But their so cute! — a hidden danger for some athletes

We all  know proper footwear is essential for performance but have you ever stopped to consider what your shoe choice during off-training times is doing to you?

If you’re a woman who likes high heels, you may want to give this some thought.  According to research, the number of injuries related to high heels has doubled in the years between 2003 and 2012.  Anyone who has ever donned a pair can attest to heels adding a new wrinkle to mobility in grass, on ice, broken sidewalks, and when trying to keep up with a fast walker in flats.  Everything from sprained ankles to stress fractures in the small bones of the feet are reasonably common place.

Additionally, while heels may, at first, act to strengthen the muscles stabilizing the ankles, after the body adapts to these demands, muscles do not gain addition strength.  During prolonged wear, the muscles of the calves and the achilles tendon can shorten while the muscles of the front of the shin lengthen and this imbalance can play a role in decreasing the muscular strength of the lower leg.

Even as I’m writing this, I don’t expect many of you heel wearers will change your mind about strapping on that perfect pair for an evening out!  With that in mind, and like everything else we do here, there are ways to limit your risk of injury and keep your feet and legs in great working order.  What do the experts recommend?

Stretch: we want to keep those calves and Achilles long and relaxed.

Strengthen: As I said above, while initially the muscles of the lower leg gain strength, unless you started wearing high heels for the first time two weeks ago, you’re probably out of the phase where just walking around in those heels is going to do much strengthening.  Calf raises, one legged stands, and ankle exercises done with a resistance band is a great place to start to keep your lower legs strong.

Limit your time in heels:  This is where your common sense comes in.  Don’t wear heels when you know you’re going to be standing and walking over a great deal of uneven or unstable ground.  And reconsider your choice if you know you’re going to be under a great deal of pressure to get from point A to point B as quick as possible.  If you do find yourself in those situations, make sure to pay more attention to where and how you’re walking.  Walking gait in heels becomes markedly less fluid than flat shoe walking, add instability or fatigue to the mix and you may find yourself sidelined from training for something as dumb as vanity.

No athlete I know wants to have to admit they can’t play because they fell off their shoes — Don’t be that athlete.  Like so many other aspects of your training, what you wear on your feet during your time away from training matters.

Knowledge gaps — are they hurting your performance?

When you show up at the weight room, do you know why you’re there?  I know you’re thinking, “to get stronger, duh!!”.  While that’s true, if you look a little deeper, do you know what you are trying to accomplish that particular day?  Are you there for endurance training, improving your explosive speed, training your body to switch between energy systems?  Are you in the maintenance phase of your training (meaning you’re maintaining your strength but not prioritizing the building of muscle since you are in the middle of your competition season)?  Or have you just finished up your season and have moved into the active recovery phase?

If you can’t answer these questions (and truthfully about 100 more), any positive results you get will be dumb luck.  And while we should take all the luck we can get, we shouldn’t rely on it as a staple of our training program.

You need a plan — every day.  The minute you hit the weights, you should understand not only what you’re doing that day but why you’re doing it.  This will focus you mentally and physically for shoring up your weaknesses and honing your strengths.  That is what athletics is really about, right?

Get a plan.  Train smart.  If you can’t, honestly, say why you’re doing what you’re doing, get some help from a professional that can guide you through the process of training through an entire athletic macrocycle.  And if you don’t know what a macrocycle is?  Email us right now and we will be glad to help you get started!

Added Sugars: soon to be appearing on a nutrition label near you?

Recently, the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed adding a Daily Value (maximum amount of consumption) to the already existing food labels.  Added sugars are those carbohydrates not naturally occurring in the foods we eat.  For example, in your Chobani Fruit on the Bottom yogurt, the current nutrition label may read 15 grams of sugars per serving.  It will not make the distinction between how many grams of sugar are naturally occurring as part of the blueberries and how many of those grams have been added, in the form of evaporated cane juice (a form of sugar).

The Daily Value (DV) proposed is no more than 10%, meaning no more than 10% of our daily calories should be coming from sugars added in to our other foods.  For a person eating 2000 calories per day, this means they should be eating no more than 200 calories in added sugars daily.  That’s 50 grams or 12 teaspoon. And if you’re really paying attention, that’s the amount in one 16 ounce soda. If you drink one soda per day, you should not have any fruit on the bottom yogurt, no spaghetti sauce, no ketchup, no balsamic vinaigrette, no other foods with added sugar because you’ve reaches your DV for Added Sugars.

Don’t drink soda?  Although Gatorade has fewer grams of added sugar per ounce, you still would only be able to drink 28 ounces (not even the whole 32 oz. container) of one Gatorade to stay under the proposed DV.

While you could argue many athletes in training need more than 2000 calories per day, the idea still holds we are eating a lot of Added Sugars and need to bring down our numbers.

