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Welcome to ACSM's Sports Performance Center Blog

An international resource fueled by the science of sports medicine

The ACSM Sports Performance Center blog brings you up-to-date commentary from top ACSM experts around the world.

Opinions expressed in the Sports Performance Blog are the authors’. They do not necessarily reflect positions of ACSM.

  • Two athletes from different backgrounds both diagnosed with progressive conditions that have no cure. How can these athletes pursue their athletic endeavors?

    by Lauren Johnson | Feb 21, 2014

    Written by Kristin Duquette, US Paralympic Swimmer

    For athletes like myself and Gary Hall, Jr. being physically active proved to be an important part of our lives. Not only are we both swimmers, but both of us learned how to manage and deal with our conditions through physical activity. As Hall was faced with Type 1 Diabetes and I was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy, we both learned how to properly train and ultimately succeed in our sport.

    Much of our training came with lots of trial and error: mentally focusing and refocusing on what is possible. With Type 1 Diabetes, practices for Hall consisted of glucose monitoring and insulin treatments during his workout sets and competitions. During this process, Hall learned how to maintain a steady insulin level by matching carbohydrates consumed with the amount and level of physical activity. Training with Muscular Dystrophy brought its own challenges. With a body having the potential to constantly change, much of my training was finding what strokes should be modified for best water dynamics in addition to avoid fatiguing. Another challenge included how to isolate and engage a muscle without compensating from other parts of my body. And with an unconventional body, training and physical activity requires innovative thinking from the athlete, parents, coaches, trainers, and doctors.

    Having a progressive condition is not only manageable, but one can benefit from physically activity. I realized this epiphany a few months after I did not make the 2012 US London Paralympic Team. Different doctors told me that training helped maintain my strength and mobility. Swimming was, and will always be one of the best things I can do for my condition. Even before I was diagnosed at age 9, swimming established the neural pathways and mental memory in my brain which became evident when I retaught a different body how to swim after a 6 year break. Regardless of competition, sport and physical activity provide more benefits than we may know. Physical activity can truly shatter our limitations on one’s potential and how far the human body can truly go. 

  • Coping with Sports Injuries & Rehab – Reframing Attitudes & Goals Pays Dividends

    by Lauren Johnson | Feb 18, 2014

    Written by Matt Cuccaro, Ed.M., and Greg Chertok, M.Ed., CC-AASP

    Under the illumination of the Olympic torch, many human stories are emerging in Sochi - from some extraordinary athletes. The unfortunate reality of training, competing and pushing human limits is that injury is a potential result. Lindsay Vonn’s recent departure from the US Ski Team is just one example of the many difficult decisions athletes are facing regarding injuries throughout the Olympic Games.

    Overcoming an injury is something most athletes will face at least once throughout a career. Here are a few brief ideas to assist any athlete who is managing the difficulty and uncertainty of injury recovery.

    Beginning:

    Much the same as an athlete cannot choose his or her opponent or win/loss record, an athlete cannot control the time, place or severity of an injury. One of the most important mental factors in effectively overcoming injury comes in the form of acceptance. It is natural to have an emotional reaction to injury, yet helplessness, anger, and denial are not emotions which will assist the individual to progress or adhere to a rehabilitation program. Once an athlete accepts the presence of an injury, he or she tends to become more recovery-focused and action-oriented (“How can I get better?”). Accepting something that may impede participation in an event for which one has trained for so many years is remarkably difficult. Yet, athletes who become more emotionally charged with embracing the challenge of recovery tend to adhere to medical advice and achieve better results in the end.

    Middle:

    Medical staff becomes the coach

    Because many athletes are accustomed to being healthy and functioning at a high level, spending time with a medical team – which, to most athletes, is synonymous with dysfunction and poor health – may be uncomfortable. Rightfully so, athletes have a closer and more trusting relationship with their athletic team than with their medical team. A coach is meant to assist an athlete in reaching his or her goals, while a doctor or physical therapist is often indication that a barrier has arisen that might hinder achievement of those goals. However, effective injury recovery revolves around the close work of the athlete and their medical staff. Those who recognize and embrace their new team will build stronger relationships, gain deeper trust and likely to increase adherence to expert advice along the road to recovery.

    Injury recovery becomes new sport

    Much the same as the medical staff becomes a new coach, injury recovery becomes the new sport. As much as an athlete yearns to resume play, physical and mental investment into the rehabilitation process will prove to create better use of time and energy. Some days may be filled with stretching and strengthening, while others might include ice and repeated rest. An athlete who stays committed and active with their rehab process, the same as they would their sport training, will find greater purpose and feel more fulfilled along the path back to the playing field.

    End:

    Beware of “ticking clock”…deadlines become distractions

    Having a specific date or game in mind to come back to the field may prove to be more of a distraction than a motivator throughout the recovery process, especially as that day approaches. Game time doesn’t make an athlete ready, recovery makes an athlete ready. Those who stay focused and committed to recovery will make a stronger and healthier return to the playing field, while those who allow certain games or dates to dictate their return might find themselves right back at the beginning of the injury recovery process.

