Nutrition: Food for Thought

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If you are an athlete ,recreational or competitive, whether your ultimate goal is to lose or gain weight ,live a healthier lifestyle, or increase your performance, it is necessary to do several things. Being more active, making better lifestyle choices like getting more sleep or sitting down less, and lastly modifying or adapting your nutrition to fit your needs whatever they might be. Of these necessities I feel that nutrition is often the most misunderstood and neglected. With all of the fad diets and the plethora of misinformation that exists regarding the topic it’s understandable as to why this might be.

The Basics

The reason many people struggle with the nutritional component of fitness is most people lack the basics of what nutrition is, its purpose, and how to implement it into their daily lives. Nutrition is defined as the process of taking in food and using it for growth, metabolism, and repair. These processes of growth, metabolism, and repair occur by way of receiving the two major components of food, macronutrients and micronutrients.

Macronutrients

Macronutrients provide the body with fuel/energy by way of calories. These caloric providing components of our foods are split into three categories carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

Carbohydrates

Carbs over the past few years have gotten a very bad reputation, again I attribute this to the mounds of misinformation that exists. Carbohydrates are broken into two categories:

Simple:  These carbohydrates are made of one or two sugar molecules that are rapidly digested. They can be found in certain fruits and vegetables, dairy products, bleached grains, and sugars.

Complex:  These carbohydrates are strung together in long chains that are slowly digested. Carbohydrates that fit into this category are often high in starch and fiber. They can be found in green vegetables, foods with whole grains, starchy vegetables, and beans/lentils.

Carbohydrates regardless of their reputation play a key role within the body.This macronutrient is responsible for 4 major roles within the body:

1-2.) Providing energy to the body/regulating blood glucose
When carbohydrates are broken down they form a substance called glucose. Glucose is the only sugar used by the body to provide energy for its tissues. Because of the importance of maintaining proper cellular function throughout the body, blood glucose levels must be at a constant level. Blood glucose levels are controlled by way of the pancreas producing insulin to decrease blood sugar concentrations so the body may absorb the glucose into its cells. This allows the body to store fat instead of using it for energy. The pancreas also secretes a substance called glucagon that increases blood sugar concentrations when glucose levels drop too low. Because the body can only use so much glucose at a given time insulin production and glucagon production are vital to maintaining one’s overall health and maintaining appropriate energy levels.

2-4.)Store glucose/Prevent usage of proteins and fats
When there is a surplus of glucose it gets stored within the liver as glycogen. In the absence of carbohydrates the liver only stores enough glycogen for a 24-hour period. Once the storage of glucose is used up, the body begins breaking down fat to provide the body with fuel . Because some of these compounds are too large to cross the blood-brain barrier to allow proper nutrients to the brain various body tissues are broken down to fuel the brain. This use of bodies tissues essentially deteriorates its muscles and other tissues to keep the brain from “dying”. Overtime this can be very dangerous to ones health.

Because of the effects carbohydrates have on blood sugar, foods either rate high  or low on the glycemic index, a ranking system from 1-100 on how they affect blood-sugar levels. The higher the number a food rates on the glycemic index the quicker blood sugar levels will rise versus the lower rated foods that don’t raise blood sugars too quickly. This is why certain foods can effectively provide quick immediate energy or  provide long steady amounts of energy. Regardless of what your goals are in fitness, you need carbs.

Proteins

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Proteins are large, complex molecules that are made up of hundreds or thousands of smaller units called amino acids, which are attached to one another in long chains. Proteins play a variety of critical roles in the body including:

1.) Catalyzing metabolic reactions
Example: Structural components- proteins provide structure and support for cells. On a larger scale, they also allow the body to move.
2.) DNA replication
Example: Enzymes – carry out almost all of the thousands of chemical reactions that take place in cells. They also assist with the formation of new molecules by reading the genetic information stored in DNA.
3.) Responding to stimuli
Example: Antibodies – bind to specific foreign particles, such as viruses and bacteria, to help protect the body.
4.) Transporting molecules from one location to another.
Example: Transport/storage- These proteins bind and carry atoms and small molecules within cells and throughout the body

Fat

Fat is another macronutrient that has gotten a bad reputation as well over the years. In all actuality fat is a part of a well rounded diet. The issue of fat lies between  what type of fat you are ingesting regularly. There are four types of fats:

Saturated: Chemically saturated fats have no double bounds because they are saturated with hydrogen. This is the “bad” fat that is often solid at room temperature that raises the bad cholesterol LDL and lowers the good cholesterol HDL. This fat is typically found in beef, lamb, pork, poultry with skin, lard, butter, cheese, and dairy products made from whole or 2% milk.

Trans fat: This group of fats can either be found naturally inside the stomachs of animals or artificially by companies adding hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them solid. This is another fat that raises bad cholesterol LDL and lowers the good cholesterol HDL. Most processed foods have trans fats inside them.

Monounsaturated fat: Chemically these fats have what’s called a double bond of on unsaturated carbon molecule. Eaten in moderation play a role in lowering bad cholesterol LDL. Monounsaturated fats can be found in sesame oils, safflower oils, peanut oil, canola oil, olive oils, and various nuts and seeds.

Polysaturated fat: From a chemical standpoint these fats have what’s called a double bond of multiple unsaturated carbon molecules . When eaten in moderation they can lower bad cholesterol LDL and provide the body with fatty acids that it otherwise cannot make. Polyunsaturated fats can be found in soybean oils, corn oils, sunflower oils, olive oils, and certain fish

Knowing that there are both “good” and “bad” fats it’s impossible to lump them together. The “good” fats are a a necessity to a well rounded diet. Fat plays several important roles in the body:

Energy
Although carbohydrates provide the primary source for fuel within the body, fat is the back-up energy system when carbohydrates are not available. This can come into play during high intensity exercise or in emergency situations for instance in trauma where your carbohydrate stores are used up and the body must rely on fat to fuel itself.

Vitamin Absorption and Storage
Certain vitamins (A,D,E, and K) require fat to be absorbed appropriately into the body. Without fats your will be unable to meet the requirements needed to process these vitamins which can lead to deficiencies. Vitamins A,D,E,and K play a role in eye sight, maintaining bone density, blood clotting, eliminating cancer causing free radicals, and affecting mood.

Insulation
To sustain a normal core body temperature fat cells that are stored in adipose tissue plays a role in providing the insulation necessary to do that. Insulation also comes in the form of protecting the organs during sudden movements or outside impacts.

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Micronutrients

Micronutrients are dietary components, often referred to as vitamins and minerals. These complexes differ from macronutrients in the sense that they are required by the body in smaller amounts. Although required in smaller amounts they still are vital to development, disease prevention, and wellbeing. Micronutrients are also not produced in the body thus they must be acquired through a proper diet.

Okay now that we’ve gotten that over with…….


 

It is important to understand how all of the above information factors in to living a healthier lifestyle and increasing performance. This involves; Re-evaluation the basis of our nutritional goals, looking at calorie counting differently, understanding why timing is important, why hydration is important, and how eating naturally more often will aid in your efforts toward living healthier and increasing your performance.

Re-evaluating the Basis of Our Nutritional Goals

Most peoples’ goals, in terms of their weight, revolve around three basic ideas; weight maintenance, weight gain, and the most popular weight loss. While there is nothing wrong with any of these goals, this makes it easy to get distracted from the real reasons we eat. At its most basic concept the primary role of eating is to live. Simply put, eating food provides the body with fuel. Without the proper types of fuel in our bodies, the “machine” doesn’t run properly. When we eat we are not merely satisfying our hunger to gain energy. Our body as a whole is being fed, every living cell in our body and every physiological process that occurs within our body is getting fueled by what we ingest/digest. Looking at it from that perspective a few examples of what our food “Feeds” includes:

Creation/Maintenance of Cells

Anything that contains a cell within our body requires growth and maintenance (skin, hair, eyes, organs, muscles, tendons, bones, nerves, the brain) to name a few. Over time, whether daily, weekly, or monthly, our bodies are constantly breaking down and rebuilding. Without the appropriate “building blocks” our bodies will create the aforementioned structures poorly. Our bodies may even borrow materials from itself to bridge the gaps between the building blocks if necessary. Dietary deficits can even be noticed in the appearance of tissues like eyes,hair, nails, tongue, and skin for example.

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Hormone Production/Secretion

Hormones are essentially tiny chemical messengers inside of your body. Different hormones perform specific roles inside of your body. Hormones also “act” differently, some quickly to start or stop a process, while others continually work over the course of a long period of time to perform their respective task. These jobs can include the body’s growth and development, metabolism (or production of energy), sexual function and reproduction. The effects of various holes in your diet can be evident by how it affects different parts of your body such as; acne/skin breakouts, frequent headaches, weight gain/inability to lose weight, decreased libido, irritability, and many other factors affected by diet.

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Building/Maintaining Healthy Neurotransmitters

Neurotransmitters are basically chemical messengers that transmit signals across neurons. Neurotransmitters are important because they “excite” and activate the brain and its various sections as well as “excite” and activate muscles. The building blocks to sustain these particular chemicals can all be found within a solid foundation of a well balanced diet. When neurotransmitters aren’t doing their jobs it can affect; mood, memory and learning, alertness, appetite control, and muscle contractions, to name a few things.

