Are we training wrong? (Part 2)

In the last post I mentioned how separating running and orienteering training is not very effective, and also how focusing on training more with orienteering-specific workouts can develop your terrain speed more than just traditional speedwork (which is designed to make you a faster runner not orienteer).

In this post I want to write a little about what I think it takes for a new elite orienteer to make it into the big leagues. Being new to the elite level, I’m speculating about how I can train to hopefully compete with some of the top athletes.


1) Train speed through terrain

I’ve mentioned this many times, but it’s been drilled into my head (and correctly so) that you need to be fast to compete with other fast runners.

This was made very apparent to me at JWOC where I had some decent performances, but was crushed by the faster athletes.

Why is speed (particularly terrain speed) so important? Might be a stupid question, but here’s a few reasons.

1) The faster you go through terrain the faster you can run when you aren’t navigating (e.g. on trails or easy legs)

2) If you are a stronger runner it is easier to read the map at higher speeds (this is actually quite important).

AND both of these things can bootstrap off each other to make you orienteer much better and faster. When it is easier to read map at high speed, it is easier to simplify legs and make the leg easier to run at higher speed.

2) Train in difficult terrain

Since spending a lot of time training speed through terrain doesn’t leave as much time for technical training (especially in the states where it’s hard to find and set up courses) it’s important to train in challenging terrain.

Greg Ahlswede definitely clued me in on this when I did a couple training camps with him in North-East Pennsylvania and my technical skills massively improved.

Why does training in difficult terrain improve your technical skills? (Wow another really stupid sounding question).

Well, training in challenging terrain challenges your technical skills thus forcing you to adapt, improvise and overcome.

Difficult terrain allows us to identify our technical skills that aren’t very strong and we need more practice with. It also forces you to be very diligent about your focus during the training which is key to effectively simplifying the map and identifying/executing your route.

This is also brings me to my next point.

3) Train in different types of terrain

New and different terrain to what you normally run in also allows you to find technical skills that you don’t necessarily use as often and sharpen them up.

Also, most importantly, training in different types of terrain allows you to abstract the important elements of orienteering into a more refined and effective method for navigating through all types of terrain.

For example, you might learn that simplifying the map applies to pretty much all types of terrain and you can abstract the idea of simplification and apply that idea to new terrain that you maybe never seen before.

4) Train in easy terrain

This might seem pretty counter intuitive, but I also think it’s important to train in easy terrain about as often as you train in difficult terrain.

One of the key things I attribute to my skill in orienteering is confidence. It’s extremely important to be focused and confident while navigating or else you will lose a lot of time due to hesitation or second-guessing yourself.

Training through easy terrain helps build confidence and is great training for running fast through terrain. If you only train in difficult areas then your confidence can take a hit and you will start hesitating and running slower, but if you train in easy areas and have amazing training sessions that are fast and clean then your confidence will skyrocket and it allows you to translate that confidence to real orienteering races which is crucial to success in the sport.

Anyways, that’s all I have for this post. If you are interested in reading more in depth on how to improve (especially technical skills) then I recommend reading The Winning Eye.

I may have recommended it before, but a lot of the theories I come up with on technical training are based on that so, enjoy!

Are we training wrong? (Part 1)


I’m not convinced that the way many orienteers train is very effective for orienteering. Why?

It pretty much started when I looked at my training for this year.



2021 isn’t over yet, but by the end of the yea I don’t expect to have much more than 250 hours of training logged on Attackpoint.

That is 100 hours less than last year when I was injured for 3 months, but training way more (especially in university). And now I am in the best orienteering shape of my life after a relatively small amount of training this year.

Do I think that training less is better? No.

But what I’ve learned this year is that more specialized training for orienteering is super important and having effective training sessions can makeup for a HUGE lack of training hours.

Would I have liked to train more this year? Yes, I just ran into some problems and instead spent my gap-year time focusing on how to make my training more effective rather than just more.


The second (normal red) bar in the graph above represents orienteering and I expect that by the end of the year my orienteering volume will match or exceed that of last year while both conditioning and running volume will be significantly lower.

Not only have I been doing more orienteering training this year, but I’ve tried to focus my workouts to be more orienteering specific.

By orienteering specific workouts I mean the following:

Terrain Intervals / Running – running through terrain at a fast pace

Hill Workouts / Training – running up hills at a fast pace

Dynamic Movement Workouts – running/jumping/climbing over obstacles


Why do I do these orienteering specific workouts as opposed to normal running workouts? Well it is pretty self explanatory.

Despite being at a lower speed than say a track workout, these orienteering workouts help develop the leg strength and power necessary for speed through terrain which, as I’ve mentioned in another post, is the primary physical component of orienteering (at least in the forest).

