Non-responders-Why Science conforms to the average:

Non-responders-Why Science conforms to the average:

Research likes dealing with the average. If you fall far outside the average, you might be in trouble. For years, only the average received any attention. For instance, if you looked at an intervention study and the average group improved by a significant 30seconds, then whatever the intervention was worked, despite the fact that in many such studies there is usually an outlier or two who saw no improvement. No one asked why certain individuals improved more or less. Who cares about the individual?

Recently though, more attention has been paid to those who didn’t see any improvement or change. The Scientific community buzz word is “non-responders.” A couple years ago you heard the term used in relation to altitude training. No matter how well designed the study was, in almost every altitude related research study you’d have a group of non-responders who showed no changes. Flash forward to present day, and in the exercise research that word is popping up again. This time though, it’s used for those who don’t show changes in strength or endurance following a standard training program. It’s a large phenomenon that goes across several parameters from strength to endurance to health. According to Timmons (2011) for most variables, about 10% of the study population is a non-responder, while in some variables such as changes in insulin sensitivity up to 20% are non-responders.

For instance, in recent strength training studies, despite the same program for everyone, increases in muscle size vary from no change at all to a 60% increase! The same thing can be seen in changes in VO2max, mitochondrial density, and on and on. So what’s the problem? Studies are built for the average, ignoring those who fall outside those realms. In coaching, it’d be like if we took a 7 man cross country team, trained them all the same and who cares if a couple don’t improve as long as the majority (4) did. That seems kind of unfair to the few who didn’t improve at all! Timmons et al. put it best when talking about the non-responder phenomenon:

“It is also an observation that is largely ignored by the majority of researchers interested in the health benefits of exercise training, presumably because the focus has been on the “average” health benefits within a population and the desire to have a simple health promotion message.”

The last portion is particularly telling.  In essense, it's the desire to have a one size fits all recomendation, or in training terms, a magic training plan that works for all...

Let's look at why we might see non-responders...

Training lactate Clearance and utilization: How to use alternation and blend workouts

An article I wrote on training lactate clearance and utilization is out now in the April issue of Running Times Magazine.  In the article, I talk about how and why to us two of my favortite workouts called alternation and blend workouts.    Check it out and let me know what you think.

Kenenisa Bekele's workout: How do we get there?

Here’s a selected workout that Kenenisa Bekele did around 10 days before his 2007 10k world championship win, the same race which I wrote about on an earlier blog.  (This comes from a presentation from Barry Fudge, who is a sports scientists who was doing work with Bekele during this workout)

8x (400 in 52-54, rest, 200 in 24-25) w/ 90sec-2min rest b/w everything
Is this some magical workout that we all should copy? No. The point of this post isn’t to talk about some amazing workout and how it did X or Y. In all honesty, one workout tells very little. Instead of marveling over the workout, I’d like to pose the question: How does one get to where they can run workouts such as the above?
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