If there are gaps in your diet the body can’t have the best “building materials” to maintain healthy cells, and physiological processes. When the approach is taken of using food to live many of the goals you set for yourself will be met naturally.


Re-evaluate Calorie Counting

Calorie counting has become a staple amongst a majority of people who are looking to reach a fitness goal.Why? In my opinion, it is because we are living in the age of tracking EVERYTHING. We track our steps, activity, food, and even our sleep. Because of the quantitative approach society has adapted we have lost the most important component of any concept, including nutrition, which is QUALITY. Anyone who has ever trained with me has heard me preach “quality, quality, quality…!” time and time again. This is with good reason, as it translates so well into nutrition. For example, 2,000 calories eaten at McDonald’s does not equal 2,000 calories of home cooked/prepared meals and snacks.

When the quality of the food is taken into account, the quality of the results will show. Depending on the type of diet that you are on can affect an individual in a number of ways. Some research has shown that in the case of a high protein diet, participants of that study gained weight as a 50/50 mixture of fat and muscle while a low protein diet revealed mostly fat (90%) was gained while muscle was lost. Other research showed participants on low fat diets burn fewer calories while changing certain metabolic factors that predicted weight regain, low-carb diets burn more calories but increase markers within the body related to stress and inflammation, and low-glycemic diets burn calories without some of side effects of the previously mentioned diet choices. Does this mean automatically switch your diet to low-glycemic choices, NO. That is a decision that needs to be made between you and an appropriate professional. However, the information suggests quality matters, if quantity is the only factor taken into account not only will goals not be met but it can be really unhealthy.

When performance is taken into account in reference to the quality of caloric intake, it can make or break an athlete regardless of weekend warrior status or the most elite. Throughout the length of a year or a season there must be a delicate balance of breakdown, recovery, and maintenance. Without the appropriate nutritional choices the recovery and maintenance portions that should occur can be reduced significantly especially if the previously mentioned dietary factors play in (increased stress hormones, increased inflammatory hormones,  and decreased muscle mass). Not only will performance suffer but injuries can occur more frequently without the proper rebuilding materials .


Timing is Everything

While quality of foods is often missed, the timing in which we eat our foods plays a major role as well. Time can affect a number of factors that can lead to gaining results or wasting time.  The first key to success is breakfast, by eating within an hour of waking up in the morning insulin and blood sugar levels can be regulated and jump starting the bodies metabolism. They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and it’s true. By eating within the first hour of waking up it will help regulate insulin and blood sugar levels to start the day as well as give the metabolism a jumpstart. 3-4 hours after breakfast It’s appropriate to eat a meal to keep your metabolism going and maintain a regular blood glucose level.

Most people are typically working or are in class around those times, so packing a snack will help. It’s important to not skip a meal as this is when the bodies insulin and blood glucose levels change and energy levels suffer. By waiting until lunch time or dinner it can affect the bodies metabolism negatively. Because the body is always searching for ways to “survive” by depriving it of the appropriate nutrients at the appropriate times it will hold on to different nutrients and use the bodies nutrients as a fuel source.

As it gets closer to the time to workout or practice, timing is even more crucial as it is important that within 1-2 hours prior to exercise to consume foods with carbohydrates and protein so that the body does not need to rely on the glycogen (energy reserves) it has stored “in case of emergency”. This will allow for a better workout/performance due to having energy readily available from food versus relying on the bodies back-up storage. After a workout,practice, or game it’s critical to eat within 45 minutes. By doing this you:

1.) Stop the catabolic processes (breaking down) and initiate the anabolic processes (building up) thus allowing faster recovery and minimizing soreness

2.) Speed up the process of eliminating the waste products of exercise from your muscles and blood stream

3.) Replenish the bodies stored glycogen (energy reserves)

4.) Reduce muscle damage and promote muscle growth

5.) Bolster the immune system

To keep the bodies ability to maintain the anabolic state that it is in, it is suggested that eating 4 hours after the workout is important. For the next 14-16 hours keeping a well rounded diet will promote synthesis of protein within the body’s tissues and muscle growth. It is also important to note that if you go to bed late it is still necessary to eat, as you are still using calories by being awake, and sleeping still burns calories (not as many as being awake) so refraining from eating only reiterates the detriments of not eating that were previously discussed.


 

Hydration is Nutrition Too!

Just as it is important to understand eating healthy yields amazing results, drinking healthy does just the same. Before you go and reach for that sports drink or energy drink thinking it is going to rehydrate you think about this. Most of those sports drinks and energy drinks are diuretics, they make you eliminate water through urination more frequently dehydrating you. In small amounts there is nothing wrong with sports drinks or combining sports drinks while hydrating with water simultaneously. Alone it is only hurting the performance most people are desperately seeking.

It only makes sense to drink water.  With the body being roughly about 60% water (the brain and heart are composed of 73% water, the lungs are about 83% water, skin contains 64% water, muscles and kidneys are 79%, and even the bones are 31% water). Water isn’t only limited to our basic make-up it also plays a vital role in our bodies processes as well; it regulates our internal body temperature through sweating, carbohydrates and proteins are metabolized and transported by water in the bloodstream, it assists in flushing waste mainly through urination, it acts as a shock absorber for brain, spinal cord, and fetus, forms saliva, and lubricates our joints. Something as small as a 2% decrease in our body can cause slight brain shrinkage that can impair neuromuscular coordination, decrease concentration, and slow thinking. This also affects the body by causing cramps, reducing endurance, decreasing strength/power, and decrease the conductivity of our muscles ability to fire.

Just like dehydration has its pitfalls so does overhydrating. Overhydrating has become a more recent phenomenon as some people drink water excessively to overcompensate for dehydration. This can lead Hyponatremia, a condition in which the bodies sodium levels drop dangerously low. Hyponatremia at its least severity can have symptoms of; Nausea and vomiting headache, confusion, lethargy, fatigue, appetite loss, restlessness and irritability, muscle weakness, and spasms or cramps. At its most sever it can cause; seizures, decreased consciousness, coma, and even death. Understanding that the body is about balance helps to eliminate/decrease the likelihood that dehydration or over hydration will affect your overall health and performance.

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Eat Real Food

I saved this topic for last as the above topics only matter as much as long as this last one is taken into consideration. It’s the simple suggestion of trying to eat real food more often. No, I’m not suggesting that the food you are eating is imaginary. However, take into account how processed and preserved is the food that you are eating regularly. If a majority of the food you consume is already pre-packaged, frozen, or full of artificial dyes, then this applies to you.

Without throwing out a list of preservatives and their ill effects I think it’s critical to consider a simple notion, the guilty pleasures we enjoy that contain artificial substances that make our food last longer and taste better were primarily designed for short-term preservation and minimal consumption. Nowadays foods are able to stay on the shelf much longer and most American diets contain a majority of these types of foods. With that being said, isn’t it weird that high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, ADHD, and obesity are at a all time high? Something like type II diabetes that was seen as a condition that affected adults is now affecting children. 30 years ago that would be unheard of, just some food for thought.

I’ll get off of my soap box now and appeal to the performance side of those reading this article. Many of the artificial substances that go into processed foods are full of saturated and trans fats, simple carbohydrates, are diuretics, and rank very high on the glycemic index. Pardon the pun but any of those combinations caloric content equal a recipe for disaster. Mixing high blood sugar levels, dehydration, affected pulse/heart rate, and weight fluctuations  is no way for any athletic or fitness minded person to find success. In order to have a high level of performance it’s virtually impossible when real food isn’t being consumed. Besides the ill effects of artificial substances, without real food certain macro/micronutrients cannot be obtained in a diet full of pre-packaged/frozen meals.  Ignoring the importance of  a well-rounded diet will only translate in a decrease in performance.

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Audric R. Warren

http://www.effort-performance.com

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Nutrition: Food for Thought

Coachability: The Most Valuable Yet Underrated Trait

There are many traits of an athlete/person that most coaches find desirable. “Can they see the floor well, can they read a defense, is their footwork impeccable, or are they a team player?” Arguably, these are all great traits to have as an athlete they don’t withstand the test of time by themselves. In order for innate tangible skills to be refined to elevate an athletes capabilities to certain heights it requires the ability to be coached. Coachability is a trait that, in my opinion, is unrivaled among all else. If an athlete has this ability it will take them much further than any God-given talent.

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What is Coachability?
The skill of coachability is a deeply complex philosophy. It involves not merely being told what to do and doing it, rather the ability to gain perspective from someone else’s advice, the ability to take criticism without ego, learning from mistakes, and “stepping outside of one’s self” to accept flaws and master them. It is such a complex philosophy many people even make the mistake in thinking that they are coachable, when in reality they really are not. In the following paragraphs I will describe what it means to be coachable.


