you can do is eat whatever will get you eating the most vegetables.

We know pollution is bad for us. We know exercising is good for us. So what has the bigger impact? Well, don’t let pollution stop you from exercising. Sure, avoiding pollution while exercising is ideal but exercising in pollution is better than not exercising at all.

We’re runners. We know that running can prolong our lives, right? Well, do you know that strength training can also prolong your life? For the record, size (muscle mass) doesn’t matter. Strength matters. Based on the numbers, it almost looks like being small but strong is actually better than being big and strong (though the most important thing is being strong and the difference between the small/strong and big/strong might fall within the margin of error).

 

Don’t sit all day, don’t stand all day…

This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

Just one topic this month because it’s a topic that is a personal peeve of mine.

We all know by now that sitting all day is bad for our health, right? That’s why we have standing desks. But what if standing all day is worse than sitting all day?

Here’s a thought: all things in moderation. Some standing, some sitting, some walking, some running.

I get so frustrated at times when people insist in an all or nothing solution to a problem. We see this a lot in dietary discussions. Fat is bad. No, carbs are bad. No…all things in moderation are fine. The key isn’t avoiding some bogeyman. It’s finding moderation.

Running, your heart, and your bones

This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

We all know by now that running is good for us, right? Well, how good is it for us? Some of us may have heard that runners have higher levels of coronary artery plaques. Is this a concern? It would seem to be. As for the bones, we know running strengthens them. How much running does it take, though?

Running and your heart

Is it true that runners have more coronary artery plaques than non-runners? In short, yes. Is this a concern? The obvious answer would be yes. However, things seem to be a little more complicated. The kinds of plaques runners have are more stable and less likely to break loose and clog an artery.

In the end:

But for now, he says, the available data, including these new studies, suggest that prolonged, intense endurance exercise may alter your arteries, but does not seem likely to harm them.

Running and your bones

Running is good for your bones. We all know that. However, how much running does it really take to strengthen your bones? Well, the answer may be surprisingly little. As little as one minute a day. Really.

Obviously, we don’t want to run just one minute a day for other reasons. However, it’s good to know that, for our bone health, we don’t need to do anything special. A small amount of training, far less than I’m sure anyone reading this does, is all it takes.

Fitness and your health, who needs to be gluten free?

This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

Fitness and your health

You know that your running is good for your health, right? But how good? Is it better to be naturally fit or to train hard? I think a lot of us have believed or maybe hoped that how hard you worked at it would be more important.

Unfortunately:

What this tells us is that exercise is good for you because it increases your cardiovascular fitness. High fitness, meanwhile, is good for you no matter how you acquire it—which is a lucky break for those who happen to have high levels of baseline fitness thanks to their genetics.

This makes sense in many ways. Just like ability to race fast on limited training varies greatly between individuals, so do health outcomes on limited training.

It’s important to note that exercise is indeed good for us. Just because you don’t have a high level of baseline fitness, don’t give up. Just realize that, just like your race times, we don’t all start at the same place.

Who needs to be gluten free?

If you have celiac disease or are gluten sensitive and you’ve tried a gluten free diet, you’ve likely noticed that, for some people, going gluten free can make a big difference in your life.

However, at the same time, gluten free is the new dietary fad. Like most dietary fads, something with a grain of truth takes off to be blown out of proportion. Many people who have no need to avoid gluten do so just because they hear gluten is bad.

So how do you determine whether or not you really need to be gluten free? Here are some good thoughts.

In short, if you’re concerned that you may have celiac disease, there is a blood test for that but you must be eating gluten in order for the test to work. Go gluten free before the test and it will come back negative even if you do have celiac disease.

More important, whether you have celiac disease, you have some other gluten sensitivity, or you simply benefit from the placebo effect, if going gluten free makes you feel better then do it.

Pre-race stress and yogurt better than milk?

This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

We all know that pre-race stress is not good for our race performances. But why? Well, there are a lot of reasons. We now have another.

We all also know that calcium is important for our bones and dairy is a good source of milk. But what if one type of dairy is better than others?

Pre-race stress

You already know to avoid pre-race stress because it’s not good for your race performance, right? You might even know some of the reasons it isn’t good, right?

Well, here’s another way:

During acute psychological stress—in this case, seeing and being told they were failing at a pressure-packed task—the triathletes’ pain thresholds decreased significantly.

In short, your pain threshold is reduced after dealing with psychological stress. As a result, you can’t push as hard through the pain that is inevitably a part of racing.

Is yogurt better than milk?

We all know that calcium is important for maintaining bone health and dairy is a good source of calcium. But is it possible that one kind of dairy could be better than others?

It appears this may be the case:

He noted that other dairy products did not produce a similar effect and cautioned that some yogurts are high in sugar, “so we have to be careful about that.”

It’s not everything but it appears yogurt may be a super food (besides the high sugar content in some flavored varieties) in yet another way.

Beet juice for well trained athletes? How much does running extend your life?

This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

A couple interesting posts on topics we’ve discussed before. One on a new study that found a surprising result and another to quantify what we’ve known.

Beet juice

We’ve already covered beet juice and its apparent ability to help untrained athletes. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to help trained athletes (or, in the case of the second link, only untrained athletes were studied).

It looked like beet juice truly didn’t help trained athletes and there was an explanation for why that might be the case.

But what if it does? Well, maybe it does:

The performance test was a standard intermittent running test called the Yo-Yo IR1—basically a beep test involving a series of 20-meter sprints at progressively faster paces. The average distance covered in the test was 3.4 percent greater with beet juice than with placebo. Despite covering more distance, the subjects’ average heart rate was also lower (172 vs. 175 beats per minute) when they’d had the beet shots.

These were not elite athletes but amateur competitive soccer players, suggesting similar fitness levels to amateur competitive runners (most of us). Considering this, I’d consider this result promising.

That said, I’d urge at least a little caution. This is just one study. It’s a hopeful sign but hardly definitive evidence that you and I should go out and buy gallons of beet juice. Try it if you’d like, this offers at least some reason to do so, but don’t count on it working yet.

How much does running extend your life?

We all know running is good for us, right? We all know it extends our lives, right? I hope so.

But one of the arguments I’ve heard from people who don’t run is that, if you spend time doing something you don’t like to extend your life, is that really a good thing? Say you spend a year’s worth of time running over the course of your life. If that only extends your life by 1 year (or less) and you didn’t like running, was that time really worth it?

Well, what if that one year spent running extended your life by 7 years? Would that change your decision?

Of course, if you’re reading this, you probably run for reasons that go far beyond longevity and you’re probably not counting the seconds you run, worrying that they are being wasted. That said, it’s nice to know you’re getting more out than you’re putting in, likely in many more ways than one.