1. Super shoes: Explaining athletics’ new technological arms race
In the 1960s, when traditional cinder athletics tracks were replaced by spongy, synthetic surfaces, endurance running experienced a revolution. Long distance runners began clocking far faster times on the synthetic tracks, smashing multiple world records in the process.
Today, another revolution is afoot: the development of the so-called “super shoe”, which is driving another spike of record toppling in endurance running. The new shoe technology was introduced to road running in 2016 and track running in 2019, and since those key dates virtually all endurance running world records, from the 5,000m to the marathon, have been broken.
This has divided opinion in the athletics world, with some arguing the shoes are unfair while others argue they’re just like synthetic running tracks: an inevitable technological leap for endurance runners to capitalise upon.
More...from The Conversation.
2. Sub 3-Hour Marathon Runners for Five Consecutive Decades Demonstrate a Reduced Age-Related Decline in Performance:
Estimation of the age-related decline in athletic performance by analyzing age-group world record performances presents an inherent limitation because the records generally belong to different individuals. Longitudinal studies describing the changes in performance with advancing age for the same individuals with a consistent training regimen are more appropriate to determine age-related changes in performance. The aim of this longitudinal study was to examine the age-related decline in running performance of sub 3-h marathoners for five consecutive calendar decades. The best marathon performances for each decade from the 1970s to the 2010s were analyzed for 40 sub 3-h runners (39 males and 1 female). The cohort mean personal best performance was 2 h 23 min ± 9 min at an age of 28.6 ± 4.7 years. The mean difference in age between the first and the last sub 3-h marathon races was 32.9 ± 1.6 years. The time difference in marathon performance between the personal best and the worst performance during the 5th decade was 26 ± 9 min, corresponding to a mean increase of 1 min 4 s per year, i.e., a decrease in running speed of 0.67 ± 0.29% per year. These results suggest that with consistent training and racing regimens, it is possible to limit the age-related decline in marathon performance to less than 7% per decade at least until 60 years of age. Further studies are required to verify if such a low rate of age-related decline in endurance performance could be maintained after 60 years of age.
More...from Frontiers in Physiology.
3. Should you use carbs or fat to fuel endurance exercise?
Ingesting carbohydrates has long been known to improve endurance performance, primarily during events lasting longer than 45 minutes. But there has been a backlash against carbohydrate fuelling in recent years, alongside the emergence and growth in popularity of the concept of using fat as the primary fuel for endurance.
This debate has driven a wedge between those who are resolutely ‘pro carb’ and those who fervently practice Low Carb, High Fat diets (LCHF). This blog looks at why the topic is so polarising and what the current evidence suggests is best practice for endurance athletes.
Early research into carbohydrate fuelling
Check out this abstract for a paper examining the potential benefits of carbohydrate ingestion for athletes in 1925...
The chemical examination of the blood of a group of runners who participated in the Boston Marathon showed that the sugar content at the finish of the race was moderately diminished in two runners and markedly diminished in four. There was, furthermore, a close correlation between the physical condition of the runner at the finish of the race and the level of the blood sugar.
In making the report, it was suggested that the adequate ingestion of carbohydrate before and during any prolonged and vigorous muscular effort might be of considerable benefit in preventing hypoglycemia and the accompanying development of symptoms of exhaustion.
More...from Precision Hydration.
4. The Dairy-Free Olympian:
Dotsie Bausch credits her plant-based diet for helping her win an Olympic silver medal at 39 years old. Here’s her inspiring story — and how a dairy-free diet can help your performance.
I am an ordinary person. The wonderful and extraordinary events I have experienced in my life — earning an Olympic silver medal and leading a nonprofit I care deeply about — stemmed from the choices and actions of an ordinary life. I grew up in Kentucky with a fried chicken drumstick in each hand — it was my favorite food. I loved my horses, dogs, hamsters, rabbits, and fish but ate other animals, as many of us tend to do. We believe we need the meat or byproduct of certain species to maintain our health, enhance our performance, or sustain our children. During the vast majority of my professional cycling career, I believed this to be true, too.