    How an athlete views an injury is ultimately the choice of the athlete. Observe the behaviors of the athletes at the highest level and you will see a reaction to injury not unlike the one described above. From the beginning to end stages of an injury, an athlete has complete control over his or her physical and emotional response. Olympic athletes understand and adhere to a more facilitative response, one that will quicken the recovery process and leave them fully ready to return to their sport.

    About Matt Cuccaro, Ed.M.: Matt Cuccaro is the Director of Mental Training at Ivan Lendl International Junior Tennis Academy in Hilton Head Island, SC. He has a Masters of Education in Counseling/Sport Psychology from Boston University and is an active member of the Association for Applied Sport Psychology. Matt has worked with athletes, coaches, and administrators in a number of sports from the junior to world-class professional level.

    About Greg Chertok, Ed.M.: Greg Chertok is the Director of Mental Training at CourtSense, a high performance junior tennis academy in Bergen County, NJ. He has a Masters of Education in Counseling/Sport Psychology from Boston University and is a certified consultant with the Association for Applied Sport Psychology. Greg has worked with athletes from the junior to Olympic level.

    Note: The views expressed in ACSM Olympics Hot Topics are those of the contributors only, and should not be construed as official statements of the American College of Sports Medicine. 

  • Active Voice: Equipment & Technology Issues in the Paralympics

    by User Not Found | Feb 17, 2014

    Written By Peter Van de Vliet, Ph.D.

    Dr. Peter Van de Vliet is the Medical & Scientific Director, International Paralympic Committee (IPC). He holds a PhD in Physiotherapy and Motor Rehabilitation from Leuven University (Belgium) and held a post-doctoral research position in Adapted Physical Activity at that university prior to moving to Bonn, Germany, for the actual position as IPC Medical & Scientific Director. The portfolio includes the coordination of anti-doping and medical services, classification, and sports science developments in the Paralympic Movement. Dr. Van de Vliet has (co-)authored several scientific publications and book chapters on the subject, and coordinates the relationships with internationally leading research bodies in the respective areas.

    Equipment rules are becoming more prominent in the Paralympic Movement. As a result, the International Paralympic Committee’s (IPC) Sports Science Committee recently held a scientific forum to exchange current information, research, and expertise that focused entirely on equipment and technology in Paralympic Sports. This conference, “VISTA 2013”, was held May 1-4 last year at the Gustav-Stresemann Institute in Bonn, Germany. The conference program describes the complex issues that the IPC must address in determining what equipment may or may not be approved for use by competing Paralympic athletes. What are the implications of a technology for competitive fairness? Is the device a necessity that enables the individual to participate or might it enhance performance in some manner? Does it represent a ‘grass roots’ approach that could be broadly applied by low-income countries or is it a high-tech, individualized application that only athletes from selected countries might be able to access?

    Equipment rules are a sport-specific subject. To effectively address those details in this brief commentary would require that experts from each sport present specific and detailed responses. Rather, it is better here to avoid such a case-by-case discussion, and instead draw your attention to the IPC Equipment Policy. This policy is part of the IPC Handbook (see Section 2, Chapter 3.10), to which all members of the Paralympic Movement (sports and athletes) must to adhere.

    In brief, this policy states that all adaptive equipment used in a Paralympic sport must be in compliance with four main principles:

    1. Safety: all equipment must be safe for the athlete, any opponent, and may not cause irreversible damage to the field of play;
    2. Fairness: sport rules must detail the provisions of all equipment in terms of dimensions, weight, and use of material;
    3. Universality: prototype equipment is not allowed, and costs must be 'under control' to avoid that access to equipment becomes a matter of exclusivity. For this reason, the IPC also actively engages in the development of low cost equipment (for examples, see the website motivation.uk);
    4. Physical Prowess: equipment may not be steered by machine, computer or robot.
    For further information on this topic, I highly recommend the following journal article by Brendan Burkett, PhD, from the University of the Sunshine Coast (Australia): Paralympic Sports Medicine—Current Evidence in Winter Sport: Considerations in the Development of Equipment Standards for Paralympic Athletes. Professor Burkett is a member of the IPC Sports Science Committee.    

  • Performing at High Altitudes

    by User Not Found | Feb 13, 2014

    Written By Jordan Guillot, ACSM Health Fitness Specialist

    Varying altitudes may propose a new challenge for athletes competing in the Winter Olympic Games. As the elevation above sea level increases, not only does the barometric pressure of the air decrease, but the pressure of oxygen in that air also decreases (Exercise Physiology, McArdle, Katch, and Katch, 6th ed., 2007).

    This decrease in pressure of oxygen becomes that new challenge. The diffusion of oxygen from inspired air in the lungs across a membrane and into the blood stream depends on a pressure gradient (from area of higher pressure to area of lower pressure). As blood flows through the body, muscles and other tissues utilize the oxygen, which decreases the pressure of oxygen in the blood stream before returning to the heart. Once this blood reaches the lungs from the heart, its pressure of oxygen is much less than that of the inspired air.

