Thursday, February 28, 2013

Conquer competition anxiety and harness it for success

Everyone of us has experienced anxiety at one point in our lives, sweaty palms, 'butterflies' in your stomach, your heart starts to pound and you think "I can't do this." Anxiety in athletes usually occurs during high stress moments, competitions, performance evaluations, and fears of re-injury. The good news is there are many ways in which an athlete can take these feelings and use them to their
advantage. The first step is knowing what you're dealing with:

Somatic Anxiety - When a person feels anxious, they will experience physical changes in their bodies triggered by the adrenaline that is produced to meet a 'fight or flight' response. Symptoms include: changes in respiration and heart rate, difficulty breathing, increased muscle tension, dizziness, and stomach upset.

Cognitive Anxiety - As the title suggests, cognitive anxiety is the way an athlete typically thinks about themselves, others and the world. It is not the situation they find ourselves in, it is how they perceive it. This type of anxiety typically involves thoughts of self-doubt, worry, fear and threat. Common negative thoughts begin with, "I can't, or I won't."

Here are some strategies to try before and during competition:
  • Follow a routine - Athletes and coaches can work together to find a set of flexible routines they can implement that address specific situations. 'Going through the motions' can have a relaxing effect on the brain, it will recognize that you have done this before and can do it again. 
  • Identify negative thoughts - and challenge them before they become deeply embedded into your psyche.
  • Practice positive self-talk - Use constructive thought patterns by telling yourself that the sensations you feel indicate that you're excited and engaged about the upcoming competition.
  • Set realistic goals - If performance goals are too ambitious, you're bound to panic and burn out. Use visualization techniques to imagine situations in which you are challenged in an event, and then imagine overcoming these challenges.
  • Anxiety can provide motivation - Focus on your preparedness; this is a psychological assurance that an athlete is arriving at the competition well trained, nourished and rested.
Preparation and practice is key in fighting those competition day jitters so that an athlete can take those feelings as a signal that challenges them to tackle the task at hand.

References from the SIRC Collection:

1. Beattie S, Hardy L, Woodman T. Precompetition Self-Confidence: The Role of the Self. Journal Of Sport & Exercise Psychology. September 2004;26(3):427-441.
2. Englert C, Bertrams A. Anxiety, Ego Depletion, and Sports Performance. Journal Of Sport & Exercise Psychology. October 2012;34(5):580-599.  
3. Fox A. FEAR OF FAILURE IN THE CONTEXT OF COMPETITIVE SPORT. Soccer Journal. November 2008;53(7):24-28.
4. Oudejans R, Kuijpers W, Kooijman C, Bakker F. Thoughts and attention of athletes under pressure: skill-focus or performance worries?. Anxiety, Stress & Coping. January 2011;24(1):59-73.
5. Peden A. How anxiety affects tennis performance. Coaching & Sport Science Review (Spanish Version). December 2010;18(52):9-11.
6. Rebel R, Competition and anxiety and elite athletes debilitative or facilitative?. HP SIRCuit. Winter 2013;1(1):16-18. 
7. Skinner N, Brewer N. Adaptive Approaches to Competition: Challenge Appraisals and Positive Emotion. Journal Of Sport & Exercise Psychology. June 2004;26(2):283-305.
8. Surgent F. How to Limit, and Even Use, Your Anxiety During a Race. Running & Fitnews . June 2007;25(4):2-4.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Icy Recovery

Cold therapy is a technique that is very popular in multiple sports and disciplines with many high-performance athletes claiming it as an essential part of their training. Cold water immersion is used as recovery method where exposure to cold is believed to help alleviate the soreness of small tears that occur in muscles fibres followed by intense or repetitive exercise (DOMS).

Ice baths are thought to:
  • constrict blood vessels
  • flush waste products
  • reduce inflammation
  • help repair muscle damage
  • reduce swelling and tissue breakdown
It is generally used to treat a large area of the body rather than the concentrated cold therapy of a localized ice pack.

If you decide that cold water immersion is for you, here are some tips to make the most of this recovery method.
  1. Start slowly, since each individual will have their own cold threshold; most ice baths are between 10-15 degrees Celsius. Remember that colder is not always better, anything below 5 degrees Celsius can cause tissue damage.
  2. Avoid overexposure. Immersion should be 6-8 minutes and no longer than 10.
  3. Creating a personal ice bath may seem a bit daunting; many high-performance training venues will have a hydrotherapy pool or if you live close to water, keep an eye on the current water temperature. 
  4. Allow your body to warm up gradually, put on sweats and grab a blanket or warm drink afterward.
Should athletes be including ice baths into their regular routine?

