OCT 27, 2023
Minute 1: How changing temps can help runners
In college, we had friends who insisted that sneaking into the faculty sauna was more than just a hangover remedy – it was actually a lazy way to work out. We didn’t buy it back then, so naturally we were skeptical when we read this new headline: “Hot tub offers similar benefits to running, say researchers.” We generally trust the story’s publisher, Canadian Running, so we dove in anyway. One study showed that after a 30-minute soak, blood flow to the legs more than tripled, while heart rates increased by an average of 41 BPM. Hot tubs also helped reduce blood pressure and cortisol. Researchers stated that hot tubbing can make an excellent addition to exercise, but you shouldn’t view it as a total replacement. In a (shocking) confirmation that Sully and Jimbo may have been onto something back in college, it seems that infrared saunas can offer benefits for runners too: “How Runners Can Unlock Better Performance with an Infrared Sauna.” Studies found that regular use of an infrared sauna increased lung capacity by 10% and time to exhaustion during exercise by up to 30%. How about the other side of the coin? For that, check out: “The Benefits of Ice Baths For Runners: Cold Water Therapy Is Real.” Ice baths stimulate the nervous system, boost metabolism, and could aid in recovery. To make ice baths work with your athletic performance, not against it, the key is timing, says Dr. Michael Masi: “Cold Plunge Before or After Workout: Active Recovery Myths Debunked.” Cold plunges will reduce inflammation, which can reduce pain and soreness after a workout. However, inflammation is part of our body’s natural recovery process, so you’ll want to leave a few hours between your workouts and plunges to ensure your body has time to get the ball rolling with muscular repair.
Minute 2: These diet tips can help you build muscle
Trying to build muscle without protein is like building a house without lumber. Runners need to be on the lookout for signs of protein deficiency, according to this list of: “11 Ways Your Body Is Telling You That You Aren’t Eating Enough Protein.” The first thing noted in the article is that typically, protein deficiency isn’t about a lack of intake, but rather, a lack of absorption. That could be caused by low levels of protein-digesting enzymes or stomach acid, but it could also be due to a failure to stagger protein intake throughout the day. Whatever the cause, you should be on the lookout for signs like slow wound healing, muscle loss, and brittle nails/skin, just to name a few. If you’re struggling to build muscle and are looking for a dietary solution other than more protein, creatine supplements could be the answer. In Minute 1 of this issue, we looked at the efficacy of creatine for endurance athletes, and the findings were promising. If you want to get the most out of your creatine, you should consider cycling your intake: “Do You Need To Cycle Creatine? A Complete Guide.” Athletes have found success by splitting their creatine use into 3 phases: Loading, maintenance, and rest. During the loading phase, some experts suggest 25 grams of creatine per day for about a week. Then reduce your intake to 5 grams a day for about 5 weeks of maintenance. Finally, take about 3 weeks off to reset your system and allow for optimal creatine absorption.
Minute 3: Should male and female runners train differently?
If men are from Mars and women are from Venus, that may explain differences in relationship dynamics, but what about racing and training success? If you look at world records in running events, particularly in shorter distances, you’ll see a pronounced gap between the all-time best men and women. However, looking at larger sample sizes and longer distances, the supposed advantages of male runners diminish. Details are in this piece from MarathonHandbook: “Are Men Faster Than Women – And Why?” Generally speaking, male runners have some biological advantages that will work in their favor. Things like higher levels of testosterone, larger cardiovascular systems, and increased concentration of hemoglobin in the blood. On an individual level, there are a lot more factors at play, which is why tons of women beat male runners in head-to-head competition. In fact, female runners have nearly closed the gap in ultramarathon distances, which has some researchers asking “Will women outperform men in ultra-endurance events?” Female runners appear to have a greater number of Type 1 (slow-twitch) muscle fibers than males, they generally run at a more consistent pace, and they’re slightly better at burning fat as an energy source. Do all these physiological differences mean men and women should train differently? Not really, according to “Gender Differences in Training.” In the short term, and especially for beginners, men and women seem to build muscle at about the same rate. Over time, women may reach a point of flattening returns faster than men, requiring them to slow their rate of progression sooner. Other than that, ideal training volume and intensity have far more to do with your individual strengths and weaknesses than your biological sex.
Minute 4: Shoe Review: Shoe Review: Craft Pure Trail ($170)
Two weeks ago, shoe reviewer Brian Metzler wrote a provocative piece for us entitled: “Can carbon-plated racing shoes cause injuries if you wear them too much in training?” Many of you wrote to tell us that you agreed with Brian’s conclusion: Sadly, yes, they can. As with any transition in your training, it is best to tackle change gradually. This week Brian addresses another important question: Does this new breed of supershoes offer the same benefits on trails as they do on paved roads? The answer is “yes,” but not in the way you may expect. If that all sounds a little confusing, fear not, as Brian helps to clear things up with his review of the new Craft Pure Trail. This versatile shoe makes excellent use of next generation foam and embedded plates in a way the early supershoes for the trail did not. A few highlights of his review of the Craft Pure Trail are below, but for his full take, check it out on our website.
