Monday, February 17, 2014

South Delta Triathlon Club Circuit Class

For the last few weeks we've been running a strength circuit class for members of the South Delta Triathlon Club on a pro bono basis

Consistently high turnout to the weekly sessions at Muscle Memory have seen triathletes push themselves for an hour through a range of high intensity compound exercises

We were recently awarded with a special plaque recognizing our efforts as sponsor and we want to let everyone know that we're proud to give back to the community

We look forward to seeing everyone at the next circuit class!

Here are some highlights from week 3: group power team relay

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Gratitude focus and the little things

Apologies for the delay in posting - life does get in the way if you let it and it's easy to lose focus and get swept up the demands imposed by life

Focus (again)

Sometimes however we do spontaneously take a moment to smell the roses and I had that moment today

I don't consider myself an "app" person but I do find my calendar extremely useful for helping me keep my focus on my top 3 life ambitions: work, training and study in addition to the seemingly smaller things in life that make it worth living:

  • waking up after sufficient, restful sleep
  • taking the time to prepare nutritious meals, particularly breakfast
  • going for a walk with Stan, our dog
Realistic: Optimism vs Pessimism

EVERYONE considers themselves a realist but I'm sure you notice those people who mask negativity as realism as if they want to prove to you that no one is pulling the wool over their eyes and they see the world as it is

Well my dose of "realism" today was despite the fact that it's still winter out - We had some sun today and as much as I'd like to have summer weather all year round, I'm grateful for the fact that I'm not experiencing the tough conditions they have back east

It's the little things

Not being an "app" person, I do have a sleep tracker on my phone to keep me mindful of what sort of sleep debt I accumulate over time and appreciating those little wins I get when I eliminate it over the weekend

After that it's my routine spin to keep my legs ticking over and maintain consistent endurance and mileage: as of last Sunday, 25 weeks to Ironman Canada Whistler

Then its slow cooked oats that I enjoy with Anna and acknowledging the fact that I'm lucky to be able to:
  1. get ENOUGH sleep
  2. take the time for consistent exercise
  3. eat a nutritious meal
  4. not forced to engage in this uphill no win scenario aka the rat race
I'm convinced if you don't take the time to appreciate the moments that make life worth living, it'll fly past you and you'll be on your death bed wondering what the hell happened to the time

So what are you grateful for?

Thursday, May 23, 2013

zen habits: The Little Book of Contentment

I was watching "The Book of Eli" after receiving an email from my Mum telling me of an acquaintance whose son was killed in a motorcycle accident last weekend only 5 months after losing his wife to cancer (no idea how you begin to cope with that...)

Because I question just about EVERYTHING, I've been left wondering where people find a sense of purpose in life through what they do on a regular basis. 

That recent tragedy forced to me to consider that life is a shot deal and that it's far too short to waste taking the little things too seriously but also taking the time to appreciate the important things in life (which can often be little things themselves)

I reference the movie because there are obvious religious themes to it that also incorporate the sense of purpose during situations when the world is otherwise devoid of any sense of balance or purpose.

Not that I'm a religious person but as you'll never find an atheist in a foxhole, I sometimes wonder if there is a higher purpose to serve in life and so far, it's of being of service to others - people much better than myself, and having faith that doing the right thing will yield some satisfaction

Shortly thereafter (minutes ago in fact), I checked my email to find the following email! Coincidence? Totally, but then apparently there are patterns even in what seems to be chaos and that nothing is random

Anyway, passing on the karma, love to hear some comments:

zen habits: The Little Book of Contentment

The Little Book of Contentment
Posted: 23 May 2013 08:30 AM PDT
‘He who is contented is rich.’ ~Lao Tzu
By Leo Babauta

One of the most important things I’ve learned in the last 7 years has been how to find contentment.

It’s been a long journey, but I’ve enjoyed it. I struggled with feeling bad about my body, feeling insecure about myself, doubting my abilities to make it without an employer, doubting myself as a writer, not believing I had discipline or the ability to change my habits.

And all this led to other problems: I sought happiness and pleasure in food, beer, shopping, distraction, TV. I procrastinated, I let my health get bad, I smoked, I was deeply in debt, unhappy with my work, never exercised, and ate lots of junk food.

