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The 50 fittest athletes in the world

Minute 1: Thou shalt take rest days, and other injury prevention tips

Since running is sacred to many of our readers, it’s only fitting that someone should provide them some running commandments. No, they’re technically not from a prophet on high, but we trust the experts at Trail Runner to lead us to the promised land: “The 10 Commandments of Injury Prevention.” Making time for rest days is essential as you up the intensity of your schedule. Plan to take it easy the day after a hard workout, or try cross-training so you target different, fresher muscle groups. No matter how hard you push yourself, you won’t grow stronger without consuming the right fuel. For runners, that typically looks like a ratio of 4:1 for carbohydrates and protein. That formula should help you feel properly energized while giving your body what it needs to build muscle. For a few ideas, see “What to Eat After Running.” Another important rule is to always warm up and cool down to reduce stiffness and improve range of motion. The evidence for warmups reducing injury is strong, as you can see in “Dynamic Warm-Ups Reduce Injury, Improve Performance.”

Minute 2: Who are the fittest athletes of 2022?

Naming the greatest athlete in a given sport has provoked many a barroom (verbal) slugfest. Comparing athletes across all disciplines and coming up with a ranking? Even more contentious. You’d need a team of experts on physiology to even attempt that, right? Lucky for us, that’s exactly what Sports Illustrated has done. Take a look at “Sports Illustrated's Fittest 50 2022.” Runners are well represented on the list, like Molly Seidel, who took bronze in the Tokyo Games Marathon. Remarkably, that was only her 3rd career marathon, proving she’s not afraid of an unfamiliar challenge. Recently, Molly has begun posting running content to YouTube, and her videos like “Running the US Cross Country Championship” are a fun watch. Also included on SI’s list is the Norwegian hurdles star Karsten Warholm, who smashed the 400M hurdles world record in Tokyo last summer. Following his victory, Karsten made headlines for criticizing “super spikes” that offer too much mechanical assistance, potentially hurting the credibility of athletes and their achievements on the track. To hear about that story, and to see what else has been on the hurdler’s mind, read “Karsten Warholm: Norway's 400m hurdles great recalibrates after record run in Tokyo.” If you want to see what a super fit 167-pound woman looks like, check out Adeline Gray’s profile pics on the SI list. Gray is not only an Olympic wrestler, but also offers a thoughtful perspective on the cultural issues of the day. This story examines how she has navigated sensitive discussions between her white father, who is a police officer, and her African American husband, who is an Army Ranger: “Colorado wrestler Adeline Gray defers dream of motherhood to chase Olympic gold.” #GiveMe50

Minute 3: Running hurts, but it can bring meaning to your life

Kierkegaard once said “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” Humans are a peculiar bunch; we’ll force ourselves through the pain of marathons and Ironman triathlons, suffering in the moment, but looking back on them fondly once the finish line is crossed. For many of us, a life well-lived is fueled by overcoming obstacles, not just being comfortable. One professor thinks he knows why: “Hedonism is overrated – to make the best of life there must be pain, says this Yale professor.” Think about the self-induced challenges you’ve faced in your life. Sure, they were difficult and anxiety-inducing in the moment, but do you regret attempting them in hindsight? Probably not. The pain you feel at the moment of finishing a race, viewed in context with the rest of your life, becomes a source of meaning – a way to remind yourself that walking a path of hardship doesn’t lead to deeper pain. If you really want to delve into the psychology of the pain cave, check out: “Why and when suffering increases the perceived likelihood of fortuitous rewards.” If you’re down for a sufferfest on 2 feet, check out this Runner’s World story: “These Are the Hardest Races in the World.” A lot of these events take place at a high altitude, putting an increased demand on your red blood cells. You should read “All About High Altitude Fitness Training” to learn how to prepare, and see the benefits it can bring.

Minute 4: Swap your hill workout for a stair workout

We love running hills. It’s efficient, builds strength, and makes you feel like you’re on top of the world when you finish. What we don't love is catching freezing gusts of wind on the way up or slipping on an ice patch on our way down. Winter is not a great time for hill workouts, but there’s an alternative that’s only a few steps away: stairs. Outdoor stairs like bleachers are great, but you can look for a good indoor set to avoid the pitfalls of nasty weather. Canadian Running provides good tips and tactics in this new story: “Try these stair workouts for improved strength and power.” These training sessions are like a run condensed into a short, explosive timeframe. They’ll build power in your legs and burn calories like crazy. How many calories, exactly? The answer is in “Should I choose steps over stairs?” Just walking up stairs burns 530 to 835 calories per hour, quite a bit compared to regular walking, which burns about 200 per hour. If you’re looking for a real challenge, you should try out what’s referred to as a “tour de stade.” Pardon our French, it means “tour of the stadium,” and it’s when you run every step in every section of a stadium. Do that a couple times, and you’ll never feel winded from a flight of stairs again.

Minute 5: Quick Intervals

  • We’re saddened to report the island of Atata has been devastated by a tsunami that swept across the pacific, following the eruption of a nearby volcano. Many lives were at risk, but none as much as Lisala Folau. The 57-year-old former carpenter was carried away by a wave, separated from his family and left floating in the ocean for 26 hours, becoming an unlikely endurance hero. He was eventually spotted by a police boat and rescued. He says his thoughts were of his family the whole time, driving him to fight for survival. His determination is inspiring, and we wish him and his community well as they face the challenge of restoration. See the details in “A 57-Year-Old Man Survived a 4-Mile, 26-Hour Swim After Tonga’s Tsunami.”

  • Right about now, there are leagues of runners lamenting the fact that they’ve signed up for a spring marathon, forcing them to train throughout the winter. We feel your pain, and we hope some of our advice on winter workouts has helped you along. Getting creative with indoor workouts will only take you so far, and at some point, you’re just going to have to brave the cold. For those occasions, you should figure out “How Cold Is Too Cold to Run Outside?

  • In previous issues, we’ve lauded beach runs for their low-impact, stability-building benefits. Now, we’re talking about their messier cousins: mud runs. A lot of the same benefits apply here. The softer surface works the muscles in your feet, ankles, and calves in an unfamiliar way, stimulating new growth. There are a few considerations you’ll want to make before you try it out, like what kind of footwear and accessories you should have, and for that, take a look at “Running in the Mud: 8 Practical Tips from a Runner!

Minute 6: Daily Inspiration

Getting cheered on by friends and family as you make your way through a marathon is usually a bigger energy boost than a slurp of Gatorade or a squeeze of a Honey Stinger packet. It can be even more uplifting if your cheering squad includes a surprise guest. We’ll admit, this viral TikTok has us tearing up a bit, but we’ll wipe our eyes to watch it again. The video shows one proud dad spotting his daughter on the sidelines and grabbing a quick hug. She flew all the way from San Diego to watch her father run the Chicago marathon last fall.


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