book-review & open questions – whats the authors perspective?

  • Creator
  • #45491


    i just ordered my copy of the German version of the Uphill Athlete and i am really looking forward to reading it and applying your advice.

    In the course of doing my research, i found one review, which beside praising your fantastic book, also raised some questions and also criticized some of the data and the resulting conclusions. Unfortunately, the author does not seem to have contacted you before publishing the article so the not that well informed reader like me wonders what you as the authors have to say to these questions. if you do not mind reading through it, i would be eager to learn whats your take on the points raised in this article:

    Training for the Uphill Athlete – Review – a new milestone in quality and thoroughness in a training guide for the endurance athlete

    Thanks a lot in advance and have a great week!



  • Participant
    Reed on #45509

    Seems to me that the quotation below gets to the core of that author’s concerns / objections. Sports scientists are great at finding underlying mechanisms and evidence for why certain adaptations occur or why certain stimuli are beneficial. Coaches tend to be much more interested on figuring out whether something works, not why it works.

    Concern number one is that the authors provide no reference for this data so that the efficacy of the testing could be checked. One has no idea if these data were ever peer-reviewed by experts or if the data are published. Using unpublished data is not appropriate for supporting generalized conclusions published in a book. Concern number two centers around the relevance of cross sectional data on individuals to any generalized advice. Without an understanding of many other factors (some confounding) that will influence the results shown, these data really have no scientific basis. They are cherry-picked graphs used to support a point being made in the text- something that is not acceptable. Use of representative peer-reviewed data from published references is the only acceptable alternative and even this type of data can be very deficient in this field of study. Without longitudinal data as well as data on individual enzymatic profiles (profiles which are temporal) there is no ability to put any generalized interpretation on what is presented. This is not to say that the arguments presented by the authors cannot be supported, just that they do not provide the appropriate references to peer-reviewed publications- an unfortunate oversight.

    paum31 on #45510

    Great review!

    Jared Casper on #45528

    You might find the episode of the Uphill Athlete podcast called “Evidence Based Coaching: A Talk with Scott Johnston” interesting. You can find it by scrolling down this page:

    Anonymous on #45555

    Thanks Jared!

    This is a pet peeve of mine and I have addressed it several times, most recently in the podcast you refer to.

    In virtually every case I know of; progress in sport comes from the coaching arena not the laboratory. Then some years later along comes the science playing catch up to “verify” what the coaches have been doing for decades. The reasons are many but the most important is that with thousand of coaches and tens of thousands of athlete working daily to reach their maximum performance you have the largest laboratory in the world. And the test subjects are long term not 4-6 wee and they are athletes not active college students. If you do this process of trial and error evolutionary process where good ideas are kept and bad ones rejected or modified and make you end up with THE gold standard that no lab in the world can disprove.

    Reed is 100% correct that science if great at finding out the “why” but not so good at finding out the “what”.

    Show me the study that looks at aerobic deficiency syndrome (ADS) and finds that a spread between AeT and AnT of 10% or less would indicate no ADS. You’ll be searching or waiting a long time. Ive never seen one. But I can show you real world results with low level and elite level athletes that will demonstrate this clearly and also show that when this spread is narrowed endurance performance improved.


    rich.b on #45559

    Scott, if you have not already seen this, then you would very much appreciate an editorial article from International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance:
    Carl Foster (2019) Sport Science: Progress, Hubris, and Humility. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 2019, 14, 141-143

    Foster emphasises precisely your point about short-term studies on select group, often aiming to isolate and understand one mechanisms, versus the long-term experience of serious coaches. He writes:
    “Although it is becoming less common, many coaches are former elite athletes without formal academic training. So, it is easy to think of them as unschooled. But, as Stephen Seiler pointed out in a lecture some years ago, the scientific understanding of training is grounded on the 8- to 20-week randomized controlled trial, which is so much shorter than the yearly or often quadrennial- based training plans of coaches that the scientists do not really have an appreciation of the effects of long-term periodization and thus cannot really understand the important elements of the training response. The years of experience “in the field” have equipped most serious coaches with a breadth and depth of knowledge that simply is not attainable for those operating in the intentionally narrow world of experimental science.”

    “So, sport science is important. But, its importance is probably less in the domain of evaluating athletes, where coaches already have access to competitions and standard training sessions. When we have tried to tie our recommendations to specific laboratory parameters, we have more often demonstrated our ignorance, indeed our hubris, than been really helpful.”

    I love being a student of the sport, but as you note, Scott, the research mainly focuses on small, very specific groups (typically young, typically male) with the aim of isolating and testing one mechanism under very controlled study designs (often cycling because it is easiest to control and monitor), alternatively, they are larger population-based studies that are not relevant for the individual athlete.

    briguy on #45570

    It should be again mentioned that the reviewer otherwise praises the book and recommends it in a number of areas on his site. And in general the methodology he seems to follow adheres mostly to what I see espoused on UA.

    Speaking of which that particular site seems to be inactive but there is a wealth of reading material there in the archives.

    The author/ownwer has a new site that has similar worthwhile reading but targeting the “veteran” athlete:

    Marcel on #45583

    Hi Scott,
    Hi Jaret,
    hi all,
    thank you for your in depth feedback an the link to the podcast episode i can understand the different viewpoints much better now. Thanks a lot for your insights and have a great week.



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