Think state-of-the-art shoes, performance diets and well-thought-out racing strategies are only for elite runners?

Think again.

In reality, the slower you are, the more such measures improve your finish times, suggests new University of Colorado Boulder research.

The study, published in the journal Frontiers in Physiology, takes a mathematical approach to answer a question that has perplexed exercise physiologists for years: How much does improving your body’s “running economy” – or the number of calories burned per second at an aerobic pace – really improve your speed?

The question has piqued the interest of the broader running community since July, 2017 when Nike introduced its Zoom Vaporfly 4% – a shoe that, according to previous CU research, improves running economy by 4 percent on average.

Members of the media, recreational athletes and some researchers have since assumed that meant runners wearing the shoes could cross the finish line 4 percent faster. With such savings, many predicted, a sub-2-hour marathon was well within reach.

But, according to the new study, the math is more complicated than that.

For the paper, the researchers re-examined treadmill studies of runners dating back decades, re-crunching the numbers to account for things like air resistance and oxygen uptake velocity (which both increase the faster you run).

They concluded that for runners moving slower than 9 minutes per mile, any percent improvement in running economy (due to better footwear, nutritional supplements, a tailwind, drafting or other measures) translates to an even higher percentage improvement in pace.

For instance, a 1 percent improvement in running economy for a 4:30:00 marathoner would make him or her 1.17 percent faster, dropping a significant 3 minutes and 7 seconds off their finish time.

On the flip side, for those who run faster than 9 minutes per mile, each percent improvement in the body’s gas mileage results in less than that percentage improvement in pace. For instance, that same 1 percent improvement in a 2:03:00 marathoner would enable him to run only .65 percent faster, a mere 47 second improvement.

All this is good news for recreational runners, say the authors.

A lot of times recreational runners assume these things are just going to benefit elite athletes when the reality is they can benefit even more than the elites.

A slower runner, slipping on a pair of shoes which improve running economy by 4 percent could actually translate to as much as a 5 percent improvement in finish times. Meanwhile, other measures to boost metabolic efficiency, such as drinking beet juice, drafting behind another runner, or doing plyometric exercises can also add up to boost speed.

For those at the upper end of the competitive spectrum however, the new paper elucidates something many intuitively know already: The faster you are, the harder it is to get faster.

Since the introduction of the 4% shoe, the authors note, the marathon world record has only improved by a relatively small 1.03 percent.

Shalaya Kipp, left, conducts a treadmill test in the Locomotion Lab at the University of Colorado Boulder. (photo: CU Boulder)

Older adults are more likely to stick with a group exercise program if they can do it with people their own age, a new University of British Columbia study has found.

Working out with peers of the same gender doesn’t seem to make a difference – it’s the age that counts.

The study points to the importance of age-targeting, but perhaps not gender-targeting, when developing these programs. The researchers knew from earlier studies that older adults prefer to exercise within their own age group. Same-gender classes do not lead to greater adherence. This is significant, as it could free facilitators from the cost of providing separate classes for each gender unnecessarily.

Age and gender groupings weren’t the only strategies researchers used to try to strengthen participants’ commitment. Participants also received custom T-shirts that identified them as members of a group and were given opportunities to socialize over coffee following class. All of this together points to the power of social connections. If you set the environment up so participants feel a sense of connection or belonging with these other people, then they’re more likely to stick with it.

Older adults worldwide are less active than they should be.

The study appears in Health Psychology.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim year, during which strict fasting is observed from dawn to sunset. Distance training during this period can be taxing on the runner.

What you can or can’t do will depend on your ability and current form. Some runners can train as usual, others might have to adjust their program to be able to cope with fasting and training. The following information is mostly for the benefit of the latter.

As with running in general my suggestion for Ramadan is also to run at the end of the day, but try to time your run so the ending coincides with iftar. You don’t want to wait around dehydrated after your run. Make sure your meal is prepared ahead of time. You don’t need the extra stress of having to prepare food after a run. Be sure to include plenty of water and fruit juice. If you’re going to the mosque, remember to take water, and drink as often as possible.

Make sure to get as much sleep as possible after your run, but also the night before your run. Your body will need this to help it recover enough to get the full benefit of your program.

Try to stick to a flat route on your run. Your body might not be able to cope with the extra effort required by a hilly course. If it is very hot outside, do your running on a treadmill – if possible.

You may want to avoid training at your VO2 max or to make your runs longer than one hour.

