1. How menstruation affects athletic prowess is poorly understood:
Changing that will give sportswomen a new way to improve performance.
Just 0.63 seconds separated first from fourth place in the women’s 100 metres freestyle at the recent Tokyo Olympic Games—a race where the winning time was 51.96 seconds. In light of this and similar facts, it is not surprising that elite athletes are constantly searching for ways to get even 1% better. To that end, they hire strength coaches, nutritionists and sports psychologists. And lately, some female athletes have been trying a new tack: working with menstrual-cycle coaches.
Good data concerning the effects of menstruation on athletic performance are scant. However, according to four studies conducted in 2020 on more than 250 athletes from a range of sports, more than half of sportswomen believe their performance fluctuates with the phase of their menstrual cycle. In particular, many said they suffered in the weeks immediately before and during menstruation. World-class performers like Fu Yuanhui, a Chinese swimmer, have spoken openly about this, too. And female athletes also report distraction and worry about bleeding while actively menstruating, a matter which made the news recently when a group of activists protested about the all-white dress code at the Wimbledon tennis championships.
More...from The Economist.
2. Transwoman Elite Athletes: Their Extra Percentage Relative to Female Physiology:
There is increasing debate as to whether transwoman athletes should be included in the elite female competition. Most elite sports are divided into male and female divisions because of the greater athletic performance displayed by males. Without the sex division, females would have little chance of winning because males are faster, stronger, and have greater endurance capacity. Male physiology underpins their better athletic performance including increased muscle mass and strength, stronger bones, different skeletal structure, better adapted cardiorespiratory systems, and early developmental effects on brain networks that wires males to be inherently more competitive and aggressive. Testosterone secreted before birth, postnatally, and then after puberty is the major factor that drives these physiological sex differences, and as adults, testosterone levels are ten to fifteen times higher in males than females. The non-overlapping ranges of testosterone between the sexes has led sports regulators, such as the International Olympic Committee, to use 10 nmol/L testosterone as a sole physiological parameter to divide the male and female sporting divisions. Using testosterone levels as a basis for separating female and male elite athletes is arguably flawed. Male physiology cannot be reformatted by estrogen therapy in transwoman athletes because testosterone has driven permanent effects through early life exposure. This descriptive critical review discusses the inherent male physiological advantages that lead to superior athletic performance and then addresses how estrogen therapy fails to create a female-like physiology in the male. Ultimately, the former male physiology of transwoman athletes provides them with a physiological advantage over the cis-female athlete.
3. What is Best Practice for Training Intensity and Duration Distribution in Endurance Athletes?
Successful endurance training involves the manipulation of training intensity, duration, and frequency, with the implicit goals of maximizing performance, minimizing risk of negative training outcomes, and timing peak fitness and performances to be achieved when they matter most. Numerous descriptive studies of the training characteristics of nationally or internationally competitive endurance athletes training 10 to 13 times per week seem to converge on a typical intensity distribution in which about 80% of training sessions are performed at low intensity (2 mM blood lactate), with about 20% dominated by periods of high-intensity work, such as interval training at approx. 90% VO2max. Endurance athletes appear to self-organize toward a high-volume training approach with careful application of high-intensity training incorporated throughout the training cycle. Training intensification studies performed on already well-trained athletes do not provide any convincing evidence that a greater emphasis on high-intensity interval training in this highly trained athlete population gives long-term performance gains. The predominance of low-intensity, long-duration training, in combination with fewer, highly intensive bouts may be complementary in terms of optimizing adaptive signaling and technical mastery at an acceptable level of stress.
4. Training in the Grey Zone: How to Avoid the Zone 3 Plateau:
If you find yourself struggling to improve your run performance despite consistently tough training sessions, chances are you are in the dreaded Zone 3 plateau. Here’s how to bust out of this rut, avoid overtraining and reach your running potential.
Do you find yourself validating a good run with average pace? Have to catch that runner up ahead of you on the path, so you drop the pace and push a little harder? Desperate to break the four-hour marathon barrier or to get yourself under 1:30 in the half? Do you find that even though you’re pushing yourself harder and harder, you don’t see the results in races? The truth is that you’re likely in a Zone 3 plateau, which means you’re probably pushing too hard too often, and not running slow enough often enough. It doesn’t matter your pace, slowing down to go faster is the real deal.
