How to have the best experience of studying sport at The Open University

By Simon Rea

Firstly, welcome to The Open University and secondly, thank you for choosing to study on the sport, fitness, and coaching degree. We have a range of fantastic courses for you to study to support you towards achieving a fulfilling career working in sport or fitness. During this turbulent year of 2020 it seems to me that sport has become even more important. Research has shown that fit and healthy people are less affected by Covid-19 and as a result we have   been encouraged to take daily exercise outdoors, and the fitness industry has seen a surge in people engaging with online fitness platforms. During this time I felt lost when there was no live sport for three months and like many others have binged on sport since its return.

As a sport and fitness student it is likely that you feel as passionate about sport and fitness as I do and in this blog I want to encourage you to make the most of your undergraduate studies. I want you to get the best value for the personal and financial investment you have undertaken and the sacrifices you may have to make. While sport and fitness offer a range of exciting careers and the opportunity to work with interesting and inspiring people the job market is highly competitive. Sport science, studies and sports coaching courses are now the most popular degree course in the UK with around 15,000 graduates a year leaving around 138 universities that offer these degrees. Indeed there are almost 1500 students enrolling, along with yourself, on year 1 sport and fitness modules at The Open University.

Therefore, it is advantageous to get ahead of this competition and give yourself as great an advantage for the future as you can. We appreciate that you have busy lives and finding time to study may not always be easy as you juggle work, family, and social commitments. These conflicting priorities can lead to students being tactical in how they study. To encourage you to make the absolute most of your time spent studying with us and to maximise your learning and enjoyment I will offer three pieces of advice for you to consider whilst studying.

 

  1. Engage with all the resources available to you and read as much as you can.

In your module materials you will find a range of resources. There are readings, audio and video clips to watch and listen to, websites to visit and activities to complete. We will also offer additional resources at certain points so that you can find out more. We would encourage you to learn as much as you can about the subjects you are studying by reading widely and visiting websites related to the subject. Social media offers a plethora of opportunities and you can follow experts and influencers that you are interested in. For example, Twitter enables you to follow coaches, personal trainers, and academics in sport.

 

 

  1. Engage with your tutor and your fellow students as much as possible.

Before you start your module you will be assigned a tutor and a tutor group. Your tutor will tell you how to contact them and you will be given information about the schedule of tutorials. You will also find out about your online tutor group forum where you can meet and interact with other students.

This engagement with other people is crucial to your understanding of the module materials as some of the most valuable learning is described as social learning where you learn from other people. Discussing and debating can give you different perspectives on a subject and hearing other student’s experiences can broaden your own understanding. This kind of learning will happen during tutorials and during collaborative tutor group forum activities. During the learning process it is vital that you do not accept all content without questioning it. Ask yourself – ‘where did this knowledge come from?’ ‘Are there other ways of doing things?’

Discussing, debating, and questioning will improve your understanding of a subject but it will also develop critical skills that are so crucial in higher education and valued by employers.

  1. Always keep in mind the question ‘How does this relate to me?’

While knowledge is exciting to have it is most valuable when you can actually apply it. This may be applying it to your own working practice or to help yourself and other people. So, you must always find opportunities to apply your knowledge. This may be reflecting on past experiences and gaining new perspectives on them or thinking about how you can use the knowledge now or in the future.

I have always found that when people know I am involved in sport science they have questions about their training or their diet. Let people know you are studying sport and fitness and talk to them about it and express your views if the opportunity arises. Sharing your knowledge with other people is a great way to increase your own knowledge and understanding of a subject.

 

Final thoughts

As I said earlier we appreciate that studying is just one factor amongst many competing for your time and it may be difficult to implement all three pieces of advice consistently. However, if you bear them in mind during your studies you will improve your chances of success both during your studies and in the future.

We hope you have a wonderful experience during your time studying sport, fitness, and coaching at The Open University.

 

Simon Rea is a Lecturer on the sport and fitness award at The Open University and the author of the books Careers in Sports Science (2019) and Sports Science – a complete introduction (2015).

Credit transfer to BSc (hons) Sport, Fitness and Coaching

Perhaps you are feeling unsatisfied or demotivated with your current degree study and you need a different way of studying to unlock your academic potential? If so, then it might be time to think about transferring credit to study the BSc (Hons) Sport, Fitness and Coaching degree at The Open University. We have a range of interesting and exciting modules from level 1 to level 3 which make up our degree. Typically, students transferring credit will study level 2 or level 3 modules depending on their circumstances and their available credit. We have two level 2 modules (E235 Sport and Exercise Psychology in Action; E236 Applying sport and exercise sciences to coaching) and two level 3 modules (E313 Exploring psychological aspects of athletic development; E314 Exploring contemporary issues in sport and exercise).

