Virtual Challenge Event 2: Whitchurch

Virtual Challenge Event 2: Whitchurch
05 Jul

Results available here and on OpenTrack, 16 people participated including a couple of socially distanced group efforts and handicap style events.  Congratulations to Elaina Gard and Owain Jones our fastest finishers who also took the Strava segment challenge.  Details of all the prizewinners are available on the results link and prizewinners will be contacted shortly about their prizes.

Some results have already come in for Event 3 which is currently underway, it isn’t too late to enter!

 

Pomphrey Virtual 5k June results, inc Mob Match

05 Jul
The 2019-20 Pomphrey 5k Series Concludes in the Virtual World.
Race director Steve Grant reports:
The last three Pomphrey 5k races were all run in the virtual world and concluded last Tuesday including a Mob Match. Hannah Steeds recorded her second consecutive win in the women’s race and Tariq Kurd did the vets proud by finishing first man.  Bristol & West athletes won all bar two age categories with members of Staple Hill Runners claiming the others.
The mob match was a straight shoot out between Staple Hill Runners and Bristol & West.  At the weekend it looked like Staple Hill Runners were going to take the win with a far greater number of athletes.  However, virtual races allow times to be entered up to the closing minute and a late surge of Bristol & West entries brought the competition much closer with 17 runners from Staple Hill and 15 from Bristol & West.
In the end Bristol & West took first place in the Overall competition but continuing with the theme introduced last year, Staple Hill Runners took the Non-EA club title.
Thanks to everyone who helped with the actual and the virtual Pomphrey 5k series from last September.  We hope to be back for some version of the 2020-21 series once we are allowed and confident we can provide a safe environment for all runners and volunteers.
Full results are available here and on the Pomphrey 5k page.

Sports Performance Part 1 – Blood Flow Restriction Training

01 Jul

Background

I first discovered Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) Training back in 2013 when I was at University and was researching possible methods to increase the stimulation of Type 2b muscle fibres.  However back then I didn’t really know what I was doing and it was very much trial and error and though they have great benefits, which I will discuss in this article, using them alone and without really having a structure I very quickly discarded them and forgot about them until I suffered a very serious knee injury in 2017.
I couldn’t walk and after an MRI scan, I had a bucket handle tear in my meniscus and rather than opt for surgery, I wanted to rehab the injury myself, as research now suggests it’s better in the long run to avoid a meniscectomy as the removal of the cartilage can cause degeneration in the joint and an early onset of osteoarthritis.
In the early stages of the injury I couldn’t bear load but I didn’t want to have to deal with significant muscle wastage so I did bike intervals with BFR bands around my upper thigh. Finally there are three zones to the meniscus, a white zone, with no blood flow, a red white zone with very little blood supply and a red zone which has access to blood, meaning this zone heals the fastest and most efficiently. I have no evidence but my theory was,  if I could occlude the blood in my leg, this may influence the repair deeper in the meniscus and I was going to use the BFR bands to maintain as much muscle mass and fitness anyhow.

I believe it worked, the injury to a long time to repair because I kept doing sports that place a lot of stress on the knees but I maintained a decent amount of muscle mass through the first few stages and it was then I started researching the use of Blood Flow Restriction training and began using them with my athletes and that season had some of their best results and the 2 hamstring injuries that came about had a very fast turn around time.

Introduction and History

Blood Flow Restriction training is becoming more and more popular thanks to social media but this method  was invented in Japan in 1966 and perfected through the 1970’s by Japanese Professor Dr. Yoshiaki Sato. BFR and the KAATSU method is the result of his life work and has had 100’s of studies published around his method https://www.kaatsu.com/index.cfm?Action=Research.Home

KAATSU is a Japanese word and trademarked term where KA (加) means “additional” and ATSU (圧) means “pressure”and uses the moderation of blood flow in the arms and legs in order to exercise effectively and efficiently. Limb blood flow is restricted via the occlusion cuff throughout the contraction cycle and rest period. This results in partial restriction of arterial inflow to muscle, but, most significantly restricts venous outflow from the muscle.


Dr. Yoshiaki Sato first discovered the idea of blood flow moderation training in a Buddhist ceremony  where his legs went numb whilst kneeling on the floor. He could barely stand the pain any longer with his legs bent underneath him. Out of desperation, he began to massage his calves in an attempt to relieve the discomfort during the long ceremony. He realised that his blood circulation was blocked in his calves as he was sitting directly on his feet.
Over the next 7 years he tried and tested various methods and tools to restrict the blood flow to the limbs and by the age of 25, Sato developed the details of Kaatsu as it is currently practiced. At that time, he was a ski trip and fractured his ankle and damaged the ligaments around his knee. The injuries were diagnosed and the doctors told Sato that it would take 6 months to heal. With a plaster cast on, Sato rehabilitated himself with Kaatsu Bands applied to his upper leg.
He repeatedly applied Kaatsu pressure on and off while doing isometric exercises for 30 seconds on and a few seconds off three times per day. The results of his regimen shocked his doctor when his muscles did not atrophy and he fully recovered within 6 weeks.

Physiological Functions & Adaptations

During occlusion training the Type 1 and 2a fibres are starved of oxygen decreasing their work capacity. This increases a neural stimulation to other fibres of the same type that may be inactive and increases motor recruitment. That is to say when we actively contract the muscle we only every activate a percentage of it’s contained fibres. The percentage activated will vary from person to person but will never reach 100% of the muscle without external intervention from devices such as a Compex Muscle Stimulator which uses electrical impulses to stimulate 100% of motor units and in turn muscle fibres. By activating more fibers through occlusion training we are better able to train more of the muscle to the demands of our sports than we would likely be able to through standardized training alone. Once the Type 1 and 2a fibres are depleted and fatigued we recruit Type 2b fibres to continue the exercise in the absence of oxygen.