Training in the Right Running Zones
For runners, there is little better for you than slow Zone 2 base running. Many runners push the Zone 2 work out of the way in favor of Zone 3 work because they fall into the trap that running harder more often will lead to better results. However, Zone 3 work is above aerobic pace and has some lactate response, which means that it isn’t hard enough to elicit a desirable physical adaptation, and yet it’s too hard to allow for day-to-day recovery.
Constantly pushing in Zone 3 day after day is a habit of the time-crunched runner, where mileage and average pace is the only validator of training. This athlete can often find themselves in a rut and left wondering how they could work so hard for so little results. As mentioned above, continual Zone 3 work doesn’t allow for enough recovery and puts the athlete in a state of continuous fatigue. No wonder we call it feeling “hammered out!” So how can we get out of the rut, and back to PR’s?
More...from Training Peaks.
5. So, women aren’t doing enough ‘vigorous’ exercise? One more telling-off we can do without:
According to a new report, we need to go to the gym more. But that ignores the exertions of everyday life.
In the latest round of scolding women and pretending it’s for their own good comes the news that we’re not doing enough exercise – at least of the “vigorous” sort. According to Nuffield Health, 47% of women they surveyed hadn’t engaged in activities such as running, swimming or a class at the gym that would help them to keep fit and healthy in mind and body; markedly more than men, of whom only just over a third responded similarly. Two-thirds of the women, and half of the men, cited a lack of motivation; other reasons included not knowing where to start, and simply not having enough time.
To be clear, it’s not Nuffield doing the telling-off – more what we might call the discourse that greeted their findings, which immediately started to discuss issues of childcare deficits and the heavier burden of unpaid labour that continues to fall on women and prevent them from getting to Zumba. But although these barriers to exercise are demonstrably valid, they also reinforce the idea that we are failing to do something we ought.
More...from The Guardian.
6. Here’s the Optimal Prerun Warmup Sequence, According to New Research:
Should you foam roll then stretch or vice versa? Turns out, the order does make a difference for your range of motion.
* Foam rolling followed by stretching before a run can improve your range of motion, which can, in turn, improve your running performance, according to new research.
* This is because your muscles’ relaxation response to foam rolling makes stretching more effective.
* Doing this sequence before exercise rather than after can be helpful for performance, in part because your muscles get truly “warmed up” and prepped for a run.
Foam rolling and stretching is often touted for helping increase your range of motion, which can boost running performance. But does it really matter which you should do first before running as long as you get the benefits of each? Recent research in the Journal of Sports Science & Medicine suggests there really is an ideal one-two combination.
In a meta-analysis, researchers looked at 12 studies that involved foam rolling and stretching, particularly those including performance parameters like greater strength or better jump height.
More...from Runner's World.
7. The Surprising Benefits of Training in the Heat:
Is heat better than altitude? The science seems to say so.
One of the highest sweat rates ever recorded was that of marathon runner Alberto Salazar at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. In the months leading up to the games, which were expected to be oppressively hot, the marathoner was put through a regimen of temperature acclimation training with the goal of helping him adapt to running in the heat. While Salazar placed only 15th overall, the program was deemed a success, physiologically speaking—vitals taken after the race found that Salazar’s hormonal and thermoregulatory systems were completely normal. His body had compensated by causing him to sweat at an incredibly high rate—about three liters per hour, compared to the roughly one liter per hour for an average human.
Researchers have been looking at the effects of heat on athletic performance for decades, and their results have been consistently surprising. Studies have found that, in addition to an increased rate of perspiration, training in the heat can increase an athlete’s blood plasma volume (which leads to better cardiovascular fitness), reduce overall core temperature, reduce blood lactate, increase skeletal muscle force, and, counterintuitively, make a person train better in cold temperatures. In fact, heat acclimation may actually be more beneficial than altitude training in eliciting positive physiological adaptations, says Santiago Lorenzo, a professor of physiology at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine and a former decathlete at the University of Oregon. “Heat acclimation provides more substantial environmental specific improvements in aerobic performance than altitude acclimation,” he says. And in contrast to the live low, train high philosophy, we more quickly adapt to heat stress than we do to hypoxia. In other words, heat training not only does a better job at increasing V02 max than altitude, but it also makes athletes better at withstanding a wider range of temperatures.