Not a pretty picture. But if I’d never been in that place, I wouldn’t understand how to get out of it. And so I’m grateful I was there. I’ve learned a lot, about myself and about how to find happiness in who I am, what I have, who I’m with, what I do, and all that’s around me.

And now, I’d like to share that with you.

I’ve written a free book called The Little Book of Contentment: A guide to becoming happy with life & who you are, while getting things done. I share it with you today, in hopes that it will help a few of you, or maybe many, who struggle with being happy with yourselves and your lives. It’s a more common problem than you might imagine, and if I can help just a little, that would be amazing.

I hope you like the book.
Table of Contents

The Agreement
The Root of the Problem
The What & Why of Contentment
The Path of Contentment
Contentment Isn’t Doing Nothing
Comparing to What You Don’t Have
Watch Your Ideals & Expectations
Advertising & Fantasies
Build Trust
Love Yourself
Trying to Find Happiness in External Sources
Where Happiness Comes From
Finding Happiness Within
Our Reactions to the Actions of Others
Don’t Tie Your Self-Worth to Others’ Actions
Become Whole In a Relationship
Self-Happiness & Meeting Others
Jealousy of Others
Techniques for Self-Acceptance
Summary of Action Steps
The book is uncopyrighted.
Download the Book

You can download the book for free in several formats:

PDF version (406K) – right-click and select “Save As” to downoload to your computer

Epub version (for the iPhone/iPad and other ebook readers) (84K)

Kindle version (coming soon)

Please note that you shouldn’t download this book unless you plan to:

Set aside an hour to read this book. Not put aside, but actually read it. Close everything else on your computer and give yourself an hour of undistracted time to read this book.

Put the method into action. Immediately.

Practice the skills daily, just a few minutes a day. In a short time, you should have some basic skills that help you to be content, less angry, less stressed out.

Questions & Answers

Q: How much does the book cost?
A: It’s free.
Q: Can I read it on my iPad or iPhone?
A: Yes. Download the epub version, then drag into iTunes on your computer. Then sync the iPad or iPhone with iTunes on your computer, and the book should now appear in the iBooks app on your iPad/iPhone. Detailed instructions.
Q: When can I get it on my Kindle?
A: Soon.
Q: What if I don’t want to commit to an hour of undistracted reading time, or putting it into action?
A: You shouldn’t download it. I’ve written this book for people who actually want to read it and use it.
Q: Who designed the book? It’s brilliant!
A: I know, right? I did, and I will admit my design skills are best described as “humble”.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Expanding horizons

"Fitness" is a loosely definable term and everyone will give you a different, personal description - any attempt to do so automatically constricts the scope and spirit of it

One thing we can agree on is that it's a moving target, yesterday's fad is today's taboo, just when you think you've seen it all, along comes a captivating new trend

With that in mind, I decided to undertake a new strength and conditioning program through CrossFit

Unless you've been living on the moon, everyone's heard of it or know's someone who's recently converted themselves to the new religion.  I say religion because that's how devoutly it's disciples praise it as the be all and end all of supreme fitness

For me it started when I met one advocate chastising me for the lengthy (15-20hrs is not uncommon) workouts devoted to Ironman training and stating factually that you could easily achieve greatness with only 7hrs (1hr/day) a week

First off, I'm always suspicious of anything that puts itself forward as being the one true anything, mainly because arrogance offends me, period.

Secondly, if science teaches us anything, it's that answers often lead to more questions and the more we learn, the more we realize how ignorant we really are

In that vein, I decided to take the 10 day challenge because I want to expand my knowledge base (for personal reasons as well as for the benefit of my clients) and probably more to the point that I just get bored with the same routine and I'm constantly looking for a new source of mental stimulation

That search led me to CrossFit South Delta and under the personal attention of coach Jeordie Ker, I experienced a new source of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) as well as a new source of debate over what constitutes ideal nutrition

Anyone undertaking the program starts with 10 sessions of personal training aimed at teaching the range of CrossFit exercises that form the basis of the standard group workout that you will graduate to upon successful completion of the 10 sessions

FYI CrossFit is a company and a copyrighted term often used to describe a style of fitness training - from Wikipedia:

"CrossFit describes its strength and conditioning program as “constantly varied, high intensity, functional movement,"[4] with the stated goal of improving fitness (and therefore general physical preparedness), which it defines as "work capacity across broad time and modal domains."[5] 

