NEW WORLD RECORDS IN LONG-DISTANCE RUNNING: PHYSIOLOGICAL OR TECHNOLOGICAL?

Photo by MIguel A Amutio (Unsplash)

Since the introduction of the first carbon fibre plate (CFP) shoes by Nike in 2016 we have seen most of the long-distance running world records (WR) beaten. Another recent example would be the 42 runners that broke the 2h 10 minutes barrier in the Lake Biwa Marathon in Japan.

World Athletics (WA) ruled in 2020 that sole thickness should be lower than 40 mm (or 25 mm for spiked shoes), has a maximum of one rigid carbon plate and be on sale for at least 4 months before competition.  Later, an amendment was approved allowing prototype shoes to be worn in international competitions upon approval of the shoe specifications by WA.

A new article has tried to answer the following questions:

  • Have these sudden improvements in performance been physiological, or only a consequence of shoe technology?
  • Would WA regulations be enough to keep the competition fairness?

 

Key points

CFP shoes offer savings of up to 4% in running economy that can lead to 2% faster times in running events. This performance improvement would be similar to that expected from various doping agents prohibited by the World-Anti Doping Agency (WADA), such as EPO.

But attention should also be given to potential injuries. A higher risk of injury could be linked to a lack of foot stability. Don´t forget that these shoes require some time for adaptation, and that Kenenisa Bekele claimed that this instability injured him before his 2020 London Marathon.

Similar situations with technological advances have happened previously. In 2009 the International Swimming Federation had to modify its rules and ban the full-body swimsuits after a series of WR were broken in a very short period of time.

But there examples also in athletics. In 1968 consecutive WR in the 200 and 400 metres using 68-spikes shoes lead the IAAF to ban this technology. So many spikes allowed for a better grip and stability on the racetrack.

 

Conclusions

  • New rules from World Athletics seem inadequate: shoe technology should not be the primary determinant of sporting performance.
  • A potential solution should be to limit the stack shoe height to 20 mm, instead of the current 40 mm, thus limiting the role of shoes on running performance.

 

Bibliography

Recent Improvements in Marathon Run Times Are Likely Technological, Not Physiological. Muniz-Pardos, B., Sutehall, S., Angeloudis, K. et al. Sports Med 51, 371–378 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-020-01420-7

30 YEARS OF RUNNING

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A distant day of February 1991, when I was 15 years old, I put on some running shoes and went running for the first time of my own free will. I specify the “of my own free will” because I had to run in the Gymnastics subject, something that I hated. And I only started running after failing to pass it. At that time, little did I suspect the “vice” I was getting into.

At first, I only run a couple of days a week to the park near my house, the Ribera de Castilla, which offered a varied terrain. Running is a rewarding sport, especially when someone starts from scratch, and I quickly moved from being the typical “package” in endurance tests to passing the Cooper test without problems.

I had always been the typical chubby, laid-back boy who disliked any physical activity. My parents had already tried various sports with me, such as basketball, although with little success. However, I failed Gymnastics for September, and I continued training through the summer, with my sights set on the Cooper test and the horizontal and vertical jump tests.

Once I passed the course, and no longer out of necessity, I continued running. I found in it a way of enjoying personal freedom and overpass my insecurities.

After finishing high school, I was declared “unfit” for military service. My amorphous little fingers did not make me suitable “for running.” Incongruence that only gave me more wings to keep on running.

In 1992 I made my debut in competition, directly in the half marathon of my hometown, Valladolid. I finished in one of the last positions, but I would repeat the following year, with similar fortune. A race that I have run many times over the years.

After these races many others would come, of varying distances, before climbing one more step, with my marathon debut in 2000 at MAPOMA in Madrid.

Having overcome the distance of Philippides with respect, I continued running 1 or 2 annual marathons until 2004. I changed jobs, friends, and country, but running was the constant that guided me, although I would not return to the marathon until 2009.

Again, I went from the typical double annual training cycles, to unleash the “marathon fever”, first in search of 25 marathons, then 40…  and so on.

