Month: March 2020

What Athletes (Young and Old) Should do About Coronavirus COVID-19

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With the ongoing COVID-19 (formerly known as the Coronavirus) outbreak, do not take anything lightly.  COVID-19 will continue to affect athletic events in the US and abroad; and there’s a real chance that the virus could spread into our communities, impacting day to day life and your training.

So what should we athletes do? Pack up and head home? Run on a sanitized treadmill or ride the indoor trainer for the next 9 months? Build a fortress, dig a moat, pull up the drawbridge and live off of canned beans and MREs for the next 12 months? I am not a doctor or epidemiologist, but from a coaching standpoint I have got some sane, rational and at times boring advice for you to stay healthy and sane during this outbreak.

Rule #1- (as always) don’t panic

Outbreaks like this tend to bring out the worst of our fears. It’s difficult to count how many cases there are, the future spread of the virus is unknown and tuning into more than a few minutes of the 24-hour cable news cycle will make you think the COVID-19 outbreak is going to be next level apocalyptic. Be careful about where you are getting your information. If you want reasonable, rational information about the virus and up to date advice on travel and precautions go to the World Health Organization or the Center for Disease Control. This is not a time for ‘news by Facebook’.

Also, I would be willing to bet the vast majority of people reading this article are not in one of the high risk categories, such as the elderly or people with compromised immune systems. This being the case, realize that if you do get sick, your job is to not infect other people who may be more vulnerable. Your life will likely be miserable for a period of time, and you should take the illness seriously, but recognize that it is likely more dangerous for others. Although we have already seen deaths in the US from COVID-19, consequences are unlikely to be that extreme among this readership.

Don’t forget to train

You’d be surprised how many people are looking at this situation and saying “Is it smart to train”?  This is a fool’s guessing game and a surefire way to get caught behind the eight ball with your training.

Be Smart, Safe and Sannitized!

So what can I do to prevent getting sick?

This is the best question to ask. The COVID-19 virus is just that, a virus. Meaning, protecting yourself from contracting the virus is similar to preventing yourself from getting sick from similar viruses. Fortunately, we have good blueprints for that from the common cold and flu.

Take Standard Precautions 

What were the last 5 objects or surfaces you touched? When was the last time you touched your face or put something in your mouth? How long has it been since you washed your hands? See where we’re going with this? If you’re like a lot of people, you don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what you’re touching from moment to moment, but during cold and flu season these habits can make a big difference in your ability to stay healthy.

You have an immune system for a reason, and it generally works well. That said, COVID-19 will still attack your immune system, so a bit more vigilance is a good idea. As an athlete, training sessions can suppress your immune system, making you more susceptible to infection for a day after training or up to 3 days following harder, more stressful training sessions. Hard training blocks can have the same impact, even if the individual workouts are relatively short (1-2hrs each).

Here’s a list of day-to-day precautions you should take

  • Wash your hands frequently, especially before eating. Regular soap and water work wonders.
  • Use hand sanitizer if you can’t wash with soap and water.
  • Minimize time spent in crowds, especially indoors and in small spaces.
  • Try not to touch your face or put your fingers in your mouth or nose.
  • Don’t share food or drinks with friends, and avoid communal foods (chips, dips, nuts, candy, etc.)
  • Stay hydrated. Mucus membranes in the nose and throat don’t work as well when they’re dry, so staying hydrated helps your natural defenses work better.
  • Sleep more! Even if you can add one more hour of sleep to your normal routine, the added recovery makes you less susceptible to infection.
  • Reduce lifestyle stress. All stress (training, lifestyle, nutrition, etc.) takes a toll on immune function, so if you’re training hard make an extra effort to reduce stress in other areas.

K2 “Pro-Level” precautions

  • Don’t shake hands, bump fists and get to close.  We are asking all clients and members to aviod contact.  better safe than sorry
  • Don’t share equipment.  We are having each client use the same equipment for the entire session.  After each session we thoroughly wipe down everything and sanitize it before the next person touches it
  • Get plenty of fresh air.  We are keeping the windows open and moving part of each workout outdoors.
  • Drink bottled beverages you can open yourself, which can include a reusable bottle of your own. Drink straight from the bottle to minimize contact with reusable glassware.

