Posts Tagged ‘sport’

Announcing Running For Beginners

Tuesday, June 12th, 2018 | News

I’m pleased to announce the launch of my new online course, Running For Beginners. It’s a complete introduction to running for those who want to get into it for the first time or are coming back to it after a break.

Topics covered include:

  • Where to run
  • What to wear
  • Staying safe
  • Warming up and cooling down
  • Motivation
  • Dealing with different weather conditions

And much more. So far, it is proving rather popular:

And best of all, it’s free. Click here to check it out.

Triathlon: Winning at 70.3

Saturday, March 24th, 2018 | Books

Triathlon: Winning at 70.3: How to Dominate the Middle Distance is a book by Dan Golding.

Golding is the same guy that wrote Triathlon For Beginners, which I wrote about in December. I think that Winning at 70.3 is probably even better.

Although it is focused on middle distance triathlon (also known as 70.3 or half-ironman), I think this is worthwhile reading for anyone doing Olympic distance because it will put you in good habits. Sure, you can get away with less core strength training at Olympic. But do you want to get away with it, or do you want to stay injury free and put in place patterns that would allow you to move up if you ever wanted to? I would suggest the latter.

It’s not a beginners book, so if you’re not familiar with the basics of triathlon or the terminology, you might struggle. It’s not inaccessible, but it doesn’t break things down to anywhere near the same level as Golding’s other book.

For me, one of the most useful parts of the book was the specific exercises and tests to do. For example, how to measure your sweat rate so you know how much water to drink during a race. Others bit were a bit confusing. Golding talks about heart rate zones, for example, saying they are the “common” ones. But they don’t seem to map onto Garmin’s, or the 7 zones a lot of cyclists talk about, so it’s not clear how to incorporate them into training.

It’s also full of helpful tips, such as saving time by strategically weeing towards the end of your swim and thus avoiding the chance that you’ll have to go again.

All in all, an excellent guide to triathlon.

Exercise Physiology

Thursday, March 22nd, 2018 | Books

Exercise Physiology is a textbook by William D. McArdle, Frank L. Katch and Victor L. Katch. I read the eighth edition, which was also an international edition.

I wasn’t a big fan of the book. It’s dense: while there are lots of sections and graphics, it felt like a lot of heavy text and I struggled to focus on taking so much in. A lot of it got very technical, which may or may not be a good thing depending on what your current knowledge of the subject is.

As a minor point, they re-use the same full-page photos for the chapter title pages, which is disappointing.

It’s a comprehensive textbook, but a bit too heavy for me. Literally: it’s 2.9kg.

Physiology of Sport and Exercise

Wednesday, March 21st, 2018 | Books

Physiology of Sport and Exercise is a textbook by W. Larry Kenney, Jack H. Wilmore and David L. Costill. I read the fifth edition.

I got on well with this book. I was able to read in detail the sections I was interested in and skip straight to the “in review” summaries of the sections I wasn’t. There are case studies which help add a bit of colour to the otherwise dry science.

It starts with a description of what happens to the body when you exercise, before moving to talk about the theory behind training. It has sections for environmental factors and individual differences such as age and sex.

There is a lengthy discussion of nutrition and doping, too. Though, unfortunately, I haven’t found any safe and easy ways to dope. I don’t fancy withdrawing a load of blood and re-injecting it six weeks later, so it looks like I’ll just have to keep puffing away on the old salbutamol.

Keep on Running

Tuesday, March 20th, 2018 | Books

Keep on Running: Science of Training and Performance is a book by Eric Newsholme, Anthony Leech and Glenda Duester.

It’s a popular title for books: a search on Good Reads turned up over a dozen books with the same title. This one is to do with what it says on the tin. That is, it is about how to run faster and longer.

The key takeaway message is that you are slowed down by your weakest system. So, you have a great vo2 max, but if your lactate threshold is terrible, you’re not going to be setting any records. Similarly, you can have all the slow twitch fibres in the world, but you need a decent running economy to run a marathon fast.

This means working on all of the bodies systems. It’s not enough to just do the same thing over and over again. You need variety in your training routine to work on each part of the body.

Of course, vary your training system is nothing new or surprising. But the book breaks down the details in a clear and easy-to-follow manner.

NFL: Who are the real franchise quarterbacks?

Saturday, January 28th, 2017 | Sport

The term “franchise quarterback” is thrown around a lot in the NFL. There is an official meaning: teams can use their franchise tag to keep one key player at the club. However, more often when referring to QBs it is used to label quarterbacks who people expect to be at the teams for a long-run without any enforcement.

But who exactly is a franchise quarterback?

Philip Rivers, for example, is probably not the first person to come to mind when you think about the legendary quarterbacks of the NFL. However, Rivers has now been at the San Diego Chargers for 12 years. Only Tom Brady has been at his current club for longer.

Quarterback tenure in data

Below, I have tabled all of the NFL teams and their starting quarterbacks. I have included the year that they joined the club, and the team’s 2016 record.

Note that this is slightly different to the year they became starting quarterback. Many sat on the bench for the first season, for example. However, as it is a measure of how long the teams have kept them around, tracking it from the time they joined the team makes more sense in this instance.

