Tweet In an earlier post, I linked to an article on recovery-based training. Here is a more accessible version from the same swimming and triathlon coach and leading authority Wayne Goldsmith. At coaches’ infoservice, golfers will even find out how core stability training will get them driving further. Goldsmith highlights some of the complex variables […]

Although this blog’s initial raison d’etre is to chronicle my marathon preparations and issues that seem to touch on an injury-free progress to Apr 22, the wider purpose is to explore how to safely increase workload to a sustainable higher level. This is a major issue in our culture, given arguments about work-life balance, educational achievement, and even income inequality. Why can some succeed and others struggle? What can we do if we are among the also-rans – at least to improve our personal best?

There was a tragic case of a City lawyer reported last week, where the cause of death was attributed to a long-hours culture in so-called “magic-circle” law firms. Unfortunately, it is one of those cases where the reader is left with lots of suggestion but insufficient information to draw any fair conclusions. But that should not prevent us from asking hypothetical questions as to how we should work, and expect others we employ to behave.

An ability to sustain a high work-rate is implicit in much success, and is part of what David Shenk is documenting on his blog, The Genius in All of US. The assumption of what I’ve seen of this literature is that success in more complex careers or elite sport requires an appropriate support structure (family, friends, coaches, colleagues, teachers), and a work methodology that avoids exhaustion, burnout and injury. There are other factors of course, like a facility for understanding and taking risk, and resilience in the face of failure. But not all of us are likely to start out with those support structures, or have thought about how we establish them for ourselves or for others – whether family, friends, colleagues or employees.

Continue reading ‘undulating route to higher performance’

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Interesting research from London’s Portland Hospital reported yesterday by the BBC, indicates that some women are more vulnerable to ligament injury as part of their menstrual cycle:-

“Midway through the cycle, the level of the female sex hormone oestrogen, which gives strength to muscles and ligaments, drops dramatically, resulting in sudden weakness.”

There must be myriad under-researched possibilities such as these that mitigate against a work-based training programme. The question would be: to what extent can a recovery-based approach to training counteract this hormonal effect? Heart-rate monitor makers have shown that a lot of body function is correlated with heart rate. Would a sophisticated enough monitor point up whether you are more prone to such weakness?

Today I did not use the bike to warm up, nor did I stretch. I didn’t have time and used my run to recover the car from the garage in town. I could not stretch afterwards either (which I don’t normally do anyway.) My left thigh feels weaker than for a long while, and I feel much stiffer. Who says stretching doesn’t matter?

Resting heart rate 48

Weight 72 kg

Mood :-)

Exercise energy consumed 399 kcal (34 mins run)

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The first time in recorded literature Paula Radcliffe and PG Wodehouse’s Bertie Wooster have not only shared a sentence (this one) but a headline (you clicked on it). What they have in common is cold bathing. I too have joined these honoured ranks. It feels like madness, and perhaps it induces it. But there are good reasons to follow the model, not least that Seneca (the champion stoic) favoured cold baths and long runs. Endurance training after all is a form of modern stoicism.

The Bath University Human Performance Centre advises the following regime:- alternating cold and warm showers for 30 seconds, three times each, as hot and cold as you can bear.

Sports psychologists have shown that cold showers not only reduce stress, but increase mental agility and toughness. The reason to adopt the contrast bathing approach above is to develop recovery. Using “intervals” of cold then hot is supposed to speed the removal of toxins from exercised muscles by stimulating blood flow. It certainly does that at this time year when the cold is particularly cold.

Today was a rest day, and I started using the recovery test in my Polar S625x running computer. For two weeks, I take a test three mornings each week to establish a baseline. This involves lying for a minute or so, usually pre-breakfast, in a quiet room with no distractions, and then standing for about the same. Thereafter I repeat the test a minimum of three times a week to measure, through variation in heart-rate during the “exercise” to determine to what extent the body has recovered. There is a total of eight different states from recovered to severely overtrained. The computer can even observe if my training is becoming too monotonous leading to a negative effect.

My resting heart rate was a bit variable this morning, but at its lowest (briefly 44 bpm) much lower than I have seen for a while.

Resting heart rate 48

Weight 71 kg

Mood :-|

Rest day, no exercise

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There is a great book by Nassim Nicholas Taleb called Fooled by Randomness, which examines the role of luck in all areas of life, particularly business and investing.

Taleb is a professor of mathematics and a derivatives trader. Not much to do with sport. But his business is complexity. There is something in statistics called “survivorship bias”. There is a danger that what we measure excludes those that have fallen by the wayside, distorting our view of the world.

Sport is a bit like that when it comes to injury and overtraining. The winner is the best on the day, and not necessarily the best over time. What we certainly don’t see at all are the no-shows, the non-runners, the might-have-beens. Imagine England’s rugby performance over the past few years if Jonny Wilkinson had not been injured.

Taleb is a fitness fanatic and keen cyclist. He says he is not interested in competitive sports, so he does not offer much to help an athlete understand success, except to offer the proverbial observation that a baseball hitter is normally cursed when he appears on the front of Sports Illustrated as it is normally followed by a reversal in fortune. (Mathematically, the previous winning streak was in fact an unsustainable run of luck).

In competitive sport, luck is not very likely to take an average athlete to a gold medal. But bad luck will certainly remove good prospects from the population of potential winners. Reducing that component of luck is what athletes strive for. In my own more modest marathon ambitions, I’m trying to do the same. Except there is not any pressure to win, just a pressure to turn up. That is not a small pressure, and if you are raising money for a charity, that pressure builds the nearer you get to the day. I ran my first marathon injured and while still recovering from a virus, dangerously toughing it out so as not to let down those who’d sponsored me.

Continue reading ‘luck, latent talent and training’

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