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Breathing techniques to improve your running

AUG 4, 2023

Minute 1: Can endurance athletes benefit from creatine supplements?

Health supplements exist in a DMZ of regulation. We covered that idea in Minute 2 of this issue which attempts to sift through the bogus supplements and find the stuff that really works. One rule of thumb some dieticians have suggested is that in general, simpler ingredient lists are better. That way, you can look up the specific efficacy of each ingredient. You just might find one with real proven benefits, like creatine. Many athletes look at this substance warily, since it was lumped into a cocktail of performance-enhancing products back in the McGuire/Sosa/Bonds home run era of 20 years ago. But according to USADA: “[C]reatine is not prohibited. Although creatine can have a small effect on performance, the effects are not guaranteed and the specific training program remains most influential.” And while it is most often associated with athletes trying to build muscle bulk, here are “The Pros and Cons of Creatine Monohydrate for Endurance Athletes.” In the track & field community, creatine is most often used by sprinters, since it can improve explosiveness and power by facilitating ATP production. That’s your main energy source for rapid muscle contraction. However, endurance athletes may benefit as well, since it can increase your capacity for intense exercise on your harder workout days. Not only that, but some research indicates it accelerates recovery time. There are some potential downsides to consider as well, like weight gain due to increased water retention, so check out the article above for full details. While we’re on the topic of muscle growth and recovery, we should mention this new piece: “Best Foods for Runners: These 9 Foods Will Fuel Your Training.” One thing is certain; you won’t have muscle recovery without a source of protein in your diet, which is why fish, greek yogurt, and beans should be in a runner’s recovery playbook.

Minute 2: Breathe better when you run

Some coaches say that running is all about rhythm – the cadence of your steps, the beating of your heart and the rate of respiration. The way you breathe can have a big impact on performance, for better or worse, and although it may seem simple, we were intrigued by this new story: “How To Breathe While Running: Techniques for Improved Performance.” Finding the right rhythm for your breath isn’t always easy, and some runners like to use the 2:2 technique to lock in. That’s when you inhale every 2 steps, and exhale every 2 steps. Studies have found that syncing your breath and steps improves control, leading to lower perceived exertion and better running economy. You may have to fine tune your own ratio of steps to breaths, though, and for more on finding a cycle that works for you, check out: “Breathing Mantras To Help Your Running Flow.” By repeating a mantra as you run like “Now I breathe in, now breathe out” (a 4:3 rhythm) and syncing your steps with each syllable, you can more easily lock in the right tempo. Not to mention, mantras can be a useful way to practice mindfulness while running, as you can see in: “Mindful Running: The Ultimate Guide to Meditative Running.” This practice engages your senses, helps you stay in the present, and delivers a lot of the same benefits as a typical meditation session would, all while improving your fitness level.

Minute 3: Don’t let rain ruin your run

You found a gap in your hectic daily schedule, you slipped into your running clothes and laced up your shoes. Then you step outside and look skyward to find dark clouds and freshening breezes. At that moment, you’ve got a choice: delay your efforts for another day, or forge ahead like Des Linden in the 2018 Boston Marathon. (Video highlights of her historic win in historically bad weather are here.) We think that ideally, you should know how to adapt to any situation, and who better to teach us how to deal with a rainy run than the folks at Runner’s World UK: “8 tips for running in the rain.” A big part of running well in the rain is your attitude. You’ve got to accept that things aren’t going to be as comfortable as they normally are, and that’s okay. Running doesn’t always feel great, after all, and wet shoes or cold temps are just one more aspect you can embrace for success in the long term. It can help to adjust your route as well, avoiding muddy areas or puddle-forming zones. You may also want to throw on a few extra layers of clothes, but don’t go too heavy, or else you might increase your odds of chafing. For more on that, take a look at “Chafing and Running: How to Prevent it and Deal with it.” Humid weather and loose fitting clothes can both contribute to chafing, but by wearing a skin-tight layer of spandex or anti-chafing thigh bands, you can mitigate your risk.