    This difference in pressure allows diffusion of oxygen from the greater pressure inside the lungs and into the area of lower pressure – the blood stream – to be delivered throughout the body. The blood leaving the lungs is what is commonly known as the oxygenated blood, and is vital to muscle and tissue function. At higher altitudes, as mentioned before, the pressure of oxygen is lower than at sea level, and that pressure continues to decrease with every increase in elevation. If the pressure of oxygen lowers in inspired air, the difference in pressures between the inspired air and the blood stream would decrease, also. This decrease in difference lowers the rate at which diffusion takes place. Thus, a decrease in oxygen saturation of the blood can be expected. Now the muscles have an inadequate supply of oxygen, which inevitably affects and decreases performance than what can be expected at sea level or at lower altitudes.

    Olympic Winter Games rules state that a downhill skiing course must have a vertical drop of 800-1100 meters (2600-3280 ft.) (FIS Ski Rules 2008, 79). This is more than enough vertical distance for the start and finish to differentiate in their pressures of oxygen. However, there is a question of how much oxygen pressure change effects might come into play. Given these events are relatively brief and as a consequence, is a substantial part of the needed energy generated by anaerobic pathways?

  • Bioenergetics and the Olympic Athlete

    by User Not Found | Feb 11, 2014

    By Mark Deaton, Ph.D., CSCS, EIM

    We all desire to be bigger, faster, stronger – but how do we get there?

    Some people look to the $400 billion supplement industry, while others take a more natural approach. Bioenergetics is the term used for the interactive energy systems within the human body and how energy is expended through exercise. It is defined as the conversion of protein, carbohydrates and fats into biologically usable energy that can be used for muscular activity (Powers, S.K, Howley, E.T. 2009, p 23). Fueling a working body is as vital to training and performance as gasoline or electricity is for an automobile. Some may think understanding the biochemical components of each food isn’t necessary, as long as you “just eat it!” But we know food comes in various nutrient levels; therefore, it would be best to understand proper nutrition. It is critical for an athlete to have a better understanding of bioenergetics to increase the efficiency of their personal performance (Powers, S.K., Howley, E.T. 2009, p. 23-24).

    The three energy systems are: 1) Phosphagen (ATP-PC) – responsible for producing energy for the first few seconds of any athletic event; 2) Glycolysis – continues energy production from 30 seconds to three minutes into the athletic event via the breakdown of carbohydrates from blood glucose or muscle glycogen stores; and 3) Oxidative (aerobic) – produces energy after three minutes until the event ends or fatigue limits the performance. The primary source of energy produced by these three systems is adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Depending on the intensity and duration of the athletic event, these energy systems will interact with one another and even revert back and forth on a continuum of ATP production. An example would be a sprint at the end of an endurance event where a crossover effect to fast glycolysis will occur (Baechle, T.R., Earle, R.W., 2008, p. 22-36). Educating yourself on the effects of certain nutrients and their combinations will provide a potential natural advantage that your energy systems will utilize.

    So, what do you need to know? Educate yourself as an athlete and as a health professional who works with athletes regarding bioenergetics and proper nutrition for performance. Before recommending or taking supplements, reevaluate training principles (overload, progression, etc.), and supplement safety. Analyze current calorie-to-protein intake from natural sources (Hoffman, J. 2010, SSTC). Chances are you may find an area to manipulate slightly that could result in a more productive performance.

    POST YOUR COMMENTS:

    How does your food intake affect your performance?

    Knowing the sport-specific demands of your sport, how have you manipulated your training and nutrition?

    What are your thoughts on nutrient timing (pre-event, post-event) and what foods are ingested?

    References

    Baechle, T.R., Earle, R.W. (2008). Essentials of strength training and conditioning. National Strength and Conditioning Association. 3rd edition.

    Hoffman, J. (2010). Sport-specific training conference. National Strength and Conditioning Association.

    Powers, S.K., Howley, E.T. (2009). Exercise physiology: Theory and application to fitness and performance. 7th edition. McGraw-Hill, New York, NY.    

  • Olympic Figure Skating: What It Takes

    by User Not Found | Feb 09, 2014

    Written By Gemmie S. Devera, MD, MS, MP

    Olympic Figure Skating consists of women’s singles, men’s singles, pairs, and ice dancing. Elite competitors skate at the senior level. To reach this level, skaters must pass 16 rigorous tests in Moves in the Field and Free Skating. Moves in the Field showcase skating skills and transition elements such as spirals, a move that involves balancing on the skating leg and extending the free leg, or non-skating leg, into the air. Free Skating moves highlight jumps, spins, and transition elements in a choreographed program. Ice dancers complete a separate series of dance tests.

