What Nobody is Going to Tell You About Freshman Year

22 Jul

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I have the pleasure and privilege of training dozens of young men and women who will be college freshmen in just a few short weeks, and I thought this is worth sharing.  I did not write the article – it was written by Cailin Austin about a year ago – I found it on social media.  It has special significance for me since the last of my four children will soon be embarking on her own college freshman experience.

Attending college for the first time is a time filled with high expectations, excitement, nerves, and a lot of hope for the future. If you were anything like me, you were lucky enough to get accepted into your dream school with a lot of high hopes about the upcoming year. I couldn’t wait to move into my freshman dorm, no matter how little or crappy it might have been, I was undoubtedly excited. The year was fresh (literally) and I couldn’t wait to start living a college lifestyle and meet the people I was going to be friends with for the next four years of my life and hopefully even longer. I had never been so excited about going back to school shopping and started packing and preparing for the move weeks in advance.

I had this image in my head of what freshman year was going to be like and it looked a lot like something you would see on an ABC Family or MTV show rather than what the reality of freshman year really was. I would be sitting here lying to you if I told you my freshman year was the best year of my life and to expect to have a year full of parties and fun with no responsibilities. The fact of the matter is, freshman year is your first real step into adulthood. It is your first unsheltered, uncensored, version of the real world that your parents (for the most part) have no control over. While this truly is an exciting thing, if you’re not prepared for it freshman year can be a lot more stressful than expected.

I wish someone told me that the people I met the first week of school weren’t going to be my best friends the whole year and not to take it to heart when they stop talking to you. You meet SO many people your first few weeks of school and you want to be friends with literally all of them. But in college, unlike high school, you probably won’t see those same people every day so maintaining relationships takes a lot more work than before. To be honest, you may forget what it was like to actually make a new friend, especially if you were friends with the same people all through high school.

I wish someone told me that my study habits in high school absolutely will not hold up in college. When you were told to “read the text” in high school for homework, you wrote “no homework” in your planner for that day. Reading your text book in high school was actually laughed at in most situations and if you didn’t have an end of the year freak out about where your text books were, you were doing it wrong.Read your textbooks; every page, every chapter. Write everything down, from notes to homework, it’s all important.

I wish someone told me the “freshman 15” was absolutely not a myth. Despite the fact that I spent countless nights in our campus gym, the freshman 15 was still gained and stayed. I couldn’t tell you why or how this happens, but expect to gain a few pounds your first year of college. Whether it’s from all of the campus cookies you couldn’t have passed your final without or from all the delicious new food options, expect to be a few pounds heavier when returning home for thanksgiving. And most importantly, know that you don’t look any different despite how you feel, and know that this will most likely happen to everyone.

I wish someone told me that it’s okay to say no to people. After you get to know your hall mates and become closer with the people you’ve met your first few weeks of college, you quickly learn that there is always something going on. Learn that you don’t have to agree to attend everything someone invites you to. If you need to stay home and study, speak up. Don’t just say yes to please someone or because you feel like you will lose that person as a friend if you say no. Learn to put you and your needs first, and if someone judges you because you decided to study rather than go out, so be it. You’re here to learn not to socialize. Its okay to decline peoples offers.

I wish someone told me to go to class no matter how tired I was. Fun fact about college: you don’t technically have to go to class if you don’t want to. But for the sake of your grades, please go to class. You only get the chance to learn the material once, and you will be tested on the lecture material whether you were there or not. One tired day may cost you a good grade in the class, no joke. Go to every class you can and take detailed notes. (Tip: you can usually take pictures of the slides/diagrams as well, it helps a lot.)

I wish someone told me that only my true friends from high school will remain my friends in college. Losing contact with high school friends is a given in college. Even the people you swore were your closest friends may forget about you in the craziness of freshman year. The good news is you are at a school with thousands of people looking to make new friends and they will fill the empty spaces that old ones left.

I wish someone told me to be careful at parties. Although it is very rare something bad happens, it is true that parties aren’t the safest place. Especially for freshman, it’s easy to just go to the party that everyone else is going to without knowing anything about the place or who is going to be there. Look out for your friends and stay together. Navigating a college town at night is scary and can be dangerous. Know where you are going beforehand and always have a way home. Don’t always trust people you have just met and never leave a cup unattended.

I wish someone told me my grades aren’t going to be as great in college as they were in high school. Expect your GPA to drop at least half a point, usually. You’re going to have a lot of distractions in college and a lot less structure in your schedule. Keeping a balance truly is a difficult task and your grades aren’t going to always be what you want them to be. You will learn the perfect combination to keep your grades and yourself happy. Give it some time and don’t beat yourself up if you get a C in a class or two. You have three years to make up for it.

