Hagg Lake to hoast 2007 and 2008 USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships

 Portland, Oregon to serve as host of 2007 and 2008 events
By Triathlete mag Interactive

August 18, 2006 — The 2007 and 2008 USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships will be held at Hagg Lake, just outside Portland, Oregon, USAT Executive Director Skip Gilbert announced today.

The 2007 event is scheduled for Saturday, June 30. The 2008 race date is yet to be determined.

The Age Group National Championship is one of the most competitive amateur triathlons contested at the Olympic distance (1.5km swim, 40km bike, 10km run) in the United States. Close to 1,000 athletes, representing all 50 states, compete each year for their chance to be crowned a national champion. This is only the second time the race has been held in the Pacific Northwest (Coeur d’Alene, Idaho in 2001 and 2002). The 2006 event was held at Smithville Lake outside Kansas City, Mo.

“In searching for the next great home for USAT’s National Championship in age group triathlon, we looked for a community that truly reflected the multi-sport lifestyle,” said Gilbert. “We found that and more in Portland. We are absolutely thrilled to be bringing the Super Bowl of our sport to the city and hopeful that the community will respond with the same level of excitement in welcoming our country’s best.”

Hagg Lake has a long relationship with multi-sport. In 1982, The Hagg Lake Triathlon, known for its scenic and challenging course, was one of the stops on the six-city Bud Light Triathlon Series Tour, which criss-crossed the country through the mid-90s and played an integral part in jumpstarting the sport of triathlon in the Northwest.

The winning bid was submitted by the Oregon Sports Authority, whose mission is to define the state of Oregon as the preferred location for select amateur and professional sports events. They have hosted events such as the 2005 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, FIFA Women’s World Cup Soccer and this weekend’s Dew Action Sports Tour, among others, bringing more than $100 million to the Oregon economy.

“We’re delighted that our nation’s finest triathletes will have the opportunity to compete within the majestic beauty of Oregon as we host the USAT Age Group National Championships,” said Drew Mahalic, executive director of the Oregon Sports Authority. “We anticipate that these Championships will set a new standard of excellence in athletic performance and satisfaction among the triathletes. We are honored that USAT selected the Oregon Sports Authority to serve as the host.”

The event will once again be the sole qualifier for ITU World Championships. The 2007 Worlds are scheduled for September 1-2 in Hamburg, Germany. The top 16 in each age group will qualify.

2005 results for Hagg Lake Triathlon.

Key run sessions to hone your speed

By Cliff English

August 9, 2006 — You spent a large portion of the off-season and pre-season phases building a sound aerobic base and boosting your strength. Now, in the competitive phase, you need to shift your focus to tempo and race-pace run training. Below, we present a few key run sessions you can begin five weeks out from your goal race (assuming you will also include a two-week taper).

If you have never run on a treadmill, I suggest you try this (in lieu of hitting the track) for a few of the below run workouts. The treadmill allows you to accurately dial in your pace while allowing you to monitor vitals such as heart rate, speed and cadence — all in a controlled environment.


Week 1

Fartlek session: 40-55 minutes

Cadence brick: 30 minutes

Recovery/Technical session

Tempo: 65 minutes

Aerobic base-builder: 75 minutes

·         15-minute warm-up

·         2-4 x 90 seconds at AT with 90 seconds easy recovery

·         60 seconds at > AT with 60 seconds easy recovery

·         30 seconds at > AT with 30 seconds easy recovery

·         1-minute easy jog

·         Speeds for 90-, 60- and 30-second segments should increase as duration shortens

·         12-minute cool-down


·         After a bike session do…

·         3-5 x 3 minutes at 94-plus cadence at tempo effort. Jog 2 minutes easy between work intervals

·         10-minute cool-down

·         10-minute warm-up

·         10 minutes drills and strides

·         10-minute cool-down

·         This can be done in a grassy field

·         15-minute warm-up

·         4-8 x 30-second accelerations with 75 seconds easy after each work interval

·         5 x 5 minutes @ 10K pace with 2 minutes easy jog after each work interval

·         10-minute cool-down

·   Cut back on the duration of the long run and increase the effort a little for this session

·   15-minute warm-up

·   30 minutes at aerobic base pace

·   15 minutes at half-marathon pace

·   15-minute cool-down


Week 2

Intervals: 50 to 65 minutes

Cadence brick: 30 minutes

Recovery/Technical session

Tempo: 65 minutes

Aerobic base-builder: 80 minutes

·         15-minute warm-up

·         5-8 x 2.5 minutes with a 1.5-minute recovery jog after each effort

·         Efforts should be at 5K race pace

·         15-minute cool-down


·   After a bike session do…

·   3-4 x 3 minutes at 94-plus cadence at tempo effort. Jog 1 minute easy between work intervals

·   10-minute cool-down


·       10-minute warm-up

·       10 minutes drills and strides

·       10-minute steady-state effort on trails

·       10-minute cool-down

·          15-minute warm-up

·          4-8 x 30-second accelerations with 75 seconds easy after each work interval

·          4 x 7 minutes @ 10K pace with 3 minutes easy jog after each work interval

·          10-minute cool-down

·            Cut back on the duration of the long run and increase the effort a little…

·            15-minute warm-up

·            30 minutes at aerobic base pace

·            10 minutes at half-marathon pace

·            5 x 45 seconds at 10K pace on 2 minutes

·            15-minute cool-down



Week 3

Intervals: 60 to 70 minutes

Cadence brick: 30 minutes

Recovery/Technical session

Tempo: 80 minutes

Aerobic base-pace mixer: 85 minutes

·         15-minute warm-up

·         6-8 x 3 minutes with a 2-minute jog after each work interval. Efforts should be at 5K race pace

·         15-minute cool-down


·           After a bike session do…

·           10 minutes at 94-plus cadence at tempo effort

·           20-minute cool-down

·       10-minute warm-up

·       10 minutes of drills and strides

·       15-minute steady-state effort on trails

·       10-minute cool-down


·          15-minute warm-up

·          4-8 x 30-second accelerations accels on 75 seconds

·          2 x 12 minutes @ 10K pace with 3 minutes easy after each work interval

·          4 x 3 minutes at 8K pace

·          2-minutes easy

·          10-minute cool-down


·            Cut back on the duration of the long run and increase the effort a little

·            15-minute warm-up

·            30 minutes at aerobic base pace

·            15 minutes at half-marathon pace

·            5 x 60 seconds at 8K pace on 2 minutes

·            15-minute cool-down
Until next time, crank it up and get the most out of your training!.

Training: Fast Driving- Learn To Run Without The Brakes On

This report filed – July 31, 2006
Joe Friel and Ken Mierke

What’s the easiest way to get a faster run? Stop slowing down. Sounds simple enough, but many runners slow their speed unintentionally by landing with a foot strike that is too far forward, causing the body to use more energy to regain acceleration during push-off. This habit is known as braking, and few runners realize just how much this inefficient tendency can affect performance-that is, until they learn to take the brakes off. But if you can ease upon your pedals and learn to change your stride mechanics, the payoff for good form is huge: more speed, less risk of injury and a smoother, more effective stride.

