Man vs. Horse: Two runners, one winner. Who will it be?

horse humanWho would win a foot race between a man and a horse? Sorry if you are waiting for a punchline, it is a legitimate question.

To answer that, a clarifying question is needed- over what distance? Ok, let’s day Melbourne Cup distance- two miles. The race record for the Melbourne Cup is held by Kingston Rule (a horse) at 3min 16.3sec run in 1993. This equates to an average pace of 58.7km/h, or quite fast.

The world record over this distance for humans is 7 min 58.61sec held by Kenyan Daniel Koman since 1997 for the men, and 8min 58.58sec for women, a record held by Ethiopian Meseret Defar since 2007. These times equate to an average pace of 24.1 and 21.4km/h for Daniel and Meseret respectively. In a slow year the best humans in the world over this distance will only be about halfway done when the winning jockey is chatting to Johnny Letts about their victory.

OK, but what if we recruited our fastest human, Usain Bolt, and lined him up? Usain’s average pace for his world record 100m of 9.58sec is 37.58km/h with a top speed recorded at 44.7km/h. If he were able to maintain his best average speed over 3200 metres, he would still take a glacial 5min 7 sec to cover the journey- and unfortunately sprinting flat-out for 5 minutes is physiologically impossible for a human.

So compared to a horse, we suck at running fast.

But what if the distance increased? Others have asked this question, and then taken the next logical step and organised races over marathon distances and beyond to find out. Such events occur in Owens Peak in California, Mingus Mountain in Prescott, Arizona and Llanwrtyd Wells in Wales. These events are often tightly run affairs, with humans and horses frequently swapping the crown from year to year.  So how do we as a species close the gap so dramatically when ultra-endurance is the challenge?

One of the main reasons is that we can cool ourselves effectively through sweating. We do not have to pant to cool our core temperature. Furry land-based animals that do pant are required to slow their pace dramatically or stop altogether to bring the temperature gauge down. This means that a race between a human and horse, or other fur-covered quadruped  is a bit like the tortoise and hare race, with us being like a sweaty tortoise! Interestingly the Lanwrtyd Wells race in Wales has only been won by humans twice, in 2004 and 2007 when conditions were considered ‘hot’. The ability to sweat and hence cool ourselves whilst moving is one fantastic trait that humans have that leads to our tremendous endurance potential. Being upright on two feet is also advantageous as during the hottest part of the day, less our our body’s surface area is exposed to the sun, pretty clever hey?!

This Melbourne Cup there will be a few well-lubricated punters at Flemington who may think they can outrun the horses. They can’t. At least not over the two miles. Get them to continue on for another 20 or so laps of the track and they may be in with a shot. Our runners would just have to ditch the suit and expose their sweaty skin to the elements to really exploit our advantage. Actually, I think a few probably do at the end of race day!

Scott Wood

RunStrong- The blog about Black Caviar’s Arse……..

RunStrong- The blog about Black Caviar’s Arse……..

Mark Lindsay, from Eliza Park Stud (where Black Caviar was conceived) was once quoted as saying of the great sprinter “she’s got an arse like a bus”, which he meant as an utmost compliment. Her generous rump was one of the physical gifts she possessed that gave her such a phenomenal turn of speed. A distant view of her powerful back-end was all she offered her competitors across her perfect career!

For a horse, their gluteals act as a powerful hip extensor- in other words they drive the legs backward in order to propel the body forward. So having big, chunky glutes is a good thing for a sprint-distance horse. Black Caviar was built for speed.

Our glutes perform much the same role, or at least they have the potential to. In walking and even slow jogging on flat ground, the glutes should activate when the foot hits the ground to stabilise the hip and pelvis- and that’s about it. Start accelerating or going up a hill however, and they (should) kick into power-house mode and start quickly pushing us forward from behind. For proof, next time you see top-level sprinters on TV, check out their backsides. They are impressive (I am strictly speaking from an anatomical, physiological and biomechanical perspective here!). (more…)

The evolution of Paleo diets: Hunting the roots of this food movement

It seems everyone has an opinion on the Paleo diet. Some herald it as the the saviour to the human race while others warn of its potential dangers.hunter gatherer

It is a topic that polarises many people, and it certainly has created many misconceptions.

But who do we believe?

Many groups and individuals have vested interests. From celebrity chefs that have benefited from the paleo way by creating an empire of cookbooks and programs, to large organisations that receive funding from the food industry who may be feeling the pinch of decreased sales. (more…)

Where are you getting your information from?

Brain explosion
I am generalising here, but usually your phone/tablet/laptop is the first thing you see in the morning and last thing you may see at night. Facebook, twitter, Instagram, reddit… Social media is everywhere (even if you try and ignore it).  Through these information sources we are now constantly bombarded with information, facts, and opinion pieces about health and fitness which can include current trends such as paleo or crossfit.