    Each Olympic year, the U.S. Figure Skating National Championships double as the Olympic Trials. The number of athletes a country can send to the Games depends on the country’s placements at the previous year’s World Figure Skating Championships. Winners from the last U.S. National Championships or World Championships automatically qualify for the U.S. Nationals. Other athletes qualify for the Nationals from a top placement at another major event or by advancing through both Regional and Sectional Championships.  U.S. Figure Skating (USFS) then chooses the Olympic Team based on placements at Nationals and the skaters’ previous body of work through the years.

    At the Olympics, the women, men, and pairs have six minutes to complete short and long programs. The top men will attempt quadruple jumps that rotate four times before landing. The top women will attempt triple – triple combinations. Pairs will attempt dangerous twists, throws and lifts. Ice dancers will display their unison with intricate footwork sequences in three dance performances.   A new team skating event will debut in Sochi, featuring top skaters in each discipline to determine which country reigns supreme.

    Reaching the Olympic podium takes strength, flexibility, endurance, musicality, charisma and strong mindsets. Skaters typically train at least 15 hours on the ice, five days per week, and also do off-ice training. Skaters need strong core muscles to pull the body in tightly and rotate. A triple axel, for example, uses a forward take-off from a quarter-of-an-inch skate blade and completes three-and-one-half revolutions in 0.7 seconds. Skaters acquire strength from skating, Pilates, or weight training. Yoga and ballet increase flexibility and awareness of body position in space. Run-throughs of skating programs build endurance. Music and the arts develop musicality and a point of view. Periodization of training helps skaters avoid injury. Elite skaters have achieved a certain level of athletic performance, and a positive mindset allows skaters to express figure skating’s unique blend of artistry and athleticism on the Olympic stage.

    Discussion question: What training aspects in the days before the Olympics, mental or physical, are most important for a peak performance?

  • Diabetes and Physical Activity

    by Lauren Johnson | Feb 08, 2014


    Written by Barbara Bushman, Ph.D., FACSM

    Diabetes is a disease characterized by high blood glucose (high sugar in the blood). Diabetes affects 346 million people worldwide.

    • Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease which causes the destruction of insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.
    • Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body no longer uses the insulin produced, resulting in insulin resistance.

    In both types of diabetes blood glucose levels become elevated without the assistance of insulin to help move glucose into the body's cells.

    Athletes must have glucose (carbohydrate) available in the muscle cells for high intensity activity and so it would seem diabetes and athletic competition would be a poor match. On the contrary, former successful Olympians (swimmer Gary Hall Jr., volleyball player Kevin Hansen, cross country skier Kris Freeman) as well as many others (marathoner Missy Foy, football quarterback Jay Cutler) have been very successful athletes while managing their diabetes.

    Physical activity and a focus on diet are two important lifestyle factors for everyone, and are especially important for individuals with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Monitoring blood glucose levels to ensure adequate glucose levels are maintained is an added challenge, but one worth the effort, not just for those pursuing Olympic glory, but for everyone.

    Read more from the ACSM Sports Performance Center

    Recommended Resources

    Barbara Bushman, Ph.D., FACSM, is a professor at Missouri State University. Dr. Bushman has authored papers related to menopause, factors influencing exercise participation, and deep water run training. She authored ACSM’s Action Plan for Menopause (Human Kinetics, 2005), edited ACSM’s Complete Guide to Fitness & Health (Human Kinetics, 2011), and serves as an associate editor for ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal

    Note: The views expressed in ACSM Olympics Hot Topics are those of the contributors only, and should not be construed as official statements of the American College of Sports Medicine.

  • Sport-Related Concussion & the Olympics

    by User Not Found | Feb 07, 2014

    Written By Michael J. O’Brien, MD and William P. Meehan III, M.D.

    Sport-related concussion, sometimes referred to as mild traumatic brain injury, is a temporary, trauma-induced interruption of normal brain function. Concussions occur due to a rapid, rotational acceleration of the brain, often as a result of a blow to the head or face. It is a functional injury, as opposed to a structural injury. There is no detectable bleeding, swelling or bruising of the brain.    

    Concussions occur in all sports. Although much of the medical literature on sport-related concussions focuses on American football players, higher incidence rates have been reported in one of the sports featured in the winter Olympics: ice hockey.1,2  Concussion has also been reported in skiing, snowboarding, luge, and speed skating.3-7 8,

    Concussion is suspected if, after a rapid acceleration of the head, an athlete shows any of the signs of concussion or experiences any of the symptoms of concussion. Signs of concussion include vomiting, amnesia, imbalance, confusion, and less commonly loss of consciousness, among others. Symptoms of concussion include headaches, dizziness, nausea, sensitivity to light, and changes in sleep patterns, among others.

    On-site management of brain injury during the Olympics will start with assessment of the airway, breathing, and circulation of the injured athlete and proceed along established protocols. Once all other injuries are addressed, focus will turn to managing the athletes’ concussions.

