Introducing: The News Roundup

Welcome to what I hope will be a biweekly survey of recent news related to fitness, nutrition, training, and competition. My goal is to pass along links to articles that summarize recent medical research, offer insights into training, as well as other articles of interest to runners. You won’t see many articles from Runner’s World, since I suppose nearly everyone who drops by is already a regular reader.


Faster, Faster, Slower

In the last few months, we’ve seen more research to indicate that interval training not only increases speed, but it also boosts the body’s ability to burn fat. In January, the Los Angeles Times reported that your body will adapt quickly to the same kind of running every day. Interval training–mixing in bursts of speed and intensity–helps you break out of a plateau. Challenge the body and it will improve. The New York Times reported on some of the same research in May. both newspapers cited a 2006 study in the Journal of Applied Physiology. “Eight women in their early 20s cycled for 10 sets of four minutes of hard riding, followed by two minutes of rest. After interval training, the amount of fat burned in an hour of continuous moderate cycling increased by 36 percent.” Best of all, the benefits of interval training extended even to sedentary people and non-competitive athletes. Now Reuters reports on a Japanese study that found that adding a break into a workout may boost fat-burning efficiency. One group of men rode an exercise bike for 60 minutes straight, while another rode for 30 minutes, rested for 20, and then rode for another 30 minutes. The men in the second group showed evidence of greater fat metabolism. “While the proportion of total calories burned did not differ between the two workouts, fat represented nearly 77 percent of the calories burned in the recovery period after the two-part exercise session, compared with about 56 percent of calories burned in the recovery period after the single long exercise session.”

Up Close With Bernard Legat

The current issue of ESPN the Magazine profiles middle distance runner Bernard Lagat, a bronze and silver medalist in the Olympics. At the 2004 Olympics in Athens he ran for his native Kenya, but at next month’s World Championships in Osaka and next year in Beijing, Lagat will proudly wear the stars and stripes. The article shows a softer side to the track legend, describing his family life as well as his respect for his fellow runners.

Dark Side of the Sun

Runners should always be mindful of the sun. Not only can the sun’s power lead to heat stroke or heat exhaustion, but long term exposure to the sun without adequate protection can lead to skin cancer. Deena Kastor was treated for melanoma in 2003. A study in a recent issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals that caffeine and exercise helped combat skin cancer in mice. According to a summary in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required), researchers exposed mice to ultraviolet-B light, leading some of the cells in the mice to become precancerous. Damaged cells are supposed to self-destruct, a process known as apoptosis. When that doesn’t happen, the damaged cells can become cancerous. “Compared with the control animals, those drinking caffeine had a 95% increase in apoptosis in damaged cells. The exercisers showed a 120% increase, and the mice that were both drinking and running showed a nearly 400% increase.” Researchers aren’t sure why the caffeine and exercise had an effect on apoptosis. (You can also find a very short summary in the Los Angeles Times.)

Pumping Iron

Many runners question the role that strength training should play in their training. They don’t want to “bulk up,” but note that increased strength can reduce the chance of injury. A point-counterpoint piece in Running Times last year by Jason Karp and Michael Yessis didn’t resolve the issue for me. This week the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association updated the guidelines for general fitness to include weight training two times per week. The core recommendations now include “moderately intense cardio 30 minutes a day, five days a week; vigorously intense cardio 20 minutes a day, 3 days a week; and eight to 10 strength-training exercises, eight to 12 repetitions of each exercise twice a week.”

Frequent Fliers

Finally, a tip of the hat to Jeanne, who recruited me for this gig, and who passed along a short travel note from the Wall Street Journal. Anyone who travels for work knows that it can be difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle on the road. Long meetings, airport food, and unfamiliarity with new places can make it hard to stay fit. Westin Hotels offers the RunWESTIN program at 26 locations around the world. A concierge leads guests on a morning run from the hotel. Guests benefit because they know the distance of the run in advance and they get to see some of the local sights.

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