So did you know....
Strength Training can make you faster:
Of course, you knew this. My n=1 (me-so unscientific) could tell you this is true. But while anecdotes make for great stories, I like to rely on research when making training decisions. This review of multiple studies of strength training and running found overwhelmingly that strength training makes runners faster. In all the studies, the runners trained for 8-12 weeks, 2-3 days on average. The weight regimens varied but were mostly low volume, low repetitions. This comes as no surprise to me. But now we have proof that it's a thing.
What are the best running shoes? Minimalist or maximalist? Motion control?
How about the shoes that feel the best? Seriously? A large retrospective study found that the best shoes for runners were not always the ones you would think. Pronators didn't need motion control shoes. Trying to "fix" a runner's gait with shoes often led to injuries. The researchers suggested that runners try on several different pairs of shoes, run in them in the store, and buy the ones that were the most comfortable. Do what feels good.
As far as type of shoes--minimalist vs maximalist, there is no definitive data to date. But I found this amazing review from Harvard University which analyzes all things foot strike. Barefoot runners land on their forefoot, while "shod" runners (wearing shoes) mostly heel strike. And the answer to that ever present question: is heel striking bad? No! Good news for this heel striker. If you desire more information on this topic, chase the link. And the Gait Guys-yep, they have a blog--analyze the potential impact of Hoka, the most maximal shoes around. What do they say? It's all theoretical, but they are concerned that the Hokas make a runner land harder. Just because they can. Stay tuned.
Me, I'll just stick to my super cushy but not over the top Asics Gel Nimbus. Since I'm a born heel striker, they cushion my landing. They've brought me lots of good miles over the years. If it feels good, do it, right?
Oh and by the way, in case you were wondering...what are the most popular shoes? Nike, followed by Brooks, Adidas, and Asics. Just do it.
The best fuel for the long run? It's still out for debate.
I was thrilled this week to find out that I was chosen to represent my favorite long distance fuel, Tailwind Nutrition. This fuel has been used with great success by ultramarathoners, and I figured if it was good enough for them, it was good enough for me. Tailwind has been a recipe for success, at least for this runner. I have a ton of tummy issues and have struggled with fueling over the years. Tailwind is a liquid fuel, and it is the first fuel I've used that hasn't sent me running to the portapotty. The company motto is, after all, "no gut bombs".
The use of carbohydrates to fuel during an endurance event and their effectiveness has been well studied. So what's new in the world of endurance fuel?
Everyone's looking for an edge. Right now, they're looking at protein.
There's been plenty of evidence to support the use of protein for recovery. This large systematic review found overwhelming evidence to demonstrate that protein following an endurance workout benefits muscle anabolism, which may lead to improved recovery of muscle function and performance. But what about during an endurance event? Should we take protein along with our carbs? The results have been mixed, and since protein has to be digested, it's probably best for those of us with tummy issues to stick to our simple carbohydrates.
Remember, there is no magic fuel, no matter what you hear. There are a ton of options out there, and every manufacturer wants you to believe that their fuel will make you run faster, farther, and even avoid the wall. Find the fuel that works best for you. Make sure you road test your fuel choices on your long runs. Don't be "that" runner...
Heat Training is a simple as taking a hot bath after a run.
Last year, as I was preparing for the Sarasota Half Marathon, I started doing "heat training". I knew from past experience that running a race in Florida in March was going to be a huge challenge coming from the polar vortex I had been running in all winter. So to simulate running in warm conditions, I ran on my treadmill wearing heavy sweats and a hat. No fan. Let me tell you how much it sucked. But as the weeks went on, I developed tolerance to those runs and got faster. I never was able to try out my training, as I had to defer that race to this year. But I did run a local half that ended up being a PR for me.
Turns out I was onto something.
