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Do You Want To Train Like A World-Record Ultra Runner?

+ Stop leaning forward when you run

Do You Want To Train Like A World-Record Ultra Runner? 1

Here’s the free but abridged version of the Run Long, Run Healthy newsletter. See the links below to subscribe to the full-text edition with more articles and deeper, more specific running advice. – Amby


Stop Leaning Forward

Do You Want To Train Like A World-Record Ultra Runner? 2

Many runners have had friends, and maybe even coaches tell them to “lean forward more” while running. This advice is usually based on logic, such as, “When you lean forward, gravity helps you run faster.”

Gravity is a real thing, and it can help you achieve many things. Like, for example, you can smash your face to the ground. However, if your goal in running is to continue moving forward smoothly and efficiently, you need a more nuanced understanding of the best biomechanics.

That’s what several California researchers explored in a recent experiment. They asked 16 young runner subjects (half female) to run on a laboratory treadmill with five different running postures. The five postures were:

  • Upright
  • Slight forward lean from the hips
  • Maximal forward lean from the hips
  • Slight forward lean from the ankles
  • Maximal forward lean from the ankles.

We’ve all heard that we shouldn’t lean forward from the hips. If anything, lean slightly forward from the ankles. That’s the most common advice from the most respected coaches. Let’s see how it pans out.

Prior research in this arena has produced mixed results. In this case, the investigators hypothesized that they would see no significant differences between running postures.

They were wrong. Instead, they observed that “running with an increased forward postural lean (up to 8 degrees) increased metabolic cost by 8%.” When you increase your metabolic cost, your running economy plummets. The goal is always to lower your metabolic cost.

It didn’t matter whether the runners leaned forward from the ankles or the hips—both were equally bad. Running with a lean forced the hip and thigh muscles to do more work to stabilize the falling-forward body, which reduced the subjects’ running economy.

Conclusion: “Running with a large forward postural lean reduced running economy and increased reliance on less efficient extensor leg muscles. In contrast, running with a more upright or moderate forward postural lean may be more energetically optimal, and lead to improved running performance.” More at PLos ONE with free full text.

RELATED ARTICLE: Proper Running Form: 9 Tips To Perfect Your Running Form


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Do You Want To Train Like A World-Record Ultra Runner? 3

Do You Want To Train Like A World-Record Ultra Runner?

Do You Want To Train Like A World-Record Ultra Runner? 4
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It’s always interesting, and sometimes a bit scary, to learn about the actual training methods of a world-record-setter. Especially if that runner is an ultramarathon star.

In this case, we know that the runner being described is Aleksandr Sorokin because who else “broke eight world records in 2021 and 2022, including the 24-hour run in which he ran 319.6 km?”

That 24-hour race total is, in miles, a mind-boggling 198.6 miles. This means that Sorokin averaged about 7:15 per mile for 24 hours. Here’s a report on that effort from I Run Far.

The authors of this paper about Sorokin’s training obtained his data from Strava, uploaded from his Coros watch, over a nearly 2-year period in 2021 and 2022.

They found that Sorokin averaged from 106 miles/week to 163 miles/week, depending on where he was in a training block and upcoming race cycle.

During this time, he regularly did “interval training” with repeats ranging from 1000 meters to 10,000 meters. His average training pace was, interestingly enough, about the same as his pace for the 24-hour run—7:15 per mile.

Sorokin hit a top training week of 236 miles about a month before his most important races. Then, he began tapering. Good thing.

Conclusion: These findings suggest that training for ultramarathon races should include high-volume running at varied paces and intensity with cross-training to avoid injuries.” More at International J of Sports Physiology & Performance.

RELATED ARTICLE: The Ultimate Guide To Cross Training For Runners


Not So Awesome Sauce

Do You Want To Train Like A World-Record Ultra Runner? 5

It was a bad week for Spring Energy, a company that makes sports nutrition products. Several skeptics more or less simultaneously submitted one of Spring Energy’s most popular products, Awesome Sauce, to independent labs to see if the gel lived up to its claimed contents.

It didn’t.

Awesome Sauce became popular several years ago because it claimed to pack 180 calories into a modest-sized gel package. At about the same time, reports from sports nutrition journals began to advocate that endurance athletes should increase their calorie consumption on the go over what was previously recommended.

Voila! Awesome Sauce appeared to be in the right place at the right time, and sales took off—until several skeptics decided to dig deeper.

One independent test revealed that Awesome Sauce contained just 76 calories, way below the promoted 180. Other tests also seemed to find discrepancies. Ultra runners and former Awesome Sauce users screamed “Foul!” as Spring Energy stuck to its claims while acknowledging that different batches might contain different calorie amounts.

At least one independently tested gel from Gu did match its nutrition claims.

The message here appears to be the same as all sports supplements: Buyer beware. Also, self-test all nutritional products to see how you feel and run with them. If a product works for you, that’s more important than its precise nutritional makeup.

RELATED ARTICLE: A Timeline of the Spring Energy Controversy + an Interview with Jason Koop


SHORT STUFF You Don’t Want To Miss

Here’s what else you would have received this week if you were a subscriber to the complete, full-text edition of “Run Long, Run Healthy.” Why not give it a try? SUBSCRIBE HERE. 

  • The most important training lesson you’ll ever learn
  • How to Zone In on the best training paces
  • Two simple exercises that test your injury risk
  • A training trick with a “2 for 1” bonus payoff
  • Wait and see? Arthroscopic knee surgery does not help delay knee replacement
  • Heating up: It’s time to review the best running-in-hot-weather strategies
  • A great quote about living every day to the fullest

DON’T FORGET: I spend hours searching the Internet for the best, most authoritative new running articles so that you can review them in minutes.

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading. See you again next week. Amby

Photo of author
Amby Burfoot stands as a titan in the running world. Crowned the Boston Marathon champion in 1968, he became the first collegian to win this prestigious event and the first American to claim the title since John Kelley in 1957. As well as a stellar racing career, Amby channeled his passion for running into journalism. He joined Runner’s World magazine in 1978, rising to the position of Editor-in-Chief and then serving as its Editor-at-Large. As well as being the author of several books on running, he regularly contributes articles to the major publications, and curates his weekly Run Long, Run Healthy Newsletter.

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