Friday 141219

Year End testing continues.



Let’s find a new 1RM

From  Say it ain’t so!

For years, I’ve been looking at some of the dubious and harmful health claims TV doctors make on their talk shows. In carefully examining Dr. Oz, unpicking the evidence behind the ideas he peddles, I came to the conclusion that, on balance, the bulk of what he has to say is misleading at best, and total nonsense at worst.

He is, after all, in the business of entertainment. Real, evidence-based medicine isn’t often entertaining, especially on the subjects — weight loss, diets — he tends to cover.

Now, science has confirmed my suspicions.

Researchers writing in the British Medical Journal examined the health claims showcased on 40 randomly selected episodes of the two most popular internationally syndicated health talk shows, The Dr Oz Show and The Doctors.

If it quacks like a duck…

They identified 479 recommendations from The Dr Oz Show and 445 recommendations from The Doctors, finding that on average, each episode contained about a dozen bits of health wisdom.

By randomly selecting the episodes, instead of cherry picking the worst offenders, their findings give us a true picture of the quality of the health claims that are being made.

And what they found was disappointing but not exactly surprising: about half of the health recommendations had either no evidence behind them or they actually contradicted what the best-available science tells us. That means about half of what these TV doctors say to their millions of satellite patients is woo, and potentially harmful and wasteful woo at that.


(Chart via British Medical Journal)

On The Dr Oz Show, the bulk of the health recommendations had to do with dietary advice (such as “Carb load your plate at breakfast”), while the Doctors mainly told their viewers to consult a healthcare provider (“Go to your primary care doctor or talk to their nurse before going to the ER to help relieve the load in the ER”).

The benefits of many of their health claims were played up, but harms were barely mentioned, and neither were potential conflicts of interest.

“Anyone who followed the advice provided would be doing so on the basis of a trust in the host or guest rather than through a balanced explanation of benefits, harms, and costs,” the study authors write. “The near absence of potential conflict of interest reporting further challenges viewers’ ability to balance the information provided.”

Given the low quality of the advice from TV doctors, the study authors suggest, “Consumers should be skeptical about any recommendations provided on television medical talk shows, as details are limited and only a third to one half of recommendations are based on believable or somewhat believable evidence.”

I’m not sure we needed researchers to tell us that, but it’s nice to be able to quantify the quackery on TV.

Be Sociable, Share!

Thursday 141218





Cool down and go home

*Minimum of 5 calories for M and 4 for W each rowing segment.  Use the lowest number of reps per given exercise (not the rowing) for your score.  

From The Atlantic

You Can’t ‘Turn Fat Into Muscle’

Where does body fat go when it’s lost? Into the air, actually.


This is where people think fat goes when it’s “lost”:


But! Most people are wrong, according to physicist Ruben Meerman and biochemist Andrew Brown. Their calculations were published yesterday in the British medical journal BMJ (hence “faeces” in their survey results above), where the authors profess that despite soaring rates of obesity, there is “surprising ignorance and confusion about the metabolic process of weight loss.”

The researchers use the calculation below to show that fat (plus oxygen) is metabolized mainly into carbon dioxide, and some water that goes into urine (uarine?) or gets used up in other metabolic processes.

Meerman explained in subsequent interviews that the calculation is not new to science, just misunderstood. He told ABC he was “flabbergasted when [he] first realized the extent of the ignorance about this really basic biochemical process.”

Of course, the above equation does involve the release of energy. So I don’t think saying colloquially that fat becomes energy really makes a person a fool. Meerman’s point is just that, according to “science,” matter is conserved, not easily converted into energy. The atomic bomb that the United States dropped on Hiroshima involved conversion of about one third the mass of a dime’s worth of matter. If you were able to convert your fat stores direction into energy, you would explode in a glorious, catastrophic spectacle. Your treadmill would be destroyed, and so would your gym, and your city. But, the weight would be so off.

Be Sociable, Share!