Workouts are typically short—20 minutes or less—and intense, demanding all-out physical exertion. They combine movements such as sprintingrowingjumping rope, climbing rope, flipping tires, weightlifting, carrying heavy objects, and many bodyweight exercises; equipment used includesbarbellsdumbbellsgymnastics ringspull-up barskettlebellsmedicine balls, and boxes for box jumps.[6][7][8] 

These elements are mixed in numerous combinations to form prescribed "Workouts of the Day" or "WODs". Hour-long classes at affiliated gyms, or "boxes," typically include a warm-up, a skill development segment, the high-intensity WOD, and a period of individual or group stretching. Performance on each WOD is often scored and/or ranked to encourage competition and to track individual progress. Some affiliates offer additional classes, such as Olympic weightlifting, which are not centered around a WOD.[9]"

For yours truly, it represents a structured, scaleable, progressive strength and conditioning program upon which to base measurable development - that, and a new way to keep from getting bored 5h!tle$$ in the gym - Plus, I figure any Personal Trainer worth his (or hers) salt ought to have a working knowledge of the latest trends in Fitness (that word again)

More updates to follow...

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A letter from Michael Pollan

Received this email from Michael Pollan this morning (as part of my subscription to his site...)

Michael Pollan is an American author, journalist, activist, and professor of journalism at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. A 2006 New York Times book review describes him as a "liberal foodie intellectual." Wikipedia

I'm particularly interested in Mr Pollan's ongoing assessment of the modern food industry, particularly with respect to the effect of mass food production and the wide ranging consequences it has on our bodies, our environment, business and society as a whole

You may consider this just another result of the for-profit, commercialization of basic human needs or the "The Agricultural Industrial Complex" but the effects are extreme and the only real effort is to take a more involved approach to our personal health and realize the economic and environmental effects our eating habits have - read on:

It’s been a long time since I’ve written. I’ve had my head down, finishing a book, teaching, and working on some articles, one of which is posted on line today.
The piece will appear on Sunday in the New York Times Magazine’s annual food issue. It’s about the California Ballot Initiative to require the labeling of genetically modified food. This might seem like a local political fight, but the ramifications, I contend, are national—in fact, the campaign represents a moment of truth for the food movement. The essay is very much about the state of that movement, and whether the time has come to move from “voting with your fork” to voting with our votes-- for a more sustainable and transparent food system. I hope you’ll take the time to read it and let me know what you think, at
On other matters, I’m very excited to have finished my new book, COOKED: A Natural History of Transformation. My longest book since The Omnivore’s DilemmaCooked continues my exploration of the food chain, looking at a link I had only touched on before but have begun to think may be the most important.
The industrialization of agriculture is inextricably bound up with the industrialization of eating—the fact that most Americans today are outsourcing the preparation of their meals to corporations. It turns out corporations don’t cook very well, and the cost of letting them try–to our health and the health of our families and communities—is far too high. Unless people are willing to take back some of the work of cooking, the food chain is likely to remain too long, too opaque, and too destructive. (It’s hard to break free of the industrial food economy, or support local food chains, if you don’t know what to do with fresh produce.) What I discovered – in the course of apprenticing myself to a series of gifted cooks, pit masters, bakers, and fermenters—is just how gratifying reclaiming this part of life can be—and how much cooking has to teach us about nature, on the one side, and community on the other. The “reporting” for this book was by far the most fun I’ve ever had as a writer. And in fact to the extent I argue my case, it is mainly on the grounds of sheer pleasure.
The book is out on April 23, and I will be traveling extensively in the weeks following, very possibly to a place near you. Watch my website for the schedule. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the article and will look forward to hearing from you.
Michael Pollan

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

today's quote

Too many of us sit on the sidelines of fear and doubt, unable to contribute to a world in need of our brilliance...
—Chris Guillebeau, author of The Art of Nonconformity

Monday, September 24, 2012

andrew's weekly

Once in a while I realize what I consider to be some fundamental lessons in life

If I consider them important at the time, I might as well write them down

And I guess if they're worth writing down, they just might be worth sharing:

goal: focus on it, especially when things get tough and you start doubting yourself

timeline: represents the minimum amount of time you should give to achieving your goal - at least you know you gave it a shot

feedback: as much as possible and as wide as possible - don't sweat the individuals too much

opinions: be honest and share yours, you're not as dumb as you look and you might have something important worth listening to

negotiate: everything's negotiable, be true to yourself, take what you deserve and don't sell yourself short