What about nutrition?

Nutrition plays a role in protecting you from getting sick, but mostly from the standpoint of supporting your activity level so that you’re not energy deficient. Athletes who are proactively trying to lose weight can be at particular risk because they are often training hard and restricting calories, which can negatively impact immune system function.

How about supplementation?

So, should you supplement with mega-doses of Vitamin C and Vitamin D? In principal (and for the reasons discussed below) I would rather athletes increase their intake of vitamin-rich foods. Consuming more foods rich in Vitamin C – including citrus, peppers, kiwi, strawberries, and dark green leafy vegetables like kale – also mean an increase in your fruit and vegetable intake. Vitamin D is primarily found in seafood, particularly salmon, sardines, cod liver oil, and oysters. Eggs and fortified dairy products are a good source for lacto-ovo vegetarians, and vegans can consume Vitamin D in fortified foods as well as mushrooms. A 2018 review study showed exposing mushrooms to UV-B radiation – including sunlight – can generate a nutritionally useful amount of Vitamin D. Some brands of store-bought mushrooms may also be irradiated to increase Vitamin D content.

If you do get sick

In light of the warnings above, the best things an athlete can do to combat the common cold and COVID-19 are get more rest, stay well hydrated, avoid contact with other people, and wait it out. In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, the CDC recommends calling ahead before going to see your doctor or hospital. If you have a fever or are ill enough to consider taking cold medication, rest is going to do you more good than training. Return to light training once you’re asymptomatic for at least a full day, and in the days following that don’t try to make up for lost time by piling on extra training volume or intensity. Too much workload too soon after an illness puts stress on an already overworked immune system and you’re more likely to get sick again.

A Middle School Athlete’s Guide to Being Ready for a High School Weight Room

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Updated: June 21, 2019 from Stack

So, you’ve graduated from middle school and will soon be stepping foot inside a high school weight room.

Although you might think you’ll be doing a lot of the fancy exercises you see your favorite athletes and influencers doing on Instagram, hopefully, you won’t be. Because a lot of that stuff is crap. A good high school weight room will have athletes doing simple, straightforward workouts that have plenty of both scientific and anecdotal evidence behind their ability to get you stronger, more resilient and more athletic.

I am writing this mainly for incoming freshman, but the same ideas apply to anyone who hopes to soon become a regular in a high school weight room. You might be a high school junior who’s simply never lifted before but who wants to start now.

A high school strength program is more than just lifting weights and running. Of course, that’s a huge piece of it, but this is also a great time to build camaraderie with your teammates and coaches. You can develop your leadership skills here. You can find out your strengths and weaknesses outside of sports here. This is where you assess the character of your peers, and they assess yours. This is where you become a better athlete, but also learn life lessons that will stick with you forever.

Sure, you want to lift to get stronger and ultimately maximize performance while controlling what you can to prevent injury, but you also want to take advantage of the experience that is being offered. Because it is like none other, and if you take full advantage of it, it’s something that can truly shape the course of the rest of your life!

Start Preparing Now

You do not and should not wait to enter high school before you start engaging in some sort of meaningful physical training.

After talking to some of my friends and colleagues in the high school setting, there are some trends and common themes they talk about when it comes to incoming freshman. First and foremost is that they can quickly tell who’s had some training experience and who hasn’t.

According to Mitch Gill, head athletic trainer at Dacula (Georgia) High School, athletes who have some training experience prior to high school are “typically light years ahead from their classmates” compared to those who do not.

Not sure what kind of training you should be participating in? Below we have what we call our “Foundational Movement Skills.” We implement them with athletes ages 11 and up. Working with a certified fitness professional at ages 11-13 can give you a major leg up when you hit high school. Instead of having to learn these movements as a freshman, you’ll already be familiar with them and can hit the ground running. Our Foundational

Movement Skills include:

Squat: Your knee-dominant, lower-body focused movement. The Goblet Squat is a great squat movement for beginners.