Is doing track workouts useless then? I don’t think so.

At first I thought that replacing all speed work with these kind of orienteering specific workouts is the way to go. But after some thought, it seems to me that track workouts at a fast pace also have their place in orienteering training because 1) they will be easier if you have a good base of strength from orienteering and 2) they help train aerobic endurance and speed in a way that orienteering specific workouts can’t seem to do.

So I do think that if you HAD to choose between doing only orienteering specific speedwork vs. typical speedwork then do the one more specialized for orienteering (like terrain intervals).

But since we have the option to do both I think that doing both is more effective than only one or the other even if traditional speedwork isn’t specifically designed for improving your orienteering.

Oregon Ducks add 5 more victories to close out Hayward Premiere track and  field meet - oregonlive.com

So, what would a good week of training look like for me?

Monday: Rest Day / Cross Training

Tuesday: Orienteering Specific Workout

Wednesday: Easy Run w/ Map

Thursday: Traditional Speedwork (either tempo run or track workout)

Friday: Easy Run w/ Map or Cross Training

Saturday: Easy Orienteering Training or Terrain Running w/ Map

Sunday: Long Run or Hard Orienteering Training

I plan to follow something similar to the above when I go back to school in a few weeks (although my club does workouts on Wednesday so I’ll have to move things around).

Anyways, I want to go into how to train during actual orienteering sessions and why running with a map is important, but I think I will leave that for another post.

Thanks for reading!

JWOC Training Week in Turkey — thoughts

Above are all 7 maps in the official training camp before JWOC here in Turkey.

I’ve been training here along with the other athletes: David Runde, Jessica Colleran and Ben Brady.

My impressions so far have been pretty mixed. The first two maps above were meant to be relevant to the middle however they weren’t similar to each other at all.

The long relevant terrain also is not VERY similar to the leaked Long map.

Although judging from the description and photo in the bulletin I expect the long will mostly be on the west side of the map shown below.


Anyways, so far the training has been going quite well for me. I’m a bit rough around the edges at times making small mistakes, but the mistakes have been going away as I do more trainings.

Only after 4 forest trainings, I feel pretty solid about the upcoming races, especially after watching some of the other team trainings.

Animated GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

I had a really good training in the same area many teams have been training (number 4/5 in the map gallery above).

We did a simulated mass start between the Ukrainian, USA, Japanese and Spanish teams (like the first leg of a relay).

And I managed to beat everyone, running barely over 6 min/km in pretty physical terrain.

I recommend watching the replay here if you are interested. It doesn’t have very many routes, but if you look at my route it can give you a good idea of how to run through this kind of terrain (when / why I avoid green etc.)

It wasn’t a perfect race, although I was cleaner than most and physically managed to push pretty well. Before this one I took the trainings really easy too so I probably had some extra energy.

Anyways, I felt really good about that race and hope I can pull off something similar in the actual relay and also a fast / clean race in the middle and long as well.


The last thing I want to cover is the first training we did which is probably most relevant to the middle.

Here is a link to my route (bad map quality sorry).

The scattered and detailed rocks map it look very technical, kinda like in the Czech Republic this year.

However, the rocks are very over-mapped which is a bit odd. Most of the mapped “rock piles” are very small. The cliffs and boulders are also usually minimum size or smaller.

This makes the terrain not as technical as it looks at first glance because if you keep your head up then it’s easy to see other features or just spot the control. But I still think you can get confused if you are looking for one rock in the middle of a bunch of rocks ESPECIALLY if you don’t stick on your compass.

I believe we are doing another training here before JWOC actually starts on September 5th, and I am going to focus on taking some really good compasses through the rocky areas.

Anyways, I think that’s all I have to say about training here. The races are coming up soon and I’m very excited! Now trying to be as physically prepared as possible by letting my legs recover, eating and sleeping well!

That’s all.

Who is Dr. Jordan B Peterson? (Part 1)

This past year I took a break from university mainly to avoid the insufferable nonsense of online education. I never expected it to be so difficult to live without the structure of school and the everyday comfort of having something to do.

All of a sudden I needed to decide what to do every moment of everyday and it was HARD. I struggled quite a bit, jumping between different hobbies and shuffling schedules. I’ve never really been a diligent planner so that meant I would go into each day not knowing what I was doing AT ALL until maybe 5 minutes beforehand when I decide to do something silly, like start a blog.

Anyways, one of the discoveries I made during this time was a book written by the popular psychologist Jordan B. Peterson called 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos. If you haven’t heard of the guy then either you’ve been living under a rock or otherwise have better things to be doing than listening to some guy talk for hours on YouTube.

