Nike’s Marathon Fail – What Can We Learn

Over the past weekend, the culmination of Nike’s project to break 2 hours for the marathon distance came up just 24 seconds short.   The current world record for the marathon distance was set in 2014 by Dennis Kimetto when he ran a 2:02:57 to win the Berlin marathon.

Nike spent an incredible amount of resources in time, technology, and human capital in order to make this attempt.  While they were beat by the clock, they were successful in designing the Nike Zoom Vaporfly Elite.  A shoe that is 4% more energy efficient than any other shoe on the market – a running shoe so good that at least one runner who had the opportunity to train and race in it began to have nightmares that people were coming to take it away from her.

There are some important lessons that can be taken from Nike’s attempt:

  • Testing is important, but it is not everything.  Nike used a treadmill test developed by Andy Jones, PhD, a sports physiologist who identified Paula Radcliffe’s marathon potential, to help identify their potential record breaking runners.  However, Eliud Kipchoge’s potential on the treadmill test protocol was not as promising – because it was only the second time he had ever run on a treadmill.  There is a reason why physical abilities testing is not supposed to include tasks that can be performed better by those that are skilled than those that are novices.
  • Just because it improves performance doesn’t mean it works #1 – Nike left no stone unturned in their pursuit to find the performance gains necessary to break 2 hours.  One of the tweaks involved using webbed shirts that created a sling to support the arms while running.  This helped to improve performance but runners did not like the feel as they felt like they had T-Rex arms.  That’s great that something improves performance, but if it doesn’t “work” for the worker, it doesn’t work.
  • Just because it improves performance doesn’t mean it works #2 – Nike experimented with track spikes for improved performance and they also experimented with taking away anything that wasn’t needed.  The shoes were incredibly light, but unwearable.  This drove Nike’s team to try to design what they termed the “right weight” shoe.  Tools and processes should be designed to fit the task and the workers performing the task – the best tool or process takes both of these into consideration.
  • Use what you’ve learned from other areas – Back in the days of Nike’s affiliation with Lance Armstrong and his chase of Tour de France titles, Nike and Trek created the F1 project that looked at the different variables that created minor amounts of drag, such as where the race number is placed on the cycling jersey.  Nike applied these techniques to the running uniforms as well as the formation of the pacers to help reduce fatigue in the racers created by breaking their own wind.  Don’t reinvent the wheel, see what has been learned in other areas that applies to the task at hand.
  • You can’t control all of the variables –  Nike controlled as many variables as possible down to the track, pacers, etc.  The one set of variables that they had no control over was the weather.  In a task where they were trying to shave 2.4% off of the world record time, every variable matters.  The optimal temperature for the event had been determined to be 50 degrees Fahrenheit or lower with a humidity of 70%. Race day temperature on the track was 53 degrees with 79% humidity.  Three degrees doesn’t seem like much, but it was a six percent difference in the wrong direction from the optimal temperature.   We can control what we can and have to deal with the rest as it happens. Also, when dealing with people performing labor oriented tasks whether inside or outside, what would seem like small differences in temperature can make a huge difference in task performance.

It will be interesting to see how Nike applies the lessons that they have learned from this attempt to future attempts at breaking the record.  I hope that they make another attempt in the future.

Friday Five 4/21/17

The Friday Five is a set of five links that I have come across this week that pertain to ergonomics, occupational health, safety, human performance, or human factors.  For whatever reason, I found them interesting, but they are provided with minimal or no commentary and are not meant to be endorsement for a given product or research paper.

These links were generated during a PubMed search on the terms: ergonomics and obesity and using the new relevance button.

Cavuato and Nussbaum examined the effects of age and obesity on the performance of upper extremity activities.  They noted impairments in task performance due to fatigue, loss of strength, and discomfort during task performance related to obesity but not related to age.

Koepp et al. reviewed injury data from the Idaho National Laboratory which belongs to the Department of Energy.   In reviewing six years worth of injury data, 51% of those involved in slip, trip, and fall injuries were obese based on BMI values with a mean BMI of 31+/- 6.   This is similar to data from Ren et al. that looked at injuries in Texas which found a significant association between higher BMI levels and injuries from falls in an over 45 population.

DePaula et al.  looked into the relationship of loaded school backpacks and students (aged 10-19).  As 53 of the 339 students were considered to be obese, they provide the reminder that when looking at group data when generating percentage of body weight load for backpacks, the anthropometric breakdown for those in the sample group needs to be looked at.