    The mainstays of concussion management are physical and cognitive rest.10-12 The athlete will avoid strenuous activity and rigorous training during the recovery period. In order to achieve cognitive rest, intellectually challenging tasks, such as studying, reading, playing video games, and working online, will be minimized. Once the injured athlete’s symptoms subside, they will be started on a return-to-play regimen, beginning with some light aerobic activity, and advancing as tolerated by symptoms to more rigorous activities. Stages for the return-to-play progression have been outlined by the international conferences on concussion in sport. The stages from the 4th conference are shown below (table).11

    Stage

    Level of Activity

    1

     No activity  (symptom limited physical and cognitive rest)

    2

    Light aerobic exercise e.g., walking, swimming, stationary cycling; <70% maximum permitted heart rate)

    3

    Sport-specific exercise, (e.g., skating drills in hockey, running drills in soccer)

    4

    Noncontact training drills (progression to more complex training drills (e.g. passing drills in football and ice hockey) may start progressive resistance training

    5

    Full-contact training, following medical clearance

    6

    Return-to-play, normal game play

    Table.  Return-to-play stages as adapted from the 4th international conference on concussion in sport.11.  Athletes should proceed to a given level, only if asymptomatic at the previous level.  Each level should take, at a minimum, 24 hours to complete.11

    According to recent consensus statements, same-day return-to-play should no longer be allowed.11

    Readers are encouraged to post their comments on the following question: Does the opportunity to win an Olympic medal outweigh the potential risks associated with an earlier return to play after a sport-related concussion

    _______________________

    REFERENCES

    1.         Koh JO, Cassidy JD, Watkinson EJ. Incidence of concussion in contact sports: a systematic review of the evidence. Brain Inj 2003;17:901-17.

    2.         Tommasone BA, Valovich McLeod TC. Contact sport concussion incidence. Journal of athletic training 2006;41:470-2.

    3.         Chaze B, McDonald P. Head injuries in winter sports: downhill skiing, snowboarding, sledding, snowmobiling, ice skating and ice hockey. Neurologic clinics 2008;26:325-32; xii-xiii.

    4.         Cummings RS, Jr., Shurland AT, Prodoehl JA, Moody K, Sherk HH. Injuries in the sport of luge. Epidemiology and analysis. The American journal of sports medicine 1997;25:508-13.

    5.         Florenes TW, Bere T, Nordsletten L, Heir S, Bahr R. Injuries among male and female World Cup alpine skiers. British journal of sports medicine 2009;43:973-8.

    6.         Quinn A, Lun V, McCall J, Overend T. Injuries in short track speed skating. The American journal of sports medicine 2003;31:507-10.

    7.         Wasden CC, McIntosh SE, Keith DS, McCowan C. An analysis of skiing and snowboarding injuries on Utah slopes. The Journal of trauma 2009;67:1022-6.

    8.         Steenstrup SE, Bere T, Bahr R. Head injuries among FIS World Cup alpine and freestyle skiers and snowboarders: a 7-year cohort study. British journal of sports medicine 2014;48:41-5.

    9.         Graves JM, Whitehill JM, Stream JO, Vavilala MS, Rivara FP. Emergency department reported head injuries from skiing and snowboarding among children and adolescents, 1996-2010. Injury prevention : journal of the International Society for Child and Adolescent Injury Prevention 2013;19:399-404.

    10.       Cantu RC. Consensus statement on concussion in sport--the 3rd International Conference on Concussion, Zurich, November 2008. Neurosurgery 2009;64:786-7.

    11.       McCrory P, Meeuwisse W, Aubry M, et al. Consensus statement on concussion in sport--the 4th International Conference on Concussion in Sport held in Zurich, November 2012. Clin J Sport Med 2013;23:89-117.

    12.       Brown NJ, Mannix RC, O'Brien MJ, Gostine D, Collins MW, Meehan WP, 3rd. Effect of Cognitive Activity Level on Duration of Post-Concussion Symptoms. Pediatrics 2014.

  • Vitamin D and Athletics

    by User Not Found | Feb 07, 2014

    Written By Alan Remde, M.D., FAAFP

    Vitamin D (actually a hormone), is an essential fat-soluble hormone required for the health of the bones, muscles, heart and blood vessels, nervous, immune and other systems of the body. Given that many of these systems are critical for athletic performance, the adequacy of vitamin D status is relevant for Olympic athletes.

    Sources & requirements: The majority (~ 90%) of vitamin D is derived from direct sunlight (cannot be through windows, sunscreens or clothes) when the sun is at least 40 degrees above the horizon. Thus at latitudes above 35 degrees, there is a “vitamin D winter” when none of us can make enough vitamin D from the sun, and we rely on stored vitamin D banked during the warmer months. The amount of sunlight needed is modest – in the range of 10 to 45 minutes per day, and thus should not pose a significant risk of skin cancer in most people. This range varies due to factors such as darkness of the skin, older age, air pollution and many other factors that reduce the ability to make Vitamin D from sunlight. For example, for people with medium-light skin who gradually tan but sometimes burn (Skin Type 3), 15-30 minutes of sunlight most days is probably adequate. Only a small proportion comes from dietary sources such as oily fish and fortified dairy products, and these should not solely be relied on to satisfy the body’s total requirement.

