Archive for the ‘Training’ Category

Cherry juice and recovery

April 18, 2010

After dosing up on beetroot juice before a race to improve endurance, it now seems that distance runners benefit from drinking cherry juice to aid recovery.

One study by the University of Vermont  claims:

There was a significant difference in the degree of muscle strength loss between those drinking the cherry juice blend and those taking the placebo juice. This fell by 22 percentage points in those drinking the placebo juice, but only by four percentage points in those drinking cherry juice. Muscle strength had slightly improved after 96 hours in those drinking cherry juice. The degree of soreness differed little between the two groups, but the average pain score was significantly less in those drinking cherry juice. Average pain scores came in at 3.2 for those drinking the placebo juice and 2.4 for those drinking cherry juice. Pain also peaked at 24 hours for those drinking cherry juice, but continued to increase for those on the placebo juice for the subsequent 48 hours.

University of Vermont. “Cherry Juice May Prevent Muscle Damage Pain.” (ScienceDaily23 June 2006. 18 April 2010 <;).

Another more recent experiment conducted by the School of Psychology and Sports Sciences at the Northumbria University confirms the beneficial effects of cherry juice:

In the investigation, 20 marathon runners drank either a tart cherry blend juice or a placebo drink twice a day for five days before taking part in the London Marathon and for two days afterwards.

The findings indicated that the group who drank the cherry juice recovered their strength more rapidly than the control group over the 48-hour period following the marathon. Inflammation was also reduced in the cherry juice group, as was oxidative stress, a potentially damaging response that can be caused by strenuous physical activity, particularly long distance endurance exercise.

Northumbria University. “Marathon Runners Should Pick Cherries for Speedy Recovery.”ScienceDaily 3 April 2010. 18 April 2010 <;.

The scientifically minded can find the abstract to the original article here.


Beetroot Juice and Endurance

February 21, 2010

This sounds too good to be true !

Research at the University of Exeter’s School of Sport Health and Science shows that drinking 500 ml of fresh beetroot juice for six days can lead to an increase of up to 16% in the endurance of cyclists. Here’s a link to the University’s own summary.

Here’s one report that summarises those findings. And here’s a link to the abstract published in the Journal of Applied Physiology for the more technically minded.

It is unclear to me whether trained athletes get a similar boost in endurance and how the consumption of juice can improve training in the long term. Anyway, given that drinking beetroot juice probably has few deleterious side effects, I’ll be imbibing it in industrial quantities before my next marathon (Barcelona, in two weeks). Who knows, it may help !

Posted by Xavier

Barefoot Running, Again and Vibrams

February 17, 2010

There’s a lot more debate about barefoot running. Now Harvard University is getting in on the act in a big way.

Now here’s a link to a terrific site at the Skeletal Bio Lab, Harvard University.

It is a very informative site indeed with lots of videos of different foot strikes. Having looked at it a bit, the site does not conclude that barefoot running is necessarily good for you. Be careful to read the “Training Tips” section !

As for my own efforts, I ran a complete  – rather punishing – interval session wearing my Vibram Fivefingers. I survived to tell the story, obviously ! I suffered no particular injury or strain and felt perfectly alright the next day. The intervals did not feel any easier though.

Posted by Xavier

Running Keeps Your Cells Young

January 28, 2010

A recent New York Times article confirms what all we runners feel instinctively and observe empirically : running is good for you and keeps you young and fit.

The point of the article is that it describes recent extensive scientific research conducted at Saarland University in Germany that concludes definitively that running – and indeed any kind of vigorous exercise – has a marked and dramatic effect on cell rejuvenation.

What is striking with the results of this research is the anti-ageing effect of running at the molecular level.

Here’s a slightly longer and more technical article about the research in question. And here’s a link to a similar but much more technical article by an American researcher, T.J. LaRocca, from the University of Colorado.

Read the whole article (it is not long). Then go for a run.

Core and resistance training

January 11, 2010

I’ve mentioned this before and it is worth repeating: running is good but running with cross-training is even better.

In the last few weeks, I’ve found a number of good sites that suggest worthwhile exercises to strengthen the core and to increase resistance.

This one containing descriptions of core and resistance exercises, by an Australian coach called Amelia Burton, is clear and well explained. The other parts of her website are well worth looking at too.

Another excellent site is one by Jessi Stensland, a professional triathlete from the United States. Her own site is full of interesting training tips. She is especially keen on posture and stability exercises and links to a site called “Core Performance“. In particular, she recommends this article containing ten training tips.

