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Should you stretch or just warm up before a run?

Minute 1: Study offers new theory behind weight gain

Somewhere between learning how pimples are formed and blushing at black & white diagrams of human reproductive organs, we learned a basic truism in 6th grade health class: when you consume more calories than you expend, your body weight increases. Just as those embarrassing diagrams left out most of the nuance, so too did the basic math of calorie consumption. We learned from this article last week that there’s much more to gaining or losing weight than Mrs. Flanders told us: “Obesity and weight loss: Why overall calorie intake may not be so important.” The term Carbohydrate-insulin model, or CIM for short, is a competing theory that claims the consumption of highly processed carbs affect hormones and blood glucose levels, signaling the body to store more fat. This increased body fat drives appetite, and a feedback loop of weight gain ensues. For a list of some common culprits, check out “17 processed foods to avoid.” (Who knew low-fat yogurt is a no-no?) That’s not to say caloric surpluses aren’t part of the equation, just not the primary cause, according to the CIM. This poses a real problem for runners looking to maintain their current weight, since carbs are an essential energy source for endurance athletes. By choosing complex, unprocessed options, you can curb the effects described by the CIM and still have the fuel to get you through a run. Check out “11 Great Carbohydrate Sources for Runners” for a selection of options.

Minute 2: Conquer hills the right way

A few years back, one of our editors was struggling up the highest peak in the northeastern U.S. during the iconic Mt. Washington Road Race. While the race’s motto is technically true (“There’s only one hill!”), it clouds the fact that inclines at the top of the course are brutal. Our editor was stubbornly clinging to his faux he-man promise not to walk or hike any part of the race as he neared the top. That’s when a woman about 10 years his senior passed him with a wise and economical hiking stride. Our editor has wondered ever since about just how much energy he’d wasted needlessly chugging his legs up and down instead of simply walking quickly. At long last, an answer arrived last week when Podium Runner published “No, Don’t ‘Attack the Hill.’ Here’s How to Run Smarter in Hilly Races.” Experienced runners have tested different approaches, experiencing diminishing returns as they increased their effort. So “attacking the hill’ will actually leave you spent, with not much earned in return. Before his fall from grace, Alberto Salazar had studied the issue in depth and explained to his athletes that dramatically increasing their effort on an incline produces very little marginal benefit. In other words, whether you run “hard” or “easy” going uphill, it won’t affect your time very much. Increasing your efforts on the flats or a downhill section, on the other hand, shaves off a lot of time. Maintaining consistent effort, allowing pace to slow, and reaching the summit with plenty of energy works best for the long haul. Knowing what pace to set is just one of many aspects of hill running, but you should read “21 Tips For Hill Running” for a bunch more. They cover both uphill and downhill techniques so you’ve got the best approach, wherever the course takes you.

Minute 3: Limber up with dynamics before you run

Seasoned runners spend lots of time innovating. They tweak training plans, experiment with new shoes and try different gadgets to measure sleep and performance. In our experience, many of these same innovators stick to the same warm-up and stretching routines they have followed for years. If you haven’t reevaluated that aspect of your game recently, you may want to read this new piece: “My Go-To Dynamic Warm Up Exercises for Running.” The goal of these dynamic stretches is to activate your muscles while improving mobility. Done right, you should see fewer injuries and better performance. Some of the best options are leg swings, which open up the hips, and alternating between high knees and butt kicks. Both will move your legs through a wide range of motion, which is exactly what you need to feel limber as you start your run. What about good old fashioned static stretches, should they be part of the warm up? Maybe not, according to “Dynamic vs. Static Stretching: What’s the difference?” Static stretches are stationary, typically held for about 30 seconds. They relax your muscles, improve range of motion, and develop balance, but some research has shown they can impede performance if done right before you run. Many trainers recommend saving static stretches for the cooldown instead. For a good summary of the research on this topic, check out “To stretch or not to stretch before exercise: What you need to know about warm-ups.” The piece explains why some of the research trashing pre-workout static stretches oversimplified the analysis. As with most things in life and sports, common sense and moderation suggest a blend of warm-ups and stretches is ideal.

Minute 4: Running gets you in shape, but can it build muscle mass?

When you look at the physiques of Olympic sprinters versus Olympic distance runners, the anaerobic event folks tend to be much more jacked. The obvious difference is in upper body musculature, but even their legs are beefier, too. If you’ve ever wondered by people who run 100 miles per week don’t have bigger leg muscles, you can find the answer in this new article: “Does running build muscle?” The basic answer is that sprint workouts build muscle mass much more quickly than endurance runs. One study from Taylor University found that a 10 week HIIT program increased quadricep muscle size substantially. Combined with proper rest and protein intake, intervals are a solid way to add some muscle mass and up your speed. How about endurance running itself? It does build muscle, but mostly within slow twitch fibers. To keep you efficient over long distances, these slow twitch muscles remain small, unlike fast twitch fibers that sprinters tend to develop. Really, if endurance athletes want to add muscle mass, they should look to weight training. It’s not just to make you look stronger, though. There are lots of benefits you can see in “Why Strength Training Is Important For Runners.” Getting into a strength training routine can decrease your risk of injury, improve muscle activation, and increase your running economy.

Minute 5: Quick Intervals

  • We won’t soon forget the story of Sha'carri Richardson’s ban from the Tokyo Olympics. In the wake of her punishment, a number of activists spoke out on the need to reform the status of cannabis as a banned substance, arguing that in most cases, it offers no performance enhancement. If anything, it’s typically detrimental for athletes, according to “Cannabis in sport: a friend or a foe?” Well, WADA has heard these concerns, and is willing to open the floor for discussion. While cannabis will remain on the banned list for 2022, they’re conducting new research that could alter the decision in the future. Read about it in “WADA to review cannabis ban.”

  • Fans of boxing will have no doubt taken notice of Jake and Logan Paul, the brothers who successfully transitioned from YouTube vloggers to professional boxers. Their controversial content and numerous public scandals have made them easy targets to root against, yet they’ve both found success in the ring, surprising many. Like them or not, they have shown it’s never too late to start boxing, and it can be a great way to exercise while learning a skill. That’s why you should read “The Speed Bag Is a Highly Underrated Workout” to see why it needs to be the next addition to your fitness routine.

  • For anyone out there who just dropped $250 on a carbon-plated “super shoe,” be aware that buying the wrong shoe could get you booted out of a fall marathon. Derara Hurisa learned that the hard way, as he crossed the line of the Vienna City Marathon in first wearing the Adidas Prime X. Shortly after, he was disqualified for failing to uphold the footwear guidelines of the World Athletics. To learn about this rule breaker of a shoe, check out “The Seductive Appeal of Adidas’s ‘Illegal’ Running Shoe.”

Minute 6: Daily Inspiration

Nick Symmonds is an excellent runner and a bit of a character. In addition to running the 800M in 2 Olympics, he is an aircraft pilot who once dated Paris Hilton and now commands a large social media following. Symmonds ran in one of the greatest 800M races of all time at the 2012 London Olympics. He finished in 1:42.95, the best of his career. Fast forward to today, and he continues to inspire runners and other athletes with weekly challenges and exciting prizes. Recently, he took his motorless treadmill to the streets, challenging every passerby to beat his 30-second sprint distance, and paying out cash for every meter they run. You might be asking, “What is a Manual Treadmill?” Read about it if you like, or just watch it in action in the funny video below.


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