Monday, July 30, 2007

Long, Slow Distance Equals Short, Fast Aging

How many different ways can I ding endurance sports, you wonder? Think of it as a public service. And it's not really me. It wasn't that many years ago that I ran seven miles a day just to chase 'fitness' and it always eluded me. I'm still recovering from the muscular imbalances and long, slow toll it took on my mechanics. Though I obviously have strong opinions, I am merely offering examples of experts that are trying to shovel away the knee-deep pile of Gu the public seems to be mired in thanks to modern media (and Cliff).

This article 'Training is no guarantee of health' that discusses the rapid aging experienced by endurance athletes is particularly interesting because it's written by Mark Sisson, a respected endurance athlete, who reformed his exercise habits to alter the course of his long-term health. This article is also very well written and explains the issue in a clear and direct way. It landed in my in-box thanks to Craig Cooper at NorthWest CrossFit.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Stronger Still

This weekend I paid $50 to prove I can pick up heavy stuff. It just shows how things have changed. Growing up on a farm, that privilege was free. When I filled out the entry form for the Strongman Competition held at Rainier CrossFit on July 21st, sponsors asked when and how I started training for the competition. I said, "I haven't. On the farm we called 'events' like these 'Chores'." So thanks Dad, or should I call you Coach?

In the time I've lived in Seattle, nobody's asked me to help jack up the barn, bring in the hay, or clear a field so I suppose in today's world I need to pay for my manual labor fix. And pay I did. I gave up the extra elbow room between vertebrae that I wasn't using. Well, I wasn't using it much. And after sashaying about with nearly twice my body weight in my hands or on my back, I'll never see 5'4" again. Drats. I dominated at 5'4".


Turns out I can't cram for a Strongman. I can't spend years training to deadlift with perfect posture and then expect to wrap myself around a rock like we're pals and hurk it off the ground. It defies all my careful consideration for spinal preservation. If I was accustomed to showing so little regard for my own personal protection, I would have accidentally eliminated myself long ago to great applause from Darwin. And the stones got my shirt dirty - I'm just saying.

Carrie and I started lugging two weeks before the event. We laughed. Turns out we weren't exactly, uh, rock stars. Carrie is tall and lanky and bruises easily. Attempting to crouch over the stone still produced the mechanics of an Olympic Lifter - a habit hard to break apparently. I waited as she pulled. It looked like it was going to be a spectacular kick-to-a-handstand. Oh, wait - wasn't she trying to pick that up? Damn, sister.

I made a few attempts to pass internal organs before I declared my technique lacking. And I got dizzy. Very, very dizzy. I asked Sean, a Highland Game competitor and Strongman himself, for some pointers. My forearms got scraped raw and I got very, very dizzy. Progress.

We couldn't clean the axle off the floor for the jerk event. I have small hands and I've been suffering from chronic limp-grip which makes holding onto the fat bar pretty tough. My only recourse was a Zercher lift, which is to say I was desperate. This is the kind of lift you should only do at an accident scene to free a small child that's trapped. Done right, this lift will bruise most of your body before slamming against your clavicle. Done wrong and this lift will bruise most of your body before slamming back to the floor. My thoughts about resorting to the Zercher? Imagine you're mingling at a swank party and you've got a big stain on your shirt - you can't pretend that nobody sees it but you're tired of having conversations about it.

Important Strongman Fashion

“Show me what you’ve got in a bus dragging shoe?” It wasn’t the question a 16 year old Sports Authority clerk was expecting to answer but then it wasn’t a question I was ever expecting to ask. Now, shoes worn while a bus drags me? That’s easy – something snazzy that fits snug and has room on the toe to pencil in my social security number and next of kin. But who knows how to prepare for this? If life threw me a set of circumstances that required dragging a bus, it would seem fashionable footwear would be the least of my concerns. Reasonable people don’t drag a bus intentionally and even unintentionally if they can help it. No, if I found myself in a desperate bus-dragging dilemma I’d probably just be happy that I wasn’t wearing Crocs though it should be noted that any day I wasn't wearing Crocs would likely be a happy one. So what constitutes reasonable planning for circumstances that are unreasonable?