Jordan Peterson rose to fame some time around 2016 after taking a controversial political / social stance on Canada’s Bill C16 which mandated the use of preferred pronouns under Canadian law.

But for many years he’s been known as a brilliant psychology professor, intellectual and philosopher on topics ranging from Religion to Personal Development.

If you’ve never seen or heard about him I really recommend watching one of his lectures to get a better idea who he is.

Jordan Peterson on the meaning of life for men. MUST WATCH - YouTube

Now, I truly think that Jordan is brilliant in his speech and presentation skills, which are backed up by a wide array of knowledge in psychology, neuroscience and history.

Despite all that background, I do believe that I can break down Jordan Peterson’s main philosophies in one blog post — hopefully in a way that is more easily digestible than his lectures where he speaks for hours.

Not everything about Jordan Peterson will be covered in this post, but I will share some of the important ideas, philosophical concepts and developmental theories starting with a description of certain fundamental concepts.

Developmental Psychology

I wouldn’t call Jordan a developmental psychologist (although he is a clinical psychologist) but he brings up the field several times in his lectures, particularly the work of Jean Piaget, famous for his work on child development. The idea that humans behavior is largely explained by development since birth isn’t new, and is not very controversial. Yet the field of developmental psychology is way too large to go in depth so I will cite a few important takeaways that Jordan often mentions:

1. Taking good care of children from birth is crucial for their later life success and wellbeing (measured in various ways).

It’s not clear exactly what “good care” means, and it varies from person to person with sometimes comparable levels of success, but as I continue it will become more clear what Jordan believes (and I mostly agree with) to be the main indicators of parenting success.

2. Changing your own behavior is crucial to developing yourself.

Pretty self-explanatory. This will be mentioned a lot more later in the post, so I’ll just say that changing your behavior can change the trajectory of your development either towards something better or not, so controlling that is important (but difficult).

Existentialism

Most people think of existentialism as the “life is meaningless” idea, but that’s not entirely correct. Existentialism is essentially the idea that meaning is derived from lived experience; it’s not things themselves that have meaning but the way we use objects or perceive them.

Existentialism emphasizes the importance of individual existence (pretty easy to remember if you take apart the word).

Phenomenology

One of the most interesting fields that Peterson frequently touches upon. Plainly put, phenomenology is the study of ‘phenomena’ or more simply — an approach that concentrates on the study of consciousness and the objects of direct experience.

Consciousness is a very strange phenomenon (pardon the pun) and is extremely interesting to both study and philosophize about because we don’t know crap about it.

One thing that Jordan mentions a lot is the difference between objective reality and experienced reality. Or the difference between matter and what matters.

At first it might seem strange. What’s the difference? It’s actually pretty huge, and this is a point Dr. Peterson emphasizes a lot. We perceive the world not as a collection of objects, but as filled with ‘tools’ and ‘obstacles’ that either aid in moving towards an aim / objective or prevent us from moving towards the current goal.

More simply: we always have a current aim or goal, we perceive the world as things that move us towards or away from that goal because THAT is was is important to us.

Let’s look at an example…

Say you are downstairs and haven’t ate for many hours, but were distracted by homework that you FINALLY finished. All of a sudden your brain will likely fall under control of hunger (a motivated state) and your perception will be hyper focused on how to satisfy that motivated state (and thus activate certain reward systems to reinforce that behavior, but that’s a topic for another time).

The kitchen is upstairs so first thing you’ll do is get up out of your chair and align your body and eyes to move towards the stair case. You automatically ignore everything else in the room, because none of that would satisfy your current aim (unless there is a Snickers bar in the corner or something).

Assuming you are familiar with the kitchen, your eyes and ENTIRE perception will focus on where you can find food. Otherwise, if you are not familiar with the kitchen, your brain will utilize abstractions learned from your previous experience in kitchens to perceive a fridge or cupboard that it’s never seen before and assume that is where food can be found.

When you open the fridge, your eyes will focus immediately on the abundance of food, judging how to best satisfy your current motivated state, but you will also be under the influence of other motivated states competing with the state of pure “hunger”.

Maybe you are watching your weight so you are willing to sacrifice appeasing your hunger to in return shed some pounds.

All of these different motivated states can be thought of as micro personalities that ‘take control of you’. Even if they are only biological processes, I find it much easier to think of motivations in terms of micro personalities as it is much more practical.

ANYWAYS, that is enough of Phenomenology. I explained a few things outside of Phenomenology including Freud’s (or Jung’s?) theory of motivation, but hopefully now you get the idea that our consciousness and perceptions are not necessarily concerned with the objective world (assuming one even exists.. see this link for an extremely good video explaining this idea).

