The 3 H’s for Athletes

17 Jun

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There are lots of qualities and characteristics that are important elements of athletic performance and achievement.  Ability, skill, and talent are — obviously — what every athlete aspires to develop.

But there are also intangible — effort-related — attributes that can improve any athlete’s performance.  Every team needs these athletes.  Persistent kids who work hard to get the most out of their talents and abilities.

Here are three of those attributes that will make any athlete hard to beat.

The 3 H’s for Athletes:

  1. Hard Work.  Get in the weight room.  Improve your strength, speed, agility, and athleticism.  Practice your sport-specific skills.  Improve your ball-handling, hitting, skating, foot skills, or whatever your sport requires.  Have a plan and work smart.
  2. Heart.  Believe in yourself.  Play with aggressiveness, confidence, and energy.  Hard work begets confidence.  Be confident, but not cocky.  Be positive, and have a “can-do” attitude.  Expect to succeed every time you’re on the field or court.
  3. Hustle.  It doesn’t matter whether or not you’re the most talented player on the field or court.  Never allow yourself to be out-worked.  Whatever your 100% looks like, give it.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

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Train Hard, Eat Well, and Get Some Sleep

10 Jun

Boy sleeping with basketballAs an athlete, you prepare by working hard in the weight room and being disciplined with your nutrition.

Don’t sabotage your efforts with bad sleep habits.

“Elite athletes now understand that ignoring their sleep can be as detrimental to their performance as taking to the field drunk,” says W. Christopher Winter, M.D., president of Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine and a consultant to several professional football, basketball, and baseball teams.

Athletes and active individuals should aim to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep, every night.

Here are some tips to stay on track with your sleep:

  • Boost your vitamin D.  During the winter, as sunlight exposure decreases, so do levels of vitamin D.  It’s an important nutrient for good sleep.  Get more vitamin D by eating salmon or other fatty fish, or by taking a supplement.
  • Eliminate distractions.  Don’t take the cell phone, computer, or TV to bed with you.  Try a sleep mask, earplugs, and lavender oil (research shows that the scent of lavender eases anxiety and insomnia).
  • Don’t “over-nap.”  Limit naps to 30 minutes to avoid sleeping too deeply and waking up groggy.  If you’re tired, go to bed earlier, and keep your wake-up times consistent.  Allow yourself to sleep in for 60-90 minutes on the weekends, but don’t sleep away too much of the day and deprive yourself of light exposure.

Also see related articles: Get Some Sleep, Improve Performance and Improve the Quality and Quantity of Your Sleep to Feel and Perform Better.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Every Day is Leg Day

3 Jun

Prowler[1]Leg strength and power are important components of athletic performance for virtually every sport.

And, while strong, powerful legs can help any athlete to be faster and more explosive, you don’t have to be an athlete to benefit from incorporating leg exercises into your training regimen.

Performing leg exercises like squats and lunges, and building stronger legs, can help you reduce your risk of injury; burn more calories and increase your metabolism; improve balance and stability; improve muscular endurance; relieve lower back pain; and improve your mobility. (please see 9 Reasons Not to Skip Leg Day)

Leg exercises that focus on hip/quad and posterior chain (glute/ham) should be a part of every training day.

And, forget about body-part training.  Even if you workout for aesthetic reasons, each and every workout should be a total-body workout.  It’s more functional and better reflects the demands and movement patterns of sports and everyday tasks — Train Like You Live, Work, Play.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

A “Must Read” for Parents of Athletes

27 May

My Biggest FanIn keeping with our recent theme of youth sports coaches and parents, I thought this article was appropriate, and a nice reminder for all of us.  It was shared with me by the mother of one of our clients, a club soccer player.  If you have a child (or children) involved in sports, please take a moment to read it.

10 Things Parents of Athletes Need to Know

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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What is the Goal of Youth Sports?

20 May

DSC_0035[1]Recently, I was talking with an old friend of mine, whose daughter is a high school freshman preparing for her first high school basketball season.  She is also a talented pitcher, and aspires to play high school softball.

He continued to tell me how the high school basketball coach is encouraging his daughter to play both sports, while the softball coach is pressuring her to quit basketball and concentrate only on softball.  Keep in mind, this young lady has not yet set foot on a high school basketball court or softball field.

