Women naturally more fit than men

Women can process oxygen more quickly than men when they start to exercise, according to a new study from the University of Waterloo.

Quick oxygen uptake places less strain on the body’s cells and is an important measure of aerobic fitness.

The findings are contrary to the popular assumption that men’s bodies are more naturally athletic.

The study found that women’s muscles extract oxygen from the blood faster, which, scientifically speaking, indicates a superior aerobic system. By processing oxygen faster, women are less likely to accumulate molecules linked with muscle fatigue, effort perception and poor athletic performance.

They don’t know why women have faster oxygen uptake (yet), but this could change the way we approach assessment and athletic training down the road.

The study was published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism.

Endurance training helpful in recovery from muscle inflammation

Endurance training can actually be helpful in dealing with muscle inflammation, according to a new paper co-written by faculty at Binghamton University, State University of New York, and Karolinska Institutet and Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm, Sweden, and published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Muscle inflammation, or myositis, can be caused by infection, injury and chronic disease. However, specific forms of myositis like dermatomyositis and polymyositis occur when the body’s immune system turns against its own muscles, damaging the muscle tissue in the process.

While there are plenty of prescribed medications to cope with muscular diseases, the medication utilized only does half the job.

The drugs are targeting one immune cell or a group of immune cells, but there are no new drugs that target muscles that are dying. Exercise can take care of the immune cells that are killing the muscles, and repair the cell death of the muscle.”

The study found that endurance exercise altered microRNAs that target and downregulate immune processes, as well as decreasing different microRNAs that target and upregulate mitochondrial content at the protein level. That is, exercise creates microRNA that decreases the number of immune cells that attack the muscle and heals the muscle by increasing aerobic metabolism through mitochondrial biogenesis.

The reason why exercise wasn’t considered before is that if people have muscles that are already inflamed or weak, they believed exercise would make the muscles worse. However, what is surprising is the question of why exercise is so effective. It’s because exercise takes care of the immune cells that are damaging the muscle while simultaneously targeting specific parts of dead or affected muscles.

While there are no drugs today that target all the issues of muscle inflammation, the researchers believe a combination of medication and endurance-based exercise can help patients live a happier and healthier life.

Thoughts on endurance running, form and technique

The best coaches in my area, most of them close to retirement, confirm that they can not train the modern athlete with techniques from 20 years ago. The modern person’s lifestyle constantly differs from his or her ancestors. Our lifestyle creates inflexibility and weakness, which is reinforced when running. Changing our ways requires better focus and frequent repetitions.

Not that we have to discard all we know. Rather, we have to be conscious of how the knowledge base change and align it with the changing needs of the runner.

What follows is a few tips for both novices and experienced runners.

General form
Good form will not only make you a beter runner, but also less injury prone.

  • Keep your head and chest upright. Relax the neck, shoulders and upper body. The upper body should be stable, but not tense.
  • Practice belly breathing. This will strengthen the diaphragm, which in turn aids running economy.
  • Relax your hands – imagine you are holding something precious between your thumb and forefinger. Clenching your hands will make you tense and tire your arms.
  • Work your arms – swing from the armpits to the hips in the direction you are going. No crossing over of arms or a boxing motion / chicken wings, this halters your momentum.
  • If you catch yourself clenching your hands or swinging your arms across your body, shake out your hands for 100 meters to fix it.
  • To improve posture and balance, run on a line in training, feet on both sides.

Speed
Speed training should be restricted and well balanced for endurance runners to restrict the buildup of ion molecules in the muscles. Failure to do so will result in enhanced levels of fatigue in races.

Too much speed training will also increase the proportion of fast-twitch muscle fibers to slow-twitch muscle fibers (Jansson, Esbjörnsson, Holm & Jacobs, Acta Physiologica Scandinavica, 1990), to the detriment of your endurance ability.

When you do speed training focus on your posture. Keep your head up, arms swinging in the direction you are going and hips extending and driving. Focus on eliminating unnecessary movements and maintaining balance and control.

Stride
Do not mess with your natural stride. Research shows this results in loss of speed (Brigham Young University study, International Journal of Exercise Science, 2017).

Be careful not to overreach in your stride. You will only hasten the onset of fatigue. The feet should strike under your center of gravity, with the hips extending and legs moving well out behind the center of gravity. Drive from the hips.

Improving energy storage and utilization
This is done with the long run in training.

  • Do not eat or drink before your run – this helps the body to improve fat burning. You should now and then experiment with staying off carbs for 12 hours before a long run – only if you had a good rest day before. Some French research suggest this not only improves energy utilization, but also boosts endurance performance by increasing aerobic capacity. Please note that for this to work your general diet should contain enough high quality carbs.
  • Do not start too fast or run too slow on the remainder. Start at recovery pace for the first few kilometers and then increase your speed to maximum 20% slower than marathon pace, moving to 10% slower than marathon pace, sometimes finishing at marathon pace. Make sure you cool down if you ran at marathon pace.
  • Do not eat, or drink carbs over the final 8 kilometers, only water – this also improves the utilization of fat.
  • Take a rest day before and a day after a long run – generally, not always.
  • In addition you can now and then run twice on one day on normal training days.