For all our modules, you will learn online in a range of engaging ways to meet your learning needs. This includes learning through interactive activities, academic readings in books and journals, listening to audio and viewing videos such as sport and exercise in action, using exercise science apps, and tutor group forum discussions with other students and your tutor. The online distance study provides you with great flexibility to study from home or on the move and enables you to fit your study around your other commitments such as work and family life. These are just some of the key benefits of studying in this way with the OU. The video below explains more.

Although you will study independently as an online distance student you certainly will not be alone. In fact, you will receive a high level of support from your tutor via tutorials, assessment feedback, forums, emails and telephone contact. We also have a fantastic Student Support Team and a range of other study resources to support your academic progress. There are many other great opportunities and benefits of being a Sport and Fitness student at the OU. The Sport & Fitness team holds a range of conferences and events that you can attend online and in person. You will also be part of the OU Sport and Fitness community and have an identity as part of #TeamOUsport.

If you would like to explore your options for credit transfer and take the next step towards studying the BSc (Hons) Sport, Fitness and Coaching degree at the OU please visit http://www.open.ac.uk/study/credit-transfer/.

OpenLearn: Women in Sport

In May of this year we launched a Women in Sport portal on our OpenLearn platform showcasing a wide range of articles about womens involvement in sport. Many of these articles have been authored by members of the OU sport and fitness team, including our central academic team and associate lecturers.

These articles include:

  • Stories from grassroots cricket – by Jim Lusted
  • Transgender males to females in sport: is this fair to sportswomen? – by Jan Graydon
  • Leaving no stone unturned in the pursuit of female athletic performance – by Emma Ross
  • Are women leaders the key to growing women’s sport? – by Tanya Martin
  • Managing motherhood and sports participation – by Candice Lingam-Willgoss & Jess Pinchbeck
  • Why is it so difficult for Muslim women to play sport? – by Rukhsana Malik

To access the Women in Sport articles on OpenLearn click here

Using the E236 WebApp

Welcome to the support blog for the E236 WebApp. The following screencast will take you through the key features of the WebApp allowing you to apply your professional knowledge from Study Topic 4 (as well as the preceding Study Topics). If, once you have watched the screencast fully, you have any further questions, please comment below or post in your Tutor Group Forum for you tutor to liaise with the central module team.

E236 screencast on Athlete Builder – Audio Transcript

Sure it’s only P.E.

Authored by Bethany Gurr & Emily McDonald, edited by Emily McDonald & Melanie Paterson, researched by Thomas Botfield, Pamela Fabbreschi & Katerina Kubienova, Team Leader: David Senior and Team Moderator: Christine White (E119 19J students)


This blog was written as part of a collaborative team work task by students studying E119. They had to select a topic and then decide on what roles each person would perform in the team, such as researcher, writer, editor and leader. This blog was chosen as one of the best blogs from around 80 blogs that were produced.


https://pixabay.com/photos/sport-child-school-ball-basketball-858206/

Ahhh Mrs Hampton, I won’t forget her. She was my Primary School Physical Education (PE) Teacher and she knew all 625 pupils’ names. We had PE twice a week, the whole year of girls and boys for roughly 45 mins each and I LOVED IT. My mother kept me active as a child, which is why I’m sure I’m not obese now (with the amount I ate!) and remain an active adult years later (yes – I still love my food!). My sister on the other hand despised PE. She was the child always forgot her PE kit, (it was always in the cloakroom) had a headache or felt ill… whereas I opted to wear my sports t-shirt daily, sporting trainers and shorts under my skirt. Everybody is different and has preferences, but Primary School age is where fundamental basics of health are cemented which lead on into adolescence and later adulthood.

Children love to be active, exploring their bodies and what they can do. As a parent of three young children, I’m curious where they get their energy from (perhaps they suck it from me). So, what makes children, like my sister, hate PE? What can teachers, schools and parents do to ensure children meet their daily recommendations of physical activity (PA) and enjoy it?