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Death of “Functional” in Personal Training

The Death of “Functional” in Personal Training


The following is a guest post by  Jon-Erik Kawamoto“Functional” is a funny term.  Jon-Erik tells us why “functional” training is a term that should be left behind with the thigh blasters and vibrating belt machines in the personal training world. If you’re interested in submitting a guest post please check out the contribution page.
I‘ve heard the term “functional fitness” way too much over the last week. I’ve heard it so much, I forgot what it means.
I saw one video saying that functional training is any exercise that incorporates more than one joint. If this is true, then a bench press would be functional while a rope triceps extension would not be. What about multi-dimensional movements? Well of course they’re functional and single plane exercises are obviously non functional. Any personal trainers out there following?
I’ve read somewhere that functional training is an exercise that mimics what’s done in the real world or sporting field. If this was true, a suit case deadlift would be functional for the real world, but not for soccer and swinging a weighted bat would be functional for baseball, but not for curling.
I’ve also seen videos of personal trainers discussing how standing on unstable surfaces is functional training because the unstableness mimics the sidewalk if an earthquake hits (okay…a little farfetched, but it’s true!). What about exercise machines? The pec deck, leg curl and leg press would die to be considered functional because everyone knows that machines aren’t functional.
Anyway, my point is that no one seems to agree on what functional training actually means. This phase is in the same boat as “core training” or “metabolic conditioning” (phases that are also overused, misused and misunderstood).
Next you’ll hear that vibration platforms are functional or that the Ab-o-matic is the next best functional training tool on the market that targets your lower abs (stay tuned for my launch next week).
How to become a personal trainer functional
If you put the term “functional” in front of any muscle group, exercise or system, it sounds pretty legit.
Let’s try:
Functional Leg Training (legit)
Functional Sit-up (legit)
Functional Shoulder Shrug (legit)

Okay, you get the point…

It seems that if the word functional is associated with anything, it makes it that much better for you. But “it is apparent that many personal trainers are confusing general and sport-specific exercises,” writes Mel Siff, “as well as single and multiple joint methods of training, when they refer to functionality and non functionality.
“Functionality depends not only on the exercise itself but on many other factors, such as the pattern of execution, the characteristics of the athlete, reps, and sets, the manner of execution, the phase of training, interaction with other training, the current physical and mental state of the athlete, the overall training program, and several other variables.” –Siff
Just because an exercise is functional for an athlete at one instance, doesn’t mean it will be functional during another instance for the same athlete; therefore,

The functionality of an exercise is context dependent.

How to be a personal trainer functional
Hey Rob, is this functional?
To further your understanding on whether an exercise is functional or not, you’ll have to study the neuromuscular and metabolic happenings during the exercise and relate it to the neuromuscular and metabolic happenings during the sporting movement (I don’t see too many doing this).
“So, if we are to consider sit-ups and the Olympic lifts as non- functional with respect to virtually any complex sporting action, then we also have to regard crunches, cable crunches, back-extended ball crunches, transversus abdominis exercises, hanging leg raises, and every other popular gym exercise as being similarly nonfunctional. In other words, as stated earlier, there is no such entity as a truly functional exercise, except for the actual sporting or daily movement that we are trying to enhance by training.” –Siff
Just because gross movement patterns appear similar doesn’t mean the muscles are recruited the exact same way every time the movement is performed. Maybe instead of exercises, we should focus on the motor responses associated with the motor skill we want to develop.
So any form or training that increases functionality or sport-specific performance should be considered functional, right? This would then imply that any non-functional exercise would have little influence in sport performance.
So I guess body building is useless for hockey…but what if the rookie forward needed to put on 20-lbs so he could hold his own on the ice? Does it make it functional in that situation? But I thought body building wasn’t functional? But does it improve his performance and presence on the ice? Probably. So I guess it’s safe to say body building can be considered functional training in that context?
Becoming a personal trainer functional
What about Crossfit? I spent the whole weekend watching the Crossfit Games. It got me fired up and made me want to train…all day! The guys and girls who kicked some serious butt this past weekend are true competitors and absolute beasts! Anyways, I digress.
Back to the topic at hand: I heard the phrases functional exercisefunctional training and functional fitness way too much this weekend. So a thruster (front squat to overhead press) is functional? For who?? It’s functional for the Crossfitter who has to bang out reps when doing Fran but what about for a bowler? Or a swimmer? But it’s a multi-joint exercise, so it’s functional right?
The problem here is the fitness industry is not black and white. Why do we have to classify exercises as functional and non functional anyway?
How about this: Does the exercise help you get closer to your goals? Then the exercise is optimal, not functional. I say we get rid of this controversial term and just say exercises are optimal or not-optimal depending on the context and your goals.
Siff, Mel. (2002). Functional training revisited. Strength and conditioning journal, 24(5): 42-46.