Since research to date has been inconclusive, different coaches and athletes will place varying degrees of significance on ice baths, although most people agree that while they may not be guaranteed to work, when approached carefully they can't really hurt.

References from the SIRC Collection:

1. Burfoot A. Change one thing: the big chill. A faster, colder way to recover from your long runs. Runner's World. September 2003;38(9):18.
2. Doheny K, Chang L. Ice Baths for Sore Muscles Can Work. Sports Medicine Bulletin. February 21, 2012;:3.
3. Experts cold over ice baths. Athletics Weekly (Descartes Publishing Ltd.). November 25, 2010;65(47):82.
4. HEWITT S. TAKE AN ICE BATH -- IT FEELS GREAT!. Cross Country Skier. January 2012;31(3):66-67. 
5. Ice Baths Fail To Deliver. Training & Conditioning. December 2007;17(9):8-10.
6. Rebel N, Hydrotherapy as a recovery intervention. High Performance SIRCuit. Spring 2012;2(2):18-21.
7. Schmitz A. ICE BATHS DO'S AND DON'TS. Triathlon Life. Spring2010 2010;13(2):52-53.
8. Simone M. Siberian Soaks: Does an Ice Bath Really Help Recovery and Performance?. Running Research News. August 2011;27(6):1-10.
9. White L. Performance Products - Ice Baths Use for Athlete Recovery. Performance Conditioning Soccer. June 2011;16(4):7-8.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Introducing the 'sunshine' vitamin!

Canadian winters mean short days and bundling up against the cold, so getting the required amount of sunlight for absorbing Vitamin D can be difficult. Vitamin D (sometimes called the 'sunshine vitamin') is unique in that it requires the skin to be exposed to ultraviolet-B radiation for optimal absorption. Because it is present in very few foods and many people use sunscreen to protect themselves from the harmful effects of UV rays, it has become common for athletes to use supplements to obtain vitamin D.

Why should athletes consider vitamin D?

Vitamin D functions to maintain normal levels of calcium and phosphorus in the blood, as well as aiding in the absorption of calcium to form and maintain strong bones. Research suggests that it may be important for prevention of osteoporosis, hypertension, inflammation, asthma, and seasonal affective disorder.

Factors that may contribute to vitamin D deficiency include skin pigmentation, early or late day training, indoor training, geographic location and sunscreen use. Athletes that may be at higher risk are those that spend the most time indoors; gymnasts, ballet dancers, figure skaters, and wrestlers.

While vitamin D can be obtained in the diet, it would be difficult to consume the amount food you would need for optimal performance. For example, it would take six cups of orange juice or 14 eggs to get the recommended amount.

Foods that contain Vitamin D:
  • Fatty fish (tuna, salmon, swordfish) and fish liver oils like cod liver
  • Beef, egg yolks and some cheeses contain small amounts
  • Fortified foods like milk, orange juice and cereal, although they include small amounts
A recent survey done by Statistics Canada found that 32% of the Canadian population have vitamin D levels that are below recommendations. Adding vitamin D supplements to your diet carries a low risk for side effects, however it's recommended that you talk to your coach and/or health professional first.

References from the SIRC Collection:

1. Asp K. Running on D. Runner's World. December 2009;44(12):36-37.
2. Close G, Fraser B. Vitamin D supplementation for athletes: Too much of a good thing?. Sport & Exercise Scientist. September 2012;(33):24-25.
4. Larson-Meyer D, Willis K. Vitamin D and Athletes. Current Sports Medicine Reports (American College Of Sports Medicine). July 2010;9(4):220-226.
5. Shuler F, Wingate M, Moore G, Giangarra C. Sports Health Benefits of Vitamin D. Sports Health: A Multidisciplinary Approach. November 2012;4(6):496-501.
6. The Vegetarian Athlete. Running & Fitnews. May 2009;27(3):10-12.
7. Willis K, Peterson N, Larson-Meyer D. Should We Be Concerned About the Vitamin D Status of Athletes?. International Journal Of Sport Nutrition & Exercise Metabolism. April 2008;18(2):204-224.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Beet the competition

A handful of studies performed over the past several years have found that consuming beet juice may lower the oxygen cost of exercise, due to the high concentration of nitrates found in beetroot. As a result, many athletes are consuming beetroot juice as a way to enhance performance

So, how does it work?