In 2020 I was counting on reaching 100 marathons, but the coronavirus emerged and wiped out every sports calendar. After so many years without stops, except for those short ones forced by flu or colds, confinement brought a new challenge. Although you could always improvise a small course in the kitchen…

After the lockdown, the feeling of running free was unmatched. With no “official” races in sight, the “clandestine” marathons have appeared, although the races are seen with different eyes, still immersed in this situation.

I guess I will reach 100 marathons in 2021, although it is not something that matters so much anymore.

Running gave me everything, without asking for much in return.

I just want to keep running healthy for at least another 30 years. If the time comes, I hope it takes me running. I couldn’t ask for a better ending… there is no poison comparable to the loneliness of a long-distance runner.

Thanks for reading.

EXERCISE AND CARTILAGE REGENERATION THERAPIES IN OSTEOARTHRITIS

Photo by Todd Cravens (Unsplash)

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is the eleventh cause of disability worldwide, and its prevalence only increases as the age and weight of population increase.

It is a complex disease, with a high level of genetic contribution (40-80%), that involves alterations of the entire joint at the level of the cartilage, bone, synovium (membrane covering the joint), ligaments, and periarticular muscles.

The most affected joints are the knee, hand, and hip, being most common in the elderly (especially women), and people with overweight and traumatic joint injuries (often work-related).

 

The cartilage

Articular cartilage is composed of tissue fluid (65-85%), type II collagen (15-22%) and a special type of proteins, the proteoglycans (4-7%).

The predominant cells of the cartilage are the chondrocytes, responsible of replacing the damaged tissue, although there are also mesenchymal stem cells, potentially useful for cell transplantation treatments.

 

Exercise and cartilage regeneration treatments

World Health Organization recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate physical exercise per week for adults. Thus, regular exercise of moderate intensity is important for skeletal health and one of the key treatments for osteoarthritis.

Among the other regenerative treatments for osteoarthritis are those that use mesenchymal stem cells derived from the bone marrow. They are used in the form of cell implants or injections on the joints, where they turn into chondrocytes and help to repair cartilage

Besides the treatments with stem cells there also implants of autologous chondrocytes, that can be of two different types:

  • Autologous Chondrocytes Implant (or ACI): chondrocytes are taken from healthy cartilage (not subjected to heavy use), cultured, and injected in the joint.
  • Matrix Autologous Chondrocytes Implant (or MAC): chondrocytes are incorporated in a matrix structure, that acts as a “scaffold”. This matrix can incorporate specific genes to increase the production of growth factors and help in restoring cartilage tissues.

 

Conclusions

  • Exercise performed by donors and recipients of mesenchymal stem cells and chondrocytes improves the efficacy of the cartilage reparation treatments.
  • Progressive exercise rehabilitation programs should be implemented at early stages post-transplant.

 

Bibliography

Exercise as an Adjuvant to Cartilage Regeneration Therapy. Smith JK. Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Dec 12;21(24):9471. doi: 10.3390/ijms21249471.

Knee 3D structure

TRANSGENDER WOMEN IN SPORTS: A PHYSIOLOGICAL APPROACH

Photo by Photoholgic (Unsplash)

A very recent article has gone through the latest physiological reports about transgender women trying to reach a consensus that would support their inclusion, or exclusion, in the female category.

Performance in sports is affected by many physiological factors, that vary between disciplines but also between male and female participants: muscle force, power capacity, anthropometry, cardiorespiratory capacity, or metabolism, among others.

Besides the gender distinction into male and female categories many sports also include classes based on weight and/or age. The reason behind these categories is to allow participants to compete in equal terms of fairness, safety and inclusivity.

But what happens with transgender persons, whose biological sex is different than their gender identity? Regarding the transgender women the IOC determined that they could compete in the female category if suppressing their testosterone levels below 10 nmol/L for at least 12 months before competition. Let´s see this with more detail.

 

Performance differences Male vs. Female

Before puberty there are no significant differences in athletic performance between males and females. At puberty testosterone levels in males increase greatly to reach a concentration 15 times higher than in females. This increase in testosterone induces anatomical changes, such as reduced fat mass, accompanied with increases in muscle mass, force, haemoglobin levels (12% higher) and cardiovascular and respiratory functions.