I, for one, am looking forward to a nutrition label that makes me consider the amount of added sugar I’m consuming.  Those products adding more whole fruit and less juice flavored syrup are going to come out winners with consumers.  Athletes, especially, will have one more piece of nutrition information on which to improve their food choices.  There is really no good reason to choose added sugars over naturally occurring sugars that come bound up in fiber, vitamins, and minerals.  We will only become healthier as we decrease our added sugar intake.


What more can we do to keep our Football Athletes safe?

The American Orthopaedic Society of Sports Medicine recently published a study investigating how coaches with education in injury prevention impact the injury rates of the athletes under their care.  In the 2014 football season, players from Arizona, Indiana, Massachusetts, and South Carolina were divided up into three categories:

According to their respective websites:

Heads Up Football® is a comprehensive program developed by USA Football to advance player safety in the game of football.

Pop Warner Little Scholars, Inc. (PWLS) is a non-profit organization that provides youth football and cheer & dance programs for participants in 42 states and several countries around the world.

After comparing the injuries experienced by 2100+ athletes in this study, researchers found programs with no coach education program experience 7 times as many injuries as programs having instituted the Heads Up and Pop Warner programs in practice and 75% fewer injuries during games.

This research shows the powerful impact of a coaching staff’s education in the cutting edge science of athlete injury prevention both during practices and at game time.  One injured athlete is one too many, but when we can expect 3 million kids between the ages of 7 and 14 are going to be playing tackle football this fall.  Conservative estimates say 5% of those will end up with an injury before the end of their season.  That’s A LOT of injured kids!  It’s time to recognize the important role a coach plays in player safety and encourage our coaches to get the formal training that can help them perform to the highest level of their ability — especially where safety is concerned!



Extreme Endurance Athletes at Risk for Blood Poisoning?

More is better?  Not necessarily true.  We know that our joints can take a beating during ultra events — but what about your gut?  Here’s an interesting guest post by Honor Whiteman about two recent studies investigating some unexpected effects of extreme exercise:

Extreme Exercise may lead to Sepsis, study finds
The health benefits of exercise are well documented, but two new studies by researchers from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, find exercising at extreme levels may do more harm than good – it could lead to blood poisoning.

People running a marathon
On analyzing blood samples from marathon runners taken immediately after the extreme endurance event, researchers identified markers of sepsis.

The studies – both led by Dr. Ricardo Costa of the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics at Monash – are published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine and Exercise Immunology Reviews.

Blood poisoning, also known as septicemia or sepsis, occurs when immune chemicals leak into the bloodstream, triggering an overactive inflammatory response. This can lead to blood clots and leaking vessels, impairing blood flow and preventing the body’s organs from receiving the required oxygen and nutrients.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 1 million people in the US develop sepsis each year, with around 28-50% of these individuals dying from the condition.

Infants and children, elderly individuals, people with chronic illnesses – such as cancer or AIDS – people who have suffered severe burns or physical trauma and those with a weakened immune system are at highest risk of sepsis.

However, the latest research from Dr. Costa and colleagues suggests extreme exercise may also be a risk factor for the condition.

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend adults engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity each week.

But while it is estimated that almost half of us fail to meet these guidelines, some of us are on the other side of the fence, exercising to extremes.

According to Dr. Costa, exercising for more than 4 hours in one session is deemed extreme, as is engaging in repetitive days of endurance exercising. Such practices are common among people taking part in extreme endurance events, such as marathons, who often engage in these events during periods of high heat, putting extra strain on the body.

“Exercising in this way is no longer unusual – waiting lists for marathons, Ironman triathlon events and ultra-marathons are the norm and they’re growing in popularity,” notes Dr. Costa.

Marathon runners had markers of sepsis in blood samples

For the studies, the team analyzed blood samples from 17 individuals who took part in a 24-hour ultra marathon and 19 people who took part in a multi-stage ultra marathon. Blood samples were taken from each participant immediately before and after the events, and all samples were compared with samples from control participants.

In almost all of the blood samples taken from study participants after marathon completion, the researchers identified markers identical to those found in blood samples of patients who are admitted to the hospital for sepsis.

“Blood samples taken before and after the events, compared with a control group, proved that exercise over a prolonged period of time causes the gut wall to change, allowing the naturally present bacteria, known as endotoxins, in the gut to leak into the bloodstream,” Dr. Costa explains. “This then triggers a systemic inflammatory response from the body’s immune cells, similar to a serious infection episode.”
Note: Since endotoxins are not bacteria, for “…the naturally present bacteria, known as endotoxins…” a better phrase would perhaps be “…the naturally present bacteria, which SECRETE endotoxins…”

Interestingly, the team found that participants who were fitter and spent a longer period of time training for the marathons had higher levels of an anti-inflammatory cytokine called Interleukin 10 in their blood, which offset any negative health effects caused by the endotoxin-induced immune response.

