Occassional thoughts about orienteering

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

What about variation?


Do "exercise scientists" study variation?

I spent 20 minutes or so (of my lunch hour) looking at some exercise science abstracts on the internet.

It seems like the studies focus on average results and say very little about variation. Here's a hypothetical example to explain what I mean. The researcher might study the effects of a specific type of training (say very short intervals with rest periods double the work periods) on two small groups of subjects. The results seem to always be reported in terms of average changes in some measure (maybe time on a test course or VO2 max). But, they didn't seem to report the range of results.

I wonder why they don't report the ranges? I wonder why they don't try to understand variation? Maybe it was just the few studies I looked at. Maybe there are very interesting studies I didn't find (after all, I only spent about 20 minutes looking at the studies).

I suppose one reason could be the motivation for the studies. I bet a bunch of them are by graduate students trying to complete a Masters or PhD, in which case the reason to do the work is as much about learning how to do research as answering an interesting question. I bet a bunch of the rest of the research is motivated by academics trying to publish articles as opposed to really answering some interesting questions.

I spent some time looking at these studies because I was interested in variation. Different people seem to use very different approaches to training while reaching similar results ("Sub 4:00" talks about how Seb Coe and Steve Ovett had very different approaches to training planning while both reaching world class levels in middle-distance races).

posted by Michael | 1:06 PM


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