Muscle contractions under these conditions of restricted and impeded blood flow and congested vascular space, uses up intracellular phosphates energy stores and oxygen at a rate greater than the circulation can replenish them. Metabolic waste products accumulate. Homeostasis in the active muscle is lost. Consequently, as the tissue becomes more hypoxic and energy stores depleted, anaerobic glycolysis attempts to compensate by increasing its rate, which produces some ATP, but also produces a marked disturbance in muscle homeostasis, ultimately raising intracellular, interstitial and blood lactic acid concentrations. Hypoxia, acidosis, lactate ion per se, inorganic phosphate, AMP and many other local factors have been shown to turn on transcription and thus, protein synthesis in muscle cells. This is the so-called “local effect” of KAATSU that results in stimulation of muscle, tendon and vascular growth.

Health Benefits

The majority of the exposure around BFR training has been in the ‘fitness’ / bodybuilding world due to it’s ability to increase muscle mass but these benefits can also crossover to the older population.
One study found that Muscle size and arterial stiffness after blood flow-restricted low-intensity resistance training in older adults as  significant gains were found in a group of healthy adults 61-84 years old.

Researchers observed an 8% increase in MRI cross-sectional area, a 34% increase in leg press strength (1-RM),  an 18% improvement in squat volume exercise, and it has been widely documented that leg and grip strength are great indicators for longevity.

One study from 2000, explored what was happening as a result of KAATSU/ BFR training and found that muscle cross-sectional area and isokinetic strength increased with the experimental group while doing KAATSU and working only with light weights.

But, what really got the attention of researchers was how plasma lactate concentrations were higher in the KAATSU group working with light weights (higher than the KAATSU group working with heavier weights at 80% 1-RM.) Take a look at figure-4 from the study: ‘I would assume this would be due to length of the sets and total time under tension being greater in the lighter load’.

This implies that not only can you increase hormonal responses to metabolic stress with KAATSU, but you may see more of an effect using very light weights versus the heavier weights/resistance. This study really kick-started the global KAATSU movement.

Performance Benefits – Anaerobic Running & 100m Sprint

This study was actually made aware to me by one of old ex athletes (credit to Will Kennedy), we had just been doing a block of high volume BFR step ups in the gym and he had found that these bands could be used for our aerobic tempo sessions, our submaximal conditioning sessions to not only improve the athletes ability to recover between reps and improve contact stiffness but coupled with the BFR bands, we could directly influence 100m sprint times.

Behringer et al. 2016 found that Low-Intensity Sprint Training With Blood Flow Restriction Improves 100-m Dash. The results showed a greater increase of the rectus femoris muscle thickness (a muscle well developed in elite sprinters) and a higher rate of force development and a significant reduction 100m times in the BFR group.

If you’re interested in reading this study in more detail please follow this link. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27941491/

Performance Benefits – Aerobic Running and VO2 Max

As for aerobic running and VO2 Max improvements, which is not my area of expertise, I did come across a study with BFR training VO2 Max and 1.5 mile performance times and I appreciate to many endurance athletes, that isn’t very far.
Interestingly this was measured after participants (well trained males) performed BFR walking and the results showed significant improvements in VO2Max, decreased 1.5mile run times and increases in muscle mass in the thigh.
Having walked up mountains with BFR bands in the past, I can confirm it makes it a lot harder and do believe regular work with the bands could see the benefits for endurance athletes.
You can find the study and abstract below.

Click to access 38.%20The%20Effects%20of%20Blood%20Flow%20Restriction%20Training%20on%20VO2max%20and%201.5%20Mile%20Run%20Performance%20(Air%20Force).pdf

In fact research from (Abe et al., 2006)  on BFR and (AE) Aerobic Exercise that has shown the training effects to take place within 6 weeks of training and that the intensities used during BFR-AE are generally low in nature (45% heart rate reserve or 40% VO2 max).

Safety and Concerns

Wrapping the limbs and performing exercises can seem alarming to many who haven’t looked into the research and for many years I’ve had to support the safety of using tourniquets for exercise and I appreciate seeing veins bulging from the muscles might looking worrying, however I always evaluate the risk to reward ratio and following KAATSU protocol there is a near perfect safety record in patients that were arguable some of the most vulnerable patients in the hospital.

If you still have any doubts, please see the following 32 studies.

  1. Kaatsu Training: Application to Metabolic Syndrome
  2. Effects of Exercise and Anti-Aging
  3. Effect of KAATSU training on a patient with benign fasciculation syndrome
  4. A case of dementia presenting remarkable improvement in activities of daily living through KAATSU training
  5. Effects of low-intensity, elastic band resistance exercise combined with blood flow restriction on muscle activation
  6. Muscle hypertrophy following blood flow-restricted low force isometric electrical stimulation in rat tibialis anterior: Role for muscle hypoxia
  7. Hemodynamic and autonomic nervous responses to the restriction of femoral blood flow by KAATSU
  8. Can KAATSU be used for an orthostatic stress in astronauts?: A case study
  9. Repetitive Restriction of Muscle Blood Flow Enhances mTOR Signaling Pathways in a Rat Model
  10. Resistance exercise combined with KAATSU during simulated weightlessness
  11. Effects of Low-Load, Elastic Band Resistance Training Combined With Blood Flow Restriction on Muscle Size and Arterial Stiffness in Older Adults
  12. Key considerations when conducting KAATSU training
  13. Pentraxin3 and high-sensitive C-reactive protein are independent inflammatory markers released during high-intensity exercise
  14. KAATSU training as a new effective exercise therapy in a case of femoral medial condyle osteonecrosis
  15. Ischemic Circulatory Physiology, Kaatsu Training
  16. Use and safety of KAATSU training: Results of a national survey in 2016
  17. Effects of Low-Intensity KAATSU Resistance Training on Skeletal Muscle Size and Muscle Strength/Endurance Capacity in Patients with Ischemic Heart Diseases
  18. Low-intensity KAATSU resistance exercises using an elastic band enhance muscle activation in patients with cardiovascular diseases
  19. Increases in Thigh Muscle Volume and Strength by Walk Training With Leg Blood Flow Reduction in Older Participants
  20. Effect of knee extension exercise with KAATSU on forehead cutaneous blood flow in healthy young and middle-aged women
  21. Electromyographic responses of arm and chest muscle during bench press exercise with and without KAATSU
  22. Effects of KAATSU training on haemostasis in healthy subjects
  23. Effects of Walking With Blood Flow Restriction on Limb Venous Compliance in Elderly Subjects
  24. KAATSU training® in a case of patients with periventricular leukomalacia(PVL)
  25. Hemodynamic responses to simulated weightlessness of 24-h head-down bed rest and KAATSU blood flow restriction
  26. Effect of Low-Load Resistance Exercise With and Without Blood Flow Restriction to Volitional Fatigue on Muscle Swelling
  27. Hemodynamic and Hormonal Responses to a Short-Term Low-Intensity Resistance Exercise With the Reduction of Muscle Blood Flow
  28. Effect of KAATSU training on thigh muscle size and safety for a patient with knee meniscectomy over 3 years
  29. The effects of low-intensity KAATSU resistance exercise on intracellular neutrophil PTX3 and MPO
  30. Hemodynamic and neurohumoral responses to the restriction of femoral blood flow by KAATSU in healthy subjects
  31. Combination of KAATSU training® and BCAA intake for a patient after aortic valve replacement surgery: A case study
  32. Electromyographic responses of arm and chest muscle during bench press exercise with and without KAATSU

