Cycling Performance Tips


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Cycling Performance Tips

  1. 1. CYCLING PERFORMANCE TIPS Training vs Genetics It’s interesting to speculate whether genetics or training/attitude determine a world class cyclist. I put the following question (from one of this websire’s readers) to an online coaching forum and will summarize the answers below. "I am a 20 year old competitive middle distance track runner, but I am considering the possibility of becoming a cyclist. I have biomechanical problems of the feet that I feel will make it impossible for me to compete at the very highest level as a runner. My question is what sort of physiological/anatomical characteristics does it take to be a world class cylcist, and how do I tell if I have those features? I have a good aerobic system with a H.R that does not rise easily in training, plus I have good short distance sprinting speed. Could these be transferred effectively into cycling? Also is it necessary to have naturally large quad musculature to be an elite cyclists?" There was a general consensus that almost anyone, of normal stature and physiology, could become a world class cyclist if they were willing to make the physical and mental commitment necessary AND they choose their event (sprint versus endurance) wisely based upon their physiological characteristics. In that regard, cycling is a sport in which people of all sizes and builds can participate and be very competitive. And although genetic factors may come into play and have a significant affect at the very highest level of competition, most people are so far from those limits it's more an excuse than anything else to quote "genetics" as an excuse for poor performance. The biggest single thing that affects performance and potential is ATTITUDE with TRAINING close behind. Any benefits of gentics would pertain mostly to true sprinters and much less to those requiring endurance. Basicall y genetics brings predisposition, but an athlete's environment (training, diet/nutrition, attitude, etc.) dictate outcome. The one measure often quoted as a measure of a world class ability endurance cyclist (ie the Tour De France) is a VO2 max of at least 80ml/O2/kg/min. Sprinters tend to be just under the 80 mark. But there was general agreement that VO2 max testing is like IQ testing, there is not much correlation between it and anything else besides taking the test. If VO2 max testing has any utility it is in identifying athletes that may have more potential than has been recognized through other means. Low VO2 max testing, however, does not make it impossible to develop a high level of performance. How much can VO2max be improved with training? A few thought that a 10% increment might be the most that could be trained. While others, based on personal experience, felt that over the years maximal oxygen uptake could increase significantly more than 10%. Finally, there was consesus that training not only increases the VO2max, but improves technique. And the effective translation of the VO2 into useful work is the result of that training. Which is why someone with slightly lower VO2 can beat those who "test" higher. DEVELOPING A TRAINING PROGRAM (Background) Designing a training program for any particular activity needs to be tailored to the duration and intensity (power, sprint, endurance) as well as the specific muscle groups being used (running, cycling, lifting, etc.) in the event. A general aerobic training program, for example, will not maximize your performance for that time trial coming up in a few weeks.
  2. 2. Brief power activities lasting for 30 to 60 seconds or repetitive sprint events rely on energy stored in the muscles as ATP and creatine phosphate (CP). Weight lifters and sprinters will gear their training towards improving those energy systems. As duration extends beyond one minute, energy is provided by anaerobic glycogen dependent pathways which produce lactic acid as a byproduct. And finally, after several minutes, aerobic pathways take on increasing significance with well over 90% of the energy in endurance events coming from these oxygen dependent metabolic systems. A successful training program focuses on developing the energy system specific for your particular event. The muscle groups needed for your event should also be factored into training program development. When 60 college aged men, equal as far as their level of aerobic conditioning, were divided into three groups - one training on a treadmill, one on a bicycle trainer at an equivalent %VO2max, and a third used as a non training control, the exercise specific benefits of training were clearly demonstrated. Both training groups improved their VO2max equally when tested on their training device, however, while the treadmill group improved 7% in VO2max when tested on either the treadmill or bicycle ergometer, the group training on the bicycle trainer improved 8% when tested on the bicycle ergometer, but only 3% when tested on the treadmill - proof of the failure of crosstraining to maximize performance across all aerobic events. The investigators speculated that changes in metabolic and circulatory factors in the muscles being trained, or adaptations related to the total muscle mass used during training, were responsible for these differences. Thus a successful training program also needs to focus on the specific activity and muscle groups to be used in the event. PRINCIPLES OF TRAINING All training programs adhere to basic, common principles. They include: I. EXERCISE OVERLOAD - the training event must increase the frequency, intensity, or duration of the specific exercise activity being trained for to be able to promote physiologic improvement and achieve a training response. II. SPECIFICITY OF TRAINING - adaptations in metabolic pathways and muscle fibers are dependent on applying the types of metabolic stress (aerobic versus anaerobic) to be used in the final event to the specific muscle groups to be used for that activity. III. SPECIFICITY OF VO2MAX - To achieve the optimum improvement in VO2max for any activity, the cardiovascular system needs to be stressed by that specific activity. As demonstrated above, there are general benefits to the heart and vascular system from any aerobic exercise, but if one wants to maximize VO2max, one needs to use the specific activity in training (a bicycle trainer will not maximize performance on a treadmill). IV. SPECIFICITY OF LOCAL MUSCLE CHANGES - there are local improvements in the muscle trained for a specific activity that will not generalize to other muscle fibers in that limb, or to the same muscle used in other exercises. Changes in ATP levels and other metabolic parameters in the vastus lateralis (a thigh muscle) are greater in cyclists (who use this muscle to a greater degree) than in runners training at the same VO2max). V. INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES - Not all individuals will respond to an equivalent training stimulus to the same degree or at the same rate. We are all different genetically and training programs need to be individualized. VI. REVERSIBILITY OF TRAINING - Deconditioning can occur rapidly when training ceases. At bed rest for 20 days, there is a decrease in VO2max of about 1% per day. Maintaining some level of conditioning during the off season minimizes deconditioning. And a reconditioning program should be part of every athletes schedule before the next season’s competition begins. PHYSIOLOGIC CHANGES OF TRAINING Anaerobic pathway changes (sprint and power activities) - • increases in ATP and creatine phosphate
  3. 3. • increase in enzymes involved in anaerobic glycogen breakdown • increase in lactic acid levels - probably secondary to increased production and an increase in tolerance to the discomfort produced from lactic acid in the muscles • increase in fast twitch fiber size Aerobic pathway changes - • mitochondria (where aerobic metabolism occurs) are larger and • increases in number • increased enzyme levels that generate ATP aerobically (without producing lactic acid) • increase in enzymes that facilitate lipid metabolism (an alternative route of energy production) • greater capacity to metabolize glycogen (partly related to increase in mitochondria and intracellular enzyme levels • increase in slow twitch muscle fiber size Cardiovascular changes - • increase in heart size • increase in blood volume (plasma) • decrease in heart rate • increase in volume of blood pumped per heart beat (stroke volume) • increase in amount of blood pumped per minute (cardiac output = rate x stroke volume) • increase in oxygen extraction at the muscle capillary interface • less blood flow needed to the muscle for a set level of exercise (from increased efficiency of oxygen extraction) • reduction in systolic and diastolic blood pressure • increase in volume of respirations (each breath, tidal volume) and breathing frequency with exercise TECHNICAL MONITORS With all the gizmos and gadgets that are available, it is tempting to focus on the technical aspects of training at the expense of the basics. It is important to listen to your body and be patient waiting for results, Avoid the temptation of constantly measuring yourself against data produced by other athletes. As it is difficult to know HOW to use comparative data from others, you should focus on comparing your current performance to previous efforts as the best measure of progress, leaving the data of others out of the mix. It's basically hard, repetitive work, and there are no short cuts to your personal best. TRAINING OPTIONS A focused training program can increase your VO2max by 15 to 30% over a 3 month period and up to 50% over 2 years. And the converse is true as ell. There is a drop off in metabolic adaptations within a few weeks of stopping training although changes in numbers of muscle capillaries and skeletal and cardiac muscle fiber size probably occur more slowly (see detraining below). Metabolic adaptations facilitate lactic acid removal allowing you to perform exercise at a higher level of %VO2max for longer periods of time, and changes in lipid metabolism which will provide extra Calories from fat to supplement those from glycogen and glucose metabolism for any
  4. 4. specified level of activity (%VO2max). The result is an increase in maximal performance and the ability to maintain a high level of performance for a longer time interval (endurance). Training also improves the muscle's tolerance for the stresses of prolonged exertion. These include strengthening of the connective tissue between muscle fibers to minimize the microtrauma (and post exercise discomfort) that occur with with physical exertion. Not every training session (in your program) needs to stress the cardiovascular system. In fact a successful program needs to be balanced with at least two days per week at less than maximal cardiovascular intensity to allow for mental and physical recovery. And it has been demonstrated that your performance in a competitive event is better if you taper your training program in the week prior. TRAINING INTENSITY Is more better? Not necessarily. The exact optimum for training intensity varies by a few percent between individuals (that's why coaches can help find that extra few % of a performance advantage for an elite athlete. It is generally accepted that maximum aerobic improvement occurs at 85% VO2max (approximately 90% of your max. heart rate), and REGULAR training above this level will increase the potential for injury without a corresponding benefit in cardiovascular (or musculoskeletal) adaptation. Lower levels of exercise - 60% maximum heart rate for 45 minutes or 70% maximum heart rate for 20 minutes - will modestly improve (or at least maintain) general cardiovascular conditioning but the use of the "long slow distance" approach where your maximum heart rate is always kept at 60 to 80% VO2max will not optimize your personal performance for high level aerobic events. For example, a West Virginia U. study assigned 15 women to either a low intensity (132 beats per minute) or high intensity (163 bpm) group exercising for 45 minutes, 4 times a week. There was an increase in VO2max for members of the high intensity group, but not the low intensity one. TRAINING DURATION The optimum duration for a training session depends on the intensity. Ten minutes of 70% maximum heart rate will be of some benefit, but 30 to 40 minutes are even better. Does going 60 minutes give you a proportionally greater benefit? Maybe not as there is some point at which the negative effects of exercise on breaking down and injuring muscle tissue outweight the cardiovascular benefits. Does 30 minutes of 80% MHR equate to 40 minutes at 70% i.e. increase the intensity to compensate for decreasing the duration? For endurance perhaps, but certainly not for improving your VO2max. As proof that there is an upper limit for the benefits of aerobic training, a group of swimmers training 1.5 hours per day was compared to a group training with two equivalent 1.5 hour sessions. There was no difference in the final performance, power, or endurance between the two groups. For aerobic training (continuous, not intervals) at less than 90% maximum heart rate it makes the most sense to look at the duration of the planned event, and train • at the same level of anticipated performance (%VO2max) • for a duration (distance) equal to 110 - 120% of the event TRAINING FREQUENCY It appears that maximum aerobic conditioning (increasing VO2max) occurs with 3 workout days per week. So unless one is trying to burn Calories to lose weight, or is working on increasing mileage to get the musculoskeletal system (back, shoulders) in shape for a long endurance event on the bike, it is better to take off 2 to 3 days per week to allow for muscle and ligament repair and decrease the risk of cumulative stress resulting in an increase in training injuries. And
