Thursday, July 29, 2010

Why Haven't Compression Socks Caught On?

Last July I posted this study about compression socks that found an improvement in running performance Therefore, stockings with constant compression in the area of the calf muscle significantly improved running performance at different metabolic thresholds. However, the underlying mechanism was only partially explained by a slightly higher aerobic capacity. -Effect of Compression Stockings on Running Performance in Men Runners

MY COMMENT: 36.44 min vs 35.03 min on a treadmill test is a significant difference. As far as I know, Chris Solinsky is the only world class runner wearing compression socks. Watch the finish as Solinsky shocks American distance running with a sub 27 min in his first 10,000 meter race while wearing compression socks (why hasn't this caught on?) has a list of some additional studies that found reduced soreness with compression socks.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Train Low Race High For A Better Marathon Performance

Speaking of Greg McMillan (see previous post), he was one of the first to speculate that long training runs without taking in calories may enhance fat burning and race performance.

..a great way to ensure that you will deplete your carbohydrate stores on these long, steady runs is to not eat any carbohydrates immediately before or during the run. Any carbohydrates ingested will be used by the body for fuel, and we don't want this. We want to deny the body carbohydrates in these runs so that the muscles will become better at sparing the carbohydrate stores, more efficient at burning fat and used to running with lowered blood glucose levels -The Marathon Long Run

Now there evidence to support Gregs advice- the Train Low, Race High theory.

"Training with lower levels of glycogen in the muscles appears to elicit greater endurance adaptations in muscles, such as improved aerobic efficiency and increased capacity to burn fat compared to training with high levels of muscle glycogen" -Peak Performance Online

(McMillan recommends working up to 2.5 to 3.5 hour long training runs with little or no carbohydrate intake)

McMillan Running DVDs and More

Confused about core work, flexibility, and other running drills? Check out DVD store

Greg McMillan is fast gaining a reputation as one of our most knowlegable distance running and marathon coaches.

Check out the following:

Greg McMillan Running Times articles

Greg McMillan podcasts

More Greg McMillan articles and his running calculator

Dig through and you are bound to find plenty of useful tips and information for improving your running.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Does Too Much Caffeine Put Marathoners at Risk?

More and more of these runners have clean arteries and report having consumed more than the 200mg recommended limit of caffeine. (That is the amount in about two cups of diner coffee.) -Dr. Lewis Maharam, MD, FACSM, speaking about runners who required resuscitation and are known to have consumed excessive amounts of caffeine prior to and during marathons

MY COMMENT: I'll admit this is the first time that I've heard caffeine being linked to cardiac arrest in marathons. I do limit coffee the morning of a race, primarily because of a potential diuretic effect, however before training runs when I don't mind stopping? I probably am usually close to or over the 200 mg limit.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Zach Gingerich Wins Badwater-Who?

As prolific and speedy an ultra runner as Gingerich is, he probably couldn’t have chosen a tougher path to fame. And by all accounts, that’s not what he’s after. Since Gingerich didn’t have a listed phone number or e-mail address, Paske had to write a letter in care of his employer, Office Max in Naperville, Ill.

He responded with a short e-mail saying, “I'm probably not all that interesting,” but then agreed to an interview.

In the resulting profile, Gingerich said, “I’m not really structured when it comes to my training.” Though he runs 130 to 200 miles a week on flat terrain, he also drinks two liters of Diet Coke daily, never water.
-Zach Gingerich - just a guy from Naperville - wins the 2010 Badwater Ultramarathon

Not familiar with Badwater? Recognized globally as "the world's toughest foot race," this legendary event pits up to 90 of the world's toughest athletes—runners, triathletes, adventure racers, and mountaineers—against one another and the elements. Covering 135 miles (217km) non-stop from Death Valley to Mt. Whitney, CA in temperatures up to 130F (55c)

Monday, July 12, 2010

How Many Calories do Tour de France Riders Need?

Guys like Lance Armstrong actually eat about six times during a race day. They eat breakfast, a pre-race meal, during the race, a post-race meal, dinner and a bedtime snack. Add it all up, and it's about 9,000 calories, washed down with at least a gallon of water and more than a gallon of energy drink.

Breakfast: includes a banana, a third of a pound of pasta (weight is uncooked), a third of a pound of muesli (a carbohydrate-rich cereal), a croissant, a half-pound of mixed fruit, 10 ounces of orange juice, eight ounces of coffee, and eight ounces of water.

etc, etc, etc. Facinating article by Dan Peterson of!

Carbohydrates During Long Runs- Gels, Bars, or Sports Drink?