The Too-Far-Forward Foot Strike
Running form varies widely from person to person, but, across the board, reaching your lead foot too far forward before it hits the ground could be the worst stride-related habit to have. Most runners without previous gait instruction swing their lead foot too far forward after their opposite leg recovers in an attempt to try to lengthen their stride. But, instead of covering more ground with a longer stride, the practice actually wastes energy and puts runners at a greater risk of injury. 

When your lead foot first makes contact with the ground, your other leg is not in the proper position to provide propulsion; instead, your body must wait until it can glide over the foot before pushing off the ground. Swinging your lead foot too far forward forces your body to make up for an increased differential of having to meet your lead leg, a tendency that sacrifices precious energy and increases the time for turnover. In addition, the body also has to use more power to push off the ground to make up for lost acceleration.

Reaching too far forward with your lead foot also puts your extended leg more in line with the forward movement of your body weight, which can significantly maximize the stress to your body upon impact. When your foot hits the ground, your body mass is moving forward and down, and an out-front foot strike will lessen the optimal amount of deflection you need to minimize the impact of your bodyweight. Instead, by creating a small angle of displacement with a forward foot, your landing impact delivers a direct blow to your entire body. By moving the foot strike back underneath your hips, you give your body a greater angle of displacement, decreasing the landing impact and, at the same time, provides a better maintenance of momentum.

While moving your foot strike back may not seem like a complicated adjustment, the technique is much more difficult to implement than most athletes imagine. Most runners reach forward with their feet in an attempt to artificially lengthen their stride-but efficient runners increase their stride length by increasing the power of their push-off, not by elongating the range of their motion. If you watch professional runners in a race, you’ll notice how narrow the angle is between their legs. Even at high speeds, the foot of an elite runner never reaches too far forward, which dramatically limits how wide he or she can open the legs.

Changing Your Gait
The key to correct foot-strike placement is to learn to put your foot down earlier. During leg recovery, the lead knee drives forward as the foot swings out to catch up. Most runners straighten the knee too much, subsequently causing their foot to swing well past the knee. To correct this tendency, when your foot catches up to your knee, try to put your foot down much earlier than you think you should. Why? In all our research on efficient running technique, I’ve seen thousands of runners swing their foot too far forward before foot strike, but I’ve never seen a single runner put their foot down too early for a single strike. 

The most effective way to condition your body to land with your foot underneath your hips is to add form-specific drills to your training. To complete the following drill, start by running in place in a stationary jog as you focus on striking your feet beneath your body. Slowly transition to a forward walking movement before increasing your pace gradually to a slow running stride.

Practicing the technique at slow speeds forces you not to waste any momentum since you have to place the lead foot right beneath the body-when it’s this slow, you won’t be able to let the foot hover in your forward atmosphere. See our sidebar on the previous page for another stride-specific drill that also teaches proper foot placement.

A Little Problem Called Going Backwards
When you strike with a too-forward foot, your lead leg has a greater distance to travel backwards before it can push off and cycle back. This “backwards” problem means big inefficiency, since the tendency causes the muscles to contract in an effort to pull the lead leg back as your momentum slows. Subsequently, you’re forced to use more acceleration on push-off to make up for lost propulsion. 

Conversely, when an efficient runner strikes the ground, his or her foot is already moving backwards before the foot strikes the ground below the hips. Efficient runners swing their legs only slightly to the front of their hips, proactively pulling their lead leg backwards toward the ground before their foot strikes. The technique is more effective at maintaining fast speeds since it’s easier to accelerate your foot backwards when it’s un-weighted (i.e., before it lands) than when it’s already on the ground.

But learning to pull the foot backwards before foot strike is difficult to do at slow speeds. Instead, practice the technique at moderately fast paces. The key is to focus your concentration on the degree to which your body brakes. You’ll know you’ve reached success in pulling your foot backward at the right time when that sensation of premature slowing begins to diminish.

Improving your stride mechanics not only increases speed and efficiency, adopting proper technique also reduces impact stress and minimizes your risk of injury and the frequency of post-workout soreness. The next time you head out on a run, make a conscious effort to ease off the brakes: Your body can a better job at driving with proper running form.

Improve Your Foot Strike
All runners, even fast ones, can benefit by doing the following form-specific drill to train the foot to perform the technique properly, start by running on a treadmill at an exceedingly slow pace of one mile per hour (60 minutes per mile) as you focus on striking with each foot directly under your hips. Increase the speed by one mile per hour every minute until you either lose form or the technique at a faster pace. Such a drill may seem silly, but the workout is actually very effective-and who cares about silliness when the result is a faster run?.

Reed diagnosed with Cyto-Megalo-Virus


After 6 weeks of feeling extremely tired, more tired and more tired and dozens of doctors and bloodworks, I was diagnosed with CMV, Cyto-Megalo-Virus. I had been feeling really fatigued and thought I possibly had pushed the body too hard in training and took a couple of easy days after Nationals at the end of June. Only problem was I did not freshen up. I seemed to feel even worse and I had a round of blood work done, then guessing anemia. Problem was I eat red meat and I love it. So I was gonna be surprised if that was the cause. Something just was not right as each day my resting heart rate was high, and even going easy, my heart rate would jump up in the 99% for me.

I then had 3 days off leading into Edmonton World Cup hoping that would help and added an iron supplement and vitamins as a final hope. Well my day there was cut short due to a flat tyre on the bike, but I struggled in the swim and even on the bike to ride up. Kelly was on the phone with the doctor the minute we landed in Denver and we went straight to his office for more tests.

It was one evening when I was talking to my friend Joanna Zeiger and she thought her dad might offer some imput. He suggested we test for CMV due to our child being under the age of one. Children are the transporters or carriers of the virus and show no signs or symptoms. Lachey is 10 months and well, I was willing to try anything as I was getting depressed. This was the week after Minnesota, when I had fallen going into the water and could not recover to be in the race. I dropped out after the bike.

I was starting to realize that I could not train properly and that was really getting to me. I would head out for a ride and have to turn around and struggle home. I wasnt Matt Reed. I knew I had to head to Cornerbrook but I knew going in that my hematocrit was down to 38 and that was not a sign in my favor.

Cornerbrook was a bad move. I went backwards from the start. I then arrived home to find out I had to head directly to the doctor again. Diagnosis: Cyto-Megalo-Virus. Finally, things were making sense. Thanks Dad Zeiger.

Okay I had an answer. Yeah. Now I had to figure out how to deal with the virus. It appears that I had it in June looking at my training logs and most of the time the virus is a 6-8 week cycle.

I have been feeling better day by day and back to aerobic training. Soon, Matty will be back. In a big way I promise. Remember I am 6′5″!!!!

Thanks to all my buds for keeping my spirits up- Atko- thanks for coming to visit us in Boulder! H-Dogg- u da man! Willy Smith- thanks for the laughs, not the bad smells. And to my sponsors, Speedy Reedy on the Road again very soon.

Be safe, stay training and see you all soon.


Matt @ 9:36 pm


Hmmmm…I have been going through very similar symptoms this summer.  It seems that everytime I stress my body with the ‘usual’ work-out intensity, that I end up with a sore throat, fatigue, trouble recovering….

