Sunday, December 21, 2014

Runners Who think They're On EPO Run Faster

The real deal- EPO or erythropoietin
I was looking for a picture on EPO so I asked my friend (who's a doctor) if she could take a picture of a vial of EPO from her clinic for me. She said she does not sell any evening primrose oil in her clinic. I said no, not evening primrose oil but erythropoietin (EPO).

Why did I need a picture of EPO? Well, my next post is on runners and EPO of course. We've all read about the performance enhancing effects EPO, how can shave seconds and even minutes off best marathon times. Please read on if you're interested.

Scottish researchers studied a group of runners whose average 10 km personal best time was around 39:15 minutes. Over a few weeks, these runners competed in 3 km races in a indoor 200 meter track,

During a week of the study, the runners were given OxyRBX to self inject. They were told OxyRBX contain small amounts of EPO - a known blood booster than increases endurance performances.

The runners were actually injecting themselves with saline, which of course does not have any performance enhancement qualities.

Guess what? When these same runners raced at the end of that week (in which they thought they were injecting themselves with EPO), the runners finished their 3 km race an average of 9.73 seconds faster (or about 5 seconds faster each mile).

This 1.2 % improvement is a statistically significant improvement and of clear sporting relevance. How significant is this? At the 2012 Olympics, the difference between the gold medal and fourth place was less than 1 % in all track events from 1500 - 10,000 meters for both men and women.

Almost all runners who had expected to see positive changes when injecting themselves with OxyRBX recorded a marked improvement.

This differs from those runners who did not expect much improvement whose performance improved less markedly. The runners reported lower levels of perceived exertion during the race that followed their week of "doping".The runners also said they pushed themselves harder during the races at the end the "doping" week.

Some runners also reported increase confidence in their abilities after the injections, this has been shown to increase willingness to exert extra effort in challenging tasks.

If you sincerely believe that adding a new element to your training (increasing your weekly track and hill workout, speed work etc) will improve your running, it can be a self fulfilling practice as it can increase your motivation, confidence and then better results. No need to dope.

Reference

Ross R, Gray CM et al (2014). The Effects Of An Injected Placebo On Endurance Running Performance. Med Sci Sports Ex. DOI: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000000584.

*A big thank you the Dr GL for the EPO picture.

Friday, December 12, 2014

My Christmas Present From Oakley

My Crosslink with red ear stems
Every year end, I get a present from Oakley, you've read about my Fast Jacket and my Jawbone. Sometimes it's sun glasses, sometimes apparel, sometimes both.

Well I've got another early Christmas present from Oakley this year. The Oakley Crosslink. Crosslink? But you don't need glasses some of you will say..

I don't need glasses to see distance, but I am having some difficulty reading now!!  I literally woke up one morning finding it difficult to read the newspaper.

When I'm sitting outside or when it's brightly lit I have no problems reading. However when the light is not so good, I struggle to read. Hence the need for me to get prescription lenses.

A closer look. Yes you get a extra pair of ear stems too.

A big thank you to Joey from Oakley.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

How Long Rather Than How Hard ....

....  may determine your immune response to exercise. Hope I caught your attention for the right reasons with my heading.

A 2 hour bike ride sure beats a 2 hour jam
Here's quite an interesting read, especially for those of you who just finished the marathon today.

We know exercise helps strengthen our immune system, Too much exercise weakens it. How do we know what's optimal?

Researchers compared 30 minutes of moderate treadmill running, 30 minutes of intense running (when maintaining a conversation while running is difficult), 120 minutes of moderate running and of course a control group with no exercise.

This is a very interesting study as researchers administered diphenylcyclopropenone (DPCP), which is a chemical through a patch on subjects' lower back. The response on the back is redness and skin thickening which is then measured. This is very different from previous other immune function studies which use animals or measure certain blood markers or saliva.

Results? A long duration of exercise (120 minutes) causes a temporary weakening of immune function. Surprisingly, the 30 minutes short bout of intense exercise did not weaken immune function.

Other questions remain. How would a two hour bike ride (which is less stressful on the body) compare to a two hour long run? Will your overall fitness matter? If you're used to running two hours every weekend, will the two hour run still weaken your immune system?

Many questions need to be answered. However, I don't think we should oversimplify the takeaway message that it is how long rather than how hard that may affect our immune response to exercise.

So those of you who've run the full distance this morning, all the more you need to rest well.

Reference

Diment DC, Forted MB et al (2014). Exercise Intensity And Duration Effects On In Vivo Immunity. Med Sci Sp Ex. DOI: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000000562.


Sunday, November 30, 2014

What Happens On Your First Run In Minimalist Running Shoes

Nike Free 3.0 (left) and 4.0 (right)
Runners hate getting injured since they usually can't run while nursing an injury. To minimise injury, you can vary the impact forces by running on different surfaces, running at different speeds and running on different terrain. I wrote previously that rotating your running shoes can help prevent injury as it loads bones and soft tissue differently.

Vibrams have been taken to task for advertising that wearing their shoes can help you change your running gait and thus prevent injuries.