Wednesday 141217


Snatch – Heavy Single


80% x2 EMOM for 10 minutes

Be Sociable, Share!

Tuesday 141216

PR Testing continues…

5 minutes of Double Under practice.

1.  500m Row AS FAST AS YOU CAN


2.  Press Max


2000m Row – cool down

Do you think a sub 2 hour 26.2 mile run is possible?  From

The 2-hour marathon and the 4-min mile

In the last month or so, I’ve been involved in some lively debate about the prospects of the sub-2 hour marathon within five years.  At issue is not whether it will happen some day, because it would take a fool to say with certainty that it will NEVER happen.  At issue is whether it can happen WITHIN FIVE YEARS.

That’s because a campaign to help achieve the sub-2 hour marathon was launched this past week, on the premise that “the project team believe they can achieve this feat within 5 years by applying a dedicated scientific approach“.  That is further expanded on in one of the project member’s newly created website:

“The project is going to select particular runners, possibly not even having currently run a marathon, but having the suitable credentials over a shorter distance. Those runners will then be exposed to the best that medicine and science can currently offer. They will get medical back-up, ranging from injury prevention to treatment, training schedules utilsing the best scientific training methods to refine current programmes, either working with the athletes directly, or through their coaches in the cases where that is applicable; monitoring of training status to prevent over-training or over-racing, the inclusion of refined altitude training techniques (there is more to it than just living at high altitude), monitoring ad refinefent of trainig diet, and importantly, customised recovery nutrition, pre-race nutrition, and in-race nutrition. The runners, in addition, will work with sports psychologists, and biomechanists and be given guidance on the use of legal nutritional ergogenic aids that  have a basis in science for potential benefit”

Science doesn’t offer enough leverage to ‘mature’ practices

All good and well, in principle.  If you are a high performance manager, then the list above is what you should be doing to optimize performance.  You already knew that.  Certainly, I wish the project well.  However, I remain certain that this will not happen in five years, because as much as we as scientists want to believe our interventions make huge differences, they simply do not offer the leverage they are claiming here.  In fact, the kind of thinking above is what oversells and ultimately hurts the application of science to performance coaches.

On first reading the above, I found the entire concept to represent a misperception of science and medicine as a “white knight”, because implicit in the above approach (tactical and operational at best, which is failing – always start with strategic thinking) is that a) the answers reside with a select few, and b) the current runners are far off the ideal standard of those few.

How far off the standard would they need to be in this instance?  Well, in order to hit 1:59:59 by 2019, we are talking an improvement of 2:57, or 2.4% on the current world record, within five years.  That is the equivalent of applying science to help Usain Bolt (or one of his countrymen) to run 9.35s, or to get David Rudisha or Nijel Amos down to a 1:38.5.  These improvements simply do not happen unless there is:

a) emergence of an entirely new population, or;

b) unrestricted application of technology, which in this case could include doping.

The question for the prospects of a sub-2 hour marathon within five years is whether either of these are viable?

The 4-min mile and what it teaches us

This is where the 4-min mile comparison enters the debate.  This has been offered, again on the same website I quoted from earlier, as support for why skeptics of this 2-hour (IN FIVE YEARS) project are like sheep following blindly without doing their analysis (or apparently, understanding the physiology of the marathon.  Go figure).

So here’s the thing about the 4-min mile.  You probably know the basic story – it’s 1954, and the world record is “stuck” at 4:01.4.  The world is watching a race to see who can be the first to crack this mythical four minute barrier.  Down in Australia, John Landy is leading the charge, and runs within 3 seconds of the barrier no fewer than 6 times in an 18-month period.  He becomes the poster boy for the impossibility of the 4-min mile, something he is taken to confirm when he is quoted as saying “The four-minute mile is a brick wall, and I shan’t attempt it again”.