It’s been enormously frustrating! 

I assumed it was over training although I had some doubts as my motivation levels were still high and I had been getting some rest. 

I too had the bloodwork done, thinking maybe I was anemic.  When all my tests came back normal I was almost upset as this did not expaln what the heck was wrong with me!

It is a horrible thing for a triathlete to be stripped of his endurance powers…it creates an idenity problem and forces me to do what I hate…be lazy, lay around and rest all day. 

I am on some anti-biotics now, which won’t help if it is a virus but at least I can rule out a bacteria infection.  After my second ’10 days of rest’ in just over a month, I finally beat the lingering infection.  I hope it doesn’t crop up again the moment I start training at a moderate to hard level….

Kevin Everett.

Prevention and treatment of overtraining

 By Julian Quintas

Prevention is the best treatment for the overtraining state. Tapering the training regimen combined with rest, proper nutrition, and sleep helps the body heal. Recognition and treatment of OVERTRAINING is important. Periodization of training with enough recovery should prevent overtraining if other stressors and their influence on recovery are also taken into consideration. Periodization means that correct loads of training stimulus are administered followed by adequate recovery periods.

If the overtraining state persists in spite of all efforts to prevent it, effective treatment is needed. The best treatment is to rest and avoid sport-involving activities for approximately two weeks. After the resting period, you can start light training. Athletes should try different sports, refraining from the training modality and intensity that caused the overtraining state. Training should progress very slowly, with the pace determined by carefully listening to the athlete’s feelings.

Athletes should forget the past and concentrate on the future. Otherwise, they can easily start comparing their performance and feelings to the time before the overtraining state, inducing a neurotic attempt to recapture the previous feeling, This also happened to me once I started training again and after five weeks I was overtrained again. Professional psychological help is sometimes recommended for athletes who are seeking to overcome an overtraining problem.

Depression is one of the biggest psychological problems among overtrained athletes. Training history, discussions with coaches and other athletes, and a family history can help clarify this question. Overtrained athletes, however, should get therapy for depression as soon as possible because it can speed up the recovery.

Adequate nutrition is one of the most important background factors behind a positive training effect and is also very important for overtrained athletes. If the diet is balanced, additional supplements and nutritional modifications have not been proven to speed recovery. The most common deficiency, especially in female endurance athletes, is iron, zinc, and magnesium. Calcium deficiencies have also been reported in endurance athletes, especially those who deliberately restrict their diets. In those cases, supplementation is needed.

Adequate sleep is important during recovery. All additional stressors should be minimised. Travelling can increase tiredness, but in some cases, changing the environment and finding new hobbies can be good for recovery. Increased sexual activity may aid a recovering athlete, as it relaxes and modulates neurotransmitters beneficially.

Massage and thermotherapy (including sauna bathing) are widely used to speed recovery. However, if an overtrained athlete feels exhausted and phlegmatic (that was a refined word I found on the dictionary to describe unemotional disposition), it is better to refrain from these therapies for several weeks. Powerful massage is also a type of exertion for muscles and may slow the recovery process.

A good and simple strategy, in which athletes simply monitor their feelings of fatigue and reduce their training whenever lethargy persists for more than a day or two, unfortunately doesn’t work all the time. The problem is that athletes often report that they are feeling great on the day immediately before they slip into the overtrained state, again that’s something I have done before!

Fortunately, researcher Heikki Rusko has developed another way to check for overtraining, and the new technique is very easy to carry out. After working closely with elite cross country skiers, some of whom became over-trained during thirteen weeks of intensified training, Rusko developed a simple ‘orthostatic test’ which can often foretell the troubling condition. To perform Rusko’s test, you simply lie quietly for 10 minutes at the same time every day while monitoring your heart rate, which should stay constant during the 10-minute period, preferably in the morning when you first wake up. You then stand up and check your heart rate exactly 15 seconds after standing, and then again during the period 90-120 seconds after standing (a Polar heart monitor works best for this, although you could also manually count your heart rate). If you use a heart rate monitor, you should determine your AVERAGE heart rate during the period 90-120 seconds after standing up; for example, if your heart rate is 92 beats per minute 90 seconds after standing and 88 beats per minute 30 seconds later. The average 120-second heart rate would be 90. Rusko found that athletes often develop higher than usual standing heart rates shortly before they descend into the overtrained condition. Usually, the most severe changes are in the 90- to 120-second heart rates, which increased by more than 10 beats per minute for many of the athletes who subsequently overtrained. This rise in heart rate wasn’t sudden, however; it often took place over a period of about four weeks, giving athletes ample time to ease back on the training throttle. So if you use your heart rate monitor and a training log you could monitor overtraining and prevent it.

Why would such heart-rate accelerations be a warning sign for overtraining? Keep in your mind that pulse rate is controlled by the nervous system, and the nervous system is one of the first three systems to show signs of overtraining. Thus, nervous system irregularities show up as changes in heart rate, which you can monitor quite easily, without the need for expensive endocrine or immune system tests. You can do this with one of Polar heart rate monitors.

Another form of checking overtraining is to know your zones on your heart rate monitor. Lets say you know your heart rate is about 145 BPM while running 1km in the track (no hill so Heart Rate is more constant). You will know if you’re getting fitter when your heart rate decreases while running at the same speed or when your speed is higher at the same Heart Rate. One way to keep this controlled is to note down your average heart rate during training sessions. If you use your training log you can keep track of your progress and always go back to it to check what you progress is like.

Train Smart! Train Safe!.

The Overtraining Syndrome

by Dr. Phil Maffetone

A lot of good published research exists about overtraining. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of agreement on how it should be defined. I’d prefer a more clinical definition so it’s useful for all runners rather than a technical one that scientists can debate about.

Overtraining is easy to recognize in its chronic state when exhaustion, poor performance, depression and other clear problems are evident. However, it’s more important to identify earlier warnings about overtraining to avoid more serious problems later. I look at the full spectrum of overtraining which can be seen as three phases.
Overtraining comes with many potential structural, chemical and mental problems, often intermingled to create any number of diverse signs and symptoms. As such, calling this problem an overtraining syndrome may be more appropriate.

Most would agree that the overtraining syndrome is associated with too much training volume, and/or too much intensity. I think of overtraining as a state that occurs when there is an imbalance in my simple formula: Training = workout + recovery. Without proper recovery, including rest, even low intensity training may result in overtraining. By including recovery, factors other than training and racing, including any lifestyle stress, become part of the equation. For example, if your work hours are high and you don’t get enough sleep, it can impair training recovery.


By recognizing the earliest onset of this problem, it becomes clear overtraining is very common. Unfortunately, most runners won’t admit to being overtrained until the last stage. The first stage of overtraining may blend with the normal overreaching -a normal part of training where you ride slightly beyond your ability to force your body to adapt and improve. However, a fine line exists between overreaching and overtraining. If overreaching results in an injury, even a very minor one, or one not clearly defined (that elusive knee discomfort that comes and goes), you may have gone beyond healthy training into overtraining.