A compound called 'nitric oxide' (NO) is a compound that is made in the body but can also be made from dietary nitrate. Nitrate is a natural substance found in beetroots and leafy green vegetables.  After beetroots are consumed, some of that nitrate is converted to nitrite by bacteria in the saliva.  The nitrite is then absorbed through the small intestines and into the body where it will be converted to nitric oxide that occurs in the blood and tissues.  Researchers believe that NO is responsible for the endurance benefits that allow muscles to work in a more efficient manner.

Positive effects of beetroot juice:
Negative effects of beetroot juice:
  • beeturia - the red colouring of urine that comes from eating beetroot (although alarming, it is harmless)
  • gastrointestinal upset
  • increase in blood glucose levels in individuals with diabetes (beetroot is high in sugar)
  • increased risk of kidney stones
What difference does it make?

Studies have reported a 1-3% difference in controlled time trials.  This may not seem like a lot at first glance but for perspective, if you run a 5 km in 20 minutes, a two per cent improvement is 19:36. When many races are won and lost within fractions of a second, this is a big difference.

Preliminary research suggests that beetroot juice supplementation in different athletes can have positive effects on exercise performance, while more research needs to be done to be conclusive, there is little harm in giving beets a try.

References from the SIRC Collection: 

1. Beetroot Juice Seen to Lower BP. Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter. April 2008;26(2):3.
2. Cermak N, Res P, Stinkens R, Lundberg J, Gibala M, Van Loon L. No Improvement in Endurance Performance After a Single Dose of Beetroot Juice. International Journal Of Sport Nutrition & Exercise Metabolism. December 2012;22(6):470-478.
3. Bordeau T. GOT BEETS?. Rowing News [serial online]. August 2012;19(7):41.
4. Hamilton A. Beat a PB with beetroot juice. Cycling Weekly. February 9, 2012;:37. 
5. JUST BEET IT. Triathlete. September 2010;(317):126.
On the Beetroot Juice. Joe Weider's Muscle & Fitness. October 2010;71(10):32.
6. Volpe S. Does Beetroot Juice Really Help With Endurance Performance?. ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal. January 2013;17(1):29-30.
7. Williams M. Nitrate Supplementation and Endurance Performance. Marathon & Beyond. September 2012;16(5):114-128.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

InBody Body Composition Analyzer

At the Canadian Sport for Life National Summit in Gatineau-Ottawa, Canada, the staff at SIRC got to meet some very friendly and knowledgeable people and we learned a few new things as well. One of the interesting experiences we had was trying out InBody's body composition analyzer.

This machine measures body composition using Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA) to give you a fast, non-invasive and accurate reading of your lean body mass, body fat and body water. The machine passes a low level electrical current through a person's body at touch points in the hands and feet.  The current passes through the muscle, fat and water at different rates making it possible to get an accurate reading of a participants body composition. The whole process takes about a minute and the machine gives you a detailed printout of each measurement and the recommendations for areas of improvement. 

The InBody machine will also measure your Basal Metabolic Rate to help you gauge the amount of calories you should be consuming on a daily basis for optimal health.  Based on your results, the InBody will make its suggestions for how much muscle and fat you should gain or lose in order for you to achieve your ideal body composition.

This type of read out can be a useful tool in knowing what your body is comprised of, whereas stepping on the scale or measuring your body mass index (BMI) gives you somewhat limited data to work with. Having a permanent record of where you started and measuring it periodically over time, every three months for example, a person can easily track the progress they've made in their health and fitness levels.

Paul McDonald, a representative for Jedco Marketing, was very helpful in explaining the printout and how the machine worked.  It was explained that the results could be very useful in forming a guide for creating a personalized plan for those new to exercise, as well as a great option for athletes looking for an accurate reading in order to target specific areas for improvement. 