It also does not include how long they have been in the NFL. Alex Smith, for example, was at the San Francisco 49ers for several years before moving on to the Kansas City Chiefs. Again, this makes more sense for what we are discussing.

The data

Team Starting QB Year joined team 2016 record
Patriots Tom Brady 2000 .875
Chargers Philip Rivers 2004 .313
Giants Eli Manning 2004 .688
Steelers Ben Roethlisberger 2004 .688
Packers Aaron Rodgers 2005 .625
Saints Drew Brees 2006 .438
Falcons Matt Ryan 2008 .688
Ravens Joe Flacco 2008 .500
Lions Matthew Stafford 2009 .563
Bears Jay Cutler 2009 .188
Panthers Cam Newton 2011 .375
Bengals Andy Dalton 2011 .438
49ers Colin Kaepernick 2011 .125
Colts Andew Luck 2012 .500
Seahawks Russell Wilson 2012 .656
Dolphins Ryan Tannehill 2012 .625
Redskins Kirk Cousins 2012 .531
Chiefs Alex Smith 2013 .750
Cardinals Carson Palmer 2013 .569
Raiders Derek Carr 2014 .750
Jaguars Blake Bortles 2014 .188
Titans Marcus Mariota 2015 .563
Bills Tyrod Taylor 2015 .438
Buccaneers Jameis Winston 2015 .563
Jets Bryce Petty 2015 .313
Vikings Sam Bradford 2016 .500
Browns Robert Griffin III 2016 .063
Texans Brock Osweiler 2016 .563
Eagles Carson Wentz 2016 .438
Broncos Trevor Siemian 2016 .563
Rams Jared Goff 2016 .250
Cowboys Dak Prescott 2016 .813

Discussion

I was expecting to see some correlation between the length of quarterback tenture and the results of each team. However, this was difficult to fine.

Sure, a lot of the play-off teams have the longest-standing quarterbacks. But then, the Chargers and Saints did not make the playoffs, despite having had the same quarterback for ten years.

Similarly, while there are a lot of rubbish teams with new quarterbacks, there are also the Cowboys, with one of the best records in the NFL, who only replaced Tony Romo, their quarterback since 2003, this year.

Here is the data in a graph:

There is nothing there. As with most of the stats in the NFL it probably suffers from the same critical problem: small sample size. When you only play 16 games per year, and those games only involve 11 minutes of actual play, almost anything can be luck.

Rio 2016 Olympics: a review

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016 | Sport

rio-2016

I have really enjoyed the Rio 2016 Olympics. London 2012 was pretty good: a spent a lot of time watching that too, but no where near as much as I spent watching Rio. My love of sport has grown over the past four years. This time I was watching it from 9am to midnight most days. I am exhausted from sitting around watching sport.

It helps that Team GB has completely nailed it. Without home advantage I assumed we would be unable to hold on to third place in the medals table. The predictions said we would match last time. But as things progressed, people asked question. Could we beat China? The answer was yes. We finished in second, our best performance for over one hundred years. The only time we have ever done better than third was when we came first at the 1908 London Olympics. We have never matched that away from home before.

Brazil did a good job overall, in my opinion. Their opening ceremony was okay, but if we have learned anything from Bejing and London, you probably do need to spend an obscene amount of money to make it mind-blowing. Despite the odd technical glitch, Rio did a wonderful job though. Compare this to #SochiProblems at the Winter Olympics two years ago, or the absolute disaster that was India’s attempt at hosting the 2010 Commonwealth Games. Things were not perfect, but isn’t it better to give a developing country a chance and accept it isn’t going to be London?

Brazil’s support for the Paralympics has clearly fallen short of the mark, and I will not defend them on that count.

In some ways, the Olympics has also been depressing. I remember spending an afternoon watching dressage. I lay on my sofa, wishing I had the motivation to get up and sort my life out and get things done. But all I could do was lie there and watch more dressage, a sport I have very little interest in.

But for the most part it was just sport, amazing sport, and the Union Jack being hoisted up a flag pole again, and again, and again.

Team GB to finish second in Rio 2016

Saturday, August 20th, 2016 | News, Sport

silver-in-rio

It’s official! Team GB will finish second in the Rio 2016 Olympics medal table. Nicola Adams’s gold in the women’s boxing moves us up to 26 gold medals. China have 23 and only have medal hopes in three remaining disciplines (men’s 10m diving, team volleyball and taekwondo). Given they are so far behind in the silver medals, they can no longer overtake Team GB.

Can Team GB beat China in the Olympic medal table?

Friday, August 19th, 2016 | Sport

union-jack-and-chinese-flag

I remember London 2012. It was magic. We smashed our medal predicts and earned ourselves third in the medals table. It was brilliant. Coming into Rio 2016, this made for a bit of a downer though. Without the home crowd, how could we hope to hold on to our spot as third in the world?

That all seems silly now. We’re smashing our medals target in Brazil as well. In fact, we were predicted to come third with 20 gold medals, just behind China who were predicted to score 22. Both of those targets have now been revised by Gracenote Sports who are now predicting Team GB to finish neck and neck with China.