Other elusive symptoms may begin at the first stage of overtraining: fatigue, blood sugar handling problems (abnormal cravings for sweets and hunger, shakiness if meals are delayed), menstrual or other hormonal imbalances, mental/emotional stress or anxiety, slight dizziness upon standing, or elevating heart rate. While these symptoms may be due to other dysfunction, they often share some common denominators with this stage of overtraining.

Recognizing stage one overtraining may be more easily done by evaluating your aerobic training improvements using a heart rate monitor. For example, if you’ve progressed from nine minutes a mile at 150 heart rate to eight minutes a mile at the same heart rate, that’s good progress. But if suddenly you revert back to a nine minute pace, or slower, at the same heart rate, it typically indicates overtraining.

These early more subtle problems may not adversely effect your race. In fact, late in this first stage performance improvements, oddly enough, are sometimes sudden and dramatic improvement in race times. However, this also may mean the beginning of the end of your race progress as worsening time may follow.

The first stage of overtraining may also be accompanied by abnormal hormone levels, which are easy to measure. Cortisol, a key adrenal hormone, begins to increase, often only during certain times of the day or night. Reduced testosterone and DHEA may accompany the increased cortisol.

Any clue that overtraining has begun should be followed with an assessment of your training and racing schedule. Reductions in volume and/or intensity can usually quickly remedy stage one overtraining. Other lifestyle stress should also be considered and remedied as necessary. If overtraining is not corrected here, you may enter the second stage of overtraining.


This stage of overtraining is more recognized. Classic signs and symptoms include an elevation of the resting and training heart rate, and often aggravation of the symptoms from stage one.

Performance reductions are more evident in this stage, as are symptoms such as fatigue, feelings of depression and sleeping problems (typically, you fall asleep easily but wake in the middle of the night with difficulty getting back to sleep).

Hormone imbalance is now usually more dramatic, with an abnormally high cortisol and low testosterone and DHEA. This puts you in a catabolic state, making recovery much more difficult. In addition, immune system function is reduced resulting in more frequent colds, flu or other infections. Allergy or asthma may also be develop or exacerbate.

The second stage of overtraining can last a long time. If the problem is not remedied, typically through reductions in training and racing volume and training intensity, a runner may enter the third stage of overtraining.


This is a chronic condition with more serious physiological and psychological ramifications. Often, this includes a career-ending physical injury or other serious chemical or mental problem. In a sense, the body has given up its fight against overtraining stress. Hormone levels are abnormally low, with cortisol reversing its elevated levels. The sympathetic nervous system also is reduced as reflected in an abnormally low resting heart rate. Runners in this stage are usually not racing due to very poor performance and injury, with exhaustion and depression common. Going out to train is no longer fun. Even lactate response is low.

Unlike the first two stages, recovery from the third stage of overtraining is a much longer and more difficult process. Runners often have to cancel a whole season and focus on getting healthy, often with the help of a professional.
Recognition of the overtraining syndrome in its earliest stage is essential to avoid the anguish of this common and unnecessary problem. The remedy may be as simple as reducing training and racing volume, and training intensity. Not only can stress come from running, but other lifestyle factors can add to the overtraining syndrome.

Dr. Philip Maffetone practiced complementary sports medicine and applied kinesiology for over 20 years. His extensive background in biochemistry, kinesiology and exercise physiology has helped him train many world class and professional athletes. He has a doctorate degree in chiropractic and is certified in acupuncture. Some of the athletes he worked with include Mark Allen, Mike Pigg, Priscilla Welch and Lorraine Moller. Dr. Maffetone was named Coach of the Year in 1996 by Triathlete Magazine. His books include In Fitness and In Health and Training for Endurance, and he is currently President of the MAF Group, which publishes the Maffetone Report (877-264-2200, www.philsbar.com)..

Hard work, fatigue, overtraining…

By Richard Rafoth MD.

The feeling of fatigue that follows a good ride or workout tells us that we are pushing our physical limits, and is a necessary part of improving our personal performance. However, in certain circumstances, fatigue may also be our only warning that we are pushing too hard and indicating a need to back off or risk a deterioration in our abilities. This is a common dilemma in a personal training program: Hard work makes us faster, but how much is too much?

Four levels of fatigue are experienced by the regular cyclist.

   1. The fatigue (or bonk) which accompanies muscle glycogen depletion develops 1 to 2 hours into a ride unless we use glucose supplements to extend our internal muscle glycogen stores.
   2. The normal post exercise fatigue which tells us we are pushing our normal training limits and will lead to improved performance the next time out.
   3. The fatigue we feel at the end of a particularly hard week of riding ( really an extension of #2) that, with recovery, will also make us faster and stronger. Exercise physiologists refer to this as “overreaching”.
   4. The debilitating and long term (often lasting weeks and months) fatigue which degrades performance and is the most common symptom of overtraining.

Your challenge is finding your own individual boundary between overreaching and overtraining.

Cyclists seem to be one of the few groups of athletes capable of reaching the over trained level of fatigue. It has been speculated that this is due to the way cycling stresses the body with a concentration of muscle activity in a single muscle group – the quadriceps. And it isn’t necessary to undertake an extensive training program to be at risk. In fact it may be those working out sporadically and with light training schedules that are most at risk. While a professional cyclist might consider a 50 mile ride as part of a light recovery week, your 20 mile ride could produce all the symptoms of overtraining.

And several studies have suggested that overtraining may be associated with other health issues above and beyond a deterioration in physical performance. One study of Harvard alumni found a lower death rate (mortality) among men expending as few as 200 Calories per week in exercise versus those leading sedentary lifestyles, but when they routinely spent over 4000 Calories on exercise per week the death rate began to rise again. And two different studies have suggested a decrease in immune system competence with intense training (cycling 300 miles per week for 6 months or 2 intensive sessions of running per day for 6 days). But before you give up exercising completely, there is plenty of evidence that a moderate cycling program will actually stimulate and improve your immune system. The key is planning your own personal training program to occasionally overreach but not overtrain.

How do you know when you are in danger of overtraining? The following are clues which could suggest that an extra day or two of rest is in order.

   1. Resting heart rate. A resting pulse rate is done on awakening in the morning and before getting out of bed. An increase of 10% or 10 beats per minute for several days in a row is accepted by most coaches as a sign to slow down.
   2. Personality/disposition. While your personal demeanor is more difficult to quantify, it may be the most sensitive and reliable indicator of overtraining. Anger, depression, and a decrease in your sense of vigor have all been reported. You won’t need a psychologist to help you with this one. Your family and significant others are usually the first to point these symptoms out to you.
   3. Performance. A short, standardized time trial every week is another helpful tool. And the changes will usually be in minutes, not seconds. If you see a deterioration, take some time off and consider switching to another aerobic activity, keeping your heart rate below 70% of maximum. (A drop in your time trial maximum heart rate of 10 beats per minute can also be a sign of overtraining.)
   4. General fatigue. Ongoing daily lethargy is a clue that it’s time to slow down.
   5. General physical complaints. Sore throat, sore muscles, and chronic diarrhea all may indicate the chronic stress of overtraining.
   6. Disruption of your normal sleep cycle. Falling asleep easily, awakening abruptly, and then feeling like you need a nap at 10 AM all can reflect the change in your normal sleep cycle associated with overtraining.