Then a medical student, Roger Bannister, takes to the track in Oxford, on May 6, 1954, and runs 3:59.4.  The barrier is conquered, the wall is broken, and lo-and-behond, John Landy, he who failed six times, goes out and runs 3:58.0 six weeks later!

It suggests, NAY PROVES!!! that the 4-min mile barrier was purely mental or psychological, and it took Bannister’s mental strength to show Landy the way.  Since then, the record has been lowered to 3:43 and 1,034 men have done it.  So much for “impossible”…Right?

At least, that’s what you’ve heard, and been led to believe.  And while I’ve no doubt that mental factors do play a SIGNIFICANT role in performance and our acceptance of limits (there are other cases in history where a broken barrier is followed by a relative deluge), there’s a little more nuance to this story than you might have thought, and it adds some context to our sub-2 hour discussion.

First, Landy had done all his 4:02s in what were effectively time-trials.  He was isolated and alone, and working harder than he might have with the support of pace-setters or the spur of rivals.  Having other runners either setting the pace or challenging you may have a very small effect, but 0.5% would have been worth 1.5 seconds to him.  That puts him right on the cusp.  Bannister, on the other hand, used two Chrises – Brasher and Chataway, to set the race up for his final lap, and they pulled him through three laps in just outside 3:00.  That’s a significant advantage.

Ironically, when Landy eventually broke 4-min with his 3.58, he not only had a pace-setter for 600m (at the insistence of his Finnish hosts), but he had the very same Chris Chataway for company – not as a pace-setter, but as competitor who pushed him all the way through the bell.

Second, Landy would eventually break 4-min running in Turku, Finland, thanks to the assistance of Finnish athletes who brought him over.  In fact, Landy had been enticed to Finland in April 1954, with the intention of training and racing against Finland’s best, because he knew that they might be just what he needed to go 2 seconds faster (see above, re pacing and competition).  What is more, Finland offered Landy something he did not have in Australia – quality track surfaces, at least compared to Australia.

The difference that track surface makes is enormous – biomechanists estimate that modern synthetic tracks are worth 1.5% compared to the cinder tracks that Bannister and Landy ran on (some cinder being better than others, of course).  And that’s why, as my friend David Esptein so elegantly presented at TED, of the 1,034 men who have broken 4-min for the mile since 1954, only 530 would remain if you applied that “correction factor” that predicts that synthetic tracks are worth about 1.5% per lap compared to the cinder tracks of the 1950.

It means only 10 men per decade have joined the club since Bannister created it, and that should give you some context to this argument that “Four minutes used to be impossible, and now it is easy”.

The point is, what we see as huge physiological advances in the 60 years since Bannister’s great run are in fact at least partly, if not largely (50% of the group falls away) driven by technology.

Therefore, for the sub-2 hour marathon debate the question is this: What technology is going to take 2.4% off the time in five years, short of doping?  Remember that the 1.5s that Bannister needed back in 1954 represented a 0.6% improvement in the old world record.  Talking about a sub-2 hour marathon means you believe that 2.4% is possible, from science, applied to a population that is already mature (Kenyans have been running as fast as possible for 20 years with huge economic incentives). When the marathon world record hits 2:00:40, then we can start talking about the small gains and leverage/ROI of science to nudge it down.

I’m afraid science simply does not offer that kind of leverage to mature practice.

Emergence and culture – the key drivers that scientists miss

The final point, and maybe the most important reason why comparing the sub-2 hour marathon to the 4-min mile does not work is that we are now seeing the result of globalization in sport that did not exist in 1954.

You must remember, the 9 year gap between the 4:01.4 world record (set in 1945 by Hagg) and Bannister’s 1954 run was not simply because mankind had a mental block against running under 4 minutes.  There was a huge war in the 1940s, and it took hundreds of thousands of young men, potential athletes, out of the pool of eligible record breakers.  That’s not to mention that running track races was hardly a concern for nearly a decade while war and its subsequent rebuilding took place.