Lerner et al. looked at a new marker set for collection of kinematic and kinetic data for obese subjects during gait testing.  The new obesity specific marker set was compared against a modified Helen Hayes marker set and found to have good agreement in non-obese subjects.  A significant effect was seen when comparing the marker sets with obese subjects.

Thorp et al. found that altering posture from sitting to standing every 30 minutes across the workday reduced fatigue levels and lower back pain in obese office workers while maintaining productivity.  They recommend future investigations to determine whether sustained use of adjustable height workstations affects concentration.

 

 

 

Friday Five – 3/31/17

The Friday Five is a set of five links that I have come across this week that pertain to ergonomics, occupational health, safety, human performance, or human factors.  For whatever reason, I found them interesting, but they are provided with minimal or no commentary and are not meant to be endorsement for a given product or research paper.

This week’s five are courtesy of a PubMed search on the terms: applied ergonomics

Manghisi et al. look at the use of the Kinect V2  (the newer generation of the Kinect) for performing RULA assessments to evaluate awkward postures.  Devices like the Kinect are interesting to me as they may allow for more natural evaluations of human movement in real life work settings.

Sedighi Maman et al. look at the use of wearable technologies for evaluating a data driven model for physical fatigue in the workplace.

JA Dobson et al. provide a literature review of work boot design and the impact on how workers walk(This is an important topic area that came up yesterday when we were in the field performing assessments for a customized job description.  The particular job has a variety of varied tasks with some that require steel toed boots.  The biggest complaint of the employees is comfort of steel toed boots for the tasks performed.)

Kang and Shin performed a study to determine the impact on accuracy and muscle activation patterns when target location is varied on computer touch screens.  This is going to be an important area for human factors and user interface professionals as touch screens become more common in the workplace.

Plamondon et al. look at the differences in how male and female workers lifting palletized loads with the same relative weight.   This study uses a similar lifting load weight to remove strength from the equation when looking at how the task is performed biomechanically.  While patterns between male and female subjects were similar, interjoint coordination differs.  Understanding of these differences can help with interventions to better reduce material handling injuries.

 

 

 

 

Friday Five – 3/17/17

The Friday Five is a set of five links that I have come across this week that pertain to ergonomics, occupational health, safety, human performance, or human factors.  For whatever reason, I found them interesting, but they are provided with minimal or no commentary and are not meant to be endorsement for a given product.

This week’s Five come from some of the newest additions to PubMed when using the search terms: ergonomics and workplace.

Shafti et al. looked at performance of work related tasks and levels of perceived discomfort (Borg scale) versus measurements from the Rapid Upper Limb Assessment and data collected from EMG sensors and electronic goniometers.  Not surprisingly, the RULA tool and data collected on muscle activity and joint angles were better at picking up small changes than the perceived discomfort described by the study subjects.

Khandan et al. utilized Fuzzy Technique for Order of Preference by Similarity to Ideal Solution (TOPSIS) to review job positions within a manufacturing facility to help determine which job titles would benefit from ergonomic interventions.  Often, clients realize that they have many positions that would benefit from ergonomic intervention but have limited funds to apply to interventions.  Tools such as this allow ergonomic professionals to better direct employers to the best application of limited intervention funds.  

This paper in Frontiers of Human Neuroscience by Nafizi et al.  looks at the muscle synergies that occur during slipping events.  Determining what happens in the initial microseconds of a slipping event can help lead to the development of strategies to reduce injuries during slip and fall events.

Irzmansk and Tokarski created a new method of ergonomic testing for gloves that protect and cuts and stab wounds when using knives.  One of the biggest issues with glove usage is that the design of gloves  can change muscle recruitment, usage, and fatigue patterns when compared to performance of the activity without glove usage.  Specialty gloves for butchers and fishmongers are designed to protect against injuries from knife usage hovewever they can increase the physical gripping demands of the task.  This study helps to better quantify these changes based on glove design.

A paper in Applied Ergonomics by Coenen et al. looks into the issues of “prolonged sedentary time” and reviewed occupational health and safety policies that relate to this issue.  No specific existing policies were found, however the authors note that the issue of prolonged sedentary behavior is one that needs to be researched and addressed.

 

 

 

 

Friday Five – 3/3/17

The Friday Five is a set of five links that I have come across this week that pertain to ergonomics, occupational health, safety, human performance, or human factors.  For whatever reason, I found them interesting, but they are provided with minimal or no commentary and are not meant to be endorsement for a given product.