Now I have good news for runners wanting to try minimalist running shoes. Another study has shown that switching from conventional running shoes to Nike Frees does not change your running gait, which is great for those of you thinking of transitioning to minimalist running shoes provided your running technique is correct.

Researchers had runners who were used to running in conventional running shoes do three 10 minute runs. First 10 minutes in their normal shoes, then in Nike Free 3.0, and in their normal shoes again.

The researchers expected the runners would change their gait while running in the Nike Frees as they were unfamiliar with the shoes. (This is thought to increase injury risk as you need to get used to a different shoe).

The researchers were surprised to report that in trained runners, there was no change in lower limb variability while wearing minimalist shoes for the first time. It was similar when the runners switched back to their regular shoes.

My own personal take on this? As written previously, the Nike Free's are probably on the conservative end of minimalist running shoes (as compared to say Vibrams) and provide cushioning close to traditional running shoes. It may be different for minimalist shoes that are more minimalist.

Now while I'm writing on Nike Free's, remember I received 3 pairs of Nike Free's earlier this year? Well, I guess it's not too late for me to write a little on how the shoes feel since I've logged some decent miles in them.

Since late May this year I've been working a couple of half days at Physio Solutions. I usually try to run home after I'm done seeing patients there.

Well, I worked there 3 half days this week, which means I ran home 3x this week!! When I first started running home, I ran mostly in my 3.0's. Now I prefer the 4.0, mainly because the 3.0 seems to run a bit on the short length wise. Probably half a size smaller. My suspicions were confirmed when I put my 3.0's and 4.0's together. Though both were listed as size 7, the 3.0's were a tiny bit smaller.

Slight difference in length even though both same size
Width wise the 3.0's were pretty snug. Again I found it easier to put on and take off the 4.0's compared to the 3.0's. The 3.0's had a more "sock-like" feel compared to the 4.0's. Both have very soft midsoles. I sometimes try to cough deliberately when I'm running to pass someone as quite a few people who don't hear me have been startled when I run pass them.

As for my 5.0's,I've not run in them yet, just worn them for walking around.

Reference

Frank NS et al (2013). Lower Limb Kinematic Variability Associated With Minimal Footwear During Running. Footwear Sci. 5(3): 171-177.  DOI: 10.1080/1942480.2013.797505.

*Thanks to Andrew Kwong again for my 3 pair's of Nike Free's, to Andrea Goh for bringing them and Ernest Rodrigues and Duane Wee for previous Nike Free's.

My previous 5.0 all worn
The "pull-tab" makes it easier to wear

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Running Does Not Wear Out Your Knees

Picture by Cameron Drake on work done by Dr Noah Weiss
How many of you have had friends tell you that you'd better stop running as running causes your knee joints to wear out. I've had my fair share too.

Well, now you can tell all the naysayers that running (at any age) does not increase your risk of osteoarthritis (or wearing out of your joints), in fact they may even prevent the condition. This information was presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Rheumatology.

Researchers did a long term study on 2,683 subjects at four stages of their life : 12-18, 19-34, 35-49 and 50 and older. They were classified as a runner at that stage if they listed running as one of their three main activities.

X-rays of the knees were collected as well as subjects' reports of symptomatic pain. The knee x-rays were repeated again two years later. Analyses showed that 22.8 % of the participants who were runners had need osteoarthritis compared to 29.8 % who had never been a runner. And get this, average age of the participants was 64.7 years.

The authors concluded that "non-elite running at any time in life does not appear detrimental and may be protective" in regards to developing knee osteoarthritis.

Reference

http://acrannualmeeting.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/2014-ACR_ARHP-Annual-Meeting-Abstract-Supplement.pdf.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Air Quality In Your Gym


Last week I wrote about the potential pitfalls of exercising in the haze, but we didn't get any haze thankfully due to all the rain from the northeast monsoon. Guess it worked out pretty well then.

With all that rain, some of you may be tempted to give up your exercise plans or shift your workouts indoors into gyms. All good so far right as you expect there won't be any pollution indoors.  I've written that exercising in polluted air is undesirable and can damage your brain and lungs. But guess what, the air in your gym may not be that clean either.

In the article referenced below, researchers monitored 11 gyms (in Lisbon, Portugal) to measure pollutants during the evening/ late afternoon hours since the gyms will be packed at that time.

Subsequently, additional monitors were placed in three gyms to get more detailed readings. These monitors measured air quality throughout the building and throughout the day.

What the researchers found were alarming.  Levels of carbon dioxide, airborne dust and formaldehyde exceeded national levels.

High concentrations of dust and chemicals like formaldehyde can contribute to asthma and other respiratory problems. Almost all the gyms in the study had levels of these substances that significantly exceeded European standards for healthy indoor air.

The levels of carbon dioxide were especially high during evening aerobics classes. Many people were packed into smaller studios/ rooms stirring up dust, fumes and were panting heavily, producing carbon dioxide with every breath. High concentrations of carbon dioxide can contribute to fatigue and cognitive fogginess, not desirable at all in a high intensity aerobics class.