In elite sports there are only a few sporting disciplines where males do not have performance advantage over females. The performance gap would vary according to the discipline from 11-13% in rowing, swimming or running to a 18% in jumping events, or higher than 20% in sports with important upper body contributions. In comparison men have stronger upper bodies (and longer arms) while women have stronger lower bodies.

Among non-elite individuals, differences were still there, with males presenting 57% greater muscle size or 162% greater power punch than females.

 

Effects of 1 year of testosterone suppression therapy in transgender females

  • Testosterone levels were reduced to 1 nmol/L, well below the limit imposed by IOC (10 nmol/L).
  • Thigh muscle area decreased 9%, and an extra 3% after 2 more years of therapy, although muscle size never went down to female levels.
  • No changes in bone mineral density or skeletal measurements (bones length and hip width) were reported.
  • Haemoglobin levels decreased by 11–14%. Considering that haemoglobin is 12% lower in females than in males, transgender women would suffer a “penalisation” of about 2-5% in their oxygen transport capacity, and therefore in their aerobic capacity when compared with the female population.

 

Conclusions

  • Superior anthropometric, muscle mass and strength parameters achieved by males at puberty remain with testosterone suppression, making impossible to completely close the performance gap between male and females.
  • The residual advantage of transgender women raises concerns about the fairness of competition, especially in sports where muscle mass, strength and power determine performance.
  • Using the levels of free circulating testosterone as the deciding factor for inclusion may be unsuitable. World Athletics recently lowered the limit levels of circulating testosterone to 5 nmol/L, and 1 year of suppression therapy already had brought them down to 1 nmol/L.
  • Sporting regulatory organizations should reassess their policies for inclusion of transgender women, according to the sport and on an individual basis, ensuring inclusivity, competition fairness and safety for all participants, regardless of their sexual identity.

 

Bibliography

Hilton, E.N., Lundberg, T.R. Transgender Women in the Female Category of Sport: Perspectives on Testosterone Suppression and Performance Advantage. Sports Med (2020).

https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-020-01389-3

Photo by Sharon Mc Cutcheon (Unsplash)

Film + Interview: PRE´S PEOPLE (2021, Travis Johnson & Brad Jenkins, 127min)

“To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.”

Steve Prefontaine

“Legacy lives beyond the individual.”

Phil Pursian, Pre´s trainer during high school

 

A new documentary has been released on January 25th to commemorate what would have been Steve Prefontaine´s 70th anniversary. Available in Vimeo, the link is included at the end of this post.

A well-known US athlete, Steve Prefontaine, or Pre as he was commonly known, deserved this documentary focused on his early years in high school, the Marshfield High School (MHS). His early tragic departure, when he was only 25, deprived us of the runner about whom legendary coach Bill Bowerman wrote “He will become the greatest runner in the world”.

This documentary brings back his figure for a new generation of runners all over the world.

We had the chance to interview Travis Johnson (TJ) and Brad Jenkins (BJ), executive producers of “Pre´s People”, and graduates themselves from Marshfield High School in 1981, the same high school which Pre attended in Coos Bay and where he started his successful running career.

The interview

Hi, you both and thanks for agreeing to do this interview. We have really enjoyed watching Pre´s People. As the title says, you have focused the documentary on Pre´s “people”. Under this definition you have included his fans, friends, rivals, coaches and so on, and the effects that his figure still has on his native town of Coos Bay, Oregon.

 

When did you start thinking about making this documentary?

BJ: The beginning thoughts began in 2010.

TJ: Brad found a poster from a track invitational with runners from Finland that Pre himself had put together. He shared some copies of the track meet poster and from there people were telling cool stories about Pre. That’s when Brad approached me to help put together a fresh new documentary with the angle of focusing on Pre’s Coos Bay roots…something that hadn’t been done before

 

We have seen that it has been a very long process in the making and that you launched two crowdfunding campaigns to finish its production. Was it difficult to get it completed?