Luckily for me I was proficient at most sporting activities I attempted, blessed with a competitive nature, gifted with good reflexes and speed with massive determination to be able to do what the older kids could (persuaded my Mother to teach me to ride my bike without stabilisers when my sister did – I was only 3). Yet I understand what it must be like for children with poor reflexes, not-quite-there gross-motor skills, lack of co-ordination and lacking in self-confidence, because that child is my son. Why should I, as a parent, ensure he avails of all PE classes, if he’s not really that good? (Forgive me for telling the truth) … What are the benefits obtainable from PE in schools? Why should children do it?

Apart from health and well-being benefits, these hurdles he and many other children face, can be overcome. From strength, to balance, to hand-eye-co-ordination, bringing forth confidence with each accomplishment achieved. Proven to be beneficial to not only their physical health it encourages social, emotional and mental health development (Moray House School of Education and Sport, 2019) and is integral to future wellbeing.

Those team games were not in vain!

Kelsey E via Flickr Creative Commons https://www.flickr.com/photos/kelseye/786999279

Further to this, research has shown PA induces chemical changes within the brain, encouraging new cells to form which in turn increases the size of the hippocampus, in simple terms the part of the brain that regulates emotion, learning and memory (Human Kinetics, n.d.). These changes are long-lasting, impacting how children think and behave socially, promoting learning which will not only compliment other areas of their education but will also see memory recall improvements.

Let’s explore some more…

The Department of Education recommends children receive as a minimum, 2 hours of PE per week and it is compulsory in the primary curriculum, BUT it is at the school’s discretion how much time they invest in it (Department of Education, n.d.). Luckily my children attend a school that adheres to these minimum requirements but what about quality? Unfortunately, Mrs H (whom I thought didn’t like children very much with her vigorous PE sessions) is no longer a PE teacher and like many other schools, there are no ‘PE teachers’, so who delivers them? The class teacher, yes, teachers are required to conduct their classes PE sessions and it’s reported that they receive on average as little as six hours training during their teacher training on how to deliver PE (Youth Sport Trust, 2018).

SIX HOURS!?!

Surely that cannot be enough to equip any person to undertake an hour-long session with 20 – 30 children?! While that may not be congruent within all schools and to each individual, it is a shocking number to see.

The Daily Mile

https://pixabay.com/photos/marathon-sport-children-run-autumn-1797898/

This sounds torturous to someone who isn’t fond of long distance because of their desire to get things done hastily, resulting in not-so-pleasant regurgitation at completion… (me – a sprinter). This initiative was introduced in 2012 (McIvor, 2018) and research shows that those who partake (walking or running) are significantly healthier than those who don’t. Schools are facilitating children’s ability to surpass the minimum 2 hours of PE in schools!

Some more figures for you…

A shocking 20% and 23% of 5-12-year-old girls and boys respectively, meet the recommended 60 minutes of activity per day and even more alarming is the fact that 1 in 5 children enter primary education overweight or obese! (Public Health England, 2017).

What’s going on?

To put it bluntly, children aren’t meeting their daily activity requirements and childhood obesity is AN ISSUE! Although children are receiving 2-hours PE in school per week, 5 hours are lacking and there’s no other way to say this but that it is on us.

So, should PE classes be compulsory in Primary school?

You have to agree PE is an absolute must. If it’s the only 2 hours of PA some children see a week, how can we contend its importance? Don’t we want our children to grow into young healthy active adults? Educating children on vital social skills, developing personal skills that will hold strong throughout their lives is vital. What is even more important is that parents promote healthy life choices, encourage activity, whether that be walking or cycling to school, family walks on a day out, or extra activities outside school hours like football, gymnastics or swimming.

What remains to be seen is how the Government and Schools implement guidelines. How they develop alternative approaches to how PA is delivered, to provide efficient, more enjoyable times spent in shorts, and ultimately encourage our youngsters to choose themselves to be active.