More...from Outside Online.
8. Why Carbs Don’t Make You Fat:
For the past ten years, carbohydrates have been labeled as public health enemy number one by many popular diet books, websites, and health gurus. They have been thoroughly excoriated as almost single-handedly causing the obesity epidemic in the West.
This actually isn’t the first time carbs have had a target on them. The food group has been a perennial nutrition punching bag since the 19th century.
The phenomenon of low-carb dieting goes all the way back to 1863, when it was called “banting” after undertaker William Banting, who popularized the diet with a bestselling pamphlet. The diet was so popular, people took to commonly asking each other, “Do you bant?” or “Are you banting?”
In the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, the low-carb diet was known mainly by the Atkins name. Then the 2000s saw an explosion of different kinds of low or no-carb diets: paleo, South Beach, Whole30, and slow-carb diets were some of the most popular. While they all differed in the level of carbohydrates permitted, they all generally discouraged things like bread, cereals, rice, or starchy veggies like corn and potatoes.
9. How to Avoid (and Fix) a Bum Ankle:
Ankle instability is often the result of nerve and ligament damage. These exercises can help get you back on, and stay on, your feet.
When Chris Peterson sprained his ankle playing football in high school, he brushed it off as a minor injury. His ankle hurt for a couple days, but no one suggested he see a doctor, and soon enough, it felt better. “I got back to playing as soon as I could,” said Dr. Peterson, now a physical therapist at Washington University in St. Louis. However, although his ankle didn’t hurt, it just wasn’t the same afterward.
“I’d step wrong, and my ankle just wasn’t there,” which often led to falls, he said.
Sprained ankles are among the most common musculoskeletal injuries. Official estimates are that two million people in the U.S. sprain their ankle every year, but the real number is likely to be much higher, as many people never seek care for their injury.
More...from the New York Times.
10. Athletes don’t need to ‘go hard’ exercising during a heat wave:
Over the past few years, heat waves have become increasingly common to our Canadian summers. As a native Montrealer, I can attest to the fact that it can be difficult to reconcile our desire to train outdoors with the intensity of the seasonal heat. After many months of braving the cold, the warm weather triggers a new sense of urgency within us and any excuse is valid to spend time outdoors. That said, it’s easy to see how staggering humidity levels or new heat records can stop our motivation in regard to exercising outdoors in its tracks.
The truth is that, much like winter, training outdoors in the summer requires some adjustments and preparations.
While I can empathize with the fact that no one wants to look dishevelled in public, we need to accept that sweating is a necessary and inevitable part of exercising outdoors. Sweat is a key part of the body’s response to heat and represents its attempt at regulating our temperature. With this in mind, breathable and sweat-wicking fabric can help us avoid painful chafing and minimize any discomfort that we experience while exercising. It can also be helpful to wear a light hat during your training sessions, ideally one that can be wet at a local water fountain for additional freshness.
More...from the Globe and Mail.
11. Crankiness From Exercise Withdrawal:
Prioritize this critical time for your health.
* Many people who exercise view it as an emotional necessity.
* Research has shown that a person’s mood may be altered when their exercise routine is interrupted by situations like extreme weather.
* The mental benefits of exercise may be related to its ability to distract us from anxieties or provide an escape from ongoing responsibilities.
The extreme heat over the last few weeks in much of the country has made exercising outside almost unbearable and even dangerous. Weekend athletes who customarily spend time in outdoor activities possible only during the warm-weather months found themselves sitting in front of the air conditioning unit rather than sitting on a bike or in a kayak. Even indoor gyms were not alternatives because getting there meant braving high temperatures and humidity.
More...from Psychology Today.
12. Are carbohydrates more important than protein for athletes’ recovery?
What’s your go-to choice of food to aid recovery after exercise? Many endurance athletes are quick to reach for the protein shake above all else and for good reason. A strong body of science (as well as some clever marketing) supports the use of protein as part of an effective recovery strategy.
After all, protein can help repair damaged muscles and maximise training adaptations, but is it really the ‘be all and end all’ when it comes to recovery for endurance athletes?
