APR 21, 2023
Minute 1: HRV is a strong indicator of health: Here’s how to improve it
Our friend Sally Edwards was one of the early pioneers of measuring heart rates to optimize training for runners. The Western States 100 winner went on to publish 24 books on health and fitness, many of which focus on heart rate training. (And oh yeah, in her spare time she founded a chain of specialty run shops called Fleet Feet.) When many people think of heart rate training, they picture the chart hanging in most gyms that shows various training zones based on age. More recently, heart rate variability is having a moment. And for good reason. If you want to understand what HRV means, and how to improve it, read this analysis from Polar: “My HRV is Very Low. Can I Increase My Heart Rate Variability?” High HRV means that your heart rate can move between slow and fast states with ease, responding quickly to your environment and physical needs. HRV reveals the state of your autonomic nervous system. Having low HRV could mean you’re stressed, tired, or dehydrated. In some cases, it can even be an early warning sign for cardiac disease or heart failure. How can you improve your HRV? The Polar article lists 6 methods: Manage stress, exercise at the right intensity, sleep well, drink more water and less alcohol, eat healthy, and breathe deep. Controlling the autonomic nervous system through your breath is one of the foundational skills of the Wim Hoff method, which has allowed people to achieve some remarkable feats of athleticism. For more on that, check out Hoff’s “Controlling the autonomic nervous system.”
Minute 2: Do pro athletes hold the secret to fighting disease?
Watching professional runners and other top endurance athletes do what they do, it can feel like they’re super human. Do these folks ever slow down or get sick? There’s actually a fairly complicated answer to that question, according to one of the world’s leading biomechanics researchers: “Zone 2 Biochemistry for Biomechanical Energy with Iñigo San Millán.” Iñigo spoke with the Training Peaks Coach Cast about his work, which focuses on the intersection between high level athletic training and disease prevention. His philosophy is that to understand how to prevent illness, we should study those who’ve brought their bodies closest to perfection. Looking into the data, Iñigo found that people with high metabolic efficiency seemed far less likely to develop conditions like type 2 diabetes or obesity, despite taking in massive amounts of carbs. So does that mean you simply need to train like a pro to avoid ever getting sick? Not exactly, as you can see in: “Effects of exercise on immune function and risk of infection.” One of the most common ailments we experience are upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs). The common cold is one example, and depending on your exercise habits, your likelihood of contracting a cold could go up or down. Those who performed moderate exercise for 1-2 hours a day saw a 33% reduction in URTI rates. However, athletes performing more extreme feats, like a marathon and beyond, experience a short period of immune function depression and high rates of exposure to airborne pathogens. As a result, they get sick more often, so don’t think that simply doing more exercise is all it takes to boost immunity.
Minute 3: Find the perfect pace for your tempo run
Most runners agree that finding the right tempo is serious business. Well, maybe not as serious as it is for a competitive jazz ensemble in Whiplash, but you get the point. Tempo runs can boost your speed and lactic acid threshold, but you won’t get optimal results without dialing in your pace. To do that, here are a few considerations from Runstreet: “How to Find Your Tempo Pace and Get Faster.” First and foremost, train with a clear goal in mind. The race length and your target pace will dictate how fast your tempo run should be, as shorter races call for shorter, faster tempo outings. Observing your rate of perceived exertion can be a useful guide as well. Tempo runs should be difficult, but not as hard as interval training, falling somewhere between 70% and 80% of your max effort. For more on finding your RPE, read: “How Rate Of Perceived Exertion (RPE) Can Maximise Your Training.” If your goal is longer distances and higher weekly mileage, you can consider swapping out some of your tempo runs for “medium-long” runs. To learn more about these high quality miles, check out this piece from Training Peaks: “The Most Important Marathon Workout You’re Not Doing.”
Minute 4: Shoe Review: ASICS GEL-Cumulus 25 ($140)
Last week, Brian Metzler provided a terrific list of the hottest shoes at the Boston Marathon from seven different brands. Amateur runners would probably enjoy most of those shoes, but which brands won the day among elites? With Eliud Kipchoge’s disappointing sixth place finish, Nike lost out on some Alphafly exposure on the podium. Instead, it was European rival Adidas – and its Adizero Adios Pro 3 – that swept the top three places in the men’s field. Women’s winner Hellen Obiri wore the On CloudTri, which is good news for the Swiss shoe upstart, but it still seems like a bit of a marketing miss since this model is not currently available to the public. The runner-up wore the Adizero Adios Pro 3 while Nike did win a bronze medal thanks to Lonah Salpeter who wore the Nike Vaporfly Next% 3. For Brian’s full review of the top shoes at Boston, click here.
