Several interesting pieces have been published in recent editions of "Swimmer" and "Rowing News." I have summarized them below, but for complete information, I encourage you to read the full texts in the magazines.
Swimmer (September/October 2011)
"Straight Talk on Lactate" pp.13
This one page article, based on research by George Brooks, professor of integrative biology at UC Berkeley, explains how lactate functions in the body. According to Brooks, lactate is a by-product of cells using carbohydrates anaerobically to produce energy. The lactate is then burned with oxygen to create more energy. Lactate is a link between aerobic and anaerobic metabolism. Brooks terms this process "lactate shuttle." Excess lactate indicates that the body is under stress, unable to use its oxidative capacity.
Training can help the athlete handle more stress, raising the lactate threshold. In particular, high volume, maximal steady-state, and interval workouts are most effective in raising the lactate threshold. Also, "active recovery" removes/utilizes lactate and other metabolic by-products faster than passive recovery. In other words, to recover from a tough workout, don't simply drop on to the couch. Keep moving (For another tip on recovery, see the article from Rowing News below.)
"Where's the Beef?" by Elaine K. Howley pp. 33
This article focuses on the effects of vegetarianism and veganism on athletic performance. Howley, a long-distance swimmer and runner, illustrates her article with a personal account of the month in which she "goes vegan." Aside from a couple of dishes that fail the taste test, her conclusions are quite positive: tasty meals, shared time with her husband preparing dinner, and no drop in her performance in training.
Rowing News (September 2011)
"Drink Up" by Rose Giodano pp 35
This discussion of hydration during athletic performance is a useful reminder of why drinking water during exercise is important and how to keep the water balance in your body at proper levels. Two key points:
‚ΔΆ "...for most physically active people with a well-balanced diet, consuming water is the best way to replenish lost fluid."
‚ΔΆ If you are racing or training in heat and humidity..."keep drinking water -- even if you don't feel thirsty."
"Chill Out" by Topher Bordeau pp.38
What is the most effective way to recover from intense training or racing: cold bath, alternate hot and cold bath, or nothing? The answer, based on research conducted at the University of Western Australia's School of Human Movement and Exercise Science, is a cold bath. Immersion is important, so forget the showers for maximum recovery. After a cold bath, the subjects in this experiment reported less muscle soreness and smaller losses in leg strength than either alternate hot and cold baths or doing nothing. Furthermore, the subjects also regained their sprint speed faster. Got a tub?
Rowing News (October 2011)
"Outward Signs" by Topher Bordeau pp. 60
In what must be one of the most unusual correlations in sports, Bordeau reported on research at the University of Cambridge that links rowing performance to digit (i.e. finger-length) ratio. Apparently the ratio of the length of the index finger to the length of the ring finger is negatively correlated with prenatal testosterone. Persons with a ring finger that is longer than their index finger had a high exposure to testosterone before birth. To test this, the researchers at Cambridge recruited 147 rowers (77 men and 70 women). The fingers of the subjects were carefully measured and then each subject was asked to pull 2000 meters on the erg. The results indicated a significant negative correlation for men, but no correlation for women. The article left me looking very carefully at my hands.
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