1. Back to the start-line?
In another Sports Psychology focused piece, Lloyd Emeka talks about Challenge and Threat States in Athletes now that real racing might make a return.
The weather is getting milder and we are starting to experience lighter evenings. Spring is on the horizon and the imminent easing of UK national lockdown restrictions provides us with further room for optimism.
In the upcoming months, we should hopefully start to witness a return of normal outdoor competition (in line with England Athletics guidelines). Virtual races (i.e., running alone at any location, at any pace indoors on a treadmill or outdoors) have served a purpose throughout the Covid-19 pandemic but is limited in its ability to fully replicate the experience of race participation.
More...from Fast Running.
2. Physiology of Strength Training:
This is an excerpt from Periodization of Strength Training for Sports-4th Edition by Tudor O. Bompa & Carlo Buzzichelli.
Until a few years ago, we believed that strength was determined mainly by the musclesí cross-sectional area (CSA). For this reason, weight training was used to increase "engine size"-in other words, to produce muscular hypertrophy. Now, we see it differently. CSA remains the single best predicting factor of an individualís strength, but the main factors responsible for strength increase (especially in advanced athletes) are in fact the neural adaptations to strength training, such as improvements in inter- and intramuscular coordination and the disinhibition of inhibitory mechanisms (refer back to chapter 2 for further explanation on the neural adaptations to strength training).
Of all types of strength training, maximum strength makes the highest contribution to high performance.
Briefly, an athleteís ability to generate high forces depends to a great extent on the following factors.
Intermuscular coordination: the ability to synchronize all muscles of a kinetic chain involved in an action
Intramuscular coordination: the capacity to voluntarily recruit as many motor units as possible and send nerve impulses at high frequencies
Hypertrophy: the diameter or cross-sectional area of the muscle involved
More...from Human Kinetics.
3. Plant Protein Can Be Just As Effective As Animal Protein for Muscle Gains:
As long as youíre getting the amount of protein you need for those gains, the source isnít as important.
A high-protein, exclusively plant-based diet supports muscle strength and mass gains in response to resistance training just as well as a high-protein diet that includes animal foods, according to a study published in Sports Medicine.
Previous resistance training studies have shown that animal protein is superior for acute protein turnover (the replacement of protein that stimulates muscle growth), but this is the first study to look at the chronic muscle-adaptations from resistance training in vegans compared to omnivores.
You need two things to build muscle: resistance training and protein. Experts agree on the former, but thereís been great debate about the latter.
More...from Runner's World.
4. Nike Air Zoom Victory Review:
We got to try a pair of super spikes, and here are our thoughts.
Nikeís newest spikes, alongside shoes from several other companies, have created quite a stir in the running world. Its technology, which first appeared on the roads, has now entered the track arena in a big way. Hereís a look at the Nike Air Zoom Victory, the newest middle-distance Ďsuper spikeí from Nike.
The upper is made of Nikeís Atomknit, and it is their lightest upper yet. When you pick up this shoe, itís feather-light, itís am-I-actually-holding-a-shoe light. I found the upper extremely comfortable and it fit my foot perfectly.
The laces arenít a part of the upper I usually touch on, but the Victoryís are particularly well done. The laces have grooves that help to keep them from untying, and a slightly tacky feel, which is a very nice touch (especially when the shoes are for traveling at your top speed).
More...from Canadian Running Magazine.
5. How does sleep deprivation affect athletic performance?
Having grown up in the world of competitive swimming, Iím no stranger to the pain of 5am alarm calls, early morning training sessions and the need for at least one cup of coffee to help me function.
In my mind, thereís no doubt that a few too many late night - early morning combos and the resultant lack of sleep (particularly during my university days) will have contributed to a few below-par sessions, but what would have happened to my performance if Iíd endured poor sleep quality on a consistent basis?
How does a lack of sleep affect health?
Failing to enjoy the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep per night regularly is common in todayís society, with one in three of the British and American populations failing to get the recommend amount, largely due to factors such as stress, work and intense schedules.
A prime example of the effects of extreme sleep deprivation were exhibited during a TV show in 2004. ĎShatteredí was a British reality TV series where contestants attempted to go 7 days without sleep in order to be in with a chance of winning £100,000. The show received a number of complaints from the public due to the torture faced by the contestants as they battled through long, sleep deprived days.
More...from Precision Hydration.
6. Should Triathletes Take Sodium Bicarbonate?
Taking sodium bicarbonate is said to increase performance and strength, but is this just another extravagant claim? Is it even safe to take? Dr. Jeff Sankoff gives you the facts
The supplement industry is a multi-billion-dollar-a-year enterprise that targets athletes heavily. Given the fact that manufacturers are held to very lax standards in substantiating their wide-ranging and often very extravagant claims, it is easy to understand why they are front of mind for many athletes who are looking for an edge on their competition.
