Using Genetics to Come Back From Injury
sports & fitness
Ralph Pethica works for a startup, Gene Trainer, that builds profiles based on ones' DNA and also has the ability to predict responses to certain types of exercise. This way, one is able to tailor his/her training programs. In this talk, he discusses how he used the same genetics-based methods that he uses to train athletes to help him recover from a serious bike accident.
23andMe | Gene Trainer
I’m here to talk to you again. I’ve been doing a few of these before about adapting my fitness using genetics. So that’s my background.
Some of you who have seen these talks before will know that one thing we do I have a startup on the side doing this. We build profiles based on your DNA, and these things will predict your response to certain types of exercise. So then you can use them to Taylor the training and then obviously measure the results and improve things.
So as a kind of background to this is an experiment, I suppose. For me it’s like you have a 23andme kit, Gene Trainer, which is the company that I work on and various different pieces of monitoring equipment from cardio stuff to weighing scales.
I should also say, I say this all the time, the only reason I do any of this is so I can surf better, so it’s just about being stronger, more endurance in the water and so forth.
Last year, I went on a surf trip. The first day I was out for a little cycle, I’ve a photo of my bike coming up. And basically, when I do long distance cycle is you run out of power pretty quickly, right. So you want to connect up the power to something on the back, and you can see the back of this, there’s a battery in there.
What actually happens, I was going up along, probably not very fast, 10 miles an hour, and the wire from the battery got caught in the back wheel, pulled on the cable, pulled my phone, which was on the front measuring the GPS and the heart rate into the front fork and catapulted me onto my head.
So I was sitting there on the floor, I got eventually scraped away by the nice French people, who came to save me. And they said well, basically, you’ve broken your neck, C7 right hand side and your cheekbone, and you’re going to have to spend three months in a neck brace, which is why I’m looking so happy there.
So it was a couple of weeks of watching Breaking Bad. I talked in the past about how I adapt my training to put on muscle when I need to, and you can see the gains in the past and this massive drop like 5 Kilos in a month.
I’m somebody of what you would call genetically predisposed, easy muscle gainer and strength gainer, right. So for me, when I do something like this I have to adapt the other things that I can around my training.
So for example, for me, nutritional strategies are super important. One of the things is the amount of time that I wait after training before I eat the type of training that I do measuring my recovery really really carefully.
So doing all of those things, I’d probably say I started it in March, so since March, I’ve managed to put back on most of what I lost and it gets some of the power back, and I can move my neck, which is pretty cool.
So this is the first part, this is the injury recovery. About six months ago, I had the honor of working with some athletes; one of them is a multiple gold medal winner, and we have a captain of a national team to look at what we can see in their DNA.
It’s obviously really working with them, because they’re highly motivated, but highly measured. The first guy actually was interesting because he said well I’ve never actually been to increase my endurance capacity. And we looked at it, and we looked on everything we could for his DNA, and we found yes, this is really reflected in this. There’s really a nice moment for me to see that.
So what you can do then is concentrate on the training where it matters, right. This is somebody that has known about this for 10 years, and he can work on his recovery from. I burst of effort and you can get creative. What else can you use? Your lungs, you know address the bad habits that he has to do this. And then of course you have to measure it.
So, if you are looking at something like cardio, this might be a VO2 max text to figure out where your different respiratory intervals are, and obviously the results on the track.
There are other examples we had as well. One of them was somebody who seemed not to be able to feel pain, which is seemingly genetic as well was overtraining a lot. He just didn’t feel that kind of feedback. And somebody who seemed not to be very enduring in their DNA, but actually was, and seemed to have a very high ability to store sugar in the muscles.
I want to say also that we need to be very careful on how we interpret these, because if you say somebody has got a low cardio trainability, what you actually mean? Like we’re all alive, which means we’ve got an operating cardio system. So interpreting this well is a difficult thing.
And the other thing is, I’m showing you this graph here continually, which is everyone, 1000 people on the same score. Most people are average, so you have to drill down and find out what it is that makes them different. You know, and if you are talking about cardio, you’re talking about lungs, blood cells, capillaries, right.
And the final thing is that genetic profiles are pretty useless unless you connect them to actual fitness data. So you know things like heart rate, but also what you’re doing in the gym, and the way that you are doing your weights and all this kind of stuff. Put them together, and then you have something that’s useful.
Anyone wants to talk more about this; I’m doing an office hour tomorrow. Come and see me and I explain a bit more. Thank you