Elevated levels of carbon dioxide may also indicate a building that is poorly ventilated especially if levels remain elevated (they did in this study). The researchers suggest gym goers sniff the air for chemical smells and stale air (as it differs from unwashed gym clothes odour) and consider talking to the gym manager whether the building has undergone a indoor air quality assessment.

As far as I know, no one formally monitors air quality in our gyms here in Singapore, so gym goers be warned.

Reference

Ramos CA et al (2014). Exposure To Indoor Air Pollutants During Physical Activity In Fitness Centers. Building and Environment. 82: 349-360.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Is Exercising In The Haze Worth The Risk?

Hazy Singapore - Picture kindly allowed by Hak Liang from Flickr
I was away for the past 2 weeks and my parents when picking us up from the airport mentioned that the haze was bad over the weekend. However it's been raining a fair bit these past few days, so obviously no sign of any haze that has on occasion engulfed our skies in recent times.

When we exercise outdoors, we obviously breathe deeper and more frequently and hence take in more air pollution. A question often asked in times when the haze is bad is whether you should stop exercising outdoors to minimize exposure to the haze/ pollution.

The best known case I recall about an athlete worried about his health due to air pollution was Haile Gebreselasssie. He was then the world record holder in the marathon, but decided not to race the marathon at the Beijing 2008 Olympics due to concerns about the air quality as he suffered from asthma.

Now, there is much documented proof that regular exercise makes you smarter (a neurotropin - brain-deprived neurotropic factor, BDNF plays a key role).

There is also evidence that exposure to air pollution damages your brain and lungs.

Research suggests that while there may be benefits while exercising in polluted air, some of the positive cognitive effects of exercise may be lost. Consider the following two experiments.

A group of cyclists performed 2 identical cycling tests. One was done in a lab where the air was "clean" while the other test was done riding along a busy road with moderate pollution.

Result? Cylists' BDNF levels rose while performing the test in the lab. Along the busy road, levels did not.

In another study, subjects participated in a 12-week training program. One group trained in a rural environment, the other group an urban area. End result showed that participants in the rural environment performed better in tests involving working memory and problem solving.

The authors suggest exercising in a "green environment", avoiding close proximity to traffic, rush hour traffic, and polluted urban environments. Pollution tends to be less in rainy and windy conditions too.

So there you have it, some suggestions that the benefits you gain from exercise may be negated if the exercise was done in a polluted environment.

Reference

Bos I, De Boever P et al (2014). Physical Activity, Air Pollution And the Brain. Sports Medicine. 44(11): 1505-1518.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Kinesio Taping Instructor Recertification (CKTI) In Venice

Kinesio Taping Association International rules are that your licence (as an Kinesio Taping Instructor) to teach is valid only for 3 years and thereafter you have be re-certified to be able to teach again.

So here I am doing my Kinesio Instructor Recertification course in Venice over the next few days.

The man himself - Dr Kenso Kase
Some updates, Dr Kase taught us the EDF (dermis, epidermis and fascia) taping 3 years ago in Albuquerque, he spent more time on that today. Latest news is that EDF taping will be a critical component in all upcoming Kinesio Taping courses. Yes, they are looking a fairly big overhaul at teaching future KT 1,2 and 3 courses.

EDF taping
3 years ago with Trish Martin in Albuquerque
Also went through the Jellyfish concept for KT 3 courses.

Jellyfish cut
Another look at the Jellyfish
With Da Man himself

Saturday, October 25, 2014

How To Taper For Your Next Marathon

Finishing stretch at the Singapore marathon from Flickr
Are you getting ready for your next marathon? Ever wondered how elite runners do their taper? Well, here's a sneak peak at what elite British middle and long distance distance runners did when they were preparing to compete at the 2012 London Olympics. (800 m to marathon runners were included in this study, but this post will discuss marathon tapering strategies only).

Average best male time for the marathon were 2:15:46 while the women had an average of 2:31:54 hours.

During normal training, he marathoners averaged 100 miles a week over 12 runs. Majority of the runs (94 miles or about 150 km) were of various distances at slow to moderate pace. The runners did one real quick interval session of 6 miles (or 10 km) such as 6 x 1600 m.

During their 2 week pre marathon taper, these runners did just 7 runs a week, totaling about 53 miles (or 85 km), reducing their mileage by almost 50%. They still did one interval session of about 4 miles (6.4 km), i.e. reducing interval mileage by about 33 %. This suggests they needed to maintain their speed while cutting excess mileage to rest.

During normal training, regular runs were 16 % slower than their marathon pace while intervals were done 10 % quicker.

While tapering, their intervals done slightly quicker than marathon pace while maintaining the pace of their other runs. The authors suggested that their intervals was not done at any greater efforts compared to normal training as their legs recovered as they ran less. This helped to increase their confidence for the race too.

Kate Spilsbury, the lead author referred these faster taper runs as the "priming effect" and suggested that pace should "feel easier as the runners reduce volume and become fresher."

Also have a read here.