Besides running in heavy clothing on the treadmill, what else is there for a runner to do to prep for a warm climate race? If only I had a sauna...but I don't. I do have a bathtub! And as it turns out, researchers have been looking at hot baths as a way to acclimate to the heat. This 6 day study looked at runners who took a 40 minute hot bath after a 40 minute run in temperate conditions. The runners ran 5% faster in hot conditions, but no faster in temperate conditions. Still, it would be worth a try! Who doesn't like a hot bath? I wonder if my husband would install a hot tub on our deck? For heat acclimation purposes..
This year I haven't been doing heat training to prepare for that Florida race (which is in about a week). I'm training for my full marathon and haven't been doing treadmill runs. Shame on me. But my focus has really been on my marathon. This Florida half is just a training run. At least that's what I keep telling myself. Pretty sure I'm going to be humbled by that Florida heat and humidity. Been there, done that.
Oh, and by the way, heat isn't the only devil. In my research for this post, I also learned that ice baths may interfere with training gains. Researchers examined strength and inflammatory markers in subjects who took ice baths after a strength workout. Interestingly, subjects did worse on performance after the ice bath; inflammatory markers (which are an indication of tissue damage and are elevated after a workout) were still elevated after the ice baths. The perfect excuse for me not to submerge myself in ice.
Running in the coldThe ideal temp for running is 52F. Right now, that sounds downright balmy to me. While we've not spent much time in the polar vortex this winter, it has been seasonally chilly. Why does running in the bitter cold feel as hard as running in 90F? Maybe I tend not to fuel properly in cold weather runs. The cold temps give the illusion that my effort isn't as hard--I'm not sweating as much. According to this article on Runners Academy, once the outside temperature drops below 32F, you start to see an impact on your pace. This is due to a variety of factors, and bottom line, runners need to pay as much attention to fueling and hydration as they do in the heat. Dressing warmly is a good idea too!
While we are on the subject of cold weather running, I want to talk about running safely when the conditions are less than ideal. You all know I run outdoors no matter what the conditions. So when YakTrax contacted me to review their latest model, I was all over it. I've run with YakTrax for many years with great success. I couldn't wait to test the new model. But there was one issue. We've had little to no snow this winter. The last time I ran in my old pair of YakTrax was November, when we got that foot of snow. I was a little nervous about agreeing to trial these because I didn't know if the weather would cooperate!
Anyways, even though the groundhog said winter was over, we all know that Mother Nature is a fickle beast. She's teased us with some really warm days, but we've also gotten a bit of snow this past week. I was glad simply because I wanted to put my new Yak Trax to the test. These were an upgrade from my previous pairs (I've owned 2 pairs prior to this). Like the YakTrax I've used in the past, they slip over my shoes, and stay put with a velcro strap across my forefoot. This model has a strap that attaches to the toe piece, and that gave them a little extra security. I ran in about an inch or 2 of crusty snow and felt very confident that I wouldn't slip. My pace was a little slower than it would have been without the YakTrax, but that is to be expected since the YakTrax do make your shoes a little stiffer.
Running on snow with the YakTrax is much easier on your legs than running on the pavement. Obviously, they aren't intended for use on dry pavement but when I'm running in the neighborhood, it can't be avoided completely. In the past when I've run with my YakTrax, I've found that I'm more sore than when I run in just my shoes. The other comment I have is that the old YakTrax did not completely prevent you from slipping on ice. The old model just had coils and when I ran in those, I did have some wipe outs on black ice. This model has spikes on them, which is new. Hopefully, the spikes will give the runner a little more traction in icy conditions. I didn't have any slippage on my test run.
I highly recommend YakTrax if you like to run or walk outside and have to contend with snow. I love this product. But I hope this is the last time this season that I have to use them!
YakTrax sent me a pair in exchange for my unbiased review.
What new things have you recently learned that has benefited your running? What's your favorite fuel? Is your pace affected by temperature extremes? Shoes--minimal, maximal, or moderate?
I'm linking up with the Friday Five aka the DC Trifecta: Courtney, Mar, and Cynthia