Current JobPrincipal Lecturer: Exercise Physiology and Director of Research at the Cambridge Centre for Sport and Exercise Sciences
What question are we trying to answer? (Aims):
Pacing accuracy in children: the role of distance and time
Pacing is a fundamental trait in all things that we do, but especially during physical activity and sport. Pacing is how we are able to keep exercising without becoming tired, so if we become tired we have not paced ourselves well. Pacing is linked to your past experience of doing something, so the more times you do the same activity the better you get at completing it. Also your age is important to how you pace yourselves, the older we get the better decisions we make when we exercise about when we want to speed up or slow down, or even stop.
So how do we actually pace ourselves? When we do any sport or exercise our brain is taking in information from your muscles and other parts of the body like the heart and lungs. This information tells the brain how hard you are working at any given moment in time. So as you speed up or run up a steep hill messages from your muscles will show increased energy being used and temperature in your body going up. At the same time your brain is also taking in information from outside of the body that we call ‘environmental inputs’, such as the weather,, the time of day, who else is with you and even the surface you are exercising on. Your brain then compares all of this information (from inside and outside the body) to stored information or experiences that you have had when doing the same sport or exercise. But there is something missing, how does your brain use this information to tell you to change pace? The bit that is missing is that the brain is able to understand where you are at any given moment in time, so it can work out both distance and time. So as we exercise the brain is listening to all of this information from inside and outside of the body and comparing those to the time taken or distance completed, related to your previous experiences. The brain then creates a response that we call the RPE which describes how hard the exercise is and if we need slow down or could speed up.
In children we have learnt that they are not very good at pacing themselves during sport and exercise, possibly because they have not got many experiences of doing the activity or because they have not learnt how to interpret the information that is coming into their brains. We also know that children are not as good as adults at interpreting time and distances. So what I would like you to find out is, what is more important to children when pacing exercise, distance or time.
What data might we need to collect? (Method):
To answer our question the only data we need to know is:
- How far they ran
- How fast they ran
So we need you write this information down every time they pass through a 50m maker on the track. So you will need to put together some sheets to write down this data carefully and precisely. We would like the time to be collected to the 10th of a second if possible.
After the test has finished we would like you to ask the participant two simple questions:
- How long did they run for (time)
- How far did they run for (distance)
How might we collect this data? (Method):
You will need to get a group of your school mates to run around a track that we need to measure out. Because we want to make it harder for them to know what is happening you will need to measure a track on your playground or fields that is 150m in total length. You could mark this with cones showing two bends and two straights. This bit is mega important. The children who are taking part can not know how far the track is or how long we want them to run for. This is very important as we want to see how they pace when they have no information.
The children who are going to run will need to have a go four times, but these will need to be done on different days because we don not want them to get to tired. They will all have to have a go at the runs like this:
- a) Run 1650m around the track as fast as they can: at every 50m marker you will tell them how long they have been running for.
- b) Run 1650m around the track as fast as they can: at every 50m marker you will tell them how far they still have to run (distance)
- c) Run for 12 minutes around the track as fast as they can: at every 50m marker you will tell them how long they have been running for.
- d) Run for 12 minutes around the track as fast as they can: at every 50m marker you will tell them how far they still have to run (distance)
Something we need to do is run these tests in a random order, so although I have labelled them as a, b, c, d, could you with your teacher pick different trials for different people. All we have to do is make sure that all of the children do all of the trials once.
Why you should choose my project:
Because it is cool. This is your chance to do some science and PE at the same time. It will also help you and us to understand how children like you pace themselves during sport and exercise.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Optimistic, passionate, talkative
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
Two people. My PE teacher was a former Olympic Middle distance runner who got me interested in the idea of Sports Science as a course and also a potential career route. The second was my university tutor who was so passionate about exercise physiology and the application to sport. Together these two were a massive influence on my life.
What was your favourite subject at school?
PE and English Literature
What did you want to be after you left school?
Were you ever in trouble at school?
I got into trouble, but never got caught for the trouble i caused. I was at a bording school, so mischief in the evenings and weekends was a common practice.
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
A coach to athletes with a disABILITY
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Everything from Guns n’ Roses through to Jean Michel Jarre and Slow Moving Millie
What's your favourite food?
Tough deciiosn here, i do love a really hot curry, but am also a fan of a burger and fries
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Tough choice. Competing for Great Britain at the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games was fun but stressful, while wallking with lions was the most exhilarating.
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
1. That i could still be competing for Team GB, im just to old now. 2. That i could actually play golf, im so bad and it annoys me.
Tell us a joke.
Question. What does a scientist create when he goes to the bathroom? Answer. Brownian motion