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How sprinting benefits long distance runners

JAN 18, 2023

Minute 1: What is the role of our microbiome in performance and motivation?

With a name like microbiome, you might expect it to have only a small effect on athletic performance. According to one recent study, however, the opposite is true. Microbiome health may be one of the most significant factors affecting our athletic ability and motivation, according to this new piece from Trail Runner: “How the Microbiome Might Affect Motivation and Performance.” The study looked at mice that performed exercise on wheels and treadmills, and then recorded a number of parameters associated with performance. Everything from genetic signatures, to blood metrics, metabolic parameters, and microbiomes. When the data was analyzed, tracking the changes in microbiome health delivered a shockingly accurate prediction model for performance. It was almost as good as using all the factors combined, suggesting microbiome health was the primary driver in performance variance. Likewise, a healthy microbiome was associated with healthy levels of dopamine release from exercise, while an unhealthy microbiome resulted in an almost complete reduction of dopamine rewards. That’s a major driving force in our motivation to exercise, so if you’re struggling to find the desire to run, the solution may lie in your diet. You may want to consider: “The 10 Best Probiotic Supplements, According to Experts.” Probiotics are just the start of what you can do for your microbiome, and these “6 Ways to Improve Gut Health” provide a host of other options. Fermented foods, a diverse diet, and a limit on artificial sweeteners can go a long way in helping good bacteria thrive.

Minute 2: The benefits of burpees

Burpees have been described as the simplest and most efficient exercises in the world. They hit your upper body, lower body, and cardiovascular system all at once. With that difficulty comes impressive results, as one athlete learned: “I tried doing 50 burpees every day for a month—here’s what happened.” Lucy Gornall writes that she was surprised to feel just how much her core, shoulders, and upper arms were feeling the burn. That’s not the only thing that was burning, for better or worse, because she ended up with lingering knee burns throughout the challenge. You may want to have a padded yoga mat nearby if you’re planning on giving it a shot. The burpee has a surprisingly rich history, dating back to 1939. Check out “The Badass History of the Burpee and the Legendary Man Who Created It.” Royal H. Burpee was a pioneer of bodyweight exercise, but it wasn’t until the early ‘40s when the U.S Army adopted the burpee as one of their standard fitness test movements that it became so ingrained in the fitness zeitgeist. Now, fitness enthusiasts have gone on to challenge themselves with performing 100 burpees at a time, or even completing a burpee mile. That last one takes over 2 hours, so we certainly can’t recommend it for the faint of heart. If burpees aren’t your cup of tea, but you’re still looking for a bodyweight challenge to complete, try this “30 Day Push-Up Challenge For Beginners.”

Minute 3: Why athletes need potassium

Bananas are one of the most common foods passed out at a race, and for good reason. Most people know they’re a great source of potassium, which is essential for proper muscle contraction, but that’s not all it can do. To find out the rest, take a look at: “What is potassium good for?” Low potassium levels are associated with poor cardiovascular health, since it can lead to a buildup of calcium in your arteries. In a similar vein, calcium buildup can result in the formation of kidney stones too, so be sure to hit your daily adequate intake (AI) levels. That’s about 2,600 micrograms for females and 3,400 mg for males. In addition to affecting your overall health, potassium levels are crucial for athletes. Here are “Four Ways Potassium Matters to Your Sports Performance.” Studies have shown that long bouts of exercise result in potassium imbalances in your cells, causing cramping, bloating and general fatigue. To avoid potassium deficiency, eat plenty of these “18 Foods That Pack More Potassium Than a Banana.” Apricots, sweet potatoes, and coconut water contain some of the highest values of potassium per serving.

Minute 4: Swim safely to improve your running ability

Training for a marathon is a grind, metaphorically and literally. That’s because running is a high impact activity that can put a lot of stress on your joints. It can help to supplement your training with low impact exercise, and that’s what makes swimming such a useful tool: “Benefits of swimming training for runners” Unlike pounding the pavement, swimming offers a kind of resistance in which the impact forces are low and consistent compared to the acute hits that occur with every step of a run. Swimming will give your most overworked joints a bit of a break. It targets a broader range of muscle groups, allowing you to introduce some core and upper body development into your routine. Although you’re recruiting different muscles when you swim, you’re still developing cardio endurance that will directly improve your running performance, which is why many runners swear by this kind of cross training method. Of course, swimming brings risks of its own, especially if you’re training in large bodies of water: “Researchers warn of potentially fatal condition for open-water swimmers.” Swimming-induced pulmonary oedema, also known as SIPE, occurs due to an accumulation of fluid in the lungs of swimmers without it having been inhaled. It’s estimated that 1 in 20 applicants for the Navy SEALs experience SIPE, meaning that even strong swimmers are susceptible to the condition.

Minute 5: Quick Intervals

  • So, what would you do if you were the runner in this scenario? “A few years back, I ran a marathon, popped a hamstring at mile 10, but limped along to the finish. I ran into a friend, who asked what I’d been up to. I proudly said that I was able to do this marathon, and before I could tell the story of the exploding hamstring, she said ‘Oh my god, I could NEVER run a marathon that slowly – you should just give up.’” Well that unfortunate verbal exchange is exactly what happened to Dara Zall Kelly, our SMM blogger training for the Boston Marathon. To find out how Dara handled that awkward conversation – and the emotional journey of marathon training in general – check out her latest post here.

  • After putting your blood, sweat, and tears into your runs and workouts, it’s to be expected that you’re going to end up with a smelly gym bag. That is, unless you take the right precautions to keep things fresh. Airing shoes out, washing clothes frequently and immediately, and rinsing your shaker cup are just a few tips worth trying out, but read “How to Keep Your Gym Gear From Stinking” for a full guide.

  • When you get older, you feel colder. That’s unfortunately the way life goes, and there are a number of reasons why – everything from a lower metabolic rate, to decreased skin thickness. Biology might be working against you, but there are several steps you can take to mitigate those effects: “5 Reasons You Feel Colder With Age and What to Do About It.”

Minute 6: Daily Inspiration

As if Wayne Gretsky needed to add any more accolades on top of his hockey career, it turns out he had the talent to be a high level sprinter too. We just stumbled across a video from back in 1982 when the hall of famer competed against other legendary athletes like Pele and Sugar Ray Leonard in a 60 meter dash. He bested all of them in a very respectable time of 7.24. It makes sense that sprint speed and overall athletic performance go hand in hand, because that kind of running works wonders for developing a competition-ready nervous system. Whether you’re a sprinter – or even a hockey player or endurance athlete – everyone can benefit from sprint work. Find out why in “10 Common Misconceptions About Feed the Cats,” the innovative program designed to cultivate speed. If you want to see Gretzky’s sprinting in action, watch the clip below.


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