Thursday, November 29, 2012

Are you working hard enough?

Any periodization training plan requires at least some measurement of work - daily, weekly or monthly.  The challenge occurs when we try to balance work and recovery in the short, medium, and long term.  One way to determine how hard your body is working is to measure your rate of perceived exertion or RPE.  Simply put, RPE is our perception of how hard we're working based on how we feel. 

Athletes use a 1 to 10 (or 20) rating system on how hard they felt they worked with 1 being effortless and the higher numbers meaning they pushed as hard as they could go.  This rating system measures feelings of effort, strain, discomfort, and/or fatigue experienced during aerobic or resistance training.

Example of a Rating system (Talk test):

RPE 1-2: Very easy; you can converse with no effort
RPE 3: Easy; you can converse with almost no effort
RPE 4: Moderately easy; you can converse comfortably with little effort
RPE 5: Moderate; conversation requires some effort
RPE 6: Moderately hard; conversation requires quite a bit of effort
RPE 7: Difficult; conversation requires a lot of effort
RPE 8: Very difficult; conversation requires maximum effort
RPE 9-10: Peak effort; no-talking zone

There really is only one way to get RPE wrong and that is to have someone other than the athlete measure it.  Similarly trained athletes should have similar RPE ratings after a training session, so when you let someone else rate the effort involved, a coach for example, the ratings can be skewed.  A recent study illustrated this idea when they had both athletes and coaches rate the difficulty of a workout and ended up with very different results.  Surprisingly, the ratings were opposite, when the athletes felt that they were working hard, the coach thought it was easy and vise versa.  

The researchers came to the conclusion that using a RPE rating system is a practical, non-invasive way of measuring an athlete's workload.  It's also important that athletes and coaches ensure that they communicate with each other on how hard an athlete is working when they are going at different intensities.

References from the SIRC Collection: 

2. Faulkner J, Parfitt G, Eston R. The rating of perceived exertion during competitive running scales with time. Psychophysiology. November 2008;45(6):977-985.
3. Groslambert A, Mahon A. Perceived Exertion: Influence of Age and Cognitive Development. Sports Medicine. August 2006;36(11):911-928.
4. Lima-Silva A, Pires F, Bertuzzi R, Lira F, Casarini D, Kiss M. Low carbohydrate diet affects the oxygen uptake on-kinetics and rating of perceived exertion in high intensity exercise. Psychophysiology. February 2011;48(2):277-284.
5. Shigematsu R, Ueno L, Nakagaichi M, Nho H, Tanaka K. Rate of perceived exertion as a tool to monitor cycling exercise intensity in older adults. Journal Of Aging & Physical Activity. January 2004;12(1):3-9.
6. What rate of perceived exertion (RPE) means. Shape. July 2012;31(11):140.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Puzzled by Periodization Training?

Periodization training is the division of a training year(s) into a cycle of of several phases, each phase devoted to different training methods and objectives.  In it's most general form, a periodized training program will span 6 months to one year with the exception of Olympic athletes who plan for four years.  Each phase is divided up over the designated time period with each phase devoted to one aspect of training.

Conditioning Phase or Base Period

Training should begin easy and be followed by gradual increases in the time and intensity of an athlete's training session.  It's important to note that at the beginning, athletes will probably be sore for a minimum of three weeks as their bodies get used to the training program.  A good guideline to follow during the beginning stages of training is the "10% rule" - meaning that after the initial three weeks are over, the volume of training should not increase much greater than 10% from one week to the next.  During this phase, all aspects of the training program are introduced with the primary focus being on getting the athlete into better shape.

Pre-competition or Pre-season Phase

While this phase may include participation in a few competitions, this phase is used to help the athlete prepare physically and mentally for competitions.  Aerobic capacity should be continuously improved upon as well as time, distance, quality and quantity of training. This is the time where the athlete and coach need to have input in determining how the training is progressing and where it needs to go.

Competition Phase

During this part of training, the athlete starts focusing on their individual strengths with their coach helping them to train to use those strengths during competition.  Tactics become more important as athletes learns from their competition experiences. 

Transition Phase

Following the end of the competition season, it's a good idea for athletes to take a complete break from their training.  Many athletes need 2-3 weeks for the mind and body to heal.  While some athletes may decide to do other forms of exercise during that time period, others just rest.  Aerobic capacity will decline a bit while the athlete is resting, but beginning the training again at an easy pace with the conditioning phase beginning for the next season.

The most important thing to consider before starting a periodization training schedule is the design of the program. When creating your program it is important to take into account the ability of the athlete, type of sport and goals the training schedule is designed to meet.

