Women Exceed Men in Ultra-Endurance

World Extreme Medicine Conference provides platform for Female Doctors rowing Atlantic to prove a point

It is an exciting time for women in sport, in particular women are increasingly meeting or exceeding male performances in ultra-endurance events.  The World Extreme Medicine Conference 23-25 November 2019 in Edinburgh is providing a platform for the “Emergensea Girls” to announce their research project and talk about their plans for taking on the world’s toughest rowing race – the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Rowing Challenge 2020.

A&E doctors at the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust and Extreme Medicine MSc Fellows at Exeter University Medical School, Rosie Alterman and Charlie Fleury are going to use the challenge to carry out some preliminary research that they hope will support the theory that women are better than men at ultra endurance events.

The girls will be rowing across the Atlantic from La Gomera in the Canaries to Antigua in a 24ft boat. In addition to conducting research on themselves and simply staying alive they are aiming to smash the current women’s pairs record, and reach Antigua in under 50 days. All proceeds from their venture will be going to Devon Air Ambulance Trust.

Charlie Fleury and Rosie Alterman

Prof. Mark Hannaford, Co-Founder of the MSc Extreme Medicine programme at Exeter and Founder of World Extreme Medicine and Conference said

“I’m delighted to see real research advances being made as a result of the establishment of the MSc in Extreme Medicine at the University of Exeter Medical School in a partnership with World Extreme Medicine.   

This area of medicine has been poorly researched in the past, especially in the area of female psychological response to extremes, and I’m delighted that progress in this area is being made by two exceptional Clinical Fellows enrolled on the course partners with the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital in Devon.”

There are numerous hypotheses as to why women are increasingly outperforming men ranging from evolutionary roots as child-bearers through to the composition of female muscles. 

During the race Charlie and Rosie will be conducting original research into women and endurance sports as part of their MSc in Extreme Medicine. They will be using data collected from the rowers participating in the Atlantic crossing events in 2019 and 2020 – looking for trends from this year which they can input into the research planned for next year. They will be examining body composition and muscle fatigue pre and post the rows and during the crossings there are two questionnaires that the rowers will complete each day which will profile mood states and provide the rating of perceived effort ( a common method used in sports to measure the individual’s perceived exertion at a point in time).

Charlie, who recently had major surgery on her pelvis, said

“Rosie and I have shared many challenges in the past – ranging from hiking in snake-infested Costa Rica to camping in -20°C in Norway, to surviving a Friday night shift in Exeter’s Emergency Department. What we lack in rowing experience, we more than make up for in determination! 

In addition to long-distance triathlons and running marathons Rosie volunteers with the RNLI – so is well aware of the unpredictability of the sea and the respect crossing an ocean demands. 

We will be training with James Parkes, strength and conditioning coach at Exeter Chiefs Premiership rugby team, and have a variety of other supporters to help us prepare physically and mentally for the challenge for which we are immensely grateful”

The duo will be running a rowing competition at the World Extreme Medicine conference in Edinburgh and are also planning a 24 hour row in their hospital foyer next March in aid of Devon Air Ambulance.

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