 

“Listeners” vs. “Appliers”

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The first step of being “coached” involves listening. Listening is an art that is difficult to master for many athletes/people in general. This is because they listen on “autopilot”. The coach begins talking and because of the “autopilot” mindset it just becomes a break between drills or “he/she talks everyday so they don’t have anything to say I haven’t heard before”. This stems from 5 barriers:

The “I am” or “I did” Mentality:
You won’t believe how often I have corrected an athlete on a simple drill because I saw one little detail out of whack and I am hit with immediately “I AM” or “I DID”. I always have to retort, “would I correct it if it was right?”, to which they reply, “no”. This is a barrier that can crush an athlete/persons development simply because they do not think they are doing anything “wrong”. This is tough for some to accept primarily because the athlete/person cannot see themselves performing an activity. In the moment they feel they are doing a drill or an activity faster and harder than anyone and here comes coach belittling their efforts. From a different perspective, the coach sees them going all out giving great effort but its going to waste when done incorrectly. If they tweaked /changed a specific detail, it will allow the athlete to gain something from their efforts rather than expend valuable time and energy going toward forming bad habits.

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Changing from the “I am” or I did” mentality to an “I will” mentality is invaluable. This new approach takes the coaching advice and applies it to the previously used method. This gives the athlete/person the capability to see what they are doing from a different perspective. New perspective leads to new development and growth.

Argumentative or Aggreance Listening
This is the type of listening that everyone has been party to. When someone is talking, many times, the individual unknowingly will find things in what is being said that they either agree with or disagree with. This will lead to the person either focusing entirely on what they agree on or what they disagree on, instead of listening completely to what is being said, thus losing a certain level of context. This barrier won’t allow someone to be accepting what is being taught to them as they are too busy filtering out information, which is hugely detrimental to being coached.

To combat this type of listening, take the time to listen for the “gems” within what is being said. These missed pieces of advice can often bridge the gap in a finer detail to a skill that may be missed.

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The “I Already Know” Mentality
As an athlete/person, its easy to adopt this thought process. You’ve practiced everyday, day in and day out and you’ve been there before. So when a coach shouts your name and begins to tell you, you did something wrong in a drill you’ve done thousands of times before it’s easy to shrug it off and continue doing what you are doing. The coachable person will take the time to realize that the daily repetitive minutiae in practice can make the difference come game time so perfecting these minor details are critical to their success.
There is also another side of this mentality that is often missed. After a mistake has been made the coach attempts to educate what was wrong during the drill. The athlete/person spends so much time with the “I already know” that I made a mistake mindset that they forgot to listen to why they made it and what their options are to correct it. The mistake winds up being seen as more of a “duh” moment, just don’t do that again. The coachable person knows that they made a mistake but finds the appropriate way to correct it instead of not doing it again.

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“Absent” Listening
The moment a conversation begins and the moment it ends is typically what many athletes/people tend to pick up on. Somewhere after the start of the conversation thinking about how much time is left in practice, plans for the weekend, “man i’m hungry”, my favorite tv show is on tonight, or anything distracting will prevent someone from being engaged in being coached. To diminish or eliminate this problem the athlete should focus on being in the moment. By actively listening to what is being said it will:

  • Keep you actively engaged in practice
  • Allow a better focus on the task at hand
  • Set a better tempo for the practice
  • Create an atmosphere of “learning the game”

This is a tool the coachable athlete/person has that allows them to find the small daily successes that are often missed by those who choose not to be coachable.

“You Are Always Picking on Me” Mentality
It is the coaches’ job to, well, coach. Some athletes/people struggle with a coaches’ criticisms due to it making them feel as if they are being picked on. Feeling picked on creates a relationship of distrust and promotes negativity in how coaching advice is perceived. Not being able to accept these criticisms ultimately prevents any growth as an athlete/person. By adopting the mindset that a coaches’ job is to educate for the better can help eliminate the negative connotation of criticisms that are offered during practices. These constructive criticisms are only designed to teach and develop skills that may otherwise be lacking.


 

Learning vs. Regurgitating

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Listening and learning versus listening and regurgitating are two philosophies that rival one another. One can elevate anyone from being average to good or good to great and the other can keep the best player stagnant in their pursuit of growth. Learning listeners pay attention to what is said and adapt it to both their strengths and weaknesses while regurgitating listeners pay attention to what is said and robotically repeat the process. For some it may seem obvious as to why its important to be a listening learner, in reality it is a natural thing for most to merely regurgitate information. Here are the difference between the two:

Regurgitating Listeners

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  • Listens to the advice given
  • Applies it to the specific scenario given
  • Repeats the same process every time
  • Remembers how to do original process
  • Does not adapt to different scenarios
  • Other scenarios occur and fails
  • Remains same player with robotic approach

Learning Listeners

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  • Listen to the advice given
  • Review the scenario and how the advice applies specifically to it
  • Understands the new skill set in relation to its context
  • Adapts the advice to specific skill sets
  • Modifies it based upon other scenarios similar to it
  • Practices advice on original scenario
  • Practices/adapts advice to other scenarios
  • Masters original process
  • Masters the original process in other scenarios
  • Develops new skill set(s) with fluid approach

By being a listener who is actively learning, daily growth occurs. Now the craft that is being honed is also understood on a different level than those being competed against. This becomes the coachable athletes advantage over his/her opponents, the ability to adapt to different situations because they didn’t simply prepare they gained knowledge and understanding of the situations they might be placed in.


 

Great Followers Make Great Leaders

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It is often said to be the best leader it is necessary to first be the best follower. This is because being a good follower teaches certain intangible traits that mold someone into being a great leader. Being coachable and a good follower are synonymous in this respect. This is because coachability and being a good follower share many of the same traits:

Role Players
Coachable athletes/people understand that they have a role within their given system. They don’t stray from being within that role as it ultimately upsets the balance of the system. These same individuals also understand that they have a leader they must follow but also embrace this fact. By taking ownership of this idea they can fulfill their role with clear, concise precision.

Humility
In order to play a role or take advice the athlete/person must be humble. Humility is the true identity of the “there is no “I” in team”. The coachable know that it is not about them. While being able to take criticism is indeed a major role in humility, it also being able to know your limits and accept help that play a pivotal role. In realizing how small you are in the grand scheme of a programs overarching goals, purpose can be found and understood. This is when an athlete/person can truly accept being coached because they know that they don’t everything about their respective sport let alone their own skill set(s).

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Self-awareness
As all followers have this trait so must a coachable athlete/person. Being able to not only recognize but accept one’s flaws is it possible to prevent them from being a hinderance to growth. Self-awareness can come in multiple forms; being aware of facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language, knowing one’s pitfalls/bad habits, and knowing one’s capabilities. The capability to do these things have less importance in how you one is perceived but more importantly how they can positively impact another creating a more positive environment for everyone to grow within a program.

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Critical Thinking
It would be an understatement in saying that this is an important trait of coachability. It is THE trait of of being coachable. Critical thinking isn’t just being able to make decisions on the fly, it is the ability to think for one’s self. Being able to freely think is a prime example of the afforementiong robot like actions of a regurgitating listener and the fluid actions of the learning listeners. It also allows the coachable to speak up when they agree with their leader and at the same token speak up when they do not believe in what the leader is saying. Following blindly is not a characteristic of the coachable/follower.

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Anticipaters
Good followers have this quality in spades. They understand what needs to be done without having to be told. They anticipate, and they act. While others wait to be told what to do, a great follower has already done it. This can often lead to certain ideas or processes being made better because the other parts of the “machine” don’t have to compensate and can rely solely on their respective jobs.

From these traits the follower becomes a great leader.


 

Coachability is Highly Transferrable

Unlike flexibility, footwork, or court-vision, coachability is the only trait that is transferrable into real-world scenarios. When someone is highly coachable they will find a way to succeed in life. This is because they have learned how follow, thus learned how to lead. These athletes/people will have the work ethic and the tools necessary to start and maintain a healthy career in whatever field they see fit for themselves. If an athlete/person is uncoachable they will struggle in their career or workplace. These athletes/people do not have the ability to see why they struggle in the workplace so they never learn and lose all ability to move upward and onward. Typically someone who is uncoachable:

  • Will not understand how being late affects the person whose shift is before theirs
  • Will not be capable of taking criticisms from their boss
  • Will have difficulty completing tasks given to them on time
  • Will always think other employees or boss is “out to get them”
  • Will be passed up for raises and promotions based on poor performance
  • Will run the potential of bouncing from job to job
  • Will run the risk of having a “job” rather than a career

 

Although it has been stated enough, coachability is THE best trait one can possibly possess. Coachability transcends athletics and moves into the personal lives of all athletes/people. If it is as seen as superfluous, there can be no growth of character that is required to become the athlete/person needed to be successful. However,when this trait is mastered, there are truly no limits to what that individual puts their efforts towards.

Audric Warren

http://www.effort-performance.com

Coachability: The Most Valuable Yet Underrated Trait

Softball: Game Changers to the Status Quo

It’s that time of year again, softball and baseball practices have begun. Each preparing for their respective seasons to be underway. While softball is essentially ths identical counterpart of baseball, these two sports both go about their “business” in very different ways. I have always found this an oddity as I stated before softball and baseball are essentially the same sport. In spite of this they don’t train the same, they don’t treat injuries the same, they don’t prevent injuries the same, and they pretty much do nothing the same. If softball adopted some of the principles baseball uses and geared them towards softball it’s players would benefit tremendously.

