Thursday, December 23, 2010

To stretch or not to stretch – that is the question?

Who hasn’t begun a run, exercise session or volleyball game with a bit of static stretching? You see it everywhere – runners stretching their hamstrings while pushing against trees and stretching their Achilles tendon using street curbs, and then setting out for their run.

But is this really doing your muscles and energy systems any good for your pending athletic performance?

Once an essential part of the sporting warm up, many coaches are now suggesting that static stretches should be avoided just prior to warming up, competition or exercise. New research also doubts the effectiveness of static stretching in enhancing your performance or work out, with some strongly recommending against it.

Static stretching, the slow and constant movement of a muscle to a fixed end point, and held for up to +/-30 seconds, is designed to improve range of motion and enhance athletic performance. But research says that doing this before athletic practice or performance actually produces a decline in muscle performance and should not be done immediately before any activity whose performance depends largely upon achieving high amounts of force.

While there is value to static stretching, the real question is ‘when do you perform it?’ The best times are just after a low intensity activity designed to increase muscle temperature, or after your workout, or at a completely different time not associated with a high session of physical activity, in order to get its full benefits.

To learn more about static stretching prior to exercise, please review the following resources.

Small, Katie, McNaughton, Lars, and Matthews, Martyn, (2008) A Systematic Review into the Efficacy of Static Stretching as Part of a Warm-Up for the Prevention of Exercise-Related Injury. Research in Sports Medicine, 16(3), p213.

Warming Up

Flexibility Training

To stretch or not to stretch before competitive tennis?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Importance of Sleep to the Athlete

While attending the Ontario Sport 4 Life “Shaking The Foundations” conference in November 2010 in Markham, Ontario, it was interesting that with all the experts speaking about physiology, psychology, paradigm shifts, nutrition, coaching, hormonal cycles, long term athlete development (LTAD), that the number one cog in the athlete sustenance wheel was the importance of sleep, according to LTAD expert Istvan Balyi.

Sleep. It’s something we do at the end of each day. Still, it’s the one thing that is always sacrificed no matter what level of athlete you are. How is it that something so important in daily human physical and mental repair is so underestimated? For the most part we all spend most of our days in a very large sleep debt, which affects such areas as cognitive function, mood, fitness, general health and reaction times.

Optimal environment elements affecting how well we sleep include the light, temperature and noise in our bedrooms, along with dedicating the time to getting enough quality sleep. So embrace the importance of crawling into the flannelette pasture so that your body can do its maintenance work.

For more information on sleep, which won’t put you to sleep, please review these articles or contact SIRC.

Health Benefits of Sleep

Importance of Sleep for the Young Athlete

Importance of Sleep to the Endurance Athlete

Davenne, D. (2009). Sleep of athletes - problems and possible solutions. Biological Rhythm Research, 40(1), 45-52.

Noland, H., Price, J., Dake, J., & Telljohann, S. (2009). Adolescents’ Sleep Behaviors and Perceptions of Sleep. Journal of School Health, 79(5), 224-230.

Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter (2007) A Wake-Up Call on Sleep and Health. Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, 15260143, 24(12).

Williams, A. (2010). Recovery Nutrition - Sleep, Eat, Train, Recover, Repeat. Coaches Plan/Plan du Coach, 17(2), 20-23.

Waterhouse, J.; Atkinson, G.; Edwards, B.; Reilly, T.,(2007) The role of a short post-lunch nap in improving cognitive, motor, and sprint performance in participants with partial sleep deprivation. Journal of Sports Sciences, 25(14), 1557-1656.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Winter Running