Reference

Spilsbury KL, Fudge BW et al (2014). Tapering Strategies In Elite British Endurance Runners. E J Sp Sci. 5: 1-7.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Keeping Fit Helps You Sleep Better As You Age


Singapore Track greats - C Kunalan and Glory Barnabas by richseow
I don't know about you, I've been a terrible sleeper for as long as I can remember. Even when I was training a lot more when I was still racing. In fact I found that when I trained too hard, I found it harder to fall asleep. I still am a very light sleeper and once I get up (even in the middle of the night), I usually can't fall back to sleep.

What I read though keeps me going at maintaining whatever fitness I have left. This is in hope that I can sleep better as I get older as more than 8000 adults tracked over a 35-year period showed that those who maintained their cardiovascular fitness as they grew older slept better.

Researchers noted that as one passes 50 years of age, their cardiovascular fitness can decline quickly.

Previous other studies and anecdotal evidence have suggested that exercise helps you sleep better. Most studies used a questionnaire to find out about subjects' sleep patterns. This particular study used a treadmill test as an objective measure rather than just relying on subjects' self reporting.

Every minute decline on the treadmill test endurance led to a 1.7% increase in sleep complaints. No surprises, the researchers concluded that those who kept fit (cardiovascular fitness) during middle age help protect against the onset of sleep complaints made to the doctor.

Well, more reason for you (and I) to keep exercising.

Reference

Dishman RK, Sui XM et al (2014). Decline In Cardiovascular Fitness And Odds Of Incident Sleep Complaints. Med Sci Sp Ex. DOI: 1249/MSS.00000000000000506.

*Picture by Spyros Papaspyropoulos from Flickr

Surely you don't wanna sleep like this

Friday, October 10, 2014

Original Kinesio Tex Tapes Maker Threaten Sport Laboratory Over Name Dispute

The real slim shady
The original Kinesio Tex tapes maker, based in Albuquerque, New Mexico has sent a letter to Kinesio Sport Lab (KSL) an exercise physiology/ testing laboratory based in Nova Scotia, Canada to stop using the name Kinesio or face legal action.

'KINESIO' is a proprietary trademark registered in over 50 countries.

KSL was asked to "discontinue and permanently refrain from all use of the words KINESIO SPORT LAB, KINESIO, and any other confusingly similar marks and names in any manner."

Kinesio owns 13 active trademark registration in the United States involving the term "KINESIO. These registration cover a a broad range of goods and services as well.

KSL does not make or sell similar therapeutic tapes, although it does offer services in a related field of exercise testing, nutrition consulting and endurance coaching etc.

According to lawyers interviewed, infringement may occur even though trademarks are not identical, goods and services are not overlapping.

Infringements occur when a consumer may be likely to think that the goods or services associated with the allegedly infringing business are made, sold, leased, hired or performed by the same person or company that has prior rights in the similar trademark.

Well, you use the original Kinesio Tex tapes because it is superior to other copycat/ imitation tapes, but remember don't name your company Kinesio.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Bosses Who Run May Be More Effective

Sir Richard Branson running the London marathon from Flickr
If you have a boss who's run marathons, he or she may be able to lead your team/company better.

According to researchers, CEOs (in S and P companies) who have run marathons had 5 % greater value at leading their firms.

Due to high stress levels because of frequent changing demand in their jobs, making far reaching decisions accompanied by media scrutiny, fitness play an important role for CEOs.

The CEOs were found to have a positive impact especially in cases where CEO's were above median age and tenure at the company and in cases where the CEOs had a particularly heavy workload. Among this group, completing a marathon was associated with an 8-10 percent increase in company value.

According to researchers, this is due to running's buffering effects on stress and its positive impact on cognitive functions, executive control processes and job performances.

Case in point, I have a patient who's the CEO of their American office here in Singapore and when I told her about this study she agreed with the researchers' conclusion. She had just gone out for a 28 km run before she came to see me on Saturday and she shared that she "solved her all problems" while running. Usually if she has yet to make up her mind on any issues, she's able to think through, analyse and decide what she wants to do by the end of the run.

Come to think of it, I've also treated various other patients who hold high positions in their jobs and many run, do triathlons and other exercises citing similar reasons.

Reference

Limbach P and Sonnerbach F (2014). CEO Fitness And Firm Value. Social Sci Research Network. http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2489967

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Eat Less Processed Red Meat To Live Longer

Picture I took at our local NTUC
Wanna live a couple of years longer? Than you need to stop eating processed meat as it decreases your lifespan by about 2 years.

Processed red meat includes sausages (or your favourite hot dog), luncheon meat (a popular local favourite), cold cuts, ham and liver pate to name a few.

How do I know this? Well I didn't make this up, I read a paper in which 75,000 people were studied from 1998 to 2012. They were asked about the frequency and types of red meat in the diet. Researchers measured total red meat consumption (fresh pork, beef and veal) and processed red meat consumption listed above as a subset.

More than 22 % of the participants died during the study period. Those who didn't eat much meat products (less than 100 grams or about 3.5 ounces per day) had similar survival rates as vegetarians. Those who ate more than 100 grams per day had a lower life expectancy as the quantity of red meat grew larger.