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Training: The Devil is in the Details
Prior to the season during “spring training” a program or individual athlete should take a look at how they go about training. The reason being, people assume a game with so much downtime would require athletes to perform a plethora of long distance training. However, down time is not synonymous to long distance at all. Softball is a very dynamic/explosive sport, by training athletes to run long distances it could have undesired effects. If coaches and athletes aren’t careful in how they go about training they run the risk of having slower home to first times, decreasing their bat speed, or decreasing pitching velocity. It would be wiser to implement dynamic/explosive movements mixed into these longer duration exercises with appropriate rest intervals and attention to quality of the movements. This will allow the athlete to increase their power for short bursts, decrease chance of early season injury, and give the athlete the ability to perform explosive actions in the later portion of the game with the same amount of output as they did in the beginning of the game.
The second thing to take into account is how highly rotational of a sport softball is. Everyday hundreds of times a day the softball player will rotate to ONE side and only that side. This leads to a high volume of deficits when compared left to right that often go unnoticed or completely ignored. It is important as a coach or an athlete to take into account how many times rotation to the one side occurs on a daily basis by tracking it, implementing exercises that integrate the opposite musculature, and develop appropriate flexibility in both sides of the body to decrease deficits the lead to dysfunction, loss of performance, and injury. Taking the time to create injury prevention programs/sports performance programs that address the issue of single side rotation can play a major role in the success of an individual athlete and a program as a whole.

Less this: Long distance running, junk lifting, and punishment spring-trainings

More this: Core stability/strength bi-lateral in all three planes, explosive drills, and functional training


 

Establish a Pitch Count
In the sport of baseball extensive research has been done to study how many pitches should be thrown before the risk of shoulder and elbow injury increases greatly. Over time they established that 100 pitches was their magic number for starting pitchers. Once their pitcher approaches this number or goes past this number their outing for the night is going to be over. Unlike baseball softball has yet to establish such a number for it’s pitchers. There is much controversy over the topic as most coaches do not see it as an issue regarding health or performance. This oversight is most often because:

  • Softball Games are Shorter
    As we all know a baseball game is nine innings while softball games are seven innings long. Due to the shorter length of the game a softball player may not throw a high volume of pitches in one outing, on a good day. The shorter game mindset is immediately negated once the starting pitcher is used in the second game of a double header. Utilizing the same pitcher back to back is commonplace in the world of softball. If that were even suggested in baseball a coach would be looked at like an insane person. By having a pitcher have repeat outings in one day this can increase their pitch count to double or even triple its original number. This also gives way to pitchers throwing repeat bouts like this in the same week. Many coaches find this to be alright mainly because of the following issues issues with establishing a pitch count, absence of tracking pitching velocity and the misconceptions about the underhand pitch.
  • Absence of Tracking Pitching Velocity
    The first of which is the absence of pitching velocity tracking. Before I continue I have to share a anecdote about this phenomenon. A few years ago I spent the better half of the year doing some independent research traveling to softball games tracking the velocity of various college pitchers. The idea of a radar gun in the stands was such a foreign concept to coaches, several games were stopped just to come question me about the legality of me using one during a game! If it were a baseball game no one would even bat an eye at seeing a radar gun. This 100 dollar investment gives coaches the ability to monitor any drop offs in their pitchers velocity, when it happens, how consistently they hit their average speed, and what speed they top out at. Because softball coaches do not utilize this simple piece of equipment and a simple chart to track this information, it becomes impossible to see the warning signs of overuse that leads to chronic injury/acute injury or in the case of performance if their pitcher has inconsistencies in pitch speeds.
  • Misconceptions About the “Underhand Pitch”
    If I had a dollar for how many times I have heard from a parent, coach, or an athlete, “Softball pitching is a natural motion so it places less stress on the shoulder, so softball pitching is safer. That’s why they don’t need a pitch count” I would be a very rich man. The reason this statement is important is, it is very untrue and is an unsafe perspective to have. While something may be “safer”, repeating it daily will still yield unsafe results when there are no systems of checks and balances in place. It is also important to note that a softball pitch is actually a windmill motion not an underhand motion. Comparing softball and baseball pitchers, the arm of a softball player will rotate at speeds of 5,000 degrees per second during a pitch while a baseball players arm rotates at 7,000 degrees per second. While this may seem like a significant difference take into account that the baseball player is throwing downhill and has much greater contribution from his kinetic chain than the softball player (which we will discuss later in this article) so strain on the shoulder is different. It is also important to note that compressive forces in certain areas of the shoulder and activity in biceps bracchii/biceps tendon is higher during the windmill throw than the overhand throw. Combining the speed of the arm and stresses placed upon structures specific to the posterior shoulder, would indicate that softball pitchers is capable of sustaining injuries to the rotator cuff, biceps tendon, and labrum at the same rate as those of baseball pitchers.

Focus on Pitching Mechanics

This is a great topic of debate in the world of softball, pitching mechanics. There are so many different ideas on what is right and what is wrong that even the general phases of softball pitching have so many different names; there is the utilization of the clock to describe where the arm is(6 to 3, 3 to 12, 12 to 9, and 9 to ball release), the traditional method (wind-up, cocking phase, late cocking phase, delivery, and follow through), and various others (stance phase, backswing, and delivery phase). No one has come to a general consensus on this as the amount of research on softball pitching is sparse in comparison to that of the baseball pitcher. I’m not going to go into gratuitous detail on the softball pitching mechanism, thats another article for another day, but I would like to make a few brief comparisons to illustrate the necessity to re-evaluate the way softball pitchers go about it.

  1. Starting position
    During the wind up phase the pitcher brings his leg up and across the midline of his body. This is done to load his hips in a tri-planar motion to achieve maximum acceleration to throw the ball. This phase sets up any of the following phases for success. If the pitcher has a restriction in trying to achieve this motion it will dramatically change their mechanics. In comparison to the softball player the reverse must happen. Instead of bringing the knee up and across the midline of the body, the torso must reach down and across the midline of the body to achieve this tri-planar loading of the hips. I feel that this mechanism in softball is often neglected to the overall success of the pitch. If this motion is evaluated and exploited to its full potential it could increase the softball pitchers success rate.
  2. Stride Length
    When it comes to baseball it is equated that a longer stride length will lead to greater pitching velocities. However, they have found that that only works to a certain point. Striding too far can also lead to loss of control, poor arm slot, and decreased velocity. Because of this understanding it has been shown that most high level pitchers strides should be between 80-85% of their height. These are the same pitchers who are throwing 80-90+ miles an hour. When we look at the softball pitcher more often than not they are striding 95-100% and more of their height and throwing 50-60+ miles an hour. Now i’m not saying correlation means causation however, it is very important to note that it is widely understood how over-striding leads to poor mechanics and loss of velocity. Maybe softball pitchers could adapt this approach to increase velocity or at the very least fix poor mechanics.
  3. Lower body position at delivery
    The point in which the pitchers front foot hits the ground during pitching is a critical moment. This is where all of the energy created during your wind up is lost in a wild/slower pitch or transmitted into a great controlled pitch. The reason this is so important is, if the the pitchers foot orientation is facing the plate ensuring his hips are open so his core is engaged and loaded this will stabilize, accelerate, and decelerate the shoulder properly. Without something as simple as loading the core by way of the lower extremity the shoulder has to do more work than it is prepared for and will eventually fail. When we look at the softball players foot orientation during delivery their hips are, more often than not, closed. This allows for the shoulder to do all the work during the throwing motion and the lower bodies job being shifted to only slowing itself down as to not step out of the pitching circle.

 

Focus on Throwing Mechanics
Pitchers are not the only members of a softball team at risk for shoulder and elbow injuries. Many softball position players’ throwing mechanics are never examined because often all that “matters” is they are able to catch the ball and deliver it to the desired base before the runner gets there. Just like pitching mechanics need to be evaluated the same needs to be done to address position players imporoper mechanics and corrected. These are a few examples of mechanic errors that should be addressed that softball players are infamous for:

-Leading with the elbow

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-Dropping the elbow below shoulder height

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-Leaning excessively to the side

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-“shotputting the ball”

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A little correction can go a long way when it comes to mechanics. By taking the time to  evaluate these details it can be game changer for an athletes health and career.


 

Injury Prevention 

While all of the above are approaches to prevent Injury there are still softball leaves much to be desired in the way of injury prevention in the realms of shoulder and elbow health. The two biggest culprits are:

Shoulder Maintenance
Baseball pitchers take extensive care of their shoulders on a daily basis. With the high volume of repetitions that pitchers perform on a daily basis it was discovered that a way to combat fatigue that leads to injury is to prevent it. Amongst the various baseball programs nationwide it is widely accepted that some sort of “Throwers 10 program” or scapular strengthening program is implemented. These exercises give pitchers the capability to successfully throw high volumes without minimal risk and allows maximal recovery between outing. To be successful as a pitcher it is understood that it is a basic requirement to do so. On the softball side, shoulder maintenance has yet to be accepted as a must for its’ pitchers. Softball pitchers complain of anterior shoulder pain/soreness all the time, yet the solution is always ice. This is something I have yet to understand as softball players have just as much demands on their bodies as baseball players do. If softball pitchers took the approach of prevention the wear and tear on their shoulders throughout their season, or better yet career, would be much less.