Most training programs include at least one (and sometimes two) rest days per week as well as a day or two of easy spinning. This reflects the practical experience of coaches who have had to deal with the results of pushing too hard for too long.

Over reaching is a normal part of the training cycle, but if your performance is not improving after a few days of recovery, it’s time to switch to other aerobic activities which will keep you at 70% of your max. heart rate (to maintain your level of fitness) or risk entering the zone of overtraining which may take a month or two to recover.

How long do you need to rest? Studies have indicated that recovery from overreaching (and again this means keeping your general level of aerobic activity at 70% max. heart rate, not complete inactivity) may take up to two weeks with performance improving daily. The implication of this observation is that a 1 to 2 day taper before a big event may not be enough to perform at your personal best.

As in all aspects of personal training programs there is individual variability, so it is up to you to decide where to draw your own line. But remember that rest is a key part of any training program and may be the toughest training choice you’ll have to make.

And finally, don’t forget to pay particular attention to post exercise carbohydrate replacement. Part of the fatigue of overtraining may be related to chronically inadequate muscle glycogen stores from poor post training ride dietary habits..

Exercise Induced Immune System Suppression: Risk of Airborne Viruses

 Craig Angle ME.d, ME.d, ATC, CSCS

Research has shown that when athletes participate in athletic activity, their immune system suppresses for a few hours post activity and then rebuilds itself stronger during rest. This has proven that moderate intensity athletic activity enhances immune function. However, research has demonstrated that prolonged moderate intensity athletic activity (i.e. endurance sports) may temporarily suppress the immune system from 1-3 hours post exercise to as much as a week post exercise 1. It is at this 3 hour to 1 week period where an athlete will pose his/her greatest risk to infection by an airborne virus. Immune system suppression makes athletes susceptible to viral infection, especially airborne viruses. Airborne viruses can enter the respiratory system during athletic activity. This in combination with suppressed immune function, can enhance a virus’s likely hood of infecting an athlete.

In order for a virus to take affect it needs to enter the body. Viruses can be contained in tiny droplets of water or mucus in the air. Therefore, if the virus is to be successful, the droplets containing the virushave to be inspired into the respiratory tract. Otherwise there are few options for the virus to enter the body. Fortunately for us our respiratory system has a few mechanisms to defend itself. For instance, we have nasal hairs that catch and filter out particles entering our respiratory tract. Another mechanism is the ciliea and mucosal layer that line the trachea. They can aid in transporting collected particles out of the trachea and into the throat. From there the particles are either swallowed or coughed/sneezed back out of the body. Our body has other ways to protect itself but the two previously mentioned are particularly important to athletes.

Unfortunately endurance exercise may increase the chance of a virus entering the respiratory tract. At rest we have approximately 14-20 respirations per minute. During moderate exercise that number more than triples. Plus during exercise our inspiratory air volumes are much larger (i.e. deeper breathing). Therefore, the volume of air entering the respiratory system is greater when we exercise. This increases our exposure to airborne viruses because the more air we breath, the more air we move through our respiratory system that might contain a virus. Also during athletic activity we may come in contact with other infected individuals who are expelling viruses into the air via coughing and sneezing. In addition, high respiratory flow rates and a switch from nose to mouth breathing during heavy exercise may dry out respiratory mucosa. This causes the mucosa to become more viscous and impedes the ability of the ciliea to properly function. Thus, there is a decrease in the ability to trap and discard viruses in the respiratory tract. Notice also that during high respiratory flow rates athletes may switch from nose to mouth breathing. This takes away the ability of the body to filter the air via the nose hairs (i.e. you are breathing in through your mouth and not your nose). Therefore, by breathing through the mouth, we eliminate our first defense mechanism and introduce viruses to a direct path toward our lungs. Once the virus makes it past our defense mechanisms and enters the lungs, it is up to our immune system to fight off the infection. If our immune system is suppressed, it will be hard to fight off the infection.

Now you might be wondering, what you can do to prevent infection. There are many things you can do to prevent infection but first you must realize that you have and will come in contact with viruses. There is no way to get around it unless you live in a bubble. It is how you handle yourself outside of athletic activity that may play a large role in whether or not you become infected. The following are a few things you can do to prevent viral infection 1.

    * You should always get plenty of rest before and after activity. After activity you are more likely to catch an infection because your immune system is suppressed. Try to stay away from public places or at least areas where you will come in close contact with people for at least 3 hours after activity.
    * You should also eat a balanced diet. Nutritional deficiencies can cause impaired immune function. Consult with a sports nutritionist to learn how to eat a proper athletic diet for your sport.
    * Psychological stress can suppress immune function, therefore try not to get too stressed out before and after activity. Avoid stressful situations at all cost.
    * Environmental stress can suppress immune function. Environmental stressors include heat, cold, and altitude. Each stressor will affect the immune system in its own unique way.
    * Avoid overreaching and overtraining.

The key to preventing infection by air borne viruses is to be smart. Don’t over do yourself, eat right, reduce psychological stress, and learn how different environmental stressors can affect you. Realize that moderate levels of activity enhance immune function but prolonged athletic activity especially in an overreaching or overtraining state can temporarily suppress immune function. Therefore, athletes should take measures to minimize exercise related immunosuppression. This will decrease their risk of becoming infected by an airborne virus.

1. Shephard, R. J. & Pang N. S . Exercise, Immunity, and Susceptibility to Infection. The Physician and Sports Medicine. 27(6) June 1999.

Overtraining and how to avoid it.

overtraining.jpgOvertraining is the trainee’s number one “enemy” next to training injuries. Overtraining results from an imbalance between the amount of stress applied to your body, and your ability to adapt to it. Overtraining results in losses in size and strength and actually also increases the probability of illness.

Here is a list of some of the symptoms of overtraining:

    *Decreased muscle size and strength.
    *Longer-than-average recovery time after a workout.
    *Elevated waking pulse rate.
    *Elevated morning blood pressure.
    *Increased joint and muscle aches.
    *Hand Tremors
    *Loss or decrease in appetite.

So what biochemical mechanism leads to this over trained state? After the onset of high-intensity training exercise the body pumps out cortisol which breaks down protein into their constituent amino acids and routes them to the liver for conversion to glucose.

The longer the workout, the more cortisol is pumped in and the more protein is destroyed.

This causes a “catabolic state” as the largest supply of protein lies in the muscles so that is where the cortisol goes first.

Research by Costill and Nieman et al., has shown that one hour of intense strength training will increase the protein stores in our immune and skeletal systems, but that any further training will only begin to deplete these stores.

Overtraining can force the body into a weakened physical state, which, at best can produce a cold or the flu and, at worst, can tear muscles ligaments, and tendons once these body parts lose their structural integrity protein loss.

The culprit is a built-in “survival” drug hormone called cortisol. Immediately following a high intensity effort, the body pumps out this hormone whose function is simple: It carries off the proteins to the liver, where they are converted into glucose, for energy use in the body.