  5. 5. interestingly, it appears that these 3 days per week will maximize aerobic conditioning equally in any combination - i.e. 3 days in a row with 4 off, alternating days of exercise, etc. DETRAINING Studies on maintaining the benefits of aerobic training revealed that a 2/3 reduction in training frequency i.e. going from 6 days a week to 2 days a week (keeping the same maximal intensity for each individual workout) maintained the gains. You can cut a 60 minute, 6 per week program to 60 minutes, 2 times a week and maintain your aerobic fitness level, BUT you CANNOT maintain a similar fitness level by cutting the intensity of the 60 minute session and keeping it at 6 times per week. If intensity is held constant, the frequency and duration of exercise required to maintain fitness are much less than the effort needed to attain that fitness level in the first place. METHODS OF TRAINING Training needs to be structured for the intensity and duration of the planned sporting event. Anaerobic (oxygen independent) exercise is generally brief (less than 60 seconds in duration) and is fueled by the anaerobic energy pathways in the cell (ATP, creatine phosphate). The classic anaerobic sport is weightlifting. Sprint activities also use anaerobic pathways. If the sprint lasts more than 5 or 10 seconds, lactic acid production (and clearance) also becomes an issue because of the negative effects of lactic acid on muscle performance. Training focused on anaerobic activities will enhance the ATP and CP energy transfer pathways in the cell as well as improving the tolerance for and clearance of lactic acid. Aerobic training (more important for cycling and other sporting events lasting more than 60 seconds) on the other hand provides its benefits by improving the cardiovascular and oxygen delivery systems to the muscle cell. These include improvements in both cardiac output (amount of blood pumped by the heart per minute) and at the muscle fiber level where there is an increase in the removal or extraction of oxygen from the blood cells in the capillaries. In addition, there is an improvement in the efficiency of the cellular metabolic pathways which convert glucose into ATP. As the level of exertion (measured by %VO2max) increases, there is a slow transition towards anaerobic metabolism in the muscle. There are always areas of relatively lesser perfusion within the muscle that are functioning anaerobically. So even at 50 to 60% VO2max some anaerobic conditioning is occuring. But at 85% VO2max (the "anaerobic threshhold" for most individuals) there is an abrupt increase in anaerobic metabolism throughout the entire muscle. So even though some cross training of the anaerobic systems takes place during exercise at 60 to 80% VO2max, a training program for sprint performance needs to include several exercise sessions per week above 85%VO2max. Long slow distance may be good training for aerobic, endurance events, but it will not improve your sprint performance. Both aerobic and anaerobic exercise sessions need to be included in a training program, but it is the balance of the amount of each type of exercise (aerobic vs anaerobic; interval training, continuous training, and fartlek training) in the overall program which determines its suitability for the competitive event for which you are training. INTERVAL TRAINING Doing intervals refers to sandwiching periods of intense physical activity between periods of recovery to allow longer periods of training time at your peak performance levels. One study in runners demonstrated that continuous, maximal performance levels could be sustained for only 0.8 miles before exhaustion occurred, while a similar level of peak exertion could be maintained for a cumulative distance (duration) of over 4 miles when intervals were used. If one is training for sprints of up to 20 seconds in duration (which do not involve significant lactic acid buildup and basically are training the ATP and CP systems), it is recommended that the
  6. 6. duration of the training interval should be increased by 1 to 5 seconds over the usual best time for that sprint distance with exercise intensity or maximum effort being unchanged,. For example, if one is training for a 100 yard dash, and has a personal best of 12 seconds, the training interval should be a 13 or 14 seconds sprint at the same pace (ignoring the total distance being covered in the 13 or 14 seconds). And a relief period 3 times longer than the training interval is recommended for recovery - 42 seconds in this example. Training for longer intervals (up to several minutes) produces significant lactic acid along with stressing the anaerobic metabolic pathways. To train for these longer distances (several minutes of maximum output), it is suggested that the distance being trained for be subdivided, and the training interval effort focused on that shorter distance. For example, if one is training for a personal best mile ride on the bike, and the best time for the entire mile is 3 minutes on the bike with the best 1/4 mile segment being 30 seconds and the best 1/2 mile segment being 80 seconds, the training interval could be set at either 1/4 or 1/2 mile and the time for this training interval set at your personal best minus 3 to 5 seconds. In this example the training interval might be chosen as 1/4 mile with a goal of a 25 second time. And the rest interval should be 2 times the training interval (as lactic acid clearance does not require the same recovery time as recharging the intracellular metabolic machinery). But training program drop out rates can double when intervals are used, so they should be used judiciously. Don't use them all year round, consider a twice a week program during your peak season, and separate each session by at least 48 hours to allow adequate recovery. If your long ride is on the weekend, Tuesday and Thursday make the most sense. The goal should be 10 to 20 minutes of hard pedaling per training interval session, not counting warm up, recovery, or cool down. A good place to start is with 5 minutes of peak effort. One approach is to use one day a week for short intervals (i.e. five 60 second and five 90 second intervals) and a second for longer intervals (two 3 minute and two 5 minute intervals). Allow 3 to 5 minutes for recovery between intervals and don't forget a 20 to 30 minute warm up and a 15 minute cool down. It has been shown that as few as a half dozen 5 minute intervals (separated by one minute recoveries) during a 300 km training week will improve both time trial and peak performance. If you have a heart rate monitor, an alternative is to key intervals to your maximum heart rate. Ride your intervals at 80 to 90% of your maximum heart rate and spin easily until your heart rate drops to 60 to 65% of maximum. CONTINUOUS TRAINING (LSD) Continuous training refers to aerobic activity performed at 60 to 90% VO2max for an hour or more. When done at the lower end of this range, it is often referred to as long, slow distance (LSD) training. This level of training is ideal for those starting off an exercise program, those wishing to maximize Caloric expenditure for weight loss purposes, and as an option for an active "rest" day in a weekly aerobic training program. This level of exertion can be maintained for hours at slightly less intensity than used in personal competitive events in the past, and is particularly suited for endurance event training. It is thought to have a preferential beneficial effect on the slow twitch muscle fibers (as opposed to the fast twitch fibers used in sprint interval training). It is suggested that a distance of 2 to 5 times the actual competitive event be chosen for this daily segment of the weekly training program. FARTLEK TRAINING This form of training is a combination of interval and LSD training. It is not as structured as an interval program being based on the personal perception of exertion rather than specific time or distance intervals. It mimics the "sprint to the line" that is part of many road races. While there is little scientific proof of its benefits it makes sense physiologically, and psychologically it adds a
  7. 7. feeling of freedom to those long slow days. How many sprints, and for how long?? The choice is up to you, but the intervals are probably in the neighborhood of those used for interval training. KEY POINTS FOR AN AEROBIC TRAINING PROGRAM • Training needs to be structured for the intensity and duration of the planned sporting event. • Long slow distance training is important at the beginning of the training season and for very long endurance events. • Maximum aerobic improvement occurs at 85% VO2max (90% max. heart rate). • Maximum aerobic conditioning (increasing VO2max) occurs with 3 workout days per week at or above 85% VO2max. Additional training days should be at a slower pace to allow recovery and build musculoskeletal strength. • Intervals can be ridden for one or two of these days. • Exercising at less than 85% VO2max will improve general cardiovascular conditioning and overall musculoskeletal tolerance. It is suggested that one day a week be alloted to a long slow training ride equal to a distance of 2 to 5 times the actual competitive event. • In training for endurance events (less than 90% maximum heart rate), train at the level of anticipated performance (%VO2max, %MHR)) and with a long training ride equal to that of the event + 10 to 20%. (see also USING A HEART RATE MONITOR) PUTTING THIS ALL TOGETHER, a good weekly training program: • is built on a good training base at the beginning of the season. • 3 days of high level cardiovascular activity (2 of which may be intervals) • 1 day training ride equal to the duration of the event and at a similar intensity • 1 day LONG slow recovery ride • the other 2 days should be spent off the bike or used for a short slow ride to "loosen up" PERCEIVED EFFORT How hard am I working? Am I pushing myself and getting the maximum from my training efforts? These are common questions for those of us focused on a high quality workout. Although Heart Rate Monitors are touted as THE only way to know the exact intensity level of your cardiovascular workout, there is a cheaper, easier alternative - the Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale {below} proposed by G. A. Borg in 1982 (Med Sci in Sports Exer. 14(5):377-81, 1982). The RPE scale ranges from 6 to 20, and includes a literal description for each level of exercise intensity. It was designed so adding a 0 to the level of exertion would give a rough estimate of your heart rate i.e. if you were resting (a 6 on the scale) your heart rate would be in the neighborhood of 60. Although RPE isn’t accurate enough for detailed physiologic studies, research has demonstrated an amazingly high correlation for any individual from day to day. In other words if you felt you were exercising at a 13 (somewhat hard) on two different days, and checked your heart rate, it would be quite similar. How can you use the RPE scale? First familiarize yourself with the levels. Then, using a treadmill or wind trainer, rate your own level of exertion BEFORE you check your pulse rate. With a little practice you will find that you will be amazingly accurate in predicting your heart rate. At that point you can use your own RPE instead of a heart rate monitor to monitor the intensity of the day’s workout. RPE can change as fitness improves (a higher heart rate for any level of perceived exertion) and with factors such as hydration, carbohydrate status, and ambient temperature. So recalibrate your own RPE scale regularly during the season if you are using this tool in your training.