BJ: Yes, the funding part was hard.

TJ: Yes. Most documentaries are passion projects. We were fortunate to find enough hard-core Pre fans that donated seed money through fundraising campaigns.

 

Did you originally plan to release it for Pre´s 70th anniversary?

BJ: The way things were going; we didn’t know if it would ever get finished.

TJ: No. We had a couple release dates prior to that in mind but weren’t 100% complete. It just happened to work out that Pre’s 70th birthday matched up for when we finished.

 

Were you born in the Coos Bay area?

BJ: I was not born in Coos Bay, but I arrived at an early age. The fun part is, I walked high school graduation with the same group I went to kindergarten with.

TJ: Yes, I was born and raised in Coos Bay along with my mother and brothers. Brad and I met in kindergarten and have been friends ever since.

 

We have seen the importance you have given to the influence that this community of hard-working people had on Pre´s generation in trying to excel in everything, including sports.

BJ: Sports are big at MHS. At the time, MHS was the biggest high school on the Oregon coast. We played the Eugene league. My Senior year MHS placed 3rd in state in basketball and came close to beating AC Green/Benson HS for the state title.

TJ: Pre’s attitude of “work hard and good things will happen” came from his parents and the blue-collar work ethic in Coos Bay. The people Pre and us grew up around were tough and hard-nosed, but also a tight community. Everybody knew everyone. Growing up on the coast you were around a lot of guys that worked in the woods and timber industry, plus commercial fishermen. These guys also had mental toughness…climbing tall tree’s to harvest; or risking their lives in the ocean to fish for salmon and crab. The other part to Pre’s success was the coaching staff at Marshfield. Some were veterans so they were like drill sergeants. Head track coach Walt McClure’s father was an Olympian, and both had run for the University of Oregon. So good pedigree.

 

You went both to Marshfield High School, and as we can see in a picture at the end of the documentary you also practiced sports. Did Pre influence you taking sports in high school?

BJ: It wasn’t just Pre, it was the Pirate program and high calibre coaches that wanted me to play sports. When you are a Marshfield Pirate, you are the hottest item in town.

TJ: Summer track programs at Marshfield was a big thing when we were kids. Our parents signed us up at an early age and we were exposed right away to great coaches who pushed for excellence.

 

You were lucky enough to see Pre running a few weeks before his death. Can you tell us anything about how you remember the town took the death of his most renowned figure? We saw in the documentary that it made headlines all over the press.

BJ: Coos Bay was devastated. On the day of Pre’s funeral, the whole school district shut down at noon. I rode my bike from elementary school to Pre’s funeral at MHS track, now called Prefontaine track.

TJ: I can remember cars lined up as far as the eye could see. The track stands were packed. It was very surreal… especially after just seeing him set a new American record in the 2,000 meters just a few weeks before. I believe that record still stands today!

 

This documentary excels in all its first-person interviews and a lot of unseen recordings from Pre´s high school years. Was it difficult to find and interview so many talented runners from Pre´s generation and his coaches, Walt McClure and Phil Pursian? We are still amazed of seeing the original training records of Pre in your film.

BJ: Yes, so were we. We called it the “Pre bible”. Coach Pursian was the holy grail Pre interviewee. We are still surprised that he was never interviewed by any another Pre´s production.

TJ: We were fortunate in that Brad’s dad, Tom Jenkins, used to be the Athletic Director for Marshfield. So, he was instrumental in helping us locate a lot of folks in our film. Coach Pursian has a room at his home completely dedicated to cool things about his time coaching Pre. Pursian shared his personal coaching logs of Pre and other athletes of that era; memorabilia that Pre gave him; and a lot of old photos never seen before. We struck gold with that visit.

BJ: I also liked the scene when we ran into Mo Farah at the pancake house in Eugene, what are the odds of that happening?

TJ: We were able to capture several surprise moments that were special because a lot of these guys haven’t seen each other since high school… some 40-plus years later!  For example, Pre’s teammates hadn’t seen Coach Pursian and two of Pre’s biggest competitors in high school saw each other for the first time in decades too!