    Vitamin D deficiency is common in athletes. Deficiency is associated with osteoporosis (thinning of bones), stress fractures, muscle weakness, falls, poor coordination, depression and fatigue, as well as many other problems. More research is required to confirm that optimizing Vitamin D levels improves performance. (Cannell, J. J., et. al.  Athletic Performance and Vitamin D. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc., Vol. 41, No. 5, pp. 1102–1110, 2009).

    Vitamin D status can be assessed with a blood test for 25 (OH) Vitamin D level. Normal is considered by many to be ~ 30 – 60 ng/ml. The range of normal 25 (OH) Vitamin D level is controversial, however. The IOM in a major recent review states that the lower limit of normal level is 20 ng/mL. There is also preliminary evidence suggesting that Afro-Americans can have even lower level than this and be healthy. This finding awaits confirmation.

    Prevention: Taking 1000 to 2000 units daily of Vitamin D3 in the colder months will help maintain stores.

    Deficiency is treated with higher doses, e.g. 50,000 units oral vitamin D3 weekly for 8–16 weeks. (Modern nutrition in health and disease/senior editor, Maurice E. Shils; associate editors, Moshe Shike…[et al.].—10th ed. Chapter on Vitamin D)

    Discussion question: What other vitamins may be necessary for athletic success in the Olympic Games?

  • Who am I after a shattered Olympic dream?

    by User Not Found | Feb 06, 2014

    Written By Sharon A. Chirban, Ph.D.

    That is the question often haunting an athlete following an unexpected loss during high-level competition. For many athletes, it was achieving Olympic-level competition that drove years and years of training and preparation. For some sports (figure skating, ski racing, skeleton, etc.), the Olympics are the largest venue for competition and the Games only come around every four years.

    Reorganizing one's identity following athletic loss can be one of the most challenging experiences an athlete faces after the rigors of training and mental preparation for the Olympic stage. Depending on the reasons for the loss (and they have ranged, in Olympic years, from family tragedies to catastrophic injury to burnout, to just not “having it” on the day of competition), the athlete can have a range of feelings from shame for self or for one’s country to anger and extreme feelings of disappointment and/or disorientation.

    Some pick themselves back up and commit immediately to their next four years of training. This is a quick resolution to restore the identity and pursue their life path – as many athletes do, over and over. For others, the disillusionment, the pain, the shame can last for months, even years. For these athletes, it’s often the end of a long road and without glory. It can be devastating to try to make sense of the years of commitment to training and a disciplined lifestyle with an unintended outcome.

    Many high-level athletes talk about not knowing who they are outside of their performance domain. Researchers (Palmer, 1981) explain that who athletes feel they are is heavily dependent on what roles they have carried out. For some, it’s the only role they know, and adjustment to post-athletic life can be very difficult. Those who identify more with their athletic role (Brewer, Van Raalte, and Linder, 1993) often have traded other life roles in order to pursue training and competition at the highest levels. Recovering from this kind of identity disorganization often follows similar stages as recovering from loss. Some athletes who do not move through the phases with ease may need professional assistance to negotiate a reorganized identity to make a healthy transition to post-athletic career adjustment.

    Post your comments: What cases of emotional distress and disappointment from competitive loss have you seen in athletes you’ve worked with?

  • Embracing Challenges for Performance Excellence

    by User Not Found | Feb 05, 2014

    Written By Greg Chertok, M.Ed., CC-AASP

    In pursuit of long-term goals, rarely does the elite athlete enjoy the luxury of a smooth ride.  Very few athletes achieve international greatness in sports with ease, and without obstacles. And especially at the Olympic Games, the presence of obstacles is inevitable, that is, the opportunity to experience “choppy waters” exists at every turn. For instance, the athlete whose life is dedicated to excellence in his or her sport is highly routinized – if not by choice then by necessity – and likely follows a strict daily regimen of sleep, meals, and training. Even down time, or rest, is deliberately structured into the schedule.  Imagine how an ultra-competitive, obsessively disciplined athlete may respond, emotionally and in performance, to a significantly overhauled schedule and new environment upon arriving at the Olympic Village in Sochi.   Combine this with the frequent media distractions, unfamiliar playing conditions, and the presence of family and friends, and it becomes inevitable for an athlete to place a greater value on the Games, causing performance anxiety to heighten and the managing of that anxiety to become more difficult.  Since challenges are guaranteed for every athlete as he or she strives for individual sporting goals, it is necessary to embrace challenges in order to enhance performance.

    While the challenges of participating in the Games may be unique and at times unpleasant, mentally tough athletes will know that obstacles also provide opportunities for learning, growth and development. When embraced, challenges, such as having to adjust to a new schedule and competition environment, are seen as exciting tasks to be overcome rather than situations to be avoided. Confronting and embracing challenge allows athletes to develop skills for focusing and relaxing during potentially stressful endeavors on and off the playing field. Athletes who avoid challenges, or choose not to embrace them, will often remain problem-focused and not solution-focused, and therefore have a more difficult time coping with the adjustments.