Minute 4: Shoe Review: Merrell MTL Skyfire 2 ($200)

We can’t wait to try out the latest recommendation from our shoe reviewer Brian Metzler. We are huge fans of trail running, but dislike the fact that trail running is often equated with ultras. There’s no shame and lots of fun involved with a simple 4 or 5 mile run through the woods. Merrell has created a shoe that is perfect for these shorter outings, the new MTL Skyfire 2. Brian hits the highlights below and you can read his full review of the Merrell MTL Skyfire 2 on our website.

Following Hoka’s lead, there’s been a huge influx in maximally-cushioned trail running shoes in recent years. Those shoes are cushy and stable, capable of providing long-haul comfort for your feet and legs for very long runs. But as short-and-fast trail racing begins to rise, there are also a lot of sleeker, faster and more agile shoes coming out. One of the best new ones is the Merrell MTL Skyfire 2, which blends a modestly thick layer of responsive midsole foam with a low-to-the-ground geometry that provides exceptional feel for the trail. It’s not only a good example of a shoe that offers the best of both worlds – light and nimble, but cushy and comfortable – but it’s exactly the tool needed for running fast over short to moderate trail races, routes and ridgelines.

What’s New: Although there was an original MTL Skyfire model that debuted in 2020, the new version is much more than an updated model. The MTL Skyfire 2 is a top-of-the-line lightweight race car for the trails. Key components include a two-part, dual-density FloatPro Foam midsole sandwiched around a flexible plastic protection and stability plate, a thin web-like Vibram MegaGrip rubber outsole and a durable, rip-stop engineered mesh upper with subtle TPU reinforcements.

Why It’s Great: Some minimalist trail shoes that are light or low to the ground tend to lack structure and wash out on angled terrain or sharp turns, and that often results in a sloppy sensation where your feet slosh around inside the shoes. Not with the Skyfire 2, which has a dialed-in fit and just enough structural support in its upper and lacing system to provide a precise and secure feeling even on off-camber terrain. Although the shoe is stiffened by the rock plate that’s embedded in the midsole, the shoe is still moderately flexible so it offers a good balance of propulsive snap, protection and lateral mobility.

For Brian’s full review of the new Merrell MTL Skyfire 2, check it out here.

Minute 5: Quick Intervals

  • Given how large Peloton screens are, and how much people enjoy watching movies during easy cardio, you’d think it would be a no-brainer to develop an app to watch Netflix on your bike. Believe it or not, that’s never been an option, until now. It appears that Peloton has quietly introduced an app for Netflix, and at the moment, it’s a little tricky to locate. Luckily, we found a guide that shows you the way: “Your Peloton Might Have a Secret Netflix App.”

  • Long runs form the bedrock of training for an endurance athlete. That’s because they improve your body’s ability to burn energy efficiently, develop your capillaries and mitochondria, and increase your VO2 max all at once. As good as they are, there’s a lot that can go wrong on a long run, from underfueling to overuse injury, and if you want tips on how to do it right, you should read this new story from iRunFar: “No Shortcuts: The Importance of the Long Run.”

  • Some runners will go through several pairs of sneakers, never finding quite the right fit that alleviates their aches and injuries. If that’s something you’ve encountered, you may consider customizing your fit with insoles. Insoles can absorb shock and provide additional support to your arches, breathing new life into a pair of shoes you thought would never work for you. To see some of the best options out there, take a look at: “The 7 Best Insoles for Running, After Almost 500 Hours of Testing.”

Minute 6: Daily Inspiration

For a lot of runners, fitness trackers help to unlock your full potential in training. All that data can give you insights into what works, and what doesn’t, and watching your metrics improve can be a powerful motivator. That being said, we should acknowledge that it can be all too easy to get caught up in the numbers, and as a result, disconnected from your actual experience of running. @averagedomslim knows this all too well, as he points out in a hilarious spoof on GPS-addicted runners below.


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