References

Department of Education. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.education-ni.gov.uk/articles/statutory-curriculum

Human Kinetics. (n.d.). How physical activity and exercise enhance children’s cognition. Retrieved from Human Kinetics Europe: https://uk.humankinetics.com/blogs/excerpts/how-physical-activity-and-exercise-enhance-childrens-cognition

McIvor, J. (2018, May 10). BBC News. Retrieved from BBC: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-44053387

Moray House School of Education and Sport. (2019, July 24th). The University of Edinburgh. Retrieved from https://www.ed.ac.uk/education/rke/centres-groups/pe-research/importance

Public Health England. (2017, July 17). Retrieved from https://www.gov.uk/government/news/number-of-children-getting-enough-physical-activity-drops-by-40

Youth Sport Trust. (2018, May 29). Retrieved from https://www.youthsporttrust.org/news/teachers-need-more-support-nurture-love-pe-and-school-sport

Join our team: Lecturer in Sport and Fitness

Salary:  £41,526 – £49,553
Location: Milton Keynes
Reference: 17329
Closing date: 8th June 2020 (midday)

Note: This post is available as a full-time post or two 0.5 part-time posts.

We are seeking to appoint an enthusiastic Lecturer in Sport and Fitness to join our vibrant team and undertake responsibilities that include:

  • the development and delivery of Sport and Fitness modules and resources
  • writing and updating distance learning modules and resources, including print, audio, video and information/communications technology materials
  • contributing to the Faculty’s programme of research and scholarship and to the academic development of the Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies at The Open University.

The successful candidate will have:

  • a higher degree or equivalent professional knowledge in Sport and Fitness or a related field as well
  • proven experience of curriculum development and course design
  • an understanding of different approaches to studying Sport and Fitness
  • evidence of engagement in research and scholarship through a variety of activities such as publications, gaining of external funding and/or widely recognised and disseminated contributions to learning and teaching in Sports and Fitness
  • a strong record of research and/or knowledge exchange that is commensurate to the position.

For more information click on the links below:

Job Description

Information about Sport and Fitness qualifications at The Open University

Information about the Sport and Fitness team at The Open University

Click here for more information and to apply

2020 Insight: do your recruitment and retention strategies need to change to suit a modern sport and physical activity workforce?

By Ben Oakley (The Open University) and Steve Mitchell (Sporting People)

Reproduced with permission of Sport England (image without words)

Central government (2015) and Sport England (2016, 2017 and 2018) have both indicated their desire to see more focus and funding invested into developing the sport and physical activity workforce. But what does this mean for your organisation and the people you employ now and in the future? This is particularly important if you are a public organisation or a club that is interested in receiving taxpayers’ or National Lottery funding beyond 2020. In this article we illustrate four examples of workforce development in action and consider what further transformation might look like. But first: why is change needed?

Figure 1 A timeline of main strategy announcements from Government (2015) and Sport England (2016-2018) indicating a direction of travel for policy and funding.

Why change?
Approximately 900,000 people are paid, many part-time, in supporting, or coaching, others in sport or physical activities (Sport England, 2018). They represent, in effect, a significant social movement. Yet, research suggests their approach to working with marginalised groups, and engaging inactive communities is often sub-optimal (e.g. London Sport, 2017).

The training of this workforce is also inconsistently delivered, assessed and benchmarked against other professions and regulated sectors. The CEO of Sport England suggests that claims about inactive groups being ‘hard to reach’ is unjust; the current approach of organisations to engage many inactive or marginalised communities has been poorly informed and executed.

Therefore, if we all agree to:

a) increase the number of physically active people we need to better prepare our ‘people’ by developing them with the skills and confidence to work towards this.

b) And, in order to maintain the confidence of the general public, and for the public health, justice and education sectors to invest in our work, we need to change how our learning and development operates. We need to demonstrate that our sector has sufficient quality development experiences to ensure safe practice that is both accessible to all and effective.
Some might say ‘our sport and people are just fine as they are’. Yes, we can continue the status quo but if you value public confidence and funding in our sector then keep reading to see some ideas you should be considering.

Four examples of recent people initiatives
These examples, with online links for further context, have emerged from organisations creating innovative solutions to workforce gaps or needs. To date there has been little coordinated sector effort … but there could be. Do any of these stimulate ideas relevant to your own organisation?

1. A National Governing Body (NGB)
Great Britain and England Hockey has transformed its coach training model to become better at developing appropriately skilled coaches. They have introduced a far wider coach development pathway involving many more specific and online development opportunities and built in more flexible assessment methods to support people to completion. The NGB’s consultation suggested courses “need to have maximum ‘pitch time’ and more online home study opportunities to allow for coaches to learn in their own time.” This has reduced the length and cost of courses, including travel costs.

