Minute 1: How a cup of coffee can boost your running performance
For many of us, passion for morning coffee is deep-rooted and a little irrational. The fixation is hard to shake, like love for local sports teams or teenaged crushes on your best friend’s older sister/brother. If you’re an endurance athlete, caffeine can be a pre-workout ritual as important as stretching and launching your GPS tracker. Unlike your interest in the older sibling next door, however, a new story explains how caffeine can improve your happiness and performance: “How Coffee Will Help You Run Faster.” According to studies cited in the article, 2/3 of Olympic athletes use caffeine to improve their running performance. Women’s Running recently trumpeted the use of caffeine in “Should You Drink Coffee Before or After Your Run?” WR points to additional sports nutrition studies on caffeine and concludes that a cup of coffee can not only motivate you to run, but boost your running performance. “Having a small amount of caffeine 30 to 60 minutes before you run can give you the little boost you need to help you get out the door,” running coach Hillary Kigar says. While there’s limited research on the effects of caffeine after a run, WR says it can help recovery by replenishing glycogen. It recommends a cup of java after training, especially after a long winter run, as long as it doesn’t interfere with sleep. For more on the science of caffeine as a performance enhancer, check out Active.com’s “The Caffeinated Runner.” We find that sometimes coffee doesn’t mesh well with an empty stomach right before a workout. Instead, we are partial to GU packets with a little added caffeine. Or check out Runner Click’s “10 Best Caffeine Pills, Capsules and Tablets.” #JustBrewIt
Minute 2: What our readers think about a return to racing
About six months ago we asked how comfortable you would feel running in a large, in-person race. The results were split pretty evenly amongst the four options. One in five were ready to head to the starting line, the majority were looking for at least protocols or a vaccine. Our latest answers were a bit more polarizing. Here are the full results:
We saw a significant decrease in runners who would participate "if strict distancing and mask protocols were in place,” and an increase for both those who needed to be vaccinated and those who would race today. It could be good news for both parties on the horizon with vaccination rates up and registrations open. Though hopeful, many of us are still wondering, Will Major Marathons Actually Come Back This Fall? We sure hope so. If you’re looking for a positive sign, the Vitality Westminster Mile is still aiming for a May 30th race. If that goes off without a hitch, it could pave the way for successful summer and fall race seasons.
Minute 3: Do tights improve performance?
Our gym in Boston is only steps from the most popular running route in the city -- the Charles River Esplanade. We have often wondered why people choose to run on a treadmill in the sweaty gym on a beautiful spring day instead of heading outside to one of the prettiest city parks in America. Our judgmental instincts are triggered even further when we see those treadmill folks running indoors while wearing long tights. We asked Mrs. SMM about this recently, and her explanation was that many women believe black running tights to be slimming and fashionable. Fair enough. We were surprised to read this week that even in summer, tights can actually improve performance, further proving that the judgy/preachy thing is never in style. A good place to start on this topic is: “What is the difference between running tights and compression tights?” from 220Triathlon or this post from LIVESTRONG: “The Advantages of Running in Tights.” 2XU, one of the pioneers of the compression apparel movement, explains on their website that benefits include an 18% blood flow increase to your quads and “gains of up to 10.6 seconds” for a 10K. They cite some pretty credible studies to back up these claims. Fleet Feet offers a good selection of the well-regarded compression tights here. #LeggingItOut
Minute 4: Running by the numbers; stats you need to know
Runners love numbers. We use fitness apps to track nearly everything, from our pace, distance and speed to our heart rate and VO2 Max. LIVESTRONG loves numbers, too, and recently published a ton of them in “126 Running Statistics You Need to Know.” The post provides a good look at the sport in the U.S. and around the world. Here are highlights of the most intriguing running statistics:
Switzerland has the fastest marathon runners, with an average finish time of 3:50.The Philippines has the slowest at 5:25.
The fastest ultra marathoners hail from South Africa, averaging 10:36 per mile.
Runners in Massachusetts had the fastest average marathon time in 2020 at 4:04, Washington state was second (4:18:09), and Indiana was third (4:18:57).
The 5K is the most popular road race in the U.S., with more than 8.9 million participants in 2019.
Ultramarathon running has increased in popularity by about 345% over the last 10 years.
Only about 23% of ultra runners are women, but women are 0.6% faster than men in races longer than 195 miles.
The average age of runners continues to climb, reaching age 39 in 2018.
Minute 5: Quick Intervals
In the season of heavy down comforters and electric blankets, it is sometimes difficult to regulate body temperature at night. This is particularly true for dedicated endurance athletes. In fact, night sweats are the #1 item on Active.com’s list of “7 Weird Things That Happen When You Run a Lot” and the #2 item on MapMyRun’s list of “7 Strange Side-Effects of Running A Lot.” Earlier this month, Canadian Running answered the question: “Why do runners get night sweats?” They explain that a sharp increase in training can ramp up your metabolism, raising your body temperature. Some experts believe that a magnesium supplement can help alleviate the problem. For more information, The Sleep Foundation offers this: “Common Causes of Night Sweats and How to Fix Them.”
The postponed Tokyo Olympics are scheduled to take place this summer from July 23 - August 8. Organizers are still up in the air about allowing spectators, but they plan to house competitors in a traditional athlete village, at least while their events are taking place. The Washington Post just published this guide: “Everything you need to know about the Tokyo Olympics.” Meanwhile, neighboring China is teed up to host the Winter Olympics less than a year later in Beijing. Unlike in 2008 when many human rights groups believed supporting China’s Summer Olympic efforts would discourage political oppression, many groups are now geared up to oppose the 2022 winter games. The NYT has the full story in: “China Is Preparing for Another Olympics in Beijing, Like It or Not.”
For those who hate the cold and the treadmill, ultra running champion and NordicTrack athlete Jeff Browning believes riding an indoor stationary bike can be equally effective. In a recent post at TrailRunnerMag.com, Browning endorses “Riding the Indoor Cycle to Become a Better Runner.” Aside from being smaller, quieter and less expensive than a treadmill, Browning says an indoor bike provides an effective aerobic workout without taxing running muscles and joints.
Minute 6: Daily Inspiration
There’s a lot to be inspired about when it comes to Portuguese soccer superstar, Christiano Ronaldo. He has 5 UEFA Champions League titles, a billion dollars in career earnings, and the physique of a Greek God. Runner’s World once determined that the average soccer player runs 7 miles per match, so it makes sense that a lot of Ronaldo’s workout routines would also help runners looking to build leg and core strength. It may also help you with your speed work, since it has been reported that during the 2018 World Cup Ronaldo topped out at a remarkable speed of 34 km/h (21mph), making him the fastest player in that year’s tournament. It certainly makes us think he would fare pretty well in a 5K. Check out the details of his at-home workout below.