BJ: And McClure, it was a stroke of luck we found him at a MHS fund raising event. We got a quick interview with him and he has since passed away. On that sad note, three other interviewees have also passed since we began filming “Pre’s People”.

 

Do you think that as much Coos Bay and Marshfield High School influenced Pre, his legacy has also influenced them both?

TJ: So, the question is, did Pre influence Coos Bay and Marshfield? Not sure, but Pre put Coos Bay on the map. Anytime I tell someone I’m from Coos Bay, they ask is that the town that runner is from.

BJ: I think that Pre’s examples of tenacity and work ethic has been passed to a new generation of runners in Coos Bay. The cool thing is long distance runners today train on the same hills, beaches and sand dunes that Pre did. Some have said “it feels like he’s out there with us”. How lucky these runners are to be able to literally run in his same footsteps. The rugged terrain of Coos Bay would make any runner tough!

 

As we finished watching the documentary, we feel that there is more to tell. Would you like to film a follow-up focused on Pre´s later years? With so many streaming platforms it could be an interesting story, maybe to get in on time for Pre´s 75th anniversary.

TJ: Great minds think alike “Pre’s People 2” for the Tik Tok crowd, is already being discussed.

BJ: Maybe. Our goal now is to raise as much money as we can to donate to Marshfield’s track and cross-country programs as a way to say “thanks” to our community in Pre’s honour.

 

In line with the previous question… Did you watch the two films about Pre´s life “Prefontaine”, from 1997, and “Without limits”, from 1998? Did you like them? Maybe would be time for a new biopic on his figure.

TJ: Those are two great films. I’m thinking something like a box set with those two films, “Pre’s People”, and “Fire on the Track” is in order. We will get 30 Seconds to Mars to include a CD. And a Jared Leto autographed poster.

BJ: Yes. Those were fun films to watch…but again, most of it focused on Pre’s success at the University of Oregon and beyond. That’s why we’re so glad to have captured so many great stories from the people of Coos Bay… “Pre’s People.”

 

Thanks a lot for answering our questions.

We wish you good luck and a lot of success for your documentary.

Final notes

Pre was undeniably a talented runner that dominated the distances ranging from the 2000 to the 10000 metres between the late 1960´s and early 1970´s, breaking 14 national records and standing out in cross-country and track & field disciplines. His disappointing 4th place in the 10000 metres at the Olympics of Munich 1972 showed that he was also human, but his drive and perseverance gave him an undeniable deserved place as one of the most influential runners of modern history.

“Pre lives.”

 

 “Pre´s People” is out now on:

https://vimeo.com/ondemand/prespeoplemovie

 

For more information:

http://www.prespeoplemovie.com/

 

And twitter:

@prespeoplemovie

MARATHON OLYMPIC CHAMPIONS (XXVIII) – Sydney 2000: NAOKO TAKAHASHI (1972-)

“I would get up at 6:30 and run 50 km before breakfast. Then another 20 km. It was rough but I didn’t dislike it. I had to suck it up. I needed to cross that pain barrier” 

Naoko Takahashi 

Sydney won the bid to host the 2000´s Olympics against Beijing, Berlin, Istanbul, and Manchester. It was deserved for Australia due to its continuous support of the Olympic movement, as one of the few nations that had never missed an Olympic Games, along with Greece, Great Britain, Switzerland and France.

Thus, Games were scheduled between September 15 and October 1, springtime in the southern hemisphere to ensure warm weather. 199 nations were present, with the absence of Afghanistan, banned due to the Taliban regime, and the presence of 4 athletes of East Timor competing under the Olympic Flag as their country was still unrecognised.

Although the town of Sydney is hilly, marathon´s organising committee designed a point-to-point course, going from North Sidney Oval to the Olympic Stadium, with only a few hills and turns, and the last 500 metres within the stadium.

