login to account
Running Research News And Events
December 31, 2009
WHAT ARE MORE THAN 20 YEARS OF MARATHON EXPERIENCE WORTH TO YOU?
December 11, 2009
DOES HEAVY-DUTY WEIGHTLIFTING LEAD TO OSTEOARTHRITIS IN THE HIP?
Critics of high-resistance weightlifting have contended that the activity increases the risk of osteoarthritis in the hips. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease which involves the breakdown of cartilage within joints, which eventually may cause bones to rub against each other. Osteoarthritis tends to strike the hands and weight-bearing joints of the body, including the hips, knees, feet, and back. Pain and loss of movement are common features of the disease.
In a new review paper, researchers at the University Hospital in Rotterdam weighted the evidence for and against the idea that heavy load-bearing enhances the risk of hip degeneration. Their conclusion? "Overall, moderate evidence was found for a positive association.....between previous heavy physical workload and the occurences of hip osteoarthritis." In fact, the Rotterdam investigators found that heavy work appeared to roughly triple the risk of hip osteoarthritis (The Journal of Rheumatology, Vol. 28, pp.2520-2528, 2001). The "heavy work" analyzed in the Rotterdam research included various types of on-the-job activity, including farm work lasting at least 10 years and working in an occupation which required the regular lifting of objects weighing 55 pounds or more. Such job-related exertion significantly increased the risk of hip osteoarthritis.
Before you jump to the conclusion that heavy lifting hurts the hips, however, bear in mind that the mechanism underlying the increased risk of hip osteoarthritis remains unclear. In fact, principal Dutch investigator Dr. Annet Lievense admits that one explanation for the linkage between high physical workloads and hip osteoarthritis "is that peoplewith highly physically demanding jobs may obtain treatment earlier and/or more often than people in less demanding occupations - not neccessarily because they have a higher incidence of osteoarthritis, but possibly because they are more handicapped by it when it occurs." As a result, "these people will be over-represented" in the arthritic group.
In other words, heavy lifters might not really have more osteoarthritis than individuals who are sedentary or who engage in light activities. it's just that pain - when experienced by the heavy hitters - might keep them from performing their jobs or other activities and thus cause them to seek out medical help. In fact, strenuous activity in the hard hitters might provoke pain more frequently, compared with sedentary folks, even though the overall condition of the hip joints might be roughly equivalent between the groups. Pain can stop a laborer from lifting boxes or an athlete from elevating a barbell, but it usually does not prevent a sedentary person from rolling over on a couch. Thus, the active person is more likely to seek out medical care and be counted as an osteoarthritis sufferer in a scientific study, compared with someone who pops ibuprofen and lies around waiting for the arthrithis pain to ebb.
To learn more about how Does Heavy-Duty Weightlifting Lead To Osteoarthritis In The Hips?, Why "Anaerobic" Factors Do Such A Great Job Of Predicting "Aerobic" Performances, And Can Perking up Proprioception Pare Your Probability Of Injury And Produce Peak Performance? (these full articles can be read by purchasing Vol. 17 Issue 10 of Running Research News) and many more running related topics, simply click-on the Back Issues link, and select the volume and issues number, from the drop-down menu. Or simply search foryour favorite topics. A subscription to Running Research News is another way to receive valuable information about running.
December 11, 2009
PEAKING FOR YOUR BEST PERFORMANCE
In 1972 a 21-year-old runner from New Zealand, Rodney Dixon, narrowly squeaked onto the New Zealand team for the Munich Olympics by running just under four minutes for the mile. However Dixon was chronically over trained-he’d been running for 2-3 hours each day. One and a half hours of running through hills and farmland in the mornings, and speed sessions most afternoons. Stories of these training runs were legendary amongst the New Zealand runners. Peaking Performance
As if these odds weren’t bad enough, Dixon badly twisted his ankle as he jogged across a field about ten days before the heats of the Olympic 1500 meters. This put him out of action for over a week. This enforced rest gave Dixon a breather, allowing his body to recover from the months of hard running he’d put in. He was jogging by the end of the week, but not able to run fast.