KAATSU training has even been shown to help those suffered with heart attacks and strokes as it can help with high blood pressure and metabolic syndrome. : Kaatsu Application to Metabolic Syndrome.

Summary

This is positive, however, evidence from Patterson et al. (2017) suggests that practitioners are unclear on how to use and apply BFR in line with current research informed standards.
Inflatable cuffs are commonly used in studies to precisely control the applied pressure for BFR. However, the high costs and limited accessibility, as in case of the original equipment (KAATSU Master; Sato Sports Plaza Ltd., Tokyo, Japan) , provides a significant access barrier to athletes interested in this type of training. Fortunately, recently published studies reported that elastic knee wraps provide a practical alternative for using BFR outside of laboratory settings and these wraps enable a venous pooling without an arterial occlusion.

With the growth of BFR bands in the Strength & Conditioning industry, it is very easy to find wide BFR tourniquets on Amazon at an affordable price.
When applying the bands, the most common measurement for applying pressure is for the athlete to tighten them to a perceived scale of discomfort of  7/10. 10 being uncomfortable and too tight.
I always follow the method from the studies I am wishing to recreate the desired effects from and for more guidelines on how to use BFR I recommend the KAATSU user manual.

https://www.kaatsu-global.com/Assets/Files/Presentations/KAATSU_User_Manual.pdf

What is recommended :

  • KAATSU Clients should never exceed a 15-minute maximum KAATSU session on arms and a 20-minute maximum KAATSU session on legs
  • There should never be any occlusion; KAATSU Clients should always have pink or beefy red palms on arms and flushedlegs.
  • Do KAATSU 3-4 times per week for Injured Individuals
  • Do not lift heavy weights when doing KAATSU (Recommended 30-40% maximum)
  • Release the KAATSU Bands if you feel something is not right. If you feel lightheaded or if you have an unusual pain on one side or the other, stop and continue on another day
  • Do 3-5 different exercises during KAATSU Training (e.g., hand grips, arm curls, tricep extensions). Each exercise should comprise 3 sets of 20-30 repetitions (or until you reach failure), with 20 seconds rest between sets.

If you follow these guidelines and match your training to the methods in the study you wish to recreate in your training you will safely reap the rewards of the BFR / KAATSU training methods.

Connell Macquisten.

National Road Relays + T&F rankings update

National Road Relays + T&F rankings update
27 Jun

Club Statistician Mike Strange continues to work his way through all the club rankings bringing them up to date, the latest batch (here) includes:

  • Women’s Discus
  • Women’s Steeplechase
  • Women’s Half Marathon

Additionally historical records of club participation and some photos of past successes in a number of Regional and National events are now available for all age groups here, including:

  • National Road Relays (Spring and Autumn)
  • Midland Road Relays (Spring and Autumn)
  • National Cross Country Championships
  • Midland Cross Country Championships

Sports Nutrition Part 1 – Supplements, for Health and Performance

25 Jun

Introduction

The following article will attempt to clarify any concerns or doubts surrounding the effectiveness of supplements for performance in sport or health.

  • Highlight how supplements can be used as a great addition to a balanced nutritious diet
  • The plausible reasons as to why the demands of modern day farming might impact the quality and content of vitamins and minerals found in our foods today.
  • List and detail the differences between water and fat soluble vitamins, macro and micro minerals
  • Supplements for performance 
  • How to identify ‘good/ safe’ brands to avoid contamination
  • How elite athletes are tested for banned substances.

My view on supplements has changed a lot over the last 10  years. At one point I was obsessed, then from one extreme to the other, I didn’t take anything and now I take a handful of products for both health and performance that I also recommend to my athletes.

The bottom line is supplements for health can make a big difference if someone has a very poor diet, likewise for performance, I believe supplements can help both motivate athletes and depending on the product, give them a better result from training through physiological benefits, however very few supplements have shown true effectiveness.
There are also stimulants to help intensity which can be useful before a competition. With all this being said, supplements will not make up for poor training, poor diet or poor sleep habit.

Modern Day Farming and Soil Depletion

When stating a claim I like to weigh up both sides and make a decision for myself.
A few studies have shown that due to an increased demand of farming to meet with the demands of an ever growing society, with more frequently farmed patches of land, new fertilisers, the quality of soil becomes less and less nutrient dense overtime and because of soil depletion, crops grown decades ago were much richer in vitamins and minerals than the varieties most of us get today and efforts to breed new varieties of crops that provide greater yield, pest resistance and climate adaptability have allowed crops to grow bigger and more rapidly, but their ability to manufacture or uptake nutrients has not kept pace with their rapid growth.