Truth

So this isn’t a psychological or even philosophical idea, but it is mentioned a lot by Jordan Peterson and I think it is really important to cover.

In fact, Jordan seems to describe truth almost as a religious idea in that using truth to act in the world will make the world better. And that the more that people are truthful, the better the world will be.

Now, it’s important to distinguish ‘telling the truth’ and ‘acting truthfully’ because I believe the second to be most important. You can always tell the truth and lie with your actions, although speaking the truth is a good first step.

When you act truthfully, your speech, actions, thoughts and experience should all be brutally honest. It’s hard to explain how to be truthful, but in Jordan Peterson’s book “12 Rules for Life” he has a chapter titled “Tell the Truth, or At Least Don’t Lie”. It should be quite obvious to you when you have talked, written or acted out a lie. It is important to notice these breaches of truth and try to correct them, don’t let lies slip by.

It’s really hard for me to explain why being truthful to yourself and to others is absolutely and fundamentally important, but it is.

I recommend being honest in every interaction, don’t try to deceive or manipulate, it’s not worth it. Lies will pile up and come back to haunt you.

Individualism

THIS IS THE LAST THING I WILL TOUCH ON IN THIS POST.

Jordan Peterson (rightfully, in my opinion) believes that the individual is the most fundamental and important element of society.

One of Dr. Peterson’s controversial criticisms of left wing activists and politicians is that they tend to elevate group identity over individual identity. When Peterson believes that individual identity is undeniably most important.

One of the justifications Peterson uses is that with group identities, individuals can have many of them. This makes it hard to know whether to hold a group responsible for the actions of an individual when often the individual is to blame (emphasis on individual responsibility is a topic that I’ll hopefully touch on in Part 2 of this post).

Also, another potential benefit to individualism is that it tends to foster better interactions between people. Tribalism, which occurs when people primarily identify with a group or collection of groups, has historically led to a lot of conflict when compared to individualist interactions which tend to consider that both parties in the interactions are responsible for what they do and say which makes for more respectful interactions.

Last thing about individualism, taking a more practical approach, is that when you act with your individual responsibility in mind, it makes your life more meaningful as taking responsibility makes you an actor in the world that can effect change and by taking responsibility for their actions, people are more likely to effect positive change because that is not only what’s best for society, but for themselves as well.

Anyways, I’ve gone off on a lot of weird tangents in this post and surely haven’t explained myself thoroughly enough to make complete sense. Hopefully when I get part 2 up things will make more sense and Jordan’s philosophy will seem more clear.

Analyzing the WOC 2021 Relay

2021 is the year of my first WOC performance. I’m 20 years old, one of the younger athletes in the field, and ran for Team USA, one of the less experienced countries.

I still had a really great time and am looking forward to competing again!


Overall, the relay was my favorite and probably best performance at WOC. It was in the famous Czech sandstone terrain which you can see pictures here and a good video here.

Right out of the start I was feeling a bit crappy from earlier problems with overtraining, but my speed was fine as I chased everyone towards the start triangle.

On the way to the first control, the pack split up between the trail and the forest. I didn’t have a chance to really look at the trail route so I just followed the pack that went closer to the line.

It was rough keeping up with the pack going super fast out of the gate, but I managed to get to the first control right behind Martin Hubmann and Albin Ridefelt.

However, I didn’t really look ahead to the next control so I got confused both by which route I wanted to take and exactly what was going on with the other runners as they were still taking other forkings. I definitely could’ve saved time if I was more confident and looked for a route to number 2.

By control 4 I was already struggling on the physical side of things, taking a trail route around and losing some time to the quicker runners.

I made very few technical mistakes throughout the course so I’m quite happy with that. Another small hesitation on number 6 that you can see on my GPS track.

I’d say that the main things I need to focus on and practice for next time are 1) better confidence in myself and 2) better fitness.

With those two I think I can secure a much better result and hopefully throw myself into the mix with the top runners even in such a packed and technical first leg.

For more analysis about the actual course feel free to watch the video at the top of this post where I briefly go over some of my thinking, planning and mistakes throughout the GPS replay.

That’s all.

How to learn a language — quickly

I recently watched a video by What I’ve Learned on YouTube which was a great overview of how to ACTUALLY learn a language, not the crap they teach in highschools nowadays where it can take up to 4 years before students are even comfortable speaking in basic conversations.

The method called Comprehensible Input has been around for quite some time, popularized by Steven Krashen, who is a language researcher and polyglot, fluent in 8 languages and is actively learning more.