Women´s race was scheduled for September 24 at 9.00. Among the 53 participants were the previous two Olympic champions, whose victories we have already told, Russian Valentina Yegorova and Ethiopian Fatuma Roba. But more top-level runners were there, ensuring a very competitive race: for Kenya world record holder Tegla Loroupe and the double winner of both, the Chicago and London marathons, Joyce Chepchumba; Manuela Machado (Portugal), Lidia Simon (Romania) or Naoko Takahashi (Japan) to name only a few.

Naoko Takahashi was no strange to the marathon distance when she arrived at Sydney. She had debuted in 1997 in Osaka with 2.31.32, transitioning from a running career focused on the 5000 metres. On the following year she won Nagoya´s marathon, setting a new Japanese record (2.25.48), and subsequently became Asian champion in Bangkok with a margin of 13 minutes, while improving the national record to 2.21.47. She would miss the World Championships of 1999 because of a knee injury.

After the race started Marleen Renders from Belgium took the lead. Her advantage was 18s at the 5k, but only 3s when crossing the 10k in 17.16, with a big group behind. Renders´ attempt was over soon afterwards. Crossing the 20k (1.08.10) there was a group of 5 runners at the front, with Takahashi, her countrywoman Ari Ichihashi, Simon, Esther Wanjiru (Kenya) and Kim Chang-ok (North Korea).

From that point onwards the selection process began. First were Wanjiru and Chang-ok losing contact, followed by Ichihashi. At the 30k (1.41.39) it was clear that the victory would be decided between the two front runners, Takahashi and Simon. With 8k remaining Takahashi managed to leave Simon behind, although she was unable to open a big gap with her.

At the 40k (2.15.19) Takahashi was 28s ahead of Simon, who accelerated her pace and chased Takahashi more intensely. But it wasn´t enough and victory was finally for Takahashi, who got the first gold medal ever in athletics for Japan.

Takahashi´s time of 2.23.14 improved the Olympic record established by Joan Benoit in Los Angeles 1984. Simon finished second in 2.23.22, the shortest difference in the women´s Olympic marathon, thanks to her strong finish. Third was Chepchumba in 2.24.45. As for the previous Olympic champions, Roba only finished 9th, while Yegorova abandoned after the 15k mark.

The victory of Takahashi made her a celebrity in Japan, although she continued running marathons with great success. In 2001 she became the first woman in breaking the 2.20.00 barrier, thanks to her victory in Berlin (2.19.46), although her record was short-lived because Catherine Ndereba broke it in Chicago one week later. She won again in Berlin in 2002, and also Tokyo 2003, but failed to qualify in the Japanese team for the Olympics of Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008. After this latest disappointment she retired.

Regarding the other runners in the podium, Lidia Simon became World Champion in Edmonton 2001 (2.26.01), appearing again in the next 3 Olympic Games, bringing her total number of Olympic marathons to 5! A long Olympic career defending the Romanian flag going from 1996 to 2012. As for Chepchumba, she managed to add the marathon of New York 2002 to her other important victories.

And that was everything for the women´s marathon. In our next post in the series we will revisit the men´s race, where Gezahegne Abera brought a new Olympic gold medal to Ethiopia.

Thanks for reading, and don´t forget to follow us or subscribe if you don´t want to miss our posts.

 

Sources:

https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naoko_Takahashi

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2000_Summer_Olympics

https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olympische_Sommerspiele_2000/Leichtathletik_%E2%80%93_Marathon_(Frauen)

“The Olympic Marathon”, DE Martin & RWH Gynn. Human Kinetics, 2000.

Sydney 2000 Olympic Stadium

ACUPUNCTURE AS A TOOL FOR ALLEVIATING EXERCISE-INDUCED MUSCLE SORENESS: IS IT USEFUL?

Photo by Erdenebayar (Pixabay)

High-intensity exercise induces muscle soreness, especially with unaccustomed muscle work. Muscle soreness commonly occurs within 24 hours, reaching a peak between 24 and 72h after the exercise bout. It is associated with muscle swelling, inflammation, pain and weakness, factors that could interfere with daily activities, training and increase the risk of injuries.

Acupuncture is one of the best known traditional Chinese medicines and has been widely used to help recovery from muscle related injuries and muscle soreness.