Your morning meal on the day of the run is also very important. Try to include foods that are rich in complex carbohydrates. You will also need to make sure you get adequate protein. The balance of your meal should be vegetables, fruit, water, and then some more water. Avoid foods that will make you thirsty.

Here are examples of the start of a Half Marathon and Marathon program, adjusted for Ramadan:

Day Half Marathon Marathon
Monday 3 x 800 m Easy 3 x 800 m Easy pace
Tuesday 6 km Endurance pace 7 km Endurance pace
Wednesday    
Thursday 5 km Easy 5 km Easy pace
Friday    
Saturday   8 km Endurance pace
Sunday    
     
Monday 6 km Easy 8 km Fatigue Threshold
Tuesday   6 km Endurance pace
Wednesday 6 km Endurance pace 8 km Endurance pace
Thursday    
Friday    
Saturday 7 km Endurance pace 8 km Endurance pace
Sunday    
     
Monday 7 km Easy 8 km Endurance pace
Tuesday   8 km Endurance pace
Wednesday 7 km Endurance pace 8 km Endurance pace
Thursday    
Friday    
Saturday 7 km Endurance pace 8 km Endurance pace
Sunday    
     
Monday 10 x 100 m Fatigue Threshold 8 km Endurance pace
Tuesday 5 x 800 m Fatigue Threshold 6 km Endurance pace
Wednesday 7 km Endurance pace 8 km Endurance pace
Thursday    
Friday    
Saturday 7 km Endurance pace 8 km Endurance pace
Sunday    
     
Monday 10 x 150 m Fatigue Threshold 8 km Endurance pace
Tuesday 5 x 900 m Fatigue Threshold 8 km Endurance pace
Wednesday   8 km Endurance pace
Thursday    
Friday    
Saturday 10 km Easy 12 km Endurance pace
Sunday    

New regulations requiring certain female athletes to medically lower their testosterone levels in order to compete internationally are based on “fatally flawed” data, according to research led by the University of Colorado Boulder.

The research was published in the Asser International Sports Law Journal.

The authors have called for a retraction of the original research and asked the International Association of Athletics Federations – the global governing body for track and field – to reconsider the rule change, which affects
South African Olympic sprinter Caster Semenya and others.

“In almost any other setting of science, errors of this magnitude would lead to a paper being retracted,” said lead author Roger Pielke Jr., director of the Center for Sports Governance at CU Boulder. “And it certainly would not be the basis for broad regulations that have a profound impact on people’s lives.”

In April 2018, the IAAF announced new regulations requiring certain female athletes with naturally high testosterone levels to take testosterone-lowering hormones if they want to continue to compete in the women’s category for the 400-meter, the 400-meter hurdles, the 800-meter, the 1,500-meter and the mile.

The rule, which applies to IAAF-sanctioned international competitions, requires that they maintain serum testosterone levels below 5 nanomoles per liter (nmol/L) for at least six months prior to competition. Most females have testosterone levels ranging from 1.12 to 1.79 nmol/L while the normal adult male range is 7.7 – 29.4 nmol/L. About seven in every 1,000 elite female athletes have high testosterone levels, according to IAAF.

The association had attempted to put forth similar regulations in 2011 , but that rule was thrown out when the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) – the highest court for international sport – concluded in 2015 that there was a lack of evidence linking high testosterone to “a real competitive advantage” in women.

In 2017, the IAAF came back with that research, publishing a paper in the British Journal of Sports Medicine (BJSM), which claimed that elite women runners with the highest testosterone levels performed as much as 3 percent better than those with the lowest levels in several events.

Pielke and co-authors Erik Boye, a professor emeritus of molecular biology at the University of Oslo, and Ross Tucker, a University of Cape Town exercise physiologist, challenge those results.

“We found problematic data throughout the study and consequently, the conclusions can’t be seen as reliable,” Pielke said.

When the three tried to replicate the original findings using data from the study’s authors and publicly available results from four of the races included, they uncovered “significant anomalies and errors.”

For instance, they found performance times that were erroneously duplicated and “phantom times” that did not exist in official IAAF competition results. In addition, some athletes disqualified for doping were included in the study dataset – a fact that could confound the results.

In all, from 17 to 32 percent of the data used in the study was found to be in error. The researchers also note that IAAF researchers themselves conducted the BJSM study.

“We would not find it appropriate for cigarette companies to provide the scientific bases for the regulation of smoking, or oil companies to provide the scientific bases for regulation of fossil fuels. Sport regulation should be held to the same high standards,” they write.