Do you use the term “Functional Training”? Why do you still use it and what does it mean to you? What other fitness terms are bastardized?
Also, be sure  to “like” thePTDC’s Facebook page and check out what we’re all about.
be a personal trainerJon-Erik Kawamoto, CSCS, CSEP is currently pursuing a Master’s of Exercise Physiology at Memorial University of Newfoundland and also contributes to Running Times, Canadian Running, Oxygen and Reps magazine among others. Find out more at his blogs

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Scalenes, the Dynamic Duo + 1

The Scalenes are an important neck muscle comprised of three parts, the anterior, the middle, and the posterior. The anterior and the middle will be the subject of this post because the posterior is mostly involved as a synergist for the upper trapezius. The brachial plexus passes through an opening between the anterior and middle scalenes, making it subject to dysfunction if the scalenes are hypertonic. The scalenes are also accessory muscles of respiration and can cause breathing imbalances if one is a chest breather. The scalenes are also involved in the kinetic chain of the arm as well as the front line and lateral line. We will examine all of these relationships to reveal just how dynamic these muscles truly are.
In cervical dysfunction the scalenes can be either facilitated or inhibited. If the sternocleidomastoid muscle is inhibited, the scalenes may compensate to stabilize neck flexion. In the case of whiplash, the scalenes may become inhibited by facilitated neck extensors. I find it very important to release the scalenes indirectly by stabilizing the first and second ribs while performing a myofascial stretch. I have found that working directly on the scalenes can cause them to rebound and tighten up even further. To strengthen the scalenes, resist at the forehead while nodding towards the ipsilateral shoulder. The scalenes also ipsilaterally flex the neck, and therefore can become inhibited by either the ipsilateral or contralateral upper trapezius. The scalenes produce ipsilateral rotation of the cervical spine, and can become facilitated by an inhibited contralateral sternocleidomastoid or an ipsilateral longus colli.
Because the brachial plexus passes through an opening between the anterior and middle scalenes, hypertonicity, whether caused by facilitation or inhibition, must be addressed. The extra pressure on the brachial plexus caused by hypertonic scalenes can result in Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. Symptoms include numbness and tingling in the arms and hands, as well as loss of strength in both the arms and hands. I have found the scalenes to be compensating for 13 different functions in the arm line with someone who had TOS. Reestablishing the proper relationship between the scalenes and these 13 different functions was crucial in the resolution of the TOS.
The scalenes are an important part of the front line kinetic chain. It is not unusual for the scalenes to be facilitated for an inhibited ipsilateral psoas and adductors. They may also be facilitated for an inhibited contralateral TFL and adductors. Even dysfunction of the extensor hallucis longus can be compensated for by the ipsilateral scalenes.In the lateral line, the scalenes oftentimes become facilitated in combination with the peroneals in cases of over pronation or ankle sprains. The most likely inhibited muscle in this scenario is the TFL. The scalenes can also be dynamically involved with the obliques and the quadratus lumborum.
The scalenes are also accessory muscles of respiration. They elevate the first and second ribs, and in chest breathers, they can become,along with the pectoralis minor, dominant muscles of respiration. In this situation they can become facilitated for inhibition of the muscles that depress the rib cage, such as the quadratus lumborum and the obliques. Resolution of these dynamic muscular relationships along with restoration of proper breathing patterns can go a long way to resolving this issue.
The scalenes are important to consider in cervical dysfunction, Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, problems with the arms and hands, dysfunction of the muscles of the front line, dysfunction of the muscles of the lateral line, and improper breathing patterns. Remember to treat these muscles with respect and they will reward you with outstanding therapeutic outcomes.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Lactic Acid Is Not Muscles' Foe, It's Fuel

Published: May 16, 2006

Everyone who has even thought about exercising has heard the warnings about lactic acid. It builds up in your muscles. It is what makes your muscles burn. Its buildup is what makes your muscles tire and give out.