If you’re exercising for an hour or less, “the amount of carbohydrates you need are minimal,” he says. If, on the other hand, you’ll be working out for more than two hours, “you may want to increase your carbohydrates to about 60 grams per hour,” the equivalent of about one bar and a gel; or two and a half gels; or a half liter of a sports drink plus a gel packet or some other combination thereof. -Asker Jeukendrup (source:

The article (Do Sport Bars and Gels Provide the Energy of Sports Drinks?) provides a summary of some recent research comparing carbohydrate utilization from sports drinks to bars and gels. What the researchers found was that the carbohydrates from the gels and the sports bars were being metabolized as quickly and as efficiently as those from the sports drink.

Asker Jeukendrup's blog is worth checking out. Besides sports nutrition research, Asker is an accomplished triathlete. He is director of the Human Performance Lab at the University of Birmingham in England.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Do You Run Better in the Evening?

This study (Diurnal Variation of Hamstring and Lumbar Flexibility) published in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, found that hamstring and low back flexibility increased throughout the day in men and women who were tested every 2 hours for 12 hours.

MY COMMENT: I think they should have tested only once per day at the different times. If you test every 2 hours on one day, how can you be sure that previous testing sessions didn't influence the outcome of subsequent tests?

I don't know that improved static hamstring flexibility has ever been shown conclusively to improve run performance, but it makes sense that a few degrees of added range of motion (active flexibility) would help.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Rest is Overrated?

Dallas marathoner Angela Tortorice accomplished another feat this month. She completed her 54th marathon or ultra event in 365 days.

By doing so, Tortorice earned Titanium status in the Marathon Maniacs club, the highest honor awarded by the national group that recognizes those who take the sport to an extreme. She is the 51st person to achieve the rank.

"Rest was overrated," said Tortorice, 42, who cycled, swam, ran or weight trained about four times a week in addition to the weekend runs.

MY COMMENT: Read on.."The 54 marathons included 10 back-to-back Saturday-Sunday events, one triple – three marathons in four days – 12 ultras and one 50-miler. She also did a few Ironman distance races but didn't count those marathons in her total."

I have no idea how these Marathon Manics do it. I guess if you can stay healthy and get into a groove, the body's ability to recover reaches a remarkable level far beyond that achieved by normal runners. It appears that Angela fills her week with cross training, allowing her legs to recover while maintaining a steady level of cardiovascular fitness. The ultimate hard, easy program, but not so easy if she bikes and swims enough to complete ironman distances.

Compression Socks Update

•Higher VO2 levels!

•Faster Muscle Recovery!

•Less Muscle Fatigue!

•Reduced Muscle Swelling!

•Protection against cramps, strains, or sprains in the lower leg!


Too good to be true? Maybe not. Running performance at the anaerobic (minimum lactate + 1.5 mmolxL) threshold (14.11 vs. 13.90 kmxh, ES: 0.22) and aerobic (minimum lactate + 0.5 mmolxL) thresholds (13.02 vs. 12.74 kmxh, ES: 0.28) was significantly higher using compression stockings. Therefore, stockings with constant compression in the area of the calf muscle significantly improved running performance at different metabolic thresholds. -Effect of compression stockings on running performance in men runners, J Strength, Cond Res, 2009, Jan; 23(1): 101-105

Not everybody agrees. Confirming research on compression socks from 2007, a study done at the University of Indiana found no change in performance, however they did not look at recovery following hard, long exercise ( IU studies raise questions about compression garment hype).

Granted, there appears to be some differences in technology among the different brands, and there may be something to enhanced recovery, but more studies are needed to clarify the benefits of wearing compression socks.

Ice Slushie Better than Cold Water When Running Gets Hot

Running time was longer after ice slurry (50.2 ± 8.5 min) versus cold water (40.7 ± 7.2 min) ingestion. Before running, rectal temperature dropped 0.66°C ± 0.14°C after ice slurry ingestion compared with 0.25°C ± 0.09°C (P = 0.001) with cold water and remained lower for the first 30 min of exercise. -Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise

MY COMMENT: This is a significant difference in a run trial under an hour, and as senior investigator Paul Laursen mentions in this New York Times article, the effects won't last long enough to benefit you in a marathon.

Without some research, I am not so sure. Aren't you better off, if after an hour of running, you are a mile further down the road? And what happens if you take some Slushie not just before the run but during the run? I can see Nike Slushie machines on marathon courses.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Elliptical Trainers Are a Good Alternative to Running

When subjects exercise at the same RPE (perceived effort) on TM (treadmill) or EL elliptical), oxygen consumption and energy expenditure are similar in spite of a higher heart rate on the EL. These data indicate that during cross training or noncompetition-specific exercise, an elliptical device is an acceptable alternative to a treadmill. Comparison of Energy Expenditure on a Treadmill vs. an Elliptical Device at a Self-Selected Exercise Intensity

Check out this testimonial on elliptical training by Marc Davis, a former elite runner and now a coach.

MY COMMENT: I'll be honest- I don't like the feel of training on an elliptical, and I've seen people who can't run a mile nonstop go for an hour on one. If given a choice, I'll use a bike.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Improve Hip Range of Motion in 30 Seconds!

