AUG 16, 2023
Minute 1: Make downhill runs work in your favor
The Boston Marathon may be famous for Heartbreak Hill, but experienced runners will tell you that more PR dreams are dashed on the downhill sections of the course than while climbing up the Newton hills. Downhill running can be a tempting opportunity to pick up the pace and coast toward your goals, but it’s important to remember downward inclines present a unique set of challenges for runners. If you want to descend quickly and safely, you should adopt these: "Mental Strategies for Downhill Running.” Flying down a hill will apply a lot more impact force on your body than a level or uphill run. It can help to take longer strides, keeping your movements as fluid as possible. You don’t want to fling yourself down the road or trail, thinking that gravity is doing all the work. On the other hand, you should resist the urge to brake with your steps. Of course, that can make it difficult to maintain stability, so looking further ahead than normal can give you time to observe and react to any terrain changes that come your way. That can help lower your anxiety so you can adopt an aggressive descent strategy. Your mindset will only get you so far, though, and there’s no substitute for practice. That’s why you should consider: “How to Train for Downhill Running.” Unlike uphill training, running downhill repeats probably shouldn’t be a part of your routine. The impact forces will wear on your joints if your downhill volume is too great, so a quality over quantity approach to training is preferred. By focusing on technique, like shifting your body to be perpendicular to the hill and increasing cadence, you can improve your speed and protect yourself from injury all at once.
Minute 2: Heat shock proteins could give you a longer lifespan
5.5 million Finns can’t be wrong. Consistently ranked one of the healthiest countries in the world, we’d like to think Finland’s saunas have a bigger role in that honor than the national penchant for eating sauteed reindeer. In fact, new research suggests that heated rocks are probably better for your health than cooked Rudolph. That’s because the body has a remarkable ability to adapt to high temperatures, and it can improve your cellular health in the process. To learn why, take a look at: “How to Boost Your Longevity With ‘Heat Shock Proteins’.” Heat shock proteins are the chaperones to the chaotic dance that is your cellular makeup. Every once in a while, something goes wrong in the process of cell growth, but HSPs can help remove the unwanted material that forms. The result is an improved ability to fight diseases like Parkinsons and dementia, as well as an overall boost to your resilience and immune function. Research shows that exposure to temperatures at or above 102.2 degrees is the magic number to activate your HSPs, and saunas are one way to achieve that: “Heat Shock Therapy: Why Saunas Are So Good for You.” Throughout history, various cultures have believed in the longevity-boosting properties of saunas and heat exposure, but it’s only recently that we’ve begun to understand the mechanisms behind their impressive results. If you don’t have access to a sauna, exercising in hot weather will still do the trick, but be sure to take caution to reduce your risk of overheating. Here is how to “Exercise Safely in Hot Weather.”
Minute 3: How often should you work out?
Finding the right balance of exercise frequency is like tuning an instrument; it takes time and effort to fall into harmony. Too little exercise, and you won’t progress. Work out too much, and you’ll risk injury or burnout. If you want to figure out the frequency that will work for you, it starts by asking a few questions found in this blog post from Polar: “How many days a week should I work out?” The first step is identifying your goals. If you’re trying to put on muscle and grow faster simultaneously, you’re likely going to need more workouts per week than someone focusing on a single objective. You’ll also want to take an honest look at your fitness level right now. Generally speaking, the longer you’ve been training, the greater the volume your body can handle. That means if you’re just getting started, you’ll want to temper your exercise frequency to avoid making the mistake of doing too much too soon. Once you’ve got an evaluation of your goals and aptitude, you can start to build a schedule. One thing to keep in mind is that working out every day of the week is probably too much for any athlete, since it prevents the opportunity to take rest days. If you’re unsure when to take a load off, you should check out: “When to Take a Rest Day—and When to Push Through.” Elevated heart rates, intense soreness, and feeling unmotivated are all signs that it’s time to chill out for a day.
Minute 4: Signs you need more electrolytes
Are you light on electrolytes? We sure hope not, because they’re essential for supporting nerve and muscle function, among other things. It isn’t always easy to tell if you’re getting enough, and for athletes moving around in the summer heat, electrolyte replenishment is no joke. If you want to make sure you’ve got your fill, watch for these: “5 Sneaky Signs You Might Need More Electrolytes, According to a Dietitian.” Since electrolytes facilitate muscle contraction, muscle spasms and cramps are a clear sign of deficiency. Potassium, magnesium, and calcium are particularly important, so if you’re cramping up, be sure to pick up a few of “The 12 Best Food and Drink Sources of Electrolytes.” Coconut water has been called “nature’s sports drink” thanks to its high potassium, sodium, and chloride levels. Speaking of sports drinks and electrolyte packets, are they any good? You may find some answers in this piece: “Are Electrolyte Packets Really Worth the Hype?” Electrolyte packets sure have exploded in popularity, and for some athletes, they’re just what the trainer ordered. Research has shown replenishing electrolytes after exercise can improve recovery and future performance. If you’re the kind of runner who works out with a lot of intensity, or for more than two hours at a time, electrolyte packets can be a life saver. If you’ve got a more casual approach to fitness, nutrition experts suspect you’ll get enough electrolytes from your diet without the need for supplementation.
Minute 5: Quick Intervals
Running is a powerful way to transform your life, but did you know your running can even impact the people around you in a positive way? A recent study found that when people socialize with moderately active friends, their activity levels tend to increase as well. If you want a few tips for helping your friends along in their fitness journey, take a look at: “Study suggests moderately active people can have a positive influence on their friends.”
When marathon race day arrives, we all pray that nature’s call doesn’t throw off our plans. Having to go to the bathroom mid race is an uncomfortable detour at best, and an emergency at worst. It’s a long race, and having a plan to deal with bathroom breaks is essential if you want to avoid any tricky situations, so take a look at these: “5 Strategies To Keep ‘The Runs’ From Ruining Your Run, According to a Sports Dietitian and Run Coach.”
As Michael Scott once said, we’re not superstitious, but we’re a little stitious. In fact lots of famous athletes have pursued bizarre rituals and superstitions that became an essential part of their gameplan. Whether or not you believe these rituals cause some magic to happen is one thing, but their positive effect could be more secular than you’d expect. They can be a source of familiarity that reduces anxiety at game time, for instance, and it has researchers asking: “Do Pre-Race Superstitions Help Performance?”
Minute 6: Daily Inspiration
When we post on a social media platform, most of us have a tendency to portray an idealized version of our lives. That doesn’t stop with fitness platforms like Strava, which is why we need help decoding what some captions really mean. You can check out Minute 6 of this issue for a useful translation of some common Strava euphemisms, but this week, we found a new batch of excuses runners are prone to make. Whether you choose to adopt these verbal tricks for your own post is up to you, and we sure won’t judge if you need to cover for your more challenging runs.