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)

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    

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

A new study from The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center examines what may cause chronic back pain in runners and the exercises to help prevent it.

The study, published in the Journal of Biomechanics, suggests that runners with weak deep core muscles are at higher risk of developing low back pain. And, unfortunately, most people’s deep core muscles aren’t nearly as strong as they should be.

To examine the role of the superficial and deep core muscles, researchers used motion detection technology and force-measuring floor plates to estimate muscle movements during activity.

What they found is that weak deep core muscles force more superficial muscles like the abs to work harder and reach fatigue faster. When those superficial muscles are doing the work the deep core should be doing, there are often painful consequences.

When your deep core is weak, your body is able to compensate in a way that allows you to essentially run lie normal. But that increases the load on your spine in a way that may lead to low back pain.

Experts say it’s common for even well-conditioned athletes to neglect their deep core, and there is a lot of misinformation online and in fitness magazines about core strength. Traditional ab exercises with a large range of motion, such as sit-ups or back extensions, will not give you the strong core needed to be a better runner.

Instead, Chaudhari says exercises such as planks that focus on stabilizing the core, especially on unstable surfaces, are what’s really going to make you a better runner.

A child’s attention and memory improves after exercise according to new research supported by the Universities of Stirling and Edinburgh.

Researchers found that pupils’ best responses to tests came after physical activity that was set at their own pace, as opposed to exhaustive exercise.

The study is part of the BBC Learning’s Terrific Scientific campaign – designed to inspire schoolchildren to pursue a career in science – and part-funded by the University of Edinburgh and the Physiological Society. A total of 11 613 children in the UK signed up to participate in the research – including 1 536 from Scotland.

It was found that 15 minutes of self-paced exercise can significantly improve a child’s mood, attention and memory – enhancing their ability to learn.

Overall, the study concluded that exercising leads to improvements in children’s mood and cognition. In most tasks, participating in a run/walk activity was more beneficial. Importantly, this exercise should be in addition to normal physical education.

Research by the University of Kent into the effects of brain stimulation on athletes’ performance has demonstrated that it is an effective way to improve endurance.

The findings are expected to advance our understanding of the brain’s role in endurance exercise, how it can alter the physical limits of performance in healthy people and add further evidence to the debate on the use of legal methods to enhance performance in competition.

The research, which was conducted by Dr Lex Mauger and colleagues at Kent’s School of Sport and Exercise Sciences (SSES), set out to investigate how endurance limits are a matter for the mind as well as the body.

Dr Mauger discovered that stimulating the brain by passing a mild electrical current (transcranial direct current stimulation or tDCS) over the scalp to stimulate it increased the activity of the area associated with muscle contraction. This decreased perception of effort and increased the length of time participants could exercise.

The team explained this is because the exercise felt less effortful following stimulation. tDCS has been used to enhance endurance performance but how it achieved this was previously unknown and this study has helped identify the mechanisms.

“Bilateral extracephalic transcranial direct current stimulation improves endurance performance in healthy individuals” was published in the journal Brain Stimulation.

Women can process oxygen more quickly than men when they start to exercise, according to a new study from the University of Waterloo.

Quick oxygen uptake places less strain on the body’s cells and is an important measure of aerobic fitness.

The findings are contrary to the popular assumption that men’s bodies are more naturally athletic.

The study found that women’s muscles extract oxygen from the blood faster, which, scientifically speaking, indicates a superior aerobic system. By processing oxygen faster, women are less likely to accumulate molecules linked with muscle fatigue, effort perception and poor athletic performance.

They don’t know why women have faster oxygen uptake (yet), but this could change the way we approach assessment and athletic training down the road.

The study was published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism.

(Women naturally more fit than men first appeared on QVRP.net)

Endurance training can actually be helpful in dealing with muscle inflammation, according to a new paper co-written by faculty at Binghamton University, State University of New York, and Karolinska Institutet and Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm, Sweden, and published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Muscle inflammation, or myositis, can be caused by infection, injury and chronic disease. However, specific forms of myositis like dermatomyositis and polymyositis occur when the body’s immune system turns against its own muscles, damaging the muscle tissue in the process.

While there are plenty of prescribed medications to cope with muscular diseases, the medication utilized only does half the job.

The drugs are targeting one immune cell or a group of immune cells, but there are no new drugs that target muscles that are dying. Exercise can take care of the immune cells that are killing the muscles, and repair the cell death of the muscle.”

The study found that endurance exercise altered microRNAs that target and downregulate immune processes, as well as decreasing different microRNAs that target and upregulate mitochondrial content at the protein level. That is, exercise creates microRNA that decreases the number of immune cells that attack the muscle and heals the muscle by increasing aerobic metabolism through mitochondrial biogenesis.

The reason why exercise wasn’t considered before is that if people have muscles that are already inflamed or weak, they believed exercise would make the muscles worse. However, what is surprising is the question of why exercise is so effective. It’s because exercise takes care of the immune cells that are damaging the muscle while simultaneously targeting specific parts of dead or affected muscles.

While there are no drugs today that target all the issues of muscle inflammation, the researchers believe a combination of medication and endurance-based exercise can help patients live a happier and healthier life.

(Endurance training helpful in recovery from muscle inflammation first appeared on QVRP.net)