  8. 8. RPE scale • 6 - resting • 7 - very, very light • 9 - very light • 11 - fairly light • 13 - somewhat hard • 15 - hard • 17 - very hard • 19 - very, very hard Fatigue Overtraining, Overreaching, and Chronic Fatigue Fatigue with trining refers to the tiredness one feels after riding. It is part of the training process in that physiologic over load with exercise, or gradually increasing work load, is the stimulus which leads to adaptation and performance improvement. Fatigue lets us know that we are pushing our physical limits. However, in certain circumstances, fatigue can be a warning that we are pushing too hard (that there is an imbalance between exercise and recovery), and indicate the need to back off or risk an actual deterioration in our performance. This is a common dilemma in a personal training program: Hard work makes us faster, but how much is too much? Let's be alittle more specific and talk about 5 types of fatigue. • The bonk (fatigue resulting from muscle glycogen depletion) usually develops 1 to 2 hours into a ride. It is a particular problem if "on the bike" glucose supplements are not used to extend internal muscle glycogen stores. • Post ride fatigue is a normal response to several hours of vigorous exercise and indicates we are pushing our training limits. It leads to improved performance the next time out. • Overreaching is the next step up - the fatigue we feel at the end of a particularly hard week of riding. It blends with #2, and will, with recovery, make us faster and stronger. It is also a warning that we are flirting with overtraining. • Overtraining is the debilitating and often long term (lasting weeks to months) fatigue which limits rather than stimulates improvement in performance. • Pathologic fatigue related to illness A regular rider needs to routinely assess his or her level of post ride fatigue, trying to walk the fine line separating post exercise fatigue (necessary if one is pushing themself) and overtraining (which can only hinder future performance). This is made even more complicated in that: • inadequate sleep • international travel • personal life stresses can all increase the level of your fatigue with exercise or training. Although it may seem paradoxical, structured rest is a key component of all training programs and may be one of the toughest training choices you'll have to make. To minimize the risk of
  9. 9. overtraining, you should include at least one and occasionally two rest days per week along with a day of easy spinning. Over reaching is a normal part of the training cycle. It may require several extra (and unplanned) recovery days. But if you find that your performance is not improving with several extra recovery days, it's time to take a break from riding and switch to alternative aerobic activities (at 70% maximum heart rate to maintain your cardiovascular fitness). To push ahead is to risk a level of overtraining which may require a month or two off the bike to recover. Be particularly sensitive to overtraining as your signal of pushing too hard if you have made a sudden or dramatic change in: • your training intensity • your training frequency • your training duration (the hours per week) • decreased the recovery time between sessions BACKGROUND/PHYSIOLOGY Fiercer competition between athletes and a wider knowledge of optimal training regimens have dramatically influenced current training methods. A single training bout per day was previously considered sufficient, whereas today’s athletes regularly train twice a day or more. Consequently, the number of athletes who are overtraining and have insufficient rest is increasing. The positive result of training in any sport is adaptation and improved performance: the supercompensation principle - which includes the breakdown process (training) followed by the recovery process (rest). Overtraining results from an imbalance between training and recovery, exercise and exercise capacity, stress and stress tolerance. Elite sports require large numbers of training hours per week. It is assumed that the relationship between training and improved performance is an inverted U-shape. Overreaching (short term overtraining) is most likely associated with insufficient recovery in the muscle with a decline in ATP levels. Overtraining is a more complicated physiologic problem, perhaps related to failure of the hypothalamus to cope with the total amount of stress. Overreaching lasts from a few days to 2 weeks and is associated with fatigue, reduction of maximum performance capacity, and a brief interval of decreased personal performance. Recovery is achieved with a reduction in training or a few extra days of rest. Overtraining (overtraining syndrome, staleness, systemic overtraining) is the result of many weeks of exceeding the athlete’s physiologic limits and can result in weeks or months of diminished performance - symptoms normally resolve in 6-12 weeks but may continue much longer or recur if athletes return to hard training too soon. It involves mood disturbances, muscle soreness/stiffness, and changes in blood chemistry values, hormone levels, and nocturnal urinary catecholamine excretion. Stress factors such as the monotony of a training program and an acute increase in training program intensity lasting more than a few days increase the risk of development of overtraining. On the other hand, heavy training loads appear to be tolerated for extensive periods of time if athletes take a rest day every week, and alternate hard and easy days of training. Pathologic fatigue is deined as fatigue and tiredness that cannot be explained by the volume of training. These are generally medical conditions such as infection, neoplasia, disorders of the blood, cardiovascular, or endocrine systems, and psychologic/psychiatric disorders. Included in this grouping are the side effects of medications and "chronic fatigue syndrome" - an ill defined medical condition. A recent article has muddied the water even further by describing muscle changes from years of high volume exercise training that may be related to this entity. For those of you interested in the basic physiology of overtraining, the underlying pathology is speculated to be related to an autonomic nervous system imbalance and/or a problem with the endocrine system. Several findings support this thesis. During heavy endurance training or overreaching periods, the majority of studies indicate a reduced adrenal responsiveness to ACTH which is compensated by an increased pituitary ACTH release. In early overtraining syndrome, despite increased pituitary ACTH release, adrenal responsiveness continues and serum cortisol
  10. 10. levels fall. In advanced stages of overtraining, pituitary ACTH release falls as well. In this stage, there is additional evidence of decreased intrinsic sympathetic activity and sensitivity of target organs to catecholamines - indicated by decreased catecholamine excretion during night rest, decreased beta-adrenoreceptor density, decreased beta-adrenoreceptor-mediated responses, and increased resting and exercise induced plasma norepinephrine levels. There is also a psychological toll from overtraining. For the most part, the competitive athlete is a well-adjusted individual who demonstrates less depression, anxiety, and fatigue than nonathletic counterparts. The well-trained athlete, however, may also have a personality that is somewhat rigid, strongly goal oriented, and perfectionist. It is not unrealistic to expect that when confronted with diminished performance or success, such an athlete may be compelled to drive himself or herself harder to succeed. This can express itself in the form of depression and accompanying chronic fatigue. Listed below are some of the physiologic and performance changes that have been documented with overtraining. A common thread is the inability to attain maximum energy output (aerobically as well as anaerobically) and the psychological consequences that go along with failing to do your best. • a decrease in scores on a self assessment of well-being; mood swings noted by others • sustained fatigue • a failure to progress in a training program • a decrease in the level of personal performance following a several day recovery period • an increase in mild illnesses recorded in a training diary • increased sleeping heart rate • a decrease in maximal physical performance • a decrease in maximal exercise induced heart rate • a decrease in the ratio of blood lactate concentration to ratings of perceived exertion at maximal work loads • a decrease in the clearance of blood lactic acid from min. 3 to min. 12 post maximal anaerobic activity • a decreased intramuscular utilization of carbohydrates at maximal exercise levels • a decrease in blood glucose, lactate, ammonia, glycerol, free fatty acids, albumin, LDL, VLDL cholesterol, hemoglobin level (transient), leukocytes • absence of an increase of serum cortisol normally induced by 30 min. of acute exercise • lowering of VO2max • nocturnal catecholamine excretion decreased markedly contrary to exercise-related plasma catecholamine responses which increased more than expected. • resting and exercise-related cortisol and aldosterone levels decreased. Several studies have suggested that overtraining may be associated with health issues above and beyond the immediate deterioration in physical performance. One study of Harvard alumni found a lower death rate (mortality) among men expending as few as 200 Calories per week in exercise versus those leading sedentary lifestyles, but when they regularly spent over 4000 Calories on exercise per week the death rate began to rise again. And two different studies have suggested a decrease in immune system competence with intense training (cycling 300 miles per week for 6 months or 2 intensive sessions of running per day for 6 days). But before you throw in the towel, there is overwhelming evidence that a moderate cycling program will actually stimulate and improve your immune system. The challenge for your personal training program is in finding your own limits, and avoiding that transition from overreaching to overtraining. WHO IS PRONE TO THE RISKS OF OVERTRAINING? Cyclists are one of the few groups of athletes capable of reaching the over trained level associated with prolonged fatigue. It has been speculated that this is due to the way cycling stresses the body with muscle activity concentrated in a single muscle group - the quadriceps. And it isn't necessary to undertake an extensive training program to be at risk. Even those working out sporadically (and with light training schedules) are at risk. While a professional cyclist
  11. 11. might consider a 50 mile ride as part of a light recovery week, your 20 mile ride could produce all the symptoms of overtraining. CLUES TO OVERTRAINING How do YOU know when you are in danger of OT? The following are clues which might suggest that an extra day or two of rest is in order. Personality/Disposition - While your personal demeanor is difficult to quantify, it appears to be the most sensitive and earliest indicator of overtraining. Anger, depression, and a decrease in your sense of well being and vigor have all been reported as signs of OT. You won't need a psychologist to help you with this one. Your family and significant others are usually the first to point these symptoms out to you. Resting heart rate - A resting pulse rate is taken on awakening in the morning before getting out of bed. An increase of 10% or 10 beats per minute for several days in a row is accepted by most coaches as a sign to slow down. Remember, it is the trend of your resting heart rate, taken over a period of days, that is important, not a single day's reading. Performance - A short, standardized time trial every week is another helpful monitoring tool, and the changes will usually be in minutes, not seconds. If you see a deterioration, take some time off or consider switching to another aerobic activity (being careful to keep your exercising heart rate below 70% of maximum). A drop of 10 beats per minute in your time trial maximum heart rate has also been used as an indicator of overtraining. General fatigue - Ongoing daily lethargy is a clue that it's time to slow down. General physical complaints - Sore throat, sore muscles, and chronic diarrhea all may indicate the chronic stress of overtraining. An increase in minor illnesses has been reported as well. Disruption of the normal sleep cycle - Falling asleep easily, awakening abruptly, and then feeling like you need a nap at 10 AM can reflect a change in your normal sleep cycle associated with overtraining. Biochemical parameters - And of course there are a myriad of biochemical parameters that have been used by coaches to identify early overtraining. These include resting and exercise cortisol levels, norepinephrine levels, and lactic acid clearing after maximal exercise. But when it comes right down to it, you are how you feel, so to speak. Your sense of well being, sense of fatigue throughout the day, and sense of perceived effort as you take that weekly ride over your regular route all appear to be more sensitive than the most sophisticated laboratory study in identifying early overtraining. WHAT CAN YOU DO? In a nutshell, overtraining is the result of "doing too much, too quickly". The body likes regular, moderate changes, not upheaval, in a training program. So don't increase your mileage or training time by more than 10% per week. The most important aspect of preventing OT is realizing you are almost there. And a good training diary is the single most important tool you have at your immediate disposal to alert you to the risk. In addition to the usual training facts such as mileage and times, it should include a daily notation on: • resting heart rate before getting out of bed • mood self assessment • self assessment of level of fatigue throughout the prior day ("heavy legs") • minor illnesses - i.e. GI upset, diarrhea, sore throat, and runny nose • performance (time) on a weekly standardized ride done at your perceived maximum. More scientific would be measurement of oxygen consumption (down), heart rate (up), and blood lactate levels (down). For professional coaches, there are some intriguing additional tools and literature available. • J C Puffer and J M Shane in Clin Sports Med 1992 Apr. 11(2):327-38 reviewed the issue of chronic fatigue as it related to overtraining versus other medical diagnoses, and presented a diagnostic framework to assist in the assessment of the athlete who presents with such complaints.
