Life improves Sports improves Life

Sports have a powerful impact on how we view life – which in turn impacts how we perform in sport.  This powerful connection can be used for the positive (sportsmanship, teamwork, increasing our sense of responsibility to others) or to the negative (win at all costs, watch out for number one, it’s all about me because I’m the star).

Tim Elmore has written an interesting post on how athletic principles can be expanded into larger life context. His basic ideas are:

  1. Life is a team sport
  2. Life is a contact sport
  3. Life is an aerobic sport

From these principles, he builds a strong case for rethinking how we create leaders both in sport and in life.

“Great athletes and, for that matter, great people in general, understand these truths about life. They reach the summit because they do it together, they expect to get bumps and bruises along the way, and they build a sustainable pace.” –Tim Elmore

In an age of increasing screen time, helicopter parenting, and a more me-first/me-only attitudes, creating an environment where leadership development thrives may take a little more thought, planning, and hard work than before.

 

 

 

6 Tips for Finding your Performance Coach

Coaches have the ability to build you up and move you to a higher level than you previously thought possible.  But…pick the wrong coach and you could be signing up for injuries, burnout, and decreased performance.  How can you really know which way that pendulum is going to swing?  Here are a couple tips to help you make an educated and informed decision.

1. Your coach should listen to you.  You live in your body 24/7 and have access to all sorts of feedback information.  Your coach should be asking you as many questions as he or she is giving commands.

2. Your philosophies should align.  Any professional coach is going to have a basic coaching philosophy.  Although you and your coach may not see eye to eye on every philosophical point, you are paying this person for their guidance.  If you are fighting their philosophy every time you train with them you are wasting a lot of energy that could be put into training.

3. Your coach should exhibit respect — to you, to athletes who do not train with them — to everyone.  Your coach is a professional and as such, should exhibit professionalism and respect to everyone with whom they interact.

4.  They should be focused on the fundamentals.  Even well-trained athletes can lose their form if they are not mentally engaged in their training.  Your coach should be coaching you through each phase of your training — encouraging and pushing, yes, but more importantly coaching you through the basic adjustments of your form that will improve your training outcome.  You’re not paying them to watch you while you hear about their weekend — they should be keeping you focused on the task at hand.

5.  A coach is only as good as his or her ability to set goal for you.  A great coach knows how to balance making you work for a goal with its attainability.  Set goals that are too easy and the athlete will get bored.  Set goals that are too difficult and the athlete gets frustrated.  With consistent hard work, goals should be challenging but attainable in a reasonable timeframe.

6. A good coach will focus on what you should be doing — not what you should avoid doing.  The words a coach uses creates the images an athlete carries around.  For any skill, the list of what NOT to do is very long and concentrating on those points will not get you to the next performance level.  Your coach’s communication should support the skills he or she is teaching.

When picking a performance coach, remember they are the expert but you are the customer.  While they should be more knowledgeable than you (after all, that is what you’re paying them for), it is critical that this is a person you can work with, understand, and communicate with.  Part of that is your responsibility — don’t settle for less of a coach than you deserve.

Making better Nutrition Decisions

A couple weeks ago, we talked about the marketing scam of “all-natural” and how that doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing as healthy.  With the New Year under way, we can expect a BIG push for health and performance advertising aimed at those of us seeking to blow past last year’s PR’s.  It’s time to get past the hype — there are no shortcuts to success.

When talking about getting back to basics, the FDA is helping out by refining what information is going to be available to us on our nutrition labels.  Proposed changes to the current nutrition label are expected to be finalized this year and fully implemented by food manufacturers by 2017.

NutritionFacts-New

Among the proposed changes, serving sizes will change to more accurately reflect portion size for the average American.  Hopefully, revising the misleading 2-servings in your Chocolate Milk Chug (at 220 calories per serving) will morph into the total calories for the 1 pint container because, honestly, who has the discipline to stop drinking that deliciousness half way through the bottle??

Anther important bit of information we can expect to see is the amount of Added Sugar broken out into its own category.  This will improve our grasp on, for example, how much sugar has been added to our yogurt versus how much sugar is naturally occurring in the fruit added to it by the manufacturer.  This will make picking our foods a easier, as we are able to check sugar facts between brands.