Then PLO terrorists invaded the games village and took several Israeli athletes hostage and attempted to use them as hostages at an airport. Sadly, a rescue attempt went awry and all athletes and terrorists were killed. This held up the opening of the Games for another day to allow a memorial service be conducted for the Israeli athletes.
By this time Dixon was finally ready to run at full speed in his heat of the 1500 meters. As a complete unknown, he reached the final, placing third. There’s a great picture of an unbelieving Dixon, hands covering his face, in tears on the victory stand unable to comprehend that he is now an Olympic medallist. Peaking Performance
The rest is history--Dixon went on to become one of the most versatile and famous distance runners in the world, in the 1980’s, on the track, road, and cross-country, dominating the US road racing scene for several years, setting all sorts of records, even winning the New York Marathon.
What does this have to do with tapering and peaking for competition?
Dixon learned a vital lesson early in his running career--the importance of allowing the body to rest before competition. His sprained ankle forced him to lie up and recover from his overtraining, so he was in his best ever form by race time. He freely credits his injury and the extra days of rest as the reason for his bronze medal.
The majority of elite athletes in most endurance sports are chronically over trained at any given time. Smart athletes have learned by experience that a tapering period is critical for them to get their absolute best performance. Most coaches in any endurance sport agree their biggest problem with athletes is getting them to recover from hard training efforts, and complying with a tapering or peaking phase in their programs.
The famous Finnish distance runner Lasse Viren who won the 5000 and 10000 meters double at the 1976 and 1980 Olympics claims that it was a peaking technique taught to him by the late New Zealand coach Arthur Lydiard that enabled him to win two Olympic Gold’s in two Olympic Games. Peaking Performance
Viren says, "The question is not why I run this way, but why so many others cannot". This was Viren’s way of saying that most elite distance runners lack the confidence to rest up for a week or so before major races.
Why is this tapering necessary? You might think that reducing your training significantly for a week or two before a competition would cause you to lose your hard-earned endurance. Not so, according to Dr. David Costill, former researcher and head of the renown exercise science department at Ball State University, Indiana. Long periods of intense training actually decrease an athlete’s performance capacity. Thus by reducing training duration and intensity a week or two before competition muscle tissue damage caused by intense training heals up, and the body’s energy reserves replenish. Proteins enter the muscle fibers and repair the micro tears in them.
Several studies find a marked increase in muscular strength with a tapering period, probably caused by a reduction in the shortening velocity of the fast twitch muscle fibers. Translated this means that the "power" muscle fibers contract quicker after rest.
Another research paper shows that runners and swimmers who reduce their training by about 60% for 15-21 days experience no losses in VO2 max (maximal oxygen uptake) or endurance performance. Furthermore, swimmers demonstrate increases in arm strength and power ranging from 17.7% to 24.6%, considered ideal for athletes about to compete in a major championship. Lactate levels are also lower after tapering at any given workload.
Research may be fine in a lab setting, but does this information have any practical benefits? Most interesting is that swimmers following this tapering program improved their times 3.5-3.7%. This equates to a 40-minute 10k runner decreasing his/her time to 38 minutes, 48 seconds-certainly worth the effort. Peaking Performance
Another research paper looked at the effects of tapering combined with carbohydrate loading (with a diet of about 60-70% carbohydrates) for four days before an endurance event. Glycogen stores in liver and muscle tissue almost doubled, resulting in significant improvements in marathon performances, up to 15 minutes.
Additionally, the peaking phase gives the athlete a mental rest from hard grinding workouts. Mental preparation and attitude are almost as important as physical training for maximum performance. The fresher the athlete is the more he/she can concentrate on race pace judgment, self-motivation, strategy planning, psychological arousal and relaxation.
What are the expert’s guidelines for tapering? It should be longer for longer events. A marathon taper could be 2-3 weeks, a 10k taper somewhere around 7-10 days, and a 1500 meter track race could be 4-7 days.