On to other considerations, when shorts have a more limited range of motion than I do, shameful things happen. You're average runway models - even ones that've mastered circuit class - don’t squat with weight, deadlift, drag a bus or walk while carrying a 250 pound yoke but if they did, I soon realized, they'd be sporting butt crack with finess. Provocative on a model dancing in a club, a pedestrian case of 'plumber's butt' on the burly chick wrapped around a boulder. That's a look I hoped to avoid.

Since I was shopping for shorts suitable for a strongman competition, these would be no ordinary dressing room rigors. Based on the look the clerk gave me as I exited said dressing room, 'trying on' clothes should not resemble Kung Fu fighting or convince other dressing room inhabitants that I'm in need of rescue. I wore sweatpants and called it good.

The Day of the Event

The female competitors were friendly and continually denied having ever trained for the event either. I felt at ease and assumed the weekly photo updates posted at were stunt doubles dressed to look like competitors honing their skills. Either way, it should be said that I could have gone down to train but I didn't. And they were all very nice which I would have said even if they weren't the first group of women I've met in a long time that might actually be able to kick my ass.

One woman sparked several conversations about why weight classes are necessary. Anything else I say on that subject is just going to sound bitchy. Another woman's entire training regimen seemed to be driven by the 'double dog dare.' her technique was tragic but she was strong like bull. After the deadlift, I wanted to take her spine into protective custody. She is clearly both fearless and bulletproof. I fear her last words on this planet will be, "hey, watch this . . . ."

The second-place finisher was cute, twenty, and slightly built yet she was amazingly gifted. She had only been CrossFitting for a few months and had entered the strongman competition for fun. She was enthusiastic and confident and very supportive of our efforts. After marveling that more woman should be like her, I tried strenuously to crush her spirit and undermine her self-esteem.

The men were a little harder to cozy up to.

Two brawny men used chalk like war paint and rushed the platform in a fit of adrenalin aroused by the ritual pre-lift slap and grope they offered one another and the smelling salts they used. If you squinted, the slapping and in-your-face caterwauling looked a little like a 2 a.m. drunken girl-fight on a Pioneer Square sidewalk. One of them got so excited he nearly slid from the platform when he charged the bar for a deadlift. I was mesmerized and I wasn't above such tactics either. If it looked like it worked I was going to start the next event by yelling to Carrie that she's a 'stupid face' and then sniffing old Tupperware fished from the back of my jeep. It didn't appear to be necessary.

Chris Davis (if you link to this site, watch the fight and don't be distracted by the boobs), one of my favorite CrossFit converts and a Saturday Open Mat grappling buddy competed. He's the sweetest guy in the world if he's not punching the snot out of you. Luckily I just spent Saturday's squirming out of his arm bar. The combination of fear and fitness fueled my bottom game. It had Chris asking me how I trained. He's been at Rainer CrossFit ever since.

Tim Tolliver was impressive as always. At around 160 pounds, this was not his event to win but his athleticism was so apparent and his efforts so strong that he was certainly a stand-out. He teaches classes at Level 4 CrossFit Seattle but he stops by NorthWest CrossFit occasionally to post sub 3 Fran's. Yikes.

Tim also trains with us at CrossFit Eastside occasionally and the strong O-lifting influence was apparent in Tim, Carrie and me. I won the jerk contest, in spite of the Zercher, and Carrie's movement with the bar was precise and poetic. It was a Fred and Ginger moment: just a girl and her axle. I admired her clean which she executed with the hissy-fit stomp of a Lifting Shoe and attitude. It pretty much screamed, "Take that, Big Girls!" especially since we could never clean the bar successfully in practice.

Play by Play

The yoke was the first event and I realized that I wasn't prepared for the swing of the weights. It's a forward marching Merengue with short choppy steps and hip swing to the rhythm of swaying weights. A pity I was wearing tap shoes and feeling sorta salsa. The woman next to me took off in a sprint. Apparently she wears this thing around the house while she does the laundry.