Those eating processed red meat had the highest mortality rates. The researchers concluded that eating non processed red meat alone was not associated with shorter survival rates though.

References

Bellavia A, Larsson SC et al (2014). Differences In Survival Associated With Processed And With NonProcesssed Red Meat Consumption. Am J C Nutrition. DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.114.086249.

Used to eat this often when I was a kid (Picture from Flickr)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Can Running Help Stop You From Eating Junk Food?

My personal favorite
Any of you having a craving for junk food? I do, all the time. In fact as I'm writing this, I am having a huge craving for potato chips.

How do I not succumb to this urge? Well, it seems that people whose brains have a strong dorsal-lateral prefontal cortex (DLPFC) section may have greater self control when it comes to eating behaviour.

What the heck is that?

Well, the DLPFC is near the front portion of your head in case you were wondering. Researchers zapped that area (with a coil placed near the subjects scalps near the hairline) to temporarily decrease brain activity in the DLPFC of the subjects in their study.

Guess what? When the participants were zapped in that area, they had more food cravings and also ate more junk food compared to subsequent tests when they received a sham zap.

With that zap, the participants were almost totally interested in high calorie snacks (Pringles potato chips and milk chocolate in the study).

In fact they mostly ignored the more healthy food options that were also available.

The researchers suggest that improving your DLPFC function can improve dietary self control, prevent obesity and may even help manage Type II diabetes.

How to you make your DLPFC function better? Studies have shown that running and other aerobic exercises are known to enhance DLPFC function. Getting adequate sleep and avoiding alcohol have also been shown to help.

Hmmm, this is strange. When I used to train a lot previously, I would often eat all potato chips, chocolate, drink lots of Coke etc. I thought all that training was supposed to help strengthen my DLPFC??

Now that I'm not racing and training much I would not dare to eat as much for fear of putting on too much weight. I guess after my accident, I've changed my eating habits as well.

Reference

Lowe CJ, Hall PA et al (2014). The Effects Of Continous Theta Burst Stimulation To The Left Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex On Executive Function, Food Cravings And Snack Consumption. Psych Med. Sep 76(7): 503-511. DOI: 1097/PSY.0000000000000090.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Introduction To Kinesio Taping 130914

Due to many requests by some of our readers and patients, Sports Solutions hosted the Introduction to Kinesio Taping today at our clinic. Some couldn't come though, they went to watch our National Netball team in action as the girls were playing the semi finals against rivals Malaysia today.

Today's  session was taught differently compared to previous introduction courses. Specific regions of the body were addressed with specific techniques taught, a fair bit being KT 2 concepts.

Here are some pictures from this afternoon.

All ready to begin
getting ready to choke Priscilla
Jolyn taking over teaching duties
Helping Jolyn out
All the participants left very happy with specific techniques they can use from the course. Email us at admin@sportssolutions.com.sg if you're keen to learn more.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

An Amazing Photo

Picture by Arnold Gold of the New Haven Register
Near the 10 km mark, a spectator at the New Haven 20 km road race was so inspired by what she saw as the lead men ran by that she joined lead pack of eight runners, probably surprising them more than a little.

The spectator ran along in her flip flops, perhaps trying to feel how the race pace of 5:00 a mile felt like and to see how long she could hang with the boys.

Hopefully she got inspired enough to start running regularly.

How about you?

Sunday, August 31, 2014

More On Morning Run Or Sleeping In?

Picture by S Veerasathankul from Flickr
I last wrote the earlier post way back in 2009. That was based purely on my own opinion. Back when I was still training seriously, I used to get up at 4.20 am,  leave my house at 4.40 am, ride to the pool as swim training starts at 5.30 am. Yes you read correctly, we jump in at 5.30 am sharp.

Best thing about those early morning training sessions? Most triathlon (or running races for that matter) start at 7 am or slightly later so I'm used to getting my body race ready for the early start times since I get up much earlier for my training sessions.

But I just read an article (by staff in charge of recovery at the Australian Institute Sport) where researchers showed how morning workouts affect your sleep.

Sleep monitors were worn by the elite swimmers at the AIS on their wrists during a 14-day training period. The swimmers had 6 am workouts scheduled on 12 out of the 14 days with 2 rest days.

Here's what the data showed.


The white bars are the athletes' overnight sleep, black bars are their training sessions (usually twice daily) while the grey bars depict their afternoon naps. What caught my attention was that the swimmers got less sleep when they had early workouts. According to their sleep monitors, the athletes slept  only 5.4 hours before training days compared to 7.1 hours before rest days. They also took longer to sleep and spent more time lying awake in bed probably due to the fact that they were making an effort to sleep earlier before training days.

This is despite the fact that these are full time athletes who have no particular need to train at 6 am. I've stayed at the AIS in Canberra before, that's how the swimmers, rowers and triathletes among other athletes living there train.  Partly as a legacy from previous times when athletes were not training full time.

Moving the workouts an hour or two later would help these athletes get more sleep and help them perform and recover better too. For those of us juggling a full time job, family and training, you probably need to be training first thing in the morning as other things occupy your attention during the day.

