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Do you need more ankle flex for long runs?

FEB 22, 2023

Minute 1: We’re in the middle of a road race comeback

At dinner the other night, a friend suggested the iPhone should offer an alarm that sounds like a dog in the next room about to vomit – nothing gets you sprinting out of bed faster. In a related way, that’s how we feel about race days rather than training days. Even our laziest buddies don’t hit snooze on race day. According to our friends at RunSignup, race days are back in style as more runners participated in a race in 2022 than in either of the prior two years. During the pandemic lockdowns and transition to virtual racing, the future of our industry was looking unstable. We’re happy to report that in-person racing caught its second wind, and you can read all about it in: “The State of the Industry: 2022 RaceTrends Report is Here!” Overall race participation is up 16% from 2021, but there’s still a ways to go before we reach the high water mark reported in 2019. Participation in larger races (5,000+ runners) was down nearly 20% in 2022 compared to 2019, perhaps because of lingering concerns over big crowds. Other trends look promising, as 88% of events took place in person, and events with 500 or fewer participants actually grew 3.4% from 2019 levels. The research indicates that runners value these smaller, community-driven races, which is the perfect time to connect with your friends and family. Here are the “6 Best Things About Running With Your Friends.” It’s nice to have someone to chat with at the start and finish lines, and running alongside a partner has also been shown to improve your motivation. #OnTheRoadAgain

Minute 2: The core is central to running form, balance, and performance

The core is appropriately named, given how foundational those muscles are when exercising. A strong core is the base of stability and power for many athletes, including distance runners. We mostly already knew that, but we were surprised this week to learn about: “The difference between abs and core training, according to personal trainers.” Having six-pack abs doesn’t mean you’ve got a strong core – it really just means you’ve got a low body fat percentage. To go beyond appearances, you’ve got to work on your back muscles, glutes, and diaphragm. By combining traditional ab workouts like planks and crunches with larger compound exercises like squats, you can make sure no muscle gets left behind. That can translate to better form as you run, according to: “How important is core strength for running?” These muscles improve your stability and balance, help you maintain upright form, and facilitate deep breathing. That means you’ll experience fewer injuries and greater endurance during aerobic exercise. To go beyond the typical ab workouts, yoga is a popular choice among runners to develop functional core strength. Consider these “10 Yoga Poses to Strengthen Your Core.”

Minute 3: Strong competitors can support each other, too

Years ago we were running shoulder to shoulder with a runner about our age in the New Bedford Half Marathon, a popular early spring race leading up to the Boston Marathon. We were fighting a nasty headwind that the winners later said knocked their pace down by more than a minute per mile. Back then, New Bedford was a big commercial fishing town with many residents of Portuguese descent. Spectators continued to yell encouragement to my fellow competitor in their native tongue as we wove through the neighborhoods of New Bedford. Feeling pretty bad for myself because of the chilly headwind, I managed to croak out a dumb joke about my race companion going into local politics one day. He smiled and I instantly felt a warm rush flood my body. It made the last two miles much happier, even if the local hero pulled away at the end. We hadn’t thought of that race in years, until we read this week about Zach Miller’s approach to friendly competition that allowed him to achieve an “Outward Advantage.” Zach is a professional ultrarunner who spent much of his career in a supporting role to his fellow runners. He says by focusing on motivating those around him, helping them find their pace, and generally having their back, he was able to take the pressure off himself. One day, he came across a video of Usain Bolt exhibiting a similar approach to race day, giving out high fives and keeping the energy lighthearted, even moments before a race. In fact, Usain even had a close friendship with his training partner and closest competitor for much of his career: “Usain Bolt And Yohan Blake Train Side By Side.” The pair exhibited respect for each other on and off the track, and so can you by following this “Runner Etiquette.

Minute 4: Level up your push-ups

Push-ups are one of the first exercises most of us learned. A staple of gym classes, hotel rooms and living room carpets, you would think that they’re easy to get right. Actually, there are plenty of ways to make mistakes doing push-ups, but more importantly, there are a few secrets to unlocking the full potential of this exercise, according to: “Arm Position For Push Ups – Everything You Should Know.” For a standard push-up, you’ll want to keep your feet together, back straight, and arms a bit wider than your shoulders. Depending on the muscles you want to engage, however, you can alter your arm and leg positions for a different outcome. Try out some of these “10 Pushup Variations That Will Boost Your Workout” to see what we mean.” If core and lower body engagement is your goal, the spiderman pushup is the way to go. As you descend, lift one leg and bring your knee toward your elbow, and then reverse the movement as you lift back up.

Minute 5: Quick Intervals

  • In Minute 1 of this issue, we saw how the elite runners of Kenya approached their training. We’re continuing our world tour of the most accomplished endurance athletes, and this week, we’re stopping by Ethiopia to see what sets them apart: Take a look at “Ethiopian Runners Train Differently. Or Do They?.” As the story details, here’s how one successful Ethiopian runner uses his environment as a training tool: “First he spends ten days in the forest to get strong, then he runs on the coroconch [gravel] road, and finally he hones his speed on the asphalt. It is a process . . . of gradual adaptation. First you get used to the surface and then you get used to the speed.”

  • Back in 2015 & 2016, Adidas surprised the soccer world by releasing a cleat with no laces for elite players. Once skepticism wore off, players of all abilities loved the innovation. Perhaps taking a cue from Adidas, Under Armour is doing something similar with running shoes: “Under Armour launches SlipSpeed, the versatile slip-on training shoe.” We look forward to testing them, but in the meantime, we are intrigued by the idea of not having to fumble with untied laces during cold winter runs.

  • Kiwis contain tons of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, which explains why they’ve become such a popular recommendation by nutritionists. You can eat them all by themselves, but we’re guessing most of you haven't realized just how versatile of an ingredient this tangy fruit can be. They fit right into your marinades, salsas, and sauces too, so dive into these “7 Super Benefits of Kiwis, One of the Healthiest Foods You Can Eat Every Day.”

Minute 6: Daily Inspiration

One of the reasons we all love running is for the simplicity. Lace up and go. Not balls, no partners, no nets. At a certain point in your progression, however, running will become a bit more complex than putting one foot in front of the other. To avoid plateauing, running coach @markpinales believes runners should be doing more complex movements to prepare for the more demanding elements of the sport, including form, balance, and breathing. Mark lays out four specific goals, including two that jumped out at us immediately: leaning more forward at the ankles during long runs and correcting the strength imbalance between our two legs. This Runner’s World story seems to agree with Coach Mark’s ankle advice: “Run Faster With This Easy, Proven Form Tweak.” Check out the video below for more ideas on how to improve your running in 2023.


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