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 4.50 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 8 pm every night? I can hear the protests already. Is that trade off worth it? You have to decide for yourself.


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.


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.


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.


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