  12. 12. • W Derman et al Journal of Sports Sciences 1997 15:341-351 also review the clinical approach to sorting out chronic fatigue in the athlete. • G Kenatta and P Hassmen in Sports Med 1998 Jul 26(1):1-16 describe a methodology they call refer to as the total quality recovery (TQR) process. By using a TQR scale, structured around the scale developed for ratings of perceived exertion (RPE), they suggest that the recovery process can be monitored and matched against the breakdown (training) process (TQR versus RPE). The TQR scale emphasizes both the athlete's perception of recovery and the importance of active measures to improve the recovery process. Directing attention to psychophysiological cues serves the same purpose as in RPE, i.e. increasing self-awareness. They suggest that using this tool o differentiates between the types of stress affecting an athlete's performance o identifies factors influencing an athlete's ability to adapt to physical training o structures the recovery process. • From the laboratory or biochemical perspective, A C Snyder et al in Int J Sports Med 1993 Jan 14(1):29-32 proposed monitoring the ratio of blood lactate concentration to ratings of perceived exertion. They performed an incremental exercise test to maximal effort monitoring blood lactate concentration (HLa) and ratings of perceived exertion (RPE) for each workload. They found that at maximal workload all seven subjects had HLa:RPE ratios of less than 100 when over-reached and concluded that the ease and speed at which the HLa:RPE ratio can be determined may make it useful for coaches and athletes in monitoring intensive exercise training and recovery. • P Pelayo et al in Eur J Appl Physiol 1996;74(1-2):107-13 reviewed measurements of blood lactate concentration both during and after a maximal anaerobic lactic test (MANLT). The percentage of mean blood lactate decrease (% [La-]recovery) between min. 3 and min. 12 of the passive recovery post-MANLT increased from week 2 to 10 with aerobic training and decreased from week 10 to 21. The lowest % [La-]recovery coincided with signs of OT, such as bad temper and increased sleeping heart rate. They concluded that the % [La-]recovery could be an efficient marker for avoiding OT in elite athletes. IN SUMMARY Overtraining refers to prolonged fatigue and reduced performance despite increased training. Its roots include muscle damage, cytokine actions, the acute phase response, improper nutrition, mood disturbances, and diverse consequences of stress hormone responses. The clinical features are varied, non-specific, anecdotal and legion. No single test is diagnostic. The best treatment is prevention, which means • balancing training and rest • monitoring mood, fatigue, symptoms and performance • ensuring optimal nutrition, especially total energy and carbohydrate intake. Over reaching is a normal part of the training/recovery cycle, but if your performance is not improving after a few days of recovery, it's time to switch to other aerobic activities which will keep you at 70% of your maximum heart rate (to maintain your level of fitness) or risk entering the zone of OT which may take a month or two to recover. How long do you need to rest? If you have made a significant increase in your training schedule, and have been at it for 3 weeks or more, the chances are that you are entering that gray zone of overreaching. If so, recovery (and again this means keeping your general level of aerobic activity at 70% max. heart rate, not complete inactivity) takes at least 3 days and often up to several weeks as opposed to the normal recovery cycle of less than 3 days. The implication in that situation is that you may need more than 1 or 2 days of rest before a big event to perform at your personal best.
  13. 13. In addition, you can structure your training program to decrease the risk of overtraining. It should include at least one (and sometimes two) rest days per week as well as a day or two of easy spinning. This reflects the practical experience of coaches who have had to deal with the results of pushing too hard for too long. Increasing variation (decreasing monotony) both in your training routine from week to week (long rides, intervals) as well within individual rides has been proven to minimize training stress and decrease the risk of OT. As in all aspects of personal training programs there is individual variability, so it is up to you to decide where to draw your own line. But remember that rest is a key part of any training program and may be the toughest training choice you'll have to make.And finally, don't forget to pay particular attention to post exercise carbohydrate replacement. Part of the fatigue of overtraining may be related to chronically inadequate muscle glycogen stores from poor post training ride dietary habits. EXERCISE INDUCED MUSCLE PAIN, SORENESS, AND CRAMPS There are three types of muscle pain related to exercise. • pain occurring during or immediately after exercise • delayed onset muscle pain • muscle cramps MUSCLE PAIN DURING EXERCISE Exercise requiring significant effort, either from high energy demands (low resistance, rapid contraction rate) or substantial muscle effort (high resistance, low contraction rate) is often associated with muscle pain or discomfort. No study has identified a single cause for this discomfort, although the fact that it occurs more quickly in a muscle with a limited blood supply suggests that the culprit is a product of muscle metabolism. In addition, as the ingestion of sodium bicarbonate will delay the onset of pain for any level of exercise, it is thought that the substance is acidic in character. Lactic acid is considered the likeliest candidate although other metabolites such as pyruvic acid and ammonia have also been suggested. Based on the differing results in various papers in the literature, it is most likely that pain in the actively contracting muscle is multifactorial (ie related to a combination of substances) including the build up of acidic intermediate metabolites, ionic shifts at the cell membrane level (K, magnesium), and actual changes in the muscle cell proteins themselves. The fact that training will increase the level of activity at which discomfort first occurs indicates that the muscle cell can adapt to these factors. It is interesting that the body also has a mechanism to deal with this discomfort. Endorphins, opiate like substances produced internally, are secreted into the central nervous system during endurance exercise and will alter the perception of pain during prolonged high intensity exercise. Thus we have a mechanism to warn of muscle overuse, and also one to suppress pain during prolonged exercise which may be beneficial in fleeing from dangerous situations. Although conventional wisdom holds that taking aspirin before a ride will cut down on muscle pain during exercise, a study at the University of Georgia recently concluded that even at large doses (20 mg per kg or 4 standard aspirin for the average rider), aspirin did not delay the onset of muscle pain during exercise or reduce the perceived intensity when it occured. DELAYED ONSET MUSCLE SORENESS (DOMS) This is the soreness (stiffness) that begins 24 to 48 hours after exercise and peaking by 48 to 72 hours. It is most evident after "eccentric" muscle actions which involve actively resisting lengthening of the muscle as occurs in raising or lowering a weight, and indicate a high tension on muscle fibers and connective tissue as opposed to isometric or static tension activity. It is accompanied by a decrease in muscle strength, a reduced range of motion, and leakage of muscle cell proteins (creatine kinase, myoglobin) into the blood. These three findings indicate muscle damage (most likely related to minute tears and physical damage) as opposed to the
  14. 14. buildup of metabolic byproducts during exercise, and muscle biopsies demonstrate muscle contractile fiber damage and an inflammatory response. Generally DOMS is noted after unaccustomed eccentric exercise. And it does not appear that soreness from previous exercise increases the chance of further muscle damage. In fact the adaptive process of healing, even from microscopic injury with minimal pain, appears to have a significant protective effect on the development of muscle damage and soreness from subsequent exercise - the reason one should use a gradually progressive exercise training program. In 1997, a small group of elite athletes with a combination of chronic fatigue and delayed onset muscle soreness were described. Muscle biopsies were abnormal and the authors speculated on the possibility of cummulative chronic injury which might interfere with performance. MUSCLE CRAMPS It's not unusual to hear the following story: "I entered my first mountain bike race (18 miles) and at mile 14, my thighs and right calve cramped up. This has happened before on long rides. I thought I trained enough, hydrated enough, and ate enough bananas, but I still cramped up and had to go real slow for the last 4 miles. It was sooooo frustrating. I have another race coming up next month but its only 12 miles but has steeper hills. What should I do? Do tights help reduce cramps? When I get them (cramps) should I massage the cramped area? Should I train the amount of miles of the race?" Cramps are most common when you use your muscles beyond their accustomed limit (either for a longer than normal duration or at a higher than normal level of activity) - which explains why cramps are more common at the end of a long or particularly strenuous ride or after a particularly vigorous sprint. In fact cramps are among the most frequent complaint in marathon participants (18% in one study). In another study of cyclists competing in a 100 mile race, 70% of male participants experienced cramps (women, interestingly, had a rate less than half as frequent at 30%). The pain is brought on by an intense, active contraction of the muscle cells themselves. Although cramps may occasionally be the result of fluid and electrolyte (sodium) imbalance from sweating, that is not universally the case as individuals involved in activities requiring chronic use of a muscle without sweating (musicians for example) will also experience cramps. In one study of marathon runners, there were no differences in sodium or hydration levels between the 15 participants who developed cramps and the 67 who didn't. And although a low magnesium level can cause severe muscle cramping, another study of magnesium supplements in triathletes failed to show any benefits as far as cramping. However, as is often the case when there is no consensus on etiology (probably related to the fact there are multiple potential causes), you will find conflicting opinions. Bill Misner, PhD starts off noting that "the etiology of a common exertional muscle cramp during the heat of summer is not agreed upon by research because of a multiple of biochemical aberrations that may result in neurophysiological failure", then reviews the convoluted physiology of muscle contraction, and concludes that "the single cause of muscle cramps is inconclusive to date." Unfortunately he then proceeds to give us a specific electrolyte formula to prevent cramps (unsupported by any controlled studies other than in exceptional circumstances). There are 4 issues to be considered in the prevention of muscle cramps: • training - as with the two other forms of activity related muscle pain, training to the level of the anticipated activity will decrease the possibility of cramps. • hydration - dehydration is the second most common cause of muscle cramps after exerting beyond your training. • electrolyte replacement - sweat contains approximately 2 grams sodium/liter, 1 gram chloride/liter,0.2 gram potssium /liter, and 0.1 gram magnesium/liter - and if you are acclimated, these concentrations are even lower. Except in extreme circumstances, dietary intake will replace these losses, but if you are going to be exercising in excessively hot or humid conditions, most trainers would suggest paying close attention to salt intake and even adding 1/2 tsp of salt (1150 mg of sodium) per day to your food. Don't worry about elevating your blood pressure as we are talking about a short term