Why does this weaken our defense mechanisms? Because all our immune systems are based on proteins, and the influx of control in our biological mix steals the proteins that make up our immune system.

Nieman, a researcher at Loma Linda University found that athletes who train twice as intensely as normally prescribed will wind up with twice as many colds, and viruses.

Nieman investigated the athletes for cortisol. He found that astonishingly, after only ONE grueling strength training session, their bodies revealed a 60% increase in cortisol production.

Among the first proteins to go were the T-cells that make up our front line of defense against viruses. This watchdog system was depleted by more than 30 percent. However, this shortfall lasted only 6-8 hrs.

So you’re probably thinking “What’s the big deal? Is putting your body at risk for only 6-8 hours such a high price to pay?”

Well, Nieman and other researchers found that after a few days of such exercising, the “at risk” time became longer and longer, until the T-cells stopped rejuvenation.

In addition, the body’s first line of defense against bacteria and viruses an antibody known as IgA, which is found in the saliva, was reduced to nearly non-protective levels.

The conclusion of the researchers was that athletes can over train themselves into illness.

Thus the logical conclusion would be that high intensity strength training should be limited to one hour or less to restrict the amount of protein destruction.

Other ways to reduce the risk of overtraining: Emphasize carbohydrates: make them 60-70% of your total diet. Take carbohydrates two hours prior to exercising and immediately following exercise. Research has shown that your fatigued muscles seem most responsive to energy storage within the first 30 minutes following your workout. There is a lesser response for the next 10 hours. Take protein one to two hours before and immediately following exercise. Again I use regular food, but I see no problem with supplementation to save time (at the expense of more money however). Research has also shown your body to be more receptive to protein immediately following a workout. Continue eating high carbohydrate foods every 2 hours during the first 4 to 6 hours after hard training. During the first 6 hours post-exercise, simple sugars appear to replace muscle glycogen better than complex carbohydrates. Post-exercise muscle glycogen storage can be enhanced with a combination carbohydrate-protein supplement as a result of the interaction of carbohydrate and protein on insulin secretion. The addition of protein with carbohydrates can allow for a more rapid return recovery. Drink a re-hydration beverage during and after exercise, for example, Gatorade.

Take periodic layoffs. Use the best “miracle supplement” there is – WATER. You can’t “overdose” on water. The worst side effect you can get as mentioned previously, is a few more trips to the washroom. Your body functions optimally when it is fully hydrated. A general recommendation is to consume at least 128 ounces (one gallon) of water a day. During hot weather you should double or triple this amount.

FORGET ABOUT TRAINING WHEN YOUR DONE Give your undivided attention to your training when your working out. But when you’re done training, cast your attention to other things in life. Establish your other priorities, set goals, and keep busy. There are many athletes who fall into the trap of letting their mind continually dwell on training. Train hard when your workin out, but try and relax more when your not. Stress has been shown to increase levels of CORTISOL in the body – the catabolic hormone, so try to find ways to manage stress in your life and relax, and your results will be improved..

Overtraining & Illness

By Shannon Mar /e-mail: shannmar@crl.com

Illness can dash the competitive hopes of even the most superbly trained athletes. At the August 1987 Olympic Trials in the United Kingdom, world record-holder and defending gold medalist Sebastian Coe failed to qualify for the Seoul Olympics because of to a severe respiratory infection. In 1992, the celebrated American sprinter Carl Lewis couldn’t qualify for the 100-metre sprint at the Olympic Games due to an infection.

Although the media portray illness in highly trained athletes as a fairly rare event, the truth is that athletes often carry a higher than average risk of getting sick. For example, Lewis joined at least 52 other elite Americans who were unable to try out for the Olympic team because of illness. And over the past two decades, doctors caring for athletes at both the summer and winter Olympic Games have consistently reported that upper respiratory infections were commonplace, and that in fact the biggest medical problem faced by athletes was illness – not injuries.

Why do athletes seem to be easy prey for opportunistic microorganisms? The answer is not that rare bacteria or viruses abound in the locker room, but that there’s something about strenuous training itself which increases the risk of getting ill. Exercise scientists have known for years that as individuals increase their total training load, the risk of infection also mounts. For example, runners with the highest weekly training mileages are much more likely to come down with respiratory infections, compared to those with relatively light training loads.

Even a single strenuous bout can do it However, it’s not just total training volume which determines the frequency of illness: single bouts of strenuous exercise can also make athletes much less resistant to infections. This fact was verified in a study carried out by Dr. David Nieman, who checked the overall health of 2311 applicants for the 1987 Los Angeles Marathon. A very high number – 42 per cent – of the runners reported at least one infection during the two months before the race. Runners who trained more than about 60 miles per week had roughly double the risk of infection, compared with runners who ran less than 20 miles per week. In addition, about 13 per cent of runners who completed the marathon became ill shortly after the race, compared with just 2 per cent of runners who trained for the marathon but didn’t actually run the race. In other words, heavy training – or a single bout of strenuous exercise – can greatly increase one’s chances of falling ill.

Interestingly enough, those who exert themselves the most, at least in terms of intensity, seem to be at highest risk. For example, out of 150 runners who completed a 56-kilometre ultra-marathon race, symptoms of upper-respiratory infections were most common in the top finishers in the race. Comparable results were obtained in a study of elite Finnish runners, whose lymphocytes (immune cells) were significantly less responsive 30 minutes and three hours after a marathon, compared to middle-of the pack runners. Why exactly does strenuous training – or even a single tough workout or race – downgrade immune- system activity and promote illness? Intense or prolonged endurance exercise causes large increases in cortisol and the ‘catecholamines’, which are stress hormones that can decrease the activity of key players in the immune system called T and ‘natural killer’ (NK) cells. In addition, although the absolute number of immune cells in the blood often rises during exercise, cell concentrations tend to fall dramatically after exercise ceases, especially the concentrations of TC (CD8), TH/I (CD4), and NK cells. TC (CD8) cells, also called ‘cytotoxic’ T cells, are responsible for directly killing virally infected cells and invading microorganisms. TH/I (CD4) cells, or ‘help/inducer’ T cells, aid in the destruction of microorganisms and their toxins and are the cells which are usually critically deficient in AIDS patients. NK cells destroy microorganisms and cells infected with viruses. Unlike other immune cells, NKs don’t require a previous exposure to a pathogen to begin killing. Therefore, they form an important line of defense against infectious agents encountered for the first time by an individual – and especially against new viruses which attack the upper respiratory system.

Importantly, the CD4/CD8 ratio (the number of TH/I cells in the blood divided by the number of TC cells) drops below the critical value of 1.5 after a very intense workout or after prolonged, moderate exercise. Unfortunately, once the CD4/CD8 ratio dips below the 1.5 level, resistance to viral infections is dramatically impaired. In addition, the activity of NK cells can be depressed for up to seven days following an extremely long bout of exercise. Blood lymphocyte levels also plummet dramatically after strenuous exercise, and the duration of this suppression increases with either the increased intensity or duration of a workout. In other words, the longer or harder you train, the more havoc you can potentially create with your immune system.