    Consider a fitness-related example. Curling a five-lb. weight for several repetitions is not a remarkably challenging task - for most, it's rather simple. As a result, very little muscular growth will occur, and the biceps will remain as it was. Curling a 25-lb. weight for several repetitions is a far more difficult task, and while the feeling in the moment may be uncomfortable, unfamiliar, or distressing, the muscle is sure to grow when put under that kind of stress. The mind, too, needs to be put under stress in order to learn and grow. A player who adopts this approach will not only accept challenges, but begin to actively seek them out as a means of growth. What a wonderful difference between this and the athlete who actively avoids challenging or uncomfortable situations, and subsequently performs poorly due to the heightened cognitive tension (“I don’t want to be here!  I don’t think I can do this!”) as well as somatic tension (muscular tightness, stiff and overly mechanical movements).

    Elite athletes also know that embracing challenge means maintaining a healthy performance intensity. That is, they understand the importance, and appreciate the inherent difficulty, of not allowing anxiety to cause them to play over-aroused (“too intense”) or under-aroused (“too relaxed”), both of which can hinder performance. A recent Harvard Business School study reiterates a similar point. Contrary to the belief of many coaches and athletes, whose automatic reaction to anxiety is to relax, there are benefits of getting excited in the face of performance anxiety rather than using mental energy to attempt to calm down. While trying to calm down to manage stress is preferred to simply suppressing or hiding anxiety, the study revealed that reappraising anxiety as excitement is easier and far more effective than trying to calm down. Whereas anxiety is a negative, aversive emotion that harms performance, excitement is a positive, pleasant emotion that can improve performance.

    Any performer who is able to reframe the physiological response from “I’m feeling nervous, I better calm down now to “I’m feeling excited” is taking advantage of the natural surge of sympathetic nervous system energy being experienced. Repurposing anxiety as excitement can help an athlete feel in control, which will improve self-efficacy and focus. A noted difference between professional and amateur athletes, then, is not necessarily the amount of anxiety experienced, but rather their interpretation of it.

  • New Year, New Fitness Habits

    by Lauren Johnson | Feb 04, 2014

    Along with an abundance of family get-togethers, pitch-in meals, and throwing normal rules about dessert out the window-the Holiday season is also one for reflection and goal-setting. And after a month surrounded by "sugar and spice, and everything nice", fitness is often top of mind when the New Year rolls around.

    Despite all the good intentions that energize thoughts of another year, an estimated 60-percent of gym memberships never get used. While we can chalk that fitness gap up to a lack of priority, winter weather, or other responsibilities-fitness professionals can help motivate, inform, and hold accountable those individuals who aren't just looking to set a goal, but reaching, excelling, and exceeding.

    Here are a few helpful strategies for the flurry of New Year's fitness plans. Share your favorites in the comments below!

    Schedule Time

    It's quick and easy to say you'll workout 3 days a week, but as the calendar moves on and fills up, you can find yourself short on time. Establish regular days of the week and book them in your calendar, planner, or online schedule. Block out time for your workout, and you'll have one less excuse for missing one!

    Set Specific Goals

    Specific goals can help take away some of the fuzziness associated with individual workouts, which can easily vary in frequency or quality. Instead, set specific and reasonable goals attached to a date or achievement. Enter a 5K race, or identify a pace or weight-training goal that pushes you to excel but also recognizes your starting point.

    Find a Friend or Class

    Part of any goal-setting regimen is accountability, and fitness goals are no different. If you struggle with working out by yourself, find a workout partner who shares your schedule. Or, find a fitness class, pick-up game, or other activity to attend on a regular basis. And if none of those work; share your plans and goals with your friends and family-the more people you tell about it, the more accountable you'll feel.

    Incentivize Your Training

    Sometimes, you need a little motivational help to reach your end goals. Whether it's a favorite food, a trip someplace special, or even a new piece of workout gear-rewarding yourself after reaching a goal can help give you that extra push towards the next step. Many gyms and fitness facilities offer incentives for participation as well, in case you're not one for rewarding yourself.

    Use an App

    Are you a phone person? If you just can't put down your smartphone, consider all the different types of fitness and healthy living applications. From calorie counters, to run distance trackers, and more-you're sure to find a visually appealing app that keeps you invested in your goals. Taking it another step, there are even social networks you can join to follow and even compete against yourself and others.

    How do you help your clients set and achieve their New Year's fitness goals? 