References from the SIRC Collection:

1.Company J, Ball S. Body Composition Comparison: Bioelectric Impedance Analysis with Dual-Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry in Adult Athletes. Measurement In Physical Education & Exercise Science. July 2010;14(3):186-201.
3. Malisova O, Bountziouka V, Panagiotakos D, Zampelas A, Kapsokefalou M. The water balance questionnaire: design, reliability and validity of a questionnaire to evaluate water balance in the general population. International Journal Of Food Sciences & Nutrition. March 2012;63(2):138-144.
4. Ryder J, Ball S. Three-Dimensional Body Scanning as a Novel Technique for Body Composition Assessment: A Preliminary Investigation. Journal Of Exercise Physiology Online. February 2012;15(1):1-14.
5. Separately Assess Body Weight, Body Fat, and BMI. Running & Fitnews. March 2011;29(2):3-8.
6. Stahn A, Terblanche E, Strobel G. Modeling upper and lower limb muscle volume by bioelectrical impedance analysis. Journal Of Applied Physiology. October 2007;103(4):1428-1435.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

High Intensity Interval Training

Many Canadians cite a "lack of time" when asked about barriers to adding physical activity into their lives. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is used by many athletes and fitness enthusiasts to reach their performance goals and enhance their fitness levels.

HIIT is a type of cardio training that involves alternating bouts of light-to-moderate intensity with bouts of high intensity. HIIT sessions include a warm-up, several short, maximum intensity bursts punctuated with low intensity recovery intervals followed by a cool down. Most HIIT training workouts last about 15 minutes but can stretch to 20 minutes. Since most of us lead busy lives, HITT may be something worth considering. 

The difference between regular interval training and HITT is that it involves maximum effort, not just a higher heart rate. Typically the exercises involve running, skipping, or swimming but can easily adapt to any sport. Different approaches to this training can involve varying: the time of each interval, how many intervals to include and how many of these training sessions to perform each week.

Benefits include:
  • increases in cardio fitness
  • improvements in exercise performance
  • increases in metabolism
  • increases in endurance
  • prevention of muscle loss
  • challenges for both beginners and experts
Before starting any kind of high intensity interval training you should be able to exercise for at least 20-30 minutes at about 80% of your maximum heart rate. Because this form of training is physically demanding is it important to ensure you build up your training program or you may run the risk of overdoing it.

This type of training is easily adaptable to each person's fitness level and capability. Start at a level that you feel comfortable with and gradually increase the difficulty. It's OK to give yourself a bit of challenge, that's how we improve, but be careful not to run yourself into the ground.

With anyone starting a new fitness program it's important to talk to your physician first if you have any concerns. 

References from the SIRC Collection:

1. Dunham C, Harms C. Effects of high-intensity interval training on pulmonary function. European Journal Of Applied Physiology. August 2012;112(8):3061-3068.
2. Gillen J. Low-Volume, High-Intensity Interval Training: A Practical Fitness Strategy. Wellspring. August 2012;23(4):1-4.
3. Gremeaux V, Drigny J, Gayda M, et al. Long-term Lifestyle Intervention with Optimized High-Intensity Interval Training Improves Body Composition, Cardiometabolic Risk, and Exercise Parameters in Patients with Abdominal Obesity. American Journal Of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation. November 2012;91(11):941-950.
4. Metcalfe R, Babraj J, Fawkner S, Vollaard N. Towards the minimal amount of exercise for improving metabolic health: beneficial effects of reduced-exertion high-intensity interval training. European Journal Of Applied Physiology. July 2012;112(7):2767-2775.
5. Rowan A, Kueffner T, Stavrianeas S. Short Duration High-Intensity Interval Training Improves Aerobic Conditioning of Female College Soccer Players. International Journal Of Exercise Science. July 2012;5(3):232-238.
6. Selfridge N. High-Intensity Interval Training: A Sprint or Nine Saves Time?. Integrative Medicine Alert. August 2012;15(8):88-91.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Preventing Burnout in Children

Burnout in sport is defined as “physical/emotional exhaustion, sport devaluation, and reduced over-training and by competing too often. This is an important issue in youth sports because it often leads to dropping out of sport completely.  Participation in sport offers many benefits to children and with so many people leading sedentary lifestyles, it's becoming even more important to keep our kids engaged in sport.

The good news is that burnout can be avoided.  Knowing what to look for and how to approach a child that may be suffering from burnout will encourage them to continue their involvement in sports.