Since then, language learning has been boiled down and optimized to a point where many claim that anyone can learn to be fluent in a language in 6 months.

I could honestly just end the post here and link you to Refold, a website the explains language learning in very good detail and will walk through how to efficiently allocate your time towards learning language.

So DEFINETLY go to their website and keep it open in another tab for later because it is amazingly useful.

My experience with learning Russian has been an interesting one so far. I started on Duolingo after becoming interested because of my mom and two of my close friends that spoke Russian.

Since then I’ve taken First-year Russian in University and continued to practice via Duolingo, but my skills in the language were still pretty minimal.

What really accelerated my learning was the method described in the website I linked above: listen, listen, LISTEN to content in the language.

Active listening and passive listening are both useful, immerse yourself in the language for several hours a day. (video is also useful)

The brief explanation of why listening is so useful is because our brain is really good at recognizing patterns. This is how we learn language as a baby, listening to our parents and others, picking up patterns.

And since we are adults we can use even more tools to our advantage: Anki is flashcard software that is really useful for memorizing new words NOT so you can recall them later while trying to communicated, but instead to better understand content that you are listening to or watching.

The key is to find content in the language that is enjoyable! Otherwise the process becomes much more difficult and slow. I personally am a big fan of Russian music so I listen to a lot of it while translating the lyrics and memorizing the words I don’t know so I understand the music better.

Many languages have specific podcasts that speak at a beginner level which can be another good place to start. If you are interested in Russian language I absolutely recommend checking out Russian With Max.

I’m sure anyone can become fluent in Russian only watching his content. I use it all the time, he has amazing videos and a great podcast.

It’s honestly insane how quickly you are able to pick up a language using the above methods. Becoming fluent is more difficult, but I’m getting very close to being fluent in Russian after only 6 months of using the comprehensible input method of acquiring language.

And I could have been way more efficient if I was disciplined.

Regardless, if you are interested in learning any language I absolutely recommend diving in. It may seem daunting at first, but follow the method briefly described in this post and on Refold.la and I guarantee is will not only be effective but also very satisfying.

It still takes a lot of work to acquire a language and I recommend setting aside 30 minutes to 1 hour per day of active listening (podcast, YouTube videos or a TV show) and at least another 1 – 2 hours of passive listening (music and podcasts) if you want to maximize acquisition without burnout.

Even if you can’t commit to so much. Taking 30 minutes everyday to work on a language can get your really far in less than a year. It’s amazing.

A new approach to Orienteering Training

So I’ve been thinking about an approach to orienteering that I’ve been starting to apply recently.

I don’t think it’s a replacement for more traditional training methods, but I still want to propose it as being potentially useful.

So I’m sure most people are familiar with the “Memory-O” technique or format where your goal is to memorize a few controls or even an entire course.

This training method builds off the memory concept as a way to improve key orienteering skills like simplification.

The Method

On any normal training course, memorize one (or more) controls, run to the control(s), stop when you get to the control, rinse and repeat.

Matthias Kyburz and Tove Alexanderson — routes head to head

Even more simply put: memorize one control at a time (as fast as you can), and orienteer to the control without reading the map.

Before I go any farther, I want to address some (pretty significant) drawbacks.

  1. Can’t practice reading the map while running
  2. Hard to use / practice compass skills

The first drawback is really important, since reading the map while running is one of the most important things in orienteering.

Which is why this training technique needs to be supplemented by more typical trainings: orienteering intervals, night orienteering, skill tests (corridor, compass etc.)

How does the “Memory method” work?

There are only 3 things you need to pay attention to during a memory training: memorization time, speed, and error rate.

You want to minimize the amount of time it takes to memorize the leg, maximize the speed at which you can follow the memorized route, and minimize the rate of error when following the route (going off the memorized route and losing contact).

If you can optimize these parameters, you can become a very efficient “stop and go” orienteer.

Short memorization time, high speeds, and low error rate can be further optimized by map reading while running to take in more information.


This method has definitely has its drawbacks during competition including: time lost while memorizing, rigid route choice, hard to use compass, and generally higher error rate.

But during trainings, it is a very effective form of developing key skills:

  1. Simplification
  2. Not overreading the map
  3. Running fast through terrain

There is also some variation and flexibility that can be introduced during a memory session.

Me at the WOC 2021 Sprint in Czech!

Memorizing multiple legs at a time can be useful in easy terrain or if you are training at a slow pace.

Even more useful, memorizing the direction you should exit the next control, and not stopping to memorize the next leg, but instead jog the intended direction (sorry for the scuffed explanation).

You could memorize parts of the leg at a time and try to cut your memorizing time down as much as possible.