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Bullpen Depth
In the world of softball another interesting happening occurs. If you look at a baseball roster, the core group of pitchers has a relatively high number. This core consists of starts, short-relievers, long relievers, and closers. If you look at a softball roster the core group of pitchers might consist of two pitchers, three pitchers tops. On a number of rosters, especially in high school, there is often only one pitcher. As we established earlier that the same level of stress to the shoulder was evident in softball pitchers in comparison to baseball pitchers, why is it still commonplace to have softball pitchers throw so many outings per season? The better question is, why is it still acceptable? Softball games may be shorter, however, this argument only applies when a pitcher throws in one game. Most softball games are double headers taking the average outing from 7 innings to 14 innings. What is even worse is when their is a softball tournament some of these girls will pitch in up to 10 games within a three-day period. That is almost 1500-2000 pitches in a weekend! It would take a baseball pitcher a full season to reach that number. These staggering numbers are happening at all levels of the sport. In 2007 during the NCAA championship Taryne Mowatt pitched all 60 innings. Something as simple as having 3 starters and 2 relievers would change the wear and tear on pitchers dramaticaly.

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Baseball Bullpen (Pitching Depth)
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Softball Bullpen (empty)

 

Every sport has to evolve with the everchanging demands placed upon it. With the vast amount of information that has been accumulated about biomechanics, kinesiology, injury prevention, and sports performance, why has softball not “gotten with the times”? To a certain extent it is understood that softball is misrepresented in the realm of research in comparison to its’ counterpart baseball.  However, we know too much to keep breaking down softball athletes, especially pitchers. It is shortening seasons, and in many cases shortening careers. Maybe its time to re-evaluate the game, not how its done, but in how it treats its athletes.

Audric Warren

http://www.effort-performance.com

 

 

 

 

Softball: Game Changers to the Status Quo

3 Things Athletes, Coaches, and Parents Should Know About Athletic Injuries

In the arena of athletics, its a fact injuries will happen no matter what sport an athlete plays. Although injuries are commonplace there are many aspects to injuries that people misunderstand or unaware that exist. Having the right information about injuries can make the difference in an athlete having a long healthy career, a team having a successful season, or the opposite where the season is plagued with injuries and losses rack up due to subsequent injuries. It should be understood that just because injuries are a part of sport doesn’t make sports dangerous, it means it is important to know and understand what to do if an injury occurs or how to prevent them from happening.

 

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When it comes to injuries there are 3 things that every athlete, coach, and parent should be aware of:

1.Most injuries can be prevented
As a healthcare professional and a fitness professional it can’t be stated enough that injury prevention should be a staple in any athletic program. Injury prevention has four major components:

Pre-season
Before a season starts two things should be done; 1.) Having a pre-participation physical and 2.) Getting some time of functional movement screen. The first is important as going to your primary care physician to get these done may not be enough. They mostly only check for hernia, blood pressure issues, vision, and test your reflexes. Athletes need a more thorough examination as they are a heavily active population who will encounter strains on the body the average person will not endure. This requires:

An Examination of Your Musculoskeletal System
Ensuring that an accurate history of injuries, both past and present, is documented plays a key role in prevention. This gives the coaching staff/sports medicine staff an idea of what athletes need to work on. Injuries to specific joints suggest targeting specific muscle groups. It will also lead to a deeper investigation of the joint(s) affected from an orthopedic standpoint. This information helps guide the creation of an appropriate treatment plan/injury prevention plan as opposed to doing nothing or creating a cookie cutter injury prevention program.
Gathering Pertinent Data On Heart Health
Some athletes may have an underlying congenital heart issue that may go undetected until it is too late. Certain questionnairs and history  information can lead to an athlete getting further testing done before they are “cleared” for full participation. In some instances it can be discovered that they have certain strict limitations that could protect their future. Isaiah Austin is a prime example of this scenario, had he undergone the proper physical prior to getting drafted after playing at Baylor, his heart defect may have been discovered sooner and his dreams of playing in the NBA might have been fulfilled.
Gathering Data On Family History
While the athletes family doctor has the family history on file the athletic program should also have a file of certain conditions an athlete has. By getting the appropriate history certain issues like asthma, high blood pressure, diabetes, or sickle cell can be managed while still being involved in sports. If certain issues are left undiagnosed or participating in a sport without monitoring an athlete could be struck with dire consequences without the pertinent information.
Documenting Allergies
If the coaching/sports medicine staff of an athletic program is aware of certain allergies a person has they can be prepared in case of accidental exposure to an allergen. Without this knowledge the athlete could be exposed to an allergen and if the coaching /sports medicine staff doesn’t have something like an epi-pen on hand it could be lead to serious consequences for the athlete.

The second part of pre-participation examination consists of a movement screening. This involves a qualified professional watching and documenting an athlete perform a series of movement. Based upon the analysis of these movements a persons strengths and weaknesses can be determined. With this information, said professional can create a program that will correct the imbalances that an athlete has thus decreasing the likelihood of injury.By giving athletes the opportunity to have access to a quality pre-participation physical and appropriate movement screening you can decrease the likelihood of injury.

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In-Season
During the season the daily grind of practices will set in for most athletes. They will want to leave immediately after practice because of thousands of reasons. It is imperative that the strength and conditioning/injury prevention programs that have been put into place are done. When athletes begin to skip out on those sessions former gains/corrections are lost. This is the start of the break down that many teams see in the late season.

A secondary component that is often missed that can easily be monitored daily is hydration. By weighing athletes before and after practices you can find how much fluid is being lost daily. This information gives the coaching /sports medicine staff the ability to replaces the fluids lost. Without this information athletes may be overhydrating or underhydrating which both lead to injuries.

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Late-Season
Late into the season is when most teams will see an accumulation of injuries. More often than not people believe this is a normal phenomenon because you have been through a long season and your body is worn down from a long year. This common misconception couldn’t be more wrong. This is where games are won and lost by; having the appropriate strength and conditioning program in place, having the appropriate injury prevention program and, lowering the demands of practice. As the seasons demand increase due to game intensity increasing, if a program has been consistent with their strength and conditioning, injury prevention program and the coaching staff has altered the demands of practice based on time of the year, a program can peak to greater heights than their opponents by implementing these tactics.

Post-Season/Off-Season

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These two seasons are critical to the success of a program. Although they are often 6 months away from the regular season this is where games are won and lost. During this time of year these three things are a must:

  • Nursing Old Injuries
    When athletes take care of these old injuries/recent nagging injuries it disrupts the cycle of inflammation and begin the healing process. By taking this action an athlete can begin his/her following season of right.
  • Taking Time Off/Active Rest
    After the season is over it is important to take some time off but there is also a fine line between taking time off to rest and recover and taking time off. If an athlete takes too much time off between a season and off season conditioning they can spend the majority of their off season trying to regain original gains versus making new gains. On the flip side if they don’t take enough time off they could find themselves breaking down too early in the season.
  • Knowing When to Start Your Off-Season Program
    The off season program can be a subject of controversy as some would think it doesn’t matter when you start. However if a program is to be planned out it must be done according to when you season starts. If your pre-season practices start in September then your off-season needs to begin at the end of march/beginning of April. Athletes will essentially need about 5 months prior to their season to build a foundation, gain strength, gain strength/endurance, gain power, and implement that into sports specific movement. If the off-season program is not long enough it will be impossible to make all of those different types of gains. Many of those gains may be attempted to be made before a proper foundation has been established this is where you will see injuries happening during training.

2.Rest does not heal injuries

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It is important to understand that sustaining an injuring does require a certain amount of rest whether its active rest or complete rest. Whats most important about understanding this is that rest does not heal the injury. Rest prevents further damage while time allows the tissue to heal. What is done during that time is what makes the difference. The athlete that rests, ices, uses compression, and elevates versus the athlete that moves, exercises, uses analgesics, and gets treatment from a healthcare professional will reduce the chance of re-injury by over 70% in most cases. The reason being that rest does not have the same benefits of movement, exercise, analgesics, and treatment. By utilizing these tactics the athlete:

Prevents Restrictions from Forming
If an athlete were only to use R.I.C.E. the athlete would now have restrictions that form because of swelling from the initial injury, scar tissue formation, and adhesion formation. With taking the approach to M.E.A.T. scar tissue and adhesions can be broken up to promote appropriate tissue elasticity. The proper fluid exchange within the tissues of the joint will allow nutrients to flow to all of the structures allowing the tissue to heal properly. Seeking treatment from a healthcare professional will also allow an athlete to get greater gains in motion because certain parts of joints can only be stretched by a qualified individual.

Addresses Secondary Damage
After sustaining an injury there is always the likelihood that there has been secondary or even tertiary damage to adjacent structures. By getting the appropriate treatment the secondary/tertiary damage will ultimately be discovered unlike the absence of treatment where it would not be noticed or treated. By finding and discovering the other issues they will be treated leading to a healthier joint and placing less strain on healthy tissue that was not damaged during the injury

Prevents Poor Nervous System Hardwiring
When an injury occurs the motion at that joint changes due to trying to avoid pain. This is why people limp or hold their shoulder a certain way when lifting an object. These nerve impulses can become hardwired into the nervous system creating dysfunction post injury. By eliminating/ limiting or even correcting these poor movement patterns it will lead to the athlete reducing injury/increasing performance.