Dragging the bus turned out to be a Letterman 'Stupid Human Trick' gone wrong. Damn public transport. One by one the first three of us strained at the harness in an attempt to budge the thing and it wasn't going to move. The other competitors were getting nervous and Tim said he couldn't watch anymore because it was psyching him out. Sean stepped in and gave the thing a tug to see if something was wrong. Turns out it was parked in some kind of pothole. The good news is they moved it to a higher location, the bad news is we got to pull it again. After an eternity of straining, I didn't have a lot of fight left in me for another round. I'll also never be able to take the #49 downtown again without my intestines aching. I dragged it the distance but it wasn't my best work.

I didn't win. A Strongman Competition is a specialized event that requires specialized training and Carrie and I were two generalists that crashed the party. It's easy to say that I would've placed better if I had trained harder but that kind of speculation is pointless and unfair. Anything can happen and it's unwise to assume your competition wouldn't rise to the occasion. It's easy to sit on the sidelines and make bold claims without giving credit to those who worked their asses off and had he balls to show up.
But why enter a competition you haven't trained for? Because life is like that and so is CrossFit. That's why we folks have first aid kits, emergency supplies and mixed modal training. CrossFit offers a foundation which will serve you well in any competition but will not score you a victory when specialized techniques are called for.
My strength in that event may not have been impressive but the strength of my community that day was remarkable. Over twenty Eastsiders showed up to play along or to cheer. Whether it was for me, for Carrie, for CrossFit or for the spirit of competition itself, each of our members contributed a valuable part of the experience.
We went to our Buckley outpost for a barbecue at Sean and Madonna's after the event to eat and to play. Nick, who attended the event with his sister, Sophie and their father Bruce, pulled out his own blossoming competitive spirit to declare his plans to kick Brock's ass at Guitar Hero by playing 'Stairway to Heaven' behind his back. We watched the guitar solo in awe knowing that this was a shining moment in a day of sacrifice on his family's part. They gave up almost an entire day of reading the newly released Harry Potter - days later Sophie declared it was awesome - to watch us work.
We sat around challenging each other to pull-up variations mostly spurred on by Bridget's first ever pull-up earlier in the week. We swung, some drunkenly, on a bar strung across the doorway and I remembered why I entered. These people would've supported me no matter what and they'll come back to better my scores next year because I helped pave the way. I almost got to enjoy a moment of contentment until I heard that Matthew, the 20-something ex-college-football player was challenging me to a 'Grace' face-off. 30 Clean and Jerks for time and my time was the fastest. Damn, back to training . . . .

Friday, July 13, 2007

To Portland the Hard Way

Peddle to Portland?! Ok, I really dig Powell's but on a bike, how the heck would I get all my books back? My clients, Chad and Jill, are doing the STP this weekend - that's 200 miles, folks! Jill sent me this question, and I know a few of you will have some feedback. In the meantime, may the wind be at your back!

Hey Heather, So I've been thinking that I'm going to be burning a lot of calories the next couple of days - 8000-9000 by some counts and I was just wondering about how I should approach my nutrition. Since I can't really carry anything with me and the race is supported (likely gads of powerbars, powerade and the like) what do yo u think I should be looking for? What should I eat tonight? I've been told to carb load, but i just can't see that lasting and feel like I would have to eat constantly if I only eat carbs... thoughts? Blog entry material? Thanks so much! j

What I find effective is Macadamia Nuts - talk about caloricly dense! They have the best omega-3 to omega-6 ratio, they don't take up tons of room in your bag, they don't crush or melt and you don't feel yucky-full when you eat a few here and there. Chew thoroughly though.

I would go to Whole Foods and get some dried cantaloupe - tasty stuff but not as dry and chewy as dried fruit can be so I don't think you have to worry about your teeth quite as much. There is some sugar but you can afford a bit given the task ahead.

I would stick with your standard 40/30/30 sort of meal for tonight. Once your glycogen stores are full, they're full and then excess sugar gets stored as triglyceride. Carb loading only works to ensure that you get your glycogen topped off. That makes the American standard of six cups of pasta just silly.

Your carb choices might be decided using a more practical measure - transit times. You may not want to eat a bulky fibrous meal if you tend to expel it in short order. Since the parasympathetic stimulation will speed up your transit times anyway, you have that to consider . In other words, in case I'm being too subtle - you want to try to make sure you aren't going to need to poop. Damn inconvenient.