This was particularly relevant and harmful to Europe, of course, which is why Bannister emerged from what was a relatively small population of eligible athletes to take his place in history.

The same cannot be said now.  Since 1990, Kenyan men in particular (more recently, their women too) have dominated track and road distance events.  My friend Jordan Santos and I recently wrote a paper look at just how staggering their dominance has been – in some years, 80% of the best marathons performances come from one tribe in Kenya, the Kalenjin.  All 25 were Kenyan.

Now, the thing to appreciate here is the big picture – Kenya’s dominance is unquestionably the result of many, many factors.  If you say altitude, OR economics, OR culture, OR diet, or GENES, you’d be only partly right.  The interaction of all these factors have created a perfect storm to produce outstanding runners from a very small portion of the world’s population.  That’s something I’ve written on in the past too – this BJSM review article describes the relative contribution of genes, and arguably, the body type of the Kenyans (genetic) is a crucial factor too.  We only beginning to understand the physiology (and genetics) of these runners, but it all points, I hope we agree, to SOME CONTRIBUTION from genes.

Therefore, what has changed in athletics and running between 1954 and 2014 is not only technology and knowledge, but also that a new population, perhaps better endowed or predisposed to distance running success have targeted distance events as a means to earn a living.

The economic factor is huge – it means, literally, that thousands of Kenyans aged 18 to 25 are training with current champions (that’s culture, and it creates a staggering “institutional memory” across generations) to break records and win big races.  This drives performance more than science ever could – it is truly a high leverage input, because when you have culture plus economics, you have the two ingredients to grow knowledge through “institutional wisdom”.

The point there is that the athletes learn what works.  I was lucky enough to spend an hour with Haile Gebrselassie in 2012, and two hours talking to Wilson Kipsang in 2014, and these men know how to train.  They already receive advice from very good coaches and scientists, and they learn through their own mistakes and those of others, what works and what does not.

That is why I get so annoyed by claims by scientists that they can ride their white stallion of knowledge into Kenya (or Ethiopia) and simply help them by doing good science and monitoring recovery.  These are runners who laugh at westerners for their heart rate monitors and gadgets, because they understand their bodies so well already.

Back to the 4- min mile analogy, the key point is this – a new population came along, and so of those 1,034 men who have run under 4-min, or better still, of the 530 who have done so even after technology is corrected for, many of them are African-born.  In fact, I’d say most will be African-born.

So when you point to 1954 and say “the 4-min barrier is no different to the 2-hour barrier of 2014″, you are in fact wrong, because you have not recognized how emergence of a new population into a professional sport has driven performance and culture (and thus knowledge).

This is the macro-economic view of sports performance.  The analogy here is that an economist who tries to predict and then alter the future behaviour of the US Dollar based on what happened in the 1950s is going to be totally wrong, because the world has changed – it’s flat!  New markets emerge, globalization occurs, and for instance, in this analysis, the impact of China, India and other BRIC nations was not a factor in 1954, they are now.  Similarly, we can’t infer much from a “limit” or barrier in 1954, because 2014 has seen the sporting equivalent of “globalization” and new market emergence.

The greatest leap in performance in the last 50 years (outside of technology and doping) has come not because of science but because of this expansion, part of the maturation of sport – the world of sport is now flat, and so the best athletes, genetically, are focused on their optimal events.  Changing that, to the tune of 2.4%, is simply not possible, in my view.

That’s why the comparison between horses and greyhounds is so important.  Since the 1970s, horses have not gotten faster.  Since the 1960, greyhounds have not gotten faster.  What does this tell us?  It says that despite the incentives to get faster (there’s plenty of money in both), a limit has been reached, because horses and greyhounds have always been bred with a specific purpose.  Thus, in a rapid form of evolution, the genetic pool was first expanded, then filtered, to the point that a limit was reached.  Emergence was made impossible because the genetics were “maxed” out, and so there is no longer a possibility, within that very best, “optimized sample”, of advances.  Nor is it likely that a new sample will emerge.

