The last few weeks have been dominated by the aftermath of the Chicago Marathon. First we ran a series looking at the post-race media coverage, and the conception that dehydration was mainly to blame for the medical problems experienced by 1% of the field (an incredibly small number, when you think about it!). This fed into our latest series on Fluid Intake during running, which looked at the misconception that any level of dehydration is bad for performance and temperature, and that thirst is a bad guide to your fluid needs.
Well, our attention now turns towards the next big city marathon - New York. We've already run a short, "news" post on the main contenders for the race (which you can read below). And in the days ahead, we'll build up more, looking at the likely contenders, tactics and so forth.
We'll also use this 'gap' to run a couple of interesting 'filler' items, including another look at Pose Running, and a study that found that Pose training reduced running economy in a group of athletes! We recently ran an entire series on Pose and missed this study, which was brought to our attention by one of our readers (thank you Doug)! So look out for that in the coming days. And then also a follow up to the Fluid Intake series, for later in the week. But more on that closer to the time...
Our NEXT SERIES, incidentally, will be on MUSCLE CRAMPS - MYTHS AND MISCONCEPTIONS, which is a logical follow-up from the fluid series. We're not exactly sure when we'll run that - it depends on the NYC Marathon stories, because we're first and foremost a sports science news site. But it's on the way...
Musings of science and the concept of a blog
And then as an aside, I was trawling through some discussion forums where our series on Fluid Intake was discussed. For the most part (I'm relieved to say), people discuss the concepts openly and with interest, which was always our intention. We believe that we've presented the facts accurately and correctly, but as scientists, we recognize that knowledge is constantly evoloving. So we'd be foolish to state with 100% conviction that what we say is correct and will be for the next 100 years! Because science is meant to evolve - there's a saying that "50% of what we know is wrong. The problem is, we don't know which 50% it is!".
So here at the Science of Sport, our goal is to present the facts as they ARE currently. And of course it's our interpretation, but we encourage people to read the arguments and then make up their own mind - apply your minds, listen to people with authority and WITHOUT incentives (that is, people who are selling a product based on "science"). And we firmly believe there are times when only one conclusion is correct - the fluid intake story is one such case.
Anyway, what struck me is the number of people who are quite critical either because:
- This is a blog (as opposed to a website or scientific journal, I presume?)
- We should rather be publishing the research in scientific journals
And then on the second one, of course the data must be published in scientific journals! If it wasn't, it would just be snake-oils and pseudoscience! And again, I must repeat, I would encourage people to read the posts, and then you would see that we have both published our research in journals. We're both scientists - I'm at UCT, Jonathan is in Chicago, where we are academics, doing research. The problem, as it were, for science, is that newly acquired or created knowledge is incredibly inaccessible for most people. So what source, other than a scientific journal, do 99% of the athletic population have to rely on? The answer is websites that promote drinking to prevent thirst, salt tablets, pretzels and myths about dehydration and heat stroke...
The gulf between science and practice - building bridges
I (Ross) also have marketing management qualification and do part-time work in management of sponsorships and marketing around sports properties. And the HUGE gulf that is immediately obvious to me as a result of marketing is the gulf between the creation of knowledge and its translation and interpretation for 'non-scientists'. There is a need for information that is not being adequately met - this is a marketing gap. Just as I would request an accountant or financial analyst to help me understand Wall Street figures, stock profiles, P:E ratios and liquidity reports in income statements, so too would people require the same service when it comes to analysing and using knowlege to improve and understand sports performance.
It is my experience that in every profession, there are those who hold onto their expertise as a weapon, lording it over those who do not possess the access or desire to search out the answers from first principles. And to suggest that we restrict ourselves to publishing in science journals only misses the point by a considerable distance. Our goal is to publish data, find published data from others, and then bring it forward to grow science. Any other approach belongs in an ivory tower.
So our objective is to translate that information (all of which is published, by the way, though not just by us) and then make it available in an easy-to-read, entertaining manner. This is done without compromising the integrity of the information presented, and when occasionally we do succeed at stimulating debate, then we've certainly achieved something.
So that's our mission - to make science accessible, to comment on sports news and bring you insight that goes beyond what you'd read in the local paper, and to stimulate debate. If you'd like scientific journals that do that, well, keep searching!
Join us for the week ahead!!