  • Snacking Tips for Olympic Viewing

    by Lauren Johnson | Feb 04, 2014

    Written by Felicia D. Stoler, DCN, MS, RD, FACSM
    Nutritionist & Exercise Physiologist

    I have always found the Olympics fascinating since I was a little girl- I could watch for hours uninterrupted. My guess is plenty of adults will be doing that as well this summer. However, unlike the mass food consumption of Super Bowl Sunday, the Olympics last for two weeks. In order to prevent increasing your waistline while watching the competitions, it’s important to be mindful of what you are eating. In addition to food selection, it’s also important to measure out your food or snacks onto a plate or in a bowl. Be aware of the calories you may be drinking as well, unless water is your beverage of choice. I suggest that you use the commercial breaks as an opportunity to stretch and even exercise.

    Fresh fruits and vegetables always make great choices for snacks, and if you must dip, try to make a dip using fat-free Greek yogurt as the base. Salsas can be low in calories and packed with flavor. Consider hummus or other bean dips in lieu of the more calorie-laden varieties. Baked chips are a great alternative to the regular variety, unless you can exert some self-control and not eat an entire ten ounce bag of chips (one serving is one ounce!). Pretzel flats and pita chips are a favorite dipping food in our home, and try to choose low-fat cheeses.    

    If you happen to be consuming alcoholic beverages, I highly recommend a full glass of water or club soda between beverages. It helps you to stay hydrated and will decrease the calories you consume from alcohol (which is 7 kcal/g – making it closer in calories to fat).

    Enjoy being a spectator and while the summer Olympics only happen every four years, we have plenty of opportunities to over eat this summer. Don’t end up with Olympic rings around your waist!

    What do you think? Join the conversation on our Facebook Page and on Twitter.

     Felicia D. Stoler, DCN, MS, RD, FACSM, is a registered dietitian, exercise physiologist and expert consultant in disease prevention, wellness and healthful living. She is the current president of ACSM’s Greater New York Regional Chapter, and she is a member of the American Dietetic Association’s House of Delegates. She maintains a private practice, is a consultant and has been on many national television and radio programs. She is the former host of the popular television series “Honey, We’re Killing the Kids,” which focused on issues of parenting, nutrition and physical activity in families.

    Note: The views expressed in ACSM Olympics Hot Topics are those of the contributors only, and should not be construed as official statements of the American College of Sports Medicine.

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  • Sports Nutrition Unplugged

    by User Not Found | Jan 28, 2014

    Written by Felicia D. Stoler, DCN, MS, RD, FACSM
    Nutritionist & Exercise Physiologist

    When one works in a lab setting doing research and has access to equipment and testing, sports nutrition is really a precise science. However, for most athletes, even those bound for the Olympics, until they are part of the official Olympic team they hopefully use the same principles we have espoused for many years.

    The factors that are important for Olympic athletes include fueling and hydration (rest, too). The nutrients recommendations, per the joint position of the ACSM and Academy of Dietetics and Nutrition remain the same: 

    • Protein – 15-20%
      • 1.2 – 1.4 g/kg/bw/day for endurance athletes
      • 1.6 – 1.7 g/kg/bw/day for strength athletes
      • RDA 0.8 - 1.0 g/kg/bw/day
    • Carbohydrate 50-60%
      • 6-10 g/kg/bw/day
    • Fat <30% total kcal/day
      • Less than 10% from saturated fat

    Fluid needs are an important aspect of sports performance – for maintaining body temperature, blood pressure, circulation of oxygen, glucose, etc. Replenishment of fluids/water is 16-24 fl oz for each pound of body weight lost during exercise. Electrolyte replenishment is based upon the extent of sweat loss. Some people know they are super salty sweaters because they are sometimes covered in salt after long durations of exercise (or see salt residue on clothing).

    For endurance events – maintaining carbohydrate levels is important: 1.5g of carbs/kg body weight during first 30 min and again every 2 hours for 4 to 6 hours. Regardless of the particular sport, protein replenishment is important for recovery, but it should be combined with carbohydrates. The carbohydrate to protein replenishment ratio is 3:1 or 4:1.

    When athletes compete internationally, sleep and usual foods may be a challenge. The mantra of all sports nutritionists to athletes: don’t do anything new the day of a race. Practice is a great opportunity to tweak fueling, hydration and replenishing strategies, even though the surge of adrenaline is never the same. We usually suggest that athletes get as much of their nutrient needs from real food versus supplements. There are strict rules with regard to supplementation and potential performance enhancement products – intentionally or unintentionally being ingested. It is a great disgrace to be disqualified or have to return a medal due to testing positive for a banned substance.

    What do you think? Join the conversation on our Facebook Page and on Twitter.

    Felicia D. Stoler, DCN, MS, RD, FACSM, is a registered dietitian, exercise physiologist and expert consultant in disease prevention, wellness and healthful living. She is the current president of ACSM’s Greater New York Regional Chapter, and she is a member of the American Dietetic Association’s House of Delegates. She maintains a private practice, is a consultant and has been on many national television and radio programs. She is the former host of the popular television series “Honey, We’re Killing the Kids,” which focused on issues of parenting, nutrition and physical activity in families. 

    Note: The views expressed in ACSM Olympics Hot Topics are those of the contributors only, and should not be construed as official statements of the American College of Sports Medicine.

    More on this topic:

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