Mental stress is important, too
The psychological stress encountered by athletes can also impair immune function. Expectations of coaches, family, sponsors, and/or the public, as well as the stresses of competition, jet lag, loss of sleep, and periods of absence from home can all contribute to sub-par performances and increase the risk of infection. In addition, injuries, the actual stresses of competition, and the disappointments arising from unmet performance expectations can all magnify psychological stress. The resulting diminishment in immune-system responsiveness resembles what happens to people who are undergoing the stresses of academic examinations, sleep deprivation, or bereavement and is also akin to what laboratory animals experience when they are over-crowded or receive repeated electrical shocks. In a recent study, highly stressed people had double the incidence of upper respiratory tract infections over a six-month time frame, compared to unstressed individuals. The exact mechanisms underlying this ‘stress-makes-you- sick’ problem are unclear, although it’s likely that the immune-system downturn induced by increased production of stress hormones may play a strong role.

The old enemy, overtraining
But an infection isn’t the only thing that can spoil a seemingly perfect season of training. Overtraining is the other common nemesis which can lead to a crushing inability to perform as expected. An overtrained athlete has simply done too much work, or, to put it another way, hasn’t balanced strenuous training with enough recovery and restoration. The result is an assortment of physical and psychological problems and an inability to perform up to par.

The renowned exercise expert Tim Noakes, M.D., of the University of Capetown, recounts the perils and near-inevitability of overtraining more articulately than any other writer, saying: ‘Despite my decade of experience in the sport, each year my avaricious mind ensures that I spend a few weeks rediscovering this overtraining illness in myself. I am not alone in this, and I am frequently visited by runners whose training greed has reduced them to the walking wounded. Some suffer generalised fatigue, recurrent headaches, diarrhoea, weight loss, sexual disinterest, and little appetite for food or work. Others are no longer able to sleep properly and complain that they are troubled by early- morning wakenings, inabilities to relax, and generally listless attitudes toward life. Generalised swelling of lymph glands may suddenly appear, allergies may worsen, and colds, influenza, or respiratory infections may resist all conventional therapy. All these symptoms are diagnostic. These runners have stretched their bodies beyond their individual breaking points. They are told that rest, not more training, is required, and that all they can do is get some rest and wait for nature to heal what medicine does not yet comprehend.’

It’s true that doctors and exercise scientists don’t completely understand the physiology of over- training, but they do recognise two general categories of the malady. ‘Overreaching’ is the term used for mild, short-term forms of overtraining. An athlete suffering from overreaching has trouble completing usual workouts and experiences some declines in race times, but a few weeks of rest and recovery are usually enough to eliminate excessive fatigue and restore the ability to train normally.

The second form, called ‘staleness’ or the ‘overtraining syndrome’, is a longer-term debilitating state which usually features several of the physical and psychological symptoms described by Noakes. Overtraining takes much longer than over- reaching to resolve – sometimes up to several months. Worse yet, overtraining can literally appear ‘out of the blue’ after several months of seemingly excellent training and can wreck an athlete’s ability to perform well in the most important competitive event of the season.

The Waitz system
Although there’s a tendency to think that over- training is something experienced only by elite athletes, Noakes warns that beginning and recreational exercisers – carried away by their eagerness to improve – can also fall prey to the syndrome. However, compared to average competitors, elite a athletes are probably more sensitive to the warning signs of overtraining. Grete Waitz, the great Norwegian female distance runner, claimed that her consistently excellent performances in important races was partially due to her ability to detect the early signs of overtraining. ‘I judge my fatigue by my moods. If it’s hard to sleep or I’m cranky, impatient, or annoyed, I’m probably overtraining. In my case, family and friends often know when I’m overtraining even before I do. When I begin to snap at my husband Jack, he knows it’s time to analyse my training and probably cut back,’ said Waitz.

She eventually developed a ‘system’ to monitor her risk of overtraining. She believed that an affirmative answer to three or more of the following questions was a strong indicator of staleness: (1) Does my normally comfortable pace feel difficult?

(2) Do my legs feel ‘heavy’ for far longer than usual after a hard workout or race?

(3) Do I find it harder than usual to climb steps?

(4) Do I dread the thought of training?

(5) Is it hard to get out of bed in the morning?

(6) Is my appetite below-normal?

(7) Am I more susceptible to colds, flu, headaches, and infections in general? (8) As I carry out my normal activities, is my heart rate five to 10 beats higher than usual? (9) Is my heart rate during exercise above- normal?

However, notice that Waitz’s system – and others like it which have been developed by other athletes and scientists – don’t detect overtraining until after the fact, when it’s too late. Obviously, it would be far better to have a way of stopping overtraining before it occurs. Note also that one aspect of the over- training syndrome involves increased rates of infection, suggesting that overtraining and illness are physiologically linked. Is there some way to reduce the risk of both – while still training strenuously?
What are the solutions?
The Western scientific literature (that is, papers published in Europe and the United States) does not offer athletes any novel solutions to the problems of immune suppression and overtraining. Regular tapering and wise periodisation of training limit the risk of overtraining somewhat, but more sophisticated and effective techniques, including the close monitoring of immune cell concentrations and scientific testing of physiological parameters, require frequent blood samples and are time- consuming and expensive. In addition, it’s nearly impossible for athletes to avoid exposure to infectious micro-organisms, and it’s difficult to avoid the immune-suppressing psychological stressors associated with hard training. Time constraints also make it nearly impossible for many athletes to adopt an optimal, immunologically fortifying nutritional programme.

However, the Russian scientific literature does offer athletes some help. Most notably, a variety of published papers suggest that the adaptogenic plant, Eleutherococcus senticosus (see also my earlier article in PP 57), may fortify athletes’ immune systems and also lower the risk of developing the negative physiological changes associated with overtraining.

Of special interest to athletes are the observations made by 30 Olympic sprinters, decathletes, high jumpers, and marathoners in studies carried out by Professor A.V. Korobkhov at the Lesgraft Institute of Physical Culture in Moscow. These athletes reported ‘increased endurance and a willingness to repeat rigorous exercises soon after their completion’ when they regularly ingested an extract of Eleutherococcus senticosus (ES). In another study, a Russian scientist named Golovachieva gave ES to certain athletes during a 12-day period of bicycling races. Athletes who took ES won most of the races and noticed ‘a rapid recovery of strength, pronounced sensations of muscular vigour, good sleep patterns, and good appetite’ compared to individuals who didn’t ingest ES. In other words, it appeared that ES boosted performance and lowered the risk of fatigue, staleness, and burnout associated with the overtrained state. ES and disease

What about disease prevention? Several experiments carried out in the Soviet Union have shown that ES, when given to athletes prophylactically, can reduce the incidence of disease by about 35 per cent. Unfortunately, the methodology used in the studies was not always described in the published papers, so it’s not clear that the experiments were carried out in a ‘double-blind manner’, in which subjects and scientists were initially unaware of who was actually getting ES. It’s also not certain that the investigations used a ‘cross-over’ methodology, in which athletes who initially didn’t receive any ES ‘crossed over’ and took ES in a follow-up piece of research, while ES individuals became a subsequent placebo group. Double-blind, cross-over studies represent the ‘gold standard’ of supplement research. Investigations that are not carried out in this manner leave us with conclusions about nutritional supplements which are considerably more shaky.