For example, scrolling through my own facebook this morning, I could have already read:

  1. “10 tips for running faster”
  2. “back pain myths – you need a core”
  3. “the secret to staying healthy: Get the lymphatic system moving”
  4. “Annoyed by loud chewing, the problem is you”

This is fantastic… to a point!  We can be inspired and informed. However, let’s remember that the internet is for everyone. Give someone a keyboard and wifi and they can become an expert.  Do you ever ask yourself if the articles are clinically accurate, suitable to you and worthwhile of the time reading it. Have the authors studied the area, read journal articles or are they just chucking some words on a page? How do we know what authors bias’ are? Are they just putting fancy headlines with links to webpages so they can earn money on advertising? We cannot be completely sure.

It should make us question, where is this information from?

Fitspo (which stands for fit inspiration) is now massive in social media. For example, 150,000 plus people follow a famous instagram blogger who shares fitness, nutrition and health tips based on the blogger’s own transformation. Like many insta-famous people, this blogger has no official qualifications apart from being signed by a modelling agency and becoming an ambassador to multiple clothing and dietary companies. Don’t get me wrong, they are fabulous for posting motivational quotes but when they post workout/nutrition tips and ebooks, we must start to question the advice? But do we?

Why can this become an issue you ask?

Misinformation could lead to injury, illness or ill-health. The 7.30 Report (ABC) that reported a story based on young dancers that were copying moves and training tips off professionals facebooks and instagram sites. This led to one dancer dislocating her coccyx and another developing a stress fracture, mainly because these dancers were not ready to attempt that move. A trained dancer teacher would have been able to give these individuals, personalised advice and sources of reliable information, which may have prevented these damaging injuries.

With all that said, I love social media (am possibly addicted)! There is a dearth of information available that I never had access to growing up. It’s just think it’s very important to take what you read at face value. So how can you interpret fact vs fiction? Here are some ideas on where to start.

  1. Visit a health care professional and get personalised information that related to you.
  2. Determine who they author is and if they have certifications (and where from)?
  3. Don’t read just one article; read numerous and see what different experts believe.
  4. If you are really interested, find some reviews (systematic are the best) and delve into the scientific world.

To conclude, I feel like i should quote the Grail Knight from Indiana Jones…. You must choose. But choose wisely”

Life after Military Service: What does it mean for your health?

Life after Military Service: What does it mean for your health?


Transitioning from military service to civilian life can hold many challenges for veterans and health matters can be at the forefront. Life in military service typically involves free medical, dental and health support with many systems in place including compulsory annual check-ups. This allows our service members to get on with doing their jobs without having to worry about when their next check-up is due; it is all organised for them, minimal planning necessary.

Difficulties can begin when veterans discharge from service. It is very common for them to let their medical and health support fall by the wayside.  They no longer have a system reminding them of when they are due for a check-up and on top of this, the services provided are no longer free. They also need to find themselves a network of medical and health practitioners, where previously these decisions would have been based purely on who was available at the base medical facility.

With this in mind, it is critical that veterans establish a consistent and reliable network of practitioners for their medical and health support. As part of this process, it is highly recommended that they schedule regular check-ups and reviews in advance. This will provide some semblance of familiarity for them, and will make it harder for veterans to become complacent about their health.

Military service also typically involves daily Physical Training (called ‘PT’) as part of the employment requirements. Usually PT would be conducted within units with military members training alongside their colleagues. Again, this format removes any responsibility from the members for the organisation of their own fitness training and the group dynamic aids in fostering military esprit de corps. Post-transition, they no longer have daily fitness training organised for them, and in many cases they may not have friends or colleagues involved in organised fitness training that they can participate in. Whilst organised group PT doesn’t have to be a part of a veteran’s life after service, it is still important that each veteran finds a form of physical activity to participate in. This could take the form of Personal Training, Group Fitness classes, organised sports or outdoor PT groups.

The issues we have discussed not only have a direct impact on a veteran’s physical health, but they can have lasting effects on mental health. In this era of high operational tempos for the Australian Defence Force, it’s not uncommon for veterans to complete a number of operational deployments to the world’s danger zones during their period of service. We have seen through a growing number of media reports and government statements that this is having a huge impact on the mental health of our veterans. These mental health issues are one of the major problems affecting our veteran community, and they must be part of any discussion regarding veterans’ health.

Another issue facing our veterans as they leave their service lives behind them is the loss of camaraderie that they experienced while in uniform. Upon discharge many veterans move back to their hometowns, or perhaps to a new city where a new job awaits them, effectively creating distance between themselves and the colleagues they had a unique bond with. This scenario leaves many of our veterans feeling as though they don’t belong or fit in with their new surroundings. Signing up to a local sports club, or an organised fitness program can assist with this transition by providing some sense of camaraderie and being part of a team, whilst keeping veterans physically active.

Whilst it’s not the goal of this blog to discuss mental health issues specifically, exercise has been clinically shown to provide positive benefits to mental health and we strongly urge all veterans to participate in a regular exercise program not just for the physical benefits, but the mental benefits as well.

In summary, it is highly recommended that all veterans follow this short list of very simple guidelines in order to maintain their health:

  • Establish a reliable network of medical and health practitioners
  • Schedule appointments, reviews and check-ups in advance
  • Participate in regular physical activity
  • Enjoy organised sport or some form of group activity
  • Make mental health a priority

Ash Sinclair

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