What do I watch for?
  • Be aware of the warning signs - loss of interest in sport, dreading practice, anger and irritability (especially if it has never been a problem before) at home and on the field.  
  • Injuries (real or imagined)
  • Watch for patterns - quitting during a competition or not focusing or caring about the outcome.
  • Child exhibits signs of fatigue, restlessness, apathy, loss of appetite, depression and/or a lack of motivation.
 What can we do to help?
  • Offer your support.  Sometimes parents and coaches are so sure they are doing the right thing that they find it difficult to step back and see what's happening.
  • Reduce the pressure to win by establishing goals.
  • Recognize improvement and realize that there will be setbacks to progress.
  • Sometimes performance gets worse before it get better; motivation and encouragement go further than punishment or criticism.
  • Listen to what your child has to say and respect their opinions.  The most common complaint is that "It's just not fun anymore."
  • Keep a healthy perspective on the importance of raising a star athlete vs. raising a healthy child.
  • Let them take time off, encourage them to play a variety of sports, and build other activities into their schedule.
The best thing parents can do to prevent burnout in their child is to let them know that no matter the outcome, you love them and will be proud of them for who they are, not what they are.

References Available from the SIRC Collection: 

1. Appleton P, Hill A. Perfectionism and Athlete Burnout in Junior Elite Athletes: The Mediating Role of Motivation Regulations. Journal Of Clinical Sport Psychology. June 2012;6(2):129-145.
2. Gustafsson H, Skoog T. The mediational role of perceived stress in the relation between optimism and burnout in competitive athletes. Anxiety, Stress & Coping. March 2012;25(2):183-199.
3. Harris B, Watson II J. Assessing Youth Sport Burnout: A Self-Determination and Identity Development Perspective. Journal Of Clinical Sport Psychology. June 2011;5(2):117-133.
4. Kids at play: risks and rewards. Handball. October 2004;54(5):37-39.
5. Metzl J. DO I HAVE OVERSTRAINING SYNDROME?. Triathlete. October 2012;(343):28.
6. Wolff R. Preventing burnout among young athletes. Sports Illustrated. April 21, 1997;86(16):79.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Core Training - Not just for your abs!

We've all heard fitness experts claim that core training is important for overall fitness and health. Health clubs offer core training exercise groups and physio therapists recommend it for those recovering from injury. Your core is the collection of muscles that stabilize the spine, this includes the hips, pelvis, abdominals, lower back, mid-back, and neck regions of the body. These muscles are extremely important in all sports, so why do so many athletes overlook core training?

The reason most athletes skimp on this vital part of their workout is because the benefits are simply overlooked.

Benefits of core training:
It's important to note that performing a few crunches is not proper core training. Since your core involves many different muscles groups, a variety of exercises are needed to ensure you work them all; some exercises to explore include, but are not limited to, lunges, bridges, planks, and crunches. Pilates and Yoga classes are also excellent for strengthening your core muscles while also improving balance and posture.
When your core is strong, your whole body works better. Core training isn't just for athletes, it's for anyone who would like to have their body working at its greatest potential. For anyone just starting an exercise program, be sure to talk to your family physician first.

References from the SIRC Collection:

1. Aggarwal A, Kumar S, Kumar D. EFFECT OF CORE STABILIZATION TRAINING ON THE LOWER BACK ENDURANCE IN RECREATIONALLY ACTIVE INDIVIDUALS. Journal Of Musculoskeletal Research. December 2010;13(4):167-176.
2. Han C, Wang W, Cheng B, Liu S. Basic Issues of the Core Strength Training: The Core Area and Core Stability. Journal Of Tianjin Institute Of Sport / Tianjin Tiyu Xueyuan Xuebao. March 2012;27(2):117-120.
3. LaRue L. Wave of the Fitness Future: 3-D CORE TRAINING. Volleyball. May 2011;22(4):26-29.
4. Nelson N. Diaphragmatic Breathing: The Foundation of Core Stability. Strength & Conditioning Journal (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins). October 2012;34(5):34-40.
5. Sudicky A. Core without the Crunches. Volleyball. April 2012;23(3):24-27.
6. Yu J, Lee G. Effect of core stability training using pilates on lower extremity muscle strength and postural stability in healthy subjects. Isokinetics & Exercise Science. June 2012;20(2):141-146.