Quicker Recovery Time
Athletes don’t have the luxury of time like the average person. If the athlete makes the choice to use an approach like M.E.A.T. they can cut their recovery time down. This is done by decreasing pain, decreasing swelling, increasing ROM, and increasing tissue strength/endurance. If all of these things are done before the athlete returns to full participation or play all together they can be as close to 100% much sooner than only resting.

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3. Nobody gets hurt on purpose
I’d like to make it clear that every athlete wants to play, nobody wants to sit on the sidelines and watch their teammates play without them. When an injury occurs, why is it that an athlete is suddenly treated as if they chose to get hurt and no longer want to play a sport they love? There is honestly no good answer for this. Athletes who sustain an injury are ostracized, called “babies” or “soft”, and treated differently as if the countless hours they have invested in the same sport as their fellow teammates, for their coaches, and to make their parents proud just flew out the window. Interestingly enough the actions and remarks made toward athletes that are injured look, smell, and feel exactly like that that of bullying. Athletes constantly receive pressure or get teased on how long they’ve been out/when and if they will return to playing. Even if to you it is just innocent ribbing it affects the athlete. The athlete is left with the options of;

A.)Being honest about how their injury feels, get the proper treatment, and return to play when they feel adequately prepared.

OR

B.)Lie about their pain levels, go without treatment/discontinue treatment, and return to play too soon.

One of those options leads to a healthy season, a healthy psychological value of self, and a successful season. While the other leads to re-injury, lowered self-esteem/self worth, and in some cases because of those things a loss of interest in the team sport all together.

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As a teammate, coach, or parent it is important to understand that sitting out is the last thing an athlete wants to do, just as much as being in pain is the last thing they want to be in. By adding insult to an injury it only makes them feel worse for being hurt. Take the time to listen if an athlete says something hurts. This doesn’t mean every little tiny thing requires grand attention, but in the back of your mind it should register that pain is not a “normal” thing, it is the bodies way of saying that something is wrong or that something is being done wrong to it. Here are a few things to consider if your teammate, athlete, or child says that something hurts;

Don’t be dismissive: The athlete has worked up the nerve to communicate with you that something is bothering them. By dismissing them you are taking away an outlet for them to tell someone they are in pain. This is a form of trust that is difficult to get back once it is lost as the athlete will experience a sense of shame by reporting an injury. Instead of helping them you have actually now become a roadblock/barrier to them receiving treatment for their injury.

Don’t be judgemental: If a teammate, athlete, or your child comes to you with an injury, dont judge them. They are coming to you with a problem, a problem that is outside of your expertise to evaluate, so listen. It is not for you to say how bad  the injury is or not. Pain is a very subjective thing that is extremely misunderstood and eperience differently by everyone. All that can be done is asked if they can participate or not and if not, go see someone who is qualified to evaluate them.

Don’t be a cancer: Whether it is a teammate or coach, if your teammate/athlete reports an injury to you it des not benefit them to belittle their injury or talk negatively behind their back to the team or staff regarding the injury. This type of negativity is contagious. It gives off the impression that the athlete is “faking”, that the athletes will be treated differently if they speak up, and these types of behaviors are okay for others to do. This creates a cancerous culture within a program. Instead of the athletes and coaching staff taking a proactive approach to ensuring that all of the athletes are at a certain level of preparedness physically and the idea of reporting/treating injuries as a natural part of being “ready to go” it becomes seen as weakness and a distraction. This gives way to mindset that injuries, most importantly, the injured person as being “in the way” of the success of a program.

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Be flexible: Injuries are unexpected they occur without warning so when it comes to team chemistry and practice plans they can be a little jarring. With that being said, sometimes you have to adjust to the disruptions that come along. If this means that you have to change your lineup, do it. If you have to adjust what you do in practice to keep everyone involved, so be it.

Be involved: When an athlete is doing everything in their power to stay in the game or get back to playing its not an easy task. Take the time to acknowledge their contribution to the program by doing what they can to stay healthy or get healthy.

Be a leader: As a teammate, encourage your teammates that they need to take care of their bodies to help contribute to the team and when they don’t do that it only hurts the team too. As a coach if it is clearly expressed to your athletes that is an expectation to inform them about injuries, they seek treatment for injuries accordingly, and that you will do what is required from a practice plan standpoint to keep them in the game or get back into the game, it makes it easier for an athlete to stay healthy.

 

As a teammate, coach, or parent it is only fair to give your teammate,athlete, or child a shot to succeed in sports. If and when they sustain an injury it’s unfortunate, that is all that it is. It is not their fault, they have not become invisible, and they are not being a burden. Help them do whatever they can to get back to the sport that they love even if its just a kind word of encouragement. Most importantly encourage them take care of the injury the right way, not by  sitting out or icing, but treating it. Injuries happen, all that can be done is be prepared and adjust when they do come along.

 

Audric Warren

http://www.effort-performance.com

3 Things Athletes, Coaches, and Parents Should Know About Athletic Injuries

Why Winning is a Habit

The season is over, you don’t have another game, competition, or meet for another 6 months. You have two options, take time off or take active time off and begin to prepare for the next season. One of those attitudes forms a habit, losing just as the other forms a habit of winning. Winning a particular game, competition, or meet didn’t start at tip off, with “play  ball”, or at kickoff. Winning started long before any of those moments came, it didnt happen in one day, it happened every moment before the event began. Winning is habitual because those who know how to master their time, overcome themselves, and ,for lack of better terms, go against the grain utimately creates the ability to win.

 

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The Value of Time

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Knowing how to win, and understanding what it takes to win involves mastering time. Time is this double edged sword that lulls you into a false sense of security that there is always more time. When in actuality time is something you can never get back. Unlike money, once you have invested time into something or absolutely nothing it is gone forever. It will trick you in the short term by making you think you have more time to sleep, so you set that alarm an hour later or hit the snooze button a dozen times before waking up Time can also trick you in the long term by making you think there is more time left before the season starts or there is more time left in your career. When in actuality there isn’t much time.

Everyone always talks about time management and making a schedule so you know when and where to be. This can be a great tactic, ONLY if you take the time you have and act with purpose. Ask yourself this question what am I doing with the time I have? Just because something is scheduled in your day doesn’t mean you took the time to make it of value. So what you went to class, if you weren’t taking notes or paying attention you didn’t learn anything. So what you went to practice today, every single one of your opponents did too, that doesn’t mean that you got better. You have to have a certain mentality when it comes to time, you can waste time or you can kill time. Did you:

  • Eat cause you were hungry (went and got fast food/ate junk food) or did you put food in your body for nourishment ?(made a home cooked meal/brought healthy snacks with you)
  • Go straight to practice or did you have a plan of what you wanted to work on today?
  • Leave practice with the thought it was just another day or did you take notes on what you did well and didn’t do well that day in practice?
  • Leave right after or did you spend an extra 20 minutes afterwards working on a skill ?(shooting, swinging, throwing, puck handling, footwork, anything)
  • To sit in the weightroom and “lift” or did you go in there and put some work in?
  • Watch film or did you break down your opponents strengths and weaknesses so you are prepared?
  • Go into a game guessing or did you study the last time you faced a particular opponent ?(knew what types of pitches they struck you out on or what you hit well off of them)
  • Did you go out with your friends and party or did you get rest?
  • Did wait until the last minute to cram or did you do your homework and study in consistent intervals ?

These are the differences in taking time to get better at your craft (killing time) or wasting time not getting better at your craft. All of those things create a gap between you and your opponent, which option you choose/chose will decide if you are ahead or if your opponent is.

Overcoming Self

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Before you can overcome any physical barriers (weights, opponents, teammates, etc) you have to overcome yourself. There is no greater opponent that you will ever face than you. Because nobody is perfect you will try to make excuses;  I have homework, it’s too early, its too late, it’s too hard, etc. Realizing the more excuses that you make the less you accomplish is what seperates those who succeed and those who don’t. My cousin once taught me a saying when I was little that has stuck with me ever since, “Excuses are monuments of nothingness. They build bridges to nowhere. Those who use these tools of incompetence, seldom become anything but nothing at all.” It sums up perfectly, to me, how making one excuse will ultimately lead to another until the moment comes and is gone.

Being able to overcome yourself is a daily task. If it were easy everyone would be All-Americans, or All-Area, or World Champions. It starts with a few simple concepts:

Know Thyself- Everyone knows what their pitfalls are, even when they don’t want to admit them. Whether it’s hitting the snooze button, procrastination, or binge watching Netflix. You know what takes away from your success. If you don’t know, figure out what is keeping you from being where you want to be.

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Delaying gratification- This is the idea of sacrificing present comfort for future gains.This is a tough one for everyone because we are creatures of impulse that seek to satisfy our wants rather than our needs. If success  is to be had it’s crucial to put off those things that are often in the way. Delaying gratification

  • Getting work done immediately vs. taking a nap/ Taking a gratiutously long nap
  • Being productive vs. Watching an episode of your favorite show
  • Preparing a healthy meal vs. Getting fastfood
  • Doing homework vs. Getting onto social media
  • Getting an early start to the day vs. Sleeping in
  • Going hard during every drill vs. Pulling up short on an exercise or sprint because you are almost done

Cutting out some of the “unnecessary necessities” makes it possible to develop habits that make a person more productive in reaching their goals.