A recent meta-analysis has investigated the literature in order to find if it is useful to prevent or alleviate the acute effects of exercise.

 

The results

From 32 potential articles only 6 complied with the inclusion criteria. They used a total of 210 healthy participants, aged from 10 to 40 years old (72% male, 28% female). The main results were:

  • Acupuncture alleviated muscle soreness rating, specially 24 and 72h after exercise.
  • The serum levels of creatine-kinase are used as an indicator of inflammation and muscle damage, as their levels increase after intense exercise. Acupuncture decreased levels of creatine-kinase 24, 48 and 72h after exercise.
  • No difference was found in the pressure pain threshold, defined as the minimum force applied which induces pain, between control or acupuncture-treated individuals.
  • Maximum isometric voluntary force was improved with acupuncture after 72h.

The results were limited due to the small number of studies, different acupuncture methods (needles and laser) and different application points.

 

Conclusions

  • Acupuncture seems to alleviate the delayed onset of muscle soreness and improve muscle recovery and performance after intense exercise.
  • The effects of acupuncture started from 24h reaching a peak 72h after exercise.
  • No adverse effects have been recorded to date.

 

Did you have the chance to include acupuncture in your recovery? Does it work?

 

Bibliography

Does Acupuncture Benefit Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness After Strenuous Exercise? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Huang C, Wang Z, Xu X, Hu S, Zhu R and Chen X (2020) Front. Physiol. 11:666. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2020.00666

Photo by Ryan Hoyme (Pixabay)

THE FIRST WOMEN OF SPANISH ATHLETICS

Early 600 metres women´s race

The dawn of Spanish women’s athletics can be traced back to 1929, when a few women in Madrid and Catalonia decided to make their way into a world until then reserved for men. In Madrid was created the Sociedad Atlética Madrileña, while in Barcelona appeared the Club Femení i d´Esports.

However, some years before, in 1887, there was already news of “walkers”. Among them, a 11 years old girl, known only as the daughter of the walker “Galayo”, had been able to win a challenge from Segovia to Madrid, separated by more than 80 kilometers, to two riders on horseback.

The first women’s athletic meeting took place in Madrid in 1929, organized by the Sociedad Atlética Madrileña. There were only 6 events, but the first national records would emerge here: 60 meters, height jump, weight, discus, long jump and javelin.

Two years later, on October 24 and 25 of 1931, the first Spanish Women’s Athletics Championship would be held in Madrid. It was a direct confrontation between the teams of Castilla and Catalonia, with a victory for the Catalans by 47 points to 40. The victory went back to the Catalan team in the 1932 edition, which was held in Montjuic, although only 4 athletes from Madrid attended. The championships of 1933 and 1935 only had the participation of Catalonia, while in 1934 they were suspended.

These early women competed in men’s clothing, and often in multiple athletic disciplines, as well as in other sports. The hammer throw category deserves special attention from this period, where Spain held the world best performance from 1931 to 1975 thanks to Aurora Villa and the Moles sisters, Lucinda and Margot. The 22.85 meters of the latter would be unbeatable for 43 years.

Then came the Civil War and Franco´s dictatorship, which saw women’s sport as something inappropriate. The role of women was to be limited to housework and having children.

Only after the creation bye Francisco Giner de los Ríos of the Instituto de Libre Enseñanza, which promoted schooling without distinction of sexes, were women able to return to physical activity.

It was necessary to wait until 1963 to have Spanish Women’s Athletics Championships organised again. A ban of more than 25 years had swept away the sports careers and dreams of many of these pioneers of athletics.

We leave only a brief note of some of them:

*Aurora Villa held the national records for height, length, javelin and hammer throw, as well as the 50-meter free-style swimming. In the first women’s national championships, she won 2 of the 9 events in which she participated, while in the second ones she competed in the 10 available, winning 3 of them.

**Margot Moles was the first female champion in athletics, and as we mentioned before, maintained the world best performance in hammer throw between 1932 and 1975. She also stood out in discus, where her Spanish record was valid between 1934 and 1964. Multifaceted also stood out skiing, where she was a national champion, which led her to the Garmisch-Partenkirche Winter Olympics of 1936 to compete in downhill and slalom.