A few years ago, I published a blog titled, Are Parents Ruining Youth Sports?  While this is not meant to be an indictment of all youth sports coaches, I guess — in some cases — you can probably add coaches to that list.

For years, I’ve watched youth sports coaches play a limited group of players — leaving several players on the bench for most/all of the game — in the interest of winning.  It seems to me that the goal should be player development, especially at the lower levels.  That and encouraging young players’ love for the game.  The best youth leagues are the ones that mandate fair (and not necessarily equal) playing time for every child.  Kids grow and develop differently, and there’s no guarantee that the best 9 or 10 year-old athletes will grow up to be capable high school players.  Even in high school, how does it benefit a basketball program when the freshman coach only plays 6 or 7 kids?  What does it really mean if the middle school team goes undefeated?

Some youth coaches put a lot of pressure on kids to specialize in one sport — and play it year-round — at a very young age.  They try to sell the athlete and the parents on the value of concentrating on one sport in the interest of high school stardom and a college scholarship.  In reality, only a portion of youth athletes go on to become “elite” high school athletes, and only a fraction of those players eventually earn athletic scholarships (see The Race to Nowhere In Youth Sports).

Ultimately, Youth Sports Should Focus on FUNdamentals and Developing Athleticism in Youth Athletes.  Too often, parents and coaches are chasing their own aspirations and dreams instead of helping their children and players explore their interests and passions.

Youth sports coaches and programs should focus not only on creating better athletes, but also better people.  There are lots of valuable life lessons that can be learned through participation in sports.

Do your “homework” when it comes to choosing a sports coach, team, or organization for your child.  You can’t always be selective, especially as it relates to in-school sports, but you have much more latitude when selecting the appropriate club or travel team for your child.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

No-Bake Energy Bites

13 May

765f27dee17fb177f3ad5d021376c879[1]Here’s a simple recipe for a healthy, tasty snack — No-Bake Energy Bites.

I was introduced to this recipe a few years ago, by my colleague and business partner, who brought them to our strength and conditioning facility.  Since then, I’ve seen the recipe (and several variations) posted on Facebook and other social media sites.

No-bake energy bites are easy to prepare (total prep time is about 10 minutes) and, once you and your family taste them, you won’t be able make them fast enough.

The original, basic recipe looks like this:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (dry) oatmeal (I used old-fashioned oats)
  • 2/3 cup toasted coconut flakes
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup ground flaxseed
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips or cacao nibs (optional)
  • 1/3 cup honey or agave nectar
  • 1 Tbsp. chia seeds (optional)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Stir all ingredients together in a medium bowl until thoroughly mixed. Cover and let chill in the refrigerator for half an hour
  2. Once chilled, roll into balls of whatever size you would like. (mine were about 1″ in diameter.) Store in an airtight container and keep refrigerated for up to 1 week
  3. Makes about 20-25 balls

The recipe can be modified to your taste.  You can add, subtract, or substitute ingredients.  If you’d like, press the mixture into a baking dish lined with parchment paper, and you can make energy bars instead.

Give ’em a try.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

The Chocolate Milk Diet

6 May

Chocolate-Milk[1]For years, we’ve advocated chocolate milk as a post-workout recovery drink — there’s always a jug of it in the fridge at our facility.  Backed by science, more than 20 studies support the benefits of recovering with the high-quality protein and nutrients in chocolate milk after a tough workout (to discover the science behind refueling with lowfat chocolate milk, click here).

Along those same lines, here’s an article from Eat This, Not That! titled, The Chocolate Milk Diet: No kidding, it really works.

The article touts calcium‘s role in building strong bones and the impact it has on blocking your body’s ability to absorb fat; the effect of vitamin D in calcium transport and its support of bone and muscle health; chocolate milk’s ability to provide a metabolic boost; and the relationship between protein (and muscle) and body weight.

As if any of us really needed a reason to drink more chocolate milk.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Eat a Rainbow of Power Foods

29 Apr

colorful_food[1]Here’s an excellent article and informative resource I found in Sports Illustrated.  The article links a variety of “multicolored” foods and the performance benefits they deliver.

Through lab testing, a dietician for a professional hockey team tracks the players’ organ function, blood counts, muscle function, and vitamin levels; then uses this information to provide a range of foods to help players prevent injuries, promote recovery, and maximize performance.