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Acceptance- Lastly accepting who you are, what you are good at/not the best at, owning those things, and taking responsibility for one’s actions. Everyone isn’t Michael Jordan, that’s a fact. Coming to terms with your pitfalls and talent level will take you a long way. This is the difference between a person with skill and talent. A person with talent can wake up everyday and be able to do things an average person can’t because they were born that way. A person with skill has to work hard everyday to hoan their skills and master their craft. Overtime skill finds a way to beat talent. While talent was at home sleeping, skill got up at 6 am and put his/her work in. So when the time came and skill faced talent luck, opportunity, and hard-work collided to create a moment. In that moment that hard-work and dedication lead to success, which led to repeated moments of success. Without that hard-work all that is left is luck and an opportunity, and because of that skill wins everytime.

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Going Against the Grain

Dr. Seuss once said, “You have to be odd to be number one”. This quote rings true. If you want to win you have to do the things that other people aren’t doing or aren’t willing to do. That means taking care of your small injuries, training when you “dont have time”,  taking 50 more swings in the batting cage, putting up 100 more shots, etc. Plain and simple you have to act,  most importantly, with purpose.

Going against the grain is is one of the hardest things to do for someone who wants to be successful. People will judge, question, and even dissuade a person from the actions they are taking to reach their goals. Do you go to that party the night after your game so the next day you stay in bed all day because your partied all night? OR Do you go home get some rest so that the next day you can watch film, go to the gym, or have a skill session?  This is an example of what makes this tough, because it is on a road that is less traveled, this is what makes the difference.  The person who chooses this road truly understands what it takes to win. They know the price of making sacrifices, they have felt the solitude of leadership, they have felt the weight of accountability, and they are better for it.

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Bruce Lee once said, “Long-term consistency trumps short-term itensity”. Making the necessary choices to find success and win is a daily effort. Without those choices the average person stays average and even the most talented person remains underdeveloped. When it is all said and done those who can do all of the things previously discussed in this article, those are the people who will find success and win.

 

Why Winning is a Habit

The Core: Working Hard or Hardly Working?

The core, this is the area of the body that everyone wants stronger and more tone. For it being an area of the body that is so heaviy sought after, it is often the most misunderstood and underutilized area of the body. How can that be possible when there are so many people walking around with 6-packs and 8-packs? Well would you believe me if I said having great looking abs doesn’t necessarily mean you have a strong core? Probably not. Well it’s true, you can have great looking abdominal muscles yet still lack sufficient strength in your core let alone functional strength.

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The Core

Well for starters let’s define what the core is. Essentially the core would be considered any muscle/muscle group that shares a connection to the pelvis, ribcage, and spine. This also would include muscles that directly affect the length/tension relationship of these muscles. These muscles would include :

The abdominals: rectus abdominus,transervsus abdominus, and oblique abdominus (internal and external).

The posterior structures: rhomboids, trapezius muscle, latissimus dorsi, erector spinae, quadratus lumborum, and multifidus.

Adductor group: Adductor magnus, adductor brevis, gracilis, and pectineus.

The hip flexor complex: illiacus, psoas major, and psoas minor.

The glute complex: glute maximus, glute medius,  and glute minumus.

The breathing muscles: pec minor, sternocleidomastoid, scalenes, and diaphragm.

The pelvic floor:  Levator ani, piriformis, obturator internus, bulbocavernosus, ischiocavernosus, superficial transverse perineal, external anal sphincter, compressor urethera, uretrovaginal sphincter, and deep transverse perineal.

 

 

Because so many muscles contribute to the cores general make up this would suggest that the core has many functions, some of which that we take for granted when training them.


Nothing can happen without the core. Whether it is sitting, walking, or kicking a ball, the core does it all. If we break down what the core does at its most basic levels the cores abilities can be split into two categories, static and dynamic.

Static Core Strength

Static core strength at its most simplified could be considered as stabilization. This is your bodies ability to maintain the position of the pelvis, spine, and ribcage while outside forces act upon the body, such as gravity. This would suggest that your static core strength would require more endurance than power. Static core strength is also necessary in other scenarios that suddently shift our bodies momentum/equilibrium; like getting bumped into when walking, falling down, maintaing our body position as a car turns or stops, or shooting a gun. There are also intrinsic factors that affect stabilization of the core that are less thought about than its extrinsic partners. Examples of less thought of uses of static core strength include:

  • Breathing
  • Coughing/sneezing
  • Bladder control
  • The inner ear/ eye tracking/ balance

Dynamic Core Strength

Dynamic Core Strength is a combinatino of the stabilization of static core strength and motions at the back and hips that occur in all three planes of motion. What makes these motions so complicated is that the body must maintain a certain level of rigidity, absorb resistance fluidly, react to changes in speed, and apply all of the above during motions that occur in all planes. Because of this it takes a high level of coordination between bones, joints, ligaments, muscles, tendons, and nerves to create movement that is both efficient and doesn’t harm any of the related structures as well as the extremities that attribute to the motions occuring. Examples of motions that require dynamic strength include:

  • Walking,jogging, running
  • Jumping
  • Kicking soccer ball
  • Throwing a baseball/softball
  • Swimming
  • Skating

All of these motions involve the spine flexing, extending, rotating, and bending side to side, sometimes all at the same time. Other aspects of dynamic strength that are often forgotten about are body position/orientation,surface that is being trained on/competed on, and types of shoes during training/competition. This takes understanding and implenting  how to train dynamic core strength to a different level.

Take walking/jogging/running for example, doing these activies on a flat surface activates the core in a very specific way.  The total work the body must output stays relative to the speed in which you are going. Add a hill with an upward slope and your core is being activated in a completely different manner. There must be an increase in the amount of total work performed by the joints or specifically certain joints like the hips (home of the core). While work increases in all joints it takes more effort at the hips to create the power necessary to climb the hill.

 

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Surface trained on also has a dramatic effect to the core. This is because of a concept called ground reaction force. Ground reaction force (GRF) is the force exerted by the ground on a body in contact with it. So just as you exert force downward into the ground it will exert force back into you. This makes activities very different once you go from concrete, hardwood, grass ( well maintained or poorly kept), turf ( long, medium, shag), sand, or soft surfaces ( foam pit, trampoline, or mats). Your core must react based upon the demands you have placed upon it, thus training using different surfaces must happen in such a way that it challenges the core, without being too demanding, but is also functional to where the core will be used in competition.

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To further complicate training you must finaly take into account the type of shoe a person is training in/competes in. There are many examples such as:

  • baseball/softball cleats
  • soccer cleats
  • track spikes
  • football cleats
  • ice skates
  • bare foot
  • basketball shoes
  • cross trainers

The best example of this is any version of the minimalist shoe. If you are wondering what a minimalizt shoe is the nike free is a perfect example of this type of shoe. Take a look at it this .gif of an athlete training in the nike free.

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Look at how the shoe alters the ground reaction force of trying to decellerate and accelerate again. The amount of time/distance it takes to slow down has increased which causes the core to have to increase the amount of output to slow the body down as well as speed it back up. This in turn can cause an injury if the core muscles are not strong enough to create such forces or it can teach the body dysfunction by utilizing the wrong structures to slow down the body like joints, tendons, and ligaments versus muscle groups.


Activating the Core

If I were to ask someone how to work their core I would wager it would like one of these examples:

While there is nothing wrong with any of these exercises because they do activate the core when we look at all the things the core is capable of doing are we really unlocking its true potential? Not by a long shot. When you look at many of the traditional positions that people use to earn their 6-pack they all include hip flexion or lumbar flexion and return right back to neutral, one part of the what makes up the core is locked in place either the ribcage or the pelvis, and lastly they are not in a gravity dependent position. These exercieses will get you good looking abs but will not increase your function or performance by any means. The reason for this is mostly because, as we previously discussed, the core is a unit compromised of three parts that must be capable of moving independetly and interdependtly of one another WHILE working with the extremities to create function. To unlock the true potential of the core you must take into account several key factors:

Eye tracking

While you are reading this stand up, take one of your hands ad press your figers into your abs, now turn your head to the opposite direction of your hand. Stay standing, keep your fingers on your abs and close your eyes and turn your head again in the opposite direction of your hand. Try that same thing on single leg or in a split stance position. Chances are if your abdominal musces are working properly by doing something very simple like turning your head will cause them to activate. This is your bodies natural response to preparing itself for being put off balance. It is also a natural reaction for your body to stabilize so it may reach in the direction that you are looking. This is critical function of your core in order to protect your organs, your spine, and adjacent structures.

This is one of the differences between running on a treadmill or running outside. Your body has to locate where it is going to be in space and time and adapt to it. When you are staying in place and looking straight ahead or looking at a tv your body loses the ability to gain these adaptations. The second part of using eye tracking with core exercises is reaching to grab or catch something. The core becomes a stronger integrated system when relying on the feedback from your feet, knees, and hips while looking in another direction to reach or catch an object. It gives the brain an ability to activate the core for better protection from the hands all the way down to the feet which otherwise couldnt be accomplished with norma means of training the core. A example of this would be medball throws off of a trampoline, catching a medball over your shoulder,  taking away eye tracking and performing certain exercises with your eyes closed.  Next time when planning a core workout take into account how beneficial having to look and reach or catch and closing your eyes can be to improving your core strength.