Unlike most professional athletes, I didn’t find my sport until I was 26 years old. I had battled a severe eating disorder throughout my early 20s and hopping on a bike was the first thing I did when my therapist encouraged me to find movement again, in a healthy way, completely unmotivated by weight loss. When I started pedaling, I felt free. I began entering charity races — typically unequipped to handle the miles ahead of me — yet I kept up with the guys. Yes, I had natural talent, but I also discovered an unrelenting grit to keep pushing through the wind, up the inclines, and over unsteady terrain. I felt fueled by the power of curiosity. How far could I take this bike thing? I had no idea, but I knew I was going to hang around long enough to find out. I immediately got a job as a bike messenger in downtown Los Angeles, and I was the only female in a group of about 30 guys. They taught me how to jump curbs and ride with no hands, but my main goal was ‘getting miles in my legs’ which proved successful as I pedaled each day from Venice to downtown L.A. and back, logging over 70 miles per day. I eventually turned pro and spent 10 years on the U.S. National Team racing all over the globe.
More...from TRaining Peaks.
5. Athletics faces ‘super shoe’ arms race ahead of Tokyo Olympics:
World Athletics is playing catch-up to police running-shoe regulations adequately, which have distorted results and times to such an extent that it’s a similar crisis to the gains made by doping.
Earlier this year, the sport of athletics rejected the shoe that sportswear giant Nike claimed was “a new paradigm of performance on the track”. The Nike Viperfly is a shoe designed specifically for 100m sprinters, a “super shoe” that promises to do to sprinting what road shoes have done to the marathon over the past five years.
It was reported that the shoe was rejected after manufacturers raised objections and fears that the shoe would be so effective that it would help inferior sprinters erase Usain Bolt’s name from the record books. (Bolt holds the 100m, 200m and 4 x 100m relay world records, and a host of Olympic and Diamond League records too.)
Quite why Bolt, and no other legends of the sport, should be afforded this “legacy protection” is something the best marathon runners in history might be wondering.
More...from the Daily Maverick.
6. Face masks safe to use during intense exercise, research suggests:
‘Limited’ cardiology research also shows mask wearing likely to reduce spread of coronavirus in indoor gyms.
Face masks can be worn safely during intense exercise, and could reduce the risk of Covid-19 spreading at indoor gyms, preliminary findings suggests.
Scientists from the Monzino Cardiology Centre (CCM) in Milan and the University of Milan tested the breathing rate, heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen levels of six women and men on exercise bikes, with and without a mask.
Wearing a face covering reduced the participants’ ability to perform vigorous exercise by about 10%, probably because they found it slightly harder to breathe through the mask, according to the paper published in the European Respiratory Journal.
"This reduction is modest and, crucially, it does not suggest a risk to healthy people doing exercise in a face mask, even when they are working to their highest capacity,” said Dr Massimo Mapelli, a cardiologist at the CCM. “While we wait for more people to be vaccinated against Covid-19, this finding could have practical implications in daily life, for example potentially making it safer to open indoor gyms."
More...from The Guardian.
7. Stretching and Muscle Fascia:
What is muscle fascia and how does it affect your flexibility and the way you move?
When trying to improve flexibility and range of motion, the muscles and their fascia should be the major focus of your flexibility training. While bones, joints, ligaments, tendons and skin do contribute to overall flexibility, we have limited control over these and can do damage to them if trying to stretch them directly.
What is Muscle Fascia?
Fascia is a fibrous connective tissue that is present throughout the entire body, not just the muscles. There are three main types of fascia:
* Superficial Fascia, which is mostly associated with the skin;
* Deep Fascia, which is mostly associated with the muscles, bones, nerves and blood vessels; and
* Visceral (or Subserous) Fascia, which is mostly associated with the internal organs.
More...from Stretch Coach.
8. Period cycling: What is it and should you do it?
Does menstruation really impact fitness and performance?