A main effect for conditions was found with the 30-second massage providing a 7.2% increase in hip flexion ROM that was significantly greater than the control condition (p < 0.05) -Short-Duration Massage at the Hamstrings Musculotendinous Junction Induces Greater Range of Motion

MY COMMENT: My guess is that massage of the hamstring insertion increases blood flow and temperature in that area. Not a bad idea as part of a metabolic warm-up. What have you got to lose?

Monday, July 5, 2010

World's Toughest Mountain Race?

Looking for an adventure this October? How about this one in Malaysia? The Mt. Kinabalu International Climbathon, is a race to the summit (13,435 feet) and back down.

What I find interesting is they give a decent amount of prize money for a mountain race- $4,500 for first place down to $300 for 10th, then $100 each for the next 5. The winner also receives a 25 Carot Gold Pendant (prize money)

The race distance is a half marathon, and in 2009 the winning time was 2:40:41 for men and 3:20:15 for women. 15th place for women ($100) was 5:04:15, so ladies if you want to win some prize money, this is the race.

Several years ago I did the Mt Fuji Climbing Race, a grueling half marathon coming up in just a few weeks. Mt. Fuji is listed at 3,776 meters (12,388 feet). The Fuji Race ascends a total of 3000 meters (9,842 feet).

Which race would be more difficult? I'm not sure what elevation the Kinablu race starts, but the ascent portion is only a little over 6 miles. The summit, however, is more than 1,000 feet higher than Fuji. The year I ran Mt. Fuji, I believe the winning time was 2:38.

Fish Oil May Improve Lung Function

A few weeks ago I posted Fish Oil Reduces Heart Rate and Oxygen Consumption During Exercise, which discovered that fish oil somehow reduced oxygen demand during exercise.

Now I found another study that concluded marine-based omega-3 supplementation improved lung function ( Results indicated that consuming omega-3 during 12 weeks training had a significantly positive effect on pulmonary variables such as FEV1, FVC, VC, MVV, FEF25–75, FIV1 (p = 0.001), -The effects of omega-3 supplementation on pulmonary function of young wrestlers during intensive training

= Force Expiratory Volume in 1 second
FVC= Forced Vital Capacity, or the total amount of air you can forcefully exhale

Finally, there is this study out of the U. of Indiana (Fish Oil Supplementation Reduces Severity of Exercise-induced Bronchoconstriction in Elite Athletes) that found potential benefit for athletes with exercise induced bronchospasm.

As with anything else, more is not necessarily better. (Keep Your Fish Oil Intake Under 3 Grams / Day!

To date fish oil has not been found to improve endurance, however I suspect it may help athletes that report difficulty breathing during exercise.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Improve Your Endurance with Supplements

If you have to money to buy Newton Shoes, then you need to also consider a couple of supplement products I've stumbled across that may boost your running performance even more.

The first one is Multi-V by First Endurance. According to the company website, independent research on a compound called CARBOGEN, time elite cyclists were able to maintain 100% MAX workload increased to 6.3 min(+3.4) compared to 4.4 min (+2.9 min)using a placebo. Blood lactate levels were also lower following 30 minutes of exercise.

The other product from First Endurance is Optygen HP: New and Improved for 2010. Optygen contains 2 key endurance enhancing compounds, Rhodiola, and Cordyceps.

You may recall in 1993 when out of nowhere distance events were dominated by Chinese women.

The entire Chinese Olympic team has been rumored to use cordyceps (and probably a variety of other Chinese tonic herbs!) to increase their edge. In the spring of 1993 eight Chinese female runners broke the 2:27 hour mark in the Tianjin marathon. This was an incredible achievement from just one nation. The following August it was Chinese women that won every single track distance event at the Stuttgart World Championships. A month later, again Chinese women dominated at the National Games in Beijing, breaking the records for the 1,500, 3,000 and 10,000 meter races. -(ok- they HAD to be taking something else, but what- turtle blood and caterpillar fungus?)

Six of his runners (fondly known as Ma's Army), including Dong Yanmei, the former 5,000 metres world record-holder, were dropped by China’s Olympic squad before the Games in Sydney because of doping concerns. More have since tested positive for banned substances -China left running on empty in wake of Ma's Army

For an interesting, unbiased review of Rhodiola, check out A review on Cordyceps can be found here.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Newton Running Shoes

These shoes are very tempting, despite the price tag ($155 for racing). Check out a review of a study (and much more!) from highlights of the recent American College of Sports Medicine annual conference. I wonder about durability.

Running shoes with special "actuator lugs" (Google it) improved running economy by 1.0% in 12 elite distance runners, with a P value that represents 99% confidence limits of ±0.9% [2624]. The authors confused error of measurement with smallest effects and uncertainty in the outcome, so were not as optimistic as they should have been. The effect should translate into an improvement in running speed of 1%, which for a top runner represents a small-moderate benefit (a couple of extra medals every 10 races).