One particular supplement that has garnered attention in the athletic realm is bicarbonate, the active ingredient in baking soda. Bicarbonate is available in an aggressively marketed topical solution, but can also be taken orally (which is what this article will discuss). Taking sodium bicarbonate is said to increase performance and strength, but is this just another extravagant claim? Here are the facts.
How Our Bodies Control Acidity
The notion that bicarbonate could have an impact on exercise performance is not new and is based on some pretty basic concepts of physiology. Our bodies are remarkably complex structures with myriad types of cells and organs, all of which work together to perform one basic task - maintaining homeostasis.
More...from Training Peaks.
7. A Real-World Test of Whether Fresh Minds Run Faster:
Mental fatigue has become a hot topic for sports science researchers, but its effects remain controversial.
British runner Marc Scott had a choice about where to race last weekend: the European Indoor Championships in Poland, or a low-key, low-pressure twilight meet in California. He chose the latter, notching a personal best and Olympic qualifying time of 13:05 for 5,000 meters-just behind one of his training partners from the Portland-based Bowerman Track Club, and just ahead of another.
Scottís run was reminiscent of last yearís Bowerman intrasquad meet in Portland, where teammates Shelby Houlihan and Karissa Schweizer both smashed the American 5,000-meter record. Or the previous year, before pandemic travel restrictions, when the Bowerman groupís unheralded Woody Kincaid dropped a 12:58, making him the fifth fastest American ever, in a race against his teammates, paced by another teammate, on the local track at Nike HQ where he trained regularly-a race, in other words, that sounds like weíre talking about practice.
More...from Sweat Science on Outside Online.
8. When Is it Time to Pull the Plug?
Coaching is easy when everything is going smoothly. But how do we know when to pull the plug on an athletes workout or season? What do we do when an athlete is struggling in a workout? Do we give them more rest, adjust the pace, or pull the plug? When a season is going in the wrong direction, do we rest and recover, change the stimulus, or call it a season? In this episode we explore the difficult decisions coaches have to make when things arenít going well.
Listen to the podcast on Science of Running.
9. Fitness: What are your exercise options when life gets busy?
Cut back on the volume or frequency of your workouts, but not both at once.
Even the most dedicated exerciser has times when life gets in the way of working up a sweat. Family commitments, being swamped at work, a new baby, a new job, a new house - all have been known to throw a wrench into fitness routines. Rather than fret about all that youíre not doing, consider changing up your workouts to make room for a sudden surge in other responsibilities.
You can be consoled in knowing it takes longer to lose hard-earned fitness gains than you may think. In fact, a few days off often results in better performance, likely due to the rejuvenating effects of extra rest. But when days turn into weeks, rest morphs into disuse, which is when fitness gains start eroding. For elite athletes and those who have a well-established fitness base, the grace period is anywhere from a two- to six-week break, with the fittest the least likely to experience a significant loss in overall gains during this time. If youíve just started getting into shape, the loss happens faster and its effects are more acutely felt.
More...from the Montreal Gazette.
10. Is Technology Alienating You From Real Life?
A new technology drops. Some people immediately adopt it, assuming all that is new is good. Other people immediately shun it, assuming all that is new is bad. Neither of these approaches is ideal. There is a middle-and better-way. It has to do with the concept of evaluating alienation.
In the simplest terms, alienation means to create space between two things. "In some cases, alienation is precisely what gives a tool its value," writes Nicholas Carr in his book, The Shallows. "We build houses and sew Gore-Tex jackets because we want to be alienated from the wind and the rain and the cold. We build public sewers because we want to maintain a healthy distance from our own filth. Nature isnít our enemy, but neither is it our friend."
In other cases, however, the role of alienation is more complex. Take, for example, a GPS watch with a heart-rate monitor or any other biometric tracking device. Exercising, sleeping, eating, and so on with these devices gives you all kinds of powerful information, but it also alienates you from your own bodyís physical sensations. If you rely too heavily on a screen to tell you how you feel then you lose some ability to feel for yourself.
More...from The Growth Equation.
11. 1/3 gym members won't return after vaccine:
A year ago, at the start of the lockdowns, we found that nearly 50% of gym members didnít plan to return to their gyms upon reopening and that more than 10% had canceled their memberships.
A follow-up study in August found that the cancelation rate continued to increase and that less than a third of members had actually returned by that point.
Now we have surveyed 11,193 members from 142 countries to learn how many gym members plan to return to working out at the gym when vaccinated, how their membership status has changed, and how many are currently going to the gym.