Similarly, unless you can find a new population, emergence is nearing its end in humans too.  Jamaicans and African Americans never used to dominate sprints, now they do.  East Africans dominate distance races.

Bottom line – a disingenuous campaign

It is disingenuous to compare Roger Bannister looking for 0.6% to a project looking for 2.4%, when world records are already becoming asymptotic (there are a lot of papers showing this).

It is disingenuous to overlook the culture of running that has emerged over ten generations of champion runners to think that typical sports science will make that kind of difference – it over-estimates the leverage.

It is disingenuous to have ignore the fact that emergence of a new group is a driver of progress, and that is not worth 2.4% in five years, at this stage of the life cycle of marathon running.

And finally, the promise is not benign.  Yes, I am being cynical, but when sports science promises and then under-delivers, it actually hurts us in the long run.  That’s the issue to me.  It’s not the science, or the scientists, despite what you might think.  In fact, many of the scientists on the project are outstanding, and I have the greatest of respect for their work.  Highly published and deserving of their reputations, all of them.

This is a PR, marketing issue, dealing with the translation of science and its “sale” to the sports world.  I just don’t think it’s helpful.

However, I with the team luck, I’d love to see a 1:59 by 2019, but I say it won’t happen.  In fact, I’m offering a $1000 bet to Dr Andrew Bosch on that – if it happens, I pay you.  If not, that’ll buy me some nice dinners.

Oh and finally, also for Andrew, since the sheep have followed without any analysis, here’s my attempt at a different viewpoint – a little bit of history, economics, culture and physiology.  It includes some mention of horses and greyhounds.


Be Sociable, Share!

Monday 141215

Year End Testing.  Up first…

FSquat – Find a new 1RM



Be Sociable, Share!

Friday 141212

Christmas Party!

Be Sociable, Share!

Thursday 141211


12 Days of Christmas! Ho! Ho! Ho!
For time:
1 – Burpees
2 – 95 lbs PP
3 – 95 lbs FS
4 – 95 lbs PCLS
5 – 95 lbs DL
6 – Box Jumps
7 – Pull-ups
8 – Push-ups
9 – Ab Mat sit-ups
10 – Air Squats
11 – 53 lbs KB Swings
12 – A 500M Row

The workout is:
1 Burpee
then 2 Push Press and 1 Burpee
then 3 Front Squats, 2 Push Press and 1 Burpee etc…

Compare to: Wednesday 121219 or Wednesday 111214 or  Sunday 101212 or Tuesday 131217

Be Sociable, Share!

Wednesday 141210

Find a 1RM on 5 second pause at the bottom BSquat.  You will likely get to 80% – 85% of your normal BSquat 1RM.

Finish this strength portion with 2 sets of 3 reps @ 80% of today’s 1RM (no pause).

125m Row
5 Box Jumps

From The New York Times

Got a Minute? Let’s Work Out

For years, I’ve been writing about the benefits of short bursts of exercise. Studies and anecdotes suggest that 10 minutes, seven minutes, six minutes, or even four minutes of very hard exercise interspersed with periods of rest can lead to a robust improvement in fitness.

But I suspect that this column is the least amount of exercise I will ever write about.

According to a lovely new study, a single minute of intense exercise, embedded within an otherwise easy 10-minute workout, can improve fitness and health.

Just one minute.

This is good news for busy people who have tried, unsuccessfully, to fit even short workouts into their schedules. The overall time commitment for interval-training sessions is not quite as slight as many of us might wish. Consider, for instance, an interval session in which someone rides a stationary bike as hard as possible for 30 seconds, followed by four minutes or so of easy pedaling. If that person completes four of these intervals, with two or three minutes of warm-up and cool-down added at the beginning and end of the workout, the entire session lasts for almost 25 minutes, a time commitment that some people might consider unsustainable.