On that topic, many bars use artificial sweeteners that are also laxatives. Not usually a huge dose but given what I said previously, it still may have adverse affects on your digestion. Stay away from sugar alcohols and any other carb-lowering sugar alternatives.

Go with a standard portion of salmon - good anti-inflammatories and some fat for the slow burn and some pineapple (the bromelain is also anti-inflammatory). Nix the pineapple though if it tends to give you carb-head and go with a more moderate carb.

If you're reading this Mellenium Man - you do more long distance stuff. Any tricks?

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Learning Curves: the Female Arc

As I mentioned in an earlier post, my time was divided between writing my blog and writing for a grappling publication. The article printed in the summer issue of the E-Journal of Jujutsu, published by Roy Dean. Following is an excerpt:

Yaam locked in the choke and I braced for the involuntary cough that would follow each rep she practiced. As I sputtered and coughed, she giggled the sweet little girl giggle of an eleven year old - one who could figure a fierce triangle with the geometry of spindly limbs and angular grimaces and grins. Until she got bored that is, and dissolved into lax conversation about dance practice and her new best friend. Class was done as far as she was concerned and she moved swiftly on to more important things then tossing around a women three times her age and twice her size.

I remembered my early struggles with that very same triangle and my fears that I would never master a move that seemed to require a Herculean strength and ridiculously long limbs. If nothing else, years later my eleven year old student definitively proved the contrary. Back then though, I was sure that my own little girl limbs couldn't make this move happen no matter what Marcelo Alonso, bless his heart, was trying to tell me. Oh, and by 'little girl' I mean I was thirty-two but short, full of excuses and completely naive to the wisdom of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

It would seem only an adolescent girl could learn the precise steps of a take-down, a leg lock or an arm bar without the gripping self doubt that I know I had during each of my early classes. I worried whether I had the strength, the size, the patience or the fearlessness to continue in a sport where few women were available to offer guidance or support. I wanted to stay so badly but whatever it was going to take to advance, I wasn't sure I had. My only measure was against my fellow white belts and it would appear I was being eclipsed.

And that's where women are misled in the early days of training. All white belts, men and women alike, make the mistake that strength is the keystone. But muscling a move will only mask gaps in technique that will haunt a grappler later in training. A woman without the ability to muscle a submission, will see some of her male classmates tap an opponent and assume that her training is lagging when she's unable to finish a move. From the perspective of skill acquisition, both grapplers are in the same place but with different results.
Craig, as you read the following post and the grin begins to permeate, please pause before you dial my number, compose yourself and spend a moment reflecting on the evils of self-rightousness. Seriously, I can hear the 'I-told-you-so' face over the phone and I'm sure to respond with that flavor of snippy you like so much. All together an unpleasant and unecessary interaction, dontcha think?

On July 5th - that would be the day after late night fireworks - I had a 5:30a client. I refuse to get up any earlier than my usual 4:30a but with with less preening and less pausing for thoughtful contemplation of BBC Worldwide as I ate my breakfast, I could still get to work on time. Oh, and I elected not to spit-shine my flip flops, touch-up my toenail polish or iron and starch my best go-to-meetin' sweats. The blueberry antioxidant face mask gauranteed to spackle over, smooth out or generate an attention-deflecting Jedi mind trick to hide my crows feet would have to go too. Unfortunately, the life I chose always forces me to eliminate 'girl' from my world first leaving me plain but prepared.

I remembered too late that my diva scheduling demands of no-earlier-than 6a (and only the green M&Ms), was not based on sleep demands and self care, but the operating hours of Starbuck's. Nothing opens that early. Nothing. Nobody but me was thinking about coffee in my neighborhood where the vampires were just making their way home from a night of bloodletting debauchery as I eased out of the 'hood and onto the highway.

No bother, really.

At about 6a, as my client sweated and strained, I was blaming my unnatural sluggishness to lack of sleep, tough recovery from a workout, old age and/or voodoo stink-eye curse (I'm sure it wasn't meant for me - it ricocheted and I walked into it like a lingering toxic cloud of Axe Body Spray). Between 6:30a and 7:00a, I dodged out for coffee while I longed for a nap between clean, crisp sheets. Oh, and cancellations. Sorry folks - love ya' - but sometimes, only sometimes, I'm a bad trainer and I like it just a little when you're not here. I grow fonder in your absence, I swear.

