Time Noakes and the "Central Governor" model

Discussion in 'Cycling Training' started by kmavm, Jan 24, 2006.

  1. kmavm

    kmavm New Member

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    I've been reading "Lore of Running" these last few days with great interest. Running is a different sport than cycling, of course, but much of the physiology is similar. Dr. Noakes seems to take a different approach to modelling the exercising human than most cyclists, coaches, and exercise physiology folks I've had contact with, and I'm curious what folks here think of it.

    What I think of as the "standard model" is very well described here. In the standard model, maximal endurance exercise is limited by the central cardiovascular system's ability to deliver oxygen to working muscles. Longer-term exercise, on the other hand, is limited by the peripheral muscle's ability to resist fatigue. The former limitation is expressed as VO2Max, and the latter is typically one of the families of "thresholds" that we're familiar with: anaerobic, lactate, functional, take your pick. (In sports other than cycling, "efficiency" in the biomechanical sense (running economy, swim technique, etc.) is important, too; metabolic efficiency seems to improve with cycling training, though?).

    In Noakes' model, both maximal and sub-maximal exercise are limited by a "central governor", residing in our central nervous system (brains and spinal columns). Exercise is not limited by your heart; rather, as exercise intensity increases, a complex feedback system in your nervous system, designed to protect the heart and brain (which cannot sustain anaerobia without serious damage), kicks in, and reduces the amount of muscle recruited. In this model, a high VO2Max isn't a cause of high performance, but an effect; the real "cause" of athletes' high VO2Max is the ability for their muscles to exercise at high power outputs.

    I'm curious about the debate surrounding this all. I haven't been exposed to Noakes' ideas before. How influential are they in the research community? Have they been tested experimentally? "Lore of Running" brings up several predictions the "standard model" makes that turn out to be wrong (e.g., if VO2Max really represents the highest intensity output an athlete's heart can sustain, we'd expect to see some signs of the heart "giving out" as that intensity is approached, but we do not); what are some similar counter-examples for the Central Governor hypothesis?

    Believe it or not, I think this could have practical consequences for training. For instance, if VO2Max is a "cause" of high performance, as in the standard model, then e.g., a triathlete could expect VO2Max training efforts running to help swim performance, and vice versa. If, on the other hand, Noakes is right, and it's all a consequence of muscular adaptation, the two need to be trained independently.
     
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  2. acoggan

    acoggan Member

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    With regards to what limits VO2max, the answer is "not very influential at all" and "yes, extensively".
     
  3. kmavm

    kmavm New Member

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    To elaborate a smidge: do you mean "yes, extensively, and extensively refuted?"

    Time to spend some time on scholar.google.com...
     
  4. kmavm

    kmavm New Member

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    I assume "Yes, extensively," means "...and extensively refuted." I'll poke around on scholar.google.com a bit.

    Oh well. The model has a certain emotional appeal to it, though I'm not sure why...
     
  5. acoggan

    acoggan Member

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  6. fergie

    fergie Member

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    I always thought it a tad amusing that despite his new theory the training guidelines he gives in his book are still based on the approach of a guy from the 1920s.

    Even with the new ideas many coaches seem to be unified in the question: so what? Noakes has yet to make the leap from his new theory to suggesting how we can use this information to train any better.

    Hamish Ferguson
    Cycling Coach
     
  7. bikeguy

    bikeguy New Member

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    Seems to me he's saying "it's all in the head". Well, maybe not all but more than what's accepted.

    -Bikeguy
     
  8. kmavm

    kmavm New Member

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    Not at all, or at least, not usefully so. Your brain also helps regulate your heart rate, moves your bowels, controls sweat, etc. None of those things are under conscious control. The central governor, if it exists, would be a similar "autonomic" sort of deal.
     
  9. dot

    dot New Member

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    Did Merx have such big heart because of his mental toughness or was he so tough mentally because of his big heart? :p
     
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