A Scientific look at Viagra enhancing endurance performance? No, not that kind, actual running performance…


Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall made a little bit of noise in the news when he said:

"I know guys, it's such competitive league and guys try anything just to get that edge…I've heard of guys using Viagra, seriously, because the blood, it's supposed to thin . I don't know. Some crazy stuff. It's kind of scary with some of these chemicals that are in some of these things, so you have to be careful."
Which led offensive coordinator Mice Tice to comment: “"Viagra? I've never heard of such a thing. He's making that up. He's got to be making that up. You've got to be kidding me."

So, where did this all come from?
Well, if you've been reading this blog for a while, you might remember I called the Viagra improving performance thing way back in 2009 when I was some kid in grad school making crazy guesses on stuff (not much has changed…) (http://www.scienceofrunning.com/2009/09/complex-to-simple-beware-of-gurus-and.html)

The first study came out in 2006 by Hsu et al. and found significant improvement in a number of factors.  That was in the research world.  In the real world, people seemingly caught wind of it’s effects as can be seen by this nice little clip of the British TV show Top Gear from 2010:

Stimulus and Adaptation- A complex and simple look at the training process


I’m going to be a bit ambitious here and try and break down the process that is training.  If you read my last post on stress, hopefully you realized the myriad of factors that might affect training and adaptation.  What I want to try and potentially accomplish is to break that process down and look at each segment.  I’ve been giving up on these post for a few weeks.  It’s frustrated me because it’s something that’s hard to wrap your head around, but here’s my best go of it.

When I was in grad school, my advising professor, Jason Winchester,  had us write a paper where we took a certain type of training applied to a person and then take it down to what that would do down to the genetic level, and then back up to what kind of functional change would occur.  You can get incredibly complex doing this method, but the point of the exercise was to know that we don’t just go from lift weights to increase in muscle size.  There’s a process that the body goes through. The basic gist of the process is summarized by the nifty chart below:

The Stress of Life: How stress can impact your workout

The Stress of Life:

Adaptation is a fairly simple process.  You apply a stimulus, or a “stressor” to the body and it adapts.  Go lift weights, break down some muscle, and your body responds by making the muscle stronger.  The actual process along that path is very complex and we’ll go into that shortly, but really training and adaptation is as simple as that.  Stimulus-> adaptation.

As coaches, we obsess over the workout part.  We carefully plan what needs to be done and when it needs to be done in order to get the adaptations we want.  We know when to apply that threshold run to get a generalized aerobic stimulus or when to start those 400 repeats to cover the other side of the spectrum.

In fact, the entire coaching profession is based on the assumption if we give a workout and give enough recovery, then they’ll adapt.

 That’s generally a safe assumption to make, and often times it comes true.  If something goes wrong, we generally think, oh we pressed it too hard and they couldn’t adapt, or we didn’t give them enough recovery, and so on.  After a while, as coaches, we get a handle on how much someone needs to be pushed and how much they need to recover to continue along the path of gradual adaptation.

But…are we missing part of the picture? 
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