References from the SIRC Collection: 

1. Fleck S. Non-Linear Periodization for General Fitness & Athletes. Journal Of Human Kinetics. December 2, 2011;:41-45.
2. Gamble P. Periodization of Training for Team Sports Athletes. Strength & Conditioning Journal (Allen Press). October 2006;28(5):56-66.
3. Kelly V, Coutts A. Planning and Monitoring Training Loads During the Competition Phase in Team Sports. Strength & Conditioning Journal (Allen Press). August 2007;29(4):32-37.
4. Kravitz L, Herrera L. Is There a Best Periodization Model?. IDEA Fitness Journal. April 2008;5(4):19-22.
5. Macaluso T. Periodization and Complex Training in a High School Summer Program. Strength & Conditioning Journal (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins). December 2010;32(6):95-98.
6. Painter K, Haff G, Stone M, et al. Strength Gains: Block Versus Daily Undulating Periodization Weight Training Among Track and Field Athletes. International Journal Of Sports Physiology & Performance. June 2012;7(2):161-169.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Share the path

If you are lucky enough to have access to multi-use recreational pathways and trails, consider it a wonderful privilege.  Many pathways go through parks and along rivers providing excellent scenery and a great place to be active and enjoy the outdoors.  These places provide not only a place to exercise, they provide a space away from city traffic so that people can enjoy the little snippets of natural scenery.  What may mar the enjoyment of these pathways is a lack of "trail etiquette" that can lead to frustration and sometimes conflict.

Whether you are new to outdoor exercise or a seasoned trail user, there are some tips you can keep in mind to ensure that everyone can have a pleasurable time outdoors:
  • Stay to the right, pass on the left - Think of it as if you are a car on the road, yield to the oncoming traffic and wait until the path is clear before you pass.
  • Call out "passing" or "on your left" as you approach - This lets the person you are about to pass know that you are behind them so they aren't startled or move into your path.  That being said, watch to make sure that they have heard you (maybe they're wearing headphones), so slow down to ensure that you pass them safely.
  • Be aware of those passing you - If you hear someone call out or ring their bell, stay to the right and maybe even acknowledge you heard them with a wave.
  • If you need to stop - Maybe you're winded or you just saw someone you know, be courteous and step off the path to make sure you avoid collisions.  For people who exercise in groups, two abreast is ideal, any more than that crowds the trail and makes collisions more likely to happen.  
  • Watch for little kids and people walking their pets - Both can be unpredictable so be aware of your surroundings.
  • Pay attention to what's around you - Not everyone is going to follow the same rules of etiquette as you do, so be observant and prepared to avoid potential collisions.
While most of us think of trails as being exclusively used for runners and cyclists, other sports like horseback riding, snowshoeing and cross country skiing for example, could also benefit from some trail etiquette so that all of us can exercise safely and have fun too.
References from the SIRC Collection: 

1. Bonner L, Habak A. Trail etiquette: 23 tips for winning friends, influencing people and avoiding conflict on the trails. Equus. July 2003;(309):54-58;60.
2. Devaughn M. Trail etiquette. Backpacker. April 1997;25(3):40.
3. Edwards S, McKenzie M. Snowshoeing [e-book]. Champaign, Ill.; United States: Human Kinetics Publishers; 1995.
4. Henderson J. Trail mix. Runner's World. December 1990;25(12):14.
5. Hendricks W, Ramthun R, Chavez D. The effects of persuasive message source and content on mountain bicyclists' adherence to trail etiquette guidelines. Journal Of Park & Recreation Administration. Fall 2001;19(3):38-61.
6. KENNEDY J. Rules of the Trail. Bicycle Paper. June 2009;38(4):1-3.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Coaching: How to deal with life’s littlest challenges!

Children are encouraged to participate in sport because physical activity and play can be a great outlet to help the body get out excess energy and release endorphins.  Children will test, explore their environment, and act impulsively sometimes but as a coach it's important to be able to recognize when there is a problem more significant than normal development.

If you have a challenging child on your team, there are few methods a coach can implement.

1. If you see the child do something well, reinforce the behaviour with praise.  Remember that children will want attention regardless if it is positive or negative.  It may not be easy to ignore troublesome behaviour, especially if it affects others on the team, so use that time as an opportunity to address the child calmly and help them to work through the problem.  It's important to recognize what caused the behaviour so you can be aware of what the child is experiencing.  On the other hand, if the child is too upset it's sometimes best to have them sit and watch the practice for a while until you and they feel like they can join in again.