Hinge: Your hip-dominant, lower-body focused movement. The Barbell RDL is a quintessential hinge movement.

Push: Pushes work your anterior (front side) upper-body muscles. The Push-Up is a simple yet highly effective example.

Pull: Working your posterior (back side) upper-body muscles. The Cable Row is a classic pulling exercise.

Run/Lunge: Moving dynamically from one leg to the other, as illustrated by the Reverse Lunge.

Jump/Land: Not just being able to jump high or far, but being able to properly absorb the forces landing from those jumps create. The Broad Jump is one example.
Carry/Rotate/Resist: Being able to handle load while controlling your torso/core is a huge part of athleticism. The Farmer’s Walk looks simple, but there’s a lot of core strength and stability happening there.

Throw/Slam: Being able to propel an object explosively but also safely and with control. The Med Ball Slam is a fun way to learn how to transfer energy throughout the body and channel it into an implement.

All of the above videos are ground-level functional exercises you can use to start mastering each movement. If you can squat, hinge, push, pull, lunge, jump, carry and throw proficiently, you honestly will enter high school with an awesome foundation of movement.

These exercises aren’t fancy, but they are phenomenal for building strength. If you’re entering a good high school program, these will be the foundations of the weight room. Strength is the building block to pretty much all other athletic traits. If you want to get faster, jump higher or move quicker, there is a good chance that at the ages 11-18, simply gaining strength or higher quality movement can help you do it.

Worry About YOU

According to Coach Gill, many of his incoming freshmen are “too worried about how much weight the person next to them is lifting.”

Competition is good, but when you’re just starting out in the weight room, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of keeping your ego in check. You need to focus on your own goals, your own abilities, your own needs and your own training program.

Should you push yourself? Heck yeah. But you’ve got to be smart about it. Don’t be reckless and try doing 90 pounds more than your last one-rep max just because you see one of your older teammates doing it.

Remember you can’t compare yourself to a senior who has been lifting for four years when it’s your first month in the weight room. That’s apples to oranges. Instead, focus on building the best quality movement that you can while consistently getting stronger and staying away from injury.

The kids who go after lifts they have no business pursuing are the ones who end up injuring themselves and making zero gains. Crummy form does not get you stronger!

Will You Slack or Will You Lead?

There is often a lot of freedom in the high school weight room. Some classes may have 75-plus kids lifting at once with just a few coaches supervising.

This means you can easily blend in and be average by doing things like skipping reps, giving low effort and not cleaning up after yourself. Or you can step up and be a leader by showing others the right way to work.

That’s the decision you have to make every time you step in the weight room. Do you just want to go through the motions and maybe see a little benefit, or do you want to train with intent and leave no doubt you’re improving?

This is your shot to become a better leader and a trusted athlete by teammates and coaches. Don’t wait until you’re a senior to start working hard. Set the standard for yourself and for others from day one and you’ll be amazed at what you can do. Again, this doesn’t mean you have to lift the most of anyone in the weight room. But it does mean you have to bring great energy, focus and encouragement to each session as well as being respectful of others in the weight room and cleaning up after yourself.

Get Your Mind Right

Speaking of leadership, one of the greatest benefits of the high school weight room is the mental side of things. Every day you have the opportunity to enhance two characteristics about yourself.

Those are your attitude and your effort. There are many things in life you can’t control. These are two things you can and should control daily.

These don’t just inherently make you a better athlete. These inherently make you a better human being. Every day at the end of a training session, you should ask yourself two things:

  1. Did I approach this with the right mindset? (attitude)
  2. Did I try my hardest? (effort)

If either of the answers are no, you’ve got some work to do. Or you can continue to remain the same while others surpass you.

Understand Why

Understand why you are even in the weight room as well as why you’re doing what you do there is extremely important. If you’re doing something with no purpose behind it, you’re just going to go through the motions. If you know your purpose, you’re going to bring the passion.

According to Human Kinetics, “Strength and conditioning coaches have two primary goals. The first is to improve athletic performance, which usually means improving athletes’ speed, strength and power. The second primary goal is to reduce athletic injuries.”

