When Damage is a good thing AND High Speed NYC marathon video

As competitive runners we go to great lengths to minimize damage and enhance recovery. This is all well and good, but what if we impair the training adaptation?

That's the question I ask in a new article for Running Times that can be found here:

http://runningtimes.com/Article.aspx?ArticleID=21202&PageNum=1

In the article I go over how ice baths, anti-inflamatory drugs, antioxidants, and carbohydrate supplementation during runs could potentially limit training adaptation.  Hopefully it makes you think a little bit about what you do.  I'm not saying get rid of the above things but that you have to use them at the right time.  In particular antioxidants is a particularly intriguing topic because it's a classic demonstration of the overemphasize new discovery/theory.

Many of you probably saw the talk about the Nike Cryosauna that was used by Dathan Ritzenhein in preperation for the NYC marathon.  While on the surface it looks ridiculous, one of the thing that is intriguing is that it possibly enhances recovery without inhibiting the training adaptations like a traditional ice bath.  The research is still early but it's been shown to decrease creatine kinase (a marker for muscle damage) levels and given the fact that the cold only goes skin deep, it's quite possible that this doesn't halt the signalling pathways like an ice bath which goes much deeper does.  More research needs to be done, but it is intriguing.

Lastly, Niell Elvin sent some high speed video of Ritz, Meb, and a couple others running the NYC marathon at mile 19.  Keep in mind that this is mile 19, well into the fatigue state, so mechanics can get pretty messy.  Hopefully I can get some analysis up sometime when I get time.

Meb and Ritz:


Elite Women:

Kipkosgei, Dos Santos, and Kirui:

16 comments:

  1. Anonymous8:27 AM

    Steve,

    Looking forward to your commentary regarding the video's. Ritz and Meb appear to be reaching out with their leg and slightly heel striking, Meb more than Ritz. Kipkosgei, Dos Santos, and Kirui appear to be landing perfect. Correct?

    Ken

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  2. Calum Neff11:48 AM

    Great article, reminds me of my old coach (Elias) explaining the SAID principle, Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand- his analogy was "if your imposed demand is sitting on a couch, you will eventually adapt into a couch, growing wider, softer, and heavier". Interesting concept on how you could interupt the adaptation, in this case adding some healthy food or excercising would negate the demand.. No wonder my morph into couch potato has been delayed.

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  3. Steve, where is the research sited to support your claims in regards to adaptation and repair? Thanks.

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  4. Nice that this video and mine at Boston were both from mile 19 - Meb seems to be heel striking in both races. Ritz looks midfoot, as do many of the others in the other videos. Look forward to your analysis Steve!

    Pete

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  5. Hey Steve,
    This is an area I'm really interested in, and I think you are probably right, but I don't think there is literature supporting this. So like NYC Free Concerts above, what research are you using to support these comments?

    I am aware of the British newspaper reports of research soon to be published (relating to ice baths and recovery and adaptation http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1326499/Painful-ice-baths-harm-good-says-scientist-British-Olympics-team.html) but I think all the other research I have seen relates antioxidant supplements impairing adaptations that are generally more health related in previously untrained and often unhealthy subjects. And I think it's a pretty big jump to go from this population to sporting populations.

    For instance, in untrained individuals metabolism and oxygen use is not well controlled. So within the muscle, during exercise we tend to see large increases in free radicals. As we train though this control of metabolism and mitochondrial function increases (so we produce less free radicals), as does our natural defense to the free radicals (we deal with any produced quicker). We know that free radicals are important in some signaling pathways, but we don't understand all the signaling pathways that ultimately result in performance changes. So perhaps free radicals play less of a role in adaptation in highly trained than in untrained. Perhaps we rely more on other signaling pathways once we have built up our defense to them.
    So while I think you are probably right, there are quite a few reasons to doubt your conclusions at this point, particularly if the comparison has been extended from untrained across to trained.
    But maybe I have just missed some literature, so I'd love to hear who you concluded what you did too.

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  6. Hey Steve,
    This is an area I'm really interested in, and I think you are probably right, but I don't think there is literature supporting this. So like NYC Free Concerts above, what research are you using to support these comments?

    I am aware of the British newspaper reports of research soon to be published (relating to ice baths and recovery and adaptation http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1326499/Painful-ice-baths-harm-good-says-scientist-British-Olympics-team.html) but I think all the other research I have seen relates antioxidant supplements impairing adaptations that are generally more health related in previously untrained and often unhealthy subjects. And I think it's a pretty big jump to go from this population to sporting populations.