2. Watch for potential warning signs.  Certain behaviours or actions can be indicators for depression, anxiety, bullying, or problems at home.  Children want to be heard, so take the time to listen and understand where they are coming from.  If a child's behaviour concerns you, don't hesitate to talk to the child or the parents about what you've observed. 

3. Provide structure, consistent limits and set firm guidelines of what you expect.  Children need repetition and consistency, so ensure your practices are planned ahead of time to avoid surprises.  Unstructured practices have a likelihood of increased disruptions and negative behaviour since children like push the limits of what they can get away with.  Keep clear and calm communication between you and your team, keeping in mind that shouting is not always an effective method.  For example, shouting at a child who may suffer from anxiety could have harmful effects on their self-esteem and their ability to play well.

4.  Focus on a child's strengths.  This is a great way to build up self-confidence and promote positive interactions within your team.

5. Encourage your team to have fun.  Many children put pressure on themselves or get pressure from parents to succeed in sports and this stress can push a child to act out.  Incorporate some games into the practice to get your kids engaged and happy to be out on the field.

A well-rounded coach will be the one who is in tune with the needs of the individuals within the team and can create a structured, positive environment for children to play and learn.

References from the SIRC Collection: 

1. Beyer R, Flores M, Vargas-Tonsing T. Coaches' Attitudes Towards Youth Sport Participants with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. International Journal Of Sports Science & Coaching. December 2008;3(4):555-563.
2. Curley J. Coaching a Swimmer with Attention Deficit Disorder and/or Auditory Processing Disorder. World Clinic Series. January 2008;40:465-477.
3. Flores M, Beyer R, Vargas T. Attitudes Toward Preparing Youth Sport Coaches to Work With Athletes with Hidden Disabilities. Palaestra. January 2012;26(1):5-6.
4. Grzegorek W. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in athletes?. Coaching Volleyball. December 1997;:18-19.
5. Hardy C. More than just burning energy. Journal Of Sport & Exercise Psychology. December 1993;15(4):470.
6. Heil J, Hartman D, Robinson G, Teegarden L. Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in athletes. Olympic Coach. Spring 2002;12(2):5-7.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

What gets your heart racing?

With an abundance of fun tech available, more of us are using a variety of tools to enhance our workouts.  Measuring your heart rate can be useful and is something that a lot of people are incorporating into their training. That being said, many of us rely on our gadgets to provide us with this information but do we really know how to utilize it?

Did you know?

1. Heart rates are specific to the activity you are doing.  While there is a relationship between heart rate and exercise intensity, it varies for different exercises. 

2. If you are training in hot weather, use your feelings of fatigue and comfort as a guide rather than heart rate.  If you are training in a hot environment your heart rate can increase up to 13 beats per minute.

3. Don't be tempted to compare heart rates with others.  Everyone has an individual maximum heart rate and those with the same fitness level can have a 20-30 beat difference in heart rates.  Training programs should not be based on generalized heart rate guidelines but should be based on the individual.

4. During steady state training your pace should remain the same despite an increase in heart rate.  Many factors contribute to heart rates: emotional stress, heat, hydration, fatigue, overtraining, sleep debt, altitude and even your clothing.  If you are exercising for 60 minutes or more your heart rate is going to increase as your body tires, so if you were to slow down to keep your heart rate at the "optimal" level you would be changing the training effect for your muscles.

There are lot of different formulas out there to calculate what your "optimum" heart rate is, but they are all based on an average value.  As stated above, your heart rate is individual to you and your fitness level, so using a formula may not give you the accuracy you're looking for.  To get a accurate reading of where your heart should be, there is the option of a graded exercise test (GXT), although they are generally used for elite athletes or heart patients and can be costly.

Heart rate training can be essential for the elite athlete, since they will have an accurate reading when starting out and they have coaches and specialists available to help them adjust their training program.  Since most of don't have access to a team of specialists, it's recommended that you exercise caution when deciding to implement heart rate training into your exercise regimen.

References from the SIRC Collection: 

1. BREHM B. Understanding Heart Rate. Fitness Management. April 2008;24(4):212.
2. Hayes S. Thresholds?: What Thresholds?. Bicycling Australia. May 2011;(169):114-116.
3. High-Tech aids for weight-loss. Active Living. January 2012;21(1):18.
4. Moen E. Training: Heart Rate vs Power. Bicycle Paper. May 2009;38(3):10.
5. Purposeful Training Means Heart Rate Training. Running & Fitnews. May 2010;28(3):3-5.
6. Sachs L. Heart Rate Training: Exercise results can be improved with proper use of a heart rate monitor. IDEA Fitness Journal. June 2011;8(6):28-31.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Myths and Truths on Juicing

Many people tout the health benefits of adding freshly squeezed juice to our diets, but with all the conflicting information out there it can be hard to know what is true and what is not.  When talking about adding fresh squeezed juice (fruit or vegetable), we are referring to the fresh juice that you can easily make at home if you have the right equipment. 

