Be it doping in sport, hot topics like Caster Semenya or Oscar Pistorius, or the dehydration myth, we try to translate the science behind sports and sports performance. Consider a donation if you like what you see here!
I’m currently Head Scientist for World Rugby, where my role is basically to support all strategic decisions that involve player welfare (so injury, concussion, player health), High Performance (performance analysis, performance audits) and Law (law change and monitoring).
I am also an ambassador and scientific advisor to Virgin Active and adidas, where my job is to help them apply science in the education of their staff (and members, in the case of Virgin Active), and to provide coaching and training support for adidas in their events. In the past, I’ve consulted with a number of teams in high performance sport, including SA Sevens (including the 2009/2010 World Series winning team), SA Kayaking, SA Triathlon, USA triathlon and the UK Olympic Committee.
I did my PhD in Exercise Physiology studying fatigue, the brain and the limits to performance, which included a lot of pacing strategy work in hot environments and altitude. My current research interests include the physiology of East African runners, high performance culture, talent identification and management, the limits of human performance, and performance and wellness in companies.
In 2013, I was named by Mail and Guardian in their list of Top 200 Influential Young South Africans, and by the Minister of Sport as one of the 100 Influential people in South African Sport.
After I finished my PhD, I spent a few years working for SAIL, a company that does sports events and sponsorship strategy. I’d done a Post-Graduate in Sports Management from UCT’s Faculty of Commerce, because I was interested in the application of science, and I felt that academia didn’t do that nearly well enough. So that was a period that really expanded my thinking, opened up new possibilities, especially related to strategic thinking and the marketing of ideas, which I try to prioritize now.
It’s really important that the gap between science and commerce is bridged. Too often, there’s a huge discord (a chasm the size of the Grand Canyon is a more apt description of it) between the science in the lab and its implementation and application to every athlete. My goal is to bridge that gap, be it through news articles, coaching or explaining the science, and this site will hopefully contribute to all three.
My own personal sports involvement lies in running 10km and half-marathons. I also mountain-bike, play tennis and the occasional social game of very bad football.
My thesis, supervised by Professor Tim Noakes, was titled “Temperature responses to exercise and performance”, and looked at fluid replacement, body temperature and performance during exercise in both the lab setting and in competitions, such as the Two Oceans 56 km Ultra-marathon and the Cape Argus/Pick ‘n Pay 109 km Cycle Tour.
I showed that the key factor determining body temperature during exercise is the metabolic rate, and not environmental temperature or fluid intake. So what people are traditionally told by the “experts” is that they must drink to help keep their temperature down – this is not correct and the current fluid replacement guidelines are not necessarily relevant to people taking part in marathons and other endurance activities outdoors.
After spending over four years in academia, in March 2011 I became the Director of Clinical Development at The Vitality Group, in Chicago, IL. In that role I contribute to translating the science of exercise to large populations as we try to encourage exercise and healthy lifestyle choices. Also, we attempt to ask the right questions that will allow us to uncover the winning combination of factors that will reduce risk and encourage a sustainable healthy lifestyle in both active and inactive inpiduals. This keeps me busy, but Ross and I share a passion for applying science to the everyday athlete, and this blog is the result of that.
My sporting background is mixed, starting with soccer through university, then moving to running (Two Oceans twice with a 2:48 marathon PB) and finally cycling. I am a qualified USA Cycling Level II coach, and ride semi-competitively (Category 3) with the xXx Racing-Athletico cycling team here in Chicago.