    For instance, in untrained individuals metabolism and oxygen use is not well controlled. So within the muscle, during exercise we tend to see large increases in free radicals. As we train though this control of metabolism and mitochondrial function increases (so we produce less free radicals), as does our natural defense to the free radicals (we deal with any produced quicker). We know that free radicals are important in some signaling pathways, but we don't understand all the signaling pathways that ultimately result in performance changes. So perhaps free radicals play less of a role in adaptation in highly trained than in untrained. Perhaps we rely more on other signaling pathways once we have built up our defense to them.

    So while I think you are probably right, there are quite a few reasons to doubt your conclusions at this point, particularly if the comparison has been extended from untrained across to trained. But maybe I have just missed some literature, so I'd love to hear who you concluded what you did too.

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  7. Thanks for the comments everyone.

    Ben and NYC- First I want to address the difference between Scientific writing and writing for a publication like Running Times. There's a reason I don't have a works cited or anything in that article. It's because I can't, as much as I would want to include references, that's not how it works in the magazine business.

    I wrote that article a month or so ago, so I'll have to dig through my research to find the exact studies I was referencing in the article. I'll try and do that soon and understand the importance of it, but I'm swamped right now, finishing school, big job interview, training, etc.

    Ben- SOme very astute comments as usual and I agree for the most part, but this is where the scientific/research world and coaching world interesect. Sometimes in the coaching world you go off theory and practice more than the exact research. I'll give you a quick example. Over 10 years ago, coach Renato Canova wrote a book on marathon training in which he states that we should NOT be taking in carbs during our long/marathon pace runs because low glycogen is the stimulus you want to have. This went against the research at the time, and he came up to it based on theory. A couple years later we had the signalling pathway identified, and then finally within the past few years we have the research backing up the concept. Going further back, you had Ernst Van Aaken make the same suggestion in the 1950-60's and had his athletes do their long work w/ no water or fuel.

    That's how it works in the coaching world. Coaches innovate and come up with the training, science comes in and explains it.

    So it's a balance. So in my own coaching and in writing for other runners, I tend to take the same approach. We have certain signalling pathways where free radicals are the signaller for various adaptations like mitochondria biogenesis that influence endurance performance. And we have studies like Ristow et al 2009 and Gomez0Cabrera et al 2008 that show that mitochondria biogenesis is decreased w/ antioxidant supplements in regular people exercising.

    Is it a leap? Perhaps slightly, but that's what coaches/runners do. And I wouldn't have wrote about it if I didn't think that the slight leap was justified.

    The anti-inflammatories there's been similar theory and research backing it up:
    -Mackey et al. 2007
    - Mikkelsen et al. 2008)

    Again, I'll try and get you all the citations soon.

    This is an interesting topic, I used to go back and forth on this with fellow students and professors. How much is it strictly evidence based versus theory/practice based. My argument is that if you go almost totally to either direction, you're making a mistake. It's why the best coaches are not exercise physiologist.

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  8. Steve,

    Good explanation to Ben’s questions – but come on, you don’t have your citations at hand along with the article in a computer file?

    No problem taking the leap from lab to application – but that should be emphasized up front so as to not confuse your readers. I, for one, read your piece thinking of it as science first and foremost – but too was chagrined at the lack of references.

    Your recommendations, being so contrarian to the current “conventional wisdoms”, remind me of a segment on “germs” on this past weekend’s CBS Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood. Medical writer, Mary Ruebush informs us in her book, “Dirt is Good”, that parents should let kids get dirty and not be so quick to counsel them to wash their hands, least they weaken their developing immune systems http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/01/31/earlyshow/health/main4766105.shtml. Sounds good in theory – BUT…. Everyone else in the medical world and all other research shows us unequivocally that washing hands thoroughly and regularly is the single best way to reduce the spread of bacteria born diseases – despite the fact that the strongest of the bacteria might survive the washing.

    An example that is more germane to this conversation is the time when Al Salazar went to the Natick Laboratory (US Army Environmental Studies Facility in Natick, MA) to get tested and learn about to perform best in the heat in preparation for the LA Olympics. They concluded that dousing with cold water would close one’s pours, thus reducing the sweating mechanism and reducing the body’s ability to cool itself. Solution: cut holes in shirt for ventilation and don’t pour cold water on yourself during the race. DAH!!!