  15. 15. supplement and the sodium effect on blood pressure happens over months to years. A sports drink might help, but it is likely that maintaining adequate hydration is more important than the small amount of electrolytes they contain - and water is still a lot less expensive. The role of other micronutients and vitamins are completely unproven. • muscle glycogen reserves - replenishment of ATP is important for proper muscle cell functioning with adequate Caloric intake needed to achieve optimal physical performance. However the role of adequate glycogen reserves in preventing muscle cramps is speculative and requires further investigtion. What's the answer? Everyone's physiology is different, and thus the answer to preventing cramps almost certainly varies from person to person as well. Maintaining adequate fluid replacement and nutrition is essential for optimal physical performance above and beyond the benefits in preventing muscle cramps. From there it becomes a trial and error approach to see what might help you. If you suffer from muscle cramps, try manipulating supplements - potassium, magnesium, calcium. Try one of the commercial brands. But for the vast majority who only rarely suffer from cramps it will be training, fluids and carbs that are the key. And for them supplements are just an added expense without any clear benefit. If cramps do occur, gently stretching the affected muscle will give relief, and some authorities feel that stretching used prophyllactically will prevent cramps. Calf cramps can be relieved by standing on the bike and dropping your heel, while anterior thigh cramps can be stretched out by unclipping and moving your thigh backwards towards your buttocks. Although a number of medications have been suggested as treatments for muscle cramps (vitamin E, verapamil, and nifedipine to name a few) only quinine has been shown to be effective in scientifically controlled studies. But the high incidence of side effects limit its usefulness as a routine treatment. My recommendations for those suffering from frequent muscle cramps? • #1 is an adequate training program designed for the event being considered • a close second is maintaining good hydration • a sports drink containing electrolytes for severe conditions of heat and humidity • a regular program of stetching before, during, and after exercise. Pushing beyond your training is a sure fire way to get them. Remember to " train to the ride" i.e. push yourself to the level of your competitive ride once a week. Here's a great example of the role training plays in prevention of cramps - even though it relates to the question of cramps in a non cycling event. The answer was provided by an associate at my clinic. Q:I started cycling about 6 months ago and trained really hard this summer for a double century. In all the training and the race itself I rarely suffer from any muscle spasms. However since I started cycling I (may just be coincidence) get EXTREME spasms when I hike down hill. Hiking uphill doesn't bother me, but my quads and calfs literally freeze up after only 5-10 minutes of down hill hiking. It becomes so painful I can barely bend my leg. Last time I only hiked 1/2 mile and I thought they were going to have to carry me out. I've tried stretching before and it doesn't help. Within hours the spasms are nearly gone and by morning I feel fine. This probably sounds crazy, but I can't figure out how I can bike 200 miles and can't hike 1/2 mile. A: Here's the somewhat technical answer: The ankle plantar flexors and quads act concentrically in cycling - that is they generate tension (fire) while shortening. Through the down stroke the ankle plantar flexes and the knee extends under the influence of the gastrocs, soleus and quads. At the bottom of the stroke and through the up stroke, the hamstrings are shortening too. In walking down hill the opposite is true. Your friend is repeatedly letting himself down hill under the eccentric firing of the quads, plantar flexors and hamstrings. To keep from falling forward the hamstrings fire to keep the pelvis from rotating forwards. During stance phase the ankle dorsiflexes over the planted foot lengthening the plantar flexors and the knee flexes lengtheing the quadriceps muscles. A pack will change the equation in that it will greatly amplify the intramuscular tension and therefore the work performed by the muscle. Work that these muscles
  16. 16. are not trained (training meaning the physiologic and anatomic adaptations to repeated work) to do. And the short version: In terms of improving the situation the answer is really cross training - his muscles are well equipped for steady state aerobic concentric work at 90 to 110 rpm but not the greater intensity, near anaerobic threshold eccentric work of hiking down hill. I would bet that eight weeks of running including 20% speed/interval work will turn the problem around. Post Ride Recovery and Your Training Program Ask a cyclist about their training program and you will hear about mileage, intervals, and nutritional secrets. Only recently has post ride recovery made it onto the list of priorities. Yet successful cyclists know that preparation for the next ride begins even as the current one is being completed. POST EXERCISE FATIGUE A cyclist may experience 4 distinct types of fatigue. • The bonk (fatigue resulting from muscle glycogen depletion) usually develops 1 to 2 hours into a ride. It is a particular problem if "on the bike" glucose supplements are not used to extend internal muscle glycogen stores. • Post ride fatigue is a normal response to several hours of vigorous exercise and indicates we are pushing our training limits. It leads to improved performance the next time out. • Overreaching is the next step up - the fatigue we feel at the end of a particularly hard week of riding. It is really just an extension of #2, and will, with recovery, make us faster and stronger. • Overtraining is the debilitating and often long term (lasting weeks to months) fatigue which limits rather than stimulates improvement in performance. A regular rider needs to routinely assess his or her level of post ride fatigue, trying to walk the fine line separating post exercise fatigue (necessary if one is pushing themself) and overtraining (which can only hinder future performance). Although it may seem paradoxical, structured rest is a key component of all training programs and may actually be one of the toughest training choices you'll have to make. To minimize the risk of overtraining, you should include at least one and occasionally two rest days per week along with a day of easy spinning. Over reaching is a normal part of the training cycle. It may require several extra (and unplanned) recovery days. But if you find that your performance is not improving with several extra recovery days, it's time to take a break from riding and switch to alternative aerobic activities (at 70% maximum heart rate to maintain your cardiovascular fitness). To push ahead is to risk a level of overtraining which may require a month or two off the bike to recover. NUTRITION Carbohydrates are the primary energy source for all cyclists who push themselves, while fats are more important in slower, endurance events. Protein is not an energy source, but maintains and repairs cells and tissue. The "bonk" occurs when the body's stores of carbohydrate (glycogen in the liver and muscles) is depleted and the exercising muscle shifts to fat metabolism as its primary source of energy. Occasionally overtraining may be the result of failing to adequately replace the muscle glycogen depleted as a result of daily training with the onset of what might be considered a chronic bonk type situation - or at least bonking much earlier in a ride than ususal. this is particularly a risk at the elite athlete level where there may be multiple training seesions (or competitions) per day, and limited time to eat. To minimize the risk of early bonking and chronic glycogen depletion as a possible cause of overtraining, it is important to maximize your body glycogen stores by using dietary carbohydrates to your advantage before, during, and after a ride:
  17. 17. • eating a high carbohydrate diet in the days and hours before your ride • using carbohydrate supplements while riding • using the immediate post ride recovery interval to begin rebuilding carbohydrate stores. For the pre ride period, the traditional carbohydrate loading program (which traditionally includes a carbohydrate depletion phase for several days followed by forcing carbohydrates for the 3 days immediately prior to the event)to maximize glycogen stores is not essential. A high carbohydrate diet alone (without a preceding carbohydrate depletion phase) will provide 90% of the benefits of the full program while avoiding the digestive turmoil that can occur during the carbohydrate depletion phase. {NOTE: Although any increase in glycogen stores WILL increase the DURATION of exercise to fatigue, they WILL NOT increase MAXIMUM PERFORMANCE (VO2max)} Maximizing carbohydrate replacement while riding is important for events of more than 2 hours. At least 1 to 2 grams of carbohydrate per minute can be absorbed and metabolized to supplement pre ride body glycogen stores. This additional carbohydrate fuel will prolong the time to the bonk. In extreme events such as the Tour de France, as much as 50% of the daily energy expenditures can be provided by supplements taken while on the bike. Finally, take advantage of the glycogen repletion window that is open in the 4 hours immediately following vigorous exercise. During this time, any carbohydrates you eat will be converted into muscle glycogen at 3 times the normal rate - and some data suggests there is a 50% fall in this super charged repletion rate by 2 hours with a return to a normal repletion rate by 4 hours. (Ivy JL et al,J Appl Physiol 1988 Apr;64(4):1480-5). The slowing rate of glycogen storage occurs even when plasma glucose and insulin levels remain elevated with oral supplements. After this initial 4 hours, muscle glycogen stores are replenished at a rate of approximately 5% per hour. And while it may require up to 48 hours for complete muscle glycogen replacement following a 2 hour ride, for all practical purposes glycogen stores are almost completely rebuilt in the first 24 hours post event. But for the athlete who is on a daily training schedule, or is in a multiday event, the glycogen window can be used to get a jump on the normal repletion process and minimize the chance of gradually developing chronic glycogen depletion (and the fatigue that goes along with it). • How much glucose is enough during this 4 hour interval? Most studies have suggested that you can incorporate 3 grams of carbohydrate per kg of body weight during this 4 hours and up to 10 grams per kg over the post ride 24 hour period. • Is more better? Although the rate of CHO incorporation begins to fall at 2 hours, taking all the CHO in the first few hours may not be the answer as there appears to be a maximum repletion rate in the neighborhood of 1.5 grams of CHO per kg body weight per 2 hour period. • Is the type of carbohydrate important? Glucose and sucrose appear to be of equal value while there is some evidence that fructose is less beneficial. • Will a carbohydrate/protein drink enhance glycogen repletion during this glycogen window as compared to a pure glucose drink alone? Only if inadequate carbohydrate is being eaten. Although it had been originally been suggested in 1992 that the addition of protein to a carbohydrate supplement would enhance the rate of muscle glycogen resynthesis after endurance exercise (Zawadzki et al., J. Appl.Physiol. 