MAY 3, 2023
Minute 1: Spring cleaning can improve your physical and mental health
On the Greek island of Corfu, the locals celebrate the arrival of spring by tossing clay pots filled with water out their windows, hoping to scare off misfortune. In our neighborhood, spring traditions include the Boston Marathon and cleaning up the yard after a winter of New England weather. As with most things in life, these spring chores are only a bad experience if you let them be. As athletes, we should embrace this “double bottom line” activity. It turns out that you can trim the shrubs and some winter fat at the same time, according to: “Yard Work Is Basically Strength Training—Here’s How to Get Stronger While Mowing the Lawn.” Who needs a sled push when you’ve got a lawn to mow? Mowers are nearly 100 pounds on average, so getting them around the yard can be a low-impact form of strength training and cardio. Raking leaves burns about 400 calories per hour – about the same as our favorite winter chore of shoveling snow. Even running a leaf blower can boost core and arm strength. Finally, there’s gardening, which will have you building leg strength and mobility thanks to all the squatting, bending, and digging you'll be doing. The benefits don’t stop when you head back inside for spring cleaning. These are the “Calories Burned by Household Chores.” Vacuuming, changing bed sheets and washing dishes can burn a similar amount of calories as a moderate walk. Not only that, but studies show neatening up your environment can bring mental health benefits: “How Cleaning and Organizing Can Benefit Your Mind and Body.” Living in a messy environment can make it feel like your life is disorganized, making it easier to become overwhelmed by problems. That’s according to board-certified clinical psychologist Neha Khorana, who recommends cleaning to restore your sense of control. (And we thought we were just procrastinating by cleaning our dorm room during finals week.)
Minute 2: How to refuel after your race
Speaking of college, many students “fuel up” on Saturday night without worrying much about Sunday morning consequences. According to Healthline, there are “7 Evidence-Based Ways to Prevent Hangovers,” including drinking plenty of water before going to bed and eating a good breakfast the next morning. Some of these principles also apply to endurance athletes as they prepare for a big race – they think a lot about their pre-game fueling, but often ignore the effect nutrition can have on their post-event recovery: “What To Eat After A Half Marathon: Helpful Refueling Tips For Runners.” You’ve probably heard us mention the 80/20 rule, which holds that 80% of your training should be low intensity. Well, some runners have found success applying that ratio to their diets as well. Try to have 80% of your diet made up of nutritious options like fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean proteins. The other 20% of the time, feel free to relax and enjoy the more decadent foods you love. Post race, what kinds of healthy foods should you be after? Well, step one is replenishing glycogen stores with complex carbohydrates. Whole grain pasta, potatoes, and oatmeal are popular choices. Next, rebalance your electrolytes and hydration levels with food and drink that contain sodium, potassium, and magnesium. Fruits, leafy greens, and salted nuts will do the trick. Last, make sure you’re feeding your muscle growth and recovery with protein from sources like chicken, greek yogurt, or seeds. In fact, if you prioritize your post-race meal, you may see body recomposition benefits too, according to the NYT: “Eating After You Exercise May Provide Added Fat-Burning Benefits.” In one study, participants drank a vanilla shake either before or after riding a stationary bike. The group that rode on an empty stomach showed greater body fat reduction at the end of the trial. As an added bonus, eating after exercise is one way to lower your risk of heartburn while running, according to: “Running with Acid Reflux: Tips to Avoid Discomfort.”
Minute 3: Stamina is an endurance athlete’s best friend when lifting weights
You typically don’t see marathoners packing on muscle like a bodybuilder. (Unless your name is Ryan Hall, that is.) Barring extreme cases, endurance athletes have a reputation of looking quite out of place in the free weights section of the gym, but could that be changed with the right approach to training? According to one new study, the answer is: “Yes, Even Slow-Twitchers Can Build Bigger Muscles.” If you need a refresher, slow-twitch muscles are the kind you develop through aerobic exercise; they’re slow to fatigue, but can’t generate as much instantaneous force as fast-twitch fibers. It would follow that slow-twitchers would struggle with weightlifting, since those kinds of movements require a lot of energy summoned at once to perform. Well, the data suggests otherwise. In a 10-week training period, athletes with mostly slow twitch fibers were able to gain the same amount of muscle volume and strength when compared to their fast twitch counterparts. The key difference was the slow twitch group had a lower 1-rep max, so they had to perform more reps to get the same degree of intensity each session. That’s good news for endurance athletes out there, because if you’re able to use your stamina to your advantage, you’ll add muscle as well as anyone else can. If you’re curious about your own muscle fiber composition, you can use this: “Test to Estimate Muscle Fiber Composition.”
Minute 4: Are these food facts legit?
There’s so much research being done in the field of nutrition, it’s hard to keep track of what foods are actually proven to help your health, and which reports are just whispering sweet nothings in your ear. We liked this piece out of the UK last week that busts some myths: “Chocolate doesn’t cause acne – but carrots do help you see in the dark: the best and worst health myths and wisdom.” First, some good news for those of us who prefer to slurp our lunches: chicken soup really can help with your illness. That’s thanks to the vitamin B12, antioxidants, and protein that help keep your body repaired and energized. To take it a step further, some nutritionists recommend a bone broth: “I Had Bone Broth Every Day for a Week – Here’s What Happened.” Bone broth is especially effective at aiding in digestion, so pour yourself a bowl to alleviate your stomach aches. (BTW, does anyone else agree that the bone broth industry should come up with a euphemism to rename this morbid-sounding concoction? Protein soup? Health juice?) Moving on, is there any truth to the saying that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away?” Simply put, the answer is no; apple eaters have the same rates of prescription medicine use as anyone else, but there are nonetheless “8 Impressive Health Benefits of Apples.” We’re just scratching the surface of these food myths, so check out the original article to learn about 18 more claims that need fact checking.
Minute 5: Quick Intervals
Previously, we’ve written about the importance of strength training as you age to maintain muscle mass, but did you know it’s a similar story for your cognitive health? The brain is just like a muscle, in that failing to use it in a certain way will cause it to lose efficacy. It's never too late to make a positive change, though, according to: “You Can Improve Your Brain Health As You Age: Promising Research Tells Us How.”
Core strength, stability, and balance exercises are often lumped together when people map out their training. That’s too bad, because they are each developed in a unique way, and depending on your sport of choice, some are more vital than others. If you want to understand the differences, as well as learn a few exercises for each, check out this piece from Training Peaks: “Why Balance Training is NOT Core Stability Training.”
For a hobby that seems pretty simple and straightforward, we’re often surprised to learn just how expensive running can be if you want to stock your closet with the latest gear. Some of those accessories are invaluable, but others could be a bit unnecessary. If you want to avoid buyer's remorse as you build your running kit, take a look at “The Easiest Ways to Waste Your Money on Running, According to Reddit.”
Minute 6: Daily Inspiration
What’s better than setting a new PR? How about running your best time while your teammate cheers wildly for you coming down the home stretch. The running world got to witness quite a special moment at the 2023 Rotterdam Marathon last week, when Koen Naert came through in a time of 2:06.56. Every step of the final stretch, Koen was motivated by fellow #asicsrunning teammate Bashir Abdi, who had won the race a few minutes earlier, but lingered in the middle of the road to offer cheers and a high five to his countryman. The heart warming home stretch video is below.