I wish someone told me that getting homesick is completely normal. The first few spells of homesickness I had scared me to death. I was afraid that if I was homesick it meant that I didn’t like the school I was at or that something was wrong or missing. This is usually not the case even though it may feel that way at times. You’re going to miss home no matter how much you wished your way out of it from day one. Home is what is familiar to you and what you know and it’s easy to crave that when you’re somewhere completely different. Don’t let it get the best of you and just know that a call home will fix anything and everything. Don’t be afraid to call your parents and friends from home. They miss you, too.

I wish someone told me that you only get one freshman year at the college of your dreams so live it up and learn your lessons. Have the time of your life, make all of the friends you can, join clubs and organizations you’re passionate about, get involved on your campus and in your community, and take nothing for granted. You only get to do college once (if all goes well) and you’re paying to be here and get an education. Make the most of every situation and learn about yourself and the people around you. There is so much to be done and so much to learn in your four years here but especially the first. Make the most of it and don’t forget your morals or who you are!

Should You Do Chinups or Pullups?

20 Jul

0903_ExercisePullupTwo_200x200[1]Chinups and pullups are both great exercises, and there’s room for both in any strength training regimen.  Each of these exercises targets some similar and some different muscles.  Here’s the breakdown:

Chinups are performed with an underhand grip.  This exercise is great for the back, especially the lat muscles, and also recruits the biceps and pectoral muscles.  The chinup tends to be easier to perform than the pullup.

Pullups are performed with an overhand grip.  This exercise recruits the trapezius muscles more effectively than the chinup.  The pullup also works your abs and shoulders.

If you’re not quite ready for chinups or pullups, the lat pulldown activates the same muscles and can be an effective starting point.  You can change your grip on the lat pulldown exercise – and perform single-arm lat pulldowns – to work more muscle and make the exercise more effective.  (please see related article, Change Grips to Improve Your Lat Pulldown)

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Power Up Your Workout

18 Jul

plyometric_483x350_1[1]Plyometric pushups (aka, military pushups) and squat jumps are great additions to any workout because of the way they target your fast-twitch muscle fibers, leading to gains in muscle strength and size.

To perform a plyometric pushup, push yourself away from the ground with enough force so that you raise your hands off the floor between repetitions.  Try substituting this exercise for regular pushups or, for more of a challenge, perform a set of plyometric pushups immediately after a set of regular pushups.  If you’re not quite ready for ground-based plyometric pushups, try doing them with your hands on a bench (and feet on the floor) to reduce your load.

To perform a squat jump, stand with your feet slightly apart and knees aligned over your toes. Bend from the hips to lower your rear until you are in a full squat, keeping your back straight. Keep your knees aligned; don’t let them fall open. Push down with your heels and explode up into the air. Don’t let your knees hyperextend; keep them slightly bent. Go right back into a full squat when you land and repeat.  Similarly to plyometric pushups, you can substitute this exercise for regular squats or increase the intensity by doing squat jumps immediately after regular squats.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Does Titanium Jewelry Really Work?

15 Jul

free-shipping-RAKUWA-phiten-necklace-titaniun-necklace-phiten-X50-100pcs-lot[2]If you watch professional sports (MLB, NFL) you have seen players wearing titanium bracelets and necklaces.  Many athletes believe that these accessories can enhance their physical and mental abilities.  The companies that manufacture and sell these products assert that they work by “stabilizing the electric flow that nerves use to communicate actions to the body,” while many sports stars believe the necklaces give them luck.  These companies also claim that titanium jewelry can improve strength, endurance, energy, and — ultimately — performance.

Despite these claims, there is no scientific evidence supporting this theory.  Research has found no correlation between titanium jewelry and performance.  Experts agree that the body’s chemical structure cannot be influenced by magnets that small.  It’s all superstition with no scientific basis.

But while the physiology behind the necklaces doesn’t hold up to scientific scrutiny, that doesn’t mean they are devoid of any benefit.  Athletes are a superstitious bunch.  If the players think they are getting an advantage from the necklace and that gives them increased confidence, then they do in fact get a positive boost from the product — a “placebo” effect.

Wearing titanium jewelry may not turn you into Bryce Harper, but if you’re playing well — and winning — keep wearing it.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Eat Smaller, More Frequent Meals and Snacks

13 Jul

healthy_snacks[2]Forget about eating three square meals a day (most of us don’t do it the right way, anyway — little or no breakfast, small lunch, enormous dinner, and unhealthy snacks throughout the day).  Eating smaller, more frequent meals and snacks has been shown to help control appetiteimprove mood and concentration, boost metabolism, and maintain muscle mass.  Aim to eat every three hours for a steady supply of energy throughout the day.

Eating breakfast every day is a must.  It kick-starts your metabolism and helps you burn more calories throughout the day.  Additionally, a little advance planning and preparation can help you manage eating more frequently during the day.  Think through your week when you do your Saturday or Sunday grocery shopping.  Take time, the night before, to prepare for the following day.