Nonetheless, it’s safe to assume that the Russian studies were honest, careful, single-blinded experiments in which the scientists – but not the subjects – knew what the subjects were getting. In one such study, carried out between 1973 and 1975, eight to 12 mg of ES extract was given to 1200 workers at the Volga Car Plant n Togliatti, Russia for two-month periods during the spring and autumn. Workers who took ES had a 20 to 30 per cent lower risk of infection, while control subjects actually suffered from a 20 to 30 per cent higher risk of disease. Risk factors and occupational hazards for the workers included emotional and physical stress from vibrations, exhaust fumes, and extreme temperature changes.

During November and December of 1975, another large experiment was conducted with 13,096 workers at the same plant. Compared to control subjects, total disease occurrence decreased by 30 to 50 per cent in individuals who received small doses of ES extract daily.

Finally, during the merciless Siberian winter of 1972, 1000 workers at the Norilsk mining and metalwork complex received two ml of ES extract each day for two months. During that winter, their influenza occurrence dropped by 30 per cent, compared to controls, thus saving the plant about half a million roubles in time lost from sickness (and those were the days when a rouble was a rouble).

The results of a German study
These Russian trials of Eleutherococcus Senticosus carried out with humans are somewhat convincing – but still questionable because of the methods used in the studies. Fortunately, there is other research completed outside the Soviet Union which strongly suggests that Eleutherococcus Senticosus can bolster the immune system. In perhaps the most convincing of these studies carried out so far, B. Bohn and co-workers in Heidelberg, West Germany looked at immune parameters in 18 individuals who took one tablespoon of Eleutherococcus Senticosus extract three times daily and 18 placebo subjects who received no ES. This experiment was carried out in a randomized, double-blind fashion for a total of four weeks, and it was confirmed that the active ingredient in the Eleutherococcus Senticosus extract – Eleutheroside B – was present in a concentration of .2 per cent.

The subjects in this study had venous blood drawn both before and after Eleutherococcus Senticosus administration, and the samples were analysed by flow cytometry, which counted absolute numbers of immune cells present in their blood. Overall, the Eleutherococcus Senticosus group showed an absolute increase in all immune cells measured. Total T-cell numbers advanced by 78 per cent, T helper/inducer cells went up by 80 per cent, cytotoxic Ts by 67 percent, and NK cells by 30 per cent, compared to the control group. B Iymphocytes, which are cells that produce antibodies against infectious organisms, expanded by 22 per cent in the Eleutherococcus Senticosus subjects, compared to controls. Most importantly, no side effects were noted in the Eleutherococcus Senticosus subjects up to five months after Eleutherococcus Senticosus administration ended. The researchers stated: ‘We conclude from our data that Eleutherococcus senticosus exerts a strong immunomodulatory effect in healthy normal subjects.’ Their paper was published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal (Bohn, B. et al, ‘Flow Cytometric Studies with Eleutherococcus senticosus Extract as an Immunomodulatory Agent,’ Arzneimittel-Forschung Drug Research,vol.37(10),pp. 1193-1196, 1987),and the Bohn study has caused drug companies to spend millions of dollars in an effort to get Eleutherococcus Senticosus approved as a drug by the FDA in the States.

The increases in T, B, and NK cells in people given Eleutherococcus Senticosus suggest that it could be very useful in alleviating the immune suppression associated with strenuous exercise. In addition, one might speculate about a positive effect of Eleutherococcus Senticosus in the very early stages of HIV (AIDS-virus) infection. In an HIV-infected patient, Eleutherococcus Senticosus might prevent or retard the spread of the virus, thanks to the synergistic positive actions of elevated numbers of both helper and cytotoxic T cells.

Supporting these findings, Eleutherococcus Senticosus is now used in the support of cancer patients undergoing radiation and chemotherapy, especially in Germany. Studies have shown that ES, when administered to patients, drastically reduces the side effects of radiation and chemotherapy (e.g., nausea, weakness, fatigue, dizziness, and loss of appetite). Other research with cancer patients has linked Eleutherococcus Senticosus with improved healing and recovery times, increased weight gain, and improved immune cell counts. In Russia, the administration of Eleutherococcus Senticosus to cancer patients seemed to permit larger than normal doses of drugs utilised in chemotherapy, thus speeding treatment periods.

How does Eleutherococcus Senticosus actually spur the immune system to greater activity? At present, there is no consensus. Some researchers believe that Eleutherococcus Senticosus induces increased interferon biosynthesis (interferon is a powerful chemical which boosts immune-system activity), while others believe that polysaccharides (long-chain sugar molecules) naturally found in Eleutherococcus Senticosus stimulate the activity of special white blood cells called macrophages. These macrophages play a number of roles in the immune system, including the breakdown of infected cells and the stimulation of other immune cells. However, the polysaccharides are probably ‘non-specific’ immune stimulants, which means that their effectiveness fades fairly quickly and that they must be administered continuously or at regular intervals in order to produce a positive effect.

The bugs that resist antibiotics
Why should athletes try to stimulate their own immune systems, rather than rely on antibiotics and other remedies to control infections? Obviously, PREVENTION of infection can promote more consistent, high-quality training and lower the risk of missed competitions. In addition, many microorganisms are now resistant to many of the commonly used antibiotics. That means that an infection picked up during heavy training may be more difficult to shake off than ever before.

Some of the more notable antibiotic-resistant organisms include Streptococcus pyogenes, which causes ‘strep throat’, upper respiratory infections, and is reported to be resistant to both penicillin and chloramphenicol. Another common bacterial species, Hemophilus influenzae, which produces both ear and upper-respiratory tract infections, is now resistant to a variety of antibiotics, including chloramphenicol, ampicillin, and tetracycline. Staphylococcus aureus, which causes ‘staph infections’ of the skin, especially around surgical wounds, is resistant to erythromycin, tetracycline, and the so-called B- lactam antibiotics. Finally, certain strains of Escherichia coli, which have caused deaths in recent incidents when customers of restaurants have consumed contaminated or poorly cooked meat, are resistant to a variety of different drugs.

As an important epilogue to this discussion, investigators in Birmingham, Alabama recently completed a pilot study in which Eleutherococcus Senticosus extract was given to AIDS patients in hopes of improving their immune-system functioning and overall survivability. The results were very promising, so much so that a four-city, randomised, double-blind, clinical trial will be carried out with Eleutherococcus Senticosus in the near future.

The bottom line? Extracts of Eleutherococcus senticosus appear to have the ability to prevent immune suppression in vigorously training athletes and may limit the risk of infection. By boosting recovery following hard workouts, E. senticosus may also downgrade athletes’ chances of overtraining. Note, however, that the information given here does not represent medical advice. As always, no nutritional supplements should ever be taken without the consultation and approval of a qualified doctor.

Grateful acknowledgements go to Dr. Donald J. Brown, M.D., of Natural Products Research Consultants in Seattle, Washington, and to Ben Tabachnik, Ph.D., for inspiration, invaluable critical discussions, and tremendous help in providing difficult-to-obtain literature.)
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