Breathing

Breathing isn’t only a function that is necessary for us to sustain life but also helps to maintain function throughout daily life. When we breathe improperly it creates tension in the neck, causes ribs to be out of alignment, and can lead to seriuos back injuries. When you breathe correctly you allow your body to be able to lift heavier loads, increase endurance, and decrease chances of injury. Reading this all sounds a bit much because its  just breathing right? WRONG! By utilizing the proper muscles to breathe you are helping to capture the lightning in the bottle that is the core.

  • The diaphragm helps to lift ad expand the ribcage causing the appropiate amount of tension thorughout the core
  • Utilizing the diaphragm helps increase your interabdominal pressure (IAP) which helps stablilize the spine thus protecting it during lifting heavy loads
  • When people breathe using the wrong muscles it causes restrictions that can lead to upper cross syndrome, restrict cervical spine mobility, thoracic spine mobility, and lumbar spine mobility, and decreases effectiveness of respiration
  • By breathing with your diaphragm you will gain straonger oblique and transversus muscles rather than the usual dominant rectus abdominal muscles

Here is a short video of how to start learning how to use your diaphragm https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=2Jzc5VUAmw0 . Learning how to breathe properly is often taken for granted when seeking a stronger core so when you have a few minutes in your workout try it out and see what you think.

Arm/Leg Position

The body is designed to move, plain ad simple. This means from head to to being able to integrate motions like bending over to pick something up, reaching to grab something high up, doing a back hand spring , or swinging a softball/baseball bat. When performing all of these activities the extremeties come into play. The moment your arms or legs begin to reach in any general direction tension is placed upon the core muscles to prepare the pelvis, spine, and ribs for movement. These types of motions are often where performance is lost or injuries occur. Core muscles like any muscles need the ability to both lengthen and shorten. By performing activities that only shorten the core power, performance, and functionality is lost or limited.

Say for instance you train the core in such a way that you are doing planks,crunches, v-ups, or even using battle ropes. Now compare those actions to anything athletic; a basketball euro-step, a softball/baseball swing, a back hand spring, kicking a soccer ball, or throwing a football. The difference between the exercise and the activities mentioned are the fact that the hips/groin, the glutes, the abdominal muscles, and the cervical,thoracic, and lumbar spine are being BOTH lengthened and shortened. This is where implementing something simple like reaching ( above head, across the body, down below the waist, or to the side) and leg positions (split stance, staggered leg stance, lunge stance, close leg stance, or single leg) play a vital role in changing your core workout from trying to get “pretty” abs to making real functional gains

Don’t Forget What’s Behind You

We spend so much time focusing on what is in front of us we often neglect what’s behind us. Strengthening these muscles appropriately is a game changer for anyone. The reason being, most posterior chain muscles; attach to mulitple segments of vertebrae, attach to the upper or lower extremities, work in tandem with your abdominal muscles, and support/stabilize the spine . Without proper activation of these muscles overall function is loss to the dominating anterior core muscles.

Lattismus Dorsi – This muscle is a unique muscle. It is the broadest muscles of the back that has joint actions for both the arm and the trunk. What also makes this muscle unique is the fact that the fascia of the lats is shared with the hamstrings by way of a structure called the sacrotuberous ligament. So by having weak or tight lats it can cause tightness in the hamstrings on the same side  or even decrease function in the opposite side of your gluteus maximus.

Erector Spinae- Is a group of three muscles that runs from the base of your skull all the way down to your pelvis. This group of muscles assists with back extension and side bending at all levels of the spine. This group is often in poor balance with one another because the lower section of this muscle gets overworked leaving the middle and upper sections weak. This imbalance can cause the pelvis to tilt, excessive curvature of the lower back(lordosis), excessive curvature of the upper back (kyphosis), and injuries to the discs and shoulder impingements or strains. Working on appropriate posture and being mindful of movements throughout the entire back can help facilitate balance throughout this muscle group.

Rhomboids – The rhomboids are a group of muscles that attach to the spine and the scapula. They help keep the scapula pressed against the ribcage, pull the scapula downward, and help pull the scapulas back to maintain posture.When these muscles are underactive it can cause your scapula to move inappropriately wreaking havic on the shoulder. They can also lead to poor posture that can lead to injuries of the neck and low back. To help facilitate the use of the muscles performing actions that involve pulling rather than pushing this will help keep these muscles strong.

Qudratus Lumborum – The quadratus lumborum, like most back muscles, attaches to the spine, ribs, and pelvis. Its job is to assist in side bending, rotation, and affixes the 12 rib during breathing. Whats unique about this muscles is because of its location when it is underactive or overactive it can throw off its neighbors (the diaphragm and the psoas or hip flexor muscles) very easily. Quadratus Lumborum dysfunction can affect breathing and interrupt the mobility of the hips. When trying to develop these muscles incorporate side bending motions at the back and moving your pelvis side to side into your routine.

The Glutes- What is there to say about the all of the msuscles that are  housed within the glute complex? EVERYTHING! Your glutes affect your hip flexors which attach to your spine, they attach to your pelvis which your abdominal muscles are attached to, they attach to your femur which is part of the knee, and part of it attaches to your pelvic floor which controls the bladder and more.The glutes affect so many things directly or indirectly that if they are weak performance will decrease and injury could occur in any segment of the body. It is important to implement motions that incorporate hip extension, hip internal rotation, and hip external rotation when looking to maintain a strong core.

Multifidus – This muscle or groups of muscles are little powerhouses. I say this because these muscles are very small yet have a great impact on your spines health. These muscles contribute to the fine motor control of your spine, assist in sidebending, extension, and rotation. Weakness in this muscle group is largely associated with low back pain.  This is because of how much of a role this muscle plays in the stability of your spine. Before you attempt to reach for an object a healtht multifidus will activate to protect the spine. If this muscle group is weak it will not activate appropriately or it will fatigue quickly and the wrong muscles that do not provide small stability will take control and throw off how the spine functions.  To work this muscle it requires very fine control.

Step 1. Lay on your stomach with a pillow underneath your hips OR on your side so that your spine is in neutral.

Step 2. Take your finger and place it a few fingertip widths away from the middle of your spine right at the level of your waistline

Step 3. While keeping your finger pressure where it is, try to flex the muscle underneath it just enough to cause your finger to raise slightly. That is your multifidus. If your fingers get pushed away significantly you are activating the wrong muscle.

Step 4. While you are doing this activation try to maintain a normal breathing rate.

This muscle group can prove to be very difficult to activate because it is often weak in most people. Once you have tapped into the ability to activate this muscle and give it some endurance your back will thank you many times over.

The Pelvic Floor Matters

The Pelvic floor muscles are the layer of muscles that support the pelvic organs and span the bottom of the pelvis. The pelvic organs are the bladder and bowel in men, and bladder, bowel and uterus in women. These muscles stretch like a firm thick muscular trampoline from the tailbone (coccyx) to the pubic bone (front to back) and side to side. The purpose of these muscles is to :

  • Provide support to the organs that lie on it.
  • Give us conscious control over the bladder and bowel until it is convenient.
  • Important for sexual function in both men and women.
  • Provide support for the baby during pregnancy and assist in the birthing process.
  • Work with the abdominal and back muscles to stabilize and support the spine.

To get a few examlples of these exercises take a look at this video  Pelvic Floor exercises  .


When we look at the core its necessary to take into account everything that it encompasses. It is only to your detriment to only work some parts instead of the whole. Whether you workout to be healthy or to be elite none of the core’s components can be ignored because it will lead to dysfunction and ultimately a breakdown in the system. Next time you train incorporate a new component each time and see if it makes an impact in one way or another.

Audric Warren

http://www.effort-performance.com

 

 

 

 

The Core: Working Hard or Hardly Working?

Welcome Thea Bowman Leadership Academy

Effort: Performance & Rehabilitation would like to welcome Thea Bowman Leadership Academy to the Effort family. Thea Bowman Leadership Academy is a charter school lated in Gary, Indiana educating grades k-12. Thea Bowman is highly sought after as a choice charter school and has a student population of over 1000. In order to create life-long learners, Thea Bowman strives to provide an educational foundation where students can become proactive, knowledgeable, and cultured participants of society, exemplary of problem-solving and community leadership. Their athletic programs have also  found success over the past few years. Since their inception into tournament play in 2009 the boy’s basketball program has won two state titles and have also had a state champion in boys track and field.

As Thea Bowman Leadership Academy looks to grow and excel in the arena of athletics, Effort:Performance & Rehabilitation is partnering with them to provide sports medicine outreach. This partnership will allow student-athletes to have a safe environment to play by providing an Athletic Trainer at all home events, quick and direct access to quality treatment from qualified healthcare providers for their musculoskeletal injuries, baseline concussion testing, and concussion management. We look forward to providing these services to Thea Bowman Leadership Academy. Welcome again to the Effort family!

 

Audric Warren

http://www.effort-performance.com

Welcome Thea Bowman Leadership Academy