Their findings, the team says, emphasize the importance of following guidelines when it comes to taking part in extreme endurance events. Dr. Costa adds:
“It’s crucial that anyone who signs up to an event gets a health check first and builds a slow and steady training program, rather than jumping straight into a marathon, for example, with only a month’s training.

The body has the ability to adapt and put a brake on negative immune responses triggered by extreme endurance events. But if you haven’t done the training and you’re unfit – these are the people who can get into trouble.”

In future research, the team plans to further investigate how exercise affects gut integrity function in both high- and low-heat environments, as well as uncover ways in which exercise-induced gut damage may be prevented.

In October 2013, Medical News Today reported on a study suggesting marathon running may have a negative impact on the heart, reducing left and right ventricular function.

Original posting found at Medical News Today

Mentally Strong Athletes

We all know how important physical strength is to athletes but what about mental strength/mental toughness?  Something happened a few days ago that got me started thinking about the importance of mental strength.

The first thing was that I ran into a very dear friend of mine.  Through the course of the conversation, he started talking about a Dale Carnegie class he has been taking and how the first principle of the class had “changed his life”. At first, I mistook the comment as enthusiasm but as he continued to talk, he explained the class had literally changed the course of his life.  His turning point started with the first principle of the class, the 3C’s.

“Don’t  criticize, condemn, or complain!”

Give it some thought.  Criticizing, condemning, and complaining direct our focus onto things we beyond our control.  When engaged in the 3C’s, we are not looking for solutions, we are rehashing the past.  It’s a Lose/Lose.  Or, in the language of Wayne Gretsky, we are skating to where the puck has been.

The day after the 3C’s conversation, I came across the article “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do”.  Number 4 on that list:

“They don’t waste energy on things they can’t control.”

Clearly, criticizing, complaining, and condemning are all wastes of time (they don’t change anything) on things we can’t control (other peoples behavior is not up to us!).

If you google mental strength, what you’re most likely to find is examples of how it is exhibited, not an actually definition.  I suppose this is because mental strength is not just one thing but many wrapped together.  I feel confident it can be simplified down to one’s actions supporting the decision to keep pursuing a chosen path, no matter what life (or our own bad day) throws at us, until we reach our goal.

If you can accept this, then by extension, complaining, criticizing, and condemning, which direct our attention away from our chosen path and focus it directly on the barriers standing in our way…while exerting no effort to figure out  how to overcome them, are actions exactly opposite of mental strength.

What gives our strength back?  Planning, executing, rebounding from negative experiences with optimism, and the willingness to keep trying until you are successful.  In other words, keep for focus on where the puck will be and skate to that spot.

No matter how naturally gifted, current skill level, or raw talent, without mental toughness, an athlete will never reach their full potential.  Developing your mental toughness is just another part of your athletic training and one of the best places to start is ditching the 3C’s.    Try it — it will change your life.

Musculosketelal Differences between Males and Females

Last month was the 43rd anniversary of the enacting of Title IX and the opportunities for female athletes have never been greater. It is worth considering, however, although male and female athletes have many things in common, when it comes to anatomy of the musculoskeletal system, the genders very different. As a result, men and women have very different patterns of injuries.

Knowing which injuries are more common to which gender can help athletes and coaches create strategies to address these inherent liabilities more effectively.

For example:

•Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries are 2-8 times more common in females.
•Females are 5-8 times more likely than males to suffer an ACL injury in high-intensity sports like soccer and basketball that require sudden changes of motion.
•Ankle sprains are twice as common in females.
•Osteoarthritis of the knee is more common in females.
•Metacarpal and phalangeal (finger) fractures are more common in males.

These are just a few of the differences noted by researchers reported in the Journal of American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.  There conclusion says it all:

“Gender differences exist in many areas of musculoskeletal disease.  The role of hormones, differential anatomy, joint stability, and bone quality must be considered when caring for orthopaedic patients, and the differences in recovery after injury and surgery are also important to consider. Gender must be considered as a factor in the diagnosis and treatment of many common diseases.”

Title IX can offer opportunities for females to play in sport but each gender has physical differences that have to be taken into account when it comes to creating a training program designed to help the athlete stay health AND perform better.  Knowing the injuries common to each gender can be a first step in setting that athlete up for a long career of competition!

Summer Temps are Here — here are the guidelines to stay hydrated!

With the temps and humidity climbing as we head into July, it’s time to take another look at your hydration patterns.  Are you heading out for training well-hydrated or are you trying to make up for neglected hydration during training?

