Getting fit on six minutes a week

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As of September 2017, new Sweat Science columns are being published at www.outsideonline.com/sweatscience. Check out my bestselling new book on the science of endurance, ENDURE: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance, published in February 2018 with a foreword by Malcolm Gladwell.

- Alex Hutchinson (@sweatscience)

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Last summer, I wrote about a series of interesting studies coming out of Martin Gibala’s lab at McMaster University. The gist: you can reap a surprising range of exercise dividends in a very short period of time — if you’re willing to work very hard. The latest article in Gretchen Reynolds’ New York Times column tackles that same research, with the alluring title “Can you get fit in six minutes a week?

Surprisingly, the answer [SPOILER ALERT!] seems to be yes — at least to a certain extent, and with one key catch. As I wrote last summer:

There is a catch – the disclaimer at the end of the infomercial, if you will. To cram the benefits of an hour-long workout into a few short minutes, you also have to compress the effort you would have spent.

“That’s the trade-off,” Dr. Gibala says. “Going all out is uncomfortable. It hurts.” But at least with this approach it’s over quickly.

For most people, the smart approach is some sort of middle ground. Don’t aim for an absolutely minimal five-minute workout — but do throw in some high-intensity surges to maximize the time-efficiency of your exercise.

Core strength is more than just abs

THANK YOU FOR VISITING SWEATSCIENCE.COM!

As of September 2017, new Sweat Science columns are being published at www.outsideonline.com/sweatscience. Check out my bestselling new book on the science of endurance, ENDURE: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance, published in February 2018 with a foreword by Malcolm Gladwell.

- Alex Hutchinson (@sweatscience)

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Good article by Gretchen Reynolds of the New York Times on the difference between strengthening your abs and strengthening your core — and why it’s important:

“There’s so much mythology out there about the core,” maintains Stuart McGill, a highly regarded professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo in Canada and a back-pain clinician who has been crusading against ab exercises that require hollowing your belly. “The idea has reached trainers and through them the public that the core means only the abs. There’s no science behind that idea.” Continue reading “Core strength is more than just abs”

A four-day, 894-kilometre science experiment

THANK YOU FOR VISITING SWEATSCIENCE.COM!

As of September 2017, new Sweat Science columns are being published at www.outsideonline.com/sweatscience. Check out my bestselling new book on the science of endurance, ENDURE: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance, published in February 2018 with a foreword by Malcolm Gladwell.

- Alex Hutchinson (@sweatscience)

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Check out this Canadian Geographic article on a neat effort to learn more about the science of multi-day endurance running. It’s about a race called Blaze: Niagara Escarpment Race, a four-day, 894-kilometre relay from Tobermory to Queenston Heights. What’s unique is that the participants were extensively tested before and after the race — and even stopped to give frequent urine samples DURING the race!

For the past two months, the 20 elite endurance runners (10 members per co-ed team) participating have kept meticulous records of their training routines and diets. Elaborate pre- and post-race assessments of such data as heart rate, aerobic capacity, carbon dioxide production and muscle damage promise to reveal a host of escarpment-centric revelations, from the carbon footprint left by the runners and the number of heart beats and litres of blood pumped during the run to the caloric cost and the determinants of success, including age, nutrition and training.

The results of the study will eventually be posted at AdventureScience.ca and submitted to peer-reviewed journals. Should make for some interesting reading!

Tired brains, sprint supplements, and tunes that make you faster

THANK YOU FOR VISITING SWEATSCIENCE.COM!

As of September 2017, new Sweat Science columns are being published at www.outsideonline.com/sweatscience. Check out my bestselling new book on the science of endurance, ENDURE: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance, published in February 2018 with a foreword by Malcolm Gladwell.

- Alex Hutchinson (@sweatscience)

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The July-August issue of Canadian Running is on newsstands now, which means the latest “Science of Running” column is available online. Topics covered: why mental fatigue can slow you down as much as physical fatigue; how a supplement called beta-alanine can boost your sprint finish even at the end of a long race; how running compares to cycling and weight-lifting for building bone strength; what types of music boost performance; and the best pacing strategies for racing in the heat.

Of course, there’s lots of other good stuff in the issue, including (pardon the self-promotion) a feature I wrote on how running has influenced human evolution, and what it means for our current attempts to avoid injury. To whet your appetite, here are the first few paragraphs: Continue reading “Tired brains, sprint supplements, and tunes that make you faster”

Water, sugar, salt: the key ingredients in sports drinks

THANK YOU FOR VISITING SWEATSCIENCE.COM!

As of September 2017, new Sweat Science columns are being published at www.outsideonline.com/sweatscience. Check out my bestselling new book on the science of endurance, ENDURE: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance, published in February 2018 with a foreword by Malcolm Gladwell.

- Alex Hutchinson (@sweatscience)

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[UPDATE: See this post for a homebrew recipe]

New Jockology column posted here, on sports drinks:

If you’re an old-school type who thinks plain water is all you need, consider this puzzling fact: Rinsing your mouth with a drink containing carbohydrates will boost your athletic performance, even if you don’t swallow and can’t taste the carbs. [keep reading]

The column takes a look at which ingredients you need (and which you don’t) to keep you fuelled and hydrated during intense exercise. I’ve received a couple of e-mails already asking for recipes for “home-brewed” sports drinks. That’s an excellent question, and I’ll do a little research then post something in the next few days. In the meantime, if anyone has any recipes to suggest, please post them!