They are predicting both countries will now finish on 25 gold medals.

Country Britain China
Gold medals so far 22 20
Predicted golds Mo Farah (5,000m)
Nicola Adams (boxing)
Bianca Walkden (taekwando)
Liu Hong (20km walk)
Fu H F/Zhang N (badminton)
Chen Long (badminton)
Qiu Bo (diving)
women’s volleyball
Predicted total 25 25

China took their predicted gold in the badminton so they remain on track for their predicted totals.

Team GB is now exceeding these predictions however. Nick Skelton’s gold in the individual show jumping today was an unexpected result: Britain was not predicted to win any medal in that competition. Joe Joyce, predicted bronze in the boxing, has just won through to the final too.

Of course one defeat for a British athlete expected to win, or one win from a Chinese athlete expected to take silver, could change everything around. It is going to be a nail biting finish.

I’ll keep this page updated as we go, if I can be bothered.

Day 14

19:31 China continue to follow their predictions: Liu Hong wins the women’s 20km walk by just two seconds, while Yin Junhua takes silver in the boxing, also as predicted.

21:56 Lutalo Muhammad was predicted to lose his semi-final taekwondo fight. He won, and so is through into the gold medal match.

22:46 Well blow me down, England have won a penalty shoot-out! Maybe we should play football as Team GB. Our women coming good in the hockey final mean we move two golds ahead of our predicted total.

Overnight We have teams running in both the men’s and women’s 4x100m relays: bronze predicted in each. China’s other medal hope for today was synchronised swimming, which they hit their silver in.

Day 15

Absolutely heartbreaking for Lutalo Muhammad in the taekwondo final, losing the gold in the very last second. Still, silver is better than his predicted bronze. Our women took bronze in the relay, unfortunately our men could not.

Today, both GB and China are predicted three golds each. We also have Joe Joyce (predicted bronze) in the boxing final and Liam Heath being the fastest qualifier in the K1 final (predicted not to place).

13:08 Liam Heath wins in the 100m kayak! Another unpredicted medal means we are now on 25: giving us three clear over China. We’re four silvers ahead too, so China would need four to catch up. With three predicted goals each for today, that is a tough ask.

15:58 China clean up in the badminton, keeping them on target for 25 with two golds and two more silvers predicted.

16:16 Here is the schedule for our remaining medal hopes today:

18:00 Nicola Adams
01:30 Mo Farah
02:00 Bianca Walkden (if she qualifies, China’s Zheng Shuyin also in contention)

Tom Daley is also fighting for a place in the men’s 10m diving final. He is predicted to make the final and earn a bronze, finishing behind China’s Qiu Bo and Chen Aisen. That starts at 20:30.

No predicted medals for Team GB tomorrow. That’s now impossible though as Joe Joyce is through to the men’s boxing final, and therefore guaranteed one. That starts at 19:15.

16:26 It is looking good for Team GB. Here are the remaining predicted medals for Team GB and China:

Gold: Nicola Adams, Mo Farah, Bianca Walkden
Silver: Joe Joyce
Bronze: Tom Daily, women’s 4×400 relay

Gold: Qiu Bo, women’s volleyball
Silver: Chen Aisen, Zheng Shuyin

We’re currently two golds and four silvers ahead. Given the gap in silvers, China can only overtake us by winning more golds, which would mean three. This is the maximum they can win: Qui Bo and Chen Aisen are both in the same diving competition, so they would need to take gold in all three events to overtake us.

Even if that happened, we would only need a single gold to seal the deal.

16:59 Well done Vicky Holland for taking bronze in the women’s triathlon. Bianca Walkden easily through the round of 16. Unfortunately Tom Daley failed to get into the 10m diving final. China finished one and two in that the semi-final.

We can wrap up second place with a gold for Nicola Adams in the boxing. Just over an hour to go for that.

The best pitches for Olympic sports

Friday, August 19th, 2016 | Sport

Some people are simply brilliant salespeople. They have a gift for persuasion. I have always thought physicists must be some of them. They persuaded grant funders that the only place they could put observatories was in the tropical paradise of Hawaii.

Watching the Olympics, I think even they have been outdone though. Consider the successful pitches that must have been made in order to secure our current line-up of events.

dressage

“We are going to train horses to dance.”
“Hmm. Jousting? That’s a sport?”
“No, we just want the dancing included. Maybe a bit of jumping.”

nicola-adams

“Well, it’s just hitting each other really.”

keirin

“It’s an eight lap cycle race. But for the first five laps, the cyclists will queue up behind a motorbike.”

triple-jump

“It’s like the long jump, but the athlete will do a hop and a skip beforehand.”

hammer-throw

“Well, it’s not quite a javelin and it’s not quite a shot put, but man, will they be able to throw that hammer a long way.”

diving

“Yes, it’s diving. But there will be two of them. Doing exactly the same thing.”

beach-volleyball

“Exactly, it’s volleyball. Except with a lot of sand, and the women will be in bikinis.”