***Nor could we forget Lucinda Moles, Rosa Castelltort and Joaquima Andreu, who with the previous ones were the first ones to enter a world reserved until then uniquely for men.

Sources:

Wikipedia and “The pioneers of Spanish athletics” by Óscar Martínez (Atletismo Español, February/March 2014).

Castilla Team, 2nd Spanish Championship 1932. Left to right: Aurora Eguiluz, Margot Moles, Aurora Villa y Lucinda Moles

MENSTRUAL CYCLE AND SPORTS PERFORMANCE

The number of women practicing any type of exercise has increased a lot during the last decades, not only as a way of doing physical activity, but also at professional level. Women competing in Seoul 1988 were a 26%, a percentage that increased up to 45% in Rio 2016.

Despite this rise in sports women numbers, research focused on them is still limited. Because of their anatomical, physiological and hormonal differences it should not be assumed that research on men could be applied to them, and it happens too often.

The menstrual cycle (MC)

The MC is a biological rhythm affecting women characterised by a cyclic fluctuation in hormones, specially oestrogen and progesterone.

It is divided in three phases:

  1. Early follicular, with LOW oestrogen and LOW progesterone levels.
  2. Ovulatory, with HIGH oestrogen and LOW progesterone levels.
  3. Mid-luteal, with HIGH oestrogen and HIGH progesterone levels.

Although the main function of these hormones is related to reproduction, research has found that they also have multiple effects in many physiological systems, including the cardiovascular and respiratory. Consequently, they should influence exercise performance too.

A recent meta-analysis investigated the changes in exercise performance during the MC phases. It included 78 studies (total of 1193 participants, 18-40 years old, healthy, not taking hormonal contraceptives), although only 8% were valued as “high quality” and 24% as “moderate quality”.

We point out its main findings.

Exercise performance across the MC

  • During the early follicular phase exercise performance might be slightly reduced when comparing with other phases, although with a big variance between studies.
  • The current knowledge does not support a general guidance on modulating exercise across the MC. A personalised approach should be followed, based on the individual response of each women, of special interest in elite sportswomen.
  • Future studies with better methodologies regarding factors such as training history or participants characteristics will help for a better understanding of performance across the MC.

 

Bibliography

The Effects of Menstrual Cycle Phase on Exercise Performance in Eumenorrheic Women: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. McNulty, K.L., Elliott-Sale, K.J., Dolan, E. et al. Sports Med 50, 1813–1827 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-020-01319-3

ACHILLES TENDON AND MARATHON RUNNING

Photo by Anne Nygard (Unsplash)

Regular moderate aerobic exercise, as running, offers many benefits, but it may also cause musculoskeletal injuries, often in the lower limbs. Among them, injuries on the Achilles tendon (Achilles tendinopathy) are one of the most common and challenging issues related to running.

Talking about running, the marathon is one of the most popular distances. It implies a series of repetitive cyclic movements whose cumulative load has effects on the Achilles tendon that are not clear yet.

A recent article studied ten male non-elite runners, whose tendon structure was checked with ultrasounds before running the marathon, and 2 and 7 days after the race. The main finding was:

  • The structure of the Achilles tendon did not change 2 days after the marathon. However, 7 days postmarathon, changes were identified at the insertion and midportion of the tendon. At this time postmarathon additional running activities had been performed, influencing the recovery of the tendon structure.

Although the study was limited because of the small number of participants and their variability, its main conclusion points out to the importance of an appropriate recovery period to prevent overuse injuries such as tendinopathy.

Don’t forget that rest is an important part of training, even more after running a marathon. Sometimes less is more.

Bibliography

Running a Marathon-Its Influence on Achilles Tendon Structure. Rabello LM, Albers IS, van Ark M, Diercks RL, van den Akker-Scheek I, Zwerver J. J Athl Train. 2020 Feb;55(2):176-180. doi: 10.4085/1062-6050-49-19.

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo (Unsplash)