At 8a, I was chipper. Could it be the coffee that I've told Craig again and again that I really like but don't 'need'?


Here in Seattle we treat people who can't drink coffee a lot like New Englanders treat folk who can't hold their liquor. It's a certain disdain.

From a perspective of health, is the daily

1. In your practice, how much is caffeine consumption affecting the overall health of your patients? Are you seeing an impact? I think there is a "moderate" effect on the health of my patients from the overconsumption of caffeine. See question #3 below...

2. Some studies have argued that the body adapts to caffeine consumption to a degree in which the diuretic effect is insignificant. How do you feel about the body's ability to adapt to caffeine and at what levels would you suggest are safe in terms of consumption? This is very difficult to answer. Of course a "safe" level of consumption would be different for each person. I do think that the body adapts to consumption in a way, but I'll have to get back to you on this one.

3. Do you see health issues contributable to caffeine consumption and if so what do you feel is the biggest health issue associated with it? I do see health issues stemming from the overconsumption of caffeine. This effect is indirect - meaning that my patients (the ones that overconsume caffiene) are fatigued and burned out because their bodies have been overstimulated by the caffeineand left exhausted -decreasing their healing response, increasing mood disorders such as anxiety and depression, and of course - making them more tired than they ought to be!

4. You here the term 'Adrenal Fatigue' associated with caffeine. How much of that is caffeine consumption alone and how much of it is associated with a persons lifestyle as a whole? Hard to tell. I'd have to look into research on that one, but usually caffeine consumption and stress go hand in hand (haha) Stress draws on the adrenals for their reserves, and caffiene depletes the reserves, so it is a double wammy that can be very damaging long term (depending on the patients overall state of health)

5. If adrenal fatique is an issue, how difficult is that to recover from and what other health implications go with that? It can be very difficult to recover from depending on the state of health that the patient was in going into it. Ideally, you'd go to a tropical island and have no stress and eat nuts and berries for a year and then you'd MAYBE be back to where you were before the adrenals started depleting, but that is not an option for most people (lol) So I've found a "workaround" that is THE BEST for rebuilding the adrenals that I can answer later if you're intersted.

6. What do you make of studies that say that caffeine consumption in women is associated with a decrease in type II diabetes risk? It's just like any study - is it a 1% benefit or 20% benefit - I agree that there are benefits to coffee and green tea in "moderation" which means 4 oz. for some people, but most people go overboard thinking if a little bit is good, a lot is better and it just doesn't work that way...

I appreciate the opportunity to answer your insightful questions and let's do this again!

Genetic polymorphism of the adenosine A2A receptor is associated with habitual caffeine consumption.
Cornelis MC
, El-Sohemy A, Campos H.
Department of Nutritional Sciences, University of Toronto, Canada.
Our findings show that the probability of having the ADORA2A 1083TT genotype decreases as habitual caffeine consumption increases. This observation provides a biologic basis for caffeine consumption behavior and suggests that persons with this genotype may be less vulnerable to caffeine dependence.

Coffee and health: a review of recent human research.
Higdon JV
, Frei B.
Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA.
Coffee is a complex mixture of chemicals that provides significant amounts of chlorogenic acid and caffeine. Unfiltered coffee is a significant source of cafestol and kahweol, which are diterpenes that have been implicated in the cholesterol-raising effects of coffee. The results of epidemiological research suggest that coffee consumption may help prevent several chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes mellitus, Parkinson's disease and liver disease (cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma). Most prospective cohort studies have not found coffee consumption to be associated with significantly increased cardiovascular disease risk. However, coffee consumption is associated with increases in several cardiovascular disease risk factors, including blood pressure and plasma homocysteine. At present, there is little evidence that coffee consumption increases the risk of cancer. For adults consuming moderate amounts of coffee (3-4 cups/d providing 300-400 mg/d of caffeine), there is little evidence of health risks and some evidence of health benefits. However, some groups, including people with hypertension, children, adolescents, and the elderly, may be more vulnerable to the adverse effects of caffeine. In addition, currently available evidence suggests that it may be prudent for pregnant women to limit coffee consumption to 3 cups/d providing no more than 300 mg/d of caffeine to exclude any increased probability of spontaneous abortion or impaired fetal growth.