    The objective in training and racing is to run fast, not hard, necessarily. We should run only as hard as necessary to achieve whatever speed we pursue – at any distance. Denying oneself fluids and/or carbohydrates if/when needed in training will likely do more damage than good – multiple systems are always at work. Besides, a lack of fluids and energy in any long race is no longer an issue – every marathon has both at every mile. Depleting of either is due to poor race management more than improper conditioning for the demands of the race.

    But I won’t toss out the baby with the bathwater here – for example, your suggestion to minimize NSAID usage makes sense for lots of reasons. But still, use – don’t abuse.

    Keep up the good work – but beware the conclusions drawn. As Bruce Springsteen sings, “trust none of what you hear and less of what you see” !

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  9. Jack- I wrote a reply but for some reason it didn't post, so here's the repeated short version:

    I knew going into writing this article that I wouldn't be providing any citations because that's not how writing for RT and magazines work. In fact, I wrote a piece using citations before and had to redo it to take all references out.

    So, knowing that, when I was doing the research, I just read the articles I could find, took some handwritten notes on them, and didn't reference anything. So, no I don't have the citations anywhere on the computer. I've got a few written down on the handwritten notes I had for the article but the rest I have to relook up.

    I'll stand by my recommendations. It's nothing new, UK's track and field coaching system had a nice article/discussion on the ice bath thing 6 months ago.

    As far as the carb intake. As I said, some of the top coaches like Renato Canova subscribe to the idea that for long runs and workouts where the goal is to change the athletes fueling system, you should do it sans fuel. The majority of non-elite runners go way overboard on hydration/fueling during training.

    The problem during races isn't the availability of fuel. It's the fact that we are running at a pace that relies largely on glycogen and that no matter how much fuel we take in, we'll finish the race quiet low. The body is pretty smart and causes fatigue before we get dangerously low to slow us down. So if we can increase our totaly glycogen capacity or shift to slightly more fat usage at race pace, we delay fatigue a little. As I said earlier, the problem isn't the availability, it's the face that we can only absorb about 100cal/20min of racing. Taking in more than about that does no good. It's not going to be used.

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  10. Anonymous4:32 PM

    I agree with you Steve. Great post.

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  11. Anonymous6:29 PM

    What about the research showing that the antioxidant quercetin can increase mitochodria biogenesisÉ Lance Amrstong`s FRS is built on this concept.

    Although the research is mixed on quercetin (and no i am no going to cite studies... go to pubmed and look them up yourself). I know some have showed that it increases mitochodria biogenesis possibly through sirt1... the same thing calorie restriction does.

    Is it possible that it is much more complex than we thought... some antioxidants are beneficial... and some are not... what about high antioxidant food right after training.

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  12. Anonymous5:10 PM

    "The majority of non-elite runners go way overboard on hydration/fueling during training."

    I recently ran a half marathon. I only took water from the aid stations when thirsty (maybe a few times total).

    After the turnaround, I could see people running >10 min miles drinking lots of gatorade and taking gels. Sports nutrition marketing is strong.

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  13. Hey Steve,

    The ice bath a day after a hard workout makes sense. Right now I'm doing PT for my knee after a torn meniscus. Right after doing squats, lunges, hops, wallsits etc, I throw ice bags on my knee for twenty minutes to decrease the swelling. Do you think this is interfering with the initial muscle rebuilding, or would the fluid interfere more so? Do you think I should I wait long to ice after doing PT?

    I'm a fan your articles, Thanks,

    Harry

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  14. I'm not an expert on injury recovery but I think the two are different.

    When you have a torn meniscus or a severe injury the inflammation and such is much much greater. So I'd say that you should continue with the icing.

    Also, for those interested another study on ibuprofen was released recently. They found that in mice, when they gave them ibuprofen when endurance training the ibuprofen cancelled out the adaptations of the training.

    http://bit.ly/baclpE

    Anonmyous- I agree it's a complex subject. There's like numerous signalling pathways which have yet to discover.

    As far as quercetin, the latest double blind study showed no benefits and then another recent study showed that it seemed to have some adaptation benefits in untrained subjects, but did nothing in trained.

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  15. Anonymous1:16 PM

    Steve,

    any chance you could give some analysis of the above video's from NYC marathon

    Thanks,
    Ken

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  16. Hi Steve,

    I would love to see some peer reviewed literature on the contents of your Running Times article how ice baths, anti-inflamatory drugs etc can impair the training adaptation.

    Thanks,
    Peter

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