2. A Community Activator Apprenticeship
Coach Core’s vision is that communities can benefit by having young relatable role models who could progress, not just their own life chances, but improve the lives of others around them too. They create a meaningful education and employment programme for 16-24 year olds funded through the Apprenticeship levy on larger businesses that was introduced in 2017. They focus on young people that need the opportunity the most in deprived inner-city communities and pay a wage during their Apprenticeship. This suggests that coaching related Apprenticeships are a valuable modern training option and pathway into sustainable employment.

3. Quality online coach learning and development
The Open University identified a need for new CPD learning for those that support and develop coaches; very little opportunities currently exist and promotion to the role is currently based on experience, rather than education. Using our expertise in coaching and distance education we launched a free online ‘Coaching others to coach’ course that has attracted 1900 participants in seven months. Learning that is open to all, 24/7, means people can learn at a time that suits them with a quality assured digital badge upon completion. Other CPD opportunities are being explored and the OU have also launched a similar, free ‘Communication and working relationships in sport and fitness’ course.

4. Active partnership: health professionals and leisure centres
Sport for Confidence programmes place health occupational therapists and specialist coaches into leisure centres, to provide inclusive sporting opportunities to people who face barriers to taking part. For instance, those with learning disabilities, mental health issues, dementia, autism or disability. The model works by using mainstream environments and delivery adjustments alongside breaking down barriers to ensure sport and physical activity is more accessible and can deliver occupational outcomes for public health and social care.

Final thoughts
Momentum is building with the Chartered Institute for the sector (CIMSPA) and UK Coaching refreshing quality standards for the sector and developing products to support coach development. In the future you need to be actively investing in your workforce, more so than at present. Perhaps it is timely to start to think about creating a ‘people developer’ role to prepare for the challenges ahead. But, for us, this far more than a coach education lead or HR specialist. How will these people developers be prepared for their important new role? Who has the insight on recruiting this talent and ensuring it is ready for the challenge?
We await feedback on this post and if there is interest, we may continue to write more on this intriguing topic. We think it is a puzzle to be solved in several ways.

References
London Sport, (2017) Bigger and Better Workforce Review, August 2017. Available from: https://data.londonsport.org/dataset/vdkjm/bigger-and-better-workforce-review.

Sport England, (2017) Working in an Active Nation: a Professional Workforce Strategy for England. Available from: https://sportengland-production-files.s3.eu-west-2.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/working-in-an-active-nation-10-1.pdf

The Authors
Ben Oakley and OU colleagues, have developed online CPD provision for those who develop coaches along with resources for other groups.

Steve Mitchell
sits on an Active Partnership board and holds various Directorships across skills and training.

A level playing field – Should Transgender athletes be allowed to compete in the category that matches their gender identity in the 2020 Olympics?

By  Rachael Pugh, Hannah Lake, Sula Douglas, Daniel Breacher and Ryan Williams (E119 19J Students)


This blog was written as part of a collaborative team work task by students studying E119. They had to select a topic and then decide on what roles each person would perform in the team, such as researcher, writer, editor and leader. This blog was chosen as one of the best blogs from around 80 blogs that were produced.


 

The participation of transgender athletes in Olympic competition raises issues not just about sport regulations but of society’s overall attitudes to gender. The whole subject of transgender people can still be divisive and misunderstood in our society. Many people have limited or no contact with transgender people, this can cloud their judgement leading to fear and rumours. From anger over which bathroom people can use, to which clothing a child gets to wear, it is a contentious subject. Transgender participation in sport is a complex issue and may well become more so in the future with the rise of gender neutrality. Sport has long had issues of discrimination and many sports’ governing bodies are working hard to provide fairness and reduce discrimination. Sport in general and the International Olympic Committee in particular, needs to find a way to make participation fair for everyone; transgender athletes as well as cisgender athletes.

One of the main points involved in this discussion is providing equality and equal opportunity for everyone. By excluding transgender athletes from participating in high level events such as the Olympics, we are not promoting equal opportunity. When looking at transgender participation not only high-level athletes need to be considered. Young people often look to athletes as role models. One role model is Laurel Hubbard, a transgender weightlifter, who transitioned from male to female.  After her transition, she went on to successfully compete in the commonwealth games, achieving a record breaking performance in the women’s weightlifting category (Brown, 2018). Kristi Miller, a transgender athlete and activist stated, “Hopefully Laurel’s given some hope to some young trans kid sitting around the world” (Davidson, 2018). Having visible transgender role models for young transgender people is very important – it gives the young people someone to look up to and as a consequence, helps to promote participation in sport for everyone.