Coffee consumption and human health--beneficial or detrimental?--Mechanisms for effects of coffee consumption on different risk factors for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes mellitus.
Ranheim T, Halvorsen B.
Department of Medical Genetics, Rikshospitalet University Hospital, Oslo, Norway.
Coffee is probably the most frequently ingested beverage worldwide. Especially Scandinavia has a high prevalence of coffee-drinkers, and they traditionally make their coffee by boiling ground coffee beans and water. Because of its consumption in most countries in the world, it is interesting, from both a public and a scientific perspective, to discuss its potential benefits or adverse aspects in relation to especially two main health problems, namely cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes mellitus. Epidemiological studies suggest that consumption of boiled coffee is associated with elevated risk for cardiovascular disease. This is mainly due to the two diterpenes identified in the lipid fraction of coffee grounds, cafestol and kahweol. These compounds promote increased plasma concentration of cholesterol in humans. Coffee is also a rich source of many other ingredients that may contribute to its biological activity, like heterocyclic compounds that exhibit strong antioxidant activity. Based on the literature reviewed, it is apparent that moderate daily filtered, coffee intake is not associated with any adverse effects on cardiovascular outcome. On the contrary, the data shows that coffee has a significant antioxidant activity, and may have an inverse association with the risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus.

The health consequences of caffeine.
Curatolo PW
, Robertson D.
Acutely administered caffeine modestly increases blood pressure, plasma catecholamine levels, plasma renin activity, serum free fatty acid levels, urine production, and gastric acid secretion. It alters the electroencephalographic spectrum, mood, and sleep patterns of normal volunteers. Chronic caffeine consumption has no effect on blood pressure, plasma catecholamine levels, plasma renin activity, serum cholesterol concentration, blood glucose levels, or urine production. Caffeine does not appear to be useful for increasing the motility of hypomotile sperm in artificial insemination or in the therapy of minimal brain dysfunction, cancer, or Parkinson's syndrome, but it may be effective as a topical treatment of atopic dermatitis and as systemic therapy for neonatal apnea. Caffeine does not seem to be associated with myocardial infarction; lower urinary tract, renal, or pancreatic cancer; teratogenicity; or fibrocystic breast disease. The role of caffeine in the production of cardiac arrhythmias or gastric or duodenal ulcers remains uncertain.

Effects of eight weeks of caffeine supplementation and endurance training on aerobic fitness and body composition.
Malek MH
, Housh TJ, Coburn JW, Beck TW, Schmidt RJ, Housh DJ, Johnson GO.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln Human Performance Laboratory, Department of Nutrition and Health Sciences, Lincoln, NE 68583, USA.
The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of daily administration of a supplement that contained caffeine in conjunction with 8 weeks of aerobic training on VO(2)peak, time to running exhaustion at 90% VO(2)peak, body weight, and body composition. Thirty-six college students (14 men and 22 women; mean +/- SD, age 22.4 +/- 2.9 years) volunteered for this investigation and were randomized into either a placebo (n = 18) or supplement group (n = 18). The subjects ingested 1 dose (3 pills = 201 mg of caffeine) of the placebo or supplement per day during the study period. In addition, the subjects performed treadmill running for 45 minutes at 75% of the heart rate at VO(2)peak, three times per week for 8 weeks. All subjects were tested pretraining and posttraining for VO(2)peak, time to running exhaustion (TRE) at 90% VO(2)peak, body weight (BW), percentage body fat (%FAT), fat weight (FW), and fat-free weight (FFW). The results indicated that there were equivalent training-induced increases (p <> 0.05) in BW, %FAT, FW, or FFW for either group. These findings indicated that chronic use of the caffeine-containing supplement in the present study, in conjunction with aerobic training, provided no ergogenic effects as measured by VO(2)peak and TRE, and the supplement was of no benefit for altering body weight or body composition.