72: 1854-1859, 1992), Roy et al (J Appl Physiol 1998 Mar;84(3):890-6) proved that the difference was not protein per se, but the fact that the two drinks were not Calorically equal. Van Hall (J Appl Physiol 2000 May;88(5):1631-6) also supported that hypothesis when they demonstrated the failure of the coingestion of carbohydrate and protein, compared with ingestion of carbohydrate alone, to increase leg glucose uptake or glycogen resynthesis rate further when carbohydrate was ingested in sufficient amounts every 15 min to induce an optimal rate of glycogen resynthesis. • Does it make a difference how one eats in the 24 hour post exercise period? Burke LM et al could not show a difference in postexercise glycogen storage over 24 h when a high-
  18. 18. carbohydrate diet was fed as small frequent snacks or as large meals. However there did appear to be some advantage of eating carbohydrates with a high glycemic index. So what does all this mean? Aim to drink or eat 3 grams of carbohydrate per kg of body weight over the four hours after exercise - but use some common sense in spreading it over the full four hours - at most 1.0 gm of carbohydrate per kg body weight per hour (at 4 Calories per gram, this would be approximately 200 Calories per hour for the average rider). A recovery drink (especially one that contains complex corbohydrate to maximize the Caloric density of the drink) may help in that first hour if you have trouble eating after exercising. And if you can't find those liquid carbs at the end of the ride? Don't worry, you can catch up on your mucscle glycogen repletion by eating a high carbohydrate diet over the next 24 hours. And it doesn't have to be pure carbs either. Burke LM et al (J Appl Physiol 1995 Jun;78(6):2187- 92) decided to investigate whether the addition of fat and protein to carbohydrate feedings in the 24 hour post exercise period affects muscle glycogen storage. Eight well-trained triathletes undertook an exercise trial (2 h at 75% peak O2 consumption, followed by four 30-s sprints) on three occasions, each 1 wk apart. For 24 h after each trial, the subjects rested and were assigned to the following diets in randomized order: control(C) diet (CHO = 7g/kg1/day), added fat and protein (FP) diet (C diet + 1.6 g/kg/day fat + 1.2 g/kg/day protein), and matched-energy diet [C diet + 4.8g/kg/day additional CHO (Polycose) to match the additional energy in the FP diet]. Meals were eaten at t = 0, 4, 8, and 21 h of recovery. There were no differences between trials in muscle glycogen storage over 24 h in equal Caloric diets of carbohydrate alone (approx 10 grams of CHO per kg body wt per 24 hours (sic)) vs. CHO/Pro/fat. (C 85.8, FP 80.5, matched-energy, 87.9 mmol/kg wet wt). SPECIFIC POST RIDE (RECOVERY) DIETARY RECOMMENDATIONS: • take in 3 to 4 gm carbohydrate/kg BW in the 4 hours post ride - start immediately • don't push beyond 1.5 grams CHO per kg body wt per hour as an upper limit • consider using a high Caloric density glucose polymer sports drink in the first few hours • aim for 8 to 10 grams of CHO per kg body weight over the next 24 hours to maximize repletion of muscle and liver glycogen. HOW MUCH SHOULD YOU EAT? Estimating your Caloric replacement needs is always a challenge. And as CHANGE IN WEIGHT (IN LBS) = (CALORIES BURNED - CALORIES CONSUMED)/3500 you will see the results reflected in the bathroom scales. Regular physical exercise will help to protect your muscles (at the expense of fat) during periods of negative Caloric balance so you will not lose significant muscle mass even if you underestimate your Calorie needs. However, if you overshoot on the Calorie replacement, and especially if you have been exercising at a slow pace (which will preferentially burn fat Calories while maintaining muscle glycogen stores), any post ride carbohydrate loading may find muscle glycogen stores already "filled" and any additional carbohydrate Calories will be converted directly into fat. THE BOTTOM LINE Eat a high carbohydrate diet(60 to 70% carbohydrate, low in fat), the diet that is best for endurance performance . Do weight training to maintain upper body muscle mass. And keep an eye on the bathroom scale to determine if you have estimated replacement needs correctly. With a regular exercise program, a modest weight gain should be in muscle mass and any weight loss from fat. FLUIDS Although water does not provide Caloric energy, adequate hydration is at least as important to good athletic performance as the food you eat. One of the biggest mistakes of many competitive athletes is failing to replace fluid losses associated with exercise. This is especially the case in cycling as rapid skin evaporation decreases the sense of perspiring and imparts a false sense of only minimal fluid loss when sweat production and loss through the lungs can easily exceed 2 quarts per hour. For a successful ride, it is essential that you start off adequately hydrated, begin
  19. 19. fluid replacement early, and drink regularly during the ride. In fact, a South African report on two groups of cyclists, one consciously rehydrating, the other no, exercising at 90% of their maximum demonstrated a measurable difference in physical performance as early as 15 minutes into the study. Total body fluid losses during exercise lead to a diminished plasma volume (the fluid actually circulating within the blood vessels) as well as a lowered muscle water content. As fluid loss progresses, there is a direct effect on physiologic function and athletic performance. An unreplaced water loss equla to 2% of base line body weight will impact heat regulation, at 3% there is a measurable effect on muscle cell contraction times, and when fluid loss reaches 4% of body weight there is a measurable 5% to 10% drop in performance. In addition, one study demonstrated that this performance effect can persist for 4 hours after rehydration takes place - emphasizing the need to anticipate and regularly replace fluid losses. Maintaining plasma volume is one of the hidden keys to optimal physical performance. So make it a point to weigh yourself both before and after the ride - most of your weight loss will be fluid, and 2 pounds is equal to 1 quart. A drop of a pound or two won't impair performance, but a greater drop indicates the need to reassess your on the bike program. And use the post ride period to begin replacement of any excess losses. If you do so, you will be well rewarded the next time out. But as a word of warning to those who practice the philosophy of "if a little is good, a lot is better", there are also risks with overcorrecting the water losses of exercise. There have been reports of hyponatremia (low blood sodium concentration) with seizures in marathon runners who have over replaced sweat losses (salt and water) with pure water. And this risk increases for longer events more than 5 hours). Weighing yourself regularly on long rides will help you tailor YOUR OWN PERSONAL replacement program. A weight gain of more that 1 or 2 pounds will indicate that you are overcorrecting your water losses and may be placing yourself at risk for this unusual metabolic condition. Altitude • Physiology • Altitude as a training aid • Competition at altitude • The recreational rider going to altitude PHYSIOLOGY As altitude increases above sea level, atmospheric (or barometric) pressure drops with a parallel decrease in the amount of oxygen available at the blood/air interface in the lung alveolus. Hypoxia (a low blood oxygen level) occurs and results in a decrease in the amount of oxygen delivered to the cell to do physical work. Although the heart rate (and thus the cardiac output) increases to deliver more blood (with less oxygen per ml) to the cell, complete compensation does not occur and the maximal aerobic ability (VO2 max.) is reduced by approximately 1% for every 100 meters (~ 300 feet) above 4500 feet in recreational athletes and can be detected in highly trained athletes at altitudes as low as 1500 feet above sea level. Other adaptive changes (acclimatization) include a higher ventilation (respiratory or breathing) rate and a higher blood lactate level for any level of submaximal exercise, both of which increase the sensation of dyspnea (shortness of breath) and fatigue. Some acclimatization responses occur immediately while others may take 4 to 6 weeks. In addition to decreases in maximal aerobic capacity, acute mountain sickness (AMS) affects, to varying degrees, all travelers to high altitudes (elevations greater than 5280 feet). In a small percentage of patients, AMS can lead to high-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) or high-altitude cerebral edema (HACE). Symptoms of AMS range from a combination of headache, insomnia,
