Wednesday, January 30, 2019

More Voodoo Placebo Effect: Your Mind, Your Genes, Diet and Exercise

An article in today's NY Times discusses a recent study which strongly suggests that what you believe about your genetic predispositions towards diet and exercise may have a bigger influence on how your body responds than your actual genetics. From the study's abstract: "...learning of one’s genetic risk may evoke physiological changes consistent with the expected risk profile," and "Effects of perceived genetic risk on outcomes were sometimes greater than the effects associated with actual genetic risk."

We coaches know that what an athlete believes about themselves, the program and the circumstances exerts a powerful influence on performance.  In medical research, the placebo effect has sometimes shown a more powerful clinical result than the actual medical intervention being studied. (Kaptchuk et al., 2009)

Maybe doctors need to think more like coaches, wherein the therapies they prescribe are presented as something along the lines of training programs which need to be "bought into" by their patients to be optimally effective. Even if a Rx'd therapy turned out to be mostly "sugar pills" in the end, who would be wrong if the therapy worked?

Kaptchuk, T. J., Shaw, J., Kerr, C. E., Conboy, L. A., Kelley, J. M., Csordas, T. J., … Jacobson, E. E. (2009). “Maybe I Made Up the Whole Thing”: Placebos and Patients’ Experiences in a Randomized Controlled Trial. Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry, 33(3), 382–411.

Turnwald, B. P., Goyer, J. P., Boles, D. Z., Silder, A., Delp, S. L., & Crum, A. J. (2019). Learning one’s genetic risk changes physiology independent of actual genetic risk. Nature Human Behaviour, 3(1), 48–56.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Get a Grip

 I ran across this article about grip strength a few weeks ago. It's an interesting piece. The gist of it is, grip strength has long been associated with robust health and that modern culture has contributed to not only our hand strength withering away, but actually altering the anatomy responsible for good hand strength.

Our arboreal ancestors needed grip strength to swing through the trees to hunt, forage and evade predators. Infant apes can hang onto their mothers for extraordinary periods of time because to survive they have to: evolution has selected for high grip strength. Even human babies have excellent grip strength.

One of my former athletes is a world class obstacle course racer. Her first year of racing she tore up the pro ranks because of her two superpowers: her grip strength/upper body strength (from rock climbing) and her elite distance running speed. If you fall off the monkey bars, or can't pull yourself over obstacles, you lose time and get penalties.

I suspect, though I have only my own observations to back this up, is that a lack of grip inhibits other expressions of strength. An interesting test of this is the Rolling Thunder dead lift handle that Iron Mind sells.

What I've found is, that when you reach the limit of your grip strength on this tool, your legs won't work, even though they may be more than strong enough. It's a bizarre sensation. This is why, I believe, that straps allow you to lift a heavier barbell than with a basic overhand grip: the grip is taken out of the feedback loop. If your nervous system senses the grip isn't up to the task, it will inhibit the effort.

Not only will improving your grip strength impact your strength elsewhere it just might improve your overall health and longevity. 


Thursday, January 10, 2019

Do The Opposite

As my favorite T.V. sitcom Seinfeld (1989-1998) fades into obscurity and ever harder to find reruns, more and more I notice life imitating Seinfeld.

One example is episode 21 of the 1994 season called the "The Opposite." Over lunch, in the midst of what could usefully be called a teachable moment, Jerry, asserts to his hard luck friend George Costanza, "If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right."

We know from many studies in sports psychology that athletes who get correction cues which promote a desired action get better results than athletes who get cues to stop doing an incorrect action. We call this positive coaching. Often, in my experience at least, these positive coaching cues are instructions to simply do the exact opposite of the incorrect movement the athlete has been doing.

So if you are having trouble adhering to your New Year's resolutions or you just can't seem to break a bad habit or lose that last (or first) 10lbs and everything you know or have been told to do just hasn't been working for you, maybe it really is as simple as this:

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Katja the Great

Here is a very nice blog post about our own Katja Stokley from fellow Barbell Strategy sports performance member,  Rojas Athletics sprinter and photographer extraordinaire Dave Albo. 
"From my perspective it is important to recognize that it is not appropriate to call someone inspirational for just living an everyday life. Woo-hoo, I got out of bed, got dressed, and managed to go to work! That is not inspirational. But what is super important to me is to be visible doing things that most people (disabled or able bodied) don't expect disabled people to do. The biggest hurdle to becoming active (and "active" might mean getting dressed, or it might mean going to the Paralympics) is getting over one's own belief that it cannot be done. After that, it's really just logistics." -Katja