This is not only a great question, it is also the title of a brilliant book from Ben Hunt-Davis and Harriet Beveridge.
Ben is a good friend and colleague at the British Olympic Association. We work in the same department with different roles but with the same aim: helping our athletes and coaches in their quest for Olympic success. Ben is an Olympic Gold Medallist from Sydney Olympics. In this book he writes about his story and how his team was able to win Gold. Most of all, describes the techniques used by him and his crew in preparation for the Olympics. It is a true description of the difficulties of working as a team to reach a goal and accomplish something great.
Ben’s story is brilliant because it shows how a pretty normal guy willing to put a lot of hard work into something can accomplish amazing things in pretty much everything. The Book is divided in 12 chapters. In each chapter there is the story and then a summary with some practical applications of the techniques discussed in the real life example of the winning men’s eight rowing team.
It is easy to read and easy to follow as well as packed with some useful and easy concepts to be applied in every activity. The main motto is the one making the title of this book. In fact, in Ben’s terms everything we do should always be questioned to make sure it impacts on the most important outcomes. In his example, everything was about making the boat go faster. Every activity was questioned and only the ones able to help making the boat go faster was implemented.
Working in high performance sport I can say that we are swamped with possibilities and solutions for our athletes. However we should always look at the impact of every activity (training method, technology, nutritional intervention, logistics etc.) on the end result. Most of all at the likelihood of a positive impact versus the effort needed to implement it. So, since working with Ben, I have adopted and use a lot his usual question in everything I do: “will it make the boat go faster?”.
So if you want to know more, get a copy of this book, I am sure there will be some useful lessons to be learnt and a great story to read.
A great, free, online resource on current issues in sports nutrition has just been published by the Annals of nutrition and metabolism.
This special issue has been edited by Professor Asker Jeukendrup and contains comprehensive reviews of specific aspects of sports nutrition.
The special issue is available here.
Great authors, great chapters and excellent content. Well done Asker!
Finally, our review on the role of Testosterone and Cortisol in modulating training responses in athletes has been published on Sports Medicine.
Here are the details:
Sports Med. 2011 Feb 1;41(2):103-23. doi: 10.2165/11539170-000000000-00000.
Two Emerging Concepts for Elite Athletes: The Short-Term Effects of Testosterone and Cortisol on the Neuromuscular System and the Dose-Response Training Role of these Endogenous Hormones.
Crewther BT, Cook C, Cardinale M, Weatherby RP, Lowe T.
The New Zealand Institute for Plant Food Research Limited, Hamilton, New Zealand.
The aim of this review is to highlight two emerging concepts for the elite athlete using the resistance-training model: (i) the short-term effects of testosterone (T) and cortisol (C) on the neuromuscular system; and (ii) the dose-response training role of these endogenous hormones. Exogenous evidence confirms that T and C can regulate long-term changes in muscle growth and performance, especially with resistance training. This evidence also confirms that changes in T or C concentrations can moderate or support neuromuscular performance through various short-term mechanisms (e.g. second messengers, lipid/protein pathways, neuronal activity, behaviour, cognition, motor-system function, muscle properties and energy metabolism). The possibility of dual T and C effects on the neuromuscular system offers a new paradigm for understanding resistance-training performance and adaptations. Endogenous evidence supports the short-term T and C effects on human performance. Several factors (e.g. workout design, nutrition, genetics, training status and type) can acutely modify T and/or C concentrations and thereby potentially influence resistance-training performance and the adaptive outcomes. This novel short-term pathway appears to be more prominent in athletes (vs non-athletes), possibly due to the training of the neuromuscular and endocrine systems. However, the exact contribution of these endogenous hormones to the training process is still unclear. Research also confirms a dose-response training role for basal changes in endogenous T and C, again, especially for elite athletes. Although full proof within the physiological range is lacking, this athlete model reconciles a proposed permissive role for endogenous hormones in untrained individuals. It is also clear that the steroid receptors (cell bound) mediate target tissue effects by adapting to exercise and training, but the response patterns of the membrane-bound receptors remain highly speculative. This information provides a new perspective for examining, interpreting and utilizing T and C within the elite sporting environment. For example, individual hormonal data may be used to better prescribe resistance exercise and training programmes or to assess the trainability of elite athletes. Possible strategies for acutely modifying the hormonal milieu and, thereafter, the performance/training outcomes were also identified (see above). The limitations and challenges associated with the analysis and interpretation of hormonal research in sport (e.g. procedural issues, analytical methods, research design) were another discussion point. Finally, this review highlights the need for more experimental research on humans, in particular athletes, to specifically address the concept of dual steroid effects on the neuromuscular system.