A Kushi Institute analysis of nutrient data from 1975 to 1997 found that average calcium levels in 12 fresh vegetables dropped 27 percent; iron levels 37 percent; vitamin A levels 21 percent, and vitamin C levels 30 percent. A similar study of British nutrient data from 1930 to 1980, published in the British Food Journal,found that in 20 vegetables the average calcium content had declined 19 percent; iron 22 percent; and potassium 14 percent. Yet another study concluded that one would have to eat eight oranges today to derive the same amount of Vitamin A as our grandparents would have gotten from one.

These were conclusions from  https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/soil-depletion-and-nutrition-loss/ and they reason that well-conducted comparisons have shown that consistent trends of decrease in content of certain nutrients are mostly seen only when crops are lumped into broad groups of vegetables, fruits, and grains and statistical significance is lost when trying to see historical changes by comparing varieties of a single crop due to a high degree of variability.

The study authors who found statistically significant decreases in the content of particular mineral nutrients per dry weight of fruits, vegetables, or grains all agreed that these changes were not likely to have any significant impact on the nutritional health of consumers, a fact glossed over in some popular press reports citing these studies.

So unless we grow our own crops or move to a rural country (where fruit and veg almost always taste better and are more likely to have nutrient contents) if you are concerned you may not be getting enough from your diet, the next best thing would be to take a supplement.

Water Soluble Vitamins

There are two types of vitamins, water soluble and fat soluble. Most vitamins are water-soluble, meaning they dissolve in water. These include eight B vitamins and vitamin C. Water-soluble vitamins are easy to get from a balanced diet.

However, vitamin B12 is only found in substantial amounts in animal-sourced foods. As a result, vegans are at a high risk of deficiency and will need to take supplements or get regular injections.

It is also important to note that the body generally doesn’t store water-soluble vitamins, except for vitamin B12. Meaning, you should aim to get them from your diet every day.

Every vitamin and mineral has a function within the body. Vitamin C for example is a powerful antioxidant and has an essential role in connective tissue healing, has the potential to accelerate bone healing after a fracture, increase type I collagen synthesis.

Fat Soluble Vitamins

In contrast,  fat-soluble vitamins are similar to oil and do not dissolve in water.  These are vitamin A, D, E and K.

Vitamin A is necessary for cell growth , body growth, hair growth, fetal development and vision and is found in animal-sourced foods. The main natural food sources are liver, fish liver oil and butter.

Vitamin D, Nicknamed the sunshine vitamin, is produced by your skin when it’s exposed to sunlight. It is best known for its beneficial effects on bone health, and deficiency makes you highly susceptible to bone fractures. Vitamin D is really important because it’s role is regulates so many functions in the body inc hormones, low levels of Vitamin D correlate with low levels of testosterone, which is crucial for performance and recovery.

Vitamin E is a a powerful antioxidant protects your cells against premature aging and damage by free radicals

Vitamin K plays a key role in blood clotting. Without it, you would run the risk of bleeding to death. “koagulation,” the Danish word for coagulation, which means clotting.

With the exception of Vitamin D, most of these fat soluble vitamins are easy to get from a diverse diet, especially if you eat plenty of nuts, seeds, vegetables, fish and eggs.

Macro Minerals/ Trace Minerals 

The body needs many minerals; these are called essential minerals. Essential minerals are sometimes divided up into macro minerals and trace minerals.
These two groups of minerals are equally important, but trace minerals are needed in smaller amounts than major minerals. The amounts needed in the body are not an indication of their importance.

A balanced diet usually provides all of the essential minerals, you can also get a decent boost of these minerals from a high quality multi-vitamin if you wish.

Rather than list each mineral extensively, if you would like to learn more about these minerals and what they do, this website has a brilliant graph that explains it all in detail.

https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/ta3912

Zinc Depletion from Endurance Running and Testosterone

Before I move on, I’m a big fan of taking a Zinc supplement and I believe on top of a nutrient dense diet, many athletes could benefit from taking Zinc and in fact Magnesium too but it has been shown that long term endurance training has been shown to significantly decrease resting serum zinc levels in both male and female athletes compared to sedentary controls. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/014976349500002V

It has also been found that men who received 30 milligrams of zinc per day showed increased levels of free testosterone in their bodies. Because your body can’t store zinc, you need to take it in every day.

https://www.asep.org/asep/asep/BrillaV2.PDF

Supplements for Performance

Aside from a balanced, nutritious diet and taking Zinc and Magnesium to assist recovery, there are plenty of supplements on the market that claim to improve performance and I highly recommend checking out https://examine.com/supplements/ for an extensive database on almost every supplement with a study to back it’s claim.

Personally I only recommend what I take myself, one of which is a good quality Whey Protein supplement. There is no denying that, if you want to increase your protein intake, a powder can make your life easier. If daily protein targets are achieved through dietary protein alone, supplementation is unnecessary but for many power/ strength athletes I believe they under eat their daily protein requirements.

Secondly, I recommend taking Creatine, especially for power oriented sports. Creatine has been shown time and time again that it has the ability to rapidly increase strength and power output from training compared to placebo alternatives. It has also been shown to increase muscular endurance and VO2 max in a number of studies, an unwanted side effect could be the retention of water in the muscle cells which can lead to an increase in body weight. So some athletes may wish to come off Creatine before their competition season.

Finding a ‘Good/ Reliable’ brand 

Before I returned to athletics in 2016 I was very much involved in the ‘fitness’ industry, I had attended seminars across the U.K hosted by supplement companies and had presented at national trade show, which was heavily orientated towards selling ‘sports supplements’ and I even had very short term contract with a supplement company, where I had the good fortune of visiting their manufacturing labs to see how their supplements were made and how they  tested their their product for quality.