Recent news reports have focused on the severe winter weather that has suddenly hit Canada. For a lot of runners this weather can be discouraging. Winter running does not have to be extreme or unsafe, it should be fun. Cold weather running should be exhilarating as it is a great way to get fresh air, spend some outdoor time with friends, and enjoy the beauty of the season. It all depends on how well prepared you are for the weather. Wearing the correct clothing and being prepared for the cold can be the difference between having fun and discouragement. When putting on your running gear make sure to think about these three layers:
  1. Wicking Layer: Synthetic Material that moves moisture away from the body, preventing you from getting chills
  2. Insulating Layer: Keep your body warmth close to you preventing you from getting cold
  3. Shell Top Layer: A jacket to protect you from the cold wind and water…well snow!
Other items that are recommended for runners are:
  • Positive attitude
  • Running Hat
  • Two pairs of running gloves
  • Neck Warmer
Reference from the SIRC Collection:
Mandel, C. (2009). Winter Running Guide. Canadian Running, 2(1), 62-63.

Other SIRC Resources:
SIRC Winter Newsletter
Cold Weather Resources

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Coaches and the Female Athlete Triad

There are awkward conversations some coaches avoid having with their female athletes. One of these discussions may be about the menstrual cycle, especially by male coaches. This awkwardness can be avoided by educating your athletes on the Female Athlete Triad.
The three clusters of the triad are:
  • Disordered Eating (poor nutrition),
  • Menstrual dysfunction (irregular or loss of period), and
  • Osteoporosis (low bone density)
Athletes should be educated on proper eating habits to maintain or balance the use of energy when training, as to prevent low-energy availability. The low-energy availability and excessive exercise can lead to a lack of estrogen causing amenorrhea (loss of period) or menstrual irregularities. A lack of estrogen, and poor nutrition (especially calcium) can lead to the third cluster, osteoporosis.

As coaches, the main focus should be on disordered eating, as this leads to the next two clusters. Women face many pressures these days to look a certain way, or have a certain body-type. For serious female endurance athletes, the pressures of training can produce the mind set of, “If I lose 5lbs, I can run faster.” These pressures can very easily lead an athlete into poor eating habits.

For more information on this topic please check the SIRC collection.
Female Athlete Triad Coalition

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Technology – The Bigger Picture

This past November, SIRC had the pleasure of attending the Petro-Canada Sport Leadership Conference hosted by the Coaching Association of Canada, in Ottawa. This event is where top coaches, sport administrators, coach educators, leaders in the corporate community, and sport scientists come together to connect, learn, network, and celebrate together.

One of the sessions was about social media and the bigger picture. One of the three presenters was Dr. Linda Duxbury, a professor at Carleton University. Her presentation was not so much about social media, but the bigger picture behind it. She spoke about how technology is supposed to make our lives easier and more efficient. Her studies have shown quite the opposite. Our time in work has increased, thanks to laptops, blackberry’s and other portable devices, but this is a poor measure of productivity. Our work load has also increased, where our leisure time has decreased. This can only mean one thing; technology is hurting our quality of life.

Dr. Duxbury also brought up that we need to establish email etiquette. Just like phone etiquette, email etiquette is just as important since many of us communicate via email on a daily basis. But is email causing us more stress? It only takes 50 emails per day to cause stress to the average person. People are sending and receiving an average of 71 emails per day, with some receiving upwards of 200. This can only mean, people are sending and receiving work related emails outside of work hours. With access to work through mobile devices, workers are finding it increasingly difficult to “switch-off” from work. Studies have shown that there is a need for organizations to educate their employees, about the importance of strategic unwinding post work to optimize the quality of leisure time and prevent them from becoming fatigued and burnt out.

For more articles on quality of life and general well-being, please see the January 2010 SIRC Newsletter.

For more information about Dr. Duxbury’s study on work-life conflict please see:
Duxbury, L. and C. Higgins (2009), Key findings and Conclusions from the 2001 National Work-Life Conflict Study. Health Canada; Ottawa, Ontario.

Reference from the SIRC collection:

(2010). Email stress can wipe out benefit of holiday. Occupational Health, 62(9), 4.

Cropley, M., & Millward, L. (2009). How do individuals 'switch-off' from work during leisure? A qualitative description of the unwinding process in high and low ruminators. Leisure Studies, 28(3), 333-347.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Nature versus Human Endurance

In 2003, trapped in a Utah canyon by a fallen boulder, a solitary hiker freed himself with an amputation that became famous around the world. And it has now become a Hollywood movie, where Aron Ralston relives his harrowing experience, with a Hollywood twist.