However, Laurel’s wins and participation have created some controversy amongst other female competitors and their coaches. Jerry Wallwork, Head Coach for the Samoa weightlifting team said, “A man is a man and a woman is a woman and I know a lot of changes have gone through, but in the past Laurel Hubbard used to be a male champion weightlifter” (Davidson, 2018). Wallwork’s comments illustrate the issue of how gender is viewed in society and how often transgender people are not accepted. If more transgender athletes were allowed to compete – this would result in society being exposed to more transgender people in the media.  This exposure would allow them to become more accepted and allow young transgender people to be inspired and participate in sport.

Conversely, there is the issue of fairness for female athletes – how being transgender may give athletes an advantage over other female competitors particularly in the case of Laurel Hubbard who used to compete as a male weightlifter.  “The athletic advantage that Hubbard herself gleaned suggests as much. As a man, the Kiwi scarcely registered in the sport at international level. Today, as a woman, she is a world-beater,” (Brown, 2018).

Currently athletes who have transitioned from female to male can compete without restriction (BBC, 2019). However, for an athlete who has transitioned from male to female it is much more difficult. This is mainly because officials are trying to make it fair for all the female cisgender competitors and there are many physiological differences between males and females. These physiological differences are why we have separate male and female categories in sport in the first place. On average women have two thirds the strength of men, have smaller bones and a lower oxygen carrying capacity (Latham, 2018). The benefits of these physiological differences mean that men are usually stronger, faster and bigger. Not all of these physiological differences can be managed in the medical transitional process, therefore some of the advantages of being born male, remain in the transgender athlete.

When examining the difference between male and female bodies the issue of testosterone is often discussed. In order for a transgender athlete to compete as a female the IOC guideline from 2015 states “the total testosterone level in serum must be kept below ten nanomoles per litre for at least 12 months” (Ingle, 2019) however this is controversial as “women’s testosterone levels tend to range between 0.12 and 1.79 nmol/l, while men’s are typically between 7.7 to 29.4 nmol/l.” (Ingle, 2019). This means that transgender athletes, even those following the IOC Guidelines, could have testosterone levels up to 5 times higher than most female athletes. Higher levels of testosterone increase muscle mass and reduce fatigue both of which are important when competing at a high level of sport (Pietrangelo, 2016).

Many high profile athletes feel passionately about the potential damage to female sport when transgender athletes compete. Sharon Davies, the internationally renowned and celebrated swimmer, said ““I believe there is a fundamental difference between the binary sex you are born with and the gender you may identify as. To protect women’s sport, those with a male sex advantage should not be able to compete in women’s sport.” (Ingle, 2020). These higher levels of testosterone and other physiological advantages mean that cisgender women could have a disadvantage when competing against transgender women.

To conclude, on the one hand society now recognises peoples’ right to change gender however it is very difficult to create a level playing field in some areas and competitive sport is very much one of these. The question of how transgender people compete in Olympic events raises issues of equality of opportunity and fairness of competition. The sports’ governing bodies are attempting to address the issues of physical fairness through regulation but this is not a straight forward process. Scientific development may be ahead of society’s ability to regulate for its consequences in this area. Given the diversity of genders and people in our society this may be an area for adapting and compromising in 2020 and beyond.

 

REFERENCES

Davidson, H (2018) Transgender weightlifter Laurel Hubbard’s eligibility under scrutiny (Online) The Guardian. Available at https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2018/apr/09/transgender-weightlifter-laurel-hubbards-eligibility-under-scrutiny (Accessed 28 January 2020)

Latham, A (2018). Physiological difference between male and female athletes. (online). (last updated 28 June 2018). Available at: https://work.chron.com/physiological-differences-between-male-female-athletes-20627.html (Accessed 27 January 2020)

Pietrangelo, A (2016) How testosterone benefits your body (Online)  Healthline. Available at https://www.healthline.com/health/benefits-testosterone (Accessed 29 January 2020)

Brown, O (2018). Transgender weightlifter under strain: Laurel Hubbard’s exit may be blessing in disguise as eligibility debate rages (Online) The Telegraph. Available at https://www.telegraph.co.uk/weightlifting/2018/04/09/transgender-weightlifter-strain-laurel-hubbards-exit-may-blessing/ (Accessed 29 Jan, 2020)

Ingle, S. (2019). IOC delays new transgender guidelines after scientists fail to agree. [online] The Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2019/sep/24/ioc-delays-new-transgender-guidelines-2020-olympics [Accessed 28 January 2020].