The reason you are performing exercises in a very specific order, using a very specific amount of weight for a very specific amount of reps is to accomplish these goals. All training is not created equal.

Good coaches are not afraid to hear the question, “Why?” If you truly don’t understand why you’re doing something, ask your coach. If they’re a good coach, they can help put a purpose behind it. When your understanding of that purpose matches the coach’s, then you have the recipe for a great weight room culture.

I hope this has given you a snapshot of what’s to come for you in the high school weight room. Here are the five major takeaways you can start using right now to make sure you get the most out of your freshman year (and beyond) in the weight room.

Work on your foundational movement skills prior to high school. Ideally, with the help of a certified fitness professional.

  1. Set your own goals and work towards them.
  2. Take ownership of your time and purpose.
  3. Check your attitude and effort daily.
  4. Think big picture and strive to understand the purpose.

Good luck!

5 Ways Field Athletes Can Get Faster

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How many times have you, as an athlete, been just one step behind an opponent who outran you, or just one second too late for a chance, a shot, a pass?

Seemingly everyone’s first reaction to such a situation is a socially less-acceptable variation of “oh no!” and the second one is “wow, need to be faster next time.”

Everybody needs more speed.

That is not up for debate, as there are few sports that do not rely on power and speed!

Field sports like soccer, lacrosse, football, hockey and basketball obviously require speed and power as an entry point for the game.

Less commonly considered sports like tennis, dancing, swimming and diving all demand power and speed as well. As these sports are more technical, however, speed and power may not present themselves the same way as in field sports, where opponents face off against each other and the faster one usually wins that moment-long duel. But these skills are most certainly needed!

So how DO we get faster?

As a performance coach for mostly field sports, I may be biased, but many experts in our field seem to agree: Speed is perhaps most purely expressed in its truest form—sprinting.

Sprinting is one of the most aggressive things the body can do. It’s also a “hindbrain” activity, meaning your thinking brain—the “executive” or prefrontal cortex, literally the front part of your head—needs to be turned off to do it well. Sprinting is a natural, instinctual act.  This seems perhaps like a contradictory dilemma: If you should not think while sprinting, but you are not already fast, how can one get faster?

Before we address how to increase speed, let us break down the common ways we keep ourselves from it.

How Not to Get Faster

“The more, the better” is not true when sprinting. Because expressions of speed and power—sprinting being the purest expression of this—is exhausting to the central nervous system (CNS), less is actually more.

Overdoing conditioning work will not help you get faster. Wearing yourself down with high doses of speed and power work, called “high CNS fatigue,” is not a good plan either; it just make you tired and sweaty, and not want to train tomorrow. At the same time, training at a low intensity or effort is clearly not beneficial for speed gains!

Contrary to some “sport experts,” permanently breaking up with strength training also does not result in more speed. Neglecting your recovery, diet and sleep is also detrimental to improvement, as the nervous system must recover for the body to heal and repeat speed and power skills.

Lastly, one surefire way to keep yourself from increasing speed and power is to not listen to your coach. If your coach is competent and you have discussed your need for speed, then athletes need to buy into their knowledge and trust the plan. Adding or skipping sets and even workouts is definitely not going to bring quick returns!

How to Get Faster

Sprint fast and often

Does this seem counterintuitive? Did I not just say that, in fact, less is moreThe primary message here is to, above all else, be consistent in a speed program and manage your volume according to your training and competition schedule.

Sprinting more often—increasing speed sessions to twice a week from once a week, for example—can certainly help you get faster. However, that does not mean you should lace up and sprint 15 sets of 40 yards at 100% effort every day of the week. That is too much!

It does mean that you should purposefully vary your sprint workouts across different distances, at different velocities, at different levels of effort, with a phase focused on Acceleration in the first 10 steps and a phase of Maximum Velocity. This calculated, purposeful training will make maximum-effort sprints in games much more manageable when the body is used to completing them several times a week.

The central nervous system is sensitive but it can also adapt incredibly well with the right amount of stress and recovery. Starting to sprint more often and in a controlled environment that allows rest, instead of just in competition, is a great way to improve the body’s ability to run faster with less effort and more often.