Juicing gets rid of the toxins in your body

Myth - Drinking juice can't flush pesticides or other toxins out of your body.  As a matter of fact, your body does a fantastic job of "detoxing" on its own through your liver, kidneys, lymph glands, colon, lungs and skin.

Drinking fresh juice helps to keep you hydrated

Truth - Drinking a cup of juice before or after your workout will hydrate your body and also give you the carbohydrates you need to keep your energy up.  Be aware that fruit juice can provide a lot of calories, so try not to over do it.

It speeds up the recovery process

Truth - Studies have shown that certain juices can be beneficial to the recovery process, such as pomegranate and tart cherry.  These two types of juices tend to be more easily obtained in a store, however, if you decide to buy any of these juices, avoid buying juice with added sugar.

It gives your digestive tract a break

Myth - In fact, your stomach, intestines, and colon are muscles that need to be used in order for them to work properly.  If left for too long on a juice only diet, your digestive tract may actually slow down.

It increases athletic performance

Truth - Once again, studies have shown that certain juices improve performance.  Currently, there is information that states that beet juice can have a positive affect on performance. It's not clear how it works, but researchers suspect that it's due to the large amounts of nitrates in beets.  The nitrates  turn into nitric oxide in the body, which reduces the amount of oxygen required to perform exercise.

It's full of nutrients

Truth - When you squeeze fresh produce, fruit or vegetables a large amount of nutrients are transferred to the juice.  Dark leafy greens, berries, oranges and carrots are the high performers.

It's good for weight loss

Myth and Truth - If you drink only juice for days, assuming you stick to the low sugar juices you will lose weight.  Juice fast diets are not a healthy way or sustainable way to lose weight since it affects many aspects of your body, including your ability to recover from intense training and can negatively affect your immune system.

Overall, juicing is probably not any healthier than eating whole fruits and vegetables since there is no solid scientific evidence that proves otherwise.  However, if you have trouble getting the required amount of fruits and vegetables in your diet, it can be a good way to incorporate it into your lifestyle.

References from the SIRC Collection: 

1. Bhardwaj R, Pandey S. Juice Blends-A Way of Utilization of Under-Utilized Fruits, Vegetables, and Spices: A Review. Critical Reviews In Food Science & Nutrition. July 2011;51(6):563-570.
2. Hamitton A. Beat a PB with beetroot juice. Cycling Weekly. February 9, 2012;:37.
3. Kordich J. The Joys of Juicing: Fresh juice is a quick, delicious way to consume nutritious fruits and vegetables raw and in quantity. Yoga Journal. August 1993;(111):18.
4. Marsh T, Cullen K, Baranowski T. Validation of a Fruit, Juice, and Vegetable Availability Questionnaire. Journal Of Nutrition Education & Behavior. March 2003;35(2):93.
5. On the Beetroot Juice. Joe Weider's Muscle & Fitness. October 2010;71(10):32.
6. Perry M. can juice really make you healthier?. Shape. June 2008;27(10):166-172.
7. Spalding L. the big squeeze. Yoga Journal. August 2010;(230):35-38.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Get the Warm up Low-down for Kids

When playing sports, warming up is a must and with kids there's an entirely different approach to coaching them through warm up drills. The value of a warm up created for children is that it raises the body temperature and heart rate, prepares the muscles and joints for activity, and helps to prevent injury.  However, most people aren't aware that proper warm up also sets the mood and pace for the activity that is to follow.  Part of a coach's job is to capture the children's attention and to get them excited to move around.

Coaches should plan and implement a warm up that:
This can be achieved in a variety of ways, but games and fun activities should dominate your warm up.  Suggested activities include exercises that involve simple skills and challenges:
  1. Running on the spot - include clapping above head, boxing in various directions, etc.
  2. Bouncing on the spot - forwards/backwards, side-to-side
  3. Running or skipping forwards, backwards, sideways, etc. 
  4. Zig-zag or slalom running
  5. Agility activities
  6. Galloping in various directions
  7. "Fast feet" on the spot
  8. Partnered activities
Getting your practice session off to a good start is extremely important when coaching youngsters.  Knowing your group will help you to select activities and games that they will enjoy.  For young ones, incorporating lots of fun and movement will result in lots of smiles and help you get the most of your practice session.