One interval training programme she recommends but which seems really quite tough and looks like a variation on the Billat intervals I’m keen on. Have a look at Jessi’s post here (you’ll need to scroll down a little).  Look out because the rest intervals get shorter, unlike with Billat intervals where they remain constant. Try it out if you are fit (but don’t if you are not).

Posted by Xavier

Qualifying for Boston….

December 14, 2009

I have a dream…. I want to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

That means, in the real, awake world, that I have to knock at least seven minutes of my best marathon time. The qualifying time for a male in my age group next year is 3 hours 35 minutes.

I suppose that is manageable with an appropriate training programme. I intend to use the FIRST programme which means three quality runs per week and lots of cross training such as cycling, spinning or swimming.

There are a number of blogs chronicling the path to Boston. Have a look at “No Meat Athlete” (there’s a lot about diet and nutrition thereor “On the Road to Boston” (more specifically focused on running).

Posted by Xavier

I did it !

October 10, 2009

I did it, I finally did it !

I went for an hour’s run on the treadmill in the gym (10 minutes warm up then 50 minutes at a gentle 9.5 km/h) and then, feeling hungry for more, I took my shoes off and ran for another 10 minutes.

It felt great. I noticed an immediate change of posture and a change in foot placement. When bare foot, heel strikes just don’t seem to happen and the natural tendency is to land on the middle of the foot.

The next day I noted no particular aches or unusual pain.

I did keep my socks on and the treadmill was really warm and pleasant underfoot. I’ll do it again next week for sure.

More Barefoot Running in the New York Times

October 5, 2009

Now the New York Times has an article on barefoot running. Looks like it is really catching on.

You can read it here.

I’ll just have to get hold of a pair of those weird looking Vibram Fivefinger shoes that I mentioned earlier.

Posted by Xavier

Barefoot running

July 15, 2009

It’s the quiet season. No races. Just training. And some experimenting with changes to the routine and new things.

One of the things I’m trying out is running barefoot. Well, not quite…Let me explain.

Thanks to IanM’s interesting post the other day, I started looking into the idea of running barefoot. I came across quite a lot of information on the net, such as this site  or this older article.  Then Wired  – I’m an avid reader – published this article recently so I decided to have a go.

 To tell you the truth, I didn’t just shed my Nikes and dash out of the door with bare feet. The pavements of Brussels are notoriously filthy and swept too rarely to even consider doing that. What I did though is put on my old Nike Free shoes and wore them during an interval session. Those shoes are designed for flexibility so that running in them feels quite like running barefoot. I decided to run on a treadmill as that is generally a softer surface until I got the hang of it. 

Last night I ran a 45 minute session of three sets of hard 30 second Billat intervals at a speed of 16 km/h. I wrote about those intervals here

I really liked the sensation of the lighter, more responsive shoe. It was much easier to avoid the heel strike that is the cause of so many injuries. In fact, I enjoyed the experience last night so much I went back and ran a steady, gentle 30 minute recovery run wearing my Nike Frees. 

I’m pleased to report that I have no unusual aches or pains, no unusual stiffness and feel no particular discomfort afterwards. 

Here’s a video that explains the difference between running in shoes and running without them:

Posted by Xavier

New Challenge: Stronger Legs with One Leg Squats

June 10, 2009

Now that I’m a few weeks from another marathon I think it time to address one or two things. And one of those things is the need to strengthen my legs.

A while back we discussed squats. Now I’m going to try to learn to do one-leg squats.

So far, so bad! With practice and perseverance, however, I hope to manage some.  Here are a few links to articles and videos I found useful. First, this article gives quite some detail about them, how to do them and why they are good for you. As for the advantages of one-leg squats, or pistols as they are sometimes called, the article states:

“Pistols have a wide array of athletic and real-world applications. The fundamental skill that pistols teach is exerting power through the entire range of motion of your stance, while on one leg. Whether running, jumping, or changing directions in an athletic competition, or walking, sitting, or standing in your daily affairs, powerful legs enable us to do what we do better, and with greater ease. The combination of skills that pistol practice develops simultaneously– balance, strength, endurance, flexibility and coordination– make it one of the most useful and important exercises to learn.  

Here’s a handy video:  

And another one with rather a charming (and good) but brief explanation:

I’ll report back on progress, if any, in due course. 

Posted by Xavier.