August 03, 2002

Building better marathoners by reengineering neuro-mechanics, blood chemistry, and brain waves.: Wired magazine's latest cover story documents Nike's efforts to help US marathoners' not suck wind (figuratively and literally), by having them live in houses that simulate high-altitude oxygen levels, train at sea level, run on vibrating platforms and get plugged into a host of machinery and software, including Russian brain-wave programs and high-frequency neuro-muscular stimulators. Will all this geekery succeed in giving the US some Kenya-level marathoners? Or just over-engineered losers? Let the punditry begin!

posted by worldcup2002 to extreme at 07:03 PM - 2 comments

Elite running is almost entirely genetic, there is a level that you can't reach with just training. The average individual will never run a marathon at a five minute per mile pace, no matter the training level. Typically individuals of the same age will have around the same maximal heart rate (220-age, and yes, I know this is somewhat of a myth, but work with me here). So let's say my max is 190. A genetically endowed Elite runner will have around the same at the same age, so let's give her 190 also. Now the difference starts to show in other areas. My maximal stroke volume (# of fluid ounces of blood i pump per beat) is around 3.5 (let's say). An elite athlete's is much higher, say 7.0. Their hearts can just naturally pump more blood than the average person. Well your maximal cardiac output is the stroke volume x heart rate. So I'm able to pump around 21 quarts per minute using the stats above. The elite runner really gains here, she's able to pump 41.5 quarts per minute! When you're running you have to deliver oxygen (via your blood) to those muscles to produce ATP (your muscles' "fuel" to simplify it). An elite runner is pumping much more blood per stroke and thus delivering more oxygen to their muscles, thus running faster and longer, etc. etc. The altitude training mentioned above has been used by a lot of athletes (well, not to the engineered extent written about in that article), and has proven very effective in some circumstances. However, the ability for the US to win some marathons is going to come down to genetics and steering the genetically gifted athletes to running and not other sports (haha good luck!).

posted by elsoltano at 08:59 PM on August 03, 2002

I've always wondered if sleeping in a hi-G centrifuge would result in increased cardiac output and muscle mass. Like the opposite of the low-G atrophy astronauts experience. Maybe Reebok can try that path.

posted by euphorb at 03:33 PM on August 06, 2002

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