Trying to break a new personal best after exercising outdoors this winter? Campaigns by major athletic brands have suggested altering your workout routine to “harness the power of your menstrual cycle.” It’s called “period cycling” — and it claims that, if done the right way, you can use Aunt Flow to get the most out of your fitness training.
The concept of “period cycling” was initially trademarked by Alisa Vitti, a functional nutritionist and founder of the FloLiving Hormone Center. Period cycling suggests that individuals alter their nutrition and activities based on a 28-day cycle due to the natural hormonal fluctuations.
The general idea sees women focusing on high-intensity workouts towards the beginning of their cycle, when estrogen levels are steadily increasing, and then tapering off to more relaxed workouts, like yoga or walking, during the second half.
9. High-Intensity Exercise or Endurance? For the Most Health Benefits, Do Both:
HIIT and SIT workouts can get you fit fast, but for lasting health benefits, you need moderate-intensity exercise, too.
Recent research in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that high-intensity exercise (HIIE) was more effective for improving aerobic fitness and cardiovascular health, and moderate-intensity continuous training (MICT) was better for long-term blood sugar control.
This study adds to recent evidence that one exercise intensity is not superior to another, and there are good reasons to do both for overall health benefits.
High-intensity interval exercise (HIIE) has been the darling of the fitness world for the better part of the past decade, because these quick, hard intervals can help you get fit fast. But a recent meta-analysis published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise is a good reminder that for longterm metabolic health benefits, you need moderate-intensity endurance training, too.
More...from Runner's World.
10. How the World’s Best Athletes Handle Brutal Heat:
At the 2019 World Championships, researchers gave marathoners and racewalkers swallowable thermometer pills and used thermal cameras to assess the effectiveness of hydration and cooling techniques in the heat of competition.
Evan Dunfee’s bronze medal at the 2019 World Championships in Doha was a triumph of persistence, patience, and toughness—and also of plumbing and refrigeration. Facing muggy race conditions in Qatar of 88 degrees Fahrenheit with 75 percent humidity, the Canadian 50K racewalker spent ten minutes in an ice bath shortly before the race, then donned an ice towel while waiting for the start. During the race, he stopped at drink stations no less than 74 times over the course of less than four hours, grabbing water bottles, sponges, ice-cooled hats and towels, and “neck sausages” full of ice.
It worked: Dunfee’s core temperature, measured by an ingestible pill provided as part of a World Athletics study whose results have just been published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, stayed relatively stable below about 102 degrees Fahrenheit for most of the race. That’s hot but sustainable—and it meant that, with 5K to go, Dunfee was feeling good enough to accelerate as his rivals wilted in the heat. He made up two minutes on the eventual fourth-place finisher to snag a medal while his core temperature spiked to 104 degrees (as he and his physiologist Trent Stellingwerff recount in a fascinating joint online talk about their Doha preparations and experience).
More...from Sweat Science on Outside Online.
11. Getting to the Bottom of the Runner’s High:
For years we’ve been crediting endorphins, but it’s really about the endocannabinoids.
We can stop crediting endorphins, the natural opioid painkillers produced by our bodies, for the floaty euphoria we often feel during aerobic exercise, according to a nifty new study of men, women and treadmills. In the study, runners developed a gentle intoxication, known as a runner’s high, even if researchers had blocked their bodies’ ability to respond to endorphins, suggesting that those substances could not be behind the buzz. Instead, the study suggests, a different set of biochemicals resembling internally homegrown versions of cannabis, better known as marijuana, are likely to be responsible.
The findings expand our understanding of how running affects our bodies and minds, and also raise interesting questions about why we might need to be slightly stoned in order to want to keep running.
More...from the (NY Times.
11. How I got rid of Plantar Fasciitis... :
Each morning for the last 13 weeks I have woken up, unstrapped my plantar boot, while attempting to not awaken Ben with the screeching sound of Velcro coming undone, stretch my toes, pull my heel down from my arch, and swing my legs out of bed, into my Hoka slides and taken my first step. Just getting out of bed has been a whole process for the last 3 months. The crappy days were the ones where I just kept the night boot on and crawled (yes crawled) to the bathroom so as not to put any pressure on my heal without it being warmed up. Big ups to Ben for taking all of the middle of the night wake ups that my kids had because as I alluded to above I couldn’t just pop out of bed and walk into the boys’ room to check on them.