There’s no doubt that an intense training session may cause some muscle damage. But a significant additional cost of training and racing is a dramatic depletion of your energy stores, namely glycogen (the body’s carbohydrate storage molecule), which is why the use of carbohydrates for recovery becomes important.
You should think of glycogen as your main exercise fuel tank, once it’s empty, you (the vehicle) begin to run on fumes until you put more of the correct fuel in.
More...from Precision Hydration.
13. How to Be Safe from COVID While You’re Cycling:
COVID-19 has slowed down the pace of everyday living, and people are trying to find ways to navigate around the new normal, including their choice of transportation. Some people may hesitate riding public transportation these days especially, fearing being in a confined space with potential carriers. That said, it’s not surprising that cycling should emerge as one of the preferred modes of transportation. Because you ride alone and bikes can easily weave in and out of traffic, your likelihood of exposure to the coronavirus may be lesser.
Despite the convenience of bikes, you still need to exercise caution because they can’t guarantee you immunity from the coronavirus. To ensure a safe ride every time you’re out cycling, follow the COVID safety tips listed below.
Safety Check before Riding
On the road, you have so many things to take notice of, variables you can’t control in case of an emergency. Knowing how to be safe from COVID entails not just the basics of proper hygiene and physical distancing. You also need (1) your protective gear to avoid or at least minimize the impact of sustaining injuries and (2) bright, reflective gear to improve your visibility.
Remember, if you hurt yourself badly or get into a major accident while you’re cycling, you may need to go to a hospital, where there is a higher chance of exposure to COVID patients. Also, with hospitals maxing out their capacity to accept patients, you may not be able to receive medical treatment immediately.
14. An Unconventional Training Idea for Older Women:
Mounting evidence suggests that women respond differently to endurance training after menopause. Could donating blood be the solution?
A new paper in the Journal of Sports Sciences, in setting up what turns out to be a highly unusual and interesting experiment, casually drops this little fact-bomb in its opening sentence: “The cardiac phenotype of a substantial fraction of the population, i.e., mature women, is mainly unresponsive to endurance training.”
Wow. The hearts of mature women are “mainly unresponsive”?! That seems like kind of a big deal, since the health-promoting effects of endurance training are an article of faith in this column. So it’s worth starting out by acknowledging the chronic underrepresentation of women in exercise science studies. Exactly how women respond to a given training program, and how that changes with age, remains uncertain because it hasn’t been studied enough.
In fact, there’s some history to this claim. Back in 2019, two of the authors of the new study, Candela Diaz-Canestro and David Montero of the University of Calgary, published a meta-analysis looking at the extent to which men and women can raise their VO2 max, a key marker of aerobic fitness, through endurance training. Their conclusion: for a given dose of endurance training, men got a bigger VO2 max boost than women by about 2 ml/min/kg—a difference that corresponds to a 7 to 9 percent reduction in premature death.
More...from Sweat Science on Outside Online.
15. How Pregnancy Affects Your Marathon Time:
A new study assesses how childbirth altered the career trajectories of the fastest marathoners in history, with encouraging results.
A few years ago, Nike-sponsored runners Alysia Montaño and Kara Goucher publicly revealed the extent to which their pay had been slashed when they got pregnant. Allyson Felix followed up with the story of how Nike had offered her a contract with a 70 percent reduction in pay after she got pregnant. “Getting pregnant,” former Nike runner Phoebe Wright said, “is the kiss of death for a female athlete.”
There are some basic questions of right and wrong here. But there are also some physiological questions. Is it correct to assume that, once a woman gets pregnant, her best athletic days are behind her? After all, some researchers consider carrying a baby to term to be an arduous feat of endurance that bumps up against ultimate human limits. Or, conversely, might it be that female athletes actually have an advantage after giving birth? That’s what other experts propose, pointing to lasting changes in cardiovascular abilities such as the amount of blood the heart can pump and potential increases in pain tolerance.
What we need is data, and that’s what a new study in the European Journal of Sport Science supplies. A research team led by Nicolas Forstmann of the Institute for Research in bioMedicine and Epidemiology of Sport and the National Institute of Sports Expertise and Performance, in France, analyzes the career trajectories of the fastest female marathoners in history—and concludes that giving birth doesn’t really make a difference either way.
More...from Sweat Science on Outside Online.