Eliud Kipchoge: Breaking Barriers

By Sean Byrne, Sam Cross, Anthony Delaney, Ashley Groombridge, Katie Hickson, Louis Hunter (E119 19J Students)


This blog was written as part of a collaborative team work task by students studying E119. They had to select a topic and then decide on what roles each person would perform in the team, such as researcher, writer, editor and leader. This blog was chosen as one of the best blogs from around 80 blogs that were produced.


 

 On the 12th October 2019, Eliud Kipchoge, the current marathon world record holder, became the first person to run the marathon distance under two hours (1.59.40). This incredible accomplishment has been hailed as one of the most monumental milestones in running history, alongside Sir Roger Bannister’s sub 4-minute mile and Usain Bolt’s 9.58 100 metre sprint world record.

So how did he achieve this remarkable feat? Natural talent, dedication and a gruelling training programme, with 140 miles per week, are the understandable foundations of success. Indubitably, the support from an assembled team of skilled coaches, physiotherapists, physiologists and nutritionists overseeing his training, physiological testing, hydration and nutrition strategies (INEOS159challenge , 2019) contributed immensely but what specifically turned his previous failings at the Nike Breaking2 Project, into triumph?

Course selection

The Pater, Vienna, Austria was selected as the perfect location. As one would expect, the route was carefully chosen to eliminate any directional or incline changes to maximise the runners’ economy but Team INEOS’ analysis didn’t stop there. They also considered the altitude and climate; low temperatures (around ten degrees Celsius is considered the benchmark) and low humidity is conducive to running a fast marathon due to the body working harder to regulate its temperature in hot conditions (Sharkey & Gaskill, 2013). It is also believed that running shoes lose grip during humid conditions. (INOES159challenge, 2019). The location also had to be at low altitude, even though Kipchoge lives and trains at high altitude (2400m), science suggests preparing at altitude enables the body to be better conditioned (Fudge, et al., 2018) and racing at a lower altitude whilst acclimated to high altitude will see an increase in performance (Fudge, et al., 2018)The final factor in choosing the location was the time zone difference, Vienna is just one hour behind Eliud’s home time zone- which means his sleeping, eating and training patterns would be minimally affected.

Hydration and Nutrition

 As anticipated, running a marathon requires an enormous amount of energy, this energy is provided by fat and carbohydrates, metabolised aerobically. Fat is supplied from the muscle triglyceride and plasma free fatty acids (FFA), that are mobilised from adipose tissue and transported to the muscles by the circulation (Sharkey & Gaskill, 2013).  Fat is the most abundant source of available energy – enough to fuel muscles to run hundreds of miles but it is slow to break down (Wright, 2018), therefore, as the intensity level increases so does the carbohydrate usage, becoming predominant at high levels of intensity (Sharkey & Gaskill, 2013) i.e. running a marathon at pace.  Carbohydrate is available as glucose in the bloodstream and is also stored in skeletal muscles and the liver as glycogen (Girard Eberle, 2014). Kipchoge’s carbohydrates were topped up during the race by consuming sports drinks and energy gels produced by Maurten (Maurten, 2019).

Rehydrating during the marathon is crucial, dehydration in excess of five per cent of an athlete’s bodyweight results in a decrease in strength, endurance and work capacity (Sharkey & Gaskill, 2013). The ASCM et al. (2016) state that even though exact sweat rates vary from athlete to athlete, most athletes partaking in exercise will require an intake of 0.4 – 0.8 litres of water every hour. Kipchoge rehydrated by drinking Maurten sports drinks, a benefit of consuming a sports drink over water, is that sports drinks contain electrolytes including sodium and potassium – minerals that are crucial for the control of the flow of water in and out of cells and are vital to ensure fluid retention. Furthermore, research has shown that isotonic drinks can be absorbed faster than water alone (Wright, 2018).

Pacemakers

Sir Roger Bannister’s name is entrenched in running history, his exploit legendary yet he couldn’t have achieved the remarkable feat without being paced by friends and teammates. Eliud Kipchoge also enlisted the help of teammates, forty-one of the world’s best middle and long-distance runners to be precise (INEOS159challenge, 2019). These runners rotated at the end of each six-mile lap, followed an electric car with adapted cruise control for greater accuracy. The car projected a laser beam onto the road to keep the runners on the required pace. After extensive aerodynamic research conducted at TU Eindhoven, the pacemakers ran in a reversed V shape, with two runners running behind him, this led to a 85% reduction in air resistance (Eindhoven University of Technology, 2019).