There’s lots of ways to use memorization to improve training and make them more fun! (especially if you are going at a slow pace).

Hopefully you find this interesting and/or helpful. Enjoy orienteering!

Anthony Riley

Do Athletes Need Carbohydrates?

For the past several months, I’ve been looking into various nutrition and metabolic research trying to figure out how to optimize physical health and athletic performance through diet.

Now, it might seem likes professional athletes have got it all figured out, but when it comes to nutrition, the research is very conflicting and often wrong.

Take, for example, the Ancel Keyes hypothesis that fat causes heart disease.

This hypothesis was the catalyst for numerous radical and outright crazy new products and policies capitalized on by big food companies.

Dietary fat is not a primary cause for heart disease and has been disproven numerous times.1 And whether saturated fat plays a role in heart disease is also very unclear.2

Now, whether carbohydrates are necessary for athletic performance has been bothering the heck out of me for some time now. I’ve spent a lot of time listening to experts explain, discuss and tear at each other’s throats, but I haven’t ever really looked into the literature myself.

Time to give this all up? I don’t know about that one…

Before I go too far into things, I’ll do a little TL;DR on my thoughts.

Nutrition is complicated. It seems that everywhere I look there are experts with confliction opinions and, more importantly, research with conflicting findings.

It seems like eating carbohydrates has a positive effect particularly on anaerobic or higher intensity athletic activity. And because Orienteering includes a lot of tough terrain and hilly running, I don’t see any reason to stop eating carbohydrates (particularly those consistent with evolutionary dietary habits).

Now let’s dive into some of the studies:

The FASTER study is widely cited by low carb advocates and athletes showing that “fat-adapted athletes” show no decreased markers for performance in endurance running.3

Despite not being a double-blind RCT (randomized controlled trial) and being only n = 10 subject in each group, the FASTER study is widely cited.

The most suprising finding was that in both groups, the muscle glycogen levels were the same before exercise, post exercise, and post consumption of a recovery drink with the appropriate macros.

This is interesting because for a long time people thought that the depletion of muscle glycogen was strongly associated with fatigue.

And that muscle glycogen is best maintained by a high-carb diet. This seems to have been disproven in the study.

What was significantly different between the two groups was the oxidation of each preferred fuel source:

As expected, fat-adapted athletes burned more fat and less carbohydrates, however it’s interesting to keep in mind the shape of the curves and that both group burn BOTH fat and carbohydrates.

It’s easy to look at these results and say that fat-adapted athletes shouldn’t have any problems with athletic activity compared to typical carbohydrate fueled athletes, but now I’m going to attempt to disprove that assumption.

Zach Bitter, “fat-adapted” ultra-endurance world record holder

There is a decent body of evidence that suggests anaerobic or high intensity activity is impaired by a diet low in carbohydrates.4,5,6

This is a pretty big deal considering that intense activity is a huge part of athletics in almost every possible situation, including endurance events.

Sweden winning the WOC 2021 Sprint Relay

Anthony Colpo’s article does a great job explaining why high intensity activity is critical for success in competition.

Just imagine. Even in an ultra-marathon there are going to be steep hills, rocky trails, and maybe even a sprint finish. So even if your low intensity speed is not limited by a low carbohydrate diet, the lack of energy to run at higher intensity is still a limitation.

This limitation is further exaggerated in track, cross-country and orienteering, despite being endurance sports (that I love).

My time behind the leaders in the WOC 2021 sprint relay.

Why do low carbohydrate diets impair high intensity athletic activity?

It’s not entirely clear. The traditional explanation is that the aerobic system uses “glycosis” (metabolization of glucose) to create energy (ATP) in the absence of oxygen (at higher intensities).7

This makes sense under the assumption that high carbohydrate diets optimize carbohydrate metabolism and glycogen stores in your muscles.

As we saw in a previous study, however, muscle glycogen stores in fat-adapted athletes seem to be very similar to those of high-carboydrate athletes during sub-maximal exercise.

Hmmm… so shouldn’t fat-adapted athletes have similar levels of glycogen to use for glycolysis?

Another potential explanation is that circulating levels of blood glucose is lower on a low carbohydrate diet, thus limiting the rate of glycolysis and inhibiting performance at higher intensities.

But it isn’t clear that blood glucose levels typically vary by that much between the two diets.8

So what is it actually that limits anaerobic performance? It seems that fatty acids and fat stores cannot be metabolized fast enough during glycolytic activity to make ATP at the same rate as metabolized carbohydrates.

If that isn’t enough to make you run away (literally) from the idea of low carbohydrate diets for performance, there is also the idea that carbo-loading or a diet high in carbohydrates increases glycogen stores AND perhaps increase utilization of glycogen stores for energy.