The IAAF researchers did correct what they characterized as “data capture errors” and re-ran their analysis in a subsequent letter to the journal. But flaws remain in that revision, Pielke said.

The research will be at issue later this month when Pielke is expected to serve as an expert witness at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, where Semenya and Athletics South Africa have brought a case against the IAAF calling the rules “discriminatory, irrational, and unjustifiable.”

Under the new regulations, those who decline to medically reduce their testosterone levels must relinquish their right to compete as females.

Originally set to take effect in November, implementation of the rules has been postponed until after the outcome of the case.

“Fundamentally, the issues that we raise with our paper are about the integrity of science in regulation,” said Pielke. “Any agency, in sport or beyond, should be expected to produce science that can withstand scrutiny and which actually supports the justification for proposed regulations. That simply did not happen here.”

It starts with the nipples. You’ve laid out your racing kit the night before. If you are a male runner this includes some surgical tape for your nipples. Even the most hardened endurance runner sometimes find that his nipples start to bleed, because of the friction created by the movement of the running shirt.

Stick to your regular race day diet, but try to eat 3 to 4 hours prior to the starting gun. Also make sure you drink something before the start. This may be water or your own pre-race mix, but it’s not a bad idea to add an hydration agent.

There are studies to support the physical and physiological benefit of caffeine use by athletes. Stay off coffee 3 days prior to a race to heighten your sensitivity. On race day take 3 to 6 mg of caffeine for every kg of bodyweight prior to the start. There are still some differences in opinion about how long before the race. Opinions range from 30 minutes to as long as 6 hours. Make sure you take some water with the caffeine.

One approach I have considered is to start the day with a cup of coffee, because of the amount of caffeine required, and then take some more caffeine in capsule form closer to the start.

On this topic it is also important to note that energy drinks must be avoided, because of the high amount of concentrated caffeine they can contain.

The final word on coffee; it also improves the working of the the small arteries, which includes slowing the occurrence of inflammation.

Check the weather report to see if it is cold. If so, take some old clothing with, something which you can throw away. Just before the gun goes, toss your clothing over the side fences, or run with it for a short distance to help you warm-up. Never throw your clothes on the ground, you might end someone’s race prematurely.

Be early at the start of the big races. Especially if you are a novice, you are more than likely to find unexpected traffic, no parking and a long line at the toilets.

When the gun goes KEEP CALM. Focus on relaxing your neck, shoulders, arms and hands. Where the hands are concerned; imagine gently holding a chip between your thumb and forefinger. If you find yourself tense up, shake out your hands for about 100 meters to help you relax and recover.

Don’t follow the frenzied masses. Start slow, be disciplined and stick to your race plan. This includes NOT weaving in and out of the crowd of runners, wasting energy in the process. If you execute your plan well you will start passing runners in the latter part of the race.

Always keep going forward. Never go backwards, sideways or spend time at a water point. This can cost you the race – especially in an ultra.

Your race feeding normally starts 45 to 60 minutes into the race. NEVER TRY SOMETHING NEW ON RACE DAY. If you have not experimented with this you will begin by calculating a high end and a low end to yield a range for appropriate hourly carbohydrate intake. The range should be adjusted in time based on individual differences and effort level.

The high end is determined by bodyweight x 1.0 = grams of carbohydrates per hour.

The low end is determined by bodyweight x 0.7 = grams of carbohydrates per hour.

Remember to take some water after feeding. An hydration mix with water somewhere in your race can also be beneficial.

Don’t eat or drink during the final 5% of the race – unless you feel you really need it.

If you are on the road for more than 2 hours, make sure you have a recovery drink within minutes after you finish. It should include protein and carbohydrates … and drink some water.

Last but not least, enjoy it. Don’t make yourself miserable in the pursuit of a personal best time, rejoice in your ability to run.

(This information is based on current peer-reviewed research. I will update when there are new developments.)

As a runner, you should follow a healthy diet, not a fad diet. Also, take note that a runner’s nutritional needs are different from those of sedentary individuals. Long-distance running, and especially endurance running, increases the nutritional needs of the body. Ideally, you should have regular medical checkups to keep an eye on your nutrient levels.

Here are a few key areas of importance before a race.

Hydration

Make sure you drink water every day. Your urine is a basic indicator. It should be light yellow.