These concerns reached the laboratory of Martin Gibala, a professor of kinesiology at McMaster University in Ontario. He and his colleagues have conducted many of the most influential recent studies of high-intensity interval training, and many of the scientists there regularly exercise with interval training.

They, too, had noticed that interval-training sessions were not quite as truncated as some people hoped and had begun to wonder if it might be possible to lower the overall time commitment.

But if so, they wondered, how low could someone go in terms of time and still gain health and fitness benefits?

To find out, the McMaster researchers recruited a group of 14 sedentary and overweight but otherwise healthy men and women. They focused on these volunteers, because sedentary, overweight people often are on the cusp of serious health issues such as diabetes, which might be kept at bay with exercise, but sedentary people also often cite a lack of time as their reason for not exercising.

They invited the volunteers to the lab, where researchers took muscle biopsies and measured their aerobic endurance, blood pressures and blood sugar levels.

Then they asked the volunteers to complete a truly time-efficient, interval-training program using computerized stationary bicycles. Each session consisted of three 20-second “all-out” intervals, during which riders pushed the pedals absolutely as hard as they could manage, followed by two minutes of slow, easy pedaling. The riders also warmed up for two minutes and cooled down for three, for a grand total of 10 minutes of total exercise time, with one minute of that being the intense interval training.

The volunteers completed three of these sessions per week, leading to 30 minutes of weekly exercise, for six weeks.

Then they returned to the lab to be retested.

Their bodies were, it turned out, quite different now. The men and women had increased their endurance capacity by an average of 12 percent, a significant improvement. They also, as a group, had healthier blood pressures and higher levels within their muscles of certain biochemical substances that increase the number and activity of mitochondria. Mitochondria are the energy powerhouses of cells, so more mitochondria mean better endurance and fitness.

Interestingly, the male volunteers also had significantly improved their blood-sugar control, but the female volunteers had not. The researchers suspect that fundamental differences in how the genders burn sugar or fat to fuel exercise might affect how each responds to some aspects of interval training. But more research is needed with both men and women before scientists will be able to understand the import of this difference, Dr. Gibala said.

In the meantime, the message from the study that most of us will grasp at is, of course, that one minute of exercise is all you need. But Dr. Gibala would like people to remember that 10 minutes of overall exercise time is involved for a total of 30 minutes per week.

He also suspects that, with this study, scientists are plumbing the lowest limits of worthwhile exercise time. “We’ve dropped from 30-second all-out intervals to 20-second intervals,” he said, “because for many people those last 10 seconds were excruciating.” Most of us, however, can complete 20-second all-out efforts without wishing to cry, he said.

Halving the intervals again, however, to 10-second efforts, probably would mot provide the same benefits, Dr. Gibala said, although “maybe if you did more of them, it might work.” He and his colleagues are studying these and other questions related to interval training.

For now, relying on one minute of hard exercise to ease you through the holidays with your health intact seems feasible, he said. And the exercise does not need to be cycling. Sprint up stairs in 20-second bursts, he said, or even run hard in place. The point is that time constraints shouldn’t keep anyone from exercise. In the time it took to read this column, you could be done with your workout.

Be Sociable, Share!

Tuesday 141209



For Lynne rx’d, each “round” is 5 minutes long.

Start your BP on the minute, complete as many as possible without racking the weight. Once you have completed the BP, start your Toes – to – bar. Complete as many Toes – to – bar as possible (minimum of 10).

Rest for what remains of the original 5 minutes (e.g. if it takes you 2 minutes to BP and do the Toes – to – bar, rest 3 minutes). Repeat 4 more time. Got it, good.

Be Sociable, Share!

Monday 141208

Dead Lift

Use 90% of your 1RM for your math…

70% x3
80% x3
90% x3
70% x AMRAP


For time:
“Cold Sore”
10 – Burpees
10 – 65 lbs Thrusters
50 – Double Unders

Be Sociable, Share!