70.97% of gym members are still not exercising at their gyms
27.52% of gym members globally and 34.94% in the US donít intend on returning, even after being vaccinated
55.57% of gym members have either canceled (29.80%) or paused (25.76%) their memberships
Less than half (48.24%) said they would return when they themselves are vaccinated
Another 24.24% will return, but not until their family, friends, and loved ones are also vaccinated
12. Getting the gait:
Visualization, photographic memory and running form
Thereís no question running efficiency is the key to going faster with less effort, and - usually - less chance of injury. However, running form is individual and itís very important to find a gait that works naturally with your bodyís own biomechanics and fitness level.
As Dr. Phil Maffetone notes, there is no single "gait" that works for every individual, nor in every circumstance - including different distances, surfaces and terrains. However, some basic principles apply to proper running form. Generally, itís best to avoid heel-striking, while landing with knees slightly bent, body slightly forward, shoulders back and chest open.
While this may sound complicated, itís actually quite simple and your brain is in charge. When you are running with correct form everything seems to fall into place.
"The brain controls it all," Dr. Maffetone says. "Itís up to you to give it the right input for the best results - this includes great nutrition and appropriate footwear, as well as proper physical and mental training.
"Running requires balancing a complex combination of many brain areas to sense and send messages to muscles and other structures throughout the body to create the proper gait - one that functions within the ability of the individualís level of health and fitness."
As a competitive runner and coach Iíve had the chance to see hundreds of top-level runners in action over the course of four decades, while also experiencing the evolution of my own MAF 180 gait.
More...from Dr. Phil Maffetone.
13. Why a High VO2 Max Isnít Always a Good Thing:
Turns out, how much oxygen your body can utilize is only one factor in how well you perform.
Thanks to more advanced features on the Apple Watch, Garmin, Polar, and other running watches, VO2max is the latest buzzy metric getting runners all worked up. People track this measurement because, in theory, the higher that number is, the more efficient you are while burning aerobic energy. Translation: Youíll be able to run faster while expending less effort.
But "VO2 is a measurement of cardiorespiratory fitness, not of performance," says Melissa M. Markofski, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Health and Human Performance at the University of Houston and an ASCM-certified exercise physiologist. It refers to the maximum rate at which your body can deliver oxygen to your exercising muscles; it affects how fast or far you can run but isnít the only factor at play.
And a higher VO2max isnít always better when it comes to performance, a 2019 case study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found.
More...from Runner's World
14. This Is Your Brain on Peloton:
The exercise bike companyís virtual classes represent an intense new genre of content: a total curation of the mind.
I think Iíve discovered the key to an active lifestyle. His name is Cody Rigsby, and he looks like a piece of Disney fan art ó the kind where cartoon princes are rendered as photo-realistic living boys.
Today our prince sits alone in a dusky blue exercise studio, thighs pumping atop a gleaming black stationary bicycle. He wears a precise haircut and a Peloton tank top that reveals the Mickey Mouse tattoo inked into the muscle of his upper arm, which is very large. Over the next half an hour, he will lead a virtual spinning class, curate a playlist of early-aughts pop songs and deliver an extemporaneous speech on topics including: Oprahís interview strategy; the merits of the British girl group Little Mix; historical dramas ("I have tried to watch ĎThe Crowní so many times and I just canít, yíall"); multiple sclerosis awareness; women ("thank you for being fierce") and Ashlee Simpsonís 2004 single "Pieces of Me," which moves Rigsby to lead the class in a nostalgic
More...from the NY Times.
15. The Art and Science of the 5K/10K Taper:
How much should you taper before a race? Here we break down the key elements that make for an ideal taper, and how not to botch it.
Training for a race is often compared to baking a cake. You mix the ingredients (speed workouts, long runs, recovery runs, strength and flexibility training, etc.), put it in the oven, and wait to see what happens. But thereís another step, often ignored. When you take the cake out of the oven, you have to let it cool before you assemble the layers to produce the final product.
In running, that cooling process is the taper. And itís often the easiest to botch up, either because we want to sample the cake now, or because we are afraid it will go stale while cooling.
How you avoid this is part art, part science.
The 7 to 10 Rule
The core principle from the science side is that the body takes 7 to 10 days to adapt to any given training stimulus, says Thom Hunt, a former American 10K record-holder who now coaches at Cuyamaca College in San Diego.
I.e., once you get within 7 to 10 days of your race, you wonít get any more gains, no matter how hard you train. At this point, your goals are resting, recovering, and waiting for the last adaptations to kick inÖwhile still staying sharp.
"I like to go into a race well rested," says two-time Olympian Kim Conley, "but itís a delicate balance to not rest too much and feel flat."
More...from Podium Runner.