What strikes me in the chart above is that the athletes going to bed later before rest days and thus making it harder to fall asleep earlier on the other nights (in order to wake up for your training). Try to get to bed at a consistent time (even on nights when you don't have an early training session next morning) so that your body gets into a routine where the early wake up is not a rude shock.

Get to bed at 10 pm every night? I can hear the protests already. Is that trade off worth it? You have to decide for yourself.

Reference

Sargent C, Halson S et al (2014). Sleep Or Swim? Early-morning Training Severely Restricts The Amount Of Sleep Obtained By Elite Swimmers. Eur J Sport Sci. 14 Suppl 1:S310-315. doi: 10.1080/17461391.2012.696711.


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Being Lonely May Make You Drink More Sugary Drinks


The picture of the book on top (The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner by Alan Sillitoe)  has got nothing to do with this post. I just thought it was a good picture to post.

Back to the post.

If you're feeling lonely watch out. According to a group of Norwegian researchers, being lonely may cause you to consume more sugary beverages. And too much sugar in your diet causes diabetes.

The researchers studied more than 90,000 pregnant women on their consumption of sugary drinks (cola, other soda and juices) and their relative feelings of loneliness and relationship satisfaction.

Other factors researched is inclusive of their marital status, other social ties apart from their romantic partner and feelings of group cohesiveness at work.

Subjects who were lonely consumed more sugar in the form of cola, other soda and juices. Those who had high levels of satisfaction in their relationships did not consume as much sugar.

This increase in sugary drinks were significant even after accounting for factors such as weight related self-image, body mass index, depression, physical activity, education level, age and income.

 This same link did not exist between loneliness and drinking artificially sweetened beverages, suggesting that it's the sugar not the sweet taste that people with relatively poorer social connections seek.

The researchers suggested improving the quality of your relationships if you find yourself drinking more sugary drinks than you like.

I'll go running if I'm lonely, hence the picture on top.

Reference

Henriksen RE et al (2014). Loneliness, Social Integration And Consumption Of Sugar-containing Beverages: Testing The Social Baseline Theory. PLoS One 9(8): e104421. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0104421.

This should be the picture on top.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Big Benefits From Minimal Running

Picture by J White - Fishery Bay, South Australia from Flickr
I wrote briefly last week that moderate exercise boosts immunity and makes you less likely to fall sick. So just how much (or should I say how little) do you need to run before you reap the benefits of running?

Well, you'll be pleasantly surprised to know that running just 5-10 minutes a day at really slow speeds is sufficient to reduce your risk of dying from all causes and cardiovascular disease.

That means you'll just have to run 4-5 miles (or 6-8 km) a week  at 11:00 to 12:00 minutes per mile (or 2:45 to 3:00 min of one round around your local 400m track) to reap significant benefits. In fact, runners who run less than an hour a week gain the same benefits as those who run more than 3 hours a week.

Runners were found to have reduced risks of up to 30 % for all-cause mortality and 45 % for cardiovascular mortality. A group of "persistent runners" who kept running for 6 years enjoyed greater than the above mentioned benefits. Women  appear to get substantially more benefit than men.

The above mentioned results were based on a study of 55, 000 adults (average age 44). They were followed up for an average of 15 years. Key comparisons were runners versus non runners, different speeds of running, weekly mileage and running frequencies.

This study is receiving wide coverage and being hailed as a landmark study on the benefits of running.

This study should motivate all healthy but sedentary individuals to start and continue running.

Reference

Lee D, Pate RR et al (2014). Leisure-time Running Reduces All-cause And Cardiovascular Mortality Risk.
J Am Colleage Cardiol. 64(5): 472-481. doi:10.10106/j.jacc.2014.04.058.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Ginger Helps You Recover From Hard Training

Picture by Robin from Flickr
You've trained really hard leading up to your goal race. All the intervals your coach made you run (bike or swim), you've managed to go under the target times. You're ready to kick ass in the race. Alas, you catch a cold just before your race. You may not even make it to the starting line let alone clock a personal record. Sounds familiar?

Well, join the club, I've fallen sick more than once just prior to a key race after training real well before the race. All because I'd trained too hard and not recovered sufficiently.

It's been well established that moderate exercise helps your immune system get stronger, making it you less likely to fall sick. Hard exercise (like an interval session or a really long run) compromises your immune system temporarily until you recover. Hence, it's common to come down with a cold or a sore throat when you're training hard.

Now, new published research suggests that ginger helped with lowering inflammation markers in runners. The researchers studied a group of well trained runners for 12 weeks. They were young (average age 23), lean (average 1.72 m and 143 lbs), fit (average Vo2 max 67) and used to training hard.

All the runners did the same hard training in the whole 12 weeks they were studied. After 6 weeks, they did a treadmill run to exhaustion starting at 10 % gradient. Pace and gradient increased every three minutes to they could run no more. Straight after the run, the researchers measured 3 types of cytokines (markers of inflammation).

As expected all the runners had elevated levels since they'd been running hard. Half the group of runners were given 500 mg of powered ginger three times a day (in a pill that didn't taste or smell like ginger) while the other runners were given a placebo.