When it comes to snacking, think portability (and, of course, healthy).  Nuts (walnuts, almonds, pistachios, etc.); trail mix (homemade is best); string cheese; fruits and veggies (I like apples and carrots, with peanut butter); Greek yogurt; green tea; protein shakes; and beef jerky are healthy, portable snacks that can help you stay satisfied.

Think of nutrition as providing fuel to your body.  Small, frequent meals shouldn’t exceed your calorie needs, but should help you stay full and provide you with the energy you need to function effectively throughout the day.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

What You Do Makes a Difference

11 Jul

Choices3[1]What you do makes a difference.  The question is, will the difference be positive or negative?

The answer is, it depends on what you do.

Every choice you make will have rewards or consequences.  Everything you do, today, will impact tomorrow.  The impact may be on you, a family member, a friend, a teammate, or someone else… but there will be an impact.

You can choose to start the day with a positive attitude, or be miserable.

You can choose to greet others with a kind word, or disregard them.

You can choose to do your homework and study for your upcoming test, or waste time playing video games.

You can choose to practice your ball-handling and shooting, or skip it.

You can choose to take batting and fielding practice, or put it off until another day.

You can choose to workout, or take the day off.

You can choose a healthy, sensible diet, or overeat lots of junk.

You can appreciate and develop what you do have, or you can focus on what you don’t have.

Your choice.  What’ll it be?

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Injury-Proof Your Legs With Stronger Hips

8 Jul

sandbag-lunge-exercise-14102011[1]Athletes spend a lot of time on their feet.  As a result of impact, fatigue, and overuse, the incidence of leg injury increases.

Research shows that hip muscle weakness increases the risk of injuries like chronic knee pain, shin splints, Achilles tendonitis, and pain in the sole of the foot.  Since the muscles of the hip are important for stabilizing the leg during running, jumping, and other lower-extremity movement, weakness of these muscles can lead to less control of the legs and an increase in the risk of injury.

Hip muscle training can not only build up protection from future injuries, it can also help to alleviate pain from various running-related injuries, according to various studies.  Try hip-strengthening exercises like squats, deadlifts, lunges (pictured, with sandbag), and glute bridges.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Build Muscle with Burnout Sets

6 Jul

opener-moves-every-man-should-master-ss[1]Lifting heavy is a great way to build muscle, but it’s not the only way.

“Men who performed low-weight, high-rep sets gained as much muscle as those who went heavy,” according to a study from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

“High-rep training may stress muscle fibers differently, spurring greater growth.”

Don’t abandon your high-weight, low-rep workouts, altogether, just vary your approach from time to time.

When you lift heavy, perform sets with a load that challenge you for 4-6 repetitions.  This strategy will not only help you build muscle, it’s also great for developing strength and power.

On your lighter days, work with a load that allows you do perform 20 or more reps, to maximize muscle growth.

One caveat to burnout sets:  They may not be the best strategy for athletic performance training.  Athletic performance training should be more about task specificity and less about how much, how many, or for how long.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

It Started with a Plan

4 Jul
flag-decl-of-ind[1]IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Jump Training Should Include Landing Mechanics

1 Jul

bootcamp-jump-squat[1]A few weeks ago I posted an article about jump training, which generated some commentary, particularly in the area of landing mechanics.  To clarify, at Athletic Performance Training Center, we incorporate landing mechanics training into all of our plyometric (jump) training.  Research shows that most non-impact knee injuries result from landing and/or cutting instability.  There is a higher prevalence among female athletes, especially those who play sports like soccer, basketball, and volleyball.

Biomechanical considerations, such as knee flexion (knees should be bent and not extended/straight upon landing); knee alignment (knees should not point inward or outward upon landing but, rather, point straight ahead); and hip motion (jump should begin with hip flexion — hips back; extend hips through the jump; and flex hips upon landing) should be closely observed.

There are also some neuromuscular considerations, as strength and conditioning professionals must ensure that athletes possess adequate quadriceps and hamstrings strength to accommodate muscle co-contraction and balance in force.

Plyometric training involves multi-directional consecutive jumping.  Technically correct posture and body alignment are emphasized, and athletes are instructed to land softly with knees and hips flexed while immediately preparing to jump again.  However, plyometric training alone may not reduce the risk of ACL injury, but it may be more effective when combined with other types of training.

Resistance/Strength training increases strength in the muscles that support movement of the skeletal system, specifically joints.  When muscles are consistently and progressively overloaded, the result is an increase in muscle size, increased motor unit recruitment, and improved coordination — all of which influence muscle strength.

Neuromuscular training, a comprehensive approach that incorporates plyometric training, strength training, balance training, and proprioceptive training (the body’s reaction/response to external stimuli), is a sound training strategy for athletes.

Training should begin with a movement-based warmup and conclude with appropriate stretching and flexibility exercises.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

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