This is where I learnt first hand that many brands will package a product with really low quality ingredients or under dosing what is recommended by studies showing the effectiveness of the supplement, meaning you’re paying for a product that will likely not do anything.
This happens a lot in proprietary blends, where a product has multiple ingredients and it’s really common for them to under dose.

As for lower quality ingredients, there are usually multiple forms in which minerals can be delivered into the body and generally the more expensive the product the higher the bio availability, or the easier it is for your body to absorb the mineral.
Generally the cheaper the cost, the less available form is within the supplement.
As I only take Zinc and Magnesium as my minerals, I look to try and get these in either citrate, picolinate or oratate as these have been shown have better absorption rates in healthy adults and there is little to no absorption to Zinc oxide which is often also under dosed in my supplements.

If you’re interested in reading more about the differences between Zinc oxide and citrate, check out this study.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3901420/

General rule of thumb, any product using an oxide would be considered cheap and lower quality and I would look for more well established brands in the sports and health industry rather than the fitness and bodybuilding industry.

Cross Contamination

Tainted supplements are very rare and extremely unlikely to occur if the company provides batch testing and you can even check when their last batch test occurred, this is where they randomly select their product and test them for their ingredients purity. Some companies, such as MyProtein offer batch tested products but not all of their products are batch tested, they have a range of products that generally cost more to off set the cost of testing and for the products to be made in a specific location separate to their other products to avoid cross contamination.

Cross contamination is a grey area and it’s still the athletes fault if they fail a drugs test and this can happen in two ways, either through companies sharing factories which mean the machines used in one product can leave residue for another or if a company deceives their customer base by adding an ingredient that is ‘banned’ in elite sport but wont disclose the ingredient. This is more common in the United States or China.

You might be asking why they would do that. Generally these companies won’t be looking to market to elite athletes but rather the bodybuilding or fitness industry, this industry has no testing protocol and companies want to create a product that produces a better result than their competitors

Though it’s unlikely cross contamination will occur, it’s not unheard of and in some exceptional circumstances WADA or USADA will buy in bulk the product they claim to have taken and do their own testing to see if their claim is legitimate and confirm whether or not they will serve their full ban, in some rare cases they have overruled bans. The only reason this will happen is if the product contains a banned substance not listed in the ingredients.

These are the ones everyone should look out for and in my experience they usually have the most extreme names or images on the packaging and before reading the ingredients you look at it questioning if its safe to take and it is always the responsibility of the athlete to check what they take and if a coach suggests you take something that is banned, you should definitely find another coach!

If you’re unsure about a product and here are the two most important websites to check out to see if your product has them in.

https://www.ukad.org.uk/violations/whats-banned-sport-prohibited-list

https://www.wada-ama.org/en/content/what-is-prohibited

Elite Athletes & Drug Testing 

To clear up any misunderstanding, there are two occasions in which an athlete can be ‘drug’ tested, in competition and outside competition. Technically there is a time frame in which someone is classed to be in competition but for this case I will just use post race testing.
Both cases are reserved for exceptional athletes and in my time as a coach, I have only ever had one athlete get tested and that was post race after he ran an incredibly quick time as an under 20.

As for random, out of competition testing.  I have athletes as clients who are ranked within the top 5 in the UK, have competed internationally for Great Britain as a Senior tha are not on the ADAMs/ Whereabouts register.
ADAMS is the Anti-Doping Administration Management System (ADAMS) managed by WADA.

Credit to Dave Taylor-Green as he informed that you also do not have to be on the Whereabouts register to have random drug testers come by and that you do not have to win a medal at Championships to warrant a post race drugs tests and if you are asked, you are allowed a representative (coach or friend) near by if you please.

If you’re curious to learn more about their whereabouts system here is a link https://www.ukad.org.uk/athletes/whereabouts-and-adams

You may have read the recent article in Athletics Weekly on Christian Coleman as he has missed three tests (again) and knowing the testing protocol secondhand as I lived with someone who had random drug testers come to the flat, there is absolutely no reason to miss two tests, let alone three, unless of course, you don’t want to be tested.

Athletes are required to submit their whereabouts for one hour every day, plus overnight accommodation and training information, in case they are needed for out-of-competition testing.

The last quarter of their article summaries it up, and I highly recommend reading it.

Many athletes have reacted to the latest news, with 2011 world 1500m silver medallist Hannah England, who is chair of the UK Athletics Athlete Commission, writing on Twitter: “Whereabouts can feel invasive and be stressful – particularly with travel. But it is ONE HOUR A DAY, not all day every day. An inconvenience that is worth it to protect clean sport. Going shopping during your slot when you are on two missed test is taking a huge risk with your career.”

Britain’s European and Commonwealth long jump medallist Jazmin Sawyers wrote: “As athletes we have few genuine responsibilities. The one biggie we do have is to give the drug testers one hour a day when we’re going to be at an address, and then to be there for that hour. It’s annoying but not difficult. One hour. Choose 6-7 am and make life easy for yourself.”

While Olympic and world medallist Eilidh Doyle wrote: “Even when I was in hospital for three days, having my baby, my first thought was I better update my whereabouts. It’s just what has to be done to ensure credibility within our sport.”

https://www.athleticsweekly.com/athletics-news/christian-coleman-free-to-race-after-missed-tests-case-is-dropped-1039924713/

Summary 

To summarise, I do believe high quality supplements alongside a nutritious diet is the best way forward for both health and performance. I wouldn’t recommend spending anymore than what you can afford as supplements can get expensive. It’s important to find a reputable brand that is well establish in either the health or sports world and if you’re concerned about any cross contamination or if a product looks suspect, check to see if the ingredients are on the banned substances list.It’s always safer to find a company that does batch testing or has the informed sport logo and if you’re pushing your body to the limits regularly you may notice the benefits of taking supplements more so than the average person.

Connell Macquisten.

Virtual Challenge: Event 1 results & Event 3 details

Virtual Challenge: Event 1 results & Event 3 details
22 Jun

Results of event 1 at Aztec West are now available here and on the event web page, congratulations to our winners, Kurt Taylor, Kate Hoffen and Antonia Gooder (joint ladies winners).  Kurt and Jack Millar also claimed the Strava segment prize.