Ben Stansall/European Pressphoto Agency
Coaches and personal trainers tell athletes and exercisers that they have to learn to work out at just below their "lactic threshold," that point of diminishing returns when lactic acid starts to accumulate. Some athletes even have blood tests to find their personal lactic thresholds.

But that, it turns out, is all wrong. Lactic acid is actually a fuel, not a caustic waste product. Muscles make it deliberately, producing it from glucose, and they burn it to obtain energy. The reason trained athletes can perform so hard and so long is because their intense training causes their muscles to adapt so they more readily and efficiently absorb lactic acid.

The notion that lactic acid was bad took hold more than a century ago, said George A. Brooks, a professor in the department of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley. It stuck because it seemed to make so much sense.

"It's one of the classic mistakes in the history of science," Dr. Brooks said.

Its origins lie in a study by a Nobel laureate, Otto Meyerhof, who in the early years of the 20th century cut a frog in half and put its bottom half in a jar. The frog's muscles had no circulation — no source of oxygen or energy.

Dr. Myerhoff gave the frog's leg electric shocks to make the muscles contract, but after a few twitches, the muscles stopped moving. Then, when Dr. Myerhoff examined the muscles, he discovered that they were bathed in lactic acid.

A theory was born. Lack of oxygen to muscles leads to lactic acid, leads to fatigue.
Athletes were told that they should spend most of their effort exercising aerobically, using glucose as a fuel. If they tried to spend too much time exercising harder, in the anaerobic zone, they were told, they would pay a price, that lactic acid would accumulate in the muscles, forcing them to stop.

Few scientists questioned this view, Dr. Brooks said. But, he said, he became interested in it in the 1960's, when he was running track at Queens College and his coach told him that his performance was limited by a buildup of lactic acid.

When he graduated and began working on a Ph.D. in exercise physiology, he decided to study the lactic acid hypothesis for his dissertation.

"I gave rats radioactive lactic acid, and I found that they burned it faster than anything else I could give them," Dr. Brooks said.

It looked as if lactic acid was there for a reason. It was a source of energy.
Dr. Brooks said he published the finding in the late 70's. Other researchers challenged him at meetings and in print.

"I had huge fights, I had terrible trouble getting my grants funded, I had my papers rejected," Dr. Brooks recalled. But he soldiered on, conducting more elaborate studies with rats and, years later, moving on to humans. Every time, with every study, his results were consistent with his radical idea.

Eventually, other researchers confirmed the work. And gradually, the thinking among exercise physiologists began to change.

"The evidence has continued to mount," said L. Bruce Gladden, a professor of health and human performance at Auburn University. "It became clear that it is not so simple as to say, Lactic acid is a bad thing and it causes fatigue."

As for the idea that lactic acid causes muscle soreness, Dr. Gladden said, that never made sense.
"Lactic acid will be gone from your muscles within an hour of exercise," he said. "You get sore one to three days later. The time frame is not consistent, and the mechanisms have not been found."

The understanding now is that muscle cells convert glucose or glycogen to lactic acid. The lactic acid is taken up and used as a fuel by mitochondria, the energy factories in muscle cells.

Mitochondria even have a special transporter protein to move the substance into them, Dr. Brooks found. Intense training makes a difference, he said, because it can make double the mitochondrial mass.

It is clear that the old lactic acid theory cannot explain what is happening to muscles, Dr. Brooks and others said.

Yet, Dr. Brooks said, even though coaches often believed in the myth of the lactic acid threshold, they ended up training athletes in the best way possible to increase their mitochondria. "Coaches have understood things the scientists didn't," he said.

Through trial and error, coaches learned that athletic performance improved when athletes worked on endurance, running longer and longer distances, for example.

That, it turns out, increased the mass of their muscle mitochondria, letting them burn more lactic acid and allowing the muscles to work harder and longer.

Just before a race, coaches often tell athletes to train very hard in brief spurts.

That extra stress increases the mitochondria mass even more, Dr. Brooks said, and is the reason for improved performance.

And the scientists?

They took much longer to figure it out.

"They said, 'You're anaerobic, you need more oxygen,' " Dr. Brooks said. "The scientists were stuck in 1920."