And the idea that carbohydrates produce more ATP per unit of oxygen than fats.7

Whether this is important for purely aerobic activities, like ultra-running, cycling, and iron-man triathlons, is unclear.

What is clear, however, is that higher intensity bouts are limited by low carbohydrate intake and it takes a long time (2 – 4 weeks minimum) to adapt to a high fat diet which may cause short term performance deterioration.

So basically… nutrition is still complicated. But it seems to me that the common belief held by most nutritionists, coaches and athletes is largely correct: carbohydrates are important for athletic activity.

Yes, athletes can become “fat-adapted” and it seems like it works fine for ultra-endurance sports that don’t require much high intensity activity.

But when it comes to most sports, high intensity activity is inevitably involved. And without carbohydrates to quickly metabolize, activity is severely limited.

This doesn’t mean that if you’re an athlete, you should cram down as many carbohydrates that you possibly can. It’s important to get the proper amount of calories, protein and micronutrients for your level of activity. The source of carbohydrate also matters, but that’s a story for another time.

Anyways that’s enough for now.


References

1. Mozaffarian D, Micha R, Wallace S “Effects on Coronary Heart Disease of Increasing Polyunsaturated Fat in Place of Saturated Fat: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials” PLOS Medicine

2. DiNicolantonio, James J et al. “The Evidence for Saturated Fat and for Sugar Related to Coronary Heart Disease.” Progress in cardiovascular diseases vol. 58,5 (2016): 464-72.

3. Jeff S. Volek, Daniel J. Freidenreich, Catherine Saenz, Laura J. Kunces, Brent C. Creighton, Jenna M. Bartley, Patrick M. Davitt, Colleen X. Munoz, Jeffrey M. Anderson, Carl M. Maresh, Elaine C. Lee, Mark D. Schuenke, Giselle Aerni, William J. Kraemer, Stephen D. Phinney,
“Metabolic characteristics of keto-adapted ultra-endurance runners” Metabolism Volume 65, Issue 3, 2016, Pages 100-110, ISSN 0026-0495

4. Louise M. Burke and Bente Kiens “Fat adaptation” for athletic performance: the nail in the coffin?
Journal of Applied Physiology 2006 100:1, 7-8

5. Zinn, Caryn et al. “Ketogenic diet benefits body composition and well-being but not performance in a pilot case study of New Zealand endurance athletes.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition vol. 14 22. 12 Jul. 2017

6. Michalczyk, Małgorzata Magdalena et al. “Anaerobic Performance after a Low-Carbohydrate Diet (LCD) Followed by 7 Days of Carbohydrate Loading in Male Basketball Players.” Nutrients vol. 11,4 778. 4 Apr. 2019

7. Davidson, Mackenzie “Fats vs. Carbs as Energy Sources” LinkedIn Articles April 1, 2019

8. Yuan, X., Wang, J., Yang, S. et al. “Effect of the ketogenic diet on glycemic control, insulin resistance, and lipid metabolism in patients with T2DM: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” Nutr. Diabetes 10, 38 (2020).

3 Important Skills to Develop in Elite Orienteering

The somewhat well-known orienteer Gustoff Icebergman

Today I ran an orienteering course near central Kiev that reminded me quite a bit of some US terrain, particularly some parts of DVOA and Quantico: good contour detail, steep, and full of trails.

It was also the location for the Long Distance in the 2007 WOC in Russia.

Anyhow. I also got to compete recently for the first time against Elite Orienteers in the WOC 2021 Selection races. Seeing how the elites really orienteer got me interested in how they actually gain so much time on myself and other less experienced athletes. Turns out there are a lot of very important and interesting things that I’ve noticed them doing which hopefully will help take my orienteering up another level (because I got absolutely stomped on).

1. Attacking the Terrain

Truth is that speed through terrain is the KEY physical component of orienteering. It doesn’t really matter how much faster you can run on a track compared to someone else if they can run faster through the terrain.

Elite orienteers run WAY faster than me. When I would really nail a leg then I’d still be 15-20% behind.

Training to be a physically stronger runner does certainly help with your ability to move faster through terrain, but I severely underestimated how big of a role confidence played in terrain speed.

You will frequently see the best orienteers take on an aggressive posture when faced with challenging terrain: forward lean, eyes looking straight ahead, and a smooth stride.

Here you can hear the announcers talk about what I mentioned above:

How to practice and improve terrain speed? I think terrain intervals and overspeed training are the best options. Ever heard of the famous marsh intervals? I believe that the Swedes are particularly known for doing intervals in marshes to prepare for the swampy terrain.