Aron re-tells his story in the December 2010 issue of Outside from the set of “127 hours”, a film starring James Franco, out in theatres now. Aron’s story is both thrilling and a true test of the human spirit. In this particular article, Aron describes what it’s like working with a Hollywood actor and on a set, trying to detach himself from the changes needed to translate his book and his experience onto film. He has been able to revisit many times the site of the incident, the first time just 6 months after the accident. He describes it as a place of peace and clarifying acceptance. He still climbs to this day and goes back to Blue John Canyon as often as once a year. He thanks his premonitions of family and life during his ordeal that gave him the courage to make it until dawn one more time before freeing himself.

Aron, like many other climbing enthusiasts, looks back at his experiences and how it has made him grow as a person and athlete. Encouraging others not to give up, overcoming any obstacles that they may encounter. Many schools are incorporating outdoor survival into their physical education programs. Not only to prepare for worst case scenarios but to look at wilderness survival as an enjoyable way to become closer to the earth. Along with personal growth, it offers skills that will encourage the participants to become more interactive with nature by observing and participating in it.

Reference from the SIRC collection:
Ralston, A. (2010). Cut Rough. Outside, 35(11), 78-82; 88-90; 149-151.

Aron’s story and many other informative articles on survival and the outdoors can be found in different parts of the SIRC collection:
Ball, M. (2001). Wilderness Survival and Outdoor Education. Association of Outdoor Recreation & Education Conference Proceedings, 61-65.
Jenkins, M. (2003). Between a rock and the hardest place: what happens when a solitary day hike turns into the ultimate test of survival?. Outside, 28(8), 51-54.
Ralston, A. (2006). MY SUMMIT PROBLEM. Outside, 31(4), 84-88;90;122-123;125;132
Reiter, B. (2010). The Not-So-Great Outdoors. Sports Illustrated, 113(18), 21.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


Check out the latest SIRC Newsletter on Exer-Gaming:

Video games are one of the most popular leisure activities in the world. Children and adults alike can enjoy playing anything from virtual sports, war and racing games to fantasy, role playing and music games. Many video games have been a focus of controversy with claims that they have been taking away from the physical activity levels of many people. And since video games are here to stay, it was about time for game makers to create games that allow for otherwise sedentary playing to merge with physical activity. Exer-gaming has grown to be popular with all age groups and all levels of fitness. These games allow the gamer to dance, run, jump, play tennis, baseball, boxing and golf, and even allow one to work on their strength and yoga postures. But is this the future of exercise? Game makers aren’t looking to replace the gym or playing outside, but are offering an alternative to those who may prefer to rack up high scores rather than race to the gym.

Worldwide fitness trends for 2011

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) has just released its findings from their 2011 worldwide fitness trends survey and one of the most notable changes has been the rise in “fitness programs for older adults” to the number 2 position. The values of educated and experienced fitness professionals as well as the concern over children and obesity continue to be in the top 5, however, it is interesting that the focus on fitness for older adults is attracting so much attention. As the population is aging it is important to encourage healthy lifestyles for older adults. We are often told of the necessity to get children active, to break the sedentary trend; however we need to also provide programs and encouragement for all adults to be active. The health benefits associated with physical activity are universal whether with children or adults.

Top 10 Worldwide Fitness Trends for 2011
  1. Educated and experienced fitness professionals
  2. Fitness programs for older adults
  3. Strength training
  4. Children and obesity
  5. Personal training
  6. Core training
  7. Exercise and weight loss
  8. Boot camp
  9. Functional fitness
  10. Physician referrals

References from the SIRC Collection:
Thompson, Walter R. (2010). Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2011. ACSM’s health & fitness journal, 14(6), 8-17.

Canada’s Physical Activity Guide to Healthy Active Living for Older Adults