Train at Appropriate Intensity

Although similar to the last point, it is worth reiterating: To get fast, you do not need to sprint at maximum effort for 100 reps per day. But when you do sprint, you need to make it count.

Again, listening to a competent coach and program is important. Does your workout say 90-95% effort on 5 sets of 20m today? Or is it 5x30m at 70%? Either way, all reps need to be focused and executed with proper technique, with appropriate rest between, and hitting that prescribed intensity every time.

It does not take a high dose or a million reps of sprinting to make an athlete fast. It just takes many small, intense, well-timed and recoverable doses.

Lift

Do not stop lifting weights.

In working with teams as a performance coach, I have heard every variation of “I’ve never seen an athlete get faster by lifting weights” and “weights make you slow and heavy!”

Although the equation Speed + Weights = Heavier Player = Less Speed may appear to pass the logic test, it skips over some key factors.

If lifting weights makes you slow, you are lifting wrong. Strength training for performance sport is not bodybuilding or powerlifting; those kinds of lifting do indeed add mass and restrict mobility, which can make an athlete slow.

By the time you are in the preparation and competition phases, when you need speed and power, your “strength phase” is over. You do not need to be lifting maximally four times per week or put on mass with intense soreness after every workout.

Mass makes athletes slow. But lifting weights does not necessarily equate to adding mass!

Another complaint I hear regarding strength training and speed is that athletes are too tired to be fast after lifting.

This equation does make sense.

Every stress we put on the body, including training, taxes the CNS. Some movements and types of lifts tax the CNS more than others, such as Olympic lifting—that’s why you do not need very many repetitions in a session. The Shoulder Press, though, is a low-CNS movement—if you complete 3 sets of 6 reps, you might be a little gassed, but you will not be wiped out on the floor as if you Clean-and-Jerked 3×6.

But that is not the only way to lift weights!

Lifting with speed can help.

Heavy lifting to maintain maximal strength is important, as are hamstring-specific accessory lifts to keep your legs in top condition for sprinting. Depending on your sport and its demands, you can also work on upper-body lifts because this will not tax your nervous system heavily enough to detract from your speed gains.

However, lifting below your 1-Rep Max, around 60-70%, and moving at a higher velocity is essentially “weighting” your speed in the gym, with the goal of moving faster when the weights come off.

There are also other training methods of getting faster, such as ballistic training and the ever-famed plyometrics. A competent coach knows how to program these into a speed and strength program so that all exercises contribute to your power, velocity and resilience.

Power training—sprinting, throwing, jumping—and speed lifts should come before the lifts in a workout. You do not need to stop going to the gym to get fast, but do not spend your whole week there powerlifting either.

The Other Stuff

This might sound basic, but you need to focus on your recovery. Again, speed requires a healthy, regenerated, and adaptive CNS. That means between workouts you need quality sleep, appropriate food intake and to keep your stress low. Just keep your recovery a high priority.

Listen to Your Coach

Speed training has to fit into your training schedule, right?

If you are just out there sprinting every day with no guidance or idea of how to progress, the truth is that you will get slower because you are tired, taking on too much training volume. This translates to the CNS as stress—throughout your whole week with games and training sessions—and not recovering enough to improve speed in games.

If your strength or speed coach is competent, it is worth listening to him or her and trusting the program. They know how to manage your body’s stress and fatigue, your load, and how it all fits together with the rest of your performance.

Final Thoughts

Speed is awesome, and everybody needs it. It is a requirement for most sports!

It also seems like gaining speed should be easy and intuitive, but it actually is not!

Speed and power are very fine balances that require attention to fine details—your CNS, your recovery and your schedule.

Always keep in mind the following tips, which I hope make speed training more accessible to you:

  • Sprint, jump and throw more often, but know that less is also more!
  • Sprinting is perhaps the best tool for training speed and power.
  • Take your recovery seriously. Speed and power training is hard on the CNS, and regeneration time is when you heal and adapt.
  • Continue lifting. Weights do not make you slow; they make you strong and resilient.
  • Listen to your coach! They wrote your program that way for a reason.

Good luck, and sprint hard!