Dr. Caitlin McGee, M.S., PT, DPT is a physical therapist with an interest in orthopedics and ergonomics for e-athletes.  She posted an ergonomic review of a prototype of the Smash Box controller.

This article covers 5 common injuries that potentially affect gamers.  Even though it is a couple of years old, it is still applicable today.  Keep in mind that gamers can be going home and playing for several hours on a daily basis – issues that they have from poor ergonomics in their home gaming set-up can be carried over to their workspace.

The original Hermann Miller Aeron chair wasn’t built for office workers.  The designers were working from input from senior citizens who listed needs such as cool temperatures,  easy on the joints, and easy to get up from or sit down on.  This article covers how these chairs ended up in offices across the world.

As always, it seems what is old becomes new again.  This article about kneeling chairs and back pain recently popped up in one of my Google Alerts for ergonomics.  I remember back in the late 1980s having one of these kneeling chairs in our house when I was a kid.

Boston Dynamics keeps building their amazing robots.  Their latest robot, Handle, is able to maneuver for distances of up to 15 miles, carry loads up to 100 pounds, navigate stairs with ease, and leap up to 4 feet vertically.  Could these be in warehouse environments in the near future?  The creations of Boston Dynamics always make me wonder how long it will be before Skynet becomes self-aware.

 

 

 

Friday Five – 2/24/17

The Friday Five is a set of five links that I have come across this week that pertain to ergonomics, occupational health, safety, human performance, or human factors.  For whatever reason, I found them interesting, but they are provided with minimal or no commentary and are not meant to be endorsement for a given product.

This week’s Friday Five is going to be focused on healthcare providers.

Surgery is a physically demanding task for the surgical team.  Being that surgeons are people too, they come to work with some of the same nagging aches and pains that all of have.  This study by Susan Hallbeck et al. looked at the impact of surgeons taking small breaks to stretch and exercise during surgeries longer than 2.5 hours or more than 4 hours of cumulative surgery during an op day.  Participating surgeons noted a significant reduction in shoulder pain and felt that the microbreaks were not distracting to surgical performance.

In relation to the above mentioned paper, researchers in Italy looked at the postures and positions related to surgical performance.  For those in the realm of ergonomics, it is no surprise that the ability to control the height of the surgical table reduces the risk of musculoskeletal complaints.

Researchers looked at the human factors involved in performance of nursing tasks and developed a methodology that increased direct patient contact time which resulted in a reduction in missing medicines which caused a decrease in lost time in tracking down medications.  It’s important to look at the way we do things and determine what makes our jobs easier and what tasks take away from being able to perform our primary functions.

The last two papers today involve Neal Wiggerman from Hill-Rom.  The first paper looks at the impact of the placement of brake pedals and hand controls on hospital beds and the required forces to manipulate the bed.

The second paper looks at the impact of powered drive units of bariatric beds for pushing, pulling, maneuvering into elevators, controlling ramp descents, and stopping when compared to non-powered bariatric beds.  The powered units demonstrate significant impacts across the spectrum.   It was nice to see the inclusion of controlling the descent on ramps.  We have performed on-site measurements in several hospitals and this is an area that is often forgotten as many hospitals don’t have significant ramps.  However, when we were measuring demands for patient transporters at a hospital in Philadelphia, the hospital was comprised of several buildings purchased at different times on a hilly property.  As the hospital acquired the buildings, connecting ramps were built as none of the buildings had floors at corresponding heights.  Due to the ramps, pushing and pulling forces in this hospital had a 25% greater requirement than in similar hospitals with no intra-floor ramps.

 

 

 

 

Friday Five

The Friday Five is a set of five links that I have come across this week that pertain to ergonomics, occupational health, safety, human performance, or human factors.  For whatever reason, I found them interesting, but they are provided without commentary and are not meant to be endorsement for a give product.

Ergonomic recycling containers – the lids are open to all sides allowing for easier access to deposit recyclables

American Airlines flight staff seem to be having health issues since their new uniforms were put into service.

Ergonomic mice and keyboards aren’t only for data entry – it can be the difference between winning and losing for gamers.

There are a lot of options for ergonomic keyboards.  This site reviews 10 of them.

While there have been reductions in sprains, strains, and other MSDs in many occupations, construction workers still have high rates of MSDs.