We can also expect to see changes to the bolded type and information allowed on the front of the packaging.  This is the information we are most likely to see even if we don’t take the time to read the label.  All in all, these update should help us make better decisions about the foods we chose to fuel our performance.

 

 

What you see effects your performance

goRecent research discovered “athletes undergoing endurance exercise who were presented with positive subliminal cues, such as action-related words, including ‘go’ and ‘energy’, or were shown happy faces, were able to exercise significantly longer compared to those who were shown sad faces or inaction words.

The words and faces appeared on a digital screen — placed in front of the athlete — for less than 0.02 seconds and were masked by other visuals, meaning they were unidentifiable to the participant’s conscious.”

This research underscores the importance of how our subconscious impacts the effort we will put into a task.  Positive talk and positive images (at both the conscious and unconscious level) hugely impact the limits to which we can push ourselves.  Since most athletes acknowledge the importance of our mindset in overall performance, use of this research can be one more tool in our tool box on the road to success.  Post those positive action words around where you can see them — it just may change the limits you can push yourself.

Natural does NOT equal Healthy

Take this for example:

Carl’s Jr. recently released a their All-Natural Burger. Described as “a grass-fed, free-range charbroiled beef patty with no added hormones, steroids, or antibiotics, topped with natural cheddar cheese and vine-ripened tomatoes”, it seems like a better choice for those times when you have to grab something on the go, right? And certainly worth paying the extra at $4.69 for the single compared with $2.99 for the (unnatural?) traditional single.

But lets consider:Carl's Jr. Natural Burger

At 760 calories (400 coming from fat) and 1040 mg of sodium in the single (not to mention 13g of saturated fat and 1g of trans fat), the “natural” of the ingredients are not going outweigh the unhealthy aspects of this burger.

Obviously, consumer demand has driven Carl’s Jr. to rethink their burger options.  Whether this item stays on the menu or not really depends on whether consumers are willing to pay the increased price for higher quality ingredients. I suspect it won’t take long before we see other fast food chains making similar “natural” options to their menus, as well.  As we watch to see where this trend takes us, it is important to remember:

The terms “natural” and “all-natural” are not yet defined and regulated by the USDA or the FDA (the departments of the US government in charge of meat and food industry regulation respectively).  Until these department create regulation for the application of these terms, “natural” and “all-natural” are just marketing claims and as such should be taken with a grain of salt. (pun intended)

The true take home for this discussion is “natural” is not the same as good for you.  Lots of claims are made by food marketers but you are an athlete and as such, you need to be savvy and educated in your decisions about how you fuel your body.  We live in an age where there is more available information than ever before but that comes with the responsibility to do your research and be wary of anyone using the claim “natural” to sell you a better version of an bad-for-you product.

 

6 Tips for Staying Awesome through the Holidays

If you’re like many of us, the fun, excitement, and responsibilities of this time of year make sticking to your training schedule a challenge.  In an effort to help you balance the (often competing) goals of family, job, and training schedules, here are some tips to ensure you reach the New Year reading to dive full steam back into your training.

1. It’s the season of germs and lots of social functions — wash your hands!  This year’s flu shot missed the mark predicting one of the more common strains of flu — but you can do a lot to keep yourself healthy by washing your hands often.

2. Get enough sleep.  With all the activities planned during the last two weeks of the year, its tempting to skip the sleep in order to have more time to get things done — don’t.  While you sleep, your body uses its energy for fighting off germs and infection.  It’s important to get your rest.

3. Eat at home as often as you can.  There are so many opportunities to eat the food you normally wouldn’t allow yourself that it can be difficult to balance your nutrition during the Holidays.  And while it’s important to enjoy the special foods of the season, it’s equally important to make sure your eating pattern doesn’t go too far off the rails.  To accomplish this, make sure you’re packing your lunches, taking the time to eat nutritious breakfasts, and eating dinners at home as often as your social schedule allows.  This means no running through the drive-thru on your way home from last minute shopping just because it’s easier.  You’re an athlete — fuel yourself like one.