The controversial running shoes

Nike created a bespoke, improved version of their previous Vaporfly Next% running shoes – the AlphaFLY. The AlphaFLY have four chambers containing pressurised fluid, three carbon plates and ZoomX – a lightweight foam, providing cushioning (Roe, 2019). Nike claim the shoes improve running economy by four percent and this claim has been verified by an independent study (Barnes & Kilding, 2019). A variation of the shoe has been worn by the top 10 finishers in the mens’ race at the Chicago Marathon, the following day. In addition, Brigid Kosgei, who broke Paula Radcliffe’s long standing women’s marathon world record in Chicago, also wore the shoe. Subsequently, a group of athletes complained to the IAAF about the shoes, prompting them to establish a working group to analysis the issue.

Spectators

After evaluating the Breaking2 Project’s failed attempt at Monza Racetrack, Italy, Kipchoge bemoaned the lack of spectators to support his phenomenal effort. Positive support from spectators can lead to increased performance (Lavellee, et al., 2012). During his attempt at the INEOS 1:59 Challenge, the route was lined by masses of supporters cheering him to greatness.

Unfortunately, his Herculean effort is not recognised as a marathon world record by the IAAF, due to the delivery of hydration and nutrition by bicycle, lack of open competition and rotating world class runners, working as pacemakers (BBC, 2019) but now the barrier has been broken, it’s only a matter of time before an athlete runs sub two hours during a race.

References

American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), 2016. American Dietetic Association (ADA) and Dieticians of Canada (DC) (2016) Joint Position Statement, ‘Nutrition and athletic performance. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 48(3), p. 543–568.

Barnes, K. R. & Kilding, A. E., 2019. A Randomized Crossover Study Investigating the Running Economy of Highly-Trained Male and Female Distance Runners in Marathon Racing Shoes versus Track Spikes., Bethesda MD: National Center for Biotechnology Information.

BBC, 2019. Eliud Kipchoge breaks two-hour marathon mark by 20 seconds. [Online]
Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/athletics/50025543
[Accessed 27 January 2020].

Eindhoven University of Technology, 2019. TU/e wind tunnel helped break the marathon’s two-hour barrier. [Online]
Available at: https://www.tue.nl/en/news/news-overview/tue-wind-tunnel-helped-break-the-marathons-two-hour-barrier/#top [Accessed 27 January 2020].

Fudge, B., Pringle, J., Maxwell, N. & Richardson, A., 2018. Altitude training in endurance running: perceptions of elite athletes and support staff. Journal of Sports Sciences, 37(2), pp. 163-172.

INEOS159challenge , 2019. Eluid’s Team. [Online]
Available at: https://www.ineos159challenge.com/team/eliuds-team/
[Accessed 26 January 2020].

INEOS159challenge, 2019. Pacemakers. [Online]
Available at: https://www.ineos159challenge.com/team/pacemakers/
[Accessed 26 January 2020].

INOES159challenge, 2019. Why Vienna proved to be the outstanding candidate to host the Ineos 1:59 Challenge?. [Online]
Available at: https://www.ineos159challenge.com/news/why-vienna-proved-to-be-the-outstanding-candidate-to-host-the-ineos-1-59-challenge/
[Accessed 27 January 2020].

Lavellee, D., Kremer, J., Moran, A. & Williams, M., 2012. Sport Psychology: Contemporary Themes. 2nd ed. London: Red Globe Press.

Maurten, 2019. SHOP SPORTS FUEL. [Online]
Available at: https://www.maurten.com/products/gb
[Accessed 27 January 202].

Roe, D., 2019. Everything We Know About Eliud Kipchoge’s Barrier Breaking Shoes. [Online]
Available at: https://www.runnersworld.com/gear/a29447426/eliud-kipchoge-shoes/
[Accessed 27 January 2020].

Sharkey, B. J. & Gaskill, S. E., 2013. Fitness & Health. 7th ed. Champaign: Human Kinetics.

Wright, N., 2018. Unit 29 How nutrition fuels the athlete’s body. [Online]
Available at: https://learn2.open.ac.uk/mod/oucontent/view.php?id=1287358
(Accessed 18 May 2019).