  20. 20. anorexia, nausea, and dizziness,to more serious manifestations, such as vomiting, dyspnea, muscle weakness, oliguria, peripheral edema, and retinal hemorrhage. Although the primary cause of these symptoms is related to the reduced oxygen content and humidity of the ambient air at high altitudes, the physiologic pathway relating hypoxemia to AMS and its sequelae remains unclear. Tips on self-diagnosis and symptom recognition are critical elements to be included in educating patients who are contemplating a trip to high altitudes. Short term physiologic responses to altitude The most immediate response to altitude is the hyperventilation that occurs in response to a decrease in arterial oxygen levels above 2000 meters. And this increased respiratory rate can remain elevated for up to a year at altitude. The hyperventilation response varies from individual to individual. Those with a strong hypoxic drive will perform exercise tasks better at altitude than those with a blunted ventilatory response. There is also an increase in the resting heart rate and cardiac output. The increase in blood flow compensates for the decreased blood oxygen concentration and leaves the total amount of oxygen delivered to the muscles unchanged. However, the fact that there is always less oxygen available means that even with the compensatory increase in heart rate and blood flow, the level of exercise at which oxygen demands are unmet and metabolism becomes anaerobic (VO2 max.) will always be less than at sea level. Long term adjustments to altitude Hyperventilation and the increased cardiac output provide an immediate response to limit the effects of altitude on physical performance. With time, a change in the body’s acid-base balance counters the effects of a chronically lower blood CO2 from hyperventilation (respiratory alkalosis), but does not affect physical performance to any significant degree. An increase in the blood hemoglobin (hematocrit) level increases the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood and is the most important performance adaptation to altitude. The result is that every milliliter of blood that moves through the muscle capillaries will be able to deliver an increased amount of oxygen compared to the same volume of blood with a sea level hematocrit. Finally, there are cellular changes that favor oxygen delivery to the muscle cell. The capillary concentration in skeletal muscle is increased in animals living at altitude compared to those at sea level, and muscle biopsies in acclimatized men have demonstrated an increase in myoglobin, mitochondria, and metabolic enzymes necessary for aerobic energy transfer. These changes should improve the efficiency of oxygen delivery and extraction at the muscle cell level. Together these adaptations are sufficient to restore exercise capacity to NEAR sea level values at altitudes up to 2500 meters (7500 feet). At higher elevations, acclimatization is not sufficient to restore VO2 max. to normal. But not all the changes that occur with acclimatization are favorable to improve athletic performance in the face of a decrease in available oxygen. One notable negative is the loss of lean body mass and body fat that occurs with long term exposure to high altitudes. The result is a decreased maximum potential for athletic performance because of decreased muscle mass. The time course of acclimitization As mentioned, the ventilatory response begins immediately upon climbing to altitude from sea level and continue over several days at altitude. Hyperventilation changes the blood acid base balance (with a respiratory alkalosis) which in turn stimulates the kidneys to excrete bicarbonate to compensate. This renal compensatory response takes about a week. The sympathetic nervous system is activated almost immediately with an increase in both sympathetic nerve activity and an increase in blood epinephrine levels - resulting in an increase in heart rate and cardiac output to maintain tissue oxygen delivery at near sea level values. By two to three weeks, blood flow returns toward sea level values as oxygenation improves as a result of the other compensatory mechanisms. The hematocrit level increases within 24 to 48 hours because of a reduction in plasma volume, not an increase in red cell mass. Erythropoietin levels increase within hours, peak at about 48 hours, and remain elevated for 1 to 2 weeks. The red cell mass increases slowly and may take several years to reach levels equal to natives living permanently at these altitudes. The vast majority of these metabolic changes are complete by 3 to 4 weeks at altitude, but the structural changes (capillary density, mitochondrial number) take weeks to months to complete.
  21. 21. ALTITUDE AS A TRAINING AID Do the adaptive mechanisms described above compensate for the decrease in oxygen available at altitude. The answer is NO. Even with acclimatization, the proportion of the energy supplied by anaerobic metabolism for any level of activity (rather than by oxygen supported or aerobic pathways) increases and performance suffers. Does hypoxic exercise at altitude provide a training benefit? This is controversial, but controlled studies in trained athletes have not been confirmed any benefit for hypoxic exercise WITHOUT CONCOMITANT ACCLIMATIZATION. And the direct effects of interval training to stress and improve an athlete's maximum aerobic capacity (VO2 max.) definitely deteriorate with training at elevation as a result of the inability to maintain a VO2 max. comparable to sea level when training in a hypoxic environment. During interval work outs, speed, oxygen uptake, heart rate, and lactate levels are all lower than those from lower altitudes suggesting that interval training is best performed as near sea level as possible. Does exercise training at altitude improve sea level performance? Many scientists, athletes, and coaches have been intrigued by the similarities of altitude acclimatization and training effects. Does living and training at altitude (with the associated changes in red cell mass and cellular changes in mitochondria, etc.) lead to an increase in the maximal aerobic exercise capacity (VO2 max.) upon return to sea level? The answer is "it depends". It is the net balance between the benefits of the acclimatization effects and the negatives of a reduction in training intensity and deconditioning from hypoxia that are the ultimate determinate of the outcome of altitude training in endurance athletes. Controlled studies have NOT shown any advantage of TRAINING at altitude compared to a similar TRAINING program (the same absolute VO2 max. being achieved at both altitudes) at sea level. Are there any strategies that can use altitude to benefit a training program? The answer to this question is YES. But it requires balancing the acclimatization benefits of an increased red cell mass from living at altitude (one must be at altitude for more than 12 hours a day to maintain an increase erythropoietin level) while maintaining a VO2 max. in training equivalent to that possible at sea level. How high must one live to maximize acclimatization? An altitude of 2500 to 2800 meters maintains a balance between stimulating erythropoietin and minimizing the effects of acute mountain sickness that occur with increasing frequency at higher elevations. How long should one live at altitude to maximize benefits?? At least 3 to 4 weeks. How long will the acclimatization effects last? Based on actual performance studies, 2 to 3 weeks at most before they begin to reverse. And the optimal training altitude? Although this should be individualized as some athletes do quite well maintaining a high VO2 max training at high altitudes, the general rule is to train as close to sea level as possible, preferably below 1500 meters. So it is the balance between acclimatization and deconditioning that gives the personalized answer for each individual athlete. A few can maintain a high training VO2 max. even while training at altitude enabling them to live at altitude and train there as well. But the vast majority need to descend to train several times a week or face a competitive disadvantage from deconditioning. THE BOTTOM LINE Altitude can be used to improve sea level performance. But it needs to be used correctly. Its advantages are related to acclimatization effects i.e. an increase in the red cell mass from 2 to 3 weeks at altitude. The same benefits could be gained from using injections of erythropoietin if it were not a banned substances (and one with some health risks as well from overzealous use and exceedingly high hematocrits). Blood doping has the same effects. And it has been suggested that living (or sleeping for more than 12 hours a day) in a high altitude chamber or using nitrogen houses as the Scandinavians have proposed (and utilized) may have the same beneficial effect. But to maximize the benefits of the altitude effect, training (i.e. absolute VO2 max.) needs to be maintained at sea level values. Some athletes can train at altitude and pull this off, but the majority need will need to do interval training at least twice a week at sea level oxygen levels to avoid the offsetting disadvantages of deconditioning.
  22. 22. Altitude effects on performance are a complex issue, but are best summarized in the simple phrase: LIVE HIGH, TRAIN LOW. Is there any way to avoid the hassles of traveling to a lower elevation to train - gaining the advantages of the hypoxia of altitude to acclimatize during the majority of your day (and while sleeping at night) while maintaining a high level training program? The scandinavians reportedly live in a "nitrogen" house which lowers the ambient oxygen level during sleep and the portion of the day they spend there (and training is as easy as stepping out the door), while others have suggested sleeping in an altitude chamber. Another option that seemed to make sense to the author was living at altitude and using supplemental oxygen while training to raise the amount of oxygen available to the alveoli in the lung. This question was addressed to Dr. Ben Levine who has done the majority of the work leading up to the high-low theory of training. His response: Dear Dr. Rafoth, Thanks for your note. You are absolutely right that an alternative to travel for high-low is training high with supplemental O2. In fact, this is exactly the tack taken by US Cycling and US Swimming at Colorado Springs. It is a bit cumbersome, but as long as the workouts can be reproduced, will work fine. Ben Levine COMPETITION AT ALTITUDE What should an athlete do to prepare for competiton at altitude ? For endurance events, adequate time should be allowed to complete acclimatization - 2 to 3 weeks. The longer one waits, the more deconditioning of the VO2 max. that occurs. Returning to sea level to do interval training several times a week would be a definite advantage but is usually impractical. For sprints (400 meters or less) most of the energy for muscular activity is oxygen independent and acclimatization will not be of any benefit. And the lower air resistance at altitude will increase race times - that is why the 400 meter events were very fast in Mexico City in 1968 but the longer 1500 meter results were slower than at sea level. THE RECREATIONAL RIDER GOING TO ALTITUDE The major concern for this individual is Acute Mountain Sickness. The rider needs to accept that there will be an inevitable decrease in VO2max (see above) and no special training program that will blunt this effect of altitude on performance. Preventive strategies include allowing 2 days of acclimatization before engaging in strenuous exercise at high altitudes, avoiding alcohol, and increasing fluid intake. A high-carbohydrate, low- fat, low-salt diet can also aid in preventing the onset of AMS. Although slow ascent is the preferred approach to avoiding AMS, there are times when this is impractical (plane connections to the start of a ride, emergency situations). In those cases, there are medications available that can decrease the chances of developing AMS. Acetazolamide (250 mg twice daily or 500 mg slow release once daily), taken before and during, ascent is recommended by many physicians although dexamethasone (4 mg, 4 times daily) has been shown to be of equal effectiveness. And in one study, those on acetazolamide actually had more symptoms of nausea at low altitudes (where AMS was not an issue) than a placebo group.Nausea was not a problem for those using dexamethasone, and indeed a mild euphoria was often reported. The usual recommendation for both medications is to start 24 hours before going to altitude and then continuing for 48 hours after starting the ascent. By that time, normal adaptive mechanisms should have had time to take over. As dexamethasone is faster acting than acetazolamide, some authorities suggest taking the dexamethasone along, but starting it only when and if symptoms develop. As severe AMS is uncommon, this eliminates the inconvenience (and possible drug allergy or intolerance) of a medication that might not be needed.