Event 2 is well underway in Whitchurch, a number of recces have happened with people enjoying the amazing views and now waiting excitedly for the ground to harden up after the recent rain, expect to see many attempts later this week!  Entries are still open.

Event 3 details announced!  Approximately a half marathon in length, check out the full details here on the event website.

 

Track use update

18 Jun

The Club’s Management Committee is working hard to restart training at Whitehall, putting in place risk assessments and procedures to allow training to run safely and in line with current government guidance.

What is the England Athletics guidance, and what are other clubs doing?

EA has advised all clubs that so far about 43% of tracks across the country have resumed training. They expect that this might rise to 50% by the end of July.  Indoor activities are still forbidden.  Many of the tracks that are open are still operating on a 1:1 coach to athlete ratio and are taking a cautious approach with only a small number of people present at a time.  Everyone is still in a learning phase at the moment and what is permitted is continually evolving too. Procedures will need to be continually reviewed, discussed and agreed with all relevant parties to ensure that we all stay safe.

We all need to work together

The understanding and cooperation of everyone involved – coaches, athletes and others – is key during this period. It is critical that all individuals are aware of the risks specific to them and follow processes to mitigate those as far as possible. The procedures and knowledge developed through restarting training at Whitehall will be applied at other facilities such as WISE as and when they re-open, although this is not likely to be until August at the earliest.

What’s happening at Whitehall?

Whitehall is closed this week (w/c 15th June) for planned maintenance. When it reopens on the 22rd, track usage will be limited to small groups, pre-booked and pre-paid only.

We want to enable as many athletes and coaches to use the track throughout the week as possible and hope the facility can be open longer than normal to accommodate this.

  • Athletes should contact their coaches about booking a slot on the track.
  • Coaches must book through the Coaching Coordinator, Paul Filer, paulf@bristolandwestac.org.
  • Details of the current procedures and how to pay for track use will be sent with confirmation of booking.

Any further queries can be addressed to the Club Secretary, Owain Jones, secretary@bristolandwestac.org

Sports Psychology Part 2 – Competition, Performance, Anxiety and Excitement.

18 Jun

Introduction

The following article will identify the similarities between anxiety and excitement, the ‘nerves’ that arise from pressure and competition and the impact they can have on performance, and what methods and tools can be performed in order to produce the best possible results in a competitive environment.

Though I studied modules on Sports Psychology at University,  competed to a decent level in athletics, it was only later, once I left athletics and had the able to observe athletes competing under pressure was I able to notice what and how the best athletes acted and performed under pressure. .

One thing I believe to be important is the frequent exposure to competition. Something I wasn’t exposed to enough myself (starting athletics rather late at 17). Competing back to back every weekend develops the skill of performing under pressure. Exposing young athletes to this earlier will maximise their chances of success on competition day.

Anxiety or Excitement?

You may not currently aware of this, but the feelings of both anxiety and excitement are one and the same.
The difference is in our interpretation.” In other words, if we recognise these feelings as positive, we’ll feel excited. If we see them as negative, we’ll feel anxious. And this has been proven by research too.

When we’re anxious, we may feel tensions, restless and nervous. We may also start sweating, breathing rapidly, have trouble concentrating and have an increased heart rate. And this is similar to how we react when excited. 

Learning this and shifting the feelings of anxiety and relabelling them as excitement has been show to benefit performance.
This is especially important for athletes who train well but perhaps under perform on competition day, or athletes who open their season up really well as their is less pressure on their first competition.

Perception, Pressure and Task Performance

Plenty of studies now support the benefits of performance via the perception of excitement over anxiety.
Alison Wood-Brooks from Harvard Business School tested participants through a karaoke session, one group of participants were told to repeat to themselves “I am anxious” and the other group “I am excited”.

Not only were the “excited” participants more excited, they also sang better according to a computerised measurement of volume and pitch.  Similar results were found when they were asked to deliver a 2-minute speech on camera and complete a maths test.

The most interesting thing noted was that all the participants were equally as anxious- even the ‘excited group’. Simply saying they were excited didn’t change their heart rate. In fact, the only difference was that they thought of their experience as “exciting” rather than stressful.

When we become anxious our bodies create physiological (somatic) and psychological (cognitive) responses which cause the drop in performance, which is why it is really important to be aware of any of these changes and when they occur.

Somatic Responses to Anxiety

Elevated heart rates is just one of a few somatic responses / physical changes the body exhibits under anxiety.

You may also notice, muscular tension and increased respiration rate which all lead to impaired movement and performance. Controlling these responses until the point of competition will help achieve a better result.

Cognitive Responses to Anxiety

Along with these, you may also experience cognitive responses, which can causes apprehension, doubt and negative thoughts because anxiety cause an athlete to reflect worry about their performance in turn resulting in a change of attention which affects information processing, due to symptoms that reflect worry about performance triggers which are worry, stress, mumbling, speechless as well as many more such as hyper ventilating.

It may be hard at first to handle these responses but through exposure to competition and by practice under pressure/ using mindfulness/ awareness and shifting perceptions of being anxious to feeling excited, the athlete is more likely to perform better on the day.

Inverted – U Theory of Arousal

You may already be familiar with the Inverted-U Theory, it does a good job of relating performance and pressure/ arousal. In the Inverted U theory, there is a steady fall-off in performance following over-arousal.

This is because sports psychologists have noted that performance does not always gradually decrease as arousal increases, as shown in the inverted ‘U’ theory.
You will  notice that the curve reveals that performance lags behind when there’s little pressure, and that performance is positively influenced when there’s some more pressure. If even more pressure is added, performance is negatively influenced and efficiency decreases.

If the athlete is too stimulated, on the day or during their warm up they may reach peak arousal too soon, which is something to consider in a pre competition warm up routine.