Aim to reduce your overall mileage to 30% to 50% of previous totals. It’s ok to maintain your usual running intensity (speed), although this too should be cut back a few days before the big race to 60% to 70% of maximal heart rate. The occasional faster than race pace burst is ok during a taper, as long as you have complete recovery. Obviously extended and highly anaerobic workouts and racing during the tapering phase are counterproductive.
Are there benefits to recreational joggers (who run around 20 miles per week) tapering before an event? Probably not--a further reduction in training for low mileage would lead to a decline in cardio respiratory fitness.
With these guidelines in mind, let’s look at what some of Seattle’s top runners do for their tapering in preparation for a marathon. Alyson Deckert, 41, is one of the area’s elite marathoners. She’s run three Olympic Marathon trials, and qualified for this year’s trials too. With a best time of 2:38:01, she has obviously been successful in tapering for a marathon or three. Peaking Performance
Her tapering begins three weeks out; she cuts back her mileage by about 25%, from a usual weekly average of 75 miles, to 60 miles. The second week out she cuts back further to 45-50 miles, still including one fast marathon pace tempo run. In her final week she logs 25-30 miles, with only 2-3 days running, and a couple of days off. She might do runs of 8, 10 and 8 miles in this week, but the last day of running is three days before the marathon. During the last week she’ll also load up on carbohydrates and make sure she is getting enough fluids such as Gatorade and fruit juice.
Greg Crowther, with a best marathon of 2:22:32 and many other times consistently near that, easily ranks in the Pugets Sound’s top five male marathoners. With a Ph.D in physiology, his research background to has guided him with his tapering program . He also starts three weeks out, cutting back to a lighter than normal mileage. His last long run is three weeks before race day--a 20-22 mile run with the first 6 miles at a comfortable pace, followed by 6-8 miles at his planned marathon race pace, then the final 2-4 miles as a cool down.
Two weeks out he’ll still do a speed work out, perhaps 2-3 one-mile repeats, thus maintaining some quality training, while continuing with some longer runs, (although still shorter than usual). His final week he’ll take a day off running, but still include a shorter interval track session such as 3 x 800 meters repeats, (or 600 meter repeats), plus 2.5-3 miles on the track at marathon pace on another day.
These higher intensity workouts are easy enough for him to recover from, yet keep his neuromuscular system in tune with his anticipated race pace. His short runs in the final week are easy 5 milers, with a short slow jog the day before the marathon.
Uhli Steidl, number one ranked marathoner in Washington State who placed 12th at last year’s Boston Marathon in 2:19:54, also does a three week taper. He’s had 30 marathons to perfect his peaking process, and has a best time of 2:13: 56.
He cuts his normal weekly mileage from 110-130 miles to 80-90 miles, three weeks out. Two weeks before a big marathon he’ll cut back further to 70 miles, then only run 40 miles the final week before the marathon. Four to five days before the marathon he’ll do a 3 miles at his anticipated marathon race pace or 10 x 400 meters at marathon race pace. Peaking Performance
All three of these elite marathoners follow the general guidelines outlined above. Other factors obviously contribute to the distance runner achieving his or her optimal performance in a marathon or shorter distances. These include such things as how many races the runner has had, leading up to the major event; the athlete should obviously not peak for every competition prior to the championship event; the importance of achieving a fine balance between good health and top level competition; controlling the nervous excitement leading up to the big competition; and adjusting to the time zone and environmental conditions if necessary.
One final aspect of tapering needs to be considered. The results of a well-planned tapering program are that the runner or triathlete will feel like the competition is almost effortless. This could result in a foolhardy early pace, and blow the results of the tapering. Starting at a realistic pace will ensure that the athlete does not find him or herself in an anaerobic state right from the start.
Thus, peaking is designed to achieve a superior biological state where the athlete tapers his/her training for a period of 7-21 days, depending on the distance. The goal is to achieve good health, complete physical readiness, and a strong psychological state for competition, all of which will lead to maximum performance. Peaking Performance