4. Limit your alcohol intake.  ‘Tis the season to over-indulge — don’t.  Alcohol has been shown to significantly impair the immune system and dramatically effect performance.  Be sensible and drink moderately or not at all.

5. Keep moving.  Time is at a premium right now.  You may not be able to fit your normal training schedule in but make the best use of the time you do have available to get some sort of workout.  It might be the right time to add a couple days of high intensity training.  You’ll keep your heart rate up and get your strength work in all in a much shorter time so you can get out of the gym and on to the next item on your list.

6. Don’t stress.  It takes a toll on both your physical and mental health, so if you need to let your training slide for until the first of the year, do it.  Sure, you’ll lose a little bit of your edge but you’ll gain it back soon after your back at your regular training schedule.  The mental and physical benefits of planned training breaks is well documented.  Getting all of your workouts in will mean a lot less if you make yourself sick in the process and spend a miserable week out with a cold or flu.

First and foremost, we are social creatures.  Our time with family and friends is precious and should never take a backseat to time in the gym.  Enjoy whatever opportunities this season sends your way and we’ll can get back to the business of being awesome athletes just as soon as it’s over.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from all of the Staff at Borgess Athletic Performance!

Quick and Easy Whole Food on the Go!

It’s not enough to know we need to prepare nutritious meals at home — we need to have some simple, go-to recipes that make the process easy!  To start your day off right with lean protein and some veggies (and ensure you make it out the door on time), here’s an breakfast recipe with a ton of variation to fuel your morning right!

Egg muffins

Ingredients

Onions
Chopped tomatoes
Any kind of cheese or leave it out if you prefer
Green chillies
Bell Peppers
Spinach
Mushrooms
Shredded carrots
Finely minced garlic
Chopped chicken, turkey, or lean sausage
Eggs 6 beaten with 2 tbsp milk, black pepper to taste

Instructions
Preheat oven at 400° F
Grease your muffin tin
Add vegetables of your choice along with cheese (if you choose), pour beaten egg mixture on it.
Place muffin pan on the center rack of a preheated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until muffins are light brown, puffy, and the eggs are set.
Let muffins cool for a few minutes before removing from the muffin pan or cups. Loosen gently with knife if they seem to be sticking. Eat immediately or let cool completely and store in plastic bag in refrigerator or freezer. The Egg Muffins can be reheated in the microwave.

Easy, right?  And quick!  Add meat or leave it out — same goes for the cheese.  Mix up the veggies to get the maximum amount of variation in vitamins and minerals intake.  Prepare these on the weekend and you can ensure you’ve got enough for the week and you’re all set for easy, no hassle breakfasts packed full of the nutrients you need to start your day off right!

Looking for a way to support you high school athlete? Think about this!

Parents, boosters, and community members put a lot of time and energy into supporting their high school athletes.  The payoff for all that effort is giving these kids the opportunity to learn the life lessons that will help them become hardworking, responsible, ethical adults who understand how to be comfortable outside of their comfort zone.

But athletics isn’t free — someone has to foot the bill.  Concession stand sales has been a staple in fundraising to support school sports but with Type 2 Diabetes in the high school population on a sharp rise, it’s time to take a look at the practice of selling junk food at athletic events.

Yes, we need to continue raising money to support our teams but are we sending the message we really intend?  It’s time to look beyond what we’ve always done and start to rethink whether there are better ways to meet our fundraising goals.

The Difference between Athletes and Hockey Players

“Between the ages of 14 and 17 is when you can build or destroy an athlete. Only one percent will make it to the higher level, but we want 100 percent to remain players for life.”  –Yves Archambault, technical director of Hockey Québec

Ever considered that there is a difference between athletes and hockey players? The Canadian hockey powers have and have decided to take their player development to the next level to ensure the creation of athletes — not just kids that play hockey until they reach their max potential and retire from that sport.