After another 6 weeks of hard training, the runners did another similar treadmill test to exhaustion. The difference this time between the runners' cytokine levels was striking.

Runners in the placebo group had cytokine levels 32 % higher than their first treadmill test, suggesting that this group of runners' immune system were shot to pieces by the bouts of hard running. This would increase their chances of an upper respiratory tract infection - just as they would be ready for their races (after 3 months of hard training).

The runners who had been ingesting ginger had cytokine levels 18 % lower than their first test, suggesting that their immune systems had actually gotten stronger, lessening their chances of falling ill prior to racing.

The researchers concluded that ginger's anti inflammatory properties had helped the runners. Ginger's effects mirror those of anti inflammatory medications, minus the side effects of course.

If only I had known earlier .....

For those of you still training and racing, a cup of stronger ginger tea contains about 250 mg of ginger, or it is widely available in capsule or powder form.

* The anti-inflammatory properties of ginger has been known, valued and used for centuries. Ginger contains active phenolic compounds (gingerol, paradol, shogoal) that have anti-oxidant, anti-cancer, anti-imflammatory, anti-angiogenesis and anti-atherosclerotic properties.

Reference

Zehsaz F et al (2014). The Effect of Zingiber Officinale R. Rhizomes (Ginger) On Plasma Pro-inflammatory Cytokine In Well-trained Male Endurance Runners. Cent Eur J Immunol. 39(2): 174=180. DOI : 10.5114/ceji.2014.43719.

Halia O (or ginger tea without milk)
*Picture by mizie0o0 from Flickr

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Best Way To Use Your Imitation Kinesio Tapes

3 on my R knee
I've got 7 abrasions after falling on Tuesday, yes you read correctly, seven. 3 wounds on my right knee, 2 on my right foot, 1 on my left foot and a tiny one near my right elbow.

Lots of pain when I cleaned the abrasions first time, scrubbed them down and then put both Jelonet (a paraffin gauze dressing) and Melolin (a low adherent absorbent dressing) on the wounds to prevent the gauze from sticking to the wound -  more pain if the wound sticks to the gauze when you try to remove the dressings.

One of the wounds would not stop bleeding as I made my way to work at Physio Solutions (I see patients at PS on Tuesdays and Fridays) so I covered the dressings with Kinesio Tex Tapes. The bleeding leaked through the tapes still (that's how much it was bleeding).

Blood seeping thru the Kinesio tapes
Had to go for dinner after I came home from Physio Solutions so I took off the bloodied Kinesio Tex tapes and just wrapped underwrap over my dressings as I was in a hurry as I had to see a patient (who was gonna fly off later) at Sports Solutions. I realized my right knee felt a lot worse after I removed the Kinesio Tex tapes, especially after seeing the patient. My right shoulder also started hurting soon after my patient left.
Underwrap on my knee to hold the dressings 
After showering and doing the dressings again I put on some more Kinesio Tex Tapes on my knees, and my right shoulder as well (as it was now hurting a bit more). Again, both felt better with the Kinesio Tex Tapes.

Taped my R shoulder too
Not much pain when  got up the next day too. After a fall like that usually everything hurts the next day so I was pleasantly surprised.

I was now reluctant to take off the Kinesio Tex Tapes when I had to shower when  I had a brilliant idea. I should test the many rolls of imitation / copy cat Kinesio tapes I've been asked to try. I used some of the imitation/ copy cat Kinesio tapes which I put over the original Kinesio Tex Tapes.  They seem to keep the water off much better (so I needn't have to redress it).

The imitation Kinesio tapes kept everything dry
So falling wasn't great (because of my 7 abrasions). But in the process I learnt how to use Kinesio Tex Tapes on top of my dressings - who says you cannot use original Kinesio Tex Tapes on an open wound. And in the process found out that you can put your imitation/ copy cat Kinesio tapes to good use as well.

My knee actually feels really good now, a lot less swelling compared to 2 days ago. Hmmmm, think I can try running tomorrow? Perhaps cycling would be gentler on my knee......

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Too Much Sitting Negates The Benefits Of Your Exercise


Picture by Carsten Knoch from Flickr
Since my earlier post on Runners Run A Lot, Also Sit A Lot, I've received quite a few questions on how much does sitting affect us. So here's a follow up post on that article.

Well, to answer your queries, according to research, each hour of sitting negates 8 % of your gain from an hour's worth of running. So if you ran an hour this morning and then sit for 10 hours after that during the day, you lose about 80% of the health benefit you gained from your morning run.

That's rather upsetting isn't it? I've never thought I had to subtract (any health benefit) from my exercise before. Fortunately for me, I don't sit much during the day when I'm treating my patients. I sit most when I'm reading doing research and writing articles for this blog.

Now for the not so good news. If you do an hour's worth of moderate intensity exercise (running is considered vigorous exercise), you lose about 16 % of your workout gains from each hour of sitting.

The above mentioned data were the same for both men and women.

Researchers obtained the results through analysis of objective fitness and exercise data obtained through the National Education and Nutrition Survey (NHANES). This is an annual survey conducted to assess the country's exercise and nutrition habits.