The acute effects of a caffeine-containing supplement on strength, muscular endurance, and anaerobic capabilities.
Beck TW
, Housh TJ, Schmidt RJ, Johnson GO, Housh DJ, Coburn JW, Malek MH.
Department of Nutrition and Health Sciences, Human Performance Laboratory, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE 68588, USA.
The purpose of this study was to examine the acute effects of a caffeine-containing supplement on upper- and lower-body strength and muscular endurance as well as anaerobic capabilities. Thirty-seven resistance-trained men (mean +/- SD, age: 21 +/- 2 years) volunteered to participate in this study. On the first laboratory visit, the subjects performed 2 Wingate Anaerobic Tests (WAnTs) to determine peak power (PP) and mean power (MP), as well as tests for 1 repetition maximum (1RM), dynamic constant external resistance strength, and muscular endurance (TOTV; total volume of weight lifted during an endurance test with 80% of the 1RM) on the bilateral leg extension (LE) and free-weight bench press (BP) exercises. Following a minimum of 48 hours of rest, the subjects returned to the laboratory for the second testing session and were randomly assigned to 1 of 2 groups: a supplement group (SUPP; n = 17), which ingested a caffeine-containing supplement, or a placebo group (PLAC; n = 20), which ingested a cellulose placebo. One hour after ingesting either the caffeine-containing supplement or the placebo, the subjects performed 2 WAnTs and were tested for 1RM strength and muscular endurance on the LE and BP exercises. The results indicated that there was a significant (p < 0.05) increase in BP 1RM for the SUPP group, but not for the PLAC group. The caffeine-containing supplement had no effect, however, on LE 1RM, LE TOTV, BP TOTV, PP, and MP. Thus, the caffeine-containing supplement may be an effective supplement for increasing upper-body strength and, therefore, could be useful for competitive and recreational athletes who perform resistance training.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Snazzy Remix

I often tell people that my job is to say the same thing every day as if for the first time. At some point I have to trust that it will permeate even the most stubborn brands of denial. There are a few key concepts that will never change about fitness and yet it's those very concepts that make a lot of people push back. Though the conversation is sometimes compelling and it keeps me employed, ultimately weight loss is still a math problem and too much of any one thing will likely break you in some way. True and true.

Here's another catchy remix of one of my favorites, sung to a slightly different tune:

Cutting Back on Endurance Volume May Not Reduce Aerobic Capacity

Traditional endurance training models that emphasize very high volumes and moderate intensities, although practiced by nearly all elite, endurance athletes, are a primary factor in the high rate of chronic overuse injury in endurance sports. Consequently, research has sought alternative methods for optimizing endurance performance while reducing injury. Preliminary studies on high intensity resistance exercise and explosive or plyometric training have been promising.

One concern expressed by endurance athletes, is the effect that replacing endurance training volume with anaerobic training will have on maximal aerobic capacity; a determinant of endurance performance. A recent study published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine may help quell this fear. The researchers determined that max VO2 is unaffected when up to 20% of endurance training volume is replaced by explosive training.

Twenty-five 16-18 year old distance runners participated in the 8-week study. The participants were divided into two groups, one replacing ~20% of total endurance training volume with power/explosive training. Total training volume was equivalent between groups. The researchers completed pre- and post-assessment of top speed during anaerobic running and 30-m speed, top speed of aerobic running, maximal oxygen uptake, running economy, concentric and isometric leg extension, rate of force production in leg extension, and quadriceps size.

The explosive training group experienced small but significant changes in neuromuscular performance and anaerobic measures, including increased rectus femoris size. Increases in lean body mass or muscle hypertrophy is not often found during training of endurance athletes.

Although measures of aerobic performance were not improved, the fact that there was no decline is an important finding. Supplementing endurance training, and reducing endurance volume, by integrating more explosive and resistance exercise may reduce injuries by increasing muscle strength/size, increasing neuromuscular performance and reducing repetitive stress of movement.

Mikkola, J. et al (2007) Concurrent Endurance and Explosive Type Strength Training Improves Neuromuscular and Anaerobic Characteristics in Young Distance Runners. International Journal of Sports Medicine.