The idea of “Building an Athlete” (BA) grew out of the Long Term Player Development model where the training of youth players is focused on:

  •  doing the right thing for the player at the right stage in their development
    • adopting a player-centered approach
    • viewing player development as a long term process
    • aligning player development resources (skills manuals, DVDs) with coach development and education resources so that coaches are doing the right things at the right time
    • a need to better educate parents on the hockey development of their child

Building an Athlete takes this player development focus one step further to ensure the kids are not only getting great hockey development but are focused equally on nutrition, both mental and physical conditioning, and developing their overall athletic skills.  The basic idea is to do the right thing for each young person’s development both on and off the ice, at the right time in that child’s development.  It is the experts’ opinion this with create higher quality athletes over the next 10 years.

In the U.S., parents often want to ensure the best overall development for their kids through sports but there are occasions where this goal is subverted by the short term need to win game by game or season by season.

It’s time to rethink and fine tune our attitudes about youth sport in the U.S. and decide what, really, is the final product our youth sports programs should be turning out: players or athletes? Do we want kids that understand the importance of winning or kids that understand how to be upstanding people of integrity.

When phrased like that, there seems to be little discussion on what we really want from youth sports — the question is, what are the adults in charge, everyone from parents and coaches to the governing bodies of youth athletics going to DO about ensuring we are raising generations of high quality athletes that will live out the life lessons they’ve learned from the years of play to make the world a better version of what it is today.

 

 

Food, Mood, and the Athlete

You’ve heard the positives (often via commercials) and the negatives (often from foodie purists) on meal replacement “foods”.  These foods are designed to provide, according to the manufacturers, nutrition to fuel performance in easy, convenient packaging for athletes on the go. But our contention has been that something is lost when food goes through the processing it takes to pack all that powdered protein and lab created vitamins into a bar that has a decade long shelf life. Emily Deans just published a great article explaining, in clear terms, why our body NEEDS whole foods.

She, as a practicing psychiatrist with a bent toward how evolution and environment play into mental disorders, has broken down the need for whole foods into two easy to understand ideas (at least as it relates to brain development):

Our brains evolved to work with the raw materials provided by whole, minimally processed foods. Processed foods will interact poorly with the brain in two basic ways:

  1. Unbalanced, micronutrient-poor but calorie rich food leads to overabundant energy without sufficient cellular repair machinery to deal with it, leading to inflammation and damage. It would be like putting purified alcohol in the car in lieu of the gasoline the spark plugs are designed to work with.
  2. Processed foods will introduce novel chemicals, particularly from grains and food dyes that will cause inflammatory reactions in certain people.

As athletes, we know how critical optimal brain function is to high performance.  Concentration, will-power, split-second decision making, and reaction time are critical brain functions.  No matter how much raw fuel and muscle to utilize it the body has, if the brain isn’t functioning optimally, the body won’t be able to either.

So let’s get back to whole foods versus highly processed foods:

When you’re eating whole foods, the macro-nutrients (carbs, fats, and proteins) are being consumed in ratios we have, through our evolution, learned how to utilize.  Most high carb foods contain lots of fiber which slows the absorption of the carb, which eliminates the sharp blood sugar spike followed by dramatic blood sugar crash.

Micronutrient (vitamins, minerals, flavonoids, etc.) are also being consumed in ratios that are balanced to the body’s needs.  Which means you are unlikely to miss a nutrient like fat that helps absorb other nutrients like vitamins.  It is likely that nature has provided the means for us to utilize the nutrients in foods in the combinations they are naturally found.

We can’t say the same thing about a meal replacement bar that has had all the fiber stripped out of the grains.  Along with the fiber, many of the vitamins and minerals have been stripped out, as well.  But it all gets added back in, right?  Well…some of the more well-known micronutrients do — but only the ones we have identified and understand.  And adding back does not create the same outcome because micronutrient proportions are going to be much different that those found in nature.

Let’s face it, with water and air pollution, many of our foods (even whole foods) coming wrapped in plastic, we are not living in the world our bodies evolved in.  We are going to suffer some of the effects of our changing environment because we just can’t help interacting with some of what isn’t ideal for us.  And let’s be honest, sometimes, highly processed foods are the most sensible choice we can make.

But…we need to make sure we are truly balancing our short-term needs for convenience, portability, and athletic demands with the long-term needs of ensuring our body is getting the nutrients it needs in a form that it can make use of.