References from the SIRC Collection: 

1. Byl J. 101 Fun Warm-Up And Cool-Down Games [e-book]. Champaign, Ill.; United States: Human Kinetics; 2004.
2. Halvorson R. Dynamic Warm-Ups Reduce Sports Injuries. IDEA Fitness Journal. April 2009;6(4):14.
3. Mitchell M, McKethan R. Making Physical Activity Fun. ACSM Fit Society Page. Spring 2003;:3-4.
4. SATO G. WARMING-UP with MINI-GAMES. Volleyball. January 2010;21(1):57-59.
5. Walters K. WARM-UPS: Thinking Outside the Penalty Box. Soccer Journal. November 2008;53(7):12-13.
6. Welch B. The importance of a proper warm-up. Coaching Youth Sports. September 2003.

Monday, November 5, 2012


SIRC Newsletter now available online: Sleep

Elite athletes push their bodies to extremes every day. This brings with it a considerable degree of physical fatigue while training, traveling and competing. Where fractions of a second often mean the difference between a win and a loss, studies have shown that there is competitive advantage to those athletes who recognize the value of recovery. To stay on top, keeping the body healthy is not just about nutrition and training but also knowing the importance of a good night’s sleep.

Read More:

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Fighting Fatigue

Fatigue seems simple: your body has reached its limit, you're tired.  The current understanding is that we feel exhausted because of physical factors. Not enough oxygen and fuel to the muscles and decreased blood flow to the brain means that your muscles are no longer able to generate power no matter how hard you try.  While this is true, it may not be the only factor in feeling fatigued.

A recent study shows that our perception of the effort involved of performing a task has a large influence on how we feel.  Everyone has experienced that feeling of having a "second wind" when the end of the race or top of the hill becomes visible and somehow we scrounge up enough energy to reach our goal.  This study examined the idea of how effort through exercise feels towards your brain instead of how tired our muscles feel. Turns out we become exhausted, not from something that is lacking in our bodies, but because it gets to feel too tough; the pain of continuing outweighs the reward for going on.

So, what can we do to train and adjust these perceptions?
  • Get fitter - Being stronger and fitter will make everything feel easier; simple strength training can go a long way.
  • Tea or Coffee? - Caffeine does enhance performance, mostly by stimulating the brain although there is a limit to what you can achieve from either beverage.
  • Train with friends - Train with people who are around your fitness level, since struggling to keep up with your companions will make the workout feel harder and less enjoyable.
  • Wear the right gear - The best clothes and gear will not make you any fitter, faster or stronger but if you are exercising outdoors, being warm and dry will reduce the perception of effort and may decrease your feelings of fatigue.
  • Rest your brain - If you are reaching for high performance it's important to give your brain a rest.  If you are feeling tired and distracted you will probably find you give up easier and everything will feel tougher.
  • Pace yourself - Pushing too hard too fast results in a quick burnout.  Keep yourself at a pace where your breathing is increased but you aren't gasping for breath.
If all else fails smile!  Maybe there really is some truth to the phrase "grin and bear it!"

References from the SIRC Collection: 

1. Ansley L, Petersen D, Thomas A, St. Clair Gibson A, Robson-Ansley P, Noakes T. The effect of breathing an ambient low-density, hyperoxic gas on the perceived effort of breathing and maximal performance of exercise in well-trained athletes. British Journal Of Sports Medicine. January 2007;41(1):2-7.
2. Fery Y, Ferry A, Vom Hope A, Rieu M. Effect of physical exhaustion on cognitive functioning. Perceptual & Motor Skills. February 1997;84(1):291-298.
3. Hutchinson J, Sherman T, Tenenbaum G, Martinovic N, Rosenfeld R. Perceived and sustained effort and task related affect: The mediating role of self-efficacy. Journal Of Sport & Exercise Psychology. July 2, 2007;29:S171-S172.
4. Morree H, Klein C, Marcora S. Perception of effort reflects central motor command during movement execution. Psychophysiology. September 2012;49(9):1242-1253.
5. Morree H, Marcora S. Frowning muscle activity and perception of effort during constant-workload cycling. European Journal Of Applied Physiology. May 2012;112(5):1967-1972.
6. Wallman K, Sacco P. Sense of Effort During a Fatiguing Exercise Protocol in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Research In Sports Medicine. January 2007;15(1):47-59.