To help improve nutrition you can add some chia seeds to your water. It is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, protein, iron, calcium, potassium, zinc, vitamins & antioxidants.

Salt is a key player in hydration. Salt losses vary greatly based on sweat rate, but many runners lose an average of one gram of sodium per litre of sweat. Hot and sweaty conditions make replenishing your fluids and sodium levels even more important. Add an extra sprinkle of salt to your dinner. Also, look for people offering something salty on the way. There will be something. You don’t need to carry salt.

Diet

Stick to your regular, healthy diet. Do not make big changes to your diet the weeks before the race. You should aim for about 5 – 8 grams of carbohydrates per kg of bodyweight per day, and 1 – 1.6 grams of protein.

Do not load your body with large amounts of carbs the night before the race. You might end up feeling bloated the next morning. Anxiety about the race can also impact digestion, adding to your discomfort.

You may want to add Rooibos tea to your diet at some point. It is a natural bronchodilator – helps you breath easier.

Tea made from Mullein flowers helps clear congestion in the lungs and soothes irritated mucous membranes. It is also an anti-inflammatory.

Nutrients

Ideally, your diet should be rich in all the essential nutrients. Have it checked from time to time. Your doctor will prescribe a supplement where necessary.

To make sure you arrive at your event well-prepared start taking a supplement 6 weeks before a major endurance event.

The key nutrients for runners are iron, vitamin B, magnesium, zinc and vitamin E.

Iron

Iron helps power a runner by providing the muscles with oxygen, without it the aerobic capacity is hampered and fatigue sets in prematurely.

The mineral is lost through sweat, and footstrike, which damages red blood cells in the feet. Vitamin C helps to retain the mineral in the body.

When you have your iron levels checked, also ask for a check on your ferritin levels. Ferritin is a protein that stores iron and releases it when needed. Ferritin binds with iron, keeping it from becoming a free radical in the body. Runners must have good ferritin levels.

Vitamin B

Vitamin B keeps your nerve and blood cells healthy and plays a role in many metabolic processes that are directly related to running performance. A deficiency results in tiredness and weakness.

Magnesium

It is well known to runners that constant cramping of the legs is often an indicator of a lack of magnesium. Among the many biochemical functions it performs in the body, energy production is of special interest to us.

Zinc

Zinc helps us process the carbohydrates, fats and proteins, and is vital for a healthy, high-performing immune system that will prevent you from getting sick. It also helps to kill bacteria and viruses should you become sick.

Vitamin E

The longer distances you run, the more vitamin E you need. Intensified exertion brought on by high mileage produces more oxidative stress. Vitamin E is an antioxidant which helps guard cells from potential damage by combating oxidation.

Preventative supplements

One of the runner’s greatest fears is falling ill before a big race. Try to avoid contact with other people as much as possible the week before your race. Stay away from public places like movies or restaurants, and especially schools and hospitals.

Runners tend to turn to preventative medicine during this time. Because we can not always be sure of the effect of these supplements on our running you should try to stick to a natural nutritional supplement which is known to be easy on the stomach. Examples are Echinaforce and Bio-Strath.

A study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology found that consuming probiotics helps in preventing stomach problems during endurance distances. Unfortunately, probiotic supplements aren’t closely regulated, which is why it is probably better to include foods like yoghurt or sauerkraut in your diet leading up to your race.

Mental Preparation

A positive attitude is an extremely important objective throughout your training. Try to put aside your unsubstained doubts and concentrate on your strengths.

When preparing for a race, visualize your approach. What will you do at a hill? How will spend your time at water tables? How will you finish?

Rest

Sleep as much as possible the week before your race – at least eight hours per night. The night before a race is often stressful, resulting in less sleep.

In the same vein; Netflix and chill is not of the menu the night before. Studies have shown that female athletes tend to perform better after a sexual encounter the night before. There is a slight, insignificant drop in performance for male athletes; there is no need for them to abstain from sex the night before.

Finally, focus on your positive experience. Nerves are normal, but take your positive training experiences to the start.

Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 17h00

Jack Muller Park, Boston, Bellville

Suited for beginners, but experienced runners may join for technique and form drills.

Perfect for Park Runners who want to upgrade.

ASA Certified Coach

Goal race: SPAR Women’s Challenge 5 km, 26 May 2019

This is the path to your first 10 km.

Contact: quintusvr@gmail.com

Pricing:

R500 for three months (school term), paid in advance

Bellville Athletic Club Members: R250