On a more mundane level (but still exciting for us running geeks), Brian provides a heads-up this week on a terrific new training shoe that could help you prep for your next race. Since the carbon-plated and premium-priced shoes on Brian’s Boston list aren’t intended for everyday miles, the new ASICS GEL-Cumulus 25 is an excellent option for daily training. The highlights are below and you can check out Brian’s full review of this new ASICS winner on our website.
It’s springtime and no matter where you live or what your fitness goals are, it’s definitely running season. Even if you weren’t one of the ambitious runners who started the season early and ran in the NYC Half Marathon, Los Angeles Marathon or Boston Marathon, there’s still plenty of time to ramp up your fitness before summer arrives. You’ve just got to start logging some miles consistently in a good pair of trainers. One of the shoes I’d recommend is the just-released ASICS GEL-Cumulus 25, an everyday trainer that’s been completely revamped. It’s one of the most improved shoes of 2023, so if you ignored or didn’t like the Cumulus 24, I’d recommend giving the Cumulus 25 a try. It’s a good fit for runners looking for a versatile everyday training shoe.
What’s New: ASICS gave this shoe a major overhaul by stripping down a lot of the unnecessary features that added weight. The biggest updates to the Cumulus 25 are the addition of the full-length soft and lively FF BLAST+ midsole with a segment of new PureGEL technology embedded in the heel of the midsole (but no longer visible) for buttery soft landings and a smoother and more energized ride. It maintains the same 8mm heel-toe offset as the previous version, but it is 2mm higher off the ground than last year’s version. (For perspective, however, it’s still 4mm lower than its maximally cushioned cousin, the GEL-Nimbus 25.) The Cumulus 25 has a new soft and stretchy jacquard mesh upper without any overlays or added technology features and a new outsole configuration with small segments of rubber. Both of these upgrades are aimed at improving fit and keeping the shoe as light as possible. Oh, there’s also a $10 price bump from last year, but that’s more tied to the rising cost of shoes across the board than it is to any new features of this shoe. Why It’s Great: It’s great because ASICS revitalized what was once a strong daily training shoe in the long-ago era of EVA foam midsoles into a modern everyday trainer. Back then, what made the Cumulus great was that it was a reliable midweight shoe that offered cushion, protection and durability without completely sacrificing weight and a smooth ride. But recent versions had dual-density midsoles plus heavier GEL packets in the heel and forefoot that made the Cumulus less compelling as an everyday trainer. The new GEL-Cumulus 25 has a loftier midsole, but it’s an ounce lighter – which is very noticeable and appreciated – and just a better running shoe than its most recent predecessors.
Minute 5: Quick Intervals
In case you missed it, our Boston Marathon blogger, Dara Zall Kelly, penned her most insightful and emotional piece yet earlier this week. We are sharing the link again because it was the most-clicked edition of Dara’s marathon insights. Apparently we aren’t the only suckers for a story that knits together the 2013 Boston bombing, cherishing a sport even when hopes of a PR have faded, and finding the love of your life on a bus to the Hopkinton starting line.
Overall, Marathon Monday seemed like a success in Boston, but that’s not to say the event was perfect. We’re saddened to learn of an incident involving the Newton Police Department, who, according to many witnesses, targeted a group of black spectators cheering on runners near Heartbreak Hill and blocked their engagement with the race. You can see one first hand account of the event in “Police Silencing Marathon Cheer Zone,” For more details, as well as the B.A.A. 's response, read “‘We need to do better’: B.A.A. speaks out after Black marathon spectators say they were targeted.”
We’ve covered just about every way you can tailor your workouts toward certain physical goals. Getting faster, building endurance, reducing injury rates, and more. But what about mental development? For that, we’ll defer to one expert who says mental health is a major priority behind most of their workouts: “‘I’m a Trainer, and Here’s How I Design a Workout for Max Mental Health Benefits’.”
If you couldn’t tell by now, we love the Mediterranean diet. What we don’t love, however, is trying to come up with new and exciting recipes every week. If you too want to mix things up while staying healthy, we’ve got just the list for you to check out: “30 Days of Mediterranean Diet Lunches.”
Minute 6: Daily Inspiration
Earlier this issue, we spoke about how professional athletes can appear invincible from a distance. The truth is, no matter how fast or strong you are, there will always be workouts that break you down. So says @alexipappas, who was repeating a lesson from her coach on @richroll’s podcast. She lives by a training rule that goes something like this: 1/3 of the time, you should feel good, 1/3 should feel okay, and 1/3 should feel bad. That’s how you know you’re challenging yourself enough without pushing too hard, and it’s something to remember when things just aren’t going our way. Alexi Pappas is regarded as one of the most thoughtful athletes in the sport. The Dartmouth grad is a filmmaker and published author who has delved into the relationship between sports and mental health in a way few other Olympians have dared to do. Check out some of her insights in the video below.