Being too relaxed during the warm up or on the start line will also bring undesired results, many athletes I’ve met try to play down their arousal levels and stay calm and this doesn’t trigger the intensity needed to compete well.

Catastrophe Theory of Arousal

There is also the Catastrophe theory, which is a development of the Inverted U theory. The Catastrophe theory explains how over arousal predicts a rapid decline in performance resulting from the combination of high cognitive anxiety and increasing somatic anxiety.

If cognitive anxiety is high, the increases in arousal pass a point of optimal arousal and a rapid decline in performance occurs (the catastrophe). It would be very difficult to recover from this point.
Which is why we see  top sports people ‘go to pieces’ in the big event.

Understanding when your body and mind are eliciting these responses, so it is always important to stay mindful and check in from time to time.

Practically Applying this Information

So this is where I summarise, all the information above is useless if an athlete is unaware of the tools available to assist them in overcoming anxiety from pressure.

The best athletes are able to keep their arousal levels under control on competition day, they rise to the occasion by using their ‘nerves’ and not hiding away from them.
If you suffer from performance anxiety, it would be worthwhile reprogramming your perception of these cognitive/ somatic responses as excitement rather than anxiousness/fear.

Reduce as much stress as possible

Do you best to avoid any arguments/ over reactions.

When you’re warming up, focus on yourself
Focus on how your body feels, this is something that I’ve noticed the best athletes do.

Be prepared
Mentally rehearse your race plan or technique
(this is really important) and check which lane you are in as soon as the information is out.

Sign in as early as possible to minimise stress and set up space to remain calm and lose track of time until your warm up starts.
I recommend setting an alarm for when to warm up, that way you won’t be distracted by checking the clock every 10 minutes.

Stay positive and confident
Remind yourself you deserve to be on that start line as much as anyone else.
Find confidence in your race plan.

Be self aware and mindful.

If any physiological or psychological symptoms arise, focus your breath and shift your perception of anxiety to excitement.

 

Interview with Cameron Chalmers, 1/4 of the Great Britain Relay Team at the 2019 World Championships –  5mins

If you’re interested in what a 400m British Champion and 45 second 400m sprinter does during his warm up and how he approaches competition, check out the video below.

 

Connell Macquisten

Bristol & West A.C Performance Advisor.

Virtual Challenge Series: Event 2

09 Jun

Route information is now available for the second event in the Virtual Challenge Series.  Starting in Whitchurch, South East Bristol it takes in some quiet country lanes, a challenging climb that rewards you with some fantastic views.  If you’ve not explored this area before, give it a go!  Race info.  Entries.

Entries are still open for the first event in the series at Aztec West and a few results have been submitted, rumour has it a number of small groups are planning to pay a visit to the course later this week.  Enter here.

The organisers intend to use all entry fees, less minimal admin costs, for the purchase of prizes.

Sports Psychology Part 1. Awareness, Development, Discipline and Success.

08 Jun

Introduction

This article will aim to explain what is means to be self aware, highlight the difference between motivation and discipline, provide tools to create a self development plan, outline what a structure goal setting process looks like and outline the relationship between ignorance and failure.

Throughout, I will do my best to avoid sounding like a know it all millennial.
I’m aware I have plenty of years ahead to obtain wisdom and experience and none of these ideas are my own, they’re taken from the experts and regurgitated into, what I hope is a useful article for developing athletes and coaches.
With that being said, lets start with self awareness and self development.

Self Awareness 

Self-awareness means knowing your values, personality, needs, habits, emotions, strengths, weaknesses, etc.  With a sense of who you are and a vision of the person you want to become, a plan for professional or personal development can be created.

I wasn’t until a while after I finished competing in athletics that I realised, without self awareness, there is no self development.  I remember when I competed well, I had nerves, I had excitement, I had a good plan going into the competition and I executed it as best as I could. However, I didn’t realise the importance of being self aware and it made analysing poor performance very difficult.

I would get frustrated, become overly emotional which would make it very difficult to look at thing pragmatically. There were a couple times, where I would embarrassingly tear my vest in half if I had no height’ed. Being in a stage of denial made it hard to analyse what I went wrong.

Often I would come in at heights that were too high for an opener, it makes sense everyone needs a few warm up jumps, to find their flow and get use to the atmosphere with as little pressure as possible.

Having a sensible plan prior to the competition is just one thing I could have done to avoid failure, and if I had a systematic plan I could have  referred back to the plan which would have helped me detach myself from any emotions at the time. This is a far more professional approach that getting emotional and will reduce the chances of failure occurring again in the future.

If you’re interested, here is an article from Psychology Today on 11 ways to achieve greater self awareness.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/click-here-happiness/201903/what-is-self-awareness-and-how-do-you-get-it

Personally I find journaling, walking and listening helps self awareness. In an age where everywhere is loud on social media, less and less people listen and they just want to be heard.
If you’ve had a bad competition or performance, take some time to distance yourself, take a walk, calm down, practice mindfulness and then listen to your coach for feedback and watch any footage and journal any strengths and weakness.

Self Development

Self development requires both motivation and discipline.

Motivation is the why behind the goal.  It’s your little engine that says you can, when the rest of you says you can’t.
Discipline is hard, the word originates from the Latin, discipulus, meaning  pupil, which also provided the source of the word disciple.  Self discipline can be seen as teaching self, control, to fight urges, distractions and other desires that may help you towards your goal.

Self-discipline is the ability to correct your behaviour, it helps you get back on your course when you fall off your path. This could be after an injury, or a poor performance. One of the benefits of seeing a  good sports therapist, is that they help you develop a plan to get back on track.

Only the disciplined are truly free. The undisciplined are slaves to mood, appetites and passions. – Stephen Covey, author of  The 7 Habits of highly effective people.

It was the 34th U.S President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, who said plans are useless, but planning is indispensable. Though this may seem paradoxical at first, plans can change at any moment but planning is essential to organise and structure your path to success.