Running Economy
Running economy is typically defined as the energy demand for a given velocity of running, and is determined by the consumption of oxygen. In other words, the less oxygen you consume at a given velocity, the better your running economy.

You improve this ability by gradually increasing distance over time. This also helps your fast-twitch muscle fibers gain the positive characteristics of slow-twitch muscle fibers. Slow-twitch muscles enable our endurance abilities, such as distance running.

To improve your intake of oxygen, keep your head up and practice belly breathing.

Inhale and exhale smoothly and continuously through both your nose and mouth at the same time while running. On average you will inhale for three footstrikes, exhaling a bit faster, but this depends on your speed.

If you have trouble breathing during a race: lie down, relax, inhale slowly, fully expanding your lungs on the inhale, breathing from the belly, not pausing before you exhale. Do this a few times while focusing on staying calm and relaxed, because sometimes our problems with breathing is a result of race anxiety. A warm-up before the race also helps to stem that anxiety.

Strength Training
Strength training should be included at least twice per week in base training and should always be preceded by a gentle aerobic warm-up.

Shoes
Do about 200 kilometers in new shoes before you use them for a race. This should include at least one long run.

Race preparation
When preparing for a race you should try to mimic the goal race topography on some of your routes.

Do not race more than once every third week – never longer than a half marathon.

The week before a race you should remember to hydrate properly.

During the race, stick to the racing line as far as possible. The racing line is the shortest distance between two points, as measured from the start.

Race nutrition is a matter of personal preference and you should experiment with it in long runs, not during goal races. General guidelines include eating 7 – 8 g of carbohydrates for every 1 kg of body weight in the week prior to the race and taking fluid and carbohydrates at certain intervals during the race. Try not to drink anything after the 40 km mark in a marathon.

Strength training for endurance runners

Marathon runners want to be the classic vertical hyphen, with no extra muscles. Strength training, however, does have a role in the endurance runner’s overall training programme. It corrects muscle imbalances and prevent injuries by strengthening the connective tissue, including tendons and ligaments. It will also keep your arms and shoulders, which don’t get much benefit from running, in shape and strengthen your leg muscles. It may even improve your running economy so that you use less oxygen at a given pace. If done to excess, however, it may tighten up your muscle tissue, leave you injured, and add extra weight.

The greatest gains for marathon runners are obtained by including exercises that strengthen your propulsive and stabilizing muscles. The closer those exercises simulate how you would use those muscles during running, the greater the benefits for your running performance.

Strength training to increase muscle size is counterproductive to endurance performance. During endurance training, you work to increase the capillary density and mitochondrial content of your muscles. When muscle size is increased, the capillary and mitochondrial density of the muscle is reduced. It’s important, therefore, that you design your resistance training to avoid gains in muscle size. The program that follows is designed to improve strength specifically for your running without adding unneeded muscle.

Strength training should generally take place twice a week. With this frequency you will see steady improvements in strength but will not compromise the rest of your training program because of excess fatigue. Whether you run before or after work, schedule your strength training at the opposite side of the day or at lunchtime, so that it won’t detract from your running.

Follow the sequence of exercises, do it twice. Make sure you fully recover between the two sets:

1. Push-up
10 repetitions.
It helps to strengthen the chest, shoulders, and arms; helps improve arm drive when running and the ability to maintain good upper-body form when you are tired.

2. Dumbbell lat row
15 repetitions.
Help strengthens large muscles along side of upper back; improves running posture by balancing strength of the chest and shoulder muscles.

3. Bench dip
15 repetitions
Help strengthens shoulders and arms; increases ability to maintain upright running posture when tired.

4. Swan
10 repetitions
Help strengthens the middle and upper back; improves ability to hold the shoulder blades in correct position, which reduces tendency for upper body to slump forward.

5. Back extension
12 repetitions
Help strengthens lower back; increases ability to maintain good running posture when fatigued.

6. Step-up
15 repetitions per leg
Help strengthens the calves, quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluteals; improves balance and increases the forward power of each stride, increasing stride length.
Do only the simple step-up in this example:

7. Lunge
15 repetitions per leg
Help strengthens quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluteals; improves balance between left and right legs; helps develop ability to control the large forces through the legs and maintain form while running downhill.

8. Squat
20 repetitions
Help strengthens lower back, calves, quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluteals; improves ability to keep the knee in good alignment with the hip and ankle, which reduces injury risk and improves running efficiency; also helps develop triple extension (ankle, knee, and hip), which is an important feature of good running technique.

9. Alternate shoulder press
10 repetitions per side
Help strengthens shoulder and arm muscles; improves ability to maintain a stable upper body while running (minimizes side-to-side sway).

10. Seated triceps press
15 repetitions
Help strengthens muscles along back of upper arms; helps maintain relaxed arm action when fatigued.