The spectrum of foods includes reds (watermelon); oranges/yellows (sweet potatoes, carrots, pineapples); greens (spinach, asparagus); blues/purples (blueberries, grapes, red cabbage); whites (Greek yogurt, garlic, onions); and blacks/browns (dried fruit, oatmeal, quinoa, nuts, seeds).

These foods provide naturally occurring phytochemicals and powerful antioxidants that help heal sore muscles and bruises, and support muscle health.Red Wings Power Diet

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Avoid These Strength Training Mistakes

15 Apr

too-much-weight[1]Of all the mistakes athletes make in their quest to get stronger and faster, most can be attributed to lack of education and awareness.

There are lots of mistakes I see, especially when I travel “off-site” to work with athletes, groups, and teams at high school and college weight rooms, and recreational facilities.  This list is not intended to be all-inclusive, but here are some of those mistakes:

  • Too much weight.  It’s important that athletes challenge themselves with heavy weight.  That’s one of the ways to engage fast-twitch muscle and build strength and power.  And, although we don’t encounter this very often with our female athletes, it’s a common issue with the guys.  The result is poor technique (which could be added to this list) — bad form and biomechanics — and an increased risk of injury.  Lifting a challenging weight with proper technique, through a full range-of-motion, is more effective and safer than overdoing it.
  • Not enough total-body training.  Once again, more of a problem with the guys (sorry, gentlemen), who are enamored with exercises that focus on their chest and biceps (in fairness, we also work with some females who are more than a little preoccupied with exercises that focus on abs and butts).  Think of your body as one, big, interconnected (and inter-dependent) functional unit.  More of your training should be movement-based, as opposed to muscle-focused.
  • Lack of variation.  Traditional, iron-pumping exercises are still some of the best for building strength and power, but we also use tools like kettlebells, medicine balls, stability balls, TRX suspension trainer, Rip Trainer, Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) bands, and balance-focused equipment like the Airex pad and BOSU.  Diversify your program by performing different exercises — using a variety of equipment — for similar movement patterns.
  • Overtraining.  This includes too much frequency; too much volume; too much focus on the same muscle groups; and too little rest.  The result is often an increase in the potential for injury.  Be smart.  The goal isn’t to do as much as you can; the goal is to do as much as you need to in order to achieve your goal.
  • Bad nutrition.  Another area of improvement for most of our athletes.  Virtually everything we do is fueled by nutrition and adequate hydration.  Quality, quantity, and frequency of meals and snacks are key components of performance nutrition; and dehydration is the primary cause of fatigue-related performance decline.
  • Inadequate rest/sleep.  Remember, it’s the “rest” phase that provides working muscles the opportunity for regeneration and growth.  You need to be training hard, eating right, and sleeping right to ensure continuous improvement.

Here’s a related article from my friends at WeckMethod, Functional Training: Top 5 Mistakes.

Get some help.  An experienced, qualified strength and conditioning professional can provide expert advice, guidance, and direction; and make a big difference in your development.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

The Best Body-Weight Exercises

8 Apr

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Pullup

Strength training is an important component of athletic performance improvement, along with sport-specific skill development; nutrition; rest and recovery; and mental preparation.  And, while traditional weight lifting exercises should be part of every athlete’s strength and conditioning program, don’t ignore or underestimate the impact that body-weight exercises can have on your development.

Here are 3 of my favorite body-weight exercises:

  • Pullups work the entire upper body and — performed correctly — lead to improvements in strength.  If you can’t (yet) do a pullup, use a TRX suspension trainer, resistance band, or spotter to assist.  Beginners can also start with the lat pulldown exercise.
  • Pushups are another great upper-body exercise, because they engage the chest, shoulders, back, and arms.  Master the basics first, then modify the exercise by placing medicine balls under your hands, use the TRX, elevate your feet, experiment with different hand positions, wear a weighted vest, or try them inverted (the inverted row is another of our favorite body-weight exercises, performed with a bar or TRX).
  • Lunges target the entire lower body, working the big muscles like the glutes and quads.  This versatile exercise can be varied by doing it stationary; walking forward, backward, or laterally; angled; and cross-over or cross-behind.

If you’re not already doing them, add these exercises to your regimen.  They can be performed virtually anywhere.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

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