4 Steps for Developing a good plan

Here are 4 useful steps for creating a development plan, you could use this for your event, studies, a relationship or for finding the perfect job.
I would also like to point out, when I was an athlete, I hadn’t done any of these, it was only when I finished University than learnt the importance of developing a well structured plan.

I appreciate for some you may already be aware of how to create a plan and for others this may be really boring, but those that perhaps don’t know and are highly motivated, this breakdown might help.

Step 1: Clear out your vision

When building a plan, it helps to to start with the end in mind. To build your personal development plan, look at what’s on the other side. Think about your future life. Choose a time frame that makes sense.

It could be until the national indoor championships, English schools, it could even be the competition that you ran your PB at last year.

Step 2: Outline strengths and areas for improvement

First, think about what you already have going for you – what are your strengths, these could be skills, or techniques, physical attributes, like high power output, good acceleration mechanics, the more detailed and more understood your skills, event and sport, the greater your understanding and the better chance you have at executing good technique or the requirements needed to achieve excellence.
Elite athletes are students of their sport.

Then, make a list of skills or attributes etc. you need to develop and projects you can start working on to move you closer to your goals.

Creating a SWOT will help you maintain organisation through this stage.

  • Strengths (what you’re good at)
  • Weaknesses (what you can be better at, or things you don’t enjoy)
  • Opportunities (what sources are available, skills can you learn)
  • Threats (what are you not working on, what can’t you

Step 3: Building a personal development plan

After you have a clear direction of where you want to be and what you have to work on, it , let’s go into detail. The key here is to get down to specific actions for the future.

You start by setting up specific projects. What do you need to get them done?

  • What resources will you need? Books to read, courses to take, website to subscribe to, maybe elitetrack.com or speedendurance.com , I highly recommend using Instagram to follow some elite coaches from across the world.
  • What people can help you do it? Friends, mentors, coaches?
  • What will success look like? Set specific criteria for measuring that, it could a flying 30m pb, or a 300m TT pb, a jump PB, anything specific is great, in my past I would chase numbers in the gym, which may seem obvious but unless that’s your sport, it should not be your key metric.
  • What is the time frame? Either put in a general deadline or milestones for different parts of the project. I would suggest somewhere between 3-4 weeks before your season opens to gauge where you are.

Step 4: Review and adapt

This may seem like the easiest and most obvious step and it is, which is probably why it’s the most overlook step. It’s really important to review each competition and every video to know you executed a particular element of your race/event. But whether you choose to review short term, after each training week, block, competition or season, the more you review, the better your awareness of where you are.
You may need to make subtle changes in your approach leading into a competition or season and without that awareness and reviewing it could be lost.

For example, you may realise that you perform better in the 200m than the 100m and choose to specialise there, you can still aim to achieve a national final or to represent your country, but it may suit you more to switch.  For me, I always wanted to go to an Olympics, a mighty big task, I thought that goal was over when I stopped competing, I considered that a failure, however now I’m coaching, there is a very real chance of going next year , but not as an athlete, as a coach. You may be familiar with, Tony Robbins, he once said, “Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach.”

Goal setting 

Following that last paragraph, another thing I didn’t get right and what I was fixated on was the end result. I set myself an almost impossible task, which is probably why I couldn’t handle the smallest of failures. I was pretty ignorant with my goals and at one point, I fully believed I would achieve the Olympic standard and really, I was no where near it.

It didn’t help that I had a lot of time out from injuries but the reality was, I was ignorant. You could argue having a strong belief system is a good thing, but really what I should have done, was set more achievable goals, especially at first.

You’re probably all aware of the SMART method for goal setting. If you follow these 4 tips, you will significantly increase the likelihood of achieving goals and reinforcing positive feedback.

Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time bound.

Very quickly put, these goals must be specific to the task and clearly defined, you need to measure your progress along the way. Your goals must be attainable, trying to get to the Olympics standard without being in the top 10 of your country, set that as your goal, aim for the top 10 first.  Having more attainable goals means achieving them is more likely, which further adds positive reinforcement and helps strengthen your belief system. Your goals should be relevant to your sport, as I’ve said before, getting really strong won’t help you get faster and faster, this will mean having to understand your sport to greater depths. Finally your goals need a deadline, this will give you the sense of urgency. Just believing something will happen because you’ve been told to believe in yourself, doesn’t work. You need action and intensity and have that urgency will make you realise, you really have to give it your best shot and not just sit by and watch the opportunity pass.

Ignorance & Failure

As I touched on before, I was pretty ignorant as an athlete, and I hadn’t entertained the possibility of not achieving my goals or dreams, which they were really dreams. However, strangely this ignorance gave me a confidence, a false sense of confidence.

Only later did I realise why., from reading  by Charles Darwin wrote in The Descent of Man, “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.” Meaning someone who is ignorant is often far more confident, than the person who has self awareness.
To the more experienced and self aware, it’s likely their lack of confidence comes from the knowing more and realising there’s so much to learn and know, they can’t possible learn everything. Which supports the legendary Greek philosopher,  Aristotle who said- “The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.”

The Dunning-Kruger effect.

A type of cognitive bias in which people believe that they are smarter and more capable than they really are. This will ultimately lead to failure.
Dunning & Kruger were both social psychologists, they found that having a lack of self awareness, leads to incompetence in tasks and that not only were incompetence people poor performers, they’re also unable to accurately assess and recognise the quality of their work.
This cognitive bias is incredibly common and in in many cases, incompetence does not leave people disoriented, perplexed, or cautious, but like Charles Darwin said, the incompetent are often blessed with an inappropriate confidence, buoyed by something that feels to them like knowledge.”

So to finish, and it may seem harsh, but Dunning & Kruger found people are not only incompetent; their incompetence robs them of the mental ability to realise just how inept they are. So being honest with yourself can really help you grow and improve.

Thank you for getting this far, I hope this article has been useful for you. I know if I read this as an athlete, I’m very confident I would have applied these methods and tools to have helped me achieve my goals.

Connell Macquisten
Performance Adviser
Bristol & West A.C