  23. 23. Aging and Physical Performance There are two approaches to the relationship of aging and physical performance. Most athletes are concerned with the effects of aging on their own abilities to perform and compete. But for the nonathlete, the question is often whether physical activity can counteract or blunt the aging process itself. From that perspective, the answer is yes it can, and it has been estimated that 30% of all deaths from heart disease, diabetes, and colon cancer are related to inadequate physical activity. One study indicated that no more than 20% (and more likely less than 10%) of adults in the US obtain sufficient regular physical activity to have a measurable impact on their health and fitness levels. Is it safe to exercise as you age? If one uses common sense, the long term health benefits far outweigh any potential cardiac complications. One should avoid the extremes such as exercising above and beyond the level you have trained for, environmental extremes of temperature and humidity, and exercising when not feeling well. But even orthopedic injuries, which might be expected to be more common in the older athlete, do not appear to be increased with activities of moderate intensity and duration. EFFECTS OF AGING ON PHYSIOLOGIC FUNCTION Physiologic and performance measures peak in the late teens and 20s, and then decline with age. However they do not all decline at the same rate, and the rates of deterioration vary according to lifestyle (the old use it or lose it philosophy). Bones (osteoporosis) Aging is accompanied by a loss of bone mineral content. Aside from using calcium supplements to minimize bone loss, there is no support for a role of diet in preventing this natural process. On the other hand, there is excellent evidence on the benefits of regular physical activity to maintain muscle and bone structure. Muscular strength Strength levels for men and women are at their peak between the ages of 20 and 30. Without a regular exercise program, there is then a decrease in muscle mass from muscle fiber atrophy hat becomes particularly apparent at age 60 . However, this is a combination of aging effects on the muscle/ nerve unit AND a decrease in daily muscle loading. One study of men between the ages of 60 and 72 years, training with standard muscle resistance exercises, demonstrated an improvement rate equal to young adults. Another group of 70 year olds who had regularly trained from age 50, had a muscle cross sectional area equivalent to a group of 28 year old students. Neural function Reflexes do slow with age, but as with muscular strength, activity minimizes the effects. Active men in their 70s had reaction times equivalent to inactive men in their 20s. Pulmonary function Once again, there is a decrease in lung function with age that can be blunted with regular activity. These studies indicate that a lifetime of regular physical activity may retard the decline in pulmonary function associated with aging. Cardiovascular function • aerobic capacity declines twice as fast in sedentary individuals and may even plateau with a regular training program. • the maximum heart rate does decline with age • cardiac output also falls with age - partially related to heart rate, but also from a decrease in stroke volume But a group of active 45 year olds on a regular endurance exercise program, followed for 10 years were found to have maintained a stable blood pressure, body mass, and VO2 max. during the ten year period. HEALTH BENEFITS
  24. 24. Ben Franklin once said that the only constants in this world were death and taxes. The negative effects of aging on physical performance should probably be added to this list. However numerous studies have demonstrated the dramatic effect a regular exercise program (riding three to four times a week) can have on blunting the inevitable changes. • 41% less likele to die from heart disease • 58% less likely to develop diabetes And the training effect is so effective that the aging process may be held at bay for up to a decade or more. In fact, for any age group regular riders are 150% less like to die from all causes. NUTRITION AND THE OLDER ATHLETE Although there is a trend towards an increased percentage of body fat after age 30, there is good evidence that a resistance training program will minimize the loss of muscle mass, and good eating habits and self awareness will prevent weight gain. There are no special dietary needs for older athletes. However there is less "physiologic forgiveness" or latitude to skip the pre-event carbohydrate meal, and an increased sensitivity to major fluid shifts from sweating and inadequate replacement, but aside from this decreased tolerance for physiologic abuse, the principles of nutrition are exactly the same for all age groups. This includes vitamin, mineral, and electrolyte replacement as well as the use of ergogenic aids such as diet supplements and unusual food products. Breathing for Highly Trained Athletes Air from your surroundings is brought into the lungs during pulmonary ventilation. After being adequately warmed and moistened in the upper ariways (nasal passages, trachea, and bronchii) it ultimately moves through the bronchioles and alveolar ducts to the alveoli where gas exchange occurs - oxygen diffusing across the alveolar lining nto the blood and carbon dioxide out into the alveoli. The diaphragm muscle makes an airtight separation between the abdominal and thoracic cavities. During inspiration it flattens, increasing the space (and negative pressure relative to the atmosphere) in the thoracic cavity while decreasing the volume of the abdominal cavity (unless the abdominal muscle relax to offset this effect). During exercise, the intercostal muscles and other thoracic wall muscles (the accessory muscles of respiration) contract to aid the expansion (and increase the negative pressure) in the thoracic cavity. During expiration the opposite occurs in the diaphragm and accessory respiratory muscles, the thoracic cavity decreases in size, and air flows out of the lungs. With exercise conditioning, you will increase the amount of air that is regularly brought into the lungs each minute, and thus the amount of oxygen that can be extracted and delivered by the heart and vascular system to the exercising muscles. Along with the changes in the capillaries at the muscle cell level, this training effect allows you to ride longer and stronger without becoming anaerobic in your metabolism. RESPIRATORY MUSCLE TRAINING Would specific respiratory muscle training help the performance of trained, elite athletes?? Let’s see what the literature has to say. So what can we conclude from these studies? • Inspiratory muscle fatigue does occur with prolonged high intensity exercise and can be delayed by specific inspiratory muscle training (IMT). • There is controversy as to whether a normal training regimen adequately trains respiratory muscles to meet the needs of the activity for which the athlete is training. This
  25. 25. includes meeting the oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange requirements of the endranece athlete’s cardiovascular system, by providing adequate ambient air to the alveoli, as well as by decreasing lactic acid production from the repiratory muscles themselves for the appropriate level of respiratory activity. • The muscular capacity for pulmonary ventilation MAY limit physical performance in the highly trained athletes. • Preliminary research has demonstrated that inspiratory muscle training improves performance in highly trained rowers by some 2% more than a placebo group. Further studies should help to clarify whether specific respiratory training may improve the performance of the elite endurance athlete. WHAT CAN YOU DO? First, practice taking a deep breath. Typically during a normal breath we use only 10 to 15% of our lungs. And during exercise, we increase the rate, not the depth of our breathing. Although deep breathing is more work and uses a bit more energy, the pay off can be that 1 - 2% edge in a competitive situation. Here's 4 ways to make it happen: • Exhale more completely. If you exhale more completely, it is easier to take a deep breath. The usual rhythm is exhale to a count of 3 followed by inhaling to a count of 2. • Belly breathe. As you concentrate on deep breathing, you will push your diaphragm down and thus the abdominal contents out. If you are doing it correctly, your abs will expand more than your chest. • Widen your hand postion. A 2 cm wider hand postion will open up your chest and decrease the difficulty of drawing in a deep breath. • Synchronize your breathing. Try to synchronize your respiratory rhythm to that of your pedal cadence. Remember the 3:2 ratio of exhale to inhale. However a variation of pursed lip breathing focuses on the rhythm of respiration. Ian Jackson has developed a program, BreathPlay, which teaches skills in controlling ones expiration (and as a result inspiration) of air. He notes that ", athletes discover that pushing air out is a much more efficient way of meeting oxygen demands than sucking air in. They also discover how the active outbreath can bring powerful precision to any movement. The BreathPlay paradigm advocates using the active outbreath to setup a spinal stretch which is then released with the passive inbreath." It taps into the power of both "focus" and "hypnotherapy" to achieve performance gains. PURSED LIP BREATHING Does pursed lip breathing provide an advantage by creating a back pressure to keep the collapsing airways open? According to Frand Day MD ( "Back pressure to keep the airways open on exhalation is really only necessary in seriously diseased lungs (such as seen in intensive care units). This is not normally necessary in athletes whose lungs are functioning normally (asthma attacks aside, where purse lips breathing is of littlebenefit). Moving air in and out of the lungs is a simple matter of physics. The volume of air moved depends upon the anatomy of the airways and the delta P (pressure) between the alveoli and the outside. On inhalation the expanding chest tends to open the airways, somewhat reducing the delta p necessary to move the required amount of air but exhalation tends to close the airways, requiring a higher delta p, but pursing the lips does nothing to change the required delta p if the lungs have normal amounts of elastic supportive tissue that normally keeps the airways open. As stated before, this increased back pressure is most useful is seriously diseased lungs and I am not aware of any data to show it useful in normal athletes."
  26. 26. DECREASED LUNG CAPACITY WITH ENDURANCE EVENTS A recent report indicated that lung function tests of endurance athletes during "ultra" marathon sports events has indicated a progressive decrease in lung volume and expiration rates of between 5% and 20% ,commonly indicative of asthma related disease. These results were noted in various sports events including canoeing, running, skiing and cycling. It was postulated that these athletes exhibited symptoms of exercise induced asthma. Does exercise cause spasm in the lung airways in all athletes, not just asthmatics?? There is some evidence that endurance athletes may become sensitized to allergens (proteins that cam bring on an asthma attack) and other environmental toxins the longer they are involved in their sport. This may be why such a high percentage of elite athletes are on medications for "exercise induced asthma". But with exercise induced asthma (which is the same as any other asthma), vital capacity diminishes with even a few minutes of beginning easy exercise. In ultra endurance athletes, there is most likely another factor (something that would occur in everyone such as fatique or dehydration) causing lower lung volumes and muscular efficiency that slowly evolves as exercise continues. This still to be identified factor,not asthma, reduces vital capacity if the event was long enough and becomes the most logical reason why such a high percentage would show reduced lung capacity.