To help you navagate this critical part of your training, here are some guidelines from the American College of Sports Medicine:

1. Drink 16-20 fluid ounces of water at least 4 hours before exercise

2. Drink 8-12 fluid ounces of water 10-15 minutes before exercise

During Exercise:

1. Drink 3-8 fluid ounces of water every 15-20 minutes when exercising less than 60 minutes

2. Drink 3-8 fluid ounces of a sports beverage (5-8% carbohydrate with electrolytes) every 15-20 minutes when exercising more than 60 minutes

3. Do not drink more than one quart per hour during exercise

 Following these guidelines will help you stay hydrated but it’s important to remember that there is a high degree of variability in fluid loss between athletes.  If you’re wondering how to tell if you’re getting dehydrated , you can weigh yourself (without clothes) before and after your workout.  (Workout clothes will be sweaty after practice and throw off the measure of weight you lost through sweat).

Compare your pre- and post- training weight to see where you fit in this chart:

% Body Weight Change

Well Hydrated -1 to +1%

Minimal Dehydration -1 to -3%

Significant Dehydration -3 to -5%

Serious Dehydration > -5%

Based on these numbers, you should have a good feel for if your hydration patterns are sufficient for the temperature, humidity, and workout intensity and duration.  Now you’ll be able to make educated adjustments going forward.  Remember, not only is dehydration dangerous, it also impairs your thinking and reflexes.  If you want to excel, you have to stay hydrated!

Interested in more education on the science of hydration?  Click here to read ACSM’s handout on Selecting and Effectively using Hydration for Fitness!

Several Definitions of Prehab

Medical News Today hosted an interesting article on the injuries and prevention in youth athletics.  The whole article was informative and I found the discussion of the special problems associated with youth ACL repair especially helpful.  The article also highlighted the relatively new uses of the word prehab.

Most commonly, we use this term to mean the supervised pre-surgical physical therapy designed to improve the outcome of a surgical intervention. But another, increasingly common, use of the term denotes specialized, professionally supervised training, often done by a strength coach, to significantly decrease the risk of a particular injury before the injury occurs.  This type of training combines strength training, balancing opposing muscle groups, and re-training muscle memory patterns.

The benefits of improved strength to support joints through complex movements is obvious.  A little less obvious may be the importance of having hamstrings and quads, biceps and triceps, or abdominal muscles and back muscles in optimal strength ratios.  In many cases, opposing muscles group ratios are not 1:1.  For the most part, one muscle group of the pair will need to be stronger (but not too much stronger) than its opposing muscle group.  Ensuring these optimal ratios improves any athletes safety and performance.  Movement pattern training targets those bad jumping/landing/cutting habits likely to produce injuries and replace them with patterns that will not only keep athletes safe but also increase their performance.

I especially like this version of prehab because it focuses on bringing in the professionals before an injury occurs.  If you’ve ever experienced a significant injury, you know how hard it is to come back from even the most “routine” surgery.  Added to this is the special case that kids are experiencing significant injuries at a higher rate than ever and the complications to their general growth and development (let alone their athletic performance) can be impeded from the surgical fixes common for these injuries in adults.

With all the money now being spent on specialized gear, travel, lessons, and year round play, it seems like a worth while investment in your youth athlete to get them in to see a professional for a prehab assessment.  We want these youth athletes to have years and years of competitive play and not have to retire their athletic dreams in their early teens due to injuries, as so many athletes are doing now.


Good Form in the Weight Room — do you know what you’re doing?

Summer is a great time to slow down and focus on what’s important.  For many athletes, that can be building strength and athletic skills to support their sports training during the other parts of the year.

One area that can always use improvement is strength training technique.  If you think your technique is pretty good, let me assure you, there’s always room for improvement!

Many athletes have never had formal technique training in the weight room.  Even those who have, often times, fall out of the habit of using solid form.

Is lifting technique important?
YES, YES, YES! Without practicing proper technique, we are doing our bodies a disservice and putting ourselves at a higher risk for injury.  We are in the weight room to prevent injuries and to perform better, right?!

Below are 5 suggestions that may be helpful to add or utilize throughout your training program.

1. Be cautious of using exercises from a fitness magazine you have not tried — especially without guided help from a coach or lifting partner. Remember, those exercises may not be appropriate for your training level and/or training goals.

2. If you are new to strength training, learn the basics first. Ask a qualified trainer or coach to help you develop a program specific to your needs and skill level.

3. Utilize mirrors during your training session (to keep an eye on your posture and technique – NOT to check yourself out!)

4. Never sacrifice technique for more plates on the bar.

5. Make sure the machines or equipment is set up and adjusted properly to fit you! We are all physiologically unique — take the time to set up your equipment properly!

This is important work!  Don’t leave it to your gut feel or trying to figure things out from some health magazine.  There are plenty of options for connecting with professionals to teach you proper approach and execution of the lifts that will make you a stronger, more resilient athlete.

Learn the correct way now and be more effective in all your workouts to come.