In general, terrain intervals (and terrain running frankly) should be practiced frequently and in many different types of terrain (marsh, rocky, green).

Overspeed training is orienteering at or above your map reading speed. There are a number of uses for overspeed training, including improved speed through terrain by forcing you to run faster than you normally would.

2. Route Execution

Now I know it sounds simple, but it surprised me a lot when racing against elites that I could pick the same route as someone else and lose a lot of time just because of bad execution.

What defines “bad execution”? I think a lot of things play a role: poor planning, micro route choice and lack of confidence primarily.

Take a look at this leg for example:

If we look at the splits, I was OVER DOUBLE the winner’s time. That was largely because of route execution, primarily a lack of confidence and hesitation, which just eats into your time.

So what actually happened? Here’s my best guess.

And that’s only what I remember. Surely some of the 4 minutes lost were because of macro route choice (I believe blue was almost a minute faster). But there was still a lot of micro route choice and hesitation that went into the loss of time.

How to improve route execution? Pretty much any training strategy that helps improve your confidence and your moment to moment micro route analysis (which is pretty much any training strategy).

3. Control Flow

It is pretty well known that the control circle is one of the most critical parts of a leg: entry, exit, control description and zoom map reading are critical components of executing an excellent orienteering race.

However, I definitely underestimated the importance of good flow. Even optimizing 3-5 seconds PER CONTROL can save almost 1 minute on your typical Middle course.

Now that might not seem like a lot, but if you factor in both the entry and exit and approach to the features, there are definitely legs that I’ve lost 15 or maybe 20 seconds on just being plain inefficient.

Here is an example from the Middle selection race I did recently.

Most clearly, the exit from control 8 to 9 was a disaster. What happened? It was a pretty short leg so I didn’t really check my compass and just started running downhill following some tracks made by other runners.

The bad direction probably ended up costing about 15 seconds in itself, but also led to another 15 seconds of hesitation because I had to reorient myself after exiting in the wrong direction.

Also a notably bad entrance to number 8, but that was a result of a parallel mistake and not necessarily carelessness into the control circle.

If you look at the splits I lose about 40 seconds to the winner on control 9. I ran 1:06 compared to a blazing fast 27 seconds! All because of having really bad flow through control 8.

Emil Granqvist who ran 27 seconds to control 9… fast!

It’s important to understand what actually makes up good control flow. Simply put, you are trying to minimize the amount of time through the control circle.

I’m sure everyone knows the feeling of running to the incorrect feature or the wrong side of a big boulder because they didn’t read their description. Or doing a 180 degree error while leaving the control point because you didn’t bother reading ahead.

How do you improve control flow? Again, it’s largely just practice, but control pick trainings (lots of super short legs typically in very detailed terrain) and direction drills (see The Winning Eye)

Happy orienteering!

The Rise and Fall of My Music Career

I was just thinking about stuff to write about in the shower, and while listening to some of my own music I realized that it would be interesting to do a bit of a reflection into what was actually quite a deep dive I took into music and the music industry from August 2020 to March 2021.

I’ve been interested in making music for a long time, starting probably as early as Freshman year in high school. I was a huge fan of electronic music at the time, specifically from the curator Trap Nation. I found the music on that channel incredible impressive and wanted to make music similar to that so I started looking into music production tutorials and such and made some electronic music I am really not proud of as well as some music later on that was a little better.

Anyways, I started getting into the industry side of things when I was introduced to Alex Tumay who is a popular “mix engineer” or someone who basically takes all the elements of song and puts them together in a creative way that is pleasing to listen to (something a lot of people don’t even know about).

Alex Tumay worked closely with famous rapper “Young Thug”

From around September through December I was really interested in doing this “mix engineering” for other people and “mixed” a large number of other people’s songs, some of which you can hear below.

Throughout this time I was also trying to make some of my own music, using my own voice, and it turned out pretty bad. But slowly got better and started making some music I was pretty proud of (even though I still think that my singing is terrible, definitely have to thank AutoTune).

I even got one of my songs trending on Spotify in Brazil so that was cool.

What I realized through all this was that I really enjoyed making music, but I didn’t like the bureaucratic nonsense having to do with the business side of things: promoting music, having a social media presence, and networking with others in the industry.

And I knew that these were all key aspects of success in music, whether its success as a musician/artist or mix engineer; I really didn’t want to get into all that.

So since then I’ve pretty much put music aside for the most part, but I’m confident that I will go back to it since making music is fun and I truly enjoy the creative process behind it.

Until then, here are some of my favorite songs that I’ve made!

Thanks for reading.

Anthony