Since I get Pubmed updates every Sunday, I usually find one or two papers that catch my eye. I figure it’s worth having a look at them, what they mean, and why they’re interesting to me.
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Awhile back, when I was talking about heavy daily training, I wrote a post about inflammation and how this contributes to the common feeling of ‘overtraining’ (which is probably better termed ‘staleness’). There’s a lot to be said about this topic. I’ve said a lot already, and there’s still plenty more to go.
Overtraining, overreaching, and the interaction between training and the stress response is a blurry area. Relating wider biological concepts, like stress, to specific instances, like workouts and training schedules, is no easy task. Contrary to popular belief, research doesn’t do that. Virtually all of our knowledge on ‘overtraining’ comes from observations in athletes or inference from neurological or biochemical effects.
Years ago in one of my criminology classes, the professor introduced us to various theories on social deviance. Criminologists want to know what makes people act up and steal, or rob you in the street for crack, or stab their neighbors in the face. That’s social deviance. Lots of theories have come and gone over the years, thanks to the mysterious wiles and real difficulties of doing quality sociological research.
Lots of ideas came out of the literature, ideas on social strife, class struggle, even plain old boredom. One of these in particular stuck with me over the years, thanks to my budding interest in cognitive neuroscience. The theory goes that some people are natural stimulus-seekers. For whatever reason, this group lacks something in their brains, or they have some dysfunction that leaves them feeling under-stimulated, and this leaves them with an itch. These people are always in search of a fix, always looking for the next hit of neurochemical reward, and as a consequence they’re more likely to go out and get mixed up in naughty things like drugs, sex, and, you guessed it, crime.
At the time, I didn’t think much of the idea. Not because I don’t agree with it, but I didn’t have nearly the interest in behavioral psychology and neuroscience back then. With my current investigations into the neurological factors behind exercise performance, the concept of the stimulus-seeker brain-type stands out. To understand why, we need to look at how neurological activity creates behavior.
I recently finished Jonathan Haidt’s book The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom. I found it a brilliant read, but I didn’t wind up doing a full review on it because I didn’t have a clear way to relate it to exercise or performance. As you could imagine from the title, the book examines the concept of happiness–where does it arise in the brain, what causes it, and what are the circumstances that maximize that feeling of ambiguous bliss? An interesting topic, but there was no direct application to exercise, minus the vague connection to neuropsychology.
We all know about losing strength on a diet. I sure do. Most bodybuilders do. Any time I make a reduction in calories and limit carb intake, my strength goes into the gutter. What I’ve always found interesting is that a lot of the top-end strength — max weights and max reps with lighter weights … Read more