Plantar fasciitis is painful. An injury I wish no one had to experience and one I really struggled to see the finish line. It literally feels like knives in the bottom of your feet every-time you put pressure on it. You want to rub out your arches and heel but at the same time don’t even think about touching my arch.
12. How to Build Speed with Proper Recovey:
Going hard delivers rewards, but only if you balance it with recovery.
To get faster, you need to run faster—that’s a given. But the line between pushing hard enough to see gains and over-doing it is razor-thin. To help you toe that line successfully, we asked Under Armour coach Tom Brumlik for his best advice on recovery as a strategy for getting faster.
Avoid the Speed Trap
Speed work is hard, by design. When you see that work start to pay off—faster miles, stronger miles, longer miles, all at less effort than before—it can be tempting to do speed work all the time. Sooner or later, though, too much of a good thing can catch up to you in the form of injury or burnout. “The big, common mistake is trying to work hard every day, pushing even on recovery days,” says Brumlik. “You should live by the principle of keeping challenging days challenging and easy days easy.”
Your body needs recovery days and rest days (more on that distinction below) in order to adapt to the increasing demands you’re making on it. Figuring out how to divide up the overall training volume can be hard. One clue: more of your training should be in an aerobic zone than an anaerobic zone. Brumlik says that even the fastest runners keep speed workouts to a minimum. “You only need to do two hard workouts in a given week,” he says. “Sometimes only one, especially if you’re getting in a long run.”
More...from Outside Online.
13. Study: female athletes with a regular menstrual cycle perform better:
A new study revealed that not only does having a regular period improve your health, it improves your running performance, too.
There was a time not too long ago when a female athlete losing her period was considered a good thing. It meant she was fit, training hard and at the top of her game. Over the last several years, the sports science community has been challenging that line of thinking, and issues like Relative Energy Deficiency Syndrome (RED-S), the female athlete triad and overtraining have been put in the spotlight. The health benefits of having a regular menstrual cycle when you’re a female athlete are well-established, but the question remains: does having a period help or hinder athletic performance? A new study has now definitively answered that question and not surprisingly, the results say it helps.
More...from Canadian Running Magazine.
14. Nearly Everyone Experiences Pain During a Marathon—But That Doesn’t Mean It’s Inevitable:
Try these expert tips to mitigate the hurt during your next 26.2.
New research suggests 99.8 percent of people experience some level of pain during a marathon, with 80 percent experiencing an intense level.
This may be due to injuries, hilly training routes, or high-intensity efforts during training could have carried over to the race day.
To mitigate pain during a marathon, embrace low-intensity, steady-state running and recovery during training, and don’t be afraid to slow down or stop to stretch during the race itself.
If you’ve ever run a marathon—or honestly, even if you haven’t—you know how taxing it can be on your body. During a long-distance race like this, the majority of participants experience some level of pain. In fact, a recent study suggests only 0.2 percent people don’t report any pain.
More...from Runner's World.
15. Bobby Clay: British athlete on body acceptance after RED-s caused osteoporosis:
Clay is an accomplished horse rider as well as athlete
"When I was losing weight, I felt like a true athlete."
Bobby Clay's problem was she was listening to what others were saying, rather than what her body was telling her. And it brought a premature end to her athletics career.
Rewind to 2015 and Clay, then 18, was a European 1500m champion and regarded as one of Britain's best middle-distance prospects.
Yet behind the scenes, a different story was unfolding. Following years of undereating and overtraining, her bones were so brittle they were breaking.
Aged 19, Clay was diagnosed with osteoporosis. Starved of oestrogen, she'd never had a period.
She has since become an advocate for opening up the conversation around Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport - RED-s, formerly known as the female athlete triad - and its devastating impact, which has left her virtually unable to run.
More...from the BBC.