We all know the benefits of road racing shoes with carbon-fiber plates embedded inside squishy foam midsoles. The plates act as levers that promote forward momentum while optimizing energy return. Those plates can also smooth out the ride in the preferred forward path of a runner’s stride, but they can also destabilize a runner’s gait by executing any lateral movement.
But what about trail running shoes with carbon fiber plates? Do those shoes offer the same performance benefits on the trails? Well, sometimes, but not in the precise way their road running counterparts do because running on uneven terrain doesn’t produce a smooth, consistent gait. In the past two years, several carbon-plated shoes aimed at off-road running have debuted with great fanfare only to be exposed for being too wobbly on technical trails. In my experience, the plates offer protection rather than a springy sensation that improves speed or efficiency.
Although Craft has put out several max-cushioned carbon-plated trail running shoes in recent years that have been great for running gravel roads and smooth dirt paths, those models haven’t been ideal for running semi-technical and rugged mountain trails.
Craft’s new Pure Trail, however, hits differently. It’s softly cushioned, stable, energetic and versatile. It has a bendable rock plate in the forefoot that is not designed to increase forward propulsion; it’s mostly there to enhance protection without inhibiting the shoe’s flexibility. Ultimately it does seem to contribute to the lively ride, if only because it doesn’t overly dictate how a runner’s feet move through the stride cycle while on uneven trail terrain. But this shoe is more about its cushy midsole foam, wide, stable geometry and do-everything versatility.
Why It’s Great: It’s great because it’s stable, durable and reliable for smooth trails, rocky trails, loose gravel and wet surfaces. The wide shape of the outsole/midsole chassis helps create a feeling of inherent stability while still offering the soft, easy-flexing flow of the neutral. I have enjoyed it on trails that alternate between a wide variety of surfaces – rock, dirt, roots, grass, gravel, etc. – because it offers plenty of comfort, flexibility, durability, cushiness and traction. I found it similar to the Brooks Cascadia 17 and the Salomon Thundercross shoes, only lighter and more agile.
For Brian’s full analysis of the new Craft Pure Trail, check it out here.
Minute 5: Quick Intervals
If you’ve looked around outside and noticed there are a lot fewer children out walking, playing, or biking, you’re not crazy. Screens and apps aren’t entirely to blame, though, as explained in: “The Decline of Walking and Bicycling.” In 1969, 48% of children walked or biked to school, but that number dropped to just 13% over the next 40 years. Distances to school, increases in traffic, and other factors play a large role in keeping kids inside houses and cars. If you’d like to reverse that trend, consider the simple advice in this new story: “Why Neighborhood Walks Are Better (and Easier) With Kids.”
While we’re on the topic of dangerous roads, we should mention the “10 Best Running Safety Tips From a NYC Run Coach.” There are a lot of apps, devices, and strategies that can protect you from the inevitable risk of running in a city or other busy area.
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, squats are an effective way to develop strength and mobility. They can be quite humbling as well, because they’ll reveal the weak points in your lower body real fast. If you’re looking for a way to strengthen your squat, improve your form, and even work a few extra muscles, try the resistance band move mentioned in: “I used to struggle to squat with correct form: here's how adding a resistance band changed everything.”
Our fast friend and running music DJ, Rebecca Trachsel, is back this week with a new featured song recommendation and custom playlist for those running NYC next weekend. Today's song is “Dramamine” by Middle Kids. You can find it on Spotify here and Apple Music here. Middle Kids is a Sydney-based, alt-rock band led by Hannah Joy who also happens to be married to bassist Tim Fitz. I discovered them back in 2021 upon the release of their second album, “Today We're the Greatest." I was running ultras at the time and found myself listening to both their second and their first albums on repeat regularly. “Dramamine” was co-written by Joy and Fitz and is off their soon-to-be-released third album “Faith Crisis Pt. 1” set to launch early next year. It's a happy, hazy, upbeat gem that inevitably lifts my mood every time I put it on. Which in turn tends to get me excited to lace up and run. So, yeah, for obvious reasons, this one is typically a daily pick. I also created a NYC Marathon playlist for those who need some last minute motivation, some distraction or (more than likely) both in the week before the race. Best of luck to all of those running! #turnitup
Minute 6: Daily Inspiration
Most dedicated runners have no shortage of endurance. If you love running, you’re going to log plenty of miles, and that leads to healthy stamina development. What a lot of us are lacking, especially as we age, is explosiveness. Who better to correct that weakness than @exsplosive_athlete on Instagram? The page is full of drills that can put some spring in your step, like the one we’re bringing to you today. It makes use of lateral box jumps, single jumps, and high knee drives to sharpen up those fast-twitch fibers. Building speed and explosiveness complete a virtuous circle with your endurance training – the faster you can run, the easier it is to log more miles at higher speeds. Consider the moves below if you want to build speed and mechanical efficiency. Click here to watch.