So for office workers and those who work from home and are mostly sitting, you should be walking up stairs rather than using the lifts, stand while talking on your phone, sitting on a gym ball, using a standing desk, walking out during your lunch and use a pedometer to log your dally step count.

As Little Eva (and later Kylie Minogue) sang, "So come on come on, do the loco-motion with me." 

Reference 

Kulinski JP, Khera A, Ayers CR et al (2014). Association Between Cardiorespiratory Fitness And Acclerometer-derived Physical Activity And Sedentary Time in General Population. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.mayocp.2014.04.019. 

Surely I can sit now after all that walking ....
Picture by Julio Velasco from Flickr.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Organic Food Has Higher Antioxidants

Picture by Basak Ekinci from Flickr
My wife is a firm believer in eating well. Even before my accident she's been buying organic food for the family. After my accident, eating organic in our household went up a few notches. I've been having green juices, organic cocoa and lots more. If you've been reading some of my older posts, you'd know I basically ate anything and everything, especially junk food and drinking lots of Coke too. I figured that since I exercise (and trained pretty hard before) I could eat anything I wanted.

Guess what, turns out my wife was right all along. According to a paper published in the British Journal of Nutrition (which reviewed 343 studies), you get 20-40 % more antioxidants if you switch from normal conventionally grown (read plenty of pesticides) to organic food. Antioxidants are thought to prevent or delay some types of cell damage and can therefore improve your health and slow the aging process.

Conventionally grown food were 3 to 4 times more likely to have pesticide residues and twice as likely to contain cadmium (a toxic heavy metal contaminant). This study differs differs from previous studies which concluded there were no significant differences in antioxidant content between conventional and organic produce.

This study's authors wrote that their finding is more reliable since more studies were analysed using more sophisticated means of analysis.

One suggested reason by the authors that organic food is higher in antioxidants is that plants produce chemicals that form antioxidants in response to environmental stress like pests, diseases and lack of soil nutrients. Since conventionally grown produce are mostly shielded from these stresses, conventionally grown produce do not produce antioxidants.

The second reason is that conventionally farming uses nitrogen with a much higher nitrogen content leading plants to produce fewer antioxidants.

Well, maybe it's time to look at what you eat.

Reference
Baranski M et al (2014). Higher Antioxidant And Lower Cadmium Concentrations And Lower Incidence Of Pesticide Residues In Organically Grown Crops: A Systematic Literature Review And Meta-Analyses. Brit J of Nutrition. FirstView Article pp 1-18. DOI: 10.1017/S000711454001366.

Some of the organic snacks my wife bought for my son

Friday, July 11, 2014

Oakley 30 Years Heritage Radarlock, Frogskins And Oakley Chainlink

What I got today
I received 3 pairs of Oakley sunglasses today. The 30 years Heritage Radarlock and Frogskins and the Oakley Chainlink. A big thank you to Joey.


Here'a a closer look at the Radarlock Path.


"30" etched on the lens
Many thanks to Joey from Oakley.


Sunday, July 6, 2014

Runners Run A Lot, Also Sit A Lot

Potatoes picture from Flickr
You're very active. You may average between 30-40 miles (48-68 km) a week while training for your half or full marathon, running an average of an hour almost daily. You also sit a lot while not exercising or running, close to 8 hours hours or more a day at times. Does this sound like you? You may be what researchers term an "active couch potato."

A group of researchers studied runners (average age of the 218 runners was 35, slightly more than two-thirds were women) who competed in the Austin half and full marathon. These runners ran almost an hour a day (making them among America's most active adults). The runners sat a lot too, ranging from 8 to 11 hours daily.

While looking at the demographics of the runners, a large number of then tend to be professionals with office type desk bound jobs. Is that you?

There were big differences between workday and non workday activities for these runners. The runners slept seven hours a night in the work days and sat about 11.4 hours. While not working, they slept eight hours and sat about 8.5 hours.

There was no connection between training time and sitting time, meaning runners who ran more did not sit more or less than those who ran less. Their results suggest that the runners' sedentary behaviours did not displace their moderate to vigorous activities (running or other exercises). The two coexist at high levels in this study.

This study did not say that the runners' sitting time was unusually high or that it led to any health outcomes although other studies have shown that sitting time is an independent predictor for diabetes, high blood pressure, heart diseases and most other lifestyle diseases (Katzmaryzk et al 2009). In other words, excessive sitting may cancel out some of the benefits of your exercise.

These runners' are " simultaneously highly sedentary and highly active." The authors suggested that these runners' may be a good group for future studies. This may give us more information on how much we have to exercise to negate the harmful effects of sitting.

After spending all that time sitting, researching, reading and then typing this article, I'd better get up and stop sitting.

Reference

Whitefield G et al (2014). Sedentary And Active: Self-reported Sitting Time Among Marathon And Half-marathon Participants. J Phys Act Health. Jan 11(1): 165-172. doi: 10.1123/jpah.2011-0410.


While I was still actively training, once I came home after a hard swim, bike or run, I'll be sitting, eating or sleeping.....