Daily Archives: August 6, 2013

2 tips to improve running performance

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I hope all my fellow fitness fanatics are having a terrific and healthy summer! I just got back from a 25.5 mile(41 km) run(a new personal record), so I am a little tired, though not as tired as I thought I would be. It took me 4 hours and 58 minutes to complete. I am sure I would have done better had the weather been less hot and humid and I had bothered to refuel with carbs half-way through(I just had water).

I wanted to experiment, to see how I would do without refueling(which is what I usually do on long runs), even while running farther than ever. I admit that an 11 min, 41 second pace is nothing to brag about, even while juggling the whole way. You’re all probably wondering why I didn’t just run 26.2 miles, the marathon distance. I came so close to doing it, and mistakenly believed I had(I wasn’t thinking clearly near the end and miscalculated, not to mention how sore my legs were), but after maping out my run when I got home, I realized I had run just 25.5 miles. There’s always a next time…

To get back on topic: As I am sure you all know, I love to dig through the scientific literature to find things we can do to improve our fitness level. Among many other things I’ve recently found, I came upon some interesting new research on improving running speed. This comes from Harvard University, Bedford, Massachusetts, Faster top running speeds are achieved with greater ground forces not more rapid leg movements:

We conclude that human runners reach faster top speeds not by repositioning their limbs more rapidly in the air, but by applying greater support forces to the ground.

So I will try to remember not to lift my legs as much during runs. Although it doesn’t say so, I believe longer strides tend to increase the risk of injury too.

In other research, it appears that eating beets, which are rich in nitrates(its not a good idea to get nitrates from non-vegetable sources, they can be unhealthy), can help improve running performance too. Saint Louis University has found that:

Consumption of nitrate-rich, whole beetroot improves running performance in healthy adults. Because whole vegetables have been shown to have health benefits, whereas nitrates from other sources may have detrimental health effects, it would be prudent for individuals seeking performance benefits to obtain nitrates from whole vegetables, such as beetroot.

Taken from “Whole beetroot consumption acutely improves running performance.”

Copyright © 2012 Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Although I have previously posted about beets improving running performance, that concerned beet juice, not whole beets: Can beet juice improve athletic performance? It’s nice to see that the whole vegetable has the same effect. I’ll be eating more of them from now on.

Can cold showers treat depression?

This is one of the strangest potential treatments for depression I’ve read about in a long time. I do wonder though that if it does work, can it be adapted for improving athletic performance(or general life performance) in the non-depressed? According to Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, Adapted cold shower as a potential treatment for depression:

Depression is a debilitating mood disorder that is among the top causes of disability worldwide. It can be characterized by a set of somatic, emotional, and behavioral symptoms, one of which is a high risk of suicide. This work presents a hypothesis that depression may be caused by the convergence of two factors: (A) A lifestyle that lacks certain physiological stressors that have been experienced by primates through millions of years of evolution, such as brief changes in body temperature (e.g. cold swim), and this lack of “thermal exercise” may cause inadequate functioning of the brain. (B) Genetic makeup that predisposes an individual to be affected by the above condition more seriously than other people. To test the hypothesis, an approach to treating depression is proposed that consists of adapted cold showers (20 degrees C, 2-3 min, preceded by a 5-min gradual adaptation to make the procedure less shocking) performed once or twice daily. The proposed duration of treatment is several weeks to several months. The following evidence appears to support the hypothesis: Exposure to cold is known to activate the sympathetic nervous system and increase the blood level of beta-endorphin and noradrenaline and to increase synaptic release of noradrenaline in the brain as well. Additionally, due to the high density of cold receptors in the skin, a cold shower is expected to send an overwhelming amount of electrical impulses from peripheral nerve endings to the brain, which could result in an anti-depressive effect. Practical testing by a statistically insignificant number of people, who did not have sufficient symptoms to be diagnosed with depression, showed that the cold hydrotherapy can relieve depressive symptoms rather effectively. The therapy was also found to have a significant analgesic effect and it does not appear to have noticeable side effects or cause dependence. In conclusion, wider and more rigorous studies would be needed to test the validity of the hypothesis.