6AM Run's Six Facts of the Week (3/15/22)
1: Avoid Sore Tendons
Although they don’t look as good in a tank top as vein-popping muscles, your tendons play a critical role in athletic performance. Like muscles, you really need to train your tendons to pull their weight within the musculoskeletal system. You’re probably scratching your head, thinking, “Can you even do that?” According to new research, the answer is “Yes, You Can Train Your Tendons.” Sure, having a particularly elastic tendon won’t garner the same compliments as a toned muscle, but bear with us, because thicker, springier tendons like your achilles heel can improve running efficiency significantly. Just how much improvement can be made? When comparing sets of twins, researchers found a 28% increase in achilles tendon stiffness among those who reported an active lifestyle, compared to their inactive counterparts. In general, moving around on your feet, running, and cycling are all good ways to bolster its strength, but to really hone in on your achilles, try the exercises and stretches in “Physical Therapy Exercises for Achilles Tendonitis.” Of course, there are tendons all over your body, and for athletes that participate in sports with lots of twisting and high impact, like skiing or tennis, you’ll want to cover all your bases. Take a look at “How to Strengthen Tendons and Ligaments for Injury Prevention.” One tip you can try in the gym is performing partial rep ranges with heavy weight. By performing only the eccentric portion of a lift, you expose your body to a higher level of resistance without overexerting your muscles trying to push it back up.
2: Rise To The Challenge
Contrary to popular myth, more talented athletes tend to perform worse in big moments than their middle-of-the-bell-curve peers. That’s what research indicates about athletes’ performance in regular vs. postseason games, for example. The better the player ranks, the more their performance decreases in high pressure situations. The question is, are they mentally hindered from the high expectations placed on them, or physically drained from carrying their team to victory? Dive into this mystery in “Why Performance Under Pressure Isn’t All in Your Head.” The best athletes get the most playing time, which is great for building skills, but can leave you depleted after several weeks of competition. Similarly, runners who push themselves hard in training might arrive on race day with fatigue and injuries. Sometimes, you’ve got to check your ego, take things easy, and gradually take on more mileage. Follow the guidelines in “Running – Load Management” to learn how to listen to your body and avoid overworking in practice. We’ve covered the physical side of things, but what about mental? One study found that basketball players were between 2% and 6% more likely to miss a free throw in the last 30 seconds of a close game. Psychologists have identified 2 potential causes for poor performance under pressure, and you can read about them in “What High-Stakes Athletic Competition Reveals About Winning in Life.” One possibility is the increased likelihood of “self focus,” or the increased self consciousness that results in deliberate control of your skill’s execution. The other factor is increased distraction, as anxiety shifts your attention to worries about the task at hand, rather than focusing on the task itself. To avoid choking under pressure, prepare a mental strategy for yourself to combat these pitfalls.
3: NYC Marathon Registration is OPEN
The TCS New York City Marathon will complete its comeback this year as the field expands to its traditional size of about 50,000 runners. If you want to join the fun, the window for entering the bib drawing opened on Wednesday, March 9 and will close on Wednesday, March 23. Once applications are collected, the drawing for non-guaranteed entries will take place on Wednesday, March 30.
4: Runners and Deadlifts
Despite their name, deadlifts can breathe new life into your performance as a runner or cyclist. When it comes to building core and lower body strength, there are very few exercises that can top this classic powerlifting move. If you think deadlifts are just for the hero room at the gym, think again, and check out: “Five Ways Runners Can Benefit From Deadlifting” from Training Peaks. First of all, deadlifts recruit the same large muscle groups used while running. By developing hamstring and glute strength, you’re better able to propel yourself forward. Deadlifts also help reduce your risk of injury, since a stronger leg is less likely to break down under strain. Of course, you’ll need to pay close attention to your form to ensure you don’t injure yourself weightlifting, but there are a few variations you can try out to make things easier. Take a look at “Stop Doing Barbell Deadlifts. Do These Exercises Instead” from Men’s Health. While traditional barbell deadlifts are great for those looking to compete in powerlifting, they aren’t the safest way to simply build strength. Using a trap bar instead lets you take a more natural position, lifting the weight similarly to how one lifts bags of groceries. If you’re new to weightlifting in general, you might want to check out “How to Start Weightlifting With Polar Ambassador Alice Mastriani.” Probably the most important thing to do is to speak to a trainer or experienced lifter as you learn the movements to develop proper form.
An Ironman triathlon requires athletes to muster everything they’ve got to make it 140.6 miles. Sometimes the final few yards of that journey can be the toughest, as demonstrated in the Instagram post below from @runner.daily . Sergei was hurting badly, knees buckling with the finish line in sight. Coaxed on by a cheering crowd and an enthusiastic announcer, he made it down the home stretch on his hands and knees. It is reminiscent of a famous Ironman World Championship finish from 1997, when top contenders Sian Welch and Wendy Ingraham both collapsed just before the finish line and proceeded to race each other crawling. The video has become known in triathlon circles as simply “The Crawl.”
6: Gardens & HealthAcross several countries and cultures, there’s been a renewed interest in gardening, which is a much healthier activity than binge-watching Netflix. We would expect gardening to provide hyper-local farm-to-table experiences and exercise outdoors, but we were happily surprised to learn that gardening promotes growth and happiness between the ears as well: “How to cultivate wellbeing through gardening.” In a survey conducted by the Royal Horticultural Society, UK residents were offered a few free plants to put in front of their houses. Those who accepted reported feeling more pride in their neighborhood, and more interaction with the people around them. The act of planting presents an opportunity for mindfulness, focusing your awareness on sights, smells, and textures of your greenery. In our personal experience, we have also found that gardening is a lot like running in the sense that you have to trust in deferred gratification. You don’t plant a seed and expect to harvest the next day. You need faith that hard work will provide benefits many weeks and months later. Not only is gardening good for your mind, but also your body: “Yard Work Is Basically Strength Training—Here’s How to Get Stronger While Mowing the Lawn.”